The 67th Annual Tony Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, was swimming with A-List stars — and from the moment they stepped foot on the red carpet to the final curtain call, they were having a blast. We should know, we were in the thick of it.
While viewers at home were transported to Broadway with 15 musical numbers and laughed along with Neil Patrick Harris' fantastic hosting, those of us on the red carpet and in the media room were privvy to a little extra bit of fun. Here's what the TV cameras didn't catch.
Mike Tyson, who enjoyed a stint on Broadway with a one-man show last year, amazed everyone with his cameo appearance in Harris' show-stopping (or show-starting, as the case may be) opening number. But before he hit the stage, we watched Tyson hug The Sopranos' Steven Van Zandt (who would later present an award with Tom Hanks) on the red carpet. Tyson looked dapper on stage, but outside in the 90-degree New York City heat, the fighter was sweating like he had just exited the boxing ring. Inside the theater, Tyson cozied up with Now You See Me star Jesse Eisenberg.
Broadway veteran Bernadette Peters cut a stunning figure in a green Donna Karan Atelier with a basketweave texture. What you didn't see was the assistant she had on hand to scoop up and properly arrange her gown's train between poses.
Cyndi Lauper was the well-deserving belle of the ball on Sunday night. Not only did she rake in six awards (her show, Kinky Boots, was nominated for 13), but she was incredibly gracious to her fans and her energy was boundless. On the carpet before the ceremony, Lauper made sure to wave to the legions of fans lining the street (Glee and Annie star Jane Lynch did the same). Following her win, she hammed it up for photographers in the press room.
On the red carpet, Scarlett Johansson greeted Sienna Miller (whose fiancé, Tom Sturridge, was nominated for his work in Orphans) with a kiss on the cheek. Backstage, Johansson was equally chummy with fellow presenter Alan Cumming. The two played patty-cake before presenting the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
On the carpet, Cumming made peace signs and crazy faces while posing for photographers.
Four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald (whom you may know from Private Practice) shared the spotlight — and a hug — with her daughter, Zoe.
Smash star Megan Hilty shared the stage with fellow Broadway actors-turned-TV-stars Laura Benanti (Go On) and Andrew Rannells (The New Normal) for a laugh-out-loud musical number that poked fun at their bad luck on screen (cliffnotes: their shows have all been canceled). Hilty's Smash co-stars Debra Messing and Will Chase — who notoriously had a real-life affair — were conspicuously cuddly.
Home audiences were lucky enough to see this tender moment between Annie star Sunny (who plays Sandy, the lovable stray canine) and host Neil Patrick Harris. But since it's just too cute for words, here it is again:
Reporting by Lauren Paylor
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Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sutton Foster took the stage together. No, they haven't teamed up for a Broadway show, a new television series, or a Modern Family/Bunheads crossover (which would be awesome). But the theater-loving stars came together Tuesday to announce the nominations for the 2013 Tony Awards. (They are the hosts for this year's show, after all, so it only made sense that these two would have the honors of making the big announcement.)
Check out which plays and actors are nominated for Tony Awards for their work on the stage this year.
