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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Retro Movie Review: The Fisher King (1991) #RobinWilliams *reposted with updated score*

The Fisher King
Cast: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Rheul, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter 
Genre: Fantasy drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $41 million

Plot: A former radio disc jockey, suicidally despondant because of a terrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a homeless who was an unwitting victim of that mistake 

'Uneven & Whimsical Fantasy Drama With Some Good Performances, Yet Is Patchy'

The Fisher King is one of those movies where for all of its surreal and at times flashy imagery, lies a tale of two strangers coming together against evil, putting aside their difficult and dark pasts and really trying to make efforts in moving forward in their lives. 

It has been misinterpreted as a comedy because this film is anything but that. Although it does have some light moments in it. 

Robin Williams as Parry was an extraordinary presence throughout the duration of this film and yet at the same time, I also thought at times he was a little too eccentric in his performance: as his character, I felt his pain, his anguish, his turmoil, his sadness but also he had heart, he always tried to do the right thing. When Williams goes a bit loony here, it felt a bit too much for my liking. Parry was a good guy, who had a great career (was previously a teacher), great and happy life, but after experiencing the horrific murder of his wife by a crazed gunman, who eventually turns out to be one of Jack's listeners and of whom he kills himself during a live phone-in, things take a turn for the worse for Parry, with the incident evoking strong and horrible feelings and memories of her death. The performance and the manner of that performance walks a fine line between humour and drama that is played out with conviction and emotion, even if he does get a little carried away. With Robin Williams's performance as this character, you know, people can continue talking about whether he was sad and depressed in real life at the time of the making of this film, and whether or not this role of his had reinforced that. But this review focuses solely on his performance and his role, and that performance as Parry was, in most ways for me, exceptional. 

British Director Terry Gilliam, who is most well known to audiences for comedic fare, Monty Python carves out a visually expressive, eerie and at times, hauntingly atmospheric tale culminating in the lives of 4 people: Jack, Jack's girlfriend, Anne (played brilliantly by Mercedes Ruehl), Parry and Lydia, the woman of whom Parry has a crush on. The film centres on Parry's search for the Holy Grail & according to God and some other people that Jack is the chosen one and the only person who can save Parry from the Red Knight, but beneath all that lies a story about redemption, forgiveness, about figuring out what is more important in life after experiencing a tragic situation, and of hope. There are some interesting scenes involving Jack and Anne, as they bicker, argue, fight, break-up.... only to kiss and make up in the end. When it shifts to Parry and Lydia's romance arc, I didn't neccessarily feel that connection that they had together and bought into Robin and Amanda as an onscreen couple. 

Even though the film has received huge praise for Williams's portrayal, Jeff Bridges as Jack isn't too far off either, in fact, he was all right, but I think many will see that his character is under written and feel as though he hasn't truly and completely made amends for his past actions that led to the tragic incident: although his irresponsibility, arrogance, cockiness, his whole off-putting demeanour comes into question as he considers his own values and morals and that his own behaviour is not just having a negative effect on his listeners, but also on the people he loves most, in particular, Anne. But the effect of Jack's attitude and behaviour becomes, even more, earth-shattering and pain-inducing for Parry, who is constantly having to live with these horrible memories that he is unable to shake off. I loved Mercedes Ruehl's character, Annie and her performance; and when I think hard on it, it is probably the performance of this film. I admire how strong and loving and caring she is towards Jack, but also she has a layer of depth and that her character seemed very direct, straight to the point, as well as more genuine on the face of it. 

The film not only drums up some well-acted cast performances, it has a whimsical, offbeat and at times mystifying fantasy approach towards contemporary themes. This is an interesting take on how people deal with and react to tragic situations from the past life, and how with Jack and Parry - and but more so Parry it can get all too overwhelming.... and even bordering on destructive. 

One of the highlights of The Fisher King for me doesn't involve Robin Williams per se, but funnily enough by Michael Jeter, whose character was in drag, and for no apparent reason burst into song. If that doesn't make you smile whilst watching this film, then I'd give up. 

