Friday, January 29, 2010
(Dir. Oren Moverman, 2009)
There have been many movies in which we see Army men appear at folks' homes to give notice of the deaths of soldiers. It is usually a brief scene with little spoken, but here these men, in the form of Ben Foster as a Staff Sgt. recently deployed from Iraq, and Woody Harrelson as a Captain whose war was Desert Storm, get their own movie.
Under Harrelson's gruff mentoring, Foster learns quickly that a stint as a member of the Casualty Notification service can be as almost as wrenching and painful as front line combat. Harrelson deals with this by going by strict protocol. He sternly tells Foster to speak only to the next of kin and avoid physical contact: "In case you feel like offering a hug or something - don't". Foster replies "I'm not going to be offering any hugs, sir."
Foster's life in the downtime is pretty dire. He is love with a girl named Kelly (Jena Malone) who is marrying somebody else and he spends his time in his dark dumpy apartment drinking while blasting heavy metal music. He becomes infatuated with housewife Samantha Morton to whom he has delivered bad news.
Morton takes the news of her dead husband reasonably well, even shaking Foster and Harrelson's hands while saying: "I know this can't be easy for you". On their walk away from her, Harrelson calls this response "a first".
Foster's infatuation with Morton is initially creepy - he sits in his car watching her through the window and he follows her at the mall. Once he makes contact with her some of the creepiness dissolves but uneasiness remains as they flirt on the faint edge of a relationship.
Her eyes hint at a back story that we never hear but we don't need to - the emotional terrain of lives lost and those left behind sets the film's entire tone.
Unfortunately this semblance of a plot involving Morton is abandoned for a large chunk of THE MESSENGER. Foster and Harrelson go off and get drunk, get in a fight, and crash former flame Malone's reception in a pointless display of untamed testosterone for too much of the sloppy narrative. This is a shame because Morton's scenes are the most moving. There are some other powerful passages in this film, mostly in the first half's house calls (Steve Buscemi has an intense cameo as a heartbroken father of a fallen son), but the film is too disjointed and detached to have the searing impact it aims for.
Moverman's movie just glosses the surface of the psyche of these disturbed men. Foster has proven time and time again that he has the chops to create fully realized characters - witness Six Feet Under and his scene stealing turn in 3:10 TO YUMA - but this soldier is just a sketch and so is its story. As a supporting player, Harrelson is on more solid ground but still suffers from familiarity - the older brother feel of his character is not unlike his turn in ZOMBIELAND.
Though I wasn't feeling it, THE MESSENGER is sure to be regarded as a noble effort. Its attempt to delve into this tense territory is admirable and its sincere tone is intact throughout its running time, but I was too often distracted by its shrugging sensibility in place of a statement. Audiences of late have tended to stay away from downer Iraq war related film fare. This time out it's going to be especially hard to blame them.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Despite this being “Film Babble Blog” I do babble about TV shows every now and then. This is one of those times.
I had only 2 New Year’s resolutions this year – to exercise more and to finish all 5 seasons of The Wire. I dug my wife’s old exercise bike out of the garage and set it in front of the TV so I could do both. I had begun The Wire sometime last year but put it on the back burner, not because I didn’t like it but because of the many movies that were ahead of it on my list of priorities.
After hearing so many folks refer to it as “the greatest TV series ever” I decided it was time to fully see what all the fuss is about. Over the last few weeks I’ve been pedaling away on the bike devouring one episode of David Simon’s exemplary
I am now on season 5 episode 4 and have lost over 10 pounds in the process.
I learned that a friend of mine was also making his way through The Wire after he got the full series as a Christmas gift. Talking to him on IM he spoke of other friends that were catching the bug as well.
Then, just this week, Onion AV head writer Nathan Rabin posted a piece for their ongoing “Better Late Than Never” feature about finally watching the show’s first season so it seems the show is slowly but surely searing its way into our collective pop culture psyche.
