The Bone Collector

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It may follow familiar beats and is more than a tad formulaic, but two compelling leads and some crackling suspense raise The Bone Collector to a good level of suspense to watch.

Lincoln Rhyme(Denzel Washington) was once a prominent forensics detective/expert who was highly respected in his field. That is until a tragic accident rendered him mostly paralysed. Only his face, brain and two fingers work and he has all but given up on life. Though he is looked after by live in nurse Thelma(Queen Latifah), Rhyme finds his existence exhausting because he can’t do what he once did .Owing to progressively worse seizures that he believes will render him in a vegetative state, he plans to end thing sin order to avoid that fate. Meanwhile, tough patrol cop Amelia Donaghy(Angelina Jolie) is going to be transferred to a desk job. But on her last day as a cop, she uncovers a mutilated body on the train tracks . Alongside the body is old fashioned items that are most puzzling at first. Thinking fast, stops the evidence being destroyed by halting an oncoming train by stopping it in the nick of time. Rhyme’s detective friend Paulie Sellitto (Ed O’Neill) enlists him on the case in question. Rhyme isn’t keen on taking the case, until he sees the clues and can’t help but get involved. After seeing Amelia’s skill at collecting evidence and seeing, asks for her to assist him in the case .  Not wanting to put in jeopardy her soon to be desk job, Amelia is apprehensive of taking on such a case. She reluctantly accepts and though they are not the most obvious partners in solving crime, after initial animosity , the two begin to work on this unusual case. The tough Amelia becomes Lincoln’s eyes and ears on the crime scene to track down the sadistic serial killer before he strikes again. The particularly nasty killer enjoys toying with the detectives with his clues and taunting them if they are too late. Hindering the investigation is the interference of Captain Howard Cheney(Michael Rooker) , who is jealous of Rhyme and wants to laud over everyone that he’s the boss but is pretty inept at what he does. The case intensifies when another person is kidnapped by the taxi cab killer. It’s now up to the mismatched duo to stop the madman before it’s too late.

Phillip Noyce is a very good director who plays the film as a fast moving yet largely engaging thriller with creepy undertones. Though The Bone Collector is not going to go down as a truly masterful and iconic thriller, it does the job of keeping us involved with a level of skill that’s quite good and it’s certainly watchable thanks to a fast moving pace and some real jolts of horror . This film isn’t afraid to be grisly( one victim is brutally scalded to death with steam ), but gladly doesn’t get to a level of truly outrageous gratuitousness . The most common thing that is said about is that it is a poor man’s Seven . While I can understand this point of view as both feature ritualistic ,viciously methodical killers and an urban setting , I think  The Bone Collector also has differences. Plus, I don’t think many films in the thriller genre can replicate Seven and it’s spellbinding command over visuals and ambience. Saying that, The Bone Collector does have its share of good visual moments throughout, especially in the zooming aerial shots of New York and the creepy, unnerving darkness of the underground . The Bone Collector can often feel a bit run of the mill and near the end logic begins to strain , but the quick pace and jolts of suspense help raise it higher than what it is. Craig Armstrong contributes a mournful and atmospheric score that raises the hair on the back of your neck when it needs to. 

Where The Bone Collector gains a lot of its good points is in the casting. The compelling presence of Denzel Washington is front and centre here. Washington exudes a commanding, intelligent and subtly emotional presence; displaying the frustration of man who has a mind that still works, but a body that doesn’t . All of this conveyed convincingly by the forever gifted Washington through often just body language and facial expression . Which really says a lot considering he is bed ridden for practically the whole film. Aiding him with an equally fine performance is the striking Angelina Jolie. Portraying the outwardly tough and streetwise cop with buried trauma, Jolie is very effective at mingling the two sides of this to make a very watchable character. Jolie projects a haunted yet brave front here which is appealing and solid. The chemistry Jolie shares with Washington is very believable as they go from people who are seemingly opposites who then end up complimenting the other. A no nonsense Queen Latifah is appropriately warm yet steely in her performance as the live in nurse determined to make Rhyme see that life is worth living. Ed O’Neill is on likeable form as a good support to Rhyme and you buy into the fact that they trust each other implicitly. Michael Rooker, of intense stare and eyes, slimes his way across the screen as the police captain with a massive chip on his shoulder with anyone who crosses him . If it werent for the main killer of the film, Rooker and his character could easily be cited as the chief antagonist of the piece. Luis Guzman brings a little bit of humour as a fellow forensic who often lightens the often intense and foreboding mood. 

