Friday, 22 September 2017

Mini Retro Review: Final Round (1994) #badmovies

Final Round

Z-movie action offering that is like a knock-off version of The Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger with B/Z-movie action star Lorenzo Lamas. After a big-shot recruiter sees filmed footage of Tyler beating up some bad guys in a bar fight, Tyler, along with his girlfriend, who are having sex with each other, are kidnapped and thrown into an industrial complex turned arena. They, along with some other guy are then hunted by some weirdo characters that look like the characters in Universal Soldier with bad looking eyepatches. One of them even is a dead ringer for Kurt Russell's Snake Plissken. For a Z-movie, the production values are okay, but the bad guys' performances are so terrible and with Lamas (who has a Black belt in real life), one would expect some martial arts moves to go along with his character's boxing skills, but no. Lamas is likeable, but he is no Arnie and doesn't have that many cool one-liners as him. There are fewer fight scenes and very little action, the pacing tends to be a lot slower here than in The Running Man and even the action isn't that great. In all, it's nothing that we haven't seen before that with The Dangerous Game premise this has been executed far better in The Running Man and John Woo's Hard Target. Final Round is so throwaway it lacks any sort of finesse, fun and grit those movies possess.

Is it worth watching?

If you are into Z-movie action films a lot and they are the sort of thing you enjoy watching, it's a yes, but other than that, definitely not. 


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Retro Review: Bed Of Roses (1996)

Bed Of Roses
Cast: Christian Slater, Mary Stuart Masterson, Pamela Adion, Josh Brolin, Gina Torres 
Genre: Romantic Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $27 million 

Plot: A young career girl is swept off her feet by a shy florist 

'Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, This Movie Is Bland Schmaltz & Patronising Too'

Going into this movie, which coincidently enough is also the title of a Bon Jovi song, I had low expectations and didn't expect much from it; although it was one of those romantic movies that didn't star either Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock - which for starters, was an interesting move. Bed of Roses operates more as a romantic drama with subtle hints of comedy and lightweight scenes, lacking the fanfare of many of the populist romantic comedies and dramas of the 1990s, its low-key affair, what without all of the Hollywood glam and pomp and A-listers that usually comes with these types of movies, would be a good thing to have. That's if this movie had been that great and I bought into the characters. But that is where I get the good points out of the way, because Bed of Roses, besides the leads, whose names aren't what people would associate with this film, is a romantic drama entity that doesn't offer much, never mind new to want me to truly love it. 

Just like millions of other romantic comedies, dramas and dramedies, Bed of Roses has the same, exact conventional plot: boy and girl meet up, they don't get on well at first, then things start to heat up, there is an obstacle or misstep and in the end the boy and girl get together and fall in love. So how does Bed of Roses stack up and given my lack of interest in romantic dramas and comedies, does it offer anything or do anything that interests me and makes me enjoy the movie, even more? Lisa is a workaholic executive and has little to no time for love and being in a relationship when she receives a bouquet of flowers from a secret admirer. That admirer happens to be from a man named Lewis, who doesn't tell Lisa what he actually does for a living. When Lisa catches Lewis staring at her through her window, she does, nothing. The storyline/plot is, in essence, a less serious variant of the stalker with a crush and Lewis's actions today would be interpreted as being strange and that Lisa would have called the cops on him. 

Both Lisa and Lewis have tragic pasts, both are emotionally in need of that love, but that also it is far more difficult to receive it, as it is giving it. Lewis lost his wife and child and Lisa had a difficult childhood growing up and before you know it, the pair of them hook up & fall for each other. There is one thing that goes against Bed of Roses: and that is it had the production feel and value of a TV movie. It just didn't feel like a Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts type of romantic film. 

I don't have a problem with the premise or the film's intentions, but what I kind of have a problem with, is Christian Slater's Lewis. Whilst the first half has a sad flashback sequence of Lisa's childhood, the film doesn't touch upon Lewis. Some scenes exploring his troubled and difficult life, prior to now, would have not also been helpful, but it would make me have more empathy for him. I was far less impressed with Christian Slater, who arguably doesn't provide much to the film, although most of the blame needs to be attached to the writers for his character being written in such a shabby way.

Mary Stuart Masterson is one of those actresses that really didn't break out in the big time, and whilst she comes across as nice and pleasant as her character, she lacks that screen presence those other actresses possess and she doesn't hold a candle to Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan. But here, her performance was somewhat good and she played it naturally. I could have done without the dying wife backstory from Christian Slater's character - it felt tacked on and it was unnecessary to have and the background music gets jarring after a while. 

