Friday, 17 November 2017

Retro Review: Charlotte's Web (2006)

Charlotte's Web
2006
Cast: Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford, Thomas Haden Church
Genre: Fantasy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $144 million

Plot: After learning that a young pig's days are numbered, a literate spider weaves an elaborate plan to save her friend from the butcher's block 






'A Web That Needed To Weave More Magic & Charm'

I went into this film with low expectations; I didn't expect much out of it and given as I wasn't familiar with the original story and that I'm not really into farm-based movies, I thought it would be something that wouldn't hold my attention for very long. Charlotte's Web is a famous children's tale, which also spawned a 2D animated version of the film by Hanna-Barbera, with Debbie Reynolds voicing the lead role. 

When a young piglet in Wilbur is saved from being slaughtered & ending up as somebody else's Sunday roast by a young farm girl played by Dakota Fanning, who promises to take care of him, the two form a close-knit bond until he is relocated to another barn. From there onwards, Wilbur forms an unlikely friendship with a spider named Charlotte who changes his life, forever. She also vows to save his life, yet with her health deteriorating and worsening, it's up to Charlotte to teach the young 'un a few lessons about life, as well as death, before she passes on. 

With co-production by Nickelodeon, the 2006 version sees the E.B White tale come to life in CGI form and with a more star-studded cast in the likes of Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Julia Roberts. Julia voices Charlotte who is a spider, who befriends Wilbur. She has a nice soothing and comforting voice and tone that, along with her affectionate quality, suits and accompanies this character really well. Yes, people will digress and say otherwise and label it as nothing more than stunt casting, and that is fine. But for me, her deadpan delivery was good to have. Young Dominic Scott Kay was also sweet as lead, Wilbur. 

Despite my unfamiliarity with the story, I would have enjoyed it more, had the film been in 3D or 2D animated form. So going into Charlotte's Web as a neutral & not knowing anything about the book but looking forward to a good movie, it didn't deliver. 

The story was the least of my interests although that aspect didn't wow me, I was more into how the voice casting fared: it was playing the guessing game where I tried to guess who was voicing who and matching the names with the characters. As I was watching Charlotte, all I was doing is picturing Julia Roberts's face & visualising her in that role, focusing on that aspect. Her vocal efforts were consistently on point throughout & thus, she triumphed. She needs to take up a few more voice-over animated character roles, but also characters with far more personality. Steve Buscemi as Templeton the Rat was energetic and boisterous. The rest of the cast did okay to good. 

Charlotte's Web basically, respectfully and competently remains faithful to the plot of the story; unfortunately, one needs to be completely familiar with and have fully enjoyed the original story to have grasped it well enough & the vocal talents of Roberts & Buscemi barely, and just barely made its moments watchable. At over 1 hour and 30 mins, the story meanders on without it ever exploding in certain moments and the film lacks any true witty scenes to give it a boost. The lack of a focus for this movie didn't help matters either. 

The silly flatulence moments were silly and come to the end, it is a movie that the likelihood of me sitting through it again, is practically zero.

It's nice, but still, that just wasn't enough. 



 


Summary:

Pros +

- The voice casting
- Julia Roberts as Charlotte brings charm & was very endearing
- Animated fantasy scenes are well done
- Endearing and cute at times


Cons -

- Story lacks wit, charm & is not very engrossing
- Still doesn't come close to Babe
- Wished this voice casting was for Babe than for this film
- I'd have preferred it in 3D animated form, ala Pixar/Dreamworks style 
- The human characters lack character & their parts were incredibly dull
- Unless you are a true fan, this is not a movie that everyone can get into and enjoy



Final Verdict:

Babe with a star-studded cast, although Babe has slightly more charm and I'd wished that film had this casting. Of course, Babe still went on to gross millions more than Charlotte's Web. If the story was much better and had more for me to fully love it, then that would have been great and had I known and read and loved the book, that would have been of great benefit also.

Julia Roberts's inclusion and admirable efforts just about saves it from being utterly mediocre & unwatchable. I usually can't stand spiders, but any spider voiced by Julia gets my seal of approval. Plus, my eyes were leaking when she died *sob*. Still, Charlotte's Web is not horrible and it's not too shabby, but it's not great either and, but for the closing moments, the story is not satisfying enough to make me want to fully love it. 

