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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?
"Ulysses 31" it ain't!
DIC previously crafted the groundbreaking science fiction miniseries "Ulysses 31" (a French-Japanese co-production).
For "StarCom," they had nearly impeccable subject matter: a toy-line with fantastic vehicles and weapons, plus myriad characters with detailed biographies.
This was coupled with the presence of such old-school sci-fi novelists as Arthur Byron Cover (he wrote the novelization of 1980's "Flash Gordon") and Steve Perry (not to be confused with Journey's lead singer).
The result should have been a far better TV show.
Tragically, as with "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," the producers spend too much effort watering the material down for kids...and too little effort maintaining the appeal for parents and elder siblings, who grew up with the whole "space opera" genre.
For instance, why does StarCom even need "G.E.N.I.E."--an obvious comedy relief--with Colonels (one more time: that's COLONELS) who act as ridiculous as Crowbar, Dash and Slim? It certainly doesn't help that most of the other characters are such outlandish (no pun intended) stereotypes that they aren't very interesting: the villains are stupid, treacherous bullies; the heroes are lecture-happy wisecrack-artists. In short, the series gives us absolutely no one to root for; did any of our kids notice this, back in the 1980's? Personally, when I first discovered this show, I kept praying for Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (of "Full Metal Jacket" fame) to step in and take charge of StarCom...and show 'em what REAL soldiering is all about.
On the other hand...it WOULD have been nice to see Coleco produce toy-versions of the Ring Station, the ShadowStar and the Shuttle Dock. It also would have been neat to see action figures of Admiral Franklin Brickley, Kelsey Carver, David Hartford, Douglas Kadrey, Jonathan "Flash" Maskowitz, Tim Murphy, Malvanna Wilde, etcetera.
Basically, you gotta be in just the right mood for "StarCom."
The Blob (1988)
If you're gonna advertise a mucho-grit-and-valor heroine...Let her BE one!
I've always felt sorry for Shawnee Smith, since many of the movies that she's starred in don't do nearly as much for her as she does for them. Examples include: CRIME OF INNOCENCE, which promised to be "Midnight Express" for teens (with Shawnee in the Brad Davis role), and could well have been just that if the ending hadn't been so unbelievably tame (she accepts a settlement, which lets the bad guys off scott-free); DESPERATE HOURS, which just doesn't give her much to do. (Granted, director Michael Cimino was a square peg in a round hole on this one...in fact, the movie cries for a forced-Russian-Roulette sequence by the fugitives against the family members.)
And then there's THE BLOB. For all the publicity on how feisty and plucky her character is, Shawnee is upstaged mercilessly with Kevin Dillon. (We don't even learn what's behind his change of heart, or why he comes back to town instead of using the opportunity to bail!) Let's face it: watching "Meg Penny" get chased through the streets AND a half-flooded sewer, cornered at the Town Hall, and (clumsily) snag her boot on a snow-maker that's about to explode...It would all be great fun if she were allowed to save herself via her wits and/or adrenaline. But NOOO...The producers have "Brian Flagg" (almost magically) pop in at the last minute to save her you-know-what. And it gets worse: after hearing and reading what we know about "Meg," you'd think Shawnee would at least be given a kid brother who seemed worth risking her neck for. Yet "Kevin Penny" is a major complainer and troublemaker, not nearly as funny or as smart as he rates himself. And when trapped by *El Blobo* in the Town Hall near this movie's end...well, let's just say he's no Will Robinson.
MORAL: Producers, the more effort and time you spend advertising a young and beautiful heroine, the higher your audience's expectations will be for said heroine. They won't just want to see her; they'll want to see her *tapped* in terms of her potential. So if you eclipse her under fire with a male counterpart, and/or saddle her with an irritating younger sib, the audience will *not* thank you for it.
(For additional proof of this, check out Bridgette Wilson's career; many of her "key supporting roles" have proved to be little more than glorified cameos. Moreover, she has a penchant for doing all her own stunts in action movies...yet she keeps getting demoted to "damsel-in-distress," if not a living, breathing *prop!* It's a major cheat, both for her *and* for us.)
Her Desperate Choice (1996)
What's With That Ending!?
This is an often-good movie that could, and should, have been great. Yet they botch it at several key moments:
1. They waste several minutes of screen-time with a bitter argument between Jody and Samantha when the latter insists that they (or at least she) can't spend an entire lifetime just running around and hiding. Jody simply hollers at her daughter until the girl finally (and miraculously) goes along with her. First of all, Jody makes the mistake of addressing her as "Samantha," when that's not supposed to be her daughter's name anymore. (Did anyone else catch that?) Second of all, what's the point of this sequence? It all begs for some kind of snappy comeback, like "What will you do if I DON'T keep being a fugitive with you? Call the police? Tell my father? Am I getting warm? Face it, Mom...you're just one more kidnapper, no different than Dad is." Unfortunately, no such luck.
2. The fact that Jody encounters so many people OUTSIDE the P.A.S.A.C. "Underground" Program who nonetheless sympathize with her plight enough to hide her (and Sam) from the cops (and Feds) is much too coincidental. We're talking a restaurant owner, and even one of Sam's teachers. And all this BEFORE they know Jody's full story, or even if they DON'T learn her motives. It all seems to rationalize aiding and abetting a known fugitive; would YOU believe a grammar-school teacher covering for a known child-abductor!?
3. THEIR DEADLIEST MISTAKE: Jody and Jim are finally sniffed out by a classroom cop who wanted to fingerprint Sam, by that creepy PI working for Sam's incestuous dad, and by a Fed posing as a prospective buyer for the Rossi house. Then Jody--who was previously slaughtered in court by her ex and his lawyers, and who has NEVER proved that Sam almost died of an STD from her dad--is found innocent after only 32 days! Moreover, neither Jim nor his father are even charged...even though they're clearly guilty of being Accomplices to a Kidnapping, and of Obstructing State and Federal Justice, if not Resisting Arrest to boot. You'd think the Court would at least seize the opportunity to wring some names and numbers out of them, regarding Underground Program-members and other contacts of P.A.S.A.C. (Rumor has it, in real life, the FBI and most State Governments offer a cash reward for such information...a reward of up to $50 thousand per arrest.)
WMAC Masters (1995)
A heavier dose of reality would have helped
I enjoyed this show a lot, but it frequently seemed like the writers and producers didn't know what to do with the material. First of all, there is a feeling of pointlessness in both the TV series and the books based on it. Do all of these people LIVE in this training hall? Don't they have any LIVES, as it were? Second of all, the show got very confusing when it told "true-life stories" of the Masters...stories which ultimately proved completely fictional. (Wizard and Warlock, for instance, are NOT really brothers; I won't mention those tales of the Machine VS Steve, or of Superstar and Star Warrior VS John-O and Company. I wonder if "Yin-Yang Man" really is blind in one eye?)
Even worse, the series credits a fight-choreographer (Pat Johnson), when this is supposed to be an honest-to-everything-holy tournament. It would have been better if WMAC MASTERS were an actual game show, like American GLADIATORS or KNIGHTS & WARRIORS, in which real-life competitive martial-artists (if not movie/prime-time/soap stars) took on the Masters for cash or charity.
Personally, I always felt this series would make for a hip hotel-casino; all you'd have to do is figure the odds based on the ki-symbols (9 to 3, 4 to 2, 8 to 1, 7 to 5, etc. for the Battle Zone matches, Cage finals, and speed-breaking; 11 to 10 for the Dragon Star challenges). At least most of us adults could relate to that.
