Tiffany’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon

This review comes to you from Tiffany at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Thank you Tiffany for getting involved – it was good to read about your film and to have you take part.

Angels In The Outfield

Many films are centered around sports. Others are centered around religious, supernatural elements such as angels. However, have you ever heard of a movie about sports and angels? There is such a film, and it is Angels in the Outfield from 1951 with Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, and Donna Corcoran. I will review Angels in the Outfield in terms of the sports involved, the supernatural elements, and Guffy McGovern’s transformation.
As the name implies, this film is centered around baseball; it is a story about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their manager, Guffy McGovern. The Pirates are in a slump, and their losing streak has lasted for months. A cute reporteress named Jennifer Paige is assigned to write an article about the Pirates. She may not know anything about baseball, but she does know about proper behavior and comeuppance, so she is certain that the Pirates are losing because of their disagreeable manager’s behavior. There is a lot of interesting footage from actual baseball games which would be interesting to sports fans. The Pirates start in seventh place in the National League, and they soon move to eighth, the lowest possible position. However, after Guffy begins to reform his behavior with a little angelic intervention, the team begins to rapidly improve. Soon they are in third place with hopes for winning the pennant. After being hit in the head with a ball, Guffy dizzily reveals his conversations with angels. Further evidence leads to a trial regarding his sanity relating to talking with heavenly beings. This trial comes right before the final game that will determine the pennant, but the kind old judge says that Guffy is sane. However, because he started fighting with his reporter nemesis in the courtroom, Guffy is on his own. The final game is going shakily without heavenly intervention, and the pitcher is Guffy’s tired old friend, Saul Hellman, a man who was a great player years ago but now is wavering under the strain. Guffy’s angel told him that next year Saul would no longer be playing ball on earth, so he decided to give Hellman one last chance to be a star. Even though all the fickle fans are yelling for Hellman to be taken out, Guffy gives him a final chance, and his confidence in him makes him succeed. They win the game and the pennant.
The name also tells us that angels are involved in this movie; everything changes for the Pirates when Guffy becomes acquainted with an angel. One night, while trying to find his good luck piece on the dark field after a game, Guffy is cursing because he can’t find his missing token. A voice tells him to shut up; at first, Guffy is sure someone is playing a joke on him over the loud speaker. It takes a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning bursting the calm night for him to realize that the voice is really an angel’s. This angel tells him to stop swearing, fighting, and bullying. If he obeys, the angels who play baseball will help him win some games. The very fanciful notion of angels in this film is the following: someone has been praying on Guffy McGovern’s behalf, so Gabriel, the archangel, has dispatched a personal angel to reform him and pull the Pirates out of their slump. This particular angel, who sits at Gabriel’s right hand, is a member of an angelic baseball team called the Heavenly Choir. This team is comprised of deceased baseball players who are receiving their reward in heaven, where they still play baseball and occasionally assist their mortal brothers in the game. The idea is that they stand behind the Pirates when they need help and assist them, wearing long white robes which are sort of like uniforms and bear the initials HC for Heavenly Choir; I understand they are not encumbered by their wings. Mind you, no angel is ever seen on the screen. The information comes from Guffy’s conversations with his unseen angel and a little girl’s description of them. You see, little Bridget White, a Catholic orphan with a lot of faith and a great fondness for Guffy and the Pirates, is the only person who can see the angels. Whenever they start helping the Pirates during a ballgame, she sees them very clearly.

