I know Uwe Boll’s reputation as a horror video game adaption filmmaker and I’ve seen a few of them so my personal expectations for Alone In The Dark were set pretty damn low, and yes it was a terrible godawful cheap mess but not… *quite* as bad as I was anticipating. Here’s the thing: I have years of watching B grade horror trash under my belt and when you’ve got that kind of buffer there’s not much, Boll’s output included, that can make you really, truly recoil, like I love trashy shit, it’s fun if it knows it’s place and fits it’s groove. This? This one is especially lowbrow and unapologetically so, as we see Christian Slater being a wannabe Blade/Van Helsing type monster hunter complete with an emo trench-coat, hilariously moody narration and a sexy/nerdy scientist sidekick played by Tara Reid who is about the farthest from nerdy scientist type you can get, which is great for a laugh here. Slater is embroiled in some murky supernatural hogwash involving human inter dimensional hybrid monster things that lurk around dark corners and disembowel people occasionally. He shoots some of them in between bouts of adorably sincere expository diarrhea dialogue and silly high tech gadgetry, and clashes with the gruff commander (Stephen Dorff) of a paranormal tactical squad and that’s about it. A weird subplot about an orphanage and the kids being used for experiments there back in the day went right over my head but I never played the game this is based on so that could be why, although I suspect it’s Boll’s haphazard direction and complete lack of focus in editing. I will hand it to the guy though for doing Vancouver proud, he not only films most of his stuff here in my city (and owns a restaurant in Gastown no less) but he actually sets it here too, so that Britannia Mines, Lions Gate Bridge and the Robson art gallery actually get to play themselves for once and not double for some hack USA location. This is cheap slipshod stuff, full of dodgy effects, indecipherably shadowy monster attacks and complete with an out of nowhere soft-core porn sex scene between Slater and Reid set to a giggle inducing emo lament by a group called ‘Nightwish’ who I’ve never heard of but outdo themselves in the Evanescence-lite department. This is one of the rare cases where there’s a sequel that’s way better than the original, they made a follow up with Lance Henriksen and Danny Trejo that actually attempts to do something worth watching, whereas this is just shameless, throw-in-the-towel dogshit.
I wasn’t prepared for what a pitch black, unapologetically dark comedy Heathers really is. I’ve always known about this film and always meant to see it because I love Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and all things 80’s but man does this thing have some teeth! High school satire has never been this ruthless as we see Ryder try and escape a popular clique trio of bitchy brats all hilariously named Heather with the help of sociopathic, extremely destructive bad boy Slater. Her character is interesting because she’s like the Daywalker of high school cliques, able to blend in as both the good girl and snotty popular girl crowds and as such comes across as an individual rather than a caricature. Her and Slater are adorable together onscreen, both in full on nubile brunette mode and they have cutey pie chemistry that supernovas when he goes kamikaze and decides he not only wants to commit multiple murders on campus, but eventually blow up said campus with a giant brick of C4!! This all sounds perfectly horrible and of course the subject matter takes on dark, ominous new portent when we look at all the tragic school shootings these days but somehow this film, besides being very much of it’s time, manages to play off all these fucked up elements squarely for laughs, albeit of the darkest kind. The corrosive script by Daniel Waters (Hudson Hawk, Demolition Man, Batman Returns) is an impossibly witty, bitterly sardonic yet refreshingly playful cocktail of deprecating cynicism, punishingly pointed social satire and so many jokes I had to compartmentalize how long to laugh at each before the next one piled on. Ryder is lovely here and this might be one of her most engaging, impressive and attractive onscreen roles, she has a grand time with the dialogue, her chemistry with Slater’s lovably dangerous, misanthropic outsider almost singes the celluloid and you can tell overall that everyone involved is just having so much fun. I’ve made darker films before about the kind of subject matter you’re not sure if you should laugh or wince at and they are the best kind of sets to be on, if everyone is in on the joke and willing to ‘go there.’ It’s evident they all were here, and they’ve made one hell of a great film.
