Friday, December 3, 2010


Probably one of the most underrated actors of his generation. In my opinion, he's a true actor's actor. One that has surely overshadowed the horrifying new "movie stars" of our current generation. An actor, who unfortunately has been primarily judged for his current resume which has sadly fallen into 'straight to DVD' films with D-list actors, instead of the work he so dominated in the 90s and early 2000's. I mean, come on. Tombstone, Wonderland, Heat, Joe the King, THE DOORS!!! To this day, I still think he's Jim Morrisson.

Now I have had the opportunity to see several of Kilmer's straight to DVD films including The Chaos Experiment, Streets of Blood and the somewhat recent Felon with Stephen Dorff. And then the occassional theatrically released flop. Which include MacGruber (which I am sure Kilmer was embarrassed to be in) and the pointless disgrace to the original, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans. God, that's a long title. And the films may not be so great, but Kilmer's work is always incredible. An unpredictable performer who you can't help but lock your eyes on him for the entire duration he's on screen.

I have come to the theory that Val Kilmer is just too good for Hollywood standards and they really do not know what to do with him. A character actor in a leading man's body. Hey, I don't know what his personal life is. Maybe he burned too many bridges in Holly-weird, maybe he prefers to do low level films where the spotlight and paparazzi are not hounding him 24/7. Which is surely understandable. I mean, I feel like an actor as great as Kilmer could do an even better job in a smaller independent film that the press isn't all over. It's just him and his work.

Born in 1959 in the crazy town of Los Angeles, California, Kilmer started slowly exploding in the 1980's. With such cheese fests as Real Genius, and the ultra box office blockbuster (but really just a flick about guys struggling with their homosexuality) Top Gun.

But he truly came into his own with one of Ron Howard's few good films as a director and that is the wonderful, Willow, from 1988. From then on, we knew Val Kilmer was a real actor to watch and not just a pretty face to look at until the next flavor of the month arrives (eh hemm, Zac Efron, eh emm).

Kilmer exploded in the 1990's. Headlining classics such as Tombstone playing the drunk as always Doc Holliday. Which is truly one of his finest performances. The third installment in the Batman franchise, Batman Forever, in 1995, which I think was fantastic, even though many people did not enjoy it. I thought Kilmer was an incredible Bruce Wayne/Batman, which is very difficult to tackle both. Either your a good Bruce Wayne. Or your a good Batman. He had the charm and darkness of Bruce Wayne, but also the intensity and rage for Batman. And then of course, The Doors... need I say more?

Kilmer then took on starring roles in some not so successful pictures such as the unfortunate Island of Dr. Moreau alongside Brando (whose own career was on its way downtown), The Saint, and At First Sight. But in between these films, he was cameoing in some great cult classics and doing an impeccable job as a chameleon actor. Playing Elvis Presley, aka's Christian Slater's conscious in the Tony Scott/QT crime film, True Romance, and of course, as Noah Fleiss' drunken, abusive father in Frank Whaley's 1999 directorial debut, Joe the King. There is a scene towards the end of the picture when Kilmer tries to connect with his son and show his true colors as a real loving father. Kilmer's in the driver's seat and Fleiss in the backseat. The moment that is shared is so incredible to watch, you can just see how unbelievable of an actor this man is and completely forget about his current resume. All that means nothing when you watch this particular scene in Joe the King. As Kilmer says to his son, "There are people who are good, Joey. Have a family... job. Then there are people like me. Don't get caught on the wrong side of that equation."

When the new milennium began, Kilmer was still on top starring in some very cool, interesting indy films such as The Salton Sea, Masked and Anonymous, The Missing and David Mamet's Spartan. But it was in 2003, when he slipped into a role that was by far his most daring and intense performance of the new decade. Playing the legendary porn star John Holmes in James Cox' Wonderland. A true story centering on Holmes who was caught in the crossfire between two sides of a graphic bloodbath.

But it was after Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005, which unfortunately did not do so well as he and Robert Downey, Jr. (who thought this film was going to be his ticket back into super stardom) had hoped, that Val started dipping into more C and D list indy pictures. And he never really regained that spark in his pictures that he once lit himself. He began to guest star on multiple TV series including Numb3rs and Commanche Moon and random lame films.

I, myself, would love to see Kilmer explode back onto the big screen and SHOW people what acting is really about, but maybe he is just fine with what he's doing. And if he's fine, I'm fine. People can say whatever they want about Val Kilmer's career. Calling it a joke. Calling him a sell out. Calling him a Hollywood ghost. Put him in the same rank as other great actors like Tom Sizemore, James Russo, and Michael Madsen. But when the epic concert sequence at the end of The Doors happens, they just have to shut up and watch.

Chris von Hoffmann

"A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue."
- David Mamet

Friday, June 25, 2010



1. Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
-In the year of 1982 when Jim Jarmusch was 29-years-old, he wrote and directed a 30 minute short film entitled Stranger Than Paradise. It was later edited into his motion picture also called Stranger Than Paradise. Technically, Jarmusch's first feature film was Permanent Vacation in 1980 which starred all unknown actors including Chris Parker and Lelia Gastil. The experimental film was ultra low budget and revolved around a young man named Allie (Parker) who is oddly enough obsessed with Charlie Parker. He spends the day wandering around the streets of New York City and meeting various colorful characters along the way that begin to shape his life. The film is not at all up to the caliber of Jarmusch's future films, but you definitely saw some foreshadowing for some brilliance to follow. If you can get past the low budget, it's not half bad. Anyway, back to Stranger Than Paradise. The full length feature film was finally released in 1984 and was financed by Jarmusch's usual production company, Cinesthesia Productions. The film was shot in glorious black and white (as most of his films are) with excellent cinematography by Tom DiCillo (Coffee and Cigarettes, Permanent Vacation). The film centers on big time pre-slacker named Willie (Jarmusch veteran actor, John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards), who gets paid a visit from his Hungarian cousin, Eva (Eszter Balint). She spends several days with him and then moves to Cleveland to stay with her Aunt Lotte. A year passes by, and Willie and his friend, Eddie (Richard Edson), take a road trip to Cleveland to visit her. However, there are many bumps along the way. The film, in my eyes, was an absolute masterpiece. One of many masterpieces to follow. The rhythm of Jarmusch's writing is so cool and hip that it almost feels like jazz music. I would consider Jarmusch to be one of the most original filmmakers out there today. He makes us remember what true filmmaking is all about. Stranger Than Paradise is definitely considered Jarmusch's Mean Streets. It catapulted him into filmmaking stardom. Really launching his career and kick started his long on going collaboration with musician/actor John Lurie. John Lurie was never really much of an actor until Jarmusch threw him into this film and man, does he have quite the presence on screen! He sure can carry a film. Him and Jarmusch work almost as well as De Niro and Scorsese in my opinion. Don't be alarmed by the title of this film or think just because it's in black and white it will be very slow. Couldn't be further from the truth. This film is very entertaining but is also brilliant. This film also made me fall in love with Screamin' Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. Stranger Than Paradise influenced many filmmakers to go out and produce their own film on a tight budget. A practical "What the fuck? Just do it!" kind of attitude. I feel like Spike Lee may have waited longer to make She's Gotta Have It if it wasn't for this film. One of Jarmusch's all time best. A true classic. 

2. Down By Law (1986)
-This is by far one of my all time favorite films. I remember when my friend, Pete, was raving to me about it (he's a huge Jarmusch fan), and I thought to myself, "Okay. I'll give it a try." I got it on my netflix and I was completely hooked onto Jarmusch from then on. It was this particular film that made me a official Jim Jarmusch fan. I truly think his work in the 80s was his strongest and rawest (much like Woody Allen, I think). Released on September 20th, 1986, this film revolved around three very different men who are held up in a Louisiana prison and start to form an unlikely bond. Eventually leading to them escaping the prison and making a run for it in what becomes an unpredictable journey of friendship. The three prisoners included Jarmusch veterans John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and of course the man with the golden voice, Tom Waits. The film doesn't drag at all. As soon as it opens, it goes right to the characters and throws them together right away. We are immediately introduced to each character and how they come about getting thrown in prison. Except for Roberto's character, simply named... Roberto, who is brought into the cell once Lurie and Waits are already in there. His confession scene on why he was in imprisoned is one of the finest pieces of acting on Benigni's part. The chemistry the three of them have is incredible. Real dialogue, real situations, real characters. If you are a Jarmusch fan and have not yet seen this film, then do yourself a favor and buy it, rent it, or steal it... and WATCH IT! You will not be disappointed. I consider this Jarmusch's true masterpiece. Finest piece of work. 

3. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
-A pet project Jarmusch started to create dating all the way back in 1986 if you could believe it. A lovely collection of short stories told in different diners, restaurants, office lobbies, that all have coffee and cigarettes in common. He directed the first segment, Strange to Meet You, with Jarmusch veteran, Roberto Benigni and the hilarious Steven Wright. Which centered on a couple of random guys sharing coffee and cigarettes in a sketchy diner and Wright tells Roberto that he has to go to the dentist but is absolutely dreading it. Roberto offers to take his place in the dentist's chair and goes to the dentist instead. It's a lot more funny than it may sound. The second segment Jarmusch shot was three years later in 1989 which was called Twins which starred Spike Lee's younger siblings, Joie Lee and Cinque Lee, as identical twins who spend the afternoon bickering about whose idea it was to come to Memphis and which cigarette tastes fresher. Steve Buscemi plays the waiter who sheds some light on their little conversation and their health choices. And then finally in 1990, we were introduced to Somewhere in California with Iggy Pop and one my favorite musicians (as well as another Jarmusch veteran, Tom Waits) playing themselves and discuss random acts of life. The segment was of my favorites among the multiple segments in this film. Finally in 2003, Jarmusch scraped up all three of the past segments and shot a bunch of new shorts as well and combined all of them together to make one whole feature film. It was sheer success. Shot all in black and white. Every single one of the vignettes is a touching tale and keeps you engaged from beginning to end. Practically every indy actor is able to give their two cents in this film. Including Cate Blanchett (in a delightful double role), Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, Steve Buscemi, Roberto Benigni, Isaach De Bankole, etc. The list goes on of acting geniuses. What I truly loved about this film is how it's all about the acting and the idea. Such a simple film to put together and it goes to show you that even in tiny settings with a light budget and a bunch of talented actors, you can make a hell of a film. Be sure to not confuse this film with Paul Thomas Anderson's short film from 1993 called Cigarettes & Coffee. They have absolutely no connection whatsoever. I kid you not, Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes is a indy cult classic and a surefire home run. It will make you burst out laughing as well as shed tears before the picture is finished. 

4. Night on Earth (1991)
-A, what I think, is a Jim Jarmusch classic that unfortunately most people to not know of. Night on Earth was released in the New York Film Festival in 1992 and is yet another collection of short stories. This time centering on taxi cabs and their fares. We follow five cab drivers in five different parts of the world as well as their fascinating passengers. Jarmusch takes us through New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and we end with Helsinki. What's really done well in this film is that each time we enter a new story, we zoom in on a close up of the globe and it spins around at full speed and then it stops abruptly. Wherever it stops is the next part of the world we will be taken into. It is quite cool how it is done. We open up with the story in Los Angeles where Winona Ryder is the cab driver who is also an aspiring mechanic. A major tom boy if you will. Wearing filthy clothes, chewing gum, sucking down cigarette after cigarette. Gena Rowlands enters the cab from the airport. Now Rowlands is a big time talent agent from Los Angeles and is bickering back and forth with a producer on her cell, while she is in the cab, about trying to find the perfect actress for this film she's working on. Eventually Rowlands, as she gets to know Ryder's character more and more, offers her the chance to play the character. Ryder rejects the offer and says she enjoys what she does and wants to run her own auto shop one day. What I loved about this scenario is that it goes to show you that not everybody wants to be a movie star and have tons of fame and fortune. Some people just want to be normal people with a normal life. It really was cool to watch. Next up we are taken into the Big Apple where an immigrant cab driver named Helmut Grokenberger (played by the always incredible Armin Mueller-Stahl). By the way, in regards to Stahl, if you haven't seen Scott Hicks' biographic film on David Helfgott, Shine, WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY! Stahl is terrific as Helfgott's father, Peter. Anyway, Helmut is not a very good driver in the American cab. He eventually passes by YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), who has been trying to flag down a cab for quite sometime with no luck. When YoYo discovers Helmut can barely speak English or drive, he is about to get out of the cab, but Helmut begs him to stay repeating to him, "I need this. This is very important for me to do this." YoYo gives in and starts to direct Helmut all the way to Brooklyn! From there on they form an unlikely bond together that you would never expect from the beginning. YoYo is a wise cracking African-American. Helmut is a soft spoken German. But throughout this cab ride, they create this very beautiful friendship. Next we are thrown into Paris with the cab driver being the always fantastic Jarmusch veteran, Isaach De Bankole. Who, after throwing out a bunch of obnoxious business men from his cab for making jokes at Isaach's expense, he picks up a mysterious blind French woman with a real bad chip on her shoulder, who in some ways, sees more than he can. What proceeds is a very fiery and philisophical discussion on life and blindness. It starts off rather slow but picks up immediately after she gets into the cab. The bickering they have back and forth is absolutely brilliant. And the chemistry is fantastic. We then are in Rome with the ever so crazy and hilarious Roberto Benigni as the nutty cab driver who picks up an ailing man who he literally talks to death. He then has to haul ass to find a place to leave his body. It is absolutely hysterical and is in non stop motion. Benigni is perfectly cast as this crazy cab driver who does nothing but talk, talk, talk. It was surely one of my favorite segments in this picture. Finally we are shifted into a much deeper segment into Helsinki. It revolves around a soft spoken cab driver who picks up four drunk guys. One of them is an industrial worker who has just been laid off and is passed out. While his friends bicker about the bleakness of life and death. Having the cabbie throw in his two cents as well. The segment is very deep and dark, but is a brilliant way to wrap up the film. What I loved about this picture is that Jarmusch does an excellent job portraying each city and the culture within it. In a way, all these stories are all in the same place in the world. A little cab. 

5. Mystery Train (1989)
-This was, in fact, the final film of Jim Jarmusch that I saw, which was recently, considering it was just released on DVD. I was blown away on how fascinating and original it was. Now when I found out this was another multiple story line picture, I was a wee bit hesitant. Then I slapped myself across the face (not literally) and realized to myself, "Hey, the other two multiple story line Jarmusch films were wonderful. So why the hell wouldn't this one be?!" And it sure was. It revolves around three stories that all take place in Memphis and are connected with the spirit of the King of Rock 'N Roll himself... Elvis Presley. The first story being a Japanese couple who are obsessed with Elvis and are dying to see Graceland (even though the male in the couple prefers Carl Perkins). They stay at the Memphis Arcade Hotel. She is very cheery and he is very morbid. But somehow they never stop loving each other. This story unfolds two more stories in the most bizarre and unique fashion. Consisting of a little crime and a little dark humor. All taking place in and around the legendary Arcade Hotel in Memphis. What I loved about this film is that Jarmusch takes the most cliche things we know from most typical American films and flips them on their ass. A couple obsessed with 1950s America and Elvis Presley? Extremely common, no? A Japanese couple obsessed with Elvis? Not so common. Jarmusch takes his originality to a whole new level with this picture and it's a shame it took so long for it to be released on DVD, but I am sure glad it finally did because everyone you should immediately rent this film. The music is excellent, the acting is superb, and the characters make the film. This one may be a rather unknown film in Jarmusch's resume, but is surely not a weak film. Has something for everyone. 

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann

"Cinema can fill in the empty spaces of your life and loneliness." - Pedro Almodovar

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The Brave (1997)
- Johnny Depp took the director's chair in this fascinating character study which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 to positive acclaim. However, Depp was so insecure from the negative reviews from the American critics, that he refused to release the film in the United States. I had the pleasure of watching this film recently on youtube. The film was adapted from a novel by Gregory McDonald, who also wrote the novels for the films, Fletch and Running Scared. Depp not only directed it, but he also co-wrote the script with Paul McCudden (In the Name of the Father), and his maternal half-brother, D.P. Depp. D.P. Depp was the son of Johnny's mother's first marriage. Anyway, the film centered on a down on his luck alcoholic American Indian (Depp) named Raphael, who is recently released from prison and has to take care of his poverty stricken family (a wife and 2 kids). They live in a filthy trailer park and struggle every day to make ends meet. Raphael later discovers a sketchy flyer for a mysterious job listing and decides to head to the location where he finds McCarthy (great cameo by Marlon Brando) who is the leader of the job and gives him all the information. The job being Raphael taking part as a "victim" of a snuff film. To be beaten and tortured by a gang of rednecks. The reward being a price of $50,000 which would greatly help his family. He is given half up front and then is told to come back to the factory a week from then for the actual job. The film then takes a very slow turn as the rest of it revolves around the days leading up to "the day." Raphael continues to contemplate if this is really what's right for him to do. I don't want to give away too much, so I will not reveal how it ends. The major problem I had with this film is that it really started out excellent with some of the most intense opening credits I have ever seen on screen! And then once he leaves McCarthy's factory and everything leading up to the finale, it just dragged quite a bit. The story seemed to be going absolutely nowhere. There are fascinating elements here and there but for the most part, the film lacked a lot of action. Too many segments of Raphael pondering this decision. However, the acting on the other hand is impeccable. Depp is fantastic as Raphael and Brando's cameo is priceless. And the supporting actors are excellent too in their small roles. The rest of the film's cast include Max Perlich, Luis Guzman, Frederic Forest, Clarence Williams III, and Marshall Bell as the scumbag who pops up every now and then in the film to make sure Raphael is really going to show up. The main stand out, next to Depp of course, is Spanish actress Elpidia Carrillo, who plays Raphael's wife, Rita. She is absolutely fantastic. The scene that really caught my eye was when Raphael used the $25,000 McCarthy gives him up front in the beginning of the film, to set up a private amusement park in their backyard for his children. And the kids love it and everyones laughing and smiling, except for Rita. Rita slowly walks up to him and then immediately smacks him across the face, knocking him to the ground. The entire back to back acting between the two is magnificent. I need to see more of this actress. She really was incredible in this picture. This all being said, the film is certainly pretty damn good for a directing debut on Depp's part. I'll definitely give him superb credit and admire what he tried to do, cause there are definitely some great elements of filmmaking in this film. I just think the script needed more work. Way too slow. The story is there, I just think there was a lot more material that was burying the main idea and could have been trimmed down. Anyway, I do, however, recommend this film. Even just for Depp's performance, but if you really love Johnny Depp, find this film and give it a try. It's a shame he refused to release it in the states, because it really could have been a cult classic.

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann

"I was once described by one of my critics as an aesthetic fascist." - Alan Parker

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



(underrated master mind)

Most likely one of the most brilliant, original, visionary and most of all, underrated filmmakers working in independent cinema today. I have always been a huge fan of Alexander Payne and I truly do not think he gets any of the credit he really deserves.

I first got turned onto Payne with his second feature film in 1999 called Election, starring Matthew Broderick in a very different role than most of his characters. And a tremendous young rising Reese Witherspoon as extreme over achiever, Tracy Flick, who will do anything to get ahead in life. The film centered on Jim McAllister (Broderick) who has a pretty good life. He has a caring wife, a job he loves, and an all around positive attitude. However, his life starts to get quite complicated once the school's election starts to come up. The film was based on a novel by Tom Perotta, who also wrote the novel for 2006's Little Children, directed by Todd Field.

Now many screenwriters seem to find working with someone else a challenge when creating a story, however, Payne always seems to impress us and work beautifully with his writing partner of 14 years, Jim Taylor.

Their first collaboration was 1996's Citizen Ruth, starring Laura Dern in an excellent performance as a drug addict who is going on her fourth abortion. Citizen Ruth was also the first and only film that Payne and Taylor DID NOT adapt from a novel.

Beginning with Election, every film Payne has directed was adapted from a novel, including his next anticipated film, The Descendants, with George Clooney and Matthew Lilliard, set to be released sometime in 2011.

Payne is an incredible visionary and is constantly overlooked by other indy tycoons such as Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. However, I strongly believe that Payne is far better than both of them combined. People are only brainwashed to automatically believe that Baumbach and Anderson are far better only because they throw out a film almost every year and their films are marketed like crazy. And not all of them are very good. Payne, on the other hand, gives birth to a sheer masterpiece everytime he shoots a picture. He also makes a film every few years, much to the style of Adrian Lyne or Terry Malick.

Sideways was the next film I watched several years after I saw Election, and this film just absolutely blew me away. I even marked it as the best film of 2004 in my 'Best of the Last Decade' blog entry. I was able to catch it in the theatres at this local cinema near my fathers house in Chatham, New Jersey. The cinema only played one film a month, and at the time, the film was Sideways. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett, the film revolved around two middle aged men. One, a successful commercial/soap opera actor named Jack, the other a lonely, depressed wine aficionado divorcee named Miles, who take a road trip to wine country in California for one last hurrah before Jack gets married. The film was so beautifully shot (cinematography by Phedon Papamichael, who is also working on The Descendants). There is one specific scene, however, that really reaches out to you. That is the picnic scene between Jack, Miles, Maya, and Jack's new chick on the side, Stephanie (played by Payne's ex-wife, Sandra Oh). It is literally like watching art on screen. It is like one giant portrait. Very similar to Woody Allen's Manhattan, where practically every frame of the film is like a photograph. Election and Sideways are hands down, I think, his most incredible work.

Finally, there is 2002's About Schmidt, with screen legend, Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt. A elderly man who recently retires from his job and then have his wife pass away shortly after. He then decides to take a road trip to his daughter's (Hope Davis) wedding and try to convince her not to marry her fiancee (played hysterically by Dermot Mulraney). A character we really have not seen Nicholson ever play. He seems to be always playing these foul mouthed crazies or mobsters, but this was really something special for him to sink his teeth into. It seemed like it could have been Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways in his mid 60s.

What I like about Payne so much is that he takes these actors, that are so used to playing these typical roles and getting typecasted and then throws them into his oddball story and forces them to go an entirely different direction. It's done so nicely that when we finish watching the film, we think to ourselves, "Wow, this actor or actress is really underrated! I can't believe I haven't noticed this person before."

For example, Laura Dern and Burt Reynolds in Citizen Ruth (1996), Matthew Broderick in Election (1999), Hope Davis in About Schmidt (2002), Thomas Hayden Church and Virginia Madsen in Sideways (2004), and hopefully... George Clooney and Matthew Lilliard in The Descendants (2011).

Not many film goers know who Alexander Payne is, but they will someday. He is a true visionary with an original mind and an intense passion for cinema. Its films like Election and Sideways that make me even more passionate for films. I mean, just simple things he does that are just so original and are obvious homages to old classics and are then integrated into a contemporary world we live in today.

For example, the scene in Election, where Broderick automatically feels like he's on top of the world, and all of a sudden he's driving with sunglasses and a cigarette in a convertible shouting "Cao" to ladies behind him. Something right out of a Fellini film. We are then shifted into his perspective in the car driving into the mundane school's parking lot, but the mood is still there of being in an Italian paradise. He pulls into the parking space, the door opens, his foot gets out to stomp on the ground, and then the music shuts off abruptly and we are right back into the real world, as his plain brown shoe hits the pavement. I may not be describing this well, but trust me, this scene is brilliant. That's just one of many examples of how Payne cuts his films.

If you have never heard of Alexander Payne, sign up for netflix, or go to your local DVD store and pick up all of his films!!! You will not be disappointed. He is this underground sensation who is very private, but his films are magnificent. I mean, Chris Klein's first film was Election!

Payne brings something for everyone. Great homages to classic American and Foreign filmmakers, original material, relatable characters, authentic performances, and even something for a younger generation. MTV produced Election, so there you go.

Payne is an outstanding artist and is really someone aspiring filmmakers, such as I, should study up on.

KUHINJA: Interview with Payne


1. Fork in the Road (pre-production)
2. The Descendants (post-production)
3. Paris, je t'aime (2006)
(segment: 14e arrondissement)
3. Sideways (2004)
4. About Schmidt (2002)
5. Election (1999)
6. Citizen Ruth (1996)
7. The Passion of Martin (1991)
8. Carmen (1985)


- Chris von Hoffmann


"I believe that perfection handicaps cinema." - Jean Renoir

Monday, June 21, 2010



1. The Wrestler (2008)
-Now when I first saw this film at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2008, I was completely blown away. I had always known of Rourke and been a pretty big fan, however, this film took the cake for me. It immediately made me want to see every one of his films, good and bad. Every thing Rourke had done in the past was leading up to his performance as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson in The Wrestler. He WAS this character. If you don't already know the story of this film, it centers on a middle aged wrestler (Rourke) named Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, who was once a wrestling super star back in the 80s, but has now ruined his career and now doing local wrestling matches in shit holes in New Jersey. Living in a trailer park, working behind a deli at a grocery store, and practically broke. The only real friend he has is aging stripper Cassidy (played beautifully by Marisa Tomei). She is the stripper at the local bar he hangs out at. Randy finally decides to retire and get his life back on track by tracking down his daughter, who he hasn't seen in ages (Evan Rachel Wood). Everything seems to go nicely until everything crashes down on him. Randy later on realizes that his daughter doesn't want him, Cassidy doesn't need him, but the only people that truly matter in his life is the fans of his at the wrestling matches. All he can do now is jump back into the ring. It is a beautifully told story with a winning script by Robert D. Siegel, who recently marked his directing debut with the Sundance film, Big Fan, starring Patton Oswalt and Kevin Corrigan. Now I absolutely love Darren Aronofsky's work ever since Requiem for a Dream. I think he is slowly but surely becoming a legend. However, this film was so out of his reach and you would never in a million years think of Aronofsky as director when you see the film, but that just shows you how brilliant and versatile he really is. He pulled out away from his bizarre noir thrillers, and settled down with a simple human story. This film is the film that really inspired me to write the blog entry on Mickey Rourke. He was the new James Dean in the 80s, and I think people continue to look down on him, considering he is black balled in Hollywood. Rourke may have done a lot of total crap in the 90s and may just continue to do more crap, however, watch this film and you'll understand what I am talking about. That he is by far one of the best, rawest actors of his generation. 

2. 9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
-In my opinion, this is by far, one of the sexiest, seductive films of all time. Screw Basic Instinct! This film is absolutely marvelous. I do love Basic Instinct, however... Anyway, this film starred a young up and coming Mickey Rourke as John, a seductive, fearless wealthy businessman who is heavily into erotica and sex games. He starts an intense relationship with a vulnerable art assistant, Elizabeth (played by Kim Basinger). Probably her best performance. And is probably her sexiest in this film. A performance that made me fall head over heels in love with Kim Basinger, and still to this day, believe she is a fantastic actress, just does not get the right roles. Anyway, back to the film. Once John and Elizabeth start dating, he introduces her to his sexual fantasies and sort of unleashes this animal inside her that has been dying to be released. Their relationship is fiery, sexy, and even dangerous, as it eventually causes her to leave him, because she just can't do it anymore. John plays games with her that practically humiliate her, including throwing food in her face, forcing her to run around on all fours like a dog and even dressing her up like a man and putting her in a public restaurant. Next to Fatal Attraction, this is Adrian Lyne's best work. It's a shame he has not directed a film since 2002's Unfaithful, cause he really is very original. With an excellent script by Sarah Kemochan, Zalman King (director of a similar sexy erotic Rourke film, Wild Orchid), and Patricia Louisianna Knop. And based on the novel by Elizabeth McNeill. Now unfortunately Jones Films and The Carousel Picture Company decided to produce two sequels to 9 1/2 Weeks. Which were complete and utter disasters. The first sequel called Another 9 1/2 Weeks was released in 1997 and starred a returning Rourke (definitely just needed the money) and a new love interest, Angie Everhart (from Tales From the Crypt's Bordello of Blood). Then the final sequel, or should I say, prequel, was The First 9 1/2 Weeks with the only honorable name in the film, Malcolm McDowell and starred Adrenalin Junkies' Paul Mercurio and the love interest was French actress Clara Bellar. I do not recommend either of these films. There total garbage and just simple ways to make a buck. Only watch the original! It definitely had a major influence on sexual films to follow, including Red Shoe Diaries (which was created by Zalman King, co-writer of  9 1/2 Weeks). 

3. Diner (1982)
-Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) wrote and directed this landmark post-college film taking place in 1959 Baltimore, Maryland. It centered on a group of college buddies struggling with adulthood. The only thing they all have going for them is the local diner where they hang out to basically shoot the shit and recap. The film starred Steve Guttenberg (in one of his best roles to date), Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser, and of course, a breakthrough performance by Mickey Rourke. The film was certainly a gearing point for practically the entire cast and unfortunately most of them never truly received another film quite as good as this. Rourke was clearly the heavy hitter and ultimate scene stealer in this picture. He played Robert Sheftell, but best known as 'Boogie' by his pals. He's the all around ladies man bachelor who can talk a girl in the sack in a matter of minutes. Well... most of the time (i.e. the popcorn scene...). Loves to eat suger right out of the container and loves to gamble and smoke. But Boogie was quite possibly the most flawed and troubled character in the film, next to Kevin Bacon's depressing lonely character, Timothy Fenwick, Jr. Rourke hadn't done much film work before Diner. Having small parts in films such as 1941, Act of Love, Body Heat, and Heaven's Gate. However, Diner was his first really powerful performance that had the most amount of screen time. I mean, don't get me wrong, his cameo in Body Heat is breathtaking. Having to act opposite William Hurt and stealing the scene from him for only two scenes! That's quite impressive. However, his performance in Diner really set the bar high for future actors in the business. Rourke simply showed us what acting is all about. He showed us this new 'balls into the wind' attitude that surely influenced much more actors to come. Not only is Rourke excellent in Diner, but the film is a true gem. I highly recommend it. 

4. Angel Heart (1987)
-Probably one of the most controversial films of Rourke's career considering the graphic lengthy sex scene between the 35-year-old Mickey Rourke and the 20-year-old Lisa Bonet. I mean, this scene is intense. Blood splashing all over the walls as well as their naked bodies while they aggressively go at it. It seems like a sex scene from a vampire film or something. Anyway, Angel Heart was released on March 6th, 1987 and was written and directed by brilliant filmmaker, Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Fame). It was adapted from William Hjortsberg. The novel being called Falling Angels. Hjortsberg is also a screenwriter. He wrote such 80s films as Ridley Scott's Legend, and Corey Allen's Thunder and Lightning. The film takes place in the 1950s and centers on private detective, Harry Angel (Rourke), who is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre (the always marvelous Robert De Niro) to track down a singer named Johnny Favourite. But the investigation takes an odd and rather twisted turn for the worse. In other words, nothing is what it seems. Rourke once again shines in every frame of this film, almost upstaging De Niro in the few scenes he has with him. Rourke does have the hardest job as an actor in this film; having to instill the terror inside you as you watch it, but still play it subtle. Rourke has these sweet, vulnerable eyes but contains such a fearless, daring, impulsive attitude in this film. You are torn between rooting for him and despising him. Alan Parker is clearly the Hitchcock of his generation and with this film, made one of the all time scariest films of the 1980s. He showed those idiotic directors behind those schlock horror disasters what terror is all about. It's not about blood and gore (though this film does have it's fair share), but about sheer terror and depth. Major investment in the characters instead of the tits and blood. Almost mirrors an 113 minute Twilight Zone episode. Or a Stephen King novel. But I don't think Parker could ever have done it without his explosive cast. Mickey, you shined once again. Bravo. 

5. Sin City (2005)
-I can't say enough good things about this film. It's a comic book geek's wet dream. But it is also an all around terrific work of art. Robert Rodriguez, visionary behind original gems as El Mariachi and From Dusk Till Dawn, co-directed this film adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novels. Frank Miller also co-directed the film as well as guest director, Quentin Tarantino. It is done in comic book style fashion, but not at all like anything we have seen before. One of several films to be shot on a completely "digital backlot." With all the acting in front of a green screen and the settings added during post-production. I think the best term to simply describe this film is "AWESOME." I remember seeing this with my friends late one night in the cinema and I could not believe what I was watching. It was most likely similar to the feeling that my father and his friends felt when they saw Star Wars for the first time. The film centered on multiple story lines all taken from Miller's graphic novel that were in some way all connected. They all took place in Basin City, later called... Sin City. The main story that really satisfied me was The Hard Goodbye, and starred an unrecognizable beefed up Mickey Rourke as Marv. A rough and tough chain smoking grizzly man, self-conscious of his looks. And can't believe his luck when he lands a blond bombshell named Goldie (Jaime King). But then discovers her dead body the next morning and begins a mission to hunt down the killer. He eventually teams up with Goldie's twin sister to track down the psychopath (a terrifying Elijah Wood). My Uncle gave me the action figure of Marv when I was a teenager of have him strapped to the electric chair. When I saw this film, I couldn't believe how much they made Rourke look like Marv. He WAS Marv! I couldn't believe the make up job. Rourke brought so much realism and life to the character. I feel like in most comic book films, the actors feel like just because there playing a cartoony character, that they do it real over the top, and not bring any real truth to it, but Rourke definitely cleared up that mentality for us (i.e. Iron Man 2...) He was my all time favorite character in this film and I was very upset when he gets the death penalty by way of electric chair. However, his final line is priceless. "Is that all you got, you pansies?" Classic material. It was as if the illustration from Miller's graphic novel literally, by some magical force, jumped off the page and onto the screen and was given life by Mickey Rourke. Really amazing performance. Rourke kicks some serious ass in this flick. 

Now we all know the unfortunate decline Rourke went through in the 90s and most of this last decade due to telling everyone in Hollywood to simply "Fuck off," or getting into drugs and hanging with bad crowds. But no matter how weak the script may be, Rourke will always be entertaining to watch at least. And when the script is actually good?! Oh man, watch out! Cause Rourke will be coming at you like a grenade. In my opinion, he is up there with the greats. I consider him, to this day, a screen legend. Hey, look at De Niro and Pacino! They've done tons of crap in their careers, but they still give 2000% in their work no matter what the film is. Aspiring actors all over, attention please! If you really want to know what real acting is and not this bull shit that Robert Pattinson and Ashton Kutcher seem to be doing. But what real honest acting is? Watch any of Rourke's films. Even the bad ones. There's this special style of his that will never let go. Something you don't really find anymore. Whether it's a tiny part in a film like The Pledge or Body Heat, or a lead role in a bad film like Barfly or Bullett (which he co-wrote). Rourke always brings something special to the table. He's a man's man and an actor's actor. I am truly grateful that Rourke was given a second chance, which is rear, especially in the film business. But he did, and I couldn't be happier. Mickey Rourke lives on! 


1. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
2. Year of the Dragon (1985)
3. Rumble Fish (1983)
4. Body Heat (1981)
5. Spun (2002) 

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann


"I think that people who are famous tend to be underdeveloped in their humanity skills." - Diane Keaton 

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I had the pleasure of volunteering for this year's Tribeca Film Festival, and with that, I was able to receive the privilege of seeing a few free films. I saw three in total. However, only this film (Dog Pound) is really worth reviewing. The other two were more experimental pieces than anything. If you are wondering what they were, they were Buried Land and The Travelogues. Both of which I thought were rather slow and weak. Okay, so lets get crackin'...

