Friday, 23 June 2017

My 10 Favourite Danny DeVito Characters/Performances

Gravel-voiced Danny DeVito is one of those actors/performers who defies belief when it comes to preconceived notions of what a Hollywood movie star should look like. He may not have Brad Pitt's looks, but he certainly knows how to draw the audience's attentions through his brash, in-yer-face style that doesn't hold back. He is one of the most pervasive actors with a successful movie career during the 1980s and 1990s, who also had his big break as Louis DePalma, the despotic taxi dispatcher in 1970s sitcom, Taxi, whose character traits can be found in many of DeVito's latter movie roles. Born in New Jersey, he always captures my attention when it comes to his onscreen performances. 

In the array of characters he has played, he has that ability to make them come to life; that despite his diminutive stature, he always delivers a big performance - when and where it is expected and has the ability to make audiences take notice.

He has that wicked, dark, devilish quality that he brings about and when he is nasty, he is so and too good at it. 

Interestingly enough, he was one of the producers of 2000's Erin Brockovich, as well as the main director of Death To Smoochy.

Below are 10 onscreen roles and appearances of DeVito's that make him alone as one of my favourite male movie stars. 

Sam Stone - Ruthless People (1986)

DeVito plays swine Sam who wants his wife killed so he can get his hands on her fortune, amongst other things. His energy is undaunted as he goes all out in being ruthless to everyone but his mistress, whilst unknownst to him, her, as well as his ex-wife, the kidnappers all want a piece of Sam. Angry, funny and crazy, what more could you want?!

The Penguin/Oswald Copplepot - Batman Returns (1992)

One of the most memorable Batman movie villains alongside Michelle Pffiefer's Catwoman/Selena Kyle and Jack Nicholson's The Joker, Devito is unrecognizable underneath all of that make-up as the dastardly penguin, raised by penguins after being dumped in the river by his parents, and growing up to be one of Gotham City's most wanted bad guys. His dark comic persona that has been a key in Ruthless People and Romancing The Stone comes into play in his depiction of the Penguin, with amicable results. 

Pat - Living Out Loud (1998)

A role he rarely plays that very often, Pat is an elevator janitor who has a kind heart and let's his guard down a couple of times in this rom-com drama. Devito is amusing, warm and even charming. He and Holly Hunter were a great twosome as well. 

Ralph - Romancing The Stone/The Jewel of The Nile (1984 and 1985)

Bumbling crook to Jack and Joan, who is both conniving and dumb at the same time. He provides the films with that extra level of entertainment and enjoyment, as we see him foul up in his efforts to undermine the heroes. 

Owen Lift - Throw Momma From The Train (1987)

Child-like Owen who is likeable and sympathetic whilst looking after his domineering mother from hell. He has a brilliant camaraderie with Billy Crystal and they seem to have had a blast whilst making this movie.

Vincent Benedict - Twins (1988)

Vincent isn't a pleasant character at first, as he still harbours ill-feelings towards his mother who ditched him, but thanks to Arnie's Julius, he eventually comes round.

Dr Larry Arbogast - Junior (1994)

Second joint Arnie Schwarzenegger and Ivan Reitman comedy collaboration after Twins has DeVito as Alex's colleague in this pregnant man comedy. The more laxed approach taken with this oddball premise sees both Arnie and Danny play their roles naturally, without going over the top and silly.  It is also a further testament to DeVito's acting credentials. 

MrSwackhammer - Space Jam (1996)

An extra terrestrial and proprietor of a failing intergalactic amusement park called Moron Mountain, he is the main antagonist to Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in this Ivan Reitman animated sports romp. Like Disney's Philotetes, Swackhammer does resemble DeVito a great deal.  

Philoctetes- Hercules (1997)

According to Greek mythology, Philoctetes was the son of King Poeas of Meliboa and a famed archer and hero. He too is the spitting image of Devito in terms of his physical resemblance and his likeness is all too apparently obvious. 

Rude Gambler - Mars Attacks (1996) 

Loud but not that brash, who can't help but go insane when he sees Tom Jones in his stint in Tim Burton's all-star sci-fi comedy parody.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Animal Instincts (1992) #badmovies

Animal Instincts
Erotic Thriller

From the (would you believe that?) Academy Award- winning director of photography of Inception and The Dark Knight Returns comes this low- grade tawdry erotic offering with bland characters and inane story, which went some distance with the erotic thriller genre, up until Basic Instinct's arrival later on in the same year. A cop and his wife are sexually frustrated and in need of reigniting the spark in their marriage. Yet the cop prefers to film his wife in bed with other men, and women, rather than sleep with her himself, so he films them having sex. He then comes up with a blackmail scheme that lands him & his horny wife in hot water. Mundane script, multiple camera shots of Shannon Whirry's breasts. No tension, hardly any murders, just nudity & lots of s*agging. The twists lack punch. It's just not thrilling or exciting enough.

Is it worth seeing?

Despite the sex scenes, I found it boring overall.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Retro Review: Living Out Loud (1998)

Living Out Loud
Cast: Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah, Martin Donovan
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $15 million

Plot: After being unceremoniously dumped by her husband, 40-something Divorcee Judith tries to make sense of her new existence. She becomes friends with Pat, the elevator operator in her high-rise apartment building who is having marital problems of his own. Judith also dabbles in a new romance with an attractive masseur and lets loose in a new nightclub ruled by torch singer, Liz Bailey, with whom she connects 

'Overlooked Rom-Com That Is Just Wonderful'

This film reminds me so much of As Good As It Gets in so many ways, but for the plot, but also arguably has slightly more charm. Living Out Loud follows in a similar vein to As Good As It Gets: romantic comedy dramas that centrally focus on mature and middle-aged people finding love. 

Written by Richard LaGravenese, screenwriter for The Bridges of Madison County and The Fisher King, this is a surreal and wonderfully crafted romantic dramedy about how one tries to recover and moves on from a break-up, whilst at the same time, trying to find meaning in her life and searching for the reality that lies within. 

Judith and Robert were happily married. She thought she had the perfect marriage and that nothing could go wrong. After putting her studies on hold to find work and to support each other, all of a sudden, after 15 years, Robert leaves Judith to be with a younger woman. Judith finds solace and comfort in elevator operator, Pat: a sweet, gentle, nice guy who wants nothing other than happiness. No sooner are their tragedies and misfortunes bringing them closer together, that there is also that one thing that is keeping them apart. Queen Latifah plays the lounge singer, who is more than welcome to lend a helping hand to Judith and to help navigate the tricky waters that lie ahead: not only does she have a fantastic set of pipes with regards to her singing, but her acting performance is sublime also.

I always enjoy Danny DeVito on screen but very rarely does he play nice characters and here as Pat, he really is a sweet guy: a hotel janitor who lost his daughter and has a good heart. He also shows how capable he is at playing vulnerable and pleasant characters with a restrained portrayal, without going into one of his 'angry, raging little man' turns, as seen in his previous roles before this one. Which is a huge plus. The Holly and Danny partnership was something I thought would never work so well, - but it did, and it was fantastic. Their little moments together were so pleasant to watch, which tinge on sweetness, and bitter sweetness also, as they each take the time to get to know one another, conversing with each other, whilst relying on each other for emotional comfort and support. Queen Latifah shines as a lounge singer whose character is the key to Judith and Pat's happiness. She also has this subtleness and charm that she manages to bring to Liz.

About making the Asian- American woman a bad person by making her the new girlfriend of the boyfriend, I wasn't offended by this. It just happened and I'm not bothered at all.

Compared to so many other predictable and stock rom-coms and romantic films, Living Out Loud has witty and smart dialogue, the writing is great and DeVito's character makes it less of a 'chick flick' and one that general audiences can tap into. It's a breath of fresh air. The scene where Judith and Pat make out in the elevator was highly amusing, as is Holly dancing with a horde of lesbian women to Brownstone's ''If You Love Me'' in a trendy nightclub.

It's a great pity Living Out Loud did not find its audience like with so many other popular romantic comedies and dramedies that have been more financially successful, in contrast to this movie. Gone completely unnoticed in 1998, and it was just recently I discovered this film on Letterboxd, this is yet another gem unearthed that deserves a chance. It most definitely has a lot more in common with As Good As It Gets, especially with the tone, approach and feel but it is also more bittersweet and arguably a bit more earnest. I was a little sad that Judith and Pat didn't get together in the end, and yet seeing Judith being happy for him when she sees him find love, that was very nice and touching. 

Final Verdict:

Richard LaGravenese's directorial first, as well as having a hand in penning this film, though it is suggested the film doesn't make a lot of sense if you are under 40, I totally get it and loved every single minute of it. I loved As Good As It Gets, and Living Out Loud is a lot like that film in many respects, as I said and is a romantic comedy drama that is fascinating as it is understated. 

It was great to see a romantic comedy executed in a slightly different way that also made me smile in places. 

Living Out Loud could have easily fallen under the label of 'chick flick', but thanks to the mature leads and casting of then 40/50 somethings Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito and under LaGravenese's vision, the film lends itself to a truly unique and revitalising look at love, reality and honesty, which I feel the romantic comedy subgenre of film usually lacks. 

Unquestionably so, this is a highly overlooked gem of this genre that its fans should definitely consider.  


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Retro Review: The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elizabeth Shue, William Zabka, Chad McQueen, Martin Kove
Genre: Martial Arts Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $90 million 

Plot: A martial arts master agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager

'Far From Award-Winning Material, Yet Still Makes You Want To Go Karate Fighting'

I hadn't seen The Karate Kid in a long, long time; the last time I did so was during the 1990s when it aired on TV. Operating as a coming-of-age drama with martial arts action thrown in, The Karate Kid is the martial arts equivalent of Rocky, which is heavily cliched (it is directed by the same person who did Rocky), and like that movie, it still packs a couple of punches in certain areas, along with career-launching roles by Pat Morita, Elizabeth Shue and Ralph Macchio. The film spawned 3 sequels, including one starring Hilary Swank and also doubles up as an anti-bullying film, at the same time. 

It was also unfortunately remade with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in the lead roles as the young apprentice and elder master in 2010.

Daniel Larosso and his mother move from New Jersey to Southern California and from there on, he takes a shine to a girl in Ali. Trouble then looms after Ali's ex-boyfriend and his gang of bullies make life hell for Daniel at school. After getting beaten up several times, in comes elderly Japanese handyman & Banzai tree guy, Mr Miyagi who comes to the rescue. It isn't long until during a series of sessions that Daniel learns that with karate that there is more to it than just a series of high-flying kicks and leg sweeps. 

My Miyagi is a weird guy, who sometimes irritates me, but who manages to instil discipline, confidence, values of honour and self-defence skills in Daniel in preparation for a karate tournament. His 'wax on, wax off' workout that Daniel undertakes consists of menial tasks such as cleaning cars and waxing floors, which are heavily disguised as different forms of martial arts training.     

The melodrama can be a little overwhelming at times whilst the romance angle between Ralph Macchio and Elizabeth Shue just didn't work and the fight scenes were okay. But the 2-hour run-time practically made the film a tad too long than it should have. The practice part where Daniel shows off his moves and utilises the wax on wax off techniques were good though. Coming- of- age films aren't really my type of movie: I find most of them difficult to sustain interest in. In The Karate Kid, it implements that Rocky formula but also skews it slightly by replacing the boxing with karate and adding in the old Asian master. 

Ralph Macchio doesn't show much range as an actor, but he delivers a natural performance; Daniel-San is a socially awkward teenager, who is prone to falling over and getting beaten up by bullies and yet who wants to gain confidence, and through his meetings with Mr Miyagi, it is through karate that he makes that happen for himself. In Daniel, we have a clear protagonist to root for in this film, as difficult as he comes across onscreen. Kove, as the bad guy, on the other hand, comes off as too cartoonish.

The Karate Kid is not really a film about karate or the art of karate: it's a film about a young person who tries to adjust to new surroundings and gaining confidence and skills. It has more in common with 1989's Best of the Best, from a competitive sports angle, and yet out of the two, I prefer that film moreso than The Karate Kid. 

Final Verdict:

I get that this is considered by a lot of people as a classic, at the time, but I think most of that is because martial arts films in America and made in America was still a new thing in the early 1980s and The Karate Kid was one of those movies that epitomised this. And because of the martial arts theme, it was the first real film that put a new spin on the zero to hero concept. 

What it doesn't do well in is showing Daniel's progression as a fighter, but rather in building up his confidence as a person and neither does it contribute anything new to the film and martial arts movies in general. And in truth, even though this was nominated twice for the Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor in Pat Morita, The Karate Kid is not Oscar-worthy material, film-wise. 

But what The Karate Kid accomplishes is it is one of those martial arts-based movies where it is near impossible to watch this film and not wanting to break out a karate or kung fu kick, just by getting caught up in the fighting and Miyagi and Daniel's practice scenes together. 



Mini Retro Review: Ladykillers (1988) #badmovies

Genre: Made For TV Movie

80s cheese in the form of an erotic slasher type movie, Ladykillers (not to be confused with the remake starring Tom Hanks which has 'The' in the title) is Magic Mike meets crime thriller. It's a male version of 1987's Stripped to Kill, which has the same premise and plot, but this is gender-flipped with the male cop posing as a stripper, instead of a female one. The killer in disguise, looking like David Bowie from Labyrinth, is murdering male strippers and a young, buff cop, along with his girlfriend boss are sent to go undercover with the young cop posing as a stripper to investigate. It's silly and watchable in places with some over- dramatic music, but the soundtrack is good with some killer pop songs. Given this is a low- budget TV movie, Ladykillers lacks in suspense, actual thrills and the reveal of the killer isn't that impressive, and the weapon used to kill the victims is rather silly, nor are their true motives underlined. At times, the nature of the script and the predictability into knowing how it will end up is forced and doesn't feel genuine enough. The male and female cop pairing with Taxi's Marilu Henner & Thomas Calabro did not convince me that much, either. 

Is It Worth Seeing?

It's not terribly horrific, but it most certainly isn't grade A-stuff, either. If you are into erotic-type thrillers, then yes. 


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Retro Review: The Pelican Brief (1993)

The Pelican Brief
Cast: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow, Cynthia Nixon 
Genre: Legal Political Thriller 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $195 million

Plot: A law student whose legal brief about the assassination of two Supreme Court justices causes her to be targeted by killers. She realises just how accurate her accusations have been when her lover and mentor is murdered. Forced to go on the run in New Orleans, she is aided by a journalist who helps her unravel a conspiracy involving senior government figures 

'A Top Notch Edge-Of- Your- Seat Political Thriller'

The Pelican Brief is based on the 1992 John Grisham novel of the same name, in which a law student, Darby Shaw played by Julia Roberts, discovers a plot to assassinate U.S supreme court justices so that the two less biased justices can be appointed in their place. She puts together a theory, titled ''The Pelican Brief'', but then her boyfriend college professor is killed in a car bombing, with his friend who later falls victim, and due to that theory, she finds herself in danger and on the run. By enlisting the help of a journalist, Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington), both Grantham and Shaw must figure out whether or not they can confirm the theory of the brief, before they become the government operatives next targets, as they try to put a stop to Darby ''spilling the beans'', as we'd say. The film's title is in reference to the paper that Darby pens that theorises a murder conspiracy involving the supreme court justices. 

This is one of Julia Roberts's finest acting roles; alongside Denzel Washington, both stars turn in excellent and efficient and somewhat low-key performances, without hogging too much of the limelight. If there is one thing I didn't care for it was that storyline with Darby and her older professor boyfriend. Still, the intricacy of the script is taxing as it is well developed and the film demonstrates the sheer depth of Julia's acting ability, which hit its peak towards the early 2000s and hasn't really been replicated since Erin Brockovich in 2000 & to a lesser extent, Mona Lisa Smile, 3 years after.