The last time Walter Hill made an ultraviolent crime flick set in New Orleans it starred Mickey Rourke and was a lot better than this one, but I’ll take all the Hill I can get and his Bullet In The Head is a bit of B grade fun in its own way. Sylvester Stallone is Jimmy, an angry mob hitman who goes postal when he’s set up and his partner (Jon Seda, short lived) is murdered following the dispatch of a troublesome corrupt cop (Holt McCallany in sleaze mode). The cop, it turns out, has a partner (Sung Kang) who is a lot less corrupt but still seems vaguely interested in why his former colleague was killed and comes gunning for him, putting them both squarely in ‘attempted buddy movie’ territory, a shtick that Hill also did way better in another one with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. Anyways the two of them are on the run from a nasty African war criminal turned real estate developer (Killer Croc from Suicide Squad, because I’m too lazy to look up the spelling of his unpronounceable name) who dispatches impossibly badass mercenary Keegan (Jason Momoa) to kill basically anyone who looks at him wrong. If it seems like I’m explaining this sloppily or without my usual elegant vernacular its because the film itself barely rises to the occasion in terms of plot and feels hasty, ragged and rushed. Stallone is actually kind of awesome as the pissed off antihero, sporting dope Yakuza style tattoos that even top the ink he had in The Expendables. Christian Slater shows up randomly as a wise-ass gang boss who finds himself on the wrong end of Stallone’s temper while Momoa is genuinely threatening as the whack-job ex warlord who just wants to fuck shit up, he and Stallone literally showdown in an axe fight that provides the last five minutes of the film with more energy and imagination than the rest of the eighty nine minutes of it combined. It’s a souped up B movie with little thought or innovation put forth, and it works well enough but I honestly expected more from a guy like Hill making a Stallone flick. At least it lives up to its title as multiple people do indeed get bullets to their heads, which was satisfying enough.
Well it’s that time of year folks – when kids in costumes and horror movies walk hand in hand – and while it’s not a staple for folks at the end of October around these parts (it’s more the ropes and the reins, and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo time), doesn’t mean we can’t sit down together and watch us an awesome little horror gem…that’s quickly turning into my new beer and pizza night movie selection . . . . ART OF THE DEAD.
Imagine if you will, being an artist . . . being a struggling artist. You just want to put yourself out there – be lauded by as many people as possible, carve you name on the tree of immortality as it were. Now . . . you’re this artist and in order to get what you want you make a Faustian deal, so that your name and the power of your work shall be enticing art lovers long after you have slapped on the wooden coat and bought the farm. Trouble is, it’s not really fame that you’ll receive at your end of this deal. No, the ancient evil that has served as your patron has a different kind of eternal damnation in mind…
That’s when we meet the Wilson’s. Boy brings his girlfriend home to meet Dad, Step-Mom and Co. Dad does really well, the house is amazing . . . plus he’s decided to collect some art . . . OH NO! The paintings are shamanistic depictions of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. Y’all know them…? Anyways the maniacal painter responsible achieved a life beyond death by taking the power he sought and evilly won by inducing, in those who gaze for too long at the paintings, whichever sin is in.
What results is a funky good time at the movies…and I encourage you all to make ART OF THE DEAD part of your Halloween movie banquet. Come watch as the Wilson family, a supportive girlfriend, the sister’s nemesis, an unfortunate hooker and a bold and committed priest do battle against art, black magic and original sin!
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 22: (L-R) Danny Tesla, Zach Chyz, Jessica Morris and Lukas Hassel attend the “Art of the Dead” exclusive cast and crew screening at Ahrya Fine Arts by Laemmle on January 22, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Mahal Empire)
I had a stellar time watching this…but…I have equal joy now in presenting the phenomenal cast and the genius writer/director of my new, favorite little B movie treat for All Hallows’ Eve . . .
Rolfe Kanefsky grew up in the suburbs of New York and attended Hampshire college where he studied Film. He began writing stories at a young age after his childhood dream of becoming a clown took the backseat to his interest in film. He has thus far written and directed 27 feature films and authored another 38 produced screenplays over the last 30 years. The cult flick “There’s Nothing Out There” was his debut at the age of twenty. Since then, Rolfe has continued to work in the horror genre with “The Black Room” starring Natasha Henstridge and Lin Shaye, “Party Bus To Hell” with Tara Reid, “The Hazing” starring Brad Dourif and Tiffany Shepis, “Jacqueline Hyde”, “Corpses”, and “Nightmare Man”. He was the winner of two Best Director awards for his horror flick, “Nightmare Man” at the Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and The Supernatural Film Festival in Las Vegas & at the I.F.F.Y.N.T.X. Festival in Texas before the film went on to be picked up by After Dark and Lions Gate as one of the “8 Films To Die For: Horrorfest 2007.
Branching out into other genres, Rolfe wrote “Blonde & Blonder”, a comedy with Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards, “A Dog & Pony Show” with Mira Sorvino and Ralph Macchio, the western “Doc Holliday’s Revenge” starring Tom Berenger, thrillers such as “Tomorrow By Midnight” starring Carol Kane and Alexis Arquette and “1 In The Gun” with Steven Bauer and Robert Davi. Recent family fare include the animated “Space Dogs: Adventures To The Moon” with the voice of Alicia Silverstone “A Tiger’s Tail”, “Timber; The Treasure Dog”, “Puppy Swap” with Margo Kidder, “Jimmy’s Jungle”, the period crime story “Bonnie & Clyde: Justified”, and the musical “Adventures Into The Woods”.
Rolfe has also been making a name for himself in the Lifetime thriller world and has authored seven female-driven thrillers including “Killer Photo” aka “Watch Your Back” starring Annalynne McCord. “Deadly Sorority” with Greer Grammer and Moira Kelly, “The Wrong Babysitter” starring Daphe Zuniga, “Deadly Vows”, “Intensive Care” and “The Wrong Vacation”.
With 65 produced credits, Rolfe is a very active filmmaker/writer who continues to work in almost every genre in the business
Known for her portrayal of series regular Jennifer Rappaport on ABC’s “One Life to Live”, Jessica has cultivated her career as the leading lady in various television shows and independent films. Also making a memorable appearance in Universal’s theatrical success “Role Models”. Jessica has recently been the star of Lifetime TV’s hit movie “The Wrong Teacher” and has also had strong guest starring roles on popular Prime-time shows, including Fox’s “Rosewood” and TNT’s “Perception”. In addition, she leads the cast in Tom Six’s highly anticipated new feature film. Jessica stands out as an actress who conveys honesty and depth through all of the characters she plays and has also discovered her passion for screenwriting.
Born and raised in Denmark, Lukas Hassel trained and graduated from the Samuel Beckett Theater School, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
As a screenwriter, Lukas won the CineStory Fellowship for his top 30 Nicholl’s Fellowship script, “The Mechanic”. This has been optioned by director/producer Charlie Stratton and is in pre-production.
Lukas wrote and directed the sci-fi short film “Into the Dark” which went on the win multiple awards for acting, writing and directing and played in over 70 film festivals world wide. His latest award winning horror short film, “The Son, the Father…”, has screened in 50+ festivals and counting, and got made after winning the Hollyshorts Film Festival competition for best screenplay. Mighty Tripod and Evil Slave LLC produced.
He has appeared on TV in shows such as Blue Bloods, Limitless, The Blacklist, Elementary and more. Currently, he’s shooting “Art of the Dead” opposite Tara Reid in Las Vegas.
Danny Tesla has starred in over 3000 live stage show performances around the world. 1000 of those shows has been his own one-man variety show that he created called “The Danny Tesla Show” He has been working in the entertainment industry for over 30 years.
Danny Tesla started performing at the age of 7 as the youngest member of “The Sunshine Singers” performing in shopping centers and theme parks like Dream World. He also worked in Productions with the Australian Ballet Company such as Onegin, Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake. Throughout his school years he produced, directed and performed every month for 2000 of his fellow schoolmates. He studied with the best teachers in New York, London and Sydney in all aspects of performing from singing, acting, and dancing. One of his dancing teachers was award-winning choreographer Dein Perry who created “Tap Dogs” which lead to Dan being one of the Tap dancers in the Fox Searchlight movie “Bootmen” starring Sam Worthington and Adam Garcia. Which meant he was invited to perform with Adam as one of the lead tappers at the Opening Ceremonies of 2000 Olympic Games live in front of an audience of 100,000 people and telecast to 4 billion people worldwide.
He also performed in Productions on the finest cruises ships in the world. Whichever ship he was on its showcast always was voted number 1 in the fleet. He worked on Royal Viking Queen, Star Odyssey, Silver Cloud, P&O Fair Princess, P&O’s Artemis, Oriana.
A career highlight for Danny was when he was cast as Eugene in “Grease The Arena Spectacular” Which broke all box office records and still holds the record to this day. He worked alongside Australia’s biggest stars like Danni Minogue and Anthony Warlow and John Farnham. Because of his creative contribution to that production he was asked back into two other productions by the same company to reprise his role. Danny has now performed Grease over 300 times to over a million people around Australia and New Zealand.
Danny Tesla was invited to perform at some corporate events in Singapore in 2003 and since then has performed at over 750 events in Singapore. He decided in 2009 to make Singapore his home and became the Creative Director and founder of “Broadway Production Company Pte Ltd” which not only produced more shows for corporate events but also TV commercials and a Musical call “City Gym The Musical” which was staged at Jubilee Hall in January 2013. Danny wrote the script, music and lyrics to City Gym. He also directed and produced the production as well as starred in it. In 2014 Danny moved to Los Angeles and acted in many productions like HBO’s “All the way” starring Brian Cranston and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. That same year he was asked to sing for the soundtrack for a new musical “Tesla The Electrical Spectacle” Inspired by Nikola Tesla’s story Dan Thompson made his stage name Danny Tesla and continues to work under that name winning awards like Best Actor in the film “Birthday in a Dark room” portraying Professor Ansel Adams and starring in other films such as “Surface Wounds”
Moving back to his roots in live entertainment Danny Tesla moved to Las Vegas and performed in Evil Dead the Musical for 6 months on the famous Las Vegas Strip and as a regular actor in the No. 1 escape room in the Country (the Basement) for 8 months. In 2017 he continued to pass on his experience by teaching Acting classes regularly for LA casting Showcase in Las Vegas and lending his acting skills to readings of “Shark Attack the Musical” at the Space and regularly singing at the Venetian. In 2018 he is set to play a lead role as Dorian Wilde in the Feature Film “Art of the Dead” starring Tara Reid.
Danny Tesla is an accomplished Actor, Singer and Dancer.
Robert Donavan dabbled with acting for some time before getting serious about the art. He began studying with Robert F. Lyons when he was 42 years old, and within two years started making films.
He continues to study acting to this day, having admittedly neglected his training as a young man. He has worked with such teachers as Lurene Tuttle, Harvey Lembeck, and James Best. Currently he is studying under Kimberly Jentzen.
He has worked with directors Wayne Kramer, Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, David DeCoteau, Rolfe Kanefsky, Thomas Callaway, and Elliot Feld.
The number of films Robert Donavan has appeared in is close to 60. They cross genres from comedy, to drama, to science fiction, the supernatural, and to horror. He has portrayed scientists, secret agents, border patrol officers, military officers, FBI agents, drug dealers, psychiatrists, morticians, cowboys, and disgraced priests.
The voice over industry has been a good fit for him, having voiced quite a few commercials, and was until this year, the voice of Yahoo Fantasy Football, and the Toyota Fantasy Football Hall of Fame.
Retirement is not in Robert Donavan’s vocabulary, and he has said he fully expects to work through lunch on the day of his funeral.
An attempt was made with Damien Lee’s Sacrifice, but the efforts result in a weird, tonally bonkers slog through low rent noir that has you wondering what just happened. It’s one in a long series of Cuba Gooding Jr. cheapies and although definitely not the worst (Hardwired with him and Val Kilmer proudly holds that title) it falls short of being something coherent or memorable.
Gooding plays a tough but damaged undercover Narc in Toronto’s criminal netherworld, a good man with a dark past who seems to attract danger and bad luck. When a young defector (Devon Bostick) of the city’s nastiest heroin smuggling rig leaves his five year old sister in his care while he tries to put things right with dangerous employers, Gooding’s reflexes and morality are put to the test, and old memories of his own wife and kid are dredged up. Christian Slater plays a priest buddy, one of those men of the cloth who isn’t above picking up heavy artillery and capping a few bad guys when needs must, which is about all the actor gets to do here, but it’s a good scene worth sticking it through some muck for. Kim Coates eases into well travelled villain waters as the kingpin of the drug ring, who has a curiously well developed romantic subplot with the madam of a whorehouse (Laura Daans) he owns. Coates and Daans show up together markedly often if you follow such patterns (nerd alert on my part) and the two have chemistry but their scenes here, although good, are out of place and seem to be blueprints for a sequel to another Damien Lee film they both starred in, which I’ll get to in my next review.
