Tag Archives: Lucy Liu

Detachment (2011, Tony Kaye)

Detachment is not a message film. Kaye gives it a pseudo-documentary feel and does presents definite thesis about the public education in the United States. Except Detachment isn’t really about that message… it’s about how that setting specifically affects Adrien Brody’s protagonist.

Until the final sequence anyway; it’s one sequence too many. Kaye flubs on an ideal finish because he’s got too many endings and tries too hard to make the important message one fit. Until then, though, Detachment is nearly flawless.

Carl Lund’s script is brilliantly structured. Brody is a short-term substitute teacher. The film opens with him taking a thirty day assignment, giving the film a definite timeline. Lund and Kaye then bring other elements into Brody’s sphere, such as a fetching fellow teacher (Christina Hendricks) and, more importantly, a teenage prostitute (Sami Gayle). Detachment never shirks from its more difficult scenes, even though Kaye does sometimes get too frantic. The film presents Brody with a couple exceptionally difficult scenes and he essays them indescribably well.

He and Gayle’s story arc informs on his arc as the sub, while Brody’s solo arc with his dying grandfather, Louis Zorich, informs back on both. Absolutely brilliant character study plotting.

Kaye’s direction is good, his photography is better. James Caan is the most dynamic in the supporting cast, but Blythe Danner, William Petersen and Lucy Liu are all excellent too. Gayle’s great.

Detachment‘s not perfect… but there are a lot of perfect things about it. It’s an achievement.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by Tony Kaye; written by Carl Lund; edited by Barry Alexander Brown and Geoffrey Richman; music by The Newton Brothers; production designer, Jade Healy; produced by Greg Shapiro, Lund, Bingo Gubelmann, Chris Papavasiliou, Austin Stark and Benji Kohn; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Adrien Brody (Henry Barthes), Sami Gayle (Erica), Betty Kaye (Meredith), Louis Zorich (Grampa), Marcia Gay Harden (Principal Carol Dearden), James Caan (Mr. Charles Seaboldt), Christina Hendricks (Ms. Sarah Madison), Lucy Liu (Dr. Doris Parker), Blythe Danner (Ms. Perkins), Tim Blake Nelson (Mr. Wiatt), William Petersen (Mr. Sarge Kepler), Bryan Cranston (Mr. Dearden) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Mr. Mathias).


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Payback (1999, Brian Helgeland), the director’s cut

I don’t know if I’d say I’ve been waiting ten years to see the director’s cut of Payback, but I guess I’ve been interested in it for ten years–it’s supposed to be the meaner version. Too bad Mel Gibson, even a good Mel Gibson, is Mel Gibson. Even when he’s being tough and mean, he’s got an element of cute. If you like Mel Gibson, you’ll probably like Payback.

It’s a tough guy movie set in a no name city, the film noir city of the 1950s, only Helgeland wastes a lot of time drawing attention to the city not having a name… (it’s Chicago). Helgeland’s direction is solid, but his establishing shots are really poorly framed, usually because he doesn’t know how to shoot the city. It looks like he doesn’t know how to do establishing shots, making it appear incompetent.

The most impressive thing about the film is acting. Helgeland’s rediscovery of Gregg Henry is something to be seen. Maria Bello’s good. Deborah Kara Unger is good. William Devane and James Coburn’s cameos are both great.

Unfortunately, the film gets to a point where there’s nowhere to go. The film’s philosophy just doesn’t work for making a successful picture. Played straight, it might have been better. Gibson’s character arc fails, as the character inexplicably develops emotional concern.

So, at that conclusion, when Helgeland’s run out of plot, he stops the movie. It’s a downhill slide from a rather strong opening. I suppose it’s a somewhat graceful decision.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Brian Helgeland; screenplay by Helgeland, based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake; director of photography, Ericson Core; edited by Kevin Stitt; music by Chris Boardman; production designer, Richard Hoover; produced by Bruce Davey; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mel Gibson (Porter), Gregg Henry (Val), Maria Bello (Rosie), David Paymer (Stegman), Deborah Kara Unger (Lynn), William Devane (Carter), Bill Duke (Detective Hicks), James Coburn (Fairfax) and Lucy Liu (Pearl).


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Rise: Blood Hunter (2007, Sebastian Gutierrez)

How did the producers of Rise: Blood Hunter ever get cinematography superstar John Toll to shoot this movie? Piles of money, I assume. Probably the same piles of money they used to get Michael Chiklis to play a toned-down version of Vic Mackey. I was thinking, as Chiklis was confronting vampire slash vampire killer Lucy Liu, it played a lot like a TV show–not a bad TV show, maybe a Showtime pilot or something reasonable–except for the cinematography. John Toll is shooting Sam Raimi’s “for foreign markets” garbage. Amazing.

Rise is actually a pretty harmless, personality-free affair. The direction is not kinetic action, which I was expecting (and even hoping for after Liu went through bad guy after bad guy with no variation), but it’s as competent as a… Showtime show. The writing is really goofy. It kept reminding me of Count Yorga, but without the acknowledgment of its goofiness. It’s sad when a silly movie is unable to accept itself and really embrace the possibilities.

One big problem is the vampire set-up. They can go out in the daytime, they sleep in beds, they drink liquor, they don’t fly, they don’t have fangs, they aren’t stronger than normal people… they’re really boring. The lack of anything interesting is what makes Rise, an otherwise pedestrian effort, so unique. It’s like everyone showed up and made a movie, but no one cared what was going on. I’ve never seen a film with a writer slash director (would he qualify as an auteur?) so disinterested in his own film. Characters and subplots fall off all over–and it’s not an eight-three minute movie or a seventy-eight. It runs ninety-eight, which is perfectly respectable.

Some of the casting is good. I don’t know if I’m being unfair to Chiklis, but I doubt it. A goatee appears and disappears and he strokes it when he thinks–working on a case he’s not supposed to be working on. I couldn’t help thinking they cast him just because he already knew the right way to hold a gun from his “Shield” training, so they wouldn’t have to pay anyone else. Elden Henson–who I’d forgotten about–shows up for a few scenes and he’s good. Mako’s kind of funny. Holt McCallany, omnipresent in the 1990s, pops in for a bit. Carla Gugino is in it for a few scenes and is terrible. As the lead (her name isn’t Rise, which makes the title a little obnoxious–I think they were trying to convince people it was from a comic book so they’d go see it), Lucy Liu is fine. When she’s the reporter for the weekly, trying to get stories, she’s good. As the tortured vampire killer, she’s okay. The role’s stupid. It’s not so much badly written as just… dumb. Gutierrez is a hack.

There are some blood effects and Nick Lachey and Marilyn Manson both have cameos, suggesting someone involved in the film was either desperate to get it some attention or he or she has a definite range of friends (they aren’t in the same scene together, unfortunately).

I think the film got a theatrical release. Ah, it was limited. It’s probably in Raimi’s contract all his crap gets theatrical releases of some kind.

Robert Forster has a cameo at the beginning. It’s funny and he’s good in it. Maybe they should have hired a better writer and eighty-sixed the vampire malarky and had the cast make an engaging newspaper picture instead.

Terrible music, can’t forget about that noise. Does a real disservice to Toll’s lightning to have that lousy music play over it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Lisa Bromwell and Robb Sullivan; music by Nathan Barr; production designer, Jerry Fleming; produced by Greg Shapiro and Carsten H.W. Lorenz; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Lucy Liu (Sadie), Michael Chiklis (Rawlins), Carla Gugino (Eve), James D’Arcy (Bishop), Mako (Poe), Holt McCallany (Rourke), Elden Henson (Taylor) and Robert Forster (Lloyd).


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Lucky Number Slevin (2006, Paul McGuigan)

Critics enjoy ruining movies on the day of release. They must–Roger Ebert gives away more endings then not (he gave away The Sixth Sense of all things). Worse, however, is when critics spoil the experience for the audience. I read a couple reviews of Lucky Number Slevin today and one said it’d have audiences picking it apart like they did Memento. Besides the incredibly odd image of anyone exerting brain power on Memento, this review put me on my guard during Slevin and it wasn’t fair of it to do so… There is a twist in Slevin, but you’re supposed to figure it out–heck, you’re supposed to figure it out really, really early. I figured it out late because I kept waiting for Patrick Duffy to take a shower. The twist isn’t what the movie’s about, it isn’t the filmmakers’ focus. In other words, last time I read that critic….

Lucky Number Slevin is Josh Hartnett and Paul McGuigan’s second film together, after Wicker Park. They’re an odd pair, or at least were when they got together–McGuigan makes tough violent films and Hartnett was, at that time, about to become Brett Ratner’s Superman. Slevin is easily McGuigan’s best film, just because he’s got so much to do–it’s not just witty banter between crooks or violent scenes or even an incredibly touching love story (the date in Slevin is the best movie date in years)–but it’s also a serious story about fathers and sons. I actually can’t wait to watch Slevin again, because without the fear of the Duffy, I can appreciate the film’s depth. It’s touching in small moments, small ways, ways maybe one cannot understand the first time through… maybe that critic was correct in that regard.

Still, for the first viewing, Slevin is constantly entertaining. There’s a slow start at the beginning, but once Hartnett appears, it starts. Nicely, it starts with Lucy Liu (as the love interest) popping in. She and Hartnett are great together in the film, but their relationship is so well written it’d be hard for them to be bad together. The other acting is all excellent, particularly Ben Kingsley. It’s his loosest role and he has a great time with it. Morgan Freeman is good, but he’s playing Morgan Freeman again. He’s been playing Morgan Freeman since Unforgiven or so. Stanley Tucci is in the film for a bit and he gets to say “fuck” again. He’s got one particularly great scene with it. Bruce Willis has a difficult role, since he’s supposed to be the enigma, but he manages to do a couple nice things with it. Hartnett’s back in his usual, excellent form (Mozart and the Whale seeming like a high school play).

I remember the back of my Sabrina (the remake) laserdisc. It said, approximately, everyone knows what’s going to happen, so the joy of Sabrina is watching it happen. I might not have predicted everything in Slevin (though the fiancée did), but I certainly did enjoy watching it unfold–McGuigan does a masterful job with it. He’s getting to be a singular talent.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul McGuigan; written by Jason Smilovic; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by J. Ralph; production designer, François Séguin; produced by Chris Roberts, Christopher Eberts, Kia Jam, Anthony Rhulen, Tyler Mitchell and Robert S. Kravis; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Slevin Kelevra), Bruce Willis (Mr. Goodkat), Lucy Liu (Lindsey), Morgan Freeman (The Boss), Ben Kingsley (The Rabbi), Michael Rubenfeld (Yitzchok), Peter Outerbridge (Det. Dumbrowski), Stanley Tucci (Det. Brikowski), Kevin Chamberlin (Marty), Dorian Missick (Elvis), Mykelti Williamson (Sloe) and Scott Gibson (Max).


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