FlixChatter Review: The Tourist

A few of people’s tweets on Twitter yesterday read that The Tourist is ‘less than the sum of its stars.’ Well, that quip definitely has merit because despite the star wattage of the two leads, the movie is never luminous enough to really dazzle.

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp play characters with opposite personalities. Jolie is Elise, a beautiful woman who’ve been followed by the police for her dalliance with Alexander Pearce, an enigmatic figure wanted for embezzlement. Depp’s character Frank on the other hand, is as ‘ordinary’ as they come, a Community College math teacher from Wisconsin! Elise deliberately crosses his path on a train to Venice, an order from her lover to find a tourist in his likeness and make people believe that man is him.

It’s an intriguing premise all right, it promises a smart cat and mouse thriller with a web of intrigue, romance and danger. That last bit was from the plot synopsis in RottenTomatoes, which obviously judging from the dismal 20% rating, most critics don’t think the movie delivers the goods. I couldn’t help peeking at some of the reviews before I saw it Friday night. But the worse the reviews get, the more curious I became to see it. I mean, how bad could it be? Well, let me just say, it actually isn’t as bad as they make it out to be. But that’s really not saying much as I went in with pretty low expectations.

Much of the critics’ gripes is on the lack of chemistry between Jolie and Depp, but to me that’s a lesser of a problem that Jolie’s ludicrous overacting. Right from the time the movie opens with her being watched and the police tailing [as well as drool over] her, it’s as if Jolie thinks she’s in a two-hour long modeling shoots. She doesn’t ‘act’ as much as ‘poses’ the entire movie and her giant eyes and lips do much of the acting for her. Alas, I find her face so distracting from some of her scenes, i.e. the super red lipstick she wears to a canal-side dinner so overpowers her delicate features; and in others, her overly smoky eye-makeup makes her already giant eyes look disproportionately bigger. Not to mention her ultra glamorous and icy-cold persona—which doesn’t remotely resemble any real human being—makes it impossible to warm up to Elise. She is supposed to be a woman in love but the only person she appears to be in love with is herself and the reaction she gets from men that the director tirelessly keep pounding at us. Ok, she’s attractive, we get it. Let’s move on shall we?

As for Depp, though at first I thought he was miscast, he invariably fares better here. It’s refreshing to see him plays a ‘normal’ guy, well, as normal as he can get whilst still retaining that quirky sensibilities we love about him. As I said in my previous Tourist post, Depp in his goofy mode seems to get the befuddled look down pat and the minute I see Frank on the train, I immediately likes him. Frank provides such an amusing contrast to the sly and controlled Elise and his admiration of his beauty is believable. That ‘ravenous’ quip you’ve seen in the trailer comes out pretty funny in the movie.

As for the supporting cast, two of which are the main reason I saw this on opening night, they did their best with how little material they’re given to work with. Rufus Sewell looks all dashing and debonair in his practically no-speaking part, but his character is actually pretty significant to the plot. Timothy Dalton has a smidgen more screen time as the Chief Inspector Jones, and it was indeed a treat to see him up on screen and hearing him say his lines only Dalton could. But all that only left me wishing to see more of them on screen. I could see Dalton in the role of the head gangster, he’d easily add more charm as well as menace than the way Steven Berkoff plays it.

Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck seems to want to pay homage to the classic Bond flicks with a little bit of Hitchcock and other classic capers. The thing is, this movie merely hints at something great and the concept does have a lot of potential. Alas, the script never goes anywhere, as the story merely glides as leisurely as the pretty gondolas on the Venice canals, leaving us with quite lackluster action sequences with no real sense of danger to the main characters. At least Donnersmarck was able to keep the plot from being too predictable, the twist at the end is the kind that makes you ‘whoa!’ That one hit me out of left field, but with plot holes the size of Texas, the whole thing feels almost as preposterous as that infamous invisible car in Die Another Day.

I’d still recommend this one for a rental though. It’s still an entertaining fare to spend a mindless afternoon on… if anything, you won’t be disappointed by the gorgeous cinematography of Venice and Paris, those breathtaking shots can practically double as a tourism video. But as any good filmmaker should know, pretty scenery plus pretty people minus a crooked script will never amount to a good movie.

