Luck of the Irish (2001)

Rating PG
Length 1h36
Release 26.12.2001
Director Paul Hoen
About Kyle has always relied on his gold coin that brought him a lot of luck. When his gold coin is stolen by a thief, things go from bad to worst as they turn into their true form, Leprechauns.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:

The Good

  • It’s a lighthearted Disney ‘made for tv’ movie that, at the heart, attempts to teach that luck isn’t that important and skill, talent (and everything important to a kid) are gained from inside.
  • As always, Tim Omudson is a welcome face to a cast. Bloody hell, he is brilliant as the power hungry leprechaun. His comedy is akin to British comedian Chris Barrie in that he’s very good at using ‘uptight’ for comic relief. I can’t even be mad that his accent appears a little patchy because it’s Lassie and he goes up against a teenager in a high school game of basketball and he Irish Jigs like his life depends on it.
  • Equally, Henry Gibson (Innerspace, Switching Channels and The ‘Burbs among others) is utterly joyful as the spurned grandfather who is initially believed to be the cause of the missing gold. His accent may not be perfect, but he really does make for an excellent matriarch.
  • While I don’t particularly like how the ‘hidden’ heritage is played out, I do love that before it’s revealed Kyle and his friend come up with ideas as to what might be the reason for the skittishness of his family.
  • The CGI, for a tv movie, is not too bad. I’ve seen worse on films with bigger budgets.

The Bad

  • The accents are as bad as you would expect for a film that has no native Irish actors. It’s that run of the mill, American does Irish. So it’s not Cameron Diaz in Gangs of New York bad, but quite a few of them are that close. Its all rather cringe inducing.
  • At no point, writers, should the words ‘I touched the rim.’ be shouted by anyone in a film made for kids. Fuck, its so lucky I wasn’t in a cinema or a lot of parent’s would be stuck with trying to answer “Why was that funny mummy?” because I cackled for about a minute and a half.

The Ugly

  • For a film with a run time of less than 90 minutes, it spends way too much time introducing the characters and setting up the premise, meaning there’s a risk many viewers will have checked out before anything interesting happens.
  • I don’t like the message of ‘American Pride’ that comes across especially the almost shame like reaction Kyle’s mother has about her heritage. I know there’s a little bit of a breakthrough towards the end of the film, and that part of the immigration process for Irish people was this ‘land of opportunity’, but the message just became a little muddled and felt more “Yay to be American” and “Boooo immigrants”.

Final Thoughts

It falls into that ‘so bad, its good’ territory and could make a fair drinking game should you have the need.

Ghosts of Mars (2001) Movie Review

Rating 15
Length 1h38
Release 27.8.2021
Director Nina DaCosta
About Officer Melanie and Sergeant Jericho travel to a mining outpost to transport a prisoner. On arriving, they realise that demons of an ancient Martian civilisation have possessed the entire colony.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: IMDB with adverts on Amazon Prime
Trailer:

The Good

  • I absolutely adore the metal score. Just like with any of John Carpenter’s projects, the music is perfect for the story being told.
  • What a cast! I get the feeling Natasha Henstridge was cast on the success of Species, but its amazing to see her in a role that gives her a little more to do. Her dynamic with many of the other cast: Pam Grier, Jason Statham and Clea DuVall is brilliant. However her best partnership is with Ice Cube, and it almost makes me want for a sequel just involving the two of them.
  • The set design makes this almost a spiritual sequel to Escape From New York. I’ve always loved the look of Carpenter’s work, and this is no exception.
  • I actually really enjoyed the Hammer Horror-esque narrative device of having Henstridge’s Melanie recollect the events of Shining Canyon. It is by no means perfect, but had they have kept it to just that, it might have worked.

The Bad

  • Telling this story retroactively starts to fall apart about midway through. The biggest problem being the fact that we have one survivor telling what happened. The film then delves into flashbacks and retellings within the retelling. I’ll be honest, it gets a little messy at times. I was able to keep up, but for a ‘leave your brain at the door’ sort of film, this particular part really needs your full attention to not get confused.
  • I totally get that Carpenter wanted the Martians to take on a physical change in the ‘invading’ humans. It looks great visually, it really does. However, I’d have preferred the changes to manifest themselves rather than it be seen that the possessed make the changes themselves, as it appears too fast to be logical.
  • The backstory of Ice Cube’s ‘Desolation’ doesn’t fit. There was a reputation there, a story and a long history of violence and murder. Yet, the story makes out that he’s being wrongly accused. Of this one, or all of them? I couldn’t quite make out. I do like the idea that it was originally going to be Snake. That anti-hero would have worked really well and could have been brought into this character a little more.
    I also really would have loved to have seen more of just Ice Cube and Henstridge together. That final scene was perfect and I wanted more of that.
  • The Matriarchal society didn’t come through well enough for my liking. In fact, I didn’t really get that until I read around the topic. This starting life as an ‘Escape From…’ film does make me wonder about this plot point; given that both of the previous films in the franchise still maintained Patriarchal societies. I certainly would have loved more added to the explanation.

