The River Wild (1994)

Rating  12
Length 1hr 51
Release 24.2.1995
Director Curtis Hanson
About A couple embarks on a rafting holiday with their son. The trip, however, turns into a nightmare when they find themselves battling two violent criminals.


The Good

  • All the actors are perfectly cast in their roles and bring a decent energy to the proceedings. Kevin Bacon does his bad guy thing, Meryl Streep does her leading lady thing and Joe Mazzello does his thing of being the kid in danger with emotional baggage. 
  • The filming is able to present this somewhat difficult story is a decent way. You’re able to follow the plot, feel the tension and the danger without being too lost in the elements. I can’t imagine it was easy to create the variety of shots over river rapids but it certain has a good attempt.

The Bad

  • I hate the addition of the dog. While Maggie contributes some way in terms of the plot, I don’t think it’s enough to justify having her on a dangerous journey. Leave the poor thing with the grandparents.
  • Streep and Bacon’s flirting in front of uptight husband, played by David Stathairn is cringe-worthy and damaging to Streep’s character. That’s not to say I don’t think she wouldn’t flirt, I just felt uncomfortable watching her do it in front of her son and husband. It may have worked a little better had Strathairn’s character not have made it on time to catch the raft and is brought to them later in the day by Benjamin Bratt’s character.

The Ugly

  • The pacing is really off for me. While I did enjoy the opening scenes and it showed the dynamic of the Hartman family, I found the payoff wasn’t worth the effort it took. Did we need to have so many scenes prior to the family setting off?  
  • I found the ‘bad guys’ a little confusing in the sense that it felt so obvious, yet it felt like it was also meant to be a reveal. I’d have perhaps liked to have seen either the conversation between Gail and her Father about his predictions for the robbery or even see the robbery itself. It was rather sloppy and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few cut scenes out there that develop that arc a little further.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent film, but very much of its time. No fault to the performances, but the screenplay feels a little lacking. Still, I’d take this over Hard Rain any day. Plus, Baby Mozzello fresh out of Jurassic Park. You can’t say no to that.

Have you seen The River Wild? What did you think?

Love Han x

Jurassic Park. Halloween Edition (1993)

Rating: PG

Length: 2hr 8

Release: 15.7.1993

About: In Steven Spielberg’s massive blockbuster, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are among a select group chosen to tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA. While the park’s mastermind, billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), assures everyone that the facility is safe, they find out otherwise when various ferocious predators break free and go on the hunt.


This is no normal review. In fact, it’s possibly not a review at all. Everyone knows this is my all time favourite movie and has been since July 1993 when it set me on my path to geekdom.

It’s a film I’ve watched so often, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered it as a horror, or a film to watch as a lead up to Halloween so the fear factor is never going to be there. I’m too amazed and in all honesty, I want to be there too.

So instead, I’m considering how many tropes and themes that come up in horror movies apply to Jurassic Park. I thought I was on a dud mission, but I was very quickly proven wrong.

Creature Feature

The creature feature is perhaps the most obvious genre this dinosaur disaster fits into. There’s narrative similarities within Jurassic Park and the Creature From the Black Lagoon, a tonal structure that Spielberg brings organically from Jaws and there’s even an audio/visual reference to one of the greatest creature feature: King Kong, just invade you were wondering what they might be keeping on the island. In the same way Black Lagoon has that embedded wonder, Jurassic Park is all smiles until things go very, very wrong.

One key trope from the creature feature (and arguably other horrors) that is seen multiple times is the Scream Queen. Both of our females give their lungs a good airing when found face to face with the prehistoric reptiles and join Faye Wray, Julie Adams and Susan Blackline as Hollywood Hollering Royalty.

Science, Bitches!

Science and playing God is a staple theme in many a horror movie. Frankenstein, The Fly and Jekyll & Hyde all have scientists take on the god-like role of creator. In much the same fashion as the previously mentioned films, the scientists of Ingen fails to understand the true nature of the monster in their captivity and they rebel against the creator.

Of course, this is on a much grander scale so the stakes are higher and the town at risk is bigger. While the revulsion for the monster isn’t present, it’s clear not everyone is happy with the creators.

The Slasher

Hear me out because yes, there’s no Freddy or Michael but some of the rules still apply. I am, of course, talking about the raptors and their story arc.

