Tag Archives: Harve Presnell

John Woo’s Face Off

John Woo’s Face/Off was originally conceived as a Schwarzenegger/Stallone vehicle and was to exist in a far more futuristic setting. I’m glad that the eventual execution was more down to earth because I get cold sweat visions of the 90’s Judge Dredd flick with Arnie swapped in for Armand Assante. Jokes aside, the performances, production design finished product turned out to be pretty much as amazing as anything you’ll find in Hollywood throughout the years, and has become a classic for me.

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage are perfectly paired as grizzled FBI super-agent Sean Archer and eccentric, psychopathic rock star terrorist Caster Troy, two star crossed arch enemies who find themselves battling on a whole new plane when their faces literally get swapped by the bureau’s fanciest clandestine nip tuck procedure. This gives the film not a only a high concept boost but the opportunity for each actor to really break free from the bonds of playing just one character and overlap into the realms of their counterpart, not to mention parody the absolute fuck out of their respective acting styles, which we as moviegoers know is never short on eccentricity for the both of them. Others revolve around them, specifically two very different women in their lives who are caught up in the in the titanic clash of will, ego and guns upon guns. Joan Allen is angelic poetry as Eve, Archer’s wife, and Gina Gershon adds a feline sexiness in Sasha, Troy’s old concubine. They both share a wounded nature in different ways, both having been drawn into the conflict and taking charge of their trajectory in different, equally compelling ways. Nick Cassevetes and his bald dome steal scenes as Dietrich, Troy’s trigger happy lieutenant, Dominique Swain shows early what talent she has as Archer’s strong willed daughter and there’s a galaxy of supporting talent including Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, CCH Pounder, Matt Ross, Margaret Cho, Thomas Jane, John Carroll Lynch, Alessandro Nivola, Chris Bauer, Robert Wisdom, Kirk Baltz, Paul Hipp, Danny Masterson, David Warshofsky, Thomas Rosales and Scottish badass Tommy Flanagan, early on before Hollywood gave him lines and those leering Joker scars did the talking.

This is the Cage/Travolta show most of the way though and they positively rock the house as two dysfunctional would-be siblings who could probably sit down and have a few beers together if they weren’t so busy trying to kill each other. Woo outdoes himself in a production that includes all of his hallmarks: white doves breaking formation in languid slo-mo, dual wielded berettas barking out clip after clip, symphonies of smashing glass, looming pillars of fireball pyrotechnics and the always classy tradition of characters having firefights clad in snappy suits. There’s a plane chase, a boat chase (my favourite sequence of the film), a breathless aquatic prison break, a church shootout of biblical proportions, a thundering FBI raid on a dockside stronghold, a vicious beatdown of Hyde from That 70’s Show (art eerily imitates life here) and the most inventive use of a harpoon gun I’ve ever cringed at.

Obviously the content of my favourite films is fluid and changes over time but in terms of a top action film, this is likely the constant. It’s like the whole genre went to sleep, had a dream and this was the resulting output. I gotta mention the original score because it’s a doozy, but I’ve always been a bit confused who to thank for it. IMDb has John Powell credited, whose work I love on the Bourne films. But other research turns up evidence of stuff from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard as well, so I’m not sure who did what or if it was a collaboratively lateral thing, but in any case it’s fantastic work, particularly in the boat chase where the composition reaches that near celestial height where it has the power to raise the hairs on your arms. What else is there to say? “Gonna take his face…. off…!”

