BOP 25 of the Holidays 2008: 5-1

By BOP Staff

October 10, 2008

In Mickey Rourke's defense, he doesn't look any more ridiculous than Hulk Hogan. 5) The Wrestler

"You're a really great actor, and you've just fucked up your career for 15 years and nobody wants to hire you."

These are the words of brutal honesty and wisdom that seduced Mickey Rourke into portraying The Wrestler. Director Darren Aronofsky looked the former amateur boxer in the eye and leveled with him in a way that penetrated the foundation of his psyche. Few people remember it now but the hard-scrabble actor showed tremendous promise in the 1980s with powerful turns in such films as Barfly, Diner, Angel Heart and Body Heat. The good life and the forbidden fruits it afforded Rourke did more harm than good to him, causing the already obfuscating man to flitter away in obscurity. Most of the news involving Rourke over the past two decades has been TMZ-worthy, yet now the actor has delivered a performance that all who have seen it agree is Oscar-worthy.

Hollywood loves a good rags to riches story, and Rourke has almost reached the end of his second arc in this regard. After spending the 1990s repeatedly embarrassing himself, Rourke offered a remarkable performance in Sin City that reminded people of the promise he held in Diner in 1982. With a breathtaking turn in The Wrestler, his Hollywood redemption is complete.

For himself, Aronofsky was fresh off a befuddling failure in and of itself, The Fountain. He wanted to do something to recapture his quickly fading glory as well. A decision to make a movie about a past-his-prime pro wrestler may have seemed an odd choice at the time, but the movie is reminding some people of Rocky and others of Raging Bull. None of the BOP staff managed to catch the film on the festival circuit yet, leaving us all speculating about whether it's as good as the already out-of-control buzz. Whether the movie is great or not, we already feel certain that this is the type of role Rourke should have been doing all along, one that plays well to his rough and ragged persona.

The Wrestler has one other aspect that intrigues our staff. In 1999, Barry W. Blaustein's documentary about the world of professional wrestling, Beyond the Mat, showed a shocking world of formerly famous athletes. The plights of people like Terry Funk and (particularly) Jake "The Snake" Roberts were heartbreaking examples that these men sacrifice their bodies in order to offer temporary pleasure to their audience. As they grow older, the ones who have not saved their money wind up in constant pain yet are in need of further performances. They are constantly seeking matches in order to gain a few hundred dollars and some acclaim where they can find it. A fictional take on that world is one that should have happened sooner than nine years after Beyond the Mat. Finally, The Wrestler arrives to capitalize on the promise of that idea. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I'm just saying, you don't see the head of David Frost ruling Futurama. 4) Frost/Nixon

In the years following the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation from the Presidency, his legacy was still, amazingly, a little up for debate. In 1977, Nixon granted a series of interviews to British satirist/journalist David Frost (think: Jon Stewart) in an attempt to revive his image with the public. The thought was that the master manipulator could easily overpower this journalistic lightweight and basically make himself into the wronged party. Did it work? Well, not
so much. Although appearing overmatched, Frost ended up basically getting Nixon to admit he was a crook, sealing his reputation forever. This film, directed by Ron Howard, is a retelling of those interviews, including the behind the scenes wrangling. Based on the play by Peter Morgan (writer of the Queen), it reunites the original stage stars, Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost, to portray those roles on screen. You wonder how many people are really interested in rehashing a 30-year-old debate, but in today's political climate, and with another unpopular Republican president leaving office, this might seem more relevant than ever. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

She 3) Zack and Miri Make a Porno

BOP likes Kevin Smith. Maybe you've heard. In fact, there was a humorous exchange on the View Askew board a few years ago wherein one of our writers suddenly realized a person using a different alias on that board was also a writer for our staff. Back when the Internet was young, View Askew had already established itself as one of the best hangouts for movie fans on the web. Smith's frequent interaction with his fans was a breath of fresh air in a time prior to the ubiquity of Facebook/MySpace fanclubs. Our staff not only enjoyed his movies, but we liked what a natural grasp he had on the evolving nature of communication. Fast forward to now and we are a couple of the few movie sites from 1990s to have lasted through the changing nature of the Internet. That gives us a further feeling of kindred spirit with the tubby dude from Jersey who does sophomoric comedy so well.

