And the award goes to… Michael!

the-dark-knight-rises-michael-caineBit narcissistic to trumpet one’s own name in a blog isn’t it? Well tough, I’m doing it anyway. Reason being, there’s so many brilliant Michaels in the world that it’s high time someone gathered them together and sung their praises.

Obviously the below is only a snippet of the great work Team Michael has accomplished, but it’s a strong list. From drama to comedy, superheroes to period pieces these guys have got all your entertainment needs covered.

In terms of a favourite, I’m torn between the mighty Fassbender, whose career shows no signs of letting up and hasn’t produced anything particularly close to a turkey yet, and the legend of cinema that is Michael Caine – a man who’s only one of two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the ’60s to the present day (the other being Jack Nicholson).

So… if your name is Michael and you’re starting out in the acting profession you’re not only in good company, but have reason to be upbeat that your career too, may follow a similar path.

Or maybe you’ll just crash and burn like Michael J. Fox. After all, it’s only a name.

Michael Keaton
Beetlejuice, Batman, Jackie Brown

Michael Douglas

Wall Street, Falling Down, Traffic, Behind The Candelabra

Michael Shannon

Revolutionary Road, Take Shelter, Man of Steel

Michael Fassbender

Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, Shame, 12 Years A Slave

Michael Sheen

Frost/Nixon, The Damned United, Masters of Sex

Mickey Rourke

Rumblefish, The Wrestler, Sin City

Michael Clarke Duncan

The Green Mile, Sin City

Michael Caine

The Italian Job, Get Carter, Children of Men, Harry Brown, The Dark Knight Rises

Will the real Gary Oldman please stand up?

drexl-spivey-true-romanceGary Oldman isn’t the original bad boy. That title would probably go to James Dean or someone similar. But, at least in terms of myself growing up, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for good old Gary in concentrated psycho mode. Obviously there’s Leon, but specifically I’m thinking Drexl in True Romance – sheer scene stealing brilliance.

And I imagine most of the guys I’ve listed below look up to Oldman, wishing their careers would follow a similar path. Indeed, Tom Hardy openly said so in interviews when he was just starting out. So, if Gary was in the room right now he’d probably graciously tilt his head to young chaps following in his mad and intense footsteps. At least, I like to think so. Either that or he’d throw his Chinese food at them and launch an insane attack in their direction. God bless him.

Here are the guys I think deserve that subtle Oldman head tilt:

James Franco as Alien (Spring Breakers)
Definitely mainlining pure essence of Drexl in Harmony Korine’s vacuous offering. Described by The Huffington Post as Scarface meets Britney Spears, Franco’s take on a wannabe rapper-cum-gangster is the film’s only redeeming quality. And that’s saying something when you’ve got Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in bikinis for most of the movie.

Tom Hardy as Charlie Bronson
Fearsome and frightening, even more so when naked and covered in white paint. Hardy is probably one of the best out there at the moment when it comes to intensity. A phenomenal and unrelenting performance as one of Britain’s most notorious criminals in Nicholas Winding Refn’s excellent (and somewhat underrated) film.

Sharlto Copley as Kruger
Up to now he’s been the everyman trying to survive (District 9) and the funny man (The A-Team), so who knew Copley could do creepy and sadistic quite so well. In Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to 2009’s District 9, here Copley goes into full menace mode as mercenary agent hitman chappie, facing off against Matt Damon.

Paul Bettany as Young Gangster
(Gangster No. 1)
He does intense well, does old Paul. This film – which went largely under the radar in 2000 – had an impressive cast: David Thewlis, Eddie Marsan, Saffron Burrows and Malcolm McDowell. And don’t think ‘Young Gangster’ means his was a minor part, he drove the movie.

Vincent Cassell as Mesrine
(Mesrine: Killer Instinct/Public Enemy No. 1)
Arguably a career-best performance from Vincent Cassel in this two-part film that came out in 2008, charting the life of one of France’s most notorious criminals, Jacques Mesrine. Over both films Cassel’s portrayal of Mesrine was both charismatic and unnerving in its ferocity.

