REVIEW: JOHNNY ENGLISH

CAST

Rowan Atkinsion (Mr. Bean)
John Malkovich (Red)
Natalie Imbruglia (Underdogs)
Ben Miller (The Prince and Me)
Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility)
Kevin McNally (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Oliver Ford Davies (Christopher Robin)
Tim Pigott-Smith (Victoia & Abdul)

Rowan Atkinson and Natalie Imbruglia in Johnny English (2003)Johnny English is a kind hearted but inept “MI7” agent with dreams of being their most trusted employee. After Agent One dies in a submarine accident unknowingly caused by English, the remaining agents are assassinated via a bombing at Agent One’s funeral, leaving English as the lone surviving agent capable of finishing the mission Agent One left when he died. English is assigned to follow a plot to steal the Crown Jewels, which are on display at the Tower of London.At the display, English is head of security, and meets the mysterious Lorna Campbell. The power is cut, and the jewels are stolen. During the chaos, English accidentally knocks out the deputy head of security and pretends to fight an assailant out of sight. He later makes up a false description of the assailant to MI7 head Pegasus. English and his assistant Angus Bough find the jewels were removed via a hole dug beneath their display case. The two follow a tunnel, confronting the two thieves Dieter Klein and Klaus Vendetta. The two escape in a hearse, with English trying to pursue them, but he mistakes another hearse for the escaped vehicle, gatecrashing a funeral until Bough comes to his aid by pretending English is an escaped mental patient.English connects the thieves to Pascal Sauvage, a French prison entrepreneur who helped restore the Crown Jewels. Pegasus finds the claims of his involvement absurd and warns English not to involve Sauvage. In the car park, English and Bough are attacked by Vendetta, but are unharmed. English again encounters Lorna in a sushi restaurant as he recognized her motorcycle. During their meeting English is suspicious of her since he has seen her at two of their crime scenes and her records cannot be found on any government computer. English and Bough decide to break into Sauvage’s headquarters via parachutes, but English lands on a visually identical tower, which turns out to be the City Hospital, by mistake.Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English (2003)Going to the correct building, the two learn Sauvage, who is a descendant of Charles Edward Stuart, plans on making himself king, using an impostor to impersonate the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lorna arrives, revealed to be an Interpol agent tracking Sauvage. With evidence of Sauvage’s involvement, English crashes a reception hosted by Sauvage but he is suspended from work by Pegasus for his actions. With English knowing their plans, Sauvage scraps the fake Archbishop and instead sends his minions to force Queen Elizabeth II to abdicate by threatening her corgis, causing the entire line of succession to be swept clean for Sauvage to become king. Lorna, now in charge of the assignment by Pegasus, visits the depressed English and convinces him to travel with her to Sauvage’s French château to investigate.Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English (2003)Eavesdropping on Sauvage’s meeting with renowned criminals, English and Lorna learn Sauvage plans to turn the United Kingdom into the world’s biggest prison when he becomes king. English and Lorna are exposed when the former accidentally activates a microphone, and they are taken prisoners. English tries to steal the DVD of Sauvage’s plan, but accidentally drops it onto a tray of identical discs and takes the wrong one without looking. Bough rescues the two and they race to stop Sauvage’s coronation.Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English (2003)English crashes the coronation and discovers the Archbishop is the genuine article. Undeterred, English orders Bough to play the DVD, only to find it is camera footage of himself dancing in his bathroom in his underclothes to “Does Your Mother Know” by ABBA, Sauvage having bugged English’s flat beforehand. English sneaks away but swings in on a wire to steal St. Edward’s Crown from Sauvage. Sauvage angrily shoots at English with a pistol, causing him to drop the crown. Moments before Sauvage is crowned king, English drops from the wire after being shot, lands on the throne, and is crowned instead. Because of the crowning laws, English is now technically the King of England. In his singular act as king, English has Sauvage arrested and restores the Queen to the throne, simply requesting a knighthood as a reward.Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, and Ben Miller in Johnny English (2003)In the final scene, English and Lorna drive to southern France for a romantic holiday, only for English to accidentally launch Lorna out of the car by pressing the ejection seat button. Lorna lands in a hotel swimming pool, where Bough happens to be vacationing as well as a man identical to the assailant that English described to Pegasus earlier in the film.Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, and Natalie Imbruglia in Johnny English (2003)Johnny English is no where near as bad as what I expected. While it’s not the greatest nor the most intelligent film of recent times, it’s one that’s entertaining none the less. If your looking for something to sit down and watch, a film that will make you laugh without demanding much use of your Brain, then Johnny English is an ideal choice.

 

REVIEW: WATCHMEN

 

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

66262-ycoiuhbnkq-1503295178Watchmen was easily the most hotly awaited picture of the first half of 2009, and I’ll readily admit that the dynamic yellow-and-red poster billboards around town generated a charge of anticipation that Savant hasn’t felt in years. That the film was not considered a runaway success doesn’t surprise me. A movie about superheroes that is neither consistently feel-good nor entertainingly funny is a hard sell. Other writers have noted that the Watchmen are relative unknowns in comparison to icons like Spiderman and Superman; there’s less of a built-in audience for them. Describing the Watchmen movie also suggests expressions like “intellectual puzzle” and “non-linear”. Large segments of the audience have little use for narrative complexities and historical irony.

What movie audiences do care about is action, and to compensate Watchmen ratchets up the graphic novel’s considerable violence. Bloody content limited to a single comic panel or two, looks like gore porn when turned into a film sequence.  Even with a few subplots deleted, Watchmen is so complicated that it bears comparison with David Lynch’s noble 1984 attempt to film Dune. Lynch got lost in wall-to-wall exposition and characters reduced to walk-ons. Watchmen avoids the same fate by closely following the original’s highly cinematic structure. Moore and Gibbons’ comic book panels made heavy use of devices familiar to moviegoers — parallel cutting, associative transitions.Watchmen is a multi-generational story of costumed superhero crime fighters. They got their start in the 1940s as “The Minutemen”, later formed another association called “The Watchmen” and then were outlawed in the early 1980s. Most have kept their anonymity in retirement. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have no super-powers. The one Watchman who does is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an “atomic man” who glows a soft blue color. A research scientist transformed into a near demigod by an experiment gone wrong, Dr. Manhattan wins the Vietnam War for Richard Nixon, allowing the President to run for a third term by popular demand. Most of Watchmen plays out as a science fiction alternate history tale, although the film drops a major Sci-Fi element from the final act.In 1985 an unknown assailant murders The Comedian. Defying the ban on costumed vigilantes, Rorschach warns the other Watchmen and puts pressure on the underworld to find out who is responsible. Dr. Manhattan breaks up with Laurie Jupiter (secretly the Silk Spectre) and abandons humanity to meditate on Mars. The Cold War goes into panic mode, as the U.S. and the Soviets are already at the brink of nuclear war, and Dr. Manhattan was America’s defense insurance policy. Laurie and Dan Dreiburg (secretly the Nite Owl) become an item. Frustrated by all the bad news, they ignore the ban and reassume their roles as crime fighters. Laurie and Dan spring Rorschach from prison and begin an investigation that leads to the activities of the millionaire technocrat Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias.That synopsis doesn’t begin to touch the intricacies of Watchmen or its pleasing assortment of superheroes, that collectively flesh out a pantheon of comic book traditions. The Nite Owl is a kinder Batman type, a quiet millionaire who has engineered a flying vehicle and other crime-fighting gadgets. He’s actually following in the footsteps of the original Nite Owl, a two-fisted hero from the 1940s. The Silk Spectre is a Wonder Woman- like beauty with identity issues. She was pushed into her role by her flamboyant mother, the Silk Spectre of the Minuteman years. The corrupt Comedian lost sight of his crimefighting ethics and became a murderer, war criminal, rapist and dirty ops agent for Dick Nixon. The highly intelligent Ozymandias is also a fabulously wealthy international businessman under the name Adrian Veidt; he’s put his crime-fighting past on the public record and even sells Ozymandias toy action figures. Veidt considers himself a modern Alexander the Great.The most interesting Watchman is Rorschach, a seedy misanthrope who wears a strange mask that forms mysterious symmetrical patterns identical to a psychologist’s inkblot test. Now considered an outlaw vigilante, Rorschach keeps a bitter Travis Bickle-like diary and refuses to compromise on his mission to slay criminals. Between them the Watchmen cover numerous approaches to the concept of “masked crusaders” trying to function in a complex world. Director Zack Snyder  epitomizes the modern director who prepares computerized pre-visualization sequences, directs the live action, and waits for his technician-artisans to deliver test composites to critique. Elements that the director once had to make “come together” before a real camera on a real set can now be added, subtracted or altered almost indefinitely; the director of an effects-heavy film now functions as a creative manager. Snyder openly admits that his goal is to faithfully replicate the visions of other artists, which has prompted some to question exactly what he contributes artistically to the show. To the extent that Snyder still casts and directs the actors and decides when and when not to follow the graphic novel, he is actually much more “involved” than were many old-school studio directors. Even the biggest Hollywood names sometimes worked from locked scripts and often had little contact with projects before or after the actual filming. Considering how little opportunity for personal expression the Watchmen assignment afford, Snyder’s done a fine job.In this case, closely following the original was Snyder’s only choice. CGI allows the presentation of almost any visual, and the leagues of Watchmen fans wouldn’t have tolerated detours from their story. Most of Snyder’s adjustments are good ones. The strange sidebar tangent involving a “Black Freighter” horror comic has wisely been spun off into a separate direct-to-video production. To get out from under a mountain of plot complications, Snyder drops Adrian Veidt’s elaborate hoax on humanity that involves murdering an army of technicians that mock up the corpse of a gigantic space alien.Watchmen was somewhat overpowering in the movie theater, precisely because it is so close to the original. Instead of being taken in a new direction, I felt like Snyder was holding the book in front of my eyes and turning the pages for me. But movies of this kind are no longer made to be seen only once, and on a second viewing it was easier to simply watch what was happening, admire the classy designs and marvel at the excellent casting.