Tag Archives: Jared Harris

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015, Guy Ritchie)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly okay. Who knew Guy Ritchie would come up with such an interesting way of doing a spy movie. Sorry, a super-spy movie. It’s not an espionage movie, it’s a James Bond movie, only not. Because Ritchie isn’t anywhere near as interested in set pieces as he is how he presents them. There’s no gee whiz factor to U.N.C.L.E.’s special effects sequences. Ritchie wants the audience to pay attention to the characters.

And the characters are a lot of fun and most of the performances in the film are nearly excellent. All of them are good, even the smaller parts. U.N.C.L.E is just too self-aware, just too cute for the actors to ever transcend the material. Instead, they just revel in said material.

The standout for that reveling is Armie Hammer. While Henry Cavill has a great time playing a lovable cad, there’s not much acting involved. Hammer holds a Russian accent and sells the idea the viewer is supposed to take him seriously as a threat. He’s one of the film’s heroes and he needs to be believable as a threat. It’s a neat trick and surprisingly ambitious in a popcorn movie.

U.N.C.L.E.’s other strong performances are the female leads (Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki) and then Jared Harris, who chews the scenery as a master spy.

A great period soundtrack, beautifully set to the sequences, helps a lot.

The film’s a perfectly reasonable effort. Ritchie’s found his (mainstream) niche.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Ritchie; screenplay by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, based on a story by Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson, Ritchie and Wigram and the television series created by Sam Rolfe; director of photography, John Mathieson; edited by James Herbert; music by Daniel Pemberton; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by John Davis, Steve Clark-Hall, Kleeman and Wigram; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Henry Cavill (Solo), Armie Hammer (Illya), Alicia Vikander (Gaby), Elizabeth Debicki (Victoria), Luca Calvani (Alexander), Sylvester Groth (Uncle Rudi), Jared Harris (Sanders), Christian Berkel (Udo), Misha Kuznetsov (Oleg) and Hugh Grant (Waverly).


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Poltergeist (2015, Gil Kenan)

It’s hard to imagine Poltergeist being any better. Even if director Kenan was any good, there’d still be David Lindsay-Abaire’s atrocious screenplay, and even if both those elements were any good, there’d still be the acting. And even if the acting was better–and a better script would probably help on that front–there’d just the photography and editing and music.

Poltergeist is so broken, there’s just no point in fixing it.

There’s no point in talking about Kenan at length. He’s bad with actors, he can’t make scary scenes, he can’t compose a shot. Without a major gimmick, there’s no point for a Poltergeist remake and Kenan’s got nothing. Unless the producers thought the problem with the original was it was too good so they figured out a way to make it bad (Lindsay-Abaire’s script plays like a truncated version of the original).

Are any of the actors good? No. Jane Adams is odd comic relief; in some ways, Jared Harris is the best as the celebrity ghost hunter just because he’s not so obviously phoning it in. Though it’s possible the reason Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt’s performances are so mediocre is because they could never figure out what Kenan was doing with the camera.

The film makes Rockwell and DeWitt’s son, Kyle Catlett, the ostensible protagonist. Except the film doesn’t seem to understand how protagonists work. Because it’s so inept.

Poltergeist is too incompetent a film to be a cynical remake. It’s actually rather pitiable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gil Kenan; screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on a story by Steven Spielberg; director of photography, Javier Aguirresarobe; edited by Bob Murawski and Jeff Betancourt; music by Marc Streitenfeld; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert, Nathan Kahane and Roy Lee; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Eric Bowen), Rosemarie DeWitt (Amy Bowen), Jared Harris (Carrigan Burke), Jane Adams (Dr. Powell), Saxon Sharbino (Kendra), Kyle Catlett (Griffin), Nicholas Braun (Boyd), Susan Heyward (Sophie) and Kennedi Clements (Madison).


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The Ward (2010, John Carpenter)

The Ward takes place in an Oregon mental institution in the late 1960s and doesn’t have a single good Cuckoo’s Nest reference. I’m not sure one would have helped—writes Michael and Shawn Rasmussen are fairly tepid (they play toward director Carpenter’s eighties weaknesses in fact). Maybe if they’d modeled the film on Cuckoo’s Nest, things would have been better.

