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Bel-Air clothing tycoon Danny DeVito (as Sam Stone) pops his cork when
he discovers loud-mouthed wife Bette Midler (as Barbara) has been
kidnapped. The ruthless Mr. DeVito was planning to murder her, anyway
now, he can simply let abductors kill filthy-rich Ms. Midler, then
collect her side of the family fortune. This forces kidnappers Judge
Reinhold and Helen Slater (as Ken and Sandy Kessler) to change their
plans. They picked the millionaire couple because DeVito's business
stole Ms. Slater's idea to manufacture spandex mini-skirts. Meanwhile,
DeVito's sexy mistress Anita Morris (as Carol Dodsworth) and her
handsome but dumb lover Bill Pullman (as Earl Mott) plan to blackmail
DeVito for murdering Ms. Midler, unaware she has been kidnapped...
"Ruthless People" is generally successful at creating vulgar fun with the plot, nicely developed by Dale Launer. It is sourced to an "O. Henry" story, but is reminiscent of both "Too Many Crooks" (1959) and "The Happening" (1967). Like the earlier films, "Ruthless People" has a strong added value in that it accurately captures something perhaps unintentionally about the decade in which it was released. For many, this was the 1980s. A film with three credited directors, it nevertheless runs smoothly. However, nobody noticed Midler's bagged stunt-person was not overweight. Also, how many time does anyone, however stupid, send a VHS tape without watching it if only to see if it recorded successfully? Everything wraps up cleverly on the Santa Monica Pier.
******* Ruthless People (6/27/86) Zucker-Abrahams ~ Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater
Los Angeles bank manager Brittany Murphy (as Mary Walsh) accompanies
her boyfriend to the hospital. They have been dating for only four
months, but it looks like a convergence of soul-mates. Hobbling in on a
crutch, stocky insurance salesman Dean Cain (as Kevin Peterson) is
there to have an operation on his knee. Promising to wait, Ms. Murphy
goes to the hospital cafeteria for some coffee and spends some
additional time in the waiting room. When she receives no update,
Murphy begins inquiring about Mr. Cain's status. She is startled to
discover nobody at the hospital has heard of Cain or his operation in
fact, he appears to have disappeared. Murphy wants to file a missing
persons report, but twitchy police officer Jay Pickett (as Franklin)
has to wait 24 hours. He and the staff try to find Cain, but begin to
wonder if Murphy may be crazy...
Murphy's hair looks like it hasn't been washed in weeks; also, there a distinct line showing her darker roots. On top of this most obvious trait, she often appears unwell, hiding a gaunt face under sometimes ghastly make-up and a lip poof. Despite all of this, we are supposed to believe Murphy is a "high-powered career woman" who is trusted to manage $10 million deals. No wonder Mimi Rogers and Peter Bogdanovich act suspicious. Perhaps Murphy needed more time to recover from cosmetic surgery. Possibly, everyone was on schedule and had to finish the movie by a target date. Years ago, a production like this would have been halted after the first rushes, and re-shooting ordered for the lead actress. That there seems to be something seriously wrong only adds to the sadness upon hearing the "Abandoned" star died before this mystery was released.
** Abandoned (8/24/10) Michael Feifer ~ Brittany Murphy, Dean Cain, Jay Pickett, Tim Thomerson
In Richmond, Virginia, starry-eyed teenager Elijah Wood (as Leo
Biederman) notices something strange during an astronomy assignment.
It's a star-like object but this one appears where no star is known
to exist. He sends a picture of the shiny object to a professional in
Tucson, Arizona. After punching some information into a computer, the
astronomer (Charles Martin Smith) seems to know exactly what Mr. Wood's
object is and where it's headed regrettably, his reaction shows the
news is not good. Since everyone else in the huge observatory-type
building has the day off, the information is put on a floppy disc to be
transported on the road. Unfortunately, it is hit by a redneck truck
driver gulping caffeinated soda while smoking an elusive cigarette...
One year later, our heroine appears she is pretty blonde MSNBC reporter Tea Leoni (s Jenny Lerner). How an attractive blonde newsreader is working for MSNBC instead of FOX News is unexplained. Either her skirts aren't short enough, or it's a sign of The Apocalypse. Also note, the President of the United States is played by Morgan Freeman (as Tom Beck). This could be another sign. When a member of Mr. Freeman's cabinet resigns to spend more time with his family, Ms. Leoni smells an extra-marital affair. That's logical, but incorrect. Immediately, the President finds out Leoni is investigating. FBI agents decide to contact Leoni in the safest way possible they get in four cars and start ramming her car on what looks like a freeway overpass or bridge...
Leoni and Freeman meet in what looks like the White House kitchen. The President wants Leoni to wait before reporting her scoop; in return, he will allow the MSNBC reporter to ask the first question at an upcoming news conference. It sounds like a fair deal. This is when we learn "Deep Impact" involves an approaching comet which is, of course, on a collision course with Earth. Naturally, we want to divert the comet's path, lest it destroy all life on Earth. Considering the importance of success, it is decided to hit the comet in the safest way possible. Shooting at the comet from Earth is too risky, so a different mission is planned a team of astronauts is scheduled to board a spaceship, land on the comet, plant some nuclear bombs and KA-BOOM...
The "Messiah" mission team is headed by retired astronaut Robert Duvall (as Spurgeon Tanner), who once walked on Earth's Moon. Before blasting off into space, the younger astronauts go out for a few drinks at the local bar. The crew snubs Mr. Duvall, but he coincidently has gone to the same bar for a drink. Apparently, this is a common way to prepare for space travel. Duvall joins the younger group for some bar-room bonding. It's good that Duvall is now respected by the other astronauts because he is to be the pilot and captain of their mission. Duvall helms the mission with a steady hand. He says "Roger that!" and manages to calm down the obligatory squirrelly Russian. You'll have to watch for yourself, to see if the "Messiah" saves everyone...
Don't attempt to guess the ending of "Deep Impact" from what is written above. Something happens during the running time to open up other options. Now, in the event the comet arrives on schedule, President Freeman and the US have a plan for survival. A cavern shelter has been built in Missouri it will hold seeds, one million humans (800,000 to be chosen by lottery) and pairs of animals. Yes, it's called "Noah's Ark". How to manage this with Doomsday around the corner becomes amusing. The silliest part of the story is the plot involving young Wood, the kid who discovered the comet. Told by a classmate, "You're gonna have sex a lot more now than anyone else in your class!" due to his fame, Wood takes giant step toward making that come true...
Not only does Wood figure out a way to have safe (off-screen) sex, he can hop on his bicycle (and, later, motorcycle) and get anywhere he wants in under two minutes. Now, that's talent. Also, it doesn't matter where you are among millions of frantic people, all trying to travel on thousands of congested highways Wood will find you. If there ever is a real Doomsday, your best route to safety would be to find and stick close to Elijah Wood. That being said, lucky Leelee Sobieski (as Sarah Hotchner) does well in her role. It should also be mentioned that Freeman, like the aforementioned Duvall helps by just being there. Freeman is simply good in everything, always delivering his lines and faces to the best possible effect no matter what the character or script...
Least favorite story goes to Leoni's distressed reporter, despite skillful support from parents played by acting veterans Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell. Of the other players and plots, Duvall and his crew wind up being best once they blast off, you're on board with their mission. This is where director Mimi Leder really scores, as sketchy characters in the intimate setting really engage you more than the manipulative others. The real humanity is with Duvall's crew, and it peaks with an emotional scene involving wounded officer Ron Eldard (as Oren Monash) and his wife (Jennifer Jostyn). The special effects are impressive enough, and Dietrich Lohmann's photography looks great. This was Mr. Lohmann's last film assignment, and he deservedly receives a dedication.
****** Deep Impact (5/7/98) Mimi Leder ~ Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman
Tightly-attired widow Paula Trickey (as Kim) jumps out of her bed to
comfort screaming 10-year-old daughter Alexia Fast (as Sara). The
mature-looking girl has been having nightmarish flashbacks to an
incident which killed her police officer father Christopher "Chris"
Shay, and a mysterious woman, in the line of duty. Incredibly, young
Fast seems to be assuming the identity of the woman murdered alongside
detective Shay. Of course, this raises Ms. Trickey's eyebrows. She
tries to investigate new facts being revealed by her daughter, but the
police are uncooperative and Adrian Hough (as Robert Marquette) can't
get the case re-opened. Only detective Michael Rogers (as Matt Carson),
who loved Officer Shay like a brother, seems helpful. His more natural
characterization also helps this supernatural crime drama. But, while
we do discover what happened, the supernatural angle is never quite
clear or believable.
**** Past Tense (8/12/06) Penelope Buitenhuis ~ Paula Trickey, Alexia Fast, Michael Rogers, Adrian Hough
Happily married Lara Flynn Boyle and Colin Ferguson (as Colquitt "Col"
and Walker Kennedy) live in a beautiful country home. They are okay
being childless although Ms. Boyle pouts, in the opening, some
awareness about her "eggs" getting old at age thirty-four. There is a
faint subplot about children which could have been more haunting. Boyle
(as narrator) tells us a haunted house was built next door. Due to some
unexplained incidents, Boyle and Mr. Ferguson have decided to have a
showdown in "The House Next Door" even though it may end their lives
Eighteen months earlier, we watch the events which slowly lead up to
the opening scenes. The house is built by attractive architect
Mark-Paul Gosselaar (as Kim). One day, he works up a sweat and has to
shower at Boyle's place. You expect something to happen, but it doesn't
all the weird stuff happens in the house next door...
It is an unusual and difficult building to manage but, it's a beautifully-designed building. Watching different people move in and try to live there is entertaining. The first one to leave is Mr. Gosselaar, who notices something strange has happened to him while building the place. Gosselaar helps sell the house and tries to get away, but not for long. This is an average TV movie production, with a couple of problems. Most obvious, the ending is a big disappointment. Of course, it's better not to say much you'll see for yourself. Part of this has to do with some confusion about the characters including the House as a real or inanimate character. This was based on a successful novel by Anne Rivers Siddons, which was undoubtedly clearer. Director Jeff Woolnough gets his best results in the house, especially building tension in effective scenes with Iraq War mom Julie Stewart (as Anita Sheehan).
***** The House Next Door (10/30/06) Jeff Woolnough ~ Lara Flynn Boyle, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Colin Ferguson, Julie Stewart
Beautiful Purdue University student Jenna Dewan-Tatum (as Sarah Jo
Pender) is outraged when boyfriend Greyston Holt (as Rick) invests her
tuition money in a drug deal. The most sober member of a frothy
foursome, Ms. Dewan-Tatum orders Mr. Holt to get rid of their roommates
then, she goes for a walk. When Dewan-Tatum returns, the other couple
has been shot. Dewan-Tatum is found guilty of double murder and
sentenced to 110 years in prison. This is how "She Made Them Do It"
begins, but how it ends is unclear. During the running time, we are
made to think the opening events did not happen as screened. Although
we are informed this is "based on a true story," the truth appears to
Dewan-Tatum's character is described as a "female Charles Manson." Yet, she either does or doesn't commit the crime according to the moment you happen to be watching. Sexy and attractive for writer Gary Tieche and director Grant Harvey, Dewan-Tatum wastes no time in dropping her panties for the camera. She also hints at including both genders in bed, engaging the viewer. It's nice to see clean and sober Mackenzie Phillips (as Jamie Long) among her prison girlfriends. Given the use of "America's Most Wanted" and the fact that she was convicted, the way filmmakers seem to glamorize the character may be considered unfortunate but that TV program and this film are selling crime as entertainment, after all.
**** She Made Them Do It (2/28/13) Grant Harvey ~ Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Steve Bacic, Andrew Airlie, Mackenzie Phillips
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After she is fired for stealing money from the cash register,
voluptuous waitress Elizabeth Gillies (as Calista "Callie" Ross) leaves
Independence, Missouri to live with her wealthy father in Philadelphia.
Previously, he had Ms. Gillies institutionalized. She blamed daddy
William R. Moses (as George A. Ross) for the death of her mother, after
which Gillies began cutting herself. Returning home, Gillies learns Mr.
Moses has suffered a stroke and is confined to his bed, unable to
speak. Gillies decides to take revenge on her millionaire father and
overcome the fact that he has disinherited her. One obstacle is dutiful
housekeeper Cynthia Stevenson (as Emma Granger), who has become very
close to her employer. Another problem arrives in the form of muscular
"bad boy" Sebastian Pigott (as Jacob "Jake" Walkins), who wants a piece
of the action. Tightly-dressed and fond of the low-cut look, Gillies is
an attractive and engaging vixen. She reaches all the right notes as a
sexy "Lifetime" TV Movie psycho, without getting too hammy. We almost
forget Moses is a multi-millionaire with no facilitated communication.