It seems that nothing less than a miracle could transform Guffy McGovern from an irreverent, foul-mouthed bully into a kind man, but a child’s prayers, a woman’s love, and an angel’s intervention manage to reform him. Guffy is ruthless to his players, rude to reporters, and insulting to the umpire. His speech during and after games is often very blue, but this film uses a brilliant tactic to imply swearing without allowing one forbidden word to be said. Paul Douglas yells and talks, but several recordings of his voice are played at the same time, so his words sound like nonsense. I don’t know whether the idea came from Clarence Brown, the director, or Joseph Breen, the head of the Production Code Administration, but the Code administrator must have approved of this delicate technique. Guffy is thrown out of almost every game for his fighting with the umpire. After an angel warns him to stop fighting and swearing, he struggles, so the angel suggests that he learn Shakespeare to diversify his vocabulary. The whole team is stunned and nervous because of the coach’s change; he is kind, courteous, even-tempered, and well-versed in the language of the Immortal Bard.  When Bridget White sees the celestial beings with whom he has been conversing, Guffy pays the sweet little orphan a visit; at the orphanage he encounters Jennifer Paige again, since she too is curious about the child. Jennifer writes an article about the girl’s supposed angel siting, but she soon realizes that it causes a lot of trouble. She brings Bridget to another baseball game, hoping that she won’t see angels when she sits out of the sun, but she sees them again. As Bridget recovers from a stomach ache caused by two many hotdogs and Eskimo pies, Guffy and Jenny visit her. Soon, the three are fast friends. For the first time in years, Guffy realizes that there is more to life than baseball. He realizes that a man can get a lot of joy and satisfaction from the affection and care of a young woman and little girl. He begins to make plans for adopting Bridget, but he will need to marry Jenny to give her a happy, normal home. At the end of the film, he has won the pennant, but more than that, he has won the love of a future wife and daughter.
Having reviewed Angels in the Outfield in terms of the sports involved, the supernatural elements, and Guffy’s transformation, we see that it is a heartwarming story that mingles America’s favorite pastime with a whimsical outlook on heaven and its angels. There is a lot of interesting footage of baseball games which will please sports fans but also be entertaining to people like me who don’t like sports. Although it presents a very fanciful view of angels, this movie has a charming if not realistic depiction of heaven and the way it helps humans. The experience with the angels makes Guffy realize that clean speech, peace-making, and respect and kindness for other people make life fulfilling and rich, since a man needs more than baseball in his life. Watch this movie soon to see how MGM charmingly mixed baseball and angels in 1951.

My review of Arrival has landed

When aliens land across the globe, a linguistics experts is called in to try and decipher the messages sent by the visitors to figure out if they come in peace.
Aliens have landed in twelve different locations on Earth, and linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is asked to join the U.S. army team keeping the situation under control in the States. She is given the task of trying to figure out what it is the aliens want from humanity, but the language they use to communicate is like nothing that has ever been seen before on Earth. As her quest to establish a dialogue with these creatures unfolds, the other countries acting as host to the visitors start to see them as an increasing threat, meaning that it is a race against time to find out if the aliens are friend or foe before total war breaks out.

Considering I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, I’ve seen a decent number of those types of films lately. Arrival is the latest creation from Denis Villeneuve, and I think it’s fair to say that after watching four of his films and enjoying all of those films, I now consider myself to be quite a fan of his work. What I really liked about this film was the fact that what initially seems to be the focus of the film isn’t actually the main event. It just felt a bit different to what I’d imagine so many other alien invasion films to be like.

Amy Adams is terrific here, and the fact that she hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar is a travesty in my honest opinion. She is someone who I think has crept up through the ranks in Hollywood over a number of ranks to be where she is today, and the wait has been well worth it. It was so good to see her as Louise in what was the pivotal role in this film – without her, the world would’ve been destroyed. She was the perfect heroine and I loved every second she was on-screen.

Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both co-starred alongside Adams here. They both played slightly different characters here, one was in full support of what Louise was trying to do and the other one wasn’t so much. They did good jobs as their characters, but I think the main purpose of them both was to highlight all the brilliance that came with Adams’ character and her performance here.

I said at the start that what I liked so much about this film was the fact that for a long time I thought it was just about an alien invasion, but was actually about something else entirely all along. I thought this was a nice little twist as it meant that the aliens weren’t so much the main event of the film, but were more of a tool to get the end product. I also loved the idea that the sole focus of the film wasn’t dead science-y. The way this whole language puzzle came about was really interesting for me to watch, and while some of the linguistics stuff went over my head as much as the science would have done, it was quite nice to delve into the details of something like language for once.

Overall, Arrival was one of those films that was a pleasant surprise for me to watch, and has certainly encouraged me to see a few more in this sub-genre of sci-fi. The characters and the themes made it feel really accessible for me as it wasn’t 100% science, and director Denis Villeneuve has well and truly cemented himself among my favourite filmmakers now. I would even go as far as saying that I could be persuaded to see the new Blade Runner film when it comes out given he is directing. Not a bad review from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of science-fiction, wouldn’t you say?

Killer Elite is not the top performer, but it’ll do

When his mentor is taken captive by a disgraced Arab sheikh, a former killer-for-hire is reluctantly forced into a final mission in which he must take out the three SAS servicemen responsible for the death of the sheikh’s son.

Danny (Jason Statham) is a former killer-for-hire who is forced back into the game when his longtime mentor and friend, Hunter (Robert De Niro), is taken hostage. Hunter’s captives, the head of which is an ex-Arab sheikh, say that the only way he will be released is if Danny can get revenge on those who killed his son. The job won’t be easy though, as the people Danny must get revenge on used to be British SAS servicemen. One person with close involvement in the case is Spike (Clive Owen), who now belongs to a secret society for former SAS operatives. All three men are dragged back into a world that they thought they had left long ago, one that is full of revenge and deception, and one where everything is not always what it first seems to be on the surface.

Killer Elite is the very loose retelling of events that took place in 1980 that I knew nothing about, so it could have all been made up for all I know. We put it on the TV one Friday night so as to avoid having to watch season 3 of The Affair as myself and my dad are not the greatest fans of that show. We quite enjoyed the film, although it is far from Oscar-worthy let me tell you.

A couple of my favourite British actors take significant roles in this film. Jason Statham, where do we ever start with his performances? He certainly isn’t the greatest actor known to man, but, like I say, he is one of my favourites. His films are so easy-going and often feature some terrifically choreographed fight scenes. Killer Elite is a prime example of a Jason Statham film in my eyes. I loved every second of him here, although quite what country his character was supposed to be from I am not sure. It’s the first time I think I’ve ever heard someone who is supposed to be American shout ‘Oh bollocks!’ when he discovered his barbecue was burning. His accents require some practise, but he was still great fun to watch as Danny.

Clive Owen is another of my favourites, and was very good as Statham’s opponent, Spike. I’m still not sure if his character was one of the good guys or not, but I do know that I really enjoyed the fight scenes he was involved in. I think the two actors worked well together in these scenes as they looked brilliant – there were plenty of creative moves and a few hits that made us all wince a bit when we were watching the action unfold.

My one major issue with the film is some of the camera shots, especially in those fight scenes. I really wish that the camera could have been held still enough to capture the whole fight instead of obstructing our view on a fair bit of the action. That did not impress me. I do feel as though the director tried to attempt a bit too much in what I’m led to believe was his first feature film. Sometime simpler is better, and I’d have to agree here.

On the whole, despite it’s problems, you could do worse than Killer Elite. Like many films starring Statham, it was never destined to win Oscars, but it made for a half decent Friday night after dinner flick that also helped to avoid a TV show I really didn’t want to watch. Given these facts, can I really complain too much about this film? The answer is no. Does it mean I’d recommend it to everyone near and far? The answer is also no. If you’re a fan of the actors in it, you’ll want to watch it, but beyond that, I can’t really say who it would appeal to. Maybe if there’s nothing else on the TV one night, you could give it a try like I did, but I wouldn’t say you should rush to see Killer Elite before then.  

Just watch Hell Or High Water, you don’t even need to read this review 

A divorced father and his loose cannon older brother resort to desperate measures in a bid to save the family ranch in West Texas.

Following the death of their mother, unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) begin to rob banks so as not to lose her ranch to the Texas Midland Bank. Meanwhile, ageing Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is nearing retirement, but is intent on seeing out the case with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). Together, they try to figure out the well-intentioned bank robbers’ next moves, resulting in an intense showdown.

One of my most anticipated films from what is now last year was Hell Or High Water. The trailer had taken my fancy a while before it had been released in cinemas, but as it was I never made the trip. Well, I finally got to see the film the other day, and I have to say it was well worth the wait. It didn’t quite turn out to be what I had expected, although what that was I’m not quite sure even now after watching the film. What I do know, however, is that I was very impressed by what I saw.

As good as I thought Chris Pine was here, I’m going to refrain from talking about him for the simple reason that people will only read so many words before jumping ship, so I would rather focus on the two ‘supporting’ actors in this review. Ben Foster was excellent as Tanner Howard. He gave an enthralling performance as the ex-con who you kind of felt was going robbing the banks with his brother to make up for all the time he spent in prison, unable to help care for their mother. So many people are talking about awards for this film, and who will get those awards. I am not overly familiar with Foster’s work, but would personally love to see him gain all the recognition he deserves for the stellar work he put in here.

Jeff Bridges was that other ‘supporting’ actor who is the other contender for those prestigious awards I would think. It was another very strong performance in a film that really did consist of some masterful acting. He portrayed Texas Ranger who had seen it all and was now facing the prospect of retirement and not looking forward to it – a character not too dissimilar to that of Tommy Lee Jone’s Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men, another contemporary western that I would highly recommend. Again, it was a display of terrific acting that fully deserves every award it is nominated for should the powers that be decide Bridges was the supporting actor here.

This film is one that you savour as you watch it. It is a wonderful, brooding slow-burner of a film, and this allows you fully take in every part of what is put in front of you. The dialogue and the way it was delivered by the people it was given to was a wondrous thing. The landscapes captured by the cinematographers were breath-taking. There isn’t really a part of this film I could fault, if I’m completely honest with you, and I think that really says all anyone needs to know, because if there’s something for me to complain about, I don’t tend to be backwards in coming forwards about it, do I?

Overall, Hell or High Water is a beautifully made contemporary western that sits proudly amongst many of the westerns that have been made of late. It is easily one of the better ones that are leading the resurgence in the genre, and if this is how filmmakers mean to go on, they have my full support. This would be a great film particularly for people around my age, who perhaps have avoided westerns for being a dated style of film. The contemporary sub-genre is one that hold a lot of promise in my opinion, and is an excellent gateway to the other, more classically formulated films, as this film proves very well.

Con Air is a real thrill-ride from start to finish

A freshly paroled former US Ranger finds himself trapped on-board a prison airplane that gets hijacked by the criminals it is carrying.

After a drunken brawl leaves a man dead, ex-US Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is charged with manslaughter and is sent to jail three months before his daughter is born. Years later, he is eligible for parole and it finally looks like he’ll get to meet his little girl in person. His ride home is a prison plane that transfers convicts between prisons in different states, and unfortunately for Cameron, he boards the plane that happens to get hijacked by the criminally insane but highly intelligent Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich) and a few other cons who contributed to the plan. With the authorities remaining one step behind the convicts for quite some time, it is up to Cameron to make sure that his reunion with his family doesn’t have to wait any longer than it already has, while doing everything he can to help those who also hadn’t planned on their trip panning out this way either.

I first watched Con Air a couple of years ago, and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then, although it has to be said that it is little more than Die Hard on a plane – Nicolas Cage even has the matching vest! While it may not be the most earth-shattering film ever to be made, nor the best film of either of the three main actor’s careers, it certainly has it’s plus points that make it a fun watch.

This film contains perhaps one of the best, and definitely the most quoted Nicolas Cage line of all time. I can’t imagine anyone else saying ‘Put the bunny back in the box,’ quite like he did. This is one of my favourite roles of his and I think quite a few people feel the same way. Cage channelled his inner John McClane as Cameron, and no matter how many times I found his dialect borderline ridiculous, I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him to ground that plane and get himself home.

John Malkovich is the main reason I rewatched this film recently. He certainly is an actor who has shown us how wide his range of abilities truly is. As Cyrus ‘The Virus’, he took on the role of the ultimate menace to society, and I have to say that he was a very good villain. If you don’t know by now, I am someone who really enjoys seeing an intelligent person doing bad things on-screen (and I don’t mean good actors starring in bad films when I say that). Criminal masterminds are up there with some of my favourite movie villains, and I thought Malkovich and Cage both complimented each other quite well with their approaches to their characters, which is maybe why Con Air works as well as it should for me.

As I’ve said, the plot for this film could be mistaken for being the instalment of the Die Hard franchise that took place on a plane that they couldn’t get Bruce Willis to sign on for. However, I wouldn’t say I’m a film snob and so I love a run-of-the-mill action flick as much as anyone else. It’s quite easy-going and doesn’t require too much brainpower, so while it may be quite conventional as far as action thrillers go, it provides a couple of hours’ worth of fun explosions and decent characters that make it worth your time.

On the whole, I would say that Con Air certainly isn’t ground-breaking, but is worth seeing if you’re a fan of anyone in it, or if you just have nothing else to do. There’s plenty of action, some big explosions, a few laughs (not entirely sure if all are intentional) and a little bit of the lovey-dovey stuff for the hopeless romantic in all of us. It’s a solid film that I would say everyone should check out at some point.

And it all ends with Saw: The Final Chapter

A deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s legacy while the past of yet a Jigsaw survivor comes back to bite him.The man now in charge of the notorious investigation is Detective Matt Gibson (Chad Donella), who is trying to track down a psychotic Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) just as Jigsaw’s widow Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) is also trying to kill him. However, both Jill and Gibson fail miserably in their objectives. She runs to Gibson offering to list every crime committed by Hoffman in return for full immunity. Meanwhile, Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is taken alongside his wife and entourage for one last game.

I finally made it! The last furlong in the franchise has been completed, and it kind of made Saw VI worth it. It had one of the same major faults as the last two films have, but all loose ends were tied up sensibly, so I can’t really ask for more than that.

