Robert Downey Jr.

Movie News

Robert Downey Jr. Joins Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’

While it sounds like a match made in comic book heaven – sorry it’s not a CBM – but it still sounds pretty epic as Robert Downey Jr. has joined the cast of Christoper Nolan’s upcoming Oppenheimer movie. It’s also reported that Matt Damon has joined the cast of the tentpole, which already includes Cillian

Marvel Movie News

Bring Back Tony Stark Billboard Goes Up

A fan or group of fans really wants Iron Man back in the MCU as a “Bring Back Tony Stark” billboard has gone up in Los Angeles. “For our beloved hero, please bring back Tony Stark,” states the billboard that encourages fans to tweet on Saturday using the #BringBackTonyStarkToLife hashtag. A new billboard has been put

Marvel Movie News Reviews

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

Divergent Adaptation

Who Leads DC’s and Marvel’s Cinematic Realities?

By Lawrence Napoli


Ah!  What a great time to be a fan of comics and movies.  The cinematic creation of characters once thought far too larger than life to portray on the silver screen due to the limitations of technology has become one of (if not the best of) the marquee staples of Americana Pop Culture in recent years.  Comic book film adaptations have not only set this country on fire, but they have been fascinating the global audience as well, and it shows at the box office.  Those who know DC and Marvel as comic book companies primarily know them for their characters, fewer know them by the individuals that created their respective icons and fewer still know them for the writers and artists that make their characters relevant today.  Regardless of where the comic book industry has been financially from the distant past and/or recent past, there is no question that the movement of Hollywood adaptations of super-heroes continues to be a boom for everyone that owns the rights.  So if these films are so popular and continue to boost the visibility of various franchises, which individual is ultimately responsible?


We know Christopher Nolan masterminded The Dark Knight Trilogy, we know Joss Whedon is behind Avenger films as well as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we know that Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, and we know that Bat-Fleck is happening for Batman vs. Superman or World’s Finest or [insert title here] and we know that both companies are aiming at an expanded universe where their respective characters coexist in an ever-evolving reality.  But who’s really in command?  Who’s bringing it all together?  Sure, all the businesses involved with super-hero adaptations each have their nameless-faceless board of directors that are held responsible for decisions by their stock holders, but the choice to go in one direction or the other, veto power, day to day operations, coordination, communication and unification of this cellular network of films is being made by real individuals.  These individuals bridge the gap between the corporate conglomerate and the artists of production.  Without their knowledge of the material, business savvy, political skills and organizational aptitude, none of these films get made – or rather, none of these films get made well.  These people are the most responsible for pleasing (or inciting) fanboys and girls around the world, and they are also the first to be fired or rewarded when the receipts are all tallied up.


Marvel’s man is Kevin Feige.  He got his start as an associate producer for the first X-Men film due to his extensive knowledge of the Marvel Universe and has gone on to produce virtually every Marvel character adaptation since 2000: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Daredevil, the X-Men trilogy, The Punisher, Blade: Trinity, Elektra, both Fantastic Four films as well as all of Marvel’s recent Avenger “Phase X” films.  We could debate the merits and failings of each and every one of these films, but they all (basically) made money and were obviously successful enough for those doing the hiring to continue to involve Feige at the highest level of decision-making for film production.  Simply glancing at his résumé suggests that Feige was thinking about birthing a unified cinematic reality for Marvel’s characters long ago, and he would be one of the few individuals to have enough production experience to think about its creation in practical terms.  When Iron Man was released in 2008, this theory took its first steps into reality.  Despite the fact that the screenplay was written by the collective of Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, it was this film’s post credit scene that paved the way for The Avengers.  This must be attributed to Kevin Feige because none of Iron Man’s writers have gone on to be involved with any level of production for any subsequent Marvel film. 


