Tag Archives: Ally Sheedy

Twice in a Lifetime (1985)

twice-in-a-lifetime

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: He has an affair.

Harry MacKenzie (Gene Hackman) is a steel mill worker living in Seattle who has just turned 50. On the night of his birthday Kate (Ellen Burstyn), his wife of 30 years, tells him that he can go by himself to the local tavern to celebrate as she is not into the drinking. When he does he meets Audrey (Ann-Margret) who has just started working there. The two immediately hit-it-off and soon are in a relationship. When Harry finally tells his wife and family about it they are devastated, but learn to cope with it in unexpected ways.

The way Harry and Audrey’s relationship begins is too rushed as he simply spots her in a crowd and then quickly becomes entranced. If eyeing an attractive woman is all that it took then he should’ve been having a string of affairs way before this one. Making Audrey more of the instigator while Harry remained hesitant only to later realize how stale his marriage had gotten once the relationship started would’ve worked better. There is also no indication at the beginning that there was anything wrong with his marriage or that he was even bored with it.

It should’ve opened with Harry simply coming home one day and admitting to the affair and then focusing on everyone’s reactions, which would’ve been less contrived. I was also annoyed that two key scenes including when Kate first gets informed of the affair by a friend as well as Kate’s later confrontation with Harry are not shown. The film just cuts away before either of these conversations gets going, which to me was frustrating.

The second half is an improvement. I liked how the film sends the message that divorce isn’t always bad, but instead can act like a rebirth for both parties. I also enjoyed the on-location scenery of the Pacific Northwest and seeing Harry and Audrey sitting amongst a crowd at an actual Seattle Seahawks football game.

It was also great having Hackman playing a character that lacked confidence and at times was even socially awkward, but it’s Burstyn’s performance that really makes it special. Watching her shy character coming out-of- her-shell and learning to become independent is the film’s highlight. Unfortunately Amy Madigan as the eldest daughter is a turn-off as her angry outbursts come off as forced and overdone while the much quieter Ally Sheedy as the other daughter is far better.

Surprisingly no studio would agree to finance the picture even though the script was written by Colin Welland who had just won the Academy Award four years earlier for the film Chariots of Fire, so director Bud Yorkin was forced to put up his own money by using the earnings he had made through producing ‘All in the Family’, which helps explain why a clip from that show gets seen briefly. It could also be the reason why the production at times has a cheap look to it and like it had originally been shot of video and then later transferred to film. Paul McCartney, whom I’m a big fan of, does the closing tune, which unfortunately has to be the worst of his career.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 8, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bud Yorkin

Studio: Bud Yorkin Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

WarGames (1983)

wargames-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen hacks government computer.

David (Matthew Broderick) is a teenager who’s a whiz with computers and even able to dial up his school’s machine and change his grades without anyone noticing. One day he unknowingly hacks into a military computer where he and his girlfriend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy) begin to play a game of global nuclear war while unaware that everyone at NORAD the military base is seeing the game as it’s being played  and thinking that it is the real thing.

The film does a great job of showing the nuclear missiles up close while still in their silos and ready to fire, which gives the viewer a frightening awareness of just how real the potential is. The NORAD command center, which is quite impressive, was built specifically for the film at a cost of one million and is apparently even more elaborate than the real one.

David’s hacking talents do seem a bit farfetched, but if you’re able to suspend your disbelief a little then it’s a pretty cool and suspenseful flick. Some of my favorite scenes in this area are when he is able to escape from an electronically locked room as well as the way he gets a dial tone from a receiver at a pay phone despite not having any money.

Broderick’s character is in many ways identical to the one that he played in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at least with his technological smarts, but here he thankfully doesn’t have that annoying smugness as his initial cockiness realistically wilts quickly away the minute he realizes that he’s gotten in-over-his-head. I did however find it hard to believe that such a bright kid could get an ‘F’ on his biology exam. His character is described as being an ‘underachiever’, which is fine, but there’s a big difference between being that and being a complete flunky.

Ally Sheedy is fantastic and in many ways outshines Broderick, but it’s hard to figure that she would suddenly jump into her car, without being asked, and drive all the way from Seattle to Colorado on a whim after she gets a strange call from David. The fact that her character states that it took her only 3 hours to get there is a complete crock as according to Mapquest the distance between Seattle and Grand Junction is 1,122 miles with an estimated drive time of 18 hours and 9 minutes.

