Jack O’Connell and the Vanishing 20-Year-Old Star

Leonardo DiCaprio was a film superstar in his teens. Monty Clift, Brando and James Dean were legends by 27. But in 2014, Jack O’Connell was the only under-30 leading man outside the YA ghetto to anchor a $100 million movie. Is it an anomaly, or is something going on in Hollywood? I considered the issue, and O’Connell’s brief career so far, in The New Republic.


For Your Consideration: Aug. 29, 2014

Is there something strange in your neighborhood? Is it something weird and don’t look good? Who you gonna call?

Probably your landlord. Maybe the police? But as you do so, there’s a certain song that will most certainly be running through your head. Yes, it’s been 30 years since the release of Ivan Reitman’s classic comedy “Ghostbusters,” and Ray Parker, Jr. still ain’t afraid of no ghost. To celebrate this auspicious anniversary (and, I would presume, as a bit of a tribute to co-star and co-writer Harold Ramis, who passed in February), “Ghostbusters” is being re-released this weekend into select theaters nationwide. So head out to the theater, but if you really want to make a day of it, here’s some suggestions for further paranormal hijinks – some even featuring guest appearances by the Ghostbusters themselves.

– Ethan

“Casper” (1995)

Cast: Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Malachi Pearson, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett, Amy Brennemann

Available to purchase on iTunes, on disc from Netflix

There was a time, not so very long ago, when comic book heroes didn’t wear spandex or fight off invading aliens from outer space. Instead, they haunted old mansions, struck up friendships with other children, and sought the route to the afterlife. Not Spiderman or Thor, but Casper, the friendly ghost-child who lives in the deserted Whipstaff Manor with his three obnoxious uncles. In an attempt to save the manor from demolition, Casper tricks a paranormal therapist (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (a young Christina Ricci) into moving to the manor. High jinks ensue. The relationship between Casper and Kat (a young Christina Ricci) is touching, the gags are wonderful even if the CGI is 20 years old, and the three uncles come straight out of vaudeville. Plus, it even features a cameo from Dan Aykroyd—as a ghostbuster!

– Elaine

“Bubba Ho-Tep” (2002)

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy

Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant, on disc from Netflix

It’s hard to get past the log-line summary for “Bubba Ho-Tep,” this altogether bizarre indie black comedy from cult director Don Coscarelli: “Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy.” That’s not even getting into the fact that Elvis is played, with superb faded-star glory, by Bruce Campbell, or that JFK apparently survived the assassination, only to be “dyed black” and abandoned. A bizarrely clever take on aging and the transience of fame, wrapped up inside an occasionally bloody supernatural shoot-out between the cursed mummy Bubba Ho-Tep and these possibly-resurrected, possibly-just-plain-crazy human heroes.

– Ethan

“Zombieland” (2009)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin

Available to purchase on Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix

A surprisingly tight-knit character-based comedy – besides a prominent (and delightful) cameo from a “Ghostbusters” favorite, the four main actors have essentially the only speaking roles in the film – “Zombieland” gets by on some mediocre zombie action and predictable characterization thanks to the terrific, and hilarious, performances. Harrelson in particular stands out as the gruff good-old-boy Tallahassee, paired against his will with nebbishy apocalypse-survivor Columbus (Eisenberg). Emma Stone (just on the edge of being Emma Stone) also brings a lot of lovable sass to con artist Wichita – you would think she could do better than Columbus, although I suppose in zombie-ridden dregs of civilization you can’t be too choosy.

– Ethan

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead this morning in his West Village apartment in NYC. Various media outlets are reporting the cause of death may have been a drug overdose, but no official confirmation on that yet. He was 46.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Hoffman was one of the greatest actors of his generation, stage or screen. He was not a STAR – he was publicly soft-spoken and not blessed with leading-man looks. But you’d be hard-pressed to find an actor over the past fifteen or twenty years who so consistently knocked it out of the park, from supporting roles and cameos in studio films to some of the most indelible characters in recent independent cinema. His IMDB page is an absolute murderer’s row of terrific performances, even if the films themselves weren’t on the same level.

He earned Oscar nominations for his supporting turns in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Doubt” and “The Master,” and won once for his transformative lead performance in 2005’s “Capote.” And even while those are wonderful roles and he deserved recognition for every one, I’m not even sure they crack my top 5 for him. “Almost Famous.” “Punch-Drunk Love.” “Magnolia.” “Boogie Nights.” “The Savages.” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” “Synecdoche, New York.” “Mary and Max.” “25th Hour.” “Moneyball.” “The Big Lebowski.” “The Ides of March.” Even in big-ticket fare like “Mission: Impossible III” or “Catching Fire,” he brought his A-game every single time. He was one of the few American actors that I would without reservation say had that “British quality:” a dedication and attitude towards acting as a craft, to be respected and taken seriously even in the most non-serious roles.

In recent years Hoffman openly admitted that he had struggled with drug addiction since being in graduate school at NYU in the late ’80s. He checked himself into rehab in 2012. It is tragic and unfortunate that even with his career and talent, his partner and family, and the wide-spread love and respect for him in the industry, there was still this immense pain in his life. I wish it had been otherwise. Our empathy and sorrow goes out to Mimi O’Donnell and the couple’s three children.

Hoffman’s likely last film performance will be seen later this year in Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John le Carré’s “A Most Wanted Man.” The film, and Hoffman’s turn, earned widespread acclaim at Sundance last month.