If you’ve never seen The Wire – it can be a daunting undertaking because it’s very complex with a lot of characters and can be hard to follow at first. It seemingly gives equal time to the good, the bad, and the ugly from sleazy politicians to the cops on the beat right down to the lowest level druggie scum with a level of authenticity that’s astounding. It stands with The Sopranos as a novelistic epic and as one of the most engrossingly addictive shows ever.
The Wire isn’t the only show I’ve been pedaling to recently. Since I’ve had to wait for discs of it to come in the mail from Netflix I’ve been checking out what’s available now on Instant.
I noticed that J.J. Abrams’ popular FOX television show Lost was just added so since I’d never seen it I decided to give it a whirl.
Well, I’ve watched most of season 1 and while I certainly think it’s entertaining in a Gilligan's Island as if written by Stephen King way, I’m not sure if I’m going to keep on plowing through. With their 6th season starting next week, there’s no way I can catch up anytime soon and the idea of trying just tires me out thinking about it. But once I finish The Wire, who knows?
Another series that has been on my “to do” list for a long time is The Prisoner – the original 1967 BBC one not the new AMC re-imagining (though that’s recorded and waiting on my DVR).
Former spy Patrick McGoohan trapped in an idyllic seaside village in which large creepy white balls descend and suffocate those who try to escape, the show earns its cool cult status right from its snazzy swinging start. Check out its awesome opening sequence:
So those are some shows that have been keeping me from the movies lately. Don’t worry though - I’ve got some fine babble concerning actual films coming soon so please stay tuned.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
College professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) lives his life in a neat orderly manner. Every item is his home is arranged appropriately and every piece of clothing he wears is impeccably pressed.
He is living what Thoreau called a life of "quiet desperation" (a quotation our lead is undoubtedly aware of and not just because he teaches English) ever since his lover Jim (Matthew Goode - seen in flashbacks) of 16 years died in an automobile accident 8 months previous.
It's Los Angeles 1962, in the days after the Cuban missile crisis, and the influence of beat culture is strong on Firth's students, but the fear of war and total annihilation is stronger. Firth's inner torment distances him from the communal worries of the day.
From the outset of the film we see that he has decided to get through the routine of one last day before he takes his own life. He buys bullets for his handgun and tries to figure the best way to kill himself without leaving too big a mess for his maid.
Firth's dignity and poise is intact as he flirts with a Spanish hustler (Jon Kortajaren) in a liquor store parking lot and as he converses with one of his students (Nicholas Hoult) who may be interested in more than class consultation.
However Firth does lose his well cultivated composure during a dinner visit with long-time friend and ex-lover Charly (Julianne Moore) who has had a thing for him for years. Moore ponders the relationship he had with Jim; "wasn't it really just a substitute for something else?"
Firth jumps up and exclaims: "There is no substitute for Jim anywhere!"
There is a washed out quality to the film - grey grainy tones make up most shots but color rushes in with red hues heightened when sensuality is implied. With such subtle touches abounding, it's a definitive "art film" that's an impressive debut for a Fashion Designer best known for magazine layouts.
Firth's performance is an intensely nuanced balance of grace and pain. It's some of the sharpest acting out there now and it will be shocking if he's not nominated. Maybe not an Oscar, but Ford's direction deserves notice too for it recalls the work of Julian Schnabel while showing its own promise in illustrative invention.
Although a bit slow paced, A SINGLE MAN has its indulgences in check and is a quietly absorbing work of refined beauty. It's a passionate portrait of grief that knows that there isn't a substitute for a lost lover any more than there is a substitute for life.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
(Dirs. Albert and Allen Hughes, 2010)
Here we go again with another cinematic rendering of a post apocalyptic world - apparently for those who thought THE ROAD didn't have enough action. A bearded grizzled Denzel Washington walks the ashy terrain listening to Al Green on an old beat-up iPod and avoiding Road Warrior-ish highjackers hiding in the rubble. When he is confronted by a crusty crew of them, we see that he is a machete-brandishing bad ass who leaves his attackers in a pile of their own limbs; SAMURAI ASSASSIN-style.
