Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Elsie Fisher, Russell Brand, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud – Despicable Me 2
My love for this witty, heartfelt and hilarious animated film is no secret; as superspy Groo, marvelously voiced by Carrell, struggles to raise his daughters, romance Wiig’s hilarious superspy and track down Bratt’s over-the-top, hysterical supervillain turned Mexican restaurant owner, the vocal talents just never stop. And special kudos to co-directors Coffin & Renaud; they also give us the voices for the most indelible and iconic characters here, those little bundles of pure id, the Minions.
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Bill Bailey, Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw, Eric Mason, Paul Freeman, Rory McCan, Kenneth Cranham, Maria Charles, Anne Reid, Adam Buxton, David Threlfall, Lucy Punch, Stephan Merchant, Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, Cate Blanchett – Hot Fuzz
What an astounding cast fills out this action movie spoof. First off, you’ve got the village police force where Simon Pegg’s hard charging officer finds himself trapped; then there’s the larger group of villagers; and even the cameos, like Merchant & Blanchett, land perfectly. Taken at a glance, this cast list reads like a who’s who of great British actors of both past & present and every one of them hits their marks to absolute perfection.
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Slavitza Jovan – Ghostbusters
Begin with a perfectly cast quartet of Ghostbusters (Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis & Hudson), stir in a romantic interest (Weaver), a wacky next door neighbor (Moranis), a sassy secretary (Potts), a pompous bureaucrat (Atherton) and a genuinely terrifying villain (Jovan) and you have something like the most perfect cast for an eighties comedy. To a person (except for Jovan), they’re hilarious.
Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Well, at this late date, it’s no secret that Wes Anderson can assemble astounding casts with a snap of his fingers. Some of these folks are underused, seemingly always the case in an Anderson ensemble, like Murray, Wilkinson, Schwartzman and Law, but it’s still a pleasure seeing them pop up, however briefly. As to the rest, they’re excellent; Fiennes is pitch perfect and Brody, Goldblum & Abraham give their best performances in years. With the words “grand” & “hotel” in your title, you need a hell of an ensemble; Anderson has one.
Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Kristen Wiig, Spike Jonze – Her
What a cast of actors are on screen here; Phoenix & Adams serve as wonderful anchors; Wilde & the seemingly ubiquitous Pratt are wonderful support; Mara comes in for just a cameo, but nails her scene to perfection. And that’s not taking into account the wonderful voice cast. Johansson, primarly, of course, as the lovestruck Operating System, but there’s also Jonze as the voice of a foul-mouthed & hilarious video game character and Kristin Wiig as a phone contact with a somewhat . . . strange sexual fetish. Perfect right down to the ground, in other words.
Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Dean Brooks, Nathan George – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Nicholson’s electric lead performance steals all the attention, but the rest of the inmates of the psychiatric hospital are perfectly cast and perfectly performed. Brad Dourif gives one of his best performances and, of the others, Lloyd particularly impresses in a somewhat atypical role. But the entire cast is really fantastic here.
Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Heather Kafka, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sue Rock, Adriene Mishler, Gary Poulter – Joe
Yes, it’s Cage’s best performance in years and another triumph for young Sheridan, but the rest of the cast is fantastic as well. Blevins is a genuinely terrifying villain and Poulter, a non-professional actor giving his one & only performance, is electrifying as the alcoholic, abusive father of the Sheridan character. Kafka is wonderful as the madam at a local brothel and Adriene Mishler is very good as Cage’s girlfriend.
Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam – On the Waterfront
Brando leads a cast of brilliant actors in this story of waterfront crime and corruption. Saint is remarkable, especially for a debut performance. Malden manages to take a character that could easily be hackneyed, a crusading priest, and makes him real and believable. Cobb chews the scenery marvelously and Steiger, usually a scenery chewer himself, gives his quietest, and maybe his best, performance. It’s a great cast, no doubt.
Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Monica Dolan, Jessica Gunning, Mark Ashton, Paddy Considine, Liz White, Faye Marsay, Russell Tovey – Pride
It’s another cast of great Brits in this tale of gays and coal miners coming together during a protest against the Thatcher government. Mark Ashton is phenomenal as the idealistic youngster who dreams the whole thing up and both the group of gays and the group of coal miners are populated with great actors. Special note to Nighy’s quiet, retiring villager, Considine’s warm-hearted optimist and White’s sarcastic, punky lesbian chick. It’s an inspiring film and meticulously cast and acted.
Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Tanroh Ishida, Hiroyuki Sanada – The Railway Man
Firth gives his best performance in quite a long while as a deeply traumatized WWII vet; it’s a raw, wrenching performance and it’s matched by a quieter, more interior performance by Skarsgard as a fellow vet. Kidman gives her best performance since Moulin Rouge as Firth’s troubled wife. Irvine is the young Firth character and Ishida is the brutal Japanese officer that tortures him mercilessly during his time in a prison camp. It’s a gut wrenching film and the powerful script gives its talented cast plenty of opportunity to give great performances, in many cases the best they’ve given in years. It’s a definite must see.
Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Adrian Martinez – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Stiller gives a fine performance here as a sad sack loser thrust into a world of adventure. The always welcome Wiig is quieter and less overtly funny than usual, though Adam Scott takes up the slack as a heinously irritating corporate man. Sean Penn does his best work in years in a brief cameo. The rest of the cast is equally perfect for their roles. Oswalt is relegated to mostly voice work, but he imbues his character with personality and zest even though he’s typically just a voice on a phone line. It’s a great cast in a surprisingly wonderful film and one that a lot of people missed; time to rectify that, especially if you like good acting.