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Friday, 23 February 2018

Retro Review: P.S. I Love You (2007)

P.S I Love You
Cast: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, James Marsters, Harry Connick Jr, Jeffrey Dean Morgan 
Genre: Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross; over $156 million 

Plot: A young widow discovers her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to help ease her pain & start a new life

'Lightweight Drama That Unfortunately Skips The Realities Of Life After Death'

The question of love after death has been explored before in the 1990 smash hit, Ghost and writer-director, Richard LaGravanese further delves into this aspect in this romantic drama that veers towards TV movie territory. Besides that, the so-called romantic drama, P.S I Love You opts for a tone that takes the film away from the potency and drama, which this film needed more of, the fact it chooses to go down the lighter path and tries to avoid what it is so afraid of saying in its subject matter, brings this film down a notch. 

After the unforeseen death of her Irish husband, Gerry from a brain tumour - which isn't shown onscreen - which shatters her heart, American wife, Holly comes across some letters, some which are written, others in audio form, that he wrote for her before he passed away, and in these letters are instructions on how she's supposed to spend and live each day. Through this, it acts as the healing process as Holly grieves and mourns his death and eventually coming to terms with the fact that she has to move forward - if she is to ever get over this trauma. 

Hilary Swank is a good actress in dramatic roles, but romantic drama/comedy is not her territory, and rather Reese Witherspoon, who has proven in Just Like Heaven or Jennifer Garner would have been the better fit for this type of vehicle and who would have provided that girl-next-door charm, in addition to the softer qualities that Swank doesn't manage to carve out. The supporting roles, on the other hand, feel a tad more sufficient with post- Friends' Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon and Buffy The Vampire Slayer's James Marsters faring better than Swank and her co-star, Gerard Butler as Irishman Gerry. I was surprised by Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Irish accent; it sounded very convincing and he hasn't disappointed me in any of his roles so far. Yet he is still appealing on- screen when he's not trying to be. I'd take him over Javier Bardem, but hey that's me. 

LaGravanese's efforts have been a mixed bag, but when he is a really good writer & gives it everything, it evidently shows in The Fisher King (despite how patchy that was in places), The Bridges of Madison County and Living Out Loud, where he manages to tap into the emotional arc of the romantic aspect of those movies. Yet with Freedom Writers, he hasn't been able to grind out that depth that is expected. & sadly, with P.S. I Love You, the film makes that same mistake here. It never truly expands on its idea. The so-called lighter moments, like the Karaoke singing, were occasionally cringe and weren't really amusing when they tried to be. In such a film that is truly crying out for a screenplay that treats its subject matter, as difficult as it is, with more gusto, thought and serious intention, P.S I Love You is just not that movie. Which is a crying shame, as the idea is good, but the execution lacks weight with an opening as awkward as it was. The one good thing is that it didn't descend into a dark and dreary territory, but still, it feels too lightweight & one-note with such cloying sentimentality when it should have been more forceful and punchy and the film was approached seriously. 

Ultimately, in consideration of the whole film, P.S I Love You is rather mediocre that as heartfelt as it tries to be, I just wasn't able to connect with the characters and nor feel for them. The Fisher King and Living Out Loud got by, thanks partly to Robin Williams, mostly Mercedes Reuhl and to an extent Jeff Bridges with the latter by Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah in Living Out Loud to help elevate the film further. Yet with this movie, there are really no standout performances; clearly, there is just not one actor who was able to deliver that killer turn or performance that wholeheartedly moved me on an emotional level and made me go: 'that makes me love this film just as much'

That was just not the case with P.S I Love You

Final Verdict

In its consideration of human relationships and love in the aftermath of death, Richard LaGravanese's lacklustre approach is also so hollow and misguided, it veritably flies in the face of what it should amount to and unfortunately, this kills all the momentum P.S I Love You had. Its underwhelming execution just flat out offers little in the way of being a truly satisfying and meaningful drama of what it means to live a life, after years of personal loss and tragedy. 

P.S? more like B.S I (don't) Love You.


Thursday, 22 February 2018

Movie Review: Heist (2015)

Heist aka Bus 257
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kate Bosworth, Dave Bautista, Morris Chestnut, Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Genre: Crime Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $4 million

Plot: A father is without a means to pay for his daughter's medical treatment. As a last resort, he partners up with a greedy co-worker to rob a casino. When things go awry, they're forced to hijack a city bus

'Nothing Special, But Favourable Turns By Bautista & Morgan Make It A Ok'

Heist comes off as a generic & relatively subpar crime heist and action movie in the vein of Speed that whilst it doesn't do anything grand to shake up the formula and is derivative as it is, it still manages to entertain due to the performances by the main two of Dave Bautista and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose presence made up for the lack of good action, which it needed more of.

