Tag Archives: Gabrielle union

Stephen Gaghan’s Abandon

Sometime an artists whose primary output is writing tries their hand at directing, with mixed results. In the case of Stephen Gaghan’s Abandon, the results are flat out miserable, all across the board when you consider that he wrote the thing too. Katie Holmes headlines the murky tale of a girl whose mysterious ex boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) resurfaces to creep her out after disappearing years before. The film is steeped in darkly shot, choking scenes of mumbling gloom that I suppose were an attempt at atmosphere but just cloud perceptions and numb over any chance of tension or thrills. Holmes has always been a huge talent and she does her best here but you can only do so much with material this bad. Benjamin Bratt plays a hunky detective who gets a bit too involved in her case than he probably should, and ends up standing around looking confused most of the time. Hunnam, whose acting style has always irked me, tries to do the deep dark brooding bad boy thing here, and comes across as listless and bored, his motivations never made clear beyond lurking with vague intent. Just as an example of how humdrum it all is: Fred Ward plays Bratt’s superior officer and when he’s introduced in a dimly lit precinct, he’s literally just sitting on the floor against his desk, looking like he gave up with the script, tossed it in the dustbin and is waiting for them to yell cut so he can call his agent and finally get the next Remo Williams film underway instead of appearing in gothic Hallmark trash like this. It’s interesting because Gaghan showed great promise after this by directing the phenomenal Syriana, then subsequently waded back into the mires of mediocrity with his next feature, Gold. He’s uneven as a director, and this is the lowest point for him. The whole thing fits the title, really; it’s like they Abandoned any hope of making this half decent and just cloaked it in as much hollow, portentous energy they could muster up and hoped no one would notice that there’s no substance to back up the style. The ending is as empty as the rest of it, there’s no resolution, twist or aha moment, it just ends in thin air. Avoid.

-Nate Hill

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Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II

Michael Bay is a great filmmaker and Bad Boys II is a masterpiece, one of the best action movies ever made. I know there are those out there who have nothing but contempt for Bay and his balls out, blitzkrieg blockbusters, and that’s okay. But there’s also those of us who recognize that the guy just has bushels of talent when it comes to staging breathtakingly explosive, propulsive large scale action sequences. I’ll concede that he has been perpetually slumming it in Transformers-ville for ten punishing years, but honestly I think that’s just to harvest dollars from the Asian box office overseas, because that’s where those big dumb flicks are most popular.

Bay’s core filmography is legendary, and while I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, I’d say Bad Boys II if you held a gun to my head, definitely because of aforementioned action sequences but also it’s just one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever seen, thanks to the combustible camaraderie between Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and a host of scene stealing others. This film is insane in all the best possible ways, it starts at brutal excess and only escalates from there until taste, shame and any other employments of restraint have been pummelled by a beautifully un-PC masterwork of ultra-violence, cheerful profanity, unabashed nihilism and enough Miami gunplay to constitute a civil war.

While Bay’s first Bad Boys was a great time, it was kind of like pre-drinks at buddy’s place before really getting the night underway, and II is the penthouse party that blows the lid off of everything, gets the cops called and shuts down the entire block. Smith and Lawrence’s Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett kick off the proceedings by noisily barrelling through a KKK rally in the Everglades which results in Marcus getting accidentally shot through the ass cheek by his own partner, going on to be a priceless running joke. Then it’s on to take down simultaneously terrifying and hilarious Cuban drug baron Johnny Tapia, played by Jordi Molla in a performance so manic and unhinged that to me he represents the Spanish Gary Oldman. This results in a deafening, barnstorming tirade of extended car chases, ferocious shootouts, almost horror movie level carnage, excessive drug consumption and so much bickering between our two leads that we begin to wonder what was improv and what was scripted, but I suspect it was mostly the former. Bruckheimer seriously just threw paint at the wall here and let Bay set fire to it, this has to be one of the most precious, time capsule worthy, fucked up blockbusters that has ever come down the Hollywood assembly line. Gabrielle Union has never been sexier and holds her own as Marcus’s DEA sister, Bay favourite Peter Stormare hams it up almost as much as he did in Armageddon as an unstable Russian gangster and the cast is insane with memorable work from Michael Shannon, Yul Vasquez, Teresa Randle, Oleg Taktarov, Jon Seda, Antoni Carone, Henry Rollins and more. A huge shout-out to Joe Pantoliano as their stressed out Captain, he reaches levels of exasperation that I didn’t think were possible, and the scene where Marcus shows up in his living room fucked up on ecstasy is one of the most indescribably great comedic moments of the millennium, played to the hilt by all three actors.

From drug infested Miami Beach nightclubs to all out warfare on the highway overpasses to attitude filled family pool parties at Marcus’s crib to a thrilling showdown outside Tapia’s Cuban mansion and everything in between, Bay pretty much set the bar for the R rated action comedy, and set it pretty fucking high. Critics like Ebert hate this one because it overflows with unpleasantness, excess and mean spirited humour, and hey who am I to argue. If your sense of humour is tuned in to this kind of stuff then you’ll dig it, if not then it won’t be your bag, it’s very much an early 00’s film and most of it sadly wouldn’t even come close to being green-lit in today’s big budget world. I love this crazy ass film to pieces, it’s showcase Bay, hallmark Bruckheimer, the comedic pinnacle of both Smith and Lawrence’s careers (“Big fuckin eyes, but a nice fuckin fish!!”) and a milestone in the action genre. Woosahh.

-Nate Hill

33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival Opening Night: Emilio Estevez’s ‘the public’

Opening the 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival was Emilio Estevez’s new film, ‘the public’ which is set in a library deep in the harsh Midwest winter in the heart of Cincinnati where the local homeless population seeks refuge during the day, stages a sit-in to spend the night after all the local shelters reach their maximum capacity and numerous others had frozen to death.

Estevez, Jena Malone, Alec Baldwin, and Michael K. Williams were among the stars of the film that took to the red carpet along with Martin Sheen who did not appear in the film, but was there to show support for his son.

Introducing the film with an elegant and impassioned speech was dashing Executive Director of the festival, Roger Durling, who spoke about the recent catastrophic mudslides that deeply affected the community.

‘the public’ is a gripping, topical film that is a reflection of the many humanitarian crisis in America, and particularly one; the homeless population. The film is incredibly cunning. The focal point isn’t solely aimed at the social and economic injustice of America’s homeless population, but also the opioid epidemic as well as mental illness and how it is currently viewed by the poisonous symbiotic relationship between window dressing politicians and manufactured news and how that information is then fed to the populous of America.

This film is a lot to absorb.

Estevez wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this feature and he assembled a remarkable cast from those who walked the red carpet premiere to those who did not including Jeffery Wright, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater, and Taylor Schilling in a film that is a subtle recognition of one of Estevez’s most seminal films, John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club.

‘the public’ asks a plethora of serious and substantial questions whilst also pulling a strong emotional response from its audience. It is a great film that not only reflects present day America, but also exposing a problem that no one is seriously addressing in mainstream America.

ABC’s FlashForward: here in a flash of brilliance and gone after one season 


ABC’s Flashforwad was a gripping psychological/supernatural epic with potential to run many seasons and provide us with solid entertainment for a long time a lá Lost (which it bears some similarities with), but the network mysteriously axed it after a single season, leaving a vacuum in the air as far as it’s story, and many viewers left stranded, wanting more. The show was built around a wicked concept: one day, every human being on planet earth simultaneously blacks out for a few minutes, and in that time has a precognitive vision of the future some months away from their present time, then promptly wakes up. This of course causes sheer chaos all over the globe, initially with millions of car crashes, disasters and planes falling out of the sky, and eventually the uncertainty, paranoia and confusion as to just what these flash-forwards are all about, and if it will happen again. An FBI task force spearheaded by the likes of Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance is commissioned to investigate the matter, and their mission takes them to some truly weird places, both geographically and thematically. There’s strange forces at work with this one, secrets that are kept close to the chest and gradually doled out over the expansive twenty three episode arc, a great length of run that should really be the standard for television. It’s similar to Lost in the sense that every week the mystery deepened as opposed to circling a resolution, clues and questions piled on top of the previous ones without a hint of finality or exposition to light the way, an audience tested, surefire way to keep people from flipping the channels mid episode and a great of garnering new viewers via word of mouth. The trick is to also add rhyme and reason to your bag of mysteries, provide a modicum of answers to keep the frustration just at bay, a formula which this one actually succeeds better at than Lost ever did. The scope and budget here are both enormous, giving new meaning to both the terms ‘globetrotting’ and ‘ensemble piece’, a truly vast attempt at long form storytelling. The cast is eclectic, other leads including John Cho as another hard-nosed Fed, Zachary Knighton as a doctor whose life is perhaps affected most by the incident, and brilliant turns from Jack Davenport, Sonya Walger, Peyton List, Dominic Monaghan, Brian F. O’Byrne and the late Michael Massee as nefarious, shadowy ultra-villain Dyson Frost, who serves as a sort of mcguffin during the first act of the show. Guest arcs included James Remar, Thomas Kretschmann, Rachel Roberts, Gabrielle Union, Shohreh Ahgdashloo, Annabeth Gish, Callum Keith Rennie, James Frain, Peter Coyote as the US President and so many more. The show looks amazing too, a brightly lit, well oiled mystery machine with all sorts of storytelling wizardry including nifty slow motion musical montages, trippy time jumps, non linear what-have-you and all manner of neat stuff. Gone way, way before it’s time, this one is well worth a watch and shouldn’t have been written off so soon. And remember: D. Gibbons is a bad man. 

-Nate Hill