Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Retro Review: Tin Men (1987)

Tin Men
Cast: Danny DeVito, Richard Dreyfus, Barbara Hershey, Bruno Kirby, JT Walsh
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $25 million

Plot: A minor car accident drives two rival aluminium-siding salesmen to the ridiculous extremes of man versus man in 1963 Baltimore

'Far From Barry Levinson's Absolute Best, Yet Thanks To Devito's Turn, It's Worth Seeing'

Tin Men is a film that was listed whilst I was looking on Barry Levinson's filmography, but it was also one that I was very unfamiliar with. I remember the last time I tried to watch this movie that after the first 15 mins, I gave up completely and turned it off because I just couldn't get into it, whatsoever. And so, I decided to try for a second time just today to see how it would fare and whether this time around, I'd manage to stick this one out to the very end. Fortunately, I did so and in doing so, I see to it that Tin Men touches on certain things and that it shows itself up to be a showcase on how two people who hate each other's guts, share a lot more in common than we originally thought. 

The second outing from Barry Levinson's Baltimore films, following on from Diner and was later preceded by Avalon and Liberty Heights, Tin Men tends to be a darker effort, but at the same time, it comes up short in certain areas and at best, I found it to be okay to reasonably good and that the story should have been a lot more dynamic. 

A pair of door-to-door Alumnimum salesmen (which the title of the movie alludes to & is a slang term) from Baltimore, Earnest Tilly and BB Babowsky are involved in a minor car incident, which then blows up into a massive feud and they end up quarrelling against each other. Both Tilly and Babowsky blame one another for the fiasco and declare war - with Babowsky, stooping as low as stealing and seducing his rival's wife, who becomes increasingly unhappy with her marriage. Their actions incur the wrath of government officials; thus, leading to further investigation. Babowsky is a typical wheeler-dealer hustler type, whilst Earnest is tragi-loser who I felt sorry for and of who does his damn hardest to make things work, but whose efforts go unappreciated by his thankless wife. 

The feud is effective in advancing the film forward and as a plot device, it serves Tin Men rather well, but as it does so, it doesn't make the required and huge impact one expects it ought to do. I will say however that Tin Men is well-written and despite the comedy, which was deft and not being at the forefront as much, the performances by the main two, DeVito & Dreyfus, but more so by the former are what makes this movie worth sitting through. 

Richard Dreyfus's character was a meanie and a cad, whilst Danny DeVito's was more likeable and sympathetic and I couldn't stand Earnest's wife, who cheated on him with his rival. The subplot with Nora and BB falling for each other was totally unconvincing that it didn't work and I didn't feel any chemistry between Barbara Hershey and Richard Dreyfus. On the other hand, DeVito's performance was terrific and for me, he was the more compelling out of himself, Dreyfus and Hershey. Unfortunately, the script doesn't allow his character to grow and develop that well enough. That, and things do not get better for Earnest, which is a shame. Out of all the characters, DeVito's character was one that deserved a far happier ending than the rest. 

Whenever DeVito was onscreen, I became invested in the movie, and when he wasn't, I didn't find Tin Men as interesting and as watchable, and so I zoned out. Some of the banter was lighthearted and snappy, but it wasn't that funny and but for DeVito's character, everyone else was virtually charmless and they just seemed to be going through emotions. 

I liked how it ended, but Tin Men is far from entertaining and it could have been boosted with some more highly amusing one-liners, lines and occasional slapstick, which this film needed.  

Also look out for a cameo appearance by the British pop group, Fine Young Cannibals who perform, 'Good Thing' in a bar scene. 

Final Verdict:

Tin Men was and is a reasonable film and though it is not a high point in terms of commercial and critical success for Levinson, it does have something to say. But it also needed to be funnier in places and more dynamic also. 

Fortunately, in DeVito's Earnest and his performance as that character, in addition to the impressive 1960s set designs, it just about makes Tin Men watchable enough for me.


Monday, 21 August 2017

Directorial Feature Spotlight: Barry Levinson

'A Character-Driven Based Director Who Focuses On Telling The Story That Needs To Be Told'

Barry Levinson is an American film director & writer born in Baltimore, Maryland. His best-known movies are dramas and comedy-dramas that include Diner (1982), Good Morning Vietnam (1987) & Rain Man (1988). Diner was one of four films set in Levinson's birthplace of Baltimore: the other three are Tin Men with Richard Dreyfus and Danny DeVito, Avalon & Liberty Heights. He also served as an uncredited writer for the cross-dressing comedy, Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman, of whom he has worked with on four separate occasions as a director. 

This is the man who went on to secure the Oscar as Best Director for Rain Man, although he should have also won for Good Morning, Vietnam as well, but Levinson is also the same man who studied Improvisational classes for comedy. & with Robin Williams, who was known for his improvisational skills, I'm sure he came in handy when working with Robin on that film. 

Known for his versatility in branching out towards different genres and not sticking to one subject matter or style, what I really appreciate about Barry Levinson's approach is how he tries to find a way to make each film work and to tell the story that needs to be told to the audience, without straying so far. It is also very observational, in terms of that his films tell stories and that the movies manage to observe what the characters are doing and saying and the significance of them. I may add also that there is a human interest aspect in most of his characters. He doesn't throw in scenes because they look good to the eye, but because they have something to tell as well. 

1992's Toys was and still is to this day a financial and critical disaster and is still the low point of his career. But at the same time, as surreal and strange as it is, with a bit more work and adding in humour, it would have turned out well. That film and Sphere are movies people don't tend to associate Barry Levinson with and though sometimes, it doesn't always work, there are some elements that stand out for me in those efforts. 

I do realise that there are people who find Levinson's directorial style to be lacking, maybe because it's not that exciting or action-packed as it should be. In the 1980s and 1990s, Barry Levinson was one of the world's most prolific and acclaimed directors and he worked with the likes of established actors such as Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.

There isn't one film I would say I truly disliked or enjoyed least of all by Levinson that I have seen: Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Disclosure, Tin Men, even Sphere wasn't too bad. Good Morning, Vietnam has to be my ultimate favourite: not just an incredible performance by Robin Williams, but the direction, cinematography and execution by Levinson were practically flawless. I like Levinson's style and approach and they lend themselves well to the movies that he directs.

A director who has shown his capability in combining and choosing well-written stories and scripts and intelligent imagery for his films that are character-driven, Barry Levinson has produced very few bombs and I would count him as one of my personal favourite movie directors. 

Notable Favourites: Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Disclosure (1994) & Rain Man (1988)

Grade I Would Award Towards Barry Levinson:  A

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Directorial Feature Spotlight: Paul Verhoeven

'Misogynistic & Terrible Depictions of Female & Hero Characters Hinder My Enjoyment Of His Movies'

Paul Verhoeven is a Dutch filmmaker originally hailing from Amsterdam, who is best known for the 1987 action sci-fi based cyberpunk offering, Robocop amongst other notable American films that became worldwide successes.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Paul Verhoeven shocked Hollywood traditionalists and directed a string of R-rated Hollywood mega-hits that really pushed the boundaries of sex and violence in more ways than one and in deeply provocative ways that lured audiences to their seats, as well as enraged and upset censors and moralists with his ideas. His first English language film was Flesh & Blood made in Paul's native country and was released in 1985, starring Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

All the American actresses Verhoeven had turned to to play the lead role of Elle in the 2016 self-titled movie, turned him down and in the end, he settled for a French actress, Isabelle Huppert. Similarly, a number of high-profile actresses turned down the chance to play and had refused to play the role of Catherine in Basic Instinct including Kathleen Turner, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan (who coincidentally went on to star in erotic thriller In The Cut), Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger and Demi Moore. With the role eventually snapped up by Sharon Stone, who had previously worked with Verhoeven on Total Recall.

He has a (deeply) disturbing interest/fetish towards rape from both the perspectives of the rapist and the victim: in Spetters, an early Dutch film, a young gay man is gang- raped by a group of bikers, in Flesh & Blood, Martin played by Rutger Hauer rapes Agnes (Jennifer Jason Lee), in Showgirls Nomi's best friend is brutally raped by a pop star, Basic Instinct's Michael Douglas's cop character attempts to rape his estranged wife and in Hollow Man, an invisible serial killer scientist in Sebastian enters a woman's house and rapes her as she lies on her bed. & in Elle, a French-language rape revenge thriller, the main character is raped by her attacker and goes on to stalk her attacker. The latter of which earned him several awards and is the most critically acclaimed movie of his career.

Verhoeven has made a career out of stirring and courting controversy by going beyond the boundaries and merging wit with excesses in sex and violence. His movies, particularly his sci-fi based outings, are typically violent, satirical and contain and conjure up highly provocative and sexual imagery, which each film having a heavily stylised aesthetic look and feel to them. Robocop, Basic Instinct, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Showgirls are all satires that indulge in his morbid and warped take on socially immoral human behaviour. Verhoeven's portrayals and framing of the female characters, but for in Robocop and Total Recall, lean more towards being misogynistic. The guy loves women: he likes them strong but also in ways that their bodies attract the allure of their male aggressors and that they are used and get taken advantage of. Which is what worries and disturbs me about Verhoeven.

Sharon Stone once alleged the infamous leg crossing scene in Basic Instinct where her vagina was exposed during filming, was filmed without her knowledge. That once she saw the footage with a test audience that she became aware of this and Stone slapped Verhoeven in the face and left the screening. Verhoeven strongly denied this allegation. 

His fascination with sex and violence is given the hardcore treatment with nudity, gore, blood and guts aplenty, which is also glossy and somewhat well-crafted. I loved Robocop and think it is the best movie Paul Verhoeven has directed, followed by Total Recall, which was a brilliant follow-up. But after that, his follow-ups have been a mixed bag for me and not least because of the protagonist/good guy characters we or I am supposed to root for, are so dislikable, unsympathetic and lack redeemable qualities. Had many of his characters been as likeable enough for me, then it would make me enjoy Verhoeven's movies even more. I don't watch movies just for the plot, story, casting, special effects, action scenes etc, but for the characters themselves. & having hero characters that come across as humane and likeable is important in the viewing experience for me. It may not be a big deal for a lot of people, but it is to me.

But alas, minus points for the misogynistic female characters, for the male characters as being the aggressors and but for Robocop, Elle, Total Recall, his other movies that have dislikable protagonist characters that I can't root for, for various reasons.

I find his sci-fi movies more watchable; Basic Instinct was rather underwhelming for me, and but for the highly charged erotic sex scenes, it was absent of the tension needed to rile up the film. Showgirls is a guilty pleasure, Hollow Man was all right but Starship Troopers felt too much like a teen drama in the mode of Saved By The Bell with large blood-thirsty insects & not so interesting story. & again, all the hero-based characters in those movies lacked charm and I found them as equally detestable and not empathetic enough.

Visually, stylistically, aesthetically, Paul Verhoeven's movies look a treat and as much as his movies contain some sort of social message, this is often overlooked in some instances in favour of the nihilistic violence and sexual imagery they evoke. 

Therefore, as strong and heavy- laden as the sex and violence are by Paul Verhoeven, its lack of moralistic and honourable protagonist characters for me to root for, ruins what is otherwise an interesting showing by Verhoeven. He is a director that is not for everyone - which is fine, and though there are some things he does that I find intriguing, the rest is just for shock purposes. 

That, and that some of the rape scenes in his films are uncomfortable for me to sit through.

Notable Favourites: Robocop (1987) & Total Recall (1990)

Grade I Would Award Towards Paul Verhoeven:  C

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Directorial Feature Spotlight: Garry Marshall

'Enjoyed Happy Days and Mork & Mindy, Felt Indifferent Towards His Movie Work'

Born in New York City, New York on November 13, 1934 - July 19, 2016, Garry Marshall was primarily known for directing so-called 'chick flicks' and romcoms with most of them receiving scathing reviews from critics (probably because they are terrible) and because they are the types of films many movie fans, particularly male movie fans, loathe and despise. Yet these same movies, the vast majority of them, still went on to gross millions of dollars at the box office.

His directorial movie debut came in the form of 1984's The Flamengo Kid, with Matt Dillion in the lead role, which to this day is still his most critically acclaimed movie. 

He was single-handly instrumental towards catapulting both Robin Williams and Julia Roberts into super stardom - if not for their Oscar-winning turns in Good Will Hunting & Erin Brockovich; after Mork & Mindy, Williams went one, - or make that 6 times better with Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Aladdin & Good Will Hunting & with Roberts saying she grew up watching Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley: sitcom shows that Marshall was chiefly responsible for. Garry Marshall directed Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride & Valentine's Day. 

I have had no real objections towards Garry Marshall's TV output; they were varied, as with the sitcoms, the romance element was less of a focal point of the plots.

But there are fewer movies of Garry Marshall's that I truly love; in fact, there hasn't been one movie of his where I went: ''that was amazing''. There is one movie that I enjoyed, which was Overboard. But other than that, nothing. Since the success of Pretty Woman, which is still his biggest commercial hit and a film I think it is overrated, and one he has been coasting on for years, I have felt nothing but indifference towards his movie output. 

