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The Day After Tomorrow meets Eight Legged Freaks (with no budget)
I admit that I watched the film out of morbid curiosity, and also because Steve Guttenberg was in it to be fair.
How on Earth they managed to keep straight faces while making this baffles me. I imagine all the points where they cracked into laughter about how formulaic and absurd this film was probably ended up on the cutting room floor, but I imagine a gag reel for this would actually be more entertaining.
In fairness, this is not the absolute worst film I have ever seen. The fact that the actors don't take their roles too seriously, that many lines are delivered like winks to the camera, actually make it tolerable.
This is the point where I usually give you a run-down of the plot, but this time it will be very brief. A volcano goes off near Los Angeles and giant fire-breathing spiders jump out and start killing people. Guttenberg spends the whole film trying to get to his son (Noah Hunt who seemed to take it all far too seriously). That's pretty much it.
If you're expecting this Syfy TV movie to have breathtaking effects, what planet are you living on? If you're expecting it to have an original or engaging plot, again you're going to be disappointed.
So what is good about it? It is amusing, filled with cinematic pop culture references. And provided you're not expecting much, it delivers. In fact I almost can't wait for the sequel '2 Lava 2 Lantula'.
Sorry the review is so short, but there isn't anything else to say really. It's a mildly amusing film that you may laugh along with if you don't take it at all seriously. Having seen the film, I can't see how you could.
Heart-warming and equally gut-wrenching.
Finally got to see this after two years of waiting. The makers obviously don't think there's a UK market for it else they might have brought it out on Region 2 DVD.
I have to say it was everything I was expecting. In fact I could have written it, that's how predictable the plot was - which is actually not a criticism since, twenty years ago, I lived this for real and everything that happened then was exactly what happened in this film.
Except the end, but we'll get to that.
We are introduced to Ken Matthews (Michael Mattera), a financial adviser who is looking to scoop the business from some rich woman. He discovers that one of her philanthropic pursuits involves donating to a camp run for foster kids. In the hope she will hire him, he volunteers as a camp counsellor at that very camp.
Of course he turns out to be one of the most pig-ignorant counsellors you're ever likely to meet - constantly distracted by his smartphone and paying Eli, the kid he is assigned, little quality attention.
Of course it doesn't help that the kid keeps running away from him, is prone to biting and even spits in his face.
For the first, I would say, half of the film Ken is constantly looking for a way out of the situation, whether it be leaving the camp himself or encouraging the camp director to kick Eli out for breaking the rules. All through this struggle he is constantly trying to get Eli to swim, assuring him that he is a former lifeguard so nothing would happen to him.
Of course we all know that there is more than just a fear of the water behind Eli's reticence and, for me, that's where the only error in the writing lies. If we didn't see in an early scene Eli getting a stick pulled out on him by his father, then we would have been able to relate to Ken a little better rather than just thinking he is ignorant. It also would have been a lot more shocking when Eli finally takes off his shirt and we see the marks on his body, instead of us just thinking, 'Yep, that's what we expected to see.' It takes this long in the film before we can relate to Ken on any level because we know something he doesn't. I don't know why they felt we needed to see Eli's home life, it kind of spoilt it a little.
Anyway, obviously Ken's perception of Eli changes. He relinquishes his smartphone and makes the next few days about Eli having fun (which it should have been about to begin with).
What had me in tears, of course, was the goodbye scene. Ken had one kid for five days, I had eight kids of 8 weeks, but I still remember every one of their faces and their names. Each have their part in fond shared memories. The most devastating day of my life the day after which I would never see them again. It was like you were their father for eight weeks, after which someone said, 'Thanks but you're not needed anymore,' then wrenched them into oblivion. I have to say it was a bittersweet sample of American culture.
Of course, this being Hollywood, it has to have a happy ending right? Two scenes, that looked like they were hurriedly pasted on the end of the film, involve the counsellor talking to his father and then Ken leading Eli from a children's home to his car. It felt entirely convoluted and killed the film's credibility a little at the end.
However, it was still an enjoyable film with excellent performances by both Miles Elliot (Eli) and Michael Mattera (Ken), who seemed to have an on-screen chemistry that worked well.
I especially recommend this film to anyone who might have been a camp counsellor at any time in the past, you will get the most out of it. Granted my review may have given you some spoilers but there is little here to surprise you anyway. It's not about surprising you, it's about making you think and feel.
With a better script and a better cast, this could have been a good film.
Beginning on a dark and dreary night, the voice of Mark Hamill can be heard quoting a line attributed to Edmund Burke I believe. This is perhaps the most promising part of the film, implying a dark and sinister plot. From there on in, it's downhill I'm afraid.
We begin on the last shift of Mark Hamill's air traffic controller, in a British airport less busy than Blackpool Airport at 2 am. Seriously, the extras budget for this film seemed none existent.
This is also true on the plane where an extremely small band of passengers for a 747 board a flight to New York - the flight crew almost outnumber them.
One gets the sense watching these characters interact that they were all cast individually, with absolutely no chemistry between the characters whatsoever. Even the extremely rapid sex scene, with its obligatory breast shot, is unbelievable for that point.
When one passenger wakes and the annoying guy who was sitting next to him is missing, instead of breathing a sigh of relief or assuming the guy has gone the toilet, this character entirely over-reacts to his absence. And I'm afraid that this pattern continues throughout the film with each reaction to somebody missing coming far too quickly, and the action being ramped up in a forced manner.
The notion that the plane, which can't be shot down because it has entered South American airspace, can be communicated with from the UK was one of the many unbelievable facts that this film asks us to swallow.
Mid-way it is revealed that the disappearances are all down to an attempted robbery but, by the time we've come to accept that idea, they throw another twist in involving a relic that apparently possesses the spirit of a God and has been killing off the people that our robbers didn't.
The script is overloaded with plot which I suspect may have something to do with how lacking it is in character development. I felt quite sorry for Mark Hamill as he played his role quite sincerely on the ground, possibly unaware of the garbage that was happening on the plane. I only hope he was paid well.
It felt like someone, one week, was given access to a flight simulator and dragged whatever cast they could get together and wrote an awful script, then filmed it.
Like I said in my title: With a better script and a better cast, this could have been a good film. Alas, it wasn't and I'm being generous giving it a 4 out of 10.
The Interview (2014)
Having read the many vitriolic reviews on here (and harbouring a sneaking suspicion that many of them originated from North Korea) I felt compelled to write a review, as a British person (not an American or North Korean).
I should also point out that I have never seen a Seth Rogan film in my life, and the notion of James Franco doing comedy seemed entirely incongruent (not a very bright spellcheck on here is it?). But when someone hands you a copy of the film for free that has been all over the news for the past week, how could you resist? The story is pretty simple. An overzealous interviewer and his producer, known for drawing some shocking exposes from their interviewees, get the bright idea to interview the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. Once the interview is secured, they are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
What follows is an hilarious series of events, as they bumble their way through the mission with little success. Meanwhile Kim Jong-un does his best to ingratiate himself to them by showing how 'normal' he is (no doubt a reference to the friendship of Dennis Rodman), thereby creating a rift between the interviewer and his producer.
The actual interview culminates in a running battle between tank and helicopter that was both funny and expertly realised.
That is basically the plot in a nutshell.
But the real find here, as far as I'm concerned, is that James Franco can do comedy. His character stands out for his loudness, arrogance and flamboyance that is performed with the just the right level of madness against Rogan's 'straight man'.
North Korean objections to this film can only be because they're afraid that people watching it might think some of the things said or done represent the real Kim Jong-un. To that I would say, 'Only if we are also prepared to accept Eminem is gay or Rob Lowe has lost all his hair.' Perhaps this fear that they have is a cultural one. Have the North Korean government been using TV and film as a propaganda tool for so long that they have raised a nation of people incapable of separating fantasy from reality? In which case, that would be entirely their fault.
I'm not a fan of comedies, but even I saw that this film was funny. While all of these reviewers are busily slamming the film, 85 thousand people - at this writing - have voted this film to 7.9, quite an admiral score for a comedy.
This is an extremely funny film, if you don't take it too seriously.
To Find My Son (1980)
A simply made and effective drama.
I caught this recently on the Sony Movie Channel. It was one of those made-for-TV true stories about a single man's struggle to adopt a boy, and I probably wouldn't have watched it were it not that Richard Thomas was the star.
Upon watching it I was pleasantly surprised that it managed to keep just the right side of sentimentality, which was rare for TV movies with kids in them at the time. Usually such outings feel patronisingly emotional, with far too much over-score implying you should feel something poignant at various points in the film - but actually they only manage to make you feel like vomiting.
It tells the story of David Benjamin who volunteered at an adoption centre and befriended a young boy who had a speech impediment. When he asks if he could possibly foster the child, he is told that he would have more chance adopting him outright.
What should be a simple task becomes a battle against bureaucracy. First they say they want the boy and all his siblings kept together, but what they later discover is that the real reason they don't want him to adopt is because he is a single man. A single man not particularly liked by those people making the decision who have little if any contact with the boy they are responsible for.
Although this point isn't made explicitly in the film, probably down to the time of day it was broadcast and television's reticence at the time to address this subject, one gets the sense that their real reason for disliking him is a suspicion he may be a predatory child molester - hence they tend to ask him if he is gay. This archaic notion that gay people are more likely to be child molesters is an idea that still exists in many quarters today. Reality check people, paedophiles are paedophiles, they're not straight or gay, and tend to target the gender most available to them.
Anyway, this film is a pleasantly and simply made drama. Richard Thomas here is the real star, brilliantly displaying the range of his character's emotions through this legal minefield, supported by an excellent little actor who plays the boy in many scenes. The emotional connection between them feels real, not forced, and it is difficult not to shed the odd tear. One can easily understand the main character's frustrations, making you root for him all the way.
So, if you have 90 minutes to kill, give it a shot. While not a film that will win any awards for Production Design or Cinematography, the technical aspects you hardly notice as you watch it, you're more concerned with the characters and their plight which is how it should be.