The appearance of the Red Knight acts as a metaphor for Parry's fears and of his own mental and emotional state, but also it evokes the trauma of his wife being murdered in front of his very eyes that occurred a year or couple of years ago. & it is the trauma he had to live with all this time. It is only by confronting and defeating the Red Knight, that Parry would be rid of these demons; a task of which he struggles with, as he wrestles with his emotions. 

Director Terry Gilliam made this quote in 2014 to the Hollywood Reporter about Robin, where he says: 
''Hollywood had probably been very cynical that his stuff wasn't working, but the world loved him.... and that was because he was so utterly unique'' 

He was right and to this day, reading this quote he is still right, because despite some of the motion picture misfires he has made, as an actor and performer, even with Good Morning, Vietnam, the Hollywood movie industry still looked down on him and didn't take him seriously. With roles as varied and captivating as Parry, Adrian Cronauer, John Keating and Sean Maguire, Robin Williams proved what a Tour-De-Force he was as a dramatic actor. He had one not so good decade: the 2000s and beyond - okay, make that 2 decades, but the 1990s, boy Robin Williams was flying and busy as a bee, and he starred in some quirky and offbeat efforts such as this one. 

The Fisher King's aesthetic appearance is very colourful and vibrant at times, but also abnormal, but in a good way that is, and yet its impressive visuals mask the film's psychological and emotional impact that is all the more real, forceful, sad, but also poignant and hopeful too. This is still a mishmash of contemporary plotlines and situations with traditional medieval themes which is unfortunately further hindered by the religious aspects, which were a little overdone and that Williams's and Bridges's characters lack a bit of weight; throw in some characters and excellent performances, and what you have is a surreal drama that is unique in some ways, but it also is not quite the finished article and the story jumps around too much. & I didn't like the rendition of 'The Power' song and that they should have used the official version by Snap!. Luckily, there are a few moments such as the subway dance and Jack and Annie's rocky romance that goes through a rough patch and still their love remains strong, that still do it for me and these outweigh some of its weaknesses. 


Pros +

- Visually impressive & well crafted film 

- The singing man in drag

- Some really out of this world - yet emotional flashback moments 

- Interesting blend of contemporary plot-lines and situations with medieval themes

- The Jack and Anne relationship & Mercedes Ruehl

Cons -

- Williams's performance when it bordered on the manic was a little too OTT for my liking

- The leading male characters Parry and Jack feel a little underdeveloped 

- The Parry and Lydia romance didn't work

- When it becomes too dark and the flashback scene where Parry's wife is murdered, it can be disturbing for some viewers 

Final Verdict:

Robin Williams was practically robbed of an Oscar for Good Morning, Vietnam, and here too he was robbed of one for this film as well (although thankfully he made amends with the Golden Globe triumph). The Fisher King is moving, visually atmospheric, and at times powerful. But it is evident on the third or fourth viewing for me that it is stifled by the neccessity of the story in yo-yo-ing up and down. That and the pairing of Robin Williams and Amanda Plummer as the female love interest and their romance arc never convinced me enough. I usually like LaGranvese's writing style, but it did feel at times as if he ought to have delved a little deeper and extract that out of the characters. 

One of Terry Gilliam's admirable efforts, but also one of Robin Williams's bold attempts at being a dramatic actor, which as a fan I enjoy seeing, alongside doing comedy roles. Yet in hindsight, Williams himself, despite some out of this world moments and a somewhat strong turn from him, he was still far from his best here and whilst The Fisher King is very good at most or best, it is patchy and felt there needed to have been a little more to make it truly worthwhile. 



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Friday, 19 January 2018

The Fisher King Movie Screenshots With Captions (1991) Part 1 #robinwilliams

The Fisher King
Genre: Comedy Drama
Starring Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl, Michael Jeter, David Hyde Pierce
'A good old-fashioned story of guilt, poverty, love, madness and free video club membership'
My Movie Review Rating: 8.5 out of 10












Thursday, 18 January 2018

Retro Review: Fame (1980)

Cast: Irene Cara, Lee Curari, Albert Hague, Paul McCrane, Gene Anthony Ray
Genre: Teen Musical Drama 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $21 million 

Plot: A chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts

'Not Going To Live Forever'

Fame follows the lives of teenaged students attending a prestigious performing arts school, as they seek fame and aspire to fulfil their hopes, dreams and ambitions. It is a feature-length dramatised version of reality TV singing shows, The X factor & The Voice but minus the bad, the wacky and weird, with a story that failed to captivate and maintain my interest all the way.

Sitting through Fame, I realised I wasn't watching a film, but musical performances, performance artist people trying to hone their talents and their art. Debbie Allen has a brief cameo as one of the teachers, who sort of lusts over Leroy. The original Fame lacks the mainstream feel, whilst the unnecessary remake of 2010 was Disneyfied and made to cater to general audiences and families. But for Debbie Allen, not one of the students, including Irene Cara's Coco, stood out and had any discernable talent and it wasn't difficult to see why neither of the actors became bigger stars and appeared in more successful movies. Some of the performances come across as stilted, amateurish and one-dimensional with not much range.

Director Alan Parker opts for the grittier, more realistic approach and whilst that is a good thing, what he forgot is his lack of interest in the actual subject matter to bring it and its characters to life. This overlong film is scattered and all over the place, with unrelated scenes tacked onto one another, without many contexts. The situations and character arcs are at times heavy-handed but not fully explored and developed, with the unwanted pregnancy and scene where Coco is made to pose topless reeks of overblown, trite and unnecessary. 

The musical numbers didn't interest me one bit; in fact, I was bored by them I waited patiently for one or two memorable song and dance numbers that will be in memory for years to come. Oddly, it is remembered for its soundtrack, but there are only two songs in 'Fame' and 'Hot Lunch'. Sadly, it never happened and though it is labelled as a musical, it is more of the characters monologuing bland material. The plot is utterly incoherent and the film flatters to deceive. As a musical spectacle, it fails as it operates as a standard drama instead. But even the drama never truly materialises and the story was an utter bore that quickly loses its appeal. Heavily cliched with the gay stereotype, angry Black male in Leroy cursing and being cocky, and a snoozefest most of the time with curse words, that and we learnt little about Leroy and Lee Curreri's character, Bruno piano playing and with loose ends never tied up with regards to the characters storylines, Fame never lives up to its credibility and reputation and one that has been long sought after by many critics, almost 40 years on since its release.

It was such a difficult, monotonous and frustrating watch as the storylines and arcs are dull and go in so many directions and the film drifts from one place to another, with little consistency and is messy it was hard to follow. If the film chose to focus on a specific character, make them the central character and perhaps establish their intent in the film and build the plot around him/her, this would have better suited Fame. The direction is one dimensional, bland and too safe for its own good that fails to engage. 

Final Verdict:

Too scattered, too dull and lethargic and with the story never making the big strides it needed to do and with some explosive moments to elevate Fame and make it more watchable, Fame never caught on with me, and despite my interest in the arts, is more of a niche film than one people can easily latch onto and say it was really profound. It wasn't profound to me. I could say I just didn't get it: in Fame and as much as I enjoy seeing people go down the performance arts route, it made me feel practically ziltch towards it.

Because I wasn't able to connect with the characters. & as for the aftermath of Coco's storyline, I don't want to go there.

Fame's execution courtesy of Alan Parker was, unspectacular, & lame.


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Retro Review: Tough and Deadly (1995)

Tough and Deadly
Cast: Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Richard Norton, James Karen, Phil Morris
Genre: Buddy Cop Action

Plot: A smart alec bounty hunter teams up with a G-man to take on a drug smuggling ring

'Action Buddy Cop Movie That Entertains With An Ass-Kicking Billy Blanks'

Following on from 1993's Back In Action, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks reunited for a second helping, 2 years later for another bout of buddy cop hijinks.

One of the executive producers of this film is James Glickenhous who did 1985's The Protector with Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello, which I enjoyed in parts and 1988's Shakedown starring Robocop's Peter Weller alongside Sam Elliott, and here Glickenhous replicates the buddy cop formula with Tough and Deadly. Starring the team-up of martial arts B-movie actor and seven-time world karate champion Billy 'Tai Bo' Blanks and then WWF/WWE wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper, this pairing play a CIA operative named John Portland who is under the pseudonym of Quicksilver and P.I (private investigator), who team up to take on some drug dealing goons.

Elmo Finch (Piper with a terrible looking stubble, which he shaves off) is an ex-cop turned P.I who plays by his own rules and assists Quicksilver (Billy Blanks), who goes missing and is beaten to a pulp and left unconscious. Ending up what appears to be amnesia, Quicksilver awakens and ends up in the hospital, only to be rescued by Elmo. Quicksilver has no recollection of anything or whom he works for: what he does know though is he is a wanted man by some hitmen, but that doesn't stop Elmo who takes him under his wing and that he recovers & regains his memory. 

As far as action B-movies go, Tough and Deadly is definitely up there as a cult movie with a Billy Blanks performance, which is still his best showing, by far, with Roddy Piper not trailing far behind. It may be hailed as a 'bad movie' and one that critics will scoff at, yet it provides plenty of entertainment & it was very enjoyable as well that also manages to sprinkle some minor humour. Arguably, it is more akin to Lethal Weapon with Piper's Elmo who manages to go a little crazy and unleashes his rage, much like with Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs and Blanks Quicksilver as the so-called token Black character like Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh, who is a bad ass, alongside the White guy. The other performances were serviceable at best, though, with Rage & Honor's Richard Norton, he has the role of being Billy Blanks's onscreen baddie, who doesn't last very long in the movie & it isn't much to shout about.

The action in this movie is very good to great, as routine as it is with shoot-outs, lethal martial arts kicks & punches being thrown and before Wesley Snipes arrived on the block, there was Billy Blanks: an African- American actor and star with a penchant for martial arts, who is amazing in the action stakes with his leg takedowns and impressive jump kicks and his fight with Richard Norton was really good. In one scene, he even shows his agility and strength by holding one leg high up in the air, and as the bad guy approaches, Blanks thrusts his leg down like a sword & sends it crashing down onto him. With more and better exposure, I could have seen Billy Blanks alongside the likes of other big-name action stars in Arnie, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan. All of his fight scenes were just top- notch and Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper make for one great tag team duo. I liked that the good guy buddy cop pairing consisted of one who was highly proficient in martial arts and the other who could put a bad guy in a choke hold & rely on punches and a few wrestling techniques.

Both of them should have gone on to greater things on the action movie front and landed big-budget Hollywood action movies, as well as landed a sequel to Tough & Deadly, but alas, that didn't happen, which is a bit sad to see because they had the potential too. Especially Blanks.

Final Verdict:

Together with the charisma of Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks and his awesome fighting skills, Tough and Deadly gets by, thanks to the leads who offer that extra something to make it more than your average run- of- the- mill buddy cop film. Sure it is a DTV, low-budget movie all the way, but it has just that little bit of quality that elevates it to a standard that is overly decent, as well as being fun at the same time by not taking itself too seriously. It wasn't expected to win awards, but to entertain and provide fans of action movies plenty of good action, as well as the good camaraderie of the buddy cop pairing of Piper and Blanks's characters.

If you enjoyed other martial arts B and direct- to- DVD action movies such as Martial Law 1 and 2, Rage & Honor 1 & 2, The Perfect Weapon and even Jackie Chan's Police Story movies, and/or buddy cop films in Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs to name, then you'll probably take to Tough & Deadly as much as I did. 


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