Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Rachel Weisz

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a look at some of our favorite films featuring actress Rachel Weisz, who can next be seen in this weekend's "Oz the Great and Powerful". Weisz was born in London, England and got her start in the entertainment industry as a model at the age of 14. Always very intelligent though, she later attended Cambridge University where she primarily studied English. It was here that she gained a passion for performing. But instead of joining a Drama group like so many students do, she simply created her own theater company, where she wrote, cast and starred in her own plays. In fact, before she graduated, one of her productions, "Washbag", even won multiple awards throughout a very robust British theatre circuit.


Weisz continued with her acting after graduation, appearing in various British theatre productions. In 1994 she won the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer. This propelled her acting career and assisted in her landing higher profile film roles in the mid to late 90's.

While Weisz has been nominated for and won one Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress - "The Constant Gardener", 2005), she supposedly turned down a role that could have landed her another. According to sources, she was offered the lead female role in Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind", but turned it down. This role eventually went to Jennifer Connelly, who won an Oscar for her performance.

As is the case with any actor, there are a few other notable missed roles along the way - including two in which she lost Cate Blanchett: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008) and "Robin Hood" (2010) - but the one that is the most surprising is her initial offer to appear in Kevin Smith's "Clerks
II". Unfortunately, even though she wanted the role and tried to make it work, due to scheduling conflicts she had to pass. The role eventually went to Rosario Dawson.

Hit the jump for some of our favorites that Weisz did land a role in!


Alex Schopp -
For the variety of Weisz's films that I've seen and enjoyed, the most obvious lacking aspect of her filmography is that there's no clear #1 option. While I'm happy having all five of the below films on this list, they all feel like they should be #3 or #4 selections. The ranking of these films feels just about as arbitrary as any I've ranked before for one of these posts; take that for what you will.

     1. Definitely, Maybe (2008)

My favorite romantic comedy at one point, this is the only film I feel like has a re-watchability factor high enough to deserve top billing on this list (even though I'd rather it not be here). The film brings together a handful of actors all providing strong performances, including Ryan Reynolds in the leading role (though he's since gone to this well a few too many times, it feels). It's nothing revolutionary, but it's a satisfying film to watch. In other news, I think we need to do a macho list next week - a lesser man would soon be questioning his masculinity with all the rom-coms I've had atop these lists recently!
     2. Confidence (2003)
I love heist movies so much. Seeing films with these elaborate schemes, with intricate plans and specific roles for each individual person that all have to be executed to perfection...it's a thing of beauty. In another life I'd really like to be the leader of a heist team.
     3. The Mummy (1999)
As much a supporter I am of this series (well, this one and the sequel), this movie doesn't hold up nearly as well as our younger teen selves would like to remember. It's still a fun movie though, and I'm a really big fan of historical action adventure films. And even though this one strays a bit more from the historical end of things than others, it's still an entertaining movie that should appeal to the little archaeologists in all of us.
     4. Runaway Jury (2003)
Just a solid thriller, with another great cast. I love movies or TV shows about the law, especially something like this when you're dealing with behind-the-scenes stuff like jury tampering. I would love to be a specialty consultant similar to Gene Hackman who is a master at picking and reading juries; making sure my team never loses.
     5. The Fountain (2006)
If nothing else, the art direction and cinematography was magnificent in this film. I loved the various time periods that the film covered, but I'll admit that I was a bit lost in its sea of details and tones. But as many of Darren Aronofsky's films are, this is more of an art piece that you should at least experience. I think there's enough here to enjoy, even if you aren't loving it - and definitely more than some of the other films I considered for this final spot.

Ben Foutch -
I don't think that I've ever been highly impressed by her acting, but have always enjoyed her screen presence nonetheless.

     1. The Fountain (2006)

Not exactly high in watchability, but the beauty displayed visually and narratively is a passionate and thoughtful representation of our inner struggle to accept the reality of mortality. Maybe it was just ahead of its time, but I think this often misunderstood film will find more acceptance in future generations bored by the transparent nature and construction of the typical "Hollywood" film.
     2. The Shape of Things (2003)
Rachel's character is a self-serving, heartless, manipulative B-word. I almost didn't like Rachel as a person; that is both effective storytelling and competent acting. The characters can be rather frustrating at times, but in the end, lends an interesting perspective on the external focus of society in both art and social interactions.
     3. Confidence (2003)
This is a fairly mediocre film that is wrapped in a fun/stylish package. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for character driven con-artist films and Dustin Hoffman.
     4. Runaway Jury (2003)
An above average Hollywood thriller that is propelled by a rockin' cast and is another enjoyable flick with Dustin Hoffman. I've never read the Grisham source, so feel free to compare in the comment section.
     5. Constantine (2005)
Another mediocre film on the list, and I apologize wholeheartedly. That being said, it's a fun/cheesy movie that boasts memorable characters and a fairly decent atmosphere of supernatural dread. It's a shame about the terrible computer generated effects though - it really takes you out of the experience. With a better script and different art direction, this could have been much more than it turned out to be.

