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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Retro Review: Mad City (1997)

Mad City
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta, Alan Alda, Robert Prosky, Mia Kirshner
Genre: Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $10 million

Plot: A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him

'Bad City'

Mad City is a strange offering coming from Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta: for one, it is not very memorable for various reasons, the direction of the film is borderline stale and too pedestrian & the film, as a whole, is weak that it is not surprising that it didn't do well at the box office. What I did like was that Travolta's character wasn't a complete and total evil loon. 

Sam Bailey is a former security guard who had just lost his job, which he wants back. He accidentally kills a security guard and with that, he feels terribly guilty about what he has done & feels his life is completely ruined. Max Brackett is a news reporter, who is covering the situation and tries to make him see the error of his ways.  

Compared to the half-hearted, less than stellar Jodie Foster effort & so-called hokum in 2016's Money Monster - with a dare I say it - completely miscast George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Mad City's star billing of John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman fare a tad better. And that, in itself, isn't really saying much as Mad City still underwhelms and Hoffman and Travolta have given better performances, elsewhere; plus, it is hardly a high point in their illustrious careers. Travolta's bad guy routine is bumbling, error-prone and can be sympathetic in places, but his performance here is way below par from what it was in Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever. Hoffman's reporter turn is, amicable, but hardly sets the film on fire and is two or three steps below that of Tootsie, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy and many of his earlier films. It's natural and Dustin plays it in typical Dustin fashion, which may annoy some, but I am fine with it. Whilst Max is supposed to come across as the voice of reason, Hoffman's efforts are further drowned out by a mind-numbingly bland story. There is also an odd cameo by director John Landis as a doctor along with Alan Alda as Max's rival. 

The story stumbles, moves slowly & eventually loses steam after a promising opening 10 mins and after that, it drones on and it descends into self-righteous blandness and with scenes & droning conversations that went right over my head. The other problems with Mad City are it is far too broad, it needed to be a tad shorter in length and that it relies too much on over dramatics, whilst lacking in thrills. The suspense aspect this film has been alluding to fails to come to prominence, which is a big shame as this would have further propelled the movie. 

Final Verdict:

A film that rarely did wonders for Hoffman and Travolta's illustrious careers, Mad City is throwaway as a film as it comes. But if there is one consolation, it is that unlike Money Monster, it doesn't resort to cheap thrills and manipulating the audience through emotion, whilst it comes across as overproduced. 

As far as Mad City goes, as watchable as it was in few places, it remains as nothing more than an earnest effort that is hardly shocking or thrilling enough to stir up emotions or evoke tension, which this film very much needed. Both Hoffman and Travolta would and could only carry this film as far as it could go; therefore, it's a pity that with more twists & excitement, this would have further aided their efforts. 

Mad City is hardly mad and tenacious, it's, in fact, a glaringly missed opportunity to make something grand out of a simple premise. & that's no thanks to director Costas- Gavras.



Monday, 30 October 2017

Retro Review: Double Impact (1991)

Double Impact
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw, Cory Everson, Bolo Yeung
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $30 million  

Plot: Twin brothers are separated when their parents are murdered, but 25 years later they reunite to avenge their parents' death

'Double Trouble'

Co-produced & co-written by Jean-Claude Van Damme, Double Impact is a martial arts- based action flick with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing dual roles as twin brothers, Alex and Chad. This is Van Damme's second movie with Sheldon Lettich, following on from Lionheart. Whilst many of his films leave a lot to be desired and that he lacks the massive box office draw and appeal of Arnold Schwarzenegger, movies such as Timecop, Bloodsport and Hard Target still reign as the Muscles from Brussels finest outings. 1991's Double Impact is not too far behind of the pack; in fact, this is an entertaining and enjoyable fight fest, backed up by an interesting plot.

The movie that finally broke the mould for Van Damme in the 1990s, Double Impact is noted as his first proper mainstream studio-based movie, courtesy of Columbia Pictures. Interestingly also, actor Michael Douglas has a hand in the production duties. 

Chad and Alex become separated as babies after their parents are murdered by a Chinese mafia on the orders of a rich businessman going by the name of Griffith: fast forward years later and broody Alex is raised on the streets of Hong Kong, with laid-back Chad raised by his parents' bodyguard/guardian, Frank, whilst also plying his trade as a martial arts teacher in L.A. When the pair reunite whilst in Hong Kong after Chad's foster parent, Frank takes him to Hong Kong, they swear to exact vengeance on Griffith and mob boss, Zhang. 

Yet despite the plot, the drama aspect became too drawn out and tedious as it went on and the attempts at humour fall flat somewhat, although some of the action was overly decent.  

At almost 2 hours, the film feels way overlong but it appears as though this was a taster of what was to come in Hard Target and Double Impact, as entertaining in parts as it was, comes nowhere near as great as the John Woo classic that arrived, 2 years later, which easily surpasses this effort. 

The villains are an interesting bunch with the hulking presence of Bolo Yeung and Cory Everson as the intimidating Kara being serviceable, the shoot-outs are akin to John Woo's films and the film is as derivative as they come. It has the feel of a straight-to-DVD martial arts action flick, but with Double Impact, at the same time, it is as if a legitimate amount of effort was put in to make it overly decent. The action is pretty good and solid, but not breathtaking or anywhere as imaginative and daring, although the subplot involving Chad's girlfriend, Danielle (whose performance by Alonna Shaw virtually did nothing for me), Chad and Alex, and the glorified softcore love scene was wasteful and the film could have functioned without it. The other scene with the action villain, Kara and the suggested lesbian molestation towards Chad's girlfriend was unexpected, yet it feels cheap & undignified. 

Other than that, this is a mindless yet entertaining action fest. 

Final Verdict:

Still a firm favourite with many of his fans, Double Impact is twice the action with double the Van Dammes and the action is good.

Although personally, his best film is still Hard Target by a longshot. But Double Impact is definitely one of his fewest and briefest onscreen glories as an action movie star & by surrounding him with a good crew, who can bring the best out of his (limited) range, in Van Damme & this movie, & what you get out of it is something that is sufficient and not too shabby for a film of this genre. 


Sunday, 29 October 2017

The A-Z Evolution of Dustin Hoffman's Characters Illustrated

He has dominated the big screen for over 4 decades, & although Dustin Hoffman is primarily known for being a dramatic actor, he can also demonstrate a knack for comedy and lighter roles that demand less from him. His career initially took off aged 28/29 when he was cast as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate as a teenager in 1967. Hoffman's roles throughout his long and storied chapter have varied across the board in a range of different movies, various genres of movies and character roles that span Hoffman's diverse filmography. 

For all the talk of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as dramatic acting heavyweights and legends, as good as they are, there are fewer movies of theirs that I have fully enjoyed, for me, compared and in contrast to Dustin.

Hitting the big 8-0 in 2017, by taking a look back on his movies and in rewatching most of them, as the consummate professional since his emergence as an actor in the late 1960s, Hoffman can do no wrong on the acting scale: my favourite movie stars and actors are ones of whom play a wide range of different characters and take on different onscreen personas & who do so effectively and with ease. & he is most certainly one of them. 

*characters in bold indicate or denote I personally enjoyed that role and/or movie of his 

First row: Alfredo Sbisa (Alfredo, Alfredo), Ben Floss (Midnight Mile), Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate), Bernard ''Bernie'' Laplante (Hero), Benard Jaffe (I Heart Huckabees),  Bernie Focker (Meet the Fockers), Captain James Hook (Hook), Carl Bernstein (All The President's Men), Chuck Clarke (Ishtar)

Second row: Colonel Sam Daniels (Outbreak), Danny Snyder (Sleepers), David Sumner (Straw Dogs), Dorothy Michaels (Tootsie), Dr Norman Goodman (Sphere), Dutch Schultz (Billy Bathgate), Edward Magorium (Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium), Enrico Salvatore ''Ratso'' Rizzo (Midnight Cowboy), Hap (The Tiger Makes Out)

