#325. Ron Perlman

Some actors just have that “look.” When they’re cast as distinct characters or stereotypes, and they just fit the role so well, there’s no doubt they’re the right person for the part. Perhaps the easiest archetype to cast is none other than the “tough guy.” From large muscles to tattoos to gruff voices, these characteristics are dead giveaways for the tough guy persona. Because of this, Ron Perlman is often cast as the tough guy in a large variety of movies. Not only does he have the “look” for live-action films, but he has the voice for animated fare as well. The real trick with this character archetype is that they can appear in almost anything. From dramas to comedies and from sci-fi to fantasy, Ron Perlman has done them all. This week’s two films highlight some notable performances from “tough guy” Ron Perlman.

Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

Despite being in many “direct-to-video” projects, Ron Perlman has managed to collaborate with a few different directors over the years. One of his most notable collaborations has been with Guillermo del Toro. From their first film together, Cronos (1993), they have gone on to make four other movies together: Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), and Pacific Rim (2013). Perhaps because Cronos was so early in Perlman’s career, his ability to play tough guy characters was proven here. At the very least, his work with del Toro has enforced this stereotype for him, mostly due to his portrayal of Hellboy (which we’ll get to in a minute). While being pigeonholed into a stereotypical role might seem a disservice to an actor’s career, I think Perlman manages to use these roles to his advantage, continuing to prove what a badass he is.

Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman) is searching for a device known as “Cronos.” The rumor states that whoever possesses the device is given eternal life, which is why Angel’s wealthy, dying uncle, Dieter (Claudio Brook), set him on task to find it. While many of the archangel statues that could contain the device prove to be empty, Angel just happens to run across an antique dealer at a party. This antique dealer was licking blood off a bathroom floor, giving Angel enough of a hint that he pressures the man to divulge where the device is located. When the man refuses to talk, Angel kills him, only to find that it is not that easy to kill an immortal man. Of course, by now Angel is tired of waiting for his inheritance and decides to take his fate into his own hands, despite Dieter coming quite close to obtaining the Cronos device.

Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

Sometimes, to play a tough guy, all you need is the voice. Ron Perlman has had many roles where either he’s covered in makeup, or only his voice is used to convey his character. While Hellboy has been his most recognizable role in this state, he has also played the titular Beast in the Beauty and the Beast TV series that ran in the late 1980’s. Regarding his voice work, he’s lent it to characters in such animated fare as Titan A.E. (2000), Battle for Terra (2007), and Tangled (2010). He has even voiced CGI characters in live-action films like Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013). Perhaps his voice is all he needs to convey that Ron Perlman swagger, but it is still fun to watch him work his acting magic when he’s covered in makeup. Case in point, I have trouble separating many of his other characters from his eponymous role in 2004’s Hellboy.

Summoned from a portal that led to hell, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) has spent the last 60 years hidden away in a secret government facility. The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) uses Hellboy, along with a team of supernatural beings, to perform missions to keep the United States safe from the dangers of the paranormal world. In that time, he has developed a crush on a pyrokinetic human named Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). Unable to express his true feelings to her, he watches in jealousy as a new FBI agent, John Myers (Rupert Evans) starts a friendship with her. Meanwhile, Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), the man who brought Hellboy into this world, has been causing trouble for the BPRD as he continues to execute his plan to bring hell to earth and control the supernatural powers for his sinister benefit.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Perlman performances

Bacon #: 2 (Enemy at the Gates / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)


#314. Stockholm Syndrome

Hollywood has often been accused of glamorizing characters and plots that are downright unrealistic. Often, these characters will act in a way that is seen as completely illogical, often just to get the plot to the climax it needs. Women in romantic comedies can be found in relationships with jerks to highlight the “good guy” difference in the male protagonist. Similarly, some dramas show women in abusive relationships, unable to leave due to their illogical love for the guy. While this latter example is more realistic, it highlights something usually seen in hostage situations: Stockholm syndrome. These survival instincts may be illogical in any normal situation, but in the high-stress and dangerous hostage situation, this coping mechanism helps hostages to survive, even if the effects last long after the incident is over. This week’s two films examine some examples of Stockholm syndrome.

Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

“There’s no place like holm . . . Stockholm.” One of the negative aspects of many Disney films is that they are largely based on stories from a much different time. While the stories themselves are usually harmless, there are often boundaries and more adult concepts that need to be discussed with small children. Snow White couldn’t give her consent to being kissed, even if it would break her curse. Ariel’s relationship with Prince Philip couldn’t work because she wasn’t able to communicate, and communication is the key to a good relationship. Aladdin’s relationship with Princess Jasmine was founded on lies, which isn’t a good way to start a relationship. The only reason Rapunzel didn’t escape her captor earlier is that she grew to love her “adopted mother,” even after the verbal abuse Mother Gothel used to keep her trapped in the tower.

