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!
I just watched Mars Attacks for the first time and although I had not heard good things about it, I was entirely disappointed given the cast. Every name that came up in the opening credits was a superstar—Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Tom friggin Jones (as in “What’s New Pussycat?”), football legend Jim Brown, and Natalie Portman!
But for me, the biggest shock of the movie was seeing Jack Black play a bit part as a trigger happy, military idiot—basically his character within the “movie” Tropic Thunder. It’s always fun to see current movie stars in older movies before they were famous. Especially if their part is exceedingly tiny or differs from the character type is different than what usually play.
Here are some of my favorite “Before They Were Stars” highlights:
Jon Hamm as TV Repair Guy in The Sarah Silverman Program. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous post but it makes my list not only because in the short scene Sarah Silverman rejects an offer to kiss Mr. Hamm and as we all know now, that that is something one would never ever think of doing, but also because in the scene he is wearing a patch on his shirt that says ‘Eating all the pussy since ’93’. Even way back in 2007 Jon Hamm was hilarious.
Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey in Angels in the Outfield. That’s a double whammy. I’ve also mentioned this fact before but it’s worth noting again that Tony Danza was the star of that movie.
Scarlett Johansson as Molly Pruit in Home Alone 3. In this movie the perennial Sexiest Woman Alive candidate played the lead’s older nagging sister. This makes my list because from watching the movie it is almost impossible to suspect that she was destined to become Woody Allen’s muse and frequent Maxim cover girl and because for some reason Roger Ebert gave this movie three out of four stars and called it “fresh, very funny, and better than the first two”. Wow.
Gwenyth Paltrow in Hook. This makes the list because pretty much all the future Oscar winner and Glee guest star says in this movie is, “PETER!” Everybody starts somewhere.
Val Kilmer as Nick Rivers in Top Secret. I guess this doesn’t count because Val was the star of this movie, but the role he plays is so different from any future role. This Zucker Brothers film introduced the world to Val Kilmer as a sexy, charismatic, captivating, hilarious actor who was capable of sincerely delivering even the most ridiculous dialogue such as, “Listen to me Hillary. I’m not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover who she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.” It’s a damn shame that Kilmer has shied away from comedies for the most part. I say for the most part because he was great in Real Genius, MacGruber, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and that one episode of Entourage where he played the pot dealing Sherpa.
Jackie Chan in All in the Family. Not to be confused with the television program, this All in the Family was a Hong Kong porno he made in 1975. Jaden, let Jackie teach you karate, but that’s it!
Amy Adams in Cruel Intentions 2. This makes the list because Ms. Adams is a twice Oscar nominated wholesome actress respected for her smart career choices (Leap Year not withstanding) and here she is in this piece of straight to DVD garbage. It also makes the list because she inhabited the sexy, devilish, conniving Sarah Michelle Geller role which I suppose shows her range, because I cannot use any of those adjectives to describe her characters in Julie and Julia and Enchanted.
Christian Bale in Newsies. This one is no secret, but it’s fun to see Batman/Dicky/Patrick Bateman/John Connor sing and dance for the High School Musical director about selling papers for a quarta’ and seizing the day.
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. This Oscar nominee and future X-Men: First Class star was on TBS’ The Bill Engvall Show. ‘Nuff said.
Yesterday I was in my iCar listening to my iPod on iShuffle and the song, “Happy Working Song” from the film, “Enchanted” came on. My sister had put it on my iPod and it is a cute song. It’s Amy Adams singing happily about cleaning up the apartment. It has a nice orchestral arrangement with flutes, violins and other sprightly instruments. It has lyrics like “come little friends while we all come together and sing a happy song. “A nice listening experience. The next song that came on was “Uncle Fucka” from “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” A similarly jaunty, orchestral piece, but with lyrics like “you’re a cock sucking ass licking uncle fucker.” Talk about juxtaposition.
When this film came out in 1999, it didn’t do THAT well at the box office (it was made for $20 mil, it made around $50 mil so I guess it was an underwhelming hit) because people were kind of over South Park. It was daring and rebellious and filthy when it came out in 1997 (or when I was in 4th grade) but in 1999, people didn’t think it could make the successful jump to big screen. And kids who watched it on TV couldn’t get a ticket to a rated R movie.
Who would have guessed that a) South Park the show would still be big, if not HUGE ten years later in 2008 and b) that the South Park movie would stand the test of time and still be as funny and awesome as it was when it first came out. No one.
I think you can attribute South Park’s awesome longevity to three things. First, South Park is not stagnant. The show takes a few days to produce an episode and so can keep up to date on current events. Second, Trey Parker is brilliant and doesn’t give a shit about anyone. He gets smarter every year, makes fun of celebrities (Bono–YEA YEA YEA YEA YEA YEA…), politicians (why should I choose between a douche bag and turd sandwich?), political correctness (people that annoy you–n_ggers), the Internet (how are we going to know what is going on without it!), trends (guitar queer-o) etc. and does not resort to “Cartman gets anal-probed” episodes anymore. Plus he realized that people are over the shock of hearing children curse and so pushing the envelope in terms of raunchiness isn’t going to keep him on the air forever. Third, Cartman and Randy Marsh are fucking brilliant characters. Cartman is the encapsulation of all that is evil, manipulative and not right with the world, and so everything he does can be seen as what the writers think are wrong. But at the same time, you love Cartman and so you never get sick of him doing awful things. Randy is the encapsulation of everything that is dumb and American, and the writers can keep using him to act stupidly, and thoughtlessly be a “proud American” no matter what that entails. We love Randy because we love watching people making fun of us and “holding up a mirror on society” so to speak. Am I comparing South Park to Moliere? Yes, and I don’t think its that big of a stretch.
In terms of the movie, because of the plot (making fun of Canada never gets old), its hilarity (Kyle’s mom’s a bitch and she’s just a dirty bitch!) and the fact that it is a musical (and a great one at that), new audiences and sets of kids keep discovering it every year. South Park right now probably its biggest audience of all time. It has the college/post college kids who grew up on it, it has the middle schoolers/younger kids who watch it on syndication, and it has the adults who are finally appreciating its satirical prowess. Plus, it has finally gotten over the stigma that it is bad for children. Right now there are kids going, “when are they going to make a South Park movie?” And there is one! Plus, the movie was a re-watchability factor off the charts. I guarantee that if you watch it now, you will still very much enjoy it and see new things.
So, GO FORWARD South Park. Continue to make us laugh and expose society’s hypocrisies. I’ll be watching.
PS. Trey Parker and Matt Stone definitely have George Carlin to thank for paving the way for their type of comedy. George’s raunchiness, use of language, knack for exposing hypocrisy and stupidity, and hatred for bullshit in all of its forms was unique and revolutionary. Without him, shows like South Park would not accepted in society today. RIP George.One more thing–Hollywood right now has a movie coming out called “The Six Wives of Henry LeFay” and a TV show coming out called, “The Six Ex-Wives of Henry Tate.” Isn’t Hollywood stupid?