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Lesley Manville and Isabelle Huppert in ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’: Film Review

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There’s a wonderful symmetry to the lead casting of Lesley Manville in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, playing a woman who’s the flipside of Cyril, her role in Phantom Thread. That character glided around a mid-’50s London couture atelier with icy ownership, fiercely protective of her dress designer brother and his classical creations. As Mrs. Harris, Manville dreams of accessing a similarly privileged world of sartorial splendor, one in which her age and class make her seem an unlikely interloper. The beauty of her performance in this delightful fairy tale for grown-ups is the way in which her purity of heart and inherent goodness gently pry open those closed doors.

Manville has excelled at playing characters on the brittle, aloof, even villainous end of the spectrum; she was a viciously tyrannical matriarch in Let Him Go and the juiciest of schemers in Harlots. So it’s disarming to watch her disappear into a humble working-class woman without an ounce of meanness or calculation. The radiance she brings to the role, along with clever screenplay expansions and Anthony Fabian’s light-touch direction, give this Focus Features release a considerable lift over the last adaptation of Paul Gallico’s novel, a sweet but forgettable 1992 TV movie that starred Angela Lansbury.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

The Bottom Line

Enchanting.

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Release date: Friday, July 15
Cast: Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs
Director: Anthony Fabian
Screenwriters: Carroll Cartwright, Anthony Fabian, Olivia Hetreed, Keith Thompson, based on the novel by Paul Gallico


Rated PG,
1 hour 55 minutes

What makes Ada Harris such a lovely character is that she’s not an arriviste. Rather than an aspirational climber, she’s a woman who makes no attempt to disguise her background as a house cleaner making a living scrubbing the floors and scouring the bathrooms of well-heeled Londoners. But when she gets a glimpse of a shimmering couture gown from the House of Dior, purchased by one posh client (Anna Chancellor) who keeps crying poor when it comes time to settle her household accounts, Mrs. Harris starts daydreaming about how it would feel to own such a dress herself.

Having finally received confirmation in 1957 of the death of her beloved RAF pilot husband, Eddie, shot down near Warsaw 12 years earlier, Mrs. Harris could use a touch of grace, even magic in her life. But the movie goes beyond Mrs. Harris’ circumstances to champion the right of all invisible women to be seen and appreciated as individuals, every bit as entitled to swathe themselves in drop-dead glamour and sensuality as the flawless beauties who model the clothes in the exclusive Dior salon on Paris’ Avenue Montaigne.

The early action is set in a fogbound storybook London, where Mrs. Harris shuffles off to work every morning on the bus in the predawn hours with her best friend and neighbor, Vi (Ellen Thomas). There’s an understated touched-by-an-angel aspect in the details of how she accumulates the then-outrageous sum of 500 pounds that a Dior dress would cost. Mrs. Harris achieves this through a series of charmed windfalls, setbacks, happy accidents and the helping hand of a raffish bookmaker acquaintance, Archie (Jason Isaacs).

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She arrives in Paris believing that a Dior acquisition will be as straightforward as buying a frock from Woolworth’s, but soon learns that tailoring, measurements and fitting will take weeks. That’s if she can get past the snooty gatekeeper, Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert), who shudders at the idea of a common charwoman wearing haute couture.

With the help of chivalrous Anglophile the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), Mrs. Harris gets a front-row showroom seat for the debut of Dior’s 10th anniversary collection. That sequence will induce swoons for anyone interested in fashion history.

The dresses include re-created originals from the House of Dior (the maison collaborated with the production) and stunning elaborations by costume designer Jenny Beavan. While the presence of models of color is a concession to contemporary audiences, the exclusive défilé is a transporting step back in time, with cinematographer Felix Wiedemann cleverly using Hitchcock’s dolly zoom (the first of multiple times that variations on the shot are employed) to convey Mrs. Harris’ rapture.

As in every iteration of the Cinderella story, Mrs. Harris has “fairies” to help her overcome the many obstacles to owning a Dior gown. The company’s shy accountant André Fauvel (played by Emily in Paris’ Lucas Bravo in the tradition of the total babe no one notices behind his glasses) offers her a place to stay in his Montmartre hilltop apartment and invites her to borrow his absent sister’s wardrobe. Gorgeous model Natasha (Alba Baptista), the “face of Dior,” responds to her kindness with friendship, whizzing her across town in her glamorous red Renault Caravelle convertible. And showroom assistant Marguerite (Roxane Duran) acts as a buffer with haughty head tailor Monsieur Carré (Bertrand Poncet), while Mrs. Harris endears herself to the hive of seamstresses.

The switch in the screenplay by Carroll Cartwright, Anthony Fabian, Olivia Hetreed and Keith Thompson is that Mrs. Harris herself becomes the fairy godmother. She nudges André to overcome his feelings of unworthiness and declare his affections for Natasha, whose passion for Sartre and the existentialists is just one sign that she’s squirming on her pedestal and starved for an intellectual life. And Mrs. Harris pays attention when a friendly wino tells her, “In France, the worker is king,” becoming an unlikely labor leader when the cash-strapped House of Dior is forced to cut staff. This enables her also to push André forward with his progressive ideas about democratizing high fashion, while causing sparks with Mme. Colbert that end with the two adversaries as proto-feminist allies.

Director Fabian and his co-writers have a knack for making the most potentially pandering or sentimental developments go down like a delectable sorbet, so much so that even such glaring anachronisms as Mrs. Harris’ “You go, girl” affirmation are endearing. And although they keep Gallico’s original somber outcome concerning Mrs. Harris’ gown and her generous gesture to ditzy London starlet Pamela Penrose (Rose Williams), they add an uplifting coda that goes full fairy tale, even dropping a tantalizing hint that it’s not too late for Mrs. Harris to find a new love. The buoyant waltz themes of Rael Jones’ score fit the material to perfection.

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Distinguished veteran Luciana Arrighi’s pretty production design blends seamlessly with subtle CG work to re-create a Paris that evokes the city’s magnificent cinematic past, notably so in a walk along the Seine dappled in bewitching evening light. The movie is a love letter to the French capital and its halls of fashion, so naturally, its sense of style is impeccable. It’s conceivable that Baptista’s side-part bangs and bouncy curled ponytail could inspire many imitators.

But the human element is what ultimately sells it. Baptista and Bravo make a captivating pair, their characters clearly destined to open up each other’s lives. Isaacs is a roguish charmer, Thomas is jolly warmth personified, and Wilson makes a dashing aristocrat whose unintentional slight toward Mrs. Harris helps reveal her refusal to be merely everyone’s support vessel, with no needs or desires of her own.

Huppert is at her witheringly imperious best, more or less playing the French counterpart to Manville’s Cyril in Phantom Thread, which makes her eventual display of fragility all the more touching. But this is Manville’s film, a too-rare star vehicle in which one of England’s most invaluable actors carries us effortlessly on the wings of Mrs. Harris’ dream of egalitarian elegance.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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