Tag Archives: Tom Noonan

Wolfen (1981, Michael Wadleigh)

Even with Albert Finney’s hair style, which seems to be inspired by a drag queen who just doesn’t care, Wolfen is a beautifully made film. The big action sequence at the end (the film’s genre progresses from police procedural to horror to thriller–Finney’s investigation leads the way) is a fantastic sequence. I’d actually forgotten it was in the film; I haven’t seen it in ten years.

Wadleigh hasn’t directed anything else since Wolfen and it’s too bad. The film falls apart at the end when the “truth” is revealed in an obnoxious expositional scene instead of action (it’d be hard for it to be shown in action, since it’s a “the world is a lie” truth, but they needed something better), but he’s still a great director. He somehow makes the Panavision essential, something I questioned from the start. His instincts are solid and he even overcomes the assault rifle scene.

Okay, no, he doesn’t overcome the assault rifle scene, but he certainly exhibits enough talent it would have been possible for him to overcome it.

Wolfen‘s a small picture, not a lot of actors. There are the primaries, maybe three supporting, and then no more. There’s no awesome scene where Finney goes to pick up the assault rifles, to give one to his sidekick, coroner Hines.

Finney’s performance is problematic. He’s phoning it in, but with some of the script, there’s nothing else he could do.

Hines, Diane Venora and Dick O’Neill are good in this disappointing picture.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Wadleigh; screen story and screenplay by David Eyre and Wadleigh, based on the novel by Whitley Strieber; director of photography, Gerry Fisher; edited by Marshall M. Borden, Martin J. Bram, Dennis Dolan and Chris Lebenzon; music by James Horner; production designer, Paul Sylbert; produced by Rupert Hitzig; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Albert Finney (Dewey Wilson), Diane Venora (Rebecca Neff), Edward James Olmos (Eddie Holt), Gregory Hines (Whittington), Tom Noonan (Ferguson), Dick O’Neill (Warren), Dehl Berti (Old Indian), Peter Michael Goetz (Ross) and Sam Gray as the mayor.


RELATED

Advertisements

Robocop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner)

I remember in 1991, when I was visiting a friend and he showed me the Robocop movies (there were only two at the time, of course)–I’m tempted to go on a tangent about when one could still show someone movies… you kind of lose that opportunity with adulthood, then you just get to recommend. Anyway, after watching the two films, I commented the villains were better in the first one. He responded, “You read that in a review.” And now I’m writing it in one.

There are three major problems with Robocop 2. First, the villains. They aren’t as good, even though many of them are well-acted by their performers. It’s actually a cheap list item, because it so directly relates to the second major problem. Robocop 2 has little to do with Robocop. There are attempts to give Robocop a story in the film, but they stop pretending after a while, during the long sequences he’s off-screen all together. Robocop 2 is more about the bad guys than the hero, who’s possible journey is knee-capped in the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Robocop’s an inherently tragic figure–he’s the hero who never gets a reward–and the film would rather ignore him than deal with him.

The third problem has, big shock, a lot to do with the first two problems. Nothing really happens for the first hour. Nothing really good anyway. The first hour is spent engineering the second hour, allowing for the scenes to take place. Obviously, a plot complicates and a plot progresses, but Robocop 2’s script is pretty incompetent in terms of plotting. The lousy villains are also the script’s fault, specifically Frank Miller’s, who’s done enough work (and had his original script adapted to a comic book) to have the blame easily assigned. I’m not sure if it’s his fault Robocop 2 isn’t about Robocop… it might have something more to do with the first film being incapable of providing an easy sequel.

Now for the good. Irvin Kershner is a sturdy director. He doesn’t get to really shine until the big action ending–when it’s a mix of Kershner’s direction, Phil Tippett’s unbelievably wonderful stop motion, and Leonard Rosenman’s score. The film also takes forever to have any action scenes of merit–script’s fault–with most of the early ones being boring, unimaginative shootouts (contrived to progress the plot as conveniently as possible).

Peter Weller’s good as Robocop, though he’s got very little to do throughout the film. Nancy Allen kind of hangs out in a practical cameo (Patricia Charbonneau–in an uncredited performance–has more resonance). Tom Noonan’s good as the villain, Gabriel Damon’s good as the evil Frank Miller kid villain. The corporate villains, Belinda Bauer, Dan O’Herlihy, Jeff McCarthy and, in particular, Felton Perry, are all good.

The film has very little to do with the first one–it’s a sequel to the first film’s success, rather than the characters and their struggles in it–but it’s well-produced.

The grand action finale is amazing to see. Robocop 2 becomes a monster-on-the-loose movie all of a sudden and Kershner produces a great sequence. It’s also at night, one of the film’s few scenes at night… it really helps. In fact, it closes so well, one can almost (but not really) forget the first hour of the film.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Irvin Kershner; screenplay by Frank Miller and Walon Green, based on a story by Miller and characters created by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Deborah Zeitman, Lee Smith and Armen Minasian; music by Leonard Rosenman; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Jon Davison; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Peter Weller (RoboCop), Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Jeff McCarthy (Holzgang), Felton Perry (Donald Johnson), Daniel O’Herlihy (The Old Man), Belinda Bauer (Juliette Faxx), Tom Noonan (Cain), Gabriel Damon (Hob), Galyn Gorg (Angie), Mario Machado (Casey Wong), Leeza Gibbons (Jesse Perkins), Roger Aaron Brown (Whittaker), Mark Rolston (Stef), Willard Pugh (Mayor Kuzak), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Reed) and Stephen Lee (Duffy).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE ROBOCOP TRILOGY.

F/X (1986, Robert Mandel)

About ten minutes in to F/X, I got wondering how the film was going to deal with being a special effects-filled film about a guy doing special effects for films. I suppose they didn’t have to deal with that relationship, but it kept seeming more and more like they were going to need to address it. Then, at the end, rather simply, they did. It’s a quick “thank you” at the end of the film to the audience. Movies tend not to do the ending “thank you” anymore (Ocean’s Twelve coming the closest in recent memory) because it’s an acknowledgment of the film’s unreality… it probably has a lot to do with films being more centered towards the eventual home video market as opposed to the theatrical experience. An ending “thank you” for watching is definitely a theatrical consideration (I mean, doesn’t Predator even thank its audience?).

Anyway, the ending brings F/X up a little bit, because the film’s a narrative mess (it also has the most obvious stuntmen I can remember seeing in a long time). It has a solid opening, great first twenty minutes, maybe even twenty-five, then the narrative splits between Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy. Brown goes from being the protagonist to the subject for half his scenes and the others are action scenes–and good action scenes–so he’s sort of lost. The Dennehy arc is great stuff (though incredibly unrealistic), with Joe Grifasi as his sidekick.

The film’s really well-paced, given all those narrative difficulties, and it’s a constant pleasure to watch. The experience stems from three things, audio and visual. First, Robert Mandel is a good director. He knows how to frame a shot, he knows how to have it lighted and he knows how to have scenes put together (Terry Rawlings’s editing has some outstanding moments–there’s also some scenes where it appears he cut too early, like the dialogue was interrupted for running time, but then I realized it was a stylistic choice and a fine one). F/X looks great from that department, but also because it’s an on location New York movie. Lots of great stuff to show off why New York is the best city to shoot a movie in. Third, and probably most important tying together points one and two: Bill Conti’s score. From the opening credits, Conti establishes his importance to the film and he keeps it up throughout. Conti’s filmography is spotty in terms of film quality, but he does amazing work here.

While Brown is good as the lead, his character–after the story’s moving–rarely has any time to reflect on what’s happened. It’s a little off-putting, but F/X actually has some wonderful subtle moments to take care of those deficiencies. Dennehy’s great. Brian Dennehy could sell real estate on Jupiter and make it believable. Supporting wise… Grifasi’s okay, Cliff De Young’s real good–particularly in the first twenty minutes, which appear to have had tighter revisions–Jerry Orbach’s funny, Jossie DeGuzman’s scenes are all good… The real acting champ, besides Dennehy, is Diane Venora. Her role’s relatively small, but she’s fantastic.

However long the laundry list of problems, F/X is still a fine diversion. And an exceptionally effective one, thanks to the fine production values.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Mandel; written by Robert T. Megginson and Gregory Fleeman; director of photography, Miroslav Ondricek; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Bill Conti; produced by Dodi Fayed and Jack Wiener; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Bryan Brown (Rollie Tyler), Brian Dennehy (Leo McCarthy), Diane Venora (Ellen), Cliff De Young (Lipton), Mason Adams (Col. Mason), Jerry Orbach (Nicholas DeFranco), Joe Grifasi (Mickey), Martha Gehman (Andy), Roscoe Orman (Capt. Wallenger), Trey Wilson (Lt. Murdoch), Tom Noonan (Varrick), Paul D’Amato (Gallagher) and Jossie DeGuzman (Marisa Velez).


RELATED

The Monster Squad (1987, Fred Dekker)

Fred Dekker can definitely compose a shot. For whatever its faults, The Monster Squad is one good looking film. Some of that credit belongs to the production designer and the cinematographer and the special effects people, but most of it belongs to Dekker. Dekker composes beautiful Panavision shots and he directs actors really well too–well, some of them, but more on that aspect later.

The Monster Squad is a mix between The Goonies and Ghostbusters and maybe even a little E.T. It’s developed a cult following for whatever reasons a film develops cult followings, but it’s a dramatic train wreck. There’s an infamous missing thirteen minutes (the film’s producers told Dekker to cut it to under ninety), but unless those thirteen minutes are all bridging scenes… The film takes place over three days and the leaps in logic are astounding (my favorite was the kids all being out at midnight with parents completely unaware) and it’s so smug, it’s not even well-meaning in its “message.” Still, there’s a lot of good stuff in Monster Squad.

First, there’s Stephen Macht. The guy’s fantastic–and not all of Monster Squad‘s script is bad. The family stuff is all excellent–it might be stereotypical cop too busy for his family, but it’s being performed by good actors–and some of the humorous stuff with the kids, the one-liners, are good. There’s a cute dog. It’s just so unbelievable… Anyway, besides Macht’s wonderful performance, there’s Duncan Regehr as Dracula. Regehr doesn’t actually have much to do, but he does a great job. The kids are… well, they’re all the kids who guest-starred on 1980s TV shows, pretty much. Only Robby Kiger is good in the scenes with the other kids and with the ludicrous elements, Andre Gower is good at the family stuff with Macht, but not the other stuff. Brent Chalem is terrible.

Even though its special effects are still excellent, The Monster Squad is incredibly dated by its dialogue. Watching it–as I near thirty (and I was vindicated by this widescreen copy, since it clearly shows something I’ve been saying for twenty years was in the film was simply pan and scanned out)–I can’t imagine ever showing it to one of my (prospective) children. The conversation about the rampant homophobic slurs coming out of the kids’ mouths weighed against the film’s content just isn’t worth it–and Monster Squad gets nasty, using terms I didn’t even understand until now. Just really mean-hearted stuff. It might be a fairly accurate representation of how boys talk, but it’s not a documentary about kids being stupid shitheads and its presence is somewhat odd (though, maybe not, given how fanatically Dekker defended it in a recent interview). There’s also a really weird aspect about the two main kids, Gower and Kiger, hugging all the time….

The film definitely suffers from a lack of wonderment or even a comprehension of it. When these kids, who are obsessed with monsters, discover this pretend passion is actual, there’s no moment of recognition. It’s an absurd fantasy and it doesn’t recognize that condition and it suffers greatly for it. However, I can’t believe, how good-looking a film it is in its original aspect ratio. Whatever its significant faults, Monster Squad is a beautifully produced film. It’s like the Olympia of kids movies. No, that one’s a little far, but Dekker’s interview really pissed me off (I mean, seriously, I don’t know if he’d mind the comparison of ideologies).

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fred Dekker; written by Dekker and Shane Black; director of photography, Bradford May; edited by James Mitchell; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Albert Brenner; produced by Jonathan A. Zimbert; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Andre Gower (Sean), Robby Kiger (Patrick), Stephen Macht (Del), Duncan Regehr (Count Dracula), Tom Noonan (Frankenstein), Brent Chalem (Horace), Ryan Lambert (Rudy), Ashley Bank (Phoebe), Michael Faustino (Eugene), Mary Ellen Trainor (Emily), Carl Thibault (Wolfman), Tom Woodruff Jr. (Gill-Man), Michael MacKay (Mummy), Leonard Cimino (Scary German Guy), Jon Gries (Desperate Man), Stan Shaw (Detective Sapir) and Jason Hervey (E.J.).


RELATED