Archive for Peter Dinklage

Time is Fleeting

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2019 by dcairns

I’m working up to BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, Sidney Lumet’s final film. But I hadn’t seen his penultimate one, FIND ME GUILTY, either, and had always been curious.

It should come with a health warning, though — the first face we see is the Max-Schreck’s-lovechild visage of Rudy Giuliani, via a news broadcast. This works better now than it must’ve in 2006 — the movie is complex, but the surface narrative invites you to root for an indicted gangster over the public prosecutors.

Linus Roache plays the Giuliani-substitute with plenty of wimpy venom — he’s basically RIGHT, and he gets a speech proving it — but we find ourselves seduced by the underdog-gangster, already serving a long sentence, now up on a RICO rap.

To demonstrate how the wrong guy can win over a jury, or a movie audience, Lumet needs a star — along comes Vin Diesel, whose career was looking a little rocky back then — it’s still not exactly solid unless he’s behind the wheel of a fast-moving vehicle — and he brings the goods. Excellent mookwork here.

Ron Silver as the judge in the case, marvelous. Peter Dinklage as a defense lawyer (not Vin’s — he’s defending himself). Lumet was asked why he’d “cast a dwarf” in this key role, whereupon he should’ve just said that Dinklage is a terrific actor, but instead he said that the film was nearly all set in a courtroom and he needed some visual distraction to keep the audience from getting bored. Tsk.

To prove that the long-suffering Dinklage’s casting is a cheap joke, they have a special platform for him to address the jury from. It’s a fancy, antique platform — presumably the court has had a long run of little lawyers who have required it.

BUT — representation is good. Dinklage has taken a lot of roles that are problematic (THREE BILLBOARDS is one of the worst, actually). Here, at least he has a role in which his size is never discussed, it’s not a relevant part of his character. And he has a huge role, and he’s excellent, holding his own with the heavyweights.

Overall I love this, and I guess it signalled the start of Lumet’s late-period blooming. His nineties films had been a little flakey — my theory has always been that, though Lumet believed he was an all-rounder with no conscious artistic personality, he was actually born to specialise in takes of crime and the law with a preferably New York setting (but with a surprising adaptability to British subjects — THE OFFENSE, THE DEADLY GAME and especially THE HILL). But recently he had made films that were perfectly situated in that bailiwick — the ludicrously cast FAMILY BUSINESS and NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN — the mediocre GLORIA and A STRANGER AMONG US — which did him no credit.

So this terrific movie — a string of marvelous scenes, a tight narrative, a fascinating subject and character — and a wickedly satiric callback to TWELVE ANGRY MEN that does nothing to hurt one’s affection for that debut picture — is the first part of a terrific sign-off. But if Lumet had lived longer, I can’t help but think, we could have had a bunch more movies as strong.

“Time is fleeting,” remarks Diesel a couple of times.

“What does that mean?” asks an irate cop the second time.

“It means like it’s fleeing, but they put a T in it because it’s the past tense.”

Thanos: The Hand of Fate

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2018 by dcairns

How about a Cronenberg superhero team? Brundlefly, Mugwump, Revok and Rose from RABID, led by Dr. Brian O’Blivion?

Yes, I was lured into seeing AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR by the promise of seeing Edinburgh onscreen, a mild enthusiasm for the Russo Bros, and a mild investment in these superheroes. And yet I never saw (so far) THOR: RAGNAROK, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II or BLACK PANTHER so I’m not yet a hopeless case, even though those three are probably better than CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR which I *did* see.

Certainly the Guardians provide the most solid entertainment of all the army of supes on display here. Of the Avengers, Hawkeye is absent, and Black Widow and War Machine and Falcon don’t really get anything memorable to do. This post is going to be full of spoilers, by the way.

Characters who do get amusing business:

Bruce Banner is suffering from a kind of erectile dysfunction: he can’t hulk out, which means he’s basically a scientist in this film. They can’t find a convincing way to write such a character and Mark Ruffalo, so effective and immediately right in the role in the first AVENGERS, seems a little uncomfortable with the sillier stuff, but his embarrassment at the big green guy’s sudden shyness is very funny.

This never happens.

Alongside the third-generation Hulk is the third-generation Spiderman, who’s quite good. Emphasising that Peter Parker’s a teenager makes Tom Holland stand out. He sounds a bit like the teenage clerk in The Simpsons.

As you might predict, encounters between the very similar Dr. Strange and Iron Man — two alpha male jerks — turn into dick-measuring contests. After all, they’re both Sherlock Holmes. Thor and Starlord’s banter plays out the same way, except Starlord is obviously plagued by feels of inadequacy. Dave Bautista as Drax homoerotically rhapsodising over Thor’s muscles is amusing. But there are no actual gay, bi or trans people in this movie, and no real sex, either. There’s a sweet, non-threatening romance between Scarlet Witch and Vision, which is the Edinburgh bit, and Gwyneth Paltrow does a walk-on for some interrupted wooing with Downey Jr. Other than that, the only hint of lasciviousness comes from the tight costumes. The musclebound characters don’t sem quite human to me, so the sexiest people from my viewpoint were probably the lithe Vision and Nebula, a robot and an alien cyborg, respectively.

Nebula (Karen Gillen) is basically the only Scot in the film, since the version of late-night Edinburgh we get is completely unpopulated. This struck me as implausible — a few bellowing drunkards would have added a welcome touch of realism — and it gives the lie to Thanos’s (big purple chin)  claim that the galaxy, or was it the universe, is running out of resources and so the ONLY POSSIBLE SOLUTION is to disintegrate half of everybody alive. Many people have pointed out how silly his plan is (he could, just for example, sterilize 90% of everybody, or, with his godlike powers, he could maybe rustle up some more resources. But no.

Josh Brolin underplaying a behemoth with a giant purple chin with grooves in it like he tried to carve it into a beard, with a ridiculous masterplan, is actually really compelling as a character. A real triumph of acting and mocap and animation etc, over character design. (As a character in comics, Thanos doesn’t look ridiculous at all, or at least no more ridiculous than his surroundings. The movies ought to have tweaked his appearance slightly, or differently.)

Gee, I’m getting tired of writing about characters called Scarlet Witch and Starlord. Probably a good thing I didn’t go into comics.

Oh, other amusing things: Peter Dinklage plays a twenty-foot tall dwarf (Thor, who is slightly shorter than twenty feet, call him a dwarf). To make his acting to scale, Dinklage overdoes his Game of Thrones English accent by 4000%.

CIVIL WAR bored me because it was mostly about heroes smashing stuff up, in a meaningless fight in which you knew they wouldn’t kill each other. Very obviously, a lot of innocent bystanders would have to have been killed, but the movie airbrushes this aside. This one is more enjoyable because there is a variety to the action, it’s not all smashing property and a lot of it is in space. It’s the opposite of MISSION TO MARS: the best stuff is in space.

Fake kebab shop.

But it’s striking that the movie has neither a beginning — we start at the end of a battle we haven’t seen (was it in RAGNAROK?) and end with the bad guy triumphant (well, more like quietly contented, because Brolin is underplaying). It’s a seemingly devastating conclusion (quite effective, because there ARE a lot of nice actors in these party costumes who can look genuinely traumatised as their friends turn to unconvincing CGI ash). The “ending” is sort of bold, because I can imagine some small kids and dumbasses not understanding that it’s all going to be undone in the sequel, the only question being whether they’ll resurrect the characters who didn’t disintegrate and merely died from stabbing, brain-gouging or falling from a high place.

At the end of this, by a wild coincidence that’s sort of amusingly contrived, the characters left standing, apart from a couple of Guardians of the Galaxy, are basically the original Avengers line-up plus Don Cheadle.

Will I end up seeing the sequel? Maybe… maybe I need my Jeremy Renner fix. He’s not in this one, so I immediately watched THE BOURNE LEGACY when I got home. It was the best Bourne film, apart from Jeremy Renner.