Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top 10 Memorable Bad Guys in Cinema History (Part 1)

The villain has always been an interesting concept to me when it comes to watching movies. I've always had a theory that sometimes doesn't always add up, but it does about 90% of the time. To be a truly great villain, you have to possess one of two important characteristics.

1. The character has to be completely vacant. I sometimes don't need an explanation as to why this person is doing what they are doing. Sometimes a character's destructive force is so intense that adding a back story or explanation can sometimes sour it. The shroud of mystery works to the advantage sometimes and it also gives the character more complexity in my opinion.

2. The character is absolutely convinced that the chaos they are causing is for the greater good and absolutely justified. When you have someone committing atrocities; there is no end to their capabilities, especially when they believe that it has to be done for the benefit of something greater. A self righteous villain, is a really intimidating one.

Those are my two characteristics that I look for in a memorable character. So with this in mind, I've decided to compile a list (not in order) of my top 10 favorite bad souls to have been created on screen. I may have some runner(s) up and it's so hard to choose just 10, but I hope you enjoy my picks!

TOP 10 Best Bad Guys on Film:

1. Hans Gruber - Die Hard

Masterfully played by Alan Rickman. Hans Gruber is the ultimate bad guy for a few reasons. He technically falls under the category of criteria #1. A professional, well educated, intelligent, charismatic, theif that is quite capable of putting a bullet in someone's head with no qualms. Even though we knew a portion of history proved that he was a privileged individual growing up, he still went the route he did. All eyes were on Rickman every time he was on screen and for a good reason. He managed to take the "bad guy" to another level of class and sophistication, with a touch of absolute insanity.

Memorable Quote: "And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer." Benefits of a classical education.

2. Bill The Butcher - Gangs of New York

Daniel Day-Lewis is no amateur when it comes to bringing memorable characters on screen. His performance as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting was one of a criteria of mine that I'd file under #2. The man spilled blood for the good of country and for the prevalence of his people. He was intense, commanding, and intimidating. Audiences couldn't help the excitement and smiles his character brought every time he appeared and there's a good reason for that.

Memorable Quote: You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts. Somebody steals from me, I cut off his hands. He offends me, I cut out his tongue. He rises against me, I cut off his head, stick it on a pike, raise it high up so all on the streets can see. That's what preserves the order of things. Fear.

3. Annie Wilkes - Misery

Ok, I know what you're thinking...she's not a guy. Although, guys all over the world at the release of this film were scared out of their minds to accept the help of a nice rural stranger, thanks to Annie Wilkes. The brainchild of Stephen King, Kathy Bates gives the best performance of her career; in my opinion, as Annie Wilkes. Annie, is a nurse who has her idol; Paul Sheldon land at her lap for care after a gruesome car accident. It's a dream come true...a dream that Annie doesn't ever want to wake up from. When it comes to my criteria, this sociopath falls under both. Absolutely vacant and self righteous. Her intentions of harm on her idol Paul Sheldon make absolutely no sense and to her, she's just trying to continue to make her world better by keeping him around.

Memorable Quote: God came to me last night and told me your purpose for being here. I am going to help you write a new book.

4. Darth Vader - Star Wars

I'm not going to lie, I'm not a Star Wars fan in the least bit. I've seen every film and they just never really appealed to me. I wish I can give you a good description on Vader, but I can't. I'm fair however, and I recognize this character's significance in the history of film, especially as a bad guy. If I had to classify him under my 2 point criteria, I'd probably put him under #2. I welcome my readers of this blog to submit a good description to this character.

Memorable Quote: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

5. Alexander Delarge - A Clockwork Orange

Bad guys as the main character? It's not uncommon, and it's certainly an interesting journey. In Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell personifies the true face of evil in youth. Based on Anthony Burgess' book of the same name, the character who is said to be in his teen years, enjoys rape, violence, and classical music? The most interesting aspect of this character is; like Hans Gruber, his privileged upbringing that still has no effect to deter the character's destructive behavior. Like the book, the film centers around the central idea of evil not being a product of society, but more of the mind. You can't supress it, no matter how hard you try. That's what makes the character absolutely haunting and interesting all the same. Oh, as if you had to ask, this would fall under criteria #1.

Memorable Quote: Watch that. Do watch that, O Dim, if to continue to be on live thou dost wish.

Thanks for reading, part 2 will be up in a day or two.

(NEWS) The Three Stooges cast announced!

The announcement of the casting for the film adaptation of the slapstick 1930's comedy "The Three Stooges" was announced earlier this evening. Needless to say, it's definitely an odd pairing.

"Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro have been lined up to star in a new movie based on 1930s comedy icons The Three Stooges.

Director siblings the Farrelly Brothers are behind the new project, about the slapstick antics of Moe and Curly Howard and Larry Fine.

Oscar winner Penn is expected to play Larry, with Carrey and Del Toro taking on the roles of Curly and Moe, respectively, reports Daily Variety."

This is going to be interesting. I can see Carrey and Penn hitting it off well. The only one I seem to have trouble with is Del Toro. As great an actor he is, I wonder if his abilities outstretch to comedy as well? Let's see.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More underrated classics...

The Cooler - Dir. Wayne Kramer (2003)

I'll never forget the first time I heard about this movie. I saw a late night film review program that mentioned this film and from the get-go it intrigued me. I've always been fascinated by the "american dream" mentality that surrounds Las Vegas. As much as I personally love the city, it's history fascinates me tenfold. Films like The Cooler, are metaphors to me for the conditioning and destruction of the human spirit and the american dream. In Bugsy, we had a gangster starving for something more and opted to create a mecca of entertainment for killed him. In Casino, we have low level gangsters being given the keys to the palace to do as they please! It killed them too. The Cooler isn't quite as catastrophic per say, but the film is a wonderful practice and testament to the spirit of Las Vegas' broken road plague that's continued since it's inception. Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is an employee at the Shangri-La Casino. The last of the mob run "old school" casinos in Las Vegas. The casino is run by an old gangster named Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin). Like the traditional gambling superstitions, Shelly has Bernie working for the casino as a "Cooler". Believing that his bad luck is contagious, Bernie actually shows the ability to make good luck go sour. Crap tables, Slot Machines, Roulette, Blackjack, anything and everything goes bust at the very second of his presence. It seems like a very good arrangement, until Bernie meets casino waitress Natalie Belisario (Maria Bello). Bernie soon falls in love with Natalie and his luck finally starts to change. He doesn't seem to have the effect he had on people and Shelly plans to put a stop to it. Director Wayne Kramer; with only 5 movies under his direction belt, has a really distinct style that manages to bring the beauty and colors of Las Vegas with an unsettling gritty undertone. This film opened my eyes to Kramer's stunning visual techniques and has kept me interested with most of his films so far. The Cooler is a great testament to the idea that we all eventually learn, which is that all good things must come to an end. It manages to bring out a strikingly beautiful romance out of the most unusual circumstances, and it's absolutely sincere in the best way possible. It's also a testament to the true value of friendship; and with a superb supporting cast with greats like Paul Sorvino, Ron Livingston, and screen veteran Arthur J Nascarella, it still baffles me why no one has seen and loves this. That's why it's on my list of underrated classics.

Trailer: The Cooler

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button announcement!

I'm so pleased to tell you guys that the faithful and personal favorite DVD company Criterion Collection, has picked up the rights to release and distribute The Curious Case of Benjamin Button! The release date is slated for May 5th and I saw the artwork for it already; looks amazing to say the least. As soon as I get more info on this, I'll post it up immediately.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Underrated Films? there is such a thing!

So what makes a movie underrated? Sometimes an up and coming director that no one knows about, makes a brilliant film that no one sees. Why is that? Maybe he's not a household name yet? Are people going to pick a movie on saturday night by a guy named Abel Ferrara? or are they gonna go see the new Michael Bay film? Unfortunately, the odds are with Bay, because that guy has dropped more cinematic turds on american audiences that rake in millions of dollars. Abel Ferrara has a new film coming out the same weekend as Bay right? You see posters, trailers, stand up displays, newspaper write ups, etc...and for Ferrara, You'll probably find a corner review in the newspaper, maybe a listing in the new films of the weekend section on your website, or probably just word of mouth by the select amount of rabid fans he has. Would it shock you to know that even though Ferrara has made amazing films like The Funeral, Bad Lieutenant, and King of New York? and yet still, no one knows who he is? Some of these films have eventually grown to a cult status by word of mouth though. The films end up growing in popularity through the great medium of home video. But who decides that? What if a movie that is special that no one saw in theaters...could even get a re-release on DVD at all? Look at Donnie Darko for example, the film upon original release in the US theaters tanked! It made a little over 500k in it's theater run. Lonely and forgotten, the film grew to a massive monster it is today by word of mouth, DVD, and the love of the film in theaters by European Audiences. Same happened with The Big Lebowski by the Coen Brothers. Film didn't do well in it's a cult monster! With an Annual Lebowski Festival to boot! It's so odd how the film industry works and quite frankly, I dont care to understand it. In honor of this little jumping off point...I've compiled a list of films that are forgotten, underrated, and unknown to anyone and everyone who loves film. These are just a few movies I'd love to bring to your attention to give another chance and maybe feel the impact it really has.

Copland - Dir. James Mangold (1997)

You wouldn't believe how many scoff at the idea that Sylvester Stallone can act. Need I remind you that the man received critical praise and did win awards for his big screen debut Rocky. He created one of the most incredible and beloved characters in film history; who unfortunately was bastardized in too many needless sequels, but that's besides the point. Stallone has proven with a few films, that he has the ability to bring a wonderful character to life. Alongside an amazing cast with the likes of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Peter Berg, Director James Mangold created an outstanding small film about a sheriff uncovering an enormous veil of corruption in his little town that goes as high up as the NYPD. Stallone's "less is more" approach to the character was exactly what was needed to make this character so special and the film so memorable. Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone) is one of 2 cops in a small New Jersey suburb that lies right over the bridge to New York City. Always dreaming of being a cop, an accident where he helped prevent the loss of an actual life, cost him his hearing; and unfortunately his ticket to the NYPD. His only chance closest to his dream, is watching over the little town in Jersey that basically houses many if not almost all of the NYPD force. The residents walk all over him and he spends his time pining over the woman he helped save the day he lost his hearing; who is now married to an NYPD officer. Ultimately, a crime is involved with an NYPD officer that involves the residents of Freddy's town as well as Freddy himself. Stallone brings such a relaxed and subtle approach (including gaining over 50 pounds for the role) and transforms himself into what you can say is the village idiot that eventually has his day, and prove he did (and does) have what it takes to be a great cop. Along with a great cast, wonderful dialog, and a script that unfolds little by little at the right moments, Director James Mangold created one of the best crime dramas of the 1990's. Mangold clearly showed no signs of stopping as he continued to create wonderful films such as Walk The Line, Identity, and a stylish remake of the western classic 3:10 To Yuma. Copland is wonderful for a few reasons, but the most important ones to me being that 1. It holds a commendable performance by Stallone alongside an incredible cast. 2. It's a great early showing of the monster Mangold is becoming in the director's chair. 3. It's a great perspective that proves to create a great crime drama, you don't need a huge budget with lots of destruction and chaos. That's why I chose to make this my first entry in my underrated classic section.

Bringing Out The Dead - Dir. Martin Scorcese (1999)

Martin Scorcese is synonymous with some of the most intense and visceral films of any generation. We've watched him bring us the lives of up and coming gangsters in Little Italy destroy themselves in "Mean Streets". We've followed the eventual psychological breakdown of an ex soldier brought to his breaking point by his surround society in "Taxi Driver". We've watched him create the date from hell in "After Hours". The many gangster epics he's also created from the true life of Henry Hill in "Goodfellas", the rise and fall of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal in "Casino", and of course the widely praised police drama "The Departed" So is it hard to believe that Scorcese who has created dozens of movies that are beloved by millions, actually has one that has slipped through the cracks and when mentioned you get a response like "he did that?" Yes, believe it or's quite possible. Bringing Out The Dead starring Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, and Ving Rhames is about a paramedic named Frank Pierce (Cage) who is experiencing insomnia, guilt, and an overall sense of defeat from his job as a graveyard shift paramedic in Hell's Kitchen. Dealing with the guilt of losing a patient while on the job, the film centers around 3 days of shifts with different partners and Frank's nihilistic view that continues to grow about life. He sees visions of the patient he lost and it breaks him down almost completely. That is until he meets Mary. Mary is the daughter of a patient Frank saves and eventually starts to bring him the light he's needed to realize that what he's doing is a very special thing, not just for himself but for everyone he comes across. Scorcese teams up with writer Paul Schrader (who collaborated with Scorcese in Taxi Driver) to create a fascinating character study set against the backdrop again, of New York City. Nicolas Cage has unfortunately become a parody of himself with his "quantity over quality" approach to choosing roles, so it's not a surprise that I get skepticism from people when I say Cage is a wonderful actor. Cage's presence on the screen is commanding in this film and clearly disproves your theory about him. Scorcese's direction in this film is almost hypnotic. The dreamlike state he brings to this film is almost surreal and really sucks you in with Cage's character. The frantic fast/slow pacing of the film, along with the soundtrack; that includes everything from the Clash to REM, only adds more to this already engaging and special film. Ultimately, the film's overall nocturnal descent into spiritual redemption is what makes the film not just unique and a breath of fresh air...but yet another classic film that made it's cut into my underrated film section. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.



Bringing Out The Dead