Friday, 15 December 2017

Retro Review: Jungle Fever (1991)

Jungle Fever
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, Anthony Quinn, Tim Robbins, Halle Berry
Genre: Romantic Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $43 million

Plot: Friends and family of a married Black architect react in different ways to his affair with an Italian secretary  

'I Got No Jungle Fever, Got No Jungle Fever'

Spike Lee's thematic take on race and ethnicity, Jungle Fever was released two years after the enormous success of Do The Right Thing, which I loved dearly and it has become one of my favourite movies, ever. Jungle Fever treads on the same waters as the former: the only differences being it is approached in the 1990s sense, it is much more cynical and darker and the subject of sex and relationships are also thrown into the mix. 

When I read the plot for Jungle Fever and saw the poster for it, my impressions were this would be a film about sex, love, relationships and interracial love. Well, come to think it, it turns out it is not just about that, it's also about family. It's not just about the main relationship, it's also everyone's reaction to it that sees Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra's characters ostracised by their friends and loved ones. 

Jungle Fever feels muddled and cluttered and not quite sure of what it wants to say; it jumps from one storyline and a set of characters to another and it is just too long. It's as if Spike Lee had 5 different films and shoved them into one film. He crams in too much that it becomes so muddled, it dilutes the final product. But for Malcolm X, by the time the Hughes brothers and John Singleton came along, Lee's 1990s output lacked the street credibility, uniqueness and freshness that embodied Do The Right Thing. The characters played by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, but for the Italian characters, are not very redeemable and they were not well-written and developed. Snipes's performance lacks the emotional heart and warmth that he just can't seem to generate. Their relationship comes across as cynical, not to mention also it lacks genuine spark. Sciorra had no chemistry with Robin Williams in the tepid What Dreams May Come, and neither did she have any with Snipes with Jungle Fever. The late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee play the role reversal of their characters from Do The Right Thing, with Ossie as the moody type and Ruby as the nice old woman. I was also annoyed that the same old cops, the racist white cops from Do The Right Thing reappeared and reenacted the same roles as before. But it was nice to see John Turturro play the nice guy this time around as Paulie and I liked his story arc more than the others. 

& unlike Do The Right Thing, this one approaches the subject matter of race and ethnicity with little of the subtlety, not so much intelligence and almost none of its heart. Rather it is shoved in your face and it never takes the time to address itself thoroughly and is abrasive. & almost all of the characters, but for Paulie & the old lady, are just shallow and awful. It's disappointing actually. I thought it started off well but an hour into it, its message is mixed: it's racist to see a Black person dating and falling for a person outside their race, but it also means that dating someone outside of your own race that you don't let a person's colour of their skin affect the person you love and that love does conquer all. It's confusing.  

The film features appearances and turns by Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry as two crack-headed junkies, Queen Latifah as a waitress, whilst the scene with the racist father abusing the daughter is tough to watch and just horrible. It has some watchable scenes, but other than that, this is a tad too long and it's a slapdash of an effort by Lee. Add to that the last 5 mins, those were the worst last 5 mins I have seen in a film for quite some time. 

Dubbed the Spike Lee not-so anti- White people movie, I got no jungle fever whilst sitting through this movie. 

This was, as one Letterboxd member dubbed, miserly porn. 

Final Verdict

Do The Right Thing still reigns as Spike Lee's best effort in my eyes, whilst Jungle Fever doesn't manage to leave a lasting and impacting impression. It can be seen as a companion piece to the former, but it lacks the sharpness, the engrossing narrative and wider depth that Do The Right Thing encompasses and the lengths it goes to into making a social commentary on race relations. Although I'd take this over School Daze. 

Jungle Fever is a sluggishly uneven scattershot of race in the context of love and sex that after some real promise, turns out to be utterly frayed and contentious. 

Do The Right Thing was fantastic and embodied a feel-good factor - sadly Jungle Fever is the exact opposite: this wasn't fantastic and that it felt to me to be too mean-spirited and chaotic for its own good. 


