Tag Archives: Dean Devlin

Real Genius (1985, Martha Coolidge)

It’s hard to know where to start with Real Genius. It runs just over a hundred minutes, but gets so much done in the first forty, then so much different stuff done in the next thirty, the remainder is almost entirely separate.

The plot evolves, expanding as events unfold. Genius isn’t its concept or MacGuffin. Instead, it’s something wholly original, maybe because it doesn’t worry about the audience identifying with the characters. But director Coolidge never treats them as subjects; they’re always the film’s driving force.

Gabriel Jarret plays the lead–a fifteen year-old genius off to a science school–and brings the viewer into the film. Until he passes it off to Val Kilmer, a slightly older genius. But while Kilmer’s character confronts personal accountability, Jarret’s busy having a touching romance with Michelle Meyrink.

While all this character development is going on, Kilmer and Jarret are also dealing with William Atherton’s deceptive prick of a professor and Robert Prescott (as his lackey).

The juxtaposing of Kilmer and Jarret’s characters is one of Genius‘s strongest elements, especially since the actors do so well with it. Kilmer gets to give an absurd, rock star type performance (and excels), while Jarret is introverted but also more mature.

Meyrink’s great, as is Prescott. Atherton, in the type of role he’d quickly become typecast for, is perfect. Jon Gries is also excellent in a small role.

Coolidge uses her Panavision frame well and there’s beautiful Vilmos Zsigmond photography.

Real Genius is really good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martha Coolidge; screenplay by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Peter Torokvei, based on a story by Israel and Proft; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Richard Chew; music by Thomas Newman; production designer, Josan F. Russo; produced by Brian Grazer; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Val Kilmer (Chris Knight), Gabriel Jarret (Mitch Taylor), Michelle Meyrink (Jordan), William Atherton (Prof. Jerry Hathaway), Jon Gries (Lazlo Hollyfeld), Robert Prescott (Kent), Ed Lauter (David Decker), Patti D’Arbanville (Sherry Nugil), Stacy Peralta (Shuttle Pilot), Beau Billingslea (George), Joanne Baron (Mrs. Taylor), Sandy Martin (Mrs. Meredith), Dean Devlin (Milton), Yuji Okumoto (Fenton) and Deborah Foreman (Susan Decker).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | REAL GENIUS (1985) / MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985).

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Moon 44 (1990, Roland Emmerich)

Watching Moon 44, one can imagine Roland Emmerich sitting in a Bonn theater during Blade Runner, loudly opining he can do the same thing. Only with an incompetent German crew.

There’s nothing good about Moon 44, as it doesn’t turn out to be a romance between nebbish Dean Devlin and brooding Michael Paré. If it were a gay romance, it’d at least be innovative. Instead, Devlin just moons over Paré, likely due to a combination of bad acting, bad directing and terrible writing.

The script’s so bad Lisa Eichhorn is terrible. She’s even worse than Paré, who’s still better than Devlin and Leon Rippy. Rippy is really awful.

It’s hard to determine the order of bad performances, actually. But Malcolm McDowell is okay, which is surprising, and Roscoe Lee Browne maintains composure in a tiny role.

Brian Thompson might give the best performance of the principals.

The special effects are a great example of why budget and competence are important. Shockingly, Emmerich and cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub are able to give a sense of scale, but the mechanicals of the effects are just bad. You can’t see the wires on the “flying” spacecraft, but the restricted movement makes them obvious. Moon 44, except the recognizable (if bad) actors, looks like a hobbyist home movie. An electric train set, only with spaceships.

Joel Goldsmith’s score, though derivative, isn’t bad. It’s better than the movie deserves.

The big surprise is Eichhorn. One feels embarrassed for her. The rest being awful is expected.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roland Emmerich; screenplay by Dean Heyde and Oliver Eberle, based on a story by Heyde, Eberle, Emmerich and P.J. Mitchell; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by Tomy Wigand; music by Joel Goldsmith; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by Heyde and Emmerich; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Paré (Felix Stone), Lisa Eichhorn (Terry Morgan), Dean Devlin (Tyler), Brian Thompson (Jake O’Neal), Malcolm McDowell (Major Lee), Stephen Geoffreys (Cookie), Leon Rippy (Master Sergeant Sykes), Jochen Nickel (Scooter Bailey), Mehmet Yilmaz (Marc), John March (Moose Haggerty), Drew Lucas (Riffle), David Williamson (Lt. Gallagher) and Roscoe Lee Browne (The Chairman).


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Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009, John Hyams)

Wow, Peter Hyams made the only sequel to a Stanley Kubrick film and now he’s the director of photography on garbage like Universal Soldier: Regeneration. What’s so exceptionally lame about this movie is Hyams–the director–and the screenwriter’s disinterest is making an interesting story for original stars Jean-Claude Van Damme (though he comes a little closer) and Dolph Lundgren (but Lundgren’s apparently finally learned to act, from his thirty-some lines) and instead want to make a franchise for Mike Pyle, who plays a moronic U.S. soldier.

Interesting, though I’m sure unintentional is the film’s politics–basically, the U.S. is filled with war junkies who put their noses in places don’t belong.

Pyle’s performance is exceptionally bad and the movie doesn’t even give him a fun death scene. I’d been waiting like an hour to watch him get decapitated but it’s really just a bunch of nonsense to set up a sequel.

Given Van Damme’s absurdly small part–I hate feeling like I want to see more Van Damme–I wonder if the filmmakers added he and Lundgren as an afterthought, instead of just doing the adventures of Pyle the redneck Universal Soldier.

Peter Hyams always shot his own films poorly and he doesn’t do his son any favors. Regeneration looks like someone did a contrast filter in Photoshop (maybe Hyams did, it’s probably easier). The DV is bad looking, especially with the lighting.

Laughable performances from Corey Johnson and Garry Cooper, but Emily Joyce does fine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Hyams; screenplay by Victor Ostrovsky, based on characters created by Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch and Dean Devlin; director of photography, Peter Hyams; edited by Jason Gallagher and John Hyams; music by Kris Hill and Michael Krassner; production designer, Philip Harrison; produced by Craig Baumgarten and Moshe Diamant; released by Foresight Unlimited.

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Luc Deveraux), Dolph Lundgren (Andrew Scott), Andrei Arlovski (NGU), Mike Pyle (Captain Kevin Burke), Corey Johnson (Col. John Coby), Garry Cooper (Dr. Porter), Emily Joyce (Dr. Sandra Flemming), Zahary Baharov (Commander Topov), Aki Avni (General Boris) and Kerry Shale (Dr. Colin).


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Universal Soldier (1992, Roland Emmerich)

Universal Soldier is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. The beginning is exceptionally painful, as Roland Emmerich does a Platoon impression. As bad as Charlie Sheen was in that film, however, nothing compares to Jean-Claude Van Damme as a farm boy from Louisiana or Dolph Lundgren’s attempts at conveying insanity. It’s painful.

And then it gets jokey.

It’s horrific.

But then, even with the incompetent writing, Ally Walker shows up and essentially saved my hour and forty minutes. Walker’s a decent actor, but her intrepid reporter somehow makes the ludicrous plot sound feasible (Walker does have a great voice).

The film’s concept is basically a mix of Robocop and Terminator, but done in such a way to be uninventive (Van Damme and Lundgren aren’t robots, so no neat cyborg moments) and cheap. Emmerich’s a terrible fight scene director and his action scenes, instead of relishing their absurdity and amplifying it to the extreme, are dull. And it’s still frequently impossible to know what’s going on.

But the movie’s watchable–there’s a bunch of good dumb bits, like Van Damme bare-assing it around a motel parking lot or the inexplicable scene with him beating up an entire diner. Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin have made careers out of going as cheap as possible for a positive audience reaction and Universal Soldier is no different.

Walker tempers the whole thing and Van Damme’s bad acting isn’t static. He has a couple scenes where he’s not atrocious. It’s amazing, given their wooden acting, neither he nor Lundgren can successfully stare absent-minded as the brainwashed super-soldiers. Jerry Orbach, pre-“Law & Order” legitimacy, has a small role and is silly. Not all of it’s his fault; the script’s just terrible.

Lundgren’s particularly awful for much of the movie, then all of a sudden he becomes hilarious. Once he gets his mind back (again, the script doesn’t make any sense), he’s having a ball. His performance in the movie’s second half suggests he should have done comedy.

The movie’s crap, but manages not to be too offensive throughout, only in parts. And I suppose it’s somewhat impressive how good Emmerich made a moderately budgeted production look.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roland Emmerich; written by Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch and Dean Devlin; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by Michael J. Duthie; music by Christopher Franke; produced by Allen Shapiro, Craig Baumgarten and Joel B. Michaels; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Luc Deveraux), Dolph Lundgren (Andrew Scott), Ally Walker (Veronica Roberts), Ed O’Ross (Colonel Perry), Jerry Orbach (Dr. Christopher Gregor) and Leon Rippy (Woodward).


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