Alan Arkin

Walt Disney Pictures

Once you’ve heard Bill Paxton scream, “Game over, man!” you can never unhear it. And that’s a good thing. He got to play big on camera throughout the ’80s, but hamming it up isn’t all he’s capable of as evidenced by a string of great dramatic roles in the ’90s including One False Move, A Simple Plan and Apollo 13. Years later he surprised people again with his directorial debut, Frailty, which made our list of one of the best horror films of its decade. He followed that film up with The Greatest Game Ever Played, a movie that clearly means a lot to Paxton despite its failure to find a wide audience. From 2006 to 2011 he played Bill Henrickson on HBO’s Big Love. He received considerable acclaim for his performance, but he once again found himself having to prove himself capable of range beyond that character once the show came to an end. It’s easy to get typecast, but to combat being put into a box, Paxton has taken on an eclectic set of supporting roles over the past few years, including this week’s Million Dollar Arm. With this Disney release, Agents of Shield, Edge of Tomorrow, and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, which I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about, 2014 is a good year for Bill Paxton. The actor spoke with us about his performance as USC pitching coach Tom House, as well as the highs and lows of the film business, the paradoxical nature of acting and more.

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GRUDGE MATCH-FILM

The idea of Rocky vs. Raging Bull is almost irresistible, and when it comes to that factor, Grudge Match has its moments. However, those moments aren’t enough to make a good movie. Indeed, Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro have been cashing their nostalgia bitcoins for a while now. De Niro seems to be taking every film that comes his way – good or bad – and relying more and more on his reputation rather than giving a good performance. It’s not just the Meet the Parents films that capitalize on this. In fact, The Family from earlier this year had a huge plot point to the film hinge on De Niro’s long career playing a Mafioso (resulting in a scene almost as awkward as the Julia Roberts gag in Oceans 12). Similarly, Stallone has been trying to spin his once-top-rated box office name into modern success. It worked with The Expendables and The Expendables 2, but pretty much everything else he’s tried to reclaim his 80s glory days has fallen flat. While I thought Bullet to the Head wasn’t bad and thoroughly enjoyed Escape Plan this past fall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, few others did.

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Best Supporting Actor

The supporting actor. He’s not the guy, he’s the guy behind the guy. That’s not always a bad thing though. The lead actor generally has to be the guy the audience is relating to, so those sort of roles can end up being kind of vanilla. The supporting roles though, that’s where the memorable weirdos come from. Getting a great supporting role can afford an actor the opportunity to go completely off the wall with their performance, or at least take some calculated risks that aren’t likely to sink the whole film if they don’t pay off. As a result, the best supporting roles of the year can be more interesting than the best leads, and this year definitely has a colorful cast of characters. Here are the ones that the Academy liked in 2012 with my predicted winner in red:

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Stand Up Guys

Old age can be a frightening prospect for anyone, but especially for gangsters. Think about it, your aim starts to go, you begin forgetting the names of your hit victims, and before you know it, you’re spouting gems like, “as far back as I can remember…it was yesterday.” This unfavorable scenario faces the protagonists of Fisher Stevens‘ (yes, that Fisher Stevens) Stand Up Guys. Back in the good ol’ days, the all-or-nothing days, a certain trio of button men were the toast of the town. To phrase it with fewer idioms, Val (Al Pacino), Doc (Christopher Walken) and Hirsch (Alan Arkin) comprise the literal gang getting back together in their twilight years for a final night of wild antics before Doc must complete his last assignment…killing Val. Stevens has had a bizarre career as a filmmaker, and Stand Up Guys is clearly the most ambitious project he’s ever undertaken. Truth be told, it shows a great deal of promise. Pacino and Walken are living legends, and they’ve each in their own right played some of cinema’s most iconic gangsters. That said, the casting of either one or both of these actors long ago exited the realm of a guaranteed hit…or even a guarantee that the film would be watchable. However, Stevens smartly walks the line between keeping his actors sharply focused on playing the beats that enhance the narrative and letting them ease into their natural cosa nostra charisma. There are even thrilling pockets in which we are reminded that […]

