Posts Tagged ‘top lists’

Top Three Denzel Washington Performances

June 17, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123 is due to hit the big screens soon, and we’re getting you ready by dedicating a podium to Denzel Washington.

Honourable mentions for this list include; Inside Man, Crimson Tide and American Gangster. And it was very, very tough for me to leave He Got Game off this list as well. Great character, great performance, great flick.  

Denzel Devil in a blue dress

 3. Devil in a Blue Dress – Easy Rawlins

Based on the novel by Walter Mosley (if you haven’t read this book then do yourselves a favor and hit the book store ASAP), Denzel Washington plays the lead character, Easy Rawlins – an out of work  WWII veteran who accepts a job from a shady underworld figure to find a missing woman. The story twists and turns from there, and features undertones of race and class politics, but it is the outstanding performance from Washington that lifts moves this film from within the confines of the well established private eye genre and into one of the best movies of 1995. Don Cheadle is perfect as Easy’s accomplice Mouse, a cold blooded killer with a gift for violence, and the interactions between the two capture to mood of the book perfectly. Easy Rawlins is heroic, flawed, noble and untrustworthy all at the same time – a complex, layered character with a great deal of depth, and Denzel nails the brief perfectly. Not his biggest hit at the box office, but an outstanding performance from Denzel nonetheless.

2. The Hurricane – Rubin Carter

The Hurricane is the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a professional boxer and middleweight contender, who was wrongly imprisoned for murder in the 1960’s. The heart of the movie however lies in Washington’s enthralling portrayal of one man’s unrelenting courage in the face of oppression, and the fight against injustice that eventually became known to the rest of the world. The movie focuses mainly on the emotional and mental anguish Carter undergoes in jail, and it’s a journey which Washington guides us through with heartfelt aplomb. He is raw and gritty in this, at times bordering on desperate as he tries to keep hope alive in a place completely devoid of the concept. The movie itself may have had its problems with some one dimensional supporting characters and at times comes across as a little corny – but it is a tour de force performance from Washington that keeps it firmly on track, and makes for an engaging film. The look on Washington’s face as his character is sentenced to life in prison was worth the price of admission alone.

1. Malcolm X – Malcolm X

The stand out effort of Washington’s career thus far, in which he plays the title character, Malcolm X, who’s life we follow from his troubled childhood, to small time hustler, to inmate, to religious convert, to spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, to outcast, to figure for change and finally, to victim of assassination. Director Spike Lee operates on a grand scale here in terms of both chronology (the film spans several decades) and length (at an intimidating 200minutes). Washington meanwhile runs the full gamut of character emotions, reckless in his early life; persuasive and confrontational during his period as a political orator, and wizened, deliberate and thoughtful toward the end. In this one film he shows the sort of range most actors don’t manage throughout an entire career, and he is absolutely convincing and believable throughout. An amazing performance – and he was straight up robbed for the best Actor award in the Oscars as well (it went to Al Pacino for Scent of A Woman…right man, wrong time).

Previous Podium – Top Three Cameos By Sports Stars

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Top Three Movie Cameos By Sports Stars

June 11, 2009

The Mike Tyson cameo in The Hangover has inspired this weeks Podium – Top Three Sports Star Cameo’s, and we’ve got plenty of options to choose from.

Honorable mentions include; Dan Marino in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Joe Frazier in Rocky, Lawrence Taylor in The Waterboy (mostly for the irony – at the end of a long unintelligible rant from Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher, LT nods and delivers the line “Gentlemen, which brings me to my next point – don’t smoke crack.” Funny stuff at the time, funnier still when you heard that two weeks before the films release he was arrested for buying $100 of fake crack from an undercover cop).

Cam Neely – Dumb and Dumber

Cam Neely had a reputation as a violent goon during his days as a right wing in the NHL, so the Farrelly Brothers cast well when they were looking around for somebody to play Sea Bass – the truck stop enforcer who takes a dislike to Harry Dunne, enjoys classy tastes in baseball caps and has a penchant for the occasional public toilet rendezvous.

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Lance Armstrong – Dodgeball

The famous cyclist appears as himself, and meets Vince Vaughan’s character at an airport bar just as he is about to run out on his team before the finals. Lance hits him with the following; “Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?”

Enough said.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Airplane (Flying High)

Kareem Abdul Jabbar turns in a solid 6th man of the year effort here, appearing as pilot Roger Murdock. It is a secret identity that does little to fool young Timmy, who unfortunately relates his father’s belief that Kareem doesn’t play defence (a well documented complaint from critics throughout his career). “Roger Murdock” responds by getting on the offensive; “The hell I don’t. LISTEN KID. I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” Later, when they are dragging him out of his seat, we see that he is in LA Lakers basketball shorts. Great comedy all around.

Previous Podium – Top Three Will Ferrell Movies

Top Three Will Ferrell Movies

June 4, 2009

With the new Will Ferrell movie, The Land of the Lost set to hit the big screens, we’re celebrating with a podium dedicated to the comedian. At his best, Will Ferrell is one of the funniest people alive. At his worst, well…you may have to watch something like Step Brothers. Can he return to form here? We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, honorable mentions for the top three list include; Semi Pro and Blades of Glory, and I thought he stole the show in brief appearances during Zoolander and Wedding Crashers.

3. Talledaga Nights – The Legend of Ricky Bobby

Ferrell throws himself into the role of fast driving, win-obsessed Ricky Bobby – a star on the Nascar race circuit. Carries the film through a series of increasingly improbable scenarios through sheer force of personality. He was ably supported by a cast that includes Gary Cole, Michael Clark-Duncan, Jane Lynch and Sacha Baron Cohen, but the best scenes in the movie for mine are the interchanges between Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who is fantastic as his buddy Cal Naughton Jr.

2. Stranger Than Fiction

A departure from the absurd here, with Will Ferrell showing his serious acting chops in a film that is both warm-hearted and smart. There’s a hint of his comedy prowess underneath his strait laced portrayal of IRS accountant Harold Crick, and a believable, easy flowing chemistry between himself and co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal. This film also features good performances from Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah (surprised me too) and a smaller role for one of my personal favourites – Arrested Development’s Buster – Tony Hale. Ferrell opened a few eyes with this one, hinting perhaps at more serious roles in the future. Don’t rule it out – it worked for Tom Hanks and to a lesser degree, Jim Carrey.

...and this is what's happening in your world, tonight.

...and this is what's happening in your world, tonight.

1. Anchorman – The Legend of Ron Burgundy;

One of the all time great comedy characters in one of the best comedy’s of the last ten years. Ferrell plays Burgundy with such earnest sincerity that it’s almost impossible not to laugh along as he leads his all-star news-team through the ups and downs of ratings battles and gender politics. This movie helped kick start the careers of Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner. It also helped re-launch the career of Christina Applegate – not to mention some brilliant cameos from Vince Vaughan, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller and Seth Rogen. Just a cracking good film. You stay classy Mr Ferrell.

Previous Podium – Top Three Russell Crowe Performances

Top Three Russell Crowe Performances

May 28, 2009

We’re celebrating Russell Crowe’s new film, State of Play with a podium dedicated to the actor/singer/occasional scrapper.

This was a tough list to put together, with so many solid performances throughout Rusty’s career. Honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the podium include his work as Det. Richie Roberts in American Gangster, the Spaniard in The Gladiator, Captain Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander, and finally, his work as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind – a role he was nominated for an Oscar for. Solid stuff.

3. Cindarella Man

Crowe is outstanding in his portrayal of the real life Cindarella Man, James J. Braddock, the depression era prize fighter who overcame injury and poverty to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. I’m a sucker for a good boxing story, and this happens to be a very good boxing story indeed. The film features great performances from Renee Zellweger and a vastly under-rated Paul Giammatti. Ron Howard is also at his best here – but the movie belongs to Crowe, who plays Braddock with exactly the right mix of desperation, humility and pride.

