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THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB is Legendary on Bluray

Tiger
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Bluray from one of the titans of cinema director Fritz Lang and Film Movement Classics are two films the set with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB.
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THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR
Harold Berger (Paul Hubschmid) is an architect that has been asked to India by the Maharaja Chandra (Walter Reyer). His plan for the city is to build hospitals and schools for his people. On the way to Eschnapur, Berger meets a beautiful temple dancer (Debra Paget) and almost immediately the two connect. Further along the road, Seetha’s wagon is attacked by a tiger and Berger jumps into action to save her.
Maharaja Chandra is ever grateful to Berger and gives him a token of his appreciation. Now that Seetha is near, the Maharaja becomes even more infatuated with Seetha than the first time he saw her. None of this sits well with the Maharaja’s brother Prince Ramigani (Rene Deltgen) who was stepped over as ruler of Eschnapur.
So much so is the resentment that he goes to Padu (Jochen Brockmann) who’s sister was once married to the Maharaja before she passed and others who aren’t happy with Seetha’s arrival. Standing up for the Maharaja is General Dagh (Guido Celano) and standing up for tradition is the temple leader Yama (Valery Inkijinoff).
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Helping Berger put plans together for the Maharaja is Asgara (Jochen Blume), an engineer who knows the palace very well. What he doesn’t know is that whispers are going on behind the palace walls about the relationship he has with Seetha. As he learns more of her story, the more he finds himself falling for the beautiful dancer. That sets in motion a plan that the Prince has against his brother.
The Maharaja tries to capture the heart of Seetha but knows there is something she is keeping from him. When the palace whispers get to him, he holds a banquet to test his new friends loyalty. When it all goes horribly wrong, he starts to believe that Berger and Seetha are betraying him. Sensing they are in danger, the two plan to get away as fast as possible as the palace soldiers take chase. What they don’t know is that Berger’s brother-in-law Walter Rhode (Claus Holm) and sister Irene (Sabine Bethmann) have arrived.
Now the Maharaja is playing a game of his own, lying to the Rhodes’ and making Walter an offer that is beyond anything he could have imagined. Berger and Seetha are caught in a sand storm and overtake the couple in their end – or is it?
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THE INDIAN TOMB
Irene and her husband suspect that foul play is afoot in the palace and don’t trust anyone but Asagara but he isn’t getting any answers either. In the middle of the desert, a caravan has found Berger and Seetha taking them to a local village for help. Everyone is afraid because the palace soldiers have already made it known that any village helping will be dealt with.
Berger and Seetha make a run for it again but are caught! Seetha is taken back to the palace and Berger disappears. The Maharaja has taken to asking the town seer for help in dealing with his anger and after only moments is gently told what he must do but to no avail. Back at the palace, the leader of Eschnapur begins plans to marry Seetha and isn’t about to let his brother, religious leader or anyone else tell him what to do.
The Prince tries to bide his time in an attempt to make a coup. Irene has made her way to Seetha to discover what has happened and how they are all going to escape the palace. She tells Walter what she’s discovered and the two begin to make their own plans using the problems of the palace to work in their favor.
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The Maharaja is facing enemies from the palace and below it as it all comes to a finality that is as beautifully epic as it could only be.
Paget as Seetha is absolutely stunning from the first films frame to the second films last frame. There is no doubt that she is beautiful and a stunning dancer, but Paget is calmly strong in her portrayal of Seetha. Her performance is mesmerizing and as a fan of Lang I would have expected nothing less in his choice of actress to play this role. She carried herself with such grace and covered in the lavish sari’s just made her character more breathtaking.
Hubschmid as Berger is an equally calm character. He has a gentle nature and a humble spirit that makes it easy to like him. Even when he realizes his feelings for Seetha, he doesn’t outwardly act on them until he feels there is danger for both of them. Their great escape led to the second film where, shall we say, he finds out that not everyone is as forgiving as the viewer might be. Hubschmid is tall, handsome and the hero women fall for so I can see how he was also the right choice to portray Berger!
Reyer as the Maharaja is grieving the loss of his wife but finding happiness once again in Seetha. He tries over and over to make it clear that he just wants a life with her. Not thinking his brother could ever be an adversary was the beginning of his problems and unrequited love turned the tide in his good nature. Reyer has a crazy look in his eye at times and I saw even before THE INDIAN TOMB that I’d be running to get away from him way before Seetha did! Well done performance in both films with an ending that had to happen.
Der Tiger von Eschnapur
Deltgen as Ramigani is a brother who has been stepped over (or maybe even stepped on) to become Maharaja of Eschnapur. The plotting and planning is easy when you have everyone around you rubbing salt on an royal open wound. Torn between wanting to support his brother and wanting to be Maharaja, his choice is taken away by his own hurt feelings.  Brockmann as Padu has a bone to pick with the Maharaja feeling that his sister’s memory is being cast aside for Seetha. When his words are ignored, he doesn’t mind jumping on the revenge band wagon for a round or two.
Bethmann as Irene sense from the moment they arrive in Eschnapur that something is amiss. In her mind there is no way her brother would take off without communication to her. Irene is just as clever as I’d want a sister to be and doesn’t take no for an answer. Holm as Walter is outraged at the Maharaja’s request to stay and even more so when told why. He is absolutely frustrated, as Irene is, that they are not being told the truth. Holm paces so much I’m surprised there isn’t a path ground into the marble! Even Blume as Asagara is confused by the stories being told but again is loyal to the Maharaja and would never question his intentions.
Other cast include Luciana Paluzzi as Bharani, Helmut Hildebrand as Ramigani’s servant and Richard Lauffen as Bhowana.
Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide. It’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries and foreign art house titles. It’s catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. Film Movement Classics features new restorations of films by such directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marlene Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, King Hu and Ettore Scola. For more information please visit www.filmmovement.com.
The Bluray Bonus Features include Audio Commentaries by film historian David Kalat, The Indian Epic documentary, Debra Paget, For Example a video essay by Mark Rappaport and 20-page booklet with an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning.
Director Lang returned to Germany after a 20 year exile and created a two-part film leaving the first with a cliffhanger to create THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. Leaving Germany before the war and going to Paris then to the United States, Lang is also responsible for the 1927 film METROPOLIS and WOMAN IN THE MOON in 1929. In the U.S. he made FURY in 1936 with Spencer Tracy and THE BIG HEAT in 1953.
He returned to Germany to create what he called his “Indian Epic” with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. The later was a story created by his estranged spouse Thea von Harbour in 1920 which he helped to develop. Lang was close to ending his career in 1963 because of health problems but made it into the film CONTEMPT.
THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB are epics by my standards and those of 1959 and I think it would be stunning to see on the big screen but I’ll certainly take it in my own home. The interesting part of the film is that the language is in Germany (no worries, subtitles!) but watching the film it’s easy to forget it. That’s how you know the film has captured my attention! I am a super fan of period pieces and an even bigger fan when the costuming in absolutely stunning.
These films are given so much richness by the costuming, the colors, the attention to detail and the cast carry themselves well in them. Speaking of the cast, they are impeccable in their character portrayal. Doing two films, they flow one into the next and it feels absolutely seamless. The good guys are trying hard to keep their head out of the tigers mouth and the bad guys are poking the tigers from behind.
It’s a well thought out story of family, royalty, jealousy, revenge, love, passion, exoticness, richness, and a clear message that love and jealousy cannot co-exist for brothers in the same palace.
In the end – this is an exotic Indian epic worthy of every frame!

STRANGE BUT TRUE Will Shock and Jaw Drop

Strange Cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray and Digital from director Rowan Athale, CBS Films and Lionsgate is a family in mourning until a shock knocks on their door with a story that is STRANGE BUT TRUE.

It has been five years and Philip (Nick Robinson) is a young man deal with the death of his brother Ronnie (Connor Jessup) and how it has effect mom Charlene (Amy Ryan) and estranged dad Richard (Greg Kinnear). Making things more interesting is the knock on the door by Melissa (Margaret Qualley), Ronnie’s girlfriend at the time of his death.

The shock is that Melissa is very pregnant and tells Charlene and Philip that the father is Ronnie. Unable to explain why she believes it, Charlene immediately goes into freak out mode. Trying to understand why she would make up such a story, Charlene begins to research her thought process.

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In the meantime, Melissa is living in a small house on the property of friends Gail (Blythe Danner) and husband Bill (Brian Cox). The couple see her as the daughter they never had and are mystified about her reason for keeping the identity of the baby’s father from them.

Philip begins to friend Melissa and wants to help, especially because she could be telling the truth about the baby’s paternity. Charlene reaches out to Richard trying to find answers since he is a doctor. They can’t help but snap at one another because of the hurt feelings and animosity that has grown over the years between the two.

That doesn’t stop Charlene from slowly ruling out scenarios but the secrets are starting to slowly unravel on their own. In the cross of it are Philip, Melissa and the truth about her baby!

Robinson as Philip is a young man dealing with the death of his brother but getting his own life twisted in the meantime. That’s why he reaches out to Melissa as a connection to Ronnie by someone who cared for him just as much as he did. Robinson has a scene where he finally speaks out about his feelings and it is full of all the emotions his character has been keeping hidden, this young actor nails it.

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Ryan as Charlene is full of anger for both the death of her son and the death of her marriage. Ronnie’s girlfriend is the last person she wants to see let alone see her pregnant with a story about paternity. Ryan gives this character righteous anger and emotions of a mother who can’t find a place for her grief. Kinnear as Richard looks for solace from his grief far from home and with someone else. He has secrets of his own and the question is how much longer can he kept them hidden?

Qualley as Melissa believes what she believes and doesn’t concern herself with whether anyone trusts her word. She knows that her friendship with Gayle and Bill will give her time to have her baby and go from there. Danner as Gayle is a loving friend who never had children of her own. Friending Melissa makes her feel as if she has a chance to be motherly. Danner is always a force on the screen no matter if it’s big or small. Cox as Bill loves his wife dearly and lets her know it. His concern for Melissa is ever present and sees her child as something joyful for Gayle and that’s important for him. Cox is not front and center in the film but his presence is palpable.

Other cast include Janaya Stephens as Pilla, Mena Massoud as Chaz, Sarah Allen as Holly, Darryl Flatman as Vaughn and Allegra Fulton as Chantrel.

Lionsgate is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theatres, television, home entertainment and more. Theatre franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at http://www.lionsgate.com.

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STRANGE BUT TRUE is a film that has so many twists and turns one could easily get whiplash. In the mixture of grief and anger are two stories that will merge together but not with an ending anyone would expect. This is an interesting cast that has been put together to tell the story because as each secret comes out, the reaction and next secret just muddies the waters again so well done.

So don’t blink or the connections will fly by and don’t make too much noise eating popcorn or you won’t hear what is shocking or you’ll forget you have a mouth full of popcorn because your jaw will be dropping. STRANGE BUT TRUE is reinforces what happens when a family has secrets, tells themselves lies and let anger control every move.

In the end – some things are impossible to conceive!

THE LION KING Comes Alive

Lion King poster

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Jon Favreau and Disney is the 1994 iconic animated story now come to life with THE LION KING.

In case you come from another solar system I’ll give the story a run down. There is a young cub named Simba (Donald Glover) who is born a prince. Father King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) tries to teach his young son what it is to be a king. He is also learning side lessons from his jealous Uncle Scar (Chitwetel Ejiofor) that get him into a few scrapes.

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Along with his best friend Nala, the two explore much to the fright of Mufasa, even if the royal bird Zazu (John Oliver) can’t keep up. Scar gets an idea enlisting the help of the hyenas and their leader Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) to take what he thinks is his.

Simba is caught up in a stampede that brings death and sadness to the pride and the young prince decides to run. He walks away and meets meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and faithful companion Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) who embrace Simba as one of their own.

