Robbie Coltrane

Henry V (1989, Kenneth Branagh)

Director (and adapter) Branagh splits Henry V into three sections. They aren’t equal, they don’t match the act changes (usually); Branagh lets photographer Kenneth MacMillan open up the film to (outdoor) light while Patrick Doyle’s score becomes essential. The first outside, daylight sequence–Branagh (as Henry) gives his troops a rousing speech–defines the rest of the film. Even when it gets dark and violent in the subsequent, breathtaking battle sequence, there’s still a lot of light. That light carries over into the finale, which is light comedy featuring Branagh bantering with his betrothed-to-be Emma Thompson.

The problem with that finale is it requires Branagh’s Henry to be a likable character in a way Branagh’s never been concerned about. He’s a king, not a bashful suitor. It’s an odd conclusion, with Thompson not speaking English and coming off like a possession to be had. With Branagh’s strange comedic handling, the whole thing is off.

Until Derek Jacobi, as the modern day chorus, guiding the audience through the film, gets in the last word, Henry is almost in trouble. Not a lot, but more than one would expect given how Branagh goes from being expert to sloppy in one scene.

Branagh’s excellent. Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, Michael Maloney, Christopher Ravenscroft, all astounding. Branagh gets these beautiful performances in long, usually close-up takes. And gives a great one of his own with the same treatment.

The battle scene is an amazing intersection of artifice and reality.

Real good stuff.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kenneth Branagh; screenplay by Branagh, based on the play by William Shakespeare; director of photography, Kenneth MacMillian; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by Patrick Doyle; production designer, Tim Harvey; produced by Bruce Sharman; released by Curzon Film Distributors.

Starring Kenneth Branagh (King Henry V), Brian Blessed (Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter), Paul Gregory (Westmoreland), Nicholas Ferguson (Earl Richard Beauchamp of Warwick), James Larkin (Duke John of Bedford), Simon Shepherd (Duke Humphrey of Gloucester), Charles Kay (Archbishop of Canterbury), Alec McCowen (Bishop of Ely), Fabian Cartwright (Earl Richard of Cambridge), Stephen Simms (Lord Henry Scroop), Jay Villiers (Sir Thomas Grey), James Simmons (Duke Edward of York), Christopher Ravenscroft (Montjoy), Paul Scofield (King Charles VI of France), Michael Maloney (Louis the Dauphin), Emma Thompson (Princess Katherine de Valois), Geraldine McEwan (Alice), Harold Innocent (Duke Philippe of Burgundy), Edward Jewesbury (Sir Thomas Erpingham), Danny Webb (Gower), Ian Holm (Captain Fluellen), John Sessions (Macmorris), Jimmy Yuill (Jamy), Judi Dench (Mistress Nell Quickly), Robert Stephens (Auncient Pistol), Richard Briers (Lieutenant Bardolph), Geoffrey Hutchings (Corporal Nym), Christian Bale (Robin the Luggage-Boy), Michael Williams (Williams), Shaun Prendergast (Bates), Patrick Doyle (Court) and Robbie Coltrane (Sir John Falstaff). Derek Jacobi as Chorus.


GoldenEye (1995, Martin Campbell)

I love Goldeneye’s plotting. It’s clear they plotted the film to be most enjoyed the first time through, but in terms of reveals and action sequences. The opening sequence doesn’t work particularly well in the end, though, a problem I had the last time I watched the film as well. It’s simply not interesting on video—we know James Bond is going to make it and without the spectacle, it doesn’t work.

Goldeneye excels on two levels. Campbell’s direction is magnificent; he’s able to alternate between the grand, third person Panavision action and setup direction, but also some incredibly personal moments. Combined with his ability, Eric Serra’s score just makes Goldeneye an audio-visual delight. Campbell’s an excellent Panavision action director and generally traditional in those scenes. But Serra’s music is very revisionist. It changes the film’s feel, without affecting the tone.

The other level is Pierce Brosnan and Izabella Scorupco. While Brosnan’s great as Bond, it’s not like he’s achieving much. There’s only so much he can do. But Scorupco is able to humanize him. She’s not a damsel in distress, instead she’s an active participant (one wonders if a better film might not have featured her as the lead and a Bond-like character as her sidekick). She’s fantastic.

The supporting cast has highs and lows. Famke Janssen, Robbie Coltrane and Gottfried John are all good, John especially. Sean Bean and Alan Cumming are weak. Judi Dench and Joe Don Baker are in between.

It’s a solid film.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Michael France and characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson; released by United Artists.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan), Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova), Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp), Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade), Judi Dench (M), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky), Gottfried John (General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov), Alan Cumming (Boris Grishenko), Tchéky Karyo (Defense Minister Dmitri Mishkin), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Bill Tanner) and Serena Gordon (Caroline).


Slipstream (1989, Steven Lisberger)

A lot of Slipstream plays like The Road Warrior with gliders. In this post-apocalyptic wasteland, everyone flies around because of a jet stream ravaging the surface. It’s never clear where this jet stream is located and not, in a geographic sense, because they always manage to safely take off and land… while at other times it’s so bad it blows things apart.

Lisberger doesn’t know how to operate on a small budget; the film looks awful because of his composition. It doesn’t help his cinematographer, Frank Tidy, is incompetent. Long sequences are completely incomprehensible because Tidy doesn’t give them enough light and Lisberger doesn’t know how to shoot in cramped spaces.

But the big problem is Tony Kayden’s script. How a producer like Gary Kurtz didn’t know he had a bad script is beyond me. The dialogue’s so bad, it makes me wonder if it wasn’t intended to be a kids’ movie… only one rampant with Bill Paxton’s character’s misogyny.

The acting is, similarly, bad. I suppose Bob Peck is all right. His part is terribly written, but Peck’s abilities are enough he can turn in a dignified performance. Paxton is playing Hudson from Aliens again, just with long hair. Mark Hamill is hilariously bad. Kitty Aldridge and Eleanor David are weak too. Ben Kingsley’s awful in an unrecognizable cameo.

Even the Elmer Bernstein is bad—well, half of it. The other half is actually quite good.

On the other hand, the second unit shoots the Irish countryside beautifully.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Steven Lisberger; written by Tony Kayden; director of photography, Frank Tidy; edited by Terry Rawlings; music by Elmer Bernstein; production designer, Andrew McAlpine; produced by Gary Kurtz; released by Entertainment.

Starring Mark Hamill (Tasker), Kitty Aldridge (Belitski), Bill Paxton (Matt Owens), Bob Peck (Byron), Eleanor David (Ariel), Robbie Coltrane (Montclaire), Ben Kingsley (Avatar) and F. Murray Abraham (Cornelius).


Krull (1983, Peter Yates)

From the director of Breaking Away and one of the many fine writers of the Adam West “Batman” TV show….

Krull is just as unwatchable now as it was the last time I tried to watch it, some eleven years ago.

As a kid—assuming kids are the best audience for the film—Krull never registered as something I might want to watch. Finding anything to say about it is difficult. It’s an object lesson, I suppose, in how not to direct for Panavision. Yates is about as incapable of directing an action sequence as one would imagine Woody Allen would be directing one. The opening alone is painful.

It’s unclear what successful fantasy film the makers were trying to capitalize on—it’s not a Star Wars knockoff, for example. Wait… it’s knights with laser-swords versus some kind of Stormtrooper stand-ins. But these Stormtroopers don’t have a Death Star, they have a big rock. Krull might have actually kicked off the eighties fantasy genre—I fairly sure that genre produced anything of any value. At least not the straight, non-comedy influenced genre pictures.

Also amusing is James Horner’s score, which is entirely—well, maybe not entirely, but heavily influenced by his Star Trek II and III scores. Actually, Star Trek III came out the following year so maybe Horner just reused the Krull bits in it.

Oddly, given the film’s incompetence, the outer space effects are solid.

Krull’s a punchline masquerading as a two-hour fantasy epic.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Yates; written by Stanford Sherman; director of photography, Peter Suschitzky; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by James Horner; production designer, Stephen B. Grimes; produced by Ron Silverman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Ken Marshall (Colwyn), Lysette Anthony (Lyssa), Freddie Jones (Ynyr), Francesca Annis (Widow of the Web), Alun Armstrong (Torquil), David Battley (Ergo), Bernard Bresslaw (Cyclops), Liam Neeson (Kegan) and Robbie Coltrane (Rhun).


Van Helsing (2004, Stephen Sommers)

I knew Van Helsing was going to be pretty bad… but nothing could prepare me for it.

It’s not even bad in an interesting way. Its components are, simply put, terrible. Richard Roxborough’s performance as Dracula is possibly the worst essaying of the character… ever. The special effects are awful–the CG monster at the beginning is laughable. Sommers tries to play it a little like a James Bond movie, but a bad one.

Hugh Jackman–as the main character–is somehow not in it enough to make an impression. The story’s very busy, which means Jackman doesn’t actually have much to do.

Kate Beckinsale has an accent and she’s dressed a little like a pirate. Her character doesn’t make much sense, but she and Jackman’s presence in the film doesn’t make much sense either.

Sommers’s target audience is five year-olds (the dim ones) who get references to the old Universal monster movies and Vampire Hunter D, which Sommers plagiarized in regards to Jackman’s costuming.

There’s nothing even remotely good about it. Alan Silvestri’s score is terrible. Maybe David Wenham is funny as the sidekick (he’s playing Q to Jackman, only as a monk).

Besides the generally awful special effects, even the composite shots are bad. They’re so bad it’s incredible they were done for a film released in 2004.

The scariest thing about Van Helsing is someone out there likes it and thinks it’s good.

Easily one of the worst things I’ve ever partially seen.

Sommers redefines dumb.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Stephen Sommers; director of photography, Allen Daviau; edited by Bob Ducsay, Kelly Matsumoto and Jim May; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Sommers and Ducsay; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Gabriel Van Helsing), Kate Beckinsale (Anna Valerious), Richard Roxburgh (Count Dracula), David Wenham (Carl), Shuler Hensley (Frankenstein’s monster), Elena Anaya (Aleera), Will Kemp (Velkan Valerious), Kevin J. O’Connor (Igor), Alun Armstrong (Cardinal Jinette), Silvia Colloca (Verona), Josie Maran (Marishka), Tom Fisher (Top Hat), Samuel West (Dr. Victor Frankenstein), Stephen Fisher (Dr. Jekyll) and Robbie Coltrane (Mr. Hyde).


Let It Ride (1989, Joe Pytka)

I wonder how Let It Ride would play if it were competently made. Pytka’s not a terrible director, but he’s not any good either. His mediocre composition is undone by the absolutely atrocious song choices for the soundtrack. The film would probably be better with no changes other than that track excised. Not that Giorgio Moroder’s score is anything special; it’s mildly okay, just because it basically plagiarizes Danny Elfman’s score for Midnight Run.

The biggest shame is Pytka doesn’t give editor Dede Allen anything to work with. One of the best editors in Hollywood and she’s got nothing….

Oh, and Curtis Wehr’s photography is awful.

Now, on to the rest—i.e. the acting and Nancy Dowd’s script.

Let It Ride takes place over a day at the races where Richard Dreyfuss all of a sudden starts winning. The tension of whether or not he’ll keep winning eventually gets mildly nerve-wracking (a good director would have made it excruciating) in last half hour.

Dowd’s story is really small. It serves as a showcase for actors… in an easy comedy. Dreyfuss has almost nothing to do until the end. Still, he manages a solid lead performance.

Lots of great supporting performances. Teri Garr’s excellent as his wife (maybe the best performance). David Johansen and Jennifer Tilly are both good. Robbie Coltrane, Michelle Phillips and Cynthia Nixon, all good.

The weakest performance is Richard Edson and he’s not terrible.

It should have been better; not heavier or more serious, just better.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Pytka; screenplay by Nancy Dowd, based on a novel by Jay Cronley; director of photography, Curtis Wehr; edited by Dede Allen and Jim Allen; music by Giorgio Moroder; production designer, Wolf Kroeger; produced by David Giler; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (Jay Trotter), David Johansen (Looney), Teri Garr (Pam), Jennifer Tilly (Vicki), Allen Garfield (Greenberg), Richard Edson (Johnny Casino), Ralph Seymour (Sid), Cynthia Nixon (Evangeline), Richard Dimitri (Tony Cheeseburger), Michelle Phillips (Mrs. Davis) and Robbie Coltrane (Ticket Seller).


The World Is Not Enough (1999, Michael Apted)

Denise Richards is not convincing as a nuclear physicist. That statement made, Apted might get her best performance ever in this film. It’s still awful. Her lack of charisma is painful; one has to wonder how Brosnan and Apted were able to put up with it, given the rest of the film’s considerable accomplishments.

The World is Not Enough probably has ten great action sequences. Something about Apted’s direction lets him ground the general Bond absurdity and create these transfixing sequences. Not all of these scenes are important–there’s a couple for pure padding purposes–but Apted makes them work. Given he’s not known as an action director, it’s interesting to see his sensibilities translate so well to the genre.

Besides the direction, the film’s got a pretty solid script. It’s got some goofiness–it’s not particularly believable Judi Dench is a sentimental moron–but it’s fine. There’s some smiles, if not laughs, and it moves well.

And besides Richards, the supporting cast is excellent. Sophie Marceau gets the primary female role and does well with it. The other principle is Robert Carlyle, who gives one of his great, chameleon performances here. While it might have been simpler just to mimic his Trainspotting performance, he instead creates a nearly sympathetic, utterly evil villain. And Robbie Coltrane’s back. He’s hilarious.

The film survives Richards mostly thanks to Brosnan, who carries the weight of their scenes all himself. But he’s also just very assured here.

Still, I can’t help wondering who else auditioned for Richard’s role.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Apted; screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Purvis and Wade and characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Jim Clark; music by David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra King), Robert Carlyle (Renard), Denise Richards (Dr. Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), John Cleese (R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Goldie (Bullion), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash) and Judi Dench (M).


From Hell (2001, Albert and Allen Hughes)

I had no idea Heather Graham was ever a lead in such a high profile project. I knew she was in From Hell, but she’s got a lot to do–and with an Irish accent. I suppose it’s the best performance I’ve ever seen her give, maybe because her character isn’t a twit and Graham tends to play morons. She does a decent job, even if her hair coloring looks unnatural, not to mention her general appearance not seeming very realistic for a Victorian era streetwalker.

From Hell‘s a solid Jack the Ripper thriller. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about it–the graphic violence, which I guess caused a stir, is somewhat tame (it’s a Jack the Ripper movie after all), but it’s solid. Johnny Depp has a fine accent and he’s a dependable lead in this one. It’s hardly a showy role–regardless of him being psychic, which doesn’t seem to help with with the case at all. Robbie Coltrane gets all the good lines as Depp’s sidekick.

The star of the film is really the production values. It looks and feels like one thinks the 1880s London would look and feel. When the Hughes brothers do sequences with visual flourishes, well… it doesn’t exactly work. Depp’s opium-fueled fantasies look a whole lot like someone running film through iMovie filters. They’re effective due to their content, not their presentation.

Again, it’s fine. It might be too hard to really get involved with a Jack the Ripper thriller; no point.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes; screenplay by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias, based on the comic book by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Dan Lebental and George Bowers; music by Trevor Jones; production designer, Martin Childs; produced by Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Johnny Depp (Fred Abberline), Heather Graham (Mary Kelly), Ian Holm (Sir William Gull), Jason Flemyng (Netley), Robbie Coltrane (Peter Godley), Lesley Sharp (Kate Eddowes), Susan Lynch (Liz Stride), Terence Harvey (Ben Kidney), Katrin Cartlidge (Dark Annie Chapman) and Ian Richardson (Sir Charles Warren).


Defence of the Realm (1985, David Drury)

Defence of the Realm starts–and spends about a half hour being–a British variation of the Hollywood newspaper reporter story. There’s the story and the reporter’s dilemma about his morality–there’s even the wise old mentor (Denholm Elliot) for the young reporter getting his first big break (Gabriel Byrne). It’s not particularly good, it’s not particularly bad. Never good enough to care about what’s happening, never bad enough to stop watching–even though Richard Harvey’s musical score has got to be one of the worst I’ve heard in recent memory.

Then it turns in to a British variation on the conspiracy thriller, which is problematic, because Gabriel Byrne’s reporter is the stupidest reporter on to a big case in the cinematic history. He knows he’s being watched, so he hides his notes in full view of the people watching him (checking before and after and seeing they’re watching) and is then upset when they’re gone.

I’m trying to remember what happens in between… bad investigative reporting and general stupidity mostly. It seemed less a film and more a bad TV movie–one trying to mimic more popular films (All the President’s Men) and failing. There’s one amazing scene hinging entirely on Byrne’s lack of hand-eye coordination. Second-billed Greta Scacchi (in essentially a cameo role) tries to help, but she too is unable to accurately control her limbs. It’s such a dumb sequence (precipitated by Bryne being a terrible reporter even), it’s marvelous to watch. There’s the pounding, synthesizer music and the stars trying desperately to manipulate their arms in simple motions.

As it nears conclusion, ripping off Murder by Decree, it almost just goes away painlessly… until the ludicrous ending montage, meant to lionize the free press. Amusingly, these heroes were previously shown as cruel, corrupt and generally unlikable.

The acting is questionable all around. Byrne isn’t particularly believable, Scacchi less. Denholm Elliot’s fine until the script turns against him. Roger Deakins shot the film, but it’s plain, like a TV movie… and director David Drury soon ended up in that industry. But the film could have survived all of the previous defects if it weren’t for writer Martin Stillman’s idiotic script, which just gets stupider and stupider as it goes along.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Drury; written by Martin Stellman; director of photography, Roger Deakins; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by Richard Harvey; production designer, Roger Murray-Leach; produced by Robin Douet and Lynda Myles; released by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors.

Starring Gabriel Byrne (Nick Mullen), Greta Scacchi (Nina Beckman), Denholm Elliott (Vernon Bayliss), Ian Bannen (Dennis Markham), Fulton Mackay (Victor Kingsbrook), Bill Paterson (Jack Macleod), David Calder (Harry Champion), Frederick Treves (Arnold Reece) and Robbie Coltrane (Leo McAskey).


Montana (1998, Jennifer Leitzes)

I can sit through almost anything. Within certain limits, but–realistically–anything. If there’s a point, whether it enriches me or if it just gives me the opportunity to crap-mouth it in a post, anything. I have never, ever–and this broad statement covers foreign films, silent films, cartoons–sat through so much of a movie with no idea what the title referred to. I’ll never know what Montana has to do with Montana, unless it filmed in Montana, which–according to IMDb–it did not. Given the film’s terrible screenplay, I’d imagine someone ends up in Montana at the end. I’m curious as to what director Leitzes is doing these days. Much of Montana looks like a really bad play filmed and the first twenty or so minutes appear to be a really bad play filmed. It turns out, Leitzes designs jewelry. She appears to be better at it than she is at directing motion pictures (even if all the rings have sappy text on them).

That comment was out of line. Leitzes is not a terrible director. She’s painfully mediocre.

I find myself very hostile towards Montana, probably because I sat through almost half of it before turning it off. Once it appeared the film was opening up, not solely taking place in two rooms, I gave it a further chance. Oh, what a mistake I made. Mediocre turned to bad ones instead of going good, as I thought they might. Ethan Embry is totally undone by the terrible script; in addition to having lame gangster dialogue (Montana is post-Pulp Fiction derivative muddle of crap), also is terribly, terribly plotted.

I rented the film for a couple reasons. First, the screenwriters adapted the forthcoming Whiteout and I wanted to see–since the comic is good–how they are at writing films. They’re really bad. Second, I watch “The Closer” and Kyra Sedgwick’s the lead. Sedgwick’s terrible in Montana. Don’t know if she was miscast, just giving a bad performance, or if the script is so terrible a good performance would be impossible. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also terrible in this film. Embarrassingly so. When I remembered he won an Oscar recently, it reminded me of the Paul Haggis–will the Academy take away the Million Dollar Baby Oscar for Crash. Stanley Tucci’s really good.

The strange thing about Montana is the cast–Tucci, Hoffman, what are they doing in such a crappy film? 1998, Hoffman was on the rise and Tucci was an established independent film actor. They made respectable films, not this thing.

John Ritter’s really good. Much like Bad Santa, it made me really miss him.

I was actually hopeful, when Montana started. Leitzes has a complicated crane shot at the beginning, I thought she was going to spend the rest of the film aping Welles or something. Who knew she was just going to sit the camera down and shoot bad scenes? Except the one fast-edited scene I saw, so bad it makes Simon West look competent.

Let me make this further comment about Montana: I am embarrassed to admit to the forty minutes I watched. I’m ashamed of myself.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jennifer Leitzes; written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber; director of photography, Ken Kelsch; edited by Norman Buckley; music by Cliff Eidelman; production designer, Daniel Ross; produced by Sean Cooley, Zane W. Levitt and Mark Yellen; released by Initial Entertainment Group.

Starring Kyra Sedgwick (Claire), Stanley Tucci (Nick), Robin Tunney (Kitty), Robbie Coltrane (The Boss), John Ritter (Dr. Wexler), Ethan Embry (Jimmy), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Duncan) and Mark Boone Junior (Stykes).


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