January 29, 2013 12:31pm EST
As the end of January approaches, that New Year’s resolution you were so adamant about just a few weeks earlier is already starting to fall by the wayside. Suddenly, the gym seems farther away, cigarettes call your name, and you haven’t even taken the cellophane off that scrapbook you bought. While we can’t do much to help you with those fading pledges, there is one resolution to which we can assist you in remaining faithful.
If you made it your charge to watch a more diverse assortment of films in 2013, in essence to become a more well-rounded cinephile, we're here to keep you on track. Here is our comprehensive guide to help you begin to branch out:
Bronson vs. Marvin
The '70s were a great time for action films, and the two biggest names of the era were Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. Here’s a sampling of their best.
The Mechanic: Bronson takes a young Jan-Michael Vincent under his wing; showing him the ropes of contract killing. The complex relationship between the two characters, the slow, methodic storytelling, and the dramatic ending make this one of ol’ Charlie’s finest.
Point Blank:Lee Marvin inhabits Donald E. Westlake’s Parker in this gripping, deliberate crime thriller from John Boorman. Why anyone would want to mess with a guy like Lee Marvin is beyond the limits of reason.
Death Hunt: Can’t decide which actor to watch first? Why not watch them both in this early '80s wilderness actioner. Violent, well-constructed, and featuring one of the decade’s most interesting games of cat-and-mouse.
Asian Fists and Firearms
Whether it’s martial arts or automatic weapons, the action cinema of the East tends to be more brutal and bombastic than Hollywood fare. If you liked The Raid: Redemption, do yourself a favor and track down…
Tiger Cage: Legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping expertly directs this unsung cops vs. criminals actioner. The opening sequence, an unfettered gauntlet of carnage, alone is well worth the price of admission; an unfettered gauntlet of carnage.
Ip Man: Donnie Yen brings to life one of China’s most beloved historical figures, and does so with some of the fastest and most impressive kung fu in recent memory.
Hard Boiled: John Woo earned his reputation working in Hong Kong, and Hard Boiled may be his masterpiece. Chow Yun-fat eloquently dances through Woo’s gorgeous bullet ballet.
Contemporary Foreign Action
Sleepless Night: France may not be the first country one associates with action cinema, but they’ve made huge strides in recent years. Sleepless Night is a single-night nonstop crime story that rages through a nightclub like a force of nature. The cinematography, pacing, and exceptional performances create an organic sense of tension.
Man From Nowhere: Nobody, but nobody, does revenge movies like Korea. The Man from Nowehere is a savage, uncompromising descent into the darkest recesses of the soul of someone we still, despite everything, herald as a hero.
Solomon Kane: It took a French/British/Czech co-production to finally bring Robert E. Howard’s puritanical superhero to the big screen, but it was worth the wait. Solomon Kane combines horror, fantasy, and superhero conventions to create a truly unique filmic experience. James Purefory broodingly and perfectly inhabits the titular antihero.
These aren’t your granddad’s horse operas.
Dudes: A cross-country road trip turns tragic for a trio of rockers in this outstanding '80s gem from Penelope Spheeris. She uses punk rock to breathe new life into an age-old genre. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea has a prominent role in the film.
Sukiyaki Western Django: A wild mashup of Yojimbo and Sergio Corbucci’s Django, Sukiyaki Western Django is somehow still unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Comin’ At Ya!: Of this group, Comin’ At Ya! most closely resembles a traditional spaghetti western, but the filmmakers behind it were keen to bring back the then-languishing 3D technology. If you thought the recent spate of 3D films in theaters were gimmicky, just wait until you see the prolific and hilarious instances in which Comin’ At Ya! finds ways to, well, make things come at ya.
The Long Goodbye: Possibly the best film on this entire list. Elliot Gould, as Philip Marlowe, wafts through a seedy, almost dream-like Los Angeles. Gould’s effortlessly charming performance is enhanced by Robert Altman’s superb direction and a marvelous, if slightly unusual John Williams score. An absolutely masterful film that, incidentally, makes a great double feature with The Big Lebowski.
Elevator to the Gallows: Film noir is sprinkled with traces of Hitchcock in Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows. A fledgling criminal murders his boss while their office building is empty, but his escape is hindered by a busted elevator. Tense, engaging, and given a pulse by a smoky cool Miles Davis score.
