Archives for posts with tag: russell crowe

To be honest, I enjoyed the hell out of this. Does that mean it’s any good? Yes and no. Look, it’s not my fault if you expected this to be either the happy-go-lucky nonsense of the Brendan Fraser original or an actual proper film. Would either option have been better? Probably.

You know the plot. An Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), nearly manages to summon Ultimate Evil into the world, but she’s stopped just in time, mummified alive, and buried in the desert. Some time later, an unscrupulous antiquities looter, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his dimwitted sidekick (Nick from “New Girl”), and a beautiful archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), find the mummy, free the mummy, and must defeat the mummy. Since this one is set in the present, there’s more ISIS and science-adjacent goofiness. Neither of these is an improvement.

MV5BMjM5NzM5NTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDEyNTk4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Among the film’s strengths are its energy, Cruise’s commitment, and, occasionally, Nick from “New Girl”‘s comedic chops. One gets the impression that every pitch meeting Cruise attends now ends with him saying, “Sure, but turn it up to eleven.” Mummy not enough for you? Crusader zombies! Tom Cruise has been on screen for seven whole minutes? Drop a missile on him! Archaeologists in films aren’t wifty enough already? Add Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) into the mix! And Edward Hyde (Russell Crowe with less make-up)!

So, yeah, it’s not half-assed. But it’s not really something worth whole-assing. It doesn’t add anything except unnecessary moralizing and special effects. It’s not quite silly enough–one feels the lack of John Hannah keenly. Boutella, one feels, is wasted in her rôle. We all know she’s athletic and beautiful, but Ahmanet could have slightly more personality. And whatever, Jenny. I get that we don’t want to have Evelyn’s cutesy incompetence, but you’re a cipher. And no woman archaeologist wears her hair down in the field.

Everyone told me this was awful, and it wasn’t awful. It was mindless and full of explosions, which is what I expected and wanted. Get a great big bag of popcorn.

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes
Score: 3/5

It is mesmerizing to me that someone once looked at roughly twelve pounds of Victor Hugo’s nonsense and thought, “I bet that would make a great musical.” I resisted the musical for a long time, because I had read the book and success seemed unlikely, and also because little girls are taught “Castle on a Cloud” in music class, and Cosette was rather a wet blanket. But Pandora had other ideas, and the rest of the show is mostly better, and there we were in 2012 and I went to the cinema and was not greatly disappointed.

Most people, when they saw Les Mis the film, were disappointed because the singing wasn’t that good, or that Samantha Barks was thrown to Broadway diehards like a pacifier to a fussy infant. And they hated both Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. I’m not particularly interested in those factors, and neither are you, three and a half years later.

My problems stem from twin causes: changes the musical had to make because it wasn’t three years long and Marius had to be likable, and choices the movie made from the musical that exacerbated those flaws.

Marius Pontmercy, in the book, is extremely handsome. So far, so good. He’s dark where Eddie Redmayne is incipiently ginger, but that’s all right. The other thing about Marius, though, is that he’s a drip. He has cards printed calling himself a baron (his father was vaguely entitled to do so), has stupid fights with his rich relatives, is too lazy to do the very undemanding work that his school friends find him when he needs money, decides that the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen is named Ursule (I mean, come on), and after talking to her once decides that he’d rather die than lose her, so he belatedly cares about the revolution in which his friends ardently believe. They, unlike him, are interesting and varied.

This is my main problem with the show. I love everything to do with these lads. They’re not viciously useless, like Fantine’s lover’s crowd. They’re not venal, like the Thénardiers. They’re not hopelessly boring, like Cosette. They’re crazy, and probably wrong, and criminally naïve, but they’re more like people than anyone else Victor Hugo limned. Hugo’s Enjolras is a glorious lunatic Adonis. The musical’s Enjolras is a mildly nuts co-firebrand. Tom Hooper’s Enjolras is a handsome, scarlet-clad, interchangeable sidekick until the moment of his death (not Aaron Tveit’s fault). Except for one sublime second of mad joy when he first scrambles behind the barricade, Enjolras is just like all the others, aside from the jacket. Now, I get it. Marius has to believe in the cause, because otherwise Marius is an unappealing moral tourist, so he takes half of Enjolras’s revolutionary vim, and Enjolras just gets to be a moderately self-righteous scold.