2013 Tony Awards Nominations:
Best Play:The Assembled PartyLucky GuyThe Testament of MaryVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Best Musical:Bring It On: The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalA Christmas Story, The Musical
Best Book of a Musical:A Christmas Story, The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Revival of a Play:Golden BoyOrphans The Trip to BountifulWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Best Revival of a Musical: AnnieThe Mystery of Edwin DroodPippinRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, The Other PlaceAmy Morton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeHolland Taylor, AnnCicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Tom Hanks, Lucky GuyNathan Lane, The NanceTracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeTom Sturridge, Orphans
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: A Christmas Story, The Musical Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hands on a Hardbody Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green Lyrics: Amanda Green Kinky Boots Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Matilda The Musical Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Carolee Carmello, Scandalous Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical Patina Miller, Pippin Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Rob McClure, Chaplin Billy Porter, Kinky Boots Stark Sands, Kinky Boots
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Judith Ivey, The Heiress Judith Light, The Assembled Parties Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:Danny Burstein, Golden Boy Richard Kind, The Big Knife Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Andrea Martin, Pippin Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:Charl Brown, Motown The Musical Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical Terrence Mann, Pippin
Best Costume Design of a Play: Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac Ann Roth, The Nance Albert Wolsky, The Heiress Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy
Best Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Dominique Lemieux, Pippin William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Direction of a Play:Pam MacKinnon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
Best Direction of a Musical:Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Diane Paulus, Pippin Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical
Best Choreography:Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Chet Walker, Pippin
Best Orchestrations:Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots Ethan Popp & Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Scenic Design of a Play:John Lee Beatty, The Nance Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties David Rockwell, Lucky Guy Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Scott Pask, Pippin David Rockwell, Kinky Boots
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy Donald Holder, Golden Boy Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary Japhy Weideman, The Nance
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:Kenneth Posner, Kinky Boots Kenneth Posner, Pippin Kenneth Posner, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Hugh Vanstone, Matilda The Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play:John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary Leon Rothenberg, The Nance Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy
Best Sound Design of a Musical:Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical John Shivers, Kinky Boots Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:Bernard GerstenPaul LibinMing Cho Lee
Regional Theatre Award:Huntington Theatre Company, Boston, MA
Isabelle Stevenson Award:Larry Kramer
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:Career Trainsition For DancersWilliam CraverPeter LawrenceThe Lost ColonyThe four actresses who created the title role of Matilda The Musical on Broadway: Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
While I like Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Michael Fassbender as much as the next girl, the current batch of rising stars in Hollywood are starting to look even more homogenous than usual. Put Sam Worthington, Chris Pine, and Andy Whitfield in a line, I’m not sure I could tell them apart. Let’s not even get started on Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg - their own mothers would confuse those two. We’ve heard that variety is the spice of life, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to be taking that lesson to heart. Here are some alternatives to the usual leading men of the big screen who we think could make the next great action stars.
1. Jason Momoa The native Hawaiin star of Conan The Barbarian might not be a household name yet, but he’s on his way. Despite being consigned to generic beefcake (not that we mind beefcake) roles in Stargate: Atlantis and Game Of Thrones, Jason Momoa’s natural charisma made those roles memorable. Plus, at the young age of 32, he’s already achieved the platonic ideal of beefcake masculinity by filling Arnold’s sandals in the Conan The Barbarian remake. Of course, Momoa is more than just a pretty face (and abs) - the actor is currently writing the script for a Conan sequel. Momoa’s a representative from an older, 1980’s school of movie stars, which makes him unique in a land filled with Michael Ceras. Since Sylvester Stallone isn’t getting any younger, and Dwayne Johnson seems to have gotten distracted by stuff like Tooth Fairy, Momoa could be the next big action star.
2. Idris Elba
You can’t talk about Idris Elba without talking about Stringer Bell. Elba was riveting as Bell, The Wire’s most complex criminal; a man who could order a beloved character's death without remorse but was still a model student in his Econ class at the local community college. Since his heralded Wire role, Elba has gotten more mainstream exposure, leading his own BBC cop drama Luther, appearing on The Office, and nabbing a supporting role in Marvel’s Thor film. Anyone who can wear Heimdall’s golden disco-suit and still look badass certainly has enough charisma to lead a film. Fortunately for Elba fans, he’s set to star in Guillermo Del Toro’s science fiction epic Pacific Rim. Stringer Bell working with genre legend Del Toro, fighting space aliens in a giant robot suit? Legendary Pictures, you can shut up and take my money. To make the wait for 2013 more bearable, he’ll also be appearing in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, due out next summer. While The Wire’s alumni have had mixed levels of success (ranging from solid lead roles to drug arrests), no one deserves mainstream success as much as Elba. Well, except Michael K. Williams.
