RIP: Bob Hoskins

Never known as my favorite actor, but always an actor I would enjoy, Bob Hoskins passed away recently after suffering pneumonia.

My first experience with Bob Hoskins' performance came from his supporting turn in the Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" as Spoor, a Central Services Worker. Not a starring role, but certainly a memorable one which would lead to many more in a long career.

His most well-known role would come not much later as the role of Eddie Valliant in Robert Zemeckis' "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in 1988. Me being young an impressionable when first watching "Roger Rabbit" initially thought Bob Hoskins was always just a gruff-sounding American based off his portrayal of Eddie, even after I had seen "Brazil". It's an amazing performance of comedic timing and the ability to work seamlessly during a time when special effects were much more difficult to bring to life on film. It really is a sham that Bob Hoskins was not nominated for Best Actor for this performance.

Moving through the 1990's, Bob Hoskins made many memorable, if somewhat forgettable, appearances in major Hollywood films including: Hook, Nixon, Michael and Super Mario Bros. I wont dwell too much on Super Mario Bros. as Bob Hoskins has stated in interviews that the film was the worst experience he had and that he considered the film a "piece of shit". That may be the case, but his performance as Mario is not the worst thing in that movie.

Recently, Bob Hoskins announced that he was suffering from Parkinson's Disease and would be retiring from making films. His last film given to us was the 2012 fantasy film "Snow White and the Huntsman".

Bob Hoskins gave us many years of interesting Hollywood and small films to choose from including his role as a London gangster in "The Long Good Friday" his role as Nikita Khrushchev in "Enemy at the Gates" and his Oscar-nominated performance as a driver in "Mona Lisa". Gone, but not forgotten, Bob Hoskins left behind a legacy that will continue onward for many years.


Dallas Buyers Club

The film that transformed Matthew McConaughey into an Academy Award winner.

Set during the 1980's, Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) lives a wild lifestyle of having unprotected sex with prostitutes and being a rodeo enthusiast. After an accident at work, Ron discovers that he has AIDS and is only given 30 days to live. He initially approaches Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) about getting an FDA approved drug called AZT. Her boss Dr. Sevard (Denis O'Hare) leads the group for clinical trials of AZT.

Once on the drug, Ron discovers that his body is worsening quicker than usual. Finding out that AZT appears to do more harm than good, Ron goes to Mexico and meets with Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne) who informs Ron that AZT kills the cells in one's body. Dr. Vass instead gives Ron alternative drugs that are not FDA approved. The unauthorized drugs appear to work and Ron begins to transport the drugs over the Mexico border for his use and to sell to others who also are infected by HIV. One of those infected, a transgender woman named Rayon, (Jared Leto) butts heads with Ron.

Eventually, the two form an uneasy alliance to sell the non-FDA approved drugs under the moniker of the Dallas Buyers Club for $400 a month. Dr. Saks eventually sees the negative side effects to AZT while also seeing that the non-FDA approved drugs do appear to be helping those suffering from HIV. Dr. Sevard does not see eye-to-eye with Dr. Saks or Ron and tries to shut down the Dallas Buyers Club.

This is a film that is really all about the performances. The script really didn't do much for me, and am surprised the script got an Oscar nomination. Enough can't be said, though, for the performances of Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey. Leto disappears into the role of the wise Rayon, who knows that she is on borrowed time, yet is trying to do what she can. McConaughey puts his own spin on the stereotypical anti-gay man who must bond with those he does not get along with, role. Both roles were deserving of their nominations and awards.

As stated, the story is nothing you haven't seen before, but anchored by two solid performances, this is a film that should be seen to see how Matthew McConaughey is becoming one of this generation's better actors.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson drops his latest film upon us, and if you weren't a fan of his before, it will continue that way.

Set mainly in a fictional European country in the 1930's, The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of Zero (Tony Revolori) who trains as a lobby boy of the titular hotel, under the tutelage of Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Monsieur Gustave runs the hotel like a well-oiled machine and ensures that all guests are promptly taken care of, especially the females.

One female in particular, Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis aka Madame D (Tilda Swinton) eventually is found dead under suspicious circumstances. As Monsieur Gustave took special care of her during her time at the Grand Budapest Hotel, a journey begins where Monsieur Gustave takes Zero to Madame D's will reading. As Madame D's family expects to be bequeathed all of her fortune, the family is shocked that Monsieur Gustave has been granted a very expensive painting. This especially enrages Madame D's son, Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody) who employs his loyal assassin J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to try and stop Monsieur Gustave and retrieve the painting.

This really is only the start of the plot and does not include an extended prison sequence featuring Harvey Keitel or the brief cameos by Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. Edward Norton also shows up, sporting an ungodly accent, as an inspector that is really forced by the screenplay into tying up the remainder of the plot.

The film itself is filled to the brim with all of the standard Wes Anderson tropes that you have come to expect. The film may not be making fun of itself, but also really doesn't push any new limits that you haven't seen before from a Wes Anderson film. In regards to Wes Anderson films, this doesn't reach the heights of his latest efforts like Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox and certainly doesn't compare to my personal favorite: The Royal Tenenbaums.

As it is, though, with most Wes Anderson films, you know what you are getting, and this film certainly provides that. Even when Wes Anderson doesn't give you his best film, it's still better than most of what's currently playing at the cinema.



I, Frankenstein

Every January, Hollywood decides to dump multiple piles of expensive trash upon the audience in the hopes of making a bit of scratch. One of those piles for 2014 is I, Frankenstein.

The Creature, dubbed Adam, (Aaron Eckhart) because why not, is hurriedly rushed through his prologue where his creator, Frankenstein, dies. Once we get the two or three minutes of back story out of the way, Adam makes a shaky alliance with a group of gargoyles that protect humans from demons on Earth. The rest of the movie is a dimly-lit film where badly CGI'd demons battle badly CGI'd gargoyles and grumpy ol' Adam is stuck in the middle where he feels that this is not his fight.

Honestly, they should just call this movie by its real title: Underworld 5. The lighting, acting, release schedule and hammy bad guy portrayal by Bill Nighy all seem like they were filming I, Frankenstein under the release of the next film in the Underworld franchise. You take the demons and gargoyles and replace them with werewolves and vampires and the toned-up Aaron Eckhart and replace him with the toned-up Kate Beckinsale and you just made Underworld 5 without anyone even realizing it.

Aaron Eckhart, eager to show off how much time he spent in the gym, sleepwalks through the film without being bothered to even try to have some fun, in what is a silly premise. Not doing him any favors is writer/director Stuart Beattie who gives us a film that is way too serious for its own good. I understand if you are trying to make a classic version of the Frankenstein story, but the idea is so silly, that some humor would have done wonders for this film. Instead we get Adam, who is no fun, plodding along in a story devoid of fun while being shot in a style that drains any last hope of fun. Instead, we get a bland and utterly boring film that, where no one seems to have any fun, relegating the viewer to not have any fun either.

And honestly, where's the fun in that?



American Hustle

Continuing to play catch-up, here's my review of Oscar hopeful: American Hustle.

Based off the ABSCAM operation and set during the late 1970's and early 1980's, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a low level con artist working with his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). After both are caught in a scam by FBI Agent Richie DiMaso, (Bradley Cooper) Irving and Sydney reluctantly work for Richie to bring down various politicians including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Due to the complexity of the undercover operation, not all parts go smoothly. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) complicates matters as a potential love triangle forms between Irving, Richie and Sydney. As the operation progresses, Irving and Carmine start to become friends and Richie wants the operation to grow in size in an effort to take down more and more corrupt politicians. The size of the operation begins spiral out of control and all parties involved begin to struggle to keep everything in order.

The plot is not as complex as it sounds, but it is more of a foundation for what truly makes this film entertaining: the performances. Even as I felt this was my favorite film of the year, I understand that American Hustle is not a great film. The plot falls by the wayside in favor of letting you enjoy the performances and the fun that the actors and director, David O. Russell are having.

The fun that the actors and crew are having does not take you out of the film. Instead the film brings you in and provides you with one of the best comedies of the year. Everything from the bad wigs, to bad accents and the way the characters handle the complicated scam that is presented in this film as a fun, but not overly-complicated 2 hour film. Even the title card that starts the movie, really sets the tone for how serious the film handles the ABSCAM plot that the film is based on. American Hustle tries really hard to entertain you, and based off what David O. Russell and the cast offer, I feel the film succeeds on that level.

The one weak link in the film for me, personally was Jeremy Renner. Everyone else in the film felt like they were on the same page, but with his character everything felt off and out of place and ultimately felt that Jeremy Renner was miscast as Mayor Polito. As the film progresses towards its conclusion, there is a scene where Irving and Carmine confront each other in Carmine's house. Carmine asks Irving if he is lying to him; at which time I felt bad for the character itself, but not by the performance delivered by Jeremy Renner.

I know there's been a lot of hate and backlash towards the film lately, but as just an enjoyable piece of cinema with overall good performances, it's hard to not rank American Hustle near the top of the best films list of 2013.



Writer's Block - Version 2

Shameless plug time strikes back!

I wanted to showcase a short script that I wrote that was turned into a short film directed by Rich Keel. The script is based off a contest where a one page script was to be written within a month. My script was called "Writer's Block" and Rich Keel was kind enough to ask permission to film the script for his site off YouTube. Check out his site and the other films he has made after you've checked out the two versions Rich shot of my script.

I bring to you, "Writer's Block" - Version 2.

Please enjoy and let me know what you think. Good or bad.

Writer's Block - Version 1

It's shameless plug time!

Something other than a film review, I wanted to showcase a short script that I wrote that was turned into a short film directed by Rich Keel. The script is based off a contest where a one page script was to be written within a month. My script was called "Writer's Block" and Rich Keel was kind enough to ask permission to film the script for his site off YouTube. Check out his site and the other films he has made after you've checked out the two versions Rich shot of my script.

I bring to you, "Writer's Block" - Version 1.

Please enjoy and let me know what you think. Good or bad.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Back from my long sabbatical, and what better way to bring the reviews back than with a Martin Scorcese film?

In the late 1980's, greed-obsessed stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) sets up a boiler room to sell penny stocks to unsuspecting investors. After being motivated to pursue his dream of greed by his first boss, Mark Hanna, (Matthew McConaughey) Jordan recruits Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) to set up his own firm: Stratton Oakmont. Through the ridiculous commissions he makes off each penny stock sold through his own firm, Belfort's wealth increases as exponentially as does his raging drug habit throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's.

A lot has been made about the film and its controversial subject matter including the unlimited usage of drugs and rampant sexuality. While this film does provide heavy doses of both, it also is a solidly funny dark comedy in what can best be described as, labeled online: "Scarface for douchebags".

At three hours, including credits, does the film feel longer than it needs to be? Yes. Martin Scorcese is a master storyteller, which this film continues to prove, but also, after a while, the film does become repetitive in it's showcasing of Jordan's excess. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does edit the film to keep the pacing well maintained, but a story like this really doesn't need to have the running time that it does.

Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor who gets better as his career progresses. Though I am not sure this is his best role, my personal preference being The Departed, this is a powerful performance that only few actors could have pulled off as well as Leonardo DiCaprio does. Jonah Hill is solid, though his character seems to come and go only when the plot needs to, likewise FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who begins snooping into Jordan's firm and the legality of it.

Lastly, Matthew McConaughey's Mark Hanna shows up early and only for a brief time. Mark takes Jordan under his wing and gives him all the information required to be a millionaire: namely a reliance on cocaine. The small role is fun and a very enjoyable cameo brought forth by Matthew McConaughey, who continues to showcase himself as an actor who is continuously getting better. See Killer Joe or look at all the accolades he is receiving for his work in Dallas Buyer's Club to understand what I mean.

Is this Martin Scorcese's best film ever? Honestly, no. There are some problems with the film: length and a somewhat unfocused story being the main culprits. Is it the best film of the year? Again, no. There are films released in 2013 that I felt were better overall. Is this Martin Scorcese still near the top of his game? Absolutely. The Wolf of Wall Street may not be the best film of the year, but it is still a very good film and should be seen by all to watch Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio fire on all cylinders.