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Saturday, 17 August 2019

Mini Retro Review: Barb Wire (1996) #badmovies

Barb Wire
Sci-Fi Action

Barb Wire's claim to fame, besides a starring role for Baywatch and Playboy's Pamela Anderson, is it is noted for being one of the worst comic book-based movies of all-time. Some poor acting, it sort of rips off and riffs on Mad Max with that post-apocalyptic theme whilst it also mixes in Casablanca, there is a fat guy in a black leather bondage outfit and there is too little good action and the rest is a total bore. There is just nothing here that I haven't seen before that blows me away. There are some bad-sounding accents, the action isn't that grand, to be honest, and some overacting that is cringeworthy. The film's box office bomb resulted in the original Barb Wire comic books to be discontinued. Catwoman may be lauded by many as the most notoriously worst female comic book flick - yet this movie outdoes it. But even worse, it is unbelievable bland. Yet, it could have been titled, Boob Wire - & that would have sounded crap. 

Is it worth watching?:

Not really


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

8 Benefits of Learning & Speaking New Languages

By Waiching 

As the world becomes increasingly multicultural and globalised, bilingualism and multilingualism have become even more prevalent and significant than it has ever been, before. Studying and learning languages is knowing and learning how, as a non-native of that country, to be able to communicate and connect with others, just by verbally interacting with him/her.

After travelling to Spain and Portugal recently this year, this has encouraged me to take up and embrace Spanish, and with that, I am trying to speak it and blend it into my conversations with my Spanish speaking coworkers. It does help that I have people of whom speak fluent Spanish themselves that I can practice my skills with (as well as to impress them with my Spanish attempts as I try to sound Spanish as I speak - ha!). I was thinking of enrolling onto a Spanish course, but I decided I would be better off had I saved my money and to learn just by watching YouTube videos and reading articles on basic Spanish phrases. That and using Google translate.

I studied French at high school, and whilst I didn't make the grade, I still enjoy it and when I do find the time, I refresh upon my French-speaking skills; my Chinese Cantonese is okay, but again, I intend to improve on this. But in the meantime, it is Spanish that has become the main focus in terms of being a second language. I have grown to love the Spanish language, and more so after my trip to Madrid: the words, the pronunciation, articulation of words: like French it's very emotive, romanticised that includes French, Italian, Catalan, it can also be expressive, fluid and free-flowing that can roll off the tongue (in Spanish, the letters 'U' and 'H' are pronounced silently). & it's fun.

It's just so much nicer to be able to speak with someone who is from another country and in their native tongue. Speaking English to him/her in English and of whom is a non-English speaker is good, and I like it because it is a) easier for me and b) I understand the context of what they are saying.... and whilst speaking to him/her in Spanish is a little more challenging for myself, and I am a novice in Spanish, it's something I like to learn just by putting it to use and to feel as if I have and share at least something in common with them.

As we live in a multicultural world and society (due partly to immigration and people from non-English countries flocking to the U.S, UK, Canada to settle down and to work and non-speakers of Mandarin learning the dialect, so they are well prepared when visiting China) and with over 100 languages at our disposal that we can pick and choose from that people speak and engage in, learning and speaking various languages has over say, the last 10, 15 years, has become even more significant than it ever was before.

& here are 8 reasons why:

  • It makes you stand out from the crowd and thus, it becomes something of an asset in itself 

  • Employers seek professionals who can communicate with customers in their native language -this can open up a wide range of job opportunities, especially in increasingly developed countries such as China, India and Japan whereby the tech market and international trade relations with the West are fundamental. Though there may not be many jobs where being bi or multilingual and foreign language skills are a necessary requirement, there is, however, a good chance you'll be working with people whose first language isn't English. 

  • It deepens our connection with other cultures, as well as make new social and cross-cultural connections - throughout our lives, especially at work, we encounter, work with and meet people of different cultures, nationalities and in doing so, through being able to communicate with them in their native tongue or second language, it becomes a sense of achievement and one wherein it feels you or I share something in common with them, which is speaking and understanding that particular lingo. You also gain valuable insight into the way they think and an understanding of why they sound the way they do when they speak to you. That, and it becomes an instant trait as you meet and converse with native speakers. 

