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Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Mini Retro Review: American Kickboxer 2 (1993) #badmovies

American Kickboxer 2
Martial Arts Action

The daughter gets kidnapped/goes missing and the mother (softcore actress Kathy Shower) hires two guys she used to have a relationship with to get her back. Sounds familiar? Well, this is a martial arts version of the Robin Williams/Billy Crystal film, Fathers' Day, which has the same plot - only American Kickboxer 2 has minus the comedy... although some of the scenes here may come across as unintentionally funny. Like the terrible Kickboxer 3: The Aggressor, the so-called follow-up to American Kickboxer 1 has nothing in common with the previous entry in the series, as it functions as a typical action movie, rather than being it a tournament-based one. The little girl's voice is clearly not an English sounding girl that when I hear her voice it sounds like a woman pretending to be the little girl. It also has Tackleberry from Police Academy in it. Though the story is set in the U.S, this one was actually filmed in the Philippines. Lots of bad dubbing and hammy acting and overacting, heavy grunting. As a martial arts film, it's ineffective; though the fights are mostly sub-standard, the production is bottom of the barrel low- budget variety and the writing is weak. Still, I'd take this over Kickboxers 3 & 4. Just about.

Is It Worth Watching?



Mini Retro Review: 12 Rounds (2009) #badmovies

12 Rounds 

A low budget Die Hard With A Vengeance meets Speed meets the original Taken, but has little of their integrity, smarts and cool explosive action sequences to go with it, 12 Rounds is brought down for being derivative, bland and so pedestrian. A cop's girlfriend is kidnapped by the villain out of vengeance after his lover got run over by a car, several years ago. The action itself generic and isn't all that great and had it gone down the Crank route, it might have worked like a charm. No standout performances with a B/Z-list cast, & WWE's John Cena tries but arguably he is vanilla; the actress who plays the love interest looks stilted with her one-note turn, whilst Brian White's role is suspect. I enjoyed this far less than 12 Rounds 3, which is saying something as I kept my expectations low for that instalment. Reny Harlin's best work is when he isn't confined to the PG-13 vein (Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight), and here, whilst this should be approached as a 'leave your brain at the door' type of movie, 12 Rounds has so little good action, most of it riffs on Speed & Die Hard, with a story that becomes more and more schlocky and tiresome. The film opened in March 2009 but it wasn't screened for the press. Watching this I can see why: shaky cam and choppy editing at times & the sheer boredom of it pretty much killed my interest in this, it's too dull for words.

Is It Worth Watching?:

Watch Speed, Die Hard 1 and 2 instead


Monday, 30 December 2019

My New Years Goals For 2020 (& Ideally Beyond)

By Waiching

As I write this, January 1st 2020 is just around the corner: the year of the summer Olympic games held in Tokyo, Japan is amongst several other notable events in the calendar. It is also the last year I spend in my thirties as I hit the big 4-0 in 2021 (though I don't feel like I am almost in my forties). 

It is said that people continue to make resolutions at the beginning of January, - only to procrastinate & perhaps not follow them through as the months pass by. But simply wanting to change is just not enough; rather than change is by making it happen for real, and thus persevering with it. 

One definition of a new years resolution is: ''When a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their quality of life''. Simply put, it is a promise s/he makes for the upcoming year to improve their lives and themselves. 

These resolutions come in copious forms: from quitting smoking, exercising more, spending less time on social media to finding and securing a new job, spending more quality time with friends and loved ones & taking up a new hobby or pastime. The possibilities are endless. Yet ideally, resolutions should be an ongoing process -, rather than something that ought to be achieved in under one year. 

This is the first time I've made these new year resolutions, well, make that 'aims', as these are the things I want to fulfil: before then, I didn't care much for them, but given the challenges, problems, issues, as well as the happy times 2019 have posed, by reflecting on each of these, it has given me food for thought in regards to what I want to possibly & ultimately achieve next year and doing my utmost best in my efforts in making sure that this becomes a far more prosperous, happy and engagingly fulfilling one. 

I can't go back and undo the mistakes of the past of 2019, - if anything, by looking ahead to next year with promising intentions it can be a way of making up for the errors and mistakes of yesteryear. 

I'll be entering the beginning of next year with a clean slate, starting things afresh with the intention of gradually seeing, or be it accomplishing each one of these goals through. 

Throughout 2020, I will be focusing on each of these intentions or be it goals, one at a time as they serve as my personal road map of (hopefully) progress, triumph, self-fulfilment and achievement for the next 12 months; that & I chose a set of goals that were and are a) manageable & doable, b) achievable within my limits & based on my work strengths, skills, performances, as well as according to how important these were to me for the duration of the following year. 

The SMART goals model entails relatively concise, target-specific and challenging objectives that enable you or me to define precisely what it is that I want to accomplish out of it. This should be in as much detail as possible, as well as what the end result will be or look like, who needs to be or is involved for you to reach your goal & why you want to accomplish it. 

