Tag Archives: Geena Davis

The Fly (1986, David Cronenberg)

The Fly starts with perfect economy. Director Cronenberg does not waste time with introductions or establishing shots–whenever there’s an exterior shot in the film, it comes as surprise, even after Cronenberg opens it up a little. There’s Jeff Goldblum, he’s a scientist, and there’s Geena Davis. She’s a reporter. The film conveys this expository information by having her interview him. It’s perfect.

And that perfect economy keeps going for quite a while, maybe even half the film. A lot happens during that first half–mad science, romance, jealousy, all sorts of things–and it’s outstanding. Goldblum and Davis are great together, John Getz is excellent as her weird, slightly creepy ex-boyfriend and boss. Cronenberg’s direction is exquisite; he’s utterly focused on these three actors. Even the science fiction visual exposition gets downplayed.

Then there’s a shift, a small one, as Goldblum’s character begins to “turn.” Cronenberg doesn’t allow many horror film sensibilities in The Fly. Instead of trying to terrify the audience visually with Goldblum, Cronenberg pulls back and Goldblum disappears. It’s a problem, because the film loses its momentum and never regains it.

Wait, I forgot–there’s one big horror movie sensibility… a dream sequence. It’s cheap. It’s gross and effective, but it’s narratively cheap.

Amazing special effects from Chris Walas, a nice score from Howard Shore, excellent cinematography from Mark Irwin. The Fly ’s a good looking (and sounding) picture.

Unfortunately, Cronenberg’s ambitions decline as the film finally has to deliver the horror.

Still, pretty good stuff.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Cronenberg; screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue and Cronenberg, based on the story by George Langelaan; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Ronald Sanders; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Carol Spier; produced by Stuart Cornfeld; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife) and John Getz (Stathis Borans).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE FLY (1986) / THE FLY II (1989).

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Fletch (1985, Michael Ritchie)

While Fletch has its technical high lights and Andrew Bergman’s script is strong both in dialogue and structure (though the Chevy-sized plot holes are a tad rampant), the film hinges on star Chevy Chase (not a car) being arrogant, likable, sincere and funny all at once. And Chase manages it. His dry, self-aware narrative even carries the film over those jumbo plot holes.

Another major factor is the supporting cast. For the most part, Fletch has an extraordinary supporting cast, whether it’s someone with five lines (Ralph Seymour) or someone with more (Richard Libertini). Every single performance in the film is excellent with three exceptions. Joe Don Baker and Tim Matheson are both off. Baker’s too obvious and Matheson doesn’t bring any complexity. Oh, I said three. Yeah, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson isn’t excellent, she’s extraordinary. She isn’t actually in the film for many scenes, but she’s a perfect foil for Chase. Fletch wouldn’t work without her either.

As for those technical highlights… director Ritchie immediately grounds Fletch in reality–as Chase investigates drug trafficking–and it lets him layer on the absurdities later. Even when a scene fails, like a lengthy car chase, it’s still technically competent. Fred Schuler’s photography is good, Richard A. Harris’s editing is better. The Harold Faltermeyer score, while distinctive, has its ups and downs.

Fletch has too much bite to be genial; think amiable but still comfortingly cynical. Great small turns from George Wyner and, especially, Geena Davis. Fletch is a fine time.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Ritchie; screenplay by Andrew Bergman, based on the novel by Gregory McDonald; director of photography, Fred Schuler; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Harold Faltermeyer; production designer, Boris Leven; produced by Alan Greisman and Peter Douglas; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Chevy Chase (Fletch), Joe Don Baker (Chief Jerry Karlin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gail Stanwyk), Richard Libertini (Frank Walker), Tim Matheson (Alan Stanwyk), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Dolan), George Wendt (Fat Sam), Kenneth Mars (Stanton Boyd), Geena Davis (Larry), Bill Henderson (Speaker), William Traylor (Mr. Underhill), George Wyner (Gillet), Tony Longo (Detective #1), Larry Flash Jenkins (Gummy), Ralph Seymour (Creasy), James Avery (Detective #2), Reid Cruickshanks (Sergeant), Bruce French (the pathologist), Burton Gilliam (Bud), David W. Harper (Teenager), Chick Hearn (Himself), Alison La Placa (Pan Am Clerk), Joe Praml (Watchman), William Sanderson (Swarthout), Penny Santon (Velma Stanwyk), Robert Sorrells (Marvin Stanwyk) and Beau Starr (Willy); special appearance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | FLETCH (1985) / FLETCH LIVES (1989).

Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton)

How did Beetlejuice ever get past the studio suits? It really says something about eighties mainstream filmmaking and today’s. It’s not just the absence of a likable protagonist—Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are the main characters for the first forty-five minutes, then hand the film off to Winona Ryder, who carries it until the last quarter, when Michael Keaton finally takes over—but it’s also just really strange.

The script’s a tad tepid. I’d forgotten the conclusion; it turns the movie into a sitcom pilot. I imagine Burton didn’t really care about the script being solid, because he makes the film look spectacular throughout.

It opens with this beautiful shot of a model—Thomas E. Ackerman’s photography is wondrous throughout; it’s a shame Burton didn’t bring him along for Batman—and every subsequent shot is great.

All of the model work is fabulous—even if some of the composite shots are problematic—making Beetlejuice a joy to watch.

What’s not a joy is some of the acting. The script’s weak enough, it’s probably mostly the screenwriters’ fault but still….

Davis and Catherine O’Hara are both bad. Glenn Shadix is, politely speaking, too broad.

But the rest of the cast is great—Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder, Sylvia Sidney. Great small stuff from Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.

And Keaton? He’s funny, but he doesn’t make the movie. The role’s too easy.

But, like I said, Burton’s direction (and the mostly strong performances) make it a joy to watch.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren, based on a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson; director of photography, Thomas E. Ackerman; edited by Jane Kurson; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Bo Welch; produced by Michael Bender, Richard Hashimoto and Wilson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse), Alec Baldwin (Adam Maitland), Geena Davis (Barbara Maitland), Winona Ryder (Lydia Deetz), Catherine O’Hara (Delia Deetz), Jeffrey Jones (Charles Deetz), Glenn Shadix (Otho), Annie McEnroe (Jane Butterfield), Rachel Mittelman (Little Jane Butterfield), Robert Goulet (Maxie Dean), Adelle Lutz (Beryl), Dick Cavett (Bernard), Susan Kellermann (Grace) and Sylvia Sidney (Juno).


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Quick Change (1990, Howard Franklin and Bill Murray)

Having seen Bill Murray capital-a act for so long–it’s been ten years now, hasn’t it?–seeing him do Quick Change is a little disconcerting. At times, he’s so mellow, he almost isn’t there. I’ve seen Quick Change five or six times–the first being in the theater at the age of eleven–so I can’t remember if there are any surprises in it. The first act (if Quick Change has acts) hinges on a surprise for the characters, but I can’t tell if the audience is supposed to be fooled. I doubt it. It plays too close to the middle though, allowing for either read, when one or the other would firm Quick Change up a little.

Following the initial bank robbery sequence, which is excellent, mostly because Bob Elliot is so funny–when Bill Murray’s in the clown make-up, he comes his closest to that capital-a acting he likes so much nowadays–Quick Change devolves into a sequences of vignettes with shitty New Yorkers. It’s kind of like After Hours, kind of not (it’s obvious the film’s makers are aware of After Hours though, because Quick Change lifts a comedy beat–I can’t remember where–directly from that film). These vignettes are amusing, occasionally funny, and well acted. Except, at the same time, there’s the side-story with Jason Robards as the police chief on the robbers’ tail, and the romance between Bill Murray and Geena Davis. Davis is fine in most of the film, but during the romance scenes, she’s not and Murray’s better in those scenes than most of the others. Maybe because her character reacts so ludicrously to everything. Quick Change establishes a side reality for itself–one where situations prime for sardonic comment present continuously themselves–so it’s hard to take Davis’s character’s concerns seriously.

Randy Quaid is funny as the third robber, being the center of the film’s funniest sequence (along with Tony Shalhoub), but he really doesn’t do anything in the film except wait around to either say something stupid or do something stupid. The supporting cast is perfect, with Stanley Tucci and Kurtwood Smith standing out… but there’s something missing. Bill Murray and Howard Franklin’s direction is somehow funnier than Murray’s performance, which is an uncommon equation. The film’s a pleasant, occasionally really funny ninety minutes–but its slightness really cuts it down.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Howard Franklin and Bill Murray; screenplay by Franklin, based on the book by Jay Cronley; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Alan Heim; music by Randy Edelman; produced by Robert Greenhut and Murray; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bill Murray (Grimm), Geena Davis (Phyllis), Randy Quaid (Loomis), Jason Robards (Rotzinger), Bob Elliot (Bank Guard), Philip Bosco (Bus Driver), Phil Hartman (Hal Edison), Kathryn Goody (Mrs. Edison), Tony Shalhoub (Cab Driver), Stanley Tucci (Johnny), Victor Argo (Skelton), Gary Howard Klar (Mario), Kurtwood Smith (Russ Crane), Susannah Bianci (Mrs. Russ Crane) and Jamey Sheridan (Mugger).


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