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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: The Heat - Channel 4 (2013)

The Heat
Directed by Paul Feig
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport 
Studio: 20th Century Fox 
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $229,727,774

Plot: Uptight and straight- laced FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a methodical investigator with a reputation for excellence- and hyper arrogance. Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), one of Boston's P.D's finest is foul-mouthed & has a short fuse, & uses her gut instinct & street smarts to catch the most elusive criminals. Neither has ever had a partner, or a friend for that matter. When these two wildly incompatible law officers join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies

*Artwork courtesy of Mondo 

'The Heat' Is More Lukewarm'

The plot is something borrowed from Lethal Weapon with 2 cops on different ends of the spectrum, who don't always see eye-to-eye, working together to bring down a drug lord. One is foul-mouthed, likes to beat up criminals, the other takes a more methodical approach and relies less on violence. 

I enjoy some of Sandra Bullock's movies (notably The Proposal, Miss Congeniality), but this one misses the mark. There is a lot of cursing, some of it was a bit overused. I thought the pairing of Bullock and McCarthy would work, but it didn't. Maybe it is mainly because it doesn't feel like the action comedy movies of the 80s'. I think the director tried to recreate the magic from Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours - but the script wasn't always necessarily laugh out loud funny (though it rarely was funny), and the action scenes were few and far between. 

I relish watching comedy movies, but I haven't been impressed by, or enjoy most of the modern day efforts, but for 1 or 2 exceptions. The Heat is certainly not one of them and the story needed more work. It's mostly scenes of McCarthy's character acting butch or going all-gung ho by spouting obscenities with Bullock's character standing side by side, saying and doing little in an attempt to move away from her rom-com image that she has built up herself.

Melissa McCarthy's character is one you'll either love or loathe - depending on the context that you view the cursing; whether it was in character and reflected the type of personality she wanted to convey, or that a lot of it was unnecessary and didn't add any value to the movie. 

And though Sandra Bullock has played a cop in the Miss Congeniality movies, she played it far better as Gracie Hart. Her role in The Heat didn't really suit her: as Sarah, she was the reversal of Gracie, who was very tom-boyish, bullish & of whom would take no prisoners. But she also had plenty of funny and nice scenes & lines as well. Here, she played it straight, and this is somewhat to a detriment to Sandra's talents. Ok, sure enough she is typecast in rom-coms and as such, it's good to see her in other roles that people don't associate her with. However, the humour and the script in The Heat didn't translate as well as it should have, because it just wasn't that amusing. Funnily enough, the Gracie Hart type role in this film is played by Melissa McCarthy, who does take it to the next extreme by throwing in the odd F-bombs.  

But otherwise, Sandra Bullock's character very much takes a backseat, and as a result, she becomes something of an afterthought - too much emphasis was placed on her role as a cop - & not enough on her personality. Because of this, her character flatters to deceive, due to the lack of character development by the writers.  

And another problem was that it was over 2 hours long - a lot of what was in the movie could have been cut and perhaps replaced with better scenes, or be it cut out altogether. The film is practically all over the place and with a tone that feels less of a buddy cop movie and more of a post- 2000s comedy film with lots of cursing and mean-spiritedness, which sadly and unfortunately explains the sad state of the comedy movie, which has been going downhill since say, the mid 2000s & why I do not take to most modern comedy films.

The last 20 mins of the movie was pretty interesting though, and it was totally unexpected. I laughed, though not laughed out loud at some moments, but the movie could have and should have been a whole lot better. 

The buddy cop action movie subgenre could do with more female-based movies, but films such as The Heat do little to aid their cause, as Paul Feig treats the subgenre by adding in spite and cynicism.

Final verdict: 

The Heat is a predictable buddy cop movie in a similar vein to Lethal Weapon with occasionally amusing moments from Bullock and McCarthy, though the movie is nothing much to write home about.  

It is more of a vehicle for McCarthy to stretch her comedic talents, rather than for Sandra Bullock's - and that is probably evident to the director, who did Bridesmaids, who knew how to utilise Melissa McCarthy. But that has proven to be a double-edged sword because where he succeeds with Melissa, he has somewhat failed with Sandra Bullock, thus, never managing to bring her character and her comedic acting talents out of her shell.

Occasionally amusing, The Heat is more lukewarm, rather than red hot. But that is indicative of about 90% of today's modern post 2000s comedy movies.

If you want to see Sandra play the funny female cop role better, stick with Miss Congeniality.

'The Heat' is a so-so effort.    


Friday, 18 March 2016

Retro Review: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo (1985)


The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo
Country of Origin: U.S
Hanna-Barbera Productions
Number of Episodes/Seasons: 13, 1 season
Characters: Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo, Daphne Blake, Flim Flam, Vincent Van Ghoul, Bogel, Weerd
Ran from September 7 - December 7
Episode length -22 minutes (minus ads)
Aired on ABC, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, USA Network

'The Black Sheep of the Scooby Doo Family' 

I am not one of the biggest Scooby Doo fans out there, but I have appreciated what the previous incarnations have achieved. 

Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Scrappy with new additions, Flim Flam and Vincent Van Ghoul (standing in for Fred and Velma) set out to recapture the 13 ghosts - which have escaped, after Scooby and Shaggy were tricked into opening the chest of Demons - and to put them back in the chest. 

The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo is the first (and arguably only) serialised version of Scooby Doo with a continuous plotline that was established right from the first episode to the last, although it was eventually cancelled, and thus not all 13 ghosts had been captured. 

I enjoyed 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' very much because not only did it distance itself away from the earlier shows, the additions of characters such as Vincent Van Ghoul, Flim Flam and Bogel and Weird, as well as the additional plot-line and story-arc in capturing 13 ghosts they have unleashed made this incarnation of Scooby entertaining and amusing at times. It was the much-needed injection that the Scooby franchise deserved, which for decades was mostly reduced to capturing monsters and ghouls and unmasking the perpetrators behind those crimes. Had The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo continued this same exact trend, it would be too samey and identical to all of its previous and latter incarnations of the franchise

For the first time, because of the added story-arc, the show had a clear goal, even though it wasn't thoroughly achieved - no thanks to the abrupt ending and cancellation. Replacing the masked villains masquerading as ghosts and monsters with actual monsters and ghosts and making the show more supernatural, horror-themed in tone was a good move by the creators. 

That is why I couldn't understand why this rendition wasn't as successful and as positively received as other Scooby Doo predecessors. It tried something new, something different - but for many fans, it wasn't good enough according to them. 

The stories and episodes were varied, well written and scripted; each one had different narratives, themes, ghosts, even though the show's objective was virtually the same throughout the series. I really liked the direction they took with this show; making it completely different from the other Scooby Doo cartoons was a blessing, as opposed to a curse. This added twist put off die-hard Scooby fans, yet it also helped gained a new generation of fans. 

There was also a light-hearted tone to the series, along with sight gags and jokes, which weren't really present in the other Scooby shows, despite the presence of the serious Vincent Van Ghoul, that I enjoyed. This made the show slightly more comedic and humourous and though it did turn a lot of fans off like I mentioned, I enjoyed '13 Ghosts' even more

With the casting, I had no qualms with it whatsoever; Scooby and Shaggy were their usual selves, same with Daphne - with one slight change in her hairstyle, but she looked good with it. Both Daphne and Shaggy have an '80s look to them; Scrappy was less annoying than before (which was a relief) and pint-sized mischievous boy, Flim Flam and his con artist antics didn't really bother me. I understand a lot of fans didn't take too kindly to him and found him annoying, but I digress. Vincent Van Ghoul (the late Vincent Price) was a good addition to the crew. He was a true authoritative figure who had a heart of gold underneath that dark, brooding, mysterious exterior. Didn't care much for Bogal and Weird, though, other than to see them screw up.

The absence of Fred and Velma didn't affect how I viewed this show; it was still entertaining and enjoyable and a really good series. Funny, maybe a little predictable, but this is a refreshing take on Scooby Doo, veering away from the traditional format of the series and yet, it goes to show that even without 2 of the main characters of the Scooby franchise, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo can still hold its own. 

Final Verdict:

Had the series ended on a proper note, it would have made The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo as equally memorable as say 'Scooby Doo, Where are you?'. But the intriguing story arc gave the series and franchise a much-needed boost. 

One of my favourite and under-appreciated Scooby shows that were short-lived and deserves another look. 


Saturday, 12 March 2016

Retro Review/What Did I Just Watch?: Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Duration: 1990 - 1993 DIC Entertainment/Turner, 1993 - 1996 Hanna Barbera 
country of origin: United States of America
Seasons: 6 
Original network: TBS

As much as I love classic cartoons, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s that I grew up with, there was one show which to this day I still feel indifferent towards. Let me explain what that cartoon was, and why this show is still cringe-worthy to me:

Captain Planet and the Planeteers lasted for 6 years and was (ill)conceived by a guy named Ted Turner (who owns CNN) and produced by TBS. It tried to combine action adventure elements from other action adventure cartoons with environmental messages. As for the plot, 5 teenagers who were all summoned by a high priestess or whatever she is supposed to be named Gaia, are the protagonists of the show. Each teenager possessed a magical ring, which granted them special powers, based on the 5 elements - water, wind, fire, earth. And lastly, Heart but of which according to the creators of Captain Planet, it surely is useful when in actuality it does practically next to nothing. When these 5 elements are combined, they unleash a sky blue- skinned androgynous looking male superhero, with an 80s green mullet, whose face sort of resembles British pop star Nik Kershaw and dons red underwear, named Captain Planet. 

Despite the environmental message being still relevant today, the manner in which serious issues such as drug addiction, Aids and racial violence were addressed on the series was in poor taste that at times it went too far. Characterization-wise, it is a mess: the characters - but for say, 1 or 2 of the villains - were typically bland with no personalities to speak of whatsoever, they were all negative racial stereotypes; with Wheeler being the worst culprit - painted as the stereotypical Yank acting like a dummy, who is more obsessed in ogling Linka and who is presented as if he couldn't string a sentence properly and coherently. I could only imagine what would have happened if one of the Planeteers was British: they'd probably give them an annoying posh or cockney sounding accent too. 

And take Gi - even though she is supposed to hail from Thailand, others would assume she is Chinese just by the design of the character. I know I was. The designers should have looked at images of Thai people and based Gi's design on that. Oh well. The protagonist characters are presented as useless, ineffective and who can't fight evil, without Captain Planet.  

But if it were not for the constant environmental messages that propped up every 5, 10 secs during the show, as well as the cheesy nature of protagonist, Captain Planet and had it been less PC (politically correct) this would've been a better animated series. Not to mention I would have enjoyed it more. If the creators and writers just toned down the seriousness of some of the storylines, making the messages less in-yer-face and made it less corny and banal and made the characters more interesting and likable, and the show edgier, then more people would get into it. 

How it managed to last 6 years is beyond me, Captain Planet should have had 3 seasons at most; I think what killed this show was the overriding environmental messages, awful characterisations and ham-fisted nature of Captain Planet that ruined what could have potentially been a good show; it should have taken a leaf out of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest

Make each of the Planeteer characters more formidable, that they can hold their own against the opposition with and without Captain Planet. Rather than to always have them resort to combining their powers to summon his help. 

Final Verdict:

I cringed whenever this show was on TV - and I still cringe about it today whenever I see it, and cringe when I hear the theme tune; Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a terribly cheesy and preachy animated show, filled with some cliched characters, some weird storylines and awful writing and is led by dull protagonists.

And of all the captains in popular culture and entertainment, Captain Planet can do with having a personality, which he (and the other 5 Planeteers) lack. 

Overall Rating Out Of 10: 3

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Retro Review: Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series DVD #Robinwilliams

*This review is in reference to the region 2 PAL version of the Mork and Mindy DVD set only

2014 CBS Studios Inc & Paramount Home Entertainment 
Duration: 1978 - 1981
Original DVD release year - December 2014 
Rating: 12 

Cast: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Conrad Janis, Elizabeth Kerr, Jeffery Jacquet, Jonathan Walters, Jay Thomas, Gina Hecht, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Donner 


After his debut on a season 5 episode of Happy Days, ABC launched the spin-off titled Mork and Mindy starring Robin Williams and Pam Dawber, featuring a misfit alien who travels to earth from the planet Ork to study how humans act and behave. After touching down in Boulder, Colorado, Mork meets a young woman named Mindy and the pair strike up a friendship and bond that is full of unexpected surprises, good times and endless laughter. 

Though it only lasted 5 years, Mork & Mindy has left a lasting impression in not just sitcom land, but for many fans who grew up with the show or fell in love with it and Robin Williams himself. Some of whom became fans of Williams through this show, in addition to his feature film work. The show's immense success helped elevated Robin's status as a superstar celebrity and screen performer, as he later transitioned from TV to film during the 1980s onwards. 

Favourite episodes/memorable moments

Mork making out with a mannequin, Mork chasing Laverne in the Mork & Mindy pilot ep, Mork's baby impressions cracks me up, Mork hypnotizing some guy who tried to chat up Mindy, Mork and Mindy's wedding, Mork in a cheerleading outfit! Mork regressing to and acting like a child in 'A Mommy For Mork'

DVD packaging and design 

Comes in a White cardboard box; when you slide it off, you get a transparent plastic DVD box. In it are all 15 discs of episodes from seasons 1- 4 of the series. The inlay sleeve has the list of the episodes from seasons 1- 2. The DVD discs are grey in colour, in contrast to the region 1 set where the discs are presented in different colours. The front cover has stars Pam Dawber and Robin Williams as Mindy & Mork on a White background. Personally, I feel the background colour for the cover could have been different and thus, it'd make it more visually appealing and attractive to the eye. 

DVD menu and special features

Contains 2 bonus episodes from Happy Days featuring Mork with one of them being his TV debut and gag reels 

The good 😊

Having all 95 episodes in one massive package. It's great to finally get my hands on this set since I never watched the series properly when it aired on Channel 4 in the UK. I've been also watching the episodes on Youtube, but owning my own copy of the series and watching it as and when I like, is far better. Picture quality is excellent and the colours are bright and sharp, as is the sound and music. Plenty of humourous and heartwarming moments, lines and scenes, in addition to episodes throughout the 4 seasons. 

The not-so-good 😞

It could have done with a few more extras: interviews with Robin and Pam and creator, Garry Marshall would have been nice to see, audio commentary, as well as the Mork and Mindy animated series from Ruby-Spears all included. Kind of disappointed to read that some of the episodes may have also been edited from the original broadcast versions.

The final season was also not as good as the first 2 seasons of the show. I would have liked to have had one more season, not just to make up for the disappointing season 4, but as the show deserved one more shot. As funny and amusing Mork and Mindy was and is, it was still a short-lived sitcom series. Of course, Robin wanted to move onto other things and to make movies, but one more season wouldn't have hurt. 

Final verdict:

The success of Mork and Mindy can undoubtedly be laid bare at the feet of Robin Williams, who plays the titular character in this hilarious ABC sitcom. If the final season had been as good as the first 2 seasons and without the arrival of Mirth, it would have got a solid 10 stars from me.  

Mork and Mindy left a lasting impression and established Robin Williams as one of the best comedic actors of all-time, and his performances and antics as that character later paved the way for his other comedy-based characters such as Adrian Cronauer from Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, Genie from Aladdin, Batty Koda of Ferngully and Dale Putley (Fathers' Day).

The DVD set is lacking in extras; having only the gag reels and Happy Days episodes does not justify the full price tag, - although it was given to me as a present by my sister. I would have liked to have seen the Ruby-Spears Mork & Mindy animated show included as part of the package. 

Okay, the show wasn't perfect and had it not been for creative differences and story-line changes, it would have lasted a little longer. The storyline with Mork & Mindy embarking on a relationship together later led to the decline in ratings and quality of the remaining series. A decision that divided audiences and fans back then and watching it unravel today, I feel they were and are better off as friends. Also, given this came out in 1978 and Robin Williams was aged around 27 back then, I often wondered to myself whether Mork & Mindy would have had a longer run, had it began earlier on in the 1970s when he was in his early- 20s and right into the early 1980s. 

But to see Robin Williams at his most hilarious, over-the-top and humourous turn as the alien from Ork, he is very much the centre of attention in this sitcom, and after watching a couple of episodes, you'll understand why he went on and had a successful onscreen career spanning 4 decades

If you are a massive hardcore Robin Williams fan, then the Mork and Mindy The Complete Series is a 'must-have' for your DVD collection.

Scoring out of 10:

Episodes: 9
Extras/Special features: 6 
DVD packaging: 7

Overall Rating Out Of 10:
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