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Old 06-07-2019, 01:56 AM
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Actors who clearly wanted and put their hearts into the role.... but it just didn't work


Watching "Hoffa" starring Jack Nicholson. Now this might not be the greatest example because the writing and direction is already poor, but surely JackNicholson as Jimmy Hoffa is a home run, no?

Er, no. Despite an earnest performance, Jack just does not pull it off either. All you can think of is it's Jack Nicholson with a funny haircut playing Jimmy Hoffa and it just does not work despite the best efforts of a generational talent.

Let's put it this way: Danny Devito steals the show!

What other movies are there where the actor tries hard but still falls short? The better the actor with the biggest turkey, the better! But remember: the actor had to put his heart and soul into the part.




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Last edited by russian heel; 06-07-2019 at 01:57 AM.
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Old 06-07-2019, 08:29 AM
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Not a big actor, and certainly not a big movie, but the movie Ideal Home has a recent example of this.

Steve Coogan is clearly putting it out there as best he can in an obviously crappy movie. Meanwhile, his costar Paul Rudd apparently decided to just mail it in. Quite a contrast.

Coogan has got a lot of recognition over the years, both before and behind the camera (Philomena). But there's nowhere interesting who could take this character no matter how hard he tried. It was going to be DOA.

Last edited by ftg; 06-07-2019 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:36 AM
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George Clooney as Batman. Playboy, sure, but he’s just not dark and disturbed enough.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:40 AM
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George Clooney as Batman. Playboy, sure, but he’s just not dark and disturbed enough.
You would think that Clooney playing Batman would be an easy home run. Tall, dark hair, nice chin. That movie had plenty of other issues to go around and it's unfortunate that this became his only opportunity to play that character.
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:09 AM
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You would think that Clooney playing Batman would be an easy home run. Tall, dark hair, nice chin. That movie had plenty of other issues to go around and it's unfortunate that this became his only opportunity to play that character.
I'll forgive that entire movie because it made Clooney enough money that from then on he could make the movies he wanted. Good Night and Good Luck owes its existence to that horrible Batman monstrosity.
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:21 AM
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How about a movie where everyone else is trying except one actor, and he is still the best thing on screen? Edward Norton has stated he did The Italian Job only as a contractual obligation and didn't care two figs anything about it, yet still outshines Wahlberg, Statham, Theron and Seth Green, by a mile.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:17 AM
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How about a movie where everyone else is trying except one actor, and he is still the best thing on screen? Edward Norton has stated he did The Italian Job only as a contractual obligation and didn't care two figs anything about it, yet still outshines Wahlberg, Statham, Theron and Seth Green, by a mile.
Try Starcrash. It is a cheesy, low-budget ripoff of Star Wars, and Christopher Plummer is obviously just phoning it it for a quick paycheck. Yet he still gives a better performance than the rest of the cast combined.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:14 PM
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There's Jody Foster in Bugsy Malone. I don't know how hard she was trying, but she's clearly outdoing the rest of the cast.

But it's very disconcerting. It makes her seem out of place.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:19 PM
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I'm seeing a lot of examples of the opposite of what the OP is asking for, which is someone who tried their best but utterly failed at making it work...like Nicholas Cage in most of his movies, but specifically the Ghost Rider movies.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:20 PM
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It happens whenever an actor who's super-recognizable - whether it's their looks, their speech patterns, or whatever - plays a historical figure.

Paul Giamatti as John Adams would be one example IMO. It was an ambitious production, but...he's Paul Giamatti. I am never going to look at him or hear his voice and not think "it's Paul Giamatti."

Some actors have the ability to pull this off and disappear into a role. Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) as Truman Capote; Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln; Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett as Howard Hughes and Catharine Hepburn in The Aviator. But it takes major acting chops.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:33 PM
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There's Jody Foster in Bugsy Malone. I don't know how hard she was trying, but she's clearly outdoing the rest of the cast.

But it's very disconcerting. It makes her seem out of place.
I remember seeing this back when it was first released and thinking "Its cast is entirely child actors, with one adult performance". Jodie Foster is inhabiting a character and the rest are performing their characters. She's essentially a seasoned actor, just in a child's body.

I took a quick look at her IMDB page (she's only done 80 acting roles in a 50 year career!) and she had already done Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane when Bugsy Malone was released.
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Old 06-07-2019, 01:46 PM
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Every actor involved, Game of Thrones season 8.
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Old 06-07-2019, 03:28 PM
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Anybody ever seen a movie called The Swarm?

If you haven't, please go look at that cast list. Dear Lord.
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Old 06-07-2019, 04:01 PM
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Johnny Depp tries really hard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But there was no saving that film.
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Old 06-07-2019, 04:47 PM
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Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker in Tucker. He tried his damndest to portray Tucker as the spunky little guy who got crushed by the Big Auto Companies, but he still came off as being just slick enough to make you wonder if Tucker might have been a con artist all along, just like his critics claimed.
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Old 06-07-2019, 04:54 PM
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Ang Lee's version of the Hulk. Not only the actors, but also the director, producers, etc.

They all wanted to make a good film.
They all tried to make a good film.
You could see the effort they put into it.
It just never quite came together.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:58 PM
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Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker in Tucker. He tried his damndest to portray Tucker as the spunky little guy who got crushed by the Big Auto Companies, but he still came off as being just slick enough to make you wonder if Tucker might have been a con artist all along, just like his critics claimed.
Back when it came out, after seeing all the trailers and clips, I just assumed Bridges was playing Tucker The Slick Carnival Barker.

SO many of these mentioned were disappointments. Especially the HULK... Ang Lee directing Eric Bana, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly... Sam Elliott! Why wouldn't my friends and I rush to the theater?
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:50 PM
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I thought Shia LaBeouf put more energy into his role than anyone else in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But in the end, it didn't matter.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:22 PM
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In Mac and Me, a lot of the actors are going about it as if their lives depend on this movie.
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:35 PM
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Some actors have the ability to pull this off and disappear into a role. Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) as Truman Capote; Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln; Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett as Howard Hughes and Catharine Hepburn in The Aviator. But it takes major acting chops.
And Cate Blanchett as 25 year old Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There". That movie/role was challenging for all who played him, but Blanchett pulled it off perfectly.
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Old 06-09-2019, 11:41 PM
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Ang Lee's version of the Hulk. Not only the actors, but also the director, producers, etc.

They all wanted to make a good film.
They all tried to make a good film.
You could see the effort they put into it.
It just never quite came together.
I guess i was in the minority but I thought Ang Lee's Hulk was a great movie.

Also I must say that Ian McDiarmid's performance as Palpatine/Darth Sidious in the Star Wars prequels was outstanding. In fact, I'd say his performance held the films together more than any of the other actors.
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Old 06-10-2019, 12:05 AM
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I'm seeing a lot of examples of the opposite of what the OP is asking for, which is someone who tried their best but utterly failed at making it work...like Nicholas Cage in most of his movies, but specifically the Ghost Rider movies.
It's so diffiucult to believe that Cage's WICKER MAN was actually a labor of love.

I liked his first Ghost Rider- not yet seen 2.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:42 AM
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Will Smith in the recent Aladdin film. Even without comparing him to Robin Williams's Genie and the countless onstage Genie actors in the Broadway version, Smith's performance just seemed flat and forced. It did seem like he was trying to make his own interpretation of the role, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it just left me not feeling excited while watching.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:15 AM
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I guess i was in the minority but I thought Ang Lee's Hulk was a great movie.
I liked it, too.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:16 AM
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George Clooney as Batman. Playboy, sure, but he’s just not dark and disturbed enough.
I'll add my vote for George Clooney in "O Brother Where Art Thou". I just felt bad for him acting his heart out next to pros like John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:34 AM
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It's so diffiucult to believe that Cage's WICKER MAN was actually a labor of love.
So is BDSM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:48 AM
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The one that immediately, springs to mind is Dick Tracy (1990)

Warren Beatty poured everything he had into producing, directing, and starring in the film. He assembled a huge cast of stars of the time, including Madonna, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, James Caan, et al..

Problem was... his acting was flat and overshadowed by some other performances. The story-line very weak.

I was not the huge blockbuster that Disney expected and any plans for a franchise of sequels were kiboshed. Beatty has ownership of the rights and has been in an ongoing battle to bring Dick Tracy back to film or television since.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:52 AM
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George Clooney as Batman. Playboy, sure, but he’s just not dark and disturbed enough.
I don’t see Clooney as putting his heart into it, though; shucks, I’d say Adam West put more effort into making the voices of Bruce Wayne and Batman sound different, and as far as I know West wasn’t actually trying.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:00 AM
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The one I always think of is Gwyneth Paltrow in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It should have been the classic Girl Reporter™ role, fast-talking and spunky, but Paltrow played it as pensive and hesitant. I keep hearing that there aren't enough strong female parts in movies; that was one that should have been and wasn't.

If it had been made earlier, Paltrow's mom would have knocked that role out of the park.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:03 AM
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A lot of vanity projects end up this way, where the actor driving the film really shouldn't have cast himself or herself in the role (Bill Murray in The Razor's Edge comes to mind). Thank God someone talked Madonna out of playing Frida Kahlo.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:03 AM
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Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett as Howard Hughes and Catharine Hepburn in The Aviator.
Oh. I was precisely about to pick DiCaprio in The Aviator as an example for the OP. He tries very hard, but to me doesn't pull Hughes at all.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:39 AM
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Tim Robbins in the Hudsucker Proxy. Robbins can hold his own in Bull Durham with Kevin Costner and he's fine, but put him in a scene with Paul Newman and he just can't keep up.
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Old 06-10-2019, 08:56 AM
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John Travolta in Hairspray. Hell, the man in any musical. He's a mediocre singer and he cannot dance. In Grease, Jeff Conway upstaged him every time.

How does this man even get work?
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Old 06-10-2019, 10:07 AM
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John Travolta in Hairspray. Hell, the man in any musical. He's a mediocre singer and he cannot dance. In Grease, Jeff Conway upstaged him every time.

How does this man even get work?
The Scientology mafia?
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:14 PM
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In Mac and Me, a lot of the actors are going about it as if their lives depend on this movie.
I could easily be persuaded that Mac and Me was made with MST3K in mind.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:45 PM
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Oh. I was precisely about to pick DiCaprio in The Aviator as an example for the OP. He tries very hard, but to me doesn't pull Hughes at all.
We agree to disagree. I think Scorsese cast DiCaprio precisely because he wanted to shatter people's image of Hughes as an insane drag-addicted old man. In the 30s and 40s, Hughes was like a movie star and Scorsese's goal was to remind people of that.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:58 PM
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The Scientology mafia?
After watching Gotti, there is NO WAY he gets a leading role in a major film, again, with the exception of Battlefield Earth 2, should that ever get made.

eta: apparently I was wrong, he just was a co-lead with Morgan Freeman (!) in something called The Poison Rose, released in May, budget not mentioned

Last edited by Helmut Doork; 06-10-2019 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:38 PM
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I'll add my vote for George Clooney in "O Brother Where Art Thou". I just felt bad for him acting his heart out next to pros like John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson.
Hunh? He's just doing character work. One of the few times up til then he had done so.

He was fine. Neither Turtutto or Nelson in that film are doing much more than Clooney.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:05 AM
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John Travolta in Hairspray. Hell, the man in any musical. He's a mediocre singer and he cannot dance. In Grease, Jeff Conway upstaged him every time.

How does this man even get work?
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After watching Gotti, there is NO WAY he gets a leading role in a major film, again, with the exception of Battlefield Earth 2, should that ever get made.

eta: apparently I was wrong, he just was a co-lead with Morgan Freeman (!) in something called The Poison Rose, released in May, budget not mentioned
Travolta isn't that bad an actor (or, in his younger years, a singer) - he was perfect in Saturday Night Fever. However, his style of acting and singing went out of fashion in the 1980s and we have Tarantino to thank/blame for the return of Travolta as a leading actor (plus, possibly, the Scientology mafia). I don't hate him but I don't find him particularly interesting to watch either.

And I don't get the hate for Clooney in "O Brother" - he was playing as much a comic character as everyone else in the film. And at least we didn't have to hear him sing (Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, I'm looking at you).
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:41 AM
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Yeah, Travolta was okay when he was the only one dancing, like in Grease and Saturday Night Fever. But anyone who danced with him clearly upstaged him.

I pointed this out to someone who was hooked on Greased--in Greased Lightning, he gets so upstaged by Jeff Conway (who, IMHO, should have had the lead). She never watched the movie again.
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Old 06-11-2019, 01:43 PM
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Oh. I was precisely about to pick DiCaprio in The Aviator as an example for the OP. He tries very hard, but to me doesn't pull Hughes at all.
I'd pick another DiCaprio film, The Revenant. I know the guy even got an Oscar for it put he just didn't fit into this movie or the role at all for me. Whereas someone like Tom Hardy disappeared into his role and felt exactly like a guy from that time period, DiCaprio (even dirtied up) still felt out of place in that setting. He just didn't have the size or weathered deep voice to pull off the character.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:18 PM
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John Travolta in Hairspray. Hell, the man in any musical. He's a mediocre singer and he cannot dance. In Grease, Jeff Conway upstaged him every time.

How does this man even get work?
He was quite light on his feet in Pulp Fiction.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:52 PM
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I'd pick another DiCaprio film, The Revenant. I know the guy even got an Oscar for it put he just didn't fit into this movie or the role at all for me. Whereas someone like Tom Hardy disappeared into his role and felt exactly like a guy from that time period, DiCaprio (even dirtied up) still felt out of place in that setting. He just didn't have the size or weathered deep voice to pull off the character.
Agreed. It was a make up call for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Overall I thought that movie was pretty overrated. Inarritu made it look pretty, but damn he was really impressed with himself while he did it and he was going to make damn sure you knew it. Terrance Malick would have considered it a bit overdone.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:14 AM
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Hunh? He's just doing character work.
His character was "guy who acts like George Clooney giving stilted line readings"? I guess if that's what it says in the script, then he knocked it out of the park.
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:29 AM
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His character was "guy who acts like George Clooney giving stilted line readings"? I guess if that's what it says in the script, then he knocked it out of the park.
If that's your interpretation, then the same applies to Holly Hunter, who was doing the same thing.
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:04 AM
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Rosie O'Donnelly in'Riding the Bus with my Sister.' One of the most unintentionally funny performances I've ever seen.

Maybe Michael Douglas in ' Falling Down.' I saw it as a black comedy. Don't know if that was the director's intention.
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Old 06-13-2019, 07:38 AM
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Alright, I'll say it: Elijah Woods' Frodo was simply not very good. I cringe watching him onscreen and mostly just want his scenes to be over so I can watch something good.
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:44 AM
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Maybe Michael Douglas in ' Falling Down.' I saw it as a black comedy. Don't know if that was the director's intention.
I think that was fully intended, it was directed by Joel Schumacher after all. One of my favorite bits is when Douglas's character is (mostly unintentionally) terrorizing everyone in the fast food restaurant because he wants a breakfast sandwich. He finally gets it and it looks nothing like the menu picture and he asks "Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this?" and the little kid is the one who raises his hand.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:24 AM
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Paul Giamatti as John Adams would be one example IMO. It was an ambitious production, but...he's Paul Giamatti. I am never going to look at him or hear his voice and not think "it's Paul Giamatti."
Downsizing failed for the opposite reason; the lead role was intended for Paul Giamatti but they ended up casting Matt Damon instead. Now I like Damon and think he's a good actor but this wasn't a role for him. Paul Safranek was supposed to be this schlub who slowly got his life together. But it's impossible to see Damon as the loser he's supposed to be for most of the story. My sense of belief doesn't stretch far enough for scenes where Matt Damon can't find a woman willing to go on a date with him.

The Bank Job failed for a similar reason. Jason Statham played Terry Leather, who was supposed to be a lowlife criminal who's in over his head trying to pull off a big bank robbery. But this is Jason Stathom; we've seen him in too many movies where he's a typical action hero doing impossible things without breaking a sweat. We can't accept him as a character who's struggling to accomplish something.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 06-13-2019 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:31 AM
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we have Tarantino to thank/blame for the return of Travolta as a leading actor
Off on a tangent but I've said before that Tarantino doesn't get enough credit for his skills at bringing out great performances from his actors. Sure, he works with some great actors. But he also gets amazing performances out of actors who haven't otherwise shown that kind of talent.
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