Posts Tagged ‘Forest Whitaker’

Movie Reviews 364 – Bloodsport (1988)

October 5, 2018

I dread watching Jean-Claude Van Damme (or simply JCVD as he has come to be known*) films with a passion. While the man has undisputable martial arts credentials, when it comes to thespian capabilities the cardboard Belgian actor with the curdling English accent has less credible emotion than a waffle. But there was one particular film of his, Bloodsport, that acquaintances had sworn was not only marginally better but actually used the word “good” which was enough to persuade me to give it a spin.

As a non-Asian adopted into a family that had earned respectability as martial arts fighters in the annual secret Kumite tournament, Frank Dux (JCVD) is forced to represent the family and his father’s honour when his adoptive brother dies and the legacy is threatened. His commitment is such that he temporarily deserts his post in the US army to attend the underground tournament. There he must contend with those skeptical of his skills and most of all the hulking reigning champion Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) who will win at all costs.

But Frank is not alone as he quickly makes friends with dim witted but towering American Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) a fellow competitor, and reporter Janice Kent (Leah Ayres) who is trying to crack the secretive ritual for headlines. And tailing Frank throughout are Helmer and Rawlins (Forest Whitaker), bumbling officers trying to nab the AWOL army captain and hoping to prevent him from fighting in the tournament.

Now you’d think that the fighting sequences would be the highlights of the film but anyone who is even remotely familiar with martial arts films will be thoroughly unimpressed here as the array of international gladiators take to the mat in hand to hand combat. But I have to admit that some of JVCD’s moves and even practice rituals were impressive. But what I found most entertaining in all the melees was the charismatic Chong Li as his impressive build was used to pound opponent after opponent while having the betting crowd chant his name with every victory.

The melodrama is as sappy and artificial as the fights and in many scenes its JCVD that is the weakest link making watching this barely tolerable. When I heard that Frank’s last name was “Dux” and pronounced “Dukes” I groaned at what I thought was silly faux pugilist name being used to match the character. But as I watched the trailing credits and Blu-ray extra features I learned that this was in fact a film based on a real Frank Dux as incredulous as it sounds.

So do the few good parts make it worthwhile you watching this film? My answer is JCVD. Just Can’t Vouch for this Dreck.

*Enter JCVD into the Wikipedia search bar in it’ll bring you directly to his entry!


Movie Reviews 323 – The Crying Game (1992)

December 8, 2017

Many movies have defining moments, ones that change the direction or perspective of the story. Other movies have memorable scenes where either great acting or dialogue have become quintessential moments of cinematic history. But I can only think of one movie, The Crying Game, where one particular scene not only changes perspectives, but defines what the movie is really all about. The jolt not only changes the entire plot but also the very nature of the film. And in this film, what a scene it is!

I will begin by making it clear that I will not divulge that surprise for those that have not seen the film and have managed to not having it spoiled by the media or other means. But the scene in question is so dynamic that any discussion of the film pretty much begins with that one scene. In a way those people who still don’t know about it are to be envied the shock that awaits them.

Set sometime in the 1980’s during North Ireland’s “Troubles” the film begins as a typical political thriller with the IRA capturing and holding Jody (Forest Whitaker), an off duty British soldier. Fergus (Stephen Rea), one of the more reluctant abductors, befriends his captive much to the chagrin of his more militant IRA peers (Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar). The narrative settles on that friendship and the threat of Jody’s death lest the demands of the abductors not be met. Indeed the growing bond between the two could have been the entire plot and it would have been satisfying enough. But the circumstances on how the kidnapping ends has Fergus seeking Jody’s former girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) without telling her of his former connection to Jody.

Whether the initial interest was simply guilt laden or some other unknown reason, once Fergus injects himself into Dil’s world the attraction between the two grows despite each having reservations at first. Fergus’ reluctance is understood given the real connection to Dil but she too is hesitant just when commitment seems evident. What Dil eventually reveals stuns both Fergus and the audience. To say that it changes everything is an understatement. Dealing with that revelation elicits soul searching and uncertainty between the characters, and I suspect the audience just as much. As confusing as it is for Fergus he is them confronted by the return of some of his old IRA peers who have perilous plans for him.

