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Saturday, 23 June 2018

B-Movie Actress Feature Spotlight: Elizabeth Shue

Born in the mid-Atlantic of Wilmington, Delaware in 1963, Elizabeth Judson Shue is one of 4
children and the only girl, who has close ties with her brother, Andrew, who is a fellow actor.

After graduating from Columbia High School, Shue went onto Wellesley College and in 1984, transferred to Harvard University to study Political Science. Whilst at college, Shue took an interest in acting and with that afterwards, she starred and appeared in TV ads for Burger King and video game company, Atari. She dropped out/left Harvard one semester shy of her degree, although she returned to Harvard in 1997 to complete her studies and get her B.A Hons. Shue's family life was affected by the death of her brother, William in a swimming accident during a family vacation, which ultimately made her rethink her priorities. That gamble paid off, as at the time of The Karate Kid's release in 1984, Shue was a mere 21 years of age and it became one of the blockbuster hits of the year, leading to more film roles for Shue to sink her teeth into.

Up until 1995, Elizabeth was typecasted in wholesome, goody-two-shoes, girl-next-door type character roles in the Chris Columbus debut, Adventures in Babysitting, which also marked Shue's first leading role as Chris, and Back to the Future II and III as Marty McFly's girlfriend, Jennifer & The Karate Kid as Daniel Larusso's girlfriend in subsequent love interest roles. With Shue replacing Claudia Wells in the Back To The Future sequels. Wells chose not to pursue the role any further and with that, Shue took over the mantle. It was at this point in her career, in 1988 with Cocktail starring Tom Cruise and 1989's Back to The Future II, it started to flourish. But then came the 1990s where she attained supporting and bit-part roles in Soapdish, 20 Bucks, Deconstructing Harry, The Marrying Man, Dream On, Heart and Souls to name. These weren't the multi-million dollar big screen hitters, but they did the trick. Some of them that is. Major roles evaded Shue, but one that came and became a breakthrough and significant game changer for her career, well, briefly anyway, was as prostitute Sara opposite Nicolas Cage in Mike Figgis's drama, Leaving Las Vegas. Her performance in the film helped her land an academy award nomination, as well as BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG Award for best actress.

After that, she landed several diverse roles in a variety of movies, but with most of them, they never truly unleashed Shue's true talents and worth. 

Shue is another actress who should have set the world and Hollywood alight, especially after her Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress in Mike Figgis's tragi-love tale, Leaving Las Vegas. Yet bombs such as the remake of The Saint, as well as the derisory reception and negative feedback of Hollow Man all but ended her stardom for good, and she hasn't appeared in a commercial mainstream theatrical movie since 2018's Death Wish. Her public profile diminished, over time since the 1980s where she was touted by many as a future Hollywood starlet who would go onto bigger and better things, and yet Shue's film career has oscillated up and down and she hasn't maintained that level of consistency that many would expect. By the late 1990s after Leaving Las Vegas, she was no longer a bankable leading lady and she mostly featured in supporting roles, whilst leading roles were not only a few but were mainly in indie and B-movies many people hadn't heard of, namely Palmetto, Cousin Bette, and 1999 bomb Molly, which made just under $18,000 apparently. Then came the killer in 2000's Hollow Man, which not only became a financial bomb for the controversial director, Paul Verhoeven but that Shue's role, which wasn't well handled by the writers, didn't elevate herself as an actress and star any further than it should have & it pretty much dug a huge hole in her movie career. For me, contrary to some, her career never went as far from then on from that flick. whilst with the horror flick, Hide & Seek this did well financially, it was also trounced by critics. 

Shue took a hiatus from acting to raise her children and when they got older, she had to reacquaint herself with the business when she returned as an actress. 2014's Behaving Badly had Shue playing the young best friend's mother who tries to seduce the lead character. The film also featured lesser-known actors in Heather Graham, Mary-Louise Parker, Dylan McDermott, Jason Lee to name. It was made in 2012, but studio head honchos let it sit on the shelves for 2 years (a sign that the film won't be good). When it did come out, critics weren't impressed & it bombed at the U.S box office. 

Her last films to date that were released were 2017's tennis biopic, Battle of the Sexes & the 2018 remake of Death Wish where she played the onscreen wife of Bruce Willis's character - and a wasteful one too, as she gets killed off earlier on in the movie. The film received negative reviews. 

In some ways, I wouldn't say I looked up to her, but rather I saw her as an actress who could be up there with Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfieffer of the cinematic drama world at least - and yet, it's unfortunate that it just never took off in that way. But as ever, Hollywood can be a very fickle place: they're the flavour of the year one minute, the next they're not, and next thing they know, it is over. It's odd really: when an actress or actor has dominated or be it been making and starring in movies for over 3 decades, not all of them become successes overnight - that, or that success is only shortlived, whilst a number of their contemporaries have been far more successful. This has been the case for Elizabeth Shue. 

That's not to say she isn't versatile - her body of work, especially during the latter stages of her career says otherwise; she's played different characters & she tried to break away from the nice girl image that she has initially built up, but it's the films themselves: they were not always the multi-million box office sellers I've come to expect, especially coming from a former Oscar and Golden Globe winner & nominee, and post-Leaving Las Vegas these have not been noteworthy. Shue should have done more mainstream, commercial movies and good ones too. Yet very few of her films had barely any real quality going for them and in especially where she bagged bit-part roles or as a foil to the lead, most of them just never really pushed and challenged Shue as an actress as much as they should have done. Although she has done a few films in recent years, so it kept her busy. 

Right after Leaving Las Vegas, she should have taken advantage of and capitalised on her success and tried to press on and aim for higher, bigger and better roles after that, but alas, Shue didn't do that & she made movies general moviegoers didn't care for, movies that were easily forgotten about, as well as movies that would've been rejected by many A-list actresses. 

As a result, her post-Oscar-nominated comeback - in reference to Leaving Las Vegas-, proved to be brief. 

Shue was more of an actress than a star than Meg Ryan and countless other big-name '90s actresses around at the time, who were (arguably) more famed for being stars than performers. With Adventures in Babysitting and Back To The Future, I believe that having established herself through those movies, she should have done a couple of more of those types of films. Not to say that playing against type is a bad thing for Shue, but the commercial, popular appeal, the fun side that they evoke, that is what she should have amounted to and aimed for, especially to boost her star power. Shue is an actress and a good one, but as a star, she should have been bigger. If it worked the first time for Shue with Adventures in Babysitting, Back To The Future, why not continue with this, as well as carving out decent and worthwhile dramas & thrillers to supplement it?

Elizabeth Shue has bags of talent and that longevity of experience, which was key to her doing so well in the 1980s, but that level of consistency and success just never carried over during the next two decades, the 1990s & 2000s. She hasn't had more of the popular and highest grossing movies to really demonstrate her worth and it's a particular factor that differentiates her from other notable actresses of the same age range as herself, & yet of whom have far more successful careers. That, and she needed to provide something unique through her image as a star to not only set her apart but to really get audiences talking as well. 

Notable Favourites: Adventures In Babysitting, Soapdish, Leaving Las Vegas 

Notable Non-Favourites: The Saint, Hollow Man (for her character especially)/Piranha, Behaving Badly


Elizabeth Shue- Wikipedia

Elizabeth Shur - Biography

Retro Review: Live! (2007)

Cast: Eva Mendes, David Krumholtz, Rob Brown, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jay Hernandez, Missi Pyle, Andre Braugher
Genre: Drama

Plot: A mockumentary following an ambitious TV network executive trying to produce a controversial reality show where contestants play Russian Roulette 

'''Live!'' Couldn't Quite Come To Life

A satirical look at the reality TV & rating- hungry bosses in suits, Live! sees a highly ambitious -yet ruthless TV executive, Katy attempting to create and showcase a new reality TV show, where six strangers play a game of Russian Roulette with six revolvers loaded, but only one of them contains a live round as they compete for the $5 million prize. Which is messed up and crazy, but hey, that is the nature of this business. 

Eva Mendes gives an uncharacteristic performance onscreen as the gritty Katy, which she hasn't really delivered in the majority of her Hollywood commercial efforts. It shows how good an actress she can be, but at the same time, the script isn't as meaty and & yet sadly she hasn't had more of the opportunities, where she lets her acting shine. 

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is farmer, Rick, a God-fearing Midwesterner, who risks losing his family's farm and he is one of the contestants on the show, alongside a young writer in Rob Brown (Finding Forrester, Take The Lead), Jay Rodriguez as a second generation gay immigrant, a sports guy and a young actress. I actually found their interview segments more enjoyable than the most of the individual scenes of Mendes; with the first half being bland and whilst this set-up is necessary to make strides in the film, it just wasn't interesting and when it got to the actual game show segment, that was when Live! became watchable. Additionally, Bringing Down The House's Missi Pye is in this one as well and she plays the TV news reporter. The performances, overall, were all right but it needed to be backed up by a more concrete script. 

It tries to examine not only the competitive and cutthroat side of reality television but also the behind-the-scenes look that this genre of programming, rarely airs live, as everyone is embroiled in a fierce ratings battle where success comes at a heavy price and whereby people's livelihoods are at stake. Just how far can we go to entertain ourselves and become stars? If only it had a bit more substance going for it. 

Live! is a mockumentary movie that deserves the mainstream treatment for it to be made a tad accessible; because as an indie hit, it feels it's not as loose and engaging as it should be. It also lacks clarity, sharpness and doesn't truly dig deep enough to make the reality TV theme resonate with general audiences. Even if the statement it intends to send out is true, the lengths in which the film goes to, to extract that never came to fruition. By shooting the film as a documentary and focusing on it mostly on Katy, it should have been a satirical movie and it was centred on not just herself, but also the other contestants and that equal screen-time were given to each of them.