Despite the star-casting, Charlotte's Web is decent at best and passes as pleasant, but underwhelms and it's hardly a movie most people would bat an eyelid for, without the well-known names. 

For its intended fans of the book, only. 


Overall:




Mini Retro Review: Dennis The Menace (1993) #badmovies

Dennis The Menace
1993
Family Comedy


I remembered the cartoon, I wasn't a fan but it was okay. It was about a mischievous kid being a pain in the butt for neighbour, Mr Wilson. The opening music is so Home Alone - like, the late Arnold Stang who voiced Top Cat is in this one playing a photographer. But for a few chuckle-worthy moments, the entire rest of this film is sheer boredom with little to no depth characters. The slapstick is this side of Home Alone and it's not anything you haven't seen before. Every cast member is wasted, although Lea Thompson seemed, okay yet exists more or less as background noise and I'd much remember Walter Matthau's turn alongside Robin Williams in The Survivors, rather than this showing. The addition of Christopher Lloyd would have been all right - had his character not been a disgusting pedo, but alas, it seems so out of place. The actor who plays Kevin's brother in Home Alone is in this too. Whereas Kevin in Home Alone was too much of a smart ass, he still came across as likeable and he took it out on the bad guys - Dennis meanwhile is annoying & he took his actions out on Mr Wilson, who wasn't so much of a bad person. This is an unmemorable and tepid version of Home Alone with much younger characters.


Is It Worth Watching?

Only if you don't mind movies like Home Alone


Overall: 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Mini Retro Review: Nora's Hair Salon II: A Cut Above (2008) #badmovies

Nora's Hair Salon II
2008
Comedy 

I need to get round to seeing the first Nora's Hair Salon, which was supposed to be okay overall but better than this movie. Supposedly so that is. This movie is a cheap Z-movie version of Beautyshop which starred Queen Latifah, only minus the charm and appealing characters & is set in a beautyshop. If you have seen that movie, then you will know that Nora's Hair Salon is the same type of movie, well, premise-wise. 2 sisters have to put aside their differences, in order to make the Salon a financial success. There is a Chinese American male character and his mother, 2 old guys are sitting outside the salon making small talk (either they are ripping off the old guys in Coming To America as played by Eddie Murphy, or it feels tacked on for no apparent reason) that does nothing but to fill in the film's runtime, the production levels are bottom of the barrel low and as expected in a straight-to-DVD movie. In fact, it looks like a low-cut TV movie this side of Hallmark channel. Stacey Dash is in this one, as well as Fresh Prince of Bel Air's Tatyana Ali and Bobby Brown. There is little plot, the humour is downright unfunny with characters that are devoid of identity and personality and the performances are poor. The dialogue is poor with curse words thrown in for cheap measure & the script is weak. 


Is It Worth Watching?

This movie is clunky and feels like it was all put together in a few days. So no. Stick with Beautyshop & Barbershop if you are into movies like this



Overall:


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Retro Review: Do The Right Thing (1989)

Do The Right Thing
1989
Cast: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence
Genre: Comedy-Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $37 million

Plot: One scorching inner-city day, racial tensions reach boiling point in a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood






'Fight The Power' 


It's hard to argue that Spike Lee has been the staunch figurehead and known as the powerful voice in not just African American cinema, but culture as a whole as his movies have a more resounding impact as they are revisited and rewatched, time and time again, 3 decades later. Most of his movies deal with the African American experience and what it is like for these characters and the stories that they are in. Lee's third motion picture coming off the back of 'She's Gotta Have It' and 'School Daze', in contrast, & unlike those efforts, Do The Right Thing took on a much more ballsy and bold approach & with that, it was one that made waves on the mainstream commercial front. 

When the film's opening credits have Rosie Perez dancing & doing the running man dance, I knew I was going to be in for a fascinating movie. Do The Right Thing is a film that attempts to explore race relations in late 1980s New York through the vignettes and various snapshots of the main characters involved. The internal conflict in Do The Right Thing is centred on the presence of these racially diverse set of protagonists who all operate within and are situated in a predominately Black neighbourhood area of Brooklyn. A lot of them don't seem to get along with others, whilst Mookie is pretty much a guy who chooses not to get involved himself. 

Spike Lee is Mookie: a pizza delivery boy
 who has a Hispanic girlfriend, who is also the mother of their child. Mookie works for Sal, the owner of the pizzeria, who also has two sons in the fiery tempered and not-so-easy-going -yet whining Pino, who is racist and hates Blacks, as well as his job and Vito, who isn't racist and of whom doesn't have a problem in working with Mookie. Mookie's friend is a political activist who becomes incensed when he sees there are no famous Black faces that adorn the walls of the restaurant that he and Radio Raheem team up with several other people to smash it up and loot the Pizzaria place. Other characters include Radio Raheem, who carries with him a massive booming boom box & blasting out rap songs, as well as an elderly gentleman whose presence attracts Mother Sister played by Ruby Dee & Mookie's sister, Jade. There are also appearances from Samuel L. Jackson as a disc jockey, Martin Lawrence as one of the gang members & Rosie Perez as Mookie's girlfriend, Tina.  

Don't get me wrong, this was still a fantastic movie in many ways and it took me on the second viewing for me to get into the story, fully, but I was a little baffled at the lack of progress being made by Spike Lee's character, Mookie. Besides Lee's performance, which was sufficient, despite being the lead, I was disappointed that Mookie never fully took charge and rather in this character, it appears as such his attitude and actions just led me to believe he didn't become the character to make the impact this film should have warranted. 

On the flipside of that argument, notwithstanding, it's great that Lee wanted to incorporate the different perspectives of the different characters who hail from various cultural and social backgrounds. From Italian Caucasians to African-American Blacks, Asians through the Koreans, Latinos and even a mentally handicapped person in Smiley, I liked this diversity aspect and these melting pots of cultures really made Do The Right Thing more substantial and self-fulfilling. The characters are also not one-sided, one-dimensional cardboard cutouts: each one of them encompasses depth and personality. Every central character who has a role to play in this movie through their individual subplots, all make the required effort. This film is basically a series of binary oppositions, where different qualities, themes, categories which are opposites, when there is a common connection, these are paired together to create further meaning. African-American Blacks/Italian Whites, the police, who are presented here as casual racists versus everyone else.

The film came out and it caused controversy in 1989, which when I look at it today, it seems that all the points Lee made look affable, but at the same time, it was quite a daring and bold statement that he made here: did it endorse and perpetuate violence and racism, or did it exist for Lee to make a point that these things did and do exist & those ethnic minorities are victims of 'White power'? Whichever position you take up, one thing is for certain as I sat through Do The Right Thing, and that is, it doesn't pander to one side, go down the preachy route, nor does this movie take either side. It presents things as they are and as equally and fairly as possible, in a straightforward way. Spike Lee's approach, thankfully, does not repeatedly hit you on the head so many times for the viewer or audience to understand and contemplate what is exacting happening in each scene. 

As the film went on, Lee cranks up the pressure, slowly and surely, one by one and when it all implodes during the final third, it gets better. 




Final Verdict:


Roger Ebert, who I disagree with on many occasions, said Do The Right Thing is the most important film of 1989, which I fully agree with, but not only that, I'd go as far as saying the story, the characters here are far more potent and significant than something like Dead Poets Society, which by taking away Robin Williams's performance & which was heavily dependent on it, would have so easily been throwaway and not as memorable. This movie is one of the best to come out of 1989 & I prefer it over the Peter Hyams effort, by far and as it took more risks and chances. 

No matter how old you are, every person has to see this film, at least once in your lives and having finally got round to it, I understand now why Do The Right Thing is so highly and well received. 

Beneath the subtle humour and individual vignettes of the characters spouting playful lines of dialogue, that underlying message about racial and social tolerance, unity and diversity couldn't be any more further from the truth. Because in many ways, Do The Right Thing, manages to tell the truth- as skewed as some people think it is through Spike Lee's eyes-, and it does so with realness and authenticity. 



Overall:



 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Retro Review: Better Luck Tommorow (2002)

Better Luck Tomorrow
2002
Cast: Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho
Genre: Crime-drama
U.S Box office gross: Over $3.8 million

Plot: A group of over-achieving Asian-American high school seniors enjoy a power trip when they dip into extra-curricular criminal activities





'Great To Have A Different Take On Asian-American Myth & Shattering Stereotypes, But It Just Wasn't Edgy Enough'

I cannot tell you how incredibly disappointed and underwhelmed I felt about this film, after all the praise that has been lauded and that I was looking forward to Better Luck Tomorrow as this gritty, interesting and entertaining drama about a group of young Asian males who put down their studies in favour of breaking the law and causing trouble wherever they go. & one reason for this is the movie went down the MTV production route and as a result, any of the heightened impact and tension it tried to evoke was lessened. & with that, the story and its characters never exploded & shocked me as it should have done. It never left me in awe.

