Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dead Again (1991) and blahblahblahloves Emma Thompson

OK so i was going to review this movie because I anticipated loving it but sadly it falls short of that accolade so I thought I would give you half a review and talk about Emma Thompson a bit instead.

Dead Again was directed by famed thespian and Gilderoy Lockhart himself Kenneth Branagh directly after his big screen success with Henry V - that's Henry the Fifth to American readers not the fifth part of a trilogy. Only his second attempt at directing a film and writer Scott Frank's first full feature (he would later go on to write such quality work as Get Shorty, Out of Sight and The Lookout.)

The theatrical artwork is pretty awesome if you ask me. Really high quality work that kinda freaks you out a bit if you look at it too much. DVD cover on the other hand is merely OK. At first I didn't notice that it was simply both leads repeated in their different roles which is a nice touch however.

It really ratchets up the tension this trailer doesn't it. You think you know what this movie is about? Prepare to be surprised. The trailer is a bit misleading I would say.

A brief synopsis: Grace is a missing person who has lost her voice other than to scream during night terrors. Mike is a PI who is pressured in to helping her. Grace dreams about Roman and Margaret Strauss and the 1949 murder of Margaret. The Strauss couple looked exactly like Grace and Mike. They investigate the earlier murder to try to discover the truth about Grace.

I'd not heard about this movie until recently but it seems to have been at least a little popular at the time of it's release, tripling its budget with its US box office alone. I find it odd how films start off with high praise and just get forgotten about over time. If I was a multiplex owner with a digital projector I'd look in to screening classic movies for less money. If I owned the rights to all of these old films I'd look at this as a new revenue stream. The film and music industries are always so slow to investigate new revenue streams, only worried about whats happening to old revenue streams. Do not fear, I just bought Brief Encounter on Blu-ray, there's a demand for those things that are bought and paid for!

Anyway the film is enjoyable to a point, the idea is pretty good and as my friend Simon would be quick to point out, it's intricately plotted. Both lead actors and all supporting cast including Newman from Seinfeld are very good. I particularly love Emma Thompson but then I love Emma Thompson in everything. More to come late on my MILF crush. (That's so disrespectful but I have no other way of putting it in my head right now.)

Where this film falls down (and it is only minor points really) is with the theatrical staging of certain scenes and the score. Yes Ken Branagh is a stage actor/director so his theatrical leanings are bound to come out in his first real feature film but even so I think he needed somebody to say "hold on Ken baby you're playing this one as if it's on stage, how about some camera movement or more naturalised movement from the characters?" this is only occasionally mind you as generally it's very well done. The score on the other hand became a near constant source or amusement/irritation. It clearly served a dual purpose, 1) to remove the audience from the action by highlighting the filmic device of music accentuating action and 2) being absolutely silly to the point where there's a chase scene with a potential murder at the end of it and the music sounds like we're on a jolly old horse ride or something.

But it was mostly enjoyable and if you're stuck for a thriller/drama with some nice comedy moments and the charming Emma Thompson you should definitely check this film out. But as I said about Training Day recently, choose wisely. There are many films out there to watch so if you haven't seen The Usual Suspects or Seven yet watch those instead.

I should take this opportunity to mention that Marvel recently picked this stage director to make Thor. I haven't seen Thor but the idea of Kenneth Branagh directing it makes me want to see it even more now. I can't say why this is so but it must have something to do with Henry V. I have seen Sleuth recently and that was just like watching a stage production too and this is not something you would associate with a summer blockbuster superhero comic book film. Bring it on, to use the parlance of our times.

As mentioned at the top I don't have a huge amount to say about this film in the end and I've been looking for an excuse to write a little bit about Emma Thompson for a few weeks now. She came in to my shop with her family recently and I was amazed by the fact that she's really very beautiful in person without the makeup and dressed casually, I kinda expected it to be a movie thing you know. And on top of that she seemed like a really nice person. As did her acting husband (the one after Ken Branagh) and her daughter was extremely well spoken. Hurrah for manners.

So here's a brief rundown of some of my favourite Emma Thompson performances/movies.

1. Love Actually (2003) - Karen

So she's the Prime Minister's sister and married to Alan Rickman, whilst being a shoulder to cry on for the recently widowed Liam Neeson, largely ignored by two domineering men she still manages to be a kind yet forceful mother and friend. It's not a fully fleshed out character, like everybody in Love Actually, but she is rather wonderful, funny when needed (Emma Thompson went to university with Fry and Laurie don't you know) and really pulls off the broken hearted lover to perfection towards the end.

2. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - Professor Trelawney

I'm really bored with Harry Potter these days but going back to the third instalment the appearance of Emma Thompson as the scatterbrained, hippy-like Trelawney was pretty cool. I laughed a lot and she's really quite scary in a jump out of your seat kinda way. This is her Monster role. Make someone beautiful look ugly in a film and they win an Oscar right? Not in this case.

3. Last Chance Harvey (2008) - Kate

I really wanted to love this movie, the trailer looks like a great time, Dustin Hoffman is great in everything, Emma Thompson looks like she's her usual excellent self. And it is romantic and funny and both actors were very good but it just left me feeling like there was one ingredient missing, like they forgot to season with some salt whilst they were simmering or something. But it certainly pisses all over those Jennifer Aniston vehicles.

4. I Am Legend (2007) - Dr. Krippin

She's barely in it but she did bring the world to an end so that's a pretty big part. Other people may have been able to play this role but Emma Thompson just brings her natural sense of fun and class to the performance.

5. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) - Karen

I loved this film, a wonderful script, great casting which produced standout performances. Nobody ever thought Will Ferrell could act before this film. And Emma Thompson is perfect as the writer with writer's block. Delight in her dead pan sarcasm and playful way of narrating Harold Crick's life.

Yeah I ignored the fact that she won Oscars for period dramas. She can do that too by the way.

If you like the sound of the movie from my review and actually watch it, let me know. If you don't agree with me, let me know. What are your thoughts on Ms Thompson? Film is an art form and art is open to interpretation in any number of ways. The discussion of art and individual interpretation is encouraged around here. And if you enjoy the movie head down to your local independent movie store and buy it, it's only through us actually paying for films that these film makers will get to work again. At least in an ideal world that will be the case. I'm looking at you Uwe Boll.

Dead Again (1991) DivX -


  1. I really, really liked Dead Again when I was in high school and hadn't seen a lot of movies with twist endings. Now I'm afraid to watch it again because it might not be as good as I remembered it. I just keep my memory of thinking it was awesome 20 years ago and think that at least I learned to love Emma Thompson because of it. Did you like her in Sense and Sensibility?

  2. hey erin, welcome to blahblahblah. i reckon the unexpected ending still stands. i didn;t predict where it was going but then that may be because i was taken out of the journey by the score. give it a go again sometime, i'm sure it won't disappoint too much from your younger days.

    as for sense & sensibility, i didn't watch it, there's something about that particular type of period drama that puts me off completely. i hear she's very funny in it, or am i confused?

  3. She was funny in a dry sort of way. I can understand someone not liking costume pictures. This one was elevated by her and by Alan Rickman. Great blog by the way; I found you on LAMB so good to see that's a way to bring in hits.

  4. thank you and welcome initforthekills. it's not the costumes per se, crimson petal and the white is a different sort of period drama and i wanted to watch that. it may be my rebellion against the english upbringing but austen and bronte and dickens just make my head want to hide under a pillow. but yeah she wrote it and alan rickman is always high quality - see die hard for example! - so i'd rather watch her version than the one with keira knightley.

  5. hold on. you're the same person with multiple id's?

  6. I apologize, I did name/url the first time and wordpress the second.

  7. look up for latest movies review and trailers in your cinema this June
    here :

  8. no worries erin/initforthekills so long as i'm clear it shouldn't confuse my brain in future.

    ahmad - you are my first spam comment, congratulations. i feel like a real blogger now.

  9. I saw Dead Again back when it first came to video. In fact, it was the first movie I ever saw Branagh and Thompson in. I didn't even know that they were British because they play Americans in the movie.

    I enjoyed the movie a lot. It made me watch for other movies by the two of them.

    And I also enjoyed the fact that the movie had not one, but two reveals that I did not see coming. Trust me, when you're watching movies with others and they can't even see what's going to happen in movies like Fight Club, it can get frustrating. To have a movie that's not obvious about its twist is refreshing.

  10. perhaps a top 5 twists list for you some time chip?

  11. One of the hundred plus planned categories I have is titled "Twists I Did Not See Coming." Dead Again would be one of them. Widow's Peak, Shattered, Unbreakable, and The Crying Game would be others. You may be wondering where movies like The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, and other famous twist movies are. Well, I figured those out.

    I don't sit there and try to second guess a movie; for whatever reason my brain just comes out with where I think things will go. I used to score really high on pattern recognition tests (you know, "what number is the next in the sequence?") Perhaps I recognize patterns in the movie itself, or patterns from watching other movies.

    Heck, I figured out Fight Club and Shutter Island from their trailers. I have to credit having seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) for the latter.

  12. chip - thats a lot of planned categories. i also spotted shutter island though, within 5 minutes. the movie was incredibly dull after that.

  13. Before I ever started the blog I sat down and brainstormed groups of movies to see if I could come up with enough to warrant starting the blog. I ended up with around 80 categories or so, and since I figured I would be doing one a week to go with weekly book reviews and hike descriptions that was plenty to keep me going.

    Since then I have added more as they occurred to me. I'm now at 125, although I have to admit I have not been able to come up with at least three movies I would recommend for some of them, so the actual number would be lower.

    I originally intended to have the readers of the blog pick the next category, but changed that plan when no one voted even after hundreds of views. Since then I've just picked the next category I've felt like writing about. Maybe if I get enough followers I'll try the voting thing again.

    In regards to Shutter Island - I saw the trailer and said I bet X happens. A couple of neighbors told me they had gone to see it. I told them what I thought was going to happen and asked them to just tell me if I was right or not, with no other details in case I saw it. They said I was right. Since then I've never bothered to sit down to watch it.

  14. A man with a plan! I generally have no idea what I'm gonna write about from one day to the next.

    Did I ask you about the ending of lady in the water yet? I really want someone to spoiler it for me in the same way you guessed the shutter island twist but nobody has.

  15. I have seen Lady in the Water. I don't really remember any big reveal at the end of it, though. Go ahead and ask your question.

    Depending on when you write your question you may not get an answer for a while. It's bedtime where I am and I will not be on the computer much longer.

  16. Its a shyamalamalam movir, there's definitely a twist. Its his gimmick. The premise of the movie is that paul giamatti finds a woman from a fairy tale in his building right? Does the movie end with paul giamatti finding out that he's actually a character in a fairytale being written by the lady in the water?

  17. Hmmm, I'm going to have to go more with "no" than "yes" on that.

  18. More no than yes means I'm close. This means I may have to watch it just to find out. At least paul giamatti is in it.

  19. Exactly how stupid do you think Americans are? Your Henry V comment was very insulting.

  20. And by the way there is no fifth part of a trilogy.

  21. About as stupid as you for not realising it was a joke and feeling you had to make two anonymous comments about it.