Tag Archives: Catherine McCormack

Shadow of the Vampire (2000, E. Elias Merhige)

Shadow of the Vampire opens with some title cards explaining the setup. Well, it opens with some title cards explaining the setup after what feels like nine minute opening titles. In reality… it’s six. Vampire ostensibly runs ninety-five minutes.

Anyway. The title cards setup the making of Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau’s highly influential 1922 vampire film. The cards end saying Nosferatu is going to establish Murnau as one of “the greatest directors of all time,” which would imply Vampire’s going to be very positive about Nosferatu and Murnau.

Not so much as it turns out. John Malkovich plays Murnau. The movie presents him as a pretentious dick, which you’d think Malkovich could easily play, but not so much. Steven Katz’s script is particularly wanting in the Murnau characterization department. Besides a visit to a sex club and drug use, there’s nothing to Malkovich’s character. He gets the least character development of anyone in the film. Except Eddie Izzard, who gets ingloriously chucked at some point. Anyway. Murnau’s direction is always played for laughs in one way or another. Sometimes it’s in how Izzard (as the human lead in Nosferatu) acts, sometimes it’s in how Malkovich directs, but there’s always a bit of a joke. Sometimes there’s a lot of one. Shadow of the Vampire has some good laughs.

But Vampire’s not a biopic or non-fiction. It’s about how Malkovich has hired a real vampire (Willem Dafoe) to play the vampire in the movie. Two big problems. One, Dafoe’s a vampire who wants to kill people. Two, he’s not an actor. There’s some real funny stuff with Dafoe. It’s just not particularly good funny stuff. Vampire’s not a comedy. Director Merhige manages to get into the third act without ever fully committing to a tone. He eventually does pick one and, wow, it’s a bad choice.

But Dafoe. Let’s just get it out of the way. He’s phenomenal. His performance gets the humor in the situation, but never at the expense of being scary. Katz and Merhige never take advantage of that aspect of Dafoe’s performance–the spontaneity of it. Because they’re not doing particularly good work.

At no point does Vampire show much potential. Malkovich is chemistry-free with everyone, which is a problem when it comes to leading lady (barely in the movie, completely “harpy,” ultimate damsel-in-distress Catherine McCormack) who he’s apparently been intimate with. Kinky sex implication intimate. He uses it to control McCormack. But she’s barely in the movie–three scenes, maybe four.

He’s also no good with Udo Kier as Nosferatu’s producer, or Cary Elwes as the ladies man cameraman. Or Izzard, but he and Malkovich don’t actually share the screen much. Malkovich is usually directing Izzard in Nosferatu, not acting opposite him. Malkovich also doesn’t have any chemistry with Aden Gillett, who plays the Nosferatu screenwriter. Gillett’s got no purpose except suspect Dafoe and play well opposite Kier. So Merhige does get these actors need to play well off one another, he just doesn’t do anything to facilitate it. Kier and Gillett have one of the film’s best scenes, if not the best. They bond with Dafoe.

So while often amusing–and quick-paced, at the expense of logic and character development and narrative gestures–Vampire doesn’t have much heft. Then it tries to get some and it doesn’t work out. At all.

The third act’s a bust, with Merhige, Katz, and Malkovich the prime offenders. But mostly Katz. There’s nothing you can do with the third act as written. Then Malkovich, then Merhige. Merhige needed to figure out how to cover for Malkovich’s broad performance.

Kier and Elwes are all right. Same goes for McCormack and Izzard. After Dafoe, Gillett gives the best performance. No one gets enough to do, not even Dafoe. Kind of especially not Dafoe.

Technically it’s a little dull, but still colorful. Lou Bogue’s photography doesn’t do crisp. Chris Wyatt’s editing is good. He knows how to cut for the comedy. Dan Jones’s music isn’t memorable.

Merhige’s composition is a little too tight, his narrative impulses aren’t good–somehow he still keeps a nice, brisk pace–he’s indifferent to actors’ performances. Lots, but nothing to really suggest how bad the movie’s going to close.

It’s worth seeing for Dafoe’s performance. And maybe Malkovich’s if you don’t like him. Vampire pretends Malkovich is giving a great performance–one where he has chemistry with Dafoe and whatnot–but Malkovich doesn’t even put in enough effort to pretend anything similar. It’s a problem.

Vampire’s got too many problems.

BOMB

CREDITS

Directed by E. Elias Merhige; written by Steven Katz; director of photography, Lou Bogue; edited by Chris Wyatt; music by Dan Jones; production designer, Assheton Gorton; produced by Nicolas Cage and Jeff Levine; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring John Malkovich (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau), Willem Dafoe (Max Schreck), Udo Kier (Albin Grau), Eddie Izzard (Gustav von Wangenheim), Aden Gillett (Henrik Galeen), Cary Elwes (Fritz Arno Wagner), Ronan Vibert (Wolfgang Müller), and Catherine McCormack (Greta Schröder).


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The Tailor of Panama (2001, John Boorman)

While The Tailor of Panama is on firm ground in and of itself, it’s difficult not to think about in the context of James Bond. Pierce Brosnan plays a brutal, womanizing British secret agent and sort of gives cinema it’s only realistic Bond movie.

Of course, mentioning James Bond is something to get out of the way with Panama, because it’s not a commentary on the film series. Brosnan does a great job with thoroughly unlikable character. He never humanizes the character, making all his shocking behavior continuously reprehensible. Boorman and Brosnan create incredible discomfiture.

Brosnan shares the lead with Geoffrey Rush, who’s the opposite. He’s lovable, partially because he’s not very bright. Rush is great too. There aren’t any bad performances in Panama. Most of them are exceptional–Brendan Gleeson, David Hayman, Leonor Varela. Martin Ferrero is wondrously odious in a small part and Harold Pinter’s hilarious in his cameo role. Oh, and so’s Dylan Baker. Boorman casted the film well.

As the love interests, Jamie Lee Curtis and Catherine McCormack are probably the least impressive. Both are quite good, but there isn’t enough space for them to get the screen time they need.

Panama is packed. It maintains a good pace throughout; the third act full of subtle, difficult content. The script’s outstanding.

Philippe Rousselot’s rich photography is an asset to the film. Ron Davis’s editing is sublime.

Great costumes, which a film with Tailor in the title probably needs, from Maeve Paterson.

Panama‘s rich, but easily digestible.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by John Boorman; screenplay by Andrew Davies, John le Carré and Boorman, based on the novel by le Carré; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Ron Davis; music by Shaun Davey; production designer, Derek Wallace; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Andy Osnard), Geoffrey Rush (Harry), Jamie Lee Curtis (Louisa), Brendan Gleeson (Mickie Abraxas), Catherine McCormack (Francesca Deane), Leonor Varela (Marta), Martin Ferrero (Teddy), David Hayman (Luxmore), Jon Polito (Ramón Rudd), Mark Margolis (Rafi Domingo), Dylan Baker (General Dusenbaker), Ken Jenkins (Morecombe), Jonathan Hyde (Cavendish), Paul Birchard (Joe), Harry Ditson (Elliot), John Fortune (Maltby), Martin Savage (Stormont) and Harold Pinter (Uncle Benny).


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28 Weeks Later (2007, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)

If 28 Weeks Later weren’t executive produced by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland and produced by Andrew Macdonald, it would not be any better (in some ways it would be worse) but it certainly would be less offensive. Before seeing the film, I remarked to friends about what made 28 Days Later, in the end, work. It wasn’t cheap. Weeks isn’t just cheap, it’s also gimmicky. It’s the worst written, well-made, frequently well-acted film I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s not just a bad script, it’s a cheap, incompetent one. The setup for the film is fine, but then instead of playing the Drew Barrymore role in Scream (in what I understood to be a thirty minute or so episode, I had understood the film to be episodic… but it doesn’t really make up for going to see it), Robert Carlyle becomes the subject, sort of, of the whole film. At first he’s a tragically human coward, but at the thirty minute or forty minute mark, he becomes the zombie version of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I suppose it’s lousy to spoil that one for interested viewers, but really, if you’re going to like a piece of crap like this film, you’re not going to care.

But the gimmicks don’t end with Carlyle becoming a super-zombie (he’s apparently got some consciousness and a real hatred for his family). No, see, Carlyle’s wife (played by Catherine McCormack, which I had no idea about until I looked at IMDb), who he left for dead, see… she’s a carrier, but immune. So, the whole plot rests around Carlyle’s family. How convienient his lame and fearless kids have just come to London, so they can restart the zombie holocaust.

As a director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo shoots and edits some great montages. It’s all very frenetic, but it actually works with the content here. Lots and lots of beautiful visual montages. There’s even a really nice montage scene where the U.S. Army snipers, bored with lack of zombies to shoot, watch the repatrioted Brits. Even after the really cheap gimmicks, the film maintains a level of intensity until it just becomes cheap overall, with characters doing unbelievable things–smart ones becoming stupid. So stupid I almost spelled it stoopid, Weeks‘s stupidity has killed so many of my brain cells.

It’s frustrating because there are some nice scenes and some good performances. When he’s not super-zombie, Carlyle is fantastic. Even better is Jeremy Renner as a sniper. Renner’s got very little to do besides be a decent human being, but he does it with a lot of force and it’s good stuff. Rose Byrne is the, obviously, best, because she rules this movie in her terrible role. She’s an army doctor and she doesn’t want kids, but then she hangs out with them, but is it just because they might carry the cure? Who knows, because Weeks doesn’t even give subtext to its contrived coincidences. The kids, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, both stink. Muggleton’s worse, but it might not be his fault, the script sets him up as the kid from The Shining but ominous and possibly evil (so I guess more Omen-esque, but not having ever seen one of those, I’m not sure). Harold Perrineau’s in it a bit and I’m glad he got a job in something intended to be high-profile, but he’s way too good for this kind of work. He, Byrne and Renner ought to reunite for something written by someone not trying to remake Halloween 4. Hell, Fresnadillo could even direct it. The only times he fails in Weeks are with the lengthy action scenes. The chase scenes, when from the chasee’s perspective, get tiring, but the action scenes are boring. You can’t tell what is going on so why even bother trying (or carrying).

I find it horrifying Alex Garland could make the time to write a Halo movie, but it couldn’t give this crappy script a rewrite. It’d take maybe a week to fix it. Some of the dialogue especially. My friend said it sounded like a bad Spanish-to-English babelfish translation.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; written by Rowan Joffe, Fresnadillo, Enrique López Lavigne and Jesús Olmo; director of photography, Enrique Chediak; edited by Chris Gill; music by John Murphy; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by López Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich; released by Fox Atomic.

Starring Robert Carlyle (Don), Rose Byrne (Scarlet), Jeremy Renner (Doyle), Harold Perrineau (Flynn), Catherine McCormack (Alice), Mackintosh Muggleton (Andy), Imogen Poots (Tammy), Idris Elba (General Stone) and Emily Beecham (Karen).

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