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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Retro Review: The Substitute 2: School's Out (1998) #bmovie

The Substitute 2
Cast: Treat Williams, Edoardo Ballerini, Christopher Cousins, Michael Michele, BD Wong, Larry Gillard Jr.
Genre: Straight -to-DVD Action Crime Thriller

Plot: A mercenary with a chip on his shoulder, Karl Thomasson poses as a teacher at an inner city school to exact revenge on the gang members who murdered his brother

'B- Movie Action Equivalent To Dangerous Minds That Isn't Too Bad'

A B-movie version of Dangerous Minds mixed with a crime film, The Substitute 2 School's Out is the direct -to- video follow-up to 1996's The Substitute, starring Tom Berenger as a cop posing as a teacher to help nail a criminal. 

After a fellow teacher is gunned down during a carjacking and drive-by shooting in broad daylight, his brother takes matters into his own hands as ex- mercenary now turned vigilante, Karl Thomasson infiltrates the school, in search of the killer who murdered his brother by going undercover as a teacher. Thomasson is the person who doesn't try to hide behind who he is and in the role of the teacher, he comes across as being well spoken and can gain and maintain the students' attentions. But he does so in a not so cocky, I- know-It-all kind of way. 

The Substitute 2 has a basic and not very interesting plot, it's practically the same as the previous film, a rehash in fact. But this one remains entertaining, thanks to Treat Williams. His performance is the best one out of the main cast by far and is the difference to this film being a somewhat good one to a mediocre one. He is one of those actors that gets lumbered with B-movies in really interesting roles, yet is thrust in at times, not so challenging and appealing character roles in big budget Hollywood films. One of them as the main villain in the live-action Phantom movie from 1996. Which I personally think it is a shame because he deserves to be a much bigger star and he has charisma and personality and the way he delivers his lines draws audiences in. It seems that when he is in a big Hollywood movie, amongst the more established names on the bill, he is overlooked but in a B-movie as the main star, he really does shine. 

And of course, I really enjoyed Dead Heat, which he co-starred alongside Joe Piscopo. He kicked ass in that fun little film and here, Williams gets to do the same thing. 

The action scenes and stunts are not bad, although there are no real surprises. I did like the part where Thomasson uses a yo-yo as a weapon but I didn't care for the niece or her boyfriend that much enough - although the scene where she discovers he was a member of the gang who killed her dad, was good, and I was glad she got her comeuppance. But the middle of the third was sagging The climactic showdown in a motor mechanic class where Williams fights Wong, in front of the other students, was a tad silly and yet also entertaining at the same time. 

BD Wong plays the main villain, although he didn't really sell it to me. He is just too nice of a person to play that role and to do it well. Therefore, I thought he was the odd one out, although Michael Michele (who reminds me in some way to Vanessa L Williams) came almost close. She wasn't convincing as a fellow teacher and as a love interest for Williams, her part should have been a whole lot more imaginative. 

Final Verdict:

The action equivalent to Dangerous Minds, The Substitute 2 is no match for that film and yet, just like that film, it has a lead actor who possesses that extra quality to make it watchable in Treat Williams. 

Although you can give me Dead Heat over this film. 

As straight to DVD B-movie fare, The Substitute 2 is occasionally fun, though passable as a movie overall, it needs a few more improvements, and the performances and script, but for Treat, is not that great. If you do watch, keep expectations to a low but also watch and enjoy this film for his performance, more so than for any other reason. 


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Retro Review: Casual Sex? (1988)

Casual Sex?
Cast: Lea Thompson, Victoria Jackson, Stephen Shellen, Jerry Levine, Andrew Dice Clay
Genre: Sex Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $12 million

Plot: Whilst attending a singles retreat, two female friends - one promiscuous, the other unlucky with men share their philosophies on love, sex, men and dating, in wake of the 1980s AIDS epidemic

'More Casual, Though Consistently Unfunny In This Derivative & Dull Sex Comedy' 

A '80s mishap from comedy director Ivan Reitman - known for 1984's Ghostbusters, Twins and Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger - serving as producer with his wife, Genevieve Robert as director, Casual Sex? is neither funny or sexy as a sex comedy. Looking at the front cover, I knew immediately that I was not looking forward to this and I was aware also that the film wasn't well received, either. The title itself (which oddly enough has a question mark in it) implied that it was a puerile sex Comedy, yet in watching this it is the tad opposite and a film that could have been so much more. Both the movie title and poster are as misleading as each other, one look or deeper read into it and s/he would assume they will be presented with a sex Comedy akin to say American Pie.

