Andrew Garfield

Doctor Who (2005) s03e05 – Evolution of the Daleks

Last episode I went in pretty hard on the British actors playing Americans but I think I may have emphasized accents too much. Hugh Quarshie’s accent isn’t bad. His performance is bad, his accent is fine. Whereas Andrew Garfield’s accent is bad and his performance is bad.

Though even Garfield seems like a strong supporting player when taking main guest star Eric Loren into account. Loren’s the Dalek-human hybrid. He’s got a head with a single eye and tentacles—short, thick, dreadlock tentacles. He’s pink. He looks like a “Simpsons” or “Futurama” alien. It never looks real, because exposed brain tissue would be a lot real, but it also looks lifeless even if it’s absurd. It’s distractingly bad.

Like, afternoon local access kids’ show bad.

But even as bad as the mask and makeup and whatever… Loren’s performance is eye-widening terrible. Uncomfortably terrible.

You feel bad for the other actors terrible. And the rest of the actors—even Garfield, much less Quarshie—are sympathetic because they’re trapped in this terrible episode.

The episode seems like some kids’ variety show, partially because of the production design, mostly because of James Strong’s direction. Strong doesn’t do good work here. He does better directing than Helen Raynor does writing, but it’s still rather wanting.

The exciting conclusion to the Daleks trying to take over the planet from 1930 New York and somehow continuing the Dalek race. David Tennant very quickly goes from being anti-Dalek to pro-Loren hybrid Dalek, which is terrible for a couple reasons. First, it means more Loren, second it means Tennant’s just part of some other character’s plot line. Will the regular Daleks behave when their leader is getting all human-y?

Freema Agyeman gets to play gal pal to lovesick Miranda Raison, which is a big waste. Also a big waste of Raison, who gets downgraded from her Doctor’s love interest spot from last episode.

I knew this episode would be a slog and, no surprise, a slog.

Doctor Who (2005) s03e04 – Daleks in Manhattan

So… Nicholas Briggs does do the Dalek voices in this episode. He’s been doing all of them, which is weird because the Dalek voices this episode are terrible and so… I figured it was other actors.

But no.

It’s Briggs.

And he’s terrible.

I was waiting for the Daleks to show up—they’re trying to take over 1930 Manhattan, using the Empire State Building’s construction to do something. It’s not particularly interesting, mostly because even with the potentially interesting setting, the episode plays more like a college stage production, where British actors get to try out their American accents while acting in front of green screens.

Including future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, who plays a Tennessee(!) youth who encounters the Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha (Freema Agyeman) as they hang out in Hooverville to solve disappearances among the Depression-ravaged residents. Hugh Quarshie plays Black king of melting pot Hooverville, which seems a little… I mean, it seems like it needs to come with citations if they’re going to do it. Because otherwise it seems like it’s painting in some inclusivity where there wasn’t any.

But then there’s not many bars Helen Raynor’s script clears. It’s a fairly bad script. Like, jarring, getting worse as it goes along. The Dalek dialogue seems like it’s just not written with the right ear (in addition to whatever’s going on with Briggs).

The episode introduces another female interest for Tennant—showgirl Miranda Raison, who sounds as New Yawk as Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk gets. So after having all this momentum with Agyeman and Tennant as a team, the episode keeps them together but gives Agyeman a lot less to do.

It’s disappointing. Though the episode looks like it was shot on a camcorder—maybe because there are so many period sets? Like, bigger the production, worse the video “stock”? So it always looks disappointing. Then it just disappoints overall.

The show’s quickly run out of goodwill with the Dalek episodes. They’ve gone from being a gem of a trope to a trope’s trope.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014, Marc Webb)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is bereft of good ideas. It’s also bereft of good music–Hans Zimmmer’s bland “superhero” score rattles the brain, bowdlerizing what might be better scenes and effect sequences. It’s impossible to know, because there’s never a single moment of music without ludicrous bombast. Who knows how it’d have played if the superhero action attempted emotional impact.

The film opens in flashback. Campbell Scott, playing Spider-Man’s dad, has an action sequence. It sets up lead Andrew Garfield’s arc for the movie. It’s about him trying to find out what happened to his parents. Except when it’s not. Second-billed Emma Stone has this arc about being broken up with Garfield. But, while it does make Garfield a little mopier than usual, it doesn’t really play into any of his arc.

Only it turns out there is no arc for Garfield because nothing interesting happened to his parents. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner–wow, it took three writers to produce such an awful turd of a script–anyway, they build up a big reveal and it’s nothing. They write this exaggerated scene between Garfield and aunt Sally Field where she’s hiding the truth from him and it’s going to devastate him and then it’s nothing. The screenwriters have no idea how to do narrative distance.

Neither does director Webb. Worse, Webb treats Stone like an annoyance. She already doesn’t have a part except to make out with Garfield, smile, and meet supporting cast members for a moment. And when she does have a scene, Webb ignores her performance. You spend the movie trying to remember if or why you like the character and why Garfield likes her and get nothing from the film itself. Who cares if they’re broken up? Not even the characters care.

I suppose Stone’s not bad. She just has a crap part. Garfield’s not bad either. He’s just got a crap part. But Dale DeHaan and Jamie Foxx both have crap parts and manage to be bad. With Foxx, it’s not his fault. They had no idea what to do with him, practically muting him by the end. And they’d already given him the inglorious origin of being bitten by mutant electric eels. He becomes an electric eel man. Just one who can’t be electric underwater, even though the eels got him underwater.

DeHaan’s terrible. Webb’s direction of him is terrible. The writing is terrible. For a while it seems like they’re actually going to generate rapport between Garfield and DeHaan as childhood friends reunited but no. The movie’s too busy jumping between terrible subplots. DeHaan and Foxx are tied together because of evil biomedical capitalist Colm Feore. It’s stupid how much time Feore gets. Even stupider is how much time his sidekick Louis Cancelmi gets. Anything to keep Spider-Man away from Stone.

Because nothing in Garfield’s family plot has to do with Stone. They’re completely separate. He compartmentalizes, even though he apparently follows her once a day as Spider-Man, combination protection and adoration.

Once the movie gets around to the idea of teaming up Stone and Garfield to solve problems, which seems like a good idea, it’s time for the movie to end and for everyone to fall into their parts. Except then the ending takes forever. It’s exhausting. And the music is terrible. And nothing good ever happens. Not in the story, but in the narrative decisions. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is amazing because its best is unfulfilled mediocre. Nothing’s going right with this movie.

And the composite effects–Spider-Man swinging around New York City–usually look awful, like the CG lighting on the Spider-Man model is wrong. The Spider-Man scenes, when he’s not in a weak fight scene, are grating. Bad music, bad CG composite, charmless direction. Webb manages one actual great shot in the movie and cuts away too soon. Pietro Scalia and Webb like to cut a lot. Enough there are times when it’s clear Webb didn’t have coverage.

That one good shot is of Stone, naturally. It’s this brief moment where Amazing Spider-Man 2 connects the emotion of the story with the emotion of the filmmaking. Webb, Scalia, and cinematographer Dan Mindel manage this one sincere thing. I don’t even think Zimmer’s music screws it up.

Then it’s over. And Stone gets nothing, Garfield gets busy to get nothing, DeHaan gets green, and Foxx gets blue. Oh, and Sally Field gets an arc about having to go back to work to pay for Garfield’s college, even though Garfield is apparently not going to college during the movie.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is bad. Kurtzman, Orci, and Pinker’s script is the worst thing about it. Shame Webb didn’t do anything to alleviate its defects. The returning principals–Garfield, Stone, and Field–deserved better.

Oh, and Chris Cooper is awful in his uncredited cameo. Just dreadful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Marc Webb; screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner, based on a story by Kurtzman, Orci, Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt and the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Dan Mindel; edited by Pietro Scalia; music by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Michael Einziger, and Junkie XL; production designer, Mark Friedberg; produced by Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man / Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Electro / Max Dillon), Dane DeHaan (Green Goblin / Harry Osborn), Colm Feore (Donald Menken), Felicity Jones (Felicia), Paul Giamatti (Aleksei Sytsevich), Sally Field (Aunt May), and Campbell Scott (Richard Parker).


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012, Marc Webb)

The Amazing Spider-Man is melodramatic trifle, but not in any sort of bad way. I mean, it doesn’t succeed but it does try a lot. Director Webb really goes for a high school romance, with such saccharine effectiveness it probably ought to be an ominous foreshadowing for leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s burgeoning romance. Except, although Webb’s going for the melodrama and there’s a sappy, though heroic, and familiar in many parts James Horner score, John Schwartzman’s photography is super flat. It’s unclear if Webb’s messing it up or Schwartzman or some combination; I lean more towards Webb, if only because Schwartzman knows how to light J. Michael Riva’s early seventies style sets and Webb doesn’t know how to shoot them.

