Monday, 23 October 2017

Retro Review: Outbreak (1995)

Outbreak
1995
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Dempsey
Genre: Disaster Movie
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $122 million 

Plot: Extreme measures are necessary to contain an epidemic of a deadly airborne virus. But how extreme, exactly?




'Fairly Routine & Sound Thriller That Should Have Been Far More Potent' 

In the 1960s, a deadly virus known as Motaba is discovered in Zaire that wipes out an entire village in 24 hours. 30 years later, Colonel Sam Daniels, an expert in contagious diseases is called in when the same virus re-emerges in Africa after learning that a monkey has been carrying the virus and it has quickly spread from one person to another, despite orders from General Billy Ford to stay away from the site. 

Much like with Sphere, Outbreak is a film that relies less on Dustin Hoffman's acting performances and moreso on the action setpieces and scenes, although still, it took his performance to make it slightly worthwhile and that it does feel as though Wolfgang Peterson didn't go all out to turn Outbreak into a truly memorable film. I personally thought that Sphere had, what was conceivably and marginally the better cast in Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L.Jackson - yet in Outbreak, the narrative was a tad more engaging than the former. As a whole, both are fairly even. 

The scenes with Patrick Dempsey as a pet owner, who ends up being contaminated & later passes on the disease, are annoying and some of the other scenes felt a bit too long in the tooth and the story, as efficiently told as it was & in grave detail, needed to have a little bit more potency and an edge. 

Later preceded by Contagion, Outbreak, in contrast, is slightly more mild and lighter in tonality and approaches the subject matter and the story as a less intense affair. It does have its moments such as when the characters spring into action and the devastating effects of the virus take effect, but these remain few. Honestly, the consistency and accuracy of the facts when it comes to the dramatised depiction of the events is not a big deal to me. Alas, I take it with a pinch of salt. 

Known for playing reserved roles, whilst he has delivered better in other films, here Dustin Hoffman is on fire and delivers the best performance out of the main 6 of himself, Russo, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland and Cuba Gooding Jr. With Harrison Ford as the initial first choice as Colonel Sam Daniels, Hoffman goes and acts out of his range with efficiency and conviction. He hasn't appeared in many movies such as this, but with this one and Marathon Man, he comes across as purposeful and impassionate & he shows how adept he can also be at the set pieces. Sam remains unfazed by the challenge he has taken on & doggedly fights on until the matter is fully resolved. Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr were sound and effective & Donald Sutherland rounds up the main cast as the heartless bad guy. Sadly, Rene Russo had little impact on the film and thus far, her character & Sam's ex-wife, Robby was more of an afterthought. But on a whole, the acting is still good and it doesn't detract from the movie's aim, which is how to respond to a life-threatening situation & global pandemic where the stakes are at an all-time high.





Final Verdict:

With a competent cast and star turn by Dustin Hoffman, with Cuba Gooding Jr not too far behind, Outbreak is a fairly routine but sound and solid thriller, which is also a little rudimentary in terms of suspense and the story should have been more hard-hitting. Therefore, I do think that Outbreak did play things a little too safe for its own good and Wolfgang Peterson never really took full advantage of the premise. 


As a Dustin Hoffman film, this is by no means as grand and amazing as Rain Man, Tootsie, Midnight Cowboy, insofar as performances go but it is almost on par with Sphere, especially as a movie. As in it is entertaining, undemanding and adequate at best, whilst it is mildly enjoyable & well-crafted. 


It's a shame, therefore, that Outbreak needed to have a bit more pizazz to really liven things up.  

Overall:


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mini Retro Review: Jaws 3-D (1983) #badmovies

Jaws 3-D
1983
Thriller 



Jaws 3-D is like a teen drama meets slasher type flick (& a needless sequel) as settings switch to Seaworld (of all places), which is a world away from the previous Jaws films, which were more suspenseful and serious in tone and alas, it resembles nothing like those movies. They got rid of everything that made the first film great, with the second being below adequate and instead, we have corny characters with a corny tone and corny & insipid melodrama and cheesy overacting. There are some terrible non-American accents that I've heard and a woeful and dreary script that makes a mockery of the Jaws reputation that it has so built up, but has been decimated completely by this travesty. The opening is like something out of Baywatch with the unlucky folks on water skis and then it descends into part - Free Wily. The so-called 3D special effects this film has been trudging out, are so unrealistic it's obvious with that photoshopped look to them (the black outline around the shark being one of them), but then this was the early 1980s with movie technology and CGI, which were still not quite on the level that is seen today. Talking about jump the shark, these characters deserve to be eaten up by one, & it seemed like this shark was having a whale of a time in doing so. 


Is It Worth Watching?


Just for a laugh 



Overall:

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Retro Review: Mortal Passions (1989)

Mortal Passions
1989
Cast: Zach Galligan, Michael Bowen, Krista Errickson, Luca Bercovici, David Warner, Shelia Kelly
Genre: Erotic Thriller

Plot: An unscrupulous woman deceives her boring, insecure husband after getting exasperated with his inactivity




'Surprisingly Engrossing Little Thriller'

A little known erotic thriller that is a little different and tries to stand out amongst the other generic films of this type, Mortal Passions is one of those erotic thriller type films which I went into thinking it would be like every other movie of this type: lots of sex, little tension and nothing else to it, when in fact, thanks to the engrossing story, evitable plot twists and interesting characters involved this had me glued to the screen, throughout. Heck, I'd even prefer this to Basic Instinct

A calculating and double-crossing woman in Emily intends to kill her husband so she can get her hands on the insurance money. Even going as far as seducing other men - including the hubby's brother, Burke and using them for her own evil intentions. I know she is fed up of being married to Todd and she tried to divorce him, but you wonder why couldn't she just walk away and move on from Todd? & then you realise she is a golddigger-type and only wants his money. 

Yes, it can get a little silly perhaps, but it never strays too far to becoming a farce and thus, it remains entertaining with plenty to offer, as well as being earnest. The predictability level is kept to a low and the director Andrew Lane manages to keep the audience guessing on what will happen next. I always wonder what the characters will say and do, after each revelation and bombshell that Lane unravels and it is all very enticing. 

This film came out way before Basic Instinct, which was lauded as the trifecta of erotic thrillers in 1992 and released after the success of Fatal Attraction. It does some things really well and intelligently also, insofar as the script-wise goes. The acting performances, thanks to the script, is way above anything that is delivered in most softcore erotic films and they are convincing to boot. Although Zach Galligan, who was in Gremlins 1 and 2 gives the weakest performance out of the main 3 actors; that and I wasn't fond of his character. It seems like some scope was given to the characters and through that, we see that disintegration of Todd and Emily's marriage, right before our very eyes.  

I went into this film like I mentioned, not expecting very much that was good and given my fair share of erotic thriller films I have sat through, I have not been impressed by many of them. Yet Mortal Passions makes genuine and bold attempts in the story and plot and by sufficiently building up and developing the characters and giving each one of them some depth. Additionally, the film doesn't waste time in throwing in a few twists and making it edgy and intense. 

This is far from the trashy erotic thriller one is inundated with, but rather this is a neat little gem in the making.





Final Verdict:

A cut above 90-95% of erotic thrillers, which is saying something as most movies of this type are generally awful. Mortal Passions was a huge surprise and one that not only took me by surprise as to how good it was, all the way through, it is a thriller that keeps the audience guessing and it really made me invest in the story and wondering what will happen next. 

Despite the lack of A-listers carrying this film, this film demonstrates that enticing sex scenes, some good performances, intriguing twists and a well-written script all make for a highly engrossing and effective erotic thriller. 


Overall:

Friday, 20 October 2017

Movie Review: Fatal Secrets (2011) #badmovies

Fatal Secrets
2011
Thriller/Drama


Also titled 'Balancing The Books', this was made in 2009 but didn't get released on DVD until 2 years later and is again one of those movies where the subject matter, violence and suspense element would have been elevated further and its potency and grittiness would have been fully realised, had it not been given the TV-movie treatment. 3 women, with little character depth, take matters into their own hands when they try and get their own back on Scott, who is the lover of the main female character played by Dina Meyer. Lea Thompson puts in the same performance in every Lifetime movie she's been in. Sure, it has all this tense music playing in the background and some of the music is bad, but the film is a huge waste of the talents of those involved and the heightened tension is weak, throughout through its production values, but this is nothing new for a TV movie. The film descends to a new low when the women are unmasked - and it gets even worse afterwards. A low-budget wannabe thriller that tries to have its cake and eat it, I just couldn't take it seriously. Surprisingly also for an R-rated indie film, there is no nudity but there are a few usages of the F-word.


Is It Worth Watching?

Skip it



Overall:

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Mini Retro Review: Sinful Intrigue (1995) #badmovies

Sinful Intrigue
1995
Erotic Thriller Drama



Skinimax softcore offering from the mid-1990s and a surprisingly bland affair also. A handyman gets in the way of a couple's marriage and he is suspected for a spate of attacks on good-looking women in the area. Apparently, the breasts in this film are fake, according to a comment I have come across on Amazon. But either way, the story is a total bore and the sex scenes, but for one of them, feel too borderline ordinary and aren't as erotic enough. The acting, especially from the lead actress, is just bad, like cardboard cut-out like and she looked like someone else who I saw in another film. With the way the actors deliver their lines, it's almost as if they are reading them off an autocue/teleprompter. No tension felt whatsoever, the twist towards the end feels tacky and lame, story is devoid throughout and I was bored senseless as I watched this.


Is It Worth Watching?

It just doesn't go very deep with the sex scenes and the rest of the film wasn't good. The sin of this film is there is no intrigue and hardly any real sex scenes for an X-rated flick. & it's dull. 


Overall: 


Retro Review: Hero (1992)

Hero (AKA Accidental Hero in the UK & Ireland)
1992
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis, Andy Garcia, Joan Cusack, Tom Arnold
Genre: Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $19 million 

Plot: A not-so-nice man rescues passengers from a crashed airliner, only to see someone else take credit 





'Comedy-Drama That Is More A Zero'


A gigantic box office flop back in 1992, watching Hero starring Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis and Andy Garcia, though it is not outright horrible, the film is bogged down by superfluous conversations that go on forever, bland dialogue and a poor script. Right after the multi-million successes of Hook and Thelma and Louise, sadly, Hoffman and Davis were brought back down to earth with a bump through this flawed and unmemorable comedy.

A cynical & glum- looking Bernard saves news reporter, Gale along with 54 people onboard during a plane wreckage and manages to slip away without being recognised and identified. Gale goes out of her way to get hold of Bernard, but another guy by the name of John Bubber seeks to claim credit for Bernie's heroics when a $1 million reward is up for grabs just by revealing the identity of the 'hero'. & with that, Bernie wallows in jail. 

Hero is a so-called comedy-drama that flip-flops between being a satire on the media and a sentimental uplifting morale, and when it does so, rather than getting sparks and excitement, the film eventually fizzles out although it still manages to all come together in the end. 

The main problem with this film is that the material can be so overstuffed and entrenched, one can lose interest easily and not give a damn. I can see what this movie is about: it's about making amends and turning over a new leaf and redeeming oneself, yet in this film, it is conceived in such as tepid and boring way that lacks any real interest or to make me want to care for the main characters. That, and some of the storylines just don't seem to be going anywhere and what you get is a very uneven and confusing effort. 

