Tag Archives: Embeth Davidtz

Army of Darkness (1992, Sam Raimi)

Bruce Campbell carries Army of Darkness. Not because there’s anything wrong with the movie–well, not so wrong it needs carrying–but because he’s got such a difficult role. His protagonist has to be sympathetic and stupid, a hero and a jerk. The audience can never stop to wonder if they should be rooting for Campbell, even when he’s wrong. The way the film presents him is probably the most significant thing about Army of Darkness.

The film’s short, fast, funny. Even though it’s set in a medieval castle, full of people, director Raimi quickly establishes who’s important, who needs to be remembered for later. It’s a very practical film–Embeth Davidtz goes from being Campbell’s antagonist to his love interest. It serves no narrative purpose (she loses all personality once they’re romantic) other than the efficiency of not having to establish another character.

There’s a lot of effects work. Lots and lots of rear screen projection and photographer Bill Pope never matches any of it. There are a bunch of great concepts, but the obvious artiface makes them more interesting technically than narratively. It’s too bad–especially since the deficiencies just intensify through the run time.

But there’s so much enthusiasm from Raimi, such an odd reverence to the swashbuckler genre–and all the Harryhausen nods–the film is infectious. Campbell isn’t just always good, he’s always amusing; he makes the film entertaining, regardless of technical issues or narrative bumps.

It’s self-aware and smartly stupid. Darkness works out.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; written by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Bob Murawski and Sam Raimi; music by Joseph LoDuca; production designer, Anthony Tremblay; produced by Robert G. Tapert; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Ash), Embeth Davidtz (Sheila), Marcus Gilbert (Lord Arthur), Ian Abercrombie (Wiseman), Richard Grove (Duke Henry the Red), Timothy Patrick Quill (Blacksmith), Michael Earl Reid (Gold Tooth) and Bridget Fonda (Linda).


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Europa Report (2013, Sebastián Cordero)

Where to start with Europa Report. There are some obvious places. First, it’s in the near future but digital video is about as advanced as it was back in 2004. On a cell phone. Or, you know, the filmmakers wanted to cheap out on the special effects. Another place to start might be the music. Report is a “found footage” picture, yet there’s all this dramatically appropriate music from Bear McCreary. It’s possible one of the crew–the film concerns a manned mission to one of Jupiter’s moons–had an iPod, but why couldn’t that iPod have been used to shoot the video? It would have been sharper. I’ll skip the rest and just talk about

The film has two big problems in director Cordero and writer Philip Gelatt. Cordero tries to use the found footage gimmick to hide all of Gelatt’s contrived or derivative plotting points. Cordero also isn’t able to direct his actors through Gelatt’s dumber moments for them. Most of Report hinges on ostensible geniuses acting like morons.

There’s some really good acting in the film, however, which couldn’t have been easy for the cast because they’re stuck acting to the same stationary cameras. Cordero doesn’t do anything interesting with those fixed setups either. Being found footage does nothing to enhance Report, just makes it cheaper.

Christian Camargo and Karolina Wydra give the film’s best performances. Michael Nyqvist is really good. The rest of the cast is fine, sometimes good, sometimes not.

Report doesn’t get passing marks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sebastián Cordero; written by Philip Gelatt; director of photography, Enrique Chediak; edited by Alex Kopit, Craig McKay, Livio Sanchez and Aaron Yanes; music by Bear McCreary; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Kevin Misher and Ben Browning; released by Magnet Releasing.

Starring Christian Camargo (Dr. Daniel Luxembourg), Embeth Davidtz (Dr. Samantha Unger), Anamaria Marinca (Rosa Dasque), Michael Nyqvist (Andrei Blok), Daniel Wu (William Xu), Karolina Wydra (Dr. Katya Petrovna), Dan Fogler (Dr. Nikita Sokolov), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Dr. Tarik Pamuk) and Sharlto Copley (James Corrigan).


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