Friday, 30 September 2016

Retro Review: Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

Earth Girls Are Easy
Cast: Geena Davis, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, Jeff Goldblum, Julie Brown, Michael McKean, Charles Rocket
Genre: Romantic Comedy Sci-fi Musical
Studio: De Larentiis Entertainment 
U.S Lifetime Gross: $3,916,303

Plot: Valerie is dealing with her philandering fiance, Ted when she finds out that a trio of aliens have crashed their spaceship in her swimming pool. Once the furry beings are shaved at her girlfriend's salon, the women discover three handsome men underneath. After absorbing the native culture via television, the spacemen are ready to hit the dating scene in 1980s Los Angeles

'A Strange Mixture Of Little Shop Of Horrors With Something Out Of The Galaxy High Cartoon'

As I sat down to watch this movie, I was prepared for a cheesy experience with cringe-inducing songs and sheer campiness. 

But instead, what I got was a surreal film about a manicurist named Valerie whose fiance, Ted cheats on her with another woman, only for Val to eventually fall in love with a alien. Val is a young woman who is optimistic, kind-hearted and who can't help herself when she sees a guy in trouble. Things are never the same again after, once the aliens make their entrance, -and what a entrance it is as they sky crash directly into Val's pool.  

Earth Girls Are Easy is a light-hearted pop musical comedy with a colourful and flamboyant art direction that is part- sci-fi that echoes something out of Chris Columbus's Galaxy High animated series, mixed with Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors. The only difference being the aliens arrive on earth, whereas on Galaxy High, earthling students Doyle and Aimee travel to space to study at high school. 

The opening titles are also something that looks as though it was later borrowed by the creators of sitcom, Third Rock From The Sun. It has dancing and cheery pop musical numbers, which will divide viewers; personally, I thought they weren't very memorable and not very good. The dance stand-off between Damon Wayans and some other guy, was interesting however with moves that are reminiscent of Capoeira. Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey, who both later ended up on Fox's In Living Color play the aliens; Jim Carrey in the red funny furry suit looked like a skinny version of Beast Man from the He-Man cartoon. Both Carrey and Wayans sound and act more like Mork from Ork from Mork and Mindy here, and this was an indication of what was to come, insofar as to their antics on the In Living Color comedy sketch show of the early 1990s. The scenes of them and Jeff Goldblum doing weird stuff in Geena Davis's house were equally amusing. The aliens themselves act naff and most of the humour in this movie is centered around the aliens's behaviour based on their misunderstandings of life on earth. 

The thing I found most interesting about this movie was that plot line involving Val's fiance, who turns out to be a cheater and breaks Val's heart, and that Val managed to see through his arrogance and dumped him and fell in love with someone (or be it thing, as in an alien), who truly loved her and cared about her. 

This movie is so bizarre - yet so unique and goofy that I've never really seen anything like this before in my entire life. I can understand why it has become a cult classic (the movie's theme was also featured on the Iggy Izalea and Britney Spears 2015 music video ''Pretty Girls'') and it definitely encapsulates that '80s feel. The manner that this movie plays out, it is almost as if it is a live -action fantasy cartoon, though it feels very lightweight as well. It's a musical that also contains a romance subplot, some humour courtesy of Carrey and Wayans, and lots of strange and surreal stuff happening in-between all of that. 

The highlight of this movie is when the aliens come out of the tanning booth and they look like human, especially Jeff Goldblum. This is also the movie where he and Geena Davis met and fell in love on set and later became a couple (today, they are no longer together). Overall, the film garnered a mixed reception but over the years it has become a cult classic, thanks mainly to Jim Carrey's latter success with Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber that helped reignited interest in this film. 

The sci-fi comedy aspect of the movie pretty much acts as a backdrop to all the colourful appearances and visuals, whilst it also makes fun of the Southern Californian insipid lifestyle. 

Final Verdict

Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum and to a lesser extent, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans's performances are what makes this movie worth watching. Which would have otherwise turned out as less than interesting and memorable, and made it extremely dull and lifeless. The love story between Mac and Val was sweet and endearing, however.

This is a campy, offbeat and frivolous slice of extra-terrestrial fun that whilst it doesn't provide very much depth, it's still kind of cool to marvel at from a visual sense and though it's not that bad, it still feels weird in places. But if you can get over this or cast this aside, in addition to enjoying musicals, then you'll probably enjoy Earth Girls Are Easy quite a lot. 


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Retro Review: Cocktail (1988)

Cast: Tom Cruise, Elisabeth Shue, Brian Brown, Kelly Lynch, Gina Gershon, Ellen Foley 
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Worldwide Gross: $171.5 million 

Plot: Brian Flanagan wants a high paying marketing job but needs a business degree first. Working as a bartender to pay for college, Flanagan is mentored by his veteran boss, Doug Coughlin (Brian Brown). Together, their showy tricks and charisma command large crowds and tip payments- until Flanagan and the cynical Coughlin have a falling out. Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist, Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue)

'An Entertaining - Yet Idealised Tale Of Dreams and Aspirations Hidden Beneath All The Razzmatazz' 

It is his earlier fare where we see Tom Cruise at his happiest, smiley self and of him enjoying himself, before he went down the Scientology route. This is Tom Cruise at his most relaxed performance and a side to his performance as Brian that we haven't seen much of in his latter movies that came after Cocktail. 

Cocktail is an interesting and entertaining movie, which doesn't offer anything spectacular of the sort but can still hold its own. If we were to measure this movie's reputation, it would fall more in line with Flashdance: a movie that is aptly supported by a cool soundtrack but with much more thorough performances. 

It is a classic rags-to-riches, roller-coaster of a ride, fish- out- of- water tale with a few bumps along the way centering a young student who is taken under his wings by his mentor, who in turn, helps him achieve his ultimate dreams and ambitions in owning his own bar. 

Without having read anything about it and just by judging the poster, I was expecting this movie to be a serious drama. When it comes to the comedy, it is very low-key and downplayed and though there is little of it, Cocktail is still a very good and likeable movie that appeals to general audiences, in particular. After reading all the negative and slating reviews and watched this film, I didn't have much of an issue with it.

Even though it is considered as a guilty-pleasure, there are actually some interesting scenes and dramatic moments as well that makes Cocktail a potentially legible drama. Brian makes up with Doug after they fall out and they become pals again, only for tragedy to strike again for Brian in more ways than one. Some will think when watching this film the final act shifts a little too much to the dark side & was a tiny bit unwarranted. Not to mention it was out of the blue and there were no signs that indicated that Doug was experiencing emotional problems in the lead up to his suicide. Which was disappointing. 

Notwithstanding all that, Tom Cruise delivers what is an impressive, if not most challenging performance of his career (Jerry Maguire followed by A Few Good Men tops it); I was surprised at how good he was, not just with the making cocktails part but in his acting and portrayal as Brian. He does some stupid stuff along the way, he shows his flaws but ultimately he comes through in the end. 

At the 35th minute mark, Cocktail really starts to take shape as a movie when Brian discovers the girl, Cora  he has been going out with, has been seeing Doug and he decks Doug in disgust and quits his job to head off to Jamaica. From there onwards, he opens up his own bar, bumps into Jordan, who is a free-spirited and seemingly impoverished artist, and romance ensues between herself and Brian. Although he does a stupid thing and sleeps with some woman he met at a bar after that. It is only when Brian realises how lucky he is to have Jordan in his life and of whom understands his passion and shares his vision for what he wants and what they want, that they realise their love for each other is what matters. Regardless of all the struggles they have to overcome. The love story aspect was well conceived. 

It's not as dated as some people have said it is (it doesn't look too dated from a visual standpoint) and given as I had rather different expectations of what I had envisaged Cocktail to be, it literately surprised me in more ways than one and in a good way as well. I was also surprised at the amount of mature depth it had for a movie about bar-tending. But that it offered so much more too, what with a good supporting cast and the relationships aspect of it and the different women Brian encounters and comes into contact with, at work and in his personal life. 

Elisabeth Shue looks great as Jordan and has great chemistry with Tom Cruise: as Jordan, she is smart, sweet, fun. It is yet another impressive and understated performance that I've enjoyed of hers. The late Paul Benedict aka Mr Bentley of The Jeffersons makes a brief appearance as one of Brian's college lecturers.

Cocktail is one of those films where you have to enter this movie with very low expectations and not overthink about it too much and just enjoy it for what it delivers. 

Final Verdict:

Cocktail is a dramedy, more so than as a drama, with a few enduring moments and although the narrative could have been a lot stronger, it is not lacking in entertainment. It may not have skyrocketed Tom Cruise's status, but it definitely helped solidified it as one of Hollywood's most successful and bankable actors of the 1980s and 1990s. 

The derisory critical reviews and ridiculously low IMDb rating doesn't justify how much I have found this movie to be a thoroughly enjoyable- yet simple and casual experience. It is as energetic in places and watchable and still holds up today as it did back then in 1988. Okay, it is not one of the most earth-shattering movies and it isn't a masterpiece, but it is watchable and pleasant with a premise that does its job. 

If you're seeking for something unashamedly enjoyable and not too heavy plot-wise, with impressive and well acted performances by the likes of Cruise and Elisabeth Shue, then Cocktail is one beverage of a movie worth sipping. 


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Retro Review: Basic Instinct (1992)

Basic Instinct
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Wayne Knight
Genre: Erotic Thriller
Worldwide Gross: $352.9 million

Plot: The mysterious Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a beautiful crime novelist, becomes a suspect when she is linked to the brutal death of a rock star. Investigated by homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), Catherine seduces him into an intense relationship. Meanwhile, the murder case becomes increasingly complicated when more seemingly connected deaths occur & Nick's psychologist and lover, Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) appears to be another suspect. 

