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Friday, 30 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Gymkata (1985) #badmovies

Martial Arts Action

A film that tries to combine karate with gymnastics - something that I think would have been cool to watch -, the film, Gymkata (Jim Carter) opens up with a gymnast and some running horses. Starring Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas, the hero has to survive a competition that previously cost the life of his father. Thomas makes out with some Asian woman, who doesn't say much at all (there is practically very little dialogue uttered), bad acting throughout, the action where he combines karate with gymnastics, as interesting as it looked, it didn't flow so well and so smoothly and most of the film was boring and that there is more running about than actual fighting and karate. Cracked website listed this as one of the worst action movies of all-time.  

Is It Worth Seeing?

Along with the terrible acting, it was too bland for me, despite Kurt's flips 


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Retro Review: Miss Firecracker (1989)

Miss Firecracker
Cast: Holly Hunter, Mary Steenbergen, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard, Scott Glenn
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.8 million

Plot: Carnelle isn't happy with her life, so in order to improve herself she enters a beauty contest, trying to emulate her cousin Elain's win many years ago. Few think she can win, even her closest friends and relatives think she is heading for a big disappointment, but Carnelle is ever hopeful, seeing a win is a ticket to escape her home town of Mississippi 

'As Southern and Homely As Steel Magnolias, Yet Fizzles Out' 

A conventional drama as such, Miss Firecracker is a film that is as Southern as Steel Magnolias in its roots, but where unlike the former, the film lacks a clear focus and the movie itself wasn't as good, nor as fully watchable as I'd liked it to have been. That is despite the good performances given by Holly Hunter, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard and Mary Steenbergen. 

Catfish factory worker Carnelle in Holly Hunter thinks that by winning the Miss Firecracker beauty pageant contest, she'll be respected by her peers and everyone. Her cousins Elain (Mary Steenbergen) and Delmot (Tim Robbins) are also on hand. Elain won the contest, 10 years ago and for Carnelle, that time has come for her to accomplish her goal. 

Adapted by playwright Beth Henley from her play, 'The Miss Firecracker Contest', this film is peculiar; at first I wasn't sure what it was like as I was sitting through it. But as I sat through it, it reminded me of Steel Magnolias with that Deep South, homely charm mixed in with the beauty contest theme of Miss Congeniality. Both movies, Miss Firecracker & Steel Magnolias were released in the same year and starred fellow Georgia girls, Holly Hunter and Julia Roberts for the latter. 

The performances are the standout part of this movie and the cast seemed to have had enjoyed being part of it. Seeing Holly with the vibrant Red hair and twirl and hurl a fake gun into the air, as she performed her act, was so entertaining. For all that, Miss Firecracker needed more drama; the narrative just feels far too ordinary and vanilla in its direction and approach and it also struggles to attain laughs and to put a smile on my face. The characters and cast in this film are also not as approachable as in Steel Magnolias.

It's earnest and honest with some wisdom and light touches, which is nice to see, but still, that is just not enough for this movie. 

Final Verdict

Steel Magnolias without much steel and lacking in direction, Miss Firecracker is saved from being unwatchable due to Holly Hunter's fine and also valiant turn, although Tim Robbins did well also.  

Other than that, and for a few moments, it is relatively weak and Thomas Schlamme's direction is so uninspired it doesn't help matters, either. 


Mini Retro Review: What Women Want (2000) #badmovies

What Women Want
Romantic Comedy

Yet another rom-bomb and the film where Mel Gibson jumped the shark - Bird on the Wire was just daft, but this movie, this is another severe case of miscasting. Cocky Nick is injured during an incident and out of it, he gains the ability to read women's minds and their thoughts & this attracts the attention of a female co-worker. So little plot, a film that would have worked with better leads than Gibson and Helen Hunt, who aren't very charming on screen. This film is a waste, not so much because of the writing, which is iffy in places, but the comedy isn't great and the romance doesn't work. I was so unconvinced by the Gibson/Hunt pairing. I'm a woman, but this is not the type of rom-com I want. The premise is interesting but its lousy conception is what also damns it. Although I find it uncomfortable sitting through this film knowing what a misogynistic and anti-Semitic bigot Gibson has become over the years, which has put me off from liking him as a human being. And that is a shame, as I enjoyed Lethal Weapon.

Is it worth seeing?

