Eliza Dushku

Catwoman (2011, Lauren Montgomery)

So in the mind of writer Paul Dini, human traffickers take women from the United States and ship them overseas. I really hope he’s not heading a commission for the U.N., because that situation isn’t accurate.

Catwoman opens, in an attempt to show just how grown up DC’s cartoons are, in a strip club. I wonder how many parents are going to buy this movie for their kids and then realize the filmmakers think mature storytelling means pornographic implications.

Sadly, director Montgomery is excellent. Though Catwoman’s really silly—she swings around on a whip, doing Spider-Man stunts—the direction is amazing. Until the final shot, which is too goofy, there’s not a single false moment.

The cartoon’s fast, which is nice, but can’t disguise the mediocre voice acting.

Eliza Dushku is okay (nothing more) as Catwoman, but John DiMaggio’s weak as the villain.

Besides the writing, it’s essentially competent.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Paul Dini, based on the character created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Eliza Dushku (Catwoman), John DiMaggio (Rough Cut), Kevin Michael Richardson (Moe) and Liliana Mumy (Holly).


Batman: Year One (2011, Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery)

Batman: Year One should be much, much better. As it stands, as animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s comic books, it’s a fantastic proof of concept. It’s no surprise, given much has already been adapted, albeit uncredited, into Batman Begins. I guess Christopher Nolan doesn’t know how to cite.

But co-directors Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery are so reverential of the source material, they don’t seem to realize certain obvious things… like having a date appear every thirty seconds, as it does in some sequences, doesn’t work in a moving picture like it does in a comic book.

It’s a period piece, set in 1983 or so, which should be great, but the animation’s cheap and often lifeless. The car tires usually don’t move.

It should be better.

But it’s well cast for the most part. Bryan Cranston, as someday Commissioner Gordon, is amazing. He sells the first person narration and he sells the dramatic dialogue sequences. As Batman, Ben McKenzie’s earnestness works for the narration, though he doesn’t make the talking scenes work. Year One, as a movie or a comic book, isn’t about Batman talking.

Jon Polito and especially Fred Tatasciore are good as bad guys. Alex Rocco isn’t. Eliza Dushku’s Catwoman’s without presence (and her character has been whitewashed in terms of skin tone from the comic).

Christopher Drake’s music practically does the whole thing in occasionally.

The adaptation often reminds of the excellent comics. But as a standalone piece, Year One’s lacking.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Tab Murphy, based on comic books by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and characters created by Bob Kane; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Montgomery; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Bryan Cranston (Lieutenant James Gordon), Ben McKenzie (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Eliza Dushku (Selina Kyle), Jon Polito (Commissioner Loeb), Alex Rocco (Carmine Falcone), Katee Sackhoff (Detective Sarah Essen), Fred Tatasciore (Detective Flass), Jeff Bennett (Alfred Pennyworth), Grey DeLisle (Barbara Gordon), Liliana Mumy (Holly Robinson) and Stephen Root (Branden).


Bye Bye Love (1995, Sam Weisman)

About halfway through Bye Bye Love, I realized it was reminding me of “The Bradys,” the hour-long drama sequel to “The Brady Bunch.” Two very successful sitcom writers wrote this movie; it’s like an hour-long comedy drama… Only the movie runs about a hundred minutes. It’s way too long.

What’s interesting—there’s not a single laugh in the film, so one has to find interesting things to think about—is the casual misogyny running through it. Sure, Matthew Modine being a philanderer is a bad thing, but one has to look very hard to see a positive female character and ignore some glaringly awful ones. Randy Quaid’s ex-wife, played by Lindsay Crouse, lets her new boyfriend beat her son. Janeane Garofalo, as Quaid’s date, is a “ha ha, she’s so dumb because she’s a feminist” character. Paul Reiser’s ex-wife has this odious husband who calls Reiser the “birth father” of his fourteen year-old daughter. As the daughter, Eliza Dushku’s occasionally awful but the character’s probably mildly honest.

Quaid’s really good when being the dad, bad when interacting with women (it’s the script). Modine’s interesting as the Don Juan; it’s funny to see him in this kind of role. Reiser’s all right as a less engaging Modell.

The biggest draw is Maria Pitillo’s outstanding performance as Modine’s suffering girlfriend. Oh, and Amber Benson’s good….

Wait, I forgot the music… J.A.C. Redford’s score is unbearable.

It’s sort of worth a look as a curiosity, but not really.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall; director of photography, Kenneth Zunder; edited by Roger Bondelli; music by J.A.C. Redford; production designer, Linda DeScenna; produced by Goldberg, Hall and Weisman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Paul Reiser (Donny), Matthew Modine (Dave), Randy Quaid (Vic), Amy Brenneman (Susan), Maria Pitillo (Kim), Janeane Garofalo (Lucille), Ed Flanders (Walter Sims), Johnny Whitworth (Max Cooper), Lindsay Crouse (Grace), Eliza Dushku (Emma), Ross Malinger (Ben), Mae Whitman (Michele), Amber Benson (Meg), Cameron Boyd (Jed), Jayne Brook (Claire), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Heidi Schmidt), Wendell Pierce (Hector) and Rob Reiner (Dr. David Townsend).


Bottle Shock (2008, Randall Miller)

I have to make a disclosure. I try to drink the highest Robert Parker rated wine I can afford. They’ve tended to be French. Actually, I think they’ve all been French. But whatever.

Because Bottle Shock seems rather like advertising for Napa Valley wine, so much so, I’d love to see who financed it. There should have been a disclosure (one way or the other), it’s so much of a commercial. And as a commercial, Bottle Shock does a fine job. It’s a good impression of one of those charming, Miramax-released little comedy dramas from the late 1990s. Some of these also even starred Alan Rickman. It’s got a reasonably appealing cast (in the Miramax version, the actors would be better known) and it’s a diverting couple hours.

Where Bottle Shock fails as a film is having real characters or real drama. In fact, it runs away from ever having either. The inevitable American win is foretold in the opening voiceover (the film’s use of voiceover is inane, but I guess they had a bunch of helicopter shots of Napa Valley and didn’t want to subject the viewer to any more of composer Mark Adler’s gratingly affable theme music)–there’s no suspense when it comes to the actual tasting. At best, the film could have shown the French response… instead, it’s barely implied. Having Rickman be the pseudo-Frenchman of the film (a francophile Brit) is, regardless of historical accuracy, not very filmic. The wine tasting is also cut in half–the film only shows the half relating to the film’s story, which makes certain subplots entirely wasted.

But the film also forgets about a lot. Take Freddy Rodriguez’s proud vineyard worker slash winemaker who briefly romances Rachael Taylor (who’s bad, but nowhere near as atrocious as usual and far better than Eliza Dushku, who has a glorified cameo) and fights bigotry where he finds it. Rodriguez plays a big part in the beginning, but then disappears. Chris Pine–as Pullman’s son–takes over the focus, as well as Taylor’s affections. The scene where Rodriguez and Taylor resolve their romance is missing, presumably cut to give Pine (the man who will be Kirk) more screen time.

Pine’s not bad. He’s not particularly good, either, but every single character in the film is so poorly written, it’s impossible to tell what he’d do. Actually, all signs are positive. He and Pullman do have one or two honest scenes; the movie’s so blissfully mediocre, it’s impossible to fault it for not being better.

Pullman and Rickman–and Dennis Farina–phone in their performances but they’re all excellent at what they’re doing. Rickman makes fun of being British, Farina makes a Chicago reference, and Pullman is sturdy but complicated. All things they’ve been doing for fifteen years. Bottle Shock should be Pine or Rodriguez’s film (Rodriguez is a tad broad however), but the script doesn’t allow it. The movie’s got to be about advertising that Napa Valley wine, not the characters. The end text reminds these are real people in the story and presumably bound to faithful retelling… it just doesn’t make their stories interesting. The characters, like I said before, are terrible–they’re out of TV commercials.

Randall Miller’s direction is annoying. He’s got some big cranes and a lot of helicopters and uses them all the time. He shoots the movie Panavision–I’m hoping to get the expanse of the vineyards in frame–but then does shaky handheld for conversation scenes. It adds to the movie’s air of incompetence. It’s not a charming air either.

Failing comparisons to those Miramax low budget charmers aside, Bottle Shock isn’t awful and it’s diverting enough. If it were a television movie, it’d probably be exceptional. Well, maybe if it were on USA or something, it’d be exceptional. I just wish they’d given some of the fine actors–Miguel Sandoval’s in it and I don’t even want to talk about the tiny (but wonderfully acted) Bradley Whitford appearance–characters to play instead of advertising to deliver.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Randall Miller; screenplay by Miller, Jody Savin and Ross Schwartz, based on a story by Schwartz, Lannette Pabon, Savin and Miller; director of photography, Mike Ozier; edited by Miller and Dan O’Brien; music by Mark Adler; production designer, Craig Stearns; produced by Miller, Savin, J. Todd Harris, Marc Toberoff, Brenda Lhormer and Marc Lhormer; released by Freestyle Releasing.

Starring Bill Pullman (Jim Barrett), Alan Rickman (Steven Spurrier), Chris Pine (Bo Barrett), Freddy Rodriguez (Gustavo Brambila), Rachael Taylor (Sam Clayton), Dennis Farina (Maurice Cantavale), Miguel Sandoval (Garcia), Eliza Dushku (Joe), Bradley Whitford (Professor Saunders) and Joe Regalbuto (Bill).


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