Tag Archives: Brooke Shields

Endless Love (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Romance turns into obsession.

Based on the acclaimed Scott Spencer novel the story focuses on two teens locked in a relationship built around complete infatuation. Jade (Brooke Shields) is only 15 while David (Martin Hewitt) is a high school senior and 17. Jade’s parents (Don Murray, Shirley Knight) are aware that the two teens are having sex, but choose to be ‘open-minded’ and allow it, but when Jade’s grades begin to suffer her father demands that David not see her until the school year is over. David is upset at this ultimatum and decides, through advice from one of his friends (Tom Cruise) to set Jade’s house on fire and then at the last minute come in and ‘save’ them while making him look like a ‘hero’ and get back into their good graces, but things don’t work out as planned.

The film’s biggest detriment is that it chooses to emphasize mood over substance. The teen’s sex sessions are shot with a soft focus lens and gives off too much of a dreamy, fantasy feel. We are never shown how the relationship actually began as the film starts off with the two are already madly in love. It gets mentioned that they were introduced to each other by Jade’s older brother (James Spader) but it would’ve been interesting to have seen this played out as the really good movies ‘show it instead of just tell it’.

Shields has the face of an innocent 15-year-old, but her acting is not up to par and I never got the feeling of any genuine chemistry between the two. Hewitt, in his film debut, doesn’t have the acting chops to carry the movie and gets badly outperformed by Spader who would’ve played the David character far better and could also help explain why Spader has remained in the acting profession while Hewitt since 1993 has been running a home inspection business and no longer acting in movies at all.

The film’s second-half shifts too much focus on David to the point that Jade becomes this mysterious enigma. The father bars David from seeing Jade at their house, but the two could’ve easily have gotten together at school or some other place. If the two were both equally infatuated then they would’ve found a way to see each other, but they don’t, so what does this mean? Was Jade not as in to David as it was thought and what exactly was she doing and thinking during those two years when David was stuck in a mental hospital? None of this gets explained, which becomes the film’s biggest plot hole.

The story relies too heavily on extreme circumstances. For instance David’s friend gives him the idea to set the place on fire by using a stack of old wet newspapers. David then immediately goes to Jade’s home where almost like magic is a stack of old newspapers sitting on the front porch just waiting to be doused in flames. David’s chance meeting with Jade’s father in the middle of New York on a crowded highly traveled sidewalk seemed to pushing the odds as well.

Knight gives a good performance as the mother, but having the lady literally throw herself at David when he gets out of the mental hospital even after he tried to set her family on fire makes her seem crazier than he is. Murray is equally good as the father, but the fact that the guy allows the two to have sex in their house at such a young age makes him unlike most parents. Just about anyone else would’ve seen the red flags far sooner and the fact that he doesn’t until it’s too late makes him seem unusually naïve.

Spencer once stated in an interview how very disappointed he was with this film and how he felt director Franco Zeffirelli missed the whole point of what his novel was about. I agree as Zeffirelli seems driven to turn the whole thing into a modern day Romeo and Juliet while equating unhealthy obsession with love, which it isn’t. This all comes to a glaring clarity with the film’s final shot, which is the most annoying thing about this already annoying movie.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 17, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated R

Director: Franco Zeffirelli

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Alice Sweet Alice (1976)

alice sweet alice

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murder in the church.

Surprisingly elaborate thriller detailing murders that happen in and around a Catholic church. It focuses specifically on a family whose one daughter Karen (Brooke Shields) is a victim and the other daughter Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) may have been the killer.

This is a well-crafted thriller and much more than just a chance to see a young Brooke Shields. The set design is meticulous with a unique look and sound that is different from just about any other horror film. There are even a few moments of truly creepy imagery. The twisting plot and suspense should be enough to get you caught up in it and keep you guessing.

This is also a multilayered film with a twisted look at the family unit, the 50’s era, and most importantly the Catholic Church. It paints a rather sinister portrait of the church and some of those who attend it while emphasizing the evilness that can unravel behind even the most pristine of pictures. It is harsh, but also revealing and at times even funny.

Sheppard is chilling as the evil sister and makes Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed look like a powder-puff-girl. Her unique eyes grab your attention and help accentuate her character and are able to convey both beauty and mischief at the same time. She falls into her difficult role effortlessly and it’s easy to see why she has gained such a wide cult following even though, to date, she has only done one other movie.

paula 2

Brooke of course was re-billed as the star when her fame shot up afterwards. Yet she doesn’t last past the first half-hour and her presence is really not all that significant.

The film’s first third is gripping, intriguing, and even surprising. The final thirty minutes though is a letdown and pretty much ruins the film as a whole. It gives away its final twist too early and then drags along until it culminates with a rather far-fetched climax. It also leaves open a few loopholes and no real closure.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Alternate Title: Communion

Released: November 13, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alfred Sole

Studio: Allied Artists Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

King of the Gypsies (1978)

king of the gypsies

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Daddy is a psycho

Dave (Eric Roberts) is the rebellious son of Groffo (Jud Hirsch) who no longer wants to be a part of the gypsy clan that he was raised in and instead a part of the American dream. However, when Dave’s grandfather Zharko (Sterling Hayden) lies dying in his hospital bed he gives the coveted medallion to Dave making him the new king of the gypsies. This sends Groffo into a jealous rage and orders two men to go out and kill Dave who now must elude them while trying to get his life together and help get his younger sister Tita (Brooke Shields) out of the clan as well.

Although far from being a complete success the film does manage to have a few unique and even memorable moments. The best is when a young Dave is used as a decoy in an attempt to rob a jewelry store. His mother Rose (Susan Sarandon) pretends to be a customer looking over some diamonds. When Dave creates a ruckus she tries to calm him down by having him drink a glass of water while also having him swallow a diamond that she has discreetly lifted from the display table. They are then able to walk out of the store when the merchants are unable to prove that they stole it only to have Rose later retrieve the jewel when Dave poops it out. Having Groffo put a 10-year-old Dave behind a wheel of a car and drive it down a busy Brooklyn Street is about as nerve-wracking as any car chase I’ve seen. The scene where Groffo tries to physically force Dave to have sex with his own mother is also incredibly startling.

However, despite these few interesting moments the film overall never really gels. The first half showing how the gypsy people live seems a bit clichéd and the way they openly cheat other people in order to make a living makes them unlikable and uninteresting. The only time it ever gets half way compelling is when it shows Dave struggling to survive on the mean streets of New York after he runs away from his psychotic father. Unfortunately this gets ruined when it constantly brings his family and past coming back to haunt him. The cat and mouse game that he plays with his father is not original and Hirsch makes for a very boring villain. He is unable to convey a menacing quality and thus there is never any real tension. The violin soundtrack compliments the gypsy tradition, but eventually becomes annoying.

Roberts is solid in his film debut. His voice-over narration coupled with his raw delivery is effective. Had the film focused solely on him and left out the silly gypsy sub-plot it would have worked much better.

Sarandon gives it some energy and she has the most effective accent. Shields is pretty much wasted and appears in only a handful of scenes. The biggest irony here is that the two played a mother and daughter before in Pretty Baby, which came out just 7 months before this one.

Hayden really seems to be having fun as the bombastic self-proclaimed King Gypsy. Watching him feud at the beginning with Michael V. Gazzo who plays the head of another gypsy clan is somewhat diverting. It is also interesting to see Shelly Winters in a part that has less than three speaking lines. This woman never seemed to ever want to shut up both on-screen and in interviews, so seeing her in a part that allows for so little dialogue is quite a novelty, but she still succeeds with it particularly in the part where she grieves over her dead family members.

It is fun to see a young Danielle Brisebois as well as Matthew Labyoreaux who later went on to play Albert in ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Annie Potts is good in a brief part and Patti LuPone makes her film debut in an uncredited bit.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated R

Director: Frank Pierson

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Wanda Nevada (1979)

wanda nevada

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Go for the gold.

Wanda Nevada (Brooke Shields) is a 13-year-old runaway from an orphanage. Beaudray Demerille (Peter Fonda) is a drifter/con-man who ‘wins’ her during a poker game. The two don’t get along at first, but then they come into contact with an old prospector (Paul Fix) who tells them of gold that can be found in the Grand Canyon. They follow his map, but find weird unexplained events begin to occur the closer they get to the treasure.

Uneven mix of gritty western/comedy doesn’t ever gel. This is a far cry from The Hired Hand, which Fonda directed 6 years earlier. Although that was not a perfect film it still had a great cinematic style and moody flair that this one completely lacks. The story is slight and predictable and goes on much too long with a laid back pace that while not completely boring is never very interesting either. The biggest hurdle though is the fact that we have a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 30’s not only expressing their love for each other, but forming a relationship, which many viewers will probably find quite creepy.

Shields is great and helps give energy and flair to an otherwise lackluster production. She displays a nice sassy attitude and her facial expressions are amusing. She looks ready to blossom into late adolescence and many times seems to show more acting ability and charisma than her older counterpart.

The supporting cast is good although they appear much too briefly. Unique character actor Severn Darden is on hand who tries to steal Wanda away from Beaudray, but just when his character starts to get interesting they have him killed off. Peter’s dad Henry appears in a cameo looking almost unrecognizable in a long beard and bug-eyed goggles. Brooke’s real-life mother Terri has an amusing scene as a hotel clerk. Fix is also good in what turned out to be his last film.

On the flip side Luke Askew and Ted Markland are boring as the bad guys who chase after Wanda and Beaudray through the canyon. Their comical banter is unfunny and their bumbling ways allows for no tension.

The scenery is gorgeous and if you’ve never made it out west you’ll feel like you have after you’ve seen this. The best views are the bird’s-eye shots of the two rafting down a river. The color is bright and vivid and an overall excellent transfer from MGM’s Limited Edition library.

In some ways this film reminded me of Mackenna’s Gold as both films had a similar plot and both also added in a mystical element at the end. However, like in the other one the special-effects look cheap and hokey. The light pleasing quality is hampered by an otherwise bland execution. Why it was chosen for the setting to be the 1950’s instead of the present day I am not sure as it doesn’t add anything to the plot.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Fonda

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Import)

I Can Make You Love Me (1993)

stalking laura 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stalking is his passion.

To any true film fan TV-Movies have always been considered vastly inferior to the theatrical kind and I would be the first to agree.  However, there is one area where they can shine and that is in their depictions of true-life crimes. Mainly this is because they give it more time as they are usually shown in two parts over consecutive nights.  Also, their lower budgets worked better in recreating the docu-drama style.

Over the years there have been some classics in this area that have helped bring substance to the headlines as well as a better understanding of the victims, the perpetrators and the investigation. Some of the best that I would suggest would be Helter Skelter (1976) starring the Emmy-award winning Steve Railsback as Charles Manson.  The Deliberate Stranger (1986) with Mark Harmon as serial killer Ted Bundy.  There is also Deadly Intentions (1985), A Death in California (1984) with Cheryl Ladd as a woman who falls in love with her rapist, and my personal favorite Fatal Vision (1984) about the infamous Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald.

This film deals with the case of Richard Farley (Richard Thomas) that helped develop California’s first anti-stalking laws. Farley was a pudgy, middle-aged man who worked as a computer programmer at a company named ESL in Sunnyvale, California in 1984.  He had been there for 9 years and had no criminal record, but became unhinged when he met an attractive 23- year- old new employee named Laura Black (Brooke Shields).  He began to follow her around constantly as well as sending her gifts and love letters on a daily basis.  When she refused his advances he became even more persistent.  This continued for 4 years until, through his obsession, he ended up losing his job, his house, and his entire life savings, but his stalking continued. Black finally filed a restraining order against him, which sent him into a rage.  He armed himself with an array of guns, stormed the company and shot seven employees including Black, who managed to survive.

Unlike some of the previous movies that I mentioned above, this film did not get the two-part treatment.  Everything that happened gets crammed into 95 minutes, which makes a lot of it seem rushed.  Although the events took place over a four year period, the movie gives you the impression that it was just a few quick months. For the sake of time the film seems to leave certain interesting facts out, which is a shame.  For instance, in real-life Farley actually stood in front of Black’s house for hours going through every conceivable combination on her garage door opener until he was finally able to crack it.  There are also certain things that Farley expressed to Black through his letters that he ends up telling verbally to her here, which causes some of the dialogue to seem awkward.

The film was also not given much of a budget.  It was filmed on a grainy, videotape type of film stock that looks like it was done on somebody’s camcorder.  The story took place in California and yet for whatever reason it ended up being filmed in Topeka, Kansas and the differences in the landscapes are obvious and even a bit disconcerting.

Where the film really seems to come together is during the final 30 minutes where it recreates the office shooting. This sequence is well choreographed and makes you feel like you are right there.  The conversations that Farley has with the negotiator during these scenes are revealing.  I was confused after reading the accounts of the incident as to why Farley would have only shot Black once (in the shoulder) and then allowed her to escape.  Apparently, through his conversations with the negotiator, this was his intention.  He only wanted to injure her and then force her to survive so she would have to live with the ‘guilt’ of having ‘caused’ this by refusing to go out with him.

Another big selling point is the performances of the two leads. Richard Thomas as Farley is astounding.  He does not resemble the actual Farley, but makes up for it with a convincing portrayal that leaves a lasting impression. Shields is excellent as well. Normally I never gave her much credit in the past, but found a new appreciation for her acting ability here.  She does an especially good job during the scenes where she is shot and trying to escape.  It seemed like she was genuinely stressed and in real pain.

Another thing I liked here is that the character of Laura Black is portrayed as being very determined, resourceful, and strong.  She had to struggle with the company about this matter as initially they sided with Farley and was convinced that she must have ‘lead him on’. I felt it was a testament to her strength that she continued to keep working at the company and was still working there five years later when this film was made.

If you find true-life crimes to be intriguing and enjoy seeing them recreated to help your understanding of them, then TV-movies are you best source for this type of genre.  I felt that this case, with its myriad of psychological implications, was no different.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 9, 1993

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Alternate Title: Stalking Laura

Not Rated

Director: Michael Switzer

Studio: Leonard Hill Films

Available: DVD

Tilt (1979)

tilt 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: She’s a pinball wizard.

Brenda (Brooke Shields) who goes by the nickname Tilt is a 14-year-old pinball machine champion. When she becomes fed up with her overbearing father she decides to run away from home. She meets Neil (Ken Marshall) a man in his 20’s who is struggling to establish himself as a country music singer. He schemes to use Tilt’s pinball talents by hustling pinball patrons at bars and arcades around the country, but his real motivation is to have Tilt beat Harold Remmens (Charles Durning) who is nicknamed ‘The Whale’ due to his immense weight. The Whale is an arrogant bar owner who seems unbeatable at pinball and due to a few run-ins that he has had with Neil the two have become bitter enemies. Neil hopes to shatter his ego by having him get beat by an adolescent girl in a so-called pinball showdown, but Tilt has other ideas.

It is easy to see why this movie bombed at the box office and basically sat on the studio shelf for years. It seems to have no idea what audience to play too. There are too many adult references in it to make it suitable for teens especially preteens, but the story itself is so vapid that adults will be bored with it. The concept is offbeat enough that it might have worked as a comedy, or even parody, but director Rudy Durand approaches it as a standard drama, which due to the subject matter seems almost awkward. The 110 minute runtime is much too long for this kind of material and although it manages to move itself along it is never all that interesting with extraneous footage that should have been cut. Having faster cuts, juxtapositions, and even a non-linear narrative would have given it more energy and cinematic flair.

Having the action revolve solely around pinball games isn’t interesting. It is hard to follow the games and the constant footage of showing the inside of the arcade game as they are playing it becomes monotonous and fails to elicit any excitement. They is never any explanation as to what special skills Tilt or The Whale have that allows them to be so good, but it might have been a little more enlightening had one been forthcoming.

Shields is terrific and helps keep things afloat. She looks cute and wears pants with the words ‘pinball champ’ stenciled along her rear. Her ability and confidence at sharing scenes and holding her own with her much older adult counterparts is what makes her so special. One of the best scenes is when she hitches a ride with an ornery trucker (Geoffrey Lewis) who complains about the lack of morals in today’s world, but then turns around and tells her he has condoms in his shirt pocket and invites her to a rendezvous in the nearest hotel. Tilt says she will just as long as she can do it with both him and his wife, which gets her immediately booted out of the truck for being a ‘pervert’.

Marshall doesn’t have as much charisma as his younger female co-star and his Texas twang was a bit too strong for my taste. He travels the country and stays in the same hotel room with the girl knowing full well that she is only 14, but makes no sexual advances, which of course is good, but I kept wondering if this where the real world that he would most likely have tried something. I also found it strange that Tilt’s father (amusingly played by Gregory Walcott in a brief bit) wouldn’t have every police force in the country looking for her and once caught Neil would be thrown in jail even if he didn’t do anything because most likely no one would ever believe him.

Durning is excellent as always and gives the part a nice hammy turn and makes the movie, at least when he is in it, like the campy comedy that it should be. The little dance and moves that he makes while he plays the pinball games are amusing. His stomach bulges out even more than normal making it seem almost like he is pregnant. When Neil meets him after several weeks of not seeing him and states “You look like you have lost some weight” is the film’s one and only funny line.

The film’s final sequence in which Tilt and The Whale get together late at night in an empty bar and challenge each other to a pinball contest is the best scene in the whole movie. Their banter and interactions with each other gives the film a unique flavor. The surprise twist that occurs at the very end is cute and endearing and helps give this otherwise flat film more points than it deserves.

Also, look quick for Lorenzo Lamas and Fred Ward in small roles.

tilt

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Rudy Durand

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS

Pretty Baby (1978)

pretty baby

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s robbing the cradle.

Based on actual accounts of prostitutes living and working in the Storyville area of New Orleans in 1917 the film details the life of Violet (Brooke Shields) the 12 year-old daughter of Hattie (Susan Sarandon) who works as a prostitute and eventually breaks her daughter into the business. Bellocq (Keith Carradine) is a photographer who comes to the brothel to take portraits of the women. He falls in love with the young Violet and the two eventually marry.

Louis Malle’s American film debut is fabulous. He takes a daring subject matter and makes it real and vivid. Sven Nykvist’s cinematography is so detailed that you almost think that you are looking at painted portraits of the era. Malle employs a leisurely European pace to the proceedings, which nicely reflects the slower era. The emphasis is on nuance and in that regard it is brilliant making the viewer feel that they are right there with characters and observing the daily realities around them. The story is certainly shocking, but somehow a strong human element remains making it fascinating and revealing.

The strongest moment comes when a group of middle-aged men bid on Violet to see who will get the honors to take her virginity. Having the camera pan the men’s eager faces, some of whom look to be nearing 50 and even 60 is visually potent as is Violet’s ambivalent expression as she stands on a chair in front of them. The fact that it is approached in a non-sensationalistic matter and instead more like as a slice-of-life makes it all the more disturbing and compelling.

Shields is fabulous. Her facial expressions as she observes the decadence around her is what really makes the movie. She shows a great awareness and creates an intriguing character that cannot read and write and yet acts like having sex with a middle-aged man is ‘no big deal’ and working as a prostitute is completely ‘normal’ way of life. Watching her shift between being very child-like to very jaded is fascinating. I really think this is an actress that is much more talented than she is given credit for and although many other actresses auditioned for the part including Tatum O’Neal, Meg Tilly, Geena Davis, and Diane Lane I really felt the movie wouldn’t have been as effective with them in the role. Shields is really exceptional and should have netted the Oscar, or at least have been nominated.

Sarandon is terrific as her hardened mother and unfortunately is not seen enough, but manages to light up every scene that she is in nonetheless. Singer Frances Faye is also quite good as the head of the brothel. Her old, tired face brings out the difficult, cold lifestyle. Her best moment comes when she is seen staring in a catatonic state into space while everyone else has left the place and all the belongings are being carried out.

Carradine is okay in a restrained performance as a character that is more educated and refined than the rest, which makes for some interesting interactions. The fact that this man ends up getting emotionally stung by such a young girl despite being so much more sophisticated and mature ends up being one of the film’s most definitive moments.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 5, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Louis Malle

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video