Tag Archives: Billy Morrissette

Pump Up the Volume (1990, Allan Moyle)

Everything director Moyle does in Pump Up the Volume builds the rest of the film. It’s not exactly he’s building good will, he’s shaping the possibilities of the film. It makes for a film where you can have a car chase, a comic relief moment, an inspirational message and a quiet character moment all in the same five minutes.

For example, while Christian Slater is definitely the film’s lead, it’s questionable whether or not he’s the protagonist in the traditional sense. He guides the viewer through the film far less than his romantic interest, Samantha Mathis. Moyle isn’t doing a character study or even an epical high school student story. It turns out he’s doing a story about a high school and finding the most interesting people in it, while focusing harder on a couple of them.

The film’s construction is brilliant, down to how to opening titles establish the ground situation and some of Slater’s character. In the first half of the film, Moyle gives Slater a bunch of monologues, which Slater nails, but these sequences are also extremely well-constructed by Moyle and editors Larry Bock and Janice Hampton. They’re transfixing. Volume succeeds because Moyle figures out a way to make Slater’s pirate radio DJ just as compelling to the viewer as the film’s characters.

Slater and Mathis are both fantastic. Lots of great supporting performances–Billy Morrissette, Ellen Greene, Scott Paulin and Annie Ross are standouts.

Moyle crafts Pump Up the Volume precisely and to great success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Allan Moyle; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; edited by Larry Bock and Janice Hampton; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Rupert Harvey and Sandy Stern; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Christian Slater (Mark Hunter), Samantha Mathis (Nora Diniro), Ellen Greene (Jan Emerson), Scott Paulin (Brian Hunter), Mimi Kennedy (Marla Hunter), Cheryl Pollak (Paige Woodward), Billy Morrissette (Mazz Mazzilli), Andy Romano (Murdock), Anthony Lucero (Malcolm Kaiser), Robert Schenkkan (David Deaver) and Annie Ross (Loretta Creswood).


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The Westing Game (1997, Terence H. Winkless)

The Westing Game might be the perfect example of why a novel should never be turned into a movie. There are a lot of examples of the inverse, but watching Westing Game… it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to see a book adapted into a film again.

There are no redeeming qualities to the film, unless one wants to count Lewis Arquette not being atrocious like everyone else. Dylan Kelsey Hadley’s script is so bad, not even Ray Walston can deliver his lines well. Watching the movie, there’s not much to do besides pick out the worst performances.

What’s extraordinary about the film is how often director Winkless invites the viewer to laugh at the characters. Jim Lau’s Chinese restauranteur is a stereotype from the forties, Sally Kirkland’s neurotic, spinster secretary plays like… wait, I figured it out. Winkless and Hadley aren’t so much interested in adapting a novel as they are turning an episode of “Scooby Doo” into a movie.

A really bad episode of “Scooby Doo.”

The source novel is technically a kids’ book–it won the Newbery Medal, which is for juvenile fiction–so I assume the adaptation’s target audience is kids. Really dumb kids. The movie follows around Ashley Peldon, who’s tragically precocious and wise beyond her years.

It’s a big mistake, as Peldon’s awful. Though she’s not as bad as June Christopher, Diane Nadeau or Sandy Faison. The less said about Shane West–who plays a surprisingly fit disabled kid–the better.

Westing is atrocious.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Terence H. Winkless; screenplay by Dylan Kelsey Hadley, based on the novel by Ellen Raskin; director of photography, Kurt Brabbee; edited by Jim Makiej; music by Pamela Fuller; production designer, Stuart Blatt; produced by Julie Corman; released by Showtime.

Starring Ashley Peldon (Turtle Wexler), Diane Ladd (Berthe Erica Crow), Sally Kirkland (Sydelle Pulaski), Cliff De Young (Jake Wexler), Sandy Faison (Grace Wexler), June Christopher (Judge J.J. Ford), Lewis Arquette (Otis Amber), Diane Nadeau (Angela Wexler), Billy Morrissette (Edgar Plum), Jim Lau (James Shin Hoo), Shane West (Chris Theodorakis), Ernest Liu (Doug Hoo) and Ray Walston (Sandy McSouthers).