Tag Archives: Courteney Cox

Masters of the Universe (1987, Gary Goddard)

Masters of the Universe is almost charming in its lack of charm. Its plot is a kitchen sink–a little Conan sword fighting here, a little Superman opening credits, a lot of Star Wars stuff (like all black “troopers” with laser guns, the skiffs from Jedi), but also lots of other popular eighties things. There’s some Back to the Future–on an extreme budget–as well as the general “troubled tragic teens” thing. And whatever else was too slight to make much of an impression.

The biggest problem, besides it being too long, too cheap, and too stupid, is cinematographer Hanania Baer. Universe has a big scale, whether in its sets or even the constant matte paintings (on the other planet, not Earth). Baer can’t shoot anything to match, not the sets, not the matte composites, not even humdrum planet Earth locations. There’s one action sequence with Dolph Lundgren and Courteney Cox fending off intergalatic bounty hunters (Empire Strikes Back) in a junk yard or warehouse. The lighting doesn’t match between shooting locations, which really screws up the suspension of disbelief, because there’s Lundgren’s sword fighting and Lundgren sword fighting is supposed to be the whole draw of the movie. He’s He-Man. He fights people with a sword.

Except he gets a gun too. A laser gun. It’s got to be lasers because Lundgren’s sword can deflect them. Slow lasers.

However, if Masters of the Universe has a draw–which is questionable–it’s either going to be Frank Langella’s performance as the Emperor. Sorry, sorry, no, he’s Skeletor. Who wants to be master of the universe, which is like emperor. David Odell’s script stays as third grade as it can for the otherworldly stuff and seeing Langella take the childish dialogue and fill it with ludicrous energy and threat… it’s cool. It’s not really cool enough to be a draw, however, because the material’s still thin and Langella’s in a goofy skull mask, with zero character motivation (his rivalry with Lundgren lacks explaination and chemistry). The other possible draw is Bill Conti’s score. It too isn’t good, but it’s Bill Conti doing a Star Wars score. Though, again, more Return of the Jedi.

On Earth–wait, wait, there’s sort of an E.T. thing going on with Billy Barty. He plays this inventor who comes up with a musical key thing to take the action to Earth. Sort of E.T., mixed with Yoda, mixed with Wicket. Producers Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan apparently really thought they had the goods here to supplant Star Wars.

I mean, maybe the Holiday Special.

Richard Edlund handles the special effects. Some of them are okay. The interdimensional gateway is often okay. It’s not at the end, but earlier, sure. The composite shots with the flying vehicles are terrible. Bad enough you hope Edlund didn’t do them. The guy worked on the original Star Wars after all. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

So you don’t see it for the special effects. Or the fight choreography. Or any of the acting.

Though Jon Cypher is frighteningly good in his part. He’s got on this big costume too and he’s still good. It’s amazing he could keep a straight face. Ditto, though to a lesser extent, for Chelsea Field. She’s Cypher’s daughter. She makes wisecracks. Some of them sort of connect.

Cox and Robert Duncan McNeill are teenagers who come across Lundgren, Cypher, Field, and Barty as that crew searches for a way back home. Cox’s parents have tragically died and so she’s leaving boyfriend McNeill to start over in New Jersey. She’s not even going to get to go to her high school graduation. The Earth ground situation really doesn’t make any sense. The other world ground situation is actually sort of neat in an effecient way. Langella has won his war of conquest and Lundgren and friends are now outlaws. Means you don’t have to show the big battle scenes or even the immediate aftermath, just the political ramifications playing out.

Cox and McNeill don’t even have enough material to have caricatures. They have sketched caricatures. They’re both affable, though neither is particularly dynamic. They both seem way too old.

Maybe it’s just Baer photographing them poorly.

For the rest of the cast, it’s just getting through without embarrassing yourself too much. Lundgren’s running around in armored speedos. He manages not to embarrass himself too much. Meg Foster similiar keeps herself afloat without actually having to be any good. After them the supporting cast just gets worse and worse.

Like James Tolkan (the principal from Back to the Future). He’s playing tough bald, long leather jacket cop who can’t figure out he’s in an intergalatic battle zone. He doesn’t keep himself afloat, though he’s never exactly bad. None of the performances–at least for the people not in costumes–are ever bad enough to give Universe that campy charm. They’re also never bad enough to elicit sympathy.

Not even Christina Pickles, who’s a hostage the entire picture.