2. LA Confidential

Bud White is more than just a rage fuelled, mean son of a bitch, but that’s what you see at first. The rest Crowe lets out a piece at a time, adding complexity as the film progresses. You start with his hatred of violence against women, for reasons hinted at rather than explained, and as the movie moves forward you see more of what makes the character tick; his relationship issues, his drive, his integrity and courage. Crowe adds each of these layers with an understated intensity, an iceberg of a performance where you see the tip of an emotion and yet can still guess at the depths of what lies beneath. But you know, let’s not get bogged down too heavily with that sort of artsy bullshit. Let’s just say Rusty kicks ass in this film and we’ll move on.

Fightin' Round The World was precluded on a technicality.

Fightin' Round The World was excluded on a technicality.

1. The Insider

We are miles away from the Gladiator and Master & Commander here. No stealing the lady with his quick witted charms. No grabbing his sword and fighting off the barbarians with a display of shock and awe. Crowe goes out on a limb – overweight, middle-aged, socially awkward and filled with doubt – and yet his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand, a key whistle blower against Big Tobacco gives us a real life hero every bit as compelling as any of the other characters in the Crowe oeuvre. Rusty showed he didn’t need flash and special effects to carry a movie here, and more than held his own in pivotal scenes with Al Pacino. For mine, this is the standout performance in his career so far.

Previous Podium – Top Three Ben Stiller Movies

Top Three Ben Stiller Movies

May 21, 2009

Night at the Museum 2; Battle of the Smithsonian,  is out, so I’m marking the occasion with a Podium devoted to Ben Stiller.

Honorable mentions; Dodgeball, The Royal Tenenbaums – and one glorious cameo as the tyrannical Orderly in Happy Gilmore. I would count Meet The Parents, which I honestly didn’t mind, but he ruined all the credit he built up there with the sequel, and this third installment they have scheduled, Little Fockers. Hmm.

3. Tropic Thunder.

Bounced back after a couple of so-so efforts, putting together an all-star cast and hitting the jungle for some old fashioned hijinks. He probably doesn’t nail every joke in this, but they come fast enough that you don’t mind. This movie also earns points for the Tom Cruise cameo – his funniest work since the stuff on Oprah’s couch.

2. There’s Something About Mary

Stiller has a gift for awkwardness, and plays it to the hilt here as one of several unrequited/sometimes requited suitors for the aforementioned Mary. Cameron Diaz is great as the friendly, successful, unrealistically hot girl (a role she is playing in real life in fact), and they get some solid support from Matt Dillon’s teeth. Some memorable moments, but this film will probably always be remembered two things; Cameron Diaz’s hair gel, and the most painful zipper scene in film history.

Current count of free hair gel offers since this movie? 3, 685, 456.

Of course, Stiller movies aren't always classy.

 1. Zoolander

For mine, the definitive Ben Stiller role – Derek Zoolander, the troubled male model who questions the shallowness of his existence as he starts to be replaced by a younger, more talented rival. He is brilliant in this, alternately carrying the comedy and making his co-stars shine. Plenty of iconic comedy scenes; the petrol pump shower, the walk-off with Owen Wilson, the orgy with the dwarves, a strange and creepy cameo from Billy Zane – and of course, Blue Steel.  Plenty of folks just didn’t get into this movie, but I rank it as his very best.

Previous Podium – Top Three Tom Hanks Films

Top Three Tom Hanks Performances

May 14, 2009

With Angels & Demons due to hit the big screens, I thought it might be a good time to put together a podium for Tom Hanks. Honorable mentions include Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and a personal favourite of mine – Apollo 13. When movies of that quality don’t make the cut, you know you’re doing something right.

3. Big

Given different casting, this film could easily have turned into badly made slapstick, but Hanks is believable and like-able as the teenager who wakes up in a man’s body, and the movie is funny and charming because of it. It’s a formula that has been tried several time since, without ever achieving the same success. The early part of Hanks’ career is defined by his comedy movies, and this role showcases his comedic talents best.

2. Cast Away

It’s not easy injecting gravitas into a film in which your co-star is a volleyball, but Hanks achieves it here, and by the mid-point of the movie you are more emotionally invested in Wilson than you would have thought possible for an inflatable sphere. We see Hanks’ regular joe side at the start of this, but he switches up to depict the tormented isolation his character goes through on the island. This is no Lost, and there are no polar bears or smoking hot Evangeline Lilly’s to keep him occupied. Just Wilson, some DIY dentistry and some damn fine acting.

