Tag Archives: Michelle Pfeiffer

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Devil comes to town.

Based on the John Updike novel of the same name, the story centers on three single women (Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer) living in the town of Eastwick, Rhode Island who are also witches, but don’t yet realize it. All three want to meet up with the man of their dreams, which ushers in Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson). He is a rich playboy that buys the town’s landmark home the stately Lennox Mansion. The three women are initially seduced by his powers only to realize later that he is actually the devil incarnate and spend the rest of the time conjuring up a spell that will send him back to where he came from.

After achieving so much success with The Road Warrior franchise Australian director George Miller decided to take a stab at something completely different, but had to deal with studio politics during the production, which made the final product disjointed. However, despite an array of confusing plot points the offbeat elements are enough to hold your attention and keep things interesting.

The creative special effects add an imaginative flair, but tend to get overdone. I enjoyed the scene where Veronica Cartwright vomits out cherry seeds all over her house, which leaves an indelible impression, but then Nicholson does the same thing later inside a church where it becomes redundant and gross. Watching a floating tennis ball defying gravity is amusing, but not needed. This scene, where all four get together to play a game of tennis, should’ve instead focused on the underlying tensions between the characters, which would’ve given the movie some needed nuance.

I enjoyed Sarandon, who goes from being a repressed nerdette to sexual vamp, but overall the efforts of the game cast are wasted as there’s not enough distinction between the women’s personalities making them seem almost like the same person. The only female that is distinct and memorable is Cartwright who’s campy, over-the-top portrayal of a paranoid religious woman hits-the-mark and should’ve been enough to give her more screen time and at least one scene where she confronts Nicholson directly.

I would’ve preferred also that the women been aware right from the start that they were witches, which would’ve made them immediate adversaries to Nicholson instead of these dopey pawns that passively allow him to seduce them one-by-one in long drawn-out segments that become quite strained. In contrast Nicholson could’ve preyed on the other women in town while these same witches spent their time coming up with ways to stop him and thus creating more of a theatrical battle.

Nicholson is great, but his character like with the others is poorly etched. At the beginning he’s a conniving player who possesses the ability to manipulate these women almost seamlessly, but then during the second half this all changes, but with no clear explanation as to why. His speech though inside a church expounding on man’s ever daunting task to tap into the female’s psychic is priceless:

“Do you think God knew what he was doing when he created women, or do you think it was just another one of his minor mistakes like tidal waves?…If it was a mistake maybe we can do something about it; find a cure, then a vaccine, build-up our immune systems.”

The biggest issue though is that the film needed to be genre specific and played more like a horror movie with dark comical undertones instead of a serene/hybrid comedy. The New England setting is picturesque, but not right for this type of story. A better location would’ve been a town that was mostly cloudy and gloomy while containing buildings that were old and gothic, which would’ve helped to create an eerie atmosphere that is otherwise sorely lacking.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 12, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Miller

Studio: Warner Brothers

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

Ladyhawke (1985)

ladyhawke 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Trying to reunite lovers.

Philipe (Matthew Broderick) is a thief who manages to escape the confines of the dungeon in Aquila by squeezing through a prison drain and then swimming through the underground sewer. When he finally reaches safety he meets up with Navarre (Rutger Hauer) who is also on the run and straddle with a very strange curse placed on him by the Bishop (John Wood). It seems that the Bishop had a thing for Lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) and became enraged when he found that she loved Navarre and not him. As part of his revenge he made it so Navarre and Isabeau will never be able to meet in human form by having Navarre turn into a werewolf by night while Isabeau becomes a hawk by day. Now Navarre wants to use the reluctant Philipe’s knowledge of the city to help him find the Bishop and kill him, which he hopes will then end the curse.

I have to admit that medieval fantasy is my least favorite of all movie genres. The archaic living conditions always comes off as gloomy and depressing and the fact that the action is limited to only swordplay seems to make it less exciting. However, the film has some impressive cinematography and Broderick’s humorous character kept me engaged most of the way.

I also liked the pounding Philharmonic musical score. I realize that it doesn’t fit the sound of the 13th century setting and some fans of the film hate it for just that reason, but it still gives the film distinctiveness and helps boost the energy. I was actually disappointed it wasn’t used more as it seems to taper off too much after booming out strong at the beginning.

I am so used to seeing Hauer playing dark characters that I was initially thrown having him play a good guy, but pleasantly surprised at how well he did it. Leo McKern is a standout as the elderly Imperius.  His castle residence is marvelously captured and I loved all the booby traps he has in store for the invading soldiers. Pfeiffer on the other hand is a bit miscast mainly due to her model-like face that seems too glossy for the time period.

The exciting jousting sequence that takes place during the finale between Hauer and actor Alfred Molina’s character is outstanding, but it takes too damn long to get there. The simple plot could have been wrapped up in a much briefer runtime. The second hour is filled with a lot side dialogue and scenarios that add nothing to the story or characters and should’ve been cut completely. The romance angle is also handled too much from the perspective of a 14-year-old schoolgirl and the scene where the lovers reunite could be deemed as corny by some.

There is also the issue of Navarre looking directly at an eclipse that conveniently occurs through a broken stain glass window in a church. Normally a person would have to shield their eyes with their hand, squint or at the very least turn away from it after only a few seconds. Yet this character stares at it for an extended period without even blinking, which at the very least would’ve burned dark spots into his field of vision and yet strangely that doesn’t occur.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 12, 1985

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Richard Donner

Studio: Warner Brothers

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

 

Into the Night (1985)

into the night 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Insomniac gets into espionage.

Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum) is an insomniac, who has a boring job and an unfaithful wife and is unexpectedly thrown into espionage and intrigue when a beautiful jewel smuggler named Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer) literally lands on his car in the middle of the night while he is out taking a drive.

If you are expecting the surreal, cult-like comedy of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours then you can forget it. This thing actually tries to play it straight and does it in a low key way that makes for a lot of slow stretches intermingled with some slight comedy and action.

It’s a pedestrian caper with some ‘novelties’ thrown into to try to get you to forget how pedestrian it really is. The novelties are director John Landis’s casting fellow directors in cameo roles. Sure it’s nice to put faces to names, but the cameos really aren’t that interesting or funny. Only French director Roger Vadim gets anything remotely flashy. In fact it’s Landis who gets the best part casting himself as a crazed gunman with a large scar on the side of his face.

Goldblum is a solid everyman, but he underplays it and eventual becomes too dull. He doesn’t even react when a loaded gun is put into his mouth!! Pfeiffer is beautiful, but there really isn’t any chemistry between the two so having them end up ‘falling in love’ shows just how contrived this whole thing is.

David Bowie and Dan Aykroyd have very little screen time and are badly wasted.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 22, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Landis

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD