Robert Forster

Alligator (1980, Lewis Teague)

Alligator has quite a few things going for it. Lead Robert Forster is great, Robin Riker’s solid as his love interest and sidekick, John Sayles’s script has some excellent moments in it (some of them just being the attention he pays to Forster and Riker’s relationship), the giant alligator effects are solid, Larry Bock and Ron Medico’s editing is outstanding. Unfortunately, director Teague is a bit of a liability. He doesn’t direct actors well, he doesn’t set up shots well, he doesn’t understand scale when it comes to the giant alligator. The film is also shooting Los Angeles for Chicago, which comes off as pointless since there’s nothing Chicago about the film except the casting. They don’t even have second unit shots of Chicago. They shoot second unit against the mountains. Teague’s lack of ability and imagination with the budget hurt immensely.

Other problems–let’s just get them out of the way now–include the score and the plotting. Craig Huxley’s score rip-offs the Jaws theme way too obviously, but then the rest of the music is bad too so it’s not like it should be a surprise. Joseph Mangine’s photography is generally competent–especially given the amount of sewer shots–but lacks personality. Even though Forster and Riker have personality, Alligator doesn’t.

There’s some nice supporting work from Henry Silva as the absurd great white hunter. He comes off the best besides the leads. Dean Jagger is pretty lame as the evil industrialist who unintentionally creates the giant alligator because he’s an evil industrialist. I’m assuming Jagger’s part was supposed to be humorous, but Teague doesn’t have an ear for comedy. At all.

Michael V. Gazzo should be better as Forster’s boss. The only thing Teague does reliably is direct Gazzo’s scenes worse than anything else in the film. Perry Lang’s okay as a young beat cop, Bart Braverman’s okay as the noisy reporter. If the film just had more perfectly okay performances… well, it would still have all the problems Teague brings to it.

It’s hard to dislike Alligator, but only because of Forster, Riker and the film’s somewhat reluctant concentration on their relationship. Oh, and Silva. Silva’s really amusing. And you want to like Gazzo’s performance. It’s just not well-directed enough to get over the budget issues and it’s not well-written enough to get over the directing issues and it’s not well-produced enough to get over any of it. It’s all right. For a giant alligator movie set in Chicago but filmed in Los Angeles without enough good supporting performances, tepid direction and a too wonky script, Alligator is all right.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lewis Teague; screenplay by John Sayles, based on a story by Sayles and Frank Ray Perilli; director of photography, Joseph Mangine; edited by Larry Bock and Ron Medico; music by Craig Huxley; produced by Brandon Chase and Mark L. Rosen; released by Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.

Starring Robert Forster (David Madison), Robin Riker (Dr. Marisa Kendall), Michael V. Gazzo (Chief Clark), Dean Jagger (Slade), Jack Carter (Mayor), Sydney Lassick (Gutchel), James Ingersoll (Helms), Bart Braverman (Kemp), Perry Lang (Kelly) and Henry Silva (Brock).


The Black Hole (1979, Gary Nelson)

The Black Hole is a weird–and bad–movie. American science fiction usually avoids religion, at least literalizing religion, but Black Hole embraces it. Maybe I shouldn’t spoil it. But it’s from Disney too. It’s a Disney movie with Heaven and Hell.

When the film cuts to Maximilian Schell during these sequences, the film feels like a Fellini knockoff. But it’s not. It’s Disney.

There are even terribly designed cute Disney robots flying around and talking in the voices of Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens. McDowell’s not unbearable but the idea of a robot being built to sound like a Western sidekick? It’s idiotic, like most of the film. No one but Schell can endure the dialogue. It’s incredibly bad–all expository for the first half, then the rest of the movie’s a chase and the dialogue’s all declarative.

The declarative is a lot better than the exposition. Robert Forster and Yvette Mimieux can handle the latter. They’re both awful during the first half. Joseph Bottoms, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine are all terrible throughout; Bottoms being the worst. He never manages a single good delivery.

What makes the film watchable is the special effects. As dumb as the cute robots look, the effects flying them around are fantastic. The miniatures are amazing. The post-production effects–the space ship engines and so on–are awful, but the miniatures are great.

John Barry’s score is half okay, half awful… which is a better percentage than the rest of the picture.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gary Nelson; screenplay by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Day, based on a story by Rosebrook, Bob Barbash and Richard H. Landau; director of photography, Frank V. Phillips; edited by G. Gregg McLaughlin; music by John Barry; production designer, Peter Ellenshaw; produced by Ron Miller; released by Buena Vista Distribution Company.

Starring Maximilian Schell (Dr. Hans Reinhardt), Anthony Perkins (Dr. Alex Durant), Robert Forster (Captain Dan Holland), Joseph Bottoms (Lieutenant Charles Pizer), Yvette Mimieux (Dr. Kate McCrae), Ernest Borgnine (Harry Booth), Roddy McDowall (V.I.N.CENT.), Tom McLoughlin (Captain S.T.A.R.) and Slim Pickens (B.O.B.).


Red Princess Blues (2010, Alex Ferrari)

Oh, it’s Robert Forster narrating? It sounded like someone doing a William Shatner impression.

Red Princess Blues is a superhero short. Sure, Rachel Grant is playing a kung fu vigilante (or something), but it’s basically a superhero thing.

It opens with a very nice shot of a carnival (the establishing shots utilize the Panavision aspect, the content itself does not–Ferrari restricts his actors to the center of the frame) and narration suggesting an exposé of carny life. It’s not.

Richard Tyson–who’s fantastic–is some drunken would-be rapist after a young girl (Tabitha Morella). Grant saves her, takes out Tyson and the armed, kung fu carnies backing him up.

Awful supporting turns from Aurelia Scheppers and Alejandra Morin. Grant’s clownish; Morella doesn’t have enough lines to display any acting ability or lack thereof.

Ferrari’s editing is bad, but it doesn’t matter–once the “action” starts, Princess gets unbearable.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by Alex Ferrari; director of photography, Ricardo Jacques Gale; music by Cris Velasco; production designer, Carlos Osorio; produced by Sean Buck, Dan Cregan, Ferrari, Gale, Osorio and Kelly Andrea Rubin; released by The Enigma Factory.

Starring Richard Tyson (Rimo), Rachel Grant (Princess), Tabitha Morella (Zoe), Thushari Jayasekera (Strawberry Mary), Aurelia Scheppers (Silky), Alejandra Morin (Loca Marie), Mitch L. Guy (Quick Mitch), Michael J. Sielaff (Skinny Dubois) and Brian Hite (Clyde Ledbetter); narrated by Robert Forster.


Thick as Thieves (2009, Mimi Leder)

Maybe ten years ago, Thick as Thieves wouldn’t be a direct-to-DVD release (it’s actually a hit, which is kind of scary). Ten years ago, Mimi Leder hadn’t bombed out with Pay It Forward, Antonio Banderas movies–most of them–were still opening in theaters. Morgan Freeman usually gets even a limited release out of his more vanity projects.

But Thick as Thieves (or The Code, the also inexplicable title for DVD) isn’t a vanity project. It’s an attempt at a heist movie with a couple film personalities in it, putting it in the same sub-genre as films like Desperate Measures and, I don’t know, something else with Andy Garcia in it after it was clear he wasn’t going to break through.

Leder’s a terrible director. She was always bad–her positive buzz was based entirely, as I recall, on her “ER” experience–but now she does fast-forwarded shots and all sorts of other malarky for a movie with seventy-two year-old Freeman and forty-nine year-old Banderas. The film doesn’t acknowledge their ages, but since one is supposed to watch it with them in mind as actors not characters, it’s inevitable.

The script’s dumb. Ted Humphrey’s script’s desperate for flavor and has none.

