I’ve always loved the absolute hell out of Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter, a mean, violent, very broad and totally enjoyable action flick with a western flavour woven in and some jaw dropping set pieces along the way. The story is like, beyond over the top, Mark Wahlberg is a near invincible force of nature, the villains are so intense they feel like they’ve walked out of a Walter Hill flick and the overall tone is just this side of tongue in cheek territory while still feeling like a legitimate thriller. Marky Mark plays an ex marine sniping guru who lives alone in the Canadian wilderness with his doggo until he’s lured back to Vancouver by his conniving former boss (Danny Glover) for a high profile political assassination. Basically blackmailed into it, he finds himself set up by his own people to take the fall for the job, betrayed, left for dead, the works. Also, as we observed in John Wick, don’t kill the dog of someone who can take out literal armies of goons and will come gunning for you and everyone in your employ. On the run he’s assisted by a rookie cop (Michael Pena) who intuits his innocence and the girlfriend (a smokin hot Kate Mara) of a former army buddy who he seeks shelter with. The villains here are truly spectacular and I must spend a portion of my review on them: Glover is so arch and evil he literally gets to say “I win, you lose” *twice* and he somehow pulls off a ridiculous line like that just because he’s Danny Glover and he’s smirking like he knows damn well what kind of script he’s waded into. His top lieutenant is a despicable, sadistic piece of work played by the great Elias Koteas in high style, all leering stubble, violent urges towards Mara and creepy charisma in spades. They all work for the the most evil US Senator in the country, a tubby, southern fried, amoral, genocidal maniac Colonel Sanders wannabe played by Ned Beatty, who doesn’t just chew the scenery, but strangles it with his bare hands while he’s at it. The cast is off the hook and also includes Tate Donovan, Mackenzie Grey, Rhona Mitra, Lane Garrison, Rade Serbedzija and a cameo from The Band’s Levon Helm. They just don’t make actioners like this anymore and even for 2007 this felt like a dying breed. Classic, melodramatic, hyper violent, neo-western revenge stuff that was huge in the 80’s and 90’s and I miss greatly. There’s a brilliant exchange of dialogue where Beatty and Glover marvel in desperation at Wahlberg’s refusal to back down or stop hunting them. “I don’t think you understand,” he growls at them: “You killed my dog.” It’s a great line sold 100% by Wahlberg and the film is full of spot on moments like that as well as visually breathtaking action sequences (that mountaintop standoff tho), a playful yet deadly tone and villains that would be at home in the Looney Toons. Great film.
War movies are a dime a dozen, but how many filmmakers choose scripts that focus on veterans trying to live their lives years or even decades after, with the lingering trauma of conflict and impressions of violence following them around, now encoded into their psyche? Gabrielle Dockterman’s Missing In America is a very low budget, laid back yet deeply powerful story of how several men who once fought in the Viet Nam war deal with the aftermath in their twilight years, and how sometimes an event that terrible can have ripple effects many years later. Danny Glover is Jake, a reclusive, brittle vet who lives a simple life alone in the misty mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He has little human contact save for kindly yet poker-faced general store owner Kate (Linda Hamilton). One day he gets a visit from old army buddy Henry (David Strathairn), who is dying of lung cancer and leaves Jake with what is most important to him, his half Vietnamese daughter Lenny (Zoe Weizenbaum) in hopes that Jake can take care of her and give her a life when he’s gone. Jake is a stubborn, solitary fellow and things get to a rocky start but the two eventually do bond and the film quietly cultivates a meditative, sometimes stormy and often touching relationship between the two… until past wounds refuse to heal and tragedy strikes. It seems this region is home to several veterans other than Jake, and one in particular who never really recovered from the horrors of war is Red (Ron Perlman), a haunted, disfigured man who resents Lenny and is hostile towards her. This is a quiet, meaningful story of human beings trying their best with collective trauma and I greatly enjoyed it. The ending is horrific though and quickly escapes the trap of being simply a schmaltzy Hallmark type thing. This film, although simple and sentimental in areas, has a dark underlying theme and a difficult, tough-pill-to-swallow message to get across. I’m not going to lie and say this is Hollywood pedigree Oscar bait filmmaking, it’s got an ultra shoestring budget, most of which probably went to paying the wonderful cast, who are all excellent and don’t phone in for a second. Young Zoe Weizenbaum is great too in her first, almost only film role since. The Vancouver-area setting is lush, foggy, atmospheric and gorgeous through and through, naturally. If you like simple, truthful, no frills dramatic material showcasing big name actors doing something unpretentious, genuine and accessible, give it a go.
There have been many a cinematic sensation born out of heart, passion and YouTube.
I think back on films like Sandy Collora’s Batman: Dead End and David Sandberg’s Kung Fury. The doors that opened to these filmmakers responsible for bold and daring exercises in bringing everything they’ve ever wanted to see on the big screen to it…no holds barred!
Now another movie-making warrior has appeared on the horizon. His name, Stefan Chapovskiy with his 80s action opus, WAR GENE. The prospect of such a film receiving a grand treatment, particularly in this era of remakes and reboots, would be a welcome breath of fresh air on top of a blistering, high-octane, action roller-coaster that makes a strong claim to be a smorgasbord of everything that was right, good and true about the action cinema that flourished until Hollywood decided the way ahead would be to stick all of its action heroes in tights.
So, ever curious to shed light on the movers and the shakers in the indie cinema world, I reached out to Stefan, hoping to learn more about the man who kinda looks like Sly, while uncovering a man driven by his passionate need to create and being in possession of the same skill-set that made the man who shares his visage, astronomically successful and a Hollywood staple.
KH: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
SC: Well, I was born in USSR in 1977 (oh God, I feel like a dinosaur now, I mean that was a completely different era). My family lived modestly but mother always tried to give me all she had, first and foremost, a thirst for knowledge, for self-development. I learned to read rather early and liked to draw some characters and scenes from my favorite books. This gave a lot of good material for my imagination and sometimes I wrote my own stories. Later sport also came into my life : swimming, athletics, martial arts(mainly taekwondo) and finally, bodybuilding(I’d like to clarify, I’m 100% natural athlete and don’t use any pharmacologic drugs (anabolic steroids, HGH or something like this). Thus, even today, when I am who I am (former winner of California natural bodybuilding and fitness championships, personal trainer, founder/president of Natural Bodybuilding Federation in Russia, actor, writer, producer, director, world traveler, husband and father) – I work out and read books almost every day. But, as you have probably guessed, there was a third element of my becoming as a creator. I’m talking about movies.
KH: When did you fall in love with movies?
SC: It’s hard to say…I guess everyone, especially at a young age, loves movies. The question is, what kind of emotions do you prefer? For example, I remember my age when I liked a horror movies. But definitely, if we’re talking about «fall in love», my favorite genre is action. No matter, what mix( action + drama , action + adventure/sci-fi/historical/etc.). That’s what motivated me most of all. But if in my childhood, after seeing Spartacus(1960) or 7 Samurai(1954), I was making a swords and fought with the neighbor kids, after seeng Bruce Lee movies I started in martial arts. Finally, one day I saw the movie Rambo 2 and it is not an exaggeration to say that this day completely changed my life : from my start in bodybuilding and military service (for 2 years, so now I am a former sergeant), to film schools in Russia, St. Petersburg and later, USA, Los Angeles.
KH: Were like so many of the cinematic giants of our time and took to making films early?
SC: Actually, no, I made my first project pretty late, when I was 34. But for sure I always felt that desire to create, by any means : painting ( I’m pretty good at it), or writing, photography or music, posing and scene choreography…you know, my coming to film-making was just a matter of time. I’d say I accumulated those preconditions for years.
KH: After film school, tell us about your quest to get yourself and your vision to the big screen?
SC:In my case, film schools were not a determining factor, because I’ve been involved with the acting since my childhood. My mother and uncle had a theater education, so I’ve acted on stage during my school years. Later, since 2001, I started to play in movies but after several years of playing stereotype characters(gangsters or bodyguards, because of my emphasized bodybuilding image in those years), I realized that I want to progress further. As I said before, I started thinking about my own projects. And idea of the War Gene movie it’s something where I can embody all my best skills : as a writer, actor, director, concept-artist, etc. But most importantly, this project is the greatest opportunity to express my love, my passion to the 80’s action movies that created me.
KH: WAR GENE is an impressive exercise in genre mash-up…was that what it was always intended to be?
SC: Yes, that was a part of my strategy. The thing is, I wrote the War Gene synopsis a while ago, in 2017 and later, a full screenplay (actually I still re-writing some details but story line is completed). But after new experience during my visit to American Film Market, I realized that promo-trailer it’s a good way to show much more about your project and get some feed back faster. Moreover that is a perfect challenge for every aspiring director. Another temptation that finally convinced me to start the War Gene independent production was an understanding that I can, literally, go back to my favorite 80’s, but this time as a film character, not as a viewer. At the same time I expected that it will not be easy (even for experienced director) to reveal the all lines of War Gene story ( just imagine the elements : a war drama, psychological thriller, an action, sci-fi and adventure, several time lines : 1984 and the 60’s, Vietnam War – and all of this under the old school style cover, some sort of tribute to the 80’s epic movies. Add to that the necessity to meet several minutes length and very small budget, so …finally I decided to increase the duration. That’s why, as you can see now, War Gene has two different, in its structure, parts (except for an intro) – the first one looks more like a movie and the second is a classic trailer. According to my director’s vision, this way allows to immerse into the film atmosphere firstly, and then to see the all its genre diversity.
KH: Tell us about the film’s journey from your mind to the film the world can now see?
SC:Hmmm, it’s a long story… Well, I have to start with the main point – my initial motivation. As you can see from my previous answers, since my teenage years I was inspired by Hollywood action movie characters(as well as probably every guy of my generation). I have to say I grew up without a father but fortunately I found someone who has taken his place and became a role model for me for a long years.I’m talking about Sylvester Stallone and his characters, especially John Rambo. By a strange coincidence, when I got older, I started to look him, partly because of my gym workouts. When I came to USA I was surprised that many people told me about it. And for sure, I used it in my performances – as a bodybuilder, then as an actor on stage. Since 2010 I’ve been focused on idea to make a First Blood prequel, about the early years of John Rambo. I was lucky to meet Sly Stallone himself a few times, contacted to Millennium Films producers and even made(as director, producer and actor) a fan-art trailer Rambo 5 : The Beginning that reached over 7.5 million views on YouTube. Finally I was invited on the set of Rambo 5 that I consider some kind of the top of this story. But at that moment I realized that I can’t pursue that dream all my life…I became older and wiser. On the other hand I was (and still am) a “pure product” of the 80’s movies, its legacy. So I started to create my own project, using all my specific experience and skills. I wrote a new, original story and obtained copyright. Here is a log-line :
“1984, a team of rangers on a punitive expedition in Colombia jungle gets abducted by aliens. During the experiment, conducted on the space station, humans are forced to pass deadly tests, competing with warriors from other worlds. “
It was an idea to combine some typical elements of the 80’s action and sci-fi movies but in the new mix. So, in 2018 I started pre-production of the War Gene short movie. I did everything step by step and was learning on the fly. First of all, I calculated a film budget(going forward, I have to say I exceeded it on the stage of post-production because of visual effects). And I was lucky to get support from my old friend Paul from Florida with whom we have worked on the set of my fan-art project (Rambo 5 :The Beginning) in 2011. So, I made a storyboard, bought (and made) props and costumes, included some rare things like a real flak vest M69 used in Vietnam War. I assembled cast and crew, chose the locations and studio. And in March of 2019 we filmed it in Florida. It was really exciting for all of us, especially a night jungle scenes. I have to say, Gavin, our cinematographer, did a great job. But most of all I was pleased with that total old school atmosphere of military brotherhood…I’ll never forget it. During 2020 I did post-production in St. Peterburg, using a Russian VFX artists and young talented composer. We worked together long hours and Ruslan were listening all my ideas and music sketches(according to my vision, we tried to reconstruct some music styles of iconic film composers from the 80’s, especially Jerry Goldsmith and Basil Poledouris). As you can see, almost every scene, even very short, has its own music theme and the same time it’s in harmony with the next one. Such a brilliant job for that short independent film.
And a couple of words about an intro. Actually I have in mind just a one intro, inspired by typical for the 80’s dark opening scenes of sci-fi movies like The Thing(1982), Terminator(1984), Running Man (1987), Cyborg (1989), etc. I’d say the making of War Gene intro were the most difficult job, because we used the real (!) scorpion and mantis. By the way, for sure none of them were harmed( despite of the our movie where they both died – scorpion was “killed in action” by mantis and later mantis was crushed by my character, Sergeant Rabek, who suffering from insectophobia, due to the post traumatic stress disorder after his captivity in Vietnam camp in 1969. But finally, I added one more opening scene, from the beginning – I mean a real chronicle compilation from the different military conflicts of the second half of the 20th century (till 1984) : Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon, Rhodesia…I did it for more realistic atmosphere of the Cold War era when the our film takes place. And yes, I fully realized that the first intro(about 30 seconds of documentary)will scary off most of YouTube viewers…but, you know, at this level(short movie) it’s not about some profit…it’s about my director’s vision and creative expression.
KH: Like most indie filmmakers I have encountered, you haven’t let your limitations hamper the final product… Do you think ultimately, that is the key to success in the film industry, being bold?
SC:Success in the film industry…I’d say, success in your own soul much more important. It makes you HAPPY in your life, what could be better? Of course, to be a world-famous filmmaker it’s just great. But, by my opinion, you shouldn’t try to do it because of popularity or financial profit only. For 99% this direction will makes you dissapointed. But if you do it according to your soul, your passion, your creative ambitions – I salute you, this is a way to the happy life. Not for everyone, but for “creators” – it’s undoubtedly.
KH: The scale of your canvas and your ingenuity have seen WAR GENE explode as an inspired beginning to a larger work…is that the trajectory, or do you plan further, smaller films to further develop your craft?
SC:War Gene project is something I have to develop nearest years. My main goal now is to find a suitable production film company and make a feature film. Even 3 years ago, at the American Film Market 2017, during my first presentation of War Gene (at that time as a short synopsis and several concept arts), I attracted interest of several independent film companies. But I took a pause because I’d like to get the larger scale and worthy budget for this movie. Now I have a screenplay and short promo movie/trailer, so we’ll see…I say more, I already have a synopsis of War Gene 2, in case of success with the first part. Thereby, my nearest years is going to be very interesting and productive, I believe. The same time I admit some probability to make a couple of new short movies in War Gene cinematic universe – like I said I have a lot of material as a creator and really happy to work with it.
KH: I’m excited to see where you go next after such an audacious debut… I for one will be looking forward to the next movie you bring to fruition?
SC: Thank you, Kent! By the way, feel free to reach me if James Cameron will call you soon and ask for my contact info 😉 Ok, seriously, I appreciate the opportunity to tell more about my story. I’m always open for a new ideas and proposals. Everyone can contact me on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/stefan.chapovskiy and Instagram Stefan Chapovskiy (@stefanchapovskiy) . to see what’s new in my life. My big Hello and best wishes to your readers , take care and keep in touch!
The Rainmaker is one of those journeyman courtroom dramas that’s isn’t all flash, sizzle and spectacle. There are those things periodically and in the obligatory final flourish but this is more a piece that shows the dutiful, unsung labour that goes into putting a deposition together, the many hours of stress involved in taking on a class action lawsuit and for once, a quality I admired, focuses more so on the victims who are suing rather than the lawyers themselves in terms of character. Based on a John Grisham novel and directed by a fellow you may have heard of called Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Matt Damon in a humble, restrained turn as rookie lawyer Rudy Baylor, riding on the coattails of amoral hustler guru Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke) and backed up by perennial sidekick Deck Shiffler (Danny Devito). Stone’s firm (if you can call it that) is an unabashed ambulance chasing racket until Rudy stumbles into some genuine high stakes cases that matter, namely a lawsuit against an insurance giant for denying treatment to a boy (Johnny Whitworth) dying of leukaemia. This puts Rudy and Deck up against a top dollar team of legal talent led by preening shark Jon Voight, the kind of soulless muckraker who gets ruffled at the very mention of the fact he’s sold out to the wrong side. Also along for the ride is battered housewife Claire Danes, whom Rudy takes a liking to and wishes to protect against her monster of a husband. It’s a fairly sprawling tale with an impressive amount of characters all juggled handsomely, not to mention a dense narrative that is somehow delivered to us breezily and coherently. But character is key here and ultimately wins the day; DeVito is terrific as the chow mein guzzling little curmudgeon who initially comes across as a sleaze but quietly, ever so subtly peels back a hidden and unobtrusive later of compassion as the story draws you, and him in. Rourke is priceless, chain-smoking, chewing dialogue and literally walking out of the film a third of the way through to some tropical beach where he delivers key information over the phone before returning to his all your can drink margaritas. Voight is cold, steely and blusters without getting hammy, something he’s always somehow been able to tightrope pretty damn well. Danny Glover is great as a sneakily idealistic judge, Dean Stockwell as a short lived and quite cantankerous one and watch for vivid supporting turns from Mary Kay Place, Teresa Wright, Red West, Randy Travis, Roy Scheider as the leathery, evil insurance CEO and a scene owning Virginia Madsen as a terrified whistleblower. I greatly enjoyed this because although it’s a big budget, star studded Hollywood courtroom drama, it takes its time, is leisurely paced, lived in, meticulous about character development, sincerely cares and has compassion for the humans who are scared and hurting within its narrative and tells several interwoven stories, all well worth your time and attention. Great film!
It I believe is the low sinking fear that dwells in the pit of a comedian’s stomach, to die out there in the spotlight, to have each and every gag bring as much of a chuckle as the idea of an infant being suffocated by its own psychotic Mother. Like a potato in a hat, it doesn’t sit well with anyone but, there are those with something to say…whose audience just hasn’t been born yet.
So Domenic Migliore brings us his feature debut,ROUTINES, the story of the fall and fall of Bruce Mann (Michael Bugard), a solitary, tragic figure that uses his stage to scream a little…though it often falls on deaf ears. His spartan existence is then rejuvenated by the arrival of Darling Wednesday (Anita Nicole Brown). She becomes his muse, a vital spark, the link to life and love… stopping his slow spiral into the abyss. Theirs is a star-crossed lover’s tale with a moment of finality like you have never seen. And, though it is the catalyst that sees Bruce resume is quest toward self-destruction, it is the Eden he goes to at his hour of grace.
ROUTINES is a difficult film to write about. Not because of the film itself, but to talk about it in detail is to truly soil the experience of watching it unfold. Migilore exhibits his love of masters of Italian cinema alongside a strong Jarmusch infusion that plays in the smoky background like a jazz man high on the music. It is an immersive and emotional film, chronicling the slow internal decent of its front man, as he fights time with passive resistance against a slick and speedy modern world with which he has no connection.
Some of this might read like a bummer man…but it ain’t. While ROUTINES isn’t a date movie or something you should watch while operating heavy machinery, it has a handcrafted feel, a quiet and beautiful melancholy. It is cinema as art, and just like Coppola said at the end of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse; (and I’m paraphrasing here) it was his hope that one day some little girl on a farm in Kanas would make a film with her father’s little 8mm camcorder and become the next Mozart, and that the professionalism of film would disappear…and it would really become an art form.
That is finally, how I feel about ROUTINES. A modern take on comedic tragedy stretched over a spare yet poignant canvas. It is possible to laugh one’s self to tears, but there are those who can meet with triumph and disaster, and who treat those two imposters just the same. ROUTINES carries these elements, and it is my profound hope that you will eventually have you chance to check it out.
Till that day comes, we have for you now the writer/director and his two accomplished leads for you listening pleasure…
Michael attended university and studied philosophy and film theory at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University before venturing into non profit fund raising and eventually business to business sales.
Curious to pursue his creative interests, Michael began with modeling for print ads for a clothing retailer and Detroit area photographers and movie background work. He moved on to doing stand-in and featured extra work. Being heavily featured as an elite Hunt Club client in Hostel: Part III (2011) gained him attention in the indie horror community.
Michael attended acting and improv workshops, and has acted in two award winning and other shorts, cable network TV, corporate training and promotional videos, TV and internet commercials, and several independent features. From background to talent, Michael has been on the sets of over three dozen productions, and specializes in sinister, scary, and eccentric roles.
In 2013 he stepped behind the lens to do his own photography when not on set. His work has been displayed at the Damned Exhibition in Detroit, published online, in newspapers, a publication by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in a print magazine and on one cover, have been used by celebrities for their social media profile pictures (most recently for David J of 80s goth/alternative legends Bauhaus and Love and Rockets), one celebrity IMDb photo (Jeff Hatrix, aka “Jeffrey Nothing” of Mushroomhead), and unexpected places on the internet, such as the main photo for the Clu Gulager page on Wikipedia.
Michael was asked to write an article about horror film for issue X of Michigan Movie Magazine in 2011, which sparked his interest in writing for film. Drawing upon his nearly 30 year, personal exploration of film and theory, he added screenwriter to his list of artistic skills; the script for “The Russian Sleep Experiment” feature film, adapted from the wildly popular urban legend, is the first creative result of his generation long, cinematic investigation.
His next step in his evolution as a filmmaker is producing. He co-produced the mockumentary short, Behind the Scenes of Horrorcore Hotel (2014) and a music video for punk rock band Dead in 5, which featured Don Campbell (brother of Bruce Campbell), with more to come.
Domenic Migliore grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 12, he started making home movies with his friends. At the age of 14, he started writing short screenplays. He entered several small writing contests and was a semi-finalist in some of them. At the age of 18, he attended Tribeca-Flashpoint Academy for film, but left early to enter a mentorship program where he met actor/writer/producer Tom Malloy. With Tom’s notes he completed the feature screenplay, “Sprawl”. The film was produced in 2011 (re-titled “Ashley”), it starred “America’s Next Top Model” winner Nicole Fox, “Two and a Half Men” star Jennifer Taylor, and Michael Madsen. The film is now available to stream (from Warner Bros. VOD) on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play. Domenic has directed 7 short films and 5 music videos. For his short “debeaked”, he received the “New Emerging Filmmaker” award at the 2013 Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work has been featured on the horror anthologies “Faces of Snuff” and “Ted Bundy Had a Son”, compiled by filmmaker Shane Ryan. Domenic is also a photographer. His work has been displayed at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Domenic lives in Barrington, Illinois.
Anita Nicole Brown is an aspiring actress who caught the acting bug late. Although cast in many independent films, Brown still considers herself aspiring because she feels that with acting (as with anything in life) one should always look to grow and learn more. And that is what she is doing. Coming late into the field, Brown feels she has been blessed with many life experiences that have prepared her for each and every character she has and will be cast in. She has played the gamut of characters that include an action fighter (Crisis Function and Crisis Function Awakening – still filming), a detective investigating corruption (Wages of Sin: Special Tactics – still filming), a jury member trying not to be swayed by her fellow jurors (12 Angry Women – still filming), a woman who discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her (Pieces of David) and even a mother pushed to the edge (A Woman And A Gun)! But Brown has yet to accomplish her goal: Showing the world that a Type One Diabetic (T1D) can and will accomplish anything they desire and change the perception of diabetics in this industry. After almost 17 years as a T1D, Brown has overcome so much with her diabetes especially regaining the ability to walk after fighting diabetic nerve damage in her legs and feet almost nine years ago. And now, Brown wears her diabetes each and every day. Literally! She has an insulin pump and for some productions, the thought of having an actress with such a visible device for treatment has been a bit unnerving. But in the past few years, Brown has seen a change in which production companies are writing her character in as a diabetic who is strong and determined OR they allow the pump to be worn and shown without feeling the need to address it because it does not take away from Brown’s ability to deliver the character. It is a slow change but it is one Brown is excited about accomplishing! Look out world, Anita Nicole Brown has much more to show you!
Good god this one was depressing, like knowingly, on purpose, almost cheerfully fucking bleak, with no clear theme or message to wring out of it. It’s called Tokarev officially and was renamed Rage for North American distribution (don’t get me started) but it kinda works because the original title is only mentioned once in the film and so fleetingly I couldn’t even surmise who or what a Tokarev was and how it related to the story whatsoever. Nic plays reformed career criminal Paul Maguire here, an upstanding citizen forced to return to violent ways from the past when his teenage daughter is kidnapped and murdered. Assembling his two former buddies (Max Ryan and Michael McGrady, both badass and likeable) he launches a covert quest for revenge and justice that manages to somehow be both high octane and not very focused for… odd results. He’s hassled by a hotshot detective played by Danny Glover who literally is too old for this shit now and just seems disinterested, even in a monologue that’s meant to be introspective but comes across hilariously tone deaf and out of context to the conversation he and Cage are having. Peter Stormare shows up as a crime boss in a wheelchair and at first I didn’t want to admit to myself that any filmmaker would try and cast him as an Irish dude but the character’s name is Francis O’Connell and Peter’s usual brisk, eccentric Swedish twang is harried by a disastrous attempt at brogue and I just couldn’t with that casting decision man, and usually I’ll buy Peter in any role because the guy is an acting genius. Anyways I’ll give credit where it’s due: director Paco Cabezas has undeniable skill with action and there’s a few scenes that are impressively, kinetically staged with a sense of space and dynamics with the camera. The brotherly camaraderie between Cage, Ryan and McGrady feels quite authentic and is both well written and strongly acted by the three. But that’s about it man, this is a dour, punishingly violent film without the kind of impactful story to make any of it earned or worthwhile and a wannabe Mystic River twist ending that feels out of left field and very unconvincing. You’ll just feel shellshocked when all is said and done and get off the couch feeling like a truck hit you for no good reason. Two Cages out of five.
For such a measured, introspective and anti-Hollywood prison break film, Don Siegel’s Escape From Alcatraz is a fantastically entertaining and unbearably suspenseful thriller. This isn’t a film with action sequences, huge set pieces, scenery chewing wardens, shanks in the shower fight sequences, extreme near misses or anything you’d expect from a studio escape film. The warden (Patrick McGoohan with malfeasance on a low burn) is a terrifyingly strict piece of work to be sure, but he’s curt, to the point and buttoned down. Our hero Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) isn’t a preening rapscallion or rascally rogue but a straightforward, quiet, surprisingly compassionate and determined fellow. The obligatory aggressive inmate (Bruce M. Fischer) he clashes with isn’t some contraband adorned gang chess piece but rather a hulking bruiser who gets right to the point. The escape itself is a dank, claustrophobic trek through corroded crawl-spaces and could be considered anticlimactic of it didn’t feel so darn authentic. Like, this is what it would *really* be like to bust out of that joint of all joints in the curiously tranquil San Francisco harbour and I both admired and greatly enjoyed this film for its down to earth, by the book presentation. That’s not to say it’s dry or boring, despite being remote. Most of the story is told through quick glances, offhand mannerisms and clipped dialogue, but beneath that, if one intuits it out, are carefully placed pockets of psychological depth, wellsprings of human behaviour buried under the blunt aspects that are a wealth to anyone who loves complexities not readily apparent. Just look at Frank’s carefully cultivated relationship with stone-spirited bookkeeper English (Paul Benjamin) and the payoff that comes later, given their subtle interactions. Or examine the cold heartbreak and mental unravelling of Doc (Roberts Blossom) when the warden takes away his painting privileges, an activity that singlehandedly fuels his will to survive behind bars. That sequence cuts deep in a way that’s tough to impart in words. This film treats the day to day life in prison with the same dutiful care and attention to craft as it does the eventual escape and the result is something that feels lived in, mature, effortlessly magnetic and so simple that one might need to do several double tales to soak in the yawning profundities tucked in behind every monosyllabic utterance, every deliberately chosen camera placement, every flick of the eyes towards the prison walls that seem like dimensional barriers and the skies above them, somehow so close and so far. Few Hollywood prison films reach for heights in such a direct way, and succeed in doing so. Great film.
Witness is one of those films that in the hands of a less inspired director could have turned out to be pretty run of the mill thriller stuff, but they gave the script to Peter Weir, and he’s made a career out of films that could be called just about anything but run of the mill. This is essentially a fairly grounded tale of big city detective Harrison Ford undercover in Amish country to protect a young boy (Lukas Haas) who accidentally saw a cabal of corrupt cops murder someone in cold blood. It’s a fish out of water tale, it’s got budding romance, hot blooded action and even some comedy here and there. But there’s also this lyrical, esoteric atmosphere Weir brings to every project that really makes it something special. There’s a danger present in the Amish community, or rather the threat of such as seen in the long grass of the fields or sensed on the fringes of their village where the tree line looms. There’s a blessed calm as Ford learns the ways and customs of these folk and gets close with the daughter (Kelly McGillis) of one of their elders (Jan Rubes, a scene stealer) but alongside that there’s this restless, inexorable foreboding that these evil officers of the law could turn up at anytime and turn the calmness into a storm to follow. They eventually do, of course, and are played by the fearsome likes of Josef Sommer and Danny Glover, arriving like phantoms to herald a showdown of stealth and gun violence that is Western to its core but still stings with the grit of an urban cop flick. I love this film not so much for the story or script (both of which are just fine) but for the *feeling* it evokes, the ambience spun onscreen by Weir and composer Maurice Jarre, whose work here is ecstatically beautiful. There’s an extended sequence where we see the Amish folk building a barn and it’s a simple enough task, but something about the dutiful way Weir films it coupled with an almost grandiose passage of Jarre’s music makes it come alive in a way that not many scenes of its nature do in film. And always, lurking in the background, is the fear that danger is on its way, a sustained distillation of unease that helps to make this a gorgeous, effective thriller and all round great film.
The future. The polar ice caps have melted covering the earth with water. The Universal logo spins as we watch the world change as the camera descends, through the atmosphere, and eventually we find the ‘new world’ where those who have survived have adapted. We are now in Waterworld.
Then Costner takes a whiz and, after a pass through his handy filtration system, drinks it. Regardless, it was at this point of the movie my Mother checked out. See, in Australia, the term getting on the piss is connected with getting together with mates and drinking an inordinate amounts of cold beers. But it is Waterworld that took the phrase to a whole new level.
I was just about done with my high school years – and whilst on a family vacation – when I first saw Waterworld. And I came to it, as I often did in those days, as an innocent, in a time before the ice caps melted and a media torrent covered the globe. I had no concept of the vortex of negative press that Waterworld carried with it like a cargo hold full of dirt ready for the traders. It was, at that time, the largest theatre I’d been to. This rendered Kevin Reynolds’ epic feat of film-making monolithic in scale. Of course Waterworld really doesn’t need the big screen for you to witness just how incredible the production is. It’s, aside from a few computerized flourishes, real for real. The action, the set pieces – CGI wasn’t quite there yet – so this monumentally impressive picture carries the imposing span of the ocean, which is its stage, and the blinding brilliance of sun, pouring its radiance over this bold new vision of the post-apocalyptic future.
I’m sure by this point dear reader, that there are few that are not acquainted with this out and out classic. But for those for whom the picture is a stranger like Costner’s Mariner, sailing out of the horizon, then you have picked the right time to stop and check it out – the common courtesy extended when two drifters meet. From Arrow, the home of splendid re-release packages of some of the more famous/infamous cult classics of the age, comes the definitive, limited edition Blu-ray extravaganza that is the tale of the search for Dryland. Here at Water’s End you’ll find the three restored versions of the film, a loaded treasure trove of extras; the crown jewel being Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, an enthralling documentary feature chronicling the birth, rise, fall and ultimately redemption of one of the truly awesome adventure movies in cinema history. It may be fortuitous that this release surfaces in the wake of another sea-going fantasy – the billion dollar triumph that is Aquaman. And while the DCEU’s latest opus is no Mad Max on water, they share the same enduring quality films of this type have in common. The world building is awe-inspiring, the joy experienced while watching them infectious and they both leave the stage set for voyages of astonishing proportions to be explored.
I love this movie. Think of me how you will. But Waterworld is outstanding in my book and I am thrilled, not only that this release exists, but that its supplementary material finally sets the record straight – as well as allowing fans and first-timers alike to really marvel at what it took to cover the earth with water and allow we, the movie-loving audience, to take a ride that you’ll never see made this way again. Such a magnificent event as this calls for an equally impressive effort on my behalf.
That being the case I have a trio of insightful interviews with my guests David J. Moore (co-author of the supplementary booklet), Daniel Griffith(the filmmaker behind the documentary I’ve waited for, Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld) and, get ready for it, the man without whom the film would not exist, the film’s creator and initial screenwriter, Peter Rader. So stretch out in your deck hammock with an extra-large cup of hydro and stare at the majesty of the horizon, where the land meets the sea and watch in wonder as Waterworld engulfs you in a wave of splendor; this Everest’s peak of action/adventure cinema you can’t help but sink into.
DAVID J. MOORE
David J. Moore has written articles for Fangoria, Filmfax, Ultra Violent, VideoScope, Lunchmeat, Flickering Myth, and L’Ecran Fantastique. Interviews he’s conducted can be found on OutlawVern.com. He has worked as a freelance film journalist, visiting movie sets around the world. His next book is called The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly: Action Stars and Their Movies, and it will be published in 2015. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Daniel Griffith has produced and directed more than 35 bonus feature productions, as well as five feature-length documentaries, including “LET THERE BE LIGHT: THE ODYSSEY OF DARK STAR” and “THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL”. He is also the documentarian for Shout! Factory’s “MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000” DVD boxed sets. Recently, he produced and directed the one hour documentary on the legacy of Rod Serling’s celebrated TV series, “THE TWILIGHT ZONE”, for CBS Films. Griffith won the 2012 Rondo Award for best DVD Bonus Feature for his biography on Universal B-movie actor, Rondo Hatton. He is the owner/founder of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.
Peter Rader is a director and writer, known for Waterworld (1995), The Last Legion (2007) and Grandmother’s House (1988).
As much as the Saw franchise has become a screaming mad runaway train from which there is no escape or slowing down (I think they just rolled out the eighth one? Fucking Christ), sometimes I need to remind myself that the first is in fact an excellent horror film and worthy of the mythic status it has earned these days. Written by and starring Leigh Whannell who has recently branched out to direct this year’s awesome genre bender Upgrade, it’s directed by James Who has gone on to become a superstar in the genre, but it’s a bit ironic because with this he basically pioneered a whole new tributary of gore-centric horror, yet went on to do fright flicks that notoriously toned down the carnage in favour of real scares. In a dark, damp room, a doctor (Cary Elwes) and a smart ass (Whannell) are held prisoner, chained to radiators. They are informed by unseen serial killer Jigsaw that they must either chop off a limb with the rusty hacksaw laying about, or die in captivity. A corpse lies near them as well as several other tools and riddles, both of the men have secrets that will come to light and play a part in the unfolding horrors to come. Elsewhere, a weary police detective (Danny Glover) follows the trail of clues and tries to hunt down the elusive Jigsaw killer. It’s all a wickedly paced mechanization that moves along like one of Jigsaw’s jagged, gruesome traps until it reaches that final staggering revelation that has since become legend. Others along for the ride include Lost’s Michael Emerson, Tobin Bell, Monica Potter and Shawnee Smith as the now infamous Amanda. The key to all this, and something that they forgot when churning out those ridiculous sequels, is that less is more. This was a low budget shocker that largely relied on one location, and the looming threat of grisly violence rather than wanton gore every other minute. I suppose every successful idea gets saturated by money and excess once the ball gets rolling but holy fuck did they ever let these Saw films get out of control. The first two are like being at a bar with a few of your friends having casual drinks, then three and four roll in as those crazy friends of friends who order way too many shots and start breaking stuff, by the time five and six show up everyone is dancing and throwing up all over the bar and you forgot how you even got there, and the seventh (in 3D no less, because that’s what we needed) is the anguished hangover the next morning and by then you just want it to stoooopppp. At least that’s how I felt watching the them. I’d just as soon stick to this one, it’s a dark, surprisingly thoughtful chiller with a strong story and one of the best yuck moments in the genre. People forget how measured and restrained it is compared to the un-contained wildfire that those sequels smothered it with.