Tag Archives: Brooke Adams

Utilities (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Social worker battles bureaucracy.

Bob (Robert Hays) is a social worker who’s fed up with the utility companies who shut the heat off to a group of senior citizens when they can’t pay their bill, which almost causes them to freeze to death. He decides to get revenge by having his techno wiz friend Eddie (Benjamin Gordan) rig the companies computers so that the customers get paid directly by the same utility companies that have been screwing them over. Unfortunately Bob’s new girlfriend (Brooke Adams) who is also a cop won’t hesitate to turn him in if she finds out that he’s the one behind the scheme.

This was filmed in 1980, but sat on the shelf for 3 years and it’s easy to see why as the humor is quite flat.  For some reason it was produced by a Canadian company and filmed in Toronto, which they then try to mask as being Chicago and I’m not sure why. Can’t these types of scenarios happen in Canada or is the US the only one with greedy corporations? The effort to try and seem like an American film doesn’t work as Canadians have a much different sense of humor and the whole thing comes off, much like Fear is the Key another film produced by our friends to the north, but filmed here, very off-kilter right from the start.  It’s like the film’s director Harvey Hart doesn’t really understand American culture as the characters behave in ways unlike anyone that I know.

It’s also against the law to turn off the heat or gas  on someone between the months of November and March, or if the temperature dips below 32 even if it’s because they cannot pay their bill or are struggling with financial hardship. I’m not sure if the filmmakers knew this being from Canada, or if they thought the viewers would be unaware so it didn’t matter, but in either case it shoots the entire scenario down dead on arrival.

It’s fun watching Hays who’s best known for his starring role in the cult hit Airplane as he portrays a much different character here. Instead of just being this dull dimwit like in that film he’s much more emotional here and even aggressively opinionated, which is fine. The only problem I had is I couldn’t understand why he would want to date Adams who had him arrested when he tried to stop the gas company from turning off the heat as the two just didn’t seem to have much in common and if anything it would’ve been more fun had they remained adversarial throughout only to finally soften on each other at the very end.

I happen to be a big fan of satire, but it has to have an edge to it. Trying to lampoon greedy corporations is not at all interesting and too easy of a target. The company’s CEO, which is played by James Blendick, is portrayed too broadly and is nothing more than a boring caricature as are the elderly tenants who battle him. Potentially serious issues get lost in a script that wants to pad everything over in a cutesy way that ultimately proves to be both mindless and forgettable.

Alternative Titles: Getting Even, Up Your Gas Company

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Release: June 13, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Harvey Hart

Studio: Astral Films

Available: VHS (Vestron Video)

Cuba (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cuba during the revolution.

Robert Dapes (Sean Connery) is a British mercenary who travels to Cuba to train the army to resist the approaching forces of the revolution lead by Fidel Castro. While there he becomes reacquainted with Alexandra (Brooke Adams) his former lover who has 15 when he first knew her, but is now 30 and married to Juan (Chris Sarandon) who owns a rum and cigar factory that he inherited from his family, but run by Alexandra.

The film from a purely visual standpoint is a masterpiece with David Watkin’s cinematography giving a very vivid feel to the ambiance of the period by capturing not only the slums of the region, but the affluence as well. Despite being filmed in Spain it still manages to create an interesting Cuban atmosphere that has an intoxicating quality that makes it entertaining to watch even though the story especially during the first half doesn’t go anywhere.

The romantic angle really wasn’t needed. The idea was to create a Casablanca scenario, but it comes off as forced and cliched. The chemistry between Adams and Connery isn’t there and she appears far too young for him. She states that she is 30, but doesn’t even look that old and the fact that he was apparently having sex with her when she was 15, although the Connery character states that he thought she had been 17, is still something that won’t go over well with today’s audiences.

Connery doesn’t seem to be the best type of actor for this part either. For one thing the character should’ve been American as the Cuban revolution was more of a direct threat to the US than England. He also doesn’t have too much to do and his patented rugged brashness is missing. His characters usually take control of things, but here he’s passive and almost like he’s under a spell from the constant hot-and-cold act that Adam’s gives  him that eventually makes him come-off as benign and ineffectual. Jack Weston as a befuddled American businessman is much more engaging and would’ve made a better lead as he gives the thing some balance with needed light humor.

