Sunday, 23 July 2017

Mini Retro Review: The Unknown Cyclist (1998) #badmovies

The Unknown Cyclist
1998
Drama





A TV movie by all accounts rather than a theatrical movie, The Unknown Cyclist has a promising premise but this is mainly dull, slow moving with characters I could care less about. 2 widowers - an ex-wife and the lover-, her husband who had left her for him, a friend and the hubby's brother all gather together and sign up for a charity ride, whilst on route scattering his late ashes. Lea Thompson (with a nose ring) re-enacts her role from the sitcom, Caroline In The City in this R-rated drama, almost shelving her clean-cut image and the character arcs and performances remain rooted at the bottom & without making the required impact. Poignant moments are bogged down by a sentimentality that can be a little overdone, so-called funny scenes weren't so funny and the music is a little too sappy. I just find the movie to be so drawn out -yet tired and a mind-numbing bore-fest. 


Is It Worth Seeing? 


Should have been a whole better, but it's really not



Overall:

Retro Review: Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan
1953
Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Hans Conried, Heather Angel, Bill Thompson   
Genre: Animated Adventure 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $40.7 million

Plot: Wendy and her brothers are whisked away to the magical world of Neverland with the hero of their stories, Peter Pan 






'With Dated Stereotypes and Underdeveloped Characterisations, 1950s Disney - Unlike Peter Pan- Didn't Grow Up' 

Disney's 1953's Peter Pan is more of a nostalgia trip than being a terrific movie that what was considered amazing at the time of the 1950s and despite being labelled as a classic, some elements of this film are either missing or have not been explored in full. This is the first time I've watched this particular version of Peter Pan and in sitting through it in its entirety, my feeling was that the kids were nice and cute, Wendy was all right, Peter Pan was so standoffish and Tinkerbell was selfish and malicious. Coupled with Captain Hook and Smee being their usual selves and a film that doesn't last very long and what we have is a Disney Peter Pan film, lauded at the time for being magnificent in every way during the 1950s, but in watching it today, not everything about it stacks up well. 

There have been other on screen adaptations and incarnations of the Peter Pan tale - more notably the 1991 Spielberg epic, Hook and the 2003 film Pan, but Disney's version is the most famous and most recognisable by far and it's partly thanks to the great 2D art style and animations that are very fluid, as well as looking bright and colourful. 

This is the story of the boy who never grew up, who paid a visit to see Wendy and the Darling kids in London and who whisked them to Neverland.  

As I was sitting through this movie, I was making notes of the references that were also in Hook: the happy thoughts that made the characters fly, 'the second star to the right, straight on until morning' uttered by Peter Pan here and by Tinkerbell to Peter Banning/Pan in Hook, Captain Hook uttering 'Good Form!', Hook's fear of clocks. Hook, of course, was based on the original novel by JM Barrie and far less so in this Disney version, but it was interesting to find the references in this film that was also in Hook.

The film has a musical aspect to it unlike Hook, which was a fully-fledged fantasy adventure film and despite its short runtime, Peter Pan did not have fleshed out characterizations, nor were these characters touched upon properly. I wanted to know a bit more about Michael and John especially. 

The internalised racism implied in this film was something that was noted by several viewers with the Native American Indians. But what shocked me was how scheming and horrible this rendition of Tinkerbell was. She was devious and so overly and easily jealous of Peter Pan having all these female admirers.

Additionally, Tinkerbell never spoke here and whilst a lot of people saw that as a positive, the fact is she didn't have much of a character so to speak, and because of that, we, or be it I didn't know what to make of her in a positive sense. Also, she is not as likeable here as Julia Roberts's version in Hook, as here she was in such a prissy mood. She always had that irritated look on her face, which annoyed me and she did what she could to make Wendy angry. Tinkerbell, who is supposed to represent the spirit in the story of Peter Pan, in the Disney version is a one-dimensional shallow, selfish pixie. Smee, Hook's right-hand man, resembled one of the seven dwarves in Disney's other classic, Snow White.