Of course, the eventual wunderkind that would be Marvel’s Avengers was only a glimmer in the eye of anyone who knew Nick Fury and what “The Avengers Initiative” could possibly represent.  But it was also beyond a foregone conclusion for Feige himself because there was no public knowledge of contractual obligation for franchise expansion in any direction outside of Robert Downey Jr. which meant nothing more than more Iron Man films.  Who knows what was really agreed to behind closed doors (and at what point in time?), but the future teasing in the post credits of The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2009), Iron Man 2 (2009) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) continued to prove in each film that audiences liked the interconnectivity of these (seemingly) unrelated plots and characters.  In many ways, the teases overshadowed the fact that all of these films from different directors and writing teams were successful by themselves, but had they not been, fewer would care about any sort of unification.  One of Kevin Feige’s best attributes as a leader in this industry is the respect and courtesy he shows for the writers, directors, cast and crew he works with and has done so with the “Phase 1” films.  More often than not, studio execs will throw their weight around to the point that it denigrates the production, but Feige is constantly credited (most notably by Joss Whedon) for providing leadership and direction without slapping on the creative shackles.

Introducing a massive franchise like The Avengers has proven to be successful in being introduced a bit at a time to audiences in a crescendo that built towards a pretty standard-issue “alien invasion of Earth” scenario, but let’s be frank.  The whole movie could have been the Avengers going out for shwarma and people would still have fan-gasmed because there they are: all together.  Big name actors playing big name characters and all in the same movie is a huge deal and completely beyond the minds of studio executives of yesteryear.  Feige organized this effort between multiple films as intuitively as possible and as practically as possible. Simply acknowledging their existence in the same space as in “by the way, this too is happening over here,” is much less maintenance than designing a complex plot from the very first film as the “unifying force.”  This too might have worked, but would unnecessarily marry one film to the other and the problems experienced in one might be inherited by a future production. 


Yes, that’s right; I’m talking about the Ed Norton recast for the Dr. Banner/Hulk character.  This situation is one likely reason for the audience not having seen a second Hulk film prior to The Avengers, and recasting a major role could have been a significant monkey wrench to the gears of this unified franchise. Who knows if that problem was ultimately money, politics or ego; the man was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, and he did a great job.  Had Ruffalo whiffed, we’d all be hearing no end of it from every critic working in every media outlet in the Western world.  I like Ruffalo as an actor, but I didn’t really have an opinion of him replacing Norton other than I’d rather have established continuity maintained, but The Avengers film put the actor into many successful opportunities for the audience to like his Banner to the point that this recast has been practically forgotten.  This is thanks to Joss Whedon, who in turn thanks Feige, who was knee-deep in the Norton situation, and their combined efforts made the necessary adjustments in the subsequent film to reconcile everything.  That’s some uncharacteristically efficient leadership in Hollywood which is known for dragging its feet through the political muck of “creative differences.”  Kevin Feige may be the unifying force for the Avengers Initiative, but he shows his leadership almost every day with interviews and public appearances and whenever people have questions, he has answers.  I’m not sure his position as President of Marvel Studios requires him to do this, but his visibility and confidence suggests a master plan at work.


So what about DC?  They have every bit the intriguing roster of characters as Marvel and (so far) have demonstrated an equally high dedication to enlist big Hollywood names and attach them to franchise pillars for multiple films.  This seems to be carbon-copied right out of Marvel’s playbook, but casting news for the Man of Steel sequel and its elusive title is evidence that the strategy for introducing its characters in a unified reality to audiences will be taking a completely different approach than Marvel Studios.  It remains to be seen if audiences will buy into this strategy or not because the first film hasn’t been made, but who’s there to answer that question?  Who’s there to lay our insecurities to rest?   This person was a tad more difficult to track down due to the fact that this DC movement is only in its infant stages and the only news out there to comment on is a growing cast for a film years from completion.  At first I looked at the closest corporate counterpart to Kevin Feige.  Diane Nelson is President of DC Entertainment and President & Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  According to DC’s website, “Nelson is charged with leading the efforts to fully realize the power and value of DC Entertainment’s rich portfolio of stories and characters, including such cultural icons as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, across all media and platforms.”


First, I’d like to point out the order in which “DC’s icons” are placed as per Nelson’s title description (yep, Batman is #1).  Second, her title and description sounds like someone ideal in bridging the gap between the comic book people and the movie making people, right?  As it turns out, someone established more firmly on the Warner Bros. side of the equation will be overseeing DC’s adaptation expansion.  He is Greg Silverman the President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production for Warner Bros. and according to the WB’s website, “In this role, he has full oversight of Warner Bros. Pictures’ development activities, global production and budget.”  He began in Hollywood as a lowly craft services worker for indy films but eventually became an assistant at Tri-Star and Mandeville Films and eventually a production executive at Mad Chance.  He got his start at Warner Bros. in 1997 being a junior production executive for The Matrix, A Perfect Murder and Cats & Dogs.  WB credits him for “shepherding” the success of 300 (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), The Hangover (2009), and Inception (2010).

Silverman’s visibility is still on the low end with only his interview with Variety being his major public comments regarding “Batman vs. Superman?” and/or the franchise moving forward in which he addresses several concerns.


Regarding Ben Affleck:

“We knew going in that we had more information than the general public had.  We knew what the take of the movie was; we knew what the character was going to be.  We don’t take these decisions lightly.  We thought about everybody – brand new people, established people.  Ben is the perfect guy to play this role.”

Regarding Batman and Superman’s interaction:

“They both will be wearing suits, there are capes involved, there will be action, there will be excitement.”

Regarding Wonder Woman:

“Wonder Woman is an amazing character.  I think it’s a great opportunity both for box office success, but also to have an amazingly powerful female superhero.” 


Again, I note that this is merely the beginning for DC adapted unification and based on that, Silverman seems to be saying all the right things so far.  Nothing’s too committal, nothing’s specific and everything is going to turn out all right.  It’s your standard politician or rather, executive response.  If however, one is looking for a more personalized commentary regarding this next production, Zack Snyder is your man and has been at every stage of this production because every cast member revealed thus far has been a hot button topic.  Personally, I don’t care for some of the decisions that have been made so far, but I do respect Snyder stepping up to the plate when it really isn’t, technically, his job to do so.  When I first started hearing Snyder defend Affleck, I wondered if Snyder was the guy who really had all the answers or if he was just simply the only guy that had any authority in this new DC filmic reality to date.  If Silverman has been in place prior to Man of Steel and Snyder’s involvement moving forward will only be related to Superman related films then the latter is true and Snyder was the only one at the time to face the firing squad of public scrutiny.  If, however, Zack Snyder’s role expands to even that of a producer for any additional DC ancillary films, the significance of Greg Silverman as an individual directing this movement is greatly diminished and the true maestro will be revealed.

As a fan of movies and comics, I could care less about who’s making what call in regards to which movie, but I do care about seeing good movies, and I care even more when I see bad ones (especially when the potential was there for greatness).  If things go well, the right individuals ought to be praised.  If not … well you know what happens then.  So far, DC’s and WB’s leadership is feeling itself out and being only so forthcoming with the details this early, and that’s as it should be.  However, it still feels like this whole thing rests on Zack Snyder’s shoulders and many out there have him and Goyer fitted for pine boxes (figuratively, of course) should all of these interesting production and casting choices result in what is assumed to be a sub-standard envisioning of the Dark Knight and the Blue Boy Scout getting their hero on in the same movie.  Studio exec’s (unlike Kevin Feige) that stay out of the limelight tend to reap rewards with zero risk because their association with given productions is obscured.  I think Greg Silverman would be doing his own projects and people a big favor by getting out there a little more and putting on the best face he can to charm the pants off some reporters.  Then, if in two years time, whether Batman vs. Superman booms or busts, no one will accuse him personally of not making a better effort to sell the film.  But again, maybe this is what separates the Kevin Feiges from the Greg Silvermans?  It’s not for me to tell him how to run his business, but I don’t want him to fail, I don’t want this franchise to fail, and I certainly don’t want this film to fail.  The Justice League can be every bit as amazing as The Avengers.


That being said, here is where I personally stand in regards to this Batman vs. Superman film as of 2/8/2014.  This is my unlucky 7:

1) I don’t like most of the cast decisions regarding the newcomers to this franchise.  Everyone returning from Man of Steel is fine and Jeremy Irons couldn’t mess up Alfred even if he showed up completely drunk and high for every day of principal photography (that would sure be a different take on Mr. Pennyworth).

2) I think Henry Cavil is being done a great disservice by having to play second fiddle to a bigger actor and a better character in Bat-Fleck for the sequel that used to be his franchise.

3) I think another chapter in Superman’s tale (solo) would have done more to establish the perils of this new DC cinematic universe than teasing the rest of the Justice League sooner than later.

4) I think Warner Bros. studio executives are forcing this massive cameo extravaganza prematurely because they see the X-Men franchise doing it for 20th Century Fox and the Spider-Man franchise doing it for Sony Pictures – and they want that money ASAP!