I also thought both Adams and Sarandon could’ve given more effort to create an authentic Cuban accent. Both are made to look Cuban, but they don’t sound like one. Adams seems to at times convey an accent while Sarandon makes no attempts to have one at all.

On the technical end  it works and is an impressive dramatic effort for director Richard Lester who was better known for slapstick comedies, but it misses the potential of a being a sprawling epic, which is where it should’ve gone. Constricting the whole thing to just two characters with Weston tagging along for momentary comic relief does not do the production justice. Instead it should’ve branched out into several different, interweaving story-lines that analyzed the unique perspectives and situations of the various people involved, which would’ve given the viewer a more robust viewpoint of this important moment in history.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1979

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: United Artists

A Man, A Woman and a Bank (1979)

man a woman and a bank 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very large withdrawal.

Small-time crook Reese (Donald Sutherland) teams up with his computer expert friend Norman (Paul Mazursky) to pull of what they hope will be the perfect crime. Their plan is to reprogram the alarm system of a bank while the building is still under construction. Then when it finally gets completed they’ll break into the vault undetected and walk away with a cool 50 million dollars. Things though get off to a rocky start when commercial photographer Stacey (Brooke Adams) snaps of picture of Reese as he is stealing the blueprints of the building. In an effort to get the negatives back he tracks her down, but ends up falling in love with her instead putting their elaborate plan at risk.

There’s been a million and one bank robbery films done and many of them can be quite entertaining, but this one misses the mark from the very beginning. For one thing it gives us no backstory to the characters, or how they were able to come up with the idea in the first place. Giving a compelling reason for the viewer to become emotionally attached to the characters and their quest helps and this film fails to give it. The plan itself seems too easy and full of a lot of potential pitfalls that the script conveniently overlooks. The idea that the Norman character would be able to break into the bank’s security system by simply feeding the computer with a lot of useless usernames until it finally breaks down and starts spitting out the secret information is in itself quite questionable.

The pacing is poor and the story meanders onto several different story threads that have nothing to do with the crime. Analyzing Norman’s marriage difficulties and Stacey’s troubles with her possessive boyfriend (Allan Kolman) seems like material for a whole different movie and does nothing to help keep the interest going in this one. In fact the movie spends so much time on these other tangents that the robbery begins to seem almost like a side-story.

Stars Sutherland and Adams reunite after starring in Invasion of the Body Snatchers just a year earlier. The two share a good chemistry, but Sutherland is too laid back in the role and Adams’ hyper energy helps only so much. The film’s best performance and ultimate scene stealer is Mazursky who is completely on-the-mark as the nervous friend and gets quite a few good lines.

The film does have a couple of unique scenes that I liked including a collection of candles made to look like well-known game show hosts and a security guard who does jumping jack exercises only to light up a cigarette the minute he sits back down. The crime though is boring and does not offer enough tension. I was almost hoping they’d end up getting caught as they are able to pull it off too easily with a plan that I don’t think would ever work in real-life.

man a woman and a bank

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 8, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Noel Black

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD

Shock Waves (1977)

shock waves 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Zombie soldiers inhabit island.

During WWII a Nazi commandment experimented with the supernatural by taking dead soldiers and turning them into zombies who would become killing machines that could not be taken down and impossible to destroy. When the war ended a lone SS Commander (Peter Cushing) took these zombies to an isolated island where he hoped to destroy them, but instead they became more powerful. When some castaways from a waterlogged boat arrive at the island they are greeted by these zombies who waste no time in returning to their killing ways.

The film starts out with promise and the idea has potential, but the film reverts too much to a pedestrian narrative that bogs down the action and turns it into a bore. The dialogue is banal and the characters annoying. The film would’ve worked much better had it taken a Dario Argento approach where the focus stayed solely on mood, imagery and a pounding music score while completely scrapping the dull characterizations altogether. In fact having only one or two people make it to the island would’ve been perfect as the rest of the supporting cast seem better suited for a pathetic B-comedy.

shock waves

The zombies aren’t all that interesting either. The shot showing one of them walking on the ocean bottom without any breathing apparatus was impressive, but otherwise they spend the majority of time simply lurking around in the backdrop. They can also easily be killed by having the shaded goggles that they wear taken off, which isn’t too exciting. Having the Cushing character describe their origin even though it had already been explained at the beginning by a narrator was unnecessary and in many ways no explanation or only supplying one at the very end would’ve made it creepier.

Veteran character actors John Carradine and Cushing both made $5,000 for their efforts, but their presence in both cases was not needed. Brooke Adams is good in her first credited speaking role in a film, but the rest of the cast came off like amateurs and Buck Henry lookalike Jack Davidson seemed like he had walked onto the wrong movie altogether.

Shot in 1975 the abandoned hotel on an island setting adds a bit of ambience, but overall it’s a wasted effort. The scares, tension and special effects are all quite minimal and the story’s original elements become overshadowed by a flat and unimaginative script.

shock waves 2

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 15, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ken Weiderhorn

Studio: Zopix Company

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

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

invasion of the body snatchers 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Aliens create human clones.

Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) is a public health inspector who finds that people around him are beginning to behave strangely. It starts with his friend Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) who insists her boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle) has somehow ‘changed’. Soon other people are saying the same thing and they slowly realize that human clones are being created from alien pods while the people sleep. These clones look exactly like the people they have replaced, but are devoid of any emotion. Matthew and Elizabeth along with married couple Jack and Nancy (Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright) try to escape, but find themselves increasingly outnumbered in this creepy remake of the 1956 classic.

Talented director Philip Kaufman who has never gotten enough credit does a masterful job of weaving an updated version of the tale with more contemporary sensibilities. The balance between sci-fi, thriller and drama really works. The story is perfectly paced and the characters and situations remain believable throughout. Transferring the setting from a small town to San Francisco was inspired. Kaufman captures the sights, sounds and everyday ambience of the city better than just anybody who has done a film there and I really loved the shot of an early morning fog settling in on the top of the Transamerica Pyramid.

The special effects are fantastic. The opening sequence showing the alien spores raining down on the city and hitting onto plant and tree leaves where they form into flowers is very authentic looking and nicely captured. The coolest part though is watching the clones of the humans form out of the pods particularly the sequence showing Bennell’s clone coming to life while he sleeps. Seeing a dog with a human head is wild and Bennell’s destruction of a pod factory is also quite exciting. Denny Zeitlin’s electronic music score is distinctive, but not overplayed and effectively used at key moments although I did feel that there should have been some music played over the closing credits instead of just dead silence.

invasion of the body snatchers 2

Sutherland is good, but his 70’s style afro isn’t. The part where he tries in vain to warn various city officials of the impending invasion, but can make no headway is a perfect portrait of government bureaucracy and almost a horror movie in itself. Adams is beautiful and the way she can somehow make her eyeballs quiver has to be seen to be believed. Goldblum is fun as a brash struggling writer who never seems to know when to stop talking and has a conspiracy theory about everything. Cartwright plays a panicked woman better than anybody and Leonard Nimoy is solid in a sort of Spock-like role where the character believes everything must have a logical conclusion.

There are also some neat cameo appearances as well. Robert Duvall can be spotted at the beginning swinging on a swing. Kevin McCarthy who starred in the original steps into where he left off in the first one as a man running into traffic and warning motorists of the invasion. Don Siegal who directed the first film plays a cab driver and famous cinematographer Michael Chapman can be seen briefly as a janitor. Director Kaufman casts himself in a bit part as a man banging on the glass of a phone booth while Sutherland is making a call.

This movie is smart and stylish and in a lot of ways I liked it better than the original. The only real drawback is the fact that it becomes increasingly clear that these people aren’t going to escape and the drawn out chase sequence becomes more depressing and defeating than exciting.

invasion of the body snatchers 1

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Philip Kaufman

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD