Tag Archives: Virginia Madsen

Electric Dreams (1984, Steve Barron)

Electric Dreams is a very strange film. And not just because it’s about a computer brought to life by champagne and electric fire. Not even because said computer has the voice of Bud Cort. It’s strange because it has no interest in having a conventional narrative structure, both in terms of the screenplay and the direction.

Lenny von Dohlen plays the lead. He’s a young architect in San Francisco who wants to create an earthquake-proof brick. The whole first act concerns this ambition, along with him meeting his fetching new neighbor. Virginia Madsen plays the neighbor. She’s a young cellist who’s just started with the symphony. Will Electric Dreams have anything to do with her ambitions or von Dohlen’s super-brick?

Nope.

Rusty Lemorande’s script even sets up various opportunities for these plot threads to return or pick up and he just leaves them. Director Barron seems more than comfortable with avoiding them because they don’t figure into what he enjoys doing in the film. He likes having scenes of von Dohlen and Madsen’s sometimes problematic courtship, usually set to music, or scenes with von Dohlen trying to deal with his newly self-aware computer. The computer even has to do with the two subplots–super-brick and symphony success–and Electric Dreams just skips it in favor of a far more audio-visual experience.

Barron’s direction is peculiar without being particularly ambitious. He maintains the awkward narrative tone, filling Electric Dreams not just with interludes between von Dohlen and Madsen, but in its fantastic montage sequences as well. Electric Dreams has spectacular cinematography, just in how Alex Thomson is able to get the camera swinging around the set. Barron loves crane shots and Thomson nails every one of them. Lots of tight focus on close-ups, which Thomson shots perfectly, and Peter Honess edits beautifully. Electric Dreams, even when it’s not trying to be a computer generated imagery spectacular, is always dynamic to watch. Until the end, when Barron’s music video direction instincts go too wild with the last montage.

Except he’s still got Honess’s editing and the fantastic New Wave soundtrack to get it through.

Von Dohlen’s a likable lead; the film doesn’t task him much. There’s an air of unreality to the whole thing–a San Francisco computerized fairy tale–and maybe Madsen weathers it better. Her part is easier; even though she has her own subplot for a while, she’s really just in the girlfriend part. She does get the film’s loveliest sequence though, when she’s playing a duet with the computer.

As the computer, Cort’s fine. Lemorande–and the film–don’t ask many big questions about existence; Cort’s just got to have personality and sympathy. He does both well.

Electric Dreams is a marvelously well-made film. It’s also quite a bit of fun to boot.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Steve Barron; written by Rusty Lemorande; director of photography, Alex Thomson; edited by Peter Honess; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Richard Macdonald; produced by Larry DeWaay and Lemorande; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Lenny von Dohlen (Miles Harding), Virginia Madsen (Madeline Robistat) and Bud Cort (Me).


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Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy)

Highlander II: The Quickening has had a reputation as a sequel disaster since its release. Outside of “Starlog” write-ups, did anyone ever pretend to be excited about this film? But since its initial release (and multiple home video re-releases with different editing), The Quickening has actually gotten to be a wonderful time capsule of its era and situation.

The film is desperate. It goes all out. People like hoverboards from Back to the Future Part II, let’s have hoverboards. The ladies liked stars Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery with long hair in the first one, let’s do all long hair in the second one. Highlander 2 ought to be subtitled Big Hair and Big Swords because it’s desperate enough to give villain Michael Ironside long hair, presumably to make him… sexy?

Now. Ironside. Real quick. He ought to look embarrassed and he doesn’t. He gets through. John C. McGinley not so much, but Ironside gets through. He’s the lamest early nineties movie villain–a mix of the savage punk villain from the previous Highlander and Jack Nicholson’s Joker from Batman–but Ironside does get through it.

Sean Connery’s actually okay enough. Lambert’s bad but how could anyone be good. He’s so bad he’s better under the old age make-up at the beginning than when he’s young again.

Virginia Madsen is not good as the love interest. It’s a terrible part, but she’s still not good. Oh, look, a metaphor for the entire film. It’s terrible for multiple reasons, but it could never be good. Even when Highlander 2 does something right for a little while, it gets screwed up. Director Mulcahy has a handful of decent concepts, but they’re either too short or ultimately fail. And when it seems like a perfect Mulcahy moment–many of the sets are enormous so Mulcahy can do his swinging crane shots–he never takes advantage. It’s puzzling and disconcerting.

