Tag Archives: Kevin Dillon

Heaven Help Us (1985, Michael Dinner)

In its hundred minute run time, Heaven Help Us does a number of things well. It’s beautifully edited, photographed, directed, acted. Charles Purpura’s screenplay offers a number of fantastic scenes, which director Dinner does a great job with. Overall, however, the screenplay is where there’s a significant problem. The film doesn’t have an ending and its lack of an ending just draws attention to the (easily overlooked) previous plotting deficiencies.

The film is so beautifully constructed in the first act, it gets by on that narrative goodwill and the performances all the way until the finale. Andrew McCarthy is the ostensible lead, the new kid at a Catholic high school in 1965 Brooklyn. His parents have died, he’s living with his sympathetic but awkward grandparents and his understandably upset little sister (Jennifer Dundas). He meets all the kids at school, then he meets a girl (Mary Stuart Masterson). They have a wonderfully dreary teen romance. Masterson is phenomenal, McCarthy is good.

Except it’s like Dinner realized McCarthy was too passive, so he gives Kevin Dillon a lot to do as the lovable bully. Dillon has all the Catholic school shenanigans (bullying, talking back to the priests, confession consulting, trying to corrupt a girl). Dinner and photographer Miroslav Ondríce give the school location enough personality the occasional diversions are all right. But, narratively speaking, Heaven Help Us points at Chekov’s gun only to reveal Greedo shoots first–it’s unclear if the film is hurrying to wrap up or if they just didn’t know what else to do with it.

Because part of the film’s charm is its scope. Dinner and Ondríce do a lot with a limited number of locations, a limited number of angles. They recreate 1965 Brooklyn through intelligent framing, with Stephen A. Rotter’s editing implying a lot of the rest. Rotter’s editing is excellent throughout the film, from the very first sequence.

The film isn’t happy. It’s often funny–there are the hijinks after all and McCarthy and John Heard (as the new priest at the school, which seems like a great narrative device but just gets lost) are great at deadpan–but it’s sad. There’s a weight to it all. Heaven Help Us isn’t just about McCarthy and Dillon finding themselves (they don’t even have to do it themselves–the abrupt deus ex machina takes care of their problems), it really is about Catholic high school. It’s about Heard’s relationship with the headmaster (Donald Sutherland in a fun performance) and the other teachers (specifically an outstanding Jay Patterson as a vicious, cruel one). It’s about the boys growing up in this environment. Dinner takes it very seriously.

Except he’s got too much, because he’s supposed to be making this movie about Andrew McCarthy and Mary Stuart Masterson (who actually has the best story in the film). Instead, he wants to make one about pro-hippie priest John Heard bucking the system. But then he goes ahead and makes one about Dillon.

It’s a mess, but a successful one. Until the third act, all of Dinner and Purpura’s tangential moments work out, like Wallace Shawn’s hilarious monologue on lust.

Heaven Help Us is a fine film, but Dinner had all the pieces–Masterson, McCarthy, Heard, Ondrícek, Rotter, composer James Horner–to make a truly excellent one.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Dinner; written by Charles Purpura; director of photography, Miroslav Ondrícek; edited by Stephen A. Rotter; music by James Horner; production designer, Michael Molly; produced by Dan Wigutow and Mark Carliner; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Andrew McCarthy (Michael Dunn), Mary Stuart Masterson (Danni), Kevin Dillon (Rooney), Donald Sutherland (Brother Thadeus), John Heard (Brother Timothy), Jay Patterson (Brother Constance), Malcolm Danare (Caesar), Stephen Geoffreys (Williams), Christopher Durang (Priest), Dana Barron (Janine), Yeardley Smith (Cathleen), Jennifer Dundas (Boo), Kate Reid (Grandma) and Wallace Shawn (Father Abruzzi).


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The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

The Blob is a mixed bag. On one hand, director Russell does a good job throughout and he and Frank Darabont’s script is well-plotted. On the other hand, the script will occasionally have some idiotic dialogue and the actors just stumble and fall through it.

