Mark Strong

Captives (1994, Angela Pope)

Nearly seventy percent of Captives is a fantastic romantic drama. Julia Ormond is a newly divorced dentist who starts working part-time at a minimum security prison, where she begins a liaison with inmate Tim Roth. Frank Deasy's script concentrates primarily on Ormond and her experiences–with occasions scenes for Roth amongst the inmates, but that first seventy minutes of the film is from Ormond's perspective.

Director Pope carefully, meticulously presents Ormond's story, from her experiences with her ex-husband, her friends, her family, herself. The romance with Roth is an otherworldly occurrence, much different from the noise and movement of Ormond's regular life. Most of their initial scenes–he's on a release program so he can attend college (the film establishes him as an okay guy real fast)–are in static environments. It's actually after that seventy minute mark, when Ormond disappears for a week of the present action and Roth becomes the protagonist, where Pope finally brings Roth into Ormond's motion-filled world.

It's a terrible scene too; they're arguing on a busy roadway. The acting's great, but the scene's bad, because after the seventy minute mark, when Captives all of a sudden becomes a thriller and no longer a quiet mediation on class and marriage and other such things, the movie falls apart.

Ormond's work here is indescribably fantastic. Roth's great and everything, but Ormond's performance is singular.

Pope's direction is solid; good supporting turns from Keith Allen and Colin Salmon.

Excellent photography from Remi Adefarasin.

Captives misfires, Ormond and Roth do not.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Angela Pope; written by Frank Deasy; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Dave King; music by Colin Towns; production designer, Stuart Walker; produced by David M. Thompson; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Julia Ormond (Rachel Clifford), Tim Roth (Philip Chaney), Keith Allen (Lenny), Siobhan Redmond (Sue), Peter Capaldi (Simon), Richard Hawley (Sexton), Annette Badland (Maggie), Mark Strong (Kenny) and Colin Salmon (Towler).


Anna (2013, Jorge Dorado)

Anna is an exceptionally stupid movie. Apparently, no one involved with the film has seen films like Inception or The Sixth Sense because Anna apes big reveals from both of them rather obviously. It’s not a matter of guessing the twist ending, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing instead of guessing the twist ending.

One possibility for the filmmakers going with the incompetency of Guy Holmes’s script is Mark Strong. As the lead, Strong seems compassionate and authoritative, but it turns out he’s a moron too. Some of the problem might be how poorly the film establishes its reality, where mind detectives consult and go into people’s memories for supplemental evidence in court cases. But these mind trips have no bearing in court… like I said, it’s a dumb movie.

But it’s really well-acted from the leads. Strong’s character is doing his job for the money so maybe Strong was just doing the role for the money. He’s excellent, Taissa Farmiga is fantastic as the titular Anna. They’re both able to transcend the script. Because besides having an unimaginative approach to setting, it’s a good looking film. Dorado’s decent with composition and Óscar Faura’s cinematography is breathtaking.

The supporting cast–who are all suspects–don’t do as well as the leads. Brian Cox cashes a paycheck, Saskia Reeves looks lost, Richard Dillane isn’t bad. Indira Varma’s not good, however; a combination of mediocre accent and terrible writing.

Anna isn’t entirely worthless, just extremely close.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jorge Dorado; screenplay by Guy Holmes, based on a story by Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes; director of photography, Óscar Faura; edited by Jaime Valdueza; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Alain Bainée; produced by Jaume Collet-Serra, Peter Safran, Juan Sola and Mercedes Gamero; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Mark Strong (John Washington), Taissa Farmiga (Anna Greene), Saskia Reeves (Michelle Greene), Richard Dillane (Robert Greene), Indira Varma (Judith), Noah Taylor (Peter Lundgren), Alberto Ammann (Tom Ortega) and Brian Cox (Sebastian).


Green Lantern (2011, Martin Campbell), the extended cut

The saddest thing about Green Lantern has to be the editing. Stuart Baird, amazing action editor of the last twenty or so years, cut together this malarky. It’s not Baird’s fault, exactly, how ugly Lantern plays—cinematographer Dion Beebe’s responsible for the shots not matching in lighting and Campbell composed them. But Baird’s always had a grace about his cutting. None of it is present here.

Or maybe James Newton Howard’s godawful score distracts from it.

The problem is Campbell and not because he can’t somehow make the shoddy CG work (though the fighter jets look okay… not real, but better than the space stuff). He isn’t directing his actors. If Campbell’s not taking the time to try to turn the crappy script into something good, why should anyone bother to see what he does with it….

