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Wonder Woman (2009) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Wonder Woman 2009

Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writers: William Moulton Marston (creator: Wonder Woman), Gail Simone (story)
Stars: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Marg Helgenberger, Oliver Platt, Virginia Madsen

I think it’s fair to say that Wonder Woman (2009) was possibly a little overshadowed by the higher profile Batman: Gotham Knight due to its release in the midst of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy and although the more prominent live action film from 2017 grabbed all the headlines, I think it’s clearly obvious that the Warner Premiere produced animated Wonder Woman aided the plot and Patty Jenkins would be able to cherry pick the best of this 2009 release. If it were me, I would be using the animated version as my story board if this wasn’t already done as many of the sequences from the 2017 movie are here to see 8 years previously. That isn’t a dig at the 2017 filmmakers in anyway, just my opinion and observations.

Wonder Woman (2009) is about a modern man’s trespass (Steve Trevor) who survives a frantic mid air battle and crashes on the island of the Amazons and enables an imprisoned war god (ares) to escape and Princess Diana wins the responsibility to recapture him. Not surprising Wonder Woman (2009) is a well made film that is both energetic and thought provoking and personally I felt it deserved more recognition on it’s release. Those opening sequences drew me in from the beginning. I was intrigued how Diana came to be and her backstory. The bloody war from ancient times is won by the amazon women and as a reward from the gods the Queen Hippolyta is granted a child fashioned from clay. The amazons flourish in isolation on paradise island where Diana grows up into a fine young warrior. But a part of her seeks greater adventure outside the boundaries of the island. (Sounds bit like Moana here doesn’t it)

The Amazons hold a contest to decide who will escort Trevor back to the USA after discovering he is of no threat to them and during the contest we flit back and forth as an amazon traitor releases Ares from capture as Diana wins the contest and now as well as seeing Trevor off the island her main mission is to track down Ares who has a far more sinister plan in the work, one that could spell the doom of the world and the extinction of the amazons before it is too late with the help of Steve Trevor. 

I must commend the writing on this fine animated film. The Dialogue between the characters by Gail Simone, brings to life the story with it’s clever and witty lines that keeps with the spirit of the comic books but also has a level of maturity that you will almost forget you aren’t watching a live action movie. I’m nitpicking here but the one thing that I was a little let down with was the visuals and the animation. I’m not familiar with Moi Animation, the Korean studio who worked on many critically acclaimed works that I have to admit not nothing enough about. What struck me was that some of the fight scenes weren’t that dynamic as I felt there were too many cuts leaving the audience member dazzled and sometimes confused.

I was particularly impressed with the cast once more in my DC Animated Universe Marathon and I felt Keri Russell (Wonder Woman), Alfred Molina (Ares), Nathan Fillion (Steve Trevor) Rosario Dawson (Artemis), Oliver Platt (Hades) and Virginia Madsen (Hippolyta) were a strong ensemble of talent. These actors really just absorbs their characters and you forget the voices behind them are established live action actors who are so familiar. Nathan Fillon fits into his role perfectly and his delivery in the most natural way, sharing a tremendous chemistry with Russell. 

Overall I enjoyed Wonder Woman (2009) very much and I was satisfied with the work that went into bringing this character to life. My only gripe would be the animation at times and some of the characters looked too similar and in particular on the Island of the Amazons. Ironically, the best part of the film was set here at the beginning of the film and I loved the origins part of the tale. It wasn’t forced or drawn out and felt enough to understand what the amazons were and how Diana’s story of a more innocent nature contrasting with the ways of the modern world  and this works to develop her character from a naive and contained princess into a true warrior and finally a hero. Wonder Woman (2009) is a typically 75 minute film by DC and if you are enjoying it, it feels too short. But in this instance I think the storyline was simple and it worked just well.


Shut In (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin



Director: Farren Blackburn
Writer: Christina Hodson
Stars: Naomi Watts,  Charlie Heaton,  Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt

Shut In is a movie that could have gone down the road of The Shining or What Lies Beneath but instead unintentionally goes down the Dumb and Dumber Too beaten track.

Now hold on, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the movie is an absolute hoot (although there are movie critics that would say the Farrelly Brothers long awaited sequel was hardly that anyway) but bare with me…..