The Ugly

  • Why do people hate on this film? I’m not sure how anyone can not see this for the film that it is; a tongue in cheek, campy and almost pantomime version of a horror. It’s genius, it’s pitch perfect and anyone who says different was looking for another The Thing and just got their feelings hurt. The Thing cannot be improved upon, it cannot be recreated. So Carpenter, most likely *knowing* this gave the audience something different.
    All we do as consumers is complain about how all Hollywood does it spit out remakes and reboots. Can you really blame them when this film got the feedback it did?!

Final Thoughts

Bloody loved it. By going in, knowing Carpenter’s intent on the project (over-the-top and tongue in cheek) did really help. It’s a blast and that soundtrack is worth it alone.

MASH (1970) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 1h56
Release 11.6.1970
Director Robert Altman
About The MASH unit makes use of humour and elaborate pranks to cope with the horrors of war and the stress that comes with performing surgeries.
Moon: Waxing Gibbous near the start of the film
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:

The Good

  • Robert Altman is a magnificent artist. His naturalist style of filmmaking gives the audience a sense of realism and intimacy with the lives they watch unfold. My favourite part is the over-talk that happens all the way through.
  • I adore how we’re introduced to Donald Sutherland’s Hawkeye. No dialogue, except for the white noise of background artists. This is a film that is not afraid of leaving scenes without dialogue to guide the audience. I found it much more informative to see Hawkeye walking towards us.
  • Some of the odd-ball comedy does work for me. I adore Rene Auberjonois’ (bonus points for this film teaching me how to pronounce the man’s surname) character seen blessing the jeep towards the end of the movie.

The Bad

  • The initial sexual harassment of O’Houlihan is bad. It’s as bad, if not worse than some of the other things that go on to happen. The only reason why I’m placing it here, is the fact that the film goes on to have O’Houlihan write a formal complaint regarding McIntyre’s insistence that she’s brought to him in order to have sex.
  • The drugging and essential rape of a commanding officer toward the end of the movie is hard to take. Hawkeye and McIntyre are not as harmless and boyish as the film likes to think and this is the perfect example. Upon being arrested by military police for not following orders, they drug the man, take him to a brothel and photograph him with a prostitute. This is not okay and while its only implied, the psychological damage is tantamount to sexual assualt.

The Ugly

  • O’Houlihan’s accusation is not taken seriously. In fact, we see the harassment of her result in her sexual encounter being broadcast across the whole basecamp, gaining the nickname ‘Hot Lips’ and spied on in the shower by both men and women.
    All of this, for me, is bad enough. However the film does the unforgivable and has the high ranking officer, who is dealing with the incident, say “You mean Hot Lips? Screw her.” I mean, what the actual fuck?? This sort of shit is exactly why women didn’t come forward!
  • The story-arc of Painless is, well, far from it. It’s horrific in execution, dialogue and implication. Painless goes to Hawkeye in confidence about his sexuality: “I’ve turned into a fairy,” Painless declares, before describing his ‘affliction’. before the audience knows it, Hawkeye is sharing the information with everyone and Painless makes it know that he intends to commit suicide and asks for advice.
    The decision is made that he will use a ‘black pill’ and the audience are subjected to a visual ‘Last Supper’ before Painless takes the pill and climbs into a coffin. I’m horrified enough at this, but what comes next chills me to the bone. Hawkeye makes his departing ‘piece of action’ to “bring Painless back to life”. Yes, Hawkeye pimps out his girl and gets her to perform what ever sexual act on the unconscious Painless.
    Not only is this a form of sexual coercion on the part of Hawkeye, depending on what the woman did, it is also rape of Painless. The connotations of conversion therapy are not lost on me either and I am uncomfortable that this was used as comedy. Yes, its of its time, but I don’t see that as enough of an excuse.

Final Thoughts

Film making wise, its an incredible look at some rarely used styles. However, plot and content does fit well for modern day audiences and raise some concerns about previous generations.

