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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Retro Review: Baja Oklahoma (1988)

Baja Oklahoma
Cast: Lesley Ann Warren, Julia Roberts, Peter Coyote, Swoosie Kurtz
Genre: Made- for- TV Movie

Plot: A Southern barmaid juggles her dreams with her off-the-cuff love life 

'Early Julia Roberts Role & Promising Performance In TV Movie That Lacks Sparkle'

Baja Oklahoma isn't by any means a fantastic film; as a cable, made for TV effort, the picture quality isn't that great, the sentimentality can be a little too much, Baja Oklahoma is like Country music - okay country music that is. 

Though it marks as another one of Julia Roberts's earlier on-screen appearances and this one being her second one, following on from her debut in Blood Red alongside her older brother Eric Roberts, Baja Oklahoma is set in Texas and is based on the 1981 novel penned by Dan Jenkins, of whom co-wrote the screenplay and is fronted by Lesley Ann Warren who plays Juanita: a woman who has been used and dumped by a lot of men in her life (and in turn, this has undermined her self-confidence) who works at a bar, scraping a living to support her 18-yr-old daughter, Candi played by Julia Roberts, who is trying to get away and run off with her dope-pushing, troublesome boyfriend named Dove. 

Juanita is on the lookout for love but also has a thirst for fame & dreams of becoming a fully-fledged songwriter, as well as to contend with a high school lover who encourages her to pursue her ambitions. The conception of the story is not very interesting or appealing enough - there are 1 or 2 few good moments worth rewinding, but Julia Roberts is pretty good as Candi and she definitely shows early glimpses of her acting prowess that has set her on the road to stardom, success and popularity, well into her early 30s of the early 2000s. Roberts's performance is far more credible, promising and impressive here than her turns in Satisfaction and Firehouse, yet she did it even better in Steel Magnolias, one year on from Baja Oklahoma, & of which became a much bigger hit.

Lesley Ann Warren's Juanita is the central character, who sees her attempts at securing fame and stardom experience her share of highs and lows; Warren's portrayal avoids the honky-tonk cliches that could've marred the Baja Oklahoma and turned it into a cliched & completely forgettable fest. 

I didn't really care much for some of the music and I thought the profanity was unnecessary to have in this film and just wasn't warranted. The plot of this film reminds me of Coyote Ugly that had a similar-ish premise. Baja Oklahoma is Coyote Ugly meets Country music meets long lost lovers. Unfortunately, though it comes together in some parts, it lacked the sparkle that could've ramped up interest in this romantic drama. 

But for country music fans, as well as Julia Roberts fanatics, this is a treasure trove to add to their collections. 


Pros +

- Seeing a young, adolescent, innocent Julia Roberts in this 

- Is watchable at times 

Cons -

- Film lacks sparkle and energy 

- Story not very interesting

- A bit too much swearing 

Final Verdict:

Baja Oklahoma is amiable and as an HBO TV movie, this is nothing that spectacular to shout about; one would feel shortchanged just by paying money to see it in a movie theater or cinema because it is definitely not a film that would have done well at the box office. But that is not to say it is a really terrible film, as it does have some watchable moments. 

It's worth seeing alone for a young adolescent, Julia Roberts - pre-Pretty Woman fame and if you are a fan of country music and of Lesley-Ann Warren, who are both compelling and convincing as the daughter, Candi and mother, Juanita. 

Overall, if made-for-TV movies are your thing, Baja Oklahoma is worth giving a shot. Just keep your expectations low and don't expect massive fireworks. 


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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Retro Review: Cat Chaser (1989)

Cat Chaser
Cast: Peter Weller, Kelly McGillis, Charles Durning, Tomas Milian
Genre: Noir Thriller

Plot: A Miami hotel owner finds himself in danger when he becomes romantically involved with the wife of a deposed general from the Dominican Republic

'Curious - Yet Flawed Thriller, Despite the Troublesome Post-Production' 

Produced at a time where parent company Vestron was about to go bankrupt, this film was an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, which was then taken out of Abel Ferrera's hands, as well as a needless voiceover was added to the film, consigned this thriller to Z-list straight to DVD hell. But that was not the end to all its woes: Kelly McGillis was rather vocal of her unhappy time during the shooting and fell out with the director, Ferrera and fellow actor, Peter Weller. The sequence where she was forced to strip naked - then having a gun stuck in-between her legs, which was eventually edited out, makes you wonder if Ferrera did cross the line. Though it is suggested that Cat Chaser was the film that made Kelly McGillis shave her head and stopped acting for almost a decade after this film came out, by putting aside all of the troublesome, behind-the-scenes talk and a clash involving McGillis and the director, I actually thought Cat Chaser was, in a way, enjoyable - if not perfect. 

