Keanu Reeves Weekend – Chain Reaction (1996) Movie Review

Director: Andrew Davis

Writer: J.F. Lawton, Michael Bortman (Screenplay) Arne Schmidt, Rick Seaman, Josh Friedman (Story)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn, Brian Cox, Joanna Cassidy

Plot: Two researchers in a green alternative energy project are put on the run when they are framed for murder and treason.

Tagline – Reaction Time 8-4-96

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Simple Actioner

Story: Chain Reaction starts in a world where energy sources are running low, where scientists Eddie (Reeves), Lily (Weisz) and Paul (Freeman) are working on an alternative energy source using hydrogen, which proves to be a success, until somebody sabotages their project causing massive explosion.

Eddie and Lily find themselves targeted by an FBI investigation, leading them to go on the run to clear their names and prove who was really behind the explosion, a path which shows many different sides to the people they worked with.

Thoughts on Chain Reaction

Characters – Eddie Kasalivich is one of the scientists that has been working on the hydrogen project, he has cracked the problems they were facing and always looks after the people working on the project with him. He narrowly avoids being caught in the explosion, learning of the foul play involved with it, getting framed in the process. He goes on the run to prove he had nothing to do with the explosion and the research was for the greater good for humanity. Paul Shannon is the man that gets the funding for the project, he knows that is free energy could cause problems and is the connection between the truth and the escape. Dr Lily Sinclair is working on the project, which sees her being framed, going on the run with Eddie, learning more about the truth behind what happened. We also have the FBI agents who are following the basic clues, as well as the people who were behind the explosion looking to clean up the loose ends.

PerformancesKeanu Reeves doesn’t do anything wrong in the leading role, he doesn’t get too much to work with as he just doesn’t get loose on the full action side of things. Morgan Freeman and Rachel Weisz are strong enough without being let off the lease for their full potential.

StoryThe story here follows the aftermath of an explosion within an energy research facility, showing how two of the scientists become the suspects who must prove their innocence. This is an interesting idea for a story, using the ideas of a new energy source that could become free and friendly to the world and how people would want to control this. The whole fugitive angle is everything the director is known for works without being too serious with how it unfolds. This is a routine story, with the number of twists thrown in along the way.

Action/Sci-FiThe action does give away the biggest scene in the opening explosion, while the rest is more just chases, that never feel like they are edge of the seat in anyway.

SettingsThe film is set different locations starting with Chicago facing the explosion, while the rest shows the more secret locations a project like this could happen around.

Special EffectsThe effects have dated now, with the opening explosion does not look realistic in anyway.

Scene of the Movie – The escape the explosion.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The rest of the tame chases.

Final Thoughts This is an action film that gave away the biggest moment too early and ends up plodding along at a slow pace, while trying to get over a bigger message.

Overall: Easy Going Action

Matilda (1996) Movie Review

Director: Danny DeVito

Writer: Nicholas Kazan, Robin Swicord (Screenplay) Roald Dahl (Book)

Starring: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Paul Reubens, Tracey Walter

Plot: Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable.

Tagline – Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Perfect for Kids

Story: Matilda starts as the Wormwood family, father (DeVito) and Mother (Perlman) have their second child a daughter they name Matilda, they leave her at home while they go about their days, as she is left alone she starts to travel to the library between the ages of 4 and 6. Wanting to go to school Matilda finally gets her wish, when her father meets Trunchbull (Ferris) the principal of the school, a horrible woman that will torture and perform Olympic sports on children to punish them.

Matilda thrives in her first class under the calm and sweet Miss Honey (Davidtz) who is the first to see the genius that Matilda has as she looks to fight back against Trunchbull.

Thoughts on Matilda

Characters – Matilda is the sweet little girl that is nothing like the rest of her family, she is smart, a genius in fact, she has looked after herself at an infant age, she finally gets to attend school, later than the rest of the children, this doesn’t stop her kind nature helping change the school for the better. Mr and Mrs Wormwood are the parents of Matilda, they don’t really care about Matilda the way most parents would, leaving her to fend for herself, not letting her genius thrive. Miss Honey is the nice friendly teacher, one that anybody Matilda’s age would need to get through her education. Trunchbull is the principal of the school, she is beyond strict, she will punish the children by performing Olympic sports on them, javelin, hammer, shot putt or discus, she is one of the most frightening people you would ever meet in life.

PerformancesMara Wilson is a delight to watch as the young Matilda, she gives us all the innocence needed to make her character one you want to succeed. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are both great as the parents, Embeth Davidtz gives us such a king characters, while Pam Ferris does give us one of the most frightening characters in any kids movie.