The movie makes constant use and references to the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog which ponders the nature of man and whether one can change that nature, perfectly capturing the essence of this film.

For a real 1990’s throwback enjoy Boy George (remember him?) singing the title theme song which had actually been around long before the movie. The song selection in the score contains a few other choice tunes reflective of the plot and all I’ll say is that this is all apropos once you see this movie.

Movie Reviews 286 – Battlefield Earth (2000)

February 4, 2017

Battlefield EarthMaligned by the masses. Ridiculed by the critics. As certain as I felt it would provide little entertainment or satisfaction, Battlefield Earth, the adaptation of Scientologist founder L. Ron. Hubbard’s novel has always been a scab that I knew I would have to peel back at some point in my life. That time has come.

As implied by its full title, Battlefield Earth: A saga of the year 3000, a millennium in the future Earth has been invaded by aliens who are mining the planet for gold. The Psychlos are nine feet tall, natty dreadlock haired, warrior like invaders that have decimated the human population on the planet. Of the few humans that remain, those that have not been captured by the Psychlos are now living in isolated tribes far from the Psychlos having regressed to a primitive state. The free humans have only the legends of gods that made their presence known to their civilization and are now punishing them for their sins. One savage among them, Jonnie (Barry Pepper), defies the tribe elder to forage for better resources and also answers to his questions about those reputed gods.

Jonnie is soon captured by the Psychlos and is brought to their massive enclosed base city in which there are many human captives. The Psychlos need a breathing apparatus when not in their base as exposure to Earth’s atmosphere can be deadly and reciprocally the humans need a similar filter while imprisoned there. The Earth is just a resource colony for the Psychlo home planet and ruthless head of security Terl (John Travolta) finds himself continually denied a return home because of some past indiscretion. When he discovers that his underling Ker (Forest Whitaker) had planned to keep a newfound gold deposit to himself he takes over the operation himself. But Terl cannot mine the deposit himself. He realizes that the recent captive Jonnie is smarter than the other vermin humans and subjects him to ‘learning machine’ hoping to get information out of him. To Terl’s surprise, Jonnie learns the Psychlos’ language and convinces Terl that he can lead a band of humans to mine the gold deposit for Terl without arousing suspicion from the Psychlos’ leader But Jonnie uses the opportunity to work outside to mount a rebellion with both the free humans still roaming about and the current captives.

If you combine the flaccid acting, moth-eaten dialogue, and cavernous plot holes, you begin to get a sense of the fiasco at hand. As I haven’t read the 1000 plus page novel (I guess we can no longer apply the ‘phonebook’ adjective as those are relics of the past), I can’t comments on how the adaptation adheres to the source or the quality of the source for that matter. But the journey from novel to film does shed some light. I refer to this film as Barbarino’s Folly, as Travolta, a devout Scientologist, was the one who flogged this movie to the movie studios for years, only to finally make a deal with Franchise Pictures, then a ‘studio of last resort’ catering to such vanity projects and also with him footing some of the bill as one of the producers.

Not quite making the ‘so bad it’s good’ list, the movie does have the cool looking Psychlos, and while the effect is not done perfectly, the oversized aliens set against normal sized humans does work at times. But the groan moments are to numerous and head slap inducing – what the hell was an actor as fine Forest Whitaker doing in this mess – for me to recommend even one mock viewing. I have no idea if the movie espouses Scientology doctrine as I suspect was Travolta’s goal in making it. But if that were the case I’m sure the list of people wanting their money back was longer than any new recruits to the cult.

Movie Reviews 40

January 20, 2012

Otis (2008)
Up until the mid point this movie appeared to be a run of the mill story about a idle brained man named Otis who kidnaps young girls and keeps them hostage in a hidden bunker under his home. Pretty boring and conventional until he kidnaps one particular girl from a very dysfunctional family. First get to see an inept and uncouth cop bumble the investigation as he deals with the girls family as they await a phone call from the abductor. But he movie takes a definite uptick once Otis’ latest abductee manages to flee and makes contact with her family. The girls mom (Illeanna Douglas) makes one request to her daughter before letting the cops know of her escape and coming to her aid. She requests that the girl not reveal any information about her abductor or where he lives. It is immediately evident that her mom and family plan to avenge the crime themselves rather than handing over Otis to the bumbling cops and the justice system. And as soon as the family make it to Otis’ house the fun and gore really starts. Sure you can see where this movie is going every step of the way. But who cares? Getting there is not half the fun, it’s all the fun.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
I loved this somewhat obscure movie when I first saw it years ago. On the face of it, it is comprised of some the oddest of combinations you could ever imagine. It’s a mob story in which one of their ‘go to’ hit men is a young black apprentice samurai practitioner (Forest Whitaker) who can only be contacted by carrier pigeon from one of the mobsters. He is in league with the mob as a result of being rescued by one of mob guys while being beaten up on the streets as a young kid. Pledging allegiance and loyalty to that one mobster, he finds himself at the mobsters beck and call while maintaining his identity secret from the others. It also helps that his devotion to learning the Way of the Samurai makes him one hell of a crack shot. But when a particular hit goes awry and crosses mob allegiances the head mobster (Henry Silva) has to put the cross hairs on the young hit man. But first they have to try to find out who he is. Part of the beauty of this film is that the mobsters are depicted as bumbling old time mafioso gang reinforcing every stereotype and cliche imaginable. Our young hit man however is a docile, thought provoking, well read neighborhood philosopher whose best friend is a uni-lingual french speaking Haitian ice-cream vendor. It’s comedy, drama, a sprinkling of Samurai philosophical quotes and a whole lot more I’m not even going to begin to explain. Jim Jarmusch directed this underrated title, which explains a lot if you‘re familiar with his other movies like Down by Law and Coffee and Cigarettes. But you’ve gotta see it to believe it.

Brotherhood of Blood (2007)
A group of vampire hunters are on the heels of a vampires clan (natch!) as the try to get back one of the group members brother who’s been nabbed by the clan. The brother, an archaeologist had stumbled upon some Egyptian murals that tell the story of some ancient battle between a vampires and the Devil. But the Devil was was ‘confined’ either during or right after that long ago battle. That is until he was supposedly unleashed into the body of the archaeologist. All very convoluted and I barely figured it all out towards the end at which point the ‘surprise ending’ wasn’t a surprise at all. Sid Haig and Ken Foree, both veterans of much better horror movies star in this one, but neither are really the prime roles and put in screen time only slightly above a ‘cameo’ category. I’ve certainly seen worse movies than this, but it certainly could have been a whole lot better as well. Actually, the directors, two guys who I will mercifully not name (look them up yourself) also teamed up again the following year for Alone in the Dark II, a movie panned even more than this one. I think they finally learned their lesson as the have not returned to direct again. Stay on the sideline boys.

Thirst (2009)
A unique J-Horror vampire tale in which a well meaning young priest volunteers to be part of an experiment in which doctors are trying to find a cure to a deadly disease. He becomes the only test subject to survive the trial drugs and in doing so becomes something a holy symbol to all manner of people seeking cures to their ailments. But all that is minor flotsam as the more evident outcome of the experimentation has made the priest a vampire, although still a good person. But the movie really kicks into high gear as the priest falls for a young woman who, once an abandoned child, has been adopted by an elder woman friend of the priest. The elder woman’s son has also ‘married’ the young girl, who seems more a prisoner and servant to the elder woman and her ‘husband’. At first the priest and the young girl have a simple affair but nothing in such a convoluted relationship remains simple for long. Things take an abrupt turn for the worse when the young woman learns of the priest’s true nature after the priest tries to ‘save’ the girl. Part comedy, part tragic, part drama, part horror, this has a little bit something for everyone.