For eighteen years, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) has lived in a tower with her “mother” Gothel (Donna Murphy). While Rapunzel understands the intrinsic reason for her solitary confinement is to protect her from the dangerous world outside, she still longs to see the world beyond her window. What she doesn’t know is that Gothel stole her from her birth parents because she possesses a magical power in her hair to heal; a power that Gothel has used for hundreds of years to remain young. When a thief by the name of Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) accidentally finds his way into her tower, Rapunzel sees an opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, now she is torn about going to see the annual lantern lift-off, as it could damage her relationship with Gothel. It’s not until she realizes she’s the missing princess that she breaks the “spell” Gothel had over her and truly tries to escape in earnest.

Dog Day AfternoonDog Day Afternoon
Year: 1975
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

If Hollywood movies are any indicator, one of the most frequent locations for a hostage situation to take place is in a bank. Bank robberies seem to be common and it’s difficult to do during daylight hours without involving a few innocent civilians. Consequently, if these hostage situations take too long, then Stockholm syndrome has more time to take hold. There are a few thought patterns that can develop into Stockholm syndrome, including the development of positive feelings toward their captor, believing in the humanity of their captor, no previous connection or relationship to their captor, and lack of cooperation with the authorities sent to help them. Any one of these ways of thinking can lead to a false sense of safety in the hands of someone who by all logical indicators is a dangerous individual.

During the dog days of summer, Sonny (Al Pacino), Sal (John Cazale), and Stevie (Gary Springer) head into the First Brooklyn Savings Bank in an attempt to rob the place. Unfortunately, their timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only is there a measly $1,100 left in the vault, but soon the police are alerted of the situation after Stevie runs away. Now Sonny and Sal have decided to sit it out in the bank, along with everyone else who happened to be in there when they started their two-bit scheme. Sonny tries to keep the hostages comfortable, allowing one of them to go when they have an asthma attack. He even goes so far as to request that the police bring in pizzas for the hostages. As the hours tick on by, everyone learns why Sonny needed the money, which helps to humanize his plight. Eventually, both robbers get their demands met and are driven to the airport, where they find one final surprise waiting.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 helpful hostages

#313. Grimm Fairy Tales

With the resurgent popularity of fairy tales having reached its apex a few years ago, it was interesting to note that many of these children’s stories were collected together by only a handful of people. Originally, these stories were meant to scare children into obeying their parents, but over time they evolved into less violent plotlines. While we might consider Hans Christian Andersen to have penned many of these classic fairy tales, like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen, and The Ugly Duckling, Andersen actually came after the Grimm brothers. Despite not necessarily being the original authors of their collected fairy tales, these brothers were the first to bring these stories together in a single, cohesive format. This week’s two films highlight a few adaptations of these Grimm fairy tales.

The Brothers GrimmThe Brothers Grimm
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

Most people will know that the fairy tales we are told when we are children aren’t real. The characters and scenarios that once taught a lesson were manufactured for education on how to behave. Once they were collected together and written down for commercial purposes, these fairy tales became quite a bit more entertaining and much less terrifying. But what if these stories were based on something that actually happened? It has been said, “write what you know,” so if these Grimm brothers had actually experienced some of these fairy tales, it would then stand to reason that they would know about them and know how to transcribe them into a written form. This is the interpretation taken by the Terry Gilliam-directed film The Brothers Grimm (2005), combining together a number of known themes and motifs from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.

Both the Grimm brothers, Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jakob (Heath Ledger) don’t believe in supernatural forces. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from tricking villages out of their savings to rid the area of curses and witches. So, it comes to their surprise that a village where young girls are vanishing is actually due to a real paranormal entity. The evil Queen (Monica Bellucci) holed up in her tower has been absorbing the youth and beauty of many girls over her 500-year lifespan by drinking their blood. Each time the ceremony is performed, twelve girls are needed. With ten girls missing already, the Grimm brothers find that one of the girls of the village is the daughter to the werewolf woodsman (Tomáš Hanák) who has been placed under the Queen’s curse. In breaking his curse, Will manages to fall into an enchanted sleep that only Jake can reverse.

Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

In 1937, Disney began their long history of adapting fairy tales into feature-length animated movies. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) was pulled from the Grimm fairy tale about Snow White. Even though they used fairy tales from other sources (like Hans Christian Anderson), they would return to these classic stories for many years to come. Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and The Princess and the Frog (2009) were all influenced at least in part by the fairy tales the Grimm brothers collected centuries ago. Up until 2010, these movies had maintained similar titles to their Grimm counterparts. What would have normally been titled Rapunzel ended up being renamed Tangled (2010). They took a similar naming convention three years later with Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen being titled Frozen (2013) and five years after that with the upcoming Gigantic (2018).

Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) has lived for more than 500 years due to a plant she found that was grown from a single drop of sunlight. Since this plant has restorative powers, the nearby kingdom searched for it in order to save the Queen, who was ill during childbirth. Consequently, the flower’s powers were transferred into the hair of their daughter: Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), whom Gothel kidnaps and hides in a solitary tower. Years later, Rapunzel wants to see the world, unaware that her uncut hair is the only thing keeping her “mother” alive. As fate would have it, rogue thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) finds this hidden tower and uses it to escape some palace guards. Rapunzel uses the opportunity of her first and only visitor to escape the tower to see the lanterns being released on her birthday in memory of her kidnapping. Will she find out who she truly is before Gothel captures her again?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Grimm fairy tales

#036. Dreamworks vs. Disney

Anyone from an economics background could tell you that a monopoly does not induce a spirit of creativity. If one group controls the entirety of an output, what motivation do they have to be innovative? Disney has been the epitome of feature-length animated features for almost a century. Other animations studios may have come and gone, but Disney remained. This monopoly over the animated film market was finally challenged in 1998, when the fledgling studio known as Dreamworks released its first full-length animated feature, Antz. This was a firm stand against Pixar (a Disney subsidiary) and it’s 1998 film A Bug’s Life. Now that computers have made it easier to do feature-length animated films, more studios have stepped up to try and take on the Disney giant. While Dreamworks has seen varying levels of success, they have held their own against the Disney empire and still continue to release films to this day. This week’s two films highlight some representative works of both sides of this animation battle.

How to Train Your Dragon
Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 98 minutes / 1.63 hours

Being the new kids on the block, Dreamworks took a while to really find what works in an animated film. While Disney and Pixar focused on story and plot, Dreamworks tended toward gags and franchising. Their first real hit came in 2001 with Shrek, which took Best Animated Picture in the Oscars, heralding their arrival as an animation studio. Even though Dreamworks tends to rely on sequels (generally going out to 4 films) and high profile voice actors, it wasn’t until 2010 and their release of How to Train Your Dragon that they really were able to get down to the root of a great film: story. Even though Dreamworks hasn’t really done many classically animated films (for which Disney is well known), they came in on the ground floor of the fledgling computer generated imaging (CGI) animated films, which really gave Disney a run for its money.

How to Train Your Dragon is definitely a departure from the standard Dreamworks fare, which saw a definite shift in 2008 with Kung-Fu Panda. It seemed that in 2008, they finally grasped what computer animated features could be capable of, and fully utilized that to provide a very action packed film. With 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon, the action and spectacular visuals were there, but fused with a great story; which comes as no surprise as it was directed by the same duo that gave us Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Themes such as “Brain over Brawn” and “Anti-discrimination” were definitely deeper than the simplistic plots that seemed to dominate the Dreamworks landscape. As Dreamworks continues to grow and mature, I look forward to the films they’ll create to compete with Disney and Pixar.

Year: 1992
Rating: G
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours

Even though Disney initially used Pixar as their CGI powerhouse, they’ve gradually been able to make these types of films, for which this year’s Wreck-it Ralph looks like a pure Disney classic. And yet, if there’s one thing that Disney has been known for, it’s the classically animated films of the 20th Century. These feature-length films were certainly impressive when you come to think about what goes into making 90 minutes of animation, all drawn by hand. And yet, with 50 animated films, Disney has seen various levels of success over the years, which helps to evolve the studio to match changes in society, while still holding to a high standard of quality.

Aladdin is definitely in the short list for my favorite Disney films (along with Tangled and Sleeping Beauty). I think this is partly due to the protagonist and main focus being on a guy, instead of a princess, for which Disney set the standard. In fact, Aladdin flipped that format on its head by having the street-rat pursuing the princess Jasmine, with whom he had fallen in love, instead of focusing on the princess longing for true love and waiting for her prince to appear. This also provides an interesting twist to the prince/princess formula, since it enforced the importance of riches and background instead of true love, which shouldn’t be restricted by such societal boundaries. Aside from its non-traditional Disney approach, Aladdin is still a fun film filled with action, adventure, comedy, love, and magic. All the elements that have made Disney successful in the past.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 animation powerhouses