For rom-com obsessives only


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Retro Review: Copycat (1995)

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Harry Connick Jr, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton
Genre: Psychological Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $32 million

Plot: An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past

'Female Version Of Se7ven & Just As Gripping'

A mid-1990s psychological thriller, Copycat received favourable reviews & despite its somewhat low-key turn out at the box office, this so-called female version of Se7ven stands out amongst the overlooked of all the psychological thrillers that were released during that decade and is also one that deserves to stand up amongst The Silence of the Lambs and Se7ven. 

Dr Helen Hudson became a potential and likely murder victim for the serial killer, the mentally disturbed Darryll Lee Cullam. Fortunately, Helen survived her ordeal and he was captured and sent to prison. Yet it isn't long for a new serial killer to make his mark and kill his female victims.

Sigourney Weaver is at her most vulnerable as Dr Helen Hudson, and former criminal psychologist and expert witness, as well as agoraphobic, who is still haunted and traumatised by the past memories of a serial killer, Darryll. It is so severe that she is unable to leave her apartment for 13 months, after being attacked that she endures panic attacks, every so often. On the other hand, being an ex-psychologist, she is very knowledgeable in her field and demonstrates her know-how in understanding the methods and tricks of the trade serial killers employ. It is then discovered that this new killer is someone who chooses to honour his serial killers by mimicking them and their methods, making it tougher for detectives who rely on similar patterns of thought and mystery solving and when Helen is once again targeted, a cat and mouse chase occurs between himself and Helen & MJ/Monahan. 

The film unfolds at a nice pace for viewers to follow & along with the score, these build up the tension, bit by bit with each scene, leading up to the final showdown. The last 30 mins or so when the movie started to come alive with the killings and the suspense ratcheting up several notches, kept me glued.

Copycat distinguishes itself from many other serial killers - based psychological thriller films in 3 ways: first of all, it is one of the few movies with two main female protagonist actresses as lead roles, Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter; second of all, right off the bat, we are shown the face of the killer and that there will eventually be a showdown between Helen and the Killer. Yet 50 mins into the film, it is revealed that Daryll is not the only serial killer, who is murdering these women. 

Dermot Mulroney gives a slightly better turn here than in My Best Friend's Wedding as fellow partner Ruben, along with Holly Hunter, in arguably her first major role since The Piano as persistent & self-confident San Francisco cop, MJ who can be easy-going, but who is not willing to let Helen off the hook. Holly's character could have been another generic cop; instead, she displays an array of emotions, mild-mannered one minute, the next, she shows her angry side. It wasn't until I was watching Holly in this film that I noticed how tiny she was. And yet, she still kicks ass, which is cool to see. Her scenes with Weaver, as few as they were, made it watchable and it was interesting to see two characters who have very different ways of approaching crimes, work together. I also liked that even as the good guys, their multi-layered characters remained as subtle, as well as strong in places. And likewise, Harry Connick Jr's surprising turn, which was a world away from his singing exploits and lighter acting roles, was effective and decent. William Mcnamara as the other bad guy somehow reminds me of James Marsden, looks-wise and yet he was so believable at being evil. 

The film sticks the knife in and twists it, not once but twice towards the end and the storyline is clever and intuitive also, despite the makeshift plot. 

And whilst some people will gripe about the killer's identity being unravelled throughout the film, as well as the needless romantic subplot involving Will Patton, Mulroney and Hunter's characters, for me anyway, this did not take away from the tension and suspense and thrills, but rather this builds them up and elevates them further. More crucially, Copycat works so well through Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, whose performances make all the difference. Had it not been for their inclusions, then honestly, this film just wouldn't be as watchable. 

Final Verdict:

Gripping, highly engrossing from the middle of the movie onwards & a tough thriller, backed up with impressive performances by the main two of Holly Hunter and Sigourney Weaver to boot. After a slow start, Copycat becomes one of those thrillers where as long as you stick with it, the film gets better later on, with the added twists and tension that gives the serial killer crime flick that extra bite it needs, and deserves.  

That, and whilst it isn't as amazing, it's still enjoyable and that Copycat tries to do things slightly differently, rather than tread on familiar territory and be so cliched that, in turn, other serial killer-based thrillers become clones of themselves. 

