Linda Hamilton

Frasier (1993) s01e01 – The Good Son

When it comes to the multi-cam sitcom, I can’t imagine a more efficient, effective pilot than “Frasier”’s The Good Son. David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee’s script is perfectly constructed, showcasing the cast while maintaining the focus on lead Kelsey Grammer. Since it’s a spin-off of a long-running sitcom, Grammer is the audience’s linchpin. The episode gets his setup out of the way immediately. It opens with a chapter title card, establishing that series standard, then we’ve got Grammer on the radio, Frasier Crane’ing it up with Peri Gilpin watching from the booth (and, thanks to director James Burrows and Gilpin, establishing the show’s narrative distance). Grammer monologues about the changes in his life in the last six months and what he’s been up to since “Cheers” ended.

And then it’s done. We’re all on the same page as Grammer now, so when we meet Niles (David Hyde Pierce) the next scene, the show’s stopped being a spin-off of “Cheers” and instead a spin-off for Grammer. One where he’s going to have some amazing costars; Gilpin’s fun in her first scene, especially reviewing Grammer’s performance, but nothing can compare to Hyde Pierce. When he starts cleaning his chair in the coffee shop, with Grammer looking on in awe (establishing the pecking order as far as eccentricities go), it’s immediate magic. The Good Son is the pilot exemplar because everything works just right. You want to see more of Hyde Pierce, you can’t wait to see more of Hyde Pierce. When you hear about wife Maris, you can’t wait to meet her.

The Niles and Frasier scene is to move dad Martin (John Mahoney) in with Frasier. It’s the setup for the series itself. “Cheers” stuff not directly related to Frasier is done; there’s at least one great Lilith joke—“We Crane boys sure know how to marry,” which also gives the audience some insight into Maris because very smart scripting.

The Mahoney moving in scene delivers some more great Hyde Pierce, gleeful as he’s able to shove irate working class pop Mahoney off on Grammer. The chair arrival—Mahoney’s eye-sore of a lounge chair ruining Grammer’s pristinely pretentious decoration—is perfect sequence. And then Eddie. It’s concerning how good Grammer is at hating an adorable dog.

But getting Mahoney into Frasier’s apartment and the promise of the pretentious fop vs. regular Joe dad isn’t all for the episode because it’s not all for the show. There’s a great monologue for Gilpin—recounting the Hollywood Babylon version of Lupe Vélez’s suicide—where the show establishes the kind of laughs it’s going for, ones you have to listen for, wait for, and even then the laughs aren’t at the initial “punchlines” but in the cast reactions. And there’s some more with Hyde Pierce, another Maris joke or two. But most importantly there’s also Jane Leeves.

Leeves is applying to be Mahoney’s home healthcare worker. Her not taking Grammer’s shit is just what Mahoney wants and her introduction, with the hot and cold physic readings and the “hand in the biscuit tin” attitude… you can’t wait to see more of Leeves with the Crane boys.

Because Mahoney and Grammer are incredibly unpleasant together. The episode has a nice resolution and setup for their initial conflict but… they’re going to need a tempering influence.

And the end credits sequence, set to Grammer singing the show out, perfectly establishes it.

Celebrity callers this episode are Linda Hamilton and Griffin Dunne, neither of whom I recognized, but they get credited so you’re staying through the end and seeing them is a nice detail. (And Gina Ravera, who was very familiar looking on “The Closer” a decade plus later, plays one of the baristas who has to deal with the Cranes).

So, summed up—it’s not just an exceptionally good pilot for a sitcom, it’s an exceptionally good episode of a sitcom.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019, Tim Miller)

Terminator: Dark Fate is the fourth irrelevant Terminator 2 sequel. It’s not the worst of them, it’s not the best of them. But the poor rights owners just can’t seem to figure out how to franchise and Arnold Schwarzenegger just can’t say no. If there’s a Terminator 7 in a couple years… Arnold will be in it if they ask him. It’s not so much he’s shameless, though he’s obviously shameless, it’s about perspective. From Arnold’s perspective, Dark Fate might work. He’s funny in it. Not sure if he’s good. Not sure if Dark Fate would know what to do with actual acting, though there are hints at it occasionally. Well, in the first act. Other than Gabriel Luna doing a really good evil Terminator, none of the performances are really impressive in anyway. Many could be worse.

