The Mexican (2001)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: J.H. Wyman (Screenplay)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini, J.K. Simmons, Bob Balaban, Sherman Augustus, Michael Cerveris, Gene Hackman

 

Plot: A man tries to transport an ancient gun called The Mexican, believed to carry a curse, back across the border, while his girlfriend pressures him to give up his criminal ways.


Tagline – love with the safety off

Runtime: 2 Hours 3 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Fun Adventure Film

 

Story: The Mexican starts when small time crook Jerry (Pitt) is forced to head to Mexico to collect a gun for mob boss Bernie Nayman (Balaban), only this mission goes wrong when he loses the gun and is let stranded in Mexico trying to locate it.

With the bosses not happy that he has failed they send Winston Baldry (Gandolfini) kidnap his ex-girlfriend Samantha (Roberts) to locate him and the missing gun known as the Mexican.

 

Thoughts on The Mexican

 

Characters – Jerry is a small-time crook that has been in the debt of crime boss for years, with his latest and seemingly last chance sees him travelling to Mexico to locate a famous pistol. He has a short attention span which has gotten him trouble before and this is no different, he needs to clean up his own mess before finding himself wanted by the crime bosses. Samantha is Jerry’s ex-girlfriend that gets forced in work with a hitman to locate Jerry against her wishes, she just wants a normal life instead of being part of the crime world. Winston is the hitman that forces Samantha to help him locate Jerry, while learning to expression his own feelings. Arnold Margolese is the man that has been left in jail thanks to Jerry’s sloppy mistakes, he is making Jerry make up the time he is lost.

PerformancesBrad Pitt does bring us a wonderful comic character that plays into the cool persona that he had at the time, Brad mixes both the styles together to make his performance standout. Julia Roberts showed that she was a powerhouse in film during the 2000s, she brings everything to this performance to make her a supportive character. James Gandolfini brings us a twist on the hitman role which is against everything we have seen him play before. Gene Hackman might only have a smaller role, but he makes the most of his screen time.

StoryThe story here follows a clumsy crook who is sent to Mexico in search for a gun for his boss, the gun has a history which many different people want, which drags his girlfriend into the mix as they get caught up in a bigger chase for the gun, letting the two put aside their differences and finding out how they really feel about each other. This story is one that has plenty of twists and turns along the way, like any interesting crime adventure film, we see how Jerry always manages to get himself into more trouble no matter what and how Samantha is always going to be the one that puts him back on the right path. We have a lot of details that are added to create the characters which keeps the film flowing with more information as each scene unfolds.

Adventure/Comedy/CrimeThe adventure side of this film takes Jerry to Mexico where he never feels comfortable or look like he should be there, the crime world shows us just how man people would be after the legendary weapon that the bumbling criminal is set to get. The comedy in the film comes from the actions of Jerry which always make him look out of place.

SettingsThe film shows us how the shady looking street around Mexico which shows just how out of place Jerry looks.


Scene of the Movie –
Leroy changes a tyre.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It could sometimes have too many different subplots going on within the world.

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun adventure that shows just how entertaining a crime comedy can be with its multiple different branches.

 

Overall: Fun filled adventure.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Romance – C – Larry Crowne (2011)

Director: Tom Hanks

Writer: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos (Screenplay)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Pam Grier, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Holmes Osbourne, Taraji P Henson, Rob Riggle

 

Plot: After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.


Tagline – Never too late in life to start living.

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Clichéd Rom Com

 

Story: Larry Crowne starts as we meet Larry (Hanks) a hard-working sales man for a supermarket like company that is let go due to him not having a college education, in desperate search for a new purpose, he heads back to college with one of his lecturers being Mercedes Tainot (Roberts) who feels she is under achieving.

After meeting fellow student Talia (Mbatha-Raw), he learns to fit in with the students and helps him find a new purpose as he reinvents himself.

 

Thoughts on Larry Crowne

 

Characters – Larry Crowne spent years in the Navy as a chef, he has worked his way up the ranks at a superstore, only to find himself laid off because he doesn’t have a college education. Not finding a new job, he heads back to college where he makes new friends and clashes with the teachers, while finding himself. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and just wants to help people. Mercedes Tainot is a teacher that doesn’t feel she is achieving everything she could, she enjoys a drink to cover her failings in life with her marriage going down the toilet, she pushes her students while not always caring. Talia is a student that takes Larry under her wing, helps him join their gang and becomes the friend he needs through his college experience. She is the spark in the movie that keeps everything feeling fresh.

PerformancesTom Hanks takes many roles in this film, director, writer and leading man, he is good in this role, where he can play into the comedy he was once known for, but it is far from the best we know he can do. Julia Roberts is good too, she enjoys playing a less complicated character to the ones we know her for too. For me the star of the movie must be Gugu Mbatha-Raw who steals every scene we see her in with her pure positivity. The rest of the supporting cast are good throughout the film with some names that have gone onto bigger things too.

