Dennis Quaid

The Intruder

First Hit: A day after watching this movie, I’ve forgotten almost everything about it.

A good film has you remember something about it, the next day, next week, next month, and next year. This film barely made it to the next day. A movie like “Wait Until Dark,” which might be categorized as the same genre, is still is with me today, and I saw it in 1967.

The idea of this film is; a couple decides to buy a country home in Napa Valley, fix it up, and hopefully raise a family in their new home. The house they fall in love with is owned by a man who claims his wife died about two years ago from cancer and it’s time for him to move on and live in Florida with his daughter. But, with any good horror mystery, there is a wrinkle in the idyllic story.

Here we have Annie and Scott Russell (Megan Good and Michael Ealy respectively), having had success, wanting to move from a condo in San Francisco to a home in Napa Valley. The home Annie falls in love with is owned by Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid).

The faults started early for me. The looks and quick switches in attitude by Peck made him a creepy suspect too soon. He didn’t sell the story of his wife dying of cancer well enough. That is what disappointed me about this film. It telegraphed too loud and too early the player's positions in this film.

Annie, on her part, was too trusting too early and in apparent situations where caution would be the by-word, she wasn’t. Scott was on edge too early as well. His mistrust and skittishness seemed a little too fabricated.

Anyway, after buying the house, Peck keeps showing up at Russell’s home, mowing the lawn, yelling at people installing a security system, and trying to be helpful. He isn’t, and the creepiness oozes from his eyes and a fake smile.

The story unfolds as one might imagine, but the over crafting from the beginning led to an apparent predictable ending. Additionally, I live in the San Francisco Bay area I’m surprised that Scott, as a high-level advertising executive, would consider making a daily commute from Napa to San Francisco. It might have been better if they had moved to Mill Valley, Fairfax, or other Marin County areas, than Napa. I couldn’t get around the commute as being something viable.

Ealy was OK as Scott. However, his suspicions were telegraphed too early in the film. Good was acceptable as Annie. Her naivety towards Peck by not seeing his obvious behavior flaws was not believable. As a for instance, note the scene when she invites him in to share the pizza he delivers to her, dumb. Quaid overacted the part, but I did think his evil grin was well done. He sort of had a “Chuckie” look to him. Joseph Sikora as Scott’s close friend Mike was reasonable in his role as up and coming young, robust and rich guy. Alvina August was acceptable as Mike’s girlfriend who put up with Mike’s posturing. David Loughery wrote a good script, but it was the direction by Deon Taylor that failed to make the story memorable. He didn’t get much out of his actors and sided on overacting to make this film.

Overall: This film is totally forgettable and not worth seeing.

Truth

First Hit:  This struck home because of how two careers were ruined by the power of people in high position and the unwillingness to acknowledge the “Truth”.

I won’t talk about how this strikes home, and I will apologize ahead of time for any political bent this review may take. George W. Bush is protected here by his political strategists (see previous review of “Our Brand Is Crisis”) to divert the public from hearing the truth.

These strategist and doubt creators twisted enough controversy about the investigation towards Bush’s lost year (AWOL) of military service commitment that Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) lost their jobs.

The story is how Mapes, a prize winning producer, discovers documents that indicate Bush went AWOL from his military duty. As she dug into the information it became clear to her and her team that this story was true, therefore CBS ran the story on 60 minutes with Rather telling the tale. The timing of this was crucial because Bush was running for President.

Bush’s team found ways to bring up questions about the information that was published. In pouncing on this, the pressure on CBS was enormous and they kowtowed to the bullies of government and sponsors who supported Bush. There was an investigation done and in the near last scene, Mapes tells the committee why they are wrong.

The most beautiful scenes are when Mapes and Rather are together talking. It is evident that there is a respectful father/daughter, mentor/mentee relationship built on mutual respect for each other’s work. When the brief and actual clips of Bush are shown, you see and feel the mealy small minded way Bush comments on his win - throwing up is an acceptable response.

This is what makes this film good; the mixture of relevant information and how it is presented. Just before the credits role, the audience gets to see that the research did not disprove Mapes’ story and that people’s lives were adversely affected by telling (or not telling) the “Truth”.

Blanchett is amazing in telling this story. I was captured by her character. Redford is perfect as Dan Rather. Topher Grace as researcher Mike Smith showed a lot of intensity – not sure it was needed. Dennis Quaid as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles, fact finder and conservative throttle for Mapes was strong. James Vanderbilt wrote a very strong compelling script and directed these fine actors and story is a clear honest way.

Overall:  I like this film because of the story it told.

At Any Price

First Hit:  A very strong film about family and the pressures of living up to one's own and others expectations.

Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is a head of his family farm; his dad Cliff (Red West) is still alive and pressuring Henry to make the family farm work the way he wants it to work.

Henry has two sons Grant (Patrick Stevens) the older college football star and younger son Dean (Zac Efron) who wants to be a NASCAR driver not a farmer. Henry really wants Grant to take over the farm, but Grant graduates and decides to travel the world. The undying hope that Grant will return haunts Henry.

