Gillian Anderson, Haley Joel Osment, and Rufus Sewell star in I'LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN, directed by Richie Mehta for eOne Films.

I’ll Follow You Down (2013, Richie Mehta)

There are a handful of easily fixable problems with I’ll Follow You Down. Director Mehta shoots it in Panavision aspect ratio and doesn’t know what to do with all the width. Combined with Tico Poulakakis’s lens flare happy cinematography, Follow looks like a glossy television commercial. There’s never a sense of time or place, which is a big problem considering it’s about time and place.

Mehta isn’t great with directing actors either, but most of the cast can work through it. Gillian Anderson, for example, gives a breathtaking small performance. Mehta gives the cast a lot of room–it’s kind of a sci-fi story, but one where the human aspects are far more important (not to mention cheaper to shoot). So the film’s a showcase for Anderson.

Victor Garber also does really well and he’s got some of the hardest scenes in the film.

In the lead, Haley Joel Osment is decent. He’s occasionally really good, but he also has some too pat moments. He’s just not dramatic enough; like I said, Mehta isn’t great with actors. Rufus Sewell has the exact same problems so it’s clearly not the actors.

The only weak performance is Susanna Fournier as Osment’s girlfriend. She has the second hardest part after Garber and she can’t sell the scenes like he can.

Mehta has some iffy dialogue and a lot of missed opportunities, which might be budgetary, might not be budgetary.

But Follow has two great performances and two often good ones. It’s a conditional success.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Richie Mehta; director of photography, Tico Poulakakis; edited by Stuart A. McIntyre; music by Andrew Lockington; production designer, Chris Crane; produced by Lee Kim; released by eOne Films.

Starring Haley Joel Osment (Erol), Gillian Anderson (Marika), Rufus Sewell (Gabe), John Paul Ruttan (Young Erol), Susanna Fournier (Grace), Sherry Miller (Mrs. Moore) and Victor Garber (Sal).

About these ads
Gordon Douglas, Richard Attenborough, and Steve McQueen star in THE GREAT ESCAPE, directed by John Sturges for United Artists.

The Great Escape (1963, John Sturges)

While The Great Escape runs nearly three hours, director Sturges and screenwriters James Clavell and W.R. Burnett never let it feel too long. Part of the quick pace comes from the first half hour being told in something like real time and another big part of it is the aftermath of the escape taking up the last hour. So for ninety minutes, the audience is getting to know and like the characters. It gives the escape aftermath a breakneck pace, even though Sturges doesn't do much different.

The Elmer Bernstein score also plays a large part. It's frequently upbeat and congratulatory to the characters (and sometimes the audience), but Bernstein also bakes in the possibility of tragedy. The music can go from light to dark in a second and the film trains the audience to prepare for such moves.

Also contributing to the film's relative brevity is how the script pairs characters up. Usually it's a strong personage with a weaker one, but the actors do such a good job–and Sturges often sticks with scenes of characters' frailties until they're uncomfortable–the pairings are never hollow. Even Steve McQueen, who gets a huge solo set piece at the end, starts off with a sidekick or two.

Most of the acting is spectacular. Richard Attenborough might give the best performance; him or James Donald. They both have the most responsibility and it clearly weighs on them. But James Garner, McQueen, Donald Pleasence, Gordon Jackson, Hannes Messemer–also all excellent.

It's an outstanding picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by John Sturges; screenplay by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, based on the book by Paul Brickhill; director of photography, Daniel L. Fapp; edited by Ferris Webster; music by Elmer Bernstein; released by United Artists.

Starring Steve McQueen (Hilts), James Garner (Hendley), Richard Attenborough (Bartlett), James Donald (Ramsey), Charles Bronson (Danny), Donald Pleasence (Blythe), James Coburn (Sedgwick), Hannes Messemer (Von Luger), David McCallum (Ashley-Pitt), Gordon Jackson (MacDonald), John Leyton (Willie), Angus Lennie (Ives), Nigel Stock (Cavendish), Jud Taylor (Goff) and Robert Graf (Werner).

Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen star in THE GETAWAY, directed by Sam Peckinpah for National General Pictures.

