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Monday, July 8, 2024

Mystery Movie Review - Dead Again

 Some call this a neo-noir romantic thriller and others call it a psychological thriller. I classify it as a gothic mystery/thriller in the vein of Hitchcock. It was released August 23, 1991, in the United States, and October 25, 1991, in the United Kingdom. It was entered into the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival in February 1992.

Movie Blurb: "When a mute woman suffering from amnesia (Emma Thompson) arrives at the gates of an old orphanage, private investigator Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh) is asked to find out who she is. With the help of a hypnotist (Derek Jacobi), the woman regains her voice and recalls vivid past memories of a couple from the 1940s torn apart by murder. Church begins to develop feelings for the woman, who he calls Grace, and then discovers he has a connection to the tragic couple from the 40s."

What's It About?:  In the late 1940s, after the Second World War, composer Roman Strauss and pianist Margaret Strauss have a whirlwind romance and marry.  Something goes horribly wrong and one night Margaret is murder with a pair of scissors and Roman is convicted for the murder.  In modern day, a woman looking exactly like Margaret Strauss appears at an orphanage unable to speak and without her memory.  Private investigator Mike Church, who looks like Roman Strauss, is enlisted to find out who she is.  After some hypnotherapy, the woman finds her voice and relates the story of Margaret and Roman as if it were a memory.  She becomes convinced the modern day Mike with kill her like Roman had Margaret.  But there are twists and turns and more to the problem than just that. 

Written by Scott Frank

Directed by Kenneth Branagh 


Kenneth Branagh playing dual role of Mike Church and Roman Strauss (1949)

Emma Thompson playing dual roles of Grace and Margaret Strauss (1949)

Derek Jacobi

Andy García 

Wayne Knight 

Robin Williams 

Hanna Schygulla 

The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams; and two Oscar nominees: Andy Garcia and Patrick Doyle.


Jacobi was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Patrick Doyle, who composed the film's music, was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81% 


"[W]hile this film may not make literal sense in the harsh light of day, in the twilight, shadowy world of classic Hollywood this slyly inventive thriller is bravura bit of old fashion entertainment, done up with modern flair."  Sean Axmaker, Stream on Demand

"Be grateful for the genuine amusement Dead Again supplies. It may be cotton candy, but it's well spun." David Ansen, Newsweek

"His film is both a good mystery movie and a good movie-movie; its sheer "movieness" is what gives the picture its kick. As his career progressed, Branagh may very well have made better films than 'Dead Again.' But he never made another one this fun."  Jason Bailey,

"As the twists come thick and fast and the plot gets progressively more and more baroque, Branagh shows himself to be at least as intelligent as Brian De Palma in delivering over-the-top stylistic filigree." Jonathan Rosenbaum

Trivia (mostly IMDB): 

  • Dame Emma Thompson and Sir Kenneth Branagh were married when this movie was filmed and premiered. They divorced in 1995.
  • It was while making this movie that producer Lindsay Doran discovered that she shared a great love of Jane Austen with her leading lady, Dame Emma Thompson. She then asked Thompson to adapt one of Austen's novels for her next project, Sense and Sensibility (1995).
  • This was Branagh's first real go at a sustained American accent, and he would go out in Los Angeles to practice it with strangers. No one seemed to notice or care.
  • The home used as the Roman Stauss' mansion-turned-Christian orphanage is located in Pasadena, CA. They added the front gate and extra towers to maximize the gothic nature.
  • This movie was shot entirely in color. It was decided during editing, however, that the movement between past and present could be made clearer by printing the Roman and Margaret scenes in black-and-white. 
  • A lacquer box containing an antique pair of scissors, seen late in the movie, has Japanese characters on it that translate into "These are for you," a recurring line of dialogue in the movie.
  • The convent is the same building that was used for exteriors of Bruce Wayne's house in Batman (1966).
  • Two additional double roles (besides Mike/Roman and Grace/Margaret) are in this movie: the nun at the orphanage turns up as a snooty starlet at a party in the 1940s, and the cop at the mental hospital is seen again as an obnoxious party guest.
  • When we first meet Mike Church, he's parked on the wrong side of the street. Most people thought this was a nod to director Sir Kenneth Branagh's British heritage. The real reason is because Branagh wanted some Los Angeles skyscrapers visible in the background.
  • Being one of his few horror/thriller movies, Robin Williams didn't want his name to appear in the opening credits, as it might have misled audiences into thinking that this movie was a comedy.
  • The scene with Grace and Mike walking along the lake at night was shot at Echo Park in Los Angeles three months after the rest of the movie. It was felt that the scene was needed to show the characters growing closer together.

My Thoughts:

I was completely invested in this movie and on the-edge-of-my-seat.  The few twists added to it and the noir feel with the black-and-white past shots and dramatic music propelled it along.  IMHO, this is a stylish take on a murder mystery that turns the genre on its head by introducing reincarnation to add to the suspense.  It's not perfect, but it was entertaining and I'll be going back to this one again.

