Insomnia File #39: Disclosure (dir by Barry Levinson)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

On Tuesday, if you were having trouble getting to sleep around one in the morning, you could have turned over to Cinemax and watched the 1994 film, Disclosure.

The majority of Disclosure takes place at DigiCorp, which is some sort of technology company that Bob Garvin (Donald Sutherland) founded because, as the movie explains it, he only has $100 million dollars but still dreams of being a billionaire someday.  With a huge merger approaching, Garvin announces that he will be promoting Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore) to run the new CD-ROM division.  This shocks a lot of people, as everyone was expecting the promotion to go to Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas).  However, Garvin explains that, ever since his daughter died, he’s wanted to promote a woman.

(Presumably, if a male relative had died, Tom would have gotten the promotion.  I have to admit that I kept waiting for the film to get back to the subject of Garvin’s dead daughter but, apparently, that was just an odd throw-away line.)

Tom and Meredith have a history.  They were once lovers, though Tom is now happily married to Susan (Caroline Goodall) and has a family.  Meredith takes one look at a picture of Susan and says that Tom must miss being able to take his lover from behind whenever he felt like it.  Tom says, “Mrs. Robinson,  you’re trying to seduce me.”  No, actually, he says, “No, no, no, no, no, no…..”  It all ends with Tom fleeing Meredith’s office while Meredith, in her bra, chases after him, shouting threats all the way.  The only witness to this is a cleaning lady who sadly shakes her head before returning to her dusting.

Tom is so traumatized by the experience that he has a bizarre nightmare in which Donald Sutherland says that he likes his suit and then attempts to lick his face.  Tom’s trauma continues when he goes to work the next day and discovers that Meredith has accused him of sexual harassment!  Tom responds by suing the company and it’s time for an epic courtroom battle, one that will deal with one of the most important issues of our time….

….except that never happens.  Here’s what is weird.  For all the talk about abuse of power and all the scenes of a remorseful Tom apologizing to both his wife and his secretary for his past behavior, the whole sexual harassment plot turns out to be a red herring.

Instead, the film turns into this weird techno thriller, one that involves Tom trying to figure out how to make a better CD-ROM.  That may have been a big deal back in 1994 but today, you watch the film and you think, “Who cares?”  (Even better is a scene where Garvin brags about how his company is on the cutting edge of fax technology.)  Once Tom realizes that Meredith only accused him of sexual harassment to keep him from building the perfect CD-ROM, we get a scene of him using a virtual reality headset to search through the companies files.  At one point, he spots a bot with Demi Moore’s face destroying files and he shouts out, “She’s in the system!”  It’s just strange.

The film’s plot is often incoherent but the cast keeps things amusing.  Michael Douglas spends the first half of the movie looking either annoyed or terrified.  Things pick up for him in the 2nd half of the movie.  Whenever he gets good news from his lawyer, he jumps up in the air and goes, “Yessssssss!” and it’s so dorky that it’s kind of endearing.  Meanwhile, Demi Moore doesn’t even try to make Meredith into a credible character, which is actually just the right approach to take to this material.  There’s no room for subtlety in a film as melodramatic as this.  Finally, Donald Sutherland is his usual avuncular self, smirking at all the right moments and suggesting that he finds the movie to be just as amusing as we do.  For all of its plot holes and problematic subtext, Disclosure is an entertainingly stupid film.  A lot of the credit for the entertaining part has to go to the cast.

As I said, Disclosure is just strange..  As with most films from the 90s, its sexual politics are all over the place.  On the one hand, Tom learns that even inadvertent sexism can make the women who wok with him feel unsafe.  On the other hand, the only woman with any hint of a personality is portrayed as being pure evil.  In no way, shape, or form is this a movie to be taken seriously.  Instead, this is just a weird film that cries out, “1994!”

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed

Cleaning Out The DVR: Widsom (dir by Emilio Estevez)


(I recorded the 1986 film, Wisdom, off of Retroplex on Mary 1st.)

 

(SPOILER ALERT!  The ending of this film is so extremely stupid that there’s no way I’m not going to discuss it in this review.)

Meet John Wisdom (Emilio Estevez)!

He’s got one of those ironic names, as people in pretentious movies often do.  He’s extremely naive but his name is Wisdom.  He does a lot of stupid crap but his name is Wisdom.  And I guess the audience is meant to feel that Wisdom understands more than even he knows.

Or something like that.

Who knows?

Anyway, John Wisdom has got some issues.  He’s a college dropout who can’t get a good job because he has a criminal record.  He didn’t really do anything wrong, of course.  All he did was steal a car on the night of his high school graduation.  Hey, who hasn’t done that?  Anyway, Wisdom would be happy to just spend all day sitting around in his bathtub but his father (Tom Skerritt) insists that Wisdom find some sort of employment.

Eventually, Wisdom ends up working in a fast food restaurant.  It turns out that he’s not very good at it, which leads me to suspect that Wisdom probably wouldn’t be very good at any of the other jobs that he was pursuing either.  To be honest, the main reason that Wisdom works at the restaurant is so that Charlie Sheen can have a cameo as Wisdom’s boss.

(Strangely, Martin Sheen is nowhere to be found in the movie.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Emilio Estevez — who both directed and wrote the script — originally envisioned Martin playing his father.  Tom Skerritt does an extended Martin Sheen impersonation as Daddy Wisdom.)

Anyway, Wisdom decides that since the system refuses to give him a fair chance, he’s going to live the rest of his life as an outlaw.  So, Wisdom starts to rob banks.  However, instead of stealing all of the money, Wisdom is more interested in setting fire to mortgage and loan records.  Wisdom explains, via voice over, that he’s concerned about the working people who keeps getting screwed over by the banks.  That’s all good and well but I thought the whole reason that Wisdom started robbing banks was because there was no other way for him to make any money.  So, when did Wisdom go from being a greedy criminal to an altruistic rebel?

Naturally, Wisdom and his girlfriend, Karen (Demi Moore), becomes folk heroes.  Everyone wants to meet Wisdom and protect him from the police.  But eventually, Karen gets gunned down by a police helicopter.  Poor Karen.  She didn’t even want to rob banks.  Well, actually, she did want to rob banks.  And then she didn’t.  And then she did again.  Karen’s motivation and personality changes from scene-to-scene, largely because she’s a poorly written character.  But no matter.  She’s dead now.

But Wisdom’s still alive!  Except, soon, he finds himself surrounded by cops.  Standing in the middle of a football field (Oh my God!  The symbolism!), Wisdom is gunned down by law enforcement…

…except suddenly, Wisdom’s back in the bathtub.  Apparently, he was just daydreaming about his girlfriend getting gunned down in front of him.  Wait … what?  Seriously, what type of ending is that!?  At the very least, the film could have ended with Wisdom robbing a bank for real and accepting that his dream is destined to come true.  I mean, that would have been stupid but at least it would have been something.  Instead, things end with Wisdom leaving the bathroom.

So, basically, the entire film was just Wisdom daydreaming about robbing banks and eventually getting gunned down on a football field.  Oh, Wisdom.  You got some issues, sweetie!

Emilio Estevez directed this film a year after appearing in The Breakfast Club.  Like many directorial debuts, it’s incredibly dumb.  You can tell that Estevez wasn’t sure what he wanted to say but he was still damn determined to say it.  Why do so many actors end up directing such pretentious and/or boring movies?  On the plus side, there were a few attempts at deliberate humor (Wisdom is not a particularly organized bank robber) and Demi Moore did a fairly good job playing an inconsistent character.  Otherwise, Wisdom is mostly memorable for having one of the worst endings of all time.

A Movie A Day #299: Blame It On Rio (1984, directed by Stanley Donen)


When I was growing up in Baltimore, I used to go down to this independent video story every weekend and check out movies.  Every time that I stepped into the store, the first thing I saw was the poster for Blame It On Rio hanging over the front register.  The store did not actually have any copies of Blame It On Rio in stock and I don’t think anyone working there had ever seen it but it only takes one look at the poster to guess what they were thinking when they hung it at the front of the store.

Blame It On Rio is one of the films that Michael Caine made during that period when he was willing to accept any paycheck.  (The Jaws 4 years.)  Caine plays Matthew, who goes on a vacation to Rio with his 17 year-old daughter, Nikki (Demi Moore), his best friend Victor (Joseph Bologna), and Victor’s daughter, Jennifer (Michelle Johnson).  Both Matthew and Victor’s marriages are falling apart and Victor encourages Matthew to hit on every topless woman they see.  Instead, Matthew ends up fooling around with Jennifer.  When Victor discovers that his daughter to having an affair with an older, married man, he recruits Matthew to help him discover the man’s identity.  In between the scenes of all the action in Brazil, Matthew and Jennifer appear in interview segments that do no add up to much.

It may be hard to believe but this forgettable movie was co-written by Larry Gelbart and directed by the same director responsible for Singin’ In The Rain, Charade, and Two For The Road, Stanley Donen.  For a film about a 43 year-old man having a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old, Blame It On Rio is a hopelessly square movie.  Caine and Bologna walking along a topless beach and accidentally leering at their own daughters is about as funny as things get.  Michael Caine’s a trooper and does the best that he can but Michelle Johnson is bland as Jennifer.  She and Demi Moore should have switched roles.

 

Horror On TV: Tales From The Crypt 2.1 “Dead Right” (dir by Howard Deutch)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we present the first episode of the 2nd season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!

In Dead Right, Demi Moore plays a secretary named Cathy who is told two things by a psychic.  First, she’ll lose her job.  Next, she’ll marry a man who will inherit a fortune and then violently die shortly afterward.  After losing her job, Cathy meets the grotesque Charlie (Jeffrey Tambor) and she marries him when she finds out that he comes from a wealthy family.

Of course, since this is Tales From The Crypt, there’s a twist.  The medium’s prediction turns out to be true but not quite in the way that Cathy was expecting…

Dead Right is pretty good.  Demi Moore is almost too plausible as a golddigger and Jeffrey Tambor turns Charlie into a truly memorable character, one who is both pathetic and intimidating.  And the story’s twist ending carries a properly nasty punch, as well.

Dead Right originally aired on April 21st, 1990.

Enjoy!

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #85: Ghost (dir by Jerry Zucker)


Ghost_(1990_movie_poster)Along with it being a part of my series of melodramatic film reviews, there are actually two reasons why I recently watched Ghost.

First off, this 1990 film was nominated for best picture and it’s long been my goal to watch and review every single film ever nominated for best picture.

Secondly, my Aunt Kate absolutely loves this movie.  Ever since she first found out that I obsessively love movies, she has recommended that I watch this movie.  And she hasn’t been alone.  A lot of people both in and outside of my family have recommended this film to me.  And, since I tend to be a bit of a contrarian know-it-all, I originally assumed that any film loved by that many people had to be terrible.  However, because I love mi tia, I decided to watch Ghost.

I have to admit that I started to laugh when I saw Demi Moore sitting at her pottery wheel because I’ve seen that scene parodied in so many different TV shows and movies.  As soon as a shirtless Patrick Swayze sat down behind her and joined his hands to hers to help shape a ceramic phallic symbol, I started to giggle.  As Unchained Melody played in the background, I wanted to be snarky.  But then I realized something.  If you can manage watch the scene without comparing it to all the parody versions, it actually works.  Patrick Swayze looked good and he and Demi Moore had the type of amazing chemistry that more than made up for the fact that neither one of them was a very good actor.  (That said, Patrick was very good at projecting decency and Demi was very good at crying and that’s really all that Ghost required.)  And, if the scene has proven easy to parody, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very sincere scene.  It’s so sincere that it’s even willing to risk coming across as being silly.

Of course, the entire film isn’t just Demi, Patrick, and a pottery wheel.  There’s also Whoopi Goldberg as a fake medium-turned-real-medium and Tony Goldwyn as the best friend who turns out to be a sleazy villain.  And, of course, there’s the cartoonish demons who pop up every once in a while so that they can literally drag the recently deceased down to Hell.

Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is the world’s most unlikely New York City-based banker.  He owns a beautiful apartment with his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) but he has commitment issues.  He can’t bring himself to say that he loves Molly.  Instead, he just says, “Ditto.”  And, from the minute he first utters those words, you know that his habit of saying “Ditto,” is going to be an important plot point.  Anton Chekhov told us that any gun introduced during the first chapter must be fired by the third chapter.  Ghost tells us that any “Ditto” uttered during the first 10 minutes must be repeated by the end of the first hour.

Sam’s best friend and co-worker is Carl (Tony Goldwyn).  At the start of the film, Sam and Carl have a sweet bromance going and some of the best scenes are just the two of them acting like guys.  (There’s a fun little scene where they freak out a group of strangers on an elevator.)  Goldwyn is so likable as Carl that it’s actually genuinely upsetting to discover that he’s arranged for Sam to be murdered.  (Why?  It all involved a lot of financial stuff that basically went right over my head.  Greed is not only the root of all evil but it leads to narrative confusion as well.)  When Sam dies, he comes back as a ghost but nobody can see him but his fellow ghosts.  Vincent Schiavelli has a great cameo as a very angry subway ghost who teaches Sam how “life” works when you’re dead.

(Of course, Schiavelli isn’t on screen for too long because he’s almost too angry for the world of Ghost.)

Eventually Sam discovers that only one living person can communicate with him.  Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) is a fake medium who is just as shocked as anyone to discover that she can speak with the dead.  Whoopi won an Oscar for her performance here and she’s certainly does bring some needed humor and life to Ghost.  With Swayze, Moore, and Goldwyn all giving extremely and sometimes overly dramatic performances, you’re happy to have Whoopi there.

Ghost is designed to appeal to your emotions and it succeeds in doing just that.  If you look at the film logically, you’re missing the point.  In many ways, the film is undeniably silly but I still got some tears in my eyes when I heard that “Ditto.”

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #73: St. Elmo’s Fire (dir by Joel Schumacher)


St_elmo's_fire

Oh my God!  Aren’t rich, white people just like the worst!?

Actually, usually I would never say something like that.  I usually find class warfare to be tedious and I personally think poor people can be just as annoying as rich people.  I had no interest in the whole Occupy Wall Street thing and I once referred to V For Vendetta as being V For Vapid.

No, I may not be much of a class warrior but then again, that may be because I never met any of the characters at the center of the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire.  Seriously, if anything could turn me into a slogan-spouting, window-smashing revolutionary, it would be having to deal with any of the self-centered, entitled characters in St. Elmo’s Fire.

St. Elmo’s Fire is about a group of seven friends, three of whom are played by actors who co-starred in The Breakfast Club.  These friends all met at and are recent graduates from Georgetown University.  St. Elmo’s Fire follows them as they laugh, love, drink, do drugs, and try to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

For instance, there’s Billy (Rob Lowe), who has big hair and wears one dangling earring.  Billy was in a fraternity and spends most of the movie wishing that he still was.  Billy also plays the saxophone and he has a wife and a kid who he has pretty much abandoned … well, you know what?  I like Rob Lowe.  He seems like a fun guy and his DirectTV commercials were all classics but oh my God, does he ever give a bad performance in St. Elmo’s Fire.  Some of it is because Billy is not a very likable character.  He’s supposed to be the rough-around-the-edges, secretly sensitive rebel type but ultimately, he just comes across as being a loser.

And then there’s Jules (Demi Moore), who does too much cocaine and, as a result, finds herself fearing that she’s on the verge of being sold into a sexual slavery.  Jules doesn’t get to do much other than be rescued by the other characters.  Fortunately, when it looks like the group is drifting apart, Jules attempts to commit suicide and brings everyone back together.  Way to be a plot device, Jules!

Wendy (Mare Winningham) is the sweet but insecure virgin who has a crush on Billy.  Wendy works as a social worker and ends up getting insulted by the very people that she’s trying to help.  Winningham gives one of the film’s better performances but you can’t help but feel that Wendy deserves better friends.

Speaking of good performances, Andrew McCarthy also gives a pretty good one.  McCarthy plays Kevin Dolenz, the idealistic writer who everyone is convinced is gay because he hasn’t had sex in 2 years.  However, Kevin is actually in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.  As written, Kevin runs the risk of coming across as being insufferably moralistic but McCarthy gives a likable performance.  He turns Kevin into the nice guy that we all want to know.

And then there’s the Breakfast Club alumni.

Alec Newberry (Judd Nelson) was the vice-president of the Georgetown Democrats but now, because it pays better, he’s taken a job working for a Republican senator.  Alec’s girlfriend is Leslie (Ally Sheedy).  Alec obsessively cheats on Leslie, claiming that he can’t be loyal to her unless she’s willing to marry him.  The group of friends is largely centered around Alec and Leslie though it’s never really clear why.  Alec and Leslie are boring characters and, as a result, they’re a boring couple.

And then there’s Kirby (Emilio Estevez).  Estevez gives a likable performance but he often seems to be appearing in a different movie from everyone else.  Kirby is working on his law degree and he’s in love with a hospital intern named Dale (Andie MacDowell).  Unfortunately, Dale isn’t as interested in Kirby as he is in her so Kirby responds by stalking her and trying to change her mind.  There’s an earnestness and sincerity to Kirby that makes you like him, even if his behavior is actually rather creepy.

