Tag Archives: John Slattery

Where’s Marlowe? (1998, Daniel Pyne)

Where’s Marlowe? is a pseudo-documentary about a pseudo-documentary about private investigators. Miguel Ferrer is the private investigator and he seems like a good fit for the role, only director Pyne and co-writer John Mankiewicz don’t actually need him for anything. The point of the film, as things move along, is getting the documentary makers (played by John Livingston and Mos Def) more involved with the private investigating.

When the film centers on Ferrer, who’s a good-natured rube who cares too much about his clients and their problems to be fiscally solvent, Marlowe at least has some charm. And as appealing as Mos Def gets in his performance, he and Livingston are still unlikable. Once Allison Dean–as Ferrer’s suffering secretary and Def’s love interest–gives up on Def (and the documentary), it’s hard to stay onboard.

The film has some good supporting performances, particularly from John Slattery as Ferrer’s partner, and also Clayton Rohner as a client. Miguel Sandoval has a nice cameo. Livingston is bad, so’s Barbara Howard in a smaller, but important role. Howard’s real bad, Livingston it might be the script’s fault.

Speaking of the script, the writers don’t pay much attention to keeping their characters consistent. It really hurts Ferrer, though nowhere near as much as his unexplainable absence during some of the second act hurts the film. It’s a messy script, which Slattery overcomes because he’s not the lead. Poor Ferrer stops getting character development after twenty minutes.

Marlowe’s a misfire.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Daniel Pyne; written by John Mankiewicz and Pyne; director of photography, Greg Gardiner; edited by Les Butler; music by Michael Convertino; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Clayton Townsend; released by Paramount Classics.

Starring Miguel Ferrer (Joe Boone), John Livingston (A.J. Edison), Yasiin Bey (Wilt Crawley), John Slattery (Kevin Murphy), Allison Dean (Angela), Clayton Rohner (Sonny ‘Beep’ Collins), Elizabeth Schofield (Monica Collins), Barbara Howard (Emma Huffington), Kirk Baltz (Rivers), Miguel Sandoval (Skip Pfeiffer) and Wendy Crewson (Dr. Ninki Bregman).


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In Our Nature (2012, Brian Savelson)

In Our Nature has an unfortunate title. The film concerns two couples from New York–Jena Malone and Zach Gilford and then Gabrielle Union and John Slattery–in a country home for the weekend. Slattery is Gilford’s estranged father, who arrives unexpectedly. Our Nature also, in the possessive sense, refers to the location.

It’s dreadfully cute, but the film makes up for it.

Director Savelson constructs the film like an onion. There are always layers to be uncovered, including some he leaves untouched and just implied. There’s a great scene where the people are starting to bond and Union and Gilford get angry at Malone and Slattery. Savelson implies some unspoken reason for these separate angry people’s feelings, but never explores it. So while the onion construction always allows for some other hurtful revelation to come out and get another scene going… Savelson doesn’t use for that purpose. He’s just put two very secretive men together–if Nature has a fault, it’s how little Malone and Union actually have to do.

They have some amazing scenes and both give great performances–Union probably gives the film’s best performance, which is no easy feat–but it’s about Slattery and Gilford. The first half’s more about Gilford, the second half’s more about Slattery. The women are secondary. The location binds the two men. Their women are just visitors.

Savelson’s direction’s outstanding, great photography from Jeremy Saulnier, great editing from Kate Abernathy and Annette Davey.

Nature’s a fantastic picture. Shame about the title.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Brian Savelson; director of photography, Jeremy Saulnier; edited by Kate Abernathy and Annette Davey; music by Jeff Grace; production designer, Russell Barnes; produced by Anish Savjani, Vincent Savino and Savelson; released by Cinedigm.

Starring Jena Malone (Andie), Zach Gilford (Seth), John Slattery (Gil) and Gabrielle Union (Vicky).


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Flags of Our Fathers (2006, Clint Eastwood)

When my friend saw Flags of Our Fathers and I asked him about it, he described it–I’m paraphrasing–as an unexciting four. Seeing it, I can fully understand. It’s a great film, but its greatness is somewhat inevitable and uninteresting. Clint’s way too good of a filmmaker at this point to turn in something less, especially given the content. However, the content, specifically Clint’s fluctuating interest in it, is what makes Flags so unexceptional, so unexciting. Flags is based on a guy’s book investigating his father and the other flag-raisers at Iwo Jima. While the film does establish itself with a present-day frame, it isn’t specified its this author investigating. Away from Iwo Jima, Clint’s most interested in Adam Beach’s character, an alcoholic American Indian who’s touring as a hero but can’t get served in bars. Beach’s character is the most like an Eastwood character in Flags. At one moment, after the book-writing frame became clear and Flags felt a lot like The Bridges of Madison County, only without Clint’s full commitment to the frame, Beach seemed a lot like Clint in that film.

Even though Beach has Clint and the film’s interest for the war bonds campaign (after the photo got popular, the surviving subjects toured to sell war bonds), Ryan Phillippe gets the most emphasis on Iwo Jima. Watching Phillippe act and do it well, I felt validated–back in 1998, I said he was going to be good (after watching Playing by Heart) and it only took him seven years. The Iwo Jima sections of the film are short and involve a lot of CG and watching Clint handle it is interesting. He uses the CG like a rear projection, making Flags of Our Fathers‘s battle scenes look a lot like a modern 1940s war film. He pulls it off well, because it’s interesting to look at, while not being visually stunning. Still, I think there was a whole story of the characters on Iwo Jima, just because the castings so good–Barry Pepper, Neal McDonough and Robert Patrick are all great in small roles (Pepper especially), but the greatest surprise of Flags, performance-wise, has to be Paul Walker. Sure, he’s only got ten lines and he’s in the film for two and a half minutes, but he’s really good.

The third main character, played by Jesse Bradford, somehow gets more time than Phillippe, but has the least to do. The film only hints at the relationship between the three men, but never explores it, probably through some kind of misguided sense of historical accuracy. I’m kidding (to some degree), but it’s obvious there’s something holding Clint back here and it’s probably the source material and its presentation. Clint’s made an excellent film, but there’s something missing, some awareness of itself and the different ways it moves, since it does have three concurrently running narratives. It might even be three films, or at least two since Bridges managed to beautifully incorporate its two narratives.

It’s a powerful film and a complete experience, but it’s like ordering dinner at a great restaurant, a restaurant you know is going to be excellent. The food’s great, but it doesn’t surprise you.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis, based on the book by James Bradley with Ron Powers; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox; music by Eastwood; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Ryan Phillippe (John Bradley), Jesse Bradford (Rene Gagnon), Adam Beach (Ira Hayes), John Benjamin Hickey (Keyes Beech), John Slattery (Bud Gurber), Barry Pepper (Mike Strank), Jamie Bell (Ralph Ignatowski), Paul Walker (Hank Hansen) and Robert Patrick (Col. Chandler Johnson).


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