The fact that we don’t get a sighting of the raptors until the last 20 minutes or so is frightening in itself. All we’ve seen, is their destruction and lethal potential, much in the same way we don’t see the shark in Jaws or the knife break flesh in the infamous ‘shower scene’, our imagination makes quick work of filling in the blanks with scares and blood. The raptors are isolated, imprisoned separately, from the rest of the park. Too dangerous: they indeed claim the film’s largest body count.

Of course, like Michael Myers, when they find freedom the raptors set their sights on human victims which brings us to the glorious stalking kitchen scene. Replace the predatory reptiles with Ghostface and this scene could fit seamlessly into a Scream movie.

I’ll agree that there’s more than one, and there’s no motivation forthcoming but you have to admit, sometimes the explanation sucks and ruins the movie.

The Harbinger of Doom

A trope I only really became familiar with thanks to Cabin in the Woods. A meta horror that calls out all the tropes is perfect education for film.

So, there are two characters that fit the bill of a harbinger within Jurassic Park. The first is Robert Muldoon, who is vocal about the raptors and their dangers. However, the key role goes to Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. Not only is his entire persona as a theorist of chaos an ideal fit, he has a passionate speech warning Hammond of his companies’ naivety in playing with Science, even going so far as call it ‘rape of the natural world’.

Both Malcolm and Muldoon give us some foresight into the horrors that are to be faced even if, as Malcolm puts it, he ‘hates being right all the time.’

Haunted House

So it’s an island, doesn’t mean the haunted house rules don’t apply. The clear trope that can be seen is the fracturing of the group, repeatedly. Those that do end up on their own; Muldoon, the lawyer and Arnold, die in rather painful and bloody ways.


Now you’ve read this, you may see Jurassic Park in a different way, or maybe you’re like Ian Malcolm and consider it …

Either way, go check it out on Netflix. There it isn’t butchered like a Michael Myer’s victim on Halloween (yup ITV! I’m looking at you)

Han x

The Hollow (2004)

Rating: 15

Length: 1Hr 23

Release: 25.10.2004

About: The presence of Ichabod Crane’s descendant (Kevin Zegers) in Sleepy Hollow conjures the Headless Horseman, and slaughter ensues.


The Good

  • Kaley couco is a decent watch. While watching this I felt she was a little reminiscent of SMG in the early years of Buffy. I’d say she’d have been even better, had she been given a little more to work with.
  • It’s an alright plot and is certainly a good idea for an updated Sleepy Hollow without Ichabod being Steve Rogered into the modern age.
  • The death scene of the second couple is hilarious. Illogical, but oh so funny.
  • It’s a short movie, so while the bad and ugly might outweigh the good, you won’t be in celluloid hell for long.

The Bad

  • The character of Ian makes no sense. He has the vibe of Max from Hocus Pocus and I do don’t buy him commanding an audience within the month of arriving in town. I also don’t get why Brady has it out for the coach’s son?! That relationship would have worked well if they flipped it, made them friends but had that conflict of them both liking the same girl.

The Ugly

  • Guys, Game of Thrones has nothing on this! Even in the day time scenes it’s dark, dark, dark. I suspect it was to hide the fact it had a very little budget.
  • The sound mixing was atrocious. At its most basic, the score was too loud and the audio low and tinny. However, when you then consider the sound effects it’s simply lazy and wrong; a sound more frequently associated with a stab rather than a swipe.

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.

Wooly Boys (2001)

Length: 1Hr 39

Rating: PG

Release: 7.10.2001 (no UK release)

About: Two ranchers (Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson) from North Dakota find adventure in Minneapolis after one goes to visit his only daughter.

The Good

  • Kris Kristoffersen and Peter Fonda are names that I’ve always known, however I’m not certain I’ve seen either in anything. They are a brilliant double act from the get go. These are veteran actors doing what they do best and I’m certainly going to be checking out their back catalogues over the coming months. I’m guessing from Kristofferson’s staring role in A Star is Born, he was the Bradley Cooper of the day.
  • It’s hard to make a film in the West and not be a cowboy movie. I’m quite happy that it was able to move beyond the tropes and give a fresh look at modern ranch life.
  • The humour, music and plotting are all sound and give the audience a family film with heart, charm and hope.

The Bad

  • Joe Mazzello’s rare appearance as a teen only appears in the bad because his awesome performance only makes me wish that he’d taken on a few more roles at the time. He’s acting against Fonda and Kristofferson for Christ sake. Lesser actors would have been swallowed whole. Not Mazzello, he not only brings an excellent performance, but is able to create believable and heartfelt relationships with the two men.
  • I’m a bit gutted about the fact that these two Wooly Boys weren’t the original Brokeback. There was a love between them, there’s no denying that, but I’d have love it to have been developed and more overtly romantic rather than platonic. Perhaps even have this as the cause of the rift between father and daughter. Although I can see that perhaps adding a little bitterness to the proceedings. Something it didn’t really need.

The Ugly

  • This film hit me a little too hard in the feels. I know all too well about the man of little words and the rift it can cause. While it’s a sweet film, it weighed a little too heavy for me to be enjoyable.
  • Animal death. It’s the one thing I can’t really deal with in my films and if I was in a position the cry, there’s a scene that would have had me bawling.

Final Thoughts

It’s a well made, expertly acted family drama that feels a little more like a TV movie by today’s standards.

High Lonesome: A Father for Charlie (1995)

Length: 1Hr 27

Release: 1.1.1995

Rating: 12

About: Based on a true story. A poor black sharecropper strikes up an unlikely friendship with a hostile young white boy – but their budding friendship is threatened by a brutal red-neck sheriff.

The Good

  • The story is able to be told in a realistic and gritty way without an overuse of offensive language. It was my biggest worry going into the film as it pains me to see and hear the mistreatment of people, especially in regards to something they have no control over.
  • The story is important. The only thing that upsets me, is how important the message still is today. The blind and learned hatred, not only from Charlie, but the entire town is something that is still in society today. Having Osgood’s actions and kindness change the views of a child is one thing, but there’s an unexpected ally to be found by the film’s closing scenes.
  • The gravitas in which Louis Gossett Jr holds himself throughout the film as the sole man of colour, Walter Osgood, is incredibly moving. There are many scenes in which Gossett Jnr is conversing with his wife’s grave stone. He holds the viewers attention effortlessly. I’d watch him in anything, and I’m quite surprised I’m unfamiliar with his name.
  • Joe Mazzello’s portrayal of Charlie is quite possibly one of his best. His accent is solid and he is able to present a head strong young boy who has been neglected by the one person he needed. How someone at 12 years old, with no academic training, can act the shit out of a complex character is beyond me. His scene with the Sheriff ( the ever brilliant William Fichtner), in which he bluffs about his relationship with Walter will have your heart in your mouth.
  • At the heart of this movie is the relationship between Charlie and Walter. It only works because of the two actors you have in the roles. The chemistry of the two is believable and charming; the frosty learned behaviour melts so easily with just a little bit of kindness. Not many actors of Mazzello’s age could bring the conceited innocence, vulnerability and ‘old soul’ charm to the role.

The Bad

I’ve never liked the presence of the KKK within films. It’s a personal thing that breaks my heart and keeps me agnostic; how can an organisation perform such horrific acts and claim to be religious?! Scenes that subtly and overtly express their actions and views make for this to be a rather difficult and uncomfortable watch.

The Ugly

The music is really the only big giveaway that this period film is in fact a TV movie. I want to rescore the whole film as I found the light and, at times, humorous tone a little jarring in contrast to the narratives subject content.

Final Thoughts

It is a well made, superbly acted film. It’s not going to be a film I watch often as there are scenes that upset me greatly, however it is certainly a good film to watch in order to put the treatment of people of colour into context.

Small Soldiers (1998)

Length: 1Hr 48

Rating: PG

Release date: 23rd October 1998 (interestingly, I saw it 24th December 1998. I’m not certain a film like this would survive that long at the cinemas today)

About: When teenager Alan (Gregory Smith) buys a set of Commando Elite action figures, he’s unaware that they have been programmed with military technology. The toys, including leader Chip (Tommy Lee Jones), spring to life and start taking their directives seriously, beginning by “killing” their enemies, the toy Gorgonites. But Archer (Frank Langella) and the Gorgonites won’t go down without a fight. Alan gets caught in the middle of the war, as does his neighbor and crush, Christy (Kirsten Dunst).

First Thoughts

This was a film I saw with my brother Christmas Eve 1998. It sticks out in my memory as one of my favourite and best cinema experiences. Not to sat that the film is the best or my favourite, however over time it’s certainly been a go to movie.

