I’m guilty of not reading Carl Nicita’sbook which kicked this whole thing off…but I plan to remedy that as soon as humanly possible. Because, from the campaign art (pictured above), I thought I might be in for the stock standard gangster offering. I’d already swallowed the hook, ’cause like directorRickey Bird Jr. told me, “That’s a great title,” and indeed it is. Still, as is often the case with the gigantic strides being taken in the field of low budget film-making nowadays, like Transformers, they are increasingly becoming more than meets the eye.
What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas. So when Jack King (Joe Raffa, “Portal”, “Dark Harbor”) decides to try his luck at a blackjack tournament – with a little somethin’ on the side to handle for his mob boss Uncle Vinny, Vincent Pastore(HBO’s “The Sopranos”) , this tale transforms into a vodka martini shaken by an earthquake and stirred by a maelstrom. Jack’s Vegas weekend descends from one hell to the next when he is targeted by the mob after his girlfriend witnesses a murder
“Booze, Broads and Blackjack,” received a release on Amazon Prime Video on July 24th, 2020 in the United States and United Kingdom after racking up several awards despite being sidelined by COVID-19. The mob thriller, nominated for Best Picture in both the Los Angeles and New York Film Awards, won Best Crime Film in both festivals. In the Actors Awards Los Angeles 2020 competition – Pastore was nominated as Best in the ‘Fest and garnered Best Actor in a Crime Film. Co-star Sarah French (“Rootwood”) won Best Actress in a Crime Film.
The film was produced by a joint venture between Film Regions International (FRI) the company behind the acclaimed groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” Hectic Films Productions, best known for “Machine Gun Baby” and Good Knight Productions.
In addition to Pastore, Raffa and French, the film also stars Felissa Rose (“Sleepaway Camp”), Vincent M. Ward (AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) and James Duval (“Independence Day”, “Donnie Darko”).
The film is available on Amazon Prime Video for rental or purchase and will also receive subsequent VOD platforms to follow in the near future.
I don’t profess to be anything except a guy who really loves his movies. So I was, needless to say, humbled when Sylvain Despretz, illustrator extraordinaire and Hollywood veteran, asked for my opinion on his new book Los Ángeles .
The thoughts (abridged) I rendered unto him are as follows:
“Right off the bat I concede we have a very similar taste in movies, beginning on the opening page where you count James Mason among your idols. You have a free-flowing narrative style here – mixed in with a little distain for certain elements of ‘The Industry’. Yet there, embedded in your frankness, and if you know the lyrics to Billy Joel’s Piano Man, you strike me in predicament alone, to be like John the bartender; sure that he could be a movie star . . . if he could get out of this place.
So in that I feel your journey is unique – in the sense that you have been surrounded by the business, yet are melancholic, purely because you are no different than any other kid who wanted to run off and join the circus – you longed to be a lion tamer – you wanted to be a director.
Still I can’t wait to see this all come together. As I read your words I heard your voice and am reminded of great quotes from the towers of their fields from days past. Well, two in particular. One I heard Peter Guber say: “Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.” And the other comes from Harrison Ellenshaw, “Shakespeare never had a word processor . . . and now we word processors we have no Shakespeare’s.” Your life is extraordinary and the tapestry upon which your weave this tale is rich in texture and bold in attack.”
Los Ángeles is a book that is much about one man’s love of cinema as it is his adventures in the screen trade. It might get personal, and it does…in the best sense. This separates it from the generic ‘greatest hits’ compilations which would merely be satisfied showing you only the art from the films and pictures of the movie masters Sylvain has been privileged to rub shoulders with.
But this is not a film book. It’s about art, life, and loving movies so deeply you feel them at the source of everything that inspires one to create. Sylvain and I always have the most engaging and complex conversations, which are always nice to have with like-minded cineastes, especially when we share a similar perspective on what great films are and how they touch us.
Life like cinema is about a series of moments. We all know the films we like, still, when asked, we find ourselves recounting the scenes which really spoke to us. Robert Altman once told his wife about his first viewing on David Lean’s A Brief Encounter. She recalled that, though Altman was initially just casually watching the movie, by the end, he had fallen in love with the films leading lady, Celia Johnson, and was utterly moved by the story unfurled.
Some actors were just born to play villains, they just had that aura of menace, animalistic charm and the kind of personality that lent itself to baddies. That can definitely be said of Billy Drago, a reptilian character actor with a slinky, measured voice and a gaze that could pierce walls. Of the hundred or so credits he racked up over his career I’d say about three to five were not antagonists, he made a living and legendary work out of embodying badasses and troublesome dudes. He’s passed on now but these are my top ten of his performances!
10. Drake in Seven Mummies
This is a pitiful From Dusk Dawn rip-off that doesn’t even have one mummy in it, never mind seven. However, Billy hams it up spectacularly as the maniacal ghost of an evil sheriff, decked out with supernatural powers, cackling like a madman and having a ball.
9. John Bly in The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr
He takes centre stage as the main villain in this cult SciFi western series as Bly, a deadly, treacherous outlaw gang leader who proves to be quite the adversary to Bruce Campbell’s hero.
8. Edward Anthony Heller in Freeway
A frightening, bible quoting mass murderer, Heller prowls the urban highways in a big black Lincoln looking for victims to maim and authorities to fire his rocket launcher at while hard boiled detective James Russo races to find and stop him. This is one of those villains who is heard for awhile before being seen, and Drago’s evil zealot’s fervour in delivering fire and brimstone passages before brutally killing people is something else.
7. Barbas The Demon of Fear in Charmed
Charmed was a dope show from what I saw, and benefited greatly from Billy’s intermittent presence as a spooky, otherworldly entity who controls the very essence of fear. Clad in black and scenery chewing like nobody’s business, it’s one of his most memorable TV guest arcs.
6. Asmodeus in Demon Hunter
Another demon! This time instead of fear it’s sex, and although in classic mythology the physical manifestation of this guy isn’t exactly Billy’s type, he rocks the charisma here, hanging on every hissed syllable and seductive boob grab. This is a terrific little TV B movie produced by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell and starring one half of the Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery as a sort of Constantine like badass.
5. Charles Thibodeaux in Dark Moon Rising
Finally a good guy!! This is a low budget but fun werewolf flick set in the New Mexico desert. Billy plays an ex homicide detective gone rogue, hunting down the vicious beast that murdered his wife years before. There’s a mournful, nothing to lose attitude to his character here, even in more heroic roles he always inflected the work with a trademark edgy darkness.
4. Ramon Cota in Delta Force 2
Billy played villains opposite Chuck Norris a few times but none were as terrifying and over the top, WTF crazy as Cota. Columbia’s nastiest drug lord, he’s got a fucking gas chamber in his living room that he uses to dispatch enemies, disloyal cohorts and basically anyone he doesn’t like the sight of, and he watches it go down too.
3. Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables
Slick, evil enforcer to Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone, Frank is a straight up psychopath who laughs in the face of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) after killing one of his best friends and taunts him like a true monster. It’s a supremely evil turn that outshines every other villain on scene including DeNiro’s cultured Capone.
2. Orel Peattie in The X Files
He’s an antagonist here but one with an understandable perspective and tragic backstory. Orel is a Gypsy with mysterious voodoo powers who has targeted a Doctor (James Morrison) that he deems responsible for the death of his daughter years before. Both these characters are hurt, Orel lashes out by casting creepy spells on the guy and one can sense the seething hatred and sorrow in Billy’s excellent performance.
1. Danny Bench in Cyborg 2: The Glass Shadow
Man this sequel is just so much better than the shitty first one with Jean Claude Van Damme. Bench is a psychotic renegade bounty hunter employed by a corrupt corporation to hunt down their asset, a rogue cyborg (Angelina Jolie) and the army man (Elias Koteas) she’s run away with. He’s a scary, imposing villain with ties to Asian occult, an arsenal of savage weapons and a bad case of the crazy.
It is impossible to convey to those who weren’t there when STAR WARS was new – what it used to be like. For the third time since my existence began, I find myself faced with the end of yet another trilogy – the end of the Skywalker saga . . . ?
So it was with incredible nerves thundering tremulous throughout my body, that I sat down to talk with the man, and I want you to really think about this, who cut the scene in which Luke and Ben Kenobi discover the message hidden in R2. He cut Luke’s run, part of the final assault on the Death Star. He is even the man who suggested to George Lucas that Vader’s lightsaber be red and Obi-Wan’s be blue. As a STAR WARS fan . . . think about that. Think about the contributions of Paul Hirsch on the images that permeated our dreams and in some cases . . . shaped our destinies.
My beloved Empire Strikes Back. Yes Paul came back for the sequel, but this is not merely an ode to the realm of Jedi’s and Rebels – it is a look inside the mind of a skilled craftsman of his art, and the journey which saw him mingle among the mighty company of the heavyweights of that last glorious era of Hollywood . . . the 70’s.
In a time when the men we would come to define as masters began their adventures in the screen trade: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma (with whom Paul cut frequently), Francis Coppola – oh, what a time. And it is not only the holy trilogy that has passed beneath the keen eyes of Hirsch – the work of other magnificent filmmakers like John Hughes, Joel Schumacher, George Romero,Herbert Ross, and Charles Shyer have all benefited from Paul’s expert touch.
It took George’s clout to get him into Kubrick’s editing room. James Cameron boasted to him (referring to Titanic) that he made more money than the ‘WARS’ and didn’t have to make a sequel. He cringed at the idea of editing the helicopter sequence in Apocalypse Now for six months when Francis suggested it . . . yes folks . . . the cinema that has moved us to tears and had us on our feet cheering, has been before the eyes of my guest. And may the force be with him . . . always.
Ladies and Gentleman, please seek out the book, but until you do join me and Academy Award Winner . . . Paul Hirsch.
I feel like I’m somehow getting closer to Nicolas Cage. I’ve spoken to a man who has directed him – a man who has “Nic-polished” his scripts. So, you can image my delight when Marco Kyris, Cage’s stand-in from 1994 till 2005, agreed to not only have a chat, but also to give me a preview of his new documentary, UNCAGED : A Stand-in Story.
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People ask me, “What’s with this Cage obsession?”
My answer is always…I think he’s a genuinely smart actor, with eclectic tastes and a wide repertoire which has seen him enjoy Oscar glory, big box office success and become a champion of independent film.
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The son of August Coppola (nephew of Francis Ford), but with a name lifted from the pages of his comic book heroes, Cage is at once both an actor and a movie star. With a legion of devoted fans worldwide and, heck, even a festival that bears his name – celebrating the wild, the weird, and the wonderful of the cinema of Nicolas Cage. From the genius of Con Air to the brilliant subtlety of Adaptation, the exceptional character work of Army of One to the gravitas of Leaving Las Vegas – Cage is a ball of energy that needs only to be unleashed on set.
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It was my sincere pleasure to talk with the man who stood in for the man when the man wasn’t on set. Marco’s tales are a fascinating glimpse – another angle if you will – in the examination of one of the movie industry’s true originals. I know you’ll find his story and his film, UNCAGED, compelling viewing – for both those curious as to the life of a stand-in, and also those looking for a unique look at the life of a superstar.
I’ve been privileged to chat with the people who made the rough stuff look easy for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rene Russo…
I love those films that revolve around a feverish, high profile celebrity boxing match, whether the stakes are placed on the fight itself or on the characters spectating. There’s a sense of intrigue and danger to that kind of sporting event that makes for great mood setting and story establishment. In Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes, Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise find themselves pulled into a shadowy assignation attempt on the life of the Secretary of Defense as a fight rages just past ringside in Atlantic City (Vegas Lite).
The character dynamic between the two actors here is superb; Cage is Santoro, a cheerfully corrupt detective who dresses like a pimp, ruthlessly schmoozes his way into profitable exchanges and has hopes of one day being the mayor simply due to the fact that he’s well connected. Sinise is Commander Dunne and couldn’t be cut from a more different cloth, he’s a buttoned down, modest, even toned military man who resents Santoro for being such a merciless showboat but has reconciled that with the fact that they grew up together. After the chaotic assignation, they’re tasked with interviewing any and all witnesses and let me tell you in an arena that crowded and fired up, this is no easy task. Stan Shaw (remember him from Fried Green Tomatoes?) is terrific as Lincoln Tyler, the hulking prizefighter who clearly knows something based on the dark, sheepish looks he casts around when being interrogated. Others involved include Carla Gugino as a mysterious operative, John Heard as a fast talking politician, Kevin Dunn, Michael Rispoli, Luis Guzman, Mike Starr, Peter McRobbie, Tamara Tunie and more.
I’ve heard claims that this film builds into a third act that’s bombastic and ridiculous, but hello people, this is a Brian De Palma film and the guy is in love with overblown sensationalism. That’s not to say he doesn’t have tact or skill in building slow suspense either. He has a way with long, uneasy tracking shots (I’ve always thought he’d be a great helmer for a Michael Myers Halloween film) as characters pursue each other through detailed, densely populated environments. There’s an extended sequence set in a hotel here where a baddie searches for a witness with cold resolve that’s among the best thriller set pieces I’ve seen anywhere. Of course it gets kind of WTF in the third act but I love that turn of events just as much, it adds a level of political paranoia that rises above simply a few people conspiring to take out a leader they don’t like, and the fun is in watching each hilarious new piece of the puzzle land with a boom n’ crash. I’ll tell you one thing, although I could have guessed early on who the mastermind behind all this hubbub is, I would have *never* in a million years guessed why or how it plays out or the reasons behind the whole thing, and you have to give De Palma and screenwriter David Koepp mad props for pulling that off. Plus the thing just has energy, adrenaline, personality and fucking awesome visual panache to spare. Great film.
There are actors that portray a certain kind of character. They fit so perfectly within the story being told that they appear to have been designed for just such a purpose. These performers often run the risk of being typecast – only wanted to fulfill similar roles for the duration of their career. Then you have actors who bring such a spirit to their parts that we, the viewer, find it difficult to separate the character they play with the actor in person. It is a performance so electric and all-consuming that the role will be forever theirs. And, though the part may be played by other actors – should the film in question be part of an ongoing series – their turn becomes the standard-bearer and the one to top.
I personally can’t imagine Anne Lewis being played by anyone else except Nancy Allen. The depth she brings to what on the surface might appear a mere formulaic character, if you look closer, is in fact the catalyst for change. Thus RoboCop’s central character, Alex Murphy, is, following his brief initial encounter with Lewis, on a mission to rediscover his humanity. The result rendering this simple concept of a kind of futuristic revenge-Western type tale a classic in the process, with more dimensions than first meet the eye. But RoboCop, though iconic, doesn’t define the truly stellar talent that is personified by Nancy Allen.
She again plays these deep, soulful characters in two other of my favorite films: Brian De Palma’sBlow Out (opposite John Travolta) and Stewart Raffill’sThe Philadelphia Experiment (opposite Michael Paré ). With her evergreen beauty, lustrous smile and endearing tenderness, Allen carries all the hallmarks of a phenomenal actor who has graced our screens, large and small, for decades now. Still, acting is not all Nancy applies her gifts to. She is a passionate advocate for the preservation of our environment as well as a soldier in our species’ battle against Cancer. We can do so much by merely setting an example for others to follow, and it is by this method Nancy serves these causes close to her heart.
As we live in an age where everything old is new again, the film in which she played a pivotal role, RoboCop, is in line again to be reworked by a fresh creative team. Nancy herself has gone on record saying you shouldn’t or can’t remake a classic – lightning couldn’t possibly strike twice? But if it does, it is the cinematic prayer of the faithful fans that if they are going to try, go all the way, and then they need to make us remember why we loved the original in the place. They need a touchstone, a standard-bearer. I don’t believe they’ll win hearts and minds without one. So with that in mind, I say finally to the movie gods – they need my guest. They need Nancy Allen. My sincere thanks to Eva Rojano, without whom this would not be possible. Please do, all you Robo-Fans, jump on the bandwagon and sign the petition (https://www.change.org/p/mgm-studios-inc-we-want-nancy-allen-to-play-a-role-in-robocop-returns) to get Nancy back into the Robo-verse.
Join Frank and special guest host, Paul Sparrow-Clarke, as they talk in depth about one of Brian De Palma’s most underappreciated films, Carlito’s Way. Paul returned to PTS to discuss Carlito’s Way after joining Frank and Tom during their From Russia with Love podcast in their For Your Ears Only James Bond podcast series. We hope you enjoy the show!
How important are fans to the longevity of a movie? The truth is – extremely important. Fans are the reason films have survived long past their initial release life. Coming from the age of VHS, we were the generation of watchers that gave cult status to films that would have faded if not for the popularity of this new medium. Films that died even before their brief, bottled-rocket moment in theaters fell to the ground cold and lifeless under the weight of audience disinterest.
A devoted fan is worth their weight in gold. They will stick with a film, a franchise, even through the worst of times. RoboCop is an undeniable classic. But, and it is just this man’s opinion, the continuing saga has suffered from the same strength that made the first film the glorious specimen it remains. Two wasn’t bad. Three, was stretching. I dug the animated series, even the live-action TV show. Then there was the recent reboot. I think the less said is the easiest mended and stand with many on this thinking – that the idea of remaking classic films is a colossal mistake. There was really nothing in this tepid attempt to re-invoke the wonders of past glory that are worthy of even the title.
Like Eva Rojano I saw RoboCop on video back in the day and was equally as awed by it. The fascinating thing though about Eva’s fandom is the empowering nature, the passion and exuberance she draws from the picture, and how it has helped shape her life and permeate her dreams and ambitions.
Eva was so taken with the power of the character, and the story arc of Anne Lewis, portrayed by the wonderful Nancy Allen, that she eventually started corresponding with her idol, and finally, was able to meet her in person and further solidify the friendship.
The joyful nature of being utterly and completely taken by the subject and the morals amplified by popular and classic movies, is that it allows the fan to live vicariously through the characters they identify with and thus, giving one’s imagination fertile soil in which to plant the seeds for a harvest of success in whichever field of expertise one chooses to explore in life.
Eva has taken the inspiration she receives from the likes of the empowered character of Anne Lewis and has turned all of her creativity and dedication to spreading and bringing together the talents and appreciation of RoboCop fandom world-wide. And, in the wake of the recent news of yet another cinematic entry into the RoboCop franchise, as well as, the fact that the talented Miss Allen has not, unlike the other member of her integral duo aka Peter Weller, been approached to be a part of this re-invigoration of such a beloved series; Eva has taken to the fandom at large and has created a petition to motivate the powers that be with the hopes of bringing back her treasured Officer Lewis.
Eva’s is a fascinating and passion-filled tale that I trust will inspire and delight. Please do, all you Robo-Fans, jump on the bandwagon and sign the petition (https://www.change.org/p/mgm-studios-inc-we-want-nancy-allen-to-play-a-role-in-robocop-returns) to get Nancy, along with Peter, back into the Robo-verse where together they belong. And also to, please follow the links below and experience the wonderful work Eva is doing – all to honor the movie she loves most dearly.
Not too many films can claim to be as certifiably, outright insane as Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain. Crazy, off the wall, nuts, there’s plenty of that in Hollyweird,
but Cain is so thoroughly deranged that I’m curious how De Palma arrived at such a specific brand of left field lunacy when he sat down at his typewriter. Get this: John Lithgow pulls an overtime shift playing Dr. Carter Nix, a slightly disturbed child psychologist who shows an unnatural budding interest in his daughter’s upbringing, so much so that it unnerves his wife (Lolita Davidovitch) to a degree. I describe him as only slightly disturbed because his level of mania pales in comparison to his multiple emerging split personalities, which is where the trouble really begins. Carter’s father (also Lithgow) was a psychotic Norwegian doctor who had a habit of using children for bizarre mind control experiments, and it seems that one of Carter’s multiples has decided to take up his work. Soon there’s a rash of baby kidnappings in the area and all hell breaks loose. His wife is too busy having an adulterous affair with a hunk (steamy Steven Bauer) to really take control either. Sounds crazy in writing? The film takes it way further than you could ever imagine. Lithgow always seems a bit nuts, even when playing straight-laced characters we always get this vibe like he’s a court jester who has lost his marbles, and he revs that organic looniness into overdrive here. Frances Sternhagen is a hoot as the obligatory exposition here, a stern doctor who lays out Carter’s complex, condition to two cynical detectives (Tom Bower and Gregg Henry, both great) who try to keep up with this whole circus. I can understand why this film didn’t do too well, I mean… how do you even classify it? Almost everything about the subject matter is highly uncomfortable stuff that threatens to siege over into the lands of taboo, and there’s all kinds of freaky shit in this screaming haunted asylum of a flick. That’s the fun of though, if you’re able to have some. De Palmer has always had a gift for shocker material even when he’s not operating in the thriller genre. There’s a cold, caustic edge to this film that barely contains the sea of menace and mirth roiling beneath, which is an odd, off colour and chilling mix. See it for yourself.