Tag Archives: Michael Chiklis

Soldier (1998, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Someone must have realized Soldier had a lot of problems because there’s a terribly edited montage showing how Kurt Russell’s socially engineered future soldier is crushing on Connie Nielsen while her husband Sean Pertwee looks on in concern.

It gives Soldier a Shane feel, something the rest of the film doesn’t have. Like I said, it’s an awful montage–mixing footage from previous scenes and future ones with no sense of time–but all of Martin Hunter’s editing for Soldier is awful so it’s not a surprise.

Soldier‘s about Russell being replaced by genetically engineered future soldiers, who are “better”, and protecting a bunch of colonists whose spaceship crashed on the way to paradise. It’s a garbage planet too, which means it’s not really a Western in space… it’s a Western on a space garbage planet.

Anderson’s direction is occasionally mediocre, but mostly bad. He can’t figure out how to direct a fight scene, which is bad for the big finale between Russell and muscle-bound grotesque Jason Scott Lee. He also can’t direct his actors, so Gary Busey just embarrasses himself and Jason Isaacs is more cartoonish than Elmer Fudd.

There’s also a lot of slow motion and bad zooms and godawful music from Joel McNeely. Worse, the slow motion and worst music coincide; Anderson doesn’t trust his viewer to pick up on anything.

Russell’s not bad, though he can’t compete with the idiotic production. Sean Pertwee’s pretty good as Van Heflin, though his highlights are inexplicable.

Soldier‘s ghastly.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; written by David Webb Peoples; director of photography, David Tattersall; edited by Martin Hunter; music by Joel McNeely; production designer, David L. Snyder; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kurt Russell (Todd 3465), Jason Scott Lee (Caine 607), Jason Isaacs (Colonel Mekum), Connie Nielsen (Sandra), Sean Pertwee (Mace), Jared Thorne & Taylor Thorne (Nathan), Mark Bringelsorn (Rubrick), Gary Busey (Church), K.K. Dodds (Sloan), James Black (Riley), Mark De Alessandro (Goines), Vladimir Orlov (Romero), Carsten Norgaard (Green), Duffy Gaver (Chelsey), Brenda Wehle (Hawkins), Michael Chiklis (Jimmy Pig), Elizabeth Dennehy (Mrs. Pig) and Paul Dillon (Slade).


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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007, Tim Story)

The quality of the Fantastic Four franchise (and I hope it’s a franchise, not a duet) is apparently on an exponential growth curve. Rise of the Silver Surfer is, with one exception (Jessica Alba’s straining superpower face is bad), as good as a superhero movie about saving the world while wedding planning could be. It’s a delight, mostly because the first act spends more time having fun with the characters–all four of the main characters, unlike before, turn in great performances. The chemistry is down in this one; without the need to establish anything, it’s just a fun, hanging out time for a half hour. (Again, the “hang out” film being Quentin Tarantino’s term). Then the action starts and… well, apparently Fox threw a bunch of money at Silver Surfer because the action sequences are great… not to mention Tim Story being able to handle them a lot better.

With the movie centering around Alba and Ioan Gruffudd’s wedding, it’s important for Alba to turn in a good performance, instead of an acceptable one. Immediately, she does, but so does Gruffudd. Silver Surfer, for the Fantastic Four, opens in an airport with a family comedy scene… and it sets the tone for the film and indicates the cast is now comfortable in their roles (Gruffudd being the most marked improvement, ably juggling the super-nerd moments with the Alba’s husband-to-be moments).

Somehow, Silver Surfer manages to escape infusing its cartoon set-pieces–whether it’s the chase along the Great Wall or Chris Evans having all four of the Fantastic Four’s powers–with adolescent simplicity. It’s a neat trick–a combination of the performances and those expensive special effects, which integrate really well. Since the performances and the character relationships work so well–perfectly even–everything else falls in to line. The ludicrous things going on–the Silver Surfer being a shiny guy on a flying surfboard and all–fit thanks to Story’s handling of the film’s reality. It’s a familiar reality, one with jokes about coach and a sister running through crowded New York streets to aid her brother, but it’s… oh damn it. It’s a fantastical one too….

Of the cast additions, only Beau Garrett is bad. Andre Braugher is wasted, but he’s not bad (in fact, he’s playing a bad guy, so there’s really no potential–a dumb, torturing U.S. Army general). As the Silver Surfer, Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne do a great job. The combination of Jones’s movements and Fishburne’s vocal performance make the character alien, human and real. It’s something of an achievement, certainly not one I was expecting after the first film.

As usual, Evans is great. Michael Chiklis is either more comfortable under all the makeup as the Thing or writing is just better. Ditto with Kerry Washington, who literally has nothing to do but hang out and she does well at it. Julian McMahon’s a little bit of a disappointment, though he has a couple good moments… most of his scenes are in full makeup and they’re action scenes, so it’s not really his fault. His inclusion in the film is the most contrived and it left me wondering why the producers felt they needed Dr. Doom at all.

I rarely, anymore, hope for sequels, both because I prefer finite filmic narratives and also because there’s almost never anything worth a sequel. But I hope there’s another Fantastic Four, just because Gruffudd, Alba, Evans and Chiklis have created people I want to spend more time around.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Story; written by Don Payne and Mark Frost, based on a story by John Turman and Frost and the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Larry Blanford; edited by William Hoy and Peter S. Elliot; music by John Ottman; production designer, Kirk M. Petruccelli; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Avi Arad and Ralph Winter; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm), Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm), Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom), Kerry Washington (Alicia Masters), Andre Braugher (General Hager), Beau Garrett (Captain Frankie Raye) and Doug Jones & Laurence Fishburne (The Silver Surfer).


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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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Fantastic Four (2005, Tim Story), the extended cut

I watched Fantastic Four for a number of reasons (really). First, because I liked one of the previews to the second one. Second, there is a recently released on DVD extended cut. Third, I wanted to compare and contrast it to the unreleased 1994 version. Fourth, to give movielens a run for its money (it’s currently predicted at 11⁄2, which is whopping in my opinion). Fifth, as the film’s so hated by comic book fans, I figured–as usual–my response would be somewhat opposite. Finally, because a friend of mine was recommending The Stop Button as a perceptive and effective online film review site and navigated to it and found a review of Ghost Rider, mortifying him. I figured Fantastic Four would be even worse… but, really, it’s quite the reverse.

I’ve had the extended cut for a few days and have been dreading watching it, as I assumed I’d just turn it off after fifteen or twenty minutes (on the outside). I even started it and the first scene–not the rather nice opening credits–did nothing to change that prediction. Ioan Gruffudd seemed ineffectual and Michael Chiklis seemed like he was mugging it a bit heavy. But I stuck through that first awkward scene and when Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba showed up, it got engaging. McMahon is great throughout–except when he’s got on the Doctor Doom mask for the final fight scene. He’s phoning in a voice over performance in that part. Alba’s interesting. I’ve only seen her in Sin City–let me quote that review–and in it, she “was nowhere near as bad (just mediocre really) as I was lead to believe.” She starts out in Four mediocre, then she gets good. The age difference between her and Gruffudd disappears. Their romance, which is ludicrous by any reasonable standard, becomes a touching part of the film. Gruffudd’s okay, nothing more. He gives the film’s most unremarkable performance–he’s effective as the romantic lead, as the friend to Chiklis (particularly in the beginning), but as the super-smart scientist, he falls flat. He’s not a believable genius. The script doesn’t really present him as one either, but Gruffudd more plays the role like an eighties teen romantic lead (and not even the kid from Real Genius). Chris Evans has a freaking ball with his role (though he and Alba come across as siblings on paper, not in reality). Still, taking her age at the time (twenty-four) into account, she gives a rather good performance. And I already said McMahon is great.

So what’s wrong with Fantastic Four. First, the easy part. Tim Story can’t compose a Panavision shot. The action scenes are pretty damn neat (though the special effects are terrible), but the other scenes… medium shots, close-ups… Story’s out of his compositional depth. The long shots he tends to be all right with, maybe a C (at best). It depends on the characters interaction in the scene, which might be where Four is so surprisingly effective… because the script, in terms of plot, is terrible. The dialogue’s fine (as it should be, Mark Frost has a lot of experience on fine projects). It makes absolutely no sense with any consideration of reality. I can’t imagine watching this film and thinking about the comic book, because Story spends so much time referencing other films–Superman II, Raiders of the Lost Ark–the film, with those stylized opening credits, establishes itself on its terms. Ones where common sense and a level of believability don’t exist. And it’s with those terms. It never breaks them, which might be another factor in its (moderate) success. Though it’s really the cast. McMahon, Evans and Alba.

However, I do need to mention one more thing about Tim Story. There’s a scene where the blind sculptor, played with earnest zeal by Kerry Washington–who frequently substitutes vigor for acting talent, to an acceptable degree here–washes rock-encrusted Thing Chiklis. It is the finest, most romantic sex scene I have seen in a long time. There’s a lot of bad editing in Fantastic Four, particularly in the first act (not to mention the extended cut including two versions of the same scene), but that scene is perfect. It’s masterful… something I never thought I’d be saying about this film.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Story; written by Mark Frost, Simon Kinberg and Michael France, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by William Hoy; music by John Ottman; production designer, Bill Boes; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Avi Arad and Ralph Winter; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm), Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm), Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom), Hamish Linklater (Leonard) and Kerry Washington (Alicia Masters).


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