Tag Archives: John Lithgow

Footloose (1984, Herbert Ross)

Footloose isn’t so much awful as dumb and obvious. Some of it is awful–the scene where Kevin Bacon, fed up with the small town getting him down, just has to go to an abandoned mill and dance it out–that scene is awful. So are most of the courtship scenes between Bacon and Lori Singer.

But the relationship between Singer and father John Lithgow? While really obvious and thin, the actors do okay with it. Singer’s not good, but she’s convincingly angry. Lithgow’s the emotionally wounded reverend who tries to fix the world through his sermons, only to learn the townsfolk he’s trying to save are perverting his message. It’s just Footloose’s way not condemning the religious in the audience, just the ones who don’t like rock music. Though it does a really bad job of it.

Some of the problem is Dean Pitchford’s script. It’s dumb and often bad, but Pitchford really doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes. The ones between Lithgow and Singer, the ones between Lithgow, Singer and Dianne Wiest (as the quietly suffering preacher’s wife), they’re really good. But Pitchford doesn’t know how to work them. The most important conversation in the film–between Bacon and Lithgow–doesn’t even occur on screen.

It’s not like director Ross does much good. He probably can’t make Bacon look any younger and most of the performances are blandly acceptable, but the idiotic dance interludes are Ross’s fault.

Footloose is often marginally competent, but never any good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Herbert Ross; written by Dean Pitchfork; director of photography, Ric Waite; edited by Paul Hirsch; production designer, Ron Hobbs; produced by Lewis J. Rachmil and Craig Zadan; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Kevin Bacon (Ren), Lori Singer (Ariel), John Lithgow (Rev. Shaw Moore), Dianne Wiest (Vi Moore), Chris Penn (Willard), Sarah Jessica Parker (Rusty), John Laughlin (Woody), Elizabeth Gorcey (Wendy Jo), Frances Lee McCain (Ethel McCormack) and Jim Youngs (Chuck Cranston).


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Memphis Belle (1990, Michael Caton-Jones)

Memphis Belle runs just around an hour and fifty minutes. It takes the film about a half hour before it’s even clear the titular plane is going to have a mission in the narrative. It opens with a masterful introduction to the characters and the situation (a bomber has one more mission before the crew completes their tour of duty). There are a lot of problems with Monte Merrick’s script, but his framing is great. He has the PR officer (played by John Lithgow) introduce everyone; it works beautifully in the narrative.

Caton-Jones’s composition is fantastic from the first shot. Too bad Merrick’s writing falls apart. First, it’s little things, like D.B. Sweeney—the only character to openly scared—having some lame dialogue. It’s not too damaging… but then Eric Stoltz’s part gets bigger. And Stoltz is truly awful. With so many principals, Merrick’s already resorting to caricature. He proceeds to give Stoltz, who’s laughable, too much attention.

But Merrick and Caton-Jones also awkwardly make the captain useless. Matthew Modine has the less to do than any other actor, including David Strathairn as the base commander. At least Strathairn has some real dialogue. Modine just gets to look scared.

There are some great performances though. Billy Zane gives the film’s best performance, but Reed Diamond and Tate Donovan are excellent as well.

The special effects are good. George Fenton’s music is lame. The sound design is great.

While it’s not terrible, it’s too bad Memphis Belle isn’t good.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones; written by Monte Merrick; director of photography, David Watkin; edited by Jim Clark; music by George Fenton; production designer, Stuart Craig; produced by David Puttnam and Catherine Wyler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Matthew Modine (Capt. Dennis Dearborn), Eric Stoltz (Sgt. Danny Daly), Tate Donovan (1st Lt. Luke Sinclair), D.B. Sweeney (Lt. Phil Lowenthal), Billy Zane (Lt. Val Kozlowski), Sean Astin (Sgt. Richard Moore), Harry Connick Jr. (Sgt. Clay Busby), Reed Diamond (Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger), Courtney Gains (Sgt. Eugene McVey), Neil Giuntoli (Sgt. Jack Bocci), David Strathairn (Col. Craig Harriman) and John Lithgow (Lt.Col. Bruce Derringer).