StoryThe story here follows an incredible young girl that once she is free from her family with school learns about her own abilities that will help her fight back against anybody who isn’t nice to each other. This is a Roald Dahl story and one of the few that became a big thing in the 90’s, next to Witches, when movies were getting made from his work, this story works because it shows the difference between the pure innocent kind-nature little girl and the evil that is the principal that enjoys making children pay. This is a classic story of good facing evil and sending the clear message about treating people equal in life.

ComedyThe comedy in the film comes from how the bad characters are treated in the most part, you will laugh when they get what they deserve.

SettingsThe film uses a couple of settings, Matilda’s house, which has held her back, the school which is a mix of bright colours when Trunchbull is around and black and white, when she is around, as well as the clutter filled house that Trunchbull lives in.

Scene of the Movie – Unleashing the powers.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The cake sequence.

Final Thoughts This is a delightfully fun kids movie, one that I grew up watching and it nails the comedy, the performance and the message it is trying to send.

Overall: Delightful.

Vince Vaughn Weekend – Swingers (1996) Movie Review

Director: Doug Liman

Writer: Jon Favreau (Screenplay)

Starring: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, Heather Graham, Deena Martin

Plot: Wannabe actors become regulars in the stylish neo-lounge scene; Trent teaches his friend Mike the unwritten rules of the scene.

Tagline – This movie plays reality.

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Reality Check Comedy

Story: Swingers starts when two friends Trent (Vaughn) and Mike (Favreau) head from LA to Las Vegas for a night to try and help Mike shake off his breakup with his girlfriend. Trent does have a way with women, which he is trying to teach Mike for their return to LA. Joined with Rob (Livingston) the three struggling actors talk shop about how they haven’t gotten their big break yet.

We continue to follow the friends around the town as they try to help Mike rebound from his breakup, pushing him to take risks, despite the group of aspiring actors just going through the same routine, not partying till late and Mike wanting to get back together with his ex.

Thoughts on Swingers

Characters – Mike is one of the aspiring actors, he has had the most gigs of the rest of the friends, he is struggling with a break up which has been holding him back for 6 months and now, the friends are trying to help him break out of his shell, as he always ends up getting nervous about everything whenever he is put on the spot. Trent is the confident ladies man, he is always trying to teach Mike about how to pick up women, showing his confidence through any chatting up situation. Rob is the friend that followed Mike, he looks up to him and wants to follow in his footsteps despite the constant job rejections. Sue is another one of the group, he has a different attitude which could see them getting into trouble. Between the three of them of the friends they all want to help Mike in their own way.

PerformancesJon Favreau as the down on his luck actor is great to watch in this role, he makes us understand why he feels life isn’t going his way. Vince Vaughn brings all the energy to his role, showing that he was always going to be great to watch in the fast-talking roles. Ron Livingston bring gravity to his role, showing a man with his feet on the ground, while Patrick Van Horn brings a mix of the three while not knowing his own motivation.

StoryThe story here follows four struggling actors as they look for women every night which sees them trying to help one of them get over their blues of a breakup, each has their own style which they try to imprint on the others. This story mixes up the styles of helping a friend with a breakup and highlights how difficult it is to make it as an actor in Hollywood. We might spend a lot of time just watching the guys party, which is mean to highlight their struggles and watching them all give advice to Mike shows that friends will always be there for you, but you will need to make the biggest step in changing your future.

ComedyThe comedy in the film comes from the mishaps that happen to the guys on their adventures through the night showing how not every plan is as well exercised as the next.

SettingsThe film is mostly set in LA, it shows the bars that people would go to hoping for a late night party, the ones that only the locals would truly know about.

Scene of the Movie – The awkward phone, mainly because it is and can be so real for people.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It doesn’t show any of their acting lives.

Final Thoughts This is a comedy that shows the struggles being an actor really are, while also trying to highlight the party lifestyle people in LA like.

Overall: Strong Look at Hollywood Lifestyle.

Hard Eight (1996) Movie Review

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Screenplay)

Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L Jackson, F William Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Plot: Professional gambler Sydney teaches John the tricks of the trade. John does well until he falls for cocktail waitress Clementine.

Tagline – If you stay in the game long enough, you’ll see everything, win everything, and lose everything.

Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slick, but Not Glossy

Story: Hard Eight starts when Sydney (Hall) sees John (Reilly) looking dejected outside of a diner leaving Vegas, Sydney offers to give him 50 bucks to return and learn of him how to make the fortune he always wanted.

