Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: September 11-October 9, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007:
I think this may qualify as a "meme." I feel kind of dirty if it does, but I'm not sure. (Charlotte Lennox's surprisingly readable, book-length chronicle of ludicrous Internet drama The Ms.Scribe Story reminded me just how much geek jargon is out there that I don't understand. Not that I'm particularly inclined to learn, mind you.)
Also, I doubt I'm the first one to come up with this. My flashes of inspiration often spur me to invent the extant.
Neveryoumind, I've had an idea. An extravagant idea. A mad, unthinkable, utterly impossible idea. A frabulous, grabulous, zip-zoop-zabulous idea! Specifically, I've decided it would be fun to make a bunch of random mix CDs and leave them in public places for people to find. And it will be more fun if you do it too! You can recast it as "culture jamming" or a "media virus" if doing so will make you more likely to participate. Really, it's just leaving fun presents around your hometown to potentially make strangers happy. (Penn Jillette's excellent essay "Practical Jokes as Gentle Surrealism," in Penn & Teller's book How to Play with Your Food, discusses the pleasures of buying Jell-o for strangers. It's fairly inspiring and has stuck with me since middle school.)
Seems like you should know what to do from what I've said so far, but if you need further guidance...
Make a CD of songs you like or that you would enjoy inflicting upon the sort of passerby who would bother to pick up and listen to a seemingly discarded CD. Take local obscenity laws into account before you include, say, "Short Dick Man" by 20 Fingers.
Bev came up with the series title Take Me, I'm Yours! which I thought was funny, so that's the phrase you should write on the CD itself and in big letters on whatever sort of booklet or digipack you come up with. Be sure to include a tracklist, along with a brief note suggesting that the finder/keeper create their own CD and distribute it in a similar fashion. Make it eye-catching!
Then, while you're out and about later, just start dropping copies of the CD places where you think people will notice one and pick it up: libraries, inside the newspaper boxes of free "alternative" weeklies, park benches, etc. Maybe not the pavement, because the point is not for people to break the discs into shards.
Try your best not to be seen when you leave the CD. Not just because it's more cosmically amusing if someone finds it accidentally after you're gone, but because you don't want a littering citation. (Or worse. Bev's workplace was evacuated a few weeks ago because someone left one of those rice-filled microwave heat packs on the ground... and someone else thought it was some manner of terrorist ordnance. So bear in mind that people aren't receptive to whimsy when they're twitching with white-knuckle paranoia.)
Repeat until you run out of CD-Rs or patience.
For your edification, the following is what's on the CD I'll be leaving around town:
1. Of Montreal- "Jennifer Louise"
2. The Other Leading Brand- "Ritalin Rock"
3. The Dead Milkmen- "The Girl with the Strong Arm"
4. Joe Pernice- "Bum Leg"
5. The Virgin-Whore Complex- "Stay Away From My Mother"
6. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- "Jangling Jack"
7. The Shangri-La's- "I Can Never Go Home Anymore"
8. The Handsome Family- "Tesla's Hotel Room"
9. The Spacewürm- "Guilt and Money and Money and Love"
10. Eric's Trip- "This Way Out"
11. Fay Lovsky- "Alle Liedjes op de Radio"
12. Sun City Girls- "The Shining Path"
13. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks- "I Scare Myself"
14. Twink- "Pussy Cat"
15. Deltron 3030- "Virus"
16. Disclaimer- "You Ruined Everything" (Oh, you'd do it too. Though I'm somewhat disheartened to discover that I've been reduced to guerrilla marketing.)
17. lb.- "Angie"
18. ABBA- "S.O.S."
19. The Soft Boys- "Have a Heart, Betty (I'm Not Fireproof)"
20. Bingo Boys- "How to Dance"
21. John Prine- "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore"
22. Camper Van Beethoven- "Seven Languages"
23. David Clement- "Geriatriphilia"
If anyone actually likes this idea and makes one of these CDs- or better yet, finds one somewhere- e-mail me and let me know where and what's on it, won't you? I sort of hope this catches on, though I grant that it doesn't have the instant hipster appeal of something like the Obey campaign. Or flash mobs, for the weekend that those were popular.
Cora's Corner: Bev has lost her ever-lovin' mind.
CURRENT MUSIC: The A Mighty Wind soundtrack.
CURRENT MOOD: We believe in whimsy here at Zevo Toys.
CURRENT VENDETTA: Time Warner Cable, Road Runner Internet division. Though their customer service folks are at least polite, they have the absolute lowest standard of quality of any company I've dealt with since I bought a Gateway desktop in 2000. Avoid dealing with them if you can.
TIME: 10:32 a.m.
Doot? | |
Tuesday, September 11, 2007:
Longtime readers will be familiar with my well-publicized (and, her legal team has asked me to emphasize, nonreciprocal) thing for Amy Wynn Pastor. Well, Bev has an equivalent, if not more powerful, thing for actor Adam Baldwin. No, not one of those Baldwins, but rather the actor best known as trigger-happy lummox Jayne from the sci-fi Western series Firefly and its post-cancellation sequel Serenity (arguably the best TV-to-film translation ever). After her umpteenth viewing of the Firefly DVDs, Bev decided she needed her eye candy in different contexts, so she began determinedly collecting every Baldwin project she could find. Thus, we've been having an ongoing Adam Baldwin marathon for the past month or so, and as a public service, I've decided to assemble a quick-and-dirty Disclaimer Adam Baldwin Review Archive below.
This isn't a comprehensive filmography: sizeable chunks of Baldwin's work are tough to find in any format, and there are additional chunks that Bev and I just didn't feel like sitting through (Angel). Although few of the following films are any good, Baldwin acquits himself nicely in all of them. Without resorting to the kind of smarm that allows Bruce Campbell to slide through consistently painful movies with his coolness intact, Adam brings a buff enthusiasm to even the least imaginative roles, and positively shines when he's allowed to indulge his gift for misanthropic comic delivery.
Please join me in an exploration, excavation, and excommunication of Adam's 27-year cinematic odyssey, won't you? Fametracker used to do this sort of thing much better, but as long as I'm watching these things, I'm bloody well going to write about them. There are lots of spoilers to follow.
[NOTE 10/1/07: I've decided to keep updating this entry after its initial posting, just because we're going to keep watching Adam's films and I'm kind of proud of what I have so far. Also, if you're interested, Adam can currently be seen in a supporting role on NBC's barely watchable Chuck.]
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Mopheaded, rich pipsqueak Chris Makepeace (Meatballs) hires hulking, misunderstood classmate Baldwin to protect him from preppy bully Matt Dillon (Albino Alligator). Along the way, they discover the meaning of friendship and rebuild Baldwin's motorcycle.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Joan Cusack (In & Out, US Cellular commercials) is a student at the school. Martin Mull (Gene Parmesean from Arrested Development) takes the thankless role of Makepeace's under-attentive father. George Wendt (Cheers, those "Da Bears!" sketches on SNL) has one line as a hotel employee.
Thoughts: Baldwin's first film (he even gets the "Introducing: Adam Baldwin" credit at the beginning) is cute enough for an early-'80s family picture. Bev cooed, "Aww!" whenever he was onscreen. There's a go-nowhere B-story about Makepeace's hi-larious alcoholic grandmother, but it's otherwise watchable Afterschool Special fare, and it always amuses me when Dillon plays a tough.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: "You know, I thought Repo Man was okay, but I wish its surreal misanthropy was replaced by kooky-yet-heartwarming hijinks, and that the cameo by L.A. hardcore legends the Circle Jerks was replaced with a cameo by Irene Cara." Thus spake the collection of Mexican jumping beans inside Joel Schumacher's head (8MM, Phone Booth) before he co-wrote and directed this caricature-driven comedy in which Baldwin plays a starry-eyed Georgia transplant who is trying to "break into the cab business" in our nation's capital through a series of ride-alongs at the D.C. Cab company. After Moneybags Baldwin's $6,000 investment in the firm convinces the staff to band together and take pride in their work, he gets kidnapped.
Other familiar faces I noticed: The D.C. Cab crew includes Mr. T (Rocky III), Gary Busey (I'm With Busey), Bill Maher (Politically Incorrect), Marsha Warfield (Night Court), and Paul Rodriguez (miserably unfunny stand-up comedy).
Thoughts: The blatant similarities to Repo Man make this a pretty cynical film, but in a money-grubbing way rather than an "Ordinary fuckin' people: I hate 'em" way. Bad as the attempts to rationalize the characters' antisocial behavior for mainstream consumption are, though, it gets even worse when Schumacher tries to schuhorn a plot in at the last minute. The cast is game, though (as usual, Busey doesn't seem to notice or care that the camera is rolling as he jabbers about oral sex and upcoming race wars), and the movie does have a handful of good laughs, mostly when it tries to approximate Repo Man's gloriously black heart. If it ever became necessary for me to adopt an e-mail signature line, I'd choose the D.C. Cab quote "Mr. Rhythm say, 'If you can make it from day to night without committing suicide, you okay!'"
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Adam Baldwin plays Jeff Hannah, a high schooler who used to be a member of a Hispanic gang, but got out of the game when they murdered someone. Following a drug bust at school, gang leader Danny De La Paz (Freejack) declares Baldwin a narc and publicly vows to kill him in a few days' time.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Mario Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song) is the leader of the African-American kids' gang. Also, Bev tells me that the school's principal plays Oto (or perhaps "Odo") on some damn Star Trek series.
Thoughts: Interestingly, this probably isn't a movie that could be made today, in our climate of paranoia over school violence and finger-pointing about the influence of movies in same. Its point of view would be jarringly bleak, in fact, if the community and student body's laissez-faire attitude toward ongoing organized crime in the school were the tiniest bit realistic. Principal Oto, in particular, is amusingly resigned to the notion that one of his students is actually, literally about to be killed on school property. Thus detached from the need for Earth-based social commentary, 3:15 gets teensploitatively awesome, like Double Dragon taking place at Degrassi High. After De La Paz's girlfriend ostensibly turns traitor (by... delivering a message to Baldwin from De La Paz, so she could more accurately be said to have turned carrier pigeon, but whatever), the gang's other girls get together to beat her down, which is notable mostly because the alpha female turns her own head into a mace by attaching a heavy, metal hairclip to the end of her ponytail and whipping her head around. During the final battle, shortly after the boom mike enters the frame, there is a series of tension-heightening cuts as Baldwin and De La Paz call to each other around the side of a stairwell. Problem is, the cuts were clearly made very late in the postproduction process, because they wind up chopping the song on the soundtrack into ribbons as well. Oh, it's good. Bev bought this one off eBay, and I'm glad she did, because it was a blast to watch and I'll want to revisit it.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Bleach-blond, short-shorted Hollywood cop Baldwin and his partner Mike Jolly (Sister Act) are suspended from the force following a brawl in a leather-intensive "biker" bar. After failing at a couple of mighty butch jobs as construction workers and strippers, they turn to the world of tag-team wrestling to make ends meet. After winning precisely one match (against twin Soviet bears The Kremlin Krushers), they wind up in the title bout against twin Soviet bears The Kremlin Krushers. If ever a film were screaming for a joint John Waters/Bob Mould commentary track...
