The Voices of Villainy: Darth Vader, Bane, Agent Smith and More

The Mandarin 2With the release of Iron Man 3 just months away, Marvel fans are watching and re-watching the handful of Iron Man 3 trailers available on YouTube. And, if you’re like me, you’ve noticed the slow cadence of Ben Kingsley’s voice as the Mandarin. “Some people call me a terrorist,” he says, slowly and deliberately, “I consider myself a teacher. Lesson No. 1: Heroes. There is no such thing.” Then explosions and all hell breaks loose.

Kingsley’s voice as the Mandarin reminded me of the voice Tom Hardy used for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. It, too, is slow and calculated. His voice is something between a purr and a growl when he says, “When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.” Then, again, explosions and chaos.

Wicked WitchThis made me think: How many movie villains are defined, in some way, by their voice? There are, of course, some classic villains with classic voices, like James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. Dracula is another. Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula and Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing, among others, have given Dracula his Transylvanian tongue. And there’s Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 The Wizard of Oz. Her voice was part of the reason that I was too afraid to watch The Wizard of Oz as a kid. And as a pre-teen. And teen.

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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful (2013): “We love you, Zach Braff!”

Oz BalloonOz the Great and Powerful suffers from some inconsistencies. The pacing is questionable, and James Franco occasionally confuses Oz with his character on General Hospital. But, all in all, the movie is enjoyable, and a great deal of the credit goes to Zach Braff.

Zach Braff plays Finley, Oz’s talkative, winged-monkey sidekick. Though the movie focuses on the plights of Oz, including Oz’s awkward love quadrangle with Theodora, Evandora, and Glinda, Finley steals the show whenever he appears on screen. Finley’s banter with Oz has enough of the spunk and humor of Scrubs that Oz the Great and Powerful could almost be an extended John Dorian daydream.

Oz Monkey and DollOther characters have their moments, of course. Rachel Weisz is a wonderful Evanora; Michelle Williams inspires as the uplifting Glinda; and Mila Kunis gives a decent performance as Theodora. And there’s the awesome China Girl, voiced by Joey King. Director Sam Raimi also comes across as talented, given the film’s stunning visual effects. Still, even as Franco soared above a beautiful CG world in a bubble, I found myself hoping that Finley would say something again. Continue reading

Romantic Movie Moments You Shouldn’t Attempt at Home: The Sequel


Romantic movies are filled with inspirational moments, but some of these moments are better left on the screen. We must be careful what we try in real life. In 2011, I wrote an article about the possible downfalls of real-life adaptations of certain films, including Serendipity and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now, in an attempt to further help fellow romantics, I’ve added three more films to that list. For your safety and emotional well-being, do not try these moments at home.

City of Angels (1998)

City of AngelsSafety first. If you are lucky enough to spend a weekend at Lake Tahoe with an angel who literally fell from the sky to be with you, take care of yourself. Don’t ruin it by biking through the hills with your eyes closed. Maggie Rice, a lovely nurse who enjoys rain and dangerous activities, captures the attention of Seth, an angel. After a long and bizarre courtship, Seth and Maggie end up together in a California paradise. They have everything they could ever want—except for pears. So Maggie heads out to get some pears and decides to play a game of peekaboo with traffic. Maggie dies, and Seth mourns. It’s all very sad, but it could have been avoided if Maggie had kept her eyes open. Or had worn a helmet.

Love Actually GoodLove Actually (2003)

This movie features a variety of romantic moments, including scenes of feel-good cuteness (Hugh Grant caroling), endearing awkwardness (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page), and intriguing emotion (Emma Thompson forgiving Snape). Few of the movie’s scenes are anchored in reality, but there is one scene that would be especially horrible to try in real life. Mark, played by The Walking Dead‘s Andrew Lincoln, is in love with his best friend’s wife. So, in an attempt to be honest at Christmastime, Mark knocks on his friend’s door, pretends to be a caroler, and secretly tells Keira Knightley about his feelings using cue cards. Friends: Do not try this. Not only does Mark break the bro code by hitting on his best friend’s wife, he tells her that he will love her forever. Romantically. Forever. This means that every future get-together will have an awkward, love-triangle cloud hanging over it. He’s doomed them to uncomfortable group vacations and unpleasant dinner parties for the rest of their lives. Maybe he can apologize to both of them with a PowerPoint slideshow.

WALL·E (2008)

WALL-E and EVESome may not consider WALL·E to be a love story, but the plot is filled with romance. A robot meets the robot of his dreams, falls in love, and then follows her across the universe. WALL·E and EVE literally dance among the stars. The romantic moment that shouldn’t be tried at home, however, occurs when WALL·E first sees EVE on Earth. WALL·E is a lone hoarder who has been stranded on Earth for years with only a cockroach for company. EVE is the first romantic possibility that has crossed his path in a long time. So, while their love proves true in the end, WALL·E really just started flirting with the first option that appeared. WALL·E was desperate. If there were an OkCupid for robots, WALL·E would have a profile. “Hobbies: Sorting trash on an abandoned planet.” “Interests: Fred Astaire.” In other words, WALL·E got lucky. EVE turned out to be the best choice, but WALL·E went for her because she was the only choice. When it comes to love, everyone has a right to be choosy, including WALL·E.

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013): “You know what? Excelsior.”

Good Day to Die HardFor a movie that prides itself on yippee-ki-yay-style action, A Good Day to Die Hard is well-peppered with awkward one-on-one dialogue. The new Die Hard movie has the usual explosions, gunfights, and cliched one-liners—writers replaced John McClane’s usual “I’m too old for this” catch phrases with the more original, “I’m on vacation!”—but those scenes are just toppings on a cake of weird conversations and unnecessary interactions.

The relationship between John McClane and his son, Jack McClane, is like the relationship between Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook, except without the emotional nuance and Oscar-nominated performances. Both films contain strained father-son relationships. Both pairs have communication problems. In the opening scenes of A Good Day to Die Hard, John disrupts an elaborate rescue mission by attempting to manufacture heart-to-hearts amid gunfire and car chases. McClane’s journey toward suburban-style parenting is a long one, and his son is more understanding that he should be. More understanding than I was.

A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard BrosWhile John and Jack gushed about guns and feelings, I imagined what the movie would be like if it really were a blend of Die Hard and Silver Linings Playbook.

John McClane: “Just sit down, come on. Help turn the juju around. The CIA is stupid.”

Jack: “What? Stupid? How is—you know what? Excelsior.”

John McClane: “What the f*** is ‘excelsior’?”

Jack: “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna take all this negativity, and I’m going to use it to find a silver lining. I’ll be the best CIA agent ever. Better than Tony Mendez.”

Good Day to Die Hard PalsI’d watch that movie. Die Hard Playbook. At least that movie would better analyze the father-son dynamic that Die Hard both highlights and under-develops. And maybe it would feature a CarterDanny hybrid, a character played by Chris Tucker who would wisecrack his way into dangerous situations and then sweet-talk his way to freedom. And Jennifer Lawrence would be there. So many possibilities.

John Moore: Director

Skip Woods and Roderick Thorp: Writing

Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney: Stars