Two-years later John works with Sydney with connections including Jimmy (Jackson) that know how to work the casinos, with Sydney always making himself presented in a proper way, while John falls for a cocktail waitress Clementine (Paltrow) which sees the partnership start to hit a couple of stumbling blocks.

Thoughts on Hard Eight

Characters – Sydney has been around the casino scene for years now, he knows how to pick out the people that could help make him more money and in John, he sees his latest target. He does have a good thing going, he makes sure he knows the staff and knows how to clean up any messes that come his direction. John is a dejected young man that is on his way out of Vegas needing to make enough money for his mother’s funeral, he gets a helping hand from Sydney are learns getting himself into a comfortable life, until he meets Clementine, where he starts to make mistakes which put the whole operation in doubt. Clementine is a cocktail waitress that is desperately trying to get enough money to clear her problems, she is willing to go to extreme levels for this, which sees her putting partnership between Sydney and John in the air. Jimmy the reckless man that has worked with John before, Sydney doesn’t like him and his behaviour doesn’t help his case.

PerformancesPhilip Baker Hall is fantastic in the leading role, he is either in or narrating nearly every scene and does manage to dominate every time he is on camera. John C Reilly plays everything he needs to well, showing his naïve nature at times and how he got to the right position, keeping the nervous nature coming through. Gwyneth Paltrow great too, while Samuel L Jackson brings the character that does seem like he is on edge to life too.

StoryThe story here follows an veteran of the casino scene that knows how to pick out the best people to get money without being caught cheating or using the casino for work, that is until things start to get out of hand. This story focuses on people rather than the way the two make money, which shows that not everybody is as clean as you think with secrets always being up people’s sleeves. This is an interesting story, though it never truly gets going on the levels other films might well have when it comes to dealing with the same subject matter.

CrimeThe crime side of this film shows us just how the people operate on the other side of the law, which shows their own weaknesses to the world, while showing how they keep everything together.

SettingsThe film uses the casino settings to show us how the shady people would be operating to make sure they stay on top of everything.

Scene of the Movie – Late night visit.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We don’t really learn enough about what the bigger plan would be in the casinos.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting story even if it doesn’t reach the top potential, it tries to be slick and apart from the standout performance from Philip Baker Hall, we don’t get enough from the deeper story involved.

Overall: Interesting.

Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quiad, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox, James Rebhorn, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, James Duval, Lisa Jakub, Giuseppe Andrews, Harvey Fierstein

First of lets go through the characters starting with David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) a separated cable repair guy in a television company, David has a very religions father Julius (Judd Hirsch) who is a long suffering chess loser to David who simple keep a few steps ahead of everything based in New York. President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) a young ex fighter pilot who critics slam because of his age. His wife First Lady Marilyn Whitmore (Mary McDonnell) who is on a visit elsewhere in America. On the President’s staff are Constance Spano (Margaret Colin) David’s separated wife, General William Grey (Robert Loggia) a general who believes in peace and Albert Nimzicki (James Rebhorn). We have a small travelling family the Casse’s father Russell (Randy Quaid) who believes he was abducted and a war veteran and his children Migeul (James Duval), Alicia (Lisa Jakub) and Troy (Giuseppe Andrews). Finally we have Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith) an wanna be astronaut and top fighter pilot who girlfriend is exotic dancer Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) she also has a son Dylan.

On July 2ND alien spaceships enter the Earth’s atmosphere locating themselves in the world biggest cities. President Whitmore sets up an operation to communicate with the spaceship. While in New York David finds a code in the satellites that shows that in fact the spaceship are lining up like chess pieces for an attack on these cities. David rushes down to Washington to convince the President what is happening. David convinces the President and along with his staff escape seconds before the alien attack.

After the first attack the President relocates to Area 51 learning about a previous alien crash. Major Mitchell (Adam Baldwin) is the man in charge with Dr Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) leading the research projects on the aliens. President Whitmore arranges to a counter strike a lead pilot Captain Hiller leads his team in battle with little effect. Captain Hiller has a race through a canyon crashing one the the small space crafts and kidnapping one of the aliens.

We are not left to wonder how humanity will survive this attack? Will this mix bunch of characters be able to unite to defeat Earth new common enemy?

Roland Emmerich gives us his first major action picture with plenty of destruction too. With Will Smith doing one of his first lead role as Captain Hiller shines giving one of his best non dramatic performances. The Americas get a chance to be a heroes again in a true action blockbuster that all should see.

The Story is always going to be predictable but it is also very easy to follow, you can also pick up the movie from most points and not feel like you missed too much. This was the top grossing film of 1996 with $306million. With talk of two potential sequels you are left wondering how those could come about tho.

My rating 92%