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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Retro Review: Tango & Cash (1989)

Tango & Cash
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher, Jack Palance, James Hong
Genre: Buddy Cop Action Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $63 million

Plot: Framed and sent to prison, two rival Los Angeles police detectives must work together to clear their names

'Old School '80s Buddy Cop Action Romp Gem Amongst The Heavy- Hitters'

Tango & Cash is noted for being the second film featuring Kurt Russell and James Hong, after Big Trouble in Little China, 3 years earlier and the last film to be released in the U.S in the 1980s in 1989 with Kurt and Sylvester Stallone in the lead roles, as the year of 1990 fast approached. It was also beset with production problems throughout. Patrick Swayze was initially in the frame for the part of Gabriel (Gabe) Cash, until Kurt Russell secured the role.

Framed for the murder of a federal agent, two cops, LAPD narcotics officer Ray Tango & LAPD NARC Gabriel Cash each have very opposing ways and views when it comes to dealing with criminals and their own brand of justice, as well as not being able to stand each other. That being said, they have to work together and form an alliance to help clear their names and bring down a crime lord who set both of them up.

Stallone and Russell make for a terrific action duo, with Stallone almost playing against type; refreshingly amusing, sophisticated looking -yet irreverent and sarcastic and wielding a tiny, weeny revolver, with Kurt and his massive gun, although I liked Kurt more - his character Gabe is a little bit of Jack from Big Trouble in Little China, with a bit of swagger and bravado of Lethal Weapon's Martin Riggs and who is less cocky and more laid-back with his amusing one-liners. Stallone here was enjoyable to watch. They have great chemistry together with Stallone's two-dimensional character as Ray and Russell's slightly crazed persona as Gabe. He is a great foil for Stallone and more than holds his own against him. Both looked in terrific physical shape, particularly during the shower scene. Jack Palance is okay as the villain, although both he and James Hong are severely underutilised, which is slightly surprising as he is supposed to be the main bad guy.

This is a film that allows Stallone and Russell to use their considerable screen presence to share witty and humorous banter & to play off each other, as they kick ass. As Tango and Cash, they are one of action movies ultimate duos, with a great RV to match. It definitely has shades of Lethal Weapon in every respect, particularly the comedy aspect and it seems clear the writers of this film were heavily influenced by that film's success and wanted to recreate that magic for this offering. & thankfully, they succeeded. Critics at the time also cited Tango & Cash as ''brutally violent'', yet in watching it, the violence in this film is actually cartoonish in nature and not that bloody and excessive. The action is loud and yet very good, the fights are also good, as Tango and Cash meet their match in a range of different foes. & the comedy is well-conceived also. On recent rewatches, I enjoyed this one much more than Lethal Weapon 2, which was critically well-received. 

With that being said, I must admit it feels a little loose and light in tone and thus had this been made and released in the mid-late 1990s, Tango & Cash would have made for an even better action flick with the added heavier, semiserious feel. The plot, as with all of these buddy cop comedies is nothing original or new, but with everything else, this is a pure out and out action film that is also fun and entertaining at the same time. One highly amusing scene has Cash in drag in an attempt to evade the cops!

And yet, it is the partnership of Kurt Russell with Sly Stallone and the manner of their performances that makes Tango & Cash utterly memorable & fun.

Final Verdict:

One of the most thoroughly enjoyable buddy cop action comedy movies that there is, & though it is ridden with cliches, the way they are conceived is what makes this film highly watchable and a lot of fun. Seeing Snake Pilsen aka Kurt Russell and Rambo himself Sly Stallone together, they make for one impressive tag team duo.

Tango & Cash is a buddy cop action film that doesn't get enough love, nor is it mentioned along the same lines as Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys. Brains, Brawn and humour, it also ticks all the boxes and fulfils the necessary criteria. I would have loved to have seen a sequel released and made in the 1990s.

Coupled with the terrific and lovable buddy screen chemistry of Russell and Stallone, personally, for me, this is far more fun compared to Lethal Weapon 2 that also came out and it is a travesty to me that this didn't do as well and wasn't so well-received in 1989. 

Though it is labelled as a 'so-bad-it's- good' type of action film and for all of the production issues that marred Tango & Cash, this is a gem amongst the heavy hitters. 


Friday, 28 April 2017

Retro Review: Dr Dolittle (1998)

Dr Dolittle
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Ossie Davis, Kyla Pratt, Raven-Symone, Ellen Degeneres, Julie Kavner, Chris Rock
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $294 million 

Plot: A successful physician and devoted family man, Dr John Dolittle has the world by the tail until a long-suppressed tale he possessed as a child - the ability to communicate with animals - is suddenly reawakened with a vengeance. Now every creature within howling distance wants the good doctor's advice, unleashing an outrageous chain of events that turn his world upside down 

'Comedy That Offers Little With This Animal Doctor In The House'

After the success of Babe, films centered on talking animals are a hit and miss affair. And Dr Dolittle is more of the latter; after a near-fatal collision, Dolittle survives - only to gain the ability to hear animals talk, and this leads to all manner of situations. 

Despite Eddie Murphy's valiant efforts, the truth is this film is neither funny or hysterical enough for a comedy. The talking animals thing provided by an all-star line-up featuring Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Norm MacDonald and Julie Kavner (Marge of The Simpsons) which is the central theme of this film, would have worked - had the dialogue they'd been uttering made me laugh and smile, yet it wasn't amusing and I didn't laugh. The effects, however, are good and Eddie is restrained with a performance that is of the consummate professional that he is. Whereas some may argue Dr Dolittle fails to take advantage of his comedic talents and showcase more of a wacky nature of his style of comedy, it is nice to see less of the fast-talking and edgy antics he has been long known for. 

Unfortunately, as restrained and infectious as Eddie is, as the straight man, the actual film itself is a bore to watch with a lacklustre screenplay and is completely devoid of genuine laughs, wit, intrigue and charm and is replaced with a stale narrative, flat and tepid banter and direction by director Betty Thomas. I realise that the talking animals are the comic relief in this film, but we also have Eddie Murphy who is a funny guy and great comedian; so why not have him showcase more of that also? Yet, there just wasn't more of his boisterous and energetic personality that this film would have done more with and have easily benefited from. Instead, what we have is a film where the production focuses all of its attentions on seeing animals speak with human voices. Dr Dolittle is more about the animals being funny, moreso than Eddie being funny - and when that happens in a film such as this, one is looking at a misfire, which this film is. The conception of it is a misfire and doesn't do a lot to entertain.  

Another problem I found with this version of Dr Dolittle is that the director made the mistake of turning what was originally a family/kids film into a more adult affair, and I don't mean loading it with profanity, sexual references, rather the initial premise of Dr Dolittle was appealing enough for kids, but in modernising it, it did take away from some of the core essences of the original. 

Eddie Murphy's movies during the 1990s have been a mixed bag, although honestly, there were more bombs than there were good to great films of his. Dr Dolittle is in many ways, a disappointment as a comedy. Oh, and whilst I liked his hair in Metro, here, Eddie's hair as Dolittle I didn't like so much. 

Final Verdict:

Gimmicky or not, Dr Dolittle is in truth a bland, dull and consistently unfunny film that underutilises Eddie Murphy's talents. Despite how restrained he is here, as a film, Dr Dolittle just doesn't deliver what it should promise. I was actually hoping this will do similar things for Murphy like with Flubber and Robin Williams, in the family fantasy comedy context: the difference here is that movie had mildly amusing moments, as silly as some of it looked, that was also genuine and which also worked, whereas that is not the case with this comedy. 

Despite Eddie's amicable showing as John Dolittle, 1998's version of Dr Dolittle lacks heart, the wow factor where the film demands it and that come past the one hour mark, I just didn't care for it.

This should have been a decent comedy and as an update, it should have had more to offer, especially more of the wackiness that doesn't just stem from the talking animals but from Eddie himself and his character undergoing pratfalls, visual and slapstick gags; ultimately and lamentably, however, there is just so little for me to take and enjoy from Dr Dolittle

*score last updated: 29 April, 2017*


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Retro Review: Rapid Fire (1992)

Rapid Fire
Cast: Brandon Lee, Powers Boothe, Nick Mancuso, Raymond J. Barry, Tz Ma
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million

Plot: When Jake Lo witnesses a killing, he finds himself caught between two feuding drug lords. Betrayed and set up by the federal agents protecting him, the only one he can trust is Ryan, a single-minded Chicago cop who reminds Jake of his deceased father 

'A B-Movie Martial Arts Action Flick Saved From Mediocrity By Way Of Brandon Lee's Fighting Skills' 

The film that launched Brandon Lee, son of the famous Bruce Lee, as The Crow also ultimately marks as his last ever action film, which when you look at it, or as I look at it is a terrible shame. Had his life not been cut short, I could foresee him as a successful action star alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme. Rapid Fire's production values are of the B-grade action film. It is the action scenes that make it watchable above everything else, as everything else is below par. 