In Tiger Lily, Wendy, the Mermaids and Tink were four female admirers of Peter Pan and yet I found that thing where they become smitten and jealous towards Peter far too catty. Tinkerbell is jealous of Wendy, so much so she almost turns to the dark side, the mermaids are jealous of Wendy, Wendy is jealous of Tiger Lily, catty and smarmy Tink sells Peter out - almost. Whereas Tink was too dislikeable for me, Wendy was a total bore and bland. The mermaids are no better themselves, either. Yet he is completely oblivious to all of this going on. It's like he is a chick magnet. 

Peter Pan is not completely horrible or bad, but at the end of the day, but for say John, Michael, I felt little for this film and didn't care much for it. Enjoyment-wise, it's okay but the portrayals and characterisations of the characters are both not fleshed out very well and are also very dated, and in the case of Tink and Peter Pan, the two main protagonists of whom we are supposed to root for - are (and moreso with Tink) downright dislikeable, compared to the ones in Steven Spielberg's Hook

The racial elements and the scene with John smoking- which shocked me- that Disney of today wouldn't put in their films today were disappointing to see here and is not something I'd expect from a company that targets their products at families and children. 

Peter Pan may have been the boy that never grew up, but it is the Disney of the earlier years, through some of their offensive images and not so good characterisations, who are the bigger culprits with this offering. 





Final Verdict


The animation and art style are great, the nostalgia factor is there, but for those two reasons, everything else about this film was so underwhelming and some of it also took me by surprise, and not in a positive way.


People can say whatever they want about Hook, but for me, Steven Spielberg and screenwriters James V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo in the live-action Hook of 1991 had duly put right what most of Disney had got wrong with this animated film.   



Overall:


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Mini Review: After Earth (2013) #badmovies

After Earth
2013
Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction






A sci-fi family story conceived in such a dreary and overly serious way without much payoff, a father and his teenage son are stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after surviving an asteroid storm and the pair must work together to have any chance of returning home. 

Sitting through this movie, I struggled to come up with anything remotely positive about After Earth: a film that one expects to be a sci-fi hit, but misses the mark in practically more ways than one and the way it is conceived by Shyamalan, whose intentions and direction here and with The Last Airbender, is so often misguided, as well as beggars belief. 

What's with the weird accents from Jaden and Will Smith? Their voices sound terrible when they speak and the acting is stiff and passionless. Will is too intense, broody, passive and serious and the idea of an alien that only ''sees'' by smelling, is beyond a farce. The thing with this film is director M. Night Shyamalan wants the audience to take this film seriously and to heavily invest interest in the characters, but how can we when it is so ridiculous as it is? 

No doubt Will Smith is one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars, but for say Ali, Men In Black 1 and Bad Boys 1, I've yet to truly love any other film he has done. Loved his TV work on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but disappointed at some, or be it most of his film projects. 

The non-American accents by the other characters in this film are also laughable. Poor acting, boring story, a boring film actually that not only made me switch off numerous times, but it is devoid of genuine and good action, thrills, tension and excitement. Plus, it is so hokey. After 30 mins, I switched it off completely. 

This is a big Willie train wreck from a director, who was once compared to Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. 



Is It Worth Seeing?


Dear no 



Overall:

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Movie Review: Precious (2009)

Precious
2009
Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sheri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz
Genre: Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $63 million

Plot: In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enrol in an alternative school, in the hopes that her life can head in a new direction






'Raises So Many Questions, However Daniels's Answers Are Mostly In Vain' 

Lee Daniels's film in Precious, courtesy of the backing by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry made huge waves at the Sundance Festival back in 2009 and it was hyped to the max and was hailed by a number of movie critics. 

Clareace 'Precious' Jones is 16 years old and an underprivileged teen, who lives in squalor in a Harlem apartment she shares with her abusive mother, has a light-skinned boyfriend of whom her mother disapproves, is overweight, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend and ended up giving birth to their child, and now she's pregnant with their second child. You couldn't make this up - no, scratch that, it is made up and it is all based on fiction. But still, this is harrowing stuff, nevertheless; certainly, these elements were a stark reminder of how sad and desolate this film is. After enrolling in a special school, Precious plans to turn her life around for herself and to see it as her ticket out of her dire situation. For 1 hr, 50 mins, the film is not devoid of events and scenes occurring in Precious Jones's life in Precious. From stealing food in a fried chicken shop, throwing up afterwards, being hit with a frying pan aimed by her mother and being sexually assaulted by her mother's boyfriend. The movie's title seems to set up Precious Jones as this special person. The film's trailer gives off the impression that this would be a film of inspirational hope and sappiness. But in fact, it is not quite the mawkish and moody film it has been touted. 

There is a tone that evokes a viciousness and verging on the state of being morbid and the film treads a middle ground. The language in the incessant usage of B-words and F-words is harsh, there is a scene where Precious is at a fried chicken shop, steals a bucket of chicken and runs off. A scene that many people will find insulting and which reinforces stereotypes of Blacks and African-Americans, as well as the scene where Precious finds out she has AIDS. The Black & White Minstrel Show and days of Birth of A Nation are clearly over - if this was a White director in charge who had scenes where Blacks were stealing and eating fried chicken, or a black girl being raped by her faceless monster of a father, there would be an uproar in the Black community. Had Precious also had a bottle of Kool Aid and a piece of watermelon on her, that would have really riled people up. Precious was no angel, but of course, that doesn't excuse the level of physical abuse she had gone through. Although, most people were also taken aback by how all the light-skinned characters here were depicted as 'saviours' and for rescuing Precious, a poor Black teen from her situation. Me personally, I didn't think much of this accusation, because I didn't pay much attention to it. 

The story is unreal and as fictional as it is, the performances by the likes of Mon'ique and Mariah Carey are what saves this film from being forgettable because the direction of this film is too one-dimensional and hardly thought-provoking. As much as it tries to be like that. Character development is barely minimal, as Lee Daniels seeks to rely on shock scenes and of Precious's sad, sorry and unfortunate predicament to drum up interest. 

This is an emotionally manipulative movie that plays on the audiences' emotions and seeks to extract that out of us, but of which it does this by confirming and exploiting the very stereotypes that Blacks and African Americans and ethnic minorities have been rallying against, for years. To say Precious dispels racist stereotypes is an underestimation. I can now see why some Blacks were offended by this film - Lee Daniels tries to fool audiences into making us feel sorry for Precious, which to some extent we, or I do: it's the intent of Daniels to rely on sob stories, as well as rather demeaning racist cliches associated with, or be it people link African Americans and Blacks in general with, that really upset a lot of people. & understandably, they had every right to make that clear. 

I also felt that in some ways, even though this film is about the lead character, most of the time, Precious's human side just wasn't fully explored and addressed properly; but for all her dreams, aspirations, self-image, her poor living conditions, I came away from this film thinking that Lee Daniels and the screenwriter dropped the ball with this aspect & they didn't do more with it, even though I wanted to know more about this character. 

But still, this movie was still compelling to watch and that is down to the performances, more than for any other reason. 

Despite Mariah Carey and Monique's impressive performances, Precious is lacking in identity as a film and feels very ordinary and the revelationary story line that the film was alluding to, just wasn't that mind blowing. Add to that also, the editing in this movie is muddled and sloppily done. Thankfully, it ended nicely and as I'd had envisioned it to be. 





Final Verdict

To say I was moved throughout or in places during this movie is something I'd disagree with. I never felt that way as I sat through Precious. The exaggerations were cartoonish and the writer and the director did go a bit overboard with this one. I'd also question its best picture nomination at the Sundance Festival, but then again, I've always been in two minds over award ceremonies & the films they opt for, anyhow. Withstanding all of this, I cannot deny that this film was watchable, as much as I do question some or most of the aspects and flaws of it. 


Had it not been for the impressive performances, the film would never have warranted all the attention it had received, I suppose. 


For Precious, it's a movie that tries to get a reaction out of audiences and to play the sympathy card, rather than making strides towards a more thorough and less abrasive narrative. 




