Archive for 1999
Director: David Fincher.
Screenplay: Jim Uhls.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, David Andrews, George Maguire, Richmond Arquette, Eugenie Bondurant, Rachel Singer, Christina Cabot, Sydney Colston, Jared Leto.
“We are consumers. We’re the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession”
Despite showing confidence in his abilities, some unwanted studio interference with his feature debut Alien 3, left director David Fincher carrying the can for failing to fuel the franchise. It was critically panned and a massive failure but Fincher didn’t let that get him down. He got his angry head on and seemingly still had a point to prove. What followed were two of contemporary cinema’s most visceral works; the serial killer thriller Se7en shocked audiences to their core while Fight Club cemented Fincher’s reputation for being one of the most wildly inventive directors of his generation. With these films alone, it’s clear that Fincher does things his way now.
Director: Vadim Jean.
Screenplay: S.A. Halewood.
Starring: Valerie Edmond, Gerard Butler, James Cosmo, Valerie Gogan, Carl Proctor, Danny Nussbaum, Dilys Miller, Ron Guthrie.
Over the course of the next couple of days I’ll be posting a little trilogy of Scottish films that will have, no doubt, passed many people by and are certainly worthy of some more attention. I’ll begin with this 1999 film set in the Scottish borders that although it falls into a particular romantic genre, it dares to do things differently and succeeds admirably.
Sarah Hopson (Valerie Edmond) has been living a successful, high-flying lifestyle in New York but when she finds out that she has a terminal illness, she heads back home to Scotland to prepare for her death. When she arrives, she reacquaints with her childhood sweetheart Sam Murray (Gerard Butler). Sam now runs a restaurant and has since married but Sarah approaches his wife (Valerie Gogan) to ask that she spend time with him before her death – causing everyone some mixed emotions.
The film opens with a lone female, arms aloft, teetering on the edge of a skyscraper. It’s a powerful piece of imagery and an opening scene that sets the tone of this heartfelt tale. This is not a film about death but about life, love and relationships. It explores the mistakes and regrets but also delivers a chance of redemption. It’s in the human relationships that this film finds it’s strength. It’s not just about Sarah and her need to tie up loose ends but it confidently explores the effects on the people around her; she brings both a mixture of pleasure and pain to the other characters. At times she can come across as arrogant and selfish yet she also brings hope and instills a belief in people to live their lives fully. This is a film that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and for the most part, the performances are great. It’s interesting watching a young Gerard Butler and Valerie Gogan as his suffering wife is fantastic. James Cosmo is also especially memorable as Sarah’s cantankerous, rough diamond father. However, Valerie Edmond as the lead, looked a little stretched at times which I just couldn’t understand; in some scenes she was absolutely superb and in others she was quite poor. This could be down to her delivery of the dialogue though. I tend to be a little harsh on Scottish performers as sometimes the dialogue isn’t delivered properly. Most Scots have a certain slang nature to their dialect and when you hear words uttered with correct English pronunciation it jars a little. Understandably this has to be the case, so as to appeal to a wider audience but as a Scotsman, it seems out of place. That being said, Edmond still gets the job done and although some of the idiom may lost, the film still retains it’s subtle Scottish humour and delivers moments of highly impressive, realistic drama.
Despite some small inconsistencies this is still a beautifully played, poignant and heartfelt life/love story. It’s not normally the type of film I’d be drawn to but I was impressed with it’s execution.
Next up… “Dear Frankie“.
Director: Michael Hoffman.
Screenplay: Michael Hoffman.
Starring: Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Calista Flockhart, Stanley Tucci, Rupert Everett, Christian Bale, Dominic West, Anna Friel, David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Roger Rees, Bill Irwin, Bernard Hill, John Sessions, Sam Rockwell.
As a rule, I dont like to watch any William Shakespeare adaptations until I have read the play first. Having just finished reading this classic comedy/love story, I was eager to see it on screen like I am of any of the screen adaptations of his wonderful works. This however, isn’t as good as the great master deserves.
While preparing for the wedding of Duke Theseus (David Strathairn) to Hippolyta (Sophie Marceau) a group of actors including Bottom the Weaver (Kevin Kline) rehearse an amature play for the forthcoming betrothal while forbidden lovers Hermia (Anna Friel) and Lysander (Dominic West) run away together, pursued by Demetrius (Christian Bale) and Helena (Calista Flockhart). Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Faerie King Oberon (Rupert Everett) wants to get at his wife Queen Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer). He dispatches malicious ‘sprite’ Puck (Stanley Tucci) on a mission to humiliate his Queen. En route Puck can’t resist messing with the mortals lost in the woods also, ensuring all sorts of confusion.
Director Michael Hoffman’s take transports us from ancient Greece to late-19th-century Italy (complete with newly invented bicycles) and I have to say, it works. The sets and costumes are absolutely stunning, drawing you into the magical and mystical land of the faeries. He addresses it with the same playful tone that Kenneth Branagh captured for his adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” and also like that, uses the same mix of both American and British actors who are perfectly suited to their roles. It’s a lush and extravagant production, infused with Shakespeare’s humour but something doesn’t quite click. The mock Pyramus play at end is way overlong and almost grinds the film to halt. The only positive is that this is when the underused Sam Rockwell gets a chance to contribute something, but by then it’s too little too late. As David Strathairn’s ‘Theseus’ says around this time “No epilogue I pray you…” if only he’d said this 15 mins earlier, we could have had a satisfying ending.
It’s classic Shakespeare that, shockingly, hasn’t had a decent adaptation yet. This is the best so far, but for fans of the great playwrite only.
It captures the look but doesn’t quite capture the heart.
Director: Steven Zaillian.
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian.
Starring: John Travolta, Robert Duvall, James Gandolfini, William H. Macy, Tony Shalhoub, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Zeljko Ivanek, Dan Hedaya, Sydney Pollack, Josh Pais, Edward Herrmann, Harry Dean Stanton, Kathy Bates, Stephen Fry.
“Schindler’s List” scribe Steven Zaillian seems to craft meticulous pieces of work. It’s hard to put into words but his films seem to have substance. He doesn’t try to cut corners, which is precisely his downfall here. There’s too much weight that, despite an excellent beggining, it gets bogged down and ultimately hoisted by it’s own petard.
A group of parents, whose children have died via pollution, enlist Jan Schlichtmann (John Travolta), a hot-shot ambulance chasing lawyer to fight their case against two huge corporations. But Schlichtmann soon realises that he may have met his match in opposing lawyer, Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall), with defeat possibly spelling financial ruin for him and his firm.
This was only Zaillain’s second film behind the camera and although there’s much to admire, he still has much to learn. The problem he has, is with the pace. It was the same mistake he made later with his star studded “All the Kings Men”. He has amassed an abundance of quality actors fleshed them out with substantial characterisations, yet they don’t get a chance to shine. There is too much legal jargon going on for any of them to leap to the forefront. Duvall and Travolta duel with the viewers delight but the impressive supporting ensemble are wasted. Still, it’s a cut above a John Grisham adaptation and if you don’t mind a bit of legal mumbo jumbo and consider yourself a fan of slow talking legal drama’s, then this will certainly appeal.
Based on a true story and treads a similiar path that “Erin Brockovich” would tread a couple of years later. I’d have to say that the Steven Soderbergh/Julia Roberts film is the better of the two though.
Director: Rand Ravich.
Screenplay: Rand Ravich.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy, Samantha Egger, Nick Cassavetes, Gary Grubbs, Tom Noonan.
Johnny Depp is one of those actors who has consistantly made brave choices throughout his career. There are few actors like him and although some of his choices work better than others, this is one that I’m sure he’d rather forget.
Jillian (Charlize Theron) lovingly greets her space-rocketeer husband Spencer (Johnny Depp) home from a mission, but after a mishap she soon begins to suspect that Spencer is not the same man and fears she may have been impregnated by an alien.
Although this a career move Depp would rather forget, he can’t be entirely blamed for the end product. He’s not in it enough to make any major impact and whenever he is, he’s reduced to a few sinister, brooding facial expressions. Theron’s character is the main focus here and despite her attempts at depth, she can’t save the film from being mind-numbingly boring and uneventful. She also sports a short blonde hairdo to further fuel the comparisons with “Rosemary’s Baby” during her pregnant paranoia. This is one of those straight to DVD films that remind you why not all films deserve a mainstream release. It’s pretty dire to say the least and you’re more likely to find more suspense while waiting on a bus. Quite possibly the worst of Johnny Depp’s films.
Despite the lead actors involved, steer well clear of this stinker. Do yourself a favour and watch Roman Polanski’s aforementioned horror masterpiece instead. He’ll show you how it’s done.
Director: Stanley Kubrick.
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Alan Cumming, Marie Richardson, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Rade Serbedzija, Leelee Sobieski, Fay Masterson.
Director Stanley Kubrick has without doubt, offered up some of the most thought provoking films throughout his career. He is renowndly fastidious and with this being one of the longest ever shoots in history to complete (it took over a year), Kubrick’s fastidious nature payed off.
Happily married New York City doctor, Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) appears to have the perfect life with his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman). When she admits that she had a potent sexual fantasy about a man she never met and was tempted to cheat on him, he is left reeling from shock, and goes out into the Manhattan night where he meets strange characters and enters into a world of sexual adventure for the first time in his life.
First off, I love how Kubrick can make a room feel. He has a knack for crafting a place or scene that is vast yet claustrophobic. He gives a place importance, and here it is no different. Despite being set in the vibrant sprawling nightlife of New York City, we seem enclosed in the character of Cruise’s tormented doctor. Kubrick managed the same effect in “The Shining” and it also brings the actors to the forefront and enhances their performances. Speaking of which, Cruise and Kidman are very brave and dynamic here. Their real life marriage (at the time) effectively seems to permeate the characters, giving a very intimate portrayal of a strained, unfulfilled relationship. Cruise in particular smolders on screen, always heavily weighted on. There is an escalating sense of foreboding and danger in the experiences of Dr. Harford. Are they his fantasies? Or are they the world around him, that he has been cloistered from, now that his sexual desires and imagination have been reawakened? This is a film that is most certainly not for all tastes but has been judged unfairly in my opinion. It’s not the explicit orgy that people expected, but a deeply surreal psychological exploration of sexual tension, paranoia and jealousy, that if viewed from a subconcious perspective, is highly rewarding.
A rich, provocative meditation on the human psyche and sexual desires, anchored by a excellent central peformance by Cruise. One of Kubrick’s finest and sadly his last.