Tag Archives: Jeff Goldblum

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984, W.D. Richter)

Buckaroo Banzai‘s greatest contribution to cinema–well, if it didn’t get Peter Weller the Robocop role at least–is as a warning against trying to adapt authors like Thomas Pynchon to motion pictures. Banzai goes out of its way–the Pynchon references are well-known, to the point Pynchon even referenced Banzai in a novel (Vineland)–and it’s not hard to imagine the film as a novel being a lot better. If the novelist were good, anyway.

But as a film, it’s mostly an example with what’s… maybe not wrong, but what’s lacking in the medium. Richter and writer Rauch are enthusiastic to a fault and do a good job–unintentionally, I assume, but maybe it’s another joke–making Banzai feel like there’s something else going on… when in truth, there’s not.

The film’s absence of subtext or genuine human conflict doesn’t work with Richter’s otherwise fine direction. Richter painstakingly tries not to let it get absurd, when absurd is about all you can do with a New Wave Doc Savage retread.

The script doesn’t allow for much in the way of performances. Weller’s solid in the lead, but nothing spectacular. Ellen Barkin is wasted as the almost always offscreen love interest, same goes for John Lithgow’s alien Mussolini. Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd have nothing to do–the film’s only really impressive performance is from Lewis Smith.

Even Clancy Brown disappoints.

I’m curious if they acknowledged they were trying to sell America a science hero–America hates smart guys.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by W.D. Richter; written by Earl Mac Rauch; director of photography, Fred J. Koenekamp; edited by George Bowers and Richard Marks; music by Michael Boddicker; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Neil Canton and Richter; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai), John Lithgow (Lord John Whorfin), Ellen Barkin (Penny Priddy), Jeff Goldblum (New Jersey), Christopher Lloyd (John Bigboote), Lewis Smith (Perfect Tommy), Rosalind Cash (John Emdall), Robert Ito (Professor Hikita), Pepe Serna (Reno Nevada), Clancy Brown (Rawhide), William Traylor (General Catburd), Carl Lumbly (John Parker), Vincent Schiavelli (John O’Connor) and Dan Hedaya (John Gomez).


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The Switch (2010, Josh Gordon and Will Speck)

I suppose if someone wanted to think really hard about it, there’s something to be said about adapting short stories for Hollywood. Jeffrey Eugenides’s source short story was in The New Yorker. Is it ripe for mainstream Hollywood adaptation? Given the adaptation, The Switch, failed at the box office, one might say no. But then if people don’t see good movies (or read good fiction), maybe a New Yorker short story is a good starting place for a mainstream movie.

The Switch is a completely predictable family comedy. It’s not really a romantic comedy because the romance between Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman is tertiary to Bateman forming a relationship with the son he never knew he had, played by Thomas Robinson.

The opening third is set seven years before (odd how Aniston and Bateman didn’t age a day) and has a different tone. It’s a lot funnier. The film opens on a hilarious urban sequence. Then the supporting cast–Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis and Patrick Wilson–get introduced and they’re a lot funnier than they get to be when there’s a kid around.

Gordon and Speck earn a bunch of good will and basically spend the last hour of the film using it and it works. It doesn’t hurt the film’s got one of the single best romantic comeback lines since, I don’t know, Empire Strikes Back.

Bateman’s really good here. All of the casting is good, but Bateman’s performance suggests he’s capable of great things.

It’s totally fine.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck; screenplay by Allan Loeb, based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides; director of photography, Jess Hall; edited by John Axelrad; music by Alex Wurman; production designer, Adam Stockhausen; produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Jason Bateman (Wally), Jennifer Aniston (Kassie), Patrick Wilson (Roland), Jeff Goldblum (Leonard), Juliette Lewis (Debbie) and Thomas Robinson (Sebastian).


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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson)

The problem with The Life Aquatic reveals itself quite clearly in the final act, as the cast all gives Bill Murray shoulder squeezes of support. The scene is supposed to mean something profound. It’s Murray confronting not just his Moby Dick (a quest for vengeance lost in the film, maybe because they knew it was a silly idea as a major plot point), but also himself. His mortality, his place in the world, you know, the yada yada. And it is the yada yada, because the viewer isn’t watching Murray’s character confront himself, he or she is watching Murray play a character confronting himself. The Life Aquatic manages to create a particular suspension of disbelief–the little stop motion undersea creatures are exquisite and fully part of the film’s reality–but it never manages to convince (or even try to convince) the viewer he or she isn’t watching a construct. A hipster event picture. It’s a great hipster event picture, maybe the best (since who makes decent hipster pictures except Anderson), but there’s no depth to it. It’s a fake.

The Life Aquatic wasn’t expensive by Hollywood standards–it was pretty cheap actually, considering the cast, effects and water shooting–but it’s a huge Wes Anderson picture. There are action scenes–Anderson’s pretty good at them too, incorporating both his self-aware style as well as the action scene necessities. There are huge sets–Mark Friedberg’s production design–is wonderful. There’s always something to look at in The Life Aquatic, which is good, because the film frequently gets boring.

Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach think swearing is funny. Swearing can be funny and some of the swear-based jokes in Life Aquatic are okay (they don’t get belly-laughs, but they’re okay), but they rely on them all the time. Or uncomfortable situations. It’s like Anderson sat down and watched the trailers to Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums and thought he should make a feature-length trailer. There’s not an honest human moment in the entire film, as the actors deliver their lines to the camera, not to each other. Owen Wilson–who really should have co-wrote the picture instead of acted in it–is the worst. His Kentucky fish out of water is an affected performance, with the whole hook being him being Owen Wilson acting in another Wes Anderson movie. None of his scenes are bad, but seeing him opposite Willem Dafoe, who hurls himself head first into his role as an insecure German crew member, is painful. Dafoe pushes through to the other side with his performance, while Wilson’s happy with staying celluloid.

After Dafoe, Cate Blanchett gives the film’s second-best performance, even though she has little to do… watching Blanchett act–even in a shallow character–is great. Murray’s fine, so is Anjelica Huston. Jeff Goldblum’s okay, playing the standard post-Jurassic Park Goldblum standard. Bud Cort’s got a great small part.

The Life Aquatic is a frustrating film. As filmmaking, it’s masterful and exciting. As a fiction, it’s a complete waste of time. There’s more insight into the human condition in mediocre fortune cookies.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Anderson; written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, Mark Friedberg; produced by Anderson, Barry Mendel and Scott Rudin; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Bill Murray (Steve Zissou), Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton), Cate Blanchett (Jane Winslett-Richardson), Anjelica Huston (Eleanor Zissou), Willem Dafoe (Klaus Daimler), Jeff Goldblum (Hennessey), Michael Gambon (Drakoulious), Bud Cort (Bill Ubell) and Seymour Cassel (Esteban de Plantier).


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Between the Lines (1977, Joan Micklin Silver)

There are some good scenes in Between the Lines and some good performances… but thanks to director Micklin Silver’s direction, a lot of it feels like a really unfunny episode of a sitcom. “A very special episode” or something. It’s like maudlin moments strung over ninety-some minutes only to bounce up at the end. The film also suffers from an aimless, meandering story. There are four subplots making up the film and it manages to go pretty well without a real plot, because the romance between John Heard and Lindsay Crouse, which is aimless and meandering too, but Heard’s good–for the most part–and Crouse is appealing. Micklin Silver doesn’t direct the actors very much and some of takes she went with really shouldn’t have been printed. Anyway, the film pretends it doesn’t have these plots and is somehow anti-plot… which only makes the plots more obvious.

There’s the love story, the young American author and girlfriend, the scandal and the buying of the newspaper. The first one gets a lot of attention, but none of the others get enough. It’s unbelievable, for example, anyone would date Stephen Collins before he signs his book contract and becomes a jerk who wears sunglasses in clubs, much less after. The scandal is stupid, gives Bruno Kirby something to do (like he’s being groomed for when the sitcom’s lead leaves). The buying of the newspaper is what it is–obviously and convenient, since the movie ends five minutes after the scene.

Where Between the Lines is not standard is in how much Micklin Silver shows of people’s interactions with each other. There some great raw scenes in here and there’s a real sense of reality (even if she does earn all those tickets she spends it all on a big dumb teddy bear in the shape of Raymond J. Barry–who is great in his scene, which consists of him, quite unbelievably, wrecking havoc in the newspaper office). So, by the end of the movie where Lane Smith turns out not to be the progressive, free-thinking new boss and is instead just corporate jackass… well, it came as little surprise. The subsequent day dream sequence, on the other hand, was simply inexcusable.

The performances, besides Stephen Collins and Jon Korkes and most of Gwen Welles (except her character is unbelievable), are all good. Jeff Goldblum’s funny, Marilu Henner has a nice small part; the big surprise is Jill Eikenberry, who is fantastic. Joe Morton has a small role and he’s good.

There’s actually an accounting geek in the office who wears bow-ties and is the butt of all the hip people’s jokes. It’s ludicrous and makes the whole movie feel a little like a self-aware farce. Until reality returns and it becomes clear… it isn’t a joke.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Joan Micklin Silver; screenplay by Fred Barron, based on a story by Barron and David Helpern; director of photography, Kenneth Van Sickle; edited by John Carter; music by Michael Kamen; produced by Raphael D. Silver; released by Midwest Films.

Starring John Heard (Harry Lucas), Lindsay Crouse (Abbie), Jeff Goldblum (Max Arloft), Jill Eikenberry (Lynn), Bruno Kirby (David Entwhistle), Gwen Welles (Laura), Stephen Collins (Michael), Lewis J. Stadlen (Stanley), Jon Korkes (Frank), Michael J. Pollard (The Hawker), Lane Smith (Roy Walsh), Joe Morton (Ahmed), Richard Cox (Wheeler), Marilu Henner (Danielle) and Raymond J. Barry (Herbert Fisk).