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McFarland, USA (2015)
Fourth out of four, also known as last place....
Track coach Jim White is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high-school in California's Central Valley.
Coach White and his new students find that they have much to learn about one another, but things begin to change when White realises the boys' exceptional running ability.
More than just physical prowess drives the teens to succeed. Their strong family ties, incredible work ethic and commitment to their team all play a factor in forging these novice runners into champions.......
Sports movies featuring Kevin Costner are the cinematic equivalent of Cheese on Toast. You've had it before, numerous times, and you know what exactly what you are going to get. But too much of the stuff isn't too good for you.
I'm a big Kevin Costner champion, he's always been a big screen presence, and even though he's had his shortcomings (The Postman was almost career suicide, but WaterWorld was not, I repeat, was not a flop) he still makes an ordinary film that little bit more extraordinary, because he just has that effortless class about him.
As you'd expect, the films narrative is as predictable as day turns to night.
White joins a school that isn't the best in the world. He sees potential in a few students, and learns of their hardship, he forms a cross country team, much to the frustration of family, colleagues. They get mocked by the river, better school, and fail their first attempt.
Them there is a big montage, the voice of the group has a hissy fit, goes home and fights with his family. Costner bumps into him, they a have a conversation, and you know what? he rejoins the team and they do much better, and decide to have a party. After all the people Costner was alienated against at first have formed a big bond with him and his family, and all is well.
But then something happens, Costner loses faith and then it's his turn to have a conversation with the student. You can pretty much guess the rest.
It's a safe film for sure. The true story of a struggling group of sports people has been done to death, from Cool Runnings to Remember The Titans, it's a paint by numbers narrative that hasn't, and probably never will be be changed.
Because it always works.
Costner is fantastic as always, and although it will disappear without a trace, it's one of those films that will appear on TV one Sunday afternoon, you will come across it halfway through, watch it, and know exactly what has happened, and what will happen within a couple of minutes.
It's uplifting stuff, without being too sugar coated, and you get the obligatory clip of the real life people at the end, just in case there are a few doubters in the audience.
Another safe family film from Disney.
I 'lapped' it up.
Nick of Time (1995)
We closed more bars together than I could count.....
Gene Watson arrives home in Los Angeles, after attending his ex-wife's funeral, with his daughter.
Soon, his daughter is kidnapped. He is given a gun, and the picture and itinerary of a person, and told that if he hasn't killed that person in one hour and fifteen minutes, his daughter will be killed.
The following takes place between 12:00 and 1:30.......
In the eighties and the early Nineties, John Badham was the king of really cheesy action movies that featured quite big name actors. The majority of them are not very good, but all of them are ridiculously funny, and, for reasons always unbeknown to myself, they are always worth going back to, for some strange sadistic reason.
The gimmick in this particular movie is the fact that it's set in real time, and this just makes the film even more stupidly entertaining than it should be.
The narrative is simple, as is the plot. Depp has to kill someone, or his daughter gets killed, and everyone he seeks help from is either in on it, or buys the big one.
It shouldn't be as good as it is, it's all over the place, but it's really worth watching for three reasons.
1) The film shows that Depp can do normal if he wants. His Watson is a thousand miles away from Jack Sparrow, and him not having to mug his way through a film is quite refreshing.
2) The real time. It is a neat gimmick, and this was before the advent of 24. It makes the film that little bit more urgent. But then you have to consider the fact that Badham uses slow motion........and a dream sequence in real time. And Johnny Depp goes to the toilet more times in ninety minutes than Jack Bauer has done in his whole career.
3) Christopher Walken. If you appreciate the actors career from 1990 to around 2003, you will understand what I mean when I say the this is him at his most 'Walken'. The little wink when he's angry, the little hunch head and smile when someone disagrees with him. And of course, the high pitch and sudden gravelly voice change he's best known for.
It's all here.
If these three elements were not included in the film, it wouldn't be anything more than a lethargic, below par, race against time thriller starring a career struggling Stallone or Willis, which is quite surprising as around this movies release, both said actors were struggling with their careers.