We only get a few hints as to what happened to the Earth. Washington mentions "the wars", "the flash" and at one point says "the sky opened up, the sun came down" so obviously they want to keep it vague. I can go along with that fine, but after hearing that it's been 30 winters since this all went down I couldn't get over wondering how he recharges that iPod battery.
On his journey west (post apocalyptic folk are always traveling to the Californian coast) Washington comes upon the supposed king of the crud covered thugs - an oily Gary Oldman (one of the only lively elements present) who chews the sleazy scenery as he seeks "the Book". The book is, of course, the Bible (The King James Version) and Washington has the last copy on his person and he ain't sharing it. He'll quote from it to Mila Kunis as one of Oldman's slaves, but he will not give it up to anybody. Suffice to say this causes some friction.
Friction in the form of gun battles with heavy artillery and yep, big explosions. Washington is determined and seemingly indestructible in his efforts to protect "the Book", but his real strengths as an actor are buried here. Though he's one of the executive producers on this project, his role as the stoical Eli is stiff and passionless. He's one of the finest actors working today, but here his charisma is literally missing in action.
Despite this the movie itself should've gone for more mindless spectacle instead of the religious pretension it tries to pull off. Its hokey thematics bring to mind another post apocalyptic anomaly - THE POSTMAN. In Kevin Costner's notorious 1997 flop, a drifter finds a mailbag and sets about delivering the letters inside which in turn helps to rebuild society. The Bible in THE BOOK OF ELI fulfills the same purpose - it's a glorified MacGuffin, but unlike most MacGuffins, it's importance grows in the last third of the film.
Washington and the Hughes Brothers are reaching here to tell the story of a righteous prophet, and there are a few times where its sepia-tinted tones are appealing, but mostly the underwritten yet overdone enterprise loudly falls flat. As a beginning of the year B-movie THE BOOK OF ELI is sure to make major bank from movie-goers looking for diversion. But stone cold boredom is what they're really going to get.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
“I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973.” So says Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) at the beginning of this adaptation of Alice Sebold’s 2002 best seller. Ronan’s voice-over comes not from beyond the grave, but from she calls “the blue horizon between heaven and earth.”
There’s no mystery to how she got there - a creepy neighbor (Stanley Tucci) in her family’s Norristown, Pennsylvanian suburb lured her into an underground bunker he built in a nearby field. In the months afterwards her disappearance throws her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) into domestic disarray while her sister (Rose McIver) starts to suspect Tucci.
Ronan, well cast with her ocean colored eyes, watches her family from the mythic realm, which is not unlike the vivid ultra-colorful heaven of WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, as she walks from one spectacular landscape to the next hoping to reconcile the messy end of her life and move on.
LORD OF THE RINGS visionary Peter Jackson keeps the camera moving with swooping crane shots and cuts with a good sense of juxtaposition, but the story is too drawn out to create much suspense. It’s an immaculately made movie, but it appears to be missing enough soul to really pull us in and make us care.
It also suffers from a strongly misplaced thread involving Susan Sarandon as the Mrs. Robinson-esque alcoholic grandmother with her bouffant hair, mink coats, and always present cigarette dangling from her fingers. A montage in which she attempts to help out and clean house should’ve been edited out – I understand that they felt the film needed some sort of comic relief, but this really feels forced.
Though overwrought at times, Wahlberg puts in a decent performance, at least better than in THE HAPPENING, as the obsessed father who constantly calls upon an investigating detective (Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos) to run checks on every possible suspect. It seems that they look into everybody in town before they get to Tucci, which is surprising since he lives across the street from the victim’s family.
“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections - sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent.”
Ronan’s concluding musings are apt, for there is magnificence in this film - visually speaking that is. Otherwise, the connections are too tenuous and its pace is too plodding. I haven't read the book on which it's based, but I suspect that its most stirring passages were too cerebral to be translated to the big screen. At least as far as this film adaptation goes, THE LOVELY BONES is sadly a supremely unsatisfying experience.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Paul, played by comedian Patton Oswalt, from
Maybe so, but Paul doesn’t see it that way. He believes that he has a gift for opinionated gab and that his football fanaticism fulfills some purpose. This outlook gets put to the test when he and Corrigan spot Giants’ star linebacker Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) and his entourage at a gas station. They follow him for the evening and end up at a
Paul is hospitalized and Bishop is suspended from playing. Paul’s brother – a sleazy personal injury attorney - wants to wager a multi-million dollar suit against Bishop and a trench-coated cop (Matt Servitto) wants him to press charges, but Paul doesn’t want his favorite player out of the game.
As Paul recovers from the incident we see him going through the sad motions of his mundane existence – walking the streets, staring into the
Oswalt’s affecting performance is fearless. He fills nearly every frame with his puffy pathos alternating with the glow from his face when he’s most feels alive (i.e. pontificating over the airwaves). It’s a solid piece of acting that’s not without a certain comic sensibility, but stands foremost as fine dramatic work.
The same could be said of the film. As it comes from THE WRESTLER writer (and former editor of The Onion) Robert Siegel, you might expect social satire (and there is a bit here), but BIG FAN is more concerned with the inner crisis of character. When Paul paints his face the colors of the Eagles - the team he most hates - and travels to a local bar in
Siegel and Oswalt’s film is both homage to Scorsese’s 70’s portraits of lost souls (most principally TAXI DRIVER) and its own modern anti-morality play. Whether you’re amused or disturbed at its display of delusion as life style choice, you most likely won’t look away.
Special Features: Though sadly lacking a commentary, there are some worthwhile extras on this disc. A Q & A of Oswalt and Siegel at Chicago's Music Box Theater is lively and entertaining, "Kevin Corrigan Recalls His Own 'Big Fan' Experience With Robert De Niro" is hilarious, and the over 10 minutes of outtakes are rougher and scrappier than most outtakes on DVDs but that's part of their authentic charm.
Monday, January 11, 2010
It's funny that Michael Cera has reportedly been the lone holdout for the prospects of an Arrested Development movie since he's never quite left the character of awkward yet lovable George-Michael Bluth behind. Cera has never shown us that he has any versatility, yet his trademark hangdog nervousness coupled with his particular brand of soft spoken sarcasm, has worked nicely in several movie comedies in the last few years - SUPERBAD being the best of those.
As Nick Twisp, that same Cera persona is on display in YOUTH IN REVOLT, but here there is sort of a promise of a twist to that persona in the form of a bad boy alter ego named François Dillinger. Unfortunately apart from a pencil thin mustache and an always present dangling cigarette in his lips, François is still the same Cera. He makes taunting risque comments to Twisp and acts according to the domino-effect accident-prone nature of the script, but it's still the same Cera. Sigh. Couldn't he have even just attempted an accent?
Cera affects François for the express reason of wooing the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday) - a neighbor in the trailer park his family fled to. Though we are introduced to Cera's Twisp by way of a masturbation scene, he fancies himself a well read intellectual who loves Frank Sinatra and in Doubleday he feels he's met his match. He longs to break away from the white trash world of his divorced mother (Jean Smart) who's shacked up with a scuzzy trucker (Jack Galifinakis), so he plots to get his real father (Steve Buscemi) to get a job and relocate so he can be close to the girl he loves. François appears to be the key to set this in motion.
Mix in reliable character actors Fred Willard, M. Emmet Walsh, Mary Kay Place, and Ray Liotta (as yet again an asshole cop) and this all plays as quirk by the numbers - "Independent Teen Angst Movie" it could be called. To jazz up these stale elements there's jaunty animation that looks like it was pilfered from Nickolodeon and Justin Long as Doubleday's laid back hallucinogenic mushroom providing brother.
YOUTH IN REVOLT was filmed a few years ago and possibly shelved because the producers (the Weinstein Brothers) sensed there was a lack of a strong hook to this material. Its release in early January seems to support this. The film has likable people, songs, and story strands but Cera feels severely miscast to the ultimate detriment of the movie. Unless Cera's got some major character deconstruction surprises coming anytime soon, here's hoping he reconsiders reprising George-Michael Bluth in the afore mentioned Arrested Development movie. I mean, c'mon! It's the only role he seems to have really played since.
