Tag Archives: Matthew Goode

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013, Daniel Percival)

Now, when a fan of something writes a sequel to that something… it tends to be called “fan-fic.” Death Comes to Pemberley is based on fan-fic from an extremely well-regarded author. P.D. James is even a baroness. But she hasn’t got anything to say about Pride and Prejudice. Worse, unless screenwriter Juliette Towhidi really screwed things up, James didn’t even have a good murder mystery for her murder mystery fan-fic sequel to Prejudice.

There’s a murder in Pemberley. There’s some mystery. But there’s no murder mystery. There’s not even much in the way of sincere scenes. There are a lot of sincere performances–Matthew Rhys is awesome as Darcy, Eleanor Tomlinson is really good as his little sister, both James Norton and Tom Ward are awesome as her suitors. In the “lead”, Anna Maxwell Martin is okay as Elizabeth. She has a really crappy part, actually.

The problem is the script… and the direction. Director Percival has obviously seen a lot of “Downton Abbey,” because he makes Steve Lawes shoot the thing just like an “Abbey” episode. It’s kind of desperate.

Back to Towhidi’s script. There’s no tension. Pemberley is a three-part mini-series event and only the first episode has any tension whatsoever and only because Percival has to try really hard.

Oh, real nice performance from Trevor Eve too. Can’t forget about him.

The ending is trite and simplistic. Percival and Towhidi can’t even handle the most simple of reveals.

Still, lovely acting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Daniel Percival; screenplay by Juliette Towhidi, based on the novel by P.D. James and characters created by Jane Austen; director of photography, Steve Lawes; edited by Dave Thrasher; music by The Insects; production designer, Grant Montgomery; produced by David M. Thompson and Eliza Mellor; aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Starring Matthew Rhys (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Anna Maxwell Martin (Elizabeth Darcy), Matthew Goode (George Wickham), Jenna Coleman (Lydia Wickham), Tom Ward (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Eleanor Tomlinson (Georgiana Darcy), James Norton (Henry Alveston), Nichola Burley (Louisa Bidwell), Penelope Keith (Lady Catherine de Burgh) and Trevor Eve (Sir Selwyn Hardcastle).


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Watchmen (2009, Zack Snyder), the director’s cut

This response will be double length. Well, double length minus ten words. Wait, twelve. No, fifteen. Well, you get the idea.

Watchmen doesn’t get a double post because it’s good. It gets a double post because it is, as far as I can tell, the first utterly pretentious film from a filmmaker–Zack Snyder–who seems to think an episode of “Gobots” is better than an episode of “Hill Street Blues.” I’m not sure even the premiere purveyor of crap–Stephen Sommers–would go so far. (This “Gobots” reference is made up, but it seems about right).

But Watchmen isn’t terrible in some ways. A friend of mine said it was a good case in point for the potential of superhero movies. Except, in this new wave of superhero movies, it doesn’t have a place. The comic book was a comment on the comic book industry–not to mention certain comic book creators’ political views (it’s not like Snyder’s commenting on Jon Favreau apparently being a rabidly anti-French dimwit)–and the film can’t possibly comment on any of the current wave of comic book films, because it’s an adaptation of the comic book. I read Snyder claim the film was his response, as the comic had been to comic books, to superhero movies. But it’s the stupidest thing I think I’ve heard since Walter Hill said he was going to improve on Kurosawa.

Watchmen has some good acting. Patrick Wilson is good, Jackie Earle Haley is good, Billy Crudup’s voice acting is decent, Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t terrible. With Haley and Wilson the ostensible leads, it works out all right. And the whole thing is such a spectacle, even the awful acting doesn’t ruin it. Matthew Goode is lousy. Carla Gugino’s performance as a sixty-seven year-old woman is hilariously awful and I probably would have been ejected from the theater for laughing at her hysterically. Malin Akerman gives one of the worst performances I can think of in a major studio film in the last twenty years. I have no evidence and I’m just guessing, but I think she got cast because she was willing to take her clothes off. Because it sure wasn’t because she had any acting ability. Her scenes with Wilson are awful.

The special effects aren’t terrible but the digital sets are lousy. The Vietnam scenes are without horizon lines, sort of pre-Renaissance. The soundtrack is atrocious. It might be the worst thing about Watchmen, besides Snyder’s slow motion effects and Ackerman’s non-acting. Snyder cheapens his scenes. It isn’t about how he adapted the comic book, it’s about how he turned it into an episode of the “Wonder Years” or something.

Worst might be how Snyder keeps showing the World Trade Center. It isn’t part of the 1985 New York cityscape, it’s an object he repeatedly focuses attention on. It’s pornographic. Especially in a story supposedly about a large number of people senselessly dying.

And it doesn’t feel like three hours.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Zack Snyder; screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on the comic book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; director of photography, Larry Fong; edited by William Hoy; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Deborah Snyder; released by Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.

Starring Malin Akerman (Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II), Billy Crudup (Jon Osterman / Dr. Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach / Walter Kovacs), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Edward Blake / The Comedian), Patrick Wilson (Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl II), Carla Gugino (Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre), Matt Frewer (Edgar Jacobi / Moloch), Stephen McHattie (Hollis Mason / Old Nite Owl), Laura Mennell (Janey Slater) and Rob LaBelle (Wally Weaver).


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The Lookout (2007, Scott Frank)

Watching The Lookout, I never really wondered how Joseph Gordon-Levitt was going to do. I wondered about Jeff Daniels, for instance, since Daniels spent the late 1990s working up his number of excellent performances only to fade from things I watch. Gordon-Levitt… looking over his IMDb, I’m not sure the guy’s ever been bad. He might have even been good on the “Dark Shadows” revival when he was ten. The Lookout presents him with an odd leading man role, the kind actors usually save for Oscar-ready™ movies (oddly, The Lookout‘s from Miramax, king of the Oscar-ready™ movie). He runs the movie–besides the voiceovers, he’s in all but three scenes–and it’s with a really sure hand. Gordon-Levitt’s apparently the child actor with the goods, especially since his character isn’t particularly likable. At a certain point, he’s getting mad at someone for pitying him–and the viewer has been pitying him too, because he’s got a mental condition and it’s hard to identify with him… but he’s also responsible for his particular tragedy. It creates a great situation, keeping the character distant throughout, with the viewer ending the film maybe more unsure of the character than he or she was when it started.

Anyway, the breakout. There’s a breakout performance in The Lookout. I forgot about him because I was going on about Gordon-Levitt. Matthew Goode, who’s got a handful of credits, is fantastic as the bad guy. His character–who’s perfectly awful–might turn out to be honest than Gordon-Levitt’s. Scott Frank, who has done some great stuff, usually adaptations, takes the film noir’s standard deceptions and shrinks them, embedding them in the characters’ relationships from moment to moment. The Lookout‘s success comes from how incredibly emotional the whole thing works out to be.

I had thought it was another adaptation–maybe from something good, just because some of Frank’s choices suggest good source material, but knowing now it wasn’t adapted (it had no opening credits beyond the production companies and a title), it’s obvious. Frank’s in love with four of the characters in The Lookout, four and a half even, and it’s great to see.

I was just thinking this morning–really–about how the wheel doesn’t necessarily need to be reinvented, it just needs to roll as well as possible. The Lookout‘s not a new wheel so much as a nice amalgamation of a couple wheels… it’s sort of a heist slash crime thriller (with a twist–I kept thinking about Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn during the first fifteen or twenty minutes), but it’s really not; it’s a thoughtful character study of an unknowable character, one impervious to examination. Even when he’s doing voiceovers. A good character study always makes the viewer (or reader) wait to get at the character–and here’s where The Lookout‘s borrowing that crime thriller device–but let the viewer get close enough, but not know what he or she is looking at? It’s special.

My only real quibble with The Lookout concerns Frank’s direction. It’s good, not flashy, very matter of fact, but he switches over to a lousy DV for a shoot-out. It’s his cinematographer’s fault, sure, but it’s so obvious, I can’t help but wonder if it was a style thing. It’ll probably look fine on DVD… but it was distracting. Nicely, he follows it with one of Gordon-Levitt’s finest scenes in the film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Scott Frank; director of photography, Alar Kivilo; edited by Jill Savitt; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, David Brisbin; produced by Walter Parkes, Laurence Mark, Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Chris Pratt), Jeff Daniels (Lewis), Matthew Goode (Gary Spargo), Greg Dunham (Bone), Carla Gugino (Janet), Bruce McGill (Robert Pratt), Isla Fisher (Luvlee Lemons), Alberta Watson (Barbara Pratt) and Alex Borstein (Mrs. Lange).


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Match Point (2005, Woody Allen)

Woody gave an interview in “Entertainment Weekly” of all places and talked about how he’s gone through so many critical ups and downs, he’s not phased by Match Point‘s good press. It’s certainly his most commercial film in recent memory… probably since Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex … But Were Afraid to Ask. Really–it’s incredibly commercial. Thrillers are always commercial, even when they’re impeccably cast, written, directed, and scored. Match Point is really good, sure, but it’s not some amazing “return” for Allen.

I realized that–that Match Point and its praise, from people considered with box office potential–really early into the film, actually. Something about the pacing of the first act, maybe that it was set in London. It’s beautiful to see Allen do films in London, since he got to use some great actors–Ewen Bremner and Colin Salmon showed up for Alien vs. Predator reunion, for example. For all the great press Scarlett Johansson is getting, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is better. But I read once, I think in a review of Curse of the Jade Scorpion, that Woody makes the most profound observations about the human condition when it wouldn’t seem like he was trying… when he was most comfortable. Obviously, there are some flaws in this theory (yes, Broadway Danny Rose is profound, but so are September and Interiors), but Match Point isn’t a comfortable Woody Allen. The narrator isn’t Woody or even a facet of him.

As good as Match Point turns out–it owes a lot to Ealing comedies, I won’t spoil anymore–it’s not a better made film than Melinda and Melinda, which had story problems, but was the best filmmaking Allen’s done since… well, not that long. Sweet and Lowdown was a beautifully made film.

Match Point‘s only a revelation to people who think Woody’s gone somewhere. He hasn’t… so it’s just another good Woody Allen movie.

There are twenty-five other good ones too.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley and Lucy Darwin; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Chris Wilton), Scarlett Johansson (Nola Rice), Emily Mortimer (Chloe Wilton), Matthew Goode (Tom Hewett), Brian Cox (Alec Hewett), Rupert Penry-Jones (Henry), Colin Salmon (Ian), Ewen Bremner (Inspector Dowd) and Penelope Wilton (Eleanor Hewett).


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