As great an actor Dustin Hoffman is, I must say, he was miscast as Bernard: he just doesn't strike me as the type of actor who would play such a dislikeable douche. The leads in Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis and Andy Garcia each give modest individual performances at best; however, their characters were just not relatable and appealing enough. Bernhard is Ratzo Rizzo: a meaner, and dare I say it a more irritating version of his other character from Midnight Cowboy. Although later on, he does show a bit of his soft side by admitting he screwed up on the phone to his wife, played by Joan Cusack. Bubber rides on the coattails of Bernie and is fraudulently taking credit for something he didn't do, whilst Gale acts and goes about her job like a ruthless investigative reporter who would go to any lengths to get the scoop she needs. 

As far as the comedy aspect goes, there are one or two earlier moments in the film, but other than this, this is sorely underplayed and it goes awry. The twist of this film is that the imposter is the all-round good guy and Bernard isn't. 

Hero is easily one of Dustin Hoffman's weaker film outings and for me is even less watchable than Ishtar, Hoffman's other comedy and notorious flop, and whilst it is good to occasionally see him pop up in comedy and light-hearted films, as he is usually more renowned for his dramatic roles, this one just didn't offer more which was good, amusing and entertaining. 





Final Verdict:

Surprisingly with so many plot holes and not enough entertaining and memorable moments to speak of, Hero was written by David Webb Peoples, the same guy who had a hand in Twelve Monkeys and the original Ridley Scott classic, Blade Runner. Nonetheless, this film is overlong with some cloying material and a half-hearted script, and yet with a bit more of a zip and wit thrown into the mix & 30 mins trimmed off, Hero would be far more redeemable. 

And it is the nature of the script that truly lets its performers down. 

Thus, Hero makes its star performers Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Geena Davis look more like zeroes. 


Overall:

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Retro Review: Death Of A Salesman (1985)

Death of a Salesman
1985
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, Kate Reid, Stephen Lang, Charles Durning
Genre: Drama

Plot: Burdened by financial woes and distanced from his wife, Linda and his two grown sons, Biff and Happy, the increasingly unstable Willy dwells on various memories of his family & his career, as he looks back to find out what went wrong with his life 




'TV Movie Effort Which Deserved The Movie Set, Not Stage Set Treatment'

Produced by CBS, Death of a Salesman is a made- for- TV Movie that premiered in 1985 starring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich. It was released one year before Seize The Day, which starred Robin Williams, which was also another TV movie. In many respects, both films are virtually similar in terms of plot and story and share the same theme: ambition. In Seize The Day, Tommy Wilhelm is a struggling but also honest salesman trying to salvage what is left of his life, after being made redundant from his job. The film's story was mundane but thanks to Robin Williams, I still found it watchable.  

Based on a play written by Arthur Miller, Wiliam aka Willy Loman is a washed-up salesman, who is sad, lives a tragic life, who struggles to provide for his family, yet he has an attitude of a young man inside his old body. 

Unlike Seize The Day, Death of A Salesman is filmed and shot like a play for television and this adaption fits that bill. But had it been filmed like an actual film, its potential would have been slightly elevated, as well as fully realised. The fact that it is produced this way, it made the viewing experience rather difficult to sustain. The score that plays in the background becomes jarring every once in a while. Whilst the sets and the narrative style seeks to emulate the format of the play, they also detract from the film's enjoyment and the performances, as impressive as they may be. As a result, the effect it gives off is anything but deafening and thus, it made the story problematic for me to invest any thorough and concrete interest in. 

Dustin Hoffman is good as Willy and he puts on a gravelly voice and sounds like someone who had smoked too many cigarettes. He has a few watchable scenes and when he goes off in an office during one scene, he is too good. He does have a bit of a motormouth and talks a great deal. 

The casting sounded too good to be true with Malkovich as son, Biff, Durning and Hoffman - it's a tad of a shame, therefore, that the director opted to produce this film like a play. & with that, despite the explosive last 10 mins, I just didn't find it enjoyable and as entertaining as I would have, had it been a fully-fledged feature film or TV movie. Or be it a good TV movie. But like with all movies based on plays and books, the dialogue is well conceived. 

