Tag Archives: Rebecca Hall

Iron Man 3 (2013, Shane Black)

Iron Man 3 feels a lot like the end of the series, which isn’t a bad thing–Robert Downey Jr. does the hero’s journey thing quite well–but director Black handles it oddly. After spending the entire movie pairing Downey with buddies, whether love interest Gwyneth Paltrow, sidekicks Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau, his computer and even an adorable little kid, Downey finishes the movie by himself.

But he’s just learned he can’t get by without a little help from his friends.

Anyway, it’s a stumble after an incredibly entertaining couple hours. Even when the film’s being serious–and sometimes even frightening (the villains are quite good)–it’s always a lot of fun. Downey and Paltrow are wonderful together, as usual, and Black never lets it get too somber. The end credits are self-congratulatory in the best way (if playing into the series finale thing a little much).

Cheadle doesn’t have a lot to do–Iron Man 3 could be a lot longer; more movie would plug most of its plot holes (besides Downey going from experienced marksman to novice in twenty minutes)–but he’s good. Ditto for Rebecca Hall as an ex-girlfriend. She and Paltrow get nowhere near enough time together.

The big surprises are Ben Kingsley as the supervillain and Guy Pearce as a business rival. Kingsley’s excellent, but Pearce’s spellbinding. He walks off with the movie. He alone makes it worth seeing.

The only real bad spot is Brian Tyler’s crappy score.

Otherwise, it rocks.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Shane Black; screenplay by Drew Pearce and Black, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Peter S. Elliot and Jeffrey Ford; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Kevin Feige; released by Walt Disney Studios.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), James Badge Dale (Savin), William Sadler (President Ellis), Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener), Miguel Ferrer (Vice President Rodriguez) and Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin).


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The Town (2010, Ben Affleck), the extended cut

Affleck’s directorial abilities are impressive. He’s got a great sense of composition–he seats his actors on either end of the Panavision frame, leaving this great space of emptiness between them. Except, of course, when he’s on screen with Rebecca Hall, as their bridging the gap is the whole point of The Town.

But he’s got his problems too. He casts too strongly.

Between himself, Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm, Affleck’s got three strong lead performances. He doesn’t have enough story for all three, so it’s hard to track them across the film’s narrative canvas.

For a while, the large canvas does Affleck good–and even after it gets too big, it still does allow for some really solid scenes, unimportant to the plot, but very human. The benefit is the lack of expectable. The story develops organically, one moment growing into the next, the opening feeling of foreboding waning as characters and relationships become more clear.

Some of the best moments are the ones Affleck holds longer than he needs to hold.

But, in the end, it’s a heist movie and heist movies have big, third act heists.

Affleck is able to do some different things with the way that heist works, but not enough to shrink it to fit the rest of the film.

Excellent performances from everyone–Hamm’s amazing and Hall’s quietly heartbreaking. Great supporting turn from Titus Welliver and–a big surprise–Blake Lively.

Even with its problems, The Town is an outstandingly piece of work.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Ben Affleck; screenplay by Peter Craig, Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on a novel by Chuck Hogan; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by Dylan Tichenor; music by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley; production designer, Sharon Seymour; produced by Graham King and Basil Iwanyk; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Ben Affleck (Doug MacRay), Rebecca Hall (Claire Keesey), Jon Hamm (Adam Frawley), Jeremy Renner (James Coughlin), Blake Lively (Krista Coughlin), Slaine (Gloansy Magloan), Owen Burke (Desmond Elden), Titus Welliver (Dino Ciampa), Pete Postlethwaite (Fergie Colm) and Chris Cooper (Stephen MacRay).


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Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009, Julian Jarrod)

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from 1974 but I didn’t get it. I think I thought it was a serial killer investigation, based on a real case. Instead, it’s this melodramatic crusading reporter thing, with the serial killings taking a back seat to that emphasis. Except then the crusading reporter thing takes a back seat to the romance between the reporter and one of the serial killer’s victim’s mother’s. Is that enough possessive apostrophes? I’m not sure about the last one.

It’s a good looking film–Jarrod’s directorial style appears to be directly informed by The Ice Storm, which is a fine thing to ape, and Rob Hardy’s cinematography is phenomenal. Adrian Johnston’s score really makes a lot of scenes work. Until the third act, when the film drowns in its own self-importance. Even Johnston’s score is weak at that point and Jarrod ends the film on one of the silliest final shots ever. Laughable, really.

Lead Andrew Garfield’s better than I would have expected, seeing as how his performance in Lions for Lambs is one of the worst performances in cinema. It doesn’t hurt the supporting cast could carry him, but they don’t really need to. I never would have guessed he wasn’t British.

Rebecca Hall’s grieving, broken mother is a singular performance. Eddie Marsan gives a great performance (no surprise) as a slightly comedic heavy.

And Sean Bean looks right for the era.

It’s a silly melodrama, but convincingly pretends it isn’t for a while.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Julian Jarrold; screenplay by Tony Grisoni, based on a novel by David Peace; director of photography, Rob Hardy; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by Adrian Johnston; production designer, Cristina Casali; produced by Wendy Brazington, Andrew Eaton and Anita Overland; released by Channel 4.

Starring Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), Sean Bean (John Dawson), Warren Clarke (Bill Molloy), Rebecca Hall (Paula Garland), Eddie Marsan (Jack Whitehead), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson) and Peter Mullan (Martin Laws).


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Frost/Nixon (2008, Ron Howard)

Once upon a time (in Hollywood), there was a bald director (who always wore a cap) who first got famous on television as an actor, then as a director of comedies, who then started making excellent mainstream Hollywood pictures. Then he started making mainstream crap and then it got worse.

The question of Frost/Nixon is the question of Ron Howard’s (mainstream) artistic solvency. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t quite so simple–oh, Howard does a fantastic job and would certainly be on the road to a new artistic period if it weren’t for a couple things. First, the trailer of his Da Vinci Code 2 played before this film. Second, if Howard could always turn off the crap-production–if he could recognize good material for the screen (he and writer Peter Morgan were on NPR talking about how Howard jetted to London for the play’s opening and snapped up the rights immediately), if he could not use scripts from Akiva Goldman–why hasn’t he done it before now? Did the critical drubbing of Da Vinci force him to prove he was competent? These are all valid questions, but they do distract from the film. So enough.

Frost/Nixon finds Richard Milhous Nixon, as usual, to be a fantastic character for examination. During the film’s third act, with Nixon laid bare–Frank Langella’s performance is so utterly captivating, talking about it in depth might get boring–creates one of cinema’s greatest antiheroes. His humanity–his recognition of his shortcomings and his bottomless regret–it makes Frost/Nixon a significant achievement. There’s a great argument scene–between Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Matthew Macfadyen and Oliver Platt–early on about the goal of the interview–to make Nixon look sympathetic or to make him accept responsibility for Watergate. The beauty of the film, which I suppose anyone familiar with the interviews would already know, is Nixon is never more sympathetic than when acknowledging his criminal culpability. And that early scene never foreshadows that possibility. Howard keeps the film surprising from each scene to next, even though–until the coda–the direction is muted.

As Frost, Sheen oscillates between being the film’s protagonist and a passenger. This transition happens at odd times too–the film is never, after the first fifteen minutes, about David Frost… it just takes the film a while to recognize it. But that condition is one Sheen works with beautifully. He can be the lead, he can be supporting, he can be off-screen. He’s fantastic. The most stunning part of Sheen’s performance is when the film gets to the interviews, watching his on-camera persona and trying to reconcile it with the off.

Rockwell, Macfadyen and Platt are all excellent. Rockwell’s got the most to do–and the film’s most difficult task of turning a boring character into an engaging one throughout. Rebecca Hall, who has a thankless female role–she’s only in it so Diane Sawyer isn’t the only female character–is so great, she makes it seem like an essential facet. Kevin Bacon’s good. Toby Jones has a fine small part.

I can’t ignore Langella any longer. His performance is heartbreaking. The complexities he achieves, in a role rife with laughter-producing dialogue (I don’t think anyone’s ever portrayed Nixon with more self-aware humor… in fact, he’s usually portrayed without it), are amazing. See, I told you it’d be boring.

I left Frost/Nixon elated. It’s great mainstream Hollywood cinema, something it seems this century has been, so far, lacking.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ron Howard; screenplay by Peter Morgan, based on his stage play; director of photography, Salvatore Totino; edited by Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Michael Corenblith; produced by Brian Grazer, Howard, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Frank Langella (Richard Nixon), Michael Sheen (David Frost), Sam Rockwell (James Reston Jr.), Kevin Bacon (Jack Brennan), Matthew Macfadyen (John Birt), Oliver Platt (Bob Zelnick), Rebecca Hall (Caroline Cushing) and Toby Jones (Swifty Lazar).


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