Third row: Jack Crabb (Little Big Man), Jason Fister (Madigan's Millions), Lenny Bruce (Lenny), Louis Dega (Papillon), Master Shifu (Kung Fu Panda), Max Brackett (Mad City), Max Dembo (Straight Time), Michael Dorsey (Tootsie), Mumbles (Dick Tracy)

Fourth rowRaymond Babbitt (Rain Man), Roscuro (The Tale Of Despereaux), Stanley Motts (Wag The Dog), Ted Kramer (Kramer vs Kramer), Thomas 'Babe' Levy (Marathon Man), Vito McMullen (Family Business), Walt ''Teach'' Teacher (American Buffalo), Wendell Rohr (Runaway Jury), Winston King (Confidence) 

Mini Movie Review: Hard Target 2 (2016) #badmovies

Hard Target 2

The sequel to the highly successful John Woo action movie of 1993 with Jean-Claude Van Damme stars British martial arts action star, Scott Adkins. Hard Target 2 just reeks of a cheap & lazily produced offering. Adkins is a decent actor and the ideal movie, in my eyes, is one that has him team up with Jason Statham and the pair kick ass as a good guy duo. I am just not so keen on the production values in this one, it's too overdone in the B-movie vein, I'd have preferred to see Rhona Mitra on the same side as Adkins, instead of being the villain. There is less fighting and the film would have made more sense if it had come out, 2 years or so after the original. The fact they waited 23 years to do a sequel and minus Van Damme & John Woo, is just a big no-no. Adkins is okay, but he just didn't and wasn't able to go all out like Van Damme did, and Van Damme totally nailed it. In fact, none of the performances are anywhere near as good as ones in the first Hard Target. & actually, I could have done without the Thai girl & her brother. All in all, it's not actually terrible, but rather disappointing. 

Is It Worth Watching?

For the action scenes, as few, as they were, only


Retro Review: Death Warrant (1990)

Death Warrant
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Robert Guillaume, Cynthia Gibb, Patrick Kilpatrick
Genre: Action Crime Mystery Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $16 million 

Plot: An undercover cop investigates murder and mayhem in a prison where kickboxing comes in handy

'A Warrant Ought To Be Issued For The Lack Of Good Action Scenes'

A version of Lock Up starring Sylvester Stallone but with the Muscles From Brussels in place of Sly, Death Warrant underwhelms as an action film and is also compounded by a lethargic and uninviting story that does nothing to engage or stoke up excitement. 

Jean-Claude Van Damme is Louis Burke: a Canadian cop who is sent undercover to a prison to probe a series of murders that take place, which is run by corrupt wardens & getting to the bottom of who is responsible. 

Death Warrant is submerged in what appears to be a drab script that is devoid of genuine action and fight scenes that can rival many other popular 1980s and 1990s action movies. As a Van Damme effort, this is far weaker and blander than Hard Target (still my favourite film of his), Time Cop, Kickboxer and Double Impact 

Cynthia Gibb from the Fame TV show looks out of place and is miscast as the attorney general liaison who acts as Burke's partner and her and Van Damme have the love chemistry of a wet fish. 

The gay stereotypes are poor, there are some bland characters on show, such as the computer geek and the dialogue comes off as not being good and there are no memorable lines. Surprisingly penned by David S. Goyer, he later went on to write Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Blade trilogy of movies & Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, which all became box office smashes. 

The film does get better halfway after the 50 min mark, but even with that, you don't get to see Van Damme unleash his moves and high-flying kicks. He does a few spin-kicks, but that is as much as you will see from him, which is unfortunate. The fight scenes look artificial and rather stilted and given as Van Damme doesn't go all out, it easily shows - although there is a case where the film chooses to cut and edit down his moves, much to its and Van Damme's disadvantage.  

Final Verdict:

This is not the explosive action fest I have come to expect out of a Van Damme movie, and there are certainly not enough action scenes to make it worthwhile. 

Lock Up and the Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger effort, Escape Plan, which has almost a similar plot, is way better than this film. At least with the latter, you get two heads for the price of one and plus, it's unintentionally fun. 

Whereas Death Warrant isn't - in fact, it underwhelms, and it should have been so much better. 


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Retro Review: All The President's Men (1976)

All The President's Men
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards
Genre: Political Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $70 million

Plot: The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon's resignation

'Well Acted & An Authentic Look At Journalism, But Lacks Engagement & Entertainment As A Spectacle'

Based on the book by Carl Bernstein as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, All The President's Men was directed by Alan J Pakula, who is most notably responsible for 1993's smash hit, The Pelican Brief starring Julia Roberts. Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed that film, what with the action and tension, which whilst others may seem to be more sensationalist, I thought really galvanised the film itself and along with Roberts's impressive performance & the contemporary feel, made The Pelican Brief an at times exhilarating and suspenseful, but also an engaging and a rather accessible affair.

In All The President's Men, Robert Redford portrays Bob Woodward: a journalist for The Washington Post who has been in the job for six months & he teams up with a pro in Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), and the two reporters attempt to bring down the Nixon administration, after the wake of two political scandals. 

I went into this film not expecting anything that is too Hollywood and flashy- looking as a motion picture but with curiosity at how All The President's Men will fare and obtain and hold my attention. Whilst political thriller movies have been all the range, films about investigative journalism are very few and far between; Additionally, movies based on conspiracies and conspiracy theories have been around for a long time: some are good - ala The Pelican Brief, with others such as Conspiracy Theory of 1997, being not so good. 

All The President's Men takes a very restrained approach & yet unlike The Pelican Brief, this one has no elaborate chase scenes, no huge score, no emotional moments: it is straight to the point and operates as a conventional and traditional drama, set in political and journalistic contexts. & with that, it feels more organic and there is a sense of authenticity and urgency that it omits. 

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford make for a good team and they bring that authority, assertiveness and all those years of acting experience to the forefront. Redford is more reserved and less gung-go, whereas Hoffman here is slightly more erratic, but not feisty or arrogant. They help elevate this movie to be slightly more - if no more watchable, although I wished the story had been a tad more engaging for me to get into it fully. All The President's Men was somewhat difficult for me to engage in and it was hard to follow and for general and casual audiences including myself, who aren't familiar with the ins and outs of the Watergate scandal, this is one of a few shortcomings I had with the film. The other issue I had was the story was also all over the place and it just wasn't succinct. 

Other than that, this is thoroughly well-written, the dialogue is smart and extremely well-conceived & is a film that demonstrates the pros and the good side of journalism. 

Final Verdict:

All The President's Men is a pretty good film for those who are studying journalism at college or university; it's well-crafted, intelligent and doesn't insult or talk down to the audience with its take on journalism. It never becomes condescending. 

But with its grounded approach, it still somehow made the subject far less intense and engaging than it deserves to be & the story needed to be more enamouring. It did little to withhold my attention. Which is why I loved The Pelican Brief: that film is very much similar to All The President's Men; in fact, the premise and the set-up are so very much identical to All The President's Men, but with those extra punches, that suspense and action sequences, they really energised the film & enabled me to invest interest in the story and the film itself, as well as the performances. 

I so wished that had been the same case for this movie and that Pakula had approached it as vigorously but also not as a flashy centrepiece, but as an entertaining spectacle. It's definitely worth seeing for Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford alone and their performances and if you are truly into political movies. 

Yet for everyone else, for those of you who want something more gripping but also is a lot more accessible, give The Pelican Brief a go. 


