Boxing Time (2016, directed by Evan Jacobs)

About as pointless as a film can get, Boxing Time is 65 minutes of a boxing promoter named Art (played by director Evan Jacobs) talking on his phone.  He tries to convince his wife to allow him to talk to his daughter.  He talks to the boxing commissioner, who is being a real pain about the upcoming fight.  He talks to people who want to fix the fight.  Art talks and talks.  Usually, only his side of the conversation is shown and the movie doesn’t even show us the boxing match that everyone is so worked up about.  After all the build up, the movie cheats the audience by not letting them watch the main event.

It’s set up as a found footage film with a title card explaining that Art was filming himself because he had been diagnosed as having a paranoid personality disorder and that the footage comes from the last month of Art’s life.  Despite knowing that we’re watching the last days of a doomed man, it’s hard to care about Art.  He’s not a sympathetic character and watching him talk on the phone for 65 minutes is about as much fun as watching anyone talk on the phone for 65 minutes.  Boxing Time (also known as #boxingtime because why not?) is an extended acting exercise that ends up lying flat on the canvas.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 2.12 “The Captain’s Cup/ The Folks From Home/ Legal Eagle”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

This week, the Love Boat departs on one weird cruise.

Episode 2.12 “The Captain’s Cup / The Folks from Home / Legal Eagle”

(Dir by Alan Rafkin, originally aired on December 2nd, 1978)

This was a strange episode.

Let’s start with the simplest of our three stories first.  Danny Holt (Bert Convy) is recently divorced and still crying over having to pay his wife alimony.  When he boards the boat, he specifically asks Gopher if there are any single men onboard who might be interested in marrying his ex-wife.  His ex isn’t even on the cruise!  Danny is one bitter passenger.  From the minute he boards the boat, he’s whining about how unfair his divorce was and how badly he was treated by his wife’s divorce lawyer, Ann Sterling (Leigh Taylor-Young).

Uh-oh, it turns out that Ann is one the cruise as well!  And she’s been assigned to be Danny’s dinner companion.  Danny isn’t happy about this but then, from out of seemingly nowhere, the two of them end of falling in love.  It’s hard to say why they suddenly fall in love.  Danny is superbitter over his divorce and Ann knows all of the details about what type of husband he was so it seems like the last thing that would ever happen would be them leaving the ship, arm-in-arm.  But somehow, that’s what happens.  It was a straight-forward story but it lacked any scenes that would have explained why the two of them fell in love.  They just did because they were characters on The Love Boat.  (It certainly wasn’t due to any noticeable romantic chemistry between Bert Convy and Leigh Taylor-Young.)  This story felt lazy and generic.

In the episode’s second storyline, Captain Stubing is excited because he’s due to receive the Captain of the Year Cup.  Diane DiMarzo (Florence Henderson, proving that former Bradys just cannot stay off The Love Boat) boards the ship with the Cup but she’s shocked to discover that 1) her boss — the guy who actually decided to give Stubing the Cup — will not be on the ship and 2) Stubing fully expects her boss to personally present him with the Cup.  Now, I’m not really sure how the logic works here but apparently, Diane could lose her job if her boss isn’t there to give Stubing the cup.  But why would that be Diane’s problem?  She did what she was supposed to do.  She boarded the ship with the Cup.  Her boss is the one who decided not to show up and he is the boss so it’s not like there was anything Diane could have done about it.

Anyway, Diane recruits one of the ship’s handymen to pretend to be her boss.  Though he works on the boat and the rest of the crew know him, it appears that the Captain himself has never met Hank Vosnik (Pat Harrington, Jr.), which kind of leads one to wonder if Stubing really deserves his award.  Anyway, Hank falls in love with Diane and is crestfallen when she turns down his marriage proposal.  (Seriously, at this point, they had only known each other for like three days so I’m not sure what Hank was expecting.)  But, despite being turned down, Hank still pretends to be Diane’s boss.  So, Diane decides that she might as well marry him.  WHAT!?

Finally, Doc Bricker is happy to meet two passengers from his hometown.  George (John McIntire) and Gloria (Jeanette Nolan) spend every moment with Doc and they even announce that, as far as they’re concerned, the 40-something Doc is a member of their family.  Doc is touched.  But then Gloria falls down a flight of stairs and Doc has to do emergency surgery on her.  Gopher calls a doctor in San Francisco and he talks Doc through the surgery.  Doc removes Gloria’s spleen and saves her life!  Yay!  Only at the end of the surgery does he get George to sign a consent form.  In real life, that would lead to Doc to losing his job and the cruise line getting sued.  But, on The Love Boat, it just leads to more laughter.

On the plus side, this storyline featured the charming performances of McIntire and Nolan, who were married in real life.  The story was also written by Fred “Gopher” Grandy and Bernie “Doc” Kopell so, not surprisingly, it actually allowed Grandy and Kopell to do something more than just leer at the passengers.  The show rarely gave Grandy or Kopell a chance to show off the fact that they were both capable of giving good dramatic performances so, whenever they got that rare chance to do so, they took advantage of it.  That said, it was still a bit awkward to see Doc suddenly performing major surgery in his tiny examination room.  It was all for the best on the show but, in real life, it would have led to a major lawsuit.  Even though Doc Bricker saved Gloria’s life, it still seems like the ship could probably be held liable for her getting injured in the first place.  I mean, the boat is in the middle of the ocean.  Shouldn’t there at least be a warning posted on the stairs?

Well, who knows?  Strange things happen at sea.  Let’s just be happy that everything worked out in the end.

Film Review: Paradise City (dir by Chuck Russell)

Ian Swan (Bruce Willis) is a famed bounty hunter who has spent the last ten years of his life pursuing an escaped fugitive who is wanted for the cold-blooded murder of four FBI men.  Swan has tracked his prey to Hawaii but, when he’s shot and falls into the ocean, Swan is presumed dead.  Swan’s long-estranged son, Ryan (Blake Jenner), comes to Hawaii to try to track down the man who killed his father.  He meets up with Ian’s former partner, Robbie Cole (Stephen Dorff), and also the only cop on the island who cares about justice, Savannah (Praya Lundberg).  Reluctantly, Cole works with Ryan and discovers that Ian’s shooting is somehow connected to a shady businessman named Arlene Buckley (John Travolta).  A real estate developer, Buckley is working hard to elect a man named Kane (Branscombe Richmond) to the U.S. Senate.  Buckley’s plan also involves taking control of a part of the Island that the natives call Paradise City.  Got all that?

2022’s Paradise City has been advertised as being a John Travolta/Bruce Willis film but make no mistake.  Neither Travolta nor Willis get much screen time, though they both make an impression in the limited time that they do have.  Stephen Dorff manages to steal every scene in which he appears, playing Robbie as a well-meaning guy who can’t help but be kind of a screw-up.  That said, Dorff really isn’t in that much of the film either.  Instead, the main star of the film is Blake Jenner.  Jenner has the blandly affable screen presence of a low-key frat boy.  That worked for him when he was in films like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! but it’s not exactly ideal for an action star.  Whereas the best action stars feel as if they’re always ready for a fight, Jenner comes across as the guy who would be trusted to order the keg for the next party.

Instead of taking charge of the screen, Jenner finds himself overshadowed by the gorgeous Hawaiian scenery.  Hawaii is the true star of Paradise City and, even when the film itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, Hawaii itself is always amazing to look at.  In many ways, Paradise City feels like an extra-violent episode of Baywatch Hawaii.  (The film’s Baywatch aesthetic is confirmed when Savannah wears a bikini to a crime scene.)  Just as with that show, the beaches and the jungles and the waterfalls and the oceans are all so stunning that it’s tempting to give the film a pass on the fact that the plot never makes much sense and any genuine emotional stakes are pretty much non-existent.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to ignore the plot because, for a low-budget B-movie, Paradise City takes itself way too seriously.  It’s one thing for Ryan to be estranged from his father.  It’s another thing for the film to feature flashbacks to Ryan’s childhood, in which we discover firsthand that Ian never understood Ryan.  It’s also one thing to make Buckley a family man.  It’s another thing try to create a clumsy parallel between the way that Buckley is raising his son and the way that Ian raised Ryan.  As opposed to films like Gasoline Alley or the Detective Knight films, Paradise City seems to be trying too hard to be something that it isn’t.  Instead of just embracing its pulpy style and trying to entertain, the film is determined to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and make a statement about evil land developers.  The film forgets that, sometimes, just being entertaining is the best thing that a film can be.

This was one of the last films that Bruce Willis made before it was announced that he would be retiring from acting.  Watching the film, it’s easy to tell that a stand-in was used for most of Willis’s action scenes.  When Willis delivers the majority of his lines, it’s hard not to miss the wiseguy energy that used to be his trademark.  That said, when Willis is acting opposite Travolta and Dorff, he shows a bit of his old spark.  The two scenes in which he confronts John Travolta are the best in the film.  For a few minutes, he seems like the Bruce Willis who we all remember and it’s hard not to get a bit emotional watching two talented (if often underappreciated) actors acting opposite each other for what will probably be the last time.

Paradise City is not a particularly memorable film and the overly complicated plot is next to impossible to follow but I am happy that the cast and the crew got to hang out in Hawaii for a bit.  It’s a lovely place to visit.

Bless the Maker – The Dune Part Two trailer has arrived!

The trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part Two was just released. We’re seeing some new faces in Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, Austin Butler as Feyd, Lea Seydoux as Lady Margot and Christopher Walken as the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. I like Javier Bardem’s Stilgar telling Paul to “Keep things simple.” here. So far, it’s looking good!

Dune Part Two will be released on November 3rd.

Music Video of the Day: Save Me From Myself by Christina Aguilera (2008, dir by Paul Korver)

Today’s music video of the day is for a song that appeared on the appropriately titled Back To Basics.  This video itself takes a pretty basic approach but it works.  “Save me from myself,” is something that I used to say to myself quite a bit, though eventually I realized that I only had my best interests at heart.