Even Linda Hamilton’s, even if I can’t imagine how. Not as a dig, just her obvious discomfort acting in the film and the clearly zero direction from Miller—who’s just does a really bad job; full stop, Dark Fate is stupid, but if Miller’s direction were better, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad.

Hamilton gets all these terribly written speeches—David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray do some putrid work (outside the opening in Mexico with Natalia Reyes, brother Diego Boneta, and their sick father, Enrique Arce, which is forced but at least there’s some effort involved)—and she can’t deliver them, partially because Miller can’t figure out how to compose the shot or pace the scene, much less block her. Watching Dark Fate—when it’s not over-homaging previous entries; the sequel slash relaunch slash reboot is positively bored as it rehashes something previously rehashed in three of the previous Terminator 3s. Dark Fate, technically, is rather disappointing. Miller’s bad, sure, but Ken Seng’s photography clashes on all the CG composite shots, making Dark Fate feel even more obviously over-produced. Hero Terminator (or Hero Terminator stand-in) Mackenzie Davis fights at high speed, so does Luna. Dark Fate leans in all the way with the CGI-assisted fight scenes, even though they’ve got no resonance, narrative or emotional. The script spreads out the reveals about the new doomed future—while it feels almost like they’re begging for a Matrix tie-in, it looks exactly like Edge of Tomorrow; Dark Fate’s nothing if not original. But the future stuff’s dumb and obvious. The way they get Hamilton back is stupid and sensational and then never pays off because she’s not good. Like, she’s bad. They needed to do something about the performance. It makes the movie seem desperate in additional to obvious in additional to silly. Dark Fate feels more thrown together than rushed.

What else… oh, Arnold. He’s fun. He’s funny. For about fifteen seconds as they homage Hamilton not being about to play well with others in Terminator 2, you can appreciate how well Arnold works with other actors, contrasting his megastar days. He’s comfortable sitting and playing out a scene with emotion. It’s a nice thing to see. Even if it took decades and the movie isn’t any good.

One funny thing about Dark Fate is how bad it tries to feign woke and gin up some controversy. There’s a whole thing about the Border Patrol, getting snuck in from Mexico, how “Thank You For Your Service” is a dangerous platitude, not to mention the movie having a nice working class Mexican family as protagonists and the first act mostly in Spanish with subtitles. Dark Fate, in all the wrong ways, tries to… I don’t know, strut. It tries to distinguish itself. Actually, thinking about the screenwriters… did they bring in Billy Ray to politicize it a little lefty. Though nothing about Dark Fate suggests anyone involved with the film at any stage of production actually focus tested the film. Dark Fate is very sure of itself, it’s very committed to itself, to its twists and its turns and its terrible third act.

It’s a bummer. Definite bummer. Definite, desperate bummer.

Worse served are Davis and Reyes, who could’ve had—if not a franchise—a good buddy flick. Then maybe Luna, who’s actually good but it makes absolutely no different. Then Arnold, who showed up ready to work and no one put him to work. And, finally, Hamilton, who didn’t need her career-defining role, no question about it, tarnished in such a blah effort.

Poorly plotted script and so on. It’s clearly an ill-advised production, but it could’ve been a far more entertaining and competent one with a different script but mostly a different director. Miller hasn’t got a single good instinct. The way he fades the expository talking head scenes is bewildering. He doesn’t want the movie to show the actors acting. Though

I mean, after all, there’s no Dark Fate but what we make for ourselves.

And the Junkie XL score is godawful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Miller; screenplay by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray, based on a story by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, Goyer, and Rhodes and characters created by Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd; director of photography, Ken Seng; edited by Julian Clarke; music by Junkie XL; production designer, Sonja Klaus; costume designer, Ngila Dickson; produced by Cameron and David Ellison; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mackenzie Davis (Grace), Natalia Reyes (Dani), Linda Hamilton (Sarah), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Carl), Gabriel Luna (Gabriel), Diego Boneta (Diego), and Enrique Arce (Vicente).


Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, James Cameron)

Director James Cameron opens Terminator 2: Judgment Day with a couple things the audience has to think about when watching the film and isn’t going to see or hear again for a while, so they need to have it in mind to recall it later. Because Terminator 2 is an amazing kind of sequel to the original–it’s calculated but to get its characters (and the audience) to certain places. Only there’s only one character from the first movie in it–Linda Hamilton–but there’s two actors back.

Anyway, the opening is a future apocalypse prologue with Hamilton narrating. Her narration is important later on, but only after a number of things happen, both in the plotting and the character development. You have to think back on it opening the film, which has a lot of emphasis on the Terminator robots, sans Arnold suits. Cameron invites comparisons to the original, he requests them of the audience. It’s bold and seemingly pointless; the first half of the movie has almost nothing to do with Hamilton. It’s Edward Furlong’s movie. Cameron has an excellent tone–he’s got this pre-teen lead who needs to do teen things but also be reduced to damsel in distress because he’s a kid after all. Terminator 2 always wants to emphasize the danger. Cameron’s never specific about how it’s directed at Furlong, but it really is just a movie about this crazy metal killing machine who looks like a cop trying to kill a little kid. Robert Patrick is fantastic as the bad Terminator.

But everyone’s generally fantastic. Furlong has some problems, but improves once the character gets going. Cameron and co-writer William Wisher give Furlong expository dialogue he can’t handle for the first half hour or so, but once Hamilton shows up, he gets much better. He doesn’t even need to be better, because all throughout those weaker Furlong scenes, Cameron is still doing amazing things. Terminator 2 is a celebration. It’s a celebration out of there getting to be a Terminator sequel; Cameron and Schwarzenegger get to have a great time, but they still take it seriously enough to turn in a fantastic film. They go out of their way to show off Schwarzenegger’s ability to handle the more difficult scenes after Hamilton arrives.

When Schwarzenegger and Hamilton meet in Terminator 2, the Terminator’s sunglasses come off and it’s a new movie all of a sudden. Even though Hamilton’s got narration–never too much, always frugal–and she’s in almost every scene (except Patrick’s scenes), she’s still something of a wild card character. She’s not just the mom. She’s got to have her moment. Terminator 2’s ground situation takes away Hamilton’s agency. When he brings it back, he demands the audience think about their expectations of what that agency really looks like versus what the audience wants of it in a Terminator movie.

And then he never does anything with it. He gets the story moving, bringing in Joe Morton (and an awesome S. Epatha Merkerson in a small part). Morton ends up on Team Arnold too. There’s a lot for Terminator 2 to do and Cameron is brisk about it. You need to pay attention. If you don’t, you probably still get a great action movie, but if you do, you get all this weird, wonderful stuff. Schwarzenegger and Furlong are cute together, of course, but there’s this great stuff between Schwarzenegger and Hamilton, Hamilton and Morton, Patrick and the audience. Cameron gives Patrick (and Schwarzenegger) these wonderful observation scenes. They can’t be characters because they’re robots, right? But what if they could be.

Technically, the film’s singular. Adam Greenberg’s photography is never flashy, always pragmatic; there’s a blue tint to Terminator 2, which ought to create narrative distance but instead it just makes the performances connect more. There’s no safe space, character development is going to happen in the strangest scenes. Greenberg’s also got some amazing composite shots during the action sequences; masterful work.

There’s great editing from Conrad Buff IV, Mark Goldblatt and Richard A. Harris. Three different editors–I wonder if they handled the different phases of the film–but it’s never incongruous, always a graceful cuts. The editors help a lot with creating Schwarzenegger’s presence in the film.

Awesome Brad Fiedel score, awesome special effects. Terminator 2 is an assured, exciting, joyous success. Cameron is his most ambitious in the safest moments in the film. He pushes the action, he pushes the special effects, he pushes the performances. It’s a stunning film.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by James Cameron; written by Cameron and William Wisher Jr.; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Conrad Buff IV, Mark Goldblatt and Richard A. Harris; music by Brad Fiedel; production designer, Joseph C. Nemec III; released by Carolco Pictures.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (T-800), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Edward Furlong (John Connor), Robert Patrick (T-1000), Joe Morton (Miles Dyson), S. Epatha Merkerson (Tarissa Dyson), Castulo Guerra (Enrique) and Earl Boen (Dr. Silberman).


T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996, John Bruno, James Cameron and Stan Winston)

Given his rather infamous history of personal problems, one’s got to wonder what having to humiliate himself by acting like a twelve year-old-when nineteen-did for Edward Furlong in T2 3-D: Battle Across Time. Especially since the short accompanied a theme park attraction, undoubtedly seen by more people than saw most of Furlong’s films at the time.

Furlong does not pull it off. He and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite to do a greatest hits reel of Terminator 2, complete with familiar lines and action beats, motorcycling around a future wasteland.

Schwarzenegger hands himself admirably; he even has a few good one liners, which is shocking since the writing is so bad. Except on the introductory evil corporation commercial. It’s hilarious.

James Cameron loved this project, turning his most successful franchise at the time into buffoonery.

Seeing it “live” might help 3-D but I kind of doubt it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by John Bruno, James Cameron and Stan Winston; screenplay by Adam J. Bezark, Cameron and Gary Goddard, based on characters created by Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd; directors of photography, Peter Anderson and Russell Carpenter; edited by Allen Cappuccilli, David de Vos and Shannon Leigh Olds; music by Brad Fiedel; production designer, John Muto; produced by Chuck Comisky and Gary Goddard.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Edward Furlong (John Connor), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor) and Robert Patrick (T-1000).


Dante’s Peak (1997, Roger Donaldson)

Dante’s Peak came in the slight post-Twister disaster movie resurgence–and might have helped end it–but it really doesn’t know how to be a disaster movie.

Leslie Bohem’s script film follows Jaws‘s plot structure–no one listens to Pierce Brosnan’s roguish geologist (has Brosnan ever been asked to do an American accent, it seems to be part of his persona to never do one) until it’s too late–only replacing Richard Dreyfuss with Linda Hamilton as sidekick. Romance develops and Brosnan’s bachelor warms quickly to Hamilton’s two really annoying kids. They aren’t really annoying until the volcano, which means at least they’re tolerable for an hour.

When disaster does strike, it’s amusing to watch all the friendly neighbors try to kill each other to get onto the highway faster–after the movie opens saying it’s the second-best place in the country to live. Maybe in the first they’d help each other.

It’s probably Hamilton’s best film role as an actor. She’s not asked to do much (it’s a little unbelievable she could put up with her kids at the end, or her evil mother-in-law, boringly played by Elizabeth Hoffman).

The film takes place in a rural mountain town and–shockingly–never tries to show racial diversity among the town population. Nor does it try to make anyone likable; watching the disaster doesn’t encourage much emotional response. It’s boring.

Donaldson’s direction is mediocre at best (he’s not an action director) but the visual effects are good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Donaldson; written by Leslie Bohem; director of photography, Andrzej Bartkowiak; edited by Howard E. Smith, Conrad Buff IV and Tina Hirsch; music by John Frizzell; production designer, J. Dennis Washington; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Joseph Singer; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Harry Dalton), Linda Hamilton (Rachel Wando), Charles Hallahan (Paul Dreyfus), Jamie Renée Smith (Lauren Wando), Jeremy Foley (Graham Wando), Elizabeth Hoffman (Ruth), Grant Heslov (Greg, USGS Crew), Kirk Trutner (Terry, USGS Crew), Arabella Field (Nancy, USGS Crew), Tzi Ma (Stan, USGS Crew), Brian Reddy (Les Worrell), Lee Garlington (Dr. Jane Fox), Bill Bolender (Sheriff Turner), Carole Androsky (Mary Kelly) and Peter Jason (Norman Gates).


King Kong Lives (1986, John Guillermin)

Is calling a redneck hateful redundant? All other problems (acting, script), the biggest problem with King Kong Lives is how unpleasant the film is to watch. With the exception of the good guys (there are three of them), everyone else is a really bad person… it’s incredibly simplistic in its portrayal of cruelty (I doubt the filmmakers even realized it), which makes it a rough viewing.

Getting past a sequel to King Kong being pointless, one has to wonder how a presumably savvy producer like Dino De Laurenttis, who made lots of populist movie hits, ended up setting the film in rural Georgia. Sure, miniatures look all right, but it’s… it’s a terribly stupid idea.

But, is it more stupid than Kong surviving a fall off the World Trade Center with nothing more than a bad heart? Maybe… maybe not.

The acting, both good guys and bad, is often terrible. John Ashton as the army colonel after Kong (the U.S. Army is portrayed as a gang of ignorant, vicious thugs here) is awful. Peter Michael Goetz is lousy as an evil academic. Linda Hamilton is terrible (though she gets better halfway through the film) as Kong’s doctor.

Pretty much, only Brian Kerwin is any good. The guy’s on a soap now, apparently. He deserves far better. He actually makes the frequently absurd dialogue acceptable.

Guillermin’s direction is more than capable here.

Between his composition and Peter Scott’s excellent score, King Kong Lives occasionally (in fifteen second increments) seems all right.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Guillermin; screenplay by Steven Pressfield and Ronald Shusett, based on their story and a character created by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by Malcolm Cooke; music by John Scott; production designer, Peter Murton; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Brian Kerwin (Hank Mitchell), Linda Hamilton (Amy Franklin), John Ashton (Lt. Col. R.T. Nevitt), Peter Michael Goetz (Dr. Andrew Ingersoll), Frank Maraden (Dr. Benson Hughes) and Jimmie Ray Weeks (Major Peete).


The Terminator (1984, James Cameron)

I remember The Terminator being a lot better. Even as it started–I think during the first chase sequence (Michael Biehn in the department store)–I thought about the great highway chase sequence at the end. Then, as things went sour during, I kept waiting for that sequence, sure it would bring things around.

But it doesn’t bring things around. It’s short and loud–maybe the only time in the movie Brad Fiedel’s score doesn’t work. The disappointment might also be because Linda Hamilton, during this sequence, goes from waitress who gets picked on by little kids (I guess her restaurant does not reserve the right to refuse service) to the full-on James Cameron super-woman. It’s an inexplicable character change, sort of like her romantic clinging to future stalker Biehn. Where Terminator has the most opportunity for real character development (does Hamilton cling to Biehn because of her previous and frequent rejections?), it doesn’t seem to notice them. It does try to show Biehn’s incapable of having a regular conversation, emotion scarring from the future, but Biehn’s terrible during these scenes. Actually, he’s terrible once he meets up with Hamilton. Before them meeting up, he’s fine… even if he only has two lines.

The first three-quarters (or half) of the movie–before the police station shoot out–is great. It’s some of Cameron’s finest work, just because it shows he can show people walking down the street or going to work. Even if Hamilton and Bess Motta give bad performances, them getting ready for their dates is a good scene. There’s a texture to the film, even if there isn’t one to the screenplay. Cameron’s become so enamored with the fantastic, he seems to have forgotten the effectiveness of the uncanny. It doesn’t take him five or ten years though, by the second half of The Terminator he’s made the transition.

The second part has all the stupid future stuff, the terrible romantic stuff and the unexciting ending (the movie’s really Biehn’s and the protagonist transition to Hamilton fails).

The movie starts so strong–down to Bill Paxton’s moron punk–and doesn’t let up for a long time. Most of the credit goes to Fiedel, the sound designer (The Terminator‘s most interesting, technically, for how Cameron uses sound and music to create mood) and Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield. Winfield and Henriksen’s bickering cops brings a human element to the film–and real characters, something sorely missing with Hamilton and Biehn–and once they’re out of the story, it’s just a bunch of sci-fi tripe. The reality is gone.

As for Schwarzenegger, he’s fine. Though he’s interchangeable with a model head and a stop motion robot, so I’m not sure the performance is particularly successful.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by James Cameron; screenplay by Cameron with Gale Anne Hurd, with acknowledgment to the works of Harlan Ellison; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Mark Goldblatt; music by Brad Fiedel; produced by Hurd; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Paul Winfield (Lieutenant Ed Traxler), Lance Henriksen (Detective Hal Vukovich), Bess Motta (Ginger Ventura), Earl Boen (Dr. Peter Silberman), Rick Rossovich (Matt Buchanan), Dick Miller (Pawnshop Clerk), Shawn Schepps (Nancy), Bruce M. Kerner (Desk Sergeant), Franco Columbu (Future Terminator), Bill Paxton (Punk Leader), Brad Rearden (Punk) and Brian Thompson (Punk).


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