Top Ten Movie Presidents

Since today is President’s Day, I wanted to be just as cliché and in vogue as the rest of the bloggers and film sites out on the internts! Enjoy, yet another list, from me.

10. Jack Nicholson, “Mars Attacks”


9. Bill Pullman, “Independence Day”


8. Harrison Ford, “Air Force One”


7. Michael Douglas, “The American President”


6. Jack Lemmon and James Garner, “My Fellow Americans”


5. John Travolta, “Primary Colors”


4. Peter Sellers, “Dr. Strangelove”


3. Anthony Hopkins, “Nixon”


2. Jeff Bridges, “The Contender”


1. Henry Fonda, “Fail/Safe”

The Actors: Michael Douglas

 

 

With two excellent performances this year – the first being Ben in “Solitary Man” and his second turn as Gordon Gekko – I’ve always felt Douglas is a compelling actor.  I may be disappointed with the film he’s in, but I’ve never been disappointed with his performance.  Some people may see Douglas as a one note narcissistic actor, I see him as something a little more; I see Douglas as the poster boy for masculinity.  His next film is going to be the Steven Soderbergh directed “Liberace” where Douglas will undergo musical training and wear prosthetics to play the title character.  This may be one hell of a swan song.   Here are my top 10 Michael Douglas performances.

  1. Gordon Gekko, “Wall Street”/”Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”
  2. Ben Kalmen, “Solitary Man”
  3. Dan Gallagher, “Fatal Attraction”
  4. D-FENS, “Falling Down”
  5. Grady Trip, “Wonder Boys”
  6. Nicholas Van Orton, “The Game”
  7. President Andrew Shepherd, “The American President”
  8. Detective Nick Curran, “Basic Instinct”
  9. Nick Conklin, “Black Rain”
  10. Robert Wakefield, “Traffic”

“Solitary Man” – 2010. Dir. Brian Koppelman and David Levien

With Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jessie Eisenberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Imogen Poots with Richard Schiff and Danny DeVito

“If you’re gonna call me an asshole, I’m gonna earn it.” – Ben (Michael Douglas)

“Solitary Man” opens with Ben Kalmen (Michael Douglas) meeting with his doctor. He’s giving his doctor no time to talk, he’s rattling on about the new car dealerships he’s opening up, how his TV commercials are going good, how his wife makes him dress like a business man – not a car salesman. His doctor (Bruce Altman) buts in, telling Ben that he wants to run an EKG because he’s worried about his heart. The audio drowns out as we watch Ben’s face sink and just become a neutral expression.

Flash forward seven years, and we see Ben wake up, his hair is dyed black. He pops two aspirin and gets up and looks at himself in the mirror. This small scene (that we see slightly repeated throughout the film) mirrors that of Joe Gideon’s morning routine in “All That Jazz” – it’s a nice little touch of homage.

What we see next is an opening credit sequence of Ben walking around New York City, he’s dressed sharp in all black and we listen to Johnny Cash sing “Solitary Man”. That took a lot of balls to use a Cash song – I can’t think of something more cliché. Johnny Cash could hold up a paraplegic – but it works, and it works wonderfully.

We learn more about Ben – all of his car dealerships in New York and New Jersey closed down due to fraud. Ben spent a night in jail and paid a big fine – forever tarnishing his name. His girlfriend (played by Mary-Louise Parker) is a boozed up little tart that Ben is just playing nice with because her father holds a lot of power, and Ben is trying to open up a new dealership and needs her father’s pull.

Ben is ultra charismatic; he’s a womanizer and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. He thinks he has the world figured out – and he just might. Ben is taking his girlfriend’s daughter Allyson (Imogen Poots) to his old prestigious college to pull some strings and gets her enrolled so he can get his girlfriend’s father’s influence to get a business loan.

Allyson has Ben figured out – she knows that he’s a womanizer, and she doesn’t care because she can’t stand her mother. Ben and Allyson agree to go their own way while on campus. Ben meets Dustin (Jessie Eisenberg who I actually really liked in this) who is a nerdy student council member that doesn’t know how to talk to girls.

Leave it up to Ben to show Dustin the ropes. While on campus Ben goes back to the staple diner on campus and finds his old friend Jimmy (Danny DeVito) still working there. They strike up a nostalgic conversation and start their friendship back-up.

Later that night Ben sleeps with Allyson, not because Ben is smooth and talks her into bed, but because Allyson has a “Daddy complex” and wants to fuck an older man – Allyson uses Ben, and Ben becomes hung up on her.

This is where the bad times come into play. Ben’s girlfriend finds out about her daughter and Ben – so she has her father kill Ben’s business loan. Ben goes to his daughter (Jenna Fischer) to borrow money, but because Ben is such a shit, she won’t allow it –and doesn’t want Ben to see his grandson anymore. Ben then goes to his ex-wife Susan Sarandon for consoling and she asks him why he left seven years ago.

What I like about this film, is the fact that we don’t see the good times that Ben had in his life nor do we see the bad times – we see the aftermath seven years later. Douglas beings so much vulnerability to the role of Ben, it’s humbling to watch. It’s this wonderful mixture of vulnerability and arrogance that Douglas throws into this character. I feel that Ben is much like Joe Gideon in “All That Jazz” – he’s a sneaky piece of shit that does dumb and bad things, but deep down he has a heart of gold. He really cares about people in his life, but he continues to hurt them due to his selfishness. After watching the film a second time, it does show a lot of compatibility to “All That Jazz”.

I never thought much of Michael Douglas until I got older; I then realized what a wonderful actor this guy really is. The range that he can display is unreal. He’s so charismatic and he’s just so cool, Douglas just carries himself in a certain way that’s unique and real.

The film is made upon Douglas, and branches out and thrives upon the chemistry between all the actors. It’s very cool to see Douglas and DeVito together again after twenty plus years and DeVito and Douglas are magnificent together. The film never loses focus of its narrative of Ben. It doesn’t deviate away and branch off to other story arcs, the focus is held on Ben. This is one of the tautest films I’ve ever seen.

This film is about life choices, more specifically Ben’s life choices. We don’t see as many on screen – but we hear about the choices he made between the seven year gap of Ben seeing his doctor and when we see a different, changed man – a solitary man. We get told very little, as we jump right in to the story.

This is a very small film, and it takes a lot of risks with subject matter and the situations that arise. The film gets graphic with its dialogue and while watching a lot what was going on in the film I thought it was pretty ballsy of Douglas to take a role like this. This is a role that would be generally played by an actor who is looking for a comeback or an actor who makes a lot of independent films, but Douglas doesn’t need that. He’s been around and he’ll always be around.

This is the best film I have seen this year, and showcases the best performance of the year (thus far). I am very, very impressed with this film. The film is funny, it’s sad, it’s romantic – it’s just so wonderful. This film achieves what big budget films cannot – real human situations and real human emotion; bottom line this film has a heart AND soul. I have always felt that smaller character studies are the greatest films out there. This film is riddled with nothing but clichés, but it works perfectly. This is a must see.

Rating: 10/10

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” – 2010. Dir. Oliver Stone

With Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, John Bedford Lynch with Eli Wallach and Frank Langella.

“If you stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about you.” – Gordon Gekko

Finally, it has happened. Gordon Gekko is out of jail. He spent five years in court, and another eight years in prison. America is on the brink of a financial collapse, the major banks are starting to shake; faith in the economic market is starting to falter. Twenty-three years after Oliver Stone’s masterpiece “Wall Street” Stone directs the only sequel to any of his films: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”.

It’s 2008 and the housing market bubble has popped. The banks are failing. Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) works for his mentor Lou Zabel (Frank Langella) who’s bank is the first to go under. The banks are worried, but they think the Federal Reserve will bail them out because “we’re too big to fail”. The banks meet with the Fed Chair (John Bedford Lynch) and expect a government bailout. Zabel’s bank is about to go under and essentially starts begging the Fed Chair for help. The Fed doesn’t seemed opposed to lending money to the bank until Bretton James (Josh Brolin) – whose bank is a fictional Goldman Zachs – pipes up and doesn’t think Zabel’s bank is worth the bailout. Brolin and Langella are amazing as they duke it out.

What progresses is Zabel throwing himself in front of train that leaves his protégé Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) on a mission of revenge, to hurt whoever is responsible. Jacob finds himself in a unique position; he’s marrying Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Winnie hasn’t spoken to her father in years, she refuses to see him. Moore seeks out Gekko on his book tour (writing a book “Is Greed Good?”) and tells Gekko after his speech that he is marrying his daughter.

Jacob brokers a deal with Gekko. If he promises to help reunite Gordon with his daughter, Gordon will find out who was behind the actual demise of Zabel’s bank. Jacob agrees to help and Gordon starts feeding Jacob information about Bretton James who was once one of Gordon’s underlings. But nothing is ever fair and square with Gordon Gekko, is it?. Gordon does help Jacob find his man, but Gordon also has something going for himself.

Oliver Stone does an excellent job building a compelling story that can exist on its own terms but also allowing us to follow Gordon Gekko once again. Shia LeBeouf does get a majority of the screen time in the film since he is the central character, but every time Michael Douglas is off screen, he still owns this film.

I mean fuck! Michael Douglas gave us one of the most ruthless villains to ever hit the screens as Gordon Gekko twenty three years ago. I mean, Michael Douglas won the Oscar that year for his roles as Gordon Gekko. There aren’t many references to the original film at all, aside from Gekko talking about his family and the mentioning of Budd Fox (Charlie Sheen in the first film) and a brief scene with Fox showing us where he’s at now.

It’s a dinner that Jacob got Gekko in to (since Jacob’s date is Gekko’s daughter), and Gekko literally bumps into Fox while everyone is mingling before dinner. We see a much older Budd Fox who has a girl on each arm. They banter for a hot minute and then Budd excuses himself from the two girls and takes a few steps away to talk to Gekko. We find out where Budd Fox has been, what happened to Blue Starr Airline and then Budd asks his former mentor, “…now tell me Gordon. Does Blue Horseshoe still love Anichot Steel?” It’s pretty wonderful.

At this dinner, Jacob is sitting with Bretton James – who he has started working for – and Gordon walks over. There is an excellent exchange between Josh Brolin and Michael Douglas since Josh Brolin’s character is the Gordon Gekko of the 2000’s. Gordon tells Bretton, “I’ll stop telling the truth about you when you stop telling lies about me.” Great line.

Oliver Stone gives us an over edited, flashy and complex movie. We have no other option then just to accept this entire Wall Street lingo that’s thrown on us. We don’t understand all of what they’re saying, but we get the big picture.

The cast is nothing less than five star. Michael Douglas gives us an older and more broken Gordon Gekko, but he still has a lot of fight left in him. Josh Brolin gives a great performance as a modern day Gekko. Brolin is just so creepy good. Frank Langella is tough as nails as the old school money man.

I have always hated Shia. I thought he was terrible in Indy 4, but then after watching this film it made me realize how terrible Indy 4 really was. He’s actually very, very good in this film. I find him believable and sharp. He’s our generations Charlie Sheen – and he wasn’t half bad.

I didn’t care for Carey Mulligan. She spends most of the film crying. I’m being serious. And I never liked Susan Sarandon and this film shows me exactly why. She plays Jacob’s real estate agent mother who has over extended herself in the housing market and needs money from Jacob. This story arc or character isn’t need in the final film, but I understand why Stone keeps it in the film; it’s a nice parallel to Charlie Sheen’s relationship with Martin Sheen in the first film.

I feel that Douglas and Stone really wanted to make this film as a repercussion film since every jerk-off on Wall Street looks at Gordon Gekko as a hero. This film doesn’t blame Gekko directly for the housing crisis, but it defiantly paints a picture of look what Gordon Gekko inspired. Greed is good, greed is legal.

This is a very good film. It’s nowhere as great as the first film, but it’s a nice follow up. Stone is one of the most idealistic directors, always making a film about our current state of culture in America. The scenes he directs where we find ourselves in the “secret” meetings at the Federal Reserve where the banks are all looking for a bailout are flawless. There is so much tension and suspense that’s built up through the actor’s performances. From Frank Langella slamming his fists on the table to the Fed Chair yelling, “Do you have idea what all of you have done!?”

Don’t fuck with Gordon Gekko.

Rating: 8.5/10

“The Game” – 1997. Dir. David Fincher

With Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, with Carroll Baker, and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Like my father before me – I choose eternal sleep.

David Fincher couldn’t have followed his masterpiece “Seven” up any better than with “The Game”. The film follows the secluded life of Nicholas Van Orton an extremely wealthy alienated millionaire played by Michael Douglas. Nicholas’ birthday is the day the film begins; he’s 48, the same age his father was when he killed himself.

He has a lunch date with a Mr. Seymour Butts which is a joke from his brother Conrad (Sean Penn). During his lunch date with his younger and more of a free spirited brother, Conrad gives Nicholas a gift certificate to CRS (Consumer Recreational Services) and tells Nicholas to call the number because it will change his life.

Nicholas eventually contacts the service, and spends most of his day filling out a questionnaire and physical fitness tests. He finally is told what CRS is, it’s a game. It’s a very sophisticated game that is tailored for wealthy people.

Nicholas goes about his day to day life; he travels to Seattle to fire his father’s old friend Anson Baer (Armin Mueller-Stahl) because he hasn’t met his projections for the past few quarters. Nicholas tries to open his brief case to give Baer his severance package but he can’t open his brief case, it’s not his.

From this point of the film on, things begin to get skewed, events happen that are surreal – yet seem normal to everyone but Nicholas. I can’t really talk about much of the plot without ruining most of what happens in the film.

This is an excellent film directed by a master of suspense and intrigue. David Fincher is such an unbelievable talent that his films have remained to be influences to future filmmakers. I haven’t seen “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” and have zero interest to see “The Social Network” – I believe that Fincher is almost selling out now. Stick with what works, stick with what you’re good at.

What adds to this film is the original score by Howard Shore is as much a major part of the film as Michael Douglas or Sean Penn. It’s a wonderfully haunting score, much like that of “Eyes Wide Shut”. The music to the film is as much of a character as Michael Douglas or Sean Penn. Fincher’s use of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” is the best usage of music in any of his films. This is the film “Shutter Island” wanted to be.

Review: 9/10

“Wall Street” – 1987. Dir. Oliver Stone.

With Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, John C. McGinley, Terrence Stamp, with Hal Holbrook, and Martin Sheen.

“What you see is a guy who never measured a man by the size of his WALLET!”

In the wake of the much anticipated release of Oliver Stone’s follow up “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, which by the way was the only Stone film to EVER be accepted to Cannes (weird huh?), I wanted to give a serious review of “Wall Street”. I just proposed a list of my top ten Oliver Stone films and ranked “Wall Street” as number one.

The story is set in the peak of the financial boom of the 1980’s where Charlie Sheen portrays Bud Fox an eager young stock broker that is pining for a shot at the big time. His idol, Gordon Gekko, is the tyrant of Wall Street and the physical embodiment of the 1980’s. Fox is incredibly persistent with Gekko’s secretary and eventually gets five minutes with Gekko.

When Fox enters Gekko’s office it’s as if he’s entering a war bunker. There are papers everywhere, cigarette smoke is looming, and people are talking secret strategy in the corner. When we finally see Gekko he’s screaming on the phone about jargon that most of us wouldn’t understand but we do get the picture. Gekko is vicious and takes no prisoners.

Fox is incredibly nervous (and who wouldn’t be), once he starts to pitch his proposals to Gekko, he is just sitting, ignoring, taking his blood pressure and shrugging off every idea that Fox has, and I absolutely loves how he calls them “dogs with fleas”. Fox is out of ideas, until he mutters “Blue Star”. Blue Star is the airline that his father has invested his entire life into, and they are just about to get a federal ruling by the government that an accident that happened to an airplane wasn’t the fault of the company, but of the manufacturer.

This intrigues Gekko, not because it seems like a good deal, but because he feels that Fox has some sort of unknown insight. Once Gekko does find out that Fox actually does have inside information he befriends him, and takes him under his wing.

One facet that I really enjoy about the film is the father and son theme. Fox essentially has to choose between his own blue collar hard working father (played by Sheen’s actual father Martin) or the slick and smooth yet ruthless Wall Street tyrant. The scene in which Fox visits his father in the hospital in the wake of his father’s heart attack and he tries to make things right is one of the most heartfelt, touching scenes ever.

Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) and son Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen)

The film is so excellently paced and it flows and never drags for a split second. The information about stock, bonds and financial business isn’t dumbed down for us, it’s a very complex film, but we find our way through it. The terminology may be hard to chew, but the narrative and performances help us swallow it.

The performances are what truly make the film excellent. Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas give the finest performances of their careers (hence Douglas’ acting Oscar). What makes it even better is the strong supporting cast of Martin Sheen, Terrence Stamp, John C. McGinley and Hal Holbrook (of which I am upset that none of them are returning for the sequel).

Stone has this way of being the filmmaker of the times; he completely makes the film real. The long shot of Gekko and Fox meeting in the park at the end of the film is the finest shot of any Stone film. Everything about the materialism, flow, and themes of the 1980’s is conveyed to perfection in this film. I am looking forward to Stone’s sequel, because it is truly the perfect time for it. Because without the influence of Gordon Gekko, I doubt we’d be in the economic situation we’re in now. This is Oliver Stone’s masterpiece.

Review: 10/10

“A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.”

I just wanted to take a quick break from NCAA March Madness and share the cover of the new issue of Vanity Fair. I saw this and bought it without hesitation. This literally gave me a boner. I am so excited about Michael Douglas returning as Gordon Gekko in “Money Never Sleeps”. The film is either going to be almost as good as the first, or land horribly on its face and should never have been made. With everyone seeing “Wall Street” in the 80’s and wanting to be Gekko – look how we turned out. If Michael Douglas sitting and being surrounded by bricks and bricks of gold doesn’t turn you on – I don’t know what does.

Pick up the new issue of Vanity Fair, it’s in stores now.