Other familiar faces I noticed: Ruth Buzzi (Laugh-In) is half of the bloodthirsty couple that teaches the boys how to wrestle mean. Allan Rich (Quiz Show) is a fight promoter or possibly a manager. Sgt. Slaughter (G.I. Joe) gets an opening credit but doesn't show up until the end of the film, playing himself as a buttinsky who'll jump, unbidden, into someone else's wrestling match.
Thoughts: Squad, camp it up! How this little gem has gone thus far unembraced by queer scholars and cultists is beyond me, because it's so brilliantly and thoroughly subversive for an '80s wrestling comedy. Yes, there is a troublesome, outwardly homophobic, Beverly Hills Cop-derived scene with Harvey Jason (FernGully) as a queeny boutique owner, but you can't tell me director Joel Silberg doesn't know what he's doing when he has Jolly bench-pressing in a T-shirt that says, "BIG SIZE," as Baldwin spots him, urging, "Come on, man, get it up!" Or when there's a completely gratuitous shot of Baldwin deep-throating an ice cream cone. This serves as a pretty good visual summary of the film, really. On another note, the front of the VHS case perplexingly quotes The New York Times as saying, "There hasn't been a moment like it since Rocky IV," with no further context (including whether the blurb was actually intended as praise), so chutzpah points there.
Full Metal Jacket
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Full Metal Jacket plays like a pair of hour-long Vietnam War films stapled together only by director Stanley Kubrick's (Dr. Strangelove, Lolita) blackly ironic anti-war sentiments and deeply pessimistic humanity. In the first half of the film, new U.S. Marine Corps recruit Matthew Modine (Cutthroat Island) finds himself in a platoon run by sergeant R. Lee Ermey (Se7en), who takes particular interest--if not delight--in bullying and dehumanizing the inept, borderline-retarded private played by Vincent D'Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent). In the second half, Modine has become a flip military journalist who is thrilled to find himself embedded in The Shit following the Tet Offensive. Baldwin plays Animal Mother, who opens up for free. [Pause for knowing laughter from Guided by Voices fans. With none forthcoming, Willie haltingly clears his throat and attempts to continue, only to drop his notes and spend an interminable 30 seconds retrieving and re-sorting them. Finally, he continues.] Um, yes. Animal Mother is also the member of the platoon who embodies the merciless, bandolier-clad killing machine that the USMC boasts of creating... and he is fucking disgusting.
Other familiar faces I noticed: I have evidently seen Arliss Howard, who plays "Cowboy," in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Sandlot, and Natural Born Killers, but I can't say I recognized him on sight.
Thoughts: Full Metal Jacket is a tough one to unravel. It's clearly an anti-war film, keeping its gaze on Modine's character, who treats the war and the murder it involves with glib detachment right up until the barrel is turned on him. But sprinkle in a few more puns (and, had cooler heads not prevailed 23 years earlier, a pie fight), and you'd have Dr. Strangelove. That is to say, there's a weird, incongruously corny sense of humor that runs alongside the whole tragic story, as when a unit commander admonishes Modine, "We've got to try to keep our heads until this peace craze blows over," or when novelty songs like "Surfin' Bird" and "Wooly Bully" accompany shockingly dark visuals. Ermey plays his part to perfection (and has done so numerous times since, most notably--in my esteem--as the leader of the plastic army men in Toy Story and as Col. Leslie Hapablap on the superb Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"), brilliantly improvising bellowed insults that start off as harmless schoolyard taunting, quickly become bitingly hilarious ("I'll bet you're the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around!"), and chillingly devolve into schoolyard taunting of the sort that leaves big scars. But even after Ermey leaves the picture, Kubrick's got a lot to say about war and those who crave it.
Not to preach here, but I first saw this as part of a course on war films that I took in college, and it shattered me even though I couldn't completely put my finger on why. Watching it for the second time just now, I can. In 2006, when the United States military was at its most desperate for cannon fodder to dump into the quagmire George W. Bush and his crackerjack team had created in Iraq for absolutely no reason except their own personal enrichment, my friend's husband entered boot camp. My friend soon reported to me that her husband was in a platoon not only among violent felons, but with an individual who was clearly, at the very least, severely autistic. This poor, D'Onofrio-esque kid shit himself during formation at one point because he didn't realize that he could ask permission to use the bathroom; that's how mentally and interpersonally challenged he was. And yet the platoon leaders did everything they could to retain him and keep him from being discharged because he was a warm body. That is what the United States military thinks of its recruits, and I think that, on a global scale, is sort of what Kubrick is getting at in Full Metal Jacket. War, violence, rah-rah military jingoism; these things feed on individuals who are too shocked and stunned by the noise they make to question what they're about and what causes them. And if we each make the decision not to go along with it, not to buy into the big lie that there's some imminent monster threat to our personal way of life... Well, it's not like this country will ever take its finger off the trigger, because the military-industrial complex has ensured that this nation has far too much invested in violent aggression (under the euphemisms "defense" and "security") to stop lording it over the rest of the world, but we as individuals can choose not to be a part of it. If you want to improve things for your fellow humans, you can join AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, or just work smaller acts of compassion into your everyday routine, like volunteering at a food bank. Things that have no potential for bloodshed, that won't require you to shut down the areas of your conscience that are constantly pinging. You can choose to do good without causing harm, and you will feel so much better for it.
I'm not trying to piss on anyone who really believes that they are enlisting or have enlisted for noble reasons. I'm not saying you're stupid, I'm not saying you're gullible, and I'm not saying your motives are impure. Plenty of people genuinely believe that they are doing the best possible thing they can do for humanity by being a part of the U.S. military, and that is unquestionably a motivation that should be lauded. However, by a generous estimation, there is just as much chance that your sacrifice will be put to evil purposes as humanitarian ones. There are far more productive places to channel your impulses. Your life is worth more than that, and I cannot emphasize that enough. Please, please respect yourself and the people who love you--and life itself, the world 'round--enough not to waste or lose it doing nasty things that are demonstrably not in your best interest just because someone you don't know and who could not care less about you tells you to.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Private school wrestler Griffin O'Neal (Assault of the Killer Bimbos) has a reputation for toying with his opponents before pinning them, because he's just that good. In an effort to impress long-retired pro wrestler Charles Durning (The Hudsucker Proxy, Everybody Loves Raymond), though, he decides to clean up his act and wrestle boringly. Along the way, he becomes crestfallen when he realizes that the people who attend his matches are, shockingly, only there to be entertained! So he learns that you can't trust anybody, and moves on to the championship against a thirtysomething roughneck with a Freddie Mercury moustache. Wonderfully enough, Baldwin plays a student named Bobo McKenzie.
Other familiar faces I noticed: William Devane (Knots Landing) plays O'Neal's wrestling coach with enough of a creepy, I'm-here-if-you-ever-need-to-talk silkiness that I spent most of the movie cringing in anticipation of what I assumed was the inevitable sexual assault. There isn't one. I'm cynical, I guess.
Thoughts: Released before WrestleMania captured the hearts of an entire bemulleted quasi-human subspecies, it's kind of amusing today to see Hadley's Rebellion championing wrestling as The Forgotten Sport. On the other hand, wrestling without theatrics is just as silly but ten times as monotonous, and Hadley's Rebellion pretty well embodies that monotony. It also contains what may be my favorite Baldwin line: "I like listening to girls' voices. It makes me think of poon."
The Chocolate War
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Weird Science) steadfastly refuses to participate in the annual chocolate-sale fundraiser his Catholic high school hosts. This incurs the wrath of the school's resident "gang," The Vigils, who have been retained as enforcers of the fundraising goals by interim headmaster John Glover (Smallville). Adam Baldwin is apparently the president of The Vigils, but his duties seem largely ceremonial and gavel-based, so the group's peer pressure strategizing falls to foppish string-puller Wallace Langham (The Larry Sanders Show, CSI).
Other familiar faces I noticed: Bud Cort (Dogma, daytime mock-trial program Bud Cort) has a small bit as a monk who overuses the word environment. Don't ask.
Thoughts: You know, the high school I attended was hardly rough, and the "gang activity" went no further than a clique of assholes who dressed alike and who intimidated only the PTA, but our drama club could have taken down The Vigils. They call themselves "The Vigils," for one thing, which resounds with as much implied threat as "The Hymns" or "The Fudgesicles." (For the record, my high school's mega-hard crew called themselves "The Family.") And The Vigils' raison d'etre involves upholding school spirit, going so far as to continue wearing their school uniforms at their clandestine gatherings. Thus, it's easy to see why Mitchell-Smith never seems all that shaken by them, though the vagueness of his character's personality and motivation makes him seem more dazed than courageous, and so the underlying conflict ends up roughly as tense as watching a moth repeatedly bonk itself against a window. Nonetheless, I thought Langham made an interesting high-school villain, since he's less a bully than an unctuous sleaze of the sort Chris Elliott usually plays. [Bev note: As much as I love Adam Baldwin, he seemed supremely out-of-place here. Also, some unflattering angles caused him to somewhat resemble Buffy's horrible boyfriend, the famous Tuber Nose. I must say, he does look adorable in that newsboy hat towards the end of the movie.]
Cohen and Tate
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: According to an introductory title screen, nine-year-old Harley Cross (The Fly II) has been placed in the witness relocation program after seeing a mob hit. (That's the sort of detail that you need a title card for, because obviously there's no way to introduce it with expository dialogue or anything.) The FBI drops the ball, though, and after shooting up the farmhouse in which the kid is sequestered, squabbling hired guns Baldwin and Roy Scheider (Jaws, The French Connection) abduct the kid to deliver him to the MacGuffin Mafia. Most of the film takes place on this errand.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: It's not a bad idea to stage virtually an entire noir thriller in a car, watching three distinct personalities eat at one another until someone snaps, blowing the plan. It's an idea that demands a lot of the screenwriter and the actors, though, because it's necessary for those personalities to be recognizably human if, as the noir tradition dictates, simple human folly is going to set their exaggerated undoing in motion. That's where Cohen and Tate lets itself down. From a performance standpoint, Cross is a bit of a weak link, predictably: Baldwin, with a Sling Blade grunt, has great fun honing the lovable sadist persona that would serve him well in later years, and Scheider works overtime to bring some class and emotion to the project, but the kid is basically a My Buddy doll with Real Whimpering Action. (Bev and I cheered whenever Baldwin hit him, which we probably weren't supposed to do.) Moreover, writer/director Eric Red takes the action too far out of the realm of plausibility to be compelling. Not that this sort of film needs to stick slavishly to real-world rules--Blood Simple, a clear influence here, is at its most chilling when it diverges from what could conceivably happen to you or me--but Red's script veers into silliness. For instance, hostage or no hostage, when you've got four cops at a roadblock unquestioningly acceding to their targets' demands that they hand over their guns and car keys, rip out the squad cars' radios, and handcuff themselves... your script could use another draft. Trivia tidbit: according to an interview with Red, this film initially got an X rating because of the way the kid was treated, which may be why some of Baldwin's lines were blatantly softened in ADR. Read his lips, and he's clearly not saying, "What the [hell] did you just say to me? Did you hear what that [s]ucker said to me?"
Next of Kin
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: When young mobster Baldwin kills truck driver Bill Paxton (Weird Science), Paxton's two brothers--backwoods hill person Liam Neeson (Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Ethan Frome) and by-the-book-yet-frontiersy cop Patrick Swayze (Father Hood)--race to dispense their respective forms of justice.
Other familiar faces I noticed: A pre-fame Ben Stiller (The Ben Stiller Show) adorably plays Baldwin's squeamish, ambitious cousin. Helen Hunt (The Best Little Girl in the World) plays the same pinchy harpy she always plays.
Thoughts: At its heart, Next of Kin is a pretty straightforward cop/revenge movie, though it would have you believe that the centerpiece is the city mouse-vs.-country mouse fraternal relationship between Swayze and Neeson. That might have worked better if you got the sense that the filmmakers knew how either rural or urban areas actually operate, however. Or cinematic pacing. A climactic battle between the Cosa Nostra and a band of yokuls armed with a bus full of snakes, for instance, should not be as bland as it is here. It's nearly worth it, though, to delight in Neeson drowning his Irish brogue beneath a tobacco-dripping Southern murmur. Less impressively, Baldwin attempts a wiseguy accent in a few scenes, which he seems to have wisely abandoned early in the shoot.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Loose cannon LAPD lieutenant Danny Glover (The Royal Tenenbaums) is trying to track down the person--or thing--who has been bloodily flaying a number of the city's gang members and drug kingpins. Turns out it's Predator, a dreadlocked alien chameleon, who just likes killing stuff. Though his investigation is stymied by G-man Gary Busey (D.C. Cab), who keeps telling Glover that he's getting too close and he doesn't know what he's dealing with, Glover presses on with increased ferocity once Predator starts dispatching his coworkers. Baldwin plays Busey's jutted-jaw subordinate, biting off his lines with the distinctively pleasurable militant bravado he always employs in these underwritten law-enforcement roles. (See also: Independence Day, Chuck.)
Other familiar faces I noticed: Bill Paxton (Next of Kin) is a goony rookie policeman. The dermatologically unfortunate Robert Davi (Die Hard) is some sort of authority figure who vanishes fairly quickly. Execrable '80s pundit Morton Downey Jr. plays a Hard Copy pseudo-journalist, clearly thinking that his mere presence in this film somehow comprises satire. Panamanian musician Ruben Blades, who did the awesome, polyrhythmic cover of "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" on the XTC tribute album A Testimonial Dinner, is Glover's doomed partner.
Thoughts: Can't say I ever watched the original Predator, so perhaps I was immune to a lot of character-driven insight that would have made this more interesting. Though an extended climax, in which the chase busts out of predictable, Alien-inspired closed quarters into the city at large, possesses a certain death-by-chocolate sense of indulgent glee, the first hour plods. Indeed, the most notable aspct of the first two acts is the amount of time director Stephen Hopkins spends focusing on Danny Glover's sweet ass (as Glover himself refers to it early in the film), following him up ladders, tightly framing his even tighter slacks, etc. It's an odd motif, but a funny one.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: When his kids argue over who gets to play with a toy, Tom Hanks (The Simpsons Movie) punishes them and us by telling the mercilessly depressing story of when he was Elijah Wood (The Ice Storm) as a boy. Wood and his brother, Joseph Mazzello (Simon Stupid Birch), devise a plan to build a flying contraption out of their wagon that will enable Mazzello to escape abusive stepfather Adam Baldwin. (Baldwin leaves Wood alone, but frequently gets drunk and beats on Mazzello. This has led some commentators to suggest that Mazzello is actually a figment of Wood's imagination, which is kind of an interesting theory.)
Other familiar faces I noticed: John Heard (Home Alone) is the underutilized town sheriff. Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos) is the boys' mother.
Thoughts: Radio Flyer is intended as a paean to innocent childhood escapism, but director Richard Donner (Goonies, Lethal Weapon) trowels on the dour, violent dynamic of the household so thickly that no flicker of joy can escape. It feels odd to recommend Pan's Labyrinth as a less grim treatment of a similar theme, but that's the case. The one filmic touch in which childhood exaggerations are actually shown rather than simply narrated in Hanks's too-homey voiceover, though, is the one touch that works: Donner almost never lets the camera fully glimpse Baldwin's face, letting our imagination heighten his already imposing presence to the point of monstrosity. (At one point, we do get a close-up on Baldwin's face contorted with sobs, when he's trying to win Bracco back. "Ha! There's the only unobstructed Baldwin shot you're going to get in this movie," I told Bev. She responded, "Whatever, go back to the arms!") Of course, Donner then has Baldwin bloodily maim the family dog, so this concession to subtlety is for naught, and he goes back to crushing any sense of imagination beneath uncomfortable nastiness.
Where the Day Takes You
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Dermont Mulroney (Young Guns) is the de facto patriarch of a group of homeless Hollywood runaways that includes hothead Balthazar Getty (Young Guns II), tweaker Sean Astin (Rudy, Encino Man), good-natured redneck James Le Gros (Living in Oblivion, the erotic children's literature author from Friends), love interest Lara Flynn Boyle (Happiness, Wayne's World), and hanger-on Ricki Lake (the talent agent from Hairspray). After Getty guns down a pimp who's trying to kill Mulroney, Baldwin gets a teensy role as a cop in a Titleist baseball cap who's intent on arresting Mulroney for the crime.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Lots. Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me) is the film's framing device. Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day) is, sadly, both the film's only gay character and also pretty pervy. Christian Slater (Broken Arrow) runs a rehab clinic. I know. Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet, The Librarian: The Quest for the Spear) is Astin's impressively chiseled dealer. Alyssa Milano (Poison Ivy II) and David Arquette (Airheads) run a Hollywood think tank where--oh, my mistake, they're prostitutes. Will Smith ("You Saw My Blinker") is not only the sole black kid, but also the kid in the wheelchair, thus singlehandedly making the cast as diverse as the Burger King Kids' Club.
Thoughts: Heavy-handed as a Chick Tract but not as funny, Where the Day Takes You expends an awful lot of energy dispelling the myth that the life of a teen runaway is one of rudderless glamour. The core cast does a fantastic job with the material they're given (particularly Astin, whose performance is ultimately more affecting than anything in Requiem for a Dream), but the presence of so many brand-name actors in cameo roles only enhances the feeling that this is a feature-length PSA; Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue for at-risk teens. As such, it's hard not to squirm at the sincerity of it all.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Violently obsessive psycho Baldwin answers a roommate ad placed by divorcee Justine Bateman (Family Ties), and moves in after murdering the guy she initially agreed to live with. Having never read The Gift of Fear, in part because it wasn't yet published, Justine remains oblivious as Baldwin systematically strips away everything important in her life so she will have to rely entirely on him. He starts by getting her fired (by means of shutting off her alarm clock once, which makes me think that she should have had a backup alarm in place if she knew punctuality was so vital to her employment) and soon moves on to stealing important mail and then more murder. Eventually, he just holds her captive and waits for Stockholm syndrome to kick in.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Chris Mulkey (of the funny Reno 911 ancestor Bakersfield P.D.) plays the ex-husband Bateman keeps stringing along.
Thoughts: Deadbolt is less a film than a made-for-TV double feature of instructive stalking technique: the first half is so well stocked with big events that it feels like things should be wrapping up right around the time Baldwin finally imprisons Bateman, but then it keeps going for a year as she tries to escape. For Bev's part, she commented, "What's her problem? I wouldn't complain if you kept me locked in the house and I couldn't go to work. I wouldn't complain if he kept me locked in the house either."
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Overly peculiar Rivers Cuomo lookalike Matt McGrath (Pump Up the Volume) clearly had something to do with a home invasion that left his stepfather dead and his mom Blythe Danner (Meet the Fockers) nearly so, but it takes a looooong time before this three-hour miniseries will come out and say it. First we have to watch detectives Baldwin and Miguel Ferrer (Another Stakeout, Hot Shots! Part Deux) sort of dance around the case in unproductive ways until they uncover the clue that breaks it wide open: McGrath and his college buddies are fond of the notorious homicide-provoking brainwashing mechanism Dungeons & Dragons. Once this damning fact is uncovered, it's a simple matter of spending another 90 minutes watching this enterprise degenerate into a farcical courtroom drama bogged down by pointless tangents, silly flashbacks shot like the Beastie Boys' "So What'cha Want" video, and red herrings that never remotely throw the viewer off the scent.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Gwenyth Paltrow (View from the Top, inane personal newsletters) is Danner's daughter who may or may not have also been involved in the attack. Excessively-eyebrowed crank Ed Asner (Up) is retained as McGrath's lawyer. John C. McGinley (Office Space, Scrubs) is another defense attorney. Dennis Farina (Snatch) is a private investigator who is inexplicably hired by McGrath's attorneys to basically shout at McGrath until he confesses his guilt to them. To his own defense attorneys, yes. David Arquette (Where the Day Takes You) is McGrath's buddy, and is actually the less twitchy of the two. William Forsythe (Raising Arizona) is hired as the town's police chief midway through the investigation. Richard Schiff (The West Wing) is a polygraph administrator who seems unconcerned by the universally inadmissible nature of the evidence collection that makes up his life's work. Jake Busey (Shasta McNasty, an insurmountably damaged gene pool) lives in the dorms with McGrath. Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show) is a neighborhood looky-loo. Kristin Dattilo (the supremely awful Wonderful World of Disney made-for-TV movie Exile) is one of McGrath's classmates.
Thoughts: Though the real-life case on which Cruel Doubt is based may well have confounded detectives and prosecutors for a couple years before it was resolved, director Yves Simoneau overplays his hand so carelessly in the opening minutes that there's never a second's doubt--cruel or otherwise--as to where the story is heading. Simultaneously, though, it manages to be laughably unrealistic throughout; not just with regard to the Dateline NBC-level fearmongering about the way Dungeons & Dragons creates violent sociopaths rather than harmless nerds, but also the way the American criminal justice system is unintentionally depicted as being even more inadequate, capricious, and foolhardy than it is. (Granted, I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine it's acceptable practice for a young man convicted of the attempted murder of his mother to be released to his mother's custody until his sentencing.) Top it off with a non-ending that shrugs its shoulders and says, "What do you think, viewer?" in lieu of any definitive closure, and you've got a disaster whose 187-minute bulk is more than even its numerous stretches of fascinatingly godawful bliss can salvage.
800 Leagues Down the Amazon
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: In this interminable adaptation of a Jules Verne tale, plantation owner Barry Bostwick (Spin City, that Pepsi commercial where he's disguised as Halle Berry), daughter Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs' Princess Vespa), and her fiance, Tom Verica (preachy Wonder Years rip-off American Dreams), take a ride down the Amazon so the latter two can get married at their destination. Along the way, nogoodnik Baldwin comes aboard, believing Bostwick has... some stolen diamonds, maybe? I've already forgotten.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: This was frickin' boring, which is not something you can often say about a Roger Corman production. We just watched it a couple weeks ago, and all I can remember is that I think Adam Baldwin shoots an alligator in it, and that there's a giant wad of tacked-on nonsense about Botswick going to jail after the cast gets off the riverboat, which makes Speed's lengthy post-bus sequence feel like a Minor Threat song by comparison.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Blind, late-1800s gunslinger Armand Assante (Judge Dredd, Advantage: Agassi) blows into an Old West town that's under embargo by Robert Davi (Predator 2) and his band of... banditos, who are after a shipment of silver that Baldwin's Army unit is guarding. In exchange for his assistance in ridding the town of Davi, nurse Elizabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting) agrees to help Assante transport the baby he's toting--oh yeah, he's got a squalling baby with him--to its mother in a town no one has heard of. Eventually, Assante gets captured and crucified by Davi's gang, but he's rescued by the film's Native American character. At this point, I cried, "Oh, no! Armand Assante is going to have to go on a mystical inward journey!" but happily, Native American Character isn't interested in Assante's spiritual life or, indeed, anything except blowing stuff up with his impressive, Wile E. Coyote-sized cache of dynamite. With the promise of imminent explosions, Native American Character joins Assante to take Davi down.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Jack Black (Mr. Show) wrings a decent laugh from an otherwise unfunny comic scene in which he is a Union soldier awed by Assante's ability to catch a fly in his bare hand. (It's all in his reading of the line, "What the hell, man? You're blind!")
Thoughts: Blind Justice wasn't too good! It's funnier if you pretend that Assante's character isn't supposed to be blind at all, because he keeps making observations that would be ridiculously mundane if they weren't designed to wow us with how keen his remaining four senses are (and that no blind person would ever be able to make in the first place), like commenting on where Baldwin is resting his hand on a hitching post. Speaking of Baldwin, his character gets fragged by his men toward the end of the film because they aren't as gung-ho about giving their lives to protect the U.S. government's monetary resources as he is. I doubt that little plot element would have survived if this film had been made ten years later.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Oh, it's an "erotic" "thriller," it sure is! Former racing star C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders, E.T.) co-owns a Mexican resort with paraplegic buddy Baldwin (sporting a greasy mullet and channeling Michael Keaton at his slovenly best), but they're in debt to crime kingpin and cockfighting aficionado Kevin Bernhardt (Dr. Kevin O'Connor from General Hospital). Frizzy exhibitionist Randi Ingerman, Howell's ex-girlfriend, shows up with a plan to get the resort out of debt and to win Howell back, and thrilling eroticism ensues.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Tia Carrere (who played "Tia Carrere" in 20 Dates) is either an ecologist or a marine biologist, depending on which line in the script you believe. I suppose it's whichever discipline would require her to scrape things off of oceanside rocks "at exactly 4:15 p.m." for study. You heard me.
Thoughts: Though the year might say 1994 above, Treacherous takes place in a Miami Vice/Magnum P.I. utopia of pastels and Ferraris, so I have an inkling that it may have sat on the shelf for a bit. It turns porny pretty quickly whenever Ingerman is onscreen, there's a suspense montage in which Howell inexplicably starts rooting through his guests' rooms and personal belongings in search of some missing money... basically, it rules. The highlight is a scene in which a drunken, solitary Baldwin is meant to be playing the piano along with a jazz record, though his repertoire of "passionate" expressions and the fact that we can't see his hands on the keys (not to mention that the piano on the soundtrack keeps going when he pauses to swig a beer) make him appear to be casually playing with himself. He puts a dollar in his own tip jar afterward, too. As one does. [Bev note: I appreciated that scene, anyway. Also, his was the only lickable- I mean, likable- character in the film. Totally. In spite of that hair.]
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Don Harvey (Eight Men Out) is a schizophrenic who fancies himself a surgeon, and who randomly abducts people on whom he can perform inevitably fatal operations in his basement. He's still a better diagnostician than Bill Frist. Timely joke! Anyway, Baldwin is the cop assigned to the murders, but his investigation goes nowhere without the help of busybody Nina Siemaszko (voice of "Pedestrian" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), who is an admissions receptionist at the medical school from which Harvey has been repeatedly rejected. Even with her nagging inquiries, Baldwin's investigation doesn't go anywhere for awhile, so he understandably starts blowing her off. Siemaszko is plucky, though, and solves the case on her own.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Clint Howard (Apollo 13) gets an opening credit but is barely glimpsed during a montage. Phil LaMarr (voice of Hermes on Futurama) is Seimaszko's quippy coworker, giving Bev and me an excuse to yell, "My Manwich!" an awful lot.
Thoughts: Now this is the kind of production we look to Roger Corman for! So cheap that Baldwin's squad car doesn't have any sort of emergency light (presumably because such permits were too rich for Corman's blood), but full of illogical action and gore! One ongoing motif is Baldwin's inability to grasp the concept of time. It's likely just a quirk of lazy screenwriting, but he says a bunch of things like, "What do you mean, 'It's old'?" and, "When did you stop making that product? [Pause for response on phone line] How long ago was that?" At one point, the coroner pulls an old case file and tells him, "This body was found on April 24, 1994. That's almost a year ago." So Bev and I decided that it was a genuine bit of backstory and that Baldwin's character has a funny learning disability.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: After four terrorists get ahold of some nuclear missile launch codes, slick-haired Army captain Baldwin orders the deployment of an experimental, digital man whom you can think of as RoboCop with a German accent. Digital Man has no trouble wiping out the terrorists--nor, it seems to me, would a dozen or so analog men that could just as easily have been deployed--but shady Army brass Paul Gleason (Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club) and Ed Lauter (3:15) don't want him to complete his programmed mission of uploading the launch codes back to Army central command. Rather than, you know, having the launch codes changed since they've been compromised and all, Gleason and Lauter send a tactical team of two humans and three cyborgs to destroy poor Digital Man. Problem is, Digital Man... fights back.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Clint Howard (Sawbones) plays a literally unblinking sabotage-bot. Also, Patrick Swayze's younger brother Don (Beach Babes from Beyond, Sexual Malice) plays an embarrassing redneck stereotype who lives in the little junction where Digital Man winds up wreaking havoc.
Thoughts: I was honestly never certain whether we were supposed to be rooting for or against Digital Man in this mash-up of Terminator and Westworld, though I was rooting for him, since the strike team spends their time bickering about which of them are, in fact, cyborgs, while Digital Man is really determined to follow through on his mission. So he's admirable in his way, though I'm not sure why he would need to send the launch codes back to the Army at all, since I have to think they'd have a copy of their own. Long stretches of this movie didn't make sense to me, to be honest. Also, one of the cyborgs describes Swayze as "the poster boy for the prevention of inbreeding." Do such posters exist? I bet that would be a hilariously condescending public service campaign.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Miserably married young executive Baldwin has an affair with Kathleen Turner stand-in Theresa Russell (Wild Things). During one of their trysts, Russell idly suggests that they kill each other's spouses. He shrugs it off as gruesome pillow talk, but she takes out his wife and then starts badgering him to murder her husband, who is coincidentally a sleaze who's been gunning for Baldwin's job.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: I suspect this movie wasn't entitled Criss Cross only because that would be too blatant an admission that its premise is lifted from Strangers on a Train. (The third act, on the other hand, is lifted from Double Indemnity.) Throw in some nudity, and voila! You've got a fairly standard Showtime original movie from the days before they seemed to realize that they could bankroll quality original series. Or at least Compromising Situations.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Judd Hirsch (Dear John) must drive his tech-savvy son to the White House before hostile aliens destroy the planet. Baldwin has a small but multifaceted role as an Army major who is stationed at Area 51, acts as air-traffic controller for attack planes, and actively recruits pilots to fly those planes.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Ehh, everyone who wound up in Independence Day.
Thoughts: Man, this is even worse than I'd remembered, not having seen it since I was 16. I saw this in the theater with my family, and I vividly recall ID4 (ugh) awakening in me a reflexive aversion to Memorial Day blockbusters that continues to this day (fed by my ravenous gobbling of Owen Gleiberman's blessedly stuffy reviews in Entertainment Weekly). Still, in the intervening eleven years, I'd generously thought of this one as a mediocre film, and, upon a fresh viewing, cannot figure out what elements I thought were positive enough to justify mere indifference. Did it come out after Twister? Maybe I thought Independence Day was okay because it wasn't quite as bad as Twister.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: This is actually the two-hour pilot of a series that evidently ran in syndication for 17 episodes between 1996 and 1997, packaged in a VHS slipcase that tries to market it as a standalone film. (The series as a whole is not yet available on DVD.) Corbin Bernson (Major League, Atomic Twister) is the head of a crew of astronauts, Baldwin included, who wind up being tasked with the recovery of a stray Russian satellite/nuke.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: As the pilot for a syndicated drama, I suppose it's okay. As a film, it's Apollo 13. The entire thing is ripped off of Apollo 13, from the initial indifference of the American public toward NASA's programs to the ground control brainstorming sessions in which office supplies spark elegantly simple solutions to Big Space Problems. Baldwin's winning arrogance makes him the Kevin Bacon character, I guess. The buzzcut does his bald spot no favors.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Six Earthling specimens, Baldwin included, awaken from slumber in various states of undress to find themselves aboard a spacecraft surreptitiously controlled by alien Robert Englund (far more nasal than you'd expect Freddy Kreuger to be in real life). Englund spends his time trying to get them to breed with his fellow aliens. Failing that, he wants them to breed with each other. He's not picky as long as they breed, damn you, breed!
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: The story, as you may expect, doesn't follow a linear course of logic, especially once Englund's assistant starts killing off the passengers with her retractable alien claw and some sort of laser eye that can also make snacks. It doesn't much matter, since the copious toplessness is clearly the reason this movie was made. (Another Roger Corman production.) Sadly, I can indeed confirm that the original Starquest was more fun, but this one's not bad. I mean, it's obviously bad, but... you know what I mean. (Baldwin called Starquest II the worst movie ever made, incidentally. I guess he hasn't seen As Good as It Gets.)
From the Earth to the Moon
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: This is a twelve-part miniseries, exec-produced by Tom Hanks (Radio Flyer), about the American space program, covering the span from JFK's initial promise "to go to the moon and do those other things" through Apollo 17. Baldwin plays Fred Haise, the astronaut Bill Paxton played in Apollo 13, but he's not in the series enough to give us much of a return on our time investment.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Predictable names like Al Franken (Saturday Night Live), Stephen Root (King of the Hill, NewsRadio), John Michael Higgins (Best in Show), and Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall).
Thoughts: I suspect that any viewer's potential enjoyment of From the Earth to the Moon will be predicated on whether that person was alive when the moon landings took place. (And also on whether that person believes the moon landings actually happened, I suppose, but Adam Baldwin wasn't in Capricorn One and thus that topic won't be addressed here.) For an '80s child like me, the Moon has always been a tourist attraction that mankind already visited a number of times, not a wondrous new frontier to be conquered or a symbol of America's superiority over the Soviets, so my frame of reference doesn't lend itself to this sort of contemplative pride about the space program. Taken on its own merits, then, I thought the series was pretty uneven. I enjoyed the episode that covered the fallout after three astronauts were killed in training for Apollo 1, with Kevin Pollack (The Usual Suspects, Wayne's World 2) and James Rebhorn (My Cousin Vinny) doing fine work as men involved in the rocket's design. The Apollo 13 episode, on the other hand, is useless: they clearly didn't want to rehash anything that was dramatized in Ron Howard's movie, so instead the entire hour is bizarrely devoted to the rivalry between fictional newscasters Lane Smith (The Mighty Ducks) and Jay Mohr (Pay It Forward), offering zero insight into anything that actually ever happened. (Also, Baldwin's participation in that episode is limited to six or seven lines of audio in a broadcast from the stranded spacecraft, and his absence led Bev to boo at numerous points.)
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Single dad Baldwin is a marine biologist who travels to tiny island Mulau to investigate seismic disturbances. I have no idea whether investigation of seismic disturbances would actually be within the purview of marine biologists, but let's just say it is. Anyhow, people start getting killed by a mutant salamander/raptor creature and it's up to Baldwin to save this tropical paradise, even as his kid befriends a baby raptor (who is, I grudgingly admit, really cute).
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: I had to watch Gargantua twice to remind myself what happened in it, since it follows the same structure as dozens of other such Sci-Fi Original Movies I've watched lately (Spiders, Ice Spiders, Spiders II, Arachnid, Python II, Supergator, DinoCroc, et al.). It turns out Gargantua is Jaws with the shark replaced by critters from Jurassic Park, as well as a heapin' helpin' of the latter film's disturbingly punchable child actors. Of all the films in this list, my sense is that Baldwin is having the least fun in Gargantua--possibly because his character is a clumsy amalgam of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss--which makes it kind of a bummer to watch.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Luke Perry (90210, Oz) is a private investigator hired by fancypants lawyer James Read (Remington Steele) to catch wife Gloria Reuben (HIV-stricken sourpuss Jeanie Boulet on ER) in infidelity. Instead, Perry and Reuben hook up and she kills her husband, so they work together to cover it up. Baldwin is a lawyer at Read's firm.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Lisa Edelstein (indescribably awesome as Cuddy on House) plays Perry's lawyer buddy. Peter Coyote (announcer on assorted awards shows) is a cop.
Thoughts: After Trade Off, Indiscreet marks the second Double Indemnity ripoff in which Baldwin has appeared in two years! Though you'd think they would therefore beef up his role because of his expertise, his part is fairly tiny and useless--in the movie, Bev!--so it's not difficult to predict that the big final twist will involve him in some way. Much like the gnarled mess that resulted when I would play Rollercoaster Tycoon, the plot doesn't have a solid enough structure to support as many twists as its creator wants to cram in there. I should mention, though, that I saw this on Lifetime, so it may be that the good bits were cut for TV. And there is a germ of an interesting idea in that Reuben seems to have successfully divined that Perry, a recovering alcoholic, would be more attracted to the idea of saving her from herself than any feminine wiles she might employ. I wish that had been better explored. Maybe that was cut too, though. Damn you, Lifetime!
The Outer Limits: "Phobos Rising"
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: In this stand-alone episode of the mid-'90s resurrection of the irony-heavy post-Twilight Zone sci-fi anthology series, Baldwin is a major on a Mars base that abruptly loses contact with its Earth headquarters. Baldwin's trigger-happy superior officer assumes this means Earth has been destroyed by a rival faction of humans who also have an outpost on Mars, and Baldwin tries to talk her out of attacking that base in the absence of proof.
Other familiar faces I noticed: No one I was familiar with.
Thoughts: It's Crimson Tide in space. I expect it's not easy to come up with a new hour-long playlet, with entirely new settings and characters, every week on a program like this, so I'm not going to hold the uninspired plot against Outer Limits' staff. Particularly if it results in the plots of other films being transplanted to space. Say, JFK or Capturing the Friedmans. "Phobos Rising"'s execution is fine for what it is. Nothing Emmy-worthy, but it's kind of cute to spend an hour examining the quaint notion that anyone with access to nukes would even give lip service to diplomatic solutions at this point in history.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Francis Ford Coppola (Jack) exec-produced this none-too-faithful adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella. Baldwin is Dr. Jekyll, a hotshot surgeon who is honeymooning in Hong Kong when he and his wife are blown up by members of a Chinese black-market internal organ ring. Though his wife dies, Baldwin is saved (and shaved!) by vaguely mystical healer Chang Tseng (Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical), who papier-maches his face back to normal. After Baldwin devises a revenge potion that turns him into Hyde--by which I mean musses up his hair, electronically pitches his voice lower, and intermittently projects fancy light patterns onto his face--he kills a mob member by feeding him uncooked fugu. Tseng gets upset about this, saying that "revenge will conquer your soul," but quickly agrees to help Baldwin in his vengeance quest anyway once Baldwin finishes a training regimen that culminates in the ability to poke one's finger through the side of a soda can. In the meantime, Baldwin keeps taking the potion and killing people, so I'm not sure why he needs Tseng at all. Finally, Baldwin kills the right-hand man of the crime lord and the movie immediately ends. It's actually more insane than it sounds.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: The film's hysterically abrupt ending ("Ehh, I killed the assistant of the guy who killed my wife; that's plenty") and unresolved subplots have led some people to suggest that this was a pilot for a series that was never picked up, but I don't know. It's not edgy enough for a premium channel, and if it were a network pilot, it seems to me they'd have stayed away from the nudity and profanity. And also put together a story that wasn't as disjointed as your average Yu-Gi-Oh! episode. [Bev note: Hello shoulders! Also, love the tigery-stripes on Jekyll/Hyde when he's...powered up. Whoot!]
The Right Temptation
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Mystery-free femme fatale Dana Delaney (Housesitter) hires private investigator Rebecca De Mornay (The Three Musketeers) to seduce her millionaire husband Kiefer Sutherland (The Three Musketeers) in order to test his loyalty when presented with... the right temptation. Sutherland yields without much cajoling, and then there's a series of double-crossings and so forth, but a detailed description of events would not be a productive use of anyone's time. Baldwin has about ten lines, which he knocks out of the park Ellen Burstyn-style, as De Mornay's captain in a flashback to her days as an undercover cop. She quit the force because Baldwin had a sniper shoot a gun-wielding perp whom she was convinced she could have talked down peacefully. Baldwin doesn't come across as the unreasonable one.
Other familiar faces I noticed: I think that's it.
Thoughts: I wonder how many private investigators entered that field because of movies like this, expecting to instantly be swept up in a perilous, sexy game of cat-and-mouse, and instead sighing with ennui while drawing up another bill for twice the time it actually took to catch a philandering spouse who just drove straight to the motel on his lunch break. I've always semi-grudgingly tolerated Sutherland, but no more, since this project finally convinced me that he's our only above-the-title actor who appears to be having less fun with the discipline of acting than Harrison Ford (Bruno). On the plus side, De Mornay has a cuddly pet piglet, and he makes it through the film alive! (When he was introduced, I immediately winced and figured he'd wind up Fatal Attraction brand ham.)
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Jon Gries (The Pretender) is an aspiring singer who believes that his road to stardom lies in winning as many karaoke nights across the country as he can, so he abandons Darryl Hannah (Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men) and their kid, and embarks on a shoestring tour of podunk bar sing-offs with his "agent," Garrett Morris (Saturday Night Live). Toward the beginning of the film, Gries and Morris sit down for an interview with a moustachioed Baldwin about Gries's nascent celebrity, but it's merely one of many little vignettes that make up the story.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Crystal Bernard (Wings, celebrity stock car tournaments) is a barfly. Anthony Edwards (ER's sad-ass Mark Greene) and Rick Overton (Groundhog Day) play Gries's brothers.
Thoughts: This little indie was dinged by critics for being too full of its own episodic quirk, but Bev and I loved it. Morris, in particular, should have snagged at least an Oscar nomination. His Lester hilariously calculates every move and angle of Gries's career (intentionally requesting the wrong song to drum up audience sympathy, demanding that Gries refrain from commenting on his sexuality because ambiguity worked for Rod Stewart, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger) without ever acknowledging the big truth that this is a fundamentally doomed endeavor. I admit I'm a total sucker for mumblecore films like this (and, incidentally, The Puffy Chair), but even within that subgenre, this is worth seeing. Great soundtrack, too, both in regard to the songs Gries takes on ("The Grand Tour" by George Jones, "Eyes Without a Face" by Billy Idol) and the extra-diegetic songs (most notably Grandaddy's spine-chilling epic "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot," one of my all-time faves).
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: William Baldwin (Fair Game) is a cop determined to remain partially incorruptable while avenging the murder of crooked partner Adam Baldwin by cocksure mafia kid Jon Seda (basically the same role he played as Dino Ortolani on Oz). William also takes a rather mean-spirited interest in toying with social worker Elizabeth Mitchell (Frequency), who was "boffing" a dead gigolo of Seda's acquaintance. Yes, it's referred to as "boffing." Twice.
Other familiar faces I noticed: John Capodice (of the legendarily funny, unaired Conan O'Brien/Robert Smigel project Lookwell) is the mob boss.
Thoughts: By all appearances, this is writer/director Heywood Gould's senior film project. The dialogue really tries to be hard-boiled, but like the title of the film itself, more often hits upon unintentional double entendres like "I'm not going to blow our stools over this fur job," which translates to "I'm not going to turn in our informants about these stolen sable coats." Double Bang feels too long by half at 103 minutes, mostly because of its third-act shift in focus to a series of unsuccessful attempts to rub out Mitchell. I'd give Gould a C+, merely because it's not really his fault that William Baldwin thinks that forehead wrinkles and pursed lips equal acting.
The Keyman: Finding Redemption
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Baldwin is a guy who had a psychotic break and became homeless after accidentally frying his infant in a hot car, and who engages in constant, nursery rhyme-based dialogues with homeless schizophrenic Tom Wright (Weekend at Bernie's II) that go nowhere. In the meantime, Baldwin's ex-wife, Ellen F. Locy, is a Dr. Laura-style radio host who can't figure out why she's so drawn to the particular homeless shelter that Baldwin and Wright frequent.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: I feel kind of bad about making fun of this one, since it was inspired by an actual event in the director's life. As much as I dislike children, I don't actually want any of them to die painfully. Nevertheless, I also don't want the viewer to die painfully, so you should probably stay away from this one and rent The Fisher King instead if you want to see a film about a morally conflicted talk radio host who is figuratively saved by a homeless person whose life was messed up by the host's own bloviating selfishness. Furthermore, Wright's improvised monologues comprise perhaps not the most sensitive portrait of mental instability ever committed to celluloid.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: High-speed jet racer Antonio Sabato Jr. (Destination: Infestation) comes out of the ignominous retirement that followed an accident that killed five people, in order to serve as crew chief for his brother, Michael Sutton, in a hypersonic jet race around the world. Baldwin is the sport's evil founder who serves double duty--why not?--as the play-by-play announcer for some portions of the race's broadcast.
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: You know how, in our human society, people sometimes do things for reasons and act certain logical ways? Yes? Well, you and I have just gone over the head of Hypersonic director and co-writer Phillip J. Roth (who, by the way, also helmed Digital Man)! Welcome to a fantastic alternate world where sports fans pack a stadium to watch mere seconds of a 'round-the-globe jet race (in which the pilots manage to circumvent the need for sleep), the FAA has worldwide jurisdiction that permits dogfighting through major cities, and television networks require the owner of a racing league to front them $25 million in "good faith" money before they will agree to air his event! Whee! My favorite bit is the "slalom" sequence, which is repeatedly built up to be the almost intolerably exciting climax of the race, and which plays out by watching Baldwin narrate (with full-on Kent Brockman faux-gravitas) as he follows the action on off-screen monitors: "The Russian team is out of the race! Oh, the Canadian pilot is in the water! I wish you could see this, audience!" I think I slightly prefer this one to 3:15, making it my favorite Adam Baldwin film (besides Serenity).
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Precocious little twit Tim McCallum and his mom, Linda Blair (The Exorcist, Repossessed), move in with George Kennedy (Airport 1975, The Naked Gun, Breath Asure commercials), who was an Ed Wood-style director 50 years ago. While digging in the basement, McCallum uncovers a print of Kennedy's unreleased film Monsters on the Loose. McCallum watches the film on Halloweeen, and the title characters leap from the screen, with nonspecific plans to take over the city. (This takes place in Paloma, so these aren't the most ambitious monsters.) Adam Baldwin plays a sheriff in Monsters on the Loose, and his character is transported into Monster Makers' reality as well, where he helps to stop the monsters.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Richard Riehle (creator of the Jump to Conclusions Mat in Office Space) plays a detective in a flashback.
Thoughts: There's a serviceable Fox Family Channel idea in there somewhere, but the filmmakers fall prey to the all-too-common delusion that there's nothing more charming than a condescending tween smarting off to everyone around him, and that makes Monster Makers a chore to sit through, except for the bits with you-know-who. (Go on, make a Voldemort joke, smartass.) Baldwin's character, unaware that he's outside of his usual B-movie reality, is essentially Buzz Lightyear rewritten as something Bruce Campbell might play, but Baldwin completely commits to the role, earning genuine laughs with his sweetly swaggering reading of lines like, "I've been in the police force since MCMLI." God bless him.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Following a failed attempt on his life at work, average guy Baldwin starts hearing voices telling him to kill wife Elizabeth Berkley (Showgirls, Jesse "I'm So Excited" Spano from Saved by the Bell). Turns out the entire thing, including his marriage to Berkley, is part of an elaborate government experiment to test mind-control transmitters that are powered by emotional data collected from the brains of inner-city dwellers.
Other familiar faces I noticed: John Neville (Well-Manicured Man from X-Files) plays the director of the mind-control program.
Thoughts: This is a made-for-TV rip-off of The Matrix that does away with the quasi-religious sci-fi hokum but doesn't do much to mask its influence. It's even got Tony Todd (Candyman) handling the Laurence Fishburne magical black man role. Although it's missing the CGI that made The Matrix so innovative and watchable (at the time), Control Factor's plot is actually less goofy and roundabout than its inspiration. It goes without saying that the lead's performance here is superior to that of The Matrix as well. As one who is highly susceptible to government conspiracy theories in the first place, I got a certain amount of enjoyment out of this.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Mark Holton (Francis from Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Stillwell from A League of Their Own) plays serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr., who murders a succession of young men and buries them beneath his house. Baldwin plays macho drunkard John Wayne Gacy Sr. for about three minutes in a flashback that opens the film. He's seen giving Gacy Jr. fishing tips while returning from a fishing trip, which strikes me as perhaps not the most effective time for fishing tips.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Larry Hankin (Billy Madison, Mr. Heckles from Friends) plays a beleaguered exterminator.
Thoughts: The gruesome tale of John Wayne Gacy Jr. should make easy pickings if you're a slightly competent filmmaker. You might do some digging into the psychology of the killer--perhaps even with a degree of rueful, Sufjan Stevens-style sympathy--or you might follow the well-worn satirical path of emphasizing how Gacy's activities parallel the more figurative bodies buried in most suburban communities. If you didn't feel like getting even that deep or responsible, you could turn Gacy's story into a jolly splatterfest. Gacy director Clive Saunders, however, counterintuitively focuses mostly on the difficulties of keeping the homeowners' association off your back when the decomposing corpses in your basement begin filling your neighborhood with stench and maggots. Apart from the flashback with Baldwin and a passing allusion to Gacy's conviction for child molestation, there's no backstory. Apart from a couple brief scenes in which Gacy poses as a detective to abduct young male streetwalkers (none of whom seems to have a problem with being interrogated in a suburban rec room full of clown pictures--the victims all unfortunately come across as a little dim), there's no investigation of the methodology that allowed him to get away with 33 murders before his arrest. There's really nothing here. [Bev note: NOT ENOUGH ADAM BALDWIN! Don't waste your time.]
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: In the future, long after Earthlings have colonized uncountable other planets, Nathan Fillion (Waitress) is a disenchanted veteran of a galactic civil war, who captains a space junker and its crew (a pilot, a mechanic, a space prostitute, etc.) in the performance of whatever jobs they can find, legal or illegal. Generally, it's the latter. The ongoing plot of this TV series has to do with two passengers, doctor Sean Maher and his sister, enigma Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), the latter of whom was rescued from a sinister government facility and isn't entirely sane for the journey. The two are both considered fugitives, and keeping them out of the hands of the law provides entertaining enough fodder for a narrative thread (particularly in "Ariel," the series's best episode), but each episode stands alone fairly well... and the real enjoyment of Firefly comes from watching the characters--including Baldwin, as weapons-obsessed lunkhead Jayne Cobb--develop and interact with one another anyway. Then FOX cancels it after 14 episodes.
Other familiar faces I noticed: The crew includes second-in-command Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa from Alias), quippy pilot Alan Tudyk (Bland Ann's father from Arrested Development), and basically useless shepherd Ron Glass (Ross's divorce lawyer on Friends). Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) has a memorable turn in the episodes "Our Mrs. Reynolds" and "Trash," about which I won't give anything away. Carlos Jacott (Kicking & Screaming--the awesome Noah Baumbach one, not the Will Ferrell soccer one) plays an undercover Alliance agent in the pilot.
Thoughts: I doubt Joss Whedon will ever helm a project as clever as he thinks he is, but at its best--which it frequently is--Firefly shows Whedon and his team operating at a critical mass of both inspiration and execution. I cannot think of any two genres I enjoy less than westerns and science-fiction, so I wasn't nearly as open-minded as I should have been when Amanda and Sean gave Bev and me the complete Firefly as a wedding gift. Frankly, I actively intended to dislike it. Even with my snobby biases and attitude, though, it took the show all of five episodes to completely win me over with its humor, exciting storytelling, and above all, uniformly inspired performances that bring complex life to the characters more quickly than most shows can accomplish in their entire run. Then, again, FOX canceled it after 14 episodes.
NCIS: "The Weak Link"
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: On this typically abysmal episode of the most square procedural show ever to boast that it's "TV's number-one drama," a soldier on a rappelling exercise falls to his death after one of his carabiners breaks. Believing someone tampered with the man's gear, boringly unflappable NCIS investigator Mark Harmon (St. Elsewhere) and his team of crappy banter dispensers spend 44 minutes trying to figure out who killed him. Turns out the soldier committed a very convoluted suicide because his wife discovered he was gay. Cheery. Oh, and Baldwin is in full-on "Gotta pay the bills" mode in his personality-free role as the dead man's superior officer. Baldwin's character is never a suspect or anything, and he disappears about a half-hour into the episode, having delivered the relevant exposition. Not that Adam Baldwin isn't always welcome, but I seriously have no idea why the NCIS production staff would have hired such a recognizable actor with such ample scene-stealing gifts for a part that requires him only to deliver a handful of lines in the generically affectless cadence of a stereotypical TV military official.
Other familiar faces I noticed: I don't think Lauren Holly (Dumb & Dumber) was in this episode, but she is a member of the cast.
Thoughts: Even by the dangerously undernourished standards of network crime procedurals, NCIS is simply an atrocious show. I'm not evaluating it solely on this unsatisfying episode; Bev is bafflingly fond of it, so I've seen a few. The production is often inexcusably clumsy (in the episode "Chimera," for example, an actor playing a corpse clearly blinks in a close-up), the characterizations are thin and unlikable, the plots are so broad and sprawling that they make Walker, Texas Ranger look like a paragon of disciplined realism, and seemingly every bit of dialogue consists of the characters smugly teasing their way through a conversation in a circuitous manner that I find infuriating. It all sounds like the following made-up example:
GIBBS: Abby, were you able to find any useful information?
GIBBS: Let me guess: Our victim wasn't who he said he was.
ABBY: Or even who he thought he was! You'll never guess what I found lurking in his abdomen.
GIBBS: You're gonna say, "Ovaries," aren't you?
ABBY: If you're so smart, I suppose I don't need to tell you what else I found in there.
GIBBS: I suppose not, but then what would I pay you for?
ABBY: My sparkling wit.
