Archive for December, 2009

Top 5 Unexpected Performances

December 29, 2009

There is something special when a type-cast actor comes out of left field and drives a film in a role that they are not used to. Here is my top 5 list of these performances, plucked from my memory (somehow all landing between 2002 and 2006) in reverse order.

Will Ferrell as Harold Crick – Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Not the best movie in the world, but it had its bright spots, one of them being Will Ferrell as Harold Crick. After outlandish comedies Old School (2003), Elf (2003) and Anchorman (2004) he turns in a somber performance here, creating a nervous introvert with an aching heart. Not the easiest of characters to pull off, especially after all of the loud and obnoxious characters he had played in the past. He did play a similar role in Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2004), but that was more comic, still worth checking out.

Jim Carey as Joel Barrish – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The Truman Show (1998) showed us that there’s more to Carey than meets the eye, but the role still demanded him to be loud and wild in places (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The quiet, contained Joel Barrish gave Carey a chance to show off his full arsenal, and show off he did. A touching performance and a great film overall.

Robin Williams as Seymour Parrish – One Hour Photo (2002)

Williams had had some minor roles outside of comedy (you may have spotted him in Good Will Hunting (1997)) before his part in One Hour Photo. Of course he was an established actor, but the role, a stalker who spies on his customers’ through their photo’s, was a shock for anyone. Still, he does a great job; it creeped the fuck out of me.

Mos Def as Sgt. Lucas – The Woodsman (2004)

The transition from musician to actor is not a new thing, see: J-Lo, Madonna, Bowie, and is not always successful, see: those guys. Mos Def dabbled in a bit of television before hitting the big screen in The Woodsman, going head to head with Kevin Bacon (a daunting task for any man). He has to interrogate Bacon’s character and manages to orchestrate some real tension. He holds his own, delivering a bone-chilling performance and creating some truly memorable scenes with Bacon.

Adam Sandler as Barry Egan – Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Alas we get to number one and I am not ashamed to say that I didn’t think Sandler could do it. His recent works had consisted of The Waterboy (1998), Big Daddy (1999), Little Nicky (2000) and The Animal (2001), so why Paul Thomas Anderson chose to take a punt on him is beyond me; but thank goodness he did. Sandler goes way beyond the boundaries that he had created for himself with his previous roles, seamlessly portraying one of the most complex characters in recent memory. Barry Egan is an introvert with several psychological issues who has to deal with all sorts of trials and tribulations throughout the movie. His groundbreaking performance may have had a great deal to do with PTA being behind the camera (the score was stunning too) but the achievement is still astonishing.

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Inglorious Basterds

December 20, 2009

Director – Quentin Tarantino

Written by – Quentin Tarantino

Starring – Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth

Released – 19 August 2009

Synopsis

During World War II a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish woman who runs a movie theater in Paris which is hosting a Nazi film premiere and is targeted by the soldiers.

Review

A deceptive marketing campaign did Inglorious Basterds a whole world of good; depicting it as a roaring rampage of revenge against the Nazi’s not only got the philistines involved but got a lot of free publicity by people like me who commented on it. Inglorious is not what the trailers would have you believe, with copious amounts of dialogue and long nail-biting scenes with the occasional spot of bloodshed. Regardless of this fact most people seemed to enjoy it which is testament to Tarantino’s writing ability.

In terms of his writing, he has never been better. It has been said that he was working on this project for 10 years which is not surprising when you see the end result. The film is split in to about 5 or 6 main scenes, each lasting around 15 to 20 minutes and each filled with a crippling amount of tension. If the first scene doesn’t make you smile from its sheer brilliance of film making then you should consider anti-depressants. Aside from a scene with Winston Churchill, which doesn’t sit quite right, the movie glides through at a faultless pace with plenty of gripping dialogue and gory action.

If I have one complaint it is with the soundtrack… that’s right, I have a problem with Tarantino’s soundtrack. Normally, with his films, this is something to look forward to, which is maybe part of the problem – he has a lot to live up to from his previous works. In Inglorious Basterds, particularly in the first half, we hear a lot of rehashed music that Tarantino had used in Kill Bill which threw me out of the picture and back to thinking about what scene I had heard it from. It’s not a huge problem but these are tracks that he made iconographic, and why he is trying to compete with his previous films for which it should be associated with I do not know.

Christoph Waltz is a real pleasure as Colonel Hans Landa. He is really the main character with Brad Pitt playing second fiddle, both in terms of the character and the performance. ‘The Jew Hunter’, as his character is known, brings a whole world of tension in to the scenes that he graces and his intelligence is his greatest weapon; he psychologically unravels a French farmer – my personal favourite part of the film. Waltz brings a great deal to the role. His face can turn like the nature of his character; a harmless and generous smile at one moment to a bloodthirsty glare the next. The subtlety in his movement and tone brings the character alive. Waltz’ performance takes Inglorious Basterds from a brilliant piece of film-making to something beyond that.

To sum up – Not at all like what the trailers will have you believe, but an outstanding and original piece of film-making anyway.

Rating – 8/10