Bed of Roses isn't completely bad and yet it was also somewhat depressing to sit through a movie whereby Masterson's character, Lisa wasn't allowed to develop and be happy and fully content, which was something I found frustrating as I sat through it, and yet to Masterson's credit, she does her admirable best, despite the script and the writers portraying Lisa as a weakling and treating her like this is what the film needs. It doesn't. 

Still, as a movie, this is wholly bland and whilst the sentimentality may drive people crazy, it's the conception of it that is so unremarkable, yet incredulous as well. Add to that the lack of any real conflict that would have not only upped the tension and made the movie more fascinating to watch that, in turn, make the coming together of Lisa and Lewis feel even more satisfying, Bed of Roses plays things far too safe and is pure schmaltzy twaddle. 


Final Verdict:

An inoffensive romantic drama that tries to come across as well-meaning and with good intentions but which never really goes deep with the characters, or be it with the love interest/loser in love protagonist, Lewis. It does have one or two pleasant scenes, but as a film, it just doesn't do enough to stimulate the mind and goes deep in regards to what the meaning of love means for different people. 

The story and romance would have been far more believable, had the writer made these aspects more engrossing, but also far less turgid and insipid. The treatment of the female main character is what truly damns this film for me. 

If you want an example of a movie that does the romantic drama thing far better, I'd recommend 1998's Living Out Loud over something like this. 


Seize The Day Movie Screenshots (1986) #robinwilliams

Seize The Day
Starring Robin Williams, Jerry Stiller, Joseph Wiseman, Glenne Headly
'Losers aren't born, they're made'
My Movie Review Rating: 5 out of 10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Retro Review: Protocol (1984)

Cast: Goldie Hawn, Chris Sarandon, Richard Romanus, Gail Strickland, Cliff  DeYoung
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $26 million 

Plot: A Washington waitress saves the Emir of Ohtar's life, launching her diplomatic career and a scandal

'Earnest & Competent, Yet Still Underdeveloped As A Comedy'

Directed by Herbert Ross who also gave us Footloose in the same year, as well as Steel Magnolias in 1989, Protocol stars Goldie Hawn who was also the executive producer, as Sunny: a sweet, down-to-earth cocktail waitress who lands a top job at Washington, when she finds herself involved in an arms deal with an Arab country. 

The film treads on similar-ish territory as Ishtar as the fish out of water trope is played with Sunny's Ditzy-yet-good natured character being taken for granted by the US protocol department, despite the fact she is completely oblivious to it all. Goldie Hawn is her usual perky, adorable and sweet self, which is perfectly fine, yet unfortunately, the nature of the material doesn't give her much to work with but for her character to stumble and bumble her way almost like a dumb, blonde stereotype. Hawn was at her best in Overboard, Death Becomes Her and Wildcats where her characters have a bit more depth and a few more layers, so that it could showcase more of her acting range, but here she has no such luck and as of that, Protocol is such a waste and that a character in Sunny should have been better developed by the creators. In addition, the script is too smart and at times, overly serious for its own good, which could have been offset by some wacky comedy and farce. 

Chris Sarandon is like an older Mark Ruffalo and he has okay camaraderie with Hawn as the nerdy looking Middle Eastern desk chief from the US state department, yet the rest of the cast give cardboard performances to back up the cardboard feel of the script.

Where Protocol falters is as a comedy, and an espionage comedy, the jokes and verbal humour are few and far between and in its place are situations and scenarios that don't work quite as well when the comedy fails to make an impact. The film never manages to go far and beyond that after an ambitious start, it then descends into almost blandness along with weak humour. That competent and earnest feel worked a treat for Footloose and Steel Magnolias, which were dramas, but Protocol is a comedy, and really, competent and earnest just isn't good enough for a movie of this type and with the premise that it has. 

Protocol doesn't 'pop' and its tone is not consistent and a bit over the place, but also, ideally, it should have worked as a wacky comedy, instead. 

Final Verdict:

Whereas Wildcats took Goldie Hawn out of her element and presented a much tougher exterior that she exuded in her performance as the hard-as-nails football coach, Protocol is a coarsely lacklustre comedy where, yet again, she plays a dumb blonde. The humour failed to hit the mark and this mixture of Ishtar's fish out of water theme with that political espionage plot doesn't reap rewards. Herbert Ross worked wonders with Footloose and Steel Magnolias, but, and despite Hawn's effortless charm and perkiness, he hit a brick wall with this early '80s offering. 

