Tag Archives: Kathleen Turner

Switching Channels (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Reporter shields convicted killer.

Christy Colleran (Kathleen Turner) is a dedicated news reporter working at a satellite news network who decides to take a much needed vacation. On her trip she meets the dashing and very rich Blane Bingham (Christopher Reeve). The two hit-it-off and decide to get married, but when she informs her ex-husband John (Burt Reynolds), who just so happens to also be here employer, he does everything he can to prevent the marriage from happening. Part of his scheme is to get her so involved in covering the impending execution of Ike Roscoe (Henry Gibson) that she won’t have time for Blaine, but when the execution goes awry and allows Ike to escape Christy agrees to shield him from the authorities.

The story is based off of the very famous Broadway play ‘The Front Page’ that was first performed in 1928 and has been remade into a cinematic film (not including the TV-movie versions) three different times before this one. The first was in 1931 and the second in 1942 with His Girl Friday starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, which was probably the best version, and then in 1974 director Billy Wilder took a stab at the story that starred Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

Why it was felt that this story needed to be done again is a mystery as this version is by far the weakest and hardly funny at all. The premise itself is solid, but structured in a way that makes it come off as an unfocused mess. It starts out as this sort of romantic love triangle scenario then jarringly shifts into the execution until it seems like two entirely different movies crammed into one. None of the original dialogue from the play was retained making the attempted banter here benign and uninteresting.

Although it’s been a while since I’ve seen the three other versions, which I found to be highly entertaining and funny, but this one is dizzying and confusing instead. As I remember the other versions kept the focus solely on the three leads and had them remain in the same setting with the action basically coming to them. Here it gets diluted with the characters prancing around to too many different places with their presence getting minimized by gargantuan, overly colorful sets that swallow up both the actors and story.

Reeve is excellent in what I consider his best role outside of Superman. Reynolds though looks uncomfortable in an ensemble-type comedy structure and he shares absolutely no chemistry with Turner with behind-the-scene reports saying that the two couldn’t get along at all. It’s almost like they cast the parts based solely on the name recognition of the stars over whether they were truly right for the parts.

Turner had already lost her youthful appeal here that had made her so sexy in Body Heat that had just been done 7 years earlier.  She comes off as more middle-aged and frumpy and not at all the type of woman two guys would fight over. I admire her attempts at expanding her acting range by taking a stab at frantic comedy, but her constant breathless delivery becomes tiresome and redundant.

The entire production gets overblown. Director Ted Kotcheff’s attempts to make the story more cinematic ends up draining it of the amusing subtle nuances that made it so special when it was done onstage. Switching channels is indeed an appropriate title for this because if it were shown on TV I would be pressing the remote to a different station.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Release: March 4, 1988

Runtime: 1hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The War of the Roses (1989)

war of the roses

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Yuppie couple destroys home.

Oliver and Barbara Rose (Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner) are a married couple with contrasting personalities who find that they no longer get along and in fact can’t even stand each other. They agree to a divorce and all of the assets except for the house. Both of them want to keep it and Oliver’s attorney Gavin (Danny DeVito) has found a loophole in the law that allows Oliver to remain there even after the separation is final. The problem is that they continue to get on each other’s nerves, which culminates with them locking themselves into the home one dark, harrowing night and using whatever prop available to vent their anger onto the other while inadvertently destroying the house in the process.

Some consider this to be one of the darkest comedies to ever be financed by a major Hollywood studio and when you think about it, it really is amazing. Most major studios shy away from edgy material and water it down until it becomes benign, but this film, which is based on the 1981 Warren Adler novel of the same title, stays quite true to its source material. The humor is on-target while making a great trenchant statement towards capitalism and yuppies in general. DeVito’s direction is visual and imaginative and there are some truly funny moments including the one where Turner destroys Douglas’s British Morgan Roadster with her 4-wheel drive truck.

The reuniting of Douglas and Turner from the Romancing the Stone films was perfecting casting. The two seem to have genuinely distinctive personas and it’s fun to imagine this as simply an extension of their earlier characters of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder and what happens when their rosy romance turns into the realities of marriage. The scene where Douglas’s character saws off the heels of Turner’s shoes is a great connection to their earlier film as his character did the exact same thing there, but it was unfortunate that we never get to see Turner’s reaction to it.

The production is slick, but having DeVito act as the film’s narrator seemed a bit distracting at times and the film might’ve worked better without him although he does have a few verbal gems during the second hour that almost makes up for it. I also didn’t like that the character who he tells this story to never says a single word, which to me seemed unnatural and weird as did his green painted office. Having the two kids of the couple turn out to be pudgy and fat was amusing and helped in a metaphorical way to symbolize the parent’s gluttony for materialism, but then the filmmakers end up ruining their own joke by having the kids later on become thin and attractive for no reason.

Spoiler Alert!!

The knock-down ending inside the home is great and DeVito’s use of Hitchcock overtones is inspired. Seeing the couple trapped on a ceiling chandelier while the camera travels up the wires of the light and into the attic where we see how the added weight bursts the bolts that anchors it is quite clever and even ingenious, but I was disappointed that the two end up crashing to the floor and dying. For one thing I didn’t think it was a big enough fall to have killed both of them. Maybe one, but most likely they both would’ve survived, but with injuries. Either way it would’ve been more interesting to see how they responded to each other after the incident and whether it helped to change them or their love/hate relationship, which to some degree is the film’s most unsatisfying aspect

End of Spoiler Alert!!

Adler wrote a sequel to his novel in 2004 that dealt with a messy divorce of the Rose’s grown son Josh to his wife. That book has now been put into production as a movie entitled The War of the Roses: The Children although no release date or cast has been announced as of yet.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 8, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Danny DeVito

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

jewel of the nile

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for a jewel.

In this sequel to Romancing the Stone Jack (Michael Douglas) and Joan (Kathleen Turner) are living the easy life on a yacht, but are bored and looking for some adventure. Joan is given the opportunity to write a book about a visiting sheik named Omar (Spiros Focas) and travels to the Middle East to learn more about him. There she finds that he has sinister intentions and simply using her to be a part of his scheme, which compells her to try and expose him, but first she must escape from his clutches. Jack and Ralph (Danny DeVito) team up to help her along with a prince named Jewel (Avner Eisenberg) and together the four find themselves in one wild predicament after another.

Although this film did not do as well in the box office as its predecessor I still ended up enjoying it and felt in a lot of ways it was better. It has a bigger budget and slickly handled direction. The humor is more consistent and edgy and Jack and Joan share a love/hate relationship that is more entertaining than the Harlequin romance novel that the first one became while the on-location shooting that was done mainly in Morocco has some genuinely breathtaking scenery.

The scene in which the three get into a fighter jet plane and use it to tear up a village while still remaining on the ground is the film’s highlight. Their escape from Omar while climbing on a very steep rocky cliff is exciting and watching DeVito get sat on by a donkey is quite funny.

DeVito’s character is used much more here and his on-screen moments are one of the best things about the movie. Focas as the evil sheik is okay and at the very least is a more dynamic bad guy than the ones that were used in the first film. Holland Taylor as Joan’s snarky agent is the only one whose presence gets wasted and she ends having what amounts to only a few minutes of screen time making me wonder why she even bothered to appear at all.

The biggest drawback, like with the first film, is with the plot itself. The concept is too broad and the set-up rather convoluted making me both confused and ambivalent at the same time. It improves by the middle to be mildly interesting and has enough comedy and action to keep afloat, but the 105 minute runtime is too long for the bubblegum material and stretches the climactic sequence past its peak until it becomes derivative and overdone.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Lewis Teague

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Romancing the Stone (1984)

romancing the stone

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Romance novelist has adventure.

Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a romance novelist living her love life out through her characters because she fails to have one of her own. One day she receives a mysterious treasure map in the mail and then gets a call stating that her sister Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor) has been kidnapped and will only be released once her captors receive the map. Joan then travels down to Columbia where Elaine is being held and bumps into Jack (Michael Douglas) a rugged adventurer who helps her navigate her way through to jungle while falling in love with her in the process.

The most interesting aspect to the film may actually be in the backstory of its screenwriter Diane Thomas who seemed to live both the Hollywood dream and tragedy all at the same time. She was working as a waitress while struggling as a would-be screenwriter during her off hours. Then one day by chance actor Michael Douglas arrived at her café as one of her customers and seeing this as her one chance to break into the business she pitched her idea, which later became this movie, to him and he loved it. She was eventually able to sell it for $250,000 and as an added bonus Douglas brought her a Prosche, which she ended up being killed in during a car accident that occurred only 1 year after this film was released.

As a story though this thing is quite weak and barely passes for a plot at all and really is just more of some high-end adventure concepts strung together. It’s pretty much bubblegum on a fifth graders level and if you stop to think about it all it will quickly become quite empty-headed.

Turner’s performance and her nerdy character is the best thing about it. Unfortunately the character changes too quickly shifting into a more confident and secure woman by the midway point and thus losing its comic edge. Her relationship with Jack is initially interesting as well as they have very divergent personalities and approaches to things, but this too gets lost when the romance between the two becomes full-throttle making the film’s whole second half seem more like a feminist fantasy than an actual movie.

Danny Devito is amusing and needed more screen time. However, the ironic ways he keeps accidently bumping into the main characters starts to become a little too convenient. Holland Taylor is fun as Joan’s snarky agent and I wished her character had gone along with Joan on the adventure. The bad guys though are dull and generic and create no type of fun tension at all.

The story as a whole is just too cutesy and lacks any type of real conflict or excitement. Had Jack and Joan’s sparring been played up more and only turned into a romance at the very end, or even just approaching it in a satirical vein to all the romance novels out there I might have gotten more into it. Female viewers may take to this better as it seems completely geared for them. Unfortunately though it becomes too slick for its own good while failing to have any footing in reality, which ultimately makes it cease to feel like any type of real adventure at all.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 30, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Zemekis

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Crimes of Passion (1984)

crimes of passion

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Moonlighting as a hooker.

Bobby (John Laughlin) is suffering from marital problems at home while also having trouble keeping up with his kid’s expenses, so he looks for a part-time job and gets hired by Lou Bateman (Norman Burton) an owner of a fashion clothing studio to work as a private investigator by following around one of his designer’s named Joanna (Kathleen Turner) who he is convinced is selling his patents to a competitor. What Bobby finds instead is that Joanna is actually working as a hooker in the seedy red light district and using the name of China Blue, which gets Bobby more infatuated with her. Soon they are locked into a passionate affair, but unaware that China/Joanna is also being stalked by a crazy street preacher named Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins) who is suffering from demons of his own while also harboring strange ideas on how to ‘save her’.

The film, which is directed by Ken Russell who can sometimes be brilliant and other times horribly self-indulgent, is annoying from the beginning. The recreation of a therapy group is wooden and artificial and the sex scenes are over-the-top with characters that are one-dimensional and poorly fleshed out. The gaudy color schemes and flashing lights used to recreate the seedy hotel look quickly become repetitive and irritating. It’s hard to tell whether Russell is trying to be serious or campy, but it’s a mad mixture that ends up being a pointless mess. Rick Wakeman’s obnoxious electronic music score and the cliché ridden Psycho-like finale simply add insult to injury.

The script by Barry Sandler is shallow and filled with plot devices that make no sense. Rarely do prostitutes ever fall in love with one of their clients and many create a defense to keep that part of their lives separate from their personal one and vice-versa, so the fact that Joanna and Bobby get into a relationship so quickly and seamlessly while failing to explain why she would find Bobby so ‘special’ out of all the other men she had already had indiscriminate sex with makes this dumb movie even more absurd. It’s also hard to believe that Joanna would be such a great employee as she is described to be by her boss when she is going out every night having sex with strange men at all hours. I would think at some point she’d become exhausted and her productivity at her day job would be effected. I also thought it was a bit goofy why someone would hire Bobby as a private investigator to begin with when he had no experience in that area.

Annie Potts gives the film’s all-around best performance particularly during a strong scene involving her character in bed with Bobby and her roundabout way of admitting that he no longer satisfies her. Laughlin is okay, but bland and the segment where he dresses up as a giant penis having an erection is downright embarrassing. Perkins is fun as the flamboyantly weird reverend and I got a kick out of his singing as well as his bag full of sex toys, but in the end it’s just a bad rendition of Norman Bates that typecasts him while discrediting his earlier more serious efforts.

The scene where China visits an old man who has only a few months to live is the movie’s one and only interesting moment. Had there been more of a history shown to Joanna’s character and why this seemingly intelligent woman did what she did I might’ve have been able to get into it more instead of being completely bored with it. The sexual imagery was considered quite ‘shocking’ and explicit for 1984 standards, but now comes off as benign and hooky especially since one can find far more graphic stuff simply by casually surfing any one of the thousands of porn sites on the internet today.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: October 19, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Body Heat (1981)

body heat 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lawyer kills lover’s husband.

Every Monday for the month of August I’ll review an 80’s film that has the word ‘heat’ in its title starting with this modern-day film noir classic. Ned Racine (William Hurt) is a shyster lawyer looking for some action and on one sultry hot Florida night finds it when he spots the beautiful Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) at an outdoor concert. The two soon fall into having mad passionate sex, but there is one problem. Matty is married to Edmund (Richard Crenna) who is rich, but boring. She plants the seed in Ned’s head to kill him and thus allow the two to live happily ever after with the money they will get from his will. Ned jumps into the scheme with his eyes wide-open only to later realize after it is too late that Matty has other plans that don’t involve him and thus making him a schmuck of the first kind.

I still enjoyed Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice better, but for a modern day film noir this one isn’t bad and rates superior to most of the others. Writer/ director Lawrence Kasdan creates characters that are amoral, but fascinating. The dialogue is snappy and the production stylish without ever getting too overdone or pretentious.  The first hour is a bit slow and it takes too long to get to the killing, but once the second half kicks in it becomes a wild ride of twists and turns that remains as entertaining as ever.

The movie also has numerous references to the heat even more so than most movies that takes place in a hot climate. Overall I enjoyed this as it makes the viewer feel sweaty and muggy even if the weather outside isn’t. The sweat glistening off their naked bodies is effective and not an irritating cliché like in most other movies. The only problem I had was that Matty lives in this giant, luxurious mansion and yet must rely on fans and open windows to cool off when in reality the place would have been wired with indoor air conditioning.

Turner, in her film debut, looks stunning and it is just unfortunate that due to illness and age she no longer looks anything like she did here. Her nude scenes are brief and from far away, but still hot.

Hurt is excellent as usual, but the character was a bit irritating. I realize that the guy is thinking with his penis and not his brain, but it still seemed hard to believe that he wouldn’t once just for a second step back and contemplate whether he was being set-up especially since her ‘tactics’ to convince him to do it weren’t in any way novel or sophisticated. The minute she brings up wanting to change the will like she does here so that she gets all the money instead of Edmund’s ex-wife should have been a red flag to even the dumbest and horniest of males that this woman is in love only with money and a good signal that he is being used and to dump her.

Ted Danson looking almost unrecognizable in horn-rimmed glasses is a stand-out in support and almost ends up stealing the film as Ned’s lawyer buddy. He also gets the movies best line. As everyone is sitting in a smoke filled room looking over the will and someone offers him a cigarette he states “No thanks. I don’t need any. I’ll just breathe in the air.”

body heat 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: August 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated R

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Studio: Warner Brothers

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