Posts Tagged ‘Roger Bart’

Demonizing Dalton

Trumbo

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Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C. K. Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Roger Bart, Dean O’ Gorman, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director Jay Roach really gives audiences an opportunity to witness Bryan Cranston’s acting talents first hand as Cranston plays the Oscar nominated role of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in California in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950’s.

With the rise of McCarthyism in the early 1950’s and the vindictive Committee on Un-American Activities whose sole aim was to root out the perceived communist threat within Hollywood and many other facets of American society, the anti-communist witch hunt become notorious for ruining reputations and lives of artists, actors, directors and screenwriters. Even the famous playwright Arthur Miller was perceived as a threat and his persecution was illustrated in his classic play The Crucible.

trumbo

Dalton Trumbo, wonderfully played by Cranston, is an unconventional yet brilliant screenwriter who becomes one of the Hollywood Ten perceived by the Committee as harbouring Communist sympathies. Trumbo was, as his friend Arlen Hird played by Louis C. K. said, a Socialist with Champagne tastes. His flamboyant cigarette smoking, his unusual method of writing screenplays in the bath, his reliance on Benzedrine were all traits of a fierce creative genius who was ripe for prosecution.

Michael Stuhlbarg also gives an impressive performance as Edward G. Robinson who will do anything to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

In one of the great artistic injustices, Trumbo is found in contempt of the Supreme Court and sentenced to a Kentucky penitentiary for close to 18 months. Upon Trumbo’s release he is faced with the prospect of supporting his wife Cleo played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and three growing children, one of which is his feisty daughter Nicola superbly played by Elle Fanning (Maleficent).

Trumbo approaches a B-Grade studio, King pictures and soon does rewrites under a pseudonym under the guidance of the studio boss, Frank King boisterously played by John Goodman (The Gambler, Barton Fink). Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) pops up looking suitably glamorous as the Hollywood actress turned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who ambivalently supports the Communist witch hunt and soon suspects that Trumbo is indeed writing Oscar winning screenplays under another screen writer’s name.

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The Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck romance Roman Holiday was credited to Ian McLellan Hunter, played by Alan Tudyk in Trumbo, but was actually written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Roman Holiday won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and went to McLellan Hunter acting as Trumbo’s front.

In steps Kirk Douglas played by Dean O’ Gorman who secretly approaches Trumbo to write a screenplay about a man taking on the world. That film was to become the blockbuster Spartacus.

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Besides the cinematic historical value of Trumbo, the injustices he suffered both personally and artistically, what carries Jay Roach’s film, is Bryan Cranston (Argo) who never falters in his brilliant portrayal of the legendary Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo is a brilliant film, perhaps slightly uneven at times, but a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to get his name cleared and eventually receive the recognition from Hollywood that he deserves, especially for his talented contribution to film.

Trumbo is highly recommended viewing especially for cineastes and film historians, a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood in the 1950’s and the persecution of intellectuals by the American government of the time, whose paranoia concerning the cold war with Russia reached unreasonable proportions.

 

Noble Stags

Last Vegas

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Director: Jon Turteltaub

Stars: Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Michael Ealy, Mary Steenburgen, Roger Bart, Romany Malco, Curtis Jackson, Joanna Gleason, Jerry Ferrara

Four Oscar winners team up for The Hangover with Pensions version aptly titled Last Vegas. Veteran Hollywood stars Michael Douglas (Wall Street, The Game), Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents), Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption) and Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Big Chill) play four friends in the autumn of their lives who reunite 58 years later for a debauched bachelor party in Sin City as one of them prepares to marry a bride half his age in a bid to retain his vanity.

National Treasure Director Jon Turteltaub’s comedy about men in their seventies who rediscover the spunk in them is both hilarious and poignant as Last Vegas charts the character journey of these friends, referred to in 1950’s Brooklyn as the Flatbush Four, when they were kids stealing a bottle of Whisky named Noble Stags from a drugstore.

As the gang reunite 58 years later for an explosive Vegas weekend, it’s the  brilliant scenes between smooth talking Billy played by Douglas and mean looking and grumpy Paddy played by De Niro, that stand out in this comedy. Both these hugely talented actors flesh out their onscreen characters in Last Vegas who share a rivalry and a bitterness dating back to a mutual infatuation with a childhood sweetheart. That rivalry is reignited when they meet has been Vegas Lounge singer Diana wonderfully played by the glamorous Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal, Philadelphia).

In between the rivalry between these two, is Kline’s character Sam who has been given a hallpass by his wife to get laid in Vegas and Freeman’s character Archie who develops a winning streak at the roulette table in an effort to escape his smothering son Ezra played by Michael Ealy.

If the fountains at The Bellagio were for rejuvenating then this film is definitely a mature version of  the hugely successful The Hangover trilogy with ample jokes about prostate, hair transplants and Viagra as the Flatbush four conquer Vegas from poolside Bikini Contests, to roulette to a fabulous Bachelor’s party whose guests include acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, strippers and Drag Queens (look out for a wonderful cameo by TV actor Roger Bart (Revenge, Desperate Housewives) along with Rapper turned actor 50 Cents (Curtis Jackson) of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ fame.

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Last Vegas proves that it’s never too late to have fun especially in Vegas and at the expense of the naive and youthful, embodied in the character of Dean superbly played by Jerry Ferrara of Entourage TV series fame. This is a wonderful and hilarious comedy proving that all these Oscar winners especially Douglas and De Niro are still at the top of their game, helped by the ever talented Freeman and the expressive Kevin Kline.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoy a more mature and poignant comedy, less vulgar than The Hangover, but just as funny. Last Vegas definitely promises a sequel especially with the onscreen chemistry of these four versatile Hollywood stars.

 

 

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