Worth watching for all the wrong reasons.
Atypical stalking by numbers horror. But howling good fun.....
Joe, a ticket-collector, is riding the last train out of London with a small group of passengers. When the train brakes violently and comes to a sudden halt deep in the middle of a forest, it seems they have hit something on the line.
But when the driver ventures out to investigate he never returns, leaving the passengers in a state of panic particularly when Joe sees the driver's mutilated body outside the carriage.
Realising there's something dangerous lurking in the forest, Joe tell the group to secure themselves in the carriage but soon the creature is stalking the train, picking them off one- by-one.
During a vicious battle they manage to kill the creature, revealing it to be a lycanthrope.
However, celebrations are cut short when they hear more howls coming from the forest
Horror films like this, where it features a confined space and a small cast, always have the same, predictable set up. The 'hero' of the film has just failed on something or lost something, and is having a peerage problem. But they always have an ally with them, and usually it's the girl of their dreams.
Then we are introduced to the rest of the characters one by one, and here, Joe May as well been handing them tickets saying 'you'll get killed', because it's handled pretty clumsily. But it's a trope that features in all 'small groups in peril horrors' so I'll forgive its shortcomings.
What is important in films like these is the mid section, the moment after the scene where it's all quiet for a moment, and then the first victim meets their maker, what happens then on is the meat and potatoes of the narrative, and here it's a lot of fun, but as I've said before, you can more or less guess who's going to get it next.
We have the older couple who won't leave each other's side, the abhorrent teen in the phone, the selfish mother, he rich sleazy snob, an overweight lager lout, a studious nerd, the one who played Eragon who never made it famous because the film flopped, and of course, everyone's favourite, Sean Pertwee.
So for a good hour, it's aware of nerves between the group, whilst we hear the campest howl in the background getting closet and closer. The cast all play their parts well, the characters make some really stupid choices, but it only adds to the fun.
It's a mix of Snakes On A Plane, Dog Soldiers, Creep, with a little bit of Snowpiercer thrown in. But the best thing about Hyetts film, is that it doesn't take itself seriously, it's pretty much self deprecating for the majority of the second act, but keeps it semi serious.
The biggest flaw with the film is the ending, it's doesn't know how to conclude the story, so it just finishes, and it's quite surprising.
But all in all, it's a fun ninety minutes, and it keeps that feeling of claustrophobia you'd expect in a film like this throughout.
I need a holiday after seeing this rubbish....
Remembering fond, childhood memories of his trip to Walley World, Rusty Griswold surprises his wife and two sons with a cross-country trip to America's favourite fictional fun park.
Following in his father's footsteps, Rusty and the gang pack up the car and hit the road for some much-needed family bonding.
Soon, the promise of fun turns into one misadventure after another for the next generation of Griswolds and anyone who encounters them........
Just like most films released today, if you've seen the trailer, you've seen all,the jokes that are in the film, just a lost shorter, and not dragged out within an inch of its life like in this maundering comedy.
I don't know whether in the past couple of years I lost my sense of humour somewhere, but I haven't seen a comedy that's made me chuckle since The World's End, and that's been a while.
It seems that with comedies now, the makers don't want to be clever, they don't want to try something that could make jokes go over a few heads, instead, they go for the perfunctory body part gags, gross out moments, and scenes that are supposed to invoke guilty titters, but instead, proceed to make your frown lines just that little more predominant.
Helms once again proves that he's one of the most annoying people in Hollywood, and when the star of the film has a face you just want to slap, the film is in trouble.
I was hoping for some sort of Chevy Chase type role, oblivious to his poor decisions and his family just putting up with it and shrugging their shoulders as if to say 'classic Clarke', but no, he's just a whinging little man who let's everyone walk over him.
The rest of the family more than make up for Rusty's shortcomings, Applegate is easily the best thing in the film, and the chemistry between the brothers is pretty realistic.
