The death of a celebrity can often be heart-wrenching and tragic; just look at the emotional output for the late Princess Diana or The Beatles George Harrison.  We knew them from afar, through their outward displays of kindness and humanitarian efforts, or through their music.  They connected with us on more than one level.  But most of us had never even met them, never been in the same room with them, never knew them as human beings.  That’s why Robin Williams’ passing is so much more heartbreaking, so devastating, so unexpected, so sad.  We had all met Robin, we had all been in the same room as him, we knew him as a human being.  He’s the prime example of a celebrity that connected with an audience on such a higher level, he wasn’t merely a celebrity, he was important to our lives. 

I knew Robin Williams.  Not in the aspect of I knew what his favorite color was, what his favorite fast food joint was, or who his idols were.  I knew him on a level I can only describe as a friend I’ve never met.  I was born in the mid-1980’s, in the Robin Williams renaissance, his his hey-day.  He was fresh off his Mork & Mindy fame and had propelled himself into A-lister status in Hollywood.  I remember the first Williams film I saw as a kid was the 1991 classic Hook, in which Williams plays a grown up Peter Pan.  I remember watching that film with awe and wonder, not only because I was familiar with the Peter Pan story but because the characters in the film were so rich with emotion and splendor, so transcendent.  Williams portrayal as a Peter Pan who had forgotten how to believe was hugely important to me as a kid that I remember watching that movie over and over until the VHS tape was worn out.  That was my introduction to Mr. Robin Williams.  I had found my favorite actor, as an almost eight year old.  He was that memorable.  I was too young to grasp his important work in Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; Awakenings; and The Fisher King but I knew a star when I saw one.  Then along came Disney’s Aladdin.  I bet if you were to ask any person who’s seen the animated film what their favorite character was, they’d tell you The Genie.  It was the first animated movie I remember seeing where I longed for a cartoon character to come back on screen.  Yes, the movie was about a street boy falling in love with an Arabian princess, but Robin Williams’ voice work for the Genie was so fantastic, I forgot what the movie was about and only wished the Genie would come back for one more wise-crack.  My childhood was quickly becoming sections of Robin Williams career, and that wasn’t a bad thing.  

Then came a film where I knew my love for Williams as an actor and idol had reached all-time heights.  Mrs. Doubtfire was such a pop-icon and culture phenomenon, if you hadn’t fallen in love with Robin Williams by then your heart was probably made of stone and there wasn’t a funny bone in your body.  He embodied what a character actor was and made us all laugh.  I remember going around school after seeing the movie and screaming “heeeellllloooo” like Mrs. Doubtfire did with the cream on her face.  It was a small, but lasting scene.  Sure, I was impressionable but Mrs. Doubtfire was one of those movies that changes your childhood and you never forget.  Other films of Williams’ that made my childhood that much more special was Jumanji and Jack. 

It wasn’t until I was significantly older did I get around to seeing Good Morning, Vietnam, Popeye, Dead Poets Society and The Birdcage.  Those films, no matter that some of them were done before the films I saw as a kid, only reaffirmed that I had chosen someone special to represent my love of cinema.  The Good Will Hunting came out.  And my life was forever changed. 

While that may seem kind of dramatic, the reality is that Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting, Sean Maguire – a psychologist helping Matt Damon’s character see his potential – always seemed to speaking to me.  It was like your dad telling you that you had to work hard to be someone and that the only person who was going to make sure you became successful was yourself.  Robin Williams was the persona of my dad.  It didn’t matter that he was playing a character in a movie.  It didn’t matter that I have never met Robin Williams. It didn’t matter that the movie I am referring did not have anything to do with my aspirations or goals in life.  It had everything to do with growing up idolizing Robin Williams as a character on screen and as I grew older Williams’ characters in film seemed to grow with me. 

The years passed and my life carried me in the direction that I was destined for, but that didn’t stop me from keeping up with Williams’ film career.  His career took him in a direction where he dabbled in dark dramas – Insomnia, Jakob the Liar, One Hour Photo – and I was there to see his transformation from comic to scary.  Patch Adams and What Dreams May Come may be Robin Williams most talked about films but his down-right creepy performance as a one-hour photo lab tech only made me appreciate Williams’ craft.  A lot of on-screen comedians try their hand at drama or “dramedy” as it’s been re-named.  Most them fail.  Robin Williams succeeded. 

I am no different than any other 80’s, early 90’s kid who grew up with Robin Williams in their life.  Nor am I any different than most kids who idolized him for what he meant to me growing up.  He was that special.

Robin Williams’ career took him all over the place; from voice acting to cross-dressing to playing the villain to Al Pacino’s hero.  He was truly a diversified actor and one of the best film will ever see.  He was my friend, my hero, my idol, someone who always made me laugh and every time he was on-screen I instantly gravitated to him.  He was a huge part of my childhood/adolescent life and I will miss him immensely.

Bangarang, Robin. 

 

*If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, please get help immediately.  You do not have to suffer alone.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-8255.*

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‘Noah’ review

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Movies, Reviews

Religious films are all the craze in 2014 and you bet your sweet ass that big budget Hollywood isn’t going to miss out on Sunday church groups flocking to theaters.  Granted Hollywood and Darren Aronofsky have been crafting how to translate the biblical tale of Noah and his ark to the big screen, for quite some time.  However, leading up to Noah’s release critics were skeptic about how Aronofsky’s talented vision would transition from modest-cost Oscar nominated films to his first truly big budget film. All of Aronosky’s previous films’ budgets don’t add up to Noah’s $125M.  Those critics probably feel pretty stupid right about now.

The story is pretty straight forward; a descendant (Noah) of Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, is told by The Creator (God) that mankind is going to be destroyed due to their sin; Noah is tasked with ferrying the innocent (animals) into the new world while all mankind is doomed by a worldwide flood.  Of course, because it is a big budget-big production company backed film, there is some fluff and the religious fanatic will leave the theater in disgust.  But hey, screw you guys, it’ works!

Sometimes, when you’re tasked with telling a story that’s been told millions of times before you have to change some things in order for your vision to shine through.  It’s Aronofsky’s vision that is the big winner in Noah.  In order for Aronofsky to get his vision through to the audience we’re told that before the first end times, Adam and Eve gave birth to two sons – Cain and Abel.  Cain kills Abel because he’s jealous of Abel.  Cain then flees his parents and goes off to start the mankind’s first Industrial Age (fluff tale #1).   Cain is helped by some Angels who chose to fall out of the good graces of God because they were sad that mankind was cast out of the Garden of Eden (fluff tale #2). Oh did I mention that these Angels were turned to stone and live as rock creatures on Earth?   These “Fallen Angels” help mankind sully themselves in to the sinners they were when The Creator chose to wipe the Earth clean.  Mankind then turns on these “Fallen Angels” nearly killing all of them until Noah’s grandfather Methuselah saves them.  These “untold” events help Aronofsky accomplish his vision of Noah building a Titanic-sized boat by himself.

Noah has it’s battle scenes – it’s a “epic” tale afterall – but it’s the film’s villain that really separates this tale from being another bust.  I’m not talking about Ray Winstone as Tubal Cain, I’m talking about the transformation Russell Crowe takes the character of Noah through.  Afterall, the film is titled after our hero so it’s only natural that Aronofsky would toy with Noah being the anti-hero.  The film comes down to choices; does Noah jeopardize The Creator’s plan by making sacrifices for his family?  It’s an interesting dilemma that is gripping to watch unfold.

Russell Crowe is spot on as Noah it’s Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly who often end up stealing scenes.  Watson shows she is quickly moving past her 10 year stint in the Harry Potter franchise.  She is Il-la, adopted daughter of Noah, and romantically involved with Noah’s eldest son, Shem.  Watson’s raw emotion in a majority of her scenes is why Noah succeeds.  Between Crowe, Connelly, Watson and Anthony Hopkins – Noah thrives despite it’s false premise.

Is Noah the perfect biblical film?  Of course not.  Will staunch religious cohorts love it?  Nope.  Is it a fantastic film?  You betcha!

‘Joe’ review

Posted: April 12, 2014 in Movies, Reviews

There comes a time in one’s career – hell, one’s life even – where you wake up, look in the mirror, realize how far you’ve fallen, and decide you’re either going to be remembered for what you’ve done lately or you’re going to pick yourself up, throw on your Sunday best, and re-establish yourself.  Welcome back, Nicolas Cage, we’ve missed you.