It’s mildly ambitious? Not incompetent. It’s just trying for too much with what it can do, budget-wise. Along with no one having any confidence in Lundgren. He gets so little to do, including his sword fights and shoot-outs, it’s not clear whether or not he’d be able to do more or fail at it.

Masters of the Universe is a cinematic shrug.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gary Goddard; screenplay by David Odell, based on the toys by Mattel; director of photography, Hanania Baer; edited by Anne V. Coates; music by Bill Conti; production designer, William Stout; produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus; released by The Cannon Group.

Starring Dolph Lundgren (He-Man), Frank Langella (Skeletor), Courteney Cox (Julie Winston), Robert Duncan McNeill (Kevin Corrigan), Jon Cypher (Duncan), Chelsea Field (Teela), Meg Foster (Evil-Lyn), Billy Barty (Gwildor), James Tolkan (Detective Lubic), Robert Towers (Karg), Anthony De Longis (Blade), and Christina Pickles (Sorceress of Castle Grayskull)


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Scream 3 (2000, Wes Craven)

Neve Campbell wanted a reduced presence in Scream 3—she doesn’t really show up in the film’s plot until an hour in—but by not participating, she’s in a worse film.

Her performance is fine. Ehren Kruger’s script is so lame, she can’t do much with the role—especially since she’s got to be suspecting everyone. Except Courtney Cox and David Arquette, of course, and when the three are on screen together it’s the closest Scream 3 comes to working.

Cox gives the film’s best performance. Arquette’s only good opposite her or Campbell. Replacing Campbell for some of the run time is Parker Posey, who’s playing Cox’s character in a movie. Parker and Cox are great together. How Kruger and Craven didn’t realize it is beyond belief.

Craven’s got a couple good set pieces (not the final sequence, unfortunately… it drags forever) but he’s clearly disinterested. Though it’s not like he can be held responsible for the terrible acting.

In no particular order, the laundry list of horrific acting… Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer (she’s real bad), Scott Foley, Patrick Dempsey (he tries to act with his hair) and Josh Pais. Pais is barely in the film but is so bad he’s memorable.

As for good acting? Matt Keeslar is good and Patrick Warburton is funny. And a decent Carrie Fisher cameo. Poor Liev Schreiber looks embarrassed.

The good parts of the film show there’s potential—even with the setting and set pieces.

Terrible Marco Beltrami score too.

It’s surprisingly disappointing.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Craven; screenplay by Ehren Kruger, based on characters created by Kevin Williamson; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Patrick Lussier; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Bruce Alan Miller; produced by Cathy Konrad, Marianne Maddalena and Williamson; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Emily Mortimer (Angelina Tyler), Parker Posey (Jennifer Jolie), Matt Keeslar (Tom Prinze), Jenny McCarthy (Sarah Darling), Deon Richmond (Tyson Fox), Scott Foley (Roman Bridger), Lance Henriksen (John Milton), Patrick Dempsey (Mark Kincaid), Josh Pais (Wallace), Patrick Warburton (Steven Stone), Carrie Fisher (Bianca), Heather Matarazzo (Martha Meeks), Kelly Rutherford (Christine Hamilton) and Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary).


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Scream 2 (1997, Wes Craven)

This year (2007), I saw more summer movies than I have in at least five years. I avoid big Hollywood franchises (the modern ones, the revitalization attempts… it’s fifty-fifty), so I really don’t know how bad the acting is in most of those films–from what I saw this summer, it’s probably atrocious. But there’s a special place for Scream 2, because not a single new cast member gives an acceptable performance. All of them, almost uniformly, are terrible. I suppose an order can be arranged–Elise Neal is worse than Jerry O’Connell, who is worse than Timothy Olyphant… though no one can compare to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Her performance is so incompetent, even her facial expressions are ludicrous. The lesser supporting case members–Laurie Metcalf, Duane Martin, Rebecca Gayheart and Portia de Rossi–all terrible. Of the new additions, only Jada Pinkett and Omar Epps–who have nothing to do with the actual film–are acceptable. And I suppose Lewis Arquette isn’t too bad.

Though she’s the “star,” Neve Campbell is barely in the film, entirely overshadowed by all the terrible acting going on around her. When she is around Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Liev Schreiber, things really work. Cox and Arquette are great together, Schreiber is great with anyone… only Jamie Kennedy (of the returning cast members) is lame. Oddly, the film ends on a high point–establishing a wonderful chemistry between Cox, Campbell and Schreiber… which might be why I remember the third one being disappointing, regardless of it being lousy–the potential for something of particular merit is certainly established by this one’s conclusion.