Sadly, Protocol tries to be a Goldie Hawn vehicle, rather than a comedic one and even with that, Hawn is saddled with such a character that plays on stereotypes, rather than a character that is memorable and great as she tries to come across and is well-meaning at the same time. 

Add to it a forgettable supporting cast and what you have is an interesting premise that as far as a comedy film goes, is very underdeveloped. 


Monday, 18 September 2017

The Survivors Movie Screenshots (1983) #robinwilliams

The Survivors
Starring Robin Williams, Walter Matthau, Jerry Reed, Kirsten Vigard
'Once they declare war on each other, watch out. You could die laughing' 
My Movie Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Mini Retro Review: Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer (2010) #badmovies

Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer

Reunite 3 of the cast members of the NBC sitcom, Caroline in the city in Lea Thompson, Amy Pietz and Eric Lutz, as well as throw in Wendie Malick from Hot in Cleveland & some teenage kids, Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer (also titled as I Was a 7th Grade Dragonslayer) feels more like a feature-length TV sitcom episode & for its fans, an excuse to see Lea, Amy & Eric on screen, once again. There are some over-the-top, exaggerated & mediocre acting performances in a film that is so convoluted, which is supplemented by a bland story, poor attempts at humour and it looks like all of the budget was blown on the special effects. Those above the age of 10 will easily lose interest and be turned off by this low-budget film. It's a modern-day fantasy kids film, but it's so dreary with Z-movie values, the blue troll guy looks like a bad combination of Nightcrawler of X-Men & a Smurf, and the animation is one of the cheapest-looking CGI, ever. Director Andy Lauer, who co-starred with Lea in Caroline in the City, squanders any opportunity in making a meaningful fantasy flick designed to capture older, as well as younger viewers & instead chooses to opt for a modern day setting that is approached in a tedious manner and one that feels empty throughout. There is a scene when Lea Thompson & Eric Lutz lock eyes with each other with terrible dance music playing in the background. All-round, it's just not very impressive. 

Is it worth seeing? 

Only If you are fans of Lea Thompson or of the Caroline In The City show


Saturday, 16 September 2017

B-Movie Actress Feature Spotlight: Lea Thompson

Born in Rochester, Minneapolis in Minnesota, Lea Katherine Thompson is a television producer, director and movie actress & one of 5 children. Best known for playing Marty McFly's mother, Lorraine McFly in the time-travelling sci-fi romp, Back to the Future and its sequels in 1989 and 1990 with Michael J. Fox & Christopher Lloyd, she also carved a TV career out of a starring role as cartoonist, Caroline Duffy in the 30-min sitcom, Caroline in the City. The series, which found moderate success in the US, began in 1995 and ended in 1999 on a cliffhanger with the show being cancelled. After the show ended, Lea took a break from TV acting, raised her daughters and starred in a few plays and productions and later starred in made for TV & straight to DVD, low-budget flicks. Titles include the Jane Doe series and the miscellaneous B-movie Speed equivalent in Exit Speed, Spy School & Rock Slyde alongside Seinfeld's Jason Alexander & Julia Roberts's brother, Eric Roberts. 

In the early 1980s, it looked like Lea was poised for mega-stardom and that lots of blockbuster movie offers would come knocking on her door. Her movie career went through a rough patch after Back to the Future 3 in 1990 and since then, she's been reduced to accepting offers for direct to DVD films, as well as doing stints for TV. She managed to bounce back through her show Caroline In The City where she was star billing for 4 relatively short seasons. So why do I think she wasn't as hugely successful as many of her contemporaries? Bad movie choices and with Hollywood settling for Elizabeth Shue (who co-starred with her on Back to the Future) and upcoming stalwarts in Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfieffer, Julia Roberts lurking around the corner and of whom took advantage of their heavyweight mega-stardom, the same couldn't be said with Lea Thompson, who was languishing in bargain bin, straight- to- DVD fare you will find in Target, dollar stores and on Amazon for cheap prices. 

Another mistake was that I do think that Lea's true calling was with comedies and light-hearted movies, & although a couple of them were 'bad', those were the types of films that were ideal for her that she should have received (and far better ones also) and taken advantage of. Not in the comedic actress sense and yet also given her role on Caroline In The City, but she could have easily excelled at those roles. She tried/tries too hard aiming to please and attract audiences for the types of projects outside of her comfort zone. I know actors and actresses get pigeonholed and typecasted for doing the same types of roles and movies over and over and so many of them fall into that elusive trap, but with Lea, as an actress, as good as she can be, one can argue she just doesn't have that extra range that other performers have, acting-wise. & in seeing her in almost every role she plays, it mostly- though not always tends to be the same type of character & same type of performance, which is the sweet, innocent, good gal. And when she branches out to doing action films like Exit Speed (which I thought wasn't too bad as a movie, but her role did demand a bit too much from her) and Final Approach (which wasn't so good) and playing against type as a cunning villainess in The Beverly Hillbillies, she is not so effective and convincing. 

