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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: The Spongebob Squarepants Movie - ITV2 (2004)

The Spongebob SquarePants Movie 
Cast: Jeffery Tambor, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Scarlet Johannson 
Studio: Nickelodeon Movies 
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $142,051,255

Plot: In this lively animated adventure, undersea oddball Spongebob SquarePants & his starfish friend, Patrick, embark on a quest to clear the name of Mr. Krabs, the owner of the Krusty Krab restaurant, who has been framed for stealing the crown of ocean deity, King Neptune. Leaving the familiar confines of Bikini Bottom, Spongebob & Patrick venture out towards shell city, where they hope to find Neptune's crown, but numerous obstacles stand (or float) their way.

*This review may contain spoilers* 


'Solid Theatrical Debut From The Pineapple/Sponge Of The Sea'

The Spongebob Squarepants movie is more of a 90 min film or an extended version of an episode.

For those who haven't see the cartoon before, Spongebob, Patrick, Sandy, Mr Krabs and everyone else are residents of Bikini Bottom. Oddly, there has been talk of Spongebob's sexuality, but that is neither here or there. Spongebob resides in a pineapple under the sea with his best buddy, Patrick Star, who is a starfish and fellow co-worker, Squidward. Both him and Spongebob work for Mr. Krab at a fast food restaurant called Krusty Krab, famous for its Krusty Krab burger (and not to be confused with the Krusty Burger from The Simpsons). 

The film has so many great goofy and witty gags which are funny as heck and zany slapstick humour one would expect from Spongebob. Some of these are courtesy of Patrick Star, who is one of the best animated sidekicks ever created IMO. But some fans will probably feel that some of the scenes did run a little too longer just to justify the fact that this was an animated movie. In addition, the film features special guest voice-overs in Scarlett Johansson and Alec Baldwin: Johansson as the be-speckled Mindy was not bad, whilst Alec's role was as hit-man Dennis. 

In stark contrast to say Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants's humour and style of storytelling and narrative, not to mention its crossover appeal caters more-so to adults, as well as children and teenagers. Regarding the animation, it is what one would expect from Nickelodeon - high quality colourful 2D art-style. It combines 2D animation with some live- action segments. 

One of the themes in this film is about being young and being a kid is nothing to be ashamed of, and this is emphasised throughout the movie. Whilst some will find this a tad repetitious, it is a good positive image to have.   

A highlight from this feature is of Spongebob and Patrick riding on David Hassellhoff as if he was a boat/surfboard on their way to Bikini Bottom. Which was somewhat amusing. Though some of the latter scenes with Hassellhoff were a little too over-the-top. 

The movie isn't too different from the series; I've only seen a couple of episodes of Spongebob on-line, as I don't have digital satellite TV, but from what I have seen, Spongebob Squarepants is an amusing animated show. 

Final Verdict:

If you are a huge fan of the series, you will enjoy this film a lot more, and for those likewise who don't follow Spongebob as much, sometimes one can easily switch off and lose concentration. But the theatrical version of Spongebob Squarepants is still relatively good and at 90 mins, some will find it is just a tad too short - sure enough there could have been more exciting scenes and moments, and some of the scenes did feel a little overdrawn. 

Is it better than the series? At times, no, it isn't. And yet, it still provides plenty of good humour and entertainment. 

Essentially, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is a good, solid animated romp. 


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Kindergarten Cop - ITV1 (1990) #Schwarzenegger

Kindergarten Cop
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Richard Tyson, Cathy Moriarty
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $202,000,000

Plot: A tough cop must pose as a kindergarten teacher in order to locate a dangerous criminal's ex-wife, who may hold the key to putting him behind bars

'A Pretty Odd Premise For A Cop Comedy Film That Actually Works'

After 1988's Twins - which was a so-so comedy for me - big Arnie reunited with comedy director, Ivan Reitman for another slice of humourous farce, in the shape of Kindergarten Cop. As an undercover police officer, John Kimble is in hot pursuit of drug lord Cullen Crisp by posing as a teacher at a school. Whilst as a teacher, he discovers his love for teaching and starts to take a shine to a little boy named Dominic and his mother who also teaches at the same school.  

Initially, the movie was awarded a 15 certificate in Britain when it was originally released in cinemas - which was strange and surprising as most of the stuff that takes place in the movie would have warranted a PG or PG-13 rating at most in today's movie age. 

Despite the odd premise, Kindergarten Cop is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's fewest attempts at doing comedy, and thanks to an interesting narrative, it kind of works. The script can use a bit more fine-tuning though. The humour is so-so, as well. Arnold plays his usual good cop action hero role as standard and as proven in Twins, he can easily assimilate into and adapt to comedy, just as well by having fun with the script. 

The film begins in typical Arnie fashion when Kimble goes into all gung-ho, kick-ass cop mode by going after nemesis Cullen Crisp (some name that is) with gunshots and bullets flying everywhere. Crisp played by Richard Tyson was good and surprisingly creepy as the main baddie. 