-Nate Hill

Paint Your Wagon

I’ve never understood the cloud of negativity surrounding Paint Your Wagon, a terminally eccentric, raucously bawdy musical western epic in which old school tough guys Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood get to sing, or at least do their best. Sure it’s a giant unwieldy spectacle, not all of the songs make a three point landing and it runs on far too long, but it’s such an interesting piece from many perspectives, it doesn’t deserve even half the shade thrown on it by critics over the years. I like it specifically because of how odd and random it is at times, how it meanders and lingers across the gold rush frontier town it takes place in, following the paths of it’s strange characters diligently. Marvin is the life of the party as Ben Rumson, a booze soaked, misanthropic prospector idling his way through the west in a haze of hangovers and hijinks. Eastwood is Pardner, a soft spoken stoic type whose life is saved by Ben, and the two strike a bond that’s eventually tested by Elizabeth (Jean Seberg), the beauty who loves them both. The trio makes the best of life in a rough n’ tumble settlement called No Name City, a feverish shantytown on the precipice of nowhere, populated by scoundrels, miscreants and hooligans. And that’s pretty much it, the story punctuated by a whole gallery of songs, some brilliant and others excruciating. The best is a haunting, melancholy melody by Marvin called ‘Wandering Star’, which is so good it could be listened to on repeat. ‘They Call The Wind Mariah’ is a gorgeous tune belted out by a young looking Harve Presnell as Rotten Luck Willie, a slick kingpin who basically runs the township. ‘There’s a Coach Comin In’ rouses spirits, and the titular theme is well staged too. Unfortunately all of the songs sung solely by Eastwood are a slog through the mud, as he bleats like a goat and gets saddled with the most boring tracks like ‘I Talk To The Trees’, the sappy ‘Elisa’ and ‘Gold Fever’, a musical sleeping pill. Whenever Marvin is around it’s a banger of a party, he goes the extra mile to keep the energy levels unbridled, while Eastwood is a little sleepier. There’s no way the film deserves the dodgy reputation it’s been slapped with though, a lot of it is fun as all hell, the big budget is spent well on fantastic production design, epic sets and big names who earn their keep, Marvin in particular.

-Nate Hill

Patch Adams: A Review by Nate Hill 

Yes, Patch Adams is a pile of sentimental mush. Yeah, the filmmakers took severe liberties with the source material until their protagonist scarcely resembled the fellow they based him on. Sure, it’s soppy to all hell. My thoughts on all of the above: So freakin what. None of that has stopped me from loving the film growing up as a kid, and continuing to do so these days too. The message it delivers and the values it supports can be relatable to anyone in any walk of life, not just the medical field. Robin Williams had his demons, but he could be the brightest beacon of love and optimism a lot of the time, and he carries that wonderfully throughout the film. Patch Adams is a manic depressive, deeply sad man who finds his calling in the field of medicine following an epiphany involving a fellow patient (Michael Jeter, always great) at the psychiatric facility he is staying in. Upon enrolling in medical school he finds the cold, clinical atmosphere of his field uninviting. Patch is a vibrant soul who wishes to combat illness and despair not just with medicine, but a healthy dose of humour, empathy and the readiness to listen to your patient, think outside the box and have compassion. His methods are seen as unorthodox, especially by the college dean (Bob Gunton), whose ass is so tight that when he farts only dogs hear it. Patch both struggles and triumphs, finding solace and inspiration in daily interaction with patients, and hits walls with his superiors, who neither trust nor understand his ways. It’s always an uphill journey for any sort of pioneer, but he soldiers on, aided by William’s remarkable work. Patch starts his own independent clinic along with fellow student and girlfriend Carin (the lovely and very underrated Monica Potter), and life is good. But it’s never safe from tragedy, as we tearfully bear witness to in a plot turn that will rip out your heart and huck it off a cliff. Patch is undeterred though, adamant in his quest to bring light, levity and love into the lives of the people he works with, regardless of how much time they have left on this earth, or who tells him what he should and shouldn’t do. That’s essentially what the story is about: helping others any way you can. That extends beyond simply trying to cure their disease, remove a tumor, prescribe a medication or diagnose an illness in a dry, detached manner. It’s about alleviating suffering not only with the tools of your practice, but with those of your heart and soul as well. Patch knows this, and won’t back down from the good fight. Bless his heart, and William’s too, for a performance of warmth and affection. Watch for work from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Josef Sommer, Ryan Hurst, Richard Kelly, Harve Presnell, Daniel London, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Alan Tudyuk and and excellent Peter Coyote as a stubborn cancer patient. There’s naysayers galore buzzing around this film like gnats. Swat ’em harshly, and don’t let ’em get you down. Those of us who appreciate the film know what’s up.