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Fame Audit: Dustin Hoffman
NAME: Dustin Lee Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman is a great actor. For sure. No doubt.
The Graduate? Great movie. Midnight Cowboy? Great movie. All the President's Men? Great movie. Kramer vs. Kramer? Great movie. Tootsie? Great movie. Rain Man? So-so movie. But he's great in it. "Wapner...got to get home for Wapner." Ha! Great!
And that brings us up to Dustin Hoffman's career circa 1989.
Fast-forward to fall 2003, and as surely as the leaves are tumbling and the sun is slinking lower in the sky, we can welcome the arrival of a Dustin Hoffman Movie We Don't Want To See. This year, it's Runaway Jury. Last year, it was Moonlight Mile. Before that, it was Sphere...Mad City...Sleepers....Outbreak...Billy Bathgate...Hook...
In fact, can you remember the last time you wanted to see a Dustin Hoffman movie? Do you even care to see Dustin Hoffman onscreen ever again?
The 1970s produced four male acting titans: Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino. (Not to mention the underrated and overlooked Robert Duvall, who is to Pacino, De Niro, and Hoffman as John Steinbeck is to Hemingway, Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald). If you want to read the latest news on the current male acting titans, check out Hollywood Insider.
Pacino's turned into something of a screaming mimi, though he's always fun to watch and he still has great performances in him, as he proved in Insomnia and Glengarry Glen Ross. De Niro now basically coasts on a half-assed but well-executed imitation of his younger self. Hackman stars in thirty-six movies a year, the occasional one of which is actually great, such as Unforgiven and The Royal Tenenbaums, and the rest of which are Runaway Jury.
Dustin Hoffman, for his part, stars in Runaway Jury.
The weird thing is that Hoffman seems to have just sort of given up. At a certain point, right after Rain Man, his résumé drops off a cliff. And we're not even going to bring up the famous flopgasm that was Ishtar. Compared to his work in the 1990s, Ishtar was a triumph.
The last movie he made that even had a chance to be good was American Buffalo in 1996. And he did a nice job with his Robert Evans send-up in Wag the Dog. He even bagged an Oscar nomination (!) for it, even though the film was so slight and the part so brief that it felt more like a glorified cameo.
That's it. Nearly fifteen years worth of career equals one movie that could have been good, one nice comic cameo, and a whole lot of Mad City.
Where did it all go wrong? First of all, we have no clue who thought Hoffman would make a good action hero, but we can't imagine anyone, anywhere, clamouring to see him running around fighting menaces with a glass visor over his face, as he did in both Outbreak and Sphere.
Secondly, we wonder if he even reads the scripts that get FedExed over by his agent, and if so, why he keeps picking all the stinkers. He must get a few good offers, right? Did Mad City seem like a fresh social commentary on the page? Did he take the part to fulfill a lifelong dream of sharing the screen with John Travolta?
It's pointless to speculate why actors do what they do -- good intentions gone awry, projects gone off the rails, multiple alimony payments piling up, whatever. All we know is that not only do we not get excited for Dustin Hoffman movies -- we actively avoid them. And that makes us sad, because he's arguably made more great movies and delivered more great performances -- and of a wider variety -- than De Niro, Hackman, or Pacino. Yet we'll gladly run out to any of their movies, as long as they don't have the words "Rocky" and/or "Bullwinkle" in the title.
Hoffman, not so much.
It's gotten so bad that for one, disorienting moment we actually thought it was Hoffman that starred in Mrs. Doubtfire.
And it didn't sound so far off from the truth.
Current approximate level of fame: Marlon Brando
Deserved approximate level of fame: Martin Sheen
M. Night Shyamalan: The Previously Unpublished Diary
M. Night Shyamalan has endured unprecedented criticism for his new film, Lady in the Water -- criticism sharpened, perhaps, by the simultaneous release of a hagiographic book about the making of the film.
