Words and Pictures

June 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Keegan Connor Tracey
Directed by: Fred Schepisi (“The Eye of the Storm”)
Written by: Gerald Di Pego (“Little Murder”)

As the much talked about battle between words and pictures takes place between the flamed out, alcoholic cool English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) and the once revered but hampered by arthritis crotchety art teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) at a school assembly, we are almost two hours into an exhausting tale. It’s a moment that is supposed to hit hard and resonate, but given the preceding events, it misses on nearly every level, a common theme in “Words and Pictures.”

When teacher Jack Marcus finds his job on the line, he engages new art teacher Dina Delsanto in a contest of what is more impactful and important: words or pictures. As an effort to inspire and engage the students, Jack also hopes that the results reflect better on him in order to save his job. In the process, he finds himself strangely attracted to the stern Delsanto and sets the two on an unexpected journey both romantically and head to head in a battle of the arts.

While there are some decent scenes of the two together, the relationship between Owen and Binoche is oddly mismatched. Owen, who is just not believable as a romantic comedy lead, serves much better in the dark scenes in which he is playing drunk and the occasional classroom scene and Binoche is surprisingly unaffecting. There’s an almost cartoonish quality to the character of Delsanto who is so stereotypically icy, yet completely immature in her degradations such as when she blows raspberries in Owen’s direction.

If the film had been about just Binoche and Owen’s characters it would have been lackluster enough. Instead, screenwriter Gerald Di Pego insists on jamming in subplots that don’t fit. The worst of the bunch is story about an aggressive student who tries to bully a female student into liking him. It’s a plot line that is a complete misfire and goes nowhere while feeling false and off-putting.

There are plenty of other examples of plotlines that are ill-fitting, including a relationship with Delsanto and a favorite student and Jack’s relationship with his son, but the real problem is that the film suffers even when it is just Jack and Delsanto together. There are some good individual scenes that romanticize literary works and Owen and Binoche do occasionally work well together, but as an entire piece, “Words and Pictures” juggles too many stories that don’t work and drags on and on without any real payoff.

The Boys Are Back

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Clive Owen, George MacKay, Nicholas McAnulty
Directed by: Scott Hicks (“Shine”)
Written by: Allan Cubitt (“St. Ives”)

As a film about fathers and sons, Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks’ “The Boys Are Back” doesn’t break any new ground thematically, but still offers a sweet and touching tale that never strays into sappiness like most films of this nature might.

That’s not to say, however, that “Boys” won’t push your sensitivity buttons on occasion. The story follows Joe Warr, a sportswriter living in Australia who must cope with the passing of his wife and face the major responsibility her death carries when he realizes his young son Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) now has only one parent to depend on.

Joe wouldn’t be considered the greatest of fathers. He’s the kind of dad that goes on the road for work and makes up for his absenteeism by bringing home gifts. While he may not always be around, Artie loves him and promises to keep him company after his mother passes away. “I’ll stay down here with you for now,” Artie says right after expressing his desire to die so he can be with his mother.

It’s a rocky start toward rebuilding their lives as Joe and Artie attempt to feel each other out. Joe makes life for both of them less strenuous by adopting a seemingly reckless parenting strategy that has him complying with all his child’s requests. If Artie wants to cannonball into the tub, Joe allows it. If he wants to ride on top of the hood of the car, Joe gives the go-ahead. Water balloon fights in the house? Why not? You only live once, right?

Things get more complicated in the household when Joe’s teenage son from a previous marriage Harry (George MacKay, who is a mirror image of Rupert Grint of “Harry Potter” fame), travels from London to visit him and Artie in Australia. With so many questions plaguing his troubled teenage mind about why his father abandoned him to start a new life, Harry is determined to know how much of it was his fault.

At its core, “The Boys Are Back” is a story of one father’s desperateness to find a middle ground to stand on with his two sons all while juggling his own emotions and surprisingly flexible career. While it’s an inspired attempt overall, there are too many hairline fractures throughout screenwriter Allan Cubitt’s script, which he adapted from Simon Carr’s novel of the same name, to fully recommend it. Owen gives an honest performance, but Cubitt doesn’t draw enough defined lines to connect the boys on an emotional level as the story progresses.

The International

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Directed by: Tom Tykwer(“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”)
Written by: Eric Singer (debut)

Part suspense-thriller, part front-page newspaper story, “The International” has all the pieces that made films like “Syriana” and “The Constant Gardener” so interesting, but debut screenwriter Eric Singer drags out the third act into so much convoluted dialogue and plot you wish he would have quit while he was ahead.

Directed with much enthusiasm by Tom Tykwer, who gave us the provocative film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” in 2006, “The International” tells the story of Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), an Interpol agent looking for the link between a powerful financial institution and a ring of small arms dealers. The International Bank Business and Credit (IBBC) has some skeletons in their closet. When Louis finds out they have been purchasing missile guidance systems, people associated with the crimes and the bank start coming up dead.

As Eleanor Whitman, a New York City assistant district attorney, Naomi Watts seems wasted and idly tossed into the all-male cast, which includes Armin Mueller-Stahl (“Shine”) as the man behind the curtain. The plot, too, has its problems staying on track especially when the story switches from a talky, timely, and somewhat compelling political grudge match to a balls-out action flick with an clumsily placed shootout in the middle of the Guggenheim Museum.

Blame it on reshoots if you want (Columbia Pictures is bound to), but “The International” is in dire need of two good editors: one in the cutting room and the other hovering over Singer at his computer with a finger on the backspace button just in case he decided to go overboard.