Tag Archives: Angelina Jolie

Hackers (1995, Iain Softley)

While Hackers is a terrible film, it does afford one the opportunity to see Jonny Lee Miller attempt to essay his lead role as a Ferris Bueller-type thing, only to instead do a strange rendition of Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty. It’s not worth seeing for this performance, not at all, but if you’re ever stuck watching the film, it is something to look out for.

The film’s so patently inept, it’s hard to find anything worth remarking on. Bad production design, bad photography, lame music, truly awful writing from Rafael Moreu. I mean, the script is something to behold. Again, not worth watching for it because director Softley really takes his job seriously and he’s really bad at it so Hackers isn’t even fun camp. It really ought to be, but it isn’t.

Camp might excuse the costume design or the performances.

There are a number of good actors or actors who have given good or excellent performances cashing a check in Hackers. None of them give a good or acceptable performance in this film–though I suppose Alberta Watson comes the closest–but I’m not sure it’s worth picking on anyone in particular. Though I finally understand how people can find Matthew Lillard annoying, because when he does the obnoxious schtick dressed like a cyberpunk scarecrow in terrible lighting, spouting atrocious dialogue, it is annoying. It’s a bad performance of that schtick, utterly lacking in any integrity.

Jesse Bradford, on the other hand, has plenty of integrity. He tries really hard with his part of the square white teen hanging out with all the early-to-mid twenties actors pretending to be teens. He’s always smoking a cigarette and he looks like a real, pack-a-day smoker. He clearly worked on it. It doesn’t fit the character at all and Softley doesn’t know how to glorify smoking,w hich, really, means you shouldn’t be allowed to make a film. At least not one set in the United States or France or even the UK–it’s important to know how to glorify smoking. It’s a very important part of cinema.

I feel worst for Renoly Santiago, who isn’t good but does do his job; Hackers abandons him. After being the third most prevalent character for the first act and a half, he vanishes. It’s idiotic.

Really dumb montages and “inside the computer world” sequences. Hackers is desperate to be cool. It’s desperate to be trendy, it’s desperate to be hip. And it’s not. It’s awful. It’s chilly. And chilly ain’t never been cool.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Iain Softley; written by Rafael Moreu; director of photography, Andrzej Sekula; edited by Chris Blunden and Martin Walsh; music by Simon Boswell and Guy Pratt; production designer, John Beard; produced by Michael Peyser and Ralph Winter; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller (Dade), Angelina Jolie (Kate), Jesse Bradford (Joey), Matthew Lillard (Cereal), Laurence Mason (Nikon), Renoly Santiago (Phreak), Fisher Stevens (Eugene), Lorraine Bracco (Margo), Alberta Watson (Mrs. Murphy) and Wendell Pierce (Agent Dick Gill).


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Changeling (2008, Clint Eastwood)

During the lousiest parts of Changeling–easily identifiable by Jeffrey Donovan’s increased presence–there should be a disclaimer running across the bottom of the screen: “It doesn’t stay this bad… promise.”

Changeling is the worst film Clint Eastwood’s made in years. It’s easily the worst of his serious films–afterwards, I realized his last film before this one was Letters from Iwo Jima, which is stunning. One film’s an artistic expression, the other is the most over-produced Oscar bait I’ve sat through in a long time.

Eastwood’s never been a director-for-hire, but maybe Changeling signals some kind of a change. There’s absolutely no personality to this film. Eastwood’s direction, his composition, is impeccable. His musical score, fantastic. It looks great. But it’s empty. True stories aren’t good because they’re true–and true stories meant to win Angelina Jolie her coveted Best Actress statuette–vehicles for highly paid actresses who don’t necessarily bring in the box office dollars… they’re the worst kind of true stories.

Eastwood does find material in Changeling he’s interested in, but none of it features Jolie. Once he gets done with the fetishistic approach to daily life in 1928, he’s done with her. There are occasional moments of interest, like when John Malkovich shows up, but there are also terrible stretches. The film’s interesting moments are the discovery of a crime, when Michael Kelly’s the protagonist. Kelly’s great in the film, one of the best performances, and he gets the entirely un-Academy part of enabling the discovery of truth. The Oscar desperate moments feature–really–Amy Ryan as a hooker with a heart of gold who gets ECT just to show off her twenty-four karats.

I don’t fault Ryan for taking the role–I’m sure it came with assurances of a Best Supporting campaign and all–but Clint Eastwood making a film so desperate to win Oscars it brings in a ringer? It’s painful to watch.

Jolie’s fine in the lead. She’s never great and never terrible. Her despair is believable (because it’s Angelina Jolie and we know she’s a mother), which is about all the role calls for. The most interesting parts of her character–going back to work while her son is missing, digging a little on her bald boss–are never explored. They wouldn’t look good in that Best Actress reel.

Malkovich is utterly solid in a role with nothing for him to do. It’s technically the second biggest role and I guess they needed another name for the poster. Jason Butler Harner and Eddie Alderson are both great, so is Geoffrey Pierson.