Final Verdict:

Live! will interest fans and people who enjoy mockumentaries, but besides that, being a documentary means the characters have to lend themselves in a way they do not come across as being too corny for us to buy into them.

At least one thing I could give it credit for is that it shows that reality TV is/may not be the best form of entertainment. But for the game show part, it just wasn't compelling all the way through when it should have mattered. If this had been a commercial Hollywood film in the vein of EdTV with a more engrossing and entertaining script, this would have been a better route for Live! to head towards. 

But alas, Live! chickens out on the show's consequences and doesn't delve into its repercussions, beyond that of the climax towards the end, rendering it a bit of a missed opportunity as a film. It's a case where a good premise is washed out by its uneven approach. 


Friday, 22 June 2018

The Survivors Movie Screenshots (1983) Part 8

The Survivors












Retro Review: Maximum Risk (1996)

Maximum Risk
Cast; Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Jean-Hughes Anglade
Genre: Action Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $54 million

Plot: A French cop discovers that a deceased man turns out to be his exact double and takes his place & must avoid the FBI and mafia in attempts to solve the mystery

'More Like Bare Minimum & Tame Than Risky & Maximum'

A convoluted plot-driven action thriller with the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Maximum Risk is Double Impact; but whereas Double Impact was double the Van Damme's, twice the fun through the fun and exciting action scenes, Maximum Risk also has double the Van Dammes, but is only half the fun with a mediocre story that doesn't really take off and ignite the whole movie. It is also in the long line of movies from Van Damme where his good run of form practically ended with 1994's Streetfighter, and thus, along with reported tabloid stories of his doomed marriage, cocaine addiction and thus, spending only one week in rehab, as well as being diagnosed as bipolar, 1996 wasn't a good year for him. Plus, his career never truly recovered after Maximum Risk & he turned his attention to the direct-to-DVD market. Watching Van Damme here, it shows.

Mikhail Suvorov is a Russian thug, whilst Alain Moreau is a French cop. When Mikhail is murdered, Moreau is roped in by French police to investigate the matter further. He then heads off to New York, with the filming taking place in Canada, he takes on his brother's identity and with that, his brother's girlfriend and Moreau are pursued by both the Russian mafia and FBI, with the Russians who now want Alain dead.

Fortunately, it starts to heat up after 30 mins but then afterwards, the story sags once again and not making the desired impact. The action itself is routine, but also nothing that grand to brag about. It certainly feels like a un-Van Damme- like action offering, he seems out of place here. I could see someone like Sly Stallone or even Scott Adkins pull it off in a plot-driven action flick as this, but not Van Damme. Natasha Henstridge acts as Van Damme's partner and onscreen love interest, but even here she isn't given much to do other than to be eye candy, as well as to shag Van Damme.

The sauna fight was okay, but in watching Van Damme's martial arts fighting, either he lacks the deftness, finesse and athleticism that he had in Double Impact and Hard Target, - or that the fight choreography itself is just mediocre at best. When he launched a kick, here and there, it was nothing that was amazing. There was also not much in the way of hand-to-hand and kicks-based -martial arts from Van Damme, which will disappoint some fans. For the most part, the fights were slow and the choreography just didn't cut it. There are also a few chase sequences, here and there, gun battles and explosions, but for a so-called big budget offering, it was really a B-action movie through and through. Additionally, the main character, Alain was a bore and was, or is so devoid of personality.

Maximum Risk did well in various overseas markets, but other than that, this film pretty much spelt the end of Van Damme's commercial career, as, after that, all of his subsequent movies went direct-to-DVD afterwards. It's utterly unmemorable and it feels like one of those films where you watch once, and never again afterwards, or that you choose to watch it once, and watch it again, several months later. It also lacks any of the naffness in Timecop, Double Impact and Hard Target - they were out and out action movies, but there was also a fun element to them where they didn't always take themselves too seriously that made them watchable and entertaining. Yet not so for this effort. It started out in promising fashion - only to end on a weak note. For a film titled Maximum Risk, this so-called action flick barely takes any that is worth talking about.

As action thrillers and Van Damme showings go, this is as limp as 6-day-old lettuce.

Final Verdict:

Mostly tame, bland with a story that drags, this is a poor man's Double Impact, well, actually, it doesn't come close.

Whereas John Woo worked his magic with Van Damme on Hard Target, here, Ringo Lam went for the less showy, but also pedestrian approach by playing things far too straight, and as a result, Maximum Risk feels far too tame when it really ought to have been explosive and exciting. I never thought I'd come across a Van Damme movie so lacking in the martial arts department, but this was it and it made the film dull.

For die-hard Van Damme fanatics, it's worth adding, but otherwise, this was just lacklustre.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

The Survivors Movie Screenshots (1983) Part 7

The Survivors














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