If The Amazing Spider-Man were a period piece set in the late sixties, with a lot more for Denis Leary to do in the first half of the film, it could’ve been something. Instead, it’s this weird mushing together of various ideas, from Spider-Man comics, from popular movies, from unpopular movies, probably something from a TV show. Webb and screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves throw just about everything in. The heart shows. The film’s enthusiastically sappy.

And it usually works, because the good performances weather occasional weak scenes and subplots and manage to sell the sap. Martin Sheen can sell the sap, so can Denis Leary. It’d help if Rhys Ifans’s could sell it too, but he’s pretty terrible as the de facto villain. The writing on the villain stuff is terrible throughout, but Ifans still isn’t any good in the part. Sheen, Leary, and Ifans make up Garfield’s surrogate father trinity in the film, which should be important but isn’t.

Instead of continuing anything the first act threatens with daddy issues, as soon as the delayed second act is underway, the film quickly veers into mostly unrelated territory. The familiar Spider-Man origin has frequent, small tweaks. Usually so director Webb can avoid the action, but not the Spider-Man in New York stuff. Webb likes that stuff.

But the fighting? Webb’s fumbles it. Even when the special effects are good–which is never with Ifans’s CGI alter ego–Webb doesn’t know what he’s doing. Someone–either Webb, the screenwriters, or just the plain old studio–sets up action scenes ripe for video game realization. The action in the third act is almost like the target demographic is Spider-Man gamers. With the gaudy Horner music and Schwartzman’s flat, “realistic” photography, the sequences even amuse. The Amazing Spider-Man goes all out when it’s got an idea, good or bad.

It goes for it for over two hours. It goes for it to the point the narrative has two or three major shifts where previous subplots just get dropped. At some point, the film decides it just wants to set up Garfield as a pretty cool Spider-Man. And then everything builds towards it, sometimes with stupid stuff like C. Thomas Howell inexplicably having an extended cameo, like Tobey Maguire or Nicholas Hammond wouldn’t have been far better.

Great Stan Lee cameo though, during the one time the effects all come together and Webb goes along with it and it all works out. It’s a big high school fight sequence between Garfield’s CGI stand-in and Ifans’s CGI stand-in. It’s just fun, but with some danger. Amazing Spider-Man’s balance of danger to fun is one of its strengths.

The greatest strength, however, is Garfield. He’s socially obtuse and pensive, sympathetic without being lovable, occasionally justified in his insensitivity. And instead of losing his place once he and Stone get involved, Garfield just gets better. The fun flirting just informs later serious concern and chastely suggestive sequences. Especially one where Stone and Leary have this awkward family moment and it’s almost good enough, but Webb fumbles it. Stone and Leary try hard enough they get it to pass… but it should be better.

Like Stone. Stone’s underutilized. More Stone would make it better. But the script’s too busy. There are too many characters crowding Garfield. Stone’s just another one of them; after setting her up for her own character development time and again, the film just keeps cutting her off. It’s got no idea what weight to give to what character. Garfield’s just haphazardly visiting people who should have good subplots, but then they never do.

Despite it having nothing to do with anything, it’s got a pretty good ending. As far as melodramatic trifle goes. With the exception of Ifans and a little Leary, Webb’s good with actors. He relies on Garfield and Stone heavily throughout the film and the epilogue’s got some acknowledgement (even if not enough for Stone).

The Amazing Spider-Man has some heart to it, which helps it immeasurably.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Marc Webb; screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, based on a story by Vanderbilt and the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, John Schwartzman; edited by Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, and Pietro Scalia; music by James Horner; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Laura Ziskin; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Sally Field (Aunt May), Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors), Denis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Irrfan Khan (Rajit Ratha), Chris Zylka (Flash Thompson), and C. Thomas Howell (Jack’s Father).


Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009, James Marsh)

This adaptation runs almost ninety minutes (almost) and the source novel is, according to Amazon, 400 pages. So I’m guessing the novel doesn’t read like a disjointed, James Ellroy goes to England, but what do I know, I’ve only seen the movie. But it’d be hard at 400 pages… even with a big font.

There’s a lot good about 1980–Paddy Considine is outstanding in the lead, essentially playing the UK version of the last honest cop (also, not Irish–but still Roman Catholic). The film fails him. But there are very few actors who 1980 doesn’t end up failing. Of the (extended) principals, David Morrissey weathers it best–he all of a sudden grows a character halfway through the film, instead of getting left behind as the revelations ramp up.