Derek Clem -

     1. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Between this, our Russian Themed list, and our Jude Law list, people might be under the impression that this is one of my favorite movies. It is very good!
     2. Constantine (2005)
I really hope when Guillermo del Toro makes the Justice League Dark movie he recasts Keanu Reeves as Constantine. Doubt he will, but a man can dream.
     3. The Fountain (2006)
Sort of difficult to follow, but beautiful to look at. Requires multiple viewings.
     4. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
I've only seen this once and I don't really remember Rachel Weisz in this movie, but I do remember that the movie didn't disappoint me much. Just some standard good viewing.
     5. The Mummy (1999)
I liked this movie when I first saw it opening day at the theater. I now hate it. It's a chore to watch. I don't blame Rachel Weisz for ditching this franchise at all. The ride at Universal Studios is a lot of fun though.

Nathan Hinds -
This was a weird list to make. I love most of the movies on this list, but I don't like Rachel Weisz in many of them. She has always been one of my least favorite actresses. I don't think she is a bad actress, I've just never enjoyed her parts in most of the films I've seen her in.

     1. The Mummy (1999)

Easily my favorite movie on this list, and easily the least I've ever enjoyed her character. This was the first movie I ever saw her in and my dislike for her character in this has carried over to pretty much every other movie I've seen her in. My dislike for her character aside, this is still an awesome movie.
     2. The Mummy Returns (2001)
I usually will never put multiple films in a franchise on a list but it couldn't be avoided in this case. The thing I find really weird about this movie is that it flips everyone's roles from the first film. In "The Mummy" it's Brendan Fraser making jokes the entire movie, but in this one he's the most serious character, and everyone else just seems to be around for that comic relief.
     3. Constantine (2005)
The more I watch this movie the more I like it. Had I had the opportunity to watch this movie one or two more times it probably would be a spot higher on this list. It's a very underrated film, and is definitely a must watch for anyone who hasn't seen it and loves movies based on graphic novels.
     4. The Fountain (2006)
This is one of the very few films that I've ever walked out of the theater before it finished. I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood for watching a movie at the time or if my horizon on films wasn't broad enough at the time, but all I know is I couldn't make it through the movie. When I watched it several years later though I actually thought it was quite a beautiful film. It's certainly not for everyone, but it's a great option for those who want a more challenging watch.
     5. The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Okay, I don't like this movie that much, but this was the most I've enjoyed a performance by Rachel Weisz. The only reason I don't completely write this movie off is because I still believe there is hope that the characters in Legacy can eventually contribute to an interesting story.

Tracy Allison -

     1. Runaway Jury (2003)

I love movies that are set in New Orleans and this movie is pretty cool. Also, who doesn't love a high tension John Grisham based flick? Rachel Weisz is pretty amazing in this. You aren't completely sure of her angle, but you’re on her side. There’s an amazing scene between Weisz and Gene Hackman as opposing forces trying to broker a deal. They both act intimidating and collected, but after they part, both are visibly shaken. For me, this lent an air of real emotion to the drama and made the character’s respective objectives more personal. Honestly, this an interesting time to watch this movie too, the conversation presented about guns is almost identical to the relevant one currently facing America.
     2. About a Boy (2002)
Unfortunately, Weisz doesn't have a huge role in this movie. But, I fell in love with it when it was released on DVD and showed it to my friends. I couldn't understand why they didn't like it the way I did. Maybe my eighth grade buddies saw Hugh Grant and expected more of a Bridget Jones’ Diary type film. At any rate, it’s thoughtful and emotional without being too exclusive. Maybe just not the exact fare for thirteen year olds.
     3. Definitely, Maybe (2008)
This movie isn't perfect and neither is some of the acting, but I like that it’s not necessarily your standard romantic comedy. Rachel Weisz’s character serves as a catalyst to for the advancement of the major plot line. At any rate, I feel this movie was important in scoring her a wider and different audience.
     4. The Mummy (1999)
Okay, so I was about eleven when this came out and Rachel Weisz’s character was basically my hero. I love adventure movies about archaeology and she was ladylike and beautiful and nerdy, but still cool and smart. "The Mummy" is a fun little jaunt, and appeals to my nostalgic sensibilities and love of adventure films. It’s one of those movies that doesn't score so well with critics, but audiences love!
     5. The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Not to be confused with 1999’s ‘Deep Blue Sea’, this film is about messy relationships and holding on to them, even to the detriment of those involved. Weisz is in a strange position, especially since this movie takes place in the early 1950’s. Her character’s name is Hester, and while watching I can’t help but compare her to Hester of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ fame. There are some similarities there, indeed.

Another week full of a great variety of films! This week, thirteen different films made the cut above, while six appeared at least twice. No film managed all five lists, but two hit on four. "The Fountain" and "The Mummy" both managed that feat, both also with the same exact average ranking of 3.25. They also both appeared in the #1 spot on one list each. One is art and low watchability, the other more mindless action adventure fun. Neither got amazing reviews from critics, but overall, we feel that these are two of the more notable films from Weisz's eclectic filmography, and two worth paying some attention to when familiarizing yourself with her entries.

Two films appeared on three lists, both "Runaway Jury" and "Constantine", while two others appeared on two, "Definitely, Maybe" and "Confidence". This is a fantastic grouping showcasing a great deal of variety. No one would blame you if you don't love all of the films from this section, but it seems safe to say that there would at least be one or two appealing to most viewers.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that Rachel Weisz has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!