In the meantime Scar is destroying the valley and Nala (Beyonce) knows it is time to get help. What she doesn’t plan on is running into Simba who is now fully grown. Explaining what has happened, Simba meets Rafiki (John Kani) who shows him why it is important to remember who he is and what it means to be a king.

Glover as Simba is a little less animated vocally than I would have expected. The younger cub prince was delightful and brought a bit of playfulness that made the little furry growler even cuter. Beyonce as Nala stayed in her lane so to speak meaning I had thought she would have song-wise taken over but instead they kept it easy and lovely.

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Several characters that I enjoyed so much are Oliver as Zazu making me laugh several times with his antics, Kasumba as Shenzi with a tad less humor than her 1994 Goldberg counterpart but still very good and Ejiofor getting a chance to be the devious Uncle Scar.

Eichner and Rogen got all the silliness that made the animated version so much fun. I giggled so much as the antics of Simba’s smaller friends. It must be said that my four year old granddaughter couldn’t stop smiling when these two were on the screen.

Finally, James Earl Jones is the one and only Mufasa and having him once again accept the mantel of King was a wise choice. He is Mufasa and his presence at the beginning and at the most important point of the film’s emotion is something only his voice could capture. It also soothes the ruffled feathers of those not happy with Disney and its live action choices as of late.

Other cast include Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, Eric Andre as Azizi, JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi.

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Now, let me get this out of the way – do I think THE LION KING needed to have a live-action version? Nope. Am I a fan of live-action films? Not really. I just think it’s a huge waste of money when we could easily enjoy the animated versions of stories on the big screen and my family would love it. Plus, after seeing the trailer for MULAN and the latest LITTLE MERMAID ruckus – I’m still not a fan.

THAT being said, I can’t fault THE LION KING at all. From the moment the screen is lit up with a beautiful sunrise and music that continues to be recognized with The Circle of Life and I Just Can’t Wait to be King, this is absolutely how it’s done folks!

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Favreau should be applauded on several fronts – first of all he stayed ever faithful keeping to the original 1994 story that has become so iconic and also allowed the songs to once again bring joy. I saw this on the faces of not just the children at the screening but the adults as well. Oh trust me when I say I caught a woman six seats down singing along to Hakuna Matata and thrilled to be doing it.

The cinematography in the live-action is colorful and lively to the point that it was easy to forget that these lions, hyenas, birds, and the rest weren’t actually real. From the look of joy in Rafiki’s eyes to the sadness in Simba’s eyes, everything that needed to be related emotionally is there. The humor is wonderful in the film and there is a moment between Timon and Pumbaa that gives a nod to a beast of another kind so listen for it.

In the end – the King has returned!

 

 

 

OPHELIA Tells Another Story 

Ophelia cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Claire McCarthy and IFC Films comes her life from a different point of view with OPHELIA.

Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is a young spirited girl who is being raised by father Polonius (Dominic Mafham) and devoted to brother Laertes (Tom Felton). Not exactly lady-like as most women in court, it is Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) who embraces the motherless girl.

Hamlet (George MacKay) also has an eye for Ophelia but knows they can’t be together. Feeling she is not a beautiful as other women in the court, Ophelia is often taunted by lady-in-waiting Cristiana (Daisy Head).

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While away with friend Horatio (Devon Terrell), Hamlet learns that his father has died. Before he arrives, Uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) has not only taken the throne but married Gertrude.

Hamlet rekindles his feelings for Ophelia but they both know that something isn’t right in court. There are secrets, plots, ghosts, potions and when Hamlet makes a fatal error, the young couple has no choice but to call out those responsible.

Their love carries the highest price of all!

Ridley as Ophelia takes this iconic character of tragedy and dives deep into another perspective of the happenings in court. Keenly aware that she isn’t high-born, this telling of Ophelia gives her survival instincts and the ability know when to speak and when to stay silent. Ridley embraces it all and gives a stellar performance that, frankly, blew me away.

Watts as Gertrude has the opportunity to also tell another side of her story in a way that is both shocking and completely sad. The duality of her role is based in desires, sadness and torn between what she wants and what is happening around her. All of this affecting the life of her only son Hamlet.

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Owen as Claudius has the opportunity to be cruel, ruthless and a plotting fiend. Not that Owen hasn’t had the opportunity to have those traits in other roles, just not all at the same time so perfectly. Claudius clearly has one goal – castle domination.

MacKay as Hamlet is taken with Ophelia and he would do anything to protect her, even leave the castle. Returning under circumstances that are entirely questionable, he decides to take control of his fate and love for Ophelia. Claudius keeps his eye on Hamlet and one tragic effect gives the twisted king an opportunity to tighten his grip on the throne. MacKay gives Hamlet such heart and a man with a plan.

Felton as Laertes is a devoted brother who wants the best for his sister but at the same time wants to get as far away as possible from the castle and the mayhem inside it. Felton takes more steps away from the wizarding world and shows his scientific chops in this role.

Head as Cristiana is the lady-in-waiting that is the weight around Ophelia’s neck. Terrell as Horatio is Hamlet’s friend and his main role is to keep the prince out of trouble and making sure Ophelia knows his true heart.

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Other cast include: Sebastian De Souza as Edmund, Martin Angerbauer as Guildenstern, Noel Czuczor as Rosencrantz, Rupesh Tillu as Yorick, Angela Nwagbo as Viola, Anna Rust as Young Mechtild, Jack Cunningham-Nuttall as Young Hamlet and Mia Quiney as Young Ophelia.

Director McCarthy takes from the adaptation by Semi Chellas. This producer and writer is also known for The Romanoff’s, Mad Men and American Woman.

This telling of young Ophelia stays on target to what she sees, hears, experiences and brings that all together in this film. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, she has her part to play but in truth the story isn’t about her, only the effects of what happened to her. OPHELIA is intelligent, lovely and cinematically ethereal.

Ridley and MacKay play the star crossed lovers in a very sweet way but are both being torn in directions that keep moving them closer together emotionally but farther apart physically. They both know who is responsible but each can only do their part from their stations in life. This story of Ophelia is smart and still staying with the twists and turns of the Shakespeare tale.

In the end – experience Hamlet through her eyes!

 

 

TRIAL BY FIRE Questions Guilt

 

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Edward Zwick and Flashlight Films comes the story of the secrets and lies with TRIAL BY FIRE.

It is 1992 and Todd Willingham (Jack O’Connell) is in a complicated and jealousy driven relationship with wife Stacy (Emily Meade). One morning after leaving for work, Todd wakes up to his children calling him. He notices immediately that the house is filled with smoke.

Trying to get to them he becomes overwhelmed with smoke. Running outside, Todd breaks windows still trying to reach his children but the fire causes an explosion.

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Dealing with the death of their three children, Todd and Stacy are pulled over after the funeral to have him arrested for murder. The town’s law enforcement have investigated the fire and come to the conclusion that Todd intentionally killed the children.

After a quick trial filled with testimony that is anger filled and no defense put in place for Todd, he is sentenced to the death penalty and sent to prison.

Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern) is a writer raising two teenagers while taking care of an ex-husband. A friend tells her about writing to prisoners and Todd lands in her life. She learns he has been in prison for twelve years awaiting execution.

Visiting him in prison, she learns about who Todd was when the incident happened and how he is now. After getting a copy of the trial she realizes that everything about it was a travesty. Todd’s only other ‘regular’ relationship is prison guard Daniels (Chris Coy) who doesn’t want to befriend a prisoner but can’t seem to help himself.

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As Todd comes closer to execution, Elizabeth races to find help from those who also see the wrongs and try to make them right before it is too late.

O’Connell as Todd is a man with anger and jealousy issues in his marriage. The one thing that even his wife can agree with is that Todd loves his children. While in jail that is all he can think about while trying to figure out how he got behind bars. O’Connell gives a startling performance with moments of somber realizations that how he has lived his life has set the stage for those who want to see the execution go through.

Dern as Elizabeth is a woman dealing with so many things in her life of which none have to do with her. Reaching out to Todd and getting to know him starts a friendship that is based on the truths they both tell.

Meade as Stacy is a woman who doesn’t know how to do the right thing. Dealing with the death of her children she is constantly being pushed in all directions by family and law enforcement to agree with the verdict handed down to Todd.

Coy as Daniels tries from the moment Todd steps into the prison to dehumanize him. As the years go on, Daniels sees who this man really is and even finds himself enjoying Todd’s company. He, like Elizabeth, want someone to save a changed man.

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Other cast include: Jade Pettyjohn as Julie Gilbert, Jeff Perry as Hurst, Jason Douglas as John Jackson, Wayne Pere as George Gilbert, Katie McClellan as Margaret Hays, Blair Bomar as Sandy and Rhoda Griffis as Darlene.

TRIAL BY FIRE is not only the story of Todd Willingham but the story of Texas, law enforcement and even then governor Rick Perry. As each step progresses from the moment Todd is arrested to the films conclusion is aimed at added another notch to the execution belt of a state that seems to have the highest in the country.

No one in the town Todd is from all the way up the ladder seemed interested in whether the truth was told or not. That’s what I took away from the film the most – the lack of concern for the possibility that the law wasn’t followed.

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The cast constantly brings more and more questions to the forefront of the story as the film goes on which by the end had me totally and emotionally worn out.

Another aspect of the film is watching Todd grow as a person realizing the mistakes he made in his life. The one thing that didn’t change and perhaps actually grew was this man’s love of his children. The film explores his realizations and the truth behind the tragedy. Is he really innocent?

TRIAL BY FIRE is directed by Academy Award winner Edward Zwick and adapted by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Fletcher from David Grann’s article Trial by Fire found in The New Yorker.

In the end – stand up for what is right and for what is true!

 

SHARP OBJECTS Gives Twists and Turns a New Meaning

sharp objects cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray and Digital from HBO Home Entertainment, director Jean-Marc Vallee based on the book by Gillian Flynn is family dysfunction with SHARP OBJECTS.

Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is a reporter with her own unique set of problems that she drowns in alcohol. When editor boss/friend Frank (Miguel Sandoval) asks her to cover the story of two girls who were killed in her hometown of Wind Gap, Camille goes but not without hesitation.

The first reason to be wary is the tension filled relationship Camille has with mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and strained step-father Alan (Henry Czerny). Going to stay in the family home, the only person who seems happy to see her is little sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen). All of this brings Camille to flashbacks of her own young life and the young death of a sister Marian years before.

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Jumping right in to the story she meets Det. Richard Willis (Chris Messina) and they both begin to wonder about the murder of the two young girls. Looking for a connection, the local chief of police Bill Vickery (Matt Craven) is keeping his eye on Det. Willis.

At home Camille notices that Adora still keeps Marian’s room like a shrine and that starts a conversation between the two that is filled with hurt and venomous words. Amma is behaving like a teenager as she tries to break away from Adora’s control. Coming home drunk, Adora instantly blames Camille and the bad influence she brings to the family.

Back to the story, Camille speaks to father of the second girl murdered; Bob Nash (Will Chase) who believes teen John Keene (Taylor John Smith) is responsible. That sends her to visit the young man but also meets cheerleader girlfriend Ashley (Madison Davenport) who defends her boyfriend fiercely.

More of Camille’s life comes to the forefront and she can’t seem to avoid it. Her time in a psychiatric hospital, death of friends and hurting herself as a way to deal with it all. Adora takes great pains in making sure that Camille knows of the ‘trouble’ she has always caused and continues to cause. Especially with the town celebration of Calhoun Day and Camille’s articles about the murders become the talk of the event.