Although it is a cop film, much of what happens during and throughout the film occurs at the school where Kimble poses as a kindergarten teacher, as he adjusts to his surroundings and gets used to working with children.  

The violence isn't over-the-top and graphic as others have made it out to be. Nevertheless, the musical score is pretty nice to hear. 

Kindergarten Cop does have its faults, however: the grandmother is not a very convincing villain and some of the stuff the kids were saying and doing, wasn't as humorous and amusing as one expects it to be, for a comedy. But seeing Kimble's face as the kids run amok in the classroom, was priceless. 

Also, for long periods, the main narrative where Kimble and O'Hara hunt down Crisp and his mother, gets lost within the film. It's a bit of a mish-mash with some good ideas, some not so good ideas - yet lacking in humourous moments. Film-wise, it is very predictable and plays it safe for the family-friendly audience. Also for an action-comedy, there is a distinct lack of action scenes, the balance just wasn't there, unfortunately. Although the film makes up for it by giving Arnie more dialogue to work with, and here his acting performance is one step- above from Twins and thus, I thought it was really good & he displays a lot more range, which was clearly something he had to work on. 

Another thing to add is one of the bright sparks from this movie was Pamela Reed, who played Arnie's sidekick, Phoebe O' Hara: after her turn in American football flick, The Best of Times, Reed gave a much more fitting and amiable performance as the hungry cop, and when I mean hungry, I meant it in every literal sense of the word as the compulsive eating police officer and Kimble's right-hand partner-in-crime. Kindergarten Cop features an array of female actresses: Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Cathy Moriarty, Linda Hunt, all of whom all stepped up to the plate and delivered through their impressive performances. 

The film eventually kicks into fifth gear during the last quarter towards the end after much of the 90 mins or so have been relatively quiet and not much was really going on. By then, it becomes much smoother and more drawn out & a little intense as events unfold with O'Hara and Kimble playing cat & mouse games with Cullen and his mother, & in trying to outwit the other. 

There was one scene where a teenage couple were caught kissing by John: personally, I thought that didn't add much to the film or story. It was pointless. And speaking of romance, the romance subplot involving John and Penelope Ann Miller as Joyce, Dominic's mother and fellow kindergarten teacher could have been addressed a lot more effectively. But otherwise, it was, okay. 

I get there are people who aren't fans of Ivan Reitman's humour - for me it is tolerable and one I can get and stand, depending on how much I enjoy a particular film of his. Both he and Schwarzenegger managed to pull this one off, with some success and is somewhat of a reminder of how good Reitman used to be as a comedic director. There were some memorable lines that still stick out today, which includes ''It's not a tumour!'' and ''You're not so tough without your car, are ya!''

Final Verdict:

Kindergarten Cop is a predictable and safe action-comedy, with a script that could have been a whole lot better. Yet it still manages to entertain in places with some smile-worthy & light moments thrown in. 

It may not be the best Arnie flick, ever. But comedy-wise per se, it's not too bad and I prefer this over Twins. But out of all the comedy-based films, he has done, Jingle All The Way still reigns top for me. 

The kids, families and viewers who have a penchant for all things small, cute and adorable with get far more enjoyment out of Kindergarten Cop than the rest. 

*rating last updated: November 22, 2016*


Retro Movie Review: Awakenings (1990) #RobinWilliams

Cast: Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller, John Heard 
Genre: Drama
Estimated Total Gross: over $51 million 

Trivia: Apparently, this is one of Robin Williams's favourite films

Plot: The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them

'A Masterful Performance By Williams That Went Unnoticed By Many'

Based on a real-life story by Oliver Sacks, the screenplay for this film was adapted from a book & directed by Penny Marshall, the female director who also gave us A League of its Own, Big, Jumpin' Jack Flash & The Preacher's Wife

Awakenings was led by two actors, whose forenames begin with 'R': Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. Both Robin and Robert had some success during the 1980s, but the choice to cast them in this film certainly raised a few eyebrows, not to mention question marks.

And yet whatever preconceptions, doubts people had about these two were firmly laid to rest after seeing this movie. Set in Brooklyn in 1969, Dr Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is a neurologist, who is very dedicated and hard-working in his profession but also he is humble, shy and introverted as well. He is softly spoken, but with a deep desire, Sayer always goes out of his way to help people and other patients. And that is all despite never having treated a patient before. In working with Leonard (Robert De Niro), he discovers a drug in L-Dopa and with this drug, he uses it to awaken patients in a catatonic and vegetative state - hence the title of the film, Awakenings.

But just when you think that everything turns out well, the drug only acts as a temporary solution to a somewhat permanent problem and thus, also it has some negative side-effects, with Leonard who eventually starts to feel the repercussions of it. 

