Romancing the Stone

A fun film that is the epitome of 80s escapism style cinema

What it’s about

After coming into the possession of a treasure map, Joan Wilder, a romance novelist and hopeless romantic, is forced to fly to Colombia to try to save her sister who has been taken by people who want that map. But after taking the wrong bus she finds herself partaking in an epic adventure through the jungles of Colombia with the dashing Jack Colton, all the while being hunted by all those who want the map and the treasure it leads to.

My thoughts

This film stars Michael Douglas along with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, and is a bit of a cult classic which is especially legendary for the chemistry between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

It is an action adventure romance, which means it’s one of those films that are more targeted at families and couples, specifically the type where one person likes action adventure and the other likes romance. This film merges the two creating a compromise, and if any person wanted to find a film that was a perfect example of an action adventure romance from the 80s, this would be the film they would most likely watch. In fact you could argue that this film was the epitome of mainstream 80s style escapism cinema.

The story itself is basic like many mainstream films from the 80s, but in that is its power, it makes for easy watching. Joan Wilder, played by Kathleen Turner, is a hopeless romantic who writes adventure romance novels, Jack Colton, played by Michael Douglas, is the smarmy but dashing Errol Flynn wannabe while Danny DeVito plays Irn, a sort of good guy bad guy – he wants the treasure but doesn’t agree with his brother’s methods of kidnapping to get it though of course goes along with it anyway.

And what happens is Joan Wilder receives a treasure map, which Danny DeVito’s brother wants, so they kidnap Joan Wilder’s sister and hold her to ransom for the map. But there is somebody else who wants the map, Manuel Ojeda’s Zolo, and he tricks Kathleen Turner’s character into taking the wrong bus.

From there she embarks upon an adventure of a lifetime through the Colombian jungle, the sort of which she has spent her lifetime writing about but never experiencing herself. But the question is is the man she has enlisted the help of the man of her dreams, the one she has been looking for, or is he just a con artist who wants the treasure for himself dum dum dum. I’m sure you can probably get the gist of what the answer is.

Truth be told find a person who enjoys this genre that can find a negative thing to say about this film and you’ll be lucky, even a person who does not like the genre would be unlikely to find anything negative about it, other than the fact that they don’t like films of this genre, and that is because this film has definitely found that magic spark, the unexplainable thing that some films find and just have which makes it a classic.

There is nothing wholly special about this film and yet there is something about this film that makes it special, on top of that perhaps the best thing about this film is the fact that not only does it have this factor it also has a great feel good factor, top of that it is a film that just has that great feeling of niceness about it.

Or rather there is nothing nasty or untoward about this film which a lot of modern-day films of the same genre struggle to accomplish. So it is 80s style cinema escapism at its best, and I can imagine that a hundred years from now this will be one of the films that will still be being watched. Not as a first choice, not even as a second choice but as that film that you watch with family when you can’t find anything decent to watch and just want to have a nice easy watch before bed.

And in reality that is the power of this film, it is such an easy watch that you can watch it again and again, not because it is an amazing film but because it does what it is supposed to do so well, that is give you a little escapism, leave you with a feelgood factor and above all entertain you, and in that is what makes it a classic. Which means from me it gets a big thumbs up, and if you can’t find anything to watch and are looking for a compromise film, an easy watch classic with action and romance from a time when the world was a lot less complex, this may just be the film you’re looking for.

​Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: Diane Thomas

Genre: action, adventure, romance

Year: 1984

​Runtime: 106 minutes

The Core

An Exhilarating Ride to the Centre of the Earth

What it’s about

When the Earth’s inner core stops spinning, it causes the planet’s electromagnetic field to rapidly deteriorate. The only way to save planet Earth is to set the core spinning again which means a team has to go where no man has gone before, to the centre of the planet where they need to kickstart the core, should they fail then the world will end.

My thoughts

Firstly, this is an entertaining film, secondly, its premise, which is along the lines of a team of experts must journey to the centre of the Earth to restart the planet’s core after an experiment gone wrong had caused it to stop, is brilliant. Thirdly, the journey to the centre of the Earth is an extremely imaginative journey and the writers, Cooper Layne and Jon Rogers, have done very well at imagining what such a journey would be like, what the different layers would be like. Also, the director, Jon Amiel, has done a great job at bringing their vision to life.

Really it just has to be said that, the best thing about this film is the journey to the core, it is exhilarating, imaginative and just downright fun. And considering that the film is about the journey to the core that is of course a very good thing.