Friday, January 8, 2010
(Dir. Terry Gilliam, 2009)
Terry Gilliam is infamous for problems plaguing (and sometimes halting) many of the productions of his fantastically far-fetched films, but as I'm sure folks reading this well know, none have been hit harder than this one. The untimely death of Heath Ledger midway through shooting threatened to squash the project, but Gilliam came up with a solution to cast 3 of Ledger’s acting peers to fill in for his remaining scenes.
It helps the conceit that in the story Ledger’s character steps through a magic mirror into another world in which he could be somewhat plausibly changed into another person. It also helps that the 3 actors filling in just happen to be very big names in the business: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.
Given these circumstances, the finished film works better than it has a right to. Working with a much lower budget than before, Gilliam knows how to draw an audience in to a strange setting, one that’s familiar to fans with its ratty stage folk and tall tales that just might be true. In the title role, Christopher Plummer, made to look ten times scragglier than usual, leads a group of show folks making their way around modern day
Plummer tells his daughter (and us) his bizarre back story (well, bizarre if you’ve never seen a Gilliam film before) involving a deal with the Devil (a terrific Tom Waits) and the darkening of his visions. When crossing a bridge in the middle of the night the traveling troupe comes across Ledger hanging from a noose. They get him down and find he’s still alive. When he comes to the next day he asks where he is. Troyer answers:
“Geographically, in the Northern Hemisphere. Socially, on the margins. Narratively, with some way to go.”
Ledger has no memory of his life before his suicide attempt so he joins the Imaginarium players, soon making changes to their set and presentation. A crumbled newspaper page blowing around the rubble of the seedy dank underworld they call home reminds Ledger of his shady background, but he continues to go along with the troupe especially after learning that the Doctor’s Imaginarium is no scam.
The film beautifully builds up to when Ledger first goes through the mirror and the transition to Johnny Depp is successfully smooth. Depp has the briefest bit of the guest replacement actors, but makes the most of it with his patented eyebrow exercises and dance moves. Jude Law and Colin Farrell are well suited for the smarmy greedy parts of Ledger’s personality that emerge in further mirror excursions if indeed that’s what they were supposed to symbolize.
Such errant elements in the second half don’t gel well and key plot points are muddled or clumsily glossed over, but that Gilliam was able to complete this film to as coherent as it is makes up for a great deal of defects.
THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN is the closest relative IMAGINARIUM has in Gilliam’s canon. Both deal with wizened old men spinning legends out of their outrageous realities; performing their fables on the sideshow circuit, laying in wait for fortune or death – or both. IMAGINARIUM has a much lower budget that MUNCHAUSEN, yet it benefits from less aesthetic indulgence and its smaller scale gives it more intimacy.
It’s far from Gilliam’s best movie, and it’s far from Ledger’s best performance, but as a salvaged final project, I’m glad THE IMAGINARIUM exists. It’s a mixed bag of a movie (and may still have been had Ledger lived), but it’s a still a fairly fun film and a fitting tribute. At the end we are told that this is “A film from Heath Ledger and friends.” I know it's lame to say that 'it's the thought that counts', but dammit - it counts the most here.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Jeff Bridges (THE FISHER KING, TIDELAND) 7 years before "The Dude", Bridges abided as pony-tailed radio shock jock Jack Lucas who finds redemption by way of a crazy homeless Robin Williams (see end of list). Bridges' fate was less rosy in TIDELAND (2005) - he plays a crusty old rocker reminiscent of Kris Kristopherson (a foreshadowing of CRAZY HEART?) who dies of a heroin overdose and spends most of the film as a rotting corpse sitting upright in a chair in a rustic farmhouse. Also notable: Bridges narrated the excellent heartbreaking documentary LOST IN LA MANCHA that focused on Gilliam's aborted 2000 production of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE.
Jim Broadbent (TIME BANDITS , BRAZIL ) The small but juicy role of a sleazy Compere of the game show "Your Money Or Your Life" was one of Broadbent's first film roles. He appeared again in Gilliam's next film, the bizarre but brilliant BRAZIL, as Dr. Jaffe - a plastic surgeon for one of the other notable cast members on this list (Hint: skip ahead 2).
Winston Dennis (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN 1988) A couple of bit parts as "Bull-headed Warrior" who battled King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) in TIME BANDITS and "Samurai Warrior" in BRAZIL led to an actual character name for Dennis, actually 2, Bill/Albrecht, an intertwined duo in Gilliam's overblown but still incredibly charming epic comedy: THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1988).
Johnny Depp (FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, ) A Hunter S. Thompson adaptation is not a characteristic project for the dogged director, but with the demented Depp as the Gonzo journalist, Gilliam found his fantasist footing in the trippy terrain. Depp lent a hand famously filling in for Heath Ledger as "Imaginarium Tony #1" in the upcoming IMAGINARIUM... and is slated to be Sancho Panza (a role he was unable to complete in 2000) in THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE (2011). Barring any unforeseen incident, mind you.
Katherine Helmond (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS)
While she's best known for her US television sitcom work on Soap, Who's The Boss, and Everybody Loves Raymond, Helmond has an almost alternate reality film career in the alternate realities of Gilliam. In TIME BANDITS she's fittingly named Mrs. Ogre as she's the wife of "Winston the Ogre" (Peter Vaughan), in BRAZIL she's Ida Lowry - the mother of protagonist Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), and in FEAR AND LOATHING... she's "Desk Clerk at Mint Hotel" - a study in uncomfortable disapproving scowling. You'd think she'd be used to Gilliam's grotesqueries by that point.
Ian Holm (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL) To go from the legendary Napoleon to the lowly office boss Mr. M. Kurtzman in just a few years is quite a demotion. And perhaps it's adding insult to injury that neither role has any positive light shed on them but Holm puts in perfect performances that actually provoke sympathy. Incidentally Holm would go on to portray Napoleon again in THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES (2001).
Michael Jeter (THE FISHER KING, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS)
Jeter died in 2003 leaving behind an eclectic career that stretched from musical theater to television comedy to the silver screen and back again. His parts in 2 of Gilliam's finest films as "Homeless cabaret singer" and "L. Ron Bumquist" are as memorable as character acting can be - especially when he belts out a medley of show tunes in drag to Amanda Plummer in THE FISHER KING.
Simon Jones (BRAZIL, TWELVE MONKEYS) These are pretty blink and miss them cameos (as an "Arrest Official" and "Zoologist" respectively) from Python pal Jones best known as Arthur Dent on the BBC TV version of The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (1981).
Heath Ledger (THE BROTHERS GRIMM, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS) Of course, the tragic death of Heath Ledger in 2008 deprived the world of an amazing young talent, but a blossoming Gilliam leading man is how he'll remain frozen in time as "Tony" in his last film: THE IMAGINARIUM... Ledger was reported as being close to Gilliam beginning with their work on BROTHERS GRIMM, so it's not so far-fetched to imagine them collaborating often had he lived.
Charles McKeown (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS)
McKeown has been on hand to fill in random bit player parts in these 4 films simply because he co-wrote them with Gilliam. His work as "Theater manager", Harvey Lime, Rupert/Adolphus, and "Fairground Inspector" may go majorly un-noticed but such a solid player should at least get a shout out from this blogger.
Christopher Meloni (TWELVE MONKEYS, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) Before he was Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, or criminal Chris Keller on Oz for that matter, Meloni played Lt. Halperin in TWELVE MONKEYS then "Sven, Clerk at Flamingo Hotel" in FEAR AND LOATHING...
Derrick O'Connor (JABBERWOCKY, TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL) According to Wikipedia: "Terry Gilliam, who has directed O'Connor on three films, has noted in his audio commentaries that Derrick seems to have a habit of taking away most of his dialogue in favor of physical character humor. Notable examples include TIME BANDITS, in which his characters' dialogue was resorted to simple grunts while the Maid Marian character 'translated' for him and in BRAZIL , in which Derrick scrapped all of his character's dialogue and simply repeated the dialogue of Bob Hoskins' character."
Michael Palin (JABBERWOCKY, TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL)
Gilliam's former Python mate Palin was his first leading man as Dennis Cooper - dragon slayer in JABBERWOCKY (1977). Palin went on to co-write TIME BANDITS and appear in it as Vincent, who shows up in as Shelly Duvall's lover in 2 different time periods. His last role for Gilliam was as the devious but dapper Jack Lint in BRAZIL.
Christopher Plummer (TWELVE MONKEYS, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS)
In TWELVE MONKEYS, the venerable Plummer played Dr. Goines, a world-renowned virologist and father to a crazy radical Brad Pitt. He has a larger role, the title role, in Gilliam's latest offering. In an interview on ClashMusic.com Gilliam spoke of the collaboration: "It’s wonderful trying to create a little family group. At one stage I’m taking Christopher Plummer, one of the greatest actors of a few generations, and having him do these different double acts; one with a model with little acting experience, one with a two-foot-eight man and one with Tom Waits, America’s greatest musical poet. And it all worked out!”
Jonathan Pryce (BRAZIL, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, THE BROTHERS GRIMM) As protagonist Sam Lowry in BRAZIL, Pryce provided an ingratiating everyman. He had smaller but still memorable parts in MUNCHAUSEN as "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson", and BROTHERS GRIMM as "Delatombe" - a conniving French General.
Jack Purvis (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL) A dwarf who appeared in all 3 of the original STAR WARS trilogy, Purvis was Time Bandit Wally, Dr. Chapman in BRAZIL, and Jeremy /Gustavus in MUNCHAUSEN. Unlike his roles as Jawas and Ewoks for Lucas, in Gilliam's films he at least got to show his face and have a few lines. Purvis died in 1997, leaving behind a brief but fascinating filmography.
Peter Stormare (THE BROTHERS GRIMM, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS) The only actor to appear on both Gilliam's and the Coen Brothers' repertory role calls, Stormare is a towering intimidating stonewalling actor who seems to fit into whatever skewed scenario visionary film makers come up with. His roles in these 2 films couldn't be more different: he's the thug "Calvadi" and in BROTHERS GRIMM he's credited as "The President". Well, maybe I have to wait to see if they're really so different.
Verne Troyer (FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS) Troyer, best known as Mini-Me from the AUSTIN POWERS films, seems to be the go-to little person since the original Time Bandits are too old or deceased now. Maybe Gilliam should give Peter Dinklage a call next time out.
Peter Vaughn (TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL) As a medieval creature who complains of a bad back, the Pythonesque "Winston the Ogre" was wonderfully played by Vaughan: "You try being beastly and terrifying... you can only get one hour sleep a night because your back hurts, and you daren't cough unless you want to pull a muscle." In BRAZIL he had a crucial bit part as the ironically named Mr. Helpmann.
Tom Waits (THE FISHER KING, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSAS) Waits steals the show in THE FISHER KING as "Disabled Veteran" with a monologue in which he declares: "I'm what you call kind of a "moral traffic light", really. I'm like sayin', "Red! Go no further!" Looks like he may be set to steal the show again in IMAGINARIUM... in what may be the meatiest role on this list: Mr. Nick/The Devil. Also between these 2 roles his song "The Earth Died Screaming" appeared in TWELVE MONKEYS.
Robin Williams (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, THE FISHER KING)
The wild wacky fast talking Williams looked at the time like he might become a Gilliam mainstay but alas that so far was not to be. In MUNCHAUSEN his manic "King Of The Moon" ("I think therefore you is"), whose head detaches from his body, hurriedly floats off with the movie for a few priceless moments, but it's his touching role as Perry in THE FISHER KING that stacks up there with Williams' best work.
Okay! Is there anyone I missed?