Posts Tagged ‘Joel Silver’

UNKNOWN

2011/03/17

http://unknownmovie.warnerbros.com/

USA, GERMANY 2011  Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra  Written by: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell  Produced by: Joel Silver, Leonard Goldberg, Andrew Rona  Cinematography by: Flavio Labiano  Editing by: Timothy Alverson  Music by: John Ottman, Alexander Rutt  Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz

From the trailer, “Unknown” looked very much like a reprise of Liam Neeson’s last espionage film, “Taken.” The setting, the weather, the color, the fashion…all represented a clear reminder of the fast-paced, Bessonesque hyper-flick. Whereas “Taken” had a very small, personal agenda that took Neeson’s character on a rampage, “Unknown” aimed a bit too high, and left somewhat a dry taste on the palate.

“Unknown” tells a tale of an undercover agent who’s lost his memory in a taxi accident. Upon waking up from his coma, he believes he was his cover, Dr. Martin Harris, who’s in Berlin to join an exclusive event with his wife (obviously also an undercover agent, played blankly to a T by January Jones). En route to finding out his true self, Harris traces back to the immigrant taxi driver named Gina (Diane Kruger), who had left him after the crash. Gina’s involvement to Harris’s recovery was the slack crutch that sloppily carried the story – offering Harris a rundown apartment to crash because he had no credit or ID; a dingy club to hide when they were being chased by hit-men; saved Harris’s life just in time by running down and crushing not only one, but two bad guys, and finally a happy Hollywood ending by walking away hand-in-hand with Harris into their new life.

Hollywood clearly wanted to create a new sub-genre – action movies with aged thespians, and supported by an overwhelmingly talented cast that could have walked through the script in their sleep, or needed a holiday break between serious films and picking up awards.

Of the lineup, Bruno Ganz’s “ex-spy in need of purpose” was oddly introduced to Harris by an awkward nurse that cared for him while he was comatose in the hospital. Why did a nurse even know a spy from the cold-war era was beyond me. And, when Ganz heard the death of the nurse, he just waved it like she had it coming. (Okay, maybe there should have been a background check on that lady. Another movie maybe, moving on.) Ganz produced a fantastic character that smoothly obtained the pieces for Harris. His character had an air of righteousness without the ego, and knew the fine line that crosses through good and evil. Even in the face of an unbeatable nemesis, the director of Harris’s spy shop, he elegantly drops a sachet of cyanide into his tea and collapses into his enemy’s embrace, the ever suave yet Shakespearean Frank Langella. This was a gentle reminisce of the golden era of spy sparring. But we are in the 21st century, and what’s needed was some nonsensical action. Hence, punches, karate chops, and a fast car chase, backwards. Here was the first hint about Harris’s real background – a street car-racer.

The action of the film was too close for comfort, literally. Almost all scenes had the camera up the actors’ noses and armpits, and car wheels’ axles and exhaust pipes. Was it necessary, well, maybe yes, because the film sometimes seemed so low budget (due to a star-studded cast) that no cash was left to shoot full sets or prop the camera properly on anything stationary. And, few attempts at CG effects were richly rewarded to the freshmen computer specialists at the local county technical school.

Finally, after Harris is made aware of his true identity – an international spy set to assassinate a middle-eastern prince and a biologist – he quickly regains his optimism and skills to redeem his wicked self. And, upon the credits’ rollout and the most stunning shot of the whole film – the Berlin train station under a blanket of snow – one quickly settles into the comprehension that Hollywood wishes to remind us, every once in awhile, just how short our memories are for such films: the Bourne trilogy, “Memento,” and especially, “Total Recall.” But, in the age of Youtube and digital downloads, you can assess that “Unknown” would quickly settle onto the shelves of unmemorable.

 

 

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THE LOSERS

2010/05/05

http://www.the-losers.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Sylvain White Written by: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt Characters: Andy Diggle Produced by: Kerry Foster, Akiva Goldsman, Joel Silver Cinematography by: Scott Kevan  Editing: David Checel   Music: John Ottman  Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patrick, Holt McCallany, Peter Macdissi, Peter Francis James, Tanee McCall

Once in a blue moon graphic novels containing adult material are adapted for the silver screen. This fan material is traditionally very hard to make into good movies: storyline and characters are often too unconventional, violence levels too high and foul language too frequent, and with just the fan boy crowd knowing the original graphic novels and with strict ratings the marketing opportunities are rather limited.

From the economical point of view you’ll have to give it some serious thought before you greenlight a movie like this. And even then the enterprise can fail miserably. Either you do it a 100% or you don’t do it at all. There is no such thing as half pregnant, and there is also no such thing as half authentic when it comes to comic books with a grown-up audience in mind.

The last PUNISHER – WAR ZONE succeeded because it stayed true to the original (and so did Goldblatt’s PUNISHER before it was censored for an R-rating). ELEKTRA was a joke, because executives figured they have to pour gallons of softener over the movie to make sure it just indicates violence instead of showing it (even TOM & JERRY are more excessive than ELEKTRA). Elektra, in fact, as probably killed more people than any other Marvel character.

And then there was GHOST RIDER, and if you know the graphic novel and have seen the film it needs no further explanation what you should or shouldn’t do when adapting material like this. GHOST RIDER is a wonderful manual of how-not-to-do, and for many more reasons many other great creative works for mature audiences will never make it into cinemas, and if so they’ll be painful to watch or at least utterly forgettable attempts.