By taking a look at the poster, it's assumed that this would be an erotic thriller, and though it has one love scene and two other scenes with Kelly McGillis naked, as well as a male full-frontal nudity murder scene, Cat Chaser operates more like a straight-up noir thriller. 

Peter Weller is George Moran: a motel owner, pool cleaner and former marine now based in the Dominican Republic, who is in search of Luci Palma: the woman who saved his life and gave George the moniker of 'Cat Chaser', but of whom finds himself embroiled in a love affair with the wife named Mary, played by Kelly McGillis, of a Dominican Republic despot general. With that in mind, a game of cat & mouse develops between Mary and George against the general himself. Mary harbours feelings towards George and when they get together, they have a steamy fling. 

One thing Cat Chaser could have done without is the cumbersome voiceover: the narrated voiceover was not necessary to have in this film. The viewer could easily follow the story and plot, without having to be inundated with the voiceover playing in the background. & plus, it took away from the intensity and grittiness that a film of this nature could've done more with. 

As I've said in my review of The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai, Peter Weller has shown on several occasions that he is capable of acting without being stoic and shows his range; even in a plot that could use a bit more work. He also looks terrific here and he is one of those actors that can make an obscure film or premise work and with him, he has that watchability presence about him. Once again, he gives an underrated turn and manages to give a few bad guys a good beating along the way, as well; he practically saves this movie. By taking Weller away, Cat Chaser would be nowhere as watchable.

Cat Chaser's noir style works well, although the story wasn't entirely engrossing and the execution of it does lend itself to be a tad simplistic. But the film does manage to turn the screw a few times and when it does so, it becomes sort of watchable. There is also a rather unflattering full-frontal male nudity shower scene involving the despot general, later on.

The remaining performances hold up well: Kelly McGillis shines, Charles Durning is the ex-cop and two-faced, general's right-hand man who double-crosses George. 

Some of the edits and re-cuts made in the film hurt the actual lack of resolution to George's affair with Mary, right after they slept with each other. Because of that, it feels off. The original erotic love scene between George and Mary appears in the director's cut version of Cat Chaser, which is supposedly better than the theatrical release; with that, this love scene develops a real intimacy between the pairing that makes the risks that occur in the film to be a lot more believable. Although that edited love scene in the version that I saw was pretty hot, and Kelly McGillis and Peter Weller oozed that intimate passion. Even if it was reported that they did not get on well with each other, onset of the shooting. Technically, the film is flawed, what with the cuts and edits being made, and though I quite like his take on the noir side of things, with regards to the dark undertone to this films, sometimes, Abel Ferrara needs to go all out and not hold back. Though clearly, it doesn't help with the production company or be it the MPAA heavily censoring out parts of the film. 

During a 3- hour raw uncut of Cat Chaser, which was screened back in 2014 at the Analogy Film Archives, the director Abel Ferrara, as well as Peter Weller and others involved stated their unhappiness with the released version of the film in cinemas and in viewing it, I could definitely understand their complaints. 

But Cat Chaser, despite the ambiguous title, still manages to be somewhat watchable, mainly thanks to Peter Weller; even if the thrills weren't always there. 

Final Verdict:

Decent film but come to the halfway point, it started to lose my interest, only for the third act to redeem things for me. Cat Chaser gets crapped on by a lot of people and it is another of Abel Ferrera's attempts of protagonist and antagonist characters struggling in hostile surroundings and within darker subtexts. Other films of his include 1992's Bad Lieutenant and 1984's Fear City- the latter of which I enjoyed immensely.  

Cat Chaser is an unintentionally and intensely curious thriller and I think that had I had access to the uncut version of this film, I'd have enjoyed that one even more than the theatrical version. The screenplay didn't quite live up to Abel Ferrera's approach, and whilst it could do with a few more improvements or additions, it is Peter Weller's performance here that sells it for me. 

All in all, based on the theatrical release, Cat Chaser isn't too bad that despite its flaws & imperfections which could have been easily ironed out, and the troublesome production and post-production stories behind it, for me anyway, it's not quite that shabby and bad as a film as many others have stated. 


