Monday, May 30, 2011

11 Roles of Alfred Molina

Alfred Molina may not be a name that springs immediately to mind when you think of great actors, but he probably should be. The man has had a long and varied career, playing wildly different roles in bizarrely different productions of movies, and he always brings it.


So, without further ado, here's some of the work of one of the best character actors working in Hollywood today.

11. Mellersh Wilkins (Enchanted April)

You may not have seen this movie (I have, but only in passing) but suffice to say it's a Howard's End/The Pianist/Remains of Day kind of movie, where British people do British things and love is always unrequited and there's lots of talking, and usually nothing happens.

The movie's own description calls it "A slow-paced gem", which is like saying, "Look, we know it's boring, but it's not that bad." Molina plays a man who's wife is dragging him along on some ladies retreat to Italy, and to be honest, he's about the only thing in the movie that I paid attention to (it was on in the background while I was reading a comic book or something, and I looked up every time I heard his voice). He was quite good, I thought, and had charisma that far outpaced anyone else on screen.

Plus he looks a bit like a confused Gomez Addams.
Imagine my surprise when I realized this was the same guy who played...

10. Rahad Jackson (Boogie Nights)

Boogie Nights is as far a cry from Enchanted April as you can get. It's about porn. It has Marky Mark, Heather Graham, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, and Don Cheadle in it. It's a movie about all those people running a Porn Studio. It is the opposite of a movie about unrequited love. Love is being requited everywhere, and usually by naked people who are totally not British.

And who does Alfred play? Certainly not some nitpicked husband who's being dragged along to Italy for a Ladies retreat. Oh, no. He plays a Drug Dealer.

This is not a deleted scene from Howard's End.
A drug dealer with a silver robe, no shirt, a chain necklace and a pistol. The lead (Marky Mark) and some of his friends try to rob Rahad of 5,000 dollars at one point by selling him a kilo of baking soda, but they screw it up and end up in a shootout. If these were the only two roles Alfred Molina ever played it would still be a pretty impressive bit of "Really? That's the same guy?"

But it gets better. He's also...

9. Angel (Maverick)

Maverick, as you may know, was once a television show starring Jim Rockford (AKA, James Garner). Maverick was a conman, card player who traveled around the Old West, righting wrongs, getting in saloon fights, and gambling. He probably dated a bunch of hookers, also known as "Saloon Gals" back in those days.

At some point they made a movie (ok, it was 1994) and they hired Mel Gibson (pre-lunacy) to play Maverick and even let Rockford show up to play a sheriff chasing Maverick. But they also needed a bad guy, a foil for Maverick in this high-comedy western caper, and who did they call?

You rang?
Yep. Alfred Molina. He looks vaguely Hispanic as Angel (He is half Spanish), and was a gambler and gunfighter who caused all kinds of trouble for the title character. He was goofy, dangerous and funny, and add another notch to Molina's belt, because he has played a lot of really fun bad guys.

Not the least of which was...

8. Maxim Horvath (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice movie, starring Nic Cage, is one of those things that probably just shouldn't be. It should have died on some producer's desk at some point with him going, "Really? We don't have any other ideas?"

But it didn't. As Hollywood is wont to do, they filmed it, in color and everything, and all things considered, it wasn't terrible. Cage did some hamming it up, but in a good way, and they needed somebody to play the bad guy, who could carry his own scenes, seethe with rage, and still make us kind of like him, so they called upon the greatest "Oh, that guy" that Hollywood has to offer and lo and behold, Alfred Molina to the rescue.

In a perfect world, he would have been paid more than Nic Cage.
And as goofy as the movie was, Molina was a suave villain, with a few great one liners, and a couple of very cool scenes. Too bad the movie forgot about him, right near the end. (Seriously, if you watch it, after he gets knocked out of the park, something that happens to everyone in the movie at least five times, tell me where he goes. Cause the writer forgot.)

But Molina doesn't always have to be the big bad guy. Sometimes he's a misunderstood bad guy, who later becomes a friend, like when he's...

7. Sheik Amar (The Prince of Persia)

Prince of Persia was a Disney movie that wanted to capitalize on the good fortunes of the video game, and clearly on the Jake Gyllenhal is almost naked connection to young ladies. It was a fairly forgettable movie, overall, but if you look up, right there in the middle of it, playing a shady ostrich race organizer (no, really) there's Alfred Molina, as Sheik Amar!

Sheik Amar captures our heroes, then loses them, then captures them again, then sides with them, then I think he gets killed (I have to admit, I only half paid attention to the movie for the most part).

You'd trust this guy to organize your ostrich races, right?
He hammed it up like you almost never get to see him do, but he was still one of the best actors in the movie. He totally owns the crazy ostrich racing sleaze bag character. Plus, he just looks absolutely ludicrous, but still manages to be the coolest person in the whole movie. That takes effort. Speaking of effort, Alfred didn't always have it so easy with the big budget movies. There was a time when he was a struggling actor, like when he played...

6. Moody (Not Without My Daughter)

This is one of those Lifetime movies that make you wonder who comes up with these things, then you find out it's based on a true story, then you almost feel bad, then you realize that the movie is so overblown and not like the actual story that you still wonder who sits around reading newspapers looking for stories about abused women that Lifetime can put on the fast track to development, and...

Actually, this movie started out as an actual movie, but became a Lifetime movie (I think) at least, I know Lifetime showed it. Anyway, in the movie Alfred Molina is Iranian, and a doctor. He's married to Sally Field. They have a daughter.  They move to Iran, and then for no apparent reason, Molina's character becomes a wife abusing religious zealot (almost like he went to America to get his medical license and a wife to bring back and abuse) and Sally has to get her daughter and escape the country.

It's terrible, let's be honest about that. But Alfred pulls off both nice foreign doctor husband, and creepy, crazy abusive zealot in the same movie and he does it with panache.

There's a story in this paper about how I should be hitting you.
 Look at those creepy eyes in that picture. Yeah, I totally believe that guy would beat up Sally Field. Hey, I just realized he worked with both Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. That's weird. Not as weird as, say, Alfred Molina showing up on television in the mid-eighties...

5. Esther's Lawyer (Miami Vice)

Oh, wait, he totally did. Now, to be fair, I don't remember this episode, but I do remember Miami Vice (not Colin Farrel/Jamie Foxx Miami Vice, the other one). I remember Crockett and Tubbs. I remember Adama, er, I mean Edward James Olmos being the captain of the precinct. I remember, white suits and neon signs, and boats and guns and, hey, look at that!

The beard's doing most of the actin in this scene.
There's Alfred Molina, playing a lawyer so important to the plot he doesn't even have a name. But check out Crockett sporting some kind of purple Ocean Pacific t-shirt with a gun holster and hair long enough to rappel down a tower with.

That's some fine police work, Alfred. The only thing more awesome than this would have been if Alfred had also been on Law and Order, so he could have been on two of the most iconic television cop/lawyer shows of all time. Oh, wait...

4. Deputy D.A. Ricardo Morales a(Law and Order: Los Angeles)

I lost my beard, so I have no idea what you're saying...
Yeah, that's Alfred up there on Law and Order: Los Angeles, playing Ricardo Morales, who apparently started the show as a detective, then got promoted to Deputy District Attorney (cause, that's how it works, right?)

Holy crap, Alfred managed to land on Miami Vice and L&O! There can't be a lot of actors who can make that claim, and fewer still who also had a heavy film career. This guy's looking pretty impressive, I'll bet. But we have three more to go, and the next one freaked me out a little bit, because it's a movie I love, and I didn't realize he was in it...

3. Cezar (Ladyhawke)

Yes, that testament to cheesy fantasy movies of the eighties, Ladyhawke, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfiefer also contains a young, dirty, almost animalistic looking Alfred Molina.

They pulled him straight out of bed for this scene.
Alfred plays Cezar here, a wolf trapper, and this is important to the story, because if you've forgotten, in Ladyhawke, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ruther Hauer are in love, but they're cursed and during the day he's a person and she's a hawk (thus the Ladyhawke of the title) and at night she's a person and he's a wolf. So the church is going to catch him using Cezar, the master wolf catcher.

That seems like an odd job, but perhaps it's just because I don't live in a fantasy world. Alfred would get a better job later, as a scientist, which, as you know he parlayed into another villainy role when he became...

2. Dr. Otto Octavius (Spider-Man 2)

Yes, the great Doctor Octopus is also Alfred Molina. Wow, this guy gets around. And I'm also just realizing that he's pretty much a great bad guy. I wonder why it is that some actors just seem to have that genetic thing that makes them play great crazy bad guys.

Why doesn't he keep the suitcase in one of the robot hands?

I think Spider-Man 2 is my favorite of the Spidey movies, and I think 90% of that has to do with Doctor Octopus just being a great villain. He was so much more fun that Green Goblin, and infinitely better than what they did with Sandman and Venom in part 3.

But I'm going to finish this post with the first role I ever remember seeing Alfred in, and one of his first roles ever in general, and one that still surprises me when I remember that's him in that classic role...

