Is Matthew Fox the new Jennifer Aniston? Because just as the “Friends” alum has struggled to hunt down worthwhile film roles, this “Lost” actor can’t nail the jump from small screen to big in the wake of his series’ finale.
First came last year’s god-awful “Alex Cross,” which saw Fox play a risible murderer, and now we’re treated to “Emperor,” a rote and sluggish historical postwar drama that casts Fox as Bonner Fellers, a Japan-based U.S. general out for justice. Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, who does self-parody as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the movie means well as it chronicles U.S. and Japan’s relations in an ultra-tender time. But, then, you know what they say about good intentions, and as for Fox, the goodwill forged by Jack Shephard is growing direly thin.
Centered around MacArthur’s investigation into Emperor Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka), and the role he played in WWII (specifically Pearl Harbor’s attack), “Emperor” is loaded with endless narration and bland, frilly flashbacks, both involving Fellers as he reflects on love and war. The former beau of a Japanese woman and the point man for MacArthur’s case, Fellers is always seen with varying levels of furrowed-brow concern, and Fox is about as compelling as an empty shell casing.
Directed by Peter Webber, whose gorgeous debut was “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” this is a film that’s figuratively and literally colorless, employing a gunmetal palette that fell out of vogue half a decade ago. And while there is some fascination to Fellers’s interrogations through various levels of Japanese government, David Klass and Vera Blasi’s script is a nightmare of viewer hand-holding, a flaw to which it often unwittingly draws attention.
Fond of a people that was just his countrymen’s enemy, Fellers is a transparent conduit for retrospective understanding. But “Letters from Iwo Jima” this is not, and piled-on exposition comes off as an insult. “I don’t need a history lesson,” Fellers says to a Japanese politico after both pointlessly recount some of WWII’s most infamous events.
Thanks, general. We didn’t need this one either.
One-and-a-half reels out of four
Now playing at the Ritz East
Its greatness may not be at the level of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but part one of Peter Jackson’s prequel saga is still amply supplied with magic, and the simple truth is that a return to Middle Earth is very welcome indeed.
Telling of how Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) aids the Dwarves and comes to find the crucial One Ring, the movie brings back “Rings” favorites like Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and expands the fantasy world that’s surely the richest to ever hit screens.
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Nearly all doubts about Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” which has received much early derision for its perhaps-excessive extension into a trilogy, quickly diminish within mere moments of the first installment’s duration, which feels surprisingly nimble through the whopping span of 169 minutes.