Ultimate 90’s Blogathon Wrap-up: Wild Wild West (1999) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

We have arrived, ladies and gents! We are at the final day of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon and both my fantastically awesome co-host Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews and I will be sharing our final wrap-up posts on each other’s sites. First to share is Drew with his review of 1999’s Wild Wild West. Will Smith, Kenneth Brannagh, humor and wild west…

Take it away, Drew!

Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up.  Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety.  Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy.  Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign.  Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula.  Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older.  Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like.  Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together.  This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too.  The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance.  Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role.  It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that.  Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves.  I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene


Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Remember to head over to Drew’s later today to see my wrap-up post!
Hint: Its also a triple feature (just like my kick-off)!

Joueuse/Queen to Play (2009)

I haven’t played chess in ages.  I was never a great player at it plus as nerdy as I was, it never appealed to me either.  Except I can see the appeal of it for others, no judgment or anything.  Its a great game to hone logic and strategy.  Its the exact reason why I don’t play strategic RPG’s.  Its puzzling as to not only when but why I put this on my Netflix list.  I hesitated a little in even giving this a shot (since I had 5 movies expiring) but seeing as it had a decent RT score, I decided to give it a shot, and realized it was a French movie…haha!

Lets check it out, shall we?

queen to play joueuseDirector: Caroline Bottaro

Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud, Alice Pol

Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire) is a chambermaid for a small hotel on the countryside somewhere in France.  As a means to help out the family, she also takes on cleaning jobs on the side.  One morning, as she goes to clean out a room, she sees on the balcony, the guests engaged in an intriguing game of chess, a game she’s unfamiliar with at all due to her low education level.  She becomes interested in it and as a gift, she gives her husband, Ange (Francis Renaud) an electronic set for his birthday.  He doesn’t know to do with it and sets it aside.  One night, she pulls it out and slowly, her obsession grows as she self-teaches with very little success and this is when she asks her boss at the house, an American expat Dr. Kroger (Kevin Kline) to teach her. As her interest gains, her schedule gets stretched out of form which also puts stress on her marriage and her family and it comes down to making a choice between her family and her love of chess.

queen to play

How do I start this? Seriously, I really don’t know how.  Queen to Play is a decent 90+ minutes runtime French dramedy.  Queen to Play uses a rather calm game like chess to bring out an exciting side of life.  Helene is a middle age woman.  Her marriage lacks the spark it once had.  Her daughter is an adolescent and doesn’t spend as much time at home.  She is constantly the balance for the arguments between her husband and her daughter.  Its a lackluster life and part of it, she craves for change.  The game of chess is new to her but when she sees how a couple can sit together playing this game and feel the intensity coming off, she is intrigued by it.  Although her husband doesn’t seem to be interested in learning something new, she puts in the spare time she has to do it.  In this perseverance,  the audience sees the appealing and hardworking, and especially intelligent woman behind this simple woman on the countryside.  She meets resistance, of course, as her life transforms because of this new hobby. This leads me to say that this is the best part of this movie and its plot: the character development of Helene played by Sandrine Bonnaire.  I’ve never seen Sandrine Bonnaire before, because I lack the experience of watching French films, however she is a captivating actress.  She is able to take this simple role and transform it into something really engaging to watch.

Queen to Play

The story itself is nothing outstanding by itself without her.  For the most part, you can predict what will happen and it does fall in a certain formula except other than Sandrine’s performance, everyone else is also pretty fantastic. One of the reasons I was drawn to watch this is because of Kevin Kline.  I’ve only really seen him in one other movie, French Kiss with Meg Ryan, and I absolutely love it.  That was when he was very much younger and its a completely different sort of movie except I completely believe that he is a great actor as well.  Kevin Kline is Sandrine’s tutor, friend, boss and encouragement.  Although his character, Dr. Kroger also leads a quiet and solitary lifestyle, he brings a level of energy to the story and to Helene’s life.  He is the one who helps her see what chess is and what more she can get from it.  She lets her see her talents and to understand life a little more.  Its an inspiring relationship that they have for each other because they play off each other for most of the story.

Queen to Play

Moving along, aside from the whole chess story, Helene’s family is a side story along with her work and friends.  The runtime is short enough that we don’t really get much of her work thing sorted out too much and those characters never get much, nor do I think they really need to go too in depth, so I’m good with that.  However, her family is done well enough. I was reading some reviews saying how her family and marriage wasn’t too focused on.  I would disagree with that. Why? They gave screen time to the family as to what their lifestyle is and how their situation is as well.  They are poor and her daughter is ashamed of where they are, her husband worries that he will lose his job and there will not be enough money.  For even a little bit, I wondered if the movie would make this couple go through a divorce or something because it seemed like they didn’t seem to be in that happy place except its not that sort of movie.  However, it gives them resolution to where they are at and thats what makes it complete in this subplot.  In the end, Helene does this for herself but also to have something that her family can be proud of as well.