Ransom (1996) Film Review

Rating 18
Length 2h19
Release 7.2.1997
Director Ron Howard
About When a millionaire’s son is kidnapped, he adopts a novel technique for tracking down the kidnappers and recovering his son.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Netflix, ITV4 @ 23:20 on 8th November 2021
Trailer:

The Good

  • In an opening akin to Speed (1994), you’re given a lot of information in a short space of time. It’s not pulling any punches and you know who the target is and you sense it could happen at any moment. There’s little things that will set a viewer on edge; from the party happening in the millionaire’s penthouse apartment, to a reporter gaining access and approaching Mel Gibson’s character.
  • The story itself is brilliantly developed. Without spoiling anything, this film makes daring choices that, as a bystander, you can actually see logic in. Not only that, you are in a position where you know the moves of both the protagonist and antagonist. Something that is not often pulled off as well as this film managed. Being in a position of knowing something Tom doesn’t could have had that ‘they’re behind you’ panto tone but with Ron Howard’s direction, it holds much more gravitas to it.
  • Ron Howard is a competent film maker. He’s not someone who has a style that could enable me to pick out his filmography, but there’s that seal of quality on them.
  • Sitting here in 2021, it’s hard to remember that Mel Gibson was consistently in the annual Quigley List of top ten most bankable stars. While he seems to be able to avoid ‘cancel culture’, he certainly hasn’t been a leading man for at least a decade.
    However, thirty seconds of screen time in something like Ransom and any viewer who was alive before Y2K will remember why this man was so in demand. This isn’t to say I excuse anything he’s accused of or absolve him of any of the antisemetic views, misogyny or domestic violence. What I am saying however, is that there is a detachment of the actor and the roles he plays. Something I don’t think can be said of others.
    Gibson commands your attention as Tom, he wins you over before there’s even a need for you to be on his side. Then there are those moments of vulnerability, of determination and Gibson is the only one who could have ever given us this Tom Mullen. As I was watching, all I could think of was that we don’t have a contemporary actor that could bring to a role what Gibson does and, toxicity of him as a person aside, it really is a shame.
  • The rest of the cast is incredible. From the stroke of genius of having Rene Russo reteam with Gibson, to up and coming Liev Schreiber doing sketchy the best way he knows how. All of this quality casting ensures that there’s a quality to match the action. Had this been made today, or even then with a lesser director, the focus may have only been on the action and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.
  • One thing I do love about the dialogue is that Tom questions how much the kidnappers ask for in ransom. Had he not done this, I may have thought £2 million was the going rate to demand from millionaires. That one line allows those viewing from the future to understand that something’s not quite right.

The Bad (spoilers within)

  • It is not a perfect plot. There are some bits that, because of how good this film is, stick out like sore thumbs. Quite a lot of it occurs in the final act. Firstly, I’m not so sure police are allowed to accept reward money? For me, that’s a big red flag and I’m wondering why Tom is so accepting of handing over the money.
    Secondly, the FBI now know the detective is with Tom, so lay person me works out pretty quickly that the jackass is going to have his radio on him. So why the fuck would you let him know you’re on to him?!
  • I don’t buy the motivate of Jimmy Shaker. I needed more of a connection to Tom to buy it fully. The idea of Tom buying his ‘way out of things’ came across as such a trigger that it was personal to Jimmy. There was also the repeated line that the money was deserved, that it was *his* money. There’s still a question mark over it all.

The Ugly

  • Poor Donnie Walberg. First you have to deal with the fact that Donnie is Marky Marky if you’d ordered him from Wish. Then his character goes and wins the viewer over with his remedial charm and all round good heart. I, personally, was rooting for him to be the one that saved the day, before the proverbial rug was pulled and he exited stage left before the audience hits the halfway mark.

Final Thoughts

It’s not a popcorn watch in the slightest. It’s gritty and will leave any viewer on the edge of their seat and perhaps even hugging their little ones a little closer. A wickedly smart story that will keep your attention, long after the credits roll.

Stargate (1994) Film Review

Rating PG
Length 2h10
Release 6.1.1994
Director Roland Emmerich
About Dr Daniel Jackson is asked to decode an old hieroglyph in a military facility by a mysterious woman. He discovers important information about the device, which was found during an expedition in Egypt.
Moon: three full moons seen upon arriving at the planet
Where to Watch: MGM subscription on Amazon Prime
Trailer:

