Tag Archives: cinema

An offer you can’t refuse by Kent Hill

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I’m guilty of not reading Carl Nicita’s book 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 director Rickey 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.

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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.

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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.

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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”).

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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.

RICKEY BIRD JR.

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CARL NICITA

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Not a circuit short by Kent Hill

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We have to go back to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to find the roots of Garo Setian’s AUTOMATION. A machine, a construct, built in man’s image. It will walk like him, talk like him . . . but can it feel? Can an artificial intelligence handle all of the the complexities of a human? If you prick it, it will not bleed, but it can simulate pain. If you tickle it, it will not laugh, but it could simulate laughter. RoboCop and Short Circuit are in part, about machines dealing with that veritable head full of bad wiring we call the human condition. We have the built-in propensity to be all right and all wrong in the same sentence. So if a machine were to feel the betrayal of a lie, be heartbroken by the bitterness of a romantic rejection; if we wrong it . . . will it not revenge?

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Setian’s film packs an enormous subtext for an independent production, but the small budget hasn’t stopped this cast and crew from firing on all cylinders. A workplace robot, AUTO, transforms into a killing machine when he discovers he will be replaced by a more efficient model. AUTO fears being terminated and will stop at nothing to prevent his own destruction. The human employees must band together to stop him before it’s too late.

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A few words from the Director:

It seems every day there is another news story or article concerning the threat of machines replacing people in the workplace.  We are also seeing stories about the development of robots that can learn to behave more human by observing human behavior.
So what would happen when a robot with this ability to learn, replaces humans in the workplace, but then faces the prospect of being replaced by more advanced technology?  Our movie AUTOMATION is a cheeky take on this concept.
Our goal was to tell an interesting and timely story with characters the audience cares about.  So despite the film being a satire of corporate cost cutting and planned obsolescence, there is a true heart to the movie in the relationship between Auto and Jenny.
We are so grateful to our talented cast and crew of pros who came together out of love for this script, and the desire to make something fun. We hope the audience finds AUTOMATION an entertaining 91 minutes that is funny, exciting, has a few surprises and is ultimately kind of moving.
 
Thanks for watching!
Garo Setian
Writer /Director/Producer/Editor –
Automation
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And now the director and cast…

GARO SETIAN

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PARRY SHEN

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JEFF J. KNIGHT

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KH: You join a great tradition of suit performers, like Anthony Daniels and Doug Jones; is that a mantle you aspire to?

JK: ABSOLUTELY! The performances that Doug Jones manages to portray through all those layers of special effects make up is just unmatched. There is something to having your character be presented as real as it possibly can be.  I love C3-PO, and would love to have met Mr. Daniels but we were in the strong capable technical hands of @evilted_smith, master at what he does, prop armor, weapons, helmets, guns.

 KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?

JK: It really felt like a winner right off the bat, but then they kept adding layers to the characters and back stories which only enhanced the emotional center of the movie. This movie really does have a heart of gold. 

KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?

JK: He wasn’t an asshole at all! Just Kidding …. he was open to suggestions, and worked great with his first AD And DOP. He had a vision for scenes and how they would cut together and he really brought all that to life on the screen. 

KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?

JK: Before starting onset I took some intense acting classes at the Clu Gulager school of acting here in LA. Clu is literally an old time cowboy (Gunsmoke, Bonanza)  and really told me how it was and didn’t sugar coat anything. His advice on how to present the robot to the world and how he would interact back was some of the coolest memories I have in almost 5 years of Acting and Cosplay here in LA. 

KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?

JK: GOD NO, we can barely keep our own emotions under wraps. Let’s work on becoming better people ourselves before we try and perfect the human being in a robot form. 

KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?

JK: Not shower or shave…. for like, a while.
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KH: Tell us a little of your journey leading up to AUTOMATION?
SK: I had been filming a lot of strictly horror films and was really excited to shoot something that was also mixed with syfy elements.  I’ve known Garo as well as Esther for quite sometime and I was really stoked that the right project had come up for us to finally work together.  
KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?
SK: I actually really fell in love with Auto and loved his relationship with Jenny (Elissa Dowling).  As much as the script was fun and quirky I really appreciated that bigger questions were being presented in the story about future A.I. and how companies are facing a lot of conflicts on saving money versus employing humans.  I was a little thrown off by Susan because I’m used to playing villains in horror but I really didn’t want to play Susan as a villain.  There’s a rule in acting of not judging your characters.  I really wanted to find humor in Susan as well. I thought that there was a lot of fear of failure in Susan which is why she had so many guards up.  I don’t want to give anything away but I really wanted the audience to forgive her and be able to root for her as well.  What I loved about the script was that it had a lot of quick jokes and was a fun ride too.  It’s a gift when you’re doing an indie film and they don’t take themselves too seriously.  I think that’s what makes a B movie really worth watching and kinda anoints it into an instant classic.    
KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?
SK: Knowing Garo as a friend and how excited he was about directing carried over in his enthusiasm about the project.  As an editor I think it was hard for the cast at first to understand how carefully the film was already edited in his head.  I won’t say that’s a bad thing when someone has the amount of editing experience Garo does. It’s just a different style as an actor you kinda have to take that in but not allow your work to be results based.  Garo is an extremely kind, somewhat careful, super respectful human- he goes out of his way to be a nice guy.  I felt like he was open to all our ideas about our characters.  But, there’s a point as the director where they sometimes have to kind of take the wheel and drive.  Sometimes, especially on shoots that have limited days it means not always being the nice guy.  It was exciting to watch Garo grow in a short time into a director who knew what he wanted and trusted that.  They say a movie is made three times; first writing the script, then shooting and again while editing.  Sometimes you work with a director who you think is amazing on set and then you see the film and you’re like oh no!  They don’t understand pacing or the overall tone of the story.  Watching the final cut; I was blown away by the finished film.  His attention to detail was just lovely and the movie is consistent in tone- that’s not always an easy thing when your film is a mix of genres. 
KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?
SK: I related to Susan because I’m naturally a pretty nervous person but I can be pretty relentless in getting what I want.  I touched on this before but I thought Susan should have a little vulnerability. I love the idea of people showing who they really are in stressful situations.     
KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?
SK: I’m giving myself away here but I graduated highschool right as the internet was becoming available for everyone.  I personally don’t believe we were really ready for that kinda barrage of information.  So, the idea of a machine able to generate emotions is terrifying to me.  I think the purpose of technology should be to bring people closer and make life easier but I don’t think it should ever be a substitute for real human interaction.  The biggest problem is relationships are all about compromise and fear of rejection.  I’m afraid that robots would be a one way compromise from the robots- when to grow as people we both have to be willing to risk rejection and also to learn from it. 
KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?
SK: Find a very high bridge and jump.
Here is a link where you can see where AUTOMATION is available to view or purchase…
 
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The road to DOOMED: An Interview with Adrian Milnes by Kent Hill

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Here I give you, dear listeners, a success story in close proximity to me. A few hours east of the old ranch lives a screenwriter who has recently exploded on the scene as part of an exciting batch of cinema, emanating from a dynamic producing duo with a lucrative business model who have created a haven from bold genre movies.

Adrian, like most of us born with the creative itch (further exacerbated once bitten by the movie bug) knows, all too well, that the road from script to screen can be perilous. Anxious waiting, exhaustive rewrites, all part and parcel of this business we’re in. All the turmoil, all the hours of doubt and disharmony can however, be washed away in the instant the house lights fade into darkness and those long nights of many words come alive on screen. The journey at an end, and the audience entertained.

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He traveled from the old empire, through Asia, till at last coming to settle here in the colonies. And it was here, in the sun-burnt land of Down Under that the distant stars and the bright lights of Hollywood glisten in the eyes of the dreamers, their twinkling transformed into a siren song, biding the likes of Adrian (and the rest of us) to take his place among them.

But it is no longer a mere wish upon a star for Mr Milnes. His hard work, determination and dedication to learning how the tricks of the trade blend with the troupes of the industry. All artists chiefly need a patron, and if you put yourself where the lightning strikes, as Adrian has, you might find yourself with green light and a go-picture.

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Due to a recent technical misadventure, unfortunately, my recording of our chat was lost. Thankfully Adrian has been a good sport and we have the interview to present in the written form below. The tale of the local lad who made good with his BRIDGE OF THE DOOMED, and the currently in post, BLOODTHIRST. The world is about to receive a healthy dose of the cinematic musings of the man who never gave up, turning what can potentially be a road to doom into victory lane.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you, Adrian Milnes

KH: Tell us a little about your love of cinema that has endured and seen you pursue this dream to write for the screen?

AM: I’ve always watched any movie I could find. When I was a kid in England the BBC used to show lots of old movies, and I watched as many as I could . The first movie that truly terrified me was an old Basil Rathbone movie, The Pearl Of Death. I was only nine, but I can still remember Rondo Hatton’s scenes. Later on, living in Hong Kong I developed a love for 90s Hong Kong movies. A lot of them were very small scale stories that could have happened two streets over, and you would never have known about it. The more you live in Hong Kong, the more you see and hear about things that most people don’t notice. A friend of mine was married to a Police Officer, and she really opened my eyes to a lot of things that happened there.

KH: Did you learn (undertake academic study) or was it picked up piecemeal as you progressed in your quest to master the screenplay?

AM: I just taught myself. I made a lot of mistakes in the early days that a course would have steered me away from.

KH: There are significantly more avenues today for emerging screenwriters to parade their talent; can you tell us about your early experiences in attempting to showcase your work?

AM: There are plenty of opportunities now for screenwriters, but they all cost money, and a lot of them aren’t worth it. There are so many competitions, coverage services and hosting sites, not all of them reputable. Ink Tip obviously worked out for me. It also allows you to post loglines for short scripts, which is a great way for new screenwriters to start. Sending out emails to producers can occasionally work, but they’re deluged with emails, and if you’ve got no credits it can be hard to stand out.

KH: You are two movies in as a scribe for the rapidly expansive might of the Mahal Empire, a radically successful crowd funded production company. Tell us about Bridge of the Doomed, the evolution of the screenplay and working with this dynamic producing duo?

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AM: Michael Mahal read my script on Ink Tip, and straight away knew he could make it. Most producers option a script for a year, and see if they can get any interest from a director, then actors, and finally investors. He was so confident he bought the script outright, and the audition call went out a couple of weeks later. He was right to be confident, as straight away there was an incredible amount of interest from investors. When they had raised enough money Michael suggested starting the story earlier at the army camp, and having Robert LaSardo as the General. Later on they were able to afford Michael Pare as well. My original script had eight speaking parts, and we ended up with over sixty. Naturally this meant a lot of rewriting, but it was worth it. I never would have written it like this, as the budget would have been way too high for most indie producers.

KH: They say the more you write makes you a better writer; what has your journey leading up to this break, and since then having written through two successful productions now altered what you thought you knew about screenwriting?

AM: I started off writing Science Fiction, then later moved on to Crime Fiction. I sold a few short stories then gave up. At that point I really didn’t think I could write movies, it just seemed so far out of reach. Having written a lot of screenplays I can now instinctively get things like pacing and structure correct. I re-read my first ever screenplay recently, thinking I might be able to tidy it up and sell it. Of course it was dreadful.

KH: Even guys who have been at this game at the highest levels say it never gets easier; has this jump into the professional ranks made it easier (in your opinion) to present specs to potential elements to possibly mount production?

AM: Once again I’ve been lucky. Since Bloodthirst, I’ve written four scripts for Massimiliano Cerchi, the originator of that movie. The first of them is going to be filmed in October with Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare and Robert LaSardo. Having that first credit definitely helps in being considered, but it’s still no guarantee. There are plenty of professional writers with huge gaps in their IMDb listing. They’ve probably sold scripts in that time that didn’t get made, but it gives an indication of what it’s like.

KH: A young guy approaches you and tells you he wants to be a screenwriter. What do you tell him?

AM: Plan your life as though you’ll never make a cent from writing. Most writers don’t sell anything, and those that do rarely make enough to live off. The middle of the market has been contracting for a long time, it’s mostly $100 million or micro budget movies now. Even if they do sell a script, it might only be for $1k. All the good things I’ve achieved in my life came through working as an electronics technician. Every writer needs to know what producers are looking for, the market is constantly changing. Right now the big thing is having scripts that can be filmed in a Covid safe way, and producers are always looking for single location scripts with just a few characters. Those types of stories are really hard to do well, but it’s great training just to try.

KH: A major Hollywood studio, out of the blue, calls you up and says they are going to spend whatever it takes to produce your next screenplay….but it has to be a remake?

AM: Some classics shouldn’t be remade, but there are plenty of near-forgotten movies that are ripe for a remake. Truth is though, if there was a lot of money involved, I wouldn’t turn anything down.

There you have it folks. Hollywood dreams are more than attainable, you just have to want it more than the next person, be willing to fail, be willing to fight, but most importantly be adventurous, and ready to write…

The Day of Reckoning: An Interview with Andrew David Barker by Kent Hill (Part 2)

 

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Three years ago I sat down with Andrew David Barker as his labor of love, A RECKONING, was beginning to emerge. The talented writer/director/novelist told me of the arduous journey, up until and including the making of the movie.

This time, we take a look back at the fates and fortunes of the intervening years; the roads high and low which make up the battlefield any and all face whilst engaged in a quest toward one’s ideal form of creative and personal expression.

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The novelist and filmmaker’s directorial debut has finally hit Amazon Prime Video in the United States. Film Regions International (FRI), the production company behind the groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” has licensed the film for video-on-demand platforms in the American territory. FRI had also been an early supporter of the film after its initial release in 2010 when the film had received a great deal of critical acclaim, however disappointingly, the film ended up being shelved for the better part of the last ten years.

Now that the film has finally received the light of day, it is very fitting and poignant considering the atmosphere with recent world events. The film tells the story of a lone man (featuring a powerful performance by Leslie Simpson, of Dog Soldiers and The Descent), trapped and imprisoned in a barren, desolate landscape. His only companions are a village of straw people with which he converses with as neighbors and friends; he even teaches straw children at the local school. Yet, this anchor, this way of habitual living, is about to become unraveled in frightening and disturbing ways.

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Director’s Statement:

“I’ve always been drawn to end of the world stories, right from an early age. The thought that all we’ve achieved, all we’ve created as a species, could go away is something that has never left me. And I’m not alone. The 20th century is littered with post-apocalyptic fiction, from George R. Stewart’s 1949 novel Earth Abides, to I Am Legend, through to Mad Max, visions of what this world will be like once civilization falls, once the power has gone out and the thin veneer of society is torn away, are rich and plentiful. The end of the world has always been a preoccupation of mankind. I wanted to create a film that added to the long list of titles that depicted what life will be like After.”

“A Reckoning is a (post!) modern day Robinson Crusoe, my ode to human spirit and all its dark recesses. This film is as micro-budget as you can get, yet, I had a large vision for it: I wanted the wide open spaces, and the decay and dirt, and the extreme weather to give what is essentially an internal, human story, a large cinematic canvas. This is my lament for our species, a tale of how the fabric of our day to day existence, the trivialities that we take for granted, could (and possibly would) haunt us in a world emptied. This film has had a long, hard road to see the light, but now, in 2020, I think A Reckoning feels more relevant than ever. This truly is the right time for our little film. Worryingly.”   –   Andrew David Barker, July, 2020. 

The film is currently available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and subsequent VOD platforms will follow soon.

Andy is a great gentlemen and his story is fascinating. We all dream, but not all of us have what it takes to see those dreams realized. Here is one man who did…and one who continues.

Simon Wincer’s The Phantom

I love big, bold, colourful feature film updates of vintage 1930’s pulp comic books or radio plays and Simon Wincer’s The Phantom is just an absolute blast of escapism that’ll put a smile on your face no matter what. These days Billy Zane has become kind of a forgotten comedic totem but people forget what genuine charisma and star power he once had, and he rocks it here as Kit Walker aka The Phantom, a jungle born superhero descended from a long line of Phantoms before him, thus creating the reputation of being immortal, at least in his enemy’s eyes. Clad in a swanky purple suit with dual colt pistols and joined by a horse and a trusty wolf named ‘Devil’ at his side, he’s probably one of the most aesthetic superheroes I’ve ever seen in a film and I wish this led to sequels. Here he must protect three sacred skulls with supernatural power from power mad, psychopathic NYC tycoon Xander Drax (Treat Williams), fighting side by side with intrepid reporter Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) through a series of exciting adventure set pieces in incredibly exotic, gorgeous locations around the world. Zane is terrific and gives The Phantom just the right mixture of cavalier attitude, genuine empathy and swashbuckling magnetism, plus he rocks that suit solidly, which given this suit, not all actors could do and be taken seriously at it. Williams is a hammy hoot as Drax but his thunder is ever so slightly stolen by two terrific secondary villains: James Remar as Quill, a sort of evil doppelgänger version of Indiana Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones as Sala, an impossibly bad tempered femme fatale who has the hots for the Phantom and goes through a hilariously conflicted meltdown mid-film. The supporting roster is excellent and includes Bill Smitrovitch, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Leon Russom, Jon Tenney, David Proval, John Capodice and the great Patrick McGoohan as the ghost of Phantom’s father who appears to him as voice of counsel and occasionally wingman. I thought this was just a brilliant good time, a solid, beautifully retro old school adventure flick and I was disappointed to read that it was a box office flop. It’s like the Lone Rangers, the Indiana Joenses, The Rocketeers, the Sky Captains, just this rollicking old world American pulp hero aesthetic that translates so well into action adventure in cinema. Oh and watch for a sly reference to William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Bo Welch’s The Cat In The Hat

The Cat In The Hat is one of those movies that probably shouldn’t have been made, but it did get made and, well, it just kind of sits there nursing incisively negative reviews, nonexistent box office attention and quietly fading into obscurity. The problem is simply that Dr. Seuss’s material is so singularly, specifically eccentric that any attempts to adapt it into a faithful and successful film fail by default, like trying to accurately describe a dream in non-abstract terms hours after you’ve woken from it. The vernacular, the drawings, the poetry, it’s just not made for cinema other than the incredibly literal animated shorts they did narrated by Boris Karloff (The Grinch has one that imparted eons more in like ten minutes than the feature length Jim Carrey version could). It’s like your Roald Dahls, your Maurice Sendaks, your E.B. Whites etc.. Big Hollywood can just never seem to nail the transition. Mike Meyers hasn’t had the best luck in character work outside Austin Powers and Wayne’s World and unfortunately he strikes out here, mugging, contorting, quipping, creeping, crawling as the famed feline home invader, to little effect. The fleeting, surreal whimsy of Seuss’s book is lost on a Fisher Price phantasmagoria of admittedly elaborate and impressive yet ultimately hollow and cornea splitting production design. Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin try their best as the two kids but just kind of come across as awkward in a story that’s reduced from a quick, lighthearted parable into a cacophonous jumble of hijinks that posses neither rhyme nor reason, dual qualities that were abundant in Seuss’s volumes. Alec Baldwin is there for some reason, debasing himself as an oafish slob. I’m only really reviewing this for Kelly Preston and she’s lovely as the kid’s mom, but not in it nearly enough and forced to share most of her scenes with the tone deaf, excruciating Sean Hayes. I don’t want to shred Dr. Seuss Hollywood adaptations too viciously because they don’t all miss the mark completely (check out The Lorax for one that’s actually half decent) but the magic from his books will never be recreated onscreen, it’s just not a tangible, realistic alchemy. And I gotta say, this one has to be bottom of the barrel in terms of them all, it’s an embarrassment to the book.

-Nate Hill

Kevin McDonald’s How I Live Now

It still amazes me that Kevin McDonald’s How I Live Now didn’t endure to become a more widely known or appreciated film, because it’s one of my favourites and in my mind one of the strongest, most affecting pieces of work in recent decades. I guess it kind of comes across as this Young Adult Book adaptation if you check out the cover and trailer but the film therein is extremely honest, disarmingly disturbing and very, very brutally frank about how widespread disaster may hit any region and those who live within it. It’s not without poetry, authentic romance, beauty or hope though and there’s this beautiful, life affirming balance between light and dark that makes for the perfect mixture.

The always exceptional Saoirse Ronan stars as Daisy, an American girl who suffers from severe anxiety and feelings of alienation, sent overseas to rural UK to live with an aunt and a whole pile of cousins she’s never even met. Slowly, bit by bit she comes out of her shell and warms up to this family, especially local boy Eddie (George MacKay) who she begins to fall in love with. Gradually the place she’s in and the people she’s with start to feel like home… until something unspeakable happens. Hundreds of miles away in London, a nuclear bomb goes off, cataclysm sets in and oppressive foreign forces slowly invade across the land. Her Aunt is gone doing humanitarian crisis work and so herself and Eddie, the closest thing the family has to leaders, must embark on a cross country odyssey fraught with dread, misery, peril and bleakness everywhere they turn.

This film hits me hard because of how real the danger and horrific aspects feel, how potent and believable the acting and relationships are and how brisk yet dense, heavy yet wistful and dark yet light the story ultimately feels. This is not a children’s film and it is most definitely *not* one geared solely towards teenagers either, there’s scenes of abject horror (it’s got an R rating that it more than earns), children thrown into impossibly complex and harrowing situations beyond their comprehension and is steeped in the harsh reality that in life things can go horribly wrong and if you find something anywhere near a happy ending you’re incredibly lucky rather than owed one by a pandering narrative. Ronan and MacKay are incredibly heartfelt and genuine, their romance and resilience anchoring the whole family as well as the film. Few films with children and young adults in the forefront have the bravery and honesty to show that the world can be just as harsh to them as to any adult protagonist, and show in the same token how said youngsters can have a tremendous amount of survivalism, intuition, spirit and courage to overcome adversity and do the best in an unforgiving world. This film is light and dark to me; the womb-like, sun dappled meadows and rivers of the English countryside where these children play and begin to grow up and then the blackened, nuclear poisoned land they venture out into and must find their way back to the light from. Light and dark. The blossoming romance between Daisy and Eddie, a force of great light in the face of encroaching evil and callous destruction approaching them, and the decision to use that love as a weapon in order to get them through, no matter how it might change either of them. In this film, the light wins and I watch it whenever I need a reminder of that. Masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

Composer’s Corner: Nate’s Top Ten Film Scores by Ennio Morricone

I don’t know what I can say about Ennio Morricone that the maestro hasn’t already said with his unique, extraordinary and altogether legendary career in music composition, direction and innovation. He’s likely in my top five film composers of all time and the tactile, eccentric, melodious, often experimental and unmistakably singular presence he brought to the industry will never be forgotten. Ennio has passed this month but his work will live on immortal, and here are my personal top ten musical scores he crafted:

10. Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire

Tension and suspense are what this terrific assassination thriller is all about, and Ennio rises to the occasion for a nerve jangling yet quite beautiful piece of work. Favourite track: ‘Taking the bullet’, a propulsive entry that highlights secret service Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) and the penultimate beat of his character arc.

9. Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace

This gritty neo noir sees Irish mobsters clashing in 1990’s New York City and Morricone perfectly captures the moody, smoky street aesthetic while still heavily maintaining his melodic tendencies. Favourite track: Hell’s Kitchen, a mournful urban lullaby that highlights character and setting wonderfully.

8. Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More

The holy trinity of spaghetti westerns sees Ennio pack this middle chapter with iconic passages of his gorgeously eccentric, trademark composition. Favourite track: the main title, which makes full use of boings and twangs while that trademark whistle carries on in harmony.

7. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars

The opener and introduction to Clint Eastwood’s legendary Man With No Name, with some of the Maestro’s most recognizable work. Favourite track: Finali, with fluttery flutes and whip cracks to prove once again that our man could sample any sound under the sun and integrate it seamlessly into his work.

6. Roland Joffé’s The Mission

A period piece sees Spanish priests protecting an indigenous village from Portuguese tyranny and Ennio composed an utterly holy piece of orchestral bliss that at times sounds like an angel’s choir and soars on high. Favourite track: ‘On Earth as it is in Heaven’, one of the most moving pieces he’s ever done.

5. Sergio Corbucci’s Navajo Joe

I’ll be honest I only watched this film once and it’s a decent if severely brutal and scrappy Burt Reynolds spaghetti vehicle. The main reason I’ve included it here is because Quentin Tarantino samples much of Ennio’s work on it for Kill Bill Volume 2, which to me is an iconic film. It’s epic, bold, bleeding heart melodrama put to music. Favourite track: The Confrontation, a war cry of a finale piece that plays during crucial scenes of both Joe and Bill.

4. Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The big daddy of the Man With No Name trilogy and some of Morricone’s most prolific, well recognized work. Favourite track: The Ecstasy Of Gold, a lilting, airy composition that accents landscape and character awesomely.

3. John Carpenter’s The Thing

He goes frozen, paranoid, lonely and sketched out for this low key yet deeply unnerving piece. It’s like No Frills Ennio in the best way possible, a somewhat counterintuitive undertaking based on what he was known for, but one of the most effective, chilling horror film scores ever crafted. Favourite track: Humanity Part 2, a driving, propulsive examination of the inevitably creeping horror making itself known in the story.

2. Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West

This western epic has some of his most achingly beautiful work ever, from the melancholy main theme to the eerie Harmonica strains to the booming, impossibly epic final showdown. Favourite track: Farewell To Cheyanne, a resolute, hauntingly downbeat exodus piece for Jason Robards’s character that meanders along beautifully and always sticks in my memory when I revisit the film, which is oh so often.

1. Oliver Stone’s U Turn

I know, I know, what a choice for number one. This film means a lot to me though, it’s incredibly underrated as a breathtaking piece of avant-garde, cheerfully fatalistic noir nihilism. A sunny Arizona set neo-noir with heaps of both black comedy and deeply buried tragic pathos seems like a tall order for any composer, but Ennio could quite literally rise to any challenge. Portions of his work here are bonkers, playful, full of hyperactive zips, zooms, boings and twangs and later he brings a haunting, echoey resonance to the storied Arizona landscape and suggests layers beneath the initial set up that turn the film from surface level nihilism into something more deep, profound and thoughtful. It’s ironic that this is my favourite work he’s done because you can’t find this anywhere unless you watch the film, and I *literally* mean anywhere. YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, nada man, it’s like the ghost score that everyone forgot. Check the film out though because his work is beyond beautiful here and brings me to tears every time I view Stone’s unheralded masterpiece. Favourite track: ‘Grace’, an evocative, quietly unsettling yet gorgeous piece that echoes off the canyon walls and provides so much atmosphere you feel like you’re right there.

-Nate Hill

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was my first theatrical viewing in a while this past weekend and damn it’s great to be back in the cinema!!What impressed me most about the film (and trust me, there wasn’t a second I *wasnt* impressed) is that despite a generous two hour runtime and a steady, slow build to the bulk of the action/horror there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel taut, efficient and streamlined, even in scenes meant only to build character. The east coast town of Amity feels cozy, lived in and primed for summer as the film starts off, elegiac and wistful in that small town way that Spielberg seems to be so specific at nailing. The rest and relaxation is of course literally cut short by the arrival of a nasty great white shark with notions on gustation rather than relaxation for the duration of it’s summer, which it plans to spend devouring anyone who wades out too far from the shoreline and spewing their mangled remains all over the Cape Cod Coast. The holy trinity of shark hunting badasses slowly comes together in the form of jumpy local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wiry marine biologist Hooper and crusty old sea captain Quint (Robert Shaw). The film feels so damn organic from scene to scene, and the multiple nail biting shark attack sequences are laced together with genuinely touching moments of family life, charmingly benign comic relief and swashbuckling bravery in the face of both menace from the Great White and ineptitude from the dumb-tit town mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his increasingly ludicrous wardrobe. John Williams’s iconic score does it’s creepy, crawly trademark thing but also gets really classically orchestral in other sweeping vista scenes and even hits some delightfully quirky notes later on. The shark effects are never anything short of breathtaking from POV to real life footage to animatronic and whatever else Spielberg employed, I believed that thing was there for real. The three main performances are excellent with Shaw stealing the show as he often did in a playful, cantankerous and eventually quite touching portrayal of the ‘mad seaman hunter’ archetype. I especially loved a monologue he delivered with uncanny charisma about his character being aboard the ill fated USS Indianapolis back in the war, it’s a sobering (literally) piece of dialogue that simultaneously develops all three characters as one talks and two listen, strengthens their bond right before throwing them into dangerous waters and is my favourite scene of the film. I can’t think of much wrong with this picture, it’s one hundred percent effective summer blockbuster action/horror/adventure entertainment and I can see why it has become a solid gold classic. Excellent film.

-Nate Hill

Dinner with Hercules by Kent Hill

What is it about heroes like Hercules that endure? They come and go throughout the years in so many incarnations; transforming with the times while still remaining timeless. And who among you does not long for the power of a God at your fingertips…or to wield ancient and powerful weapons, to strike with the might of great Zeus’s thunderbolts, into the dark hearts of those angry Gods and vengeful outcasts, mythical colossus’s, woken titans….?

This is the cinema of the legendary Son-of-God, and just like peanut butter he comes in oily and dry, crunchy and smooth. From Reeves to The Rock, the man and his name that has ascended to the heavens, where the stars spell out his glory are always adventures worth going the distance for. So when I first saw Kevin Sorbo take up the mantle, here again came a joyous and wonder-dipped slice of a pie that I had not tasted since that marvelous, though short-lived series, Wizards and Warriors. Here we would trek on the heels of the champion of Olympus on a regular basis, through the ancient worlds and ancient wonders, discovering forgotten realms and the magic that dwelt there.

Through the classics to the contemporaries, from the unintentionally funny to the down-right awesome, Hercules put enough of a hit on me, if I were a bear…I might have been launched into orbit…but seriously, I dig the cat enough to want to write my own private blended drink of a tale, that saw the man loose his strength because of his father’s mortal fornications and thus is forced to take on an attacking other-worldly titan…with a shotgun. But…I stress this was not conceived to mock or denigrate the character. It was written with tremendous affection. Because, for my money, a good Hercules story dances that fine line between the wondrous and the wacky…that just below that surface veneer of cinematic insanity there is in fact…brilliance.

So who better to sit down with for a chat with than one of the longest serving performers to ever carry the role through many a legendary journey. Kevin Sorbo would, as the fates would have it, turn out to become a real life Hercules. He is a man who has been on his own private odyssey, and it was by far, more arduous than anything he ever put on screen. Sorbo , however, in a fashion similar to the hero he portrayed, lived to fight another day and has gone on seemingly possessed with God-like strength and determination and has become not only an endearing screen icon, but a prolific producer, writer and director.

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When the hour cometh the hero shall be tested, and there, at the glorious moment, in that final stillness be found triumphant or wanting. These are the marks of few, the bold…those that will be marked by the lights of distant stars. So it was cool indeed to chat with the Legendary Hercules. Unfortunately, as I had hoped, I can’t present to recording as, because of a technical issue, it is not of sufficient quality. So I have taken the time to go through and transcribe what remains…though I regret that some has been saved only in my memory. Still…the journey continues…

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls of all ages…I give you the mighty, Kevin Sorbo…

maxresdefaultKH: You came from Minnesota originally?

KS: Yes.

KH: What was it, during your early days there, that lead on the crazy adventures you’ve been on ever since?