Friday, 27 January 2017

Retro Review: Mars Attacks! (1996)

Mars Attacks!
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny Devito, Natalie Portman, Sarah Jessica Parker
Genre: Science Fiction Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $101 million

Plot: Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humour 

'Misunderstood Sci-Fi Parody Worthy Of Cult Status' 

First off, the all star-studded ensemble cast is made up of a who's who in 1980s and 1990s cinema such as Michael J. Fox, as well as Pam Grier of Jackie Brown. Jack Nicholson appears as two characters: the president and cowboy with a big fake prosthetic nose, moustache in a blue outfit, like a knock-off Burt Reynolds. Diminutive Danny Devito is his usual loud self in a minor appearance and there is even an early appearance by Jack Black and actress and singer Brandy's brother, Ray-J. 

This film has its tongue planted right firmly in its butt cheeks and pokes fun at the ''aliens taking over the world thing'' really well. I sort of get all that weird, Gothic, fantasy stuff Tim Burton evokes in his movies - Batman films, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas -, and here it works within the plot of this comedy. Mars Attacks is a parody/satire take on Independence Day with the alien invasion theme.

The comedy itself is not rip-roaring, pant-wettingly funny but it is occasionally amusing: one example is the transsexual reporter with a voice that sounds masculine, who asks the president 'does the Martians have two sexes like we do?'. And the president and his aide have that perplexing look on their faces. As is the scene where Glenn Close's wife character goes 'kick the crap out of them'. I really enjoyed it when she and Jack Nicholson played up to the cameras with their hammy antics. Tim Burton's trend in recasting actors from other films sees the Batman antagonist actors in Danny Devito, who played the Penguin in Batman Returns and Jack who was The Joker in the 1989 prequel film. Oh, and did I forget the part when the Martians infiltrate Tom Jones's Vegas gig by posing as backup singers - only for them to start blowing people up with their lasers.

The film builds up slowly but from the 40th-minute mark, all chaos breaks out and the aliens start killing people and the way it plays out, is virtually similar to that of Gremlins. I think the scenes where the aliens attack the humans are what elevates this film and are the most entertaining ones to speak of, as well. 

Mars Attacks baffled audiences and film critics when it came out and their criticisms towards it, was pretty much down to the fact that they hadn't realised at the time that this was a parody and mocking of classic sci-fi films. It's in many respects a very misunderstood comedy that functions as a parody where it takes pot shots at politicians, senior figures of authority, scientists, journalists, elderly people. 

Mars Attacks is a Tim Burton film that doesn't feel as though his brand of dark, fantasy- yet quirky tone is shoved in, nor forced into people's faces. But more like it is assimilated into the plot and story and it just allows it to do its own job. The designs of the Martian characters are quirky, creative and are cartoony in a way that hides that malicious presence. 

Though it is one of Burton's lesser known works, with fewer expectations, less hype and the fact it was overlooked in its original release, makes Mars Attacks a rather unique sci-fi comedy; despite the comedy itself being underplayed and its lighter, tongue-in-cheek approach on the alien invasion theme, is pretty refreshing. The special effects are out of this world, pun unintended, and still look great today. Though where it can benefit from is the humour and comedy being a whole lot funnier, and not just by being wittier. The humour is more sly and subtle and it won't hit you in the face. The satirical humour worked better in Galaxy Quest, partly because of the characters in that film, in addition to the story, are arguably far more endearing.

Otherwise, everything else but the humour is right on point in Mars Attacks

Final Verdict:

More absurdist and wittier comedy than your general farcical laugh out loud offerings, much like with Galaxy Quest, although that film is a celebration of the sci-fi world through Star Trek, Mars Attacks is a spoof take on the likes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and many other 1950s alien invasion B- films. 

It's irreverent, anarchic, especially with the Martians running amok and it's fun to watch in a comical context. It's a darn shame the critics at the time and general audiences didn't latch onto what Tim Burton was trying to achieve because it makes for a really interesting take on sci-fi. The cast turn in great performances, with arguably Jack Nicholson stealing the show. It's not a highly cerebral, highbrow film that demands a lot of over-analysing and pondering; therefore, if you're okay with that, then you'll enjoy this a lot more. 

But even so, those looking for a more heavy-handed dose of humour and comedy, may not get into this film as much. 

This is most definitely a cult sci-fi comedy and with the all-star cameos, they really add to the fun entertainment factor of Mars Attacks! 