A fine companion, but lousy swimmer.

Wilson - fine companion, lousy swimmer.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Hanks plays the jaded, hard as nails army veteran in this one, and turns in a performance that would have made John Wayne proud. There is depth to his war-weary Captain Miller; he is dry, funny, raw, occassionally out of control, completely heroic in a thoroughly realistic manner and utterly flawed. In one scene, the men in his unit are stunned to learn that in another life Tom Hanks’ character was a schoolteacher. You can achieve the same effect by watching a re-run of Splash.

Previous Podium – Top Three Movie Going Jack-Asses

Top Three Movie Going Jack-Asses

May 13, 2009

We’ve all had it happen – you’ll be settling in for the movie when some clown sits behind you and puts his feet on your chair, or talks loudly to her friends sitting two aisles away, or starts taking off their trenchcooat. So, I’m dedicating this weeks podium to my all time top three favourite movie going jack-asses.

You don't always get to choose who you sit next to.

You don't always get to choose who you sit next to.

3. Woops-I-left-my-phone-on-I’ll-just-take-this-call-real-quick-guy.

We’re seeing less of this cat nowdays, but there are still a few holdouts. If you’re waiting on a call that is too important not to take, maybe you shouldn’t be going to see the movies.

2. Talking-as-deeply-as-I-can-is-kind-of-like-whispering-guy

No, it’s not. It’s the same volume as your usual voice, only deeper. Dickhead.

1. Plastic-bag-full-of-plastic-bags-guy

My kind of jack-ass. The guy who packs some sort of plastic bag full of snacks inside another plastic bag and then spends the entire film rustling about trying to find them. I would have sat next to at least three incarnations of this guy over the years, and each time he has added significantly to my movie going experience.

Previous Podium – Top Three Star Trek Films

Top Three Star Trek Films

May 13, 2009

The new Star Trek film belongs in here, but it’s against the rules to make the list directly after a review. For the record, I’d also like to include Galaxy Quest, the 1999 spoof of the Star Trek franchise that featured a great cast, a tight script and a rare like-able performance from Tim Allen.

3. Star Trek: First Contact

Easily the best of the Next Generation flicks, they manage to step around the awkward time travel nonsense better than any of the other Trek films have before or after. A solid guest appearance by James Cromwell, some solid Melville literary references, a snappy pace and the most dignified Star Fleet Captain in the series – what more can you ask for?

2. Star Trek III – The Search For Spock

Kirk & Co. squeeze into their skin tight one-pieces for an all out, balls out attempt to rescue Spock, who has, you know, improbably come back to life after dying in a previous movie. This one has it all; loss, drama, melodrama…Kirk has a son for about 15 minutes there…Christopher Lloyd plays a bad guy, and those Klingon bastards all get what’s coming to them.

But Jim, what about the enormous holes in this plot?

But Jim, what about the enormous holes in this plot?

1. Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

Khaaaaaaaaaannnnn!!! This film sets the standard for the franchise. Some genuinely creepy moments, some high action and a charismatic and formidable villain – for a long time there this was as good as Star Trek got.

Previous Podium – Top Three Films About The Holocaust

Top Three Films About The Holocaust

May 13, 2009

3. The Pianist

Adrien Brody is brilliant in this gritty and starkly realisitic film depicting one musicians struggle to come to terms with life in the Warsaw Ghetto as it is torn apart around him.

2. Life is Beautiful

Roberto Benigni is charming and funny and brave throughout, which makes what happens at the film’s conclusion that much harder to take. Had me depressed for days.

1. Schindlers List

If you watch this and don’t have some sort of reaction, you might want to check your pulse. An incredible story of heroism, ingenuity and sacrifice, and a chilling portrayal of one of the darkest chapters in human history at the same time. Liam Neeson is solid in the lead, although both Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes did their best to steal the movie.

Related Movie Review: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas