Tag Archives: Thomas Gibson

Just Buried (2007, Chaz Thorne)

It’s a terrible thing to say, but I can’t figure out why Rose Byrne did this movie. Not to knock it with a generalization, but Just Buried‘s a Canadian production. Even though Jay Baruchel’s on the rise, besides her, everyone in the principal cast is Canadian. For a while, I thought I had it figured out–why Byrne would do the film. For the first half, it’s a black comedy about she and Baruchel accidentally killing people and their funeral home profiting. Her character’s interesting, she and Baruchel have chemistry, the script still seems like it might develop somewhere. The script’s the most disappointing thing about Just Buried–it’s so full of potential and Thorne wastes all of it. Instead of doing a peculiar black comedy–the film’s still a black comedy in the end, but it’s a cheap farce of one, a TV movie black comedy, the kind USA would do in the mid-1990s after To Die For. It goes from being a pleasant surprise to a dismal failure, with Byrne’s presence somehow being its greatest setback. Seeing her–she’s excellent throughout, even in the end–essaying the crappy parts of the script… it’s depressing. It maddens.

Here’s what Thorne wastes. There aren’t really any spoilers, but I need to get the list down. He wastes a loser moving from a city where he flounders to a small town where he prospers. He wastes a son getting it on with his father’s trophy widow. He wastes a priest who drinks, plays poker and eyeballs girls. I’m trying to think of what else, but maybe I don’t want to remember it. Thorne flushes away all that potential, instead using each of them for a couple or three jokes. Instead of embracing what makes Just Buried unique, he goes with what makes it common. He turns more than the film into a farce, he turns the viewer’s experience into one as well.

Oh, I just remembered what I forgot (and, yes, it does depress me to recall). Just Buried has some of the finest people hanging out and drinking scenes I think I’ve ever seen on film. Baruchel and Byrne go on a couple of late night benders and Thorne beautifully captures the reality of it, each person’s relative solitude. These scenes happen in the first half, when Just Buried still has a bunch of potential.

Thorne obviously thinks he’s pretty witty with the conclusion, because he’s put clues in the film throughout. Sure, they require people not being able to hear what people whisper to other people, no matter how close they are, but whatever. Once the inevitable conclusion becomes clear–Thorne’s camera sits calmly for too long, like he forgot what they were shooting and just kept rolling–Just Buried just gets boring. Thorne has abandoned his characters, leaving the actors to drown.

Byrne’s great. Graham Greene’s pretty good. Baruchel’s very good in the first half, with his big transition not coming through so well. Sergio Di Zio is hilarious as the priest brother and Reagan Pasternak is funny as the stepmother. Nigel Bennett, Thomas Gibson and Brian Downey all appear to be sleepwalking through their performances, letting their costumes (two cops and an ex-clown) do the heavy lifting.

After Just Buried leapt off its cliff, I kept hoping Thorne knew what he was doing. He apparently does not.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Chaz Thorne; director of photography, Christopher Porter; edited by Christopher Cooper; music by Darren Fung and Scott Loane; production designer, William Fleming; produced by Nigel Bennett, Pen Densham, Bill Niven, Thorne and John Watson; released by Seville Pictures.

Starring Rose Byrne (Roberta Knickel), Jay Baruchel (Oliver Whynacht), Graham Greene (Henry Sanipass), Nigel Bennett (Chief Knickle), Sergio Di Zio (Jackie Whynacht), Reagan Pasternak (Luanne), Thomas Gibson (Charlie Richmond), Brian Downey (Pickles), Slavko Negulic (Armin Imholz), Jeremy Akerman (Rollie Whynacht) and Christopher Shore (Wayne Snarr).


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Barcelona (1994, Whit Stillman)

Barcelona would be, if Whit Stillman had made more than three films and could be accurately categorized, Whit Stillman-lite. The film’s hilarious, with almost every scene ending on a humorous note. These comic moments don’t add up to much. Cousins Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman have a conversation at one point about the lack of critical discussion of text (versus subtext). While one could talk ad nauseam about how Nichols and Eigeman–and their actions–represent the Spanish’s perception of Americans, it–just like their conversation about subtext–is garnish. Barcelona is Stillman’s version of a crowd-pleaser and it’s rather successful as one.

Certain elements of the film–whether it’s Stillman’s way of visualizing flashbacks or emphasizing infatuation with someone looking directly into the camera… and especially Nichols’s narration of the events, which isn’t just illogical in terms of point of view but a very cheap narrative trick to escape non-humorous scenes–don’t work. Nichols is a fine actor and his performance is good, but he’s in no way a protagonist, not even as a joke. Stillman asks a character actor to be Glenn Ford and the result is poor–more confusing is how the viewer is supposed to perceive Nichols. Eigeman is a jerk. He’s very funny, he’s likable, he’s sympathetic, but he’s a jerk. Nichols isn’t funny, isn’t a jerk, but Stillman’s frequently asking the viewer to laugh at him. It’s hard for him to be sympathetic, because the jokes are often on him. Nichols tries his best to play this character, but it doesn’t work out. Stillman gives Eigeman a schtick. It’s like if Laurel and Hardy were Laurel and the other guy. Nichols is the other guy and Stillman doesn’t even know what to do with him. He gets to tell the story, I suppose, but the story should play out instead of being told… something Stillman seems to get by the end, when the narration evaporates.

Stillman does a great job with the location shooting. He rarely treats Barcelona as anything special–there’s one sequence where Nichols gives a disinterested Eigeman a tour, but otherwise Stillman’s passive about the whole thing. The exterior scenes, walking down the street for instance, leave the viewer desperate for a little more time to look around and Stillman doesn’t grant it. There are a couple sumptuous scenes–one at a country house, but the narrative turn of events overshadow any scenery (it’s kind of hard to pay attention to the landscape when one’s eyes are tearing up from laughter), and then one other scene… in America. Barcelona, both as a title and a location, suggest a certain exoticness. Stillman never plays into it and it’s a great choice. His direction, along with the constantly funny dialogue, make the film a joy to watch.

The principal female actors, Tushka Bergen and Mira Sorvino, are both fine. Given their roles, it would have been near impossible for anyone to not do so… unless the performance were really terrible. They’re supposed to be enigmatic and funny and both succeed.

Barcelona‘s a great time. It’s definitely pandering (Stillman certainly didn’t flex any artistic muscles here), but it’s good pandering.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Whit Stillman; director of photography, John Thomas; edited by Christopher Tellefsen; music by Mark Suozzo; production designer, José María Botines; released by Fine Line Features.

Starring Chris Eigeman (Fred Boynton), Taylor Nichols (Ted Boynton), Tushka Bergen (Montserrat), Mira Sorvino (Marta), Pep Munné (Ramon), Thomas Gibson (Dickie Taylor) and Jack Gilpin (The Consul).


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Men of War (1994, Perry Lang)

Given Men of War’s blind earnestness, the daddy issues, and John Sayles being one of the credited screenwriters, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was going to be Steven Spielberg’s first war movie. I first read about Men of War when IMDb came around and I looked up Sayles. A John Sayles written Dolph Lundgren movie seemed unbelievable and I never got around to seeing it (I didn’t always have a video store carrying the Lundgren oeuvre available). Men of War is pre-Lone Star so Sayles’s connection could be anything, but the film does try to look like a “real” film, not the straight-to-video one it turned out to be. Ah ha, just looked at the ‘trivia’ at IMDb. It was originally going to be directed by John Frankenheimer, who had apparently decided to find a project with the same opening as Friedkin’s Sorcerer. I’m kidding, but Frankenheimer and Friedkin are reasonably interchangeable.

Failed actor turned director Perry Lang tries real hard with Men of War. He stretches the anamorphic image in moments of great intensity and he also does a lot of slow motion and has a lot of obnoxious fade-outs. His battle scenes are awful, but so’s the rest of it, evening out the experience. Men of War is not a good film. I could only spot one scene with any Sayles style to it and then it was Sayles-lite, like it got rewritten or was just a coincidence (if Sayles’s work was not actually on the produced screenplay). The music’s similarly awful, but worse. It’s a rip-off mostly of the Predator score (Lang would have done better if he’d been ripping someone off).

Men of War does have a few things to offer, however, which is an achievement considering it’s worse than the last bad film I saw (Battle for the Planet of the Apes). B.D. Wong is fantastic. Dolph Lundgren has visibly–in the film–become a good actor, but his role’s so flatly written, it’s not really a good performance. Tim Guinee is good, so’s Tom Wright, both as some of Lundgren’s mercenaries (oh, the film’s about a mercenary who decides to help the innocent people he’s been paid to hurt). Don Harvey, who isn’t in it enough, is decent and would be better if his role were better written. Same situation for Tony Denison. Men of War’s biggest failing, besides the direction and writing and some of the other acting (Catherine Bell is unspeakably bad and there are a number of other lame performances), is it’s lack of sense of humor. If it knew how to laugh, it’d probably be a little better. It’d be hard though, since it’s so visually uninteresting. But I’ve finally seen it… even though I’m no longer trying to see all Sayles’s produced screenplays.

But B.D. Wong is great.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Perry Lang; screenplay by John Sayles, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, based on a story by Stan Rogow; director of photography, Ronn Schmidt; edited by Jeffrey Reiner; music by Gerald Gouriet and Paul Rabjohns; production designers, James William Newport and Steve Spence; produced by Arthur Goldblatt and Andrew Pfeffer; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Dolph Lundgren (Nick Gunar), Charlotte Lewis (Loki), B.D. Wong (Po), Tony Denison (Jimmy G), Tim Guinee (Ocker), Don Harvey (Nolan), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Blades), Tom Wright (Jamaal), Catherine Bell (Grace Lashield), Trevor Goddard (Keefer), Kevin Tighe (Colonel Merrick), Thomas Gibson (Warren) and Perry Lang (Lyle).


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