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

 

 

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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

 

 

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