Underrated Acting Performances

Holy Shit. It’s been a long three weeks since my last post. My apologies. I’ve been working through some personal thing recently. I haven’t been watching many films and the ones I have been are older and have been talked to death. For the first time in my life, I’m watching the Indiana Jones Trilogy. I know, I know. I think I just missed the boat when I was little and whenever it popped up on television, it was in the middle or something so I didn’t watch it. Last Crusade is next and so far I enjoyed the hell out of Raiders and was very disappointed by Temple of Doom. It wasn’t that it was a bad film, more of a movie that just doesn’t hold up to something like Raiders. All the humor seemed forced and was made worse by two incredibly annoying supporting characters. I also saw Interstellar and was left baffled by it which is why I have not written about it yet. That is coming though.

Today, I decided to do a little feature about underrated acting performances. These are personal choices and by no means a definitive list. Each one is a shining example of a role that was either completely forgotten by everybody or only appreciated by certain people. Let’s get into it…

Jack Lemmon in “Glengarry Glen Ross”

One of my favorite performances ever. At this point in his career Jack didn’t have to prove a thing to anybody but the old man pulled this incredibly layered performance out of his hat. I love the incredible amount of sadness in his eyes during every scene. He really needed those leads.

Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur

I could have went with Peter Mullan in this film as well but I think Colman outshined him. This little seen film from actor Paddy Considine punched me in the gut the first time I saw it and I couldn’t shake it for days. Colman was just simply devastating. People need to see this one.

Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs

What can I say? I think the man got robbed of a best supporting actor nomination in a film that seemed to get nominated (and win) for pretty much everything. He made Buffalo Bill into one of the most frightening characters ever in a film that he shared with probably THE most frightening character ever. Levine has a creepy voice to begin with but he took it to another level with Bill.

Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

Another straight robbery of a nomination. Dano was the absolute reason why that film has the reputation it has. Like Daniel Plainview, the viewer grows to loath Eli Sunday that we can’t help but not be shocked during the famous ending. The scene with Plainview in the church is one of my favorite scenes of all time.

Denis Levant in Holy Motors

The driving force behind one of the most batshit crazy films I’ve ever seen. The man plays like nine different characters ranging from old men to leprechauns. He approaches each role with absolute dedication and really transforms with each one following. He plays the damn accordion and then gets stabbed. He was incredible in an incredible film.

Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog

I still have only seen this film once. That’s how much this wrecked me. The story surrounding Ben Kingsley and his family was sad enough but the real kick in the gut was watching Connelly come to terms with her life that she no longer has control of. She has always been a good actress but I feel most will remember her going ass to ass in Requiem rather than delivering a knockout performance in this film. The scene with the gun and the car killed me.

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

I think I could have really put any Michael Shannon performance on this list and it would have been applicable. This is my favorite though. His breakdown at the community dinner scared the shit out of me and made me realize what a dangerous mental illness schizophrenia is. That isn’t a spoiler per say, rather a nod at Shannon for perfectly portraying what paranoia can do to a person.

Sam Rockwell in Moon

This will be short because I don’t want to give anything away to people who haven’t seen the film yet. Let’s just say Rockwell knocks it out of the park with a duel role. The film has now reached a sort of cult status on the internet and for once I totally agree to it being there.

Stephen Mchattie in Pontypool

The dude was born for this one. McHattie plays a shock jock DJ in this unconventional zombie film. He’s in almost every shot and carries the film which takes place entirely in a radio studio. The film may have a bad ending, but the premise and McHattie’s performance make it a cool watch.

Lubna Azabal in Incendies

One of my top ten favorites movies. Azabal is a force in this once. Her character goes through so much shit over the course of the film that only an incredible performance could have kept the film centered. The bus fire scene stands out a lot as well as her time in the prison. Incredible performance in an amazing film.

Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead

WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY TALK ABOUT SHAUN? His performance is my favorite part of this entire film that while remains hysterical, also goes into some very serious areas with the whole living dead eating people and stuff. Pegg is at his best when Shaun gets pissed off and of course at the end with Ed. The dude can flat out act.

David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

He steals every single scene he is in. The showdown at the end of Vol. 2 is my favorite part of both films and it’s all because of Carradine. It’s a shame the guy had to go all crazy masturbation death on us because he coudl have really been something else towards the end of his career. Bill may have been a bastard, but he was a cool as shit bastard.

Michael Parks in Red State

The dude is batshit crazy. He made the entire film for me and is to this day the best example of a lunatic cult leader that doesn’t go too over the top or cartoony. He scared the shit out of me.

Colin Farrell in In Bruge

One of my favorite “comedies” or at least favorite screenplays. Farrell, who has the real life personality of the guy who comes to your party whom you hate automatically, just flat out delivers a genuine knockout performance. His portrayal of working through a serious depression is something that I’ve come to relate to in recent events. He may be dead inside from killing a little boy but that doesn’t mean he won’t do coke with a midget.

Michael Caine in Children of Men

The bright light in a bleak dim world. I love Michale Caine in this film. We don’t know him for that long but when we leave him we feel the greatest gut wrenching sadness. That’s acting. It’s one of my favorite small roles in any film. Pull my finger.

Film Review : Nightcrawler (2014)

Rotten Tomato Score – 96% (As of now)
Imdb Score – 8.3 (As of Now)

Directed By – Dan Gilroy
Starring – Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Michael Hyatt, and Bill Paxton

When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.

[soh-see-uh-path, soh-shee-]
noun, Psychiatry.
1. a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

Cha-fucking-ching. What is on display during the entire two hour run time of Dan Gilroy’s debut film? Oh, just the complete and utter definition of the word sociopath. Gilroy, who has written such films as The Fall, The Bourne Legacy, and everyone’s favorite robot boxing film Real Steel, gives us a look at a perfect sociopath. Cinema has given us plenty of good examples of sociopathic tendencies before. Christian Slater played a sleazy one in Very Bad Things. We have Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gecko, Nurse Ratched from Cookoo’s Nest, and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. None of which can really hold a candle to what Jake Gyllenhaal brings to the table with his character of Louis Bloom. He is the pure definition of somebody who is unapologetic, selfish, wickedly intelligent, and completely lacking of any emotion whatsoever. The fact that he is also batshit insane also helps his case.

The film features Gyllenhaal in almost every scene. He is the one running the show. His character runs the show even though when we first see him, he has a camera bought at a thrift store and is driving what looks like to be a Dodge Dart Hatchback clone from hell. He is jobless and desperate. He tries to get a job anywhere he can, spouting off motivational phrases he read on the internet. He believes in himself. he believes he can get the job done. When he randomly stumbles across a car accident and sees that there are freelance videographers lapping at the chance to score some footage, Lou figures out he’d be perfect for this job. He obviously doesn’t sleep. The film makes it very clear with some gorgeous transitional shots that Lou is not a man of the daytime. He wakes at dusk and probably sleeps at dawn, although I wouldn’t be surprised that the man was functioning on some serious sleep deprivation. Lou starts getting some decent footage and the ball begins to roll into crazy town.

This is a wild ride. The trailer definitely portrays this film as a thriller and it lived up to it. There are plenty of great action scenes that build and sustain tension. The the craziness of Lou, the film really starts to get rolling towards the middle, culminating with a pretty tense and wild finish. The focus for me though, was the satire. This is a funny film. We have Lou and the news station he is dealing with throwing decency and morals to the wind in order to boost ratings and make money. Like earlier this fall with Gone Girl, Nightcrawler takes aim at how media, paparazzi, and general entertainment culture is killing what makes us human. Most of us I would say have compassion towards others. The film deals directly with true real life scenarios such as how every time I turn on the fucking news I’m being told about the death of somebody in the community. It’s no longer news. It’s reminders of how horrible the world can be and how careful we need to be in it. There’s a particular scene, the most uncomfortable scene in the movie, where Jake Gyllenhaal enters a crime scene and sells the footage to the news station. The on air reporters go through every single detail, on air, and describe the shit they shouldn’t be showing in the first place. Is it satire? Yes. No real news station would show the things they showed, but is it really any different than say showing the aftermath of a shooting in Queens? How bout we interview the grieving family of the 16 year old gunshot victim? It may be satire, but it’s on point. The media sucks.

