Paul McCrane

All Rise (2019) s01e21 – Dancing at Los Angeles

Dancing at Los Angeles is an admirable effort from “All Rise,” cast and crew, but it’s not a particularly good forty minutes of television. There are a couple big parallels between the episode, a “Coronavirus shelter-at-home” special episode with the cast filming in their homes in character, and the episode content, Simone Missick trying to do a virtual trial. Apparently virtual hearings are a real thing, but not virtual trials (yet).

The defendant on the episode, Mo McRae, has to waive a bunch of rights—he can’t appeal due to procedure—and it’s almost like the show saying, “Hey, it’s the best we can do too and we do need a season finale.”

None of the open storylines get any closure, which is unfortunate (though “All Rise” is “almost renewed” according to the latest post I could find, so maybe). Worse, lots of attention paid to Wilson Bethel’s romance with Lindsey Gort, including some teledildonics, which would be a little much even if Gort weren’t obnoxious. Though she’s admittedly less obnoxious this episode when she’s not trying to ruin some law clerk’s life for smiling at Bethel or whatever.

The episode also puts Bethel in Missick’s “courtroom” for the first time and it’s kind of amazing to see him goof off. The actors all get along too well in the pseudo-Zoom—they don’t even bother making up a name for the video conferencing service, which is kind of nice—for them to be that authentic to their established characters but it’s fine. Everyone gets to be a little cute, to varying degrees of success.

Marg Helgenberger getting drunk and giving Missick shit is a high point, as are any scenes involving Paul McCrane and Peter MacNichol, who the show really ought to make a gay couple next season if it gets renewed.

J. Alex Brinson has the performative story arc of wanting to go down to the jail and work because of all the inmates in danger. Everyone is super concerned about all the inmates. It’s a major Sure, Jan.

Dorian Missick—Simone’s actual husband—guest stars as the DJ everyone’s watching during the pandemic. Wish he’d been a recurring thing all season, it’d fit a lot better. Also wish he was just paying Missick’s husband on the show (Todd Williams shows up to suck the charm out of the show eventually).

Maybe next season, if the show gets one. Missick and Bethel definitely ought to be on better shows but, you know, I’ll still watch “All Rise” for them.

All Rise (2019) s01e17 – I Love You, You’re Perfect, I Think

Despite a forced start with Jessica Camacho and roomie and BFF Lindsay Mendez going hiking in some canyon before work and not finding a body, with some particularly forced angst from Camacho regarding boyfriend J. Alex Brinson declaring his love for her, the episode works out to be one of “All Rise”’s best.

Gregory Nelson’s script does a bit of a greatest hits tour through the show, making sure to give Simone Missick and Wilson Bethel banter and bickering banter to showcase the range of their characters’ relationship.

Nelson also takes the show seemingly new places—and revisiting some unfamiliar ones—the episode doesn’t just have a scene in the judges’ lounge, it also goes to the public defender office for the first time either ever or in a long while; the district attorney office is more familiar but rarely showcased as much as here. The show also figures out what to do with Audrey Corsa, now she and Brinson don’t seem to have a flirtation going. She’s a good sidekick for Bethel, who teaches her to be idealistic above all else in this episode.

Bethel’s got an innocent man to free, so lots of good White guy turmoil, while Missick’s got to deal with telling boss Marg Helgenberger what’s what as far as Helgenberger’s informal vetting.

The Missick and Helgenberger stuff turns out to be good, which is a surprise.

Then there’s a subplot with Peter MacNicol having to admit he’s capable of mistakes as an old White man, even means he has to respect young Latina women (in this case Mendez).

Paul McCrane (who does a fine job directing) is around a bit to spice things up.

Of course, the main plot is a soldier has PTSD so is he responsible for this assault, with Camacho as the defense attorney and Gavin Stenhouse as the accused. Stenhouse is pretty good. He’s able to make it work. Much better than when Camacho and Mendez have a really forced conversation about how much they support the troops.

