Tag Archives: Margaret Colin

Amos & Andrew (1993, E. Max Frye)

The problem with Amos & Andrew is the execution. Frye has a good concept—a black professional moves to an island community filled with guilty white liberals and suffers thanks to their community interest, finding he has more in common with a two bit criminal than his neighbors. And the stuff between Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage is occasionally quite good. Cage’s performance reminds why him no longer doing comedies is a loss. Jackson isn’t awful (his character is a stereotype—Frye never gives him anywhere near the depth of, say, Lionel Jefferson–but no telling if Jackson could handle it if he had).

Frye sets it up as a comedy of errors. Islanders Michael Lerner and Margaret Colin mistake Jackson for a thief (because he’s black). It gets worse when the dumb, racist white cops arrive (there’s an oxymoron). Oddly, the villain—Dabney Coleman’s politicking chief of police—is one of the few white characters who isn’t racist. He’s just an ass. And Frye gets points for not shying away from the bigotry. Lerner and Colin never get redeemed, even after he makes them primary supporting cast members.

Maybe with a different director—Frye has no sense of scale—it could have worked out. He shoots a major media event in a shoebox.

Lerner and Coleman are caricatures, but Colin’s got some good moments, as does I.M. Hobson. Giancarlo Esposito, Loretta Devine and Bob Balaban all do well in thankless roles.

Amos & Andrew is almost worth watching for Cage.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by E. Max Frye; director of photography, Walt Lloyd; edited by Jane Kurson; music by Richard Gibbs; production designer, Patricia Norris; produced by Gary Goetzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Samuel L. Jackson (Andrew Sterling), Nicolas Cage (Amos Odell), Dabney Coleman (Chief of Police Cecil Tolliver), Michael Lerner (Phil Gillman), Margaret Colin (Judy Gillman), Brad Dourif (Officer Donnie Donaldson), Chelcie Ross (Deputy Earl), I.M. Hobson (Waldo Lake), Jeff Blumenkrantz (Ernie the Cameraman), Giancarlo Esposito (Reverend Fenton Brunch), Loretta Devine (Ula), Bob Balaban (Fink), Aimee Graham (Stacy) and Tracey Walter (Bloodhound Bob).


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Deception (2008, Marcel Langenegger)

Here’s a surprising one. I was ready to say director Langenegger was a music video director who learned how to calm it down for a theatrical, but it appears he’s just a commercial director. For most of Deception, I was just letting myself enjoy the technical. Langenegger’s composition, Dante Spinotti’s photography and Ramin Djawadi’s music (Djawadi is an essential for the formula) made Deception one of the better looking modern films I can remember, certainly coming out of an American studio. Langenegger takes traditional montage techniques and applies them to regular scenes and makes everything work. Oh, the sound–great sound design.

The story’s pretty simple. First it’s Fight Club only with a sex club, then it’s conned protagonist unraveling the web movie. Mark Bomback’s script is middling, with the occasional bad dialogue exchange. The beauty of Deception is how little the script matters, given Langenegger’s direction.

But the direction apparently did not extend to the hiring of Ewan McGregor’s dialect couch. McGregor’s American accent in this one sounds like Woody Allen. Really. I kept waiting, in the first half, for there to be some reason for it to sound like Woody Allen, as it’s set in New York (and beautifully shot there). But there’s no reason. McGregor being good, he manages not to let the accent get in the way of his performance. It doesn’t hurt the supporting cast is uniformly excellent. I suppose Charlotte Rampling has the largest of the smaller roles, but even Margaret Colin, in her minute and a half, lends the film some really acting credibility. The direction, these smaller roles, they give Deception a credibility the general lameness (it’s all been done before) of the script saps. Not to mention McGregor’s goofy accent.

For the majority of the film, the three other principals are solid as well. Hugh Jackman toggles nicely between creepy and charming. Michelle Williams is fine as the object of McGregor’s affections. Lisa Gay Hamilton is good as the police detective.

Then the film enters the third act and everything changes, not so much for the story, it’s a natural narrative development, but what the film achieves. The end finally incorporates the actors into that filmmaking euphoria and Deception skyrockets (Williams is fantastic). Bomback doesn’t even go for the cheap ending, which I’d been expecting the whole time too.

Good acting and good filmmaking will often improve a weak script, but, comparative to what Deception was achieving (being a diverting lower budget studio thriller) to what it finally does achieve… I think Henry Fool‘s the last one with such a bump. Fool‘s was a far higher boost, but–as a lower budget studio thriller–Deception‘s is no less significant, given its ambitions.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Marcel Langenegger; written by Mark Bomback; director of photography, Dante Spinotti; edited by Christian Wagner and Douglas Crise; music by Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Patrizia von Brandenstein; produced by Arnold Rifkin, John Palermo, Hugh Jackman, Robbie Brenner, David Bushell and Christopher Eberts; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Wyatt Bose), Ewan McGregor (Jonathan McQuarry), Michelle Williams (S), Lisa Gay Hamilton (Detective Russo), Maggie Q (Tina), Natasha Henstridge (Wall Street Analyst), Lynn Cohen (Woman), Danny Burstein (Clute Controller), Malcolm Goodwin (Cabbie), Dante Spinotti (Herr Kleiner/Mr. Moretti), Bill Camp (Clancey Controller), Lisa Kron (Receptionist), Margaret Colin (Ms. Pomerantz) and Charlotte Rampling (Wall Street Belle).


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True Believer (1989, Joseph Ruben)

True Believer is never quite anything it sets out for (story-wise)–it’s not the story of a lost man finding his way, it’s not a legal drama, it’s not the story of a young lawyer spurning riches for morals. Instead, it’s a courtroom movie with corruption, chase scenes through metal shops, a great Brad Fiedel score and some wonderful New York location shooting. It’s a Hollywood movie, but one with an energetic James Woods running the show and a (just) smart enough script. Wesley Strick almost seems to know he’s using genre standards, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s using them really effectively. However, it’s kind of impossible (Strick’s premeditation) because he couldn’t have known it’d be Woods or Joseph Ruben directing or Fiedel’s score and all three are essential. The score’s a funny thing to be essential, but Fiedel gives Woods’s civil rights lawyer turned drug defender (the first ten minutes play like the unseen “Practice” pilot) a hero’s theme. It’s like Superman or something and it’s a great choice, because Woods does great things playing a hero here.

Woods is not the whole show, however, which is kind of odd, given his presence. Woods is so good, almost nothing else (except Ruben and Fiedel and Strick’s mainstream competence) matter. The movie’s not short–running almost an hour and fifty–and it’s beautifully paced. There’s no pacing mistakes here, if anything, it occasionally gets too short. The big “mistake” is Robert Downey Jr.’s character, who’s in the film to introduce the audience to Woods and get him on the path of righteousness again. Besides some later discoveries and some important observations, Downey has almost nothing to do. He and Woods play well off each other, but he’s a cog in the script. Even worse, he’s new to town so he’s got no texture… the movie never even explains where he, unpaid, lives (especially since Woods’s lawyer lives in his office).

Downey is in the movie because he needs to be there, much like Margaret Colin’s detective. She’s there because Woods–as a defense attorney–needs a detective; he’s got a sidekick, a detective and a cop buddy who always lets him in the evidence room. Strick’s not reinventing the wheel here, just setting it up for–with a solid production–a good spin. The supporting cast is all great–really great. Tom Bower’s got a five or six minute part and he practically got tears out of me. Same goes for Yuji Okumoto as the (of course) innocent client. Very few big scenes, but he makes the most of them–holding up against Woods, which is no small feat here. Kurtwood Smith’s a good adversary, since it’s Kurtwood Smith, and Charles Hallahan has a nice part… so does Graham Beckel, who has a tiny part with a lot of room for effect. Strick’s plotting is so good, these actors can come in for just a few minutes but have these incredibly successful scenes.

At one point, in the third act, it seems like True Believer might elevate to a higher Hollywood level. It doesn’t, after coming real close. But it wouldn’t have been particularly special, and as a Woods vehicle and a well-produced mainstream legal thriller, it does a fine job.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joseph Ruben; written by Wesley Strick; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by George Bowers; music by Brad Fiedel; production designer, Lawrence Miller; produced by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring James Woods (Eddie Dodd), Robert Downey Jr. (Roger Baron), Margaret Colin (Kitty Greer), Yuji Okumoto (Shu Kai Kim), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Reynard), Tom Bower (Cecil Skell), Miguel Fernandes (Art Esparza), Charles Hallahan (Vincent Dennehy), Sully Diaz (Maraquilla Esparza), Misan Kim (Mrs. Kim), John Snyder (Chuckie Loeder), Luis Guzmán (Ortega) and Graham Beckel (Vinny Sklaroff).


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