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)

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Over the years certain films have changed the face of filmmaking and stood the test of time with their originality and creative expertise. Never do we think that a sequel to that film could ever live up to the original's brilliance. It is never easy to live up to the original with a second installment, and is extremely rear that it ever happens in the history of film. But when it does, we are absolutely beside ourselves. Now unfortunately lately the past several years have been pretty horrifying with sequels and practically destroying the original's impact. Be Cool, Clerks II, Terminator 3 & 4, Spider-Man 3, Live Free or Die Hard (that was just an insult to the franchise). I mean, the list goes on. Now I have analyzed what I think are the top 5 best sequels that haven't really received much recognition (with the exception of maybe one...). Keep in mind, that I have skipped some of the all time greatest sequels that we all know and love (i.e. The Godfather, Part II, T2, The Road Warrior, etc.) because every single 'Movie Sequel' list you will read will contain those exact films. So... lets move on to some different ones, shall we? By the way, there are still many sequels (that may be incredible), but I just have not had the pleasure to view them yet (i.e. 1982's Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan...). If you have any recommendations, please let me know asap!

1. Aliens (1986)
-To be honest, this was actually labeled my favorite film of all time for a couple years when I first had became a teenager. I had always considered this film to be the granddaddy of sequels and I was completely blown away the first time I saw it. And also the fact that a new director took over was even a bigger shocker. When ever a new director takes over a franchise from the filmmaker behind the original legend, you get pretty shady. But not with this action packed bad ass classic. In 1979, a young Ridley Scott brought to life a legendary science fiction film, by writers Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. It surely went down in the history books as one of the most terrifying films ever made. I believe my mother kept her eyes closed the entire time in the cinema when she saw it back then. The tension, the story, and the fact that they killed off the leading man (Tom Skeritt) in the first half of the film marked this film one to not forget. This was the real deal. 7 years later 20th Century Fox decided it was time for a second installment considering the major box office success of the original. A young 30-something James Cameron, fresh off the massive success of his previous science-fiction flick, The Terminator, was attached to direct and co-write (alongside Walter Hill and David Giler). Cameron immediately made it his own creation and yes, of course, there were some terrifying sequences with now, multiple aliens (the ventilation scene, anyone???), but he mainly was out there to make a hell of an awesome "guy" movie. And surely enough... he did just that. In this film, Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, fresh off playing heroine in the original and now has a kean eye for how to kill these horrifying organisms. She is the last soul survivor of the planet where the alien had attacked years before, planet: LV-426. The government eventually decides to send Ripley and a hard ass team of elite space marines to scope out the destroyed colony to find out what exactly happened, having Ripley on as an "advisor." The main key elements of this film are the colorful space marine characters. A war crew out there for one thing and one thing only... kill as many of them as they can. Packed with non stop action and some disgusting looking creatures, this film keeps you on the edge of your seat but is also a major thrill ride for all sorts of people. Slow? Not in the slightest. Insanely awesome? 100 percent. The cast has some of the greatest chemistry I ever seen in an action science fiction film. Some great names line up this film's cast including, Cameron veteran Michael Biehn, Lance Henrikson (come on. Who doesn't love L.H.?!), Bill Paxton (another frequently used Cameron actor), New York comedian Paul Reiser (giving a delightful performance as a government sleazebag). But the real hard hitter stand out in this film has got to go to California native, Miss Jenette Goldstein as the "tough as nails" Pvt. Vasquez. Not enough good things can be said about this film. Granted this sequel is insanely different from the original. The original being more of an art piece in a way. Very slow, and very dark. The sequel being more in your face and somewhat of a popcorn flick, but with a director who really has a terrific vision. 2 more sequels were made of this franchise after the monstrous further box office success of Aliens. There was Alien 3 directed by David Fincher in 1992, which I have to say, I quite enjoyed. Great concept, it being on a prison planet and Weaver looked pretty awesome with a shaved head. Far better than Demi Moore in G.I. Jane (which coincidentally was directed by Ridley Scott). As well as, most likely, the least successful sequel in 1997, Alien Resurrection, directed by French noir filmmaker, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Main trouble being with the horrible addition of Winona Ryder. However, for those of you who HAVE seen this film... the underwater attack? Come on. That's pretty terrifying, is it not? And then unfortunately a few years later they decided to combine the Predator franchise AND the Alien franchise and have them fend off each other in the insanely bad, Alien VS. Predator. Can you believe they even rated it PG-13?! Who does that?! Well, at least in 2007, they rated the sequel R, which was Aliens VS. Predator: Requiem. Anyway, both these films are terrible. If you ask me, don't even bother with all the Alien films from 1997 and up. Just watch 1-3. You will not be disappointed.

2. Batman Returns (1992)
-Now most would probably disagree with this being the best Batman sequel of all time and not 2008's epic sequel to Batman Begins... The Dark Knight. Now I did rather enjoy Batman Begins and thought The Dark Knight was absolutely outstanding, however, I still and always will prefer the original old school series (not at all including 1997's shit fest, Batman & Robin). In 1989, Tim Burton revitalized the over the top cheesy 60s television show, Batman, which had starred Adam West in the title role as well as Burt Ward as Robin. "HOLY BAJEEZES, BATMAN!" Burton's version had the wonderfully underrated Michael Keaton in the title role, Kim Basinger as his love interest, Vicki Vale, and Jack Nicholson in a perfectly casted performance of Jack Napier (aka The Joker). Anyway, once this long awaited film was released, it was a massive success and received much deserving recognition. Now the die hard fans of the comic book by Bob Kane, would of course prefer the new Batmans over the originals, considering how much closer they are to the comic (i.e. Heath Ledger's Joker vs. Jack Nicholson's Joker). I, myself, am not a fan of comic books. Now 3 years later, Burton and Keaton brought us a second installment entitled, Batman Returns, with a much more darker and horrifying vibe to it. Keaton is fantastic as always, but the true stand outs are the new additional villains. Catwoman (played beautifully by the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer), and Oswold Cobblepot, aka, The Penguin (played perfectly by Danny DeVito). Again, comic book fans would disagree with the casting of DeVito in the Penguin role, considering the fact that the Penguin character is a tall lanky man. But remember people, Burton has made a career out of taking old stories and starting fresh with his own vision (Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the latest Alice in Wonderland). So you can't blame him for that. Batman Returns is everything the original had and more. More violence. More sexual innuendo. And much better special effects and action sequences. Now I would not consider this an aim at families of any sorts. This is an extremely dark and at times, rather graphic, film which really serves justice to DC Comics. Think of it as The Dark Knight but with a lot more jokes. Oh and did I mention that Mr. Christopher Walken plays a corrupt businessman who is working with the Penguin to take control of Gotham City?! This film is entertaining, fast paced, great score (Some of Danny Elfman's best work), disturbing, and the best part is... it does not take itself too seriously. The new Batmans seem to take themselves way too seriously. What I loved about this film is also how they integrated the romantic interest of Bruce Wayne to be the alter ego of Catwoman, that being Ms. Selina Kyle. Who, after being shoved out of a building, is resurrected by cats and evidently becomes the villain she is. Catwoman. I thought that was a great, unpredictable little element. This was a favorite of mine when I was growing up and still remains a favorite of mine. Now in 1995, Burton left the Batman franchise, and Joel Schumacher took over with Batman Forever now starring Val Kilmer in the role (who I, to this day, still think was the best Batman). Jim Carrey played the Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones played Two-Face and sexy Nicole Kidman played Dr. Chase Meridian (aka, Batman's love interest). It's an excellent fast paced film with some outstanding performances by Carrey and Lee Jones. I absolutely loved it (still did not live up to Batman Returns however). We all thought Schumacher was off to a good start... until 1997 with the over the top shit fest entitled, Batman & Robin. When you see that Robin's name is in the title, you've got quite a problem. Robin was never needed in the first place. That's like as if James Bond ran around with a bodyguard. He doesn't need one! George Clooney, if you can believe it, took over the role of Batman and... this is too much... Arnold Schwarzenegger took on the role of Mr. Freeze!!! Hilarious. Oh and did I mention the no-talent Alicia Silverstone plays fucking Batgirl?!? That is almost funnier then Arnie playing Mr. Freeze! I mean, come on, this film practically made Batman look like a pussy with all the help he was getting! I tell you what you do. Smoke a blunt with a bunch of friends and put this film on. The person to hold in their laughter the longest wins. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE! This film is a disaster. And then later on in 2004, filmmaker Pitof (yup, that's their name if you can believe it) directed a spin off to the series on Catwoman simply called... Catwoman. I refused to watch it. They didn't even do the character justice or live up to anything. Benjamin Bratt and Sharon Stone in this film too?! Please.... I'd rather videotape my dog shitting than watch that piece of garbage. And then of course in 2005 the new Nolan Batmans arrived, which, to audiences everywhere, were mindblowing. However, I still stay true to what I grew up on. The original Batmans. Especially Batman Returns. Watch this film around Christmas time when it's snowing. You'd be surprised how much more of an impact you'll get. Tremendous sequel.

