PTS Presents Writer’s Workshop with PETER ILIFF

ILIFF POWERCAST

Iliff 1Podcasting Them Softly is thrilled to present a chat with screenwriter and director Peter Iliff, a name many movie fans will likely recognize, as he’s the guy responsible for writing one of the greatest action films of all time, POINT BREAK. The film has become a massive audience favorite over the years, and it’s one of those movies that Nick and Frank have seen so many times they’ve probably got most of it committed to memory! Peter‘s other screenwriting credits include the Jack Ryan adventure PATRIOT GAMES, the teen classic VARSITY BLUES, and the underrated and stylish Stephen Hopkins thriller UNDER SUSPICION. His directorial debut arrived in 2012 with the horror thriller RITES OF PASSAGE,  and he’s got a number of exciting projects on the horizon which are detailed during this exciting discussion! Nick and Frank are both big fans of action movies in general, so this was a real treat to be joined by the creator of one of our absolute favorite flicks in POINT BREAK — We hope you enjoy our latest episode!

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STEVEN KNIGHT’S LOCKE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Locke is a mesmerizing film to study. Dominated by a spellbinding, tour de force performance from Actor of the Moment Tom Hardy, Steven Knight’s fascinating existential drama Locke is nerve-rackingly intense, fully absorbing and completely unpredictable, due in no small part to the narrative conceit of the entire film taking place from the interior of a car. Confined to the driver’s seat of his BMW SUV, Hardy gives an all-stops-out performance – this guy is the real deal, seemingly capable of any role that’s asked of him, always able to elicit sympathy no matter how ragged the character, going from subtle to big at the drop of a hat. The dreamy, artsy cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos leaps off the screen; it’s London-street-lamp-at-night-gorgeous, cousins with Collateral in some respects, with reflections and window patterns dotting the expressionistic 2.35:1 widescreen space. Because the story is exclusively delivered via a series of desperate phone calls that Hardy is having with a variety of people, there’s always the question of how realistic can this scenario play out. But because Knight is so strong with his words and so precise with his visuals, the film becomes more than just a trick-stunt – it’s a gripping, all-together brilliant ride that will leave you with sweaty palms by the finish.

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STEVEN SODERBERGH’S CONTAGION — A REIVEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Directed with his usual brand of stylish, cold, clinical detachment, Steven Soderbergh’s riveting virus thriller Contagion is a thinking person’s horror film, a genre piece that defies genre in more than a few ways, never giving into cheap Hollywood sensationalism or resorting to hackneyed plot twists. With basically everyone in town in a juicy supporting role, Soderbergh surgically raced through Scott Z. Burns’ streamlined, startling, and sensational screenplay, never resting for a moment, aided immeasurably by Cliff Martinez’s pulsating electronic score, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites from recent years. This is procedural cinema at its finest – no bloat, no bull, just the facts – so if you’re into this sort of thing (Zodiac, All the President’s Men, Shattered Glass), it’ll knock you sideways and leave you wanting more. The final moments sting with sly irony, Soderbergh’s always incredible sense of cinematography and editing was fully on display (Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard POWER), and the fact that the movie never once opted for the sentimental (smartly and believably, nobody is safe in this movie…as it should be!) makes the nastiness of the briskly moving plot all the more chilling. Contagion was part of that glorious final roll of movies (The Girlfriend Experience, The Informant!, Haywire, Magic Mike, and Side Effects – my lord!) that Soderbergh embarked on before he began work on the brilliant TV series The Knick, and I really hope that his extended absence from the big screen comes to an end very soon. He’s always been one of the sharpest, most erudite of filmmakers, and his beyond eclectic filmography will always fascinate me; I’m just being greedy — I want more! Contagion takes the virus-thriller tropes and shakes them up, looking at the societal and medicinal ramifications from a plausible angle, with all of the film’s collaborators striving to make something timely, topical, and relevant. I think it’s a great, un-showy, deeply troubling look at what will happen when a virus strain comes along and takes us all by surprise. Because you’re living in denial if you think something like this can’t – or won’t – happen at some point in the future.

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O Brother Where Art Thou? -A Review by Nate Hill

The Coen Brother’s O Brother Where Art Thou is just a rush of pure originality, musical genius and inspired storytelling, situated outside the box of used conventions, and rooted deeply in a whimsical realm of absurd, charming characters on an epic odyssey across the American south during arguably the most eccentric time period, the 1930s Great Depression. It’s the Coen’s second best for me (it’s hard to top the Lebowski, dude), and a film that I watched so many time growing up that it’s almost now a piece of my soul. It’s loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Three bumbling convicts escape from a dusty chain gang in a delightful opening romp set to Harry McClintock’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is their silver tongued, troublemaking leader, on his way to reunite with his estranged wife (Holly Hunter, reliably stubborn and sassy) and little daughters. Along with him is short tempered Pete (Coen regular John Turturro in top form) and sweet, dimwitted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). Together they get in just about every kind of trouble that you can imagine three hapless convicts on the run in depression era south getting into. They briefly share paths with musician Tommy (Chris Thomas King), cross the radar of a boisterous bible salesman (John Goodman, stealing scenes as usual with his effortless, booming charm), become involved with duelling governor candidates Homer Stokes and Pappy O Daniels (Wayne Duvall and Charles Durning), and have run ins with sexy sirens led by Musetta Vander, the KKK, notorious mobster George Babyface Nelson (Michael Badalucco has to be seen to be believed as the lively, likely bi polar suffering wise guy) and more, all the while pursued by mysterious Sheriff Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen, RIP). It’s quite al lot of goings on for one film, but the Coens are masters of telling zany, eclectic stories that deviate into all sorts of unexpected subplots without ever derailing and losing us. This one flows along wondrously, a wild, funny and haunting fable that almost feels like a dust bowl Dante’s Inferno at times, albeit of much lighter subject matter. Roger Deakins spins poetry with his lens, capturing every chaff of wheat, every ray of southern sun and brown hued set design with painstaking expertise. What really holds it together though, is the absolute knockout soundtrack. There’s so many moments of now iconic musical storytelling that we feel we’re watching a strange bluegrass lullaby that just happens to take place in cinematic vision. The Coens have always known their music, but they transcend to another level of intuition here, gathering an incredibly evocative group of songs and artists together that stir the collective ancestral memory of historical Americana. Off the top of my head there’s You Are My Sunshine, Keep On The Sunny Side, I’ll Fly Away beautifully warbled by the Kossoy Sisters, Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Babe sung by the slinky sirens, In The Highways by the adorable Peasall sisters, Jimmie Rodgers’s In The Jailhouse Now, Lonesome Valley, Ralph Stanley’s two eerie pieces O Death, and Angel Band, also by the Peasall Gals, and the classic Down To The River To Pray, which sneaks up on you and leaves you in rapture from its inescapable grip. My favourite by far though is I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, an endlessly catchy hobo tune of jangling melancholy and highway humour, sung by John Hartford but cheekily lip synced by Clooney and team, an original piece made up on the fly by the three characters that goes on to make them ridiculously famous under the pseudonym the ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’. It’s all an intoxicating wonder to take in, the period authentic screenplay and production a feast for the senses. The Coens seem to be adept at whatever they try; sly satire, period piece, stinging violence, dark humour, and even touching drama when they put their minds to it. This is a career high for them, a totally unique piece of art that demands multiple viewings and a spot in any avid movie collectors pantheon.

SPECTRE – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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SPECTRE is the James Bond film that a lot of us have been waiting for: the Daniel Craig film that is his own. I have very much enjoyed the Craig series, but the films have been muddled in each of their own respects. CASINO ROYAL was the unnecessary franchise reboot, QUANTOM OF SOLACE was the adrenaline fueled action film, and SKYFALL was the epic blanket film that absolutely everyone could love. SPECTRE did a brilliant job of building off all the archetypal elements of the previous three Craig films, and made this film as seminal as YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE or ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this will be a divisive film, especially coming off of SKYFALL. This is a film that a lot of the more recent Daniel Craig Bond fans won’t fully understand. But for those of us who have been waiting for this film, this film excels with everything. The gun barrel sequence opens the film, the cheeky humor, Dave Bautista as the classicly eccentric henchmen, the macho alpha respect Bond has with M, the flirty tension with Miss Moneypenny, Q and his gadget room, a fantastic opening credit sequence, an excellent title sequence, and above all: a be-all-end-all Bond villain.

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The ambiguous timeline of the Bond films as a whole is an interesting beast. The plot points and ending of SKYFALL certainly meshes with the Connery films. Why Bond respects M, why Bond has a flirty affinity for Miss Moneypenny, and now in SPECTRE, we’re given the wonderful homage to the main villain’s secret volcanic base, the inevitable scar over his eye, and why the villain hates Bond so very much.

Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter John Logan walked a fine line with with SPECTRE. They delicately and retroactively connected the previous three Bond films into the heart of SPECTRE, yet they kept true to Bond form by making a contemporary film about global chaos and digital espionage. SPECTRE has made the previous Bond films better, by connecting them in the way the Connery Bond films (including Lazenby’s singular film) were all connected by one thing: a shadow conspiracy.

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There is no doubt, regardless of all the tabloid games that have been played recently, that Daniel Craig will return for at least one more film. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam Mendes returned for the next film as well. Sam Mendes, John Logan and Daniel Craig knew exactly what they were doing and have struck gold with SPECTRE.

Full disclosure: I have owned every Bond film, sans NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, from VHS to Blu Ray, and I will quadruple dip on the 4K Blu Rays next year.

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EPISODE 19: ROAR with SPECIAL GUEST JOHN MARSHALL

EPISODE 19

Podcasting Them Softly is extremely excited to present a chat with John Marshall, one of the stars and crew members of the 1981 cult classic ROAR, which was written/produced/directed by his father, Noel Marshall, and which also starred Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and John‘s brother Jerry. ROAR was a passion project for Noel Marshall and Hedren, who had filmed some movies in Africa during the early 70’s, and had fallen in love with lions and tigers and assorted big cats. Upon their return to their Los Angeles home, they decided to turn their living space into a sanctuary for rescue animals, ending up with over 100 exotic animals on their property. Noel then had a stroke of mad genius — film a movie at his house utilizing his family members and a daredevil crew that would highlight these magnificent creatures in all of their dangerous glory. ROAR is a film that just has to be seen to be truly believed, and thanks to the people at Olive Films, a special edition Blu-Ray was released this week! We hope you enjoy!

MICHAEL MANN’S COLLATERAL — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Collateral is a laser-precise action thriller, that as per usual for macho auteur Michael Mann, also stops to pause for the introspective moment from time to time, certainly more than your average studio shoot ‘em up. This was a theatrical five-timer for me, and it’s a movie I’ve revisited numerous times on DVD and Blu-ray; Mann knows this rough, urban terrain better than anyone else at the moment. Breathlessly written by Stuart Beattie (with uncredited rewrite work by Mann and Frank Darabont), this was one of the key films to bust down the gate for big-budget studio actioners to get the digitally-shot treatment. Cinematographers Paul Cameron and Dion Beebe collaborated with Mann on the intensely stylish visuals, with nocturnal Los Angeles giving off a totally unique vibe that’s dangerous and exotic and alive with endless possibility; I love how digital cinematography allows the viewer to see far off into the distance. Tom Cruise gave one of his most magnetic performances as Vincent, a hitman made of steely discipline and possessing seemingly air-tight internal logic. Jamie Foxx, as Max the cabbie, made for an unexpectedly great co-star, with his initial timidity turning into reluctant bravado by the final act, in an arc that felt honest considering the circumstances. The dynamite supporting cast has showy turns from a greasy Mark Ruffalo, the always commanding Bruce McGill, a priceless Javier Bardem doing some excellent storytelling, a sharp Jada Pinkett Smith, edgy Peter Berg, the soulful Barry Shabaka Henley, and the sagacious Irma P. Hall, with awesome cameos by resident ass-kicker Jason Statham and the spunky Debi Mazar.

The Statham bit at the airport, in particular, is a real hoot; Mann isn’t known for being a “fun” filmmaker, and in this one wink-wink moment, you get the sense that he was enjoying himself in a way he normally doesn’t. James Newtown Howard’s moody score pulsates with electronic-synth-sexiness, with all of the physical locations choicely selected for maximum atmospheric effect. And honestly, enough can’t be said about the downright hypnotic cinematography in this film; shot after shot is absolutely striking in ways that are hard to describe. Memorable moments include a roaming coyote shambling across a lonely Los Angeles city street, a phenomenally staged and extra-lethal Korea town night-club shootout, and that fantastic encounter between Cruise and Henley at the jazz-club, which culminates in both verbal and visual poetry which highlights the chiaroscuro quality of the dimly lit interior. The back and forth dialogue between Cruise and Foxx during the various cab rides sting with acidic bite, with both actors getting more than one moment of serious emoting amidst all of the violent showdowns and confrontations. This was an extremely disciplined effort for Mann, and however minor some people may find it amongst the rest of his sensational filmography, it’s one of those endlessly re-watchable films that paid attention to all of the aspects of the medium, resulting in a rock-solid genre entry that feels a cut above from the norm.

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