Fly Away Home (1996)

Rating: U
Length: 1h 47
Release: 7.2.1997
Dir: Carroll Ballard
About: Amy moves to Ontario to live with her father after the death of her mother. Her father, an aviation expert, helps Amy lead a flock of orphaned geese south for the winters.


First Thoughts

This was one of those rare films I got to see in the cinema growing up. A cinema outing was primarily just for my birthday until this point. However, 1996 marked a change. Labour came into power here in the UK and both my parents became almost immediately employed. This meant there was a little more disposable income and my mum added in this spring half-term trip to the cinema.
This also became the first film I ever bought myself on VHS, having been bought Jurassic Park by a family friend and a number of Disney VHS from my Gran for Christmas. It was a hard decision; Fly Away Home or The Santa Clause (the Tim Allen one). I’d loved both films so much I’d even read the books. I think it was the all-year-round appeal that saw Fly Away Home win out. However, that was perhaps mum’s logic than my own; I was the girl who would watch Santa Claus: The Movie all year round. Perhaps mum didn’t want a repeat.
It’s also thanks to this film (and Jurassic Park) that I really wanted to see the Piano. Anna Paquin was someone I felt was ‘like me’. So I wanted to see everything she was in. The VHS was set up to record. I was very disappointed when I came down the next day to be informed that mum had stopped it and that it was not a film I should watch. Safe to say, I’ve still not watched it to this day and from that point, I was a little more reserved in watching her films.

The Good

  • It’s a story about adorable animals and their relationship with a kid that ‘could be you’. What is not to love about that? Oh and they go on this great adventure with a parent, when you (as kid) totally know your parents would NEVER be that cool.
  • While it opens on a sad note, this film actually is uplifting and what I would call a ‘cathartic’ tearjerker. The viewer gets to see Amy express and embrace her grief.
  • While there’s no attempt to give each and every one of the geese a distinct personality, you don’t have a heart if you don’t immediately love Igor. His narrative gives you all the feels and there are some giggles to be had when he tries to keep up with his siblings.
  • As always, Jeff Daniels gives a brilliant performance. These are the sort of roles he’s made to do and can balance the eccentric and paternal really well.

The Bad

  • Anna Paquin screams way too much in this movie. That high pitch just really starts to grate after the millionth time. As a kid I don’t remember this being something that bothered me, but this time it was a massive irritation.
  • It does feel a little slow in parts with it trying to introduce us to all of the characters without being overwhelmed.

The Ugly

  • It is based upon a true story and as I said before there is a book out there. However, the book is a novelisation of the film so I think my point going forward is fair. The wildlife guy who comes to the house to clip the wings and proceeds to play the antagonist just doesn’t sit quite right. It feels as if he’s given this persona just to have something to fight against and make the film more dramatic.
  • THAT SONG! If the song that opens the film doesn’t make you ugly cry, either at the start or at it’s reprisal, you need to warm up that cold cold heart of yours.

Final Thoughts

It’s such a heartwarming film and I really am surprised I’ve not watched it more.

101 Dalmatians (1996)

Rating: U
Length: 1hr 43
Release: 13.12.1996
Dir: Stephen Herek
About: Anita, a fashion designer, and Roger, a computer game writer, have to rescue the puppies of their dalmatians from Cruella De Vil, an insane woman, who wants to use their fur to make a coat.


The Good

  • In a world where Disney are churning out ‘live action remakes’ in much the same fashion the 90s gave us direct-to-VHS sequels, its hard to recall this as the Mouse House’s first attempt. Given the public’s outcry if casting is deemed ‘wrong’, we must talk about how perfect Jeff, Joey and Glenn are as the live action counterparts to a classic animation. To a fault almost, they do at times keep the outdated views too. However, for the most part, they are perfect. I certainly couldn’t think of anyone better now, or then.
  • I love the direction they went with the animals of the film and how they communicate. Babe had paved the way for talking animals in a live action, but thankfully Disney didn’t see the benefit of this frightening approach. Instead the film uses barks and other audible cues from other animals to imply a conversation. It’s best seen at the stable and the result is rather charming. It’s something that people of all ages can gain a level of understanding from and I love it.

The Bad

  • While I do like the change of careers for our leads, I do wish they had committed a little more to Roger’s computer game designer. It’s implied that he’s freelance and works from home. Yet nothing is really seen of him working outside showing less than 30 seconds of game play.
  • While I find the pairing of Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams delightful, the trouble they find themselves in does stray a little visually into Home Alone territory; it’s a little too big and the response feels a little trademarked to the Wet Bandits.
  • Some of the CGI puppies are showing their age. It’s a shame because it’s only used in odd scenes, but it shows way too much.