At least "Fever Pitch" was good for laughs
Anybody who thinks 'Fever Pitch' (1985, with Ryan O'Neal) was a lousy movie should try sitting through THIS one. 'FP' may not be Oscar-worthy, but it's great fun if you're in the right mood; It's tricky to be in the right mood for 'PTW,' since it changes moods so quickly...Meet teenage Dana, who's introduced by her compulsive and self-destructive new boyfriend Marshal (David Lascher) to the wonderful world of gambling. This costs her not only thousands of dollars but also her job-not to mention the trust of her family and friends-as she spirals down toward the Three D's: Despair, Disaster and Desperation.
Just as Lisa Dean Ryan ('Dana') has the opportunity to make all of this seem worthwhile by evolving into another Marshal, as it were Guess what happens? She takes the proverbial Easy Way Out!
FIRST: she jilts Marshal after he's already talked her into throwing the soccer finals at her high school, AND stealing $2,000 from her mother, AND pitching in with a clumsy attempt to rob his own father's country club!
SECOND: she DOES patch things up with just about everyone save her ex-boss, which seems Mucho Fake-o after a few confrontation scenes that made me wince. ('Thanks for being my mom,' she says with a smile, after she stole and pawned this woman's college-graduation ring.)
THIRD: in the film's closing scene, she enters Gamblers Anonymous the director of which gives one of those unconvincing everything-will-be-fine-just-take-our-word-for-it speeches. It makes you unsure whether the writers got lazy, or whether they were simply rushed by the producers and/or director (possibly a bit of both). Even worse, this serves to perpetuate a rather dangerous myth: that the ONLY people who should go to 'Gamblers Anonymous' are those who always LOSE.
Lascher does well at playing 'Marshal' as temptation/gambling addiction incarnate too well, if anything. If you don't believe me, just look at how quickly and easily he picks up a new girlfriend, after Ryan finally wises up and dumps him.
...Or, "Gymkata 2"; they'd make a great double-feature
This movie would make a great double-feature with "Gymkata." Indeed, there are so many similarities between both films, I wonder if "Spitfire" was intended as a sequel. Could be...
In "Gymkata," gorgeous Kurt Thomas played a champion gymnast recruited by the U.S. Government as a Double 0-type agent; he flick-flaked and fought his way through a fictional European country, where he tripped over his missing-and-presumed-dead father.
In "Spitfire," gorgeous Kristie Phillips plays a champion gymnast who becomes a Double 0-type agent by accident; she flick-flaks and fights her way through several non-fictional countries, where she keeps tripping over numerous half-brothers and half-sisters (all secret-service types in their own right) she never knew she had.
If only "Spitfire" had done more along the lines of this charming homage to James Bond! Unfortunately, the nifty martial-arts sequences are negated by too many likable characters getting killed off. Even worse, poor Kristie is repeatedly upstaged by morally slack super-spy Lance Henriksen and obnoxious sports-reporter Tim Thomerson...even though she packs more charisma than the two of them put together! Nevertheless, Phillips makes for a sensational gymnast/martial artist AND a pretty good actress...oh, and she looks great in a leotard to boot. Too bad the script doesn't do nearly as much for her as she does for it! That is, unless you count seeing her dodge bullets. (Where was she when they cast "The Matrix"!?) Of course, they DO leave the door open for a sequel; better luck next time, Kristie...
A suburban "Hud" for the 80s
The story is, basically, a suburban-based update of "Hud" for the 1980s...well-written, but much too pro-conformity. Essentially, Jason Patric and DeeDee Pfeiffer share the Paul Newman role; Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie share Melvyn Douglas's role; Lee Remick has Patricia Neal's; and Eric Schiff is in Brandon De Wilde's. The biggest differences between "Hud" and "Toughlove" are as follows: the latter's happy ending seems somehow forced and thus phony; Patric and Pfeiffer pop pills in addition to getting drunk and joy-riding. The worst aspect of "Toughlove" is that, like the similar "Not My Kid," the script makes the mistake of treating drug addiction like a moral weakness...rather than like a disease, which it actually is.