Lots of big swings for the show—the PTSD of a soldier, Marg Helgenberger’s accountability arc, and the MacNichol having to admit his bias… and it does work out pretty darn well for the show. The episode successfully showcases the show at its best.

All Rise (2019) s01e16 – My Fair Lockdown

This episode of “All Rise” has this super juicy White man part for guest star Ben Browder. Survivalist holds courtroom hostage; the cops came to kick him out of his home, which is apparently somewhere in the County of Los Angeles but remote enough you don’t see people and no one pays attention when you don’t pay your property taxes for twenty years. I mean, California’s big. Sure, let’s go with it. Let’s even go with Simone Missick at one point telling Browder, who doesn’t believe the court has any jurisdiction over him, he’s going to get a chance to “speak his truth.”

Of course, Browder’s truth is objectively false and if he really hadn’t been off the farm for twenty years or whatever, he’d be in for astounding culture shock and be suffering from that problem too but… whatever. Don’t like the dismissive use of “truth” there. Not cool.

But then all of Conway Preston’s script is bad. The dialogue, the plotting, all of it. The only things wrong with the episode he’s not responsible for are the casting and the direction. David A. Harp’s direction is fine except the opening when he tries to do this lengthy fake tracking shot of Lindsay Mendez coming into work and walking past all the regular cast to introduce the episode’s ground situation. Worse, it’s peppy and upbeat while the episode is anything but. It’s a tonal bait and switch and “All Rise” isn’t worth a tonal bait and switch. Regardless of me preferring the latter tone to the former. The peppy stuff is obnoxious. The downbeat stuff isn’t great or even good, but it’s not obnoxious.

Though it’s not like the show challenges its cast. Actually, “All Rise” is a bait and switch in and of itself; here’s this great opportunity for Missick and Wilson Bethel and the show wastes them. They get less so Jessica Camacho gets more, even though she’s not part of their dynamic best buds duo (which is missing from the show, almost as obviously as Missick’s husband, Todd Williams on FaceTime, who’s either dying or cheating by the end of the season). But then Camacho gets a truncated part this episode so everyone else in the supporting cast can get more.

It’s a mess. The show’s got way too many regulars and not enough for them to do. It really needs better writers. And better guest stars. I didn’t think Browder had done anything. I thought they couldn’t get anyone to play such a poorly written juicy White man part—seriously, if well-written it’d be Emmy-bait—but Browder was actually the lead on “Farscape.”

Note: continue hesitating to watch “Farscape,” regardless of Henson Company involvement.

There’s a really solid moment or two for Paul McCrane in this episode though. The action takes him out of his regular—well, it doesn’t actually take him out of the courtroom—basically, it’s a new way to see McCrane. He gets to act opposite Bethel and J. Alex Brinson and talk about Brinson dating Camacho and you realize how great it’d be for McCrane to really get good material and not a souped-up caricature for once.

The show also wastes a Jason Dohring guest spot. I seriously don’t understand how Dohring can’t get a shot outside “Veronica Mars” projects. Though maybe it’s better to be on the periphery of “All Rise,” out of the middling’s blast radius.

All Rise (2019) s01e15 – Prelude to a Fish

It’s a Valentine’s Day episode and romance is in the air around the courthouse. Maybe a little bit too much romance because “turns out they didn’t forget about her” D.A.’s office law clerk Audrey Corsa is back and she’s got her eyes on J. Alex Brinson, who’s starting his clerk job in the D.A.’s office and can tell she’s got her eyes on him and wants to avoid said eyes. Brinson starts the episode with a grand romantic gesture for girlfriend Jessica Camacho in front of all their friends, work acquaintances, and judge Simone Missick. It involves dancing and fish (hence the episode title, which—incidentally—makes no sense if you know what the word “prelude” means).

The sequence would be cringey even if it didn’t kick off Camacho being sad on Valentine’s Day.