3. Army of Darkness (1992)
-In the year of 1981, a young ambitious filmmaker named Sam Raimi wrote and directed an ultra low budget campy B-rate horror flick entitled, The Evil Dead, which in time became a gigantic cult classic and a favorite among die hard B horror fans. Something you might have seen Roger Corman be involved with in the early 70s, late 60s, maybe. The simple story centered on 5 friends who stay at an isolated cabin in the woods and accidentally unleash a load of flesh-possessing demonic forces. Raimi had gained the money to make this film after showing prospective investors a vehicle for The Evil Dead, that he shot along with childhood friends, Bruce Campbell and Robert G. Tapert, called Within the Woods in 1978 when he was only 19-years-old. The Evil Dead became such a hit that it spawned off a sequel entitled, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (as well as a hit over the top Musical years later). Catchy, huh? This film was again directed by Raimi, but now was co-written by him alongside fellow horror filmmaker, Scott Spiegel (From Dusk Till Dawn 2). It was released in 1987 and takes place right after the original, centering once again on our hero and lone survivor, Ashley J. Williams, aka ASH (played by horror icon, Mr. Bruce Campbell). Ash takes refuge in the cabin with a load of new strangers in order to face off even more demons. Not nearly as good as the original, however, the budget was a bit higher considering the added amount of financing they received. But nonetheless, the original was classic bad ass. Until 1992... In the year of 1992, Raimi decided to gear up and make a second and final sequel to his legendary Evil Dead saga. This one, however, taking a whole new path, loading up with a monstrous budget as well as taking place in Medieval times, instead of present time. Let down? Not one bit. This film was even too cool to be called Evil Dead 3. Instead, we call it... Army of Darkness. Written by Raimi and his older brother, Ivan Raimi, this film starts out in the same cabin of which the first 2 took place. However, now, Ash, now working as a discount-store employee ("Shop Smart! Shop... S-MART!"), is time warped to a Medieval castle (1300 A.D. to be exact) by monstrous forces. Ash is first mistaken as an enemy and is thrown into a giant torture chamber, which they like to call... The Pit. Where he ends up kicking the crap out of a couple of ugly beastly suckers. He then proves himself to the village and gains their respect through and through. Now his main mission... battle an army of the dead, locate the Necronomicon in order to return back home, oh yeah, and get the chick, Sheila (played by the beautiful Embeth Davidtz). This film is full of great campy violence, terrifying looking demons, and some unbelievably hysterical dialogue. Especially the character of Ash, who is really showing his true colors in this film. One scene that stands out to me is the confrontation between himself and his new evil clone that has been torn out of his body. The evil clone repeats... "Your gooooooood Ash. And I'm... baaaaaaaaaad Ash." Then proceeds to dance. The script is just absolutely brilliant and even the tagline on the poster alone sums up the whole flick. It reads, "Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas." I mean, how genius is that?! Sam Raimi really went all out on this one, it being given the highest budget of the 3. This film, I would not, however, consider much of a horror, which the first 2 really were geared towards being. This is first and foremost a slapstick comedy with some terrifying and creepy sequences wrapped up into it. I wouldn't be surprised if you found this film in the 'Comedy' section at Blockbuster. Darkness is a very well and fast paced action packed thrill ride that rarely takes a breather. I really don't think there's more than 6-7 minutes of nothing thrilling occurring. It's short and sweet (only 81 minutes) and right to the point. The special effects are hilarious, because (I'm not sure if this was Raimi's decision or not) it seemed like they had a big budget, but not that big. They relied on quite a bit of special effects given the fact that a big studio was financing it (Universal Pictures). I mean, the originals' effects were not exactly up to speed. However, it seemed like Raimi didn't want to make it completely different than the originals and still do them justice and not let down his fan base, so the effects are half amazing, half hilarious. From the miniature Ash's, to the Necronomican antics (when he's trying to recite the words), to the skeleton army. Everything is classic. Now Raimi is planning on doing a fourth installment of this franchise set to be released in 2011. I just really hope he doesn't forget his roots, considering the fact that he has gotten a bit spoiled, being he directed 3 Spider-Man films with insane budgets. Please Mr. Raimi... don't make Evil Dead IV ultra big budget! We beg of you!

