In the midst of the current boom of comic book movies, it’s easy to forget that was similar, but smaller Hollywood infatuation with the genre in the wake of the Tim Burton Batman movies. Most of the them were quickly and deservedly forgotten but this take on the old radio serials probably deserves to be remembered better than it has been.
The course of action I’d suggest is a course of action I can’t suggest.
The Hunt for Red October is still the gold standard for film adaptations of Tom Clancy novels, but this third installment, the second with Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, is only second by a narrow margin and widely superior to the previous Patriot Games and the subsequent Sum of All Fears.
Did anything about that seem odd to you?
The success of this movie, creatively as much as commercially, is down to a triumph of casting. Of course, they had Will Smith, fresh off his breakthrough role in Independence Day, but that coup carries some hazards. Smith’s high-energy presence can dominate and unbalance a movie if allowed, requiring an actor of equal weight and with a complementary presence to even the scales. Thus, pairing Smith with the deadpan Tommy Lee Jones is half the key to the success of Men in Black.
Now don't take this the wrong way, but you're a terminator, right?
You have to hand it to James Cameron. He knows how to spend money. Not only did he spend $300 million on Avatar without blinking, but he was the first to sink $200 million into a picture, that being Titanic. Even before that, T2 was the movie to break Hollywood’s $100 million cherry. Considering the results, none of that money was wasted, but do we really want to keep encouraging this sort of behavior? What happened to the James Cameron who could make the first Terminator movie for less than the loose change he found in his sofa?
It’s hard to argue with the results when they look like this. Terminator 2 takes the lean, stripped-down muscle car that was the original and straps on a couple of booster rockets from the space shuttle. It’s sci-fi action filmmaking at such a level of relentless professionalism that it just wears you down and makes you hand over your skepticism like it was your lunch money.
Poor old Michael Mann. Here he was getting ready to make what was going to be the Lawrence of Arabia/Citizen Kane of cops-and-robbers movies, and he thought he had the legendary Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino working together for the first time. What happens? They pull a switcheroo on him and stick him with the world’s worst Pacino impersonator. Continue reading
Over the years, the words “Directed by Jon De Bont” and “Starring Keanu Reeves” have not always been recipes for awesomeness (Reeves does get points for Point Break, of course), but I guess accidents can happen. Of all the films built on the Die Hard blueprint, Speed is pretty much the only one that didn’t suck even a little.
In my last review, 3:10 to Yuma, I lamented the casting of two non-Americans, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, in the lead roles for a Western. I suppose, however, that would be our just desserts for movies like this, which retells an English legend with four Americans in the lead roles. The most visible British actor is stuck playing the villain, making this, I suppose, sort of an unofficial Star Wars film. To add insult to injury, the entire story is refashioned as a generic action movie, raining down clichés like flaming arrows.
Between the mud-stained medieval warfare of Henry V and the emotional operatics of Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh, dipped his toe in one of Shakespeare’s lightest and airiest comedies and produced one of the most accessible and genuinely delightful versions of the Bard’s plays to reach the big screen. Its plot, boiled down to its essentials, will probably seem familiar to fans of modern romantic comedies, proving that the genre is one of oldest, and most durable, in English literature.
After measuring himself against no less than Laurence Olivier with his modernized adaptation of Henry V and comparing favorably, Kenneth Branagh took aim at no less a figure than Alfred Hitchcock with his next film. As entertaining and stylish as Dead Again is, Branagh seems to be on much surer ground when tackling the Bard of Avon than he does with the Master of Suspense. Continue reading
Not long before this movie came out, I spent a couple of weeks in London and, among other things, took in a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at Bankside. And unlike my wimpy travelling companions, who splurged for box seats, I experienced the play in true groundling fashion, huddled against the stage in a rain storm. Okay, I don’t think the groundlings of Shakespeare’s day covered themselves in plastic bags, but they would have if they’d had them.
This film would make an interesting companion to Lost in La Mancha. Both films deal in essence with the wheels coming off of film production. While Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote died a quick death from sudden blunt force trauma, Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled production of Apocalypse Now seems to suffer the slow death of a thousand cuts. Originally budgeted at $13 million with a shooting schedule of sixteen weeks, it took more than a year and cost more than twice as much. The story of how this production went so wrong yet resulted in a film regarded as an enduring masterpiece is almost more interesting than the movie’s actual story.
It’s almost axiomatic that the third iteration of a movie franchise is when the sucking starts to begin, assuming that the first sequel didn’t already bring the suck to the table. The good news is that the third Die Hard movie, with John McTiernan back at the helm, manages to avoid this “curse of the third movie.” The bad news is that it doesn’t miss the mark by all that much. This is a Die Hard movie done mostly by the numbers and it’s only because of the sheer professionalism of the enterprise that they bring it off at all.