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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Retro Review: Roll Bounce (2005)

Roll Bounce
2005
Cast: Shad ''Bow Wow'' Smith, Meagan Good, Chi McBride, Mike Epps, Wesley Jonathan, Jurnee Smollett, Marcus T. Paulk, Brandon T. Jackson
Genre: Comedy Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $17 million

Plot: A teenager and his group of friends face new challenges when their neighbourhood rollerskating rink closes, forcing them to visit a different rink





'Seventies Roller Skating Flick Which Needed More Bounce'

Roll Bounce is a nice, safe and predictable underdogs triumphing over the odds - type of movie that is pretty conventional, yet also easy-going, pleasant and feel-good. Granted, the story doesn't hook you in immediately and is not engaging enough to invest in the film and its main characters. 

It's 1978: in Chicago, Illinois, a teenager by the name of Xavier or ''X'' as he is known by his friends hangs out at a local roller rink. But Xavier's personal life is going through numerous phases: he has a crush on a girl, Naomi, much to the chagrin of his female friend, Tori, his mother passed away with Xavier's father, Curtis raising him and his younger sister, whilst dealing with Tori's mother, Vivian, who has a thing for Curtis. As well as all of this, Xavier and his crew are challenged by undisputed skating champion, Sweetness and his team in a major roller disco competition. 

Written by Norman Vance Jr (Beautyshop, which I thought wasn't too bad), the title of the film is derived from the 1979 song, ''Bounce, Rock, Skate & Roll'', yet the main problem is the narrative isn't compelling, nor are its subplots, of which some of them could have been cut down. The tone, however, is good; infectious and with that retro '70s vibe that it evokes and the performances are very good for the most part. But numerous times, I lost concentration as the story lost its way towards the end. Being a two-hour movie, there just wasn't that many entertaining and exciting scenes and moments. 

Some characters get a look-in and some attention, but character development is moot (you don't get to see them and their efforts in developing their skating abilities) and all the attention is placed on the narrative, which lacked that extra something. Had it not been for the roller skating scenes -which makes Roll Bounce come to life -, this would've fallen flat on its arse. Although regarding that aspect, I found that to be the most enjoyable aspect -, and still, it felt like there wasn't enough of them. The quality of the skating scenes are good and filmed well, but quantity-wise, I felt there needed to have been more; that and they make Roll Bounce a tad more enjoyable.  Even if it doesn't go to greater lengths to make roller skating one of the coolest, baddest and jaw-dropping things on earth, which in other cases, it is and should have been.

As with the performances, Shad ''Bow Wow'' Smith is good and he has a natural charm and ability as he convinces in his role. It just seems like with himself and the remaining performances they all manage to strike a balance. Yet I just wished it was tad exciting and it was even funkier. The remaining performances were good also and there wasn't really a bad one to speak of. Well, perhaps for Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy's, of whom were not effective.

It's earnest with plenty of heart and its message is wholesome, but there needed to have been more of that spark, be it more roller dancing and skating scenes and even better ones also, wittier banter and more drama to drive Roll Bounce forward. Although the soundtrack is groovy with wall-to-wall tracks such as Bill Withers' Lovely Day, Chic's Le Freak and Boogie Oogie Oogie by Brooke Valentine, Fabolous and Yo-Yo. 

Director Malcolm D. Lee does well in embracing and conveying that 1970s vibe as it pays homage to its roots, just as he did in Undercover Brother, and yet, it's easy to get lost in Roll Bounce's haze, as the plotlines wear thin and the story staggers its way towards the dance-off finale. 





Final Verdict:

Roll Bounce is nice and pleasant and simple in its execution and it's definitely one I will be rewatching, and yet it also feels as though it needed to go even further in the story, as well as perhaps been little edgier in places too. The movie didn't set the box office alight and watching this, I can understand why now. 

It is an ambitious attempt and a nice concept; if only it tried a little harder with a little less roll and more "oomph".  


Overall:




Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Retro Review: Message In A Bottle (1999)

Message In A Bottle
1999
Cast: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman, Robbie Coltrane, Jesse James
Genre: Romantic Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $118 million 

Plot: A woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, and is determined to track down its author






'Messazzzzz...... Oh Sorry What Was That Again?'

Contrary to some, the adaptation of The Notebook was not the first Nicholas Sparks novel to be given the Hollywood movie treatment: that honour actually goes to 1999's Message In A Bottle. Produced by and starring Kevin Costner with Robin Wright, it was another one of those earlier romantic novels turned movies that are as unmistakably 1990s as it is resolutely 1990s. I know I am not the type for these films, and still, I expected something that would make it special and memorable for years to come. Unfortunately, however, Message In A Bottle remains as tepid and frankly tedious as I'd doubted it would be and the longer it went on, the more it became insufferable.  

Chicago Tribune researcher Teresa Osbourne drops off her son to her ex-husband who is also his father, afterwards she heads off to Cape Cod in search of a letter, written by a man to a woman that is inside a bottle that is washed up ashore. When Teresa gets her hands on this bottle, she manages to track down and get hold of this guy named Garrett. There are few home truths that are unearthed, but they are nothing that grand to truly brag about or to be enthusiastic for.  It starts off well, but as it wears on, the duller it eventually became. 

I really hate to say this, but Kevin Costner is the biggest issue as to why this movie just didn't work out: he is just not cut out for these types of films and he lacks the emotional resonance an actor like himself possesses to pass off as the male lead. Garrett is a bore, just nothing about him stands out, but that is mainly to do with Costner, who as likeable as he appears onscreen, has little charisma other than to be brooding. Unlike Robin Wright, he looks out of place for me and didn't seem to connect with the character he was portraying. Robin herself looks terrific as Theresa, but despite her efforts, she has done far better elsewhere and had she been given stronger material, this would have further elevated her performance. It's nice to see her in a film like this, but the script didn't do her any favours, nor stretch her beyond her talents. Robin Wright deserved better.

Being a romantic drama, Mandoki and the book itself are unwilling to bring out more of the friction and tension it needed and Theresa and Garret are so bland and lacking in characterisation that regardless of Robin Wright and Kevin Costner, they just couldn't do enough to make it believable. Their pairing also falls short as their romance lacks emotional resonance and I just didn't sense that on-screen chemistry between them; because of that, I never bought into them as their characters falling for each other. 

The filmmakers and writer/s, along with Costner himself, make no effort at establishing what literally draws Garret and Theresa together, whatsoever. 

It's a shame this: I really wanted to enjoy it and find some charm and entertainment out of Message In A Bottle, but the story is just so stagnant, lacking in substance and the pacing is just slow and is overkill. I mean, it's understandable for a romantic drama, just to build up the relationships of the main characters; but even the pitifully penned characters, of whom aren't very interesting and the script, doesn't lend themselves that well to the movie. With romantic comedies and dramas, they need an interesting set of characters consisting of the love interest and the person who is in love with the love interest and to help bring that chemistry to life. Thing is 90% of these movies are so bad and terrible, they are more fluff and cringe than they are great movies I could immerse myself into fully. Taking away the fact this is based on a book, as a romantic drama, Message In A Bottle is so poorly conceived.
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What little tension it provides, there is little urgency and alas, the film goes about it in a typical romantic drama sense, with little to set itself apart. The approach in terms of production and filmmaking reeks of Lifetime channel and TV movie fare that is trite as it is and despite one or two nice scenes, this love story just never felt compelling.  

I am completely unfamiliar with the book Message In A Bottle is based on as I have not read it and yet I've read there were a few changes made for this film. 

Just because one is the producer of the movie, doesn't always mean they should call all of the shots: Costner could've and probably should've cast another actor to play Garrett instead of himself, and that he might have given his character further depth that Costner couldn't produce.

The twist towards the end was unexpected but given as I wasn't impressed by his performance and his character, I honestly didn't give a toss. 





Final Verdict:

Passionless and emotionally hollow on the inside, yet on the outside, it looks attractive, somewhat accompanied by golden sunsets with not one major standout performance to really speak of, Message In A Bottle is another fruitless romantic drama that whilst they are supposed to be more grounded in reality, it comes across as superficial. & it is one of the worst types of romantic dramas to ever surface. 

Along with the mismatched Kevin Costner and less so Robin Wright and the remaining wasted supporting cast, Message In A Bottle, along with The Postman and Waterworld, this is another bomb from Costner's latter part of his career, which eventually sank without a trace. 

Dreary, boring and unengaging, this film, and most of the cast, but for Robin Wright and Paul Newman, all deserve to be cast out to sea. 


Overall:

Monday, 13 August 2018

Retro Review: Waist Deep (2006)

Waist Deep
2006
Cast: Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate, Kimora Lee Simmons, The Game 
Genre: Drama Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $21 million 

Plot: An ex-convict gets tangled up with a gang after his car is hijacked with his son inside 





'Below-Par Action Offering That Is A Waste'

Watching Waist Deep makes me understand how Black or be it African American film has gone downhill since its heydays with early Spike Lee into the Hughes Brothers and the likes of Waiting to Exhale, Friday, Set It Off, New Jack City to name of the 1990s; there is rarely anything satisfying with this offering, but at the same time, it makes me sad to see the talents of Meagan Goode and Laurenz Tate reduced to something like this. It is a film that tries to impress, that it tries to be a legitimate crime-based flick - yet it becomes stylishly derivative and still offers nothing out of the box that is different that can be embraced.

Tyrese Gibson is O2: a former con who went straight and who is determined to give his son, Junior a far more prosperous life. But when Junior gets kidnapped from O2's car by the cronies of Big Meat (rapper The Game), O2 is drawn back to the life of crime and violence. Yet instead of going after the guy who kidnapped his son, he and Meagan Good's character, Coco become Bonnie and Clyde and end up robbing banks and people's homes and stealing their money.

Laurenz Tate, who impressed in the Hughes brothers, Menace to Society and Dead Presidents, isn't afforded that much depth to give and make Lucky any more than a one-dimensional character. Meanwhile leads Tyrese Gibson, despite his turn in Baby Boy, can't convince as the leading man in a full-on action movie as he has little onscreen personality and Meagan Good, whilst fares a little better than Tyrese, isn't given much to say and do that is substantial. The kid is also a bit too old to be Tyrese's young son. 

After an explosive start, Waist Deep collapses as it meanders on and thus doesn't go all out as an action thriller. The action scenes are not exciting and despite its genre, the film doesn't know what type of film it wants to be. It's often too melodramatic with clunky editing, the non-violent scenes involving Meagan and Tyrese failing to convince, and there is not enough good action to supplement the story, which in itself becomes bogged down and rapidly loses steam. 

The dialogue ranges from okay to pitiful whilst the lead characters are not redeemable or likeable enough for me to constantly root for. Bold and brash yet degenerating into tedious and dull, it turns out Waist Deep is beyond mediocre as it becomes a run-of-the-mill flick one has seen better elsewhere. Director and former Julliard graduate Vondie Curtis-Hall (& an actor of whom you may have seen in Coming To America, Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Falling Down), who also handled the screenplay, in addition to giving us the flop that is Mariah Carey's Glitter, bombards the film with sleek- looking visuals yet it is further drowned out by cliched and one-note characters and a tepid story that doesn't really make inroads.






Final Verdict:

Waist Deep is sadly a 'waste' of Tyrese, Meagan Good and Laurenz Tate's talents. 



Overall:

''Hanks-Giving'': My 10 Personal Favourite Tom Hanks Performances



Unlike many other performers, Tom Hanks is an actor who manages to capture audiences' attentions and warms people's hearts with impressive turns and at the same time, comes across as instantly appealing. He has come a long way, 30 years in fact as I type this and for over 3 decades, since his Hollywood breakthrough in Penny Marshall's 1988's Big as an overgrown kid, thus showing his sense of humour, comedic timing and style. 

Since his transition from comedies to full-time dramas, he manages to pick out and select the best movies that help stretch and harness his talents, although from a guy who first got his start on TV sitcom, Bosom Buddies as a funnyman through to Dragnet, Big, Turner and Hooch and Toy Story, it still makes me long for more comedy and lighter roles, especially really good comedic roles & films from Hanks, alongside his dramatic fare. 

His adaptability, & not just his versatility in dramas meant he is able to assimilate into being a dramatic actor and is one of the fewest actors who started out doing comedies, wherein audiences and people buy into his transition thoroughly. His move towards dramatic films was cemented in 1993 with his Oscar-winning role as an AIDS patient in Philadelphia. That's so not the case with Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Bill Murray, who are all still seen as funnymen in their eyes, even when they dip their toes in serious roles, yet Hanks is an exception. He can charm his ass off in a rom-com to delivering a convincing and emphatic turn in dramas and thrillers. Though as understated as he can be, he never overplays his roles, which evoke an everyman quality and Hanks always manages to strike a balance whilst holding fans and audiences' attention. When he is expected to deliver a great performance, 9 times out of 10, he prevails; & alas, he rarely gives a truly bad performance. 

3 decades later, Tom Hanks is still one of the most sought-after bankable actors in Hollywood today. 

Here is the rundown of my 10 favourite roles from his incredible career:


10. Castaway - Chuck Noland >> a tour-de-force performance to go with dropping substantial weight for the film & directed by Robert Zemeckis in their second major collaboration following on from Forrest Gump. His physical transformation is startling, and yet he also manages to hold attention onscreen throughout its duration.




9. Catch Me If You Can - Carl Hanratty >> Carl is a no-nonsense FBI agent who goes after Leonardo Di Caprio's Frank, a young forger. Even when he plays a grumpy guy, he's not overly grumpy and moody and strikes a balance between hard and also approachable, as well as amusing.




8. Turner and Hooch - Scott Turner >> first of all, I prefer Turner and Hooch over that other cop and dog flick, K-9 with James Belushi, which was also released in 1989, secondly, Hanks's endearing and charismatic performance as Scott is one that gets overlooked too often whose rapport with Beasley (Hooch) is sweet and amusing to watch




7. The Road To Perdition - Michael Sullivan Snr >> very rarely does Hanks venture onto movies that depict and show violence, but for this one and Saving Private Ryan per se. In a role that is pretty much leftfield, but also a bold move, he assimilates into Michael Sullivan Snr with ease as he is both haunting and convincing. 




6. Cloud Atlas - Dr Henry Goose/Hotel Manager/Isacc Sachs/Dermot Loggins/Zachery >> where else do you see Tom Hanks playing multiple characters in one movie and excelling in each role? Actually, it is this one, courtesy of the Wachowski brothers who are renowned for The Matrix trilogy. From a hero to a evil skinhead-like villain to a murderous and racist doctor and scientist, for the first time, he shows his versatility and range and thus, confounding critics and naysayers who have insisted he plays the same type of character in every single movie of his. Not this one, however, and Hanks is that impressive 




5. Big - Josh Baskin >> in his first dramatic effort, he combines both his knack for comedy and humour with dramatic traits and unlike the 1996 Francis Ford Coppola effort, Jack with Robin Williams, Tom never reduces his character, Josh to childish antics that border on cringe-worthy. Oh and that piano dancing scene is still classic




4. Sleepless In Seattle - Sam Baldwin >> as Sam, Tom Hanks shows his adeptness as a leading male star in a romantic comedy opposite one of the rom-com queens, Meg Ryan. The two, who previously starred in Joe Versus The Volcano, later reunited on You've Got Mail, but personally, this one is far more memorable. Though it may not stretch his acting ability, Hanks still demonstrates his charm and likability.





3. Toy Story Series - Sheriff Woody >> when I think of this film, two words spring to mind: Tom Hanks, and without Hanks voicing this character, Toy Story would be nowhere as successful and great as it is. Watch Mojo.com may have omitted this character from its 10 best Tom Hanks performances list video, but not me. Endearing, amusing, larger-than-life, even if he doesn't take on as many lighter roles, at least rewatching Woody puts a smile on my face.




2. Forrest Gump - Forrest Gump >> Hanks won back- to- back best actor Oscars for Philadelphia and as Forrest Gump and in his most iconic role, probably followed by Woody of Toy Story, he plays a slow-witted and not very bright man overcoming the odds and making American history. Hanks manages to make Forrest grounded and human as he could possibly can, and did. 





1. Philadelphia - Andrew Beckett >> the role that first introduced and established Tom Hanks as a serial dramatic actor to audiences, after spending the past decade playing lightweight and comedic roles, it is also one which he has built upon over the years, as Andrew he goes from being confident and boisterous to someone who sees his life deteriorating in front of very eyes without turning him into a cliche or stereotype. The film, which was the first to acknowledge HIV/AIDS in the mainstream, may not have aged well, but Hanks's performance still remains as emphatic and timeless today, just as it was in 1993. 



Sunday, 12 August 2018

Retro Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

The Princess Bride
1987
Cast: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Andre The Giant, Christopher Guest, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal
Genre: Romantic Comedy Fantasy Adventure
U.S Box Office Gross: over $30 million 

Plot: While home sick in bed, a young boy's grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride





''Well, Excuse Me, Princess''


Film Four aired The Princess Bride on TV for the first time; come to think of it, but for say Sky, I don't think this ever aired on free-to-air channels before in the UK. Unlike a lot of people, I didn't grow up with this film, well being 6 years old going to the cinema was something I never did at the time, although in watching this on TV today, it definitely has that cult factor going for it. 

It is a take on the classic fairy tale with some added humour, fantasy, romance and adventure - if only it was made a lot more accessible and it was easier to get into and digest. 

Buttercup falls in love with a young farm guy, only to lose him and finds herself kidnapped and captured by the evil Prince of the region, who grooms her as his bride. A Spanish swordsman, a friendly giant and a mysterious man in a mask reminiscent somewhat of Zorro is on their trail, as well as that of Buttercup's

Cary Elwes was charming and almost flawless as the dashing and handsome prince, oozing charisma with an infectious turn. Andre the Giant was a good addition, although I wished I'd seen more of him, the bizarro cameo of Billy Crystal, unrecognisable underneath the prosthetics, was amusing and it's not often he is as funny as was in this movie than he is in his other flicks. Some of the lines he had uttered made me laugh at times. I realise not a lot of people enjoyed his turn and what some have called hackneyed Jewish jokes, but I thought that he livened up the movie a tiny bit. 

Robin Wright has become one of my favourite lesser-known actresses of late and watching her turn here, she nails the British accent to a tee; however, performance-wise goes, I much prefer her turns in Forrest Gump and even Toys than as Princess Buttercup. Here, she fared okay, but her character wasn't much to ponder, in all honesty, and but for a couple of lines uttered, she did almost little of worth. There was little in the way of development and come to the end of the film, it felt like Buttercup was the same person as she was before

I also thought the film could have done without the grandfather and his son telling the story and reading it to him as a bedtime story. This, in particular, affected my enjoyment of this film, amongst its pacing issues, which whilst it is under 2 hours long, it felt like a 4-hour movie. It also didn't help that The Princess Bride lacks any energy or momentum that many other fantasy adventure-based movies that were released after this one possess, to keep viewers invested in the story and its characters. 

Regarding the comedy aspect, this should have been a whole lot better and consistent as well. But seeing Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman and hearing his funny voice did lift my spirits. The adventure element just didn't really come to life, and I was disappointed in that. Also hearing Mandy Patinkin going, ''my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father'' is funny twice, but a couple of times, it becomes weary and almost annoying, thus losing its impact. 

I've never been a huge fan of Rob Reiner and though he has delivered better elsewhere with A Few Good Men, his direction, as a whole, leaves a lot to be desired. In the capable hands of perhaps Robert Zemeckis, Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton even, they would have injected a lot more life and energy that The Princess Bride needed and could do a lot more of. 





Final Verdict:

The Princess Bride is not too bad as a whole, and it was watchable in places but at times, it feels all too safe and when the end credits rolled, I thought to myself that it is best remembered as a cult classic, but also a film that should have amounted to a whole lot more. I think that had this been made and released in the early 1990s, I'd feel a lot more positive towards The Princess Bride, as by then, it would have and probably turned out far better as well. 

What was considered groundbreaking back in 1987, it feels today as something that I, in fact, ought to have ended up loving a great deal. 


Overall:




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