Rose Byrne

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, Bryan Singer)

X-Men: Apocalypse runs over two hours, which is surprising because–while the movie does plod along–I didn’t realize it plodded along for quite so long. I guess the first act is more successful in hindsight than while it plays out.

This entry takes place, pointlessly, in the early 1980s. Oscar Isaac is the blue mutant Mummy, back from the dead to take over the world. He enlists four people to help him. One of those people is Michael Fassbender. He’s got a wife and kid since the last movie. Seeing Fassbender’s retired mutant terrorist now a doting dad somewhere in the Soviet Bloc is kind of neat. Fassbender’s exhausted this time around. Playing second fiddle to Isaac, most of Fassbender’s eventual performance consists of reaction shots. At least during the first act, he gets something to do.

But I got sidetracked. I wanted to count the characters. We’re up to seven. Yes, seven. Bad guys and people related to the bad guys. Isaac’s other lackeys get even less to do than Fassbender, though Alexandra Shipp does get a couple scenes to act in. She’s good. Olivia Munn has maybe two scenes with acting and she seems like she’s good. Shipp at least gets an arc, Munn doesn’t. Ben Hardy’s the other lackey. He’s awful. Luckily, he has even less to do than Munn.

But there are also a lot of good guys. Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult are all back. Each is good in parts, none of them has a good part in the script, none of them has a character arc. Evan Peters is back, Rose Byrne is back. Byrne has nothing to do. But she manages. Peters has a bunch; he’s great. Kodi Smit-McPhee is another new addition. He’s actually great, which is a surprise in this film. Other new additions Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan are both bad, with Sheridan being infinitely worse than Turner. And she’s still pretty dang bad.

Great photography from Newton Thomas Sigel. Tired music from John Ottman. Tired direction from Singer. Apocalypse doesn’t really have a story for Isaac outside lame world domination, so screenwriter Simon Kinberg and Singer just pack it with characters.

See, I forgot. I was supposed to be counting. It’s something like fifteen characters. It’s way too many. If the acting were better, they might carry it, but it’s not. And even though Turner and Sheridan, as good guys, get more to do than Munn and Shipp, it’s not character stuff.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a lame, by the numbers superhero event picture. Fassbender looks painfully contractually obligated to participate, with McAvoy and Lawrence hiding it a little better. Hoult is the most enthusiastic and, when one gets bored watching the film, he does imply seeing these characters together should be special. It isn’t, but what if it were?

Oh, and Isaac. He’s actually good. His part is terribly written, terribly directed, with dumb audio effects in post, but he’s scary as an immortal, evil smurf.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Singer; screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Singer, Kinberg, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Michael Louis Hill and John Ottman; music by Ottman; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Kinberg, Singer and Lauren Shuler Donner; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James McAvoy (Professor Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy / Beast), Oscar Isaac (En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse), Rose Byrne (Moira Mactaggert), Evan Peters (Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Col. William Stryker), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers / Cyclops), Lucas Till (Alex Summers / Havok), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler), Ben Hardy (Angel), Alexandra Shipp (Ororo Munroe / Storm), Lana Condor (Jubilee), Olivia Munn (Psylocke) and Hugh Jackman (Man in Cage).


Wicker Park (2004, Paul McGuigan)

Wicker Park is a psychological drama, not thriller. While director McGuigan occasionally uses thriller-like foreshadowing or ominous sections, Park never forecasts its narrative. Protagonist Josh Hartnett skips an important business trip to China to search for an ex-girlfriend, but he does it all where he lives. The film takes place over three or four days in Chicago, where Hartnett lives, yet he’s outside his regular life.

He’s hanging out with Matthew Lillard, a friend he hasn’t seen in years, and pretending to his current girlfriend he’s in China. There are multiple flashbacks explaining the ex-girlfriend (played by Diane Kruger). McGuigan and editor Andrew Hulme use generic transitions between past and present, but between the acting and Cliff Martinez’s score, Park never feels quite in one time or another. It’s never confusing to the narrative, it’s just always clear Hartnett’s character is existing contemporaneously in both times.

