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Posts Tagged ‘Bryan Cranston’

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

“THE INFILTRATOR” My rating: B 

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Bryan Cranston became a household name on cable’s “Breaking Bad” by playing a decent family man seduced by the the money, violence and power of the drug trade.

In “The Infiltrator” he works an interesting variation on that setup. Here he’s a real-life lawman who goes deep undercover to undermine Pablo Escobar’s Columbian cocaine syndicate.

Director Brad Furman’s film (the screenplay is by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman) is a sort of police procedural enriched by intriguing psychological conflicts.

Set in the mid-1980s in Florida, “The Infiltrator” centers on Robert Mazur, a federal agent who comes to believe that seizing cocaine shipments is a losing strategy since there’s always more coming through the pipeline. A far more promising approach, Mazur believes, is to follow the money. The heads of the cartel can afford to lose drugs; they deeply resent losing their cash.

With the approval of his bosses (among them Amy Ryan and Jason Isaacs), Mazur creates an alter ego, shady businessman Bob Musella, who dresses well, lives big and has created a plan for laundering millions in the cartel’s ill-gotten gains. He begins by befriending the hard-drinking, whore-running street-level drug chieftains and rung by rung works his way up to the biggest movers in the Escobar cartel.

This is all very tricky, and Bob eventually finds it a challenge to separate the venal but charming Musella from his real life with a astonishingly understanding wife (Juliet Aubrey) and two kids. It must mess with your mind going from a coke-fuelled party in a topless joint to a cozy nest in the ‘burbs.

So that he won’t have to betray his wife by sleeping with a hooker (a gift from one of his new drug buddies), Bob claims to be engaged. A fellow agent, Kathy (Diane Kruger), must then step up to portray his trophy fiance. She’s a knockout, and you’ve got to wonder if under the pressure of their shared deception the two agents might not slip into a relationship of a more than professional nature.

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Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo

“TRUMBO” My rating: B 

124 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Bryan Cranston is very good as Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter/Communist/bon vivant/savage wit who won two Oscars under pseudonyms while blacklisted for his politics.

But who would have predicted that “Trumbo” would practically be stolen out from under the multiple Emmy winner by Helen Mirren and John Goodman?

It’s a surfeit of riches.

Dalton Trumbo was contradictory, infuriating, self-righteous, pompous, and wickedly funny. He was very well paid and lived on a sprawling California ranch (earning criticism for being a “swimming pool Soviet”) but appears to have been utterly sincere about making the United States a better place.

He joined the Communist Party of the U.S. largely out of his opposition to fascism in Europe (and, let’s be honest, at home as well). That came back to bite him in the ass after WWII when America went Commie crazy and the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed Trumbo and other Hollywood leftists in a search for Red influence in popular entertainment.

Ten of these unfriendly witnesses refused to answer questions, standing on their Fifth Amendment rights and the fact that joining the Communist Party was perfectly legal.

They were convicted of contempt of Congress (Trumbo publicly acknowledged that he was indeed hugely contemptuous of the bullying Congress), spent a year in prison and emerged to find themselves unable to work in the film or television industry.

Most saw their careers ruined. Trumbo began cranking out screenplays under fake names. Much of his work of this period was pure exploitative schlock, but two of his scripts — for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One” — won Oscars, although of course Trumbo could not acknowledge they were his work.

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Ryan Gosling as The Driver

“DRIVE”  My rating: B- (Opens wide on Sept. 16)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are parts of “Drive” that I absolutely loved.

There were others that made me shake my head in disbelief.

Talk about leaving a film with mixed feelings!

“Drive” cements my suspicion that Ryan Gosling is an absolutely great actor.

And it introduces to mainstream American audiences Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish filmmaker of tremendous talent.

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A modest proposal…

…to open the Emmy logjam

Bryan Cranston won’t pick up a fourth Emmy this year for “Breaking Bad,”  but only because he wasn’t eligible. The show was on hiatus this season.

Hey, I like Cranston. Great performance in a great role.

But I hate the whole Emmy dynasty thing where a performer wins year after year.

I especially hate it because unlike films, where an actor plays a totally different character with each new project, TV actors find themselves winning Emmys for characters they may have created years earlier.

Granted, characters on TV can grow and change over time, but most of the hard work was done that first season.

Here’s my proposal:  Once an actor wins an Emmy for playing a particular character, he/she cannot be nominated for that same character for, say, three years.

It will open up the process, it will put fresh faces and characters into the running, it will spread around the honors and prevent the whole awards thing from becoming an excercise in deja vu.

Thank you for your consideration.

| Robert W. Butler

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