Tag Archives: Jodie Foster

Foxes (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Growing up too fast.

Four teenagers living in the San Fernando Valley face life in the fast lane. Madge (Marilyn Kagan) is the nerd who’s having a fling with a 30-year-old man (Randy Quaid). Deidre (Kandice Stroh) shifts from boyfriend to boyfriend while Annie (Cherrie Currie) is tormented by an abusive father and runs away from home only to get caught up in the drug scene. Jeanie (Jodie Foster) is the mature one of the bunch who tries to keep them from getting into too much trouble as well as getting them out of a jam when needed, but she has struggles of her own particularly dealing with her mother (Sally Kellerman) who brings home men who are virtual strangers to spend the night with and seems as lost and confused as Jeanie’s teen friends.

This marked Adrian Lyne’s feature film debut and from a purely cinematic perspective it’s intriguing. I liked the cinema vertite feel and in many ways this is an early forerunner to Larry Clarke’s groundbreaking Kids that came out 15 years later as the camera follows the teens around on their excursions without having any connected storyline nor does it try to make any moral judgement on what occurs. Instead it plays more like docudrama showing how things are without overdoing the shock value, but what I liked best was the fact that it portrays the adults as being just as screwed up and in certain ways even more lost while society at large is captured as being equally jaded to the point that the teens are simply reflecting the behaviors of the environment around them.

Probably the most surprising aspect is the part dealing with Madge, who is still in high school, having an ongoing relationship with a 30-year-old man, which the film treats as being no big deal. It’s not completely clear if Madge is 17 or 18, but many of today’s viewers will find the casual way the film approaches this topic, which includes an eventual wedding between the two that is happily attended by her friends, as being  ‘creepy’ and most likely a taboo storyline for any film made today.

The irony is that Madge ends up causing the most destruction in the relationship as Quaid’s character unwisely goes away on a business trip and allows her complete use of his place where she then decides to hold a party that gets expectedly out-of-control. It even includes a graphic fight breaking out that is portrayed quite brutally including having a girl hit and knocked down by another guy. This scene also features Laura Dern, in her first credited film role and wearing braces and glasses, as an awkward teen that crashes the place.

The casting of Foster and Scott Baio as her guy friend is interesting as the two had starred in quirky gangster comedy Bugsy Malone just 4 years earlier and the scene where the two have an ongoing conversation while walking around in a large, open junkyard is one of the best parts of the movie. Baio is initially fun as this geeky teen with limited social skills, but later on becomes this mini-hero with on a skateboard that gets too cute and Hollywood-like. Foster on the other hand is solid and it’s interesting seeing her playing a more emotionally vulnerable character and even at one point breaking down and crying.

The film manages to have a few interesting scenes here and there, but it takes too long to build any momentum and it’s never as compelling as it would like to be. There are also a few too many moments where it defaults to the contrived clichés, which hurts its efforts at gritty realism.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 29, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated R

Director: Adrian Lyne

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Kansas City Bomber (1972)

kansas city bomber

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life on roller derby.

Raquel Welch plays K.C. Carr a struggling mother of two who goes all-out as the star in the roller derby circuit. She plays for the Kansas City Bombers, but then gets into a grudge match with Big Bertha (Patti ‘Moo Moo’ Cavin) with the loser agreeing to leave Kansas City and never return. Through some cheating by other teammates K.C. loses, but is soon picked up by the Portland Loggers whose owner (Kevin McCarthy) is quite impressed with her and promises to make her a star. The two eventually get into a relationship, but then she gets into yet another grudge match this time with the aging Jackie (Helena Kallianiotes) and the loser agreeing to leave Portland forever.

During the ‘70s the roller derby sport was all-the-rage and several films during the period were produced on the subject including The Unholy Rollers, which was also released in 1972 and starred Claudia Jennings as well as Derby, which was a documentary on the sport and came out a year before this one. I once went to a roller derby game a few years back in Indianapolis and I found it to be inane and boring, but there were indeed some people there that seemed to really get into it. In fact if there is one thing that this film does well it is the way it captures the spectators. Seeing many of them with missing teeth and looking like they would not fare too well on a college entrance exam, but getting extremely worked-up with the action in front of them solidly hits-the-mark on the mentality that one will find when attending these events.

