Paul McCrane

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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