The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Director: Mark Waters

Writer: Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum, John Sayles (Screenplay) Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black (Book)

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn


Plot: Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.

Tagline – Experience Their World In IMAX

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Fun Fantasy Adventure


Story: The Spiderwick Chronicles starts when a family mother Helen (Parker) and children, Mallory (Bolger), twins Jared & Simon (Both played by Highmore) move to a remote Spiderwick estate. Not long after arriving in the home Jared to rebellious of the twins starts investigating the home only to discovery a mysterious book from the former owner.

Once Jared reads the book, he unleashes a goblin army that has been after the book for years and Mulgarath (Nolte) will do anything to get his hands on the book.


Thoughts on The Spiderwick Chronicles


Characters – Jared is the out going of the twins, he is the one that reads the book and must convince the rest to fight back against goblins, his nature means people are less likely to believe him through any of his decisions though. Simon is the quieter and smarter brother that must look for the solution to the problems being caused. Helen is the mother that is dealing with raising the three children after her marriage has fallen apart and she needs to start a new life, one she isn’t prepared for. Mallory is the older sister that must be the warrior for the twins. Mulgarath is the goblin king that wants the book to kill any species in the surrounding area.

PerformancesFreddie Highmore takes twin roles here and handles them both very well showing how he can be the smarter kid and the adventurous one too. Mary Louise Parker in the parental role works well as we need her to bring the serious side to the story now. Sarah Bolger is strong too needing to be the strongest member of the children.

StoryThe story takes three siblings into a battle with goblins with fantasy creatures being used to guide the way in this battle. This will bring the broken family back together, well back to the level they are going to need to get used too. The scale of the book doesn’t give the story enough credit because it feels like this book has created a massive world only for us to get a snippet into everything. this story doesn’t re-invent the wheel because we can see the formula unfold without needing to guess to much on just how thing go on. We do deal with a big family change which should be the focal point through the film too.

Adventure/FantasyThe adventure side of the film takes the family into battle against the creatures of the forest which are invisible to most of the world, this plays into the fantasy side too because of the creatures we see at war.

SettingsThe film takes the family to a new house that is in the middle of the forest, which shows us the finical change the family must take, as well as the adventures waiting in the forest for people to experience.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are strong for the most part because we get to see the different creation looking like they would fit in the normal world.

Scene of the Movie –
Come with me.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not getting a full grasp of the scale of the fantasy world.

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun fantasy adventure that brings the characters into a world which will unite them as they deal with the biggest change of the children’s life.


Overall: Simple and enjoyable.




Red Sparrow (2018)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writer: Justin Haythe (Screenplay) Jason Matthews (Novel)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons


Plot: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Tagline –  I Know Your Secrets.

Runtime: 2 Hours 20 Minutes


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Slow Espionage Movie


Story: Red Sparrow starts when CIA agent Nate Nash (Edgerton) blows his cover in Russia just as brilliant ballerina Dominika (Lawrence) breaks her leg during a performance, 3 months later her Uncle Vanya (Schoenaerts) offers to help with the new financial crisis her family would be facing, by bringing her into the Sparrow school.

The Sparrow program teaches the subjects to use their bodies to seduce the enemies of the Russia as Nate is forced back into the field as he is the only contact to a source within Russia. Dominika’s first assignment is to track down and seduce Nate bring stopping him from getting the security information he is after in Hungry, the cat-n-mouse chase is now on.


Thoughts on Red Sparrow


Characters – Dominika was once a brilliant ballerina, destine to be one of the top stars of the dancing world, after an accident her priorities change as she is desperately trying to keep the roof over her sick mother’s head. She is recruited to become a Sparrow, an agent that seduces the enemy in hopes of getting secrets, she isn’t like the other sparrows though, she has a way about getting the job done. Nate Nash is a CIA agent undercover in Russia, he does blow his cover landing him back home, but when his source will only talk to him he enters the field again, he uses his skills to get the information and stay ahead of Dominika. Vanya is the Uncle of Dominika, he recruits her with his government position believing that her family connection will help get results.

PerformancesJennifer Lawrence is good even if her accent comes in and out way too often for a consistent level required in the film. Joel Edgerton is good throughout, we can always count on his to give us strong performances throughout any film though. Matthias Schoenaerts is the best performer in the film in the supporting role and to say how many big names we have in the supporting roles we get to see some of the best actors in the industry here.

StoryThe story takes us into the espionage style movie where we follow a reluctant young Russian woman being forced into working for the Russian government and an American CIA agent looking to finish a case he should have been removed from. This does fall into the cat-n-mouse style story which will try to keep you guessing along the way and shows how both sides of the intelligence war are operating, leaving you to figure out who is the mole for the Americans. It should have higher levels of suspense for the subject matter, but just doesn’t suck you into the film on the levels you are expecting.

Mystery/ThrillerThe film uses the mystery side of the story to keep us guessing to who the contact in Russia is, what are the secrets that are being released and which side will get the upper hand, the Russians or the Americans. The film doesn’t feel like the highest tension level that it should though.

SettingsThe film does have some beautiful shots as we learn where the film is being set, we do move around Europe for the film though, which takes away moments of suspense we could receive.

Scene of the Movie –
The weapon of choice for the assassin.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It has slow pacing.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slow paced spy thriller, it does try to keep us guessing throughout only to end up failing to give us any suspense or use any of the sexual skills we are forced to watch the training side of things.


Overall: Thriller that just doesn’t hit the suspense levels required.




Franchise Weekend – RED 2 (2013)

casting carrdDirector: Dean Parisot

Writer: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber (Screenplay) Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner (Graphic Novel)

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis


Plot: Retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Enjoyable Sequel


Story: RED 2 starts as we follow the now couple Frank Moses (Willis) and Sarah (Parker) as Frank desperately tries play house while Sarah wants adventure when Marvin (Malkovich) returns to their lives. When Marvin fakes his death once more he learns that himself and Frank are being framed for a mission they were never part of, these leads to the adventure Sarah and Frank need to rekindle their relationship.

When Jack Horton (McDonough) recruits a former friend Han Cho Bai (Lee) to take him out to clean up the mess we see the governments of the world working to retrieve the information before any other countries do which brings back Victoria (Mirren). We also have Russian agent Katja (Jones) as they search for a guy called The Frog (Thewlis) who will lead them to the answers.

RED 2 is an improvement on the original because we are now taking on the developed characters from the first film, we know they had missions before retiring which throws us straight into the new mission. On the negative we do feel like we are repeating the same elements we saw in the first film. This is again just an easy film to follow that can be enjoyed.


Actor Review


Bruce Willis: Frank is now trying to play house and live a normal life with Sarah when the past he still tries to escape catches up with. Frank must go on another mission with Marvin with Sarah tagging along with an ex-girlfriend getting in the way he must uncover the truth about a secret mission he went on. Bruce seems to come off slightly stronger in this performance unlike his last outing.

John Malkovich: Marvin is the first one to suspect something going on and his paranoia doesn’t help along the way. He tries to be there for Frank whether he needs advice about his relationship and is always good for weapon of choice. John continues to be the funniest part of the film.

Mary-Louise Parker: Sarah is the girlfriend of Frank who is looking for the adventure that sparked their relationship in the first place. When Marvin turns up she jumps at the chance to go on this latest mission but this time she has to deal with a rival woman from Frank’s past. Mary-Louise is good in this role that does add another dimension to her character.

Helen Mirren: Victoria is the MI6 agent that works with Frank to find the truth which does include turning her back on her own country. Helen is good with her parts but we don’t see her enough compared to the first film.

Support Cast: RED 2 has a big supporting cast with well-known names in the business including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Byung-hun Lee who all bring great addition to the sequel to show just how many added characters could be put into this story.

Director Review: Dean ParisotDean adds a lot to this crime comedy where we do get a much more enjoyable movie all around.


Action: RED 2 has good action going on throughout with one way over the top shoot out destroying a street of cars.

Comedy: RED 2 does have added comedy this time with the idea that Sarah gets jealous of Frank’s ex-girlfriend while Malkovich still steals the scenes.

Crime: RED 2 does bring us into a string of different law enforcements trying to take down Frank because of the crimes he might have committed.

Settings: RED 2 takes us around Europe for the settings which all work t make the story more engrossing.
Special Effects
: RED 2 has good special effects to show us just how to make action work without turning to them too often.

Suggestion: RED 2 is one that I think people will enjoy but I do think you have to watch through the first one. (Try It)


Best Part: Malkovich still shines.

Worst Part: The way the story unfolds feels like we have see it before.


Believability: No

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $84 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Million

Tagline: The best never rest.


Overall: Very enjoyable sequel that shows this was going in the right direction.




Franchise Weekend – RED (2010)

casting cardDirector: Robert Schwentke

Writer: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber (Screenplay) Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner (Graphic Novel)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, James Remar, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon,


Plot: When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Solid Action Comedy


Story: RED starts as retired CIA agents Frank Moses (Willis) has very little to do apart from his monthly phone calls to call centre girl Sarah (Parker). He life is turned upside down when a black ops team come to try and kill him leaving him to team up with his fellow retired agents Joe Matheson (Freeman), Marvin Boggs (Malkovich), Ivan Simonov (Cox) and Victoria (Mirren).

With William Cooper (Urban) tracking him down Frank uses his skill to stay one step ahead while getting the truth out of the CIA about what they are covering up.

RED is an action comedy that plays along the lines that the older agents are retired and still better agents than the current group. It plays along the idea that they had to learn things the hard way while the new generation are trained not experiencing the field events. We get a standard cover up story which is slightly been here seen this. I do think this has a lot more potential if it actually focused more on the comedy because the only funny character is Marvin who to be far steals the movie.


Actor Review


Bruce Willis: Frank Moses is the retired CIA agent that has been struggling to find something to do each day. He finds himself being targeted by the CIA to be taken out which leads him to team up with his fellow retired agents to uncover the truth while keeping his new love interest in safety. Bruce gives a performance that does reflect how we see him in the modern spotlight.

Mary-Louise Parker: Sarah Ross is a call centre girl that has a good telephone relationship with Frank. When he becomes a target she finds him at her doorstep to try and protect her from the clean-up. She isn’t happening to start with but soon grows to love the thrilling side of the adventure. Mary-Louise is good in this role as the lonely middle-aged woman looking for adventure.

Morgan Freeman: Joe Matheson is the first of the former agents Frank goes to, he is terminally ill but still just as sharp as he always was. He sees this mission as one last adventure with his old friends. Morgan gets to have some fun with this supporting role.

Karl Urban: William Cooper is the agent forced to track down Frank, he is only following orders and isn’t willing to look at the bigger picture that is going on but he is a very good agent if not the best the CIA have now. Karl handles himself well against all the bigger names in the industry.

Support Cast: RED has a supporting cast with some big names involved with Helen Mirren, Brian Cox and the scene stealing John Malkovich with cameos from a string of older actors too.

Director Review: Robert SchwentkeRobert tackles this film to make it easy to watch but nothing overly special going on through this one.


Action: RED has what you could call easy to watch action that we have all seen before.

Comedy: RED only really has one funny character because certain parts that are meant to be comedy are slightly creepy.

Crime: RED uses the cover up side of the story to create the crime side of the story.

Settings: RED has no real memorable settings with each just being used for the next part of the information collecting side of the film.
Special Effects
: RED has easy to use effects with the explosions with a few coming off well but nothing being too good.

Suggestion: RED is one that I do think you can try it isn’t great but you could get a few laughs out off. (Try It)


Best Part: Malkovich nails the comedy.

Worst Part: No one else is really funny.


Believability: No

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: Yes

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $58 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Tagline: There’s No Substitute for Experience.


Overall: Easy to watch action comedy that is nothing breath-taking but not offensive.





The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

logoDirector:  Andrew Dominik

Writer: Andrew Dominik (Screenplay) Ron Hansen (Novel)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Garret Dillahunt


Plot: The story of how Robert Ford (Affleck) becomes part of Jesse James’ (Pitt) gang before becoming shooting him in the back and becoming known as the Coward Robert Ford.


Verdict: Very good look at the life and death of Jesse James and Robert Ford

Story: The story is told with an overall narration telling how each of the members of the gang meets their fates be it through the sheriffs, Jesse himself or other members of the gang. Even though we know what is going to happen in the end we are still given enough to keep us guessing to how it will come about if you don’t know the real story. The story is told very well and keeps you interested from start to finish and is a very good history lesson about one of America’s biggest iconic characters. (10/10)


Actor Review: Brad Pitt – Jesse James has never been shown in a more real character before, he has always been a gun slinging bad guy, and this makes him out to be the American version of Robin Hood. Pitt shines in this role and makes James one of the most likeable characters in American history. (9/10)


Actor Review: Casey Affleck – Robert Ford is always seen as just the coward that killed Jesse James, with this we see what motivated him into competing the crime and how James went from idol to friend to enemy in the space of a couple of years. Casey shines in what could be considered his breakout performance stepping up from just supporting role to being considered a real lead in film. Star Performance Award, Breakout Performance Award (9/10)


Actor Review: Sam Rockwell – Charley Ford plays Robert brother who gets him in the gang and becomes his stage partner playing Jesse James as Robert re-performs the murder on stage. Rockwell always gives string performances and this shows even next to one of the best he can handle it and very under rated performance due to the high quality achieved by the other two. (9/10)


Director Review: Andrew Dominik – Great direction throughout showing after Chopper he knows what he is doing make each scene top level cinema. (9/10)

Thriller: Very thrilling about the outcome of the characters. (8/10)

Believability: Good story about what happened to the Jesse James Gang. (9/10)

Chances of Tears: None (0/10)

Settings: Very authentic scenery throughout the story (9/10)
Oscar Chances
: Got nominated for two Oscars

Chances of Sequel: None

Suggestion: Very good historic story that people who don’t know the story of Jesse James should really enjoy it. It may not appeal to the more casual film fan as it is shown in a slow pace, if you do watch it you will be rewarded by some great cinema. (Watch)


Best Part: Affleck’s performance

Similar Too: Lincoln


Overall: Masterpiece History lesson

 Lesley’s Rating 70%

My Rating 94%