Tag Archives: Nia Long

The B.R.A.T. Patrol (1986, Mollie Miller)

The B.R.A.T. Patrol is about a group of kids on an airforce base who discover one of the MPs is selling military hardware to literal junk yard arms dealers. None of the adults believe them because it’s a “Wonderful World of Disney” movie and there are rules. There are limits and there are rules. B.R.A.T. Patrol frequently bumps into the limits–if director Miller just had wider establishing shots, the movie would have some scale. But it plays well with the rules. Miller and writers Chris “Yes, the ‘X-Files’” Carter and Michael Patrick Goodman never lose track of the main kids, even when some of them get crap duty.

Nia Long gets the most crap duty, but then she gets to be part of the awesome chase sequence at the end. She gets to ride the dirt bikes. She doesn’t get to do anything cool on the dirt bikes, but then neither does Jason Presson, who kind of has the biggest role. He’s the kid who doesn’t just want to go along with what lead kid Sean Astin says. Sean Astin–and his stunt bike rider–are the only ones who get to do cool things during the dirt bike sequence.

There’s probably a lot to unpack in “Wonderful World of Disney” episodes. Let’s just say Astin is the William Shatner of the bunch, only Miller doesn’t direct a performance out of him and so his deliveries are all flat. He’s an Eddie Haskall type, from the era of rehabilitating the trope. He should be funny, but he’s not. He’s not even mean in his callousness. He’s just got a role to play.

At least Presson tries a little. His part’s terribly written–B.R.A.T. Patrol has adults but no parents and Presson gets the subplot about being afraid of punishment. Fail to stop an arms deal? Get stabbed? Presson’s parents might ground him. Without the parents, there’s nothing to back up the fear. And Miller doesn’t even try to help with it. She’s got a hands off approach with the actors, which does work to her favor. Since the teleplay has so little for the other three kids–Long, Dylan Kussman, and Dustin Berkovitz–seeing the kids mug without trying to mug passes the time. It gives them some personality, even if the script doesn’t.

Astin doesn’t have any personality. He’s just supposed to be obnoxious, but adorable obnoxious. Versus Joe Wright as the leader of the base’s Young Marines. He’s just supposed to be obnoxious without being adorable. Watching Astin and Wright bicker is one of the movie’s most frequent irritations. Once it’s established the Young Marines aren’t actual threats, the interactions are increasingly tedious. Wright and Billy Jayne are trying to stop Astin and company from winning a “Youth Service Award,” which Astin and company don’t seem to know anything about.

They’re stopping the arms dealers for the right reasons, not to get any awards.

Tim Thomerson is the MP who secretly thinks Astin and the gang are all right. Brian Keith is the base commander who’s flummoxed by children’s behavior. Keith’s fine. Thomerson’s almost better; the first act implies he might get an actual part, but he doesn’t.

And Stephen Lee is good at as the dirty MP. You believe he wants to harm Astin, making him an actual threat. Same goes for junk yard arms dealer John Quade. B.R.A.T. Patrol’s thriller thread is pretty darn effective.

Good photography from Fred J. Koenekamp, even if Miller needs to open up the establishing shots more. It’s a Disney TV movie, it only has to look so good but Koenekamp is far above the bare minimum. Fine editing from Barbara Palmer Dixon and Glenn Farr. The editing gets good for the last third, even if the script dawdles.

The B.R.A.T. Patrol is sort of racing with itself. Can the movie end before Astin hits critical mass and becomes too obnoxious. No. But it does acknowledge Astin’s too obnoxious. That acknowledgement is something.

Wait, can’t forget the production design. Ray Storey’s production design is outstanding. Since Miller’s establishing shots are so problematic, the locations never get established. But the way Storey’s able to match the actual air base exteriors with the plot set pieces? Outstanding.

But, yeah, B.R.A.T. Patrol is fine. Enough.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mollie Miller; written by Chris Carter and Michael Patrick Goodman; “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” created by Walt Disney; director of photography, Fred J. Koenekamp; edited by Barbara Palmer Dixon and Glenn Farr; music by Jonathan Tunick; production designer, Ray Storey; produced by Mark H. Ovitz; aired by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Sean Astin (Leonard), Jason Presson (McGeorge), Nia Long (Darla), Dylan Kussman (Bug), Dustin Berkovitz (Squeak), Joe Wright (Newmeyer), Billy Jayne (Whittle), Tim Thomerson (Maj. Hackett), Stephen Lee (Phillips), John Quade (Knife), and Brian Keith (Gen. Newmeyer).


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Keanu (2016, Peter Atencio)

Keanu. Keanu is a movie about a missing kitten named Keanu. Keanu is so cute, no one can see him without falling in love with him; Keanu isn’t just the world’s cutest kitten, he’s the world’s sweetest kitten too. You might wonder why I’m almost fifty words in and haven’t talked about the movie yet, but I am. Keanu, as a film, is very much about the viewer adoring Keanu, the kitten. Because Keanu’s not just sweet or cute, he’s also badass. And adorable while he’s being badass.

Okay, time to talk about the movie.