The Good

  • The music for this film, this franchise, is incredible and now so iconic. It works in every moment of the film and it is made all the more impressive when you know that this was the composers first major project.
  • The characterisation of Daniel Jackson is perfect. The great mind, zero social skills, bumbling chaos is a wonderful thing to see on screen. While Michael Shanks goes on to make the role his own in the TV incarnation, James Spader gives this academic , somewhat out of his depth, man such a endearing and comedic charm.
  • Much in the same way, the Jack O’Neill presented here by Kurt Russell is very different to the one Richard Dean Anderson gives us. Russell is able to bring a weight to the character that lends itself to the pivotal relationship with the teens on the planet they discover.
    Similarities can be made to Russell’s previous characters, including MacReady in The Thing and Snake Plissken in Escape From New York however, O’Neill is a character to develops into these action hero types. His main role on the mission becomes clear once he’s no longer haunted by the past. It is the character’s complex background that allows the audience to engage and empathise with him.
  • The best thing about this film is that it subverts the genre. It’s very much about exploring space, but without the spaceships and spacesuits. The team is military, they’re able to travel lightyears without actually developing the technology. It makes for an incredible change of pace and changes the expectations for Sci-fi. This is the birth of a franchise that rivals that of Star Trek and Star Wars. It’s an underdog franchise on the surface, but this is one of the strongest starts for a franchise.
  • The effects still stand up. The gate itself is incredible, but so is the CGI removal of the alien head dresses and the glowing eyes.

The Bad

  • The first half of the movie is rather a slow burn, and while I liked that about Stargate, I’m aware some viewers won’t. I personally see the value in understanding the project and the background of both O’Neill and Jackson. However, this could have all been done with a little more efficiency. Often the demographic of this type of genre are interested in the action set pieces and can do without the characterisation. The film lacks an action piece in the first 40 minutes or so and it’s perhaps why its not considered as much as other Sci-fi offerings.
  • French Stewart is a welcome addition to the team. Viewers will recognise him as Harry from Third Rock From the Sun. However, as much as I love seeing him on screen, he appears to be killed by Ra’s foot soldiers. That’s sad, but fine. Except he’s seemingly resurrected by the final act. In such a good film, this annoys me.

The Ugly

  • Damn it, I hate that ‘world in the corner of the screen’ image we get at the end of the film. Predator and The Thing do it too and it just feels cheap.

Final Thoughts

I will always love this film and this franchise. How can you not when it introduced you the man that is James Spader. (Although, in my defence, I had been watching him in Mannequin years before this. I just didn’t know *that* him.

Shuffle (2011)

Rating 12
Length 1h22
Release 21.10.2011 (USA release only)
Director Kurt Kuenne
About A man begins experiencing his life out of chronological order. Every day he is a different age, in a different stage of his life, and never knows where he’ll be when he wakes up.
Moon: Full moon 48 minutes in
Where to Watch: Part of MGM subscription on Amazon Prime
Trailer:

The Good

  • The characters are good and so is the story; once you have all the pieces.
  • TJ Thyne proves here that he can hold his own and lead a film. He’s charming, engaging and emotive. Everything you need in a leading man.
  • The mystery does keep you invested. Knowing that the protagonist is there with you too allows you to want for the answers. I never like it when the protagonist is holding back from the audience.

The Bad

  • The lighting of the film is inconsistent. Now while it may convey something, I found it very distracting when it changed when the angle did. It didn’t feel like an artistic choice and more of a incompetence.
  • The unusual narration choice is really hard to follow, as seen by the extensive use of a vocal narrative. It became rather repetitive to hear the protagonist for the fiftieth time tell us he knows something, but doesn’t know how he knows.

The Ugly

  • There was no option for subtitles on this title. I have them on out of habit now, but this film really did need it. Perhaps its part of the “Indie” feel, but the sound mixing was terrible and I spent a lot of the film changing the volume.

Final Thoughts

One watch wonder. The out of sequence narration does not make for an easy or enjoyable watch. Once the mystery is solved, I’m not sure a repeat viewing is needed.
Wanting something similar, but better? Time Traveller’s Wife, About Time or Benjamin Button all handle this bittersweet time travel much better.

Inside Out (2015) Film Review

Rating U
Length 1h42
Release 24.7.2015
Director Pete Docter
About Eleven-year-old Riley moves to San Francisco, leaving behind her life in Minnesota. She and her five core emotions, Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust and Sadness, struggle to cope with her new life.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Trailer:

The Good

  • The story; the metaphor for emotions and memory is not only well presented, but it is really important for anyone exploring the growth mindset.
  • The use of colour to reflect Riley’s emotions is brilliant, particularly when Riley is on the bus and her thoughts change.
  • The voice casting is genius; Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler are perfect in their roles.
  • There’s the nice added touch of seeing into other people’s heads and how their Joy et al manifest.

The Bad

  • The clown and the imaginary friend. Nope, nope, nope! Hate them, can’t be doing with them. Just, no!
  • I hate Sadness. I know you’re meant to and the moral is that we all do need that bit of sadness in our lives, but seriously, I want to yeet her out the movie before it even begins.

The Ugly

  • How has there not been a sequel. There’s so much potential there that I would rather have seen a number 2 of this than the 4th Toy Story.

Final Thoughts

Another addition to the Pixar Studio. I must admit though, I absolutely hated this movie the first time I watched it.