It may not have the emotional depths of Batman Returns and Edward Scissorhands, but Mars Attacks! does share that same manic and wacky yet dark comedic tone of Tim Burton's other hit, Beetlejuice. 

Though not as highly amusing as I'd expected, this was still fun to watch. 


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Retro Review: Undercover Blues (1993)

Undercover Blues
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Dennis Quaid, Stanley Tucci, Larry Miller, Tom Arnold 
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $12 million 

Plot: Jeff and Jane Blue are the doting parents of a new baby girl. They also happen to be America's best chance at national security. Just as they embark on that perilous adventure known as parenting, they are asked to save the world from a treacherous arms embezzler. But are their martial arts skills, cunning and high-tech know-how any match for a diabolical terrorist and ten-pound tyrant? 

'Forced and Cartoonish Humour Renders This Formulaic Detective Caper Tired'

Amidst heavy hitters such as Mrs Doubtfire, The Pelican Brief and Jurassic Park, there were also relatively low-key films that came out in 1993 with the relatively unheard Undercover Blues being one of them, and then the latest attempt of Dennis Quaid's and Kathleen Turner's to resurrect their careers, in a decade wherein which their careers were on the wane. Especially Kathleen Turner's - although the commercial flop of this film (generating over $12 million on a $25 million budget) all but virtually ended her run, which was rather barren in the 1990s, after critical and commercial acclaim in 1980s offerings Romancing The Stone, Peggy Sue Got MarriedBody Heat and Crimes of Passion

Undercover Blues is a screwball comedy that tries to make things work, tries to show that a comedy can be made and based around a husband and wife duo who are spies/cops - yet ultimately its execution, over-reliance on predictability tropes to illicit forced humour, killed off all hopes and potential it had to be an overly decent crime comedy caper. 

CIA agent Jeff (Dennis Quaid) and Jane Blue (Kathleen Turner) are semi-retired and married with an 11th-month-old child in Janie, and together they trade wisecracks and light-hearted banter against street criminals and international terrorists. 

The slapstick humour and farce are daft in this so-called comedy that barely generates genuine laughs; Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid have little chemistry together onscreen and the manner the two leads respond to violence or danger, is so silly but too cartoonish that is in a similar vein to Looney Tunes cartoons. All the humour is forced and so typical with no actual laughs. Whereas the story is practically all over the place that I lost focus and interest in it and when I did, I could care less in redeeming that interest.

Larry Miller's character with that lispy voice that made him even more of a joke is not only annoying and aggravating, but it comes across as not being funny. Meshing domestic comedy with spy genre with mobster films can work - if it is executed well; unfortunately, not so in Undercover Blues where it is done sloppily. Undercover Blues tries to be a little too smart for its own good, yet the humour and laughs are forced and thus, making the film so underwhelming.

Kathleen Turner reprises her role from VI Warshawski, only her character is a lot less hard and tough and she displays more of her subtle characteristics as Jane Blue. Meanwhile, I would've liked Dennis Quaid's Jeff a whole lot more - if he wasn't so smug & he hadn't overacted in his part. Both Jane and Jeff are smart, can take care of themselves as well as each other, but they never exude a real emotion. Out of the two, one could say Turner is the odd one out and is vaguely miscast. Given her turn in VI Warshawski, 2 years prior, the casting directors must've thought that as she could, and to some extent did carry off the tough cop persona well in that film, they might as well have her star opposite Dennis Quaid. The age difference is not a problem here; I just need to feel that chemistry, that aura they have for one another onscreen - & frankly, Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid were just not the right fit. 

The film also feels like a made-for-TV cable movie with its production values; it doesn't feel like a Hollywood production, even with Turner and Quaid in the lead roles. It just comes across as being empty-headed, too cartoonish and overlong, even for a comedy, as I really wanted to go along with the story, plot, the characters and a mere conviction of them. Sadly, this wasn't to be. 

It also plays out as one long gag where they succeed in outsmarting and beating the criminals at their own game - yet again, the way this is done borders on tedium and the situations are amateur in nature ; one wants to see Jeff and Jane come out on top in the end and defeat the bad guys - but when they always have it their own way 90/95% of the time in this film, it becomes a chore and so aggravating, it comes across as arrogant.  

As a spy comedy, this has virtually nothing on 1994's True Lies, which came a year later; it's nowhere near as smart, risky, bold & daring and Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid as the Blues are no match for Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Helen and Harry Tasker. Whereas that film tried to be an action espionage comedy, and succeeded, particularly through the comedy and humour, Arnie and Jamie Lee made the material work -  this is a spy domestic-ish comedy whereby the comedy and humour & especially the main leads, fail to hit the mark, completely. 