Another deciding factor counting against her was the movies during and right after the release of the Back to the Future trilogy have been marred with some conflict or issue that has ruined and stained the reputation that the movies have had: Howard The Duck was trounced for its absurd premise, Space Camp was marred by the real-life challenger tragedy, which mirrored the film's actual story, Casual Sex? was poorly met by critics. It's not just the case of bad movie choices, but bad timing as well. 

So what we have here is an actress, who is not really a method performer who can assimilate into any role, in any movie. We can use that same argument towards Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock - all known for rom-coms, but at least, for me anyway, they possess that extra star quality and charm that makes their fans revisit their movies over and over & that movie producers & casting directors can detect in those performers that certain thing that they have, and not just their beauty. Lea, sadly, on the other hand, falls outside of this jurisdiction and also 90% of her movies aren't that great. She may have also had a sweet, girl-next-door image, much like a certain Julia Roberts, but the lack of genuine and forthright big budget movie roles & hugely successful commercial theatrical hits put paid to all of that for Lea. Additionally, she has had only one major love scene in a big budget movie in All The Right Moves with Tom Cruise.      

I think all of these things hurt her career and she should have gone on to even bigger and better things on the movie front - instead, she gets overlooked and rejected for bigger box office movies, which as she got older and with Hollywood favouring younger actresses, it didn't help her cause. Howard The Duck was that one single movie which pretty much and infamously ruined her and it's been a struggle, ever since. Although thankfully, her TV based roles have kept her busy. Even with Lea getting dirt thrown at her for that film if Howard the Duck derailed her movie career, then 2014's much-panned quasi-religious disaster flick, Left Behind tops the lot as the worst. 

Dubbed as the less broody and dark Jennifer Jason Leigh (and their similarity in terms of looks is a bit uncanny); that, as well as they both, broke out at virtually around the same time as each other, in Lea Thompson, with more successful and better movie roles & choices under her belt, there is no doubt that she would have so easily been up there with Hollywood's movie elite. 

Notable Favourites: Back To The Future trilogy, Exit Speed, Red Dawn
Notable Non-favourites: Howard The Duck, Casual Sex?, Spacecamp, Final Approach, Left Behind, Dennis The Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Unknown Cyclist

Friday, 15 September 2017

Mini Retro Review: Final Approach (2008) #badmovies

Final Approach
Action/Thriller TV Movie

Made- for- TV, low-budget version of what is essentially Hallmark channel's very own Executive Decision, but with a cop in place of an army general & minus Hollywood then A-listers in Kurt Russell and Halle Berry, Final Approach takes an awfully long time for events to build up and is hackneyed to the core. There is even a reference to Executive Decision and a 2 hr - yes this ran for 2 hrs, 46 mins - running time for a TV movie, is, by itself, just ridiculous. There is no way that a low-budget C/Z movie should be that long. There are scenes with a woman trying to evade her kidnappers, which makes little sense to the main plot. You barely get to know anything about the main characters played by ex- Superman Dean Cain and Back To The Future's Lea Thompson as the couple. Thompson looks out of place, and like I mentioned in my review of Exit Speed, action films are just not her strong point & she doesn't have a natural penchant for them. People have also pointed out the illogical plot contrivances of Final Approach and whilst that is not much of a huge deal for me, I do understand why viewers may find them annoying. The action is minimal and routine as one would expect in an action-Z movie & as such there are no real killings. Characters are forgettable, the dialogue is dreary & it's overlong with a story that will put you to sleep. This so-called excuse of an action film is forgettable and is just not worth anyone's time. It's not worth mines, that's for sure.

Is it worth seeing?

If you could bear to sit through a 2-hour action movie, with very little action to speak of and one that is a non-theatrical release, go for it. Otherwise, easily give this one a pass. 