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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What is Casting Couch? Today it’s proof that if you star in something about sexy young vampires, you will continue to get more work. Warner Bros.’ Lego movie already had names like Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and Morgan Freeman signed for its voice cast, thus making a stupid-sounding idea suddenly seem promising, but now they’ve really gone and made Lego into a movie that you can start looking forward to. Deadline reports that the film has just added Will Ferrell to its cast as the bad guy, President Business, Liam Neeson as the bad guy’s main henchman, Bad Cop, Parks and Rec’s mustachioed Nick Offerman as a revenge-obsessed pirate, and Community’s cheery-voiced Disney Princess Alison Brie as a member of the protagonist’s team who holds a powerful secret. That may just be the weirdest/most fun cast ever assembled, and it almost makes up for the fact that the movie is going to be in 3D.

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Movies based on true stories are rarely — if even ever — 100% accurate. To make it an engaging story for an audience, obviously some dramatic license must be used. And for the time constraints of a feature, there has to be a good deal of condensing and abridging and in many cases exclusion. For the full accounts of real life, we may have nonfiction books or magazine articles or the Internet, and these more extensive and comprehensive tools are easily accessed after seeing the film in order to get at the greater truth. Movies based on true stories are more like teasers of true stories. And like most advertisements they have to stretch reality to pique our interest. Argo is certainly that kind of teaser. But are people giving Ben Affleck‘s latest too much credit in the accuracy department? I keep reading stuff about how the actor/director aimed for realism (see the post from yesterday about the film’s sound design), which may be the case in terms of tone and technical accomplishments such as period costumes and production design. There is quality to the recreation of time and place, if not all facts. Meanwhile, many critics are calling this film “stranger than fiction,” which is very misleading given just how much fictionalizing went into the script in order for it to have themes and a whole lot of suspense (too much, in my opinion, near the point of feeling like self-parody).

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It’s a real surprise how apolitical Argo is. There are parallels one could make from today’s headlines, but as director Ben Affleck sees it, the movie comes down to one key theme: the power of storytelling. Whether it’s from his own industry or the United States intelligence service, stories can make for a powerful weapon. In Argo‘s case, it’s to entertain. In the events the film chronicles, it was to save lives. To make sure Argo the movie did its intended job, Affleck copied some of the all time great filmmakers of the 1970s and went through history’s finest classics to make the era come alive. The inspiration he got didn’t only come from Martin Scorsese or Sidney Lumet, but also from unexpected places, such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and Matt Reeves’s Let Me In. In many ways, Argo is a love letter to 70s filmmaking, and Ben Affleck clearly wore that love on his sleeve during a recent roundtable interview, along with his co-stars John Goodman and Bryan Cranston.

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Argo John Goodman Alan Arkin Ben Affleck

The November 4th, 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Iran by students and other revolutionaries was front page news around the world as 52 American hostages were held captive. Negotiations were attempted and military strikes were considered, but the crisis didn’t end until well over a year later when they were all finally released. Lesser known, and in fact unknown to the public until 1997 when it was declassified, is the story of six Americans who escaped the embassy that November day to risk capture and possible execution as they awaited an unlikely rescue. It turned out to be a very unlikely rescue indeed. Argo is Ben Affleck‘s third film as director, and while it lacks the darkly emotional impact of Gone Baby Gone and the kinetic shoot ‘em up action of The Town it stands tall as his best and most entertaining film yet. Brilliant character actors swirl through the constantly surprising true story alongside wonderful period details, humor, humanity and the most suspenseful thirty minutes of the year.

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Stand Up Guys

In Stand Up Guys, Christopher Walken picks up Al Pacino from prison, and they hit the town in fine form, but there’s one last assignment hanging over Walken’s head. He’s got to kill his friend. So what’s an insane, elderly punk-filled night when your life will be over by sunrise? Why not let Alan Arkin drive? Directed by Fisher Stevens (yes, the guy from Short Circuit) it looks like equal parts harmless retirement comedy and 25th Hour. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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If you’ve ever seen a Tim Burton movie, you know the guy is probably pretty awkward. At the very least, he’s gotta be soft-spoken, right? Which begs the question, “How interesting can a Tim Burton-only commentary be?” Well, we’re here to answer that very question with this week’s Commentary Commentary. In honor of Dark Shadows, Burton’s latest collaboration with Johnny Depp, we’ve decided to go back and delve into their first pairing, Edward Scissorhands. Burton took the commentary duties by his lonesome here, and I’m sure amid all the fumbling of words and general gracelessness there’s enough to pack in here to hold our interest. At the very least it’ll be an entertaining car wreck. So here, without further ado, is everything we learned about Edward Scissorhands from listening to its director, Tim Burton, speak on it. We didn’t learn Tim Burton is a strange guy. We knew that one already.

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Over Under - Large

Comedic actor Mike Meyers has had an interesting film career. On the one hand he can be considered an amazing success, because he has three huge franchises under his belt. On the other hand, he sometimes gets looked at as something of a failure, because everything he’s done outside of those franchises has been less than stellar. The first two franchises Meyers launched were Wayne’s World and Austin Powers; moneymaking juggernauts in their own rights for sure. But it was the third series of films he was involved in, the animated Shrek movies, that really broke the bank. This tale of an overgrown ogre finding true love managed to connect with children and parents alike, and the original spawned a series of sequels that broke all sorts of box office records and pushed mountains of merchandise. I’m sure Meyers was a rich man already, but Shrek made him very rich. One project that didn’t do so well for the guy was So, I Married an Axe Murderer. It was Meyers’ big followup to his breakthrough success with Wayne’s World, the movie that could have  seen him moving away from the heavy character work he did on Saturday Night Live and moving closer to taking more mainstream roles playing regular guys. Unfortunately it didn’t even make a tenth of the money that Wayne’s World pulled in, it’s been largely forgotten over time, and Meyers hasn’t been accepted in a role where he plays a regular guy since.

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Remember when Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Richard Kind, Scoot McNairy, Chris Messina, Michael Parks, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, and Tate Donovan all got together to make a movie about a fake movie being made in order to rescue hostages being held in Iran? This trailer is one more slice of proof that Affleck knows what the hell he’s doing behind a camera, especially when it comes to the slightly funny world of serious issues. Instead of crime-riddled Boston, this time it’s the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a fake script called Argo and a crazy attempt at rescuing 6 people. It’s Ocean’s Eleven except the stakes are real, and they’re life-or-death. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads into a lab to liberate some apes, but they rise up, beat him down and fling their poo all over him. He washes up and heads home to his family, secretly longing for the swinging lifestyle of fellow FSR staffers like Neil Miller, Robert Fure and Rob Hunter. But since he doesn’t get a chance to pee in a fountain with any of them, he doesn’t get a chance to switch bodies with them, a la The Change-Up. This is probably a good thing because few people can take the awesomessness of his body.

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A young scrappy pilot, conveniently, accomplishes what a non-freakazoid Howard Hughes (played by the Terry O’Quinn) and a few lackeys at the C.I.A. couldn’t do: create a flying man! That pilot, Cliff, becomes that gold helmeted flying phenom. This comic book adaptation is full of Nazis, a vain and villainous actor, and an ugly as hell goon. What more could you ask for?

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The Rocketeer Movie

Our intention is to expand so-bad-it’s-good into the more irresponsible realm of so-bad-it’s-fattening by offering up movie-related junkfood to complete the film-watching experience. This month’s theme is lesser superhero films and today’s is a real treat: The Rocketeer!

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Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star as two loser sisters who pull it together by cleaning up other people’s suicides.

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Sunshine Cleaning

The first trailer for Sunshine Cleaning, which stars Amy Adams as a single mom who starts up an unusual business with her sister, played by Emily Blunt, has hit the web this afternoon.

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Get Smart if funny enough!

In terms of reaching a 21st century audience, Get Smart was about as good as it could be.

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Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in Get Smart

When Peter Segal and Co. set out to make this new version of Get Smart, they set out not to remake, but to reinvigorate. In that light, their film can be seen as a significant accomplishment.

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