The Game (1997)

Director: David Fincher

Writer: John Brancato, Michael Ferris (Screenplay)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Anna Katarina

Plot: After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.

Tagline – Players Wanted.

Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Twist Filled Thriller

Story: The Game starts as wealthy banker Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) has spent his life working forgetting to have fun, his rebellious brother Conrad (Penn) turns up to celebrate his birthday which sees him giving him a gift, one that would let him take part in a game that will change his life. Nicholas reluctantly decides to go through the process, finding himself involved in the game, which starts to fade his reality.

As the events continue, Nicholas does start to see his very controlled life start to get out of control with only a random waitress Christine (Unger) around for him to trust, can Nicholas unravel the mystery to save his career or will he lose the game.

Thoughts on The Game

Characters – Nicholas Van Orton is a banker that is in complete control of his life, he isn’t friendly to everybody he meets in life and is distant from most of his family, he is excellent at business, he gets a different present from his rebellious brother, which sees him break out of his controlling method of life to play along with an uncontrollable game where he doesn’t know what is or isn’t real, learning to navigate and try to stay one step ahead of the game. Conrad is the rebellious brother that has had personal problems in the past, he gives Nicholas a present, claiming it helped turn his own life around, only for this gift only make his brother’s life more difficult. Christine is a waitress that Nicholas gets fired, he must work with her even if she might in fact be involved in the game herself. Jim Feingold is the man behind the invitation, he has Nicholas give him plenty of information before unleashing everything to get into Nicholas life.

PerformancesMichael Douglas is wonderful in this leading role, he plays the controlling businessman with ease and watching him lose control of his life is a performance you feel was made for Douglas. Sean Penn is wonderful in the supporting role, where we see how his character’s life has been affected by the game. Deborah Kara Unger in her supporting role does shine, with the rest of the supporting cast all working very well through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a controlling businessman that decides to step away from his routine to play a game bought to him as a present by his brother, once the game has started he sees his life start to fall apart as he tries to figure out what is real and what is part of the game. This is a story that does keep you on your toes through the film as it does just keep trying to spin on everything going on. We do have an overall message going on which does show the Nicholas needs to become more open in his life, which is the point of the game, trying to teach them how important life is too. The fact that this film just keeps us guessing is what is the most important part of the film, nothing seems like reality, but it could be real, which is why this is such an impressive story.

MysteryThe mystery in this film keeps us wondering whether this is a game or whether there is something more intense going on, the fact we can balance this so effortless makes this one of the best mystery films you will see.

SettingsThe film is set in San Francisco which does show how a successful businessman will operate in a city know or think he knows all the shortcuts to make it through the difficult times.

Scene of the Movie – Rooftop.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Who took his kids at the zoo?

Final Thoughts This is one of the most intense mystery thrillers ever made, we are truly kept wondering just what will happen next balancing on whether this is real or not.

Overall: Brilliant thriller.


ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – S – Scent of a Woman (1992)

Director: Martin Brest

Writer: Bo Goldman (Screenplay) Giovanni Arpino (Novel)

Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabriele Anwar, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Benture, Bradley Whitford


Plot: A prep school student needing money agrees to “babysit” a blind man, but the job is not at all what he anticipated.

Tagline – Col. Frank Slade has a very special plan for the weekend. It involves travel, women, good food, fine wine, the tango, chauffeured limousines and a loaded forty-five. And he’s bringing Charlie along for the ride.

Runtime: 2 Hour 36 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Special Drama


Story: Scent of a Woman starts as prep school student Charlie Simms (O’Donnell) takes a weekend job caring for blind veteran Lt Col Frank Slade (Pacino), with Charlie’s future on the line at school after a prank by the rich kids on the headmaster, he wants the weekend to help him focus.

Frank has other ideas, he wants to go to New York for one last weekend of living the highlife before killing himself, he needs Charlie to be his guide on this journey. This weekend will change Charlie’s life as he gets the guidance he needs to help him through his difficult time.


Thoughts on Scent of a Woman


Characters – Lt, Col, Frank Slade is a short tempered blind veteran, he loves a drink and can identify a woman’s fragrance with the slightest smell in the air. He knows the people in his life don’t care about him much anymore, but Charlie gives him the guide he needs for this one last adventure. Charlie Simms comes from a poor family of hard workers, he earnt his place in the school with a scholarship, this is now at risk if he covers for the rich kids, but his Thanksgiving job of looking after Frank gives him a life lesson he could never learn in a classroom. The rest of the characters we meet are people that Frank wants to see once more, Charlie’s classmates and the women that Frank believes he can impress.

PerformancesAl Pacino won his Oscar with this performance, he commits and convinces throughout this film, showing he can break out from the cop or gangster roles you could see him being known for. Chris O’Donnell is great here too showing he was one of the main young actors waiting to come in the early 90s. the rest of the performances are great through the film showing us that the host of talent knew how to make an impact in a small amount of screen time.

StoryThe story follows a school student that must look after a blind veteran who wants to commit suicide after one last weekend. This story gives Charlie life lessons that he needs as he approaches a dog eat dog world, but also shows Frank that not everyone has given up hope on him and the service he gave to his country. This shows us how one weekend can change lives, an adventure that is unlike anything Charlie could have imagined.

SettingsThe film takes our characters from a smaller town to the big apple, this as I say a lot if always a wonderful location for learning about life in a way you could never imagine.

Scene of the Movie –

That Moment That Annoyed Me Charlie doesn’t seem to have any real friends at school and you feel this should have been addressed.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wonderful drama that deserved the praise it got, it has brilliant chemistry between the two leads as you understand both their problems in life. This is one of Pacino’s best performances and a must watch for any of his fans.


Overall: Must watch drama.




Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)

logoDirector: George Miller

Writer: George Miller, Nick Enright (Screenplay)

Starring: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov, Kathleen Wilhoite, Gerry Bamman, Margo Martindale, James Rebhorn, Ann Hearn, Maduka Steady


Plot: A boy develops a disease so rare that nobody is working on a cure, so his father decides to learn all about it and tackle the problem himself.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Powerful Drama


Story: Lorenzo’s Oil starts in July 1983 Comoros Islands where young boy Lorenzo is living. Move forward three months Lorenzo is back home in America but things have started to change in Lorenzo, he has started to react to everything where he causes problems. Lorenzo’s parents Augusto (Nolte) and Michaela (Sarandon) start to be concerned with his behaviour but when doctors say there is nothing wrong. Each doctor tells them the same thing and figure out it is not his brain but he continues to get worse showing more symptoms.

Specialist Doctor Judalon (Bamman) puts Lorenzo through the most tests over a string of days to finally figure out what is wrong, ALD is the disease that Lorenzo has and he is given just two years to live because no one has every lasted longer than that. ALD has no treatment and has never been studied which leaves the parents with the realization that they will lose their son, but not wanting to accept that they start learning about the disease. Professor Nikolais (Ustinov) has been working on a potential theory for trying to slow down the process.

As time goes by we watch how different doctors try and learn from Lorenzo and other victims but we have to see how the difficult it is for the parents and doctors alike who have to learn not only how to treat but also how to deal with the disease. Deciding not enough is being done, Augusto and Michaela take it upon themselves to try and learn about the disease to understand what they will be dealing with and look for their own potential cure.

Lorenzo’s Oil is a film based on the true story that this one family suffered through. It shows how learning about new diseases isn’t just something you can rush into even if it can be difficult to believe. It also shows how far medical science can help save lives if people are willing to look for a cure instead of trying to make money. On the personal battle is shows how much effort our couple put into saving their son against almost impossible odds, not just dealing with the reality of what will happen but what could have happened. This will go down as one of the powerful dramas we saw at the time but in the end we have seen many like this now. (8/10)


Actor Review


Nick Nolte: Augusto Odone the father of Lorenzo who spends his time studying to find a cure by himself to prove all the doctors wrong. Nick shows why he is always good enough to lead a film with a flawless performance here. (9/10)


Susan Sarandon: Michaela Odone mother of Lorenzo who spends the whole time fighting for the right to have her son treated while spending as much time as possible caring for him as he gets worse. Susan gives a great performance and deserved her Oscar nomination. (10/10)


Peter Ustinov: Professor Nikolais who is leading ideas on how to cure the disease but is in a very difficult situation of having to follow the procedure of testing before just jumping to conclusions. Peter gives a good performance in what would considered a difficult role. (7/10)


Support Cast: Lorenzo’s Oil has a supporting cast that includes family members as well as other families who are suffering with the disease, each are dealing with it in a different way. We also have doctors who are trying to find a cure but only in the scientific way.


