Tag Archives: Greg Kinnear

Green Zone (2010, Paul Greengrass)

Most of Green Zone is the best film I’ve seen about the Iraq war, simply because Greengrass is often satisfied with letting the film just be concrete situations (he opens with Matt Damon and his crew having to deal with a sniper and it establishes a great tone). However, Green Zone isn’t just a war movie… it’s an action conspiracy thriller and one set in reality, so eventually the film has to turn Damon into a superhero.

The film bombed, which isn’t much a surprise given how Americans are happiest when avoiding critical thinking and intellectualism. And calling Green Zone intellectual is a stretch—it’s a slick Hollywood picture. It’s like Syriana distilled into simple syrup and added into an Orange Julius smoothie. But screenwriter Brian Helgeland does slick better than almost anyone and he turns in a fantastic script, just one with some problems….

Like how the film isn’t willing to condemn anyone except a singular corrupt Bush administration official… and U.S. soldiers who torture civilians are eventually given a pass too. For all the hubbub, it’s very diplomatic to xenophobes. It does team Bourne collaborators Damon and Greengrass again. It’s not like those movies were made for intellectuals.

The acting’s universally solid. Damon’s excellent (though even he can’t sell the end), as is Brendan Gleeson (playing George Clooney from Syriana). Jason Isaacs is great as one of the villains. Khalid Abdalla is good as Damon’s Iraqi sidekick.

It’s predictable, but extraordinary well-done thanks to Greengrass and Helgeland.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Greengrass; screenplay by Brian Helgeland, inspired by a book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran; director of photography, Barry Ackroyd; edited by Christopher Rouse; music by John Powell; production designer, Dominic Watkins; produced by Greengrass, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Lloyd Levin; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Matt Damon (Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller), Greg Kinnear (Clark Poundstone), Brendan Gleeson (Martin Brown), Amy Ryan (Lawrie Dayne), Khalid Abdalla (Freddy), Yigal Naor (Al Rawi) and Jason Isaacs (Lieutenant Briggs).


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As Good as It Gets (1997, James L. Brooks)

As I recall, there were lots of production issues with As Good as It Gets, specifically in terms of boosting Cuba Gooding Jr.’s role (after winning his Oscar) and maybe shortening Skeet Ulrich’s. It all shows, as does the uneasy rewrite Brooks did of Mark Andrus’s script. I have no idea what Andrus’s original script read like, but the filmed version is a confused mess. A lot of As Good as It Gets feels like the filmmakers grafted the Helen Hunt character and plot on to the Jack Nicholson, Greg Kinnear, and cute dog plot–especially given how there’s a natural flow to that plot, but not a natural one to the romance. The final scenes with Kinnear and Nicholson play really well, while the final scene with Nicholson and Hunt plays like a romantic comedy unsure how to finish and doing the best it can.

The problem with As Good as It Gets–one encompassing the script problems too–is the lack of atmosphere. It’s competently directed, but artlessly made (John Bailey’s photography is dull and Hans Zimmer’s score is trying for cute). A lot of it filmed in California–sitting in for New York–and while it doesn’t quite show, the tone is wrong. It feels like a sitcom, especially in the first hour with the scenes at the restaurant. It’s as real as an episode of “Friends” and a lot of the pseudo-quirky casting lends itself to that tone–Jamie Kennedy in a practically dialogue-less role, Harold Ramis popping in (even if Ramis is really funny). And the lack of weight to Hunt’s kid’s medical problems. Seven and a half years of dire medical problems get wiped away in order to make for an easy movie. The lack of any real medical reasoning for Nicholson’s condition (he’s a bigot, where’s he get the pill to fix that one?). The absence of resolution to Kinnear’s assault… As Good as It Gets wipes them all away.

The (very) general filmmaking competence and good performances carry it. Gooding is a lot of fun and any additional scenes for him are welcome. Ulrich is awful, but he’s barely there. The Oscar-winners… well, neither of them deserved them, especially not Hunt. She’s fine, but all of her acting tricks are the same she used on “Mad About You.” And her sometimes implied Brooklyn accent is mistake. Nicholson’s good, but it’s kind of pointless. It’s not an ambitious performance for him–and the scene where he talks about playing the piano, bringing up Five Easy Pieces, just reminds he should have been doing something much better. Then there’s the one who didn’t win, Kinnear, who certainly deserved it. Kinnear’s performance is fantastic, as he brings this cookie cutter character to a real level. Only Kinnear manages to convince he’s not a sitcom character.

Given James L. Brooks’s pedigree, As Good as It Gets ought to be a lot better. But it’s amiable and well-paced for two hours plus and occasionally real funny. And a lot of the acting makes it worthwhile… but it’s a shame about Brooks.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by James L. Brooks; screenplay by Mark Andrus and Brooks, based on a story by Andrus; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Richard Marks; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Bridget Johnson, Kristi Zea and Brooks; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Jack Nicholson (Melvin Udall), Helen Hunt (Carol Connelly), Greg Kinnear (Simon Bishop), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Frank Sachs), Skeet Ulrich (Vincent), Shirley Knight (Beverly), Yeardley Smith (Jackie) and Lupe Ontiveros (Nora).


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Sabrina (1995, Sydney Pollack)

I remember the back of the laserdisc for Sabrina said something about how, going in to the film, one knows what’s going to happen, but the film’s about enjoying it happen. For a back of the disc blurb, it’s incredibly accurate. Sabrina is a joy from start to finish, mostly because Sydney Pollack has put together a perfect film. The more obvious compliments will follow, but I need to mention the importance of Harrison Ford. Obviously, the film works because of Ford, but the way he makes it work is interesting. His performance is excellent because–for the film to work–the viewer has to be examining each of his mannerisms, each line delivery. There’s little things he does, especially towards the end, I think I’ve seen him do before, but never so well. The film focuses on him in a particular way–he’s not exactly the protagonist, not exactly not–in the last scenes and it’s wonderfully done.

The next obvious essential is Julia Ormond. She does the nebbish well, she does the posh well. But when it becomes clear the posh was just a cover, obscuring the intelligent woman underneath, that discovery is also fantastic. Her best scene, though, is her last one with Greg Kinnear, when she does this thing with her eyes. It’s amazing. Kinnear–another of Pollack’s casting gambles for the film (I wonder if he decided Ormond was perfect when testing her for the voiceovers, she does these brief dips in volume and they’re perfect)–is great too, especially since his character has the second most visual change throughout the film.

The supporting cast–Nancy Marchand, John Wood, even Richard Crenna–is all great. Sabrina also features John Williams’s last (as far as I can tell) explorative score–it’s fantastic–and some great editing. Fredric Steinkamp almost cuts the scenes too fast, not allowing for a breath following the punch lines. It makes the comedic scenes tight, but it also does something with the romantic and dramatic ones. It contributes to Sabrina‘s particular feel, which the wonderful location shooting in Paris obviously does as well.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Sabrina–less than ten years, nearing it–I don’t know if I was hesitant about watching it… I suppose I was a little, worried it wasn’t actually good. It’s better than I remember. From the moment the Paramount logo fades at the beginning, its excellence is clear.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sydney Pollack; written by Barbara Benedek and David Rayfiel, based on the film written by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman, from the play by Taylor; director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno; edited by Frederic Steinkamp; music by John Williams; production designer, Brian Morris; produced by Scott Rudin and Pollack; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Harrison Ford (Linus Larrabee), Julia Ormond (Sabrina Fairchild), Greg Kinnear (David Larrabee), Nancy Marchand (Maude Larrabee), John Wood (Tom Fairchild), Richard Crenna (Patrick Tyson), Angie Dickinson (Mrs. Ingrid Tyson), Lauren Holly (Elizabeth Tyson, MD), Dana Ivey (Mack), Miriam Colon (Rosa), Elizabeth Franz (Joanna), Fanny Ardant (Irène), Valérie Lemercier (Martine) and Patrick Bruel (Louis).


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Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris)

Calling Little Miss Sunshine an independent film–regardless of its Fox Searchlight banner at the front–is a misnomer. While the financing might not have come through the traditional channels, it’s got a very high profile cast and its content is about on par with, say, Miramax films of the late 1990s, which means it’s on par with non-Miramax films of every year before 1996 or so. Whenever everyone else gave up. It’s a very traditional story. It doesn’t introduce any new filmmaking techniques and the very nice and effective editing style is probably about forty years old. Maybe even longer, I was only taking Hollywood movies into account.

But–we don’t get to see movies like Little Miss Sunshine much anymore. Independent movies with every adult in this cast–with the exception of Steve Carell I think–go straight to video. All the time. There are a bunch from reasonably well-known filmmakers starring well-known sitting on a shelf in a film can right now. So, a Little Miss Sunshine, with its good writing, good acting, good direction, stands out. It ought to be the norm (and would have been ten years ago) for a adult comedy. I thought about genre a little while watching it and American Pie ushered in new genre labels and Little Miss Sunshine, as IMDb so clearly states is a “comedy / drama.” But it’s not. One of those Alan Arkin scenes is enough to classify it firmly as a comedy.

Why am I saying so little about the film itself? Well, it’s a well-written comedy. There are some too long scenes and some of the plotting is off, but those little things are expected. How’s the acting? Why am I using rhetorical questions (I’m tired). Gee… Toni Collette is great, Alan Arkin is great (though, with the exception of some choice monologues, he’s been playing this role for ten years plus), Greg Kinnear is great. They’re great actors. Steve Carell was initially surprisingly good, but he’s so good I got comfortable with him real fast and am now upset he’s making crappy Hollywood movies. He ought to be doing something else. The kids, Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin, are both really good, but it didn’t occur to me they wouldn’t be good. Little Miss Sunshine is unexceptionally solid. Like I said, it’s what the expected norm for a film starring the people it stars, released by the studio releasing, should be.

That all said… I do think it was a little unfair not to let the viewer get to see Alan Arkin wreck havoc on the beauty pageant organizer.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris; written by Michael Arndt; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Pamela Martin; music by Mychael Danna; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Greg Kinnear (Richard), Toni Collette (Sheryl), Steve Carell (Frank), Paul Dano (Dwayne), Abigail Breslin (Olive) and Alan Arkin (Grandpa).


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