Tag Archives: entertainment

Review: The Shape Of Water

Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood. His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret. When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life. What makes it wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. He is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about. The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.

Top Five Male Acting Performances Of The Current Century (Re-Post)

It has been 4 years since I compiled this list  what performances would you add to it?

Due to a recent viewing of the Paul Thomas Anderson film, The Master, I was forced to look at what acting performances have been better than the several I just finished witnessing on the screen. This lead to a top five list of the greatest male performances of this century, being from the year 2000 to the present. This list will be a subject of debate but none the less, has what I consider the greatest performances we have seen in the last 12 years.

5.Sean Penn:  Mystic River

After having out grown his “bad boy” persona, but not his passion for what he believes, Sean Penn would team up with Hollywood royalty in director, Clint Eastwood for an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River. Playing former convict and very small time ring leader of loyal enforcers Jimmy Markum, Penn pulls out one of the most emotional roles of his storied career. This would earn Penn his first Oscar win for which he seemed quite humbled by the honor. Penn’s performance is undeniably genuine and flawless from beginning to end.

4.Leonardo DiCaprio:  Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio made Blood Diamond amid a streak of fabulous performances in 3 straight Martin Scorsese films. It was the Blood Diamond that, to me, showed DiCaprio’s talent and commitment to every role he undertakes. Playing the role of Danny Archer, a South African smuggler and somewhat of an unforgiving pirate who’s life is turned upside down when he help’s a poor farmer rescue his son from the rebel forces who kidnapped him forcing him to fight. Archer does all of this in exchange for a rare pink diamond found and hidden by the boy’s father. DiCaprio mastered a perfect South African accent and for once, even managed to seem somewhat evil and ruthless, while we believe and see his heart actually change along the way.

3.Christian Bale:  The Fighter

Christian Bale was clearly at the peak of his career and, almost couldn’t help but put out hit after hit when he took on the role of the real life former boxer and crack addict, Dick Ecklund. The physical transformation Bale underwent, while remarkable, is only a side note to his incredible and spot-on portrayal of Dick Ecklund. Between a pitch perfect Boston accent, to the heart warming, in film transformation from sunken crack addict, to passionate and driven boxing trainer, is near remarkable.

2.Mickey Rourke:  The Wrestler

The film and role of a lifetime could never have been done with out Mickey Rourke’s involvement. The story that brought out so many emotions in Rourke, and hit so close to home that it could have distanced Rourke from making the role, that late in his life would define his career. Rourke saw so many similarities between Randy “The Ram” and his life and believed so highly in Darren Aronofsky that he did nothing short of throw himself deep into the role, making for some of the most compelling acting seen on screen in years, with a true reality that makes you feel every emotion felt not only by “The Ram”,  but by Rourke himself.

1.Heath Ledger:  The Dark Knight

Not much can be said that hasn’t already been said about Ledger and his portrayal of The Joker, in the truly epic middle story of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. His commitment and transformation not only was superb, but truly frightening in achieving what Ledger and Nolan set out to accomplish, by making The Joker seem so real it would strike fear in all that saw it. No one wanted to see what happened to Ledger after filming, but there is no doubt it’s the film he will be remembered for and it is a movie and role anyone would be proud to have it be their calling card.

Jeff Bridges: Top 5 Underrated Films

jeff_bridgesWithout a doubt in the last 10-15 years one of the most reliable stars has been Jeff Bridges. In the last 6-7 years he’s enjoyed the height of his career without question. After winning his first Academy Award for Crazy Heart, he followed up with another nomination the next year for his remake of True Grit. He would do a Tron sequel and several other movies where he was the leading man, unlike he had ever been.

This has got me to thinking. The years leading up to his massive boom in success what were some of his truly under appreciated films. I went back as far as 1988, when he was a name but not the legend his now. He comes from Hollywood Royalty so it only makes sense that with the direction his career has gone he has become royalty himself. I was 8 years old in 1988 and it’s the first film I remember seeing this larger than life actor. We will touch on that film later, though it is the oldest in my list of underrated Jeff Bridges movies.