The Good

  • It’s got a solid good versus evil plot with the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites. I especially love the casting of actors from The Dirty Dozen and Spinal Tap to play the warring groups.
  • The teens thrown into a world where they have to fend for themselves is a theme Joe Dante works well with. I don’t know if it’s because I was a teen myself when I first saw this, but I think I relate much more to this than Gremlins.
  • I will always love the line about Spice Girls being used as psychological warfare. In 1998, the Spice Girls had not only saturated the market and tormented parents all around the world, but they were close to saying ‘goodbye, my friend.’ I think I was offended at the time, but I have a chuckle.
  • I love the Geendy Doll revolt with Christina Ricci and Sarah Michelle Gellar torturing Kirsten Dunst. While in Toy Story, it’s disturbing here I just find it awesome.
  • On the most part, the CGI is okay. You can sometimes tell between the puppetry and the graphics, but it’s still better than some of the shoddy CGI that is in place in today’s movies.
  • Hi, I’m Phil Hartman. You may recognise me and my voice from films like Jingle All the Way and the tv show The Simpson’s. Yup, that’s right, Springfield’s own Troy McClure takes on the role of Christy’s self centred father. Sadly, Hartman was tragically killed shortly before the film’s release. While the character does seem like the ever present archetype from Dante’s back catalogue (Murray in Gremlins, Rumsfeld in The ‘Burbs) Hartman does make it so much his own that you will be forgiven for not making the connection the first time you watch.

The Bad

As much as I think Gregory Smith does a fine job as Alan, and he certainly works well alongside the CGI leader of the Gorgonites… why would I want him if I could have had my favourite actor at the time (and now). Learning that the studio’s/Joe Dante’s first choice for Alan-Now-Shut-Up was Joe Mazzello is a little bittersweet.

What Joe looked like the year Small Soldiers was filmed

The Ugly

Perhaps it’s the fact that it is a little too similar to Gremlins. It’s the Jurassic Park to Gremlins’ West World. It feels a little been there watched that. When you strip in down, all its parts are gained from previous work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but for it to work, it has to be better. For me, without Dante’s wild child Corey Feldman taking up some screen time, it will NEVER be better.

Final Thoughts

It’s a decent way to burn an hour or so. It’s not flawless, but it is fun and certain provides a case that Joe Dante is a main stream auteur or a one-trick pony. Something I’m hoping to explore in the upcoming weeks by having a Dante retrospective.

Do you know your Dante?

What’s your favourite creation of his?

Han x

Book Review : With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E B Sledge

The Pacific miniseries from HBO was a challenge for me to watch. I found it enlightening, distressing and heartbreaking. Out of the three men The Pacific followed, Eugene Sledge was the one I had the most questions about, particularly after his conversation with Robert Lecke about faith.

I contacted the one person I figured would have an answer to my question: did Sledge’s bitterness and experience of war have an impact on his faith?

I fully intended to buy Sledge’s memoir anyway, but I was quite surprised when I got a thoughtful response telling me that the war reinforced his faith and that there was something important that didn’t make it into the show. Cue me purchasing a copy for my Kindle there and then and devouring the first 20%.

Having spent so many years of my career developing lessons to explain why a religious person is a consciences objector and the reasons why religions disagree with war. So my main motivation for reading was to see Sledge’s religious commentary and thoughts throughout the war. I always considered them being at odds with each other; either being the cause of a conflict or the reason for someone to avoid the fight.

Sledge’s voice is the most prominent feature of this 300 paged memoir. From his enlistment to the island clean ups, Sledge gives a stark and honest retelling of his experiences. It’s written in such a way that I’m surprised it’s not a book already on high school recommended reading lists; it’s written with sincerity and as a reader you will instantly respect the veteran marine who could have had a much easier life.

It’s by no means an entertaining or an escape read, but it is rewarding as much as it is difficult and something I will come back to in the future. There’s so much to be learnt from Sledge; engrained hatred and prejudice, politics and spirituality. Never have I seen such an open commentary that doesn’t expect anything of you as a reader. Well, at least it didn’t feel like that. The only censoring he did was on the parts of other people.

The description of the horror, brutality and casualties will haunt you. No film or video game will prepare you for the sights, smells and sensations.

The commentary of Sledge’s faith is there enough to understand that it’s something of an intimate experience for him. There’s definitely a sense that there’s more than he says, but you certainly can tell he had a deep rooted bond with his religion. It’ll be something that readers won’t need to read too much into, should it not be an important theme to explore. However, there were two lines that said more to me than the rest of the book. Having a religious experience (not that he names it this in the book) and when he describes having it is very telling. It’s something I’d have loved to have sat down and spoken to him about if he was so inclined.

In terms of the print itself, I would advise against an ecopy given the number of references that are all complied at the end of each chapter. There is the benefit of changing the font size, but not having the notes closer to the passage in question does lose the flow and I found in this case, having a physical copy of the book benefitted me greatly.

Film Review: Simon Birch (1998)

Length: 1hr 54

Rating: PG

Release: 25th June 1999

About: Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) and Joe Wenteworth (Joseph Mazzello) are boys who have a reputation for being oddballs. Joe never knew his father, and his mother, Rebecca (Ashley Judd), is keeping her lips sealed, no matter how much he protests. Simon, meanwhile, is an 11-year-old dwarf whose outsize personality belies his small stature. Indeed, he often assails the local reverend (David Strathairn) with thorny theological questions and joins Joe on his quest to find his biological father.

The Good

  • The plot- memoir meets mystery. Has the Stand by Me vibe that was popular in the 90s. Nothing says Sunday afternoon movie more than a 1950’s nostalgic flash back with a calming ‘Wonder Years’ narration.
  • Jim Carey as the older Joe/narrator really works. He has a beautiful voice that really carries the memoir tone. Something that really surprises me seeing as the last thing I saw him in was Earth Girls Are Easy.
  • Oliver Platt is somewhat of an underrated actor in my opinion. This film is a perfect example of what a rich performance he can bring to the table and how he is able to balance humour, charm and charisma. He could not have been in this move enough.
  • Joe Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith Have this amazing chemistry throughout the film that I want so many movies with the two of them. Joe always seems comfortable within the 50s and this film sees him give some of his most powerful scenes I’ve ever had the privilege to see. From standing up to Simon’s excuse for a father to his response to the ‘lefty’ reveal, Mazzello gives emotion by the bucket load. It’s hard not to see the parallels with Three Wishes, but watch them in close succession and you can see how much stronger a person in a similar circumstance can be so different with a true best friend to escape with. Less brat and more of a level head makes Joe of Birch a favourite character of mine.
  • Ian Michael Smith gives the most incredible performance. I hate the response of the adults, including those within the church. He is a beautiful and caring child, despite the discouragement he experiences. There’s a cheeky side to the character that makes this film such a joy to watch despite the bittersweet ending you know is coming.

The Bad

  • I’m sad we lost the relationship between Rebecca and Ben so soon. While it does have an impact on his relationship with Joe, and I love their bond, I’d have loved to have seen them as a family unit a little more.

The Ugly

  • It’s all ‘My Girl’ in places so prepare yourself with a tissue or, you know, a million. Although while My Girl gives you a really amazing happy ride until that blub-fest, this will have your eyes like Niagara Falls from the midway point onwards.

Film Review: Three Wishes (1995)

Length: 1Hr 55

Rating: PG

Release: 15th December 1995

About: Description

When single mother Jeanne Holman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) turns to avoid hitting a dog with her station wagon, she unwittingly hits bearded drifter Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze). Against the protests of her scandalized neighbors, Holman insists that the injured man stay at the Holman residence to heal. As the eccentric McCloud recovers from the accident, he becomes a positive influence on — and an unexpected father figure to — her young sons, Tom (Joseph Mazzello) and Gunny (Seth Mumy).

For Starters

I am pretty certain I saw this in the cinema. The only thing I’m not sure about, is who I went with. I’m convinced it wasn’t my birthday movie so it must have been a pre-Christmas trip with my neighbour. However, what I’m certain of is that it was something I chose to watch because ‘the kid from Jurassic Park’ was in it. It was one of many films I coerced my mum and others into taking me to see with that line. Jurassic Park also saw me watch Tremors at a much younger age than I should have because Mazzello’s onscreen sister was in it.

Anyway, I definitely saw it in the cinema and I think I’ve only seen it that one time before today. I have fond, feel good, memories linked to it.

The Good

• Its a beautiful story; the sort that isn’t made today. That dreamy, feel good nostalgic look at the 50s that was seen in films like Now and Then, Stand By Me and Forest Gump.

