Friday, 30 March 2018

Pale Rider (1985)

























By this point in his career Clint Eastwood was best known for his westerns, he was essentially the ultimate badass cowboy. In the dictionary under westerns, you'd see a picture of Eastwood (nah not really). But yeah Eastwood was the supreme plains drifter with no name.

This was, I think, Eastwood's last foray into the realms of western badassery as a no name loner dealing lots of badass justice. He was already slowly moving into a more varied selection of film roles and this seemed to be his final goodbye to this particular genre. And with that we get a very typical Clint Eastwood cowboy flick; all the tropes and cliches you've come to expect which is both good and bad truth be told.

The plot: A small bunch of prospectors in California are trying their luck at panning for gold. Thing is they are doing so on land that a greedy big-time miner wants so he can mine it up. Naturally the big-time miner known as Lahood (Richard Dysart) and his cronies are all baddies so they try to run the prospectors off the land with violence. But low and behold, who should come trotting into the picture to save the day? Yep you've guessed it, its Clint as yet another no name hero (actually this character is a clerical man but he's simply referred to as the Preacher).



OK so firstly I have to mention the scenery in this movie, it is stunning. Filmed within the Boulder mountains and Sawtooth national park of Idaho, along with Tuolumne County in California, its all breathtaking. I saw this movie on bluray which made this countryside look even more impressive. The clear blue skies, open grassy ranges, jagged mountains capped with snow, dense forests, and the highly authentic looking small town of Lahood. It all looked terrific and really popped on the screen.

I guess the problems start with the baddies, those dastardly miners. Basically they weren't a very intimidating bunch truth be told, hardly had me on the edge of my seat. Then you had their leader, a very young Chris Penn. Penn's character was the son of Lahood, basically he's the spoilt kid who's in a position of power but really shouldn't be. Its a good idea but nothing is really done with it. You kinda expect more of a loose cannon, an annoying hotheaded youth shooting his mouth and guns off, but no. The only real evil he gets up to is attempted rape. K that's admittedly pretty bad but he does nothing much else. Lahood himself is your stereotypical aged, short, tubby, balding man in a suit with a fat tash.

The elite team of deputies led by Marshal Stockburn (John Russell) who are hired by Lahood to kill the Preacher, are again an element in the film that weren't used to their full capacity in my opinion. For starters Russell was clearly too old for the role as he doesn't move much. Whilst I like the fact that there's an air of mystery surrounding these men and the history between Stockburn and the Preacher, maybe just a hint of backstory wouldn't have gone a miss. But bottom line these guys just weren't utilised enough which was a shame because they were cool. In the end they all get killed off pretty easily one by one by the Preacher in a sequence that we've seen repeated so many times. Shout out to early Billy Drago role here.



Speaking of backstory, I guess I should point out that Eastwood deliberately made the Preacher like a ghost. He rides in outta nowhere, as though he was summoned by a greater force to protect the innocent prospectors (a prospectors daughter prays for help as he rides in). At the end he also rides off again to an unknown destination, maybe to save more innocent people? The character obviously does this type of thing often because we see his past gunshot injuries and we see that he keeps his gun and holster locked up in a bank, obviously for these situations. So its totally open-ended which is fine, I guess.

Anyway things get a little bit too silly in places, take ├╝ber baddie 'Club' (Richard Kiel). He is comically taken down by the Preacher early on and later the character actually does the same U-turn as Kiel's other famous character 'Jaws' (he turns into a goodie and helps the Preacher). Then there is also the initial fight between the Preacher and Lahood's men which involves hickory axe staves. Oh and there's that whole underage sex angle with the 14 year old girl protagonist. One of the prospectors daughters falls in love with the Preacher (obviously a silly teen crush) and isn't shy about saying so. Of course the Preacher turns her advances down but holy moly that whole subplot was awkward (and it carries through to the end!).

This is a mixed bag for an Eastwood western it really is. On the one hand the movie is serious about its story, this isn't a film for kids or anything. There are some very violent moments in the movie with people getting shot multiple times and shot in the forehead (no cuts). There are beatings, the attempted rape, pillage, and a calf and dog get shot dead (all with blood). Not forgetting the underage girl trying to get into bed with the Preacher.