I’m not talking about Ryan Reynolds. He’s terrible, sure, but there are a lot worse performances here. Blake Lively is atrocious, so is Mark Strong. Well, he’s more laughable than atrocious. Gattlin Griffith, as a young Reynolds, is hilariously bad.

More shocking than Reynolds is Campbell getting a phoned-in performance from Tim Robbins. I’ve never seen Robbins waste his time like he does here. Even Jay O. Sanders is bad, in what should be an easy role.

There’s no way Green Lantern would have been good with this script, but it could have been better. I hate blaming Campbell, who’s done excellent work; he should’ve taken an Alan Smithee on this garbage.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg, based on a story by Berlanti, Green and Guggenheim and a character created by John Broome and Gil Kane; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by Stuart Baird; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Berlanti and Donald De Line; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan), Blake Lively (Carol Ferris), Peter Sarsgaard (Hector Hammond), Mark Strong (Sinestro), Angela Bassett (Doctor Waller), Tim Robbins (Robert Hammond), Temuera Morrison (Abin Sur), Jay O. Sanders (Carl Ferris), Taika Waititi (Tom Kalmaku), Geoffrey Rush (Tomar-Re), Michael Clarke Duncan (Kilowog), Jon Tenney (Martin Jordan) and Clancy Brown (Parallax).


Kick-Ass (2010, Matthew Vaughn)

Is Kick-Ass any good? Um. That question is somewhat complicated, because there are very good things about it–Chloë Grace Moretz’s fantastic as a foulmouthed twelve-year-old version of the Punisher, with some Jackie Chan thrown in, and so is “lead” Aaron Johnson, who manages not to look like he’s lost the movie he’s top-lining to every single other cast member, whether it’s Moretz, Nic Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (whose squinty nerd thing, identical to Superbad, is just annoying here) or Mark Strong, even though he does at one point or another in the film.

It’s never clear if the filmmakers realize the lead of the movie doesn’t even get to really end it (there’s a big scene between Johnson and girlfriend Lyndsy Fonseca missing) so they can set up the sequel or not.

But it doesn’t matter much, because Vaughn realizes the gleeful violence of Kick-Ass (not, however, when Johnson gets constantly beaten up while trying to do good)–it’s all about Cage and Moretz–is the selling point. Kick-Ass feels a little like one part Dirty Harry, one part inspiring father-daughter movie, half part Superbad and a little Spider-Man thrown in. I’m not sure if Vaughn was mimicking Raimi or unaware, but the film’s general incompetence with plotting resembles that movie quite a bit….

Cage is great, playing the impossible script straight, with his Adam West impression a real plus.

And the music–seemingly entirely lifted from other scores–is fine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Matthew Vaughn; screenplay by Jane Goldman and Vaughn, based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.; director of photography, Ben Davis; edited by Jon Harris, Pietro Scalia and Eddie Hamilton; music by John Murphy, Henry Jackman, Marius De Vries and Ilan Eshkeri; production designer, Russell De Rozario; produced by Vaughn, Brad Pitt, Kris Thykier, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack and David Reid; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Aaron Johnson (Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass), Chloë Grace Moretz (Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl), Mark Strong (Frank D’Amico), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Chris D’Amico/Red Mist), Lyndsy Fonseca (Katie Deauxma), Clark Duke (Marty), Evan Peters (Todd), Omari Hardwick (Sgt. Marcus Williams) and Nicolas Cage (Damon Macready/Big Daddy).


Sherlock Holmes (2009, Guy Ritchie)

Ok, so… is Robert Downey Jr. ever going to be in a serious movie again? He’s the new Johnny Depp (serious indie actor turned blockbuster star for hire). Anyway. Sherlock Holmes.

Let’s see. Guy Ritchie can direct. Who knew? Maybe he just needed Joel Silver to rein him in. Good Hans Zimmer music. Good Jude Law sidekick performance. Awful Rachel McAdams (I really wish they’d killed her off so she couldn’t come back). Mark Strong is one of the worst villain “heavies” I’ve ever seen. Love how he’s dressed like a Nazi with a Nazi hairdo and a plan to invade the States. But whatever, one doesn’t see Sherlock Holmes for the script (not when the script gives Strong’s bastard character a lordship).

Unfortunately, Downey’s performance, while engaging and charismatic, is really nothing more than an athletic aping of Jeremy Brett’s Holmes and Downey’s own Chaplin (for the accent). There’s never a moment one doesn’t think a British actor couldn’t have done a superior job.

The film’s pretty simple to describe: it’s a well-produced League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s also directly informed by “House,” which is inspired by Holmes‘s source material. It’s exceptionally unoriginal in its relationship between Downey and Law, but all the writing is pretty lame so it doesn’t matter much.

It’s a fine non-summer blockbuster. It discourages any intellectual involvement, it has a decent, “I hope there’s a sequel” ending. Too bad Downey’s become such a boring actor.

Hopefully it’ll get people to see Chaplin.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Ritchie; written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Johnson and Lionel Wigram and characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by James Herbert; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Sarah Greenwood; produced by Wigram, Joel Silver, Susan Downey and Dan Lin; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade), Robert Maillet (Dredger), Geraldine James (Mrs. Hudson), Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan), William Houston (Constable Clark), Hans Matheson (Lord Coward), James Fox (Sir Thomas) and William Hope (Ambassador Standish).


Sunshine (2007, Danny Boyle)

Sunshine appears to be an amalgam of Alien, 2001 and Event Horizon (at least, if Event Horizon‘s previews adequately communicate the film’s content, not having seen it). There are Alien references abound, a handful of 2001 ones, and no Event Horizon ones I’m aware of… I imagine they’d try to hide those as well as possible. It also owes more than a little to Solaris–both versions. And for the majority of Sunshine, it’s a frequent disappointment. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland–after 28 Days Later–doing sci-fi doesn’t make much sense, especially since the resulting Sunshine is a standard science fiction movie, as opposed to Days doing something different, both in terms of story and technology.

So, during that first forty-five minutes when bad things happen and characters develop and the story moves along towards the inevitable final question… I got a little bored. Boyle’s finest contribution to the film, I thought during those minutes, was his ability to cast, direct and shoot actors. Cillian Murphy and Rose Byrne are, obviously, excellent and there was never any question as to whether or not they would be excellent. But Chris Evans also turns in a really great performance, as does Cliff Curtis. It’s the best Cliff Curtis in eight years or so. So Boyle casts well, big deal. No, it’s what a good performance he gets out of Michelle Yeoh and even Troy Garity. Yeoh’s got a couple really good scenes and Garity’s sturdy throughout.

But, one must remember, all Alien did was tell a science fiction in “scary movie” language and Sunshine‘s no different. The moment my fiancée jumped space ship was when “Freddy Kruger” showed up. The monster, the bad guy, the whatever–Sunshine needed to have one because, besides some really good acting moments and a couple really nice dilemma in space scenes, the film was nothing new. Until the hero moments, which, of course, signal the beginning of the third act, I kept wishing Murphy, Bryne and Evans would reunite for some other movie. I always forget–even when I’m comparing Boyle’s success at directing actors in this film to Trainspotting–I always forget Boyle’s visual ability, through shot, sound and editing. Trainspotting‘s full of it, but didn’t think those abilities would translate. And I was wrong.

I have never seen a movie–with so many mediocre plot points and set-pieces–ascend as quickly as Sunshine. One moment it’s a disappointment, the next it’s middling, then it’s getting up there, and, finally, it’s pure wonderment at the possibilities of the film medium. It’s not a long period of sustained enchantment, but it’s a really good three or five minutes. Boyle does things in those last minutes nearer the level of 2001 than most of his fellows. Of course, they didn’t have Cillian Murphy, so it’s probably not a far comparison, which is why I didn’t name them.

I don’t know if I was expecting–from the plot description–the Apollo 13 of fictionalized space adventure (after the trailer, I knew I was getting something more comparable to Days). But it wouldn’t work as anything but Danny Boyle and Alex Garland remaking Event Horizon, because otherwise… it would have probably been The Core in space.

Looking at the response, I realize, even thought Murphy suffers a lot of complements, I did not emphasize enough how good Byrne and Evans are in this film. It’s not even Byrne’s best performance of the year, which is unfortunate since that performance is in 28 Weeks Later (just because the character has more to do). But Evans is an unexpected talent.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; written by Alex Garland; director of photography, Alwin Küchler; edited by Chris Gill; music by John Murphy and Underworld; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by Andrew Macdonald; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Rose Byrne (Cassie), Cliff Curtis (Searle), Chris Evans (Mace), Troy Garity (Harvey), Cillian Murphy (Capa), Sanada Hiroyuki (Kaneda), Mark Strong (Pinbacker), Benedict Wong (Trey) and Michelle Yeoh (Corazon).


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