5) If someone were to describe Jesse Eisenberg’s character based on the fact he’s playing it and how he’ll be a tattooed skinhead that will “earn” his wealth and intelligence on the mean streets of Metropolis, there’s no way I would have guessed him to play Lex Luthor.  Every previous manifestation of that character is much higher status than that of a street thug – and then there’s the whole Jesse Eisenberg is playing a street thug, thing (editor’s note: rumored).

6) With each new development, I lose more and more interest with this franchise because decisions are seemingly being made just for the sake of being different: different from Marvel, different from its comic book roots, different from Tim Burton, Chris Nolan and Richard Donner.  

7) I would reiterate Kevin Feige’s advice to the DC/WB powers that be in regards to their adaptation movement and that is: “have confidence in the characters, believe in the source material, don’t be afraid to stay true to all of the elements of the characters no matter how seemingly silly or crazy they are.”  

Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (IMAX 3D)

Phase 2 Fizzle

A Film Review of Iron Man 3

By: Lawrence Napoli


Thanks to Robert Downey Jr. (and him alone), the Iron Man franchise has become a household name for the Marvel/Disney Super PAC that isn’t named Spider-Man, Wolverine, Mickey Mouse, Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker.  His performance breathes life into the inanimate and has raised the bar substantially for actors taking roles in the contemporary action/adventure/blockbuster film that is more than likely based on a comic book.  Unfortunately, Iron Man is still a man, and apparently Downey isn’t interested in doing these movies for the rest of his career.  Yes, Downey is in for The Avengers 2 (which is what Phase 2 is all about), but Iron Man 3 is clearly the official beginning of phasing out Tony Stark from this film universe (thus confirming the rumor that alpha personalities tied to this franchise are walking away) and this impacts Iron Man 3 in a negative way.  The parallel to The Dark Knight Rises are undeniable and though we can debate over which final chapter was better than the other, both films could have and should have been more than the final product we all witnessed.  Iron Man 3, like Iron Man 2 before it, is guilty of being an average (but expensive) blockbuster.  It isn’t fresh and inventive like the first Iron Man, nor does it approach the greatness of Marvel’s The Avengers.  For this entire movement of putting the Marvel Universe on film with the infinite resources at its disposal, the crime of going through the motions is inexcusable.


Is Iron Man flying or falling?  You be the judge.

Once enough people fork over the cash to see Iron Man 3 (and don’t you even consider the increased prices for digital DLP projection or IMAX because the 3D effect is 100% NOT worth it), we will finally know what Joss Whedon meant when he was quoted as saying “Now what am I supposed to do now?  What am I going to do in Avengers 2?”  Everyone in the news media press presumed this was some posturing to the effort made by director/co-writer Shane Black by acknowledging that Whedon’s own plot for the next Avengers would somehow pale in comparison to what others have described as Iron Man’s “epic,” “bombastic,” and “incredible,” third installment.  Go ahead and watch the film, then think about that quote one more time.  Whedon wasn’t bowing.  He was pulling the last strands out of his balding dome over the plot and character limitations imposed on him as a result of Iron Man 3.  There are no spoilers here, so if you want to know what I’m talking about, read EIC Matt McGloin’s thoughts.  There are only so many places Whedon can go with the Avengers’ MVP and now those possibilities are cut in half.


So buddy.  Where do we go now?

Ultimately, the story of Iron Man 3 is a whole lot of blather that involves Tony Stark’s spring cleaning of some trivial domestic issues back in the US.  The Mandarin is blowing up American landmarks and he’s a crazy terrorist that needs to be put down.  I found it hilarious how his buddy James Rhodes actually makes reference to this situation: “Aren’t you running around with the Super Friends now?” as to suggest that his involvement in this plot is a little low-ball for Tony.  What was suggested as a terrorist plot for some sort of world control boils down to a personal grudge between massive egos in this fictitious, scientific community.  What was hinted as Tony becoming an even more devoted partner to Pepper Potts is glazed over thanks to a time consuming, Sherlock-ian investigation and is used as a shameless plot device to usher in what will be the end of Robert Downey Jr. in these films.  What would have been possible in seeing the fallout of the invasion of New York is completely swept under the rug with another convenient plot device of Tony’s frequent panic attacks which allows this script to ignore The Avengers completely. 