The action though looks horribly fake and it’s obvious that the performers are pulling their punches during the fight sequences. I initially thought this was intentional and to show how the sport is really just about acting, but the script wants to play it like it’s for real, which makes the phony staged action look all the more ridiculous.

Welch’s presence is another hindrance. She’s a beautiful looking lady, but her acting has always been suspect. She manages to convey a toughness during the game sequences, but the character is just too nice and naïve otherwise. The film makes efforts to show the hard life and dehumanizing conditions that working in the business entails and yet somehow we are expected to believe this is the one person that has managed to ‘rise above it’ when in reality it would’ve dragged her down to its level, or at least made her more world-wise. The scene where she becomes ‘shocked’ at how the players are being ‘used’ and expresses this to the Kevin McCarthy character gets a good comeback from him when he states “We’re all being used…that’s the American way. You outta know that by now!”  And the fact that she strangely doesn’t despite being supposedly a ‘seasoned’ player makes her character come off as poorly fleshed-out and hollow.

Her relationship with McCarthy is a major issue as he was 30 years older than her. The two share no chemistry and have little in common and watching this gray haired man walking hand-in-hand with a hot young chick comes off like an old fogey that’s  porking his granddaughter.

The unintentionally funny climactic finish is pathetic and features the replay of the same hokey shot done from 3 different angles. The ending also leaves open a slew of unanswered questions while wasting the talents of a young Jodie Foster who appears only briefly as Welch’s daughter. I also didn’t get why it was entitled the Kansas City Bomber as the character spends only a brief time there while the bulk of the story takes place in the Pacific Northwest.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 2, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerold Freedman

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)

the hotel new hampshire

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: A family of misfits.

Note: This review is part of the 1984 blog-a-thon series over at Forgotten Films.

Win Berry (Beau Bridges) is unhappy with his teaching job and feels he is not making enough money so he decides to start a hotel and make it a family venture. Tagging along with him is his mouthy daughter Frannie (Jodie Foster) who has an unhealthy lust for her brother John (Rob Lowe) and he in her as well as Frank (Paul McCrane) who is gay and Lily (Jennifer Dundas) who has stopped growing and unhappy with her short height. After many misadventures the business goes under so they move to Vienna, Austria and open up a new hotel and continue to get into a wide range of weird scenarios while also coming into contact with Susie (Nastassja Kinski) who likes to disguise herself as a bear and the blind, but quite wily Freud (Wallace Shawn).

The film, based on the John Irving novel who also co-wrote the screenplay, is something you are either going to like or hate. The narrative structure is quite odd and filled with goofy side-stories that have no connection to anything else. It’s similar to director Tony Richardson’s The Loved One, but that film at least had excellent satire that tied it all together while this thing gets nonsensical for no real reason. Mixing quirky humor with trenchant drama doesn’t work and certain plot twists like death of family members, sudden blindness and even gang rape become like throwaway pieces that are just glossed over and then soon forgotten. The superficial tone is annoying and the ‘lovably eccentric’ characters eventually become irritating.

Foster is outstanding as she plays the bratty, foul-mouthed, rebellious teen to an absolute tee. The lesbian scene where she goes to bed with Kinski and kisses her on the mouth is on an erotic level not bad. Kinski also shines with a similarly bitchy attitude, but I got real sick of constantly seeing her in that hideous bear outfit.  Dundas as the youngest female member has an adorable face, but delivers her lines in too much of a one-note way.

Lowe is surprisingly strong and his best moment comes with the facial expressions he gives at trying to lift a barbell that is too heavy. I also liked Mathew Modine being cast against type. Typically he plays the kind and gentle types, but here he’s a real nasty, callous guy who rapes Foster and then later shows up in the Vienna scenes in a dual role as an underground pornographer with a Hitler-like mustache.

Bridges is good, but his boyish face makes him look too young to be the father of the grown children. Wilford Brimley is also miscast as the grandfather as he was only seven years older than Bridges and had no gray hair, at least not on his head.

The scene where the Foster character has wild sex with her brother may be too much for some, but most likely those same viewers will have gotten turned off by it long before it even gets there. I admit it was getting on my nerves most of the way as well, but then strangely it ended up having a certain appeal, but only enough to give it a passable rating. Richardson’s direction is for the most part slick and the one things that saves it although with this thing personal taste will be one’s own barometer.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 9, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tony Richardson

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Candleshoe (1977)

candleshoe

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Treasure hidden on estate.

            Jodie Foster stars as Casey a teen living on the tough streets of New York and reselling stolen items for a living. Her abilities come to the attention of small-time crook Harry Bundage (Leo McKern) who gets her to pretend that she is the long lost granddaughter of a rich matriarch by the name of Lady St. Edmund (Helen Hayes).  Bundage has become aware through a former servant that worked there that there is a trove of treasure hidden somewhere on the premises and it is up to Casey to follow the clues and find it.

I saw this movie when it was released in 1977 and the only thing I could remember from it was the little boy who would slide across the polished floors of the mansion. It’s a surprisingly elaborate plot for a children’s movie, but one that is engrossing and interesting. The characters are believable and diverse and it is fun seeing them evolve and learn to get along. Parents should find this as enjoyable as the kids. I was impressed with the way the filmmakers never talk down to their young audience and trust that they will be sophisticated enough to pick up on the little nuances and subtitles, which the film does have.  I found myself longing for this type of family entertainment again. It seems like the family films of today either have kids spewing out a lot of crude nasty things, or they are so sugary sweet and benign that they make you want to throw up, but this film nicely straddles the middle and it really works.

Jodie is great in the lead and the movie wouldn’t have worked as well with another actress in the role. The part nicely takes advantage of Foster’s confident, smart, streetwise persona and almost had me believing that the part was written specifically for her. Later I read how the original director for the film, David Swift, dropped out of the project because he felt Foster was ‘all wrong’ for the role even though I felt she was perfect and other viewers should feel the same.

Helen Hayes is okay in her role, however the character isn’t all that interesting, nor has that much to do. It seems like once she won the Academy Award for Airport in 1970, which helped revive her career, these were the typical ‘sweet old lady’ roles she was perpetually offered afterwards. However, when it comes to the caricature of an old lady Hayes is absolutely perfect almost to the point that it is hard to imagine her ever being young.

David Niven, who plays the butler named Priory, is engaging, but was starting to look frail and elderly. He gets a chance to play several different roles including that of the gardener and chauffeur. The Irish accent that he uses for the gardener part sounded very authentic and I was impressed. His best moment comes at the end when he takes on the McKern character in an imaginative and drawn out duel segment and watching his scared and nervous facial expressions during this is amusing.

I liked the other children who play the orphans that Lady St. Edmond adopts. They are cute in a nice genuine way without it being forced especially the young blonde haired boy named Bobby who speaks in a thick cockney accent. Veronica Quilligan plays Cluny one of the older children who are initially an adversary to Casey. She showed the most disciplined and realistic facial reactions to the action around her while the other kids had lost or vapid looks on their faces. Although she appeared to be about 13 or 14, the same age of the character that she played, I was shocked to find that she was actually 21 when the movie was made.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a car chase scene as every Disney movie from the 70’s seemed to have one. The action for what it is worth is sparse, but enjoyable without ever getting too cartoonish. The ending where the kids take on the band of adult crooks is good and the scene where their car is stopped on the tracks and the train comes just inches from Priory, who is shielding the vehicle, before stopping is a near classic.

I think adults who were kids during this era can watch this film again and still find it entertaining. The kids of today should find enjoyable as well although the ideal age would be between 8 and 14 as I think it is too slow paced for anyone younger.  The film also has a good life lesson in regards to teamwork and how working together and taking advantage of each other’s special talents and abilities can help achieve a common goal.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated G

Director: Norman Tokar

Studio: Buena Vista

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video