4. Christmas Vacation (1989)
-Jeremiah S. Chechick (The Avengers, Benny & Joon) made his filmmaking debut with this wonderful third installment of the classic National Lampoon Vacation series. A film that really set the bar quite high for future National Lampoon films to come. And I truly don't believe another Lampoon flick has surpassed this one's genius. Now back in 1983, Harold Ramis brought to the screen an absolute cult classic for adventurous all American families everywhere. Something that started with a simple short story by John Hughes called Vacation 58 soon became one of the all time funniest road movies, if not, one of the all time funniest movies of all time! Since this being produced through National Lampoon, we could already tell that there were going to be many future installments to try desperately to live up to the original. One would be very careful. Unfortunately the first sequel was a massive letdown, at least... to me. 2 years later, the first sequel was released entitled, European Vacation. We had different actors playing Audrey and Rusty (Dana Hill and Jason Lively), new director signed on (Amy Heckerling), and overall just didn't quite hit its mark. However, Heckerling has always been a hit and miss throughout her career anyway, so... Most likely it was rushed out and was not prepared enough. 4 years later, a miracle happened right before our eyes. Something that would go down in history. A second sequel that has actually surpassed the original 6 years ago? Christmas Vacation fired at us like a rocket launcher with its laughs and oddball characters. And hey, it even wrapped up a nice little holiday message at the end. The difference between this one and European Vacation is that it was simply more prepared and thought out. Brilliantly casting Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki as Audrey and Rusty. Throwing in William Hickey, Doris Roberts and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss all in the mix! And of course, Randy Quaid returns as the legendary cousin Eddie, who probably gives the performance of his career, next to The Last Detail. Christmas Vacation centers right back on the Griswold family led by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as the delightfully lovable Clark and Ellen Griswold. Clark Griswold has taken us to Wally World Amusement Park and Europe. Now were in their own home in good ole Breckenridge, Colorado. Making the vacation come to them so to speak. The Griswolds simply hope for the best Christmas ever... and what do they get? A complete and utter disaster. Now whenever Christmas arrives, I find myself watching Christmas Vacation more than A Christmas Story. I consider this one of the all time funniest films ever made. The acting is fantastic, the jokes are delivered flawlessly, and what's best of it is... the story is as simple as simple gets. Something we can all relate to. I, myself, found this to be very similar to what my Christmas dinners were like with my mother's side of the family. Grandpa yelling and screaming about nonsense. Grandma trying to shut him up. Aunts and Uncles acting looney. Cats and dogs running around. Neighbors complaining about the nose were making. Everything. This film makes you feel like this is truly the funniest and only chapter worth watching in the Vacation series, however, if you do have some time... watch the original Vacation as well. Do not, however, even bother watching the 4th and final Vacation film, Vegas Vacation. It was released in 1997, and was a total let down. It could have been hysterical and yes, there are some 'Ha-Ha's' and some 'He-He's' here and there, but all in all, it's right up there with European Vacation. Oh yes, and I almost forgot. The horrifying spin off sequel to Christmas Vacation. Get this... National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure! You have got to be kidding me. I remember glancing at this at Blockbuster one time when it was first released in 2003. I had to do a double take real quick to make sure it was real. And sure enough... it was. Pretty upset Randy Quaid signed on for this piece of crap. And it being made for TV as well! But hey, we all don't know what certain celebrities' situations are. Maybe in fact, he desperately needed the money. Shame. Anyway, Christmas Vacation is definitely my all time favorite Chevy Chase film and you owe it to yourself to beg, borrow or steal this film, start a fire, make some popcorn and pop in this comedy titan. You will not be disappointed. And if you are, you should better go see a doctor right away.

5. Toy Story 2 (1999)
-In 1995, a magnificent film by Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures was released to audiences all over and surely was a groundbreaker in future digitally animated films to come (i.e. Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc, Cars). John Lasseter (Knick Knack, Tin Toy, A Bug's Life) directed and co-wrote this unbelievably sensational animated film about a cowboy toy, Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) who gets extremely threatened and jealous when a fancy new astronaut action figure named Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen), moves in and replaces Woody in the young boy's room. They later build a friendship, once Woody purposely knocks Buzz out the window to take his place, but feels bad and makes it his mission to rescue him. The film is just beautiful from beginning to end. It will hurt your gut from laughing so hard as well as bring tears to your eyes. Kids AND adults. Now in 1999, the sequel was released and many were very skeptical about how it would be... until they saw it. And many still believe the original is the best, considering the impact it had, but I believe this was like The Godfather, Part II to the original. It had everything and more. Triple the laughs, more great characters, and a beautiful message. This sequel had 3 directors assigned to it this time. John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich. This sequel revolves around mainly Woody this time. He has been stolen by a crazy toy collector at a garage sale named Al (hilarious voice of Wayne Knight). Buzz and the rest of the toys vow to rescue him, however, Woody is tempted to remain where he is after he meets Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (voice of Joan Cusack). This entire film is just fantastic. Some amazing voice additions including Kelsey Grammar, Joan Cusack and Wayne Knight. Toy Story 2 certainly, I believe, is even more attractive to younger audiences. Throwing the toys in even more locations now. That being the gigantic toy store where Woody is brought to. Now in June of this year another long awaited sequel will be released, Toy Story 3, revolving around Woody and the rest of the toys being dumped into a day care center, after their owner, Andy leaves for college. However, only one director is assigned, and was one of the co-writers of the first sequel. Lee Unkrich. A bit sketchy, but we have faith in him. I mean, this man did co-direct Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. Some fantastic additional voices to hopefully please us including Michael Keaton, Timothy Dalton, Whoopi Goldberg, Ned Beatty, and Bonnie Hunt. Fingers crossed. Anyway, what's even greater about the sequel is that the animation is even more amazing than the original's. I found myself forgetting that it was all computer animation. That is how excellent and crisp it was. Toy Story 2 surely raised the bar quite high for future computer animated films to come and was definitely, once again, another groundbreaker in the industry.

Well, that is what I think are the top 5 best sequels that have not really received the admiration and recognition they fully deserve (with the exception of Aliens of course). Please, like I said earlier, definitely recommend any more classic sequels that you believe surpassed the original! Farewell!


1. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
2. Sanjuro (1962)
3. For a Few Dollars More (1965)
4. The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly (1966)
5. I Am Curious -- Yellow (1968)
6. French Connection II (1975)
7. The Road Warrior (1981)
8. Terminator 2 (1991)

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann


"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." - Walt Disney


Back in 2001, a 40-year-old Ricky Gervais and a young ambitious 27-year-old Stephen Merchant made a risky choice and brought something unique to situation comedies for the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC). A delightfully brilliant show called The Office. A mockumentary revolving around the staff and manager of a deadbeat paper manufacturing company called Wernham Hogg. I call their decision risky because of how realistic the show came off as. Some people actually believing it was real life being taped. It was not your typical over the top sitcom. It had emotions running through the office, extremely dry humor and a lot of depressed human beings discussing their lives to a camera crew. Now in 2005, Greg Daniels (also behind the horrible wanna-be Parks and Recreation) adapted the British sensation for American television with Steve Carell in the manager position as well as John Krazinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson. This show, mind you, is still on the air and seems to still be doing strong. Many have argued that the American version is a hell of a lot funnier than the British version. That it's faster paced (which I'll give them that), it's lighter, not as depressing, more hopeful, and the jokes come at you like grenades. I myself, have always preferred the British version and think there's a lot more to this story that meets the eye. It is not your typical situation comedy. It's out there to make a difference. To stand the test of time. Which, in my eyes, the British version absolutely did. I'm still waiting on the American version to accomplish that. And need I say, they are currently on their 108th episode! Where as, the British version only had 14 episodes! Including a 2-part Christmas special which is just outstanding. What will happen now is I am going to dissect both versions and then you (hopefully you'll read this) will let me know what you think! Here we go...