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Retro Review: Torque (2004)

Cast: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Jaime Pressly, Will Yun Lee, Jay Hernandez, Adam Scott, Max Beesley, Christina Millian
Genre: Racing Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $46 million

Plot: A biker is framed by an old rival and biker gang leader for the murder of another biker gang member, who happens to be the brother of Trey, the leader of the most feared biker gang

'All Torque, Little Substance'

Mindless motorcycle film that is the two-wheeled equivalent to The Fast & The Furious series, with a glossy- looking aesthetic akin to Esquire magazine and added biker chicks and male testosterone for good measure, Torque is as predictable, pedestrian and also ridiculous as it can get. Unlike Biker Boys, however, this one does make an effort in having a plot, although the way this is executed doesn't rock one's world, nor it is it as exhilarating as one comes to expect.

Carey Ford is accused of stealing a rival's superbikes before fleeing to Thailand. When he returns, Carey is framed for the murder of gang leader, Trey's brother, as well as his flame/girlfriend, is ticked off with him for disappearing without telling her, coupled with a pair of FBI agents who are also on his trail, so to speak. 

Torque is the feature film debut of Joseph Kahn, mostly renowned for directing pop music videos for the likes of the Backstreet Boys and here, he makes it loud, brash, trashy, fast and dumb. The dialogue and script isn't necessarily a strong point, but neither does most of the garbled dialogue bode very well for the film in general. That and the story and the development, or be it lack of development of characters all take a back seat to the motorcycle action sequences, most of which are reliant on CGI to give it that extra boost. The chase sequences, as nice looking as they are, aren't that convincing. But at least what I give credit to this film for is it knows it isn't anything particularly noteworthy to speak of, that it has a trash-like quality to it and plays it as dumb and silly. 

This is a hybrid of The Fast & The Furious with Biker Boys with some over the top and wacky scenes that are so nonsensical, but are kind of watchable: the motorcycle pursuit on the train tracks with a speeding train, the silly and ashamedly nuts girl fight on motorbikes in front of two mountain Dew and Pepsi advertising boards. They are so far-fetched and yet are for me, the most entertaining scenes out of the whole movie. It also looks as if Kahn has taken a cue from XXX, the Vin Diesel movie in the extreme action-B-movie sense. 

The performances, ranging from the lead Martin Henderson, rapper Ice Cube, Max Beesley, Jaime Pressly to Matt Schulze as villain Henry James are largely unimpressive. Although Ice Cube manages to pull off the hard man role with ease. Matt Schulze bears a uncanny resemblance to one Chris Hemsworth of The Avengers somewhat. But the bland story and poorly written script have so much to do with that and the film intentionally and deliberately sets itself out to be as disposable as it could be and is & knows that it is done very well, in that respect. Yet people will ask should Joseph Kahn and the writers made more of an effort in making Torque less crappy and throw away? Perhaps so. 

Final Verdict: 

Torque is a B-movie and whilst there is no doubt it is visually impressive looking, it relies too much on the CGI visuals and characterisation is definitely moot and nonexistent. Motorbikes and motorcycles are cool-looking, sleek- looking modes of transport, no doubt about that for me, but for them and the races, it's just not quite enough to make an overly decent movie on them and the culture it seeks to project onscreen. 

It needs an impressive story, a cast of characters and actors who you truly buy into their roles, an engaging story, not just a set of two wheels and chase sequences. 

A tad better than Biker Boys and that is by a slight margin, Torque is still relatively poor. Yet as it knows it is isn't all that great and plays around with the tropes that are found in Biker Boys and the Fast & The Furious movies, I suppose I can't knock this one too much. 


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Retro Review: M. Butterfly (1992)

M. Butterfly
Cast: Jeremy Irons, John Lone, Barbara Sukowa, Ian Richardson
Genre: Romantic Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.4 million

Plot: In 1960s China, French diplomat Rene Gallimard falls in love with an opera singer, Song Lilang - but Song is not at all who Gallimard thinks

'The M in M Butterfly Should Stand For Mundane'

Misguided and lacklustre doomed love affair, a man cheats on his wife by falling for a Chinese opera singer, who turns out is not even a woman and add to that is a spy, but for the shocking last 15 mins, M.Butterfly is blurred hardcore shocker David Cronenberg's tamest 2-hour effort.

