Tag Archives: Giorgio Moroder

The NeverEnding Story (1984, Wolfgang Petersen), the international version

For most of The NeverEnding Story, director Petersen’s ability, the special effects, and active lead Noah Hathaway keep the whole thing going. It’s a gorgeous looking film, with great photography from Jost Vacano and exceptional editing from Jane Seitz. Hathaway’s character, a boy warrior, gets a fantastic characterization–simultaneously sensitive and brave–he’s a fantastic protagonist.

Except he’s not the protagonist. The protagonist is Barret Oliver’s similarly aged character (the passive lead). He’s locked up reading the book, The NeverEnding Story, and experiencing the book’s events as they unfold for the viewer too. The only way Petersen and co-screenwriters Herman Weigel and Robert Easton come up with to integrate the two concurrent narratives is cutting to Oliver reacting to the book. Sure, Seitz cuts the scenes beautifully and the “real world” parts of the film are arguably the best directed, but Oliver’s a weak protagonist. He’s a weaker lead. Everything strong about the way Hathaway gets characterized is ignored when it comes to Oliver. He’s bullied–both by classmates and his jerk father (Gerald McRaney)–he’s mourning the death of his mother, but he’s got no depth. It ought to be fine because he’s not part of The NeverEnding Story.

Until the film ties the two narratives together, ingloriously shucking Hathaway, and generally collapsing under its own import. The film had already forecasted a shaky mythology regarding reading but hadn’t run out of goodwill at that point. It burns through it in the final act, with Petersen trying real hard but unable to pull it off. Not even the booming, sweeping score from Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder can save the finale. Probably shouldn’t be a surprise The NeverEnding Story can’t figure out a way to end well.

Some of the performances are wonderful, but there aren’t a lot of supporting parts. Hathaway just goes from person to person (or troll to troll) and has a scene or two, then moves on. Sydney Bromley and Patricia Hayes are great as a bickering gnome couple. Alan Oppenheimer voices most of the animatronic creatures, including the flying dragon. He’s great.

The special effects–and the fantasy scenery–are the real accomplishment of The NeverEnding Story. The composite shots are often awesome, same with the sets, same with the animatronics.

The NeverEnding Story disappoints. Petersen needed to be stronger when directing Oliver, needed to come up with a better finish. Both those elements were essential, both don’t work out.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen; screenplay by Petersen, Herman Weigel, and Robert Easton, based on the novel by Michael Ende; director of photography, Jost Vacano; edited by Jane Seitz; music by Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Rolf Zehetbauer; produced by Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Geissler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Barret Oliver (Bastian), Noah Hathaway (Atreyu), Tami Stronach (The Empress), Moses Gunn (Cairon), Sydney Bromley (Engywook), Patricia Hayes (Urgl), Deep Roy (Teeny Weeny), Tilo Prückner (Night Hob), Gerald McRaney (Bastian’s Father), Thomas Hill (Carl Conrad Coreander) and Alan Oppenheimer (Falkor).


RELATED

Advertisements

Electric Dreams (1984, Steve Barron)

Electric Dreams is a very strange film. And not just because it’s about a computer brought to life by champagne and electric fire. Not even because said computer has the voice of Bud Cort. It’s strange because it has no interest in having a conventional narrative structure, both in terms of the screenplay and the direction.

Lenny von Dohlen plays the lead. He’s a young architect in San Francisco who wants to create an earthquake-proof brick. The whole first act concerns this ambition, along with him meeting his fetching new neighbor. Virginia Madsen plays the neighbor. She’s a young cellist who’s just started with the symphony. Will Electric Dreams have anything to do with her ambitions or von Dohlen’s super-brick?

Nope.

Rusty Lemorande’s script even sets up various opportunities for these plot threads to return or pick up and he just leaves them. Director Barron seems more than comfortable with avoiding them because they don’t figure into what he enjoys doing in the film. He likes having scenes of von Dohlen and Madsen’s sometimes problematic courtship, usually set to music, or scenes with von Dohlen trying to deal with his newly self-aware computer. The computer even has to do with the two subplots–super-brick and symphony success–and Electric Dreams just skips it in favor of a far more audio-visual experience.

Barron’s direction is peculiar without being particularly ambitious. He maintains the awkward narrative tone, filling Electric Dreams not just with interludes between von Dohlen and Madsen, but in its fantastic montage sequences as well. Electric Dreams has spectacular cinematography, just in how Alex Thomson is able to get the camera swinging around the set. Barron loves crane shots and Thomson nails every one of them. Lots of tight focus on close-ups, which Thomson shots perfectly, and Peter Honess edits beautifully. Electric Dreams, even when it’s not trying to be a computer generated imagery spectacular, is always dynamic to watch. Until the end, when Barron’s music video direction instincts go too wild with the last montage.

Except he’s still got Honess’s editing and the fantastic New Wave soundtrack to get it through.

Von Dohlen’s a likable lead; the film doesn’t task him much. There’s an air of unreality to the whole thing–a San Francisco computerized fairy tale–and maybe Madsen weathers it better. Her part is easier; even though she has her own subplot for a while, she’s really just in the girlfriend part. She does get the film’s loveliest sequence though, when she’s playing a duet with the computer.

As the computer, Cort’s fine. Lemorande–and the film–don’t ask many big questions about existence; Cort’s just got to have personality and sympathy. He does both well.

Electric Dreams is a marvelously well-made film. It’s also quite a bit of fun to boot.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Steve Barron; written by Rusty Lemorande; director of photography, Alex Thomson; edited by Peter Honess; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Richard Macdonald; produced by Larry DeWaay and Lemorande; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Lenny von Dohlen (Miles Harding), Virginia Madsen (Madeline Robistat) and Bud Cort (Me).


RELATED

Over the Top (1987, Menahem Golan)

Is Over the Top terrible? Yes. It’s a terrible film. Is it an interesting terrible film? No. I mean, maybe if you wanted to examine Giorgio Moroder’s inept eighties synthesizer score or David Gurfinkel’s weird photography, you might be able to find some kernels of interest. But it wouldn’t be particularly rewarding.

At best, the most interesting thing about Over the Top is how detached Sylvester Stallone–reductively speaking, the plot is Rocky with arm wrestling, dead moms, deadbeat dads, truck driving–but Stallone’s completely detached from any of the machismo. It’s very, very strange, because it’s all about him wanting his son to man up. He’s been raised by his strangely manipulative but terminally ill mother (Susan Blakely in the epitome of a thankless performance) and his awful rich guy grandfather Robert Loggia. David Mendenhall’s the son. He’s real bad. Stirling Silliphant and Stallone write Mendenhall’s dialogue like he’s Marcie on “Charlie Brown.” It’s really weird. Weird in a bad, not interesting sort of way.

Then there’s Golan’s direction. It’s Panavision. It’s terrible. The editing is really bad too. James R. Symons and Don Zimmerman have to cut multiple eighties Stallone movies montages and they flop on all of them. Except maybe the final match, which is strangely effective. Maybe because Rick Zumwalt’s villain is really unlikable, but who knows. Maybe Over the Top just wears one down after ninety minutes. It bottoms out real early. There’s no disappointment to be had.

It’s not like even Loggia is any good. Maybe it’s interesting as a low point in Silliphant’s career.

No, it’s not. Maybe the production history is amusing, like Stallone really hated Mendenhall–they’re terrible together but it’s actually more Stallone’s fault. Both as the actor and one of the screenwriters.

Anyway. I think three hundred words on Over the Top is more than enough.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Menahem Golan; screenplay by Stirling Silliphant and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Gary Conway and David Engelbach; director of photography, David Gurfinkel; edited by James R. Symons and Don Zimmerman; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, James L. Schoppe; produced by Golan and Yoram Globus; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Lincoln Hawk), David Mendenhall (Michael Cutler), Susan Blakely (Christina Hawk), Robert Loggia (Jason Cutler) and Rick Zumwalt (Bob ‘Bull’ Hurley).


Flashdance (1983, Adrian Lyne)

Even though it’s terrible, Flashdance at least sticks with protagonist Jennifer Beals for most of the film. She’s a steel worker who dances at a club and starts dating her boss (at the steel mill, not the club, which is actually a bar). For a while, director Lyne and screenwriters Thomas Hedley Jr. and Joe Eszterhas try really hard to create the atmosphere of camaraderie at the bar.

All of the supporting cast has a story, especially Sunny Johnson, who dates the cook (Kyle T. Heffner, who wants to be a stand-up comic). She dreams of being an professional ice skater. But gives it up.

The film’s actually more of a character study than anything else. Just a bad one with a lot of pop music and Giorgio Moroder music playing over montages of Beals dancing sweatily (or her dance double dancing sweatily). When it’s actually just Beals working out, even if it’s scantily clad, Lyne feels the need to immediately follow with a break dancing montage of street performers.

I guess if it’s called Flashdance, there needs to be a lot of dancing.

There’s some more terrible stuff–a supporting cast member dies from an acute case of deus ex machina–but Beals is the protagonist. And then all of a sudden the film takes away her most important moment and makes her just a girlfriend character. It’s really upsetting, because Beals is at least likable, even if the movie’s crap.

The final disappointment is just too much.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adrian Lyne; screenplay by Thomas Hedley Jr. and Joe Eszterhas, based on a story by Hedley; director of photography, Donald Peterman; edited by Bud S. Smith and Walt Mulconery; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Charles Rosen; produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Jennifer Beals (Alex Owens), Michael Nouri (Nick Hurley), Lilia Skala (Hanna Long), Sunny Johnson (Jeanie Szabo), Kyle T. Heffner (Richie), Lee Ving (Johnny C.) and Ron Karabatsos (Jake Mawby).


RELATED