'Sharon Stone's Performance Overrides Basic Instinct's Problematic and Seedy Plot & Story Elements'

With the groundwork already laid out in 1987's Fatal Attraction, ultimately it was Basic Instinct and the success of this movie that opened the floodgates for the erotic thriller sub-genre to flourish outside of Z-list movie status, for a short while, and into the commercial mainstream helm. 

Basic Instinct is an upper -tier lurid, erotic thriller, with nothing much to add and offers little to distinguish itself from the standard direct-to-DVD, Z-list, erotic thriller fodder which was released during the 1990s. There is very little attempt by Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas's screenplay to make this distinction clear; that and in making the changes that made the story come across as less cheesy. Besides the established names of Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. If you took away Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone and added in obscure softcore porn performers who dabble in erotic thrillers, this film would be no different to what it is with those two performers in it. & also would people still rave about it as they did with Douglas and Stone in this? Most likely, no. 

Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) and his partner, Gus (George Dzunda of Dangerous Minds) are investigating the murder of a rock star and Sharon Stone's Catherine is the prime suspect, of whom Nick gets romantically involved with. He believes she killed him with an ice pick - yet at the same time, he's in love with her and the two eventually end up in bed with each other and have rough sex. Is Catherine guilty or was she framed? That is the question that the director, Paul Verhoeven and writer Eszterhas fails to, or be it chooses not to address properly and thoroughly. And that, in itself, is not a very good sign for this movie.

With regards to the performances, they are so-so: Michael Douglas, though he is the main star of this film, is nothing more than a standby who is upstaged by Sharon Stone's ''assets'' and somewhat stronger character performance. She is good at playing antagonist roles, but I surely wished that more often she had the chance to play the good gal or lead protagonist in movies (and one where she doesn't get bumped off like in Action Jackson). Douglas plays the cop role with not much conviction and I have seen him do better than this in his other roles (see Falling Down, Romancing The Stone, Fatal Attraction, Disclosure). Although this marked the beginning of the decline in good screen roles for Douglas, from the dashing romeo in Romancing The Stone to male sex victim/predator.  

The other performances were stale; Jeannie Tripplehorn as Nick's ex, Beth-was terrible, but that is no thanks in part to the dialogue, which I will touch upon a bit later. The characters behaviours and mannerisms range from the bizarre to fetish-like to deplorable.  

Interestingly, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere and even Denzel Washington were all considered for the part of Nick before Michael Douglas nabbed the role, with Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Kathleen Turner and Demi Moore in the running for Catherine - only for it to go to Sharon Stone. Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Geena Davis and Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love) turned down that role, as it demanded so much nudity and sexual stimulation that they weren't willing to compromise. Out of the guys, the only one I could picture playing Nick would be a toss -up between Richard Gere and Al Pacino, whereas Kathleen Turner or Demi Moore would have been the other viable option for the female role. But alas, by doing so, Kathleen and Demi would be reprising their roles from Body Heat for Turner and Disclosure for Moore. & of course, Demi Moore later starred opposite Michael Douglas in Disclosure

One of the biggest issues I have with this film is the contrived narrative that tries to make the audience suss out who the killer is, and teases us, taking us along for the ride. I was waiting for the twists and especially that one big twist that would take me to a different path and one that would ignite my interest - only for the depth of this deception to come to a disappointing finale that ends on a damp squib, rather than a crashing halt. The final act where Dr. Beth Garner: an afterthought and Nick's ex-lover, who is dressed down, is revealed to be the killer, given she has been a sideline character (and an awful one to boot) most of the time, all I can say to that is I find it hard to believe she would be the one responsible. It didn't make much sense as to why the director or writer came to that conclusion, as there were no actual hints that led me to think that Beth had killed those men. No real build-up or clues leading up to that, whatsoever. 

All of the characters are cold, dislikeable and unsympathetic - Douglas as Nick feels so liberated by the domineering Katherine played by Stone and her sexually depraved behaviour that not long after their sexual encounter, he rapes his ex-girlfriend. What the hell. 

The sex scenes, the nudity - including the infamous one with Sharon Stone not wearing underwear whilst she uncrosses her legs -, the violence, all the usual trademarks of your standard Paul Verhoeven movie, are here. As with him, he is a director who has successfully managed to attract audiences for his movies, of whom find some value in his twisted and controversial depictions of sexual and violent activities. 

The scene where they are dancing is practically laughable and hilarious. The sex scenes aren't that particularly sexy, well some of them aren't; there is an aggressive tone to them that I was grimacing throughout as I sat through them. It's rough and hard more so than slow, seductive and sensual. Aside from that, when it came to the suspense aspect, I wasn't on the edge of my seat and it didn't leave me stunned. And the dialogue ranged from okay at best to occasionally vapid. 