The Killing: An early Stanley Kubrick film hits upon the director’s substantial talent for storytelling. A flawless racetrack heist gives way to squabbling and conniving between a team of crooks. Its great cast anchored by Sterling Hayden, The Killing is gorgeously shot and harrowing to the last frame.
Buddy Cop Movies
Freebie and the Bean: It’s hard to do buddy cop films better than Freebie and the Bean. James Caan and Alan Arkin set the standard for unlikely law enforcement duos, constantly at each other’s throats as they do all in their power to get the better of crooks and thugs. Their banter is among the film’s greatest strengths.
Nighthawks: Sylvester Stallone doesn’t get a lot of credit as an actor, and maybe rightfully so, but in 1981’s Nighthawks, he and Billy Dee Williams are a formidable team. The perpetually fuming pair take on an international terrorist played to icy perfection by Rutger Hauer.
Busting: Elliot Gould returns to the list, this time working alongside Robert Blake to bring down a crime boss in Peter Hyams’ Busting. These two are laughably bad at their jobs at the onset, and that is meant as a compliment, but their ability to get serious when it really counts gives the movie a great deal of charm.
January 21, 2013 4:30am EST
The Death Wish director passed away at his home in London on Monday (21Jan13) with his wife Geraldine at his bedside.
Winner revealed last year (12) that liver specialists had given him just 18 months to live and he had considered ending his life at a euthanasia clinic.
In a statement on Monday, Geraldine Winner said, "Michael was a wonderful man - brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life."
Born in London in 1935, Winner began his career as a showbiz journalist before moving to the BBC as a screenwriter and assistant director in the late 1950s. He directed several low-budget British movies in the 1960s, and his work with Oliver Reed drew the attention of Hollywood producers.
Winner's breakthrough came directing Marlon Brando in 1972 movie The Nightcomers, and in 1974 he shot his most famous film, controversial vigilante classic Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson.
His movie work thinned out in the 1980s and '90s but he continued to shoot the occasional film, with his last work behind the camera being 1998 comedy Parting Shots.
In recent years, Winner became a famed and feared restaurant critic in the U.K., known for his blunt and often scathing reviews.
Following news of his death, several fellow British stars took to Twitter.com to pay tribute to Winner. Theatre impresario Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber writes, "Dearest Mr Michael Winner. True originals come rarely in a lifetime. Madeleine and I will deeply miss you," and Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp tweets, "RIP Michael Winner... I will never forget our meetings... Loss of a great character!".
Journalist Piers Morgan adds, "Very sad to hear Michael Winner has died. Hilarious, often preposterous, always generous, highly intelligent man. And terrific writer. RIP... Favourite Winner anecdote was when he bought me a bottle of '61 Latour for dinner, and I told him it was corked. He nearly self-combusted."
December 25, 2012 12:00pm EST
The two-time Oscar nominee passed away in his native New York on Christmas Eve (24Dec12) - the same day as another beloved TV and film star, Jack Klugman, who was 90.
He died of natural causes at his home in Manhattan.
Durning, a former professional boxer, martial arts expert and dance instructor, was a World War Two hero who survived the infamous massacre of American Prisoners of War by German troops at Malmedy, Belgium. He served with the 1st Infantry Division and was also involved in the Normandy Invasion on Omaha Beach in June, 1944. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Silver Star Medal and three Purple Hearts among his many accolades for services to his country.
He picked up his fledgling acting career after the war with a series of stage roles but didn't land his big movie break until the early 1970s, following a series of acclaimed plays and appearances on 1960's shows. His first major film role came opposite Robert Redford in The Sting in 1973. He followed that big screen success with a role in Charles Bronson's western Breakheart Pass two years later.
Durning's eclectic and varied film career also included credits in Tootsie, The Muppet Movie, North Dallas Forty, Sharky's Machine, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Dog Day Afternoon, and he earned Oscar nods for his roles in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Mel Brooks' comedy To Be Or Not To Be, in which he played a Nazi officer.
Despite his gruff persona and his penchant for playing severe, stern roles, Durning portrayed Santa Claus in five TV movies, including It Nearly Wasn't Christmas, Mrs. Santa Claus and A Boyfriend for Christmas.
Durning also scooped a Tony Award in 1990 for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - not bad for someone who was allegedly kicked out of the American Academy of Dramatic Art drama school for lacking talent!
Paying tribute to his pal on Twitter.com on Christmas Day (25Dec12), Happy Days star Henry Winkler called Durning "the actor's actor".
Durning was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008. According to IMDB.com, he was still making what was his final film, Scavenger Killers, when he passed away.
November 27, 2012 9:54am EST
There are certain characters that have become inextricably affiliated with art films, or at least films of similar high regard. These characters are often dealing with extreme emotional turmoil and their life journeys raise profound questions about the human condition. But when listing the types of characters that tend to populate movies with praiseworthy artistic sensibilities, hitmen would have a rather lengthy wait before hearing their name mentioned. This is unjust.
Since the golden age of the western, and then into the height of the Warner Gangster movies, we have developed an affinity for outlaws — and hitmen would certainly qualify as such. The idea of centering a film on an antihero who kills people for a living may seem a function of baser exploitation, but the fact is that some truly outstanding films, well deserving of being lauded as works of art, have featured all manner of assassins (and this week’s Killing Them Softly may join their ranks). So how do these films separate themselves from the cheaper action shoot-em-ups that might also revolve around contract killers?
The Duality of Humanizing
The most recognizable difference between a multifaceted, morally ambiguous protagonist, and a reprehensible or one-note killer meant to please the groundlings , is the degree to which the filmmaker humanizes that character. It is a means of adding complexity and, in some cases, uneasy amiability to characters our moral compass should have us rejecting outright. The interesting thing about some of the truly great films about assassins, however, is that the injection of humanity doesn’t have to absolve their sins.
In Luc Besson’s Leon, Jean Reno plays a ruthless hitman who, against his better judgment, takes in the daughter, played by Natalie Portman, of a recently murdered couple. His relationship with Portman allows the audience to forgive him his murderous occupation. Luc Besson adeptly plays with the gray moral standards by having Leon’s twelve-year-old ward discover and accept his profession. Leon’s commitment to protecting her, and indeed to maintaining her happiness, makes him incredibly empathetic and we no longer see him as merely a mass murderer for hire.
But humanizing a character does not always result in a good guy. Take Anton Chigurh in The Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men. Javier Bardem does an amazing job portraying Chigurh as, not so much an assassin, but as a force of Biblical wrath; something Old Testament that cannot be deterred by any interference from mankind. And yet, the last we see of Chigurh, he’s wounded in a completely boneheaded car accident and limps into the sunset. Do we like Chigurh as a result? No. But this moment makes the monster mortal; adding a layer of nuance and density to that role. It also plays perfectly into the Coens’ darkest of senses of humor.
Watch: Brad Pitt Is The Great American Gangster in 'Killing Them Softly' — TRAILER
Speak The Speech, I Dare You
These two differing tactics for humanizing your hitmen actually coalesce in Pulp Fiction. We do like Jules and Vincent, but we have no illusions about their turpitude. One could argue in fact that the moment we like them most is when they nearly irrevocably screw up that hit by accidentally shooting Marvin in the face. They become more relatable at that point, more human; who hasn’t messed up on the job? However, there is also something to be said for the dialogue elevating a standard and, fittingly, pulpy hitman story.
There is a classic-style ritual to the way particularly Jules carries out his assignments. He recites Bible passages in a slowly building monologue that serves as the victim’s last rites. Is it immensely quotable? Absolutely, but this dialogue isn’t just for spectacle. The pulse of Pulp Fiction is in its language, its vocabulary and specificity of referential jargon. So much of the character-building necessary to make something more of a fimic killer is tied up in what they say and how they say it. Actions may speak louder than words, but ask yourself this question: once Jules is done delivering his thunderous sermon, do we ever see one bullet enter the victim to whom he is preaching?
Death: The Ultimate Punchline
Let us again examine the Coens and their, shall we say, advanced sense of humor, which tends to turn up in even the most somber of situations. Fargo is absolutely a comedy, and astonishingly we even find ourselves laughing at hitman Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper. There is something to be said for these darkly comedic approaches allowing us to subconsciously deal more directly with our own mortality. We laugh at death to take at least an ounce out of the sting of its inevitability.
