Tag Archives: Bridget Fonda

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown runs right around two and a half hours, and if you were to go through the film and separate all the scenes that are directly about the central plot specifics from the ones that are simply characters hanging out, shooting the shit and socializing, you’d probably cut the film in half. There’s a lesson I was taught in film school and it goes something like “every scene in the script must serve/move the plot and anything that doesn’t must go.” Well, I get the creative sentiment there but it’s often much more complicated than that, and often very subjective what one person will distill personally from a scene and use for their appreciation of the story overall versus another person being bored by it. In the case of Jackie Brown, I absolutely loved each and every laidback scene of breezy character development. These people start talking about movies, weed, cars, guns, the city or anything offhand and slowly, gradually they shift into what the story is about, which is the genius of Tarantino’s screenplay, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch.

As the titular Jackie Brown, Pam Grier gives the performance of her career as a desperate middle aged career woman trying to score a little extra loot for herself, and getting trapped between a rock and a hard place in the process. She smuggles cash in from Mexico for low rent arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a fast talking psychopath who enlists his newly released ex con pal Louis (Robert De Niro) into helping him out with the latest gig. Also involved is Ordell’s beach bunny stoner girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda), a low level thug on his payroll (Chris Tucker) and stoic, sad eyed bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). All these players shuffle around the LA chessboard, often lazily and in no rush and it’s these scenes that give the film its lifeblood. Jackie and Max find compassion, solace and bittersweet romance together, Tarantino let’s them circle each other in no great hurry and later in the film when they do share a kiss it’s just the most beautiful, well built up moment. Grier comes from a blaxploitation background and it’s apparent in her performance, but we also get the sense that this operates on a real plane, much more so than many other Tarantino films. Forster is always noble, observant and calm in most of his career, there’s a few obscure manic performances from him out there but for the most part he underplays his work. Max has to be his best creation, a steely journeyman dude who’s seen enough and wants something new in his life, something he finds in Jackie as he falls in love with her literally at first sight.

This is a character piece, and in addition to Grier and Forster we get incredibly vivid, funny and idiosyncratic work from all involved. Jackson is hysterical as the most verbose cat of the bunch, he’s also scarier than Jules in Pulp Fiction too. DeNiro plays Louis as a dim-headed fuck-up who seems to be playing dumb to stealth people, then seems to actually be thick again until we’re just not sure right up until the hilarious last few beats of his arc that result in some of the funniest black comedy I’ve ever seen. Fonda let’s a stoned veneer hide a deep resentment and hatred for pretty much everyone around her until she takes it one step too far and pays for it hilariously. Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen show up doing a flawless good cop bad cop routine as a local Detective and an ATF agent on both Jackie’s and Ordell’s trail. Watch for Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister and genre veteran Sid Haig as well.

I get conflicted when ranking this amongst other Tarantino films because he’s adapting someone else’s work and therefore it’s not purely his creation, which is always when his most energetic and inspired stuff happens. Jackie Brown is a masterpiece and one of my favourite films, no doubt. But it’s Tarantino doing something else, chilling out in the pool and letting this cast of characters hang out too, in bars, beach apartments, cars, cluttered offices, malls and airports. There’s no great momentum or surge behind this story, it’s all very laconic and easy breezy, which is the strongest quality. But it just as much feels like a Leonard story as it does Tarantino, which works too. His crazy, wild style and pop culture obsessions are given a modest track to race around because of Leonard’s low key, slow burn dialogue aesthetic and the resulting flavour is so good it’s almost perfect. But it’s not just Quentin at the helm. Whatever your thoughts on that and comparisons with this film next to the ones he’s both written and directed, there’s no arguing that this is a beautiful, hilarious, touching, suspenseful, romantic classic of the crime genre.

