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2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent

2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent (photo)

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There may be nothing more frustrating to watch as a movie lover than good talent wasted. From our perspective, we felt that frustration way too many times in 2010, as we watched some of our favorite actors squandered in underwritten supporting roles and pointless cameos. Here, now, is our list of the 14 most egregious examples. The point of this list isn’t to bash these actors. On the contrary, we want to shame the filmmakers who had the good sense to hire these brilliant folks but the bad judgment not to use them properly.


Ellen Page in “Inception”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Take a look at the “Inception” Memorable Quotes page on IMDb. Now search for quotes for Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne. They’re all questions. “Why is it so important to dream?” “Why wouldn’t I wake up?” “Why can’t you go home?” “Whose subconscious are we going through exactly?” And on and on. Page plays the film’s dream architect, the person responsible for designing the worlds the rest of the characters travel through in their sleep. But really, she is the audience surrogate who stands around looking confused and asking questions. So while Page has plenty of screentime in “Inception” it is all a big misuse of her talents. Page is a smart woman, and she’s good playing smart characters: Hayley in “Hard Candy;” Juno in “Juno.” But for all her architectural genius, Ariadne’s a bit of a dim bulb, and that makes her a bad case of miscasting for Page. You might as well hire Babe Ruth in his prime to be your team’s batboy. [MS]


01062010_KnightandDay.jpgPaul Dano in “Knight and Day”
Directed by James Mangold

It’s not unusual for actors known for indie films to take supporting turns in big blockbusters to help pay the bills, but Paul Dano and Peter Sarsgaard, not to mention recent Oscar nominee Viola Davis (who’s getting really good at playing parts that call for her only to crosses her arms and look disgruntled), were likely expecting more when they signed on to “Walk the Line” director James Mangold’s first action film. While Sarsgaard comes off as a standard issue baddie, the real question mark is Dano, who plays a nerdy inventor notable mainly for his oddly stringy goatee. By design, the character and his bottomless battery invention are a bit of a McGuffin, but what’s worse for Dano is having to confront the same dilemma Shia LaBeouf did in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:” having to play the one-dimensional comic relief for major stars (Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz) without upstaging them, even though audiences know he’s capable of more. Dano does the best he can in that department, which means he isn’t able to show the reasons why he was probably cast in the first place. [SS]

Lizzy Caplan in “127 Hours”
Directed by Danny Boyle

While it’s safe to say many of us at IFC.com are firm believers that everyone from the cast of “Party Down” should have their own starring vehicles (see: Adam Scott), Lizzy Caplan should have some genuine gripes about what went down in 2010. After the cancellation of “Party Down,” Caplan saw her unique wit and verve lavished on the thankless role of the rock journalist who captures John Cusack’s heart in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and then appeared in the wordless role of Aron Ralston’s sister in “127 Hours.” One can’t blame Caplan for wanting to work with Danny Boyle, no doubt saying to her agent at some point the old adage, “I’d sweep up in the background to appear in one of his movies.” But that’s basically what she does, appearing for mere seconds in one of Aron’s hallucinations when he’s trapped between boulders. For those that love her, Caplan’s brief appearance almost works because you instantly empathize with Aron for wanting to see more of her. Then again, that’s also the problem. [SS]


01072010_scheer1.jpgPaul Scheer in “Piranha 3D”
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Just how superfluous was Paul Scheer to the narrative of “Piranha 3D?” So superfluous that when the film ran out of money before they could animate his death, they just removed him from the film. That’s right: Scheer’s Andrew, the “Wild Wild Girls” cameraman trapped on a boat surrounded by bloodthirsty fish, doesn’t even get the honor of a cheaply animated piranha murder. He just vanishes into thin air. One minute he’s on the boat with the rest of the cast, the next minute he’s gone, never to be seen — or even mentioned! — again. Director Alexandre Aja just banked on people caring so little about this character they simply wouldn’t notice. Which is too bad, since Scheer, a legitimately funny guy as a member of the sketch show “Human Giant,” probably could have delivered a great comedic death scene. Maybe Andrew can return for this year’s sequel — “Piranha 3DD” — and explain just what the hell happened. [MS]


Rufus Sewell in “The Tourist”
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

In order to explain just how wasted Rufus Sewell was in “The Tourist” I need to SPOIL the end of the movie, so if you’re thinking of wasting your time and money on this film (something I would strongly advise against) you should skip ahead to the next entry on our list now. Sewell plays “The Englishman,” a mysterious character who pops up occasionally during the film. He looks like he’s following Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, but his motives are kept vague. But since he’s Rufus Sewell we figure he’s got to be somebody important. Nope. Turns out Sewell is a nobody who’s been paid to wander around Venice looking suspicious. The fact that The Englishman is a red herring isn’t a problem; plenty of good mysteries rely on red herrings. No, the problem is that the entire movie promises Rufus Sewell is going to do something interesting, and he never does. That’s like having a character talk about his super cool machine gun in scene after scene, then having him reach for a baseball bat when the zombies finally attack. It’s an utter disappointment. [MS]


01072011_dinnerforschmucks4.jpgJemaine Clement in “Dinner for Schmucks”
Directed by Jay Roach

Much like his performance in Jared Hess’ little-seen “Gentlemen Broncos” a year earlier, it looks like Jemaine Clement just decided at some point during the production of “Dinner For Schmucks” that he was going to be in a different movie than the one the rest of the characters were in. On the other hand, that could be considered a byproduct the rangy direction by Jay Roach, which allowed fellow cast members Zach Galifianakis and Lucy Punch to let their freak flags fly as the “schmucks” recruited by Paul Rudd’s corporate climber for his boss’ dinner of shame. Still, in a movie that was set up to be a circus, Clement’s wild, animal-loving conceptual artist Kieran Vollard feels like an elephant in the room, a fact the filmmakers seemed to concede by creating a series of Funny or Die viral videos around him to promote the film, despite the fact that he takes a backseat in “Schmucks” to the less interesting Rudd, Steve Carell and Galifianakis. [SS]

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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