The movie isn't exactly feel good throughout, but neither would I say it is dark and depressing. If anything, Awakenings is a powerful, moving tale; a lighter 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' with a narrative that has a positive and enlightening spin to it. If you thought as English professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams turned in his only exceptional performance in a dramatic feature film, then it is most likely you have never seen or watched Awakenings. Because his performance as Malcolm was beyond exceptional and extraordinary. Robin Williams began the 1980s by playing the famous cartoon character, Popeye and during the 1990s, he kicked off this decade by playing slightly more complex characters in Joey O' Brien in comedy, Cadillac Man and this effort as Dr Malcolm Sayer. 

Despite Robin Williams being second-billed to De Niro, in fact, right from the beginning Dr Malcolm Sayer is the central focus of almost every scene he is in, in Awakenings. This is arguably the first real movie where we get to see Robin's introverted side and of him playing it straight. Usually, in other roles, we see so much of him being a funny and happy guy, acting a fool in comedy films. But here in Awakenings, you can see in his eyes, facial expressions and the dialogue he utters as Malcolm how successfully he nailed his portrayal as his character with complete dedication and conviction. He goes about it in an almost un-Robin Williams way and very grounded it is too and he doesn't overplay it. Robin slotted into the Malcolm Sayer role perfectly. It just shows again and again how brilliant a dramatic actor Robin Williams was and is with a tight-knit, well-written script & in playing a protagonist that has such good characterisation. 

Movie-wise, the film's pacing is very, very slow and at 2 hours it can be quite a slog, especially when it doesn't have as many exciting moments to sustain audience interest. It is one of those movies where you have to pay close attention to every single detail and thing that is being mentioned because otherwise, you will lose track of what is going on. However, one of the things I liked about this film is the discussion about the meaning of life, which didn't descend into an overly religious speech or sentiment. What is the meaning of life? Joy? Wonderment? Freedom? Gift? I'd say it is all of the above and more. Because the film is set in a hospital, we often ponder about our existence and what our contribution is to society, to the world as human beings. But alas, I am not going to delve too deep into this one... 

Awakenings is certainly one of those Robin Williams movies/projects that are rarely talked about - and still, it is as highly acclaimed as The Fisher King, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting and The World According to Garp in every particular aspect. It makes you look at life from a different outlook, in a more optimistic frame of mind. Humanity has never looked as bright & hopeful as it is in Awakenings

Everyone in this film delivers a great performance throughout. Additionally, it is one of those films where most of the characters are likeable and of whom have good intentions. The movie also has its sad & profound moments too, it's light and touching sometimes: the moment where Malcolm finally realises that the drug has had the opposite effect on Leonard and witnesses him behaving uncontrollably and being helpless in doing anything to kerb it, was despairing and I really empathised for him. And although the ending was in a way sad, the movie was so hopeful, positive and encouraging in a way that makes it bring tears to your eyes almost. 

Not once throughout the entire 2 hours does the film descend into schmaltz; there is a subtlety that underlies Awakenings that doesn't descend into mawkish overly sentimental cringe and drivel, which would have easily taken away from the film. There are layers of depth, there are some equally pleasant and positive moments and scenes that also touches your heart and soul & gives us hope. Life is and can never be perfect, but we must make the most out of it in a positive way & remain optimistic. Penny Marshall lends her deftest touch and presents an intimate insight in a medical drama that is uncanny & distinct, but also it still remains utterly absorbing at the same time, due to the turns of Williams and De Niro. 

Robin Williams truly asserts himself here as Malcolm Sayer: in my view, his performance thoroughly outshines that of Patch Adams, his other on-screen character role where he also plays a doctor, this time named Patch Adams, which is also the self-titled 1998 movie.

This is Robin Williams and Robert De Niro giving their best onscreen movie turns, up until their unfortunate implosion during the mid-2000s and beyond, when their careers took a turn for the worst. 

Favourite Robin Williams Character Lines:

- I'm sorry if you were right, I would agree with you

- .... that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug - and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter

- How kind is it to give life, only to take it away?

- With work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter. This is what we'd forgotten.

- What he's saying though is right though. We don't really know how to live


Pros +

- Likeable characters

- Outstanding performances by Robert de Niro and Robin Williams especially; everyone else was great as well

- A heartfelt and feel-good story that is grounded and also satisfying

- Thought-provoking and enlightening 

- Tightly well-written screenplay 

- The discussion about the meaning of life and human existence without being preachy

Cons -

- The pace of the film is very slow, or be it too slow  

Final Verdict: 

Awakenings was never destined to be a box-office smash, but do not let that deter you from seeing this movie. It is utterly thought-provoking with moments of emotional and sentimental - though not too overly sentimental purity and depth-laden throughout. One of the quotes uttered by Malcolm still resonates with me and with everyone else when he asks the question: ''How Kind Is It To Give Life...Only To Take It Away Again?''. It is a question that not only should we ask of ourselves, but to also give it some thought, as well. 

Culminating in a masterful performance by Robin Williams that went unnoticed by many, it truly is an enlightening movie experience you have to see for yourself.  

*score last updated: 16 January 2018*


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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Retro Movie Review: Death To Smoochy (2002) #RobinWilliams

Death to Smoochy
Cast: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Danny Devito, Harvey Feinstein, Catherine Keener 
Genre: Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $8,374,062

Plot:  A kids show host is fired in disgrace whilst his replacement, Smoochy the rhino finds himself the rising star


'The Death Of Robin Williams's Illustrious Movie Career? 

Death to Smoochy was notoriously, universally and critically panned by moviegoers and critics everywhere when it was released in 2002. It was bashed, mocked and slated for being too cynical, crass, over-the-top & silly in its premise and delivery; not forgetting also that the performances by Robin Williams and Ed Norton - actors of whom who starred in such highly acclaimed films as American History XFight Club and Primal Fear for Norton and Williams for Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and so forth - were heavily slated in this Danny Devito directed indie comedy project. 

The plot is essentially where a children's presenter is caught accepting bribes and as a result, he loses his job and is subsequently replaced by a younger counterpart, who is 'squeaky clean'. This may sound interesting and everything....until one sees that this children's presenter who is 'effing and blinding' everywhere, is none other than the Genie from Disney's Aladdin, yours truly Robin Williams. Alas, fans of vintage Robin Williams from Mork & Mindy, Good Morning, Vietnam and Hook to name but many will be surprised, and may I add shocked after seeing this movie.

Randolph (Robin Williams) goes full-on berserko mode and in a fit of rage and alasforth, seeks to sabotage his rival's career. 

yet again, Robin plays another manic character, but in contrast to funny characters such as Dale, Daniel, Donald Quinelle and countless others on his resume, his mania as Randolph has more sinister undertones to it. The movie's release came on the back of Insomnia and One Hour Photo, in the year where he made his on-screen comeback during the early 2000s, after a few years out of the limelight by playing bad guy -type roles. 

Despite the kiddie theme and colourful images and characters, this movie is definitely not for younger children, as it contains profanity and adult themes that they and parents may find offensive. Death to Smoochy is a dark, brooding yet mocking and sadistic satire focusing on the trials and tribulations of being a children's TV presenter in the thin vein of Black comedy. There is backstabbing, dodgy deals taking place, everyone is a target - not just Sheldon aka Smoochy. 

At times, I thought the film was funny and amusing, but as a fan, I wholeheartedly prefer Robin playing wholesome and savoury and likeable characters. I love Mork, Peter Pan, Dale, Genie, Philip Brainard, Adrian Cronauer to name but a couple - characters that I grew up with and enjoyed watching. They were very pleasant and embodied exemplary and positive qualities - Randolph on the other hand, was not very wholesome and savoury. He was a very twisted individual, which is why I can't take to this character very much. If anything, these type of character roles are very uncharacteristic for someone like Robin. That is not to say he was always type-casted as a performer; rather when I think of Robin Williams, I think of him as a multi-talented character actor who can do comedy and drama and everything else in-between. My love and appreciation for Robin's movies are dependent on many factors, but 2 of them include him 1) playing likeable characters and 2) the film's own feel-good factor. Many of Robin Williams's movies, as well as his turn as Mork on Mork & Mindy, have a special place in my heart - the ones that I will cherish and love the most are roles where he plays the likeable, kind-hearted, good guy characters. 

This movie, however, is not one of them, unfortunately. 

Death To Smoochy is a movie that will divide fans - you will either love it or loathe it. It very much depends on whether or not you are a fan of his stand-up acts: because if you have been following Robin's career earlier on, a lot of his stand-up routines and jokes contain profanity & adult material and is, therefore, not family- friendly at all. As for non-Robin Williams fans, they might lap this one up. I guess that during the '00s, Robin wanted to take more risks and take up more antagonist roles, just to show he can play a variety of roles. But good guy Robin Williams, - when he plays protagonist characters -, that's when I and many fans like him the most. Randolph was funny at times, but this is not a Robin Williams movie, nor role I wish to remember him by the most. The character he plays is the main reason why I don't rate this highly amongst all of his other earlier movies. Whereas in comedy movies such as Mrs Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Fathers' Day, The Birdcage and The Survivors, Robin gets to show off his comedic talents, his character Randolph spends most of the time ranting and raving his head off. 

I have stumbled upon comments from viewers saying that they'd wished Robin had played more characters like Randolph earlier on in his career. Erm, no thank you. If his entire career relied on just that, then in no way would he had been successful & his acting career would have been short-lived. 