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The Pelican Brief (1993, Alan J. Pakula)

If you’re ever stuck watching The Pelican Brief, you can amuse yourself wondering if the film would be better had Pakula shot it 1.85 as opposed to Panavision. Pakula shoots it empty Panavision, the right and left sides of the frame empty for easier pan-and-scanning. It’s an inexplicable choice from Pakula, but not as inexplicable as him doing a Grisham adaptation in the first place (wait, never mind… money). It’s the modern Hollywood version of his paranoia trilogy (which was seventies Hollywood and, therefore, quite different).

The film is a disastrous piece of garbage. It’s boring, it’s long, it’s stupid—James Horner is just recycling scores again. There’s nothing like a Julia Roberts movie with Star Trek II music.

It’s also not a real conspiracy thriller. All of Roberts’s fears are validated… ad nauseam. Of course, since it’s a Grisham movie, it’s unlikely, but uncertainty might’ve improved the film.

Roberts is terrible. She’s supposed to smart in Pelican Brief, which is hilarious. It’s absurd to think she might have even found the LSAT testing room.

Denzel Washington’s great, in Warner’s attempt to turn him into a marquee star. But John Lithgow (as his boss) is horrendous—and Lithgow’s constant concerns over a racial discrimination suit are painful.

The supporting casting is phenomenal. Robert Culp’s good as the stupidest president ever. John Heard’s good, Stanley Tucci’s wasted. James Sikking is good. William Atherton and Anthony Heald are wasted in small roles. Sam Shepard is slumming.

It’s a dreadful film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Alan J. Pakula; screenplay by Pakula, based on the novel by John Grisham; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Tom Rolf and Trudy Ship; music by James Horner; production designer, Philip Rosenberg; produced by Pieter Jan Brugge and Pakula; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Julia Roberts (Darby Shaw), Denzel Washington (Gray Grantham), Sam Shepard (Thomas Callahan), John Heard (Gavin Vereek), Tony Goldwyn (Fletcher Coal), James Sikking (FBI Director Denton Voyles), William Atherton (Bob Gminski), Stanley Tucci (Khamel), Hume Cronyn (Justice Rosenberg), John Lithgow (Smith Keen), Anthony Heald (Marty Velmano), Nicholas Woodeson (Stump), Stanley Anderson (Edwin Sneller), John Finn (Matthew Barr), Cynthia Nixon (Alice Stark), Jake Weber (Garcia) and Robert Culp as the President of the United States.


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Cliffhanger (1993, Renny Harlin)

Oh, Trevor Jones did the music. I was going to say it sounded like some really good Hans Zimmer (with some plagiarism of Alan Silvestri’s Predator score), but Jones does good work so I guess it’s not a surprise.

Cliffhanger is such a technical marvel it’s hard to get upset about the problems (writing and acting). Harlin’s got a lot of composite shots here and Alex Thomson shooting or not, the technology simply isn’t there for them to look right. But the concepts are all great. Outside the composites, everything is perfect. There’s some astounding stunt work in the film.

Frank J. Urioste’s editing is great, as is John Vallone’s production design.

So what’s wrong with it?

It’s stupid. It’s really, really stupid and it has constantly laughable dialogue.

The best actors in the movie are barely in it (Paul Winfield and Zach Grenier) and even Stallone–who can manage this kind of tripe–gets overshadowed by the villains. John Lithgow plays the lead villain, with a terrible British accent, and basically does an Anthony Hopkins impersonation. However, given Cliffhanger‘s release date, it’s like Hopkins saw the film and just started mimicking Lithgow’s turn in this one.

Janine Turner and Vyto Ruginis have such bad dialogue it’s impossible to gauge their performances. Villains Rex Linn, Leon and Craig Fairbrass are all atrocious. I suppose Caroline Goodall almost gives an okay bad performance.

It’s a shame Cliffhanger has to be so bad, just for all the technical pluses… but it’s inane.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by France and a premise by John Long; director of photography, Alex Thomson; edited by Frank J. Urioste; music by Trevor Jones; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Harlin and Alan Marshall; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Gabe Walker), John Lithgow (Eric Qualen), Michael Rooker (Hal Tucker), Janine Turner (Jessie Deighan), Rex Linn (Richard Travers), Caroline Goodall (Kristel), Leon (Kynette), Craig Fairbrass (Delmar), Gregory Scott Cummins (Ryan), Denis Forest (Heldon), Michelle Joyner (Sarah), Max Perlich (Evan), Paul Winfield (Walter Wright), Ralph Waite (Frank), Trey Brownell (Brett), Zach Grenier (Davis) and Vyto Ruginis (Matheson).


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