To pay her daughter back, Adora takes Richard on a guided tour of their home and when alone, lets the officer know that Camille is dangerous. At the same time cheerleader Ashley is upset with Camille that she wasn’t given enough attention in the article that came out. Amma performs for the crowd and when she sees that sister Camille isn’t giving her enough attention, she flees sending everyone into a frenzy.

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Adora decides that she has had enough of Camille and wants her to leave but wants husband Alan to do the deed. While out, she runs into Amma and her friends agreeing to go off to a party where sisters end up high roller skating through Wind Gap. While the family drama takes a turn, Richard decides to investigate Camille and find out what everyone in the family is hiding and why Adora considers her own daughter dangerous. In that investigation he also finds out what killed sister Marian. Richard had no problem finding people who wanted to talk and the paper trail to back it up.

When Keene is arrested for murder, Richard is shocked to discover that he is with Camille. Feeling defeated once again, she turns to long time family friend Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) only to discover that what has been happening is now moving closer to home. Feeling as if she is losing control, she calls boss-friend Frank who is worried now more than ever that Camille is falling apart and may hurt herself.

She returns home and sits for a family dinner where everyone is calm but sister Amma looks ill. When Adora takes her to bed, Camille also begins to feel ill. Relying on mother Adora, mother finally gets the wish to take care of her daughter as she tells Camille how much it all means to her.

What happens when Richard knocks on the door starts a domino effect into a shocking conclusion that Camille can not even begin to grasp.

Adams as Camille is everything that is stunning about this series! She carries the film through so many twists and turns and it is her undisputed talent that made me want so much more. Of course the finale had me as shocked as the look on her character Camille’s face when the whole story comes to the surface. Adams is an actress who continues to surprise me in her role choices but in SHARPER OBJECTS I can’t imagine anyone who could have pulled off Camille better than she.

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Clarkson as Adora is another actress who I personally have come to adore. She is bold, brave and also surprises and delights me with the choices in roles she plays. I first saw Clarkson in the 1987 film THE UNTOUCHABLES, the 1999 film THE GREEN MILE, the 2010 film SHUTTER ISLAND and one of my favorite and deliciously guilty pleasures Netflix hit House Of Cards. As Adora she is sharp and there are moments where if looks could kill – Clarkson’s beautiful eyes would leave prints on the two daggers!

Scanlen as Amma has me cringing from the first scene to the last. Actually she drove me completely nuts with her teenage attitude and mean streak with everyone letting her get away with a lot. But isn’t that what teens do? Drive us all nuts with their cell phones, sense of entitlement and sneaking off to do gawd knows what. Yet there are moments where she just wants her family close and the love of both her sister and mother. Scanlen made it all look so easy and she definitely gets high fives from me.

Messina as Det. Willis jumps right into the case whether the town sheriff likes it or not. He is immediately drawn to Camille but can’t understand what it is about her that screams secrets and lies. Messina takes his character’s job seriously and isn’t about to let anyone stop him from finding out who is killing teenage girls. Craven as Vickery doesn’t want help with the case and seems to have a strange closeness to Adora that Camille doesn’t quite understand. Craven’s character may seem laid back but don’t let the daily habits fool you.

Smith as Keene has a story to tell but it’s hard to make people believe you when gossip is stronger than the truth. Smith is a quiet character letting the town make their own judgment calls. Davenport as Ashley is a cheerleader who craves attention and believes supporting her boyfriend will make that happen. It isn’t hard to believe that a young girl would act this way and Davenport makes sure we buy into it.

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Sandoval as Frank is a boss who is more of a friend to Camille. Wanting the story on one hand and worrying that he made a mistake choosing his young reporter on the other. Czerny as Alan is a man who cares deeply for his wife but is the strangest husband I think I have ever laid eyes on. Putting his wife first above everything else, he attempts to put Camille in her place but is only met with a fingers reply.

Other cast include Jackson Hurst as Kirk Lacey, Lulu Wilson as Marian, Sophia Lillis as young Camille, Jennifer Aspen as Jeannie Keene, David Sullivan as Chris, Reagan Pasternak as Katie Lacey, Sydney Sweeney as Alice, Hilary Ward as Becca Barbara Eve Harris as Eileen and Emily Yancy as Gayla.

HBO Home Entertainment has an extensive array of critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking programs found on Bluray, DVD and Digital HD. They have provided viewers with some of the most amazing programs with huge fan bases that include the shows True Blood, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, True Detectives, The Wire, Entourage and Game of Thrones. Launched in 1984, HBO is world wide in viewed entertainment in more than 70 territories around the world! For more of what they have to offer please visit www.hbo.com.

The Bluray contains the episodes Vanish, Dirt, Fix, Ripe, Closer, Cherry, Falling, and Milk. Bonus Features include Creating Wind Gap: The Cast and Crew discuss the creation of the fictional town of Wind Gap.

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SHARP OBJECTS is an intense story that isn’t easy to figure out (thank goodness!) leaving every episode with more questions than answers. This is totally worth binge watching because I would have gone crazy in my own way to have to wait each week for the next episode.

The ensemble cast is absolutely spectacular as each character has their own story to tell in a mix that resembles water but is really deadly quicksand. There isn’t a character in this series that I don’t absolutely love because of their uniqueness to the show and the ease in which they all drew me in so quickly.

The intensity only adds to the mystery surrounding Wind Gap and sets a deep tone. There is no doubt that HBO has taken the lead in what is quickly becoming daring story telling and SHARP OBJECTS adds grit and not an ounce of fear in being dark and powerful.

In the end – going home was never so dangerous!

HBO Introduces Us to a Family All Wanting SUCCESSION: The Complete First Season

 

Succession cover

Jeri Jacquin

Now available on Bluray and DVD from HBO is one of the most startling series created by Jesse Armstrong to hit our screens and a family in SUCCESSION: The Complete First Season.

The Roy Family, led by patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is one of the most powerful in the global media world. Adult kids starting with sons Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Connor (Alan Ruck) and daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) are still trying to find their place in the world.

