Tag Archives: Colleen Camp

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995, John McTiernan)

Until the tacked on finish, Die Hard with a Vengeance can do little wrong. It doesn’t aim particularly high, just high enough–it’s a symphony of action movie action (and violence) set in New York City; the city’s geography (at least movie familiar geography) plays less and less of a part as the runtime progresses, but director McTiernan and his crew are doing a large scale action movie over a wide setting and a constrained time period. The film takes place, without the tack on, in maybe nine hours. With the tack on, a few more.

Most of the city in crisis action happens in the first forty minutes or so. New York wakes up to a bombing in a department store. The unidentified terrorist (Jeremy Irons) calls the cops to demand Bruce Willis perform various tasks to prevent further bombings. On his first assignment, Willis involves local shopkeeper Sam Jackson. Irons likes the idea of Willis having a sidekick, so Jackson stays on. Larry Bryggman is Willis’s disapproving boss, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, and Anthony Peck are his disapproving coworkers. Willis, separated from his wife since the last Die Hard, is failing about to be fired. Much of the first half of the movie is Willis complaining about his hangover; whoever’s job it was to make his eyes blood shot did great work.

Once they’re teamed up, Irons changes from tasks to riddles, giving Willis and Jackson this amount of time to get to this New York location and solve this riddle. Along the way, Willis and Jackson bicker. Despite it being Willis’s franchise, Jackson is there to be the audience’s anchor. For a while, McTiernan wants Vengeance to seem reasonable… plausible… not entirely unrealistic. Soon after Irons finally shows up on screen–with mostly silent flunkies Nick Wyman and Sam Phillips (the third tier East German guys make more of an impression–Vengeance doesn’t care about its supporting villains)–Willis finally catches on to what’s going on and starts shooting people. Only, even though there were a bunch of cops around, he and Jackson are on their own now. It’s just their action movie. Albeit one with a very wide setting.

The first stunning action sequence is when Willis has to jump on a subway train. Vengeance has been pretty up until this point. Lovely photography from Peter Menzies Jr.–the film takes the passage of the sun through the day rather seriously–fine editing from John Wright, excellent production design from Jackson De Govia. But it’s not until half an hour in and Willis pulling up a subway grate and jumping down does Vengeance show off its technical expertise. Once it does, however, the floodgates are open. The scale of the subsequent action varies, but McTiernan and his crew are always executing these grandiose, complication sequences with utter success. It’s a breathtaking ride. And a lot of fun, because Willis and Jackson are a fun pair. Sure, Jonathan Hensleigh’s attempts at solving racial prejudice through male action movie bonding is exceptionally naive and occasionally way too pat, but Willis and Jackson do manage to sell it. Their performances, even when the material’s thin–like the tack on finale–are outstanding.

Ditto Irons. Irons gets to relish though. Neither Willis or Jackson have relish-worthy material. Irons just gets to run wild. He’s the action movie villain in the “realistic” action movie. Only since he’s got all these henchmen doing the action villainry (for the most part), Menzies and McTiernan just have to make sure he never looks out of place and he’s fine.

McTiernan and editor Wright do well no matter what kind of action is going on. Willis surviving a flooded tunnel has just the right amount of tension, a bomb detonating in a middle school has just the right amount of tension. McTiernan toggles between the small scale Willis in a Die Hard movie getting out a situation with the very real terror involved in the school evacuation and so on. Though, in some ways, by keeping Willis (and Jackson) separate from that impending tragedy, Vengeance is able to cop out of having Willis in a “realistic” thriller. The real stuff is juxtaposed against his adventure with missing gold and fake accented Germans and whatever else.

Besides Willis, Jackson, and Irons, the rest of the cast is similarly superb. Bryggman especially. But also Greene and Camp, who slow burn throughout the film before getting their own big sequence. Peck’s good. Kevin Chamberlin’s fun as the bomb guy. Robert Sedgwick’s one of Irons’s thugs who makes more impression than Wyman or Phillips. Heck so does Joe Zaloom as the contrived action movie flunky Willis gets late in the film. Vengeance isn’t about the supporting villains.

Most of the Willis vs. thugs action is just bridging stuff between him and Jackson moving on to their next set piece, which is fine. It distinguishes Vengeance, especially since McTiernan and his crew excel more during the set pieces. The execution of Vengeance is just as important as the content executed, which is another reason the finale is such a disappointment. It’s an exterior night sequence, which–given any thought–fails all credibility tests (even for Die Hard with a Vengeance, though especially given the work put into the film’s procedural constraints). It’s a shame the finish doesn’t live up to the rest of the film, both in terms of narrative (it’s thoughtless) and execution (the big foil is a spotlight distracting Willis).

Not a worthy finish to the previous, sublime two hours.

But Vengeance is still a success. It can’t not be, not with the heights McTiernan and Wright reach; you can’t fault an action movie too much for having a perfunctory action movie finish. To be fair, the first ending–before the tack on–is phenomenal even in its absurd grandiosity.

Good score from Michael Kamen. Great production values. Excellent performances.

In five-dollar words, Die Hard with a Vengeance is so elegantly executed, it transcends the very tropes it functions on (as well as the script’s faults). Just not through the very end.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, based on characters created by Roderick Thorp; director of photography, Peter Menzies Jr.; edited by John Wright; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by McTiernan and Michael Tadross; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (John McClane), Samuel L. Jackson (Zeus Carver), Jeremy Irons (Simon Gruber), Larry Bryggman (Insp. Walter Cobb), Graham Greene (Joe Lambert), Colleen Camp (Connie Kowalski), Anthony Peck (Ricky Walsh), Nick Wyman (Mathias Targo), Sam Phillips (Katya), Kevin Chamberlin (Charles Weiss), and Joe Zaloom (Jerry Parks).


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Sliver (1993, Phillip Noyce)

Sliver is a beautiful film. It’s got Vilmos Zsigmond photography, it’s got Phillip Noyce directing, it’s got a great score from Howard Shore–it’s just a bad movie. The story has two things going on. First is Sharon Stone’s recent divorcee moving into a high rise apartment building where she discovers there have been a bunch of suspicious deaths.

Now, if you remember that detail you’ll be doing more than the filmmakers do because when it gets to the point in the story where someone talks about the recent deaths in the building and there are only a couple. Sliver forgets about at least three of them, maybe four.

The second thing the film has going on is Stone discovering she’s a voyeur. I’ve got no idea if it’s in the source novel by Ira Levin, but Joe Eszterhas wrote the screenplay for Sliver so there’s got to be something slightly sleazy otherwise they would have presumably hired someone who can write.

Most of the film is Stone being courted by two losers. Tom Berenger’s a creepy writer, William Baldwin’s a creepy video game designer. She has zero chemistry with either of them. Berenger’s a little better just because Baldwin’s indescribably bad.

Sadly, Stone’s really good in most of the non-absurd scenes. Eszterhas and Noyce don’t give her a real story arc; instead, they hope the big thrills are enough. They aren’t.

With the production values and Stone’s performance, Sliver should be better. But not with Baldwin and Berenger.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Phillip Noyce; screenplay by Joe Eszterhas, based on the novel by Ira Levin; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Richard Francis-Bruce and William Hoy; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Paul Sylbert; produced by Robert Evans; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Sharon Stone (Carly Norris), William Baldwin (Zeke Hawkins), Tom Berenger (Jack Landsford), Polly Walker (Vida Warren), Colleen Camp (Judy Marks), Amanda Foreman (Samantha Moore), Martin Landau (Alex Parsons), CCH Pounder (Lt. Victoria Hendrix), Nina Foch (Evelyn McEvoy), Keene Curtis (Gus Hale) and Nicholas Pryor (Peter Farrell).


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Smile (1975, Michael Ritchie)

Smile is the story of the week of a regional beauty pageant in a northern California town. It’s not exactly the story of the pageant, though it does look at some of the contestants, but it also looks at how the event affects the locals.

Bruce Dern gets top billing and he does tie most of the story threads together. He’s a car salesman and the lead pageant judge. His son (Eric Shea) gets in trouble related to the pageant contestants, his best friend (Nicholas Pryor) is married to the pageant organizer (Barbara Feldon). Through Feldon, there’s a lot more with the pageant itself, but no real direct ties. The film’s two salient character relationships are between Dern and Pryor and how they experience their lives and then between Joan Prather (the film’s closest thing to a protagonist) and Annette O’Toole as two contestants who are rooming together for the week.

While director Ritchie is fantastic and Richard A. Harris’s editing is amazing, Jerry Belson’s script is the thing to Smile. He’s got a lot of great jokes, these sad, little realistic jokes. There are a couple moments–usually with the direction and editing helping a lot–of uproarious humor. But Smile is usually very real and very depressing.

Excellent performances from the entire cast, particularly Dern, Pryor, Prather and O’Toole. Feldon’s good too, as is Michael Kidd as the down-on-his-luck Hollywood choreographer.

Smile is wonderful; Belson and Ritchie create a magnificent clash of hope and reality.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Michael Ritchie; written by Jerry Belson; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by Richard A. Harris; released by United Artists.

Starring Bruce Dern (Big Bob Freelander), Barbara Feldon (Brenda DiCarlo), Joan Prather (Robin Hudson), Annette O’Toole (Doria), Nicholas Pryor (Andy DiCarlo), Michael Kidd (Tommy French), Geoffrey Lewis (Wilson Shears), Titos Vandis (Emile), Dennis Dugan (Logan), Melanie Griffith (Karen), Maria O’Brien (Maria), Colleen Camp (Connie), Paul Benedict (Orren Brooks), William Traylor (Ray Brandy), Dick McGarvin (Ted Farley), Eric Shea (Little Bob), Adam Reed (Freddy), Brad Thompson (Chuck), Denise Nickerson (Shirley), Caroline Williams (Helga), Kate Sarchet (Judy) and George Skaff (Dr. Malvert).


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Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985, Jerry Paris)

Julie Brown shows up at the end of Police Academy 2, which doesn’t make much sense since her character is only in one other scene and she doesn’t have a single line. I was left wondering if she didn’t have a bigger role and ended up cut out (she would have been Steve Guttenberg’s love interest–something he doesn’t have in the film). I imagine if she’d been left in the film, it might have been more amusing.

Police Academy 2 actually has a number of good laughs. Art Metrano is the sleazy police officer out to mess up the heroes so he can get a promotion and he does a fine job. Lots of decent jokes involving him. Not so many with anyone else, except maybe David Graf and Colleen Camp, who have the movie’s romance storyline. They both really like guns. It’s occasionally rather funny.

The film suffers from a lack of narrative. Director Paris started on features but ended up in sitcoms and Police Academy 2 plays like a long, bad sitcom episode. The only real storyline is Graf and Camp’s–the rest of the movie revolves around police captain Howard Hesseman in danger of losing his command (to Metrano), but it lacks any drama. One gag after the other propels the script… it would have helped if the film had a protagonist.

Hesseman looks embarrassed most of the time and no actor really stands out–though Bobcat Goldthwait was a few good moments.

It’s pretty dreadful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jerry Paris; screenplay by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, based on characters created by Neal Israel and Pat Proft; director of photography, James Crabe; edited by Bob Wyman; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Trevor Williams; produced by Paul Maslansky; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Officer Carey Mahoney), Bubba Smith (Officer Moses Hightower), David Graf (Officer Eugene Tackleberry), Michael Winslow (Officer Larvell Jones), Bruce Mahler (Officer Douglas Fackler), Marion Ramsey (Officer Laverne Hooks), Colleen Camp (Sgt. Kathleen Kirkland), Howard Hesseman (Capt. Peter ‘Pete’ Lassard), Peter Van Norden (Officer Vinnie Schtulman), Lance Kinsey (Sgt. Proctor), Art Metrano (Lt. Mauser), George Gaynes (Cmdt. Eric Lassard), George Robertson (Chief Henry J. Hurst), Tim Kazurinsky (Carl Sweetchuck) and Bobcat Goldthwait (Zed McGlunk).


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