Tag Archives: Matthew Modine

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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Bye Bye Love (1995, Sam Weisman)

About halfway through Bye Bye Love, I realized it was reminding me of “The Bradys,” the hour-long drama sequel to “The Brady Bunch.” Two very successful sitcom writers wrote this movie; it’s like an hour-long comedy drama… Only the movie runs about a hundred minutes. It’s way too long.

What’s interesting—there’s not a single laugh in the film, so one has to find interesting things to think about—is the casual misogyny running through it. Sure, Matthew Modine being a philanderer is a bad thing, but one has to look very hard to see a positive female character and ignore some glaringly awful ones. Randy Quaid’s ex-wife, played by Lindsay Crouse, lets her new boyfriend beat her son. Janeane Garofalo, as Quaid’s date, is a “ha ha, she’s so dumb because she’s a feminist” character. Paul Reiser’s ex-wife has this odious husband who calls Reiser the “birth father” of his fourteen year-old daughter. As the daughter, Eliza Dushku’s occasionally awful but the character’s probably mildly honest.

Quaid’s really good when being the dad, bad when interacting with women (it’s the script). Modine’s interesting as the Don Juan; it’s funny to see him in this kind of role. Reiser’s all right as a less engaging Modell.

The biggest draw is Maria Pitillo’s outstanding performance as Modine’s suffering girlfriend. Oh, and Amber Benson’s good….

Wait, I forgot the music… J.A.C. Redford’s score is unbearable.

It’s sort of worth a look as a curiosity, but not really.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall; director of photography, Kenneth Zunder; edited by Roger Bondelli; music by J.A.C. Redford; production designer, Linda DeScenna; produced by Goldberg, Hall and Weisman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Paul Reiser (Donny), Matthew Modine (Dave), Randy Quaid (Vic), Amy Brenneman (Susan), Maria Pitillo (Kim), Janeane Garofalo (Lucille), Ed Flanders (Walter Sims), Johnny Whitworth (Max Cooper), Lindsay Crouse (Grace), Eliza Dushku (Emma), Ross Malinger (Ben), Mae Whitman (Michele), Amber Benson (Meg), Cameron Boyd (Jed), Jayne Brook (Claire), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Heidi Schmidt), Wendell Pierce (Hector) and Rob Reiner (Dr. David Townsend).


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Baby It’s You (1983, John Sayles)

Baby It’s You is a John Sayles film I never expected to see… it’s John Sayles for hire. Sayles has had a lucrative career as a ghostwriter of blockbusters (Apollo 13 famously had his name on one poster… but not after the WGA got done). But Baby It’s You is the first of his films as a director I’ve encountered where Sayles struggled to find something to amuse himself. This film’s producer and credited story writer, Amy Robinson, shares a lot with the protagonist played by Rosanna Arquette and the film feels an awfully lot like an “inspired by a true story.” Sayles does well with that genre, except Baby It’s You isn’t just subpar for Sayles… it’s a thoughtfully produced television movie.

With Sayles’s direction–he doesn’t really get going until the third act in a lot of ways, his earlier moments of accomplishment are just his knowledge of making a film work on a small budget. How do you show you’re in a busy schoolyard without a big budget? Sound. The first three-quarters of the film is Sayles using his filmmaking skills to make the 1967 setting work flawlessly. In the end, he finally gets some moments of actual human interaction, instead of superficial movie ones, and–even with Arquette–it works.

Baby It’s You starts with Sayles’s name and some anachronistic use of Bruce Springsteen (for Vincent Spano’s big scenes, which is an artistically interesting move but distracting and unsuccessful). It feels like it might be Sayles, but then it gradually becomes clear it is not. Sayles knows what to do with Arquette’s character and the moments with her group of friends in high school reveal where the film could have gone… but with Spano, Sayles is lost.

The film concerns Arquette’s relationship with high school oddball (not quite thug, not quite not) Spano as she leaves working class New Jersey for Sarah Lawrence. The acting is a big problem, but not the film’s biggest. Sayles really doesn’t know what to do with Spano… maybe because the character remains opaque to the viewer until the third act, but maybe because the story just isn’t interesting. I lost count of how many times I wondered why these characters’ experiences were worth my hundred minutes. Not a concern I tend to have with Sayles, who can take it from one end of the spectrum to the other. Baby It’s You doesn’t really participate in that spectrum. It’s in a whole different one–the one where Rosanna Arquette shows up in a movie.