Of course she’s sad on Valentine’s Day more because client Danielle Burgess can’t escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and it reminds Camacho of her abusive ex-husband, which eventually leads to a Brinson tone-policing Camacho at work thing. The show goes out of its way to explain why when men do bad things it’s their fault not their ex-girlfriends, but damn if Brinson doesn’t tell Camacho to stop yelling when dealing with shit of a D.A. Mitch Silpa.

Meanwhile Wilson Bethel’s got a case opposite Lindsey Gort; they like each other but are competitive so they only ever hooked up the one time or something a few episodes ago and now it’s time for the next level. While they work through this somewhat strange case involving disability fraud but in a heartwarming, let’s be understanding way. It’s not the most “CBS woke” episode of “All Rise” but its the most constantly “CBS woke” one.

At least now she admits liking Bethel, Gort’s nowhere near as obnoxious.

Meanwhile Missick is investigating boss Marg Helgenberger for a potential political run—doing in-house oppo research—and, just like Paul McCrane (who apparently was only willing to come back if he got to be seated in a break room) warned her. Lots of hemming and hawing for Missick, including the investigation being a cliffhanger, which is a little too dramatic for “All Rise,” while she’s trying to open a present from her offscreen husband. Just reminding about the offscreen husband reminds about how he’s pointless to the show and seems like a forced detail in Missick’s ground situation. Especially since Helgenberger’s campaign guy is a very flirty Nicholas Christopher.

The episode gives Camacho a big monologue about how her husband turned physical abusive, which is intense but also, unfortunately, not a good showcase for Camacho.

All Rise (2019) s01e11 – The Joy From Oz

Does the Los Angeles court really have a bring your kids to work day? I’m less engaged with the dramatics of “All Rise,” which has Wilson Bethel hemming and hawing over whether or not to help dad Tony Denison with his upcoming trial or just abandon him and Simone Missick having to defend herself as a judge to her current and former peers, whose problem with her is basically she’s a Black woman but “All Rise” doesn’t have the stones to say it, than with the incidentals of the courthouse they’re creating. Chief Justice Marg Helgenberger deciding her most important duty is to make sure visiting kids have the best time on their trip is… very weird. And very silly (they stage a mock trial based around Wizard of Oz, sadly it’s for the kids and not smartly written). But Helgenberger’s awesome at being silly. She’s been fine on the show before, good even, but never so much fun.

But while she’s being fun in a C plot, Missick and Bethel are just trying to get through the episode. It starts with everyone going crazy for the cookies at the District Attorney’s holiday party, which seems like utter nonsense. A bunch of harried adults geeked out a couple cookies (because they’re not irresponsibly snacking of course). “All Rise” dares the viewer to take it too seriously.

Anyway, Bethel’s arc is all about how some crook rats out his boss and it turns out to be because of a family thing and so it inspires Bethel not to abandon Tony Denison, even though at the end of last episode Bethel was ready to quit his job and become a defense attorney. There’s also a white guy redemption thing to it. Meanwhile, Missick’s got to defend herself against asinine allegations—she apparently embarrasses attorneys in her courtroom when they’re shady or incompetent—while Rocket Romano (or whatever Paul McCrane’s conservative white judge but not racist conservative TV nonsense conservative) shoots her withering looks. It’s got a predictable end.

Missick gets a big speech about how she’s going to judge the way she’s going to judge and it’s… fine. It’s not well-written, it’s certainly not well-directed (Claudia Yarmy’s direction is best described as annoying), but Missick gets through it. See, she’s got the hashtag woke courtroom and everyone—except the white prosecutors (save Bethel of course)—thinks there finally needs to be a hashtag woke courtroom. Not sure why no one else could do it but whatever. It’s just sad Missick’s stuck on such an obvious, middling network drama instead of actually getting to act on something.

Fame (1980, Alan Parker)

It’s sort of amusing how Fame, a film about high school, gets an incomplete. The film is rigidly structured–the four years of high school, plus the auditions at the beginning for the characters to get into said high school, a performing arts school in New York.