Lee does mostly indie dramas and low key art house stuff, sensibilities which show up here in abundance. But when you’re hired to direct a cop/crime flick with Cuba Gooding Jr and Slater it may be pertinent to stick to well worn tropes and an appropriate tone, the dramatic aspects sort of slow the whole thing down and make it feel weirdly paced. Still, the performances are there, the story is clear and it’s entertaining enough. Oh, and it’s nice to see a film that’s not only shot but *legit set* in a Canadian city for once.
I like examining films about political corruption from decades ago that, if anything, were somewhat ahead of their time and are more potent these days in the age of the internet and social media. Rod Lurie’s The Contender is no exception, and looks at abuse of power by those with a lot of it to wield, and the frequently used and very bratty tactic of bringing up events from people’s past to run smear campaigns on the eve of elections, a dirty trick used heavily by both sides of any power struggle. Joan Allen is fantastic as a US Senator who is a strong candidate for Vice President until a fiery, amoral asshole of a rival played by Gary Oldman digs up dirt from her college days and threatens to derail the whole thing. This is a political drama and as such the script (courtesy of Lurie himself) has a whole truck of bells, whistles and supporting characters to give the film flourish, but at heart it’s a fascinating moral dilemma revolving around Allen and Oldman. The attack on her is vicious, below the belt slander and although not unfounded, it’s unwarranted by someone who is supposed to represent and uphold integrity with their position. The plot thickens when she discovers secrets of her own regarding his character and past, and struggles in herself whether to use this information to bring him down like he did to her, or rise above it and use other less sensationalist strategies to beat him. Her quandary culminates in a decision that many, including myself, would find fairly frustrating given the gauntlet of degradation she’s forced to walk through as a result of Oldman’s actions. That decision may not be what we want to happen emotionally as an audience based on what we’ve seen and felt, but it’s easy to remove ourselves and see why she does this, and view the example she has set for peers by making the hardest of calls. It’s mature, difficult storytelling and I’d forgotten what a thoughtful, prescient film this is. Many people from both sides of America’s divided masses and political parties could learn a thing or two from this story. Allen never overplays the role and uses that quiet observance she’s so good with to bring us closer to her character. Oldman is decked out in a strange curly wig and looks nothing like the sneering shark he becomes when he opens his mouth, it’s an interesting visual character choice. Jeff Bridges plays the President (I’d vote for him IRL) and the cast is stocked with excellent talent including Sam Elliott, Christian Slater, Saul Rubinek, Philip Baker Hall, Mariel Hemingway, Kathryn Morris and William L. Petersen. Great film, and gets more important as each year passes.
I love the cinema of Uwe Boll. How you ask? Haven’t you read the reviews – don’t you know the stories? My answer: Yes.
I have read the press, I know all the stories. I watched as mindless degenerates hiding in their mother’s basements hurled shit across the web, and into the face of one of cinema’s most prolific, most passionate, fiercely independent figures. A man who needed, not a studio, but his own incredible knowledge and production savvy to make movies . . .
. . . all Uwe Boll ever wanted to do.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s set the ‘way-back machine’ for the late 90’s, and I’m tending the counter at the local video store – back when it was really its namesake – and they bring in a new coin-op to keep the punters in the store and spending money. That video game was called House of the Dead.
Supposedly so graphic and horrifying – as well as being literally rated R – HOTD was a shoot ’em up in the best, most fun sense of the genre. Behind the black curtain that was there to frivolously attempt to shield the eyes of the innocent from the mayhem, the masochistic, bullet-shredding magnificence, was a really cool world where the aim of the game was to blast your way through hordes of the undead with merciless glee.
So being a fan, and sneaking off to play while I should have been at the desk – when a friend of mine said, “I hear they’re going to make a movie based of this” – I was like, “take all my money man – this is gonna rock!” (And that was prior to The Rock giving video game adaptations a shot)
I remember going to the cinema to see it, and soon being one of only a handful of people still watching after a good number of folks had walked out. So – why did I stay I can hear you ask? Well there are two reasons. One is simple – I enjoyed the movie on many levels. Yes it wasn’t the game, nor could it have been. I think people operate under the fallacy that just because a video game has a backstory or mythology on which it is based, then it must be simple to adapt into a movie. I believe precisely the opposite to be true. I think truly solid adaptations rely more on the wit and invention of the filmmaker. To combine a good narrative with recognizable elements from the game to appease the faithful.
And, love him or despise him, that is exactly what Uwe Boll could do – and do well. For if he couldn’t dear reader, then those multitudes of investors that he went back to time after time, movie after movie would not have entertained him. If he were not commercially successful, the career of Uwe Boll would not exist, nor could it be captured in the brilliant, candid and touching portrait of a film about a filmmaker, a man, who refused to remain silent whether he was being applauded or damned.
Unlike Dan Lee West’s RAGING BOLL, which deals more with the sensationalist side of Boll’s career, S.P. Shaul’s picture meanders down the quite roads and sheds light on the personal figure behind the media circus, the private man, the family man, the man who in spite of those basement dweller’s vitriol – followed his dreams and fought many a battle to bring them into the cold light of reality.
FUCK YOU ALL, is not a gratuitous middle finger in the face from the man dubbed the worst filmmaker of all time. No dear PTS listener – it is about the pursuit of what inspires, the burden of making visions come alive as well as the reminiscences of a man who worked with and alongside the cream of the Hollywood crop while smiling at the absurdity of it all.
When and wherever you can see this, The Uwe Boll Story, I urge and hasten you. It is filled with insults and hatred but that is always counterbalanced by the friends and collaborators of Dr. Boll, speaking words of praise, constructive criticism, and overall of a man with whom it was always fun to go to work with – and as it is said best, by Brendan Fletcher (a long-time Boll collaborator), and I’m paraphrasing here: but he speaks to the haters of Boll and says . . . “when have they ever risked anything?”
It is a great film about a fascinating artist and I am most excited to present my chats now, not only with the filmmaker responsible for the documentary, but with the filmmaker who inspired him to make the journey . . .
As a child, Uwe produced a number of short films on Super 8 and video before beginning his studies as a film director in Munich and Vienna. He also studied literature and economics in Cologne and Siegen. Uwe graduated from university in 1995 with a doctorate in literature. Uwe has since directed, written and produced over 30 movies with such stars as Ben Kingsley, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta and Ron Perlman. Uwe also runs and owns the BAUHAUS Restaurant in Vancouver alongside Michelin Star chef Stefan Hartmann.
Sean is a Canadian Documentary Filmmaker who became aware of Uwe Boll whilst working on the production, Assault on Wall Street. His first encounter the wild, unchecked hullabaloo of an Uwe Boll movie. Sean would then go back and watch a number of the master’s films before lightning struck – Uwe would be the subject of his next documentary. Boll never one to have a problem with being candid – Shaul received and all access pass to the life behind the great director – enough to construct this, his definite portrait of the man, the myth, the mouth . . . the man named, BOLL!
When Hong Kong action alchemist John Woo mixes up his gracefully brutal aesthetic with big budget Hollywood high gloss, the results are an irresistible flavour. While not quite the balls out, blitzkrieg masterpiece that Face/Off is, his military gong show Broken Arrow is still one walk on the wild side of stunts, explosions, overblown madness and maniacal behaviour from John Travolta, who seems to be amping up the histrionics in double time just to cover Nicolas Cage’s shift this time around. He’s a navy pilot psycho called Deakins here, an unstable traitor who hijacks a volatile nuclear warhead and holds congress hostage, giggling like a schoolgirl the whole time. It’s up to his trainee and former partner Hale (Christian Slater) to hunt him through Death Valley where they’ve crashed, causing as much pyrotechnic commotion as possible and prep for the inevitable one on one smackdown that’s neatly foreshadowed by an opening credits boxing sequence between the two that’s an appetizer for the adrenal glands in prep for the chaos to follow. The action is fast, fierce and extremely violent, as is the amped up macho banter between the two, but Travolta really takes the role and sails off the charts into the ‘here there be dragons’ realm of acting reserved for only the most memorably over the top performances in history. “You’re fucking insane”, Slater sneers at him; “Yeah! Ain’t it cool?” Travolta smirks back with a face that would be straight if not for the knowing glint in his eyes. Park ranger Samantha Mathis helps Slater in his quest to bring the lunatic down, and there’s an impressive laundry list of character actors rounding out the military faction including Howie Long, Delroy Lindo, Frank Whaley, Bob Gunton, Chris Mulkey, Daniel Von Bargen, Vondie Curtis Hall, Jack Thompson, French Stewart, Raymond Cruz and Kurtwood ‘Red Forman’ Smith. Hans Zimmer does the score here and it’s an undervalued composition in his canon, a chromed up tune that drips cool and hurtles alongside the action awesomely. Woo has had some dodgy luck in Hollywood since (Mission Impossible 2 and Paycheck are painful), but this is one of his best stabs at the Western style of action, brought to eccentric life by Travolta’s oddball psycho and full of crazy ass action spectacle.
Initially I felt the same way about Déjà Vu as I did Gilliam’s12 Monkeys. Both of the inaugural screenings I attended were sullied by external forces which greatly influenced my mood during the viewings and thus, my opinion of the films.
But time, it was once said, is the ultimate critic. Under different circumstances I watched both films again, and, this time around, my feelings toward both movies were drastically adjusted.
In several books on the art of screenwriting it is often put about that, if you cannot sum up the film you are writing in a single sentence, then you may want to rethink the plot. There is a great moment on the commentary track of this film in which the late, great Tony Scott admits that even he struggled to distill Déjà Vu into the logline form.
It’s a science-fiction/action/thriller/time-travel/romance in which the hero, Denzel Washington, meets the girl he will eventually fall in love with on the slab – dead as disco. Unbeknownst to him, he will eventually join a team that will, along with the help of a device that can see into the past, aid him in bringing her killer to justice. And it was from this humble yet intriguing premise that my guest, Bill Marsilii and his co-writer Terry Rossio constructed this rich, multi-layered tale which deserves more applause than some would proffer for its inventiveness and compelling real-world take on the age old time machine story.
But what I uncovered as I spoke to Bill was far more than a series of behind the scenes anecdotes and your typical boy meets idea, boy turns idea into a screenplay, screenplay sells for big dollars, boy lives happily and successfully ever after in Hollywood kind of scenario.
And yes, while it is true that Déjà Vu is the highest earning spec script thus far, beating out other entries like Basic Instinct, Panic Room and The Last Boy Scout, the story of how Bill came to, not only the concept, but how the writing and selling of the script changed his life is just as compelling as anything Jerry Bruckheimer and Co. managed to get onto the screen.
This interview, at least for me, proved also to be somewhat of a masterclass in, not only screenwriting, but the ever painful and soul-crushing journey the writer must endure to actually sell the script. It’s about the luck, timing, persistence and internal fortitude that you must have sufficient quantities to survive the gauntlet that exists between the page and the screen.
Bill’s heart-warming, inspirational adventure to make it in the realm where dreams are brought to life with that strange blending of art, science and commerce – that ultimately no one can tell you how, when a film is successful, it all comes together in the perfect proportions to ensure success is on the menu – is a conversation that could have gone on and on.
I hope you’ll will enjoy some extended insights into Déjà Vu, but more than that, I hope you, if you are one of those dreamers still out there trying to write your own ticket to cinematic glory, that Bill’s wisdom you’ll take onboard and continue pounding away on those keys until fortune smiles and your efforts will be coming soon, to a theater near us…
Hard Cash, aka Run For The Money in some regions, is a silly piece of junk, with its low budget passport grasped firmly in hand. Every actor doing the hammy shtick, every pulp B movie cliche present and accounted for. Christian Slater seems to have peppered his career with a bunch of such flicks, and he’s front and centre here as the Robin Hood-esque leader of a buncha’ thieves. He’s a bit of a legend, and goes for one job too many, a job that lands corrupt, scheming FBI Agent Val Kilmer straight in his lap when he lifts some marked bills. Kilmer wants it only to take them down, but a giant piece of the loot for himself and basically is just a greedy bastard, while Slater wants to break even and get away with his crew. It’s okay-ish stuff, decidedly low brow but that’s the arena. Kilmer is actually really fun in a candid, often improvised take, and his description of himself when he gets to little sleep is priceless. The cast is fairly strong, with work from Bokeem Woodbine, Sara Downing, Vincent Laresca, Balthazar Getty, Daryl Hannah, William Forsythe as a nastily racist fence and the late Verne ‘Mini Me’ Troyer as Slater’s most valuable lil’ asset as he can fit in tight spaces the rest of the crew can’t. It’s breezy trash, decent enough for what it is.