Queen to Play is different.  Chess can relate to life and it gives an empowerment to women at the same time, connecting the queen being the strongest piece in chess to Helene (and women in general).  It has its issues and it definitely won’t be for everyone.  It might even seem like you watched 90 minutes of nothing happening.  This is a journey of a woman who seeks change in a different way.  She finds a way to make herself worth something and finds the encouragement and the perseverance to seek it further.  The story might not be special but the performances here are absolutely fantastic.  Sandrine Bonnaire is an actress I will definitely start seeking out more movies with her in it.  Kevin Kline is inspirational to watch and even the husband played by Francis Renaud (who doesn’t seem to have done much) is great.

Have you seen Queen to Play? Are you familiar with French films? Are you an avid chess player?

Valentine’s Marathon Kicks off with…

How many of you guessed that I’d be doing a Valentine’s day marathon? Well, I think I probably talked about it here and there, but I don’t remember if I did.  So today, I finally finalized the list.  Last year, I did a Ten Faves Romantic Comedy (which you could find HERE).  No full reviews or anything since I wasn’t really doing many reviews then. So this year, seeing as I am committing myself to reviewing more and seeing that my whole (hectic, for me) Christmas marathon turned out pretty good and I had loads of fun.  I learned to lower my burden of movies and selected randomly from what I own a list for this year’s Valentine’s marathon.  Rest assured..so are new to my collection, maybe not new releases per se but I haven’t seen them so it’ll be a fresh look.  I plan on doing 10 movies for this marathon but the list won’t be revealed, you’ll just have to come back and check it out :).  It’ll have rom-coms and romantic dramas, that sort of thing.

So let’s start this off!

First movie up is FRENCH KISS (1995)! If you’re in Canada and only had bunny ears (like I did and still do), I remember my high school years having this movie come up at least 2-3 times EVERY YEAR.  You’d think I’d be sick of it but somehow it grew on me. Maybe its because I love Meg Ryan but we’ll see later…once I give you all a little plot and details.

french kiss

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Cast: Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, Timothy Hutton, Jean Reno

Kate (Meg Ryan), a woman waiting for her Canadian citizenship in Toronto, and Charlie (Timothy Hutton), a doctor in Toronto are engaged.  Charlie has to fly to Paris for conferences and asks Kate to go with her but because of her citizenship issues and her fear of flying, she stays in Toronto until one day, Charlie calls and tells her that he wants to call off the engagement because he’s found the love of his life, Juliette. Kate picks up her courage and flies over to Paris to get back her fiance.  On plane, she meets Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline) who is French and also puts his vine and stolen bracelet into her bag to cross customs.  Because of that, Luc eventually gets tracked down by an inspector (Jean Reno) who is also a good friend of his. With a few accidents and mishaps, they end up having to cross paths and eventually accompany each other through Kate’s journey in France.

This is a fantastic way to start my marathon because this may not be one of the best romantic comedies widely known but to me, it holds a place in the awesome.  I say that not due to the plot because it is predictable at times but to the cast and characters.   I’ve probably mentioned it before, but romantic comedies are all about the chemistry between their characters.  In this one, Meg Ryan is great at being her scared of everything self, a woman who is scared of change or feeling hurt and the negatives in life.  When she meets someone who appears to be her complete opposite, you just can’t help but to laugh.  Kevin Kline has this charisma when he talks (or maybe its his French accent).  Their debates and his reasonings for everything is plain awesomeness.

For example: When he first meets her on a plane and she panicking about it taking off.

Luc: What do you think, the plane is going to crash and we are all on the ground in a thousand pieces dead? I promise you, if it happens, you won’t feel a thing.
Kate: You’re French, aren’t you?

I grabbed that from IMDB quickly to give you an idea but its not the same with the whole scenario and acting going on.  Plus, I’m starting to notice these trivial things but the glimpse of the TV in the beginning of the movie was a NHL game of Habs/Montreal Canadians as one of the teams playing on the hockey game.  I have a thing against NHL and the team but whenever a Habs game goes on, I still want them to win…secretly.  I’ll explain that another day but back to the last thing about the movie…

The music.   It introduced me to the French version of a song that I extremely adore and not to mention lots of other great songs that went great well with this movie.  So here it is, the French version of Dream a Little Dream of Me (is that the name?) called Les Yeux Ouverts.

This may not be a strong point for a romantic comedy but I’m happy that my Valentine’s marathon started with this.  It was fun and charismatic set in the beautiful France.  Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline was fantastic. Best of all, it was just an awesome feel good movie.  I recommend it with the warning that you have to be okay with a normal story line but in it only for the chemistry.  If that’s the case, you can come out of this happy.

I feel like I watch a lot of movies that aren’t great or haven’t really been popular.

Does anyone know this rom-com? Like it or dislike it? How about a Meg Ryan fan? I know I miss her appearing on screen a lot.