Jonny Lee Miller

T2 Trainspotting (2017, Danny Boyle)

T2 Trainspotting is a victory lap. John Hodge’s screenplay is thorough, thoughtful, cheap, and effective. It goes so far as to integrate unused portions of the original Trainspotting novel to try to get build up some character relationships. Because T2 is an expansive sequel. It’s got a contrived inciting action, which Hodge and director Boyle don’t even try to cover. The contrived nature of it is charming, after all. A slightly twisted kind of charming, but still charming.

Boyle’s a little too comfortable and a little too mature of a director to try much with the film’s visual aesthetic. There’s newly created Super 8 flashback footage–revealing the gang’s childhood friendships–and there’s even cleaned up footage from the original film. Only all the actors are creating new characters and have little connection to either set of flashbacks. Hodge and Boyle try to cover the inconsistency with the charming.

The film starts with Ewan McGregor returning to Edinburgh after twenty years in exile. He used to be a junkie and awesome narrator, now he’s got the Dutch equivalent of associate’s degree in accounting, he loves to jog, and he’s dissatisfied. Ewen Bremner is still a junkie. He’s trying to improve because he really loves his girlfriend and kid, even though they’ve written him off. Jonny Lee Miller is a failing bar-owner and an aspiring blackmailer who’s crushing hard on his sex worker partner (Anjela Nedyalkova). Robert Carlyle is an escaped convict and his son doesn’t want to go into the home invasion trade with him. Son wants to go to college for hotel management.

There are jokes about iPhones, gentrification, modern music, lots more. They’re solid enough jokes, but it’s a Trainspotting cast reuniting the original cast, original director, original screenwriter, original producer and there are no James Bond jokes. It’s like Hodge and Boyle forgot what people enjoyed about the first film’s energy. It’s not an apology, but it’s indifferent. McGregor has one good rant and it could change the movie and it doesn’t. Because McGregor’s not narrating. Because T2 meanders too much for a narrator.

Everyone–except poor Miller–is a protagonist. It starts with McGregor, but then transfers to Bremner through Nedyalkova. Nedyalkova is T2’s secret weapon, even though the film does absolutely nothing for her. She holds the second act together because Hodge and Boyle never figure out the right balance for McGregor, Miller, and Bremner. Carlyle’s on his own for most of the picture, in this dark, dangerous family drama. Carlyle’s story might be where Boyle shows the most interest, actually.

Except he seems to acknowledge Bremner’s giving the film’s far and away best performance, even when he’s actively ditching Bremner for McGregor and Miller’s silly bromance. Hodge’s script is all about personal growth, only he’s also got these goony character twists.

While Bremner and Carlyle have strong characterizations, Miller and McGregor don’t. Miller gets to be black comedy comic relief and McGregor is doing this coming home thing. Only no one wants to commit to a character, not McGregor, not Boyle, not Hodge. They probably should’ve brought him in later.

But they didn’t. Because McGregor’s no one’s favorite protagonist. Except maybe McGregor. Hodge favors Nedyalkova, Boyle likes Carlyle. Everything McGregor gets outside his one rant is thin.

It’s technically superior–great editing from Jon Harris, Anthony Dod Mantle’s photography is spot-on. Boyle’s really in love with the locations. Adds to the charm or something. Sadly the characters have no connection to the locations and neither does Hodge’s script.

Bremner’s great, Nedyalkova’s great, Carlyle’s quite good with a thin character and a lot to do. McGregor’s fine. Miller’s got some good moments, but Hodge doesn’t do him any favors.

T2 is good. It’s expertly made, solidly written, confident; it’s occasionally accomplished; it’s also a really safe drama about male bonding. The movie doesn’t take a single chance. Any time it even flirts with the idea, Boyle unfortunately reins it in. Usually via another charming, manipulative, and narratively pliable sequence.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; screenplay by John Hodge, based on novels by Irvine Welsh; director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle; edited by Jon Harris; production designers, Patrick Rolfe and Mark Tildesley; produced by Andrew Macdonald, Boyle, Bernard Bellew, and Christian Colson; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Mark), Ewen Bremner (Daniel), Jonny Lee Miller (Simon), Anjela Nedyalkova (Veronika), and Robert Carlyle (Frank).


Hackers (1995, Iain Softley)

While Hackers is a terrible film, it does afford one the opportunity to see Jonny Lee Miller attempt to essay his lead role as a Ferris Bueller-type thing, only to instead do a strange rendition of Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty. It’s not worth seeing for this performance, not at all, but if you’re ever stuck watching the film, it is something to look out for.

The film’s so patently inept, it’s hard to find anything worth remarking on. Bad production design, bad photography, lame music, truly awful writing from Rafael Moreu. I mean, the script is something to behold. Again, not worth watching for it because director Softley really takes his job seriously and he’s really bad at it so Hackers isn’t even fun camp. It really ought to be, but it isn’t.

Camp might excuse the costume design or the performances.

There are a number of good actors or actors who have given good or excellent performances cashing a check in Hackers. None of them give a good or acceptable performance in this film–though I suppose Alberta Watson comes the closest–but I’m not sure it’s worth picking on anyone in particular. Though I finally understand how people can find Matthew Lillard annoying, because when he does the obnoxious schtick dressed like a cyberpunk scarecrow in terrible lighting, spouting atrocious dialogue, it is annoying. It’s a bad performance of that schtick, utterly lacking in any integrity.

Jesse Bradford, on the other hand, has plenty of integrity. He tries really hard with his part of the square white teen hanging out with all the early-to-mid twenties actors pretending to be teens. He’s always smoking a cigarette and he looks like a real, pack-a-day smoker. He clearly worked on it. It doesn’t fit the character at all and Softley doesn’t know how to glorify smoking,w hich, really, means you shouldn’t be allowed to make a film. At least not one set in the United States or France or even the UK–it’s important to know how to glorify smoking. It’s a very important part of cinema.

I feel worst for Renoly Santiago, who isn’t good but does do his job; Hackers abandons him. After being the third most prevalent character for the first act and a half, he vanishes. It’s idiotic.

Really dumb montages and “inside the computer world” sequences. Hackers is desperate to be cool. It’s desperate to be trendy, it’s desperate to be hip. And it’s not. It’s awful. It’s chilly. And chilly ain’t never been cool.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Iain Softley; written by Rafael Moreu; director of photography, Andrzej Sekula; edited by Chris Blunden and Martin Walsh; music by Simon Boswell and Guy Pratt; production designer, John Beard; produced by Michael Peyser and Ralph Winter; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller (Dade), Angelina Jolie (Kate), Jesse Bradford (Joey), Matthew Lillard (Cereal), Laurence Mason (Nikon), Renoly Santiago (Phreak), Fisher Stevens (Eugene), Lorraine Bracco (Margo), Alberta Watson (Mrs. Murphy) and Wendell Pierce (Agent Dick Gill).


Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)

Trainspotting moves. More than anything, director Boyle concerns himself with the film’s pace, whether through Masahiro Hirakubo’s glorious editing or lead Ewan McGregor’s narration, the film immediately sets a fast pace and keeps it throughout the film. Nothing can slow the film down, not even big events, because there’s no real plot. It’s sort of a character study, though McGregor’s narration should make him far too subjective to be the character studied. Only John Hodge’s screenplay doesn’t use the narration to move the plot–it does occasionally help keep track of the summary storytelling–mostly that narration is Trainspotting‘s version of exposition. The film drops the viewer into McGregor’s world of heroin addicts and their acquaintances (and their families and their acquaintances’ families); the narration gives the viewer some context. Not a lot, but some.

The first act of Trainspotting, which it turns out is a flashback–Boyle and Hodge only have ninety minutes and change and they maximize it through a lot of nice narrative tricks–introduces the lovable cast of heroin addicts. McGregor’s the most normal, most relatable, Ewen Bremner’s an adorable screw-up, Jonny Lee Miller’s the sort of loathsome but amusingly obsessed with Sean Connery James Bond movies one, Robert Carlyle’s the non-using, loathsome, awkwardly funny, psychotically violent one. Kevin McKidd’s another square. The heroin addiction gives Boyle and company opportunities to visually impress, but it’s not really the center of the film. The relationship between the characters is the center, only it’s not a particularly healthy relationship. Trainspotting has a sort of pithiness to its self-awareness. It’s a whirlwind. It doesn’t calm down until after the end credits have started.

All of the acting is excellent. McGregor’s great, but he has nowhere near as much time to shine in his regular performance as he does in the narration. Carlyle’s just too distracting. Even when Carlyle doesn’t have lines, he’s distracting. He’s this incredibly strange, incredibly dangerous presence in the film. Even though Boyle can visualize the heroin high, realizing McGregor’s internal experience on film, it’s almost impossible to understand how Carlyle can exist in the film. There’s fantastical and then there’s otherworldly. To Boyle, Hodge and Carlyle’s credit, they realize the character. They make it work. They make you believe the bull belongs in the china shop.

Nice smaller supporting turns from Peter Mullan, James Cosmo and Eileen Nicholas. Kelly Macdonald has a good part as McGregor’s love interest.

Great photography from Brian Tufano. Great soundtrack.

Trainspotting is an easy film about difficult subjects. It’s painstakingly objective but almost disinterested in the idea it should be judgmental. There’s no time for it. Boyle’s got to keep things moving.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; screenplay by John Hodge, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh; director of photography, Brian Tufano; edited by Masahiro Hirakubo; production designer, Kave Quinn; produced by Andrew MacDonald; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Ewan McGregor (Renton), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Kevin McKidd (Tommy), Robert Carlyle (Begbie), Kelly Macdonald (Diane), Pauline Lynch (Lizzy), Shirley Henderson (Gail), James Cosmo (Mr. Renton), Eileen Nicholas (Mrs. Renton) and Peter Mullan (Swanney).


Frankenstein (2011, Danny Boyle), the second version

Maybe Danny Boyle isn’t the right guy to direct a stage play of Frankenstein. When he goes to close-ups–this Frankenstein being a filmed performance, with a lot of overhead shots and close-ups to make it somewhat filmic (along with terrible music choices)–he doesn’t seem to recognize some of his actors aren’t really doing enough emoting for a close-up.

Jonny Lee Miller does fine emoting. Miller plays the Creature. Miller’s captivating. Phenomenal. Breathtaking. Every nice adjective one could come up with. Even when he’s got some really weak dialogue, Miller nails it.

Nick Dear’s play–loosely adapted from the novel with some familiar movie details thrown in–gives the Creature a lot to do. It doesn’t give Frankenstein much of a character, but Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t put much into the performance so it evens out. Otherwise, he just stands around waiting for Miller to finish something amazing.

There are some cute nods to the Universal films, set design, a really cute music one. Also the humor. There’s a lot of humor in Frankenstein, presumably to compensate for the darkness. Except Dear (and Boyle in his filming choices) go real dark. So why not own it?

Well, they don’t own their good choices so why should own their bad ones. Bad choices like George Harris as Frankenstein’s father. He’s awful.

Naomie Harris is excellent as Elizabeth though. She and Miller’s scene together is heart-wrenching.

Cumberbatch’s disinterest aside, the script’s the problem. But Miller gloriously overcomes it.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; play by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley; music by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith; released by National Theatre Live.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller (The Creature), Benedict Cumberbatch (Victor Frankenstein), Naomie Harris (Elizabeth Lavenza), George Harris (M. Frankenstein), Ella Smith (Clarice), Mark Armstrong (Rab), John Stahl (Ewan) and Karl Johnson (de Lacey).


Frankenstein (2011, Danny Boyle), the first version

Maybe the National Theatre Live just recorded a cruddy night for the Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature performance of Frankenstein. Maybe there was some immediate reason that night to explain why Cumberbatch’s performance consists of little more than speaking when inhaling and occasionally giving an angry look.

It’s not like Nick Dear’s play is good enough to compensate for a bad performance in the lead. The first act, introducing Cumberbatch’s monster to the world, is tedious. There’s no chemistry between Cumberbatch and Karl Johnson as his mentor. I won’t even get into Cumberbatch’s lack of glee during the gleeful discovery of the world sequence.

But then Jonny Lee Miller shows up and the play gets a whole lot more tolerable. He’s exhausted, tortured, selfish, shallow. He and Naomie Harris are excellent together, especially during the comic relief portions. Not so much during the dramatic parts, just because Dear’s script is really weak on them… but on maybe half of them.

Cumberbatch is best during a few of his scenes with Miller. Not all of them, not even the most important ones–Dear’s lukewarm ending is even worse since Cumberbatch runs the scene. But some of them. Maybe it’s just Miller bringing actual energy to the production.

Thanks to Dear’s writing–Miller has to fight for good moments as Frankenstein, while Cumberbatch wastes all the good ones for the Creature–there’s only so far this production can go. It’s unfortunate, since Harris and Miller do some excellent work.

Otherwise, it’s exceedingly pointless.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; play by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley; music by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith; released by National Theatre Live.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (The Creature), Jonny Lee Miller (Victor Frankenstein), Naomie Harris (Elizabeth Lavenza), George Harris (M. Frankenstein), Ella Smith (Clarice), Mark Armstrong (Rab), John Stahl (Ewan) and Karl Johnson (de Lacey).


Aeon Flux (2005, Karyn Kusama)

Karyn Kusama can’t direct action, which hurts Aeon Flux a little bit, but she also can’t keep up the pace of her film. It should be a literal roller coaster–there’s some establishing material, which is nonsense, then the film drops Charlize Theron (as the titular character) in a mission. The mission runs the length of the film.

The film’s constantly stopping and starting. Instead of being a problem, Flux‘s pacing is one of its strongest elements. Well, until the third act.

Really awful narration opens and closes Flux. It’s like no one realized the film actually has a lot of good things about it. Kusama has zero confidence as a director.

In the lead role, Theron’s excellent most of the time. When she’s walking around the cheap sets or acting in front of a blue screen, not so much. The budget apparently didn’t go towards competent CG renderers. But she’s believable and sympathetic, even if Kusama can’t direct her fight scenes.

Marton Csokas’s excellent as the bad guy–and Theron’s love interest. Also good is Sophie Okonedo as her sidekick.

Both Jonny Lee Miller and Frances McDormand are awful.

When he’s not shooting CG, Stuart Dryburgh’s photography is good. Graeme Revell’s score has its moments.

Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi’s script is terribly affected in the dialogue department. But they get a lot of credit for laying groundwork on their revelation moments.

While it could’ve been far better, Flux is reasonably compelling. If one ignores the terrible opening narration.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Karyn Kusama; screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, based the television series created by Peter Chung; director of photography, Stuart Dryburgh; edited by Jeff Gullo, Peter Honness and Plummy Tucker; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Andrew McAlpine; produced by David Gale, Gregory Goodman, Martin Griffin, Gale Anne Hurd and Gary Lucchesi; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Charlize Theron (Aeon Flux), Marton Csokas (Trevor Goodchild), Jonny Lee Miller (Oren Goodchild), Sophie Okonedo (Sithandra), Frances McDormand (Handler), Amelia Warner (Una Flux), Caroline Chikezie (Freya), Nikolai Kinski (Claudius) and Pete Postlethwaite (Keeper).


Mindhunters (2004, Renny Harlin)

Want to see an amazing, can’t-believe-I-haven’t-heard-of-him performance by Eion Bailey? See Mindhunters. Want to see a goofy, affable Val Kilmer performance (maybe the first of its kind since Real Genius)? See Mindhunters. Want to see Christian Slater’s possibly best performance since Pump Up the Volume? See Mindhunters.

Want to see a terrible Jonny Lee Miller performance, where he tries a Southern accent? Mindhunters. Or LL Cool J totally failing in a major role (since he established himself as the likable but possibly tough supporting character)? Mindhunters again. Want to see something where you’re shocked to remember Renny Harlin directed Die Hard 2? Not kidding, Mindhunters.

I didn’t fit Clifton Collins Jr. giving a bad performance (the first I’ve seen from him) in that last paragraph. Oops.

Mindhunters appears to be Dimension’s attempt to turn Kathryn Morris into its Julia Roberts (and Patricia Valesquez, in maybe the film’s most absurdly awful performance, into its Angelina Jolie).

The film’s a considerable disaster, if only because the pacing is so idiotic–it didn’t get a theatrical release and it’s easy to see why. Unlike some of the other atrocious (but theatrically released) Dimension efforts, Mindhunters doesn’t even have a compelling cast. While there are good actors and good performances (the two are not corollary, however), Mindhunters would have been better served as a network miniseries. The script’s weak characterizations and Harlin’s laughable direction do the film no favors.

Though, I suppose, Charles Wood’s production design is good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin, based on a story by Kramer; director of photography, Robert Gantz; edited by Neil Farrell and Paul Martin Smith; music by Tuomas Kantelinen; production designer, Charles Wood; produced by Cary Brokaw, Akiva Goldsman, Jeffrey Silver and Rebecca Spikings; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Eion Bailey (Bobby Whitman), Clifton Collins Jr. (Vince Sherman), Will Kemp (Rafe Perry), Val Kilmer (Jake Harris), Jonny Lee Miller (Lucas Harper), Kathryn Morris (Sara Moore), Christian Slater (J.D. Reston), LL Cool J (Gabe Jensen) and Patricia Velasquez (Nicole Willis).


Melinda and Melinda (2004, Woody Allen)

Woody Allen has written around thirty films, probably thirty-four. Ten of these films are some of the finest in the last thirty years, give or take. But he tries something new in Melinda and Melinda and it doesn’t work.

Of his recent work, his post-Miramax period, Melinda is the second strongest–Curse of the Jade Scorpion holding the title. His work hasn’t been astounding, but it’s still good work. Melinda and Melinda had the potential, the writing, and the cast to be his best film in twelve years or so. Wait, I forgot about Sweet and Lowdown. Anyway, when I said Woody tried something new, he screwed up his narrative and ruined the film’s effectiveness.

Melinda and Melinda has three concurrent stories. The reality one: two playwrights, one comedic, one dramatic, at dinner and then each playwright’s story of the titular Melinda. Since neither of these stories is real, but are told with lovely care for their characters, the effect is something annoying (unlike the similarly afflicted, but unmoving The Usual Suspects).

And it’s too bad, because Woody’s got his best cast in years in this film. A bunch of people who, shockingly in some cases, turn in great performances. Chloë Sevigny is great, but we all know that–but Jonny Lee Miller? I had no idea. Amanda Peet continues to impress (her turn in What Women Want starting this run) and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I’ve never seen in anything much less heard the name, is quite good too. Will Ferrell does a couple too many Woody impressions but is fine otherwise. Touching, even, in some parts.

As the eponymous Melinda, Rhada Mitchell occasionally loses her American accent, but is rather good. Melinda isn’t the protagonist, however. Ferrell is in one story, Sevigny in the other. Melinda isn’t the subject either, instead, Woody uses her as the catalyst, which would work great if the stories had weight. Worse, one story ends before the other, jarring the viewer into realizing the uselessness of his or her investment in the film.

Still, the film is beautifully directed, with amazing Vilmos Zsigmond cinematography, and is still quite good overall. I haven’t seen a Woody Allen film in about a year and watching one always produces a nice feeling. A feeling that the world isn’t empty of art. (Except maybe Bullets Over Broadway or Another Woman).

Narrative device warts and all, he’s just so damn good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Santo Loquasto; produced by Letty Aronson; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Radha Mitchell (Melinda), Chloë Sevigny (Laurel), Jonny Lee Miller (Lee), Will Ferrell (Hobie), Amanda Peet (Susan), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Ellis), Wallace Shawn (Sy) and Josh Brolin (Greg).


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