McFarland, USA (2015)

McFarland seems to be off the beaten track with its dust, long fields, and pickers out in the early morning rush to make a living from the vegetation gardens. But this is life outside of the city that for any city dweller would be a bit of a culture shock. With a favourable eye on the community, Whale Rider’s Niki Caro directs proceedings in this Walt Disney drama production that exudes warmth and is not humourless. McFarland looks like a good place to live and get to know people going by the presentation here, while their hard-working lives, and the issues they face, isn’t swept under the carpet, and coach Jim White’s entrance into the town is fraught with teething problems, all coated in a wholesome, Walt Disney-ish glow. McFarland’s high school cross country team were underdogs until coach Jim White took them under his wing and exploited their athletic potential to the point of state-wide success. Played by Kevin Costner, White, as he was affectionately referred to by his down-to-earth, self-aware runners, is portrayed as a struggling yet doggedly determined mastermind behind the team’s rise. Watching it all happen on the screen elevates this minor league film to radiant success.

Older: Presumed Innocent (1990)

I’ve been watching the court room thriller Presumed Innocent (1990) on television which had the bonus of starring Harrison Ford and Raul Julia and helmed by director Alan J. Paulka who seems to be no slouch. But although it’s a B-grade thriller, it turns out to say something haunting and powerful: there is not only a criminal punishment when it comes to crime and wrongdoing but a human punishment. When a husband betrays his wife with an affair, and if she knows, the wife is punished in her thoughts and emotions by her husband’s unfaithfulness. The husband is later accused of the murder of his mistress, but will the husband become emotionally punished by what the wife reveals to him about what she’s done? There is a human toll when one violates another human being somehow—the law is there to prevent wrongdoing and punish wrongdoers but also to prevent heartbreak.

Final view: Airplane! (1980)

My final view of bold, outrageous comedy spoof of 1970’s disaster films, Airplane! (1980), in note form. Watched it again recently. I was in a very alert, sober mood, but the film could only make me laugh two or three times. If I laughed otherwise in the past, there is a saying: even in laughter the heart aches. I guess you must laugh because everyone else seems to, if you go by the reports. Or do they?

As well as not making me laugh out loud, there are too many things in bad taste that are not funny. The film also contains sexual references and brief nudity that were, well, in bad taste really. Shame because I was amused up to those points, but only amused. However, the bad taste elements really took over any joy I had in the comedy.

There’s also a religious subtext that’s anti-proselytizing which was downright serious! A serious side in this flippant comedy? Who would have thought?

Old reviews

Peter Veugelaers (ala Pete’s Writing) old reviews are at; the lot. For reviews 2020 and beyond please see , the blog you are on.

At Old Reviews I will also introduce certain reviews with a disclaimer — Old review, not now. Not final, either — and endeavour to give my final view of it at Here I am endeavouring to view those old movies again to see if anything has altered or stayed the same, as well as review new movies as well as older ones that crop up that I have never reviewed. Sometimes, edits of the original published reviews may be made for better clarity.

Recent: Jackie (2016)

Jackie (2016) takes a little while to warm up to it. The human side of Jackie Kennedy, the wife of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, doesn’t come to the fore until some moments in. Then, I was caught up watching Natalie Portman as Jackie get her hands dirty in getting under the grief of the former first lady who has just witnessed the assassination of her husband. Portman is so natural in conveying the mannerisms and emotional hurt of Jackie, that she morphs seamlessly into the role. She is ably supported by Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, Richard E Grant as Bill Walton, and John Hurt as the Catholic priest Jackie confides in about her God issues over the untimely death. It is here that there’s a great spiritual moment in the film, when the priest retells Jesus’ parable of the blind beggar to comfort Jackie. The parable becomes a spiritual lesson for her and elevates her as a kind of symbol for the nation and the world, as she’s here to now glorify God. Peter Sarsgaard gives a compassionate performance and Richard E Grant is sensible and has presence in his official kind of role. Jackie is a compassionate portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, which is certainly apt considering the subject matter.