Tag Archives: Brian Cox

Anna (2013, Jorge Dorado)

Anna is an exceptionally stupid movie. Apparently, no one involved with the film has seen films like Inception or The Sixth Sense because Anna apes big reveals from both of them rather obviously. It’s not a matter of guessing the twist ending, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing instead of guessing the twist ending.

One possibility for the filmmakers going with the incompetency of Guy Holmes’s script is Mark Strong. As the lead, Strong seems compassionate and authoritative, but it turns out he’s a moron too. Some of the problem might be how poorly the film establishes its reality, where mind detectives consult and go into people’s memories for supplemental evidence in court cases. But these mind trips have no bearing in court… like I said, it’s a dumb movie.

But it’s really well-acted from the leads. Strong’s character is doing his job for the money so maybe Strong was just doing the role for the money. He’s excellent, Taissa Farmiga is fantastic as the titular Anna. They’re both able to transcend the script. Because besides having an unimaginative approach to setting, it’s a good looking film. Dorado’s decent with composition and Óscar Faura’s cinematography is breathtaking.

The supporting cast–who are all suspects–don’t do as well as the leads. Brian Cox cashes a paycheck, Saskia Reeves looks lost, Richard Dillane isn’t bad. Indira Varma’s not good, however; a combination of mediocre accent and terrible writing.

Anna isn’t entirely worthless, just extremely close.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jorge Dorado; screenplay by Guy Holmes, based on a story by Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes; director of photography, Óscar Faura; edited by Jaime Valdueza; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Alain Bainée; produced by Jaume Collet-Serra, Peter Safran, Juan Sola and Mercedes Gamero; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Mark Strong (John Washington), Taissa Farmiga (Anna Greene), Saskia Reeves (Michelle Greene), Richard Dillane (Robert Greene), Indira Varma (Judith), Noah Taylor (Peter Lundgren), Alberto Ammann (Tom Ortega) and Brian Cox (Sebastian).


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Red 2 (2013, Dean Parisot)

Red 2 is a lot of fun. It’s so much fun, in fact, most of its problems are never obvious during the actual film, only on later reflection.

The film opens quickly–Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker going shopping seems to be very fast, but turns out to be one of the slowest sections of the movie–and never stops. Towards the finish, the film hits a lot of unexpected twists and every pause eventually becomes suspect. Director Parisot and writers Jon and Erich Hoeber are stunningly confident in the film, its script and primarily its cast.

Red 2 wouldn’t work without two components… its female actors, Helen Mirren and Parker. Even though the cast is respectable, Mirren makes the thing regal. And Parker brings humanity to the film, which often plays its sexagenarian ultra-violence for laughs. They’re the glue of the film.

Parisot and the Hoeber brothers actually trust the viewer quite a bit throughout. John Malkovich and Willis have a lot of friendship establishing scenes at the front, then less and less as the picture moves on. But the later scenes rely on the viewer’s recall.

Malkovich is utterly fantastic. His background ticks alone make the film worth seeing.

Willis’s role is easy and he’s good; he and Parker have a lovely chemistry.

Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta Jones are adequate as far as the cast additions; Lee Byung-hun is the strongest.

Red 2 has some not insignificant problems, but it’s a definite, assured success.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Dean Parisot; screenplay by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, based on characters created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner; director of photography, Enrique Chediak; edited by Don Zimmerman; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian; released by Summit Entertainment.

Starring Bruce Willis (Frank), John Malkovich (Marvin), Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah), Helen Mirren (Victoria), Anthony Hopkins (Bailey), Lee Byung-hun (Han Cho Bai), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Katja), Neal McDonough (Jack Horton), David Thewlis (The Frog), Garrick Hagon (Davis), Tim Pigott-Smith (Director Philips) and Brian Cox (Ivan).


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Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson)

The best moment in Rushmore, the one it all comes together, is at the end, when Jason Schwartzmann dedicates his play to his mother. There’s a brief cut to Seymour Cassel and his reaction. It’s a beautiful little moment and quieter than the subsequent (and also incredibly quiet) moment with Vietnam vet Bill Murray tearing after watching the play. There’s stuff going on in Rushmore and Anderson and Wilson aren’t going to explain it to us. They make us aware of it–there’s an early mention of Murray’s service and a good deal of material about Schwartzmann’s mother’s passing, but there’s never anything about Murray’s feelings about Vietnam or Cassel’s experience with his wife’s death. It’s a stunning little move, infinitely precise, which might be the best way to describe Rushmore.

The film runs ninety-three minutes. Anderson and Wilson’s narrative, so exactly told in scene, has a searching quality to it. It’s impossible to label the film–it’s not just a friendship story between Schwartzmann and Murray or a (albeit strange) romance between Schwartzmann and Olivia Williams or a romantic triangle between Schwartzmann, Williams and Murray. Rushmore is all of those things, in addition to being a father and son story, a friendship story (between Schwartzmann and sidekick Mason Gamble) and a romance between Schwartzmann and Sara Tanaka. I can’t even get into the relationship between Schwartzmann and Brian Cox. It’s all too intricate and complex. It’s a film where the way an actor walks into the frame changes a scene dramatically, so unraveling and codifying it is a lot more work than I want to do (and probably impossible without a lot of notes). It’s an exponential web.

The first time I saw Rushmore, it didn’t blow me away. Looking at it now, with the performances–there isn’t a single unimpressive performance–with Anderson and Wilson’s control of dialogue and scene, not to mention Anderson’s direction… it’s clear there was something wrong with me. The second time I saw it, I got it. But even getting it, I don’t think I really appreciated it the way one can appreciate the film now. Every line delivery is full of so much vibrance–the scenes with Schwartzmann and Williams, it’s hard to even listen, because watching Williams’s reactions to him is so great.

The film also asks a great deal of its audience. The viewer has to fill in, in an instant, what Schwartzmann’s been doing since dropping out of school–Anderson and Wilson put the the onus on the viewer to arrange all the details him or herself. Or when it has to be clear to the viewer Murray and Williams have broken up before Schwartzmann asks about it. Rushmore is not a passive experience.

As for Murray… Rushmore really is Murray’s finest performance, before he started chasing Oscars. He’s as present in scenes where people talk about him as he is in his actual scenes.

Schwartzmann runs the film. He has to carry the whole thing not just with his performance, but with his presence. Schwartzmann’s expression rarely changes, but the character development–and seeing how he’s reacting–is stunning.

Williams, Gamble, Cox, all are great, all have some fantastic scenes. The script asks a lot of the actors, because they have to sell things in short periods of time, brief moments, and everyone comes through perfectly. Williams’s performance might be the film’s best, even better than Murray’s, which seems kind of impossible but kind of not.

Rushmore is a magnificent film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Anderson; written by Anderson and Owen Wilson; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by David Moritz; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, David Wasco; produced by Barry Mendel and Paul Schiff; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Jason Schwartzman (Max Fischer), Bill Murray (Herman Blume), Olivia Williams (Rosemary Cross), Seymour Cassel (Bert Fischer), Brian Cox (Dr. Nelson Guggenheim), Mason Gamble (Dirk Calloway), Sara Tanaka (Margaret Yang), Stephen McCole (Magnus Buchan), Connie Nielsen (Mrs. Calloway), Luke Wilson (Dr. Peter Flynn), Dipak Pallana (Mr. Adams) and Andrew Wilson (Coach Beck).


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Red (2008, Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee)

Red‘s a really safe movie. I’ve seen Noel Fisher play a young creep multiple times on television–just a few weeks ago even–and I’ve seen Kyle Gallner play the sensitive kid who hangs out with the creep. Twice for him. And casting Brian Cox as a loner who loses his dog and relentlessly pursues justice… well, it’s Brian Cox. It’s the kind of thing Cox has been doing for years. He’s really good, but he’s really good because he’s Brian Cox, not because the role has much depth to it.

The script’s very confused when it comes to that depth. Cox has a long, devastating back story. It comes out in various scenes with Cox reluctantly revealing himself to Kim Dickens. But the film starts so fast–the third scene is the big one, Fisher killing Cox’s dog–it makes all that eventual fill-in unnecessary. Worse, for a film with an utterly predictable conclusion, Red manages not to tie any of Cox’s character’s strings together. Sure, if his back story weren’t so tragic and so terrible, it’d be natural not to have the pieces together, but the film makes such a point about them. It seems to be an oversight.

The film’s actually pretty hard to watch. It’s one of those “rich people with influence escape justice” pictures, but with the crime here (and Cox’s good performance) so cruel and senseless, it’s a constantly unpleasant experience. Directors Diesen and McKee–there are no hints at who directed what or why the film needed two directors, it hardly appears to be a difficult prospect–take the unpleasantness one step further with some of the conversation pieces. Cox’s house is horrifyingly decorated, like the wall paper is supposed to make the viewer’s stomach turn, and the scenes with he and Dickens set there are difficult to endure.

The direction does have some high points. It feels very British at times, like a Masterpiece Theatre entry sensationalized and set in America. I think Diesen’s Norwegian, which is–cinematically speaking–close enough.

While Dickens has the film’s second or third biggest role, she frequently disappears and it always seems like she’s off in a better movie. It’s not really her fault, it’s the script. The script, at the end, both acknowledges her muted attraction to Cox… and his fear of aging (which had never been brought up before). The oversights mount up, especially as the film barrels through the third act, knocking down false ending after false ending.

The rest of the supporting cast is excellent–particularly Richard Riehle and Robert Englund. Tom Sizemore’s got a decent-sized role, but his character makes absolutely no sense after his first scene. Sizemore’s hair is dyed blonde, which looks bad, but he’s got a solid energy to him when he needs it. His writing isn’t good.

If one were to think about Red too long, the entire film would collapse. Not because of the Cox stuff, though. Cox is golden here, except he’s perfectly safe. There’s no risk and, subsequently, no reward.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee; screenplay by Stephen Susco, based on a novel by Jack Ketchum; director of photography, Harald Gunnar Paalgard; edited by Jon Endre Mørk; music by Søren Hyldgaard; production designers, Leslie Keel and Tiffany Zappulla; produced by Steve Blair, Diesen and Norman Dreyfuss; released by Magnolia Pictures.

Starring Brian Cox (Avery Ludlow), Kim Dickens (Carrie Donnel), Noel Fisher (Danny), Tom Sizemore (Michael McCormack), Kyle Gallner (Harold), Shiloh Fernandez (Pete Doust), Richard Riehle (Sam Berry), Amanda Plummer (Mrs. Doust) and Robert Englund (Willie Doust).


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