So while it’s not a truly top tier thriller , The Bone Collector is still a creepy movie that takes a standard story and raises it up a few notches to entertaining and fast moving stuff. Plus, when you have stars like Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in the film and doing a commendable job, it’s definitely worth watching in my book

The Guardian

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I would like to thank both Gabriela and Gill for inviting me to the Other Than a Bond Girl Blogathon. Both women are amazing writers and I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to take part. I decided to highlight the delightful Carey Lowell, below is my review. 

A supernatural horror movie from William Friedkin, The Guardian is a strange movie that is by turns cheesy and then creepy. While it is a definite mixed bag , The Guardian does hold moments of interest.

Phil( Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) Sterling are a young couple who have relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles as Phil has been offered a lucrative advertising job. Kate also works as an interior decorator. Soon they are blessed with a baby boy who they name Jake. To ensure that they can both be around for their son as well as have successful careers, they decide to hire a nanny. The woman in question is the English Camilla Grandier(Jenny Seagrove), who comes with impeccable manners, charm and a great deal of attention to little Jake. Camilla becomes a vital part of the household, though things are really not what they seem. She is in fact a druid, and she plans to sacrifice Jake when the time is ready to a nearby tree that she worships. Phil and Kate don’t realise this at first, but various things begin to make Phil question the woman who he has hired to care for his newborn baby. The seductive and conniving Camilla begins invading his dreams and we see the extent of her power when a friend of Phil and Kate’s stumbles onto her evil secret. For Camilla, it’s all about biding her time until she can snatch Jake and complete her act of horror. The question is will Phil and Kate be able to save their baby son from the diabolical plans of the evil but charming Camilla before it’s too late?

William Friedkin has long been a director who I’ve admired. While his films haven’t always been great, he still has flashes of crazy brilliance in his work. His work here is pretty good in quite a bit of it; it’s just let down by various other areas. The Guardian is a film that’s very much up and down in terms of quality and while it has creepiness, I wouldn’t really classify it as scary in terms of horror. The constant re-writes behind the scenes and troubled production come through because of this in terms of the overall product. It’s as if the film can’t decided what it wants to be(evidenced by the often choppy editing). It can’t fathom whether it should be totally serious in terms of subject or pretty outrageous and decadent . But some moments of brilliance shine through these many flaws , like the creepy effects used on the trees coming to life and some atmospheric dream sequences. Plus, when things do get really crazy, its quite thrilling stuff. Which makes it a shame that the rest of the film couldn’t deliver on this promise and decide what it wanted to be. A good enough score, punctuated by synth and piercing strings is employed to a fairly decent degree, even if it does feel a little sparse. 

Jenny Seagrove heads the film with a mysterious and unnerving turn as a charming woman with deception and treachery in her mind. Seagrove, who is a strikingly beautiful presence, uses this to her advantage by showing little by little that Camilla is in no way to be trust because of how dangerously powerful she can be. Dwier Brown , while not being the finest actor in the business, has a few good moments later as the father unearthing his son is in danger. Brown just unfortunately has a habit of overacting, which can be rather grating after a while. And the woman who I’m here to write about is Carey Lowell. Her role isn’t exactly what you’d call the deepest role(new mother realising something is very wrong with the woman she has trusted with her child, Lowell brings out a convincing concern and sense of terror that is very watchable. I would have liked to have seen more of her in the film, but for when she’s on the screen, Carey Lowell gives a pretty fine performance of maternal vulnerability and underlying strength. In essence, it’s the main ladies who dominate this film. 

So I must conclude that The Guardian is rather messy as a film with an editing scheme that renders parts as scattershot.  But with a competent  cast, notably Jenny Seagrove and of course Carey Lowell , plus some good visuals, they provide interest in what is a flawed but watchable film from William Friedkin. 

Tuck Everlasting

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Based on the popular novel , Tuck Everlasting is a magical and at times moving fantasy that ponders deep questions and boasts a wonderful cast. While it might not be to all tastes, Tuck Everlasting may very well surprise you. Especially because it’s not something I imagined would come from Disney but somehow works.

It’s the early 1900’s and rich teenager Winnie Foster( Alexis Bledel) feels constricted by society and how she’s never allowed to have any adventure. She’s largely confined to her house , where her parents smother her with rules and restrictions. Her mother Mrs. Foster( Amy Irving) is prim and proper , while her father Mr. Foster ( Victor Garber) is often busy . Winnie becomes more frustrated with her life when she’s informed that she’ll be going to a boarding school. Angry, she runs off into the woods that she’s been forbidden to enter. Finding herself lost, she meets a handsome young man called Jesse Tuck(Jonathan Jackson) . He’s secretive but before they can connect, Jesse’s brother Miles(Scott Bairstow) takes Winnie with him back to his family. Here Winnie meets the mother and father of the Tuck family, Mae(Sissy Spacek) and Angus(William Hurt). The family live in a wooden house, sheltered on the lake and among beautiful scenery . The family are hesitant over what to do with Winnie as they are clearly hiding from something . After initial uncertainty because of their secretive ways, the family warms to Winnie. As she spends more time with them, Winnie becomes entranced with how they live and finds trusted comfort with them. Jesse eventually reveals the secret of his family; they are immortal having drank water from a spring within the woods. Though they are a close family and live life with some sense of freedom, the Tuck’s have a few feelings of regret and sometimes question what they did. In the meantime, Winnie grows closer to the family. Unfortunately for Winnie and the Tuck’s, especially Jesse, who she has fallen in love with, darkness may be on the horizon. A mysterious Man in a Yellow Suit ( Ben Kingsley) has arrived with an intention on discovering their secret to immortality and wants to exploit it. And it seems he’ll resort to anything to get his wicked hands on it. Winnie’s parents also send out a massive search party to find their runaway daughter. With both of these things hanging over the summer that will change everything, the big question falls to Winnie. Will she drink from the spring to become immortal or decide against it and grow old like everyone else?

Director Jay Russell conjures up a pretty magical movie that takes innocence and the pressures of growing up and infuses them with summer adventure. He’s clearly got great admiration for the source material and doesn’t feel the need to over simplify for children, yet not alienate older viewers either. The visuals are simply gorgeous; long sweeping shots of woodland, dreamy dissolves between scenes and a sense of bittersweet reverie that colours every frame. Even the most cynical of people is likely to be charmed by this warm-hearted yet wistful movie that explores deep issues with heart and a soulfulness. Where other movies fail when trying to straddle both kid friendly content and weighty issues, Tuck shines. While some little moments get a tad saccharine, it steers to the right side of sentiment and heart that is hard to resist or fault. It’s a movie that can be incredibly moving too with the big question of immortality and eternal life at the centre . I mean I think the prospect has been something that has been of interest to people for centuries and is a concept that is most intriguing.  An eloquent, wistful and stirring score from William Ross highlights the often bittersweet nature of the film, but also the beauty and mystical energy involved too.

Heading the cast is the young Alexis Bledel , who gives a very fine performance. Bledel embodies the stifled feeling of caught in the need for adventure and wrestling with the prospect of growing up. A lot of the movie rests on her shoulders, but Bledel, with her blue eyes and genuine demeanour ,rises to the challenge of capturing a girl at the point of womanhood with a very difficult dilemma at her door. Plus she has very convincing chemistry with Jonathan Jackson as the main Tuck of the film. The aforementioned Jackson brings an incredibly earnest charm to his part and has enthusiasm to burn. Veteran stars William Hurt and Sissy Spacek bring experience, depth and honesty to their roles. Both Spacek and Hurt convey so much often without words and bring true class and heartfelt emotion to Tuck Everlasting. William Hurt possesses the wisdom of someone who cares deeply for his family, while Sissy Spacek beautifully portrays a genuine maternal warmth as the glue of the family in times of upheaval. Scott Bairstow is mainly left to glower and snarl as the resentful brother, though he does get one pretty emotional scene. On villainous duty and doing it in suitably stylish taste is the ever watchable Ben Kingsley. Complete with something quite unnerving, his skill for flattery and slippery way with words , Kingsley makes the main villain quite creepy and someone you really want to not succeed in his wicked plan. Amy Irving and Victor Garber , though not given the most to do, effectively embody the kind of parenting from a time gone by with strictness and want to please the rigid rules of society.

While Tuck Everlasting may not appeal to certain demographics or audiences( the Disney label might put some off), I’d say they are missing out on a very lovely and wistful story. With a blend of innocence and maturity, Tuck Everlasting is a winning fantasy in my book and one to treasure.

Heartbreakers

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A funny, scintillating and often raunchily sharp madcap crime comedy, Heartbreakers crackles with great, comedic performances and a game cast. While it overstays it’s welcome with the running time , it’s still a good knockabout time with scintillating scenes and many great laughs

Max(Sigourney Weaver) and Page Connors(Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother daughter con artist duo who have been largely successful in their schemes. Their main ploy is for Max to charm someone with money into marriage. On the wedding night, she falls asleep thus not consummating the marriage. Shortly after, Page poses as a seductive young girl in order to put the man in a compromising position. Max then discovers this indiscretion and files for divorce, earning plenty of money in the process. They begin the movie by pulling this number on hot shot car salesman Dean( Ray Liotta). But this charmed existence is dealt a blow when the IRS catches up with them and they are forced to pay back their ill-gotten gains. Wanting money once more, Max persuades Page to do one last con with her and they head to Palm Beach. They set their sights on the loathsome tobacco baron William B. Tensy(Gene Hackman), who is never without his product and is prone to hacking fits. Page, although obviously close to her mother, feels a tad resentful that Max is always the one who seems to be the most successful and skilful at the con game. And while obviously talented at the game too, thanks to sassy attitude and plenty of sex appeal, Page wants to prove she can do it alone and be as savvy as her mother . Alongside the big con she and her mother are working on, she decides to do one of her own. She meets the sweet and unsuspecting bar owner Jack(Jason Lee), who has been offered a good amount of money for his establishment. What Page hasn’t counted on is developing deep, romantic feelings for him, which threatens to throw a spanner in the works. Also around to complicate matters is the return of Dean who wants to get even , despite the fact he’s still crazy for Max. Much eventfulness unfurls as the elaborate con takes unexpected turns with an out of his mind Dean joining the fray and unexpected feelings getting in the way of a possibly lucrative operation for the scheming mother/daughter duo.

David Mirkin does a commendable job with Heartbreakers. He obviously is enjoying directing this amusing and at times raunchy crime comedy with amoral characters and a few good curveballs. When it comes to the laughs, Heartbreakers does deliver in large part due to the writing and zany events displayed. We have side splitting moments involving a nude statute , Max’s quick thinking in getting out of a possible jam when impersonating an Eastern European mistress and Page being used as the seductive decoy many a time. And basically anytime that Ray Liotta and Gene Hackman are on screen. The bone of contention within Heartbreakers comes with the running time, which it must be said goes on too long . Plus, there are some parts, mainly in the latter stages, that become overly complicated when they shouldn’t. I mean I’m all for twists and turns when observing a con game, but a few too many takes the cake. Thankfully, the vast majority of Heartbreakers is entertaining enough to compensate for these flaws and make it a fun-filled ride. It’s breezy and tart, with gorgeous locales and naughty antics a plenty. A jaunty and breezy score, peppered with fizzy mischief accentuates the fun time that’s being had by just about everyone involved.

The cast is what really makes Heartbreakers sizzle and have a great sense of humour. Sigourney Weaver, who is an actress I’ve always admired and been impressed with, flexes her comedic chops here with a charismatic turn. Combining a sense of experience in all things devious with moments of genuine heart, Sigourney Weaver is wholly convincing as a worldly con artist who is afraid to lose her daughter. Weaver is on great form as an commanding and slick criminal who had never grown tired of the grifter existence and displays it with appealing confidence and sexy ease. As her sparring partner in crime and daughter , Jennifer Love Hewitt also excels. Balancing cuteness, sex appeal and tough eye rolling sarcasm, she’s a vixen who develops a heart against her better judgment.  Although constantly scene in figure hugging clothing that is hard to ignore, Jennifer Love Hewitt isn’t relegated to brainless sexpot here. Rather she knows how to flaunt it with a sense of humour and fun that’s most appealing .Weaver and Hewitt share a great chemistry and are genuinely believable as not your average mother daughter. Watching their back and forth is a delight with bickering and double dealings going hand in hands in a joint venture. Both ladies are wonderful and so very watchable in this crime caper. Another big standout is Ray Liotta, having fun with his often intense and unpredictable  persona, is a delight as the out of his mind car dealer caught in the web. Liotta brings new meaning to the word manic with a hilarious performance as a spurned and played man who eventually gets in on the con game action. A scene stealing Gene Hackman is a true hoot as the man targeted by the women for their scheme. Spluttering through endless cigars, wearing heavy make up that makes him look like a reanimated corpse and embodying a sleazy routine as a dirty old man, the ever talented Hackman makes you howl with his comedic antics here. Both and are comedic delights in this movie and the screen lights up with them on it. Jason Lee probably gets the least to do as a potential pawn in the con game and love interest. He’s sweet and sincere, not to mention rather clueless, but he just isn’t as interesting as the other people who occupy the screen. In her last movie appearance before her death, Anne Bancroft has a ball as a shifty lady who you are never sure of. And boy does she have a blast in this supporting role that lets her sign off in style. 

So while it does wear out it’s welcome thanks to the running time getting long in the tooth and things stalling in the midsection, Heartbreakers is still a fun romp through the con game. It’s enlivened by an up for anything and delightful cast and some pretty fantastic laugh out loud moments. This review is dedicated to the exceptional Ray Liotta, who recently passed away. 

