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?



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


1987 Movie Review: WITHNAIL AND I, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed By Bruce Robinson

Starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown
Review by Christopher Upton


Two unemployed actors tire of their impoverished surroundings in London and head off to a cottage in the countryside for a weekend of heavy drinking, drug abuse and fresh air. However uninhabitable conditions and a home invading uncle with deviant intentions quickly destroy their plans. Based on the life of the director Bruce Robinson.


The art world is full of people completely convinced the only reason they aren’t famous is because of some horrifying conspiracy, Withnail is such a person. Bruce Robinson based the character on someone he shared a house with in the Sixties, and the film is a mostly autobiographical account of their time together. Withnail was notable for being the first acting job for Richard E. Grant, who captured the drunken spirit of the titular character impressively considering he is a teetotaller.

Trapped in the squalor of his London flat with his long suffering flatmate, the thespian in Withnail itches to get out as it struggles against his alcohol dependency and his, unfortunately all too obvious, lack of talent. Living from week to week, surviving on benefit, the two actors feel the weight of busy London crushing down on them.

The two of them decide on a break and convince Withnail’s equally deluded actor of an uncle to lend them his cottage, a chance to reacquaint themselves with nature in order to rejuvenate and come back fully charged and better than ever. The problem is that what they mainly reacquaint themselves with is pills and enormous amounts of alcohol. In a sense it has a slapstick feel to it, the two of them trying to gather fuel, barter with a local farmer and fend off a bull are sort of a re-imagining of Laurel & Hardy- if they’d had access to a selection of fine wines and a courser grasp of the English language.

Then Uncle Monty turns up and the weekend takes on a much more threatening tone for Paul McGann’s Marwood (though he is never referred to by name in the film, he’s just ‘I’) who has managed to snare the affections of the rotund ex-thespian, much to his horror. The rest of the time at the cottage is spent desperately avoiding flimsily disguised advances and, at the extreme end, avoiding a buggering. Try as they might, they never managed to tackle that storyline in those old silent shorts. Richard Griffiths manages to inject a feeling of deviant menace into every flirting gesture or comment he makes to Marwood, every word is so lascivious and over acted; also a great reference to why the character of Monty never captured his much desired fame.

Over the course of the weekend the two friends start to pull further and further apart, possibly because of Withnail offering up Marwood in exchange for the cottage, and what starts off as a vacation quickly becomes a goodbye note to their friendship. There’s a definite sadness in the way that Withnail is outgrown. You can tell that director, Bruce Robinson, had a real affection for his friend and Paul McGann manages to convey both frustration and adulation towards Withnail effectively.

Clearly, both characters have a similar problem and their chemical dependencies are more than likely what is holding them back. The thing that separates them, and what allows Marwood to move on, is his recognition of his situation. Withnail is stuck within a trap he created and is far too ingrained now to escape. The character is trapped as the world moves on around him, a sign of the times for many towards the end of the decade.



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Played at the August 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival to rave reviews.

by Kierston Drier

A dramatic and emotional roller coaster of a film, Grace and Grit directed by Olivia Applegate and Blair Bomar, is a strong cinematic endeavour. Following one woman who battles with two different personas inside her, we see the passionate internal battle of torn emotional soul. Our heroine stands at the crossroads of a broken and abusive relationship, fighting within herself as to stay or leave. Stay, and attempt to turn something broken into something beautiful, or leave fueled with anger and fury. A detailed portrait of human complexity, this piece will make you feel and think.


The actresses who play Grace (Blair Bomar), Grit  (Olivia Grace Applegate) and the “Woman” (Kelly Frye) are to be commended for their strong, tense and compelling performances. Superbly cast, the performances alone make this film a must-see.


Grace and Grit is an emotional gut-punch, because the real struggle of the film is not the relationship the woman has with her abusive partner, but the relationship she has with herself. Her equally torn sides each speak with their own twisted but compelling logic. It is hard to choose a side, and hard to look away as our heroine is swept up in the emotional chaos within her. Striking, bold and emotionally ambitious, Grace and Grit is not to be missed.

GRACE & GRIT, 3min, USA, Thriller/Drama
Directed by Olivia ApplegateA twisted celebration of me, myself and I.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!


REAL ARTISTS played to rave reviews at the July 2017 FANTASY FEEDBACK Film Festival.

by Kierston Drier

Highly interpretive and deeply symbolic, this five minute fantasy-thriller from the United Kingdom is an exploration of life, death and it’s faceted transition. SUICIDE NOTE is deep meditation of one person’s journey from life to whatever is beyond it. Set against a haunting ethereal soundtrack and a featuring dramatic and dynamic framing, this piece is filmed in black and white. It has an almost unknowable quality to its tone and atmosphere- as though the viewer, is intentionally meant to never see the full scape of the hero’s world. Perhaps this is because it is the symbolic portrayal of the ultimate journey out of life.

A large portion of the piece is focused on the frame of a delicate doll, seemingly floating or suspended, set against the eye of the main hero. It is possible this doll represents the hero’s human body, while their eye represents their sense of self, both metaphorically and literally. Highly open to interpretation, this is a film that must be watched with an open mind. It may not be conventional cinema, but it is breathtakingly detailed, gorgeously shot and has an hauntingly beautiful tone. A delight for the senses.


SUICIDE NOTE, 5min, UK, Fantasy/Thriller
Directed by Marina Waltz

A surrealist meditation on the many self-inflicted deaths of identity we must courageously endure in order to attain a more complete understanding of who we are.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!


TYSVAER WARS – A STAR WARS STORY played to rave reviews at the July 2017 FANTASY FEEDBACKL Film Festival.

by Kierston Drier

 This delightful comic romp through one love-struck teens imagination will be the perfect escape for any movie-goer, Star Wars Fan or not. Disarmingly charming with its comic honesty and authenticity, our hero enters a fantasy world where he can save the day and rescue the princess- all through the most iconically familiar Star Wars moments.

The die-hard Star Wars fan will love it for its visual references, the film goer will love it for its meta-theatrics and intentional irony, and the everyone who finds themselves somewhere in between those two poles will be endeared to TYSVAER WARS for its endearing story. Haven’t we all been love-sick teenagers?

A comic romp that will have everyone in the crowd rolling with laughter, this is a fantastical, iconic and gleeful homage to classic cinematic work of art. You will cheer on the hero till the final frame- you may even want to watch it twice.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video

TYSVAER WARS – A STAR WARS STORY, 4min, Norway, Comedy/Action
Directed by Erlend Bjelland

A heartbroken Star Wars fan escapes into his own fairy tale.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!