Then on the other hand there are the typical little moments of dark humour you'd expect from Clint, moments of goofiness. As mentioned Richard Kiel's rather stupid and pointless character. And then really really stupid western cliches such as the baddie gang of miners bursting into a store to gun the Preacher down (where he was sitting moments before). Only for the room to be (clearly) empty when they burst in, yet they carry on shooting, shooting at nothing. Then of course the Preacher casually appears and guns them all down. The ending has a heavy dose of deus ex machina about it too. The Preacher has killed all the bad guys except Lahood who is sneaking up right behind him. But then out of the blue one of the prospectors appears and shoots Lahood. But I guess it showed that the Preacher wasn't that invincible, he could have died there.

I like that Clint is an aged grizzled gunfighter in this movie, I liked his look and the fact he was a preacher. Yet even though this movie does deliver everything you would want and expect from a Clint Eastwood cowboy flick, you can't escape the feeling that you've seen it all before (which you have). Apart from the odd plot tweak its essentially no different from many of his other western movies. That's not a completely negative thing as Eastwood is/was a master of the western genre, but bare it in mind.

7/10

Monday, 19 March 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

The first time I saw this movie I couldn't really review it properly, I needed more time, I needed to see it again. Truth be told I disliked it on my first viewing...but there were elements I liked. Surely this couldn't be strike two for the new Star Wars trilogy? (I disliked 'The Force Awakens' also). Well this was my second viewing and I now feel I can get into this fully. Thing is, there is literally so much I could say about this movie it could possibly go on and on. So this time I'm gonna go with a slightly new layout. I'm simply gonna list my thoughts in sections and try to keep them as tight as possible.

General Hux and the beginning: Twas this opening sequence that really bemused and worried me right away (as it did with many). Hux was a relatively solid slimy character introduced in the previous movie. All the trappings of a weaselly baddie. Alas here he has seemingly been reduced to an actual jokey comedic character that could so easily have been torn from the pages of a spoof. The first real dialog we get is an absolutely horrendous back and forth between Hux and Poe. Poe mocking Hux with his communications tomfoolery, or as we in reality call it, a lame mobile (cell) phone gag.

Poe bravely tries to bring down a First Order (Empire) dreadnought during the first space battle. Unfortunately things aren't going too well and the Resistance (Rebels) are being slaughtered. The rebels have one last bomber and one chance to hit their target. In the nick of time the rebel pilot is able to drop the bombs, but how can bombs 'drop' when in space? What about TIE Bombers you say? Well I always thought TIE Bombers fired their bombs downward, like torpedoes essentially, but straight down. That's just me. Also, if you look closely the bomber hangar doors are already open when the pilot triggers the bombs. How was she not sucked out into space?

Princess Leia: Oh boy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! We've all heard about this now but I can't just ignore it. Yes we know Leia has force abilities (as we saw in Bespin), and we know its entirely possible she has grown stronger with the force since then. That aside, its still almost impossible to get past how stupid this entire sequence looked and felt. To make matters even worse, when she flies/floats back to the ship, there was no airlock. The rebels simply open the flippin' door! Everyone would have been sucked out into space in a matter of seconds for flips sake. Oh and while we're at it, she suffered absolutely no injuries whilst getting blown out of the exploding ships bridge. No burns, cuts, broken bones, nothing. I'm not even sure how those TIE torpedoes got through the ships shields, I guess they were special torpedoes?



Then there is of course the flip side to this stupid scene. Unfortunately Carrie Fisher died in 2016 which naturally caused issues for the film. This scene was the perfect ending for Princess Leia under these circumstances. The fact that Fisher is no longer with us surely cemented that. But apparently not, apparently Johnson thought it better to bring her back and give the next director a real headache. The only thing I can think of is they have a large amount of pre-shot footage which they know they can flesh out into the next story. But if that's the case it sure as hell limits things drastically. Oh and they also killed Admiral Ackbar off-screen here too, you bastards!

Anch-To and Luke: Adrift in a cold sea on an oceanic planet, this small windswept circular rocky island houses the first Jedi temple and the tree library of the sacred Jedi texts. The inhabitants of this small island? Small cutesy flightless (I think) bird-like creatures that get everywhere. And 'the caretakers', dwarf sized toad-like creatures that appear to dress like century old nuns. Both races are completely unexplained and are completely useless to the plot. The Porgs merely serve as fluffy comedic relief, whilst the caretakers look like they belong in a 'Labyrinth' sequel. The only creature we briefly see that grabbed my attention was the sea monster breaking the surface in the background.