And that's the only positive thing I can find to say about the film. Hemsworth pops up for a few minutes in nothing more than a degrading role for him, Chase looks bored out of his mind, and really uncomfortable, and it all ends up with a slow motion punch up with Ron Livingstone.
The original was a lot funnier, thanks to Chase and the wonderful way the nuclear family is depicted, sticking together through thick and thin. Here, it separates us from the family and goes straight for the poo gags.
Poorer than Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddies Island Adventure.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (2015)
Just another Die Hard knock off......
A police officer returns to duty after recovering from a gun shot wound to discover incriminating evidence of illegal activities against those closest to him.
He quickly finds himself trapped inside his own precinct, hunted and in search of the truth, as the crooked cops stop at nothing to recover the evidence......
John Cena and WWE have a lot to answer for. Between the two of them, they have taken two perfectly passable B-movie action flicks, and turned them into a monster that won't give up the Die Hard ghost.
The sequels to The Marine, are nothing more than Die Hard wannabe shlockfests, and in turn, this franchise is becoming the same monster.
But what's the twist here? Why, the twelve rounds are referring to the number of bullets that Dean Ambrose has in his gun. Because a good cop doesn't need more than twelve bullets in a Die Hard situation......eat that Bruce.
And what does become clear very soon into the film, is that this movie wasn't supposed to be a sequel, the makers just saw the finished product, felt their heart sink, and tagged on the franchise name.
The plot and the narrative, are perfectly acceptable and a pretty good concept, Cop comes back to work after being traumatised, colleagues are planning a robbery, blame their killing of other cops on the returning cops mental health state, thus leaving him with having to clear his name and quip really poor, incoherent one liners.
It's not a terrible film by any means, it's just so boring and mundane, and Ambrose should make the most of this movie, because I feel he won't be getting many more movie offers soon. At least he's got his wrestling to fall back on.
So for the rest of the film we have Ambrose hiding from a villain who is really doing his best to be Michael Jai White and killing cops when Ambrose won't move into the view of the CCTV, the bloke from Scary Movie looking really old and sweaty, and obviously your token police outside shouting 'we're going in'.
It all ends with a silly twist, and it doesn't deliver anything new or surprising.
Well it did surprise me when I found out Ambrose is only 29. He looks well into his forties.
Live Hard.....Die Hard......
Pay the Ghost (2015)
Made to pay the bills?........
One year after Mike Lawford's young son disappeared during a Halloween carnival, he begins to experience strange, unsettling visions, and terrifying messages he can't explain.
Together with his estranged wife, he will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery and find their son, but in doing so, he unearths a legend that refuses to remain buried in the past........
You know that an actor is in trouble when every DVD cover featuring them graces the words 'Academy Award Winner' before their name, and their face is obviously airbrushed on to a separate body, because they didn't have the time to pose.
What is particularly funny about this cover is that it's the exact same pose Cage had for last years 'Classic' left behind. Oh, and they always look a lot skinnier than they actually are.
Who can remember the days where Seagal had those hilarious photo-shopped pictures. I just used to buy the DVD for the cover.
So Cage decides to go down the horror route, and whilst the idea is sound, a kind of Jacobs Ladder meets a very dodgy version of Don't Look Now, the makers of the film just do not know how to generate a scare, or even an air of tension.
So we begin with the boy having visions of a vulture circling him, and then disappearing whilst Cage is buying him Ice-cream in a comedy cowboy outfit.
And then it's almost a year later, where Cage has turned into the desperate father looking for answers. This is where the film falls apart, because they don't use the full potential of Cage and his wonderful maniacal acting arc.
Nope, they have him spend the rest of the film looking concerned and perplexed while he meets a whole bunch of weirdos who talk to him in riddles and send home on wild goose chases.
He begins to see his son here, there, and everywhere, and as we all know in films like this, once he gets to where his son should be its someone who looks just slightly different.
