Tag Archives: Robert Brown

Police Academy (1984, Hugh Wilson)

I forgot how loose eighties comedies are in terms of filmmaking and narrative. I don’t think Wilson has a single good shot in the film. The best ones are workmanlike at best and the worst… well, he has these absurdly weak low angle closeups on David Graf, either to make him look tall or crazy. It’s never clear.

Police Academy never concerns itself with a reasonable plot. For example, romance between Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall sort of disappears after a while. The movie only runs ninety minutes and change, so there’s not a lot of time for subplots–especially not after the relatively lengthy first act. But Guttenberg and Cattrall are the ostensible leads; only Cattrall disappears, replaced with the gag characters.

Pretty much everyone in the movie has a gimmick except Guttenberg, Cattrall and G.W. Bailey. Bailey’s the berating, abusive instructor, but it’s not exactly a gimmick. Bubba Smith is tall, Donovan Scott is a wimp, Bruce Mahler is a klutz. Then there’s Michael Winslow with the sound effects. It goes on and on.

There are some good performances. George Gaynes is funny as the dimwitted, but well-meaning commandant of the academy. Guttenberg is very appealing–one forgets he used to be good at these lead roles. Cattrall’s fine, though she has little do to. Smith, Winslow, Marion Ramsey, all good.

Bailey, unfortunately, is pretty weak. He’s sometimes funny… but he doesn’t have a character.

Police Academy has some all right, stupid laughs. But no smart ones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hugh Wilson; screenplay by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Wilson, based on a story by Israel and Proft; director of photography, Michael D. Margulies; edited by Robert Brown and Zach Staenberg; music by Robert Folk; production designer, Trevor Williams; produced by Paul Maslansky; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Cadet Carey Mahoney), Kim Cattrall (Cadet Karen Thompson), G.W. Bailey (Lt. Thaddeus Harris), Bubba Smith (Cadet Moses Hightower), Donovan Scott (Cadet Leslie Barbara), George Gaynes (Commandant Eric Lassard), Andrew Rubin (Cadet George Martín), David Graf (Cadet Eugene Tackleberry), Leslie Easterbrook (Sgt. Debbie Callahan), Michael Winslow (Cadet Larvell Jones), Debralee Scott (Mrs. Fackler), Bruce Mahler (Cadet Douglas Fackler), Ted Ross (Captain Reed), Scott Thomson (Cadet Chad Copeland), Brant von Hoffman (Cadet Kyle Blankes), Marion Ramsey (Cadet Laverne Hooks) and George R. Robertson (Chief Henry J. Hurst).


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Vital Signs (1990, Marisa Silver)

I’d forgotten grown men used to wear cut-off, midriff-revealing shirts. Adrian Pasdar does in the final scene of Vital Signs. It’s horrifying.

Pasdar also bulks up throughout the picture, maybe for his shirtless scenes in the late second act, or for that closing shot.

And even though Vital Signs is tripe, another failed studio attempt to launch a new Brat Pack, Pasdar’s a decent leading man. He’s not always good, but he’s probably only got three bad scenes–a miracle, given the script and his co-stars. He runs the movie well. So well, in fact, he even out night-time soaps special guest star (sorry, it’s a “with” credit, I forgot) William Devane. Actually, Devane’s brief appearance is a disappointment, as he gives it with less forcefulness than he would an Altoids commercial.

The supporting cast has one big surprise (well, two, if discovering Jane Adams had a Happiness career counts)–Jimmy Smits isn’t terrible. He even exhibits some potential.

Adams is good but the movie ignores her romance with her (formerly) platonic roommate Tim Ransom to the point it almost forgets them. Ransom’s the goofy late 1980s guys who wears hats (Corey Feldman was busy, I imagine) but he’s not bad. Laura San Giacomo and Jack Gwaltney are both awful. Even though San Giacomo smiles a lot and Gwaltney doesn’t at all, neither exhibit any emotion. Diane Lane–as Pasdar’s love interest–is unintentionally hilarious. She doesn’t seem intelligent enough to get a pizza order right, much less be a doctor. In a pivotal role, Norma Aleandro fails (and it hurts the movie a little).

Bradley Whitford’s kind of funny in a small role. Vital Signs is during his jerk phase.

What’s strange about the movie is the direction. Marisa Silver is far from radical, but she does a really sturdy job with it. And given the terrible Miles Goodman score (lots of guitar), it’s an accomplishment. She’s better than the script, which is laughable.

Watching Vital Signs, the biggest surprise is how long it took Pasdar to find a successful hour-long drama job. If anything, it shows how natural he’d be at one.

Maybe everyone remembered the midriff-revealing, baby blue sweatshirt.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Marisa Silver; screenplay by Larry Ketron and Jeb Stuart, based on a story by Ketron; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Robert Brown and Danford B. Greene; music by Miles Goodman; production designer, Todd Hallowell; produced by Laurie Perlman and Cathleen Summers; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Adrian Pasdar (Michael Chatham), Diane Lane (Gina Wyler), Jack Gwaltney (Kenny Rose), Laura San Giacomo (Lauren Rose), Jane Adams (Suzanne Maloney), Tim Ransom (Bobby Hayes), Bradley Whitford (Dr. Donald Ballentine), Lisa Jane Persky (Bobby), William Devane (Dr. Chatham), Norma Aleandro (Henrietta Walker) and Jimmy Smits (Dr. David Redding).


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The Living Daylights (1987, John Glen)

John Glen does a litany of disservices to The Living Daylights, mostly due to his inability to direct actors–Timothy Dalton specifically–but also on a number of technical levels. Glen relies far too much on rear screen projection for banal driving shots. Some of the other technical aspects–the bland sets and terrible lighting of them–aren’t necessarily Glen’s fault, though they are his responsibility. His inability to direct Dalton hurts the film most of all. Dalton can’t deliver the Bond one liners and he has real problems with the Lothario aspects of the part, but when he’s doing different things, he’s fine. Towards the end, once the film centers on he and Maryam d’Abo, he gets really good.

D’Abo’s another particular part of Living Daylights. She’s not so much good–though she’s very appealing after a while–as she is perfect in the part of a naïve cellist. Part of her appeal might be the short end she gets from the Living Daylights plot. While I realize it’s a James Bond movie and deceiving the audience every three minutes, whether it’s a character’s allegiances or an action set piece (cliffhangers only work when you’ve got some time in between crisis and resolution, a week, four months, not five or six seconds). But. So d’Abo is more appealing because she’s getting run through the duplicity ringer, but she’s getting run through it by Dalton, who’s James Bond and isn’t James Bond supposed to be smart? The audience knows more than he does and it doesn’t help Dalton at all, since he’s already saddled with bad lines and bad direction. It’s like the filmmakers already gave him a vote of no confidence or something, though he’s far more personable and likable than first choice Pierce Brosnan ever was, which might have more to do with the Brosnan Bond movies but whatever. They shouldn’t have jinxed him.

The stunts are cool, especially having seen all CG-composite Bond movies. The locations are nice, but cutting from a crappy set to a good location–it almost looks like all the sets were the same sound stage used over and over, since Glen uses the same composition for all of them. John Barry’s score is good. The supporting cast ranges. Art Malik and Joe Don Baker are good. Jeroen Krabbé, who I was expecting to be great, was not.

At the end, Glen (or the second unit director) does a fantastic, explosion-heavy shootout at a Russian airbase and he does a good job of it. Compounded by the recent dramatic developments and Dalton and d’Abo’s chemistry, The Living Daylights really turns around at the end, which very few films do. And it has a silly ending, which rewards the involved audience member–maybe it should have been more concerned with immediate rewards throughout, but still. It’s nice to see films used to make that consideration, since so few do so anymore.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Glen; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, based on a story by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by John Grover and Peter Davies; music by John Barry; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Maryam d’Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbé (Gen. Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker), John Rhys-Davies (Gen. Leonid Pushkin), Art Malik (Kamran Shah), Andreas Wisniewski (Necros), Thomas Wheatley (Saunders), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Robert Brown (M) and Caroline Bliss (Miss Moneypenny).


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Warlords of Atlantis (1978, Kevin Connor)

If you ever want to see John Ratzenberger fight a giant octopus, Warlords of Atlantis has something to offer you. Actually, it’s hard to completely dislike a film with a giant octopus, especially one attacking a ship. It’s so silly, it can’t help but amuse. I do have to wonder, since there was a giant octopus in the poster for The Land That Time Forgot (Connor’s first film with Doug McClure–Warlords is the last), if the octopus wasn’t a recycled idea. Kind of like Ed Wood’s giant octopus….

Warlords of Atlantis is a bad film, but again, so dumb it’s not particularly offensive. It’s too long–there’s a big difference in a Kevin Connor film between eighty-nine minutes and ninety-six. With Warlords’ ninety-six, he manages to add an additional set piece the film doesn’t need. It’s a mish-mash of a film anyway, borrowing from each of the previous McClure and Connor (and producer John Dark) collaborations. A ship here, a submarine here, a cavernous city here. There’s too many characters for the film to sustain–at least seven the audience is expected to recognize by name–and it’s not interesting. Warlords’ Atlantis, populated by a bunch of soon-to-be-Nazis, isn’t particularly interesting. Discovering a lost world only works if there’s some discovery going on, not a huge population of bad guys to fight.

The special effects–though some of the miniature work is good–are pretty bad. I do like how they have a real monster hand coming up in front of a rear screen projection, an idea I imagine they lifted from John Guillermin’s King Kong. There are a lot of matte paints and cinematographer Alan Hume is BAD at matte paintings. He shot Return of the Jedi, which had a number of awful matte painting shots too, so it’s not a budgetary thing. He just doesn’t do it well. There’s also the bad music… the film just doesn’t work. It’s too clean (on nice film stock) and the story is too silly. While Doug McClure’s in decent leading man form–I realized, watching the film, Doug McClure is the vanilla soft serve of actors–his character is empty. You’re not watching a late nineteenth century American inventor, you’re watching Doug McClure. The film doesn’t even try to convince the viewer otherwise. McClure’s sidekick, Peter Gilmore, is bad. The Atlantians are bad (and have silly hair and outfits). It’s got to be bad if the scantily clad human slave-girl (played by Lea Brodie) gives one of the film’s better performances.

There are also frequent attempts at humor throughout. They fail.

Since Connor’s not a bad director (though he’s got to be the most wildly inconsistent), there are a handful of nice shots. While Warlords is bad, the pacing is what does it in. At the very least, monster movies with bad special effects and bad acting have to move.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; written by Brian Hayles; director of photography, Alan Hume; edited by Bill Blunden; music by Michael Vickers; produced by John Dark; released by EMI Films.

Starring Doug McClure (Greg Collinson), Peter Gilmore (Charles Aitken), Shane Rimmer (Captain Daniels), Lea Brodie (Delphine), Michael Gothard (Atmir), Hal Galili (Grogan), John Ratzenberger (Fenn), Derry Power (Jacko), Donald Bisset (Professor Aitken), Ashley Knight (Sandy), Robert Brown (Briggs), Cyd Charisse (Atsil) and Daniel Massey (Atraxon).