1987 / Director. Joseph Ruben
Review by Justine Ryan.
The Stepfather, in my humble opinion, is one of the best (actually THE best) psychological thriller.
The film begins with Henry Morrison (Terry O’Quinn – Pin, Silver Bullet, Lost (TV Series) who has just murdered his family in their home and is now drastically changing his identity (cutting his hair short, shaving his beard and exchanging glasses for contacts) before moving on to his new life.
Cut to one year later and Morrison is now Jerry Blake, a real estate salesman. He is married to Susan Maine (Shelley Hack - Charlie's Angels, The King Of Comedy) and is stepfather to troubled teen Stephanie (played wonderfully by Jill Schoelen - When A Stranger Calls Back, That Was Then This Is Now, Phantom Of The Opera) who has been getting into fights at school since her father's death.
To his new family and neighbours Jerry seems like a cool, calm, collected and friendly guy and a devoted family man who believes in the American dream. What they don’t know is that Jerry has a split personality whom whenever his family “disappoint” him he feels the need to destroy them. Once this happens he quits his job without telling anyone and pretends to go to work as usual. All the while he is searching for the next family to begin his new life with. Nothing in Jerry’s world stays perfect for long and soon Stephanie begins to see glimpses of who Jerry really is, which frightens her, and begins to cause more strain on her relationship with her mother who doesn’t quite believe her.
Aesthetically, the look of The Stepfather is beautiful. Gorgeous leaves falling down over a peaceful neighbourhood , which really helps set the tone of Jerry living the “American dream” and his “father knows best” mentality.
For me, a big highlight of the film is the score by composer Patrick Moraz. and it's one of my favourite scores. Definitely worth checking out.
I cannot talk about The Stepfather without mentioning the dynamic and chilling performance by Terry O’Quinn. He knocks it out of the park and this role is one of the best psycho step-dad roles in film. O’Quinn is an intelligent performer and knows how to capture the two extreme sides of Jerry’s personality.
The film is loosely based the real killer, John List, who murdered his family in 1971 and then proceeded to set a new life for himself with a new family before being caught nearly 20 years later.
For anyone who has not seen The Stepfather, and enjoys a good thriller, please do so now, you can thank me later. Highly recommended!
2013 / Director. Anthony C Ferrante.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The Asylum's effort to cash in on Paramount's HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS was this so-called "Mockbuster". Thankfully (like many Asylum mockbusters) the title is about the only similarity between the two movies. Director Anthony C Ferrante (SHARKNADO 1 & 2) adopts a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale and his film follows two siblings as they are lured into a cabin in the woods. The cabin is occupied by a malevolent witch who has a basement full of missing teenagers. With the help of her feral-looking sons she fattens her captives with home-baked sweets... cookies & donuts mostly. In town the woman is known as the lovely old lady with the sweets & pie shop but of course her famous meat pies are really delicious fat kids. Once again this is an Asylum venture that steps above its mark. What promises to be a gothic horror story also descents into the grotty realms of torture porn and it sets out to shock from the get-go. From fingernails being torn off to a girl being skewered up the ass, there is no doubt that HANSEL & GRETEL is grotesque. The set design is nicely done and the use of sound stage lends it a false fairytale-like quality. Where it is let down the most is in its lighting design. The dungeon setting is overlit and consequently takes a lot of the edge off the hardcore horror intentions. Nevertheless coming off of the Asylum production-line, HANSEL & GRETEL is a worthy addition to their catalogue and should appeal to a wider horror audience. The film's biggest asset is the legendary Dee Wallace, who plays the evil witch. She's delightful on screen and totally relishes the opportunity to get really nasty. She commits a lot to the screen and keeps the movie credible. I am a self-confessed sucker for The Asylum and so I have a greater tolerance for their movies than most... having said that, if you weren't aware that this was one of their films it would probably fly under the radar and please most gore-hungry genre fans. It's good fun and pretty gross.
The entire film is available for FREE at Viewlorium. Click HERE to watch it.
1980 . Director. Emmett Alston.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Remember when Richard Wilkens hosted MTV on Channel Nine back in the late eighties? In retrospect Richard Wilkens seems an odd fit, a preposterously unhip television personality introducing the youth of Australia to new music. Well the plot of NEW YEAR’S EVIL centres around an equally bizarre choice of host, Dianne ‘Blaze’ Sullivan who fronts a punk rock and new wave music television program. On her New Year’s Eve special she receives several live calls to air that threaten to kill someone close to her and just about anyone else the killer may encounter throughout the night. From that point on chaos ensues as the madman cuts, strangles and kicks (yes kicks) his way to Blaze before the clock hits midnight (or thereabouts). The killer’s motive is best expressed through a direct quote and that’s “ladies are not very nice people, they are manipulative and deceitful and immoral and very very selfish”.
Is NEW YEAR’S EVIL a slasher film? It’s debateable but for the sake of argument let’s say it is due to the era from which it came and for the fact that it has a madman dispatching folks from near beginning through end. In any case it’s a non-conventional slasher, the villain’s face is visible within the first twelve minutes though their identity not revealed until near the finale, their modus operandi is all over the shop and honestly quote aside the killer’s motivation is pretty petty, not your typical humiliation/disfiguration revenge scenario. The body count is a little on but at the very least the kills are reasonably creative, a particular highlight being the killer asking their victim if they “want to smoke a number?”, luring them to sniff the contents of a zip lock bag then suffocating them with the very same bag as the weed falls about the victim’s face.
The bulk of the film’s music is performed by a hair metal act named ‘Shadow’, they perform the film’s cracking title track, which can be heard no less than three times throughout the film, twice within the first fifteen minutes in fact! Worth noting that the copyright on every track on the soundtrack is credited to Man-Yor Music which is assumedly producers Menahem Golan & Yorum Globus as their production company Canon were responsible for film.
NEW YEAR’S EVIL is the type of film that shouldn’t work as it seems to lack passion, direction and cohesion but somewhere in the mix of everything else it does and while it may not be remembered as a slasher classic, it’s bizarre enough to be considered a fun curio piece.
1993 / Director. Ivan Nagy.
Review by Justine Ryan.
Dennis Skinner (Ted Raimi) appears to be a mild mannered, all round nice guy who rents a room with a lonely housewife named Kerry (Ricki Lake) but little does Kerry know that Skinner is an Ed Gein clone, who murders prostitutes and takes their skins to stitch together a flesh suit. On his tail throughout the film is Heidi (Traci Lords), a prostitute who escaped from Skinner but is now disfigured and hell bent on getting her revenge.
Skinner is a film I have always wanted to see but hadn’t until now, and I am glad I did. The film has some good performances by Ted Raimi, who can easily switch between dramatic and comedic, and Traci Lords is great at bringing an edginess to her character Heidi, who is very Veronica Lake-esque (with one eye covered by a long veil of long, blonde hair and a fedora hat), and is quite mysterious.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. It is not life changing stuff but definitely B-movie fun!
2012 / Director. Joseph Lawson.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
In ASYLUM terms NAZIES AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH kicks ass. Taking advantage of the Nazi-themed genre film boom The Asylum rallied their troops and cranked out this absurd and surprisingly grotesque b-movie. Following WWII the NAZIS have been living secretly, deep beneath the frozen Antarctic continent. They are running out of time as their bodies deteriorate and they're running out of people to harvest for parts. They survive by kidnapping explorers and researchers and use their flesh and bones to piece together their own decomposing bodies. How the NAZIS for there in the first place and how they were able to construct gigantic structures is never explained... I guess that kind of detail is insignificant and/or detrimental to the overall narrative. The absurdity of it all is what makes it so fun to watch. Dominique Swain and Jake Busey headline the film as best as D-grade Hollywood actors can. With The Asylum moving from strength to strength their films (in my opinion) are getting better and better. They're still as stupid as ever but now they feel a lot more glossy. The budgets are getting bigger (though still minuscule in Hollywood terms) and the design of the productions is stronger. The world they've created in this crass caper is wonderfully artificial with weird subterranean landscapes, stodgy soundstage interiors and huge unconvincing CGI action sequences. What's not to love about Robo-Hitler shooting lasers from his chest? or NAZI spaceships set on a course for global destruction? Oh and it is also particularly gruesome and gory. It is made up off all the things that armchair critics would probably lash out at... and yet my deep-seeded geekness wanted to stand up and cheer. This is akin to the type of films that Roger Corman and William Castle made. It's the type of movie that kids would line up around the block to see at weekend matinees. It is simply a shit load of fun. I guess people either "get it" or they don't. I do and I love it. NAZIS AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH is hellafun.
2014 / Director. Antoine Fuqua.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I react to films emotionally, on a very basic level and I am susceptible to manipulation. I love being strung along at the mercy of a director and I subscribe to the belief that cinema is the best kind of manipulation. THE EQUALIZER played me like a fiddle. I was completely swept up by this one. Denzel Washington leads this big screen adaptation of the TV series and he owns every second of his screen time. He plays a highly skilled former government operative who gets caught up with the Russian mob when he seeks justice for a young woman, whom they had beaten to a pulp. The film plays out in three classic acts, the first of which establishes his character's place in society, the second reveals his past and the third shows us what he is capable of. In amongst all of this are some fantastic action sequences, classic movie villains (perfectly contrived) and a kick ass soundtrack. Denzel hasn't really been this good since TRAINING DAY as far as I'm concerned and neither has director Antione Farqua. Both have approached this film on a pure entertainment level and invest everything they've got to make it a brutal, fast paced action thriller. It slightly overstays its welcome and could do with a trimming (130 minutes is a long running time for an action film) but that's not to imply that it's ever boring. The story just keeps delivering fantastic set-ups and amusing kills. Imagine if Kevin from HOME ALONE had grown up to become a Black Ops agent and put his booby-trap knowledge to use... haha... that's exactly what THE EQUILIZER delivers. There's never a dull moment and it is an overall super energetic and totally fun movie.
2014 / Director. Wes Ball.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I watched THE MAZE RUNNER with my kids and when the final credits rolled there were two reactions. Theirs was "Best. Movie. Ever!" and mine was "Steaming. Pile. Of. Dog. Shit!". Hmmm. For the first time that I can remember I was feeling very out of touch. I usually adjust my viewing sensibilities and absorb movies from a target-audience point of view... but with THE MAZE RUNNER I definitely don't feel any connection with the target demographic at all. It's a stupid movie - simple as that. Take CUBE and LORD OF THE FLIES and mash 'em together and this is the gooey mess that comes out. A small community of teenagers live at the centre of a giant maze. Every month a new person arrives via an elevator from beneath the ground. They have no recollection of past lives and no idea why they are there. The labyrinth opens and closes each day and to venture inside is practically suicide. A group of the fittest boys are assigned the job of "runner" and they are the only ones allowed to enter. A new kid comes along and suddenly he becomes the only one with the balls to explore further. Yawn. Its such hammy and contrived stuff. Most of the dumbed down teen audience will have no comprehension of films like LOGANS RUN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or THE OMEGA MAN and so they have no idea how these stories ought to be. I am feeling like a jaded old man all of a sudden but I do feel justified. How is it that all of these teenage characters have perfect hair styles and clean shaven faces when they've been trapped for as long as three years?? Oh and don't get me started on the conclusion. I'll leave that one for you to watch and absorb. The sequel will pick up where this one left off and BOY.... I can't wait!
2013 / Director. Carmelo Musca.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Jesse Milton (Justin Burford), once a wayward youth now thirty-something successful businessman suffers a sharp change to his idyllic lifestyle when he discovers his date dead upon his arrival at her house. Immediately he’s the key suspect in the investigation, in an effort to both clear his name and determine what actually transpired, Jesse enlists the help of his friends uncover the truth. What Jesse soon discovers is that there are supernatural forces are at work and those entities are responsible for derailing his life prior, back in his youth.
FORESHADOW feels more akin to the Australian genre films of the late-eighties like CASSANDRA (1986), THE DREAMING (1988), KADAICHA (1988) & OUT OF THE BODY (1989) than its contemporary counterparts. Aside from an obvious supernatural theme running through the aforementioned titles and FORESHADOW, there is a heavy reliance on suspense and storytelling than merely show. That isn’t to say that the plot of FORESHADOW and those previously mentioned films is anything outstanding or original, just that they go about producing their brand of horror in a slightly different fashion. The story, whilst formulaic, is capably directed by Carmelo Musca (ZOMBIE BRIGADE), has varied set pieces, is evenly paced and is short enough in duration that it never outstays its welcome. The screenplay for the film is both uniquely and refreshingly Australian in that the dialogue is naturalistic in its colloquial tone without ever becoming parodistic or blatant (a difficult achievement in itself and potentially alienating for foreign audiences). The production of the film is competent, though uninspiring. From cinematography through editing, it’s well produced but lacks a point of difference to distinguish it as a film from just an Australian television program. The performances range from adequate to hammy with exception to Andrea Burdett who plays Joanne Peterson, Jesse’s friend who jealously pines for something greater with him, she ignites the screen with her warm and beautiful presence, hopefully we’ll see more of her onscreen in the years to come.