The film also features an early appearance of Cynthia Nixon, who went on to star in Sex and the City, as Darby's best friend, Alice. 

Like all the other John Grisham Novels, The Pelican Brief is an example of how to do a big screen adaptation of a novel with justice and it is a '90s political conspiracy film that harks back to political thrillers of the 1970s, such as Pakula's other notable hit, All The Presidents Men with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford and toes in line, somewhat, with 1991's JFK

The plot is complex enough to get your head around and on paper, it is a conventional crime thriller of sorts, but the movie is very suspenseful and solid with some good and intriguing plot twists that spring out of nowhere. Technically, The Pelican Brief centres on conspiracy where a hypothesis suggests two or more persons have conspired to cover up an event or situation, with a deliberate action on their part. It's one of those films with complicated plots, but when you watch the film unravel and all these things happen, it becomes highly engrossing, thanks to the intrigue, the chasing on foot and the plot twists. So, therefore, you have to pay attention all the time. 

Speaking of the foot chases and scenes where Gray and Darby try to evade their captors, they make the film more exciting and thrilling to watch. They were well shot and directed. 

In addition, Denzel Washington is excellent as the reporter, Gray Grantham aiding Darby as he and Roberts put on a good front and show they are and were a great fit for their characters and make for a good team, as is John Lithgow as Gray's editor of the Washington Herald. The supporting cast, along with the lead stars make do with a sharp, compelling and complex script, and in return, their performances come to a rewarding satisfaction. It's great to see both the main leads Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington making their mark, at a time where their careers were about to soar right through to the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Insofar as to what I've read, in the original novel, both Gray and Darby later get into a relationship with each other. & yet here, the movie doesn't go down that road with them - which is fine by me. It lends more credibility to The Pelican Brief and is the type of film that did not need sex scenes to sell a movie. 

The screenplay is so absorbing, tense - yet taxing and mind-twisting, as it tests the Darby character and the audience's intelligence in figuring out what is the exact motive behind these killings and the significance of the political beliefs that might have played a part in them. The film takes liberties with the original source material and few alterations were made, yet those changes do not take away from what is an impressive movie. & I really enjoyed the last 5-10 mins and the ending was good. This is a far better film than Conspiracy Theory of 1997 starring Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson. 

Pakula's direction elevates it from a political thriller to a mystery and crime story that is well-paced and as compelling, as it is highly suspenseful. 


Pros +

- Exceptional performances by Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington help elevate the film

- Intense and suspenseful in places, really good edge-of-your-seat moments
- Screenplay is taxing - yet absorbing 
- Compelling direction by Alan Pakula 

Cons -

- Didn't really care about the Darby and her professor boyfriend relationship 

Final Verdict:

The Pelican Brief is yet another in the long line of fantastic movies that Hollywood doesn't make anymore, nor do they make them like they used to. With this film and Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts stepped up to the plate as a rising Hollywood actress turned superstar. 

The story makes little sense and is very taxing & the film itself can be very heavy, but Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington's charisma helps manoeuvre this film as a suspenseful, nail-biting and entertaining effort and an above decent adaptation. This is definitely one for John Grisham fans and fans of political thrillers.


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Mini (ish) Review: Eat Pray Love (2010) #badmovies

Eat Pray Love
Genre: Romantic Drama

Nauseating and, dare I add also, despicable film into how running away from your problems, instead of confronting them, and whilst hurting people along the way, makes it seem like it is a morally acceptable thing to do. Liz talks the talk, harping on and on about self-worth and finding and loving yourself - only to dump and leave her husband, jump into bed with a younger guy, ditch him, go on a globe-trotting trip and fall in love with another guy. Yeah, some 'role model' this woman is. 

If this film didn't kill Julia Roberts's movie career, then maybe, perhaps it should or ought to have. Eat Pray Love offended me on every single level and I still, for the life of me, can't get my head around why Julia Roberts, who is used to playing likable characters, chose to play this role. It reeks of trashy. It paints her in a very negative light and makes other people question her movie choices, regardless of how talented she is. 

Liz is a terrible role model, based on the real Liz Gilbert, and her actions border on desperation, self-pity and narcissism. The longer the film went on, the more intolerable it became. I felt sick.

Julia, in my opinion, made a grave error to be a part of this movie - just look at the reviews and comments on Letterboxd, IMDb and on around 90-95% of those reviews are negative. And they are not from critics, and some of them are fans of Julia's. That tells you something at how poorly received Eat Pray Love is. and deserves to be. It was unpleasant all the way through.

I end up going back to rewatching Steel Magnolias, Erin Brockovich, America's Sweethearts, Hook, The Pelican Brief just to rid myself of the stench this film has given off. Those were the good times for Julia Roberts - whereas this film ain't.

Worst Julia Roberts movie, ever. Without hesitation for me that is.

Is It Worth Seeing?

Not for me. Seeing sweet good gal Julia play a selfish and obnoxious character just doesn't wash with me, one bit. And one I won't ever buy into. 


Friday, 16 June 2017

Retro Review: Picture Perfect (1997)

Picture Perfect
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr, Kevin Bacon
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $44 million

Plot: A young advertising executive's life becomes increasingly complicated, when, in order to impress her boss, she pretends to be engaged to a man she has just met

'Less Than Perfect'

A romantic comedy deprived of light humour and with a bland and boring screenplay, Picture Perfect is a Jennifer Aniston mid-1990s offering, which virtually offered little in the way of elevating her super-stardom and alas, doesn't do justice to her potential in her then-upcoming transition from TV actress to A-list movie star at the time. 

It begins like a workplace comedy that transitions as a rom-com only 4 mins later. Kevin Bacon's Sam shows up and Kate is infatuated with him. Kate is a young, highly ambitious advertising executive based in New York, who is passed up for promotion by her boss, who doesn't think she is dependent enough to be reliable on the long-term. The company just landed a deal with a mustard (?) company and yet, Kate is excluded from the team, on the basis that her boss is highly sceptical about her future. On the advice of her best friend, Kate fakes an engagement to a wedding photographer, of whom she barely knows and stages a break-up, after she gets promoted and in order to test Sam, who admits to being a womaniser or something on the lines of that. 

The film treads on similar lines to Paul Hogan's My Best Friend's Wedding, which was also released in 1997. 

Jennifer Aniston has been an actress, whose work has somewhat baffled me: she has had tremendous success on the TV sitcom, Friends and before that, she appeared in low-budget Z-list straight to DVD flicks. Her movies on the other hand, outside of her TV work, haven't really interested me. And yet for all of this, she is still a talented actress, whose potential, despite her star power, hasn't really enticed me, due to the flimsy scripts she gets. She's a nice person in real life, don't get me wrong and whilst arguably or rightly so, she fares alongside Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock in the rom-com ranks, her movie work is kind of so-so, and unlike Roberts, there are fewer films of Aniston's that I like or enjoy a lot. 

1997's Picture Perfect was Aniston's first star billing role in a major film; a lot of people will complain or say that here she plays the same type of character from Friends here. I have to say that the script and the film itself let Aniston down and with more work in this area, it would have been far more entertaining. Although she was far from her best here. It felt too much like a sitcom and an extended sitcom: the material is so lacklustre and derivative. There were no moments that made me gasp or leap out of my chair. I expected a lot more from a movie of this type. 

Jay Mohr as Nick is not bad as the nice-guy type, but his performance lacked conviction; Kevin as the other love interest was, okay but nothing special. Kevin is not known for rom-coms, but with a better effort and his looks (I liked his hair in this one), he should've warranted more light-hearted roles, as opposed to being typecast as the slimeball villain. Which is a role he always plays. Steel Magnolias' Olympia Dukakis plays Kate's mother. 