I wholeheartedly believe that Nic Cage woke up one morning, looked at himself in a broken mirror in a bathroom of a single-wide trailer somewhere and decided he was tired of making shit movies.  Tired of living movie paycheck to movie paycheck.  In that moment, the Nic Cage we all remember from Raising Arizona and Adaptation was re-born.  The actor who made terrible films such as Knowing, Drive Angry, and Seeking Justice ceased to exist, gone to another land, far from what we know as Hollywood.  Joe is Nic Cage’s re-birth, his reintroduction of himself to cinema-goers everywhere.

Joe is the type of film that Nic Cage needed in order to make a comeback.  In the film Cage plays the titular character, Joe, a honest-to-goodnees good guy – but one who’s made some mistakes.  He’s an alcoholic, but he’s trying to do better.  He’s got his own tree poisoning crew working for him doing manual labor.  Guys who respect Joe for who he is and not for what he’s done, and Joe treats them right.  He’s a boss you’d want to work for if you did manual labor for a living.  He’s got his demons, and he’s got his enemies.  But you know what, Joe’s not looking for the trouble that wants to follow him.  Everything appears to be going swimmingly until a 15 year old boy named Gary (Ty Sheridan) shows up looking for work so he can support his mute sister and abusive alcoholic father.  Joe gives Gary a chance and quickly sees that Gary is a hard worker who’s just looking for a chance to prove himself.  Throughout the film Joe plays the father-figure to Gary until a showdown with a man from Joe’s past and Gary’s father proves to be Joe’s breaking point.

It’s Joe’s and Gary’s relationship that is the true magic of the film.  Joe goes out of his way to make sure Gary is doing things the right way, taking care of his sister, putting food on their table.  However, Gary is trying to maintain his relationship with his own father while slowly trying to separate himself from the abusive relationship he’s in.  Time and time again Gary shows up at Joe’s door step with cuts and bruises on his face and body from where his father has beat him up, and it’s the restraint that Joe tries to have that makes the film really push through.  Joe is constantly telling everyone who asks that it’s “not my problem” and “I can’t get into everyone’s business”.   Only when Joe realizes that Gary is himself, at the age of 15, does Joe decide to intervene.  Now, the film doesn’t only exploit Joe and Gary’s relationship, it also exploits Joe’s relationship with his own troubles.  The problem he has with alcohol, the problem he has with authority, the nagging – short temper that he’s constantly trying to control.  Joe is a complex character wrapped in a story of anger and redemption.

Nic Cage may be the star of the show here, but it’s Tye Sheridan that steals some of the limelight.  You might recognize Sheridan from another Louisiana-based film – Mud – that redeemed another promising actor’s career.  I guess you can officially call Tye Sheridan the “fountain of youth for struggling actors”.  Sheridan helped resurrect Matthew McConaughey’s career when everyone had written McConaughey off.  Mud was our introduction to Sheridan, Joe is his coming out party.  It’s not hard to see Sheridan being cast in big budget films in the years to come.  He’s going to attract big name directors helming big name projects.  He’s that good.

Speaking of Mud, you could almost label Joe as it’s spiritual successor.  The stories are similar but not quite the same, the main characters (title characters) are both on missions of redemption, and both film’s feature a young boy at the heart of the story.  Nic Cage’s revival here on screen will most likely be forgotten and not seen by main stream audiences come Oscar season in the fall, but I sure do hope that when you read this review you seek Joe out and give it a watch.  It’s worth your time and you just might leave with the sense that one of the best actor’s of the 90’s is back and hopefully here to stay.

 

Renowned Hollywood actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead today in a Manhattan apartment. Hoffman was last seen on-screen in November’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

According to numerous reports, including The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, Hoffman was found dead in an apartment around 11:30am with a heroin needle in his arm.  Hoffman has admittedly struggled with drug addiction in the past.  Devastating news.

Details are scarce right now and this article will be updated as they become available.

