“The Girl On The Train”

The debut novel by British journalist turned author, Paula Hawkins, “The Girl on the Train” is a cleverly plotted, well written, psychological thriller. Published by Riverhead Books on January 13, 2015, the 336 page novel, centers on the main protagonist, Rachel Watson. She is someone who has low self-esteem and struggles with an addiction to alcohol. Her liquor consumption sometimes causes her to suffer blackouts; it has also led to her being fired from her job. In order to keep that fact from her friend, Cathy, whom she shares a house with, Monday through Friday Rachel dresses as if she is leaving for work, and boards the same train to London.

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Rachel looks forward to one stop in particular during her commute. The train line she takes travels past a number of houses, the backs of which are visible to the commuters. In one particular house, she frequently hopes to catch glimpses of a couple who she has taken to calling Jess and Jason. She projects onto the couple an idyllic existence. Part of Rachel’s wishful thinking is manifested by her own relationship shortcomings. Several houses down from where Jess and Jason live, is the home Rachel used to share with her ex-husband, Tom, who she is still in love with. He has since moved on and re-married Anna; the couple have an infant, daughter.

One day, an event transpires that destroys the ideal world Rachel has created for Jason and Jess, when Jess, whose real name is Meagan Hipwell, vanishes. Making matter worse, is that prior to Meagan’s disappearance, Rachel observed her sharing an intimate moment with another man. After the police discover a body, that may or may not be Meagan’s remains, she is convinced that what she viewed from her seat on the train is directly linked to what happened. Rachel resorts to dangerous tactics by inserting herself into the investigation. She attempts to befriend Scott Hipwell, even though, being the husband, he is a prime person of interest to the authorities.

Rachel’s story is one of three perspectives the reader is given. The chapters that convey her point-of-view, which is unreliable, given her drinking and frequent forgetting of subsequent events, are interspersed by those which convey the mindset of Anna and Meagan. The chapters which Megan narrates involve her life before the night she was last seen, and deal with her far from perfect marriage to Scott. She details: her infidelity with Dr. Kamel Abdic, her psychiatrist; the lies she uses to carry out her deceptions on her husband; and the guilty feelings she has over a dark secret from her past, that I won’t spoil by revealing. Whereas Rachel struggles with her addiction to liquor, Megan has an unyielding thirst for intimacy that she can’t seem to get in her marriage. Anna, however, who cheated with Tom behind Rachel’s back, is seemingly guilt free. She revels in the fact that she was the victor in the battle for Tom’s love. Her character comes across as thoroughly unlikable, whether it be her put downs regarding Rachel’s appearance, in comparison to her own looks, or her arrogant attitude. One of the only redeeming qualities she possesses is her love for her daughter, and the fear that Rachel might harm the child based on an incident from the past.

The suspense and tension are kept at a good level throughout the novel, all leading up to a satisfying conclusion. I didn’t want to get into too many plot points, or reveal anything that would ruin the reading experience for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read the book yet. This is the sort of novel where the less you know before reading it, the better. From the gripping beginning, through its twists and turns, I found it a real page turner, that was difficult to put down.

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“Wolves”

When I sat down to watch “Wolves,” for the most part, I knew what to expect. I have no problem watching campy, B-movies, or straight to DVD films, as long as they’re entertaining. Judging the film by that criteria, “Wolves” delivers a watchable movie, the formulaic plot of which is easy to follow. The film, which is parts action and horror, marked the directorial debut of David Hayter (X-Men), who also wrote the screenplay. The movie has a runtime of 91 minutes, and was co-released in Belarus and Russia on August 28, 2014.

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Lucas Till’s character (X-Men Days of Future Past) high school quarterback, Cayden Richards, is the lead protagonist of the film. The movie opens with a few rapid images that are the product of a nightmare Cayden is having. He discovers, soon afterwards, that he is a werewolf. This new found persona is revealed during several incidents. One is the retaliation he delivers to an opposing player who took a cheap shot at him during a football game. Cayden’s actions nearly kill the guy. Next, while out with his girlfriend, Lisa (Kaitlyn Leeb), and the two are about to have sex, Cayden can’t control himself and the wolf is released, causing the terrified Lisa to run off. Cayden doesn’t know it at the time, but she is headed to the police station to report him. The cops show up at his home, right after he has awoken to find that his parents, Dean (Stephen Sparks) and Janice (Jennifer Hale), have been murdered. Not knowing what else to do, he flees into the night.

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While at a truck stop, Cayden is approached by a prostitute who tries to proposition him; he turns her down. A short time later, the same woman is being brutally beaten by two men, who are filled with maniacal laughter at the sight of the damage they are inflicting on her. Cayden warns them to stop, but they don’t perceive him as a threat, so he steps in to save the woman. Afterward, he takes the leather jacket and motorcycle of one of the men he has decimated, and continues on his journey, no longer dependent on hitch hiking.

Arriving at a bar, he runs into a mysterious, disfigured man, named Wild Joe (John Pyper-Ferguson). Joe knows what Cayden is, but even though Cayden is desperate for answers, Joe is reluctant to help him. Before leaving, however, Joe takes a dart and throws it at a map; it lands on the town of Lupine Ridge, then he disappears.

Till’s character sets out for the place to get the answers he seeks. Cayden enters the town’s only bar, where most of the characters that appear in the remainder of the film are socializing. Using the fake name Danny, Cayden doesn’t make any friends, and after a potentially troubling incident with the girlfriend of one of the town locals, decides to leave. Two people, however, take a chance on Cayden, Stephen McHattie’s character, the good-hearted, farmer, John Tollerman, and his wife, Clara (Janet-Laine Green). John hires Cayden to work on his farm. John, who is also a werewolf, has taken a keen interest in Cayden; the reason for his interest is revealed later on in the movie.

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Additionally, during his brief stay at the bar, Cayden meets, and immediately takes a liking to, the attractive, Angelina (Merritt Patterson). She owns and operates the place with her sister, Gail (Melanie Scrofano). Cayden’s interest in Angelina brings complications, in the form of Conner, a werewolf pack leader, portrayed by Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones). Unbeknownst to Cayden, Conner, who is getting older, wants to have a child, and he has chosen Angelina to procreate with. Angelina has agreed to the deal, because if she didn’t, Connor and his rabid followers would destroy all the residents of Lupine Ridge. As the film progresses, Cayden and Angelina fall in love. Once that happens, Cayden is determined to make sure that Connor not only doesn’t get to make Angelina the unwilling mother of his child, but that he ends his reign. Will he succeed?

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Nothing that I saw in “Wolves” elevated the genre. Hayter attempts to add his own mythology to the werewolf lore by having Tollerman’s character state that those who are born with the werewolf blood are more powerful than those who are bitten. The purebreds can heal quicker from damage. The werewolves in this film also have the ability to transform whenever they feel like. The transformation scenes in the movie, however, were for the most part ignored. A viewer will know when a character is going to become a wolf, but not much will be shown in the way of the process. The acting by all involved was passable; McHattie and Mamoa, were especially good, doing their best with what they had to work with. The cinematography by Gavin Smith was well executed, and the makeup, which was done by too many people to list, was also quite good. For those of you who don’t mind B-movies, and like horror films (watered down), that depict werewolves, then “Wolves” should be an enjoyable watch.

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“Nightcrawler”

The main protagonist in the film “Nightcrawler,” Lou Bloom, is a loner, thief, and hustler, portrayed in an engrossing manner by Oscar nominated and BAFTA winner, Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw). Little is learned about the character’s background throughout the movie. One thing that is known, is that he is driven to make money; it is something he looks to gain through any duplicitous means necessary. At the start of the film, the viewer is shown Lou cutting copper fencing, which he will later sell. He is stopped in the act by a security guard (Michael Papajohn) who he beats up; adding insult to injury, he also takes the man’s watch. A short time later, after selling his stolen material to the owner of a scrapyard (Marco Rodriguez), he asks the man if he can have a job with his company. The request is met with a prompt rejection; the scrapyard owner informing Lou that he doesn’t hire thieves.

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While driving back to the small apartment where he lives, Lou comes across a car accident. Getting out to take a closer look, he notices more than just the two highway patrol officers, who are saving a woman from her burning vehicle. He picks up on the fact that there are two men filming the incident, in order to profit from it by selling the footage to one of the local, Los Angeles news stations. Lou asks the man who appears to be in charge, Bill Paxton’s (Big Love) character, Joe Loder, for a job. Once again he is turned down. At that moment, the idea comes to Lou that he should go into the same business as Loder. The next day, after stealing a bicycle, he pawns it for cash, a video camera and a police scanner. As time passes, the equipment he uses to do his work will change to more modern technology. He will also trade in his weathered looking, Toyota Tercel, for a red, Dodge Challenger SRT. (As an aside: Jake Gyllenhaal lost twenty pounds for the film by working out regularly, as well as running or biking to the set; Gyllenhaal felt the gaunt appearance was the appropriate look for his character).

The tension filled “Nightcrawler” marks the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), who also wrote the screenplay. Gilroy received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for the film. The movie, which is part action, crime, and thriller, premiered on September 5, 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

After getting some usable footage, Bloom takes it to Rene Russo’s (Thor) character, Nina Romina, who is the news director of one of the local stations in Los Angeles. As it turns out, Nina is looking for anything that will help raise her last place ratings. Lou might just provide the answer. Nina sets down some ground rules as to what does and does not attract viewers to the screen, as well as what the station will pay for. An example Nina uses as to the type of story that generates the best ratings is as follows: “Think of our news cast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”

Lou goes out to attempt to secure footage which contains carnage. He has officially entered the world of ‘nightcrawling’ where every communication that comes over the police radio, every murder, and every accident, could equal big dollars for the first person of Lou’s ilk to capture all of the horrific details on film. Helping Lou on his nightly outings is Rick (Riz Ahmed). At first, Lou attempts to hire Rick as his intern, but Rick, who for all intents and purposes is homeless, can’t take a job for no money, so thirty dollars a night is agreed upon. Lou uses Rick as his navigator, having him calling out the directions off of the GPS on his cell phone, while he drives at insane speeds in order to be the first on the scene. Later, as Lou gets further entrenched in the world of ‘nightcrawling’ he will use Rick as his second cameraman, as well as ask him to do things that will require Rick to abandon any morals and ethics he possesses. (As an aside: In order to prepare for their roles, Gyllenhaal and Ahmed went out with people who ‘nightcrawl’ for a living).

Lou is not one to be content with just arriving first on the scene to capture the news. He crosses ethical boundaries by manipulating crime scenes. In one instance, he moves a body to get better footage, in another, he enters a house, where atrocities have been committed, and he does so without the permission of law enforcement. Lou is determined to be the best at what he does, and remove any obstacles that stand in the way of achieving that goal.

Is there anything that Lou will not do in order to advance himself in the world of sensationalist television news? Do his law breaking activities eventually catch up with him? What punishment, if any, does he receive if and when they do? Will Rick and Nina stay with Lou because the ratings success and income he begins to generate for each them is just too much for them to walk away from? What is Lou’s ultimate goal in terms of his new found career? Those questions will be seen through to their conclusion by the end of the film.

“Nightcrawler” is an interesting character study that makes a viewer think along the way as to where several of the film’s characters, especially Lou Bloom, will ultimately wind up. The movie takes time to build in terms of tone and tension. Once it does, there is not much let up in regard to the action, as well as the feeling of underlying dread that, at any moment, unscrupulous Lou will out sleaze his previous actions. I didn’t see “Nightcrawler” when it was in theaters, but I am glad I took the under two hours to watch it on Netflix last evening.

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“A Most Violent Year”

1981 is a year in which, statistically, the crime in New York City, was at its apex in regard to murder, rape, and other violent felonies. Abel Morales is an engrossing character portrayed by Golden Globe nominee, Oscar Isaac (Ex-Machina). He is a first generation immigrant and upwardly mobile businessman, who owns and operates the Standard Heating Oil company, a business which he took over from his father-in-law. Abel is not interested in taking criminal shortcuts to achieve his piece of the American dream. He is attempting to do everything by the book; that combined with his work ethic, ingenuity, and excellent business acumen, should be enough to reach his goals, but they are not. While Abel wants to play by the rules, numerous individuals around him are looking to thwart his efforts, and doing what they can in order to put him out of business.

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“A Most Violent Year,” written and directed by Oscar nominee J.C. Chandor (Margin Call), is a compelling, well acted, suspenseful, character driven film. Helping to enhance the movie throughout is the cinematography of Bradford Young (Selma) and the score from Golden Globe winning composer, Alex Ebert (All Is Lost).

At the start of the film, Abel and his attorney, Andrew Walsh played by Oscar nominee Albret Brooks (Drive) are meeting with a group of Hasidic Jewish business men, led by Joseph Mendelsohn (Jerry Adler), whose property Abel is interested in purchasing. If he can acquire the land by the waterfront, a piece of property that both he and his competitors desire, it could help to expand Abel’s business to a whole other level. The catch is, that even though a sizable down payment has been made, the owners of the land inform Abel that if he can’t come up with the rest of the money in one month’s time, the deal is off. Abel will not only lose the rights to buy the land, but he will forfeit the down payment as well. The major gamble Abel has undertaken sets the stage for the remainder of the movie, which originally premiered on November 6, 2014 at the AFI Festival.

During the film’s 125 minute runtime, Abel navigates through one conflict after another, in order to attempt to meet the deadline. His drivers, who, per Abel’s orders, are unarmed, leave themselves vulnerable to thieves. A number of Abel’s trucks, which each contain $6,000 worth of oil, have been high jacked and siphoned. The latest incident involves one of his young drivers, Julian (Elyes Gabel), who looks up to Abel, and wants to advance himself in the business by leaving driving and moving into sales. Julian, who thinks he is stopping the truck because a car in front of him has stalled, is a victim of a high jacking that is shown on screen; not only is the truck taken by two criminals, but they also beat him up. This latest incident prompts a visit from the truckers’ union representative, Bill O’Leary (Peter Gerety), who tries to get across to Abel the necessity of his men being armed. Abel is hesitant to do anything of the sort because he needs to secure the necessary bank loan in order to meet his obligation on the property by month’s end. It might not matter what Abel wants. Julian, who is allowed time to recuperate from his injuries, has been traumatized by the event, and ignores Abel’s edict about no guns. When he returns to work, he is armed and ready to defend himself if the same scenario should occur.

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In addition, to the stealing of his trucks, another source of contention for Abel, is the yearlong investigation of his company that is culminating in indictments. The probe into his business was launched by the reputation-conscious and politically ambitious, District Attorney, Lawrence played by Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo (Selma). Oyelowo’s character is investigating Abel’s business, as well as the entire city’s oil heating industry, for improprieties when it comes to business practices that are both corrupt and fraudulent.

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In the role of Abel’s wife, the obstinate, Brooklyn born Anna, who is the daughter of a gangster, is Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). While She loves Abel, she doesn’t hold to his above board way of doing business. The following are two examples, which differentiate how she and Abel conduct themselves: In one instance, Anna keeps the books for Standard Heating Oil, but what Abel doesn’t know, until long after the fact, is that she keeps two sets of books. In the second illustration, while driving home from a business dinner, Abel accidentally hits a deer with his car. After removing a tire iron from the trunk of the car, he struggles with the thought of killing the deer, even though it will put it out of its misery. After allowing Abel the opportunity to kill the animal, Anna takes a gun from her purse and fires several bullets into the deer without a second’s hesitation.

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Anna is also not beneath getting on Abel’s case, when she feels he is not being tough enough when it comes to doing what is right not only for his business, but for their family. Her concerns are not without some merit. Soon after the couple move into their new home, their dog alerts them that something is not right. Abel gets up to investigate, and when he steps outside, he is attacked by a man. Abel, who is barefoot, does his best to chase the would-be-trespasser through the snow, but it is to no avail. After informing Anna of what happened, and that he is sure it was nothing more than a thief who figured their new house was an easy mark, he thinks that is the end of it. The next day, however, one of their young daughters is standing in front of the house holding a loaded gun she found in the snow. If not for Anna arriving home and taking the weapon away from the child, something terrible might have happened. Once Abel is told, his thinking switches from that of someone who feels his house was the target of a thief, to the mindset that one of his rivals is trying to get him to back down by threatening his family, or worse.

Will Abel abandon his principles and start fighting back on the same level as those who wish to ruin his business? Do the actions of his competitors keep him from meeting his deadline to the owners of the property, thereby costing him everything? Will Abel learn which one of his competitors is stealing from his company? Will it not matter what his business rivals do to him, thanks to the actions of the district attorney’s office? Does Anna’s fixing the books at the company lead to the downfall of the business? The answers to those questions and more will be seen through to their conclusion by the end of the film, which is parts action, crime, drama and thriller.

For those looking for a movie along the lines of “Goodfellas,” this is not the film for you. There is actually very little in the way of violence in a movie, the title of which contains the word violent. Chandor took the plot for the type of organized crime movie that has been filmed many times before. A movie in which the central figure is shown dealing with their loved ones, as well as their enemies, as they go about rising to the top of whatever underworld they are a part of. In “A Most Violent Year,” however, the main character isn’t trying to advance by criminal means, but instead by taking the opposite path. For those seeking a fresh approach to the genre this should be an enjoyable watch.

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“The Imitation Game”

Spoilers Contained Throughout:

Superb is a word I seldom use, but if I were to write nothing else about the movie “The Imitation Game,” while it wouldn’t be much of a post for my blog, it would encapsulate my feelings on the film. After watching it, I am at a loss to explain why it, or several of the other nominated films for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, didn’t win, as opposed to “Birdman.” I know some blogger’s, whose work I read and respect, praised “Birdman” as a cinematic treasure to be re-watched, a-la “Citizen Kane,” in order to discover hidden meanings and parts not fully grasped even after repeat viewings, while others derided it as nothing more than ostentatious drivel. Although “Birdman” had a good cast, and some well executed scenes, from the nominated films that I have seen so far, I would have much preferred if “Whiplash” or “The Imitation Game” had won Best Picture.

“The Imitation Game” marked the English language debut for Norwegian director, Morten Tyldom, who was nominated for a multitude of awards for the film. The movie, which has a runtime of 114 minutes, premiered on August 29, 2014 at the Telluride Film Festival. In his screenwriting debut, Graham Moore based his script for the film on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges, and won the Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

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The film is more than just a World War II thriller. Yes, it deals with a group of British individuals who, at the time, were amongst the most brilliant minds in the world. Those individuals were given the daunting task of breaking the secret military codes sent out by the Nazis on a machine called Enigma. “The Imitation Game,” however, primarily concerns itself with its main character, the exceptionally intelligent, socially awkward, mathematician, Alan Turing, in a role completely embodied by Emmy winner Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). Not only did Turing help to defeat one of the most evil regimes in recorded history, but he was the catalyst for bringing to the world, for all intents and purposes, the first computer. (As an aside: Winston Churchill stated that the single greatest contribution made for Britain’s war effort was the work Turing did on Enigma).

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The film begins in 1951. Turing’s home has been broken into, his attitude, however, is that of a person who is not concerned. Could it be because as one of the policeman remarks, nothing of value seems to have been taken, or is there another reason? The story is framed by BAFTA nominated actor Rory Kinnear’s character of investigative Detective Robert Nock, who suspects that Turing is hiding something. He begins to research Turing’s past, but the more he does, the more questions he comes up with because Turing’s life is a mystery.

Turing is taken into police custody for something related to the break-in. During his interrogation, he narrates portions of his life for Detective Nock, who at first believes the reason he can’t find anything relating to Turing during the war years is because he was a Russian spy. The voice-over narration, while in police custody, is used as the framework for the film. Graham’s screenplay traverses through different significant parts of Turing’s life. A young Turing, during his formative years, is shown being bullied mercilessly by his classmates at the Sherborne Boarding School, a place where he has only one friend, Christopher Morcom; it is a relationship that will have an effect on Turing for the rest of his life. Most of the film, however, centers on the years during World War II, when he worked in secret for the British government, in a place called Bletchley Park. Located at Bletchley was an organization named the Government Code and Cypher School, which went about trying to decipher the codes transmitted by the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

Turing’s main focus while at Bletchley, was to build his own machine that would be able to break the Enigma codes. He first asks his superior, Commander Denniston, portrayed by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) for the funding for the machine – a request which is denied. Not letting that stop him, he writes a letter to Winston Churchill, and gives it to Mark Strong’s character of MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, to personally deliver to the Prime Minister. Churchill not only authorizes the finances, which are considerable, but places Turing in charge of the code-breakers. His promotion is something that doesn’t sit well with his colleagues, especially the former head of the team, National Chess Champion, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode). Additional members of the group include John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) and Keith Furman (Ilan Goodman).  The only person amongst the code-breakers who likes Turing, is two time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley’s (Pride and Prejudice) character of Joan Clarke, the lone female on the team.

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Knightley’s role provides the film some levity. For example, Turing has a crossword puzzle placed in the newspapers, which states that if a person can solve the puzzle in a set amount of time, they should mail it in to the address provided. Clarke is one of the people that solves the puzzle and is invited to take another test. She shows up a few minutes late, and is asked to leave because the man at the door thinks she is interested in becoming a secretary, and that she is on the wrong floor. She not only is on the right floor, but she solves the new puzzle quicker than anyone else in the room. Joan will grow to become one of Turing’s most trusted confidants, and for a period of time, because he is afraid of losing her, she becomes his fiancée. Her parents want her to return home because she is twenty-five years of age, and they feel she should be looking to find a husband to settle down with, not work with a bunch of men at a radio factory. The story of working at the factory is her cover for the vital work she is really doing.

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How do the code-breakers finally defeat the seemingly unbeatable Enigma machine? In what way will they use the information to help turn the tide of war in the allies favor? Does Turing eventually earn the respect and admiration of his colleagues, other than Joan? What is the significance of Turing’s childhood friend Christopher Morcom? Those are just a few of the questions that will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

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At forty-one years of age, Alan Turing committed suicide. Why did a brilliant man like Turing feel compelled to take his own life? The answer, while simplistic, is a sad one. It was because he was scorned for being gay. Due to intolerant times, he was not only publicly humiliated, but in order to avoid spending two years in jail, he was forced to take hormonal pills. His abhorrent punishment, would not only bring about the end of his life, but deny the world his genius for the many years that he might have lived on, and continued working for the betterment of society. (As an aside: Historians have estimated that the work Turing and his team did, during World War II, saved approximately fourteen million lives and shortened the duration of the war by two years).
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“The Dragon’s Loyalty Award”

As I have stated in the past, I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time out of their day to read, comment or press the like button on one of my blog posts. Today, I am honored to accept my third and fourth “Dragon’s Loyalty Awards.” I would like to express my genuine thanks to Alex from http://alexraphael.wordpress.com and Reut from
http://sweetarchiveblog.com. If you are not already following their blogs, after reading this post, you should click the links to their sites and become followers. Amongst other aspects of his blog, Alex posts quizzes for his followers to participate in, film reviews, and a daily feature called ‘Lines of the Day’ which offers quotes from various entertainers and films, as well as from historical figures. Reut offers a variety of well written, honest reviews on film, music and television.

The following rules apply when accepting the award:

1. Display the award on your blog.

2. Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.

3. Nominate 15 deserving bloggers for the award.

4. Let those bloggers know you have nominated them for the award.

5. Write seven things about yourself.

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As I have also previously stated, when I have accepted awards in the past, the aspect of receiving these awards that I like the best is getting to promote other bloggers whose work I enjoy reading. This is never an easy thing to do because there are so many talented people on wordpress.com. It goes without saying, that I value each and every one of you who follows robbinsrealm. The following are the 15 bloggers I nominate for “The Dragons Loyalty Award.”

1. http://heenarathorep.com

2. http://chandleur.wordpress.com

3. http://sherlockianblog.wordpress.com/

4. http://www.moviemovesme.com

5. http://greercn.wordpress.com

6. http://le0pard13.wordpress.com/

7. http://themoviereviewdude.wordpress.com

8. http://scifijubilee.wordpress.com

9. http://harrclin.wordpress.com

10. http://reninassancemusings.wordpress.com

11. http://mykindofmovie.wordpress.com

12. http://thecreativefoxden.wordpress.com

13. http://thetelltalemind.com

14. http://thatmomentin.wordpress.com

15. http://precinct1313.wordpress.com

 

The following are seven things about myself:

1. I love to read, and I especially like discovering new authors whose work I can get into.

2. My astrological sign is Scorpio.

3. The film I am most looking forward to seeing this year is “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens.”

4. My favorite modern day director is Quentin Tarantino. My favorite classic director is Alfred Hitchcock.

5. One of my favorite female writers is Joyce Carol Oates; not that I need to say something that has been echoed through literary circles for years, but I think she is brilliant.

6. Two of my favorite foreign films, which are the antithesis of one another are “Battle Royale” directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and “Vivre Sa Vie” directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

7. I need to drink coffee when I wake up in the morning, otherwise my ability to function at my best for at least the first part of the day, will be very questionable.

Once again, my genuine gratitude to Alex from and http://alexraphael.wordpress.com and Reut from http://sweetarchiveblog.com for nominating me for the “Dragon’s Loyalty Award.” For the people whom I’ve nominated, I am well aware that time constraints might keep you from accepting and passing along the award to others. If that is the case, I will not take the least bit of offense to that. For those of you who can participate and pass along the award to other bloggers, you have my sincere thanks.

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“The Babadook”

If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of … The Babadook

“The Babadook” is the well executed, provocative and tension filled, debut film from director and writer, Jennifer Kent. At the start of the film, Amelia is dreaming of a car accident, which claimed the life of her husband, Oskar (Benjamin Winspear). At the time of the accident, Oskar was driving her to the hospital, to give birth to their son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Amelia is convincingly portrayed by Essie Davis (The Matrix Revolutions), who embodies the character of the single parent attempting to do what is best for her son. The only reward she gets for her efforts is for her nerves to be constantly frayed. Amelia, who works days as a nurse at a retirement home, is still, almost seven years after the accident, grieving over the loss of her husband. She will not celebrate Samuel’s birthday on the actual day, nor does she want to talk about Oskar; not that she has many friends to vent to. Amelia’s social life, if it can be called one, consists of her sister Claire (Hayley McElhinney), a friendly co-worker Robbie (Daniel Henshall) and her kindly, next-door-neighbor Mrs. Roach (Barbara West).

