Tag Archives: Virginia Madsen


DIRECTED BY: Howard Goldberg

FEATURING: , Mike Vogel, Kevin Railsback, , , Jane Seymour

PLOT: A director makes a self-indulgent autobiographical movie about his failed love life, and, “Twilight Zone”-style, versions of himself in his teens, thirties and forties show up in unwanted cameos.

Still from Jake Squared (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Jake Squared is like 8 1/2 done as a romantic comedy by a Hollywood phony. It’s a little weird, sure, but mostly you just feel embarrassed for the screenwriter.

COMMENTS: 50-year old, semi-successful indie film director Jake Klein is a helpless romantic, as he himself announces to the viewer minutes before kicking out his lead actor so he can perform the hot tub scene with the three bikini-clad bimbos himself. Later, he bemoans the fact that “some people want to deny the poorest children health care and nutrition so the richest people won’t have to pay a few thousand in extra taxes” while doing his morning breaststroke in his backyard pool. It hardly seems possible, for a movie that boasts about its self-awareness and meta-conceits, but Jake Squared doesn’t really seem conscious of these ironies. It expects us to honestly sympathize with the internal struggle of its wealthy, balding, chick-magnet protagonist, this achingly wounded Lothario, while reserving its scorn for humbler targets, like the airheaded aspiring starlet who wants to convert to Judaism to further her show business career.

Jake admits his autobiographical film project is self-indulgent, expecting us to forgive him his self-indulgence because he’s up front about it. But it doesn’t work that way. When is self-indulgent we forgive him not because he’s candid about it, but because the self he is indulging is so fascinating. Jake, on the other hand, is more like a second generation, not-as-funny cross between and Larry David (boasting the same incomprehensible sex appeal with which these writers endow their surrogates). Elias Koteas does a reasonable job as most of the Jakes (unless we were supposed to like the character, in which case even his workmanlike job can’t overcome the script). The acting in general is a high point; landing the trio of Jason Leigh, Madsen and Seymour as potential paramours was a coup, though again, why these women would be fascinated rather than fed-up with Jake’s agonized narcissism is unclear.

Weirdness is not an issue. The opening introduces us to the primary Jake, the dashing twenty-something actor he’s hired to play Jake, and several of his earlier selves wandering around a party, and then switches to new scenes from Jake’s life (being acted by the hunky stand-in) which he views on his cell phone. For further confusion’s sake, the young actor in the cellphone scenes can also see himself in the party scenes. It gets so convoluted that fifteen minutes in, a new character comes in and explains the premise directly to the camera. The problem is that this is a romantic comedy with an unlikable protagonist, no clear love interest (besides himself), and almost no laughs. It was 45 minutes in before I registered my first chuckle, and that was at a visible boom mic (to be fair, it was visible on purpose). Jake Klein isn’t a terrible person, but we should be paid the same rate as a therapist would to listen to him go on and on about his struggles with commitment; we shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege. Given Jake’s lack of notability, raising him to an exponential power was probably not a good idea.


“If only Federico Fellini had lived long enough to direct Hot Tub Time Machine, he might have made something like this self-indulgent but agreeably ambitious anti-romcom.”–Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter (festival screening)


DIRECTED BY: Russell Mulcahy

FEATURING: Christopher Lambert, , ,

PLOT: Opposed by a ruthless corporation, an Immortal investigates whether it’s time to remove the ozone shield blanketing the Earth, while he’s being hunted by another Immortal.

Still from Highlander II (1991)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Highlander II is just crazy enough that it actually has a long shot to make the List—but not in this “Renegade” version. Word has it that the original, pre-director’s cut theatrical release (Highlander II: The Quickening) is even more incoherent, and if a Highlander II makes the cut it should be the most illogical edition in existence.

COMMENTS: Confession: I haven’t seen the original cult classic Highlander. I think this makes me the perfect candidate to review Highlander II, because when I tell you this movie sucks, you can be sure that I am not just some fanboy whining because the sequel violated some obscure point of Highlander canon law (like bringing Sean Connery back from the dead or changing the Immortals from mythical beings into space aliens). No, I can assure you that Highlander blows on its own terms, that it’s internally as well as externally inconsistent, and that it violates the conventions of professional moviemaking as rudely as it breaks the rules of the Highlander mythos. For a movie to go as spectacularly bad as Highlander II, multiple things have to go wrong; director Russell Mulcahy takes as many wrong turns as someone following handwritten directions to the Dyslexia Association’s national convention. The movie’s first issue is its dual-plot (plus subplots) structure; not a killer flaw on its own, but a good substrate for growing other problems. Our ancient Highlander is being hunted by Immortals from the ancient past who want to decapitate him; that makes sense, I guess. Simultaneously, however, he’s dealing with a shield he helped build around the Earth to protect it from a hole in the ozone layer; the atmosphere may have fixed itself, or so eco-terrorists seem to believe, but evil Shield Corporation wants to keep their monopoly on protective barriers despite the fact that their product keeps the Earth in perpetual darkness. This seems like a totally different, though equally brain dead, sci-fi script that was jammed together with a Highlander sequel screenplay to make a new movie. Forget the obvious problems, though—like the fact that you couldn’t grow crops in the endless night caused by the ozone shield—nothing in Highlander II makes sense from a basic storytelling perspective. Characters motivations aren’t explained. Their attachments aren’t developed: after our immortal beheads a pair of twitchy goggle-faced time traveling punk assassins, he grows forty years younger, which makes potential love interest Madsen throw herself at him and start dry-humping in an alley—they’ve just met and they’re already a couple. To make things even worse, Mulcahy seems to have his heart set on making a comedy instead of an action movie, including sequences with ancient Spaniard Sean Connery interrupting a modern staging of “Hamlet” (which he thinks is real, yuk yuk) and a comic haberdashery montage. Yes, I said “Spaniard Sean Connery”: Connery plays a character named Ramirez, who’s Spanish but speaks with a Scottish accent, while the French Lambert plays a Scotsman named MacLeod, who sometimes sounds like a Frenchman trying to do a Don Corleone impression while he has a small piece of walnut shell caught in his throat. Everything is wrong in this movie, but the most memorable and ill-considered scene has to occur when bad guy Michael Ironside, fresh arrived from the past, commandeers a subway train; for no good reason he uses his magic powers to make it go really fast, exposing the passengers to G-forces so powerful that most of them are violently hurled against the back wall of the train, and causing one guy’s eyes to pop out of his head (?) There are about a dozen reasons this scenario makes no sense, but nothing that happens in Highlander II much resembles our reality. Hell, the goings-on in Highlander II‘s universe are implausible even by the standards of Hollywood action movie reality. Sean Connery would have been embarrassed to appear in this mess, if not for the fact that his fully clothed appearance here was a step up in dignity from his turn in a red diaper in Zardoz. Highlander II is nonsensical, but it’s not boring; you’ll shake your head the whole way through, wondering why producers shelled out tens of millions of dollars for that Industrial Light and Magic blue lightning effect, but not one cent for a continuity supervisor.

Highlander II: The Quickening was the version of the film that played in theaters; in it, the Immortals were aliens from “planet Zeist,” not mystical demigods from Earth’s past. In 1995 Mulcahy re-cut the film to make the “Renegade Version,” adding about twenty minutes of additional footage and removing all references to Zeist. There’s no logical improvement in having the Immortals be time travelers rather than aliens, other than better matching the first film. The Quickening version seen in theaters came out on VHS, but as far as I can tell all DVD releases of the film have been the “Renegade” cut. It’s hard to believe there’s an even more incoherent and illogical version of Highlander II running around out there somewhere.


“…the most hilariously incomprehensible movie I’ve seen in many a long day – a movie almost awesome in its badness.”–Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times (contemporaneous)