Weekend Countdown: Best Cameos Ever

The cameo-tastic This Is the End releases to DVD on Tuesday, which got us talking about our favorite cameos ever. Peruse, see if you agree, and let us know if we missed anyone.

20. Nicolas Cage: Werewolf Women of the SS (Grindhouse)

Thank you Quentin Tarantino for liking really bad exploitation movies when you were a kid. Thank you Rob Zombie for creating this outstanding fake trailer. Thank you Nic Cage for your ability to channel your own weirdness so beautifully.

 

19.Tim Robbins: Anchorman

No commercials – no mercy!

 

18. Paul Shaffer: This Is Spinal Tap

Artie Fufkin, Polymer Records
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT3D3Xc68oQ

 

17. Steve Martin: The The Muppet Movie

Oh, waiter!

 

16. Johnny Depp: 21 Jump Street

Not just Johnny – that’s Peter DeLuise (Officer Doug Penhall), too. Surprised he had the time to devote to the project.

 

15. Bruce Willis & Julia Roberts: The Player

Robert Altman was a genius.

 

14. Patrick Ewing: Exorcist 3

And Fabio!

cameo20

13. Gene Hackman: Young Frankenstein

I’ll make espresso!

 

12. David Bowie: Zoolander

Walk off!

 

11. Neil Patrick Harris: Harold & Kumar go to White Castle

Almost as brilliant as Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.

 

10. Will Farrell: Wedding Crashers

Mom! The meatloaf!

 

9. James Brolin & Morgan Fairchild: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Paging Mr. Herman.

 

8. Bill Murray: Little Shop of Horrors

It’s your professionalism I admire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7euWlQBKnw

 

7. Matt Damon: Eurotrip

Nice tats, Matt!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFCOa4tjHeo

 

6. Tom Cruise: Tropic Thunder

It’s far too big a role to be considered a cameo, and yet, the list felt weirdly free of gold chains and knuckle hair without it.

5. Christopher Walken: True Romance

Back to back Walken!

 

4. Christopher Walken: Pulp Fiction

Up his ass…

 

3. Bruce Springsteen: High Fidelity

Taking advice from the boss man.

 

2. Bill Murray: Zombieland
I just saw Eddie Van Halen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDzHsQapOKQ

 

1. Alec Baldwin: Glengarry Glen Ross

Put that coffee down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kZg_ALxEz0

Airsick

 

by George Wolf

 

Want to know if you’ll enjoy the new romantic comedy Baggage Claim? Just take this quick test!

Dig, if you will, this picture:  our heroine is caught in a sticky situation in a man’s apartment and needs a fast way out. After exclaiming “I am NOT going out on that fire escape!” there is a quick cut and she’s…out on the fire escape. She then makes a sad face and wonders, “could this get any worse?” After which, it immediately starts raining.

If that’s funny to you, please pick up the courtesy phone enjoy Baggage Claim. If not, stay far away, because that’s just a taste of the overly contrived, sadly obvious attempts to be charming that this lousy film is lousy with.

Paula Patton stars as Montana Moore, a flight attendant whose love life is a bit stagnant…oh, wait, I mean stalled on the runway! With her younger sister’s wedding approaching, “Mo” feels family pressure to find her future husband in time for the ceremony.

For help, she turns to her best buds at work: the oversexed Gail (Jill Scott) and the requisite gay friend Sam (Adam Brody). The three hatch a ridiculous plan to manipulate travel schedules so Mo can conveniently cross paths with traveling ex-boyfriends.

And, of course, all the exes immediately want to talk marriage when these meetings occur, because that’s what happens when exes run into each other, right?

There are so many things wrong with this film, and Patton is no help. Yes, she’s lovely, but while she’s been barely passable in her dramatic roles, her comedy chops amount to little more than exaggerated mannerisms and mugging for the camera.

Then again, considering her director, David E Talbert, also wrote the source novel and adapted the screenplay, this drama club approach must have been the goal all along.

Scott and Brody both have talent, but are saddled with roles written as tired caricatures, which is perfectly consistent with the entire script.

Check that, there are four funny lines in the film. Deadpan and sarcastically witty, they stand out like a smack upside the head, leaving you looking around wondering what just happened.

What happened is you’ve wasted time and money on a film assembled from the corpses of a thousand lazy rom-coms, waiting for the happy ending you’ve already guessed.

 

 

Verdict-1-5-Stars

 

 

A Bittersweet Farewell

by Hope Madden

How bittersweet that the great James Gandolfini goes out on such a high note. The man who may have been the all time best onscreen Mafia boss showed surprising versatility throughout his film career, and this talent is on beautiful display in one of his final performances.

In writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s new indie gem Enough Said, Gandolfini plays Albert, the unlikely yet fitting new suitor in Eva’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) life.

