[Movie Review] The Fan

The FanStarring: Robert DeNiro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Mulkey
Director: Tony Scott
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 15
Released: 1996

Director, Tony Scott has brought us some of the more exciting thrillers of the nineties – ‘The Last Boyscout’ and ‘True Romance’ for example and he has also scored with the successful ‘Crimson Tide’. With a track record like that, it makes you wonder why he has made such a dreadful job of ‘The Fan’.

Gil Renard (DeNiro) is a hunting knife salesman whose business morals are the cause of much chagrin to his employers. When he loses a big account, they give him the sack and plunge him deep into depression. He has also lost access to his son after his estranged wife becomes fed up with his unreliable antics.

All his problems stem from his unnatural obsession with baseball and in particular, his favourite team’s new signing, Bobby Rayburn (Snipes). His move to The Giants is the cause of much resentment when it is revealed that he is being paid $40m. But Gil is a vocal fan and often calls a local radio show, hosted by the cynical Jewel Stern (Barkin), to defend his favourite player. And when Rayburn’s form dips and the crowd are getting on his back, Gil goes to great lengths to help him restore his place at the top.

Tony Scott attempts to develop the two main characters separately. Gil is at odds with the world from the very beginning. He objects to the poor quality of the knives he is selling and tries to point out that his father made great quality knives when he started the business only to be told that quality is not important. He comes across as obsessive and dangerous and controls his son in his attempts to make him Gil MkII. He always wanted to be a big baseball star but never made it and now he can only dream as he watches his idols every week. He believes that the fans are the most important thing.

Rayburn is the egotistical, unfeeling superstar. His main motivation in life is fame and fortune. He plays for himself, not for the fans. His one human love in life is his young son, Sean.

Gil encourages Rayburn from the sidelines when the rest of the crowd boo the former star but decides to take a more active role in Bobby’s life when he pinpoints the teams other prima donna, Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro – ‘Usual Suspects’) as the cause of Bobby’s pain. Bobby ends up benefiting from Gil’s pursuits but does not bargain on what is to come.

This movie is a real mess. It’s hard to explain the feeling that you get but it’s like watching an 80s TV movie. The accompanying soundtrack (bar the excellent Rolling Stones interludes) is awful and totally undermines stars of the magnitude of DeNiro and Snipes. The performances are decent enough – Snipes plays his best role for some time and DeNiro never struggles. It may be the fact that DeNiro could play this role with his eyes closed that is one of the main failings of ‘The Fan’. Perhaps they should have chosen a lesser known actor who might have brought a lot more reality to the movie.

The main problem though is that DeNiro’s character seems to follow extremes for, what seems like, no reason at all. It really makes you wince. Worth mentioning the token appearances here from Ellen Barkin and John Leguizamo who plays Snipes manager.

Overall, a rather pathetic movie.

1star

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[Movie Review] The King of Comedy

King of ComedyStarring: Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack, Diahnne Abbott
Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 12
Released: 1983

Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro) is a 30-something, aspiring comedian who tries to persuade a famed talk show host, Jerry Langford (Lewis), to take a look at his comedy act, hopeful of getting a spot on his show. However the arrogant Langford has no intention of allowing Pupkin onto his show and continuously gets his office to fob him off as Pupkin persists in his attempts. Pushed over the limit by the snub, Pupkin teams up with the zany but slightly demented Marsha (Bernhard) in a bid to kidnap Langford and force his way on.

The most intiguing part of the movie is the analysis of DeNiro’s character which is handled expertly by DeNiro and director, Martin Scorcese. Pupkin seems like an amiable guy when you first meet him but as the movie continues, the dark side of his nature becomes predominant. Scorcese achieves this by allowing Pupkin’s thoughts and dreams to be shown on screen and due to this technique, we see that Pupkin is a man tortured in the past, maybe even ridiculed by those around him as a “zero”. The most disturbing element of his character is the fact that he can’t seem to distinguish reality from his dreams.

DeNiro’s character is confusing for the viewer as you don’t know whether to like or loathe him. However, this is not a problem and infact adds to the interest. Also worth mentioning is a brilliant performance from Jerry Lewis. Both actors are assisted by the sharp script which contains some classic observations. The most notable and longest lasting impression is made by DeNiro’s statement, ‘better to be King for a night than shmuck for a lifetime’.

3halfstar

[Album Review] "Classics Live II" – Aerosmith

Classics Live II - AerosmithAlbum Title: Classics Live! II
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1987
Running Time: 38m 47s

Track listing: 1 Back in the Saddle [1976]; 2 Walk This Way [1975]; 3 Movin’ Out [1973]; 4 Draw The Line [1977]; 5 Same Old Song and Dance [1974]; 6 Last Child [1976]; 7 Let the Music do the Talking [1985]; 8 Toys in the Attic [1975]

The follow up to “Classics Live!” came a year later and was of a similar quality to the original. With the exception of ‘Draw the Line’ [1978] and ‘Let the Music do the Talking’ (1986), all recordings came from 1984, just prior to the release of “Done with Mirrors”. How the band must have wished they could come up with more classics like these for that album.

The regular concert opener at the time, ‘Back in the Saddle’ launches in enigmatic form, Whitford and Perry causing an electric current of energy that would rival any live performance. All time classic, ‘Walk this Way’ is introduced with a ‘Happy Birthday’ sing-a-long to Tom Hamilton (new years eve) and is performed as well as ever with the new chorus style that evolved over time already in place.

‘Movin’ Out’ is given an airing here due to the recent re-union of Mssrs Tyler and Perry and the fact that this was the first song they wrote together. It is interesting to here it live but it has always been a rather mediocre tune to me, although the mellow mid-section sounds excellent.

The all-out action blast of ‘Draw the Line’ is as memorable as ever and ‘Same Old Song and Dance’ builds the anticipation greatly by teasing everyone with a false intro for about 30 seconds. Vocally though, Tyler sounds tired.

The itchy attraction of ‘Last Child’ is the best performance on the album with Whitford and Co creating a groove than sounds even better now than it did eleven years before. ‘Let the Music do the Talking’ is the only “Done With Mirrors” track included although I wish it had have been ‘My Fist Your Face’.

The finale couldn’t be more fitting – ‘Toys in the Attic’ – the duel vocal assault of Tyler and Perry showing that they are indeed back in the saddle again.

A good album indeed especially with the inclusion of the “Rocks” tracks.

3star

[Movie Review] Gotti

GottiStarring: Armande Assante, William Forsythe, Anthony Quinn, Frank Vincent
Director: Robert Harmon
Genre: Drama
Cert: 18
Released: 1996

I remember a film called “Getting Gotti” with the extremely bad Lorraine Bracco which I’m sure was dire. However, “Gotti” is a lot better. It tells the true story of Mob kingin, John Gotti (Assante) and follows his rise and fall from the mid 1970s to his imprisonment in the 1990s. As a gangster movie, the familiarity with the storyline is instantaenous; plenty of double crosses, assasinations and organised pillaging – there are also many familiar faces from previous gangster flicks too. Assante is accompanied by his father-figure, Neil (the ancient Anthony Quinn), the respected DB (Frank Vincent) and his partner-in-crime, Sammy (Forsythe).

The cast are terrific and infact it is the strength of the characters which make this film stand out from the many gangster movies that sit on the video store shelves with Forsythe and Assante delivering powerful, commanding performances. For a change it is all accompanied by a decent script and is well directed with its 2 hour duration flowing steadily and without let-up.

“Gotti” is one of the better action dramas for some time.

3star

[Album Review] "Classics Live I" – Aerosmith

Classics Live! I - AerosmithAlbum Title: Classics Live!
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1986
Running Time: 37m 54s

Track listing: 1 Train Kept a Rollin [1974]; 2 Kings and Queens [1977]; 3 Sweet Emotion [1975]; 4 Dream On [1973]; 5 Mama Kin [1973]; 6 Three Mile Smile/Reefer Head Woman [1979]; 7 Lord of The Thinghs [1974]; 8 Major Barbara

With dwindling record sales, Aerosmith released a couple of live albums in order to try and save their careers. Rather cynically, each one contained a minimal amount of songs and should have been released as one album. However, both are extremely good and capture the band at their best. This album was recorded between 1973 and 1987.

There are several automatic classics here. The brilliant ‘Train Kept a Rollin’ kicks things off in a strained but pacy manner and it is followed by the dynamic ‘Kings and Queens’ – a flawed classic. ‘Sweet Emotion’ is not very far behind and Tom Hamilton’s greatest bass moment launches us into the all out metal attack of one of the greatest rock songs of the seventies.

‘Dream On’ and ‘Mama Kin’ are next and both are irrepresible in execution. The former benefits from the more lavish instrumental application that it gets on stage and the latter becomes an extreme stadium jam thanks to the spirited participation from the excited crowd.

A “Night in the Ruts” double header ensues with ‘Three Mile Smile’ and ‘Reefer Head Woman’ making up one track. ‘..Smile’ sounds funkier than ever and is rather excellent and the 90-seconds of the blues stomper ‘Reefer..’, is much appreciated.

You can’t help thinking that the crowd were anticipating ‘Walk this Way’ as Joey Kramer thumps the intro to ‘Lord of the Thighs’ but the conditioned sleaze of ‘LOTT’ sounds wonderful thanks to Tyler and the Boys playing with the pace. However, it does outstay its welcome for a couple of minutes.

The final track is not actually a live track but rather a hidden gem that was originally meant for release on “Get Your Wings” and gets its ‘studio’ release here. ‘Major Barbara’ is a melodic but slightly raw romantic ode that would have fit nicely on “Get Your Wings” but whose inclusion here is gratefully accepted.

Overall it is an excellent package in its own right but it would have been nice to have a few more songs included.

3star

[Movie Review] Major Payne

Major PayneStarring: Damon Wayans, Michael Ironside
Director: Nick Castle
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1995

When hardass army killing-machine, Major Benjamin Payne (Wayans), is released from his military duties, he sees no future in civilian life for himself and he longs for a return to the service. As a favour, his old General gets him a role back in the military again – at a school for army cadets. In a typical kids versus adults movie scenario, Payne must take a team of no-hoper cadets from oblivion to winners of the Military Games. I wonder will he do it…

There is the usual array of kids; the fat kid, the smartass kid, the black rap-dude, the kid with the big ears and the young-and-left-out-of-everything-because-he=s-too-small kid. Also thrown in for good measure is the token love interest in the shape of the sensitive teacher played by the attractive unknown, Karyn Parsons.

So far it sounds like the usual kids-turned-heroes mush along the lines of ‘Little Giants’, ‘The Big Green’ or ‘Champions’ but surprisingly ‘Major Payne’ turns out to be better than all of the above. There is one reason why.

Damon Wayans. Wayans is arguably the most underused comedy talent of recent times, and he once again takes a hand in writing the screenplay to one of his movies, and it shows. His performance is comical; from his over-the-top descriptions of how he likes to maim POWs to his physical comedy, in this case a sample of 1980s robotic dancing. His dialogue (which he no doubt wrote) is sharp and witty. When Cadet Tiger complains about being left out of everything because he is so small, Payne replies: ‘Phooey. What about all the small people who achieved big things – Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Spike Lee….’

This film is far less cliche ridden than you would expect and in fact the cliches are more or less at a suitable level. I think one of the main reasons I liked this film is that Wayan=s character rarely crumbles from his tough military image. Just when you think he is going to go all slushy, he counters with a dose of edgy, violent, murderous language which in itself is always funny. Top marks to the director for this.

While it is no ‘Kingpin’ (one of the best comedies of the 90s), it is an excellent straight-to-video title which for the easy-going viewer, is bound to entertain. Also look out for a short appearance from former film star, Michael Ironside.

3star