Better Luck Tomorrow was directed by Justin Lin, who went on to do the Fast & the Furious movies and the film follows four students, Ben, Virgil, Daric and Han who get straight A's as well as throwing wild parties, get into fights. There is also a romantic storyline involving the main character, Ben. 

I know what some of you are probably thinking: as I am Chinese/Asian, I should be able to enjoy this film and get into it as much as I could. Well, I tried to, but the story and the direction never captured my attention. I found it convoluted. & even if this story was written with White or Black characters in place of the Asian ones and the story remained the same as it was, I still wouldn't feel any more different, and I'd still find it bland. 

Before I tuned in, I read the plot for this movie and for me, it was in a way familiar with Dead Presidents with the Asians rebelling and going against the model minority standards myth. I was thinking that perhaps Better Luck Tomorrow would do for Asians and Asian Americans as Dead Presidents did for African-Americans and have very edgy, in-yer-face characters with striking personalities. 

When I did sit through it, it just never offered that to make it more worthwhile and to make the film more talked about. All that talk about this film being gritty and hard-edged never transpired, onscreen. Justin Lin's MTV look and feel just never resonated and made strides. It's just vignettes and scenes of characters talking about various 'stuff', sniffing coke, having sex but it was never entertaining. & besides, running credit card scams and a high school cheatsheet to dealing with Coke & guns, just doesn't reek of shocking to me, but it is minuscule and petty. The only scene that had me watching was when the Asian American students beat up the racists. 

It's a shame. I really enjoyed Big Trouble in Little China and The Joy Luck Club and I was hoping that Better Luck Tomorrow would join the ranks of those movies. Yet had it gone down the mainstream, commercial route with more established production values, it would have helped this movie a lot. The indie camera work is okay at best, but it just never suited this story that it tried to tell to the audience, well to me anyway. The characters motivations also appear to be not very ambiguous and rather muddled, & I got no sense of their motivations and reasonings for their actions and behaviours. 

Better Luck Tomorrow is or be it was also touted for shattering and breaking Asian stereotypes - when arguably, what it did was highlight the most common stereotype in the brainy geek who studied hard at school. The film's reluctance also in addressing prejudiced attitudes and racial issues, especially in relation to the characters Asian-American identity, further undermines the film's intentions, which is also not made abundantly clear. 

The further the film went on, the more it couldn't decide which direction to take the movie into, and with that, I cared even less for it. 




Final Verdict:

The film shows promise, especially at the beginning but in the end, it just doesn't deliver what it set out to do and that I found it completely underwhelming and it never went to lengths for me to truly love it. I barely was able to finish it that come to the 40th-minute mark, I lost all interest. There is no edge, no feeling of drama and hardly any real grit to this film dubbed a crime drama. Even when it descends down the darker path, it just never went far enough and plus, it was too sterile.  


As I mentioned, but for a few exceptions of the Asian characters dealing with a few racial slurs and Stephanie being adopted into a White family, this is the type of tale where even with White or Black characters, it would still be the same story and it would still feel tepid and mundane. 


Unconvincing and not gritty enough, Better Luck Tomorrow? More like tough luck.



Overall:


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Retro Review: Dead Presidents (1995)

Dead Presidents
1995
Cast: Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodriguez, Terrence Howard, Jenifer Lewis, James Pickens. Jr
Genre: Crime Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $24 million

Plot: A Vietnam vet adjusts to life after the war while trying to support his family, but the chance of a better life may involve crime and war shed





'Vicious & Brutal, Dead Presidents Is A Dark & Tense Transformation From Protagonist To Antagonist'

1995 has been a great year for movies; it's especially one of my high points in terms of favourite films that have been released: from Jumanji to underrated and overlooked gems in Strange Days directed by Kathryn Bigelow and The Basketball Diaries, as well as erm, Showgirls (!). & with that, I'd add Dead Presidents to that growing list from this particular year.  


