PTS Presents DIRECTOR’S CHAIR with THE WHEAT BROTHERS

WHEAT BROTHERS POWERCAST

Ken Wheat Jim Wheat

We were honored to be joined by the filmmaking team of Ken and Jim Wheat, who are responsible for the second of the Ewok films, EWOK ADVENTURES: BATTLE FOR ENDOR, as well as penning THE FLY 2, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 and the Vin Diesel vehicle PITCH BLACK.  We had an absolute blast speaking with Ken and Jim about BATTLE FOR ENDOR and their experience working with George Lucas, the first time they saw STAR WARS and working with Wilford Brimley.  Hope you guys enjoy this one as much as we did!

Advertisements

Episode 18: TONY SCOTT’S DOMINO and Top Five Tony Scott and Mickey Rourke

Episode 18

We’re back with a regular episode!  It’s been too long, so we’re here to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Tony Scott’s seminal film, DOMINO.  Along with our thoughts on DOMINO, we also discuss our top five Tony Scott films and top five Mickey Rourke performances.

DUNCAN JONES’ MOON — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Duncan Jones’ smashing directorial debut Moon, which he co-wrote with Nathan Parker, is exactly my type of science fiction film — thoughtful, stylish, mind-bending, narratively challenging, and totally consuming on both an emotional and aesthetic level. Sam Rockwell, easily one of our finest working actors, delivered what amounts to likely the top performance of his sterling career, portraying a worker-bee situated on the far side of the Moon, working to harvest a helium-based energy source which is being sent back to Earth to be used by its inhabitants as the planet is suffering from an oil crisis. But when something truly life-changing happens to Rockwell during his three-year stint all alone in space, the film takes on a sinister sense of misdirection, enveloping the audience in a story of a man losing his grip on his own sanity, with detours into cosmic introspection as well as the expected genre based thrills that have been slyly upended in most instances. Kevin Spacey’s creepy and dry voice work as Rockwell’s “trusted” robot companion GERTY was certainly indebted to the HAL character in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Jones was too smart to attempt any sort of rip-off; his mechanical creation is certainly its own thing and the final act contains more than one surprise which I’d never reveal in a review. Following it’s premiere at the 2009 Sundance film festival, Moon received a very limited theatrical release before becoming an immediate cult item on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s easy to see why — it’s the type of film that’s more interested in brainy ideas than empty, flashy action, with notions about identity and humanity and loneliness on full display, while fusing together an exciting, beat-the-clock scenario that plays out with escalating tension while never sacrificing anything in the intelligence department. The fact that this film only cost $5 million is staggering; massive kudos to production designer Tony Noble and cinematographer Gary Shaw for crafting a film that looks 10X bigger and fancier than its actual budget. Clint Mansell’s riveting score is also a major plus; he’s easily one of the finest film composers currently crafting music.

2

STEPHEN FREARS’ THE HI-LO COUNTRY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

2The Hi-Lo Country is a very unique film, totally under the radar (where’s the Blu-ray?!), made with supreme skill and confidence by an eclectic group of collaborators, and anchored by two fantastic performances by Woody Harrelson and the eternally undervalued Billy Crudup. Set in post-WWII New Mexico, it’s a cowboy film, it’s a Western, it’s a family drama, it’s a romance, and there are more than a few grace notes contained in Walon Green’s poetic screenplay (based on the novel by Max Evans) which provides a lyrical sense of love and sweep for the time period and dusty locations. Directed with a classical sense of proportion and clear-eyed dramatics by the gifted British director Stephen Frears, the film also boasts Martin Scorsese as a “Presenter,” further adding to the name-brand quality of the filmmaking team. The stellar supporting cast includes Patricia Arquette as the woman who falls in love with both of the leads, a crusty Sam Elliot as the chief antagonist who feels right at home in this material, a baby-faced Penelope Cruz in one of her first English-language feature films, and the distinctive actor Cole Hauser in an early (and possibly best) performance as a sketchy acquaintance of both Harrelson and Crudup. Carter Burwell’s familiar orchestral notes lend an interesting aural texture to the film, with Oliver Stapleton’s honeyed and golden widescreen cinematography made excellent use of the vistas and endless desert and open-plain landscape. The film was barely released back in late 1998 (it grossed $166,000!), and curiously, critical reception was more mixed than might have been expected. But over the years, it’s been a film that’s always enticed me back for revisits; there’s just something so different and offbeat about this movie, which while trading off of expected conventions (both visually and narratively), feels like few other modern genre pieces that I can think of. This film is the very definition of a small gem, a work that’s begging to be re-discovered by a more appreciative audience.

11

PTS Presents EDITOR’S SUITE with CRAIG McKAY

McKAY POWERCAST

Craig McKay (IMDb)Podcasting Them Softly is proud to present the first installment of EDITOR’S SUITE, with two-time Oscar nominee Craig McKay (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, REDS). Over the last 30 years, Craig has put his distinct editorial stamp on the feature film landscape, with credits that include SOMETHING WILD, MAD DOG AND GLORY, SIN NOMBRE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PHILADELPHIA, THE CONSPIRATOR, COP LAND, and many, many more. Having worked with some of cinema’s best director’s, he’s created a powerful body of work that time and time again has represented the very best that editing has to offer, and it was an absolute honor to get a chance to speak with him about his tremendous career. We hope you enjoy this informative and passionate discussion!

OLIVER STONE’S ALEXANDER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Bursting with over-sized ambition, ferocious amounts of energy, and fever-pitch emotion that’s never afraid to go over the top, Oliver Stone’s gargantuan period epic Alexander is one of the best modern evocations of ancient history that’s ever been crafted, and easily the most underrated film of Stone’s legendary career. I’ll never understand the unnecessary hate that was piled upon this remarkable achievement upon first release; I think it’s because Stone dared to challenge familiar genre ingredients that people were hesitant to the film’s many strengths, from the non-linear narrative to the positively overwhelming battle sequences that put every other depiction of cinematic “Sword and Sandal” combat to shame. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the “war-elephant” fight in the jungle, to say nothing of the massive Battle of Gaugamela set-piece, is the single greatest battle scene of its type ever captured on film – relentless, beyond bloody, and truly terrifying — it’s positively hellish to observe, with Stone totally flipping out, even going so far as to show what would happen if an elephant stepped on your face. Rodrigo Prieto’s muscular, hugely expansive, and utterly breathtaking widescreen cinematography is always a sensuous treat, the fired-up screenplay is filled with boisterous speechifying and juicy political intrigue, the immense and soaring musical score by Vangelis reaches for the stars, and the performances range from small to large from a ridiculously stacked cast.

Colin Farrell gave it everything and more and left nothing to spare in a performance that clearly grabbed him from the inside; just look at his eyes in some of the scenes in this film and tell me he’s not insanely aligned with his character. And then you have Angelina Jolie at the absolute pinnacle of her silver-screen hotness – a true serpent/vixen of a role for the ultimate cinematic cobra. Jared Leto, Christopher Plummer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer and a plethora of “faces” all robustly spiced up the ensemble, while the extravagant and eye-filling production design by Jan Roelfs contributed to the verisimilitude of the entire film. Yes, it’s campy in spots, but likely intentionally so, as the various subtexts and themes are explored in an upfront fashion. But for the most part, this is a deadly serious tapestry of people, places, events, and moments, all patched together in that fabulously unhinged Stone fashion, where the storytelling and filmmaking demonstrates a live-wire spark. The dense script was highly interested in the various characters and their unique motivations, and there’s a sense of gusto to just about every facet of this film that never ceases to impress. This is bravura filmmaking, made by a master director who clearly possessed a true passion for the material, which makes the entire production feel all the more compelling. I saw this film twice theatrically, I own every permutation of the picture that’s been released on DVD/Blu-ray thus far, and I feel that Stone’s recent and most definitive cut is the absolute best that’s been offered. This is a project that Stone seemingly cannot let go of, a film that has driven one of our most challenging and distinctive filmmakers potentially insane.

2

10TH ANNIVERSAY REVIEW OF TONY SCOTT’S MASTERPIECE DOMINO — BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Without question or hesitation, I can firmly state that Domino is my absolute favorite Tony Scott film, the one I keep coming back to the most, and at 10 years old, I feel it’s time that this insanely undervalued pièce de résistance from one of our ultimate modern auteurs got the critical attention and audience credit that it truly deserved. Ahead of its time yet also fabulously au courant when the film was unleashed upon cinemas in 2005, Domino is a smashing entertainment, the perfect synthesis of Scott’s gritty yet slick, highly aggressive style that he developed in the 80’s and 90’s with The Hunger, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, and The Fan, which then led to a decidedly expressionistic (and at times impressionistic) aesthetic in the mid to late 2000’s, with such works as Man on Fire, Beat the Devil, Agent Orange, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and his final film, the hard-charging and incredibly entertaining Unstoppable, pushing his trademark visual flourishes to the absolute extreme. Sandwiched in between were his two “silver-blue sheen” political thrillers Enemy of the State and Spy Game, with the former sort of predicting our post 9/11 world climate, and the latter commenting on it in real-time. But for me, Domino is the *Toniest* Tony Scott film that the iconic filmmaker ever crafted.

2

Easily one of the most misunderstood, sadly maligned films of the last decade, Domino is due to gain a much-deserved cult following. It bombed at the box office, and with the exception of a few sharp critics (Ebert, Dargis, Strauss), people really attacked Scott over this distinctly personal and hyperactive piece of purposefully heightened cinema. And make no mistake, like an effort by Picasso, Domino is a work of collage-inspired art, maybe the first piece of true cubist-cinema ever crafted, leading a super-charged group with the likes of Running Scared by Wayne Kramer, Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces and Stretch, Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘em Up, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs.The World, all of which feel spiritually and stylistically connected to Scott’s over the top yet highly artistic sensibilities. Simply put, Domino is one of the most visually elaborate and sophisticated movies ever created, and all of these efforts feel birthed from the seismic contribution that Oliver Stone’s breakneck masterwork Natural Born Killers brought to the forefront in 1994, with its unrelenting sense of visual dynamism, outlandish humor, graphic violence, experimental tone and structure, and an emphasis on constant forward momentum. It’s also more important to note that Scott went on record as saying that Domino was his most favorite film that he ever directed; at the end of the day, he got the movie made the way he wanted to make it, and that says a lot in our current bean-counting movie climate.

3

I know that this is Scott’s most divisive, most critically savaged film. Many people hate it. Some people, like me, consider it to be the apex of Scott’s razzle-dazzle career as a storyteller and stylist, with a wild cast of characters (Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Mo’Nique, Christopher Walken, Dabney Coleman, Delroy Lindo and many others) who all throw themselves into the filmmaking process with gusto and unending enthusiasm for the lurid material. The film is a slightly insane, pseudo-biopic of infamous bounty hunter Domino Harvey (the fantastic Knightley) that exists primarily as a showcase for Scott’s obsession with style and form and, as per usual, a heartfelt narrative. What makes Domino work as a whole is that the story is as unhinged as the style, always complimenting each other, always doing this crazy cinematic dance. Also, many people forget that much of the film takes place through a cloud of mescaline, and most of the third act incorporates a hallucinogenic-trip aspect to the proceedings. And then there’s Domino herself – a wild, rebellious British model turned bounty hunter who wanted only to march to the beat of her own drum. The real Domino Harvey did in fact lead a crazy life, but it probably wasn’t as over the top as Richard Kelly’s crisscrossing and zigzagging script, which was based on a story co-created by The Last Seduction scribe Steve Barancik. The filmmakers make it clear upfront that they’ve taken liberties with the facts – there’s even a graphic that reads: “Based on a true story…sort of.” What I love most about Domino is how frenetic and in your face the filmmaking is, and how incredibly intricate the plotting becomes by the finale. Scott’s hyperventilating and exhilarating style would mean diddly-squat if it wasn’t in service to an exciting plot with characters you like and stakes that are high. Knightley shredded her good-girl image with her balls-out performance as the titular heroine; from the lap-dance scene to breaking Brian Austin Green’s nose to busting out the double machine guns during the finale, she grabbed the role and ran with it. Mickey Rourke’s recent career resurgence really began here, with a gruff and stern performance as Domino’s boss. And Edgar Ramirez, who would later blaze up the screen in the epic five hour terrorist biopic Carlos, busted out in a big way as Domino’s volatile partner, Choco, and the love story that develops between them is as soft and tender as the rest of the film is jagged and primal.

5

Many complained that Scott’s directorial tricks and kinetic editing patterns were a major problem in Domino. To those individuals I say: Go home and watch Driving Miss Daisy. First off, lest anyone forget, the film is framed through the P.O.V. of a main character who is tripping on mind-altering substances – that should be the first sign to the viewer that the film is going to be a bit off-kilter. Kelly’s labyrinthine yet still coherent screenplay is a marvel of ingenuity, character construction, and dense plotting with a couple of his customary satiric zingers thrown in for good measure. Daniel Mindel’s super-saturated, kaleidoscopic cinematography bleeds with intense color as the images jump off the screen, assaulting and overwhelming the viewer’s senses – it’s a hot-blooded cinegasm of technique, designed to get you off. Repeatedly. And when you take into consideration that Kelly’s off-the-wall but still rooted in reality screenplay frequently shoots off in various directions at any given point, always carrying the potential to spin wildly out of control, you have to applaud the zeal of all the people behind this crazy undertaking. Strip away all the pyrotechnics and the nonlinear structure and you’re left with a rather simple story of love, deceit, revenge, and emotional and physical catharsis. And let me tell you – if you don’t find it cinematically satisfying when Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez are speeding down that elevator shaft in the Stratosphere hotel while the penthouse level is exploding from an I.E.D., well, I’m not sure what to tell you!

4

There are just so many glorious sights that this movie has to offer: The epic opening credit sequence which needs to be played at full volume blast, Christopher Walken stealing scenes as a lunatic reality TV producer with a serious “font issue,” Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green destroying their 90210 celebrity personas in hilarious cameos, Tom Waits as a tripped-out roamer of the desert with some poetic and interesting notions regarding fate, Knightley giving a bra and panty lap dance to a gang member in order to get her crew out of trouble – this movie never stops chugging and churning, throwing stuff at the audience, egging them on for a visceral response. The Jerry Springer interlude with the unveiling of the “mixed-race flow chart” is still a pisser for the ages, and overall, the bizarre nature of the narrative can never really be pinned down, which is a huge part of the fun factor. This was Tony Scot unleashed, the moment where you felt Scott put ALL OF HIMSELF into making a movie. It’s that rare, expensive, personal project that only gets funded by private investors who then let the filmmaker do whatever it is that they want. Domino is Tony Scott’s undying love letter to cinema as a whole and stands as his immortal masterpiece. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said in her glowing review of the film: “It’s all the Tony Scott you could want in a Tony Scott movie.” Damn straight.

Advertisements

We like to podcast them softly, from a distance.

Advertisements