1997 Movie Review: AIR FORCE ONE, 1997 (starring Harrison Ford)


Movie Reviews

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, William H Macy, Dean Stockwell, Tom Everett
Review by Emma Hutchings


After Russian terrorists hijack the Presidential plane, the only hope of regaining control and averting disaster is the President himself. He has just made a speech stating he will not negotiate with terrorists, but is he willing to stand by that if it means sacrificing his wife and daughter?

OSCAR NOMINEE for Best Film Editing, Best Sound


‘Harrison Ford is the President of the United States’. If that tagline fills you with dread, chances are you probably aren’t going to enjoy Air Force One. However, if the image of the great American action star playing the President, as a tough, heroic, Medal of Honor winner, beating up the terrorists who dare to take control of his plane, makes you grin, then you’ll love this action-packed thrill ride.

At the start of the film, President James Marshall makes a brave speech in Moscow condemning terrorists and saying he will not negotiate with them. Coincidentally, upon leaving, a group of Russians sympathetic towards General Radek (the once tyrannical leader of Kazakhstan, now in prison) board Air Force One posing as a press crew, helped by a mole in the Secret Service.

When things get hairy, the President is rushed to an escape pod in the cargo hold. But what the hijackers don’t know is that the President refused to leave and while his staff and family are held captive, he endeavours to rescue them single-handedly.

Consequently, what ensues is your typical ‘lone hero against a group of criminals’ scenario (think Die Hard or Under Siege). The terrorists conveniently prowl around the plane individually and he is able to pick off a few before being rumbled.

This rather tired formula is given a new lease of life and works mainly because of Harrison Ford’s star power. Ford inspires confidence; he does the right thing no matter how difficult, the audience know this and have that expectation before the film even starts. We know he’ll do the right thing, take care of his family and be a great leader of his country because he’s Harrison Ford, the Hollywood star. If it was an unknown actor we perhaps wouldn’t know how he’d respond in certain situations, and we wouldn’t be drawn into the film as much as we are, knowing Harrison Ford is going to save the day. This is basically, ‘what would happen if terrorists hijacked a plane and Indiana Jones was on board?’ or Jack Ryan, or any number of the characters he has previously played.

Praise must go to Gary Oldman as Ivan Korshunov, leader of the group of terrorists. He excels at playing the bad guy but I think this character is something special. Usually the villain’s motives aren’t explained, they are de-humanised and the audience feels no sympathy for them. But far from being a crazy lunatic, he makes Korshunov human, which can be quite unsettling. There are times when his persuasive rhetoric (combined with a convincing Russian accent) makes you wonder if he isn’t just a regular guy who was pushed to the very edge and foolishly chose to resort to extreme methods. In using the argument, “You, who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis to save a nickel on a gallon of gas, are going to lecture me on the rules of war?” he makes the audience see the Americans, and by association The President, in an unflattering light. Korshunov is a powerful character, and pitting him in opposition to the President adds an extra interesting facet to the film.

The bottom line is that Air Force One is completely unbelievable. It’s a fantasy story about the President saving the day. Yet it keeps you hooked. It’s a little longer than I like my action movies but it held my attention. There are some great action sequences; the pilot’s urgent attempt to land the plane at a German airbase near the start of the film is a remarkable set piece. My advice is don’t think about it too much because if you start to examine the plot you will find gaping holes and you’re likely to realise it’s all a bit silly. But it’s a very enjoyable film if taken for what it was meant to be; a summer blockbuster, a popcorn movie, a film you can sit down and enjoy without taxing your brain. So, just go with it and enjoy the ride, or should that be flight?


1997 Movie Review: ABSOLUTE POWER, 1997 (dir. Clint Eastwood)

Movie Reviews

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Ed Harris Gene Hackman, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, Richard Jenkins
Review by Surinder Singh


Professional thief Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) finds himself the sole witness to a murder involving the US President Richmond (Gene Hackman) during a routine robbery. A dangerous game of cat and mouse begins. Whitney must stop the murder weapon and his own daughter Kate (Laura Linney) from falling into the hands of the corrupt President and his aids. How can a guilty thief bring the President of the United States to justice and still make a clean getaway?


Absolute Power is a feast for movie lovers with its all-star cast (including Eastwood’s own daughter Alison Eastwood). Also, with it being a thriller directed by the capable hands of Clint Eastwood himself you really can’t lose! Absolute Power is indeed a brilliant thriller with solid performances all round (not that this is a surprise). The nineties marked Eastwood’s transition to senior roles where his age became a large part of his roles. In The Line Of Fire (1993) and Unforgiven (1992) showed us Clint Eastwood actually exploring his age as a subject/theme in his work.

As the older thief, Luther Whitney has to reflect on the life he has lead. His wife is dead and he’s trying to make amends with his estranged daughter Kate. Naturally the event of the murder will change his life forever. The murder scene is quite simply an exquisite piece of filmmaking; bringing together acting and writing to sinister effect. We watch Whitney observe through a one-way mirror a simple affair turn into a tragic killing. Eastwood crafts the scene with a voyeuristic suspense and intrigue allowing the action to unfold dramatically but also showing us the important details. You can imagine the scene being in a Hitchcock movie.

As President Allen Richmond, Gene Hackman takes a role going against his usual typecast. Rather than being the brash hard man on the front line, Hackman plays a scheming, snake-in-the-grass of a President who gets others do his dirty work! Richmond’s partner in crime is a thoroughly nasty piece of work: Chief of Staff Gloria Russell (Judy Davis). She’s the real personification of evil using her two Secret Service agents: Burton (Scott Glenn) and Collin (Dennis Haysbert) to carry out her deeds. The idea of a US President trying to cover up an affair was certainly a relevant topic given the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal in 1997.

Hot on the trail of both Whitney (and trying to get his head around a murder scene that makes no sense at all) Seth Frank (Ed Harris) is a good cop who gets close to Whitney’s daughter Kate during the investigation. In wonderful scene in the art gallery both Frank and Whitney cross swords and discuss the case at hand. Both Harris and Eastwood show what great actors they are here. Not a single line of the script becomes cryptic and they both make clear the underlying conversation about the investigation.

Another interesting element is the Secret Service agent Burton. His guilt bears down hard on him, unlike Collin who is more of a cold killing machine that only responds to orders from above. Burton represents the only person inside the President’s circle who seems to realize the moral issues at play. While everyone is blinded by their duty to the President, he is the one who stops and realizes they made a mistake that was not just. It’s fascinating that two men like Burton and Collin (so different in beliefs) can work side by side in government.

As fate would have it Whitney’s daughter Kate is of course a law prosecutor. This is quite an obvious move by the script to push moral questions onto Whitney who (being a thief) obviously an individual moral compass. Kate also provides a good motive for him to come out of hiding. In the scene in the outdoor cafÈ we see Whitney risk snipers to see his daughter who is now working with Frank to bring her father in. Eastwood does well to keep the action simple and not go over board.
The key to Whitney’s redemption is for him to allow the law to solve the murder and bring the real killers to justice. Whitney uses his slippery skills to incriminate the guilty people but not before he reverses his own sin (putting the swag he robbed back). The movie is about the importance of telling the truth sure, but the movie also makes the point that corruption blinds good people and so bad things happen.

Absolute Power is solid viewing and well worth a watch on a Saturday night in. Like much of Clint Eastwood’s directorial work in the 90s, it shows him building toward the quality of directing we now take for granted in his more recent work: Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Mystic River (2003).

Surinder Singh – Feb 2010



Full Review: VICTORIA AND ABDUL (UK 2017) ***

Victoria and Abdul Poster

Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.


Stephen Frears


Lee Hall (screenplay), Shrabani Basu (based on the book by)


Judi DenchOlivia WilliamsMichael Gambon

Director Stephen Frears has made great controversial films like SAMMY AND ROSIE GET LAID, THE SNAPPER and MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE.  He has also made films about royalty before, like THE QUEEN and also sentimental slush like PHILOMENA, with Judi Dench.  VICTORIA AND ABDUL a film about Queen Victoria (Oscar Winner Judi Dench) and her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) contains a cocktail of all the elements of the films mentioned above.  The result, as expected as a mediocre Jack of all Trades Master of None film, which shines but only occasionally.


The film chronicles with humour and insight the friendship between Queen Victoria and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.  Karim has been summoned because of his height to present in England all the way from Agar, India the colonized homeland, a present.   The present is satirically, a ceremonial coin on behalf of British India to the Queen as a part of her Golden Jubilee in 1887,  Abdul with another travel for the intimidating task. 


Abdul has done what is forbidden during the ceremony.  He makes eye contact with the Queen who finds him handsome.  In no time he is cooking her curries, talking to her about his culture, and being elevated to the post of official clerk, or Munshi, becoming an indispensable part of the household — and state.


This is where trouble boils.  The Queen’s son, Bertie and the household take offence that this ‘coloured’ lowly servant is treated royally.  The ultimatum comes when the Queen decides to knight Abdul in order to have her household respect him.  The opposite occur.  The household threaten to resign if Karim is knighted.  This is where the Queen uses her brain and oratory to win the day.  Frears uses the incident to make a statement about the refugee crisis and racial prejudice.  The film’s best segment occurs here when the Queen chides her entire household with a speech that put them to shame.  This is a Dench’s award winning performance.


Frears’ assessment of Britain and royalty remains respectful.  The Queen at one point remarks: “A lot of people around the world hate me.”  Abdul says of the British as uncivilized on the ship en-route to England for the first time: “They put it’s blood in their sausages and eat sheep’s brains.”  The first words heard by Abdul on landing: “Welcome to Civilization!”


Queen Victoria is revealed in the film with all her grandeur (her robe and servants) but also with all her faults and her ageing process.  When she is first seen in the film, her face is not shown, but her body covered in white (like a shroud) in bed with snoring heard.  She also claims herself to be and shown as well as cankerous, ill-tempered, fat but also one that has held five generations of household and mother of many children and grandchildren.  “I am the Queen of England and the Emperor of India,” she claims proudly.


VICTORIA AND ABDUL is Frears’ mediocre film which is tolerant of everything and offends no one.  These kind of films are often humorous, handsomely mounted, well acted but unfortunately forgetful. 


Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT2Ph_9bGPs

Full Review: STRONGER (USA 2016)

Stronger Poster

Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.


David Gordon Green


John Pollono (screenplay), Jeff Bauman (based on the book “Stronger” by)


Jake GyllenhaalTatiana MaslanyMiranda Richardson

The Boston marathon.  PATRIOT’S DAY saw Mark Wahlberg star in the film that hunted down the terrorists responsible for the bombings.  STRONGER, on the other hand, looks at the Boston marathon from the point of view of a victim.  And a really bad victim at that – one that has lost both his legs in the middle of the bomb explosion.


To the film’s credit, the film is an adaptation of the memoir by Jeff Bauman, recounting his struggles to adjust after losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.  So, it is a true story, rather than one based on true events.  But unfortunately the film wallows in self pity.


The film tells the story of Jeff’s tragedy and rebirth. 


Runner Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) was still a mile away from the finish line when the bombs went off.  Her boyfriend, Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal), however, was right there.  He is rushed into surgery, but his legs must be amputated.  The bombing’s immediate aftermath provides Jeff with an unexpected sense of purpose as he had seen one of the terrorists responsible for the blasts.  He gives information to the FBI that proves instrumental in their investigation.  But this is not seen in detail in the film.  So one wonders, whether Jeff really saw the bomber or imagined it.  Once that very public drama quietened down,  Jeff’s personal drama, a challenge as much for his morale as his body, is begins.  With Erin by his side, Jeff slowly recovers, one arduous step at a time.


Green’s film centres on the travails and sufferings of Jeff.  But it opts out for cheap shots – like showing the parts where Jeff has trouble in the toilet trying to shit or urinate. 


Jeff is shown in the film on the road of self destruction.  Erin scarifies her all for him.  But he is shown as unrepentant, unhealed by his mother who want him to get all the glory and money for his mishap. 


The film shows Jeff’s change in outlook.  Unfortunately, this change is shown coming from just one event instead of a gradual progression – the meeting of the Mexican who attended to him during the bombing.  Though this might be true, this one event that apparently changed Jeff’s outlook on life seems quite incredible.


Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Malsany and Miranda Richardson (as Jeff’s mother) deliver excellent performances despite the film’s flaws.  If the film turned out better, they might be up for acting Oscars.


The film ends, expectedly during the closing credits with shots of the real Jeff and Erin.  It is revealed  that that the film is based on the book written by Jeff which is not mentioned at all in the film.


One can only wish the film would have been a better one that would show more of the triumph of the human spirit instead of one that showed a man wallowing is self pity.


Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6MN0QfQx7I

Full Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (USA 2017)


Battle of the Sexes Poster

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.


