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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Retro Review: Motives (2004)

Cast: Vivica A. Fox, Shemar Moore, Golden Brooks, Sean Blakemore, Victoria Rowell, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Mel Jackson
Genre: Direct-to-Video Erotic Thriller

'Black Fatal Attraction, & Still (& Surprisingly) Not Bad' 

Emery Simms is an ostentatious businessman who owns and runs a restaurant business under his belt. Simms is married to Constance and the pairing's marriage seems to be going well. Until he goes astray and has an extramarital affair with a free-spirited woman in Allanah. After their one-night-affair, Emery chooses to break things off with Allanah, but she tries to make his life miserable, with the affair coming back to haunt him. Constance is completely unaware of her hubby's philandering until suspicion eventually seeps in. Emery is then implicated in and linked to several murders that do more than destroy his marriage and he becomes a prime suspect for two detectives to contend with. But is he as innocent as he claims to be? As events unfold, Simms tries to determine who to trust most. 

An urban Fatal Attraction, Motives' sales pitch was described as a hot and steamy flick, although its direct to DVD status meant its production values and at times slick camerawork obscures the erotic sex scenes, or be it the one sex scene, which in itself was underwhelming and unconvincing, making it less X-rated (there was barely any flesh to be seen) and was tamer by comparison. Despite faltering in this department, with its souped-up soap opera-like antics, Motives has enough twists and turns in the story, which, but for say one, two performers is further boosted by the impressive turns by the cast. 

What I was pleasantly surprised by Motives is not only how watchable and engaging the story became as the film progressed, but the characters had some, though not so much depth (even if they were one dimensional) and the performances were rather impressive. It is so much like Fatal Attraction, plot-wise; but one thing Motives gets right over that film, besides the casting, is the story manages to dig a little deeper with each little twist and plot development and never strays from its premise and become an over-the-top silly farce. In Fox and Moore, they provide that little bit of semblance of theirs to make it more engaging and watchable. & though whilst Moore isn't one of the strongest actors, his turn was satisfying at most.  

Vivica A. Fox is a good actress - who in addition co-produced this effort-, yet when saddled with underdeveloped and poorly written characters and a screenplay to boot in some or most of her films, undermines her talents as such; in Motives, she does well and the same applies to Shemar Moore, who fairs good also in the Michael Douglas-type role and in a way, his character came across as being a tad, if no more sympathetic than Michael Douglas's in Fatal Attraction. The Cosby Show's Keisha Knight Pullium, however, has little to do and say and Girlfriends' Golden Brooks was okay at best, but the material didn't do her performance many favours. Mel Jackson did all right also, although given the detectives were vital to the plot; though unfortunately, Jackson and Victoria Rowell's roles, despite their watchable turns, seemed undercooked and it was a pity more wasn't done by the writers to shoehorn them into the main plot. 

As far as the editing and the shots go, some of it was not very well done - again, the sex scene is one example - and it feels like the low budget version of an erotic thriller, but with fewer thrills and less lovemaking. 

The less than graphic and not so steamy sex scene between Shemar Moore and Golden Brooks should have used more heat; because of that also, it felt as if there wasn't much in the way of sensuality that could be dubbed as erotic porn. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst it may not be great as a film, as it could have done a little more to make it even better (fully fleshed out characters, more suspense, more sex scenes for a so-called erotic thriller), Motives is still worth seeing for fans of thrillers and as far as Black erotic thrillers and low budget thrillers in general go, this one is surprisingly decent. 


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Retro Review: National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathy Ireland, Frank McRae, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Whoopi Goldberg
Genre: Satirical Buddy Cop Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $27 million 

Plot: A spoof on Lethal Weapon, other movies, TV commercials etc. Two, unlike L.A cops, investigate a ''cocaine in girl scout cookies'' case 

'Eventually Runs Out of Bullets'

Loaded Weapon 1 does lack that vintage Zucker bros magic that made Airplane! and the first Naked Gun truly memorable and instead, it approaches things in a pedestrian manner. The so-called 5 min laughs and jokes seem muted and short and a tad giggle-worthy, but aren't exactly laugh-out-loud funny, as they lack the rapid-fire approach where the jokes do not hit the funny bone as hard as it could have done, and the consistency in good comedy that is being churned out is not as good as I'd imagined it to be. 