2014 Writers Guild Award winners

Posted: February 2, 2014 in Movies, Television

This year’s Writers Guild Awards were held in Los Angeles last night and it turns out that Spike Jonze, and specifically his fantastic film Her, were the night’s big winners.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Original Screenplay

– American Hustle

– Blue Jasmine

– Dallas Buyers Club

Her

– Nebraska

Adapted Screenplay

– August: Osage County

– Before Midnight

Captain Phillips

– Lone Survivor

– The Wolf of Wall Street

Documentary Screenplay

– Dirty Wars

– Herblock: The Black & The White

– No Place on Earth

Stories We Tell

– We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

Drama Series

Breaking Bad

– The Good Wife

– Homeland

– House of Cards

– Mad Men

Comedy Series

– 30 Rock

– Modern Family

– Orange is the New Black

– Parks and Recreation

Veep

Warner Bros. have announced two pretty big casting additions to the already massive superhero sequel, Batman vs. Superman (which probably won’t be the film’s final title).  Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Now You See Me) has been cast to play the role of playboy villain billionaire Lex Luthor, which is nearly perfect if you ask me.  Long time epic actor Jeremy Irons (The Man With the Iron Mask) – who has also won an Academy Award – has been cast to play Bruce Wayne’s iconic butler Alfred.

Both casting decisions come as surprises because we really had not heard anything about either one being considered.  However, Batman/Superman fanboys will likely go ape-shit over the casting choices because they are a little outside the box.  While they may be outside the box, you’ll remember when a certain young, handsome actor was cast to play the iconic role of The Joker.  Heath Ledger was an outside the box casting choice, and it was a homerun.

Eisenberg is the type of actor that can pull off being a villain with his wit and just asshole looks.  He doesn’t have to be physically menacing, so that’s why I’m all in for the decision.

Eisenberg and Irons join Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, and Ben Affleck as big name actors in the film.  No doubt there will be more casting news in the near future.

 

Via Cinemablend

This year’s Screen Actors Guild awards winners were announced last night, and it’s usually a pretty good precursor to what we can generally expect from the Academy Awards in March.  This year’s big winner was American Hustle, the David O. Russell directed film based loosely on a true story concerning some of the country’s biggest swindlers.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Female Actor in a Supporting Role

– Jennifer Lawrence American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o 12 Years A Slave

– Julia Roberts August: Osage County

– June Squibb Nebraska

– Oprah Winfrey Lee Daniel’s: The Butler

Male Actor in a Supporting Role

– Daniel Bruhl Rush

– Barkhad Abdi Captain Phillips

– Michael Fassbender 12 Years A Slave

– James Gandolfini Enough Said

Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club

Male Actor in a Leading Role

– Bruce Dern Nebraska

– Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 Years A Slave

– Tom Hanks Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club

– Forest Whitaker Lee Daniel’s: The Butler

Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett Blue Jasmine

– Sandra Bullock Gravity

– Judi Dench Philomena

– Meryl Streep August: Osage County

– Emma Thompson Saving Mr. Banks

Cast in a Motion Picture

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

August: Osage County

Dallas Buyers Club

Lee Daniel’s: The Butler

Female Actor in a Comedy Series

– Mayim Bailik The Big Bang Theory

– Julie Bowen Modern Family

– Edie Falco Nurse Jackie

– Tina Fey 30 Rock

Julia Louis Dreyfus Veep

Male Actor in a Comedy Series

– Alec Baldwin 30 Rock

– Jason Bateman Arrested Development

Ty Burrell Modern Family

– Don Cheadle House of Lies

– Jim Parson The Big Bang Theory

Ensemble in a Comedy Series

30 Rock

– Arrested Development

– The Big Bang Theory

Modern Family

– Veep

Female Actor in a Drama Series

– Claire Danes Homeland

– Anna Gunn Breaking Bad

– Jessica Lange American Horror Story: Coven

Maggie Smith Downton Abbey

– Kerry Washington Scandal

Male Actor in a Drama Series

– Steve Buscemi Boardwalk Empire

Bryan Cranston Breaking Bad

– Jeff Daniels The Newsroom

– Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones

– Kevin Spacey House of Cards

Ensemble in a Drama Series

– Boardwalk Empire

Breaking Bad

– Downton Abbey

– Game of Thrones

– Homeland

Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries

– Angela Bassett Betty & Corretta

– Helena Bonham Carter Burton and Taylor

– Holly Hunter Top of the Lake

Helen Mirren Phil Spector

– Elisabeth Moss Top of the Lake

Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries

– Matt Damon Behind the Candelabra

Michael Douglas Behind the Candelabra

– Jeremy Irons The Hollow Crown

– Rob Lowe Killing Kennedy

– Al Pacino Phil Spector