Friday, April 26, 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines

This film was nothing like what I expected it to be. Actually, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I have just heard nothing but good things about PINES and Hey Girl’s performance. I must say I really enjoyed it.

Director, Derek Cianfrance really struck a chord with BLUE VALENTINE so I was anxious to see his follow up. I became a Hey Girl fan after his brilliant performance in BLUE VALENTINE. PINES has bleak and lonely themes similar to those of BLUE VALENTINE. The movie is long (140 minutes), but it never feels slow or lacking. The film itself can be divided into three main acts. The first act develops Hey Girl’s character, the second revolves around Bradley Cooper’s character, and the third act is mainly about their respective children. I really appreciated the way the film unfolded within the three acts that spans fifteen years. It definitely envelopes the audience in the story and gives you a chance to relate to the characters.

As much as I hate to admit it, Bradley Cooper’s performance stood out the most for me. He’s really good at playing conniving, duplicitous characters. Cooper & Hey Girl’s characters are meant to polarize each other. They do an excellent job of blurring the lines of good & bad, criminal & hero. The other predominant theme in this film is fatherhood and the part the characters play in that role.

I would have never considered Eva Mendes a credible actress, but she really delivered a heartbreaking performance. Also, after seeing her in HOLY MOTORS & BAD LIEUTENANT, I get the feeling she’s into weird films too. It’s unfortunate her talent is wasted on bullshit like HITCH and THE OTHER GUYS. She’ll be staring in Hey Girl’s upcoming writing/directing debut HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER. Ray Liotta is still just as terrifying as ever. The actor who played teenage Jason also gave a great performance. I recently noticed he will be playing Harry Osborn in the latest reboot of Spiderman. I was more impressed to find out that Mike Patton did the music for PINES. I really love that he's taking on film soundtracks, but I'm still waiting on that Faith No More reunion.

I think Cianfrance is an extremely talented director who will do big things in the future. I look forward to his next film, METALHEAD, starring the band Jucifer. At times, I felt like I was watching a refreshing take on a Terrence Malick film and that’s the best compliment I can give THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Favorite Actors

Since I already posted a list of my favorite actresses, I should probably include my favorite actors. It’s much more daunting to choose just ten actors I admire and love. There are so many incredible actors working right now. For example, Max Von Sydow, Guy Pierce, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Ron Pearlman, Viggo Mortensen, Kevin Spacey, and Jack Nicholson are all amazing actors I enjoy watching on the big screen. Justin Theroux was unceremoniously removed from my list because of his direct association with Jennifer Aniston. He will soon be replaced by the Texas T-Rex (Matthew McConaughey). Just barely missing my list are Kurt Russell, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Josh Brolin, and Steve Buscemi.

My list of ten is reserved for a group of men I will watch in just about anything. Even if I am skeptical of the film itself, I will give it a chance if one of these guys is starring in it. That’s saying a lot for someone as opinionated about film as I am. So without further adieu, here are my favorite actors of all time:

10.) Colin Firth
I was a little late to the Colin Firth party namely because he had done so many British romantic comedies & TV shows early in his career and I tend to avoid those like the plague. He was great in THE KING’S SPEECH, but his true Oscar worthy performance was definitely A SINGLE MAN. I absolutely loved him in TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY and really look forward to his role in DEVIL’S KNOT (the film adaptation of the book about the West Memphis Three murder case). Colin Firth has such an enigmatic charm that drives moms and gay men crazy. He reminds me of the actors from old Hollywood like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Gregory Peck.

9.) Robert Downey Jr.
I have loved RDJ since his days as a coke snorting booze guzzling Brat Packer. I have a huge soft spot for 80s teen flicks and RDJ starred in many of those films. One of my favorite novels is Less Than Zero and I couldn’t picture a better Julian than RDJ. Unfortunately, life imitated art a bit too closely after that fateful role. Never has a troubled actor in Hollywood made such an extraordinary comeback that RDJ did after spending more than a year in prison. He has taken on some pretty hefty roles for example, Sherlock Holmes. Can you think of a more perfect Tony Stark? I don't think so. RDJ really deserved that Oscar for CHAPLIN, but I know he’ll get one eventually down the road.

8.) John Cusack
Like I said, I am a sucker for 80s teen flicks. I grew up madly in love with Lloyd Dobler and Lane Meyer. I had unrealistically hoped all boys were like that (little did I know). Cusack managed to make a decent transition from teen actor to adult dramatic roles. He was brilliant in GROSSE POINT BLANK, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, and HIGH FIDELITY. I hate to admit it, but I’ve even enjoyed some of his cheesier romantic comedies (I won’t say which). It was truly a delight to see him parody the 80s genre in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. He may make bad decisions like THE RAVEN and 2012, but I will always hold a special place in my heart for this fellow Clash fan.

7.) John C. Reilly
Reilly has spent much of his career as a background actor. That may be because he is not conventionally handsome like other leading men. Hollywood is finally realizing what a fantastic actor he is and has begun to cast him in more lead roles. His most notable role may be as Reed Rothchild in BOOGIE NIGHTS which he was wonderful in. He was just brilliant in CARNAGE and CYRUS. However, my favorite John C. Reilly role was in STEP BROTHERS. It might be the funniest film of the last ten years. Reilly can do serious dramatic roles and hilariously comedic roles. His versatility is astounding and should no longer go unnoticed.

6.) Michael Fassbender
It’s true that Michael Fassbender is devastatingly handsome (even hotter in person), but he is also an unbelievably accomplished actor. I first took notice of this dreamboat when he played Lt. Hicox in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. His charisma was very noticeable even then among such acting giants as Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz. Since BASTERDS, he has gone on to tackle heavy roles such as Magneto and Carl Jung. His performance in SHAME was breathtaking. Let’s face it; Fassy was by far the only redeeming thing about PROMETHEUS. I look forward to the long career he has ahead of him.

5.) Johnny Depp
I cannot think of a time in my life when I wasn’t swooning over Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp’s first film was one of the greatest horror films of all time, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. A film he had no intention of auditioning for; Depp was simply accompanying friend Jackie Earle Haley to the audition. Thus beginning the career of one of the most enigmatic actors of our time. I grew up watching Johnny as heartthrob Officer Tom Hanson. His resume is not without flaws, but that’s what makes us love him even more. You cannot help but fall in love with all his crazy/kooky characters that he seems to be constantly submersed in. Perhaps his most stand out role was in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, a role only Depp could play. DEAD MAN remains one of my favorites in addition to a few of the Tim Burton roles. I will always love Johnny Depp no matter how many PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN films he decides to make.

4.) Javier Bardem
Bardem was an established Spanish actor before making his mark on Hollywood. People really took notice of him after his chilling role in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN which he picked up an Oscar for. His role in VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA was simply enchanting and sexy. His performance in BIUTIFUL left me a sobbing mess. Bardem exudes this magnetism on the screen that I have never seen before.

3.) Gael Garcia Bernal
Bernal made a name for himself after starring in critically acclaimed films like AMORRES PEROS and Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. For me, his talent was really showcased in EL CRIMEN DEL PADRE AMARO. His allure and inner turmoil really struck a chord with me and I will never forget that haunting performance. Since then, he has appeared is several English films with much praise. I was pleasantly surprised by his comedic performance in CASA DE MI PADRE because until then, I had only seen Gael in dramatic roles. Gorgeous, talented, and funny….what more could you ask for?

2.) Bill Murray
As Bill Haverchuck once said on Freaks and Geeks, “Bill Murray is the funniest man alive.” Ain’t that the truth? Bill Murray has starred in some of the greatest comedies of all time including my favorite film ever, CADDYSHACK. Murray spent decades dishing out laughs, and then out of nowhere he puts out these amazing dramatic roles. It’s no wonder that Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, and Jim Jarmusch consider him a muse. Murray can do anything! You can always be sure that he will deliver. Anyone who can star in GARFIELD and still make fun of himself has a better sense of humor than I do.

1.) Gary Oldman
Oldman is a conundrum that we will never figure out. He’s a chameleon. He’s scary, sexy, and smart all at the same time. I first noticed Gary when he so eloquently portrayed the legendary Count Dracula. My just heart melted when he uttered the words,
“I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”
I can’t even pick a favorite role because there are so many good ones. Oldman has played every kind of role under the sun from Lee Harvey Oswald to Commissioner Gordon and he does it well. Often times, he is completely unrecognizable like when he portrayed Mason Verger or Beethoven. His impressive resume speaks volumes and we can be assured that he will never let us down.

Honorable Mention
River Phoenix

River Phoenix was a true talent who never got to show the world what he was capable of. He was on the way to becoming a force to be reckoned with when tragedy struck. Phoenix was a troubled soul and that vulnerability poured out of the screen. With roles in THE THING CALLED LOVE and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, there was no limit in how far Phoenix could take a character. In hindsight, it’s utterly haunting to think of his character in STAND BY ME. Joaquin Phoenix will forever live in the shadow of his much more talented brother. I just hope River's final film, DARK BLOOD, which is set to be release soon does him justice.

There you have it folks. Who are your favorite actors?