Tag Archives: Jeremy Piven

One Crazy Summer (1986, Savage Steve Holland)

When Demi Moore gives a film’s best performance, it’s obviously not a good film.

One Crazy Summer is apparently Holland’s attempt at doing a zany teen vacation picture. It’s the kind of movie “USA Up All Night” wouldn’t have bothered playing because it’s too boring. But the real problem isn’t the lack of cheap explotation, it’s Holland’s inability to direct actors.

Or maybe to cast them. It’s hard to say.

Holland opens the film with pseudo-protagonist John Cusack. He’s apparently floundering post-high school because he isn’t a basketball superstar. But Holland never sets up why anyone would think Cusack would be good at basketball. It’s like a repeated punchline without a joke.

But Summer quickly becomes about everyone but Cusack (who romances Moore, eventually, because she’s the only principal female character and all the other guys are meant to be losers). Holland fills it with absurd characters and gives them absurd dialogue, but then either casts bad actors or doesn’t direct them.

Holland is really inept. Bobcat Goldthwait, doing his schtick, isn’t as bad as Joel Murray as Cusack’s sidekick. Murray’s presence makes it somewhat unbelievable One Crazy Summer got a theatrical release, much less Cusack and Moore to sign on. Murray can’t even raise an eyebrow believably.

Also terrible are Bruce Wagner, Matt Mulhern, Joe Flaherty and Mark Metcalf. Some of the problem is probably Holland’s bad script and direction, but still….

Curtis Armstrong is actually pretty good.

The film’s complete indifference to sincerity hurts it immeasurably.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Savage Steve Holland; director of photography, Isidore Mankofsky; edited by Alan Balsam; music by Cory Lerios; production designer, Herman F. Zimmerman; produced by Michael Jaffe; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Cusack (Hoops McCann), Demi Moore (Cassandra Eldridge), Curtis Armstrong (Ack Ack Raymond), Bobcat Goldthwait (Egg Stork), Joel Murray (George Calamari), William Hickey (Old Man Beckerstead), Joe Flaherty (General Raymond), Mark Metcalf (Aquilla Beckerstead), John Matuszak (Stan), Kimberly Foster (Cookie Campbell), Matt Mulhern (Teddy Beckerstead), Rich Little (Radio contest DJ), Tom Villard (Clay Stork), Jeremy Piven (Ty), Rich Hall (Wilbur, Gas station attendant), Taylor Negron (Taylor, Gas station attendant), Billie Bird (Grandma Calamari) and Bruce Wagner (Uncle Frank).


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Runaway Jury (2003, Gary Fleder)

I thought there were no anti-conservative Hollywood films for a long while after 9/11, so I guess Runaway Jury went under the radar. It appears to have been a significant bomb and, watching it, it seemed strange to see John Grisham’s name on screen. It’s been a long time since adaptations of his novels have been blockbusters… about as long as it’s been since Michael Crichton’s name was on blockbusters.

Runaway Jury went under my radar because I figured it wasn’t going to be very good and it isn’t. The plot’s unbelievable and annoying in its false complexity. Director Fleder and his four credited screenwriters play it like Coppola never succeeded in making Grisham good with The Rainmaker and… eh. Fleder is a mediocre director. His composition isn’t bad, he likes dumb editing and he shoots New Orleans poorly. Someone had a New Orleans guide book for the shoot and Fleder barely let the city, it being one of significant character, do anything. There’s more personality from the city in the background dialogue than in Fleder’s shots. But he’s not as bad as I assumed.

The acting is questionable. Dustin Hoffman can’t keep his New Orleans accent, Gene Hackman is playing a goofy bad guy from one of his 1990s movies–though the scene with Hoffman is nice, since Hackman lets loose with some Lex Luthor style fun lunacy (even though Hoffman just stands there). John Cusack is fine, playing John Cusack once again. Rachel Weisz is okay, if occasionally dubious in her emoting.