FORESHADOW may not break any new ground for Australian genre cinema but it’s an easy watch that offers something different from the recent slate of local Horror even if recycled from over a decade ago.
1988 / Director. Mike Nichols.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is struggling to make her mark on the world of big business in New York City. She's a loyal, hardworking, bubbly yet intelligent secretary who is seemingly always overlooked for promotion. However opportunity presents itself when her ruthlessly manipulative boss Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) is injured overseas in a bizarre skiing accident. Tasked with tending to her boss's responsibilities in and out of the office, Tess stumbles upon the fact that Katherine had intended to take credit for a business proposition that Tess herself had conceived. Armed with this knowledge along with an equal share of attitude and ambition, Tess sets forth to pitch her concept to the relevant businesses. Joining her on this journey as both wingman and love interest is investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), who we later find out is actually dating Katherine. Hilarity, warm and fuzzes, all the feels ensue.
Directed by famed filmmaker Mike Nichols, this is far from his distinguished works like THE GRADUATE, CATCH 22 and SILKWOOD and more in line with his later body of work, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE and THE BIRDCAGE. That said it’s an entertaining and engaging dramedy that is very indicative of its period, capturing both the cutthroat ethos of big business in the eighties and the accompanying hairstyles and fashion of that era. Adequately shot, scored, acted and directed, it’s an unremarkable film from a critical perspective but it’s fun and was no doubt an empowering film for woman that year.
Final thoughts on the film; was Melanie Griffith contractually obligated to appear nude or was the film contractually obligated to allow Melanie Griffith to appear nude? The scene of her in bed with Harrison Forward where there is a brief though deliberate nipple slip post-coital could be put down to realism but the scene shortly after of her doing a spot vacuuming topless is something else. Titillating? Not really. Empowering? Hardly. Odd? Sure.
2013 / Director. Thunder Levin.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
AE APOCALYPSE EARTH is one of The Asylum's better movies. Being part of their mockbuster stable, it takes its cues from films like AFTER EARTH, OBLIVION and PLANET OF THE APES. Earth is under attack by aliens and fleets of rescue spaceships set out on a trajectory towards a new planet. One ship crashes onto a distant world and the humans find themselves hunted by an alien race, which they name Chameleons. It is more or less a classic B-movie affair with stodgey SFX and an imitative premise. True to The Asylum's creed, there is nothing original about APOCALYPSE EARTH and yet it is easily amongst their best work. I found it completely watchable and never struggled with it. The narrative moves along at a cracking pace and the action holds up strong. Adrian Paul has never looked more like an action star than he does in this movie. He pretty much owns the movie as he commands the group of marauders through the dense jungles of this unknown world. Richard Grieco co-stars in his second Asylum outing (he was also in ALMIGHTY THOR) and all that can be said about his performance is "what's with the hair?"... isn't that a question that's haunted him is entire career? You can never expect greatness from The Asylum but you are usually guaranteed a schlocky good time. APOCALYPSE EARTH delivers in spades and makes for great Sunday afternoon amusement.
1986 / Director. John Cherry III.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I am a self-confessed Ernest-geek. Anything to do with Ernest P Worrell will amuse me to no end. Even the later (shittier) DTV instalments... I'm a sucker! I think that Jim Varney was a genius and his talent was far too undervalued. Few people know that Ernest's first feature-length film was the oddity, DR OTTO AND THE RIDDLE OF THE GLOOM BEAM. Varney plays a host of characters with Ernest being merely one of many and the film's star character is Dr Otto, a mad and evil villain with world domination on his mind. He creates a gloom beam which will disable the world's electronic devices and cripple society. He also relishes the fact that it "may cause cancer amongst some people". Clearly this is a much darker film to the Ernest franchise, which followed... although it is still family friendly stuff. The plot makes very little sense and it plays out much more like a skit show, similar to the HEY VERN, IT'S ERNEST tv series. The curious thing about the film is that its humour (I would think) would be lost on most kids. Perhaps the chaotic and frivolous nature of the whole thing was enough to keep kids glued at the time... or maybe it was more of an experiment from the Ernest creators (John Cherry, Coke Sams & Jim Varney) to help hone their filmmaking skills. That's a more likely scenario because there is a lot of experimentation and wonderfully eclectic style going on in this film. I revisit DR OTTO every few years but it's not one that I can turn to randomly to pass the time. It demands the right frame of mind and the mind-set of a lunatic. If you're a fan of Jim Varney then get your mitts on this one. It showcases his talents better than anything else he made and it paves the way for the proper ERNEST franchise, which would begin a year later with the classic ERNEST GOES TO CAMP.
1955 / Director. Charles Chauvel.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
JEDDA is the unintentionally racist film that remains an important and pivotal point in Australia's cinematic history. A lot of context needs to be understood before approaching this film and an understanding of 1950's social standards is important. For all of its outrageous depictions of aboriginal culture and its people, JEDDA was actually a turning point for indigenous relations. It was the first Australian film to showcase two Aboriginal actors in top billing above any of the white actors. It was also the first Aussie film to be shot in colour... and so when those two factors are combined, it's very significant. It tells the story of an aboriginal orphan named Jedda, who is raised on an outback homestead in the Northern Territory where her white adoptive mother raises her as a white girl. With a strong compulsion to connect with her indigenous roots, she yearns to leave each year when the farm-hands go on their annual walkabout. She meets a man and runs away. He takes her to his tribe and the two find themselves outcast. The tribe rejects her "whiteness" and so the man kidnaps Jedda instead of letting her return home. And so a man hunt ensues. That is the general gist of the story and for what it is, it's made well. If you can see beyond the stereotypes, caricatures and unintentional bigotry then there is no doubt that JEDDA is a thrilling film and I can only imagine how captivating it would have been at the time. Where the film succeeds in bridging the gap between black & white (at the time) was its respect for the beauty of aboriginal cultures. It depicts them as spiritual and good people who have a strong connection to their land. The cinematography is beautiful as it presents huge, vast sweeping shots of outback Australia and putting blackfellas in the lead roles was unprecedented at the time. Robert Tudawali, in particular, became one of Australia's biggest movie-stars as well as a spokesman for Aboriginal affairs. A bio-film about his life was later made in the late 80s starring Ernie Dingo. Where the movie fails in retrospect is how it depicts the aboriginals. There's one character called Charcoal and his name is spoken without a bat of an eyelid. Other people are referred to as "blackie" or "darkie" without any comprehension of insult. At the time this was simply the norm and they didn't know any better. The indigenous people in the film are shown to be uncivilised for the most part and the white characters often talk in frustration about them being unable to adapt to European culture. The film is definitely respectful to the indigenous culture itself when isolated from white... and it would suggest that the two races are better when separated from each other. Writer/director Charles Chauvel made a noble attempt to shine a new light on the aboriginal people and his attempt to bring greater understanding amongst the white community is very clear. Unfortunately he was a victim of his own era when aboriginals were still considered "fauna" under the constitution and had no rights. He wanted them to be better understood and respected but at the same time he used language and stereotypes that contradicted his cause. He wasn't to know any better and at the end of the day, sixty years later the film serves as an important time capsule that shows a turning point in Australian history.
2014 / Director. Phillip Noyce.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE GIVER surprised me. It could have so easily become a typical bland teen sci-fi and all of the publicity surrounding it suggested that that's exactly what it is. With the hysteria of THE HUNGER GAMES buzzing around Hollywood, THE GIVER was a logical opportunity to capitalize on that success. Fortunately for audiences, it has the right people behind it to keep it modest. It had been a pet project of Jeff Bridges for over 20 years and he has made several attempts to get it made in the past. Now that the cinematic climate is right for it, he has surrounded the project with a strong support network and Aussie director Phillip Noyce is at the helm. Where THE HUNGER GAMES is a dystopian science fiction story, THE GIVER is a utopian one. Set at an unknown point in the distant future the world has all but destroyed itself and civilisation has been reduced to small communities living on the fringes. A technology was designed to rid them of all memory and mandatory daily injections keep their emotional state in check. Their society is governed by strict rules and the concepts of the old world are lost... ie love, hurt, anger, hate, famine, destruction, loss etc.. The lives of the citizens are pre-determined and from conception they are assigned a family. When they come of age they are assigned their purpose (job). To keep order they select just one person to be The Receiver... a person to contain all knowledge and memories of the past so that the wrongs of the forgotten world cannot be repeated. Jeff Bridges is that man and as he gets older and nears his end-days a new, younger, receiver is chosen. Bridges becomes The Receiver and must bestow all of his knowledge upon his new protege. The concepts behind this film are familiar and similar worlds have been presented to us on film before. From classic Orwell to some of Philip K Dick's work... and there's a whole lot of similarity with Jeanne DuPrau's EMBER series (which was published after The Giver). And so what makes THE GIVER stand out is it's style and method of storytelling. Much of the film is told in black & white, which is a contrived convention but works in its favour. As the knowledge of the past is exchanged, the new receiver begins to see things differently. A wonderful performance from Bridges definitely helps solidify the film and the support cast keep it modest too with Meryl Streep playing the community leader. She truly proves herself to be one of cinema's greatest performers because despite the fact that she phones this one in, she is still amazing. Aussie actor Brenton Thwaites landed the lead in the film and he gives a respectable performance too. The pacing is fluid and the temptation for flashy action sequences is resisted. At times the story does become a little too preachy for my liking and its religious undertones irked me... but that's kind of the point of the film and their message is clear. By no means a masterpiece but THE GIVER holds its own in a cinematic sea of generic teen blockbusters and it well worth the time.
1997 / Director. Charles Band.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
How to make a Charles Band movie. Step 1) second-rate puppets. Step 2) unnecessary boobs... and that's about it. I suppose you could throw in a "story" for good measure but Charles rarely bothers with that sort of nonsense. After the mojo ran out of his theatrical releases Band found himself in the direct-to-video market and like the shrewd businessman that he is, he pumped them out faster than you could read their covers. HIDEOUS was released in the late 90s at a time when even the DTV market was running dry. It wouldn't be long before he would be exploiting the online digital platform, which meant that HIDEOUS enjoyed a little more production value than most of his future releases... but that's not to say that that the production is great. Are Charles Band's post-90s movies any good? No. Are they fun? You bet!! Some call Band a charleton but I think more highly of him. He peddles a brand of schlock that die-hard fans consume in copious amounts and I am one of them. HIDEOUS isn't my favourite of the lot but there's a real charm to it. If you combine CASTLEFREAK, GHOULIES and DEMONIC TOYS then you come out with something HIDEOUS. The story follows two competing collectors of grotesque and abnormal biowaste. Specimens include aborted and mutated fetuses, which are fished out of sewage plants. When one of the collectors robs the other they are caught in a fiery confrontation... but they're forced to team up when the specimens come to life and wreak havoc. It's a fucking stupid movie and the plot sucks balls. It would have been a much better exploitation if it was as simple as little puppet freaks running around killing people... but instead there's far too much set-up and character development for this type of movie and the mutants don't show up until the 35-40 minute mark. Nevertheless they are seriously bad creations (so bad they're wonderful) and their cute little rampage is heaps of fun. Only bother with HIDEOUS if you're already a fan of the genre... otherwise steer well clear.
2014 / Director. Charles Martin Smith.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
DOLPHIN TALE was more or less a re-hash of FREE WILLY and it was a good, solid family film based on a true story. DOLPHIN TALE 2 is to the first film what FREE WILLY 2 was to its predecessor... ie it is also a good, solid family film. Picking up a few years after the original movie, this second instalment continues the story of Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic fin. Legally captive dolphins must be paired with a suitable companion and when Winter's mate dies the marine hospital is tasked with finding a replacement. It is a worthy story to follow up with and all the more credible because it is true. As with the first one, this film was made in collaboration with the real Clearwater Marine Hospital and its stories reflect their real life counterparts. Of course a lot of Hollywood fluff has been injected for good measure, however the overall narrative is grounded in truth. A post film video presentation during the credits (as with the first film) documents the actual story as filmed by the marine biologists and staff at the hospital. Their work is incredible and these DOLPHIN TALE movies are a testament to them... not to mention a great endorsement and publicity vehicle. All of the original cast return for this sequel and while Morgan Freeman and Kris Kristofferson's roles are no longer very relevant, their presence on screen is still nice. I am sure there are filmies out there who will tear these movies to shreds and I would argue that such criticisms are insignificant. What DOLPHIN TALE 2 boils down to is a good and wholesome film suitable for the whole family. Its story is lovely and its message is sincere. It doesn't endorse animal captivity and it offers kids an inside peek into the workings of a wildlife rescue operation. The Clearwater Marine Hospital recently suggested that a 3rd film is on its way and I guess with so many stories to tell, these films will keep coming. So long as they maintain a consistent quality and promotion of conservation then I can't see any harm in it.