Tag Archives: Billy Zane

The Phantom (1996, Simon Wincer)

The Phantom has three distinct visual spaces, more or less corresponding to the three acts. First act is in the remote jungle, second act is modern age–New York City–third act is evil villain pirate stronghold. Underground evil villain pirate stronghold. The last half hour of the movie is the cast running around a “slightly better than dinner theatre” pirate set, not a great way to go out.

Because The Phantom does have some excellent actions sequences, usually involving horses, sometimes involving wolves and horses communicating. The Phantom works best when it’s just going with the absurdity. Director Wincer has no sense of humor, which explains James Remar’s performance, but also very little sense with his actors, which explains Kristy Swanson’s. Wincer just wants to do the action, everything else is treading water.

So there are a couple fine action sequences, nicely cut by editors O. Nicholas Brown and Bryan H. Carroll, who don’t really impress at all otherwise. They improve–the first act has some jagged cuts–but they don’t impress other than the two horse sequences.

After the second horse sequence, when it seems like there might not be anything to match in absurdity, Treat Williams finally just becomes utterly consumable by the material and transfixes. Even when the film can’t keep up–either in terms of Wincer or just the special effects budget–Williams just barrels on. He gets The Phantom to the third act; the film then ingloriously dumps him until the last fight.

The terrible last fight on an underground pirate ship. It looks like a theme restaurant. Paul Peters’s production design is always a little questionable in the jungle sequence, but it’s supposed to be too much. The pirate ship isn’t too much, it’s way too little. The New York stuff is all interesting and sometimes successful. The budget gets in the way, but Peters and Wincer try to work it.

The music doesn’t help. Let’s just get the music out of the way. David Newman’s score is shockingly tepid. There’s no more lukewarm music for a dressed-in-purple bodysuit thirties adventurer picture than Newman’s score. It’s not even exciting enough for a movie trailer.

The film does have a good “star” in Billy Zane. Wincer doesn’t really want to use him–The Phantom is the star of the movie. It’s a bad move, hiding what an asset Zane’s likability is going to be, particularly since the only initial time Zane gets out of mask is bickering with ghost dad Patrick McGoohan. But after it becomes clear Swanson is a wash–and before Williams steps up–Zane’s strange, sweet, goof makes it all work. It does start when he’s in costume, however; he flirts with Swanson after rescuing her. Swanson doesn’t give much back, but Zane’s showing off, trying to hold The Phantom together. He’s the hero of the movie not just because of the purple tights.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is great as one of Williams’s cronies. It ends up being a better part than Swanson’s would-be adventurer, partially because Swanson doesn’t have the skills or enthusiasm, but also because Swanson’s part sucks. She starts out playing second-fiddle to crusading newspaper uncle Bill Smitrovich and annoying admirer Jon Tenney. And Smitrovich is badly presented–the script, the direction–but Tenney’s almost all right. He’s cloying but he’s trying hard. Swanson doesn’t take advantage of any of it and Wincer’s not paying attention. He’s not doing thirties screwball, he’s doing thirties serial.

McGoohan’s annoying, but it might not be his fault. Regardless, he’s entirely miscast. John Capodice is good though. Casey Siemaszko’s not. David Proval’s almost good half the time; script gets him good in the end.

The Phantom is a competently executed, poorly conceived mess of a motion picture. Though Williams, Zeta-Jones, and Zane certainly deserve some kudos.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Simon Wincer; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on the comic strip by Lee Falk; director of photography, David Burr; edited by O. Nicholas Brown and Bryan H. Carroll; music by David Newman; production designer, Paul Peters; produced by Robert Evans and Alan Ladd Jr.; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Billy Zane (The Phantom), Kristy Swanson (Diana Palmer), Treat Williams (Xander Drax), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Sala), James Remar (Quill), Jon Tenney (Jimmy Wells), Robert Coleby (Capt. Philip Horton), David Proval (Charlie), Bill Smitrovich (Uncle Dave Palmer), Patrick McGoohan (Phantom’s Dad), and John Capodice (Al the Cabby).


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Lake Consequence (1993, Rafael Eisenman)

For a late night cable movie–how’s that description for a euphemism–Lake Consequence is shockingly okay. It runs ninety minutes (to facilitate more airings, undoubtedly) and it actually runs too long. The film’s at its best during the final third, when hunky tree trimmer Billy Zane has to get the bored housewife he’s been dallying around with (Joan Severance) back to her family.

Actually, without the middle, where Severance gets sucked into Zane’s absurdly sensual lifestyle–which includes Hollie L. Hummel as Zane’s lady friend and a small California mountain town entirely populated by Chinese people–it might even be good. Why is this small town important? So there can be a parade and a bathhouse and truly some amazing editing.

That sensual middle is a narrative waste of time and lengthy enough it plods, but between Harris Savides’s photography, the editing from James Gavin Bedford and Curtis Edge and George S. Clinton’s score, it’s wonderful filmmaking. Besides being too long, the problem–at least as far as how the narrative incorporates it–is the symbolism. Director Eisenman–and, to be fair, the script–goes overboard with the symbolism. Instead of Severance getting to act, she instead makes outlandish symbolic gestures.

They’re way too much and they drag the movie down. Until she and Zane get on the road, anyway.

Zane’s good in the mysterious romance novel stranger role, Severance is good, Hummel is terrible (so’s her part). Whip Hubley’s awful as Severance’s husband.

Consequence is accomplished (with qualifications).

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Rafael Eisenman; screenplay by Zalman King, Melanie Finn and Henry Cobbold, based on a story by MacGregor Douglas; director of photography, Harris Savides; edited by James Gavin Bedford and Curtis Edge; music by George S. Clinton; production designer, Dominic Watkins; produced by Avram ‘Butch’ Kaplan; aired by Showtime.

Starring Billy Zane (Billy), Joan Severance (Irene), Hollie L. Hummel (Grace), Courtland Mead (Christopher), Dan Reed (Xiao) and Whip Hubley (Jim).


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Ghost of Goodnight Lane (2014, Alin Bijan)

Ghost of Goodnight Lane is nearly okay. It's definitely amusing throughout–director and co-writer Bijan inexplicably throws on a terrible epilogue thing–and the constant joking really helps it. Most of the scenes play like a horror movie spoof, only one where the movie doesn't take the time to laugh at itself. There's a joke, there's a moment for the viewer to laugh or smile, but there's a prolonged delay. It moves. But then there are also these lame insert shots of the haunted house with bad CG ominous weather. And the movie's about a small film production company, so there should be some acknowledgment of the disconnect–a movie changing in editing.

There are a couple good running jokes and they're always coming at the most inappropriate time. It's set in Dallas, not Hollywood, which makes the apathy somehow more grounded. And funny.

The most important component are the leads. Billy Zane plays the dimwit narcissist director and producer. He's hilarious. Every line delivery is played for maximum effect (and humor). Lacey Chabert and Matt Dallas are the young couple working for him. They're both good. Neither has much to do, but they're likable and play off Zane's silliness well.

Christine Bently is surprisingly solid as the bimbo actress. Actually, all of the supporting players are fine except Lynn Andrews III. He's bad (and is in the first act a lot).

Bijan occasionally has some good shots.

Ghost goes on too long, but thanks to cast and script, it has its moments.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Alin Bijan; written by Bijan and Amy Acosta; director of photography, David Blood; edited by Bijan and Jonny Revolt; music by Amin Emam; production designers, Adam Dietrich and Matthew Englebert; released by Inception Media Group, LLC.

Starring Billy Zane (Alan), Lacey Chabert (Dani), Matt Dallas (Ben), Adam Whittington (Johnny), Christine Bently (Laurel Matthews), Danielle Harris (Chloe), Brina Palencia (Micah), Lynn Andrews III (Amin), John Franklin (Nico), Allyn Carrell (Thelma) and Richard Tyson (Ron).


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Memphis Belle (1990, Michael Caton-Jones)

Memphis Belle runs just around an hour and fifty minutes. It takes the film about a half hour before it’s even clear the titular plane is going to have a mission in the narrative. It opens with a masterful introduction to the characters and the situation (a bomber has one more mission before the crew completes their tour of duty). There are a lot of problems with Monte Merrick’s script, but his framing is great. He has the PR officer (played by John Lithgow) introduce everyone; it works beautifully in the narrative.

Caton-Jones’s composition is fantastic from the first shot. Too bad Merrick’s writing falls apart. First, it’s little things, like D.B. Sweeney—the only character to openly scared—having some lame dialogue. It’s not too damaging… but then Eric Stoltz’s part gets bigger. And Stoltz is truly awful. With so many principals, Merrick’s already resorting to caricature. He proceeds to give Stoltz, who’s laughable, too much attention.

But Merrick and Caton-Jones also awkwardly make the captain useless. Matthew Modine has the less to do than any other actor, including David Strathairn as the base commander. At least Strathairn has some real dialogue. Modine just gets to look scared.

There are some great performances though. Billy Zane gives the film’s best performance, but Reed Diamond and Tate Donovan are excellent as well.

The special effects are good. George Fenton’s music is lame. The sound design is great.

While it’s not terrible, it’s too bad Memphis Belle isn’t good.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones; written by Monte Merrick; director of photography, David Watkin; edited by Jim Clark; music by George Fenton; production designer, Stuart Craig; produced by David Puttnam and Catherine Wyler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Matthew Modine (Capt. Dennis Dearborn), Eric Stoltz (Sgt. Danny Daly), Tate Donovan (1st Lt. Luke Sinclair), D.B. Sweeney (Lt. Phil Lowenthal), Billy Zane (Lt. Val Kozlowski), Sean Astin (Sgt. Richard Moore), Harry Connick Jr. (Sgt. Clay Busby), Reed Diamond (Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger), Courtney Gains (Sgt. Eugene McVey), Neil Giuntoli (Sgt. Jack Bocci), David Strathairn (Col. Craig Harriman) and John Lithgow (Lt.Col. Bruce Derringer).


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