The Storied Career Of Daniel Day-Lewis

It was announced Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring from acting following the release of his next film. With a film career that has had him working steadily for more than 35 years,

DDL has become one of the most respected and acclaimed actors over that period. DDL has amassed five best leading actors Oscar nominations and three wins (the most leading actor wins for a male ever) seven Golden Globe nominations with two wins and six BAFTA nominations with four wins.

His dedication to his craft and roles have become things of legend. His depth of knowledge of each character and preparation is most likely second to none. What makes almost all his performances so incredible is that he has never taken a role for any selfish reason such as money or to receive top billing or to even keep himself relevant. He has no fear as an actor. No fear of failure or in his abilities.

He is willing to go several years in between films so that he can work on something he believes in. He has been coveted by every top-tier director on the planet and has never disappointed any of them.

I’ve decided to create a list of his top performances in honor of the closing of one of the greatest acting careers ever amassed. With nothing to be ashamed of in his resume (unlike some other heralded actors such as Pacino, Nicholson and Di Nero), it is not a list to be taken lightly but here is my best effort at it.

The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)

Based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel about the French and Indian War, DDL teamed up with Michael Mann to play Nathaniel Poe the adopted half white Mohican. The dying tribe is soon thrust into the middle of the war of which they want no part to rescue the daughters of a British colonel. It is with Mohicans that DDL’s stories of commitment and never breaking character would begin. He learned to live on the land and woodwork with primitively with the tools of the time to aid him. This was his first taste of big-budget Hollywood, and to the cinematic world, he did not disappoint.

In The Name Of The Father (1993)

Daniel Day-Lewis garnered his second Oscar nomination playing Gerry Conlon, an Irishman living in London who was falsely convicted of an IRA bombing along with his father along with others. Conlon spent fifteen years in prison trying to prove his innocence with the aid of a British attorney. DDL being of half Irish stock himself felt a closeness and need to tell this story and did so spectacularly. He turned down the lead role in Philadelphia to make this deeply personal film. Tom Hanks took the part in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia and won his first of two consecutive Academy Awards. Had DDL taken the role instead of Hanks we could very well be talking about four leading actor Oscars (or if Hanks had not taken the part).

My Left Foot (1989)

The career of Daniel Day-Lewis hit its highest level for the first time in 1989 when he won his first nomination and Oscar playing Christy Brown, an artist born with cerebral palsy who learned to paint and write with his only functioning limb. The physical abilities and what would become a theme in his performances, his commitment to the role would make the cinematic world stand up and take notice and be in awe of him which would not go away.

Lincoln (2012)

Teaming up for the first time with Steven Spielberg, DDL won his third Oscar playing possibly the most revered figure in American history, Abraham Lincoln. We were treated to such a performance that brought to life this figure in a way no one ever had. The former Ed president had been portrayed by a myriad of excellent actors in the past but never had the authenticity felt as genuine than when he played him. It felt like the closest thing to watching film of the actual Lincoln, of which there is none. Aside from the physical aspects of Lincoln we were given a peek into Lincoln’s mind and thoughts and struggles. Once again his commitment would shine through in such a way that left the audience transfixed to the screen.

Gangs Of New York (2002)

Teaming up with a fellow Hollywood icon in Martin Scorsese to tell the story of the birth of the world’s melting pot, New York City. Lewis once again played a historical figure when he played William Cutting better known as Bill The Butcher who was known as the leader of a highly corrupted city who controlled all crime and criminals in the famed five points area. Fighting the politicians of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall, a young Irishman gains Bill’s trust to exact revenge for killing his father years earlier. Daniel Day-Lewis was so committed to the role of Cutting that when he became ill on set, he refused particular blankets because they weren’t available in the period of his character. He would speak with a New York accent on and off set and never stopped being the butcher.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece about an unscrupulous oil tycoon at the turn of the century is, in my opinion, Daniel Day-Lewis’ finest hour. His creation of the character Daniel Plainview and all aspects of his personality is marvelous. The depth of the character leaves the audience in awe and makes you completely forget that it’s even acting that is being watched. The film itself is a work of brilliance, but it is nothing without Lewis in front of the camera it is HIS brilliance that makes it brilliant. It is performances like this that have left so many cinephiles extremely sad at the fact that there will be no more from him at all.

Field Of Dreams Transcends The Game It Honors

Everyone who loves baseball has several reasons why they like it. Some call it the perfect game, others call it the thinking man’s athletic sport. Still, others love the fanfare that comes with going to a game. There is one thing for sure, every fan has a baseball hero, and no sport loves it’s heroes the way the game of baseball does. They honor and remember all of its greats like no other profession and entertainment does. They are near mythic heroes, and the stories are like that of old Greek gods. Field Of Dreams pays homage to all of that.

One movie took all these loves of heroes and the love people had of their heroes and did it better than any tribute any book or story could do. Field Of Dreams is just that, a tip of the hat to baseball’s heroes and those that remember and love those heroes. It’s not as much a baseball movie as it is a love of what baseball has brought to people and how it has affected people.

Field Of Dreams is much more than a baseball movie; it’s a nostalgia movie. It uses baseball as it’s vehicle to show a man’s never forgotten the love of his father and how he vowed to love his family as much as his father loved him only he’s going to show it much more than his father did.

Kevin Costner has been criticized in the past for making too many baseball movies and playing it safe in that regard, but his first two baseball movies were nothing short of pure gems as far as movies go. We did not include Field Of Dreams on our top five baseball movie list because it seems to be about so much more than baseball. A man’s search to understand his father and his father’s love for a game, baseball is the medium the storyteller uses many fathers and sons can appreciate that.

It helps to pull the intended emotions of the storyteller and made every man who saw the movie or read the book immediately want to hug his father and play catch with them just one more time.

Field Of Dreams is a movie that will forever be seen by young men and their fathers that will translate through the line of time. It will always also make grown men cry forever, and that’s what it should do. There is no shame in that and maybe it being a sports movie is what makes that OK, but sports or not it’s a love story between a father and son and with one game of catch all the unsaid things they wanted to say to each other is finally said and accepted.

I, Tonya Review

The United States had some of the best skaters in the world with Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan and the rebel outsider, Tonya Harding in the early 1990’s. Harding’s white trash upbringing and lifestyle made her a natural rival to America’s sweetheart Nancy Kerrigan. The rivalry was so much more than fans choosing sides, there was genuine envy. Harding seemed to be envious of what appeared to be the perfect poster child for good clean American living and felt she was discriminated against because of her background and lack of money. She felt her talent was as good as anyone out there, but no one could look past her brash demeanor. This would go on to be the struggle of her entire life even after her skating career was finished. Who would have thought they would go on to make a Tonya Harding movie that would produce an Academy Award winner?

While I am in no way an expert or historian of figure skating, but I figure it would be safe to say that the sport was never as popular as it was going into the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The buzz was loud surrounding it even before the infamous crack on Nancy Kerrigan’s knee, that just made it, even more, rock and roll. I mean Kerrigan would go on to host an episode of Saturday Night Live! 

If the story of the competition between Kerrigan and Harding is going to be told, it has to be told from Tonya’s point of view. She was the one with the roller-coaster life and the one who had a variety of colorful characters surrounding her. 

Tonya grew up in a poor section of Portland, Oregon and had only one love and one noticeable talent which her less-than-caring mother quickly decided to exploit. LaVona Harding was a chain-smoking waitress who was bitter at the world for dealing her a raw hand. She sank everything she could into Tonya and trying to get her to the top level of the figure skating world. Her overbearing and highly critical ways are what ultimately drove her and Tonya apart and pushed Tonya into the hands of her future husband and accomplice, Jeff Gillooly. 

Tony Harding was determined to be the best skater she could be, it was the competition part she didn’t like because she was convinced she was getting overlooked. It was these feelings and frustrations that would ultimately lead to her downfall.

The new film I, Tonya shows her life and rise and fall in the skating community in the best possible way. This story had to be told in a darkly comical way and director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers found the perfect way to show some of the worst moments and make us laugh and empathize at the same time. This story is almost so sad and depressing from Tonya’s viewpoint that if you don’t tell it in a comical way it would be unbearable to watch. These people became such parodies of themselves, it’s hard to believe that 23 years ago all of this was real and that it WASN’T a movie.

The film is clearly driven by Margot Robbie’s complete and perfect transformation into Harding and Allison Janney’s pitch-perfect performance as her dreadful mother. These two together have you transfixed on these two people and the downtrodden life they both lead. Robbie has so many of Harding’s mannerisms and her voice is spot on (google some video interviews of Tonya and you will be amazed). We catch a glimpse of LaVona at the end of the movie and it becomes scary how well Janney did depict her every move. 

As a whole, the movie captured the time period of the very bland mid 90’s in an excellent way and brings us into Tonya’s life in a very real and intimate way that you at times forget you are watching a movie and not reliving the whole time period again. Robbie and Janney steal the movie, but it’s Tonya’s life story that keeps you fixated on the movie as a whole. 

The Whirlwind Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

The life and career of Robert Downey Jr. are more of a roller coaster than any movie he’s ever made. His well documented legal and addiction troubles nearly derailed an acting career that was skyrocketing complete with an Oscar nomination, a season on SNL and being the lead alongside superstars like Mel Gibson all by the time he was 27.

His descent into a life of addiction and prison time almost became more well known than any movie he had ever made. Four films are the most pivotal movies in his life and career all for very different reasons. I’m going to break them down in chronological order and why they are so important in the life and career of Robert Downey Jr.

The Career Of Robert Downey Jr.

Before I lay out the list, there are a few films I should mention first that were also essential films for Downey but not as game-changing. The film Air America was one of the first where he was indeed a marquee star. It was a buddy comedy with Mel Gibson who was hitting his peak of fame.

The second film was Wonder Boys with Michael Douglas. This movie was one of the first where everyone thought he was starting to turn the corner. His performance was highly praised, but he was still a few years away from sobriety and the fact that he wasn’t sober overshadowed his performance.

Third and fourth came back to back with Tropic Thunder which earned him his second academy award nomination and he was the all the talk of the awards that night even though he didn’t come home with a statue. He was now famously five years sober and clearly at the top of his acting talents and showing how great he was.

The fourth was Sherlock Holmes which earned him the golden globe and provided the opportunity for his peers to celebrate him and his new life and serious commitment to his career. It was an emotional yet very deserved moment.

1. Less Than Zero (1987)

Less Than Zero was the first time he was billed with Jr. attached to his name and the beginning of some of the legendary party stories for RDJ. this is where the career of Robert Downey Jr. REALLY began He has been quoted as saying this was the first time his drug and alcohol use spilled over into the production and not just during his downtime. Director Marek Kanievska told him and his co-star Andrew McCarthy (who battled his own addiction problems) to go out and party to get into character. This direction probably wasn’t the reason his abuses took such a foothold but more than likely they sped things up. The film was panned by critics and even the author of the source material book of the same name. It has since gained more appreciation in the 30 years since its release, but its foreshadowing can’t be ignored.

2. Chaplin (1992)

RDJ blew the doors off his portrayal of the legendary screen icon and gave Downey his first Oscar nomination, and it was well earned. Despite all his faults, he was able to transform himself completely. It would also turn out to be one of the last films for a long time that wouldn’t be plagued by his demons. Most critics and fans looked at Chaplin as the movie that showed what RDJ could have been.

3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

2003 is the year Downey got sober and finally stayed sober for which he credits his current wife and her support for him. Downey came to realize he couldn’t go anywhere other than prison or the grave and he has famously said that he is allergic to drugs and alcohol, he always breaks out into handcuffs. It would still be two years before he would make an impact and headline a major motion picture and prove to people he was more committed to his career than to ruin it. The buddy picture that was written and directed by the writer of the massive hit Lethal Weapon had RDJ star alongside Val Kilmer and proved to be a highly underrated movie and showed Downey’s comedic brilliance.

4. Iron Man (2008)

The superhero resurgence and current domination can be traced to one film, Iron Man. The juggernaut of Marvel Comics becoming kings of the box office is where it is because RDJ WAS Tony Stark. Every embodiment of that character is deep inside him, and he OWNED it. He had been sober for five years and was still busting his butt to prove to be people his commitment to acting. He became the biggest star in the world with this movie and solidified himself as 100 percent back in the game.

It is wonderful to know that there is a whole generation of movie fans that will only know him at this point in his career. It is forever in his contracts that he has to provide insurance for the films in the case he was, and his salary is held until the film is complete. He will always have to fight his demons and in a sense will always be paying for his past but thankfully all movie fans he convinced us all that he is back. I am just glad the the life and career of Robert Downey Jr. is as of yet unfinished with much more to come.

Lady Bird Review

For some time now Greta Gerwig has been slowly taking the title of “queen of independent films” away from its longtime holder, Parker Posey. Well, now she has once again gone behind the camera and released her second film, Lady Bird, which she also has written. Lady Bird also stars one of the industries best young actresses, two-time Academy Award nominee, Saoirse Ronan. Ronan blew everyone away when she stole the show in 2007’s Atonement as well as her beautiful performance in one of 2015’s best films, Brooklyn. 

Lady Bird is the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a seventeen-year-old girl who is doing her best to exist in a city, school, and home that feels out of place in. These feelings are compounded by a contentious relationship with her overly critical mother, Marion played by Laurie Metcalf in the role of her career.

As Lady Bird navigates her way through her senior year of high school she discovers heartbreak, superficial friendships and how these experiences can mold you into everything that makes you who you are. Hell-bent on attending an east coast college she consistently butts heads with her mother on her future while discovering the depths of her parents struggle with their own lives. Lady Bird at times goes to great lengths to hide her family’s meager means while attending a private school with much better to do children. 

The relationship Lady Bird and her mother have is one that can easily be related to by most. Sympathy can easily be felt for both of them as it is well portrayed what each one’s deeper feelings and motivations truly are. Marion wants the best for her daughter but her blunt honesty and critical views of her daughter’s life and choices feel overbearing to Lady Bird. While on the other hand, Lady Bird also wants what she feels is best for herself while still not knowing what that is.

She desperately wants the encouragement and support from her mother in her choices and wants but can’t seem to get that from her. It is in this aspect that the movie really settles your heart because we come to want what they BOTH want. We see Lady Bird grow significantly throughout her final year of school and she gets all the support and understanding from her loving father played by Tracy Letts. Her father is struggling in his life both outwardly and within himself all while doing all he can to give his daughter everything she needs to be a successful woman. 

This is Saoirse Ronan’s first major role since her Oscar-nominated performance in Brooklyn and she seamlessly transitions from a 1950’s Irish immigrant trying to make it in a new world, to an eccentric teenager battling her way through some of the most tumultuous times in her life.

Her performance is so genuine and real that we feel every emotion and difficulty she has and her struggle to navigate her way through it. This is a character that could not have been played by any other actress out there because of how we feel about her. As much as this is due to Ronan’s unbelievable abilities it is equally attributed to the magnificent script that Gerwig has masterfully crafted. 

Lady Bird is one of the most heartwarming yet raw coming of age stories that have been put out in years. Without question, Gerwig has established herself as a preeminent filmmaker working right now. In a time and industry that is in recent times been plagued with mistreatment of women and abuses of power that make everyone sick, Lady Bird is the glittering jewel that makes people want to make films and makes the viewer continue to enjoy them.

All is not lost in the industry that seems to have had its legs knocked out from underneath it. Films can be built back into what it once was and it will be done with the strength of filmmakers like Gerwig. She will soon become a signal of hope for all the women fighting for equality in the industry. 

Lady Bird is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime for free.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri Review

This was Published on December 29, 2017. Frances McDormand has quietly become one of the most reliable actresses working today. I would dare say her consistency is above even Meryl Streep. She doesn’t churn out movie after movie. She isn’t exactly a marquee draw, but every time she makes a movie she MAKES the film. She has four Oscar nominations to her name and one win for her brilliant turn in Fargo. She is on her way to her fifth nomination and very possibly her second win for her roll in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Despite being married to one of the brilliant Coen brothers and often being in their films, she has no reason to think that is the reason for the respect she receives.

McDormand’s latest film is no exception to her long list of exceptional performance. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an emotional yet tender and look at personal tragedy and loss. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother who lost her daughter to rape and murder just seven months before the start of the film. Fed up with the lack of progress in her daughter’s case by the local police, she rents three billboards on the edge of town and leaves a message for everyone to read and especially Chief of police played by Woody Harrelson.

When the city is somewhat divided into her methods, she is unwavering in pushing things to the limit to get the results she needs for closure. Mildred is still dealing with an abusive ex-husband played by the highly underrated John Hawkes. With a hotheaded police officer played by the ALSO underrated Sam Rockwell, with a tarnished record harassing her at every turn she seems to be fighting everyone to get closure on the death of her daughter. Mildred goes through a series of events that increase the resistance she is facing even from her own son, only to find help from the least likely of people.

Despite its unconventional title, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a masterfully crafted story lead by its incredible cast and script. The pacing of the movie is only one of its many significant aspects. The humor that accompanies it is not out of place by any means and does not at all diminish the seriousness of the central theme of the story. Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has a history of mixing these qualities well with past films such as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths ( also with the great Sam Rockwell).

One of the great things about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is seeing a director come into his own and get such top performances out of his cast. Highly overlooked in the cast is Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage’s performance. Although a relatively minor role he plays the part of a somewhat outcast just trying to fit in and express to Mildred that he has feelings for her and even understands her anger and bitterness at the world, something she never indeed recognizes in him.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a movie that demands more than one viewing, not because of missed details but because of the different emotions, one feels during viewing that it takes more than one watch to be able to ingest all of it. The films have already garnered six Golden Globe nominations and be prepared for it to grab just as many Academy Award nominations and don’t at all be surprised to see McDormand and Sam Rockwell accept gold that night.

McDormand will have serious competition from Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie but make no mistake she is as deserving as any one of them to take the prize. At this point the only competition Sam Rockwell faces, in my opinion, is Christopher Plummer for All The Money In The World and Plummer’s ability to pull off what he did in the amount of time that he did is what gives him the advantage. I would love to see Sam Rockwell win and I’d be very curious to see the reception he would get, being as liked and respected as he is. It would make for a beautiful moment for him.

Titus Welliver Is More Than Just His Show Bosch Shows

If you’re a fan of the Amazon original show Bosch, then you know who the actor Titus Welliver is. If you don’t watch the show, you may be surprised to learn that you most likely know who he is too. Fans of the show Lost will recognize him as The Man In Black, a short-lived character but a hugely impactful one.

The reason people will be surprised when they discover that they have seen Welliver and didn’t know it is because he is one of the greatest chameleon actors working right now. His uncanny ability to take on an entirely new persona of a character is what makes it so hard to recognize him from role to role.

I first noticed Welliver’s talent on the HBO series Deadwood where he played Silas Adams, a close associate of a saloon owner, Al Swearengen. Deadwood was filled with a cast of actors with the same abilities as Welliver, such as Brad Dourif, Jim Beaver, and Dayton Callie. The cast of Deadwood has said that he is an expert mimic and can make several different impressions.

These are excellent skills and without a doubt significant reasons why he is so good at what he does. Welliver has also become quite the favorite of the director, Ben Affleck. He has appeared in all three feature films that Affleck has directed and is also cast in his latest effort, Live By Night, which is currently available for rent or purchase.

As an actor, Titus Welliver is as genuine as it comes. He never appears to take on roles for any other reason than he is interested in exploring a particular character. He has gone from one episode guest spots to having significant parts such as Gone Baby Gone and his current show, Bosch. He flies under the radar by not clamoring for every lead role. He’s not a face you see on talk shows and late night TV.

He has let his work speak for itself, and it has a unique and infectious voice. He has worked his way up purely on his skill and natural ability. To appreciate his range, one only needs to look at his work on Deadwood to Sons Of Anarchy and now to Bosch not to mention his numerous works in movies. You will not see his name in the credits as a producer or writer or director. He is an actor, and he is undoubtedly one of the best ones working. So keep an eye out for Titus Welliver, because he may sneak up on you and you may not even know it, but you will like it.

Top 5 Robert De Niro Films Of The 1970’s

There is no doubt that Robert De Niro is one of the most talented, fearless and ferocious actors of the last forty plus years. It is with this in mind that has lead me to my most recent top 5 list, or should I say lists. I have decided to break down Robert De Niro’s career, decade by decade with a top 5 list for every decade he has been relevant in the business.

This top 5 list will begin with the decade in which De Niro blazed on the scene and quickly became one of the most respected actors, the 1970’s. De Niro’s work was fairly limited in the 70’s but not at all to be forgotten as some of his most moving and unforgettable films would be made in the 70’s. Without any more build up, here are Robert De Niro’s best films of the 1970’s.

5. Bang The Drum Slowly

De Niro plays a baseball player with a fatal illness who forms a strong bond with one pitcher on the team. This was the first film in which people really took notice of De Niro and his acting ability. Based on a New York baseball team, it would be a fellow New Yorker that would cement him and begin his legacy.

4. Mean Streets

This would prove to be one of the most pivotal films in Robert De Niro’s career. It aligned him with a young visionary director named Martin Scorsese. The marriage of Scorsese and De Niro would prove to be one of the most prolific in Hollywood history. This pairing will appear many more times as these lists are written. Mean Streets is a raw, real look at life and crime in early 70’s New York City.

3. Taxi Driver

The second film made with Scorsese is the second film on the list. Playing Travis Bickle was a total master performance. Robert De Niro is absolutely terrifying and intense as the outcast cab driver who has crazy intentions and lives an odd life. Set in New York City it again portrays a scene in New York at the time it was filmed that people were not used to seeing and becoming afraid of.

2. The Godfather II

Playing one of the most iconic characters in film history, Vito Corleone, Robert De Niro would take home his first Academy Award. As a young Vito, his role would be spoken almost exclusively in Italian, which De Niro learned just for the role. This is the first and only time, two actors won Oscars for playing the same role. The Godfather II would go on to make De Niro a household name and star.

1. The Deer Hunter

The character of Michael and the film The Deer Hunter are quite possibly the most emotional in film history. Robert DeNiro is nothing shy of brilliant and fortunate to be surrounded by maybe the best performance by an ensemble cast ever. With memorable scenes like the Russian roulette scene and when Michael visits Steven in the hospital, he quite possibly became the greatest actor of his time. De Niro was never so emotional talking about a film as he was when he received his AFI life achievement award and spoke about his scene with John Savage when he visited him in the hospital, De Niro broke down in tears. That was enough to place this film at the top of all the movies he made in the 1970’s.

Wonder Wheel Review

Nobody makes a film that oozes nostalgia better than Woody Allen. Despite what opinions people hold about Allen, especially in this very polarizing time within the industry and the world in general, he is truly one of the greatest American filmmakers ever. Woody has always had a way of making 20th century period pieces that make the viewer long for a time that they may not have even lived in. Allen once again does that with Wonder Wheel.

Allen’s latest effort is set against the backdrop of post-war New York on the famous Coney Island. Known for its famous rides (such as the cyclone and the famous Ferris wheel, Wonder Wheel) and famous Nathan’s hot dogs, it was a magical place for anyone growing up in such a time and place. 

Kate Winslet leads an all-star cast as she plays Ginny, a middle-aged woman, and mother on her second marriage to a carousel operator who has a difficult time laying off the bottle. Ginny is stuck in a rut as her young son has become a pyromaniac and can’t stop setting fires all over. She is a waitress who feels like life is keeping her down as it passes her by when she meets Mickey, a young, good-looking, educated lifeguard. 

Ginny and Mickey soon strike up an affair when Ginny’s stepdaughter Carolina drops in out of nowhere on the run from her mobster husband who is looking to have her bumped off. After eventually making up with her father Humpty, she slowly begins to make a life for herself while working as a waitress with Ginny and going to night school. Carolina soon meets Mickey and somewhat of a love triangle begins. While Ginny is falling hard for Mickey, his eyes begin to draw towards Carolina. It isn’t long before mobsters find their way to Coney Island looking for Carolina.

Starring alongside Winslet is Jim Belushi as her somewhat buffoonish husband Humpty, Juno Temple as the young and troubled Carolina and Justin Timberlake as the dashing and smart lifeguard Mickey. The cast is very solid with excellent actors all around, but this is one of the only times I can think of where Woody may have gotten some casting wrong. 

Justin Timberlake has turned into quite a good actor but his casting here felt a bit off. He still feels too contemporary to play a young veteran in the 1950’s despite having the right look, his performance didn’t quite seem to match the theme. Despite Timberlake (who still does a fine job acting) the rest of the cast is spot on as usual for a Woody Allen movie. 

Belushi is absolutely perfect as the somewhat slobbish yet hardworking, blue-collar husband who just wants to fish and have his wife around with him. Juno Temple is so great as the seemingly innocent young girl on the run yet still hoping to find love despite her current predicament. 

That leaves Kate Winslet. When I first heard she was going to finally be in a Woody Allen film I could not wait for the release, and she doesn’t disappoint. She conveys the neurotic and frazzled mind that Allen has so often written for his protagonist in so many of his films. You can feel the stress mount on top of her as she falls deeper into her affair along with struggling to be a parent and wife along with having to look over her shoulder for the mafia.

While Wonder Wheel has a great storyline along with a picturesque setting, it is not one of Woody’s best. While to say the film is bad or not good is not at all accurate either, it just felt like something was off. Winslet is without a doubt the films saving grace and really exudes the emotion of the character so well. 

This is in no way a negative review of the movie. Allen writes AND directs a movie a year all at the age of 82 so its fair to say not every film is going to be Annie Hall or Midnight In Paris. Wonder Wheel is a beautiful look at a time in life when things didn’t seem so complicated and a time which people seem to long for. One of the things we see though is that, things were complicated even then, despite what we think or remember. Wonder Wheel is now on Amazon Prime for your viewing pleasure

The Shape Of Water Review

I am very excited to review The Shape Of Water for one reason. Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood.

His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret.

When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life.

What makes The Shape Of Water wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. del Toro is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a very unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about.

The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.