Overall:



Saturday, 15 July 2017

Retro Review: Five Superfighters (1979) #Hongkongcinema

Five Superfighters (Tong San ng Foo)
1979
Cast: Austin Wai, Hau Chiu Sing, Tony Lung, Kuan Feng, Wu Yuen Chun
Genre: Martial Arts

Plot: Three martial arts students and their teacher are beaten up badly by a wandering man who proclaims himself a ''corrector of bad Kung Fu''. Determined to avenge their teacher & regain their honour, the three students all go their separate ways to find kung fu masters who will take them as students.






'Super Shaw Bros Showing'

I stumbled upon this rare Cantonese Hong Kong offering from the Shaw Brothers: 5 Superfighters is an action flick that harkens back to the days of traditional Chinese martial arts through kung fu films of the 1950s and 1960s in Hong Kong cinema. Shaw Brothers movies tend to be in the Mandarin dialect but after finding the Cantonese dub with English subtitles, I knew I had to see this one.

This is a fight-filled extravaganza, full of extraordinary kung fu fights on show and moves executed with flair, precision, speed and technical skill. It's non-stop with the fight sequences and of which barely pause for one second. The fluidity in which the moves all flow together is so seamless, and also lightning fast. The plot sees an old master and his 3 apprentices learn kung fu in various forms in order to prepare for their confrontation with an evil bully, who had previously defeated them and to exact their revenge. We get to see each fighter perfecting their own style of kung fu during their training scenes and when they get together to take on their adversary, it's great to watch also. 

In the style of Drunken kung fu fighting, Five Superfighters never lets up from the first minute to the last.

The plot is not much to ponder, but the uttered dialogue maintained my interest, in addition to the good performances. Five Superfighters is in many respects a stupendous old-school style martial arts movie that as basic as both its formula and structure are, as a film, it is also highly entertaining and watchable. 

It may be very lightweight in contrast to the Shaw Brothers previous offerings, but that, along with the Cantonese dubbing, made it even more worthwhile for me. 





Final Verdict

Five Superfighters is, in many ways super, and more so through the incredible kung fu scenes. Highly recommended. 



Overall:


Retro Review: The Mighty Ducks (1992)

The Mighty Ducks
1992
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Joshua Jackson
Genre: Sports Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million 

Plot: A self-centered Minnesota lawyer is sentenced to community service coaching a rag tag youth hockey team 





'Formulaic Underdog Sports Movie With Great Action, But Bland & All Too Cliched Story'

The Mighty Ducks is a live-action Disney sports comedy film which in contrast to many of its other alternatives is okay in places, somewhat. But as an overall film and compared to its adult counterparts in Wildcats, along with the cheesy music, it's relatively all too cliched and contrived for me to appreciate fully. A cosy and all too safe approach from the land of Mickey Mouse, as the film progresses, there is no sense that The Mighty Ducks could ever advance any further than it did.

Featuring Charlie Sheen's brother, Emilio Estevez and a pre- adolescent Joshua Jackson, who later found fame on Dawson's Creek as one of the young players in the squad, The Mighty Ducks is the type of film I enjoyed as a teen back in the early 1990s, but in revisiting it, I have to say that for me anyway, the things I found cringing and juvenile today were stuff I completely overlooked as an 11/12-year-old at the time in 1992. As I was so caught up with the rest of the film. 

Gordon Bombay is a former, one-time junior ice hockey star who grew up to become a hot-shot yet arrogant lawyer. After Bombay is sent packing by his boss, he is later arrested for drink-driving in Minnesota. As punishment, he is forced to spend his community sentence by serving as a hockey coach to a team of inner- city kids and turning them from zeroes to heroes. Gordon is still haunted by past memories of missing the final shot in a championship peewee hockey match, with his then- coach berating him relentlessly for it. Who also turns out to be Gordon's adversary for the Mighty Ducks. Strangely, for a kids film, its emphasis is on an adult character trying to be a consummate adult and professional that he tries to be.

I couldn't take Emilo seriously as the lead: he doesn't strike me as someone who could pass up as a star that could attract large audiences, and that along with the film being a tad overlong with the middle sagging - only to pick things up in the last third, The Mighty Ducks would have benefited from having actors and performances that entice this film in being fully entertaining from beginning to end. Wildcats worked because the script was interesting and Goldie Hawn convinced as the coach of struggling football jocks.

But here, it just never materialised and coming off the back of flops in Young Guns II, Men At Work & Freejack during the early 1990s, The Mighty Ducks and the third film in the series hardly did wonders for Estavez's career.

The only memorable scenes are the hockey scenes and the match itself; everything else is relative and forgotten about. The young characters are as cliched and stereotypical as one expects, especially in a Disney film - and yet we don't get to learn or find out more about them as individuals and their individual personalities.

Almost all of these kids are now adults in their early 30s to early 40s including Joshua Jackson, Jussie Smollett, who is on the Fox TV show, Empire and later on SNL's Kenan Thompson, which is sometimes hard to believe given this film is over 20 years old and time has flown by quickly. Joshua is okay and doesn't overact in contrast to some of the other child actors here. 

Like all sports-based movies, the level of predictability is high and as expected with the underdog prevailing in the end. The human interest story aspect, as well told as it is, is somewhat tepid also. The screenplay lacks real sharpness and is flimsy to the core with some juvenile scenes, but hey, this is a Disney film after all. 

The movie's success led to 2 sequels and a spin-off Saturday Morning cartoon series in Mighty Ducks, 4 years later on the Disney channel - which was completely unrelated to the original film and features anthropomorphic ducks as the main characters, in place of human characters of the Mighty Ducks movies, playing ice hockey and defeating Dragaunus. 





Final Verdict:

Those who don't mind formulaic movies and sports movies are likely to enjoy this, although the teens will be more than happy to lap it up. But for the hockey scenes, the story is so bland and not entertaining or appealing enough to retain my attention. Along with forgettable and underdeveloped characters and performances, a far too cliched and inoffensive story where one knows where it is heading, The Mighty Ducks is an underdog tale that has been told so many times, before and after.

The film's selling point is the hockey scenes and they are, by far, the best thing from it. 

Only the director of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures should have been capable of tweaking the story & made it far less predictable, but he didn't do that and for that, The Mighty Ducks falls short and plus, it is very undemanding also. 


Overall:


Friday, 14 July 2017

Mini Review: The King Of Fighters (2010) #badmovies

The King Of Fighters
2010
Science Fiction Martial Arts 





Horrible unfaithful live-action film based on the popular fighting game series, The King of Fighters by SNK Playmore directed by Fist of Legend director, Gordon Chan. Characters are transported to other dimensions by evil powers and have to fight their way to survival. White actor Sean Farris who was in Never Back Down is in this one playing Japanese hero, Kyo Kusanagi. Yep, a White guy playing a Japanese Asian character and proof that Scarlett Johansson as the Major in Ghost In The Shell was not a one-off or first, in terms of White-washing in Hollywood movies and that The King of Fighters was guilty of this offence too. Choreographed fight scenes are just too silly to be convincing, story is terrible, camera work and dialogue are both bad, the film is as dumb as Dead Or Alive and the use of special effects is a bit too much. None of the actors as their characters resemble their video game counterparts, one bit.


Is It Worth Seeing?

One of the worst video game movies I've seen that is up there with Super Mario Bros, Dead or Alive and is probably worst than Streetfighter, as it looks even more ridiculous & is more absurd by comparison. I don't know how on earth Gordon Chan messed this one up. 


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Retro Review: Jungle 2 Jungle (1997)

Jungle 2 Jungle
1997
Cast: Tim Allen, Martin Short, Sam Huntington, JoBeth Williams, Lolita Davidovich
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $59 million 

Plot: A man learns he has a 13-yr-old son who was raised in the jungle and brings the boy to New York City, turning his life upside down in the process






'Hardly A Rumble In The Jungle'

Released nine months before the live-action remake of The Absent-minded Professor in the shape of Flubber, Disney was also responsible for this remake of the French movie, 'Un Indien Dans Le Ville', translated as 'Little Indian, Big City'. Starring comedian and Home Improvement and Toy Story's Tim Allen, 1997's Jungle 2 Jungle was another one of Disney's live-action offerings following on from the likes of the 101 Dalmations, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, The Mighty Ducks and Hocas Pocas. Even though I've yet to see the original film, what I do realise that as I was watching this movie, Jungle 2 Jungle was literally absent of wit, genuine humour and that it is downright....bad. 

A Wall Street stockbroker named Michael Cromwell goes to a South American island to finalise/tie up loose ends with his divorce and soon finds out he has a son, Mimi by his soon-to-be ex-wife and local tribes for the past 12 years. Once Michael and his son are back in the city, Michael attempts to adopt Mimi.

I mean, from what I perceive of this film, it's like a version of Coming to America meets native tribe boy, with the fish-out-of-water theme with a hint of Tarzan yet without the charm, hilarity and likeability of the characters.

The casting is not so great, with Tim Allen & Martin Short coasting through the material without much spontaneity and added enjoyment and the actor playing Mimi didn't impress me very much. The actors just don't work well together and the script is not the least bit interesting or entertaining enough. But for Mary PoppinsFlubber, Hocas Pocus, Cool Runnings, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Disney always had and still have this tendency to produce and release such mediocre and poor live-action films, in addition to their direct-to-DVD animated efforts. & Jungle 2 Jungle is no exception.

The plot itself is not very engaging and its conception and direction is so ponderous and also so boring. The title of the movie implies that the jungle is the jungle, but also New York City is a jungle in itself also. 

The dart gun into the cat thing wasn't as amusing as I'd thought it would be and alas, the comedy and humour were completely flat and not effective at all.

I also personally thought that Tim Allen was not the ideal choice for the main role; seeing him here, he lacks the charisma and screen presence to really bring his character to life - that and he is too deadpan and in the hands of say, either, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey or perhaps Mike Myers, who is most known to audiences for Austin Powers, they would have brought out more of that energy and wackiness that Tim Allen lacks and of which a comedy film of this nature needs. 

What also damns this film is the distinct lack of physical comedy; the so-called humour here arises from unfunny scenarios and dialogue, poor and unamusing slapstick and characters crashing into things. There are cheap shots aimed at gay people in the fashion industry, as well as a needless subplot involving Martin Short's character selling coffee to the Russian Mafia. 

The original film wasn't well received and it did badly back in 1995, and with that in mind, Disney should have taken note of this. Then again, with better and funnier writing, a better and funnier male lead than Tim Allen and more slapstick and physical comedy, Jungle 2 Jungle would have been better. 





Final Verdict:

With former SNL member Martin Short failing to ensue hilarity and the movie lacking in moments of hilarity, along with a star lead who doesn't possess the energetic presence to lift this movie in Tim Allen, Jungle 2 Jungle is a Disney box office bomb of a family film - not in terms of its financial success, but a bomb as a comedy, as it is neither funny, witty or charming enough.  

Plain and simple, though the sentimentality wasn't overdone, this effort was truly bad and the story was stale and not very entertaining. 

By offering very few surprises, Jungle 2 Jungle was a movie that was difficult and too weak to get excited for. 



Overall:



Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Mini Retro Review: A Family Affair (1984) #badmovies #Hongkongcinema

A Family Affair (Cyun Caa Feok)
1984
Genre: Comedy Drama

Hong Kong comedy about two children who try to reunite their parents, who are separated due to personality clashes. This film would have been more tolerable and bearable, had it not been for the irritating little boy, whose antics and big mouth will drive you up the wall. That, and he drags this film down, a great deal with his whining and clowning around. Too much ''Tommy!!'' and ''Mummy'' uttered way too many times. The film itself doesn't have much to offer in terms of story and but for the scenes between the divorced parents, the melodrama is way over the top. It's a shame, as otherwise, I would have enjoyed this more. But instead, I got so annoyed with it.






Is It Worth Seeing?

Not completely terrible by any stretch of the imagination; it should have been better with less sappy nonsense and the less I could have done with the little boy, the better. 



Overall:


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