As I watched this movie, I became more and more frustrated that as much as I followed the plot, it descended into nothing but sheer confusion. Not to mention boredom; other than the sex scenes, everything else seemed rather random and passe. The tension, the mystery, the suspense it was so underwhelming it fell flat for me. The script is manipulative yet confusing, tawdry and messy, but as it is a softcore erotic thriller film, it does what it says on the tin.

The ending was bizarre and I was left even more confused: was she or was she not the killer? I needed to know and I didn't like that it was open-ended and that the writer and director of this movie, Verhoeven was toying with me throughout & without offering proper closure to it. Basic Instinct would have been an amiable thriller - if it hadn't tried so hard trying to be sexually gratuitous. 

Some of the sex scenes had to be cut to qualify for an R- rating, otherwise, Basic Instinct would have been an NC-17.

Alas, I am really not entirely impressed with this offering. & yet the film have its main stars Sharon Stone & Michael Douglas to thank for its success - without those two, the film would have easily tanked at the box office. 

Final Verdict:

I am not saying I dislike Basic Instinct or it is by any means terrible. But sadly, there is just no middle ground and the execution didn't leave much of an impression on me. The main saving graces are Sharon Stone and the score but I just feel with the characters especially, nothing much is done to further distinguish themselves and this movie from the many other erotic thrillers. Usually, erotic thrillers saddle between very good to mediocre. At best, this one is somewhat good but not great. & still, it was uneasy to watch. 

The lack of a really big twist that would have made the film more exciting, compelling and mind-twisting-yet entertaining was the big deciding factor for me, and I am disappointed that it didn't really happen. 

A part of me just thinks that with regards to Verhoeven, he must the type of director who must believe that the main thing that sells a movie is just lots of sex and nothing to it. Basic Instinct is an example of that. 

But being the provocative director that he is with his attempts at trying to shock audiences with violence, adult themes, sex, this is not surprising. Because he treats everything else in a movie- be it this one, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, Showgirls with further disdain, particularly in regards to his treatment of the protagonist characters. Come to think of it, I didn't like any of the characters. They were all rotten and unredeemable to the core. 

And that is a main issue I have with his movies. 

It's a standard erotic thriller the likes I've seen many times before, only with much sleeker production values and A-list stars in the main roles. & whilst I can't deny or fault that Basic Instinct doesn't lack that mystery ''who-dun-it'' element, the movie's success pretty much falls on Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs and the erotic sex scenes, more so than the problematic and seedy plot and story elements themselves. Some of which leave a lot to be desired.

But hey, I'd still take this over the sequel, which is drivel. 

*score updated: 28 Sept 2016*


(6.9 out of 10)

Monday, 26 September 2016

Retro Review: Hollow Man (2000)

Hollow Man
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Shue, Josh Brolin
Genre: Science Fiction/ Horror
Worldwide Gross: $190.2 Million 

Plot: The thought of invisibility has intrigued man for centuries. Highly-gifted scientist Sebastian Caine develops a serum that induces complete invisibility. His remarkable transformation results in unimaginable power that seems to suffocate his sense of morality and leads to a furious and frightening conclusion

'Invisible Man Meets Scream Formula That Isn't That Hollow' 

Actor Kevin Bacon nowadays appears in EE mobile phone adverts on British television, happily promoting the service and giving himself something else to do when he's not getting film offers. Yet back in the 1980s up to the early 2000s, he starred in diverse movies such as Footloose, Flatliners, Picture Perfect, Beauty shop,The River Wild and this relatively B- movie thriller, Hollow Man, in addition to being part of the 1980s brat- pack ensemble alongside Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Kiefer Sutherland. 

Bacon is Sebastian: an arrogant and egotistical scientist/researcher, who tests an invisibility serum on himself, despite objections by his co-workers and for a while, everything is fine and dandy. But when they realise they cannot make Sebastian revert back to his normal form and that the serum only works on animals and not humans, he practically goes paranoid and ballistic and begins targeting and terrorising them and killing his co-workers off. Including his old flame, Linda (Elizabeth Shue).

Hollow Man essentially plays out as the Invisible Man meets slasher film. It is a sadistic twist on the Invisible Man premise: take Wes Craven's Scream movies, have it set in a scientific lab and replace the masked killer with an invisible killer. That's the basic idea behind it. Plot-wise, it has more in common with Scream and Alien and its 1986 sequel than it does with Verhoeven's previous efforts, Robocop, Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct. There is also an element reminiscent of Flatliners where a human guinea pig takes part in the experiment, but with Kevin Bacon acting as the guinea pig instead of Kiefer Sutherland. 

The film is interesting in the sense that because it is R-rated, the concept of the invisible man or person provides all sorts of possibilities: what would you do if you were invisible? It would have been all too easy to make the lead character in this film the good guy who becomes invisible because that formula is too typical and somewhat conventional. It's one of those types of questions that gets asked a lot, all of the time by people; but in this film, it literately takes this to the extreme - that being invisible you can do whatever you want, when you want, how you want, without being caught. Likewise, doing bad things and getting involved in adult situations like spying on naked people. & even going as far as killing people.

