Edward Norton Weekend – Primal Fear (1996)

Director: Gregory Hobilt

Writer: Steve Shagan, Ann Biderman (Screenplay) William Diehl (Novel)

Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Terry O’Quinn, Andre Braugher

 

Plot: An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.


Tagline – Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Primal Fear starts when the Archbishop is murdered, all clues point to bloody covered Aaron (Norton) as the murderer, he shy stuttering alter boy. When former district prosecutor Martin Vail (Gere) turned defence lawyer sees this as a spotlight for his new career direction and going against former colleague Janet (Linney) and her boss the district attorney Shaughnessy (Mahoney) the case goes to trial.

When Martin learns that Aaron has a split personality disorder with a much more aggressive Roy doing the dirty work for Aaron and the bigger picture of the motivation behind the murder comes to light.

 

Thoughts on Primal Fear

 

Characters – Martin Vail is the lawyer, he once was one of the biggest prosecutors in the city but has turned his back on that career to become a defence lawyer. He sees this case as the one that will give him his big break as a defence lawyer doing this case for free. He has a strong trusted team, he is made out to be a womaniser, though we never see him hit on anyone, only that he once had a fling with Janet in the past. Janet is the prosecutor that is taking the case, she is the one taking over Martin’s role and with a previous relationship with him. She knows this will be a career maker for her and is enjoying going head to head with her former mentor. Shaughnessy is the District Attorney that wants the death penalty and will not let Janet forget this. Aaron is the shy alter boy that is accused of murder but with him being found covered in blood even if you can’t see him doing this murder, Roy is the aggressive personality next to Aaron that knows the truth and seems to be the release of everything Aaron holds in. Shoat is the judge trying to control the case in what lawyers are trying to pull for their wins. Molly is psychologist that is studying Aaron trying to figure out what his mindset learning about Roy.

PerformancesRichard Gere is fantastic in the leading role, you see here how he shows the desperate he is to win this case. Laura Linney is strong in her role which must go against Richard Gere. Edward Norton gives one of the best debut roles of any actor in the history of film, he is disturbed when needed and calm when Aaron and crazed when Roy. The supporting cast are great too without taking the spotlight of the rest of the cast.

StoryThe story follows the trial of a disturbed young man accused of murdering an archbishop. While the court case unfolds like you would expect with twists coming from every corner and evidence coming to light through nearly every witness. As a fan of courtroom dramas this plays into everything I enjoy and I love watching crimes get solved in a courtroom. The story is very well paced and even being over 2 hours long doesn’t feel like you are giving the film this much time.

Crime/MysteryThe crime focuses on the murder and what gave the killer motivation, the mystery plays into the motivation too and just how the shy timid altar boy could have committed the murder.

SettingsThe film uses the courtroom for most of the scenes, we have the location involved in the crime too which shows how the lawyers are operating on both sides of the case.


Scene of the Movie –
The final twist.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I would say the side case Martin worked on being touched on through the main case gets slightly annoying.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the best courtroom dramas of all time, with a crime which does balance the line between what would be considered a bigger crime and performances that could be considered the career best for members of the cast.

 

Overall: Courtroom delight.

Rating

 

 

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ABC Film Challenge – Animation – J – James and the Giant Peach (1996)

Director: Henry Selick

Writer: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Roberts, Steve Bloom (Screenplay) Roald Dahl (Book)

Starring: Paul Terry, Joanna Lumley (Voice Talents) Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, Susan Sarandon

 

Plot: An orphan, who lives with his two cruel aunts, befriends anthropomorphic bugs who live inside a giant peach, and they embark on a journey to New York City.


Tagline – Adventures this big don’t grow on trees.

Runtime: 1 Hour 19 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Magical Family Adventure

 

 

Story: James and the Giant Peach starts young boy James is left orphaned after his parents are killed, he is forced to live with his cruel aunts Spiker (Lumley) and Sponge (Margolyes) who treat him like a slave. When a mysterious old man gives him a bag with magic in he unleashes them by accident to great a giant peach.

The peach becomes a side show for the Aunts leaving James to clean up, until he finds a passage which takes hi into the peach which is know being lived in by a serial bugs Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybird, Spider and Earthworm. The unlikely group head off on an adventure which takes them across the Atlantic to New York City.