Dean is hard headed and hates farming and his Dad’s placating ways. Henry, screws around with his old high school sweetheart while his loyal wife bears the pain of knowing but loving Henry anyway. She confronts him in one scene and in the next she’s holding his hand making a great public appearance. It is all about what it looks like.

This is the heart and key of the film, is how one is scene in public. Henry could be seething in side but he’s quick with a smile that looks real and is real – to a point.

Dean meets his fear on the race track and becomes lost. When his father covers for him and supports him for one of his stupid actions, he becomes the next generation farmer.

There are other sub-stories in this film which integrate with the whole story, one being that what goes on in Middle America’s farms reflects what goes on in bug corporations as well.

Quaid is perfect in this role as his quick smile and eyes that light up with his smile, are perfect for the man who is use to putting on fronts. Efron is very good as the troubled young man. The only thing that didn’t fit wonderfully for me, was why he lost his ability to face the fear of driving. However, his shift from rebellious young son to the future family farm leader was very good. Kim Dickens as Henry’s wife Irene was excellent. She embodied the faithful loving wife while looking past her husband’s indiscretions. Maika Monroe was wonderful as Dean’s young girlfriend. Clancy Brown as Jim Johnson, Henry’s rival Liberty seed seller, was very good. Chelcie Ross was also very good as Henry’s seed washing accomplice. Ramin Bahrani wrote and directed this very strong film that may show up at next year’s awards ceremonies.

Overall:  This film has more under the hood than shown at first blush. It asks; what would you do for your family?

Playing for Keeps

First Hit:  Predictable film, some strong moments, and generally disappointing with this strong cast.

George (played by Gerard Butler) is a finished professional soccer player from Scotland. He was famous, blew through his money, and is now looking for work.

He’s also is divorced from Stacie (played by Jessica Biel) who is living with their son Lewis (played by Noah Lomax) and her fiance (played by James Tupper). While trying to find a job he moves near his son and ex-wife and becomes the soccer coach for his son’s team. He is a hit and the team begins to score and win games.

However, as expected the parents of the kids on the team want to influence the coach to play their kid or provide special coaching. Making it more complex is that George is a ladies man and all the divorcees want a piece of him in more ways than one. To this end we have Uma Thurman (Patti) who is married to Carl (played by Dennis Quaid).

Patti wants to have an affair with George while Carl, who influences the team and George with money, will kill anyone who has an affair with his wife. There is also Denise (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) who has influence at ESPN and uses her sexuality and connections to influence George.

Lastly, there is Barb (played by Judy Greer) who is freshly divorced and is prime for sex. Besides the predictability of the film, it sets things up but then lets them go. Example: Carl gives George a bunch of money for the team and George uses it for his rent and deposit on his new digs but there is no consequence for this action.

Butler is good and fits the role well but it just seems so predictable. Biel is very good and she and Butler create a wonderful chemistry. There are a couple of scenes when they are speaking with each other that were really strong. Quaid’s role was odd and not very well thought-out. Zeta-Jones was good and created some fun in the film. Thurman is oddly interesting as a lonely unhappy lush wife. Greer is one of the more interesting people in the film with her emotional jags. Robbie Fox wrote a bland screenplay. Gabriele Muccino directed this film in a very safe way. There wasn’t anything that really stood out or was detrimental. It was safe.

Overall:  This film would be a good Sunday evening family DVD or streaming watch.

The Words

First Hit:  It started well, fell flat in the middle and fell off the cliff in the end.

Clay Hammond (played by Dennis Quaid) plays a writer of acclaim who’s written a book people are very taken by.

We slip reality/time/space venues (but were not supposed to know it) and watch Rory Jansen (played by Bradley Cooper) struggle to be a writer. His adoring wife Dora (played by Zoe Saldana) supports his struggle and believes in him. His first self-reflective and deep novel is rejected by all publishers. He gets a regular job deliver mail in a publishing house.

On his honeymoon he finds a briefcase which has a typed manuscript inside. It reflects a story around WWII in Paris. He decides to type it up word for word and publish it. The real author as an old man (played by Jeremy Irons) reads it and makes himself known to Rory.

Rory is panicked, Dora is upset, and his life is turned upside down. So now we have viewed the story and life the old man wrote about, the story of Rory and Dora which is laid on the first story, with Hammond relating this all as a story.

Even worse we have to get to know Hammond a little towards the last 1/3 of the film and it is mediocre.

Quaid was a poor fit as Hammond the author and worse as he bared his truth to a younger admirer. Cooper was good but thought he was hemmed in by the part. Saldana was very good and more interesting than her husband the author. Irons was oddly crusty and philosophical about his plight. Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal both shared writing and direction roles. This is probably why the vision and execution of this story was mixed up and unclear.

Overall: This film wastes the words used to tell these stories and, in the end, it felt gimmicky and doomed to any good acting that could have been delivered.