Dabney Coleman is good in support as McKittrick and nobody can exude nervous energy quite like he does. Yet I was disappointed that he isn’t seen more. As much as I love Barry Corbin I felt his general character was clichéd and boring and I wished they had simply combined that character with McKittrick’s and then given the part solely to Coleman to play.

There were also a few scenes that I felt should’ve been extended especially the opening scene where we see two members of the missile combat crew ordered to turn the key to launch a missile strike. One of them, played by John Spencer, panics and becomes reluctant to turn the key while the other one holds a gun and insists that he must. It turns out this was only a surprise drill, but it cuts away before we see what happens and we only learn about this later while it would’ve been more satisfying to have seen the complete scenario played out visually.

I would’ve also liked to have seen when the government agents storm David’s house and search his bedroom simply to witness his parent’s (William Bogert, Susan Davis) reactions. The film spends time introducing them and they are rather amusing, so it would’ve been interesting to get their take on the situation as it unfolded.

I also felt the way David and Jennifer find Falken (John Wood), the man who invented the military computer that David plays the nuclear game with, was too easy. I realize David gets Falken’s address from the computer, but it’s still a remote island that David has never been to, so how he is able to come upon the home so quickly without a map is questionable. I also thought Falken was too congenial with them as this was a scientist in hiding with top secret military information and no way of knowing if these two were spies or not, which makes inviting them into his house and opening up to them the way he does seem quite reckless.

The ending though is excellent and I liked how these kids didn’t have that teen ‘attitude’ nor is there any of that generation gap crap either. Instead everyone, young and old, works together to solve a mutual problem, which is what I liked about this movie the most.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 3, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Badham

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

st elmos fire

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Introducing the brat pack.

Seven friends from college start out on the rocky road of adulthood while learning to hold down full-time jobs and having long term relationships. Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is obsessed with an older woman (Andie MacDowell) who doesn’t reciprocate his same interest. Alec (Judd Nelson) wants to get married to Leslie (Ally Sheedy) despite the fact that he has already cheated on her with several other women. Wendy (Mare Winningham) is secretly in love with Billy (Rob Lowe) who is married to someone else and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) has a secret crush on Leslie while Jules (Demi Moore) still seems to be in perpetual party mode.

I would’ve liked some explanation as to why there was a nude fat guy walking around in the opening scene at the hospital, but otherwise I felt the beginning was okay. The dialogue has a believable conversational quality and friends sticking together lends out a nice vibe although the scene where Alec dunks Billy’s head into a toilet after he loses his job would’ve ended that friendship for me quite quickly. The setting was supposed to be Georgetown University, but ended up being shot at the University of Maryland instead. I liked the tree lined streets and snazzy apartment neighborhoods, but was surprised how kids just out of college could afford such ritzy places.

The main fallback is the male characters that even for guys seem too full of extreme contradictions. Alec expects loyalty from his girlfriend Leslie even though he’s fooled around on her, but because somehow they were ‘meaningless’ to him then they should be overlooked. Billy is already married and has a kid, but shows no ability or interest in holding down a job and expects his wife to still ‘believe in him’ even though he hits on every woman in sight. Kevin expresses major cynicism towards marriage and relationships and then suddenly expounds on his ‘love’ for Leslie when he is alone with her like he is speaking straight out of a Harlequin romance novel.

The worst though is Kirby who shows definite signs of being a creepy stalker/psycho by chasing after a woman that clearly isn’t that in to him. He sniffs her pillows when alone in her apartment and disrupts one of her parties by barging into it dripping wet with rain and angered that he wasn’t invited. Then when she doesn’t show up to one of his parties he becomes enraged and travels all the way up to her remote mountaintop ski lodge and pounds on her door like he is ready to beat her senseless. What’s even more ridiculous is that she finds his behavior to be ‘flattering’ instead of scary making me wonder if she’s crazier than he is.

The women fare better. Winningham is a great nerdette and Sheedy allows for some genuine sympathy. I even liked Moore who does a fun caricature of an 80’s party girl and her scene inside a homeless shelter was interesting, but having her flip-out so severely and quickly after losing her job was, like with everything else, overdone.

The film’s musical score is the best thing while the drama is over-the-top and impossible to take seriously.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 28, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joel Schumacher

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube