Archive | September 2009

best films: #98: THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (2000)

Previously ranked and blogged at #85

Though mostly forgotten by Disney-philes, The Emperor’s New Groove was a shining glimmer of hope amongst a dearth of messes that the studio had been pushing out (see: Atlantis). The primary reason it makes my list is its almost impossible and completely surprising ability to keep its audience laughing at a non-stop pace for its entire 70-odd minute run time. Sure, it’s probably due to its near-ADD plot points, zingers, and physical comedy, but it is easily one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, which is something to be commended. The biggest asset of the movie, though, is its stellar voice cast. David Spade and John Goodman have proven now that they are twice as good as voice actors than when they’re on-screen. And the huge assist from the hilarious Wendie Malick as Goodman’s wife, Patrick Warburton as the dunder-headed Kronk, and Earth Kitt as the unforgettable villain Yzma certainly doesn’t hurt its cause. I don’t think there’s any topping the scene when Yzma accidentally turns herself into a kitten. Pure comic gold.

Standout Performance: Kitt is fantastic as Yzma. She is completely hysterical, and this is my personal favorite performance of hers, animated or otherwise.

best films: #86: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007)

I’ve said it before, and here it comes again: 2007 is the new 1939 when it comes to film, as far as I’m concerned. And here’s yet another piece of evidence — this action series ended in the most genius of ways. The Bourne Ultimatum, of course assisted by fantastic action-movie performances from Matt Damon and Joan Allen, is one of those rare sequels that outdoes its predecessor(s). Aside from the fact that the direction from Paul Greengrass is utterly unique (and now copied ad nauseum) and the pace is almost impossibly rapidfire, the film is immensely entertaining and shockingly well-put-together August fare. While threat of a thrown-together fourth movie is on the horizon (How exactly will this story continue? Explanation please!), this trilogy has a true ending right here. It’s called Ultimatum for a reason.

Standout Performance: Allen’s Pamela Landy is calculating and a great sorta-villain. But exceptional work is something we’ve come to expect from her, of course.

oscar rehash: best supporting actor 1994

In the name of double-checking the academy’s work on a few past winners, the following is a brief analysis of what woulda and shoulda been based on the Oscars’ choices in nominees:

Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction
Well, if it were an award for best line reading from a book of the bible, Mr. Jackson would most likely take the cake. And though his performance in Pulp Fiction is very likely his career best, we’ve realized through his later work that Jules is one character that frequently pops up in Jackson’s movies. So, the fearless badass may be Jackson’s go-to sure thing, but it must be said that it’s been perfected in this performance. I mean, who could possibly retain their badass cred after sporting those little shorts and t-shirt? Grade: B+

Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood
The eventual winner (presumably serving as a lifetime achievement award), Martin Landau is surprisingly hysterical as the bizarre 1930s film star Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton‘s quirky Ed Wood. A far cry from his work on Mission: Impossible, the performance is both slapstick gold and uneasy in its insightfulness into the actor’s later years. Landau is buoyed by his co-stars (Johnny Depp is particularly notable as the zany title character), but he claims the position of true star of the show. Grade: A-

Chazz Palminteri as Cheech in Bullets Over Broadway
Typically Woody Allen‘s work is something I can truly appreciate. Bullets Over Broadway is no exception. The problem with Chazz Palminteri‘s performance in the film, though, lies in its apparent mediocrity and, even more so, in his fading into the background. Unfortunately for Palminteri, the cast is rounded out by the gargantuan talent of Dianne Wiest (the year’s winner in the Supporting Actress category). And to top things off, Palminteri doesn’t often stray from his hardened mobster character, so this performance is hardly unique or impressive. Grade: C