Now THE LOSERS has arrived: brash, loud and violent it ploughs its way through territory previously associated with THE PUNISHER, mercenary movies, James Bond franchises, MIAMI VICE or the A-TEAM. It retains a graphic novel’s episodic character, jumping into the story at the beginning and leaving it without a real ending, preparing ground for part two. Nevertheless it’s satisfying enough for us not to leave the theatre puzzled. On the contrary, it leaves us wishing for more.

The comic character of the material is well captured in many of its highly stylized sequences, notably the fabulous initial fight between Clay and Zoe resembling a ballet-like choreography that quickly turns into a mating ritual (which continues with its anticipated last act later). The villain consequently is a larger-than-life figure whose overacting is methodological and fits the character once you get it. The story dares to go far beyond Bond nonsense, dealing with warfare 3.0 and ridiculous amounts of money and material. The plot twists the movie pulls out of the sleeve are equally ridiculous: what works for graphic novels doesn’t necessarily work in movies, so THE LOSERS appears very jumpy at times, with the characters often acting beyond reason and very little insight into their behavior.

That doesn’t mean the characters are flat though: thanks to the humor THE LOSERS feels human and it is actually really funny. Clocking in at about 90 minutes the movie spends most of its time on humor and action (PG-13 that is, and that’s good enough here), and it’s simply too fast paced to go into details. It doesn’t ask questions, it just presents us with the bare facts. We can take it or leave it, but THE LOSERS always quickly moves on. No rest for the wicked.

THE LOSERS is conceptual and comical, and without buying into that there is no way you’ll consider it a good movie. But just like assessing a graphic novel doesn’t exactly follow the same parameters as assessing a work of literature, THE LOSERS scores pretty high once put in perspective. It is anything but perfect, with a low-key cast and director, limited depth and many other small issues, but it still comes out superior to junk like GHOST RIDER thanks to it’s gung-ho attitude and staying true to the comic series.

This isn’t Toontown, this is Space Mountain. The best you can do is to enjoy the ride. If you can’t do that, don’t watch it. If you can, the reward is all yours. So buckle up and never take your eyes off the road ahead.

J.



THE BOOK OF ELI

2010/03/05

http://www.thebookofelimovie.net/

USA 2010   Directed by: Albert & Allen Hughes   Written by: Gary Whitta   Produced by: Joel Silver, Denzel Washington, Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove, David Valdes   Music: Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne   Cinematography: Don Burgess   Editing: Cindy Mollo   Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones, Joe Pingue

If you never saw the trailer to THE BOOK OF ELI, do so. It’s a great trailer: the action, the cinematography, the intensity…the promise. In those 30 seconds, a few glimpses of Denzel Washington’s solemn but deadly moves and few words were enough to get you perturbed in your chair and check your calendar for the movie’s opening date. I know I was. Along with Denzel, the rest of the cast was sound, too: Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis (from THAT 70’S SHOW), and even Michael Gambon and Tom Waits.

From the opening scene, we followed closely with Denzel to realize that the world he’s in is one that’s been demolished by some kind of global catastrophe. He’s a loner on survival mode. No, wait, he’s a loner with a mission. But what that mission is took a while to discover. Actually, it took over an hour to realize. But no, you don’t want to know yet, because the directors wanted you to anticipate the big revelation. And so, like endless hero movies go, Denzel is a man of peace and yet, can kick some serious ass. And, fortunately, he’s constantly being bombarded with a string of obstacles, mainly nomads who are only after means of survival, anything from KFC ketchup packets to gloves and scarves. But, little do these dogs know, since they can’t read, Denzel carries one of the most profound treasures of mankind, the King James Bible. However, there’s one man who does treasure the book: Carnegie (Gary Oldman).

Due to the similar age of both actors, Denzel and Oldman, we soon found out that a world war took place 30 years ago, characters who survived the war and could still read. Hence, they treasured the book. But their intentions are that of good and evil: Denzel wanted to take the book West, for what, he’s not sure…only a voice in his head had told him to; and Oldman wanted the fancy vocabulary of the book to help him to be a better public speaker, and of course, to rule the world.

Here’s where the movie started to really fall apart. Denzel has been on this trekking trip for over 30 years and he’s still walking in the land of America. I don’t know about you, but I recall in less than a year, Forest Gump had gone coast to coast, several times. There were a few entertaining scenes that took a bit of choreography to make Denzel look like he was Steven Segal and knew his way around a designer machete. How he acquired these fantastic skills, we don’t know. I guess the writer didn’t feel it was necessary to build a background story for our hero, or any of the other characters. Everyone just seemed to be in this movie.

There were no stakes, no purpose, no point to this movie, and to life. People in a post world-war environment are damaged, condemned, and bleak. And so the picture was painted this way, and all to lead us to this compelling conclusion: there is a way out, a way to salvation. And that would be the Bible.

Early in the movie, books were brought to Carnegie by these nomadic mercenaries. Literary books that educated and entertained. A snippet shot of THE DA VINCI CODE was amongst the pile. Though, Carnegie quickly dismissed them and ordered them to be burned, because all he was after was the Bible…because no other book was as important as the Bible. Oh, I get it. There was a point to this movie. During these harsh times, where terrorism is abundant, it’s a perfect moment to remind us that if you believed in God, the Christian God, then you shall be saved. I wanted to discuss more about this film. But then again, with brief but non-consequential appearances by the brilliant Michael Bambon, Tom Waits, and some pants-moving scenes by the Angelina Jolie-like Kunis, there really isn’t much more to say other than that this load of celluloid story was the works of some disturbed, and manically preaching, committee to further the Christian propaganda. May God save us all. Amen.