The Getaway (1972, Sam Peckinpah)

From the lengthy opening credits to the big action finale, it's always clear sound is important in The Getaway. Editor Robert L. Wolfe does some wonderful transitions with sound foreshadowing the cut and the next scene, but there's something more to it. That something more is the isolation theme running through the film–Steve McQueen starts in prison, surrounded by these loud, garish, yet hollow sounds. The action finale, at a nearly deserted hotel, also has loud, hollow sounds. They amplify Peckinpah's composition–particularly for the finish–and reinforce the film's dreamlike quality.

The Getaway is a few things at once. It's a heist picture, it's a revenge picture, it's a seventies relationship drama. That relationship aspect to it, with recently released from prison McQueen and wife Ali McGraw having some big problems, is the film's quietest plot line… if only because there's so much noise around it. But Peckinpah, McQueen, McGraw and screenwriter Walter Hill always keep it present. McGraw's timid, nervous performance works wonders–she's apparently inscrutable, but not really.

She and McQueen have fantastic chemistry, which they need to give their story more gravitas than Al Lettieri's subplot. Lettieri is a opportunist thief who kidnaps Sally Struthers and Jack Dodson in his pursuit of McQueen. Lettieri runs away with a bunch of the film. He's spellbinding; no other word for it. Struthers is rather good as well.

Technically, the film's a marvel. The Lucien Ballard photography is phenomenal, day or night, action or drama.

The Getaway is a fantastic motion picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Peckinpah; screenplay by Walter Hill, based on the novel by Jim Thompson; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by Robert L. Wolfe; music by Quincy Jones; produced by David Foster and Mitchell Brower; released by National General Pictures.

Starring Steve McQueen (Doc McCoy), Ali MacGraw (Carol McCoy), Ben Johnson (Jack Beynon), Al Lettieri (Rudy Butler), Slim Pickens (Cowboy), Richard Bright (The Thief), Jack Dodson (Harold Clinton), Dub Taylor (Laughlin), Bo Hopkins (Frank Jackson), Roy Jenson (Cully), John Bryson (The Accountant) and Sally Struthers (Fran Clinton).

A scene from JAWS 2, directed by Jeannot Szwarc for Universal Pictures.

Jaws 2 (1978, Jeannot Szwarc)

There's definitely a good movie somewhere in Jaws 2; maybe just one without so much shark. Sadly, most of its narrative problems seem obvious to fix. For example, if the shark isn't confirmed and Roy Scheider might just be suffering post-traumatic stress… maybe they didn't want to go dark.

Instead, the filmmakers go bright, shiny and stupid. Director Szwarc doesn't do particularly well with his actors–for some reason Scheider is frequently staring into the camera and past whoever he's sharing the scene with–but most of his composition is fantastic. And Michael C. Butler's photography is gorgeous. Jaws 2 definitely looks good. It sounds good too–John Williams's score is great, the sound design on the film is great.

It's just really dumb.

The film slaps Scheider's story of bickering with town officials in front of this "teens in danger" movie. The stuff with the teens doesn't get enough time once they're in actual danger (and too much time before that part of the film), but there are some sublime moments.

No one in the film is particularly bad, except Donna Wilkes, and there are some acting stand-outs. David Elliot, Keith Gordon, Ann Dusenberry, Mark Gruner–all good performances. Lorraine Gary gets a few good moments as Scheider's wife, though not enough. There's a strange subtext about her having a career being a big problem–she's even wearing pants right before Scheider gets in trouble at work.

It's long, it's bad, it's pretty. The technical pluses oddly outweigh all the other minuses. Kind of.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc; screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, based on characters created by Peter Benchley; director of photography, Michael C. Butler; edited by Steve Potter, Arthur Schmidt and Neil Travis; music by John Williams; production designer, Joe Alves; produced by Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Roy Scheider (Police Chief Martin Brody), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Mayor Larry Vaughn), Joseph Mascolo (Len Peterson), Jeffrey Kramer (Deputy Jeff Hendricks), Collin Wilcox Paxton (Dr. Lureen Elkins), Ann Dusenberry (Tina Wilcox), Mark Gruner (Mike Brody), Barry Coe (Tom Andrews), Susan French (Grace Witherspoon), Gary Springer (Andy Nicholas), Donna Wilkes (Jackie Peters), Gary Dubin (Eddie Marchand), John Dukakis (Paul ‘Polo’ Loman), G. Thomas Dunlop (Timmy Weldon), David Elliott (Larry Vaughn Jr.), Marc Gilpin (Sean Brody), Keith Gordon (Doug Fetterman), Cindy Grover (Lucy), Ben Marley (Patrick), Martha Swatek (Marge), Billy Van Zandt (Bob) and Gigi Vorgan (Brooke Peters).

Jerry Lewis, Tommy Farrell, and Dean Martin star in AT WAR WITH THE ARMY, directed by Hal Walker for Paramount Pictures.

At War with the Army (1950, Hal Walker)

I wonder what At War with the Army would be like if it were funny. I also wonder what it would be like if director Walker could figure out how to open up a scene. Sure, the whole thing is shot on limited exteriors and then the same interiors–it takes place on an army base–but Walker just goes through the same shots over and over again. Worse, there are musical numbers and Walker is even more inept at their staging. The first one, in the mess hall, is a no brainer but Walker flops with it.

Paul Weatherwax's editing is solid and it hints at how the scene could have been a whole lot better.

The script is the next problem. Even though the script is from the film's producer, Fred F. Finklehoffe, it plays like he doesn't understand the difference between a movie and a stage play. The long scenes, full of repeated character gags and annoying contrivances, drag. It's curious to see fast-talking Mike Kellin and Jerry Lewis plow through their lengthy dialogue deliveries to fill time.

The script sets up Lewis, Dean Martin and Tommy Farrell as the most likable characters in the film, but mostly because no one else is at all endearing. With Lewis, there's the oddity of him being sympathetic because lead Martin is gently nasty to him. But it's not enough to make Army worthwhile.

As for Martin, he delivers the lousy dialogue really well. Again, not enough to make the movie worthwhile.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hal Walker; screenplay by Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the play by James B. Allardice; director of photography, Stuart Thompson; edited by Paul Weatherwax; produced by Finklehoffe; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Dean Martin (1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli), Jerry Lewis (Pfc. Alvin Korwin), Mike Kellin (Sgt. McVey), Jimmie Dundee (Eddie), Dick Stabile (Pvt. Pokey), Tommy Farrell (Cpl. Clark), Frank Hyers (Cpl. Shaughnessy), Danny Dayton (Supply Sgt. Miller), William Mendrek (Capt. Ernest Caldwell), Kenneth Forbes (Lt. Davenport), Paul Livermore (Pvt. Jack Edwards), Ty Perry (Lt. Terray) and Polly Bergen (Helen Palmer).

Clint Eastwood stars in FIREFOX, directed by Eastwood for Warner Bros.

Firefox (1982, Clint Eastwood)

Firefox has three distinct phases. First, there's retired Air Force pilot Clint Eastwood getting recruited into an espionage mission. This part of the film barely takes any time at all–there's three missing months–Eastwood, as the director, does not like montage sequences. Even the opening exposition setting up the movie is cut together quickly; Ron Spang and Ferris Webster's editing is fantastic throughout. The opening sequence just introduces them as an essential component to the film.

The second phase is the espionage phase. Eastwood heads to Russia, where he meets up with dissident Warren Clarke who's going to help him. This part of the film is the most impressive. It's constant action as Eastwood is on the run from the KGB; the script's a little strange–it never lets Eastwood be in control during this section. He's always a few steps behind. Clarke's great.

The final phase is the extended fighter jet sequence. Most of the film before this sequence–except the opening–is either inside or takes place at night. The flight sequences are effects galore and Bruce Surtees shows off how startling he can make some of the shots. It's not a particularly exciting sequence; it takes over thirty minutes. It's practically its own movie, only it eventually forgets about Klaus Löwitsch as the general tasked with tracking Eastwood down while Stefan Schnabel's bureaucrat harasses him.

