Tag Archives: William Hurt

Broadcast News (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life in a newsroom.

Jane (Holly Hunter) is a television news producer married to her work who breaks down crying when nobody is around. She starts falling for Tom (William Hurt) the good looking new anchorman even though he does not share her same drive or integrity. Aaron (Albert Brooks) is a behind-the-scenes news writer who wishes to get more exposure in front of the camera. Secretly he is in love with Jane and envies the budding relationship that he sees starting between her and Tom, but feels virtually powerless to do anything about it.

The film marks another tour-de-force effort by writer/director James L. Brooks who hits the nail-on-the-head in just about every scene when it comes to revealing the inner workings of a local TV newsroom. I found some of the procedures that are shown including how a producer can continue to feed the anchorman things to say through an earpiece even as he is live on the air and interviewing someone to be quite fascinating. From dealing with a harsh layoff of the news division to the extremes people are willing to go to get promoted prove to be quite insightful. Even the little things are interesting like watching two musicians (Glen Roven, Marc Shaiman) trying to plug their song as the new theme to the news show, which is probably the funniest moment in the movie.

Initially I was turned off by Hunter’s strong southern twang, you would think someone who wanted to make it big in Hollywood would’ve worked harder to soften that, but she gives such a strong all-around performance that eventually I was able to overlook it. I felt though that her character was more compelling when she was fretting about her work, which seemed almost like an obsession to her. Having her chase after a guy, who she really didn’t have much in common with anyways, was far less interesting. She seemed like someone who immersed herself in her job simply to avoid social contact and the film would’ve worked better had Tom been the one doing all the chasing.

Brooks was an odd casting choice. He’s a funny comedian and has done some great satires, but not someone who is warm and likable. The movie wants us to feel sorry for his character because he is always getting passed over both professionally and romantically, but I felt the opposite way about him.  His many sarcastic lines makes him seem bitter and vindictive and the way he screams at Jane to ‘get out’ when she confides with him about her feelings for Tom made him seem downright psychotic.

Director Brooks seems to have a personal vendetta against anchormen as his productions always portray then as being dumb and shallow most notably the Ted Baxter character in the ‘70s TV-series ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’, which he also produced. In that show the character’s stupidity was clearly over exaggerated, but here Tom gets played with a believable balance as he’s is savvy enough to make up for his lack of intelligence by overcompensating on his image.

I loved how the film starts off with vignettes of the characters when they were kids and then ending it by revealing where they end up 7 years after the main story ends, but overall the plot lacks any major impact. The whole thing is just too gentile and needed another dramatic arch to give it more verve. Jack Nicholson appears unbilled as the station’s top anchor and I would’ve loved seeing him become a major player in the story as he owns every scene he is in especially the part where he enters the newsroom to offer his condolences to those who were laid-off.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1987

Runtime: 2Hours 12Minutes

Rated R

Director: James L. Brooks

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

The Big Chill (1983)

big chill

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Friends from college reunite.

When one of their friends from their college days commits suicide the other seven get together for his funeral. Alex was living the unconventional, hippie lifestyle and with his much younger girlfriend Chloe (Meg Tilly) still connected to the ideals of his college days while his other friends had ‘sold out’ and taken on the more materialistic values of the ‘80’s. Alex’s death then represents the ultimate demise of their carefree, idealistic ‘60’s existence and how much they have changed since then, which they now must all learn to come to terms with.

This film has been closely compared with Return of the Secaucus Seven, which was reviewed last week. According to writer/director Lawrence Kasdan he never saw that film or even heard of it when he did this one. I actually preferred this over the John Sayles movie. For one thing it made a little more sense. Having old friends reunite for a funeral seemed more realistic than having them come together each year like in that one as most people once they enter into adult life have a tendency to move on making new relationships and not always have time for their old ones. There’s also no magical ‘cosmic bond’ holding this group together either. Many of them have evolved more than some of the others including William Hurt’s character who is still a recreational drug user while Kevin Kline’s has taken on more of the responsible adult role and this contrast comes to an interesting head at one point.

Tilly’s performance as a young flower child personified is great because it forces the others to see how they once were, but now can no longer relate to. Don Galloway plays the older husband of Karen (JoBeth Williams) while representing the ‘50’s generation and their contempt for the counter-culture. He has an interesting scene in which he expounds on what he feels was Alex’s ‘lack of focus and responsibility’ that clearly gets on the nerves of the others and I had wished the character had remained for the duration as it his presence was brimming for a great ultimate confrontation.

