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Three bored friends, widowed Alexandra (Cher), newly divorced uptight musician Jane (Susan Sarandon) and single mother of five Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) all wish that they could meet an interesting man to shake up their lives in the New England town of Eastwick. Enter the devilishly charming Darryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) who not only shakes up their lives, but causes scandal, gossip throughout the neighbourhood, especially upsetting the devoutly religious Felicia, who is the wife of Sukie’s boss.

Darryl seduces all three women and they all stay at his mansion with him, living a life of decadence but when they realise that the town of Eastwick is gossiping about them and calling them all names, they decide that something needs to be done. And then the trouble really starts…

I remember watching this film when it first came out in 1987, and although I had forgotten some of the details, I do recall thinking that it was a lot of fun and visually spectacular, but all kind of fell apart at the end. And this was more or less my feelings on this occasion too, although to say it fell apart is perhaps a bit harsh. The first two thirds of the film are wonderful – the four main members of the cast are superb, especially Jack Nicholson and Cher, and the colour and lavish production are a treat for the eyes. The last third of the film is possibly a bit overblown – I won’t give away what happens in case of spoilers; it may be a fairly old movie by now, but still people will be watching it for the first time – and visual effects seem to take over from the story itself, but it’s still good fun.

Susan Sarandon seems to thoroughly enjoy her role, and the transformation of Jane from a repressed and nervous woman into a sexually adventurous and sensual lady. Michelle Pfeiffer too plays her part as sweet Sukie very well, but it’s Cher as the bohemian, straight talking Alexandra who stood out for me amongst the three female leads. But Jack Nicholson – a man who was probably born for such a part – steals his scenes. Although he is rude and provocative, he does indeed have a lot of charisma and you can see why these women would be attracted to him.

If you like fantasy with your comedy and this one has slipped under your radar, I recommend it – it’s entertaining and amusing, with a great cast.

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Year of release: 1987

Director: George Miller

Writers: John Updike (novel), Michel Cristofer

Main cast: Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, Richard Jenkins, Veronica Cartwright, Carel Struycken

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I watched Noel at Christmas time (Christmas Eve in fact) because it is indeed a Christmas film, and honestly it was just what I wanted to see.

With an impressive cast, including Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penelope Cruz, Alan Arkin and an uncredited Robin Williams, this film tells the story of a number of strangers who are all affected by events that happen over the Christmas season. Sarandon is Rose, a divorced single woman, who divides her life between work and visiting her Alzheimers afflicted mother in hospital. She is lonely and frustrated with her life but help appears where she least expects it.

Walker plays Mike, a New York cop who is madly in love with his fiancee Nina (Cruz) – but his love borders on possessiveness, and his jealousy threatens to ruin their relationship. His life is further complicated by the appearance in it of Artie (Arkin), a cafe owner who seems to know a lot about Mike and becomes fixated on him – but his reasons will not be what you think (I promise!)

Robin Williams plays one of his more tempered and poignant roles as a man who Rose meets while visiting her mother in hospital. A former priest who has lost his faith both in God and in life, he and Rose provide support for each other.

And then there’s Jules (Marcus Thomas) a young man who is haunted by an unhappy childhood and goes to desperate lengths to recreate the one perfect Christmas that he had.

Into the lives of all these people comes a little beauty and a little Christmas magic. I don’t want to post any spoilers in this review, so I won’t say more than that, but I will  say that while this film is undeniably smaltzy in places and you will definitely need to suspend your disbelief in parts, it was also lovely viewing for the Christmas season and definitely left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I will be adding it to my regular Christmas viewing.

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Year of release: 2004

Director: Chazz Palminteri

Writer: David Hubbard

Main cast: Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Paul Walker, Marcus Thomas

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arbitrage

Richard Gere heads up the cast in this thriller – he plays Robert Miller, a successful hedge fund magnate. Miller is desperate to try and sell his company before his dodgy financial dealings come to light, but is soon faced with an even bigger problem on a more personal scale. Desperate to cover up his involvement in a young lady’s death, he tries to out manoeuvre the tenacious Detectiver Bryer (Tim Roth), who knows Miller’s guilt (no spoilers here) and is prepared to go to any lengths to prove it. Throughout all of this, Miller’s family life with wife Ellen and daughter Brooke (Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling respectively) starts to crumble. Can Miller outrun the truth – and how long will his power and influence be able to protect him?

This was another film which exceeded my expectations. I watched it because of Tim Roth and from the description was not sure that it would be something that I would really enjoy. However, it held my attention from the moment it started and I thoroughly liked the whole story. The cast were excellent – Richard Gere was great as the powerful businessman who could feel everything he had achieved slipping through his fingers. He moved seamlessly from a loving father to a ruthless businessman and although I did not really like the character (and I don’t think we were meant to like him) I still found him interesting. Tim Roth was – of course – excellent in the type of role that he plays so well; determined and persistent. Although his character was essentially on the side of the good, Bryer’s own morals were somewhat ambiguous. I do feel that Susan Sarandon was somewhat underused, appearing in only really a handful of scenes, although there was one very relevant one towards the end – I won’t say more about that because the ending was excellent and I don’t think anyone watching this film should have it spoiled for them.

Also brilliant was Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant – a young man with a criminal past, who is  now trying to rebuild his life, but whose connections with Miller and a favour which he does for Miller threaten to ruin his future.

Overall, an enjoyable and absorbing thriller, which is well worth a watch.

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Year of release: 2012

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Writer: Nicholas Jarecki

Main cast: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling

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This is the adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s book of the same name, where she talks about her work counselling death row inmates, and her campaign against the death penalty. There are some slight differences – in the book, Sister Helen discusses two inmates; here it just one inmate, with elements of both men incorporated. Also, in the book, electrocution was by electric chair, and in the film it is by lethal injection, but apart from that, the film remains true to the spirit and message of the book.

I first watched this film in the late 90s, and I remember sitting in stunned silence when it finished. I naively thought that I would not be so affected by it this time around, especially as I knew what was coming. WRONG! I actually spent about half of the film in tears.

Susan Sarandon (in an Oscar winning performance) portrays Sister Helen, and Sean Penn is Matthew Poncelet, the death row inmate to whom she offers friendship and spiritual guidance. Both performances are blisteringly good. The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t try and defend or excuse the heinous crime committed by Poncelet, and nor does it try to make him a sympathetic character (frankly, he isn’t). But this film is about more than one man. It is about the rights and wrongs of using the death penalty as punishment for crimes. Personally I am completely against the death penalty, but I respect the makers of this film (and Sister Helen) for daring to show both sides of the argument. The grieving families of Poncelet’s victims are portrayed with sympathy and honesty. Of course they are angry because of their loss – they have every right to be, and their desire to see their children’s murderer executed is entirely understandable. The film is balanced and as objective as it can be, given that it is based on the book of an anti-death penalty campaigner.

It is thoughtful, and thought-provoking, as a film with this subject at its core should be. Whichever side of the argument you’re on, I would highly recommend watching this. Just superb.

Year of release: 1995

Director: Tim Robbins

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, John Kilik, Tim Robbins, Rudd Simmons, Allan Nicholls, Mark Seldis, R.A. White

Writers: Sister Helen Prejean (book), Tim Robbins

Main cast: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky, Raymond J. Barry, Roberta Maxwell

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Click here for my review of the book.

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No…not the vampire love story with Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson. This film boasts an impressive cast – Paul Newman is the lead (and still looking great at 73), with Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, Liev Schreiber, Reese Witherspoon and Stockard Channing. Newman plays Harry Ross, a slightly down-at-heel retired private detective, who lives with his friends Jack and Catherine Ames (Hackman and Sarandon). When Jack, who is dying of cancer, asks Harry to do him a favour, Harry finds himself entering a murky world of betrayal and deceit, and uncovering some unsavory aspects of his friends’ past.

This film reminded me very much of the film noirs which were so popular during the 1940s and 1950s – in fact, I could almost imagine it in smoky black and white, with Humphrey Bogart starring! That is no criticism on my part; I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It has a mature (and I do mean mature, not old) cast, and a mature storyline. The acting is, as you would expect from such a stellar cast, impressive throughout, and Newman is perfect as the narrator and hero – of sorts – of the picture. He combines his natural charm, with world-weary emotion. You get the feeling that Ross is just plain tired of the world he inhabits, and he is just one of many characters in this film who are unsatisfied wtih their lives. Susan Sarandon has a timeless beauty, and looks stunning here, and Hackman….well, he’s just always terrific.

The plot has twists and turns, but it doesn’t get too complicated, which is a good thing. I like films that encourage the audience to think, but not films that are just too convoluted and end up being just plain confusing.

I would say that this is not the best film that any of the stars ever made, but if you are a fan of any of the cast, it is certainly worth a watch.

Year of release: 1998

Director: Robert Benton

Producers: Michael Hausman, Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin, Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert

Writers: Robert Benton, Richard Russo

Main cast: Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, James Garner

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