Kendall believes he is about to become CEO of Waystar Royco the family business and sees this as a comeback from his previous life problems with addiction. Currently separated from wife Rava (Natalie Gold), he is ready to take the place of leadership. Of course he is in for a big surprised when Logan announces he’s staying on.

That doesn’t last long when Logan has an attack and it’s clear that Kendall is going to step in. With the consent of the board, he jumps into the position bringing along brother Roman. Upset by this move is Logan’s second wife Marcy (Hiam Abbass) who also refuses to let anyone see Logan.

That’s when daughter Shiv decides its time to step in and check on who Marcy really is. Shiv’s fiancé Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) supports her decision to try and see her father. The only good thing is that Shiv has her own life outside the family business in politics which doesn’t make her father happy either.

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Son Connor is all over the place and sides with who ever has the most votes – on anything. His only interest seems to be on girlfriend Willa (Justine Lupe) who has a shady past that is often brought up by the others in the family. Watching the family dynamic unfold is Greg (Nicholas Braun), Logan’s great-nephew who is given a job to keep him occupied.

As Logan is recuperating, Kendall is making moves when he discovers that his father is deeply in debt. Trying to make the company more stable, he makes a major decision that has his father furious. Tom, given a position in the Parks department, discovers there is such a serious problems that could come back to hurt him and uses Greg to make it go away.

Shiv and Tom are getting married and as that day approaches, she meets up with Nate (Ashley Zuckerman) trying to prove they can still be friends after a prior romance. Working together they want to help Gil Eavis (Eric Bogosian) become the next president of the United States and he doesn’t like Logan Roy.

Kendall decides the only way to keep control of Waystar Royco is by calling for a vote of no-confidence against his father. Getting the board members to side with him means pulling out all the stops and convincing them it is the right thing to do. When a disaster happens, Kendall and half the board members are escorted out of the building. That’s when he knows who he can truly depend on from this point forward.

Connor has found a place in the desert and invites the family to come down for a visit. Logan feels that it is the perfect opportunity for a little family therapy and a few photos. Everyone agrees to go except Kendall who hasn’t forgiven any of his family members for the fiasco in the board room.

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Logan is furious when he learns that Shiv is helping Eavis with his presidential campaign, so much so that he decides not to attend her wedding. Shiv acts as if this is no problem but won’t stop working for Eavis either.

He is approached once again by someone who wants to bring down Logan Roy and discovers that someone he thought a friend has been playing a dangerous game all along. Kendall also sees that there is an opportunity to get back in the game and after Tom’s bachelor party, begins to move once again against Logan Roy.

As everyone arrives at a castle in Wales for Shiv’s wedding, Tom begins to feel as if there isn’t something his bride isn’t telling him. It doesn’t help when Greg wants to clear his own conscious either. As the wedding approaches, they are all surprised when Logan shows up for his daughters wedding in grand style.

Roman, who is still playing COO of the company, is pushing to have a satellite deal all worked out to prove to his father once and for all that he has what it takes. Conor decides that this is a good time for him to tell everyone that he wants to run for President of the United States which makes his siblings jaws drop.

After the ceremony and during the reception, Kendall learns that he has give Logan the papers that show he is once again out for the CEO position. He is then put up against his siblings to explain what he is doing but the conversation doesn’t go so well as Logan enters the room and lets him know that he is ‘nothing’.

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Shiv works out a deal between her father and Gil Eavis but the details are kept under wraps. Especially after now husband Tom lays out the disaster he knows about the family business. Roman’s satellite deal isn’t fairing any better and he has to keep that to himself for now.

Kendall isn’t getting any support from those who should be helping him through this latest battle with his father. So, he turns towards the one thing he knows works for him every time. When he can’t get his hands on the white powder, he turns to a waiter at the party who agrees to meet up with a connection.

What happens next is the stuff nightmares are made of and once again Kendall’s dreams are about to come under someone’s very heavy foot.

Cox as Logan Roy is absolutely, positively and without a doubt stunning in this role. There is nothing more frightening than a man who isn’t afraid of losing everything and Logan isn’t afraid of that at all. He has the uncanny way of always landing on his feet even when most mortals wouldn’t. I can’t take my eyes off the screen when he is about to set someone right or tell them off, either way he is riveting and powerful. If Logan Roy wasn’t so bad he’d be so good and it’s all due to Brian Cox!

Strong as Kendall is one hot mess of a man who is struggling to become CEO of a company that isn’t his. I mean truthfully it isn’t his but boy does he want it badly! So bad in fact he is willing to continually strike at his own father without thinking things through. I have to give him points for trying but damn boy, how many times are you going to go down? That’s what Strong does for this character, makes us root for him but when it doesn’t work you yell ‘stay down’ at the screen. With the shocking finale, once the blank stare has worn off, I have to wonder how long it will be before he is ready to go at it again.

Culkin as Roman is one step away from being considered for some kind of special room with a view. He is sharp, witted, snappy, sloppy and has a story to tell in the little bits and pieces of his sometimes out of sync trains of thought. You have to keep up with this one because you never know where he has been, where he is going and what the hell he is aiming for. Culkin is stellar and a force in this role absolutely.

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Snook as Shiv is a woman who just wants to have her family without all the problems that go along with it. She finds safely in her soon-to-be husband Tom and gets to be a bit of a shark in her political career. Shiv is equally snappy with the one liners and doesn’t take smack from anyone – except her father. I am actually rooting for Shiv to end up on the iron throne of Waystar Royco. Snook knocks this role right out of the park!

Ruck as Connor is just completely out there and I don’t know that he’s ever going to be coming back. He is an agree-er with the rest of the family when it comes to decisions because he refuses to be confrontational at any point. He is okay with his girlfriend and seems oblivious to what anyone else thinks of it all but, the most recent jaw dropper is his announcement that he wants to become President. Ruck just takes this role and zig zags everyplace leaving the viewer unsure what will happen with him next.