Only we, however, can bring you these never-before-published excerpts from the filmmaker's pre-production diaries, which provide crucial insights into his process, and his personality. You'll see the film in a whole new way -- or, better yet, not see the film for whole new reasons:
By the way, it should go without saying that this is a purely fictional piece and we actually aren’t privy to M. Night Shyamalan’s next flim (we wish). But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ones he’s put out already! Visit Hollywood Insider for reviews on the latest and greatest films worth watching from hollywood.
Now, without further ado, the notes of M. Night Shyamalan:
DEAR DIARY: Told my kids a bedtime story tonight -- I think this one has real potential. It's about a dumpy janitor who finds something at the bottom of the pool. What is it? Not sure yet -- but I love the pool idea. More later! Brain working!
DEAR DIARY Watched Splash tonight, tucked in the girls, and continued my bedtime tale. I'd drawn out the whole what's-at-the-bottom-of-the-pool thing as long as I could -- but then I came up with a corker! M. Night strikes again! It's -- wait for it -- one of these naked lady sea-monkey things! You know, a narf! Brilliant. Where do I get these ideas? I'm thinking this could be my next film, which for now I'll just call Untitled Shyamalan Masterpiece.
DEAR DIARY: Turns out the sea creatures are called "nymphs," but even so -- I like "narfs" better. Sounds kind of like a magical puppet -- or as I like to call them, "muppets." Note to self: write that down somewhere. And I've already got a title for my new film. Ready? Narfin'. Love it.
DEAR DIARY: Sketched out a few more ideas for Narfin' today. So the narf's at the bottom of a pool and her name is Genius. So she has to find this guy who's the biggest genius in the world, but he's doubting himself, because tiny, evil naysayers keep criticizing his last movie, called The Village. Not sure who'll play the genius in the movie. Maybe De Niro? Pacino? I'll put out some calls.
DEAR DIARY: So, looks like this film is a go. Just have to get Disney excited -- as if they won't be! From the director who brought you The Village...Signs...and what was that other one called? Untouchable? I always forget that one. "The next chapter in a storied career...Narfin'." "Storied" -- I like that. Story. Hmmm.
DEAR DIARY: Okay, here's the latest. The narf is named Story -- and she's come to tell a storyteller to keep telling stories, no matter what! Get it? Speaking of the storyteller, had a lunch with Pacino, but I don't know -- just doesn't have that "genius" vibe I'm looking for. Maybe Sir Laurence Olivier. Is that guy still alive?
DEAR DIARY: I'm thinking Daryl Hannah for the narf. She just seems perfect -- can't put my finger on why. Is she still alive?
DEAR DIARY: So, Disney seems a little lukewarm. Apparently, they're confused about Narfin's storyline. And they don't like the title. And some chick had to take her kid to a birthday party? Well, sorry, Disney -- looks like Narfin' is one gem you won't be finding at the bottom of your swimming pool! Assuming you're a dumpy janitor! Which you are, studio-wise!
DEAR DIARY: Been thinking about the bad guy in the film. To inspire myself, I rewatched The Village again. Damn! That ending -- I never see it coming! Gets me every time. Then later, while I was brushing my hair, I got it: wolf-dogs! That grunt! I'm thinking of calling them Eberts.
DEAR DIARY: For the wolf-dogs, studio nixed Eberts idea, so I decided to call them "scrunts." Also, thinking of Bryce Dallas Howard for the Hannah role. Apparently Hannah's now living in a tree.
DEAR DIARY: Thinking of a title change: Scrunt And Sensibility. Better than Narfin'? Is there such a thing as "better" in M. Night's world? Or only "best" and "besterer"?
DEAR DIARY: Met with De Niro. No go.
DEAR DIARY: Working hard on Narfin'. New studio wants a title change, and an explanation. I said, "You'll have neither! But you will have a giant magical eagle!" Excitement all around.