The camera work is spot on and both Branaugh and Thompson give stellar performances, but Derek Jacobi (a personal favorite) and the three scenes with Robin Williams are fantastic.  I heard about this movie on a Facebook classic movie fan page and I'm happy I followed up and watched it.  

I heartily recommend.

Movie Trailer

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Book Release Day

2nd Accidental Vampire PI on Sale Today!
I am excited to announce that the second in the Accidental Vampire PI cozy mystery series has finally been released.  Whew!   

Misty, a most unlikely vampire, is on the trail of a killer in a ghostly mansion.

Misty’s detective boss is still absent and she accepts a job protecting the town’s most despised member. When Victoria Amherst is struck down under her watch she is determined to hunt down the killer. She is joined by suave witch Rowen once again as she pieces together a picture of murder from the past as well as dirty deeds in the present. 

The rogue vampire who turned her is still running rampant and she continues to pick up his trail, but now she's on his radar. Can she find him before he strikes at her where she lives? As if that weren't enough, the head of the Vampires in town is determined to set her up with a vampire of his choosing to keep Rowen out of her life.

She has to keep her teeth sheathed and juggle all the challenges. She can't risk a misstep on any dilemma before her.

Praise for the first book: 

"I loved it! Well written, steady pace, descriptive, marvelous characters both good and bad, entertaining banter, and even some perilous predicaments have always been the hallmark of Daniels’ work, and the first-person narrative highlighting the inner thoughts of budding private detective and fledgling vampire Misty is enjoyable. I loved it! Great beginning! Eager for more!"  Kings River Life Magazine

"I will definitely be picking up the next book in this series to discover how Misty is adapting, what the story is with the rogue vampire, and if Misty and Rowan are able to form a relationship other than friends."  StoreyBook Reviews

"Loved this story. Great characters a real page turner. Can't wait for book 2 . I highly recommend this book."  Theresa M. Morse

"This was just a fun book to read, truly enjoyable. I found it interesting and just cute. I am sure that most cozy mystery readers will enjoy this new series."  Susan MU

Amazon (click here)

Barnes & Noble (click here)

Kobo (click here)

iBooks (click here)

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Saturday, July 6, 2024

Review - Scandal in Mayfair

I enjoy this series so much and look forward to each new release.  Let's see how the fifth in the series measures up.  Check out the previous reviews of this series I've done:

1) A Body in the Garden (click here

2) Silence in the Library (click here)   

3) Death at the Manor (click here

4) Murder at Midnight (click here)  

Release date is August 20, 2024

Katharine Schellman

Copyright: Aug 2024 (Crooked Lane Books) 320 pgs

Series: 5th in Lily Adler Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Historical, historical amateur sleuth

Main Character: Lily Adler, young widow who helps society members discretly deal with problems

Setting: 1815 Regency London, England

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review
Book Blurb:  "London, 1817. The London Season is beginning once more, and Lily Adler’s return to her home on Half Moon Street feels different this year. No longer a recent widow, she has a life and friends waiting for her. Lily also has new responsibilities in the form of her protégée Amelia, the sister of her longtime friend Jack Hartley, who is escaping her own brush with scandal and murder.

It doesn’t take long for Lily’s growing reputation as a lady of quality who can discreetly find what is missing or solve what is puzzling to bring a desperate young woman to her doorstep. But helping her means unraveling a tangled web of family secrets. Soon, a missing will, a dead body and the threat of blackmail leave Lily facing danger every way she turns. 

The glittering society of Mayfair conceals many secrets, and the back alleys of London hide even more. Lily Adler will need to find the connection between them quickly if she wants to stop a killer before it’s too late."

MY Thoughts:
Lily Adler is a delightfully intelligent, witty, and independent young widow taking her life into her own hands. In this addition to the series, she faces a blackmail and  a most challenging case.  Captain John (Jack) Hartley was her late husband's best friend which has been a barrier to them becoming closer.  But in this outing, that situation may change.  The Captain's younger sister, Amelia is staying at Lily's for her aid in being presented during the "season".  Miss Ofelia Oswald of West Indies is the witty side kick again.  The Bow Street Runner, Mr. Page and his family get more attention in this book, which I enjoyed getting more time with him.

The pacing was spot on as I hated putting the book down. The slow-burn between Captain Hartley and Lily gets a little more heated (yeah!), adding to the overall pleasure of this story.  The killer reveal was exceptionally well done and satisfying. A quite unexpected killer. 

A stellar addition to the series with a fine mystery, hints of romance, and delightful characters.  Thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review - The Bride's Guide to Marriage and Murder

 I have come to love this delightful series and started with the first in the series.  Here are the prior books in the series and my reviews.

1)  A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder (click here)

2)  A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder (no review)

3)  A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder (click here)

4)  A Fiancée's Guide to First Wives and Murder (click here)

In this outing it is Frances and George's wedding and you can bet there is murder and mayhem.  Read on to find out more.

Author: Dianne Freeman

Copyright: June 2022 (Kensingtom) 322 pgs

Series: 5th in Countess of Harleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Historical

Main Character: Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh 

Setting: 1889, London England

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

 Book Blurb:  "On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Bainbridges, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Bainbridge, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.

Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Bainbridge and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed . . ."

MY Thoughts:

Frances Wynn, soon to be Hazelton, is one of my favorite sleuths with her quick mind and intrepid spirit.  I've loved George Hazelton from the instant he was introduced and they were always perfect for each other.  

Add in Frances' mother and father bickering, aunt and her beau helping the investigation by scouring financial documents, her brother's impatience and stubborness as just some of the complications, plus her deceased husband's brother being a suspect.  Frances has her hands full. Naturally their wedding would have plenty of Frances' family drama and a murder, but this takes the cake.

I read this through easily as the pace was quick even with everything and kept my interest. The plot had plenty of viable suspects that presented a challenge in itself without the family complications.  I do have to say I figured out the murderer, more lucky guess than anything.  The killer confrontation was suspenseful and harrowing while the denoument was sweet.

If you want a historical cozy with a believable yet independant woman with a good mystery, enjoyable story, and a sweet romance then this if for you.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

Mystery Movie Review - Murder Is Easy

This is based on the third of Agatha Christie's lesser known Superintendent Battle books (4 in series).  There was a 1982 adaptation made with Bill Bixby starring as an American in England. Also a 2009 TV version that changed it up to have Miss Marple investigate, which wasn't part of the original book, but features a young Benedict Cumberbatch.  This 2023 adaptation is in two "episodes."  When I saw this advertised I couldn't wait to see it on BritBox.  Full disclosue, I haven't read the book.

Movie Blurb:
Based on the classic Agatha Christie mystery, "Murder Is Easy" follows the story of Luke Fitzwilliam who finds himself on the trail of a serial killer after meeting Miss Pinkerton on a train to London.

What's It About?:
  How can three people be murdered in an English village and nobody notice?  Miss Pinkerton (played by Downton Abbey's Penelope Wilton) is on a train to London with the sole purpose of getting Scotland Yard to investigate three deaths in her village that are all being dismissed as accidents.  She shares her concerns with fellow traveler Luke Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam is relocating to London for an aid job in the British government.  Shortly after exiting the train, Miss Pinkerton is run over on a London street and Fitzwilliam goes to the small town to investigate. 

Released: March 2024
Director: Meenu Gaur
Writer: Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Agatha Christie

David Jonsson as Luke Fitzwilliam 
Mathew Baynton as Dr. Thomas
Nimra Bucha as Mrs. Humbleby
Morfydd Clark as Bridget Conway 
Penelope Wilton as Miss Pinkerton 
Phoebe Licorish as Rose Humbleby
Douglas Henshall as Major Horton

"What the writer Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre has done well here is to create the strange eeriness of an insular community, ostensibly genteel and polite but in other ways hostile."  Carol Midgley Times UK

"Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre’s adaptation of Murder is Easy falls between two stools. Too bland to excite the violent impulses of the Line of Duty generation, yet insufficiently zippy or playful to stir Christie aficionados."  Nick Hilton
Independent UK

"It's hard to take the novel seriously, and it’s impossible to take this silly... adaptation at its own estimation." Melanie McDonagh London Evening Standard

Trivia (From IMDB):
Filming locations: Sorn Castle, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland, UK (Lord Whitfield's House)

Title comes from Miss Pinkerton saying "Murder is easy for a certain type of person."  Another version has it "Murder is easy when nobody thinks it's murder."

Douglas Henshall (playing Major Horton) and Mark Bonnar (playing Rev. Humbleby) appeared together for 7 seasons as key characters in the crime drama Shetland

Tom Riley (Lord Whitfield) previously appeared in episodes of Miss Marple and Poirot

My Thoughts:
David Jonsson's acting as the lead character is stellar and I'll be watching for more from him!  The story is modernized a little by Fitzwilliam being from Nigeria and the remaining prejudices that come with that.  With that said, I hadn't read any of the reviews included here prior to watching, which I'm glad I didn't.  Critics said it remained fairly close to the book, which many didn't like the book to begin with so there wasn't much chance they would like the movie then anyway.

This had wonderful cinematography with great countryside views and interesting camera angles.  Acting was well done.

There are two criticisms I have.  One is the director's vision for Luke Fitzwilliam, actually all the characters, was clearly reserved and lackluster when the actor was giving so much more in the simplest of scenes.  You shouldn't cast fine actors and then hamstring them.  Secondly, there is a lack of zip for the storyline and it's the screenwriter's fault.  This could have been combined and shortened into one feature-length movie and accentuated the danger of a murderer among them to heighten the suspense. 

But with that said, I did enjoy it and was entertained.  That's more than I can say for many movies I ended up wasting time on.  I recommend with caveats that you know what to expect and take it in stride.
Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.


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