The best performances, besides Considine, are supporting, Peter Mullan and Julia Ford. Mullan’s got an extended cameo, Ford’s got one and a half scenes, but both of them make 1980 feel real, instead of like an over-cooked melodrama.

Some of the problem might be Marsh doesn’t make Yorkshire seem like a real place. It feels like there’s a bar, a police station and a handful of other nondescript locations. The script’s not inventive enough to make something of those elements (and Marsh opening with historical news clips doesn’t get him a pass either).

Until the third act, 1980‘s ok, because it’s nothing but Considine’s story.

Once it gets, forcibly, incorporated into the Red Riding whole, it plummets.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by James Marsh; screenplay by Tony Grisoni, based on a novel by David Peace; director of photography, Igor Martinovic; edited by Jinx Godfrey; music by Dickon Hinchliffe; production designer, Tom Burton; produced by Andrew Eaton, Anita Overland and Wendy Brazington; released by Channel 4.

Starring Paddy Considine (Peter Hunter), Maxine Peake (Helen Marshall), Andrew Garfield (Eddie Dunford), David Morrissey (Maurice Jobson), Tony Pitts (John Nolan), Peter Mullan (Martin Laws), Robert Sheehan (B J), Sean Harris (Bob Craven) and Tony Mooney (Tommy Douglas).


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).


Lions for Lambs (2007, Robert Redford)

Hopefully, Lions for Lambs will be the most topical film ever made. Hopefully. In fifteen years, hopefully it won’t make any sense. It probably will.

As a dramatic narrative, it’s pretty limp. Most of the scenes with the big three are dialogue scenes, written by someone not incompetent but without much gift for it. It’s a play from a non-playwright. As a singularly directed play, the film would make sense. As a film, it really doesn’t. It might be Redford’s direction, which suffers from bad editing (Joe Hutshing does a terrible job with the back and forth, each edit more jarring than the last), but it might also be the lack of distinction. Had Redford done something crazy–something von Trier crazy–it might have worked. Because there’s nothing to Lions for Lambs if one tells it straight. It’s three stories–professor Redford talking to a student (basically about not sitting idly by while Britney Spears passes for news), GOP senator Tom Cruise trying to sell a new Afghanistan strategy to a cable news exec–sorry, reporter–Meryl Streep, and that strategy failing two of Redford’s former students, Michael Peña and Derek Luke on the ground.

The film opens with a broad, forceful propagandist hammer. It’s the kind of thing they should have gotten Noam Chomsky to consult on… if Noam Chomsky consulted on movies and if the producers had an iota of forethought. It slowly and carefully reveals layers and inconsistencies… Army Lieutenant Colonel Peter Berg might believe calculated lies about Iran but he does care about his troops. Berg’s acting in the film, watching Peña and Luke under fire is fantastic–a performance I never thought he’d be capable of performing.

There is a lot of good acting in the film. Streep’s solid, of course. Cruise’s performance will probably go forever unnoticed, but it’s phenomenal. It should have gotten more notice–and would have if only the film had some better direction. Both Peña and Luke are good as well, with Peña turning in yet another of his character performance as lead auditions.

Redford’s pretty lame, but most of the problem is with his “acting” collaborator. Whoever casted Andrew Garfield committed almost as great a film crime as whoever kept Mark Isham’s lousy score. Garfield’s real, real, real bad. His dialogue’s bad too, but his delivery is incompetent. He couldn’t sell teen hair products.

The cast is small, there are only a handful of settings… it should have been a play. A play can be topical and still be a phenomenon. A film has to account for some of the time spent–the time spent making it, the time spent watching it. Lions for Lambs feels like screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan got pissed while watching some bullshit CNN newscast, wrote an easy ninety-minute movie (turning Peña and Luke’s story into an entire feature would have been work) and just happened to be in the right place at the right time (Cruise taking over United Artists) to get it made.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Redford; written by Matthew Michael Carnahan; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Joe Hutshing; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Jan Roelfs; produced by Redford, Carnahan, Andrew Hauptman and Tracy Falco; released by United Artists.

Starring Robert Redford (Professor Stephen Malley), Meryl Streep (Janine Roth), Tom Cruise (Senator Jasper Irving), Michael Peña (Ernest Rodriguez), Andrew Garfield (Todd Hayes), Peter Berg (Lieutenant Colonel Falco), Kevin Dunn (ANX Editor) and Derek Luke (Arian Finch).


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