Sunday, August 10, 2014

Introducing Mr. Armitage...

OK, so this won't EXACTLY be an introduction for everyone. Most people outside the U.S. already know this delightful and talented actor. But in the states, he isn't a household name...Yet. I say "Yet" because his career is just getting warmed up in the U.S.A. At this moment in time, you may think you only know him as this guy...

"Into the Storm" - Vice Principal Gary Fuller

But wait! You've seen that face somewhere before. Oh, that's right. He was in a little movie franchise you might have heard of...

Yes, that's right. Richard plays the bad-ass dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit series. Surprised that it's the same guy? That's not a shocker, considering that the mighty "King Under the Mountain" is a far cry, both in looks and personality, from the man who portrays him. Here are some interesting Richard facts:

(This info is courtesy of

His Early Career

- He spent two years on stage in musical theatre, performing in various productions such as CATS in London’s West End.

- He enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) at 25 to further study acting and graduated after LAMDA’s three year program.

- He was accepted into the Royal Shakespeare Company and remained there 18 months as a supporting player in productions like Macbeth and The Duchess of Malfi.

His likes/dislikes

-His favorite actors: Gary Oldman, Kevin Spacey, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig

-Inspirations: Robert De Niro, James Stewart, Daniel Day-Lewis

-Loves live music

-Dislikes Reality TV: To quote Richard, “Celebrity reality shows: celebrities cooking, dancing, singing, having their bowels irrigated. You just feel dirty after watching it.”

-He’s afraid of deep, dark water because he fell into a neighbor’s pond when he was a kid.

-Worst thing about his job: Red carpets. “I find them the most excruciating thing. If aliens landed and saw people parading around with other people behind barriers looking at them… Very odd.” - “If I never had to walk down the red carpet again for as long as I lived ‘I’d be a happy man’”


I first discovered Richard Armitage in 2006, when I saw him in the romantic BBC adaptation of Gaskell's "North and South." This 2004 mini-series was a landmark, not just because it launched Richard's career, but because it was the catalyst for his fanbase, which call themselves the "Armitage Army." Richard's performance was so well-received by viewers that the BBC website crashed under the weight of fans wanting to learn more about him.

Since then, he has played a villain in the BBC Television series "Robin Hood," a spy for the British Secret Service in "MI-5" (Also known as "Spooks"), and a host of other various roles, including a small part in the first "Captain America." Currently, Richard is the toast of the London Stage, playing the part of John Proctor in Arthur Miller's classic "The Crucible." His performance is earning rave reviews and tickets have nearly sold out for the entire run.

But I think I enjoy Richard most when he's being himself. For a taste of the "Real" Richard Armitage, enjoy this clip (From 2012) with his fellow Hobbit co-star, Martin Freeman:

(BTW, the "60 seconds with Martin Freeman" is quite funny too. Check it out as well!)

 Discover the talent of Richard Armitage for yourself. Check out his body of work, which can be found on IMDB. And if you haven't seen it already, go watch "Into The Storm," which is now in theaters nationwide.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My review of "Into The Storm"

I'm a movie geek. I love to discuss film and I have spent a good part of my life studying it. At times, I can be quite jaded when it comes to current offerings from Hollywood, especially with the current slew of terrible remakes and crappy comedies, among other things. How refreshing it was, then, to see "Into the Storm."

I won't go into a long-winded speech here. Most people who have seen the trailers or read about the movie can get the concept pretty easily. So I'll just break it down into a few sections and tell you what I liked or didn't like...

The Cast

In general, I found the characters/actors to be quite likeable. In a movie like this, there isn't much room for character development, but I found myself actually caring about most of them. There is a rather touching scene between Max Deacon (Donnie) and Alicia Carey (Katilyn) that made me shed a few tears. I was grateful that the actors didn't try to over-dramatize their roles, as they do in a lot of disaster movies. Clearly, they knew this wasn't a Shakespearean production, and they kept the acting subdued - or as subdued as you can be when you're supposed to be facing tornadoes.

There has been some talk about the "Redneck" characters in the movie. Yes, they were there for comic relief. But to MY relief, they were only in it sporadically. I got a few laughs out of them, but I have to thank the film-makers for limiting their onscreen time. One thing I hated about 1996's "Twister" (Among my many dislikes) was the constant presence of the jackass storm chasers and their attempts at being entertaining. No offense to fans of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but I kept hoping his "Dusty" character would be the first to go straight up in a funnel.

A special note for the many Armitage fans, of which I am one:

I am from the Midwestern U.S. and I was a little worried about how Richard would handle the accent, but in my humble opinion, he did very well. I think if I was a regular audience member who wasn't familiar with him, I wouldn't really notice anything unusual about the way he talked. Good job, RA. :)

One thing that surprised me was how little I was focused on him during the movie. It wasn't that his acting was off.  (That never happens, right RA fans?) It's simply that his character was part of an ensemble, and his part didn't require a huge amount of depth. All of the characters, including Gary/Richard, took a back seat to the tornadoes, who were clearly the stars of the film.

The Storms

This is why I wanted to see this movie, and I wasn't disappointed in the least. The effects were AMAZING, and I was truly on the edge of my seat. A few times, I had to turn my head away because it was so intense. Unlike "Twister," which tried to glorify storm-chasing, this movie makes you wonder why the hell anyone would want to chase these monsters of nature. Personally, I've always had a fascination with storms, and that hasn't changed after seeing this movie. But for those who might say storm-chasing looks like fun, you'll probably think twice after watching this.

There were a few moments that took me out of the element. One was the scene from the trailer, which takes place outside of the bank. It made me laugh a little to see Gary (Richard Armitage) hanging on to Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) with superhuman strength, despite the fact that the tornado is about to suck her into its vortex. There were also a few times when the chasers were face-to-face with tornadoes but weren't pelted with anything harsher than high winds and stinging rain. I'm no expert, but I think if you were that close, a few lethal objects would be coming at you. I'm just sayin'...

The Found-Footage Style

I really liked this element of the movie. It gave it a documentary/self-made kind of feeling. Some people have complained that they didn't like how the characters broke the fourth wall and talked into the camera at times, but I thought it gave the movie a more personal touch. My only problem with this style was that at least one or two characters were carrying a camera through the WHOLE MOVIE! I know this is what the film-makers intended, but several times I found myself cursing at the screen and yelling "YOU'RE A FREAKIN' IDIOT! PUT DOWN THE CAMERA AND RUN!"


Overall, I would give this film a solid 8 out of 10. Don't go into the theater expecting thought-provoking storylines or Oscar-worthy acting. Just do what I did and go see "Into The Storm" for the simple pleasure of having fun. After all, isn't that the reason why we go to the movies?