Tag Archives: Emily Blunt

Hey Bill, glad you’re back: Behind The Taking of Tiger Mountain by Kent Hill

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The first film I thought of while the early moments of Tiger Mountain played before me was THX 1138. This was a trip, dragged forcefully against one’s will and plunged into a murky pond which is a kind of metaphoric representation of being removed from the light and air and smothered by naked oppression and placed under the rule of the hive mind. And it is a mesmerizing submersion into these terrifying depths that are as much about the myth of control as they are the misuse of it.TigerPosterr Another part of the allure for me to tackle this movie is the treat of seeing Bill Paxton back on the screen. I remember watching Edge of Tomorrow and delighted in his presence – a kind of measured version of his character from Weird Science. The man was talented – even though he made it all look far too easy. But as I spoke to Tom Huckabee, (Paxton’s longtime friend and collaborator) I quickly was made to understand that this easy-chair nature I’d seen and enjoyed in Paxton was in fact a ruse. Turn’s out Bill was a lot more Near Dark than most people really knew.

Tiger Mountain is a passion project that has survived because of the enthusiasm shared by two buddy’s who were looking for a way into the movie business. It is a product of it’s time, topical to that period and perhaps in some ways even more relevant as a kind of looking glass held up to the world of today, indeed more so than it was then. The journey has taken since 1974 to come before an audience at last in the best and most complete version of the film that exists. It is a picture that has crossed continents and indeed space and time to arrive like some strange and miraculous time capsule which stands as an epitaph to the exuberance of youth and a yearning for greater self expression.71124 So this is the first time since 1983 that you’ll have to witness this compelling cinema experience influenced by William Burroughs – which is then counter balanced with the writings of Valerie Solanas. Portions of text coming from a Burroughs’s novella whose title had already been taken by a chap named Ridley Scott.

This 4K transfer is beautiful and the journey, although sold as the brainwashing of an American draft dodger by militant feminists in order to assassinate the Welsh minister of prostitution, Tiger Mountain is an experience, a fascinating making-of tale to hear and a parable of sorts which speaks of the possibilities that growth and recognition are always achievable as long as art is never abandoned.

TOM HUCKABEE

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Tom Huckabee is a writer, director, producer with over 40 years experience in entertainment. As a student at UT Austin he studied under Tom Schatz, Loren Bivens, and Edward Dymytryk, directed “The Death of Jim Morrison,” nominated for a student academy award, and “Taking Tiger Mountain,” starring Bill Paxton and co-written by William S. Burroughs. He has been a staff producer at Landmark Theaters, a writer of non-fiction TV for Disney and Discovery, a story analyst for 21st Century Films, and a staff researcher for The History Channel’s Modern Marvels. In 1987 he produced and co-wrote “Martini Ranch’s Reach,” a long-form music video directed by James Cameron, starring Kathryn Bigelow, Bill Paxton, Phil Granger, Bud Cort, Judge Reinhold and much of the cast from “Near Dark” and “Aliens.” In 1997, he was associate producer of post-production and music supervisor for “Traveller,” starring Paxton, Mark Wahlberg, and Julianna Margulies. From 1998 – 2001, he was vice president of American Entertainment, underwritten by Walt Disney Studios, where he created and/or oversaw development of feature projects with Touchstone, Universal, Imagine, Image Movers, HBO, Sony, and Revolution Studios. In 2001 he executive-produced Paxton’s directorial debut, Frailty, starring Paxton, Powers Boothe and Matthew McConaughey. Also in 2001, he produced and directed a live event, Arthur C. Clarke: Beyond 2001 at the Playboy Mansion, featuring James Cameron, Patrick Stewart, Morgan Freeman, and Buzz Aldrin, He was an uncredited script consultant on Twister, Mighty Joe Young, Vertical Limit, U-571, Thunderbirds, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and The Colony and a quality control supervisor for Lucasfilm (1990-2004), working on films by Ron Howard, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kathryn Bigelow, etc.. In 2005 he was a producer/writer on 75 episodes of National Lampoon’s An Eye for an Eye. In 2007 he was the artistic director for the first annual Lone Star International Film Festival. His sophomore feature Carried Away (2010) won three first place festival awards and is available on Amazon Instant View. Recently, he directed the documentary short “Confessions of an Ecstasy Advocate,” story-edited Ghostbreakers, a 20-part syndicated TV series starring Joey Greco, set to debut in 2016 on The Family Channel, co produced The Starck Club, a documentary feature and The Price, a drama starring Randy Travis and James Dupre. In 2014-15, he was the artistic director of the Wildcatter Exhange literary festival, while his short film “The Death of Jim Morrison” (retitled “Death of a Rock Star”) was included in the omnibus package, Jonathan Demme Presents Made in Texas, which premiered opening night 2015 at SXSW and is distributed by UT Press. He teaches screenwriting workshops and offers a wide-range of freelance development services. Upcoming projects include feature films Hate Crimes, ReCharge!, and The Attachment, full length stage plays, Dr. Zombi, PhD and The Reversible Cords; and Great Lives, a live theater festival of one-person historical shows.

B Movie Glory: Wind Chill

Emily Blunt is at well earned mega star status these days and gets handpicked for all the prolific projects, but early on in her career she could be found in cheapies like Wind Chill, a spooky little snowbound ghost story that teeters right on the average line. She plays an awkward college girl who catches a ride with a fellow student (Ashton Holmes) home for the holidays, and their route happens to pass along a desolate, snowed in section of highway where something eerie is watching, following and messing with them relentlessly. The interaction between the two is odd, strained and tense, accented by two performances that are just somehow uncomfortably pitched, particularly Blunt’s. Things flow a bit more naturally when the car inevitably breaks down and she finds herself alone against the elements and whatever else is out there. It’s like a twilight zone episode a bit, the rules of time start to bend and she has strange encounters with an ominous highway patrolman (Martin Donovan) and a lone snowplow driver (Ned Bellamy), both of whom may or may not even be real. It works here and there and strives to focus on atmosphere, Blunt always has a presence and keeps us occupied as the supernatural occurrences reveal a freaky tale dating back decades. Nothing more than a distracting TV movie level horror flick, but watchable enough. Gotta give Blunt credit for climbing a tall ass telephone pole wearing heels though, even in cheaper films like this she gives it her all. The locations are also fantastic, kicking off at UBC here in Vancouver for the intro and moving to the gorgeous mountains of Manning Park for the snowy bits.

-Nate Hill

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place surprised me by investing more in its fright flick concept than just shrieking banshee monsters and a flurry of hastily shot chase action/close calls. For a film that focuses so much on hearing and an auditory mood-scape, Krasinski is an excellent visual storyteller and as far as first time directors go, should be very proud. Not to mention the fact that he tells a human story amongst the horror, one that actually gets us feeling closer to the characters until we really give a shit when they’re being hunted by the screamers. It doesn’t hurt that he and real life wife Emily Blunt give two breathlessly alive performances that paint a dual portrait of parents who will stop at nothing to protect their children. Sometime in a desolate future, vicious predators of unknown origin (could the brief shot of a newspaper clipping claiming “meteorite hits in Mexico” have anything to do with them?) invade the world and slaughter humans en masse. They’ve got mutant ear drums that can hear a wood-bug sneezing from sixty miles out, but they’re also blinder than Stevie Wonder. Using your inside voice, or no voice at all if possible, is an imperative mantra for Krasinski and clan, as they must exist in monk worthy silence for fear of being run down by these things. The trailers tend to spoil a lot of things, and I guess marketers think that just because a sequence is in the prologue that people wouldn’t want it to still be left a surprise, but oh well. Early on there’s a tragedy that causes kind of a rift in the family, particularly between Krasinski and his deaf daughter (Millicent Simmonds, brilliant work). Flash forward a year or so and he’s built an impressive rural stronghold for his family on an abandoned farm, complete with grain silo watchtowers and a homemade electric light alarm system. It’s this innovative and careful design that sets it apart from other horror flicks that just go for the throat without and character development or world building to draw you in. Eventually the screamers do come for them, in one long extended night from hell that plays out like the most stressful chain reaction of mishaps you could imagine, with enough suspense to bring on a heart attack. I call them screamers, and I read one review on Facebook whining that they’re the same CGI clicking beasts in every other horror flick these days, but I think that’s an unfair assessment. They’re neatly rendered and have a clearly visible biology to explain their uncanny sense of sound, and I never once tuned out or felt removed from the atmosphere while watching them. The human element is well done and treated with care here, and while I can’t quite understand why they would decide to have a baby, which are notoriously loud individuals, in a world that’s gone so badly to shit (maybe they couldn’t find condoms when scavenging abandoned towns), they’re resilience and love for their children are brought fiercely to life by the two actors, who knock it well out of the park. You gotta love Marco Beltrami’s original score too, which is shadowy and ominous in one instance and switches gears quickly to orchestral catharsis when needed. A real surprise out of horror-town, this one was, and one of the best I’ve seen so far this year. Oh, and try to find a more badass, adrenaline soaked ending scene to a film so far this year, I dare ya.

-Nate Hill

“I will protect you. I promise.” A spoiler free review of A Quiet Place by Josh Hains

A Quiet Place will be starting, the first frames slowly unfolding, and your audience will probably still be talking, their voices filling the air. Not too loudly, but loudly enough for the noise to annoy you, to grate on your nerves and make you wish you could shout at them to ‘shut up’, or worse. The ruffling of popcorn and candy bags, and the munching of said delicious delights will only further cloud the air. They need to stop making noise, you can’t hear the movie. But within the first half a minute of the movie your audience will have grown so incredibly quiet, the dropping of a pin against the floor would echo like thunder throughout the room, because they’ve realized that while you can’t actually hear much of anything, save for the scrapes of bare feet across a floor, or the slight thump of a pill bottle against a counter top, you still have to listen, and these small sounds are being drowned out by bigger sounds. The dead silence of your audience will become a requirement. John Krasinski has forced you into silence and a world devoid of big sounds, leaving you with the blowing winds, the rustling of grass and leaves, the crunching of white sand beneath bare feet. You and your audience won’t be able to anticipate when the louder sounds, like the effects of a toy rocket, or the screeching of the alien monsters rushing to snatch their potential victim (and in doing so setting the stakes of the movie), will come, and so each and every one of you will be on the edge of your seat in stone silence, fearful of the louder sounds yet to come, bracing for their impacts in the hopes you won’t jump out of your skin. All this, and the movie hasn’t even cut to black and shown you the title card yet. Imagine 90 consecutive minutes of this, and how suspenseful, tense, and quiet the experience will become long before the final frames snap to black.

Now imagine living in a world where you can’t make a sound, or the fast moving blind aliens that attack those same sounds will rip you to shreds. Imagine having to walk across long trails of sand everywhere you venture outside because sand is quieter to tread than twigs and grass. Imagine playing the board game Monopoly with balls of cotton, because the if you’re too loud using the metal car, one of those monsters will come a knocking. Imagine being pregnant like the mother, due in two or three weeks, and the fear that the sounds of a newborn baby’s cries will bring death to your doorstep. Imagine being hearing impaired like the daughter, unable to tell if you’re making noise, let alone how loud it could be. Picture being afraid of every sound like the son, scared of what lurks in the shadows and the idea that the loud noises you could make will get you killed. Try to think of the pressure you must feel being the father, the primary protector of your family, the resourceful one that’s kept most of you alive for over a year. How much longer can you keep it up? What if you can’t protect the ones you love? Put yourself in the shoes of the Abbott family (John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe). You’ll grow to care for them so much that the thought of harm coming to any one of them will only further enhance the creeping sensation of suspense you’ll undoubtedly feel. The performances, so subtle and nuanced in their presentation, reliant on facial expressions and physicality, including American sign language, will quietly blow you away. And the scares, when they come, will remind you that the best of jump scares work not because they’re loud, but rather because they strike when you are least expecting them to, much like this film’s monsters. A Quiet Place will make whatever you’ve conjured up in your mind look like Sesame Street by comparison, as nothing I have said up until this point can prepare you for this movie, because I’ve hardly revealed a thing about this brilliant lean thriller.

Don’t wait to see it on Netflix, go see A Quiet Place on the biggest screen you can find with a top notch sound system and a packed house. See it writ large and booming in your ears. To not see this likely classic of the sci-fi horror/thriller genre in such a fashion will do yourself, the movie, and the white-knuckling experience of it all an irreplaceable disservice. You’ll thank me later.

Edge Of Tomorrow


-Nate Hill
Tom Cruise, dare I say, has been making really decent stuff these days, some of which is downright brilliant. Oblivion had its moments, carried on wings of an M83 score that was better than the film itself (hello Tron Legacy syndrome), Jack Reacher was solid badassery all round, but Edge Of Tomorrow is just pure class and could almost be considered an instant classic. I waited a long time to finally see it, because in most cases a pg-13 sci fi blockbuster starring Tom would be cause for me to cruise right on by in the Netflix/on demand lineup and pick something else. The reviews were uncommonly good though, and so I inevitably went for it. I’m sorry I waited, because it’s flat out spectacular. What makes it so? Well, it is everything I described above. A sci fi, blow ’em up blockbuster starring Tom Cruise, packed to the gills with action, aliens and stuffed with more Independence Day fireworks than you can shake a stick at. The catch? It has the plot, script and character development to match. This is one seriously thought out story, with heroes who don’t start off that way, conflict among the ranks of characters and genuine, honest to god arcs. You can hurl all the cash you want at a film and blow up as much shit as you can, but if you don’t have those core elements of story in place, and well so, you’ll end up with a hollow piece of vapid space garbage (like that Independence Day sequel). No, this one earns its stripes, opening up during a chaotic intergalactic war between humans and a formidable alien race, who are winning fast and stamping out any hope for our race. Cruise plays a weaselly military PR puppet who talks shit but has never seen a moment of actual combat, until he’s thrown directly into it by chance, with neither skills nor experience to keep him afloat. Stuck in a Groundhog Day esque time loop (I won’t spoil the how and why, but it’s a wicked smart premise that logically plays out), our coward gradually gains what it takes, day by day, to become a hero and save the planet. It takes a lot of dying and starting over though, each day beginning in the same fashion, the possibilities ripe for him to finally get that perfect round and win the day. Emily Blunt, that adorable badass, plays the most adorable badass thus far in her career, a resilient and vulnerable valkyrie who’s rage at the marauding fiends burns through terrifically, providing moments of grit, warmth and humour as needed. Bill Paxton plays a gung-ho military honcho with the same gee whiz charm that made Pvt. Hudson (Aliens, for you plebs) so memorable, and Brendan Gleeson does a third act encore as another General who takes a fair bit of convincing to get onboard with their plan. It’s so much fun you never want it to end, the high concept used for all it’s worth, supported by truly inspired creature design, detailed steam punk style weaponry and old school Hollywood fanfare rationed out in deliciously measured portions, resulting in that perfect recipe, an effects driven crowd pleaser with the brains to back it up. Who knew they could still make that? It’s a thing of beauty. 

DENIS VILLENEUVE’S SICARIO – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

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SICARIO is a blunt unveiling of the dark side of America’s foreign policy.  Set on the Mexican border, the film follows a shadow team made up of different agencies shaking down drug cartels, all the while the team plays kingmaker by rearranging power.  The plot and political commentary is dense.  Not once does the film come across as heavy handed, nor does it preach bias.  In turn, it makes the film that much more powerful and brutally honest.

The brilliant cinematic team of filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who are reteaming for the untitled BLADE RUNNER sequel) are a force to be reckoned with.  Villeneuve keeps a taut and thrilling pace, while Deakins composes remarkable visuals frame by frame.  Taylor Sheridan’s icy script, Johann Johannsson’s score, and Joe Walker’s editing complement the film in a perfect way, keeping the tight narrative intact while balancing such heavy subject matter.

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The cast is led by the idealistic Emily Blunt, supported by the realist CIA man Josh Brolin, and the lethal assassin Benicio Del Toro who all give career high performances and play off of one another in a way that meshes the film together wonderfully.  Blunt is amazing.  She’s more than a badass woman with a gun; she’s the heart of the film.  She’s out for blood after members of her team get killed on a cartel raid in the opening scene, and she’s lured in by the affable Brolin, promising to cure her bloodlust if she comes along on his secret mission.  Most importantly, the reality of what the team is doing slowly starts to grind at her, and she quickly begins to realize that what they are doing is not the “right” thing to do.

Benicio Del Toro is the standout in an already masterful film.  His stoicism is this mysterious fuse that is slowly burning.  The entire film, we know nothing about him, until the third act where we learn everything in one short and impactful scene.  The scene is so jaw dropping, that even upon rewatching the film; you can’t believe it is actually happening.

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There are few Hollywood films that are as bold as SICARIO.  The thematic elements are heavy, as is the brutal violence, but what the film is saying is what makes it so powerful.  Sometimes America needs to bring down the iron fist to be the overall good guy.  Regardless of morality or holding ourselves to a higher standard, the world needs a shadow team like the one in SICARIO to help restore and counter the evil powers that be in this world.

The Devil Wears Prada: A Review by Nate Hill

  
The Devil Wears Prada is an interesting one. It’s one part sincerity, two parts cynicism and possesses a certain love for each and every character within its narrative that it’s reluctant to admit to at times, perhaps jut to keep a low profile with its realism. I’ve never read the book, but the film starts off going one way and seems like it will tidy itself up in a nice little resolution, and abandons it’s comfort zone two thirds of the way through for something that cuts cuts a bit deeper. Anna Hathaway starts her arc in the adorable zone and progresses through confidence and finally arrives at in a jaded daze at a tough life lesson. She plays Andrea Sachs, a would be journalist who decides to take a detour and work as second personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) the editor and slave driver at Runway magazine, in hopes that doors will eventually open for her in her field. Not quite the breezy excursion she hoped for, as Priestly turns out to be a full on nightmare. Streep blusters into the film like an acy tornado, steady at the reigns of her character and completely owning every syllable of her delicious dialogue. Streep plays her as the ultimate boss from hell, and then cleverly shows us the woman beneath in one key scene that resonates nicely. Most of the time her personality resembles that of my fifth grade schoolteacher on a bad day, and it’s utterly hilarious to see Streep, a god amongst progessionals, go for it like a praying mantis. Andrea also comes under the scrutiny of prim Emily (Emily Blunt, excellent), Miranda’s first assistant who is aghast at her decision to hire this walking fashion disaster. Andrea quickly catches on though, holding her own with this difficult job at the expense of her relationship with her boyfriend (Adrian Grenier of Entourage). Stanley Tucci is equal parts snazzy and snooty as Nigel, Miranda’s associate and eventual mentor figure for Andrea, superb as always. Simon Baker also shows up as a hotshot who tries just a little too hard to sweep Andi off her feet. Like I said before, the film tricks you with fluff and banter and eventually ends up somewhere more serious, with a painful look at what it takes to cut it in the business world, and the allegiences which sometimes get slashed and burned in favour of covering your own ass. Ugly stuff, for sure, but necessary and honest, a decision that helps the film greatly. Plus, it’s pretty damn funny most of the time. Great stuff.