The film is Carpenter’s first feature work in a decade. It’s his first work for hire project since even longer… it shows.

There’s very little in the way of imaginative casting. Lead Amber Heard is terrible. I assume he couldn’t recast her. She handles the screaming parts better than the talking parts.

Some of the supporting actors are good—Mamie Gummer, Laura-Leigh, Jared Harris and D.R. Anderson. The Ratched stand-in, played by Susanna Burney, is awful.

Mark Kilian’s score is all right. At times, it reminds of an old Carpenter synthesizer score, enough so I almost thought Carpenter pulled the double duty. But he didn’t. Because he didn’t care about The Ward.

His composition is still strong. The film features some of his first ever CG work and it’s not poorly done. It’s pointless and a waste of time (and a surprising sequel to Ghosts of Mars due to the effects crew), but it’s not poorly done.

If one can get past the weak acting, it’s a decent enough waste of time. The intentionally convoluted, twist filled plotting compels.

The Ward doesn’t pay off, but it’s not worthless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Carpenter; written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen; director of photography, Yaron Orbach; edited by Patrick McMahon; music by Mark Kilian; production designer, Paul Peters; produced by Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Mike Marcus and Andrew Spaulding; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Amber Heard (Kristen), Mamie Gummer (Emily), Danielle Panabaker (Sarah), Laura-Leigh (Zoey), Lyndsy Fonseca (Iris), D.R. Anderson (Roy), Susanna Burney (Nurse Lundt) and Jared Harris (Dr. Stringer).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | JOHN CARPENTER, PART 4: THE MUNDANE YEARS.

The Public Eye (1992, Howard Franklin)

According to IMDb, it took Howard Franklin ten years to get his script produced. In that time, I wonder if he worked on it, because the finished product does not appear to have been considered. The Public Eye is beyond tedious. The combination of Franklin’s plotless script and Mark Isham’s nap-inducing score make the whole thing unbearable. It’s not bad–though Pesci’s performance is flat and his character (thanks to Franklin’s script) lifeless–but there’s nothing good about it either. It’s totally uninteresting, a 1940s crime photographer who does… something.

Franklin’s trying to juggle a few genres here–one is a period-piece mystery, which isn’t exactly film noir and Franklin seems to know it isn’t film noir and he’s not using that genre’s standards. As a result, he’s trying something (relatively) unique and he isn’t suited for it as a director or writer. Additionally, Franklin doesn’t make the setting interesting. The Public Eye trades on the assumption the viewer is going to find 1940s mobsters interesting. Why I have no idea. But it certainly does, because Franklin does nothing to make his content compelling.

I’ve noticed I’ve been saving the “big problem” for its own paragraph lately. And again. The big problem–Franklin obviously thinks Pesci’s character is real interesting, the crime photographer who sees everything as a possible picture. The most embarrassing scene comes early, when Pesci is supposed to be selling a photo book and even Pesci can’t muster enthusiasm for his dialogue. It comes off monotone and disinterested, like he took the part because it needed a short guy and Pesci needed top billing in a film, any film.

The Public Eye is a pointless, meandering waste of time. An attempt at auteur from someone who shouldn’t try. It reminds me of a sitcom no one remembers, but it ran for three weeks in 1988, so someone must have watched it. But there’s simply no point in watching something like The Public Eye; though it does manage to be abjectly uninteresting, as an example of an uninteresting movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Howard Franklin; director of photography, Peter Suschitzky; edited by Evan Lottman; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Marcia Hinds-Johnson; produced by Sue Baden-Powell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Joe Pesci (Leon Bernstein), Barbara Hershey (Kay Levitz), Jared Harris (Danny the Doorman), Stanley Tucci (Sal), Jerry Adler (Arthur Nabler), Dominic Chianese (Spoleto), Richard Foronjy (Farinelli), Richard Riehle (Officer O’Brien) and Gerry Becker (Conklin).


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