Tag Archives: Dustin Hoffman

[Trailer] – Quartet

2 Jul

Watch the trailer for Quartet, Dustin Hoffman‘s directorial debut, after the cut.

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Kung Fu Panda 2

7 Jun

Title: Kung Fu Panda 2
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Jennifer Yuh
Writers: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, with additional story work by Robert Koo
Starring: 
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Dennis Haysbert, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber
MPAA Rating: 
PG, sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
Runtime: 
90 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
82%

I’m a huge fan of the original Kung Fu Panda, I ranked it as my 30th favorite film of all 2008 and I think that was the film to make me realize that DreamWorks Animation wasn’t gonna fall into oblivion after they ran out of Shrek‘s (because I’m not a particularly huge believer in the Madagascar films), a fact that was later cemented by last year’s tremendously solid How to Train Your Dragon and Megamind. So you can trust me when I say my expectations for this sequel were set extremely high. And while I don’t think this one necessarily manages to match the heights achieved by the first one, I still think it was quite great, with tons of very funny moments, lots of great action and all of it told with high quality animation chops.

Seriously, if you liked the first Kung Fu Panda I don’t think there’s any way you won’t leave this one feeling disappointed, because it’s basically more of the same, but not in a way that feels recycled like it did in The Hangover Part II, but in a way that finds ways to reinvent the familiar formula using new jokes and a flashier way to tell them. I won’t stop commending the animation in this one, because I was left totally spellbound by it, I loved how elegant and slick everything looked and how the filmmakers in this one finally found a way in which to make the 3D technology hated by many an actual asset to their storytelling and not just another obstacle to make films look horribly dimmer. It’s still not the perfect usage of 3D and if you can watch it in 2D then by all means go do it because we’re still ages away from your average 3D film being good, but it’s better than you’d think, and I thought it was smartly used.

And the voice work, much like it was in the first film, is still top notch here, with the originals returning and the addition of a few worthy great actors to lend their voices to awesome new characters. Because that’s really part of the appeal to many animated films nowadays, the big name actors chosen to voice the characters. I mean, Pixar I guess can do without that because they’re Pixar and their brand name along will get people into the theaters, as well as it should, and even they sometimes have a few big name actors lending their voices, but the rest of the animation studios usually try to get huge stars to lend their pipes to get people to see an animated film. And hearing the results from that is many times a joy in an of itself, and it’s one of the reasons why last year’s Despicable Me (which I gave a solid A- to) worked so incredibly well, because it had hilarious voice work by Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand.

Kung Fu Panda also has its fair share of western starpower to voice its orient-based animals, including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and a slew of other very good actors that return to this one and then there’s also Gary Oldman, who came on board for this sequel to voice a very memorable villain made all that much better thanks to the great and distinguishable voice of the screen veteran. And what’s awesome in the way this franchise has picked its stars is that they are all people that not only have instantly recognizable and infinitely cool voices and ones that appropriate to their characters, but also that they’re fine actors that can lend so much energy to the roles they are given just with their voices, an energy that is only heightened by that stellar animation job I have already talked a bit about.

The film really feels like a worthy continuation of the first, and not just some cheap way to keep the bucks coming in for the franchise, with the mystery of how Po, our titular main panda bear, could be the biological son of a peacock, a plotline dragged from the first film and brought to the forefront in this one. But of course the main trouble is Lord Shen, the villainous peacock I talked about, he has these steely feathers on his tail that he can thrust like deadly weapons to his foes, and it just so happens that a soothsayer told him to beware of pandas, so his destiny and Po’s, like Harry’s and Voldemort’s and so many of the great rivalries, are mystically intertwined.

And I gotta say again that this is all done with gorgeous animation, and you can tell DreamWorks Animation is done with playing second fiddle to Pixar and is trying its best to provide a little competition (though it obviously still has a long ways to go), but if you think Kung Fu Panda 2 will provide animation you’ve seen time and time again in movies that can make animals look cute, you’re dead wrong, they go head and shoulders above your usual stuff here and provide some moments of truly staggering beauty. And that’s what Kung Fu Panda 2 is all about, terrific animation, a lot of very funny moments, a masterclass in voice acting by Mr. Black, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Oldman and a 101 in how to follow-up a hugely successful first entry in a franchise. And while I don’t think this one really was as great as the first one, I will still be first in line for Kung Fu Panda 3.

Grade: B+

Barney’s Version

11 Feb

Title: Barney’s Version
Year:
2011
Director:
Richard J. Lewis
Writer:
Michael Konyves based on the novel by Mordecai Richler
Starring:
Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Rachelle Lefevre, Scott Speedsman, Dustin Hoffman
MPAA Rating:
R, language and some sexual content
Runtime:
134 min
Major Awards:
1 Golden Globe
IMDb Rating:
7.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
80%

Barney’s Version was eligible for the 2010 awards season, but got its actual limited release only this year, so I’m counting it towards the 2011 rankings. But, for that, I already know that this film got Paul Giamatti a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Motion Picture, as well as it did receive a nomination for Best Makeup for the Oscars in a few weeks from now. So yeah, I guess I was sort of going into Barney’s Version with somewhat heightened expectations, at least for Mr. Giamatti’s performance. And he delivered, this is another amazing performance by a guy who always seems to be nothing short of remarkable. And the film itself, well it’s pretty damn good, too.

I’ve read the Mordecai Richler novel that serves as the source material for this movie, and I always imagined it would be a tough one to adapt, but you watch it unsprawl on-screen here, for over two hours, and everything just seems to fit perfectly. It’s not a perfect adaptation of the novel’s essence, but it’s very well done and quite thoughtful, and it really does work extremely well. But then again, with the level of talent involved in this film, I guess that shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise.

Joining Mr. Giamatti are three lovely ladies, one of them is Rosamund Pike, who we all probably remember best from her appearance as Miranda Frost in 007’s 2002 film, Die Another Day, but who has also been amazing in films such as An Education, Pride & Prejudice and last year’s Made in Dagenham. There’s also Minnie Driver, who’s awesome and was one of the main reasons for my love of The Riches. And Rachelle Lefevre also makes an appearance, this being the film that made her leave the Twilight franchise, something that was, I think, a good decision, because, sure, that franchise will definitely get her more attention because it’s insanely popular, but she’s already been in two of those films, and rode the wave of success it brought into a starring role on ABC’s Off the Map, and this film lets her show how good an actress she actually is.

There’s also two other male actors sharing the spotlight with Mr. Giamatti here. One of them is Scott Speedsman, a guy who I really like since his days on Felicity, and an actor that I can’t really get why he hasn’t exploded into much bigger stardom since those days, the guy is likable and has a very cool presence along with solid acting chops. And, last but certainly not least, we also have Dustin Hoffman here, who gives a stellar performance, full of energy and that dry humor that man can handle like few can, just amazing.

And I’ve done these two paragraphs listing the players we see in Barney’s Version so that you can see just how many amazing people were involved in this film, and when you see it you can fully appreciate just how much they all bring to the final product, it’s because of them that this one feels so damn amazing. But as amazing as all of these supporting performances may be, especially Mr. Hoffman’s, when you talk about Barney’s Version you’ll come back time and time again to Mr. Giamatti, who just owns the screen every frame he’s in.

For those of you who don’t know the story Barney Panofsky, the chain-smoking, bald-headed, heavy-drinking, hockey-fanatic, TV-producing slouch of a man, you’re missing one hell of a tale, and should buy the novel right about now. He’s just one seriously fun character to read and, thanks to Mr. Giamatti’s perfect impersonation, to watch. He plays him exceedingly well, he embodies all of these unlikable emotions to perfection, while also embedding in Barney that charm and sweetness that make the three lovely ladies I listed above find him desirable.

The story of Barney’s life is really amazing, we follow this character through many episodes throughout his life’s duration, and it’s all beautifully shot, masterfully acted and just impeccably told. The episodes in Barney’s life I won’t spoil, some are too delicious for me to take away the pleasure, but just see how his relationship with Miriam, Ms. Pike’s character, unfolds. It’s all wonderfully told, and just acted insanely well by Mr. Giamatti, who portrays this drunken mess of a man flawlessly, a sort of man he has made a career of playing, the kind of man who’s ordinary and yet fascinating. And it was also acted incredibly well by Ms. Pike herself, who’s beautiful and is just a perfect Miriam, a woman who was patient as can be with the man who fell in love with her the second he saw her and his own previous wedding’s reception.

Again, this isn’t better than the novel. But the novel was one I doubted could have been made into a successful film in the first place, the sheer fact that this was the result is something I’m still in awe of. Yes, there’s a lot of stuff in the novel that’s not here, not necessarily moments but complex emotions (the novel’s told by Barney), but with such an empowering lead performance by Mr. Giamatti, and stellar supporting ones from everyone else involved, the film achieves a very very solid adaptation, one that I’ll recommend to pretty much everyone.

Grade: B+

OscarWatch: Best Supporting Actor

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post we’ll tackle…

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by supporting actors in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of this specific race, I think it’s all but over now. Christian Bale will get his first Oscar here, there’s no other way of seeing this one playing out. There will be some competition from Geoffrey Rush, but it’ll all amount to nothing in the end.

Personal Top 20:

  1. Christian Bale (for The Fighter) – There’s no way this wasn’t anyone’s favorite supporting actor performance of the year. Bale is unstoppable as ever in this one, and he’s finally getting the much deserved recognition that had eluded him in the past.
  2. Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right) – I’m a sucker for this film, and Mr. Ruffalo probably won’t end up anywhere near this high on the actual Oscar ballots, but I thought he was amazing in this one.
  3. Andrew Garfield (for The Social Network) – He goes head to head against Jesse Eisenberg in this one, and he’s amazing every damn second he’s on screen. 2010 was his breakout year, but we’ll keep seeing a lot of good things of him in the future.
  4. Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech) – The likely #2 is my #4, but that doesn’t mean I think lowly of Mr. Rush’s performance, The King’s Speech is, after all, a masterclass in acting, and he gives an amazing performance in it.
  5. Vincent Cassel (for Black Swan) – Vincent Cassel won’t sneak into the actual Oscar race, but considering Black Swan was my favorite film of 2010 by a mile I thought I’d give him the final slot in my hypothetical nominations. A great performance by a great actor.
  6. Jeremy Renner (for The Town) – Everyone in The Town gave a fantastic performance in my opinion (even Blake Lively!), and the best of them came from Jeremy Renner who, riding high on last year’s nomination for The Hurt Locker, should have no trouble scoring another one this year.
  7. John Hawkes (for Winter’s Bone) – This is one of the most chilling performances I saw all of last year in an amazing film, if the film gets a lot of love on Tuesday he may find himself getting in there.
  8. Matt Damon (for True Grit) – Matt Damon is a guy the Academy loves, he even got a nod for the sub-par Invictus last year, and this film is actually amazing and he’s very good in it.
  9. Bill Murray (for Get Low) – In my book, Bill Murray can do no wrong, and he’s given some of my favorite performances ever. Robert Duvall will no doubt be getting all the attention for Get Low, and deservedly so, but Mr. Murray should steal some of it away from him, in my opinion.
  10. Justin Timberlake (for The Social Network) – Say whatever you want to say about Justin Timberlake. I think the guy’s great, and he’s actually a very very good actor. Or, at the very least, a guy who certainly knows how to pick his projects. In The Social Network he’s sensational, a true scene-stealer.
  11. Jim Broadbent (for Another Year) – I guess Mr. Broadbent would classify here and not in Lead Actor. And there’s no way he’ll get nominated because he hasn’t campaigned for a second, and that’s quite okay because he’s still wonderful in Mike Leigh’s latest, as he always is.
  12. Michael Douglas (for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) – If he gets this nomination then, granted, it will have to do more with his personal problems of late and the Academy’s need to recognize him then with the quality of the work he did. But the work he did was still pretty amazing, reprising the role that got him an Oscar in the first place to amazing results.
  13. Pete Postlethwaite (for The Town) – As I said above on Jeremy Renner, The Town is full of exceptional performances. And yes, naming Postlethwaite here may be riding on the emotional wave because of his recent passing (a wave that just got him a BAFTA nomination) but still, every time he appears on screen in the film he just chews up the screen, stealing away the spotlight from whoever crosses his path.
  14. Sam Rockwell (for Conviction) – He’s being put up higher on prediction lists, and just as well because his performance is actually pretty damn effective in this one, I just have him lower because the film itself I didn’t love as much.
  15. Josh Brolin (for True Grit) – Josh Brolin is one of the more consistent actors around as far as picking good projects and delivering in them (and yes, by saying that I’m choosing to ignore the disaster that was Jonah Hex) and in the Coen’s latest he’s his usual great self.
  16. Sean Penn (for Fair Game) – When reviewing my 2010 rankings to see what films there were that had great performances in them I realized I had forgotten about Fair Game, which was a very good film and had Sean Penn being just terrific in it.
  17. Jon Hamm (for The Town) – Yes, yes, I know, third mention for The Town. But it’s not my fault this one had so many amazing performances. Plus, who here can tell it wouldn’t be awesome to see Don Draper one day pick up an Oscar, or at least a nomination?
  18. Dustin Hoffman (for Barney’s Version) – I saw this film a couple of days ago, and it will actually count towards my 2011 rankings, but it classifies for this awards season so I’m putting it here. Mr. Hoffman is always great, and the film is getting a bit of momentum thanks to Paul Giamatti’s win at the Globes.
  19. Chris Cooper (for The Company Men) – This really is so that I can avoid giving a fourth mention to The Town, in which Chris Cooper had just one scene (but one in which he totally owned the screen). And also, this mention is inter-changeable with any of his co-stars in The Company Men (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones or Kevin Costner), all of whom were impeccable.
  20. Miles Teller (for Rabbit Hole) – Quite a lot of actors competing for this final slot in my hypothetical nominations, but I thought Miles Teller was polarizing in the best of ways in this tough-to-watch film.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Christian Bale (for The Fighter)
  • Andrew Garfield (for The Social Network)
  • Jeremy Renner (for The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech)

I’m 90% sure this is how the nominations will look like, though I’m still considering John Hawkes may sneak in there, most likely at the expense of Mark Ruffalo. Let’s hope not, and we’ll see how it all goes down on Tuesday.

Little Fockers

5 Jan

Title: Little Fockers
Year:
2010
Director:
Paul Weitz
Writers:
John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey, based on the characters by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke
Starring:
Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content
Runtime:
98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
5.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
10%

 

When Meet the Parents came out in 2000 I fell absolutely in love with the film. I thought it was one of the funniest things I saw in all that year, and showed why Ben Stiller was just so damn good at uncomfortable comedy. And audiences responded alike, the film was a critical success that also did great at the box office, making over $330 million on a $55 million budget.

A sequel was then a given, and so we got Meet the Fockers in 2004, with Jay Roach still directing and the main cast members being joined by newcomers Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand, who played the parents of Mr. Stiller’s character and were simply golden. That film wasn’t nearly as great as Meet the Parents was, but I thought still had a bunch of amusing moments that were worth the price of admission, and at least it still was a commercial success, making over $515 million on an $80 million budget.

So with that sort of commercial success with the franchise I guess a third installment was a given for Universal. And so here we are, six years laters and getting Little Fockers, with Paul Weitz taking over the director’s chair. And if Meet the Fockers was a decline from the first one, then this one’s an even larger decline from the second one. Seriously, this is by far the worst installment in the saga, but then again, it will surely still prove profitable at the box office, it already has made over $130 million with under two weeks in release.

But still, commercial success or not, Little Fockers is a film that, through its entirety, feels horribly unnecessary. All the main players come back, Mr. Hoffman who had initially turned down an offer was even coerced to come back and shoot six scenes to make it funnier (though to little or no avail), and there are a few new faces even, with Jessica Alba, Laura Dern and Harvey Keitel all joining the party. But still, not even this all-star cast could do anything with such uninspired material. A real pity.

I won’t fail Little Fockers, if anything because I thought Meet the Parents was such a masterful comedic work, but this one just degrades the fond memories I have with these characters, and if they go ahead and make a fourth entry in the franchise, then that will seriously be the end of it as far as I’m concerned. This is a film in which the real plot takes a really long time to fully engage us, and the funny bits are few and far between, if ever there.

Here’s the thing, Meet the Parents was far an out a seriously fantastic comedy, probably one of the twenty best released in all of the past decade, and Meet the Fockers still had some really funny moments. And that’s because Ben Stiller is the man in these sort of comedies, in which we get to laugh at his expense, and because Robert De Niro proved to be a very good actor for him to play along with. However, the fact is that now in Little Fockers, instead of the writers thinking some equally good stuff for them to riff off, they got lazy and decided to give the titular kiddies of the film do some of the funny stuff. And funny, it wasn’t.

I guess I’m just a bit bummed that after a sensationally good New Year’s holiday, I come back home and decide to kick off my movie 2011 with this film and the result was so disappointing. We get Jack, Mr. De Niro’s character, coming to terms with the fact that he’s getting older and older, and considering bestowing upon Greg, Mr. Stiller’s character, the honor of becoming the new family patriarch. And that’s really the story, and the funny bits in it suck, because before it was awesome to laugh at the situations Greg was put in, and at how Jack saw him while they happened, now the material they’re given to work with is so much worse, and they’re not even putting that much energy into making anything more out of it.

If you can avoid Little Fockers, I’d advice you to do it. But then again, if you’ve seen the first two, and thought they were quite good, you’ll probably want to see this one, and I understand that because I really did too, no matter how bad anyone said it was. But really, this just feels unnecessary, especially the introduction of Ms. Alba’s character who was the worst part of the film by far (though to be fair Ms. Dern, another newcomer, was also one of the best parts). So yes, go see it if you feel you must, but I doubt you’ll come out thinking that was a well spent hour and a half.

Grade: C-