So it’s really funny. Jordan Peele finds the kitten (or the kitten comes to him–I’m not sure why the script doesn’t treat the kitten as more magical, they could’ve gotten away with it). Someone breaks into his apartment, steals the kitten. Peele and his friend, Keegan-Michael Key, go to rescue the cat from a gang. There’s a lot of setup but it’s all very efficient. Keanu doesn’t overuse Keanu, the kitten. The kitten isn’t in most of the movie. The kitten is the T-Rex. He’s not the MacGuffin, because, even though Key and Peele grow as human beings throughout the film and learn things about themselves, Keanu isn’t deep. It’s just good. It follows a certain buddy movie blueprint, it doesn’t play with the medium, it’s just good. It’s funny and inventive.

It’s also good it isn’t deep because, frankly, director Atencio couldn’t hack it. He’s got very solid technical support from cinematographer Jas Shelton and editor Nicholas Monsour, but Atencio has absolutely no personality. And he directs actors far too generically. It’s blandly directed.

Excellent performances from the entire cast–Key and Peele are a comedy duo, which I should’ve mentioned earlier. They’re really funny. Method Man is great as the heavy, who also loves the kitten, of course. There are some problems but it’s the script, not the actors–the Luis Guzmán cameo could be better, Nia Long isn’t in it enough, Will Forte’s more amusing than funny. But then there’s this team building scene and it does some exposition while still being hilarious. The cameos just aren’t integrated well enough; not a surprise given Atencio. The performances still work out though.

It’s just a solid picture. And that kitten’s adorbs.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Atencio; written by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens; director of photography, Jas Shelton; edited by Nicholas Monsour; music by Steve Jablonsky and Nathan Whitehead; production designer, Aaron Osborne; produced by Keegan-Michael Key, Peele, Peter Principato, Paul Young and Joel Zadak; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jordan Peele (Rell Williams), Keegan-Michael Key (Clarence Goobril), Tiffany Haddish (Hi-C), Method Man (Cheddar), Darrell Britt-Gibson (Trunk), Jason Mitchell (Bud), Jamar Malachi Neighbors (Stitches), Luis Guzmán (Bacon), Nia Long (Hannah) and Will Forte (Hulka).


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Stigmata (1999, Rupert Wainwright)

From the director of MC Hammer’s greatest hits. Seriously.

I wasn’t even going to open mocking Rupert Wainwright, but then I saw his filmography. Instead, I was going to open wondering how, with two people credited with the score (Billy Corgan and Elia Cmiral), it could be so terrible. Not really, I knew when the titles rolled the Smashing Pumpkins guy wasn’t going to turn in a good score. It’s actually okay in a few parts, for about twenty seconds, but I assume it was the other guy, Cmiral.

One of the problems with Stigmata is knowing what to mock… first. There are easy targets–the script, which features dialogue exchanges plagiarized from the worst episodes of “One Life to Live,” the acting, where Nia Long and Jonathan Pryce go mano-a-mano for worst supporting actor, or the direction, Wainwright’s extreme close-ups and his three second shots.

I suppose I could start with Patricia Arquette. It isn’t her worst performance–but it’s one where I forgot she’s actually good. I mean, she did Bringing Out the Dead the same year. Maybe she just needs a good director. Or a good script. She’s only atrocious during some of the lamer dialogue exchanges with Gabriel Byrne and, well, all of her scenes with Long. But those scenes are so poorly written, no one could have pulled through on them.

As for Byrne, he maintains. It’s kind of amazing, given the circumstances, but Byrne’s scenes emphasize the movie’s two–relative–strongpoints. First, the conspiratorial Catholic Church (headed by the evil Pryce, who apparently doesn’t understand he’s incapable of chewing scenery) out to silence to truth–does the Catholic Church ever do anything else? I feel like I need to watch Heaven Help Us or something. Second, the quasi-romance between Byrne and Arquette is okay. Even though Byrne being attracted to goof-ball club junkie Arquette as about as believable as her playing a twenty-three year-old, there are a couple decent scenes involving it. It doesn’t involve the movie’s silliest elements, so Byrne handles it well enough for both of them.

I never did get around to discussing Nia Long. It’s an incredible performance. She’s absolutely incapable of making believe–I just realized she’s the only black person in the entire movie… in Pittsburgh… anyway–she’s playing Arquette’s best friend. That description sums up her entire character. At least she disappears from the plot once Byrne comes in (which doesn’t make any sense, Arquette’s best friend would just forget about her… but maybe it was magic).

There’s also an incredibly annoying soundtrack. I forgot about movies–even crappy low-budget MGM tripe from the late 1990s–tried to make money selling soundtracks. I guess they still do, but I see enough of those finely cross-promoted motion pictures. The use of the soundtrack is terrible. The songs are crap–MC Hammer would have been a better choice.

The real problem with Stigmata is the end. There’s no resolution to the story but worse, the whole thing is illogical. It requires extreme maliciousness from someone who doesn’t give any indication of being a bad person. It’s like a Care Bear suffocating a puppy. It’s ludicrous.

Oh, I suppose Rade Serbedzija was fine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rupert Wainwright; written by Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage, based on a story by Lazarus; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Michael R. Miller and Michael J. Duthie; music by Billy Corgan and Elia Cmiral; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Frank Mancuso Jr.; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Patricia Arquette (Frankie Paige), Gabriel Byrne (Father Kiernan), Jonathan Pryce (Cardinal Houseman), Nia Long (Donna Chadway), Enrico Colantoni (Father Dario), Dick Latessa (Father Delmonico), Thomas Kopache (Father Durning), Ann Cusack (Dr. Reston), Portia de Rossi (Jennifer Kelliho), Patrick Muldoon (Steven) and Rade Serbedzija (Marion Petrocelli).


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