With New Year's Eve around the corner and pun fully intended, the movie is the latest in the string of movies featuring a huge ensemble cast. With no shortage of actors and actresses in Hollywood, "New Year's Eve" may be the one with the most yet. However, recently, movies with ensemble casts rarely received critical reception, even if they are successful commercially, such as "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Valentine's Day". Worse, it is that crushing disappointment you feel when you watch your favourite actor or actress deliver line after line of cringe-worthy dialogue or be subjected to cringe-worthy scenes. With that in mind, you can be rest assured, for this feature is here to ensure that you will never have to suffer through another movie starring your favourite actor or actress again this holiday season with a list of oldies but goodies.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Who could forget the signature poster of Uma Thurman lying on the on the bed with a cigarette in hand? Few are unaware of Quentin Tarantino's award-winning film; however, most have not watched "Pulp Fiction". With a nonlinear narrative, it joins the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. The film's title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue, and is an example of the noir genre. The roles are also specially written for the cast, so you know that no money was wasted on stars being eye-candy.
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames
Before Paul Thomas Anderson made "There Will Be Blood" starring Daniel Day-Lewis in 2007, he made "Magnolia". The film struggled in box office records, but the mosaic of interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley became a critical success. A omniscient narrator begins the story with three urban legends, before showing the audience parallel stories of two men near their deathbeds, filled with regret over their children. "Magnolia"'s lack of commercial success could be credited to its metaphorical themes and eloquent cinematography, however, one cannot help but be drawn in to the train wreck taking place, made all the more emphatic by the ensemble cast.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly
Steven Soderbergh helms this comedy-crime remake of the 1960 film of the same name. Hollywood's A-list stars come together to pull off one of the greatest heist in history, led by George Clooney, who plays Danny Ocean. The eleven member team, including Frank Catton (the late Bernie Mac), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), it is called "Ocean's Eleven" for a reason, are targeting the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand, all of which are casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). If they succeed, they are US $150 million richer. This job is not going to be easy, but if anyone can pull it off, it will be Ocean's Eleven.
Gosford Park (2001)
Cast: George Clooney, Bernie Mac, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Andy García, Julia Roberts
A whodunnit film, "Gosford Park" follows in the vein of Agatha Christie's mystery novels, with a murder as the catalyst for a character study of the key players. The story follows a party of wealthy Britons and an American and their servants, who gather for a shooting weekend at the English country house, Gosford Park. A murder occurs after a dinner party and so begins the subsequent investigation into it from both the servants' and the guests' perspectives. However, director Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" did not flop like a certain M. Night Shyamalan film due to the noteworthy cast, who managed to incite drama and suspicion integral to the plot. The film went on to win many accolades, besides being a box office success.
Love Actually (2003)
Cast: Maggie Smith, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry
Boasting an ensemble cast consisting predominantly of British actors, and a setting in London, the film begins five weeks before Christmas and is played out in a weekly countdown until the holiday, followed by an epilogue that takes place one month later. Directed by Richard Curtis, it was a refreshing take about different aspects of love as shown through ten separate stories involving a wide variety of individuals, many of whom are shown to be interlinked as their tales progress. For those who love the romantic comedies with interweaving stories, this is the one that started it all.
Cast: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Sienna Guillory, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln, Laura Linney, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert
The film took everyone by surprise when it won the Oscar for Best Picture over "Brokeback Mountain", even without even being nominated for any category in the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture. Paull Haggis directs this American drama with interweaving stories depicting the racial and social tensions in Los Angeles, California before culminating in a dramatic climax. Some of the key characters are a police detective with a drugged out mother and a thieving younger brother, two car thieves who are constantly theorising on society and race, the white district attorney and his irritated and pampered wife, a racist white veteran cop who disgusts his more idealistic younger partner, a successful Hollywood director and his wife who must deal with the racist cop and more, making this one of the rare films with a highly varied ensemble cast.
Cast: Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton
Christopher Nolan has redefined genre with his science-fiction thriller about idea extraction. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a specialized corporate spy and thief whose work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from his targets' mind while they are asleep and dreaming. A tragic past also rendered Cobb a fugitive who is wanted for murder and unable to visit his children until one day, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life as payment for an almost impossible task, to perform inception. Every cent that Nolan has spent on his cast is a penny well-spent, because everyone has an important role to play within the story, so much so that individual character posters such as "The Extractor", "The Point Man", to name a few, were created.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine
Cinema Online, 29 November 2011