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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. 


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Retro Review: Woo (1998)

Cast: Jada-Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson, Dave Chappelle, Paula Jai Parker, L.L Cool J, Duane Martin-Campbell
Genre: Romantic Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $8 million 

Plot: Gorgeous and extravert Woo meets an insecure and straight-laced law clerk, Tim at a blind date


With co-production by John Singleton of Boyz N Da Hood fame, Woo is a romantic comedy, whereby the comedy element is a hit-and-miss affair, but with mostly misses; the biggest culprit being the romance doesn't come through. Jada Pinkett-Smith is one of the number of Black actresses who can easily transition into rom-com fare: it's a shame, however, that her character, Woo lacks emotional traits in a so-called rom-com such as Woo. Dubbed as one of the worst movies ever made (& one that bombed so badly on its initial release in the U.S) and contrary to critics, Woo, on my first viewing, isn't completely bad and unwatchable - but that is mostly due to Jada Pinkett, whose screen presence makes the film watchable. Had it not been for her and the manner of her turn, Woo would have been even less satisfying.

A romance eventually develops between a cold, brazen woman in Woo, the self-titled character and a so-called nice guy & repressed clerk in Tim who lacks confidence. When Woo meets a transgender physic friend who tells her that she will meet the eventual man of her dreams, Woo becomes sceptical of it all. Pinkett-Smith's Woo is attractive, but personality-wise is strong -yet passive-aggressive, controlling and comes across as if her opinion matters most than anyone else's. After a night out with Woo, Tim ends up getting assaulted and takes matters into his own hands. Davidson as Tim becomes a tad likeable as the story wears on and for once, he plays it straight. He doesn't, however, convince entirely as the guy who tries to get the girl and is perhaps and arguably more so suited to playing the goofy, funny sidekick or wacky character in a comedy (as seen in In Living Color) or rom-com (Juwanna Mann).

Playing out in a similar fashion to 1987's Blind Date with Kim Basinger and Bruce Willis, it is a story of two opposites who end up falling in love: a trope that has been reused, rehashed and retooled countless times, yet it is far from an outright trash fest it has been touted. Although, being a rom-com, it lacks charm due to the lack of sexual tension between Tommy Davidson and Jada-Pinkett that towards the end when they get together, it feels unearned. Director Daisy Mayer fails to explore the relationship between Tim and Woo and the one thing that they might have in common with each other that truly made me understand why they'd be a perfect fit as lovers and the frequent cursing with the use of B and N-words, ruined it slightly also. Instead, it feels too much like a cancelled sitcom episode with jokes that fall flat and forgettable characters. Additionally, Tim's friends are increasingly raucous, obnoxious and have no redeemable qualities, whilst there is a needless subplot involving Dave Chappelle's Lennie trying to get laid with his wife.

Some of the comedy appears to be crude, as opposed to endearing, although the scene at a drag club with the 3 guys unknownst to them that they are men, was a little amusing.

Final Verdict:

The film has some charismatic performers in Jada Pinkett, Tommy Davidson, Dwayne Campbell, Dave Chappelle that to see that the material fails to utilise their talents is such a waste, indeed.


Monday, 11 February 2019

Mini Retro Review: Blonde Ambition (2007) #badmovies

Blonde Ambition
Romantic Comedy

Romantic comedies have gotten worse since the 2000s, - well mid-2000s, and Blonde Ambition is certainly one of the numbers of examples of this. There were apparently 15 producers & executive producers for this film: a take on Mike Nichols's Working Girl, which I personally didn't enjoy as much as I'd have liked, mixed with a bit of Legally Blonde. A young woman from a small town of Oklahoma finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman, she leaves him and on the advice of her best friend, lands a corporate job. Luke Wilson plays the love interest with singer/actress Jessica Simpson as the main character, as well as Rachel Leigh Cook (She's All That) as scheming, good-for-nothing Haley, Penelope Ann Miller (Adventures in Babysitting, Awakenings), (although one would ask why they'd be in this, unless they needed the paycheck). Wilson and Simpson are a poor fit as a romantic pairing and Garry Marshall's son, Scott can't helm a rom-com with charm: something Blonde Ambition lacks in abundance to say Legally Blonde (also co-starring Luke Wilson) and the story isn't convincing enough. Unromantic, tawdry and stale with comedian Andy Dick's unfunny turn, this is straight-to-DVD pap.

Is It Worth Watching?

Only if you truly love rom-coms, no matter how bad and worse they are


Friday, 8 February 2019

Mini Retro Review: Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999) #badmovies

Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite 
Action Martial Arts

Much like with the Kickboxer movies that came out after the Jean Claude Van Damme first outing, the Bloodsport movies-which really should have ended after the second instalment- became progressively worse with each entry released, one after the other. & Bloodsport IV is mostly bad. The judge overacts in a laughable scene where he shouts out loud the sentence, the worthless and random sex scene, just pitiful. Lots of plastic acting and performances, much like with Kickboxer 3, the main character is a cop for no apparent reason, who goes undercover at a men's prison and finding himself pitted against a horde of fighters. Swiss actor Daniel Bernhardt doesn't reprise the role of Alex Cardo, but a cop in John Keller, which makes no sense, the fights themselves look tame, ordinary and unexciting. The main guy is called Shrek (?). Bloodsport 4 is Z-movie schlock and one of the worst sequels ever, and one of the worst and dullest martial arts-based films I've seen.

Is It Worth Watching?

Give it a miss


Monday, 4 February 2019

Retro Review: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Hudson Hawk
Cast: Bruce Willis, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Danny Aiello, David Caruso, Lorraine Toussaint, Frank Stallone, Sandra Bernhard, Richard E. Grant 
Genre: Action Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $17 million

Plot: A cat burglar is forced to steal Da Vinci works of art for a world domination plot

'So-Called Crime Caper Flaps Its Wings, But Can't Get Off The Ground'

I really didn't want to go by the negative reviews and feedback on this film, but boy as I watched Hudson Hawk all unfold, this one was a mess: tonally, it is so utterly jarring it confused me to the point in which I asked myself what type of genre does this really fit in. Like Howard The Duck, another critically panned film that was released to scathing reviews, what also damns Hudson Hawk is the lack of charm that it has and that little thought was put in to conceive it properly. These films are defined by their wacky, surreal premise, but when it comes to the execution of the ideas themselves, it is just not well thought out. There are so-bad-it's good movies they are also in a way funny with intriguing characters to boot.

This film has, on the other hand, none to speak of, whatsoever. 

1988's Heathers with Christian Slater and Wynonna Ryder became a hit, due to director Michael Lehmann and 3 years after it came out, action movie producer, Joel Silver and Sony Tristar handed the reigns over to Lehmann who also banked on Bruce Willis, right off the back of the second Die Hard flick, to deliver the goods, once again. Willis played the self-titled character, who is fresh out of prison - only to find himself blackmailed into doing one more deed. Hudson Hawk is a legendary cat burglar and whilst he is supposedly a playful, easy-going anti-hero type, Hawk comes across at times as smug with no air of presence. After he and his friend played by Danny Aiello (Do The Right Thing) steal a Da Vinci sculpture, they learn that there is an ancient key. This key is the final component of a machine built by Da Vinci that can transform lead into gold. Along the way, Hudson bumps into some gangsters and a love interest in Andie MacDowell's character.

I thought the first 25 mins was okay actually, but as it went on, the story, penned by Steven E. De Souza of Commando (great) and Streetfighter (far from great), became less entertaining and practically a bore and there was not one single standout performance from either actor or actress. As well as Bruce Willis, Sandra Bernhard, Richard E. Grant and Andie MacDowell, who achieved greater box office success with Groundhog Day, had their talents wasted, burdened with underwritten characterisations and almost one-note performances. E. Grant and Bernhard try to outwit each other to see who will chew up the scenery the most. Although one might argue that Richard E. Grant is probably the only main cast member, whose campy turn here feels more right at home and works, much to the quirky idea of the film. Both Andie MacDowell and Sandra Bernhard are completely out of sorts, although this isn't helped by the material that they were given. 

With the tone, it veers from not so serious to comical to farcical, but to the extent that it is so disconnected the humour comes across as forced with Looney Tunes cartoon-style slapstick, which feels out of place. Co-written by Bruce Willis also, it was like watching a cartoon, but in live-action form and it was sloppy. In fact, it was almost as if it took a leaf out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and substituted the fun, the charm and creativity and replaced it with turgid, self-aware humour that tries to be clever when it's just awkward. 

The action is bland and yet the main issue is that it tries too hard to please to make up for the total lack of efficiency and enchantment, which fails to materialise. 

There are films, like I said, as much maligned by critics that they try and make an effort and whilst this is not outright unwatchable, in my eyes, I personally didn't enjoy it very much either and for a comedy, I mostly sat there with a straight face. At some point onwards, I was so bored I lost interest in the story, no matter how sillier it became in places.

Final Verdict:

As films from 1991 go, it's not completely terrible & tedious and mundane like Joel Schumacher's turd Dying Young, but also it just didn't have more things in it that I enjoyed and what I'd come to expect, irrespective of the critical trouncing, like with Steven Spielberg's Hook; with both movies that came out in the same year as Hudson Hawk.

There just isn't much else that is worthwhile with Hudson Hawk, as I was bored 99% of the time as I sat and watched this and the film's elements such as the tone, humour, story, action are shoddily executed with performances that didn't do justice.   

In all, this was a mess and most of it either made little to no sense, as offbeat as it tries to be, this is supposed to be a satire right, yet unfortunately, it's not that the satire here went over my head, it was poorly conceived. That, and it made me not care much for it. 


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