My 10 Year Blog Anniversary

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I really can’t believe that my blog has been going for 10 years. I want to thank each and every one of my followers. You’ve been a constant throughout these years. And I’ll take this opportunity to say that I know I haven’t been on as much as I usually am, but I’ve not been in the best frame of mind. Thankfully, I’m feeling back at full strength again and promise to check out all of your work. My apologies if I’ve been absent, I’ve just had a lot to deal with in the case of my anxiety and depression. But I love all of you so much and I promise more content is on the way. You guys have been the driving force behind the success of my blog and I want to extend my love to all of you. I seriously can’t believe it has been ten years for this blog.

The Passion of the Christ

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Depicting the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus Christ, Mel Gibson’s unrelenting religious drama pulls no punches on the brutality scale. Though that does offer hope, if you can get make your way through the startling brutality depicted. All in all, The Passion of the Christ emerges as a truly powerful and emotion churning film.

We begin in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus(Jim Caviezel) knows he will be betrayed . Judas( Luca Lionello), one of his trusted disciples, betrays Jesus for pieces of silver and leads them to where the master he followed is . Arrested, Jesus is accosted by priests and faces the temptation of Satan. Watching are his disciples, plus his mother Mary(Maia Morgenstern) and Mary Magdalene(Monica Bellucci), who are devastated by the proceedings that follow. As the hours pass by, it’s an emotional rollercoaster for all involved. From being taken to the conflicted governor Pontius Pilate(Hristo Shopov) to his scourging by soldiers, Jesus is put through sickening abuse and soul shaking cruelty. Despite being tortured and mocked, Jesus remains as resolute as he can in his conviction of his purpose to be the saviour of the people. As his torture continues, Jesus eventually carries the cross to his place of death as jeering crowds and devastated followers continue with him. The hope of resurrection comes in a soulful conclusion with the ascension of the Messiah.

Mel Gibson directs with real conviction and pardon the pun, passion. He’s created a film that doesn’t sugarcoat or simplify the last twelves of Jesus Christ’s life . I’ve found that often in religious movies depicting Christ, the brutality and hardship of his last hours is watered down and over rather quickly . And while many of those movies are fantastically made and crafted, The Passion of the Christ is a different movie altogether. Gibson crafts a truly harrowing experience that both rewards and scars. The decision to have the film be in Aramaic, with also bits in Latin and Hebrew, is an interesting one that I think pays off because it makes things feel realistic and immediate. Now I’ve read that there are those who view as anti-Semitic because the main people wanting Jesus put to death are Jewish priests. While I can understand where the accusation is coming from , though I don’t believe that the film itself is anti-semitic . It rather shows how there is sin and darkness on either side of things and how man can often be cruel and shockingly vicious towards others . The scenes of vicious brutality are intercut with flashback from Christ’s past, including the Last Supper and rescuing Mary Magdalene from the street. These scenes are bathed in a beautiful glow which counteracts the almost muted colour palette of the early passages, followed by glaring brightness as the journey towards crucifixion comes into motion. All of this is strikingly shot and realised by the talented cinematography Caleb Deschanel .  His work is stark yet strangely beautiful; reminiscent of old fashioned painting and artwork. Among the savagery on show, the cinematography holds moments of soulful grace. The focus on eyes throughout is arresting in a very visual sense and in between the often harrowing images depicted, translates a lot of emotion to the audience. Sound editing makes every moment of brutality stand out, particularly the sound of the whip that cuts in the back of Jesus and into the ears of the audience. A truly haunting score from John Debney heightens all the emotions displayed in a way that is truly hypnotic, dark and yet stirring as it unfolds. For many viewers, the level of brutality, violence and general intensity will prove too much for them. And it is true that The Passion of the Christ is a test of endurance on both the emotions and the stomach. Some parts of it due feel like overkill, like a beating that refuses to end. But I believe that’s the main point of the movie and that by refusing to shy away from the brutality, it is attempting to bring a level of reality to the story which is often eschewed for something nicer. 

Jim Caviezel is truly astounding as Jesus Christ in what is obviously an immensely challenging role. Caviezel finds the core of strength that comes through when experiencing startling torture. His soulful expression, underneath viciously inflicted wounds, brings volumes of depth and beatific humanity to Christ. Put through the emotional and physical mill, Caviezel is on hand to deliver a performance that says so much and is filled with deep reverence and dignity throughout. Maia Morgenstern is sublime as Mary, the mother of Christ who is seen throughout the movie enduring every parent’s worst nightmare. What this woman conveys with her eye is simply extraordinary; you feel every emotion goes through her and is expressed on her marvellous and nuanced face. My hats off to the immensely talented and totally believable Maia Morgenstern.  The same can be said of Monica Bellucci, who doesn’t have a lot of dialogue but whose face speaks more than reams of dialogue ever could. Both women are truly superb as the important women in the life of Jesus. They both must watch with mournful, expressive eyes, the man they care about go through immense pain in order to save people from their sins. And they truly deliver work that like that of Caviezel, burns itself into the memory for its power. Hristo Shopov, who possesses a palpably haunted and weary aura, plays Pilate as a man who is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t . The burden weighs heavy on him and Shopov plays this convincingly and authenticity .Rosalinda Celentano appears in the brief but important role of Satan. With her piercing visage and unnerving aura, she’s a memorable part of The Passion of the Christ and pretty unforgettable. Luca Lionello appears as the traitorous Judas, who soon feels the immense guilt and feeling of disgust that comes with betraying someone who trusted you. Lionello embodies when he’s on screen this feeling of self-hatred and regret as demons swell around him. 

At the end of the day, The Passion of the Christ is both a soul shaking and powerful movie. It’s not for the faint of heart and I wholeheartedly mean that , but if you have the stomach, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Firestarter

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Based on the Stephen King novel, Firestarter is something of a mixed bag when it comes to it. A thriller with some science fiction leanings, it generates some suspense and has a good cast, headed by a young Drew Barrymore. It just has a few inconsistencies that stop Firestarter from rising to a level of major greatness

Andy McGee( David Keith) is on the run with his young daughter Charlie( Drew Barrymore) from a nefarious government agency known as The Shop. We learn that when Andy was younger and a student, he met Charlie’s mother Vicky(Heather Locklear) in an experiment conducted  by the mysterious agency. After being injected with a dose of a hallucinogenic compound, they developed strange powers. Andy can manipulate people through mind control to do what he wants, while Vicky is telepathic . When Charlie was born, she too had powers. In her case, she can cause fires with her mind, often brought on by stress and anger. Andy’s power also weakens him because it uses up so much of his brain function and needs to be controlled as often as possible . With the government onto them and observing them, Vicky was murdered and Charlie was briefly kidnapped . Following his retrieval of his daughter via mind control, Andy is now wanted and on the run. Andy wants to tell the papers about what they’ve been through and expose the nefarious organisation that won’t let them rest. This in turn puts him and Charlie in dangerous territory as they can never really trust anyone. The Shop wishes to use Charlie’s powers for their own ends and are headed by the slippery Hollister(Martin Sheen).  He sends crazed and extremely dangerous assassin John Rainbird ( George C. Scott) on their trail. The assassin has his own disturbing agenda for wanting them captured, in particular little Charlie . Once captured, Andy and Charlie are experiments on by Hollister and sinister Dr. Pynchot(Moses Gunn) . But it’s only a matter of time for as Charlie’s powers continue to grow,  no one is going to be safe from what she will unleash.

Mark L. Lester does a pretty decent job of adapting the Stephen King material and sprinkling memorable moments in there. Yet his control over timing and other areas is less assured. The decision to start the movie in medias res causes Firestarter to loose steam as it continues into the story. Though it is redeemed by a rather eventful and truly explosive finale , Firestarter shoots itself in the foot with its decisions and contrivances that make you scratch your head. The opening half is watchable and has tense moments , but the middle part sags because it wants to have its cake and eat it . Which brings me onto the pacing of the film. I find that Firestarter looses some steam in the middle section  because the story gets repetitive and could have been tighter. As the film goes on we are gifted to moments that do generate some considerable suspense . I’ve seen people group into the genre of horror but I’d put it more as a thriller of paranoia and in the realm of science fiction in some areas Where the movie does score high point is on the effects, which still hold up for their age and just how explosive they do get. For reference, check the climactic scene if you wish to see a lot of fire and destruction .  It’s pretty fantastic and truly memorable stuff and it’s a blast seeing practical effects too. The score by electronic band Tangerine Dream is pretty wonderful; evocatively though a pulsing soundscape evincing danger, hope and action with a lot of style. It adds to the atmosphere of the piece and raises Firestarter up a few notches on the watchability scale.