By utilising the SMART goals concept: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-sensitive, I have thought long and hard about my goals, which are both reasonable and clear, and what I want to gain out of next year within that exact timeframe. These are: 

- To develop and foster better working relations with my work colleagues as of December - so that we can all work together as a department and within the store as a whole, to achieve what needs to be done on the day. When times are busy, we and I need to work to the fullest and to produce positive and encouraging results. 

- I want to try to better understand people on an empathetic level by the end of the year - with certain colleagues at work, they can prove challenging, difficult to work, deal with and to understand. But I am usually someone who can be forgiving; I can't change these people, rather I want to be 'on their level' by being understanding, objective, mindful, patient and understanding of their intentions, whatever those might be and who they are, individually. By doing so, I minimise any potential and major arguments, fallouts and disagreements. & even if I may not fully agree with them or not see eye-to-eye, I hope to be more conscious of him/her. 

- To learn and let go of grudges as of New Years Day onwards - holding onto things that were negative experiences and by dwelling on them is pointless, as we can't undo them. I have to move on, live and fight another day and remain hopeful the next one is better.

- To stop saying ''I'm sorry'' unless I genuinely meant it starting from New Years Day - I am a very apologetic person and feel bad when I do something wrong; very often I utter this phrase, not just because I feel terrible but I do so as an immediate response. We all make mistakes and saying sorry is a way of acknowledging we are and can be wrong... but it would be far better if we take steps to ensure we don't make a mistake or do something entirely wrong, just by asking the person if we or I am not sure of something. By over-apologising, I end up feeling guilty for something which is small, random and not a big deal: in being sorry, I have to be truly and necessarily apologetic for the act, which is very serious, palpable and considered as morally unacceptable. I should also replace 'sorry' with another word or phrase: 'excuse me', 'I'd like to ask one question'', 'thank you for listening' or 'I understand, thank you'. 

- Learn to better control my emotions by June - I need to gain control of my feelings before my feelings overwhelm me, so I can keep a level head and think more rationally, particularly in such highly emotionally charged confrontations and conflicts. When times are rough and the going gets tough, I must remain sane, calm, collective, not rush into things and think them through and then act upon them. 

- To let go of and forget about people who aren't making my life better

- Quit being aggressive and irate beginning January 3rd when I return to work - If something goes wrong, s/he says something that annoys, irritates me, I must ignore it and focus on doing my work. I can take constructive criticism, but when someone is nitpicking and focusing on my flaws and errors, it can be offputting. I guess I need to focus on being positive and knowing what I can do and to work hard, whilst curbing my emotions. 

- If I am completely or entirely unsure about something, I need to ask to make sure, rather than dive in and end up making a mistake - very often I do something and when I make a mistake, I'm like ''oh no'', and so I want to halt this. This is due to the idea of asking for help is a sign of weakness, - when in reality, this is the complete opposite. I need to speak up when I am having a problem or issue, so s/he can help me and this benefits myself as well. 

- To be more adventurous and to have fun - too often this year I would have a serious look on my face, rather than to let go, smile and laugh, which I did so, but not very often. I want to do a good job, but also I want to see the lighter side to things, relax and enjoy making fun banter with my colleagues by speaking up more & stepping outside of my comfort zone of being quiet and shy. There is a positive side of my character that I literally want to bring out and express to others. I don't consider myself a comedienne, yet once in a while, I try to brighten up people's moods by being playful, saying things that make them laugh & smile. 

- I need to establish my self-worth at work and to continue to give 110% in terms of effort - as well as cleaning the tables, sweeping the floor, changing the bins, replenishing cutlery and sauces and syrups for the soda machines, I aim to be more proficient and knowledgeable at the back by filling things up, making items, as well as possibly getting till trained. Having undertaken the role for over a year now, and knowing the basics, I want to go 2, 3 steps further and develop and to flourish as a worker.

- I have to learn how to prioritize my work - too often I undertake numerous tasks, without giving consideration to, nor assigning each of them in order of importance first & foremost. By dealing with the most vital one first and getting it out of the way with, I can then concentrate on and move onto the next set of tasks. 

- To improve my Spanish speaking skills (ongoing) - I don't think I'll be as fluent in Spanish as I'd like to be, but I want to be able to say more than just '!hola!', 'adios' and 'Buenas notches'. 

- Recognising other people's contributions and efforts more often - accrediting and thanking them, showing gratitude and appreciating him/her for helping out or for their work input by saying thanks. Particularly those from other departments who go out of their way to assist the team is nice to see 

- Practice self-care (whenever I have had a bad day or I don't feel so good) - self-care is an activity that we undertake deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, physical health. Whenever I am feeling low, burned out or low on stamina, I should listen to upbeat music, think positive thoughts or do something to make me feel good on the inside, even after a bad day at work to replenish my energy for the next working day

- Take a trip to New York - I want to visit our countries and cities during my holidays, and New York is on my bucket list of places that I am eager to go to. My sister has been there several times and it is a firm favourite destination of hers. 

- If I am not happy with something, I must do something to change it to make me happy - whatever that may be, the longer I leave it, the worse I might probably feel and so it is important for me to take steps to counter this

- To be kinder to myself - at times, I was harsh on myself, only because I wanted to do better and strive for success. Now, when I think about it, whenever I do something good or positive, or when someone gives or offers me positive feedback to be gracious, grateful for it & to owe it to myself by rewarding or treating myself. Sometimes, I push myself too hard or can overwork myself to the bone. Although I am a fast worker, I need to slow down at times when it is necessary and to give some thought to what I am about to do next, and then how to best approach it.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Retro Review: Ricochet (1991)

Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner
Genre: Action Crime Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $21 million 

Plot: A district attorney is terrorised by the criminal he put away years ago when he was a cop

'Utterly Absorbing Action Suspense Cult Movie Gem That Pulls No Punches' 

In the early 1980s, Cop Nick Styles becomes a front-page sensation when he strips down to his boxer shorts, in an attempt to arrest a notorious wacko criminal, Blake. Fast forward 7 years later & Nick is now an assistant district attorney, who is now married with kids; Blake, meanwhile, is seeking and plotting his revenge against him. After making a daring escape, he sets his sights on destroying Nick's public image, his life and the people around him. 

Ricochet is an early taut 1990s psychological action thriller that has aged surprisingly well, compared to many other so-called B-movie type offerings and Denzel, of whom is a terrific dramatic actor, lends credibility to his first major action role that is affiliated with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis when called upon here. As proven with Training Day, when the material is impressive, he can convince as a standalone action star, and here, Denzel manages to assimilate into the role with ease. Both he and John Lithgow supply much needed strong performances to boost what is still an impressive script. Lithgow is deliriously deranged as he turns up the wacko psycho act several notches, and none more so than in Ricochet, Raising Cain and Cliffhanger, whereby he rarely ceases to disappoint as the main anarchist. 

Filled to the brim with some absurd and over-the-top moments, it takes the slasher/psychological action thriller to a whole different -, not to mention silly level that very few movies try to attempt to navigate. Because of that, it refuses to let up, as the plot twists and shocks become even crazier and violent. Ranging from the gladiator sword fight between Lithgow and Predator actor & former wrestler, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura in a male prison, whilst the pair are decked out in books, which are taped to their bodies like body armour, and cop Nick, who is strung out, naked and drugged out of his mind, being chained to a bed, whilst a prostitute has sex with him - and this is captured on camera. The latter of which may leave a nasty taste in people's mouths. Speaking of Lithgow beating up Jesse Ventura, now I can understand the little not so physically powerful guy beating all the odds to defeat the big guy... but in real life, that would never happen. But anyhoo, moving on...

A forgotten Denzel Washington vehicle, Ricochet has a nasty streak to it that can be seen as a good thing as its immensely darker tone makes for a far better film than others give it credit for. Its comparisons with the much successful, Cape Fear, which came out a month after this film was released, are noticeable - yet what separates this film from that one is the cop/detective aspect of Ricochet, that acts as its main device and it lacks Cape Fear's psychological complexity. Whilst many will accuse it of going downhill when the acts themselves become more grandiose and sillier as the story (penned by Steven E. De Souza who did Commando and Die Hard, with Joel Silver producing: both of whom are two stalwarts from the action movie world) progresses, regardless, this stylishly-looking actioner that is full of tension and thrills, is still a breeze that merits a second chance, after many years being slept on as a financial box office bomb of a B-movie. 

Yes, sure, Ricochet is all kinds of implausibility and ridiculous.... but it is also good ridiculous that rarely runs out of steam, and suffice to say, I enjoyed this one a whole lot indeed. 

Final Verdict:

A cat-&-mouse chase thriller with the odd grimy feel going for it, it is also entertainingly bonkers and brainless and manages to be so exploitative as it turns the screw not once, twice but several times, one never knows for sure what to expect next. If you enjoyed Cape Fear, I suggest you ought to seek out Copycat and Ricochet: for me, these are two highly underrated psychological crime thrillers from the 1990s, which succeed in executing the film's subgenres ideas and themes decidedly well. 


Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Retro Review: Friday After Next (2002)

Friday After Next
Cast: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Terry Crews, John Witherspoon, Katt Williams, Rickey Smiley 
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $33 million

Plot: Two cousins work nights at a local mall as security guards. When their house is robbed on Christmas Eve, they team up to track the robber down 

'Mean-Spirited Ness & Cursing Ruins This Film'

Friday After Next sees the main characters of the previous entry, Craig and Day-Day, two cousins who share an apartment and of whom both landed jobs as security guards for a local shopping centre (or as known as a mall in the U.S). They find themselves in hot water as they try and come up with the rent money - which, by the way, a robber posing as a fake Santa Claus had stolen from them by breaking into their house during Christmas Eve- to pay the landlord from hell - otherwise, she'll send her son, Damon over to 'deal with them', as well as getting them evicted. 

The third instalment of the Friday trilogy is so far removed from the first movie; the tone especially veers down the anarchic and low-brow & lowest common denominator, and still, it didn't have me chuckling or laughing out loud as much as I wanted it to.  

The film doesn't have a strong sense of focus, there just wasn't that extra something to make me care for it, there was no strong build-up, whilst the comedy was mostly flat. The story was stale, there was very little physical comedy, whilst laughs were generated through cursing and dialogue - most of which was tasteless. The humour is very low brow in nature, which I don't mind, but there was too much swearing that diluted it further. There were also too many characters: most of whom lack sufficient personality and backstories for us to care about and they seem throwaway, as they go through an array of emotions. The unmasking of the fake Santa, himself, just didn't appear to be plausible enough for me to buy into, whereas the ass-raping of Damon of Kat Williams' character wasn't that amusing and thus, played on the Black guy criminal who is also a homosexual trope/stereotype. Additionally, Mike Epps' character seems to have regressed from the last film; he seemed more clueless, careless and a tad more obnoxious. 

Friday After Next was so padded and filled with substories that seem to drag out. Despite all this, it wasn't completely unwatchable from start to finish; rather there was some stuff they could have easily cut out and the story ought to have been funnier, sharper and far more entertaining. I admit I did smile in parts, but besides that, almost everything about this entry seems watered down, regurgitated, there just wasn't enough here that was not only new, fresh and different but had worked to the film's advantage. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst it wasn't on the same wavelength as Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, the first Friday movie, showed potential and promise, along with surprising charm and wit in places, as well as in terms of the direction that future instalments could head into; sadly, the weak comedy, lack of characterisation throughout and mean-spirited feel for a so-called Christmas film in Friday After Next, that is supposed to evoke the festive spirit, dampens the overall mood. 


Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Personally Reflecting On 2019: Overall, It Has Been A Mixed Bag

By Waiching

As we wind down to the end of 2019 and enter the year of 2020 with optimism, belief but also keeping my hopes and aspirations to a minimal, I thought that I would use some time off from work during the festive season, in between the Christmas shopping, festivities, get-togethers with family to contemplate, ponder and harken back over what has been, for me, the most eventful year I have endured. To say it was boring and uneventful would be an understatement, because it was anything but that.

In evaluating everything that has happened over the span of 12 months, I do wonder what difference it would make had my life ran smoothly and had I followed the right path and done all the right things, especially those asked of me. Having said that, I really felt as if I have come so far, and I still have a lot left to offer & to learn because I am far from perfect. 2019 was the year of progression, as I was trying to find my feet and further down the line, figuring out where I would fit in as an employee of the company and store and the strengths I brought to the table through the contributions that I made. But this wasn't easy, as a number of hurdles, obstacles, challenges stood in my way: some, or be it most of them proved to be far more challenging than I'd thought they would be.

Work-wise, I was and still am doing the same things at Costco that I did when I first joined the Cafe/food court department, but also I took on new duties, responsibilities in taking out frozen pizza dough balls, putting in oil for each of them in preparation of the pizzas, as well as knowing how to clean the floor and bins properly, using the can opener, cleaning and sanitising the equipment and utensils and knowing how to change the sauce dispensers. It took me roughly 20 or more attempts (yes really) to get this part right and without supervision. It was quite a leap from working outside the kitchen to knowing my way around it by being part of it and the team; at times, I was overstretching myself and taking on so many responsibilities that I found it overwhelming. I need to work on prioritising my duties and tackling the most important one first before I move onto the next task.

But in honesty, given that I am still working at the food court to this day, I can still be proud of what I have achieved so far and knowing I have made a difference to my colleagues and to the store but also realising I made numerous mistakes, and done things I am not so proud of, along the way. There were times whereby I wept, cried, lost my temper, felt frustrated when things spun out of control & people tested my patience to its limits. Personally, it was rough, it just hasn't been an easy ride all the way through. The arguments, petty spats, the moments I want to forget, these were not only silly but I felt ashamed that they happened, that I had wished I could take back, - when I can't and couldn't. Couple that with the number of people quitting the department (which was like 1 every month or so and great workers they were too), new people joining - and leaving after that, it was crazy. It was a revolving door of change. It was a struggle trying to recruit more people. Never did I imagine it would turn out the way it did, not even during the beginning of the year. 

What I will say though is that in support of my supervisor/s & coworkers, the food court is one of the hardest, and by far and easily the most difficult department at Costco; it's not easy working in a trade that is, essentially, fast food-related (and dealing with irate and difficult members and the stress it brings), but if you get on with the work and do the best you can with the resources that you have at your disposal, then you have surpassed theirs and your expectations and you ought to be proud of yourself.

It is assumed that it is better to hire people who have had prior experience in working with food in this sector; well, I've never done this type of work before I took on the role of food court assistant... and over a year later, whilst I am far from perfect, I am getting the grasp of certain things. Whilst I lack prior experience, I make up with this by acquiring a can-do attitude, I consider myself as being fast-paced, who can also, multitask and I have no problems moving on from one thing to another. I am also a keen learner, who wants to try out new things and to improve on my existing skills & acquiring new ones as well. 

Most certainly, taking time off by returning to Hong Kong and China after a 10-year absence, as well as first-time visits to Madrid in Spain and Porto in Portugal, not only provided me with the much-needed breaks, but in addition, it also enabled me to reconnect with my family ties and cultural roots with the former, whilst with the latter - though moreso with Madrid- it made me appreciate and understand the Spanish culture a little bit more. Resultingly, it wasn't until when I had returned to London that I took an active interest in learning and speaking Spanish as a foreign language. 

When it comes to personal achievements that I am most proud of, they have to be passing my food safety course (on my third attempt of asking!) and the positive member feedback and compliments, praising me for my work efforts. It's a nice thing to hear and it warms my heart to know that there are people who go out of their way to acknowledge my work by seeing me do it, not just my fellow supervisors and work colleagues. 

No year is complete without citing the important lessons I have learnt this year: based on my interactions with my colleagues, I have to steer clear of the toxic ones and to ignore what they say, I have to be more understanding when it comes to difficult and problematic people, who might test my patience and try to see and understand things, rationally from their perspective, in order to get a better understanding of who they are. I also need to let go of negative baggage and past woes; if I have a bad day, a colleague is being an idiot or making a patronising comment to shrug it off and ignore him/her for a few days and let it die down, and by then we would have moved on and past it by then. 

Yet the biggest lesson I have learnt from 2019 and one big nugget I will take away from this year, is that I can't change people, nor their behaviours and prevent them from saying or doing things that irritate, annoy, hurt my feelings or make me upset: they are the way they are and I have to deal with it by ignoring it and them and steering clear of him/her. They are not worth the hassle, the attention: I just need to pay attention to and focus on doing my work and to go about it, in committed fashion and in a professional manner.

2019 wasn't an easy ride and it has been a mixed one: there have been mistakes and triumphs, growth, disappointments & surprises throughout my journey that I never saw coming... but as I said, it was far from boring and I wouldn't trade most of it for anything. & when it comes to working and doing the job, this is the best year for me, as far as things have gone to this day. It has opened my eyes up to many different perspectives, and whilst I haven't made friends at Costco or become friends with the people there, there is a small band of people I regularly talk to and get along with the most, out of everyone else that I want to continuously build on and develop those work relationships and to know and discover a little bit more about him/her.  

Moving forward, I can't anticipate or predict what may happen in 2020 and onwards: much like this year, it won't be easy, but I truly believe each new experience that I will encounter and undergo will represent and provide me with further opportunities for growth, to discover more about myself that I didn't know beforehand and to become not only a better worker but a better person too. I will never compare myself to others; I will always try to better myself for myself: to evolve, to go one, two steps further and taking pride in my accomplishments, achievements, my efforts, despite the challenges that I know I will face and encounter in the future. 

I also want to eliminate and weed out the drama and silly stuff as much as possible and not get embroiled in arguments with other people, because a) I hate arguing and b) no matter how hard I try to stand up for myself, I always get knocked down as people will always find a way to attack me and have a go at me. 

By being in the right frame of mind and continuously harnessing & demonstrating dogged persistence, determination, hard work, but also by being appreciative and mindful of others and coming out of my shell by being open, playful, taking on more risks, always doing the right thing, in being more conscientious & understanding and not be so passive and too quiet, I'm hoping my fellow colleagues will see my real personality that is literally waiting to be unleashed and come to life. 

2019 has taught me many things and so many lessons but through the negative and bad experiences, it is a timely reminder as I step foot into next year that I don't want to ever be that person, ever again. I don't want to go through that crap, because it takes a whole lot out of me, emotionally, mentally & it's exhausting to the point it drains my inner soul.  

I want to be happier in 2020 than I was this year; I want to laugh and smile more, to experience more highs than lows and to give it everything I have in terms of effort, 110%. 

I have so much more to offer, and next year, is a make or break one for me - BUT I am more than ready, capable and able to make that happen by doing the work, and not just talking about it.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Mini Retro Review: No Alibi (2000) #badmovies

No Alibi
Crime Thriller

This one started off okay, but right after the brother is murdered for stealing the boss's drugs money & the boss sends a woman to seduce him and the dead guy's brother, the film goes downhill, fast and becomes progressively duller as it goes on. This so-called 'thriller' lacks any cutting edge, although given it was produced on a low budget, pretty much explains its 'routine' feel, in addition to the film's mediocre sex scenes. Eric Roberts, as ever, chews the scenery as the villain, whilst Dean Cain is well, Dean Cain. The story could have gone and developed in several directions; unfortunately, the writer chose the wrong one, and with that, No Alibi has nothing of worth to work with, besides the killings and the tension couldn't be felt. Its under 1hr 30 min runtime feels awfully padded as the story drags that by the halfway mark (at one point, I fell asleep), it loses its way completely. In far more capable hands, No Alibi would have been a competent thriller, but alas, it doesn't try hard enough to become one. 

Is It Worth Watching?



Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Mini Retro Review: Down To You (2000) #badmovies

Down To You
Romantic Comedy

A terribly flat and formulaic romantic comedy that is as contrived and predictable as any other with its foregone 'happily ever after' ending of the two would-be lovers ending up together and cliches and tropes, there is nothing new that hasn't been done before; it's bland and boring and lacking in depth throughout it feels so routine, it will put one to sleep. No chemistry between the leads Freddie Prinze Jr and Julia Stiles and the film's release was Prinze Jr's (in a role of a cook who falls for Stiles' artist) second stab at the rom-com after the hugely successful, She's All That - for me, that is the better movie compared to Down To You. Neither Prinze Jr and Stiles' characters give us any good reason to care about them with their emotionless and one-note performances. It also features Selma Blair, Rosario Dawson, whose promising movie careers never truly took off and Fonzie of Happy Days, Henry Winkler, who deserves better than this & younger Ashton Kutcher with bad hair. If She's All That is the Facebook/mid-tier movie equivalent, then Down To You is the Myspace - no make that - Friendster (and already defunct) social networking version of rom-coms. One of the worst 2000s movies ever made and another awful rom-bomb to the add to the ever-increasing list for the sub-genre. 

Is It Worth Watching?

If you like Rom-coms a lot


Monday, 16 December 2019

Retro Review: Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A
Cast: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, Pam Grier
Genre: Postapocalyptic Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $25 million 

Plot: Snake Plissken is once again called in by the United States government to recover a potential doomsday device from Los Angeles, now an autonomous island where undesirables are deported 

'Tad More Accessible & An Enjoyable Mess'

Released during the mid-1990s, Escape from L.A. is the affirmed sequel to 1981's Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell and it has become one of the most shunned and denounced movie follow-ups, alongside notable Hollywood flops, Ghostbusters II, Robocop 3 and Rocky V to name.  

Escape from L.A. takes place in the year of 1998: the city of Los Angeles has been turned into an island and red meat, smoking, alcohol consumption and sex before marriage are all outlawed. L.A is now a post and clean -apocalyptic society. The president is a loony, but thankfully there is still good ol' Snake Plissken, who is one of the few people fighting the good fight. Plus, it seems the Black box has fallen into the hands of Cuervo Jones: a bad guy, who bears a slight resemblance to the real-life Argentine Marxist, Che Guevara. 

Snake gets injected with a neurotoxic serum and thus, he is given only 10 hrs to complete the mission the Feds have sent him on, which is to retrieve the box and kill the President's daughter, who has stolen a device and disappeared-, or else he dies. 

Now, I tried to watch the original classic from a month ago- and Escape From New York is a film I will revisit again. But on its first watch, it seemed very bleak, gritty, dark, I notice that it has its pacing issues and I couldn't get into it, as much as I tried. 'L.A.' is silly, yes, but it also tries to be entertaining, it definitely feels recent and one I got into more. & the wacky moments made the film refreshing: from Snake in a submarine hitting a shark, Snake playing basketball, Snake pursuing Cuervo Jones on a stolen motorbike and even managing to do a wheelie on two-wheels (which was cool to see), the botox minions who wouldn't look out of place in Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall. & the support from other B and cult movie players, Steve Buscemi, Pam Grier - in an even stranger role as a transexual/drag hustler or gender-bender with an odd vocoder voice -, Bruce Campbell and Peter Fonda as a hippie surfer dude, who round up the main cast, was all right. 

Kurt Russell still owns eye-patch wearing Snake, who wrings wit and personality, as he shoots, snarls and battles his way to victory. & donning the same outfit, he also has slightly longer hair resembling that in Big Trouble in Little China & Tango & Cash. Not that I am complaining, anyway: he looks the part, and long-haired Kurt Russell is still my favourite Kurt Russell. So there. :-)

This sequel to John Carpenter's Escape From New York has been derided for recycling the same old narrative beats and whilst it is argued that it doesn't hold a candle to the prequel and it's a little messier in places, Escape from L.A. was a lot easier to follow, as far as the narrative is concerned; that, and its looser, fantasy cartoony, lighter feel makes this an interesting companion to Carpenter's 1986 cult classic, Big Trouble In Little China in that respect. The fact that it chooses to veer in the opposite direction to Escape From New York's serious tone, as dumb as it can be and is and for what it is worth, its goofy and spoof-like approach makes Escape From L.A. a film that doesn't try to be too clever for its own good. & that is a plus. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst in Ghost of Mars and Vampires, they were infinitely John Carpenter's worst offerings, this effort is far from diabolical and that despite its similar plot to its predecessor, this still managed to entertain in places with its far-fetched moments of absurdity, which may irritate others, but would otherwise, puts a smile on my face. Although the CGI effects here aren't good, besides that, and that it can be a little dull in places, Escape From L.A. is still watchable. It's more action reliant, it tries to be broader in scope & makes attempts to be accessible to audiences. 

It was a flop when it came out on general release, but I still had a relatively good time with Escape From L.A. It's a nuttier- & a little messier version of Mad Max mixed in with Big Trouble In Little China, which is no bad feat.


Saturday, 14 December 2019

'Letting Go Of Past Woes Can Be A Struggle, But It's Crucial To Move On'

By Waiching

Most of us struggle and find it difficult to let go of the past by clinging onto things that make us mentally and emotionally weak, sad, upset and angry, - and with that our inner consciousness of our fears, self-doubts, insecurities, mistakes and of the people who have done us wrong, manifest. & it is with these things that prevent us from moving forward in our lives. It is hard to let go of the negative experiences; experiences that we dreaded, but also we wished had never happened in the first place that ended up hurting us.

Emotions play a huge role and we have all been hurt at one point in our lives, in some way or another, through someone we have encountered at work or in personal relationships.

2019 has been a challenging and eventful year for me; both professionally, work-wise and personally. So much has happened, I have been there and done that; there have some good moments, some bad moments that I want to forget -, and moments I deeply regret. If I could go back and things didn't and hadn't turned out the way they did and went wrong, I'd be happy and content perhaps, but there wouldn't any obstacles and hurdles for me to overcome: life would be simple, straightforward... but it would be boring as well. 

Blaming others for the pain that they caused us, pointing fingers is the first thing we do out of anger & uncertainty and in response because it is the easiest thing to do. 

When we are forced to confront the very things that worry or scare us - be it through the people we meet, the setbacks, missteps and knockbacks, the past that we can't change, it can be a real struggle knowing how to deal with it or them, particularly if you never had undergone anything like that, before in your lives. It's like entering newfound and unfamiliar territory as we try and make sense of not only the situation but the main problem that lies within it. Nobody wants to contend with the emotional turmoil and baggage that comes with the problem, & in letting go - because we didn't and never asked for this (drama) to begin with. S/he did something wrong (to us) or wronged us that our feelings get hurt as they matter so much to us, we want justice. We find it difficult in our hearts to forgive, and near impossible to forget that the pain escalates right deep inside of us, - because we are afraid of being let down and hurt again. 

For me, reliving the pain over and over can be all too much. When it happens over and over, it becomes a gruelling and ongoing cycle that one wishes would stop, completely. We want them to acknowledge and accept that they were and are in the wrong, for them to admit their guilt and to hold their hands up & saying ''sorry''. Thing is, nine times out of ten this doesn't and never happens. Expectations don't lead to the outcomes that we expect or want from and out of others. 

Holding onto, or harbouring these subconscious feelings by expecting things to happen the way you want them or wanting them to do or say the thing you expect of him/her, is a tall order to ask: you can't make them change just for you; rather you must accept them for who they are and for you and me to change how you and I deal or approach them. We must accept and deal with the hardships that come our way the best way we can & the past stays in the past: we can't go back and undo it. The first part is hard, but once you put this into practice and let things slide and not allow your emotions to control or overwhelm you, the better you will feel.

& by constantly dwelling on these past mistakes, I lose sight of a) my own goals, b) a sense of direction that I want to head towards and c) it will make me feel miserable as well. 

I am a very emotional person, and it is tough trying to let go, but if we practice compassion, patience, remain strong-willed and tough on the inside without being sucked into unnecessary drama, negative energy & conflict, doing dumb things that will cost us dearly and have love for ourselves as we work to feel better, this makes it a tad easier. There is a quote that reads, ''Nobody can make me inferior without my consent'', - and no one has the power to make you feel better, but you and you alone. They can't define who you are. Happiness comes from within me, myself and yourself.

When the chips are down and you allow feelings of the past to consume you, one needs to find the inner strength, just about when your head drops down & tells you to ''give up'', and for your heart that says, ''no'' and to continue fighting on and feeling positive and encouraged by it and the steps you are taking to achieve happiness through life, work or whatever in the present day.

Holding onto something that we want to happen, we do it because it feels important to us, it makes us happy and that we want to be happy so it gives us peace of mind. When it doesn't happen, when it goes against us or our free will, we live in disappointment and frustration and develop & harbour feelings of bitterness and resent the other person, which can crush your own soul and your own self. We depend on others by attaching or clinging ourselves onto them and even perhaps our ideals of them too; HOWEVER, it is when they change or become a different person or become a completely different person to who they were before, that is when we tend to struggle to understand and deal with: a) to understand our acceptance of him/her, b) understanding of change and c) getting used to the unknown. When we struggle to understand not of who they are, but why they are the way they are, our feelings and emotions become affected and we end being hurt. 

Nothing is as clear cut and black and white as it seems and as we'd like it to be. 

I think the main point is in wishing, hoping and by anticipating something that, in reality, will never happen now or in the near future, due to various circumstances and what has happened previously, which was often painful, difficult and negative and reliving those feelings all of the time, one is setting themselves up for what is a sheer disappointment, and even heartache & sadness. I learnt a valuable lesson: We can't alter what happened in the past, so what is the use to dwell on it further? Because it is not going to make a lick of difference, whatsoever. When we depend on other people to make ourselves happy when they don't truly serve us well, it hurts our emotional stability.

We and I need to be adamant and to let go of things and people who don't matter and are irrelevant, to make inner peace with ourselves by changing our mental and emotional mindset to one which is healthy and strong, to focus on our individual selves, on what and who can influence your happiness, accepting it is what it is, to learn to live in the present and to look forward & with optimism through moving on with our lives, as well as hope towards a much brighter and happier future.

Memories are moments we look back on with fondness, whilst in experiences, you either learn from them, - or let them define you. If it is the latter and negative and destructive, it is then it ceases to be meaningful and alas, it is no longer good for your health. 

Letting go of the past doesn't erase it, it is not forgetting what happened, but in letting go of our expectations and of the things that will never happen. We don't suffer because of the situation, dilemma or whatever - we suffer and feel unhappy as we wanted it to turn out the way we or I wanted or expected it to be, - and yet it didn't. 

Just leave the painful past where it belongs, in the past, & it won't catch up on you. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Retro Review: Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros aka Love's A B***h
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Emilio Echevarria, Goya Toledo, Alvaro Guerro, Vanessa Bauche, Jorge Salinas, Adriana Barraza
Genre: Crime Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $20 million

Plot: A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life's harsh realities, all in the name of love 

'Must -See Spanish Language Flick That Doesn't Lose Its Bark'

Amores Perros is a film that will raise eyebrows, from the very first act & all the way to the last, with a particular and central focus on dogfighting and bloody canine-based brutality that will shock and upset many dog lovers. It's a Mexican version of Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Traffic with its crossover and interlinked subplots with the contrasting and harrowing dogs in a car crash scenes & blended with an unblinking, cynical and gritty take on love that was nominated in the best foreign film category in 2001's Academy Awards.

Set in Mexico City, the first story involves a young man Octavio who has a crush on his abusive brother's wife and envisions a future with her by his side; when he discovers his dog, Cofi has a killer instinct by killing animals, he seizes on this opportunity to make enough money so that he and her can run away together. The second centres on a model, Valeria who experienced a car crash and who is still recovering from her injuries as she is confined to a wheelchair. Her dog, Richi was chasing a ball and ends up falling through the hole of the floor and is unable to come out. The third and final tale sees a down- &- out tramp and hitman, El Chivo rescuing and nursing injured dogs back to health, but who is also trying to come to terms with the past and to reconnect with his estranged daughter, of whom he had neglected and lost contact with.

The second act with Daniel/Valeria just didn't do it for me personally and lacked the potency and emotional feel of the first tale; unappealing, less satisfying and not very interesting either, it also feels completely out-of-sync in contrast to the first and final acts, it just didn't mesh well with the film's intended serious tone. Plus, at over 2 hours long, although the story didn't feel bloated, this film was way too long that the structure lacks a central purpose and there can be an argument that the female characters weren't portrayed in a flattering light.

Amores Perros contains grisly scenes involving dogs being brutally mutilated and bloodied, if you are a dog or animal lover, you might be taken aback by this and these can be difficult to stomach - although it is stated that no dogs were harmed during the making of this movie and that these were all simulated.

The characters themselves are well-defined, well-conceived - if not completely likeable and empathetic enough to fully root for; they can rub viewers up the wrong way as they can be perceived as irritating, and still, they are given plenty of scope for the story to manoeuvre as their motivations, reasons and decisions that they each make, come to ahead, particularly towards the end of the climatic and dramatic final act. Themes such as desolation, poverty, social redemption, the downfalls that fame poses and human and animal loss and suffering are deftly touched upon and with plausibility and realism. The performances all-round are absolutely great; likewise, lead man Gael Garcia Bernal, who here, demonstrates what a quality actor he can be, as he brims confidence, energy and a watchability factor in an early turn of his, along with a compelling screenplay at his disposal and cinematography-wise, Amores Perros, for a little known movie and when it comes to 2000s films as a whole, this is still impressive stuff.

Had the second act been as great as the first one or as good as the third act, Amores Perros would have been a truly excellent film. But still, two out of three ain't bad. Raw, occasionally brutal and intricate, though it is also gripping with engrossing and overlapping storylines that take effect and no- holds- barred ambitious filmmaking that builds and maintains suspense, multiple times, it still went out of its way to keep me engaged, whilst breathing new life into the dramatic genre of filmmaking.

Final Verdict:

This is a tragi-tale, and a decidedly bleak one, but also it manages not to shy away by being upfront and whilst it could have and should have gone even deeper and further, I still can't fault it.

A Spanish language and character-driven based piece whereby the metaphor of dogs is a catalyst for change for Valeria, El Chivo and Octavio in both good and bad ways, Amores Perros is definitely one everyone should see at least once in their lives.


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