I comprehend that it was a project that Robin was interested in doing, but it seems that the '00s weren't a particularly great decade for his career. In fact, the 2000s were not so kind to him. As he got older, the good roles went to the younger actors and Robin was slumped with crappy and not-so-good straight - to- DVD flicks. That is not to say I hate this film entirely - it has its moments, but the glory days of Mork & Mindy, Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society and Hook were virtually over, and Death to Smoochy carved a massive hole in Robin's career. The other movies that followed in the 2000s and beyond after the release of Death to Smoochy weren't for the better either. And it didn't help matters that his character, Randolph was and is mostly rotten. It was a sad end to what had been 3 impending decades of success during the 1970s with Mork & Mindy, 1980s and 1990s. Death to Smoochy was the beginning of his run of below-par comedy feature films that include Old Dogs and RV in the 2000s era and beyond. 

When I first saw this film, I found it utterly hilarious and over-the-top; but it wasn't until that I had pondered on reflection his past roles, especially comedy roles prior to Randolph. & by contrast, it strikes me that other than the wooden script, Death to Smoochy's bitter and sardonic tone, which is akin to in The War of The Roses, had hampered the viewing experience of this film. It was too harsh for my liking as DeVito opts for the sledgehammer approach in filmmaking, and thus it has absolutely none of the wit and ease of likability of DeVito's earlier effort, Throw Momma From The Train. The rest of the characters, besides Randolph and Sheldon, were frankly unlikable with very little redeemable qualities. The TV boss played by Catherine Keener didn't look convincing at all. 

Whereas Joey O'Brien of Cadillac Man was a sleazeball in many respects, Daniel Hillard from Mrs Doubtfire was immature and childish, & Jack Moniker of The Best of Times was an angsty and moody guy, here Rainbow Randolph was a potty-mouthed, bitter, middle-aged, over-the-top and bonkers guy who rants on too much. Williams' performance was just too acerbic and ludicrously over-the-top for my liking. As much as some of his tirades were, well, kind of amusing and that he became less of a moron later on in the movie and as he teamed up with Sheldon against the real crooks. 

And regardless of what people may say and think, despite his turns in Insomnia, One Hour Photo, with Williams I still can't picture him as a bad guy in a realistic and non-comedic sense. As the Joker, Riddler in a Batman movie however, yes. Whereas here, he overplayed it too much. 

The film amounts to nothing more than satire that is more childish and silly than it is clever in its delivery and plus, it is very mean-spirited throughout; it did not evoke that feel-good factor that is in Robin Williams's previous comedies of the 1980s and 1990s. 

Some of the toilet-like humour and jokes were funny, in a juvenile-ish kind of way - even if it was far-fetched. It was even more juvenile than that of Robin's previous comedies, Jack, Mrs Doubtfire and Fathers' Day; & yet what we have here is an adult comedy with themes that evoke, or supposedly evoke childhood innocence and fun. I just wished it wasn't ruined by all that excessive cursing and the movie's exceedingly morbid tone, despite the film being R-rated. If the film's main selling point was to resort to foul language to garner laughs, then it has succeeded, but this is to the disappointment of many Robin Williams fans, who felt let down with this effort. There can only be an X amount of times for the F-word to be blurted out until it becomes tiresome and less funny. The penis-shaped cookie scene was whilst at first, I found it amusing, was really embarrassing and irksome. It marked the low point of this film. Throw in a not so plausible romantic sub-plot & some suspect storytelling, & Death To Smoochy is a bit of a travesty. But the acting overall was all right at best and the ending was good stuff.

I like Danny DeVito and many of his movies as an actor, but here, he went nuts. 

Surprisingly for a Warner Bros so-called indie production, the film looks cheap, like C-list movie quality that I'd come to expect from a straight-to-DVD film.  

Yet nonetheless, did I think this film was really as bad as critics made it out to be as? Well, not quite, especially from the same critics who have constantly dissed most of Robin's other movies from the 1980s and 1990s, besides this post - 2000 effort. However, based on Robin's character, Randolph & taking into consideration the past character roles he has played, I cannot for the life of me, truly put this film on my top ten favourite Robin Williams movies list. & I certainly wouldn't recommend this as an essential film for all Robin Williams fans to own. 

Death to Smoochy would have probably worked better as an adult-oriented animated TV series instead. Or even better, it had less bad language. 

In 1998, Robin Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting and though many will pinpoint Patch Adams as the film that led to the decline of his acting career, I, for one, say otherwise. Most fans have said this movie, which was released 4 years after his memorable Academy Award triumph, had essentially killed - or be it signalled the end of Robin's illustrious career..... with statements such as this one, I beg to wonder how right they might have been- and are.  

As for this character of his, just no


Pros +

- Is somewhat funny and amusing, in an over-the-top way

- Okay acting by Ed Norton and Robin Williams

- When Randolph sees that Sheldon isn't the bad guy

- The ending scene

Cons - 

- The excessive use of foul language can be off-putting for some fans

- Completely uncharacteristic role for Robin Williams, given the characters he has played in the past, have been family-orientated & much more likeable 

- Robin Williams's character is not very pleasant 

- The film has a cheap and low budget look to it for a Warner Bros. produced feature 

- The other characters are bland and not very interesting 

- Interesting plot, yet wooden script & some suspect storytelling 

- Not recommended for fans who much prefer his clean-cut material and roles

Final Verdict:

Death to Smoochy is a strange one for me - I don't hate this film in its entirety, but then again, all the wonderful positive, family-like qualities that I and we tend to associate Robin Williams with, is stripped away and replaced by F-words, a bitter and sardonic tone and a character role many fans will find dislikeable and asinine. 

Thankfully, this is not the Robin Williams I choose to remember him as.

I find Randolph amusing, yet unsavoury at the same time. 

It is one of those movies where you either find yourselves laughing on occasions, - or that you don't find it amusing whatsoever because it relies so much on shock tactics that you don't see it as being funny. The movie would have worked better I guess, minus most of the swearing and it became PG or PG-13 rated instead. 

Death to Smoochy is only worth recommending to fans and viewers who want to see a darker edge to Robin's character roles. To other Robin Williams fans, I'd say better stick with Mork & Mindy, Mrs Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam and his other 1980s & 1990s movie efforts. 

And to the rest who are easily offended, avoid this film. 

*Score last updated: 18 July, 2017*


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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Boomerang - Film 4 (1992)

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, David Allen Grier, Grace Jones, Martin Lawrence, Eartha Kitt, Chris Rock, Tisha Campbell-Martin
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $131,052,444

Plot: Cocky ad executive, Marcus (Eddie Murphy) has a reputation as a ladies' man. However, Marcus gets a taste of his own medicine when a merger finds him working under the beautiful Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who has a similarly cavalier attitude about romance. 

'A Clever, Witty And Insightful Take On The Traditional Romantic Comedy Formula From An African-American Perspective'

If Boomerang is known, for one thing, it is the song 'End of the Road' by Boyz 2 Men, which topped the charts back in 1992. This chart-topping hit became more well known and commercially successful than that of the movie that was released worldwide in cinemas. Over 20 years have passed and it is time for me to take a stroll down memory lane with this effort. 

Boomerang is an excellent account of a man, who courts the opposite sex and who sleeps with women, only to dump them. But when the tables are turned and he gets a taste of his own medicine, how does Marcus really feel now?  Hence the title 'Boomerang'; you know what they say, 'what goes around, comes around', much like a boomerang itself. 

I'm not usually a sucker for romantic comedies - I find most of them predictable, samey and boring - but I like romantic comedies such as Tootsie and Boomerang: romcoms, which are not your conventional run-of-the-mill, boy meets girl, boy- falls- in- love- with- girl premise. They have their own challenging and different ways of approaching the concept of love and romance that other writers and directors wouldn't dare to address. 

It is very rare to have an African-American rom-com that is as exceptionally good as Boomerang, or even better than Boomerang because I've still yet to come across one that is of a high standard. Usually, when people think of romantic comedies, it tends to feature a predominantly Caucasian and heterosexual cast. Of course, this has changed so much throughout the years. Insofar as the African- American Romantic comedy goes, sure enough, there has been progress, but the quality of these movies that have been pumped out, have been very few and far between. & it is very rare to have a romantic comedy with an an-all Black cast that not only has universal appeal but a rom-com that transcends themes beyond blackness. Because Boomerang is a movie that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys romcoms, regardless of your ethnicity. Although the implied homophobia is a bit of a turn-off and doesn't make this film any more progressive. 

Other than 48 Hours, Coming to America and Trading Places, I haven't seen Eddie give an acting performance that is as complete and majestic as that of player Marcus, whilst proving that he can carry a rom-com and that Coming to America wasn't a total fluke. If there was one movie that helped relaunch Eddie's career during the 1990s, it was this one. 

The film also marks the first full acting presence of Halle Berry: yes a lot has been said about some of the projects she has done recently and during the past decade, which have not always been the greatest of choices. Nevertheless, in Boomerang, she just proves what a good actress she can be - when given the right script, material, as well as a character that can bring out the best out of her talents. And when it happens, Halle delivers. Even though her character is supposedly less glamorous than Jacqueline (played by Robin Givens), she still looks great with the pixie cut. Other than Eddie Murphy, Halle Berry slays this movie, with her natural charm and a performance that hasn't been toppled by the other character roles that she has played, beyond that of Angela. But I could be wrong. In all fairness, I think most women would want to relate to Angela than that of Jacqueline. Even though she was shy and not overly confident and wanting to be as successful as her boss, Jacqueline, deep down her heart was always in the right place, so much so that Angela makes Marcus see the error of his ways and wanting him to change to become a better and kinder man. The moment where Angela tells Marcus off for being an idiot, that for me, was the highlight of Halle's memorable performance and goes to show that Angela will not be played around with. 

