Category: 5 Favorites

5 Favorites #135: Ralph Fiennes

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This weekend, Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain star in an indie film about a tourist who inadvertently kills a local in the Middle East and must come to terms with his actions while the social mores of the region demand justice. While I’ve twice tackled Jessica Chastain as part of a group list, I haven’t yet highlighted the career of Ralph Fiennes. For many, their first experience with the British thespian was in Schindler’s List, though it was his third film and those who saw him in his first, Wuthering Heights, will probably remember him from there. However, his Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg’s film set during the Holocaust may have set him on his current career trajectory, one that’s been filled with as many heroic performances as villainous ones. Let’s look at my five favorite films starring or featuring him.

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5 Favorites #134: Movies About Music

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

In recent years, biopics of music royalty have been all the craze. Films about Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and myriad others have been made in large numbers in the last few years. This weekend, another such film releases as Baz Luhrmann takes a look at the life story of Elvis Presley. While I haven’t seen nearly enough of the best biopics to make this list, I could really only list Amadeus and La Vie en Rose without scraping the bottom of the barrel. That said, I can expand the list to movies about music and easily create a list. Matter of fact, my list ended up being twice the size that I should have. As such, I took out some musicals: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Dreamgirls, and the aforementioned La Vie en Rose. That left me with only six films. The one that lost out happens to be a film I covered recently, Victor/Victoria. Like Torch Song Trilogy, another film I considered, that film is less about music as a subject and more about music as a setting. The same could be true of Cabaret, which failed to make the list on the musical basis.

Five titles remain and those titles are below, three are biopics and two are biopic-adjacent, but are not films about real people, though they take place in and are about music in a broader sense. One of them is still classified as a musical, but considering it’s a musical biopic about music, I decided to include it even though I didn’t include the less “musical” La Vie en Rose. What’s also surprising is that this is my first list since the original few where I haven’t covered any of the five films previously.

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5 Favorites #133: Vanessa Redgrave

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

There’s a very minor film releasing this week called The Lost Girls. Joely Richardson stars, but it’s her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, who also appears in the film, that I want to highlight this week. Redgrave had her first big screen role in 1958’s Behind the Mask, but it was her trio of 1966 performances that launched her star into the cinematic stratosphere. Apart from Morgan!, her other two appearances make my list this week as well as two titles from earlier in her career and a fifth from later.

A couple of honorable mentions: In Julia, her Oscar-winning role, she was the title character, but she was a supporting performer in the film. That 1977 film starred Jane Fonda, Jason Robards, Maximilian Schell, Hal Holbrook, and some small time actor in her screen debut named Meryl Streep. Then there’s Howards End, and many others. The last title I want to mention is Coriolanus. It isn’t a very good film, but Redgrave is sensational in it. Now, let’s tackle the five titles that made my final list.

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5 Favorites #132: Dern, Goldblum, Howard, Neill, Treverrow

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Just like it’s predecessor, Jurassic World appears to be going out with three films in its series. Three of Jurassic Park‘s stars are making return appearances. One of the other big players (Richard Attenborough) has since passed, so this may well be the best we can hope for. Jurassic World: Dominion is an opportunity to look at the filmographies of four actors and the film’s director to see what the best they’ve produced has been. The fifth actor, and star, won’t be getting a mention this week, nor likely will get a mention anytime in the future. So let’s look at the best work by Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, and Colin Treverrow.

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5 Favorites #131: John Malkovich

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Another in the long line of Bruce Willis’ final performances releases this weekend. One of his co-stars in White Elephant is the legendary John Malkovich. For such a good actor, it’s rather surprising that his filmography has a lot of mediocre films in it. However, there were just enough to put him at the center of this week’s five favorites article.

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5 Favorites #130: Tom Cruise

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

A box office draw for three decades now, Tom Cruise has gotten a lot of flak for his cultish spiritual beliefs and his outlandish behavior, but he’s proven himself surprisingly adept not just at picking popular projects, but in selling himself to audiences with few hints of scandal. For a career as long as his, it’s truly impressive that he’s managed to remain at the top of the pecking order. After a four-year hiatus, Cruise is back on the big screen with a film that had been interrupted by COVID and rescheduled several times. This has given the filmmakers a chance to tinker with it to a point where it got a noteworthy standing ovation at the Cannes International Film Festival and early reviews have been largely positive, with many being ebullient.

Strangely, the last time he had a major blockbuster, this article series didn’t exist yet, so this is the first time I’ve had to look at his career. He’s not in the upper echelons of actors in terms of skill, but he’s managed to tone down his ego just enough to anchor some brilliant projects and, even in some of those, he’s played into his ego just enough to make the role work.

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5 Favorites #129: Maggie Smith

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

With such a large cast, Downton Abbey: A New Era provides me with plenty of opportunities to select my five favorites this week. However, one opportunity can’t be ignored: Maggie Smith. Of all the cast members, she’s the only one with such an extensive film career that choosing five films wasn’t terribly difficult. She’s one of our finest actresses with two Oscars, one of which is for a film in this week’s list. The other one, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, is a terrific film with a wonderful performance, but I thought it might be more interesting to look at a different film from that year.

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5 Favorites #128: The Cast and Crew of Firestarter

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

There aren’t a lot of great new releases and I previously covered Stephen King films, so to tackle Firestarter, it was something of a mixed bag. I had to pick up actors, the composer, and Stephen King as well…albeit with reluctance. The craftsmen didn’t have a lot to choose from and the director doesn’t either. Lead actor Zac Efron got the nod along with supporting actors Kurtwood Smith and Gloria Reuben. The composer was none other than John Carpenter, which is a rare treat as he seldom composes scores for films other than his own.

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5 Favorites #127: Cumberbatch, Ejiofor, Olsen, Stuhlbarg, Wong

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This week, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film releases, one of the few franchises that’s been pandemic-resistant and even then wasn’t entirely so in a couple of its outings last year. That said, kicking off blockbuster season is the second solo outing for Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). In celebration, I’m looking at the filmographies of five of the film’s stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Benedict Wong. Below are the results.

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5 Favorites #126: Bruce Willis

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Normally, I would take the wide releases and pick a topic based on those films. While I have surprisingly not tackled Liam Neeson yet, another film release made a lot more sense: Fortress: Spider’s Eye. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. For the last several years, Bruce Willis has been signing up for dull-witted action films that waste his talents. Recently, he announced that he would be quitting acting. The once box office draw suffers from a degenerative disease called Aphasia. Aphasia affects a person’s ability to express and understand written and spoken language. This could explain why Willis has been unable to find suitable vehicles for his skill. It is disappointing that it has progressed to a point where he will no longer be able to act, something he’s been doing for the better part of 40 years.

In honor of his legacy, I thought I would tackle my five favorite films. There were a few I considered that didn’t make the list such as Bandits and Pulp Fiction. While Pulp Fiction is a better film than most of these, I’ve tackled that film before and wanted to look at a few different ones.

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5 Favorites #125: Nicole Kidman

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Robert Eggers’ third film releases this weekend to wide audiences, bringing Alexander Skarsgaard in the lead role. While his filmography isn’t that impressive as yet, his co-stars are quite wonderful. For this week, I thought I’d take a look at the films of Nicole Kidman. She’s such an interesting actress, but she’s seldom seen in a lead role in a wide release in recent years, so this seems like an opportune time to give her her due.

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5 Favorites #124: Jude Law

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

The third film in the Fantastic Beasts series releases this weekend with the usual suspects in tow with a notable exception, that is the replacement of Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelsen. It’s said to have been a great success. Regardless, this week’s individual we’ll be lookin at is Jude Law. In this film, he plays the younger Dumbledore with a more full beard than the prior outing. Law has a rather eclectic filmography that spans populist and artistic with plenty in between. He’s an affable actor who plays both good and bad characters with equal capability. Let’s take a look at my 5 favorite Jude Law films.

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5 Favorites #123: Jake Gyllenhaal

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Now that he’s broken away from the Transformers series, director Michael Bay gets back to work with cheap premises and loud explosions and hopefully not as much sexism and homophobia. Two of the stars of the film, contrary to Bay himself, are interesting to check out every time they show up in a new film: Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. I focus today on Gyllenhaal who has turned into one of his generation’s finest actors. Let’s take a look at my five favorite films that he’s appeared in.

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5 Favorites #122: Non-MCU Marvel Movies

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This week, Jared Leto takes on another comic book role as Doctor Morbius, an ailing scientists who finds the secret to eternal life as a vampire. I’m not terribly excited about the film, but I thought it would offer an opportunity to look at the Marvel universe outside of the MCU. Granted, this list will be populated mostly with X-Men movies, but what can you say about the non-Disney output except that some of it was really really bad.

Before we get to those, let’s highlighted five titles that didn’t make the final list. Three of the X-Men films made between 2000 and today have made my final list. Two titles came close, but not close enough. The original 2000 X-Men started it all and managed to convince studio execs that a Marvel team-up film could actually work. While the Blade films pre-date X-Men, Fox’s X-Men titles were a huge success and were followed by the even more successful Spider-Man trilogy from Sam Raimi, the combination helped pave the way to the MCU itself. Another of the X-Men titles came close, X-Men: First Class was the introduction to a new group of mutants, the younger versions of the ones created by Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and others. They did well setting up the new universe that would retcon the third film of the original trilogy and start a new path towards the second X-Men title on my list and a group of mediocre follow-ups.

X-Men-adjacent Deadpool also came close to the list. Ryan Reynolds acerbic, motor-mouth figure that first appeared in The Wolverine, got his own stand alone film and it was bat shit crazy and hilarious at the same time. It set the standard for modern title sequences and was incredibly fun.

After Raimi’s popular Spider-Man films reached their conclusion, Sony attempted to reboot the character with Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire and Emma Stone stepping in as one of Peter Parker’s other famous love interests. Although The Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t as popular as its Raimi forebears, Garfield and Stone were leagues better than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

And finally, a film that Disney made, but which isn’t considered a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Big Hero 6. Loosely based on a series of comics of the same name, some of the character names were changed and it wasn’t billed successfully as a Marvel movie. Still, it fits and is the primary reason I didn’t say “Non-Disney” Marvel movies.

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5 Favorites Postponed

Skipping this week (and possibly next) with no wide releases and far too much to prepare ahead of the Oscars.