... and nobody ever gets to the damn point. Evidently someone finds this sort of thing entertaining, given the show's enviable ratings, but that doesn't mean it's not pure CSI Lite hackery.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Baldwin is a screenwriter who is struggling in Hollywood because his scripts "contain too much truth," which reminded me of Top Chef's Hung snottily asking, "Was it too classic?" when told the judges didn't like his dish. Hung cracks me up. Anyway, can't sell a script. However, Baldwin is recruited by grammar-mauling producer Udo Kier (the spooky evil sailor from Breaking the Waves) to craft a biopic of a screenwriter who murdered his in-laws and his pregnant wife and then killed himself, 35 years ago. But, but--Baldwin is 35 and has a pregnant wife! And he quickly notices that all the violent things he writes into the script start to come true, but finds it difficult to drop the project as the budget grows (Kier promises up to "ten millions" [sic]) and DreamWorks is said to be interested in picking it up.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Mark Sheppard (Badger from Firefly) is Baldwin's screenwriter friend, and he may or may not be trying to hide his British accent in the role. It's hard to tell.
Thoughts: Bev and I actually watched the making-of featurette and the trailer on this DVD, having confused the rohypnol for cold medication again, and it appears that everyone had a good time making this movie, which is cool. Kier in particular seems to have sweetly put a lot of effort into his demonic characterization--drinking a viscous, oily mixture throughout the film was a bit of business he devised--and he's a riot to watch even if a lot of his performance was apparently cut. So I'm glad it was a positive experience for everyone. Still, even before watching this movie, I felt like I'd seen more Stephen King-inspired "psychological thrillers" in which a writer's output starts to come true than I ever needed to, and Evil Eyes didn't bring anything to the formula that made me rethink that notion. Best part of the film? Baldwin's absurdly proud reaction to a solved Rubik's Cube. [Bev Note: After seeing the Rubik's Cube thing, I have decided Will's going to get one for Christmas. He IS going to learn to do that. Having the dexterity to manipulate it with one hand? Sexy beyond measure.] [Will Note: That will never happen, sweetie. If ten years of clumsy guitar playing haven't improved my dexterity even to the point of being able to use chopsticks, nothing will.]
Molly & Roni's Dance Party, Vol. 1: 1970s Dance Mania
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: This is the one project on this list that can be excused for legitimately not having a plot. It's a disco-themed kids' jazzercise video presided over by cutesy instructors Molly Lorenz and Roni Blak, who are just a dash of clumsiness or grotesquery away from respectively being Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph SNL creations. Alongside the incongruous and embarrassing presence of Jamie Lee Curtis (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, mean-spirited hermaphrodite jokes) as a Brooklyn-accented DJ, they lead a flock of tweens through a period of kinda '70s-inspired dance-style kinesis. After two songs, Adam Baldwin shows up as an officer in Hot Cops regalia to shut the party down for noise violations. He affably dances himself for a minute or so--which is clearly a minute longer than Adam has ever danced before in his life--and then exits. The entire program runs about 20 minutes, so the DVD contains a couple bonus dance routines, a strangely wistful slow-motion montage of teen girls doing a ballet routine outdoors, and an exceedingly generous "sneak peek" at Volume 2 ("Sock Hop") which seems to include most of that episode's content as well. (Roni is confusingly dressed like Rosalynn Carter for the sock hop, but I didn't feel a need to Netflix that disc as well to find out whether there's any backstory.)
Other familiar faces I noticed: None.
Thoughts: Well-intentioned but worthless. Bev (emptily) claims it cured her of her Baldwin obsession, and I quickly lost track of the actual dance routines because so much about this production is actively confusing or annoying. Despite it ostensibly being a disco party, the titular duo takes a break to moon about David Cassidy. The print on Jamie Lee's dress has patches that are the same color as the green screen behind her, so her torso appears to have bites taken out of it in several shots. The theme song is a grating rewrite of Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life." At least I can say that it's not creepily sexualized like the Sparkle Motion dance troupe from Donnie Darko or anything; the kids do seem like they're getting wholesome enjoyment out of this opportunity to dress up and flail about in front of a camera that's immortalizing their awkward adolescent phase. (One kid in particular attacks the "roller coaster" hand motion with a furious intensity that would be more appropriate at a tent revival.) But I can't imagine that the fun would translate to many kids at home, let alone any grown-ups whose viewing interests I'd care to contemplate. For rudimentarily choreographed entertainment, I gently suggest you watch this 1983 clip of Taco performing on some German variety show instead. [Bev note: The theme song is closer to Hanson. Rocking the teddy bears like babies during the ballet section was creepy. Adam Baldwin appears to be disappointingly neglecting his arms.]
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Following Firefly's cancellation, Joss Whedon pulled off the nigh-miraculous act of securing funding to reassemble the show's cast and film a big-screen wrap-up of their story in a way that makes no concessions to accessibility for those who did not watch the series (which, as you may note by the fact that it was so quickly cancelled, is basically everyone). The film picks up with Inara and Book having left the ship, River's behavior becoming increasingly dangerous and erratic, and Mal's patience with the whole damn ball of space-wax at an end. And if the previous sentence means nothing to you, you should not see this movie. WATCH THE SHOW FIRST. At any rate, after one of River's public freak-outs yields a clue to one of the Alliance's more unjustifiable projects, Mal decides to put a stop to it, survival be damned, because he is determined to end his war the right way. They're pursued by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men), an unflappable Alliance bounty hunter whose disconcerting accession to orders, stemming from a Zenlike belief in the correctness of all things, makes him perhaps cinema's first fundamentalist Buddhist villain. (Baldwin once again plays Jayne with just the right mixture of lumbering machismo and whip-smart strategic acumen.)
Other familiar faces I noticed: My doppelganger David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) plays an information-synthesizing savant who can be thought of as a human Internet. Michael Hitchcock (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, hilariously volatile in them all) briefly appears as a scientist who was studying River.
Thoughts: As I noted in the introduction to this little project, Serenity may well be the best TV-to-film translation ever, assuming you don't mind a film requiring extensive prior knowledge of its source material. Genuinely unsettling more than once, with characters that act from deep-seated motivation rather than plot contrivance, and action-movie quips that are actually funny rather than simple Bruce Willis-style tension relievers, it's as solid a futuristic thriller as any you're likely to see. You could argue that it's slightly marred by Whedon's usual mean-spirited antagonism towards his characters and fans (you'll see what I mean), but the breathless, bravura climax alone is enough to make up for any quibbles. I should probably also note that there is a graphic novel--the regrettably titled Those Left Behind--that bridges the time gap between Firefly and Serenity, but it's a total drag and contains no revelations that aren't more satisfyingly revealed in the film.
The Poseidon Adventure
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Not the 2006 theatrical remake, but rather a three-hour Hallmark Television event. After strangely unmotivated terrorists trigger an explosion that capsizes an enormous cruise ship, we follow the adventures of a motley crew of white people as they try to make their way to freedom. To life! Adam Baldwin plays a Department of Homeland Security goon who really doesn't want the passengers to know his occupation, because evidently they would be unnerved by a security presence amid the chaos of a terrorist attack.
Other familiar faces I noticed: So many! Steve Guttenberg (Three Men and a Little Lady, It Takes Two) is a needy moper who resents the fact that his wife makes more money than him, so he busies himself by having an affair with the ship's masseuse! Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, the reprehensible Paul Verhoeven film Flesh + Blood) is a priest who appears to have some sort of combat training that's never explained! C. Thomas Howell (Treacherous) plays a doctor, and I guess we're not supposed to think he's as old as he is, because he winds up getting romantically involved with Guttenberg's daughter (Amber Sainsbury), who is written and played like a 15-year-old, and their scenes together wind up terrifically icky! Bryan Brown (Spring Break Shark Attack) plays a reality-show producer who is totally supposed to be Mark Burnett, only with a soul! Alex Kingston (Dr. Corday on ER) plays some sort of British intelligence agent in the tedious scenes that take place on land!
Thoughts: Embarrassingly, I've never seen the original Poseidon Adventure, but that didn't stop me from loving every minute of this miniseries's transcendent, utter awfulness. Transparently racist (Baldwin successfully homes in on the Arab terrorists via racial profiling) and misogynous (adulterer Guttenberg is saved, while mistress Nathalie Boltt dies in the fire of irredeemable evil) in ways designed to confirm the ingrained prejudices of The Hallmark Channel's target demographics, it's difficult to even give Hallmark credit for trying. Which makes it all the easier to mock, thankfully! The only way I could've been more pleased would have been if they'd killed off "adorably mischievous" 12-year-old Rory Copus. Or at least his character.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Recovering smack addict Matt Keeslar (Johnny Savage from Waiting for Guffman) discovers that girlfriend Clare Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's unenjoyable villain Glory) has become a member of a vampire commune to pre-empt her terminal illness. Matt decides to become one too, but then he and Clare both become very sad and try to destroy commune leader Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under, Waitress) while kicking their blood addiction. Adam Baldwin chews more scenery than flesh as the commune's loony hillbilly.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Erik Palladino (ER's Dr. Malucci, who was randomly written out of the series in 2001) plays Keeslar's buddy.
Thoughts: Director Jeremy Kasten can't decide whether he aims to make a seamy goth film or an over-the-top Tarantino/Rodriguez insta-cult movie, resulting in a bloody mess that can't be enjoyed on genuine or ironic levels. The Thirst is the sort of movie that will artlessly rip off Sid & Nancy's detox sequence when the leads are going through (sigh) blood withdrawal, and then have another character make a smirking Sid and Nancy joke. Baldwin aside, the performances aren't even very entertaining. Sisto, ordinarily so good at communicating crazed menace, goes completely apeshit in a way that could only be pulled off by an actor who's already earned the right to go completely apeshit, like Al Pacino or Gary Oldman. Without that sort of long-running goodwill, the way Sisto bellows and hisses his way through a series of SNL-grade accents, overacting even beyond the roomy boundaries of a vampire movie, simply grates. Furthermore, if you've long thought the notion of The Poor Man's Freddie Prinze Jr. was an economic impossibility, look out: here comes Matt Keeslar!
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: This series ran for six episodes on ABC before being yanked, but the entire filmed 13-episode season has been released on DVD, should anyone care to look at it. Taye Diggs (America's Next Top Model episode "The Girls Meet Taye Diggs") is an L.A. narcotics cop who is living the same day over and over in a fashion that makes it impossible to discuss the show without mentioning that its premise is stolen from Groundhog Day. The twist, such as it is, is that the particular day Taye is reliving happens to be a day on which he is framed for the murder of a district attorney. He theorizes that the only way to reach tomorrow--with his life and loved ones intact--is to solve the murder on his own, each day accumulating clues that may help him to unravel the ludicrously convoluted conspiracy behind it all. Baldwin winningly plays a smarmy, potentially corrupt internal affairs sergeant named Chad. He totally acts like a Chad.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Mitch Pileggi (Skinner from The X-Files) brings a tasty, condescending impatience to his role as a potentially corrupt homicide detective. Ramon Rodriguez (Omar's boyfriend Renaldo on The Wire) plays a gang leader who is surprisingly open about the fact that he's also Diggs's informant, seemingly unconcerned about any repercussions from within the crime world about being a rat. John Getz (understandably looking quite a bit older than he did in Blood Simple) plays a definitively corrupt city councilman.
Thoughts: First off, I've had a personal grudge against Taye Diggs ever since I was in college and he wrote a letter to Entertainment Weekly that took up an entire printed page and meant they didn't have room to print my letter which was scheduled for publication in the same issue. So I shook my fist at the screen a lot, while muttering, "Oooohh, I hate you, Taye Diggs." That may not affect other viewers' experience watching Day Break, however, as his performance is actually very good. Nearly all the performances are. That said, the repetitive-by-design Groundhog Day gimmick, combined with a story of entrenched police corruption that owes more and more to L.A. Confidential as the series plods on, results in a sort of inverted 24 that could never have lasted more than a single season even on a network with CW levels of programming desperation. Creator Paul Zbyszewski severely misjudges the program's tone; far too stingy with revelations and too liberal with twists and dead ends, Day Break quickly becomes more frustrating than gripping, like a puzzle whose every piece shatters into five smaller pieces every time you find its proper place. (If you're curious about the show but wary of devoting time to a mystery serial that may not reach an actual conclusion, I will tell you that the plot does get wrapped up, after a fashion. Episode ten is a fairly tidy conclusion, actually, but that conclusion is quickly vomited into a much larger, messier puddle that then gets mopped up again as the 13th episode limps to its conclusion. It's an ending; that's enough.)
Sands of Oblivion
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: George Kennedy (Monster Makers) and grandson Victor Webster accidentally awaken an evil Egyptian horse creature that was buried by Cecil B. DeMille (played by Dan Castellaneta, of all people, using the voice of Kodos to keep himself amused) during the filming of The Ten Commandments. Morena Baccarin (Inara from Firefly) and her estranged husband Baldwin, both scientists, try to destroy the creature. Webster helps after Kennedy manages to die by getting his arms bloodlessly torn off.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Richard Kind (one-note neurotic nebbish from Spin City, Mad About You, etc.) keeps his SAG card by momentarily playing a neurotic producer. John Aniston (Dr. Kiriakis from Days of Our Lives, who was an eminently boo-worthy villain when I was a kid) is a scientist who tries to move the plot along.
Thoughts: It's always a good idea to reunite Firefly cast members, and The Sci-Fi Channel clearly knew it could count on at least drawing an audience of writer's-blocked slashfic scribes by casting Baccarin and Baldwin as spouses for this made-for-TV rip-off of The Mummy (and perhaps The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King, none of which I saw). Once you get over the novelty of the casting, though, Sands of Oblivion doesn't maintain the level of fun it should. Following an admittedly untoppable bulldozer decapitation, the excitement slows to a trickle while the film tries vainly to make the DeMille angle pay off, and only picks up again at the very end, when Webster has to battle a phalanx of animated hieroglyphs.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: On this NBC action-comedy series, John Krasinski simulacrum Zachary Levi (Big Momma's House 2) is a Best Buy employee who accidentally winds up with the entirety of the NSA's counterterrorism intelligence implanted in his brain. (It's dumb; don't ask.) So the government assigns him a couple undercover handlers who'll use him as an information savant during assorted missions. One of these agents is Yvonne Strahovski, who poses as Levi's girlfriend and on whom Levi nurtures a crush. The other agent is Baldwin, a trigger-happy company man whose instinct is to make Levi disappear and be done with it. Unfortunately, that's all there is to Baldwin's character, as the show concentrates mostly on the way Levi's new life tests his existing relationships with bland sister Sarah Lancaster (Saved by the Bell: The New Class) and clingy friend Joshua Gomez (Without a Trace), as well as on the supposed sexual tension between Levi and Strahovski.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Tony Todd (Control Factor) occasionally appears as one of Baldwin's superiors. The Arcade Fire's Funeral album was squeezed into a cameo role in one episode.
Thoughts: I actually wanted to like this show, because I'm always looking for new series to add to my DVR's recording schedule. And I'm not picky, as evidenced by the profusion of Dog the Bounty Hunter installments currently on there. But after three months on the air, Chuck skirts unwatchability. The pedestrian spy missions play like Alias spec scripts. The "romance" angle suffers from a pairing as chemistry-free as my college transcript. The first few episodes each had at least one gag funny enough to justify watching, but the writing staff quickly started failing to meet even that unambitious standard. Not that it mattered, really, because Baldwin and Ryan McPartlin (Living with Fran), who plays Lancaster's amiably frattish boyfriend, are the only two cast members capable of landing a joke, and they get about a dozen lines per episode between them. Worse, the scenes at the electronics store are outright painful in their strain to duplicate the effortless, retail-based funnies of the similar scenes in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. As the weeks drag on, the more this show becomes a wanly-plotted bore, and the more the cardboard performances start to wear on me. As I'm writing this, the Writer's Guild is on strike, and I'm rather hoping that the union just "forgets" to tell the Chuck creative team when an agreement is finally reached.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Baldwin is the voice of Superman, James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) is Lex Luthor, and Anne Heche (Volcano) is Lois Lane in this clunky animated feature that I gather is an adaptation of the well-publicized "Superman dies but then oh actually he didn't" early-'90s story arc in the Superman comic book. Luthor's deep-Earth drilling operation accidentally unleashes a bloodthirsty, Hulk Hogan-looking alien who kills everything in his path, unable to distinguish between friend and foe and motor vehicle (he busts up a lot of trucks). So there's a protracted fight scene and finally Superman just grabs him in a bear hug and blasts them both into space--but instead of, say, hurling the evil critter into the sun, Superman then turns right around and pile-drives him into a major intersection, apparently killing them both. Then there's some foolishness with Luthor cloning a new Superman who is not really evil but certainly more peevish than his predecessor, and the original Superman comes back to life and the two of them fight some more.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Tom Kenny (voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) plays Superman's robot helper. John DiMaggio (voice of Randy on Futurama) broadly giggles his way through a small role as a child-murdering goth. Swoosie Kurtz (True Stories) is Superman's adoptive Earthling mom, I think. Cree Summer (voice of Elmyra from Tiny Toons) plays Luthor's assistant. Kevin Smith (Southwest Airlines commercials) provides his obligatory cameo.
Thoughts: I suppose this is better than the Watchmen film in that it's acceptably brief and doesn't desecrate a work I care about, but Superman: Doomsday basically shares the flat tone and crappy animation of any given episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, minus the humor. There are a couple flaccid gestures toward weighty real-life issues (the "war on terror," privatized medical research) but they're handled with all the subtlety of Lois's pointy, pointy boobs; at one point Superman sincerely muses that our men and women in uniform are the real heroes. Even the duality that's always been key to the character's appeal is represented not in its famously ambiguous terms--mild-mannered Clark Kent and an ubermensch existing as two sides of the same person, each of which could arguably be his "real" identity--but instead mainly by the two beefy Supermen, battling it out endlessly on the streets of Metropolis, one slightly pissier than the other but essentially identical. You'll believe a man can pound on his doppelganger for a while. But you won't have much of a reaction to it.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: As a small, poverty-stricken Georgia town gears up for a memorial celebration of civil rights activist Samuel L. Jackson (Amos & Andrew), local doctor Giancarlo Esposito (The Usual Suspects) attempts to convince some of its African American residents to sell their homes to make room for a new golf course. In one of many intertwining subplots that don't add up to much, Adam Baldwin is a lawyer who is having a seemingly joyless affair with Esposito's wife.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Danny Glover (Predator 2) plays Jackson's son. Angela Bassett (Vampire in Brooklyn) is Glover's wife. Julia Stiles (State & Main) is a new resident who teaches with Bassett. Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) plays Baldwin's brother. Chris Ellis (Crimson Tide) plays a racist who's hired by the real estate investors to shoot Bassett. RZA (America's Next Top Model episode "The Girl Who is Dripping with Hypocrisy") plays a guy who briefly works for Kitsch.
Thoughts: If I'm not going into much detail about any of these characters or the plot of the film itself, that's because there's really not much to tell. Esposito also directed this film, and although he played an integral role in Do the Right Thing--likely the greatest meditation on race relations in the history of film, not to mention one of filmdom's best ensemble dramas--he chooses instead to take his inspiration from the mawkish tedium of Paul Haggis's Crash, in which lots of characters frictionlessly bounce off each other with no greater purpose than an executive desk toy. It's the sort of film that's so desperate to inspire you with the power of open-mindedness that if two characters start the film resenting each other, you can bet they will grow to respect one another (and vice versa, though in that case it will be comeuppance). Gospel Hill doesn't share the tone of limousine liberal condescension that made Crash such a hateful pill, but Esposito seems afraid that the message might get lost if he takes his finger off the "humorless didacticism" button for even a second.
Plot and Adam Baldwin's role: Skinny Nate Hartley and chunky Troy Gentile are high-schoolers who have become the target of bullies, so they put out an Internet ad for a bodyguard. Shiftless, penniless Owen Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums) poses as a former Army ranger who responds to the ad solely to bilk the kids out of $387. He puts them through some bullshit training but then starts becoming fond of them. Baldwin appears for literally less than ten seconds in a montage, solely to deliver a meta joke about the premise's similarity to My Bodyguard in the hopes of excusing same.
Other familiar faces I noticed: Danny McBride (every comedy released in 2008) plays Wilson's fellow transient. Beth Littleford (The Daily Show) is Hartley's mom. Stephen Root (From the Earth to the Moon) has a funny bit as the school's dim principal. Leslie Mann (Knocked Up) is a teacher. David Koechner (Todd Packer on The Office) appears as a frustrated motorist.
Thoughts: Had I known Adam Baldwin had only a cameo in this, I wouldn't have rented it, but I'm not entirely angry that I did. Produced and co-written, respectively, by wunderkinds Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, you're guaranteed some good laughs, and although the jokes are far less raunchy than those the duo let fly with in Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, etc., Drillbit Taylor does a pretty good job of adapting their brainy-sophomoric style to a PG-13 family film. Wilson is at his most sweetly charming and the kids hold their own, but I simply don't have much patience for this sort of Revenge of the Nerds-lite comedy these days. About 45 minutes in, when Gentile and the bully have a freestyle rap battle on the school's steps, I sensed that it was turning into Major Payne and could seriously no longer watch. Maybe it gets better?
CURRENT MUSIC: The Importance of Being Awesome by The Other
CURRENT MOOD: Dark.
FAVORITE LINE FROM THE FUNDRAISING LETTER I GOT FROM AL FRANKEN'S CAMPAIGN FOR SENATE: "Every time someone tells me they're ready to support me, it gives me a little more energy to keep going. I'm also drinking a LOT of coffee. Coffee that your generous contribution could help pay for. I think. I'd better check the rules."
TIME: 4:16 p.m.
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