Braun as Greg is a combination of so many of the men on this show. Presenting himself as a big simple, he seems to always need the help of his mother but slowly starts to rely on the Roy family. He allows himself to be somewhat abused by them all but has a moment of clarity that might just come in handy later. Braun keeps his eyes open and forgets to keep his mouth shut. Lets see if he learns his lesson on the latter.

Macfadyen as Tom is one of the most insecure characters I think I’ve ever seen on television. He loves Shiv but one moment he is drowning her with his insecurities and the next he is brow beating Greg like it is an Olympic sport. Once he realizes he has been exposed like fresh meat in a lion’s cage, Tom has to decide who to trust. Macfadyen is scary one moment, head shaking the next and jaw dropping to the end.

Abbass as Marcy is a woman I just plainly don’t like. I know there is a story mixed into this that hasn’t been explored so I’ll save my list of reasons I wouldn’t put up with her trash for season two!

Two shout outs: Bogosian as Gil Eavis just because I’m thrilled to see him once again and his character has just signed a deal with the devil so I have to see how that’s going to turn out.

Second, to James Cromwell as Logan’s brother Ewan. This isn’t a big role but it certainly has its moments where I know Ewan isn’t about to stand by and watch the mess without having a front row seat!

Other cast includes Parker Sawyers as Alessandro, Rob Yang as Lawrence Yee, J. Smith-Cameron as General Council Gerri, David Rasche as Karl, Arian Moayed as Stewy, Juliana Canfield as Jess, Dagmara Dominczyk as Karolina, Peggy Scott as Jeane, and Harriet Walter as Caroline Collingwood.

HBO Home Entertainment has an extensive array of critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking programs found on Bluray, DVD and Digital HD. They have provided viewers with some of the most amazing programs with huge fan bases that include the shows True Blood, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, True Detectives, The Wire, Entourage and Game of Thrones. Launched in 1984, HBO is world wide in viewed entertainment in more than 70 territories around the world! For more of what they have to offer please visit www.hbo.com.

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The DVD Bonus Features includes The Cast and Crew of SUCCESSION Break Down the Action of the First Season’s Heart-Stopping Finale and Anatomy of a Scene.

SUCCESSION has a strong bunch of Executive Producers including Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick and Ilene Landress as well as comedy television veteran and Oscar nominee Adam McKay.

This series had me on the edge of my seat each of the ten episodes and I absolutely hated it when it was over. I didn’t want the madness to end. Let’s be honest, I feel like I did an amazing job raising my kids compared to Logan Roy and his band of out of control adult kids. That being said, I really wouldn’t have these characters any other way.

It is absolutely stunning how creator Armstrong could keep up with what these characters were doing while writing. I imagine a huge blank wall with a lot of post it notes and sharpie markings of all colors with arrows pointing every which way. Actually that sounds like a pretty cool way of keeping track of all the misfits.

Every time I thought I had them pegged, a big nopity-nope-nope would escape my lips. Even though I have a soft spot for Kendall, he had me shaking my head so much I think I actually have a case of whip lash. I mean seriously dude! Culkin brought me shocking laughs with his portrayal of a kid who just lets everything fly out of his mouth with absolutely no filter what so ever and I have to admit – I loved it.

Snook is a woman after my own heart in that her character really is very strong and extremely smart but still wants the heart of her daddy on her side. Well lady, you don’t have that kind of dad. Ruck has the role of a lifetime in that he doesn’t have to fit into any of the Roy family molds, he just does him and he seems content with that.

They are bitchy, sarcastic, uncompromising, vicious, back stabbing, back biting, loving, secretive, under handed but they are family!

A family that needs serious therapy, although that didn’t work out so well in the desert, so I think the only way it would work is if they are locked in a concrete room with armed guards so none of them could escape and let them duke it out. In the meantime, you must, must, must put SUCCESSION: The Complete First Season on your Christmas list!

In the end – they give the term dysfunctional family a whole new meaning!

A SIMPLE FAVOR Challenges Friendship

a simple favor

Jeri Jacquin

This Friday in theatres from director Paul Feig and Lionsgate comes a film based on the Darcey Bell novel asking for A SIMPLE FAVOR.

Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a single Mom who passes her days raising a young son Miles (Joshua Satine), being the crafty-type and a vlogger. While at a school celebration, Stephanie meets Miles friend Nicky (Ian Ho) and they both want a play date. Of course it’s all up to Nicky’s Mom Emily (Blake Lively).

Stephanie introduces herself to Emily and is a bit nervous realizing she is an outgoing and verbally free woman. Agreeing to a play date, Emily introduces Stephanie to a martini and the two become acquainted. Spending time together occasionally becomes something Stephanie looks forward to.

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She also meets Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) who is a writer and teaches at the local college. Seeing that the couple is really into each other, Stephanie comes to like them both very much. One day Emily calls and asks Stephanie to please watch son Nicky as Sean had to go take care of his injured mother and she is stuck with a business crisis.

That’s when a mystery begins as days go by and Emily is no where to be found. Sean returns home and joins in the search to find his wife. Stephanie uses her vlog to keep visitors up to date on the search. After the worst news possible happens, Stephanie and Sean find themselves trying to deal with it all.

As the police have their questions, Stephanie also has hers. It starts out with simple things that she notices but each day it becomes clear that something is not only wrong but that nothing is what it has seemed about Emily.

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Vlogger and DIY Mom goes into super sleuth mode to discover who Emily truly is, what does Sean know and will she have enough time to make her famous meatless meatballs for the next school function?

Stay tuned!

Kendrick as Stephanie pours it on as a woman with her own secrets who wraps them up in neat little cookie bundles. Volunteering and organizing everything around her, it doesn’t take long before Emily’s influence starts to her loosen up. Taking kindness for weakness, Kendrick gives Stephanie the kind of empowerment that can move mountains. I loved Kendrick in this role with her quirkiness mixed with a nervousness that sets of the hidden firecracker that her character is.