Both are divorced and facing the prospect of empty nests as their daughters head off to college, and together they develop a sweet crush that is a joy to watch as it blossoms.

Disheveled and genuine, Louis-Dreyfus has never been better, and together these veterans best known for their epically impressive television careers sparkle with tender onscreen chemistry.

Holofcener’s made a career of exploring the issues facing privileged, urban dwelling women. While this may seem too trite to tolerate, her laid back style, dialed-down neuroticism and eye for casting tend to balance things out.

Characteristically, Holofcener’s focus in Enough Said is the day to day struggle with intimacy, connection, and the compromise that accompanies a relationship. Still, this film is probably her most mainstream and accessible to date because the problems themselves are more universal.

Expect the loose narrative and slice of life structure, but with Louis-Dreyfus and her infectious chuckle driving the story, everything seems cheerier, more forgivable, and ultimately hopeful.

The film’s conflict feels a little contrived, but Louis-Dreyfus’s comic timing and unadorned performance keep things honest. She’s aided immeasurably by a cast eyeball deep in talent.

The always excellent Catherine Keener and Toni Collette are impressive, of course. Ben Falcone also gets in some good lines, and keep a look out for Toby Huss as Eva’s ex. (He’s The Wiz, and nobody beats him! Seriously, it’s that guy from Seinfeld. You’re welcome.)

Holofcener’s crafted a wise and affectionate look at middle age. Her writing is just as incisive as ever, but this cast finds more heart in the humor – Gandolfini in particular. As he did with all of his best work, he uncovers the vulnerability in the character that makes him human, recognizably flawed and therefore compelling.

That’s right. He could even play the romantic lead. The guy could do anything.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

Drama and Spectacle

 

by George Wolf

Yes, it’s clichéd irony, but here goes:  Rush, a movie steeped in the world of Formula One (F1) racing, excels because it downshifts, taking the time to examine the intricacies of a rivalry between two very distinct personalities.

Those two are James Hunt and Niki Lauda, legendary drivers who rose through the ranks together, ultimately waging an epic battle for the 1976 F1 championship. In the midst of that battle, Lauda suffered a near fatal accident, then subjected himself to the accelerated, painful rehabilitation needed to get back in the car before season’s end.

Rush is the latest in a line of historical dramas from veteran director Ron Howard, and thankfully, it’s one that favors the insightful subtlety of Frost/Nixon more than the overwrought melodrama of Cinderella Man.

That shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Morgan, who penned Frost/Nixon (as well as The Queen and The Last King of Scotland) delivers another thoughtful, character-driven script that supplies Howard with the sharp dialogue and wonderful themes necessary to develop the engrossing drama Rush ultimately becomes.

While Morgan again proves himself a master wordsmith, Howard displays a deft command of the pacing and camerawork needed to balance the human drama with the sports spectacle.

There are stories floating around that the film became a dual character study only because Howard didn’t have the budget necessary for all the racing he wanted to film. True or not, what matters is we get the best of both, with some truly pulse-pounding race sequences amid a faithful recreation of the international F1 scene during the swinging 70s.

Still, a  superior drama requires superlative lead performances, and Rush offers those as well. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) puts his charisma to good use, painting Hunt as the cavalier playboy who drifted through life looking for something, or someone, that could give him the high he got from his race car. Hemsworth’s looks and movie star status make him an easy choice for the Rush poster, but while his turn is strong, it his co-star who drives the film.

As Lauda, Daniel Bruhl creates a persona that becomes utterly fascinating, especially when pitted against his rival. While Hunt is raw talent, charm and bravado, Lauda is brainy, meticulous, blunt and socially inept. In a commanding performance that needs to remembered come awards season, Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds) makes an “unlikeable” character both sympathetic and compelling, drawing you into how Lauda views Hunt, and the world.

Exciting, enlightening, heartfelt and humorous, Rush flat out delivers, on all pumped-up cylinders.

 

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

Tony Danza, Scarlett Johansson and Porn

by Hope Madden

Look at little Tommy Solomon! Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven himself a versatile actor in the years since his TV career in the guise of a pre-pubescent Earthling. With his newest effort, Don Jon, he exhibits surprising confidence and aptitude as both a screenwriter and a director.

The film follows Jon (Gordon-Levitt), a Jersey player who cares deeply about only a handful of things: his bod, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, his porn.

Guess which one of those gets him into trouble.

Maybe the best way to appreciate what Don Jon is, is to quickly cover what it is not. Don Jon is not a traditional romantic comedy. It is not a sexy romp, or a perfect flick for hangin’ with your bros.

No. It’s a sexually frank, cleverly written, confidently directed independent comedy/drama about our culture of objectification. It’s an alert comment on a society that fears intimacy, collects trophies, and looks to get more than it gives; a culture that raises girls to want to be princesses, and guys to collect sexual conquests. A culture where a fast food restaurant honestly advertises its newest sandwich by having an oiled up, bikini clad super model spread her legs while she enjoys the tasty burger.

The effort certainly carries its flaws, but JGL gets credit for upending expectations, and for brilliantly paralleling romantic comedies and porn – because, let’s be honest, they are equally damaging to our concept of relationship.

Writing and direction are nothing without a cast, and Gordon-Levitt proves just as savvy in that department. Tony F. Danza, ladies and gentlemen! Danza has fun as Jon’s role model father, while this season’s go-to girl Brie Larson – with barely a word – scores as his observant sister.

Gordon-Levitt’s own perfectly crafted swagger finds its match in a gum-chewing Scarlett Johansson, whose sultry manipulator is spot-on.

The fledgling auteur stumbles by Act 3 – quite a letdown after such a well articulated premise. The underdeveloped resolution would hinder the effort more were it not for the presence of Julianne Moore as the eccentric and wise Esther. The role may be a bit clichéd, but Moore is incapable of anything less than excellence.

It won’t be long before we’re saying the same of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Until the end, he proves himself an insightful observer of his times, a cagey storyteller, and an artist with limitless potential.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

For Your Queue: Two More Reasons to Stay Out of the Woods

Chances are by now you’re well aware of the horror fun to found in The Cabin in the Woods (and if you’re not, what gives?) For a lesser known take on the “cabin” premise, check out Resolution, which is finally released to DVD this week. Much like the blockbuster, Resolution takes a self-aware approach to the horror genre, reworking popular plot conventions and metaphorically bringing the horror audience into the narrative. It also brings more true creepiness to the party, while still managing a healthy dose of humor, and tipping a hat to the art of scary storytelling with nods to films as varied as The Blair Witch Project and Cache.

And speaking of Michael Haneke’s brilliant, simmering thriller Cache, definitely see that movie. Though it’s an entirely different experience, Haneke’s work shares a sense of dread that comes from the knowledge of being surveilled. Haneke develops a looming, paranoid foreboding, a sense of silent menace the characters can’t shake. You’ll have trouble relieving yourself of it, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS4VVUYsK44

Make Sure You’re Prepared

 

by George Wolf

 

Pre-game warmups aren’t usually part of the moviegoing experience, but Prisoners may require a little preparation.

Quite simply, it will wear you out.

Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski have crafted a relentlessly intense, utterly engrossing mystery/thriller that will bludgeon your nerves, tease your sensibilities and leave your morals in disarray.

Hugh Jackman is unbelievably great as a father desperate for answers after his daughter, and his neighbor’s daughter, are abducted on Thanksgiving Day. The assigned detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) believes a troubled local man (Paul Dano) is to blame, but can’t find the evidence to hold him. Jackman’s character, overcome with rage, takes matters into his own hands.

That’s all the info you need, but just a tiny fraction of the complex chain of events set in motion by the crime. Guzikowski, who adapted the Contraband screenplay last year, delivers a twisting, intelligent script that lulls you with the familiarity of the premise all the while it’s leading you places you may not want to go.

Villeneuve, best known for writing and directing the Oscar-nominated Incendies three years ago, makes a stunning English language debut that succeeds on many levels. If a thriller was all it was, it would be a good one, relying on a substance that recalls years of Hollywood films from Death Wish to Gone Baby Gone.

Prisoners transcends the genre in the way it forces its audience to face the same moral ambiguities the characters are up against. The stupendous cast, which also includes greats such as Terence Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo, fills each character with gritty realism, allowing actions that seem justified in one set of circumstances to be easily called into question.  As surprises mount,  the film lands solid blows to perceptions of torture, fear-mongering, religious fanaticism, and even basic parenting.

Sound like a lot? It is, and the film earns every minute of its two and a half hour running time. It is a dark, cathartic journey that is not for the squeamish, and the film’s length only serves to reinforce the hell these people are going through.  They want it to end, and so do you, but only because the film has hooked you so deeply.

You’ll need to pay attention and listen hard, and though you probably won’t figure things out early, the clues are all there in front of you. Prisoners is a breathtaking ride that rewards the effort it demands, ultimately providing a satisfying payoff, capped by an unforgettable final scene that may very well find its way into your dreams.

 

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

 

For Your Queue: Z-28-Hit-Play..Hut-Hut!

 

The zombie thriller directed by Marc Forster (who’d directed no thrillers, let alone zombies) that has almost nothing to do with Max Brooks’s fascinating novel World War Z? Surprisingly enough, yes. Yes please, even. Brad Pitt’s scarf-wearing hero traipses the mostly demolished globe in search of a cure in a movie that never lets up, consistently surprises, and delivers the goods. Check it out this week on DVD.

 

Maybe the zombie movie match-up is Danny Boyle’s not-really-zombie flick 28 Days Later. Sure, they’re not dead yet, but they are super pissed off and they want to eat you, so run! Just don’t run to that military outpost. Boyle’s empty London, brutal monsters, and epically creepy climax makes his foray into horror an especially joyous one. Two great ways to get prepped for the coming Halloween season.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eunaclr-WgU

Or, just watch Fight Club. You can’t go wrong there.

Please Put Your Pants On

Thanks for Sharing

by Hope Madden

In 2010, Stuart Blumberg wrote a film that frankly depicted the crisis of a loving but stagnant marriage upended by infidelity. Though it may have been the intrigue of “new era family” that piqued audience interest in The Kids Are All Right, it was the talented cast and the casually insightful writing that made the film worth seeing.

In fact, Blumberg has made a career out of clever scripts that take a familiar approach to an unfamiliar topic, such as  The Girl Next Door, the teen romance between a shy young man and his porn star neighbor.

For his directorial debut he pulled from a screenplay he co-wrote with Matt Winston. Thanks for Sharing offers a romantic dramedy about sex addiction.

The great Mark Ruffalo anchors the cast as Adam, sex addict. Adam’s been sober for 5 years, thanks in part to the salty wisdom of his sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins), though he’s having trouble with his new court-appointed sponsee Neil (Josh Gad), who isn’t taking the program seriously.

Complications arise for all three addicts, who face temptation anew as life asks them to juggle adversity and addiction simultaneously. The film is refreshingly clear on the point that overcoming addition is harder than most movies make it out to be.

Credit Blumberg once again for his script’s candor. Every character is gifted with sharp dialogue that does more than shape the role; it articulates profound difficulty of overcoming this particular problem. This cast takes advantage.

Ruffalo finds humanity in every character, and his take on Adam’s wobbly sense of control is touching. Gwyneth Paltrow offers another strong turn, and both actors benefit as much from Blumberg’s bright dialogue as the film benefits from the duo’s easy onscreen chemistry.

Though Robbins delivers a lot of the film’s funnier lines, Gad brings schlubby humor while sparring with a charmingly vulgar Alecia Moore (taking a break from her day job as pop star “Pink”).

Unfortunately, Blumberg the director is less confident than Blumberg the writer. He’s too uncomfortable with the tension he creates, switching from one storyline to the next when things get dark and confining his characters with predictable, tidy formulas.

It may be impossible to watch a film about sex addiction without remembering Michael Fassbender’s scarring performance in 2011’s Shame. While that film wallows in the filth and self loathing, Thanks for Sharing dips a toe and quickly hoses off. For a man who’s made a career of exploiting the mundane inner workings of naughtiness, he should be more comfortable getting a little messy.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvituQpwkfI

Stone Cold Jane Austen

 

by George Wolf

 

Though I didn’t read the 2007 novel that inspired Austenland, the premise of sending Jane Austen devotees off to their own fantasy camp is one that seems full of possibilities for satire-filled fun.

Consider them missed.

Keri Russell plays Jane Hayes, an Austen freak who blows all her money to attend Austenland, longing for life in a ” simpler time” and the promise of romance with her very own “Mr. Darcy.”

One she arrives, though, Jane learns she has only purchased the “basic” Austenland experience,  which means modest accommodations, poor social status and the new name “Jane Erstwhile.”

Still, she tries to make the best of it, buddying up with the obnoxious but wealthy “Miss Elizabeth Charming” (Jennifer Coolidge) and stealing kisses from the off-limits stable boy Martin (Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie). Eventually, Miss Erstwhile catches the eye of the standoffish “Mr. Nobley” (JJ Feild) and..

You can probably guess the rest, which is exactly the way the film wants it. In many respects, Austenland is a dumbed down Midnight in Paris, where the whimsical fantasy elements and sublime writing is replaced with forced humor and one joke obviousness.

The flat conventionality of it all is a bit of a surprise, coming from director/co- writer Jerusha Hess. Though this is her directing debut, she co wrote the screenplays for Nacho Libre, Gentlemen Broncos, and Napoleon Dynamite, three wonderfully offbeat comedies that were anything but crowd pleasingly safe.

There’s no sharp wit, satire or subtlety here, just sitcom humor and fluffy romance dressed up in period costumes.

For a more successful mix of romantic fiction and present day fandom, check out the 2008 mini series Lost in Austen, and leave Austenland on the shelf.

 

 

Verdict-2-0-Stars

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIxmVwP3ROI