  • It boosts our self-confidence - it's one thing using it once, but if you don't use it over and over, not only does it go to waste, it can lead to a lack of self-confidence and not knowing to how to respond to things, people, situations. And it helps to ask people to translate or to tell them what it means in English

  • Being bi-lingual can make you a better multitasker - the cognitive benefits of being bi or multilingual are massive: bigger brains, better at memorising, they are more creative and expressive and make for better problem solvers. This is because of his/hers ability to easily switch between activities, to be able to multitask and to undertake a range of jobs and chores with minimal or no supervision. Particularly if it involves communicating with the other person in their language 

  • Knowing other languages may encourage cultural appreciation - if you know Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese well and know how to speak them, then it makes you appreciate their cultures more, or just by developing an interest in them at first and by gradually learn the words, phrases, you'll get a grasp of the language.  

  • It expands upon and brodens your travel opportunities and encourages you to take further interest in that culture by visiting and going to places where that language is Spoken: Spanish, or as it is known as Espanol, is spoken in over 20 countries, French, as it is also known as Francais, is spoken widely in France, Canada, Algeria, Switzerland, Morocco, Cameroon, Belgium. If you are interested in Spanish, Italian, French or any other culture, it helps to visit its cities and places and to speak the lingo. If you can speak Spanish, then not only can you go to Spain, you can head off to Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, Paraguay

  • Learning and speaking a language is an achievement in itself - and the more you persist with it, the easier it becomes. Repetition is key: if you are not as proficient or a native speaker, just by picking up some choice phrases and vocab words and saying it over and over in your everyday life through work, school or wherever to someone, makes it easier for one to remember. 

When you master a foreign language and once you get the hang of it, one is able to understand what the other person is saying, memorise the proper vocab, grammar, keywords, then be able to put them into a proper context and to reply and respond back. It's not of much use of them speaking Spanish, French to me, but I respond with ''Si/oui''. For me to develop that conversation further on, I have to and need to make sense of what they are saying in their language by understanding the English translation or meaning first, then reply in their language, afterwards. There is so much you can learn from online, through books and audio - but nothing beats interacting with people in person, firsthand and to know what they are talking about that s/he can truly understand, as well as appreciate that culture. 

Also, when I speak French or Spanish, I try to do so as authentically as possible as the native would sound and to make a conscientious effort in doing so. 

Contrary to some, I believe one is never too late to learn and speak a foreign language and the best way to learn it is to simply immerse yourself in it, grasp it straightaway and continue practising and speaking it by incorporating the phrases into everyday conversations and by doing so, one can notice its effects. At first, you'll make mistakes (who doesn't?) and nobody's perfect, but as the saying goes, 'practice makes perfect'.... and the same applies with languages. 

Before I went to Spain, all I knew was 'si, gracias, adios': as I type this, I know a little bit on how to greet someone in the morning, afternoon (hola!, buenas dias/Buenas tardes (their name) como estas?/como ta va?) and it is going to take time... but with persistence and determination, with some people at work who speak Spanish, I can easily turn to them for me to hone and practise my speaking skills. My work schedule can be busy at times, and yet I still find the time to commit to Spanish, by my attempts at conversing with some people who do speak it at work by weaving and integrating it into my conversations, which makes my life a little easier. You can impress others by making small talk with him/her or exchange little quirks or repartees and make it fun as well.

Whilst I am not fluent, the result still feels like one, that is and can be an adaptable communication skill that can and perhaps will, bring me closer to my Spanish speaking peers -, or be it, amigos & compadres.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Retro Review: The Mosquito Coast (1986)

The Mosquito Coast
Cast: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Conrad Roberts, Andre Gregory, Jason Alexander
Genre: Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million 

Plot: An inventor spurns his city life to move his family into the jungles of Central America to make a utopia

'This Mosquito Doesn't Bite, But Nor Does It, Sting'

Allie Fox is an inventor who specialises in innovative fridge devices, and he is convinced that the United States is heading for catastrophe; with that idea looming, Fox packs his bags and convinces his family, his wife ''Mother'', teenage son, Charlie and three other children to quit America for a new life in South America. As they head off to Belize, Allie has plans to build a new society from scratch and with that, he acts and behaves strangely and his descent to madness threatens to hurt the ones he loves, as he goes on to confront the Reverend. 

A huge departure for Harrison Ford: an actor synonymous with Star Wars as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but for the exception of The Fugitive, he has arguably, never really been as progressive as an actor given his choice of roles and films he aligns himself with, as one would come to expect, from a performer as well-known as himself. 1986's The Mosquito Coast was one of his rarest and fewest glimpses and attempts at not so much shelving the 'hero' role, but in demonstrating that Ford was indeed capable of showing potential as a dramatic actor. 

Which Ford does well in, as he acquits himself in such a complex role, and one where the audience doesn't have much sympathy towards Allie; sadly, the same isn't said for the actual movie, wherein its almost 2-hr run-time is bogged down by what is a grating and drawn-out narrative and an almost total lack of drama and genuine hostility being generated, although the tension between Allie Fox, his wife, played by Helen Mirren, and son by the late River Phoenix, though whilst this wasn't lacking, this should have been far more potent and consistent throughout. 

The pacing of this film utterly drags it down, although given it takes a long while for the characters to recognise that Allie's ego has become way too big, this in itself prolongs the story's agony further, but without much that is revered. Harrison Ford's Allie Fox is a terrible person who lacks any empathy, whatsoever, especially for a so-called protagonist, who is really an anti-hero, and he is a total douche for the entirety of the flick, ranting and raving his way, which will irritate a lot of people who will watch this. & what's with Helen Mirren's character being called 'Mother'? Like, why give that character that name? Then again, there is no character progression or development, whatsoever as Allie, Mother and Charlie barely evolve and with that, towards the end, it feels as if they are the same people as they were and are, right before the problems began. 

And despite Peter Weir's efforts and Ford's performance, which is probably the best I have seen of his by far, as he goes down a darker route - thus displaying a range of acting that is unheard of from him -, the film itself, through Weir, just doesn't have enough tools to pull it off, as he works within such a confined and hectic jungle environment - and still, he doesn't go far and beyond to truly impress. This felt like a film that is okay at best, though it just practically sits there, without making too much noise and hot air; it most certainly should have been way, way better.  

Final Verdict: 

The Mosquito Coast is a film that would have won plaudits by many, not just critics, but, and ultimately, the execution is just way off.  In the capable hands of a much more accomplished and established director, other than Peter Weir, whose vision is anything but alluring and even bolder, quite frankly, the end result would have been even more sophisticated and thus, boosted with plenty of energy.

Yet despite Harrison Ford, try as he may, even with him as the star man alone, it was just not enough to ignite the spark that The Mosquito Coast truly needed as a film and one that would be talked about for decades.  


Monday, 5 August 2019

Retro Review: Blackjack (1998)

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Kate Vernon, Phillip Mackenzie, Kam Heskin, Fred Williamson 
Genre: Action TV Movie

Plot: A federal agent must confront a phobia in order to save a supermodel from a skilled assassin 

'Not Quite ''Jack For Good'', But Still A Solid John Woo Outing'

Blackjack was originally conceived as a joint Canadian/U.S TV pilot for the Hong Kong director, John Woo, who is most notable for Face/Off in particular amongst several other films and is an action film that seems to get a lot of hate from people. But for the ridiculous-sounding plot of the main character having a phobia of the colour, white, that sounds far-fetched, it plays on this silly premise by being a highly entertaining romp, without being too overly ludicrous to the point it threw me off, completely. 

Danish actor, Dolph Lundgren plays an ex-US Marshall and now current security guard, Jack, who is blinded whilst trying to protect a drug-addicted supermodel from her crazy ex-hubby, with the aid of his niece, for whom he is left to attend to, in Casey. 

Blackjack feels closer to The Killer and less like Woo's other subsequent offerings in Hard Target, Hard Boiled, Face/Off. More in the vein of an action version of The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, Woo's trademark slick gun-fu-like style and slo-mo shots are written all over this movie, and these are not overdone, either. Although being a TV film, much of the action is neutered down and yet, it still didn't affect my enjoyment of Blackjack much.  

Like say, well Showgirls, it is entertainingly bad, and watchable that I found some charm in some of the scenes. Compared to John Woo's other offerings, this is very lightweight and a lot softer as he apes his own style, much to the film's budget, but also it's rather decent and fun to sit through that doesn't take itself too seriously. As far as low budget action films go, on its own merit, there was plenty to enjoy from Blackjack, with the action looking decent on occasions such as the motorcycle chase scenes, and Dolph Lundgren looking less stoic and showing a tad more, if not as much, range in his acting. His performance is actually one of his best that I have seen (and he does better than usual), and usually, he, like most action stars, is not that well known for giving strong performances. & to see him fly about, as well as kick-ass by letting rip his martial arts skills, was still cool to watch, especially the 'got milk' fight scene in a dairy factory, of all places. Phillip Mackenzie, as the villain, hams it up: he's eccentric, a bit nutty but also playing on the British baddie tropes. I could have done with seeing a bit more of Fred Williamson, whose character should have had a much bigger part in the movie.

Blackjack could have done with two more quality action sequences and a little more depth in the plot with the White phobia angle that should have been delved into a bit more, but still, for a TV movie, despite the superficial low quality-ish sheen it gives off, this was still watchable and entertaining. If it hadn't been for John Woo's added touch, it would have been a lot worse. 

Final Verdict:

Blackjack is a B-movie with attitude, as well as having a bit more style, which elevates it above many other B-movie and direct- to- DVD and NetFlix actioners. I went into it not expecting much out of it and in the end, I liked and enjoyed it. 

Whilst John Woo has delivered better elsewhere, this is far from being terrible as it has been lauded by many; but rather this isn't bad at all and thus, it remains a fun, solid little no-brainer to watch. 


Thursday, 1 August 2019

Retro Review: Daylight (1996)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Viggo Mortensen, Dan Hedaya, Jay O' Sanders, Karen Young
Genre: Disaster Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $159 million 

Plot: A truck containing dangerous chemicals explodes in the Holland Tunnel, trapping those New Yorkers not killed in the explosion. It's up to an ex-city Emergency Medical Services director to save the survivors 

'Stallone-Led Flick Not Quite Exactly Right, But There Should Have Been More To It'

Daylight flopped back during its release in 1996 and by watching it today, though this is not the sheer disaster of a movie as it was panned by critics at the time, and released during a wave of similarly formulaic films of this type in Volcano, Deep Impact, Twister, Independence Day, it is still, in most respects, a relative disappointment and there are clearly issues with it that should have been ironed out. 

A New York tunnel collapses and with that, several residents are trapped inside. A disgraced Emergency Services Chief named Kit is chosen to come to their aid. Stuff blows up, water is gushing out, everything falls apart - which is all exciting, sort of; it's a bit of a shame that by taking away the action sequences and effects, there is not much else left to it that is entertaining, and running at almost 2 hrs, the story is so bloated and hardly fleshed out very well. 

Let's face it, if it wasn't for Sylvester Stallone, who tries to provide some quality and keep us invested in the film, Daylight would not see the light of day, - pardon the expression. There are some suspense and tension, some explosions and things blowing up, but the story doesn't supplement these elements well enough. There just wasn't more here that was surprising that came left-field that I duly wanted out of it. 

Vanessa Bell Calloway's fake Carribean/French accent was terrible, the supporting cast is not notable with some of their characters resorting to shouting their lines to emphasise their roles in the movie, Viggo Mortensen bites the dust earlier on, meaning Daylight doesn't have an actual villain for Stallone and co to contend with, as does Slyvester Stallone's real-life son, Sage in an all-too-brief cameo. But for Kit, the lead paper-thin characters do not lend themselves well to the cause, as it seems he is the only character afforded with some depth, and neither of them are empathetic or likeable enough, and thus lack any personality for us to root for them. Amy Brenneman's Madeline makes Cliffhanger's Janine Turner's Jessie look 10 times better; the onscreen partnership of Brenneman and Stallone feels hokier and lacks any real reverence their characters might have towards one another. It basically retreads the same tropes as Cliffhanger, the other Sly Stallone movie - only this is nowhere as great and, in addition, it is far less entertaining as well. 

Rob Cohen was attempting to make a disaster action flick that tries to be serious, whilst emphasising that people can triumph against the odds. He takes what is an engaging and exciting idea - only to turn it into a mundane and at times jarring affair that is also too limited in scope. As each of the squabbling characters meets their own grisly fate, it's done in a way that one doesn't have any emotional investment towards either of them and the plot never becomes involving enough. With that in mind, I didn't care and it feels mechanical. The effects themselves are explosive and the action set pieces range from passable to good, yet they are anything but sizzling. 

Much like Judge Dredd was inferior to Demolition Man, Daylight is inferior to Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger: the set-ups of these films, when paired opposite one another, are remarkably similar in many respects -, & though ultimately Daylight does do some things that Cliffhanger did too, by contrast, this is not as effective and resounding, and it isn't long until it ensuingly runs out of ideas. 

Final Verdict:

That's not to say this isn't entirely unwatchable, but it steers too much on the formulaic and melodramatic side that I became tired of the story and my eyes wandered away from the screen several times, whilst the underdeveloped secondary characters are literally upstaged and eclipsed by star man, Stallone and of whom they are written in a way that nobody will care what happens to them. 

It has its shortcomings for sure and it's not bad; nevertheless, Daylight is yet again another one of those action-based thrillers that, with a bit more work in most areas, the end product would have been a whole lot more engaging, exceptional and serviceable.


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