Whereas Angela is the noble good sport, Robin Givens as Jacqueline is very much the female version of Marcus: as much as I don't like that character very much, I do understand that she exists because she is the spitting image of Marcus when it comes to her obsession with sex, and being successful, rich and all those other things. I think this particular angle is done rather subtly and without being so in-yer-face. It's good to have 2 women representing two different ends of the spectrum when comes to not just their personalities and looks, but also their outlooks on love and relationships. 

Coming To America was another excellent romantic comedy starring Eddie Murphy from the 80s, which excelled his acting talents; Boomerang is and was Eddie's 90s rom-com offering, which given the success of those movies, it is surprising that Eddie doesn't do more rom-coms. As well as Eddie, Halle Berry and Robin Givens, Martin Lawrence and David Allen Grier also appear in this film: Lawrence's character is basically his sitcom character, Martin only he is more foul-mouthed and obnoxious, whereas David's character is much more likeable, geeky, the sensible one, who thinks with his head and not with his you-know-what. I liked David a lot. Other notable appearances include Chris Rock, Tisha Martin-Campbell, Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones. 

Boomerang is not called a romantic comedy for anything, I mean, sure enough it has romantic elements, a romantic plot, subplot and narrative, you see Marcus fall in and later out of love with Jacqueline, a few love scenes. And yet it is also witty and funny - but the humour is not ''hahaha look at Black people doing and saying stupid things'' funny, but intelligent humour that has a message and meaning attached to it. You see characters getting their feelings hurt, you see them at their happiest, as well as at their lowest times. 

I understand that this film wasn't as well received by the critics: but in watching Boomerang, audiences of this movie understand what this movie was trying to achieve and what Eddie Murphy as Marcus was trying to achieve with it. 

An excellent all-star casting that the best of African American cinema and entertainment has to offer at the time of the '90s, great script, is amusing, clever and witty with consistent writing and a multitude of characters, this movie truly deserves a place in the all-time top 50 romantic comedies of all-time - yet the fact that it hasn't happened (so far) is somewhat of a detriment. Given it is, as I mentioned, one of the few African-American rom-coms whose quality has not been replicated or surpassed by its predecessors. 

Final Verdict:

African-American romantic comedies are very few and far between, but Boomerang has set the benchmark for others to follow suit; though this has led to very little success, the film itself is a brilliant and insightful exploration of romance from a perspective that is rarely seen in Hollywood mainstream film. 

It ticks all the right boxes and Boomerang is as good as it is today, just as it was 24 years ago.  If you are on the look out for a different type of rom-com, then look no further at 1992's Boomerang. 


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Tootsie - Film 4 (1982)

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Charles Durning, Geena Davis, Sydney Pollack 
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $177,200,000

Plot: An out-of-work actor disguises himself as a dowdy, middle-aged woman to get a part on a hit soap opera. The scheme works, but while s/he keeps up the charade, Michael Dorsey in disguise as Dorothy comes to see life through the eyes of the opposite sex. 

'The Pre- Mrs Doubtfire Of The '80s Generation'

Much has been said about Tootsie, the cross-dressing comedy of the 1980s: it was something of a revelation when it was released back in 1982, the idea of a man dressing up as a woman was common in real-life, but rarely often explored on- screen up until the likes of Some Like It Hot and this film made this theme all the more possible. And real. 

The comparisons and similarities between Tootsie and Mrs Doubtfire are there - Michael Dorsey and Daniel Hillard are both unemployed actors, both are difficult actors of whom nobody wants to work with and both dress up as women. Oh and both star Dustin Hoffman for Tootsie and Robin Williams for Mrs Doubtfire: both of whom eventually worked together on the Steven Spielberg 1991 epic, Hook

After years of frustration of not being taken seriously as an actor and wanting to prove a point to himself that he is not some loser who is willing to settle for second best, Michael puts on a dress, applies makeup, a fake wig, high heels and a pair of glasses, not forgetting a fake Southern accent: alas, a star by the name of Tootsie is born. & guess what? It works. 

So by this stage, Michael as Tootsie - or be it Dorothy Michaels has a job, is adorned by fans around the country and is now the talk of the town in the press, on talk shows, everything is rosy, right? Not quite. Because just when he thought it couldn't get any more complicated, Sandy becomes exasperated and even more frustrated when Michael becomes less interested in her and in their relationship. And to top it off, he later develops feelings for his co-star, Julie. And unknownst to him, Julie's father & another male actor also has the hots for Dorothy too!

Though the longer Michael keeps up this charade from his ditzy friend, Sandy - who still thinks Michael is in love with her when he isn't -, his secret crush, Julie and her dad, the more difficult it becomes for Michael to continue living two parallel lives as his female alter-ego and himself. 

Sidney Pollack could've turned this film into a clone of Some Like it Hot or Mrs Doubtfire and, in reference to the latter, made Tootsie into a complete and utter slapstick farce with sentimental pap (the plot and premise of Tootsie were later imitated by Chris Columbus, 11 years after for Mrs Doubtfire). Instead, he opts to add more realism and humanistic aspects to it. Because of this approach, Tootsie becomes a movie about seeing and living life from the perspective of the opposite sex, whilst dressed as a person of the opposite sex! But more importantly, also, it also acts as a social critique of the way some men judge and perceive women as sex objects, rather than treating them as equals and in acknowledging that we too have brains and intelligence.  

I scratch my head sometimes when people lauded Mrs Doubtfire as the first drag-based comedy film produced - yet label Tootsie as a rip-off of Some Like It Hot. Okay, Some Like It Hot first presided Tootsie. & Mrs Doubtfire isn't that original when there have been other drag-based comedy movies that came before it. But Tootsie was the pre-Mrs Doubtfire for the 1980s generation and beyond, and the drag theme was played out and executed in a far more insightful manner, with intelligence and feeling that also puts a smile on my face. There are so many screwball comedy aspects in this movie that I am not going to mention, as I don't want to spoil it for viewers and fans of Tootsie. 

The film plays out as a traditional farce that is restrained with a humanity and a pleasantness that isn't reeking of sappiness so that it doesn't become so over-the-top that it puts people off, & all for the sake of a few laughs. And I think it definitely helps that the romantic subplot plays a huge part in this: Michael as Dorothy says funny things, do funny things not just to get a reaction, but that to show he is not a complete and utter jerk that people see to him as. Yet he sees through Julie's vision what he truly wants, and that she ultimately makes him become a better person as well. 

It has such a good feel-good factor that begins, right from the beginning of the movie to the end; the humour is well done and is intelligent and not low brow. Over 30 years since it was released, this movie doesn't feel or come across as dated, whatsoever. Not my eyes, anyway. The script is brilliant, performance-wise everyone was great, from Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr (as much as her character annoyed me) and Sydney Pollack. I can't recall a single flaw or problem I had with this film; for me, Tootsie was just flawless in every single aspect. The manner it dealt with the romantic subplot of Julie and Michael was well-executed, I definitely felt them as a would-be couple and sensed their chemistry. The ending when Julie and Michael come face-to-face with each other for the first time, since Michael's on camera revelation as the man behind Tootsie/Dorothy was tastefully done and so warm and sweet to the point I was gushing throughout. Would have I liked to have seen them kiss? Yes, that would have been the icing on the cake for sure, but still seeing them walk together as the ending credits roll, was and is just as equally satisfying. 

Dustin Hoffman was nothing short of exceptional in his sterling portrayal of a man trying to wrestle with his emotions and feelings & reaffirming that he is in touch with his feminine side, whilst also going out of his way to being taken seriously as a performer. Before as Michael, he was at times, difficult, had a short temper and was easily irritated - and yet by being & becoming Dorothy & thanks to Julie, all of a sudden he becomes a changed man, as he learns and understands, as well as realizes this alter-ego of his can bring out the best and most positive qualities in and out of himself. Jessica Lange played Julie to a T that she was so deserving of that Academy Award win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for this film: to Julie, Dorothy is her friend, her bestie, someone who she can talk to and discuss female matters and issues with. Whereas Sandy was very wild, Julie, in contrast, was much more laid back and reserved in her demeanour and attitude. That, along with being caring and sensitive - and that in turn made Michael fall head over - or should that be as Dorothy fall head whilst wearing heels in love with Julie. & understandably so. Jessica presented Julie as this vulnerable -yet likeable girl next door type image.

Much to Michael's dismay, however, Julie is dating Ron, with which Dorothy witnesses him be something of a chauvinist pig towards Julie and the other women on set. Bill Murray and Geena Davis are in this film too; Murray was brilliant in his typical dry and witty humour type of way (the scene of him eating lemon slices made me smile), whilst Davis has a short cameo as one of the supporting actresses on the soap opera TV show (trivia: both Geena Davis and Dustin Hoffman would end up playing alongside each other in the movie, Accidental Hero in 1992, 10 years later). 

Tootsie isn't just a great comedy movie: it is also a great example of how to do a romantic comedy movie. And it is a romantic comedy with a difference.

Final Verdict:

Tootsie stands the test of time as one of the best romantic comedies ever produced that doesn't become too over-the-top and silly, to the point the movie becomes more and more ridiculous. As Michael Dorsey masquerading as Dorothy Michaels and Dorothy Michaels in the form of Michael Dorsey, Dustin Hoffman is at the top of his comedy A-game with a one-of-a-kind performance & brilliant support by the likes of Bill Murray, Teri Garr and Jessica Lange. 

If you ask me what is my favourite romantic comedy film, my answer to that would be Tootsie.

Co-written, interestingly enough, by Barry Levinson, director of films such as Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam and Diner, this is a highly amusing, warm, feel-good, touching and a delightful experience all around. Tootsie rightfully deserved all of its plaudits. 


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