Tag Archives: John Goodman

Flight (2012, Robert Zemeckis)

There are so many easy targets in Flight. Not really the acting, even though a lot of the supporting cast is phoning it in. They’re good actors–Don Cheadle, John Goodman (doing a riff on Big Lebowski)–and they’re capable at phoning it in.

It’d be impossible for them to do anything else, however, given director Zemeckis. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a feature film where the famous songs playing in the background always directly inform the action. It’s either incredibly condescending to the audience or it’s just supposed to be the most obvious movie ever made.

Occasionally, because the acting from Denzel Washington and Kelly Reilly is so good, I thought there might be a chance it was all a ruse and Zemeckis and writer John Gatins were lulling the audience into a false sense of security. Flight isn’t about a happy ending, it’s about Denzel Washington, movie star and good guy, playing a fundamentally decent human being who has a lot of problems. But he can overcome those problems… because he’s Denzel Washington, good guy.

The film savors each moment of Washington’s failed attempts at redemption, every time he goes lower into the depths–it’s telling Flight skips ahead during what would have been its most difficult section dramatically.

Ignoring the trite foreshadowing, the manipulative writing, the general cheapness of the film overall, Flight is incredibly watchable. Both for Washington’s performance and, sure, to bemusedly regard Zemeckis’s vapid pseudo-sincerity. It takes major hits in the third act before going down.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Zemeckis; written by John Gatins; director of photography, Don Burgess; edited by Jeremiah O’Driscoll; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Nelson Coates; produced by Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey and Zemeckis; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Denzel Washington (Whip Whitaker), Don Cheadle (Hugh Lang), Kelly Reilly (Nicole), John Goodman (Harling Mays), Bruce Greenwood (Charlie Anderson), Brian Geraghty (Ken Evans), Tamara Tunie (Margaret Thomason), Nadine Velazquez (Katerina Marquez), Peter Gerety (Avington Carr), Garcelle Beauvais (Deana) and Melissa Leo (Ellen Block).


RELATED

Advertisements

Argo (2012, Ben Affleck)

Ben Affleck is a calm, assured director; Argo is something of a distant film. He never lets himself take the spotlight, but he also doesn’t let any of the supporting cast take it either. He casts the film beautifully–whether it’s Clea DuVall and Scoot McNairy as some of the people Affleck’s trying to rescue or John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Affleck’s Hollywood sidekicks–every performance in Argo’s perfect.

And Kyle Chandler too. Can’t forget him. He’s amazing in his handful of scenes.

But the perfection–the end credits roll with pictures of the actual people and the film went out of its way to cast on look–comes at a price. Affleck never lets loose. Every moment of Alexander Desplat’s score fits, but he never gets enthusiastic. The most stylish thing in the film is the seventies era Warner logo at the opening. Otherwise, Affleck is way too precise.

The result is an exceptional docudrama; but Affleck’s methodical and procedural approach hurts it a little. The one place Affleck does create something singular is with his recreations of the Iran hostage crisis. If his character’s attempts at rescuing the stranded people is the film’s main emphasis, the recreation comes second. The plight of the people? A distant third.

The postscript has the film’s most personality. Director Affleck gleefully calls back to his own childhood; he does it in a very controlled setting, however. He never lets the technical enthusiasm loose to infect Argo, which is too bad.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ben Affleck; screenplay by Chris Terrio, based in part on a book by Tony Mendez and an article by Joshuah Bearman; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by William Goldenberg; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Sharon Seymour; produced by Grant Heslov, Affleck and George Clooney; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Ben Affleck (Tony Mendez), Bryan Cranston (Jack O’Donnell), Alan Arkin (Lester Siegel), John Goodman (John Chambers), Victor Garber (Ken Taylor), Tate Donovan (Bob Anders), Clea DuVall (Cora Lijek), Scoot McNairy (Joe Stafford), Rory Cochrane (Lee Schatz), Christopher Denham (Mark Lijek), Kerry Bishé (Kathy Stafford), Kyle Chandler (Hamilton Jordan), Chris Messina (Malinov), Zeljko Ivanek (Robert Pender), Titus Welliver (Bates), Keith Szarabajka (Adam Engell), Bob Gunton (Cyrus Vance), Richard Kind (Max Klein), Richard Dillane (OSS Officer Nicholls), Omid Abtahi (Reza Borhani), Page Leong (Pat Taylor), Farshad Farahat (Azizi Checkpoint #3) and Sheila Vand (Sahar).


