Tag Archives: Gale Anne Hurd

Alien Nation (1988, Graham Baker)

A film like Alien Nation encourages a lot of thought. For example, I think I’ve decided I want to say the film is badly directed (by Baker) while being poorly lighted (by Adam Greenberg). I already know I wanted to say it was atrociously edited. Kent Beyda’s cuts don’t just jump (there’s a car chase where it appears the cars have turned around and gone back the way they came), they also pop. The sound levels pops, which isn’t exactly Beyda’s fault, it’s more Baker’s fault or the producers’ fault, but there’s got to have something Beyda could do to trying to keep the background noise between shots consistent. Or maybe not. Maybe that base level of post-production care is beyond Alien Nation.

I mean, fixing the editing wouldn’t fix the music and fixing the music wouldn’t fix the script and fixing the script wouldn’t fix the acting. I suppose it’s possible a better script would’ve helped the performances but Baker’s still such a crap director, it’s hard to imagine it.

About the only thing good about Alien Nation is the make-up. Only not so much on the featured cast. Like Terence Stamp’s Mr. Big. His alien make-up is bad. And alien cop Mandy Patinkin’s make-up is occasionally inconsistent between scenes. At least it’s not between shots in scenes, which–really–is kind of a surprise given the way the rest of the film plays out, production-wise.

So Patinkin is the idealistic alien cop while James Caan is the grumpy, bigoted (and questionably skilled) human cop. Writer Rockne S. O’Bannon writes terrible police procedural, but he also writes terrible cop banter. The bonding scenes between Caan and Patinkin are painful. Partially because they’re so poorly written, partially because you just feel so bad for the actors. Caan’s got a lousy part from the opening. Patinkin has potential for a good part but the script is so bad. And the direction, can’t forget Baker’s bad direction. Oh, and if Patinkin does manage a decent delivery–you know, if his makeup isn’t off-center–it’s more likely than not Beyda will screw something up in the cutting.

There are no winners in Alien Nation. There are no gem performances. The production design isn’t special. Maybe the best performance in it is Roger Aaron Brown and only because all he has to do is act like James Caan is a tiresome prick. Caan is a tiresome prick. Alien Nation takes place over like three or four days. It’s about one case. Caan gets Patinkin as a partner for the single purpose of exploiting him being an alien to solve an alien-related murder case.

Odd thing? They never catch the guy Caan is after. They never even try to find out his identity. It’s not only a mess, it’s a forgetful mess.

Not even the short runtime–maybe ninety minutes even–helps things. Because it’s not like the scenes are short. The scenes are painfully long. Watching Baker and O’Bannon try to change tempo during a scene? It’s excruciating.

The whole thing is excruciating. The anguish starts with the opening titles and goes all the way to the finale voiceover.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Graham Baker; written by Rockne S. O’Bannon; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Kent Beyda; music by Curt Sobel; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Richard Kobritz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James Caan (Matthew Sykes), Mandy Patinkin (Sam Francisco), Terence Stamp (William Harcourt), Roger Aaron Brown (Tuggle), Peter Jason (Fedorchuk), Tony Perez (Alterez), and Leslie Bevis (Cassandra).


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The Relic (1997, Peter Hyams)

Considering Peter Hyams’s career as a director began in the early seventies, it’s strange to see him reference Alien and the 1976 King Kong—these films being made after he got his start.

The Relic has the one big problem of Hyams’s career overall—he photographs his films himself and he usually uses this “realistic” palette. That palette is often murky and gray and Relic fits the pattern. It’s unfortunate, not just because it makes scenes sometimes hard to understand (as people move through a dark museum, bumping into strange objects), but also because it cuts down on the film’s sensationalism. And, at its heart, The Relic is a solid, unambitious b movie.

Hyams’s direction—lighting aside—is good. He has fantastic shots and a good pace.

But what’s so good about the film is the acting. Hyams gets this personable, charming performance from Tom Sizemore, which is both a lot of fun and very interesting to see Sizemore essay. It’s against type for him and he excels at it.

Penelope Ann Miller gets top billing and she’s superb. She gets to do a lot (including run from a CG monster) and does it all well. She and Sizemore are great together—but she’s great with everyone in the film, whether Linda Hunt and James Whitmore as her mentors or Chi Muoi Lo as her academic adversary.

Lo is hilariously slimy.

The third act has problems—especially the tepid ending—but The Relic’s an okay monster thriller with excellent performances.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by Peter Hyams; screenplay by Amy Holden Jones, John Raffo, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, based on a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; edited by Steven Kemper; music by John Debney; production designer, Philip Harrison; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Sam Mercer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Penelope Ann Miller (Dr. Margo Green), Tom Sizemore (Lt. Vincent D’Agosta), Linda Hunt (Dr. Ann Cuthbert), James Whitmore (Dr. Albert Frock), Clayton Rohner (Det. Hollingsworth), Chi Muoi Lo (Dr. Greg Lee), Thomas Ryan (Tom Parkinson), Robert Lesser (Mayor Robert Owen), Diane Robin (The Mayor’s Wife) and Lewis Van Bergen (John Whitney).


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Dante’s Peak (1997, Roger Donaldson)

Dante’s Peak came in the slight post-Twister disaster movie resurgence–and might have helped end it–but it really doesn’t know how to be a disaster movie.

Leslie Bohem’s script film follows Jaws‘s plot structure–no one listens to Pierce Brosnan’s roguish geologist (has Brosnan ever been asked to do an American accent, it seems to be part of his persona to never do one) until it’s too late–only replacing Richard Dreyfuss with Linda Hamilton as sidekick. Romance develops and Brosnan’s bachelor warms quickly to Hamilton’s two really annoying kids. They aren’t really annoying until the volcano, which means at least they’re tolerable for an hour.

When disaster does strike, it’s amusing to watch all the friendly neighbors try to kill each other to get onto the highway faster–after the movie opens saying it’s the second-best place in the country to live. Maybe in the first they’d help each other.

It’s probably Hamilton’s best film role as an actor. She’s not asked to do much (it’s a little unbelievable she could put up with her kids at the end, or her evil mother-in-law, boringly played by Elizabeth Hoffman).

The film takes place in a rural mountain town and–shockingly–never tries to show racial diversity among the town population. Nor does it try to make anyone likable; watching the disaster doesn’t encourage much emotional response. It’s boring.

Donaldson’s direction is mediocre at best (he’s not an action director) but the visual effects are good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Donaldson; written by Leslie Bohem; director of photography, Andrzej Bartkowiak; edited by Howard E. Smith, Conrad Buff IV and Tina Hirsch; music by John Frizzell; production designer, J. Dennis Washington; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Joseph Singer; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Harry Dalton), Linda Hamilton (Rachel Wando), Charles Hallahan (Paul Dreyfus), Jamie Renée Smith (Lauren Wando), Jeremy Foley (Graham Wando), Elizabeth Hoffman (Ruth), Grant Heslov (Greg, USGS Crew), Kirk Trutner (Terry, USGS Crew), Arabella Field (Nancy, USGS Crew), Tzi Ma (Stan, USGS Crew), Brian Reddy (Les Worrell), Lee Garlington (Dr. Jane Fox), Bill Bolender (Sheriff Turner), Carole Androsky (Mary Kelly) and Peter Jason (Norman Gates).


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