Tag Archives: Chris Elliott

Kingpin (1996, Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly)

The Farrelly Brothers created the mainstream gross-out comedy here in Kingpin, with all the familiar trappings–a familiar, if somewhat independently minded cast (Chris Elliot is in Kingpin), the star in need of a hit (Bill Murray), the popular soundtrack, and the storyline entirely capable of being tame, then ramped up for the belly laughs.

The difference between Kingpin and what came after, and the Farrelly Brothers made lots of them, until they finally stopped having hits (they have finally stopped making hits, haven’t they–I try not to see their movies), is Woody Harrelson. Harrelson turns in an exceptional performance in Kingpin, turning his (dirty) comic strip character into a full-fledged human being by the end. One of the great things the Farrelly Brothers do here is keep him gross throughout. Even after he turns the corner, he’s still bald with a comb-over (lots of comb-overs, Murray’s being the most stunning), with terrible teeth.

The film’s a rehash of The Color of Money, just with bowling and forty-six year-old Randy Quaid playing a twenty-something. Quaid’s great too, but it’s hardly a stretch. In his best dramatic scenes, he seems to be imitating his brother, actually.

Vanessa Angel is fine as the sexpot with the heart of gold (she’s kind of like a Rosanna Arquette who can act).

Also impressive are the bowling scenes, when it becomes a straight narrative, only with Harrelson in his absurd makeup.

It’s fantastic, hilarious and exceptionally confident.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly; written by Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Christopher Greenbury; music by Freedy Johnston; production designer, Sidney J. Bartholomew Jr.; produced by Brad Krevoy, Steven Stabler and Bradley Thomas; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Woody Harrelson (Roy Munson), Randy Quaid (Ishmael), Vanessa Angel (Claudia), Bill Murray (Ernie McCracken) and Chris Elliott (the Gambler).


RELATED

Advertisements

The Abyss (1989, James Cameron), the special edition

Running almost three hours, the special edition of The Abyss manages to be too long in an interesting way. It forgets its story. There’s about an hour there with the valiant undersea oil workers battling the psychotic military man–there’s fight scenes and chase scenes and drama scenes and all sorts of scenes… just nothing about the movie’s actual story, which is something to do with space aliens saving the human race from itself. Cameron’s thesis is incredibly naive and also a fantastic cop-out. Thanks to some newsreel footage of Americans being asked about being on the brink with the Soviets, its clear Cameron puts all the blame for xenophobia on the military. It’s a very, very goofy move… and wholly lifted from 2010 (I think from both the book and the movie).

But The Abyss is highly derivative. Cameron borrows storytelling techniques from all the finest sources (Irwin Allen mostly) and comes up with a rather amusing, well-acted undersea action melodrama. It’s perfectly fine. Well, except Michael Biehn. As the nutso Navy SEAL, Biehn’s supposed to be suffering from the bends and, therefore, not responsible for going insane. Except, with a few exceptions, Cameron never goes and makes Biehn anything but a nutso jerk even before the insanity sets in. And Biehn doesn’t even try to work it in as a subtext. He’s the movie villain. He’s not all together bad, but he’s not good.

Almost every performance is excellent, otherwise (except Christopher Murphy, who Cameron appears to have cast from a weightlifting advertisement). In particular, Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Both are good throughout, but it’s really at the end when they excel, when they’re acting by themselves. Harris can’t talk and does everything with his eyes, Mastrantonio can’t move and does everything in close-up with her voice. Spectacular acting from the two of them, so much so, when they finally to get back to regular scenes… Cameron’s script is a real letdown. Supporting-wise, Todd Graff, Kimberly Scott, Leo Burmester are all great in the most vocal (and funny) roles. John Bedford Lloyd is also good, in a much quieter part.

Cameron’s direction of groups is impressive, even if the editing doesn’t always match. He gives everyone something to do and, as he has lots of group shots, it makes The Abyss a congenial experience (which is why it doesn’t feel like three hours).

But the movie fails–thanks to Cameron’s goofy ending–when it should succeed. For a few moments, Cameron gets close to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and then manages to screw it all up with his pedestrian plotting. He cut two scripts together–Ed Harris vs. Rambo underwater, underwater aliens make their presence known–and somehow, in three hours, didn’t achieve either.

I need to take a moment to comment on Alan Silvestri’s highly derivative (of his own work) score. There’s a lot of good material, but then there’s a lot of mediocre. And maybe even some bad.

So it fits The Abyss well, I suppose.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by James Cameron; director of photography, Mikael Salomon; edited by Conrad Buff IV, Joel Goodman, Howard E. Smith and Steven Quale; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Leslie Dilley; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Van Ling; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ed Harris (Bud), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Lindsey), Michael Biehn (Coffey), Leo Burmester (Catfish), Todd Graff (Hippy), John Bedford Lloyd (Jammer), J.C. Quinn (Sonny), Kimberly Scott (One Night), Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. (Lew Finler), George Robert Klek (Wilhite), Christopher Murphy (Schoenick), Adam Nelson (Ensign Monk), Dick Warlock (Dwight Perry), Jimmie Ray Weeks (Leland McBride), J. Kenneth Campbell (DeMarco), Ken Jenkins (Kirkhill) and Chris Elliott (Bendix).


RELATED

Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis)

Groundhog Day falls under my rewatch category–the films I used to love (or like), but haven’t seen in five or six years. These films are ones that I saw multiple times, back when I used to see things multiple times. I think that practice disappeared when I discovered AMC in 1996 or so.

I was a little worried. I’ve seen Multiplicity, which I never thought was as good, more recently than not and it had me doubting the power of Harold Ramis. I hadn’t checked until now, but Movielens predicts a three and a half for Groundhog Day, which is damn close. Groundhog Day wasn’t just a pleasant surprise, it was a pleasant experience. I could skim over the philosophy of the film, its thesis, but imagine if Frank Capra had made a movie with Humphrey Bogart. It probably would have been close to Groundhog Day (except Bogart would have worked for a newspaper). I’ve never used the term Capraesque and haven’t particularly liked the usage of it I have read, but I think Groundhog Day is definitely Capraesque. I think he would have appreciated its thesis.

The film’s structure kept impressing me and I kept wondering where I was on time–a similar experience to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Groundhog Day is particularly nice in its intensity, it never shows or tells too much, just enough to inform the viewer and move the story along. The film’s flow is very important and there are a few mistakes–the most glaring is Chris Elliot’s character becoming a buffoon, which the mean Bill Murray always thought he was anyway. I remembered, watching it, that I’d made that observation before.

Groundhog Day Murray is probably Murray at his best, or near it. While he’s developed into a good dramatic actor, there’s an air of desperation that he hasn’t been able to shake since Rushmore. With the possible exception of The Royal Tenenbaums, it’s impossible to ignore it–it’s a sign on his back that says “I Want an Oscar.” Groundhog Day is before any such aspiration and it’s a sad reminder of how nice it was not to have to see it.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Harold Ramis; screenplay by Danny Rubin and Ramis, based on a story by Rubin; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Pembroke J. Herring; music by George Fenton; production designer, David Nichols; produced by Trevor Albert and Ramis; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Bill Murray (Phil Connors), Andie MacDowell (Rita), Chris Elliott (Larry), Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson), Brian Doyle-Murray (Buster Green), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Angela Paton (Mrs. Lancaster), Rick Ducommun (Gus), Rick Overton (Ralph), Robin Duke (Doris, the waitress), Carol Bivins (Anchorwoman) and Willie Garson (Kenny).


RELATED