An onscreen adaptation of the hit Broadway play, a French intelligence official, Rene Gallimard falls in love with a mysterious opera singer, Song Liling. Their secret affair lasts for 18 years, who throughout the duration of that period of time Gallimard had no inkling that his lover is indeed a male & who was later convicted of espionage. 

I could easily tell that Lone as his character was a man by the masculinity of his voice, and he looked way too stocky that no amount of make-up could cover it up. He could never pass himself off as being truly effeminate. I think Cronenberg should have made more of an effort casting an actual androgynous and or gay actor or person who looks more effeminate.

The main issue of M. Butterfly is one of identity and in the Peking opera house, one of the main rules is that many of the female characters are played by men.

None of the complicated themes that are highlighted and mentioned in the book feature whatsoever in this film and with that, it plays up as a straight up drama with little of the tension that doesn't prop up until the very last 20 mins. Rene's wife dissapears out of the equation half way through the film, never to be seen or heard of again and no explanation is given for this. It all feels utterly subdued, uncompelling and dreary and so uninspired, which given the plot and how interesting it sounds, its execution and delivery should have been far more potent and hard-hitting. Yet it is not. 

Jeremy Irons's character is an idiot who just cannot see through the facade and deception and that he is being played around with. The romance between his character, Rene and John Lone's Song is unengaging, not believable enough & there is no sense of unison or spark and it was underplayed and it just wasn't shocking enough. Shock king Cronenberg is not one to shy away from producing shocks and heightened fear in his movies, but here with M. Butterfly, his approach is far too lightweight and almost empty and even with the plot, it should have been more taxing on the audience and he should have done more with it and added more intensity and excitement. 

Final Verdict:

Not very engaging and despite the good performances by Jeremy Irons and John Lone, M Butterfly turned out to be a dull and flat affair that really should have taken more chances and went even more extreme in its ideas. Tame, boring and but for the last 30 mins, there is no tension and it all felt like a waste of what is a potentially good idea ripe for execution. It's a shame, therefore, that that execution was sorely lacking and with no characters, I could truly root for, M. Butterfly is not just a disappointment but as a movie, it is complete a misfire on many accounts. 

Perhaps that was ideally suited for the stage and not given the cinematic treatment. Either way, I just wasn't convinced by how good this was or should have been. 

Because it is not.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Retro Review: Rocky V (1990)

Rocky V
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Burgess Meredith
Genre: Sports Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $119 million 

Plot: Reluctantly retired from boxing & back from riches to rags, Rocky takes on a new protege - who betrays him, as the champ's son must adjust to his family's new life from bankruptcy 

'The Rocky & Bullwinkle Son & Apprentice Show'

Labelled the black sheep of the Rocky movie franchise, the fifth instalment in the Rocky franchise sees Rocky Balboa take a bit of a back seat and step away from the ring, whilst he turns his attention to other things: most notably being a father figure for his son and a mentor for rookie Tommy Gunn. Though it has taken a lot of flak and criticism for dumbing down the series and going down the emotional route, Rocky V was still fully entertaining and a film that didn't have one dull moment throughout. I mean, it's not the best in the series and there are lots of far better movies than Rocky V, and still, I found this one to be good; not very good or terrific, but overly decent with a compelling story that is less formulaic and thoroughly enjoyable. Especially the performances. 

Rocky V tries to do things slightly differently and credit to the writers and producers for taking a risk, even if it isn't something that adorned fans of the previous movies. 

After defeating Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren, who coincidentally enough reunited with Stallone for The Expendables movies), Rocky ends up brain damaged and quits the ring for good. He and Adrian return home - only to find their assets have been signed over to a financial advisor. They then move back to their old neighbourhood find themselves confronted & goaded by promoter Duke, who is somewhat based on the real promoter Don King, who demands Rocky back in the ring and meeting a young boxer in Tommy Gunn, who sees Rocky as the person to groom & mould him into the ultimate fighting machine that he is. But alas, there is a sting in the tail and when Rocky discovers that Tommy has been lured by King and has gone down the darker path, much to his dismay, they settle their differences one way: a street fight brawl. With Tommy looking to emerge from Rocky's shadow and wanting nothing to do with him and Robert, Rocky's son, who looks up to his father, - and wants to have a good father/son relationship. Yet after being beaten up by bullies in school, he feels neglected by his father, of whom chooses to spend time with Tommy in the ring. Rocky V is divided into one main plot and one subplot: the main plot being Rocky honing his new protege, Tommy and the subplot involving Robert, Rocky's young son.