The Ugly

  • As an adult, the last 10 minutes or so bug the fuck out of me. At the value of up to £2,000 per pup, there is no way on earth that you’re getting that fairytale ending where:
    1. No one else has reported stolen dogs.
    2. Even if the officer believes they *know* that no other reports have come in, they would not be able to just hand over what is essentially ‘evidence’.
    3. It’s 101 growing DALMATIANS, not handbag sized chihuahuas. There is no way you have the room to humanely keep the pups for even a day.
    4. All the puppies, and subsequent litters, are kept.
    5. I’d say that they couldn’t afford the property they end up in, however that’s moot given the property they *magically* own anyway. Seriously, was one of them a secret billionaire?!
    Essentially, my ageing ass has lived in London and now has an understanding of money. I’m calling bullshit on this ending.

Final Thoughts

Escape From L.A (1996)

Rating: 15
Length: 1h 41
Release: 20.9.1996
Dir: John Carpenter
About: A terrorist brainwashes Utopia, daughter of the U.S. President into stealing a detonation device. Snake, a mercenary, is assigned the task to find the device and the girl.


The Good

  • While there are a lot of plot similarities to Snake’s mission in New York, the ending is the edge that L.A needed to allow it to stand out. The last few minutes in change the landscape of this filmic world has completely changed. It really sparks my imagination about what Snake’s actions mean for the franchise.
  • The basketball scene is brilliant. I prefer it to the boxing match from EFNY. It’s so simple in set up, but the result is a scene in which the biggest enemy is himself.
  • Steve Buscemi’s quadruple-crossing Map to the Stars Eddie is an interesting addition to the film, although there where one too many crossing of sides for my personal liking.

The Bad

  • The reuse of the ticking-clock by way of a deadly infection (Okay, it was a bomb inside a pill last time) was a little eye-rolling. The two time fake-out was unnecessary though. Plot-wise, I find this one of the weaker aspects.

The Ugly

  • The CGI is dog shit, even in isolation. Then consider that it’s three years after the bar-setting Jurassic Park and you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s a 16 year-old’s media project.
  • Not sure how I feel about Pam Grier. Not so much that she plays a trans character. Given the time and it’s place in the plot I can understand the casting. It’s snake feeling Hershe up that makes me a little uncomfortable.

Final Thoughts

Its the Desperado to Snake’s El Mariachi. While the beats are the same, it still offers something different. It might not work for everyone, but for me I really enjoyed this outing a little bit more.

Film Review: Flipper (1996)

Rating: PG
Length: 1hr 35
Release: 2.8.1996
Dir: Alan Shapiro
About: Sandy is distraught when, having saved Flipper by pulling out a spear, his father insists the dolphin be released. A grateful Flipper, however, returns the favour when Sandy is threatened by sharks.


The Good

  • The strength is most definitely in the characters and the relationships. Both Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood are brilliant in their roles and bounce off each other and the supporting cast.
  • I love Marvin and I adore how Paul Hogan’s Porter describes him when Sandy asks what is wrong with the young boy. “He’s just shy.” Porter informs him before making sure Sandy knows Marvin’s strengths. I just love it. While it may seem as if Marvin is on the spectrum, I really like the way it’s handled.
  • I really laughed at the cigar sequence between Sandy and Porter. Mainly because my dad once told me that both him and my uncle had to do something similar.

The Bad

  • The plot is a little ropy. Well, not ropy as such. It’s shit. The reason for Sandy being there for the summer is shit. The toxic waste B-plot is shit. The using of the dolphin to locate said waste after him being brought back from the brink of death? shit.
  • “A man should never hurl in front of his woman!” Hogan says to Wood regarding his habit of getting sea sick and his crush on the teen love interest. 1. what the fuck, toxic masculinity much? 2. She’s not even where Hogan is nodding at seeing as she arrives in the next scene.

The Ugly

  • Did we need to see Hammerhead-Jaws eat the bird?! Like, it was a real bird and a real shark and totally the kind of shit that would make me turn off a nature programme.

Final Thoughts

While the location is a dream, and the leads are charming, the plot is very much a dud and as lifeless as the animatronic dolphins used.

