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Saturday, 31 March 2018

Mini Retro Review: Extreme Ops (2002) #badmovies

Extreme Ops

What happens when you mix extreme sports with Cliffhanger, yet remove all the amazing stunts and action scenes, tension, as well as Sly Stallone, John Lithgow and a decent support cast and replace them with a Z-movie cast including Pete Sampras's wife, Rufus Sewell, playing the evil British guy & former Eastenders cast member Joe Absolom, who appeared in the British soap opera? Well, you get this. And it's not good. At all. Even with the action sequences, it's so excruciatingly flat. When a crew are filming an advert, some terrorists hijack a ski resort and the snowboarders, skiers etc pit together to foil their plans. It doesn't even attempt to be entertaining in the slightest with no charisma characters and the terrorists don't attempt to kill them until the last 15 mins. Some fancy snowboarding skills besides, it is brash, the plot is dull and unless you are an avid fan of Extreme Sports, there is nothing else here on show worth seeing. It seems it seeks to exist to display some amazing stunt work, and nothing more. & I was bored watching this. 

Is It Worth Watching?

Not unless you are into Extreme Sports


Retro Review: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, Martin Sheen
Genre: Biographical Crime
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $332 million

Plot: The story of Frank Abagnale Jr., before his 19th birthday, successfully forged millions of dollars' worth of checks while posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and legal prosecutor as a seasoned & dedicated FBI agent pursues him

'Hey, Catch This'

The 2000s was a bit of a strange decade for Steven Spielberg; though some of his movies raked in over hundreds of millions at the box office, he started to go down a different path and experiment with not only different genres but more adult-themed plots and storylines, after two decades catering to families and children. Some have been well-received, whereas with 2001's A.I: Artificial Intelligence, it proved that even Spielberg can turn out a movie that is, in more ways than one, a dud. 

Based on a true story, Catch Me If You Can is a Cat & Mouse tale where a teenage boy wants his parents to get back together again after financial woes split them up. Frank Abagnale becomes a conman and turns on the government by making counterfeit cheques and posing under various and different guises, such as a doctor, a Pan Am air pilot and lawyer, as well as trying to evade the law and the FBI, led by Carl, who are all on his trail. 

Tonally, Catch Me If You Can is a bit of an oddity, but the charms of DiCaprio and Hanks make it a tad watchable and enjoyable, with the con artist, Frank scamming people, left, right and centre and eager sleuth, Joe trying to put a stop to his efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio, yet again, is trying to move on from the teen heartthrob tag he has built himself up with during the 1990s, & opting for meatier and diverse roles that challenge him as an actor, which he manages to prevail in. They hold this film together, along with Amy Adams. The main casting, as a whole, was impressive. The leads do lend themselves extremely well, and whilst it jumps around in places, there were little moments where I felt were nice. It's a pity, however, that there just weren't more of them. Hanks displayed a little more of his lighter side with the funny scenes, which was nice to see, however. 

There are moments where Hanks's character goes after DiCaprio's Frank, and they were all right. However, even with Spielberg at the helm, he didn't make it grittier and compelling as it should have been and the story had me droning off at times. The film could easily shave off 20-30 mins off; again it is too overlong, making the film a bit of a drudge to get through & whereby nothing of consequence happened or was said, and I'd be fine with that. And the female characters weren't written very well at all, which was another low point for this movie. The performances, as mentioned are very good to impressive, but their characters, at times feel a little one-note-ish and who don't express many emotions. 

Despite the story heading off in different directions, the film itself never exploded on screen for me and never grabbed my attention, which it should have done. Alas, it feels far too safe for a story of this type, a bit too tidy, as well as plain with a pacing, which at times, dragged it down. It was also so one-sided, with much of the focus on Abagnale and less screen time on Carl.  

Final Verdict:

There is no doubt that Spielberg is a terrific filmmaker and he manages to bring forth certain elements, such as the style and visuals, music, the story, to life. But whilst Catch Me If You Can is all right as a film, with a few tweaks and improvements, it would be even better. Despite these little niggles, it's still worth seeing if you haven't done so. 

& thankfully, Spielberg did redeem himself, & with the help of DiCaprio & Tom Hanks, right after the tepid monstrosity that is, A.I.

It's not quite the absolute extravaganza one expects of this director, as widely renowned as himself, but it's not bad, still watchable in places & is more middle of the road fare, coming from him.