Mini Retro Review: The Crow Salvation (2000) #badmovies

The Crow Salvation
Supernatural Action

The third instalment in the much-maligned The Crow franchise, which after the massive success of the prequel starring the late Brandon Lee, spawned two needless sequels that went straight-to-DVD. And with that in mind, hardly anyone but staunch fans of the series cared. This film, which was written by the writer of The X-Files was due to hit cinemas, but it eventually debuted on home video. & seeing this, it's no wonder why it turned out to be that way. It stars Kirsten Dunst in one of her notable bombs of her career, who, given some of the high calibre of movies she has done (Jumanji, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Spider-Man 1 & 2), ought to have known better, and pre-Ugly Betty's Eric Mabius, years before he hit the big time on the ABC comedy show. 'Salvation' is more than less the first Crow film, virtually identical in almost every way but lacking a worthy and raw emotional story and believability that made the first movie so memorable, & not just for Brandon's performance. I never really bought Mabius as The Crow and he just doesn't possess that edge this character needs; having seen him in Ugly Betty as the nice guy, this role is too far-fetched. Brandon Lee had it, but with Mabius, he doesn't. The guy who played a reporter in Die Hard 2 is in this one, some of the music sounds bad, the violence is toned down and the action is not grand & the flashback scenes were a little iffy.

Is It Worth Watching?

Not really. Just stick with the first and foremost Crow film.


Friday, 27 October 2017

Retro Review: Little Big Man (1970)

Little Big Man
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan
Genre: Comedy-Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $31 million

Plot: Jack Crabb, looking back from extreme old age, tells of his life being raised by Native American Indians & fighting with general Cluster

'Wham, Bam, Thank You Little Big Man'

A fable that acts as a coming-of-age Western, it turns out that in my first viewing, Little Big Man is one helluva film from Dustin Hoffman that attempts to turn the Western on its head and offering something that is a little unconventional, whilst still remaining true and faithful to its genre's roots and through its narration. 

I usually don't do period-based films, but Little Big Man was a nice surprise and it plays out much like Forrest Gump, as a movie through its narrative structure and with Jack narrating the story. Despite being billed as a comedy, there are in fact light and humourous moments, but otherwise, the film is more of a straightforward episodic Western period drama. 

Lone survivor of Little Big Horn Jack Crabb experiences at first-hand life as both as a Native American and non-Native American during the late 19th century and early 20th century, as well as fighting General Cluster, as he reminisces on & lives to tell the tale of the good and the bad that he had to endure and withstand. It is a tale of how the West was won through the eyes of a White man, who was initially adopted and later raised as a Native American.  

Little Big Man does not refer to Austin Powers's Verne Troyer or Danny DeVito, but a character in Jack who is captured and raised by Native Indians and he becomes one. Hoffman dominates as the star performer, giving it his all and whilst he has delivered amazing performances, Jack Crabb most deservedly needs to be up there alongside his more established and well-renowned character roles.  

The make-up on Dustin Hoffman as old man Jack by Dick Smith was phenomenal and is as impressive as the make-up on Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. I would never have recognised that was Dustin who would be underneath all those prosthetics. If it weren't for Dustin in this movie, I would have never cared for it or given it a look and so him and his performance and the manner of the performance that he gave, made a huge amount of difference. 

The film's cinematography is spectacular and it fully captures that American West period and feel. It has funny scenes with Faye Dunaway bathing Dustin and it has characters acting and behaving differently and the camp Indian took me a little by surprise, although most, or be it the rest of the sections of Little Big Man operates as a drama. At times you will laugh and smile, other times you'd watch it with a straight face, there is a distinct quirkiness that Little Big man draws out; therefore the tone switches up with each and every scene. But they are all critical of America's history with Native Americans, whilst it also portrays the Native Indians in a positive light and it never becomes judgemental and reeks in preachiness. It's satirical in places, the story is well told - yet also effective and at times, entertaining to sit through and the battle sequences are great. 

My favourite get up of Jack's was the fetching all-Black cowboy outfit with young 32/33-year-old Dustin looking so good & with his boyish looks, but it was intriguing to see the many different faces of Jack, beginning from adolescence all the way through to evitable old age.


Final Verdict:

I wasn't really expecting to like this film and get into it as much as I did; period films and Western movies don't do much for me generally and I thought this would be something that I'd not enjoy. & so I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued at how Little Big Man turned out. 

This is a unique movie coming out of Dustin Hoffman's filmography that doesn't seem to get its due; quite frankly, it deserves to as it was truly watchable all the way through. This is one of those movies where that combination of comedy and humour and drama is evened out and balanced through, with a strong and engaging performance by Hoffman. Just when I thought it was Tootsie, which showed off more of his light-hearted nature, as Jack Crabb, he was great here and his character was thoroughly likeable in his first light-hearted effort. 

Little Big Man is a little complex, yet it is also a solid offering and surprisingly and unmistakably watchable.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Mini Retro Review: The Christmas Clause (2008) #badmovies

The Christmas Clause
Family Drama

Originally titled as Mrs Clause, this is a female version of The Family Man which starred Nicolas Cage meets It's A Wonderful Life & this so-called Christmas movie is too cliched and not very watchable at all. A mother discovers what her life would have been like if she had pursued her career in law instead of being a working mother & getting married. It takes elements from other Christmas themed movies and tacks them onto a dreary and dull story. The character of Sophie is someone I couldn't warm to, nor connect with. Too sentimental, too much weeping, feels a lot like a sitcom episode. There are some moments that made me wince, such as the dancing scenes with Sophie and I just didn't care for the characters, one bit. There are far, far better Christmas themed movies out there that you can watch (Jingle All The Way, Home Alone, Elf, the original It's a Wonderful life), and this isn't one of them for sure. Typical TV movie dross, as ever.

Is It Worth Watching?

Only if you are a die-hard lover of all Christmas movies, both good and bad 


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Retro Review: Marathon Man (1976)

Marathon Man
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Schneider, William Devane, Marthe Keller 
Genre: Suspense/ Thriller
U.S Box office Gross: $28.2 million

Plot:  A graduate student and obsessive runner in New York is drawn into a mysterious plot involving his brother, who is a member of the secretive division

'Keeps On Running'

Marathon Man is a contemporary espionage -style thriller of a movie that was originally released in 1976 starring Dustin Hoffman that is filled with action, suspense and surprises galore. The title of the film refers to Thomas being a marathon runner finding himself on the run. 

The movie is well known for the line, ''is it safe?'' as uttered by the German psycho antagonist, Dr Szell played by one of the greats, Laurence Olivier and infamous dental chair scene where Dustin's Thomas is subjected to horrific and brutal torture as his teeth are examined and extracted. This scene alone is so terrifying, it sends chills down my spines and thus, is so difficult to watch. 

I've stumbled across a comment from a website from a person saying that this film is overrated - which I completely disagree with. Marathon Man is severely underrated as a Dustin Hoffman movie - and one that rarely appears on many top ten lists that I have scoured online. Director John Schlesinger pulled off a thriller of a film with a gritty and dark streetwise look of Taxi Driver & Raging Bull.  

Marathon Man is an intense, taut and yet riveting and top-notch psychological thriller around fear, doubt and conspiracy. The opening scene of this movie is unlike any I have seen before: I won't go into too much detail but it was chaotic, intense and the two old men: one who was Jewish, the other an ex-Nazi who were bickering and getting on each other's nerves -only to end in catastrophe. I liked it a lot and this set off a chain of events that occur in Marathon Man

Like a marathon runner, it's about how much further you are willing to run and to run away from your fears or be it confront them and defeat them. The central character himself is a marathon runner, who is fit & strong: not just physically on the outside and yet he has to have the mental and emotional strength and endurance to get him through the most difficult & pain-staking ordeals imaginable. He is bullied, beaten to a pulp by Szell's thugs and after being rescued by a so-called cop, the following scene finds 'Babe' in the hands of the same thugs & gets beaten up again. Thomas finds himself involved with a German girlfriend, who has a few secrets of her own hidden up her sleeve, as well as being embroiled in a plan to have him killed, but yet who doesn't understand why he is targeted by the bad guys. Until very much later on in the film. The only thing he does know is that he has to keep running for his life, to preserve his life, - or else he'll be dead. Thomas is the most unlikely hero you will ever see in a movie, who becomes heroic. 

