Tag Archives: Sylvester Stallone

T.G.I.F. – Ten from Cop Land

While spinning the TV dial last night I stumbled across Cop Land, and as I always do when this happens, I stopped searching and settled in to watch. I’ve seen it a dozen times, I know exactly what’s going to happen, but any movie with this cast is worth watching again regardless. While there are plot points that are a bit preposterous, several of the actors in the film give understated performances, especially Sylvester Stallone…although there is (Robert DeNiro) a wee bit (Ray Liotta) of scenery chewing going on.

Watch the trailer for Cop Land.

Frankly, Stallone’s portrayal of Freddy Heflin might be the best work Sly has ever done, especially considering the caliber of actors he’s playing against and with. Heflin is a guy who life has left behind; a hangdog middle-aged Sheriff who has given up on success and just wants to get through the day without any problems. Ironically, a moment of actual heroism left him deaf in one ear and cost hin a chance at the NYPD and the girl whose life he saved. There’s a quiet scene between Sly and Annabella Sciorra as the girl who got away where she asks him why he never got married; the pain and heartbreak in his expression is the antithesis of one of his Rambo grunt-fests.

James Mangold wrote and directed this gem, in which you’ll spot half the cast of The Sopranos as well as other familiar faces, including Paul Calderon, Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, Bruce Altman, John Ventimiglia, Debbie Harry, Malik Yorba and even Method Man!

So many of the people in this film are known for iconic characters from television and/or movies, but they also have some gems that might not be as well-known. So today I thought I’d pick ten Cop Land cast members and offer a viewing tip for each. And, of course, see this movie.

* Harvey Keitel in The Border, as Jack Nicholson‘s corrupt partner. A forgotten gem for both actors.

* Robert Patrick in The Sopranos, in a short but memorable arc as gambling addict who gets in over his head.

* Ray Liotta in Phoenix, playing a cop with a gambling problem who tries to take the easy way out.

* Peter Berg in The Last Seduction, as the ultimate tool of Linda Fiorentino (not that I blame him!)

* Annabella Sciorra in Whispers in the Dark. Not great, but a decent suspense flick with twists and turns and a shocking performance from Alan Alda.

* John Spencer in Presumed Innocent, as a Detective who tries to help Harrison Ford out of a jam. Also one of Ford’s best roles.

* Michael Rappaport in Kiss of Death, where he plays David Caruso‘s slimy weasel of a cousin.

* Cathy Moriarity in Soapdish. An underrated movie with a great cast and her comic performance is a standout.

* Noah Emmerich in The Truman Show. Everyone remembers Jim Carrey and Ed Harris but often forget Emmerich as Truman’s “best friend”.

* Edie Falco in Sunshine State, sadly one of John Sayles’ lesser known pictures but a great character study.

(I think you can research that DeNiro guy on your own.)

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Anniversaries

 

It’s not that I wanted to repeat last week’s model of ten famous birthdays that fall on the same day, but damned if February 26th wasn’t a key date for a lot of entertainers and artists who made an impact upon me. Just more credence for the MDC Theory (Memorial Day Conceptions) I proposed last Friday. (I determined that my birth was the result of a St. Patrick’s Day party that got a little crazy.) 

And it’s not all birthdays either – February 26th is also the day we lost a couple of favorites, including one of the best and most influential comedians of all time. So here are ten anniversaries, in chronological order; celebrate their contributions today. 

Seven birthdays...

Tex Avery, 1908 – One of the top animators, voice actors and cartoon directors of all time. He could be a legend just for creating Daffy Duck but in fact was involved in hundreds of cartoons and characters for Walter Lantz studios and the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, whose ribald humor I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child. 

Jackie Gleason, 1916 – Maybe we just take some people for granted, especially when they make it look effortless. Gleason was a television pioneer; his eponymous variety show and The Honeymooners are seminal influences in the medium (the Honeymooners concept even spawning a more long-running animated version in The Flinstones). But his turns in The Hustler and Requiem For A Heavyweight show that he was no slouch as a dramatic actor either. 

Video: The Great One 

Fats Domino, 1928 – The congenial, portly piano player continues to inspire blues players and rockers alike with his trademark style. “Blueberry Hill”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m Walkin” – the list is endless. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until the 80’s to realize that Fats was why Chubby Checker chose his stage name. We almost lost the legend in Hurricane Katrina but he’s 82 today. 

Godfrey Cambridge, 1933 – Cambridge was a very intelligent man; he earned a full scholarship to medical school but dropped out to pursue an entertainment career.  He was a staple on talk shows in the 60’s and 70’s with a smooth and smart style like fellow comic Bill Cosby (but talked about black and white issues with a more sarcastic edge). He died early; sadly his albums are out of print and he is known to many only for his acting in films such as Watermelon Man and Cotton Comes To Harlem

Johnny Cash, 1932 – Nothing much need be said about The Man In Black that you don’t already know, his recorded legacy is essential listening. But you might not have seen that the last album in the American series has just been released entitled Ain’t No Grave

Listen to sample clips from Ain’t No Grave 

Chuck Wepner, 1939 – The Bayonne Bleeder. Watching Muhammad Ali fight in his prime was like watching Mike Tyson; odds were the challenger wasn’t going to last long. Wepner was given no chance by the pundits but took everything Ali threw at him for fifteen rounds, even flattening the champ in the ninth round. This fight inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky

Mitch Ryder, 1945 – I’ve certainly written plenty about my fondness for Mitch Ryder, and although the link shows you just how prolific he continues to be, it’s not the same as hearing the music. The newest album (misnamed on the AMG entry) is Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet, his first American release since 1983, and an autobiography is scheduled for release this Summer. 

...and three fond farewells.

We remember those lost on this day, including… 

Buddy Miles, 2008 – Most famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys and his hit “Them Changes”, Miles was also a player with Wilson Pickett, a member of The Electric Flag, and leader of his own group The Buddy Miles Express, featuring a hot-shot guitarist named Jim McCarty

Video: Buddy Miles 

Lawrence Tierney, 2002 – Quintessential tough guy for whom it was no act; his real-life boozing and brawling cost him an A-list career. Quentin Tarantino, for all his quirks, has a knack for putting an actor past his prime in a plum role and Tierney will forever be remembered for his turn in Reservoir Dogs as the curmudgeonly caper mastermind Joe Cabot

Bill Hicks, 1994 – I’ve expounded upon Bill Hicks at great length; he’s one of the most important comics in the history of the art form. Although his death at 33 meant an abrupt end to his career, he left us an incredible body of work and continues to inspire comedians to hold a mirror up to society and tell the truth

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Lasting Impressions

I love good impressions. Some targets are so classic (Walken, Nicholson, Cagney) that it’s hard to add a new wrinkle to them after all this time.  Other times you nail someone so well, you can’t get away from it, and if something happens to make that impression taboo…well, you’re Vaughn Meader.

Not too many people do impressions any more as a full time endeavor; Jim Carrey was one of the most brilliant impersonators I ever saw but even he walked away from it. You can even see that someone as well-known as Frank Caliendo is getting stale by almost being compelled to constantly do John Madden. Having him play a show and not do Madden is probably like the Rolling Stones trying to get offstage without playing “Satisfaction”.

The days of full time impressionists like Frank Gorshin and Rich Little surviving outside the casino circuit seem to be long gone, so we just have to find people who drop a few in their act.

 stand-up-comedy

Even though it’s pretty mean spirited, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder all year than watching Anthony Jeselnik do Dane Cook.

When someone has the gift, they have the gift. Kevin Spacey rules.

And I know Christopher Walken impressions are a dime a dozen, but Kevin Pollack is the master.

Gilbert Gottfried does Andrew Dice Clay.

And finally, an old classic: Andrew Dice Clay does Eric Roberts, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino. The gestures are better than the voices for Pacino and DeNiro, but he nails Travolta and Stallone, and that has to be the best Eric Roberts impression I’ve ever seen.

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