Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Get your own women!"

Inspired by the popularity of the Things You Think Nobody Loves But You thread, here's a spin-off: what's your favorite unsuccessful work by an otherwise popular actor/writer/director/musician?

For me, it has to be Bill Murray's "Quick Change," a bank heist comedy which came and went from theaters in about two weeks in the summer of 1990. Co-directed by Bill and starring him, Geena Davis, Randy Quaid and an all-star roster of Hey It's That Guy!s, including Jason Robards as the police chief (and the man on the receiving end of the quote in the subject line), Bob Elliott as a braggart security guard, Phillip Bosco as a bus driver who's serious about the exact change rule, Tony Shalhoub as a cabbie of unknown ethnic origin, Stanley Tucci as a wiseguy, Phil Hartman as a gun-toting yuppie and too many others to name (I think Kurtwood Smith pops up at one point), it works as both a hilarious caper movie and satire of what a pit New York was at the time. Basically, the robbery is easy; getting out of town with the cash is the hard part, as Bill, Geena and Randy run into trouble a mugger, the fire department, city utility workers, the MTA and, in my personal favorite scene, a pair of Latino men jousting on bicycles. (Quaid: "It's bad luck just seeing a thing like that!")

It's not as funny or as deep as "Groundhog Day," but I'll put it up against any of Bill's other comedies, and that includes "Stripes," "Meatballs" and "Ghostbusters."

I now open the floor for other nominations (in any medium you like) and explanations.

25 comments:

Daniel said...

I just watched Quick Change last night!

I wanted a reminder of just how much of the plot of "Inside Man" was stolen from it. The answer? Much.

You're right. It's not "Groundhog Day," but it's certainly a flawless example of how to direct a comic thriller with absolutely perfect deadpan timing. It's like "Dog Day Afternoon" meets "After Hours" only with Bill Murray. That, to me, is good stuff.

That being said? As to your question:

Well, I loved "The Frighteners" back when it came out because I loved Peter Jackson's zombie movies from New Zealand. I'd rather watch that movie again than any of the "Lord of the Rings" movie. The special effects are superior and it's often hilarious.

I also thought that "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" was a brilliant movie, even though it only got mixed reviews and didn't make a penny. Sam Rockwell is great in the main role. The Charlie Kaufman script is appealingly twisty. And the cinematography is splendid. But it's a tone piece and lots of people didn't get or didn't like the tone.

Yeah. There are a couple for your list.

Anonymous said...

I would add to the list Bill Murray's "Mad Dog and Glory". DeNiro and Murray swap roles and it has a similar understated charm.

Also, Cameron Crowe's "Singles." Now "Elizabethtown" was unwatchable, but "Singles" is an underrated Crowe film that's actually terrific. It's much better than "Reality Bites" and its interplay of music, romance, dramedy and style is a perfect 90s timepiece.

Also, "Undeclared" on FOX, which never got the credit it deserved under "Freaks and Geeks" shadow. And "Unscripted" on HBO, which is a good look at being a struggling actor in LA, as well as being in your 20s in any city.

And the OC Season 2. a lot of people slagged on it, but I give them credit for at least trying to do something different with the show. Also, West Wing Season 4, which others hated, but I liked.

Heather K said...

I love both "Singles" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." COADM is a really brilliant film, and I don't inderstand why it wasn't better received. "Frighteners" I liked to.

My pick for underrated (although I am not sure if it really was or just underwatched when it was on TV), is "Sports Night" a la Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame. Really wonderful dramadey full of winning characters and great lines--just not what you would expect when you hear it is a sitcom about a sports tv show. Although I will admit the laugh track on the first season is just downright painful. The show however rules. "Shoe money tonight!"

Alan Sepinwall said...

Heather, "Sports Night" was great, but it was arguably too popular (ran two years, critically adored, obsessed fans, best-selling DVDs) to qualify for this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Sports Night was totally overrated! Not funny, all the characters sounded the same (more than on West Wing) and way too in love with itself.

Alan - does Dawson's Creek count? Since you despised it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey, I liked Dawson's Creek once upon a time -- I don't have my inaugural review handy, but I remember it as being in lockstep with the rest of the media at the time.

In general, if a TV show ran for more than a couple of months, I don't think it counts. Much like the "Used Cars" example from the first thread, I'm looking for things that came and went before anyone even knew they existed, but deserved a much longer, more popular stay in the public light.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Because Blogger is spazzing out at the moment and won't let me publish new posts but will let me publish comments, here's a link to the Sopranos review until I can successfully post the full entry: click here.

Louis said...

I nominate Frank’s Place, the short-lived, late ‘80s series starring Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap of WKRP) as a college professor who left his teaching job in Boston to return to New Orleans and run a restaurant that he inherited from his father. It was a subtle, poignant, no-laugh-track comedy that deserved to hang around a lot longer than it did.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Everything I've heard about Frank's Place agrees with you, Louis (I never saw it myself), but I think it would fit more in the earlier thread than this one. Tim Reid has had a good career, but he's not such a big star that it's a surprise to see a project of his fail (or an even bigger surprise for a good project of his to fail).

I realize the guidelines seem arbitrary, but the whole idea came to me when I caught "Quick Change" the other day on cable and, as always happens, couldn't stop watching. (Wait a few days and we'll do the Movies You Always Have to Watch to the End When You See Them on Cable list.)

Tosy And Cosh said...

Music:
Paul Simon's The Capeman Broadway score. Didn't see theshow, so don't know how it worked as a play, but the music is superb.

Movie:
Toys - Robin Williams flop. Joan Cusack is brilliant.

TV Show:
Manimal. OK, not really. But the ten-year old me LOVED that show something fierce.

Anonymous said...

About Dawson's -- you liked it? Or only the first season? Maybe I only remember seasons 2 and more you hating it... or being disappointed/annoyed...

And to the list I would add TAPEHEADS the movie with Cusack and Tim Robbins...

Anonymous said...

If you were in lockstep with the public on Dawson's - you hated it after episode 6. EWeekly skewered them every week. And did you see their review of Prison Break this week? Ouch.

I would like to add Daniel Fienberg to the list. I think he is a sleeper hit, living in the shadow of blockbuster Sepinwall.

undercover black man said...

Cop. Rock. They're cops, ya see... but they rock!

When Steven Bochco was at the top of his game, ABC let him do a cop show as a musical. "Cop Rock" only lasted 10 eps., but I have a large, lingering affection for it. The concept was undeniably audacious, and arguably brilliant.

The problem was that most of the songs sucked. It's a hell of a lot harder to write a good song than a good scene. I used to play a little game while watching... guess the rhyming word after hearing the first half of the couplet. (You hear "moon"... uh oh, here comes "June.") It was an easy game to play.

Still, a few of those numbers have stayed in my mind some 16 years later... like "Quit Yer Bitchin'." (Okay... one.) Also, the great Kathleen Wilhoite, as a junkie mom, sang a great ballad to her infant kid in the pilot. While I can't recall the tune, I do remember the powerful emotional impact of that song within the story. (According to imdb, this was a Randy Newman song called "Sandman," which he later re-purposed in "Faust." And I believe it was you, Alan, who told me that Newman only wrote the songs for the pilot... too bad.)

Another peculiar thing about how they integrated the characters-bursting-into-song within an otherwise gritty, "real" world: while the singing characters were singing, the camera would cut to non-singer characters for reaction shots, and they'd be watching the singers with deadpan, naturalistic expressions on their faces, as if they were listening to a normal conversation. Trippy!

Bochco has run into hard times in recent years (creatively), but every TV fan owes him a huge and everlasting debt; "Cop Rock" is one little line item way down on that bill, but it's on there.

Devin McCullen said...

I really enjoyed "Joe vs. the Volcano" when I saw it, although I've never seen it again. When I do something dumb, I'll often mutter "brain cloud" to myself.

And I don't know if Charlie Sheen quite meets the criteria, but I enjoy the heck out of "The Chase". I don't always watch it all the way to the end, but whenever I stumble across it on FX, I hang around for awhile.

Louis said...

Alan, I see your point about Tim Reid and Frank’s Place not making the cut. I get carried away by my fondness for that show, I guess.

Here’s a music nomination: Paul McCartney’s Ram. It’s the best album by an ex-Beatle, but it wasn’t well received by fans or critics. Given that he was fresh out of the biggest band in history, and considering the popularity of his later ‘70s work, most of which was junk, Ram’s comparative failure is pretty surprising.

MB said...

"White hunter black heart" written directed and starring Clint Eastwood as an irascable director with a Hemmingway hunting obsession and an over budget unwritten movie to make. Not many have seen this movie in its entirety. It was before the "Unforgiven" and was against type for Eastwood. The friendship between him and his writer friend and the artistic struggle were depicted with captivating witty dialogue and humnor. One of the best movie lines ever, was delivered as Clint drew a picture of a British society lady with a Hitler Mustache. At the end of a two minute story, "I have met a lot of ugly braods in my time, But Madame, you are the ugliest women I have ever seen".

Millers Crossing: Cohen Brothers. Most people know it not.

Nilbo said...

Would "Buffalo Bill" fit the criteria? Dabny Coleman and Geena Davis have had more successful ventures before and since this 80's sitcom, but I adored his mean-spirited, insecure TV talk show host.

I also find myself rivetted by De Niro and Jerry Lewis in "The King of Comedy". Some real creepiness played in such a matter-of-fact way ...

Alan Sepinwall said...

King of Comedy is a good pick; in general, it's not held up as one of the great DeNiro/Scorsese collaborations, but I know a lot of people who swear by it.

Buffalo Bill? Probably hair-splitting, but I'd put it in the other thread. But I also don't want to stymie discussion here.

And, hey, Blogger's working again! New posts! Woo-hoo!

Anonymous said...

So you liked Dawson's past episode 6? Certainly you gave up in the middle of Season 2...

Tapeheads was a great call. And Mad Dog and Glory. While we're on the DeNiro subject -- what about Night and the City, the remake he did with Jessica Lange. Singles is an excellent choice too, but what about the Good Life - the movie Crowe wrote after Fast Times before Say Anything that starred the late, less-great Chris Penn.

highbrow said...

John Cusack's got a lot of films under his belt that could qualify: The Sure Thing, One Crazy Summer, The Grifters, The Road to Wellville, Identity.

And speaking of Sam Rockwell: Welcome to Collinwood.
And Drew Barrymore:
Poison Ivy, Bad Girls, Donnie Darko.

And speaking of Joshua Jackson: The Safety of Objects.

And all Gus Van Sant films before Good Will Hunting.

R.A. Porter said...

No one else will like this one, but I really like Sylvester Stallone's "Oscar". He usually gets dismissed for his bad action movies, defended for "Cop Land" and "Rocky", and otherwise ignored as an actor. The few times he's tried comedy, it's been funnier on the Unintentional Comedy Scale than as intended. But this movie works for me.

Maybe it's the presence of Peter Riegert and Tim Curry that does it for me, but I think this madcap movie should have gotten a fairer shot.

Big Sexy said...

Quick Change is terrific, Mad Dog and Glory also...but what broke my heart was the disappointing disappearance of "Eyes" with Tim Daly - it was a tremendously stylish show, with a decent amount of substance to boot - just incredibly fun to watch. With ABC's strategy of laserlike focus on promoting their favorite new shows to the detriment of their semi-unwanted shows, Eyes just got lost in the shuffle...

dez said...

I'm gonna second "The Frighteners," which is not only an underrated Jackson film, but also has a criminally underrated performance from Michael J. Fox. The guy looks seriously haunted for much of the picture. Love that film!

Christy said...

Caught "Quick Change" on TV a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am one of the three people in the known universe who loved Bruce Willis's "Hudson Hawk." Screamingly funny, thrilling, and proto-DaVinci-Code. It made everyone's worst film of the year list. The only time I ever liked Andi McDowell, too.

Marsha said...

Cop Rock! The best thing about Cop Rock was the final episode, where they sang about being cancelled. I loved it so much I saved the videotape, which i still have somewhere.