Friday, 30 March 2018

Retro Review: A.I Artificial Intelligence (2001)

A.I Artificial Intelligence 
Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Sam Robards, Frances O' Connor, William Hurt
Genre: Science-Fiction Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $235 million

Plot: A highly advanced robotic boy longs to become ''real'' so that he can regain the love of his human mother

'Mawkish, Manipulative Drivel That Is Pretentious'

Pinnochio meets Bicentennial Man, but without the heart and ballsiness of Anime's Metropolis, which tackled the robotic/cyborg child and human parent relationship far more sufficiently and without reeking in sentimental, drippy nonsense, A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a Spielberg film that whilst it follows various traits found in so many of his previous movies - ET, Hook, Jurassic Park, with this concept it just doesn't work under his flair and style and that it should have remained a Stanley Kubrick project-only. And even if he did die, I don't think Spielberg should have carried on with the project and rather he should have let someone else take it on. A director I had in mind is Luc Besson and come to think of it, I think his take on this movie would probably turn out better than what has been produced here. 

A couple's son goes into a coma and so they purchase a robot boy, as a replacement. Once their human son wakes up, the A.I. named David is disowned by first his mother, then father and David becomes an outcast. He goes to lengths and beyond to become a real human boy so his mother can love him again. Well, that is the main gist of the plot - it's the execution of it that I found bothersome and thus, it wanders into a direction that as it went on, it never warranted the film and one that was virtually redeemable. 

The first 30 mins were, annoying and utterly mawkish; David was being annoying, the mother screams and shouts at David. When David isn't being annoying, he is mute, which I guess one might expect from an emotionless robot. There were some annoying moments with David shoving spinach into his mouth. This is a character I am supposed to root for in this movie, but he came across as being manipulative and needy. I was supposed to feel something for David and sympathise with him - but the way he was portrayed here, it didn't happen. His goal is to get his mother to love him, unconditionally - yet David, himself, never makes grand leaps in character progression, and as such, he never changes for the greater good & never learns the lessons he needs to get by in life. & he still acts and behaves like a robot. He is hollow as a shell, & so really, with David, we never get a sense of who he is supposed to be. 

I did like the teddy character and I felt like he was the only character I took a liking to. Robin Williams voices an Albert Einstein CGI animated - looking character in Dr Know & some computer. & how can someone make a beta version of cybernetic child and not have any data for it? I don't expect lengthy discussions, but at least give me an idea of David's traits, what he does, what he learns. Jude Law's performance as Joe was decent, but he looked like a pimped up, older Astro Boy with the dark hairstyle. After a harrowing and awful first hour, right after David's mother abandons him, his arrival makes A.I. a tad watchable. But then comes the tonal shift, as it turns into a Mad Max - style apocalyptic movie with the good guys being chased by motorcycle villains, who don outfits that look like the ones in Tron. & some other scenes that under, say, Luc Besson's vision, would have made a tad more sense. & once, Joe is written out of the plot, the film goes back to being tepid & saccharine, again. 

The special effects are impressive looking & whilst the tone largely remains family-friendly, the issues and themes here are a world away from those tackled in Spielberg's earlier fare.

The ending was hokey and vomit-inducing and this film was mostly just a bore. It would have been better had David been better off without the parents, especially the mother. With him coming to the realisation that he could survive without her. Sadly, Spielberg takes the rug and rips it underneath the person. & actually to think he had written the script as well -well, surprisingly enough he did, and that in itself, turned out to be abominable. 

This represents as one of the fewest turds of Steven Spielberg - and a director, who I admire a lot and it easily supercedes Hook as one of his failures. I liked it even less than Hook because with A.I., whilst it didn't feel like an atypical movie of his, the tone, the subject matter, the story just didn't suit his brand of filmmaking and he was the wrong fit for it. A.I. is a film with dark themes that the least it deserved is the Spielberg treatment. & it had and made no emotional impact and I could not resonate and connect with any of the characters - although the teddy bear was the only highlight, which is also a first for a Spielberg movie. 


Final Verdict:

Under his watchful eye, any potential and attempts at delving into the harsh realities of being an A.I. child, have been well and truly dashed. Spielberg was clearly out of his depth with the first hour that is one of the worst I have seen in a film, and whilst it takes him out of his comfort zone, it's obvious as I sat through this one again, that this film demands a director, who could project that feel and tone a movie, with a concept as unique & dark as this deserves. And Spielberg is just not that person who could make it happen. 

As a Spielberg fan, he truly disappointed me here and sadly, I have found a movie of his that I dislike. 

A.I. could have and should have been his answer to or version of Rintaro's Metropolis - instead, it is a self-indulgent, schmaltzy film whereby the director mimics Kubrick, - and without much success.  


Thursday, 29 March 2018

Mini Retro Review: Latin Dragon (2004) #badmovies

Latin Dragon
Martial Arts Action

A Hispanic-based martial arts actioner, it was okay but as a straight-to-DVD, the film is let down by poor acting, a generic story and it is too heavily edited. The plot with the hero avenging his mentor's death is so by-the-numbers and is all too familiar to almost every action film one can think of. The dialogue wasn't much to ponder either. Some of the fight scenes were all right, but they are nothing we haven't or I haven't seen before. Fabian Carrillo is a decent martial artist, however, and he displays some impressive kicks and punches. Overall, I've seen superior movies of this type that are far more impressive than Latin Dragon. Z-movie actor Lorenzo Lamas is in this one, as well as James Hong and Gary Busey with the latter two faring better elsewhere in other films.

Is It Worth Watching?



Aladdin Movie Screenshots (1992) Part 1 #robinwilliams

Genre: Animated Comedy Musical Fantasy
Starring: Robin Williams, Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Douglas Seale, Gilbert Gottfried
Studio: Walt Disney Feature Entertainment 
'It is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts'

My Movie Review Rating: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Retro Review: Year Of The Dragon (1985)

Year Of The Dragon
Cast: Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane, Dennis Dun, Raymond J. Barry, Victor Wong
Genre: Neo-Noir Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $18.7 million

Plot: A police detective cracks down on organized crime in Chinatown after the murders of Triad & mafia leaders 

'What A Drag-On'

A critical and box office bomb in 1985 that secured 5 Razzie awards and apparently costing $24 million to produce, Year of the Dragon presents a misinformed & marred view on Asian American/Chinese American & Caucasian relations, which led to protests over its racial stereotyping and usage of the terms C****s, slant-eyed and Yellow n*****s . It was briefly and thankfully rectified by John Carpenter's fantasy comedy, Big Trouble In Little China, one year later. I found this movie to be a problematic watch in more ways than one: aside from the accusations of racism, the negative depictions of the Chinese characters, the use of the C-word in reference to the Chinese characters by Rourke's character and despite the end scene, Year of the Dragon was mostly drab, so drab it almost made me turn it off: as a movie, it just wasn't entertaining. At all. It was also co-penned by Michael Cimino & Oliver Stone, who had a hand in the production duties of 1993's The Joy Luck Club: another film that delves into Chinese American culture - and that film wasn't by means perfect through its occasionally sketchy characters & writing it paints. 

Based on the novel by Robert Daley, a Vietnam vet has become one of New York's most decorated officers in New York City history. When a businessman mob-leader is murdered in Chinatown, detective White is assigned to Chinatown to tackle the problem. Enlisting the help of a reporter, White is determined and obsessed with nailing kingpin boss, Tai and goes after him. 

Dennis Dun, who turned up in the superior Big Trouble In Little China as Wang- Chi, Jack Burton's sidekick, plays a geek, Herbert, but he isn't given much to do. Although John Lone impresses as a crime boss, Joey. Japanese American actress Ariane, dropping the last name Koizumi, who plays Tracey Zoo, comes across as monotone and wooden in the delivery in her lines, her performance almost bordered on amateurish and not impressive. The female Asian character was a non-entity, and as such, she was of little to no consequence to the plot, the fact that she is made to be an inactive and didn't play a major role that would have been doing a service to her character is baffling. There is no chemistry between Ariane and Rourke in the scenes they share together. 

At times offensive with the occasional C & N-words mentioned, sexist with not remotely one likeable character in sight (I noticed all the Chinese American characters were either weak & submissive (Tracey), gang members, or in the case of Dennis Dun appears as a side character - only to be killed off), as well as a tone that is so melodramatic that it drones on and one with not enough exciting action scenes to compliment the film, and it's burdened with troublesome characterisations of the Chinese characters. It's difficult to say momentarily whether Year of the Dragon is being truly honest and just showing the harsh realities of racism and racist acts committed by minority groups, or its direction gives the impression that the film is going to be straight up xenophobic and racist. 

The story was frankly all over the place and not very cohesive, and I suppose if it hadn't been taking itself so seriously, I'd be okay with it. The only highlight for me was the restaurant shootout scene. Otherwise, it just felt mostly ugly, dreary and an unsatisfying watch. Inbetween the action, which was minimal, the interactions of the characters range from okay to not overly engaging. The characters motivations are not made abundantly clear that the audiences share no emotional attachment to them. 

Final Verdict: 

Overlong in the tooth, bothersome and contentious portrayals of the Asians, a poorly written protagonist and with a story lacking in drive, passion and characters one feels for, Year of the Dragon is not and will not be remembered as one of the most memorable Asian-American based movies, ever. Like, far from it. It could have been the '80s answer to Chinatown. Yet as such, it ended up as the 47th highest grossing film of 1985. 

If you want a good film on or about Chinatown in America, check out Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson and Big Trouble In Little China


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