-Nate Hill

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Henry Selick’s Monkeybone

Henry Selick’s wacktastic, surreal Monkeybone is off its head, and while it never quite coalesces into something wholly memorable, the images and impressions on parade are not something easily shaken. To start with, the visual production design is so detailed and thoroughly deranged it deserves it’s own art gallery after the fact. Selick, the other half of the creative team behind Nightmare Before Christmas, create’s here what is maybe one of the most unsettling, eye popping mood boards in any film of the century. It’s just just in keeping us awake with the storytelling that he falters somewhat, not enough to sink the ship, but enough that not a lot of people remember or revere this film these days, which is a shame because it’s quite an achievement in areas. Brendan Fraser, who seems to actively seek out oddball scripts, plays cartoonist Stu Smiley, who goes into a coma, gets sent to a place called Downtown where the veggies go until they either croak or wake up, and is put in jeopardy once someone has the idea to pull the plug on him. His loving girlfriend (Bridget Fonda, who I wish was still in the acting game) waits for him, while his newest creation, a little plush horn-ball named Monkeybone, gets a little too sentient and tries to steal his body, which has a certain organ he wasn’t endowed with on the drawing board. The story is too weird and raunchy for kids, and falls into the Roger Rabbit/Cool World arena of adult oriented fare that still has a childlike sensibility. Downtown is essentially a haunted DisneyLand astral plane, a reject realm where ghosts, ghouls and monsters with disturbing anatomy roam free and feed on nightmares, siphoned from the psyched of those upstairs stuck in comas. Weird enough for you? You don’t know the half of it. The nightmare scenes are shot in stark black and white and have a genuinely subconscious, tuned in vibe to them that actually feels like one does in dreams, not an easy aura to pin down onscreen. Fraser does a wicked job, especially when the monkey hijacks his body upstairs and starts prancing around like a mental patient, it’s an inspired bit of physical comedy from the man who brought us George Of The Jungle. Monkeybone is apparently played by none other than John Turturro, but his voice is so tripped out on helium effects it’s fairly unrecognizable. The film gets downright hilarious when Stu follows the scamp back up in the avatar of a corpse with a broken neck (bravo to Chris Kattan), a dementedly genius sequence. There’s cameos and vaudeville supporting turns galore, including Rose McGowan as a sexy cat/human hybrid, Bob Odenkirk, Thomas Haden Church, Giancarlo Esposito, Lisa Zane, and Whoopi Goldberg as Death, a sly meta rework on her Ghost character. The film is at it’s best when it focuses on Downtown, which really is a vibrant atmosphere to hang around in, always an odd mutant creature to look at or a morbid one liner for chuckles. The stuff back on earth can be fun too but really doesn’t pick up until Kattan comes roaring in and steals the climax with his bobble-head gymnastic fanfare. If only this had been a little more in terms of story and character, it could have matched it’s truly impressive visual scope. As it is, it’s worth it just to see how weird and surreal mainstream movies can get when they want to.

-Nate Hill

It’s good to be the King: An interview with Larry Cohen by Kent Hill

There is a quote attributed to Robert Rodriguez (another independent maverick filmmaker) that states:

“If you are doing it because you love it you can succeed because you will work harder than anyone else around you, take on challenges no one else would dare take, and come up with methods no one else would discover, especially when their prime drive is fame and fortune. All that will follow later if you really love what you do. Because the work will speak for itself.”

It is the always interesting, ever-changing, always inventive, ever professional life and work of Larry Cohen that really personifies the above quotation. King Cohen has been out there in one form or another in an impressive career spanning multiple decades. He has been the director of cult classics; he has been the writer of hot scripts that have incited Hollywood bidding wars. His work has been remade, imitated, venerated.

These are the hallmarks of a man and his movies whose personal voice rings out loud and clear, high above the commercial ocean of mainstream cinema that carries, beneath its shiny surface, schools of biodegradable blockbusters that are usually forgotten about only moments after having left the cinema.

This is not true of the films of Larry Cohen. For his work is the stuff (pardon the pun) that came before, the stuff the imitators latch on to, the stuff from which remakes and re-imaginations are conceived. This is the fate of the masters. The innovators come and bring forth art through trial and error. They are followed by the masters who take the lessons learned from the innovators and make them, shape them by sheer force of will. But, then there comes the imitators who stand on the shoulders of these giants and take home the glory.

Still, when there is an artist that is in equal parts innovator and master; this causes the imitators to stand baffled.

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Rather than accepting my humble oration, I urge you to seek out Steve Mitchell’s most excellent documentary KING COHEN. Watch it, marvel, rejoice, and remember that there are great filmmakers out there. They may not be coming soon to a theatre near you, but they did once, and their work still stands, silently, waiting to be discovered.

Until you get to see KING COHEN please, feel free to bask in my little chat with the king himself, Larry Cohen, a gentleman of many parts, many stories and of course . . . many movies.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Larry Cohen.