P.S. The two-and-a-half stars are for Sewell, Dalton and the city Venice 🙂

Anybody else has seen this flick? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Flix Character Spotlight: Neville Sinclair – The Rocketeer

A couple of days ago, I saw Jennifer Connelly in the red carpet of The Tourist premiere with her husband Paul Bettany. As you can see in the poster, Connelly and Timothy Dalton co-starred in The Rocketeer back in 1991, and now her husband is co-starring with Dalton in The Tourist.

It turns out this post has been in my draft folder since August, around the time when I read this Hero Complex blog post back in August titled The Rocketeer’ — a retro adventure that was ahead of its time. Apparently a theater in L.A. was hosting a special month-long Disney screening series at the time. Oh, how I wish I could’ve seen this one on the big screen.

I remember seeing The Rocketeer with my older brother when I was in high school. It had everything you could possibly want in a movie: comic-book style action adventure, espionage, romance and cool visuals. Based on a graphic novel, the story takes place in a few years prior to WWII in 1938 and focuses on a young stunt pilot Cliff, who stumbles onto a prototype jet-pack that allows him to become a high flying masked hero dubbed The Rocketeer. Of course things starts to go awry when the Nazis want the device for their evil plans.


Well, one of the best things about the movie is undoubtedly the deliciously charming baddie, Neville Sinclair. He is Howard Hughes meets Errol Flyn meets James Bond… played to perfection by Dalton. It’s hard not to swoon for his suave and sexy portrayal, in fact, he’s the one I couldn’t take my eyes off. This is a text-book example of a supporting character completely overshadowing the protagonist, played by boyish Billy Campbell. The Hero Complex article aptly described him as ‘sly and rakish’… and Shakespearean actor used that debonair sensibilities to the max in trying to seduce Cliff’s girlfriend, the aspiring actress Jenny (Connelly).

Director Joe Johnston (who’s currently working on Captain America) made a perfect casting choice in Dalton. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the role of a Nazi spy disguised as a swashbuckling movie star, inspired by the real actor Errol Flynn (apparently, an authorized biography of the classic actor painted him as a Nazi sympathizer – per Wikipedia). Sinclair is right up there with Alan Rickman‘s Hans Gruber as my favorite villains of all time.

Take a look below of a couple of clips from the movie. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s definitely worth a rental! Need more proof? Read Marc’s full review at GoSeeTalk.com.

TV Watching Monday: Timothy Dalton shows his comic side on CHUCK!

The night I’ve been waiting for is finally here! I’ve started watching CHUCK again this season when I heard Timothy Dalton was going to guest star on the spy comedy and boy, the episode didn’t disappoint!! Thank you Josh Schwartz for inviting Mr. Dalton to the show! It was just absolutely brilliant to have him play against type as a dowdy, grandpa-sweater-wearing old guy and it’s obvious Dalton has impeccable comic timing. Most people either know him as the gritty James Bond or byronic hero Rochester in Jane Eyre, but he can be convincingly hilarious, as he was in Hot Fuzz and now on Chuck.

Dalton in a scene in Nov 1 Chuck episode

[spoiler alert] The moment he came on with a fork on Chuck’s neck, I knew he’d be fabulous! In his inimitable raspy voice he threatened to rip Chuck’s throat until he gave him his code word, then suddenly he turned into this wimpish bureaucrat type fellow who says he’s Mary’s (Chuck’s mom) handler. I love how he was a nervous wreck on the plane when he’s about to be tortured, “I had my first sexual experience watching ‘Lawrence of Arabia’!” LMAO! (Ok now that’s the first time I use that internet slang on my blog but that’s reserved for such an occasion as this!)

Dalton portrayed all the bumbling manners and every bit of the funny lines as Gregory Tuttle so perfectly it’s hard to imagine this guy was freakin’ 007!! But then when the revelation come at the end I literally jumped off my seat! The camera panned up from his shiny shoes, slowly revealing a man in a perfectly tailored suit and voila! Bumbling handler no more, suddenly he’s back in the 007 mode as a dashing spy. Only this time he’s a bad-ass Russian villain Alexei Volkoff who’s been working with Mary. As Dalton revealed to EW earlier today, he’s going to be in a few episodes, so we can expect more awesome Chuck/Mary/Volkoff face-offs in future episodes. Too bad I have to wait TWO WEEKS for that!!

Check out this clip of the plane scene with Saturday Night Life’s vet Anna Gasteyer (it’s no coincidence on NBC part that they’re running the Women of SNL show right after this one):

And guess what, as I was searching for clips of this episode on YouTube, apparently someone had uploaded the 1979 Charlie’s Angel‘s episode where Dalton guest starred as Farrah Fawcett’s lover Damien Roth. Man, just look at the guy, no wonder Cubby Broccolli kept pestering him to play Bond!

In the EW interview, Dalton also revealed a teeny bit about his role in The Tourist, “… [the movie] for me was another example of wanting to work with people. It doesn’t have to be a big part — I play a policeman in the film — but if someone like [German director Florian Henckel von] Donnersmarck asks you to come and it’s with two actors that you’ve never met before but have always admired, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, and it’s being shot in Venice, you take it.” I’d say Jolie and Depp are the lucky ones to be working with a real thespian like Dalton. He’s a huge reason why I’m interested in the movie in the first place!

Any fellow Chuck fans out there? What did you think of the episode?

THIS JUST IN: The Tourist trailer

Fresh from the oven! As ET has revealed a few days ago, The Tourist trailer is finally here. It wasn’t available on YouTube earlier, but it is now, so see it below:

This movie is one of my highly-anticipated movies this year, and I’ve blogged extensively a few months ago here.

The plot revolves around Frank Taylor (Johnny Depp), an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Cara Mason (Angelina Jolie) is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path and throws him into a whirlwind of intrigue and danger.

As you can clearly see from the trailer, it’s more of a spy thriller/comedy. My pal Vince just watched it minutes after I did and his first reaction was how similar it is to Cary Grant’s North by Northwest. In fact, he said that Depp’s character’s mannerism and behavior almost mimic Grant’s character. Maybe that’s the intention?? It’s possible that the director (The Lives of Others), purposely wants this movie to have the same vibe, who knows. As for Jolie, well, she’s playing the same character she’s known for, nothing new there. She’s almost the same as her character in Wanted (or Lara Croft), just with more dainty clothes.

The trailer looks fine I guess, it’s got the potential to be fun and action-packed, and the two leads have a decent chemistry (I guess it’s not hard with Jolie ;)). BUT, I’m disappointed. WHERE IS Rufus Sewell and Timothy Dalton??? We see Steven Berkoff & Paul Bettany here and there, but Sewell and Dalton are really the major factor why I’m excited for this movie, and they’re NOWHERE to be found in the trailer. Trust me, I’ve even watched VERY closely and even paused the video a few times to make sure I didn’t miss it. But still, no sight of either of them 😦

Vince and I theorized that Dalton could be the head honcho of the mobster who’s after Jolie’s character, and Sewell is one of the killers sent to go after her?? I really don’t care what they’re playing at this point, I just want to see them, period! Oh well, my excitement for this movie just went down a few notches. Hopefully the next trailer they’d show those two and maybe then, this movie will be back in my good graces 😉

Well, what do you all think? Will you be seeing this movie come December 10?

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Tourist

Jolie & Depp in The Tourist

It’s too early to start my Top Ten Anticipated 2011 Flicks, but this one will surely be on that list. I’m certainly psyched more for the supporting cast than the leads. When I first heard about it as far back as last November, it was still a ‘revolving-door’ sort of project with directors and cast coming and going. But it looks like as soon as Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are on board, the project seems to be moving right along and looks like the two are surrounded by a talented British cast.

Dalton & Berkoff

About a month ago or so, Rufus Sewell and Paul Bettany were cast. I’m a big fan of Rufus so that was definitely awesome news, but then last week, yet another fave actor of mine Timothy Dalton is joining the cast, along with another British thespian Steven Berkoff. Just a bit of trivia: Berkoff is the director who took a chance on young Gerard Butler when he cast him in his theater play Coriolanus. Interesting that both actors have acting roots in theater, as well as a James Bond connection (I guess a Bond geek like me would find that amusing 🙂 ) Dalton obviously played the role twice (The Living Daylight & License to Kill), and Berkoff played Bond’s nemesis General Orlov in Octopussy.

German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) is at the helm of the spy thriller. The plot revolves around Frank Taylor, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Cara Mason is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path and throws him into a whirlwind of intrigue and danger.

It hasn’t been revealed what roles the added cast members will play in the movie. News in Film writer recently reviewed a draft script by Julian Fellowes — who won Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park, and recently penned The Young Victoria — and let’s just say he wasn’t impressed: “Without a strong third act, the script reads like a spy romance novel and a cheap Jason Bourne knock-off.  There are sultry exchanges, multiple chase scenes, and a shootout or two, but the action seems familiar and the mystery leads no where.”

Well, I guess it’s to early to tell how the final film will turns out to be, but based on the characters mentioned in the draft, I’m going to take a stab at speculating who’ll play which role:

  • Alexander Pearce: an international thief and cunning numbers man, personal friend (or lover) of Cara (Dalton?)
  • Ivan Demidov: a particularly angry Russian mobster (Berkoff?)
  • Ackerman: a “Tommy Lee Jones [type] from The Fugitive” (Bettany?)
  • One of the government agents who’s after Pearce (Sewell?)

Well, we’ll see how far off I am once they reveal the info.

Depp & Jolie filming in Venice & Paris – Photos courtesy of Movieweb.com

It’s interesting that in my blog stats several days ago, there’s a particular search term someone used to get to my blog: ‘Why British always villains?‘ Ha! Good question, why are they always playing the bad guys?? In the case of this movie, the Brits are very likely to be playing villains again as Jolie and Depp are the only two American main players.

Anyhoo, judging from the on-set photos in Paris and Venice, this is shaping up to be a good looking film (gorgeous people in gorgeous scenery!) If anything, it’ll make us want to be a tourist at those exotic locations!!

Happy Belated Birthday, Timothy Dalton!

Thanks to Andy from Fandango Groovers who reminded me that last Sunday 3/21 was Timothy’s 66th birthday. In honor of the actor, the James Bond enthusiast blogger posted this brilliant idea about a revolutionary James Bond flick starring Mr. Dalton as the older British spy, with Colin Farrell as 006 and Quentin Tarantino at the helm. It’s a crazy and fanciful concept but wow, that’s definitely something I’d watch in a heartbeat!

Dalton's gritty Bond was way ahead of his time

After playing iconic characters such as Bond, Jane Eyre’s Rochester, Julius Caesar, now the Welsh thespian will add Mr. Pricklepants to his resume. In my tribute to him late December, I mentioned that he’s going to voice Mr. Pricklepants in Toy Story 3, out June 18th. It’s inspired casting I must say, as you don’t expect such a cuddly stuffed animal to have THAT voice. Not sure what role he’d play amongst Woody, Buzz & the gang, though there are rumors he could be the villain?

Earlier this week, its own character poster was released, along with the toy description:

Mr. Pricklepants is a charming hedgehog and the ideal partner for your favorite forest. This hedgehog with its green leather hose comes from the quality Waldfreunde collection and were directly imported from Germany. He may look like there are prickly, but he is made out of down so you can cuddle a lot. Drag your fingers through his hair to the spines back in order after the wash.

We have yet to hear him utter a word in the latest trailer, but you can hear a bit of his iconic, Welsh-tinged brogue in this clip below. I wish they’d feature more of Mr. Pricklepants in next trailer!

In the comment section of Fandango’s post, I said wishfully that someone should get Dalton out of retirement soon. Talk about wish come true! Just yesterday I read that Dalton has joined the cast of The Tourist, the spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp (more elaborate post on this topic forthcoming).

So, here’s wishing Mr. Dalton many happy returns and hope to see more of him in other Hollywood movies!