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4 items from 1997


Film review: 'SwitchBack' Stuart Clicking on 'SwitchBack' / 'Fugitive' scribe turns director in Quaid-Glover murder mystery

28 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Having written a pile of megahits for others, Jeb Stuart ("The Fugitive", "Die Hard") retains a piece of the action for his directorial debut, "SwitchBack".

Originally penned when Stuart was a student at Stanford, the sturdy crime thriller serves up clever construction and colorful characterizations, but when the intriguing parallel story lines ultimately intersect, the anticipated denouement is disappointingly anticlimactic and flatly generic.

Still, Paramount, which would like to see the picture pick up at the boxoffice where its "Kiss the Girls" is leaving off, should find "SwitchBack" making some respectable greenbacks, provided audiences look beyond the forgettably nondescript title.

Things get off to an involving start with the coldly efficient kidnapping of a boy and the fatal stabbing of his babysitter. Following this brief preamble, the action shifts to a multiple-murder scene at an Amarillo, Texas, motel, which is much to the frustration of Sheriff Buck Olmstead R. Lee Ermey), whose re-election bid is being challenged by a flashy young police chief.

To add to his political woes, the case has been picked up by FBI agent Frank LaCrosse (Dennis Quaid), who believes the murders to be the work of a nameless serial killer he has been tracking for a year; he disappeared after snatching LaCrosse's son.

Meanwhile, up in the Colorado Rockies, a gregarious former railroad man (Danny Glover) picks up a quiet hitchhiker (Jared Leto) in his 1977 Eldorado with an interior upholstered in girlie pictures.

As the two plot lines unfold, the identities of hunter and prey gradually become clearer, leading to the inevitable face-off.

Quaid does a passable Harrison Ford impression here but fails to nail the quiet heroism and human frailty crucial to the part.

In the is-he-or-isn't-he role, Glover gamely keeps us guessing, projecting an aura of easy, outgoing charm over a murky undercurrent. As the mysterious traveler, Leto delivers a similarly effective blend of low-key intelligence and enigmatic seriousness.

With that carefully layered buildup, it's a shame Stuart could not have come up with a more satisfying intersection of plot and character, instead of a speeding, train-top fight-to-the-finish that has been played out too many times.

In his first shot at directing, Stuart has a nice, kinetic feel for the thriller genre and receives some strong backup from cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Conrad Buff.

SWITCHBACK

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures and Rysher Entertainment present a Pacific Western production

A Jeb Stuart film

Credits: Director-screenwriter: Jeb Stuart; Producer: Gale Anne Hurd; Executive producers: Keith Samples, Mel Efros, Jeb Stuart; Director of photography: Oliver Wood; Production designer: Jeff Howard; Editor: Conrad Buff; Costume designer: Betsy Heimann; Music: Basil Poledouris; Music supervisor: Ralph Sall; Casting: Pam Dixon Mickelson. Cast: Bob Goodall: Danny Glover; Frank LaCrosse: Dennis Quaid; Lane Dixon: Jared Leto; Buck Olmstead: R. Lee Ermey; Jack McGinnis: William Fichtner; Nate Booker: Ted Levine; Color/stereo; Running time -- 118 minutes; MPAA rating: R

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Film review: 'SwitchBack'

27 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Having written a pile of megahits for others, Jeb Stuart ("The Fugitive", "Die Hard") retains a piece of the action for his directorial debut, "SwitchBack".

Originally penned when Stuart was a student at Stanford, the sturdy crime thriller serves up clever construction and colorful characterizations, but when the intriguing parallel storylines ultimately intersect, the anticipated denouement is disappointingly anticlimactic and flatly generic.

Still, Paramount, which would like to see the picture pick up at the boxoffice where its "Kiss the Girls" is leaving off, should find "SwitchBack" making some respectable greenbacks, provided audiences look beyond the forgettably nondescript title.

Things get off to an involving start with the coldly efficient kidnapping of a young boy and the fatal stabbing of his babysitter. Following this brief preamble, the action shifts to a multiple-murder scene at an Amarillo, Texas, motel, which is much to the frustration of sheriff Buck Olmstead R. Lee Ermey), whose re-election bid is being challenged by flashy young police chief.

To add to his political woes, the case has been picked up by FBI agent Frank LaCrosse (Dennis Quaid), who believes the murders to be the work of a nameless serial killer he has been tracking for the past year who abruptly disappeared after snatching LaCrosse's son.

Meanwhile, up in the Colorado Rockies, a gregarious former railroad man (Danny Glover) picks up a quiet hitchhiker (Jared Leto) in his white, 1977 Eldorado with an interior upholstered entirely in nude girlie pictures.

As the two plot lines unfold, the identities of both hunter and prey gradually become clearer, leading to the inevitable face-off.

Quaid does a passable Harrison Ford impression here, but fails to nail the quiet heroism and human frailty crucial to the part.

In the is-he-or-isn't-he role, Glover gamely keeps us guessing, projecting an aura of easy, outgoing charm over a murky, moody undercurrent.As the mysterious traveler, Leto delivers a similarly effective blend of low-key intelligence and enigmatic seriousness.

With that carefully layered build-up, it's a shame Stuart could not have come up with a more satisfying intersection of plot and character, instead of a speeding, train-top fight-to-the-finish that has been played out too many times before.

In his first shot at directing, Stuart has a nice, kinetic feel for the genre and receives some strong backup from cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Conrad Buff.

Veteran composer Basil Poledouris contributes a taut, ambient score neatly in keeping with the picture's tightly wrapped emotions.

SWITCHBACK

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures and Rysher Entertainment present a Pacific Western production

A Jeb Stuart film

Director-screenwriter Jeb Stuart

Producer Gale Anne Hurd

Executive producers Keith Samples, Mel Efros,

Jeb Stuart

Director of photography Oliver Wood

Production designer Jeff Howard

Editor Conrad Buff

Costume designer Betsy Heimann

Music Basil Poledouris

Music supervisor Ralph Sall

Casting Pam Dixon Mickelson

Color/stereo

Cast:

Bob Goodall Danny Glover

Frank LaCrosse Dennis Quaid

Lane Dixon Jared Leto

Buck Olmstead R. Lee Ermey

Jack McGinnis William Fichtner

Nate Booker Ted Levine

Running time -- 118 minutes

MPAA rating: R

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Film review: 'Gone Fishin'

2 June 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

In the absence of any appreciable chemistry between its two leads, "Gone Fishin'" turns to demolishing everything from boats to hotels to one's appetite for comedies about dumb buddies, at least when the result is so rotten.

Dumped on an unsuspecting public after moving its release date a few times, the Hollywood Pictures' film is rancid bait for those who like lead characters with no discernible intelligence but with lots of mayhem-causing bad luck. The production itself was none too lucky, with the death of stunt performer Janet Wilder and the injury of four others in an accident during filming in December 1995.

A pair of dimwitted dads from New Jersey, played by Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, head to Florida for their annual fishing excursion, a traditional getaway that dates back several decades. Their wives plead with them not to get arrested or land in the hospital and make them promise to return in a few days in time for Thanksgiving.

With a banter that shows these morons to be kids posing as adults, the leads are so fixated on fishing that the loss of their boat, car and an encounter with a murderer fail to shake their resolve. They have an annoying habit of bumping into levers and flipping switches for the hell of it, leaving a path of destruction and not thinking twice about running away from a potential long prison term.

Alas, watching the film is akin to being incarcerated for a crime one did not commit. The leads are so flat and unfunny that one welcomes the presence of Rosanna Arquette and Lynn Whitfield as ladies-of-the-road who are trailing the aforementioned murderer, also notorious for wooing and then robbing elderly women.

But the screenplay as such is concerned only with flogging to death the comrades-in-disaster angle and setting up the next round of sometimes spectacular but rather unengaging physical humor. Trains, planes and alligators are tossed into the blender, along with some uninspired peripheral characters.

Director Christopher Cain is almost as inept at finding some sparks in the material as the leads are at fishing -- no easy task. Pesci and Glover cast about for automatic laughs, but even with nonexistent expectations, one is appalled at the lackluster efforts of everyone involved.

GONE FISHIN'

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Hollywood Pictures presents

in association with Caravan Pictures

A Roger Birnbaum production

A Christopher Cain film

Director Christopher Cain

Producers Roger Birnbaum,

Julie Bergman Sender

Writers Jill Mazursky Cody, Jeffrey Abrams

Director of photography Dean Semler

Production designer Lawrence Miller

Editor Jack Hostra

Costume designer Lizzy Gardiner

Music Randy Edelman

Casting Rick Montgomery, Dan Parada

Color/stereo

Cast:

Joe Joe Pesci

Gus Danny Glover

Rita Rosanna Arquette

Angie Lynn Whitfield

Running time -- 93 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

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Film review: ... Hear the Wind Howl?'

6 February 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Seen in only two known photographs but heard in more than a dozen of his landmark recordings, blues legend Robert Johnson is investigated and his life re-created in Peter W. Meyer's strong film, which screens this afternoon at the 1997 Pan African Film Festival at the Magic Johnson Theatres after premiering locally in the fest last weekend.

"Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? The Life & Music of Robert Johnson" is narrated and hosted on-screen by Danny Glover, while contemporary blues musician Kevin Moore (a k a Keb' Mo') portrays Mississippi Delta bluesman Johnson in atmospheric black-and-white inserts.

With few details of Johnson's life recorded and verifiable, the filmmakers are lucky to have such willing interview subjects as Johnny Shines, now deceased, who played, traveled and competed with Johnson in the 1930s, and Honeyboy Edwards, who was present at the musician's uninvestigated murder by poisoning in 1938.

From "Crossroads Blues", about a guitar player who makes a pact with the devil, to such gems as "Hell Hound on My Trail", Johnson had a unique style and sound, which he picked up from playing mostly in juke joints and on the streets. For the Vocalion label, he recorded 29 songs, and was admired by his peers for the ability to play the guitar like a "piano."

Johnson's story is sketchy, with many long trips and many girlfriends. His classic "Love in Vain" was written about one Willie Mae Powell, one of several contemporaries of Johnson interviewed for the film. There's a healthy heaping of myth, including childhood friend Wink Clark recalling Johnson's first homemade guitar.

Keith Richards and Eric Clapton get in a few quick licks on Johnson's musical legacy. And breaking from the strict documentary format, Meyer's film mixes vintage footage with new material that evokes rough, Depression-era America, but serves mostly to canonize Johnson.

There is mention of his womanizing and heavy drinking, but a note he supposedly wrote as he lay dying in bed finds him looking forward to redemption. Johnson was only 27 when he was murdered in Mississippi, possibly by a jealous husband.

CAN'T YOU HEAR THE WIND HOWL?

THE LIFE & MUSIC OF ROBERT JOHNSON

Sweet Home Pictures

A Peter Meyer film

Producer-director-editor:Peter W. Meyer

Co-producer:Constance Meyer

Executive producers:Thom Havens, Philipp Nick

Writers:Jean Compton, Peter W. Meyer

Directors of photography:Phillip C. Pfeiffer, Ken Mandel

Color/black and white

With:Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Cray, Danny Glover, Kevin Moore, John Hammond

Running time -- 77 minutes

No MPAA rating

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4 items from 1997


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