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Saturday, 23 June 2018

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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