THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD - Horrible title aside, this low budget production about the murder of famous outlaw Jesse James is not only a solid entry in the western genre, but also a showcase for Pitt and Casey Affleck, who steals basically every scene he is in. A film such as this is a tough sell for mass audiences, as are most westerns in general. What made this an even more difficult sell was the slow pace at which it was filmed, however, this deliberate pacing was necessary to the overall feel of the film. The events of the final 3 months of the life of Jesse James are quite interesting and director Andrew Dominik does a fine job building up to the inevitable conclusion. The film does have a few flaws, as some sequences do drag out a bit too long, but overall James is a solid western and it features some of the best cinematography ever seen.
(tie) 10. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE – Tom Cruise basically stole the show from everyone involved with this film just by being cast as Vampire Lestat. There was quite an uproar amongst fans upon hearing of his casting, but he delievered a solid performance and quickly quieted naysayers. Equally impressive was Pitt, who plays Louis with great focus and determination. Louis is Lestat’s understudy in the film, and at the time of it’s release, the same could be said for Pitt and Cruise. Tom had already established himself as a Hollywood heavyweight who tackled challenging roles leading up to Interview. Pitt was just getting his career off and running and this was the type of film that boosted his marquee appeal. Fine performances all around and solid directing by Neil Jordan, IWTV managed to become a monster hit despite the initial backlash against the casting of Cruise. The film stays true to the source material and the end result is quite entertaining. Rating:
(tie) 10. TROY – I may get a few comments regarding putting this big budget flick in the top 10, but I like it. Director Wolfgang Petersen spared no expense with this lavish production of Homer’s epic story. Why do I enjoy this film so much? Well, first off, the casting is phenomenal. Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Brian Cox, and Diane Kruger all suit there roles perfectly. Bloom is more than annoying as Paris, the man who is truly responsible for the demise of Troy, but he is supposed to be. Bana is more than convincing as Hector, the older brother who aims to set things right. But the star attraction is Brad. He seems born to play this role, even if he is really more of a physical prescence than anything else. I won’t say this is up there with Brad’s best acting efforts (in fact, it’s not even close), but the physicality he shows throughout the film is quite impressive. You believe that he is this great warrior, Achilles. Achilles is cold and ruthless, yet at the end, shows love for Briseis, which goes against everything he appears to be. Ultimately, it leaves him vulnerable and leads to his death. The film itself is quality entertainment with several tense moments. It’s beautifully shot and features top notch CGI and well choreographed fight sequences. Rating:
6. LEGENDS OF THE FALL – One of the biggest surprises, at least for me, of 1994 is this tale of a trio of brothers and their father and how their lives are affected by history, nature, love, and war. On the surface, the film appears to be the ultimate ‘chick’ flick, but there is much more going on within it’s story. Fine performances by Aidan Quinn as the smart, political, somewhat less than confident older brother Alfred; Henry Thomas, as the naive, inexperienced younger brother Samuel; Julia Ormond as the love torn Susannah; and of course, Anthony Hopkins, as father Ludlow, who obviously has more of a fondness for his middle son Tristan (Pitt) than he does his other boys. Probably, because Tristan reminds him of a younger version of himself. Tristan has no rules. He comes and goes as he pleases. He rough, rugged, and he is the balance between Samuel and Alfred. Once Samuel dies in war, Tristan who takes the blame, becomes a different beast. It is at this moment where Pitt completely takes over the film. He is given a chance to show a wide range of emotions and he nails each one of them. Anger, pain, heartbreak, joy, and revenge consume the man. I will admit that some of the scenes borderline on ‘cheesy’, especially when Hopkins overacts a bit toward the end after having a stroke, but the film impresses nonetheless. The cinematography is phenomenal and director Edward Zwick gets the most out of the scenery and his actors. Legends made Pitt a star…and he didn’t look back. Rating:
5. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS – For an actor, just the idea of being in a Quentin Tarantino film has to be exciting. Hell, I would love to just be on set to watch the man in action. He is one of the best filmmakers and honestly has yet to make a film that I wouldn’t give my recommendation to. Tackling the Nazi subject seems like something made for his eccentric talents and Basterds plays out perfectly to his skills. As always, Quentin gathers a phenomenal cast to bring his vision to the big screen, all lead by Pitt’s Aldo Raine. Due to the subject matter, having a star such as Pitt headline the picture was a smart move. Brad, once again, shows his range here as he delivers another great accent to go with a memorable character. This will also be known as the film that launched the great Christoph Waltz’s career. Waltz is the star of the show as his screen presence is undeniably strong. Yes, we all know that these events didn’t take place as depicted in the film, but Tarantino’s take on the subject is fun to watch and the dialogue is just as clever as it is in his other projects. Rating:
4. OCEAN’S TRILOGY - The Oceans films have a few characters that provide comic relief in them. In fact, nearly all of the characters do at some point during the trilogy, but Pitt’s Rusty Ryan does this from the very first time we see him on-screen in the first film. In a series that features more than just a handful of stars, Pitt stands out for several reasons. Yes, Clooney is the man in charge, the title character and he does great work as well, but Pitt handles his role with such ease, it’s almost like he’s not even trying to be the character. It looks like he is just being himself. It these types of films that make me want to see Brad do more comedy. He’s really good at it. The fact that his Rusty Ryan is the best dresser of the group and is constantly eating something are just two traits of the character. Rusty is smart…smooth…and determined to pull of the heist (whatever that particular heist may be). I enjoy all three of these films…they are a lot of fun to watch. Director Steven Soderbergh gets the most out of his cast here and you can tell that the entire group is having a blast. Rating:
3. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – I still say this film was robbed of a Best Picture Oscar in 2009 (the year the Awards aired) and I will continue to stand by that statement. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire and it is the ultimate feel good, rags to riches film, but overall, I prefer Button for a few reasons. The script is incredible, the acting is some of the best I’ve ever seen (and not just from Pitt, although he does amazing work here), the cinematography is top notch, and the direction is outstanding. Director David Fincher refrains from going too dark and over the top here and he lets the heartwarming, yet heartbreaking story of a man who ages backwards carry the film with it’s own powerful message. Eric Roth, the man who wrote Forrest Gump, gives us a screenplay that pulls at the heartstrings. The movie also features groundbreaking CGI, and it incorporates the events of Hurricane Katrina into it’s storyline. A lot was made of Pitt’s performance when the film came out in late 2008. Some said “most of it is CGI and not actually him”. Well, that’s just not accurate. Pitt made the expressions, voiced the character, and acted the part as if there were no effects whatsoever. His subtle, touching performance was nothing less than extraordinary. Perhaps all of the ‘Oscar’ hype surrounding the film prior to it’s release led it’s demise as it lost steam leading into February 2009, when the nominations were announced. It’s a shame…this truly is a great film. Rating:
2. SE7EN- A film that definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. Brad’s first collaboration with director David Fincher is not only suspense filled, but takes the term ‘sick’ to a whole other level. The story revolves around two detectives, a rookie (Pitt) and a veteran (Morgan Freeman), who hunt a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) that uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi. Cleverly written by Andrew Kevin Walker and brilliantly directed by Fincher, this is one of those rare films that truly does ‘build’ to a satisfying climax. Now, for those who have seen it, and I’m sure most of you have, it doesn’t have a cheerful ending and let’s be thankful that it doesn’t. It definitely wouldn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. No, Fincher doesn’t let the audience down by giving us a ‘happy’ conclusion. The film is dark, sick, twisted and the last act only re-certifies the insanity of our serial killer. Kevin Spacey’s magnificent turn as John Doe is a man with a purpose…albeit a disgusting one. In the end, he wants to make our hero pay for his sin, and it what might be one of the most heart pumping finales in film history, gets his wish. Morgan Freeman, as always, gives a knockout performance as veteran, on the edge of retirement cop Somerset, while Pitt does fine portraying the in over his head, too eager rookie cop, David Mills. Even from the beginning, the audience knows where this film is headed…it’s dark and gloomy, but Fincher makes you feel horribly bad for Pitt’s detective. That’s why the ending has such a disturbing and lasting impact on the viewer. Rating:
1. FIGHT CLUB – Some hate it, others think it’s one of the greatest film achievements of all time. I’m in the latter. The film didn’t exactly do gangbusters when it debuted back in 1999, but since then has developed kind of an underground following, so to speak. It’s not for everyone though. Some scenes are extremely graphic, there are nice chunks of nudity throughout, and the overall dark, grungy tone of it turned some viewers off. I completely understand this, but in my opinion, Fincher delivers his best film to date here and Pitt gives a solid performance. If you have ever seen the film (and if you haven’t, go rent it NOW!), then you know there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. In fact, the entire final act really throws the audience for a loop. Edward Norton is the narrator and star of the film. His life takes a major turn when he meets a man named Tyler Durden while returning from a business trip. He is impressed with Tyler and his energy. Tyler takes him in and eventually the both of them create an underground ‘fight club’. As events of the film unfold, we get a sense that Norton’s character is not quite ready for the lifestyle that Durden has in store for him and conflict arises. The film features several standout performances from Helena Bonham Carter, Meatloaf, and Jared Leto. But why is it my favorite Pitt film? Because it has the ultimate cool factor and it allows Brad to give a stylistic, creative take on his character. I would also say that this is Norton’s best work to date (well, tied with American History X). Pitt is having a lot of fun here and the big twist at the end only solidifies how unique and different Fight Club truly is. In the 12 years since it’s release, I still have yet to see anything like it. Besides being dark, as most of Fincher’s films are, it is very smart and makes bold statements against our modern consumer driven society. As Tyler Durden says…”It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” It’s the key theme to the film…and it’s a theme that is driven home by the actors and the filmmakers. In my opinion, Fight Club is a masterpiece. Rating:
Brad Pitt is the consistently working actor. Even with all of the humanitarian efforts and raising six children, he manages to turn out quality films, year after year. Brad currently has a few projects in the works, most notably World War Z, which is based on the popular novel by Max Brooks. He plays the lead character, Gerry Lane. The film is currently scheduled for a Christmas 2012 release. Following his voice over work in last year’s hit Megamind, Brad’s voice will also be heard again in this November’s Happy Feet Two. Next year, he will re-team with his Jesse James director, Andrew Dominik, for Cogan’s Trade (see photo below), where he portrays Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. His latest effort, the critical darling Moneyball is currently in theaters and doing quite well. Tomorrow will see the release of the widely talked about, but little seen film he did with Sean Penn and director Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life.
Brad Pitt is one of the best actors in the business…hands down. His resume of films is quite impressive as are his humanitarian efforts. I admire the man for his choices of quality film roles and his dedication to his craft. Brad still has many more films ahead of him…and as I mentioned earlier, he will most definitely grab that Best Actor Oscar someday in the near future. I look forward to all of his films upon hearing of a new one in the making. If you get the chance to go to the theater in the next couple of weeks, I highly recommend checking out his latest effort – Moneyball. It’s actually a great family film, as well as a great sports film.