KS: Well…it probably started when I was this eight year old kid, and my Mom would watch the old matinee movies with Katherine Hepburn and Cary grant…just all the people from the golden age era, and I loved those movies, and I went to the Guthrie Theatre, a famous theatre in Minneapolis, and a lot of Hollywood shows come there, or they start there. Then I remember going to a play in New York, The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. Now, I don’t know what they were talking about, I was eleven, but I remember being mesmerized by these actors on stage, and it wasn’t long after that I went to my parent and told them I was going to be an actor. But I was a closet thespian because I was also a jock, and we used to make fun of guys in the theatre being jocks ’cause you know I played American football, baseball, basketball…took up golf…love the game of golf and I still play it to this day…so I didn’t really do anything about the acting till I got through college, feeling that peer pressure…but the seed was planted so…I knew that was the road I was gonna take some day.

KH: See if you can tell me where this line comes from…ready?

KS: (laughter) Okay.

KH: This ain’t Jim Beam!

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KS: Arh…I did a Jim Beam commercial back in 1992, down in New Zealand. I get down there and I was in Auckland and got see some of the surrounding beaches and stuff, and thought it would be really cool to come down here to see this country more…of course I got Hercules a year later and I ended up coming back to New Zealand for seven years so…be careful what you wish for (laughter) …no, I love it down there…but that little commercial got me fan mail for like five years…I got more fan mail from that commercial than I did for Hercules. (laughter) But it was interesting they chose do it that spot in new Zealand when there are plenty of places in Texas that would be considered a redneck bar…which they were trying to reproduce. But then the guys from Jim beam told that because of the campaign there sales had gone up 80%, I said you guys owe me a little more more money ’cause I’d rather be paid by percentage…

KH: They thought you’d be happy with a lifetime supply of Jim Beam?

KS: There it is. (laughter)

KH: But we should talk about that briefly because you are a bit of an ANZAC, having spent a number of years in Australia as well as New Zealand, and, as you mentioned in your email prior to our chat…it was like a second home to you…?

KS: I actually was in Australia for two year. Back in 1986…I went to Sydney to shoot a commercial at Bells beach and I ended up staying, and my agent in Los Angeles flipped out, and I said to him, I’ve wanted to come to Australia since I was twelve years old and now I’m here I want to see it. I went to Melbourne as well…I lived at Bondi beach…I’ve been down there for Comic con’s in Brisbane and Townsville, Perth…so I’ve been there a lot and I’m in talks right now with a production company down there to come and shoot another one…so we have a TV series that we could be shooting down there in the future…

KH: Splendid…well done. We’ll it will be nice to have you back…yet again.

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KS: I’m looking forward to it.

KH: Awesome. So, moving right along…are the rumors true, because the internet should always be questioned and never taken for granted, that you were just beat out, by a nose, for Lois and Clark and The X Files?

KS: With the X Files it was more like I was in the final six, not the last three. With playing Superman though, I did test for that. Both Dean and I tested with Teri Hatcher and I go the the part…so I went out, celebrated, next morning I get a phone call and they say, “We’re going with Dean Cain!” So, that’s the nature of the business…but Dean’s a good friend of mine and for him it was meant to be…but…three months later, I got Hercules, so Dean was like, “You got the most watched TV show in the world and I got cancelled after three seasons.” But, it is what it is.

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KH: Exactly. But…do you think you would have liked to have played Superman?

KS: Oh I think I would have enjoyed it…but Dean was right for the part…I think was better at the alter ego part of Superman, rather than the actual Superman. Would I have liked it…sure…but I was pretty happy doing Hercules so…

KH: Well Hercules takes up a massive chunk of your early career. You were in New Zealand doing crossovers with Xena…

KS: Xena didn’t exist when we started. We did five two hour movies, and by the end of that season two, they introduced that character not knowing it would become a spin-off, that’s how that came about, and with the son of Hercules in season five, it would be twenty year old Ryan Gosling playing me so…

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KH: There you go. But in the midst of all this, the dark clouds of tragedy move in, it was between seasons four and five…you were doing press at the time for KULL the Conqueror and you had a series of four strokes?

KS: An aneurysm went to my left sub clavicle, that effected strength in my shoulders, balance, I was getting bumps and bruises…I loved working with the stunt team down there…so I blew it off. I went back to the States, my doctor found a lump, he thought it might be cancer and wanted to do a biopsy, I had the first stroke and then three on the way to the hospital, it affected things like my speech and took a long time to recover but I wrote a book, True Strength, back in 2012, and it allowed me to do things that I wouldn’t have done like public speaking which I still do on the subject. Of course I did return to Hercules, but it was in a limited capacity and then came Andromeda and that was like the third year of recovery and I was starting to feel recovered.

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KH: I was a fan of you as Hercules, but being a life-long aficionado of Robert E. Howard…now…of course Schwarzenegger made Conan his own and brought that character into public consciousness, but Kull never as much, yet, we got a Kull movie…tell us what making that was like?

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KS: Well Kull was the last novel Howard wrote before he blew his brains out so….you know….the original script was very dark, though the rewrites didn’t help. Conan was a brooding anti-hero where Kull was more able to articulate his thoughts. And I fought for him to use the battle axe as opposed to a sword…Conan was all about his sword but if you look at the art work inspired by Howard’s books, a majority of his warrior heroes carried axes. We shot for three weeks in Croatia on that movie. There were a lot of people that worked on it that had worked on the Conan films and it was well directed by John Nicolella, who has sadly passed away. It was fun a to a big budget action film…went to the big premiere in DC…it’s always a thrill.

KH: I can only imagine. So lets talk about TV, you’ve had such a variety of roles on the small screen. Andromeda was another big chunk of your career…tells of the journey from sword and sandals, so-to-speak, to the space and far-flung stars?

KS: I always was a big believer in the message Roddenberry was trying to put out there with these stories of humanity no merely being envoys for our race but far-reaching students of the vastness and complexity of our galaxy…but you know…when you spend a big chunk of time on one show and then on another…it still strikes me as delightful that, when I go to conventions, you’ll have your die-hard Hercules and your die-hard Andromeda fans…and never the twain shall meet…but that’s okay…that’s why variety is essential in entertainment…there’s something for everybody.

KH: My sister wanted me to ask you about a film of yours she enjoyed…Never Cry Werewolf?

KS: (laughter) Yeah…that was done up in Toronto and I gotta say that was a blast doing that one. It was one of those cases where….I get so many offers to do parts….and it was a small part, I think they sent me the twenty pages of script that I was in…these independent producers have their stock stable of crew and its a matter of go in and shoot and move on to the next…but I honestly have so many projects of my own, as well, that I’m working on, I have a slate of five films, features…some I’m in some I’m producing, I’m off to do a civil war movie and then after that I’m going to England to film a Charles Dickens adaptation…

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KH: Wow….you’re no slouch mate. Don’t let them tell you you’re not on top of your game…and how you do it all is a mystery to me, for sure and certain. But…among your TV credits I know and have seen the episode you did of Murder She Wrote, you’re a part of the glorious group of performers that garnered a guest spot on Murder She Wrote. What was that experience like?

KS: It was a great experience. We shot on the Universal lot and I was able to meet Angela Lansbury and her Husband….and, one thing I found out later is that Angela had apparently been checking me out, to see what kind of a character I was during set-ups before she introduced herself which I thought was sweet and funny, but again I had a great time. Angela is a true professional and a legend, I mean, I saw her again when she was touring around with a theatre production, you know, so many years later…that’s impressive to me.

KH: Yes, the lady indeed is an absolute treasure. But, another of your credits I wanted to ask you was advertised at the end of one of my favorite films The Sword and The Sorcerer, but it would take Albert Pyun another 30 years to finally give us Tales of an Ancient Empire?

KS: Well when we filmed initially we only shot part…like fifty percent of the movie so I knew it was going to take time for them to gather the rest of the film, which sometimes happens on independent productions, but I loved the role, I loved the script…but it was the first thing I was ever involved in where they ran out of money and had to shut down at the time. But I can see the ambition and how it was part of a much larger story, on a Lord of the Rings type of canvas, there would have been a bigger world on display had the budget been there, but my character was kind of a shady, jerk, womanizer…which was fun to play. But I know Albert has had a lot of health issues lately…and it’s been a while since we’ve spoken…but he was a great guy…I wish him all the best with the struggles he’s going through, being someone who has had debilitating health issues…I pray for him.

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KH: Tell us about your part in The Kings of Mykonos?

KS: Oh that was a great location, shooting on the sunny island of Mykonos. I played this American guy with a bad Italian accent who was very popular with the ladies (laughter)…it was just fun you know…we had a good time…a lot of laughs on the set. I know that film did really well, especially in your and in European regions. It came out on DVD over here, but sadly never got a theatrical release.

KH: I thought you were great in it…you have the comedic touch…which you did get a chance to showcase again in a little film called Meet the Spartans?

KS: I remember I had a meetings, and they were four hours apart in Hollywood, and 300 was screening, so with the time in between meetings, I went to a matinee and I thought, this is the perfect movie to spoof, so eventually when the part came around I jumped at it, playing the lieutenant to King Leonidas. It was great, there was the opportunity to improvise and in some cases they used those takes where we just riffing on each rather than what was scripted…the key to a good a parody is not just poking fun but presenting the futility of the situations sometimes…I know that I sound like a broken record but again…it was a lot of fun to do.

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KH: Did you ever consider spoofing Hercules in a similar fashion…’cause got your story. Hercules with a Shotgun. A retired Hercules has been stripped of his God-like strength because Zeus has been kicked out of Olympus by his wife for philandering constantly with mortal woman. Thus the son of Zeus is forced to take on a monstrous titan with nothing but a shotgun?

KS: Hey…get it funded and we’ll talk.

KH: No sweat…I’ll get the money in the bank and have my people call your people.

KS: Well I don’t have an agent any more so just get in touch with me.

KH: No worries…I’ll find someone to pick up the cheque and I’ll give you a bell.

KS: Sounds great.

KH: Well Kevin…been awesome to chat to you mate, I better let you get on ’cause I know the bases are loaded.

KS: Yeah I’m actually off to Oxford on Monday to finish up a documentary so…there’s always something going on. Your listens can of course keep up with it all on my official Facebook page and my official website: http://www.kevinsorbo.net/  , and thank you for the conversation Kent and a big G’day to all the folks there Down Under…a great place on this Earth.

KH: Best wishes with all you got going mate…an maybe we’ll catch you back in this neighborhood some day soon…?

KS: You sure will…take care.

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