Friday, January 15, 2010

MGM: Studio on the Decline -> Touch

Yes, I don't remember exactly when I had this realization. Maybe it's when they re-released Fame and it did poorly amongst critics, then the public. Maybe it's when I realized Warner Bros. bought the video rights to Gymkata. Maybe it's just an example of studio politics guiding business principles, where Disney's the honor student and MGM's the black sheep of the same family. And even though we just barely missed scraping against that iceberg known as Great Depression II lo those couple years ago now, not all got away unscathed. And perhaps you're thinking to yourself, well, MGM's still got Bond! James Bond! True enough. And even though you might not like Daniel Craig in the lead, the films are too expensive and need to be financed by a second studio, like Sony or... Fox! No, the only thing that'll be left in the MGM catalogue is the De Laurentiis collection. It's only a matter of time before Maximum Overdrive comes on the MGM HD channel. And I'm sure it'll look great... even though that blonde kid kinda creeps me out. And the cool girl; I think this is her. Doesn't quite fit the mold for me. But you gotta like Lisa Simpson in it, doing a Southern accent.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Which brings me in a roundabout way to Touch, recently seen on MGM HD. I guess it was crisp enough. Somehow film isn't done justice in HD, especially a film from the 90s and earlier. But at least they don't streak whenever the camera moves from light source to light source like crappy digital video. Anyway, in the wake of Get Shorty, it seemed that Elmore Leonard could FINALLY be adapted, and the Coens worked on a treatment for his Cuba Libre, for example. Yes, he was no longer confined to the neo-noir ghetto of the likes of Donald Westlake and others... Charles Willeford? He was one hot commodity now, and Touch would be the perfect vehicle for his talent.
Or so it was thought. I dunno. Something about it. It needed more action or something. It was too immaculate, too laid back. It's about this guy with a very powerful gift, and those first hit by the blast wave that would eventually reach a national television audience. Skeet Ulrich plays the guy with the gift, and everyone else pretty much plays someone who would exploit that gift. Who will it be? Will it be the slick huckster preacher Bill Hill played by a Christopher Walken impersonator? Oh, wait, it's actually Christopher Walken. Or will it be his pretty former assistant played by ... UNDERplayed by Bridget Fonda? Get that girl a mike! Or will it be the obnoxious Tom Arnold? Seriously, though, he did pretty good. I guess you could say the character was perfect for his '90s persona; then again, one doesn't usually equate Tom Arnold with religious orthodoxy. Does Skeet Ulrich himself long for a life of fame and riches? Will his gift disappear once he achieves either? Who's exploiting who here? Or could it be that God's exploiting all of us, and frankly being a bit of a showoff by giving one man Christ-ish powers? I kinda like that last answer, since I thought of it myself.
There are various colorful cameos, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Christopher Walken and Anthony Zerbe are reunited after appearing 14 years earlier in The Dead Zone. Lolita Davidovich takes a break from working with hubby Ron Shelton to make an appearance as a former Catholic turned stripper. She and Christopher Walken give Tom Arnold a theological run for his money. I will say that the music was pretty good. I would give a shout-out to Conchata Ferrell, but really, everyone knows Mr. Deeds is the performance she'll be remembered for.
I think that was about it for Touch. To refresh people about my star system: 4 stars is for a movie that I will surely watch more than once a year, 3 and a half for a movie that's not quite a classic, but at least has some worthy action scenes. A 3 star movie is a movie like Just Cause or The Client: a slick Hollywood vehicle that will be shown forever and really only needs to be seen once. Two and a half and lower, well, now we're getting into walkout territory. And I should report that I and my viewing companions, while watching Touch, tried to take a vote to abort and watch something else, but we figured it's like a vaccination: might as well get it over with so from now on, if anyone should perchance ask, we can say, why yes! I saw Touch once.

Visual motif: major scenes are begun showing a character's shoes... usually Walken's nice shoes

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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