Sunday, October 30, 2016

Movie Review: Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash
Clinica Estetico, LStar Capital, TriStar Pictures, USA, 2015. 

Let's check some films that the readers of this site have suggested. 

Ricki (Meryl Streep) is a rocker stuck in the 1980s. Although she is living her dream, her band the Flash has seen its better days and plays in small bars. Ricki's day job is being a cashier and she's skint. When her daughter Julie (Streep's real daughter Mamie Gummer) divorces and gets a nervous breakdown she needs to go meet her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline). Pete is living in a nice house with his new wife. Rock life has been Ricki's main priority so she is estranged from Julie and sons Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate). The sons have different lifestyles than their mother (she's a Republican), green/leftist Josh is getting married and Adam is gay.
Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep
Pete and Ricki
Mamie Gummer
Ricki makes progress with Julie but Pete's wife Maureen (Audra McDonald) drives Ricki away. Ricki's boyfriend Greg (Rick Springfield) wants to deepen their relationship but Ricki feels that she has messed up her life. So making up with the past is the way to go. Finally Ricki shows the uptight wedding guest's how to rock. It was amusing to see the the shocked faces of the wedding guests when the band started to play.
Hailey Gates and Sebastian Stan
Emily (Hailey Gates) and Josh
Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield
Ricki and Greg
Meryl Streep sings adult oriented rock songs well and shows again her versatility. The soundtrack has good classic rock and some pop cover songs. The character of Ricki (Streep) was inspired by scriptwriter Diablo Cody’s rocker mother-in-law, Terry Cieri, so there is some personal touch in the story. But there are some things that prevent this from becoming one of my favourite Meryl Streep films. The comedic drama is well acted but has quite traditional redemption plot so no surprises here. Emphasis on the word comedic as the marketing tried to market this as a comedy although this is clearly a drama with some funny moments. Rick Springfield is also a fun rocker but it is a pity that the rest of the Flash, with many musicians from famous bands, have only minimal roles so the story is more about Ricki and less about the Flash. Generally it is a warm-hearted film with enjoyable dialogue. Still I think that the slice of life style approach does not fully work here as the other characters do not fully use their potential and somehow the story feels incomplete. We do not learn much about the family members of Ricki except that one kid is neurotic, one is gay and one is green. Still it is very watchable thanks to Meryl Streep's performance and music.

Rating: Good

Starring: Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale, Bernie Worrell, Ben Platt, Peter C. Demme, Jim Roche, Alexa Klienbard, Keala Settle, Joe Toutebon, Big Jim Wheeler, Brooklyn Demme, Eamon O'Rourke, Aaron Moten, Adam Shulman, Kevin Kline, Chinasa Ogbuagu, Majora Carter, Gus Halper, 'Sister' Carol East, Cherise Boothe, Mamie Gummer, Bill Irwin, Ripley Sobo, Lucy Owen, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Hailey Gates, Josh Tobin, Carmen Carrera, Li Jun Li, Gabriel Ebert, Lisa Joyce, Jimmy Kieffer, Scott Ripley, Kelsey Didion, John Dreher, Suzanne Lenz, Scott Vicari, Desi Domo, Eliza Simpson, Audra McDonald, Emily Cass McDonnell, Cynthia J. Hopkins, Em Grosland, Charlotte Rae, Beau Sia, Jeff Biehl, Victoria Haynes, Joshua Elrod, Tubten Rabten, Anna Robertson, Tony Costa, Christopher Tierney, Isabella Way, Leah O'Donnell, Erin Mullin, Trevor F. Salter, Mason Ames, Katherine Crockett, Jos Demme, PigPen Theatre Company, Renée Albulario, Leasen Beth Almquist, Barbara Christie, Semar Ghebremichael, Chris Giarmo, Lawrence Goldhuber, Andrew Haserlat, Perri Lauren, Will Mann, Mayumi Miguel, William Ryall, Chinaza Uche, Alain Van Beaux, Nicholas Ward, James Young 
Director: Jonathan Demme

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Shameless Pile Keeps on Growing: My New Furry Pals

It has been busy two weeks, and I haven't had much time to watch movies. So let's show some popular culture themed (or not) mascots and plushes that I have managed to find in thrift stores (except for Piggy) during the passing year.

Here's happy-looking Gingerbread Man from "Shrek."

