Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Nightbreed (Director’s Cut)

1990.  Directed by Clive Barker.

Clive Barker’s most ambitious film, Nightbreed was hacked to pieces by studio execs prior to release and then by critics after its lackluster debut.  Horrendously marketed as a slasher film, Barker’s misunderstood opus has thankfully gained a cult following over the years, and a recent Director’s Cut release by Scream Factory, allowing Barker’s incoherent monster-centric fable to be viewed in its intended form.

Boone is a drifter who thinks he may be killing people.  His dreams are filled with visions of a city called Midian, a place where monsters dwell.  He sets out in search of the city with his paramour, Lori.  Pursued by the authorities and his murderous therapist, Decker, Boone discovers that Midian is not only real, but that his coming has been foretold by dead gods, prophesying a war between the inhospitable forces of humanity and the savagely noble legions of outcast creatures known as the Nightbreed.

The biggest problem with this film is also its strongest attribute.  Barker throws so many balls into the air that it’s a foregone conclusion that not everything will hit the mark, and yet, Nightbreed comes off as wonderful combination of serial killer fodder, a Gothic fairy tale, and a hauntingly rich form of original mythology.  There are dozens of characters that inhabit Barker’s epic with the monsters eclipsing their human foils, save for David Cronenberg’s sadistic Decker, who is one of the more vital roles in the bloated ensemble.  Oliver Parker as Peloquin is the monstrous standout, with his flesh dreaded faux Rastafarian killer barking the film’s best lines.

 

Mark Coulier’s freakish makeup designs are both elegant and obtuse, as some creatures appear as tangible nightmares and others come across half rendered, in part due to Robin Vidgeon’s stormy cinematography that bounces through lonely cemeteries and ancient catacombs without stopping to catch a breath.  The shame is that many of the creature designs are revealed as horrific intricacies,  whenever the viewer is allowed to glimpse their unspeakable splendor.  Danny Elfman’s amazing score enhances the mythic quality of the story, but it’s offset by the cardboard villainy of the humans and the wholesale familial slaughter that looms in the background throughout the narrative.

A feeling of too little, too fast is the mantra of Nightbreed.  What begins as a menacing serial killer story mutates into a quest for Midian, with Boone’s Christ-like ascension saturating the central act.  There’s also the race war between the monsters and humans and the various social dynamics of the underworld that come into play, but in regrettable portions.  The confusion is when all of these elements collide in an uneven stream of sexually charged violence during the final confrontation.  Despite the inconsistencies, the final battle is an amazing blend of CGI, practical effects, and gritty stunt choreography that is easily Nightbreed’s strongest aspect.

 

Available now on Netflix, or on an excellent blu ray transfer by Scream Factory,  Nightbreed is a unique horror saga that succeeds as much as it fails.  The director’s cut fills in many gaps, but also leaves the viewer wanting more, which while eternally frustrating, is also a testament to Barker’s meticulous world building.  This is a film that drives the viewer down a pot hole ridden dirt road into another world filled with esoteric mysteries and dark wonders, delivering an excellent horror fantasy unlike anything ever attempted in the genre.

Highly Recommend.

 

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Black Panther

Black-Panther

Shoehorned into an already well stuffed Marvel sequel (and…let’s do Giant Man!) in the successful Captain America franchise was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it origin story for T’Challa, better known to fans as The Black Panther.  A marvelous mid 60s creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this hero defined aspirational black culture—a king from the fictional African country of Wakanda, rich enough in natural resources and groundbreaking technology that the influence of the white western world was not only unnecessary, but actively avoided.  Despite the rush job in Civil War, that film did a fairly good job of introducing Chadwick Boseman in the role, giving him a tragedy to rise above and an enemy to vanquish.  Considering the popular reaction to the character and an increasingly diverse Hollywood, it makes perfect sense that the Marvel Machine would give Black Panther his own film.  The biggest questions for the production probably revolve around how well such a film would balance action movie hijinks with themes of racial justice and history;  I’m glad to report that Boseman, director Ryan Coogler and an extremely talented cast of supporting characters storm through thrilling paces and deftly deal with a variety of elephants in the room using equal parts style, humor, character and heart.