Similarly, we are given leave to laugh at death in films like In Bruges and Grosse Point Blank, two fundamentally great films about assassins. The wisecracking, sometimes farcical hitmen we see in such films don’t just aid in our unspoken coping with the big sleep. These films are great because the universal themes our more flawed hitters represent make them more organic and tangible. We might not be able to say we’ve ever collected on a death contract, but bad vacations and the discomfort of a high school reunion? Those are obstacles we’ve had to check off our own hit list.
Again, by the according-to-Hoyle notions of right and wrong, assassins are less than exemplary, but that does not necessarily mean they are bereft of honor. What tends to account for the elevated auteur nature of the truly great cinematic hitmen is their adherence to their own personal codes. Leon’s number one rule would be echoed by many hitters in films both prior to and following Besson’s film: no women, no kids. It’s may be a simple edict, but the moral divide between audience and criminal protagonist shrinks considerably at its employment.
But these codes can often be stricter and more elaborate. Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai tells the story of a French killer who abided by a Spartan, or rather Samurai, existence free of all extravagance. Another killer who followed closely to the ancient Bushido was Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog. These are characters that live outside the law, but their self-imposed ethics make them respectable. The demise of these characters usually follows a rare lapse in their abiding by their own codes; Charles Bronson in The Mechanic could certainly attest to that.
[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company; Miramax Pictures]
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November 17, 2012 10:01am EST
Most of us look at movies as a form of entertainment, as a conduit for escapism. While this is entirely reasonable, there is also something to be said for the acknowledgement of movies as a more significant art form, especially when examining the historical biopic genre. This week, Lincoln arrives in theaters (admittedly not a great place for him to be, considering) — and this new Steven Spielberg film chronicles the political wheeling and dealing of one of America’s greatest presidents. Biopics are nothing new to cinema. In 1937, Paul Muni was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of real-life French writer in The Life of Emile Zola. But is there a more weighted significance to biopics for this generation? And do we place an appropriate amount of stock in them?
Unless you’ve been residing in a cave up until now — and by the way, thanks for making the reading of this article your first priority upon returning to civilization! — you’re well aware of the technological advances that have made the viewing of films as effortless a process as flipping a switch. As much as these streaming and viewing technologies have aided the already ravenous consumption of movies, it would be ignorant to assume that they have also obliterated book culture. In fact, downloadable books and electronic reading devices have done for the printed word what Netflix has done for film watching. However, it’s not outlandish to note the scales of public interest are decidedly tipped in favor of film.
The question is, with our propensity toward regular reading diminishing, and our movie viewing increasing, when do we reach critical mass? When do we get to the point wherein biographical films become our chief source of information about the lives of historical individuals? More to the point, have we already reached that point? Lincoln may seem an odd catalyst for this discussion, given that most of us learned about the 16th president in elementary school. However, what we may or may not have learned in school, or more importantly what we may not have recalled as easily as his log cabin and freeing of the slaves, is the complexity of his parlor politics and how those maneuvers lead to the passing of the vital 13th Amendment to The Constitution. The film therefore offered many of us a new story, a new facet to this historical figure.
Think back to the third grade, what was the best thing your teacher could possibly have said on any given day? “Class, we’re going to watch a movie.” It didn’t even matter if that movie was the worst After School Special or the moldiest of educational videos, we were thankful for the diversion from the chore of sifting through, and often reading aloud in groups, those dry text books. While this may be symptomatic of the capriciousness of youth, it may also be a function of the benefits of visual learning techniques. Many people retain information they perceive visually far better than information read from a book. We can usually remember details of those videos we watched in class far more readily than the things written in the textbooks. It can therefore be argued that biopics provide a viable alternative to literary biographies.
This viability of course comes under fire when considering the possible presence of embellishment and bias in biopics. Films, even those with the slight education bent of a historical biopic, are principally intended to entertain, and are also susceptible to the prejudices and viewpoints of the filmmakers. With that in mind, can biopics really be trusted as a means of educating the masses on these figures, especially when telling a life story not as engrained into the collective consciousness? And if all we need is a visual delivery system for biographical information, what sets biopics apart from documentaries?
The fact of the matter is that depending on the source, written biographies can be just as biased as any given film. This potential for subjectivity is augmented in the case of controversial personages, and especially politicians. Not only that, but there are documentaries out there predicated upon little more than sensationalizing a particular figure’s life regardless of factual evidence contradicting their claims. Case in point, check out the doc Alive: Is Michael Jackson Really Dead now streaming on Netflix. The movie actually supposes, using the most laughable of non-evidence, that The King of Pop staged his own death. The intention here is not to paint all documentaries and written biographies with the same unscrupulous brush, but the existence of these suspect examples should prevent an automatic assignment of inferior status to filmic biographies.
One entity that certainly doesn’t overlook the significance of biographical filmmaking is the Academy Awards. One need only go to the Netflix Instant Watch genre category Biographical Dramas to see the near unending acclaim lavished upon movies of this ilk. Films like Amadeus, Gandhi, and Chariots of Fire all garnered Best Picture honors while Capote, The Pianist, and My Left Foot all netted performance awards for its leads as they occupied roles based on historical figures. Whether the cause for this Oscar success is the Academy’s acknowledgement of the importance of these films, or simply the attraction they inherently present for top-tier filmmakers, the winning streak enjoyed by biopics ensures their continued frequency of production.
There may be something to the conception of biopics as an artful method of historic preservation. In that regard, the entertainment value of these films may not be a superfluous. Did British criminal Charles Bronson really get up in front of a theater full of people and perform a one-man show? No. But Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Bronson, with its distinct visuals and stellar performance from Tom Hardy, allows for an easier commitment to memory of the actual details of the man’s life that are also featured in the film. As biopics continue to draw both audiences and awards season attention, and as Oscar winners tend to be more likely to receive the benefit of film preservation advancements, what we may also be inadvertently preserving is our collective history.
[Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures]
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July 24, 2012 10:53am EST
In the second half of the 1980s, while Scott Baio was babysitting herds of Aryan children on Charles in Charge and Bronson Pinchot was baking bibi-babkas on Perfect Strangers, there was a man named Edward Woodward, who kept busy by taking down New York criminals in an effort to atone for his history of shady murders. Onscreen, this man was known as The Equalizer, and was one musty, Stewart Copeland-backed badass. Deadline reports that Copeland's saga is readying to be revived, with Denzel Washington closing a deal to take on the character in a big screen adaptation. Circling the action pic (which is being set up as Washington's first franchise) are Pierre Morel (Taken), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) and Gareth Evans (The Raid) — all with expertise to match Washington's own physicality.
This might be among the most appropriate of '80s television roles for Washington to embody. The man is cold, fearless, and unapologetic, yet somehow noble and heroic. But the very suggestion of the contemporary film star taking on a character from television's golden decade does lead one to imagine the possibilities...
A Who's the Boss? movie: Picture Washington as an ex ballplayer who takes up a living as the housemaid for a well-to-do Judith Light. A Cosby Show movie: picture Washington as an obstetrician and family man who teaches his four daughters and dyslexic son life lessons through goldfish funerals and blues songs consisting primarily of the name "Justine." An ALF movie: picture Washington as an extraterrestrial visitor with a snide wit and a taste for cats. He can play an alcoholic bar owner in a Cheers movie, a cross-dressing roommate in a Bosom Buddies movie, a high school student desperately in love with Winnie Cooper in a Wonder Years movie. Oh, the doors that The Equalizer has opened up. Just picture it.
But first, we'll get The Equalizer, with production on the film set to begin in April of 2013.
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May 21, 2012 5:27pm EST
Quick: who are the six biggest movie stars you can think of, not including Tom Cruise? Start compiling your list, because MGM is developing a remake of the 1960 classic Western The Magnificent Seven (which itself was a remake of the Japanese film Seven Samurai). Cruise is attached to star in the project, which focuses on a septet of gunslinging heroes who band together to defend a Mexican peasant village from malicious oppressors.
The original film featured cinematic greats like Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and more. All big names that became even bigger after this movie. So who would make up today's unstoppable team?
There are plenty of names that come to mind when you think of big Hollywood heroes. If you want to take this route, your cast might look something like this: Will Smith, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and Leonardo DiCaprio. You're permitted to substitute Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, or Robert Downey, Jr., just so long as you don't have three Departed stars or three Ocean's Eleven stars in there at once. Them's the rules.