DEAR DIARY: Still worried about casting of genius and role of main villain. Was thinking of making villain an Aryan prison gang leader famous for raping children, but who decided to become a film critic instead. Will talk to makeup about covering his dirty, dirty face with weeping sores.
DEAR DIARY: Everything's set! Production begins today on Lady In The Water! And you'll never guess who I cast as the genius storyteller! Let's just say, the best choice was right in front of me the whole time! In the mirror, that is! Brushing his beautiful hair! That's one twist no one could have seen coming! Now let's get Narfin'!
Daddy's Little Girls
Finally there’s a Tyler Perry film that incorporates a desired subtlety and charming quirkiness that registers soundly as opposed to the overly boisterous Madea-themed movies that have earned the filmmaker his box office battle scars. Audiences have embraced Perry’s gun-toting grandma and the raucous ranting that ensues in his off-kilter Christian-inspired vehicles. Thankfully, Perry tones down the proceedings a bit with the urban romancer Daddy’s Little Girls—an earnest commentary on the unlikeliest of black manhood—a single African-American father that actually takes the responsibility for his fractured family when facing adversity. This is certainly a welcomed reprieve from the tiresome genre of black male performers (read: Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry) dressing up in degrading fat suits and portraying sassy, overwrought and embarrassing caricatures that are embraced in their eye-rolling cringe-worthiness.
This is not to say that Daddy’s Little Girls doesn’t have its selective problems. Perry still indulges in the flagrant flourishes of his trademark hedonism: drugs, loud and outspoken black chicks, shifty black dudes (rappers, pimps, pushers), seriocomic trappings of the absurdity, preachy platitudes through sermonizing, etc. The minor difference in the case of Daddy’s Little Girl is that a unique twist is being offered to the stereotyping—the serving of an ebony deadbeat mother instead! Okay, she’s a crack whore to boot but hey...something had to remain consistent in the gritty grounds of impoverished street life, right?
Perry’s morality tale may not be solidly structured but at least he strays away from the familiar frivolous fare of paunchy pistol-packing prunes to convey a quiet and less outrageous farce about the plight of the so-called devalued black family unit set against the spirituality of faith and frustration. Daddy’s Little Girls is a serviceable dramedy that’s slightly outlandish but nevertheless strives to touch the heart with its well-intentioned vibes. Perry leans on the vices that have served his half-hearted riotous expositions well by injecting Girls with a sense of pathos through his simmering broad-minded ribaldry. The legal system, violence, substance abuse, off-color personalities...these are components that employ the passionate plea that Perry establishes intermittently in Daddy’s Little Girls.
Handsome garage mechanic Monty (Idris Elba) is driven by trying to do what’s best for his family. He’s terrific at what he does professionally and hopes to buy his mentor’s (Oscar-winner Lou Gossett Jr.) business someday. Right now, things aren’t looking up domestically for Monty since his wife Jennifer (Tasha Smith) has a major problem at hand: she’s a junkie who’s romantically linked [and habitually hooked] with the local drug dealer (Gary Anthony Sturgis). Thus, this leaves working man Monty in a vulnerable position to concentrate on his main job of servicing cars.
As a result of Jennifer’s carelessness with her reckless life, Monty has to consider the welfare of his three cute little daughters (played by real-life siblings Lauryn, China and Sierra McClain). Now that he’s essentially a single father juggling the care of his rambunctious kids while Jennifer has emotionally checked out Monty needs to make more money as the financial burden of raising girls by himself takes its toll. So Monty is forced to take on odd jobs in the name of creating monetary security for his trio of adorable offspring. In the meanwhile, Jennifer is using whatever means necessary to retain the services of a lawyer so that she can swoop up the girls while exposing them to the harsh environment of the neighborhood druggies and their daily drudgery. Naturally Monty must stop Jennifer’s selfish-minded intentions otherwise his girls are in jeopardy of experiencing her lurid lifestyle.