And now that guy is making a porno. Well, he's making a movie about people making a porno, which isn't quite the same, but it does afford endless comedy potential. We are a bit concerned about the lack of big laughs in the trailer, but the pizza delivery guy dance sequence with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks has us convinced the tone is perfect. In reality, they probably cannot show the funniest stuff on television. What matters is that the idea of a couple of poor roommates embarking on a fledgling amateur pornography career is one that is cropping up in households across North America (and how scary is that?). This gives Team Askew ample opportunity for broad humor involving sexual misconceptions and universalities, something that has always been a specialty of Mr. Smith. For anyone who remembers the war wounds comparison scene in Chasing Amy, the idea of an entire movie along those lines is welcome. Zach and Miri Make a Porno is in many ways the movie Kevin Smith was predestined to create, and BOP cannot wait to see it. (David Mumpower/BOP)
If he does look like this when he's older, Angelina is going back to Billy Bob. 2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This movie looks more Tim Burton-like than David Fincher-like, but either way, its trailers are terrific. Brad Pitt stars in the film as a man who is born as a senior citizen, then ages in reverse. Naturally, this makes his life quite strange, as the people who come into his life are outgrowing him in maturity by leaps and bounds as the years pass. One would imagine that this would cause particular complications when it comes to romance.

Unlike Fincher's previous R-rated work, Benjamin Button is rated PG-13, which means it's going to be a lot more accessible to a wider audience. Pitt can be up and down with regards to serious roles (Meet Joe Black, anyone?) but we're thinking this one looks like it's capturing the melancholy that comes with the long passage of time - and our inability to stop it. In addition to Pitt, there are some pretty awesome names in the cast, from perennial Academy Award nominee Cate Blanchett to last year's Oscar winner for Supporting Actress, Tilda Swinton.

Since this is a Fincher film, we fully expect him to explore some of the darker elements of the story as opposed to making it the saccharine confection that it could easily become. Since the director's previous film, Zodiac, was all but ignored during awards season, perhaps this one will be the one to finally find Oscar acclaim. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Every detail of Bond's appearance was carefully scrutinized by focus groups. 1) The Quantum of Solace

After Pearce Brosnan was pushed out of the James Bond franchise, there were a lot of skeptics wondering if Daniel Craig, who had primarily been featured in indie flicks, would be up to the task of making the superspy accessible to a 21st Century audience. Indeed he was, as Casino Royale, the first film featuring Craig in the Bond role, earned $167.4 million in North America with another $420.6 million coming from international markets. It would be the most successful Bond film ever.

Critics were onboard with this assessment, too. Casino Royale is somewhat different than the majority of the earlier Bond flicks, which were all about flashy style, cool gadgets and sex appeal. All of those things were still present in Casino Royale; however, it was a darker and grittier take on the character than we'd ever seen in the past. Bad things happen, and the hero suffers for them. He breaks some rules, but not in that fun, tongue-in-cheek way we'd grown accustomed to seeing. Craig comes off as brutish but suave, and it really works for the character as we see him consistently moving forward.

Craig returns for the newest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, and things essentially pick up right where they left off in Casino Royale. Bond is still dealing with the loss of his lover, and has his sights set on vengeance. It just so happens that his personal vendetta has some intersection with his current assignment, which means that Bond has to deal with some demons even as he attempts to solve a case.

BOP definitely lined up with critics on the subject of Casino Royale. It received a number of votes when it came to our year-end awards (though it did miss the top ten), while Craig did place in the top ten for Best Actor. We're sold on the fact that he can deliver the goods. There is one important difference from Casino Royale to Quantum of Solace, and that is the director. Whereas Martin Campbell directed the first film, Marc Forster is the helmer for this project. His resume includes Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner, and he should definitely have a unique touch when it comes to this character and story. We're completely looking forward to another wild ride. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

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