RELATED

Blues Brothers 2000 (1998, John Landis)

I found something good to say about Blues Brothers 2000. The end credits are seven minutes. The only good thing about this movie is it ending any sooner.

2000 is truly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, particularly because it’s not even amusing in its badness. If it was amusingly bad, it would have something going for it. But Dan Aykroyd, who starts the movie with what seems to be a Russian accent before going into his terrible version of a Chicago one, takes it all very seriously. Watching John Goodman play second fiddle to Aykroyd is depressing, but probably not as depressing as watching Joe Morton inexplicably playing Cab Calloway’s character from the first one’s son. Because they needed a black costar this time?

As for Landis, his direction is atrocious. It’s clear from the opening whatever technical proficiency Landis had for the first one is gone for this one. If it were anyone but he and Aykroyd, one might think of 2000‘s scenes similar to the original as paltry knock-offs instead of informed homages. Ever single thing in the movie flops though. It’s incredible. The only good performance is probably Shann Johnson.

Landis can’t even direct a fun James Brown performance in this one. It’s constantly getting worse and even more boring. There aren’t any comedy gags in it.

While the cast is terrible overall (especially little Blues J. Evan Bonifant), Erykah Badu and Paul Shaffer give the worst performances.

2000‘s indescribably abysmal.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Landis; written by Dan Aykroyd and Landis; director of photography, David Herrington; edited by Dale Beldin; music by Paul Shaffer; production designer, Bill Brodie; produced by Aykroyd, Leslie Belzberg and Landis; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues), John Goodman (Mighty Mack McTeer), Joe Morton (Cabel Chamberlain), J. Evan Bonifant (Buster), Steve Cropper (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper), Donald Dunn (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn), Murphy Dunne (Murph), Willie Hall (Willie Hall), Tom Malone (‘Bones’ Malone), Lou Marini (‘Blue Lou’ Marini), Matt Murphy (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy), Alan Rubin (‘Mr. Fabulous’), Aretha Franklin (Mrs. Murphy), James Brown (Cleophus James), B.B. King (Malvern Gasperon), Nia Peeples (Lt. Elizondo), Kathleen Freeman (Mother Mary Stigmata), Sam Moore (Reverend Morris), Wilson Pickett (Mr. Pickett), Frank Oz (Warden), Eddie Floyd (Ed), Jonny Lang (Custodian), Steve Lawrence (Maury Sline), Junior Wells (Junior Wells), Lonnie Brooks (Lonnie Brooks), Jeff Morris (Bob), Shann Johnson (Matara), Darrell Hammond (Robertson) and Erykah Badu (Queen Mousette).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) / BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998).

The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius)

While The Artist is a silent film about the silent film era, it quickly moves into the talking era. Probably in the first third of the film. Hazanavicius technically engages the transition a little–a dream sequence for protagonist Jean Dujardin–but for the majority of the film, it’s set in the late thirties and still told as a silent. Hazanavicius’s commitment to the constraint produces some great results.

The film juxtaposes the fall of Dujardin’s silent film star and the rise of Bérénice Bejo’s talking star. The two are tied from the beginning, but Hazanavicius isn’t telling a traditional love story. There’s no room for it in his narrative structure–The Artist is often told in summary, the film taking place over twelve years.

This approach focuses all the film’s attention on Dujardin; his performance is magnificent. Even when he’s on screen with other actors, particularly at the beginning, he is the whole film. But Bejo is astoundingly good too. She and Hazanavicius manage to keep her character vital yet never overshadow Dujardin.

Hazanavicius is comfortable with silent film storytelling techniques, though a lot of his composition mixes modern ability with silent sensibilities. He also embraces the sensibility of the cast staying youthful over a decade.

The supporting cast is small, but good. John Goodman and James Cromwell do well. Penelope Ann Miller is excellent.

The Artist excels because of Hazanavicius’s devotion to his constraints, but also because of Bejo and Dujardin. Without them, the film simply wouldn’t work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius; director of photography, Guillaume Schiffman; edited by Anne-Sophie Bion and Hazanavicius; music by Ludovic Bource; production designer, Laurence Bennett; produced by Thomas Langmann and Emmanuel Montamat; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), James Cromwell (Clifton), John Goodman (Al Zimmer), Penelope Ann Miller (Doris) and Missi Pyle (Constance).


RELATED