You know, I could have used you in The Avengers.

I didn’t like any of this.  It reaffirms the fact that while Iron Man is a cool Marvel personality, he has the worst rogue’s gallery of every major comic book hero.  It tells me in a world where aliens have invaded and can potentially invade again, terrorism in any capacity is somehow still relevant.  This script only introduces more important, personal issues with Tony Stark (the man) only to ignore them in order to focus on the active plot of pitting Iron Man against some obscure villain.  The story is still funny in that it still shows off Tony Stark as an ego driven, genius, philanthropist, playboy, but there’s just so much of it shoved in your face from start to finish that the audience is left wondering if even Stark is taking any of this seriously even when he gets angry after the conflict hits way too close to home.  The climax and resolution of this film treats the audience like children by presenting us with several brand new toys (plot twists) and then taking them away immediately, never to be seen again.  The bullet points of Iron Man 3 too closely resemble those of Iron Man 2 and nothing that happens in this film (even in the post credits teaser) introduces, suggests or even slightly hints at anything that could be happening for The Avengers 2.  Perhaps this is Hollywood mimicking the comic book industry by employing a lot of writers all in charge of their own projects and are somehow expected to be relevant to the crossover arc the company as a whole is trying to promote.  Whedon was right.  I have no idea what the heck he’s going to do with Tony Stark now.


Don’t tell me the dream is dead.

Iron Man 3 is not a total loss (despite the fact it is a big disappointment) and most of that credit goes to the action and visual effects on display.  $200 million yields plenty of massive set pieces that get devastated from gun fire, missiles and massive explosions.  It also yields lots of awesome Iron Man aerial maneuvers, combat and technology.  I must say that it was a real treat to see Stark’s ‘Iron Family’ at work during the climax, but my criticism of them is twofold.  First, they only pay off in a minimal way thanks to how they end up (but that’s another writing criticism) and second, the different armors don’t really show off their individual specializations very well.  The only one that stands out is the ‘Hulk Buster’ armor we’ve all seen in the trailers, which is used to do one thing and never seen again.   As a result, the Iron party is more like a lot of copy/pastes with different paint jobs that still look sleek and realistic, but all do the same thing.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of Robert Downey Jr. engaging in a lot more action out of the suit in this film, but those sequences are surprising at displaying Tony Stark’s martial prowess (I’m pretty sure Matt Murdock isn’t his sensei).  I like that the plot forces Tony out of the tin can for no other reason than giving the audience something different to look at which is still stimulating, though not as sexy as the suit.  Eye candy alone will see this film easily double its budget, but it won’t see Avengers money.


Here we come to save the day.

I have no complaints about the performances in Iron Man 3 because the overall cast demonstrates their veteran prowess.  Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian is your stereotypical bad guy/crazy evil genius, and I knew his character was going to be that way because the man’s made a career of playing *ssholes in movies.  Don Cheadle, the man who should have been established as James Rhodes in the first Iron Man, produces another fine performance as the Iron Patriot who secretly pines for a resurrection of War Machine which produces a few memorable laughs amidst Stark’s constant “I’m a needy genius” comedy throughout.  Jon Favreau is thankfully limited to screen time in the beginning of the film as Happy Hogan (ugh, how is he still skulking around the sets of these films?).  Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen presents a character meant to be plagued by the ethics/morality of science unchecked (which is a plot point that dies before given a real chance to live), but she is hilarious when making reference to her role in Ben Affleck’s The Town in the beginning of the movie.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is once again personable, elegant and charming, and I really enjoyed when her character is called upon to get her fists dirty, but that too is muffled thanks to shoddy writing.  Paul Bettany simply does not get enough credit as the voice of Jarvis in all of these films, so I’ll give him a much deserved shout-out now because his dignified delivery is matched only by his brilliant comedic timing.


Wait a minute!  We can do stuff outside of the armor?

A word on Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin in Iron Man 3: I totally get what they were trying to do with this character, but I cannot fathom how Shane Black lured an actor of Kingsley’s caliber into this film with the red herring his character represents.  Let’s not confuse the quality of his performance with the irrelevance of his character.  Kingsley delivers; plain and simple.  You may think the lines of dialogue we’ve all heard in the trailers may sound annoying thanks to his disjointed delivery, but that goes away to reveal something much more entertaining, hilarious and actually thought provoking when considering the world’s modern experience with terrorism.  Perhaps the uniqueness of the satire is what hooked Sir Ben; that and one fat paycheck.


I am more (or less) than what I appear to be.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark.  It’s all been said and it’s all true once again.


Seriously?  Were you expecting anything less?

This movie was good, but it is not great.  Iron Man 3 is very entertaining in presenting amazing visual effects while coalescing them with uniquely hilarious dialogue and circumstances.  Unfortunately, without any effort to move the Avenger franchise forward with Tony Stark’s individual efforts in this film, it makes this story a complete waste of time.  It’s great that Tony still cares about stuff at home, both in his country and his personal life.  It’s great that he’s still at work doing his innovative Iron-Man-thing.  It’s great that he feels anguish over the invasion of New York.  But let’s expand on all of those plot points, not just leave them behind in the dust.  For a character all about transformation and improvement, there really isn’t a concept of change that matters for Tony Stark.  He’s the same human dynamo that is simply put into another dangerous situation that he can skillfully address thanks to his own efforts.  A $200 million dollar investment should be thinking about doing more than giving me another day in the life of the amazing Tony Stark especially when you consider the future of the character moving forward.  Phase 2 is in like a lamb, and it is left to Joss Whedon to insure that it goes out like a lion.   

Movie News Reviews

The State of Hollywood: 10 Best American Born Actors

The State of Hollywood 5 (b):

10 Best American Born Actors as of 2012

By: Lawrence Napoli 



It was a bit more difficult sorting through the men (Editor’s Note: compared to the women) to come up with a 10 “best,” “current,” and “American born,” Hollywood actor list. Quite frankly, there are more opportunities for men in this business because those who control the means of production (writers, directors, producers) still happen to be men [who are also mostly white].  I’d like to forewarn the reader if he or she happens to be sensitive about their leading men because there will be noticeable absences on this list for the simple fact that obvious additions 10 years ago have somewhat dropped out of the game due to age, a loss of interest or (fill in the blank).  NOT appearing on this list are notables: Hanks, Spacey, Travolta, Pacino, De Niro, Agents K and J, Malkovich and “JACK” Nicholson.  Oh, did I touch a nerve there?  I believe you all know where to send your complaints.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2785:]]10) Jeff Bridges

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1949

Last major feature: True Grit and Tron: Legacy (2010)

Notable awards: 2010 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Crazy Heart

Highlights: Iron Man, K-Pax, The Contender, The Big Lebowski, The Fisher King, Tron, Last Picture Show

On a quick side note: if I could nominate the entire cast of The Big Lebowski I would (minus Tara Reid), but alas not everyone in that cast has had an opportunity to truly lead productions (though many have and I’m glad Buscemi is doing well in Boardwalk Empire).  That being said, “The Dude” is every bit as awesome as the nickname that made us forget he’s just another Jeffrey Lebowski.  Toss in the fact he didn’t speak a single discernible word for the entirety of True Grit and still got an Oscar nomination for it shows us that even the Academy can appreciate Jeff’s eccentricity.  The man’s a true Hollywood star and although he had no major releases last year, he’s slated for two in 2013: R.I.P.D. and The Seventh Son.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2786:]]9) Brad Pitt

Born: Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1963

Last major feature: Moneyball (2011)

Notable awards: 2012 NSFC best actor in The Tree of Life and Moneyball and 1996 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Twelve Monkeys

Highlights: Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Snatch, Fight Club, Se7en, Legends of the Fall

Often maligned for his “pretty boy” status, Pitt continues to show more seasoning as an actor these days as well as some smarter choices for the roles he signs up for.  You kind of have to have more patience and discipline as an individual if you are the father of a family of 20.  Say what you will about his acting ability, but his performances make the films he’s been involved with MUCH more interesting.  Unlike Tom Cruise, Pitt still has a real opportunity to win an Academy Award as an actor because he can sell more than just action flicks.  Until then, he’ll just have to remain envious of his wife’s Oscar.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2787:]]8) Lenardo DiCaprio

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1974

Last major feature: J. Edgar (2011)

Notable awards: 2005 Golden Globe for best actor in The Aviator

Highlights: Inception, Shutter Island, The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, Titanic, Romeo + Juliet

