Money Train (1995)

Director: Joseph Ruben

Writer: Doug Richardson, David Loughery (Screenplay) Doug Richardson (Story)

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Blake, Chris Cooper, Joe Grifasi

 

Plot: A vengeful New York transit cop decides to steal a trainload of subway fares; his foster brother, a fellow cop, tries to protect him.


Tagline – If you’re a criminal, Stay on the Train!

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Fun Throughout

 

Story: Money Train starts as we follow two New York Transit Cops John (Snipes) and Charlie (Harrelson) foster brothers that work well together as they look to take on pick pocketers in the subway system. When they get a new member to their team Grace (Lopez) the two brothers argue over who gets first chance at hitting on her.

When one of the brothers is pushed too far, he ends up going against the law and the only person that can save him in his brother.

 

Thoughts on Money Train

 

Characters – John is one of the foster brother pairing, he is the responsible one that always has Charlie’s back and bails him out of the trouble he gets in. Charlie is the screw up of the brother pairing, he has drinking and gambling problems which have caused him to fall of the straight life. Grace is the rookie cop that joins the unit causing the brothers to bicker over who should hit on her first, this isn’t the strongest woman character because it implies that a new girl to a unit will become first one to be hit on and quite happy to go along with things, rather than be a free thinker, but she can handle herself in a fight.

PerformancesWesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson had fantastic chemistry during this time and it shows in their performances here as they nail the comedy and action required for the roles. Jennifer Lopez is good in her role filling the support role well.

StoryThe story follows two foster brothers that have overcome their upbringing to become good transit police, we see how the bicker and have big plans for life, but when one gets pushed too far the other must stop him making the biggest mistake of his life. While this is entertainment the film does lack from a true villain for the brothers needing to work together to overcome and when one turns he is only desperate over being a danger.

Action/Comedy/CrimeThe action is by the book with the final chase being the highlight of the film, the comedy is not thrown in too heavy and comes through Snipes and Harrelson’s chemistry. The crime side of the film shows how the two brothers must get their jobs done against the odds

SettingsNew York makes for a good setting for this to unfold because it shows the high crimes in the subway system. The subway tracks work for the big final chase too.


Scene of the Movie –
Train chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Lack of a real villain.

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun action comedy that shows us that Harrelson and Snipes were fantastic pairing, most of the film is routine, but its lack of a true villain puts a spanner in any threat they face.

 

Overall: Fun, funny and enjoyable.

Rating

 

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan (Screenplay) George Lucas (Characters)

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany

 

Plot: During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

 

Runtime: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Star Wars Fans Only

 

Story: Solo: A Star Wars Story starts as we meet Han (Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Clarke) are they are planning a life away from a prison like planet, Han gets away and joins forces with smuggler Beckett (Harrelson) and along the way he meets Chewbacca (Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Glover) as they go on one high risk heist to clear their debts from Dryden Vos (Bettany).

 

Thoughts on Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Characters – Han comes from a prison like planet, dreaming of being the best pilot in the galaxy, once out he wants to save his girl, but to do so he must team up with smugglers to pay for his own ship, he meets his trusted co-pilot Chewbacca and other business partners in the galaxy, not wanting to commit to either side of the impending war. Chewbacca shows his loyalty to Han, as the one who saved him, he is pretty much what we know, but strangely has more of the comic side like we have seen in the modern films. Beckett the thief that reluctantly takes Han under his wing, he teaches him the trade and how to survive becoming the mentor figure for the film. Qi’ra is the girlfriend from the prison planet that Han wants to go back for and save one day, she gives him the strength to take the risks he does. Lando Calrissian is the charismatic smuggler that knows how to get out of any bad situation, he has the flare to draw the ladies in and will do anything to protect his ship. Dryden Vos in a gangster figure that the deal is for, he will kill people, but just ends up being standard villain, not offering much of a threat or back story, to what his scars are about. We have a couple more names characters, but none make too much of an impact, L3-37 doesn’t hit the comedy levels that is hoped for and Rio falls into knocked off Rocket Racoon territory.

PerformancesI don’t want to write that any of the performances we bad, the problem is that most are not that memorable, Alden always had huge shoes to follow and he doesn’t seem to capture the charm Ford bought to the role, Joonas is great as Chewbacca, but not too difficult for what he needs to do, Woody Harrelson is someone I could watch in most films, he is always good. Emilia Clarke continues to pop up in big franchise movies and being fine without being anything more, Paul Bettany enjoys a villainous role without needing to do much and Donald Glover is the scene stealer here as you want to watch every moment he is in.

StoryWe know from the start this is an origin story for Han Solo, this does the instant thing we know, HE WILL NOT BE IN TROUBLE IN THIS FILM, putting him in any peril related moment is almost pointless same goes for Chewbacca and Lando, as for the rest there is always questions about their relationship to Han and whether he could trust them, this is good part. The story also includes the origin of the Solo name, which is awful. The problem with the story for myself is that it is a generic heist movie that we have seen with Firefly/Serenity who did it a lot better, this doesn’t give us too much to go on even if the story is paced well to not give us too much slow moments.

Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-FiThe action is on the levels you would expect for a Star Wars film, we have laser battles which the bad guys can’t shot for shit and the heroes one shot anyone, so basically me on Fortnite. The adventure does take Han on his first across the galaxy even though it never feels like we are part of it and even the sci-fi side of the film just seems to not hit the marks.

SettingsThe settings take us to the different planets, we have a snowy one, a criminal based one, a desert one and mining one, none look overly original or make anything memorable about what happens there.

Special EffectsThe effects are the best part of the film, nothing looks out of place the creation of the different droids is great and the space sequences look flawless.


Scene of the Movie –
Lando alone.

That Moment That Annoyed Me How he got the Solo name.

Final ThoughtsThis is one I can see the Star Wars fan loving, if you haven’t seen a Star Wars movie, this will miss on too many levels, the comedy barely hits, the characters decision making makes no sense and by the end of the movie you will be better off watching Firefly.

 

Overall: Disappointingly generic sci-fi heist movie.

Rating

 

 

The Glass Castle (2017)

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham (Screenplay) Jeannette Walls (Book)

Starring: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Chandler Head, Max Greenfield

 

Plot: A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.


Tagline – Home goes wherever we go

Runtime: 2 Hours 7 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Solid, but Overly Long Biopic

 

Story: The Glass Castle starts as Jeannette (Larson) starts to remember her childhood after seeing her parents Rex (Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Watts) digging through trash in New York City, a place she is shining in. Jeannette along with her siblings Lori, Maureen and Brian are raise off the radar by their parents, in a place where then can be at one with nature, having to learn how to look after themselves, no turning to anyone for help. As we learn more about the childhood Jeannette is preparing to let her family know of her engagement to David (Greenfield) and the difference in the lifestyles they have.

 

Thoughts on The Glass Castle

 

Characters – Jeannette has become popular in the gossip world, she has been driven by her upbringing which saw her living off the grid on the poverty line without a proper education at a younger age, she is a self-made woman. Rex is the father of the household, he cares dearly for his family, but he does have an alcohol problem which has caused the strain on the relationship between his children. Rose Mary is the mother of the household while also being an artist, she supports her children and Rex, he becomes the bridge between the two when things aren’t going well. The rest of the characters we meet are the siblings who we don’t learn too much about their own personal stories with their parents and David her fiancée of Jeannette’s.

PerformancesWe have three of the biggest talents in Hollywood here, Brie Larson is good in her leading role, but you must give credit to the younger stars who also played the character, Ella Anderson and Chandler Head. Woody Harrelson is the star of this show, he shows how he could be the most likely guy one second, but your worst enemy the next as his character struggles with their demons. Naomi Watts is solid, but wasted at times with her role which doesn’t get enough screen time. The rest of the cast a good without being truly great.

StoryThe story is about one of a group of siblings realizing how important her difficult childhood was to drive her to become the strong woman she is now. Well, that is the general feel about the story and it interesting to see how it unfolds, but it just doesn’t see like it was the most engrossing to be a 2 hour plus movie. You feel like nothing is original in the film and I am aware it is someone personal story, it just isn’t somebody that seems famous enough to grab an audience, even though the hardship could be harder hitting.

BiopicWhen it comes to biopics you do feel like you want the film to be either an incredible story off overcoming something or the road to greatness, this offer neither.

SettingsThe settings show how the siblings were raised in the open country but were drawn to the big city to become successful in life.


Scene of the Movie –
College.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is too long.

Final ThoughtsThis is an overly long drama biopic about seemingly a random woman which doesn’t help pull us into caring about where things go.

 

Overall: Slow biopic that doesn’t hit the emotional marks it should.

Rating

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh (Screenplay)

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas hedges, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones

 

Plot: A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.


Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Darkly Humorous

 

Story: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri starts as Mildred Hayes (McDormand) puts up three billboards in a quiet road questioning how Willoughby (Harrelson) hasn’t solved the case of her daughter’s rape and murder. Fellow officer Dixon (Rockwell) who has a chequered past is enraged by the signs, while officer Willoughby tries to clean up the situation and prove there isn’t enough to solve the case, but with his dying he does want to solve the case before he goes.

As the billboards stay up longer, the town starts to become divided on the support in catching the killer and Mildred does to extremes in her battle with Dixon to get the case solved.

 

Thoughts on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Characters – Mildred Hayes is a mother that has run out of patience when it comes to the police finding the killer off her daughter, she did have the full support of the town, but this stunt pushes the people away even if it could get her the killer to identify themselves. Willoughby is the lead investigator in the case, he has done everything he could to solve the case, but he is now facing his own battle with cancer, while keeping the peace in the town. Dixon is the hot-headed police officer that clashes with Mildred and anyone who supports her in finding out the truth.

PerformancesFrances McDormand shows us that she can reach the Fargo levels whenever the material is given to her, as she shines through as the best part of this movie. Woody Harrelson is great again this year, showing us he can step into any role and be great. Sam Rockwell is wonderful too as we see that this cast is filled with talent character performers.

StoryThe story shows the extremes of losing a child, the stress of noting being able to solve one of the worst cases in the town. This does turn into a character studio on the people involved and how their lives need to move on without a chance of every being able to. It is hard to describe this story in much more depth because it is interesting, it does have a lot going on that keeps us wanting to see where the film will go.

Comedy/CrimeThis does use dark humour throughout as we are seeing the effects of the crime on people’s lives, don’t expect to see an investigation though, we are focusing on the relationship between the mother of the victim and the police.

SettingsThe film takes place in this small town where everyone seems to know everyone, so they have all felt the effects of the crime, this helps when things start to get exposed.


Scene of the Movie –
Window smashing, it is a well shot single looking take.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The answer is frustrating.

Final ThoughtsThis is a dark humour that can be enjoyed by the fans of that genre, it does have a good subject matter but doesn’t get to a level in the story that I enjoyed watching.

 

Overall: Dark comedy through a serious subject matter.

Rating

 

 

Casey Affleck Weekend – Out of the Furnace (2013)

Director: Scott Cooper

Writer: Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper (Screenplay)

Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard

 

Plot: When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn’t follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Gritty Crime Thriller

 

Story: Out of the Furnace starts as we meet the key character in this depressive downbeat town, we have aggressive new criminal Harlan DeGroat (Harrelson), the current crime boss John Petty (Dafoe), hardworking Russell (Bale) and his brother soldier Rodney (Affleck), Russell girlfriend Lena (Saldana) and Chief Wesley (Whitaker).

Russell looks out for Rodney but when he is involved in a manslaughter case he finds himself in prison, while away Rodney finds himself working for Petty owing him money. Rodney desperate to make the money quick forces John into booking a fight in Harlan territory, to make a large pay day.

When Rodney finds himself in more trouble, he vanishes after the fight for Harlan, leaving a note to Russell about the change he is going to make with his life. When Russell isn’t happy with the speed, the police are taking finding his brother and Harlan he takes matters into his own hands risking his own newly acquired freedom.

 

Thoughts on Out of the Furnace

 

Characters/PerformanceRussell is the everyday man who always looks out for his brother, works hard to make a living and start a family but his life is turned upside when he is involved in an accident landing him in jail. He shows that he will do anything to protect his own family. Harlan is you typical crime boss who believes he is toughest around, deadly when needed to be. Rodney is the easily led astray young man who feels like he doesn’t get what he deserves after his time in Iraq turning to underground fighting. Wesley is the basic cop we don’t see enough from, Lena is the girlfriend that only shows what could have been with John being a nice criminal if that makes sense.

Performance wise Bale shines in the leading role with Affleck showing all of his acting skills in the supporting role. Harrelson is good and creepy but also seems to enjoy this role slightly too much. Looking deeper into the cast Whitaker, Saldana and Dafoe are all good but could be replaced by another actor.

StoryThe story shows how the bleak desperate people will turn to illegal actions to make money. We have elements of the criminal underworld which all comes through as we see how the fighting takes place and we see how one brother seeks answers on a one man mission. I liked how this was just a body building count for Russell, he goes straight to the source of the problems. This also does feel like many films we have seen before with the huge issue I had was not knowing how long he was in prison for.

Crime/ThrillerThe criminal underworld fight scenes are great with the whole idea that the criminals control the town, we are kept on edge as we wonder just how far Russell will go.

SettingsEach setting shows us just how much of a struggle most days are for these people, giving the criminal life the only escape they can get.

Special EffectsWe don’t have many here, most are just well drawn out fight sequences and well placed gun shots.

Final ThoughtsThis is a dark gritty crime thriller that is a good watch, it does have a couple of plot holes but otherwise good addition to the genre.

 

Overall: Crime thriller fans enjoy.

Rating