THE UK OFFICE (2001-2003)
-Now we all know by now, who Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are. Well, a lot may not know Merchant, cause he's usually behind the camera. But if you don't know who he is, watch another Gervais/Merchant BBC creation called Extras where Merchant plays Gervais' agent. He's in practically every single episode. Anyway, now Gervais is a big, big star. Starring in two motion pictures, one of which he wrote and co-directed (The Invention of Lying) and makes brief cameos in a bunch of films and some television (Night at the Museum 1 & 2, Stardust, Alias). He also currently has an animated show based on his widely popular podcast alongside Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington that is broadcasted on HBO on friday nights at 9pm. But before any of these huge projects, Gervais was just a nobody in the 1990s working a typical 9-5 job (which I'm sure this show was based off of). Someone who didn't want to be in the entertainment industry at all. But it was Merchant, a very young ambitious man, who talked some sense into him. And then they decided to create a demo of an idea later called... The Office. It was eventually aired in 2001 and lasted 2 short seasons plus a 2-part tearjerking Christmas finale that wrapped everything quite beautifully if you ask me. Anyway, I remember when I was 19, my friend, who was working at Blockbuster in New York at the time, lent me a copy of the first season of the British Office because they didn't air it on American television. I was huge into Extras at the time, so of course, I jumped right at it. I absolutely fell in love with it and just couldn't believe America tried to duplicate what England had honed so nicely. But I stopped at the first season and just pursued Extras. Then about only half a year ago, I got back into the swing of things and starting watching all the episodes of the British version alongside the American version. In other words, I was watching them back to back, which was fascinating, I'll tell you. When I finally reached the end of the Christmas finale, I could have sworn a tear dropped from my eye. If you just watch this piece of work from episode 1 to the Christmas finale you will cry. It is a gorgeous character study and dissects the human mind so tastefully. This character that Gervais created, David Brent, is probably the finest character in the history of television. Most likely the greatest performance in the history of the BBC, I'm sure. Gervais and Merchant made a mark in British sitcoms and broke the rules. They rewrote the rules of television and made something pure. Characters we fell in love with only a few minutes in. This show practically defined the term, AWKWARD for me by the way. No characters annoyed me, unless they were trying to, but everyone played the part perfectly. David Brent has absolutely nothing and continues to receive nothing from anyone and is put down continuously by his co-workers, strangers, and his new boss that moves in to take charge, Neil Godwin (Patrick Baladi). And then finally in the last 5 minutes he gets some supreme redemption and there is hope for all in the office, but especially Brent. You hate him and you love him all the same. He's just a lonely man looking for a hug. Someone who has confused popularity with respect which is the main key to this character. A boss who sees himself differently from what the rest of the world sees in him. His blind spot. This is a magnificent piece of work and I think is one of the greatest television programs ever broadcasted. Now nearly 11 years from then, the British version is finally getting its knack on the American networks and internet. You can find all the episodes on,, and Adult Swim on saturday nights. Gervais even had a billboard in New York promoting it premiering on Adult Swim. I am just so glad he is finally getting some respect, because he is a very talented and smart human being and seems to be one of the purest, most humblest men I ever listened to in show business. The real deal. All hats off to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and everyone behind... The Office.

THE US OFFICE (2005-???)
-In 2005, Greg Daniels adapted the British version for American television and Americans finally had what England had. NOT EVEN CLOSE. I remember when I was a senior in high school, The Office had just premiered and of course, all the band geeks and emo kids were raving about. Probably some of the dumb jocks too. Well... they'd rave about a cat watching television, so... Anyway, I would always see promotions galore for it everywhere. From billboards to the internet, to television of course. Commercials everywhere promoting the hell out of it. I still didn't give it the time of day. I never was really a big fan of Steve Carell. Still not by the way. He was fine in 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, but that's about it. So when I entered drama school, a new friend, avid watcher of all television, was raving about the show. He was also the one who lent me the copy of the British version's season 1 dvd. But my friend had a few posters of it on his wall and a calendar of it too! He loved it. I still wasn't interested. I found myself always wanting to steer clear from overly hyped popular shows that EVERYONE is watching. Lost for example... There on the island, there off the island. Who gives a shit! Anyway, I finally got to watching the American Office on and watched every single episode from beginning to latest (that I was watching on the television). And I have to agree, I thought the first 3 1/2 seasons were very cleverly written and they definitely made it their own without stealing too much from the British version. However, they did duplicate the pilot episode from the British version for their pilot episode which was very bizarre to watch. There were still some majorly irritating elements of this show that I just knew were not going to change. I think John Krasinski was a god awful choice to play the part of Jim Halpert. And Jenna Fischer as well for that matter! I can see why the studio chose them, but ehhhh didn't work for me. They absolutely butchered those characters, which are so key to the show's outline. The character of Tim in the British version (played beautifully by Martin Freeman), which is what Jim is based off of, is supposed to be this lovable loser who is very well aware of where his horrible life is heading. Alienated so to speak. He's supposed to live with his parents and be 3o-years-old! And he's not supposed to look like a goddamn pretty frat boy! He's supposed to look rather awkward but still cute. But the main thing that character had going for him was the receptionist Dawn (played by Lucy Davis). And she too was battling her own problems with her depression with her fiancee. Now they tried to duplicate that with Jim and Pam in the American version and Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?! They are so insanely annoying! And especially now that there married with a baby! Why should we feel bad for any of these characters?! They all seem like there having the best time of their lives and soaking up the glory. That's not what The Office is about, folks. Even the Michael Scott character (Steve Carell)! Who is suppposed to be the most depressing one in the bunch. He gets women galore! Holly, Jan, Pam's mom! And there gorgeous and they really dig him! And he's sleeping with them too! How is the character, who is supposed to be the most depressing and pathetic one on the show, better off than I am?! What does that say about me?! Anyway, ever since Jim and Pam got together, I just couldn't stand their cheesy interviews together. If they were going to go down the path of them getting married, then end it right there with the wedding episode in Niagara Falls! Why go on further? Okay, give them a baby, now there still going on further! For crying out loud! END THIS SHOW! It stopped being decent after the 3rd season. Practically all the characters annoy the hell out of me, not including Steve Carell suprisingly, and I just want to smack them whenever they speak. That's... that's not normal is it? When that's not their intention? When Kevin speaks I wanna rip his head off. They all act up a storm! And what the hell is the deal with Kathy Bates having a role in the show now! She's so lame! Save that performance over the top acting for fucken Broadway. Kathy, I love ya, but your failing me going on this lame ass disgrace to all who watch it. Do the people behind this show understand that they have the chance to make something special with this story, with what the British version did. I'm not saying make it just as dry, but blend in the drama a little more instead of this goofy comedy all the time. Well, if you call what they do comedy. They had the special opportunity to dissect these characters and really create a fascinating character study on the typical work place. But they decided to go the other route and please every single person on the planet and sell out with this garbage. Oh yeah, and do they ever explain the fact that a goddamn documentary film crew has been following them all for 5 years now?! No, they don't. They just push that aside like it's nobody's business. That's just one of the many plot holes this show has to offer. I love how the characters are constantly being followed in numerous big public places and not one person (not part of the main cast) ever observes the camera. Yeah, real realistic. Also many people can't quite be themselves when there on camera for a documentary, but Jim Halpert doesn't seem to have a problem with it. This show is just ridiculous. And if Jim or Pam look into the camera one more time with their stupid faces I feel like I'm going to break something out of anger. Enough is enough. This show must be stopped! Who's with me?! The only major upside to this program is Steve Carell's performance as Michael Scott. I have to say, he is absolutely hysterical. Thank heavens he is the lead key character in this show. All the other actors should be ashamed of themselves and move on to something else, because they are just terrible.

Well, that's my take on both versions of the widely popular Office television program. Stay tuned for saturday nights at 1am (I know...) on cartoon network for archive episodes of the British version and I guess... uh, I guess stay tuned in for thursday nights at 9pm for uh... the American version on TBS. If I were you, I'd just wait until 9:30 instead and watch 30 Rock. Farewell!

FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann


"Charity is taking an ugly girl to lunch." - Warren Beatty