It wasn’t flawless. I had issues with the end. It wasn’t that the film ended on a bad note or on a particular high note. It really just ended on no note at all. I don’t need my films to be tied up in a bow but the film just kinda of left some things unresolved and then ended abruptly. We had a climactic confrontation that led to credits. There was also some forced themes in one of the big scenes at the end that were just not needed. I don’t need to be told that Jake Gyllenhaal is a crazy lunatic. I’ve just watched him be that for two hours. These things didn’t ruin the film or anything like that. They are minor. They are however slight blemishes on what was a very entertaining and stylish film.

I haven’t gotten to the highlight though. Jake Gyllenhaal. The dude fucking killed it. He’s been killing it pretty recently (Prisoners and Enemy) but this was just the huge loony bin cherry on top. He lost 20 pounds for the role and really seemed to dive into the character. Lou has this weird personality where everything he says rolls off his tongue like some crazy motivational speaker. He is in control at every moment. There was one small nuance, where he meets Rick for the first time, where even though Lou is in no position of authority, completely sells the fact that he is running an up and coming business. He even corrects Rick to call him Louis even though he introduces himself as Lou to everybody else. Rick is his employee and he’s going to do whatever he says to ensure he accomplishes his goals. Gyllenhaal was able to make his face contort into that of a completely out of contact with reality psycho. His eyes bulge and rarely blink. He smiles at the peak of his manipulation to drive home what he wants. He is methodical in his logic, even when it comes off with zero compassion for the other person. As stated above, he is a complete sociopath, and he should be heavily considered for major awards once the season begins.

Dan Gilroy’s debut film is a hit. People are going to squirm, laugh, and disbelieve what they see because in reality, this couldn’t happen. Or could it? Could Lou really exist in this world? Yes. You just haven’t met him yet. You have however, probably watched his work on live television. Lou lives on in the daily meatgrind of shit that is passed off as news. Those photos of Jennifer Lawrence that leaked on the internet? That was Lou. That camera guy that Alec Baldwin punched in the face? That was Lou. Lou is an entire society of people wanted to exploit the worst days of everybody else. There is a perfect line near the end of the film that sums up the entire point of the film…

“If you see my face, you’re probably having the worst day of your life.”


Film Review : Whiplash (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance

Directed By – Damien Chazelle
Starring – Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, and Nate Lang

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.


Fucking WOW.

I have only clapped at the end of one movie(which was this year…Boyhood), but now I can say I clapped to two. I couldn’t help myself. The theater couldn’t help itself. Whiplash was that good. I turned to my friend with absolute glee and shouted “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this film. The plot is simple. Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer in the most prestigious school in the country. He is hand picked by Terrence Fletcher (Simmons) to join his competition band comprised of some of the best musicians in the country. While there are a small amount of secondary characters including the return of Paul Reiser, the film mainly focuses on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher; a relationship that grows more volatile by the second.

There just isn’t enough to say about this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t let up from the starting drum roll to the final curtain. I was captivated the entire time. I’ve had experiences with all the parties involved. I saw Chazelle’s first film “Grand Piano” earlier this year and found it to be entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Miles Teller broke onto the scene with his role in “The Spectacular Now” but is mostly known for his college party films such as “21 & Older and Project X”. JK Simmons is a brilliant character actor who was perfectly cast as Jonah Jamison in the Spiderman films and always delivers an interesting performance. All three combine to give the highlights of their careers in this film. Teller is remarkable. He completely sells Andrew’s strive to be the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. He is passionate, dedicated, and driven. Simmons is a force of nature. It is, without a doubt, the performance of the year so far. He dresses in all black. His face is stone cold and the boom of his voice is thunderous. Not even the smallest mistake makes it past his ears and of you don’t fix it on the next try, you’ll be sorry. The thing is, never was anything he did, no matter how terrifying, ever over the top. Simmons played Fletcher with a frightening sense of realism that will notch him into the lists of greatest villains of all time. This thing was full on psychological horror film for most of its running time, and I couldn’t get more of it.

The films writer/director, Damien Chazelle, knocked this out of the park. The editing was perfect. The pace was perfect. The dialogue and story were engrossing. There was symbolism in the cymbalism. The sound design was amazing. The music was amazing. The man has made a perfect film. It’s always a good thing when as soon as the credits begin to roll, I want to go out and buy a ticket to the next showing. The final 20 minutes was one of the most batshit emotional tornado I’ve ever experienced. In minutes, I was on the verge of tears to almost jumping out of my seat with excitement. His script is uplifting, scary, and ambitious. It tells the story of people who try to be the best and try to get the best out of people. If you have EVER been REALLY REALLY good at something, this film will show you just how much you have to go.

I just…can’t say enough about this film. I know this review is kind of short, but I really just can’t talk about this film in too much detail. I’ve noticed that most of the films I review that I consider fantastic pieces of film, have short reviews. I want you guys to experience these movies with a general idea of what to expect but to still be blown away by completely unexpected events. This film is not a masterpiece. This film is like your grandma’s cooking. It may be lasagna, but there isn’t a thing you can find wrong with it or a thing you would change. I can’t wait to see this again. I can’t wait for it to be released in more theaters so others can experience it.

Fuck it. This is my film of the year. So earned. It was just my fucking tempo.


Film Review : Fury (2014)

IMDB Score(Presently) – 8.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 79%

Directed By – David Ayer
Starring – Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michale Pena, Jon Bernthal, Anamaria Marinca, Anamaria Marinca, and Jason Isaacs

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Writer/Director David Ayer has had an interesting career so far. We have seen his brilliant times with the writing of Training Day and shit, even U-571. We’ve also seen his horrible times with Sabotage, Harsh Times, and the absolutely atrocious SWAT. I’ll never forget a character in SWAT, before blowing his brains out, looking toward Samuel L. Jackson and delivering this gem of a one liner…”Goddammit Sarge!” If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean. I can’t look at Josh Charles the same anymore. Ayer is obviously talented but I feel like he slips into a bad crime novelist whose books frequent airports from time to time. Training Day was obviously amazing, but besides End of Watch, his work has been mediocre at best recently. Fury, was ultimately a frustrating film with some moments of brilliance. The likes of a full length film with no glaring problems might be behind Ayer for now.

There hasn’t been a film dedicated to tank crews that I can remember. You see the air force, ground troops, hell, even fighter pilots highlighted in films, yet until now nobody has highlighted the work that tank crews did during WW2. For the most part, it was almost a death sentence. Like flamethrowers in Japan, a tank is like a huge target for enemy fire. You’re not going to last long unless you take the tank out FIRST. US tanks were also poorly made compared to superior German Tiger tanks. US tanks were slower and would routinely be taken out by enemy artillery. In short, tankers didn’t live long. This crew has though. Brad Pitt and company have been together for years and when a newcomer (Lerman) comes along, he needs to be broken in fast or else he’ll risk the lives of the entire crew. We’ve seen this before with Ayer. A newbie comes into the world of hardened veterans and has to see the horrors of the job before he can become one of them. Honestly, my interest in this film wasn’t the story. I’m a big WW2 fan and the concept of a film dedicated to tank crews scratched my history itch.

I had problems with the film. For one, the music in the film was just overbearing. The film was intense enough. I didn’t need a blaring orchestra to remind me that I should be in suspense. Somehow, the death and firebombs going off on the screen did it for me. It was distracting. I also had a problem with a few scenes that not only took the pace of the film and brought it to a grounding halt, but it also didn’t make a lick of sense. The biggest offender of this was the breakfast scene with the German girls. The only thing I liked about this was the performance of Shia LaBeouf but we’ll get to more of that soon. Jon Bernthal tries WAY too hard to be a crazy person and the film decided that rape didn’t exist in War and that every German girl who was being FORCED to cook and serve these troops would also sleep with them. It was insulting. The film had some of the most violent scenes in a war movie since Saving Private Ryan but they had to sprinkle glitter over these men when they interacted with women. It was just odd. The whole scene with the younger girl and Lerman was just a set up to what happened after they exited the house. It was cheap and amateur. The final scene was also completely nonsensical and dragged out. A particular scene, after the battle, after literally hundreds of people died, was laugh out loud bad. Those of you who have seen it will know what I’m talking about.

So, what was good? Well, the sound design was top notch. I expect nominations for that team because each round and explosion sounded like the real thing. There were two tank battle scenes that REALLY stood out thanks to amazing sound design and very intense interior shots of the tank crew in action from inside the tank. I was on the edge of my seat for these. The camerawork was also overall pretty great. The opening scene looked like a leftover scene from War Horse. Yes David Ayer, I just compared you to Spielberg. You can relish in that. The acting was also top notch from Pitt and LaBeouf, specifically Shit (I’m leaving this typo in because Shia would find it funny). These are the roles that the kid needs to be doing. He needs to take this crazy persona of his and stick it into his acting. He was a marvel in this film, showing an unbelievable amount of range. His character, Bible, was a God loving Christian outside of the tank, and a ruthless gunner inside. LaBeouf handled it wonderfully. I was very impressed. Pitt was also very solid as the leader although he really shined when interacting with LaBouf and Lerman. The rest held their own with Lerman giving a good performance and Pena and Bernthal just kid of slogging through.

