Dimension Films

Highlander: Endgame (2000, Douglas Aarniokoski)

For all intents and purposes, there’s nothing nice to say about Highlander: Endgame. Maybe there’s an almost all right moment between Lisa Barbuscia and Adrian Paul. They’re married, but estranged. They’re both immortal, something he didn’t tell her before killing her to bring about her immortal existence. It’s terribly handled in the flashback sequences and not exactly done well in the modern day stuff, but Paul can emote serious without actually being able to act serious and Barbuscia really isn’t bad when she’s not playing an evil tough guy. It’s like Paul and Barbuscia remembered a better scene from an acting class and tried it out in Endgame. But, otherwise, it’s bereft of quality.

Joel Soisson’s script isn’t good, but it’s not utter crap. It’s mildly competent. If director Aarniokoski had any ability whatsoever, the film would have moved. But there’s also Douglas Milsome’s awful photography, the six terrible editors, the lame music, the cheap looking sets, the lousy special effects. Even Christopher Lambert deserves better than Aarniokoski. Lambert’s a trooper. He’s bad, but he’s willing. Aarniokoski doesn’t do anything with him. Aarniokoski’s camera doesn’t have any connection with the characters. It’s so bad. Aarniokoski does a really, really bad job. And Milsome enables some of it.

Because, Endgame is a part of what was once an almost reputable cult franchise. Things went wrong, but Highlander was an HBO hit in the eighties when HBO movie hits mattered. And Endgame is even more horrifying because it actually tries really hard to be a sequel to the original movie. It can’t be a sequel to the original because it’s a sequel to the TV show, but it wants to pretend. Aarniokoski doesn’t care enough pretend, but Lambert and the script want to pretend. So it’s depressing. It’s actually depressing.

Endgame is about pitying the people who tried to care about it. Not just the actors, but the audience. Watching this movie makes you feel bad for the other people who have seen it.

Lousy performance from Bruce Payne as the villain. It’d be laughable but it always feels like there’s a chance Payne is intentionally doing vamp camp so maybe it’s somehow brilliant. But it can’t be because Aarniokoski’s bad at directing actors too. He’s bad at filming actors act. It’s an incredibly poorly directed film. It’s stunning.

Oh, and Donnie Yen’s good. Beatie Edney too. She manages to have class, which is something because there’s no class anywhere else in this picture.

It doesn’t even move well. It’s less than ninety minutes and there’s always action and it doesn’t even move. Endgame is the pits.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski; screenplay by Joel Soisson, based on a story by Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Chris Blunden, Rod Dean, Robert A. Ferretti, Tracy Granger, Michael N. Knue and Donald Paonessa; music by Nick Glennie-Smith and Stephen Graziano; production designers, Jonathan A. Carlson and Stephen Scott; produced by Peter S. Davis, Panzer and Brian Gordon; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Adrian Paul (Duncan MacLeod), Bruce Payne (Jacob Kell), Lisa Barbuscia (Faith), Donnie Yen (Jin Ke), Jim Byrnes (Joe Dawson), Peter Wingfield (Methos), Damon Dash (Carlos), Beatie Edney (Heather), Sheila Gish (Rachel) and June Watson (Caiolin MacLeod)


The Crow (1994, Alex Proyas)

Has it been long enough since the firearms safety accident on The Crow set to point out Brandon Lee was a really bad actor and his performance in The Crow is laughably awful?

Actually, I don’t care; he’s lousy and the movie’s dumb.

There are good things about The Crow, which is a little surprising, considering the script is awful and Proyas’s seems more concerned with selling the soundtrack album than actually making a film. The good things are Michael Wincott, Ernie Hudson and Jon Polito. All three manage to get out their atrocious dialogue and make it sound good. Especially Wincott. He almost makes his character believable.

But the bad things… Where to even start? Rochelle Davis, the narrator of the film, gives an even worse performance than Lee. The dialogue in David J. Schow and John Shirley’s script is incredibly silly and it’s hard to believe it ever sounding reasonable. But Davis’s performance doesn’t do the (bad) script justice.

Laurence Mason’s bad too, so are Bai Ling and Anna Levine. Especially Ling. David Patrick Kelly and Michael Massee are both reasonably okay. Not good, but okay; okay goes far in The Crow. There’s not a lot okay about it.

On the technical side, Graeme Revell’s score is lousy. It’s probably Proyas’s fault. Revell’s score mostly just provides transitions between Proyas’s mini-music videos for the soundtrack songs. Dariusz Wolski’s photography seems inept, but it could just be the incompetent CG effects.

The Crow is a stupefyingly bad film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Alex Proyas; screenplay by David J. Schow and John Shirley, based on the comic book by James O’Barr; director of photography, Dariusz Wolski; edited by Dov Hoenig and M. Scott Smith; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Jeff Most and Edward R. Pressman; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Brandon Lee (Eric Draven), Rochelle Davis (Sarah), Ernie Hudson (Sergeant Albrecht), Michael Wincott (Top Dollar), Bai Ling (Myca), Sofia Shinas (Shelly Webster), Anna Levine (Darla), David Patrick Kelly (T-Bird), Angel David (Skank), Laurence Mason (Tin Tin), Michael Massee (Funboy), Tony Todd (Grange) and Jon Polito (Gideon).


Sin City (2005, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez), the extended version

When Sin City came out in the theater, three people told me to go see it. One of them had an opinion of film I respect, one had an opinion of it I–at the time–had no argument with, and one had an opinion I most definitely did not respect. But I’d read interviews with Robert Rodriguez where he said he intended the films to be viewed as separate stories (much like Pulp Fiction, which is Sin City‘s obvious inspiration–at least in terms of casting). One of the Weinstein Brothers, I believe, convinced Rodriguez the film’s audience were essentially dumb and couldn’t handle the stories separate, so spliced together they went. So I waited for the special edition DVD, which has all three films in their entirety….

Unlike Pulp Fiction, which has three stories and shared characters, Sin City isn’t the same movie from part to part. Rodriguez was never a particularly intelligent filmmaker, something Tarantino always has been. In fact, reading on IMDb that it was Tarantino’s idea for Clive Owen to talk his monologue–truly the best moment in the film–makes a lot of sense now. I thought it was just a moment of the comic book that wasn’t tripe.

I actually have a bunch of notes on Sin City, because some of the acting was so awful I had to make a list. Here’s the list, with some comments.

Elijah Wood. He doesn’t have any lines, but he doesn’t have a bad-ass, or even psycho scare. His casting is a goofy, poor choice. All Sin City proved was that he shouldn’t have made it past child acting, which Ash Wednesday already did.

Rosario Dawson is AWFUL.

So is Rutger Hauer.

So is Jessica Alba (in the cameo during Marv’s story).

Benicio Del Toro was laughingly bad. So was Brittany Murphy, but she was irritating. Watching Del Toro in Sin City is like… try to imagine Robert DeNiro as Robin (as an eleven year-old). It’s embarrassing. The Del Toro/Murphy scene is actually painful. A lot of the acting in Sin City is like it–it’s unbelievable that Rodriguez expects it to be taken seriously and not as a bad imitation of a car commercial.

Alexis Bledel–awful. She might give the worst female performance.

Michael Madsen is astoundingly bad. I always used to–when I was a teenager–confuse him with Tom Sizemore. The difference is not that Sizemore is good (he’s better than good), but that he’s actually capable of acting. Madsen isn’t.

Now, on to the good performances. Anyone turning in a good performance in this film must be amazing. The dialogue is so piss poor, they have to be.

Both Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton are good in their little intro sequence (Hartnett probably has the easiest time with the narration, because his is the shortest and, therefore, the best).

Mickey Rourke is fantastic, but the makeup is a bad idea. The whole “translation” of the comic book idea is stupid (and certainly testifies to Rodriguez’s inherent limitations). The comic book is not perfect–the writing is occasionally all right, but most of the dialogue and narration is awful. Miller simply isn’t very good, on page or screen. Rourke manages to convey real emotion, even with his face in plastic.

Clive Owen is excellent.

Tommy Flanagan (the guy with the scar) or Nick Stahl give the best performances in the film.

Jaime King is actually all right. Maybe even good.

The Willis narration ruins the sequence, because it doesn’t give him a chance to act. Jessica Alba was nowhere near as bad (just mediocre really) as I was lead to believe, mostly because her character does absolutely nothing. Some of the Willis stuff looks real good, but that narration just kills it. Miller’s narration makes an attempt at Chandler, but it’s a poor one. He misses Chandler’s point. Its characterizations are from a B film noir–a bad one–not Chandler. Not even Hammett. It’s like he’s heard some hackneyed detective narration on a sitcom….

The special effects–the “sets” and “locations”–occasionally work, but they mimic reality, but don’t seem to intend to–so when something is incredibly unreal, it sticks out. Like cars. Amusingly, the visual design (from Miller’s comic) has cops out of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, with full body armor, driving old cop cars to fit in with the 1950s motif.

I actually didn’t dislike Sin City. It’s certainly the best comic book movie in the last few years (since Hellboy, I suppose, then all the way back to Batman Returns or something). It’s just not very good–it’s like Pulp Fiction, but with a bunch of actors from the WB. There’s rarely any real human emotion to it and there’s a constant attempt to be “cool.” Pulp Fiction had some similar aspirations, but it was also about wanting to screw your boss’s wife, which is a layer Sin City doesn’t have. All of its characters, for the “noirish” dialogue (out of the missing Don Knotts adaptation–sorry, translation–of The Big Sleep), all of them talk straight from id. There’s no nuance. But it’s hard to dislike just because it isn’t a real movie. It’s not a serious attempt at anything. American Pie 2 is a more serious study of the human heart in conflict with itself.

Sin City is a comic book movie and I’m using comic book as a pejorative there….

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez; special guest director, Quentin Tarantino; screenplay by Frank Miller, based on his comic book; director of photography, Rodriguez; edited by Rodriguez; music by Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell; produced by Elizabeth Avellán, Rodriguez and Miller; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Jessica Alba (Nancy), Devon Aoki (Miho), Alexis Bledel (Becky), Powers Boothe (Senator Roark), Rosario Dawson (Gail), Benicio Del Toro (Jackie Boy), Michael Clarke Duncan (Manute), Carla Gugino (Lucille), Josh Hartnett (The Man), Rutger Hauer (Cardinal Roark), Jaime King (Goldie/Wendy), Michael Madsen (Bob), Brittany Murphy (Shellie), Clive Owen (Dwight), Mickey Rourke (Marv), Nick Stahl (Roark Jr./Yellow Bastard), Bruce Willis (Hartigan) and Elijah Wood (Kevin).


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