Paul Scofield as Mark van Doren in Quiz Show
Though his performance is somewhat minimal, the stage experience of veteran actor Paul Scofield is very apparent in Robert Redford‘s television politics piece, Quiz Show. Scofield, playing the formidable yet supportive poet father to Ralph Fiennes‘ Charles van Doren, plays his unfortunate overshadowing by his own son with the ease made evident by his past performances as Thomas More and in various Shakespeare productions. Joined in the category by fellow senior Landau, Scofield held his own on the less-hammy front of 1994 performances. Grade: B+

Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump
Sure, Forrest Gump may’ve been slightly over-praised back in 1994, but the supporting performance from Gary Sinise is still a relatively respectable one. Lt. Dan is a hard-boiled piece of work, and he plays well against Tom Hanks‘ dopey but lovable Forrest. His comic performance is probably his best work, and it’s clear he’s being wasted on CSI: NY. The bottom line, however, is that Sinise, much like his fellow nominees (and much of the larger group of Supporting Actor nominees throughout the years, it turns out) suffers from often one-note performances. Grade: B-

The Verdict: I guess the Academy had this one right. Landau is the clear winner here (with a second-place finish going to Jackson), offering a rare victory to an out-right comedic performance.

25 best educators in film

The following is a list of the 25 best (and often-times worst) teachers, principals, and educators on the big-screen:

25. Joan Cusack as Emily Montgomery in In & Out
24. Richard Jenkins as Professor Walter Vale in The Visitor
23. Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men
22. Trey Parker as Mr. Mackey in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
21. Richard Harris as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

20. Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo in The Music Man
19. Tina Fey as Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls
18. Eddie Murphy as Professor Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor
17. Dennis Quaid as Jimmy Morris in The Rookie
16. Richard Burton as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

15. Stephen Colbert as Chuck Noblet in Strangers with Candy
14. Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens in The King and I
13. Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
12. Marcia Wallace as Edna Krabappel in The Simpsons Movie
11. Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier in Doubt

10. Gene Hackman as Norman Dale in Hoosiers
9. Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull in Matilda
8. Allison Janney as Miss Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You
7. Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne in Half Nelson
6. Emma Thompson as Professor Sybil Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

5. Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
4. Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
3. Sally Hawkins as Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky
2. Harrison Ford as Professor Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark
1. Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Now imagine this: For some reason the execs over at Hollywood Studio ‘X’ think it’s about time there be a big-screen adaptation of Gilligan’s Island. What? Crazier things have happened! Feel free to take your own stab at casting this high-profile adaptation in the comments…

Martin Short as Gilligan
David Soul as The Skipper

Gene Wilder as Thurston Howell III

Lynn Redgrave as Lovey Howell

Amy Adams as Ginger Grant

Jack Wagner as The Professor

Rachel McAdams as MaryAnn

best films: #87: VERTIGO (1958)

An inspired pairing is undoubtedly found in the wholesome, good-guy demeanor of James Stewart and provocative auteur Alfred Hitchcock that makes this (and another entry to be seen later) a crackling thriller even fifty years later. Vertigo is still unnerving as ever, and the twists and turns are still as powerful as they assumedly were in the era right before Psycho. And though Kim Novak may be one of the lesser-known blonde bombshells that Hitchcock used as his muses, she’s one of the few who gets a crack at being a wee bit diabolical. Mimicked by dozens of other films for its opening rooftop chase scene and its catchy Bernard Herrmann score, the film is to be remembered as a perfect example of a great psychological thriller.

Standout Performance: Novak is a gem of a find (who then was underused for the rest of her career) as the elusive Madeleine.

most anticipated: 10 upcoming films of intrigue

In honor of the awards season officially kicking off, I’ve decided to assemble a list of my most anticipated upcoming films of the final quarter of the year (accompanied by their trailers for your perusal)…

An Education (October 9)

Where the Wild Things Are (October 16)

The Road (October 16)
Precious (November 6)

Broken Embraces (November 20)

Nine (November 25)

The Princess and the Frog (December 11)

The Lovely Bones (December 11)

It’s Complicated (December 25)

A Single Man (December)