Tag Archives: Justin Theroux

Tom Cruise loves rock and roll in ROCK OF AGES, directed by Adam Shankman for Warner Bros.

Rock of Ages (2012, Adam Shankman)

Rock of Ages is middling. With a better script and better lead actors, it would likely be much improved. Female lead Julianne Hough gives an okay performance, but her singing leaves a lot to be desired. Male lead Diego Boneta can sing, he just can’t act. Their romance, the ostensible central story of Ages, is annoying.

The film’s salient feature is Tom Cruise. Playing a has-been rock star who finds a little redemption, Cruise is fantastic. He finds the humor of the persona, but also the humanity behind it. Once he shows up, Ages becomes about waiting for him to show up again.

The film also tracks the story of club owner Alec Baldwin and his Friday, Russell Brand. The script writes them a bunch of bad jokes, but they still succeed. They’re clearly having a lot of fun.

Also having fun is Catherine Zeta-Jones as the mayor’s wife, out to shut Baldwin down. She does a great job; even though her character’s intentionally unlikable (Ages probably won’t play well in Oklahoma, for instance), she’s a delight.

As Cruise’s agent, Paul Giamatti is good, but he’s not trying very hard. He lets his fake ponytail do the heavy lifting. Malin Akerman manages to be lifeless, but not bad. The only other bad performance is Mary J. Blige; her singing’s great though.

Director Shankman does all right. Emma E. Hickox’s editing is lousy, which doesn’t help things.

Ages is often a lot of fun. The great Cruise performance helps.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Adam Shankman; screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb, based on the musical book by D’Arienzo; director of photography, Bojan Bazelli; edited by Emma E. Hickox; music by Adam Anders and Peer Åström; production designer, Jon Hutman; produced by Jennifer Gibgot, Garrett Grant, Carl Levin, Tobey Maguire, Scott Prisand, Shankman and Matt Weaver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Julianne Hough (Sherrie Christian), Diego Boneta (Drew Boley), Russell Brand (Lonny), Alec Baldwin (Dennis Dupree), Paul Giamatti (Paul Gill), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia Whitmore), Bryan Cranston (Mike Whitmore), Malin Akerman (Constance Sack), Mary J. Blige (Justice Charlier) and Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx).

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Iron Man 2 (2010, Jon Favreau)

Even with its problems, Iron Man 2 is leagues better than the original.

There’s some awkward plotting to catch the viewer up with the characters and it all makes for a wonderfully boring superhero movie.

That open’s a showcase for Downey’s acting abilities, given he’s on a slow burn as everything around him explodes–for the first half, there’s not much Iron Man, but lots of villain stuff with Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell, plus the introduction of Scarlett Johansson and “return” of Don Cheadle.

And when it does finally catch fire–even with the more ludicrous plot elements–it’s fantastic. It’s a shame it ends when it does, since it introduces so much great material for the actors to work with.

As far as actors… Downey’s great, Rourke’s great… Rockwell’s a little toned down–he’s been a lot more dynamic in other stuff–and, finally, someone realized Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow do a great Nick and Nora together and let them.

Unfortunately, there are other actors. Cheadle’s okay. It’s never believable he and Downey are friends though (it wasn’t in the first one with Terrence Howard, so no biggie). Johansson’s infinitely bland, which is better than her normal awful (regardless of her acting, her fight scene has some great choreography). Samuel L. Jackson is a joke, one the filmmakers don’t seem to be in on.

It’s a lot of fun and it’s got some actual content, which really surprised me.

It’s a shame about John Debney’s laughable score though.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jon Favreau; screenplay by Justin Theroux, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Matthew Libatique; edited by Richard Pearson and Dan Lebental; music by John Debney; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko), Don Cheadle (Rhodey), Scarlett Johansson (Natalie), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Garry Shandling (Senator Stern), Jon Favreau (Happy) and John Slattery (Howard Stark).

Tropic Thunder (2008, Ben Stiller)

Tropic Thunder is one of those nice movies where most of the cast is phenomenal–here, while Nick Nolte and Steve Coogan are less than amazing, they’re both good. Only Ben Stiller lacks. The script’s full of good one-liners and some knowing Hollywood references. When, for the third act, there’s an attempt at honest characterization, it stumbles. Instead of amping up the absurdity, the movie strangely sidesteps it. The last couple scenes totally ignore that sidestep, going for an ending one half Soapdish, the other Austin Powers. It’s a weak move, but it’s hard to get too upset–the Austin Powers half is Tom Cruise in a fat suit and a bald cap dancing to hip hop.

Cruise’s performance, which I thought was more a cameo, says a lot about where Tropic Thunder works well. It gives the opportunity for good actors to essay crazy roles in the “real” world. There is a certain air of unreality about the movie, if only because it’s a movie made about “Access Hollywood” type reporting using “Access Hollywood” as a narrative tool. There’s a certain conflict of interest, particularly given Cruise’s presence.

Of the three leads–and calling Jack Black one of the leads is a courtesy, Black’s absolutely fantastic, but he’s not one of the leads–Black is the only one without a recognizable real life analog. Even though Robert Downey Jr. picked his character’s nationality (Australian)–a change from the original Irish–the result, a multi-Academy Award winner who does Oscar bait, results in rather obvious Russell Crowe comparisons. Stiller’s playing a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise. Imagine Cruise’s career downturn but without the prestige projects and a lot of dumb, Arnold-sounding action movies. It makes Cruise’s appearance all the more amusing, but it feels–like the “Access Hollywood”–not like punches are being pulled… but they aren’t connecting.

The result is a measured success. Tropic Thunder is really funny, but never genuinely witty or intelligent. There’s a pretense it is witty and intelligent, which just makes it a little sad. Thank goodness for that Tom Cruise dance number.

As far as the acting goes… Downey is–technically–the most amazing. Until he has to play it straight, it’s just fantastic. But Jay Baruchel and Brandon T. Jackson, as the non-superstar supporting cast members in the movie’s movie, steal it in terms of actual human performances. These characters exist to remind the viewer the main characters are unbelievably loopy, which really cuts into the reality factor. Baruchel has more to do in the plot, more people to interact with (Jackson basically gets scenes–good scenes–with Downey).

In much too small roles, both Danny R. McBride and Matthew McConaughey are good.

Stiller’s direction is nearly as passive as his performance. There’s some funny references to war movies–Baruchel starts the picture in glasses in what I’m hoping is a silent Full Metal Jacket reference–but in terms of actual craft, Stiller comes up empty. The movie’s strength are in the script’s dialogue and its characters (certainly not its plot) and the actors. And Stiller seems aware of it.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ben Stiller; screenplay by Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen, based on a story by Stiller and Theroux; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Greg Hayden; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Jeff Mann; produced by Stuart Cornfeld, Eric McLeod and Stiller; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Ben Stiller (Tugg Speedman), Jack Black (Jeff Portnoy), Robert Downey Jr. (Kirk Lazarus), Brandon T. Jackson (Alpa Chino), Jay Baruchel (Kevin Sandusky), Danny McBride (Cody), Steve Coogan (Damien Cockburn), Bill Hader (Rob Slolom), Nick Nolte (Four Leaf Tayback), Brandon Soo Hoo (Tran), Reggie Lee (Byong) with Matthew McConaughey (Rick Peck) and Tom Cruise (Les Grossman).


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Jamie Foxx is Tubbs, Colin Farrell is Crockett in MIAMI VICE, directed by Michael Mann for Universal Pictures.

Miami Vice (2006, Michael Mann), the director’s cut

Michael Mann’s director’s cuts are sometimes large and sometimes small. They usually include music changes. In the case of Miami Vice, he adds an opening, changes some music and does a few little things. It’s too bad, because even though it having an opening works out nice, neither of these major choices seem to be good ones. The opening introduces the cops’ speedboat racing team. They later use the same boat while undercover. It’s got their team name on the side. The change of music at the end starts out all right, but leaves the big shootout with some terrible scoring after the song runs out.