The first half of the film takes place in a casino heist, with the second half on a bus and operating like the 1994 movie, Speed with the passengers on board of a transit bus. When I think about it, Heist is John Q, which starred Denzel Washington, meets Speed: that is probably the best way to describe this movie. 

De Niro's Frank Silva aka The Pope is a mob boss, who smokes E-cigarettes and runs a glitzy casino named 'The Swan' with Dean Morgan as card-dealer, Luke Vaughn and Dave Bautista as a bodyguard in Cox. Luke used to be The Pope's right-hand man, but who walked away from a life of crime to turn over a new leaf by starting a family. Now divorced Luke has an ex-wife who is watching over their sick daughter in the hospital. Derrick is The Pope's new protege and replacement for Luke, who is far nastier than his predecessor & who has no qualms bending the rules & in disposing associates and people who choose to do The Pope wrong. Vaughn's daughter faces the inevitable of being taken off the transplant list, with him struggling financially. When Frank turns down Vaughn's request of $300,000 needed to foot the bill for his little girl's treatment, he teams up with Cox and the two out of desperation rob the casino and they are forced to flee on foot and end up on the run from the police. Vaughn and Cox hijack a bus and hold the passengers' hostage, whilst onboard. These token passenger characters - a few blondes, a pregnant woman, a Black guy, Asian dude, slightly crazed guy with a knife - are forgettable however and no attempts are made to carve out personalities and thus, they are unmemorable. At the end of the film, I couldn't remember who they were, nor did I care. The police are on their trail and follow the bus, with Luke finding an unlikely ally in the female cop, who senses he is a decent guy, much more so than Cox. With the authorities closing in, Vaughn has to figure out a way how to get out of this situation, alive and get the money back for his daughter's medical treatment. 

The performances are of a B-movie level as seen in many other straight- to- DVD action flicks, although, in Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and perhaps Dave Bautista, their turns are far more efficient and favourable in contrast to the others. Dean Morgan is the rational and level-headed one as Vaughn with Bautista as the irrational one and a loose cannon, who loses his cool at times. They were actually rather sound and pretty good, and that is what separates this film to say Exit Speed, which was a nifty little action B-movie, in itself, where the action was pretty good, yet there weren't many credible performances to come out of it. Meanwhile, it is sad to see Robert De Niro go down this path as Pope, having had years of massive success with movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Awakenings, these days much like with Nicolas Cage, he has been reduced to (so-called garbage like) Dirty Grandpa and doing Z-movie, direct- to- DVD movies. De Niro, does, however, try to not so much elevate himself above the film, rather give the movie some clarity and quality. His character subplots felt awfully tired, however. The rest of the actors seem to be phoning it in with one-time teen heartthrob Mark-Paul Gosselaar aka Zack Morris of Saved By The Bell as a dirty cop and Morris Chestnut unconvincing as the villain. 

I was a little disappointed in the last half hour; it turned out in a way that not only did I not expect, but I expected the pay-off to be a lot more rewarding with Vaughn literally beating up the bad guys and finishing them off. But no. 

But whilst as a big picture, it wouldn't stack up so well, as a little action B-movie, Heist takes bits from action films and carves out something that is actually not too bad. With more polish around the edges, more action sequences and challenging script and further smoothing out the dynamics between Dean Morgan, Bautista, Gosselaar and De Niro's characters and giving them some further depth, that would have made it even better. 

Final Verdict:

Unlike other straight to DVD action thrillers and films of this type, it did hold my attention and movie-wise, Heist is almost on par with Exit Speed. The latter has more in terms of action, whilst the former compared to Exit Speed has the better casting. Still, at best, this is decent and is in no way a 5-star movie and it needed to be more action-oriented, although it makes more of an effort, thanks to Dean Morgan, Bautista and De Niro, who put in some effort through their turns. 

For me, they save it from this movie being even poorer. 

Just don't expect a masterpiece out of this one.


Hook Movie Screenshots (1991) Part 9

(aka the Robin Williams & Julia Roberts onscreen kiss)

Studio: Tristar Pictures/Amblin Entertainment 

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