Friday, 27 August 2010

Rose-tinted Nostalgia: Gary Busey.

Ah, Gary Busey. Internet meme, running punchline and scary, scary man. He's one of the stars the internet has latched onto and created a whole new mystique and fanbase for. Sure, he's not quite up there with Christopher Walken and Chuck Norris, but he's getting there. After all, you know you've made it on the internet when you have your very own popular spoof twitter account.

Busey's popularity seems to be largely down to the fact that he acts completely insane and seems to embrace his unhinged image with open arms. Its actually pretty easy to forget that this guy has been in some pretty big movies. Hell, he was even Oscar nominated once upon a time.

There was once an age, not too long ago when Gary Busey was the go-to guy for a psychotic, villainous henchman. It was an age when action stars were action stars; wise-cracking, playing against the rules, and sporting very, very bad hair. It was also an age when Busey hadn't quite descended into self parody.

In Lethal Weapon and Under Siege, Busey got to ham it up as a bad guy in two of the most popular action movies of the 80's and 90's. He was a minor star, popping up in big movies like Point Break and Predator 2. He was even given a shot at playing the action hero himself, although the less said about films like Bulletproof the better. But all in all, Busey, despite the toothy grin and tendency to overact had enough respect in Hollywood to get some big parts. When he was given some decent scenery to chew, he was pretty damn good at it as well.

Nobody really takes Gary Busey seriously now. However, despite being a very, ahem, unorthodox actor, he was once wanted. Maybe Mr. Stallone should have given him a call too....

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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Everybody loves Michael J. Fox.

It is very rarely that I would get excited about a one episode guest star in a show I don't even watch. For Michael J. Fox, however, I will make an exception. Yup, according to Entertainment Weekly Marty McFly himself is to make an appearance in "The Good Wife" playing a "shrewd and cynical litigator" who exploits the symptoms of his neurological condition to his own advantage. I cannot claim to be an expert on "The Good Wife" but this really is good news.

Fox semi-retired from acting nearly ten years ago now to concentrate on his family and finding a cure for Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with back in 1991 (although he did no go public with it until 1998). Whilst his reasons were very understandable, it was a sad loss for the entertainment industry. Fox's condition has limited him, but he remains one of the funniest and most likeable actors around. Of course, the glimmer of hope in his decision was the fact that it was a semi-retirement rather than an outright departure from the limelight.

Michael J. Fox has worked fairly regularly as a guest star throughout the last ten years. His characters now have to incorporate the limitations of his condition but his talent has always shone through. Fox's appearance in "Scrubs" as an obsessive compulsive super doctor in 2004 came at a point when the show was arguably peaking. For much of the two episodes he appears in, the surrounding characters seem to be inspired and in awe of the doctor he plays. This, I would imagine, required very little acting from Zach Braff and co. Fox is one of the most popular actors around; audiences have liked him for his nice-guy image long before Marty Mcfly burst onto our screens in Back to the Future way back in 1985. Not only that, but the attitude and awareness raised since his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease has been inspirational.

It is true that Michael J. Fox has bigger and far more important battles to fight than pursuing his acting career, but it is always good to hear that he is working again, even if it is the occasional one-off guest appearance. Viewers young and old are not going to forget him in a hurry and I can't imagine anyone being upset to see him popping up in their favourite show. I hope to see a lot more of him in the future.

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Friday, 20 August 2010

Meg Griffin has ruined Mila Kunis

So the Black Swan trailer has just been released and it looks like a pretty interesting project for Darren Aronofsky to follow up the critically-acclaimed The Wrestler with. Aside from the fairly obvious differences between wrestling and ballet, its a totally different project and could be crucial to the career of one of its stars: Mila Kunis. Kunis' star is on the rise and she's popped up in big budget films such as The Book of Eli and Max Payne but this could very well be the film that propels her into the Hollywood leading lady market.

I wouldn't have a problem with that. She's beautiful and though she hasn't exactly had a stellar role yet, there's another talent there to suggest she has a bright future; certainly enough for Aronofsky to cast her as Natalie Portman's rival in Black Swan. The only problem I have is a ridiculous one that I'm not particularly proud of; I can never suspend my disbelief with Kunis because all I can ever hear is Meg Griffin.

Kunis has voiced the character in "Family Guy" since its second season (eleven years ago now) and she is by no means the first, or last, film or television star to voice a character in a popular animated programme. Hank Azaria, for instance, has successfully juggled a film and television career alongside his voice work for "The Simpsons." It takes a lot of talent to voice animated characters successfully and even more to separate your own acting persona from that of your cartoon character. For most actors it's not a problem but whenever Kunis speaks in films all I see is Meg.

This is in no way Kunis' fault and she's at a distinct disadvantage here. Unlike a lot of voice actors, Kunis barely alters her voice for her character so its no surprise I would hear Meg every time she speaks. Then there's the fact that her character became famous before Kunis did; it's hardly as if we'd think of Patrick Stewart as that bloke out of "American Dad!" (if you do, you are a horrible, horrible human being). Then there's Meg Griffin herself. The writer's realised long ago that she was by far the most unpopular primary character and she's become a source of scorn and the butt of jokes for the rest of the family, often to good comic effect but without making her much more popular. Whereas sometimes it can be fun to hear a familiar voice in an acting role (Dan Castellaneta in "Arrested Development" springs to mind) hearing Meg's voice doesn't exactly fill me with joy.

I know this seems an incredibly trivial qualm to have, especially when Kunis is a long way from being like the character she portrays. But perhaps this is a challenge; if Black Swan really is to be her big break, maybe Mila Kunis can begin to grow as an actress to the point where the voice is no longer an issue.

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