It's your typical cookie cutter, almost family friendly horror, which features a strange scene involving school kids in masks and a teacher, who is claiming that she knows nothing, and then proceeds to explain the whole myth of the title (there is a reason why his son went missing, and it's a little bland).
So all in all, it's another bland effort from Cage, but to be fair on him, he just isn't given anything to get his teeth into, other than playing concerned dad running around the streets.
But there was a reassurance toward the end. Remember that Kevin Costner horror released a few years back called The New Daughter (didn't think so). Well that vanished without a trace, but soon after, he was given a new lease of life with supporting roles, and now he's back with bigger, cinematic releases.
Here's hoping this is the beginning of the end of Nics slump.
In Cage we trust.......
A paranoid schizophrenic walks into a pub.....
Unlike Medak's 1990 depiction of the Brothers, this starts when the Twins were halfway through their rise to power, and is told through the eyes of Frances Shea, Reggie's soon to be wife, and she gives a pretty mundane Bladerunner style narrative throughout the whole film.
Although in my opinion, Medak's movie is far superior cast wise (Kemp brothers aside), it seemed to depict the Twins as good old boys, the type where a neighbour would say 'oh they'll do anything for you, but if you ever did them a misfortune, they'll come down on you like a ton of bricks'. And it also seemed in that movie, it was from the point of view of Violet Kray, and Ronnie appeared to be the brains of the outfit.
Here, however true the depiction is, it's Reggie for the most part that is the brains, the foundation of the outfit, and Ronnie just seems to be a thorn in the side of the 'firm', the hindrance, and as the film goes along, it's Ronnie who tends to be the films hindrance.
It's not the fault of Hardy, he is brilliant, and proves that he is a force to reckoned with, and here he cements the fact that he is one of the most exciting actors around.
I feel that Helgeland wanted Ronnie to be truly terrifying, with just a hint of dark humour injected into his character, but toward the end of the film, he only had to appear on screen, and he caused many people in the cinema to laugh out loud. And this took you away from the film momentarily.
But as Ronnie's mental health problems start to worsen, Reggie's problems begin to increase, and his tolerance with his brother begins to thin, and his flashes of violence and anger begin to become more frequent, and in turn infect his relationship with Frances.
As a film, the narrative doesn't glamorise the brothers too much, and although they appear to be a lot of fun to be around, Helgeland knows that the Twins are psychopaths, and never makes them out to be pseudo-saints (although in one scene, the camera moves away from an incident involving Reggie and Frances, as Helgeland does want you to sympathise with Reggie just a little).
There are times in the film where I was reminded of Medak's movie, but that's just history I suppose, and in some respects, I kind of envy people who see this first, as they will go into the film with fresh eyes.
But all in all, it's a great movie, the narrative wasn't needed, the technical parts of the film involving Hardy and Hardy are flawless, you really believe that they are doppelgängers and not the work of special effects.
But I feel that if you had the cast of the nineties version and replaced the Kemp's with Hardy, it would be up there with The Long Good Friday as one of the all time great British gangster films.
And there is one scene in Legend, where Hardy is sitting at a table in a casino.......and he is Bond.
The silence deafens my ears.......
A young man arrives at a new boarding school, but his attempts to fit in are thwarted by the criminal element ingrained in his classmates.
A brief initiation brawl leads to his inclusion into the family and soon he's stealing, scamming and mugging alongside his new friends. It's not long before he's promoted to the role of pimp and guardian to two female students who sell their bodies for cash at truck stops.
When he falls for one of the girls his job grows trickier, leading to an unavoidably violent conflict with his partners in crime........
What could have been nothing more than a gimmick to make a movie seem more prolific than it is, makes hearing impairment an almost real character in the film, as the makers show us it's advantages and disadvantages to the protagonists/antagonists.
And it's one of the most difficult films to watch that I've seen in a long time. Not because of the films violence, I've seen enough films containing graphic images that I've become slightly numb to on screen violence, it's because the content of the film is so dirty, so real, and the depiction of the Ukraine in this movie makes it seem to be one of the most I inviting places you'll never want to visit.
