Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 53rd WWW:
1) Turner and Hooch:
Here's a Tom Hanks classic that I missed, though truth be told, it was by design, not accident. I tend to avoid movies where an animal shares top billing, because that means one of two things: corny humor, or heartbreaker in which animal is injured and or killed. And even though one or both of those descriptions proved accurate(to my surprise), I did enjoy the film. It comes from a simpler time when slapstick and character were enough to drive a story, and the plot didn't have to be all that elaborate. Hanks is Scott Turner, an investigator in a small town where nothing ever happens, on the verge of moving to the big city. When an old man Turner was friends with is killed, he reluctantly ends up with the man's dog Hooch, a type of slobbering mastiff known as a Dogue de Bordeaux, and the only witness to the murder. Most of the film relies on physical comedy, and the contrast between this large, destructive beast, and Hanks' obsession with keeping things in order. It was fun to watch a young Hanks early in his career, if only to reinforce how much his son currently mirrors him, and how far he's come. Turner and Hooch of course eventually come to an understanding and learn to like one another, and Hooch even leads his new master to a romance with a pretty veterinarian played by Mare Winningham. Just when you've almost forgotten the murder mystery cop drama aspect of the film, it comes back in with a bit of a jarring tone shift, as well as tv-movie-of-the-week dialogue and revelations as the bad guy explains his motives. By today's standards, it's all very predictable, and may have been predictable even in its time. I'd probably change one thing about the ending, because a cute reveal in the very last scene didn't make up for something horrific in the sequence prior, something that reminded me why I usually stay away from this type of film. Hooch reminded me of the Neapolitan Mastiff some friends of mine own, and definitely stole the show. I personally wouldn't want a dog that big that was perpetually drooling white foam, but I did enjoy watching him on screen.
I was never in tune with the hip-hop scene, although when I went to college in Queens my friends definitely turned me on to Wu-Tang Clan and other rising artists. While I was following the mainstream rise of Grunge in the ‘90s, big things were happening in the world of rap. I knew who Notorious B.I.G. was and could recognize a few of his songs, but until this film I didn't know much else about his history. Gunned down at the age of 24, he didn't have all that much history, which is probably why the film didn't have the same epic feel as other musical biopics, such as Ray. Still, with the constant rhythm of Biggie's music throughout the film, it kept my interest, and I occasionally caught my head bobbing or foot tapping. Biggie, born Christopher Wallace, started out, as he narrates, with a “clean slate”. His own son Christopher Jordan Wallace plays him at a more innocent age, when his overprotective mother would walk “Chrissy-poo” home from school and never let him off the stoop. He had good grades and a lot of potential, but the lure of the street was greater. One day he finally rebels, and becomes a drug dealer. He manages to keep this part of his life a secret from his mother(who in one scene hilariously mistakes drugs under his bed for plates of “old mashed potatoes”), and begins to question the value of an education. When a teacher tells him he's destined to be a garbage collector, the sharp youth quickly realizes that a garbage man makes more than a teacher. Without his father around to teach him what it means to be a man, he draws his own conclusions and decides getting paid and having nice things makes him a man. His morals are dubious; in one scene he sells crack to a pregnant woman. This isn't 8 Mile. For the most part, the at times graphic movie pulls no punches and seems to tell it like it was. He has talent, occasionally rhyming and rap battling on the street, but it isn't until he gets arrested and has nothing but time to write in a notebook that he begins to develop his lyrical poetry. When his friends introduce him to Puff Daddy, he soon begins a rough road to a career and superstardom. You feel sympathy for the child he was, but as a man he's clearly corrupted by his fame. He's not a fat little nerd anymore, and draws inspiration from soda, weed, and women during one recording session. Despite his size, he was smooth and had style, but could never remain faithful, not to his first girlfriend and his daughter's mother, not to Lil'Kim, whose career he helped launch, and not to his wife Faith Evans, who gave him a son. Temptation was all around him, and he succumbed constantly. It was strange watching a film narrated by a dead man, his life flashing before him in his final moments when it was too late to change the things he might have regretted. He forged a strong friendship with Puffy, but his friendship with Tupac turned into a bitter rivalry between East and West coast rappers. The film portrays the origins of this feud as a misunderstanding, Tupac blaming Biggie for an ambush while Biggie was apparently rushing down to help him. And after Tupac is killed, Biggie would meet a similar fate while on the West coast. A lot of the events in the film probably need the word “allegedly” attached to them. In the end, Biggie made an impact on his fans, something his mother finally realized upon seeing the outpouring of support at his funeral procession. And she could still hear his voice on the radio. His second album dropped posthumously, and no one knows where his career and life might have gone. Notorious tells the tale of someone who burned bright, and burned out early. He was a smart boy who became a thug who almost turned things around with his talent. In fiction, a protagonist will usually have an arc, and come to some great realization and make a change in his ways. In real life, we don't always have the chance. If the movie lacks something, it was because the man's life lacked something. Maybe he was growing as a person, maybe he was going to be a better father to his kids, but all that growth was interrupted by a few bullets. The rest is silence, and memories on CD.
More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!
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