 

5.K-Pax (2001)

k-pax_2.4_resizedWhen Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges) first meets Prot he feels he just dealing with another mentally disturbed man who needs his help. Prot (Kevin Spacey) soon starts to have the doctor doubting his own advice and question his knowledge. Bridges plays a character unafraid of questioning himself and his world. The heart that Bridges gives to the character is not unfamiliar. He has a knack for doing that.

 

4. The Vanishing (1993)

The Vanishing may seem a little similar to another film on this list in the doubt it plants in the viewer’s mind, but it nonetheless is a top-notch thriller and some even classify it as a horror film. One thing is for sure, it is an intense ride. Barney Cousins is the boyfriend of a woman who gets TheVanishing1993-01_resized-1abducted and he never gives up the search for her no matter the opposition he runs into. Terrifying enough is that the abductor is watching his search the whole time. Bridges plays the role perfectly. I believe this is due to the fact that he is relatable and plays and Everyman so well.

 

3.Tucker (1988)

This is the film I first remember seeing Jeff Bridges, in. I was a mere 8 years old and became Jeff-Bridges_Tucker-movie_resizedfascinated with Tucker automobile and what he had invented. With no internet to do research, this film was all I had. Jeff Bridges wasn’t an actor to me at that point, he was Preston Tucker. You could feel Tucker’s passion for his car and innovations come through Bridges performance. Sadly is was such an underrated film and not really seen by many.

 

2. Arlington Road (1999)

These next two films I truly believe, in my heart, that no one could have played these parts and would have conveyed exactly the feelings they should. Michael Faraday is a widowed man with a 9-year-old son. He is a professor of terrorist acts at a Washington university who lost his FBI agent wife in an unexpected raid. He soon begins to suspect his new neighbors of suspicious activity. His paranoia almost takes over the shattered life he is arlington-road_l_resizedattempting to live until he has proof that his suspicions are real. Bridges runs the gamut of emotions and thoughts through the whole movie that you hang on every move he makes.

 

1.  White Squall (1996)

The role of Captain Sheldon was nothing short of difficult. He played a hard disciplinarian, teacher, and captain in 1960. When he takes aboard 8 teenage male students with various shortcomings, they discover hardship, camaraderie, and brotherhood. Various final1_resizedevents test the limits of all their loyalty. Captain Sheldon never abandons the boys and his responsibility, even in the face of the worst storm he’s witnessed and the loss of much of the crew including his wife. He still strives to teach the boys in his actions far after the tragedy. No one could play this role and emit the feelings and emotion of Captain Sheldon and his crew and life and his loss. It was a top-notch performance and film that never got it’s just due.

*Re-Post* Some Roles Deserve More Recognition Than They Got: Dennis Quaid

wyattearpdoneIf there is one tragedy to award seasons (and I understand there are multitudes of tragedies) it’s that sometimes truly wonderful performances, award worthy performances, get over looked and fall through the cracks, the failure to garner any nominations let alone even one statue. It may take time to come up with a list but there is one performance that pushes to the forefront of my mind when this topic is brought up, and that is Dennis Quaid in the often panned Wyatt Earp.

The film itself has been criticized from it’s release on even by some of it’s stars, I think of Michael Madsen in particular. It is long and can be dry at times and isn’t Kevin Costner’s strongest performance but none the less it has several high points. Two that come immediately to mind are the performances of Gene Hackman and Dennis Quaid. Part of the criticisms of Wyatt Earp is it’s release timing. It was released 6 months after the very popular and highly praised film, based on roughly the same subject, Tombstone. Tombstone also turned in a magnificent performance from Val Kilmer, who played the same role as Dennis Quaid, the infamous, Doc Holliday.

I could write all day about the differences between the Wyatt Earp and Tombstone films but the focus here is on Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of Doc Holliday, one of the most notorious gunfighter’s in the old west.

Doc was well know for a few things. First was his name, John Holliday was given the name Doc, because he was, in actuality a dentist before a famed gunfighter. After Doc contracted tuberculosis he turned to the outlaw life as a way to thumb his nose at his illness and God whom he blamed for his illness. Being the most famous old west figure to hail from great state of Georgia, there is a special place in Dixie’s heart for Doc. There are museums and monuments342034.1 to Doc in his hometown of Griffin, Georgia.

The factors that lead me to feel the way I do about Quaid’s role in the film are several but I will only examine a few. My goal is not to compare it  to the favored Val Kilmer performance because I feel that would be unfair to Quaid.

First is the effort that Quaid put into this role. A normally thick well built man, Quaid lost over 30 pounds to play the dying and sickened gunfighter. With a gaunt look and spot on Georgian accent (I would know I heard it growing up), Quaid almost doesn’t eve look like himself, rather his is a shell of a man, almost as if he had tuberculosis. Quaid became someone different and looked and sounded more different than ever, he had become Doc.

My next thought lies within his performance and compared to historical recored, Quaid captured the ornery disposition that Holliday possessed. With a strong opinion and easy ability to offend, Doc truly on made one friend late in his short life and that was Wyatt Earp. The scenes in the film between Wyatt and Doc are what makes the film worth the entire experience. Costner and Quaid played against and with each other so naturally you are overcome with the wyatt-earp-483196thought that it truly was Doc and Wyatt. This has very little to do with Costner’s acting and everything to do with his trust and faith in Quaid to carry each scene.

Quaid will never get an award for his role of Doc Holliday despite whether or not he deserved one but from this fan’s viewpoint, it wouldn’t have hurt or been out of line to  give recognition where recognition was due.

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Chris Mulkey Shares His Passion For Acting And His Latest Film, The Surface

Chris+Mulkey+Captain+Phillips+Premieres+Beverly+iVasd1H1y1jlPassion and depth of films often times come from the people on the screen with less time than those with top billing. We often refer to them as “character actors” which is a term I have come to learn that they don’t find all that flattering because they feel it diminishes the depth of what they do. I agree, to label these actors is unfair because they are exactly everything that acting should be about. They take risks and multitudes of different roles in the experience and the challenges that it brings them.  Character actors on occasion hit the heights they never dreamed. Just look at last years Oscar winner for best supporting actor, J.K. Simmons. Simmons is a classic example of a long time great actor who always worked for the love of it and the experience of working with people and roles that inspired him. Much like Bryan Cranston, who worked tirelessly for years before landing the role of a lifetime on Breaking Bad. But that hasn’t kept Cranston from challenging himself. He played former president Lyndon Johnson on stage and is set to re-create the role in an HBO adaptation as well as his very much anticipated role as Dalton Trumbo which is already generating Oscar buzz.

An actor with a very similar passion, skills and courage is veteran actor Chris Mulkey. His credits go back to 1977 when he appeared on the show Baretta. He has been working very consistently ever since. With over 200 film and TV credits to his name, he has worked with everyone from Buddy Ebsen to the afore mentioned J.K. Simmons (in his Oscar winning film).

Mulkey still seeks out roles that challenge him and connect with him, as should any good actor who is always looking to hone his craft. I recently had a chance to speak with Mulkey about one such upcoming film as well as his very solid career.

The film is called The Surface in which Mulkey plays Kelly, a man fallen on hard times and turns to risky and illegal moves to provide for the family he holds so dear. When his plane crashes in Lake Michigan, he is rescued by Mitch, played by Sean Astin whose life is very much in dire straits as well. The two begin to reveal themselves to one another and discover themselves along the way.
What drew you to the story and made you say this is something I really need to be a part of?
What drew me to the story was the obvious adventure that was presented to an actor in a movie on water about surviving. The subtext for me, and I really haven’t said this before. I had a niece who passed away and she DIDN’T find anyone in the water to save her. She took her life in the river. So when I watch the movie, it’s really hard for me not to think of Anna.
The chemistry between you and Sean really comes across and you mention such a personal connection to your character and the characters in the film, it really makes sense as to why things worked in the film.
Kelly gets angry at himself and wants to kill himself in the film and for a while I was angry at my niece for doing that and in an odd way she was the third person in the boat for sure.
Looking over your career, which is vast! There is no way you haven’t developed a palette for good writing and good storytelling.
Yeah, I do the seven page thing. If I open a script and if I’m thinking about lunch or something by page seven I say, ” aww I can’t not do this movie”. And when I read The Surface it was like one breath, I was just straight through.
Looking back on your career, is there one role where you think, I hope that’s the one at the end of time where they say, “That was him”?
Well, this movie might be somewhere in there in the mix.
I don’t doubt it with the personal connection, this would definitely be one to put on the mantle.
I did a movie that I wrote with my wife, Karen Landry called Patti Rocks, we won the Sundance grand prize and it played all over the world. That was about a guy acting fervently on bad information. I’m always kind of drawn to those kind of people. How the misinformed can dedicate themselves.
Is there one character that you think everyone identifies you with?
I’ve done so many, but the ones that keep coming up are Billy Regis from Patti Rocks, and Hank Jennings from Twin Peaks.

The genuine love of his profession that comes across can’t help but be admired and infectious. Chris Mulkey still has many projects pouring out and based on his love for the great work they, without a doubt will be worth checking out.
Look for The Surface coming soon.

The Surface Trailer

Love & Mercy Shows The Beauty And Struggle Of Brian Wilson In A Masterful Way

There’s a term that has a tendency to be overused, and that’s “tortured genius”. It may never be more accurately used than when it comes to Brian Wilson, the man behind the success and great sound of The Beach Boys. The story of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys has been told many times before, in multiple books and even two different TV movies. The many stories of everything from their domineering father to the drugs and even Wilson’s bizarre behavior, have been well documented. With Love & Mercy, long time and well known producer Bill Pohlad goes behind the lens to Direct one of the most unique biopics in recent years. Pohlad simultaneously tells the story of the two most pivotal times of Wilson’s life. For these two stories, which are separated by twenty years, he chose two actors with very different styles and brought the best they have to offer.

For the 1986 version of Wilson, the choice of Hollywood veteran John Cusack may on the service, appear  an odd choice but clearly Pohlad saw something and struck gold. Cusack is much loved and respected throughout the industry. His movies are usually solid and entertaining, but his acting, while never bad, has never been praised… until now. Cusack turns in the greatest performance of his career. Playing Wilson and possibly the most downtrodden point in his life, was no easy task. Pohlad, Cusack and Paul Giamatti, who plays his psychiatrist, caretaker and guardian, re-create this time in his life that even Wilson himself felt overwhelmed when he saw the film, feeling that he was right back in that period himself.

  Paul Dano was tasked with the responsibility of showing Wilson during his most ingenious and creative period as he wrote the groundbreaking album, Pet Sounds. Dano is without a doubt one of the best young actors out there. He might not be the biggest name out there, but his quality and body of work speaks for itself. Love & Mercy will also go down as one of his greatest performances of his career.

Without question, Love & Mercy will be a feather in the cap for Cusack, Dano and Pohlad. It is a movie  that showcases the brilliance and struggles of Brian Wilson and how he reached through all of that and forged the second half of his life, career and brilliance. To see the creative process of a genius like Wilson is mesmerizing to watch and impossible to understand. It is the result of all of that we have had the privilege of enjoying and never growing tired of for over the last 50 years. The music he has left behind will never grow old and will be around and admired right along side all the other musical geniuses in history from Beethoven and Mozart to Lennon and McCartney. And hopefully this film will be remembered as the definitive telling of a tortured genius who is beloved.

Jonathan Returns To Examine Another Hidden Gem

Our good friend and valued contributor, Jonathan of Robbins Realm has returned to once again examine the unknown and hidden classics you may have missed somewhere along the line.

220px-CompanyofwolvesposterA young man waits with an anxious expression written across the contours of his face as a cream-colored, chauffeur driven, Rolls Royce makes its way along a path through a dense forest. The attractive female chauffeur, dressed all in white, steps out and opens the back door to the automobile. The young man looks into the Rolls. Sitting inside the car is an impeccably dressed older man who is staring at a tiny skull; the man turns his head to the side and beckons the teenage boy to come closer. Next, the man extends his arm outward giving the teenager an ointment, but at the same time issuing a warning “waste not, want not.” The teenager rubs the substance on his chest, the result of which…well, I don’t want to spoil that particular scene of the film “The Company of Wolves” (1984). It is one of my favorite moments, of which there were several peppered throughout the movie, that caused an eerie feeling to take hold of me. This was thanks to Bryan Loftus’s captivating cinematography in this little gem directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and was just the second feature film that he helmed up until that time.
Let me state unequivocally, from the outset, that the film “The Company of Wolves” is not a horror movie. It does have several thematic elements which can be found in numerous horror films, especially those produced by Hammer Film Productions from the middle of the 1950s until the 1970s, but, due to its lush story book imagery, it would be better served if it were placed in the category of gothic fairy tale. I feel it should also be stated that the movie is both witty and psychologically insightful when one takes the time to reflect on the film, especially after multiple viewings.
The Company of Wolves was given its world premier on September 15, 1984, at The Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. Its intriguing premise is based on a short story by author Angela Carter (who collaborated with director Neil Jordan on the screenplay) in her book, “The Bloody Chamber.” The film uses the myth of lycanthropy (a human who has the ability to transform themselves into a wolf) as a metaphor for the young character of Rosaleen, who is on a journey of self discovery, resulting from her body’s natural progression into puberty. In turn, she is forced to confront her sexual awakening, which is a bit oxymoronic considering the viewer is first introduced to her character while she is dreaming. Students of psychology would probably view this film through a Freudian interpretation. The re-imagining of the time tested fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood,” immerses itself in subtly hinting at sexual elements, such as: the potential for Rosaleen’s loss of virginity, due to the advances of different males both her own age and older; the nervousness associated with someone’s first sexual experience; and the self-consciousness most people feel about their naked body being viewed by another person. In addition, the film asks the question, “what can a young female do to thwart amorous advances from the opposite sex, the monsters that walk on two legs and present a human face to the world at large?” At first some of the film’s message might not be overtly apparent, but whether what is attempting to be conveyed is evident upon one’s initial viewing or not, “The Company of Wolves immerses itself in sexuality as it pertains to the central character Rosaleen’s transformation from childhood into adolescence. I think it is particularly important in regard to the aforementioned subtle sexual aspect of the film that actress Sarah Patterson, was chosen to portray Rosaleen, and, although it was her screen debut and despite being very young, she played the part with just the right ti103975_largedegree of ingénue vulnerability. As an interesting aside, Patterson, for reasons that are unknown, has only worked on one other film since The Company of Wolves, which was Cannon Movie Tales, Snow White (1988)
Rosaleen’s first dream is about her sister being trapped inside a nightmare, replete with an atmosphere that is foreboding from the outset; and as with all of the other vignettes in the film, it involves the presence of wolves. Cinematic trivia buffs take note, that due to budgetary constraints, the majority of the wolves that appear on screen are actually Belgian Shepherd dogs (mostly Groenendals and Tervurens) whose fur had been dyed to make them look like wolves. I applaud the direction taken by Jordan in regard to having the tales spring forth from Rosaleen’s subconscious dream state. Rumors abound that Neil Jordan modeled the structure of the film after the Polish movie The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) directed by Wojciech Has, which both Carter and Jordan had seen and equally admired.
There are numerous noteworthy aspects of the movie. For starters, the cast is a strong mixture of veteran English and Irish actors such as: Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote), David Warner (Time Bandits), Terrance Stamp (Superman II), and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire.)
The film contains no scenes depicting graphic violence. Gore is kept to a bare minimum, as is blood, which is used sparingly, and it is utilized only if it is germane to serving the story. The budget which director Jordan was given to work with was $2,000,000 dollars, and it is apparent that he made every penny company_of_wolves7count. The special effects, sadly, pale in comparison, when measured by today’s standards, thanks to the wizardry of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) technology. Nevertheless, for the time period of the early 1980s, the effects were quite powerful. For example, I felt the transformation sequences from man to werewolf were both deftly handled and strongly convincing. It was only years later, that I was made aware that those particular scenes didn’t just employ special makeup and stop action techniques, but in addition, were also using animatronics (the use of electronics and robotics in mechanized puppets to simulate life).
Overall, the film offers the viewer a wealth of visual delights that are not short on symbolism. In 1985, Neil Jordan won the Director of the Year award from the London Film Critics Circle for The Company of Wolves. According to an interview Jordan gave, he discussed that he and novelist turned screenwriter, Angela Carter, wanted to work together again on a future project, but due to Carter’s failing health (she died of lung cancer in 1992), nothing ever came to fruition. The movie is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon.com, and also on-line at Netflix; a soundtrack of the film’s music was released on February 15, 2000. I recommend this film to any and all of you who are seeking a movie with a good gothic feel and who are not fans of extreme violence that oozes blood and guts at every turn.