As for the film itself — well, it’s directed by Joel Schumacher and there’s a reason why Schmacher has the reputation that he does.  As a director, Schumacher is good at gathering together an attractive cast but he has close to no idea how to tell a compelling story.  St. Elmo’s Fire plods along, dutifully telling its story but providing little insight or surprise.

If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you’re probably expecting this to be the point where I argue that St. Elmo’s Fire works as a time capsule.  But, honestly, this film doesn’t have enough insight to really work as a time capsule.  I mean, if you love 80s hair and 80s fashion, you might enjoy St. Elmo’s Fire but, then again, you could always just do a google image search and have the same basic experience.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: A Few Good Men (dir by Rob Reiner)


A_Few_Good_Men_poster

So, late Saturday night, I turned over to TCM’s 31 Days Of Oscar and I was watching the 1992 best picture nominee, A Few Good Men, and I noticed that not only was there only one woman in the entire film but she was also portrayed as being humorless and overwhelmed.  While all of the male characters were allowed to speak in quippy one liners and all had at least one memorable personality trait, Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore) didn’t get to do much beyond frown and struggle to keep up.

“Hmmmm…” I wondered, “why is it that the only woman in the film is portrayed as basically being a humorless scold?”  Then I remembered that A Few Good Men was written by Aaron Sorkin and it all made sense.  As I’ve discussed on this site before, Aaron Sorkin has no idea how to write woman and that’s certainly evident in A Few Good Men.  Joanne (who goes by the masculine Jo) is the one character who doesn’t get to say anything funny or wise.  Instead, she mostly serves to repeat platitudes and to be ridiculed (both subtly and not-so subtly) by her male colleagues.  You can tell that Sorkin was so busy patting himself on the back for making Jo into a professional that he never actually got around to actually giving her any personality.  As a result, there’s really not much for her to do, other than occasionally scowling and giving Tom Cruise a “that’s not funny” look.

(“C’mon,” Tom says at one point, “that one was pretty good.”  You tell her, Aaron Tom.)

A Few Good Men, of course, is the film where Tom Cruise yells, “I want the truth!” and then Jack Nicholson yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!”  At that point in the film, I was totally on Nicholson’s side and I was kinda hoping that the scene would conclude with Cruise staring down at the floor, struggling to find the perfect come back.  However, this is an Aaron Sorkin script which means that the big bad military guy is never going to have a legitimate point and that the film’s hero is always going to have the perfect comeback.  Fortunately, the scene took place in a courtroom so there was a wise judge present and he was able to let us know that, even if he seemed to be making the better point, Nicholson was still in the wrong.

As for the rest of the film, it’s a courtroom drama.  At Guantanamo Bay, a marine (Michael DeLorenzo) has died as the result of a hazing.  Two other marines (Wolfgang Bodison and James Marshall) have been accused of the murder.  Daniel Kafee (Tom Cruise), Joanne Galloyway (Demi Moore), and Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) have been assigned to defend them.  Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon) is prosecuting them.  Kafee thinks that the hazing was ordered by Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) and Lt. Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland).

We know that Kendrick’s a bad guy because he speaks in a Southern accent and is religious, which is pretty much the mark of the devil in an Aaron Sorkin script.  We know that Jessup is evil because he’s played by Jack Nicholson.  For that matter, we also know that Kafee is cocky, arrogant, and has father issues.  Why?  Because he’s played by Tom Cruise, of course.  And, while we’re at it, we know that Sam is going to be full of common sense wisdom because he’s played by Kevin Pollack…

What I’m saying here is that there’s absolutely nothing surprising about A Few Good Men.  It may pretend to be about big issues of national security but, ultimately, it’s a very slick and somewhat hollow Hollywood production.  This, after all, is a Rob Reiner film and that, above all else, means that it’s going to be a very conventional and very calculated crowd pleaser.

Which isn’t to say that A Few Good Men wasn’t enjoyable.  I love courtroom dramas and, with the exception of Demi Moore, all of the actors do a good job.  (And, in Demi’s defense, it’s not as if she had much to work with.  It’s not her fault that Sorkin hates women.)  A Few Good Men is entertaining without being particularly memorable.