Tag Archives: Louise Fletcher

invaders-80s

Invaders from Mars (1986, Tobe Hoober)

Invaders from Mars, while it’s occasionally obvious it’s a comedy, can’t seem to decide. For a while, Hooper directs it absolutely straight–which doesn’t do the film any favors. Hooper’s composition is excellent (he and cinematographer Daniel Pearl have some great Panavision shots) but there’s no menace. Hunter Carson plays a kid convinced aliens have landed and are taking over the townsfolk, including his parents, but Carson never seems too out of it.

The other acting in those scenes is the big problem. Laraine Newman is bad as Carson’s mom, even if she is somewhat likable. Timothy Bottoms is a little better, but still no great shakes. As Carson’s evil schoolteacher, Louise Fletcher is awful. For the scenes when Fletcher has to act really crazy, she’s even worse. It’s like Hooper told her to play it as a comedic role and she just couldn’t figure out how to do it.

Karen Black’s great as Carson’s only fellow human. It’s a thankless role for her, but she’s got some excellent scenes.

Just over halfway through, when Mars is really dragging, the military comes in and things get funnier (and better). James Karen’s great as the general who Carson and Black enlist to fight the aliens. The accelerated pace even makes up for the previously unexplained Mars space shuttle mission. Hooper really should have opened with that detail.

Christopher Young’s score helps a lot, as do good supporting turns in the latter half.

Mars is confused. Its lack of commitment sinks it.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tobe Hooper; screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, based on a screenplay by Richard Blake; director of photography, Daniel Pearl; edited by Alain Jakubowicz; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Leslie Dilley; produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus; released by Cannon Films.

Starring Hunter Carson (David Gardner), Karen Black (Linda Magnusson), Timothy Bottoms (George Gardner), Laraine Newman (Ellen Gardner), James Karen (Gen. Climet Wilson), Louise Fletcher (Mrs. McKeltch), Eric Pierpoint (Sgt. Maj. Rinaldi), Christopher Allport (Captain Curtis) and Bud Cort (Dr. Mark Weinstein).


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Russell Crowe stars in VIRTUOSITY, directed by Brett Leonard for Paramount Pictures.

Virtuosity (1995, Brett Leonard)

Virtuosity, being from the 1990s, is from the era when both Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington didn’t only appear in films directed by the Brothers Scott and Kelly Lynch was still in movies getting theatrical releases. It’s an early CG movie, with lots of computer references and set in the “near future.” It’s incredibly solid, however, for what it is–an action thriller.

Barely anything happens in the film not related to the main plot. There’s no romance between Washington and Lynch–partially, I’m sure, because of Washington’s boycott on interracial romances but also because there’s just no time for it. The movie’s present action is something like forty hours. Enough time to introduce conflict then go through a lot of action to resolve it.

While Washington’s great in the film, it’s a sturdy, leading man great. He’s barely charming here, as Virtuosity is well into his asexual film career (was it Gene Siskel who said he was the only guy who could play James Bond?). Instead it’s Crowe who gets to have all the fun, playing a psychotic virtual reality serial killer or something. It’s mostly about him just being crazy and good at it. It’s maybe not daring, but a lot more than what his acting has become.

Leonard’s a fine director. He can compose shots. It’s the 1990s, there’s a Peter Gabriel song over the end credits.

Unfortunately, the principal supporting cast member–Stephen Spinella–is beyond terrible. Amongst the sturdy character actors, he seriously hinders Virtuosity.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Brett Leonard; written by Eric Bernt; director of photography, Gale Tattersall; edited by B.J. Sears and Rob Kobrin; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Nilo Rodis-Jamero; produced by Gary Lucchesi; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Denzel Washington (Lt. Parker Barnes), Kelly Lynch (Madison Carter), Russell Crowe (SID 6.7), Stephen Spinella (Lindenmeyer), William Forsythe (William Cochran), Louise Fletcher (Elizabeth Deane), William Fichtner (Wallace), Costas Mandylor (John Donovan) and Kevin J. O’Connor (Clyde Reilly).


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Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall star in THIEVES LIKE US, directed by Robert Altman for United Artists.

Thieves Like Us (1974, Robert Altman)

Altman never does a film half-assed. Either it’s great or it’s shit. How one of his films can be shit is varied, but the shitty ones are always just plain… shitty. There’s no formula to figuring out how an Altman film is going to be–usually, if Altman thinks it’s shit, it’s good (M*A*S*H, The Player). Thieves Like Us is small, the big cast doesn’t occupy the running time. The main characters really are the main characters. I’ve been dreading Thieves for a few weeks now and I’m sorry I did. I probably should have checked the screenwriters. I would have felt better. Calder Willingham wrote Little Big Man, The Graduate, and Paths of Glory. I don’t know how you can get safer than him….

It’s not just the writing or the direction–Altman really likes setting a film in the 1930s, it lets him use radio programs instead of a score. That method seems very Altman-like. The cast, as they used to be in Altman films, is impeccable. Keith Carradine means little to me except his 1990s schlock work and Shelley Duvall has always just meant bad. Their romance holds the film together and it’s a wonderful little gem of a movie romance. You enjoy watching them fall in love. John Schuck and Bert Remsen are the other titular thieves and both are excellent. A pre-Cuckoo’s Nest Louise Fletcher shows up… It’s just a fantastic cast, great acting.

Of course, Thieves Like Us is not available on DVD in the US. I rented it from Nicheflix. It’s another title waiting for the rock stars at Sony to decide what to do with it (however, if they cancelled special editions of A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, how high a priority is Thieves going to be?). It’s no fair, of course, since there should be at least six good Altman films available on DVD and I doubt there are….

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Altman; screenplay by Calder Willingham, Joan Tewkesbury and Altman, based on the novel by Edward Anderson; director of photography, Jean Bouffety; edited by Lou Lombardo; produced by Jerry Bick; distributed by United Artists.

Starring Keith Carradine (Bowie), Shelley Duvall (Keechie), John Schuck (Chicamaw), Bert Remsen (T-Dub), Louise Fletcher (Mattie), Ann Latham (Lula) and Tom Skerritt (Dee Mobley).