One-and-a-half-year-old Jaxson Denno was beyond ecstatic about the prospect of meeting Iron Man. The super-fan was soon disappointed, however, when he realized that he was only making the acquaintance of plain old Robert Downey Jr.
Downey is currently shooting The Judge in Denno's hometown in Western Massachusetts, so when the toddler's mother Heather found out he was in the neighborhood, she brought her son to the set. As soon as Downey approached them to say hello, little Jaxson burst into tears because the actor wasn't wearing Iron Man's signature suit.
Downey was quick to comfort the crying child and soon had him smiling again. As Heather Denno told People, "He was fine as soon as he talked to him," adding that her son "was so confused because I kept telling him it was Iron Man and he knew it wasn't. Well, not Iron Man in the suit."
We bet that years down the line, Heather Denno will be pulling out this baby photo for Jaxson's first date.
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Based on the best-selling book by Mark Foster Game tells the remarkable real-life story of Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf). He was a working-class immigrant kid who in the early 1900s turned the privileged world of golf on its ear. The story begins with Francis working as a caddie at a posh country club where he masters the game by quietly practicing on his own. His French-born father (Elias Koteas) thinks he's wasting his time and should be earning an honest wage but Francis is far too smitten with the game to give it up. Francis finally gets his big break when an amateur spot opens up at the 1913 U.S. Open. With a feisty 10-year-old caddie named Eddie (Josh Flitter) by his side egging him on Francis plays the best he ever has. He eventually finds himself facing off against the sport's undisputed champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) a U.S. Open winner and six-time British Open champion (a record that still stands today). Their legendary battle changes the face of the sport forever--but I wouldn't necessarily call it the greatest game ever.
Game is one of those juicy little biopics actors can really sink their teeth into. Starting with our young lead LaBeouf (Holes) is sufficiently determined as the guy playing against impossible odds. His Francis with his liquid brown eyes and winning smile is full of optimism and raw talent that propels him into the majors. And he looks pretty authentic swinging a golf club too. Still it may be time for LaBeouf to move on from the Disney family fare and do something grittier sort of like what he showed in Constantine. Dillane--who was so achingly good in The Hours as Virginia Woolf's beleaguered husband--also does a fine job as the legendary Vardon a man haunted by his own demons. In a way Game is a story about both men who have more in common than they realize. Although a top professional in the sport Vardon has to fight against the elitist golfing community's prejudices. You see Vardon grew up dirt poor on the plains of Scotland and because of his background was never permitted into any "gentleman's" clubs. The cast of colorful supporting players add to the film especially Flitter as the caustic but encouraging Eddie. He may be small but he packs a wallop. The last shot of the movie features Francis and Eddie walking off the golf course at sunset evoking the classic Casablanca ending line "This is the start of a beautiful friendship"--which apparently really happened. The real-life Eddie and Francis remained friends for the rest of their lives.
The main slice against Game is that it's about golf. Besides comedies such as Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore a serious movie about the game really isn't going to stir your soul say like football or baseball. But actor-turned-director Bill Paxton--who made his directorial debut with the creepy Frailty--takes the story and keeps it convincingly affecting. Much like Seabiscuit it's the real-life historical context that makes Game even more compelling. Paxton painstakingly details how the game was played at the turn of the century--and who was allowed to play it. The whole discriminatory arrogance surrounding the game makes the stakes even higher for our heroes. Vardon had a score to settle while Ouimet simply became the game's new hero paving the way for legendary whiz kids like Tiger Woods to step up on the green. Paxton also views Game as a Western. The final golf round between Vardon and Ouimet is the ultimate shootout á la the OK Corral in which the camera angles are inventive--a bird's eye view of the ball sailing through the air or gliding on the green into the hole. Plus he keeps the tension as taut as he can considering the less than exhilarating subject matter. Oh come on who isn't a sucker for a good sports underdog story even if it is golf?
Sigh...What can I say? I am addicted to Dawson's Creek.
But I am not alone when I confess that I have never missed an episode of the show during its five seasons.
In the fall of 1997, Warner Brother network reps began targeting teens to watch the show. They passed out flyers and posters displaying the faces of actors who would soon become Hollywood's next group of bright, young things. Curious, I took a couple of posters and put them in my dorm room in college.
No one could predict that Dawson's Creek would become a smash hit months later.
My addiction started while I was in college. Maybe it was worse back then. Every Wednesday night, I would gather with my sorority sisters to watch Dawson's Creek. With each girl having crazy school schedules, assembling for the show was almost a way to guarantee we could be together at one time.
The magic behind Dawson's Creek is that it traces the life of five high school friends from Capeside, a beautiful small town just outside Massachusetts. Its young, attractive characters experiment with their sexuality and deal with the challenges and adventures of coming of age.
Dawson (James Van Der Beek) is an over-dramatic aspiring filmmaker who idolizes Steven Spielberg. He has a platonic relationship with the girl next door, Joey (Katie Holmes), and becoming more than best friends would only ruin their relationship. Pacey (Joshua Jackson) spends most of the time feeling like the ugly duckling of his family. Jack (Kerr Smith) is the jock who had a hard time coming out of the closet. Jen (Michelle Williams) is a promiscuous girl from New York who had to move away to live with her difficult past.
The popularity of the show comes from dealing with sensitive and relevant issues that teens face every day growing up. The show teaches teens how to cope with love, sex, divorce and education.
What is it about the show that has made me a loyal viewer and fan for all these years?
Well, maybe the plots are corny at times. The actors are not as young as the characters they portray--most are in their mid-20s.
But the show gets the job done, and it does it well.
The younger viewers have grown with them, but older folks such as myself, who grew up on Beverly Hills 90210, saw them like our younger siblings. We have seen Dawson and his friends grow over the years, and their vulnerability and sincerity has touched us deeply.
With the success of Dawson's Creek, some of its cast members went on to host Saturday Night Live, appear in several magazine covers, including a spread for TV Guide, and grace retail catalogs.
They also have starred in movies.
Van Der Beek's first starring role was in the hit Varsity Blues, which earned him a 1999 MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Performance. He also made a cameo appearance playing "Dawson" in the Kevin Smith film Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. He will next be seen in the oft-delayed western Texas Rangers.
Holmes starred in the horror yarn Disturbing Behavior, for which she won a 1999 MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Performance. She also acted in the dark comedy Go and the Oscar-nominated Wonder Boys.
Jackson made his film debut as "Charlie" in the Mighty Ducks trilogy, and has appeared in Cruel Intentions, Urban Legend and The Skulls since joining Dawson's Creek.
Williams co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in the thriller Halloween: H2O, HBO's lesbian-themed If These Walls Could Talk II, and will next be seen in Prozac Nation, based on Elizabeth Wurtzel's best-selling novel.
Smith starred in Final Destination and the independent romantic comedy Hit and Runway, which received the Screenwriters Award at the 1999 Los Angeles International Film Festival.
Five seasons later, the guys from the creek are all grown up. In its new season, Dawson is pursuing his film degree in Hollywood. Jack, Jen and Joey discover the hardships of being a freshman in college. Pacey is living on a sailboat.
Dawson's Creek often gives the answers to the great mysteries that teens often face. Of course, one would only find the answer if it's embedded in a Spielberg film. Isn't that right, Dawson?