Tag Archives: Ewan McGregor

The Island (2005, Michael Bay)

I know The Island bombed but I can’t believe anyone thought it wouldn’t. It’s incredible such a large budget was given essentially to a future movie–it takes place in 2015 or something, it’s never clear, but there’s a lot of future stuff–and I had no idea it was a future movie. Bay’s got future cars and future trains and future motorcycles and he’s the worst person to do a future movie, because he’s incapable of wonderment. The Island plays out like Freejack on overdrive.

The plot is ripe for all sorts of metaphors–this island paradise, whatever–and the film ignores all of them. Instead it’s a wholly competent, completely unexciting summer action movie. Scarlett Johansson plays a twit well and Ewan McGregor’s a solid lead in a vapid role–it’d have been really funny if the pair had been cloned from their actors, who they then had to duke it out with.

Djimon Hounsou is wasted, as he always is, cast as the tough black guy with the accent. Sean Bean’s good as the villain, even if his dialogue is crappy. Steve Buscemi’s awesome in a small role; he really has fun, maybe more than anyone else, just because he’s not pretending about what kind of movie he’s making.

It’s really cool looking–the future designs and all–and Bay does a decent job. But when the music (a good score from Steve Jablonsky) comes up, it doesn’t matter what the movie is–Bay’s directing another commercial.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Bay; screenplay by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, based on a story by Tredwell-Owen; director of photography, Mauro Fiore; edited by Paul Rubell and Christian Wagner; music by Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Nigel Phelps; produced by Walter F. Parkes, Bay and Ian Bryce; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Lincoln Six Echo), Scarlett Johansson (Jordan Two Delta), Djimon Hounsou (Albert Laurent), Sean Bean (Merrick), Steve Buscemi (McCord), Michael Clarke Duncan (Starkweather) and Ethan Phillips (Jones Echo Three).


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Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005, George Lucas)

This movie got good reviews, right? I mean, I know Episode I got good reviews, but this one did too, right? I suppose the CG is better than before–except for Yoda, who’s desperate for a good puppeteer–and the action sequences are a tad more engaging. The space battles, mostly. The actual lightsaber fight scenes are terrible. Lucas never establishes what makes a good… lightsaber-er. I mean, does one have to be a strong Jedi to do it or can a mediocre Jedi simply be good at it? The lightsaber fights aren’t much fun because it’s impossible to tell if the person winning is overcoming the odds or not.

But besides the improved CG, there’s absolutely nothing to recommend the movie. Even Ewan McGregor, who technically isn’t bad, doesn’t have any actual good scenes. Oh, I forgot about the backdrops–the composite backdrops, when Lucas sticks the actors in front of green screens and CG backdrops–are awful. They look worse than a matte painting in a Roger Corman movie.

Back to the acting–hopefully I’ll get around to script at some point, but it might be hard to muster the enthusiasm–Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a constant battle between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman for worst performance in a galaxy far, far away (and this one). While Christensen is abjectly terrible, Portman’s somehow even worse–it’s a shocking statement, but true. Maybe it’s because Christensen’s in a lot of the movie, so the viewer gets worn down. Portman’s only in a handful of scenes–which doesn’t make much sense in terms of Lucas’s “sweeping” narrative–and she’s like a infrequent, deep stab into the chest.

The supporting cast is no better. Ian McDiarmid’s awful, Samuel L. Jackson’s apparently turning in a comic performance. No one–not even George Lucas–could think Jackson was giving a good performance. Actually, I think Jimmy Smits might give one of the film’s better performances.

Too bad, I got to the script. It starts immediately, with a poorly written (and laugh-out loud funny) opening text crawl. Then there’s the coughing robot–not to mention all the other robots, besides R2-D2, speaking English. Why doesn’t R2 just speak English too? Lucas turns R2 into an action hero–only for a while, though a Gizmo arc from Gremlins 2 would have been amusing–and those scenes aren’t terrible. It’s at least cute. There’s a stupid Chewbacca cameo. Every cameo and reference is stupid, depending on the viewer’s regard for the old Star Wars movies, they’re even offensive. It’s like Lucas never watched the original trilogy (yes, even Jedi).

There’s more–much more–like how it seems like Lucas never auditioned Christensen with McGregor, since they have absolutely no chemistry. There’s Portman calling Christensen by the nickname he had in the first movie–you know, when he was a little kid. It’s as creepy as the Luke and Leia kiss (in hindsight). I don’t even want to talk about the Luke and Leia introduction–it’s one of the worst scenes I’ve ever seen. It’s got to be.

Revenge of the Sith is a piece of crap. It’s so unfunny, there’s not even a point in musing on what happened to Lucas. There’s a character named Darth Plagueis (yes, I did have to Google the spelling). You know, as in Darth Plague-is. A grown-up wrote that name down and thought it was good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by George Lucas; director of photography, David Tattersall; edited by Roger Barton and Ben Burtt; music by John Williams; production designer, Gavin Bocquet; produced by Rick McCallum; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Frank Oz (Yoda), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Her Royal Highness, The Elected Queen of Naboo).


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Cassandra’s Dream (2007, Woody Allen)

It’s getting increasingly difficult not to talk about Woody Allen’s films in the context of his body of work. While on one hand, Cassandra’s Dream does feature what could be construed as a Jaws reference, it’s also rather similar in pacing to some of Allen’s late 1970s, early 1980s films. The film’s first act is a purposeful character study. I almost thought–not having read any reviews in depth and only barely remembering the preview–Cassandra was a character study, devoid of any epical narrative.

When the narrative does kick in–and the film becomes a dreary examination of choices–it’s got to be more than a half hour into the film. The tone changes, as it has to due to content, immediately. Allen makes that move intentionally and life changing due to things said and done is one of the film’s recurring themes.

And Cassandra’s Dream having themes is its undoing. Occasionally (see, I’m placing it in his body of work again), Allen gets the idea doing a film with a constraint would be a good idea. Usually, it results in the film going wrong as he’s got to force it to fit the constraint. Cassandra is no exception. At some point, the script makes a wrong turn and there’s no way to recover. The end is inevitable for a lot of reasons and is uninteresting for just that reason. After spending two hours creating these complex brothers, Allen cheats them out of a real conclusion.

As the brothers, Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor quickly overcome their lack of physical resemblance–I think Cassandra’s Dream is the first time Allen’s ever done a two brothers film. Both actors get to go through enormous changes through the film. At the start, they’re about even quality-wise. They don’t go anywhere unexpected, so McGregor’s failure to shine in the end is more because Farrell is just so fantastic, there’s no room for anyone else. Farrell’s performance in the last half hour is mesmerizing. It just keeps getting better.

Past his narrative choices, Cassandra’s Dream frequently feels like something utterly different from Allen. Stylistically–in no small part due to the Philip Glass–it’s as though he’s going for a French feel, but set in Britain. The occasional character mentions of their dreams harks back to Allen’s greatest works. Vilmos Zsigmond’s photography is perfect, making the muted London skies lush. As usual, it’s a technical achievement.

Thanks to Farrell and the majority of the film, Cassandra’s Dream is a success. I don’t like when Allen’s films are so contingent on ending well. As Cassandra does need to end well and does not… it’s somewhere between a qualified success and a superior failure.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Alisa Lepselter; music by Philip Glass; production designer, Maria Djurkovic; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Gareth Wiley; released by the Weinstein Company.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Ian), Colin Farrell (Terry), Hayley Atwell (Angela), Sally Hawkins (Kate), John Benfield (Father), Clare Higgins (Mother), Phil Davis (Martin Burns) and Tom Wilkinson (Howard).


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Deception (2008, Marcel Langenegger)

Here’s a surprising one. I was ready to say director Langenegger was a music video director who learned how to calm it down for a theatrical, but it appears he’s just a commercial director. For most of Deception, I was just letting myself enjoy the technical. Langenegger’s composition, Dante Spinotti’s photography and Ramin Djawadi’s music (Djawadi is an essential for the formula) made Deception one of the better looking modern films I can remember, certainly coming out of an American studio. Langenegger takes traditional montage techniques and applies them to regular scenes and makes everything work. Oh, the sound–great sound design.

The story’s pretty simple. First it’s Fight Club only with a sex club, then it’s conned protagonist unraveling the web movie. Mark Bomback’s script is middling, with the occasional bad dialogue exchange. The beauty of Deception is how little the script matters, given Langenegger’s direction.

But the direction apparently did not extend to the hiring of Ewan McGregor’s dialect couch. McGregor’s American accent in this one sounds like Woody Allen. Really. I kept waiting, in the first half, for there to be some reason for it to sound like Woody Allen, as it’s set in New York (and beautifully shot there). But there’s no reason. McGregor being good, he manages not to let the accent get in the way of his performance. It doesn’t hurt the supporting cast is uniformly excellent. I suppose Charlotte Rampling has the largest of the smaller roles, but even Margaret Colin, in her minute and a half, lends the film some really acting credibility. The direction, these smaller roles, they give Deception a credibility the general lameness (it’s all been done before) of the script saps. Not to mention McGregor’s goofy accent.

For the majority of the film, the three other principals are solid as well. Hugh Jackman toggles nicely between creepy and charming. Michelle Williams is fine as the object of McGregor’s affections. Lisa Gay Hamilton is good as the police detective.

Then the film enters the third act and everything changes, not so much for the story, it’s a natural narrative development, but what the film achieves. The end finally incorporates the actors into that filmmaking euphoria and Deception skyrockets (Williams is fantastic). Bomback doesn’t even go for the cheap ending, which I’d been expecting the whole time too.

Good acting and good filmmaking will often improve a weak script, but, comparative to what Deception was achieving (being a diverting lower budget studio thriller) to what it finally does achieve… I think Henry Fool‘s the last one with such a bump. Fool‘s was a far higher boost, but–as a lower budget studio thriller–Deception‘s is no less significant, given its ambitions.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Marcel Langenegger; written by Mark Bomback; director of photography, Dante Spinotti; edited by Christian Wagner and Douglas Crise; music by Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Patrizia von Brandenstein; produced by Arnold Rifkin, John Palermo, Hugh Jackman, Robbie Brenner, David Bushell and Christopher Eberts; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Wyatt Bose), Ewan McGregor (Jonathan McQuarry), Michelle Williams (S), Lisa Gay Hamilton (Detective Russo), Maggie Q (Tina), Natasha Henstridge (Wall Street Analyst), Lynn Cohen (Woman), Danny Burstein (Clute Controller), Malcolm Goodwin (Cabbie), Dante Spinotti (Herr Kleiner/Mr. Moretti), Bill Camp (Clancey Controller), Lisa Kron (Receptionist), Margaret Colin (Ms. Pomerantz) and Charlotte Rampling (Wall Street Belle).


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