Tag Archives: Chris Roberts

Wing Commander (1999, Chris Roberts)

Watching Freddie Prinze Jr. court Saffron Burrows feels like some kind of archaic punishment. It’s the filmic equivalent of the rack.

Thankfully, not all of Wing Commander concentrates on the courtship, which might very well be the anti-Christ of screen romances–trying to decide if it’s Prinze or Burrows who gives a worse performance (Prinze through his abject incompetence in the acting profession and Burrows through her ludicrous posturing) can occupy a lot of the viewer’s time.

There isn’t really anything else to do during Wing Commander once Ginny Holder dies. She and Matthew Lillard are fantastic together and then she dies and then it gets worse. Sure, it’s always bad, but at least she and Lillard have this wonderful romance going; even with the film’s present action running something like sixteen hours, the two of them make it work.

Director Roberts created the source video game (I think) and directed the live action sequences for some of the video game sequels and that excellent experience shows. Though he does seem to understand how to construct a basic battle scene (the film owes a lot to World War II films, both submarine and air force ones), he can’t direct actors. With Lillard, it’s fine. With almost everyone else, it’s a disaster. Besides Lillard and Holder, the best performances are bit ones from Hugh Quarshie and Simon MacCorkindale. David Suchet looks embarrassed if not humiliated and Jürgen Prochnow has certainly seen better days.

It’s hard to believe it opened theatrically.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Roberts; screenplay by Kevin Droney, based on his story and the video game created by Roberts; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Peter Davies; music by Kevin Kiner and David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Todd Moyer; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. (1st Lt. Blair), Saffron Burrows (Lt. Cmdr. Devereaux), Matthew Lillard (Lt. Marshall), Tchéky Karyo (Taggart), David Suchet (Capt. Sansky), Jürgen Prochnow (Cmdr. Gerald), David Warner (Adm. Tolwyn), Ginny Holder (Lt. Forbes), Hugh Quarshie (Obutu) and Simon MacCorkindale as the flight boss.


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Lord of War (2005, Andrew Niccol)

Lord of War fails on quite a few levels–I suppose some of the direction is interesting and some of the puns are funny–but it still surprised me when it attempted to be civic-minded in the end. I should have seen it coming, but I was a little distracted by the end. The last scene and one of the first scenes are pretty much it for actual scenes in Lord of War. The present action takes place over nineteen years so most of the storytelling is done in summary or half-scene. A more imaginative director would have had Cage narrate it to the camera throughout, but instead we just get to hear him tell the story instead. Lord of War breaks that cardinal rule of voiceover narration–without Cage’s narration, the film would not make any sense. It would be a loose collection of scenes tied together. The viewer might not even know he was an arms dealer.

I was going to delay the flailing, but I think I’ll end the post on a positive note. Where to start. How about the names… Cage and Jared Leto (Leto plays his brother) play Ukrainian immigrants with Ukrainian names–except when Cage calls Leto “V” (for Vitaly), because “V” just sounds cool, doesn’t it? Actually, the reason for the Ukrainian heritage is for a later event–Cage plays a composite of five arms dealers, so calling it factual is a bit of a stretch. As the arms dealer, Cage is occasionally appealing, but he isn’t operating with any depth. The screenplay is shallow (Niccol made Gattaca, which is deep, so he seems to have burnt-out right away). The dialogue–when it’s not trying to be funny, of course–is bad. Jared Leto still acts with his hair. A flop to the right means his angry, a flop to the left means addicted to cocaine. Ethan Hawke has a crew cut (playing an inexplicably authorized Interpol agent) so he doesn’t get any acting help from his hair. He’s real bad. I mean, it’s a tossup who’s worst in this film, between Leto, Hawke, Bridget Moynahan as the wife or Ian Holm. Moynahan is terrible in a funny way–it’s funny hear her say her lines. It’s absurdly amusing, but poor Holm. Holm is so bad–and so visibly bad, Niccol does nothing but put him out there to embarrass himself–he’s so bad, you’d think he’d won an Oscar in the early 1980s either as Indian independence leader or as composer who had it in for Mozart. He’s awful.

It’s a cheap film too. Niccol’s got a lot CG-aided shots (the opening credits are a bullet going from manufacture to use and it looks like Pixar did it) and they’re cheap and glossy. They look fake, so maybe Niccol’s trying bring films back to the old days when the audience was meant to be aware they were watching a false reality–and I like that kind of thinking and I like those movies–but I don’t think he was going for it.

It rips off Goodfellas. The helicopter from Goodfellas. There’s something really sleazy about ripping Goodfellas.

Now for the good part. Eamonn Walker plays a Liberian warlord. He’s great. This guy ought to be in everything. He should be the new Superman. He’s great.

He almost makes the film worth watching.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol; director of photography, Amir Mokri; edited by Zach Staenberg; music by Antonio Pinto; production designer, Jean Vincent Puzos; produced by Philippe Rousselet, Niccol, Nicolas Cage, Norman Golightly, Andy Grosch and Chris Roberts; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring Nicolas Cage (Yuri Orlov), Jared Leto (Vitali Orlov), Bridget Moynahan (Ava Fontaine), Ian Holm (Simeon Weisz), Eamonn Walker (Baptiste Senior), Sammi Rotibi (Baptiste Junior) and Ethan Hawke (Valentine).


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