NAME: Tommy Lee Jones
AUDIT: DATE July 17, 2002
EXPERIENCE: 37 films and a notable TV mini-series since 1970
Come on: you're glad there's a Tommy Lee Jones. We're glad there's a Tommy Lee Jones. Everyone's glad there's a Tommy Lee Jones! I jones, you jones, we all jones for Tommy Lee Jones!
Okay, we weren't so glad when we saw him in Volcano or Natural Born Killers or Batman Forever, when he chowed down on the scenery like a contestant on The Glutton Bowl. And if you want to know which movies are actually worth watching, you can check out the latest reviews at Hollywood Insider.
But for the most part, we're glad there's a Tommy Lee Jones. And America, too, is glad, as evidenced by the boffo box-office take of Men in Black II. And don't let Will Smith take all the credit. Sure, when you team Smith with Tommy Lee Jones, crowds snake around the block. But team Smith with Kevin Kline, and crowds sneak around the block, to another theater, to watch another movie that's not called Wild, Wild West.
Yes, the results are in and America is sweet on Tommy Lee Jones. But why is that? Loath as we are to point this out, Jones is no matinee idol. A sampling of actual descriptions from articles on the actor include the phrases "rugged," "craggy" or "not exactly smooth-faced." (Ouch.) Or consider this assessment from Leonard Maltin: "Dark, pockmarked, but handsome in a sinister way." Assumedly, this was meant as a compliment, but it's not exactly something you'd find written in a personals ad: "SWM, professional, handsome in a sinister way."
So what's the appeal of Jones? Study his biggest hits -- Men in Black, The Fugitive, Double Jeopardy -- as we have, and it will become obvious to you, as it has to us. He's America's favourite sidekick. Pair him with Will Smith, Ashley Judd, Harrison Ford, or Wesley Snipes, and he's gold. Leave him on his own, and he's Cobb.
Of course, Jones isn't exactly classic sidekick material. Sidekicks are supposed to be stupid, deferential, and dimwitted: you know, Robin to Batman, Tonto to the Lone Ranger, or Watson to Sherlock Holmes. Jones is the opposite of all that. He's gruff, authoritarian, and stern. He doesn't ask the questions, he answers them. And he's the one making sure that everything goes smoothly and no one gets out of control. Wait a second! He's not America's favourite sidekick at all! He's America's favourite chaperone!
That makes sense, doesn't it? After all, who's always turning up to watch over the cocksure neophytes? Tommy Lee Jones! And who helps steer the wrongfully accused in their foolhardy quests for justice? Tommy Lee Jones! And who videotaped sex with his wife, then beat her up, then gave her a deadly liver disease? Tommy Lee!
Jones isn't an actor; he's a professional voice of reason. There he is, the skeptical mentor, surveying his charges with a cocked eyebrow and a cutting quip. And the people he's paired up with never have a clue as to what they're doing. Sure, Ashley Judd really, really wants to kill her loathsome husband in Double Jeopardy, but she can't get anything accomplished without letting Tommy Lee Jones guide her along with his dulcet drawl. In Men in Black, Smith is a raw recruit whom Jones shepherds into maturity. Even Harrison Ford needs Jones's intercessions in order to complete his mission of holy vengeance. As sidekicks go, Jones isn't Tonto, he's Jiminy Cricket, riding the shoulders of his charges and nudging them along the proper path.
And, clearly, this is how we, the moviegoing public, best appreciate him: not as the hero, or as the villain, but as a comforting force whose presence assures us that things won't go too far off the rails. This also explains why, when they made U.S. Marshals, that strange and unnecessary sequel to The Fugitive, they decided to use the exact same plot as The Fugitive. In U.S. Marshals, Jones also gallops off after a wrongfully accused man, only to recognize the man's innocence and become his ally. This time, though, the man was Wesley Snipes. (At least Die Hard II had the creativity to relocate to an airport. The Fugitive sequel might as well have been called Fugitive II: This Time He's Black. Or U.S. Marshals, Starring Blackison Ford. Or The Fugitive 2: Now With Extra Black Guy!)