Thankfully, we were spared sequels to this tired, smug and overly formulaic crime caper.

Final Verdict

This is an over-broad, at times over-acted detective caper about juggling the duties of being a parent, spouse and a cop and whilst this isn't an unworthy or unwarranted premise, its handling and execution should have been a whole lot more insightful and less cliched and typical. Even though it is a comedy, it didn't make me laugh and smile and the whole thing is passe and overdone to death. 

Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid didn't work for me as a coupling and their characters lacked genuine empathy for me to really care about, as well as for them. 

One can't help but wonder what Undercover Blues could've been and ought to have been like with a director, who could make the cast work with the material & with more variation in the screenplay by the writer and in taking more risks. 

Instead, this offering turns out to be rather forgettable, hackneyed, as well as too silly and unfunny with forced humour for a comedy. 


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Retro Review: Batman Forever (1995)

Batman Forever
Cast: Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O' Donnell, Drew Barrymore
Genre: Superhero 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $336 million 

Plot: Batman faces off against two foes: the schizophrenic, horribly scarred former district attorney, Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face and the Riddler, a disgruntled ex-Wayne Enterprises inventor seeking revenge against his former employer by unleashing his brain-sucking weapon on Gotham City's residents. As the caped crusader also deals with tortured memories of his parents' murder, he has a new romance with psychologist, Chase Meridan 

'Batman Not So Forever, Mainly Thanks To Joel Schumacher'

Riddle me this, riddle me that: how did Batman Forever become a disappointment in many ways and was rendered as 'tat'? One answer to that can be the director, Joel Schumacher, who also directed the even worse film, the 1997 follow-up Batman & Robin

I know a lot of people didn't like Batman Returns because it was veering too overly dark and sinister for the franchise; me personally, I enjoyed that as I felt that dark, eerie, brooding tone suited this series. This film, in stark contrast, is a light-hearted farce that comes off more as being comical and like a circus/pantomime show. When Batman uttered the line: 'I'll get drive-thru' when Alfred asks him whether he wants to make him a sandwich, I cringed. 

Batman Forever is so over the top, but in a cartoony way, though it appears that Joel Schumacher was trying to recreate the campiness of the 1960s TV show; two examples being nipples on the Bat suit and numerous neon coloured codpieces, as well as crotch shots - a no-no to be fair-, but then it becomes something of a circus freak show, rather than as a genuine Batman film. Or be it a Batman film that did the franchise and the comic book a huge amount of justice. I actually felt Robin, played by Chris O'Donnell, to be the worst character of the lot; he just seemed to whine a lot and act like a spoilt brat, even after losing his parents. He doesn't even show much emotion when it happened. The name Dick in Dick Grayson, the real-name to alter ego Robin, couldn't be more appropriate, as most of the time in this film, he was just like that. 

Joel Schumacher is just not the right director for this film, or be it any superhero film; his ideas do not suit this film and the image of this film that it is supposed to project; this film is so far removed from the previous two Batman films, as well as Christopher Nolan's prequels, it's astonishing to see that the entire mood and serious resonance it evoked, is all completely thrown away in the garbage, in favour of cartoonish, light and fluffy-ness, which Batman is all but light and fluffyThe film lacks atmospheric intensity, which the former films thrived on successfully. 

Regarding the casting, Val Kilmer was actually not bad as Bruce Wayne/Batman (I'd prefer his rendition over George Clooney's) and he did his best with the poor material that he was given, but I still don't picture him as a legitimate and true incarnation of Batman. Despite lacking a sheer presence and weight that Michael Keaton brought to that dual role, Kilmer's portrayal wasn't as bad as a lot of people have stated. & I thought the actual suit he wore looked pretty good, but for the rubber nipples or whatever that made it look even daft. Actually, the story behind this casting also prompted potential candidates, who could've and might've gone one better, but yet didn't get the roles in the end, but who knows: Ray Liotta was originally a first choice for the Two-Face character - only for it to go to Tommy Lee Jones; both Robin Williams and Brad Dourif were touted for The Riddler, when Michael Keaton who was in Batman and Batman Returns was still on board and before he jumped ship, as soon as Joel Schumacher took over the reigns from Tim Burton. Rene Russo as Dr Chase Meridian opposite what would have been Keaton's, Batman. And finally, Leonardo Di Caprio and Christian Bale - who in the latter eventually went on to play the title character of Batman- both auditioned for Robin. 