The best thing about Runaway Jury is the supporting cast–Guy Torry, Luis Guzmán, Nick Searcy, Cliff Curtis, Bill Nunn, Leland Orser and Bruce McGill. Joanna Going suffers from a bad accent as well. The supporting cast almost makes Jury feel like it’s a big event movie (like The Rainmaker). Almost.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Gary Fleder; written by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland and Matthew Chapman, based on the novel by John Grisham; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by William Steinkamp; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Nelson Coates; produced by Arnon Milchan, Fleder and Christopher Mankiewicz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring John Cusack (Nicholas Easter), Gene Hackman (Rankin Fitch), Dustin Hoffman (Wendell Rohr), Rachel Weisz (Marlee), Bruce Davison (Durwood Cable), Bruce McGill (Judge Harkin), Jeremy Piven (Lawrence Green), Nick Searcy (Doyle), Stanley Anderson (Henry Jankle), Cliff Curtis (Frank Herrera), Nestor Serrano (Janovich), Leland Orser (Lamb), Luiz Guzmán (Jerry Hernandez), Jennifer Beals (Vanessa Lembeck), Gerry Bamman (Herman Grimes), Joanna Going (Celeste Wood), Bill Nunn (Lonnie Shaver), Juanita Jennings (Loreen Duke), Marguerite Moreau (Amanda Monroe), Nora Dunn (Stella Hulic), Guy Torry (Eddie Weese) and Rusty Schwimmer (Millie Dupree).


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Larger Than Life (1996, Howard Franklin)

Larger Than Life is a different film today than it was ten years ago–back then, I remember, it was a big deal Matthew McConaughey starred in the film. There were reshoots to add more of him. Today, the film’s sold as a kid’s movie on DVD, which isn’t particularly appropriate, given a lot of the dialogue and some other aspects. The film was also one of Bill Murray’s last roles before he became “serious actor” Bill Murray. I remember, back then, it was of note because it reunited Murray with Howard Franklin and I really liked Quick Change back then.

I remember liking Larger Than Life well enough when it came out, but watching it again, I wish I could remember why–not because it’s terrible or something, but because I can’t believe I would have appreciated the developing affection between Murray and the elephant (it’s about Bill Murray and a giant elephant). I remember loving McConaughey, who turns in one of the great modern comedic performances in the film. McConaughey was on his way up, but whoever advertised the film couldn’t do anything with it (and, to be fair, it did take McConaughey a lot longer to catch on than anyone expected). But, overall, Larger Than Life is an advertising nightmare. It’s an unabashedly sentimental story about Bill Murray and an elephant. It’s also really, really short. It runs around ninety minutes and it probably needs only another ten or so (fifteen tops), but it does need something to make it gel. Most of the film is Murray and the elephant and various character actors showing up from time to time. It’s sort of a road movie, sort of an Americana travelogue, but also sort of not. There are all sorts of little things, which are supposed to be funny and kind of are funny, but they’re too fast to work. It’s like an experiment in humor or something–Murray, playing an up and coming motivational speaker, gets pissed when he sees Tony Robbins on TV. The scene lasts ten seconds and is the only thing regarding Murray’s character’s professional goals in the whole film.

Franklin sets up his comedic set pieces really well and an obvious complaint is the lack of them after the halfway mark. Larger Than Life‘s got a relatively long first act, short second, and long third. There’s not much funny in the first act, lots in the second, and heart-string pulling in the third (except McConaughey). It’s just too light and not in an unskilled way, but in a “something happened production-wise” way. Quick Change was short as well, but it was busier. Still, Larger Than Life does a lot more right than it does wrong–I just wish there were a decent DVD release.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Howard Franklin; written by Roy Blount Jr.; director of photography, Elliot Davis; edited by Sidney Levin; music by Miles Goodman; production designer, Marcia Hinds-Johnson; produced by Richard B. Lewis, John Watson and Pen Densham; released by United Artists.

Starring Bill Murray (Jack Corcoran), Janeane Garofalo (Mo), Matthew McConaughey (Tip), Linda Fiorentino (Terry), Jeremy Piven (Walter), Harve Presnell (Bowers), Tracey Walter (Wee St. Francis), Pat Hingle (Vernon), Lois Smith (Luluna) and Keith David (Hurst).


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