Being the least liked film of the Rocky series, Sylvester Stallone even said he detests this movie & that he only did it for the money. Though as mentioned, I found it enjoyable there are a few issues with Rocky V: the first is Stallone's performance feels off and his mannerisms and the way he says his lines are off, at times. Tommy Gunn, meanwhile, is a necessary secondary character and nemesis for Balboa. Director John G Avildsen who did the first Rocky, as well the Karate Kid trilogy of films returns for this instalment and his efforts are admirable. George Washington's Duke was convincingly slimy and an arrogant money-hungry big mouth. The idea to add more conflict to the story, as opposed to relying on the same formula was good to see. The street fight was an interesting attempt to shake things up, as well as add a new dimension. 

Where Rocky V pales in contrast to Rocky IV is its feel-good spirit, and but for the penultimate showdown, the other fights are not as good. The first two Rocky movies were more melodramatic and with Avildsen, who directed the first Rocky, back in the director's chair, he relies less on the action and more on the drama. Yet because I enjoyed the story and how it developed, I felt the drama was done well. I know some people didn't like when it shifted on Rocky's son and on him and dad, but it wasn't done in a way that was too mawkish. Although some of the scenes where Rocky puts on a goofy voice as he cheers up his son was a bit cringing and embarrassing. It was a good move to see Rocky's struggles outside of the ring for a change and how he deals with each predicament. That, and it's well developed, the motives of the characters and their storylines and how they tie in with Rocky are well balanced and well devised also. 

If you are expecting a typical Rocky movie, then you will feel disappointed in the direction it has headed here. But if you are interested in a Rocky effort that still has its emotional heart in the right places and with that, end with a bang that this one has, and one I thought was really good and extremely satisfying, Rocky V is a film that far from completely terrible as it has been lauded by so many.  

Final Verdict:

Not the most memorable Rocky movie and as a little hokey as it was in places, it was still entertaining and enjoyable stuff, nonetheless. There wasn't a scene I truly hated or disliked actually. Rocky's son was tolerable for me and I felt his frustrations as he tries to get his dad's attention. 

What I enjoyed most was that Rocky V tried to be legitimate in its story and making it engrossing as it was and is. The further it went on and with the plot twists added, made me like it even more. 

Granted, it may have disappointed so many, but for me, Rocky V still packs a mighty punch. 


Friday, 8 December 2017

Mini Retro Review: Phat Girlz (2006) #badmovies

Phat Girlz
Romantic Comedy

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, yet Phat Girlz seeks to decry this notion. The 'B' word is mentioned several times and is not an affectionate term as Mo'Nique's character claims in the movie, Mo'Nique's character, a plus-sized fashion designer named Jazmin refers to other women as skinny b*****s. According to website Plugged In, there are over 100 uses of the B-word, H** & motherf***er in total. This comedy is not feel-good, it is mean-spirited & crude and it felt like random cheap shots aimed at skinny women and making them the target of ridicule. As well as Mo'Nique, Eric Roberts aka Julia Roberts's older brother is in this one, who is no stranger to straight- to- DVD, Z-grade movies. & Phat Girlz is another one of those movies, with its cheap, home video, DV look. The 'you so fat/ugly mamma' skit is sort of amusing, but also cringing at the same time. Phat Girlz is a so-called female empowerment type of comedy that doesn't practice what it preaches: it preaches about loving yourself, no matter what your size & has a few important things to say, yet it has scenes of Jazmin mouthing off and dissing women who aren't big or obese. Also, it has its double standards with men: six packs, huge biceps & physically toned yes, but looking like a nerd with glasses, being short and fat, this film doesn't give two hoots about them. Which is not good, at all. This film wants to have its cake and eat it. & it's mostly unfunny & snarky. 

Is It Worth Watching?

If you can put up with fat-shaming slurs, slurs aimed towards slim and skinny people, then by means go ahead. Otherwise, steer clear.


Retro Review: The Polar Express (2004)

The Polar Express
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter
Genre: 3D Computer-Animated Christmas Musical Fantasy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $300 million

Plot: A young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure, he learns about friendship, bravery and the spirit of Christmas

'This Journey Just Came To A Crashing Halt' 

An animated CGI film that attempts to evoke the spirit of Christmas, besides the visuals, The Polar Express is based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg & penned by Robert Zemeckis, who is best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the Back To the Future trilogy of movies, and yet which has relatively little else to show for it, and with that, it is far from being lauded as a Christmas classic for generations to come. It tries to be a Holiday version of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and yet it comes off as being dull and offers very little that is good. 

A young boy has serious reservations about the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, as he awaits for him, a magical train appears outside his house & the conductor takes him on a journey, in the hope of making the boy believe and that Santa is the real thing. 

The computer effects are a mixture of great to freakish in parts. The pseudo-realistic looking adult models look off, in a way, but the children's faces look plastic-y when they ought to be more polished. & the musical numbers range from just about bearable to cringing. But with animated movies, it doesn't matter how flashy or impressive looking the visuals are, the story has to grab your attention and the characters need to resonate and are entertaining. Yet The Polar Express doesn't have that and there were times where I drifted off and not paid any attention because the story got duller and became dreary. As the film went on, the more it made less sense to me and it appears as if Robert Zemeckis never made any attempts in making it clear, whatsoever. It is with that that I became bored and felt even more disinterested and that I didn't care what was happening and what the characters were saying. As a result, as much as I tried to get into it, it was difficult for me to fully enjoy this movie. 

This film is plagued with issues, notwithstanding the other characters such as the homeless guy and the conductor: The Polar Express doesn't touch upon their existence, why they exist and in what ways do they actually have an impact on the story. 

The Polar Express lacks soul and it feels disjointed, with a narrative that is just isn't very engrossing and inviting to the audience. As much as many have pointed out how the visuals don't look all that appealing, they were the least of my concerns. I was more interested in how the story would fare, and yet sadly with this film, it is not very well done and plus, it dragged on so much. It was beyond dull. One of the elves sounded as if he was on helium and he sounded a tad like Joe Pesci. The nerd with the glasses was just annoying, with his annoying voice. Tom Hanks voices multiple characters, although they all sound the same as each other and that Zemeckis could have and should have cast more actors or even other voice actors to lend their vocal talents. 

This is a film where it looks extravagant, over-the-top and relies on CGI effects to prop up the movie, yet everything else with regards to characterisation, narrative, motivations of the characters and the core theme of this movie, whatever that is, is completely and sorely lacking. & not made abundantly clear. 

When the film ended, I ended up scratching my head. The Polar Express attempts to pose some, and some questions - yet never truly provides those answers. 

Final Verdict:

It gains half a mark for the visuals, but otherwise, The Polar Express is a movie that should have been so much better. Zemeckis should have made more of an effort to make it more engrossing. The film has heart in some places, but sadly the story never made the desired impact on me, nor did it make me feel a thing for The Polar Express

It's a great pity. I mean, I kind of understand what Zemeckis and co were trying to aim for here. But the execution just wasn't thoroughly as enticing and it left me in a state of disappointment. 

I tried to like it, I really did, but the film just didn't go far enough or try hard enough.

The Polar Express was ripe for being a truly excellent Christmas movie, especially an amazing animated Christmas film. But with regards to the story, the warmth it tried to evoke and the Christmas spirit it embraced yet wanted to evoke, it all fell short. 

And as a Robert Zemeckis offering, compared to his other efforts, this is just not up there with his absolute best. 


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Retro Review: Double Team (1997)

Double Team
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke, Paul Freeman, Natacha Lindinger
Genre: Action 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $11.4 million

Plot: An international spy teams up with an arms dealer to escape from a penal colony & rescue his family from a terrorist

'Action Euro-Trash & Hong Kong 90's Oddity That Feels Meh'

Jean-Claude Van Damme had always wanted to make and star in a martial arts action movie made and produced in Hong Kong and whilst he tried to replicate that with Double Team, after the tremendous Hard Target, it still feels as a run-of-the-mill and routine Van Damme effort.