• At its heart this is a baseball movie. Tom and his team pretty much suck, but over the course of the film, they improve enough to win a game. As much as I would have loved to have seen more of this, it was more about Tom earning his place within the group that segregates him.

• What struck me when watching this time was the Buddhism approach to baseball that Patrick Swayze’s Jack teaches the boys. Not only does it help transform the boys and helps them win, the coach embraces the approach Jack offers. It’s quite a stark contrast to the toxic masculine leadership originally shown and something I couldn’t appreciate at the time.

• Joe Mazzello demonstrates once again why he was one of the best child actors around. His chemistry with Patrick Swayze is something I truly love; the distrust that melts away to accept a different father figure that the 50s was pumping out. How Tom is treated is heartbreaking; he’s not accepted because he doesn’t have a father. Mazzello has this amazing way of being a brat, but you knowing deep down he’s a good (if not impressionable) kid. There are actors out there who would make Tom an unlikable character, but it’s with scenes like the batting practice that shows you how much Tom wants to be happy.

• I love how strong the film allows Jeanne to be. In a period of time in which is was expected for her to remarry, she passes up a proposal and chooses to raise her boys alone. It’s empowering as a female viewer

• Finally… a film that shows the passage of time with the moon. This is silly, but I’ve been very frustrated to see a full moon in pretty much every single tv show or movie that shows the night sky. I was so very happy to see that when the moon appears for a second scene, days later, it is in fact waning.

The Bad

• The fantasy element is really good and I really wish there was more to it. This suffers in much the same way as Radio Flyer, the fantasy is so subtle you wonder if it really takes place. In Three Wishes, it might just be the case; the fantasy aspects only really present themselves once Gunny is diagnosed with cancer. It’s a shame, as if this was the main focus it would have added a lot of charm.

• Phil, the man courting Jeanne, is a dick. I really hate that he’s in it at all although I understand why. He enables the commentary of Jeanne ‘having’ to remarry in order to fit in within the nuclear families that were blossoming in the prefab homes.

The Ugly

• The target audience is a little unclear and while it’s sold as a family film, there’s a little too much adult-only screen time for little ones to enjoy and it really has such a slow pace that I don’t think would make this an all time favourite with adults.

• The narration approach doesn’t work with how the story unravels. We discover at the end that it was being ‘told’ by Tom. Yet there was so much of what we see that Tom wouldn’t know. I think it’s in this where the answer lies; he should have been the sole protagonist rather than it being an omnipresent narrator. By having that shift and perhaps allowing him in on the fantasy Gunny sees, it would make for a much more fluid story.

Final Thoughts

I’m so very glad I watched it again. I’m having fun going back and watching Maxzello’s early work. There was also a lovely surprise in catching sight of a pre-Arrowverse Neal McDonough and a pre-Gilmore Girls Scott Patterson.

It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon watch with family.

Movie Review: Raising Helen (2004)

That’s right. Shoe-tying is tough. Why do you think Jesus wore sandals?

Length: 1Hr 59
Rating: PG
About: Single and self-involved, Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) has a thriving fashion career and a lavish lifestyle in New York City. Helen is shocked to hear that her sister and brother-in-law have died in an accident, and alarmed that they have named her the guardian of their three kids (Hayden Panettiere, Spencer Breslin, Abigail Breslin). As the children struggle with the change, Helen has to decide whether she’ll cling to her old ways or come to terms with her new family role.

The Good

  • It’s an upbeat alternative to Beaches with an Uncle Buck vibe to it. Kate Hudson and John Corbett are beautiful leads. I’m not sure why I avoided Hudson’s films when they were being released; I certainly missed out.
  • It’s crazy to watch this film 15 years after the fact and see the young faces of the three orphaned siblings; while I’ve not caught Spencer Breslin in much since the early thousands, Hayden Panettiere has very rarely left the screen and Abigail Breslin was most recently seen alongside other child stars in Scream Queens.
  • It has a happy enough ending. What more do you want from this romantic comedy that has cameos from the director’s stable.

The Bad

  • This film is coming at the end of the romantic comedy roll out. As a result, it feels a little cliqued and tired. It’s a paint-by-number plot with very little variation.
  • As much as I love both Hudson and Corbett’s characters and their individual delivery, there’s zero chemistry and it really shows.

