Tag Archives: Grant Hill

The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)

Malick shot The Tree of Life in a variety of formats, but it displays at 1.85:1. It’s his first 1.85:1 since the seventies and, somehow, it feels like the film would be more intimate wider.

Somewhere in Tree of Life, there’s a great film. Not the best film Malick’s ever made or anything along those lines, but there’s a great film. But he adds a lot; most awkward is his rumination on God. Most of it comes from Jessica Chastain’s character (wife to Brad Pitt, mother to Hunter McCracken, who’s played by Sean Penn in the present day scenes). But Chastain isn’t the lead in the great film somewhere in Tree of Life. The great film is about Pitt and McCracken.

Penn’s presence—and the modern day stuff—is useless (except to spot Joanna Going, who’s been gone too long from cinema). Malick’s got a birth of the universe sequence, he’s got a bunch of dinosaurs (while the scenes are lovely, the CG isn’t)… but it’s Penn who’s out of place. It undermines what Malick does in the film’s best moments.

Some of the photographic effects are wondrous and Emmanuel Lubezki’s photography is great. Alexandre Desplat’s music is excellent as well.

Malick gets a great performance from Pitt and from McCracken and the cast in general.

When the film fails, it’s nice to see it fail because of Malick’s reaching and failing to grasp something, not because of casting or historical accuracy. It’s an honest, sometimes wonderful disappointment.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Terrence Malick; director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki; edited by Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Jack Fisk; produced by Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Hunter McCracken (Jack), Brad Pitt (Mr. O’Brien), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O’Brien), Laramie Eppler (R.L.), Tye Sheridan (Steve) and Sean Penn (Adult Jack).


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Speed Racer (2008, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)

I may be a little naive, but I think one of the aspects of adapting materials between mediums is to encourage (or at least tacitly imply) someone to look at the original material. I find it particularly odd in the case of Speed Racer. Being somewhat aware of the cartoon but never having seen it, I’ve now formed the opinion–just based on the film–it’s for six year olds and anyone older than six years of age watching the cartoon is a little slow. The Wachowskis’ adaptation suggests there isn’t a single intelligent thing in the source, something their insanely bad, outrageously expensive adaptation gleefully amplifies.

The film is aimed at an audience of adults–it’s not aimed at NASCAR fans, simply because it gives the appearance of being high brow (but couldn’t be further from)–but adults who think the things they liked at age six are good. Not realizing a six year old might not make the best cinematic or literary recommendations.

Still, the film is so unbearably bad–the green screen shooting (there are very few real sets) looks terrible–I find it hard to believe the film has supporters, but I know it does… I’ve read positive reviews. Though such reviewers must be driving to work in a gift from Warner Bros….

I do have one positive observation to make about the film. The casting of John Goodman and Susan Sarandon. While their performances are awful, their makeup is very successful.

Otherwise, it’s indescribably bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski; screenplay by the Wachowskis, based on a manga and an anime by Yoshida Tatsuo; director of photography, David Tattersall; edited by Zach Staenberg and Roger Barton; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by the Wachowskis, Joel Silver and Grant Hill; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer), Christina Ricci (Trixie), John Goodman (Pops Racer), Susan Sarandon (Mom Racer), Paulie Litt (Spritle), Roger Allam (Royalton), Rain (Taejo Togokhan) and Matthew Fox (Racer X).


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Ninja Assassin (2009, James McTeigue)

Has there ever been a major studio ninja movie before? As far as I know, no. There were the Cannon ones in the eighties, but those, obviously, don’t count.

Actually, I didn’t even know Ninja Assassin opened theatrically. I’m slow keeping up with what qualifies one film to be released theatrically while another not. The main reason I can’t believe Ninja Assassin made it to the theaters is its standing as an enjoyable bad film. I mean, it’s not entirely bad, but it’s a complete piece of crap. It’s a ludicrous, terribly written disaster (apparently the producers hired J. Michael Straczynski to come in and punch up the script and he applied his usual level of horridness to it), but it’s not bad. McTeigue’s direction is absolutely fabulous. The fight scenes mix choreography and blood in a way I haven’t seen done as successfully since The Street Fighter. He really makes the film thrilling. It’s a symphony of violence in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen before–it’s completely and utterly mainstream, but still over the top, excessive and totally silly.

Unfortunately, McTeigure’s directing skills don’t include the ability to direct actors. The only reasonable performance in the film is Naomie Harris, who’s a) too good for this kind of tripe and b) wonderful. The lead, Rain, plays a sensitive Terminator, but with less emotive abilities than Schwarzenegger. It might have something to do with the language barrier.

Ninja Assassin is utterly useless and a lot of diverting entertainment.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by James McTeigue; screenplay by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, based on a story by Sand; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub ; edited by Gian Ganziano and Joseph Jett Sally; music by Ilan Eshkeri; production designer, Graham ‘Grace’ Walker; produced by Grant Hill, Joel Silver, Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Rain (Raizo), Naomie Harris (Mika Coretti), Rick Yune (Takeshi), Ben Miles (Ryan Maslow), Sho Kosugi (Lord Ozunu), Anna Sawai (Kiriko), Sung Kang (Hollywood) and Richard van Weyden (Ibn Battuta).


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V for Vendetta (2005, James McTeigue)

V for Vendetta is a film made by Americans about London. I mean, I can see how it’s all right, given it’s a big budget nonsense blockbuster, but there’s something so incredibly lame in the last scene of the film–I’m going to ruin it for you–the dead people, those murdered by the evil British state, are all united with the living people as the events of the film lead them into some glorious new future. Or some nonsense.

It’s obvious and lame. The scene could have been shot so it wouldn’t have been noticeable, possibly even have been subtle… instead, it’s like the end of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but without the joke.

There’s a lot of okay stuff about the film. Natalie Portman isn’t terrible. She isn’t any good, but she isn’t terrible. Rose Byrne would have done a great job (a rewrite would have helped too). Stephen Rea and Stephen Fry are both fantastic. John Hurt is fine. Rupert Graves is good. I’m not sure why Hugo Weaving got the part of the titular character, since it’d have been a stuntman for most of it and there’s a mask and no performance, but whatever. His voice acting is clearly dubbed in, regardless of whether he had to wear a stifling outfit.

The script’s got some awful moments–as a police procedural starring Rea in the lead, it would have been great. McTeigue’s occasionally okay. The visual style is all flash, no substance.

It’s really quite bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James McTeigue; written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, based on the comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Martin Walsh; music by Dario Marianelli; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Joel Silver, Grant Hill and Lilly and Lana Wachowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Natalie Portman (Evey), Hugo Weaving (V), Stephen Rea (Inspector Finch), Stephen Fry (Deitrich), John Hurt (Adam Sutler), Tim Pigott-Smith (Creedy), Rupert Graves (Dominic), Roger Allam (Lewis Prothero), Ben Miles (Dascomb), Sinéad Cusack (Delia Surridge), Natasha Wightman (Valerie), John Standing (Lilliman) and Eddie Marsan (Etheridge).


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