Tag Archives: Wallace Shawn

Deal of the Century (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Making money selling weapons.

Eddie (Chevy Chase) is a American arms dealer selling weapons to both the rebels and military dictator of a small South American country. While there he meets Harold (Wallace Shawn) who works for a large contractor known as Luckup. Their weaponry is much more sophisticated and cutting edge so after Harold kills himself Eddie takes over the deal and successfully wins a big contract, but upon returning to the states he finds that the deal fell through, which forces him to return to the small country along with Harold’s widow Catherine (Sigourney Weaver) and his partner Ray  (Gregory Hines) to see if they can make another pitch.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Edelman and makes some really good satirical points about how the arms race being driven more by corporate greed, which only helps to create wars instead of preventing them. Unfortunately the film’s tone is too muddled and goes haphazardly from lighthearted fare to dark humor while throwing in graphic violence that is jarring. There’s also a surprising number of scenes where the three main characters don’t appear in it at all.

Chase can be appealing if given the right material but his cynical smart-ass sense of humor doesn’t exactly make him lovable. Here his character is so consumed with making a deal that he becomes no different than the bad guys and someone the viewer doesn’t connect with or care for. The only positive thing about his character is that he gets shot in the foot early on and then unlike most other movies where the healing power gets sped up he instead spends the rest of the film in a cast, which is more realistic. The scene where he gets shot in the foot a second time and blood spews out of the cast until Sigourney stops it up with a cork is the film’s best moment.

Hines on the other hand is quite likable and his convergence to Christianity is funny and should’ve been played-up more. The scene where he gets into a confrontation with a Latino couple after a car accident is amusing, but having him suddenly go rogue at the end makes little sense and is kind of stupid.

Weaver, who doesn’t have any significant presence until almost 45 minutes in, is wasted and there’s no way that anyone as beautiful as her would marry a chump like Wallace Shawn, which makes the casting here quite nebulous. Vince Edwards, famous for starring in the 60’s medical drama ‘Ben Casey’, gets a surprisingly large role as a Luckup executive and I can only guess that this was because of his longtime friendship with director William Friedkin as otherwise by the 80’s he was way past his and largely forgotten.

There are some humorous bits here and there, but overall the pacing is poor and quite jumbled. Friedkin, better known for his dark dramas and horror films, looks way out of his league and when compared to other Hollywood comedies this thing lacks finesse. The special effects are also really tacky, which ultimately sends this to a schlock level and becomes an embarrassment to all those who were involved.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: November 4, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: William Friedkin

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, YouTube

Micki & Maude (1984)

micki and maude

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two women get pregnant

Rob (Dudley Moore) is a man who becomes increasingly isolated from his wife Micki (Ann Reinking) after she gets too caught up in her career to have time for him. To compensate he begins an affair with an attractive younger woman named Maude (Amy Irving). He plans on divorcing his wife and marrying her, but then they both become pregnant at the same time.

The plot progresses much too slowly and it takes almost fifty minutes before there is any real comedy. It seems hard to believe that a man, by his own admission, could spend ten hours a day with one woman another ten with the other and still be able to hold down a full time job without it all unraveling on him a lot sooner than it does. Moore also doesn’t play the part in a realistic way he should be more stressed out and frantic and on the verge of a complete mental and physical breakdown, but instead he seems very cool and collected most of the time. The script also doesn’t capitalize enough on the many crazy complications that would most assuredly ensue in a situation like this one and the ones it does bring up are not real believable or funny. The climactic delivery room scene becomes way too overblown.

On the positive end Ann Reinking clearly comes off as the better actress than her counterpart, at least in this production. Her character has some amusing flaws while Irving is just too boringly normal. Her only good moment comes with an amusing line that she says during the delivery room scene. Richard Mulligan is good in support and some of his lines are real gems! There is also a completely unexpected and very funny scene between overweight actress Lu Leonard and Wallace Shawn that may very well be the best moment in the whole movie.

The concept is good and it should have been ripe for hilarity, but it doesn’t live up to its full potential. If there is one film that should be remade it is this one. There is a lot more comedy that could be squeezed out of a storyline like this one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Blake Edwards

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

my dinner with andre

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Talking can be interesting.

 
Rare is a film that can be categorized as being daring by what it doesn’t do than by what it does yet this is a film that fits that instance. This is a story about two old friends (Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory) who meet at a fancy restaurant and have a long, pleasant conversation. That’s it. No big revelations, no cutaways, no side story, no fights, no jokes, and certainly no added cinematic effects. The men merely have the same type of conversation that two educated men on the same intellectual level might also have. Then after two hours they call it a night and go home.

Does this mean that this is a poor or boring movie? No, not really. Sometimes the best directing is just the guts to stick with a concept that is unusual. That is what Louis Malle does here and you have to give him credit. On its own simple terms it actually does succeed. One’s mind certainly does wander at times, but somehow you never lose complete interest. The simple framing and editing are actually effective.

The two stars are competent for what they are doing yet they do not seem to be the best of actors. At times they seem to be simply mouthing their lines and there is no nuance in their delivery. Gregory has a nice deep, resonate voice that almost seems like a radio announcers. He does most of the talking so at least he is pleasant to the ears. Shawn is the exact opposite. His voice is screechy and annoying. Yet he does supply an engaging voice-over narrative at the beginning, which is so fun you wished they had kept it going throughout.

The idea of following a real, genuine conversation is a good one. Sometimes it is interesting to observe all the threads a conversation between any group of people takes. However the conversation here isn’t real. It is clearly scripted out and that hurts it. The first hour is especially poor. It consists mainly of Gregory talking about some wild, fantastical experiences of his. It comes-of as forced and extended. Having some cutaways throughout his talking would have helped because a lot of what he talks about is very visual.

The second hour is better because Shawn gets more involved and they have a real discussion. The topics are more expansive and philosophical. They range from how one perceives reality to the very essence of our being. Of course anyone with some existential friends could have the same conversation, but at least it makes the film more stimulating.

In the end this is an interesting experiment that halfway succeeds. It would have helped had the two men, who seem to be playing themselves anyway, been allowed to have a more natural and impromptu discussion. Even adding a few more people into the mix wouldn’t have hurt. They could have also given it just a little bit more of a visual flair. Although watching the very good way that they listen to one another is a sight in itself. Their listening skills are so good that it almost seems unreal. It is unfortunate that everyone can’t have these same types of skills

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 11, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Louis Malle

Studio: New Yorker Films

Available: VHS, DVD (The Criterion Collection), Amazon Instant Video

Nice Girls Don’t Explode (1987)



By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love meets spontaeous combustion.

April Flowers (Michelle Meyrink) has a serious problem. Whenever she goes out on a date with a guy and gets even the slightest bit aroused by him she starts inadvertently setting off fires. Smoke comes popping out of nowhere and before her dates know what is happening their clothes are on fire or worse her date’s fancy cars. April is always sure to bring along protection and in this case that means a small fire extinguisher, but they can’t always put out all the fires that she creates. What April doesn’t know is that it is really her mother (Barbara Harris) who is setting the fires. She buys the explosive ingredients from a pyrotechnic (Wallace Shawn) secretly follows April on her dates and then at just the right moment she uses her remote control to set them off, but now April is dating Andy (William O’Leary) who is on to what the mother is doing and determined to expose her shenanigans to April.

Had this film stayed with the idea that April had some sort of ability to start these fires herself it might have worked as there are a plethora of different and interesting avenues that the story could have taken. Having the plot take the avenue that it does brings up more questions and loopholes and doesn’t really make any sense. Are we to believe that April has now grown into young adulthood and never once suspected that her mother is following her around everywhere and doing what she is doing? And what would compel a mother to torment her daughter in such a way and does she actually believe that she can go on achieving this bizarre stunt for the rest of her daughter’s life and never get caught? None of these questions get answered or even touched upon and instead we are given corny humor that becomes increasingly cartoonish as it progresses until is insulting to anyone with any resemblance of an intellect.

The movie is basically a bad example of a one-joke idea getting stretched out farther than it can or should. After the first five minutes the novelty wears off and has nowhere to go and limps along until it becomes excruciatingly boring and mindless.

Harris gives it her all and to some extent succeeds. I have always enjoyed her work no matter how bad the script, but this one really pushes it. I found it surprising why a woman who was nominated twice for the Academy Award, won several Tonys on Broadway, and was Alfred Hitchcock’s last leading lady would have to settle for this low-grade silliness simply to make a living. Unless of course screenwriter Paul Harris was in some way related to her, so she decided to do it as a favor, but that has never been confirmed.

Meyrink is appealing. She has a geeky quality, but still pretty with a good comic delivery and it is a shame that she did only one more movie after this before dropping out of the business completely. Shawn is also fun as the fire expert, but everyone else is either dull, or has no ability to act.

Someone really should have set fire to this script. Filmed on-location in Lawrence, Kansas this may be the only film in history that lists a stunt double for a cat.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: February 22, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Chuck Martinez

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS