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No Place to Hide (1992)
A vintage review, compliments of the Washington Post
Hey, folks, here's a blast from the past...
"No Place To Hide" By Richard Harrington Washington Post Staff Writer April 19, 1993
"No Place to Hide" is so bad it's not even any good. No guilty pleasures are to be found in its preposterously clumsy plot, or in the limp performance of Kris Kristofferson (someone check his pulse). Even Drew Barrymore regresses from the promise of "Guncrazy" by being forced to play a petulant 14-year-old caught up in a web of murder and intrigue. For both actors, this film is a triumph of underachievement.
Barrymore plays Tinsel Hanley, whose ballerina sister Pamela (the always alluring Lydie Denier) has just become a backstage corpse de ballet during her dance company's rehearsal ("Swan Lake" or "Swan Song"?). The case falls into the lap of Detective Joe Garvey (the laconic Kristofferson, whose acting range is measured between squinting eyes and a grinding jaw). Looking for clues, Garvey comes across Tinsel: a petulant, selfish brat, who's now a target for an unknown attacker (who looks and acts suspiciously like The Shadow).
Garvey is still suffering from the loss of his wife and daughter, several years earlier, to a drunk driver; the daughter, if still alive, would be about Tinsel's age. Do we detect a budding emotional subtext? Indeed, Garvey and Tinsel (both furiously resisting attachment) gradually develop a bond excruciatingly detailed in Tinsel's voiced-over diary entries. It's all very embarrassing, as is O.J. Simpson's wheelchair cameo (perhaps he was between takes on "The Naked Gun").
Director Richard Danus, who beats his own script to a pulp, has no idea where to take any of this -- loose plot threads abound -- and the inevitable revelation of a secret society run by Dirty Harry elitists is simply ridiculous (if ever a film needed a satanic subplot, it's this one).
In any number of confrontations, Kristofferson tells Barrymore to "Run, run!" and "Get out of here!" Take those as subliminal messages.
Walker, Texas Ranger (1993)
"Average Joe" Queenan's TOUCHED BY A RANGER...from my scrapbook to you!
One year after CENTRAL PARK WEST was canceled, CBS wisely decided to patch things up with its core audience of older viewers. "Cutting-edge" was out, "traditional" was in. CBS would be a place viewers could "come home to"; they would be safe in the knowledge that uplifting, old-fashioned family entertainment would be waiting there for them.
With "Walker, Texas Ranger," CBS could be overdoing this thing just a bit. With all due respect to its millions of fans, WTR is one of the corniest and most predictable shows in prime-time history. With plot lines that were old when Bob Hope was young, music that seems to be a lethal fusion of the BATMAN and MANNIX scores, acting that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Alec Guinness, and dialogue that could stop THE DUKES OF HAZZARD dead in its tracks, WTR is a throwback to an earlier and more innocent time when programmers assumed that everyone watching TV was dumb.
Lots of older viewers have a hard time adjusting to shows like "NYPD Blue" and "Homicide: Life On the Street," where the camera jerks around so much it makes you seasick. But on "Walker, Texas Ranger," I'm not sure they're even using a cameraman. It seems that they just mount a camera on a tripod ant tell Chuck Norris to start kicking people's faces in for a solid hour...which he seems more than willing to do. The show also uses lots of slow motion during the fight scenes, so you can see the predictably-incompetent drug dealers get kicked in the face at various angles and speeds. This is not a great idea, because WTR already seems to be in slow motion even when it isn't.
Believability is not the show's strong point. Surely not every weekend getaway down in the bayou gets ruined by racist rednecks. And when the show aired an episode about juvenile delinquents restored to moral rectitude by their stay at a fresh-air camp, the young thugs came across as the sweetest and most innocuous-looking tykes since the Little Rascals. The writers on this show need to get out more. They could start by walking down any street in Los Angeles.
Most television shows, no matter how bad, have at least one redeeming feature. Perhaps there's an amusing costar. Maybe the actors wear preposterous costumes, or come from New Zealand, or both. "Walker, Texas Ranger" is no exception to the rule. Even though most episodes I've seen are completely unwatchable, I admire one thing about how the programs are constructed: they're scripted so Chuck Norris doesn't have to talk very much.
As Clint Eastwood once said, "A man's gotta know his limitations." I think Chuck Norris knows his.
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Never fear, Scrooge is here! (Oh, the pain!)
Although George C. Scott is the only actor in this version of ACC without a British accent, he more than makes up for it with his over-the-top and larger-than-life interpretation of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Particularly effective is when he confronts Bob Cratchit in his office at the movie's end. As Scott stands before a large window, sunlight casts a glowing mantle over him; all you can see is his silhouette. Augmented by Scott's voice, a ponderous growl, the effect is galvanizing...much like Marlon Brando's first scene in APOCALYPSE NOW. "The Horror," indeed!
However, as they say, the very thing that works for you can also work against you. Because Scott displays such gleeful ferocity throughout the movie, it proves infectious. To put it another way, the "before" Scrooge is almost as charismatic as the "after," even though he really shouldn't be. It's what you might call the "Doctor Smith" effect, since Jonathan Harris used a very similar approach when playing that role and numerous other heavies (stage and screen alike).
Actually, I myself don't consider Scott's glib rage a liability. But other "Christmas Carol" purists might. See the film and judge for yourselves.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Go Fish (1998)
If only they'd remembered to make Buffy the Slayer instead of a victim!
This episode is one of the best--and, at the same time, one of the worst--in the entire series.
It's one of the best because of Buffy's wet-look scene near the end, complete with a narrowly-missed opportunity for Cordelia to have one of her own.
Yet it's also one of the worst because Buffy gets her tail saved TWICE, in the SAME EPISODE, from the SAME ENEMY. Instead of using her wits and resources and adrenaline to defeat the Gill Monsters, she's rescued by the Hand of God...or rather the hand of Coach Marin and, later, of Xander. Then she fails to save Marin from the GMs (what if it had been Xander?), who promptly escape into the ocean (which they could have done at any time in the episode). In other words, Buffy is turned into an even bigger wimp than Xander...which really should have been impossible, but here you go.
Otherwise, this is among Buffy's finest hours.
Stand Against Fear (1996)
Great potential, but should have been a lot better
The subject matter really drew me in. The cast did a superb job. (Those cheerleaders were GREAT, all of them!) Yet this film possesses the same basic problem as most other Moment Of Truth Movies...it's tame where it should be gritty and routine where it should be novel.
Case in point: the whole bit with Kyle Wilson, the cheer-captain's younger brother, who is torn between his teammates (who introduce him to slam books and worse) and his family (who berate him for turning against his own sister). Kyle goes "over to the Dark Side and back" too fast; there's no chance to get involved with his plight. His entire story arc is the picture's most original, by far...but it gets abandoned too quickly, and too soon, in favor of relatively-familiar material. There's also too little insight into the jocks' sexist behavior.
As with other Moment Of Truth Movies I have seen, it would have been better if the producers had pushed the envelope more...like increasing Kyle's rift with his elder sister and their parents, until they pull him off the team and send him to military school, where he goes cheerfully (to be rid of them)...and/or having "Mom" Wilson not only fired by the school but raped by the jocks, which lands her in the hospital AND causes "Dad" Wilson to publicly assault the leading jock, which lands him in jail...basically, something to better help Kyle see his teammates' true colors and patch things up with his big sis (after all their parents could think to do had failed).
Anybody agree with this?
Howard the Duck (1986)
Some thoughts on 20 years, straight from the duck's beak (as told by Howard T. Duck to People Magazine)
*So this big-shot producer says, 'I wanna give you a break, drake...'*
I never should have listened to that studio exec, but those guys can talk a goose out of flying south for the winter. My friends all warned me. Supergirl called, whimpering. Doctor Dolittle called, screaming "Danger!" in my native tongue. Little Orphan Annie called, howling like Sandy at the moon. The Lone Ranger sent a tarnished silver bullet. Sergeant Pepper sent a tarnished silver cornet. Popeye sent an empty, rusting spinach can. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sent a flat tire. Frank Herbert just stuck his head in the sand when I asked him about David Lynch and "DUNE."
But come on. You'd have done the same as me if it was George Lucas, Mister-Star-Wars himself, who offered to put your name on a movie. After "HTD" he was going to make "PLANET OF THE DUCKS" and "THE ADVENTURES OF QUACKAROO BANZAI," or something. So I plucked out a quill-feather and signed away. Basically, his company promised "THE MALLARD WHO FELL TO EARTH." Even more basically, it turned out to be "XANADUCK."
That turkey (no pun intended) went down harder and faster than my Uncle Horace the day he took both barrels of a 10-gauge. The papers called it a "base canard." Frank Price, who ran the movie business at Universal Studios, quit. VARIETY's headline read, "'DUCK' Cooks Price's Goose."
But, hey...Was it my fault Lucas hired a midget to play me, then blew $2 million on a duck-suit? Was it my fault director Willard Huyck gave me the emotional depth of a feather-duster? Was it my fault Huyck and his co-screenwriter Gloria Katz wrote in so many lame "duck" puns that I nearly quacked up? Oh, I'm plenty tough...no Mahatma Gander, so Huyck and Katz at least got that part right. But they turned me into something totally indifferent and uncaring--practically human.
(For those of you who didn't do your own homework, Huyck and Katz are two old friends of Lucas, who wrote the screenplay for his movie "AMERICAN GRAFFITI." Tragically, they also wrote the screenplay for his movie "INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM." Nobody's perfect, but that still should have been a sign, don't you think?)
I'm a little down now, I admit it. These days, people want a duck, they don't call me; they call Daffy, who ain't got the brains of a decoy. My agent calls up the other major studios, and they keep saying, "Howard the Who?" *Nobody* wants a duck whose picture cost $50 million and lost $35 million.
Lately, I been hitting the sauce pretty hard...And that orange sauce is a killer; I can't tell you how many ducks I seen lying face-down in the stuff. Who would have thought Howard the Duck, that webbed wit who conquered the Incredible Space Turnip and the Horrible Hellcow, could be finished off by something as ridiculous as Hollywood?
