Tag Archives: fantasy

“This, it was given me to know…”: Remembering KRULL with Ron Silverman by Kent Hill

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They say the mark of a good writer is their ability to distill the essence of their story into one or two sentences. Now, it is very easy to distill the plot of Krull into a summary or a logline of that length. However, it is entirely another matter for me to briefly encapsulate for you, dear PTS listener, how much I love this movie.

All I can say is, from the moment I saw it, I loved it.

Why?

Well Krull, for me, is the embodiment of the perfect movie. It harkens back to those great adventure novels I had read prior. Tales that primarily involve a hero on a quest to: rescue the princess, defeat the bad guy and save the day. A tried and true formula if ever there was one.

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That’s broad-stroking it sure – but at the heart of it – that is Krull.

At the same time you have a movie that is part science fiction, part fantasy/adventure, part traditional hero’s journey. Combined with the elements of impressive scope, danger, excitement, laughs, thrills, spills, chills – I could gush for days, if given the opportunity.

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It is also a film with remarkable talents on display, both in front and behind the camera. A cast made up of phenomenal veteran performers and vibrant newcomers – which in some cases would go on to have individually storied careers and achieve great heights of fame. Yes Liam Neeson, I’m talking about you.

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The production team mirrors the cast. A mixture of seasoned craftsmen with future icons – none more so than a young man named James Horner, eventual Academy Award winner, who composed, for my money, one of the greatest scores in cinema history.

And so to my guest…

I have long wished to speak to someone, anyone , who worked on my favorite picture of all time, so, as I often do, I reached out and after a long stretch I was surprised to have a reply from producer Ron Silverman. What joy! Naturally, I had thousands of questions, but, being gracious and appreciative for the time my guests grant me, I narrowed the list down to the essentials – this being both efficient timewise and satisfying enough for my curiosity. And trust me, though our time was brief – there were many revelations and delights to be had.

Many people have looked at me funny when I tell them Krull is my favorite picture. I guess they assume it would, more likely than not, be one of the big ones like JAWS, STAR WARS or SUPERMAN. All of these are vital and I do have a resounding love for them true, but, when you find a picture you can watch over and over – a film which delights as much on the thousandth viewing as it did the very first – well Krull is that for me. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to some insights from this – my favorite movie.

 

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Hoping for resurrection: Michael Mann’s The Keep

It’s a shame that Michael Mann feels the way he does about The Keep, and although I can’t really blame him after the Leatherface worthy hack job the studio inflicted on his original three plus hour cut, it’s a heartbreak and a half that we may never see a director’s version because what is left is still one of the most haunting, beautifully done Lovecraftian horror fever dreams one can find in VHS-land. Based on a brilliant novel by F. Paul Wilson, Mann employs a legion of smoke machines, a troupe of eclectic character actors all cast against type and giving marvellous work, and a drop dead gorgeous original score from Tangerine Dream that remains in my top OST’s to this day. Somewhere deep in the Romanian mountains, a squadron of German soldiers led by weary Captain Woerman (Jurgen Pröchnow) comes a across a tiny hidden village that harbours a dark secret: just beyond the township is a looming, mysterious structure built to keep something locked inside, and has lain dormant for centuries. Their gravest mistake is setting up camp in this unholy basilica, for soon they’ve awoken whatever resides within, and it really wants out. Cue the arrival of sadistic SS officer Kaempffer (a very young Gabriel Byrne) and his Nazi bastard crew, as well as a professor of ancient languages (Ian Mckellan) with his daughter (the late Alberta Watson). Elsewhere in Europe, otherworldly stranger Glaecken (the great Scott Glenn) is stirred by the happenings at the Keep and treks across the war torn continent towards an unknown end. What follows is an entrancing supernatural fusion mixup of old school prosthetic effects, genocide metaphors, lovingly creaky production design and synth music that will scorch your soul. Glenn plays the shadowy warrior better than ever here, with a paranormal gleam in his eyes and the stone-faced, gravel voiced resolve to see his strange quest through to a brutal conclusion. McKellen emotes fiercely both in and out of some well done old age makeup, sometimes almost unrecognizable but always spirited and present. Pröchnow rarely gets non villain roles with depth but this might be his best ever, early in his career too. He turns the Captain into a sorrowful picture of regret and compassion that one doesn’t often see in Hollywood based German army roles from WWII. Watson is a doe eyed beauty whose loss of innocence and discovery of love is portrayed wonderfully by the actress, who sadly passed away long before her time. Byrne is evil incarnate, with a startling cropped haircut that would be right at home in this day and age it seems. Mann favourite Robert Prosky also shows up as a local priest with knowledge of The Keep. Somewhere out there in someone’s garage there lies a full cut of this film, just waiting for an extended Blu Ray transfer, complete with tweaks on sound design (its fuzzy commotion at times), special features and the redemptive treatment that a sterling genre addition like this deserves. There’s so much quality to be found in it, from the alluring atmosphere that’s so thick it finds its way into your dreams after, to the aforementioned Tangerine Dream soundtrack that haunts the film’s visual landscape like an auditory phantasm to the silver and purple hued neon production design, resplendent in its tactile, tangible glory, it stands as a flawed classic with the potential to be so much more, if Mann mans up and makes the effort to give one of his very best efforts that care and time it deserves to rise from the void and soar again. If only. Oh and one more thing: there’s one more scene before the credits that isn’t in the actual cut, but go find it on YouTube because it’s really worth it and adds a lot to the story.

-Nate Hill

Making Epics and eating Subway with Patrick Stewart: An Interview with Shahin Sean Solimon by Kent Hill

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There is a filmmaker working in Hollywood right now, who is out to show the big boys that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movies you want to make. Shahin Sean Solimon is the man behind the movement. Together with his talented group of like-minded artists, he is forging new waves to achieve epic results without the big budget price tag.

“If I inspire some thirteen year old kid somewhere to pursue his or her dreams as I have, no matter what the nay-sayers say, I’ve done my job.”

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And getting the job done is exactly what Shahin has been doing.  Beginning with his first feature Djinn, Based on ancient middle eastern fairy tales written thousands of years ago, and passed down from generation to generation, Shahin crafted luscious, fantastical realms along with a pure and moving tale love and destiny.

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With his second film he took it to the next level, conjuring the days of high adventure and summoning cinema which brings to mind the heady days of Ray Harryhausen with: Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. When the Sultan’s first born is taken by an evil sorcerer, Sinbad is tasked with traveling to a desert of magic and creatures to save her. Add into this the talents of Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation), who offered his distinct vocal styling as the films narrator. He also turns out to enjoy Subway, but you’ll have to listen for more on that.

Now, for the next big thing. In his third feature Alpha: The Awakening, Shahin is tackling the sci-fi and post-apocalyptic genres with one mighty stroke. It is the story of a man, Apollo, who wakes up in the future to realize the human race has been wiped out because of an ancient virus.

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There seems to be no end to his creativity or his ability to realize his visions. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with this talented filmmaker who is, without a doubt, taking the bull by the horns and making the movies he wants to make.

“My inspiration as an artist is not about money, or fame…but about trying to project imagination, show a different perspective of life, and simply entertain.”

And entertaining us is what he has done and will, I believe, continue to do.

Wolfgang Petersen’s The Neverending Story

Although admittedly not quite as dense or thoughtful as Michael Ende’s classic novel, Wolfgang Petersen’s The Neverending Story is a stunning film full of imagery that has stuck with me for years. Petersen usually guns for sprawling adult oriented fare (Troy, Air Force One, Das Boot, The Perfect Storm, Enemy Mine), so this stands out as the one children’s story he’s done that still has that same epic magic he puts elsewhere, on a more whimsical scale. In a land called Fantasia, a threatening dark force called The Nothing is swallowing up real estate faster than Chinese investors, and many peaceful creatures are losing their homes to it. It lives up to it’s name in the sense that it is quite literally nothing, replacing tangible vistas with eerie black void, a spooky enough antagonist for any fable. It’s up to young prince Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) to journey across Fantasia, find the princess who is the origin of the land’s life force and restore balance in the universe. This is all in a dusty old storybook of course, eagerly read by a lonely kid (Barrett Oliver) holed up in some attic. I’ll admit I haven’t seen the film in a while, so I’m not up to speed on every little twist and crook in the story, but this one is kind of more about images and impressions than analytical narrative anyways, especially once Atreyu finds the Princess (Tami Stronach) and things get beautifully, cosmically surreal, then fairly meta as the world of Fantasia leaks out of the book’s pages into our own realm, and Oliver is treated to a flying escapade over the Vancouver skyline atop adorable dragon-doggo Falkor, a lovingly creaky reminder of the wonders of animatronic effects. I’ll always remember the council meeting between the rock biting giants, pint sized Willy Wonka looking dude and a sentient snail, all debating what course of action to take against The Nothing. The one primal element that stands out in my subconscious is the ongoing chase Atreyu finds himself in with a terrifying, ghostly direwolf that just won’t quit. For pure eerie suspense you can’t beat the seat grabbing moment where it ruthlessly pursues him through a haunted looking forest towards an escape so narrowly made that breathing isn’t an option while viewing it. Dark, scary stuff for a kids movie, but that should be the idea anyway. A wee bit dated on today’s terms, but all is forgiven considering the lasting impact it’s had on my generation, and the imprint on our dreams. I’d be wary of the two sequels, as I remember not a thing from the second, and only recall that the third is an abysmal thing that should have been left to the Nothing. Stick with this beauty instead.

-Nate Hill

Tales of Enchantment, Aliens, Arthurian Legend and the Lone Ranger: An Interview with Edward Khmara by Kent Hill

Edward Khmara grew up in California and had the desire to become an actor when he sold his first script and his career was set in motion.

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It was not the first script he’d written, but he was the one that got him noticed. It was a little film called Ladyhawke. But, as all first-time screenwriters know, once you make that sale, you have very little input into the journey your film will take from there.

Still, now a screenwriter, Edward would go on to pen one of the truly great, often forgotten gems of the eighties, Hell in the Pacific in outer space: Enemy Mine. This time he would right in the middle of it all. From being on set, to being invited to watch dailies, to having to comfort his daughter after her terrifying encounter with a completely transformed Louis Gossett Jr. in his Drac make-up.

Like most folks who have worked in show business, Edward has known the lows as well as the highs. But those negative experiences didn’t discourage him as he charged ahead, tackling to legends. One in the form of a lavish television production with an all-star cast; Merlin would be the telling of Arthurian days solely from the perspective of the mythical wizard. Then of course there would be his work on the retelling of the life of another legend, one who achieved this status during his own lifetime, Bruce Lee.

But one of the truly heart-warming moments of our conversation was chatting with Edward about him finally getting his shot at the profession he sought after before he took to the typewriter – his part in Gore Verbinski’s Lone Ranger.

A true gentleman of the old school, full of great tales and tremendous experiences – it was a real pleasure to interview him and now to present to you my conversation with the legendary screenwriter (and sometimes actor) Edward Khmara.

Ron Howard’s Willow


Who doesn’t love Ron Howard’s Willow? Hopefully nobody, because it’s a brilliant fantasy classic that’s aged like the finest wine. From a story by George Lucas (vague Ewok vibes abound), it’s just a rollicking picture, oriented towards the little ones whose sense of wonder hasn’t dimmed, yet eager to include a very real sense of danger and darkness, the perfect recipe to make a film like this noteworthy and nostalgic. In a village inhabited solely by dwarf-like creatures, a secret has been unearthed by the family of young would-be sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis). In their little Hobbitsville of a town on the edge of a vast fantastical realm, a human infant has floated down river like Moses, a special child with the power to defeat a nefariously evil witch (Jean Smart) who has terrorized the land for ages. After the baby attracts danger to their village, the council gives Willow the task of bringing the child out into the world so it can fulfill it’s potential and bring goodness back to the realm. So begins a dazzling big budget journey into the heart of sword and sorcery darkness, a well woven blend of humour, heart and magic that is never short of thrills or visual splendour. Val Kilmer steals the show as rambunctious Madmartigan, a fiercely funny rogue of a warrior who protects and guides Willow through a harsh, threatening world, while Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton score comic relief points as two pint size little pixie things with vaguely European accents, which they use to hurl many a colourful insult in Kilmer’s general direction. Val’s real life wife Joanne Whalley plays sultry Sorshia, daughter to the villainous queen and badass beautiful warrior princess with dark sex appeal for days. There’s just so much to love about this film, from the wildly boisterous score by James Horner that gets our pulses up, the gorgeous production design and attention to detail, the story itself full of wondrous magic and peril, to the reliance on practical effects as per the times. It’s adorable that the filmmakers went out of their way to cast hordes of actual little people as opposed to relying on camera trickery, right down to Willow’s tiny, impossibly cute dwarf children. Highlights I will always remember from this one are the impressively staged sled race down a snowy peak using shields as careening vehicles and the surprisingly gory attack from giant worm/gorilla hybrid creatures that seriously disturbed seven year old Nate for years after. You simply can’t go wrong with this one. 

-Nate Hill

The Pang Brother’s ReCycle


What do you get if you take a mixing bowl and toss in The Cell, The Grudge, some Stephen King, Alice In Wonderland, The Lovely Bones and a not-too-subtle anti abortion message? You get ReCycle, a visually unbelievable, absolutely terrifying, boundlessly imaginative Chinese horror fantasy that no one saw, got overlooked to the max, and occupies an eternal spot in my DVD collection. Novelist Tsui (The Eye’s Anjelica Lee) is suffering from writer’s block following two bestsellers, expected by her publisher to churn out another one posthaste. Plagued at first by paranormal visions in her apartment, she’s suddenly thrown headlong into the otherworldly dimension of ReCycle, a place that can turn from beautiful to hellish and back again within minutes. Picture a surreal, abstract realm where everything that’s ever lost, forgotten or abandoned ends up, thrown together in a gorgeous but threatening dream world with various levels, planes and passages, seemingly endless and never predictable. The dead also reside here, as she soon learns, some of which don’t take kindly to intruders and can be pretty volatile. Forced to flee from one area of the realm to others and beyond, she’s joined by the spirit of a lost little girl, and put through one hell of time trying to find her way out. Included are dilapidated, haunted amusement parks, fields and mountains that extend for millions of miles, eerie forests where the ghosts of hanged prisoners leer out at them, vast crumbling cities, acres of forgotten children’s toys and in the film’s most wtf sequence, a giant gooey room filled with aborted fetuses that spring to life and slime anyone within reach. That’s right, the filmmakers aren’t really subtle with their pro-life sentiment, especially near the end, but as long as you can get past that, the rest is all incredible. The sheer scope of the film commands attention though, and anyone who daydreams or lets their imagination run wild will get an absolute kick out of it. It’s kind of like the world’s weirdest video game in cinematic form, structured like a play-through but given all the disorienting unease of your worst nightmare. 

-Nate Hill