Lively as Emily is gorgeous, smart, wears it well and can spin a yarn with a straight face like no other. I loved every minute she was on screen just making every move look so damn easy. Even when her character was lying I didn’t know if she was lying even when I was 98% sure she was lying. The ride her character provides is fast, fun, crazy and filled with twists and surprises. Emily has a magazine rack full of issues and she’s not about to lay them out for the world to use against her. The match between Emily and Stephanie is definitely perfection.

Golding as husband Sean is a writer/teacher who fell hard for the lovely Emily. From the beginning of their relationship he knew there was something different but learned not to ask questions. Golding gives the role a bit of charm and innocent sexy all the way to the very end. He can also be seen in the hit film CRAZY RICH ASIANS and trust when I say he is an actor to keep watching for.

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Other cast include Dustin Milligan as Chris, Danielle Bourgon as Grace, Gia Sandhu as Valerie, Glenda Braganza as Mrs. Glenda, Kelly McCormack as Stacy, Andrew Rannells as Darren, Andrew Moodie as Sgt. Molloy, Rupert Friend as Dennis Nylon and Jean Smart as Mrs. McLanden.

A SIMPLE FAVOR is a mixture of fun, twists, jaw drops, hints, laughs, mystery, deception, friendship, love, illusion and so much more. The film moves along at a good pace and then the script is flipped half way through and the brake stick on the roller coaster is broken off!

Lively and Kendrick are magic together on the screen and I loved every minute of it. This is a film that is loaded from beginning to end and brought people at the screening together to talk about it after. Conversations spoke about the performances being some of the best seen in a while and how the story kept them off guard through out most of the film.

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For me there were a few things that I figured out but it didn’t stop me at all from enjoying the film. In fact, even though I may have figured this and that out, I didn’t expect the constant twists and turns! That is all due to Kendrick, Lively and Golding who kept me engrossed in their characters.

In the end – it all started with a simple favor!

 

VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Stephen Frears and Focus Features is the story of an unlikely friendship between VICTORIA & ABDUL.

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a clerk in a prison in India and his life is about to change. Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is to be given a tribute coin and Abdul is the tall man for the job. Along with a shorter Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), they sale toward England and Abdul is very excited.

There is no time for looking around much as Abdul and Mohammed are given a crash course on how to present to the Queen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) lets the two men know that everything is to be precise and quickly.

During the dinner, Abdul and Mohammed make their way toward Queen Victoria and after a quick nap the presentation is made. Walking backwards, Abdul does the unthinkable and makes eye contact and gives a smile to the Queen and what turns into one moment becomes an unlikely friendship.

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Much to the horror of Sir Ponsonby and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) as well as her ladies Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams) and Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar), the Queen begins to prefer the company of Abdul. They inform the Queen’s son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and a plan is formed.

Queen Victoria asks Abdul about his land, language and his story as they share walks and private times. It is clear that Abdul cares very much for the Queen and she for him, especially discovering he is married and demanding he get his family and return. That doesn’t stop the Queen’s staff, along with Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), from looking into Abdul’s past. Believing they can stop him with what they know, it only manages to infuriate the Queen in Abdul’s favor.

Including a knighthood which sends the entire palace into a tizzy and a decision that will not only put their loyalty in question but show how Queen Victoria wasn’t napping any longer.

This is a friendship that is filled with understanding, forgiveness and even unspoken love.

Dench once again proves why she is a queen in her own right. She is smart, strong, delicate, wistful and a woman who sees so little to move forward for. Once the Queen’s inner light is ignited, Dench shines every moment of the film. I quite honestly could not take my eyes off her performance and the ending brought me to tears.

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Karim as Fazal is a man who doesn’t see the world in such an aggressive way as those around him. A simple jail clerk who happens to know how to write is sent across the world to do one simple thing and it turns into a friendship. Fazal delivers his lines with the innocence I see in Abdul in that how one sees the world is clearly different than the Queen. There are moments where he is clearly confused, moments of profound joy and deep sadness and Fazal gets every drop of emotion out of the audience who is just as enraptured as the Queen.

Izzard as Bertie is just the worst that a son could possible be. Instead of being happy for the emotional reviving of his mother, he sees Abdul as an interloper and acts like a spoiled child instead of a future ruler. Izzard just pours it on and gets the reaction he wants!

Akhtar as Mohammed just wants to go home, and when he sees that the Prince and others want to use that against his friend Abdul – his response is epic! Pigott-Smith as Ponsonby is confused by the relationship between the Queen and Abdul but at the same time has a faithfulness to the way things ought to be done. Higgins as Dr. Reid is just another lackey who isn’t happy about Abdul’s presence and finds himself faced with the wrath of the Queen. Gambon as Salisbury wants one thing only – for Abdul to be gone and the crown to go back to normal.

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Williams as Lady Churchill isn’t happy to have the Queen’s ear and convinces Miss Phipps to do the extortion deed. Woolgar as Phipps has a moment in front of the Queen that is nerve wracking to watch but awesome to experience.

Other cast include Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke, Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge, Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck, Sukh Ojla as Mrs. Karim, Kemaal Deen-Ellis as Ahmed and Simon Callow as Puccini.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give VICTORIA & ABDUL five tubs of popcorn out of five. There is nothing about this film that goes wrong with me. The story between Queen Victoria and Abdul is delightful, funny, testing, sad, misunderstood and heartbreaking.

Mixed in with that is the ugliness of those around the Queen with their jabbing, back biting, underhanded, and horrible treatment of Abdul and Mohammed. Instead of embracing the cultural differences of these two men, they found ways to cut them to the quick – and right to their face in some cases.

The cinematography is amazing and it is a period piece which is going to grab me from the word go. I absolutely adore the costuming which is always an important part of a period piece because it adds such a richness to the storytelling.

I’m warning anyone who sees the film to keep a Kleenex handy because for the ending you are going to need it. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is everything I wanted for this story to be told – thank you both for making me laugh, smile and shed a tear.

In the end – this is a friendship based on a true story…well, mostly.

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