Ah Leo, another pretty boy makes the list, but this one happens to be one I formerly had a serious beef with concerning his status as the male version of Helen of Troy to all young women as a result of his work in Titanic.  Had I been getting as lucky with the ladies as Leo had in general during the late 90s, perhaps I’d feel differently.  However, his filmography speaks for itself as his recent work has definitely made me more of a believer.  As Brad Pitt has shown a deeper commitment to character, so too has DiCaprio as he matures as a professional.  Leo has a few years on Pitt to grab that Oscar, but it’s a toss-up as to which one of them actually lands it first.  His upcoming work for The Great Gatsby should be compelling enough for yet another nomination once it releases.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2788:]]7) Matt Damon

Born: Boston, Massachusetts in 1970

Last major feature: We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Notable awards: 1998 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best screenplay for Good Will Hunting

Highlights: The Adjustment Bureau, True Grit, Invictus, The Bourne Trilogy, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Rounders

Yes, the best he’s managed so far for notable acting recognition is a number of nominations.  The argument could easily be made that Good Will Hunting was such a phenomenal fluke that validated Damon and Affleck’s existence on the Hollywood scene that it should come to no one’s surprise that he hasn’t become the alpha actor he should be.  To that I say Damon still makes this list even if GWH never existed.  Sure, he’d drop a few spots, but his work on the Bourne franchise is quite balanced between the action and drama.  The chemistry he had with Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau was inspiring.  But it was the command he demonstrated throughout Rounders that proved he not only belonged in Hollywood, he could headline it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2789:]]6) Denzel Washington

Born: Mount Vernon, New York in 1954

Last major feature: Safe House (2012)

Notable awards: 2002 Academy Award for best actor in Training Day, 1990 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best supporting actor in Glory, 2000 Golden Globe for best actor in The Hurricane

Highlights: The Book of Eli, American Gangster, Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, Training Day, Philadelphia, Malcolm X, Glory

Easily the most decorated actor on this list; Denzel has accomplished just about everything a professional actor can aspire to in Hollywood land.  Everything about this man’s acting ability can be summarized in one word: intensity!  The real question is whether age is starting to catch up to him seeing how his last outing with Ryan Reynolds didn’t exactly fire up the critics in a positive way.  I can’t blame an alpha actor like Denzel for doing a paycheck film, but it does hurt his “current” and “relevant” status somewhat; thus his placement at #6. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2790:]]5) Philip Seymour Hoffman

Born: Fairport, New York in 1967

Last major feature: The Ides of March (2011)

Notable awards: 2006 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Capote

Highlights: Doubt, Capote, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia, The Big Lebowski

No, Mr. Hoffman does not make this list because of some “un-pretty” quota.  He’s a damn fine actor whose work extends well into the indie scene while still getting much deserved respect (and bank) from Hollywood.  Few actors can be so effective in both comedic and serious roles but Philip has this in spades.  His films tend to be a bit more cerebral in nature so his exposure to the average movie-goer may be limited.  Yet, this man is a living, breathing example that performance can transcend looks (and that’s a BIG accomplishment amidst all the plastic of La La Land).  He adds instant credibility to any cast and any production, but the smart choice is always to have him slide into a featured role because he can make the whole thing Oscar worthy.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2791:]]4) Edward Norton

Born: Baltimore, Maryland in 1967

Last major feature: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Notable awards: 1997 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Primal Fear

Highlights: The Incredible Hulk, The Illusionist, Death To Smoochy, The Score, Fight Club, American History X, Rounders

Is he a diva incapable of playing well with other marquee actors?  Is his agent a money grubbing troll?  Who knows the real “truth” behind the fact he was not a part of the epic cast of The Avengers because it certainly was NOT the result of poor acting.  He certainly made me forget that Eric Bana practically murdered Marvel’s big green machine in tandem with Ang Lee.  Norton is as skilled as actors come.  He was plain evil in American History X, yet plain loveable in Death To Smoochy.  His skill cannot be questioned, but if he presents chemistry issues for one’s cast, that presents a legitimate concern.  Perhaps Norton is just getting a bad rap as a result of gossip gone wild.  However, if so much gossip is consistent over a period of time, there may be some truth to it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2792:]]3) Morgan Freeman

Born: Memphis, Tennessee in 1937

Last major feature: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Notable awards: 2005 Academy Award for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby, 1990 Golden Globe for best actor in Driving Ms. Daisy

Highlights: The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Bucket List, Along Came a Spider, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Glory

As the elder statesman of this list, Morgan Freeman continues to deliver impactful performances as an actor because he finds the roles that compliment his age rather than react against it.  Of course, his iconic voice does much to extend his legacy as a marquee narrator (thus negating any ill effects of being “too old”).  He’s still more than capable of being the single feature to any production, but he’s gravitating towards projects with strong ensemble casts.  He’s won his Oscar so I can’t argue with his approach to further cementing his legacy.  I personally feel he was hosed for being overlooked by the Academy for his work on Shawshank, but then everyone that wasn’t associated with Forrest Gump was overlooked in ’95.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2793:]]2) Robert Downey Jr.

Born: New York City, New York in 1965

Last major feature: The Avengers

Notable awards: 2010 Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy for Sherlock Holmes, 1993 BAFTA for best actor in Chaplin

Highlights: Iron Man Trilogy, Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder, A Scanner Darkly, Wonder Boys, Heart and Souls, Chaplin

(I’m not even going to mention the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes) How much money has this one individual made for Marvel Entertainment?  An exact number would be difficult to come up with, but the fact that he is playing the role he was born to play in Tony Stark has a lot to do with Hollywood’s continued obsession with adapting comic book titles.  Now let’s totally forget his involvement with all things Avengers and look to the fact that he got nominated for best supporting actor for his work in Topic ThunderTropic Thunder!?!?  Don’t get me wrong; it was fairly funny, but he was the only good thing about that goofball comedy AND he got props from the Academy for doing so.  This man has made “quirky” the new “sexy,” yet he isn’t the king of quirk as that title belongs to …

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2794:]]1) Johnny Depp

Born: Owensboro, Kentucky in 1963

Last major feature: Dark Shadows (2012)

Notable awards: 2008 Golden Globe for best performance in a musical for Sweeney Todd and nominated for just about everything else, yet never ultimately winning

Highlights: Pirates of the Caribbean Saga, Public Enemies, Finding Neverland, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Hell, Blow, The Ninth Gate, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands

You do of course realize that had Johnny decided to sell out and become the teenie-bopper heart throb he was being groomed for, we would be talking about an actor with an inferior filmography and absolutely zero recognition from any notable authority in the field of acting proficiency.  He’d also not be on this list at all.  Yet, he still hasn’t won one single Oscar despite so many nominations and other performances worthy of nomination.  This reveals the inner quirk of Johnny Depp; a man determined to have his career play out the way he wants it.  Depp has all the skills as he can produce any performance for any role.  The only reason he doesn’t have multiple Oscars is a direct result of the projects he chooses to commit to.  Depp despises the mainstream as evidenced by the soul connection he shared with Hunter S. Thompson (of all people).  There are so many Oscar winning actors, yet few have been as unique as individuals let alone the roles they became famous for as Depp.  Frank Sinatra would be proud that he’s “doing it his way,” but I do see Oscar gold in Johnny’s future.  What’s really interesting is that an Oscar victory would not be seen as vindication for him personally.  His acceptance speech would probably go something like: “Thanks for this, but I have a fresh batch of opium at home with my name on it.  Bye.”  It could possibly be the best acceptance speech in the history of the Oscars for the simple fact it would finish way before the orchestra played him offstage. 

Those are my 10 best leading men and women of today’s Hollywood who actually originate from this country.  I completely understand how Hollywood is always looking for the next “hot, young thing,” but Australia isn’t the only place they should be looking.  I liken Cavill’s role as Superman to that of Patrick Stewart becoming the new captain of The Enterprise.  Stewart rose above the pressure and scrutiny of such ambition because his performances were simply amazing for every episode and every film.  All Cavill has to do is match that type of performance for one money and then maybe Americans will accept a Brit as the one who stands for truth, justice and so on and so forth.

Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Due Date

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:96:]]I am a sucker for sexy young women.  Not that Due Date is a film that is riddled with them, but it was highly recommended to me by a very attractive female for whom I have a significant crush on.  I often hear recommendations for films from several different outlets such as the TV, newspapers,