There are also a few figures on the rise who might soon reach the stature of the aforementioned; actors who are worthy of consideration for projects like this. Accepting that established star Cruise will lead the pack, the "alternative team" has a wider variety. Michael Fassbender is one of the few "must haves." Fassbender's Inglourious Basterds costar Christoph Waltz deserves a spot, so long as he can try his hand at cowboy talk. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has rapidly re-engaged the public with his thespian charms, wouldn't do so bad under a ten-gallon hat. Next: Anthony Mackie, who might be one of Hollywood's greatest secret weapons. Then there's Philip Seymour Hoffman, who might not fit the build of a cowboy, but can play the attitude like nobody's business. Finally, a twist: Jesse Eisenberg. I sincerely think that the world is waiting to see just how much he has up his sleeve beyond anxious nebbish. The boy's got talent, and he's my final pick.
Who makes up your ideal Magnificent Seven?
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January 09, 2012 9:24am EST
It’s simultaneously encouraging and frustrating to see an actor you like constantly teetering on the verge of being a household name. Ben Foster, one of the stars of the upcoming action thriller Contraband, is one such talent. He’s found himself in several high profile films and otherwise blockbustery fare, but A-list status seems to elude him. Before you race off to see Contraband this weekend, refresh yourself with some of Foster’s best performances over the last few years.
X-Men 3: The Last Stand
Though reception to the third film in the X-Men franchise from fans was less than warm, Ben Foster turned in an excellent portrayal of one of the source material’s original characters. Foster brought a great deal of weight and pathos to the role of Warren Worthington III, a mutant blessed with (or cursed with depending on your outlook) with a pair of angelic wings sprouting from his back that grant him the ability to fly. It’s no surprise that his heroic moniker was Angel, later Archangel. My only complaint with his role in X-Men 3: The Last Stand is that he kicks the film off with such an emotional resonance and then is given little to do from that point forward. We need more Foster!
3:10 To Yuma
Major studios rarely touch the classic western genre these days; not that they no longer exist of course, by they are by no means as prevalent as they once were. The 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma stands as one of my favorite modern westerns. The film follows a downtrodden rancher, who agrees to escort a ruthless, recently-captured outlaw to his scheduled train ride to Yuma, which will deliver him to trial. Along the way, members of the outlaw’s gang do all they can to free their leader. The most frightening of these gang members is the sinister Charlie Prince. Foster plays Prince with an ice-cold disdain for all human life that would allow his character to feel equally at home in a horror film. It gives me goose bumps just recalling his heinous deeds in the film.
Another remake in which Foster found himself was last year’s The Mechanic. Originally a 1972 vehicle for Charles Bronson, the Bronson part in the remake being occupied by Jason Statham, The Mechanic is about a seasoned hit man who takes a young upstart killer under his wing. What was so impressive about The Mechanic was how adeptly Foster held his own against Statham in the action sequences. By now, Statham has become recognized for his action chops, but Foster was still largely a question mark going into The Mechanic. Foster not only proved his action movie mettle, but was also more emotionally compelling than Jan-Michael Vincent who had played his role in the original.
These days, it seems like some of the best science-fiction films that get released do so completely (forgive us) under the radar. Such was definitely the case with 2009’s Pandorum. The film centers on two members of a spaceship’s crew who come out of cryogenic sleep with no memory of their mission and no sign of any other crew. However, they are far from alone. I can’t recommend this film highly enough; it is a fantastic mix of thoughtful sci-fi and blisteringly entertaining action. Foster once again shows his leading man potential as one of the two unfortunate remaining crew members.
Don't get the wrong impression of Foster—he's taken on many a genre project, but he's not just gunning for a spot in major blockbusters. In 2009, Foster teamed with Oren Moverman (writer of I'm Not There) for Moverman's debut film, The Messenger. A solemn, introspective look at a forgotten occupation of war, that of the men and women employed to break news to the families of soldiers killed in action, The Messenger is easily Foster's best work to date. Paired with an animated Woody Harrelson, Foster pulls back on his usual crazy train antics to unleash a quiet, devastating performance.
30 Days of Night
Bookending this list with another comic book adaptation, Ben Foster appeared in 2007’s 30 Days of Night. The film takes place in an Alaskan town at the start of its “dark season;” a period during the winter wherein they experience, you guessed it, 30 days of night. This makes the town a perfect target for a sect of bloodthirsty vampires who are free to hunt the townspeople at will unabated by sunlight. Foster plays an eerie stranger whose mysterious arrival in the town serves as a herald of the gruesome, nightmarish events to come. His words, the foreboding scratches that eek from his lips, are enough to send chills down your spine in this arctic horror bloodbath.
January 03, 2012 4:00am EST
The 79 year old is the last surviving member of the main cast of the 1960 Western, which also starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, and he has now signed up to appear in a new independent film called The Magnificent Eleven.
The job will mark Vaughn's first feature project in a decade.
In the original film, which was a remake of Japanese movie Seven Samurai, Vaughn played a good guy gun slinger, but in the new picture, he will tackle the role of a villain called American Bob.
Vaughn tells Britain's Daily Mail, "I like any kind of bizarre comedy and that’s what this is. I like playing sociopaths and psychopaths who are also funny. It’s very cleverly written with a lot of oddball gags. I have a line in one scene where I say to this guy who was a tiler, 'I’m giving you a chance to live for one reason - because you did such a good job on my bathroom'."
Vaughn will next be seen playing a role on the U.K.'s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street.
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When the credits roll, the lights come up and you get home from seeing Drive, this weekend’s crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be clamoring for a little more of the movie’s slick, stylistic cinematics. Don’t worry—there’s a little film called Bronson that’ll be waiting for you on Netflix Watch Instantly that’s going to be right up your alley. Here’s why you might want to consider adding it to your queue and giving it a watch:
Who Made It: Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn co-wrote and directed Bronson in 2008. This was far from his first film, but it was the first to really get him noticed.
Who’s In It: Tom Hardy (Inception, Warrior). This was the film that put Hardy on the map, and introduced him to critics and audiences as a well-aimed punch is introduced to a face.
What’s It About: Bronson is stylized a biopic detailing the life and exploits of Michael Peterson, a man who would go down in history as Britain’s most violent criminal (and later changed his name to Charles Bronson). The film catalogues his school days, his first foray into crime, and the myriad ways the British prison system tried, and failed, to deal with his out-of-control behavior.
Why You Should Watch It:
Bronson deserves to be watched if for no other reason than Tom Hardy’s jaw-dropping performance. Hardy had been in several films prior to Bronson, including playing the villain in Star Trek: Nemesis as well as roles in Layer Cake, Marie Antoinette, and RocknRolla. But his powerhouse turn in Bronson was such a breakout performance—for which no one was prepared—that it still felt like he came out of nowhere.
Hardy plays Bronson as a mad jester, a vaudevillian clown with a knack for telling stories. He is a coiled mass of unrelenting brutality that not only seems plucked from another era—with his bald head and thick, handlebar moustache—but also from a completely different world. His every non-combative interaction with normal people is a series of tweaking sudden movements and blank expressions; a subtle physical character trait that emphasizes his complete disconnect from reality. He’s almost a cartoon character without a conscience…that could bite your ear off and punch you into a bloody pulp.
Despite his over-the-top discomfort with every other living thing and his penchant for bloodletting, Bronson, thanks to Hardy’s performance, is undeniably likable. There is a hopelessness to him, in that he can only connect with other humans when he is pummeling them half to death, that makes him endearing despite himself.
It’s interesting to watch this film now with the knowledge that Hardy will be playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Bronson is the film that should solidify that casting choice once and for all. The man is built like a cement truck and is endlessly intimidating—the way he can snarl and bark certain lines had me recoiling from the screen. Seeing him take apart an entire room full of prison guards, and the fact that Bronson spends time as an inmate at hospital for the criminally insane, seemed like cross training for the larger-than-life Batman villain.
Nicolas Winding Refn has crafted an amazing playground in which his anti-hero can play. He takes the figurative stage of media attention, on which the real life Bronson thrived, and creates a literal stage within the character’s mind. He engages in several different styles of theater and musical performance to weave the saga of his own life. Refn’s script and his photography allow for one of the most unique cinematic experiences of the last several years and gives him the ability to make this brutal force of misdirected rage a well-rounded, at times unsettlingly sympathetic, human being. I love the way they creatively inserted into the film actual news footage of a riot for which Bronson was the architect.
So if you decide Drive just wasn’t enough to satisfy your Nicolas Winding Refn fix, watch him team up with Tom Hardy, the man who is sure to be next summer’s biggest star, in Bronson.