Most of the problems are because of the acting. A dumb horror movie can survive with decent acting, but Scream 2 also lacks charm. The college setting is stupid, the writing is dull–Williamson goes overboard with his pop culture references to hide there being nothing going on for any of the characters (except Cox and Arquette and Schreiber, so their scenes are better). Wes Craven’s direction is framed for a pan and scanned VHS–possibly the worst case of framing for home video since The Untouchables. He has two good shots in the entire movie, both near the end anbd one of them is only funny (it’s an Evil Dead 2 slash Nosferatu reference).

Scream 2 doesn’t work because everyone who dies is a welcome victim (except the two opening deaths), because they’re such terrible actors. When Gellar goes, it’s a reward to the audience for having to sit through her. If anything, her death wasn’t gratuitous enough (as opposed to the opening, when Scream 2 really felt exploitative). But having to tolerate Neal for the whole movie… argh. I’d forgotten Miramax recycled bad actors through their movies, trying to build them up into… well, into something.

Maybe if Craven had directed some of the actors, or composed the shots with some dignity, it’d be better. It has a great conclusion–all the likable characters, played by all the decent actors, have nice exits. Except then the lame music for the Miramax Records (or whatever they called it) soundtrack kicks in and helps one remember the piece of crap he or she just sat through.

And Luke Wilson’s cameo is fantastic–but they really shouldn’t have mocked Skeet Ulrich so brutally if they were going to cast worse actors then him in the movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Patrick Lussier; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Bob Ziembicki; produced by Cathy Konrad and Marianne Maddalena; released by Dimension Films.

Starring David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks), Laurie Metcalf (Debbie Salt), Elise Neal (Hallie), Jerry O’Connell (Derek), Jada Pinkett (Maureen), Omar Epps (Phil), Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary) and Duane Martin (Joel).

Scream (1996, Wes Craven), the director’s cut

Poor Matthew Lillard, he was already looking way too old to be a teenager in this one (he was twenty-six). I probably haven’t seen Scream since 2000 or so, sometime before the third one came out. Maybe even further back than that. What I’m trying to say is… I’d actually forgotten how bad Skeet Ulrich is. He’s incredible.

I haven’t been able to see Scream since laserdisc, because there’s an unrated cut that Disney refuses to release stateside. There’s some extra gore and a Freddy Krueger cameo–which is in bad taste if you think about it–nothing to really “enhance” the experience. Still, Nicheflix got the Japanese disc so I rented it (when I was a kid, I had a similar problem with Aliens–my dad had the director’s cut on laser, and I had the theatrical cut VHS, these problems only got worse once I understood letterboxing).

Scream‘s not bad. Wes Craven is a good director (though his cinematographer on Scream couldn’t stop lens distortion, which is kind of embarrassing, if you think about it). The performances run hot and cold. Lillard, for example, is good briefly, not when he’s being loud and obnoxious. He’s such a fantastic, sincere actor, but he never gets roles for anything but the loud prick. Jamie Kennedy–I’d forgotten I even knew who this guy was–is fairly obnoxious and shitty. Courteney Cox, David Arquette, even Rose McGowan, they’re all okay, nothing better. Henry Winkler cameos and is fantastic. The most troubling aspect of Scream isn’t the acting–not even Ulrich–but how indifferent its characters are to death around them. I hadn’t ever thought about it, but a comparison between Scream and O would probably be worthwhile. Scream puts no value on human life….

And no, I’m not going to make a comment about how awful Drew Barrymore was. I could, but I won’t.

Scream does have an important factor, however. One so important, I don’t think I can just dismiss the film. Neve Campbell is an unspeakably wonderful actor. I guess I’d forgotten or it hadn’t occurred to me that my memory of her ability was correct. She’s astoundingly good. I’ve just run through my Blockbuster Online queue and added all her films.

Wait… shit. I had something else. Neve Campbell’s great, Drew Barrymore sucks. Not another Skeet Ulrich joke–what was it….

Nope, I’ve lost it. Damn.

Oh. I remember. Never mind.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Patrick Lussier; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Bruce Alan Miller; produced by Cary Woods and Cathy Konrad; released by Dimension Films.

Starring David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Skeet Ulrich (Billy Loomis), Rose McGowan (Tatum Riley), Matthew Lillard (Stuart Macher), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks), Drew Barrymore (Casey Becker), Joseph Whipp (Sheriff Burke), Lawrence Hecht (Neil Prescott) and Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary).


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