For that alone, I give this film extra credit.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Retro Review: Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elizabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Steven Weber, French Stewart
Genre: Romantic Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $32 million

Plot: Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute, Sara

'Morbid Downer Drama Only Saved By The Performances'

Take Pretty Woman's premise, remove the rom-com, happily-ever-after ending, replace prim and proper looking Richard Gere with a dishevelled- looking Nicolas Cage and take away the pretty woman Julia Roberts and give Elizabeth Shue's character a more messed up and bleaker backstory and have it set in Las Vegas. And what we have is a movie, based on the semi-biographical account by John O'Brien. After selling the book's rights for it to be turned into a major motion picture, O'Brien then committed suicide. 

Leaving Las Vegas follows the trials and tribulations of Ben and Sara out in Vegas: Ben has just been fired from his job, because of his alcoholism and for not seeking treatment to kerb this problem. Afterwards, he heads off to Las Vegas in Nevada, whereby he drinks himself to death. Shortly after, he meets up with a prostitute named Sara and the two hit it off. 

A romantic drama with a not so happy ending, as much as it hammers home the dangers of alcoholism when it gets out of control, the problem I had with Leaving Las Vegas is, as wonderful the performances were by the likes of Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue (arguably the best they have given), the film is overburdened with an aggravating and gruellingly depressing tone that for some, or be it a lot of people, it leaves a bitter aftertaste, afterwards. 

In some ways also, it romanticises alcoholism whilst downplaying on the sexual aspect, which only occurs in 2 two minor scenes with Sara and Ben. 

Nicolas Cage has range, well, some anyway, as demonstrated in this film, which is unheard of from an actor, as highly well known as himself, but who had over the years seen his career take a downward spiral, after a promising turn in Raising Arizona during the mid-1980s. As for Shue, she was touted for an Academy Award Best Actress gong as Sara and whilst she has her moments and Cage bagged his Oscar for his turn (when perhaps it should be the other way round with Shue winning instead of Cage), in sitting through this film I felt a range of different emotions: sadness, at times irritation, but also the further the film went on, the more morose I felt, thanks to its dispirited tone. 

I understand that with some dramas, you need darkness to bring out the tragedy and drama, as well as the dramatic performances from the actors. Yet for the most part, but for the scenes where Ben turns to booze and he and Sara fall in love, there was next to nothing in this drama that grabbed and held my attention. In Ben and Sara, they were two people who felt stuck and couldn't find a way out of their problems. That no matter how much they tried, things do not get better for either of them. 

What holds Leaving Las Vegas back is the total lack of a backstory to Ben and Sara and very little is touched upon their individual personalities and lives, prior to their recent problems. Who were they before? How happy were they before their problems escalated? If the writer and director explained this, then Leaving Las Vegas would have made far more sense to the viewer. 

Though all credit for this film in not being another Pretty Woman-type of film and of which doesn't take the Disney way out, in terms of its handling of romance and prostitution, but still, movie-wise, it is too sobering for my tastes, too much sadness and bleakness for a movie about two 'doomed' and destructive people, who one wants to see them happy, and yet they far from get their happy ending. 

Then again, this is a downer film about a doomed romance. 

Final Verdict:

This is not an easy movie for me to sit through in its entirety, as I usually don't do downer films like this, with a tone as bleak as this and it's not one for people who aren't into incredibly bleak movies. And Leaving Las Vegas was painfully bleak, irrespective of the impressive performances by Elisabeth Shue and Nicolas Cage. It was so momentously grim - and yet I still managed to see right through it to the bitter end. 

As 'hooker with a heart of a gold' movies goes, I'd still take this over Pretty Woman, because it doesn't treat the subject matter of prostitution as a whimsical, lovey-dovey type of thing that tries to be something it isn't. Having said that, this was grim viewing and this is by no means an escapist type of movie. 

As compelling as the melodrama was in places, not to mention the performances, in the end, Leaving Las Vegas's overriding, yet morbid and intense tone left me in a state of mere stupor and desolation. 


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Ferngully 2 (1998) #badmovies

Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue
Genre: Animated Direct-to-video/DVD

The original Ferngully wasn't one of the greatest animated movies, ever and it had nothing on Disney's Aladdin, but at least it was watchable, thanks to Robin Williams's inclusion as Batty Koda, as well as Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater and Tim Curry. In this straight- to- DVD fare, Ferngully 2 sees a bunch of baby animals being snatched by poachers, with Pip, Batty and the Beetle Boys venturing outside the rainforest and of whom set out to rescue them. 

The sequel has different voice actors - as none of the original cast members reprises their roles. The environmental theme isn't as in-yer-face as in the first film, but the story is mundane, was so dreary and not very interesting, & the direction is unimaginative and borderline stale. It just wasn't appealing.

Just like with The Return of Jafar, Robin did not voice his comic relief character, Genie, with The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta in his place. The replacement for Robin Williams, Matt Miller is, well, his Batty Koda just didn't sound right; even with the replacement actors, it's just not the same as it was before, and as much as it tries to recapture that, as well as the feel of the first film, its efforts are in total vain. That and his Batty is less fun too.

The animation and art style leans more towards Saturday morning cartoon fare and is still not of the quality that is seen in many '90s theatrical Disney movies, & the songs were not memorable and are even more forgettable.

Is It Worth Seeing?

Without the original actors voicing the characters, this is practically a needless sequel, - though with the biggest loss being Robin Williams, in all honesty, the producers shouldn't have bothered making it. I'd rather it never existed if they weren't prepared to bring Robin back. Which they had no intention to. 

Without Robin, Ferngully 2 is virtually redundant. 


Mini Retro Review: Nailgun Massacre (1985) #badmovies

Nailgun Massacre
Genre: Horror Thriller

The film begins with a rape of a woman by some construction workers, who tear her clothes off, which is not a pleasant way to start a movie. Set in some rural area of Texas, a mysterious person dressed in a camouflage suit and a motorcycle helmet, & sounding like some villain of a terrible video game, targets random victims by shooting them with a nailgun. A doctor and his girlfriend then go to investigate the murders. There is some sexual nudity, some of the killings are nasty in its execution, such as a nail gun shot into a guy's crotch. The acting, however, is too improvised, the story itself wasn't entertaining to sit through, the pace is sluggish thus taking away from some of the suspense, and the performances are stocky and aren't believable. Had the story been a lot more entertaining and better also, I'd have enjoyed it more. For a low budget Z-movie, the picture quality is as I'd expected and it looks out of focus, at times.

Is it worth seeing? 

It's a low-grade, budget version of the Predator mixed with The Exterminator. An indie-based slasher-type horror flick, if you enjoy horror movies and things like Predator, this might interest you. If you are more into the story aspect, forget it and avoid this. The premise sounded intriguing, but the film isn't as great as I'd expected. 


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: A Smile Like Yours (1997) #badmovies

A Smile Like Yours
Romantic Comedy

Another case of how not to do a rom-com: a couple's marriage is under threat when they realise they can't conceive and have children together. Jennifer suspects her husband, Danny is cheating on her and it's a difficult road to redemption. As well as the cringeworthy title, the direction is muddled -yet formulaic. Both Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly are mismatched as an onscreen couple and as the leads, their characters are utterly devoid of personality and do not make the type of impact for me to care about what actually happens to them. There is just no sense of genuine feeling between Jen and Danny and in wanting them to patch up their marriage. Shirley MacClaine, Jay Thomas of Mork and Mindy, the woman from Robocop 3 and Christopher McDonald from Flubber are in this too. The story is beyond trite and character development is non-existent. Its execution feels all too hokey and sickly for me to take seriously and to be convinced by it all. That, and it is an epitome of Z-grade TV movie filler.  

Is it worth seeing? 

My smile quickly faded, 25 mins into this film onwards. Hardly funny for a comedy, is not very romantic and offers remotely nothing to make it appealing and worthwhile. One to pass up on.  


Friday, 23 June 2017

My 10 Favourite Danny DeVito Characters/Performances

Gravel-voiced Danny DeVito is one of those actors/performers who defies belief when it comes to preconceived notions of what a Hollywood movie star should look like. He may not have Brad Pitt's looks, but he certainly knows how to draw the audience's attentions through his brash, in-yer-face style that doesn't hold back. He is one of the most pervasive actors with a successful movie career during the 1980s and 1990s, who also had his big break as Louis DePalma, the despotic taxi dispatcher in 1970s sitcom, Taxi, whose character traits can be found in many of DeVito's latter movie roles. Born in New Jersey, he always captures my attention when it comes to his onscreen performances. 

In the array of characters he has played, he has that ability to make them come to life; that despite his diminutive stature, he always delivers a big performance - when and where it is expected and has the ability to make audiences take notice.

He has that wicked, dark, devilish quality that he brings about and when he is nasty, he is so and too good at it. 

Interestingly enough, he was one of the producers of 2000's Erin Brockovich, as well as the main director of Death To Smoochy.

Below are 10 onscreen roles and appearances of DeVito's that make him alone as one of my favourite male movie stars. 

Sam Stone - Ruthless People (1986)

DeVito plays swine Sam who wants his wife killed so he can get his hands on her fortune, amongst other things. His energy is undaunted as he goes all out in being ruthless to everyone but his mistress, whilst unknownst to him, her, as well as his ex-wife, the kidnappers all want a piece of Sam. Angry, funny and crazy, what more could you want?!

The Penguin/Oswald Copplepot - Batman Returns (1992)

One of the most memorable Batman movie villains alongside Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman/Selena Kyle and Jack Nicholson's The Joker, Devito is unrecognizable underneath all of that makeup as the dastardly Penguin, raised by penguins after being dumped in the river by his parents, and growing up to be one of Gotham City's most wanted bad guys. His dark comic persona that has been a key in Ruthless People and Romancing The Stone comes into play in his depiction of the Penguin, with amicable results. 

Pat - Living Out Loud (1998)

A role he rarely plays that very often, Pat is an elevator janitor who has a kind heart and lets his guard down a couple of times in this rom-com drama. Devito is amusing, warm and even charming. He and Holly Hunter were a great twosome as well. 

Ralph - Romancing The Stone/The Jewel of The Nile (1984 and 1985)

Bumbling crook to Jack and Joan, who is both conniving and dumb at the same time. He provides the films with that extra level of entertainment and enjoyment, as we see him foul up in his efforts to undermine the heroes. 

Owen Lift - Throw Momma From The Train (1987)

Child-like Owen who is likeable and sympathetic, whilst looking after his domineering mother from hell. He has a brilliant camaraderie with Billy Crystal and they seem to have had a blast whilst making this movie.

Vincent Benedict - Twins (1988)

Vincent isn't a pleasant character at first, as he still harbours ill-feelings towards his mother who ditched him, but thanks to Arnie's Julius, he eventually comes round.

Earnest Tilly - Tin Men (1987)

Whilst Tin Men didn't blow me away as a movie, it was still a reasonable movie to watch and Danny DeVito's performance was my favourite, by far. His character Earnest is as earnest by name and more sympathetic, but as ever whenever he is onscreen he makes the film watchable. It was a compelling and terrific dramatic performance that showed how great an actor he is. 

Mr Swackhammer - Space Jam (1996)

An extra terrestrial and proprietor of a failing intergalactic amusement park called Moron Mountain, he is the main antagonist to Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in this Ivan Reitman animated sports romp. Like Disney's Philoctetes, Swackhammer does resemble DeVito a great deal.  

Philoctetes- Hercules (1997)

According to Greek mythology, Philoctetes was the son of King Poeas of Meliboa and a famed archer and hero. He too is the spitting image of Devito in terms of his physical resemblance and his likeness is all too apparently obvious. 

Rude Gambler - Mars Attacks (1996) 

Loud but not that brash, who can't help but go insane when he sees Tom Jones in his stint in Tim Burton's all-star sci-fi comedy parody.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Animal Instincts (1992) #badmovies

Animal Instincts
Erotic Thriller

From the (would you believe that?) Academy Award-winning director of photography of Inception and The Dark Knight Returns comes this low- grade tawdry erotic offering with bland characters and inane story, which went some distance with the erotic thriller genre, up until Basic Instinct's arrival later on in the same year. A cop and his wife are sexually frustrated and in need of reigniting the spark in their marriage. Yet the cop prefers to film his wife in bed with other men, and women, rather than sleep with her himself, so he films them having sex. He then comes up with a blackmail scheme that lands him & his horny wife in hot water. Mundane script, multiple camera shots of Shannon Whirry's breasts. No tension, hardly any murders, just nudity & lots of s*agging. The twists lack punch. It's just not thrilling or exciting enough.

Is it worth seeing?