This also points out the other interesting thing about Jones: nowadays, he never gets paired up with old white dudes like himself, or Harrison Ford. Now it's always young black guys or crazy, homicidal women. (Okay, there was Space Cowboys, or as we like to call it, Depends in Space. Or Battlestar Adult-Diaperstica. Or Starship Poopers.)
Maybe this is just Hollywood sowing the oats of its demographic appeal as widely as possible: you know, lure in the black people and the white people, the kids and the grown-ups, the rap fans and the fans of cranky old baseball players from the 1920s. But if Jones is there to provide a comforting presence, it's worth asking what anxieties it is that he's comforting us against. A cynic might even suggest that Jones gets partnered with these kind of people -- i.e., crazy women people and lethal black people -- because they are the kinds of people who, in Hollywood's eyes, are most in need of a chaperone. Actually, the cynic might try to suggest that, but we'd beat him and chase him off, for we have no truck with cynics!
You can't blame Jones for gobbling up all the roles of the old white guy who befriends the wronged wife, or rolls his eyes at his young black partner's sassy outbursts. Somebody has to be the vice-principal of Hollywood, keeping an eye on the rowdy kids, and if Jones doesn't do it, Anthony Hopkins will, and not half as well, as he proved in Bad Company. Jones, on the other hand, is really good at that stuff. And if he isn't kept busy, he gets too much time on his hands and breaks into the makeup trailer and greases his hair up all funny and next thing you know it's Natural Born Killers all over again, and nobody wants that.
Current approximate level of fame: Tommy Lee Jones
Deserved approximate level of fame: Tommy Lee Jones
NAME: James Eugene Carrey
AUDIT DATE: May 29, 2003
OCCUPATION: Actor, Oscar Beggar
EXPERIENCE 2: TV series and 28 movies since 1983
WARNING: Contains mild Bruce Almighty spoilers!
Strap in, Jim Carrey, because this Fame Audit has been a long time coming.
A little background: we try to "peg" our content to its subjects' current offerings. And at several points in the life of this site, we have noted Jim Carrey's various projects and mused that it might be time to audit his fame. But there was only one problem: in four years, neither of the site's editors was willing to go see any of Carrey's movies.
Looking back over the movies Carrey has released since FT launched, one hopes our readers can sympathize with our hesitancy or outright refusal to see them. Me, Myself & Irene -- a sub-There's Something About Mary most notable now for (briefly) uniting co-stars Carrey and Renée Zellweger offscreen. Man on the Moon, Carrey's second (after The Truman Show) Oscar-begging embarrassment. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- Ron Howard's poorly punctuated 105-minute-long whiz all over Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, and our childhoods. And finally, The Majestic, failed Oscar bid #3. In every respect other than box office, the past four years have yielded four big disappointments from Carrey.
So, the best thing we can say about Carrey's current film, Bruce Almighty, is that it's the first Jim Carrey movie we've been willing to pay to see since The Truman Show. Unfortunately, we were as wrong about Bruce as we were about Truman. Which, I guess, means we'll be ready to give Jim Carrey another chance 'round about 2028. Because Bruce Almighty isn't...that good. It's not horrendous or anything -- we've certainly seen worse movies this year -- but it's just so generic and unexceptional; it could just as well have been called High-Concept Comedy #842. There are some good parts; they're easy to find because Steve Carell is in all of them. (Surely, that's just a coincidence.) But the rest of the movie is so relentlessly average that one can't help wondering how, on material so uninspired, Carrey has managed to ascend to his current position in the Hollywood pantheon.
Granted, Carrey didn't make his name playing normal guys in standard-issue summer comedies. Carrey first distinguished himself as the breakout star in the sketch-comedy series In Living Color -- a format that allowed him the space to perform a wide range of his manic, over-the-top characters. Carrey projected to the back of the hall, and beyond; his energy was seemingly boundless and apparently unmodulated.
But here's the thing -- and it's a lesson Carrey's comic predecessor Robin Williams also has yet to learn: while scampering around like a chimp with ADD may be charming and fun in a four-minute interview on a late-night talk show, in a full-length movie, it bugs. And in film-acting terms, the opposite of "funny" doesn't necessarily have to be "mawkish." Not only that, it is possible and indeed preferable for a film actor, in a single performance, to exhibit more than one emotion. Like Williams, Carrey has built a CV stacked with two kinds of movies -- ones in which he's wacky and antic, and ones in which he's serious and sentimental, with virtually no overlap between them (except in the case of sentimental movies about real-life people who were often wacky and antic -- like Man on the Moon, or Williams's Good Morning, Vietnam).
Maybe the problems that exist in Carrey's recent movies don't lie entirely with the actor; certainly, as we said above, feeble screenwriting doesn't help. But the question is -- particularly with Carrey's alleged comedies -- why he keeps signing on for movies that, with a few tweaks, would work just as well as vehicles for Rob Schneider. Carrey is not a terrible actor. He is capable of being funny. He just doesn't know when to quit, and has evidently never been directed in his comedies by anyone with the stones to explain to him that screaming catchphrases isn't enough to get the job done. It's as though, like Williams, Carrey has this idea that the way to make a mediocre script work is to overact so hard that the strain shows in his neck veins and the audience fears he may be having a cardiac episode. One of the nicest moments in Bruce Almighty is a fraction of a scene in which Carrey and Morgan Freeman are quietly mopping a floor together, in tandem. The moment has grace and symmetry and, above all, silence. Carrey's movies would be a lot better if there were more of that in them.
(Carrey's movies would also be a lot better if he weren't such a damn hog. Honestly, why even bother casting a talented and deceptively subtle comic actress as Jennifer Aniston as The Girl in Bruce Almighty when she doesn't get to do anything funny except (if you like that sort of thing) press her newly enlarged boobs together? Why take Steve Carell away from The Daily Show so that he can be in, like, a scene and a half? Was there more of Carell and Aniston that had to be cut so that Carrey could wow us with his Clint Eastwood impression? Hey, Jim, we all learned in kindergarten how important it is to share. Why didn't you?)
If we were assessing Jim Carrey's fame five years ago, we would have said he was exactly where he should be. Back then, he had done a respectable number of successful movies, some of which (Dumb & Dumber, The Cable Guy) we really liked, and even held up as examples to our doubting friends that even when he seemed to be acting stupid, Carrey was obviously very clever. Since then, though, he has apparently lost the ability to choose smart (if silly) projects that tested his talents and wouldn't work as well if anyone else had done them. Liar, Liar could have been a Robin Williams movie. How the Grinch Stole Christmas would have worked with Mike Myers in the title role (which we'll see, soon enough, when Myers appears in The Cat in the Hat). Bruce Almighty would have done just as well as a cookie-cutter summer release for Eddie Murphy. Adam Sandler may not take risks very often, but at least he made Punch-Drunk Love last year; if Jim Carrey doesn't start alternating his high-concept comedies with better material that doesn't rely so heavily on all the tics he honed on In Living Color, he's going to evolve from his generation's Robin Williams into the next generation's Chevy Chase.
Current approximate level of fame: Robin Williams
Deserved approximate level of fame: Will Ferrell
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Despite its surprisingly creepy climax, ‘Don’t Say a Word’ manages to simply retain its’ appeal as a finite thriller that does not thrill as much as it over dramatizes. Michael Douglas plays a prominent New York Psychologist who must unravel a 6-digit figure withheld by one of his most difficult patients in an attempt to save his daughter from the clutches of evil kidnappers.
From its promising opening of a botched robbery, the film does take its time to unravel and create some depth all the while making us understand and soaking us in the love this prominent figure has for his wife and his child. Director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Impostor) has not had an impact on the thriller genre and must make another attempt at delivering a great thriller. His previous films have been mediocre creations and this thriller is no different. One astounding note in the film pertains to the casting of a young Brittany Murphy (Sidewalks of New York, Summer Catch) as the disillusioned patient who possesses a key secret at getting back what the kidnappers must acquire.