 

 

Thoughts on James and the Giant Peach

 

Characters – James is an orphan from a loved family forced to live with evil aunts, he just wants to be a kid and isn’t being allowed to go out and play. His adventure takes him across the Atlantic Ocean to the place he was always due to go with his family New York city. Like a lot of the Roald Dahl books he creates an orphan that is being ill-treated looking for an escape. The different bugs each offer up different parent like advice for James, just what is needed for James in his time of need.

PerformancesPaul Terry is the real James and he is good for a child actor as are the Aunts, most of this film focuses on the voice work which shows the talent of the cast selected.

StoryThe story shows follows one boy and his adventure with bugs to escape the horrible life he has been trapped living. The story enters full levels of fantasy which is great to see, there is no covering up elements of the story, it all happened and everyone sees this. It does feel like it should be the imagination of a traumatised orphan and it should end up being this for the generic following.

Adventure/FamilyThe adventure James goes on is everything a lonely boy would imagine going on. This is a family film because everyone can get a laugh of different moments in the film.

SettingsMost of the film takes place in and on the peach, we see the family dynamic on board the peach, this is the only one of its type even if you can see elements of ‘Up’ in this setting.

AnimationThe animation shown here showed us what we were getting from the director, a unique look at stop-motion.


Scene of the Movie –
Rhino in the sky.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It can be dark at times.

Final ThoughtsThis is a magical family adventure from the childhood author Roald Dahl that wrote wonderful books, which changed many lives, this is one that people sometimes forget.

 

Overall: Magical and wonderful movie.

Rating

 

 

Christopher Walken Weekend – Last Man Standing (1996)

Director: Walter Hill

Writer: Walter Hill (Screenplay) Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa (Story)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly, Karina Lombard

 

Plot: A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town.


Tagline – In a town with no justice, there is only one law… Every man for himself.

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Enjoy the Simple Film

 

Story: Last Man Standing starts as the lone gunslinger John Smith (Willis) rolls up in the small Texan town of Jericho, it two battle gangs the Irish and the Italian during the prohibition era, they are at peace for now but both sides are trying to get the upper hand, trying to recruit John to work for them.

As the battle between the mobs intensifies we are left to see what the motives of John are as he continues to keep one step ahead of the mobs even after the must deadlier player in the game Hickey (Walken) arrives in town.

 

Thoughts on Last Man Standing

 

Characters – John Smith is the unknown gunslinger that rolled into Jericho, he makes an instant impact by taking out a high ranking member of one of the mobs but his motives remain a mystery to us all. Sheriff Galt turns a blind eye while taking a little something on the side to keep quiet about anything going on. Joe Monday is the bar tender in the middle of the battle, he is simple-minded which keeps him in the neutral zone for the mobs. Hickey is the deadliest member of either mob, he has the shortest temper and is considered a myth with his stories of what he has done to people.

PerformancesBruce Willis is good in this role, we get to see part of what he went on to use again in Hartigan for Sin City but he isn’t all one liners like we have seen in the Die Hard films too. Bruce Dern gives us a reserved performance as the sheriff, while William Sanderson add the only moments of light humour in the film. Christopher Walken is the star of the show here as we see just how calculated his character is.

StoryThe story follows to waring gangs that have a mysterious man come into the middle of the war only to intensify the war as he seems to be in business for himself. This is an action story, so we are left a guessing upon just what the motives behind John are which entertains, while the gangs are painfully generic on how they are treated. If you like a battle between gangs with a lone man being the biggest problem in the peace breaking process this is one for you.

Action/CrimeThe action is plenty of shoot them up moments, we see bullets flying, bodies falling and punches thrown in the crime world we enter following the two rival gangs.

SettingsThe small town of Jericho gives the film isolated feeling it requires for the illegal activities going on, it gives the film a modern western feel too.


Scene of the Movie –
New in town.

That Moment That Annoyed Me You might feel let down for Smith’s motives in the end.

Final ThoughtsThis is a tidy action crime thriller, the shooting scenes are intense but otherwise this is easily one film you would have seen elements of before, it is fun though.

 

Overall: Simple and enjoyable action crime thriller.

Rating

 

 

 

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

 

 

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