Film Review: Daylight (1996)

Rating: PG
Length: 1hr 54
Release: 26.12.1996
Dir: Rob Cohen
About: When a car hits a truck full of explosives, it causes an explosion in an underground tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey. Kit attempts to save the people stuck in there before the air runs out.

Currently Available on Netflix

First Thoughts

I don’t actually remember the first time I watched this, but I do remember it being a film we recorded on VHS yet still watched whenever it was on TV. The most prominent memory of this film is actually of a time when it was pulled from the schedule. It was due to be the BBC Saturday Night movie, but due to a tunnel collapse occurring that day it obviously got removed. Movie Night was a big thing for our family back then. On a Saturday, me and dad would go around to the shops, pop the lotto on and pick up a quarter of cinder toffee that we’d have with whatever film we’d watch that night.

Please be aware there may be small spoilers within.

The Good

  • This is peak Stallone for me. There’s a reason why he said this was going to be his last action movie. I also really love how he’s introduced with everyone else in that opening sequence and not really given any sort of special treatment. In fact, out of the people who end up stranded, it is Amy “Casper’s Mum” Brenneman’s Madelyne who is given the most detailed introduction.
  • Speaking of Brenneman, she is brilliant as the lead female. It appears almost as if the makers of this film were trying to recreate the chemistry of Bullock and Reeves in Speed. It by no means can be compared to the cop and the Wildcat, however I think what Stallone and Brenneman achieve is something much more realistic for a pressurised situation.
  • The scene that I truly love is the escape from the prison van. It’s not a long scene, but it tells us so much about the characters immediately involved, its high intensity heart-in-your-mouth action and it has the added benefit of bringing the 12 or so survivors together.
  • I do love that while there are some moments of mob mentality, angry and shouting where even the dog seems pissed at Kit, there is no moment in this film when anyone singles someone out for not being worthy of survival. In a scenario like this it could have been easy to have someone say that those in orange didn’t deserve help, however the film pulled down those barriers for the benefit of the bigger picture.

The Bad

  • It’s a little niggle, but with Kit (Stallone) being so close to the tunnel when it blew, I really am not fond of how the film gets him in with the rest. It feels really cheap when the reason is to fit him with a tool belt of C4. It also feels a bit like Galaxy Quest when Madison and Nesbeth are in search of the Omega drive. “Well fuck that.” As Tawny says.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about Viggo Mortensen’s character. He gets to the bottom of the shaft, almost poses while looking above him before the metal comes crashing down. I get a sense that its meant to look like he’s accepting his fate, however it hasn’t aged well and looks a bit like an attempt for humour.

The Ugly

  • There are comparisons to the original The Poseidon Adventure (1972). I don’t think that could be avoided, however even the characters who expire do so in very similar manners to the original. In fact, the only thing it didn’t do was kill the lead like they did in 1972. It is just slightly too similar to a near perfect original to not have this film loose point for copying.
  • The opening scene with the men at the compound, while interesting, really doesn’t have any value when it’s not followed up on. The cause of the collapse is never questioned and so it feels a little forced. I wonder if there was a better plan than having the Shakespearean conversation to get the movie going?

Final Thoughts

For its flaws, it’s still an excellent movie that I will watch any time its on. Post-Movie head cannon; sweet Mikey is adopted by old man Trilling. However, for those who have seen this, but haven’t given a chance on a film made before 1980, give The Poseidon Adventure a go.

Scream (1996)

Rating 18

Length 1Hr 51

Release 2.5.1997

About Wes Craven re-invented and revitalised the slasher-horror genre with this modern horror classic, which manages to be funny, clever and scary, as a fright-masked knife maniac stalks high-school students in middle-class suburbia. Craven is happy to provide both tension and self-parody as the body count mounts – but the victims aren’t always the ones you’d expect.


First Thoughts

I saw the sequel before I saw this one. Watching it while playing Cluedo. So when I came to watching the film that started the franchise, I thought perhaps the suspense would be ruined.

Treat

  • It’s a meta horror feast complete with Easter egg visuals and references, but it does also work as a movie in its own right. By that, I mean that I watched it back in 1998 which minimal knowledge of the genre and it didn’t hinder my enjoyment. There’s the obvious (Halloween) and there’s the subtle (Billy’s surname being Loomis).
  • There’s a clear victim that becomes the focus, but this is very much an ensemble movie which allows this film to be more than your typical slasher. After all, everyone’s a suspect.
  • Skeet Urlrich must have been cast for his resemblance of Depp in Nightmare. It’s scary how much he looks like Johnny Depp and it certainly helps the audience believe that he’s innocent. Until of course he goes all psycho on us in the final act.
  • The opening scene and its Psycho connection is a multi layered reference. The film opens up to child star Drew Barrymore, a relatively known name at the time. She appears on the promotional material, making you think that she’s a lead in Scream. However, taking her last scream in the first 12 minutes is not dissimilar to Janet Leigh’s role in Psycho. A well used tactic like this would undoubtedly put the audience on edge from the start.
  • Neve Campbell’s Sidney is a Scream Queen hybrid; she’s the wholesome youngster with that innocent vibe, however, she’s traumatised and holds her own to almost stand apart from the Queens of Halloween and Elm Street. Having her call Ghostface’s bluff upon receiving her first phone call is something an audience would like to think they would do when faced with a situation like this and it’s Sidney’s seemingly unrelated back story that allows the audience to believe that she is just that tired of this kind of shit.
  • The music and score are on point. From Red Right Hand, School’s Out and Drop Dead Gorgeous to the incorporation of Halloween’s score and it’s own original score, the film uses music to foreshadow and further support the subversion of the genre.

Trick

  • Dewey ruins a lot of the scenes he’s in. There’s a comedic element to the film and there’s no doubt about that. However, Arquette really does make me wonder how Dewey graduated from high school, let alone gained his police badge.
  • The film’s success gave birth to a resurgence of the spoof movie, starting with Scary Movie. The problem with these types of films is that they take it a million steps too far and root the narrative in current culture that ensures the references lose all impact by the time they reach dvd sales. They are the Primark or movies: disposable fashion that falls apart not too long after you bought it. Yeah, thanks Scream for Epic/ Date/ Disaster Movie, we really needed those in our lives.
  • While Courtney Cox gives a surprise, and solid, performance as bitch reporter Gail Weathers, it’s a character that suffers in hindsight by the sequels. Much like her face, Cox’s performances because ridged and tiresome. The woman Cox portrays here is a character, whereas when we meet her in Scream 3, she’s a caricature that has melded into Cox’s shouty Monica performance. It makes this encore viewing a little bitter.

Final Thoughts

A film that can be watched on many levels and is ageing much better than its sequels.

The Frighteners (1996)

Rating: 15

Length: 1Hr 50

Release: 24.1.1997

About: Once an architect, Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) now passes himself off as an exorcist of evil spirits. To bolster his facade, he claims his “special” gift is the result of a car accident that killed his wife. But what he does not count on is more people dying in the small town where he lives. As he tries to piece together the supernatural mystery of these killings, he falls in love with the wife (Trini Alvarado) of one of the victims and deals with a crazy FBI agent (Jeffrey Combs).


Treat

  • Michael J Fox and Jeffery Combs are perfectly cast. Fox’s role is a little bittersweet knowing that it’s his last as a Hollywood leading man and a career cut way too short. It’s a character that allows Fox to show give a much more layered performance.
  • Combs looks like he’s having the best time playing the messed up FBI agent. There’s nothing I’ve seen where he doesn’t bring his a-game and this is no exception.
  • The feel of this film not only recalls Back to the Future, but Goonies, Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters as well. I went into the film knowing it was directed by Peter Jackson however it really does have the tone of a Zemeckis film.
  • I quite like the romantic sub plot of Frank and Lucy. Perhaps a little in bad taste, what with him still being at the table and all, but their chemistry works and her dead husband was a dick.
  • The cameo of R Lee Ermey as a loud and shouty sergeant Is a subtle stroke of genius. I haven’t seen Full Metal Jacket, but I’ve seen enough clips to get the reference. If it had been someone else doing it, it would have been a lovely nod. To get the original actor on board is awesome.

Trick

  • Not the fault of the film. It was an amazing task at the time, but there is slightly too much CGI for me. I love the construction of the etherial ghosts, but the form coming out of the wall and the apparition cloaked as Death seem to lack the same quality.
  • I did not like the ghost fucking the mummy! Just weird. I am also aware, however, I could watch this another time and the exact same scene could have me pissing myself laughing.
  • It’s about 20-30 minutes too long for me. Perhaps it’s because recently all the films I’ve watched have rarely passed the 1 hr 30 mark, but I don’t think anything is gained with the added half an hour.

Final Thoughts

A film that is better than its box office suggests and a perfect watch for Halloween. It’s also a must see for fans of Jackson’s follow up films that relied heavily on the technical achievements from this movie.

The Craft (1996)

Rating: 15

Length: 1Hr 41

Release: 8.11.1996

About: After transferring to a Los Angeles high school, Sarah (Robin Tunney) finds that her telekinetic gift appeals to a group of three wannabe witches, who happen to be seeking a fourth member for their rituals. Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Rochelle (Rachel True) and Nancy (Fairuza Balk), like Sarah herself, all have troubled backgrounds, which combined with their nascent powers lead to dangerous consequences. When a minor spell causes a fellow student to lose her hair, the girls grow power-mad.


Treat

  • As with many films of the 90s, this has an amazing soundtrack. From Our Lady Peace to Letters to Cleo, this is the embodiment of teen movies of the time.
  • Fairuza Baulk is incredibly, freakily good in this film. Especially when it comes to her going completely bat shit crazy. I’ve seen a few articles calling her out as the hero of the film and there’s certainly something to that, if she wasn’t a murdering psychopath.
  • The cast on the whole is solid and it took me forever to recognise Riverdale’s FP Jones (Skeet Utlrich) as the ‘heart throb’ Chris.
  • The film deals with some heavy shit and doesn’t sugar coat life in high school the way some others do; self harm, sexual assault and feminism are all dealt with fully and tastefully. However, it is the film’s exploration of racism that really has power. I’d not seen a film like it and it’s fair to say none have since.
  • The theme of witchcraft is something I’d not seen in this way before; dispelling the stereotypes allowing for the film to explore everything from sisterhood to wish fulfilment. It’s something we later see in Charmed, Buffy and Hex.
  • The effects are incredible, even now. I think that’s largely to do with using practical effects where possible. Obviously there’s the snakes and various bugs towards the end, there’s the levitation and there’s the ‘glamour’. However my favourite is when Bonnie’s skin peels away.

Trick

  • For a film that builds up a strong friendship, I struggle that there isn’t a balance by the end. I’ve never really liked that Sarah begins being isolated and alone and ends the same way.
  • As much as I love Rochelle’s storyline with her racist bully and Bonnie’s about her self image, both are sidelined and lack fully development. So often, after the invocation, the two girls seem very out of character and more extensions of Nancy. Perhaps that’s the point, but I’m not sure I like it as it leaves Sarah little room to forgive them.
  • There are two sexual assault scenes. Two! Just repeating that because it’s very important that we acknowledge both. There’s the initial Chris and Sarah scene which is bad enough. Read; he is a dick for what he does. However, there is another involving Chris as the victim. Nancy rapes Chris and it’s something that needs to be acknowledged, on and off the screen, but is lost in his death and Nancy’s unraveling. While media is getting better on screen in dealing with sexual assault, I feel as if this was glossed over a little too easily and could have been a perfect time to explore and deconstruct another misconception about gender and sexual assault.
  • Why the fuck does Nancy say ‘where are you going?’ In some really shit Jamaican accent?! I’ve always pissed myself at that choice of delivery and can ruin the tension built up in the scene.

Final thoughts

A film I enjoy watching more than I do critiquing it. You find flaws when you’re looking for them, and this is one film where I preferred ignorance.

The Cure (1996)

Length: 1Hr 37

Rating: 12

Release: 14.6.1996

About: Having just moved to a new town, Erik (Brad Renfro) is thrilled when he makes friends with his younger neighbor, Dexter (Joseph Mazzello), and his friendly mom (Annabella Sciorra). Despite the disapproval of his own neglectful mother (Diana Scarwid), Erik grows close to Dexter, who suffers from AIDS. As the disease’s impact on Dexter’s life grows more noticeable, Erik and Dexter embark on a quest to New Orleans down the Mississippi River, where hope may yet lie with a doctor there.


The Good

  • It’s a well made film that could easily sit alongside your Sunday afternoon classics; Stand By Me, My Girl and Forever Young. The two boys will draw you in, right before your heart is broken.
  • It’s a powerful look at the impact of HIV and the social misconception that surrounded the auto immune disease at the time.
  • I love the fact that Medicine Man gets a mention here. It was one of my favourite films as a kid. I do love how they initially try out candy bars as a cure, before moving on to plants.

The Bad

  • I think I needed a scene or two from the mothers while the boys were away. While there are a powerful scene or two including them, I feel as if I need to see the reaction to the letter.

The Ugly

  • You’ll cry. Fat ugly tears! There’s a reason why I referenced the films that I did. The moment of the first ‘cry wolf’, you’ll know how it’ll happen too.
  • If that bit doesn’t get you, the final scene most definitely will.