Alaska (1996)

Director: Fraser C Heston

Writer: Andy Burg, Scott Myers (Screenplay)

Starring: Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict, Charlton Heston, Duncan Fraser

 

Plot: While searching for their missing father in the mountains of Alaska, two siblings come across a baby polar bear on the run from a pair of poachers.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Wonderful Adventure Family Film

 

Story: Alaska starts as we meet the Barnes family, father Jake (Benedict) a small plane pilot and his kids Jessie (Birch) and Sean (Kartheiser), the family has started a new life in Alaska after their death of Jake’s wife and mother of Jessie and Sean. While Jessie has embraced this new life enjoying the beautiful sites, Sean is struggling with new life. We also get to meet to poachers Perry (Heston) and Koontz (Fraser) who have been hunting polar bears.

When their father goes missing, Jessie and Sean aim to go in search of him through the Alaskan wilderness discovering a captured baby polar bear cub that they release who joins them on their adventure, which only attracts the poachers attention as they find themselves chased through the wilderness by the poachers too in a race against time to find their father.

 

Thoughts on Alaska

 

Characters/PerformanceJessie is the sister of the siblings, she has embraced the change to Alaska learning to be part of the team with her father, while they both want to search for their father, she is the most prepared of the two. Sean hates his new life in Alaska and wants to move back to Chicago but you can clearly see he is grieving his mother with his behaviour, but with his father missing he will do everything he can to find him, learning to love the beautiful landscape they are part of now. Jake is the father of the family that has given up his 747-pilot job to start a new life in the small town in Alaska, he does spend most of the film trapped in his plane but his character gives Jessie and Sean the reason for going on their adventure. Perry and Koontz are two poachers hunting polar bears, they cross paths with the kids as they menacingly try to recapture the polar bear cub that they had released.

Performance wise, Thora Birch and Vincent Kartheiser are both great in the lead roles as the children in search of their father. Dirk doesn’t have much to do but does what he needs to well. Charlton Heston as the menacing poacher does seem to enjoy the role he plays in the movie.

StoryThe story of two young teenagers going into the wilderness to find their missing father is a nice tried and tested formula, this style of film seemed to be the rave for family films around the time too, so to stand out you had to do something different. We get the moments of peril which are good and well-paced but we also get the moments of discovery which are just as important. Obviously, there are negatives here which include the idea the adults are clueless when searching for people in crashes and poachers being just evil people. I would also like to point out, that it is very unlikely a polar bear mother is just going to accept another cub, well that is what David Attenborough has taught me.

Adventure/FamilyThe adventure the kids get to go on is one I remember watching as a kid going, I wanna do that and I still would like to. The family side of this film is about the unity between a broken family doing everything to stay together and of course having a cute little polar bear helping them out.

SettingsAlaska as a setting, beautiful, stunning, peril filled and perfect for the story being told.

EffectsWe only have a few effects in use here, most feels practical with the stunt work and working with a potential deadly animal in a polar bear.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily one of the better kids work with animal films of the 90s, one that gives you hope in humanity and a wonderful setting.

 

Overall: Family night sorted.

Rating

 

 

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Christmas Movie Weekend – Jingle All the Way (1996)

Director: Brian Levant

Writer: Randy Kornfield (Screenplay)

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull

 

Plot: A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, however, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Truly Enjoyable Christmas Movie

 

Story: Jingle All the Way starts as we see how businessman Howard (Schwarzenegger) is constantly letting his son Jamie (Lloyd) down because he works late, after missing his latest karate class Howard knows he needs to make up for everything this Christmas by giving Jamie and Turbo Man doll, but they are sold out everywhere.

Christmas Eve comes and Howard joins the race with other parents including mail man Myron (Sinbad) who becomes a rival in the hunt for Turbo Man action figure which takes them across town in a way to hopefully make up for all the promises he has broken.

 

Thoughts on Jingle All the Way

 

Characters – Howard is a hard-working businessman but this has caused problems with his personal life as he is neglecting his time with his son Jamie. He has once again forgotten to buy Jamie Christmas present and must go on a desperate chase to find one before Christmas but learns along the way he needs to just be there for Jamie. Myron is the mail man that is also after a Turbo Man action figure and becomes involved in a battle with Howard to locate one. Ted is the neighbour of Howard’s family that acts like a better father figure to Jamie because he has learned to take time for his family after his divorce. Jamie is the son that is getting let down by his father, we don’t learn much from him over than the disappointment he feels towards his father.

