ABC Film Challenge – Horror – B – Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) Movie Review

Director: Joe Berlinger

Writer: Dick Beebe, Joe Berlinger (Screenplay) Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick (Characters)

Starring: Jeffrey Donovan, Kurt Loder, Tristine Skyler, Erica Leerhsen, Kim Director, Lanny Flaherty

Plot: A group of tourists arrives in Burkittsville, Maryland after seeing The Blair Witch Project (1999) to explore the mythology and phenomenon, only to come face to face with their own neuroses and possibly the witch herself.

Tagline – Evil Doesn’t Die.

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Easy Watch Horror

Story: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 starts in the small town of Burkittsville that has become an overnight tourist attraction because of the success of The Blair Witch Project, with people wanting to know whether the legend is true or not.

Local man Jeffrey Patterson (Donovan) leads a group of tourists, Stephen (Turner) and his girlfriend Tristen (Skyler) who are looking to write a book about the legend, Erica (Leerhsen) a witch and psychic Kim (Director) who all head into the woods to see if they can find some truth about the legend. Only after the first night the five learn that the woods might not be the safest place to go searching for the supernatural.

Thoughts on Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Characters – Jeffrey is the local man that has used the success of The Blair Witch Project to create his own business, mostly merchandise before offering tour guides, which this is his first one, he has a reputation within the town for being harmless trouble, which is show in his paranoid mentality he shows in his own home. Kim is a psychic who doesn’t care what people think about her appearance, though we don’t seem to get any hints of any of the abilities she might have. Erica believes she is a witch and is looking forward to getting back with the nature of a witch by arriving in the woods, while Tristen and Stephen are a couple that are writing a book about what has happened with the legend, looking into the reality of it.

PerformancesSeeing Jeffrey Donovan in this film is the biggest surprise because of how far he has come, like most of the cast nobody does much wrong, just playing the characters how you would imagine.

StoryThe story here follows a group of tourists that have joined the interesting in the town where the Blair Witch Project was set, only to learn they have been caught in the spell behind the legend. Now this is a story that does take us into a world where the previous film was a film in the universe, which is interesting a nice concept that always works, where the story might falls slightly short is by it being about the five people slowly starting to go crazy within the house, with us slowly learning who has made it out of house, revealing slowly who has made it and what they might have done to get out of it. It isn’t as bad as I had heard, though it is just something you could watch with ease.

Fantasy/HorrorThe fantasy side of the film comes from seeing how the witch might well be real and not just part of the film, with the horror coming from just what happens from the time spent in the woods.

SettingsWe do return to the same town the first film is set in, the woodland area and the random house which is transformed from an abandoned location, which adds to the unsure nature of the location.

Special EffectsThe effects are mostly just jumps that work without doing much else, with quick flashes.

Scene of the Movie – The video truth.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too many just jump reaction scares.

Final Thoughts This is a simple sequel that does everything it needs to, while having certain strange events that don’t always add up.

Overall: Easy to watch.

Saving Grace (2000) Movie Review

Director: Nigel Cole

Writer: Craig Ferguson (Screenplay) Mark Crowdy (Story)

Starring: Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clines, Tcheky Karyo, Jamie Foreman, Bill Bailey

Plot: A small-town English widow, facing financial troubles after her husband’s suicide, turns to agriculture of an illegal kind.

Tagline – Grace’s doctor is worried about the state of her joints.

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Saving Grace starts as a small-town English widow Grace (Blethyn) learns her late husband has left her with financial troubles, owing plenty of money across the board, with little hope of making the required money. When Grace’s gardener Matthew (Ferguson) turns to her with an offer to help him grow a weed supply, she jumps at a chance to use her green fingers.

When Grace sees the number of plants flourish, Matthew sees the potential money coming in, building a drift between his wife Nicky who isn’t happy with the idea that he is risking his future by committing the crime of producing drugs, can the two stop before they get caught.

Thoughts on Saving Grace

ThoughtsSaving Grace is a crime comedy that will follow a widower that finds a new lust for life helping her gardener grow his weed, with the two using the chance to get the money they need in life. This will give us the unlikely friendship between Grace’s Brenda Blethyn and Matthew, Craig Ferguson. We do have the concern from an important figure in Matthew’s life, showing how a relationship can be strained by lose of work and taking a chance on something new and dangerous. This story does play into the comedy more than anything else, which will get small-town laughs in the film, instead of going for the full-blown comedy. There is plenty of heart, with the idea that someone will enter a world outside of their comfort zone highlighting the struggles to make ends meet.

Signature Entertainment presents Saving Grace on Digital Platforms 20th September

Final Thoughts Saving Grace is a fun, enjoyable British comedy at its very best.

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nominations – Q – Wonder Boys (2000) Movie Review

This is under Q because of one of the characters called Q.

Director: Curtis Hanson

Writer: Steve Kloves (Screenplay) Michael Chabon (Novel)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn

Plot: An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.

Tagline – A weekend from hell became the time of his life.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Enjoyable

Story: Wonder Boys starts as an English professor Grady Trip (Douglas) has his wife leaving him in the middle of his writing block, as he is desperately trying to write his latest novel, which has taken over seven years, his editor Terry Crabtree (Downey Jr) arrives in town, hoping for him to return to his best.

Grady learns that one of his most gifted students James Leer (Maguire) has written his first novel, along with Hannah Green (Holmes) preparing for her first novel, with Grady’s life spiralling out of control, the woman he has been having an affair with Sara Gaskell (McDormand) is pregnant, with them needing to decide what to do next.

Thoughts on Wonder Boys

Characters – Grady Tripp has seen his wife leave him, as he is about to get a visit from his editor looking for information about his latest novel, he has hit a block in life, not just writers block, where he sees one of his students showing the potential he wishes he had, deciding to help him find his own student, while getting caught in the middle of an affair with a colleague. He is left to make some big life decisions, facing the midlife crisis stage of his life. James Leer is the promising student in Grady’s class, he could become something special, only he seems to be having his own struggles, which sees Grady take him under his wing, to try and unlock the secrets about his life. Sara Gaskell is the colleague that Grady has been having an affair with, she is pregnant which has made the decision to stay together along the way. Terry Crabtree is the editor that worked on Grady’s first book, they are close and he is waiting for the chance to get back to the top in the editing world, even if his style tends to get the two in trouble more. Hannah is another student that has been living with Grady and looking at her ideal, wanting to follow in his footsteps of writing.

PerformancesMichael Douglas in the leading role is great to watch, he shows us just how his character is watching his life spiral out of control, Tobey Maguire as the awkward student is wonderful to watch, as you are never sure what he will do next. Frances McDormand and Katie Holmes are strong through the film, only they don’t get enough time, while Robert Downey Jr as the flamboyant editor that you just don’t know what will do next.

StoryThe story here follows an English professor that’s life that to spiral out of control, from having writers block, seeing potential in a student and seeing his wife leave him, while everyone else around him seems more organised with life. This story does have plenty of different arcs to how Grady’s life is going, another story we could see one of these arcs feeling empty, but this story manages to make each one feel special and part of the bigger picture going forward. We do see how midlife crisis can cause all sorts of problems in life for the people involved and see just how they aim to fix them, by causing more problems for themselves. Everything in told in a light hearted manner, which helps keep things feeling grounded too.

ComedyThe comedy comes from the different situations that Grady finds himself in, usually getting himself into trouble along the way, needing to find a way out.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us just how the everyday life of a struggling author and teacher will operate, it shows the luxury parties they would attend and the mess they would call a home.

Scene of the Movie – The car trip with the rival.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Most of the problems are from his drug use.

Final Thoughts This is a fun comedy that will get laughs, has an excellent cast and is one that shows how to manage multiple story arcs with ease.

Overall: Fun Enjoyable Life Comedy.

Under Suspicion (2000) Movie Review

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Writer: Tom Provost, W. Peter Iliff (Screenplay) Claude Miller, Jean Herman, Michel Audiard/John Wainwright (Original Screenplay/Book)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Monica Bellucci, Nydia Caro, Miguel Angel Suarez, Pablo Cunqueiro

Plot: A wealthy attorney in San Juan comes to the police station for “10 min.” of follow up questions to finding a 12-year old girl’s body in a park. Another young girl was also raped and murdered weeks earlier and the evidence points to him.

Tagline – A hidden past, a secret life, witness or suspect, guilty or innocent?

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Tense

Story: Under Suspicion starts as Henry Hearst (Hackman) agrees to go into see Captain Victor Benezet (Freeman) in a follow up to discovering a dead body on his daily run, only part of Henry’s story doesn’t add up. As Victor and Detective Felix Owen (Jane) start investigating Henry’s story more, they start to see him being the prime suspect.

Henry’s position of power as an attorney makes the case more difficult, as any false story would ruin both Henry and Victor, with each conversation offering new clues to the truth about what really happened to the murdered young girls.

Thoughts on Under Suspicion

Characters – Henry Hearst is wealthy attorney, married to a young wife, respected in the neighbourhood, he discovers a dead body of a young girl, whose story doesn’t add up, making him the prime suspect, he must give details about his personal life, which sees that his life isn’t what everyone else believes, having secrets that aren’t going to help his side of the case, always claiming his innocence to the truth. Captain Victor Benezet has worked with Henry in the past, they have been through cases for years and he knows that if the investigation comes out, he will handle things with more care, only to need to play both sides of Henry, his friend and the cop after a killer. Detective Felix Owen is the younger investigator, he wants the case solved, he will step over the line at time, needing to be kept in place by Victor, while needing to push the boundaries. Chantal Hearst is the younger wife of Henry, she has become distant from him, with his actions driving her away, she could answer a few of the big questions, but doesn’t want to bring her family down, even though she has a grudge about what Henry might have done before.

PerformancesWe do have two of Hollywood’s heavyweights in the leading roles, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, who both show why they are on top of most best actor lists, they carry the film with their performances, while being joined by Thomas Jane and Monica Bellucci giving very strong supporting performances too.

StoryThe story here follows what is simply a follow up set of questions about discovering a dead, soon turns into a full blown investigation into the man that could have been behind the murders. This is a story about people on power being able to play this card to try and get out of questioning, though we do balance the guilty or not guilty side of the story very well, showing us who could be behind the crime. The constant switch in stories does help us question everything we are seeing, showing that trust is what will always be the most difficult thing to maintain. The do only see how one man is being questioned to new limits and how this pressure could create differences in stories given too.

CrimeThe crime is two murders of young girls, they need to be solved fast with the police needing to focus on all sides of the story, making sure everything is covered before the killer could strike again.

SettingsThe film is set on an island, which shows us just how the characters are living in luxury away from the big cities.

Scene of the Movie – Henry and Felix questioning.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not enough investigating into the murders seems to be happening, only the questioning.

Final Thoughts This is a tense thriller that does keep us on the edge of our seat throughout, as we are left to wonder just what is really happened, being carried by powerhouse performances.

Overall: Twist Filled Thriller.

Signature Entertainment presents Under Suspicion on Digital HD July 31 and on Amazon Prime August 3rd

ABC Film Challenge – Romance – A – Along for the Ride (2000)

Director: John Kaye

Writer: John Kaye (Screenplay)

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Penelope Ann Miller, Patrick Swayze, Richard Schiff, Annie Corley, Lee Garlington, Michael J Pollard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Plot: A schizophrenic romantic tracks down her college sweetheart to help her find their son she gave up for adoption sixteen years ago to the dismay of his new wife.

Tagline – First Love Lasts Forever

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Feel Good Movie

Story: Along for the Ride starts when schizophrenic Lulu (Griffith) leaves her home to find her college sweetheart, Ben Clifton (Swayze) who has gone onto become a television screenwriter and married to Claire (Miller) with them both having a happy life together. Lulu comes in search of Ben to drop a bombshell on him, they have a child and that is the reason she left the home to see him on his 16th birthday for the first time.

As Ben reluctantly agrees to go on the trip, Claire is left torn with their own past dealing with the grief the two experienced between the two.

Thoughts on Along for the Ride

Characters – Lulu is the schizophrenic woman that has lived in a home to help her manage her condition, until she decides to leave without any warning, she wants to find Ben to face something from their past, a child she had kept secret for years from everybody else, she has been managing her condition, but her outbursts are clear that she can’t handle being alone in life, with the moment potentially being the biggest challenge of her life. Ben is a screenwriter that is happily married despite having their own tragedy in the family, she is Lulu’s ex from decades before and learns the bombshell they have a kid and must travel across country to meet him with Lulu, putting his career and own marriage on the line. Claire is the wife of Ben who gets even more concerned about him running of with Lulu, she has been dealing their own person problems her own way, which is why she is even more worried about Ben and wants to stop something she thinks is going to happen, happen.

PerformancesMelanie Griffith is great in the role, playing a difficult character and showing both sides of her character’s personality with ease. Patrick Swayze is great too, showing us just how difficult grief can be for people. Penelope Ann Miller as the wife who is concerned about her marriage is everything you want from a character that is feeling distant.

StoryThe story here follows a schizophrenic woman that turns to an ex-lover to travel across country to meet their son, one he never knew they had, putting his own career and marriage on the line to help his former partner. This story does show how much love can last forever, no matter how long you are apart and that a mother will always give everything to show love to their child even if they haven’t been able to spend any time with them. We see how a marriage could be put in a difficult position because of a tragic event that nobody involved could have planned for. We have a mix of a road tip and reconnection and dealing with the past in this story, which is all handled well, with the schizophrenic character showing us just how easily it can be switched on and off without any control.

RomanceThe romance side of the film follows the idea of what once was there and what could have been there more, along with how people move on a fall in love again. We look into more adult relationships rather than the whirlwind that comes from first falling in love.

SettingsThe film does have a road trip setting which sees the characters travelling across America, we don’t go for any big landmarks, which at times doesn’t help understand the scale of the distant being travelled.

Scene of the Movie – The Hustler screening.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Freddie.

Final Thoughts This is an enjoyable road trip movie that has an excellent cast, with strong performances throughout, one to be watch by the fans of the stars.

Overall: Enjoyable throughout.