The movie begins with an arial shot of the forresty landscape with the token house planted right in the middle of the area. This lets us know right away that at some point or another our characters are going to be isolated. Standing outside her door looking into the parked car is Mary (Naomi Watts) whilst her husband is packing in the back of the car, their son looks back at her angrily, disappointed, frustrated and angry again. In fact I’m sure one of those emotions are in there, it’s just that hard to tell with Stephen (Charlie Heaton) practically looking like this the whole time he’s in the movie.

Stephen is being carted off to boarding school having just been expelled from his previous school and the parents have had enough of his behaviour and convince themselves it would be best all round for him to leave. To be fair, Watts’ character does show signs of guilt and sorrow as her son is leaving and this is down to great acting on her part. As Stephen and his Dad are traveling down the road, he asks why he has to go and before we know it both of them are having a heavy debate whilst the car is traveling at a great speed. I feel the next sentence really shouldn’t be typed as I know, you know and everybody SHOULD know what happens next….. okay for anyone out there who may not see where this is going the car collides with an oncoming vehicle and the screen goes black.

We’re now 6 months later after those events and that isolated house out there in the woods is now covered thick in snow and at this point we don’t know if the father or son survived as we see Mary waking up and going downstairs for a cup of tea. The surrounding are quiet and empty leading us to believe for a moment that both of them died from the car accident. As I said, just for a moment until we discover tragically Stephen lying in his bed no longer able to mentally function and Mary looking after him now.

As the scenes unfold on what her daily life now involves we also discover that Mary is a  child psychologist and her office is basically the wooden lodge next to her house where she councils her patients whilst nipping back and forth to make sure her son (who we now discover is actually her stepson) is comfortable. We are introduced to a small boy Mary is counselling, who has behavioural and communication problems but who Mary is fond of disappears from her house, in the freezing cold winter in Maine.

With Mary now juggling looking after her stepson and helping looking for the missing boy, things start becoming a little weird in her household. Her confidant is Dr. Wilson played by the brilliant Oliver Platt who is in most of the key scenes in the movie who in turn is counselling Mary via Skype on night terrors she is experiencing. Dr. Wilson having checked a blood sample a few days later comes back with alarming results indicating Mary has been using non prescribed drugs and worse still taking Stephen’s dosage which he regards as putting both their lives at risk. Naturally Mary defends her corner denying taking anything for her night terrors and this is where she walks away from Dr. Wilson whilst on Skype. The Doctor not wanting the discussion to end so abruptly calls out for her at his end and is shocked when he sees a figure moving across the screen quickly that has a similar silhouette to her Stepson Stephen.

Now up to this point the movie was interesting, but only just, as I felt up to this point the writing and acting was very predictable and the movie was using every suspense and horror cliché going but the moment that figure appeared on the screen which was supposed to be a natural shock to the system came across to me as the point where the movie “Jumped the Shark” This then opened up a new debate…..did Stephen just pull a Lloyd Christmas on us? Was he really pretending to be in a vegetable state for SIX MONTHS? Did he defy and con medical professionals with neurological expertise into believing his brain was barely functioning? The answer to all these questions was a big fat YES.

The reason? Stephen didn’t want to share his stepmom with anyone else. Especially the little boy he kept locked up in the basement. OH COME ON. *sigh*

Shut In to be honest had little substance with a very under developed plot that made no sense at times and other times wasn’t consistent with its writing. The third act appeared lazy and predictable where this was heading and a particular scene when Mary is trying to escape with the young boy through a skylight that she smashes (and grabs the attention of mad Stephen who is searching for both of them from top to bottom) only for her to then inform the young boy they can’t escape that way? What? Why?

You would assume the performances from the established Watts and Platt would have saved this in some fashion but she is doing her best to keep everything above the water, and Platt is there to deliver the predicable exposition. Charlie Heaton as Stephen to be fair plays the role with a creepy intent albeit a little predictable….hold on I’m using that word again. That’s what this movie is though and where it falls flat. You can honestly see the set up of each scene and how it is going to unfold. Throwing in a few dream sequences doesn’t save this movie but just adds to what I can only call a predictable thriller (I’m cringing putting these two words together but that’s exactly how it comes across)

I wasn’t expecting Shut In to be laced with the writing of Stephen King, nor was I expecting it to stand shoulder to shoulder with Kubrick’s The Shining in directorial tones. The movie is a flat piece of disappointment and really is adding another nail in the coffin to a dying genre. If you haven’t watched this, I can’t recommend it. If you have, I am assuming like the character of Stephen we can only hope our state of vegetation isn’t really there and it was just the effect of this movie hopefully wearing off.