Despite the sex scenes, I found it boring overall.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Retro Review: Living Out Loud (1998)

Living Out Loud
Cast: Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah, Martin Donovan
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $15 million

Plot: After being unceremoniously dumped by her husband, 40-something Divorcee Judith tries to make sense of her new existence. She becomes friends with Pat, the elevator operator in her high-rise apartment building who is having marital problems of his own. Judith also dabbles in a new romance with an attractive masseur and lets loose in a new nightclub ruled by torch singer, Liz Bailey, with whom she connects 

'Overlooked Rom-Com That Is Just Wonderful'

This film reminds me so much of As Good As It Gets in so many ways, but for the plot, but also arguably has slightly more charm. Living Out Loud follows in a similar vein to As Good As It Gets: romantic comedy-dramas that centrally focus on mature and middle-aged people finding love. 

Written & directed by Richard LaGravenese, screenwriter for The Bridges of Madison County and The Fisher King, this is a surreal and wonderfully crafted romantic dramedy about how one tries to recover and moves on from a break-up, whilst at the same time, trying to find meaning in her life and searching for the reality that lies within. 

Judith and Robert were happily married. She thought she had the perfect marriage and that nothing could go wrong. After putting her studies on hold to find work and to support each other, all of a sudden, after 15 years, Robert leaves Judith to be with a younger woman. Judith finds solace and comfort in elevator operator, Pat: a sweet, gentle, nice guy who wants nothing other than happiness. No sooner are their tragedies and misfortunes bringing them closer together, that there is also that one thing that is keeping them apart. Queen Latifah plays the lounge singer, who is more than welcome to lend a helping hand to Judith and to help her navigate the tricky waters that lie ahead: not only does she have a fantastic set of pipes with regards to her singing, but her acting performance is sublime also.

I always enjoy Danny DeVito on screen but very rarely does he play nice characters and here as Pat, he really is a sweet guy: a hotel janitor who lost his daughter and has a good heart. He also shows how capable he is at playing vulnerable and pleasant characters with a restrained portrayal, without going into one of his 'angry, raging little man' turns, as seen in his previous roles before this one. Which is a huge plus. Holly Hunter was a revelation too; she's a great actress in whatever she does and though she won an Oscar playing a mute in The Piano, she did even better here (at least she spoke) and it's a shame her performance in this film was overlooked. The Holly and Danny partnership was something I thought would never work so well, - but it did, and it was fantastic. Their little moments together were so pleasant to watch, which tinge on sweetness, and bittersweetness also, as they each take the time to get to know one another, conversing with each other, whilst leaning on each other for emotional comfort and support. Queen Latifah shines as a lounge singer whose character is the key to Judith and Pat's happiness. She also has this subtleness and charm that she manages to bring to Liz.

About making the Asian- American woman a bad person by making her the new girlfriend of the boyfriend, I wasn't offended by this. It just happened and I'm not bothered at all.

Compared to so many other predictable and stock rom-coms and romantic films, Living Out Loud has witty and smart dialogue, the writing is great and DeVito's character makes it less of a 'chick flick', without descending into dripping schmaltz and is one that general audiences can tap into. It's a breath of fresh air. The scene where Judith and Pat make out in the elevator was highly amusing, as is Holly dancing with a horde of lesbian women to Brownstone's ''If You Love Me'' in a trendy nightclub.

It's a great pity Living Out Loud did not find its audience like with so many other popular romantic comedies and dramedies that have been more financially successful, in contrast to this movie. Gone completely unnoticed in 1998, and it was when I discovered this film on Letterboxd, this is yet another gem unearthed that deserves a chance. It most definitely has a lot more in common with As Good As It Gets, especially with the tone, approach and feel but it is also more bittersweet and arguably a bit more earnest. I was a little sad that Judith and Pat didn't get together in the end, and yet seeing Judith being happy for him when she sees him find love, that was very nice and touching. 

Final Verdict:

Richard LaGravenese's directorial first, as well as having a hand in penning this film, though it is suggested the film doesn't make a lot of sense if you are under 40, I totally get it and loved every single minute of it. I enjoyed As Good As It Gets, and Living Out Loud is a lot like that film in many respects, as I said and is a romantic comedy-drama that is fascinating as it is understated. It makes me wish romantic dramas and comedies were as well-conceived and writers and casting directors weren't obsessed in casting actors in rom-coms, because they look attractive and pretty and are young but because they can bring something to the role that they play. 

