Dennis Quaid

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009, Stephen Sommers)

It doesn’t surprise me there are people out there who like G.I. Joe. Not to be negative, but people are, by and large, not very intelligent. What surprises me is anyone who thought they were making a competent action picture. You’d think the success of Van Helsing would keep Sommers away from franchises or potential franchises, but Paramount’s apparently desperate.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything good about G.I. Joe. It does use a T.Rex song to some good effect, sadly it’s a remixed version. The original portions of the song are good. Marlon Wayans, though he’s vomiting out some horrendous dialogue, is all right. Christopher Eccleston gives the least bad bad performance.

As for the bad performances–Channing Tatum is awful. I hope he’s never in anything I see again. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s presence is inexplicable and, as much as I love him, certainly doesn’t suggest he’s going to be making very many good movies in the future. Sienna Miller is bad but not awful–Rachel Nichols is much, much worse, for example.

The foreign actors–Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and poor Saïd Taghmaoui–are terrible.

For a supposedly apolitical film, the French take a lot of hits. Mostly, it’s just Sommers regurgitating other films–Iron Man, Blackhawk Down, Star Wars–only with crappy CG again and poorly done action sequences.

The toy commercials had better action and better writing. Probably better acting too.

Wait, Arnold Vosloo is all right.

I didn’t even mention the music.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Sommers; screenplay by Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett, based on a story by Michael Gordon, Beattie and Sommers; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Bob Ducsay and Jim May; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Ed Verreaux; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ducsay and Sommers; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Heavy Duty), Christopher Eccleston (McCullen), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Rex), Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow), Sienna Miller (Ana), Rachel Nichols (Scarlett), Kevin J. O’Connor (Dr. Mindbender), Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Dennis Quaid (General Hawk), Saïd Taghmaoui (Breaker), Channing Tatum (Duke), Arnold Vosloo (Zartan), Marlon Wayans (Ripcord) and Jonathan Pryce as the President of the United States.


Horsemen (2009, Jonas Åkerlund)

Horsemen went direct-to-video with Dennis Quaid and Zhang Ziyi. It’s surprising because it’s a Platinum Dunes production–the guys who remade Friday the 13th; I thought Michael Bay would have a firmer distribution deal.

The director, Jonas Åkerlund, is fine. With a better script, he might have made a better movie.

Horsemen would have been more successful as a TV pilot. It’s decently paced at its ninety minutes. Things start to fall apart halfway through as the dynamic changes occur. Quaid and Zhang–with Zhang as Hannibal Lecter–facing off is a disaster. Zhang’s terrible once the character changes.

The script’s incompetent but it does pace the film with the scenes–almost–in vignettes. There’s a good, short sequence with Patrick Fugit. Fugit’s good. Paul Dooley shows up for a little while and he and Quaid have a Breaking Away reunion (though I can’t remember if they had any scenes together in that film).

Peter Stormare’s awful enough to make one forget he’s ever been good.

It’s a dumb family drama with Quaid and his two sons. Quaid’s not really good, but he’s not terrible. Clifton Collins Jr. is great. One of the more interesting things in the film are he and Quaid’s hairstyles. They both have these late seventies cop movie hairstyles.

A lot of the film relies on Lou Taylor Pucci, as Quaid’s older son. He’s not bad, just ineffectual. Fugit would have been a better choice.

I was expecting to turn it off but didn’t.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund; written by Dave Callaham; director of photography, Eric Broms; edited by Jim May and Todd E. Miller; music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek; production designer, Sandy Cochrane; produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Aidan Breslin), Zhang Ziyi (Kristen), Lou Taylor Pucci (Alex Breslin), Clifton Collins Jr. (Stingray), Barry Shabaka Henley (Tuck), Patrick Fugit (Corey), Eric Balfour (Taylor), Paul Dooley (Father Whiteleather), Liam James (Sean Breslin), Chelcie Ross (Police Chief Krupa) and Peter Stormare (David Spitz).


In Good Company (2004, Chris Weitz)

At its best, In Good Company is never very good–the soundtrack is one of the worst I can remember–but Chris Weitz’s ineptitude is something to behold. His plot is predictable, his characters are boring, and everything feels like it’s been done before. I mean, who would have thought Dennis Quaid would have found out his job was in jeopardy the same day his wife announced–even though they thought she was post-menopause–she was pregnant again? (And I won’t even get into Weitz’s problems establishing the size of Quaid’s family or non-principal character names).

And Weitz’s idea of innovative scenes–panning back and forth over various people getting fired–has been a film standard since the 1930s and maybe earlier.

Oh, the innovation is the terrible music.

But what makes In Good Company watchable–and occasionally good–is Weitz’s unwavering attempt at making a moderately budgeted studio picture aimed at being a sleeper hit. As an attempt at that genre, it reminds of better films and better filmmaking. There’s no reason Topher Grace should be bad in the movie–in fact he’s pretty good–except Weitz’s hollow writing. Weitz isn’t even a bad director–he’s rather serviceable, though it’s sad to see–embarrassing, really–a director use “Salsbury Hill,” and poorly, so soon after Vanilla Sky. But given the rest of the soundtrack, it isn’t a surprise.

The problem’s with too much content and not enough development. There’s a movie in Quaid and Marg Helgenberger having another kid late in life (Helgenberger’s in it so little, I don’t even think she has a conversation with either of the daughters), there’s a movie about Quaid schooling his up-and-coming (but emotionally devastated due to absent father and disinterested mother household) younger boss, there’s even a movie about the successful, recently divorced twenty-six year-old who falls for his college freshman girlfriend (but she’s not ready for it). With a limited cast of characters, I’d say all of those stories are mutually exclusive. Too much gets sacrificed or contrived to make them fit together.

Scarlett Johansson, who’s proved she can play this kind of character in Scoop, obviously needs some direction. David Paymer’s got an okay, if unspectacular small role, as does Philip Baker Hall. Clark Gregg, as the corporate climber, fails.

The other failing aspect of In Good Company is the unreality it exists in. There are constant lay-offs and firings, but severance packages are never discussed.

The ending to the film is really quite dreadful, enough I wanted In Good Company to be worse. It’s bad, cheap, predictable and soulless. But it’s competently produced (if poorly written).

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Paul Weitz; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Myron I. Kerstein; music by Damien Rice and Stephen Trask; production designer, William Arnold; produced by Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Dan Foreman), Topher Grace (Carter Duryea), Scarlett Johansson (Alex Foreman), Marg Helgenberger (Ann Foreman), David Paymer (Morty Wexler), Clark Gregg (Mark Steckle), Philip Baker Hall (Eugene Kalb), Selma Blair (Kimberly), Frankie Faison (Corwin) and Ty Burrell (Enrique Colon).


Smart People (2008, Noam Murro)

It’s hard to intelligently describe Smart People because the best way to describe it is quite simple. It’s a bunch of movie trailers for quirky family dramatic comedies strung together. Not five minutes goes by without two montages to songs (I’m shocked the soundtrack CD wasn’t available in the lobby) and one instrumental. There are no scenes in the whole movie, just snippets. Half scenes, missing their beginning and ending.

I thought, at the beginning, director Murro was just doing a–by now, very familiar–indie introduction to his characters with the montages. He wasn’t. He was just making the movie. Murro is a bad director, but in interesting ways at least. He doesn’t do establishing shots, he doesn’t understand headroom, nor does he account for interior dimensions. If it weren’t for one interesting shot (Dennis Quaid turning and pointing left while on the right side of a Panavision frame), I’d call him all together atrocious.

As for the writer, I really can’t tell. It’s possible Mark Poirier wrote a decent movie and it got cut to shreds in post-production. Or maybe he did write this one, which Murro ruined. Same script, all instrumental–well-scored–sometimes drowning out dialogue and fifteen or twenty minutes shorter, Smart People would have really been a quirky movie, instead of a packaged attempt at an indie crossover success.

And it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers aren’t very smart themselves. It’s in their handling of the material and, after some amusing scenes, it gets mildly offensive. But then–and here’s where I’ll shock myself typing it–Sarah Jessica Parker shows up. She gives the best performance in the film. Had the movie been about her–like it was for ten or fifteen minutes of montages (so figure around forty-five montages)–and the weird family she encounters, it would have been a screwy “Addams Family” knockoff. But it isn’t. Her performance, however, is excellent.

Second best is Thomas Haden Church, because he’s a supporting character and the fact the script doesn’t give him a character doesn’t matter so much. It really hurts Dennis Quaid, who–at times–can be seen to be acting, but to no real purpose. He and Parker have some chemistry though.

Ellen Page is one-note. Look, she’s an acerbic bitch. Ha. Funny. Not at all impressive by her.

Unfortunately, the movie manages to get worse as it closes, since it dismisses three of its four plot threads. It doesn’t forget them, it just makes them all better so the movie can end. Wait, no. Four of five, I forgot the last scene.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Noam Murro; written by Mark Poirier; director of photography, Toby Irwin; edited by Robert Frazen and Yana Gorskaya; music by Nuno Bettencourt; production designer, Patti Podesta; produced by Bridget Johnson, Michael Costigan, Michael London and Bruna Papandrea; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Lawrence), Sarah Jessica Parker (Janet), Thomas Haden Church (Chuck), Ellen Page (Vanessa), Ashton Holmes (James), Christine Lahti (Nancy), David Denman (William) and Camille Mana (Missy).


Flesh and Bone (1993, Steve Kloves)

Dennis Quaid’s performance in Flesh and Bone is complicated. The character, the hints the film offers into him, is more complicated, but Quaid’s performance somehow encapsulates all those unknowns without defining them. The film has some really strange touching scenes, as Quaid’s character lets down the wall long enough to express himself. And the anguish at not being wooden to everyone plays beautifully on Quaid’s face. I don’t think I’ve ever used wooden as a compliment to a performance before, but here it’s essential. The film wouldn’t make any sense if Quaid were any different.

The surprising performance–it’s no surprise Quaid is good–is Meg Ryan. The kewpie doll almost, but not quite, broken by life’s hardships. Ryan’s great during the “salad days” scenes and the almost comic scenes (Kloves knows how to mix genre), but she’s better during the other scenes. The scenes where she isn’t cute and she especially pulls off the odyssey scene. It’s hard to explain that scene. She walks across endless cornfields, empty of anything else, but full of everything unsaid in her character’s past. It’s a stunning sequence (ably assisted by Kloves and the sound designer and composer Thomas Newman).

As for Gwyneth Paltrow and James Caan… both are fantastic. Caan has one of those beautiful roles–he gets do whatever he wants, but it’s also very grounded and terrifying. Paltrow’s performance suggests dramatic potential she’s never realized.

Kloves’s script and direction are perfect. The script is something singular in its plotting. He gently brings the character relationships to new levels, subtlety, almost with a hands off approach. With the romance between Quaid and Ryan, it makes sense, since their husband and wife status does something for the film. But the odd relationship between Ryan and Paltrow… it’s more impressive. Kloves’s handling of female characters–there are the two main ones, one minor one, and one even more minor–is perfect.

I was a little apprehensive about the film. I haven’t seen it in nine years and it runs over two hours and I remembered it being boring. It’s not boring, not even in a good way. Nothing happens–Kloves’s gimmick, if it qualifies–isn’t an issue for the majority of the film so it’s not getting in the way. It’s a character study with the possibility and ingredients for sensationalism and it never strays. It’s always perfect. Especially given the short present action (four days or so) of the film. It’s exceptional.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Steve Kloves; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Mia Goldman; music by Thomas Newman; production designer, Jon Hutman; produced by Mark Rosenberg and Paula Weinstein; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Arlis Sweeney), Meg Ryan (Kay Davies), James Caan (Roy Sweeney), Gwyneth Paltrow (Ginnie), Jerry Swindall (Young Arlis), Scott Wilson (Elliot) and Christopher Rydell (Reese Davies).


All Night Long (1981, Jean-Claude Tramont)

There’s a certain tragedy about All Night Long. Not the film’s story or anything, but the film itself. It’s a debacle–Barbara Streisand is unbelievably terrible and the cuts made to the film (twenty minutes) significantly damage it–a painful to watch debacle. It’s such a chore to get through, I can’t imagine trying to watch it in the theater. IMDb’s trivia section is no help–Lisa Eichhorn, who’s excellent, was originally in Streisand’s role.

The tragedy aspect is Gene Hackman. It’s an amazing performance. Hackman’s performance is so good, it conquers the bad plotting, uninspired direction and annoying score. It just can’t beat Streisand. The funniest scenes–unintentionally–are the ones with Hackman acting well and Streisand acting horribly. One half of the screen is a good movie, the other half is All Night Long.

Further problems stem from the screenplay’s lack of emphasis on Hackman’s relationship with son Dennis Quaid. The two are fantastic together, something apparently the director didn’t realize when shooting the film. Diane Ladd’s also good (as the wife Hackman leaves for Streisand), but Kevin Dobson (as Streisand’s husband) leaves a lot to be desired once the plot requires anything from him.

Richter sets the film up as a comedy–it’s a real precursor to American Beauty–with Hackman managing an all-night pharmacy after losing his office job. Way too little time is spent in the pharmacy though, even though the film populates with odd-ball characters and appealing ones too. Once Hackman leaves, around halfway through, the rest of the film becomes the back and forth of pursuing Streisand.

Something about the script suggests a real lack of maturity (though Richter was thirty-six), particularly in the way all the good guys get a happy ending. The real problems the characters experience are never addressed. Hackman walks out on his wife of seventeen years immediately, though the film never shows any particular problems with their marriage, except her wanting him to apologize to his old boss and he doesn’t want to do it. It’s sloppy writing, sloppy editing and so forth. Director Tramont did very little else–maybe theatrical audiences couldn’t sit through it, no shock–and, as the film ended, I thought about who would have done a better job of directing it. Practically anyone is the obvious and glib answer… but also maybe the right one. Still, it sounds like (from the IMDb trivia page) the producers really wanted Streisand and she’s the overriding problem with the film.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jean-Claude Tramont; written by W.D. Richter; director of photography, Philip H. Lathrop; edited by Rachel Igel and Marion Rothman; music by Richard Hazard, Ira Newborn and José Padilla; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Leonard Goldberg and Jerry Weintraub; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Gene Hackman (George Dupler), Barbra Streisand (Cheryl Gibbons), Diane Ladd (Helen Dupler), Dennis Quaid (Freddie Dupler), Kevin Dobson (Bobby Gibbons) and William Daniels (Richard H. Copleston).


Switchback (1997, Jeb Stuart)

I’m having a hard time understanding certain aspects of Switchback. Primarily, Dennis Quaid’s terrible performance. I’m wondering if Jeb Stuart instructed him to imitate a log or if it was just Quaid’s read on the character. To be fair (to Stuart, not to Quaid), the character is a pretend protagonist. Stuart’s more interested in his Texas county sheriff election or the men working the railroad than he is in his main characters. Switchback has four main characters–Quaid, Danny Glover, Jared Leto and R. Lee Ermey. In many ways, even though it’s part of the 1990s serial killer boom (ruined by Dino De Laurentiis turning Hannibal Lector into a superhero–I’m using ‘ruined’ lightly), it’s a 1970s road movie.

I mean, Stuart is so interested in Ermey’s election and Glover’s railroad stories, Quaid’s renegade FBI agent and Leto’s medical school dropout are essentially ignored. Both characters get speeches to other characters (big shock, Glover and Ermey) and I suppose one could read a juxtapose between the two duets (Quaid and Ermey, Leto and Glover). I hesitate to even suggest Stuart was going for it–past his somewhat neat plotting, his ambitions seem to run very low–except there is a lot of careful attention played to the changes in the killer’s behavior, his motives and his general cognitive reasoning. It’s real interesting stuff because Stuart plays it so casual.

Glover’s great, Ermey’s good, Ted Levine’s great–Leto’s better than I expected but probably because Quaid is worse than I could have imagined.

A big feature of the film, which was originally called Going West in America, is the lack of women. In fact, the film could be called… Men Without Women. The women in the film are either victims, secretaries or unheard voices on telephones (who are absolutely supportive of their rogue FBI agent husbands). Stuart’s just fascinated by these men who work only with men, who rely only on other men… and he seems somewhat aware of it, as there’s a scene with a waitress wondering why Leto’s so weird around her.

There might be something in Leto’s missing back-story about it.

But Switchback isn’t terrible–the election stuff is somewhat engaging and Glover carries his scenes wonderfully. He’s having a lot of fun. Stuart is not a bad director–he seems a wee bit uncomfortable with a Panavision frame however–and his composition and setting go a long way toward that 1970s feel….

Even if the whole thing feels like a movie Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford would have made.

And the end, surprisingly, is rather effective, even though it leaves lots unresolved and there’s an unbelievable character there–and a rather significant one missing (is that obscure enough–I mean, it is a serial killer movie).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jeb Stuart; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Conrad Buff; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Jeff Howard; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Danny Glover (Bob Goodall), Dennis Quaid (Frank LaCrosse), Jared Leto (Lane Dixon), R. Lee Ermey (Sheriff Buck Olmstead), Ted Levine (Nate), William Fichtner (McGinnis) and Leo Burmester (Shorty).


Wyatt Earp (1994, Lawrence Kasdan), the expanded edition

Thirty-nine years old when Wyatt Earp was released, all Kevin Costner needed to do to de-age himself twenty years was smile. During the young Earp days, Costner looks younger than costar Annabeth Gish, not to mention Linden Ashby (playing his younger brother).

The extended version of Wyatt Earp clocks in at three and a half hours. It’s not available on DVD, which is a shame, since it’s the only way to watch the film. Wyatt Earp is a tragedy, spending an hour setting up the character as an affable, hopeful (and a little simple) young man, then destroys him. If he weren’t destroyed, of course, he wouldn’t be much of a main character but I’d forgotten how affecting his destruction is to watch. The film is unique in its lack of acts–first, second and third–it follows the character from youth and, while it must skip some boring parts, contains little in the way of rising action. For example, there’s every indication Joanna Going is going to be as insignificant to the film overall as Téa Leoni. In fact, Leoni’s got more potential as a romantic interest than Going.

The romance between Costner and Going, the emotional reconstruction of his character, is one of the more singular things about the film, as is the friendship with Dennis Quaid’s Doc Holliday. For the first hour and a half, the strong emphasis on the Earp brothers (for someone who constantly derides the film, Michael Madsen has never been as good as he is in this film). The scenes with the brothers rarely allow for emotion in the first half (family being pre-decided) but the relationship with Holliday allows for not just wonderful scenes, but also a striking rumination on friendship.

Those scenes, the romantic ones and the friendship ones, allow Costner to act. After the first hour, he quickly becomes the uncompromising Wyatt Earp of legend. Only Going and Quaid provide an outlet for the emotion left behind. Except for when the film makes its big final change–the film goes through three major moods, which I guess could be used to mark act changes, but not really–and these moods are marked gradually. They’re the sum of what’s come before in the story… the last one is the best, because it allows Costner to visualize it for the audience, something the first one doesn’t provide.

Before I forget–a major aspect of Wyatt Earp is its condemnation of the West and its settlers. Not just the Indians, which is only barely suggested–the contrast between the scenes in civilized Missouri, the untouched West and the “settled” West are striking. It’s a lot like High Noon in its portrayal of (the majority) of the townspeople throughout.

The acting is uniformly excellent, though I suppose Quaid gives the best performance. I’d sort of forgotten he was going to be in it, since he doesn’t show up for an hour and twenty and then he has his first scene and I remembered what an exceptional performance he gives. Gene Hackman is the Earp family father for the first hour and he’s good (his performance might be what makes Costner’s as a twenty-two year-old more work). Like I said, Michael Madsen’s actually good for once and Linden Ashby’s great. JoBeth Williams, David Andrews and Lewis Smith all have some good scenes. Bill Pullman too. But I really could just list the majority of the cast, all of them have good scenes.

Kasdan’s direction is fantastic, both in the scenes between characters and the more epical, Western-type shots. Wyatt Earp is one of the last biopics I’ve seen–the genre seems to have petered out, but maybe I’ve just stopped seeing them because they all look terrible or something. Most are terrible, but there are some great films like this one. Still, even the good ones are often simple, and Wyatt Earp is exceptionally complex.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan; written by Dan Gordon and Kasdan; director of photography, Owen Roizman; edited by Carol Littleton; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Ida Random; produced by Jim Wilson, Kevin Costner and Kasdan; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Costner (Wyatt Earp), Dennis Quaid (Doc Holliday), Gene Hackman (Nicholas Earp), David Andrews (James Earp), Linden Ashby (Morgan Earp), Jeff Fahey (Ike Clanton), Joanna Going (Josie Marcus), Mark Harmon (Johnny Behan), Michael Madsen (Virgil Earp), Catherine O’Hara (Allie Earp), Bill Pullman (Ed Masterson), Isabella Rossellini (Big Nose Kate), Tom Sizemore (Bat Masterson), JoBeth Williams (Bessie Earp), Mare Winningham (Mattie Blaylock), James Gammon (Mr. Sutherland), Rex Linn (Frank McLaury), Randle Mell (John Clum), Annabeth Gish (Urilla Sutherland), Lewis Smith (Curly Bill Brocius), Betty Buckley (Virginia Earp), Alison Elliott (Lou Earp), Todd Allen (Sherm McMasters), Mackenzie Astin (Young Man on Boat), Jim Caviezel (Warren Earp), Karen Grassle (Mrs. Sutherland), John Dennis Johnston (Frank Stillwell), Téa Leoni (Sally), Martin Kove (Ed Ross), Kirk Fox (Pete Spence), Boots Southerland (Marshall White), Scotty Augare (Indian Charlie), Gabriel Folse (Billy Clanton), John Lawlor (Judge Spicer), Michael McGrady (John Shanssey), Mary Jo Niedzielski (Martha Earp) and Ian Bohen (Young Wyatt).


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