Alaska (1996)

Director: Fraser C Heston

Writer: Andy Burg, Scott Myers (Screenplay)

Starring: Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict, Charlton Heston, Duncan Fraser

 

Plot: While searching for their missing father in the mountains of Alaska, two siblings come across a baby polar bear on the run from a pair of poachers.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Wonderful Adventure Family Film

 

Story: Alaska starts as we meet the Barnes family, father Jake (Benedict) a small plane pilot and his kids Jessie (Birch) and Sean (Kartheiser), the family has started a new life in Alaska after their death of Jake’s wife and mother of Jessie and Sean. While Jessie has embraced this new life enjoying the beautiful sites, Sean is struggling with new life. We also get to meet to poachers Perry (Heston) and Koontz (Fraser) who have been hunting polar bears.

When their father goes missing, Jessie and Sean aim to go in search of him through the Alaskan wilderness discovering a captured baby polar bear cub that they release who joins them on their adventure, which only attracts the poachers attention as they find themselves chased through the wilderness by the poachers too in a race against time to find their father.

 

Thoughts on Alaska

 

Characters/PerformanceJessie is the sister of the siblings, she has embraced the change to Alaska learning to be part of the team with her father, while they both want to search for their father, she is the most prepared of the two. Sean hates his new life in Alaska and wants to move back to Chicago but you can clearly see he is grieving his mother with his behaviour, but with his father missing he will do everything he can to find him, learning to love the beautiful landscape they are part of now. Jake is the father of the family that has given up his 747-pilot job to start a new life in the small town in Alaska, he does spend most of the film trapped in his plane but his character gives Jessie and Sean the reason for going on their adventure. Perry and Koontz are two poachers hunting polar bears, they cross paths with the kids as they menacingly try to recapture the polar bear cub that they had released.

Performance wise, Thora Birch and Vincent Kartheiser are both great in the lead roles as the children in search of their father. Dirk doesn’t have much to do but does what he needs to well. Charlton Heston as the menacing poacher does seem to enjoy the role he plays in the movie.

StoryThe story of two young teenagers going into the wilderness to find their missing father is a nice tried and tested formula, this style of film seemed to be the rave for family films around the time too, so to stand out you had to do something different. We get the moments of peril which are good and well-paced but we also get the moments of discovery which are just as important. Obviously, there are negatives here which include the idea the adults are clueless when searching for people in crashes and poachers being just evil people. I would also like to point out, that it is very unlikely a polar bear mother is just going to accept another cub, well that is what David Attenborough has taught me.

Adventure/FamilyThe adventure the kids get to go on is one I remember watching as a kid going, I wanna do that and I still would like to. The family side of this film is about the unity between a broken family doing everything to stay together and of course having a cute little polar bear helping them out.

SettingsAlaska as a setting, beautiful, stunning, peril filled and perfect for the story being told.

EffectsWe only have a few effects in use here, most feels practical with the stunt work and working with a potential deadly animal in a polar bear.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily one of the better kids work with animal films of the 90s, one that gives you hope in humanity and a wonderful setting.

 

Overall: Family night sorted.

Rating

 

 

Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Horror – Deadline (2009)

logoDirector: Sean McConville

Writer: Sean McConville (Screenplay)

Starring: Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Tammy Blanchard, Marc Blucas

 

Plot: A screenwriter who travels to an abandoned house to finish a script on time, but a series of strange events lead her to a psychological breakdown.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Smart Story Wrong Genre

 

Story: Deadline starts by showing Alice (Murphy) our struggling screenwriter leaving the city to spend time in an isolated house to finish her latest work. Along with her friend Rebecca (Blanchard) who drives her we get to see the enormous house where she will be staying. Rebecca helps Alice settle in before leaving with the car to return next week to pick Alice up.

Alice alone in the house with the creakiest doors in the history of film it becomes clear that her week in the house will become difficult. The first night includes a nightmare and Alice starts to feel she isn’t alone in the house. We learn that Alice has an ex-boyfriend called Ben who is fresh out of prison who has done something to her in the past and Alice believes will come after her. Alice sees things in the shadows which lead her to discover the home movies of a couple called Lucy (Birch) and David (Blucas) before we find out about Alice and Rebecca real relationship.

Night two the hauntings escalate to hearing crying, seeing unusual images on her laptop, but this only drives Alice to stay and continue watching the videos. As Alice continues to watch the videos we see how David starts to change as the relationship continues as well as his obsession with filming moments of the couple life together. Alice has to try and figure out what happened between Lucy and David all while trying to battle her own demons which play out as a parallel to the story unfolding on the recordings.

Deadline offers up what looks like an traditional ghost haunting to solve a murder film and for the most part this is all that. Where this film takes a big change is in the final act which will leave you wondering about what happened. The biggest disappointment about this film is the idea that Alice has found tapes, watches them only to have the scene play out like we are actually there too. I do think if you watch closely you will see the hints about the end but otherwise this will disappoint on scares because most of the film is watching Alice watch the tapes. There was a lot more this film could have offered but in the end it falls short and never manages to decide what type of film it is meant to be. (4/10)

 

Actor Review

 

Brittany Murphy: Alice is our screenwriter heroine who decides to isolate herself from the world as she tries to finish her latest work. She isn’t as stable as we think as an ex is freshly out of jail that could come after her but when strange things start happening around the house we watch as she watches video recordings of a previous couple’s time in the house. Brittany does a solid job in one of her last acting roles but never reaches the level this film could have had with the ‘Don’t Say a Word’ level of acting. (6/10)

 alice

Thora Birch: Lucy is the wife from the videos who starts to see changes in her husband, she is also the ghost that seems to be haunting Alice warning her. Thora does a standard job as the victim but doesn’t seem to fit the role. (5/10)

 

Tammy Blanchard: Rebecca is Alice’s friend back in the city, she is the only connection to the real world Alice has and helps fill in the blanks to what was reported to have happened. Tammy gives a solid supporting performance without ever having enough time to excel. (5/10)

 

Marc Blucas: David is the unstable husband to Lucy who starts to question his wives faithful side before ending up becoming obsessed with the idea of not being able to trust Lucy. Marc starts out struggling in the role where it looks like David is normal but when he starts turning slightly darker it seems to bring out the best in him. (6/10)

david

Support Cast: Deadline doesn’t have anyone else turn up on camera in the cast.

 

Director Review: Sean McConville – Sean does a solid job directing it just seems like he wanted something fresh but went around reaching it the wrong way. (4/10)

 

Horror: Deadline starts out with very basic before moving away from the horror genre. (4/10)

Thriller: Deadline does try to keep you guessing and you are expecting a surprise by the end. (6/10)

Settings: Deadline creates a very isolated location for all the action to take place perfect for horror story. (9/10)

Suggestion: Deadline is a late night TV that you could give a go to but don’t expect anything great. (Late Night TV)

 

Best Part: Twist is clever.

Worst Part: Lack of horror.

 

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $1.8 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Tagline: Focus your fear.

 

Overall: Deadline is a horror thriller that really lacks any horror or thrills but does have a smart enough story.

Rating 50

American Beauty (1999)

logoDirector: Sam Mendes

Writer: Alan Ball (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Betley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula

 

Plot: A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Ending the Millennium With A Classic

 

Story: American Beauty starts narration from our lead Lester Burnham (Spacey) explaining his life and that he will be dead in a year. Lester lives through the same old routine and is overall tired of his life. Lester is married to Carolyn (Bening) a real estate agent and has a teenage daughter Jane (Birch) who is struggling with the typical teenage problems. Lester is being pressured by his new boss who he thinks has no experience in the field.

Lester & Carolyn decide to take more interest in their daughter’s life which includes going to watch her cheer leading performance where Lester starts getting an instant fascination with fellow cheerleader Angela Hayes (Suvari). The Burnham’s have just got new neighbours in the Fitts, Colonel (Cooper) and his son Ricky (Bentley) who has an obsession with filming his everyday life. What follows is a look into suburban life.

American Beauty manages to balance every character to end up telling a story of everyday life and how it can change because the people closest to you really don’t know what you are up too. We get to look closer are how the perception of a person can hide the reality that is going on in the life and we get to see the different things that could happen. It is hard to really discuss too much about this film because I have looked into the characters closer next and this film is very much character driven which helps the story shine through. (10/10)

 

Actor Review

 

Kevin Spacey: Lester Burnham is an average man who is tired of the same old routine and decides to break out, he gets himself fired, starts taking drugs all while obsessing over his daughters friend. Kevin gives a brilliant performance but as you would expect from him. (10/10)

 lester

Annette Bening: Carolyn Burnham is a real estate agent who puts on a brave face all while struggling with her own problems leading to her having an affair as her relationship with Lester starts to get stretched. Annette shines here with mixed emotions about Lester through the film. (10/10)

caroluyn

Thora Birch: Jane Burnham is the moodiest cheerleader ever who doesn’t seem to get the attention a cheerleader gets from the guys, she is best friends most beautiful girl in school who gets all the attention, but Jane does attract the new neighbour who helps her come out of her shell. Thora gives a great performance showing that she was ready to break through in the role. (9/10)

 jane

Wes Bentley: Ricky Fitts is the new neighbour that could be considered weird because of his obsession with filming everything in life, he also ends up being a drug dealer and the one that Lester uses, all while dealing with an over aggressive father. Wes shows all his talent here but it is a shame this is the highlight of his career to date. (9/10)

 ricky

Mena Suvari: Angela Hayes is the beautiful girl from school that thinks all the guys want her but when Lester takes a shine to her we learn the truth about her nature. Mena comes away from her American Pie role with this much more adult role showing she didn’t need to just be a teen comedy star. (9/10)

 angela

Chris Cooper: Colonel Fitts is the strict father of Ricky who hates everything that is different to his way of thinking, he is a generation behind but he really just wants to protect his son. Chris does a great job as the strict father because we just don’t know what his character will do next. (9/10)

 

Support Cast: American Beauty doesn’t have the biggest supporting cast with most just turning up in the odd scene while we focus on the main cast through the film.

 

Director Review: Sam Mendes – Sam burst onto the scene with this stunning piece of directing that will always be known as a classic. (10/10)

 

Drama: American Beauty shows the lives of these six people and manages to make us care about them all. (10/10)

Romance: American Beauty shows different levels of romance, we get a blossoming starting one, we have a long term one falling apart and we get to see the unavailable ones. (9/10)

Settings: American Beauty gives everything a realistic setting for the story being told through the film. (9/10)

Suggestion: American Beauty is absolute must watch for anyone, it will always go down as a classic in the history of film. (Must Watch)

 

Best Part: Lester getting fired.

Worst Part: While it is a brilliant drama, the casual fans will find this harder to find interesting.

Funniest Scene: Lester reacting to Angela spending the night.

Favourite Quote: Lester ‘Remember those posters that said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well, that’s true of every day but one – the day you die.’

 

Believability: I do think this has plenty of realistic ideas of relationships but I do think the end wouldn’t happen. (8/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No

 

Oscar Chances: Won 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor, Dest Directing, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for another 3.

Box Office: $356 Million

Budget: $15 Million

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

Tagline:  … look closer

Trivia: Both Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Chris Cooper got their film career starts playing New York subway criminals. Spacey played an untitled mugger in Heartburn. Cooper played a pyromaniac in Money Train.

 

Overall: American Beauty is a classic that will always be remembered once you have seen it.

Rating 95

Train (2008)

Director: Gideon Raff

Writer: Gideon Raff (Screenplay)

Starring: Thora Birch, Gideon Emery, Kavan Reece, Derek Magyar, Gloria Votsis, Todd Jensen

 

Story: An American college wrestling team head to Europe for a competition. A group of the team (Alex (Birch), Willy (Emery), Sheldon (Reece), Todd (Magyar) and Claire (Votsis)) decide to go to a party before moving on to the next venue. This night out proves to be a bad idea as they miss the train. Coach Harris (Jensen) is furious and lectures the team.

 

With no one who can speak the native language a mysterious woman offers them a ride on her train going to the same destination as the team. On the train, which is filled with stereotypical Eastern Europeans mainly creepy peados the team settle down for the journey.

 

With the coach of cooling down the other play a little game of truth or dare, leading to Todd running off and not returning. While the other believe he is just playing they head to bed. The morning after Todd still hasn’t return and the Coach has gone missing. The others start to look for the two of them with little help or success from the train staff.

 

Alex and Willy find there way into the secret compartment and find out what has been happening to their friends. Can they survive the horror that awaits them and uncover the reasons for the people actions?

Overall: Remember when Hostel first came out with all the torture porn for fun, well this uses this to make a different spin on that idea. With most of the action taking place on a train hence the title it follows a similar trend. One thing that bugged me through out this film is how the ‘wrestling’ team don’t seem to know how to fight. The torture scenes are unnecessary as there would have been more sense doing what they do another way. One thing I did like was the reasoning behind what the villains were doing what they were, as it does have some part of a believable side to it. But if it didn’t have Thora Birch in I wouldn’t have given it a second look and even with her star power this is a pretty routine torture porn horror offering nothing new to the genre.

 

Rating 56%