Dog Pound (2010)
-Twisted French Filmmaker and TFF native, Kim Chapiron, gives us an eye opening inside look into a juvenile corrections facility in Montana centering on three young teenagers. For those of you who don't know Kim Chapiron, his first feature film came out 4 years ago at Tribeca Film Festival. A dark, twisted horror film called Sheitan starring an unrecognizable Vincent Cassel. I remember seeing that film at a special screening at the New York Film Academy 4 years ago and it had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I didn't know what was going to happen next. Really didn't want it to end either. It was that good! Aside from Cassel's towering, terrifying performance, the film itself was incredible. More of a psychologically draining horror film. It leaked into your mind. A major nail biter. Anyway it wasn't until 2010, that Chapiron released his next feature, of which he had been co-writing for 4 years with first time American screenwriter, Jeremie Delon. Dog Pound is definitely not for everyone. It contains a large amount of extreme violence as well as brutal subject matter. The 3 main characters are Angel, Davis and the leader of the group, Butch. Angel is played by new comer, Mateo Morales. Angel is the 15-year-old Spanish delinquent who is sent to the prison for auto theft and robbery. Then there is the leader of the group, Butch, played menacingly by Adam Butcher. Butch is the 17-year-old inmate with the most amount of anger building up inside him and is ready to snap at any moment. A rather disturbed individual. Having being sent to the prison for blinding a corrections officer. And there is finally the pretty boy, Davis, played surprisingly well by Degrassi co-star, Shane Kippel. Davis is the rich mama's boy jock type who finally gets a rude awakening when he arrives at the prison and is taunted by almost everyone really testing his confidence. He is also in the prison for narcotics. Shout out definitely has to go to Kippel's performance. I am not really a big fan of the show, Degrassi (even though my good friend, Mazin Elsadig was on it. He played Damien. GO RE-WATCH IT!), however, his character was by far the most fascinating and the most sad. Being this big hot shot in his high school most likely, deflowering all these various virgins, and being a bonafide mama's boy. He was the one I felt the worst for to tell you the truth. The film itself is not amazing. There are some bits of weak acting and lazy writing, however, I was completely entertained from beginning to end. The entire film keeps you on the edge of your seat and is so unbelievably intense at times that you get goosebumps and begin to shake. Well, I know I was at least. All in all, I really enjoyed the film and I definitely would watch it again in a heartbeat. I was grateful to get a ticket for this film, because it was at the top of my list when I was first looking through the film guide. The other two I saw were so lame, that I'm happy I at least viewed one good film. The other stand out performance is from non-actor, Taylor Bouer, who in the first half of the film, plays the big man on campus. The one everyone is afraid of, until Butch straightens him out... Taylor plays a character named Banks. This big, heavy set, criminal with demon like eyes and the most horrifying speech pattern. Taylor was and most likely still is an actual criminal and not an actor at all. Which just made it that much more scary. There were scenes Taylor had with Kippel's character where I am on the edge of my seat and am terrified for myself. Imagine how terrified Kippel would be in the actual scene when they were filming! So like I said, the film is definitely not for everyone, however, it does give an interesting message. Basically letting parents all over know that sending children to prisons are not exactly going to make them better when they come out. If anything, it'll make them worse and that much more violent.. Unfortunately Dog Pound does not have a theatrical release date yet, being that it is still on the festival circuit, having it's last screening tomorrow afternoon, May 1st. However, for those in France or Switzerland, it will be released on June 23rd! Hopefully it will be released this summer in the states as well... hopefully. 

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann


"I'm the happiest the saddest guy in the world can be." - Vincent Gallo 

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Over the years we have had numerous generations of actors dating as far as we can remember. From Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable to Marlon Brando, James Dean and Laurence Olivier. From Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro to Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and Val Kilmer. The list goes on. However, some may debate on who the current generation of actors lies with. The new breed moving in on the acting spotlight. The stand outs that choose fascinating scripts and are in it for the craft and are not in it for the glorified fame. Who have a respect for what they do so well. I have calculated what I think are the top 10 best young actors of our current generation. Please let me know what you think and add any recommendations!

-Now most would recognize this baby faced young actor from his role as Tommy Solomon on the popular cult classic television show, 3rd Rock from the Sun about a group of aliens who come to planet Earth to learn about its population and culture. The show began in 1996 and had a 5 year run all the way to 2001. Or for the young girls, his role as Cameron James in the modern take on The Taming of the Shrew, called 10 Things I Hate About You, also co-starring the late Heath Ledger (who, I think, coincidentally looks very much like JGL. What do you think?). This actor, I assure you, had come quite a ways from these two charming hits. Now in the 90s, JGL had bit parts in plenty of films and other television shows including Quantum Leap, The Outer Limits, The Powers that Be, A River Runs Through It, Halloween: H20, etc. But it was in 2001, when 3rd Rock was coming to a close, when he really did a whole 180 turnaround in his breakthrough dramatic performance as Lyle Jensen in Manic. A disturbed young delinquent who is committed to a juvenile wing of the Northwood Mental Insitution for attacking a kid with a baseball bat. The film is raw, disturbing and very real. Shot in extreme documentary style. A film where you can establish how good an actor really is. No fancy lighting. No fancy camera techniques. From then on, JGL began to receive plenty of dramatic roles in numerous independent sensations. JGL has brought something new to the world of independent cinema and is not afraid to take daring risks and really does not even care if the film doesn't make a dime. He is in it for the art. I admire JGL for the some of the most physically and emotionally draining performances he gives including, what I, and many others, believe is his best performance to date so far. His role of gay rebellious hustler, Neil McCormack in Gregg Araki's masterpiece, Mysterious Skin. JGL brought so much to the table and it shows on screen. He is purely a chameleon who can disappear into any character he takes on. This is why he is a star. Someone who is living and breathing each take, moment by moment, and is not afraid to take risks. Unfortunately JGL does have a 'His and Miss' luck stream with his resume. The story may seem brilliant on the page, but once it's put on screen... not so much. For example, he'll go from a brilliant caper film like Brick and then do The Lookout and Havoc, both major letdowns in my book. Some may disagree, but if you go back and watch them, not too good. Stop-Loss and G.I. Joe are a couple of other major flops that he unfortunately took on. Though, you can't blame him for wanting to have a little fun with some big budget action flick like G.I. Joe. But Stop-Loss? That was just poor direction and an unfortunate disaster when it should not have been. JGL keeps coming back on his mark continuing to surprise us with memorable performances no matter how poor his previous film was. Recently he came out with 500 Days of Summer reuniting with his Manic co-star, the beautiful Zooey Deschanel. This film was a brilliant debut from Marc Webb, who showed us that a love story does not always to be typical. A beautiful poignant tale of confused love. I am very glad he used JGL for his first film. He took the role of greeting card designer, Tom Hansen, and just ran away with it. Made it his own. I was also at Sundance this year and the major hit there was a dark twisted film called Hesher about a lonely 13-year-old boy who, after suffering a major loss, finds hope through another lonely, disturbed rebel named Hesher (played by JGL). I heard nothing but good things about his performance. I have not yet to see it. And what's best to be admired of JGL is that he does not care whatsoever about becoming a movie star. Seems like he does not have a care in the world for that kind of fame. I mean, just watch his short film he made called Pictures of Assholes. It is practically making a mockery out of paparazzi photographers. So in conclusion, no matter how many hit and miss films JGL takes on, his performance will always be something to remember.

-Now I was grateful enough to see Ryan Gosling's new film, Blue Valentine, at Sundance this past January. Once the film wrapped up, I thought to myself, "Wow. This man is really one of the all time best actors of his generation." And trust me, I did not change my mind when I woke up the next morning. Gosling has been improving his craft more and more. Pushing 30-years-old, he already has a list of fascinating films under his belt. I believe, he is one of the most overlooked and underrated actors as well. Not getting the recognition he deserves. Of course he gets enough from young girls after the gigantic success of Nicholas Sparks' film, The Notebook, which eventually caused his future on again, off again, real life romance with Miss Rachel McAdams. Now I have to say I hated all the films that were coming out based on Nicholas Sparks novels. Finding them simply unbearable (A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, etc.). However, when I saw this film, I was absolutely blown away. The performances made this film what it is today. Gosling has been spilling out fantastic and edgy performances even before then. Starting back in 2001 with the dark independent film by Henry Bean, The Believer. Now, Gosling is primarily the only good aspect of this film however. It is extremely slow and boring and just plain old bizarre. Gosling plays Danny Balint, a young Jewish man who is anti-Semitic. It had been based a true story back in the 1960s of a KKK member that was soon revealed to be Jewish by the New York Times. The Believer also co-starred Billy Zane, Summer Phoenix, and A.D. Miles, who is the reporter trying to figure out Balint's methods. From then on, Gosling became an independent household name. Some were soon labeling him "The New Sean Penn." I can see why they would think that, but I feel like Gosling is "The New Ryan Gosling," if that makes any sense at all. He has his own style and own acting method of doing things. Now Gosling sure has come a long way from his work in his teen years. Dating all the way back to 1993 with the Mickey Mouse Club, alongside Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Gosling beat out 17,00 aspiring actors for a slot. Must be pretty cool when your 13-years-old. Anyway, Gosling also had a short run on the television programs, Breaker High and Young Hercules. Both only lasted 1-2 years. Ever since 2001's The Believer, Gosling has brought us some incredible performances. Ranging all the way from football player, Roy Chutney in 2002's The Slaughter Rule to suicidal patient, Henry Letham in 2005's Stay. From philisophical killer, Leland P. Fitzgerald in 2003's The United States of Leland to dillusional small town man, Lars Lindstrom in 2007's Lars and the Real Girl. A true chameleon who is practicallty never acting. Making you forget your watching a film. Now that's a true actor. All of these films I have mentioned and others I didn't are still fantastic, but once you watch Blue Valentine, I believe you'll change your mind about Half Nelson being his best performance. Ryan Gosling is one to look for.