The movie's theme blurs the lines between morality and immorality and through scopophiliac means. One scene that was cut from the theatrical version, but appears in the director's cut, is when whilst he is invisible, Sebastian rapes a woman in her apartment. Verhoeven opts for the unconventional take on the Invisible Man story and adds a voyeuristic dark twist by making Kevin Bacon's character do a heel turn on his colleagues. 

During which I was watching this movie, it dawned on me that as despicable and abhorrent Sebastian's actions are and as cocky as he was sometimes, I did actually felt sorry for him to see his ex-girlfriend, of whom he still has feelings for and for showing his undying love for her, in the arms of another man. As much as we shouldn't, or I shouldn't feel a tiny bit of compassion towards Sebastian. 

Elizabeth Shue's character, Linda handles herself extremely well in the action and physical scenes, who doesn't become intimidated by Sebastian's increasing threats. Though I thought it was a bit sneaky of her to sleep with Matt behind Sebastian's back, whilst he was working his ass off on his computer. But the love affair between Linda and Matt just came across as being cold and unsympathetic. Arguably, almost all of the characters in this movie, but for the Black woman and two of the male scientists, were calculating and deceitful. None of them was perfect. And is it just me but for Robocop & Total Recall that through Verhoeven, all of the protagonist characters in his films come across as being wholly abhorrent or just downright dislikeable? Is this always his intention with his movies to cause rage and resentment towards audiences, or just to give us something to discuss and talk about? Either way, it's the job of filmmakers to create protagonist characters that have interesting personalities, but also flawed and equally sympathetic protagonist characters - & by flawed I mean they have their flaws, but who are willing to work hard to also become better and caring individuals in the end that we want to root for them in the movie. & yet, this is not the case with Linda and Matt. I felt as I was sitting through this movie that it had no intention of making me want to care for them, but rather make those characters screw Sebastian over, just be screwing each other - sexually that is- just to make him mad. That, and that it annoyed me as well. 

Whilst Kevin Bacon goes to lengths and beyond to bring the crazed and sadistic Sebastian Caine to life, even when his character is in CGI mode. This is the most insane performance I have seen of his as the antagonist and he really gave a strong presence to Sebastian that tips that character over the edge, as his mania becomes more of an influence on his psyche. Both Elizabeth Shue and Kevin Bacon had relatively successful careers during the 1980s as young, highly promising stars coming up the ranks and in their performances in this movie, it truly showed that having that leverage of experience as actors, worked in their favour.    

Verhoeven is a director who always pushes the envelope when it comes to sex and violence, yet comes up with intuitive ways to express those ideas in his R-rated efforts of the 1980s and 1990s. Typically his efforts, particularly his sci-fi offerings, are exceedingly violent, satirical and often contain and provoke strong sexual and taboo themes. He takes the fantasy concepts of the invisible man (Hollow Man), a man who becomes a robot (Robocop), soldiers shooting up robotic insects (Starship Troopers): tales of which evoke the 'fun', comic book element that in theory and general would pander towards children and families, and makes it more violent, sadistic and outrageous for adults. I get it. Though funnily (and unfortunately) enough, both Robocop and Total Recall got remade as watered- down, family friendly fare & as a result, both became box office bombs. 

It's no surprise to learn that Verhoeven can be a polarising director for audiences: the vast majority of his works are of an acquired taste. Movies included the famous Robocop, Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, Total Recall and the critical disaster of the '90s & now cult classic, Showgirls. And in all those movies, there is violence, blood and gore, sex and nudity, as well as special effects and with this effort, Verhoeven doesn't hold back from the extremities that this film evokes. One could say that as over-the-top as he is with his ideas, he was and is also a visionary: expressive, creative, an artist with stylised depictions of adult themes set in sci-fi and modern day worlds. He is the connoisseur of what I would call 'artistic sleaze'. 

No other director could have come up with the crazed version of the Invisible Man, nor could have come up with a cop who gets murdered and is brought back to life as a robot in Robocop.

With Hollow Man, however, satire doesn't feature anywhere in this movie, as Verhoeven really goes hardcore and plays it straight as a full-on serial killer, one part- sci-fi fantasy, one part slasher -style flick, which is supported by an often misogynistic and what one may add objectification & treatment of the female characters; more specifically with the groping and the woman Sebastian spies on and rapes, as well as his ex-girlfriend, Linda. Some have noted the film doesn't explain why Sebastian's behaviour rapidly descends into madness, when you only have to watch the scene when he finds out that Linda and Matt have slept with each other, being one example.  

In another scene, which at first I found distressing, and grisly, was when Sebastian in invisible form grabs a dog and starts to bash it around; although thankfully, it wasn't a real dog. Personally, that scene should have been taken out of the movie, or at least remained in the uncut version.

This is a movie that has attracted a storm of negative comments. It was also accused of falling short as it degenerates into a typical horror film. The CGI effects still look good today for a film that is over 15 years old and it is one of the rarest instances where they are used to aid and further the story, rather than for it to be as something nice for us to look at. But that is not to say, Hollow Man doesn't have its issues.

The film does drag during the last 30 minutes and though Josh Brolin did okay, I felt he was weaker of the two protagonist actors compared to Elizabeth Shue and that someone else could have easily played that role but him. Also, I think it would have made the film less conventional and too predictable; had Sebastian been able to make himself appear and disappear and switch between the two and still go on a murderous rampage. The dialogue, however, is occasionally not very good also and the plot twists aren't surprising. And the remaining characters are extremely weak, forgettable and lacking in personality. 

But that suspense and tension is maintained throughout the duration of this movie & further magnified 10 times over by Sebastian's efforts in picking out his co-workers & slaying them, one by one. 

Final Verdict:

This is not a film for everyone and unless you aren't too offended or upset by the strong violence, - though it may not be well regarded by a lot of people - Hollow Man does have some provocative elements that is backed up by some interesting special effects and action sequences and the love triangle plot serves as a plot device to almost everything else that happens in the movie. 

The film works effectively as a psychological slasher film; it's slick, fast-paced with some nice surprises and twists and though it has some interesting scenes and is entertaining in places, they should have got a different actor to play Matt, as for me personally, Josh Brolin didn't convince me enough as Linda's love interest/boyfriend. 

But alas, Hollow Man is a good varied attempt of a horror/slasher movie with an Invisible Man theme and distinguishes itself from its peers under Verhoeven's dark and cynical and over-the-top approach, but it is, unfortunately, let down by some of the dialogue, weak supporting characters, unsympathetic & horribly written protagonists in Matt and Linda and lack of character development. Still, plot-wise this is slightly more intriguing than Showgirls and out of the main cast, Kevin Bacon steals the show. 

As a horror-slasher thriller movie with thrills and spills, it is definitely underrated. 

Sorry Paul Verhoeven, but I think you are too harsh on Hollow Man. Though it's not great, it ain't bad either.    


(*last updated: December 4)

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Retro Review: Bowfinger (1999)

Cast: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Kennedy 
Genre: Satirical Comedy
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $98,625,775

Plot: On the verge of bankruptcy and desperate for his big break, aspiring filmmaker Bobby Bowfinger concocts a crazy plan to make his ultimate dream movie. Rallying a rag-team that includes a starry-eyed ingenue (Heather Graham), a has-been diva (Christine Baranski) & a film studio gofer (Jamie Kennedy), he sets out to shoot a blockbuster featuring the biggest star in Hollywood, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) - only without letting Kit know he's in the picture

'Take A Bow, Bowfinger'

Bowfinger is a send-up of people who have a story to tell and was written by Steve Martin himself. When a small-time director, Bobby Bowfinger asks Hollywood's hottest agent to give him a chance to shoot a movie titled ''Chubby Rain'' on a shoestring, he receives a seal of approval, providing Bobby lands star man, Kit Ramsey as the lead. But when Kit disapproves of the idea and turns down the offer, Bobby turns his attentions to his brother, Jiff, who is nowhere near as tough and macho as his older relative. 

Eddie Murphy plays a spoof of himself, evidently enough; his at times manic outbursts as Kit Ramsey, as well as his nerdy-yet clueless twin brother, Jiff (he plays both roles and without prosthetics), invoked memories of '80s Eddie Murphy that we all knew and loved, ever since his stand-up days, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places. Kit is the embodiment of all sorts of '80s Eddie Murphy: loud, brash, foul-mouthed, as well as being so self-absorbed. That and it was good to see him having a sense of humour and playing around with it. Jiff is also a member of a cult 'Mind Head', which was an obvious poke at Scientology, despite Steve Martin's objections to this claim. 

For 98 mins, we see Bobby's attempts at making a motion picture movie by thinking and concocting all kinds of ridiculous stunts and charades; basically conning Kit Ramsey, capturing his every move and word he speaks on camera, via hidden camera, in his determination to make the movie he wants to produce. As sneaky as he is most of the time, Bobby Bowfinger is also a resourceful and smart guy, who knows his way around the Hollywood movie system and in getting things done, without breaking the bank. He never runs out of ideas, whilst remaining understated as a character when he is not filming his movie. Sure enough as a filmmaker, he goes out of his way but other than that, he is a regular Joe. 