He film has tragedy written all over it from the moment the credits start, and I cannot understand sign language in the slightest, but I knew and understood everything in the narrative, because of body language, the films claustrophobic feel, and long lingering shots that flood the film on many occasion.
The camera never shy's away from anything that is happening on screen, it can't, because there is no soundtrack, no subtitles, no voice over. The only thing we hear are crunching of bones, the lighting of cigarettes, and the erratic breathing of the cast.
The final third of the film is almost unbearable to watch, as the narratives world comes crashing down around everyone, and the disadvantages of hearing impairment is used in an almost exploitative way to end the film.
It's a triumph though for the makers, and the cast, to make a film as gripping and as intense as this, and use only sign language is a work of genius.
But it's not a film that I will quickly go back to, as it's a very bleak view of peer pressure when having a disability.
Would make a really interesting double bill with Come and See......if you had the bottle to do so.
I certainly couldn't.
Young Guns II (1990)
I'll make ya famous.......
Brushy Bill Roberts claims that he is the famous outlaw William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, who was supposedly shot and killed by Pat Garrett in 1881.
The old man gives a very convincing story on how he and Garrett, along with a few others led the outlaw life and avoided the law, as wanted men.
Garrett, a friend of Billy's, was paid by John Chisum, a cattle king, to eliminate Billy the Kid. So, Garrett and Ashmun Upson set out on a journey to find Billy the Kid.....
This must be one of the first instances were a movie studio decided to cash in on the success of the first movie, and bring the rating right down in order to get as much cash in as possible.
These days it's quite common for a movie to have a lower rating like Die Hard, or Terminator, but back then, it was extremely rare.
And the result, while still pretty watchable, is just pointless and an excuse to get more young and upcoming stars to appear in a film together. This time Slater, Getty, and Ruck are the new additions to Billy's gang. Why? They just are, that's why.
So the gimmick is to have an old man claim he's William H. Bonney, and tell the films narrative. So we spend the first act getting the gang back together, the second act having them stab each other in the back and argue a lot, and the third act to provide us with as much overacting from Estevez as possible.
And if you look really closely around the hour and ten minute mark, you can pause it and see the exact point where Estevez ruins his chances of becoming an A-list star. All the work he put in the first movie is ruined by making his Billy the kid seem as comic book as humanly possible, and it takes away any drama or urgency the film has with Petersen on his trail (he's the best thing in it by the way).
So all in all it's totally watchable, with a wonderful cast, but you find yourself asking the question.....Why? every now and again.
And I still can't find Tom Cruise in this.
Just like The Descent........but terrible
Five friends meet in Panama for a vacation. While partying like your stereotypical back- packers, they hear from Carmen, a native, stories about a beautiful waterfall deep in the jungle.
Ignoring the warnings of Carmen's friend, they set off to find the waterfall.
When they reach it, the group discovers that the stories about a chupacabra (mythical creature, it's name meaning to rip off far better film) are true, and it has developed a taste for humans....
I've always thought that it was easier to review a bad film rather than a good one, because to rant, is to perform erratic poetry about the terrible aspects of a film.
Now, whilst this film is nothing more than a horrible rip off of Neil Marshall's terrific horror, it's just too boring and too full of itself to get angry about the whole thing.
What made it worse was that the makers start the film with a found footage excerpt, and then the story starts just like any other back-packer in peril film, and by the time they decide to refuse to heed to the warnings, you find yourself easily siding with the creature (or creatures as the editing is leading you to believe).
The cast are awful, they all split up several times to,have a bit of cheeky cheeky, and before you know it, we get the old 'shush.....did you hear that?' And '(insert name)......is that you?', just like every other lazy horror film that has been made since the year dot, and it's becoming increasingly more punishing having to sit through dross like this to get to something worthwhile.
On the plus side, the trees that are on screen are giving us oxygen, and the creature isn't terribly designed, but everything else is terrible. Especially when they try to be clever at the end and make the narrative national news.