waynepygram.com: Double-Feature Movies Mini-Reviewed: Arabesque and Never Been Kissed

waynepygram.com: Double-Feature Movies Mini-Reviewed: Arabesque and Never Been Kissed

For this review's opening quote taken directly from the movie(s), just imagine a very drunk Gregory Peck bullfighting with typical busy motorway traffic, then randomly reenacting the iconic bicycle scene from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and then finally randomly reenacting the iconic police crash scene from Blues Brothers. And yes, this is something that actually happens in the movie.

(Arabesque)
What is it? Theatrical-released crime/spy thriller starring Gregory Peck and Sofia Loren with a run time of approximately 1 hour 26 minutes released all the way back in 1965. Arguably the golden age of this genre of movie (and family and romantic comedies, for that matter), except it'd be hard to tell with this one.
Where did it air? Well, again, it was originally a theatrical release back in the day (a pretty big budget one, in fact) - in this case it aired on TCM which if it's in your cable package you can probably just wait for it to inevitably return (or set your DVR to auto-record anything with Gregory Peck and/or Sofia Loren), but more conveniently you can probably either find it directly off an OnDemand/streaming service or just get it from your local library.
Who stars in it? Well, I already mentioned it stars Gregory Peck and Sofia Loren, and those are going to be far and away the biggest names/the ones people most care about now.
Why are we reviewing this? For the same reason why the third thing ever reviewed on this blog ended up being Fox's series version of Minority Report.


So I know I labeled this a mini-review but we're going to open up with a rant first.

One of the things you most often hear when you write a blog reviewing Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows, or when you read a lot of YA or are actively a YA enthusiast, is how for some reason things that are meant for tweens or teens can't be great. Granted aiming for a certain age demo doesn't automatically make it great, but it doesn't automatically make it awful either - and that "quality isn't automatically determined by age demo" thing works both ways. I'll concede something aimed for the extremely young demos as seen on Disney Junior and Nick Jr is more than likely not going to be praised for having a lot to offer to adults - like, say, PJ Masks or this new Top Wing show or Sunny Day or even say PAW Patrol.

...except apparently PAW Patrol has a huge older peripheral demo, who apparently tunes in for if nothing else how cute the pups are. And Doc McStuffins (at least the first few seasons, before they got stuck in that stupid Toy Hospital) and Elena of Avalor are legitimately really good. And apparently Mike really likes Mutt 'n Stuff - and I really like Blaze and the Monster Machines, especially since I can appreciate that they actually do a really good job explaining STEM concepts at this junior level (remember, despite how I present myself as being in the literary field with these critical reviews and book discussions, I'm an engineering background by undergrad degree!) And of course that expanding peripheral demo appeal has the potential to get larger the older you go - as we saw or are seeing with Good Luck Charlie, iCarly, Liv and Maddie, and Andi Mack.

So I don't buy the whole thing about "outgrowing" say for example YA or any given media, for that matter. Quality knows no age restriction, up or down. Something like 40-60% of YA readers are adults, depending who you ask. People who complain about "outgrowing" YA are probably reading the wrong kind of YA - or more specifically, utter schlocky crap like the kind that utterly flooded the market the previous decade and still gets pumped out a lot, or maybe just a genre YA book that's...just...written...very...poorly (believe me, there's a glut of those too). And true not every show is going to be like Andi Mack, and I have really weird tastes seeing as how I regard Every Witch Way to legitimately be great television (and hey it and Stuck in the Middle gives me something to share with my fake-abuela) but anybody who just writes off everything of this genre as being complete and total crap probably had a sampling size consisting of Bunk'd, Game Shakers and probably nothing else. Or had their hopes violently dashed by Girl Meets World.

...or they write for Deadspin.

Now obviously this doesn't exclude you from watching or reading "adult" stuff too. Yes, I read "grown up" novels too, and I watch "grown up" TV. But just because it's all "grown up" and especially just because it's "old" (or comes from some "golden age") doesn't mean it's going to be automatically good either.

Case in point - Arabesque. Let's start with that title, which, yes, it's exactly what you think it is. They wanted to give the film a foreign and exotic feel - so they do like what we Millennials do today and just stick "-esque" on the end like it's just a real, free-use suffix and not something someone makes up when they have two seconds to convince a teacher into a passing grade. Shockingly enough the genius who came up with this bright idea was Gregory Peck himself, WTF?

Anyway, the movie is essentially a copycat of a slightly earlier film, Charade, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Charade happens to be the only film those two had done together (although fun fact, Grant was originally up for the role opposite Hepburn in Roman Holiday but ultimately declined due to not wanting to be upstaged by Hepburn - yeah Grant had quite an ego on him - and to bring it back to this movie, of course that role ended up going to Gregory Peck instead) and while I've seen quite a few Grant and Hepburn movies (including the aforementioned Roman Holiday, which of course is hands down my favorite Hepburn movie) Charade still ranks as one of the top for either of them. What's funny enough is that the director of Charade went back to do, yes, Arabesque, this movie - hoping that lightning will strike twice.

Unfortunately, all it left was a big giant smokin' hole in the ground.

Where Charade had a smart, sophisticated plot that kept you guessing until the very end and tightly woven intrigue that never bothered to venture far from its main physical locale (most of the movie takes place in a singular hotel), Arabesque is just a big giant confusing mess, dropping most of its intriguing pretenses and starting the chase sequences 20 minutes in and consequently destroying much of the suspense or mystery. Yet it still manages to find time to introduce enough plot twists to make a Westworld android's head spin and fly off, the end effect being each plot twist effectively cancels out the preceding one and, again, just leading to an overburdened, confusing movie in search of any point to keep the viewer watching. 

And on top of all that, I don't know if the action sequences are cheesy enough to watch even ironically.

Movie Grade: Yeah, I'm giving this one a big, ole' fat F, for reals. Not bad enough to be good, just bad. It's on the same level as FOX's Minority Report or NBC's Grounded (oh, don't remember that show? Yeah, there's a reason).
Movie MVP: Ugh. You know what, I'm going to give it to Sophia Loren, for two very particular, specific reasons:
1.) She was in Howl's Moving Castle, and Howl's Moving Castle is badass
2.) She plays herself on an episode of The Sopranos, where Tony Soprano's nephew Christopher robs her and punches her in the face, in what has to be one of the greatest scenes in television history.

(Never Been Kissed)
What is it? Theatrical-released movie from 1999 (yes I know we're reviewing two super-ancient movies this time)
Where did it air? I think I've beaten the whole "you could've seen it in theaters" thing to death and given how long ago that was that's not helpful, but the idea is to emphasize that it should be readily available on DVD/Blu-Ray and pay-per-stream services, if not OnDemand from premium cable channels or even less. In this case I happened to have recorded it from TBS back around last Thanksgiving.
Who stars in it? Drew Barrymore by far the most famous star, Jessica Alba in one of her first film roles while adult-sized, a few other notable names here and there that...I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up. Octavia Spencer (who's a pretty big deal right now, thanks to movies like Hidden Figures and The Help, but was also the main villain in one of the Wizard of Waverly Place WizTech multi-episode arcs) is also in the movie...for, like, literally 48 seconds. I think she has like a line or two.
Why are we reviewing this? Well it's closer to what we ostensibly review here than Arabesque at least....

So, umm, this movie....

Like the last couple of movies I reviewed, excepting the other one included in this multi-review spectacular (D.E.B.S. and Ice Princess) this is another one of those tween/teen/young adult demo movies that I talked about in the last review, right at the beginning of that era I was talking about soon after the first American Pie. Unlike American Pie (and more like those other two) instead of being mostly a delivery vehicle for sex jokes with some semblance of plot, Never Been Kissed is actually pretty plot-heavy. But unlike any of those movies (well, I've never actually seen American Pie so I'm not sure...) Never Been Kissed is just...pretty terrible.

First of all, the basic plot itself is pretty skeevy - the owner and managing editor of the Chicago Sun-Times decides to send one of their reporters (Drew Barrymore) undercover to a local high school to try to dig something up. What something? Well, anything, they don't particularly care, and later they decide to try to have her seduce one of her teachers to drum up a sex scandal. Besides being arguably entrapment under false pretenses (Drew's character is the same age as herself, 25) it's just skeevy as hell. And the rest of the plot, when it's not so skeevy (admittedly that plot point is the skeevyist, although there's a minor subplot involving Drew's also adult brother trying to seduce a teen girl), well...it's pretty clear that the writers have very little clue in terms of how actual teens behave, or people who work and write at a newspaper...or just people in general. I do think being able to go back to high school as an adult with all that hindsight and maturity and being able to rock it where you'd previously barely survived being a big pile of social fail is a pretty common form of serious wish fulfillment there, but this movie just majorly bungled it up.

I wouldn't go so far as to pull out what AV Club said about The Secret Life of the American Teenager being written and developed by aliens whose sole conception of humanity comes from watching Freeform, but one has to wonder just who they were writing this movie for, who they were writing this movie about and indeed if they have any connection with reality regarding what teens or living, breathing people are looking for in this genre, or just how actual real people even behave. Or even caricatures of something vaguely resembling the type of walking talking being one would observe inhabiting the same universe as The Simpsons.

Movie Grade: D-. Yup, in addition to being really old, both these movies also have being really terrible in common. It's getting a D- mostly because, upon further reflection, I think I'd still rather watch this than a typical Bunk'd episode. But it's pretty close.
Movie MVP: Leelee Sobieski because...ugh, this is gonna date me sooo bad...but around the time this movie came out I was just becoming a high school freshman, and in this movie she looks and acts like the type of girl I was really into at that time, much more than even Jessica Alba's character.

Not to mention, she probably ends up being the best actor with the most human-acting character out of this whole mess anyway. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - Just that this movie seemed like it had a lot of promise but...yeah. Big gigantic mess.

 - Something was also brought to my attention regarding my mini (well, rather not-so-mini) review of Matchwits, a high school quiz show on local PBS namely concerning its host Craig Eliot. In regards to where the hell they'd get this putz?, he's apparently the weatherman for one of the Colorado Springs stations, and...he's apparently survived a horrible accident that's left him with a brain injury.

Yeahhhhhhh...gonna have to wise up and admit to having egg on my face when I advocated firing him, and I guess I'm also forced to take back any criticism about him.

That said, it's very clear that the majority of the show's faults lie in how the competition is organized and run, much of which have nothing to do with Eliot - including the ridiculously lopsided blowouts from most matches (again, most matches being mathematically decided well before the halfway point) so I stand by my F grade.

Baca Juga
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