Frank and Cindy (2015) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin


Director: G.J. Echternkamp
Writers: G.J. Echternkamp (screenplay),  G.J. Echternkamp (story)
Stars: Rene Russo,  Oliver Platt,  Johnny Simmons

G.J. Echternkamp (Johnny Simmons) reveals the story of his relationship with his mother Cindy (Rene Russo) and his step-father, Frank Garcia (Oliver Platt).

Frank used to be a member of 1980’s one hit wonder band OXO who scored with the song “Whirly Girl”. Cindy who married Frank and thought life would be glamorous being married to a pop star touring and turning up at award ceremonies, but it’s not how things turned out at all.

C.J. discovers that his sobering mom, played by Rene Russo, and Frank played by Oliver Platt have spent the inheritance money that he planned to use for his future, he begins filming both of them and their lives to prove they can’t keep their promises. Whilst editing the footage into a short and uploading it on to the internet Echternkamp is shocked and surprised to see the amount of views his film has reached in a short space of time. Encourage by this response he sets out to make a full version documentary on Frank and Cindy life’s on where they came from and where they are now.

Johnny Simmons stars as C.G. when he was in his late teens to early twenties just before he heads off to film school. Simmons is convincing portraying a laidback and anxious personality in Echternkamp that has defined his other roles and revealing his potential as a leading man in which he has hinted in other movies such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Rene Russo as Cindy has been cast perfectly for the mother who tries her best to make up for her past mistakes and is convincing as the guilt ridden mother. It’s interesting to witness a vulnerable character like Cindy that is tired and haggard trying her best at redemption, for the most part anyway and Russo is a delight to watch as the talkative mother of C.J.

Oliver Platt for me completely steals the movie from Russo and this is no bearing on her performance as Cindy as I previously mentioned. Platt’s performance in the last half hour digs deep into that darkness and emotions of Frank and we see another side to the character who for the best part of the movie was labelled “Fat and Lazy” (mostly by Cindy I might add) and as we know is fully capable of capturing the essence of Frank.

Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe (2016) and (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) plays Kate who befriends C.J. And both of them become close adds normality to his life. Kate has just came out of a long term relationship and is in a vulnerable place. Getting to know C.J. and getting close to him isn’t all plain sailing as just as his mother and father in law have their faults, C.J. Begins to realise his own much to the angst of Kate. Levy has this confidence coming into this movie and if I didn’t know her name I would swear she was the younger sister of Emma Stone in looks and personality.

C.J.’s father Gilbert (Marc Maron) is introduced in the third act as his cool but irresponsible dad as C.J. takes a step back from his current situation to analyse what is happening in his life and where it all went wrong. This is the classic soul searching part where Echternkamp is exorcising some demons and realising he is as bad as his parents which is necessary and a very refreshing element in the story at this point. Marc Maron (Almost Famous) plays his role as the voice of reason and plays it sweetly in making C.J. Realise that he has to go home and face his own problems head on and stop pointing the finger at everyone. I think Maron was used sparingly but correctly not to side track the story and the main focus on Frank, Cindy and C.J. But was necessary as the turning point in the movie.

G.J. Echternkamp had previously made a documentary in 2007 about his parents, the real Frank Garcia and Cynthia Brown, which is also entitled Frank and Cindy (2007). G.J. Echternkamp as the Writer and director in this version of the movie is more of a “making of” portrays himself the victim of his alcoholic parents story in “Frank and Cindy” It’s a real time featured length documentary and one that won Echternkamp awards at the Raindance Film Festival and Seattle True Independent Film Festival in 2007.

Going into this film I half expected it to be a documentary as I wasn’t aware of the actual documentary from 2007. This version or take on Frank and Cindy is interesting enough and will make you smile and also has some touching moments when you least expect. For me the cast is perfect and in particular Russo and Platt who shine in all their scenes. I highly recommend this movie.