Boseman, coming off an underappreciated turn in last year’s Marshall, has quickly joined his DNA with that of the Wakandan king and protector.  He strikes a perfect balance between heroic swagger and humble duty to his people, and as noted early and shown often, it’s a tough job that will take more than birthright to master.  He’s aided by a cadre of magnificent women, a sister, a lover and a lieutenant who exhibit mastery in their respective fields of science, spycraft and soldiering.  There’s an ongoing debate over what kind of role in the world a hyper advanced but secretive nation should play, which along with many nice touches including but not limited to some fun tech upgrades (this is Marvel, after all) to T’Challa’s classic costume end up serving as subtle but overarching metaphors on race and society, both from the past and very much today.  This leads to one of the best-conceived and executed villains of the MCU, Killmonger, played with anger and menace by Michael B. Jordan as the natural corollary to T’Challa’s thoughtful grace.  All heroes must pass a variety of trials by fire, and Killmonger brings both physical and spiritual obstacles to batter our protagonist with that truly lead to a transformative character arc while illustrating several complicated dichotomies between the foes.  The rest of the players involved soar—even Martin Freeman as the overwhelmed CIA operative Everett Ross gets some heroic notes—and by the time the dust has settled, we’re staring at what may become one of the most popular Marvel heroes to ever splash across the silver screen.  As names like Hemsworth, Downey Jr. and Evans age/expense out of their seemingly iconic roles, Boseman and a few other young upstarts appear to be more than ready to take on whatever challenges Marvel Studios cook up for their ever-expanding fictional universe.

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“By the look of you, you haven’t come to bob for apples.” : Remembering Sword of the Valiant with Stephen Weeks by Kent Hill

Stephen Weeks interview

“How the hell do I relieve myself in this tin suit?”

Sword of the Valiant might come across as just another Cannon curiosity, especially for the uninitiated. For the casual observer it may simply look like another film in which another director managed to con Connery into yet another pair of strange/fancy duds?

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But while Boorman managed to get Sean to into his Zardoz get-up, which for my money is more so in the strange/fancy category than SOTV, the film in total is both an elegant and joyful rendition of the days of Arthurian legend from my guest in this interview, Stephen Weeks.

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Yes before Connery got to be the king himself in First Knight, before Clive Owen and way before Charlie Hunnam – in days of old, when knights were bold, there was the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which as I discovered, is not the film I know it to be. Turns out I’ve no seen it in all its glory…

Working with Cannon was by no means a cakewalk, as Stephen shall tell you. And the subsequent release of the picture was grossly mishandled. Thus, the world has really not experienced this movie as the filmmaker’s intended, and that was one of many intriguing tales proffered me by the eloquent Mr. Weeks.

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This was not his first rodeo, having made a version of the film some years earlier, Stephen saw this as an opportunity to expanded his canvas. Unfortunately for him and what no one knew, or knew well enough, at the time, was the grimy underbelly of the behemoth at the top which sat Golan and Globus.

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Despite these trappings, and now knowing what I know, I still love the movie and feel privileged to have been gifted an audience with its director, who not only informed and enlightened, but also entertained.

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Stephen Weeks is an impressive filmmaker and now is an accomplished author (please see the link to his work below). As a fan of his work and SOTV in particular, I enjoyed and hope you too shall enjoy, this little trip back into the mists of time – to a fantasy world, and a fantastic film…

 

 

Riding the New Wave: An Interview with Travis Bain by Kent Hill

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It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that the Australian film industry was launched onto the world stage by a band of rebellious genre filmmakers, that would take international cinema screens by storm. Regrettably that age, to the naked eye, may have come and gone like the VHS tape. But not all hope is lost…

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Enter Travis Bain. The boy from New South Wales who, after encountering George’s galaxy far, far away, decided to run off and join the circus so to speak. In short – become a filmmaker. But unlike Spielberg and Abrams, he was not to the 8mm camera born. Young Travis would craft his fantastic adventures on audio tapes, creating a cinema of sound.

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From there he thought he might be able to launch something in a literary manner, writing work that would later become the bread and butter of Aussie action author Matthew Reilly. But, he learned all to quickly that the road to the Everest of publishing was just, if not more arduous, than path toward the Mount Olympus of movie-making.

Down but not discouraged, he took to learning the fundamentals of the cinematic arts and in time would make a debut feature. He would come north to the Sunshine State (Queensland) and find, and you’ll pardon me, his place in the sun.

His latest film is Landfall, starring the iconic Australian acting legend, Vernon Wells (my chat with him here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/09/30/zero-defects-remembering-innerspace-with-vernon-wells-by-kent-hill/ ). Travis has ambitious plans for the future. As I listened to him speak passionately about his journey, his current projects, his hopes for the strengthening of the local industry – let’s just say I’m a believer. We need artists of his ilk now more than ever; to bring the spark back to our slumbering screens. And, you can quote me if you like, Travis Bain might just be the man to lead Aussie genre filmmaking in a bold, new direction.

