Tag Archives: Thomas Haden Church

One Night Stand (1997, Mike Figgis)

One Night Stand is such an emotionally exhausting film, one of the few moments of relief comes when Wesley Snipes, Ming-Na (as his wife), Nastassja Kinski (she and Snipes had a one night affair) and Kyle MacLachlan (as Kinski’s husband) go out to dinner together. It’s awkward in a far more comfortable way than the rest of the film, which takes its time getting there, but eventually reveals itself to be about the unraveling of Snipes.

Now, Wesley Snipes is often laughably terrible, which makes his performance here a shock. It’s one of the finer male lead performances. Figgis’s film feels like a novel, as it deals with Snipes’s heterosexuality, his marriage, his self-loathing over his homophobia and his career. Everything centers around Robert Downey Jr. as his best friend (the film opens with Snipes introducing the story, talking to the camera). Downey’s a gay guy dying of AIDS and it all sort of swirls around the life Snipes left in New York to sell out and go to LA. Of course, those events happened before the present action… which is not to discount the importance of the dalliance with Kinski and so on….

It’s all connected, but Downey and Snipes’s partnership is the focal point.

Downey’s great, though he sort of has the easiest role, something he mentions in dialogue. Ming-Na’s good, MacLachlan’s fantastic. Great small turn from Thomas Haden Church.

Figgis (who also scores) does an amazing job directing. It’s an astounding piece of work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mike Figgis; director of photography, Declan Quinn; edited by John Smith; music by Figgis; Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Figgis, Ben Myron and Annie Stewart; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Wesley Snipes (Max), Nastassja Kinski (Karen), Kyle MacLachlan (Vernon), Ming-Na (Mimi), Robert Downey Jr. (Charlie), Glenn Plummer (George), Amanda Donohoe (Margaux), Zoë Nathenson (Mickey) and Thomas Haden Church (Don).


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Smart People (2008, Noam Murro)

It’s hard to intelligently describe Smart People because the best way to describe it is quite simple. It’s a bunch of movie trailers for quirky family dramatic comedies strung together. Not five minutes goes by without two montages to songs (I’m shocked the soundtrack CD wasn’t available in the lobby) and one instrumental. There are no scenes in the whole movie, just snippets. Half scenes, missing their beginning and ending.

I thought, at the beginning, director Murro was just doing a–by now, very familiar–indie introduction to his characters with the montages. He wasn’t. He was just making the movie. Murro is a bad director, but in interesting ways at least. He doesn’t do establishing shots, he doesn’t understand headroom, nor does he account for interior dimensions. If it weren’t for one interesting shot (Dennis Quaid turning and pointing left while on the right side of a Panavision frame), I’d call him all together atrocious.

As for the writer, I really can’t tell. It’s possible Mark Poirier wrote a decent movie and it got cut to shreds in post-production. Or maybe he did write this one, which Murro ruined. Same script, all instrumental–well-scored–sometimes drowning out dialogue and fifteen or twenty minutes shorter, Smart People would have really been a quirky movie, instead of a packaged attempt at an indie crossover success.

And it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers aren’t very smart themselves. It’s in their handling of the material and, after some amusing scenes, it gets mildly offensive. But then–and here’s where I’ll shock myself typing it–Sarah Jessica Parker shows up. She gives the best performance in the film. Had the movie been about her–like it was for ten or fifteen minutes of montages (so figure around forty-five montages)–and the weird family she encounters, it would have been a screwy “Addams Family” knockoff. But it isn’t. Her performance, however, is excellent.

Second best is Thomas Haden Church, because he’s a supporting character and the fact the script doesn’t give him a character doesn’t matter so much. It really hurts Dennis Quaid, who–at times–can be seen to be acting, but to no real purpose. He and Parker have some chemistry though.

Ellen Page is one-note. Look, she’s an acerbic bitch. Ha. Funny. Not at all impressive by her.

Unfortunately, the movie manages to get worse as it closes, since it dismisses three of its four plot threads. It doesn’t forget them, it just makes them all better so the movie can end. Wait, no. Four of five, I forgot the last scene.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Noam Murro; written by Mark Poirier; director of photography, Toby Irwin; edited by Robert Frazen and Yana Gorskaya; music by Nuno Bettencourt; production designer, Patti Podesta; produced by Bridget Johnson, Michael Costigan, Michael London and Bruna Papandrea; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Lawrence), Sarah Jessica Parker (Janet), Thomas Haden Church (Chuck), Ellen Page (Vanessa), Ashton Holmes (James), Christine Lahti (Nancy), David Denman (William) and Camille Mana (Missy).


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George of the Jungle (1997, Sam Weisman)

For what it is, George of the Jungle is a rather successful film. It has to appeal to kids (since it’s a Disney movie), teenage girls (who I presume liked Brendan Fraser and might buy the soundtrack–from Disney Records, of course), and even “George of the Jungle” fans. Viewers of the show would be parents of the kids seeing the film, but there’s a real attention to minutiae and it works–George of the Jungle is a pleasant diversion. It immediately establishes itself as absurd, then proceeds to amuse the audience. When the film either shifts focus (from slapstick comedy to romantic comedy, for example) or, in particular, leaves the jungle sets, chafing occurs. In some ways, mostly because of Leslie Mann’s excellent performance as the love interest, George of the Jungle is an effective romance. It’s in a syrupy way, but a pleasing one. While Brendan Fraser is better playing a general buffoon than acting, he earns enough credit to glide over those scenes where he has trouble. But that success is an overall one–there are scenes throughout, this long dance scene, where I couldn’t figure out why they were filming it… then I remembered the Disney Records soundtrack.

The effects problems are different and complex. Since it’s a goofy comedy, the obvious CG isn’t a problem, neither is the obvious composite shots and jungle sets. The Creature Shop’s animatronics, however, are fantastic. But it’s the transition from set to location shooting where George of the Jungle starts to feel wrong–it isn’t supposed to be real and introducing elements, even simple visual cues, rips the viewer from the experience. When George ends up in San Francisco, I kept looking at the clock, waiting for him to go do something else. At those moments, the film felt the most like a romantic comedy (I imagine it’s where romantic comedy writer Audrey Wells did the majority of her work). Maybe it if had all been done on sets or something… but it just didn’t fit, visually or tonally, with the rest of the film. Holland Taylor plays Leslie Mann’s evil mother, who prefers fiancé Thomas Haden Church (who’s hilarious, though he’s just playing an evil, rich version of Lowell from “Wings” for most of it) to the Jungle King. Taylor, who’s usually good, has played this role maybe nine times before and it’s visible from her performance. It’s hard to be engaged when the actor is bored.

Besides her, however, the cast is fine. John Cleese voices the ape named Ape and it’s an excellent fit. For some reason, I agree with that character regarding the Tookie Bird. It’s damn annoying.

Also, the film’s one of those rare ones where the last couple minutes pulls the whole thing up a notch, just because it gets goofy again.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells, based on a story by Olsen and a cartoon by Jay Ward; director of photography, Thomas Ackerman; edited by Stuart Pappe and Roger Bondelli; music by Marc Shaiman; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by David Hoberman, Jordan Kerner and Jon Avnet; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Brendan Fraser (George), Leslie Mann (Ursula Stanhope), Thomas Haden Church (Lyle Van de Groot), Richard Roundtree (Kwame), Holland Taylor (Beatrice Stanhope), Abraham Benrubi (Thor) and John Cleese (An Ape Named “Ape”).


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