Weird score from Stewart Copeland, weirder pop soundtrack. Both are bad, but interesting in their weirdness. Like everything else, they’re desperate to appear hip. Peter Bellwood’s lousy script apes corporations as bad guys from Robocop and Total Recall, bringing along poor Ironside from that latter as well. Highlander 2 is a sequel to a cable and home video hit desperately trying to be a cable and home video hit.

I suppose it’s oddly appropriate a film about immortality is also such a perfect time capsule of a popular filmmaking era. It’s such a perfect example of it, I’m only moderately embarrassed to have written over 400 words about it right now.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on a story by Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie and Anthony Redman; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Roger Hall; produced by Jean-Luc Defait, Ziad El Khoury, Peter S. Davis and Panzer; released by Interstar.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake) and Ed Trucco (Jimmy).


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Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy), the international version

When subjecting myself to Highlander II, I wanted to find the worst version possible. Over the years, the director and then the producers have returned to the film and tried to edit the footage into something more palatable. Of course, these attempts are not just hampered by the use of existing footage (it’s not like there’s some great version lost out there), but also by the fact the film’s one of the worst acted motion pictures in the medium (at least by professional actors).

So the version I watched has all the alien planet references, which contradict the first movie, among other assaults on the intellect. Given I don’t like the first one–it’s far better than this one though–I don’t really care about the continuity. I care more about things like Christopher Lambert essentially forcing himself on Virginia Madsen. One of his new magical powers is Love Potion #9… or she just got Stockholm Syndrome super fast.

Madsen might give the best performance. Either her or Sean Connery. Both are pretty bad by regular standards, but when they’re giving these performances amid Lambert, Michael Ironside (who might give a worse performance than Lambert, which is extraordinary) and John C. McGinley (did he ever work again after this one?)….

I spent about half the movie wondering what a well-budgeted, well-scripted Russell Mulcahy effort would be like–then remembered the Shadow (which is superb). Even though he’s shooting idiotic material and bad performances, Mulcahy’s talent is clearly visible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Peter Bellwood, based on a story by Brian Clemens and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie and Anthony Redman; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Roger Hall; produced by Jean-Luc Defait, Ziad El Khoury, Peter S. Davis and Panzer; released by Interstar.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake) and Ed Trucco (Jimmy).


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Wonder Woman (2009, Lauren Montgomery)

They really should have cast Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman. Never thought I’d be typing those words–even if it is just voice casting–but Dawson is so much better than Keri Russell, whose Wonder Woman comes off as dependent on Nathan Fillion’s male for everything down to pseudo-feminist banter. Russell’s voice defers and doesn’t suggest any authority–well, except the script also bestows Fillion’s character kung fu on par with the Amazonian goddesses (are they goddesses, it’s never clear), which confuses things even further.

But Wonder Woman is still pretty good, even if its sexual politics are all trite platitudes. The most honest moment comes at the end, when it’s suggested men, even acting under the best of circumstances, need to be coddled by women into believing they, men, are still capable of offering something to the “weaker” sex. It seems completely unintentional, since only a few scenes before the whole problem with the world is boiled down to warrior women stepping away from it. You know who should have written Wonder Woman–Lily Tomlin. Was she too busy? A Wonder Woman movie written by a feminist icon, one who’s had time to reflect on the movement… would have been spectacular. Instead they turned it into a… pardon the expression… neutered Disney movie.

Well, neutered but still with lots of killing, sexual innuendo and almost a curse word.

It’s a pleasant surprise to be sure, but would have been as a feminist reaction to the Disney Princess “franchise.”

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Michael Jelenic, based on a story by Gail Simone and Jelenic and the DC Comics character created by William M. Marston; edited by Rob Desales; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Bruce W. Timm; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Keri Russell (Diana), Nathan Fillion (Steve Trevor), Alfred Molina (Ares), Rosario Dawson (Artemis), Marg Helgenberger (Hera), Oliver Platt (Hades), Virginia Madsen (Hippolyta), Julianne Grossman (Etta Candy), Vicki Lewis (Persephone) and David McCallum (Zeus).


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