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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Jack Movie Screenshots (1996) Part 4















Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Jack Movie Screenshots (1996) Part 3













Retro Review: Swordfish (2001)

Cast: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Vinnie Jones, Sam Shepard 
Genre: Action Crime Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $147 million

Plot: A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell led by Gabriel Shear wants the money to help finance their war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away. Gabriel brings in the convicted hacker, Stanley Jobson to help him

'A Fish That Needs Gutting'

It's a coincidence that Travolta's character rants about Hollywood making and churning out crappy and bad movies and their lack of realism during the opening of the movie when he utters, ''the problem with Hollywood is that it produces s**t. Unremarkable, unbelievable s**t'', because that is precisely what this movie is, - kind of and it shoots itself in the foot. Swordfish has the trappings and style that echoes a John Woo Hong Kong effort that is also part- Michael Mann - but for one thing: nothing characters, unengaging story, sketchy characterisations, or be it non-existent personalities. 

Stanley (Hugh Jackman) is a hacker who finds himself working for a corrupt government agent, Gabriel (John Travolta). Stanley is persuaded by Ginger (Halle Berry), to get in on Gabriel's act of accepting $10 million and hacking into a government database to drain billions, with Stanley being pursued by the FBI.

It is comparable to Gone In Sixty Seconds, insofar as to its tone & feel that masks underneath that high gloss aesthetic and the effects are overdone. Travolta, yet again, indulges in and reenacts the same bad guy routine as in Face/Off and Broken Arrow as his character borders on insanity, Jackman's character opens up playing golf, shirtless with a towel covering up the lower half of his body, with scantily- clad Halle Berry as the semi-erotic, fan service-y scenes are thrown in for no other reason but to grab one's attention. Yet as a film itself, it has no interest in carving out an overly decent story and with the audience resonating with the characters, but piles on the mind-numbing -yet unspectacular violence and action. Jackman and Berry do what they can, but they coast through the banal material with below-par performances. Jackman, himself, looks uncomfortable in his role. 

Sword Fish turns out to be a smug & nihilistic affair that tries to be smart but ends up being asinine and with ineffective secondary characters including Stanley's estranged wife: an unlikeable, stuck-up witch, who is married to a wealthy porn mogul. It tries to offer something new, distinct that hadn't been attempted before, in contrast to the millions of other Hollywood big-budget blockbuster action affairs of the 1990s and 2000s, but the action feels samey and the implied suspense fails to come to life and it sort of meanders on, and when it does, one will probably lose interest. The political backstory to the whole thing and the subplot with Stanley's daughter are some things I could have done without.   

The film dissolves into a series of scenes that exist out of nowhere, whereby the characters' motivations aren't made clear with car chases, shootouts and Berry's breasts are on view through this relentlessly empty, mediocre and shallow action thriller. When it all comes together, it is executed in such a way, it becomes a little too ambitious and silly for its own good. 

Produced by Joel Silver, this is one of his weakest efforts and even with the billed names of John Travolta, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry, they all bereft of onscreen chemistry and any real affinity as a cast. Everyone is practically wasted in their roles, but with a better screenplay helmed by Skip Woods who gave us the terrible efforts of Hitman, Sabotage with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The A-Team & X-Men Origins: Wolverine - which weren't well-received themselves-, it would have elevated their performances. The rivalry between Stanley and Gabriel never really convinces. After Swordfish, director Dominic Shea retreated into the wilderness for 8 years. 

Final Verdict:

Just as worse and over two decades later, after initially enjoying this on its initial release in 2001, Swordfish has become unexceptional, dated, is vapid and not gripping enough.   


Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Retro Review: The Motel (2005)

The Motel
Cast: Jeffrey Chyau, Sung Kang, Jade Wu, Samantha Futerman 
Genre: Drama

Plot: 13-year-old Ernest Chin lives and works at a sleazy hourly-rate motel on the strip of a desolate suburban bi-way. Misunderstood by his family and blindly careening into puberty, Ernest befriends Sam Kim, a self-destructive yet charismatic Korean man who has checked in. Sam teaches the fatherless boy all the rites of manhood

'Worth Staying'

An adaptation of the Ed Lang novel, Waylaid, Michael Kang's portrait of 13-yr-old Ernest Chin, a Chinese American boy, captures the desperation and difficulties of being an adolescent teenager and whilst it is doesn't shout from the rooftops and makes itself heard, nor is it as familiar as other Asian American films such as The Joy Luck Club and the recent Crazy Rich Asians, its modest intentions and low-key showing, it tells its story well within the runtime and it doesn't feel bogged down with details.  

Fatherless Ernest is overweight, teased for being a large kid and for being Asian by bullies he encounters and is very quiet and goes to school. He pretty much represents that stereotype of the bright, smart Asian kid, but he is also not so much like that stereotype as he swears, smokes and looks at porn magazines and is preoccupied with sex. Ernest is at a stage where he shuffles between childhood and puberty; he aspires to become a writer, but his mum thinks he is spending too much time on his homework. His mother, Ahma runs the inn that is occupied by various couples and visitors. Ernest becomes bored and finds himself at loggerheads with his draconian mother, who makes him clean the rooms and he also has a younger sister to contend with and a grandfather who lives with them. 

Ernest is racially harassed and teased by bullies, he has a crush on an older girl, who works as a waitress at the restaurant. At first, she comes across as being a bit cold, annoyed but eventually she treats him kindly. & yet, she has no interest in becoming his girlfriend. There is also an arrogant Korean-American, Sam Kim, who drinks a lot and is down in the dumps, who befriends and finds solace in Ernest and the two hit it off as buddies. Ahma is displeased with this, even when Sam helps and takes Ernest under his wing, like a father figure, that is absent from his life. Being the rebellion that he is, Sam represents the freedom for Ernest, who feels he is constantly trapped inside this bubble. But being a nerd and lacking confidence, Sam is the catalyst for Ernest in gaining that motivation to stand up for himself.  

The drama doesn't explode, nor make the type of impact and though it remains earnest even for an R-rated film, it feels a little too earnest to my liking and there should have been more weight that was added to the story. The Motel could have also worked as a family-friendly affair and reached a far wider audience, particularly towards young Asian Americans, who could emphasise with and relate to Ernest. 

There were also no characters I could root for, although in Ernest, his circumstances and the way he came across meant to me he was a tad more empathetic than the others. & only a tad, because whilst Michael Kang tries to paint Ernest as a sympathetic figure, he doesn't show much in the way of emotions and is too much of a recluse, but also who is not a completely amiable one, either. 

Whilst it is not an exceedingly amazing film and the Asian American characters are paradoxical to ones as seen in other movies, it's a real shame that as laudable as movies such as The Motel is, which try to offer a different, unique & less showy version of the Asian American onscreen experience, these will be overlooked in favour of so-called overexposed rom-com fare such as Crazy Rich Asians. The performances here are well done and solid and being an Asian-American film, it grapples with issues of identity and culture, which aren't too noticeable, in addition to teenhood and adolescence. 

Final Verdict: 

With a runtime of approximately 1 hr, 15 mins, The Motel wins plaudits from me for offering a coming-of-age tale that is told with refreshing honesty and realism. And that is especially a rarity for Asian American movies, as this doesn't happen very often. 


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