-In 2001, a magnificent dark, twisted independent film, directed by and co-written by Michael Cuesta, was released. It was called L.I.E. This film starred a young 17-year-old, almost unrecognizable, Paul Dano in his first lead role as Howie Blitzer. Brian Cox co-starred as a creepy small town pedophile that becomes somewhat of a mentor to Paul Dano's character. Dano, practically upstaging the legendary Brian Cox, took control of the screen like sheer dynamite. It was then and there that the fresh faced Dano starting making a name for himself in plenty of intense, well crafted films. These included The Emperor's Club, Taking Lives, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The King, Little Miss Sunshine, and many more. Most likely his best and most remembered performance since L.I.E. came with his role as Dwayne Hoover in the cult classic, Little Miss Sunshine. A young teen who refuses to speak for several months until he gets accepted into flight school. Dano, completely silent for the majority of the film, was able to convey emotions so beautifully and internally having saying not one word. It was he, who I believe, was the major stand out in this film. It is the breakdown scene that Dano's character once Steve Carell's character, Frank, explains to him that he can't fly if he is color blind (which Dwayne discovers he is minutes before). Dwayne automatically starts panicking, smacking his arms and legs on the seats and walls of the car. Basically having a panic attack. They finally pull over and he immediately leaps out of the van and runs down a hill and finally begins to express all of his emotions with speech. The scene is very powerful and moving. I also had the pleasure of seeing a film which starred Paul Dano and Kevin Kline, at Sundance this year, called The Extra Man. Which revolved around a young aspiring writer (Dano) who moves to New York and becomes roommates with an eccentric, old fashioned playwright, who is also an escort for rich, elderly women (Kevin Kline). The two spark up an unlikely friendship. Whether it's taking on lead roles in such gems as The Extra Man, Gigantic or L.I.E. Or taking on small supporting or even cameo roles in films such as Where the Wild Things Are, Taking Woodstock, Fast Food Nation, and Little Miss Sunshine. Paul Dano is a true actor who continues to improve his craft.

-Just recently turned 24-years-old, this UK native has already brought us some fine performances. He is full of raw, dark intensity and chooses his scripts wisely. Barely seen in the tabloids, Jamie Bell maintains his privacy and shines in every performance he takes part in. I think he is rather underrated if you ask me. He is one of those actors that many people know of, but don't really know much of his work. However, if you go back and really watch every single film he was involved in, his performance is incredible. A real actor. We all get caught up in the ridiculous lives of no-talent movie stars like Julia Roberts and Jamie Foxx, that we forget about the true artists who really wish to hone their craft and do it for the film itself, and NOT the paycheck, the porsches, and the mansions (Yes, Mrs. Roberts... I am talking to you...). Now Bell does not have dozens of credits under his belt, but first off he is still very young, and second off, he is clearly particular of what he does. A shade of Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis' film approach, if you ask me. Now most of you most likely know Bell from his breakthrough performance, when he was just 14-years-old, as ballet dancer Billy Elliot in 2000's Billy Elliot (which was just recently made into a Broadway musical by the same director, Stephen Daldry). Beating out 2,000 boys from Northeast England and being put through 7 auditions, Bell finally won the role and the rest is history. But lets talk a little about the history, shall we? Now I have to say, I have not seen ALL of Bell's films, but I feel like I have seen quite enough to speak my mind on his talent. One film that really stands out to me is David Gordon Green's Undertow. Bell plays Chris Munn, a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (played by Dermot Mulraney) and his little brother, Tim (played by Devon Alan). They live in the woods of Rural Georgia. Their lives are changed drastically once their Uncle Deel arrives on their door stop (incredible performance by Josh Lucas). We later discover that Uncle Deel is only out to steal money from John, but when John catches him, Uncle Deel does what he thinks is right, and murders John. This causes Chris and Tim to make a run for it from their home and tries to find refuge as they are being high tailed by their terrifying criminal Uncle. What follows eventually forces Chris in becoming a man. The film is beautifully told and and very intense. The performances are off the hook. Undertow marked the first film that Jamie Bell took on as lead character as an adolescent. Something that, in a way, pushed him into manhood, much like the film does to his character. Chris Munn. Bell followed this film with yet another dark coming of age story called The Chumscrubber. Ariel Posin made his feature film directing debut with this twisted tale of life crumbling in, what seems like, a perfect suburban neighborhood. Jamie Bell stars as Dean, who discovers his friend, Troy (Josh Janowicz), has hung himself at one of his mother's pool parties. Troy sold "feel good" pills to everyone in high school in order to spread happiness. Later teens, Billy, Lee and Chrystal (Justin Chatwin, Camilla Belle, Lou Taylor Pucci) beg Dean to tell them where the rest of the pills are. When Dean refuses, they kidnap his little brother, until they realize they've kidnapped the wrong kid. The film is dark, twisted and fantastic. A dramedy that sets the bar quite high for future suburban tales. The cast is excellent and Bell brings so much angst and realism to the role of Dean. Following The Chumscrubber, Bell took on a few memorable films such as Flags of our Fathers, Dear Wendy and the latest Defiance. We all know that not everyone of his films is excellent, but his performance in them is always something to be recognized. His presence alone is mesmorizing.

-Now most people probably recognize Emile Hirsch from his most powerful, epic performance as Christopher McCandless in Sean Penn's masterpiece, Into the Wild, about a top student/athlete who abandons his possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska, encountering a series of characters that influence his life. The film is absolutely breathtaking as well are the performances. One of my all time favorite films. However, Hirsch had started choosing fascinating scripts years before Into the Wild was released. Choosing daring and edgy independent roles that might disturb some, but amaze others. The first film that really made him stand out to me was 2003's The Mudge Boy. Hirsch played 14-year-old misfit, Duncan Mudge, who lives on a farm with his father (Richard Jenkins) and tries to cope with his mothers death by mimicking her behavior right down to dressing up in her clothing. The film is not incredible, but the performance is outstanding. Having been played by such a young boy at the time. The film is very emotionally draining and is very rough for any young man to take on. Having his character be raped by another boy, having to cope with cross dressing, and not to mention biting off a chicken's head just so he can impress the bullies. A fascinating, 3-dimensional character. The film is very rough but should be watched by any Emile Hirsh fan. Following that film was another emotionally draining, very similar film called Imaginary Heroes, with an all star cast. This included Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Kip Pardue, Michelle Williams, and Sigourney Weaver. Hirsch played high school student, Tim Travis, whose all-star swimmer brother, Matt, (Pardue) commits suicide. He and the rest of his family try to cope with the loss, while Tim attempts to break the mold of negligince by his father (Jeff Daniels), who always favored Matt. At this point I was really starting to admire this young actor. He can go from cult classic Risky Business-esque films like The Girl Next Door to art films like Milk. And hey, he can even play Speed Racer! He is a versatile actor who, I think, hasn't even received the ultimate chance to show us what he can really do with his talent. Into the Wild sure was the role of a lifetime, but I deeply think the overall film was even better the performances. But maybe we'll see in 2011 when he reunites with his Lords of Dogtown director, Catherine Hardwicke, with another modern updated take on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

