Tag Archives: Art LaFleur

What’s Cookin’ (1992, Gilbert Adler)

The opening titles for What’s Cookin’ give a little too much away. They draw too much attention to Judd Nelson, who doesn’t fit with the rest of the cast title cards. Christopher Reeve, Bess Armstrong, even Art LaFleur. The episode has a certain type of cast member and a Judd Nelson “special appearance” is noteworthy.

Reeve and Armstrong own a restaurant. Nelson is the drifter who cleans up around the place. Do he and Armstrong run off together? No. But Judd Nelson in a “special appearance” as a drifter? There’s got to be something funny about that guy. A.L. Katz and director Alder’s script doesn’t get very interested in character. It’s not clear Reeve and Armstrong are even married until it’s needed in expository conversation. They might have a sort of sitcom chemistry, but Adler doesn’t ask them to have chemistry. He directs What’s Cookin’ like they never got to rehearse it.

Needless to say, Nelson proves to be trouble. There are two big twists–with only the first one forecast, though the second one is obvious, there’s no attempt at forecasting. Instead, the second twist is just a way to hurriedly tidy up all the plot threads.

The episode has occasional moments where the cast would be fully capable of doing something better, but Adler never goes for it. He relies entirely on the predictable plotting. What’s Cookin’ is a MacGuffin in search of its host.

And Nelson’s really bad. He’s supposed to be creepy. Instead, he’s just bad. Some of it is Adler’s fault. But not much of it.

Reeve’s passable, though clearly just cashing a paycheck. Armstrong comes off the best, though still significantly weighed down by Alder’s lousy direction.

The funny thing is–Katz and Adler miss the most obvious twist to explore. Reeve’s always the patsy. There’s too much emphasis on Nelson to explore the possibilities of the tired concept. The majority of the actors in What’s Cookin’ deserve better engagement from the director. It should’ve been much better with this cast.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Gilbert Adler; teleplay by A.L. Katz and Adler, based on a comic book by William M. Gaines; “Tales from the Crypt” created by Steven Dodd; director of photography, John R. Leonetti; edited by Robert DeMaio; music by Nicholas Pike; production designer, Gregory Melton; aired by HBO.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Fred), Bess Armstrong (Erma), Art LaFleur (Phil), Meat Loaf (Chumley) and Judd Nelson (Gaston).



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THIS POST IS PART OF THE 31 DAYS OF TALES FROM THE CRYPT HOSTED BY BUBBAWHEAT OF CHANNEL SUPERHERO.


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Trancers: City of Lost Angels (1988, Charles Band)

Tracers: City of Lost Angels was originally intended to be part of an anthology film but it doesn’t feel much like a short subject. With the obviously limited budget, director Band treats it like a television production more than a film. Most of the action plays out in one or two of the sets. It’s all very constrained.

It’s also rather intelligently handled. Without any budget, the story mostly involves Tim Thomerson’s problems with girlfriend Helen Hunt. He’s from the future, living in his ancestor’s body, she has to be the breadwinner–it’s a difficult situation all around. Thomerson and Hunt (who’s basically just cameoing) are both wonderful. Writers Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson frequently surprise with the character developments.

Lost Angels is a fine effort. The sincerity and the concept–spoofing hard-boiled detectives, but without drawing too much attention to the absurdities–work out surprisingly well (awkward plotting aside, of course).

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Charles Band; written by Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; music by Mark Ryder and Phil Davies; production designer, Giovanni Natalucci; released by Full Moon Features.

Starring Tim Thomerson (Jack Deth), Helen Hunt (Leena), Art LaFleur (McNulty), Telma Hopkins (Engineer Raines), Alyson Croft (Baby McNulty), Grace Zabriskie (Warden) and Velvet Rhodes (Edlin Shock).


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The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

The Blob is a mixed bag. On one hand, director Russell does a good job throughout and he and Frank Darabont’s script is well-plotted. On the other hand, the script will occasionally have some idiotic dialogue and the actors just stumble and fall through it.

Similarly the special effects. There’s a lot of good work on the Blob effects, but the composites are often iffy. Russell does come up with an amazing, strobe flash sequence for the movie theater attack. Photographer Mark Irwin does quite well too, which makes the bad composite shots all the more perplexing.

Russell and Darabont plot the film to be a constant surprise, at least for the first half or so. Even after establishing traditionally safe characters are not, they still manage to surprise with how they take things.

A lot of the effects thrills are derivative, but Russell still manages them with aplomb. It helps he’s got Shawnee Smith in the lead. She sort of stumbles into the lead after a couple false starts and does exceedingly well. The film often succeeds simply for putting Smith in somewhat awkward set pieces and character interactions.

Kevin Dillon and Donovan Leitch play her two admirers, sort of. Leitch is the jock, Dillon the punk. Dillon’s appealing, but his dialogue’s often terrible. Leitch somehow manages to be likable if painfully straight edge.

Very nice supporting turns from Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark and Paul McCrane. Terrible one from Jon Seneca.

The Blob’s problematic, but it’s not bad.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Russell, screenplay by Russell and Frank Darabont, based on an earlier screenplay by Theodore Simonson and Kay Linaker and a story by Irvine H. Millgate; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Tod Feuerman and Terry Stokes; music by Michael Hoenig; production designer, Craig Stearns; produced by Jack H. Harris and Elliot Kastner; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Shawnee Smith (Meg Penny), Kevin Dillon (Brian Flagg), Donovan Leitch (Paul Taylor), Jeffrey DeMunn (Sheriff Herb Geller), Candy Clark (Fran Hewitt), Joe Seneca (Dr. Meddows), Del Close (Reverend Meeker), Paul McCrane (Deputy Bill Briggs), Sharon Spelman (Mrs. Penny), Michael Kenworthy (Kevin Penny), Douglas Emerson (Eddie Beckner), Beau Billingslea (Moss Woodley), Ricky Paull Goldin (Scott Jeske) and Art LaFleur (The Pharmacist).


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Trancers (1985, Charles Band)

There’s something real strange about Trancers. It’s not the film’s obvious references to early 1980s sci-fi successes, Blade Runner and The Terminator (cop travels back in time to fight zombie bad guys who look like regular people). It’s certainly not the direction–while Trancers is incredibly low budget, $400,000 still was a few bucks in 1985, certainly enough for this story, which doesn’t need its future scenes. No, what’s strange about Trancers is its love story, between future cop Tim Thomerson and local girl Helen Hunt. It’s real good. The scenes between Hunt and Thomerson, though poorly written, are great.

I used to be a huge Helen Hunt fan, until she became a big movie star, then I noticed she was good when she didn’t have a kid. But in Trancers, she’s appealing, with a great acting sense. She’s around twenty-two in this film, but it’s a reasoned, mature performance. Thomerson is also good, but his acting is a completely different style. I saw Trancers initially, years ago, because Leonard Maltin gave it two and a half or something and based the rating on Thomerson’s comedic performance. Thomerson’s got a tough guy self-awareness in Trancers. The opening of the film–the future–is very film noir. The costumes, the dialogue. But, first it’s in a future cafe, so it shouldn’t really work, and then it’s on a sunny beach, so it shouldn’t work either… but it does. The absurdity of it works. But the scenes with Thomerson and Hunt, you get to watch these two vastly different acting styles, which ought to conflict, seamlessly connect. You enjoy seeing these two people act together.

Another bonus to Trancers (but not one significant enough to save it if not for the acting, which I also need to include Biff Manard in, he’s good) is the economical storytelling. It runs seventy-six minutes and, while the first act with all the future stuff is too long, the second and third acts are real well-paced. Actually, given its writers, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo are TV guys, it’s not surprising the second and third acts actually feel like a TV show plugged on to the end of (bad) feature’s first act. The writing’s not good, but the movie moves and it’s not bad enough to hinder the performances.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Charles Band; written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by Ted Nicolaou; music by Phil Davies and Mark Ryder; production designer, Jeff Staggs; released by Empire Pictures.

Starring Tim Thomerson (Jack Deth), Helen Hunt (Leena), Michael Stefani (Whistler), Art LaFleur (McNulty), Telma Hopkins (Engineer Ruthie Raines), Richard Herd (Chairman Spencer), Anne Seymour (Chairman Ashe), Miguel Fernandes (Officer Lopez) and Biff Manard (Hap Ashby).


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