And this is why you shouldn’t cut any of “Drink with Me.” Because then it’s not just about Marius, and you give the boys a little more time to be different from each other. A little more time for Enjolras to have crazier eyes, or for Grantaire to be noticeably drunker than everyone else, or for us to learn which one Courfeyrac actually is. A little more time for you to see that they do care, and not just because they have a crush on some blonde they’ve hardly met. Maybe a little time to see why Grantaire claws himself out of a hangover to die next to Enjolras. Too much to ask?

Still, though. I am at home for ruffly shirts and barricades, and this movie is gorgeous.

Stray observations:

  • We do not need to see Javert’s back break. No, thank you.
  • The early 1830s had bad sleeves, huh.
  • I hate the Thénardiers so much, but since you’re supposed to, I’m not sure I can dock points for it.
  • Grantaire is my spirit animal. There is no chance I won’t be hungover when the revolution comes.

Director: Tom Hooper
Rating: PG-13
Length: 158 minutes
Score: 4/5

Do you remember the strange several years when everyone was convinced that Russell Crowe was both good-looking and a good actor? Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary on both fronts? We gave this man an Academy Award!

Just…wow.

Anyway, Master and Commander is probably my favorite Russell Crowe movie, and that’s mostly in spite of him, and in spite of its…not really being all that good. When I saw it the first time, I hadn’t read any of the Aubrey-Maturin novels on which it is ostensibly based, and I rather liked it. Now I have read fourteen of the Aubrey-Maturin novels on which it is ostensibly based, and I like it no less.  This movie follows the plot of no single O’Brian novel, neither the one called Master and Commander nor the one called The Far Side of the World. Nor of any other. Which is fine, really; those novels succeed better at atmosphere than at plot. I have heard on good authority that this is a fairly verisimilitudinous reflection of naval life. The film also aims for atmosphere, sketching your favorite characters from the books in a pastiche of more or less plausible events that take place near the Galapagos and involve fighting the French navy.

Jack Aubrey (Crowe), the titular master and commander, is blond, sanguine, and incipiently fat. He’s smirkingly terrible and his accent is worse. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) is as unattractive as they can make him as the doctor and naturalist who spends most of his time kvetching that a warship is not his private exploratory vessel. He has no Irish accent and is not a spy, so devotés of the books may resent it; I enjoy that he can walk in a straight line and probably add. James D’Arcy plays the good-looking lieutenant Tom Pullings, and I love him. That’s all Tom Pullings ever does–be good-looking and lieutenant as well as he bloody can. Billy Boyd is awful as the boatswain Bonden, but they don’t give Bonden a damn thing to do, so that’s the real problem.

Max Pirkis is an amalgam of various tiny midshipmen, including one named Reade and one named Blakeney, and he, as also playing Octavian in HBO’s Rome, is a revelatory, heartbreaking gem. Early on he loses an arm, and Aubrey gives him a biography of Lord Nelson, and I cry. So much. Later on, he squeakingly collects beetles for Maturin, still later he squeakingly helps decide the course of a battle with the French vessel Acheron. He’s wonderful.

This film’s chief failure is that it captures neither the unremitting navy-ness of the books nor the rather charming blink-and-you-missed-it humor. In addition it’s scattershot, trying to cobble together one full plot from a dozen loosely connected episodes. But, if you like movies about old boats and aren’t terrifically particular, you’ll love this. If not, you’ll be annoyed by the winking in-jokes, the borderline incoherence, and Russell Crowe.

Stray observations:

  • This film makes heavy, heavy use of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and, while I deeply love that piece of music in all its forms, the anachronism makes me insane.
  • I really wish there had been more of these movies, as it clearly looked like they were planned, and I would eat them up like candy. However, I also see why there weren’t more–the movie strikes a bad balance between pleasing lovers of the books and pleasing neophytes, and ends up pleasing no-one. Also it made $50 million less than it cost.

Director: Peter Weir
Rating: PG-13
Length: 138 minutes
Score: 4/5