Tag Archives: Action Films

The Rise of Etcetera: An Interview with Kent Hill

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I definitely subscribe to this line you’ll find in the bio offered up on Shawn “Etcetera” McClain’s official site http://www.iametcetera.com/index.html, that he is indeed a modern day renaissance man, and all around musical professional who is commanding not only an audience, but also the respect and acclaim of heavy hitting industry insiders. The embodiment of hard work, a Multi-Award winning musician, entrepreneur and entertainment industry professional whose career includes world-wide recognition and acclaim.  He’s definitely no stranger to the limelight, and has carefully crafted a powerhouse of musical talent and stylistics that have garnered him an award for best Rap/Hip Hop album as well as two best video awards. 

He has recently set his sights on film and television, becoming the music director and crafting monumental tracks for the highly anticipated martial arts comedy film “Paying Mr. McGetty,” and the test pilot TV series “Kelly’s Corner” His repertoire doesn’t include the standard checklist, instead he has found immense success as a fragrance designer, sports manager and actor.  His creative skills span the spectrum and have gained him a cult following and record stopping sales. 

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All of the above sounds very grand. But, what I discovered when I talked with the man was a down-to-earth family guy who has devoted his life to his pursuits. I read a great article recently, that talked primarily about whether or not one should give up on their dreams. There was no definitive answer, but there was one truth that I took away from that piece; that if your are out there giving it all that you have, in spite of the success you may or may not receive, then you are living the dream – and that is something not everyone can boast. Etcetera is such a man, and his labors have proven fruitful. I was surprised at his candour, awed by his passion and thought it brilliant that he is an enthusiastic comic book aficionado, who still may yet have a chance to have his music become a part of the DC Extended Universe.

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He is a really cool guy that I hope to hang out with some time. In the meantime, pull up a comfy chair, kick back and listen to the man of music, fragrance and comic book love. Ladies and Gentelmen . . . I give you, Etcetera.

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Enter “The Dragon”: An Interview with Don Wilson by Kent Hill

When you used to decide to hit the video store (back in the day) and roam the aisles in search of hidden gems, you’d discover a great many things. Sometimes it was the films in total – other times it was a star you seemed to have an unending body of work.

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That was my first impression of Don “The Dragon” Wilson. There always seemed to be more and more movies that he had been in. So, being the completest I am, I sought out each, any and every film he was in.

Don “The Dragon” Wilson is a world champion kickboxer, a European Martial Arts Hall of Famer and an action film actor. He has been called “Perhaps the greatest kickboxer in American history.”

Some (and I stress the word SOME) movies to his credit include: Futurekick, Bloodfist 1-8, Ring of Fire 1, 2 & 3, Out for Blood, Operation Cobra, Blackbelt, Cyber Tracker 1 & 2, Terminal Rush, Redemption, Say Anything, Capitol Conspiracy and Batman Forever as the leader of the Neon Gang. You can judge the scale of a film’s budget by the quality of the craft services. In the case of is brief but memorable appearance in Batman Forever, there would be no mere fold-out table with ice mochas and Doritos. No, Don found  the whereabouts of a catering trailer in which stood a chef, ready to cook him whatever he desired.

But back to the movies – Don’s career has been motoring along for decades – and he shows no sign of slowing down. With films like The Martial Arts Kid and Paying Mr. McGetty along with several others waiting in the wings, Don “The Dragon” Wilson is still as vital and explosive as ever. I for one can’t wait to see where journey goes from here.

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JEROME SALLE’S ZULU — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Damn. The 2013 French action thriller Zulu, directed by Jérôme Salle, is a knock-your-socks off piece of filmmaking. It’s violent – VERY violent – but not without purpose, and the twisty/twisted narrative (involving something called Project Coast which is beyond disgusting) takes familiar procedural elements and filters them against the dangerous and exotic backdrop of South Africa and various groups of drug-runners and gang-members. The racial unrest that has plagued South Africa for years is on full display in this exciting film, with the story touching on generational violence that has formed the attitudes and behaviors of the various characters. This is one of those international productions, like Metro Manila and Miss Bala and Sin Nombre, that takes you on a hellish ride, never interested in holding your hand, and plunging you into a volatile world of nightmarish scenes of human behavior. Orlando Bloom was really good here, and Forest Whitaker, as always, commands the screen whenever he appears. Stunning cinematography and fantastic location work contribute to the visually vibrant atmosphere, and while the script is probably too on-the-nose with its dialogue in a few spots, there’s a ferocity to the storytelling and filmmaking that puts most American actioners to shame. Excellent shoot-outs that don’t shy away from the bloody consequences of urban warfare. Available as a Region B Blu-ray only, which is rather pitiful, given that it deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.

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TONY SCOTT’S MAN ON FIRE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Tony Scott’s slick, gritty and highly influential revenge thriller Man on Fire is over 10 years old (which seems insane to think about!) and it holds even more fiery resonance today than when it did upon first release. Brian Helgeland’s hard-nosed, straight-ahead screenplay set a simple foundation for Scott to run amok with his distinct brand of directorial tricks. The film is a stylistic tour de force and serves as a bridge from the post-Bruckheimer era to the more experimental/artiste period for the filmmaker. Mixing staccato editing patterns with mixed film-stock cinematography by the brilliant cameraman Paul Cameron (Deja Vu, Collateral) that occasionally borders on the avant-garde (Scott would push his maximalist style to the breaking point in his next film, the career-defining genre-bender Domino), Scott utilized wildly creative subtitles (notice the fonts and screen placement) and a hyper-layered soundtrack of both scored and sourced music and threatening ambient sounds, thus achieving a fractured-nightmare quality that sneaks up and envelopes the viewer, as it does lead character Creasey, played with stoic resilience by Denzel Washington. Bloody and violent but never unnecessarily so, the film has a mean-streak a mile wide, but also contains, like so many other Scott films, a seriously warm heart. The restless, nervy filmmaking aesthetic intelligently meshed with the damaged psychological complexities of Washington’s character; it’s a slow burn performance and one of Denzel’s absolute best and most compelling. And every bit his equal was Fanning, whose enormously affecting performance as the girl-in-trouble makes the viewer care each and every step of the way, no matter how dark and nasty things get within the framework of the story. Creasey’s about to paint his masterpiece, and we’re invited to the wild show. Man on Fire is one of the best examples of its genre.

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SIDNEY POLLACK’S THE YAKUZA — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Sidney Pollack’s The Yakuza, released in America in 1975 after a Japanese premiere a year earlier, is a unique neo-noir gangster hybrid boasting an excellent script written by Leonard Schrader, Paul Schrader, and Robert Towne. Despite not being a box office hit at the time, the film has certainly gained a cult following over the years, and it was a movie that had always escaped my grasp. I’m so glad I finally caught up with this exceedingly entertaining drama, one that’s spiked with some truly great action scenes and a narrative that’s engaging on a story and emotional level. Featuring a solid-as-oak Robert Mitchum as an ex-private investigator who returns to Japan in an effort to rescue the kidnapped daughter of his friend, there’s a distinctive quality to this movie that’s hard to describe. There’s a great mix of hard-core shoot-outs and bloody sword play, Dave Grusin’s music supplied tension and grandiosity in equal measure, and the thoughtful and at times ruminative screenplay stressed character and motivation and thematic context rather than being an empty display of action. Ken Takakura provided more than just a steely gaze, injecting the film with a sense of lethality and wisdom, while supporting cast members Brian Keith, Richard Jordan and Herb Edelman made the most out of their distinctive roles. Especially Jordan, whose unique face was able to convey just as much information than the script ever could. But it’s Mitchum who totally owned the picture, bringing his customary gruff line delivery and masculine sense of purpose to this exotic and violent story that traded off of noir tropes and the demands of the action picture in equal measure, with Pollack’s sure and steady directorial hand bringing it all together in a very elegant, crisp fashion. The rich screenplay investigated themes of moral and social expectations on the part of the Japanese culture, and how familial loyalty and personal friendship can be tested through the differing viewpoints of Eastern and Western school of thought. Ridley Scott and his creative team would heavily borrow from this film for the 80’s classic Black Rain, and clearly, this must be a favorite for Quentin Tarantino.

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STEPHEN HOPKINS’ BLOWN AWAY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Back in the summer of 1994, there were three big action films to hit the marketplace: Speed, True Lies, and sandwiched in between, was the underrated Blown Away, which suffered the worst box office fate of the bunch but still delivered more than enough thrills and excitement to qualify as an action-packed blast of unpretentious entertainment. This movie is so much fun in an old-school, traditional manner (it just FEELS, in a great way, like an MGM movie), shot with lots of style by director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, The Ghost and the Darkness) and acted with intense ferocity by Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones, as a Boston bomb squad officer and a mad Irish bomber respectively. Jones is running wild on the streets of Boston, blowing up anything and everything he can find, all in an effort to exact revenge on his old friend Bridges, who both went through IRA/terrorist issues which are dealt with in black and white flashback. Bridges is the noble cop who always seems to know which wire to cut – the blue one or the red one. While the plotting is mostly predictable, the film knows exactly what it’s doing with its numerous action scenes, and it must be pointed out, that the film features the SINGLE GREATEST DONE-FOR-REAL EXPLOSION ever captured on film. There’s no debating this. I fucking LOVE movie explosions. I’ve made it a point to STUDY them throughout my life. This one is top-dog. When Jones’ old shipyard boat goes kablooey at the climax, you literally can’t believe what you’re watching and that the two fearless stuntmen weren’t killed or burned to death. The image has REAL camera shake, glass windows in downtown buildings were blown out, and total radio silence in and around Boston Harbor was kept for 10 miles so no interference could occur with the destruction of the balsa wood ship. Peter Levy’s cinematography is terrific all throughout, and the brisk editing keeps the pace moving fast. Kino has just released an excellent special edition Blu-ray of this extremely fun, throw-back type action thriller that was more old-fashioned than audiences may have been expecting. Hopkins provides a great, info-filled commentary, and the picture transfer is very crisp and clean, retaining that awesome, slick-and-gritty 90’s film stock look, with that final explosion looking all sorts of epic and awesome in full 2.35:1 widescreen (previous DVD releases were non-anamorphic). Alan Silvestri’s score is appropriately bombastic and thoroughly exciting. Forest Whitaker, Suzy Amis, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, John Finn, and Lloyd Bridges all offer memorable support. Cuba Gooding Jr. has literally 30 seconds of screen time in one scene. Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) got original story credit!

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KATHRYN BIGELOW’S POINT BREAK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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A thrilling sense of kinetic filmmaking has guided the work of Kathryn Bigelow over the last 25 years, and Point Break is just a go-for-broke action picture, complete with moments of total absurdity, fantastic and unexpected humor, and dead serious thrills. Bigelow’s film, from a clever and exceedingly entertaining screenplay by W. Peter Iliff (Rick King received a story credit), is an incredible piece of vigorous action filmmaking — a heist picture, an undercover policier, a romance, an extreme sports movie that feels ahead of its time in retrospect — the creative team threw a little bit of everything into this film and it’s no surprise that the movie has taken on a massive cult following after a solid but not break-out box office performance. Donald Peterman’s dynamic and muscular cinematography is always bracing and exciting, while Mark Isham’s awesome score swells and builds to some great peaks. Ultimate Patrick Swayze POWER here, Gary Busey steals the entire film, and it goes without saying, Keanu Reeves was just all live-wire terrific here, letting his inner Surfer Dude attitude shine through but also getting a chance to kick some ass when called upon; call it a warm up for his heroics a few years later in the blockbuster action pic Speed. Howard Smith’s editing is fluid and keeps the pace at a fast clip (that backyard chase!) and Bigelow really shined with the action sequences, which have been cribbed from repeatedly throughout the years by various filmmakers. The film was a solid success in the theaters, doing $80 million worldwide on a 50/50 split, but the movie would really cement Bigelow’s action chops, after early efforts like Blue Steel and Near Dark announced a new, distinctive voice, and setting up more ambitious future endeavors like Strange Days, K19: The Widowmaker, and the one-two punch of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Hell – I’ll even go to bat for The Weight of Water! And it must be said: Jumping out of airplanes with no parachute POWER!

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