As with the Leia controversy I'm sure everyone now knows about the Luke controversy. Apart from milking large alien sea mammals for blue milk and generally being a grouch, there was also the lightsaber tossing moment. I'm not gonna dwell on it...but yes it was totally a 'fuck you' to the fanbase from director Rian Johnson. It was also a pathetic Disneyfied attempt at light humour. They basically used a powerful emotional moment in the plot for a quick laugh. Oh it was a plot twist you say? Keep em'.



Canto Bight: Ugh! Sorry just raising my head outta my hands. Well I guess if anyone wanted something more akin to a Lucas movie this was it. Alas more akin to the worst of the Lucas prequels. Yep this entire subplot was completely unnecessary and really ugly looking. A super rich casino city located on planet Cantonica, its packed with super rich alien lifeforms and humans (most of whom appeared to be white? Even all the city police were white men, interesting). Anyway this was the segment where Johnson (under orders of Disney I assume) added the core liberal commentary on our present day society. War profiteering, animal cruelty, slavery etc...its all here, all the juicy stuff. Unfortunately most average people don't wanna  see this kind of stuff crowbarred into a Star Wars movie, not so blatantly for no real reason anyway. At least try with some flippin' subtly. It was really no surprise that this subplot surrounded the new character of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) who herself was the epitome of a token politically correct character.

DJ (Benicio del Toro): Another very pointless character if you ask me. Stupid name, stupid way of talking. I suppose he's the Lando of the movie, I wouldn't be surprised if he pops up again. Main question surrounding him, I wonder just who did that ship he pinched belong to. The owner of which was selling ships to both the Resistance and First Order. A possible set up for later on?

Snoke: So he dies, yeah that went nowhere or so we think. I didn't mind that he died (a decent twist for me) but the way it happened seemed silly to me. This bloke is all powerful with the dark side but couldn't detect Kylo Ren moving a lightsaber that was inches from his person?? I guess Kylo could have clouded his mind or whatever but wouldn't he detect that too? I dunno. Plus his personal guards seemed to be useless. Rey showing her invincibility again...despite being revealed as a nobody. Oh and neither Rey nor Kylo actually use any force powers in that fight, eh?



Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern): In short, a very unlikeable character who looked like a middle aged woman having a midlife crisis (the purple hair). At first it literally seemed like she was just there to put the men (the flyboys) in their place with a show of Disney backed feminism (anyone else notice that both the Resistance and First Order seem to have had a major female recruitment campaigns? I'm fine with the ladies in here but Jesus talk about beyond obvious). Amazingly it turns out that Poe's plans were the wrong route after all and Holdo was in fact correct (another decent twist). The problem is, by the time this happens I was so against Holdo that it just didn't matter anymore. They made her so unlikeable that it was too late to turn that around. Oh and all this technology but a major ship doesn't have autopilot? Really?

Yoda: Very cool (hehe) but why not Ben? Or Anakin? Or Qui-Gon? And force ghosts can now do stuff? They can make things happen in the realms of the living? And again another case of Johnson trying to throw out Star Wars lore and legend by having Yoda destroy the Jedi texts (although we see later they weren't...somehow).

Crait: Ah the Hoth battle bit. I guess it was too hard for Johnson and co not to copy the original trilogy. Seeing as before this we had a copy of the Emperor's throne room with Luke from 'Return of the Jedi' (Kylo, Rey and Snoke). And a copy of the asteroid sequence with the Falcon from 'Empire Strikes Back' (Falcon in the Crait caves). Anyway this time the Resistance have about 15 people left (although in the next shot we see dozens more soldiers outta nowhere), and they're up against an even bigger force from the First Order. Same layout as before, the Resistance base door behind a long trench with a few gun turrets.



Salt!: Yes that's right, random Resistance fighter #5 luckily points out for us that the surface of Crait (or that area) is covered in salt. Just in case you mistook it for snow. You know, just in case you thought they were trying to copy the Hoth battle (insert eye roll here). Thing is, why did he do that? He could of killed himself, its an alien planet, you don't just stick random things in your mouth for Pete's sake. Is this the new Ridley Scott method of alien world exploration?

The First Order use around 10 brand new AT-M6 walkers (with a few older AT-AT's for some reason), TIE's, Kylo's shuttle, and superlaser siege cannon. The Resistance use these old speeders (V-4X-D) which required a sort of rudder that stabilised them. I guess they must have been very old designs? The battle is indeed a fun highlight but is utterly stupid as the goodies should of been wiped out in minutes. In fact its so stupid I'm not even sure what they were attempting to do with those speeders. They certainly didn't have firepower to take on the walkers and they couldn't shoot at the TIE's. Its also here where Finn should of died in an emotional sacrificial moment of heroism...but he's saved by that idiot Rose which in turn gave the First Order the victory. Obviously Disney weren't ever gonna kill off their main minority actors, pish posh!

Luke (again): So Luke dies...but why? It is shown Luke is using force projection to confront Kylo (a controversial aspect in itself). Are we to presume he was exhausted after using this power? So much so that he died? Maybe this ability is so powerful that it drains the users life force. Maybe that's why we've never seen it before? Maybe only the strongest most force sensitive Jedi can do it? Kinda makes you wonder why no one has ever used it before. Ben Kenobi could have used it against Vader when confronting him on the Death Star (if strong enough). Ditto Yoda against Count Dooku etc...Also have to ask why he projected himself looking younger, for Leia's sake?



To sum up, looking closer this is really 'Empire Strikes Back', its just not as obvious. Rebels discovered, Rebels run away, Rebels pursued, Rebels lose in the end. What's funny is most of this movie is in fact a very slow chase between two very slow moving ships. And this is the first time we've heard about fuel issues in Star Wars also. A few other final little things. Phasma, what was the point? (and why don't all troopers wear her laser proof armour yet?). Nien Nunb's mask still doesn't look as good as the 83 version, how???!!! What the hell was all that crap with multiple Rey's in that hole? And what was that hole suppose to be? (other than another scene copied from EST. Luke in the cave on Dagobah). And the final sequence with that kid and his broom, kinda felt like another prequel-esque moment. Is this kid gonna be important?

Did I like this new Star Wars movie? No, I liked bits, and when I say bits I mean bits. I liked the visuals, they were generally a massive improvement over 'The Force Awakens'. I genuinely loved the small chase sequence inside a huge Crait cave with TIE's hot on the Falcon's tail. Not only did this look great, it had some classic Chewie piloting moments plus some actual amusing interactions with the Porgs (dunno why Chewie would allow them to stay on the ship but whatever). The fact this sequence also had some John Williams classic Star Wars score along with it almost brought me to tears. I liked Snoke and his death (yup). Twas cool to see a big baddie go down so quickly and easily, unique. I also liked the First Order presence on Crait as it looked badass, alas nothing much happens with it.

But overall I was again disappointed with the final product although I will say I did enjoy it just that little more than 'The Force Awakens'. I'm really not so sure what they're gonna do going forward and the fact Abrams is back doesn't fill me with confidence.

5.5/10

Friday, 16 March 2018

Geostorm (2017)

























Oh my what do we have here?? Did we suddenly quantum leap back to the mid 90's???

So, its 2022 and technology has apparently advanced quite a bit. The Earth is now surrounded by a man made net of satellites which can basically control the weather. Up in orbit there is also an international space station that controls said net of satellites. Bottom line, its a global effort by mankind to try and protect the planet (of course when I say global that doesn't include every country, ahem). There's just one tiny problem, not all humans are nice, not all humans are on the same page. And so the net (called 'Dutch Boy' in reference to an 1865 fictional story) is hacked and used to cause natural disasters around the world. Enter the net designer Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), who is tasked to solve the problem and essentially save the world. The end.

Some of you might think this is just a silly disaster flick, and you'd be right to a degree. But this movie is in fact more of a political thriller mixed with a disaster flick element. The natural disasters we see are in fact triggered and created by the man made satellites, which are in turn started by the evil saboteurs. So its not really man vs mother nature, its man vs man using mother nature as a weapon. To be truthful the idea isn't actually that bad, its just a bit dated. A Pierce Brosnan Bond plot type of dated.



Luckily everyone in the movie acts so seriously, so butch and stoic with their grimaces and steely eyed stares, you can rest assure that everything will work out just fine. Obviously our tough hero Jake Lawson won't die, you think he might (and really he should have, multiple times), but he doesn't. But its really quite amusing and so very 90's how the actors deliver their lines which such ridiculous levels of attitude; trying their best to look and sound as cool as possible as they glare into the camera. I think Jim Sturgess (Max Lawson) is the most guilty of this. He really shows-off all the cliched action movie facial expressions and poses. Its like everyone watched 'Armageddon' before they started filming.

That being said what do you get? Well pretty much everything really, the full gamut of disaster porn. Huge tidal waves, electrical storms, massive hailstones, a firenado, a freezing ice storm, the ground being torn open to reveal what I presume was lava etc...There are lots of sequences which show innocent people getting killed in lots of various ways; including massive carnage to buildings and property.

The action is of course all CGI which ranges from good to average. Whilst the sequences in space look totally fine but nothing amazing, they are by far the best looking parts of the movie. Almost all of the disaster action on Earth looks like CGI. To top that the sequences all look like they've been copied and pasted from other movies such as 'Deep Impact'. You wanna see city skylines get washed away (or frozen, or knocked over) by giant tidal waves? Its all here folks...again. The actual action is simply predictable as feck. Again from seeing other disaster movies you can pretty much guess what's gonna happen.



But one of the main issues with the action, like other disaster movies, is the fact its all so utterly stupid. Whilst trying to obtain a piece of data lodged in the space stations structure via a spacewalk, Jake's spacesuit goes out of control. He is flung all over the place crashing into the space station causing massive amounts of damage...yet he and his suit remain perfectly intact. On Earth whilst natural disasters are occurring specific characters are able to avoid the carnage around them and outrun pending doom in a car. How many times have we seen that? Then in the finale Jake and his new fellow scientist lady friend are both able to avoid masses of space debris flying around as the space station blows up around them. They both make it to a remaining intact satellite (via spacewalking I might add) which also manages to avoid all the deadly debris.

Then to top if all of nicely the last intact satellite pod (why would a satellite be able to house two adult humans inside?) is picked up by a space shuttle...that just happened to be flying by? Seriously was this shuttle just off to the side waiting for the explosion to happen and subside so it could search for potential survivors inside satellite pods?? And while we're at it, why couldn't the self destruct be turned off?? The reason for having one was valid enough, but what about an abort option people?? I also found it quite cute how the person in charge of a countries satellite seemed to be from that country. Like, would NASA (or whoever) go to the trouble of finding a Japanese person to put in charge of the satellite that controls Japans weather?? So the Peru satellite is controlled by a Peruvian person, and the Nepal satellite is controlled by a Nepalese person etc...I mean I know political correctness is hyperbolic these days but Jesus Christ come on!

Despite all that nonsense I gotta be honest and say I actually quite enjoyed this movie. It did exactly what it said on the tin. I was engaged and I found it quite exciting even though it was highly predictable. Yes its not a great movie, but its nowhere near as bad as people are making it out to be. I've said this before about certain movies, had this been released around 1995 or 1996, I think it would have been a reasonable hit. It would have fit in perfectly for the era, although it might have suffered from genre overload. These days of course this type of movie is practically dead, milked dry (almost solely by Devlin and Emmerich). But if disaster porn is your thing don't let that put you off because this really isn't all that bad, for what it is.

6.5/10

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie (2017)

























So after a very very long hiatus (15 years) Arnold and his friends are back to tie everything up in a nice bow. We last saw Arnold back in 2002 with his first feature length movie. That was more of a stand alone story that simply gave Arnold and co a one off challenge to overcome. It was simply a feature length episode of the cartoon series. This time around the movie is actually a sequel to one of the episodes in the series (series five) called 'The Journal'.

Now here's where the main problem comes in, it does kinda make a big difference if you've seen that series five episode. In general I'm pretty sure that most people watching this will be Hey Arnold! fans and will know what's going on. But for anyone else who's thinking of showing it to their kids simply because its a kids movie, well there's a good chance they won't follow everything. Yeah sure the plot isn't super hard to follow but obviously there are loads of things that hark back to that specific episode and the entire series in general. To be brutally honest this is really one for the fans methinks.

The plot: Arnold's parents had traveled to San Lorenzo in South America to deliver medicine to a mysterious lost tribe of green eyed people, they never returned. Luckily Arnold's class manage to win a competition to travel to San Lorenzo which gives the football shaped headed boy a chance to find his folks. Naturally there are dangers ahead for the class with a mercenary named Lasombra who needs Arnold so he can discover the lost city and its treasures for himself.



So lets look at one of the main thing that breeds life into this cartoon, the unique visuals. How are they in this new modern movie? Well I'm pleased to say they are actually (still) on par with the original series. OK but lets be completely brutally honest here, they aren't as gorgeous as the original series with its clear cut hand drawn/pencil shaded style. Oh no, alas that beautiful look is too rough looking for kids these days. So everything is computer assisted and very sharp; which is nice and its still faithful to the original material but its never gonna be as good. I also have to mention the odd unfortunate cut into complete CGI for some scenes which does stick out like a sore thumb and look terrible. Why do they do that???

As for the characters again I'm pleased to say almost everyone gets a small (visual) cameo at least, some with dialog some not. Heck they even brought back old Lockjaw the turtle from series one, episode six. Not quite sure why seeing as Arnold released him into the sea at the end of that episode. So the turtle came back because...its friends with Arnold now? Anyway pretty much everyone can be seen including Dino, coach Wittenberg, Torvald, stoop kid etc...(where's the sewer King?). Alas not every character is voiced by the same original people. I'm sure there are decent reasons for this but I was annoyed to read that both Lane Toran and Jamil Walker Smith were not used for both Arnold and Gerald (they were the original voice actors for the characters), instead being given background characters. Why did they do that??? It is off putting when certain characters simply sound wrong (Mr. Hyunh for example).

I was slightly disappointed with the plot of the story though. I knew what to expect of course (following on from the TV episode) but it all felt a bit too generic and unoriginal really. What we essentially get is simply another Indiana Jones type clone, because of course. I mean really? Couldn't they do something a bit more unique instead of the same old tired tropes and cliches that have been done a gazillion times over. I don't even have to explain anything to you because you should know exactly what I mean and what to expect.

I was quite stunned to see such a large amount of death on display though. Of course you don't see anything but a lot is implied and its quite amazing. A load of Lasombra's henchmen all get killed by stereotypical booby traps, to which he shows no remorse, in fact he allows them to get killed. And (spoiler alert) Lasombra himself gets shot in the forehead with a poisoned dart which sees him, eventually, fall into a ravine!



Naturally there are massive plot conveniences because its a kids cartoon movie, I can't really complain about that. But I have to point out that the plot and its main mcguffins don't really make any sense. All the adults in the green eyed tribe (including Arnold's folks) have been struck down with a sleeping illness (why Arnold's folks never came back). Apparently they have all been asleep for around the last ten years or so (yet not aged a day it seems). So to reverse this they need to activate this ancient machine which they miraculously manage with Helga's heart locket (the one with Arnold's pic in). When this ancient device is activated it shoots the antidote (I think) into the atmosphere which causes green rain. Which in turn causes a whole load of butterflies to awaken. Which in turn causes all the sleeping adults of the green eyed tribe to awaken, because why?? They couldn't administer this antidote any other way?

So the plot is kinda stupid, it makes no real sense, the ending is also kinda lame, oh and the way Abner gets back to the US on his own is ludicrous. But we do find out Arnold's last name, its Shortman! A clever little play on words there because Grandpa Phil has always called Arnold 'shortman', but it now turns out its not just a cute little nickname after all. Anyway overall I find myself in the same position when I saw the first movie outing for Arnold and co. This isn't a bad kids movie but its not exactly a great one either. Once again the plot is really thin on the ground and feels really padded out. Sure it was nice to see all the little snippets harking back the various TV episodes and all the various characters (in the background). But this show really works best with little short stand alone stories that revolve around simple relatable issues.

If anything they should do a new TV series, but if that means we would see Arnold going off with his new found parents on lots of dramatic adventures all over the world, then maybe not. I think Rugrats suffered the same issue in my view. The bigger and more extravagant the stories become, the less relatable they become. Obviously grand stories are fine but shows like Hey Arnold! (and Rugrats and Doug) worked because their stories and characters were simple and (most probably) based off real life experiences and people. That is why so many are able to connect with the original material and why they are so popular (well that's how I have always seen these shows). So whilst I'm happy to see Arnold back, I just wish it was like the good old days.

5/10

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Roxanne (1987)

























A wacky Steve Martin comedy set in the pacific northwest of America that is based upon the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand?? You certainly don't get movies like this anymore.

So in a nutshell the 1897 play revolves around a cadet in the French army, de Bergerac. A strong willed, passionate and confident man who is, amongst other things, a gifted poet, musician and duelist. There is just one problem, he has a rather large nose which causes him much angst. It is this one feature of himself that prevents him from expressing his true love for Roxane, his cousin...ahem (twas a different time).

