Tag Archives: Leslie Bevis

Alien Nation (1988, Graham Baker)

A film like Alien Nation encourages a lot of thought. For example, I think I’ve decided I want to say the film is badly directed (by Baker) while being poorly lighted (by Adam Greenberg). I already know I wanted to say it was atrociously edited. Kent Beyda’s cuts don’t just jump (there’s a car chase where it appears the cars have turned around and gone back the way they came), they also pop. The sound levels pops, which isn’t exactly Beyda’s fault, it’s more Baker’s fault or the producers’ fault, but there’s got to have something Beyda could do to trying to keep the background noise between shots consistent. Or maybe not. Maybe that base level of post-production care is beyond Alien Nation.

I mean, fixing the editing wouldn’t fix the music and fixing the music wouldn’t fix the script and fixing the script wouldn’t fix the acting. I suppose it’s possible a better script would’ve helped the performances but Baker’s still such a crap director, it’s hard to imagine it.

About the only thing good about Alien Nation is the make-up. Only not so much on the featured cast. Like Terence Stamp’s Mr. Big. His alien make-up is bad. And alien cop Mandy Patinkin’s make-up is occasionally inconsistent between scenes. At least it’s not between shots in scenes, which–really–is kind of a surprise given the way the rest of the film plays out, production-wise.

So Patinkin is the idealistic alien cop while James Caan is the grumpy, bigoted (and questionably skilled) human cop. Writer Rockne S. O’Bannon writes terrible police procedural, but he also writes terrible cop banter. The bonding scenes between Caan and Patinkin are painful. Partially because they’re so poorly written, partially because you just feel so bad for the actors. Caan’s got a lousy part from the opening. Patinkin has potential for a good part but the script is so bad. And the direction, can’t forget Baker’s bad direction. Oh, and if Patinkin does manage a decent delivery–you know, if his makeup isn’t off-center–it’s more likely than not Beyda will screw something up in the cutting.

There are no winners in Alien Nation. There are no gem performances. The production design isn’t special. Maybe the best performance in it is Roger Aaron Brown and only because all he has to do is act like James Caan is a tiresome prick. Caan is a tiresome prick. Alien Nation takes place over like three or four days. It’s about one case. Caan gets Patinkin as a partner for the single purpose of exploiting him being an alien to solve an alien-related murder case.

Odd thing? They never catch the guy Caan is after. They never even try to find out his identity. It’s not only a mess, it’s a forgetful mess.

Not even the short runtime–maybe ninety minutes even–helps things. Because it’s not like the scenes are short. The scenes are painfully long. Watching Baker and O’Bannon try to change tempo during a scene? It’s excruciating.

The whole thing is excruciating. The anguish starts with the opening titles and goes all the way to the finale voiceover.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Graham Baker; written by Rockne S. O’Bannon; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Kent Beyda; music by Curt Sobel; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Richard Kobritz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James Caan (Matthew Sykes), Mandy Patinkin (Sam Francisco), Terence Stamp (William Harcourt), Roger Aaron Brown (Tuggle), Peter Jason (Fedorchuk), Tony Perez (Alterez), and Leslie Bevis (Cassandra).


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The Squeeze (1987, Roger Young)

I was wondering why, for such a cheap-ish movie, The Squeeze looks so good. Its budget almost doubled, allowing for some really expensive looking sequences on an aircraft carrier, a decent amount of New York photography and… I don’t know, something else. It also almost starred Jenny Wright in the Rae Dawn Chong part, which would have been an improvement of sorts (Mrs. Potato Head would have given a more animate performance than Chong) but not enough of one to make the movie work.

Some of The Squeeze, the parts centering around Chong, seem to be an attempt at a 1940s detective comedy updated to modernity. The parts with Michael Keaton (who’s either an artist or an inventor, it’s never clear) make absolutely no sense. His character makes no sense and seems dropped into the movie, rather than the movie being the story of his life’s most interesting four days. It’s too bad the beginning with Keaton opens well, as he rambles on about “Bonanza,” I thought The Squeeze might be some weird forerunner to Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino.

Alas, it is not.

Chong’s performance is so awful, it’d take a line-by-line analysis to appropriately discuss it. Keaton’s okay. He’s best in the first act, when the movie could conceivably go anywhere and at the end, when the conclusion inadvertently shows how the movie could have worked. As Keaton’s friend, Joe Pantoliano is sturdy, but not in it enough. Meat Loaf plays a thug with a sweating problem. It’s a big joke throughout and is maybe the best metaphor for the film’s failure.

On the other hand, Richard Portnow plays a (seemingly) gay Puerto Rican club owner and is great.

As soon as The Squeeze went bad, I had to debate whether or not to finish it. There was nothing compelling me to finish it, so I had to decide if it would be a complete waste of my time….

The big conclusion on the aircraft carrier is kind of neat and the movie, in the third act, all of a sudden decides its going to offer commentary on modern American values… and I guess the close is kind of funny.

But it certainly didn’t live up to the “Bonanza” conversation of the beginning.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Young; written by Daniel Taplitz; director of photography, Arthur Albert; edited by Harry Keramidas; music by Miles Goodman; production designer, Simon Waters; produced by Rupert Hitzig and Michael Tannen; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Michael Keaton (Harry Berg), Rae Dawn Chong (Rachel Dobs), Joe Pantoliano (Norman), Meat Loaf (Titus), John Davidson (Tom T. Murray), Ronald Guttman (Rigaud), Leslie Bevis (Gem Vigo), George Gerdes (Joe) and Richard Portnow (Ruben).