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“I didn’t want to be Mr. Werewolf.”: An Interview with Philippe Mora by Kent Hill

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Back when I was just new around here at PTS, I had the opportunity to interview Philippe on one of my favorite movies under his direction, The Return of Captain Invincible (which you’ll find here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/10/08/what-the-world-needs-now-remembering-the-return-of-captain-invincible-with-philippe-mora-by-kent-hill/). Since then, I’ve wanted to sit down with one of my country’s truly unique artists, who has really done a little bit of everything.

Philippe was born in Paris, but after a long journey his parents ended up in Australia. With his multicultural background, surrounded by a cosmopolitan locale, as a young man I can image Philippe surrounded by inspiration.

As a man destined to make some truly wonderful films, he like us all who aspire to it, started by making short films and documentaries. Then he went and made a classic. He convinced the Easy Rider himself, the late, great Dennis Hopper, to go bush and take on the guise of one of Australia’s most colorful outlaws, Mad Dog Morgan.

What would permeate from that thrilling debut is an extraordinary, eclectic list of credits that has action, aliens, werewolves, and even Pterodactyl women.

Of late, Philippe has returned to the documentary scene, bringing us stories both powerful and confronting. He also, being a talented artist, has turned his hand to graphic novels like The ABC of the Holocaust and Monsieur Mayonnaise which you can check out here:

He is a gentleman and a scholar, as well as the maker of some great movies. He has rubbed shoulders with the top echelons in the both the arenas of art and cinema. And, he has what I consider the best spin on a Merchant/Ivory title for a comedic-horror film.

Here he is, my guest (again), the fun and the fascinating . . . Philippe Mora.

THE RIDDLE OF STEEL with Matt Greenberg & Kent Hill

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Matt Greenberg returns, and after the most excellent first time round it was never a question of if, but when. Matt is, of course, not only a cool cat but a talented screenwriter (Reign of Fire, 1408). In our first interview (which you’ll find here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2017/01/13/writing-with-fire-an-interview-with-matthew-greenberg-by-kent-hill/) we discussed his career, the highs and lows – basically his adventures in the screen trade.

This time round I really had no plan, and I find that makes for the best interviews, cause, man, it can go anywhere. I love his unfiltered take on the epicenter of the film industry, his encounters with certain movie town luminaries, his hilarious CliffsNotes on the status of the latest cinema fodder, and his seeds of wisdom when we’re talking shop.

From possible titles for Meatloaf’s next album to O.J. Simpson, to the best idea I’ve ever heard for a reality TV series, Matt and I don’t just shoot the breeze, we gleefully fire and Uzi into the clear blue sky and I hope you’ll delight, as I do, with what hits the ground.

So for luck, for laughs, for the unknown, join us now, me and my mate Matt as we sit down again. And don’t worry – we also talk about movies…

Gore Verbinski’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is so good it almost gives the first one a run for it’s money in terms of visual effects, imagination, swash and buckle. It does have it’s issues with letting some of the action set pieces run on literally forever (that rolling windmill sword fight tho) until you seriously start to question the limits of cardio in those involved, but director Gore Verbinski has always been an advocate for cheeky excess, so who can complain. In preparing a sequel to Black Pearl, they no doubt had a daunting task in equaling, and if possible outdoing the sheer bliss that came before, and they kind of succeeded and then some. Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and a whole circus sideshow of others are propelled on a dazzling adventure that spans past the isle of Tortuga, beyond the waters of Port Royal and to the far ends of the Caribbean, not to mention amping up the supernatural aspects of the first to dizzying heights. In Captain Barbossa’s absence (well, almost;), they also had to find a villain to match his adorable theatrics, and Bill Nighy’s moody Davy Jones, a hentai tentacled tyrant cursed by the ocean’s magic, doomed to sail the baroque galleon The Flying Dutchman forever, fits the bill. His crew are a gnarly, barnacled bunch of miscreants adorned in enough wicked cool marine biology and detailed special effects to get an Oscar nomination, which they did. Other new character additions include mopey Stellan Skarsgard’s bedraggled Bootstrap Bill, Naomie Harris’s spooky voodoo babe Tia Dalma, as well as familiar faces like Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who gets a lot more to do here than twiddle the stick up his ass as he does in the first one, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally, deadpan as ever) and the whole motley crew. Depp takes what made Sparrow so charismatic and weird in Black Pearl and soars over the rainbow with it, he really and truly carries these films with his presence and it may just be the best characters created by him. A worthy sequel, kickass adventure and one for the books.

-Nate Hill

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