Category Archives: Actor Spolight

Flashback Friday-Michelle Pfeiffer 90’s Tearjerkers-To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday (1996) & The Deep End Of The Ocean (1999)

Michelle Pfeiffer has had quite a career. Acting since the early 1980’s, the roles she has played over the years have varied.

In this post, I want to concentrate on her work in the mid to late 1990’s and more specifically, two tear-jerkers/dramas that attempted to not leave a dry eye in the house.

In To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday, David Lewis (Peter Gallagher) is mourning the death of his wife, Gillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). The problem is that David is so deep in his grief that he does not notice how his life is falling apart and that his daughter teenage Rachel (Claire Danes) needs him.

Three years later in 1999, she starred in yet another tear-jerker/drama. In The Deep Of The Ocean, Beth and Pat Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer and Treat Williams) have three young children, a solid marriage and a happy life. Then their pre-school age son, Ben disappears. Finding Ben becomes an obsession that nearly destroys Beth and Pat’s marriage. A decade later, Ben (Ryan Merriman) is found. But he answers to the name of Sam and does not remember or know who Beth and Pat are.

This genre is a questionable one for me. It is questionable, because depending on certain factors, the film can either stir the heart or it can be utterly depressing. The films above have just enough emotion and narrative to keep the audience going without requiring too many tissues.

I recommend them.

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Throwback Thursday-Actor Spotlight-Angela Lansbury-Murder She Wrote (1984-1996) & The Court Jester (1955)

At the age of 90, Angela Lansbury is one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Her career of 70 years has included a variety of roles.

In this Throwback Thursday/Actor Spotlight post, I am going to talk about two very different performances by Ms. Lansbury.

The first is Murder She Wrote (1984-1996).

One of the most popular television shows of its era, Murder She Wrote is based around Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), a retired teacher who has a second career as a crime novelist and amateur detective. By sheer happenstance (or the magic of television writing) crime and murder seem to follow Jessica wherever she goes. Using her wit and her intelligence, Jessica is able to solve crimes that no one else can.

Three decades earlier, Ms. Lansbury was part of an ensemble cast lead by Danny Kaye in the movie The Court Jester (1955).

In Medieval England, King Roderick (Cecil Parker) sits on the throne. The only issue that Roderick should not be on the throne. The rightful king is an infant boy with a purple pimpernel birthmark. Roderick needs to get rid of the boy before he can be found. But to get to Roderick, the key to the King’s secret tunnel must be found.

In the forest of England, The Black Fox is an outlaw who is working to ensure that Roderick is overthrown and the boy who should be king will be king. Among the Fox’s men is Hawkins (Danny Kaye), a man who prefers not to fight.  Maid Jean (Glynis Johns) is tasked with taking care of the boy and Hawkins. While traveling, Jean and Hawkins meet the King’s new jester.   Knocking the jester out, they come up with a plan for Hawkins to become the jester. Naming himself Giacomo, Jean and Hawkins plan to infiltrate the king’s inner circle and find the key.

It sounds too easy, right? Nope. Roderick falls for Jean and his daughter, the Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury), who is betrothed against her will, falls for Giacomo. Add in a witch, poison pellets and a random song that are supposed to be recognition codes and you have a very funny movie.

Even though it is 30 years old, Murder She Wrote still holds up. Jessica Fletcher is a smart, capable woman of a certain age. Then and now, a woman of a certain is most likely a grandmother who the audience only sees as the grandmother. She is not seen a standalone character outside of that role.

The Court Jester is my favorite Danny Kaye movie for several reasons. First of all, it is very funny. Decades after this movie was made, fans still went up to Danny Kaye and asked him to repeat “The Brew That Is True” speech. Secondly, the women in this movie are smarter than the men. Hawkins maybe the lead character, but Maid Jean is a badass female (as much as a female could have been badass in 1955). Gwendolyn may be the Princess, but is smart enough to go about getting what she wants, even if it means a little trickery on  her part.

Do I recommend them? Absolutely.

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Flashback Friday-Actor Spotlight- Melissa Joan Hart- Clarissa Explains It All (1991-1994) & Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (1996-2003)

Every generation has their child actors. My generation had Melissa Joan Hart, who is the subject this Flashback Friday Post.

In the 1990’s Melissa Joan Hart was the female child star of the decade.

From 1991-1994 she starred in Clarissa Explains It All. Told from the first person point of view of Clarissa Darling, a teenage girl who guides the viewer through her world. Her best friend Sam (Sean O’Neal) comes through her window. Her hated brother Ferguson (Jason Zimbler) is always looking to undermine his sister. Her parents, Janet and Marshall (Elizabeth Hess and Joe O’Connor), are, well the parents of a teenage girl seen through her eyes.

For the early 90’s, this show was unique. A television program focused on a teenage girl who was the audience’s eyes and ears  was not the usual topic of a fictional television program. There was also an honesty about being that age, even with the heightened reality.