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Retro Review: Exit Wounds (2001)

Exit Wounds
Cast: Steven Segal, DMX, Isaiah Washington, Anthony Anderson, Michael Jai White, Tom Arnold, David Vadim, Bill Duke, Eva Mendes
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office: over $79 million

Plot: Orin Boyd, a tough cop in an inner-city precinct discovers a web of dirty cops and corruption

'A Tad Better Than Half Past Dead, But That's About It'

Let there be no doubt that when I say that virtually every role Steven Segal opts for is the badass protagonist, the have-a-go lawman who uses his Aikido skills to defeat his enemies. I enjoy my action movies, but I have never been a staunch fan of Steven Segal's flicks. Jackie Chan, a bit of Van Damme and many classic Arnold Schwarzenegger films are my favourite action movie stars. Steven Segal, not so but I did enjoy Under Seige. Even in the moments of intentional humour, he doesn't seem to have a good grasp of humour and his talents are limited. & he doesn't have much in the way of a screen presence, unlike say a certain Austrian-born superstar. Exit Wounds was a supposed attempt for Segal to get back in the action A-game but in reality, this feels more like a generic B-movie, straight- to- DVD effort.

With this offering, Segal is Orin Boyd: a burnt out undercover cop who is reassigned to a different precinct, despite coming to the aid of a vice-president, in overzealous style. Boyd later finds out the cops aren't what he expects them to be, with crooked officers stealing heroin from police labs to help fund their trips and visits. Basically, what we have is the so-called bad guys, who are in actuality good guys in DMX, Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson and so-called good guys who are really bad guys in Michael Jai White & David Vadim's Det Montini. Rapper DMX is Latrell Walker: a drug dealer, with Anthony Anderson as TK. 

Exit Wounds is an action film one has seen so and too many times before: typically formulaic, unoriginal and by the numbers fare, but with a less than formidable and stellar cast that is retreading on familiar waters. Released in the early 2000s, it is a mere shadow of 1980s and 1990s action films and for me, Exit Wounds was the start of the decline in action movies, which even to this day, this cycle hasn't really been reverted. It's a not so good mash-up of an urban movie mixed in with some martial arts and comedy, and it just hasn't been executed well enough. In most or many action films, the violence and action tend to be cartoonish and not as bloody and grisly. This was Andrzej Bartkowiak's second directorial film following on from Romeo Must die, after lending his cinematography dues in The Devil's Advocate, Speed & Gossip

Tom Arnold's character as TV presenter Henry here is as annoying & grating as Joe Pesci's in Lethal Weapon; in fact, he is the film's Joe Pesci, Leo Getz with his shouting and screaming & loud personality. As a supposed comic relief, he comes off more as an irritant and a liability, rather than an asset and I found all of his scenes to be needless & that they didn't fit in with the main plot. Anthony Anderson wasn't too far behind as the bumbling buffoon and I wasn't too fond of his character, either. He too was loud, raucous with a bit of a filthy mouth & like Tom plays exactly the same role as in his other movies. Contrary to other people, DMX wasn't too bad; he does have a bit more range in his acting than say, Ja Rule and his performance was arguably a bit more respectable than the main headliner, Steven Segal. He (DMX) and Bill Duke were the highlights. 

The wire-based martial arts slo-mo shots when Segal fights are so annoying and needless and rather they take away from the film, rather than to enhance it. The editing also feels choppy at places. There are car chases, a stunt man as Segal's character riding a motorcycle (if you freeze a portion of the scene and look closely that's not even Segal on the bike), fights, gun shots and whilst these aspects maintain the viewers' interest in short bursts, everything else doesn't come well together. Exit Wounds is an action film about uncovering police corruption, but the way this is all set up doesn't leave much up to one's imagination, nor is it inventive enough. The reveals towards the end were interesting and at the same time, it comes off as flat and isn't as shocking as it tries to be. The last 15 or 20 mins rarely made up for the rest of the movie. 

Final Verdict:

This is truly for fans of Steven Segal and DMX; Exit Wounds is less than thrilling and feels more underwhelming with performances from all quarters, but for DMX & Predator's Bill Duke, which are satisfactory at best but with a better casting, it would have made the movie even more entertaining and less irritating to watch. 

This is not all that it is cracked up to be: it's not that original or inventive, but it had its moments. Yet as an action film, not everything came well together and producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartkowiak came up short in many areas. However, I won't lie by saying that Exit Wounds was watchable all the way through and the 1.40 min runtime is ideal. 

A slight improvement on Half Past Dead, but otherwise Exit Wounds lacks the clarity and deftness of the original Under Siege and Jet Li's caginess from Cradle 2 The Crave & is, therefore, more of a second-tier, action B-movie that looks a tad more flashy, yet substance-wise, there isn't much going for it as a film. Worth it for Segal and action movie fanatics, but more so for fans of the former; other than that Exit Wounds is so unremarkable that there are far, far better cop-based action films around than this one. 


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