Michael Shannon as Curtis
(Take Shelter)
To be honest, you can take pretty much anything from Shannon’s filmography: Boardwalk Empire, Man Of Steel, The Iceman – over the last few years he’s been building his reputation as Hollywood’s go-to guy for unpredictable and explosive rage.

Obviously there’s others out there that perhaps deserve that special Oldman head tilt, but that’ll do for now – enough intensity for one evening. Now… who’s for some Disney?

Man of Steel: he strong, fights Zod, wins!

henry-cavill-man-of-steelDon’t think my title is giving anything away is it? We all know Superman is ultimately going to win. Hardly much of a franchise reboot if he dies at the end. In this instance, my title is referring to the latter third of the film, where it all goes a bit Hulk a la Avengers, smashing up city skyscrapers – but more on that later.

To backtrack a sec, Man of Steel is – what I’m classing as – a reboot of a much-loved character. Perhaps to shake the memory of the utterly bland 2006 entry, Superman Returns. Anyone remember that one? Brandon Routh donned the cape (average depiction of the character) and faced off against Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor (doing the best he could in the circumstances). Kate Bosworth, whilst very pretty, I could take or leave as Lois Lane. Less said about James Marsden’s drippy character the better.

superman-returns-wallpapers_16583_1024x768So why did the last one fail?

Bryan Singer was a strong and safe pair of hands. He’d got The Usual Suspects and X-Men and X2 on his CV. The cast seemed solid enough, the effects were passable. Maybe that was the problem? Each component part of the previous instalment failed to deliver the wow-factor. Add them all up and you end up with a below-par showing.

Mostly it harks back to script. Without a good script you’re finished before you even start. Tone is quite important too. I mean, look at Brandon Routh’s Superman in his sky blue lycra and red pants, it looks so dated.

Fast-forward to 2013

And the dream team of Zack Snyder (directing), Christopher Nolan (producing) and David Goyer (writing); between them they should deliver a rock-solid script right? After all, these guys – in their careers to date – have given us 300 and Watchmen (Snyder); Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises (Nolan and Goyer).

zodHappily – and somewhat expectantly – they do deliver, this outing worlds away from Singer’s efforts. Literally, worlds away – the opening sequence begins on Krypton.

Epic in scope and ethereal in places (as you’d expect and hope when depicting an alien species) the sequence is an exhilarating start to the film, although at times seeming to borrow from Avatar and the 2009 Star Trek (the destruction of Vulcan bears striking resemblance to the tragic and fiery demise of Krypton).

The reason for the Krypton opening sequence and much of the film’s first half – and why I think this is a reboot – is Goyer and Nolan are playing to their strengths (as they did with Batman) and doing an origin story. Perhaps fair, given the franchise had somewhat lost its way – or perhaps never found it since the original in 1978?


Going Nolan-esque

Either way, what we’ve got here is a much darker, more sombre tone. Ultimately, it’s gone all Nolan-esque, with a buffed and bearded Clark roaming the globe trying to find his place in the world, helping strangers along the way.

Remind you of a certain Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins? This style and tone continues throughout. Take Michael Shannon’s General Zod and his chilling message to the people of Earth – reminiscent of the Joker’s video message to the people of Gotham in The Dark Knight anyone?

Despite these obvious parallels I am of course, nitpicking. This film is massively epic, indeed, it’s epically massive. The final third goes very Matrix Revolution/Avengers with Kal-El/Clark and Zod going at each other in what can only be described as an unparalleled destruction of every skyscraper in Metropolis.

psmoviescostnerSomething that no doubt most of the audience would have been waiting for yet, for all its action set-pieces, the film tended to hit home more effectively in the quieter, more poignant moments. Scenes with Clark’s foster parents (wonderfully played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) were particularly touching at times.

So all in all, Snyder did a fine job, perhaps his best work to date. Yet Nolan and Goyer’s influence was clear to see and, whilst their contributions undoubtedly helped reboot the franchise, they may have taken it too dark in tone. That said, watch out for a scene in the closing moments that suggest a sequel could be lighter and more playful.

Oh…and Henry Cavill is easily the best Superman to date. Live long and prosper. Sorry, wrong rebooted franchise! As you were.