Mr. Bean in pajamas, Blossom of The Powerpuff Girls, Ewok Wicket W. Warrick and Dora the Explorer.
Mr. Bean, Blossom of The Powerpuff Girls, Ewok and Dora the Explorer

There can never be too many Barbababas.

Here are some characters created by Finnish children's author Mauri Kunnas. Sleepwalking Mr. Hakkarainen and Martha from Doghill.
Herra Hakkarainen ja Martta

Spongebob Squarepands and Patrick seem to have fun.
Spongebob Squarepands and Patrick

On the other hand Asterix, Scotty and Elmo seem to have a small grudge.
Asterix, Scotty and Elmo.

Some gaming themed toys: Fruit Ninja- mascots, Angry Birds Piggy (movie version) and Wario.
Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds Piggy and Wario

And as a happy coincidence Sharky found his mother, Mommy Shark.

Clowns seem to be in fashion so here's Clown Smurf and Krusty the Clown.

And because it's Halloween here's also vampire Count Von Count.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Movie Review: The Search for Weng Weng

The Search for Weng Weng
Death Rides A Red Horse, Turkeyshoot Productions, Australia, 2007-2013.
The Search for Weng Weng title

There are a lot of rumours about unique and tiny action star Ernesto de la Cruz a.k.a Weng Weng (1957-1992) who according to the Guinness Book of Records was once the shortest actor. Nowadays the title belongs to Ajaykumar from India. Weng Weng was even rumoured to have been a real secret agent and taken part in infiltration missions. 
Weng Weng
B-movie enthusiast Andrew Leavold became obsessed with Weng Weng's films and traveled to Philippines to find out the facts about Weng Weng. He interviewed film historians and people who worked with Weng Weng, including director Eddie Nicart, editor Edgardo 'Boy' Vinarao and jovial actor Franco Guerrero. Also the only living relatives are interviewed. 
Eddie Nicart
Edgardo 'Boy' Vinarao
Franco Guerrero
Weng Weng is described as a lucky guy. The first of his popular films were small roles in "The Quick Brown Fox" (1980) and "Da Best in Fa West" (1981) starring comedian Dolphy but his career started already in 1976. He liked watching Karate and Kung Fu movies and started practicing martial arts. But he was also lonely and although his movies made money he didn't see any and he died as poor as he was born. Still he was happy to be an actor and to work with the leading ladies. He was also a brave stunt man, making his own stunts. His big breakthrough were the Agent 00- films. "For Y'ur Height Only" was the second in the series and the first movie of the series is considered a lost film. 
The producer Peter M. Caballes, who was Weng's guardian, and script writer Cora Ridon Caballes spent the money earned from the movies and Weng Weng did not get salary. Caballes' were friends of President Ferdinand Marcos, and Weng was a regular visitor in the President's Palace. The Marcos family supported Cinema Arts, and used the entertainment to cover the corruption and human right violations. It was quite crazy in the movie business of the Philippines at that time. Imelda Marcos is interviewed also. She hosted Manila Film Festivals to showcase the artistic films of the country, but the low brow films of Weng Weng were the only films that were sold for the foreign audiences and Weng Weng suddenly became an iconic Filipino actor. Many people were not comfortable with that. Still Weng Weng's popularity in the Philippines may also have been high partly because his innocent looks made him resemble Santo Niño, Child Jesus. The popularity also gave rise to Weng Weng impostors. 
The documentary tells Weng Weng's story that is quite tragic but also warm and delightful. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction and so it was also in the Filipino movie industry. In the end fans from around the world express their fandom.

Rating: Very good

Starring as themselves: Tikoy Aguiluz, Roy Arabejo, Tilman Baumgaertel, Don Gordon Bell, Celso Ad. Castillo, Beth Chai, Teddie Co, Rez Cortez, Roland Dantes, Celing de la Cruz, Editha De La Cruz, Nick Deocampo, Dolphy, Jim Gaines, Peque Gallaga, Eddie Garcia, Franco Guerrero, John Kater, Andrew Leavold, Marrie Lee, Ed Lejano, Maria Isabel Lopez, Anthony Maharaj, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Pia Moran, Eddie Nicart, Daniel Palisa, Dante Pangilinan, Rusty Santos, Henry Strzalkowski, Bobby A. Suarez, Edgardo Vinarao, Weng Weng (archive footage)
Director: Andrew Leavold

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Movie Review: D'Wild Wild Weng

D'Wild Wild Weng a.k.a Wild Wild Weng a.k.a The Good, the Bad, and the Tiny
Liliw Films International,  Philippines, 1982.

This movie came as an extra for the documentary "The Search for Weng Weng."

In the anachronistic Wild West undercover agent duo consisting of  tiny Mr. Weng (Weng Weng) and big Gordon (Max Laurel) punch bad guys in the face and save people while travelling to Santa Monica. They meet midget Indian Apollo-Moon (or something that sounds like that) who tells that Santa Monica is ruled by evil Senor Sebastian (Romy Diaz) who murdered the former Mayor with his henchmen Ku Manchu (Ernie Ortega), Gaspard (?) and Agusto (??). Mute caretaker of Mayor's mansion Lupo (Max Alvarado who played crime lord in "For Y'ur Height Only") helps the duo and gives them a dune buggy. Actually this is one of the rare Westerns that do not have horses.  Lupo is mute because Agusto cut off his tongue so that he couldn't tell who murdered the Mayor.
Weng Weng
Mr. Weng
Max Laurel
Gordon in the black shirt
Romy Diaz
Weng and Gordon save Clara (Nina Sara) and her father Mr. Dencio (Dencio Padilla) who are attacked by Ku Manchu's ninjas(!). Poor Lupo can only grunt and squeal in a way that awkwardly reminds of Tor Johnson in "The Beast of Yucca Flats." That doesn't prevent him from acting as as a backup singer when Weng sings a serenade under Clara's balcony with Gordon playing guitar but our Princess is in the another castle! Clara has been kidnapped again. So they have to perform encore of the rescue operation. That slightly annoys Sebastian.
Gaspard and Agusto (actors unknown)
Ernie Ortega
Ku Manchu
Nina Sara
Weng runs around the prairie saving people and punching and shooting bad guys. His trademark sliding attack is used only seldom as most action occurs outside. Weng is the main action star and Gordon seems to be the back-up giving strongman who carries Weng around in a bag to keep him incognito and sometimes tosses him like a spear so that he can reach high places. Sometimes Weng temporarily abandons Gordon and swishes into action alone. Lupo is their tragicomic sidekick who would be just tragic if he could be taken seriously.
The Wild West Ninjas
Big Gun
Weng Weng's popularity topped with the Agent 00 movies, and the novelty faded quickly and sadly he was soon forgotten. The Western film was made between the two Agent 00 films and the setting is not quite as fun as the secret agent adventures. However that was not the only Western that he made. This is technically ugly and clumsy film and the bad quality of the print doesn't help. It looks like a cheaply made Spaghetti Western. The equivalent in the Philippines would be Pancit Western but the term seems to be quite little used. The story has a lot of slack but it has plenty of Wut? moments to keep it interesting and enjoyable. The plot throws in everything and the kitchen sink: ninjas, Mexican bandidos, monks and a tribe of pygmy Indians. Again the bad dubbing increases the hilarity. Again Weng is dubbed with an amusingly deep voice. Although the dialogue otherwise is typical for a cheap Western, the dialogue of Weng is laconic as best. An example of dialogue that occurs after Weng saves a girl named Elsa (Yehlen Catral) is very representative:

Elsa: Thank you very much.
Weng: I'm Mr. Weng
Elsa: By the way, my name is Elsa.
Weng: See you.

Man of few words is he. It is like the producers were focused on the action and were not so much interested in making any interesting lines.
Yehlen Catral
The cast is known from other Weng Weng films, playing their usual roles except for Max Alvarado who is now a good guy. The finale has the three heroes having a big shootout with Sebastian's army, with Weng mowing down hordes of bandidos with a Gatling-type gun and fighting with a stick against evil Samurais. Like the previous Weng Weng films this is a silly but entertaining trash action film, bizarre and fun.

Rating:Good or So bad it is good 

Starring: Weng Weng, Yehlen Catral, Nina Sara, Max Alvarado, Max Laurel, Romy Diaz, Ernie Ortega, Robert Miller, Rene Romero, Ike Lozada, Dencio Padilla, Joe Cunanan, Jay Grama, Gil Bandong, Nelson Armiza, Ray Albella, Lito Navarro, Fred Esplana, Alex Pascual, Angelito J. de Guzman, Goliath, Mando Pangilinan, Oscar Reyes, SOS Daredevils 
Director: Eddie Nicart

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Movie Review: The Impossible Kid

The Impossible Kid a.k.a The Impossible Kid of Kung Fu
Liliw Films International, Philippines, 1982.

This movie can be found in Martial Arts 50 Movie Pack by Mill Creek Entertainment.

Agent 00 (Weng Weng) is now an Interpol agent with a new chief (Ben Johnson, no not the sprinter). He catches a hitman and saves hostages, chases a truck and rescues a kidnapped businessman. All in the first eight minutes. Weng's boss apperas always when he is flirting with the local Moneypenny (Chicklet Moreno). Wicked terrorists are kidnapping wealthy industrialists. Always laughing Senyor Manolo (Romy Diaz) wants protection from Interpol. However he just mocks the tiny agent until 00 beats up some of Manolo's bodyguards.That'll teach them.
Weng Weng
Agent 00, Interpol.
Chicklet Moreno
Interpol's secretary (Chicklet Moreno)
Ben Johnson
The Chief
Terrorist chief wearing a Klan mask with a Cobra logo demands a ransom on one billion pesos or they will kidnap the industrialists and destroy the factories. Agent 00 tries to find out who the Terrorist leader is and fights enemies in backyards, karate dojos and cheap hotels (where he usually meets naked women). Whenever goons are arrested, they always get murdered before they can reveal the identity of the terrorists. The secret identity of the Cobra boss gives the story a mystery element although it is not difficult to guess who it is.
Romy Diaz
Cobra leader
After "For Y'ur Height Only" you would think to have seen all the tricks of midget spy flicks. However the absurdity reaches new heights. What the sequel loses in originality it more than takes back with the weirdness. Now 00 uses less gadgets but the mini-motorcycle more than balances it. The scene where he jumps with his motorcycle over the ravine must be seen to be believed. In the English dub Weng now has a deeper voice instead of squeakier voice that he had before and it gives an hilariously mismatched impression. Whereas in the prequel he worked mainly alone now he acts more in teams. The story has a better structure now and avoids the weird continuation problems of the prequel. The incidental music copies shamelessly the Pink Panther theme but overall the music is better now. Now Agent 00 has his own theme song "Impossible Kid" sung by Ruby (Tokem) Tia :"I love my Weng Weng!"
Agent 00 in cage
big gun
Whereas in the previous film nobody saw anything strange about a fire extinguisher sized secret agent, here he is often mistaken for a kid. The jokes feel less politically correct as more fun is made of midgets. In some action scenes the bad guys even practice midget tossing. However that does not much bother Weng, he is as cool and badass as before and kicks butt as before. This is silly and cheap but great fun when watched in right mindset.

Ruben Ramos who was a minor boss Jack in the previous film returns as henchman Abdul. Bond- Weng-girl is played by Nina Sara.
Ruben Ramos
NIna Sara
Rating: Either Very Good orSo bad it is good

Starring: Weng Weng, Romy Diaz, Nina Sara, Tony Carreon, Ben Johnson, Rene Romero, Efren Lapid, Lita Vasquez, Chicklet Moreno, Ruben Ramos, Joe Cunanan, Romy Nario, Ben Morro, Boy Bañes, Renato Morado, Rolly Esteban, Vangie Evangelista, Amor Siron, Avel Morado, Jessie Lee, Jess Ramo, Jose Dura, Nini Dela Rama, Jimmy Milallos, Alma Siron, Barbara Manipol, Ailice Siron, Gina Samonte, Irene Robles, George Gyenes, Lee Scott, David Anderson, Neils Elcehorn, Jack Holltz, James Crumrine, Fred Esplana, Jay Grama, Erning Reyes, Roland Falcis, Eddie Samonte, Rey Abella, Lito Navarro, Gil Bandong, Joe Andrade, Jess Bonzo, Joe Estrada, Roger Santos, Remy Nocum, Ernie Gubaton, Mando Manarang, Tony Bongat, Ramon Tiangco, Jimy Custodio, Mike Manarang, Triumpo Garces, Rodrigo Faculto, Rey Garces, SOS Daredevils
Director: Eddie Nicart

Recommendations by Engageya