Watching Miami Vice on HD-DVD, it almost looks worse than it did in the theater. The DV makes it look like a sitcom. This viewing made it crystal clear what the big deal is about Mann using the DV. The actors have to work two or three times harder–only Colin Farrell manages it with any dignity–while Mann gets to cop out and do whatever he wants with the DV. There are some cool sequences in Miami Vice, but they never look good in high-def. They look like CG or the new “Grand Theft Auto.” The only time it ever looks good is the night shooting, when the sky is visible and the DV actually can photograph the differing colors well. I’ve seen DV well-lighted–from art school students no less–and it is not well-lighted in Miami Vice. Dion Beebe is an exceptionally unimpressive cinematographer.

The real problem is Mann’s script. He makes everyone in the movie, when he’s not borrowing his Manhunter lines, talk like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro do in Heat. Farrell can manage, so can Jamie Foxx to some degree (it’s sort of amazing how little Mann gives Jamie Foxx to do in the film), but when Naomie Harris starts doing it? It’s silly. There’s lots of bad acting in Miami Vice too. Barry Shabaka Henley stumbles through Mann’s dialogue, while Li Gong tries but just doesn’t work. It’s not believable her character wouldn’t speak English better.

John Ortiz’s evil villain starts out okay, but Mann reduces him to comic book status later on and it’s just bad.

I don’t know if I was expecting the director’s cut to help much–there’s still absolutely no partnership between Foxx and Farrell in the film–but I was expecting hi-def to make it look better.

I also don’t know how I feel about Mann always screwing up the music in his revisions. He kills the momentum at the end of Miami Vice and doesn’t even bother saving it from a jarring cut between the final shot and the credits.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Mann; screenplay by Mann, based on the television series created by Anthony Yerkovich; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell; music by John Murphy; production designer, Victor Kempster; produced by Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Colin Farrell (Sonny Crockett), Jamie Foxx (Ricardo Tubbs), Li Gong (Isabella), Naomie Harris (Trudy Joplin), Ciaran Hinds (Agent Fujima), Justin Theroux (Zito), Barry Shabaka Henley (Lt. Castillo), Luis Tosar (Montoya), John Ortiz (José Yero) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Gina).


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Mandy Moore and Billy Crudup star in DEDICATION, directed by Justin Theroux for The Weinstein Company.

Dedication (2007, Justin Theroux)

Is it possible to use The Doors’ “The End” without it recalling Apocalypse Now? Even if it’s just the opening snippet.

No, it’s not. Especially not when you do it twice like Theroux does in Dedication.

But Theroux harkening back to great films (or, hey, if he even harkened back to a mediocre one) would be such a vast improvement over what he does, which is hard to describe. It’s kind of like an insincere rip-off of Darren Aronofsky (Theroux doesn’t fully commit to the high contrast shots or the jump cuts, only using them for transitions), with a terrible script and a lot better actors than the film deserves. Tom Wilkinson is, admittedly, hacking it out here, but he’s very good at hacking it out. Bob Balaban, essentially playing an R-rated version of his “Seinfeld” character, is fine.

As for Mandy Moore, she’s one of the worst actresses I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing perform. She’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen in a film given a theatrical release (since the advent of direct-to-video). Indescribable.

And Billy Crudup, long the best actor not working? Well, that title’s certainly no longer applicable. It’s not so much his fault–it’s the awful script. Crudup’s character is probably an undiagnosed, certainly unmedicated schizophrenic who the viewer is supposed to find hilarious at some times and tragic at others–when all the guy really needs is some therapy and a lot of meds.

Theroux has obviously watched a bunch of movies preparing for his directorial debut but he must have watched bad ones (obviously, given the Aronofsky references). His framing is all slightly off, which I think is supposed to make Dedication look “cool,” but instead it looks incompetent.

I’d been looking forward to Dedication–Crudup in a lead, the story kind of sounded like George Sanders in Rebecca, only modernized–but it’s utter crap. Oddly though, given how bad Crudup’s movies of the last six or seven years have been… seeing him in such an excremental waste of time is unsurprising.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Theroux; written by David Bromberg; director of photography, Stephen Kazmierski; edited by Andy Keir; music by Ed Shearmur; production designer, Teresa Mastropierro; produced by Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Galt Niederhoffer; released by the Weinstein Company.

Starring Billy Crudup (Henry Roth), Mandy Moore (Lucy Riley), Tom Wilkinson (Rudy Holt), Martin Freeman (Jeremy), Bob Balaban (Mr. Planck), Dianne Wiest (Carol), Christine Taylor (Allison), Amy Sedaris (Sue) and Bobby Cannavale (Don).

Colin Farrell is Crockett, Jamie Foxx is Tubbs in MIAMI VICE, directed by Michael Mann for Universal Pictures.

Miami Vice (2006, Michael Mann)

DV Michael Mann–because there is a difference between Michael Mann on film and Michael Mann on DV–doesn’t bother giving Miami Vice a first act. I suppose he intends the absence to be some sort of cinema verite thing, but it doesn’t work, it just gives the audience no characters to identify with. Lethal Weapon 2 did the same thing, except it was a sequel. So, maybe Mann intended the audience to just assume Miami Vice the movie follows up “Miami Vice” the TV show, but I doubt it. Some of the film’s problems stem from this lack. Colin Farrell flounders through the first half hour (or hour, time stands still during Miami Vice) because his character is never defined. Mann even gives him a character arc, only leaving off the front part of it. A houseboat and a pet alligator might have been useful. Poor Jamie Foxx, despite being top-billed, is barely in the movie. He dominates the beginning, the pre-Farrell story parts, when Miami Vice seems like Mann’s greatest stylistic misfire. The film barely ever feels like Michael Mann, but once Farrell’s story takes over, it gets closest to it. Even the awesome gunfight at the end is lacking any of the depth Mann usually brings to a film. The difference in Miami Vice is the bad guys. Heat had one, maybe two, bad guys, everyone else was gray. Miami Vice has seven good guys and thirty bad guys–and the bad guys are real bad (which makes the end a lot of fun, but not really dramatically solid).

Rating Mann’s use of DV is difficult. At the end, he seems to be going for ultra-realism (which, I imagine, is why the supporting cast is made up of low profile actors, no one famous), but during the film, he doesn’t embrace it. Miami Vice occasionally looks like a documentary, but never plays like one. The quality of the DV shots change from time to time, especially at night, or in contrast-heavy lighting. Maybe Mann needs to shoot in studios and do CG backdrops, something besides the DV, which simply does not look good.

I hoped Miami Vice would be a soulless, blockbuster version of Heat but Mann had different ideas. There’s some evidence he had more story for Jamie Foxx, maybe an examination of his relationship with fellow officer girlfriend Naomie Harris (who’s good). It’s also possible I’m just making excuses for Mann, because he didn’t even see the need to make Farrell and Foxx convincing partners. He still casts right (Li Gong impressed me, even with the pigeon English) and Colin Farrell can actually smile with his eyes, which is a neat trick. I went from–at the beginning–thinking Mann had finally lost it. By the end, I decided he still had something left, just not a lot. He probably should stop writing, but he definitely needs to drop the DV.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Mann; screenplay by Mann, based on the television series created by Anthony Yerkovich; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell; music by John Murphy; production designer, Victor Kempster; produced by Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jamie Foxx (Ricardo Tubbs), Colin Farrell (Sonny Crockett), Li Gong (Isabella), Naomie Harris (Trudy Joplin), Ciaran Hinds (Agent Fujima), Justin Theroux (Zito), Barry Shabaka Henley (Lt. Castillo), Luis Tosar (Montoya), John Ortiz (José Yero) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Gina).


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Directed by Michael Mann: