Over the past few years a lot of buzz has been building over the heavily anticipated Joss Whedon-directed Avengers movie. The film stars all of the recent movie-incarnation Marvel superheroes: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It also stars S.H.I.E.L.D agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Yes. Cobie Smulders.
The trend in super-hero movies these days is to cast well respected character actors (actors who play exceedingly eccentric or unusual characters) as the major villain. In Iron Man it was Jeff Bridges, in The Incredible Hulk it was William Hurt and Tim Roth, in the new Spider-Man it’s Rhys Ifans and brilliant In Treatment actor Irfan Khan, in Green Lantern it’s Peter Sarsgaard, in Batman Begins it was Liam Neeson. The better the villain, the better the hero.
Since The Avengers are arguably (no disrespect to the Justice League) the ultimate superhero team, the villains they fight must be the ultimate villains. After all, one Avengers mantra is that they “fight the foes no single superhero can withstand.” I’m not sure who the Avengers are fighting in this new film. I believe it has not been released yet. However, the original comics have story lines featuring Thor’s Loki using the Hulk as a weapon, as well as a group known as the Masters of Evil. Which brings me to my main point. Which amazing character actors out there (who haven’t already portrayed big villains—leaving out Steve Buscemi, Gary Oldman, John Malkovich, etc.) would be believable as formidable opponents to Robert Downey Jr. and his team? Which actors are so badass and, following the recent trend, character-y, that you would believe that they could only be defeated by a team of the greatest superheroes alive? Who are the Avengers of character actors? Here are my picks:
Timothy Spall– What a weird looking guy. He has the market on menacing, mousy underlings (see: Harry Potter, Enchanted, Sweeney Todd) but has the chops to give you Winston Churchill (The Kings Speech), and Rosencrantz (Hamlet). I could see him as the rotund Puff Adder.
The Soup Nazi– To be honest, I didn’t even bother looking up his name, because that’s who he is. He’s the Soup Nazi. Forever and ever. He even appeared in an episode of Scrubs as The Soup Nazi. Can you name me another actor who appeared on one episode of a sitcom and turned it into a career? (Robin Williams starring as Mork on Happy Days doesn’t count.) Who does he play? Nazi scientist Baron Zemo, of course!
Stephen Toblowsky– This guy has done it all. Most recently appearing as former Glee coach/drug dealer Sandy Ryerson on Glee, he has made a career of playing irritating business types (see: Groundhog’s Day) and lite comic villains (see: Garfield). He would make an excellent super villain and would annoy the hell out of Captain America with his pompous attitude. Let him be evil genius, Immortus.
Wallace Shawn– This guy deserves the chance to strut his stuff on a mammoth scale. He excels at playing the nebishy, brainy nerds (see: Clueless, The Princess Bride.) But boy does he do that well. Watching him torture his perfect foil, Thor, using logic games, and just watching him divulge his evil plans to a held-captive Iron Man, would be delectable. Definitely Egghead.
Matt Walsh– Let’s get a little comedy into this Avengers movie! In the past decade, Upright Citizen’s Brigade founding member Matt Walsh has “secretly” appeared in every comedy film/television show released in the past 10 years, playing the loud, obnoxious oddball. (See: The Hangover, Children’s Hospital, I Love You, Man, Step Brothers). Obviously, he’d play the juggling Oddball.
Christopher Lloyd– Hollywood loves a comeback, and it’s about time that Christopher Lloyd return to his rightful place as the go-to eccentric. Let him give younger audiences a taste of what he showed us in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Pagemaster. He would rock the socks off as a super villain bent on destroying the world and driving Jeremy Renner insane. Let him play the dichotomously brilliant and destructive Mr. Hyde.
Conchata Farrell– Conchata is the take no guff, sarcastic, confident big ol lady best known for her roles in Two and a Half Men, Mr. Deeds and Erin Brockovich. A powerful woman who won’t take Robert Downey Jr’s sass or succumb to Chris Evans’ charm, she’ll play The Executioner.