Simon Beaufoy


Emma StoneAndrea RiseboroughSteve Carell

BATTLE OF THE SEXES begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) just winning the women’s singles tennis championship making her number one female player in the world. King is outraged with the inequality of pay by the National Tennis League, especially with Jack, the chairman (Bill Pullman), who is shown to be the real villain of the story.

Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), arranges the battle of the sexes match, using his loud mouth and publicity to earn himself some cash to aid his failing marriage. To King, winning this match is more symbolic. It is a milestone for women’s rights for equal pay, a point that is mentioned at the film’s end credits but not made clear throughout the film.

The lazy script by Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) never bothers with important details of the story. How, for example did King’s husband Larry, learn of his wife’s sexuality. In the film, King tells her hairdresser lover that this is her first time with women, but apparently the husband knows King has has same sex relationships before.
The film overdramatizes to the point of laughter. One scene has Billie’s lover in her hair salon shop hearing the news of Billie, realizing that she is needed and dramatically drops everything to leave the salon.

The wardrobe of the 70’s has never looked so awful in any other film. Did we, in the 70’s really look that bad thinking we were looking so cool? Billie’s husband, Larry ‘s clothes are the worst. Perhaps that might be one reason she later left him. The hair of everyone is just as bad, including Billie’s even after a hairdo from her girlfriend.

The script contains lots of inane dialogue and unfunny jokes. One line has Larry asking his wife if she was getting a blow dry, with full sexual innuendo. The film sheds no real light on the female rights movement, except what we already know. The dialogue contains lot of cheap jokes on women like Riggs saying that he believes women should be on the tennis court, but for picking up balls. These jokes are predictable, told many times before and if they meant to offend women, they still might. Two anti-female remarks are also voiced by two stars Llyod Bridges and Ricardo Montalban shown on old TV footage.

The crucial tennis match between King and Riggs can hardly be called exciting. For one, history already dictates who had won and the audience is in for no surprise. The camera is also placed mainly in one spot, showing the overhead shot of the players. The directors appear more concerned to show the match in long takes than any thing else.

Oscar Winner Emma Stone is too skinny to look like a tennis player. Carell looks remarkably like Bobby Fisher as they are right around the same age in the story. The nude picture of Carell resembles the one taken by Riggs. The rest of the cast of Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue are largely wasted by the script that are unbothered with these characters.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES ends up a boring film on an exciting sport.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ykcuAS1F4


TIFF 2017 Movie Review: VISAGES, VILLAGES (Faces Places)(France 2017) ***** Top 10


Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Faces Places Poster
Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.


JRAgnès Varda


Jean-Luc GodardJRLaurent Levesque

Faces Places have received high critical praise from critics at Cannes, many calling it a masterpiece. That might be too big a term to use for this little personal film but VISAGES VILLAGES is simply the most delightful and personal film at the festival.

Director Agnes Varda (wife of the late Jacques Demy), now 89 is famous for her films, photographs, and art installations that focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary with a distinct experimental style.

In this latest and perhaps her last doc (she is losing her vision), she and fellow friend and artist known as JR travel around France, particularly the North in their photo camion to take pictures of the people they visit. At Le Havre, for example they photograph the images of three wives of the dockworker and paste them on stacked containers.

In a deserted mining town, they paste the photograph of the last woman (wife of a miner) still staying in the old house district. When asked the reason she does this, she replies it is too demonstrate the power of imagination.

No doubt about that, this film is personal, inspiring, powerful, sad and happy and perhaps ‘masterpiece’ might be really an accurate term to describe this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmHG5HXYc9w


Best Scene STAGE PLAY Reading of LOOKING FOR REDFEATHER, by Linda Collison

WILDsound Festival

Genre: Coming of Stage, Drama

Three troubled runaways meet up by chance on the road — but it ain’t Jack Kerouac’s road trip!


Narrator: Val Cole
Ramie: Nick Wicht
Chas: Mike Ruderman

Get to know the writer:

What is your play about? 

Looking for Redfeather is about coming of age on the road in America in the 21st century.  A boy on a father quest meets up by chance with two other runaway teens on the road to Denver. He has two weeks to find his father, an Apache named Redfeather.

What genres does your play fall under?


Why should this play be made into a show? 


Looking for Redfeather is about growing up in America in the 21st century. It encompasses contemporary issues such as functionally dysfunctional families, friendship, American myths and legends, substance use and abuse, learning disabilities, the fictionalized past and present of Native Americans…

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