Movies that couldn’t survive without their lead actor

Posted on July 25, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Some movie characters are iconic.  In some cases the reason for that is more to do with the actor playing the role than the character itself.  There will always be parts that you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing, but arguably some characters are so wrapped up in the identity of the actor that they would be entirely different with someone else in the costume.

The character who I think fulfils this most of all is Captain Jack Sparrow.  Just try to imagine any other actor playing that role.  Can’t do it can you?

Legend has it that Johnny Depp turned up to the audition in that costume, complete with make up, accent and real gold teeth.  Without Sparrow there is no Pirates of the Caribbean and I would argue without Depp there is no Sparrow.  The movie was a real risk-taker, with the appeal of pirate movies long dead and many people  wondering if a film based on a little known ride, made by Disney but not strictly for kids, could make it. Then Jack staggered on to the screen and everyone was hooked.  The whole movie hinges on that one iconic character; a point backed up by the fact that he is the only returner (except Gibbs) in the upcoming fourth movie.  Sparrow is now as famous, if not more so, than Long John Silver or Captain Hook and I really don’t think the movies would have done even half as well without Depp at the helm (bad pun not entirely intended).

Another character who I think is intertwined with the actor playing it is Iron Man.  He basically is Robert Downey Jr.  When he was announced as the man stepping into the suit it seemed a strange choice but it’s turned out to be a career defining role.  I’m not saying that no one else could play Iron Man, because I can think of a few other people who probably could, but I think the characterisation would be very different, as the writers have clearly put a lot of RDJ into Stark.

It’s not just faces on screen either.  Imagine Disney’s Aladdin without Robin Williams voicing the genie.  Doesn’t work does it?  And I’d put a strong case for the fact that Woody and Tom Hanks fit so well together that Toy Story would be a different movie without him.

Pretty much anything in Jim Carrey’s early career is entirely dependent on him too.  Obviously a lot of that is down to parts being written for him, but can you really picture Ace Ventura or The Mask in the hands of someone else?

There is only one incidence I can think of where the same character played by two different actors has an equal impact on the movie, and that’s The Joker.  Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman completely owned the movie and was put down as the definitive Joker.  Or so we thought. Fast forward 19 years and Heath Ledger brings something completely new to the table which has audiences and critics alike lost for words playing a huge part in the success of The Dark Knight.

Usually we think of movies as making or breaking the career of actors, but it works both ways.  One  performance can lift a mediocre movie to a whole new level, or just as easily bring it crashing down.

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The 12 films of Christmas, Part Two: Christmas Hols

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Even if you don’t go to school anymore (or happen to work in one) you’ll probably remember that the Christmas excitement really takes hold once you go off on holiday.  And as my school was closed on the last day of term because of the snow, the festive spirit is really flowing.

The fact that I’m completely snowed in has also helped me cross off a few more of my pre-Christmas movies. So here’s part two of my must watch yuletide films, this time bringing you some undeniably merry movies.

The Grinch

Jim Carrey has been a bit of a feature round here recently, and like many of his films, The Grinch tends to divide people.  I guess if you really hate him you can trade the new version for the traditional animation, but I really like Ron Howard’s adaption which stays very close to the book and has a great look which brings to life Dr Seuss’s mad imagination.  Even if you’ve never seen the movie/read the book, you’re bound to have some idea what The Grinch is all about.  In a way, it’s a bit like A Christmas Carol, with a grumpy outsider finding “the meaning of Christmas” but it also is increasingly relevant as both  Cindy-Lou and The Grinch struggle with the idea that Christmas seems to be all about who can spend the most money.

HomeAlone

I have absolutely no idea why I like this film, I just know that I have to see it before Christmas.  I think a lot of it is down to John Williams beautiful score, my favourite monent being where he weaves Carol of the Bells into his main theme.  Yes, this film is unutterably cheesy, but that’s just what you need at Christmas. Plus, the child in me will always laugh at two bad guys getting hit in the face with paint cans.

Miracle on 34th Street

Again, there’s a few versions of this, but the one I’m voting for here is the Richard Attenborough, because I could totally see him being Santa.  This film has great memories for me, especially as it is one of the first (if not the first) films I ever saw at the cinema; back in the dark ages when my town still had one.  It’s a cute story about getting people to believe in Santa Claus, and although it’s sickly sweet, it gets away with it thanks to some strong performances from Attenborough and Mara Wilson (AKA Matilda). The idea of a legal battle over the existence of Santa is also a pretty neat one, oroginal enough to be taken off in numeous parodies ever since the black and white original.

This final spot I’ve struggled with.  In the end I’ve decided to leave out Gremlins on account that it’s not so much a family film (although since I discovered it two Christmasses ago I haven’t looked back).  So my final Christmas Hols film is:

The Santa Clause

This film has a lot fo similarities with Miracle on 34th, with both trying to get grown-ups to believe in Santa, but this time with a modern twist. Tim Allen stars as the half-hearted Dad who falls foul of “The Santa Clause” after accidentally knocking St Nick off the roof.  Forced to become the new Santa, the plot follows the not so shocking arc of him coming to terms with his new responsibilities, but with the nice side story of him bonding with his son (Daddy issues anyone?)  It’s a fun film with some real laughs, making me all the more sad that it’s not on this year and I don’t have it on DVD.

So that’s the holidays sorted (and I don’t mean that in the American sense.)  If you’re snowed in like me, crank the heating up, grab a blanket and get stuck in!

Final installment coming on Christmas Eve (ish) with my recommendations for the films to finally get you ready for the big day. And one to watch while you can barely move after all that dinner.

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Jim Carrey-underrated actor?

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings, Underrated Actors | Tags: , , , , |

I’ve been meaning to write a post along these lines for a while, and with A Christmas Carol making Jim Carey a hot topic at the moment I thought I’d finally get on with it.

Most of the world know Jim Carrey for his “rubber-faced” antics (I swear that term was invented to describe him)  and his over the top form of comedy which makes him a definite love-hate figure for a lot of people.  Whether or not his particular style of comedy appeals to you, (and I’m slightly ashamed to say it does to me) you have to admit, he’s good at what he does.  What interests me is that there tend to be moments in his films which belie a more serious talent behind all the funny voices and flailing limbs.  I’m wondering if I’m the only one who thinks that maybe, just maybe, Jim Carrey is actually a pretty good actor.

My main evidence for this is The Truman Show.  Carrey’s role is pretty serious throughout, with only a couple of his trademark gags.  The rest of the performance is a really sincere portrayal of a man discovering everything in his world is a fabrication.  I don’t want to ruin the movie for those who haven’t seen it (and I highly recommend you do) but the final scene in the boat is really well performed, and very held back for someone who is so renowned for being off the wall and out of control.  In the gag reel to Liar Liar he picks up on his tendency to over-act, but it seems to me that the Jim Carrey we know is just part of the character, and if he’d chosen a different path, we might just know him as another good actor.

In recent years, it does seem that Carrey is trying to be taken more seriously, with films like Eternal Sunshine, which again is a very straight role for someone like him.  He’s not always gone down well (The Number 23-oops) and he seems to be kind of stuck in this stereotype he’s created for himself.  Perhaps that’s why he’s taken on a lot of voice over work recently, with Horton Hears a Who and A Christmas Carol.

I’m not saying Jim Carrey is one of the best actors of his generation, but I do think that people tend to overlook him because they think of him as a clown rather than an actor.  I think films like Truman and Eternal Sunshine show that actually, he is a better actor than most give him credit for.

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Quote of the Day

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Quote of the Day | Tags: , |

I’m disappearing for a little bit so it might get a bit quiet over here for the next week.  I haven’t done a quote of the day for ages, and this one popped into my head this morning:

“If I’m not back in five minutes…just wait longer.”

See ya later.

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