Aged 38 at the time of the movie's filming, Hoffman portrays a mature student studying at university and though some people might take issue with him playing a student, as he was almost nearing 40 in the mid 1970's and alas, there are students today who are in the mid- 30s at university/college studying for their degrees, I didn't any have quarrels about this. Despite his diminutive stature, Hoffman successfully handles the physical scenes really well, and you can tell by looking at his physical stature how much training he had to undergo to prepare himself for the jogging scenes in the park and his encounter with Laurence Olivier's character towards the end of the film. He looks in great shape. His overall performance was sublime and raw as he conveys the many emotions & feelings his character underwent, with people getting shot and murdered, twists that occur out of nowhere and ultimate betrayal. Dustin always has that natural ability to portray vulnerable and multi-layered protagonist and anti-hero characters and with heart and emotion. 

There are so many thrillers, modern thrillers of today especially that end up being underwhelming and so throw away when they lack spice, intrigue, as well as having underdeveloped characters: Marathon Man is an exception to this. It's violent, disturbing at times, but it is also stylish, nail-biting and well- produced with a taut feeling and great performances to back it up.  Even if the plot is taxing and complicated to understand, it is still a highly watchable thriller. & good thing this was made and released in the 1970s: had Marathon Man been produced today, the director would overdo it with the special effects, it would have weak performances and even worse dialogue. Laurence Olivier is so nasty and evil and diabolical as Nazi Dr Szell he'd swallow up diamonds, rather than give or return them to their rightful owners. His character was so dis-likeable, I was happy when he got his comeuppance by Thomas during the final scene.

After the amazing Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger went down a completely different path by going down the espionage thriller route, yet he once again triumphed and he went even further with Marathon Man as a film. 

The film does move at a slow pace, though the events that occur themselves are well paced and the twists were good. Some of the scenes, which weren't very interesting and lacked excitement, dragged on in places. But if you stick with it, it's totally worth it. It also contains very graphic and violent moments and uses of the F-word; therefore, if you are thinking of showing this to younger children, don't. In addition, there are one or two sex scenes; one of them with Dustin's character in the nude and a few other bloody scenes, especially when Thomas's brother is strangled by a piece of wire and he fights the guy off and snaps his neck in two. There are characters, but for Thomas, double-crossing one another and double-crossing him. It's moments like these that make the 2- hour viewing worth waiting for. 

Before Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Running Man of 1988, there was a film about a guy finding himself on the run and it starred Dustin Hoffman, and plus, this is every bit as good and enthralling as that particular movie. 

Final Verdict:

Marathon Man is an excellent cutting-edge thriller, but it is also by no means a happy film: Thomas comes through in the end, and yet this isn't without suffering along the way and coming scathed - & boy does he suffer and it was terrifying to watch

In HD, the movie still looks fantastic today and for a film that was released in a decade where I wasn't born, watching it currently, it still holds up really well. Dustin Hoffman excels as Thomas and becomes the star of the film, and Marathon Man is also yet another in the long line of terrific acting performances and movies by one of the finest actors of the last generation. 

Compared to other Dustin Hoffman's more established movies like Tootsie, Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer, this effort is severely overlooked and a classic worth seeing. Although you may want to prepare yourself for the infamous dental scene. 

Highly recommended. 


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Retro Review: The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
Genre: Romantic Comedy- Drama
U.S Lifetime Gross: over $104 million 

Plot: A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter 

'Passes The Grade, But Is By No Means Hoffman's Best- Ever Performance, Despite Its Massive Plaudits'

A film that has been on my Dustin Hoffman watchlist for quite some time and one that opened the doors for his illustrious career, The Graduate was a movie that I had heard of, and was initially a film that I wouldn't watch, because I didn't think the plot and the story would entice or entertain me. Going into it, I was prepared for what was lying ahead but at the same time, I was curious to find out why it was and is heralded as a timeless classic and whether or not I'll feel the same way as the people who raved about The Graduate

Directed by Mike Nichols, The Graduate is noted as Dustin Hoffman's first well-known acting film that introduced audiences to this actor and is based on the novel by Charles Webb. The theme of this movie is basically delving into what happens when a younger man falls for an older woman in a comedic sense. But there is an added twist, and that is the woman that the young man is in love with, turns out to be the mother of the daughter he is seeing or currently in a relationship with. 

Mild-mannered Benjamin Braddock is a recent college graduate, who is fresh from his studies. He is undecided and a bit lost about what to do with his future. Gawky, insecure and a neurotic who is lacking in confidence and often timid, all this comes to ahead through his encounter with Mrs Robinson, who is already married and she manages to take Benjamin under her wing, and seduce him. They have an affair, Benjamin finds himself falling for his girlfriend's mother. 

Casting a 30-year-old Dustin Hoffman to play a 21- year- old is an odd decision, and here he definitely looks like he is in his early 30s-40s and it sort of undercuts the believability of the character slightly. 

The tan lines on Mrs Robinson were both amusing and awful looking and the editing was dodgy as it switches and cuts from a part of her naked body to Ben's reactions and then to another part of her body and Ben's face. Mrs Robinson herself is a very domineering woman. The first half was problematic for me as it dragged and the longer it did so, the less invested I was in the film by that point. 

Dustin Hoffman here is, okay: his naivete as Ben is touching and sweet at first, but then, it becomes sort of creepy in a stalker-ish kind of way later on in the film. His behaviour descends into selfishness as he takes his girlfriend/fiance to a strip club and he practically humiliates her, only to make amends and the later scenes with Benjamin and Elaine were cute. They salvaged, what would have turned out to be, a rather disappointing & empty film, which also wasn't as entertaining enough. If the first half had been as good as the latter half, that would have been great. At least one of the positives here is when Dustin was younger he looks good. But I wasn't a huge fan of Benjamin, didn't like Mrs Robinson, felt a tad sorry for Elaine & the soundtrack was overbearing and overplayed. The Simon and Garfunkel song becomes grating and an annoyance after a while when it is overused time and time again.

The first 30 mins I couldn't get into the film as much as I could, and a lot of it didn't make a lot of sense, but as it went on and right after he reconciles with Elaine, it gets better. 

Alas, The Graduate just about survives the test of time and on nostalgia alone. 

Final Verdict

The Graduate has virtually little charm compared to Tootsie as a Dustin Hoffman romantic comedy and Hoffman followed up his turn as Benjamin Braddock in Midnight Cowboy, 2 years later, which also went even further as a film than The Graduate ever did. I just couldn't get into it fully as I would have liked to. 

As I sat through it, I never bought into the hype & that what was lauded as a classic and phenomenal over 40 years ago, just doesn't seem to quite have that same exact impact and resonance that I wanted it to have on me. 

This is another case where IMDb ratings have little to no bearing on my choice of films and in deciding what I enjoy and what I don't enjoy and I am a little bemused by The Graduate's reputation as being an influential film, when Sydney Pollack's Tootsie was far more progressive. Just when I thought I couldn't enjoy it anymore, the second half with Benjamin & Elaine was an improvement over the first half, however, & it did redeem things for me. 

Like I always say I love Dustin Hoffman as an actor: he is amazing, I enjoy many of his movies and he is my favourite dramatic actor of all-time, who I admire a lot, but I never really and truly bought into his character as Ben and plus, he has given far better performances in other movies than this offering. The Graduate is a '60s movie all the way and despite the interesting subject matter, luckily and thankfully the second half of the film was particularly good and watchable and thus, it bumped it up to an extra mark. Otherwise, had it not been as good, I would have given up on it completely. 

I wouldn't say that it puzzles me to see The Graduate regarded as a classic and it is down to a generational thing; i.e. if you were born before the 1960s or were around when it came out, it is a film you have to love, because Midnight Cowboy - another Dustin Hoffman movie - came out in 1969 and I so enjoyed that movie a great deal, speaking as a someone who was born in the 1980s. I can appreciate films and enjoy films from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, as long as I find it enjoyable. 

But what I will say and finish with is that as a Dustin Hoffman film, whilst I can understand its plaudits, I have seen better movies with him in it than The Graduate and have found his other performances far more entertaining than as Ben. 


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