The New Adventures of Zorro (1981)
One of Filmation's all-time best!
It's a pity Filmation didn't make more of their cartoons like this one, possible exceptions being "the Lone Ranger" and (especially) "Flash Gordon" and "Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids."
One of the best things about "Zorro" is the typical ending-teaser. It's way different from those used for "Shazam," "Isis," "Masters of the Universe," "Princess of Power," "Ghostbusters" and "Bravestarr." Rather than some kind of message driven home with jackhammer-like subtlety, "Zorro" features a sort of geography/history lesson regarding California (before it joined the USA). I also enjoyed the way Zorro carves his trademark "Z" into some convenient location, then rides away on Tempest at the end.
It all makes me wish Filmation had done the same for "The Warriors": gathered all 9 original actors to lend their voices and live-action commentary; then stayed as true to that movie and its subject matter as they did with "Zorro." It would have been nice to see Cleon, Swan and Company give our kids a history/geography lesson regarding various NYC spots (Bensonhurst, the Bowery, Chinatown, Coney Island, Gramercy, Gunhill, Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Pelham, Riverside Park, Sheep's Head Bay, Soho, Tremont, etc) and then spray-paint their trademark red "W" on a convenient location nearby, before departing.
This is one of those Filmation series that DEMANDS re-discovery and/or re-release on DVD (that is, a boxed set with audio-commentary and other special features). Another is "Manta & Moray" (A blond beauty in a sexy one-piece wetsuit; what more could anyone ask?); a third is "Kid Superpower Hour W/Shazam" (worth it just for Glorious Gal).
Three words: D, V, D!
If there's a series out there which DEMANDS to be released on DVD, this is it...especially with less successful shows having made it there already.
Just think about it: we get to see Jamie Pressley, plus several other voluptuous girls, in long-sleeved leotards; we also get to see Maureen Flannigan, plus several other voluptuous girls, in one-piece bathing suits. Who could ask for anything more?
My only regret is that the fictional college they created as Home of the Vipers--Southern California University--invites a LOT of confusion with USC. How about setting it at the University of NORTHERN California, instead? I don't think there's one of THOSE yet.
Nevertheless, if "Push" ever makes it to DVD (hopefully VERY soon), I will buy it right up. This, and also "Paradise Beach."
The Warriors (2005)
Happy 25th Anniversary, Warriors! (And not a moment too soon!)
Everything I've read about this game (I don't actually have a PS2--yet) convinces me that they should have gotten it on MUCH sooner. If only Rockstar could have gotten the rest of the original cast--Tom "Cowboy" McKittrick, Brian "Snow" Tyler and Terry "Vermin" Michos--to work on their game! (I disqualify Marcelino "Rembrandt" Sanchez because his life was taken by cancer in 1986; he was 29.) I'm sorry there weren't (or at least didn't seem to be) more WARRIORS reunions in the eighties and nineties, even if it was just on some game show like FAMILY FEUD or THE 50,000 PYRAMID. Say, how about DOG EAT DOG or FEAR FACTOR!? Just maybe...
My only regret is that you can't alter the movie's "outcome" through this game...specifically, that you can't let Cleon, Fox and/or Ajax make it all the way back to Coney. All they do is show "cinematics" of the same three misfortunes. If only the player could do *something* about all that, after 25 years! Even putting in an "Oompah-Loompah" song would have helped. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, just go out and catch WILLIE WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.)
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes (1997)
Of Pots and Kettles
Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor and timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat." This movie, on the other hand, seems to preach the opposite notion: that it's better to chicken out, stifle your Heaven-sent talent, and go nowhere in life...than it is to take some kind of risk, like we all must do anyway.
In the end, that's what undoes "Little Girls In Pretty Boxes": the mother, for all intensive purposes, becomes just like the hated Coach Radkin; she simply pulls harder in one direction than he pushes in another. To put it another way, the movie "steps out of its landing" (so to speak) because the main characters EVADE--instead of CONFRONTING--their nemesis, and the conflict at hand.
Given the nature of the source material, in particular, wouldn't it have been better for all involved if Mom had gone to the Olympic Commission (and/or Sports Illustrated) with what she knew about Coach Radkin...and let THEM decide who was right about whom? Yet, instead of convincing her daughter what a monster Coach Radkin really is, Mom turns into a kind of monster herself: by simply yanking Katie away from him...and also from any chance of the girl's making it as a competitive gymnast.
"Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" leaves us with two burning questions:
1. Whatever happened to the other girls, who stayed in Coach Radkin's grueling training regimen--apparently with none of the problems which befell Katie, and the gymnast who gets paralyzed?
2. What kind of life will Katie have, in or out of gymnastics, with "another Greg Radkin" for a mother...and with a female coach whose training program was lackadaisical at best? Our young ex-gymnast seems doomed to wander from one career to another, with her dad and (especially) mom ripping her out of each one, as soon as perseverance is called for.
Was any of this intentional? Was it the point of that best-selling book on which "LGIPB" is based?