But, with all that said, unfortunately it is not as good a film as perhaps it could have been. To explain, firstly there are the very American centric clichéd characters, the most clichéd perhaps being the computer genius who just so happens to be tall and very skinny and very geeky. Also there is a Russian character who is a little eccentric.

There is even the character who of course stole another character’s work and passed it off as their own and got super famous off the back of it, but now of course to save the world the two characters have to work together.

But the clichéd nature of the characters are pretty much an inevitability of the period in which the film was made, in fact when watching a film from the early noughties which was when this was shot you almost expect such clichédness.

However, where this film perhaps falls down a little is in regards to the character fatality rate of this film, without giving much away a good few of the main characters die, and in all honesty in a film like this so many of the lead characters dying just doesn’t really feel right.

To explain, this is very much a typical feelgood film, the world is going to end and the odds of stopping the world ending are so astronomical it beggars belief, but we should not be afraid because there are a team of people who are going to do something seemingly impossible and save us all.

So this is very much a pinch of salt the world is ending but we are going to save it type of film, so it’s a feelgood factor film with this in mind you would of course expect a character death but only one or at most two and you would expect them to die in a very dramatic way.

In this film like I say without giving anything away too many of the main characters die, and as such the deaths just do not feel like they belong in a film of the type they are trying to make. If this was a more realistic type of film, one that really delved into just how complex and how impossible their task was, so a film that was more a nitty-gritty type drama rather than a simple action thriller, then things would have been different.

But the fact is things were not different. Which means when the characters die in reality it just kind of feels like, blah, another one bites the dust. There is just no real connection to them to make you really feel like that death mattered, but then of course there is not it is simply not the type of film to build up those connections.

Like said though despite the overkill of the main characters it is still a highly entertaining watch, not the type of film that will set your heart on fire but the sort that will make you at least invested in what they are doing and will as such entertain, the finale is also quite dramatic and does provide a solid, come on you can do it moment. Because of this from me it gets a thumbs up.

​​Director: Jon Amiel

Writer: Cooper Layne, John Rogers

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi

Year: 2003

​Runtime: 135 minutes

The Martian

Superb Story of Survival Told with a Positive Attitude

What it’s about

When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce storm. With only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded visitor must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates hatch their own plan for a daring rescue mission.

My thoughts

One thing about this film right off the bat, the visuals are brilliant and it really does make you feel like Matt Damon’s character is trapped on Mars. In regards to the story, it is one of isolation but isolation with a positive attitude which means Matt Damon’s character never feels as isolated as he actually is trapped in hostile conditions one hundred and forty million miles from Earth.

Some could argue that that is a bad thing, but I’m not one of those as I believe that to survive such a situation a positive attitude would most definitely be needed and his positive attitude makes you truly believe that he can not only survive on Mars but make it back home.

That means that this is not one of those nitty-gritty doom and gloom I’m all alone films, this is one of those super positive attitude there is nothing I cannot achieve if I put my mind to it films. That means if anything goes wrong the lead character is just going to smile, get over it and solve the problem, then the next problem, then the next problem and so on. And I have to say a big fan of films like this as I do love a positive attitude.

In regards to the story, it is derived from the smash hit book of the same name which was written by Andy Weir back in 2011. What made the book so compelling was that it came about as a result of Andy Weir wanting to work out the logistics for a journey to Mars.

That led to him posting his chapters on his website as he wrote them, with his fellow science buff friends many of whom were highly skilled people nitpicking the science until the point that the book told a story that was extremely realistic in regard to both the science and the realities of both a mission to Mars and just how difficult it would be to save a person should they become stranded on Mars.

In one of the best things about the film, is that it has largely stayed true to the idea of using present-day science to tell a story of a person being trapped on Mars, along with how difficult it would be to save a person stranded on Mars, along with how difficult it would be for a person stranded on Mars to survive. That means this is to an extent a film which tells a realistic story. Meaning if you want to know how we would save a person trapped on Mars this film will within reason give you a good idea.

One thing I will say is that due to the type of story this is the main character spends the majority of the film alone, and one of the big dangers of doing this is that due to this fact it becomes a straight up bore fest, and what can make things worse is that often the character ends up talking to themselves but not in a natural way, in an exposition laden way. That means that rather than just showing us the story they end up having the main character telling us the story.

Thankfully director Ridley Scott has navigated this issue well, with the moments where Matt Damon talks to himself actually adding to the film, namely by not only showing just how positive he is but also by providing some excellent moments of comedic relief. And in a film that runs for close to 2 1/2 hours and in which for the most part the lead character is alone that is definitely a good thing.

All in all that means this is film with a positive attitude that uses realistic science to tell a story of how a man in the present day should he get trapped on Mars would both survive and be rescued, and the execution of the story is brilliant and for that reason along with the fact that this is good fun film to watch, from me it gets a big thumbs up.

​​Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir

Genre: adventure, drama, sci-fi

Year: 2015

​Runtime: 144 minutes

The One and Only Ivan

A simple story told very well

What it’s about

The story for this film is derived from the true story of Ivan, a gorilla who for twenty-seven years lived in an American mall and never saw the light of day. It is of course a fictionalised account, the fact that you can talk probably gave that away. And that fictionalised account goes along the lines of Ivan, a gorilla, who lives in the Big Top Mall with his fellow animal acts, and a dog who as his best friend, sees his life change when a baby elephant named Ruby joins their act, and he makes a promise to her that she will see freedom.

My thoughts

This is one of those films where if you read the tagline it sounds like it is going to be one of those films which uses a real story to create a fictionalised typical Disney style straight to TV film.

Nothing wrong with that as Disney are very good at making such films, films which inevitably have that great feelgood factor to them. That is to say you know what you are getting, a grumpy person is set in their way, someone young comes in and changes everything, and they set off on a wondrous journey which after a few bumps along the way leads to a happy ending.

This film follows that MO to the T, but again that is not a bad thing and when the film starts you get the feeling that it is going to be a typical straight to TV style Disney film. Especially when the gorilla starts talking at the beginning, as good as the gorilla is it just reeks of low-budget.

And the chicken, there is a chicken, and that chicken to say the least the CGI is just terrible. They don’t even try to make it look real. But again that is just expected for what this film appears that it is going to be.

But this film is not what it appears it is going to be, it is in fact a lot more than it appears it is going to be, because to say the least if you can look past the poor CGI this film tells a simple and age-old story but it does so in a brilliant way.

Mike White derived the screenplay from a children’s book written by Katherine Applegate telling a fictionalised version of Ivan’s story and Thea Sharrock has done a great job at bringing that screenplay to life because it has to be said this is just one of those films that really pulls on the heartstrings. It will not blow your mind but that because it doesn’t want to, what this film wants to do is to leave you by the end with the feelgood factor, and it sure as heck will leave you by the end with that feelgood factor along with the feeling that it has been worth your while watching.

What that means is if you can look past the poor CGI and the fact that this is a heavily fictionalised account of Ivan’s true story (which is an amazing thing in itself), then this film is most definitely worth watching and fits the bill of an amazing story.

But like said it will only come across this way if you are willing to look beyond what it is not and see it for what it is. A very simple story told in a brilliant way.

All in all for that reason it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Thea Sharrock

Writer: Mike White

Genre: family, adventure, fantasy

Year: 2020

​Runtime: 95 minutes

Sonic The Hedgehog

Boisterous Family Fun

What it’s about

An extraterrestrial hedgehog named Sonic is discovered by a scientist who concocts evil plans to use his superpowers for his own selfish needs, but a local police officer helps Sonic fightback.

My thoughts

Is this an amazing film, no. But if you like Sonic The Hedgehog then there is a high probability you will like this film. Even if you don’t then there is still a high chance that you will like this film.

Some argue that Jim Carrey puts in a wooden performance, and it perhaps is a bit, but James Marsden’s performance as a local town cop who Sonic befriends makes up for any shortcomings as he has yet again proven that family films are what he does best.

All in all it is a fun film, has some great laughs in it, and has a nice touching story at its heart, the sort which everyone will be able to relate to. Basically Sonic is hiding from the world and inevitably is suffering the effects of loneliness, the question is will he be able to find a friend or will he have to leave Earth forever and spend his life alone on a lifeless planet.

Any person can guess what the answer will be, but that is the norm for films like this, what matters is the journey. And the journey is a good one, and has in it some great sequences, the best perhaps being the scene where Sonic finds himself caught in the middle of a bar brawl, in this scene to hilarious consequences he moves so fast everyone else is frozen in time.

But that means yes, at times this film does go a little over the top, perhaps expected from a film which has Jim Carrey as one of its stars, but in its defence it never stretches too far over so as to detract from the story. Meaning this film strikes that great balance between not taking itself too serious, but taking itself just serious enough to be taken seriously.

All in all a fun family film that both old and young can enjoy which means it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

Director: Jeff Fowler

Writer: Pat Casey and Josh Miller

Genre: action, adventure, family

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 minutes