Tag Archives: Jennifer Tilly

Bullets Over Broadway (1994, Woody Allen)

Bullets Over Broadway has a lot going for it. Between Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly and Dianne Wiest, there’s a lot of great acting and great moments. There are a decided lack of great scenes, however, thanks to director Allen’s choice of John Cusack as leading man. Cusack doesn’t so much give a performance as imitate Woody Allen, though not all of the time. Occasionally he gives an overly affected performance and comes off as mocking the material. As opposed to Wiest, who gives an overly affected performance and embraces the material.

There are also some big writing problems, like the narration. For whatever reason, Allen and co-writer Douglas McGrath go with some useless narration from Cusack to show time progressing. There are a half dozen better devices they could have used, but if Cusack’s performance of the narration weren’t terrible, it might work a little better. But a lot of it is on Allen, especially the moronic ending, which relies entirely on the nonexistent chemistry between Cusack and girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker.

There’s some really nice supporting work from Jim Broadbent. Some okay support from Joe Viterelli and Tracey Ullman. Not so good supporting work from Jack Warden. He and Cusack’s scenes together are particularly bad.

The best thing about Bullets is Allen’s matter-of-fact presentation of violence. It’s simultaneously shocking and mundane, as opposed to the film itself, which oscillates between mundane and annoying. It does move pretty well though. The good acting moves it right along.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Douglas McGrath; director of photography, Carlo Di Palma; edited by Susan E. Morse; production designer, Santo Loquasto; produced by Robert Greenhut; released by Miramax Films.

Starring John Cusack (David Shayne), Chazz Palminteri (Cheech), Dianne Wiest (Helen Sinclair), Jennifer Tilly (Olive Neal), Tracey Ullman (Eden Brent), Jim Broadbent (Warner Purcell), Jack Warden (Julian Marx), Joe Viterelli (Nick Valenti), Mary-Louise Parker (Ellen), Harvey Fierstein (Sid Loomis) and Rob Reiner (Sheldon Flender).


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High Spirits (1988, Neil Jordan)

High Spirits is another fine example of how excellent production values, earnest performances and a genial air can make even the most problem riddled film enjoyable.

The studio, infamously, took Spirits away from director Jordan in the editing and the resulting version isn’t his intention. The narrative is disjointed–characters get lost, their arcs collapse, in the case of the hotel employees… they don’t even get established.

The film has an utterly wonderful comic performance from Peter O’Toole near its center. Eventually, O’Toole has to give up the spotlight to Steve Guttenberg, who isn’t nearly as funny (or as good). Guttenberg’s generally likable, thanks to having an fire-breathing dragon of a wife (Beverly D’Angelo) and a pleasant way about him. Terrible outfit though. Spirits has great photography from Alex Thomson, a nice score from George Fenton, lovely Anton Furst production design and lame eighties costuming from Emma Porteus. Why Guttenberg’s wearing a heavy wool coat around indoors half the movie is beyond me.

Jordan’s direction is decent but not exceptional. The special effects and Thomson’s photography make the film after a certain point, especially the effects.

Besides O’Toole, the best performance might be Liam Neeson’s hilarious turn as a horny ghost. As his wife–and murder victim (not to mention Guttenberg’s romantic interest)–Daryl Hannah is good. She doesn’t have a lot to do though. D’Angelo’s on the low side of mediocre.

Regardless of Jordan’s original intent, High Spirits is often rather funny and exquisitely well-made. It’s fine.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Neil Jordan; director of photography, Alex Thomson; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by George Fenton; production designer, Anton Furst; produced by David Saunders and Stephen Woolley; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Daryl Hannah (Mary Plunkett Brogan), Peter O’Toole (Peter Plunkett), Steve Guttenberg (Jack Crawford), Beverly D’Angelo (Sharon Brogan Crawford), Jennifer Tilly (Miranda), Liam Neeson (Martin Brogan), Peter Gallagher (Brother Tony), Ray McAnally (Plunkett Senior), Martin Ferrero (Malcolm), Connie Booth (Marge), Donal McCann (Eamon), Mary Coughlan (Katie) and Liz Smith (Mrs. Plunkett).


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Let It Ride (1989, Joe Pytka)

I wonder how Let It Ride would play if it were competently made. Pytka’s not a terrible director, but he’s not any good either. His mediocre composition is undone by the absolutely atrocious song choices for the soundtrack. The film would probably be better with no changes other than that track excised. Not that Giorgio Moroder’s score is anything special; it’s mildly okay, just because it basically plagiarizes Danny Elfman’s score for Midnight Run.

The biggest shame is Pytka doesn’t give editor Dede Allen anything to work with. One of the best editors in Hollywood and she’s got nothing….

Oh, and Curtis Wehr’s photography is awful.

Now, on to the rest—i.e. the acting and Nancy Dowd’s script.

Let It Ride takes place over a day at the races where Richard Dreyfuss all of a sudden starts winning. The tension of whether or not he’ll keep winning eventually gets mildly nerve-wracking (a good director would have made it excruciating) in last half hour.

Dowd’s story is really small. It serves as a showcase for actors… in an easy comedy. Dreyfuss has almost nothing to do until the end. Still, he manages a solid lead performance.

Lots of great supporting performances. Teri Garr’s excellent as his wife (maybe the best performance). David Johansen and Jennifer Tilly are both good. Robbie Coltrane, Michelle Phillips and Cynthia Nixon, all good.

The weakest performance is Richard Edson and he’s not terrible.

It should have been better; not heavier or more serious, just better.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Pytka; screenplay by Nancy Dowd, based on a novel by Jay Cronley; director of photography, Curtis Wehr; edited by Dede Allen and Jim Allen; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Wolf Kroeger; produced by David Giler; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (Jay Trotter), David Johansen (Looney), Teri Garr (Pam), Jennifer Tilly (Vicki), Allen Garfield (Greenberg), Richard Edson (Johnny Casino), Ralph Seymour (Sid), Cynthia Nixon (Evangeline), Richard Dimitri (Tony Cheeseburger), Michelle Phillips (Mrs. Davis) and Robbie Coltrane (Ticket Seller).


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Bound (1996, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)

I always thought Gina Gershon got top billing for Bound–even though she’s only the lead for the first third or so–but it’s actually Jennifer Tilly, which is somewhat more appropriate. I say somewhat because at a certain point, Tilly too loses the spotlight. For a good twenty minutes in the middle, the film belongs to Joe Pantoliano.

Pantoliano’s performance here is probably his best; even though it’s firmly in his oeuvre of slimy weirdos… there’s something singular about this one. He’s always scary, even before he’s supposed to be, because his character is so clearly disturbed (he’s a dissatisfied middle-level mobster).

But Pantoliano doesn’t take over until almost halfway through–Bound takes place over a week or so, following Gershon getting a job renovating the apartment next to Tilly’s–and during the Gershon and Tilly romance, it’s got to be perfect and it is perfect.

While the film definitely has its roots in film noir, the Wachowskis break certain rules. Making it about a lesbian couple isn’t one of those rules. In fact, their carefulness in showing that relationship–especially exploring Tilly’s role in it–is what makes Bound different and some of what makes it great. The dialogue in these scenes is superior.

There’re some great supporting performances–John P. Ryan, Christopher Meloni.

It has a small cast in a small film. Bound’s the greatest play adapted to screen (of an original screenplay).

Bound is brilliant–so brilliant, I didn’t even make any Speed Racer jokes.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski; written by the Wachowskis; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Zach Staenberg; music by Don Davis; production designer, Eve Cauley; produced by Stuart Boros and Andrew Lazar; released by Gramercy Pictures.

Starring Jennifer Tilly (Violet), Gina Gershon (Corky), Joe Pantoliano (Caesar), John P. Ryan (Micky Malnato), Christopher Meloni (Johnnie Marzzone), Richard C. Sarafian (Gino Marzzone) and Mary Mara (Sue the Bartender).


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