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Tag Archive: Helen Mirren


Review by C.J. Bunce

I love ghost stories at the movies.  Whether it’s lighter faire like Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie, a favorite version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, or the Disney favorite The Watcher in the Woods, or darker stories, like Guillermo del Toro taking on the Gothic mystery genre in Crimson Peak, count me in.  We’ve reviewed some good ghost stories here at borg.com, including The Woman in Black, the aforementioned Portrait of Jennie and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and television series like Marchlands, Lightfields, and Wynonna Earp From the ghost pirates and pirate ghosts in the Pirates of the Caribbean series to the ghost army in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a good ghost story must have a believable visual take on the actual spectres, but it also needs to provide an appropriate level of spooks and an interesting story.   Ghosts have been featured in romps like R.I.P.D., Ghost Rider, Beetlejuice, and Ghostbusters, darker ghost tales like The Crow and The Others, and even romances like Always, and City of Angels.  Some great, some only good, I count all of these worth watching.  Critics rarely give credit to the genre, with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense as an exception.  But count Winchester, now in theaters, as one of the good ones.

Although the ghost story is a subgenre of horror, if you lean more toward slasher flicks, monster gore, and terror (think Saw or Scream series), if you want to scream out loud in the theater, and true ghost stories aren’t really your thing, Winchester may not be for you.  But if you want a nicely creepy setting, a throwback style ghost story movie, and a cast of excellently realized characters, Helen Mirren’s Sarah Lancaster, Jason Clarke’s Dr. Price, Sarah Snook’s Marian Marriott, and Eamon Farren’s Ben Block make the cut.  This is not just a pile-on of gotchas you’d find in a typical teen slasher film, but it’s peppered with jumps and starts.  Its setting, its costumes, and its roots in reality will keep you on the edge of your seat, but it also flows at a steady pace.  A simple tale with a few twists, Winchester is most on par with The Woman in Black, but it also dabbles in the realm that will appeal to many fans of The Sixth Sense–even the plots share some similarities.

Do you like haunted houses?  The famed real-life Winchester haunted house in San Jose is the right place for the ultimate haunted house tale.  The truth of Winchester only adds to the suspense and intrigue:  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Some evidence indicates it’s because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  Lore of the house is that she built extra rooms onto her mansion to trick the ghosts.  She was a bit of a recluse and known by those near her to be superstitious, and this is evident with the number 13 appearing throughout the house windows, such as rooms with 13 panes of glass, ceilings with 13 panels, and staircases with only 13 steps.  And workers removed and added new rooms to the mansion until her death in 1922.  Where there are gaps in the story, the directors–the Spierig Brothers–fill in the blanks visualizing the mythos of Sarah Winchester’s supposed vision of the truth, asking the question: If her superstitions are related to her strange house design, what story could explain this unique house?  Despite the inclusion of ghosts, nearly everything can be explained by science, and much can be left to the viewer to make his/her own call.  But if you’re game, couple an heiress who truly believes she is cursed and a doctor whose own past demons and drug use make him susceptible to some suggestions of a supernatural nature, and you’ll find an intriguing ghost story.

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For “truth is stranger than fiction” it’s difficult not to stumble over the story of Sarah Winchester.  Mysteries of the Museum, America’s Castles, and every series that has ever taken viewers on an excursion to America’s supposedly haunted houses has covered the story.  Heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester became one of the world’s wealthiest women of the 19th century.  Her husband died in 1881 and she then proceeded to spend her fortune on a sprawling mansion over the next 38 years, a mansion that was never finished.  And why?  Because Sarah Winchester thought the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her.  She built extra room after room on her mansion to trick them into not finding her.  And she had new rooms added to the mansion until she died.  And this story is all true.

Next month the great Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock, The Queen) steps into the shoes of Sarah Winchester in the new drama horror film, Winchester.  One of genredom’s pervasive actors, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genesys, Farscape, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Everest) plays a doctor looking into Winchester’s outlandish claims for the Winchester business.

The mansion still exists and is now a tourist attraction called the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  Check out the website here.  For fans of Supernatural–show creator Eric Kripke gave Sam and Dean their last name because of Kripke’s interest in the Mystery House.

The film adaptation appears to take the ghost story into the realm of Guillermo del Toro’s ghost story Crimson Peak.  Check out previews for the new movie, Winchester, after the cut:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s interesting that the publicity folks for RED 2 have stressed in their latest movie trailer no Robots, Monsters, or Superheroes.  Although we’re not so sure RED 2 isn’t chock full of its own breed of superhero, it’s true you’ll find no monsters or robots here.  RED 2, previewed at borg.com here, is definitely not like any other film creating waves this summer.  But it is the most fun you’ll have at any movie this year.

You don’t need to ask, for example: Were too many people killed in the movie’s finale (as with Man of Steel)?  Or lower your normal standards a bit to allow yourself to just plain have fun watching a giant robot take on a giant monster from the ocean’s depths (as with Pacific Rim).  Or struggle with friends over whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch was cast appropriately as a sci-fi villain (as with Star Trek Into Darkness).  With RED 2, you don’t have to think about all those things that distract you from just having a good time.  Do the heroes kill a lot of people in RED 2?  You bet, and we like it that way.

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What RED 2 will make you do is think about where it stands in the line-up of the best of Bruce Willis’s movies.  When was the last time you saw such a good Bruce Willis film that made you work through that analysis?  The reality is that Bruce Willis’s performance as retired spy Frank Moses in RED 2 is up there with his first run as John McClane in the original Die Hard, and we haven’t seen him play a character this cool since Pulp Fiction.  Pull up your Netflix queue and take a second look at him in Striking Distance, Twelve Monkeys, and The Fifth Element and you might just add RED 2 to your list of Best of Bruce keepers.

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RED 2 is coming to theaters July 19, 2013, and we’ve previewed it earlier here at borg.com.  If you missed the original in the theaters you’re not alone.  The marketing for RED didn’t do much to help–advertised as retired assassins getting back together, the appeal was hard to grasp.  Yet if it had been revealed as a dream cast spy caper in the realm of the Ocean’s Eleven series, it might have drawn a wider audience.  Whatever the box office take on the original, it doesn’t matter as a sequel will be soon here, and it’s a good time to go back to the original available everywhere on video and even on basic cable programming.  If you do, you’ll find a fun flick that will likely cause you to look forward to RED 2 come July.

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Not a lot of sequels featuring action heroes over 50 look as good as the new trailer for RED 2, the sequel to the 2010 action movie RED, about Bruce Willis’s Frank Moses bringing his band of retired assassins back together.  Bruce Willis?  Again?  You’ve got to hand it to Bruce–he is making more movies than anyone half his age and he’s just not letting up.  Since the first movie RED in 2010 he has starred or was featured in twelve movies, including The Expendables and The Expendables 2, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retribution, and coming soon, the adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For.

Just look at the great cast in RED 2 and decide for yourself who to be more excited about.  Returning with Willis from the last film is John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Mary-Louise Parker.  This time around they’ve brought in Anthony Hopkins playing against type as a wacky jailed friend from the past.

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In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the character Maxwell Scott says the memorable line “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  No director could be called larger than life and legendary more so than Alfred Hitchcock.  Not only a famous director but a well known unique personality with a bloodhound face like Droopy and a slow drawl that was unmistakeable, Hitch has become the subject of a new film starring Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins in the title role.  Hitchcock covers the days surrounding the development of his blockbuster, violent horror flick Psycho during 1959 and the romantic relationship between Hitch and his wife Alma, played by Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren.  Whether the producers of the new biopic have an accurate and historical portrayal of the film icon or not, hopefully they get his over-the-top personality right.  The new trailer seems to reflect that may be the case.

The film has an interesting all-star cast with several actors we haven’t seen in a while, co-starring Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Iron Man II, The Island, The Prestige) as Janet Leigh–star of Psycho, Jessica Biel (Total Recall, Stealth, Next) as Vera Miles–Leigh’s sister in the film, Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) as Peggy Robertson–Hitchcock’s production assistant, James d’Arcy (Master and Commander) as the psycho himself, Anthony Perkins, and long-time-no-see Ralph Macchio (My Cousin Vinny, The Outsiders, The Karate Kid, Psych) as Joe Stefano, the screenplay writer for Psycho.

Check out the first trailer released for Hitchcock:

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