Two years after she left the world of Clarissa Darling, Melissa Joan Hart entered the world of another teenager. Sabrina Spellman is the lead character in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (1996-2003). Based on the comic book of the same name, Sabrina Spellman is a 16 year girl who has a human mother and a witch father. Living her aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick) and their talking cat (voiced by Nick Bakay) who was once a human being, Sabrina tries to balance being a normal teenage girl while learning about her powers.

What stood out about this show was that despite her magical abilities, Sabrina was an ordinary teenage girl. She was also not the most popular girl in school, which also added to appeal of the show.

Do I recommend them? Yes.

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Flashback Friday-Actor Spotlight-Harrison Ford- Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Air Force One (1997) & Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford is an American icon. A man’s man, he is known for iconic, rugged, masculine roles that have defined a generation.

The first movie I am going to write about tonight is Six Days, Seven Nights (1998). Robin Monroe (Anne Heche) is a New York journalist who is on vacation with her boyfriend. Not wanting to miss out on a story, she hires Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford) to take her a remote island, which she hopes to be the subject of her next story. Quinn is not too happy, but agrees to take her. Then the plane crashes and Robin and Quinn must find a way to coexist until they are rescued.

This movie straddles the line of romantic comedy and action film. Where some films do not succeed by blending the genres, this movie straddles both genres perfectly. There is almost a Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy relationship between Robin and Quinn, which helps to nicely balance the action with the comedy and the traditional Hollywood happy ending.

The second film I am going to write about is Air Force One (1997).  President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is returning from Moscow after making an anti-terrorism speech. Then his plane is taken over by Russian hijackers. They threaten to execute the passengers one by one (including The First Lady and The First Daughter) until their demands are met. But they don’t anticipate that President Marshall is a bad ass who will not go down without a fight.

This movie is an old fashioned, in your face action film. Ford is in his element as an action hero. After 18 years, this film still holds up as a standard bearer for the genre.

And finally, the film that will always be linked to Harrison Ford: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981). Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has been given the task by the government of find the Lost Ark Of The Covenant. But he is racing against the clock as the Nazis are also seeking this ancient treasure. Can Indy find the ark or will the Nazis beat him to it?

In terms of film franchises and action heroes, Indiana Jones is one of the greats. The film series holds up because the films are well made, entertaining and build upon the previous films instead of rehashing old plot lines.

Do I recommend all three? Absolutely.

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Flashback Friday-Actor Spotlight- Marilyn Monroe- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) & How To Marry A Millionaire (1953)

Marilyn Monroe is without a doubt an icon. She is also the subject of this actor spotlight and this Flashback Friday Post.

Two of her movies were released in 1953.

The first movie is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are showgirls. Lorelei is engaged to Gus Edmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan). Gus’s father does not approve of his son’s choice of a wife.  On a boat sailing to Paris, Dorothy’s task is to keep Lorelei clean so her future father in law will bless his son’s future marriage. Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) is a private detective who is trying to prove that Lorelei is a gold digger. Dorothy will be distracted by the swim team and Lorelei will be distracted by a wealthy older man. Can they get to Paris without causing trouble?

Russell and Monroe are the perfect ying and yang. The smart, sassy brunette and the dumb but beautiful blonde are archetypes, but in a good way. It’s not all bad, but one must consider the era that the movie was made in.

The second movie is How To Marry A Millionaire.

Loco (Betty Grable), Pola (Marilyn Monroe) and Schatze (Lauren Bacall) are models living and working in New York City. Tired of meeting poor schlubs, they rent a fancy apartment in hopes of attracting wealthy men. But love and life are complicated. It’s not easy to tell the millionaire from the working class man. Will the ladies stick to their plan or will life direct them elsewhere?

This movie is very much a movie of it’s era. As much as I enjoy it, I find it a little disturbing. While there are many movies where the female character’s motive is men and marriage, this movie is just a little strong on that subject for me.

Do I recommend these films? As a fan of classic cinema, yes. As a feminist who cringes at the stereotypes and the antiquated ideas about what a woman’s future should be, I’m not sure that I enjoy them.

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Flashback Friday-Actor Spotlight-Annette Bening- Mars Attacks! (1996) & What Planet Are You From (2000)

Tonight’s Flashback Friday post and actor spotlight is Annette Bening.

In 1996, she was part of all star cast in Mars Attacks!

Martian spaceships are circling Earth. A meeting is arranged in hopes of keeping the peace. But the Martians do not plan to keep the peace.  And they have a sick sense of humor.

This movie is a throwback to the alien movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It is also a little campy, but not in an over the top way.

Four years later, she starred in What Planet Are You From?

Harold Anderson (Gary Shandling) looks like your all-American banker. But he is not. He is an alien from another planet, devoid of emotion and natural reproduction. Their plan is to take over the world. Harold’s mission is to find a mate and have a child. Enter Susan (Annette Bening).  They meet, marry and become pregnant, but Harold’s mission still holds. Will he become human and emotional or just stick to the plan?