Besides some pretty camera work and the monotonous and formulaic routine of a typical thriller, e.g. the 5 p.m. deadline – or she dies… the film never really seems to lift itself from its’ own mediocrity. Sean Bean plays his typical role as a villain hell-bent on getting what he wants and will go to any length to get it, unfortunately, the audience has already digested this typical villain and he as an actor does not bring anything refreshing to the film.
The film is well done and will pass two hours for a viewer easily, yet as a thriller it fails to thrill the audience. How haunting is it to have one’s daughter in the hands of a stranger? Douglas as our father figure does his best at comforting his bed-stricken wife (Famke Jansen) and taking matters into his own hands. He also manages his typical delivery where he pauses and reflects between each uttered phrase, but even he is getting repetitive at these films. The film does not capture the intensity that such a situation would create.
Douglas seems perfectly cast as the prominent figure as audiences have internally come to associate him with difficult situations. Furthermore, who better to play this role as a pondering, ‘balls out’ Doctor who wants to save his daughter? Director Fleder relies on a formulaic approach in hopes of redeeming a tired and antiquated script. As for the characters that are embedded within the film, it seems to incorporate characters that seem strewn in simply to deter our thought patterns in unravelling this film. Note: was that female Detective really necessary; and did she have to be that mean?
The only promising moment of the film was the climax in which point I could have solidified the labelling the film as a formulaic thriller. An abandoned graveyard and decomposed corpses catalytically launch the film into an area of the formula for all formulaic thrillers. It's only satisfying attribute was the horrible death one of the characters would endure.
The film must be respected for it’s ambitiousness, but it is clear that Director Fleder had made it a point to rely on his inefficient directing skills when tackling this weak script. It definitely had potential but fell apart at the midway point when the audience knew that the film would not deliver the expected thrills promised.
This was an intense one. We have more in-depth articles at Hollywood Insider that you will definitely enjoy, so head over there and check them out.
Rumble your engines, tune up your cars … Ready, Steady … GO! Fast & Furious is here in 2009 with a brand new addition to the series and the action goes back to LA and we have both main characters on screen again Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner. The movie starts with Dominic’s crazy plans by high jacking liquid money (petrol) in a daring and crazy to say at least scene; with all the gang present there and his lovely Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, the women 20% angel 80% demon who isn’t scared to get her nails dirty. Sadly the fairy tale ends here since the trail on Dominic is hot and a lot of people are looking for him, he decides that everyone on the team should go as far away from him until the heat blows off.
Everything was ok until Dominic gets a phone call saying that Letty was killed; this is about the same time when agent Brian comes to picture with his investigation of a drug lord called Braga. You can imagine that their roads will come across one another’s and there will be a lot of sparks and flames from their encounters.
Vin Diesel playing perfect the role, acting like a loose cannon wanting revenge for his lost girlfriend having no pity or remorse for the one responsible, his meetings with Brian are tense and the lines between them are solid both expressing a unique point of view; Dominic wanting blood, the head of Braga and Brian wanting to bring down the drug cartel by locking up the drug lord and bringing him to justice. The story gets more and more exciting by the minute when both main characters go on a race head on to get a slot in Braga’s elite driving team, in their plan to infiltrate de organization to get to the leader. The race if fanatic and a frenzy settles in because its being held on open streets with the traffic running, no stops, no mercy which makes it even more interesting. The stunts are well made, not top notch because a lot of computer graphics were used and for a refined eye you can tell them apart but it’s enough to keep you on edge of your seat saying “He is not going to make it! He is not going to make it! ”. One more thing I feel that needs to be told is that contrary to Tokyo Drift and the rest of the series it seems the directors since they moved the action to USA wanted to make a more dominant accent of Muscle Cars then the Import ones, so expect to see many old model and new of American made models and a bit also of other firms like Mitsubishi, Honda and Nissan. Like always Dominic finally manages to repair the “beast” from his home, that car being described as “more of a curse then a blessing”.
In conclusion the movie is well made and will appeal to all race and action fans out there since Vin Diesel will never cease to be scary in these kind of movies. Go watch it, it’s a treat!
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