Tag Archives: Jamie Bell

Man on a Ledge

16 Feb

Title: Man on a Ledge
Year: 2012
Director: Asger Leth
Writer: Pablo F. Fenjves
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Génesis Rodríguez, Kyra Sedgwick, Edward Burns, Titus Welliver
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence and brief strong language
Runtime: 102 min
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Metacritic: 40

 

Man on a Ledge is a film that keeps itself really, really busy throughout it entire running time. My guess is that the reason as for why the plot is just so incredibly packed is that the filmmakers needed to keep you distracted because once you start picking the plot apart you’ll realize that this is just a ludicrous film, so many plot holes just up there for your viewing, thinly veiled by all the stuff the film tries to throw at you. What’s worst is that the main premise, that of the titular “man on the ledge”, is intriguing enough and could have made for a better film had the many other dumb plotlines that drown that main story been erased or dialed down a bit, and had the actors had put at least a bit of effort into this one, it just seemed as though they were doing this for a paycheck and a chance to shoot in New York.

Sam Worthington plays Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop who was serving some time in a prison until he’s given a day off to attend his father’s funeral, and in the process manages to escape his guards, change from his jail uniform, get himself to a tall Manhattan hotel, grab a nice breakfast and then go to the top of said hotel, and threaten to jump of a ledge. And look, that’s good I guess, we all know that the guy’s not going to jump straight away because that would mean our movie’s over, but so much stuff starts piling up you’ll realize this is too much, and it gets to the point in which the actors aren’t given a chance to act, which is maybe why they seemingly didn’t put that much effort into it.

That’s an even bigger pity when you consider that there are plenty of good actors in this film. A couple of good actors show up immediately as soon as the whole area becomes aware of the guy atop the building, a crowd accumulates at the bottom of the ledge (which, as we see in one too many shots from his point of view, is seriously high) and with them come two police officers, one played by Edward Burns and the negotiator that’s played by Elizabeth Banks who I’m a huge fan of and who got away with her dignity untouched from this film. But anyways, traffic is stopped, the people around him start chanting, pointing their cellphones at him, all while a reporter played by Kyra Sedgwick covers the action.

However, little by little we start realizing that Nick might have an ulterior motive for being up on the ledge. You see, the film starts cutting from him to a mogul played by Ed Harris who’s this Donald Trump sort of fella who has his offices at the building just across the street from the hotel Nick is threatening to jump off of. Also across the street, Jamie Bell and Génesis Rodríguez are breaking into the building, donning the suits and cracking the safes that I guess was meant to seem kick-ass, but it just wasn’t, even less so considering it was just two months ago that we saw all of that done in the best of ways in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (which I gave an A to).

That’s when the movie would like you to be shocked, as you realize that the man on the ledge is directly tied up to the two guys in the building across the street, as you realize that him being up there is just a diversion to stall traffic and to create a tumult that would distract from the other tumult, you know? Well, it’s not shocking because it’s just not well done at all. From the Ed Harris character looking all powerful smoking his big cigar to Kyra Sedwick trying to give meaning to all of this to Anthony Mackie also showing up as Nick’s ex-partner, these are all diversions the movie throws at you much like the one Nick himself is, trying to get you distracted enough so that you don’t notice how ridiculous this all is.

Think about it, the whole plan is just really off. This is supposed to be a master heist plan, and yet it’s one that depended entirely on a series of variables that were totally not in their favor. Nick needed to be released on one day and be able to break out from guards and not be caught in Manhattan and get himself to the top of a hotel and not fall from a ledge. Not to mention that even if he got to the ledge the plan would still be insanely hard to pull off. It’s just all way off, and I couldn’t buy into it for a single second, and considering there’s such a hubbub surrounding the entire situation it’s not as though we can invest in our characters because they’re not developed at all, and the acting is just off, so that means the whole film depends on the many plot twists and machinations working out properly, and if you use the tiniest bit of logic you’ll realize they just don’t. Had this film been lighter in tone and played it like an action-comedy I actually think it could have worked slightly better.

Grade: C 

The Adventures of Tintin

27 Dec

Title: The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, based on the comic books by Hergé
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tony Curran, Toby Jones
MPAA Rating: PG, adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking
Runtime: 107 min
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Metacritic: 67

I knew I would really like The Adventures of Tintin. After all, it was Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest ever, doing his first animated film, in motion-capture, with the help of Andy Serkis, the pioneer of the technology and who already delivered one of the best performances of the year as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a mo-cap creation. The screenplay was written by three guys that make my geeky heart pump, Steven Moffat (he of Doctor Who and Sherlock), Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Joe Cornish (he of this year’s Attack the Block, which I gave an A to). And it was based on the Hergé comics I devoured as a child and which I remember really fondly.