Sadly, the film didn't fare so well in Britain when it was released in cinemas. Not all of Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy's movies have been much to write home about: Steve Martin's offerings in the 1990s have been extremely disappointing in comparison to other comedian turned actors, who have had relatively more success during this decade with their efforts. Whereas chronologically, Eddie Murphy had a hit in 1996's remake of The Nutty Professor. & yet this collaboration is the funniest in terms of individual Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy movies as a whole. This film is a return to form for both of these comedic actors in this satirical offering, not even Bringing down the House, The Adventures of Pluto Nash or Dr Doolittle from their latter years can topple Bowfinger

The film is silly at times, but it is so silly that it makes you laugh and put a smile on your face. It is also witty and quirky in places as well. Bowfinger is the comedy movie that pokes fun at the Hollywood movie industry, without becoming a parody. The actual premise, supported by some laugh out loud moments, and the manner of which it is conveyed works to the extent that this is one of the few examples of a comedy that doesn't try to be something that it isn't. 

Combining satire with broad humour, Bowfinger takes stabs at characters, mocking them with each and every absurd -yet comical situation thrown at them, but it is not done in a narcissistic or mean-spirited way, rather it makes you invest interest in each of them. All the characters, as well as Bobby, Kit and Kit's brother, are integral to the movie, as they have a particular role to play and that is a good thing because otherwise, they'd be nothing more than background characters with nothing to add to the plot or the movie. As well as Kit, Bobby Bowfinger and Jiff, you have a Black guy, the attractive guy, the pretty girl and the older woman as the bad actress. Christine Baranski had a relatively moderate role in The Birdcage, but here she steals every scene she is in, as the at times overly serious - yet bad actress. Especially during the car park and restaurant scenes alone, that is worth a watch as well. 

The tone of the film itself is very unlike Eddie Murphy's and Steve Martin's previous offerings. The movie is almost like a thinly- veiled attack on the Hollywood system itself without being malicious, that within the story everyone is using everyone else for their own deeds, all for the sake of making a quick buck. Cheap, low- grade productions with titles such as Chubby Rain and Fake Purse Ninjas, terrible acting, budget special effects, unlicensed use of spots as film locations: these are the makings of your standard Z-list movies. The critics were apparently turned off by the somewhat subtle -yet biting satire and dark side of this film, but this idea alone sets off a chain of amusing and comical set-pieces. 

The comedy is in little bite-sized segments that gradually builds up as the movie advances, rather than going all out and have one massive funny scene in the first half. This mainly arises from the reactions of the characters to situations or comments or to a piece of dialogue. The set-pieces themselves are arguably funnier than some of the so-called funny scenes in Steve Martin's and Eddie Murphy's '90s and post 2000s comedy movies, but for the remake of The Nutty Professor.I've never been a staunch admirer of Steve Martin's brand of humour, but here, he was on point with every single sight gag, slapstick and comedy setpiece that he made me chuckle, smile and laugh with Bowfinger. I'd wished he had been as funny as this during the 1980s and most of the 1990s with his offerings.The motorway/freeway scene, the dog wearing stilettos, the sex scene involving Heather Graham's character to name but a few garner a chuckle or two. 

Final Verdict

By far Steve Martin's best film from the 1990s but unfortunately, it also represents an end of an era and that his and Eddie Murphy's best efforts that will never be surpassed in years to come. Bowfinger is the high-point and milestone of their illustrious careers. The wacky premise makes for a great idea for a comedy, and yet it is the comedy itself, through the slapstick, the situations where Bobby does things on a budget in this movie that really works to the extent that it is highly amusing and funny.  

As a satirical comedy, it succeeds; in terms of the broad physical comedy aspects, that too succeeds as it exposes the failings of the movie-making business, where high ambitions and expectations come at the cost of smaller financial budgets and casual laughs. It's not a dark or black comedy, but it takes some elements of it and makes it more light-hearted and accessible for mainstream audiences to understand. 

That is why I don't understand how Bowfinger flopped at the box office. 

Because it truly is a whimsical delight in film-making, & at the expense of filmmaking and filmmakers. Bowfinger is underrated as a comedy - and the likes of which we will never ever see again.


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Retro Review: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

Adventures In Babysitting 
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Penelope Ann Miller, Vincent D'Onofrio, George Newbern, Maia Brewton, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, Bradley Whitford
Genre: Comedy
U.S Lifetime Gross: $34,368,475

Plot: When plans with her boyfriend fall through, high school senior Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) ends up babysitting the Anderson kids, Brad (Keith Coogan) and Sara (Maia Brewton). What should be a fun quiet night in, however, turns into a series of ridiculous exploits, starting when they leave the house to pick up Chris's friend, Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller). Soon, Brad's buddy Daryl (Anthony Rapp) is involved, and the group must contend with car thieves, blues musicians and much more. 

'A Rare, & In Many Cases Undervalued Comedy, That Was a Brief & Future Glimpse Of What Was To Come From Home Alone & Mrs Doubtfire's Chris Columbus'

Adventures in Babysitting is in the mode of traditional adventure movies, where the four young characters find themselves on a roller-coaster of adventures and meeting some strange and dangerous characters along the way. It is also one of those movies that were talked about back in the mid-1980s that I never saw. In America where the movie blew up anyway. For no particular reason, I never came across this movie as a child. It was one of those things that went unnoticed. It wasn't until 2012 or something that I'd first read about it on the internet, although I almost passed up on it, as I assumed it wouldn't be something that I'd enjoy personally myself. That it would be a typical teen comedy with not much to offer. Having just recently seen it for the first time, it definitely made a positive and good impression on me. 