He has great facial and eye movement, but is unable to give any
indication something is wrong.
***** Killing Daddy (7/5/14) Curtis Crawford ~ Elizabeth Gillies, Cynthia Stevenson, Sebastian Pigott, William R. Moses
After eating Beef Stroganoff on an airplane, obnoxious passenger Kevin
Hart (as Nashawn Wade) has to make a quick run to the restroom. While
making a noisy bowel movement, the plane encounters turbulence and Mr.
Hart gets himself stuck in the toilet seat. He sues the airline and is
awarded $100 million. Hart decides to use the money to create his own
airline, called N.W.A. (Nashawn Wade Airlines). The initials are
probably also meant to evoke T.W.A. and the name of a rap group (one
with Attitude). Toilet, sex and race humor dominates, courtesy of
writers Bo Zenga and Chuck Wilson. Their cleverest joke is on Michael
Jackson. The director who keeps this turkey in the sky is Jessy
Terrero. Other names in the cast are Tom Arnold, who was married to
Rosanne Barr four wives ago, and legendary rapper Snoop Dogg. The
latter performs on the soundtrack, but it doesn't make this film any
* Soul Plane (5/28/04) Jessy Terrero ~ Kevin Hart, Tom Arnold, Method Man, Snoop Dogg
One night in Los Angeles, a drug deal goes bad. We see a man drenched
in gasoline and given a warm reception. The man calls, "Lyon, Lyon!"
and we move to North Africa where handsome muscle-man Jean-Claude Van
Damme (as Lyon Gaultier) receives word that his brother is in trouble.
An abused member of the French Foreign Legion, Mr. Van Damme leaves the
group to help his family in Los Angeles. Van Damme kicks his way across
continents and reaches his destination. To help his family, he fights
for money. Since the fighting is not professional, a lot of shady
people are involved. For some reason, Van Damme is best able to make
money in this manner. The pay must be good. Van Damme wants to find out
what happened before the film's credits, help his brother's family and
avoid the bad guys from Los Angeles and the Foreign Legion...
Van Damme partners up with foul-mouthed Harrison Page (as Joshua Eldridge) and sexy Deborah Rennard (as Cynthia). He shows his bare buttocks to Ms. Rennard and the camera. "Lionheart" becomes Van Damme's stage name. He and director Sheldon Lettich stage many bone-crunching scenes. Van Damme has a powerful kick. He remains muscular and handsome throughout. One of Van Damme's opponents thinks he looks good enough to well, let's just say Van Damme slams his foot into an area of the man's anatomy which makes that impossible. In a later fight, Van Damme shows some mercy by saving an opponent from drowning. This particular fight scene occurs in an almost drained pool with Van Damme and his foe dressed amusingly in what looks like wrestler's garb. Sister-in-law Lisa Pelikan (as Helene) has a nicely decorated home.
Lionheart (3/1/90) Sheldon Lettich ~ Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan
In France for service in the Great War (aka World War I), handsome
pilot Errol Flynn (as Dick Courtney) and pal David Niven (as Doug
"Scotty" Scott) clash with commander Basil Rathbone (as Drake Brand)
over his decisions to send young fliers out on suicide missions in
rickety planes. But, with the Germans active nearby, Mr. Rathbone has
limited options. Taking the lead, Mr. Flynn decides to go over
Rathbone's head, completing a foolish mission with Mr. Niven
co-piloting. Rathbone threatens to have him court-martialed, but a
worse fate awaits Flynn he is quickly promoted to commander of "The
Dawn Patrol". Now in charge, Flynn must order young fliers out on
suicide missions in rickety planes...
This is close re-make of the Warner Bros. own "The Dawn Patrol" (1930), with its most exciting aerial footage simply flown in (figuratively) from the previous film. While a more crude production, the earlier film is superior. The 1930 version captures the story's sense of war dread far better. In the original, a sense of doom permeates everything, even when the characters are having a good time. Original stars Richard Barthelmess (as Courtney) and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (as Scott) acted like characters trying to drown the horror of war by carousing in drink. They seemed tortured. Here, at times, Flynn and Niven look more like actors having fun with their roles. An exception, Rathbone keeps a serious foundation.
****** The Dawn Patrol (12/23/38) Edmund Goulding ~ Errol Flynn, David Niven, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp
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