A dark coming-of-age heist crime drama, the film follows the life of Anthony: a youth from the South Bronx who after graduation, heads off to Vietnam to fight in the war with his comrades. When he returns from the war, 4 years later, he assumes that life would get easier and he'd be a much happier and better person after that. In fact, it is the complete opposite: disillusioned with life on the streets of New York, it turns out that not only is he the father of a young baby girl, he has financial problems to contend with. And to further compound his misery, his friend is a heroin junkie who shoots up and his girlfriend, Juanita hasn't been completely faithful to him. Plagued by PTSD that he has accumulated during his time fighting in Vietnam, Anthony & with the help of his friends later attempt a heist by robbing a van containing millions of dollars of old bills, known as the so-called ''dead presidents''. As the heist situation unfolds, the repercussions of it become just as deadly and costly. 

The premise of Dead Presidents is how the psychological effects and experiences of war can seriously impact on a person's state of mind. The main character is an all-round good guy Samaritan & easy-going, but when he returns from the war, he carries over some of those experiences over and with that, he completely changes. & it's not for the greater good. It's more in the veins of a character study, where the audience sees the progression, or in this case the regression of this character, who we end up loathing and feeling sorry for.

The casting is mostly made up of a who's who in African-American cinema, along with Ugly Betty's support player, Freddy Rodriguez. Comedic actor Chris Tucker turns in an unexpected and nuanced performance and treads down the darker path as he plays it straight. Laurenz Tate does a sterling job in Anthony's demise and as he teeters closer to the edge, he displays a narcissistic and less contemptuous side. 


What I'd call ''Dead Presidents To Society'', this is a fresh and innovative look at the horrors of the Vietnam conflict from a lower-class Black perspective and rather for it to be looked at as another heist crime movie, this is, in fact, a very engaging and powerful - yet unflinching drama that seeps into the mindset of those affected and left traumatised by the war. But also that no crime goes unpunished and that by doing evil deeds and being a more evil person, that doesn't make you any less off and if you do the crime, you'd have to be prepared to face the consequences and to do the time as well.   

The war battle scenes are realistic and the heist, as action-orientated as it is and is the main centrepiece of the movie and complete with distinctive White face make-up, is not what this film is all about. Rather it's more about the depiction of war itself and its consequences: the Black African-American men who strive to serve and represent the USA in the Vietnam conflict and who fought for what their Black friends told them as ''the White man's war'', as they returned to New York. Rather than making a movie about the war, the Hughes brothers use this as a foreground for the breakdown in relations between ex-soldiers who feel betrayed by their own country, and of American society, of whom the likes of Anthony choose to target and vent their actions towards. 

And the movie did an excellent job in explaining and conveying those sentiments, feelings and frustrations. 

Over 20 years later, Dead Presidents still remains to this day as one of the most underrated and underappreciated African-American movies that got lost in the shuffle amongst Boyz In Da Hood, Menace II Society, sadly & it isn't as highly regarded because it deserves to be. 





Final Verdict:

Highly ambitious and bold in places with a no-nonsense attitude, Dead Presidents is one '90s overlooked gem and after Menace 2 Society, the Hughes brothers have delivered yet another one of the quintessential African- American movies of the 20th century. 

With terrific performances across the board and a nitty-gritty and bleak story, Dead Presidents is a movie that manages to tell it so well and yet also, it never lets up for a single minute. It is a few steps away from being a masterpiece, yet nonetheless, it still gave it everything it had. 



Overall:



Saturday, 11 November 2017

Retro Review: The Basketball Diaries (1995)

The Basketball Diaries
1995
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Braco, Mark Wahlberg, Juliette Lewis, Bruno Kirby
Genre: Coming-Of-Age Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $2 million 

Plot: A teenager finds his dreams of becoming a basketball star threatened after he free falls into the harrowing world of drug addiction 




'Young Leo Shines In This Harrowing Tale of Drug Abuse'

A moving, yet realistic account based on a true story of the late writer and musician Jim Carrol, who before that was a high school teenager who once had a promising basketball career, only to see it evaporate in the blink of an eye through drug addiction & crime, which took over and tragically cost him his life. Despite the title, the main theme isn't of basketball, but of the devastating effect that drugs have on a person. The 1978 memoir of Carrol is based on the diaries he had kept between the ages of 12 when his addiction first started and it continued with his best friends. Along the way, they deal with some unsavoury characters that include the school's basketball coach played by Bruno Kirby, Swifty, who turns out to be a paedophile/pervert, as well as some good guys in mentor Reggie, who challenges Jim to after-school basketball games. As Carrol's addiction spirals out of control, he resorts to crime to support his habit, but then as his friends lose their own way and his mother turns her back on her own son, it isn't too long before Carrol's descent to madness, sadness, chaos and despair transpires. 

The film gained notoriety and courted controversy through a dream sequence scene where Jim, dressed in a trenchcoat shoots and kills his fellow students and his teacher. This scene inspired the infamous Columbine High School massacre, which took place on the day before the fourth anniversary of the release of The Basketball Diaries and it had ultimately cost the lives of 12 students and one teacher. 

Leonardo DiCaprio does resemble a young James Dean and he completely and fully immerses himself into the role and at only 18 years of age back in 1995, in watching his performance, he was born to be an actor. He even went better with Titanic, which blew him up big time 2 years later and since then, he has later gone on to become of one of Hollywood's fully-fledged A-listers in his 40s, after his transition as a so-called teen star/young actor. I have to admit back in the 1990s when he was everywhere via the success of Titanic, I didn't take notice because I thought he'd be one of those actors who'd be known for teenybop roles and movies and a heartthrob for millions of young girls. I was wrong. DiCaprio is an actor, who through his experiences, has shown his range, depth and the different dimensions in a variety of roles and rarely has he disappointed on each and every occasion. Despite his baby-faced look, DiCaprio was riveting here, whilst many have argued that he was and is far more deserving of an Oscar Nomination and win for The Basketball Diaries than for The Reverent. Provocative, efficient, but also showing his maturity and ability to undertake and tackle difficult and challenging roles with ease like a pro, DiCaprio's first foray into serious drama with The Basketball Diaries has paid dividends.  

There are some difficult scenes to watch, such as when Jim is being raped whilst he is in the toilet, but The Basketball Diaries is raw, gritty and a drama that doesn't shy away from being in-yer-face, and yet at the same time, it sends out a powerful message that drugs can be and is the be-all, end-all thing for a person's life.  




Final Verdict

Great performances, well-acted as a whole and as Jim Carrol, this was the breakthrough role for Leonardo DiCaprio, and what a breakthrough role it was too, making Titanic look tame by comparison, despite its populist status. This is still one of his best performances and one that is rarely often mentioned these days in hindsight to his more well-known and established roles in Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Avatar and The Reverent, which is a bit of a shame. I also thought he shined in the Internal Affairs remake, The Departed of 2003 as well. 

The Basketball Diaries is not easy viewing by all means, but it is truly worth it for the performances alone, spearheaded by that of DiCaprio. 

This film has exceeded my expectations and is much better than I'd anticipated it to be. At most, I thought this would be a good film, but in fact, come the end credits had rolled I was more than impressed. 


Overall:




 

Retro Review: Waiting To Exhale (1995)

Waiting For Exhale
1995
Cast: Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine, Dennis Haysbert, Gregory Hines, Donald Faison
Genre: Romantic Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $84 million

Plot: Four very different African-American women find strength through their rare and special relationship who are all in search for the real thing: true love





'Inhale, Exhale, Now Breathe'

Written and executively produced by Ronald Bass and Terry McMillian with direction by actor Forrest Whitaker, Waiting To Exhale is based on the novel and was given the big-screen & star treatment. It's part- Steel Magnolias, part -The Joy Luck Club, structure-wise, mixed in with sass and attitude all within a Black subtext. Throw in an 'all men are dogs' subplot and you got yourself a movie.

Set in Phoenix, Arizona, four women experience love, hardships, heartbreak and relationships with the different men they encounter in their lives 

Though Bass wrote this story with Black characters in mind, Waiting to Exhale is a film where if you replace African-American characters with Caucasian, Asian or Latino ones, the story would be no more different than what it is already. With Ronald Bass's movies, the stories and the tone that they evoke can be cookie-cutter-ish and get a bit too melodramatic & for some Black audiences, Waiting To Exhale is a bit too much in the vein of mainstream hits, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Ghost which are a hit with general audiences, but these are also the types of movies that attract females and Bass does write from the perspective of a male in these female characters and he does it well. For non-Black audiences, the tales in Waiting to Exhale are still universal to anyone and everyone, even they are in the Black subtext. People suffer, get hurt, cry, fall in love and turn to their friends and loved ones for emotional support, brotherly and sisterly love. That never changes. & with Waiting To Exhale, this was the first Black film to do that and to break stereotypes, well, with the protagonist women characters at least.

The strength and conviction of performances given by the cast are what elevates the film (with Angela Bassett and Lela Rochon giving the best turns for me). I loved Bassett in What's Love Got to Do With It? as Tina Turner and in Strange Days, where she went one better than this film; although she still gives an excellent account of herself as an actress. As for Whitney, and though I hate to speak ill of the dead, her performance just didn't wow me. The story and direction, which isn't much to shout about, did give it prominence and watchability, although I was a little disappointed by the homophobic slurs being used, the female characters are thinly-veiled and in all honesty, they lacked characterisation. I needed to find out a bit more about them, besides of them shacking up with some man and having sex with him and that all the Black male characters, but for Gregory Hines character, were given the one-dimensional negative and cynical treatment & were all portrayed as good-for-nothings, adulterers & deadbeats.




Final Verdict:

The material is far from blockbuster quality and but for some moments, it doesn't necessarily explode on many accounts; despite this, Waiting to Exhale has barely enough quality to make it worthwhile through the casting and the performances. Sadly, the bland and sub-par material needed livening up in certain moments and in the star names of Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, Forrest Whitaker & writer Ronald Bass opted for flash, without the bang and style over substance.


So it did feel a little lacking. Would I watch it again though? Yes.



Overall:


Friday, 10 November 2017

Editorial: 'Unless They Have Been Found Guilty & Sent To Jail For Their Crimes, Their Reviews Will Remain On The Blog'

By Waiching 

Hollywood has seen its world imploded as accusations and claims about numerous high-profile actors committing heinous acts of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour towards female and male co-stars and crew members spread like wildfire. So much so it has got to a point where I have decided to take a position where I feel that unless they have truly admitted they did a wicked and despicable and utterly deplorable thing, I don't fully buy into their claims. 

It is strange to see this witch-hunt brewing: it started with a little case involving Harvey Weinstein, only for it accelerate to levels that I have not practically seen, since, well, in the UK during the early 2000s with media mogul Jonathan King found guilty, whilst the likes of TV presenter Matthew Kelly has seen their careers ultimately destroyed by erroneous and false claims that in the end had no merit. 

The latter is one example of how sexual assault claims, as much as it is of importance for women and men to speak up about their abuse and mistreatment, it, in turn, makes the lives of the accused hell and even more difficult for them. And what actually happens if in the end there is no other sufficient evidence that supports those claims? Before you start having a go at me, I welcome victims and people speaking out and their bravery is to be applauded and in exposing the sickos and predators that lurk in and around the Hollywood stratosphere. HOWEVER, I exercise caution to the wind and I say that by dragging peoples names out in the open and openly and freely decimating and humiliating them, is getting so out of hand.

Of those who have been accused, with Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey there is no going back. I was on the verge of reviewing American Beauty, but I have since changed my mind, whereas with Weinstein, I don't think I have reviewed a movie of his, but I could be wrong. and if that is the case, I will post no more reviews on this guy. I'm glad he is getting his comeuppance. And then there are the likes of Ed Westwick and Dustin Hoffman: the latter of whom was revealed by Meryl Streep and who has since forgiven him for his past deeds and the pairing have since moved on. Still, to read of this type of stuff is not just disturbing and harrowing, but as a fan of Hoffman's myself, it is also deeply worrying as well. And if he is found guilty in the end, I will also be pulling down all of my related posts and reviews that I have written and posted on this guy. 

Needless to say, Hoffman, Westwick and several others have strenuously denied the allegations made against them. & still, there are the media and people with huge pitchforks hounding them, holding them to account already and demanding their fall from grace. Something is just not quite right here. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Could we at least be pondering the possibility that perhaps the accusations are false and that not everything stacks up? Well, that is the position I am taking here in the meantime. & if it turns out to be false, that they have been exonerated of such claims and that not one shred of conclusive evidence is found that these men took advantage of these women, then these victims, sorry women should be made to apologise to their accusers & in public. 

Another thing that has got to me that we need to distinguish the minor acts of so-called inappropriate behaviour, the flirting, calling someone 'sweetie, darling, love' or elsewhere from the very serious acts of harassment, threats, abuse, rape being made by the perpetrator. The two are not mutually exclusive, nor the same thing and sometimes, people misinterpret things and take things way too seriously when an act is innocent and poses no actual harm or threat. 

Things have gotten messy and abuse is never a nice thing and those who are convicted should be properly punished. Yet, on the other hand, anyone can have and hold a grudge against someone, and that ultimately destroys their career.

& I wouldn't wish that on them.  

(My movie reviews will remain, and I'm hoping that fingers crossed, Dustin Hoffman's case blows over & there be no more talk and skeletons in his closet.)

Retro Review: Something To Talk About (1995)

Something To Talk About
1995
Cast: Julia Roberts, Dennis Quaid, Robert Duvall, Gena Rowlands, Kyra Sedgwick
Genre: Comedy-Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million

Plot: A woman's world is rocked when she discovers her husband is cheating on her





'But For Kyra Sedgwick and an Admirable Performance by Julia Roberts, There was Little Good To Talk About This Movie'

Remember this film from Julia Roberts's filmography? Thought not, unless you are a massive fan of hers. Something to Talk About was penned by Callie Khouri, who did the successful Thelma & Louise and is a drama about infidelity. Or be it would have been better if the film was centred on Grace & Eddie's characters and the disintegration and obliteration of their marriage and relationship. Unfortunately, the film chickens out and in the end, we get a happy ending one would come to expect in a Julia Roberts rom-com. But it was also an ending that left a distinctly bitter taste in my mouth. 

One day, Grace catches Eddie on the side with another woman on the streets. She then leaves with her daughter and stays with her father and mother, as well as her sister. During the course of the film, Grace later discovers the dog in Eddie has slept with numerous women in town, and all of whom she knows.  

Kyra Sedgwick as Emma-Rae, Grace's sister was excellent (and who could so easily pass as Julia Roberts's sister), whilst Gena Rowlands was adequate at most - all the female leads were good as a whole, but Robert Duvall and Dennis Quaid give underwhelming performances and this is not helped by their underwritten characters. 

Julia Roberts's performance is engaging as ever, she has this screen presence that makes a film, watchable. well, but for this one. & again, I've said this time & time again but as a terrific actress Julia is, her movie choices, but for several exceptions constantly baffle me because she deserves better and she should be picking better roles. I've never been a staunch fan of Dennis Quaid, as I mentioned in one of my other reviews, and I didn't like his philandering character and I didn't find him redeemable enough, so much so this pathological excuse of a person had been seeing other women whilst he was married to his wife. I also found him repellent, as he struggles with his efforts in getting her back. Quaid was just not the right actor for this role and he and Roberts are mismatched, as they barely show genuine onscreen chemistry. They just did not make a believable couple. 

There is that double standard about a man cheating on his wife and of her finding out - only for her to fool around with another guy, which Grace sort of does herself, but it doesn't go very far. And come the moment when she and Eddie reconcile and dance, that hinted somewhat that they did back together, that's when the movie lost several points for me & I truly didn't buy an ounce of it, because I felt Eddie didn't try hard enough to deserve a woman like Grace. And it's not just Eddie who cheated on Grace, but Grace's father on his wife - and like Grace, she took him back. The idea of someone forgiving their cheating hubby just by seeing him ride a horse in an equestrian event is ridiculous. 

The characters, on the whole, are types I, myself, wouldn't choose to hang out with.

I thought Something To Talk About went well and I enjoyed it, but come to the 30th-minute mark, it all went right out of the window and gone downhill with the script becoming weaker and less entertaining and from that moment on, it never won me back. 




Summary:


Pros +

- It's nice in places

- The performances by Julia Roberts, Kyra Sedgwick, Gena Rowlands


Cons

- The Ending

- Dennis Quaid just never convinced me as Eddie & I didn't like the character

- No chemistry between Julia Roberts & Dennis Quaid & I didn't feel their relationship

- Underwhelming, poorly- written male characters 

- Terrible message it sends out to the audience, that philandering & infidelity is not a big deal



Final Verdict:


I had reasonable hopes this film would be good because I found the plot interesting and I thought it would go in a direction where the film would be redeemable enough in the end. 

Something To Talk About didn't do that. It abjectly failed to do that. 

This was a waste of a film and another bad Julia Roberts movie, which I hate to say but if the film had a better ending and that Eddie and Grace didn't get back together, that would have salvaged it for me and I would have enjoyed it slightly more. 

But alas, this film just wasn't good enough.


Overall: 

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