It was great to see a romantic comedy executed in a slightly different way that also made me smile in places. 

Living Out Loud could have easily fallen under the label of 'chick flick', but thanks to the mature leads and casting of then 40/50 somethings Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito and under LaGravenese's vision, the film lends itself to a truly unique and revitalising look at love, reality and honesty, which I truly feel the romantic comedy subgenre of film usually lacks in abundance. 

Unquestionably so, this is a highly overlooked gem of this genre that its fans and non-rom-com fans should definitely consider.  


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Retro Review: The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elizabeth Shue, William Zabka, Chad McQueen, Martin Kove
Genre: Martial Arts Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $90 million 

Plot: A martial arts master agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager

'Far From Award-Winning Material, Yet Still Makes You Want To Go Karate Fighting'

I hadn't seen The Karate Kid in a long, long time; the last time I did so was during the 1990s when it aired on TV. Operating as a coming-of-age drama with martial arts action thrown in, The Karate Kid is the martial arts equivalent of Rocky, which is heavily cliched (it is directed by the same person who did Rocky), and like that movie, it still packs a couple of punches in certain areas, along with career-launching roles by Pat Morita, Elizabeth Shue and Ralph Macchio. The film spawned 3 sequels, including one starring Hilary Swank and also doubles up as an anti-bullying film, at the same time. 

It was also unfortunately remade with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in the lead roles as the young apprentice and elder master in 2010.

Daniel Larosso and his mother move from New Jersey to Southern California and from there on, he takes a shine to a girl in Ali. Trouble then looms after Ali's ex-boyfriend and his gang of bullies make life hell for Daniel at school. After getting beaten up several times, in comes elderly Japanese handyman & Banzai tree guy, Mr Miyagi who comes to the rescue. It isn't long until during a series of sessions that Daniel learns that with karate that there is more to it than just a series of high-flying kicks and leg sweeps. 

My Miyagi is a weird guy, who sometimes irritates me, but who manages to instil discipline, confidence, values of honour and self-defence skills in Daniel in preparation for a karate tournament. His 'wax on, wax off' workout that Daniel undertakes consists of menial tasks such as cleaning cars and waxing floors, which are heavily disguised as different forms of martial arts training.     

The melodrama can be a little overwhelming at times whilst the romance angle between Ralph Macchio and Elizabeth Shue just didn't work and the fight scenes were okay. But the 2-hour run-time practically made the film a tad too long than it should have. The practice part where Daniel shows off his moves and utilises the wax on wax off techniques were good though. Coming- of- age films aren't really my type of movie: I find most of them difficult to sustain interest in. In The Karate Kid, it implements that Rocky formula but also skews it slightly by replacing the boxing with karate and adding in the old Asian master. 

Ralph Macchio doesn't show much range as an actor, but he delivers a natural performance; Daniel-San is a socially awkward teenager, who is prone to falling over and getting beaten up by bullies and yet who wants to gain confidence, and through his meetings with Mr Miyagi, it is through karate that he makes that happen for himself. In Daniel, we have a clear protagonist to root for in this film, as difficult as he comes across onscreen. Kove, as the bad guy, on the other hand, comes off as too cartoonish.

The Karate Kid is not really a film about karate or the art of karate: it's a film about a young person who tries to adjust to new surroundings and gaining confidence and skills. It has more in common with 1989's Best of the Best, from a competitive sports angle, and yet out of the two, I prefer that film moreso than The Karate Kid. 

Final Verdict:

I get that this is considered by a lot of people as a classic, at the time, but I think most of that is because martial arts films in America and made in America was still a new thing in the early 1980s and The Karate Kid was one of those movies that epitomised this. And because of the martial arts theme, it was the first real film that put a new spin on the zero to hero concept. 

What it doesn't do well in is showing Daniel's progression as a fighter, but rather in building up his confidence as a person and neither does it contribute anything new to the film and martial arts movies in general. And in truth, even though this was nominated twice for the Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor in Pat Morita, The Karate Kid is not Oscar-worthy material, film-wise. 

But what The Karate Kid accomplishes is it is one of those martial arts-based movies where it is near impossible to watch this film and not wanting to break out a karate or kung fu kick, just by getting caught up in the fighting and Miyagi and Daniel's practice scenes together. 



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