The entire thing was filmed on-location in Beaufort, South Carolina apparently because of Kasdan’s love for the film The Great Santini, which had also been done there. The deep south certainly seems like an odd setting as it doesn’t reflect the ‘60’s values or lifestyle at all, but it’s scenic nonetheless especially the scene where Hurt and Kline go jogging down a deserted main street of town that has an almost surreal quality.

Scenes where shot with Kevin Costner playing Alex, but then cut, which was a mistake as the character starts to attain too much of a mythical and elusive quality and seeing some moments with him even in flashback would’ve helped create an image of an actual person for the viewer. Some of the more existential conversations that the characters having during their group discussions are superb and right on-target and help to demystify the ‘60’s experience and those that lived it, which I found refreshing since other media forums for nostalgic reasons seemed to want to perpetuate it instead. In some ways it’s a shame that the characters and story has to be so closely tied to the Baby Boom generation as it stigmatizes it as a period piece when by-and-large the experiences they have going from the college stage to the adult one are quite universal.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 30, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Studio: Columbia Pictures

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

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

Eyewitness (1981)

eyewitness

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Janitor loves news reporter.

Daryl (William Hurt) is a nighttime janitor at a large Manhattan office building. He spends his otherwise lonely existence obsessing over a local news reporter Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver) and records every news broadcast she is in and watches them each night when he gets home. Then a murder occurs in his office building and Tony covers it for her program. Daryl tries to use his inside knowledge to get closer to Tony, but is reluctant to tell her all the information he knows since he fears that it was his friend Aldo (James Woods) who committed the crime.

Hurt, who usually plays the intellectual type, does well here in the low-key role. Weaver is also excellent doing what she does best which is playing a tenacious no-nonsense woman who can take care of herself. My favorite part with her is when she is accosted by a couple of men with guns, but doesn’t scream, keeps her composure, and manages to get away.

The romantic angle is the film’s strong point. Tony’s on-camera interview with Daryl when she tries to get more information out of him, but he instead gushes about his undying love for her is funny. It is refreshing that when Daryl tells Tony about how he obsesses over her she doesn’t freak out and consider him a stalker, but instead is charmed by it. The two use each other for their own purposes, but the viewer is giving the impression that these are genuinely nice people who just have very contrasting personalities and approaches, which is what makes the budding relationship interesting. However, having them go to bed together and confirm their affections for each other seemed anti-climactic as it was more intriguing wondering if Tony really was starting to have feelings for Daryl, or just using him to get information and the film should have stayed at this level until the very end.

The mystery portion gets lost in the shuffle. The film is slow with very little tension. There are a few good action moments, but there needed to be more. The scene where Daryl almost gets crushed in a trash compactor had definite potential, but needed to be played-out longer. The part where he and Tony are attacked by a dog is very intense, but the climatic sequence where Daryl is chased by the killer through some horse stalls is certainly slick and well-shot, but it comes too late and I had already become bored and detached with it. The identity of the killer was a definite surprise, but it is also a bit preposterous and a little too convenient in the way it somehow manages to tie all the characters into it especially Tony.

Director Peter Yates does some excellent on-location shooting of New York City especially with the crowded streets and neighborhoods as well as Central Park, but the musical score is sparse and lacking. There is a pleasing jazzy score near the beginning that has a nice easy going beat to it, but then outside of a few tense moments there is nothing. This creates a film that is too quiet. Adding an urgent score could’ve helped make it more compelling, or at the very least given it more energy and personality.

There are a lot of familiar faces in supporting roles, but the majority of them are wasted. Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill as the police investigators who banter endlessly
with each other are dull and useless. Kenneth McMillan as Daryl’s handicapped father is dynamic, but pointless to the story as a whole. Christopher Plummer is always reliable, but he has done better. James Woods is good because he is a master at playing unhinged characters and I liked the casting of Irene Worth as Tony’s mother simply because she looked almost exactly like what Sigourney would end up looking when she reaches that age. This is also a great chance to see Pamela Reed in an early role as Daryl’s fiancée.

The film ends up biting off more than it can chew and the idea of mixing a cutesy romance with a murder mystery doesn’t gel and leaves a sterile effect in both areas.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 13, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Yates

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Netflix streaming