Narcotics squad detective Jack Colt, who is supposed to be a play on Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon teams up with Wes Luger, who is avenging the death of his partner, Billie York (Whoopi Goldberg).

Sadly, when the laughs dried up, it became pretty much bland and not much to write home about, and I think killing off Whoopi Goldberg, who could've and should've played a much bigger role here, put paid to that. Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson step outside of their comfort zone as they dip their toes in comedy, but it felt like they were way of their element and don't possess much in the way of comic timing and delivery. Plus, there isn't much synergy between this pairing and their deadpan turns never clicked, thus lacking Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin's oblivious and complicit wit of The Naked Gun films and Police Squad! TV series and Nielsen's ability to play ''fish out of water'' types. 

Basic Instinct, which is referenced through the famous Sharon Stone leg-crossing interrogation scene, is usually a difficult film to spoof, although Fatal Instinct, a parody of both Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, manages to send up that movie and other thrillers, modestly well, moreso than with Loaded Weapon 1 with the Lethal Weapon franchise. Other films referenced include The Silence of the Lambs and Die Hard with cameos from the likes of Jon Lovitz, Denis Leary, the late Phil Hartman, as is Emilio Estevez's half-brother, Charlie Sheen, who coincidently enough appeared in the superior Hot Shots, & another spoof comedy.

William Shatner has that Super Mario/Armand from The Birdcage dodgy moustache thing going on and Playboy/swimsuit model Kathy Ireland features as the film's eye candy, without really doing and saying much of worth.  

With a run time of practically 84 mins, the film paces through without really becoming the outrageous laugh-fest it has been touted as. It tries to be zany but without the raucous and side-splitting silliness of the Zucker bros and Mel Brooks, especially for a so-called parody. It's just not up to par. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst it's worth watching for those new to this movie and fans of satirical, spoof and parody comedies, I think if you have seen either or all of Naked Gun, Airplane, Spaceballs and enjoyed them, then quite frankly, you've seen its comedy executed far better, and in spades. Here, its inconsistency sort of shot Loaded Weapon to pieces. 


Friday, 8 March 2019

Retro Review: Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman
Cast: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jason Alexander, Hector Elizondo, Laura San Giacomo
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $463 million 

Plot: A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets.... only to fall in love 

'Hooker, Line & Sinker, This So-Called Modern Day Fairy Tale Is Problematic'

This film, in 2019, and almost 30 (crikey) years old as I type this, is so problematic, it makes me sad that audiences and film fans think that Pretty Woman is Julia Roberts's best and most famous movie and role, - because it is not. That accolade belongs to Erin Brockovich: a film that showed Roberts as her most capable, defining and spell bounding, performance and character-wise. Erin Brockovich may be feisty but she takes no crap from no one, and certainly, she wouldn't have fallen for a guy in Edward. Revisiting this (overrated) effort from Julia Roberts's 40+ year career, despite her amicable turn, the idea, the plot, the arrogant, aloof rich guy sleeping with a prostitute thing wouldn't and doesn't wash well with many people today. 

Edward is a corporate guy who wears sharp suits, drives a car and he picks up a hooker from the street named Vivian, who wears a fake wig and looking glamourous (but then this is Julia Roberts we are talking about). & after hooking up together, they fall in love. And if there wasn't more to this story that would anger people, it's that Edward opens up the film dumping his girlfriend by phone. 

The script was originally going to be darker with the role of Vivian going to Diane Lane, but when Julia Roberts was cast, it was retooled into a glitzy, shallow, Hollywood commercial rom-com. Other actresses in the frame included Michelle Pfieffer, who turned down the role as she didn't like the script's tone, whilst Julia Roberts' co-star in Steel Magnolias, Daryl Hannah believed the role was degrading to women. Yet being a sex worker, and apparently the writers didn't bother researching it properly, the film's idea of prostitution and making it less gritty and glamourous, like there is nothing wrong with it, is just so backwards. Prostitution is not something that should be embraced-, it is dehumanising, degrading and I feel sorry for those who get caught up in it, as they choose to expose their bodies for money, not love. 

Whilst Edward is aloof and in most cases, shameless, the down-on-her-luck Vivian, herself is often detached and naive, although she is a hooker with a heart which is firmly in the right place. 

Julia does well with a somewhat poorly characterised role, no thanks to the writers; of course, not a lot of people like her or are a fan of hers for whatever reason, especially when it comes to the choice of films she aligns herself with. She's like Robin Williams: when it's a good or great film with a character that has depth, personality and focus is not placed on what they look like, physically but more on their acting abilities which they bring out, that is a good thing. Think The Pelican Brief, Steel Magnolias, Erin Brockovich, where Julia Roberts bagged an Oscar. Pretty Woman, however, and in stark contrast, ceases to be meaningful and is superficial, shallow, and unrealistic. Whereas Richard Gere is just, well there: he, as ever, doesn't emote much - or at all, who doesn't deliver an emphatic performance. Not one scene he was in did he try to push himself as an actor and his turn just didn't blow me away. Though ask yourself: if prince not- so- charming Edward wasn't loaded and affluent and he was just your average Joe, would he still fall for and care for Vivian? Most likely, no. 

It starts off slow, only to lose its sense of what message it should send out, which in this case, is not a very creditable one and becomes a rhythm-less and insipid affair. 

Pretty Woman is not that Pretty, but it is not as heinous as the rancid and sad trash that is Eat Pray Love (and still my most loathed film of Julia's). Julia Roberts is pretty, but this film isn't, rather more misogynistic. Despite being opposites, what Vivian and Edward share together is not a connection, well, definitely not a passionate one anyway, and neither is it romantic. What is served here is a kids fantasy with adult situations thrown in; that buying someone's love, as opposed to actually earning it not through monetary terms is the real offender, as well as being the major issue people have with this film, and one the defenders of Pretty Woman would denounce. None of it is real, most of what happens would never happen in real-life with these types of people existing, anyway. There is nothing wrong with portraying fantasy or real-life... but when you depict a so-called real-life situation as dark, adult-like and heavily serious as prostitution as a Disney Cinderella fairy tale, doubts need to be cast and raised. 

If it went down the serial drama path, it would have been far more Oscar-worthy. 


Pros +

- Julia Roberts looks terrific here & she does her best 

- The movie's soundtrack including Roxette's 'It Must've Been Love' and Go West's 'King of Wishful Thinking'

Cons -

- Film's intentions have dated and aged badly 

- Richard Gere and his character, Edward doesn't make strides to change much for the greater good

- Poorly characterised roles for Vivian and Edward 

- A misogynistic & shallow modern-day fairy tale

Final Verdict: 

To note also, as an R-rated and 15 rated adult romance, Pretty Woman is also explicitly bereft of sexual and erotic scenes. Besides those issues, the film's story itself is lacklustre that doesn't pop, along with an ending one can smell from a mile away.

At least one other thing that doesn't blow, is that as well as Julia Roberts's turn, the soundtrack delivers -, unlike this movie. 

The film could have been salvaged in the end with Vivian finding her independence, but it can't hide the fact that Pretty Woman is ruined by terrible misogyny and as a whole, it all smacks as being terribly fake and cheesy.  


Thursday, 7 March 2019

Movie Review: 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (2015)

12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
Cast: Dean Ambrose, Roger Cross, Daniel Cudmore, Lochlyn Munro, Ty Olsson
Genre: Action

Plot: Upon returning to work after recovering from an injury, a police officer discovers and attempts to turn in incriminating evidence of illegal activities against his fellow cops

'B-Movie Direct-to DVD Actioner Better Than 2nd Film, That Is Also Serviceable For What It Is'

WWE Studios was first formed back in 2002 as WWE films and their first release was The Scorpion King under the WWF Entertainment banner. Fronted by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, it was the prequel to the then-well-known Mummy movies. Since then, in 2008, the name was changed to WWE Studios and the sport that is wrestling has done something no other sports or sports entertainment industry have attempted before: entering the movie business, and since the mid-2000s they have been making a living in the cheapo direct-to-DVD market by plugging, producing and financing their own movies that feature or star a particular wrestler of WWE's. 

12 Rounds 3: Lockdown was the third outing in the 12 Rounds series which first made, erm, rounds with John Cena. Directed by Die Hard 2's Renny Harlin, it was released in theaters in the U.S and some noted its similarities with the original Die Hard. Well, the 12 Rounds films are versions of Die Hard: it takes the same make-shift plot, only the production values are half the budget of a typical multi-million Schwarzenegger flick. They follow in the same vein as The Marine as low budget action flicks, although the films themselves are not externally linked, nor have anything to do with one another.

The plot is simple to follow and if you have seen Die Hard, Under Siege or any action film where the main hero has to take out the bad guys and the evil head honcho, then you'll know the likelihood of where it is going and how it ends.

Following on from the poor and rather dismal, 12 Rounds 2 with Randy Orton no sooner did WWE Studios make another 12 Rounds film; only this time with Dean Ambrose, who as a wrestler tends to be the bad guy. Yet in this film, he is on the right side of the law in the lead role, playing a cop, Shaw who returns to the force after taking a leave of absence, after he was shot and his partner was killed. He eventually discovers some pretty unloyal and dirty cops led by ring leader, Burke, who aren't what they seem and he intends to put an end to their plans. When Shaw comes across evidence that his fellow officers are killers, the bent cops 'put a 'lockdown''on the premises so that Shaw cannot escape & trapping him with 12 rounds of ammo. As the plot unravels, it becomes a Die Hard -type of action film with scenes of villains coming up with ways to kill him and Shaw trying to outwit and beat them at his own game.

This is a low budget Die Hard- same plot, same premise, but replace the German villains with turncoat cops.

Dean Ambrose is okay, although I would have liked him to display a bit more personality as his character and at times, it was difficult to make out what he was saying, audibly. I do prefer his turn here to Randy Orton's in 12 Rounds 2, though, and when he displays rage and anger, he does it without coming across as being corny or cringy and his performance, complete with wrestling moves, is arguably a lot more natural and less phoned in. There is tension felt between Shaw and his arch-enemy, Burke, who, compared to Shaw, prefers not to play by the rules. Ambrose's character does a lot of running, as well as throwing himself in various situations and taking out the baddies, one at a time, and the action choreography and scenes aren't bad. I just wished the writers had given Shaw a sense of purpose for what he does and the motivations that led to him wanting to get hold of Burke.

There is a stupid twist towards the end, which not only makes no sense but is unwarranted and one I could have done without. It was as if the movie was being clever,- when in actuality, the lead up to the betrayal seems inconsistent because there were no clues or signs that alluded that the character was a turncoat who worked for Burke.

It also can be too serious for its own good, the editing is a little dodgy and some of the dead weight from this film could have been lifted by adding some humour to the mix, and by making Burke a Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon-type of hero with a few wisecracks and one-liners. Having said that, for a low budget straight to DVD action film, Lockdown manages to hit all the right beats and being 1 hr, 30 mins long, it is well paced and didn't feel like it was dragging the plot out and alas, I wasn't left feeling bored.

From a WWE Studios perspective and as far as direct-to-DVD action films of recent years go when it comes to these types of cop-based action movies that used to be so dormant during the 1980s and 1990s in particular with Under Siege and Die Hard in cinemas and U.S theaters, 12 Rounds 3 is surprisingly watchable and whilst it doesn't try to be anything more than a low budget Die Hard clone, this is a reasonable effort that also manages to keep me glued in places.