1. Satipo (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

That's right, the guy with all the spiders on his back (hey, a spider connection for Spider-Man, neat) the guy who tried to screw over Dr. Jones in the Temple in the beginning of the movie, only to forget about the sunlight trap and get speared to death. The guy to utter the immortal line, "Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip!" That guy, was Alfred Molina.

Nothing bad can happen to me now...
Great character, great actor. Great character actor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Top 11 Insane/Awesome Bond Villain Plots

11. Casino Royale
There's no one more deadly than a man walking home from a black tie party the morning after.

Bond: Daniel Craig
The Villain: Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelson)

Insane Plan:
Le Chiffre is the money guy for an evil group of, well evil people. In the books this organization was called SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), but there was some legal finagling over who owns the rights to SPECTRE, so in the new movies they're called QUANTUM (which, as far as I know, doesn't have a cool acronym). Why do they have a money guy? I guess he's like the CFO and they just run their evil organization as a business. This leads to all kinds of jokes like "Do they have a health plan?" "Do they offer dental?" "What are the hours like?" It's just kind of ridiculous both on the surface and the more you think about it.

Anyway, Le Chiffre has lost a ton of the organization's money because, well Bond did Bond things and now Le Chiffre is in trouble. So here's his plan: Hold a poker tournament with billions at stake and just win all the money. Presumably he's arrogant enough to think that he'll win, but since he's part of an evil organization if he doesn't win he'll just kill whoever does win and steal the money. Here's my problem with this, if you're part of an evil organization and you have people working for you, presumably they work for the evil organization as well. Wouldn't one of them call YOUR boss and be like, "Hey, did you guys know that Le Chiffre lost all the money? Yeah, we're having a poker tournament to get it, I'm not kidding. Look, I just don't wanna get fired. Or killed."

Of course Bond shows up to the poker tourney to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, and Le Chiffre has to do evil things to keep the money, and of course there's backstabbing and evil plots going on all over the place, but seriously, this was the guy's idea. I'll just win the money back at poker. This is the response of the truly stupid. Who let this guy have the money? And didn't QUANTUM do a background check to make sure their CFO didn't have, Oh, I don't know, a gambling problem?

10. Live and Let Die 

Nothing says spy-thriller-action movie like a good Paul McCartney song.

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Dr. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto)

Insane Plan:
Dr. Kananga is the leader of some Caribbean country or something, where he grows tons and tons of Opium that he turns into heroin so that he can make money. Why? I'm not really sure. He has his own country already, in the Caribbean, no less, and he flies back and forth to the U.S. on a private jet, where he hangs out at the U.N. and he owns a string of soul food restaurants. Yeah, I didn't make that last part up, he really does own a string of soul food restaurants.

Not only that, Kananga is giving away 2 tons of heroin with a dual purpose: 1.) to put his competitors out of business and 2.) to create more addicts. And where is he giving  away all this free heroin? Why, through his soul food restaurants, of course! But, as insane as this plan is, what I never got about Kananga was, why does he need more money? He seems to have plenty. I guess this is just one of those, the rich get greedy kind of things, but his motivation always seemed to be a little off.

Oh, and did I mention that Kananga's alter ego, the drug dealing lunatic he pretends to be, is named Mr. Big? Oh, yeah. That happened.

9. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Bond: George Lazenby
The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas)

Insane Plan
Stay with me, because this one is tricky. Bond is done with his last assignment, so he heads back to work for MI6, but his bosses tell him he can't keep going after Blofeld (like he wanted to do at the end of the movie before this) so he threatens to quit, but ends up going on vacation instead so he can pursue Blofeld on his own.

Here's where the crazy starts, though. Somewhere in the Swiss Alps, Blofeld is brainwashing 10 women to distribute biological weapons throughout the world. He has ten women, that he calls his "Angels of Death", basically trapped at this Mountain Resort, where he's convincing them he's helping them therapeutically, but in reality he's playing audio tapes to them while they sleep to convince them to spread biological weapons throughout the world when he releases them.

Why? Because Blofeld wants to be recognized as a count. No, really, that's his end goal. He wants to be recognized as the current Count de Bleauchamp. Again, this man is the leader of the largest criminal organization in the world, but all he really wants to do is be a count. His plan is to hold the world ransom with his 10 brainwashed women who would destroy the world's agriculture unless he's given amnesty for all past crimes and his title of Count.

There's something seriously wrong with this guy.

8. Die Another Day
I don't know how guns work. The whole thing gets that hot?

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Colonel Moon (played by Toby Stephens/Will Yun Lee)

Insane Plan
Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (love that name) meets Bond early on, ends up chasing him across a minefield, gets an explosion in the face and drives a hovercraft over a waterfall (presumably to his death). There's some hand waving magic where Bond is captured by North Koreans, tortured, then released, then loses his "00" status, and has to go figure out what's going on because he believes someone betrayed him.

Turns out Colonel Moon not only didn't die, but has used gene therapy and DNA restructuring to make himself into a British guy named Gustav Graves, who has built a giant orbital satellite that can be used to harness solar energy.

Only, not really because his giant orbital satellite is actually a big freaking laser which he plans to use to destroy the minefield between North and South Korea so his troops can march in and retake South Korea
and reunite them into one big happy communist family.

I have several problems with this, but the one that makes me giggle is the thought of the North Korean army just waiting by the DMZ for the laser to clear the area so they can charge in and attack. That image just kills me for some reason.

But here are some bigger problems. Using an orbital laser to destroy the minefield/DMZ just seems like way too much overkill, doesn't it? Like getting rid of the ants in your backyard by dumping napalm on them? Couldn't he have just bought like a million remote control racecars and just driven them through the DMZ until they hit all the mines? And if you have the money to build an oribtal laser, why not just, I don't know, by some helicopters man! You're making this waaaay too complicated.

7. You Only Live Twice

He's going to be too tired to go on with the second one.

Bond: Sean Connery
The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Donald Pleasance)

Insane Plan
So, Blofeld, lunatic leader of SPECTRE, has a plan. He builds a giant spaceship, sends it into space and has it hijack an American Spacecraft. Why? So he can blame it on the Russians. And, also, the Japanese. See, he made his SPECTRE spaceship totally look like a Russian spaceship so the Americans would think the Russians did it.

Then he had both spaceships crash into the sea near Japan (it's unclear whether or not that part is intentional). So now everybody suspects the Russians and/or the Japanese.

Oh, and what was the point of all this? Blofeld wants to start World War III for...some reason that's again, never explained. Look, I get the whole idea of "let's spread chaos!" or even just good old fashioned "we hate the establishment!" but seriously, there's no other motive behind this? Just "We'll start WW3"? That's it? That's your whole plan?

And again, this is a privately funded criminal organization that managed to not only put a ship in space (something not easily accomplished) but also to hijack an American space craft while they were up there! How much better off would the world be if SPECTRE would just use their money and talents for something other than Blofeld's insane whims.

6. The Spy Who Loved Me
This came up in a Google Image search for the Spy Who Loved Me. And then I cried a little.

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jurgens)

Stop me if you've heard this before, but Karl Stromberg wants to start World War 3...

Now, there are a couple of areas where his plan differs from Blofeld's in You Only Live Twice. First of all, instead of space ships, he just stole a couple of submarines. One from Russia, and one from America. He plans to use the American sub to blow up Moscow, and the Russian sub to blow up New York. So far, his plan seems infinitely more plausible than Blofeld's, if only because he didn't start with freaking space ships.

Subs I could see a criminal organization of this size stealing. Stealing and, you know, being able to pilot them without having to be frigging astronauts. Because, really, I mean, come on.

But Stromberg also has an end game. See, it's not enough for him to just start WW3. He has plans for what's going to happen after. Namely, he intends to repopulate the world in his own image, and just to stick with the submarine theme, he plans for that new world to be created UNDERWATER. He's even built an underwater city called Atlantis. (You were so close, dude. I was with you right up until the underwater city. And then you gave it the most cliched name...)

So, yeah. This kind of thing apparently happens a lot.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies
Jonathan Price is so pissed that Bond brought two dates to the party that he can hardly stand it.

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Price)

We're sticking to a them here, because guess what Elliot Carver wants to do...

If you said, "Start World War 3" then congratulations! You now possess all the intelligence you would ever need to become a Bond villain. You could drool on a napkin, tie a cheeseburger to your head, and try to kick start a motorcycle with the power of rainbows, but as long as you know that your next objective is "Start World War 3" then henchmen will be flocking to your underground, volcano-covered palace ready to do battle with British Secret Service's seventh best agent.

Of course, Elliot has to throw his own monkey wrenches into the plan. He doesn't want the US and the USSR to fight. Oh, no. That's been done to death. Tried it and failed. We've seen the flaw in the plan! No, what he wants is for the United Kingdom to fight China! There you go. That ought to get her done.

Did I mention the villain in question is a media mogul who owns his own CNN type tv station? I didn't? That's too bad, because he doesn't want to do it just for kicks (like Blofeld) or to start his own society (like Stromberg). No, he wants to do it so his news team will have something big to cover on their first day on cable! No, really.