Monty ends up playing the paid role of chauffeur for well-to-do attorney Julia Rossmore (Gabrielle Union). When Monty fails to take uptight Julia to her desired destination because he needs to go see his hospitalized daughter the curvaceous counselor has a fit and fires the man instantly. Still, Monty realizes that Julia could be an asset to him in terms of trying to fight for his girls from the spiteful Jennifer’s custody. The tandem finally begins to click. Julia accepts the challenge of taking on Monty’s case. Monty teaches Julia to ease up and relax without always having to be on guard with her feelings. In other words, the proverbial lovey-dovey sparks soon fly in the air for the desperate daddy and his exquisite esquire. Obviously it’s unethical for Julia to get involved with her client. Plus, Monty isn’t helping his cause in falling for his lawyer because his desire for her may impact his focus on trying to wrestle his gals away from Jennifer’s grimy grip. Can Monty and Julia co-exist as lovers and ensure the safety net for daddy’s little girls in the process?
Whether Perry’s redemptive story feels self-serving or cloying in its bid for acceptance as a cautionary fable, Daddy’s Little Girls is justified in its heartwarming boundaries. There are a few scenes that are wavering in its tedious search for anecdotal wittiness (i.e. witness Julia’s feeble attempts to prove her professional superiority but is socially inferior when it comes to her awkwardness with the male species). However, other sequences are balanced out evenly when Perry decides to humanize his leading man Elba as a caring father and man willing to sacrifice for his charges. It’s refreshing to see Elba’s Monty as a straight-laced and sensitive specimen whose self-imposed discipline and devotion is a favorable trait that should be demonstrated more often in Perry’s filmmaking fodder. In fact, many women may have the urge to fantasize about muscular Monty’s moral sturdiness while doing some wishful thinking about their companion’s glaring shortcomings.
Tyler Perry fans may not appreciate the lack of wildness or obnoxious stroking that are the hearty undercurrents in his brand of knee-slapping cinema. Daddy’s Little Girls is Perry’s best offering to date because it’s romantically inviting—however disjointed—without the reliance of rowdiness necessary to undermine the poignant forethought. There’s plenty of opportunity for Perry to wear a wig and wisecrack his way to another pithy payday in the continuous madness of mouthy Madea and her hellish holier-than-thou mantra.
For once, Perry astutely allows a well-grounded black protagonist to proudly wear the pants in the middle of the manufactured mockery with dignity and determination in a watery weeper. Cherish this noted moment...at least until Murphy, Lawrence or Perry decide to banally beef it up again as black blustery buffoons dressed in garments of dumbness, disgrace and disdain.
Did you love this movie as much as we did? For more in-depth movie reviews, check out Hollywood Insider.
I honestly got to tell you, even though I saw a lot of movies with a lot of special effects, with heartbreaking stories with soreness and happiness none but absolutely none match this level of perfection. This is one truly exceptional movie and I cannot help myself to stop bringing more and more good remarks about it. Where to start? … The basic plot follows two young boys living in India, and from the start you will not get greeted with Hollywood scenes and sets but with India’s back alleys and with the hateful truth out there, which is either you are born filthy rich or dead poor. The movie depicts the level and conditions of which over 70% of India’s population live in a most perfect way.
The 2 boys are inseparable, being brothers and all everything they do they do it together from good things to mainly bad things. But then you are interrupted to see a teenager being interrogated not in the most pleasant way by the local police force. The reason is that one of the boys made it to the well known “Who wants to be a millionaire” and is at the brink of winning 20 million rupi and he was suspected of cheating so he is being tested to see if he is telling the truth. Now here comes the best part … all the questions that he was given were related in one way or another to his childhood, he is no genius, no mathematician, no scholar he is just a normal teenager who lived through a series of events influencing him but also leaving their mark on him… which helped him at this game. So as you can imagine as the interrogation progresses the childhood of the main character is being told. From the simple questions from the start you will see that all the answers have a hurtful truth from the time his mother was killed due to religious disputes to the time he meet a girl who he feels close to and to the time he gets caught by “modern slave masters” who sell and subdue young children to beg for them. Yes it’s a hard and harsh fact to swallow but it depicts it very realistically and in some way opens your mind and tells you how grateful you need to be for the conditions in which you are living.
The movie follows the 2 brothers along their adventures until they grow up and things get more complicated and all 3 split in different directions. In the end Jamal K. Malik is allowed to continue to go on the show, although there would be a lot more to tell I don’t want to spoil the entire movie for you so I will let you see it for yourself. One thing can be learned from this movie and that definitely is to be happy with what you have and gratefully for it … good things do happen if you strive enough for them.
This entire movie is a wonderful piece of art which Danny Boyle really made it shine beyond borders.
Rated: R for some violence, disturbing images and language
I think it’s safe to say that this movie was a definite breakout hit that year. Interested in more award-winning films? Check out our ranking of this year’s best picture nominees over at Hollywood Insider.
Film Review: Disturbia
Sunday, April 15, 2007 - Kids that have a lot of free time on their hands and plenty of electronic gear can get a lot accomplished. That's what I kept thinking while watching Disturbia, that and I haven't seen a horror flick of this calibre since Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Many people have been comparing this film's storyline to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart.
Shia LaBeouf stars in this movie as a high schooler who loses his dad in an auto accident, and after, can't seem to get his life back together, to the point of punching his Spanish teacher in the face one day in frustration. He's put on house arrest, and finds there will be no party as his mom, Carrie Ann Moss, cancels his X-Box account as well as the one for iTunes. As the mother of a 14-year-old, I made a mental note of this action. He quickly finds out how serious the cops are that he doesn't leave his yard, as neighbor boys leave a flaming bag of poop on his doorstep, and he chases them down the street, only to realize this alerts the cops immediately.
His only entertainment, other than building sculptures of Twinkies, is spying on his neighbors, particularly the new neighbor girl, Sarah Roemer, and the neighbor man, David Morse, on the other side that drives a blue 60s Mustang similar to the one that police are reporting to be involved in the disappearance of a young woman. LaBeouf joins in with his jokester friend, Aaron Yoo, who seems to find humor in any situation, in using every bit of electronic equipment they can find, such as binoculars, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, etc., to create their spy ring.
Once LaBeouf conquers Roemer, he's not happy to find that his mom seems to be being pursued by the creepy neighbor Morse. This, of course, creates more spying, and once the high schoolers become convinced that Morse is indeed a mass murderer and hiding bodies in his house, they create an elaborate set-up to watch his every move, something the CIA would even be impressed by. Occasionally the electronics get used for good, such as when LaBeouf wants to break up Roemer's party next door that his electronic ankle bracelet won't let him attend, and he hooks up his iPod to a sound system he places on the roof, and blasts Minnie Ripperton's “Lovin' You.” The question becomes, why does this kid have that song on his iPod?
Seeing my share of horror flicks, I thought for sure Yoo would be the first to "get it," especially after he told a story in Spanish class, making sure to use the word "perhaps" often, as it translates to quizas, making it sound like "kiss ass" every time he says it. The teacher responds with "Perhaps I'll give you an F." I won't ruin the movie for you by telling you if I was wrong or right.
Throughout the whole movie there were young girls in the audience screaming, and the woman sitting two seats to my left was huddled with the man she was with throughout the last 45 minutes to an hour. My son and his friend were sitting elsewhere in the theatre, so it was just me and my notebook, but by the end of Disturbia, my notebook and I had become real close. Despite the fact that this stars a guy from a Disney television show, I don't think it's one for younger kids, but for older kids and adults alike; it's an intense scary movie, with real suspense, and without all the gore.
Wondering what Shia LaBeouf is up to now? Then check out Hollywood Insider for more movie news, film reviews, and hollywood gossip.