Paul Reiser

Cross My Heart (1987, Armyan Bernstein)

Cross My Heart has a significant problem right off. Its gimmick work against the film. The opening scenes establish Annette O’Toole and Martin Short’s leads as they prepare for a date. Each has the help of a second (for exposition’s sake, though it doesn’t make the exposition particularly natural); both actors are appealing, both characters are appealing. The opening scenes set up the viewer knowing the truth about each character, which they plan on hiding from the other.

Hence the title.

Then the date starts. And O’Toole’s really good. She’s often doing these delicate movements while Short’s stuck in a lame romantic comedy. The more she does them, the worse Short gets. The middle of the film is mostly real time on their date and, while his character is believable, Short’s no longer likable. And the film’s gimmick of preparing the viewer in advance backfires. It makes O’Toole the protagonist, which the film isn’t set up to do.

Oddly enough, even though the script’s used up all of its goodwill by three-quarters through, once the actors get to play the characters straight–particularly Short (like I said, O’Toole’s always good)–everything starts working out. The chemistry between the stars is so good, it’s too bad director Bernstein and co-writer Gail Parent wasted so much time on the insincerity (and using it for joke fodder).

Real nice support from Paul Reiser in a small role and nice photography from Thomas Del Ruth.

It’s fine, but the actors deserve more.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Armyan Bernstein; written by Bernstein and Gail Parent; director of photography, Thomas Del Ruth; edited by Mia Goldman; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Lawrence G. Paull; produced by Lawrence Kasdan; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Martin Short (David), Annette O’Toole (Kathy), Paul Reiser (Bruce), Joanna Kerns (Nancy), Jessica Puscas (Jessica), Corinne Bohrer (Susan) and Lee Arenberg (Parking Attendant).


Diner (1982, Barry Levinson)

I’ve probably seen Diner ten times but I still don’t know where to start with it. Barry Levinson sets the present action between Christmas and New Year’s, so one probably could sit down and chart out what happens on each day. There’s a big basketball bet driving some of the narrative, but mostly just for Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin, but also for Kevin Bacon.

And Levinson leaves so much of it unresolved–Bacon, for example–while concentrating (for the finish) on the things he didn’t pay much attention to throughout the film. The film often has this great fifties soundtrack going, which masks its quietness. Even though Levinson writes these amazing dialogue exchanges, the most telling moments for the cast–even at the beginning (Levinson and Stu Linder cut together these amazing sequences from the very start, Peter Sova’s photography helping out a lot, of course)–isn’t what they’re saying. It’s the moments where the characters are silent and thinking.

All of the acting is outstanding. Rourke and Barkin are the best, then Steve Guttenberg and Kevin Bacon… then Tim Daly and Daniel Stern. Not because Daly and Stern are bad, but because Stern has the least to do. Daly has a little more, but Levinson sort of dulls the focus off him as the film progresses. The choices Levinson makes regarding what characters get attention and when are more of his brilliant ones in Diner.

It’s an exceptional motion picture. One appreciates its sublimeness more on each viewing.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Barry Levinson; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Stu Linder; music by Bruce Brody and Ivan Král; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Edward ‘Eddie’ Simmons), Daniel Stern (Laurence ‘Shrevie’ Schreiber), Mickey Rourke (Robert ‘Boogie’ Sheftell), Kevin Bacon (Timothy Fenwick, Jr.), Tim Daly (William ‘Billy’ Howard), Ellen Barkin (Beth Schreiber), Paul Reiser (Modell), Kathryn Dowling (Barbara), Michael Tucker (Bagel), Jessica James (Mrs. Simmons), Colette Blonigan (Carol Heathrow), Kelle Kipp (Diane), John Aquino (Tank), Claudia Cron (Jane Chisholm),Tom Tammi (Howard Fenwick) and Sharon Ziman (Elyse).


Crazy People (1990, Tony Bill)

Crazy People is distressingly tepid. It has a number of fine performances–Dudley Moore’s sturdy and likable in the lead, Daryl Hannah’s outstanding as his love interest and the supporting cast’s so good I’m going to wait a while to talk about them to go out on an up note. But the film itself? Very tepid. Like they threw in curse words to guarantee an R rating when it really could have been PG.

Strangely enough, writer Mitch Markowitz does a great job with the swearing. He just doesn’t do enough of it.

The film concerns an institutionalized ad writer (Moore). It’s more of a retreat, really–there’s the kindly doctor (an underutilized Mercedes Ruehl) and friendly fellow patients. Moore recruits these patients to write honest (and very) funny ads.

But then Markowitz runs out of story. Sure, People only runs ninety minutes, but there are long gaps without Moore or even his fellow patients. Instead, the picture concentrates on J.T. Walsh’s odious advertising executive. Not even Paul Reiser, as Moore’s friend, sticks around for the entire runtime. And Ruehl gets an unceremonious boot.

Luckily, the actors playing the patients are outstanding. David Paymer’s probably the best, but Paul Bates and Danton Stone are both good too.

Ben Hammer’s fine as the evil doctor–People has a big problem with internal logic; an evil doctor doesn’t make a good villain.

Besides an annoying score from Cliff Eidelman, it’s technically proficient.

The parts are funnier than the final product. Much funnier.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Bill; written by Mitch Markowitz; director of photography, Victor J. Kemper; edited by Mia Goldman; music by Cliff Eidelman; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Thomas Barad; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Dudley Moore (Emory Leeson), Daryl Hannah (Kathy Burgess), Paul Reiser (Stephen Bachman), J.T. Walsh (Drucker), Bill Smitrovich (Bruce), Alan North (Judge), David Paymer (George), Danton Stone (Saabs), Paul Bates (Robles), Dick Cusack (Mort), Doug Yasuda (Hsu), Floyd Vivino (Eddie Aris), Mercedes Ruehl (Dr. Liz Baylor) and Ben Hammer (Dr. Koch).


Diner (1983, Barry Levinson)

What a difference a cast makes. Barry Levinson’s pilot for a “Diner” television series reunites some of the film crew–editor Stu Linder does a wonderful job–but the only returning actors are Paul Reiser and Jessica James. Both are good–and Alison La Placa and Mady Kaplan are great as the wives (Levinson’s best writing is for them)–but they don’t offset the new leads.

Worst is Max Cantor (in for Daniel Stern), then Michael Madsen (for Mickey Rourke) and finally Mike Binder (for Steve Guttenberg). Levinson’s script’s part of the problem. He writes Cantor and Binder’s parts for the original actors. Binder might’ve with better dialogue.

Madsen’s awful, but Levinson inexplicably writes the character as a dimwit.

James Spader’s okay (in for Kevin Bacon).

It’s interesting–especially since it’s a direct sequel to the movie–very well directed and written in parts, but the male leads sink it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Barry Levinson; director of photography, Dominic Palmieri; edited by Stu Linder; produced by Mark Johnson.

Starring Paul Reiser (Modell), James Spader (Fenwick), Mike Binder (Eddie), Max Cantor (Shrevie), Michael Madsen (Boogie), Mady Kaplan (Beth), Alison La Placa (Elyse), Robert Pastorelli (Turko), Arnie Mazer (The Gripper), Ted Bafaloukos (George) and Jessica James (Eddie’s Mother).


Aliens (1986, James Cameron), the special edition

I always think of Aliens as a precisely choreographed ballet. Director Cameron moves his large cast–though it does winnow over time–around in these cramped sets and everyone has something to do; Cameron draws the viewer’s attention to one character, but the rest are in motion setting up the next moment in the scene.

Watching the film this time, I noticed how Cameron’s subtle introductions to each character later define them. Sure, there’s a handful of characters who don’t get much focus, but about nine do. It’s like a ballet on wires.

Cameron’s script is also able to keep up its urgency throughout. The titular aliens don’t even appear at the start of the second act; Cameron holds them off as long as possible, which later lets Aliens constantly break expectations. Cameron organically sets up and knocks down various possibilities for the film… all while following some definite horror genre standards.

Aliens is meticulous–Ray Lovejoy’s editing is truly astounding, whether he’s passing time with a fade or perfectly cutting the action scenes. Adrian Biddle’s photography’s excellent–as is the effects work–but Lovejoy’s editing is simply wow.

All of the principals are excellent. Obviously Sigourney Weaver, but Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Paul Reiser are great too. Carrie Henn is fantastic in her difficult, understated scream princess role. I love how the script implies character relationships developing offscreen. It’s wonderful.

Cameron achieves a major success. Aliens is exhilarating. Like most great films, it gets better with every viewing.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by James Cameron; screenplay by Cameron, based on a story by Cameron, David Giler and Walter Hill and characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by James Horner; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Carrie Henn (Newt), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Paul Reiser (Burke), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez), William Hope (Lt. Gorman), Al Matthews (Sgt. Apone), Mark Rolston (Drake), Ricco Ross (Frost) and Paul Maxwell (Van Leuwen).


Bye Bye Love (1995, Sam Weisman)

About halfway through Bye Bye Love, I realized it was reminding me of “The Bradys,” the hour-long drama sequel to “The Brady Bunch.” Two very successful sitcom writers wrote this movie; it’s like an hour-long comedy drama… Only the movie runs about a hundred minutes. It’s way too long.

What’s interesting—there’s not a single laugh in the film, so one has to find interesting things to think about—is the casual misogyny running through it. Sure, Matthew Modine being a philanderer is a bad thing, but one has to look very hard to see a positive female character and ignore some glaringly awful ones. Randy Quaid’s ex-wife, played by Lindsay Crouse, lets her new boyfriend beat her son. Janeane Garofalo, as Quaid’s date, is a “ha ha, she’s so dumb because she’s a feminist” character. Paul Reiser’s ex-wife has this odious husband who calls Reiser the “birth father” of his fourteen year-old daughter. As the daughter, Eliza Dushku’s occasionally awful but the character’s probably mildly honest.

Quaid’s really good when being the dad, bad when interacting with women (it’s the script). Modine’s interesting as the Don Juan; it’s funny to see him in this kind of role. Reiser’s all right as a less engaging Modell.

The biggest draw is Maria Pitillo’s outstanding performance as Modine’s suffering girlfriend. Oh, and Amber Benson’s good….

Wait, I forgot the music… J.A.C. Redford’s score is unbearable.

It’s sort of worth a look as a curiosity, but not really.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall; director of photography, Kenneth Zunder; edited by Roger Bondelli; music by J.A.C. Redford; production designer, Linda DeScenna; produced by Goldberg, Hall and Weisman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Paul Reiser (Donny), Matthew Modine (Dave), Randy Quaid (Vic), Amy Brenneman (Susan), Maria Pitillo (Kim), Janeane Garofalo (Lucille), Ed Flanders (Walter Sims), Johnny Whitworth (Max Cooper), Lindsay Crouse (Grace), Eliza Dushku (Emma), Ross Malinger (Ben), Mae Whitman (Michele), Amber Benson (Meg), Cameron Boyd (Jed), Jayne Brook (Claire), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Heidi Schmidt), Wendell Pierce (Hector) and Rob Reiner (Dr. David Townsend).


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