Mickey Jones– He’s the big biker guy you’ve seen in everything from Total Recall to Lizzie McGuire. The man has more than paid his dues to the biz and is ready for more than just showing up in a bar fight. He can pull off The Wrecker.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister– With his one line as the huge prisoner on the boat in The Dark Knight (“Give it to me, and I’ll do what ya’ll shoulda did ten minutes ago.”) I knew that I wanted to see more of this guy. So let’s see more of him! Make him Thunderball!
Maggie Wheeler– Better known as the most annoying girlfriend ever—Janice from Friends—her siren call gives her more than enough credibility to destroy Scarlett Johansson and keep even the Hulk at bay. She’s definitely Man-Killer!
Today I will discuss stupid movies that had the potential to be good, and but took themselves way too seriously and by doing so, sucked.
1. Point Break- A couple things to take into account. 1. This movie was released in 1991, when Patrick Swayze wasnt a punchline. 2. This movie was released in 1991, when Keanu Reeves became an automoton and decided to shy away from his awesome stoner head performances in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Parenthood.” 3. Gary Busey is in this movie.
Point Break is about an FBI agent named “Johnny Utah,” (already a name you cant take seriously) played by Keanu Reeves (already an actor you cant take seriously) who infiltrates a group a surfers, lead by the Swayze, who surf and skydive almost all year round, except for the month or so when they rob banks dressed up as Ex-Presidents, to make enough money, so they can surf and skydive. Interesting plot. Lots of cool action sequences–after all, people/Swayze surfing, robbing banks and sky diving are all fun to watch. Yet after the first hour and a half of fun stuff (ie. Gary Busey wearing Hawaiin shirts, Keanu learning to surf from a butch chick who I cant possibly find attractive, Patrick Swayze shirtless), it turns REALLY serious. Keanu busts a bank robbery, people in the surf crew get shot and die, innocent civilians get shot and die, Gary Busey gets shot and dies, (he even has a last word moment!) girlfriend is taken hostage, and shit just goes DOWN. It stops being fun, it starts just making you feel uncomfortable, and every scene towards the end has lots and lots of rain. Who wants to watch rain for 30 minutes! Finally, the last lines of the movie, as Keanu watches murderer Patrick Swayze surf into a hurricane, letting him get away, he turns to the water and says, “Vaya con Dios, Brah.” WTF! Keanu speaking Spanish and saying Brah? This movie is nuts. I rest my case.
2. I Know Who Killed Me- For better or worse (CORY would say for worse), Lindsay Lohan is a punchline. Right after she is arrested for so much coke, even Scarface would say, “thats a lot of coke!” she does this movie, as a serious actress. In the movie, she plays a killer/stripper, and does her first real sex scene. No one wants to see someone that coked up and gross have sex; (although I guess the 300,000 youtube hits on that video beg to differ. How do I know it has 300,00 hits? Someone told me! Mind your damn business!) Also-part of the movie is watching Lindsay get tortured by a sadistic serial killer! Who wants to see Halley Parker and Annie James (Parent Trap reference) get cut open? The fact that this movie was treated as a serious character-driven psycho thriller while it’s just a horrific, poorly acted piece of tortue-porn just ruins it that much more. It also won 8 Razzies. So there.
3. Hulk (The Ang Lee version)- The Hulk is not an interesting character. The Hulk is a giant green smashing machine that fucks shit up. Bruce Banner is just depressed that he cant have sex with his girlfriend and he’s always running from people who want to hurt him. Bruce Banner is not fun to watch. The Hulk is. Lou Ferrigno is awesome. Ang Lee picked Eric Bana, a great actor, to try and act through all of the complicated sides of Bruce, but he’s not that complicated. He’s not Batman, and this isnt The Dark Knight. When a movie tries to find the real “inner conflict” in a character that doesnt have a strong one, it inevitably will not be successful. Therefore, I’m sorry Ang, but this movie was not very good. The newer Hulk focused a lot more on the action, and because of this, was a lot better.
4. Daredevil- I cant take Ben Affleck seriously. Especially when he “pretends” to be blind.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3- These movies WAAAY thought that people actually cared about the pirate world. The reason the first movie was successful was 1- because Johnny Depp was so damn weird and funny and interesting. 2- Because women love Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. 3- Because Keira Knightley is hot. 4. Because the action was very fun and entertaining. 5- because Pirates are cool.