Jake Lo is an art student, who is asked to speak at a rally over the whole Tiananmen square fiasco when he witnesses a shooting of a drug dealer at the art gallery he is attending. Placed in witness protection, he then finds himself on the run with the bad guys with the gangsters and crooked cops trying to frame him for the murder on his trail. 

Watching Brandon Lee here, he has his dad's cagey swagger mixed with Jackie Chan's athleticism - yet less of the graceful moves; the scene where he rides a motorbike through the glass channels Police Story where Jackie Chan did the exact thing. The scene where Jake beats up the two bent cops in his own house is a good scene as well, the action overall is pretty good for a B-movie. There's no taking away this is a neat little action movie, but the script is a tad disappointing and is a bit too generic. The story is flimsy, lacking urgency and bite and when there isn't a fight scene, the dramatic parts are sort of 'meh'. The backstory with the Tiananmen Square thing was told in a way that I found it dreary and not very interesting. It seems that very little thought had gone into the plot and the film is just about watchable, due to the fight scenes. But even with the fight scenes themselves, they are not as explosive and as over the top as I'd expected them to be in this particular type of film. 

Lee does speak some Cantonese, although his pronunciation is not very fluent and yet his acting here is quite impressive: he has the ability to deliver his lines without coming across as awkward and stoic in his acting, whilst also switching things up with his fight choreography. Lee showcases more of his impressive and amazing fighting prowess, which sadly cannot be said for Showdown in Little Tokyo and The Crow - although The Crow was a great movie that didn't rely on, or feature his martial arts abilities to sell a film. 

Powers Boothe as the cop Mase overacts that at times I found myself cringing; in fact, the rest of the cast and their performances are inconsequential and weren't much to shout about.

Rapid Fire tries to combine some of the gunplay from John Woo's Hard Boiled with the modern kung fu fight scenes of Police Story, yet in contrast to something like John Woo's other martial arts-based action flick, Hard Target, which came out the year after, by comparing the action scenes in that film with Rapid Fire, Hard Target, for me is clearly and without a doubt, way superior. It was even mentioned somewhere that Woo was Brandon's first choice as director; in the end that never transpired, and as a result, Rapid Fire just doesn't offer more to elevate it above B-movie status. 

The terrible music that plays during the (needless) love scene and the cliches that bombard this film is evident (the romance storyline with the female cop, Lo struggling with his deceased father's legacy) and these are thrown in whenever they seem fit.  

In all, Rapid Fire is yet another in the long line of movies I've enjoyed years ago, yet in rewatching it today, I notice several flaws in it and that it ought to have been better. It is a B-movie through and through: bad dialogue, poor characterizations, bland story and not so impressive performances and fight scenes. It feels more ordinary and less explosive and jaw-dropping, especially for a martial arts film. 

Yet it is Brandon Lee who is the main, and only sole reason for sitting through this offering. 

Final Verdict:

Rapid Fire is the equivalent of a Hong Kong 1990s/late 1980s kung fu flick and one that showcases the type of action star Brandon Lee could have been, had he been still alive. Yet there is nothing really that special that makes it truly stand out from the likes of Police Story. Likewise, whilst the fight and action scenes are good here, they fail to measure up to the quality that was in Police Story, as well as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Hard Target. This film was lacking in certain areas and the action should've been a whole lot better. 

With more time and effort being put into it, Rapid Fire would have been a brilliant martial arts action film.   

Yet it surpasses Laser Mission and Showdown in Little Tokyo by a long mile, with a performance by Brandon with the potential and who was capable of acting with a range of emotions that are not typically seen with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Van Damme, and not just as an action star who can kick plenty of ass. 

Die-hard fans of martial arts films should definitely consider this a purchase, whereas for the rest of you who aren't into action and kung fu based fight movies, may - and I say may- find it worth watching to see Brandon beat up some bad guys when it is late at night on TV and there is nothing else on.

*score updated: 11 May, 2017*


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Retro Review: Ishtar (1987)

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Charles Grodin, Isabelle Adjani
Genre: Action-Adventure Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million

Plot: Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel, but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime 

'Long Remembered & Known For As A Box Office Turkey, Ishtar Isn't Completely Bad As Critics Say It Is'

A Spies Like Us comedy that has a sense of adventure akin to Romancing the Stone without much of the romance, Ishtar tanked due to foreseen negative comments, but more through the criticism of its budget spent on the film itself.

Chuck (Dustin Hoffman) is a middle-aged musician who writes terrible songs, yet dreams of becoming famous one day. Chuck meets Lyle (Warren Beatty) and a new musical partnership is formed. After landing a gig in Morocco, the pair are then embroiled into a tale of espionage involving a young woman.

Ishtar was Dustin Hoffman's second stint at comedy after Tootsie, 5 years on and it was lauded by critics as being terrible, as well as reviled and scorned. Ishtar is to Dustin Hoffman as Club Paradise is to Robin Williams: low-key comedy films bashed by critics, released during the mid-1980s set in warm locations with surrealist plots. In fact, most of the criticism was aimed at the amount of money spent on the production and the amount of money Hoffman and Beatty got paid for their roles.

Apart from some of the corny music, truthfully, I find there isn't much entirely wrong with this film; too often people jump on the bandwagon and buy into the critic's word for it when they say this movie sucks. This happens all the time; professional critical reviews, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores infer that it is so crap, you or I should avoid it completely. Yet reviews and review scores are all subjective and all down to personal taste. It is only when you watch that film that one is able to form a proper opinion on it, that one is not swayed by other people's views. Is Ishtar perfect? No. Could it have been better? For sure. The middle of the film needed to be trimmed, because some of it was rather boring and it wasn't as amusing as I would have liked it to be. However, the blind camel was a hoot.

The pairing of Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman was peculiar at first, yet they assimilated into their roles well. Audiences in 1987 seemed to have a problem with these two playing against type; with regards to Hoffman, I am slightly baffled that they didn't buy him in a comedy, as they were more used to him playing dramatic and serious roles. Yet if they had watched and heard of 1982's Tootsie, then they would be aware that that was a comedy/romantic comedy where Dustin had to be funny and amusing, and in drag. & he did it successfully. Dustin is another one of those actors who could prevail in any genre of film. & here he was enjoyable and pleasant to watch, comedy-wise and I enjoy seeing that light-hearted nature of his characters through his performances.

Whilst it isn't amazing, Ishtar under the direction of Elaine May, who did The Birdcage and Primary Colors, is a film that doesn't pander to expectations; it was not a film destined to win awards, but rather to entertain and to exist for pleasure, though it's more like a guilty pleasure. It's quirky, it's different and whereas the humour and comedy could have been better, overall it's passable. Ishtar wasn't intended to be a serious drama and whilst a lot of people think it would have worked better as an adventure film without the corny singing, the plot is ideally suited for a comedy. Although the conception of it, as dry and subtle as it is, is muddled and flawed in places, Ishtar is somewhat of a light, unique film of its own making.

It most certainly is a movie that deserves multiple viewings to get the gist of what it is and the type of light-hearted film it evokes. 

Final Verdict:

Despite its bad and negative reputation, Ishtar joins the likes of Catwoman, Showgirls and so many other so-called bombs and outright terrible movies that I find to be not as completely horrific as the critics say it is, after viewing it myself. This is another case of how over-spending and critical disdain can ultimately destroy what is actually a pleasant film.

Ishtar does, however, fizzle out slightly during the last third, but that surreality, along with terrible songs and oddness carves this film its own nicheness. Ishtar may be awkward and bad, yet that badness is also intentional to the extent that it wasn't meant to be taken seriously. That, and it is also surprisingly watchable in places with unexpected goofy turns by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty, as the clueless yet good-hearted musicians.

Dustin Hoffman has starred in far better movies than Ishtar, as well as given far better performances -, though his turn here made me wish he had obtained more light-hearted character roles and not just be known as a great dramatic actor that he is known as, throughout his career.

Branded and dubbed the worst film Dustin has ever starred in by professional movie critics, in truth, personally speaking, Ishtar is an at times misunderstood-yet flawed cult '80s comedy offering.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Weekend TV Movie Review: Airplane (1980), Film 4

Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Genre: Satirical Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $83 million 

Plot: A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick 

'Laugh- A- Minute Riot Of Disastrous - Yet Amusing Proportions'

A parody of disaster films, Airplane! sends up an altitude- I mean a multitude of jokes, laughs and fun galore, without over-relying on flatulence jokes, explicit references to naked body parts and strong profanity: a trait that is, unfortunately, the norm for today's comedy films, and it does so with efficiency and success.

An ex-pilot now taxi driver who just broke with his girlfriend, an air stewardess, has an irrational fear of flying and ends up following her in an attempt to rekindle their romance and winds up buying a ticket for the next flight. After the pilot is taken ill, Ted has to overcome his fears by taking control of the plane and landing it and its passengers to safety. 

The jokes and funny scenes & lines come flying in, thick and fast: two girl scouts fighting in a bar, the Black guys speaking in ebonics or be it 'jive' and there are subtitles appearing on screen (!), the white woman speaking jive, the karate-kicking pilot in the airport! Oh and let's not forget the inflatable pilot and the odd blowjob scene! Comedy-wise, it has more in common with Mel Brooks's offerings such as Blazing Saddles, Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Spaceballs and the film covers pretty much almost every type one can think of: slapstick, physical, one-liners, surrealist, visual and sight gags you name it, it's all here and these are all scattered throughout the movie.

There is a wittiness and deadpan reaction to the absurdities of the situations from the characters that are not just amusing to see, but also one that doesn't come across as forced, just for the sake of comedy. The comedy is biting and sardonic, the delivery and timing of the comedy hits the spot perfectly, the jokes may be juvenile to some people; for me, a lot of it is more tasteful than the stuff that has been going around in comedy films of the past 8 years or so. There is even a love subplot involving Ted and Elaine. 

Over 30 years on, it still has not diminished its appeal and although a lot has changed since 1980, the film still looks great and is a lot of fun in places. The trio of Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Bros, Jerry and David have mastered, as well as crafted what is (arguably) the epitome of spoof movies and have set the bar so high that so few have managed to reach (Naked Gun did so by retaining Abraham's & the Zucker Bros essence of what makes a spoof film work - and yet the least said about the Scary Movie series, the better, personally speaking). 

The best version of this film is the one that is unedited with all the naughty bits left intact. 

Final Verdict:

This zany, madcap flight-based movie needs to be passed on to generation to generation. It's off-the-wall as it can get without plumbing down to degrading lengths when it comes to the humour, but it is also one you need to revisit and rewatch to be able to get and understand the jokes and all the silliness that takes place.

Loaded with consistent laughs and a memorable turn by Leslie Nielsen which he followed up with the Naked Gun films, the Zucker Bros and Jim Abrahams have delivered a grade-A comedy satire that rarely, or be it doesn't fail. 

Spawning an entire genre of parody films, Airplane was the first and being the first, it did every right at the first attempt.

Probably the ultimate slapstick comedy ever produced and whilst some people will think Airplane is a tad overrated, it is a type of satirical comedy that sadly wouldn't get made today in today's Hollywood climate. 


Sunday, 23 April 2017

10 Of My Favourite Comedic Feature Film Actors

Comedy is a hard act to follow. 

It's not easy being funny and being able to make others laugh unless one is naturally funny or born with a funny bone in them. Yet even by carving out a career doing stand-up, with their skills and talents they have honed, they can use that to further their careers, especially in making the transition to becoming an actor.

Stand-up comedy is the stepping stone for any would-be and gonna-be movie actor. It also means a much wider audience, or be it the general public get to see more of their talents on show, which would usually be restricted to or only confined to the comedy clubs and circuits.

To qualify for my list, they must have starred in at least 2 or more films or shows that I have enjoyed. Also excluded from this list are actors and talk show hosts who initially started out or starred in comedy films, only to later become full-time fully-fledged or predominantly dramatic actors (Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton).

These are my 10 favourite comedians turned performers on the big screen in order from 9 to 1, my all-time favourite. And as I always say with all my choices, these are personal and subjective. 

Simon Pegg - After winning over audiences at home in the UK on sitcom Spaced, it wasn't long until Americans and the wider world got to see what Pegg can do on the big screen, and why he is lauded by his fans in Britain. Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz are two examples of films that take the Hollywood style of movies and intersperse it with some British flair. Pegg is also a comedic actor who manages to rise above the material that is given by displaying a range and sense of delivery in his performances that is not typically seen from other comedic actors, particularly British comedic actors. 

Notable Favourite movies: Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul

Jamie Foxx - born Eric Marlon Bishop in Texas, chose the surname Foxx as a tribute to the comedian Red Foxx. He first appeared on In Living Color alongside Jim Carrey and the other Wayons Brothers and sister, Kim. Jamie's movie debut came in Toys in a supporting role along with Robin Williams. After a successful 5 season run on his self-titled sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show, up to 2001 he turned his attention to being a film star. After his star turn in Ray, his follow-up efforts have been a mixed bag, although I did enjoy Collateral. That, along with Jamie's musical abilities as a singer, makes him no one-trick pony. 

Notable Favourites: In Living Color, The Jamie Foxx Show, Collateral, Ray, Breaking All The Rules

Chris Farley - it's a shame his career and life was cut short due to an overdose because in watching Chris Farley, he had the potential to become as successful as say, Mike Myers and Jim Carrey. Loved Beverly Hills Ninja, was good in Tommy Boy although I was a tad disappointed in that film. His penchant for physical comedy had me laughing at times. Suffice to say, Farley, despite his short-lived time, made quite an impression on me. 

Notable Favourites: Beverly Hills Ninja, Saturday Night Live, Tommy Boy 

Mike Myers - just to show that Jim Carrey wasn't the only Canadian comic on the block, Mike Myers established himself as a stand-up performer, whilst also creating two memorable cinematic comedy characters in Wayne from Wayne's World and Austin Powers. His odd physical movements, silly voices and improvisational ability, as well as selling characters that audiences can root for, whilst still making us laugh, makes him a top draw. 

Notable Favourites: SNL, Austin Powers and Wayne's World

Leslie Nielsen - the 1980s and to some extent 1990s king of physical comedy, Nielsen's brand of slapstick and deadpan humour is akin to that of Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean character, where Nielsen's characters are oblivious and complicit to the absurd and amusing things that take place around him. Though Airplane! was his first major comedy, he had always shown an interest in comedy. He followed it up with further parodies the Naked Gun films, Repossessed, James Bond-like spy comedy, Spy Hard and Wrongfully Accused

Notable Favourites: Naked Gun films, Repossessed, Spy Hard, Airplane, Wrongfully Accused

Will Ferrell - one of the members of the Hollywood ''frat'' pack, made up of a generation comedic actors and performers who emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Will Ferrell first got his big break on the movie scene with subsequent appearances on Austin Powers, A Night At The Roxbury, Austin Power: The Spy Who Shagged Me & Zoolander. His debut came in Old School in 2003 and by the 2000s, he became the decade's biggest comedy star. 

Notable Favourites: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, Megamind, Blades of Glory, Elf, The Other Guys

Danny DeVito - DeVito gained prominence on the sitcom, Taxi as a disgruntled dispatcher, Louis that led to Golden Globe and Emmy award wins. Like Robin Williams, after Taxi's end, DeVito went onto feature film acting and starring in lucrative '80s hits Romancing the Stone, sequel The Jewel of The Nile, Throw Momma From The Train and Ruthless People. He's very good at playing slimeball like characters. But it was his surprising- yet impressive performance as The Penguin alongside Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman's Returns that showed his range as a character actor. 

Though generally a comedy actor, Danny has proved time and again how convincing he can be by playing it straight in dramas and thrillers. 

Notable Favourites: Taxi, Romancing the Stone, Ruthless People, Throw Momma From The Train, Batman Returns, Living Out Loud

Jim Carrey - rubber-faced Jim Carrey already had a supporting role in 1988's Earth Girls Are Easy alongside his In Living Color co-star Damon Wayons. He then made his mark on Fox's In Living Color sketch show and it led to starring roles in Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb & Dumber and Liar Liar. Though Carrey was deemed the most bankable comedic actor of the 1990s, in truth, he did star in fewer films than Robin Williams during that period. 

His subsequent film offerings have been less than memorable but had he had more film roles and quality ones, I could have definitely seen him as the next Robin Williams. 

Notable Favourites: Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Mask, In Living Color, Bruce Almighty, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Man On The Moon, The Cable Guy

Eddie Murphy - Richard Pryor may have been the all-time African American comic, but Eddie Murphy had gone one better than Pryor insofar as his movie career goes. Despite a few blips during the 1990s and beyond, Murphy's ballsy and motormouth style made him synonymous in action roles in 48 Hrs and the Beverly Hills Cop series. Thus, proving that as a comedic actor he has the ability and believability to play an action role, as good as he does. 

Notable Favourites: Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Boomerang, Metro, Daddy Day Care, Coming To America, SNL, Bowfinger, Shrek 

Robin Williams - during four seasons on ABC's Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams had already made his mark as a TV actor, playing the titular alien character, Mork. But it was his movie career whereby he had made his biggest impact and success, starring in hit movies such as Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, whilst supplementing these with his comedic turns in Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage and as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, where Williams really demonstrated his versatility, and at times energetic and sure-fire improvisational style as a performer. My favourite Robin Williams comedy era is from 1978 with Mork & Mindy up until the late 1990s. 

He is capable of playing it straight in a dramatic role, but also finds the time to not take everything seriously and to have fun through his Comedy films. 

Notable Favourites: The Survivors, Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Awakenings, The Fisher King, The Birdcage, Mrs Doubtfire, Aladdin, Fathers' Day, Mork & Mindy 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Retro Review: Wrongfully Accused (1998)

Wrongfully Accused
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Richard Crenna, Kelly Kelly Brock, Melinda McGraw, Sandra Bernhard
Genre: Satirical Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $9 million

Plot: Ryan Harrison is framed for murder and must prove himself innocent by finding a mysterious one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged man, after escaping from a bus accident on the way to jail

'Leslie Nielsen's Career Swansong Is A Good One'

Critics always turn their noses up at these type of comedies- unless it is by Bill Murray or Woody Allen, anything that comes across as buffoonish, low-brow, appealing to the so-called lowest common denominator, 10 out of 10, they will write it off completely and slate it to death. Which is why comedies, particularly Satirical comedies, become the brunt of criticism. They just can't stand this type of humour. And yet this type of humour is also easily accessible and one the likes of myself understand and enjoy, just by getting the jokes and one-liners.

Wrongfully Accused is one of those 1990s comedies, which fit that bill precisely. It was released at a time when comedy movies were still being churned out and movie parodies was still a thing. Starring (the late) Leslie Nielsen, the humour and comedy is practically the same as in Airplane and Naked Gun, where it relies on parodying and spoofing various genre conventions, as well as other films, such as Titanic, Braveheart and Mission Impossible. This one is a Mickey take on 1993's The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford. 

Nielson is Ryan Harrison: a famous violin player who is accused of and framed for murder. After being attacked, Harrison escapes from a van/bus and has to find the one-legged, one-armed criminal who set him up & to go out of his way to prove his innocence. 

But for the Scary Movie series, which took the genre and over-exaggerated it to the point I didn't enjoy it, I enjoy comedy spoof films and the idea of making fun of something else for entertainment, but that also in being familiar with the thing they are parodying, it makes the viewing experience even more enjoyable. Many of these spoof films rely on farce and dumbed down humour to generate laughs. You really need to be a fan of this type of humour, as silly and low-brow as it is, to fully enjoy this movie. 

The sight gags are amusing and the jokes are in full flow and fly out at the rate of one every few seconds or so. The story and plot are of little importance and to be honest, for a comedy film, you don't watch for the plot but for the sight gags, dumb foolery and silly and amusing scenes that happen. It's highly entertaining, despite the weak story and the references to other films gives it more ammunition to fire off more jokes and slapstick.

Examples of sight gags include a woman throwing the gun in the water and the water splashes onto her, as is when Leslie Nielsen's character turns off the volume on the TV, the news presenter loses her voice! There is also a Baywatch one to look out for. 

Where Wrongfully Accused comes up short against Naked Gun and Airplane is that the actual story isn't as good as it ought to have been. That and the jokes aren't as laugh out loud funny. The spoofing of the movies are a hit-&-miss altogether; some are good and some never (quite) hit the mark. 

Final Verdict:

If you are a fan of Leslie Nielsen's other movies, Naked Gun and Airplane, you will get a lot of enjoyment from this film. Same with Hot Shots. Fans of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams's brand of silly, low-brow humour will and should probably lap this one up as well.

Yes, the film is silly, the humour is the toilet-filled kind but I enjoy it because it is silly and most of all, I get the jokes, slapstick, absurd humour that goes with the territory.

Although it's not as consistently funnier than Naked Gun and Airplane, nor reaches the same heights as those efforts, Wrongfully Accused is a good, solid follow-up starring Leslie Nielsen, and no doubt it made me smile and laugh on several occasions. 

As a star of comedy spoofs and countless slapstick gags in Naked Gun, Police Squad and Airplane, Nielsen was arguably the king. 


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