There weren’t really any performances that stood out for me. There were no new characters brought into the mix that stuck in my mind, and Hoffman wasn’t really in it that much for me to talk about Costas Mandylor’s role in the films for one final time.

It was that same disjointed feeling the story had that was what let the whole thing down so much. Just the final showdown elements would have been enough – I could have lived quite happily for the rest of my life without having been introduced to Bobby Dagen. As I’ve been saying in my last couple of reviews, the films have been feeling like they are two halves very lazily put together.

However, there were elements of Saw: The Final Chapter that I was very much a fan of. To start with, we found out what happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon after he escaped that disused bathroom right at the beginning of the saga. Cary Elwes made a return, and finally, so many of life’s big questions were answered for me.

Then there was the demise of Jill Tuck – something I was absolutely thrilled about! She was easily the character I disliked the most in the whole franchise. The only criticism I have regarding this matter is the fact that it couldn’t have happened in Saw III when we first met the delightful woman.

I’ll admit that I was left quite contented by the way Saw: The Final Chapter rounded off the franchise. In fact, the films in general were quite enjoyable for me. For the most part, the story was alright, but the biggest thing for me was the fact that the majority of the characters who appeared were actually in possession of a brain – something that I have discovered is quite a rarity in many horror films. It is for that reason that I would recommend the franchise to people, but would be mindful to tell them that the longer you stick with the films, the more… open-minded you need to be with them.

Saw VI? More like Snore VI

Strahm is dead, but the FBI are still closing in on Hoffman. Meanwhile, somebody else who is unappreciative of life finds themselves caught up in the game.The body of agent Peter Strahm has been disassembled back into flat-pack form, and it would appear that the world’s worst detective, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), is now home and dry as Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) successor. Just to be safe though, Hoffman goes above and beyond to attempt to frame Strahm as Jigsaw’s little helper. However, he gets a shock when he finds out that Strahm’s partner, Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) didn’t actually die in a previous trap – a potential problem as she doesn’t believe her late partner was capable of doing what he is being accused of. The net then begins to tighten around Hoffman when the FBI set to work on unscrambling a tape left at one of the previous murder scenes – the one thing that could solidly confirm his involvement. Elsewhere, the unethical CEO of a health insurance company finds himself being put to the test after gambling with other people’s lives as a career.

Okay, I’ll pre-warn you that I can feel a rant coming on here. Yes, one similar to that I embarked upon about The Hills Have Eyes. I watched Saw VI. It was inevitable that as I worked my way through the franchise, they were gradually going to get worse. Holy God though. I had severely underestimated how bad they could get.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about performances here. The one performance I like was that by Costas Mandylor, and I spoke about that in my last review. This, of course, leaves the insurance CEO who I cared so little about that I don’t even know his name, nor the face of the bloke who played him, so I couldn’t really talk about him even if I’d have wanted to.

My main question is what was this film actually trying to do besides rob movie-goers of their money? I am somewhat bemused by the objectives this film set out to achieve. There was no longer the great Strahm/Hoffman face-off going on as they decided to kill of one half of that double act in the last film, so I wasn’t really that invested in the storyline anymore either. They then tried to be clever by bringing back a character who had previously been killed – or so we thought. I wasn’t that impressed by the return of agent Perez. To be honest, I think my reaction to the revelation was about on a par with Hoffman’s.

At this point, I am also so over this idea that the Jigsaw squad are out to teach people a lesson about how they should value life. I feel like once the FBI got brought in in film four, the writers should have fully broken away from the original concept. I mean, they attempted it, but the little subplots such as the Fatal Five in the last film, and then the insurance guy in this one makes it feel as though the filmmakers don’t really know what other direction they could take the story in. For me, watching the same thing for the sixth time with only a tiny bit of plot progression was boring. Plus, it feels like there is a reliance on putting an individual through the mill for some part of the film. It’s as if the writers know that the general storyline has swayed so far from what it once was, yet they’re still trying to market the franchise on what it used to be. They needed to choose one or the other if you ask me, because the storyline consisting of traps that were used as weapons against Jigsaw’s pursuers alongside the traps that supposedly taught life lessons did not work for me. Or, if they were that insistent on keeping those two aspects of the story alive, they should have at least made more of an effort to weave the two together.

On the whole, it is with a not-so heavy heart that I have to tell you that Saw VI is easily the worst film of the franchise so far. It cannot survive on just one character, and fails in trying to tell this part of the story which you could say has gotten too big for it to even know what it is about anymore. However, I’ve come this far – Saw 3D (or The Final Chapter) will still be watched. After all, it can’t be any morse than this… surely?