The Ugly

  • It’s a personal thing, but why have someone as amazing as Felicity Huffman cast to not use her fully. Man, I am gutted that she’s the sister that died.
  • Joe Mazzello was not in nearly enough to justify me watching this. One scene and then zip, nothing.

Final Thoughts

This really isn’t one of Gary Marshall’s best offerings and even playing “Whose from his acting stable?” Was enough to rescue this film and make it one that i’d watch again.

Love Han x

Review: Undrafted (15) by @MazzelloJoe

A review of the Joe Mazzello written and directed movie, Undrafted.


Time: 90mins
About: When twelve ragtag teammates set out to play what should be a meaningless summer intramural baseball game, it ends up becoming the most important game of their lives.
Director: Joe Mazzello
Trailer:

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mazSo, you’ve been to the cinema a hundred times to see Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ve basked in the awesomeness of Rami Malek and you’ve realised Joe Mazzello has spent way too long off your movie radar?

Well, my friends… it’s not that the clone of John Deacon has been off our screens since his electrifying stint on Jurassic Park, it’s just that he’s moved away from staring roles (Star Kid, Simon Birch) like he did in the 90s. I’ll be going back and looking at his other roles over the next few weeks, but I need to start with a special film.

Undrafted is clearly a work of passion and something close to the heart of Joe Mazzello; it’s based upon his own brother, John, and the local baseball team where the Mazzello brothers grew up. There’s such a sincerity and heart from the moment it starts that its a must watch for anyone who was won over by Joe’s charm in the Queen biopic. Just be warned; you’ll be begging for his next directorial offering once you’ve finished.

Plot
Its a simple plot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a sub-par movie. The focus and charm is not in the plot, but the characters. It’s a bottle film; everything centers around a single baseball game and the team’s disappointment that one of their own didn’t make the cut.
Maz should have been drafted; everyone on the team knows it and their frustration is tangible. Last thing they need is to play against another local team who are prepared to play dirty to win. While Maz is the catalyst and the character who develops the most throughout the film, he’s not the only one who will keep you focused.
It feels like Remember the Titans meets Little Rascals in all of the right ways. You can’t help but love this team of angry misfits. From Palacco’s entrance and British twang, to Pat Murray’s half-time meltdown, you really get to understand what being undrafted means to everyone.
When it comes down to it, this film is about family. It’s about overcoming defeat, picking yourself up and dusting yourself off before starting again. Maz’s final act is one of wonderful growth and true cinematic climax. It’s through this development that the group truly become a team.

Casting
Tyler Hoechlin plays pitcher Dells. One of the brilliant things about an independent movie like Undrafted is that you get to spot people from your favourite shows. Hoechlin can currently be seen flying in and out of the CWs Supergirl as Clark Kent and his alter ego. He’s wonderfully heavy hearted and I do feel there’s more to know about his character than what is seen in the 90 minutes.

Casting Jim Belushi as the Mazzello patriarch was a stroke of genius. He provides a warmth and a wisdom that brings heart to the film; the relationship he has with Aaron Tveit’s Maz is delightful to watch. Knowing Belushi is portraying someone real only adds to his presence on screen.

Joe Mazzello is a powerhouse on this film. Not only does he write and direct, the man also takes on the role of Murray too. It’s a role unlike any I’ve seen Mazzello play (aside from Presumed Innocent and Wooly Boys, I think I’ve seen them all). The meltdown Murray has and his monologue is raw, emotional and frighteningly empowering. I am ashamed to say, grown up Joe Mazzello swearing his way through 90 minutes of game play had me giggling. I grew up with this guy in some of my favourite films, having him curse had me laughing like one of the kids I teach when I’m telling them off.

Sports
The very fact that I like this film, gives a good indication of how well it was made. I don’t think I like sports. Other than Ice Hockey, I haven’t watched a full match. Any football match I watched with my boyfriend-at-the-time was laced with cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. As a kid, I didn’t ‘watch’ the match; I heard them on the radio. It sucked and sort of ruined football for me.
However, what I do love are movies about sports; Escape to Victory, The Wrestler, The Damned United, Rocky and Eddie the Eagle are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sports movies. Undrafted is no exception. I am none the wiser about the rules of the game but, bloody hell, I think if I was to go to a match I’d be hooked.


Over to you:
What’s your favourite Joe role?
What do you think of BoRhap?
What’s your favourite sports movie?

Love Han x