Emperor

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune
Directed by: Peter Webber (“Hannibal Rising”)
Written by: Vera Blasi (“Woman on Top”) and David Klass (“Walking Tall”)

Taking place after the Japanese surrender in World War II, “Emperor” tells the story of General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) who is assigned a task from General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) to investigate whether Japanese Emperor Hirohito will be tried as a war criminal for ordering of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the Japanese uninterested to talk and Fellers’ past involvement with a Japanese girl complicating the situation, the truth might not be as easy to find.

Since the end of the wildly popular TV show “Lost,” Fox has done little to cement himself as a leading man in films. His performance in “Emperor” is often times wooden and uninspired. His line readings feel forced and unnatural. Other than one scene where he actually shows some emotional range, his ability to do this on a consistent basis is stifled throughout the film. It is pretty impressive that Jones is able to get away with giving the same exact performance in nearly every role he plays. It is hard to argue what he does isn’t the same look, inflection and attitude in every film. While he doesn’t have nearly as much screen time in the film as Fox, Jones is merely passable as MacArthur.

The investigation of war crimes unfolds in a way that is absent of tension. Even though it attempts to tells a part of history, the script fails to be interesting. It never feels like anything major is at stake. Screenwriters Vera Blasi and David Klass look to a weaker secondary story between Gen. Fellers and his Japanese love interest. Their relationship provides no emotional stock for the view and are achingly generic.

Even with a historic story that might be unknown to many people, “Emperor” is too dull to resonate on any level. Fox isn’t quite ready to take the reigns of a lead role and the film is too weighed down by a subpar romantic subplot. Perhaps there is no greater sign that a movie is doomed from the very beginning than when even the always-dependable Jones is overshadowed by his massive corncob pipe.

Alex Cross

October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Marc Moss (“Along Came a Spider”) and Kerry Williamson (debut)

Confession: I’ve read every single book featuring the character Alex Cross that has been published so far. Created by prolific author James Patterson, the character Alex Cross is a detective/psychiatrist working homicide for the police department in Washington, D.C. His keen intellect and unparalleled ability to get inside a killer’s head makes Cross the best choice to hunt down the most brutal, creative, and intelligent serial killers that turn up in and around D.C. In doing so, he often risks the safety of his family (his children and his frail-yet-sassy grandmother Nana Mama). Novels like “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” and “Jack and Jill” were tight thrillers featuring villains with unique nursery rhyme-derived hooks. The character was a hit and the two former books were adapted into motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman. Alas, financial success demanded someone to churn out more Cross-based movies. But after at least 15 more books, the character of Alex Cross is tired and threadbare. He is merely going through the motions. Once a year or so, there is Cross ready to stop another grisly weirdo murdering hookers or businessmen. All the while, Nana Mama seems eternally perched at death’s door. Even today, I still find myself reading every new book despite how predictable and boring the series has become.

More than a decade after Morgan Freeman’s cinematic turn as Cross fizzled out, a reboot was in order. Billed as being an adaptation of the 12th book in the series, “Alex Cross” stars Tyler Perry as a more age-appropriate Cross. Set in the crumbling decay once known as Detroit (and featuring copious product placement from General Motors), the film pits Cross and his partner (Edward Burns) against an assassin known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a twitchy psychopath who leaves abstract charcoal drawings behind after he kills. When Picasso makes his crimes personal for the detectives, Cross sets aside his own moral code in an attempt to track down the killer.

As an adaptation of a late-period Alex Cross novel, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) has at least stayed true to the spirit of the book and kept the film very dull. Perry, best known for his terrible movies wherein he dresses as an old woman and teaches vaguely churchy lessons to awful women, tries his best as Cross, but the humdrum script and murky direction do him no favors. Cross begins the film written as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, all spot-on deductions and poor social skills, only to be forgotten in the second half of the film when he becomes a vengeful badass. It’s this transition, however, that proves to be the best few minutes of the film. As Cross saws off the barrel of his shotgun and marches out the door covered in ammo and firearms to hunt down Picasso, the stern Nana Mama confronts him in order to make him reconsider his actions as a family man. Somehow there’s real tension and heart on display. Best of all, Nana Mama is played by Cicely Tyson and not Tyler Perry in drag.

Vantage Point

February 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Pete Travis (debut)
Written by: Barry Levy (debut)

Car salesmen. Reality TV show producers. Toothbrush designers. These are some of the only people that can get away with having a gimmick run their livelihood. Unfortunately, for their first time out of the gate, director Pete Travis and screenwriter Barry Levy throw all their energy into technique and forget about fundamentals.

Just in time for more presidential primaries, “Vantage Point” follows the attempted assassination of the U.S. President (William Hurt) during an international counter-terrorist assembly in Spain. Although it might seem like a full-length feature in theory, “Vantage Point” is actually about a 15-minute film told from the point of view of five separate people.

One of these characters is Thomas Barnes (Quaid), a Secret Service agent recently back on duty after taking a bullet for the President only six months prior. As cliché as cliché gets, Tom blames himself for the attempted murder of the Commander in Chief and questions whether or not he is ready to return to the line of duty (Quaid’s shifty eyes do most of the talking at this point).

Then there’s Howard Lewis (Whitaker), a bystander at the political gathering who is videotaping everything as the events unfold. But not even the all-powerful digital camera can catch all that is happening in this grassy-knoll-of-a-script. Secondary storylines weigh in on the conventional plot but become blurred as Levy repeats the scenario by rewinding to the beginning. It’s not clever, has been done before and in a much viewer-friendly way, and bets everything on a payoff that turns out to be a yawner.

An insane amount of time is wasted introducing us to would-be assassins when the actual assassination becomes insignificant midway through. As the web of characters gets thicker, it’s harder to feel any sense of mystery or how tense these individuals should actually be. Instead, the film is sliced and diced into an unrecognizable mess and then somehow devolves into a panicky car chase lead by an indestructible Quaid (who would have known the guy can Tokyo drift?)

Although the interweaving tricks may bring you to think of such films as “Run Lola Run” (a film that does it right) or “Timecode” (a film that does it wrong), “Vantage Point” is stale entertainment any which way you cut it. Trying to piece the thing together is like working on a puzzle where the finished product is a picture of a cloudy sky. It’ll get done sooner or later, but how dull is getting there and the outcome?