PerformanceSchwarzenegger does seem to enjoy this role, he gets to poke fun at himself even if he does at times look slightly out of place as a suburban businessman father. Sinbad brings all the comedy to this film and echoes the frustration of all mail men in America. Phil Hartman does a good job in the supporting role which does also get a lot of laughs but usually away from Schwarzenegger.

StoryThe story is watered down to being very simple and does have heart that is needed to tell everything. we have the traditional father that has been letting his kid down that needs to step up and that is the story, one event can change how a child will see his father. This has good heart and Christmas feel good idea as it brings the family together.

Comedy/FamilyThe comedy is in parts slapstick but does also have adult jokes meaning the whole family could get laughs out of different parts of the movie.

SettingsThe settings are used to show the calm family life he could have and the hustle and bustle he faces while trying to get a present in the big city.

Scene of the Movie – The parade.

That Moment That Annoyed Me At times you would have like a natural looking leading man.

Final ThoughtsThis is an enjoyable Christmas film that you can relax, get a laugh and just enjoy at Christmas.

 

Overall: Sit back and enjoy.

Rating

 

 

Vintage Franchise – Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996)

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Writer: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Ronald D Moore (Screenplay) Gene Roddenberry (Characters)

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, James Cromwell, Alice Krige

 

Plot: The Borg travel back in time intent on preventing Earth’s first contact with an alien species. Captain Picard and his crew pursue them to ensure that Zefram Cochrane makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Struggles to Make Impact

 

Story: Star Trek: First Contact starts as Picard (Stewart) is having nightmares of being capture by the Borg (This must have happened in the television show, so I have no idea), this stops him going into battle against the Borg but like all Enterprise captains he goes against these orders finding the ship going back in time following a Borg vessel that has changed the past.

The Enterprise crew goes back in time to the time before First Contact by Zefram Cochran (Cromwell) is made before the Borg Queen (Krige) destroy the moment and take over the Earth.

 

Thoughts on Star Trek: First Contact

 

Characters – Picard is haunted by his past having been captured by the Borg on the television show, he must lead his crew in a mission which needs to stop the change of human history. Borg Queen is the leader of the Borg, they all work for her with her power and now she wants to take out human history before they can get into the space race. Zefram Cochran is the man who made intergalactic travel possible and makes first contact with the Vulcans, he turns out to be a drunk and the crew must work to get him ready for this mission.

PerformancePatrick Stewart did become a good captain and easily people’s favourite and it shows why here, Alice Krige brings us a villain which works well while Cromwell seems to enjoy being the drunken history maker.

StoryThe story here gives us a chance to see how the first contact happened which is nice to see, but the problems in the story comes from bringing in an established villain that has a past with Picard which was a problem for last film too. We have the same peril you would come to know but mostly just entertaining for the fans of the television show.

Adventure/Mystery/Sci-FiThe adventure takes out crew back in time, which is what has worked before in the franchise, the sci-fi comes from the idea of time travel because saving humanity is what the Enterprise does.

SettingsThe settings are disappointing mostly, we have the ship and random location in the woods on Earth, we don’t get somewhere to fight for and the Enterprise gets destroyed yet again.

Special EffectsThe effects do continue to improve through the film with the Borg looks terrifying at times.

Scene of the Movie – The Borg Queen introduction.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t know the back story for Picard and the Borgs enough.

Final ThoughtsIf you were a fan of the television show you will find yourself enjoying this one because you need to know some of the back story but as a singular sci-fi film it is fine.

 

Overall: Simple Franchise filler.

Rating

 

 

The Fan (1996)

Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Phoef Sutton (Screenplay) Peter Abrahams (Book)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Patti D’Arbanville

 

Plot: An all star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoyable Thriller

 

Story: The Fan starts as baseball MVP Bobby Rayburn (Snipes) joins to San Francisco Giants on a lucrative contract to be the highest paid player in the league. We also meet diehard baseball fan Gil Renard (De Niro) who is over the moon with the latest signing believing his team could go all the way this year but is on his last legs in his job as a salesman.

When Gil’s life starts crashing around him, he loses his job, gets a restraining order from his kid and even his beloved team isn’t performing he starts to reach into dark places. On the field, Bobby isn’t reaching to levels of expectation with Primo (Del Toro) outshining him in the games, with this we see how both men are not having the best time in their lives.

When Gil becomes obsessed with trying to help Bobby find his form, things take a dark turn with potentially deadly consequences.

 

Thoughts on The Fan

 

Characters/PerformanceGil is a true extreme diehard sports fan, he makes sport, in this case baseball the most important part of his life. He has been struggling with his job and family life which has pushed him over the edge. Bobby is the typical arrogant overpaid sports star who believes he can walk into any team and become the star attraction, when things don’t go his way, he struggles with the fan backlash when he hits a slump.

Performance wise, Robert De Niro is fantastic in this role with the final third of the film showing all of his skills on the psychotic levels. Wesley Snipes also brings the cocky sports persona from White Men Can’t Jump to the next level with his performance. The rest of the cast are all great, with always reliable performances from John Leguizamo and Benicio Del Toro.

StoryWe all know how certain fans can go to the extremes when it comes to supporting their team, we all know how the star player can sometimes find themselves getting the fans turn on them. So what happens when a fan goes too far, what happens when a star breaks his slump for his own change rather than because of the fan? Well this shows us just what could happen and in a very stylish way.

Action/SportsThe action is mostly based on the suspense of the film with the sports drama side coming from how the extreme fans can act.

SettingsSan Francisco is the most part for the setting which shows us how difficult it could be to get by, the difference between sports players and fans as well as the amount of people an average person could blend into.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most interesting twists on sports drama, seeing the extremes we could see a fan go to for a player and a team. This does start slightly slow but I do feel that helps build the characters for the final third of the film.

 

Overall: Great sports drama that has the intensity needed for the story.

Rating

 

 

Harvey Keitel Weekend – From Dusk till Dawn (1996)

fromDirector: Robert Rodriguez

Writer: Quentin Tarantino (Screenplay) Robert Kurtzman (Story)

Starring: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin

 

Plot: Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires, with chaotic results.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: One of the Best Vampire Movies Ever

 

Story: From Dusk till Dawn starts as we meet the Gecko Brothers Set (Clooney) and Richard (Tarantino) who are on the run after a bank robbery on the run to Mexico and safe haven. Also on the road is a priest Jacob (Keitel) who has lost his faith travelling with his children Kate (Lewis) and Scott (Liu) who are on the road after their mother and wife’s death.

When the Gecko’s lose their latest hostage, they find themselves take Jacob and his family hostage as they make it over the border into Mexico to the biker bar known as the Titty Twister where the Gecko’s have arrange to have their meet but they group have to spend the night in this bar with seductive dances and dangerous bikers.

The night takes a twist for the worse when they learn the club is filled with bloodthirsty vampires and all the customers are just their latest victims.

 

Thoughts on From Dusk till Dawn

 

StoryWhen you go into a vampire movie the story doesn’t always need to be all gothic sometimes it can be wildly over the top. This story keeps everything simple by having thieves on the run and a religious man who has lost faith ending up in a shady bar having to spend one night fighting vampires. There isn’t much more to this and that is why it is all so enjoyable.

Action/HorrorWe have plenty of over the top action in the second half of this movie as the survivors take on the new image from horror in the vampires. We can enjoy the action horror throughout this film.

Characters/PerformanceThe Gecko Brothers are strong anti-hero characters and having Jacob as the faithless priest suits the vampire genre. We do get a scene stealing moment from a sexy dancer who becomes one of the vampires.

When you look at the performances Clooney does shine and is one of the most different he ever took on in his career. Keitel is also a good in this role but with the weak point as often is Tarantino’s acting which doesn’t reach the levels of the rest of the cast.

SettingsThe settings are used very well with the travelling sequences in the first half but the Titty Twister bar has become one of the most iconic bar in film history and having the characters trapped there also helps them must work together against the vampires.

Special EffectsThe special effects here are great as you believe each and every one of the kills, fights and attacks the vampires are involved in.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the most fun you will have with any vampire movie because when it was released it took the vampire genre in a new direction.

 

Overall: Enjoy the bloody filled vampire classic.

Ratingcard