Posts Tagged ‘drama

26
Feb
10

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

It must be the “conspiracy” edge of darkness…

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic. Directed by Martin Campbell. Based on the British TV series of the same name created by Troy Kennedy-Martin

Dry, somewhat disjointed, but it picks up by the end.

Mel Gibson returns to headlining a film with this cinematic remake of the 1995 BBC TV series, “Edge of Darkness.” Gibson is Boston police detective Thomas Craven, a man who lives alone and on one particular weekend is waiting for his daughter Emma (Novakovic) to arrive. Emma goes to college and is a research assistant at a company called Northmoor. She doesn’t tell him exactly what she does except to say “I’m a glorified lab assistant.” Thomas is fine with that and things are going swimmingly until Emma pukes into an empty soup bowl and her nose begins bleeding. As they rush out of the house to go to the hospital a car pulls up and a guy in a mask shouts “CRAVEN!” before using a double-barreled shotgun to blast a hole through her chest. She flies backwards through the front door, the car peels off, and Thomas is left with his only daughter now dead.

Partners, friends, and other officers arrive on the scene and Craven is in a place he doesn’t want to be: the victim of a crime. His friend Whitehouse (Jay O. Sanders) tries to comfort him, saying that the Department will treat it as an “officer involved” incident. They expect him to take some time off for grieving purposes and they want to run through every file he has, spinning the idea that the gunman was aiming for Thomas instead of his daughter. Not believing that for a second, Craven goes out for answers with a side of vengeance.

Piece by piece we get to know Emma as Thomas gets to know the daughter he thought he knew. She worked for a company called Northmoor. At some point she became involved with a group of activists and had helped them get into, and out of, Northmoor. What Northmoor was doing and why, and how his daughter got involved in any of it, is the cloud of mystery Thomas is flying through.

Craven’s world is slowly dragged into the “conspiracy sphere”: bugged rooms, paranoid people, sharp dressed agents in SUV’s with tinted windows, etc (even though Mel starred in a film called “Conspiracy Theory,” he was relatively clueless in this one). Thomas traces a 9mm his daughter was carrying to her boyfriend Burnham (Shawn Roberts) who gives Thomas his daughter’s personal belongings duffle bag. Checking out her apartment he finds it broken into and her computer taken. Her best friend Melissa talks with him about Emma getting involved with the activists. She’s promptly killed after.

Enter Jedburgh (Winstone). He’s the guy that “stops people from connecting Point A to Point B,”; hired hitman, assassin, what-have-you. Jedburgh is brought in to keep tabs on Thomas Craven for Northmoor because Craven is the father of the girl considered a “security risk.” Thomas and Jedburgh meet, Jedburgh gives him an idea of who he is, Craven accepts this and continues doing what he does.

And finally the villain behind it all: Jack Bennett (Huston). Bennett is the head of Northmoor which not only keeps stock of items used for nuclear weaponry but its R&D division pumps money into the Massachusetts economy, and that’s just on paper. What the public doesn’t know and what we come to learn is that Northmoor is developing nuclear arms for foreign countries under their specs. Also, they gave “irradiated gas” to the activists and poisoned Emma Craven. Thomas is running out of options and against the clock as he tries putting the pieces together and exposing those who were complicit in his daughter’s death.

The movie is a long, slow train that heads for what could be called a “slambang” end. All the clues that are laid in front of us for the first hour slowly begin paying off and when the body count begins to rise, we see the “full extent of the conspiracy.” There are several twists and turns and by the end everyone dies. Everyone. (See also: “Hamlet,” “The Departed”)

Director Martin Campbell decided to re-adapt his 80’s British show in an American environment, choosing Boston because of its English and Irish influences. Campbell is known for previous drama/action movies such as “The Mask of Zorro,” and “Vertical Limit,” as well as the James Bond movies, “GoldenEye,” and “Casino Royale.” While “Edge of Darkness” does contain brutal realism within its violence (there are no pre-meditated vengeance camera shots) the acts are SUDDEN and the audience isn’t prepared, giving a sense of realism. Another plus for the movie is the fact that Campbell made Gibson’s character emote through most of the range of human emotions, even though his character is naïve (a Boston cop not knowing about conspiracy? Really?)

The major flaw for this film is the script. Watching it feels like someone edited the breathing room out of a TV show or rather constructed a film out of the best parts of one and structurally it’s apparent. According to reports the initial script had to be re-written to make it more “action oriented” and in doing so there’s a slapdash feeling to the pacing of scenes. The British sensibilities added to the story (the hitman confronting Craven, the voice of his daughter directing him to find justice) speak more to British films than American ones and could’ve been left out.

Can I honestly recommend this one? As long as you realize that it’s not the action packed movie advertised to you (nor is it really a psychological drama), you’re good to go. I would suggest matinee or the dollar theatre.

My grade: B-

10
Sep
08

Movie Review: Hamlet 2

 

 

Something else that didn’t need a sequel…

 

Starring Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, and Elisabeth Shue. Directed by Andrew Fleming.

 

“Rock me, rock me/ Rock me sexy Jesus…”

 

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Coogan (“Hot Fuzz,” “Tropic Thunder”) stars as failed actor-turned-high school drama teacher Dana Marschz (which no one can pronounce correctly). The effeminate teacher lives in Tucson, AZ where he teaches drama and puts on plays based on popular movies; when the movie starts the senior play is “Erin Brokovich.” He is married to Brie (Keener) who hopes that he’ll quit his teaching job in order to go back to working at Rite Aid so they can have some money and kick-out their current boarder Gary (Arquette). Added to his marital woes is the possibility he may be “shooting blanks.”

 

If that wasn’t enough Mesa HS has cut back on all their art programs leaving only the drama department, which Marschz is soon notified will be cut after the end of the semester. In a desperate attempt to save theatre, he locks himself into his office and creates “Hamlet 2,” a sequel to the original that entails Hamlet going back in time to stop everyone from dying and in the process, forgiving his father. Somehow, Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, and Satan are all part of the process. When the principal is given the script and all but shuts the production down due to its controversial nature, his drama students decide to take it “off campus,” thus upping the controversy ante. In walks Cricket Feldstein (Amy Poehler), an ACLU rep who will stop at nothing to preserve free speech, or at least sue for it. Lastly is Elisabeth Shue as herself; she works as a nurse because she got tired of all the crap that happens in the world of acting.

 

Lest I forget the music numbers “Raped in the Face,” and “Rock Me Sexy Jesus,” as well as “Maniac” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” as sung by the Gay Men’s Choir of Tucson.

 

So, what did I think?

 

When I first saw the trailer I couldn’t get the “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” riff out of my head. It’s damned catchy. And when you see it in the movie, you love it by the end. However, what hurts this movie is the “trailer syndrome”: everything funny about the movie is showcased within the 2-5 min cinematic promo. And the fact that the first half of the movie  d r a g s. Everything seemed to play out for the sake of playing out. Around Act 4/5 of the movie everything picks up and becomes more enjoyable.

 

Outside of the musical numbers there is the core of what the script was written about: a father disapproving of what a son wanted to do with his life and the later reconciliation/forgiveness. That I haven’t seen dealt with before. Coogan does a good job at being the “every artist” with a “denouncing dad” complex. Outside of that, I wished the film was either more dramatic or more comedic.

 

Do I recommend this? Maybe video rental.

 

My grade: C+

13
Aug
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Seven-Ups (1973 )

 

 

Starring Roy Scheider and Tony Bianco. Directed by Philip D’Antoni.

 

Based on a story provided by Sonny Grasso (“The French Connection”), Roy Scheider is Buddy, the head of an underground police organization known as the “Seven-Ups.” They are called this because whatever criminal they catch receives a sentence of seven years or more. Mobsters around the city are being kidnapped and extorted for money, a plot that Scheider’s team finds out after a team member is accidentally killed. Playing both sides against the middle is Vito (Tony Bianco), Buddy’s friend and underworld informant.

 

This film could easily be considered a “sequel” to “The French Connection,” but don’t confuse it with “French Connection II.” For starters, there’s almost no dialogue whatsoever; outside of a few scenes between Scheider and Bianco, there’s just raw visual filmmaking. Using “French Connection” as a blueprint, the film is the classic “70’s style:” pseudo-documentary/ hand-held shots, wide angles, sparse dialog; an almost “being there” feel to it. Plus being directed by Philip D’Antoni (who produced “Bullitt” and “The French Connection”) there is the obligatory car chase.

 

Screeching tires? Check. Disobeying traffic laws? Check. Car continues to fishtail? Check. Trying to improve on “Bullitt” and “French Connection,” imagine a chase scene that is a marriage of the chase scenes from those movies; Roy Scheider in a Pontiac Ventura ripping through the streets of New York City following the bad guys driving a Pontiac Grand Ville. Throw in some traffic, kids playing in the streets, an extra police patrol car and a semi-truck at the end and while it may not be the best, it’s worthy of the Car Chase Hall of Excellence.

 

Should you rent this movie? If you’re a fan of Seventies cinema, yes. If you liked the “French Connection,” yes. If you’re a Roy Scheider fan, definitely.

 

My grade: B