StoryWhen I look at this story it does show us how one man who loses his job, wife and is left facing no future because of his lack of education, it does play out like an important look at the real world, this side of the story is good, the problems I found with the story include how he goes to college, but we never learn what this is to achieve because on of the courses seems like a made up one too. We get a romantic angle which just doesn’t work and while it does show us about taking change in your life in your stride we do see to lose plot points quickly through the film.

Comedy/RomanceThe comedy in the film does work, it is mostly light hearted which works well. The romance in the film for me is mostly a miss because we do try to play into what could happen between the two, which shouldn’t be around in this story for Larry.

SettingsThe settings in the film take our main character back to college and to locations he wouldn’t have imagined he would have gone, even with they are cliched as they come.


Scene of the Movie –
Larry’s speech.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The subplots just seem to vanish through the story.

Final ThoughtsThis movie does want to give us an important message, but by the end it just falls into the clichés we know too often in rom coms.

 

Overall: By the book.

Rating

 

 

Maggie Gyllenhaal Weekend – Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Director: Mike Newell

Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal (Screenplay)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden

Plot: A free-thinking art professor teaches conservative 1950s Wellesley girls to question their traditional social roles.


Tagline – They had everything. She showed them more.

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant

Story: Mona Lisa Smile starts when Katherine Ann Watson (Roberts) takes a teaching role at the prestigious Wellesley College, one with the social traditions taught to girls studying they’re from the upper-class families. Katherine learns that her class with includes Betty Warren (Dunst), Joan Brandwyn (Stiles), Giselle Levy (Gyllenhaal) and Connie Baker (Goodwin) know the whole textbook on the first day.

Katherine must learn to keep her head down, while trying to teach the young women about being thinking instead of following the traditions they have been raised to believe are the only way to go. With Katherine showing them a new look at life the pressure starts getting thrown back at her by the parent’s of the students, with some wanting to accept it, while others are happy to stay in the line they believe is right.

Thoughts on Mona Lisa Smile

Characters – Katherine Ann Watson is an arts history teacher that is known for her free-thinking ways that doesn’t follow the traditional ways of the school, she does want to teach the women they don’t have to just get married and become housewives, she must remain in a position which will see the higher ups in the school question her beliefs and methods. Katherine will help develop these young women to understand they can be more in life. Betty Warren is the daughter of the head of the school, she is engaged and ready to finish school and become a housewife, everything she has been taught is right for her, she isn’t afraid to report anyone going against the traditions and questions her own friends for trying to be different. Joan Brandwyn is one of the students who also believes she is meant to just get married, she did want to study law and Katherine pushes her to follow her dream an apply for law school, this puts Joan in a position of not knowing what she should do next. Giselle Levy has been having an affair with one of the professor, she pushes the other girls into trying to break the rules more which is the way she feels like she fits in.

PerformancesJulia Roberts is wonderful in this leading role, being the truly free-thinking which does seem to reflect her own acting career at times. Kirsten Dunst is great too showing that in the early 2000s, she was nearly untouchable in her acting. Julia Stiles is great to breaking away from the romantic comedies she had been doing. Maggie Gyllenhaal shows that she was going to go onto bigger projects with her wonderful supporting performance and Ginnifer Goodwin is wonderful in this film too.

StoryThe story here follow a free-thinking professor that takes a job in a prestigious women’s school where she wants to help the young women start to think for themselves instead of following the traditions set up for them to follow, her thinking does upset the normal in the beliefs, as she just wants to make a difference to these women’s lives. When you look back at the story and time it is set, it does show us just how frustrating the mentality was. You could compare this to ‘Dead Poets Society’ with a teaching trying to show students life can be different to what they have been raised to believe. The story does show us enough of a previous problem in life and does show how people would have changed if they were given a glimpse into the life they could have.

SettingsThe film is set around the school in which Katherine teaches, it shows how the rules are going to be difficult to follow or understand and how people will constantly be looking down on people trying to change thing.


Scene of the Movie – The flowers of goodbye.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Certain characters are too generic.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful look at how somebody wanted to help make a change to the normal which should never have been the normal, we have five excellent leading lady performances too.

Overall: Wonderful look at change.

Rating

Hook (1991)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: James V Hart, Nick Castle, Malia Scotch Marmo (Screenplay) J.M. Barrie (Books)

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott

 

Plot: When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, an adult Peter Pan must return to Neverland and reclaim his youthful spirit in order to challenge his old enemy.


Tagline – What if Peter Pan grew up?

Runtime: 2 Hours 22 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Fun-Filled Fantasy

 

Story: Hook starts as we meet businessman Peter Banning (Williams) who has started over working leading to his children become distant, his wife Moira (Goodall) forces him to visit his Granny Wendy (Smith) in London for Christmas, where she sees how much Peter has changed since his childhood of never wanting to grow up.

Captain Hook (Hoffman) takes Peter’s children, which sees Peter needing to be pushed into returning to Neverland, a place he has long forgotten about, with Tinkerbell (Roberts) taking him there only for Hook to be left disappointed by the man Peter has become, Tinkerbell has three days to restore Peter’s faith in Neverland to save his children.

 

Thoughts on Hook

 

Characters – Peter Banning is a lawyer that has been neglecting his family, his Grandmother sees him losing his young heart that made her take him in, in the first place, Peter must confront his past to save his children from his old nemesis Captain Hook in Neverland, a place he has long since forgotten about. Peter has become everything he once hated as a child and shows how at times parents can get buried in their work. Captain Hook has been waiting for the day Peter Pan returns, he is left disappointed when he does return a shell of the boy that left, giving him three days to prepare for a battle, while having his own plan to get revenge on Peter. Tinkerbell comes to Peter to bring him back to Neverland, she helps transform him back to his original self, while showing him what he is still fighting for.

PerformancesRobin Williams was a great choice for this role, he gets to manages the serious adult side of everything as well as the playful side of Peter Pan with ease being able to swap between the two whenever he needs to. Dustin Hoffman as the villainous Hook has great enjoyment in this role where he does get to play along with his character. Julia Roberts does all she needs to do without being as involved as the lead too.

StoryThe story follows an older Peter Pan that must return to Neverland to save his own children after his old nemesis Captain Hook takes them there. This spin on the Peter Pan story is a wonderful on because see Peter grown up becoming everything he promised he wouldn’t shows us just how difficult being an adult can be, you will turn your back on parts of your childhood become what you once feared. This was always the meaning behind Peter Pan in the first place, finding an escape from the busy lives, now an adult must use this to save his own relationship with his children and family, which is what is important in life.

Adventure/Comedy/FantasyThe adventure side of the film takes Peter to Neverland to relive moments of his childhood in a fantasy battle against pirates with fairies on their side. We do get elements of comedy, but even Robin Williams is held back from going into his full routine like we saw in Aladdin.

SettingsThe film uses the same settings that we know from Peter Pan, the London setting might well be a more modern one, but Neverland hasn’t aged a day since Peter has left.


Scene of the Movie –
The battle.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Pop culture references.

Final ThoughtsThis is a magical version of Peter Pan’s adventures showing how life can change for adults who never thought they would be when they were children.

 

Overall: Magical adventure.

Rating

 

 

The Pelican Brief (1993)

Director: Alan J Pakula

Writer: Alan J Pakula (Screenplay) John Grisham (Book)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, John Lithgow

 

Plot: A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger.


Tagline – Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth. An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead.

Runtime: 2 Hours 21 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Tense Political Thriller

 

Story: The Pelican Brief starts when two Supreme Court Justices are assassinated, bring the country to a stand still in shock. Law student Darby Shaw (Roberts) puts together a theory of who was behind the assassinations, which she presents to her boyfriend and professor Thomas (Shepard), one theory that has turned his head.

After the theory is presented to the people investigating, Darby and Tom start getting targeted, when journalist friend of one of the victims Gray Grantham (Washington) start investigating a bigger conspiracy going on within the government, one that will put both their lives in danger.

 

Thoughts on The Pelican Brief

 

Characters – Darby is a law student having an affair with her professor, after the assassinations, she comes up with a theory about who was behind them, which sees her become a target for the people behind it, she doesn’t know who to trust seeing anybody she does get killed, her last resort is Gray. Gray is a journalist that has worked with the victims in the past, he is willing to dig for the truth, he does become Darby’s last resort and works with her to expose the truth which will become the biggest story of his career. Thomas Callahan is the connection between Darby and the people involved, he is a professor, with her theory interesting him at his own risk. We do go through many different political figures in search for the truth here, each one has their own agenda and could be involved.

PerformancesJulia Roberts in the leading role is strong as she gives us a strong independent figure that has been running for her life trying to expose the truth. Denzel Washington was a growing star at the time of release, here he makes us believe that he is a star in the role which is filled with the determination and skill to start ahead of the game. The rest of the cast are all strong with them each getting the moments to shine with them all having the importance to the story.

StoryThe story follows a law student and journalist that must team up to investigate the assassinations of the two members of the supreme court that puts both their lives in danger as it could bring the political system down. This story does give us plenty of swerves along the way as it does keep us guessing just to where everything will be going, it does show us how a political system will be used to gain an advantage and can be used to cover up anything that will incriminate them. The idea of the cover up shows just how corruption can effect so many lives and is ready to be exposed.

Crime/MysteryThe crime side of the film shows just how the laws can be bent to help the people who want to make the most money, how much they will do to cover up their secrets and how corrupt they will become. The mystery side of the film show just how the corruption needs to be investigated, how far up the chain it could go too.

SettingsThe film is set in a couple of major cities in America Washington and New York mostly, which show just how the big companies will use the political power to make the most money.


Scene of the Movie –
The video.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is too long, with too many characters at times.

Final ThoughtsThis is a political thriller that does keep you guessing, it shows how far up the chain corruption can go and how covering it up can be the only option.

 

Overall: Political thriller 101

Rating