Posts Tagged ‘christopher eccleston

30
Dec
09

Movies on DVD/BD Review: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

What, no Serpentor?

Starring Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Based on the toy line by Hasbro

It’s Shakespeare for six-year-olds (pending your six-year-old kid isn’t stuck-up and/or going to a private school). It’s over-the-top, laser-blasting, bodies flyin’, shit blowin’ up, fast-paced, unbelievably cartoonish action featuring macho guys, hot chicks, and fight scenes between good and bad guys. In short it’s a literal translation from the cartoon TV show to live-action movie. And it’s entertaining as hell.

Stephen Sommers gives backstories to characters that don’t really need them, but I guess he felt the need to be a “good” filmmaker and clue the audience in on the history of the characters. This only comes into question with the beginning segment showing a “weapons dealer” named James McCullen who, in 1641, was given an “iron mask” for dealing weapons to both the Scots and the French. His received the name “Destro,” short for “destroyer of worlds.” Yeah, okay.

Fast forward to the “not-too-distant future,” where McCullen’s descendant James McCullen runs MARS (Military Armaments Research Syndicate), a weapons contractor that has designed nanomites, micro-robotic bugs that look like green acid when they eat away at metal but come with a safety killswitch. McCullen has armed four warheads with these and wants them transported.

The convoy transporting the much-sought briefcase is sent off-course and intercepted by soldiers with technology far superior than theirs. Of the survivors there is Duke (Tatum) and his best friend Ripcord (Wayans), saved by Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui). Duke, Ripcord, and the case are taken to “The Pit,” G.I. Joe HQ.

The Pit is a gigantic training facility buried deep beneath the Egyptian sand. This place has LEVELS: shooting, hand-to-hand combat, and a water park addition that you makes you navigate through hoops –literally. Imagine the scene in “Wayne’s World” where Wayne opens the door to the room where “people are being trained just like in ‘James Bond’ movies” and multiply that by 10, adding some cool hi-tech gadgets; you get my drift. General Hawk (Quaid) presides over The Pit and G.I. Joe, a multi-national group of “the best of the best.” They pour over what facts they have and Duke offers up info on Ana (Miller), a woman he had proposed to 4 years earlier and one of the enemy combatants. Duke and Ripcord do a training montage and are officially Joe-certified.

There’s a reason for McCullen’s backstory as we find that he did the old con man “protect this for me while I hire someone to take it from you” routine. He’s hellbent on playing all sides against the middle just like his ancestor. Another member of COBRA is The Doctor (Gordon-Levitt), a man breathing through a mask who injects the nano-technology into subjects creating “super soldiers” whose bidding he controls via computer. Also, the Baroness/Ana, is married to Baron deCobray (Grégory Fitoussi), a noted French research scientist. I almost forgot to mention: his base is multi-leveled and underwater.

Peril is the name of the game as McCullen and COBRA unleash one of the four nanomite weapons on the Eiffel Tower. Ripcord and Duke don Delta-6 suits which allow them to run, jump, and shoot faster than anyone or anything else. Duke manages to save most of the Eiffel Tower but is captured in the process. It’s up to the Joes to get Duke back and save the world.

This is the kind of movie I had expected “Transformers” to be: whiz-bang special effects with shallow story, plot, characters, and motivation. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because do you really need depth in “G.I. Joe?” There are a few instances where Sommers tries rising above the source material by giving the characters backstory but really, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t call for that. Tough guys with guns and lasers, bad chicks in leather and high heels, tech-geek weapons, ninja fights… it’s your inner child’s wet dream.

The one downside to this film (if you’ve already accepted it for what it is) is the inconsistency of the special effects. Some of them are really well done while some of the more massive vehicles (especially those in water or the air) seem to be need another layer or two of rendering. Outside of that as long as you know that this movie is as literal a translation of the cartoon as there ever has been… you’re green for Go.

Why watch the movie? Sienna Miller is hot. So is Rachel Nichols. Cool tech-geek stuff. You’re inner six-year-old which remembers the halcyon days of “Yo Joe!” watching real American heroes take down Cobra needs its fix. Or watch it because Sommers got right what Michael Bay gets wrong.

Watch for “Mummy” alums Arnold Vosloo, Brendan Fraser, and Kevin J. O’Connor.

My grade: C (and knowing is half the battle)

12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Amelia

1SHT_AW_E_AME.indd

 

On a round-the-world flight, she disappeared.

Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston. Directed by Mira Nair

This is the kind of movie that will eventually be played in history classes while the teacher is busy updating his/her grades and making lesson plans. For better or worse, that’s what it will be relegated to.

Hilary Swank plays the aviatrix who, as common knowledge and every “mysterious disappearance” TV show and movie points out, wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2, 1937 she lost radio contact and the rest has been the stuff of speculation and America’s dark romance with the unexplained.

Gere is George Putnam, a New York publisher known for releasing the book on Charles Lindbergh. Suddenly smitten with the presence of the protagonist, he books her as a passenger on a flight set to cross the Atlantic if it can ever happen. With persistence and can-do spirit Earhart pushes for the flight to happen with her suddenly being thrown into the spotlight.

McGregor is Gene Vidal, a single father even more impressed with Earhart than Putnam. Vidal and Earhart become business partners in the world of aviation and a little more off the scene. Earhart breaks off their romance to stay faithful to her husband.

Eccleston plays Fred Noonan, one of the best navigators in the biz. Equally known is his alcoholism. Earhart, having grown up with an alcoholic father, warns him but he reasserts that he will not let it affect his job performance. He disappeared with Earhart on the day of note.

There ya go.

