Charlize Theron is the queen of action right now in Hollywood, which isn’t a bad title to attain after 20 years playing mostly deeply serious character roles. Theron, who is originally from South Africa, doesn’t have as deep a resume as some of the actresses from her generation, but it’s not lack of talent that prevents her, more a tendency to take on misguided “message” projects that fall flat. Additionally, if you look for Monster among her 10 Best, you won’t find it as it is one of the few films in my life I’ve walked out of because I found it so deeply unpleasant. Doesn’t mean that she wasn’t outstanding in her acting; just means that there’s only so much hooker/serial killer I can take (and from the eventual director of Wonder Woman….who knew?). She’s on a serious career upswing in the wake of stealing Mad Max: Fury Road (where’s our Furiosa spin-off?) and re-establishing her action dominance in Atomic Blonde. She looks 20 years younger than her actual age, and can beat you up, so it’s unlikely this actress is going to fall prey to the gender wall that eats so many careers. I’d like to see her do more comedy though. She has great timing, and that’s something you can’t teach.
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Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Oscar nominated actor, passed away this week from complications from ALS at the age of 73. Shepard was never a glamorous actor. He rarely had starring roles; he preferred to work as part of an ensemble. His most memorable role was his only Oscar nomination, playing test pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983’s The Right Stuff. He was an actor who worked more and got progressively better roles as he aged, his next-to-last coming in the acclaimed Netflix series Bloodlines as the patriarch of the troubled Rayburn family. He also was outstanding in the mini-series adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s sequel to Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo. “Presence” is a quality you either intrinsically have as an actor or are constantly working to manufacture. For Shepard, it was effortless. RIP.
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Tom Hardy has, for an actor only 15 or so years into his career, put together a top 10 list of projects that would be the lifetime envy of most. Rarely the leading man, Hardy seems most comfortable in a high-class ensemble where he can build indelible characters that steal movies. Even before he became part of the “Nolan Troupe”, joining the director for Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Dunkirk, Hardy was firmly established as a consummate character actor. Even in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, in which he’s the title character, he was content to let Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steal the movie while he provided the constant and the result was the Academy actually nominated a cool movie for Best Picture. Hardy is one of many actors that had their first high-profile role in Band of Brothers (one of the five best things ever to air on TV) along with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and others. Hardy doesn’t stick just to films, having returned to TV for the massively underrated Peaky Blinders and beginning his own starring vehicle in FX’s Taboo. He’s a chameleon (compare skinny Band of Brothers Hardy with Bane), but at the core of all of his characters is a fierce anger that sometimes burns hot or cold, but it’s always an asset to whatever project he’s undertaking.
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Scarlett Johansson isn’t even in her mid-thirties and she’s already put together a huge resume of quality dramatic, action, and vocal work. Her five outings as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have made her the highest-profile female super hero (who NEEDS HER OWN MOVIE), and is probably the best female action star working today. Her voice is so distinct and versatile that she could float out the rest of her career just doing voice over work (Jungle Book, Her, Sing). She’s been acting since her teens so her resume already has over 50 films to it, and her versatility allows her to do so many different kinds of roles that she’ll no doubt be able to skirt Hollywood’s female age ceiling as her career continues to develop.
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Michael Keaton was one of the biggest stars of the 1980s and has enjoyed a career renaissance thirty years later. With a stellar resume of both comedic and dramatic roles, Keaton has laid down landmark performances in both the DC (Batman) and Marvel (Vulture) film universes, and his only Oscar nomination came in 2015 from playing a washed-up super hero actor in 2014’s Birdman. He’s been an anchor voice in two Pixar films: Cars and Toy Story 3, and was Tim Burton’s go-to actor before Burton and Johnny Depp mutually ruined each other’s careers. Keaton will be reuniting with Burton for the director’s live-action adaptation of Dumbo for Disney. With dramatic roles in films like The Founder and Spotlight, it would be great if someone could find a showcase for his comedic skills, because Keaton’s timing is a thing of beauty. At any rate, it’s fantastic that Michael Keaton is a big star again. Movies are better for it.
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