Final Verdict:

If the script had allowed Dean Ambrose to show off more of his personality, in-ring charisma he has built up as a WWE wrestler, and range, and be less stoic also, this would have elevated itself to being a very good action flick.

Still, personally speaking, it's miles better than the previous 12 Rounds 2 and if you keep expectations low and don't expect too much from a straight to DVD based film, you'll probably enjoy this. Which I did.


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Movie Review: The Last Stand (2013)

The Last Stand
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forrest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzman
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $48 million 

Plot: The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and & his inexperienced staff

'Schwarzenneger Flick That Doesn't Have Legs To Stand On'

Airing on Film Four on Monday last night, 2013's The Last Stand was Arnold Schwarzenegger's first real movie outing and big screen comeback, since he quit as governor of California; yet despite being touted as an Arnie action movie, he isn't on screen as much and the film takes far too long for the action to kick into gear.

This is post-1990s Schwarzenneger, and the last film I loved of his is still True Lies. His efforts right after 1994's James Cameron blockbuster and a riff on James Bond, have been largely disappointing, to say the least. & The Last Stand does little to change that opinion, especially given how, as the movie went by, I lost all of my enthusiasm and interest.

A South American drug lord has escaped from custody and the clutches of the FBI led by John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker) and his agents, on their way to a federal prison, it is up to ex L.A narcotics cop turned sheriff Owens to take matters into his own hands.

There is nothing new here I hadn't seen before, and it was such a major bore and precious little to take away that makes me want to revisit and watch it again. The action genre has come a long way, but arguably it has been for the worst with most of these films relegated to straight- to- DVD and TV channel haven on the likes of Movies for Men, whilst commercial action films are now synonymous with superheroes and comic book flicks.

I'm not big on Westerns, and The Last Stand is that type of film set in the modern day with bigger guns.

The story fails to get off the ground and the characters lack any type of personality and train of thought; they just utter their lines, but I didn't sense any real emotion or went along with what they did or say. Because it was just unbelievably dull and tedious and as the action sequences, which mostly consist of shootouts and fast cars unravel and become so bogged down, I lost interest completely; it was recycling the same, similar stuff that I'd seen in Schwarzenneger's earlier efforts. For the most part, they lacked energy, excitement and the ability to amaze and impress me. Forrest Whitaker is wasted, whereas Schwarzenneger's best years are way behind him. His character and performance looks tired and lacks the charm, appeal and oomph his previous counterparts exuded.

Johnny Knoxville's part is similar in a way to Rob Schneider in Judge Dredd as the goofball sidekick, who tries to be funny, yet ultimately, it adds nothing to the film.

Much like with Collateral Damage, it feels nothing like your average Arnie flick with one-liners and one I am so used to; it's just been done to death before and after, and none of it here feels mindblowing or that impressive, really. 

Whilst some people and ardent fanatics will still lap this one up, other action and Arnold Schwarzenneger fans are simply better off revisiting the classics in The Terminator, Terminator 2, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, rather than to sit through what is a toothless, mind-numbing display of shoot-'em-scenes with characters practically shooting each other in a frenzy. It is also so overdone and overproduced that is so far removed, it just feels out of place, nor is it a good fit for him. 

Additionally, it lacks any charm, and it's a film I won't ever watch again.

Final Verdict:

The Austrian Oak's legacy in this particular genre in Hollywood movie history will no doubt live on and be remembered for years to come- but for a few exceptions, however; one being The Last Stand, which will not go down as memorable.


Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Retro Review: Medicine Man (1992)

Medicine Man
Cast: Sean Connery, Lorraine Braco, Jose Wilker, Jose Lavat
Genre: Adventure Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $45 million

Plot: In the beautiful and dangerous Amazon rainforest dissimilar people must make their choice between business, science and love 

'No Spoonful Of Sugar Could Make This Medicine Go Down'

A Romancing The Stone - type of screwball romance, Medicine Man is half the movie the 1984 Robert Zemeckis hit was, and yet has more in common with the fellow animated flick, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, which is also set in a rainforest. & with both films that each have their own faults & where its ideas and plot are unfortunately squandered through its execution.

A grumpy scientist/biochemist, Dr Robert Campbell, who works for a pharmaceutical company, and an equally aggravating research assistant in Dr Rae Crane have to help one another out to reproduce a cure for cancer. He also has to contend with some developers who are out to destroy the Amazonian rainforest.

Braco's constant nagging and mock Brooklyn accent may wind people up, although both she and Sean Connery seem to connect with each other, due to their characters' contrasting personalities as they embark on their quest to re-discover the cure. Yet Die Hard's John McTiernan drops the action aspect of his flicks, in favour of a more dramatic presence; however, it's just not emphatic as I'd like it to be and the charismatic and in-yer-face turns by Connery and Braco are what makes Medicine Man a tad watchable. Sporting longer hair and a ponytail, Connery is his typical self, exuding his onscreen charm and personality whilst the odd amusing quips and one-liners are a few and okay, whereas his female counterpart, Braco's turn can become wearisome and not so charming role as the stereotyped hapless woman. Lorraine Braco, who interestingly enough turned down the Catwoman role in Tim Burton's Batman Returns - which went to Michelle Pfieffer- in favour of this offering, was nominated for a Razzie award for Medicine Man.

The race-against-the clock to find that magical cure plot, however, is executed flimsily and lacks urgency, which is something it needed to ramp up the entertainment and interest. The dialogue fails to engage and hook me in. The action is also lacking and so deficient, I expect some of that from John McTiernan of Die Hard and Predator fame; sadly, however, it just didn't materialise. 

McTiernan substitutes the action with the sparring love/hate,-or be it hate/hate relationship of the two main characters, of whom audiences may, or will grow tired of and the screenplay by Dead Poet Society's Tom Schulman is a disappointment, given that the former was a more successful hit. The romance part of the film doesn't convince and both Sean Connery and Lorraine Braco look ill-judged as the film's potential (and eventual) love interests.

Medicine Man is such an enduring film that looks promising and lovely through its scenery and cinematic shots of the rainforest but has so little to offer in terms of substance, character progression and entertainment. Despite its vast scope, it's just not utilised very and thoroughly well. 

Final Verdict:

If it weren't for the turns given by Lorraine Braco (which is both debatable and not so good) and Sean Connery as their characters and the manner of those turns they gave, Medicine Man, would be much, much worse. And perhaps almost unwatchable also.


Monday, 4 March 2019

Mini Movie Review: Flesh Wounds (2011) #badmovies

Flesh Wounds

TV Z-movie version of Predator where the film's main setting is in the jungle. The camera work is sluggish with nothing characters who are either authoritative types or soldiers being randomly killed off, the tension is devoid and not believable, it takes a long while for the first killing to occur onscreen and performances are utterly unconvincing. The cyborg villain bears little resemblance in terms of looks and far from looks like the one you see on this movie poster/cover. It has Kevin Sorbo (of TV show Hercules), Bokeem Woodbine (Jason's Lyric) as the main actors, but as a Predator knock-off, it doesn't come close to being as good as the '80s Arnold Schwarzenneger hit flick.

Is It Worth Watching?



Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Mini Retro Review: My Baby's Daddy (2004) #badmovies

My Baby's Daddy

A Black version of Three Men and a Baby, a trio of men are forced to grow up when their girlfriends become pregnant at the same time, the film undermines its intentions when it goes down the vulgar, low brow route and thus lacks any sort of heart and understanding. It's part -Three Men and a Baby, part- Nine Months starring Hugh Grant. Throw in fart and flatulence jokes and poop gags and underdeveloped and unappealing characters, it is also littered with tired and sad racial stereotypes. The story is barely established, the jokes are bland, recycled and have been executed better elsewhere and whilst they may come across as amusing and good-natured the attempts at humour fall on deaf ears, & its use of foul language and coarse racial terms leaves a sour taste. There is a Look Who's Talking - like scene with 2 babies talking for no explicable reason. The film also tries to have its cake and eat it and preach about responsibility and in doing so, it becomes extremely petty and arrant. It also reminds me of the similarly- themed Daddy Day Care with Eddie Murphy (which is way better than this), whereas Three Men & A Baby, though not great, was charming; My Baby's Daddy, on the other hand, is mostly blah and crude. 

Is It Worth Watching?

Absolutely not  


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Retro Review: Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Conspiracy Theory
Cast: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart, Cylk Cozart
Genre: Political Action Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $136 million

Plot: A man obsessed with conspiracy theories becomes a target after one of his theories turns out to be true. Unfortunately, in order to save himself, he has to figure out which theory it is

'The Film's Theory Is Not Always Quite Made Clear'

Conspiracy Theory was producer Joel Silver's second movie of 1997, following on from the U.S remake of Fathers' Day directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. Mel Gibson, who made a cameo in the comedy, here stars alongside Julia Roberts (who co-starred with Williams and Dustin Hoffman in 1991's Hook) and with Lethal Weapon's Richard Donner, its tone is eerily reminiscent of the second and third Lethal Weapon movies, which, in turn, takes away from the intrigue, tension and drama it could have done more with. 

Mel, who was reported to have been paid $20 million, plays Jerry Fletcher who drives a taxi and is a bit of a motormouth who rarely shuts up. He also has a deep fascination towards conspiracy theories and who believes the world events are triggered by government conspiracies.

The actor who plays Antonio looks awfully a lot like Bob Mortimer of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer of the British '90s TV show, Shooting Stars.

Julia Roberts's Alice Sutton is a Justice Department Investigator/FBI agent, who at first isn't too relieved at seeing Jerry until he rescues her from a few muggers. After Jerry is attacked and tortured by a bad guy, who turns out to be a psychologist with the CIA, both he and Alice find themselves in danger. Jerry is a wanted man and the only person he trusts is a woman he just barely met in Alice. & later on, (& what a surprise - not) they fall in love with each other. Which is the main reason this subplot exists for Richard Donner to cast Julia Roberts opposite Mel Gibson, really. 

Gibson's character, New York cabbie, Jerry is a bit of a fruitcake as he prattles on and on and whilst a character of his type could be seen as sympathetic and empathetic, here, he is mainly a creeper and the tone is so over the place, what ought to have been a serious thriller that tries to engage and pose questions, turns out to be more of a Mel Gibson vehicle that tries to play on his strengths, yet it doesn't do quite so well to accommodate Roberts's also. Compared to Julia Roberts's other conspiracy based thriller, The Pelican Brief, Conspiracy Theory is played for entertainment and star value - yet the narrative just isn't as strong and engrossing and as a film, its cat & mouse formula is executed with little imagination and attention. Roberts here is.... okay, and I like her character, Alice, who gets better as the film goes on, but it appears that with the majority of her characters, excluding in Secret In The Eyes, they involve her being rescued by a man, and here she panders to a loony guy; with her partnership with Mel Gibson, that believability in their onscreen partnership didn't quite come through and Jerry and Alice's romance was a tad creepy. It felt to me that Gibson's Jerry overplays his role so much in parts of this film. 

That, and as well as being ridiculously overlong at 2 hrs +, Conspiracy Theory is average at most. 

Not enough action and genuine thrills and intensity, after an intriguing opening hour, Richard Donner makes the mistake of having Mel Gibson portray Jerry's psychotic craziness as something of a joke and he can come across as too over-the-top. Instead of skating and playing with the idea that he might be crazy and the twists are more silly and meh, rather than shocking. If it stripped away 45 mins, added more action and suspense (the chase in the park with Alice was good) and perhaps (& ideally) done away with the romance part, I could live with that much more. It's unfortunate that Conspiracy Theory is too ordinary, surprisingly too lightweight and by-the-numbers and in-between the performances, the villain played by Patrick Stewart is rather weak and the rest of the story is so saturated that, despite the little moments, later on, it lacks variety and depth and fails to hold up right until the end. A few of the plot twists make sense, but otherwise, they are not made distinctly clear. Richard Donner's direction is usually stylish, sleek at times, fun and lightweight, but here, it was mostly bland that doesn't take enough risks and make sweeping and bold moves. 


Pros +

- The ending

- Julia Roberts impresses and surprises here

- Last half was entertaining and very good


- The tone is off bounds & too lightweight

- Gibson overplays his role at times

- The central romance wasn't necessary or believable

- Not enough action and thrills & a couple of lull scenes

Final Verdict: 

In what would have otherwise been a mediocre and woeful film is elevated by the inclusions and the charisma of Mel Gibson and moreso for me and surprisingly Julia Roberts, who does notably well with the material. And the climax at the end, whilst some people didn't enjoy it, I, on the other hand, did. 

Conspiracy Theory is occasionally entertaining and manages to be serviceable, yet as the complete action espionage thriller package, it's not as thoroughly satisfying and overwhelming, speaking as a whole.


Thursday, 21 February 2019

Mini Retro Review: Erotic Boundaries (1998) #badmovies

Erotic Boundaries
Erotic Drama

A neglected wife has an affair with a guy, who tries to sabotage her marriage, married guy later has a fling with his secretary at work. The actress playing the sister appears to be a bit too young and could be mistaken for her daughter, the lesbian subtext/subplot in relation to the circumstances seems tacky and exploitative, as opposed to functioning as a plot device, the theme song is overplayed it can grate on some people's nerves, some bad music, and there is one unpleasant rape scene. It's rather bleak and sombre and one asks why won't Reggie break it off and move on for good. But then, would we get a movie out of it? Nope, and it became more interesting as it went on. Sort of. Besides their erotic scenes, the characters lacked a bit of depth.

Is It Worth Watching?

Erm, kind of. Especially if you are into these movies


Friday, 15 February 2019

Retro Review: French Kiss (1995)

French Kiss
Cast: Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, Timothy Hutton, Jean Reno, Francois Cluzet, Susan Anbeh
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office: over $101 million

Plot: A woman flies to France to confront her straying fiance, but gets into trouble when the charming crook seated next to her uses her for smuggling

'A Kiss That Went Amiss'

Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline sound like a prosperous acquisition, but their onscreen duality and partnership is gone to waste in this snail-paced and surprisingly drab & too typically run-of-the-mill rom-com. After a good start, it goes downhill and the story sags, thus leaving no discernible impression. It's light, at times frothy but no sooner does an air of tepidness starts to creep in, thus leaving no room for the film to come to life, and with that, French Kiss shows signs of weariness and becomes monotonous. 

An American woman going by the name of Kate is in search of her fiance with the help of tobacco smoking Frenchman, who has plans of his own regarding Kate. There are 1 or 2 bombshells, which really won't surprise anyone who watches this film. And with that and Luc and Kate's partnership develops from what was love and hate, to platonic & eventually falling for one another. 

The biggest problem is that it tries to be two different films at once: a romantic comedy and a Meg Ryan one, and whilst it sort of plays to her onscreen appeal, unlike Sleepless in Seattle, the romantic pairing of herself and Kevin Kline (with a Super Mario-like moustache and in a role that was originally going to Gerard Depardieu) doesn't seem to gel, nor sync as well as that of Tom Hanks. Not even Meg Ryan's charm can save it from what is mostly mundane and the comedy fell flat. Kline puts on his best Frenchman impression, and it is not bad, yet unfortunately, the material let the cast down and it should have been a whole lot more entertaining, engaging and watchable. 

It just never manages to get going, nor engages the viewer considerably enough to fully buy into the characters and their motivations into doing what they do, and saying what they think and feel. 

Final Verdict:

Much like with Forget Paris, It felt to me like one of those types of romantic comedy films whereby the people involved just did it, not because they are passionate about them and the concepts - but they did it just to get it over and done with. Its sluggish pacing and flatly conceived story made this a sheer slog to get through.

Contrary to many other romantic comedies, French Kiss isn't awful - just bland. 


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