It's a missed opportunity, narratively speaking, but some glorious filmmaking.

Actually, that description sums up Firefox overall. The espionage stuff is strong, but the flying's gorgeous.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood; screenplay by Alex Lasker and Wendell Wellman, based on the novel by Craig Thomas; director of photography, Bruce Surtees; edited by Ron Spang and Ferris Webster; music by Maurice Jarre; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Clint Eastwood (Mitchell Gant), Freddie Jones (Kenneth Aubrey), David Huffman (Captain Buckholz), Warren Clarke (Pavel Upenskoy), Ronald Lacey (Semelovsky), Kenneth Colley (Colonel Kontarsky), Klaus Löwitsch (General Vladimirov), Nigel Hawthorne (Pyotr Baranovich) and Stefan Schnabel (First Secretary).

Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon star in DEVIL'S KNOT, directed by Atom Egoyan for Image Entertainment.

Devil's Knot (2013, Atom Egoyan)

There are plenty of things one simply cannot do in two hours; if Devil's Knot is any indication, one cannot try to tell the story of the trial of the West Memphis Three in two hours. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson's script seems to do quite a bit well–for the first third of the film, the horrific nature of the crimes has the film sympathizing with the police officers (Robert Baker in particular), only to later reveal incompetence and corruption on these characters' parts.

Then, once the script's obviously manipulative nature becomes clear, it's hard to take Knot seriously. The deception makes little sense, since the film's written for people familiar with the case (as there's no explanation why Damien Echols isn't executed at the end).

As for second-billed Reese Witherspoon, who plays a grieving mother looking for the truth, her arc's incompetently handled. At least Colin Firth doesn't have an arc or character development. It may very well be historically accurate, but it's far from dramatic.

There are some excellent performances. Kevin Durand and Alessandro Nivola are both good as suspicious fathers. Amy Ryan has a nice scene. Firth isn't bad. Witherspoon eventually gets a little better–but it's too little too late. Much of the supporting cast and some of the principals are weak. Especially James Hamrick as Echols.

Mychael Danna's score is manipulative and derivative. Director Egoyan does an insincere job. It's tepid, vaguely incompetent and Oscar-desperate.

Its compelling nature has nothing to do with the filmmaking.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Atom Egoyan; screenplay by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, based on the book by Mara Leveritt; director of photography, Paul Sarossy; edited by Susan Shipton; music by Mychael Danna; production designer, Phillip Barker; produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Richard Saperstein, Clark Peterson, Christopher Woodrow and Boardman; released by Image Entertainment.

Starring Colin Firth (Ron Lax), Reese Witherspoon (Pam Hobbs), Dane DeHaan (Chris Morgan), Mireille Enos (Vicki Hutcheson), Bruce Greenwood (Judge David Burnett), Elias Koteas (Jerry Driver), Stephen Moyer (John Fogleman), Alessandro Nivola (Terry Hobbs), Amy Ryan (Margaret Lax), Robert Baker (Det. Bryn Ridge), Kevin Durand (John Mark Byers), Michael Gladis (Dan Stidham), James Hamrick (Damien Echols), Martin Henderson (Brent Davis), Kristopher Higgins (Jessie Misskelley Jr.), Brian Howe (Detective McDonough), Matt Letscher (Paul Ford), Seth Meriwether (Jason Baldwin), Rex Linn (Inspector Gary Gitchell), Kristoffer Polaha (Val Price) and Collette Wolfe (Glori Shettles).

A shot from DIRTY OLD NEW YORK AKA FUN CITY, PART I, edited by Jonathan Hertzberg.

Dirty Old New York aka Fun City, Part I (2013, Jonathan Hertzberg)

Dirty Old New York is a multi-part series–presumably always intended by editor Jonathan Hertzberg to be a multi-part series. The project has Hertzberg cutting together clips of seventies and early eighties New York City.

Hertzberg creates a narrative, sometimes just between two or three clips and those times usually for humor (he succeeds with those). He does not succeed when trying too hard with the narrative editing–there's one lengthy phone sequence in this installment and, even after the constant phone shots is getting tiresome, Hertzberg edits conversations together.

There are two more technical issues and both seem to be technology related. Hertzberg pauses shots before they fade to other shots or fade out; it's understandable (to avoid the fade) but it's too jarring. And the footage he's using has varying aspect ratios–he doesn't unify them. It too is jarring.

Dirty is fun, but Hertzberg never manages to make it sublime.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Edited by Jonathan Hertzberg.

Penelope Ann Miller and John Heard star in RING AROUND THE REDHEAD, an episode of "Tales from the Darkside" directed by Theodore Gershuny for Tribune Broadcasting.

Ring Around the Redhead (1985, Theodore Gershuny)

Television is a visual medium but budgetary constraints sometimes lead to a lack of visualizations. I assume Ring Around the Redhead, an episode of "Tales from the Darkside," had some serious budgetary constraints. The entire episode has two and a half sets–one is inventor John Heard's basement, the other is the prison where he waits on death row.

The episode has two big problems; both are director Gershuny's fault. First, his direction is pedestrian at best. Sure, he's got a small budget, but he's not inventive either. Second, he adapted the script from a forties short story. Heard's inventor–not to mention Caris Corfman's reporter–make no sense in a modern context.

Heard's earnest and tries his best. Penelope Ann Miller's appealing as the otherworldly creature he literally pulls from his floor–Ring obviously has some major problems needing ingenuity to visualize. And Gershuny doesn't have any to offer.

At least it's short.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Theodore Gershuny; teleplay by Gershuny, based on a story by John D. MacDonald; “Tales from the Darkside” created by George A. Romero; director of photography, Jon Fauer; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; music by Michael Gibbs; produced by William Teitler; released by Tribune Broadcasting.

Starring John Heard (Billy Malone), Penelope Ann Miller (Keena), Caris Corfman (Adele) and Greg Thornton (Jimbo).

Anne Parillaud stars in INNOCENT BLOOD, directed by John Landis for Warner Bros.

Innocent Blood (1992, John Landis)

At some point during Innocent Blood–I think it was the lengthy sequence with recently resurrected Robert Loggia wrecking havoc at attorney Don Rickles's house–I realized it was hilarious. The movie moves so fast, director Landis never lets up long enough for a laugh. There's one other really good pause spot a few minutes earlier involving Loggia escaping the morgue, but for the most part, too much is going on.

There are multiple achievements to the film. Michael Wolk's script is a strange mix of serious vampire film (undead and lonely Anne Parillaud is frequently shown to loathe her life), police versus Mafia drama (Loggia's a terrifying mob boss), tender romance (between Parillaud and undercover cop Anthony LaPaglia) and spoof of the first two. Landis never spoofs the romance. The great Ira Newborn score aids in transitioning between the genres.

Landis directs the film perfectly; he has these little stylistic devices to control the viewer's experience of scenes. The script's really big–Wolk structures it like a thirties slapstick comedy, with Parillaud and LaPaglia always racing around while the fantastic supporting cast moves things along in their absence.

Parillaud and LaPaglia have the most difficult roles. Parillaud gets to narrate some of the film, but all the depth to the character is subtly addressed. Wolk's script decidedly does not give her easy monologues to define herself. And LaPaglia has to establish himself over a long period of the film. It's three-quarters through before he's done.

Innocent Blood is a phenomenal motion picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Landis; written by Michael Wolk; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by Dale Beldin; music by Iran Newborn; production designer, Richard Sawyer; produced by Lee Rich and Leslie Belzberg; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Anne Parillaud (Marie), Robert Loggia (Sal “The Shark” Macelli), Anthony LaPaglia (Joe Gennaro), David Proval (Lenny), Chazz Palminteri (Tony), Luis Guzmán (Morales), Elaine Kagan (Frannie Bergman), Rocco Sisto (Gilly), Leo Burmester (Dave Flinton), Kim Coates (Ray), Tony Lip (Frank), Angela Bassett (U.S. Attorney Sinclair), Frank Oz (Pathologist), Tony Sirico (Jacko), Marshall Bell (Marsh) and Don Rickles (Emmanuel Bergman).

a superior film blog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 386 other followers