Most of the acting’s excellent–Rose Byrne is fantastic, Hartnett’s great. Lillard’s good, even though his character’s dreadfully underwritten. Except in a film with four principals and almost no supporting cast, a weak link hurts.

Kruger is awful. She’s incapable of affect or personality. Her performance severely hurts Park.

McGuigan seems to realize it, because the finish makes up for Kruger with nothing more than music and editing and placement of actors. McGuigan always keeps the film objective, which helps with that timelessness. It also means he can sell a wholly artificial ending on nothing but technical quality.

And he does.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul McGuigan; screenplay by Brandon Boyce, based on a screenplay by Gilles Mimouni; director of photography, Peter Sova; edited by Andrew Hulme; music by Cliff Martinez; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Andre Lamal, Marcus Viscidi, Gary Lucchesi and Tom Rosenberg; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Matthew), Rose Byrne (Alex), Matthew Lillard (Luke), Diane Kruger (Lisa), Christopher Cousins (Daniel), Ted Whittall (Walter) and Jessica Paré (Rebecca).


Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig), the unrated version

Whatever its faults, Bridesmaids‘s filmmakers get credit for making Maya Rudolph’s parents black and white, instead of ignoring her racial background like many other films would. Sadly, being better in that regard does not make up for Rudolph’s performance being the film’s worst or her character being dreadfully underwritten.

Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, for the wedding and lead in to the wedding, borrow from a lot of popular movies (some even from producer Judd Apatow’s oeuvre). It’s sometimes successful, but in the end, it’s trite.

Luckily, Wiig did not just cowrite Bridesmaids, she starred in it. Her performance is fantastic, as is her story arc. Removing the wedding stuff with Rudolph might get rid of Bridesmaids‘s MacGuffin, but it would have produced a far better film.

Bridesmaids suffers from too much funny business. The filmmakers eject multiple subplots to concentrate on Wiig and her problems. There’s her romance with genial cop Chris O’Dowd, her sex-only relationship with an uncredited Jon Hamm (who’s hilarious) and her life just generally being in a bad place.

From the start, Mumolo and Wiig never ground Bridesmaids in a believable reality. They seem to think setting it in Milwaukee will do the trick alone–and it does some of the heavy lifting–but Wiig’s life is cartoonish. Unfortunately, the script often relies on being absurd instead of sincere.

Great supporting turns from Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy help, especially during weaker sequences.

Feig’s direction is affably indistinct.

Wiig’s performance is, again, fantastic.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Feig; written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo; director of photography, Robert D. Yeomen; edited by William Kerr and Michael L. Sale; music by Michael Andrews; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Kristen Wiig (Annie Walker), Maya Rudolph (Lillian Donovan), Rose Byrne (Helen Harris III), Melissa McCarthy (Megan), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Rita), Ellie Kemper (Becca), Chris O’Dowd (Officer Nathan Rhodes), Jill Clayburgh (Ms. Walker), Franklyn Ajaye (Mr. Donovan), Jon Hamm (Ted), Matt Lucas (Gil) and Rebel Wilson (Brynn).


X-Men: First Class (2011, Matthew Vaughn)

When the best thing in a 132-minute movie is a thirty-second cameo… it’s not a good sign.

X-Men: First Class is self-important dreck. The four credited screenwriters do a bad job with everything except the one-liners; they do some of those quite well.

There are a lot of goofy sixties details. Bad guy Kevin Bacon has a submarine he travels around in like a Bond villain, but Vaughn doesn’t know how to direct it like a flashy Technicolor picture. His direction’s adequate, nothing more.

Except his direction of actors. It’s terrible. Zoë Kravitz, January Jones, Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Till are all atrocious, though their roles are small. Well, except January Jones, she’s exceptionally bad in her somewhat larger part.

But Jennifer Lawrence has a big role and, while she’s not as bad as the rest, she’s too weak to carry it. Nicholas Hoult is pretty good.

Still, the acting’s not all bad. Bacon’s having a great time. The two leads are mostly good. Michael Fassbender gives a great performance for a lot of the film, but then awkwardly adopts a Welsh accent in the last few scenes. James McAvoy’s sturdy, but never anything more.

Poor Rose Byrne (a mildly competent screenwriter would’ve known to tell the story from her perspective) is wasted.

The endless character actor stunt casting gets old fast, though it’s nice to see them working.

Henry Jackman’s music might be worse than anything else in First Class. Even January Jones.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Matthew Vaughn; screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman and Vaughn, based on a story by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer; director of photography, John Mathieson; edited by Eddie Hamilton and Lee Smith; music by Henry Jackman; production designer, Chris Seagers; produced by Gregory Goodman, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner and Singer; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Rose Byrne (Moira MacTaggert), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven), January Jones (Emma Frost), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy), Lucas Till (Alex Summers), Zoë Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), Caleb Landry Jones (Sean Cassidy), Edi Gathegi (Armando Muñoz), Álex González (Janos Quested), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), with Oliver Platt (Man In Black Suit) and Hugh Jackman (Man In Bar).


Get Him to the Greek (2010, Nicholas Stoller)

From Nicholas Stoller’s writing credits, I wouldn’t have thought him capable of such a funny movie. I hadn’t realized he’d directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Get Him to the Greek is a spin-off more than a sequel (though Kristen Bell shows up for a cameo). Stoller’s third act problems–when Greek becomes painfully unfunny and life affirming–aside, it’s almost the funniest movie in years.

Stoller does luck out to some degree, given his two leads. In one lead, he’s got Jonah Hill, who plays the Jonah Hill persona (Superbad grown up with girlfriend) and whose quiet delivery is perfect. The other lead, the absurdly extroverted Russell Brand, has a perfect loud delivery. Brand infuses his drug-addled rock star with these occasional moments of sarcastic clarity, which really adds to the experience.

Both Hill and Brand stumble through Stoller’s anti-drug message at the end, however. And while Stoller recovers the ending, he doesn’t resolve lots of issues he raises after turning it into a friendship drama.

For the majority of the running time, Greek‘s the funniest human comedy in a long time. Brand’s character is great for allowing absurd situations firmly set in reality. It never feels artificial… even with Sean Combs showing up.

Combs is hilarious in the film but gives one of the worst acting performances I’ve ever seen.

The rest of the cast–Rose Byrne (until the dramatics) and Colm Meaney in particular–are great.

It’s good. It should have been a lot better though.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Nicholas Stoller; screenplay by Stoller, based on characters created by Jason Segel; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by William Kerr and Michael L. Sale; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Jan Roelfs; produced by Stoller, Judd Apatow, David L. Bushell and Rodney Rothman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jonah Hill (Aaron Green), Russell Brand (Aldous Snow), Elisabeth Moss (Daphne Binks), Rose Byrne (Jackie Q), Colm Meaney (Jonathon Snow) and Sean Combs (Sergio Roma).


Just Buried (2007, Chaz Thorne)

It’s a terrible thing to say, but I can’t figure out why Rose Byrne did this movie. Not to knock it with a generalization, but Just Buried‘s a Canadian production. Even though Jay Baruchel’s on the rise, besides her, everyone in the principal cast is Canadian. For a while, I thought I had it figured out–why Byrne would do the film. For the first half, it’s a black comedy about she and Baruchel accidentally killing people and their funeral home profiting. Her character’s interesting, she and Baruchel have chemistry, the script still seems like it might develop somewhere. The script’s the most disappointing thing about Just Buried–it’s so full of potential and Thorne wastes all of it. Instead of doing a peculiar black comedy–the film’s still a black comedy in the end, but it’s a cheap farce of one, a TV movie black comedy, the kind USA would do in the mid-1990s after To Die For. It goes from being a pleasant surprise to a dismal failure, with Byrne’s presence somehow being its greatest setback. Seeing her–she’s excellent throughout, even in the end–essaying the crappy parts of the script… it’s depressing. It maddens.

Here’s what Thorne wastes. There aren’t really any spoilers, but I need to get the list down. He wastes a loser moving from a city where he flounders to a small town where he prospers. He wastes a son getting it on with his father’s trophy widow. He wastes a priest who drinks, plays poker and eyeballs girls. I’m trying to think of what else, but maybe I don’t want to remember it. Thorne flushes away all that potential, instead using each of them for a couple or three jokes. Instead of embracing what makes Just Buried unique, he goes with what makes it common. He turns more than the film into a farce, he turns the viewer’s experience into one as well.

Oh, I just remembered what I forgot (and, yes, it does depress me to recall). Just Buried has some of the finest people hanging out and drinking scenes I think I’ve ever seen on film. Baruchel and Byrne go on a couple of late night benders and Thorne beautifully captures the reality of it, each person’s relative solitude. These scenes happen in the first half, when Just Buried still has a bunch of potential.

Thorne obviously thinks he’s pretty witty with the conclusion, because he’s put clues in the film throughout. Sure, they require people not being able to hear what people whisper to other people, no matter how close they are, but whatever. Once the inevitable conclusion becomes clear–Thorne’s camera sits calmly for too long, like he forgot what they were shooting and just kept rolling–Just Buried just gets boring. Thorne has abandoned his characters, leaving the actors to drown.

Byrne’s great. Graham Greene’s pretty good. Baruchel’s very good in the first half, with his big transition not coming through so well. Sergio Di Zio is hilarious as the priest brother and Reagan Pasternak is funny as the stepmother. Nigel Bennett, Thomas Gibson and Brian Downey all appear to be sleepwalking through their performances, letting their costumes (two cops and an ex-clown) do the heavy lifting.

After Just Buried leapt off its cliff, I kept hoping Thorne knew what he was doing. He apparently does not.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Chaz Thorne; director of photography, Christopher Porter; edited by Christopher Cooper; music by Darren Fung and Scott Loane; production designer, William Fleming; produced by Nigel Bennett, Pen Densham, Bill Niven, Thorne and John Watson; released by Seville Pictures.

Starring Rose Byrne (Roberta Knickel), Jay Baruchel (Oliver Whynacht), Graham Greene (Henry Sanipass), Nigel Bennett (Chief Knickle), Sergio Di Zio (Jackie Whynacht), Reagan Pasternak (Luanne), Thomas Gibson (Charlie Richmond), Brian Downey (Pickles), Slavko Negulic (Armin Imholz), Jeremy Akerman (Rollie Whynacht) and Christopher Shore (Wayne Snarr).


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).


28 Weeks Later (2007, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)

If 28 Weeks Later weren’t executive produced by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland and produced by Andrew Macdonald, it would not be any better (in some ways it would be worse) but it certainly would be less offensive. Before seeing the film, I remarked to friends about what made 28 Days Later, in the end, work. It wasn’t cheap. Weeks isn’t just cheap, it’s also gimmicky. It’s the worst written, well-made, frequently well-acted film I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s not just a bad script, it’s a cheap, incompetent one. The setup for the film is fine, but then instead of playing the Drew Barrymore role in Scream (in what I understood to be a thirty minute or so episode, I had understood the film to be episodic… but it doesn’t really make up for going to see it), Robert Carlyle becomes the subject, sort of, of the whole film. At first he’s a tragically human coward, but at the thirty minute or forty minute mark, he becomes the zombie version of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I suppose it’s lousy to spoil that one for interested viewers, but really, if you’re going to like a piece of crap like this film, you’re not going to care.

But the gimmicks don’t end with Carlyle becoming a super-zombie (he’s apparently got some consciousness and a real hatred for his family). No, see, Carlyle’s wife (played by Catherine McCormack, which I had no idea about until I looked at IMDb), who he left for dead, see… she’s a carrier, but immune. So, the whole plot rests around Carlyle’s family. How convienient his lame and fearless kids have just come to London, so they can restart the zombie holocaust.

As a director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo shoots and edits some great montages. It’s all very frenetic, but it actually works with the content here. Lots and lots of beautiful visual montages. There’s even a really nice montage scene where the U.S. Army snipers, bored with lack of zombies to shoot, watch the repatrioted Brits. Even after the really cheap gimmicks, the film maintains a level of intensity until it just becomes cheap overall, with characters doing unbelievable things–smart ones becoming stupid. So stupid I almost spelled it stoopid, Weeks‘s stupidity has killed so many of my brain cells.

It’s frustrating because there are some nice scenes and some good performances. When he’s not super-zombie, Carlyle is fantastic. Even better is Jeremy Renner as a sniper. Renner’s got very little to do besides be a decent human being, but he does it with a lot of force and it’s good stuff. Rose Byrne is the, obviously, best, because she rules this movie in her terrible role. She’s an army doctor and she doesn’t want kids, but then she hangs out with them, but is it just because they might carry the cure? Who knows, because Weeks doesn’t even give subtext to its contrived coincidences. The kids, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, both stink. Muggleton’s worse, but it might not be his fault, the script sets him up as the kid from The Shining but ominous and possibly evil (so I guess more Omen-esque, but not having ever seen one of those, I’m not sure). Harold Perrineau’s in it a bit and I’m glad he got a job in something intended to be high-profile, but he’s way too good for this kind of work. He, Byrne and Renner ought to reunite for something written by someone not trying to remake Halloween 4. Hell, Fresnadillo could even direct it. The only times he fails in Weeks are with the lengthy action scenes. The chase scenes, when from the chasee’s perspective, get tiring, but the action scenes are boring. You can’t tell what is going on so why even bother trying (or carrying).

I find it horrifying Alex Garland could make the time to write a Halo movie, but it couldn’t give this crappy script a rewrite. It’d take maybe a week to fix it. Some of the dialogue especially. My friend said it sounded like a bad Spanish-to-English babelfish translation.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; written by Rowan Joffe, Fresnadillo, Enrique López Lavigne and Jesús Olmo; director of photography, Enrique Chediak; edited by Chris Gill; music by John Murphy; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by López Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich; released by Fox Atomic.

Starring Robert Carlyle (Don), Rose Byrne (Scarlet), Jeremy Renner (Doyle), Harold Perrineau (Flynn), Catherine McCormack (Alice), Mackintosh Muggleton (Andy), Imogen Poots (Tammy), Idris Elba (General Stone) and Emily Beecham (Karen).

The Dead Girl (2006, Karen Moncrieff)

I had assumed, just because of the large cast, a Nashville approach for this film. However, frighteningly, I think it might have been inspired by Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity (the film, not the short story collection). The stories are all independent, more about their central characters than about the event tying them together, in this case, a dead girl. The stories range in quality from terrible to mediocre. Even if they’re mediocre, they don’t have a decent conclusion. The most interesting part of these stories is what is going to happen next. In fact, in most cases, the only important thing is what is going to happen next and the film makes no assumptions. In some ways, it creates unsolvable cliffhangers for the characters… baiting the viewer with an ominous promise (the possible killer, the suicide attempt) then delivering on nothing.

There are five stories. The first two are traditional romances. The third is an awful, dumb thriller, which creates an impossible situation then cheats its way out with the end of the section. The fourth has the most promise but only in terms of what happens immediately after the story ends and then at some point in the future in those characters’ stories. The last story, which finally gets around to revealing the dead girl, is terrible, but not the worst. The way Karen Moncrieff ends it, syrupy, tragic sweet… is an offense to the good work a lot of her actors put in.

The most amazing performance in the film is easily James Franco, just because he not only doesn’t suck, he’s actually really good. He’s in the second story with Rose Byrne (Byrne being the whole reason I had any interest in the film in the first place). She’s good, but her role’s so simple, it’d be hard for her not to be good. Other good performances include Marcia Gay Harden, Josh Brolin, and Giovanni Ribisi. Terrible, unspeakable ones… well, just Mary Steenburgen, who plays a stereotypical role (just like everyone else in the film except maybe Brolin and Ribisi) and does a really bad job of it. Kerry Washington’s good when she’s not doing her Mexican accent. I guess her eyes emote well. Mary Beth Hurt and Nick Searcy have the dumbest roles in the film and there’s really nothing for them to do with them.

The Dead Girl offers absolutely nothing new to… anything. It’s a useless film, filled with decent and good performances. Moncrieff’s an adequate director in parts, but usually not. There’s nothing distinctive about her composition (something I realized in the first five minutes, never a good sign). I guess her dialogue’s okay, but the film’s a bunch of Oprah episodes strung together, which might be fine if there were some artistry or competence involved.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Karen Moncrieff; director of photography, Michael Grady; edited by Toby Yates; music by Adam Gorgoni; produced by Eric Karten, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Kevin Turen and Henry Winterstern; released by First Look International.

Starring Josh Brolin (Tarlow), Rose Byrne (Leah), Toni Collette (Arden), Bruce Davison (Bill), James Franco (Derek), Marcia Gay Harden (Melora), Mary Beth Hurt (Ruth), Piper Laurie (Arden’s Mother), Brittany Murphy (Krista), Giovanni Ribisi (Rudy), Nick Searcy (Carl), Mary Steenburgen (Beverly) and Kerry Washington (Rosetta).


I Capture the Castle (2003, Tim Fywell)

Do the British have an unending supply of novels about wise-beyond-their-years young women (unjustly poor or ordinary, of course) who have slightly dim older sisters who can’t see love in front of their eyes while all the time these younger women suffer for their sisters’ happiness? It certainly seems so.

I Capture the Castle, the film, plays like a combination of Cold Comfort Farm and Pride & Prejudice. It’s an incredibly long film, filled with two and three minute scenes set days or weeks apart, and chock-full of bad performances. The lead, Romola Garai, is excellent–though her performance isn’t enough to recommend the film, as it’s saddled with terrible diary-writing narration (filling the diary seems to be the present action of the film, but it’s decided on later and the film never takes advantage of that reasonable structure). Bill Nighy, as Garai’s father, a troubled novelist, is great. Nighy’s often great in outlandish roles, but Castle is the best work from him I’ve seen, he’s fantastic. Also good–surprisingly, as I haven’t seen him in anything for ten years–is Henry Thomas. Well, I suppose I saw him more recently in some of Cloak & Dagger, before I turned it off.

The rest of the cast is not good. Oh, except the precocious little brother. I queued the film for Rose Byrne, who plays the dull older sister. Given the rest of the cast, she’s not so bad, but she’s not any good in Castle. Tara Fitzgerald is bad. Sinéad Cusack is bad. Marc Blucas–as Thomas’ brother–is so bad he’s laughable. Even if these actors–Byrne aside–weren’t so bad, Castle probably wouldn’t be any better. It’s so shallowly written. Ah, forgot another one–almost Superman Henry Cavill is bad too. Anyway, the writing (I assume from the source novel) gives the characters no depth and gives the audience little to identify with except the occasional humor and the dreadfulness of being a wise-beyond-her-years English young woman who’s sacrificing her happiness for her older sister’s. Her dim older sister’s.

The director lensed the film in 2.35:1, which tends to require a lot of talent when the subject matter is people. He hasn’t got the talent (from his filmography, it looks like he’s done mostly TV movies and Castle was his only chance for glorious Panavision), but the English country-side scenery is pretty. At best, Castle (along with Dirty Dancing 2) will be an odd citation in Garai’s someday excellent filmography. At worst, it’ll be Bill Nighy’s best performance.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Fywell; written by Heidi Thomas, based on the novel by Dodie Smith; director of photography, Richard Greatrex; edited by Roy Sharman; music by Dario Marianelli; production designer, John-Paul Kelly; produced by David Parfitt; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Henry Thomas (Simon), Marc Blucas (Neil), Rose Byrne (Rose), Romola Garai (Cassandra), Bill Nighy (Mortmain), Tara Fitzgerald (Topaz), Henry Cavill (Stephen), Sinéad Cusack (Mrs. Cotton) and Joe Sowerbutts (Thomas).


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