The characters’ stories develop throughout the film in a manner far more natural for one year, instead of four, especially in the case of Gene Anthony Ray. In the film’s silliest plot contrivance, Ray is illiterate, something teacher Anne Meara notices right away. She doesn’t really do anything about it–except negatively reinforce him–until a very dramatic moment towards the end of the film (in the senior year). Fame bends reality for impact, with director Parker trying to distract from it. He uses seriousness to distract from narrative laziness.

It doesn’t work. Especially given the film constantly drops characters–both Lee Curreri and Laura Dean, who have big story arcs in the first half of the film, disappear once Fame focuses on Barry Miller. Maureen Teefy and Paul McCrane–the first half’s closest thing to protagonists–are around Miller so they don’t disappear, they just don’t have much interesting to do.

One would think there’s a better, much longer version of Fame, but maybe not. It’s insincere, but rather well-made (the Michael Seresin photography and Gerry Hambling editing is phenomenal), and there’s a lot of good acting.

Miller’s good, Teefy and McCrane are great. So’s Irene Cara.

It should be better.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Alan Parker; written by Christopher Gore; director of photography, Michael Seresin; edited by Gerry Hambling; music by Michael Gore; production designer, Geoffrey Kirkland; produced by David De Silva and Alan Marshall; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Paul McCrane (Montgomery), Maureen Teefy (Doris), Barry Miller (Ralph), Irene Cara (Coco), Lee Curreri (Bruno), Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy), Laura Dean (Lisa), Antonia Franceschi (Hilary), Anne Meara (Mrs. Sherwood), Jim Moody (Farrell), Albert Hague (Shorofsky), Joanna Merlin (Miss Berg), Debbie Allen (Lydia), Eddie Barth (Angelo), Tresa Hughes (Mrs. Finsecker) and Boyd Gaines (Michael).


The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

The Blob is a mixed bag. On one hand, director Russell does a good job throughout and he and Frank Darabont’s script is well-plotted. On the other hand, the script will occasionally have some idiotic dialogue and the actors just stumble and fall through it.

Similarly the special effects. There’s a lot of good work on the Blob effects, but the composites are often iffy. Russell does come up with an amazing, strobe flash sequence for the movie theater attack. Photographer Mark Irwin does quite well too, which makes the bad composite shots all the more perplexing.

Russell and Darabont plot the film to be a constant surprise, at least for the first half or so. Even after establishing traditionally safe characters are not, they still manage to surprise with how they take things.

A lot of the effects thrills are derivative, but Russell still manages them with aplomb. It helps he’s got Shawnee Smith in the lead. She sort of stumbles into the lead after a couple false starts and does exceedingly well. The film often succeeds simply for putting Smith in somewhat awkward set pieces and character interactions.

Kevin Dillon and Donovan Leitch play her two admirers, sort of. Leitch is the jock, Dillon the punk. Dillon’s appealing, but his dialogue’s often terrible. Leitch somehow manages to be likable if painfully straight edge.

Very nice supporting turns from Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark and Paul McCrane. Terrible one from Jon Seneca.

The Blob’s problematic, but it’s not bad.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Russell, screenplay by Russell and Frank Darabont, based on an earlier screenplay by Theodore Simonson and Kay Linaker and a story by Irvine H. Millgate; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Tod Feuerman and Terry Stokes; music by Michael Hoenig; production designer, Craig Stearns; produced by Jack H. Harris and Elliot Kastner; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Shawnee Smith (Meg Penny), Kevin Dillon (Brian Flagg), Donovan Leitch (Paul Taylor), Jeffrey DeMunn (Sheriff Herb Geller), Candy Clark (Fran Hewitt), Joe Seneca (Dr. Meddows), Del Close (Reverend Meeker), Paul McCrane (Deputy Bill Briggs), Sharon Spelman (Mrs. Penny), Michael Kenworthy (Kevin Penny), Douglas Emerson (Eddie Beckner), Beau Billingslea (Moss Woodley), Ricky Paull Goldin (Scott Jeske) and Art LaFleur (The Pharmacist).


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