Night Moves


That was my general reaction to 1975’s “Night Moves,” a little known detective film from director Arthur Penn.

It begins with a private detective, Harry (Gene Hackman); he’s hired by a former starlet Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) to track down her missing teenage daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith). Delly’s a wild child, who either flirts with danger or sleeps with it, and Harry quickly figures out her moves.

Some more plot happens, we meet some more characters, but the story really doesn’t go anywhere and nothing amazing happens. Solid performances all around, even one from a disturbingly young James Woods as Delly’s loser boyfriend Quentin, but there really isn’t enough of interest to really praise or damn the film.

But not all is lost.

Watching “Night Moves,” I kept thinking of (and longing for) another Hackman film that came out a year earlier: “The Conversation.”

Now there’s a movie to write home about. It’s a mystery that keeps evolving. It’s a character piece about the kind of person who makes a living from spying on others. It has a shocking ending that is thoroughly earned. It what Francis Ford Coppola’s worked on between “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II,” and holds its own with those masterpieces.

“Night Moves” and “The Conversation” would make for a decent double feature; just make sure you watch “The Conversation” second and end on a high note.

Inventing the Abbotts

It’s hard to know what to say about “Inventing the Abbotts.”

Pat O’Connor’s 1997 film begins with two families; the Abbotts are the wealthy ones, the family that earns the envy and desire of all the other people in town. Lloyd Abbott, the patriarch, came up from nothing to marry a wealthy woman, and they had three daughters: Alice (Joanna Going), Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly) and Pam (Liv Tyler). Lloyd insists on showing them off to the neighbor kids who can’t ever be them or have them at every opportunity, and the girls, for one reason or another, just go along with it.

The Holts are the other family, two brothers and their widowed mother. Jacey (Billy Crudup) is the oldest and makes no secret of the fact that he is completely obsessed with getting into the Abbott family. It’s not love, but he pursues Eleanor with a fiery passion and then moves on when she is unavailable. Doug (Joaquin Phoenix) is a bit shy, a bit more withdrawn, and while he has feelings for Pam, he’s seen what an obsession with that family can do and stays away from her when he can. Most of the time, that fails.

There’s some more backstory, and some more interpersonal conflicts, but that’s the majority of the film. The boys pine, the girls remain aloof and all the while some great mystery hangs in the background, always out of reach.

It’s hard to give an opinion here because I liked the story, but I didn’t love it. I appreciated that the soapy route I predicted did not come to pass, but I had some issues with the lack of characterization of any of the female characters. I thought Phoenix overdid the sincere small-town boy at parts, and I felt that Tyler under-sold her poor-little-rich-girl act, but most the time they balanced each other out. I thought some third-act revelations were lame, but I thought others worked.

“Inventing the Abbotts” is a nice enough movie, with a good enough story, and a good enough cast, but it’s nothing notable.

“Inventing the Abbotts” (1997)

Directed by Pat O’Connor

Written by Ken Hixon

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Doug Holt)

Billy Crudup (Jacey Holt)

Liv Tyler (Pamela Abbott)

“Buffy” Season Seven: A look back

I’ve been a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” pretty much since seeing my first episode, “Triangle,” a goofy season five outing that put the charm on me. That was around the same time the TV-on-DVD movement kicked off, and getting to continually watch the episodes I adored only cemented my love of this little-respected (but much-loved) show.

But it’s only been in the last couple of months that I finally broke down and bought the final season DVD set. Some of my reluctance was that if I bought the final season, that would be admitting that it was over, and I just wasn’t ready to say good-bye (silly but true). I liked the season and all, but that wasn’t enough to get me to overcome that need to avoid The End.

From here on out, I’ll be revealing plot details about the various seasons of the show. If you haven’t seen it and you care about that sort of thing, don’t click to the next page.

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That was pretty weird.

I’m something of an off-and-on David Cronenberg fan; I don’t own any of his movies, but good or bad, his films stick with you. “Dead Ringers” is one that haunted me for months after seeing it. I don’t think “Videodrome” is going to haunt me that much, but I’m sad to say it’s one of his lesser films.

Here we have Max (James Woods), head of a seedy television channel that specializes in porn, from soft- to hard-core smut. Always on the lookout for something new and shocking, his assistant Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) shows him a feed for a show called Videodrome. In it, men and women are tortured and murdered, all so we can watch.

Of course, this feed comes with a little something extra; not long after Max sees the film, and shares it with his S&M-loving girlfriend Nicki (Deborah Harry, of Blondie fame), he begins hallucinating that his TV, and all video cassettes (Jim, they were Betamax!), are alive and communicating with him, rather than just at him.  

In his quest for knowledge and a “cure,” he stumbles upon the unlikely origins of Videodrome and its acolytes and opposition. I won’t give away more than that, but it’s a strange ride.

It’s also a bit on a long side, especially considering the runtime is only 88 minutes. I can live with the weird, and a rather unsatisfying end, but the film lost me about an hour in. To vague this up as much as possible, a female character commits to being the stupidest possible creature on Earth by simply losing the ability to add.

Yes, one could speculate that, hey, Max is a nutjob and that might not have happened, but we saw it anyway. In our eyes, it did happen, for no reason. It completely took me and my movie buddy out of the film and pretty much soured anything that came after.

That’s one big strike that can’t be washed away. I’ve heard rumours that a remake is in the works; if that character’s actions are omitted, I would be willing to approach it with an open mind. Fix that error, and I’m all yours.

Want another take on “Videodrome?” See what Jim has to say.

“Videodrome” (1983)

Written and directed by David Cronenberg

Starring: James Woods (Max)

Deborah Harry (Nicki)

Peter Dvorsky (Harlan)

June gloom double feature

It’s my day off, and it’s cloudy and a bit cool, almost my favorite weather ever. So what do I do? Double feature, of course.

I trekked to Blockbuster and rented “King Kong” (2005), which I neglected to see in the theater (although I did want to), and “War of the Worlds” (in an amusing coincidence, also 2005), which a friend of mine once told me was the worst movie ever made.

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The joy of Web series’

So, I’m still watching “The Ennead,” the Web series I plugged a few months ago, and I just wanted to let you know that if you haven’t checked it out, and you’re feeling the “Lost” withdrawal, it will help.

Right now, episode ten was just released, and we’ve gotten to know the characters a bit better and we’ve finally been introduced to some conflict outside the internal conflict of group memory loss.

Yeah for ambiguous villains!

I’m still watching because despite the occasional exposition-heavy episode, or bad actor (I won’t name names, but there’s really only one), I’m invested.

Dammit, I hate when that happens. Almost as much as I love it.

Since we’re on the subject of Web series’, apparently I’m the last person in the geek universe to discover “The Guild,” but it’s good enough that I’m going to plug anyway. (The bonus side of being late to the party: less waiting for content.)

“The Guild” is about six people who obsessively play an online game, and I do mean that; none of them appear to have jobs or social skills outside of the game. And while they fight and talk to each other all the time, the members of this guild have never actually met in real life, even though they all live in the same city.

But, when one of them, Zaboo (Sanndeep Parikh) shows up at our heroine Codex’s (Felicia Day) doorstep to 1) declare his love and 2) move in, she decides she needs the gang’s backup to get him out of her house. Of course, when the guild actually comes face to face, their simple game friendships become a lot more complicated. Which is just hilarious to watch.

Day is also the writer and producer for the show, and she’s apparently an avid gamer too, so while she can’t get into the game specifics (copyright worries), the whole show feels real, like you really are watching a bunch of geeks trying to cope with real life in between game time. From a geek of a different persuasion, it totally rings true.

Seasons one and two available for free. Definitely worth the time.