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Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan: A Review by Nate Hill 

Crime doesn’t pay, and money is the root of all evil. There are countless stories of people who forsake such principles and venture down a dark, destructive path, but none quite so biting and tragic as Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan. What haunts the viewer so much is not the fact that these characters suffer through horrific turmoil resulting from the promise of money, it’s that these are nice, good natured, everyday folks. These are the people next door, the blue collar, salt of the earth Americans, and it’s harrowing to see the downward spiral they fall headlong into. Bill Paxton is the mild mannered hardware store owner, Billy Bob Thornton his unemployed, dimwitted brother and Bridget Fonda his wife. Three regular people who could be any of us, until they find the money. Out in a snowy rural landscape, millions of dollars in cash is discovered by them, and that’s where the trouble begins. The three go to great lengths to keep their secret hidden from the local authorities, and eventually become paranoid, deceitful and hostile towards each other, leading to some truly heartbreaking outcomes. It’s not enjoyable watching these poor people go through this, because this isn’t some exploititive crime genre exercise. Although shades of noir are present, this film is set in the real world where human beings are neither good nor bad as a template, but have complex capacity for great evil or compassion. When something like the money gets in the way, though, that potential for malicious behaviour is dialed up considerably, and the resulting calamity looks something like what we see here. What’s scary about the whole thing is that it’s essentially their own fault; yes, the money turned up, and yes, its presence is what drives this wedge among them, but the money isn’t sentient, it doesn’t wish ill will, it’s simply *there*, leaving the characters to make decisions regarding it, decisions which in this case lead to their despairing downfall. What’s more, money is our own creation, not some outside influence eating away at them. This is surprising output for Raimi, who is the guy we know for rambunctious horror and genre pulp, but he shows a skilled and subtle hand with the down to earth material, letting his story be a window into a cold world of feverish greed, a world where plans are, in fact, anything but simple. 

Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness: A Review by Nate Hill 

Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness completes his demented Evil Dead trilogy in high style, and with way more off the wall humour than the first two, which made you laugh while simultaneously going straight for the jugular with gore. Slapstick seems to be the theme here, as Ash and his trusty accessories of destruction find themselves catapulted straight into the heart of the Middle Ages, where the denizens of the Necronomicon have somehow once again found him. Joining forces with a medieval King, and hopping into bed with a shapely princess (Embeth Davidz), Ash uses his modern day know-how and sassy disposition to battle hordes of skeletal beasties and flying deadites, with occasional breaks for absurd humour and near surreal set pieces. My personal favorite is when he finds himself under attack from numerous pint sized versions of himself after setting off an ancient spell in the nearby dark forests. “Ramming speed” they chirp as they jab him in the ass with a metal fork and giggle like demonic Borrowers. Only in these movies, man. The change of setting from a cabin in the woods to a castle allows for a much larger scale of action, involving entire armies and much more moving parts. The deadite horde has a satisfyingly creaky, Harryhausen-esque way of moving, and look great when blown to bits by the ol’ boomstick as well. They also inherit the silliness and near constant mischief of the demons from the first two films too. Whether it’s trees, deer heads, zombies or skeletons, anything that materializes as a result of that book just seems to have a flair for bizarre and childish shenanigans, kind of like their trademark mode of behaviour.  That too is what makes these films so distinct; they’re horror comedies, yes, but not in the sense that Scary Movie or Young Frankenstein is. They’re like a clown with ADHD prancing about the place and destroying things in their own special and unhinged way. Different from the other films in the series, no doubt, but a welcome and very successful departure. 

Balto: A Review by Nate Hill 

Anyone remember Balto? I remember Balto. Pepperidge Farm remembers Balto too. How can you not, when it was one of the most charming, beautifully done non Disney animation films we saw as kids. I think the fact that it was not made by Disney threw it into obscurity a bit, but there’s the odd copy floating around out there in the Arctic snow. It’s an underdog story (built in pun there eh) about half husky, half wolf Balto (Kevin Bacon having a blast) who hangs around Nome, Alaska and is ridiculed by the local sled dogs for being a mudblood. Every dog has his day though, and Balto gets his when a deadly epidemic breaks out in town during a storm, and he courageously volunteers to make the perilous journey to a far away outpost that has the required medicine. Joining him are his lovable goofy goose friend Boris (Bob Hoskins trading in his jovial cockney accent for a jovial russian accent), ant two adorable polar bears called Muk and Luk. Watching out for him is the only purebred dog in town who cares about him, Jenna the husky (Bridget Fonda), determind to muster a rescue party when he gets in over his head. Balto must brave raging blizzards, treacherous fellow sled dogs and the world’s biggest grizzly bear (seriously that thing is like 15 feet tall) to save the town’s population, and he does it all with bravery, charisma and a winning attitude that’s essential in any animated film. His sidekicks are endearing, his efforts intrepid and the film a winner. 

Episode 17: Quentin Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN with guest PAUL RAI

EPISODE 17

We were joined with Facebook friend Paul Rai to discuss Quentin Taratino’s masterpiece JACKIE BROWN and Tarantino’s work in general.  It’s been a while since we’ve done a a regular podcast!  Enjoy!