Tag Archives: Kristy Swanson

The Phantom (1996, Simon Wincer)

The Phantom has three distinct visual spaces, more or less corresponding to the three acts. First act is in the remote jungle, second act is modern age–New York City–third act is evil villain pirate stronghold. Underground evil villain pirate stronghold. The last half hour of the movie is the cast running around a “slightly better than dinner theatre” pirate set, not a great way to go out.

Because The Phantom does have some excellent actions sequences, usually involving horses, sometimes involving wolves and horses communicating. The Phantom works best when it’s just going with the absurdity. Director Wincer has no sense of humor, which explains James Remar’s performance, but also very little sense with his actors, which explains Kristy Swanson’s. Wincer just wants to do the action, everything else is treading water.

So there are a couple fine action sequences, nicely cut by editors O. Nicholas Brown and Bryan H. Carroll, who don’t really impress at all otherwise. They improve–the first act has some jagged cuts–but they don’t impress other than the two horse sequences.

After the second horse sequence, when it seems like there might not be anything to match in absurdity, Treat Williams finally just becomes utterly consumable by the material and transfixes. Even when the film can’t keep up–either in terms of Wincer or just the special effects budget–Williams just barrels on. He gets The Phantom to the third act; the film then ingloriously dumps him until the last fight.

The terrible last fight on an underground pirate ship. It looks like a theme restaurant. Paul Peters’s production design is always a little questionable in the jungle sequence, but it’s supposed to be too much. The pirate ship isn’t too much, it’s way too little. The New York stuff is all interesting and sometimes successful. The budget gets in the way, but Peters and Wincer try to work it.

The music doesn’t help. Let’s just get the music out of the way. David Newman’s score is shockingly tepid. There’s no more lukewarm music for a dressed-in-purple bodysuit thirties adventurer picture than Newman’s score. It’s not even exciting enough for a movie trailer.

The film does have a good “star” in Billy Zane. Wincer doesn’t really want to use him–The Phantom is the star of the movie. It’s a bad move, hiding what an asset Zane’s likability is going to be, particularly since the only initial time Zane gets out of mask is bickering with ghost dad Patrick McGoohan. But after it becomes clear Swanson is a wash–and before Williams steps up–Zane’s strange, sweet, goof makes it all work. It does start when he’s in costume, however; he flirts with Swanson after rescuing her. Swanson doesn’t give much back, but Zane’s showing off, trying to hold The Phantom together. He’s the hero of the movie not just because of the purple tights.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is great as one of Williams’s cronies. It ends up being a better part than Swanson’s would-be adventurer, partially because Swanson doesn’t have the skills or enthusiasm, but also because Swanson’s part sucks. She starts out playing second-fiddle to crusading newspaper uncle Bill Smitrovich and annoying admirer Jon Tenney. And Smitrovich is badly presented–the script, the direction–but Tenney’s almost all right. He’s cloying but he’s trying hard. Swanson doesn’t take advantage of any of it and Wincer’s not paying attention. He’s not doing thirties screwball, he’s doing thirties serial.

McGoohan’s annoying, but it might not be his fault. Regardless, he’s entirely miscast. John Capodice is good though. Casey Siemaszko’s not. David Proval’s almost good half the time; script gets him good in the end.

The Phantom is a competently executed, poorly conceived mess of a motion picture. Though Williams, Zeta-Jones, and Zane certainly deserve some kudos.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Simon Wincer; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on the comic strip by Lee Falk; director of photography, David Burr; edited by O. Nicholas Brown and Bryan H. Carroll; music by David Newman; production designer, Paul Peters; produced by Robert Evans and Alan Ladd Jr.; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Billy Zane (The Phantom), Kristy Swanson (Diana Palmer), Treat Williams (Xander Drax), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Sala), James Remar (Quill), Jon Tenney (Jimmy Wells), Robert Coleby (Capt. Philip Horton), David Proval (Charlie), Bill Smitrovich (Uncle Dave Palmer), Patrick McGoohan (Phantom’s Dad), and John Capodice (Al the Cabby).


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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, Fran Rubel Kuzui)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is so technically inept, not even Carter Burwell turns in a good score. Most scenes are just trying to decide who’s doing a worse job, director Kuzui, cinematographer James Hayman or editors Jill Savitt and Camilla Toniolo. Overall, it’s obviously Kuzui, but the editing in the first half by far worse than the photography. But the photography in the second half is so awful, it’s difficult to hold anything against the editing.

And then there’s Joss Whedon’s script. Regardless of whether or not someone rewrote it, it’s still awful.

But there’s a very likable quality to Buffy–Kristy Swanson. She does really well in the film. She has actual chemistry with Donald Sutherland and Luke Perry, even though Kuzui directs the actors terribly. Swanson weathers Kuzui’s direction best, Sutherland worst, Perry somewhere in between. Kuzui doesn’t have a sense of humor, which doesn’t help things. But Swanson gives a rather good performance. The film fails her over and over.

Perry manages to be likable whenever he’s around Swanson, until the film gets uncomfortable with her in the driver’s seat of their romance.

The vampires are lame. Paul Reubens is awful (Kuzui’s lack of humor fails him the most), Rutger Hauer isn’t much better. He and Swanson are awful together.

The movie runs eighty minutes and change. The first half, as Swanson trains to become the Vampire Slayer, moves pretty well. Kuzui and Hayman don’t do well, but they do okay. It’s trying to be a high school movie with vampire hunting. Swanson gets a great character arc and the script’s better one liners. Kuzui doesn’t seem to understand how the one liners work, but Swanson does. In contrast, Perry flops whenever he gets one of the one liners.

It ought to be a whole lot more entertaining, but the brisk pace of the first half and Swanson do get it to the finish. And, for what’s got to be the first time ever, I’ve got to single out the hair stylist–Barbara Olvera–she does a fantastic job with Swanson’s various styles.

I wish Buffy were better. It’s not, but I really wish it were. Swanson deserved it, Perry even deserved it. But really Swanson. She effortlessly goes from being likable to good. Shame the movie doesn’t even manage the former.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui; written by Joss Whedon; director of photography, James Hayman; edited by Jill Savitt and Camilla Toniolo; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Lawrence Miller; produced by Kaz Kuzui and Howard Rosenman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Buffy), Donald Sutherland (Merrick), Paul Reubens (Amilyn), Rutger Hauer (Lothos), Luke Perry (Pike), Michele Abrams (Jennifer), Hilary Swank (Kimberly), Paris Vaughan (Nicki), David Arquette (Benny), Randall Batinkoff (Jeffrey), Andrew Lowery (Andy), Sasha Jenson (Grueller), Stephen Root (Gary Murray), Natasha Gregson Wagner (Cassandra) and Candy Clark (Buffy’s Mom).


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Swamp Shark (2011, Griff Furst)

It’s hard to explain why Swamp Shark is watchable. The primary reason–besides seeing what weathered professionals D.B. Sweeney and Kristy Swanson–is the Louisiana location shooting. Cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore really brings out the greens. Besides the terrible, digitally aided day for night scene, Swamp Shark looks better than it should. Even though the casting director forgot black people live in Louisiana too.

Furst isn’t much of a director, but he knows what to mimic and he rips off a couple memorable moments from Jaws and, in particular, Jaws 2. He also seems to understand the only way to make Swamp Shark palatable is to pace it like a traditional TV movie (it plays like an abbreviated miniseries) and not a film. The abbreviating works a lot better because the supporting cast is so terrible. There are a bunch of college kids in danger and they’re all awful. Well, mostly just Dylan Ramsey.

In the main cast, Jeff Chase and especially Richard Tanne are bad. Furst can’t direct actors, but it’s okay, because his editor, Matt Taylor, can’t cut dialogue scenes together.

Sweeney holds it together admirably, as does Robert Davi–even though Davi loses his accent after a while. Swanson never attempts an accent; she’s agreeable without being believable. She comes off way too smart.

Jason Rogel is amusing in a smaller role. Sophie Sinise leaves no impression.

Wade Boggs is awful; he doesn’t seem to get the movie’s laughing at him.

Swamp Shark is garbage, but surprisingly digestible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Griff Furst; written by Jennifer Iwen; director of photography, Lorenzo Senatore; edited by Matt Taylor; music by Andrew Morgan Smith; production designer, Jayme Bohn; produced by Kenneth M. Badish and Daniel Lewis; aired by the Syfy Channel.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Rachel Bouchard), D.B. Sweeney (Tommy Breysler), Robert Davi (Sheriff Watson), Jeff Chase (Jason Bouchard), Sophie Sinise (Krystal Bouchard), Jason Rogel (Martin), Richard Tanne (Tyler), Charles Harrelson (Noah), Natacha Itzel (Sarah), Dylan Ramsey (Scott), Lauren Graham (Laura), Thomas Tah Hyde III (Marcus), Ashton Leigh (Amber) and Wade Boggs (Deputy Stanley).


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Mannequin: On the Move (1991, Stewart Raffill)

If the best part of your movie is a Starship song recycled from the nearly unrelated previous entry in the franchise… you’re in trouble.

It’s not hard to identify the biggest problem with Mannequin: On the Move, but it feels somewhat bad to single out Kristy Swanson when there’s so much other terrible stuff going on in the picture.

And it’s not even entirely Swanson’s fault. Towards the end of the movie, she’s actually quite appealing. But for the first two-thirds, as a tenth century girl awakened in the twentieth century, she’s an unappealing moron. Every scene bombs.

Once she’s acclimated, however, Swanson’s not bad at all.

Unfortunately, the terrible plotting also affects leading man William Ragsdale. Ragsdale has no time to make an impression before he’s acting like a doofus around a mannequin. The screenwriters don’t even bother making him sympathetic, only later giving him a tragic backstory.

On to the other big problem (besides the writing in general)–Terry Kiser is atrocious. Playing a Bavarian royal, Kiser does a combination of a Mae West impression and evil forties Japanese villain.

As for the supporting cast, Meshach Taylor is okay (the script fails him often) and Stuart Pankin is mostly bad (though sometimes good). In tiny roles, both Andrew Hill Newman and Julie Foreman are great.

Raffill’s not a good director, but Larry Pizer’s photography is excellent, as is most of William J. Creber’s production design.

On the Move‘s a stinker and, oddly, shouldn’t have been one.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stewart Raffill; screenplay by Edward Rugoff, Michael Gottlieb, David Isaacs, Ken Levine and Betty Israel, based on a story by Rugoff and Gottlieb; director of photography, Larry Pizer; edited by Joan E. Chapman and John Rosenberg; music by David McHugh; production designer, William J. Creber; produced by Bruce McNall and Rugoff; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kristy Swanson (Jessie), William Ragsdale (Jason Williamson), Meshach Taylor (Hollywood Montrose), Terry Kiser (Count Spretzle), Stuart Pankin (Mr. James), Cynthia Harris (Jason’s Mom), Julie Foreman (Gail), John Edmondson (Rolf), Phil Latella (Egon), Mark Gray (Arnold) and Andrew Hill Newman (Andy Ackerman).


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