An attempt by Lea Thompson that she could cut it as a movie actress, after her initial success in 1985's Back to the Future as Lorraine McFly, Casual Sex is one of the earliest attempts of a Sex Comedy with female protagonists in the lead roles, as opposed to male ones. Although it didn't do so well and after bit-part roles in Howard the DuckThe Beverly Hillbillies, Friends and Back to the Future Part III, Lea landed her first major TV role in NBC sitcom, Caroline In The City in 1995

Casual Sex? opens up with two female characters monologuing about the AIDS epidemic, safe sex and 'doing it'.

Operating as a PTSA educational video about practising safe sex and originally based on a play, Casual Sex is mature but predominantly boring and not very entertaining or funny, & a chore to sit through. Its setup is reminiscent of a TV sitcom and features 2 characters, Stacey and Melissa discussing the AIDS crisis and as they offer their thoughts on it and promiscuous sex. Stacey then hooks up with hunky Nick, with Melissa having eyes for Jamie. The three male eye candy characters aren't much to shout about either.

I thought the scene where people wear hats with country flags sticking out on top of them was truly daft. Also, the number of times the word 'penis' was mentioned was something I lost count in. The comedy just didn't transpire either and was mostly derivative and unfunny to boot.

The film is an attempt to mix comedy with mature and adult themes, whilst operating as a social commentary - yet once it starts to chuck in a health spa storyline, it descends into sitcom like territory. The social commentary aspect should have been better conceived, and yet this gets lost within the film that consists of dull and unfunny dialogue.

The health spa storyline couldn't be any more conceived like an episode of a TV sitcom. In fact, there was one episode in season two of Caroline In The City (starring Lea Thompson) where herself and Amy Pietz visit a health spa and try and chat up some guys.

Casual Sex? also makes the fundamental mistake of not practising what it preaches; it tries to send a message about the importance of safe sex and attempts to drag out its social responsibility - only to throw in silly and inane situations and scenes that come out from 30-minute sitcoms. 99% of them being unhumourous and come across as forced.

Lea Thompson does her best with the material, as wholesome and nice as she is, to see her as the s****y one and having her bare all, is a role she is miscast in; yet I didn't care for her character and Victoria Jackson's. The idea of two sexually frustrated women, trying to get laid could have worked - had it been funny and remotely entertaining.

Instead, it was drab and boring to watch. 

Final Verdict:

More like a 10-minute quickie, Casual Sex is forgettable as it is boring. The script lacks genuine laughs that there are no moments of actual comedy and humour felt. Despite the admirable efforts of Lea Thompson and Victoria Jackson, I could care less for this film.

Mediocre and forgettable, it's unsurprising it has become almost forgotten about today and very few people speak of Casual Sex? Tame and bland and a stinker from the late 1980s, in almost every aspect. 


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Weekend TV Movie Review: Coyote Ugly (2000), ITV2

Coyote Ugly 
Cast: Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, John Goodman, Maria Bello, Tyra Banks
Genre: Romantic Musical Comedy Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $113 million

Plot: Aspiring songwriter Violet Sanford comes out of her shell, after getting a job at a women's- run New York City bar that teases its male patrons

'Mundane G-Rated Showgirls Meets Aspiring Star Fanfare'

A Jerry Bruckheimer cross between Tom Cruise's 1988 hit, Cocktail with a bit of Showgirls, minus the profanity and sexual nudity, Coyote Ugly is a PG-13-ish chick flick affair that is originally based on a magazine article that was written by Elizabeth Gilbert. The same Elizabeth Gilbert who gave us the awful trite, based on the novel that is Eat Pray Love, and a Hollywood film that angered me and one I found appalling & degrading at every level, starring Julia Roberts in 2010, of whom sadly operated in the titular role as the equally unsympathetic and detestable lead protagonist, Liz Gilbert whose actions didn't sit well with me, one bit. 

In contrast, Coyote Ugly didn't really offend me so much, or be it at all - it just bored me and got worse, the further on it progressed.

A group of female strippers masquerading as bartenders serving booze and alcohol, whilst finding the time to shake their booty, Coyote Ugly is a film where Tyra Banks's character gets into law school and a young woman overhears a conversation over the amount of money the women make. Afterwards, she applies for a job, although deep down, she harbours aspirations in becoming a pop star. And she also falls in love with an Aussie, played by actor and dancer, Adam Garcia. 

And.... that's pretty much it. It's so yawning. It's every bit as clichéd that one can smell it a hundred miles away, trite and forgettable that I found it hard to care or take an interest in the events and scenes that occur in this film. The script is mediocre and straight up formulaic-yet boring, the performances are hardly grade-A stuff and the story lacked weight and genuine surprises. The bar brawl scene feels tacked on and comes across as forced as if the film really warranted it.

Coyote Ugly is a movie that would have operated better, had it been rated R and it was a lot more seedy, but also entertaining. Yet as a PG-13 effort, everything associated with bars that are more adult-orientated is stripped away, drowned out and replaced with a typical deathbed scene found in most melodramas, rowdy and horny men & droning dialogue uttered. Bruckheimer and the director make it visually appealing, along with an equally appealing soundtrack. But visuals and music alone don't make up for every other aspect of this film, which flatters to make any type of impression, whatsoever. As a family friendly film, appealing to families and teenage girls, it just doesn't work. It relies on too much melodrama and there are not enough standout moments that make Coyote Ugly tick. 

The characters aren't worth shouting about, but for the main character, we don't really know about the rest. It also tries to make me sympathise with Violet and go along with her ventures, but I didn't buy into that character or cared one bit for her and the others. There is not one single standout performance from any cast member and the film's narrative just wasn't believable enough. 

The only positives I liked about it was the soundtrack and the songs, that include the LeAnn Rimes worldwide hit, 'Can't Fight The Moonlight'. 

Other than that, Coyote Ugly is one of the worst movies from the year of 2000 I've sat through.

Final Verdict: 

Showgirls without the nudity, the unintentional surprises, twists and turns, Coyote Ugly would have benefited from being targeted towards adults and it had a much edgier, sordid tone with better characterisations. The story is so pointless and weak.

And a low for Jerry Bruckheimer, this is truly a musical- based drama without the soul, feeling or drive. Coyote Ugly is so dull, hackneyed - and yet so poor, it has nothing much to offer and is virtually stagnant throughout. 

This Coyote is not so much ugly - rather trite, unmemorable and forgettable.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Retro Review: Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991) #Schwarzenegger

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $519 million

Plot: A cyborg identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg

'He's Back, & Bigger & Badder Than Ever'

In the future, a man going by the name of John Connor is the key between the ongoing battle between man and machine and in preserving the lives of humans. With this, one cyborg is sent to kill him, and the other is also sent to protect John. Rebellious John Connor is the son of Sarah Connor: the same woman who managed to survive the onslaught of the T-800 and Skynet in the first Terminator movie. 

Terminator 2 Judgement Day is a sequel that many movie sequels - but for James Cameron's 1986's Aliens - wishes it could be as good as or be it surpass the original. Visually, aesthetically, narrative and plot-wise, with twists and surprises at every corner, it delivers at every front. As the reprogrammed and reformed Terminator, though some people may deem the role reversal, heel-face turn of Arnie as the T- 800 to be a cop-out and a further attempt to pigeonhole and typecast him as yet another good guy hero in a film, this decision is a pay-off, just by making his nemesis tougher and difficult to defeat. And the made of liquid metal T-1000 is no slouch either, as he goes gunning for them. The T-800, Sarah and John have to fight harder than ever, until this cyborg goes down and to prevent a cyborg holocaust from manifesting. Reprogrammed by John, the T-800 is under orders not to kill people, as well as to free Sarah, who has been imprisoned in a mental institution.

Sarah Connor herself undergoes a startling transformation, similar to that of Ellen Ripley of Aliens: Ellen wasn't much to write home about in the first film, but come the sequel, layers of her personality and demeanour, vulnerability, but also heroism come to fruition. And with that, she fought the Queen Xenomorph. The same happens with Sarah Connor against the more technically advanced and trickier adversary in T-1000. She looks more physically ripped and toned, and that transpires in her edgier, feistier and much-hardened character. Sarah also wants answers into finding out where John is and to get him back. James Cameron was probably inspired by the audience reception and acceptance of Ellen Ripley in Aliens that he further capitalised on this idea and took it to a slightly different level with Sarah, whilst maintaining her responsibilities and duties as a mother to her son, John. 

Whilst it technically remains as a science fiction action film throughout, thanks to the incredible and jaw-dropping special effects and action set-pieces, much like with 1990s Total Recall, Terminator 2 has a well-written if complex plot and narrative that delves into the characters motivations, feelings, behaviours, actions that unravel within the film. It's not just great insofar as the action sequences, but the story has merit, urgency and thrives towards the end, culminating in the ultimate battle of wits, strength and survival between the T-800 and T1000. Terminator 2 is also heralded as the first real film of the 1990s, where the advent of CGI first came to prominence in the cinematic front. Total Recall also had computer generated effects, but that film was produced in 1989 and was released the year after. 

Canadian James Cameron had shown what he was capable of achieving as a director, insofar as action - based films go: Rambo: First Blood, Terminator 1 and 2, True Lies, Aliens and the vastly overlooked, Strange Days, which he co-produced and written for then- wife and director, Katherine Bigelow. With Terminator 2, not only did he make the ultimate Terminator film and sequel that its follow-ups have failed to live up its excellence, but in contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous movie offerings prior to this film, Terminator 2 was a Schwarzenegger movie that was universally praised and accepted by almost everyone. Kindergarten Cop, Twins, Junior showed he has a penchant for comedy- yet most of his fans weren't too keen on the family-friendly tone and humour they evoked. Predator, Commando, Red Heat were hits but for the former never made the massive impact for Arnie's career. Whereas with Total Recall as wonderful as it looked, visually and with a more deeper story, general audiences were turned off by Dutch director, Paul Verhoeven's over-the-top, excessive and bloody violence and shock scenes. 

Yet much like with True Lies, Terminator 2 Judgement Day has that commercial, mainstream feel that is not too bloody, violent and is a film that families can enjoy as well. The performances are fantastic, with Arnie's T-800, as stoic and robotic-like as he is, there appears to be advancements made to his character that wasn't touched upon in The Terminator that veers towards his behavioural tendencies, as he switches from bad guy to good guy and with his relationship and bonding with John Connor. 

And despite the complex plot, the events and scenes that unravel within the film, are utterly absorbing, at times enthralling and engrossing. The special effects of 1991 still hold up and help galvanise and aid the narrative and drive it forward.

Final Verdict:

Unsurprisingly, Terminator 2: Judgement Day became the highest grossing film of 1991- a terrific year for movies, in general, I may say so myself - and with chase sequences as great as in any other great action movies, special effects and developed characterisations, it is a must-see action film for action movie fans and movie fans in general. 

The ultimate and definitive Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of all-time? It's up to you to decide. Louder, bolder, far more accessible than the original Terminator with more developed characterizations and plots, Terminator 2 absolutely hits the spot. 

Personally, it is the trifecta of Arnie action movies, with True Lies trailing not far behind in second place. 


Friday, 24 March 2017

Retro Review: Street Fighter (1994), Sony Movie Channel

Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Simon Callow
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $99 million 

Plot: Colonel Guile and various martial arts heroes fight against the tyranny of Dictator M. Bison and his cohorts 

'Weak Fighter'

If like me, you were the child of the 1980s, or teenager or 20 something in the 1990s, then you will have probably come across a video game called Street Fighter II, made by the company, Capcom. Street Fighter II: The Road Warrior, was a follow up to the first game, which wasn't so successful and was a fighting game where characters battle each other one versus one, using their trademark fighting style. The games colourful graphics, range of combatants and fighting styles struck a chord with gamers. Thus, making it the leader of the pack for fighting games ahead of The King of Fighters, Tekken and Sega's Virtua Fighter series. 

Yet unfortunately, just like the live action Super Mario Bros of the previous year, Street Fighter: The Movie pretty much deviates from its source material from the games themselves. Despite the name, its similarities and resemblances towards the games, are, well, very little. Director Steven E. De Souza surely wasn't making this film to be like the games, in its tone and reverence. And surely with something like Street Fighter, one would think how can you not mess it up, I mean, it has to come close to the video game, right. Wrong. 

Despite Jean-Claude Van Damme being touted and headlined as the major star of Street Fighter, he doesn't make an impact until the last third of the movie. As a Belgian playing an American, his accent is so thick, one would be mistaken for thinking Guile was Cajun or something. Which he is not, by the way. 

Films based on video games have been woeful and the failures of Double Dragon, Tekken, Dead or Alive, The King of Fighters, Super Mario Bros and Max Payne don't help their cause, nor do they change that and people's negative perceptions surrounding them. 

Given his expertise in action films, such as Die Hard and Arnie flicks, Commando and The Running Man, De Souza should have known better. Yet his idea of going with a fusion of James Bond, a military film and have little martial arts fighting in it, just didn't make sense for a franchise, based on a fighting game. 

The script is woeful, performances are pretty poor and some bad overacting, although Raul Julia is the best of the bad bunch, having to work with a bad guy and villain, who comes across as too generic and formulaic. Everyone else is badly miscast and out of place. Hard Target and The Joy Luck Club were great movies starring Van Damme and Ming- Na Wen, but Street Fighter is hardly a high point on their career résumés. And to see them go from that to something as poor as this is odd. Personally, Guile should have been played by Dolph Lundgren. And though I am a fan of Kylie Minogue's music, her role as Cammy is not for her. Dialogue is and at times to the point, corny. Only a few of the actors resemble their characters properly. The intentional humour the film was aiming for and delivered is both cringing and bad. And for some fighting -based action, it's mostly ammo and guns and when there is a one versus one showdown, it is badly executed. The fight choreography is rather poor actually and they also look as though as they have been heavily edited, but for some of Van Damme's kicks. The whole thing comes off looking like a cartoon and it was difficult for me to care much for it when the film is so terrible. The costumes also aren't great. Almost everything about it feels wooden and it's like De Souza tries too hard. 

The plot is a mess and the storylines with Chun Li as a reporter and Charlie turning into Blanka, when Blanka was a separate character hailing from Brazil, were ridiculous. His makeup was so terrible he looked like The Incredible Hulk reject. The story should have been far more imaginative and lively and the scenes with Ken and Ryu were easily forgotten about, and that I didn't care for them. Though had it not been for the Street Fighter branding, characters and its association with the video games, then I'd enjoy it more. 

Final Verdict: 

Though De Souza was aiming not to make the same mistakes that practically ruined Super Mario Bros, for a video game based movie, Street Fighter is still, corny, laughable and awful in almost every respect. 

Time magazine listed this in their top 10 list of worst video game movies, ever, and watching Street Fighter, it no doubt deserves that honour. This movie was an excuse to further milk the cash cow of Street Fighter's video game success, that it wanted a piece of that pie. 

What Steven De Souza and the screen writer clearly forgot though was had they made a Street Fighter film that stuck close to the games source material, it would have been better received. 

If you're going to make a film based on a video game, cartoon or TV show property, at least respect the source material. 

Street Fighter didn't, and because of that, as far as video game based movies go, it's no wonder it's seen as a joke. 


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Favourite Movie of Each Year Since I Was Born In 1981

Recently on Twitter, there was a trend going the rounds where people submitted their lists of favourite films since they were born. And so I thought I'd post my personal list and selected, at most, one film for each year. I couldn't decide on just one for a few of them and thus, I love each one of them as much as the other. 

Not all of these films are award-winning hits but still, they have given me so much enjoyment, entertainment and smiles throughout.  

Here I present to you my choices: 

1981 - Body Heat

1982 - Tootsie

1983 - Trading Places

1984 - Romancing the Stone

1985 - Police Story

1986 - tough call between Ruthless People, Aliens and Big Trouble In Little China

1987 - Good Morning, Vietnam

1988 - Die Hard

1989 - Do The Right Thing

1990 - Total Recall

1991 - Hook

1992 - Aladdin

1993 - The Pelican Brief

1994 - True Lies

1995 - Strange Days or Dangerous Minds

1996 - Jingle All The Way

1997 - Fathers' Day

1998 - Living Out Loud 

1999 - Bowfinger

2000 - Erin Brockovich 

2001 - America's Sweethearts

2002 - Catch Me If You Can 

2003 - School of Rock

2004 - Kung Fu Hustle

2005 - Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith

2006 - Little Miss Sunshine

2007 - Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium

2008 - Kung Fu Panda

2009 - Watchmen

2010 - Black Swan

2011 - Pariah

2012 - Wreck-It-Ralph

2013 - The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

2014 - Guardians of the Galaxy

2015 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2016 - Kung Fu Panda 3

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