Director Review: George Miller – George steps away from what we are used to from him and he delivers a very powerful drama. (9/10)


Drama: Lorenzo’s Oil shows how hard dealing with a disease like that is, it shows how hard it will be on the family and how hard it will make them fight for him. (10/10)

Settings: Lorenzo’s Oil uses the home as the most part setting showing how crippling the disease is on the family. (9/10)

Suggestion: Lorenzo’s Oil is one very good film and I do think it could be watched by all but I do think the subject matter might not appeal to everyone. (Try It)


Best Part: Fighting for the right to try something.

Worst Part: Medical protocol.


Believability: It is based on the real story. (10/10)

Chances of Tears: Good chance of some through the film. (8/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: During credits we see children who have survived because of the oil.

Similar Too: Extraordinary Measures.


Oscar Chances: Was nominated for Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

Box Office: $7.3 Million

Budget: $30 Million

Runtime: 2 Hour 9 Minutes

Tagline: Some people make their own miracles.


Overall: This is a very powerful drama that will stick with you because the work these two did helped many other suffers of the disease.

Rating 85

The Box (2009)

logoDirector: Richard Kelly

Writer: Richard Kelly (Screenplay) Richard Matheson (Short Story ‘Button, Button’)

Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, Celia Weston


Plot: Norma (Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (Marsden), a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. However, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world, someone they don’t know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.


Verdict: Thought Provoking Thriller


Story: What looks like it will just test you on whether you would press the button, turns into a conspiracy thriller mixed with alien invasion or testing. This all comes off very clever but also outsmarts itself at times. You really have to see this a couple of times to really understand everything that is going on, but if you go in knowing this is from the Donnie Darko and Southland Tales director you will know it will try to confuse you but also give you the answers. If you are trying to find a smart thriller this is a story that really puts some of the over the top films to shame. (8/10)


Actor Review


Cameron Diaz: Norma the wife in the situation to change her life forever with the money and that would help her have the surgery on her disfigured foot. Good performance from the actress who is most well known for her glamourize roles, turns in to a regular house wife well. (8/10)


James Marsden: Arthur astronaut hopeful who dreams are dashed but with the chance to get some money things start to change. Good performance but at times he looks a bit lost in what the character should be doing. (7/10)


Frank Langella: Arlington the mysterious disfigured man who offers the family a chance to make a million dollars at the push of a button, but is there something out of this world about him. Good performance showing how the power of mystery. (8/10)


Director Review: Richard Kelly – As a big fan of both his other films I found this a perfect fit for his abilities to make you really think about what is happening. (9/10)


Mystery: You will be questioning every action the characters take during the film. (9/10)

Sci-Fi: Looking into the idea that something is trying to check up on us rather than taking over. (9/10)

Thriller: Really keeps you thinking from start to finish. (9/10)

Settings: All very planned settings to add something to each scene and each moment of the story. (9/10)
Special Effects
: With few uses of effects rather focusing on mind set the few moments that are used all look very good. (8/10)

Suggestion: I think this really needs to be given a chance, but you will have to give the film your full concentration to enjoy it. (Try It)


Best Part: A simple idea turned into something very smart.

Worst Part: Blink you might miss something.

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $33,333,531

Budget: $30 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

Tagline: You are the experiment.

Trivia:Norma and Arthur are based on Richard Kelly’s real parents


Overall: Smart Thriller

Rating 85

Real Steel (2011)

In the near future where boxing has been replaced by robot boxing. We meet Charlie (Hugh Jackman) a man who just wants to make money, which includes taking one of his robots to fight at a circus to fight a bull, unsuccessfully.

Charlie’s world is about to take a big turn when he finds out one of his ex girlfriends has died leaving Charlie with a son Max (Dakota Goyo). Continuing his style of life he sells his son to his aunt (Hope Davis) and her husband (James Rebhorn) but agrees to take him for the summer planning on leaving him with his trainer Bailey (Evangeline Lilly).

After blowing all the money he got on a robot that gets destroyed in a fight Charlie and Max head to a scrap yard to look for parts only for Max to find an early robot he restores and they take on the road.

Can they make a big enough name for themselves and challenge at the very top?

I found the story very much opposite your usual over coming the odds, usually it would be the young character that learns the lesson, but in this the son seems to teach the father more. It is a good bounding story between distant father and son. Some of the robot battles are very nicely put together and offer a very real experience. Overall it is a very enjoyable film that never really challenges the view to over think the story.

My Rating 85%