Sunday, June 15, 2008

AND HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TOO!


22 comments:

bill said...

Is that image from "The Stepfather"? I've always wanted to see that. Stupid Netflix...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Hey Bill it's me Johnny Boy. Yeah that's Stepfather. The movie's mediocre, in my opinion, but Terry O'Quinn's performance is superb and worth seeing it for. Just fast forward through the poorly scripted, shot and acted scenes he's not in.

bill said...

But Donald E. Westlake wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplay. He's one of our finest crime writers!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Alfred Hitchcock directed Topaz.

Paddy Chayefsky wrote Paint Your Wagon.

Katherine Hepburn was an embarrassment in Dragonseed.

It happens. Seriously, it's got that cheap, low rent straight to video feel. Except for O'Quinn no one delivers their lines with conviction. Feels like a Rhonda Shears Up All Night excursion.

Or maybe it's just me. Let me know once you see it.

bill said...

What the hell?? I never knew that Chayefsky wrote Paint Your Wagon. How did I not know that?

LISA: What did you rent?
BART: Joshua Logan's Paint Your Wagon!
HOMER: They painted it with blood, I'll bet!

Anyway, you say outside of O'Quinn, the actors are lousy, but what does that have to do with the script?

But I'm not really arguing, since I haven't seen it. It's just that, with the combo of Westlake and O'Quinn, I really want it to be good.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Re: the script, I was just saying that O'Quinn's the only one that overcomes it's limitations. But the script isn't bad bad. Better actors all around could have pulled it off better. I think a big problem is the direction of Joseph Ruben which is flat and lifeless.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Wow, guys! I'm too swamped to say much more than this right now, but I have to say I think The Stepfather is a pretty damn good movie, even Ruben's direction-- he's one I've always felt was an underrated stylist, and the movie is unnerving. (I know, I know-- first Speed Racer, now this?!) But O'Quinn is brilliant, to be sure. (Shelley Hack? Okay, you got me there, J.L.)

Speaking of Westlake, have either of you read The Ax?

Jonathan Lapper said...

True Believer, Sleeping With the Enemy, The Good Son? - are his underrated stylings evident in these as well? I don't see it. It's not that I don't see a style, it's that I see the same style used in any number of Lifetime stalker movies of the nineties that my first wife watched so much of. It's bland in my opinion. And come on Dennis - the detective story in this movie is pretty weak.

I grant it's not awful. As I said originally, I find it mediocre which doesn't make it outright bad, just average. Like the three movies mentioned above. I rank them all about the same. So I guess I could say Rubin is consistent and give him marks for that.

And no I never read The Ax but my brother did and he liked it very much. Not that he reads the best literature in the world or anything so I don't know how much salt should be taken with that "recommendation."

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Okay, I'll give you Sleeping with the Enemy and the fact that Ruben never really came through on the promise of his early films. (Let's not talk about Gorp, though if you wanna reminisce about The Pom Pom Girls, I'll go there!) But I'd go to bat for Joyride, Dreamscape, True Believer, The Stepfather and maybe even Money Train and The Good Son, which isn't a bad movie at all despite the stunt casting of MacCaulay Culkin. These are solid B-movies all, not cutting-edge, but well-crafted, visually crisp, with an eye toward using composition to enliven the characters and reflect upon them. I'd call that a style.

bill said...

Dennis, yes, I've read The Ax. That was, I believe, my second Westlake, and it made me a fan. A fantastic book, which, I believe, Costa-Gavras turned into a hard-to-find film just a few years ago.

Even better, to me, is The Hook. What a disturbing book. In fact, I'd call it a small masterpiece.

The weird thing about my love of Westlake is that I still have never read any of his Parker novels (written as Richard Stark), because I haven't been able to find the first few books for a reasonable price. But the University of Chicago Press is going to start reprinting them in September. I'm quite excited.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Costa-Gavras made a film of The Ax??!! My God, I can't imagine... (I'm just about to suffer through his Missing again here at work...)

I thought that book was brilliant too, the only Westlake or Stark book I've ever read, though I will now be on The Hook with great speed and purpose! Thanks, Bill!

Jonathan Lapper said...

I wanted to like Dreamscape so much when it came out with all my sci-fi and horror loves blending together in one work, and such a great cast but alas, I was disappointed. In fact, it's been years since I've seen it so all I can remember is being disappointed and not much else. I think I'd like to see it again now to see if I view it differently. Perhaps I'll recognize that elusive Joseph Ruben style this time around.

Missing - I don't remember much about that one either. In fact, all I remember is Jack and Sissy in the stadium with the microphone. Literally, that's all I remember so wow, it really made an impression on me back in 83, huh?

bill said...

No problem, Dennis! And yes, I looked it up, it was Costa-Gavras. It's not available on DVD, and I've heard it's pretty decent, but I've seen very few of his films. I think the only one I've seen is Mad City, which is one of the worst things I've ever encountered, though it's my understanding that it's not the most representative Costa-Gavras film...

Anyhow, Dennis, also check out Westlake's Humans. It's a very bizarre, unpleasant, funny, sort-of-adventure novel. Also, it has an angel and a demon in it.

And, if you want, you can read his stealing-a-train-full-of-coffee-from-Idi-Amin novel Kahawa. That was my first Westlake, and I was actually a bit disappointed with it, but it's widely considered his best non-Parker novel. I think Westlake thinks so, too. So maybe I need to give it another go. Or, you could just read it, and tell me if I was right or wrong.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Oh yeah, and I never saw Money Train or The Pom Pom Girls. But really, Money Train? Okay, I know I haven't seen it but really? Seriously, you weren't just joking (I'm not being flippant either I'm asking seriously). I know I re-evaluate movies all the time that originally got bad reviews (like the recently mentioned Tora, Tora, Tora) but Money Train always seemed like one of those movies I should trust my instincts on and my instincts said "Run Away!"

bill said...

Also, I've always been curious about The Good Son, but the great British novelist Ian McEwan, who wrote the screenplay, was so incensed by how many changes were forced on the film by Culkin's dad, that I've sort of cooled my interest in it. But if Dennis says it's at least worth a watch...

Jonathan Lapper said...

But if Dennis says...

Suck up.

bill said...

Dennis, Jonathan's calling me names again.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Dennis can't hear you - he's watching Missing.
Okay no more name calling [mumbles "loser" under breath].

Since Dennis is watching Missing tell me Bill, did you see Money Train and did you think it was any good?

bill said...

No, I've never seen Money Train. In fact, I was unaware that all these movies -- Money Train, The Good Son, The Stepfather, Sleeping With the Enemy -- had anything in common. See what you can learn?

Of Mr. Ruben's ouvre, I am only vaguely familiar with two of them: Dreamscape and Sleeping With the Enemy. The former was a big deal when I was a kid, because a guy gets his heart ripped out, and the claws-from-the-fingers effect that precedes said heart-ripping gave us children the hope that one day Wolverine could be turned into a film character. Also, that guy's head splits open, and he's a lizard underneath, or something.

The latter film was, I remember, a decent-enough thriller, but I can only remember two things about it: the fact that it made "Brown-Eyed Girl" the favorite song of every female, aged 14 to 27 (taking that spot from "Wonderful Tonight"); and the ending, wherein Julia Roberts calls 911, tells them she shot an intruder, hangs up, and then shoots Patrick Bergin, who thought he was just going to be arrested (sucker!). I could never figure out why she didn't actually just shoot him and then call 911. That way, she wouldn't be a liar.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Money Train is agreeable junk that capitalizes on the chemistry of Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, who were hot off of Ron Shelton's superb White Men Can't Jump. My expectations were low, and again I think Ruben's fleetness of foot and eye keep it afloat even when it gets pretty ridiculous. And this was the movie in which the special charms of J-Lo were first made evident to me (I missed Serena), and we all know that career eventually led to Out of Sight... and Gigli...

And I'd forgotten that The Good Son was written (at least initially) by Ian McEwan.

But hey, Costa-Gavras' Le Couperet (The Ax) (2005) is available from Amazon in French w/English subtitles. If it's the Costa-Gavras of Z and not the Costa-Gavras of Missing in the director's chair this time out, this movie might be worth a look! Thanks for the tip, Bill.

bill said...

Even though it starts to go off the rails a bit, plot-wise, I think White Men Can't Jump is Shelton's best movie. I do need to check out Cobb again, but has anything he's done since then been worthwhile at all? I'm actually asking, because I don't know.

Agreeable junk is something I would like to see more of. A friend of mine and I spend a lot of time bemoaning the absence of well-crafted B movies these days. Maybe I'll give Money Train a whirl some time.

McEwan is still listed as the sole writer of The Good Son, although I'm sure that's not because he fought for it. I wonder what the true credit would be? "Written by Ian McEwan and Kip Culkin"?

And by the way, The Hook was also adapted into a film, again by a non-American, although I don't know any details beyond that. I'm not sure what an adaptation of The Ax would be like, but The Hook could be knocked out of the park by, say, Chabrol, or somebody like that.

PS - I almost wish I hadn't figured out these HTML tags. Jesus, they're a pain in the ass.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Ron Shelton is a good answer for me as to my favorite director who's disappeared off the cultural map lately. Cobb is, to my mind, a masterpiece, and Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup and even Play It to the Bone are all movies I cherish to one degree or another. Dark Blue is flawed but powerful, better than Training Day, and Hollywood Homicide, despite the rancorous reviews, is the very definition of good-natured, agreeable junk-- it has a top-level car chase in it to boot! Only Blaze disappointed me at the time, and I'd welcome seeing it again. And even his screenplays for movies he didn't direct resulted in good movies: Under Fire, The Best of Times, The Great White Hype-- well, I don't know what happened with Bad Boys II... And now this great chronicler of American sports competition, perhaps our best since the heyday of the late Michael Ritchie, is apparently adapting Game of Shadows, the book about BALCO, Victor Conte and Barry Bonds! Oh, boy!

Hey, have a great weekend, Bill, Jonathan and all you lurkers out there too. I'm off to the movies tonight to catch up on some more hopefully agreeable junk-- likely candidates include The Happening (if only so I can chime in over at Scanners), Get Smart, The Love Guru and You Don't Mess With the Zohan. I've never liked an Adam Sandler comedy (I don't count Punch-drunk Love), but I have my suspicions about this one, and after Speed Racer, well, I figure anything can happen. As you can tell, tonight is not the night for quality, it's a night for floating away on a cool AC breeze in front of sound and noise and not thinking about my schoolwork. And I have Letter from an Unknown Woman and Terror's Advocate ready to go in the DVD player when I get home! My wife has informed me, though, that if I see it and like it, any further mention of Zohan will be grounds for divorce. I'll keep you posted!

Next week, the best of the answers (so far) to Prof. O'Blivion's quiz, plus my own answers, and a big surprise from me and Green Cine Daily. Stay tuned!