Tag Archives: Colin Salmon

Captives (1994, Angela Pope)

Nearly seventy percent of Captives is a fantastic romantic drama. Julia Ormond is a newly divorced dentist who starts working part-time at a minimum security prison, where she begins a liaison with inmate Tim Roth. Frank Deasy's script concentrates primarily on Ormond and her experiences–with occasions scenes for Roth amongst the inmates, but that first seventy minutes of the film is from Ormond's perspective.

Director Pope carefully, meticulously presents Ormond's story, from her experiences with her ex-husband, her friends, her family, herself. The romance with Roth is an otherworldly occurrence, much different from the noise and movement of Ormond's regular life. Most of their initial scenes–he's on a release program so he can attend college (the film establishes him as an okay guy real fast)–are in static environments. It's actually after that seventy minute mark, when Ormond disappears for a week of the present action and Roth becomes the protagonist, where Pope finally brings Roth into Ormond's motion-filled world.

It's a terrible scene too; they're arguing on a busy roadway. The acting's great, but the scene's bad, because after the seventy minute mark, when Captives all of a sudden becomes a thriller and no longer a quiet mediation on class and marriage and other such things, the movie falls apart.

Ormond's work here is indescribably fantastic. Roth's great and everything, but Ormond's performance is singular.

Pope's direction is solid; good supporting turns from Keith Allen and Colin Salmon.

Excellent photography from Remi Adefarasin.

Captives misfires, Ormond and Roth do not.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Angela Pope; written by Frank Deasy; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Dave King; music by Colin Towns; production designer, Stuart Walker; produced by David M. Thompson; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Julia Ormond (Rachel Clifford), Tim Roth (Philip Chaney), Keith Allen (Lenny), Siobhan Redmond (Sue), Peter Capaldi (Simon), Richard Hawley (Sexton), Annette Badland (Maggie), Mark Strong (Kenny) and Colin Salmon (Towler).


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Punisher: War Zone (2008, Lexi Alexander)

Punisher: War Zone got a theatrical release (sorry for the passive voice, but pointing out Lionsgate released it in the theater sort of kills the emphasis). I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to describe the terrible script. Watching an early exchange between mobsters, I kept wondering if Italian American associations were aware of the film (I’m guessing they aren’t). The characters are so stereotypical, the portrayal so offensive… it’s incredible. But the mob being the movie’s big villains elucidates War Zone‘s biggest (narrative) idiocy–it’s just a hodgepodge of superhero movies. The movie rips off an opening scene from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One comic book, but then cribs the entire approach from Batman Begins (where the hero doesn’t actually fight crime unrelated to the plot’s main villain). But there’s a Superman reference in the subway hideout and some other malarky I’m sure. The script’s idiotic.

So why watch Punisher: War Zone? The terrible opening credits don’t give any indication of it, but Michael Wandmacher’s score is good and Steve Gainer’s photography is fantastic. The photography seems to go for HDR (high dynamic range), which makes the Panavision frame wondrous at times. Lexi Alexander intercuts Manhattan skyscrapers with Montréal streets to poor effect–actually, Montréal’s a decent stand-in, physically, for New York, but Alexander’s movie New York is one of the most absurd I’ve ever seen. It’s like she’s not only never been there, she hasn’t even watched a movie set there. Alexander’s actually a decent director. She has an annoying Panavision habit of putting people, in cuts, on opposite sides of the frame, but by the end of the movie, she’s got it working. She’d direct great commercials or music videos, since she can’t impart any emotionality to her work. There isn’t a single subtle moment in War Zone, it’s just too stupid.

Some of the stupidest developments in the film are the inclusion of Wayne Knight as a sidekick and the revelation the Punisher dropped out of seminary. I don’t know why the latter got included, maybe so they could have a dumb scene with the Punisher at church, but it’s one of the stupider things in the film. Knight’s sidekick, who seemingly funds the Punisher’s war on selected criminals from a tiny apartment, is also something else. Knight–even with the goatee–isn’t bad. He’s got some dumb lines, but he isn’t bad.

Producer Gale Anne Hurd has made some big movies and some good movies. Presumably, while on set, she must have noticed Ray Stevenson couldn’t act. He’s atrocious as the lead. Punisher: War Zone has a future as a drinking game. Alexander barely gives him any lines, but he flubs every single one of them. Julie Benz (is she the Lionsgate version of 1990s Miramax Neve Campbell or something?) is awful. Colin Salmon, who’s usually good, gives a terrible performance. Talking about him, I forgot to mention the stupid last names. Everyone in the film has a super-ethnic last name, presumably to make it more authentic. Dash Mihok, in the movie’s supposedly comic role, is terrible. Alexander and the script don’t understand humor. They should have brought Rob Schneider or the guys who wrote Beverly Hills Ninja in to give it some oomph.

But talking about the actors brings me to the real reason to watch Punisher: War Zone. Dominic West. He’s not stretching any thespian muscles in his portrayal of a psycho (oh, another comic book movie reference, the Burton Batman), but he’s a joy to watch. Given the filmmakers were able to hire West to appear in this cinematic turd, it’s a testament to their jaw-dropping lack of intelligence they didn’t fire Stevenson and put West in the lead. If he can make this underwritten goober of a role work, imagine what he could have done as the Punisher.

As West’s cannibal sidekick, Doug Hutchinson is fine. He’s been acting for a long time, so Alexander’s ineptness at directing actors mustn’t have contaminated him.

Punisher: War Zone is watchable dreck. The movie looks good–Alexander’s action scenes concentrate too much on the gore instead of, well, any action–and West is a joy to watch. I wonder if anyone involved in the film has seen “The Wire,” but all evidence suggests not. And it’s definitely one of Lionsgate’s less appalling pictures.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lexi Alexander; screenplay by Nick Santora, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru; director of photography, Steve Gainer; edited by William Yeh; music by Michael Wandmacher; production designer, Andrew Neskoromny; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Ray Stevenson (Frank Castle), Dominic West (Billy Russoti), Doug Hutchison (Loony Bin Jim), Colin Salmon (Special Agent Paul Budiansky), Wayne Knight (Microchip), Dash Mihok (Det. Martin Soap) and Julie Benz (Angela Donatelli).


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Alien vs. Predator (2004, Paul W.S. Anderson), the director's cut

Now, who exactly thought a film entitled Alien vs. Predator could be good? I mean… just from the title, it’s obvious there’s a fairly low potential for the film. As such, Alien vs. Predator is fine. It’s wholly watchable. It’s stupid and there are some enormous plot holes–not just in the established Alien or Predator canon, but in what the film itself has already established–but it’s called Alien vs. Predator. Any film with “vs.” in the title is automatically exempt from certain critical reasoning. Those plot holes in Alien vs. Predator shouldn’t bother anyone because the point of the film is not the understand it, rather to see it. I’ve seen Alien vs. Predator before (there was a review up on The Stop Button over a year ago, in the pre-archive) and when I was actually able to rent the monumental director’s cut (it adds eight minutes and I noticed maybe one new scene, but it isn’t like I had the film committed to memory).

In a few ways, Alien vs. Predator reminded me of Superman Returns, as I got to see some things I didn’t expect. Had any filmmaker of any merit made another Alien sequel or another Predator sequel, he or she would never have glazed on some of Alien vs. Predator’s enjoyable stupidity. No one with any artistic ability would ever have an Alien Queen chasing someone like a dinosaur out of Jurassic Park (or so visibly lift the opening to Jurassic Park for another über-mainstream film), but that lack of creativity is Paul W.S. Anderson’s strongest filmmaking virtue. Anderson makes a pseudo-scientific argument, which struck me as a goof on some film I can’t quite remember, some occasionally witty dialogue, a handful of lame characters (played, usually, by good actors), and let loose. The result was a film with some decent action (though the Alien and Predator fights could have been more dynamic) and some decent visuals. Anderson litters the film with references to the other Alien and Predator films, but he never really has any good money shots. It might be–this example being the only significant inconsistency I couldn’t let go–because the Predators are all short. They’re short and stocky and they don’t look right. They were designed to be lean and tall and Anderson doesn’t redesign the look in a way not to make them look like runts. Interestingly, the guy who played all the Predator roles was 7’1”, so Anderson did something wrong.

With the casting, however, Anderson did all right. Lance Henriksen is boring in his glorified cameo and Sanaa Latham is only acceptable when she’s got speaking actors to act off, but otherwise there’s some decent performances. Maybe I’m being a little rough on Latham, but she spends the last twenty minutes or so with no one to talk to and it messes up her performance, making Alien vs. Predator, for the first time, seem like something not even the actors could take seriously. Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, and Tommy Flanagan are all good, with Bremner and Flanagan even really acting in their scenes together.

I just realized how long this post is getting, but Alien vs. Predator is one of the more known films I’ve written up (I can always easily rant on a discussed topic). I’m unable to get over the negative response to this film. If you want a good movie, you don’t see one called Alien vs. Predator–nothing with a title like this one has any promise of being good. Unfortunately, I imagine the Alien vs. Predator movie the fans “wanted” would be even worse.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Anderson, based on a story by Anderson, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, and characters created by O’Bannon, Shusett, Jim Thomas and John Thomas; director of photography, David Johnson; edited by Alexander Berner; music by Harald Kloser; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by John Davis, Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sanaa Lathan (Alexa Woods), Raoul Bova (Sebastian De Rosa), Lance Henriksen (Charles Bishop Weyland), Ewen Bremner (Graeme Miller), Colin Salmon (Maxwell Stafford) and Tommy Flanagan (Mark Verheiden).


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