If you'd like a master class in screen-acting (not to mention a Minor in Pronouncing Vulgarity in New & Unique Ways) then you couldn't do much better than by studying the two times Sam Jackson's called upon to recite his character's favorite Bible scripture, Ezekiel 25:17, in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The scenes essentially bookend the film with Jules holding an audience captive through just the conviction of his delivery. Hardly the last time Sam would manage that feat.
Entries in Samuel L Jackson (6)
Michael C here with a question: When did it stop mattering if the hero saves the day?
Recently, it seems as long as the protagonist gives it the old college try that’s good enough to get rounded up to a victory. If a few thousand innocents die before he gets the job done, eh, nobody’s perfect. I started noticing this trend right around the time Man of Steel had to be careful to keep the piles of dead Metropolitans out of frame while Superman kissed Lois Lane on a pile of rubble.
Now we have Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service which ups the ante by not only having the hero fail to stop the villain from causing an outbreak of mass violence, but by lingering lovingly on the mayhem, including a mother who is brainwashed into attempting to murder her own baby. With previous examples of this trend, one could chalk it up to blockbuster inflation, with each movie trying to top its predecessors until the implications of all that destruction became unavoidable. With Kingsman, however, it feels like the showing of true colors, dropping the pretense that the film is about anything more than unashamedly reveling in a mass bloodletting. Vile stuff.
I realize I risk coming off as a prude and a scold by taking to task a film which wants only to be giddy escapist entertainment. [More...]
Michael C here to sound some trumpets for a fine actor's return from the wilderness. There are many pleasures to be found in Django Unchained, but for me the most satisfying was being able to unambiguously love a Samuel L. Jackson performance for the first time in what feels like forever.
Let's be frank, Jackson has always been a guy who would cheerfully say yes to just about any script that was correctly formatted. But at least back in the 90’s he would throw in an Eve’s Bayou or a Jackie Brown every once in a while. Over the last decade, however, his time has been divided between coasting on his star presence in blockbusters or squandering his considerable talent in straight up dreck like The Man or The Spirit. What attempts he has made at meaningful work have largely been dumped directly in the straight-to-video bin. (Home of the Brave anyone?) The last performance of his that left any impression on me was 2000’s Unbreakable, although your mileage may vary. Black Snake Moan had its fans, as did The Caveman’s Valentine. Whatever the case, there’s no denying the internal compass he possesses for choosing projects is severely miscalibrated.
But now there is his work in Django and damn does it feels good to seem him nail it in a big way. Jackson gave what is basically one of my favorite performances ever in Pulp Fiction and Tarantino has handed him another winner. He plays Stephen, the most trusted slave of Leo’s malevolent plantation owner and the two of them share a terrific, twisted chemistry. In terms of thematic weight Stephen's importance to the story is second only to Foxx's Django, and Jackson makes a meal out of every second of screen time. It’s a devious, deceptively simple performance. A late in the film monologue in particular should have Oscar voters second guessing whether DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, who were both Golden Globe nominated, are really the Django performances to unite behind in the awards game.
Jackson may very well turn around and follow this up with another decade of crapola (the XXX sequel listed on his IMDb page doesn’t bode well) but for now I’m pleased to see he has another performance that can stand proudly alongside Jules Winfield, Gator Purify and Sean Nelson’s alcoholic, chess playing father from Fresh (Rent it!)
Last week I hoped (in vain) that they'd go with an unknown when they finally attempt a reboot of the long dormant Tarzan franchise. Instead, word is, they're interested in going with the very known but still big screen underutilized Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood fame.
Though I think the discovery themes of the Tarzan franchise warrant a more "who is that?" choice, Skarsgård deserves more big screen opportunities (I was sad when he missed out on Thor since he's the closest thing that showbiz has to a Norse God) and his Swedishness and comfort with nudity are surely good signs for the exotic vine swinger. Variety says the concept goes like so:
Years after he's reassimilated into society, he's asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a warlord who controls a massive diamond mine.
I'm super pleased that they're skipping an origin story. Lord (of the Apes) knows more franchises should try it since origin stories so rarely reward on multiple viewings, let alone multiple iterations of said origins! But Warner Bros interest in Samuel L Jackson for the Williams role is, if you ask me, a very bad omen. Jackson is a fine actor but last time I counted he had already starred or co-starred in over 12 franchises or would be franchises. He's where Jeremy Renner will be in three years if he keeps saying "yes" to every big budget project in existence. Jackson is arguably a sign that no one on this project is remotely interested in doing something fresh, but just churning out another regular revenue stream for studio coffers and Jackson, being at home in the big budget franchises, is the only person who even came to their minds. When you use the same faces for everything, all franchises feel yet more homogenous.
I suppose this is the same problem I have when they cast my beloved Streep in everything involving an older woman and I'm forced to be frustrated at the monotony rather than be thrilled to see her, the latter of which should always be the case. It comes down to this realization: I'm just not at all monogomanous when it comes to the movies but shamelessly slutty. I need a vast array of faces, a huge collection of movie stars and character actors to entertain me. I wish, given the state of modern cinema, that this was not so, that I could be happy with only a handful of faces to entertain me, but I am who I am.
Will you gladly swing with Skarsgård and Jackson in a year or two or do you think the Lord of the Apes should stay retired?
Alexa here. I recently got my husband an anniversary gift of Will Ferrell's mug on a wine glass; romantic, I know, but it met with so much success (and an endless stream of Anchorman quotes over our bottle) that I thought I should post a plug for its maker. Tara Hamlin specializes in painting celebrities on wine goblets, and she is talented enough to pull off what seems at first like a silly concept. The selection in her shop is immense, but she will also do custom work: I spied that she is completing a custom Tom Hardy goblet for a lucky someone. Here is a sampling of her more interesting film stars. Drink up; they're only $20 each!
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