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Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day was around a decade in the making from original script to cinematic release. It has blended several cinematic tropes to create something fresh with wide audience appeal.

The first theme is the Groundhog Day experience of reliving the same day over and over to try and fix something wrong. The “something wrong “ is Tree the protagonist’s murder around the same time every night. Tree awakens every morning with a bit more knowledge about who isn’t the murderer but her body is gradually weakened by each encounter.

The second genre is the teenage slasher movie where the loose moralled blonde is going to be killed off. And, dear reader, she is – over and over again.

Unlike Bill Murray, most of what Trey does is not to become a better person but in one iteration we think she might have cracked it as she ends up being nice to everyone around her.

The film also explores the vacuous world of American college dorms; sorority sisters retaining their mean girl high school personas. Is it possible to be nice in Mean Girl Land?

Add into the mix, death and loss and familial grief – oh and an escaped convict and there you have it.

An alternative ending didn’t play well to test audiences but perhaps it is the better ending. The current ending is theatrical and sets up the possibility of a sequel, according to the director.


Directed by Christopher B. Landon
Produced by Jason Blum
Written by Scott Lobdell
Music by Bear McCreary
Cinematography Toby Oliver
Edited by Gregory Plotkin
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • October 13, 2017(United States)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English



Gifted is a charming movie that explores the world of a gifted child whose mother is dead, leaving her uncle and grandmother to fight through the courts about her future. Her uncle has raised her for 6 and a 1/2 years but the grandmother comes on the scene following contact from the school principal when the uncle refuses a scholarship to a school for the gifted and talented because he wants his neice to have a normal childhood.

It’s the sort of film which has a gap-toothed, long-lashed child who knows right from wrong, even if the adults around her don’t always live up to those ideals themselves. Add into the mix a one-eyed cat, a besotted neighbour who likes to sing karaoke with the girl while the uncle tries to pick up women in the bar and underscore the pathos with an unusual soundtrack featuring Cat Stevens amongst others and you get a flavour of what is to come.

Watch it and revel in the basically sweet story with sadness thrown in for good measure.gifted movie

The Lives of Stella Bain – Anita Shreve

I read this book because it was the book club choice for April. I didn’t realise that it was a companion novel until after I had finished so I may be less reliable in my opinion as a result. Taken at face value as a standalone text, The Lives of Stella Bain tells the story of a woman volunteering as an ambulance driver in WW1 France. After being treated for leg injuries and having no recollection of who she is Stella goes to London to try and find the half-remembered someone at the Admiralty who can help her recover her memory. Her recovery is aided by a recently married man who uses Freudian analysis to try and help Stella recall who she is.

I did go and read the companion novel, All He Ever Wanted, afterwards. In AHEW the narrative is told by Stella’s first husband and he is portrayed as a man who is obsessed with his wife and career advancement. Although one would expect differences in a he said-she said narrative what happens to every character is so radically different in the telling that it is difficult to marry the two up. This was obviously done deliberately by Anita Shreve but whether we know either character well by the end is debatable. Whether we actually like either of them by the end is probably down to the reader themselves. For my part, both are unreliable and ultimately very foreign in their thought processes.

Anita Shreve died in March. Her books are generally worth reading but, the blurb of this one said it was part Downtown and part Atonement. Not true in either case.


Vinegar Hill – Manette Ansay

It has been a long time since I read The Women’s Room but my partner then told me it was making me so angry that I should stop reading it.

Vinegar Hill was similarly enraging.

The characters in Vinegar Hill are so lacking in charm and empathy that the atmosphere is poisonous. The reasons why the characters behave as they do is explained towards the end of the book but the reasons are no excuse for the way things were in this household. Anyone wanting to know why equity in relationships is a *good thing* should be encouraged to read this novel and wonder if women’s lives really were so controlled by small minded religious cultures in the 70s. If you have a good job and relationship now, thank the women who went before you and remember it was not always thus. Worth a read if you can manage to distance yourself from the lives of the main characters.

A Nest of Vipers – Montalbano

A Nest of Vipers

Businessman Cosimo Barletta is found dead in his holiday home, with a gunshot to the head. Montalbano’s investigation reveals a series of unexpected facts about the man’s life and death – starting with the discovery of an archive of photographs of young women and continuing with the autopsy results, which indicate there might have been more to the man’s killing than had initially met the eye. Salvo meets with Barletta’s disowned son Arturo, and is helped in his investigation by Arturo’s mysterious sister, Giovanna.

Montalbano, the kindest cop in Italy started his day sharing freshly made coffee and offering a hot shower to a man who had slept on his balcony all night. The mysterious man left for his home as Salvo was distracted by a telephone call telling him there had been yet another murder. Barletta had had a thing for young women and his murder may be linked to this or to his son’s worry that the inheritance is being frittered away.

Livia arrives unexpectedly and suggests that Salvo gives his spare clothing to  Camastra the vagrant who slept on the balcony. Salvo is less than pleased as some of the pieces are favourites or gifts from his housekeeper Adelina.

Meanwhile the young girls Barletta has been involved with may well have been blackmailed by him. Photos of them in various undressed poses give Mimi something to think about as he compares them to mug shots of known criminals and women he has known. One of them, Stephania, seems to have genuinely liked Barletta and knew nothing of the blackmail photos. Salvo holds her photos and Stella’s back when he sends the evidence over to the prosecutor.

Cannoli always looks so enticing to Salvo even in the morgue. Discussions about the cause of death don’t seem to put either man off the creamy dessert.

Salvo and Livia seems much closer than normal but even so, she calls him a stronzo several times when he misspeaks. The translation in the subtitles is “jerk” which is not exactly correct.

Barletta’s daughter seems to have set her cap at Salvo which sets the cat amongst the pigeons. Salvo’s inability to say no is as inexplicable as his locked front door while his balcony door remains  open to all and sundry.

The vagrant holds a key piece of information that allows Montalbano to draw the investigation to  close even if the conclusion will shock the unprepared viewer.


Montalbano – The Mud Pyramid

The Mud Pyramid

A man’s body is found inside an industrial pipe on a building site. Montalbano and Fazio manage to identify the victim and try to contact his missing wife. Meanwhile, journalist Lucia Gambardella reaches out to Montalbano with information on a local corruption ring involving fraudulent building contracts.

In Italian with English subtitles.


So, it does rain in Sicily. The thunderous opening scene masked a shot between the shoulder blades to a mysterious man in his underwear trying to ride his bicycle to escape into a large concrete pipe. His body was found by workers the next morning 18 metres from the entrance. Montalbano, who is claustrophobic, can’t investigate in situ so the body is brought back outside. Salvo is convinced the man must be a local who lives nearby.

Meanwhile Mimi can’t speak to a woman at the station as she is yet another of his former lovers – this time one who spurned him. A woman who immediately has Montalbano’s admiration.

Guiciu Nicotra is the discovered corpse, identified by his facial scar. Inge his German wife is said, by an older neighbour, to be a slut happy to receive guests. Inge is dead too, still in the house awaiting discovery according to Salvo’s theory. The only problem is, no body is discovered and a later phone call claims she is back in Germany.

A female journalist meets Salvo on his balcony – that view enhanced by glasses of vino. Who wouldn’t say yes to that? Her investigation is based on collapsing buildings and subsidence, and who exactly is to blame.

A gloved guest has been living with Gerlando and Inge, a fugitive who knows his prints are on file.

Piscopo is in the hospital being protected by Salvo when pantomime thugs arrive with guns but Salvo bravely chases them off and receives a concussion for his trouble.

A secret  basement in the garage of Inge’s house is discovered but Inge remains illusive. A safe full of money appears to be the motive, but is it?



Montalbano – A Delicate Matter



Salvo is back in Vigata, Sicily! Livia will have to get used to coming home to Salvo not being there when she comes home from work. The many faces of Livia are somewhat confusing for the audience so it is as well they make the character names obvious in the exposition of the first scene with them both. “Exasperating!” as Livia would say. (Played this time by Sonia Bergamasco.)

Montalbano is visiting Livia in Boccadasse when he is called back to Vigata to investigate the murder of Maria, a 70-year-old prostitute – as well as disturbing accusations at an elementary school.

Mimi as usual is overly keen to interview an attractive female witness and goes down the route of deviant sex as the motivation/explanation of the murder. Salvo is unimpressed by this and also the American style of victim/suspect photos on the wall of the police station. Catarella has a theory about the son of a prostitute being the client.

Of course things are more complex than that. Maria has been preparing for retirement with her husband and as a waiter he won’t stop working until she does as he wants to have the continued respect of the community, not one associated with being a ruffian who lives off immoral earnings.

Meanwhile a young male teacher is rumoured to be overly affectionate towards the young daughter of a fellow teacher. The woman is living alone with her daughter while her husband works away from home. The young male is good looking and unblemished until this new rumour takes hold.

Salvo learns to send picture attachments in his phone and Mimi’s latest infidelity is discovered due to leaving his gun behind.

Adelina takes it upon herself to teach Livia to cook and Livia’s new dog takes over the household more and more.

One suspect ends up dead narrowing down the possibilities.

Salvo, of course, solves the case while we feast our eyes on the scenery.

Salvo Montalbano Luca Zingaretti
Giuseppe Fazio Peppino Mazzotta
Livia Burlando Sonia Bergamasco
Mimi Augello Cesare Bocci
Catarella Angelo Russo
Pasquano Marcello Perracchio
Nicolo Zito Roberto Nobile
Teresita Gaudenzio Miriam Dalmazio
Maria Castellino Ileana Rigano
Serafino Lollo Franco
Preside Vasilico Sebastiano Tringali
Mimmo Tavano Giancarlo Barbara


The Levelling


Trespass Against Us

The film Trespass Against Us starring Michael Fassbender  revolves around the Cutler family who live a life of chaos and criminality centred around their caravan site. The film jolts the audience into this life from the first moment when we see a young boy sitting on his father’s knee while driving over a field chasing a hare. In the car are others of the Cutler gang whooping for joy and egging each other on. Car chases and wanting what is best for the children are recurring themes in the film. Fassbender portrays the gentler criminal who agrees with his wife that his children should get an education, something he never had. His lack of ability to read has heavily impacted on his life leaving him no option but to follow the ways of his father who is not a likable character. Despite the appearance of poverty the Cutler family have access to lots of money due to their willingness to pull off another heist.

At the heart of the story is control and family love and knowing who really is acting in the best interests of their son.

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