Tag Archives: transformers

The Acting Masterclass #1 – John Turturro

They only pay for the Jewfro


Turturro’s an actor I first became aware of during a viewing of The Big Lebowski, one of his multiple collaborations with Joel and Ethan Coen. His character, ‘Jesus’, a minimal antagonist, would eventually become a cult icon in fandom. The infamous ‘ball-licking’ scene is one of the most memorable and often referenced shots in the entire movie.  The bowling alley-set scene is also greatly remembered for the tirade of Hispanic sleaze directed toward The Dude and Walter to a Mexicanized version of The Eagle’s classic ‘Hotel California’ (to which they appear both aloof and disgusted). Subsequently, and hilariously, ‘Jesus’ is revealed to be a ‘pedarast’.

Now, not only is that the first time i saw John Turturro on-screen, but it’s also my favourite. However, after digging around for other works I was surprised to find the much of his resume were of more dramatic roles, such as the sublime ‘Barton Fink’ and ‘Miller’s Crossing’, both of course from the Coens back catalogue, the hugely overlooked ‘Quiz Show’ and Spike Lee’s acclaimed but controversial ‘Do The Right Thing’.

For me, Turturro’s comfort zone is in that of a role where a character is defined by his mannerisms, the movements and expressions. His ‘goofish’ appearance and easy-to-improv accent make him as recognisable as some of Hollywood’s greats. Comparatively, his dramatic roles have a subtle unsuspected hint of a humorous tone  – conclusively rendering him a sympathetically down-trodden figure. His downfall in the Gabriel Byrne-led ‘Miller’s Crossing’ is perhaps one of his most ‘laughably sympathetic’.

His most famously acclaimed performance comes from ‘Barton Fink’, where, as the titular character, Turturro’s world is turned upside down and is left in a state of sheer despair, panic and confusion through the shocking turn of events after such optimism and luck begin to rear. The performance suitably aided by the film’s almost impending feeling of disaster or catastrophe. It’s in roles of this nature, and thematically dim narratives, where John’s exudate of his real capability shows.

In more recent years, Turturro has become more known for his turns in the 3 Michael Bay Transformer movies. Portraying an annoying, hard-ass that becomes an annoying, hard-ass that helps Shia Leboeuf. (Come on admit it…) Painfully reminding me of the recent work of Robert De Niro – the pandering to studio executive and P.R pressures. Still, John Turturro, to this day, continues to be one of the most competent Italian-American actors of our generation.


#6 ‘Avatar’ (2009)

...Be vewy vewy quiet...


*Sam Worthington

*Zoe Saldana

*Sigourney Weaver

*Giovanni Ribisi

*Stephen Lang

Director: – James Cameron


Avatar, is a 2009 sci-fi adventure flick written and directed by the King of The World himself, Mr James Cameron. After an original treatment written back over 15 years ago, and at a time where Cameron believed film technology at the time would not be sufficient enough, he put it on the back-burner until a later time where further advancements had been made. It was finally produced and released in IMAX 3D around theaters in the winter of 2009 to an overwhelming array of acclaim. The highest opening weekend ever, worldwide.

Not bad at all.

A staggering $2,782,206,970 dollars in revenue from a near-mere $237 million dollar budget. No doubt at all, this was Jim’s gold standard. With widespread acclaim from movie-goers, and a re-release that has already made $9 million dollars at the box office – Who’s to say that this film isn’t anything but spectacular?


Avatar is by no stretch a ‘bad’ film. It’s very much the opposite – Some stunning visuals (computers), nice looking alien characters (computers) and some breathtaking action sequences (computers). Ok, you see where I’m heading now… In seriousness, yeah it looks absolutely superb. Every last detail rendered has been carefully fine-tuned for maximised performance – Mr Cameron certainly had a dedicated team working on this puppy.

So, unless you’ve been under a rock the last two years – Essentially, Avatar tells the story of a Government military-run mining colony on a moon called ‘Pandora’, which is populated by the Na’avi, a native alien species. Main protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a young paraplegic (I forget how.. If we was given exposition I missed it) chosen in lieu of his deceased brother by the military and finding house and home with the Na’avi after being tasked by ‘Military General stereotype’, portrayed by Stephen Lang, to infiltrate a Na’avi camp to learn more about them in preparation for a full-scale attack. The invasion is all in the name of retrieving a powerful element, known as ‘unobtanium’ – A precious mineral.

There’s not a lack of entertainment here with Avatar. It’s stylish, pretty focussed on what it sets out to achieve and delivers the all-too familiar ‘Cameron conclusion’. It does however do its best to bind together two kinds of movies together… You do start to question subconsciously if you’re watching a sci-fi action movie or a Disney film. All the same, the Computer-Generated landscape visuals are very realistic in their several bit-appearances (for obvious filler) in the film. But it’s the Pandora forests/plant life animations that are the letdown. Too ‘fantastical’ and… magical(?). It totally sets itself apart from most of the other sequences in the film, and I felt like it was comfortable being an ambiguously stylised cartoon, rather than creating a smart, more thoughtful film with substance. The action/sci-fi scenes are very cool and worthy of its futuristic setting – most notably Sigourney Weaver’s scenes in the research labs. But it is very much tarnished by some of the ominous CG sequences…Something which I personally despise in any film or television show.

I could go on about how much Avatar has ripped off ‘Dances With Wolves’ and ‘Pocahontas’ til I’m blue in the face (heh heh). But to be brutally honest, even if I hadn’t had seen those films previously – the story is still very basic, very predictable and very, very boring. The characteristics of the Na’avi are pretty shocking, border-line racist, with a hint of irony thrown in aswell. It’s an obvious political-bashing from James Cameron and maybe it would’ve found some resonance with me ten years ago – But life goes on. I guess all we can do now is wait for the expected sequels to reign our 2014 winter….


#5 ‘District 9’ (2009)

Get on the barby... Time for munch



*Sharlto Copley

*Jason Cope

*David James

Director:- Neill Blomkamp

Distrct 9 is a feature film evolved from the 2005 short – ‘Alive In Joburg’, directed by Neill Blomkamp. It tells the story of a stranded Alien race, who have been forced to live in sheltered, monitored camps overseen by the South African government and military. And of course, their struggle to return to their home world.

I watched the film when it was first released in cinemas in the UK, and I found it a very enjoyable film. The factors were mainly down to its setting and not adhering to the generic big USA city locations that we’re used to seeing on sci-fi/action movies. Not to mention that the film was extremely well-produced for only a budgeted $30 million dollars. I didn’t really take the time to pick out much in terms of the performances of the actors, or any underlying plot points that I may have missed out on.

I watched it again, twice in the last 10 days.

It’s absolutely astounding how a strong, positive opinion on a film can change with repeat viewings.

It’s really difficult to pinpoint one thing that District 9 struck badly with me. It’s a lot of small, niggling little aspects that began to grate slowly and steadily against my quarter-century brain. Again, minimal/hardly any spoiler here while I carefully dissect this one.

The main character is African bureaucrat for a private military company, Wikus (last name I will not attempt to spell), who is charged with the duty of unceremoniously removing the alien immigrants from their location in District 9, to District 10. But after an accident at one of the shelters, Wikus begins to resonate and form an understanding with the aliens (derogatorily nicknamed ‘prawns’ due to their similarity in appearance), and also is faced with their own struggle. Copley, who portrays Wikus in his firs big acting role, brings a degree of humour to his character’s obviously difficult mission, but his lack of experience in this kind of big(ish) budget flick does show very prominently. It was enough to bag him a role in A-Team, but I’m almost certain that this will be a serious case of typecast Hollywood. It’s a real shame.

The most obvious thing that was completely oblivious to me at first viewing, was that District 9’s story is such a tried a tested formula. Although it has been tweaked in places to give an audience the impression that it was something completely fresh and original. It really, really isn’t.

From the outset, we see a holding camp for aliens that crash landed on Earth…. That’s the straight-to-the-point concept and story of the movie, it’s what we have to go on. It IS an interesting take on a tale that has been told for decades.

 However, there’s a broad, or more obvious hint that the structure of this film is built around the concept of several different genres of film and camera work. From the beginning, District 9 appears to take an almost ‘mockumentary’ tone – With a lone cameraman supported by crew that follow Wikus as he visits the camp accommodation of the stranded species. Which is what I initially perceived this film to progress with. Almost without warning, the film then takes a different spin, and the narrative is akin to sci-fi television programme ‘Alien Nation’. Where we see the ‘prawns’ living their lives in Johannesburg through conventional camera work.

The film (minor spoiler) culminates with a CGI, Transformers style battle sequence. Which further ‘alienates’ (heh heh) us from what this film is really trying to be, let alone what message it’s attempting to give.

I can say what I want about blatant plagiarism, stolen ideas, homages etc. But District 9, aside from its huge merits in some areas of originality, interesting concepts and ideas – seems to be a confused, muddled mess of a sci-fi drama (or actioner, or documentary – you decide…). Without much emotive support from non-lead cast, or convincing reasonings behind the actions of the antagonists – it’s a fairly watchable couple of hours for a non-repeater.


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