Long story short, a good looking young man named Christian enters de Bergerac's company of guards. Roxane loves Christian and asks de Bergerac to protect the young soldier, he agrees but is angry. After being told that Roxane loves him, Christian is upset because Roxane is an intelligent woman whilst he is basically a dumb soldier, how can he compare? de Bergerac seizes the opportunity and offers to write to Roxane for Christian, pretending to be him. Christian agrees and de Bergerac is able to spill his love for Roxane through Christian.



Eventually of course Christian tires of de Bergerac's help and tries to woo Roxane himself, failing. Over time Christian works out de Bergerac's true feelings for Roxane and wants Roxane to choose between them. But before this can happen Christian is killed by gunshot (twas during a siege with Spain) leading to Roxane living in a convent. Again long story short Roxane eventually discovers that de Bergerac wrote all the love letters to her and realises that she loves him. Alas de Bergerac also dies in the end but not before knowing Roxane loves him. Happy ending?

Naturally this 1987 comedy doesn't exactly follow along these lines. There is no war with Spain and nobody dies. Martin plays the fiery fire chief C.D. Bales (note the initials) who has an incredibly long narrow nose. As with the original plays character of de Bergerac, Bales is confident, skilled in the arts, athletic, and most definitely a charmer with the ladies. And also like the play the residents of the small town Bales lives in know not to mock him for his nose because he will usually get his own back. Unlike the play this does not involve duels of course, but often cruel biting attacks of sarcastic humour, or even the odd scuffle if needs be. His athleticism and dry mocking wit are definitely his main weapons and the main comic tools in this movie.

In the play de Bergerac does tend to hate himself and can be very spiteful. Here Martin (obviously) plays the character of Bales in an upbeat way, he embraces his nose mostly, but at times he does dream of a more regular look. Martin really shows how he can do more than just act silly, which at the time was what he was most known for. There are plenty of great little scenes which showcase Martin's range such as Bales fighting with a couple hecklers in the street. The 20 nose joke sequence where Bales destroys a drunkard insulting his nose. And of course the key scene which is taken from the classic play where Bales assists Chris (Rick Rossovich) under Roxanne's (Daryl Hannah) balcony.



The other key characters Chris and Roxanne are both solidly performed by Rossovich and Hannah. Can't deny Rossovich has a tough job dealing with a character that's just a big lunk yet lovable and likeable. Chris is totally the hunky dumb stereotype that is loosely based around Christian. Admittedly Rossovich's acting isn't stunning or anything but he conveys his character well. As for Hannah (the beautiful Roxanne), she's exactly as you would expect her to be at the height of her sexy phase. Light, fluffy, smart, a beaming smile, golden flowing locks, a great body, a nice house etc...Pretty much every male dream at the time and she doesn't disappoint on that note. Alas despite a good performance its basically nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to soppy rom-coms.

To anyone who is completely oblivious to the original source material of 1897 this movie will probably come across as a very safe schmaltzy romantic comedy. You don't need to know about the 1897 play as everything presented to you works on its own. What you have is a sentimental rom-com about a nice guy with a big nose who's in love with a beautiful young woman; but must somehow get around the fact she loves the good looking hunk who's just turned up on the scene. Most would probably know if the movie was for them simply by watching the trailer with its gooey pleasantville visuals, good looking stars, cheeky comedy, and Martin on a full charm offensive.



To anyone who knows of the original 1897 source material, I think they would appreciate director Fred Schepisi's attempt at updating the play for the modern (at the time) era. Not an easy task all things considered, but I think Schepisi and Martin did an admiral job here in terms of emotion, story and light-hearted comedy. Obviously there are big changes such as the finale which had to be done I guess. Others are more questionable such as the whole firefighter aspect, why did Bales need to be a chief firefighter? This doesn't really add anything to the plot. And why are the other firemen so utterly useless at their job? They are obviously there for pure comedic relief but it just makes no real sense, they are literally bumbling idiots.

But yeah, this is a Steve Martin romantic comedy from the 80's, it does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak. Dare I say that maybe the ladies would like this movie more so than the gents? I mean it is wacky Martin being wacky, but its also Martin being a bit more restrained and maturing at the same time. No surprise that there is more lovey-dovey stuff in here than laugh-out-loud moments (no toilet humour here folks). Despite that the comedy does work in general. It ranges from clever wit to being somewhat dated, a bit childish at times, a bit cringy. But at no point does the movie outstay its welcome, if anything the gorgeous sleepy little town setting makes you wanna live there. Its certainly a unique movie with plenty of heart and a good overall message about being yourself.

7/10