This movie an interesting mixture of an alien invasion/dry humor romantic comedy. It also asks some important questions about relationships and how we navigate the sometimes rocky roads we travel while in relationships.

I recommend them both.

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Actor Spotlight Throwback Thursday-Anne Hathaway- Princess Diaries (2001) & Ella Enchanted (2004)

Tonight’s actor spotlight and throwback Thursday post is Anne Hathaway.

In the early 2000’s, she made a name for herself in the type of roles that many young actresses do: princesses and fairy tale heroines.

The first movie is The Princess Diaries (2001).  Based on the books by Meg Cabot, Mia Thermopolis is the average teenage girl. Gawky, insecure and invisible to most of her classmates, she does not know that she is not the average teenage girl. Mia is next in line to rule the fictional European kingdom of Genovia.  But before she can put on the tiara, she has to meet her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) and learn how to be a princess.

Can she live up to the title that is her birthright or will she become a laughing stock?

Coming from the view of the intended audience, which are teenage girls, this movie is pretty good. Mia’s averageness, even under the extraordinary circumstances stands out. Casting Julie Andrews as Queen Clarisse was a boon for this movie. And truth be told, who wouldn’t want Mary Poppins as their grandmother? I know I would.

Three years later, Hathaway stepped again into the world of fairy tales with Ella Enchanted (2004).

Also based on a book by Gail Carson Levine, it is a pseudo Cinderella story with a feminist twist. Ella (Anne Hathaway) has been given the gift (if you want to call it that) of obedience by a fairy, Lucinda (Tyra Banks). Her mother is dead, her father is greedy and emotionally absent from his daughter’s life and her stepmother uses Ella’s “gift” to her advantage.

Ella falls in love with Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy). Can Ella rescue herself, her prince and save the kingdom from the villainous Edgar (Cary Elwes)?

Again, if I were a teenage girl, I would enjoy the movie. It is a bit bland with some predictability in character and story, but I’ve seen worse.

Do I recommend them? Why not.

 

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Actor Spotlight Throwback Thursday- Minnie Driver Triple Feature- Good Will Hunting (1997), Beautiful (2000) & Return To Me (2000)

I’ve decided to change some of my Throwback Thursday/Flashback Friday posts to put a spotlight on a specific performer and two or three of their films.

This post will be focusing on British actor Minnie Driver.

In 1997, Driver burst into Hollywood in the film Good Will Hunting. Academically speaking, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a genius. He works as a janitor at MIT and anonymously solves the math problems left on the black boards overnight. But Will has no direction in life and often finds himself in trouble with the law.  When his anonymity is discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), Will is offered a deal that could change his life.

Under the watch of Prof Lambeau, Will will not be facing jail time if he studies mathematics with the professor and spends time with a therapist. After several therapists flounder, Will finds himself in the office of Sean Maguire (the late Robin Williams). He also finds himself attached to Skylar (Minnie Driver), a Harvard student with ambitions to attend medical school at Stanford. Can Will sustain this new path in life or will he return to his old friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck) and the way he used to live?

This movie won all of the accolades and attention that it did for a reason. It is a brilliant film and just reminds the audience that sometimes we have to take risks, especially when new paths open up in life.

Three years later, Driver starred in Beautiful.

Mona (Minnie Driver) has only one goal in life: to win Miss American Miss. Mona’s home life is a roller coaster. The only steadying influence is her best friend, Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams). But there is one hitch to Mona’s dreams: her child. Contestants in the pageant cannot have children. Ruby agrees to pretend to be Vanessa’s (Hallie Eisenberg) mother so Mona can compete. When a reporter starts snooping around, Mona finds that the pressure to keep the facade up is building.

Can she keep the facade up or will the truth come out, ending her dreams forever?

This movie has an element of camp to it. But then again, the entire world is that beauty pageants is campy. While this movie does not require a lot of brain cells, it is still a fun movie.

The same year, Driver stepped into romantic comedy genre with Return To Me.

Bob (David Duchovny) lost his wife in a car accident.  After his wife’s death, her organs were anonymously donated. One of the recipients was  Grace (Minnie Driver), a woman who has had heart problems since she was a teenager.  A year after his wife’s death, Bob receives an anonymous letter from Grace, thanking him for his wife’s heart. At the same time, Bob goes on a blind date at the encouragement of his friends. The restaurant they go is owned by Grace’s grandfather (the late Carroll O’Connor). Grace is their waitress that night.

Bob asks Grace on a date and she agrees. Their relationship start to move along, but she is not ready to tell him about the surgery and the heart that is not naturally hers.  Will she tell him and what will the consequences be of the reveal?

As rom-coms go, this movie is starting to slide into the same old formulaic story. But it is the performances of the lead actors that keep the movie going.

I recommend all three.

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