The result? Well, it’s a pretty damn exceptional film, with Steven Spielberg taking a lot pages from his own playbook, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark, to really deliver a hugely entertaining film, an action adventure thrill ride with some sequences that will make your jaw hit the floor for the sheer awesomeness they evoke and just how insanely well-made they are, this film becoming the second example of the year of how just how effective motion-capture can be if used by the right hands. And obviously, few hands are as trustworthy as Steven Spielberg’s, even if he’s the analog guy, he really seems to have been reinvigorated by this new technology that allowed him to create some shots physics would have maybe made too difficult to shoot regularly. This is Steven Spielberg feeling like a kid in a new playbox, the one of motion-capture, and one in which he can run free and do pretty much whatever he wants, it’s no wonder then that his creative juices were flowing at such high levels.

It’s not just the action, though, Mr. Spielberg is still super careful with the characters and pays great attention to the small details, and of course he’s joined by John Williams, his longtime composer who hadn’t produced a score since Mr. Spielberg’s fourth Indiana Jones film three years ago, and that comes back this year with this thrill ride and the much more old-school, emotional, epic War Horse that Mr. Spielberg premiered in the same week as this film (and which I’m hoping I’ll get to see really soon). And look, I won’t lie, motion-capture still is kind of creepy, it still sits in a really uneasy place between animation and live-action that it’s sort of still carving out for itself, but this isn’t The Polar Express creepy, this is much more refined animation, and in the hands of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who closely produced, supervised the post and would helm a potential sequel (with him co-directing with Mr. Spielberg a tentative third), and who of course employed mo-cap in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong (thus the employment of Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis here), the technology really goes to new places in which you don’t get distracted by it but instead get engulfed by the world it presents.

Because it really is incredibly hard not to be sucked in by Steven Spielberg presenting an action adventure film featuring action scenes in motorcycles, at sea, on air, on really awesome locations and featuring some badass villains. And as someone that grew up with Tintin as a kid, it was just brilliant to see his stories on the big screen as acted and voiced by Jamie Bell, even though something about the animation on the character made him seem younger than he probably should have. The animation, however, is done perfectly well on Snowy, the incredibly awesome and loyal dog that always accompanies Tintin on all his adventures, he pretty much walks away with the whole film. Also around, of course, are Captain Haddock as played by Andy Serkis, and Thomson and Thompson, the two nearly-identical detectives that usually are on the same cases as Tintin, and who are here played, thanks to a genius casting choice, by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The approach Mr. Spielberg took with the mo-cap technology in re-creating these classic characters is truly ambitious and it really paid off. I was admittedly kind of scared at first, after all these were characters that were so awesome because of how simple the drawings of Hergé seemed on the page, they were truly 2D creations. And yet, the animations are so awesomely done that, while the characters obviously look far more human than they did in the comics, they maintain every little bit of the feel the characters had when I read them, and that’s what they were ultimately all about. Further enhancing the experience is the fact that 3D on the hands of someone like Steven Spielberg is used not as a cheap gimmick, but as a true way to enhance our overall experience of the world we’re thrown into.

As we follow Tintin and Captain Haddock on the search for a sunken ship once commanded by Haddock’s ancestor, and their encounters with the film’s antagonist, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig (who had worked with Mr. Spielberg before on Munich), we’re taken on a rollercoaster ride full of explosions and chases and seriously fun characters played and voiced by a truly incredible cast. It’s impossible not to love The Adventures of Tintin, even if you’re not familiar with the character, even if you think you don’t like motion-capture, this film is tremendous, a seriously smart family-friendly film that will honestly be enjoyed by every member of the family. After a three year absence (or six if you, like me, would rather believe the fourth Indy film didn’t happen) Steven Spielberg is back, reinvigorated by a new technology he employs to create some mind-bending sequences reminiscent of his best work in the action adventure genre.

Grade: A-

Jane Eyre

20 Apr

Title: Jane Eyre
Year:
2011
Director:
Cary Fukunaga
Writer: Moira Buffini, based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë
Starring:
Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, Imogen Poots
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content
Runtime:
120 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.9
Rotten Tomatoes:
82%

I had the pleasure of watching Jane Eyre at the Gene Siskel Film Center when I was in Chicago in the beginning of March. There was a 7:30 Sunday showing which included a Q&A with director Cary Fukunaga and star Mia Wasikowska afterwards. As a fan of the novel on which the film is based, as well as the prior film of Mr. Fukunaga and pretty much everything Ms. Wasikowska has done up to this point in her career, it’s pretty safe to say I was quite psyched about seeing them live.

I waited over a month to write up this review for a reason, which was basically for it to simmer nicely. I mean, having a Q&A after a film is not what usually happens, and it can lead you into loving the film much more because you love what the filmmakers had to say about it, especially when the two people talking are as charming as Ms. Wasikowska and Mr. Fukunaga were. So yeah, I guess I wanted to watch the film again, without the Q&A, and give my review then.

Well, I finally got to watch it again (and then again a third time), and my opinion hasn’t changed, this is the best film of 2011 so far. I mean, for a film to tackle a material that has been adapted so many times (there have been nearly 30 feature and television adaptations of the masterpiece) and to make it feel so fresh and inspired is an extremely rare feat to accomplish, and yet here it happens with such apparent ease it’s hard not to watch this film and marvel at its many great qualities.

Mr. Fukunaga made his directorial debut a couple years ago with the Sundance hit that was Sin Nombre, that was a very daring film made in Spanish and that dealt with immigration and Mexican gangs, and it was a seriously outstanding film that showed that this was a insightful director who had a very unique vision and way of telling stories. The change of scenery, on paper at least, couldn’t be more drastic for Mr. Fukunaga. Going from telling stories about Mexican immigrants and their gangs, and doing it in Spanish, to telling the story of a character that was created a century and a half ago, and that takes place in huge English manors.

The director, however, is just as adept at handling this film, and considering the themes his debut film dealt with, and the nature of his sophomore effort, I wasn’t expecting him to be such a young guy. Mr. Fukunaga is 33, and you can tell just by the way he talks that the guy would definitely be pretty awesome to hang out with, just as you can tell that he has a huge love for his art. And the way in which he approaches, you just can’t help but think this is a guy wise beyond his years.

And wise beyond her years is also a term that wholeheartedly applies Ms. Wasikowska as well, looking gorgeous in her short chic blonde hair some ten feet away from me in the Q&A, her warm smile and face, as well as her charming Australian accent, do make her feel like she’s 21. But then you hear her talk, and you see how insightful her performances, are and you know she’s an old soul with a helluva lot of depth in her.

I’ve known about Ms. Wasikowska and how insanely talented she is since 2008, when she played Sophie on that first season of HBO’s In Treatment. Not only was Sophie my favorite patient of that season (Laura would be a kind-of-close second place if y’all are wondering), but it was so easy to see how amazing Ms. Wasikowska is, just how she went toe-to-toe with the great Gabriel Byrne in some incredibly intense scenes, it was a no-brainer that she was destined for success.

And we all know what happened next. In 2009 she started setting down her stepping stones in film, with a small role in Amelia (which wasn’t a great film) and a terrific supporting turn in That Evening Sun (which was) that got her for an Independent Spirit Award nomination. But 2010 would be the year that she became famous worldwide, and I’m so happy that was the case. And that’s because she scored both a hugely commercially successful film with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, in which she played the titular role, as well as a critical hit, with the indie darling The Kids Are All Right, which was my fifth favorite film of all last year and that saw her acting along such amazing actors as Annette Beining, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the director and the star of this incarnation of Jane Eyre are two young people who are doing everything right, and who are ridiculously talented. And that’s all evident in the film, which is shot gorgeously by Adriano Goldman, and that shows a different take on Jane Eyre, one that plays off its gothic elements, and that results in a more elegant and immediate film, with Ms. Wasikowska giving the best portrayal of the famed character there has ever been.

I feel like I’ve gone on for way too long about the merits of this film and its makers have. Maybe it’s because I just genuinely loved the Q&A afterwards and I’m biased to shower them with praise, that certainly is a factor, but just go ahead and watch this film and compare it to the ones that you were shown when you read the classic novel in school, this one is the best there is. And it’s the best there is because of a director that was willing to let his film show a different tone of the story by choosing to play off the darker parts of it, and because Mr. Fukunaga just lets his actors do their thing naturally.