The film was worth a ticket. It was a bleak look into war that didn’t stop when things got too hectic, unless German lasses were involved. There were some intense scenes and a whole storyline that was devoted to tank crews but there were some serious flaws in the logic behind some of the scenes in the film. It also serves as proof that Shia LaBeouf is still a talented actor when given the right role.


Film Review : The Lunchbox (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%

Directed By - Ritesh Batra
Starring – Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Nakul Vaid, and Bharati Achrekar

A mistaken delivery in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.

Would you count this as a Bollywood movie? Every time I think of Bollywood movies, THIS scene sticks out in my mind…

My knowledge of Bollywood has been reduced to a horse sliding under a truck as if it has been frozen in place. I think I may have the notion that all Bollywood films rival the low budget B movies that we see in grindhouse theaters in America. My ignorance couldn’t be more apparent. The country pumps out more movies than one could count and while a lot of them consist of special effects shots as shown above, there are a great number of quality cinema coming from India. While I haven’t seen any of his films, the work of Satyajit Ray has made it’s way to the eyes of American film nerds. I think I should make the nice Indian woman who works at my library happy and finally take her up on her suggestions to watch his films. Tonight though I decided to start with a more recent film from the country of India, The Lunchbox.

My local art house was playing this for a couple weeks but I couldn’t get myself to make the drive over there. This is the problem with living across the river from New York City. I fucking hate going anywhere else. The theater is a half hour drive west and I just couldn’t find the time. I was interested in it because I have this weird romantic film itch I’ve been scratching lately so when it was available on Netflix DVD service I added it to the top of my queue.

If this film was made by an American production company, Rachel McAdams and Richard Gere would have starred and it would have been directed by Lasse Hallstrom. It would have rivaled Nights in Rodanthe or whatever that slop of a movie was called and would have been attended by every house mother in the nation. The film centers around two adults in India who correspond through lunch due to an error in the infamous lunchbox delivery system. The woman, played by Nimrat Kaur, is neglected by her husband so when she finds out she’s been making lunch for another man, played by Irrfan Khan, she continues to do so. The two build a relationship through letters and what looks like delicious food and BAM we have our movie. You see what I mean about the America thing? They’d call it “Lunch for Two” and it’d gross 100 million dollars. Somebody is going to read this and it’s going to happen. Watch.

The film ended up being such a pleasurable watch. I think I watch films like these every once in a while because my viewing tendencies lean towards a lot of dark horrible shit. People dying or people killing. Rape. Ghosts. Mafia. Zombies. Violent Crime. All usual stuff going through my eyes and ears. I needed this. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a walk in the park. There are some pretty heavy emotional scenes in the film carried out by some pretty fantastic acting by Kaur and Kahn. The film builds the relationship and character of these two people with subtlety and care. There were no long conversations setting up backstory or details that didn’t need to be there. The details were revealed as they needed to be. The screenplay was tight but contructed in a way to let the film breath. Not a lot happened in the first hour. That was okay though. We were treated with some nice food preparation and Indian scenery with a bit of character development thrown on top. By the end, I was fully involved with how these two people ended up. The ending by the way…perfect. They didn’t insult my intelligence by assuming I don’t have a goddamn imagination. I like when filmmakers let me end the story with my mind. I don’t need a bow every time.

Like I mentioned, Kahn and Kaur were wonderful, Kahn especially. Ever since I saw him in “Life of Pi” I’ve been completely impressed with him as an actor in everything else he’s been in that I’ve seen. He’s on my list of completely underrated by extremely talented actors. Hell, even his small role in The Darjeeling Limited was great. Kaur had the scene of the movie. She was able to convey a whole range of emotions with just her eyes. Also, he conversations with her Auntie upstairs were fun to listen to.

The film is a great watch when you’re feeling shitty or just want to watch a warm, light hearted film about a small romance in India. It was genuine and superbly acted and written.