Tag Archives: Pierce Brosnan

Dante’s Peak (1997, Roger Donaldson)

Dante’s Peak came in the slight post-Twister disaster movie resurgence–and might have helped end it–but it really doesn’t know how to be a disaster movie.

Leslie Bohem’s script film follows Jaws‘s plot structure–no one listens to Pierce Brosnan’s roguish geologist (has Brosnan ever been asked to do an American accent, it seems to be part of his persona to never do one) until it’s too late–only replacing Richard Dreyfuss with Linda Hamilton as sidekick. Romance develops and Brosnan’s bachelor warms quickly to Hamilton’s two really annoying kids. They aren’t really annoying until the volcano, which means at least they’re tolerable for an hour.

When disaster does strike, it’s amusing to watch all the friendly neighbors try to kill each other to get onto the highway faster–after the movie opens saying it’s the second-best place in the country to live. Maybe in the first they’d help each other.

It’s probably Hamilton’s best film role as an actor. She’s not asked to do much (it’s a little unbelievable she could put up with her kids at the end, or her evil mother-in-law, boringly played by Elizabeth Hoffman).

The film takes place in a rural mountain town and–shockingly–never tries to show racial diversity among the town population. Nor does it try to make anyone likable; watching the disaster doesn’t encourage much emotional response. It’s boring.

Donaldson’s direction is mediocre at best (he’s not an action director) but the visual effects are good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Donaldson; written by Leslie Bohem; director of photography, Andrzej Bartkowiak; edited by Howard E. Smith, Conrad Buff IV and Tina Hirsch; music by John Frizzell; production designer, J. Dennis Washington; produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Joseph Singer; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Harry Dalton), Linda Hamilton (Rachel Wando), Charles Hallahan (Paul Dreyfus), Jamie Renée Smith (Lauren Wando), Jeremy Foley (Graham Wando), Elizabeth Hoffman (Ruth), Grant Heslov (Greg, USGS Crew), Kirk Trutner (Terry, USGS Crew), Arabella Field (Nancy, USGS Crew), Tzi Ma (Stan, USGS Crew), Brian Reddy (Les Worrell), Lee Garlington (Dr. Jane Fox), Bill Bolender (Sheriff Turner), Carole Androsky (Mary Kelly) and Peter Jason (Norman Gates).


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Murder 101 (1991, Bill Condon)

It’s kind of amazing how much self-depreciation can turn something around. Not to spoil Murder 101‘s usage–it’s actually not the spoiler for the mystery–but think of The Muppet Movie. Almost the entire running time of the movie, there are frequent acknowledgments of the absurdity of the TV movie thriller genre. Murder 101‘s charm, in the end, is how dumb a lot of it gets….

The story, involving a writing professor (of a one year long course, which seems a little off for undergraduate writing courses) whose assignment of planning a murder for his mystery writing class, has a very TV feel to it. Pierce Brosnan both brings a cinematic quality to the film–so does Raphael Sbarge, which is strange, given Sbarge hasn’t been in theatrical releases since the mid-1980s–and makes Murder 101 seem silly. Brosnan’s performance is fine, but it reminds a lot of “Remington Steele,” down to the wife’s name. There’s an even split between trying hard to overact and acting. If that sentence just gave away the end twist, I apologize. But it’s worth sitting through for it.

Murder 101 establishes its mystery gradually, which gives the movie a real narrative feel–there’s a definite first act, introducing Brosnan back to teaching his course (only one, apparently) after a long sabbatical. Once the mystery starts, then everyone becomes a suspect–because everyone has to be a suspect in a television movie thriller. Except for the resolution, which isn’t particularly interesting, it’s compelling enough. It’s TV fare. But it always seems slightly more self-aware than most television movies allow themselves. Bill Condon’s direction–except when he apes Hitchcock’s low angles–is decent. There’s some visible intelligence at work with the movie. So when it’s just too stupid at times, it seems wrong. I’m not sure if that self-awareness covers the idiotic portrayal of college life, but I’ll give Condon the benefit of the doubt. The one scene I had the most problems with–people falling asleep at a poetry reading–became mildly more possible once I realized I’ve never been to a mandatory attendance undergrad reading.

On to Sbarge. He has this deceptive quality about him, like he’s easy to dismiss, but his performance is solid. He’s a suspect, of course, so he’s got a couple levels to work on… but he’s good. And made me feel bad I ho-hummed when I read his name in the opening titles.

The rest of the supporting cast is okay. Dey Young and Antoni Corone have their high and low points. Kim Thomson’s bad–her big scene is Condon’s worst, just because it’s so stupid. Mark L. Taylor, who’s a fine actor, gets stuck with a bad character.

Murder 101 is a good TV movie, from back when the cable companies were just getting started airing them (this era of relative quality lasted something like two and a half years). The twist is good enough, so well-played, it’s hard to know how much of it was supposed to be a joke.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Bill Condon; screenplay by Condon and Roy Johansen; director of photography, Stephen M. Katz; edited by Stephen Lovejoy; music by Philip Giffin; production designer, Richard Sherman; produced by Oscar L. Costo; released by the USA Network.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Charlie Lattimore), Dey Young (Laura Lattimore), Antoni Corone (Mike Dowling), Raphael Sbarge (Robert Miner), Kim Thomson (Francesca Lavin), Mark L. Taylor (Henry Potter), J. Kenneth Campbell (Tim Ryder) and Todd Merrill (John Defazio).


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Mamma Mia! (2008, Phyllida Lloyd)

The first act of Mamma Mia! practically kills the entire thing. The goofy proposition of a musical set to ABBA songs engenders a lot of curiosity (one starring Meryl Streep provokes a lot more), but the first act–when it tries to be a narrative–is a disaster. The attempts at narrative and summary storytelling are atrocious. The first act would have been more successful if the movie had just started by playing the trailer to establish itself. There’s also the problem with Amanda Seyfried, who’s awful when the story centers around her. Luckily, it’s only for that first act. Later on, when Seyfried’s supporting, she’s better.

The movie starts getting entertaining–and Mamma Mia! is nothing but entertaining, the joke of it being the presence of Streep and Pierce Brosnan, both of whom are established, undeniable movie stars. It’s fun watching them have fun (I suppose Mamma Mia! is a low rent Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen as it were). Anyway, it gets entertaining when Julie Walters and Christine Baranski arrive. Once the film gets those two and Streep together, it’s a lot of fun. Baranski’s the only cast member who I’d expect to see in Mamma Mia! Watching Julie Walters in the movie is almost more disconcerting than seeing Streep in it.

I’m unfamiliar with modern musicals, so I don’t know if this “style” is the norm, but Mamma Mia! is absurd as one of the Muppet movies. It tries for humor in the same way (a line of the song leads to some amusing, literal sight gag), which is a lot different than presenting a narrative set to music. The failed first act never established itself as acknowledging its absurdity, something Seyfried’s ever-pensive performance doesn’t help.

At times with Streep and Brosnan–mostly with Streep, because Brosnan seems perfectly aware his presence in the film is silly and can’t stop grinning–there’s the implication the movie’s format is wasting its cast. Maybe Streep should have made a movie with Brosnan about middle-aged romance or one with Seyfried (well, not Seyfried, but some other young actress) about letting go of an about-to-be married daughter. But then Streep sings and brings her superior acting ability to it. Streep’s not a good singer (but better than I would have thought, ABBA songs lend themselves to enthusiasm over ability), but her performance makes it not matter. It makes the super-pop songs all of a sudden of the greatest human import. All because of Streep.

The rest of the cast is fine. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård get the heave-ho once the focus shifts from Seyfried to Streep but it’s hard to miss them. Seeing Pierce Brosnan break out into song–he seems to be trying to turn ABBA into Irish folk songs–obscures their absence. Mamma Mia! is one of the first times it becomes clear what a good movie star Brosnan has turned into–quite a turnaround for someone who was doing direct-to-cable movies twenty years ago.

The direction–which is essentially a string of music videos strung together–is occasionally annoying, as is the digitally enhanced cinematography. But it’s a fine enough hour and forty minutes… with the last number making any problems more than worth enduring.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd; written by Catherine Johnson, based on her original musical book, originally conceived by Judy Craymer based on the songs of ABBA; director of photography, Haris Zambarloukos; edited by Lesley Walker; music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, some songs with Stig Anderson; production designer, Maria Djurkovic; produced by Craymer and Gary Goetzman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Meryl Streep (Donna), Pierce Brosnan (Sam), Colin Firth (Harry), Stellan Skarsgård (Bill), Julie Walters (Rosie), Dominic Cooper (Sky), Amanda Seyfried (Sophie) and Christine Baranski (Tanya).


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Butterfly on a Wheel (2007, Mike Barker)

Besides opening with that long, awkward and confusing title, Butterfly on a Wheel opens a lot like a 1980s thriller would. Robert Duncan’s score is quite effective throughout the film, but during the opening titles–knowing very little about the movie–I think I got a little more hopeful than I should have. Butterfly takes place over a long night (except the first act, which summarizes the day before) and running the present action limits the movie’s potential. With a couple exceptions, the movie doesn’t do anything wrong, it just doesn’t set its ambitions high. As a ninety minute diversion, it’s pretty good, but only because it’s got a couple nice surprises at the end. I’m not a fan of trick endings… but for a ninety minute, second and third acts over one night narrative, I could care less.

Except it’s Pierce Brosnan in the heavy role. Brosnan doesn’t have to quell his accent–though I have no idea, having never seen him interviewed, if he still has a strong Irish accent–but since his character’s deceiving the other characters and the viewer, it’s not like there’s much potential for acting. Brosnan’s good when he does get to act, but it’s only a couple times. It’s a waste of time for Brosnan, the kind of silly role one would take in a vanity project… oh, did I forget to mention he produced Butterfly too? His participation makes a lot of sense with that detail taken into account.

Maria Bello is good, even though the specifics for her character are real sketchy. The first act, the brief establishing of her backstory and the ground situation… it’s too abridged. But she does have some really excellent small moments. They don’t really contribute to the movie, just showcase Bello’s acting.

As for Gerard Butler–and it’s the first time I’ve ever see him in anything–he’s awful. His performance, if it deserves that term, is a disaster. He can’t emote, he can’t sit still. He can’t even walk convincingly. He does bring Butterfly down. Due to his performance, the end is less significant. He’s terrible. There aren’t words for how terrible.

The direction’s competent, bordering on good. It’s a thriller without many set pieces, which is odd, so Barker doesn’t have much chance for flash. There is one terrible scene–the camera is spinning around Bello and Butler, but instead of doing it practical, it’s an effects shot. Except the backgrounds keep changing and it all looks bad. And the effects shots at the end are bad too. But the direction’s inoffensive.

Butterfly‘s engaging in the worst way–it’s actually all about watching to find out what happens. There’d be nothing to see on a second viewing. But for one of those movies, it’s not bad.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mike Barker; written by William Morrissey; director of photography, Ashley Rowe; edited by Guy Bensley; music by Robert Duncan; production designer, Rob Gray; produced by Pierce Brosnan, Morrissey and William Vince; released by Lionsgate Films.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Tom Ryan), Maria Bello (Abby Randall), Gerard Butler (Neil Randall), Emma Karwandy (Sophie Randall), Claudette Mink (Judy Ryan), Desiree Zurowski (Helen Schriver), Nicholas Lea (Jerry Crane), Peter Keleghan (Karl Granger), Samantha Ferris (Diane), Malcolm Stewart (Dave Carver), Callum Keith Rennie (Det. McGill) and Dustin Milligan (Matt Ryan).


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