The film also marks the directorial debut of Chris Columbus, who later achieved blockbuster success with Mrs Doubtfire and Home Alone, the first two Harry Potter entries and to a lesser extent, Stepmom. Chris Columbus's movies are definitely reminiscent to those of John Hughes's efforts, and of whom he's worked with: off-the-wall humour, some unexpected surprises that come out of nowhere at times. And this one is no exception. 

In actuality, Adventures in Babysitting is a more expanded version of Home Alone, minus the booby traps and that most of the action and shenanigans occur outside of the home. 

In Elisabeth Shue's first major onscreen role, as high school senior Chris Parker, her date with boyfriend, Mike is cancelled at the last minute by himself and she winds up babysitting two kids, who are from a wealthy family. Though they are content in staying in the house, Chris gets a phone call from her friend, Brenda (played by Penelope Ann Miller), who has run away from home & is trapped somewhere in Chicago with virtually no funds and needs Chris's help in rescuing her. There is one problem though: Chris can't go AWOL and leave the kids at home all by herself. Why, because the kids will tell their parents what she did and she'd be in bigger trouble. So to avoid all this, Chris gathers up Brad, his younger sister, Sara who is obsessed with the Marvel superhero, Thor and Brad's friend, Daryl and they all set out on an adventure they will ultimately remember for the rest of their lives. 

After her stint in Back to the Future 2 and 3 as Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly's girlfriend and the original The Karate Kid, the release of this movie occurred during a period when Elisabeth Shue was touted as the next best major Hollywood female player to soar to new heights, as achieved by the likes of Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston to name. She was one of those actresses who could hold her own in a movie: whether that'll be in this effort, screwball caper Soapdish, 1988's Cocktail with Tom Cruise, the excellent Leaving Las Vegas or sci-fi thriller, Hollow Man; movies that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching. With long, blonde hair, she very much reminds me of a young Jessica Lange. Her natural -yet credible and pleasing performance is the glue that firmly binds this film together, amidst all the crazy chaos that takes place. That and she has a great rapport with the younger, as well as other actors. She may have gone on to attain more dramatic roles later on in her career, but Elisabeth Shue demonstrates in Adventures in Babysitting that she has a knack for comedy, and it is a tad shame that other than 1991's Soapdish, Shue hasn't had more of the quality light-hearted projects that would've allowed her to play a much less serious character or comedic role that, without a shadow of a doubt, she would have easily excelled at. 

The film has plenty of intrigue, surprises, twists and suspense too. It's got that mystery element/feel to it and has nostalgia value galore and is definitely a byproduct of the 1980s. Whilst the plot twists become odder, the plot and events within the narrative are intricately linked together and as the film progresses, it becomes increasingly more and more compelling and watchable. 

I was little taken aback that a film with this particular plot and setting would have some swearing and nudity. Whilst on the train, one of the gang members refers to Chris as a B**** and in the same scene Chris goes ''Don't F*** with the babysitter!''. That was also arguably the highlight of this film to see this regular babysitter not taking crap from the gangs & telling it like it is, damn straight. I was also interested in learning that Elizabeth Shue was just 23 back in 1987 but she was playing a 17-yr-old. Looking at her in this movie, I wouldn't have thought she was 23. The movie also features a Blond-haired Vincent D'Onofrio (Strange Days) as a mechanic. 

It was interesting to see the kids going on the run and to avoid being caught and meeting all these different types of characters along the way. That premise, which was an ongoing theme throughout and the way these events unfolded, made it extremely watchable. It doesn't pander to or resort to dumbed down farce humour. The humour is not over-the-top or too silly, as well as that the film maintains its fun factor all along the way. 

Final Verdict: 

There is a uniqueness, quirkiness and unfamiliarity that Chris Columbus achieves here that makes Home Alone and more so with the latter, Mrs Doubtfire feels more syrupy and saccharine in contrast to this movie. This somewhat obscure film, which has gone on to attain a cult following over the years, is a bold attempt and as his first feature effort, it's a mighty impressive one as he ups the ante in the adventure stakes and it definitely lives up to its title. But it's the interesting plot twists that what makes this amusing adventure movie so good and entertaining, as well as managed to maintain my interest. 

The performances are fantastic and it's great to see a younger Elisabeth Shue and the equally understated, Penelope Ann Miller flexing their acting chops, as well as their star potential coming to fruition that is supported by a good cast and an engaging, light-hearted and entertaining script. 

The original Adventures in Babysitting is a fun, teen-style romp of a movie to watch but for younger children, due to some of the R-rated language and is definitely a film I'd recommend to those who enjoy action-adventure comedies. 


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