Because, trust me, as brilliant as Ms. Wasikowska is, she’s not the only actor who brought her A-game to this. Michael Fassbender is here playing Mr. Rochester, and I’ve already talked in past reviews about how great I think this guy is, he’s definitely an actor that we’ll keep on seeing in things for years to come. Not to mention that Jamie Bell, Judi Dench and Sally Hawkins all appear in smaller roles they make the most of, especially Dame Dench who I thought was magnificent in how much she conveyed just with the tone of her voice and demeanor. This as a whole is just superbly acted.

This is the Jane Eyre for the new generation, one that effectively manages to balance the elements of a period romance, to the point in which there are a couple of scenes that may just make you teary, with all its gothic sensibilities. And it is, for my money, the best Jane Eyre there has been to date, and I haven’t talked about the plot at all because Jane Eyre is always about the adventure of finding it out as you go, even when you re-read the novel, you always start finding new stuff to love, and I felt much like that when I watched. Just rest assured the the repressed emotions and sense of isolation are intact here, and that, because of how great Mr. Fukunaga is at storytelling and at creating striking images, you’ll fall in love with the film.

Grade: A

The Eagle

24 Mar

Title: The Eagle
Year:
2011
Director:
Kevin Macdonald
Writer: Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Rosemary Sutcliff
Starring:
Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Denis O’Hare
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, battle sequences and some disturbing images
Runtime:
114 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
38%

 

Channing Tatum gets around quite a lot, and I’m still not sure as to whether I like him or not. After coming out big in 2006 thanks to Step Up the guy has definitely spent most of his time building up his tough guy image with films like Stop-Loss, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the aptly titled Fighting. And he’s also tried to show range by playing Pretty Boy Floyd in 2009’s Public Enemies, a role he actually did a real fine job at, not to mention trying to establish himself as a heartthrob with last year’s Dear John, and trying to show his comedic side with this year’s The Dilemma.

So yeah, the guy has been around since he first exploded into the scenes with that dance flick, and, like it or not, the guy’s not going away any time soon, as he has three further flicks lined up for 2011 (one of which is Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire which may turn out to be pretty awesome), so yeah, he’s working his best to keep himself present in your memories.

But yeah, that’s the thing, many people seem to already know if they like this guy or not, they’ve gotten wide enough a sampling of him to form their opinion. I’m not part of that group of people, I’m not sure I dig his style and look and charm at all and I can’t help but think the guy hasn’t headlined a film I’ve graded better than somewhere in the C-range (Public Enemies was a solid B+ film but he had a supporting role there). And The Eagle won’t be the exception.

I mean, The Eagle is good enough, it won’t bore you, but you won’t necessarily come out of it calling your friends and telling them they ought to check it out as soon as possible, you’ll just tell them it was okay, because that’s exactly what it was. And what’s more is that I could have seen it turning out somewhat better than okay, and the fact that it didn’t turn out that way lies substantially on the shoulders of Mr. Tatum, who’s work here is totally uninspired.

I mean, the story itself isn’t that mindblowing, but as another action/adventure flick it will make do just perfectly, it just needed solid direction and good acting from its two leads to realize its potential. And even though Mr. Tatum’s co-star is amazing, because Jamie Bell pretty much always is, the bigger role was his, and he disappointed. As for the direction, well, it wasn’t horrible, but considering it was coming from the guy that has given us The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, two really well made and acted films, it came as a disappointment of sorts, his hand not as sensible as it has been in the past.

The film will no doubt draw comparisons to last year’s Centurion, a film I gave a strong B- to, and that was a film I at least found myself liking, and that was pretty much entirely because of how good its lead actor was, and marks the difference between these two films. I’m not saying Mr. Tatum should be as good as Michael Fassbenber, because Mr. Fassbender is just insanely great at everything he does, but he just needed to bring it to the shooting, something he evidently didn’t. Just because you’re all bulky and some teenage girls like you doesn’t mean you can play brooding and appealing in auto-pilot, Mr. Tatum.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate The Eagle, not even close, but I just thought it could have turned out way better than it ultimately did. An R-rating would have given it the chance to have more explicit actions scenes, and they don’t necessarily have to be as gruesome as the ones in Centurion were, but they would have upped the ante to proper heights.

And it also would have given them the opportunity to add some much needed sexuality to the film. I mean, this is a film all about men, and even though Centurion, to continue the comparison, was too, that one at least had the Olga Kurylenko character to amp up the sexuality. This one needed a character like that, we only see a few women in this one, and while some of them do throw wanting looks towards Mr. Tatum they are no real characters, and the film quickly reverts itself to the position its mostly in, which only focuses on the men on screen.

I won’t go ahead and tell you the story you’ll witness, if you watch the two-and-a-half-minute trailer on YouTube you’ll know everything you really need to, I’ll just tell you that The Eagle, though far from bad, is pretty forgettable. There are themes of loyalty and courage here, yes, and that’s all good and nice, but so many other issues go by unexplored. Go see The Eagle if you like these sort of films, I guess, but it will only work to reassure you that Mr. Tatum is at his best when he’s fighting on-screen, and not acting.

Grade: C+

Centurion

9 Dec

Title: Centurion
Year:
2010
Director:
Neil Marshall
Writer:
Neil Marshall
Starring:
Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke, Liam Cunningham, Imogen Poots
MPAA Rating:
R, sequences of strong bloody violence, grisly images and language
Runtime:
97 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
56%

Neil Marshall does a good job directing Centurion, this is a huge film that he directed with just a $12 million budget, and he gets the most out of every penny, delivering some pretty nifty action scenes in the B-movie sort of style his films always seem to have. Just watch his insanely good The Descent to get to know how good this guy can be. Other than the action, however, there’s not that much to love here, because the screenplay, also written by Mr. Marshall, isn’t really good at all, the dialogue feels kinda off and the characters aren’t developed as nicely as they could have been.

Go see Centurion if you like your battles bloody and well done and if you don’t care much at all about proper character development, because that’s pretty much exactly what you’ll be getting here. And if you consider that the lead actor is Michael Fassbender then you’ll probably be thinking that this could have been quite better.

Mr. Fassbender is a guy most definitely on the rise, he came on to the scene in 2006, when he played Stelios in 300, and then a couple years later is when I started taking notice of this guy after seeing his performance in Steve McQueen’s Hunger, one of the most harrowing performances I saw in all of the past decade. Last year he was in Inglorious Basterds and this year he made an appearance in the dreadful Jonah Hex. And the guy is set to have a very busy 2011, a year in which I reckon he’ll finish cementing his status as a star. He’ll first pop up in the new Jane Eyre adaptation alongisde Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench; then in April he’s set to appear in Haywire, Steven Soderbergh’s next film alongisde the likes of Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas; and then in June he’ll be leading an all-star cast in a sure blockbuster, appearing as the young Magneto in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class alongside James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones and a lot of other awesome people. And if you think that wasn’t enough he also has A Dangerous Method coming, that one being David Cronenberg’s next feature, starring alongisde Cronenberg’s usual collaborator Viggo Mortensen as well as Keira Knightley; not to mention the just-announced Shame which will reunite him with his Hunger director and see him next to my personal favorite, Carey Mulligan.

So yes, I’m a fan of Michael Fassbender. I haven’t had that much to judge him by, but Hunger alone makes me want to see what this guy does next, and just judging by the pedigree of the projects he’s signed on to for next year, I can tell that this guy is at least very smart when picking his projects, and that he likes to keep his plate busy, striking while the iron’s hot, wise move.

But back to Centurion, the film tells the story of a group of Roman soldiers who fight behind enemy lines in a beautiful Scottish landscape. So there’s a lot of running away from the enemies and doing their best to remain alive against the odds.

That landscape I mention is another reason for this being such a bearable film even though the characters are so one-dimensional, or in some cases pretty much non-dimensional. The Scottish highlands portrayed here are beautifully shot, the color scheme looking lovely against our tale of people running behind those shades of gray and blue, and then that lovely contrasting shade red when there’s blood involved. And when there is blood involved, it’s involved by the gallons, splattering out of the unfortunate chopped-up victims like crazy, looking cartoonish at times, but in the most awesome of ways.

I didn’t really know what to make of Centurion, I loved it when they got into the fighting scenes, and I loved how the scenery looked as they were running from the Picts that were chasing them, all shown in some pretty rad long shots. But I just couldn’t fathom how little we got to know our characters. The structure of the narrative is quite pleasing, but the dialogue just leaves too much to be desired, there’s a lot of expletives being thrown by the soldiers but there’s not much else, these guys being reduced many times to not much more than the bodies we’re seeing running along that beautiful scenery or being killed in really nifty ways. And when you have Mr. Fassbender and Dominic West, who’s from The Wire which means he can do no wrong, you just get a feeling that this could have been much more.

Grade: B-