Archive for Karl Urban

The Ludlummox

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2018 by dcairns

And so to the ludicrously-named THE BOURNE SUPREMACY. Parlour game: invent a Robert Ludlum property that’s stupid-sounding enough to not be convincing — THE DOBERMANN INCONGRUITY, THE PIPKIN UNCERTAINTY, THE NIFFELNEGGER IMPONDERABLE all sound like they might pass. THE GREENGRASS TREMOR?

Brit Paul Greengrass, fresh from the success of the emotional and effective BLOODY SUNDAY, slides into a director’s chair still warm from Doug Liman’s buttocks. Tony Gilroy takes solo screenplay credit for the one time in the trilogy. I don’t like his ROGUE ONE or DEVIL’S ADVOCATE scripts, but is the acclaimed MICHAEL CLAYTON actually good?

Immediately the team pulls a no-no, killing of Lola Run, leading lady from the previous film. I think the argument against this kind of thing — ALIEN³ is probably the most notorious example — is that when a movie ends happily, the audience is being told that the characters are going to be OK, and when you bump off a major one in the sequel, you make a liar out of the first film and betray your fanbase, the very people invested in your story. Here, I might allow the filmmakers some latitude because (a) I wasn’t very invested in the character or relationship and (2) the death scene is the emotional high point of the film, despite being staged underwater. Casting directors take note: Matt Damon may be our best underwater actor. Partner him with Sally Hawkins immediately.

Now Matt Damon is out for revenge, except that’s not what Lola Run would have wanted, so he’s out to find out the truth and stop himself being killed, which is pretty much same as last time. Karl Urban is his main physical opponent and Brian Cox, returning from film 1, is the bad guy at the CIA. There are two kinds of British bad guy: the kind with a British accent that marks them as untrustworthy, and the kind with an unconvincing American accent that marks them as SUPER untrustworthy. In the third film, Albert Finney pops up and is, obviously, the most untrustworthy man in the galaxy.  Brian Cox hides, pissing off his co-star.

We’re also joined by Joan Allen — effortlessly the best thing in the film — and Julia Styles, who looks like she’s being groomed as the next leading lady for Bourne, only he’s not quite ready for that kind of commitment. So the cast includes Pat Nixon, Judge Dredd, Hannibal Lektor, Lola Run and Damien from THE OMEN’s mom. Bourne is going to have to do some serious head-kicking here.

And he does, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. The fights are all insanely over-cut, not as incoherent as Christopher Nolan at his worst, but messy and no fun to watch. The car chases are even worse, and the music is kinda horrible, so they’re pretty enervating rather than exciting. (John Powell’s score for the third film is a considerable improvement on his work here.) The reason I’d call the editing bad is not just what it does in the fights, but the way it chops a basic action into pieces, using three shots for a man parking his car where one would do. Breaking Sidney Pollock’s Law: Let the boring crap be boring crap. Fact: if you chapter hop rapidly through this film you see cars, trams, airports. You’d think it was a documentary about public transport in Europe. I feel like the DVD was bad quality, with an unpleasant digital look, so maybe I can’t fairly judge DOP Oliver Wood’s work, but my impression is that this whole series is mostly ugly-looking. Even the green-tinged fluorescent lighting, which can be BEAUTIFULLY ugly in some movies, is just yucky here.

The dialogue is better than the previous film — we should probably give Gilroy credit for reducing the corniness. And everything with Joan Allen has a certain credibility. The retconning begins, also — the previous film might have left you with the impression that govt. assassin Bourne crapped out on his first mission, but in fact he’s been a highly proficient murderer for some time, though admittedly he was brainwashed so we shouldn’t blame him too much (although I note that when Indiana Jones drank the Black Death of Kali, he was still able to assert his will and humanity. Maybe the CIA has invented something more powerful than the Black Death of Kali, though I for one find that very hard to believe.Good last scene (Joan Allen features prominently). Moby plays us out. I don’t really know why I watched the third film, but I did. To be continued…

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Blood and Thunder

Posted in Comics, FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by dcairns

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To my surprise, Edinburgh University Library turned out to possess copies of Marvel’s THOR and its sequel, which I discovered while unsuccessfully trying to get something on Joseph Mankiewicz (but I won’t tell you why, just yet). A certain dumb curiosity made me want to check out the “Film by Kenneth Branagh” — rarely has a possessory credit (on a film Mr. Branagh did not write) seemed so fatuous. Maybe I just wanted to see if he’d gotten any better at directing films.

When Branagh first burst upon the scene, I didn’t admire his films but I could see where he was stealing from, and at least the source of his theft — mostly Welles — showed ambition. It wasn’t an ambition — becoming Orson Welles, only more commercially successful — that he was ever likely to succeed at, but it seemed possible that he might get good.

I have enjoyed some of the Marvel superhero things (Ben Kingsley is so wonderful in IRON MAN III I can’t describe it) up to a point, so it didn’t seem totally pointless looking at this thing, but I should admit it was pretty pointless after ten minutes. Fiona was enjoying Tom Hiddleston’s facial expressions, but there wasn’t much else to appreciate. I thought it was strikingly poorly edited, and Branagh’s big Wellesian idea this time seemed to be Dutch tilts. I imagine the meeting thus —

“I think we’ll have Dutch tilts in this one. Comic book vibrancy and all that.”

“When shall we use them?”

“Oh, I don’t think that matters.”

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Thor (Chris Helmsworth) was my least favourite character in AVENGERS ASSEMBLE so I admit I wasn’t expecting to love this. He has an OK character arc, I guess, and Natalie Portman is appealing. I don’t quite believe she’s a brilliant scientist but I don’t quite believe Stellan Skasgaard is either. Nor do I believe that when the Norse god is banished to earth and crash-lands in New Mexico (I knew he should have made that left turn at Albuquerque), he’s slammed into by a kind of Mystery Mobile in which three scientists are cooking meth doing physics, and one of them happens to be Scandinavian. But one shouldn’t really get upset about probability in a thing like this. I’m more upset about the meaningless camera angles.

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I rented DREDD because I’d heard good things, and I’m a child of 2000AD comic, and I slightly regretted missing this one on the big screen in 3D. And indeed, there are some pretty visual effects I bet looked spiffing in depth. Films made by Andrew MacDonald’s DNA tend to go for unsympathetic characters and unpleasant story worlds — odd, since he seems such a nice middle-class chap (and grandson of Emeric Pressburger). This makes him ideal for Judge Dredd, created by Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra and Scottish writer John Wagner, who conceived him as a futuristic Dirty Harry, only more fascistic if you can imagine such a thing. The trouble with the 1995 JUDGE DREDD was that they neutered the character, turning him into an honorable action hero and removing his helmet (the comic book character has never been seen unmasked — he’s basically an impersonal functionary/killing machine).

Alex Garland’s script has a few good ideas and is part of his general redemption these days — I thought EX MACHINA was quite fine, despite hating his writing on 28 DAYS LATER, so I guess the dumbness was coming from Danny Boyle. This Dredd is meaner — Karl Urban basically just has to huskily whisper like Clint Eastwood, but with excellent timing. The comic WAS/IS comic, a jet-black, nihilistic blast of punk nihilism, dark chuckles amid Leonesque mayhem. I think the current movie is a little lacking in laughs, though there are some good ones, mainly to do with the sheer excessiveness of the bloodbathery — but you might not be amused by a man being made to blow off the top of his head with his own assault rifle, which makes you a better person than me.

I liked the acidic colours and Carpenteresque score. Director Pete Travis marshalled his resources well — a UK-shot, US-set dystopian thriller could all too easily resemble DEATH WISH III.

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There’s only a microscopic amount of character change in this one, mostly around Dredd’s rookie partner, Olivia Thirlby (unconventional and interesting) — weirdly, this actually makes it MORE pleasing than THOR, because less familiar. I challenge the screenwriting gurus to figure that one out.

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I finished my comic book weekend by actually reading a comic book, Domu by Katsushiro Otomo, creator of AKIRA. This was something I bought dirt cheap in a charity shop and it had been lying unread by my bedside for literally YEARS (along with heaps of other impulse-buy literature — it’s a real mess). Having finally picked it up, I consumed it avidly between the hours of midnight and one. Otomo has the ability to intrigue — his plots don’t resolve very neatly, but there’s so much damned apocalypse going on it’s hard to notice. The psychic kid stuff in this one is familiar, but this time the narrative is basically a police investigation crossed with a ghost story, set around a housing estate plagued by mystery suicides. The loose ends and unexplained elements are pretty evocative, suggesting an intriguing direction Hollywood movies could go in if they continue to de-emphasize plot at the expense of massive action set-pieces. Bring on the negative capability!

 

Star Trek: Into Zero Dark Thirty

Posted in FILM, Politics, Science, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by dcairns

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The new STAR TREK film met with our approval — it’s very silly, on the one hand, and on the other, very neatly worked out. So unlike PROMETHEUS, which is ponderous and nonsensical, and which also flowed in part from the pen of Damon Lindelof. TREK seems aware of its own daftness — the suggestion that a “cold fusion device” is what you use when you want to make things really cold may well have been thrown in just to annoy the kind of people who get annoying by things like that.

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It’s also unexpectedly moving in places, mainly because it concentrates on Spock, and he’s such an intriguing concept for a character. The movie sort of treats him as an Aspergers person. Zachary Quinto is excellent in the role, but Chris Pine’s Kirk delivers a lot of the key scene too. And, in my gruff, manly way, I just love Karl Urban as McCoy.

In this movie Kirk battles Sherlock Holmes and Robocop, which I didn’t know going in.

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I felt Simon Pegg’s Scottish accent had deteriorated a bit since the last film, where he was actually convincing. It’s weird, as I think he has a Scottish wife, and the film’s first assistant director is Tommy Gormley, who has the broadest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever encountered on a living human being. Pegg does throw in some nice bits of observational Scottishness, and I get a warm glow around the cockles, as if they were being beamed up, when I hear somebody use the phrase “hud oan” (translation: “Hold on”) in a Major Motion Picture, but the fact remains he is now a less convincing Scotsman than James Doohan. Which is a bit like being a less convincing echidna than Wallace Beery.

No explanation is given why Peter Weller talks like a cowboy while his daughter, Alice Eve, has a cut-glass English accent. Probably something to do with cold fusion. The show’s other new cast member, Benedict Cumberbatch, is pretty good value, striking dynamic poses and being cold-blooded in a way that’s distinct enough from the Vulcans to register.

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Director JJ Abrams layers on the lens flare as usual, but manages to simulate the confusion of combat without his action sequences degenerating into actual incoherence, which I appreciate. He also does a few of the nice tie-in shots which made MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III quite pleasing in its set-pieces — a crashing craft pulls the camera down to a foreground character, who leads the camera onwards in a kind of relay. In an age when many directors seem unable to conceive of a shot which has more than one thing happening in it, this is refreshing.

On the whole, this is a kind of pumped-up remake of THE WRATH OF KHAN, but some aspects of it actually improve on that movie, so I’ll give it a pass.

It’s always been interesting, the way Star Trek reflects America’s view of itself and the world. In the original series, the Federation represented both a united mankind, and the USA, with the Klingons obviously standing in for the USSR. In this movie, with the Enterprise dispatched to retrieve a terrorist from the Klingon homeworld, they seem to be the Middle East in general and Pakistan in particular. And thus the movie seems to point with hope towards eventual peaceful coexistence with alien empires, while (perhaps, mildly) criticising Obama’s death squad incursion and drones policy.

Oh, there’s also a great segue involving a swearword and a sliding door — the sound effects gag of the season.