-This edgy, talented young actor, whom will be 32 on April 19th, bursted onto the screen in the hit, cult television show called Freaks and Geeks. It had a rather short run, only running for one season, but that's all it needed to be remembered forever. Franco played Daniel Desario. An 18-year-old high school junior, who is bit of a delinquent and is the leader of the "bad" crowd known to some as the "freaks." He was the rebellious bad boy we all know and love. Who lived by his rules and his rules only. However, he also could barely read and was barely passing in his grades. It was a terrific performance. Both edgy and pure. So much depth and realism. Franco became the first actor, post Freaks and Geeks, to go on to bigger things such as many lead roles in films. Unfortunately the beginning of his career was a bit of a bumpy one with the films he was being thrown into. The media was making him out to be this sex symbol leading man (much like Depp's career beginning on 21 Jump Street). Throwing him into awful films such as Tristan + Isolde, Annapolis and Flyboys. However in the midst of these horrifying productions, Franco was slowly, but surely making a name for himself. Having small parts in fantastic side projects such as City by the Sea, The Company and The Dead Girl. Although the beginning of his career was not the best of times for Franco, he did shock myself, and hopefully others, in a tour de force performance playing the legendary James Dean in the television film of the same name. The resemblance was uncanny. He was practically channeling James Dean. It's unfortunate, though, that the film didn't receive much marketing, because it really was a powerful performance. May not have been the best biopic (most TV biopics aren't), but it sure as hell was a great role for Franco. And of course his classic role as best friend of Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, turned villanous Hob Goblin, seeking revenge on Spider-Man for killing his father (played by Willem Dafoe). It was a great character for Franco to take on and he definitely had that comic book look, however, he still wasn't quite getting his chance in Hollywood. We all were fully aware of who he is and what he is capable of, but he just wasn't being given the chance... Until a little stoner flick called Pineapple Express came around... In 2008, Pineapple Express bursted onto the screens like electric dynamite. Or more like electric cannabis. Franco committed 2000% to his classic role as vulnerable drug dealer, Saul Silver, who teams up with Dale Denton (played by Seth Rogen, also the co-writer of the film) to hide out from criminals who Dale had witnessed commit a murder. The film is dark, twisted and an all around blast. The story and the characters are definitely the strongest point of the film. A friendship that is built between a drug dealer and his client. When the hell do we ever see that? I could not believe how hysterical Franco was in his role and absolutely real he was. I kept thinking to myself while I was watching his performance, "Oh my God! I know a guy who talks just like that!!!" Or, "Holy shit! This dude I knew would say that exact same thing!" We always saw it in Freaks and Geeks, but now he finally received a new shot at showing people what he can really do with a great role. How out of this world hysterical he can be, but also bring so much truth to a character. Now Franco, a couple months ago, hosted an episode of Saturday Night Love. Now, I don't know about you guys, but I cannot STAND SNL anymore. Ever since 2002, it fell off the comedy charts for me. But when I saw the episode he hosted, I was laughing so hard I almost wet myself. Just his opening monologue alone was brilliantly delivered. That he doesn't mind jokes at his own expense. Making fun of his past films. Making fun of his current role as Franco on the cult soap opera, General Hospital! He's a real human being! He's a truly terrific, fearless actor, but he may have just been forced into these past horrible films for financial reasons or God knows what. WE DON'T KNOW THE DETAILS. Now unfortunately Franco still seems to be taking part in some not so appealing flicks such as Date Night, Nights at Rodanthe, and Eat, Pray, Love, but we all know what he is capable of and hopefully he's fully aware of it as well. I mean, take Milk and Howl for example? Brilliant stuff! So as long as he still recognizes his talent and ability, that's good enough for me. Can't blame a guy for also wanting to experiment and have a little fun as well. Look out for Franco in his upcoming Medieval comedy (directed by David Gordon Green), Your Highness, set to be released October 1st of this year!

-Now most of you, when you think of Rory Culkin, the youngest of 7 children, automatically think of him as the younger brother of childhood super star, Macaulay Culkin. First off, playing bit parts in his brothers big starring films (i.e. Kid in picture in The Good Son, Young Richie in Richie Rich). However, Rory has sure already made a name for himself as a dramatic, talented, crafted young actor. I believe, Rory first bursted onto the screen as playing the son of Laura Linney in 2000's You Can Count On Me. The story centered on Laura Linney's character and her son whose lives are thrown into turmoil after her barely seen younger brother, Terry (played by an up and coming Mark Ruffalo) comes to stay with her for a little while. The film is beautiful and definitely has some performances to watch for. The main ones being Mark Ruffalo's and Rory Culkin's. From then on, Rory started to really make his own way in acting, and being seperated from being labeled as "Macaulay's kid brother." Having bit parts in episodes of Law & Order, The New Twilight Zone, The Job, and films such as It Runs in the Family, Igby Goes Down, and Signs. Rory's big shot at taking a heavy duty role was in 2004 with the coming of age tragedy, Mean Creek. Rory played Sam Merric, who is the victim of the middle school bully, George Tooney (played surprisingly well by Drake & Josh's Josh Peck). Once Sam's older, tougher brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), finds out, he feels something needs to be done. As Sam says so to his girlfriend earlier in the film, "Something's gotta give." Rocky and his best friend Clyde (Ryan Kelley), plan a prank on George, to take him out onto a canoe trip for Sam's "birthday," but then plan on stripping him and throwing him in the water. Of course, nothing goes according to plan and they accidentally kill George. Rory's character, Sam, is by far, the most introvert and fascinating character in the film. The entire film is centered on multiple characters, but Sam Merric is definitely the one that your fascinated by the most. I, myself, used to get bullied from time to time in grammar school and I know that exact feeling of waiting nervously at recess for the bully to come at you. There's barely any acting on Rory's part. He was living that character. He played this young tortured soul so beautifully, you can't help but feel for him. Post-Mean Creek, Rory began really breaking out into greater and greater films of the independent genre. These included The Chumscrubber (also starring previous 'Best Young Actor,' Jamie Bell), Down in the Valley, where he played the confused younger brother of Evan Rachel Wood, who ends up befriending her disturbed boyfriend (played brilliantly by Edward Norton), The Zodiac (the straight-to-dvd version, NOT the Fincher version), and The Night Listener. But it wasn't until 2009, where I think Rory really bursted BACK onto the screen and gave us nothing short of a tour de force performance in yet another coming of age dramedy. This one titled, Lymelife. It was this very film (which I was able to see at Sundance in 2009), where I thought to myself, this kid is truly something great. He really is going to be one of the edgiest, talented actors out there. Rory played 15-year-old Scott Bartlett. A young boy who begins to observe his life around him for the first time. He starts to analyze the people around him who he loves the most, and starts to find out some deep and dark secrets about them, all while a lime disease epidemic is spreading through their town. This being his father (Alec Baldwin), mother (Jill Hennessy), and older soldier brother (played by Rory's real life older brother, Kieran Culkin.). It sure helps to cast real life brothers to play brothers in a film, because the chemistry the two Culkins had in Lymelife was marvelous. Rory's character, Scott, has to deal with the high school bully (played by the fantastic Adam Scarimbolo, who would have been on the list, but needs a wee more memorable performances. Don't worry... he'll get there), and his first love (Emma Roberts). Rory takes on a lot in this film and brings so much truth to his character. The film was a gem in my eyes, not just for the performances, but for the story, the writing and the directing. This all being said, go look back at some of Rory's performances. He has this edgy and raw rear talent and has somewhat overshadowed his other brothers. I feel like he's completely demolished Macaulay's child star status and really made a name for himself as his own man. Much like what Jason Reitman is doing (his father being the great Ivan Reitman). Rory's other older brother, Kieran, is also a hell of an actor. Just look at Igby Goes Down and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys! However, I chose Rory instead of Kieran, because Rory is just shy of 21-years-old and has already established himself as a true performer. And he has many more intense performances under his belt. Anyway, make sure (and I will too, considering I haven't seen it yet), to look for his new film, Twelve, directed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring his previous co-star, Emma Roberts! 

-This New York native has slowly but surely defined the term, "Awkward" with his characters he has played. But his acting is so much more than just playing an awkward, confused young teenager. He brings a 3-dimensional angle into it which is somewhat difficult for people to pull off convincingly. Sure, Eisenberg looks the part of most of the characters he plays, but he is also able to carry the weight that comes with his roles. Now Eisenberg first was discovered on the big screen in an independent film called Rodger Dodger. The film starred Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, and co-starred Isabella Rossellini and Elizabeth Berkeley. It was written and directed by an up and coming filmmaker, Dylan Kidd. It centered on a ladies man "know it all" business man, Roger Swanson (played by Campbell Scott), who is dumped by his lover and boss. After this disappointment, he decides to take his virgin teenaged nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) out for a night on the town in search of sex. As Roger says in the film, "Sex is everywhere." The performances were great, but Eisenberg was the stand out. From then on, he was to be remembered. Eisenberg truly, in my opinion, came fully into his own as a mature young actor in Noah Baumbach's fantastic dramedy, The Squid and the Whale. Eisenberg starred as Walt Berkman, who, alongside his twisted kid brother, Frank (Owen Kline), struggle to deal with their parents divorce in the 1980s. The film also starred Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as their parents. Eisenberg commanded the screen with a presence of perfection. This was, in fact, the first picture I saw Eisenberg in. From then on, I had my eye out for him. What I mainly like about this young actor is that he knows his place in the acting world. He is not out there to play big macho guys in big budget action flicks. He has this awkward, real look to him and uses it to his advantage. He doesn't think of himself as an action star (you can learn something from Jesse Eisenberg, Mr. LaBeouf...). He plays characters the way they are meant to be played. He shows us something we can all relate to. A film that I could completely relate to that he starred in was a little dramedy called Adventureland which also took place in the 1980s. Actually took place in the year I was born (1987). I was grateful enough to check this flick out at Sundance in 2009 and it was definitely one of my favorites of the festival. Eisenberg played recent college grad, James Brennan, whose whole summer plan, to go to Europe before grad school, go out the window due to his parents going through a financial crisis. James is then forced to get a summer job at a local crappy amusement park, titled Adventureland, to save money for grad school at Columbia in New York. At first he despises it and treats it like just another shitty job... until he meets Emily, aka Emm (Kristen Stewart), and his whole life turns around for the better. The film is full of ups and downs, as most films are, but Eisenberg's performance is up the entire time. I could relate to his awkwardness 100%. Nervously using the word, Intercourse, instead of Sex. Speaking super fast when your talking to a girl you like. Things like that. All the characteristics he played in the role of James were mindblowing. He was definitely my favorite part of the film, not to mention the great side cameos by Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, and of course, Martin Starr. I had just recently watched Zombieland, which I think Eisenberg was perfectly cast in, and I have to say, the film was amazing until Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin showed up. THEY WERE SO FUCKING ANNOYING!!! But whenever it was just Eisenberg or Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, it was truly awesome. I wish the film was only just the two of them. I have so much respect for this actor. He respects New York theatre (saw him at my job once), he's quite humble, and he chooses wise scripts that push the limits. Test the audiences. He's a smart kid and holds his own around some big, big stars. But what I'll always love about him, is that he never gets cocky in interviews and always remembers where he came from. Jesse Eisenberg is not only a great actor, but also a great human being. 

-Perhaps one of the most edgiest, darkest character actors of his generation. If not, THE edgiest. Michael Pitt has made a successful career of choosing the most introvert and fascinating roles that only make you wonder, wonder, wonder... Pitt started making a name for himself when he had a recurring role on the hit teen show, Dawson's Creek, as high school football player, Henry Parker. He made it through 15 episodes, spawning from 1999-2000. But we all know, and I think he did too, that deep inside he was not this pretty boy he was being type casted as. Pitt was a character actor with this rear raw acting ability that would shun audiences in the future. Once his role on Creek ended, he took on bit parts in indy films such as Finding Forrester, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and The Yellow Bird. It was not until 2001, when Pitt was 20-years-old, that he received the character role of a lifetime. The role of loser stoner/killer, Donny Semenec, in Larry Clark's controversial biographic teen drama, Bully. The film was not well received by critics, but one of the major stand out performances, in my opinion, is Mr. Pitt's. He was at such ease with his character and so comfortable that you completely get lost in him. What's fascinating about Michael Pitt, is that he is always in his own little world whenever he's acting. He is always in character, even off camera it seems. Having attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, it was Michael Pitt, who was practically the only real classically trained actor on the set of Bully, so hopefully he forced the others to up their game. He's no child actor. Just a true performer willing to hone his craft through schooling and studies. Donny Semenec is just one of many classic characters Michael Pitt has played in the past. It seems like he has made a career out of playing either disturbed killers, suicidal people, or losers. Pitt proceeded to play another killer in Murder by Numbers and Funny Games U.S. Now Murder by Numbers is some piece of work, but lets examine his performance in the Americanized remake, Funny Games. Michael Pitt plays Paul, alongside Brady Corbet, who plays his sensitive brother, Peter. Paul and Peter, one day, decide to take a small family hostage and play sadistic games with them. Betting them that by 9am the next morning they'll be dead, and they make the family bet them that by 9am they'll be alive. Let the games begin. Now Pitt's character, Paul, is the older, wise, more professional brother of Peter. Paul does all the talking and is very straight forward. Peter is the more shy, vulnerable one. This film is by far, one of the most disturbing, terrifying films I have seen in a very long time. Hard to watch at times. I honestly don't know off the top of my head, which actor could have played a better lead killer than Michael Pitt. He was so perfect in the film and brought so much to the table. I get more and more nervous that I keep saying how amazing and real Pitt is at protraying sadistic psychopaths. But hey, it's called acting, right? Right? Anyway, the film is fantastic, but the performances are even better. I have a lot of respect for Michael Pitt. He keeps to his own. He shows up to work, does his job, and goes home. He's an artist. He chooses some of the most artful, fascinating scripts, and goes to town on them. In every single film he has been in, he is an entirely different character. Most of the time, I can't take my eyes off him. He just reels you right onto the screen and doesn't let go until the film ends, or his character dies. Something truly powerful about what he brings. And it's a shame that he is so overlooked, because I think he is just wonderful and very unique. Practically every one of his films is a gem. What, because he isn't in the tabloids 24/7 and because he doesn't go on 5,000 talk shows a month?! The kid is a private person and I respect him for that. He is out there to make good art, not to make shit. This all being said, be sure to look out for Michael Pitt's new television show on HBO, executive produced by Marty Scorsese, set to premiere in fall 2010! 

-Most likely the most underrated and overlooked actor of his generation. Probably due to the amount of commercial crap he has been getting thrown into. But I kid you not, this Alabama native is the real deal with that cool, raw Southern accent of his. Having started acting in films as a child (as most big young actors do), Black first appeared on the silver screen in a fantastic coming of age film entitled, The War. The film centered on Elijah Wood's character, Stu Simmons, who, alongside his confused, Vietnam war veteran father, Stephen Simmons (played by Kevin Costner) must battle somewhat of a different kind of war against a rival group of children. Black played the younger, little brother, Ebb, of the "rival kid" leader. Though it was not a very big part, you could already tell Black had something magical to deliver. This raw, exciting talent that would only get better as he grew into a man. Oh, and did it get better. Black had a short co-starring role as Caleb Temple on the short lived horror/drama/thriller television series, American Gothic, alongside the brilliant Gary Cole. But it wasn't until 1996 when a terrifyingly disturbing film called Sling Blade, was released to audiences. I was absolutely blown away by not just Billy Bob Thornton's electrifying performance as mentally challenged local man, Karl Childers, but Lucas Black's performance as local boy, Frank Wheatley. It was something beautiful. His character, Frank Wheatley, ends up befriending Karl, when everyone else looked at him as a crazy man. The film is a fantastic tour de force project from writer/director/star Billy Bob Thornton and the acting is nothing short of excellent. From then on, Lucas Black had supporting parts in little films like The X-Files, Flash, Our Friend, Martin, and of course, Crazy in Alabama. However, the next role of his that would shun not only myself, but audiences everywhere was another film that co-starred Billy Bob Thornton, entitled, Friday Night Lights. Black played the high school star quarterback, Mike Winchell, who in 1988 in the depressed town of Odessa, Texas, lead his team, the Permian Panthers, to the State semi-Finals against Carter High School from Dallas. The Panthers ended up losing, but the film is about more than just the climactic game itself. It also touches on several political issues occurring in Odessa, Texas. Oh yeah, and did I mention it's a true story? It was also based on a novel by H.D. Bissinger. The film also co-starred Derek Luke, Garret Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, and a surprisingly good, Tim McGraw as Hedlund's abusive father. Black has so much to take on for this film to make it as real as possible, and he did just that. There's a certain ease about Black's acting that is not too easy to pull off. He just kind of kicks back and does what he does. He doesn't think about it, he just DOES. And I admire that truly. Black, unfortunately, went on to star in the God awful third installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, in 2006, with Justin Lin's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. If your going to watch it (I pray that you don't!), watch it only for Lucas Black. It's not a very complex character, but he just yanks you on the screen with any character he takes on. He has this cool presence about him. Thankfully before Tokyo Drift, Black did squeeze in another role in a somewhat memorable film called Jarhead, which was released in 2005. He had a very minor role as soldier, Chris Kruger. He had some good material here and there, but unfortunately it was hack, Jake Gyllenhaal's film and Mendes wanted to keep it that way. Gyllenhaal unfortunately takes up the majority of the film. It's unfortunate that Black has started making a career out of lame films, but were grateful enough that he at least still maintains bit parts in some outstanding pictures. Recently he nagged a co-starring role in his latest film, Get Low, which was at Sundance this year and is now currently playing at Tribeca as well. It stars Bill Murray and Robert Duvall (whom was also in Sling Blade). I still have yet to see it. It is expected to be released nationwide in late July of this year. Very excited. So no matter how lame a film might be that Black takes on, he always give 2000% and it certainly shows, because even with a shitty film like Legion or Tokyo Drift, Black's presence is still something enlightening. 

Well, that's my top ten of what I think are the best young actors out there currently. Remember, these actors are only going to get better as they hone their craft further and further. I also give a shout to the late Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger. Their talents will also be remembered as they were two of the rawest, most talented young actors I ever knew. God Bless to both of you. 

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann


"If I wasn't an actor, I'd be a secret agent." - Elijah Wood 

HEATH LEDGER (1979-2008)

BRAD RENFRO (1982-2008)