Thats it. No one cared about the secrets of “Davey Jones’ locker” or the curses of squid faces, or Asian pirate kings in the East or the Commodore. The movie got so wrapped up in its own mythology that it stopped being interesting, started getting confusing, and just lost everyone. Pirates of the Caribbean 1 was so good because it was so silly and unique and fun. It was also very tongue and cheek. The next 2 became humongous spectacles without the charm of the first one. And thats that.
6. Click- This movie started out really silly and decent, filled with sight gags, funny situations and Christopher Walken. Then about half way through it started to get really sad. Like really sad. Like it almost made me cry sad. Suddenly, a movie about a magic remote control became a movie about appreciating family and not working too hard, and making sure that you give Kate Beckinsale enough loving. Like anyone couldnt find the time in their busy day to bed bump the hottest vampire since Antonio Banderas in “Interview with a Vampire.” So, Adam Sandler–stick to silly stuff that doesnt take itself too seriously, like “You Dont Mess with the Zohan.” Its much more your style.
7. Star Wars Prequel Trilogy- I have a whole other entry post for this, so stay tuned.
8. Battlefield Earth- This film was the depiction of the first half of one of L. Ron Hubbard’s Sci Fi novels which have become the “bibles” of the “religion” of Scientology. This had long been a pet project of noted Scientologist and 70s film actor John Travolta, and John even invested some of his own money into the film. Because John Travolta thinks Scientology, and therefore, all the stuff in this movie is real, when he says shit like, “I am going to make you as happy as a baby Psychlo on a straight diet of kerbango” or While you were still learning how to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer galaxies” you have to laugh. Also, notice the giant hands!
Then you think, “Wow, this guy’s actually crazy,” then you think, “Wow, everyone who is a Scientologist is crazy.” And then you think, Wow, I am really hungry. I ate a sandwich a couple hours ago, but I havent eaten anything since and it just crept up on me how hungry I am. I wonder if I have any of that leftover moo goo gai pan left over from that party last night? No, I finished it this morning. Dammit. Lets see, I could eat a Nature Valley bar, but those just suck up all the saliva I have in my oral glands and make me feel like I have cotton mouth. I should just have a bowl of cereal. SHIT! I’m out of milk! I should have picked some up at the market when I went a couple days ago. I am such an IDIOT! Oh well, I guess I’m going to have to jerk it and call it a day.
NEW TOPIC: “WHAT HAPPENED TO…”
This week: Tom Everett Scott. What happened to that guy? He was HANDPICKED by Tom Hanks to be the next….Tom Hanks, and he just completely squandered his career. He was SHADES-charming, handsome, and a pretty solid actor. Then after one decent movie (One True Thing) and a bunch of other shitty stuff starring TV actors (Dead Man on Campus (Mark Paul Gosselaar), The Love Letter (Tom Selleck)) he just went straight to TV and starred in failed shows like “The $treet,” “Philly,” and “Do Over.” Do you remember these shows? Neither do I. Now hes still doing TV, but also a little theatre. I saw him a couple years ago in an LA production of the show “Dead End” which coincidentally also starred my cool cousin Ben Platt. I liked him in that show, so hopefully he’ll have a solid theatre career he can always fall back on.
PS. A lot of what was discussed in this blog was brought up in a conversation between me and Daniel “I’m really not so glad that Burn After Reading did commercially well because I like to feel that I am one of the only ones who REALLY appreciates the Coen Brothers. I’ve Seen the Hudsucker Proxy” Arkin
Its a little bit early (or late depending on your time zone) to be discussing the Academy Awards, but I am going to talk about them anyway. That is, I am going to talk about what happens after a certain trend related to the Oscars.
Since the “superhero boom” of 2001 that started when “Spider-Man” had the biggest weekend opening of all time to date. $114 million. (And for bonus points who knows the current all time biggest weekend opening of all time? If you said “Maid in Manhattan” then you are woefully misguided. Its Spider Man 3, with $151 million!) This phenomenon had studios green lighting even superhero movies left and right. Some good (Batman Begins–YAY!) and some not so good (Daredevil-BOO!)
There has also been a trend in the academy as of late, to nominate actors for Oscars for performances in more “indie” roles. A lot of these actors were lesser known/unemployed before and so, when they are finally recognized for great work they want a large payday. What movie roles give actors large paydays? ACTION MOVIES. What type of action movies are Hollywood making these days? SUPER HERO movies. My theory is also made true by this statement of principles:
1. If Indie actors want money and big roles.
2. And Superhero movies want indie actors and have money and big roles
3. Therefore Superhero movies will give indie actors big roles and money.
Don’t quite follow? Well the proof is in the pudding.
After her big Oscar win for “A Beautiful Mind” in 2001, actress Jennifer Connelly (who’s biggest film to date before that was David Bowie’s “Labyrinth”) chose to make Ang Lee’s “The Hulk” her next big picture in 2003. (PS. I saw the new Hulk this weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. It was very good. During the fight scenes I definitely felt like punching someone/destroying something/screaming loudly.)
Charlize Theron followed her Oscar win for “Monster” with “Aeon Flux” (also the next big picture for Oscar nominee (for “Hotel Rwanda”) Sophie Okondeo).
Holly Hunter followed her nomination for “Thirteen” by doing voice over work for “The Incredibles.”
Morgan Freeman followed his long overdue Oscar win for “Million Dollar Baby” with a small role (for which he got a large paycheck) in “Batman Begins.”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman followed “Capote” with “Mission Impossible III” (not a comic book movie, but a big time movie villlian nonetheless and a provider of one of the most kick ass trailer monologues ever (“Do you have a wife…or a girlfriend? Cause I’m gonna find her. And I’m gonna hurt her. Then I’m gonna KILL YOU RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER!!!”)
Judi Dench followed her Oscar win for “Shakespeare in Love” with her role as “Catwoman.”
JK! That was Halle Berry who after her win for “Monster’s Ball” did X2 and then Catwoman silly billy.
Thomas Hayden Church followed his much lauded role in “Sideways” with his role as The Sandman in “Spider Man 3.”
Heath Ledger followed his Oscar nom for “Brokeback Mountain” with his upcoming role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”(Insert dead Heath Ledger joke here).
Cate Blanchett folllowed “Notes on a Scandal” with Indiana Jones 4.
AAAANND If I were to extend the Phillip Seymour Hoffman category, I could put Alan Arkin who followed his win for “Little Miss Sunshine” with “Get Smart” and Helen Mirren who followed her win for “The Queen” with “National Pleasure 2: Book of Secretions.” (Thanks Wayne’s World!)
Do you see what I’m getting at? So moral of the story is, if you want to get a part in a new superhero movie, getting an Oscar nomination makes it a whole lot easier. So don’t be surprised if you hear that Hal Holbrook is playing “Thor!”
Now I am going to introduce a section of the blog I’m going to call, “Actors Who Made the Right Choice.” The first actor (or actress in this case) who made the right choice is……
You may remember this adorable young actress from her roles in “Mrs. Doubtfire” as the adorable “Nattie.”(Some of my favorite Natty lines: “We’re his goddamn kids too,” “But we’re in the middle of Charlotte’s Web” and “DADDY!”) In her heyday, this precocious doodlebug even gave the Full House Olsen Twins a run for their money. She was super-cute in Mrs. Doubtfire, uber-cute in “Miracle on 34th Street” and not as cute, but still engaging as the magical, literary tour de force “Matilda.” After “Matilda,” she made two more movies, “A Simple Wish” and “Thomas the Magic Railroad” and then disappeared. There was no comeback at age 18, no guest starring role on “Judging Amy” or “Law and Order,” no DUIs. She stepped away from the camera and that was it. And boy is she better off for it. Not only did she cement her status as one of the cutest child actresses of the early 90s but she is always going to be remembered for her cuteness and delicate acting and that’s it. Mara Wilson (if she continues to stay off the radar and does not pursue acting after college) will be frozen in time in the minds of our generation as just a wonderful, adorable, child actress who, while in her prime, was at the top of her game. No afterthought. For all of these reasons, in my mind, Mara Wilson is an actress who made the right choice.