Chris O'Donnell as Robin, pass; Nicole Kidman is wasted as the wooden love interest for Bruce and the lines she has as Dr Chase Meridan is not that good. I didn't care for Vicki Vale in the first film and Chase is more on the lines of that character, whereas, at the same time, she lacks the allure and intrigue of Selena Kyle/Catwoman through Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal in Batman Returns. But in some ways also, she was also likeable. As for the villains, I thought Jim Carrey was a suitable choice for the Riddler (it's either him or Robin Williams, as the only actors I could picture in that role), but I also felt he did go slightly too eccentric and overboard in the performance. That, and he and his mannerisms bear too much like The Joker. Even though that character wasn't so over-the-top, thanks to Jack Nicholson's impressive turn in the first film. So, I can totally understand if a lot of people didn't find him tolerable in this film. The Riddler is a bit of a loon, well that's an understatement, but in the comics and Batman: The Animated Series, he was portrayed as a guy with a crazed persona -yet had an air of arrogance about him, but not one where he would crack jokes at the drop of the hat, much like with The Joker. And yeah, though they were recreating the feel of the 1960s TV show, I'd rather The Riddler was in his Green suit and bowler hat than have him in green spandex all the time, and thus, making the film too camp. Oh, and he with the Pink hair is just way off, he looked like a male version of Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics when she had a similar haircut. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, however, didn't work for me; yeah, he played a bit of a nut in Under Siege, but here, this role was out of reach from him and he was severely miscast. Half of his face looked like a wrinkly old beetroot. The Two-Face and Riddler partnership lacked the true menace and grittiness, as evoked by Danny Devito's bitter Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer's sultry Catwoman pairing in Batman Returns

The storyline with The Riddler creating a device that allows people to watch TV in 3D, which yet it also sucks away their memories/brains, doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially, as this is (kind of) out of character for The Riddler. The other storyline with Robin/Dick Grayson avenging his parent's death, after they were killed by Two-Face was as redundant as it was predictable. 

Though there were moments that were somewhat watchable, this film is poor, but the blame doesn't just lie squarely at the feet of Joel Schumacher but also at Warner Bros, - who after the complaints from parents about the violence and dark tone the second film evoked - they ripped the franchise out of Tim Burton's hands, played into the hands of whining, over-reactionary parents and thrust it into the hands of a director, who turned the series into something of a mockery to be laughed at. Their so-called creative decisions, - and bad ones as they were too-, put paid to Batman Forever's potential from being great. It also tries to show off with all these flashy effects bombarding the film & looking sleek and stylish in its presentation. 

The characterizations are all over the place and they are either really way over-the-top and hammy (eg The Riddler, Two-Face), or just that they look good on screen, but their personalities come across as being too hollow and boring (eg, Chase Meridian, Batman/Bruce Wayne). That, as well as the whiny, passive-aggressive man-child in Robin. 

Lacking in a strong direction and little substance, Batman Forever is more or less a live-action version of a Saturday morning cartoon series with very overly exaggerated characterizations and at times performances, which border on ludicrous and annoying. The music that plays when Edward Enigma transforms into the Riddler, is awful.

But probably the final straw which put paid to this awful butchering of the Batman franchise, was the image of the Batmobile scaling a wall like it was Spider-Man or something. Jeez. 

Final Verdict

A debauchery and a low point in the Batman franchise - only marred and superseded by the even more dreadful Batman and Robin, which fared much worse, Batman Forever is a Batman film, like no other, and when I mean no other, it's mostly for the wrong reasons. Val Kilmer and Nicole Kidman (barely) made it watchable for me, even with their flat and dull characterizations as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Chase Meridian, whereas Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones's over-the-top, hammy, goofiness could have been subdued slightly and handled better. But Joel Schumacher is at fault here and his direction is frankly all over the place, too eccentric and overly wacky, not to mention too camp for this franchise's taste.

If this is a Batman film, then it is one that evokes the tone of the 1960s TV show, but otherwise, this is not a true Batman film; it's a film that masquerades as a comic book superhero film or fantasy film. 

With only a few redeemable elements, Batman Forever marked a brief period of disappointment for the series, followed by the fourth film, that the Batman franchise is thankfully saved, due to Christopher Nolan's prequels. A massive downgrade from its prequels, whilst some aspects work, others do not work so well. 

It's massively flawed, but it is only by sitting through Batman & Robin that those standards have dropped even further. I'd take Batman Forever over that atrocity, still. 

Just about. 


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Retro Review: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
Cast: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd
Genre: Action-Adventure Sci-Fi 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $6 million

Plot: Brain surgeon Banzai (Peter Weller) just made scientific history. Shifting his Oscillation Overthruster into warp speed, he's the first man ever to travel to the 8th dimension and come back sane! But when his sworn enemy, the demented Dr Lizardo (John Lithgow) devises a plot to steal the Overthruster and bring an army of aliens back to destroy earth, Buckeroo goes cranium to cranium with the madman in an extra-dimensional battle that could result in total annihilation of the universe  

'Quirky & Unusual Sci-Fi '80s Cult Classic' 

Born to an American Mother and Japanese father, main hero Buckeroo Banzai has to save the world from the invading Red Lectroids. 

From Robocop and Blue Jean Cop to Naked Lunch and Scanners, Peter Weller has never been one to shy away from films that have creative and somewhat quirky aspects or are, in turn, low-key cult films that are predominately in the sci-fi/action genre. And in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, this one is no exception. He looks so young and dashing and brings about it that wit and charm. 

Panned by critics, it bombed at the U.S box office and it has since gone on to become a cult B-movie classic. The idea of having a character as a rock star/physicist/martial arts expert/neurosurgeon and action hero protagonist all rolled into one sounds bizarre, and one may perhaps think that is overstretching it a bit. 

We don't really get any details or explanation on this Buckeroo character, but he just appears on screen from the get-go and we learn that he is performing brain surgery and after that, performing on stage with his band mates. This guy is a man of many talents. 

This sci-fi action-adventure film reminds me of Earth Girls Are Easy: as in it is so surreal and it is set in the future and arguably is similar to Big Trouble in Little China (in fact, the writer of Buckeroo Banzai went on to pen that film): both films are also cult films that don't take themselves too seriously. It has a very Mad Max-ish vibe to it, with the flight scenes that look as though they came out of Star Wars; looks- wise and the main character looks so cool - I dig his outfit. It's not an out & out action-adventure film, it has aspects of musicality, as well as action, drama. I wouldn't say it is light-hearted and funny, but it definitely has a lighter tone, kind of, that suits the obscure and quirky feel it connotes. This is a film that needs to be re-watched several times in order to get the gist of it, although it helps a lot if you are a sci-fi nut. 

Seeing the kid named Scooter holding and shooting a firearm was a little bit disturbing, however; the image of a young boy with a gun took me aback and wasn't something I'd expected. 

There are a few issues with this film, with the main one being the story lacked appeal and the other being the script is confusing and needs more work; but otherwise, it is just okay. It just wasn't inviting or interesting enough to draw me in. 

John Lithgow is the main bad guy and he certainly has that crazed, weirdo-ish look to him. He is such a large ham, Lithgow really goes over-the-top in his portrayal as Dr Lizardo and it doesn't make the film look any more ridiculous and silly. It was also interesting to see Ellen Barkin here as the love interest of Buckeroo named Penny Priddy. Christopher Lloyd's turn, however, wasn't that memorable as the antagonist. Meanwhile, Peter Weller manages to exude a cool demeanour and comes across as being calm and collective, without trying to be cool at the same time. In all, I enjoyed the performances but the film itself was a tad underwhelming and it never really made me love it, as much as I wanted to. 

The term cult classic couldn't be any more aptly suited to The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai: it is virtually unknown in sci-fi adventure films that has a very B-movie feel and there is really nothing else quite like it. It may be too oddball for some people's tastes, aesthetically especially. And yet, I still approach it as an interesting take on the sci-fi action adventure film. Obviously, had it been a major success in theaters, this would have been a proper franchise like with 2015's Guardians of the Galaxy

Whilst it isn't heavy on the action scenes, it is definitely a film I will revisit again, and who knows, by then my opinions will be more optimistic and I'll give it a higher rating. 

Final Verdict:

As offbeat as it gets, given it lacks action and the story/plot wasn't as exciting prevents this film from being a huge hit. There were times where of which the film wasn't so interesting to sit through, but its surreal ness, premise and concept alone is what makes it intriguing. If you are a fan of Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin or John Lithgow, then this is required viewing. Had the chaotic plot been a lot easier to understand and follow, as well as some of the events in the film turned out differently that would have made it easily watchable, then that would have been good for this film. 

The performances are not bad; however, the narrative just didn't make an impression on me because it wasn't that exciting and entertaining as it should've been.  

The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai is very different, very niche, and a very polarising movie and one that was a stepping stone for a couple of future stars to shine on the big screen; for those of you who are into something different, spontaneous or are into cult or underrated films, it is worth checking out. If you take it with a grain of salt, you may end up liking it. 

As far as sci-fi films go, this is as totally far out as one could ever imagine it to be. 


*actual score: 6.9 out of 10

Friday, 20 January 2017

Retro Review: Crocodile Dundee II (1988)

Crocodile Dundee II
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, Juan Fernandez, Hechter Ubarry, Charles S. Dutton
Genre: Adventure Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $230 million

Plot: Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee is settling into his new Manhattan home when a South American drug dealer abducts his girlfriend, Sue. The drug dealer thinks images of his criminal activities, taken by Sue's photographer ex-husband, are now in her hands. The dealer takes Sue to Columbia and threatens her, hoping that she'll give up the evidence. But intrepid Dundee, aiming to rescue Sue, is soon on the criminal's trail 

'Tiresome Sequel That Is Too Stoic And Formulaic' 

Crocodile Dundee -though wasn't anything special or mindblowing- may have been ripe for a sequel, but it is not the sequel I'd expected and one that turned out the way it did. 

A sequel to the original released in 1986, the first Crocodile Dundee was a huge box office success amassing over a gross of $175 million that the popularity of the film and appeal of the Mick Dundee character was as such that large numbers of Americans travelled to Australia in 1987. 

The first two Crocodile Dundee films operated like an action adventure rom-com, much like with Romancing the Stone and its sequel, The Jewel of the Nile. The fish-out-of-water, foreign guy goes to a new land thing was redundant when Mick assimilated himself in New York, and with that in mind, the sequel had to offer something else. This film, is in some ways, trying to be like Romancing The Stone, with the South American villains and the male/female pairing of Mick and Sue, in place of Jack and Joan. 

Unfortunately, Mick and Sue here just don't have that chemistry that Jack and Joan have in abundance and this film never manages to express that fully. Linda Kozlowski could've done so much more and been a more integral focus on the film's story, and yet her character wasn't much to ponder. Her performance didn't set the film alight either, as it was mainly one note-ish. Linda and Paul's sincerity as the main star and co-star is milked to the extent as this is played up for the cameras that I found it grating. Apart from the addition of the South American drug dealers, Crocodile Dundee II doesn't offer anything exciting, new or spectacular. It's very run-of-the-mill and so watered down and generic and the material and screenplay are limp, not so fresh and neither on point compared to the prequel. It plods along slowly, rather than it being swift and forceful. Regarding the comedy humour, not only does it not work, this is downplayed throughout with only slight glimpses of it, in favour of serious action by adding drug lord characters to the main plot, in an attempt to take the film more seriously, - and yet of which a lot of the action is mediocre and felt more like filler material. 

Crocodile Dundee II also, interestingly enough, features an appearance by an adolescent Tatyana Ali as one of the kids Mick meets up. She would later end up on the Will Smith TV sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, 2 years after this film came out. 

The antagonists are very stocky and they play off like villains in a Saturday morning cartoon; I just never felt they were genuine or menacing enough. As I rewatched Crocodile Dundee II, I just sense that the whole thing is too tiring and formulaic for me to care about. Also, Leroy's gang could have been a lot more useful and effective than just howling like wolves and acting as a mere decoy for Mick to infiltrate the drug cartel. And at almost clocking in at 2 hours, this is just too long for this film. 

Crocodile Dundee II is more of a novelty that wears itself extremely thin. 

Final Verdict:

A mere cash-grab than a genuine sequel, Crocodile Dundee II with a kidnapping and drug cartel plot-line is an action-adventure comedy that is predictable and trite, as it is tiring in its execution. I was never a massive fan of the prequel, but it did a lot of things right and the formula wasn't all that typical. This follow-up, on the other hand, lacks the spark, ingenuity and is weak in many departments. It doesn't help that the story, which comes across as being too forced, is not very engaging or challenging enough to make the required effort. 

In all, Crocodile Dundee II is stoic, inferior and forgettable and at best, it is a harmless effort, but it's not a classic sequel by any stretch of the imagination, as it is let down by the lack of laughs and being too ordinary in its feel and approach. 

This is an uninspired, laboured follow-up that isn't as clever as the original.


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