When I heard about Changeling, I thought the biggest problem would be J. Michael Straczynski’s script and I was right. The dialogue’s fine–never particularly good–and the plotting is okay. It’s boring, but okay. But Straczynski’s approach to characters might actually be Changeling‘s place in cinematic history (in addition to being a blot on Eastwood’s filmography). Straczynski’s characters are entirely one-note–every last one of them–and it exemplifies the difference between one-dimensional bad guys and one-dimensional good guys. The bad guys are unbelievable. The good guys… it’s sort of assumed they’re not always being white knights. But the bad guys? Donovan’s performance is atrocious–it’s one of the worst I can remember seeing in a film from such a good director–but his character is idiotic too. The guy’s always bad. Compared to Donovan’s cop, Milton treated the serpent like Mickey Mouse. It makes the film excruciating for long stretches.

I can’t figure out why Clint Eastwood would have made this movie. Sure, he got a bigger budget than usual and an interesting setting, but it’s crap. It’s well-made crap, but I felt embarrassed watching it. Worse, I felt bad for Eastwood… Changeling is the kind of malarky Ron Howard makes now, not Clint Eastwood.

And look who produced it.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by J. Michael Straczynski; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach; music by Eastwood; production designer, James J. Murakami; produced by Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Robert Lorenz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Angelina Jolie (Christine Collins), John Malkovich (Reverand Briegleb), Jeffrey Donovan (Captain J.J. Jones), Michael Kelly (Detective Ybarra), Colm Feore (Chief Davis), Jason Butler Harner (Gordon Stewart Northcott), Amy Ryan (Carol Dexter), Geoff Pierson (Hahn), Denis O’Hare (Dr. Steele), Frank Wood (Ben Harris), Peter Gerety (Dr. Tarr), Gattlin Griffith (Walter Collins) and Devon Conti (Arthur Hutchins).


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Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000, Dominic Sena), the director’s cut

I just watched the recent–let’s see what they’re calling it–director’s cut. A director’s cut without director’s audio commentary. It features nine extra minutes, the most noticeable being a few shots where you see tit. Before DVDs, directors’ cuts meant something (even if they weren’t exactly the director’s cut). Blade Runner and Touch of Evil meant something. Maybe not so much with Touch of Evil, actually. The recent directors’ cuts or extended versions often mean very little. They change the route over the topography, without changing the starting or ending point.

From this particular director, before Gone in Sixty Seconds, I wasn’t expecting much of anything. He made Kalifornia–which is great–then disappeared. After Sixty Seconds, he made Swordfish (a Bruckheimer knock-off, who knew such a thing could exist) and then… disappeared. He’s not a young turk either, he was 51 when he made Gone in Sixty Seconds, which makes sense more for Kalifornia (it had a sure, adult feel to it). Still, I thought this director’s cut might mean something….

Gone in Sixty Seconds has a number of great ingredients. It has a story rife with human conflict–responsible brother saves numb-skulled brother–in addition to the best-ever Bruckheimer cast: Delroy Lindo, Will Patton, Robert Duvall, Vinnie Jones, Chi McBride, Frances Fisher. Giovanni Ribisi is fantastic, back when he got work. Cage holds it all together in one of his “big movie star” roles, never counting the paycheck in his head, as visible in his other Bruckheimer collaborations (The Rock and Con Air). Angelina Jolie is mediocre more often than bad (though I didn’t realize her lips were so big in this one, so I guess the image is punk rock collagen) and the less said about Christopher Ecceleston the better. And for most of the movie, it works.

And I’m not even talking about the multiple false endings. The film, from the opening credits, establishes itself as a family drama. Sure, a big budget, Bruckheimer family drama, but one none the less. Then, all of a sudden, the family drama disappears. If it was replaced by the set pieces, the car thefts and such, I’d understand. But it isn’t. It isn’t even replaced by the Jolie/Cage romance subplot (which doesn’t work–she looks like his kid). It just disappears. Luckily, the film falls back on Delroy Lindo to hold up the rest of it and he does. Except when it relies on Will Patton and Robert Duvall, who are also very good people to depend on.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Dominic Sena; screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, based on the film by H.B. Halicki; director of photography, Paul Cameron; edited by Tom Muldoon and Chris Lebenzon; music by Trevor Rabin; production designer, Jeff Mann; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Stenson; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Nicolas Cage (Memphis Raines), Giovanni Ribisi (Kip Raines), Angelina Jolie (Sara Wayland), T.J. Cross (Mirror Man), William Lee Scott (Toby), Scott Caan (Tumbler), James Duval (Freb), Will Patton (Atley Jackson), Delroy Lindo (Detective Roland Castlebeck), Robert Duvall (Otto Halliwell), Christopher Eccleston (Raymond Calitri), Chi McBride (Donny Astricky), Timothy Olyphant (Detective Drycoff), Grace Zabriskie (Helen Raines) and Master P (Johnny B.).


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