Tag Archives: Michael Emerson

Saw (2004, James Wan)

I’m disappointed in Saw; I didn’t think I could possibly have any expectations for the movie where Farm Boy has to cut off his foot. I also didn’t know it wasn’t Danny Glover locked in the room with Cary Elwes. I wish Danny Glover had been locked in the room. He’s not. He’s a cop. And he’s terrible.

Danny Glover gives a terrible performance as a cop. Embarrassingly bad. It’s uncomfortable watching him a lot of the time, because it just feels wrong. Writer and leading man Leigh Whannell writes in movie trailer speak. Everything’s a soundbite. Not even caricatures, much less characterization. Saw’s just a bunch of actors reciting terrible dialogue without any direction from Wan. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad. It’s sad with Glover.

Elwes is just funny. For the first half of the movie, he’s got a husky low voice to hide his accent. Farm Boy has been acting since he was seventeen years old, but apparently on Saw, he forgot how to believably get rid of his English accent. Then the English accent comes through, then Elwes adds husky to the English accent. The third act is Elwes wailing a lot, usually without any continuity between his wailing accents.

Whannell, as a writer and an actor, is terrible. Still, he’s not unlikable. He’s not sympathetic, which is a problem because he’s being held captive in a terrible, poop-filled bathroom with a dead body and the Dread Pirate Roberts trying really hard to be so serious he might be a surgeon. But he’s also not unlikable. He’s just giving a bad performance in a terribly written part.

Ken Leung’s bad as Glover’s partner, but the writing is worse. Michael Emerson weathers his involvement a little better than his costars. Monica Potter’s fine in her scenes, which usually involve Saw threatening ten year-old Makenzie Vega with horrific death. Saw’s comfortable being craven.

If director Wan had any personality, and Armstrong’s photography weren’t so flat and Kevin Greutert’s editing weren’t so imprecise, Saw might be some kind of horror exploitation camp. But it’s not camp. It’s got all the set pieces for exploitation, but Whannell’s ponderous script and Wan’s bland visualizing shove the film into the serial killer sub-genre. Except there’s not really anything about the serial killer’s method, so it’s not an easy fit. It ought to be a psychological thriller–real time, Elwes and Whannel deciding their fates. Instead, there are a bunch of pointless flashbacks.

Because Saw can’t slow down. The one thing Wan and Whannell seem to get is the need for momentum. The film drops the audience in without any setup, so Wan’s got to make every jump scare prove the pitch’s worth. And he’s got a couple good jump scares. They’re like the only good things in the film, but it’s not nothing.

Saw sputters out in the third act. The tension is gone as the film just becomes a string of plot revelations. A lot of the film is Whannell’s fault as writer, but most of it’s on Wan. He doesn’t have any enthusiasm to his composition and he doesn’t have any interest in his actors. One or the other might’ve helped Saw.

Within reason, of course; it’s still got Cary Elwes’s risibly atrocious performance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James Wan; screenplay by Leigh Whannell, based on story by Wan and Whannell; director of photography, David A. Armstrong; edited by Kevin Greutert; music by Charlie Clouser; production designer, Julie Berghoff; produced by Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman, and Oren Koules; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring Cary Elwes (Dr. Lawrence Gordon), Leigh Whannell (Adam), Danny Glover (Detective David Tapp), Monica Potter (Alison Gordon), Ken Leung (Detective Steven Sing), Michael Emerson (Zep Hindle), Makenzie Vega (Diana Gordon), and Shawnee Smith (Amanda).


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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (2013, Jay Oliva)

The strong parts of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 make the weak ones often easy to ignore. But nothing’s strong enough to overcome the weakest spots. First is the misogyny. I assume it’s straight from the comic. The filmmakers chose to embrace it (the fidelity to the source material is a lot of Part 2’s problem); it’s obvious–the new, female police commissioner ignores her smarter male elder juxtaposed against the new, female Robin who embraces hers–and tiring. Director Oliva really enjoys showing Batman punch out women too.

The second problem is Michael Emerson as the Joker. He’s awful and turns half of Part 2 into something of a waste of time. It has no emotional impact. Oliva’s action direction, Christopher Drake’s score and Christopher D. Lozinski’s editing are fantastic throughout. Part 2 is a great visual experience.

The second half has Mark Valley’s Superman and Valley does a fine job voicing him. Screenwriter Bob Goodman–and Miller–portray Superman as Reagan’s goon (the film keeps the eighties setting and Ronnie as the president), which doesn’t give Valley much to do, but he does well with what he’s got.

Peter Weller’s still good as Batman; but he too has little to do. He has maybe three real scenes in the entire runtime. Ariel Winter’s a little better as Robin than she was before, but maybe just because she’s in it less.

The filmmakers stick to the source material. They don’t improve it; it definitely needs improving.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jay Oliva; screenplay by Bob Goodman, based on the comic book by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson and the character created by Bob Kane; edited by Christopher D. Lozinski; music by Christopher Drake; released by Warner Premiere

Starring Peter Weller (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Ariel Winter (Robin / Carrie Kelley), Michael Emerson (Joker), David Selby (Commissioner Gordon), Maria Canals-Barrera (Ellen Yindel), Mark Valley (Superman / Clark Kent), Michael Jackson (Alfred Pennyworth), Carlos Alazraqui (Congressman Noches), Tress MacNeille (Selina Kyle), Michael McKean (Dr. Bartholomew Wolper), Conan O’Brien (David Endocrine), Paget Brewster (Lana Lang), Frank Welker (Mayor Stevenson), Robin Atkin Downes (Oliver) and Jim Meskimen as the President of the United States.


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Sounds from a Town I Love (2001, Woody Allen)

Allen did Sounds from a Town I Love quickly, for the “Concert for New York City” benefit. It’s very short clips—about ten seconds—of (uncredited) people walking around New York on their cellphones. The snippets of conversation are all played for comedic effect, while still maintaining a mild sense of reality (some of the snippets are more real than others—the mother worrying her three year-old’s life is over after not getting into a preschool).

There’s a frequent balance between laughing at the conversation and at the speaker. Austin Pendleton’s director whose understanding of the south-central Asia countries is based on their film festivals is a fine example. If it weren’t Pendleton, it wouldn’t work. But he’s likable in his absurdity.

The snippets let Allen make Sounds very memorable very quickly… which then made me wonder how his use of the final snippet would be.

Unsurprisingly perfect.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen.

Starring Marshall Brickman, Griffin Dunne, Michael Emerson, Hazelle Goodman, Rick Mowat, Bebe Neuwirth, Austin Pendleton, Tony Roberts and Celia Weston.


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