Matthew Modine has a small role in Baby It’s You. At this point in Modine’s career, he was a young Hollywood actor on his way up (he got washed away by the Brat Pack). It’s a John Sayles movie with Hollywood politicking. Sayles doesn’t do well with it.

Actually, Modine’s good, probably giving the second best performance–Tracy Pollan’s quite good as one of Arquette’s college classmates. Bill Raymond’s also good in a small role.

Spano isn’t terrible, but he’s visibly out of his depth. Sayles’s script asks him for the impossible–the character’s just too vague. Arquette either gets a little better at the end or she’d just killed enough of my brain cells I didn’t care anymore.

I’ve been wanting to see Baby It’s You for about twelve years.

I could have waited.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by John Sayles; screenplay by Sayles, based on a story by Amy Robinson; director of photography, Michael Ballhaus; edited by Sonya Polonsky; production designer, Jeffrey Townsend; produced by Griffin Dunne and Robinson; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Rosanna Arquette (Jill Rosen), Vincent Spano (Sheik), Joanna Merlin (Mrs. Rosen), Jack Davidson (Dr. Rosen), Nick Ferrari (Mr. Capadilupo), Dolores Messina (Mrs. Capadilupo), Leora Dana (Miss Vernon, Teacher), Bill Raymond (Mr. Ripeppi), Sam McMurray (Mr. McManus, Teacher), Liane Alexandra Curtis (Jody, High School Girl), Claudia Sherman (Beth, High School Girl), Marta Kober (Debra, High School Girl), Tracy Pollan (Leslie, College Girl), Rachel Dretzin (Shelly, College Girl), Susan Derendorf (Chris, College Girl), Frank Vincent (Vinnie), Robin Johnson (Joann), Gary McCleery (Rat) and Matthew Modine (Steve).


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Transporter 2 (2005, Louis Leterrier)

This film is actually dedicated to someone’s memory. Sort of offensive, isn’t it? Dedicating a crappy movie to someone’s memory? Peter Jackson dedicated King Kong to Fay Wray’s memory and there’s certainly some evidence she wouldn’t have wanted the honor (Wray didn’t like the idea of Kong being remade and turned Jackson down during his first attempt, in 1997 or whatever). It’s something to think about, I suppose.

There isn’t anything to think about in Transporter 2. I watched the first one, which I think is probably better–if only because François Berléand’s detective has more to do–and didn’t even bother writing it up. For some reason, the second one offends me. The first one wasn’t any good, but it didn’t offend. This one is somehow offensively worse. Maybe because all the acting so bad. Besides Jason Statham and Berléand, the best performance is from former supermodel Amber Valletta (who looks the right age to play Matthew Modine’s wife in the film, even if he’s fifteen years older than her). She’s not good, either. She’s just surprisingly not awful. The supermodel in the film–Kate Nauta–is possibly the worst actress I have ever seen… she’s actually that bad.

She’s so bad I used ‘that’ like I just did.

Maybe I was in a more giving mood last time, but Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen are awful writers. Besson’s written some crap, but not of this magnitude before–instead of directing films, he just writes them now and I’ve seen a couple others and they aren’t this bad. I can just blame in all on Kamen, who is–historically–unbearably bad. Just awful.

Statham’s still appealing and I’m perplexed he can’t catch on. Maybe he’s just been in so many bad movies he can’t get a real job. More likely he makes enough money from these turds he doesn’t want to get a real job. It’s too bad, because I don’t think I can sit through another one of these….

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Christine Lucas-Navarro and Vincent Tabaillon; music by Alexandre Azaria; production designer, John Mark Harrington; produced by Besson and Steven Chasman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Alessandro Gassman (Gianni), Amber Valletta (Audrey Billings), Kate Nauta (Lola), Matthew Modine (Mr. Billings), Jason Flemyng (Dimitri), François Berléand (Tarconi), Keith David (Stappleton), Hunter Clary (Jack Billings), and Shannon Briggs (Max).