The acting’s fine. Freeman is solid (is he ever bad? I didn’t see those Ashley Judd movies), Banderas is fine. Radha Mitchell is okay. Rade Serbedzija and Robert Forster both pretend they’re in a real movie.

Still, an inoffensive time killer.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Mimi Leder; written by Ted Humphrey; director of photography, Julio Macat; edited by Martin Nicholson; music by Atli Örvarsson; production designer, Nelson Coates; produced by Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Johnny Martin, Lori McCreary and Les Weldon; released by First Look International.

Starring Morgan Freeman (Keith Ripley), Antonio Banderas (Gabriel Martin), Radha Mitchell (Alexandra Korolenko), Robert Forster (Weber) and Rade Serbedzija (Nicky).


Goliath Awaits (1981, Kevin Connor)

Goliath Awaits stars Mark Harmon as Doug McClure. Well, sort of. Harmon plays the Doug McClure role if Goliath was one of director Kevin Connor’s American International lost world pictures. And Goliath really is nothing but those four films rolled into one and modernized and given a budget (for a mini-series) far beyond whatever Connor had on the Time Forgot films. At the beginning, McClure would have been a real improvement over Harmon, who sports a mustache… oh, he was thirty? He seems like he was twenty-three… Anyway, Harmon can’t handle the lead in the teaser (since it’s a mini-series, the teaser runs about a half hour) and I was getting ready for a dreadful two and a half hours, then Robert Forster shows up as the other lead and Harmon moves over to a supporting position and he’s fine. Forster’s great, of course.

The film is oddly never slow. At three hours, it ought to be slow, but it’s really only two hours and fifteen minutes because it starts when Harmon and Forster (along with Connor mainstay–and mustache-free here–John Ratzenberger) get down to the sunken luxury liner and discover the lost world of the film (the Awaits part of the title makes little sense to me). I can’t get in to how the sunken ship has survivors and whatnot, but Christopher Lee is in charge and Frank Gorshin is his sidekick. Lee’s great in Goliath and Gorshin–doing a Lucky the Leprechaun impression–is terrible. Gorshin does Goliath more disservice than imaginable (I mean, Eddie Albert looks good by comparison). I kept wondering if, without Gorshin, it’d have been better.

Because, as a TV mini-series, Goliath follows a format–even if it is a lost world movie, it has a lot disaster movie elements–and that format means the story comes second to the cast and their likability. This aspect is why TV mini-series and TV movies are so different from theatricals… like a TV show, one is tuning in for the characters more than the events and one can change channels (unless he or she is a Christian) a lot easier than getting up and leaving a movie theater. So Harmon working out is important. His romance with Emma Samms–who I don’t think I’ve ever seen in anything before, but she’s very likable in Goliath–is important. The infrequent John Carradine performances… important (Carradine’s a hoot).

Besides Gorshin, the worst performance is Alex Cord, who’s playing an English doctor with a Texas accent. He’s awful and silly and wears around a grey sweatshirt all the time. Makes no sense. Otherwise, the performances are good (Duncan Regehr deserving a named recognition).

But, as far as directing goes, Connor doesn’t have much to do with Goliath. He sets a tone, sure, and the budget allows the submerged ship to look good… If I didn’t know about his other movies, I wouldn’t know I should be noticing comparisons. It’s very competent and solid, but it’s unspectacular.

Still, all things considered, it’s rather successful. (Especially given its excellent final act, so well-done, not even Gorshin can ruin it).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; screenplay by Richard M. Bluel and Pat Fielder, based on a story by Bluel, Fielder and Hugh Benson; director of photography, Al Francis; edited by Donald Douglas and J. Terry Williams; music by George Duning; production designer, Ross Bellah; produced by Benson; aired by Operation Prime Time.

Starring Eddie Albert (Admiral Wiley Sloan), John Carradine (Ronald Bentley), Alex Cord (Dr. Sam Marlowe), Robert Forster (Comdr. Jeff Selkirk), Frank Gorshin (Dan Wesker), Mark Harmon (Peter Cabot), Christopher Lee (John McKenzie), Jean Marsh (Dr. Goldman), John McIntire (Senator Oliver Bartholomew), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Bartholomew), Duncan Regehr (Paul Ryker), Emma Samms (Lea McKenzie), Alan Fudge (Lew Bascomb), Lori Lethin (Maria) and John Ratzenberger (Bill Sweeney).


Rise: Blood Hunter (2007, Sebastian Gutierrez)

How did the producers of Rise: Blood Hunter ever get cinematography superstar John Toll to shoot this movie? Piles of money, I assume. Probably the same piles of money they used to get Michael Chiklis to play a toned-down version of Vic Mackey. I was thinking, as Chiklis was confronting vampire slash vampire killer Lucy Liu, it played a lot like a TV show–not a bad TV show, maybe a Showtime pilot or something reasonable–except for the cinematography. John Toll is shooting Sam Raimi’s “for foreign markets” garbage. Amazing.

Rise is actually a pretty harmless, personality-free affair. The direction is not kinetic action, which I was expecting (and even hoping for after Liu went through bad guy after bad guy with no variation), but it’s as competent as a… Showtime show. The writing is really goofy. It kept reminding me of Count Yorga, but without the acknowledgment of its goofiness. It’s sad when a silly movie is unable to accept itself and really embrace the possibilities.

One big problem is the vampire set-up. They can go out in the daytime, they sleep in beds, they drink liquor, they don’t fly, they don’t have fangs, they aren’t stronger than normal people… they’re really boring. The lack of anything interesting is what makes Rise, an otherwise pedestrian effort, so unique. It’s like everyone showed up and made a movie, but no one cared what was going on. I’ve never seen a film with a writer slash director (would he qualify as an auteur?) so disinterested in his own film. Characters and subplots fall off all over–and it’s not an eight-three minute movie or a seventy-eight. It runs ninety-eight, which is perfectly respectable.

Some of the casting is good. I don’t know if I’m being unfair to Chiklis, but I doubt it. A goatee appears and disappears and he strokes it when he thinks–working on a case he’s not supposed to be working on. I couldn’t help thinking they cast him just because he already knew the right way to hold a gun from his “Shield” training, so they wouldn’t have to pay anyone else. Elden Henson–who I’d forgotten about–shows up for a few scenes and he’s good. Mako’s kind of funny. Holt McCallany, omnipresent in the 1990s, pops in for a bit. Carla Gugino is in it for a few scenes and is terrible. As the lead (her name isn’t Rise, which makes the title a little obnoxious–I think they were trying to convince people it was from a comic book so they’d go see it), Lucy Liu is fine. When she’s the reporter for the weekly, trying to get stories, she’s good. As the tortured vampire killer, she’s okay. The role’s stupid. It’s not so much badly written as just… dumb. Gutierrez is a hack.

There are some blood effects and Nick Lachey and Marilyn Manson both have cameos, suggesting someone involved in the film was either desperate to get it some attention or he or she has a definite range of friends (they aren’t in the same scene together, unfortunately).

I think the film got a theatrical release. Ah, it was limited. It’s probably in Raimi’s contract all his crap gets theatrical releases of some kind.

Robert Forster has a cameo at the beginning. It’s funny and he’s good in it. Maybe they should have hired a better writer and eighty-sixed the vampire malarky and had the cast make an engaging newspaper picture instead.

Terrible music, can’t forget about that noise. Does a real disservice to Toll’s lightning to have that lousy music play over it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Lisa Bromwell and Robb Sullivan; music by Nathan Barr; production designer, Jerry Fleming; produced by Greg Shapiro and Carsten H.W. Lorenz; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Lucy Liu (Sadie), Michael Chiklis (Rawlins), Carla Gugino (Eve), James D’Arcy (Bishop), Mako (Poe), Holt McCallany (Rourke), Elden Henson (Taylor) and Robert Forster (Lloyd).


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