Jack Quinn (Van Damme) is a French agent who quit the hectic life to settle down with his wife, who is now pregnant with their first child. Yet not long after, Jack is thrown back into the deep-end when terrorist Stavros (Mickey Rourke) has been found and needs to be brought down. With the help of the charismatic arms dealer, Yaz (Dennis Rodman), they set out to capture him. Only to later discover his wife & child have been kidnapped. 

This film is.... mindless, nonsensical and silly. It's a strange concoction of a spy-like, espionage film with action, but it feels very incoherent. 

With fight choreography from Sammo Hung and directed by Tsui Hark, who played the main baddie in 1985's Yes Madam! starring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock, Double Team is a movie that could have been so easily made in Hong Kong with either Jackie Chan, Jet Li or Donnie Yen in the lead role. It is made with its very foreign Cinematic style and tone in mind. Its feel and production values are definitely akin to a '90s Hong Kong action movie & less so as an American movie, although it is also a B-movie all the way through.  

American audiences also turned their noses up on this mid-90s actioner, with arguably the biggest turnoff surprise of then- NBA Chicago Bulls basketball player, Dennis Rodman and all of his 6ft plus frame of him making his feature film debut as Jean-Claude Van Damme's partner-in-crime. Unlike John Woo's Hard Target, which went all out in the action ranks and with the story and plot not lagging in places, sadly with Double Team, I just never could resonate with it as much as I did towards the 1993 Woo epic. Plus, the action here is not as grand and entertaining. The fight scenes are the typical standard in every bargain bin Van Damme movie, but Sammo Hung just wasn't able to elevate it any further as he should have done. 

Double Team is also one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's last major cinematic offerings, right before his movies went down the straight- to- DVD route, and a film that whilst it is considered as the movie that derailed and signalled the end of Van Damme's movie career, I found this one a tad more enjoyable than Knock-Off, which also starred comedic actor, Rob Schiender. & that isn't really saying that much. 

There are some lull moments with Van Damme's onscreen wife and when the film forgets about her, whereas some viewers may be taken aback by this, I just found all of her scenes forgettable and she didn't have an effect on me. it is also silly in places, what with Van Damme kicking a tiger being one of them, so much so you have suspend your disbelief and take in everything that comes. Sort of. Dennis Rodman's flamboyant character is as colourful and wacky as I'd come to imagine him to be, ever since I saw him on the front cover with his green hair, massive tattoos & body piercings who also has a horde of firearms and weapons stored in his lair. Rodman's performance was so-so actually. His delivery of his lines was all right but it wasn't anywhere as great, & is a tad wooden like Van Damme's and his fighting abilities are rather decent. Fans and viewers of Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark will be bemused to see Paul Freeman here as the leader of the colony, though I guess he must have needed a paycheque. & Mickey Rourke didn't do anything here that wowed me. The characters as a whole are all stocky, one-dimensional with hardly any range, whatsoever & for some wham, bam, thank you Van Damme moments, the film is not appealing and nor that amazing. 

Double Team is an above mediocre, glorified action caper of a film and I can't help but think that Hark went down the gimmicky route and as much as Double Team comes across as a gimmicky action movie with Rodman in the supporting role, it does have a couple of watchable moments. It is a film that barely makes any sense and is illogical in many ways.  

As a buddy cop action movie, however, this one doesn't quite work well enough, Van Damme and Rodman just don't look convincing as a pairing and the ending isn't that great and yet I also expected Van Damme and Rodman to give Rourke a proper beat down and he dies, but alas, that doesn't happen. I was disappointed, although how underwhelming it was and with that being the icing on the cake, it all summed up how I felt let down by Double Team

And the added Coca-Cola product placements and basketball lingo are a bit too much to ask for & reeks of unnecessary. 

As I watched this, it wasn't all that of a surprise to see how and why Double Team didn't rake in millions at the box office; that and as a Jean-Claude action film, it underwhelms in the action stakes, both quality and quantity-wise. It clearly shows. Although there were plans for a sequel to Double Team, those hopes were put to rest and shelved, due to how poorly it did financially and how it wasn't so well received. 

Final Verdict:

Incomprehensively speaking, Double Team is all over the place and barely makes much sense. Action-wise, it disappointed me and it felt so meh, so throwaway and typical, it wasn't that big of a deal. 

Double Team? More like Double Down, just like the KFC food item. 


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Retro Review: Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Tim Curry, Brenda Fricker, Catherine O' Hara
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $359 million 

Plot: One year after Kevin was left home alone & had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself in New York City, & the same criminals are not far behind

'A Cash-Grab Sequel That Is Not So Much 'Lost', But Virtually The Same Movie As The Last'

12-year-old Kevin McCallister is less cute and endearing, but he seems to be a tad more aware of his surroundings and the people he surrounds himself with and still, he takes on the bad guys, outsmarts them and wins. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York turns out to be a follow-up made by people, who should have known better and should have made more of an effort, instead of being just a predictable and overly formulaic sequel. Which this offering is.

Released two years after the massive success of 1990's Home Alone and with more hype and commercial tie-ins and a bigger budget than ever before, the one thing Home Alone 2 lacks is charm, and charm aplenty. For the second time in 2 years, Kevin's parents lose their younger son, whilst on holiday. Now as this is a fictional comedy, this is not that big of a deal, but of course, in real-life, this would alert social services/child protection services and the parents would be questioned, and possibly arrested and charged with neglect. Who forgets their child, 2 years in a row? 

Most of the magic and essence of the prequel is all but lost and the execution is too identical and lacklustre that it doesn't really attempt to make strides in making it more entertaining, never mind watchable. The other flaw with this movie is when it touches on the emotional arc and with the characters, it's like nothing has changed and they have learnt absolutely nothing from the first movie and it is all back to square one again. 

But for some of the scenes where Kevin converses with the bird woman and hotel staff, there is very little else in this film that truly makes it worthwhile. Watching this movie, all I could think of is how this is virtually the same as the last Home Alone movie and that it is a clone and a lazy rehash effort on the part of Chris Columbus and John Hughes, although luckily and thankfully for Columbus he went one better with Mrs Doubtfire, one year after this movie & but for some issues, the Robin Williams comedy was and is far better than Home Alone 2. The late Hughes, on the other hand, went downhill, ever since this movie and with this effort, not only does he play things far too safe, the whole thing feels lethargic.

The tropes of the first movie are rehashed: using a voice recorder to fool the adults, watching TV and recording the voices to fool the adults, Kevin annoying and peeing off his parents and in them getting annoyed with him, Kevin losing his family & doing things by himself, the weirdo stranger who turns out to be a good guy and helps Kevin out in defeating the wet bandits. The wet bandits being even dumber and more accident-prone. This set-up is incredibly long and overdrawn and the repetition and overreliance of recycling the same gags, emotional beats means it gets old, quickly. & when it gets old as it does, the chase becomes much less fun, as it is. The slapstick humour didn't work for me, as it was either too similar to the first movie or it just wasn't original and funny enough. 

Rather than be unique and go to lengths to make it invigorating and fresh, Home Alone 2 makes the mistake of just relying on what worked from the first film and to regurgitate & elaborate on those ideas. But still, that is just not enough. It certainly wasn't enough for me; I wanted more, I expected more but I also expected a lot of different things, ideas that haven't been and weren't explored in the prequel. Yet the writer, John Hughes and Columbus dropped the ball. 

So in Home Alone 2, Kevin gets lost and finds himself in familiar territory, loses his family, the wet bandits are out of jail. And yet, instead of defending his home from burglars, Kevin sets traps as and often as he likes, with little concern or regard towards their welfare and goes out to hurt those who he fears. Culkin reprised his famous role, and yet, unfortunately, Chris Columbus and the writers approached the Kevin McCalister character with barely any new & fresh ideas. It's as if they didn't care enough to make a difference to that character, one bit. 

The first Home Alone was a huge hit and many of those ideas worked because they weren't attempted before; that and the heartwarming & poignant moments felt genuine and less artificial and forced. Home Alone 2 feels uninspired, makes little to no effort in carving out a truly worthwhile sequel that not only lives up to the original but is different in many respects, and instead, is harboured with a formula that is tediously repetitive. 

Even with the sight of watching Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern getting injured and hurt by the booby traps being a tad amusing, that, for me, isn't enough to salvage what is, in fact, a clone of the first Home Alone movie that is too much alike and far less, if not so much less enjoyable and entertaining.

Final Verdict:

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is like a burger you see in adverts for McDonald's, KFC, Burger King: it looks the same, it looks appetising & yet when you dive right into it, it isn't all that great, to be honest. It just doesn't offer much that is different that makes it great and worthwhile.

Redundant, derivative & relies too much on rehashing and relying on previous ideas of Home Alone, Home Alone 2, in more ways than one, has outstayed its welcome & mainly exists as a cash-grab and thus, in doing so, it is far less enjoyable.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Retro Review: Elf (2003)

Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zoey Deschanel, Mary Steenbergen, Bob Newhart
Genre: Christmas Fantasy Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $220 million

Plot: After inadvertently wrecking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S in search of his true identity

'Express Your Elf'

A Christmas comedy steeped in tradition but also given the Will Ferrell treatment through his brand of comedy and humour, Elf sees the former Saturday Night Live comic unleash his child-like side as man-child Buddy seeks out what is his true worth as an elf.

Elf is more of a comedy about Christmas and less so a Christmas comedy and it's still an enjoyable romp.

Years before he established himself in the Daddy's Home movies, Ferrell starred in this festive comedy directed by actor Jon Favreau, who also gave us Iron Man & Chef. Raised as an elf, Buddy Hobbs was once a baby who found himself in Santa's toy sack and inadvertently into the North Pole. He grew up into a not so bright elf, but when he discovers he is human and not an elf, he goes in search for his biological father named Walter Hobbs, in the hopes of reconnecting with him. Walter, on the other hand, thinks Buddy is a bit of a nutter and thus, he is dismissed by pretty much everyone he meets. But Buddy is not going to give up in winning over Walter, Walter's son and wooing a love interest: a fellow store worker played by Blonde-haired Zooey Deschanel. 

Elf is a cartoon-like caper fish out of water tale come to life, which is also mixed in with animated stop-motion sequences that look terrific and the sight of Ferrell parading himself in yellow tights and Green elf suit & his cheerful demeanour as Buddy, is bemusing. 

& yet Elf is not quite the laugh fest I've come to expect and it doesn't topple Jingle All The Way, as far as festive comedy movies go as the comedy just wasn't always there & for me it doesn't feel as fun as that Arnold Schwarzenneger flick and the third and final act does make the film lose some steam, but it does have an endearing Holiday charm and spirit that illicit Christmas time that is very innocent and clean. The maple syrup with spaghetti thing was just too weird for my tastes though.

In the hands of any other director but Jon Favreau and star Will Ferrell, Elf would have been a complete bomb and it just wouldn't be anywhere as watchable. The film borrows a few ideas from other Christmassy movies, but the end product is more endearing, which is no bad thing and is less comedic. I will say that it has its heart in places, and the comedy was okay in places but it was inconsistent, whilst the story needed to be stronger and more convincing. 

Final Verdict

I am a tad disappointed that it wasn't as entertaining as I'd wanted and expected, given how well it did at the box office initially, but nonetheless, when it comes to capturing the festive spirit and feeling more Christmassy, Elf succeeds in that respect. 

As a comedy, it needed to have been better and yet it is mildly amusing, but the rest of the film ranged from okay to good with the schmaltz levels kept to a low. 

You really need to be able to tolerate Will Ferrell to dig this one, although he also deserved a slightly more meaningful and funnier script to go along with his performance & the heartwarming feel it evokes.

Elf is nice, endearing with clean humour that encapsulates what Christmas is about, but it is Will Ferrell who makes it worth seeing and as it is the ideal setup for his schtick. Elf is one of those movies that kind of sits there, but also it's not crap or bad. 

Still, given that Christmas movies have gotten lamer and worse since the early 2000s, but for 1 or 2 exceptions, Elf is still my favourite festive film of the 21st Century by a long distance. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...