Though as a side benefit, he also expects to kill off the Chinese leaders who refused to give him full and exclusive rights to news broadcasts in China.

A little petty, now that I think about it.

4. Moonraker
Wait...can James Bond breathe in space?
Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Hugo Drax (played by Michael Lonsdale)

Did you think we were done with this theme? Good, because we're not. No, no, no. We have one more "I will destroy the world and remake it in my image" player left. Following Stromberg's idea of having a plan for after the destruction, and borrowing Blofeld's idea of using outerspace, Hugo Drax has decided to destroy the world and rebuild it in his own perfect image. And by destroy the world I, of course, mean by dropping poisonous plants into the Earth's atmosphere while he and his hand picked human replicators chill out on a spacestation orbiting the earth.

It's like he just mushed together Blofeld and Stromberg's plans and then added his own little extra brand of crazy with the poisonous plants.

How does Bond find these people?

3. GoldenEye
Indeed it is...

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
The Villain: Alec Trevelyan (played by Sean Bean)

GoldenEye is all about revenge. Stay with me, because this is complicated. Apparently Alec Trevelyan was a Cossack, or an Eastern European, probably from the Ukraine or Russia, they were allied with the Nazis during WW2, and his parents were killed by the British army or something, so he hates Britain. So he did what any reasonable British hating person would do: joined up with the British Secret Service. Presumably he was pretty good at his job because at some point he became a double 0 agent, and in fact the movie begins with both he and Bond infiltrating a Russian weapons facility where Trevelyan fakes his death.

He then spends 9 years building up a criminal syndicate called Janus (get it? Cause Janus is two faced...) and now intends to use a giant space satellite to destroy the Bank of England and ruin Britains economy. First of all, that's pretty much  the same plot as Fight Club, and second of all, that's a really bizarre plan, isn't it? "I hate this country that killed my parents! I will ruin your economy!"

Doesn't quite have the ring of "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" does it?

Also, he plans to steal some money first, just, cause, yeah. Money. Money's awesome.

2. View To A Kill
Is the sniper aiming for Bond, or for Grace Jones' foot?

Bond: Roger Moore
The Villain: Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken)

Again, the complications pile up early, and again we have some loose affiliation to Nazis (always in the top 5 movie villains of all time, along with Commies, zombies, aliens, and creepy children). See, Max Zorin was some kind of genetic Nazi experiment created by a guy who escaped after WW2 and ended up hiding out in Russian (look at that! Nazis and Commies! There's no stopping them!)

Zorin runs a microchip factory in Silicon Valley, and he plans to take over the microchip market by detonating some explosives in a mine he purchased and flooding Silicon Valley with water, thus destroying all his competition. It's like the only way these guys can figure out how to be the best is by destroying their competition in the dumbest way possible. Really? A flood?

This movie is plagued with bizarre complications, though, including Zorin owning horses that always seem to win races, but can never be found with drugs in their systems (because everyone assumes he's doping them). It turns out later that he implants microchips in the horses that release drugs into them. Now, here's why this makes no sense: they test for drugs after the race, but they don't find any. But then we find out he's releasing drugs into them during the race, so how come there's no traces of the drugs? It's like the screenwriter realized that halfway through the movie you'd already be so confused by the plot that this just wouldn't occur to you.

Also, at one point Zorin has Bond and some kind of political official trapped in a building and instead of just shooting both of them he shoots the politician, leaves the gun behind, and sets the building on fire, either hoping that Bond will die in the fire, or will be caught with the gun and accused of killing the politician. At this point he realizes Bond is a spy, so why would you hope for that outcome? Wouldn't Bond just be like, "Look, I'm a British government agent, that guy set me up." And he'd be done for. I mean, seriously.

1. Goldfinger
Nothing says "High finance criminal" like a nice gold pair of pajamas.

Bond: Sean Connery
The Villain: Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Fröbe)

My favorite Bond movie, and one of the best plans any villain ever had (in my humble opinion). Goldfinger is trying to break into Fort Knox. Now, normally this would just be any idiot's plan to get rich, "We'll break into Fort Knox and steal the gold!"

But that's not Auric's plan, oh no. See Auric already has a bunch of gold. His plan is to actually break into Fort Knox and set off an atomic bomb, irradiating the area (and all the gold) so that it would be untouchable for hundreds of years.

This would have the brilliant side effect of making the gold Auric already has exponentially increase in value. When Bond figures out what the plan is even he's impressed, and he's already James Bond.

Of course the only flaw in his plan is that he has a hot chick working for him (named Pussy Galore, of course) and she falls in love with Bond (of course) and ruins the whole thing.

Chicks, am I right?