What sparks Firestarter into life is the main cast. A pint sized Drew Barrymore brings strikingly mature conviction to a role that is quite challenging for someone of such young years. Barrymore gets across the feeling of trying to control something she never wanted, while also showing just how powerful she can be when pushed to the limit. In the emotional stakes she doesn’t miss a beat and is immediately sympathetic to the audience. A lot of Firestarter hinges on Barrymore and though the film is a mixed bag, Barrymore is incredibly impressive and does the heavy lifting of conveying innocence and danger with ease. David Keith is a little  histrionic as her father,  but once he settles into the part he is great and finds a certain groove to play. Kieth has a weariness and intensity about him that shows the fatigue and his “gift has caused him but how deeply he also cares for his daughter . Barrymore and Keith work well together and you do believe in the father daughter bond they share, which I find goes a long way. George C. Scott who I find always delivers, is on sensational form as the extremely creepy assassin who tries to win Charlie over. Scott is as slippery as a reptile and cunning as a fox; you can tell he’s relishing playing a nasty piece of work and he plays it for all it’s worth. Also on slimy duty is Martin Sheen who is reliably villainous and like Scott, having fun being nasty here. Rounding out the villains is Moses Gunn, who has a level of charm and niceness that really disguises cruel and unusual intentions. Evil when it’s presented with a smily face is rather unnerving and Gunn definitely understands the assignment. Art Carney makes the most of his role of man who takes Andy and Charlie in and risks his life in the process. It’s Louise Fletcher and Heather Locklear who are shortchanged with roles that don’t often much in the way of memorability. Both women are good actresses so it would have been nice if they’d be gifted with something to work with. And the same could be said about Freddie Jones, who is only really there to show that some in The Shop have become disillusioned with the practice and to suffer a rather grisly death.   

So overall, Firestarter is a film of good and bad.  But it can be commended for its evocative score, some standout sequences and wonderful cast, especially Drew Barrymore as the eponymous girl with Pyrokinesis

Flatliners

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The prospect of what happens after death and how five medical students dangerously attempt to discover this form the basis of the stylish and often intense Flatliners. While it sometimes doesn’t reach the existential themes it’s going for, Flatliners still emerges as a spooky supernatural thriller with a fine cast and direction. 

In an eerie looking building which resembles an old cathedral, part of which is being renovated, a group of medical students are studying to become doctors . But soon it’ll be more intense and dark than they ever imagined when one of them gets a rather alarming idea for a dangerous . That person in question is the arrogant dreamer Nelson Wright(Kiefer Sutherland). Joining him, we have talented yet sometimes erratic David Labraccio(Kevin Bacon), sleazy Lothario Joe Hurley(William Baldwin),  diligent, composed Rachel Manus(Julia Roberts) and wise ass Randy Steckle( Oliver Platt) . In the evening, they sneak medical supplies into a disused wing of the building for their planned experiment. Nelson plans to be put into a state of death for a few minutes then be shocked back to life before actually dying for real. He hopes that he can experience the afterlife and live to tell the tale about what he unearths. Nelson’s experiments seems to go well as he admits that he believes. What he doesn’t tell the others is that he is also plagued by an incident from childhood that won’t let him rest. As the rest of group begin undergoing the experiment , they are haunted by their past traumas, misdeeds and sins. Power struggles and paranoia ensue as they try to outdo each other, Nelson becomes increasingly unhinged and David begins developing deep feeling for Rachel. As events darken, they fall victim to the repercussions of their actions and Playing God. What began as a foolish experiment of curiosity into the other side soon turns into a waking nightmare for all involved as they wrestle with the horror of the situation.

Joel Schumacher is at the helm of Flatliners and his gift for stylish content is very much in evidence. Though it should also be noted he also manages to tap into some quite disturbing places and emotional ones too, rising above some of the scripts repetition to craft a spooky supernatural thriller. Despite longueurs in the script , Peter Filardi’s  work on the screenplay here still does a commendable job with it at least getting us to consider mortality and the consequences of our actions in the past. One thing truly worth of praise in Flatliners is the rather striking production design which suggests a haunted house tinged with religious iconography and MTV style gloss. It’s a fertile space where the main characters begin their reckless, clandestine experiments and the set design is rendered with supreme style that backs up the eeriness the film is going for.  And Flatliners does have plenty of style running through its veins right from the get go; courtesy of Schumacher’s always impressive visual directing and the moody cinematography (largely cold blues and deep reds) .  Swirling camerawork in the visions of afterlife contribute to the heady atmosphere of the piece as does a very good mastery of editing and sound. Standout scenes include the slimy being confronted in hallucinatory by his treatment and surreptitious recording of ladies in intimate situations and the students scrambling to save Rachel after the power goes out, leaving the experiment in danger of resulting in permanent death. James Newton Howard is on score duties and he mixes synth heavy atmospherics with choral flourishes that make it a ghoulish and haunting listen.

