Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Young Women

As I was strolling through IMDb, I started thinking about What Women Want (2000), starring Helen Hunt (b. 1963) and Mel Gibson (b. 1956).  It was not a bad movie.  There are a couple of Bit Actresses in it that should be mentioned here.

Ashley Johnson (b. 1983) played the teenage daughter of Nick Marshall (Gibson).  As a father, I would NOT have wanted to know what my daughter was thinking when she was a teenager, so I give Marshall credit for handling the situation so well.

Ashley has quite a career going at this point.  She is now in her late 20s, and ahe already has 78 titles listed on IMDb.  Her first movie was Lionheart (1990) when she was just seven.  It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme (b. 1960) as a fighter.  (Hmmm.  Imagine that!) 

Following that she has a headlining part in "Growing Pains" with Alan Thicke (b. 1947).  Several more TV series' in regular parts, plus a few guest spots, and we see her in the Hugh Grant rom-com, Nine Months (1995).  Keep in mind, she is now only 12.

Ashley also has a flexible voice so it was natural for her to do voice-overs and even video game parts.  She continues to score TV shows and movies, although most of her work doesn't fit into the genres I tend to watch.  Her last film to date, was last year's Alleged, which is a romantic drama based around the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.  I may look for that one, if only for the rest of the cast, including Colm Meaney, Brian Dennehy and Fred Thompson.  My guess is that these stars all have Bit Parts in it.

Next is Judy Greer (b. 1975).  Judy played Erin, the office worker with self-esteem problems.  Judy doesn't seem to have the same problem as her character, since she also has 78 titles listed on IMDb. 

Her first few roles were nothing to write home about, but then she got a better part in Three Kings (1999) and had a good scene with George Clooney.  What girl wouldn't want that?

After What Women Want, we see Greer in The Wedding Planner (2001) with J. Lo and Matthew McConaughey.  In 2004 she is in 13 Going On 30, which I haven't seen, but it sounds strangely like Big (1988) for girls. 

Many more TV and movie roles continue to come up for Judy.  She gets to work with many stars and future stars.  She always seems to play the 'best friend' and I guess that's why she is a popular Bit Actress.  You don't need to be a star, just be talented.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Eiger Sanction

A big "thumbs down" for this one.  The Eiger Sanction (1975) was a Clint Eastwood disaster.  It seems that Clint was trying to come up with some kind of a James Bond movie, and it turned out more like a cartoon.  This may have been his first time directing an action film.

The Eiger is a mountain in Switzerland.  Eastwood plays Dr. Hemlock, a college art professor and collector, and is a former C2 assassin, hired for one or two more jobs.  Of course, that money will help him buy more black market art, that he obviously can't show to anyone. 

The good - Most of the outside shots are beautiful, and the mountain climbing cinematography is excellent.  Eastwood did most of his own stunts.  The music of John Williams is always great.

The bad (I'll make a list.) -
  • One mountain climber was killed during filming. 
  • The head man at C2 (called Dragon) is, for some reason, an albino, and unable to go outside or be in bright light.  He has his blood replaced twice a year, and all this has absolutely nothing to do with the story.  Dragon is played by Thayer David (1927 - 1978) who could have played the part very well as a regular person in an office somewhere.  Think of his part in Rocky (1976) as the fight promoter.  He is imposing, and he smokes a big cigar.  Perfect!
  • The other C2 hit man (Pope) is totally incompetent and unbelievable.  Gregory Walcott (b. 1928) played that part.  With over 100 roles on IMDb, he is not well known to me, and probably did his best work in TV westerns as a Bit Actor.
  • Brenda Venus (b. 1947 as per IMDb, b. 1957 as per Wikipedia) is only in the film to take her shirt off.  She probably doesn't have much acting talent anyway, but we should be able to judge for ourselves.  She has no speaking lines.  Was she 18 or 28 years old?  Her own web site doesn't say her birth date.
  • Jack Cassidy is a decent actor and would have been fine in his role as the guy who had betrayed Hemlock years earlier.  Why did they make his character gay?  Was it only so he could have a more menacing bodyguard for Eastwood to kill?  (He killed both of them eventually.)
  • Why did the 'sanction' (C2 talk for 'assassination') have to take place while climbing a mountain?  There was no reason to risk the C2 operative's life that way, even if he was a mountain climber by hobby.  He could have just figured out who the bad guy was and finished the job in a safer location.  As it turns out, the target wasn't even on the mountain, plus there was another twist that I won't reveal.
Vonetta McGee (1945 - 2010) was another C2 employee, who fell in love with Hemlock.  She is best known as the love interest in Blacula (1972), and many regular TV roles.  She wasn't bad!

The rest of the cast though was pretty ho-hum, even George Kennedy whom I usually like.  The other three climbers at the conclusion of the film did come across as believable, and had more complex personalities than the rest of this film should have allowed. 

But even the climbing action wasn't enough to save this film.  If Eastwood had simplified the movie by removing the gimmicks, and allowed the story to take over, it would have been a much better film.

It is worth seeing, from an academic standpoint, but it is not worth owning unless of course, you are also a mountain climber.  The film crew were the last to climb the Totem Pole in Monument Valley, and those shots are also great.  But I would suggest reading the book.