Tag Archives: George Newbern

Switching Channels (1988, Ted Kotcheff)

In Switching Channels, Kotcheff attempts two styles he’s inept at directing—madcap and slapstick. He’s got Ned Beatty, who can act in both those styles, and Beatty does okay. He’s not any good, but one can’t hold the film’s failings against him.

But for his other buffoon, Kotcheff uses Christopher Reeve. The audience is supposed to dislike Reeve because he’s vain, wealthy and a nice guy. One of the biggest laughs in the film is supposed to be at Reeve’s expense, when he’s in an acrophobia-induced fit. Reeve’s got some decent moments (particularly at the beginning of the film), which makes it all the more unfortunate.

The hero of the film is Burt Reynolds, who doesn’t so much give a performance as audition for his subsequent sitcom. He and Reeve are rivals for Kathleen Turner’s affections… though not really. Turner and Reynolds have zero chemistry, making any romantic possibilities laughable.

If the film continued where it opened, with Reeve and Turner meeting and romancing in a tranquil Montréal resort, Switching Channels probably would’ve worked. Turner’s good. She’s just not the film’s protagonist and so, when it pretends she’s important to it, the film fails.

The film—and Kotcheff—do her and Reeve the most disservice.

Though set in Chicago, it’s a very Canadian one. City hall is apparently in an office park.

There’s some good supporting work from Henry Gibson and George Newbern’s endearing as Reynolds’s flunky.

Between Reynolds’s non-acting and Kotcheff’s awkwardness, it doesn’t have a chance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; screenplay by Jonathan Reynolds, based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; director of photography, François Protat ; edited by Thom Noble; music by Michel Legrand; production designer, Anne Pritchard; produced by Martin Ransohoff; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Christy Colleran), Burt Reynolds (John L. Sullivan IV), Christopher Reeve (Blaine Bingham), Ned Beatty (Roy Ridnitz), Henry Gibson (Ike Roscoe), George Newbern (Siegenthaler), Al Waxman (Berger), Ken James (Warden Terwilliger), Barry Flatman (Zaks), Ted Simonett (Tillinger), Anthony Sherwood (Carvalho), Joe Silver (Mordsini) and Charles Kimbrough (The Governor).


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Adventures in Babysitting (1987, Chris Columbus)

If it weren’t for the acting, Adventures in Babysitting would probably be more interesting as a cultural document than anything else. The way the film treats race is probably worth a couple sociology articles. Black people aren’t scary as much as foreign beyond belief. Space aliens would have more in common with the suburban kids than the room of black people they find themselves in a room with. Working class whites, actually, are far more scary.

So I guess, as a Chicagoland filmmaker, Chris Columbus is less racist than mentor John Hughes. Spielberg must have rubbed off on Columbus a little.

The film’s finely acted. Elisabeth Shue’s great in the lead. As her charges, Maia Brewton, Keith Coogan and Anthony Rapp are all good. Brewton and Coogan are sort of best (Coogan has some rather difficult scenes). Calvin Levels is excellent as the car thief who helps them out, as is John Ford Noonan as the first scary guy they meet. George Newbern and Bradley Whitford are both good as Shue’s romantic interests, though Whitford’s got more to do.

In the film’s silliest role, Vincent D’Onofrio has a hard time not laughing.

Penelope Ann Miller starts out strong, but the film eventually requires everyone to laugh at her and dismiss her as silly. Otherwise, she has some of the strongest line deliveries.

John Davis Chandler is weak as the lame villain.

Columbus does a better job with actors than composing shots.

Babysitting‘s moderately amusing, its parts stronger than the whole.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Columbus; written by David Simkins; director of photography, Ric Waite; edited by Fredric Steinkamp and William Steinkamp; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Todd Hallowell; produced by Debra Hill and Lynda Obst; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Elisabeth Shue (Chris Parker), Maia Brewton (Sara Anderson), Keith Coogan (Brad Anderson), Anthony Rapp (Daryl Coopersmith), Calvin Levels (Joe Gipp), Vincent D’Onofrio (Dawson), Penelope Ann Miller (Brenda), George Newbern (Dan Lynch), John Ford Noonan (Handsome John Pruitt), Bradley Whitford (Mike Todwell), Ron Canada (Graydon) and John Davis Chandler (Bleak).


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It Takes Two (1988, David Beaird)

It Takes Two features a dream sequence set in protagonist George Newbern’s stomach. It looks cheaper than an antacid commercial.

The movie’s filled with fake Southern accents–Newbern loses the accent after about fifteen minutes, right before he gets to the big city (Dallas) where he needs to buy an imitation Lamborghini from some seedy city folks.

It Takes Two doesn’t like big city folks, Mexicans or blacks much, but big city folks and Mexicans are worst.

I’d been curious about the film because of Newbern, who appeared in this one at the start of his film career. It apparently stalled it.

The second unit shots of Dallas are fantastic, Beaird’s not a bad director and the film has an amazing score from Carter Burwell, so it’s occasionally watchable. Newbern’s playing a rube and he’s not terrible besides the accent. Leslie Hope is his Machiavellian fiancée. If she’s supposed to be shrilly evil, she does a good job (except her accent). Kimberly Foster is a lot better as the other woman, but she’s got an actual character. Or at least the semblance of one.

Some decent supporting performances from Barry Corbin, Anthony Geary, Patrika Darbo and Frances Lee McCain. Bill Boleander looks like he’s reading from the script on set. Marco Perella is pretty awful too.

Peter Deming’s fantastic cinematography gives the film a far more reputable feel than it deserves.

It’s all okay though, because the ungodly Foster gets her comeuppance.

Heinous is a good adjective for the movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Beaird; written by Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas E. Szollosi; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by David Garfield; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Richard Hoover; produced by Robert Lawrence; released by United Artists.

Starring George Newbern (Travis Rogers), Leslie Hope (Stephanie Lawrence), Kimberly Foster (Jonni Tigersmith), Barry Corbin (George Lawrence), Anthony Geary (Wheel), Frances Lee McCain (Joyce Rogers), Patrika Darbo (Dee Dee), Marco Perella (Dave) and Bill Bolender (Judd Rogers).


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