Picture Perfect made me smile like once and this movie came out in the same year as My Best Friend's Wedding. As a film, a lot of it just didn't make a lot of sense, it was very predictable and the story becomes dreary and lacking appeal. The romantic element was underplayed too much and wasn't well conceived and with the movie not having enough funny and good-hearted moments, Picture Perfect just doesn't do the trick. 

Final Verdict:

Unlike Jennifer Aniston herself, this film is largely forgettable and doesn't tug at the heartstrings and compared to many other romcoms, it doesn't want to make you care much about the characters. I just couldn't really connect with any of them.

It fulfils all of the rom-com tropes and follows the exact formula as with every other rom-com - but its execution is too safe, despite being riddled with cliches, and is nothing we haven't seen before in other predecessors and successors. That and it just wasn't watchable all the way through. 

Picture Perfect was far from it. It's unremarkable, bland and with not very pleasant characters to boot. 


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Firehouse (1987) #badmovies

Genre: Sex Comedy

Z - movie version of Backdraft where some crazed guy is committing arsons and setting fire to old buildings in a rundown neighbourhood and some female firefighters are recruited to put a stop to all the fires. They are also having to deal with sexual harassment from their male counterparts. Plenty of female nudity on show, lots of groping - and lest not forget a first debut appearance by - shock horror - Julia Roberts as an unaccredited extra. Although, and fortunately at least, she has her clothes on. Unfunny, stale script and poor acting and the film is extremely boring. The picture quality is terrible, editing is choppy and doesn't flow well at all. 

If you took Backdraft, stripped it bare (and not literally) and added in some nude/sex scenes, amateur performances and bad dialogue, this is what you get. A lamer female version of Backdraft. 

Is it worth seeing? 

For a brief appearance by Julia Roberts alone, and only that alone, why not? 


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Mini Retro Review: Inner Sanctum (1991) #badmovies

Inner Sanctum
Genre: Erotic Thriller

More like an inner rectum, the wife, Jennifer is confined to a wheelchair and is left paralysed, yet her husband, who shares his name with a brand of canned soup in Baxter, treats her like crap, he shouts at her and loses the plot. He is easily infuriated by Jen, partly because of her immobility, that he doesn't really care about her - and yet doesn't mind sleeping around with two other women: a co-worker of his firm and a live-in nurse. Jen tries to kill herself as she is haunted by suspicions that Baxter is cheating on her with another woman. There is bad acting throughout, bad music and some dire erotic sex scenes. Meanwhile, the violence is schlocky and unconvincing -which is untypical for a B/Z-movie. The story tries to be convincing in a Hitchcock-way, but it leaves virtually little to the imagination, & the control-freak husband is utterly self- loathable, obnoxious and a sleazebag. 

Good thing he gets his just desserts in the end.

It was made for $650,000 and was a success, leading to a sequel, 3 years later. 

Is it worth seeing?

Only for the last 15 mins when Baxter is killed, but otherwise, no, not really. 


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Retro Review: Red Sonja (1985) #Schwarzenegger

Red Sonja
Cast: Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, Paul Smith, Ronald Lacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Genre: Sword and Sorcery Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $6 million

Plot: A vengeful woman sets out to retrieve a magic orb from an evil queen whom she vows vengeance upon, after the evil queen slain her family and her loyal warriors raped her

'Red Sonja Is A Corny '80s Fantasy Flick, Which I Found Terribly Watchable'

Danish actress Brigette Nielsen made her film debut as the titular character, Red Sonja during her short-lived acting career. She followed this up with turns in Cobra and Rocky IV alongside Sly Stallone, Beverly Hills Cop 2 and a couple of direct- to- DVD efforts that include a softcore porn thriller, before disappearing from the movie world.

Red Sonja was lambasted by critics throughout with the general consensus being it is dull, badly acted and directed and is an uninspiring spin-off to the Conan movies. Sitting through this film, I was literally preparing myself for the worst - yet somehow, somewhere, oddly, bizarrely, I enjoyed some, and I say some parts of Red Sonja.

After being raped by Queen Gedren, who murdered Sonja's brother and mother, Red Sonja (who is named, due to her hair being red) is visited by a spirit who helps her muster up the strength and courage to seek vengeance on her part. Along the way, she meets and joins forces with a boy named Prince Tahn and his servant, Falkon and later on, Kalidor and the foursome go out their way to destroy a green orb and get rid of Queen Gedren.

Made in the 1980s, it has that cheesy, corny vibe going throughout. Ernie Reyes Jr's character, Prince Tahn is an irritating little dweeb, who as the audience, we are having to put up with him and his self-righteous, snotty-nosed and pompous manner. I didn't care much for Reyes Jr in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze - and I didn't care for him in this offering. He talks too much and is very grating with his know-it-all showing, as the little prince. For a prince, he sure is so ungracious and ungrateful. The scene where Sonja was going to spank his butt as punishment and for being annoying - only to be stopped by Tahn's right-hand man, Falcon was disappointing, whilst Arnie's character, Calidor doesn't utter a single word during his entrance, right after hacking down the bad guys with a sword. He also hams it up: if Conan was a more corny and hammy type of character, Calidor would be it. He also has a much gentler side to him. With lead Brigette Nielsen in a skimpy outfit and her mullet looking, rather, well, odd, unfortunately, she gives a very wooden and one-dimensional performance that is stoic and she rarely expresses many layers or emotions in this Sonja character. The villainess, meanwhile, is just incredibly bland and terrible, not to mention weak.

Red Sonja is a Conan B- movie - and has long been touted as its third film and a spin-off in actuality. The story is set around at the same time as Conan in the Hyborian era. Although I'm not a keen fan of those movies, either myself. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers this film to be the worst he has been involved in; in watching it throughout, I'm somewhat in agreement with him, but at the same time, I found it entertaining in parts. The dialogue is, however, embarrassing and dumb to hear (Sonja: ''I don't need eyes to find you, I can smell you from 100 paces'', what on earth is this nonsense??!), and almost bordering on farcical.

It is painfully obvious this film was made to capitalise on Arnold's Conan movies, particularly Conan The Destroyer which was a PG-13 rated affair and disregarding the cheesy overtone it evokes, the talents of the actors involved, whilst they were not overly strong, were not fully utilised and that their characters are not as fully developed as they ought to have been.

The best moments had Arnie in them, of him riding and battling a mechanical, or animatronic sea creature in the water, as silly as that scene looked. Interestingly also, unlike his character Conan, Calidor has a bit more of a presence, as well as subtlety, and that's partly thanks to Arnie's acting performance, which is a cut above from his previous role. Even if it still wooden (all of the performances are one-dimensional and flat) This film has unintentionally funny scenes that makes me laugh, so bad yet still watchable and that is one of them. The sword duel with Bridgette and Arnie was entertaining stuff that ended in a draw. The swordplay was very good and they had to be for a movie such as this.

There is so much wrong here.... yet still, I stuck it out and with that, there were some watchable moments.

Final Verdict:

I was literally fearing the worst after all the negative things I've read about Red Sonja - but in all honesty, it isn't that entirely bad. I was not looking forward to seeing this again, initially; yet in fact, it's passable. Besides some of the cheesy acting and irritating child character, of whom I could have done without, Arnold's presence, as well as the fight sequences lend themselves well.

As formulaic as it is, it is, therefore Arnie's addition in Red Sonja, that makes it watchable and a tad more accessible than the Conan films. This is one of those films where one needs to take it with a pinch of salt and to just go along for the ride. Sure it isn't fantastic (and fantastic it is not).

A ''so- bad-it's- good' kind of way corny fantasy flick, Red Sonja should be enjoyed and casually approached as nothing more as a less than serious effort. It saddles in-between awful and fun and it also needed a bit more of Arnie (even if he outright hates Red Sonja) - but for flat acting, terrible script, corny feel, it has some decent fighting scenes and is a terribly watchable movie. This is pretty much everything one would want and expect from a '80s fantasy epic.

Well, a bad one that is.



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