The cast of then young stars either on the rise or just established is on good form playing these curious and flawed characters . provides intense and later dangerous instability as the ringleader of the warped experiment in life and death. Sutherland always has an edge to him that I find riveting to watch and he doesn’t disappoint as the arrogant instigator of the haunting events. Julia Roberts is also very effective as the lone woman in the group who has her own personal agenda for taking part. Showing a graceful, demure vulnerability and a sense of haunted grit crossed with sadness, Roberts contributes highly to the proceedings with an earnest and convincing performance. Kevin Bacon, who I find to be incredibly reliable in most things, doesn’t disappoint here. He’s the often rebellious atheist who feels he has nothing to lose but ends up becoming the most concerned and caring of the group as he sees things are getting out of control. Bacon balances a youthful recklessness and an eventual maturity admirably and is very good in the part . William Baldwin is appropriately sleazy and randy as the love rat whose treatment of women really comes back to bite him; making him really go over and regret just how awful his behaviour has been to the opposite sex. Oliver Platt is mainly used as the comic relief of the group; constantly telling everyone this is a very bad idea and delivering witty retorts to his comrades. He’s probably given the least to do here but has his moments.

So while it’s not a masterwork in supernatural thriller or of existential leaning, Flatliners is still an entertainingly creepy, well acted  and stylish excursion into unusual what if possibilities regarding death and what may dangerously follow

Dark Tide

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What attempts to be a tense action thriller ends up not the sum of its parts in Dark Tide. While it does feature some great underwater photography, good cast and a few thrills, it unfortunately isn’t all that  memorable and falls very flat.

Kate Mathieson(Halle Berry) is a marine biologist and shark whisperer. She’s one of only a handful of people to have swam with sharks outside of a cage and been relatively safe while doing so . Kate is married  to documentary film maker Jeff(Olivier Martinez) and they are beginning to film something about sharks in South Africa. Aided by wise cracking engineer Tommy(Mark Elderkin)and marine lover Themba(Thoko Ntshinga), all seems to be going well . But things take a truly grisly turn when on one such dive, her friend Themba is brutally killed by a shark . Devastated and completely shell shocked by this traumatic event, Late shuts off and it breaks apart her relationship with Jeff . A year later, the bank is going to take Kate’s boat away as she isn’t making enough money and is struggling to make ends meet. Jeff comes back into her life again with an offer that could help her out. Arrogant millionaire Brady(Ralph Brown)wants to take him and his son Luke(Luke Tyler) to swim with sharks, specifically outside of the tank. Kate is reluctant to do this as she knows the potential dangers of doing such a thing . She agrees to this on the condition that she decides what is safe to do and if anyone will get out of the safety cages to interact with the sharks . After agreements are made and the fee of one million is paid, Kate and the visitors head to the boat for this journey. Things start reasonably well, but cocky, Hooray Henry Brady soon puts events in jeopardy as he flaunts his wealth and bullies all. Mounting tensions and many hungry sharks have mayhem in mind for Kate and company and chaos soon ensues when a storm hits the boat. 

John Stockwell has an affinity for water in his movies it seems and ehile his other aqua based movies aren’t exactly stellar, they look like works of art next to Dark Tide. He just can’t make the film flow or have any cohesion The big problems with Dark Tide are the length and it’s inability to fully decide what it wants to be. It wants to have its cake and eat it by being an action thriller/ drama, yet it never settles onto any real form of trajectory . I’m usually a big lover of films that are somewhat of a slow burn, but Dark Tide is a slog and a half; not understanding that you have to put some oomph into a film to make it enjoyable. The scenery and the underwater photography provide a little respite and has a lot of beauty to it it has to be said, which is a big shame as the rest of the movie around it flounders like an ill at ease fish. It’s probably one of the good things to come out of this shipwreck of a movie and helps generate at least a few jolts of action. The music score is not exactly stellar and I believe could have been better and more effective. The last half an hour is when the pace picks up during the storm, but it is just too little to late to justify what has come before it and the boredom that has been inflicted upon the viewer.  But like so many things in Dark Tide, it falls very short in terms of greatness. 

A competent cast does good enough work with the thin material they have been given. Halle Berry in the lead is just fine as the wounded shark expert having to face her fears and trauma once more with a blend of attitude and vulnerability. Berry is thankfully one of the good parts of this dud of a movie and truly makes it at least passable whenever she’s on screen. She also has great chemistry with Olivier Martinez, who would later become her partner in real life. Martinez is given a lot to work with but is nonetheless smooth and charming. Ralph Brown plays the rich man with a big mouth and deep pockets very well, almost too well for a movie like this that seems rather beneath his talent. Mark Elderkin has some fun as the engineer who seems to always have a witty line, but Luke Tyler is left stranded as the sulky son of Brady. Thoko Ntshinga plays the catalyst of the story but he is poorly served here and though effective in his short screen time, is not really memorable which is a bit like Dark Tide itself.

A truly messy film that should be exciting but is sorely lacking, Dark Tide is a film best left forgotten as it doesn’t really often anything of interest, despite some good acting. None of that can save this true train wreck.