3. Asano Tadanobu
Most Americans haven’t heard of Asano Tadanobu, but that’s likely to change over the next few years. The Japanese movie star has recently started to make international waves. His starring role in Mongol garnered critical praise in the west, showing that he can carry an epic (and one in a different language, to boot). Since then, he’s started taking smaller roles in Hollywood films, appearing in Thor and the upcoming Battleship. He’ll also star alongside Keanu Reeves in the American remake of the 47 Ronin. Plus, he’s already got his cult street cred down, from his role as scarred, blond badass Kakihara in Takashi Miike’s Ichi The Killer. It can be difficult to break into Hollywood as an international star, especially one who doesn’t speak English as his first language. But action films tend to level the playing field slightly, since dialogue isn’t as important as ability to look awesome with a sword in one hand and a blonde in the other. If Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan can do it, why not Tadanobu?
4. and 5. Don Glover and Danny Pudi
We’re grouping this Community duo together because, honestly, we’re not sure if we could stand separating BFF’s Troy and Abed. While Community has one of the best ensembles on television at the moment, Danny PudI’s pop-culture fixated Abed and Donald Glover’s overenthusiastic Troy stand out as the funniest members of a painfully funny cast. Comedy and action cross over all the time - just look at Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express - and either of these actors could make an ideal transition. (Community’s zombie outbreak and paintball showdowns already serve as mini action films in themselves.) Pudi’s already branching out a bit, taking a role in supernatural LARP comedy Knights of Badassdom, and appearing alongside genre-crosser Seth Rogen in My Mother’s Curse. Glover’s internet campaign to play Spider-Man in the new film didn’t make it off the ground, but that doesn’t mean that other action roles won’t swing his way.
6. Dev Patel
Poor Dev Patel didn’t get his action career off on the best foot. After gaining international attention for his role in Slumdog Millionaire, Patel appeared in the dismal M. Night Shyamalan adaptation The Last Airbender. While it may have been a bad career move, we can’t really hold his acting against him since Shyamalan has managed to make even established actors like Mark Wahlberg, Paul Giamatti and Joaquin Pheonix look silly. Patel’s got the charming everyman quality that Shia LeBeouf always seems to be trying for, but without the baggage of being involved in Transformers or Indiana Jones 4. His next major role, in English Oscar-bait flick The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t a step in the action direction, but should gain him back some critical cred after Airbender.
7. Gael Garcia Bernal
Go find a twentysomething year old woman. Go on, I’ll wait. Now ask her what she thinks of Gael Garcia Bernal. I’ll assume that you’re reading the next paragraph a couple of hours into the future, because I’ve yet to meet a woman who wouldn't talk for ages about this guy. Maybe it’s his homoerotic role in Y Tu Mama Tambien, or his passionate turn as a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. Or maybe it’s just his dreamy hazel eyes. But whatever it is, it makes him ideal as an action star. Women watch action flicks too, and it helps to have a hero who’s appealing to that demographic (think about Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, or Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones, for instance). Bernal’s next few projects include starring with Al Pacino in Hands of Stone, and alongside Daniel Day Lewis in Martin Scorsese’s Silence - which is very impressive company for a young actor. It seems like Bernal is being groomed to join the Oscar-winning elite, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t slum it in an action film from time to time.
8. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Odds are, you’ve seen Chiwetel Ejiofor in something, be it as one of the five hundred characters in Love, Actually, the chilling Operative in Serenity, or the drag queen star of Kinky Boots. Ejiofor isn’t afraid to play outside the box, choosing roles diverse enough to rival Gary Oldman, and executing them all with flair. We know that he can pull off supporting action roles, from watching his thrilling turns in Serenity and Children Of Men, but Ejiofor has a unique, contained charisma that would make for an interesting action hero. He’s next appearing alongside James Caviezel in Savannah, and in historical drama Twelve Years A Slave, which should only improve Ejiofor’s exposure. Soon, he may stop being a “hey, it’s that guy” kind of actor and start being a “hey, it’s that awesome guy!” kind of actor.
S1E3: After last week’s episode of Wilfred, I was a little worried that the show was losing its grip already. In the pilot, we get this strange mix of complete and total darkness mixed with the absurdity of a dog that can actually speak to our protagonist – and smoke weed with him too. By the second episode, it was like that newness had already worn off, but nothing else really seemed to develop as a hook in its place. Enter this week’s episode, “Fear,” which set it all back on track.
“Sometimes when I look at you, I can almost see a giant tampon string hanging out.” –Wilfred
Clearly, this episode is all about fear, or in the case of the first few marijuana-tinged moments, paranoia. The episode starts with a deliciously weird moment: Ryan has a weed-induced dream that acts as a premonition. We see a lazy afternoon of him getting high with Wilfred except suddenly he sees his neighbor Spenser (whose boots he and Wilfred defecated in after they stole his marijuana) traipsing across his yard, Ryan pulls out his own loose, bloody tooth, and Wilfred gets in his face to ominously whisper, “He knows.” Well, of course he knows, we saw Wilfred carefully place Ryan’s wallet under Spenser’s broken window in the first episode. But, if your show is going to be so dependent on a THC high, you have to at least have some really strange dreams thrown in there – so thanks, Wilfred.
When Ryan wakes up, everything is normal. It was just a dream. He and Wilfred go on a walk and Ryan gives him an expensive bone which Wilfred turns his nose up at (you can’t smoke out of a bone, now can you?) just as they come to their Indian neighbor’s house. Someone spray painted their statue and the cops are swarming the lawn. While the man of the house warns Ryan to keep Wilfred away from his wife – he had the last dog that attacked her put down – Ryan’s busy placing mental blame on his deadbeat neighbor, Spenser. (Of course we later find that it’s Wilfred.) But it’s not his problem and he shakes it off to get home to his basement to smoke up with dog friend – just like they did in his dream.
Suddenly, he realizes that little dream was a little slice of things to come and finally this show brings itself back from the cute little doldrums of “oh, it’s a man-dog, isn’t that weird!?” that it hit last week. Spenser is coming over and he's rightfully pissed. But it's the conversation that happens just before our first meeting with Spenser that is really great. While Wilfred smokes and generally does things dogs don’t normally do – like TALK – he’s still a dog. So his advice to Ryan is what he’d tell any other furry mutt at the dog park: dominate him (and by this of course, he means mount him and hump him like every over excited pup at the dog run). While the action is obviously ludicrous, it brings up an important issue in Ryan’s mixed bag of mental issues that landed him with his strange companion in the first place. He’s a wimp. He’s passive. He avoids anything slightly akin to confrontation. And Wilfred is determined to change that.
“My last buddy, Jesse, he was a liar and a thief and that’s why I punched him in the throat and ripped off his ear. Now what did you want to tell me?” –Spenser
At first, Ryan tries to handle this whole debacle the peaceful way – by lying about breaking into Spenser’s house. The idiot believes him, though Wilfred does his best to bark out the truth – which of course we hear as words, and Spenser’s ignorance helps remind us that this is all in Ryan’s head. Or is it? But I guess that’s the rub.
Anyway, flipping his switch from psycho killer to psycho best friend in a mere nano-second, Spenser leaves only to come back with a crate of crappy beer and a laptop full of porn. Elijah Wood adeptly delivers his character as this shrinking, delicate violet of a man. He has no desire to “porn out” with this ruffian from down the street. Of course, in order to avoid Wilfred’s aim to incriminate him and start a fight, he agrees to go to a strip club with Spenser and only prolongs the unsavory encounter. This scene served little purpose other than to drive Spenser’s horndog habits into the ground and to introduce us to the laser pointer trick that gets Wilfred in trouble when he confuses it with his Indian neighbor’s Bindi on her forehead, jumps her and boom, he’s locked up at the pound and about to be put to death.
It turns out the man who takes the dogs in is Spenser’s treacherous ex-best friend and thus there’s no chance for Ryan to rescue Wilfred from lethal injection now that he’s thrown his lot in with Spenser. And with that, we find the corniest, most after-school-special-style speech, one so sickeningly sweet it would give the kids on Glee diabetes. Ryan talks to Spenser and Jesse, helping them to resolve their differences, or they “don’t know what friendship really is.” It works, but thankfully Wilfred pantomimes masturbation in the background as Ryan rattles off his sugary speech. It's lowbrow and completely brilliant.
Ryan thinks he’s fixed everything, but as soon as he gets home his two new friends are there with beer and porn, ready for an evening of “porning out.” Ryan finally breaks and comes out with the truth, to which Spenser responds by punching him. Thanks to Wilfred’s help, they knock out Spenser and get rid of the porn-obsessed duo and Ryan finally realizes having a little bit of guts isn’t going to kill him.
What’s great about these little lessons is that they’re the difference between what you’re taught when you’re a kid and the unsavory truths you need to learn when you’re an adult -- as taught my an Australian man in a dog suit. It doesn’t get much better than that. Then we add to that the idea that Wilfred’s human qualities are all in Ryan’s head, but yet we find Wilfred doing things on his own, like discarding the spray paint can in the alleyway and suddenly we’re all scratching our heads just a little bit. It’s not exactly Lost, but it’s intriguing enough to keep us coming back.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
There ain't much of one. In a nutshell a group of spun-out druggies living in the drab sun-baked land of the mini mall known as North Los Angeles Valley are focused on one thing and one thing only--getting and using drugs--and we get to tag along with them for three wasted sleepless days. There's Ross (Jason Schwartzman) a college dropout pining over a girl who dumped him and the only one of the gang you think might have some redeeming quality--until he handcuffs his stripper girlfriend spread-eagled to the bed naked duct-tapes her eyes and mouth and leaves her with a thrash metal CD--skipping--on the player for three days. (All that ruckus of course raises the suspicions of a butch biker broad--Deborah Harry in a cameo--who runs a phone sex line out of her apartment next door.) In exchange for dope Ross runs errands for a big badass Jesse James type known as the Cook (Mickey Rourke) 'cause he brews the crystal in a squalid motel room he shares with sweet misguided stripper Nikki (Brittany Murphy). The Cook provides drugs to dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo) a seriously paranoid hopped-up speed freak and his mossy-teethed tweaker girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari) who use and sell the Cook's drugs to hangers-on like the absurdly pimply faced Frisbee (Patrick Fugit) in between sex sessions and flip-outs involving guns spray paint and socks.
Every last person in this ensemble seems to relish getting down and dirty--and by dirty we mean fetid. Murphy and Rourke are particular standouts: with big kohl-smudged eyes and wide friendly smile she's sweetly innocent bobbling aournd in her f***-me Daisy Dukes and high-heeled boots; he's terrifying and larger than life in torn jeans tucked into white shitkickers a ponytail and a Stetson but he actually pulls the heartstrings when he muses about watching puppies be put to death as a boy and defends two chola mini-mart clerks from an abusive gangster. Watching Schwartzman's Ross whom you expect to like as the film's hero perform what amounts to torture on his girlfriend so casually and with such good intentions is more shocking than any of the film's drug scenes or seedy imagery and Ross becomes all the more menacing in his regular-Joe ways. Props to Suvari for letting the world watch her strain so vigorously on the can and to Leguizamo for giving his all in his few scenes whether threatening his pseudo-friends with a gun shooting up crank or jacking off. Peter Stormare and Alexis Arquette give lively performances as a sort of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-meets-COPS pair of vice guys hot on Spider's trail; look out also for former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford porn star Ron Jeremy and Eric Roberts.
With its over-the-top caricatures hyper-frenetic camerawork and creatively near pornographic animation segments this movie looks an awful lot like a music video and with good reason: Director Jonas Akerlund is best known for his controversial Prodigy "Smack My Bitch Up" video and Madonna's "Music." He is unafraid to put this sordid bunch right up in your face flinging the greasy underbelly of the So Cal meth scene sunny side up and zooming in with the cameras up close and personal to a point that's almost unbearably uncomfortable. Akerlund's techniques are sometimes overdone like the bone-crunching sounds and wildly rolling eyeballs that herald each and every high and sometimes screamingly funny like Ross's daydream of a Patton-like Cook pontificating about the female vagina in front of an American flag. A well-done score by former Smashing Pumpkins' singer Billy Corgan moves the film fluidly from calm states of relative normalcy to paranoid herky-jerky scenes of jabbering addicts flying right off the mental deep end. These people are shallow vile and irredeemable and Akerlund's brilliance lies in making you feel for them in spite of themselves.