As much as I do blame the scriptwriters sometimes for the low-quality scripts that he accepts and gets greenlighted, Garry's directorial style itself is uninspired with an over-reliance on one sub-genre, the rom-com. His style lacks the wow and excitement factor that he ends up leaving it to the likes of Julia Roberts to bring it to life. It happened with his TV show Mork & Mindy, & one where he was the original creator of the show, particularly the last 2 seasons which weren't as great, and it was only by the virtue of Robin Williams who managed to keep some viewers glued to their sets with his zaniness. When he has a script, Garry Marshall just doesn't do much to it to make me want to care for the characters and love the movie, but to constantly rely on lovey-dovey schtick & leave the rest up to his main stars. But even with this, it feels too predictable and one-dimensional. This has been a major issue I have with him, with regards to his romcoms, of whereby each and every one of them is practically the same as the last. His last ever effort, 2016's Mother's Day with Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston received a mauling and the most negative reviews from both professional movie critics and general online movie review bloggers, all-round of his career. 

In contrast, his sister Penny Marshall, who coincidentally starred as Laverne in the Happy Days spin-off, Laverne & Shirley, directed way superior and more quality movies: Big with Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own, the fabulous Awakenings starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, Jumpin' Jack Flash. & though she may not have an as extensive list of movies under her belt as her older sibling, at least she knows a quality script when she sees one. 

The bottom line and to wrap it up, I enjoyed Mork & Mindy and in some ways, through the Mork & Mindy will they/won't they romantic storyline, it was this setup that eventually paved the way for Garry Marshall's later offerings in Pretty Woman, Valentine's Day and other romcoms. 

But when it comes to his movies, they have been all, but for Overboard, forgettable (who practically knows duds in The Other Sister, Exit in Eden?), too predictable and aren't much to ponder & as a movie director, he hasn't made much of a positive impression on me, personally to say I adore his films. 

(although if I had been creating my own rom-com, I would still have him onboard, just because his name, for me, is synonymous with the genre, more than for any other reason alone). 

Notable Favourites: Overboard (1987)

Grade I Would Award Towards Garry Marshall:  F

Friday, 18 August 2017

Cast The Live- Action F-Zero Crew Movie

What is F-Zero?

F-Zero is a series of futuristic racing video games created by Nintendo's EAD division. The first game, F-Zero was released for the Super Nintendo back in 1991 and its success led to multiple sequels on various Nintendo consoles. The series is known for its high-speed racing sequences. In 2003, there was an Anime series by Ashi Productions titled F-Zero: GP Legend. 51 episodes of the show were produced in total.  It is a reboot of the F-Zero franchise that takes place in the year 2201, with police detective Rick (as known in the North American version) as one of the protagonists, who works with the Mobile Task Force. Its members include Jody Summer and Dr Stewart. Together, they help take down Zoda and the rest of Dark Million. 

The live-action film would be based on the F-Zero GP Legend Anime.

Waiching's casting choices:  

Mobile Task Force (the show's main protagonists and good guys)

Captain Falcon - main protagonist shrouded in mystery & works at a bar when he is not racing (Matthew Fox)


Jody Summer - strict leader who comes down hard on anyone who messes up the mission (Kate Beckinsale)

Rick Wheeler - protagonist of the English version (Grant Gustin)

Jack Levin - a ladies man from Australia who starts off as a rival for Rick but later becomes his friend (Liam Hemsworth)

Dr. Stewart - formerly a surgeon but became a racer after his father died (Dustin Hoffman)

Lucy Liberty - youngest member of the elite mobile task force  (Bella Thorne)

Dr Clash, aged 69 he's an engineer who wants to be a racer (Christopher Lloyd)

Mr EAD - a robot who is a fan of Kate Allen (Danny Devito)

John Tanaka - head cop of the mobile Task Force & fan of Kate Alen (Ryan Higa)

Kate Alen - a famous pop star. Zoda tried to get her to join Dark Million, only to be thwarted by Rick & Mr EAD (Jennifer Hudson)


Dark Million  (Arch Enemies of the Mobile Task Force and Antagonists)

Zoda - a criminal brought back to life and was the cause of Rick's accident, 50 years ago (Jim Carrey)


Black Shadow - main villain of the series and leader of Dark Million (Christian Bale)

Miss Killer - Black Shadow's right hand woman and who was formerly Rick's girlfriend (Christina Ricci)

Deathborn/Phoenix - member of Dark Million & sitting chairman of the F-Zero association (Adam Driver)



Baba - member of Dark Million (Wesley Snipes)


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mini Retro Review: The Big Wedding (2013) #badmovies