I didn’t hate the movie as much as I was disappointed, which eventually became ambivalence. I’m a fan of a good mystery and along with Flight 19, Earhart’s disappearance became legend. One of the problems with this movie is that it asks more questions than it answers and in doing so doesn’t bother answering anything. What was Amelia’s background before she showed up at Putnam’s doorstep? Why did she do what she set out to do? Was she a lesbian? Et cetera.

Instead the movie plops you into the point in her life where she meets the publisher and does a straight-forward chronology with minimal interruption of flash-forwards where she is hopelessly looking for Howland Island to land on. While there is some “creative interpretation” of her life’s events a good chunk of the movie seems to play out like plot points or a greatest hits collection of deleted/extended scenes.

And therein lies the frustration of grading or gaging this movie: it’s massively uneven. The director seems to intersperse the disappearance with moments from her life leading up to it but fails to give any mention of previous events. Either I’ve watched the programming from too many movies or this one’s story is really lackluster.

Nair seems to touch upon Earhart’s life as as if she’s afraid to make a statement about anything. It’s like someone asking you “do you think she helped champion the cause of womens’ rights?” Your answer is then followed by “well, what do you think?” I honestly felt like I was in back in school and each question (aviation, alcoholism, commercialism, lesbianism) would be featured at the end of the chapter and I would have to skip to the back of the book and turn it upside down to find the correct one (“There it is: seven”) One of the big themes noted in the film was that Putnam controlled her “image” by having her sponsor ads for luggage, cigarettes, etc. She brings it up to him one time and he explains it off, and she never says anything about it again, not even when more people hound her for that fact.

So much is wasted. I’m not a big fan of Swank but she does seem to carry on as if she doesn’t care that no one else cares, which may be a good thing. Eccleston and Gere have odd accents out-of-place for them. The cinematography had some beautiful moments. The soundtrack seemed to be made for a much better movie.

In my honest opinion this movie would have done right by taking a cue from “Hollywoodland.” No one really knows how George Reeve died, but at least the filmmakers gave the “conspiracy theories” on how it happened. And while George Reeve may have been less extraordinary than Earhart per se, at least the filmmakers gave him his do. Sorry for your loss, Amelia.

In regards to historical dramas, one has to ask themselves, would a History Channel documentary on the same subject be more interesting than this movie? On this one I’m gonna say “yes.”

TRIVIA: This is the first movie since 1994’s “Shallow Grave” to feature both Eccleston and McGregor.

My grade: a straighten-up and fly right C-

P.S. For more information on Amelia Earhart, read a book! Or go look her up on Wiki.

21
Apr
09

First Feature: “Shallow Grave,” Danny Boyle

 

danny-boyle1 

Welcome to a new article called First Feature, where we profile a Director and their first movie.

 

This month’s Director-at-large: Danny Boyle

His First Feature: “Shallow Grave” (1994)

 

Danny Boyle is a British director who cleaned up this past year’s Academy Awards with his movie, “Slumdog Millionaire,” based on the novel by Vikas Swarup. Overall I’ve enjoyed Boyle’s work which has given the cinematic world pieces to talk about. “Trainspotting,” helped to put Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle on the map (McGregor would go on to become Obi-Wan Kenobi and Carlyle would eventually become a Bond villain). I’m probably one of the few who enjoyed “A Life Less Ordinary.” “28 Days Later” reinvented, if not reinvigorated, the zombie-movie franchise (“Resident Evil” doesn’t get all the credit). “Sunshine” had great special effects but was only 2/3 of a good movie (not a big fan of the last third of it).

 

Boyle worked in TV before his first movie, “Shallow Grave.” In “Shallow Grave,” three flat mates (Ewan MacGregor, Christopher Eccleston, and Kerry Fox) are auditioning for a fourth flat mate to help share the costs. After breezing through and testing several applicants they agree on Hugo, a purported writer. The morning after Hugo is accepted he doesn’t wake up. The three force open his door and find that he OD’d on heroin and left a suitcase full of money. Unbeknownst to them there are two prisoners trying to track down Hugo and the money. The trio makes a pact to stay silent and cut up Hugo’s body, leaving him in the woods. While McGregor and Fox start going through the money, Eccleston has other plans. He takes the money and hides it in the attic, thus beginning his descent into darkness. The three have it in for one another and when the cops and prisoners come around it all becomes a slow spiral into hell.

 

“Shallow Grave” is as good a “starter” film as any. It’s funny, dark, and psychological. All three actors are great. Incidentally it was the first movie for McGregor, who teamed up with Boyle again for the movies “Trainspotting,” and “A Life Less Ordinary,” before striking out and getting the role of Obi-Wan in the “Star Wars” prequels. Christopher Eccleston would later appear in the “Gone in 60 Seconds,” remake as well as the first season of the new “Doctor Who.” Fox was in “Welcome to Sarajevo,” and mainly acts in British fare.

 

Boyle’s themes and styles have roots in “Shallow Grave.” The opening scene is a frenetic, techno-thumping tour of flats in England. Using techno music to accentuate a scene can be found in “Trainspotting,” “A Life Less Ordinary,” and especially “28 Days Later.” His use of a mechanical baby doll to portray a creepy sense of innocence is like the scene from “Trainspotting” where McGregor is hallucinating and sees the baby crawling across the ceiling. And yes, every Danny Boyle movie has a scene in the bathroom: in “Shallow Grave,” McGregor has the crap beaten out of him; in “Trainspotting,” McGregor crawls into a the “shittiest toilet in Scotland” to retrieve some drugs, and in “A Life Less Ordinary” McGregor stands in the bathroom and hatches his plan to confront the CEO about the loss of his job.

 

For more info on Danny Boyle, check out his IMDB at:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000965/