As much as I tried to, I just couldn't invest so much of my attention to this film due to the theatrical play format that Death of a Salesman adapts. It's also far too long and a good heavy chunk of it could have been easily lobbed off, and in doing so nothing of value would be lost. Also, having it filmed like a play restricts so much resonance it tries to project. I just felt the theatrical approach really stifled any potential this film would have fulfilled beyond the confines of a play & thus, it hampered my enjoyment.I am more used to the cinematic style, I love movies, I like the freedom of the characters moving about & getting from point A to B in different locations and films sets, more so than staged sets and I'm far less accustomed to the theatrical format - and so to discover this was more like a play and felt less like a movie, disappointed me. 




Final Verdict:

If I had to choose between this film and Seize The Day, without a shadow of a doubt, I'd choose the Robin Williams movie over this one. 


Death of a Salesman would have enamoured theatregoers everywhere, night after night, but under moviegoers and film audiences in general, whatever the type of impact it wanted to evoke here, is severely lessened - and this is much to its detriment. 



Overall: 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Retro Review: Papillon (1973)

Papillon
1973
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen
Genre: Historical Period Drama 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $53 million 

Plot: A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape






'Performances Are Worthy Enough To Sit Through What Is A Bloated & Overlong Movie'


A version of The Great Escape, which starred Steve McQueen and set in France meets The Shawshank Redemption, for a period-based drama Papillon is mildly profound and impressive in places, yet unfortunately, it lacks an engrossing and vibrant story to back up the exceptional performances and strays way too comfortably when it ought to have really have gone the distance.  

McQueen is Papillon: a convict who is sent to prison on an Island in French Guyana after being wrongly convicted of murdering a pimp. The screenplay was based on a 1969 autobiography by French convict, Henri Charriere. Steve McQueen plays the self-titled character. From there on, he meets up with and befriends fellow prisoner, Louis Dega played by Dustin Hoffman and the pair of them come up with ways to escape.


As Louis Dega, Dustin looks rather adorkable with the glasses and he has a few nice scenes; there is a nuanced and tenderness to his portrayal as the bumbling yet well-meaning Louis Vega. The scene with Louis on a boat and his foot is being tended to with a hot knife, was for me as scary as the teeth-pulling scene in Marathon Man & whilst it is far from being a truly memorable performance, again, it goes to show how impressive and versatile Hoffman is at playing both offbeat and sincere characters. But it is Steve McQueen, who performance-wise, ultimately owns this film, although together as a duo, they were good. The performances, at most or at least, by Hoffman and McQueen are a good enough reason to sit through it. And but for their friendship as well, the film doesn't really give any real insight into the characters and thus, Steve McQueen's Papillon & Dustin Hoffman's Louis are very much an afterthought, with the main story being the real focus. 


The film clocks in at over a bum-numbing 2 hours and this runtime is awfully long-winded and as a 2 hour + film, I expected a whole lot from this movie that was going to keep me peeled all the way through. The story fluctuates and the film's pacing issues make it a tad bloated. This felt very unforgiving. The attempted escape scenes are all short-lived and whilst this is needed to prolong the longevity of the film, everything else seems to be way drawn out. I think once Louis and Papillon and their friend manage to break free and get away and flee from the prison, the film slightly improves and it was nice to see their friendship blossoming in the wake of their survival.  At least with this film unlike Straight Time, it kept me peeled on occasions far more so than the former. Although the last third does go down a weird and surreal path and is so unlike anything resembling the first hour of Papillon






Final Verdict

If it wasn't for this film running at over 2 hours long and the rather bloated story, I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. The first hour was exceedingly dull, come the last 30 mins of the second hour it became more interesting, but thanks to the fine performances given by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and the impressive production, it makes what would have been a drawn-out and weary viewing experience into a tad more bearable one. 


All in all, Papillon is a film everyone should see at least once in their lives, not to mention it is something I would revisit once every couple of months. However, at times I do wish that there had been more energy given to the story to further enhance the film and that as a feature, it was less gruelling to withstand. 



Overall:

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Retro Review: Straight Time (1978)

Straight Time
1978
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey, Theresa Russell, M. Emmett Walsh, Kathy Bates
Genre: Crime Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $9 million

Plot: A paroled burglar tries to get a job and keep on the straight & narrow. His hardcore parole officer has different ideas and sends him back to jail. When he gets out again, he returns to a life of crime 





'A Forgotten Dustin Hoffman Flick With A Great Performance By Him Marred By Sluggish Pacing & Tepid Story'


A late 1970s crime drama that went unseen and a Dustin Hoffman movie that is rarely talked about, Straight Time stars Dustin Hoffman in an against-type performance as an ex-con named Max who attempts to go down the straight and narrow after his release from prison, with a parole officer breathing down his neck. But when Max encounters an old ally in Willy, it isn't long before he slips back to his old ways. 

Based on a novel written by a thief and convict, as watchable as it was in some parts, the film itself never sustained my interest and was not compelling enough. Also, it is because I'm more used to Hoffman being the type of guy who is the good guy and has good intentions in his other films. I bought into his role and performance in Midnight Cowboy, but here, sadly with the script, Straight Time didn't have more of those moments where I wanted to really enjoy it fully. It just didn't sit well with me. It was a little strange seeing Dustin play against type and playing a different type of character that his fans and the audience, in general, don't tend to associate him as. Yet this role would have still been a good one for him, had Max had any characterisation to him, yet he barely does so and because of that, Dustin is having to go beyond his usual typical and conventional performances to really bring Max to life.  

Straight Time had its moments, but story-wise, I felt it was lacking on occasions and it just wasn't engrossing as it should have been. Its pacing was so sluggish, it made it a bit of a chore to endure. This film practically lost me right after Max had robbed a grocery store, only to win me back with the love scene - only to lose me again. In-between the moments where Max handcuffs the prison warden and pulls down his trousers/pants & exposing his behind, the main bank robbery & the grocery store robbery, I was feeling indifferent towards this film. The first half I enjoyed but after that, I was switching off in places and it didn't hold my attention long enough. The occasional bursts of moments, in addition to the sluggish pacing, did affect my overall enjoyment. Russell herself didn't blow me away as her character was mostly one-dimensional and one note-ish who has no motivations for any of her actions. The love story didn't really add anything to the film to make it more worthwhile. The remaining performances were well done, especially by Gary Busey and Kathy Bates as the couple. 

Dubbed a crime drama, in spite of its interesting premise, it becomes a dramatic movie with so few thrilling and engaging scenes to give it the extra boost Straight Time needed. The director didn't do justice to this film or to his cast and thus that sentiment was pretty much felt by Dustin Hoffman who had initially directed this film and after several days, he handed the directing reigns to Ulu Grosbard, only to have fought with him over the end product. Hoffman still considers it as one of his finest performances. 

Thank goodness for Hoffman, whose presence and scenes alone just about make it watchable for me, just. Because other than that, everything else such as the story was told in a way that is frankly mundane.  





Final Verdict:


Being an avid admirer of so many of Dustin Hoffman's roles and movies, I really wanted to get on board with Straight Time, yet unfortunately, despite its good intentions, its execution left me wanting more from the film, but at the same time, the tedium in the story and its arduous pacing began to sink through and had ultimately affected my enjoyment. There are so few watchable moments and scenes besides the robberies and the last third themselves. 


Dustin, as ever, is great - even if it is a tad eerie to see him in this, but he is far from his best here, performance-wise compared to many of the other movies he has starred in and the film itself is so not one of his best; I wasn't too fond of his character, plus it dragged so often and despite his notable efforts, it just isn't enough to make up for what it is a really underwhelming and less than compelling crime flick with a tepid story. 


Thereupon Straight Time, as far as Dustin Hoffman movies go, is one that is underwhelming and is in many regards, for me anyway, sadly and inexplicably forgettable (although this opinion may change after several views).



*score last updated: 17 October, 2017*

Overall:

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