The Big Wedding

Oh boy. Another truly terrible Robin Williams film from the (post) 2000s, which yet again (how many times have I said this? Too many, that's what) is indicative of how bad and worse his career literately became right after One Hour Photo and Insomnia, The Big Wedding features a star ensemble in Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon, of whom they too ought to have known better than sign up to this unfunny dross. Film is about one family where each member are having difficulties in their relationships and they get resolved, one way or another. Just like a rom-com. Robin Williams plays an unfunny recovering alcoholic priest, in yet another wasteful role of his (again, speaking as a fan, why Robin? Why). Endless immature sexual jokes uttered by the likes of veterans De Niro, Diane Keaton, Sarandon and Williams in a brazen attempt of theirs to bring some relevancy to their careers, when in turn, it's yet an excuse for them to collect their pay cheques, rather than for the quality of the material on hand. & quality this film isn't. Poor and cheap gags and some of the poorest attempts at humour I've seen, characters one could care less about & one of the worst films of 2013. 

& it's lame in every sense of the word also. 

Is It Worth Seeing?

Utterly joyless movie with stars who only did it for the money. This is one wedding that doesn't deserve a reception, nor should it be attended by anyone. Me included. 


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Retro Review: No Contest (1995)

No Contest
Cast: Shannon Tweed, Robert Davi, Andrew Dice Clay, Roddy Piper
Genre: Action

Plot: A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant competition is hijacked by a gang who take a number of hostages and demand diamonds

'So-So Canadian Die Hard B-Movie Clone'

A clone of the 1988 John McTiernan action blockbuster, Die Hard with Bruce Willis, No Contest is a Die Hard version of Miss Congeniality with the beauty pageant sub plot added that went straight to video back in the mid-1990s and is a low-budget affair. I wasn't expecting much at all from this, but for the action itself; at most I was thinking it would be average at best. 

Which by all accounts, it is. 

The film stars Shannon Tweed as a female John McClane; i.e. a cop who finds herself in a bit of trouble when a bunch of evil terrorists invade a Miss Universe-style beauty pageant with heavy machine guns. Dice Clay's villain takes Miss USA Candice hostage, in return for a $10 million ransom. Tweed's character, Sharon poses as one of the hosts of the pageant, who later turns out to be a cop who has to save and rescue the other girls and blow up the baddies, with the aid of a security officer played by Robert Davi. 

The premise is somewhat interesting and the execution, for a Z/B-movie was okay. Whilst a lot of people will find the violence and action scenes to be tame (which it was) and not as hard-hitting and graphic (& hard-hitting it wasn't), this was something I could give, as well as take for a low-budget action film. Obviously, if this had been a big budget affair and the action was terrible, then I would chastise it more. The fight scenes were somewhat of a joke though, bordering on as almost bad and as convincing as Shannon tried to be by landing those kicks and punches, - though most of the work was done by her stunt double. No Contest is more lower-tier, direct-to-DVD stuff, rather than the middle of the road fare. 

I didn't care for Andrew 'Clay' Dice's villain character; I didn't pay attention to him at all actually, whilst the late Rowdy Roddy Piper was really rowdy and hams it up as one of the other goons. He also manages to bring some insanity and menace to not just the role, but also in a film such as this that is to be expected. 

No Contest resonates with a trashiness that reverberates almost throughout the entire film, B-movie style -only to come to a massive halt by the end. The film does gain a few points by gifting Shannon Tweed a role that doesn't involve taking her clothes off, like with all of her softcore porn movies, which she has made a reputation of being known for. Even if her fight scenes needed more work and that sometimes, I found it difficult to take her seriously as a cop. 

As a Die-Hard -type of film, this isn't too bad as efforts go and as corny and half-baked as it is, I couldn't help but go along for the ride. The film tries to bring that Die Hard feel to life and at most, it's decent enough yet very thin. The casting choices are ideal, although I am a bit critical with regards to the fight scenes. 

The ending is badly edited and looks shoddy, although here, it seems the director's intention was to make sure it looked and feels every inch of the action flick and with all the trimmings and more cost-effectively also. In contrast to another B-movie action film, in say, Exit Speed (a favourite of mines) however, action-wise, entertainment-wise, re-watch-ability factor No Contest doesn't have it in spades, nor is it as good. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst it offers nothing new and doesn't stand out from the millions of other action films, it tries its best and it gets A for effort. As a whole, it's not bad and whilst I have seen better, it's just about watchable. But it is not a film that I would revisit all the time.


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