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When it comes to her son Samuel, that is another matter. He is a troubled child, who always seems to be saying or doing the wrong thing at any given time. He is not only socially awkward, but has a very overactive imagination. Samuel constructs his own weapons to fight the monsters he fears are out to get him and his mother. His fear is at such a level that he takes to climbing into Amelia’s bed every night, so he doesn’t have to sleep alone in his room. This in turn, causes Amelia to have many sleepless nights. Samuel’s difficulties extend past his home life. The school he attends has had numerous problems with him, and has reached the point where a stern warning from Amelia to behave himself, will no longer be sufficient. Those in charge at the school wish to assign a monitor who will follow Samuel around throughout the day, not just as a way of preventing him from disrupting class, but also as a means to keep other students safe. Samuel has begun to bring his weapons to school. The suggestions on the part of the principal (Tony Mack) and Samuel’s teacher (Carmel Johnson), as to how best to help Samuel with his issues, results in Amelia withdrawing him from school.

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The film’s ninety-three minute runtime is a blending of the genres of drama, horror and thriller. “The Babadook,” which is based on Kent’s 2005 short film “Monster,” originally premiered on January 17, 2014 at the Sundance Film Festival. After watching it, William Friedkin, the director of “The Exorcist” stated: “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than “The Babadook.” (As an aside: The name Babadook was inspired by the word babaroga, which in the Serbian language means boogeyman).

One evening, before bed, Samuel wants his mother to read to him from one of his story books. A normal request, made by a child to a parent or guardian, however, the book he chooses, “Mister Babadook,” is anything, but a child’s normal pop-up book. In fact, neither Amelia nor Samuel, recall ever having seen the book before that evening. After a few pages, that don’t contain written words of menace, the book changes in tone, and informs the reader that the creature contained within its pages – Mister Babadook – once invited in, there is no escape from him. The book not only frightens Samuel, but also disturbs Amelia. Even though the Babadook is given minimal screen time, Kent makes excellent use of the book in order to help enhance a sense of anticipatory dread in the viewer’s imagination, as to when the creature will appear. (As an aside: Kent based the look of the Babadook on stills of the 1927 film “London After Midnight,” which starred Lon Chaney Sr., but remains a lost film).

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In an attempt to distract Samuel from the sense of dreariness that seems to loom over their lives, Amelia takes him to his cousin Ruby’s (Chloe Hurn) birthday party. Ruby takes to teasing Samuel about his belief in the non-existent Babadook, as well as his not having a father. Samuel, stung by the remarks, pushes his cousin out of the tree house they are in, causing the breaking of her nose. After the incident, Amelia promptly leaves with Samuel. A short while later, he suffers a seizure. At the conclusion of the pediatrician’s examination of Samuel, he reports that there is nothing wrong with the child. Amelia, who is at wits end, begs the doctor to give her some medication to help Samuel sleep, which he does, but only as a temporary stop gap.

One day Amelia hears knocking on the door, to her shock, she discovers that the “Mister Babadook” book that she ripped up and threw in the trash, has been pieced back together and returned to her. If that weren’t bad enough, what notches up the scare factor of the re-emergence of the book, is that the writing inside of it has changed. The book now foretells that Amelia is going to wind up not only killing her dog, but hating her son to the point where her anger will drive her to kill him, and afterward take her own life. From that moment forward, unpleasant incidents begin to escalate, that, combined with Samuel’s erratic behavior, begin to take a drastic toll on Amelia’s ability to cope with such an overwhelming amount of stress. She is as at the point where she has allowed the entity from the story book to get so ingrained in her mind, that she begins to see the creature places that it clearly isn’t.

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Those looking for a film with gore or jump scares will be disappointed. For those viewers who enjoy more of a psychological bent to their horror, then this is most definitely a film you will want to watch. Kent couldn’t have asked for better performances from her cast, especially Davis and Wiseman. She also makes excellent use of atmosphere and sound to help sell the scares.

Will the Babadook wind up destroying the lives of Amelia and Samuel? If he does, will the book pass on to the next unsuspecting child or parent and keep his vicious cycle going? Does Amelia preserve her maternal instinct despite overwhelming odds and protect Samuel against the creature? Will it be Samuel who saves the day, not only rescuing his mother, but vanquishing the evil presence from their lives? Can the Babadook be defeated? Kent provides the answers to those questions and more by the film’s conclusion.

 

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