Similarly the special effects. There’s a lot of good work on the Blob effects, but the composites are often iffy. Russell does come up with an amazing, strobe flash sequence for the movie theater attack. Photographer Mark Irwin does quite well too, which makes the bad composite shots all the more perplexing.

Russell and Darabont plot the film to be a constant surprise, at least for the first half or so. Even after establishing traditionally safe characters are not, they still manage to surprise with how they take things.

A lot of the effects thrills are derivative, but Russell still manages them with aplomb. It helps he’s got Shawnee Smith in the lead. She sort of stumbles into the lead after a couple false starts and does exceedingly well. The film often succeeds simply for putting Smith in somewhat awkward set pieces and character interactions.

Kevin Dillon and Donovan Leitch play her two admirers, sort of. Leitch is the jock, Dillon the punk. Dillon’s appealing, but his dialogue’s often terrible. Leitch somehow manages to be likable if painfully straight edge.

Very nice supporting turns from Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark and Paul McCrane. Terrible one from Jon Seneca.

The Blob’s problematic, but it’s not bad.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Russell, screenplay by Russell and Frank Darabont, based on an earlier screenplay by Theodore Simonson and Kay Linaker and a story by Irvine H. Millgate; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Tod Feuerman and Terry Stokes; music by Michael Hoenig; production designer, Craig Stearns; produced by Jack H. Harris and Elliot Kastner; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Shawnee Smith (Meg Penny), Kevin Dillon (Brian Flagg), Donovan Leitch (Paul Taylor), Jeffrey DeMunn (Sheriff Herb Geller), Candy Clark (Fran Hewitt), Joe Seneca (Dr. Meddows), Del Close (Reverend Meeker), Paul McCrane (Deputy Bill Briggs), Sharon Spelman (Mrs. Penny), Michael Kenworthy (Kevin Penny), Douglas Emerson (Eddie Beckner), Beau Billingslea (Moss Woodley), Ricky Paull Goldin (Scott Jeske) and Art LaFleur (The Pharmacist).


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No Escape (1994, Martin Campbell)

No Escape opens with this lovely piece of music from composer Graeme Revell. It’s sort of the film’s theme music and it doesn’t fit at all with the action or sci-fi elements integral to the plot. The film’s this odd mix of genres and filmmaking approaches. At times it’s anti-climatic to such an incredible point, it’s almost like the point is to keep the viewer uneasy.

Some of the strange plotting might be because it’s from a novel and the screenwriters are keeping as much of that source novel as possible. Or not. I haven’t read the novel.

But it’s an odd type of action film.

Campbell casts No Escape quite well. He gets a great scene out of practically every actor. Lance Henriksen and Jack Shepard do some excellent work here, as do Ernie Hudson and Don Henderson. Stuart Wilson runs hot and cold as the villain. He’s never quite frightening and the more forced lunatic moments fail… but there are occasionally these quiet ones and they work.

Kevin Dillon’s okay; his part is the weakest written. Except Michael Lerner. Though Lerner’s just goofy overall.

As for lead Ray Liotta… Liotta spends most of the film being a disaffected action hero. But it all works out—even though it’s obvious, when he finally does get emotional, there’s a significant resonance.

Campbell’s direction is excellent. Phil Meheux’s photography and Terry Rawlings’s editing are essential.

No Escape sort of takes itself too seriously. And that sincerity makes it work.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by Michael Gaylin and Joel Gross, based on a novel by Richard Herley; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Savoy Pictures.

Starring Ray Liotta (Robbins), Lance Henriksen (The Father), Stuart Wilson (Marek), Kevin Dillon (Casey), Kevin J. O’Connor (Stephano), Don Henderson (Killian), Ian McNeice (King), Jack Shepherd (Dysart), Michael Lerner (The Warden) and Ernie Hudson (Hawkins).


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