Tag Archives: John McTiernan

John McTiernan’s Predator

Action doesn’t get more rough, badass or straight up entertaining than John McTiernan’s Predator. The popcorn summer movie mantle was designed for stuff like this and throughout the 80’s and 90’s each one made its own influences and shaped the way the blockbuster has evolved. This is arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best, just behind or right along side the Terminator films. Packed to the gills with the kind of gruesome, blood soaked action intrigue we don’t see much anymore or at least without glossy CGI. Here the violence is tactical, doused in gallons of blood and amped up for maximum impact, like when Arnie’s Dutch and his team of rough n’ ready mercs stumble upon bodies that have been skinned alive. Called in for a routine black ops mission in the jungles of Central America, they discover there’s something far worse out there than rebels, and that something happens to be an eight foot tall trophy hunter from another galaxy, with whiplash dreadlocks and a face that would give Freddy Krueger nightmares. He’s essentially an extraterrestrial big game hunter who picks off humanity’s toughest customers in the ultimate intergalactic safari, and Arnie happens to be right in his path. His team is made up of the most colourful badasses the 80’s has to offer including wiseass Jesse Ventura, jumpy Carl Weathers, spooked out Bill Duke and stoic tracker Sonny Landham, who’s my favourite by far (“there’s somethin in that jungle, and it ain’t no man”). Also on their team is Shane Black, of all people, which I didn’t realize until my most recent rewatch but it makes sense since he’s the mastermind behind this fall’s The Predator, which I’m very excited for. The highest praise doesn’t even do this film justice; it’s simply one of those ones that isn’t even up for debate in terms of quality, it practically spawned its own genre. Arnie & Co. light up the jungle with enough heavy artillery to launch a coup, the Predator uses cunning tactics and brutal tricks of its own to hunt them one by one, and the whole region erupts with the sound, fury, carnage and commotion of their fight for survival. This has gone on to produce a sequel (which is just as brilliant, fight me), a Robert Rodriguez helmed update (also great), a couple crossovers with the Alien franchise (which were just plain awful) and the aforementioned Shane Black rendition. This started it though, from Arnie chomping up cigar after cigar to Ventura levelling the trees with a giant mini gun to Landham feverishly taking on the Predator with just his 13 inch hunting knife, it’s an action palooza that’s very of it’s time and therefore refreshingly un-PC (I trust in black to keep that spirit alive for his version), and has stood the time as a gold standard of action sci-fi genre heaven. Don’t forget to get to that chopper.

-Nate Hill

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John McTiernan’s Basic

John McTiernan’s Basic is a film that commits the cardinal sin of cheating its audience with an obnoxious, horrendous twist ending that it neither earns nor properly makes sense of. It’s a real crying shame too, because the film up until then is a hell of a lot of fun and has a rambunctious John Travolta performance that could shake the cobwebs loose from a barn. When a near mythic drill instructor (a volcanic Samuel L. Jackson) with some terrifying over-the-line tactics disappears along with some of his cadets on a routine training exercise deep in the jungles of Panama, Travolta’s rowdy DEA Agent is called in to investigate. Why a DEA agent, you ask? Well, it being Panama one might assume that any controversy anywhere could be drug related, but the film states that it’s because no one is as skilled at interrogation than him. That proves to be true, as he slowly, cleverly speaks with the remaining trainees and starts to piece together a cluttered version of events from each one. They are played by the reliable likes of Dash Mihok, Taye Diggs, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt and Harry Connick Jr., and as such many of the scenes are quite engaging. It doesn’t hurt that Connie Nielsen is good too as Travolta’s anal retentive, by the book partner. The film oscillates through various scenarios, teasing us with which mystery might be real, and when it comes time to whisk the curtains back and land the pirouette of a reasonable final act… it just… shits itself and completely ruins not only everything that came before, but the entire film, which is really too bad. At first I thought I was just too stoned to get what happened the first time years ago, but I’ve since rewatched it a few more times and… nope. It’s illogical, unwarranted horse shit that doesn’t work any way you spin it. I would have honestly preferred the central mystery to never even get solved over the half assed resolution they cooked up. Roger Ebert pointed out that this film deserves to be in a genre he calls the ‘Jerk Around Movie,’ and I agree. It shamefully wastes the viewer’s time with an ending that’s both insulting to the efforts of the actors who really worked hard here, betrays it’s own narrative to the grave. Bleh.

-Nate Hill

The STUNTWOMAN: An Interview with Cheryl Wheeler by Kent Hill

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It was an absolute thrill to sit and chat with Cheryl Wheeler, legendary stunt woman, stunt double, and stunt driver of the movie industry. She has been the stunt double for Rene Russo, Kathleen Turner, and Goldie Hawn.

Cheryl began studying Yoshukai Karate at 15 – coming from a family of mostly boys; she was forced to learn to hold her own. She started kickboxing when her instructor commenced training an amateur team. She has also studied Judo, Aikido, and grappling and trained for a while with kickboxer and actor Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, and is a three-time WKA World Kickboxing Champion

Beginning work in the film industry in 1987, Cheryl’s extensive filmography of stunt work in such films as Back to the Future Part II, Bird on a Wire, Die Hard 2, Lethal Weapon III & IV, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Charlie’s Angels. She was inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame as 1996 Woman of the Year. She appeared on the cover and in a feature article in Black Belt Magazine in July 1997, and also received a Stunt Award for “Best Stunt Sequence” in the 2000 film of Charlie’s Angels.

I could honestly have spoken to Cheryl for hours – slowly traversing and delighting in the stories from all of the films she has participated in. We also chat about her involvement in The Martial Arts Kid 2 which she comes to as a producer with her long-time friends Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.

It was a true pleasure, and I trust you will enjoy this fascinating interview with an awesome Hollywood veteran. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Cheryl Wheeler.

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THE ‘SHOWDOWN’ TRIPLE FEATURE by Kent Hill

This film might not seem like a big deal to you. It could merely appear as another throwaway action flick on your regular streaming service – one that you glance at out of curiosity, and then move on. But I really loved SHOWDOWN IN MANILA, and here’s the reason why . . .

Once, a long time ago, in the age of wonder, they were these glorious palaces that we called, Video Stores. They were a veritable treasure trove for cineastes of all ages to come and get their movie-fix. They housed the cinema of the ages and best of all, there would be movies you could find there, that hadn’t played at a cinema near you.

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These were the titles that were made specifically for this new medium of VHS. Like the drive-in before it, these stores needed product. Thus a new genre was born, and it was called Straight-to-Video. What arose were glorious movies, some of which, sadly,  died along with their era. Awesome were the sci-fi, the horror, and specifically speaking now, the action movies that would appear on the shelves. And such action. Real, intense, dynamic and always in frequent supply. It was good versus evil in all its glory – the villains wore dark shades and the heroes carried big guns. So, it was while watching SHOWDOWN that I was hit by this wave of nostalgia, engulfed by memories of the golden age of home entertainment.

The plot of the film is simple. But isn’t that true of the best action flicks? The package is a beautiful cocktail of old and new, peppered with filmmakers wishing to deliver a splendid throwback, mixed with the stars that climbed to the dizzying heights of VHS stardom.

For those who know what I’m talking about, and even those that don’t, I say, go check out this little gem that is cut from the past, and at the same time, is polishing by the future. So, here now, I present a trio of interviews with the film’s stars Alexander Nevsky (The man on the rise), Matthias Hues (The action legend), and the man responsible for that important seed from which all great cinema grows, the script, Craig Hamman (the veteran screenwriter).

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Alexander Nevsky is a Russian bodybuilder, actor, writer, producer. His life changed when he saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron and that spark would light the fire which continues to burn bright. In 1994 Nevsky graduated from State Academy of Management (Moscow). In 1999 he moved to California. He studied English at UCLA and acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. He has risen from a bit-part-player to an international action star the cannot be ignored. With his imposing intensity, versatility and personal drive, Alex, I believe, is poised to enter the arena of formidable action superstars – its only a matter of when.

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Matthias Hues is a German-born actor and martial artist as well as being an action movie icon. He came to L.A. not knowing how to act or even speak English. The fateful moment would come when he joined Gold’s Gym and the establishment’s manager received a call from a producer who had just lost Jean-Claude Van Damme for his movie and needed a replacement. Matthias tested for the role, and he managed to convince the producers to give him the part despite having no prior acting experience. The movie, No Retreat, No Surrender 2, was a moderate success, but it opened the door. He is, of course, most recognized for Dark Angel, but has also played everything from a gladiator turned private investigator in Age of Treason to an aging hit-man in Finding Interest to a bumbling idiot trying to kidnap a rich kid in Alone in the Woods to a dancing lion tamer in Big Top Pee-wee. He’s even played a Klingon general in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

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Craig Hamann came up alongside another young aspiring filmmaker whose work would go on to define a generation. When he and Quentin Tarantino embarked upon the journey to make their own movie, My Best Friend’s Birthday, there was no telling then, where the road would lead. Well we all know where Quentin ended up, but Craig too has enjoyed a long and prosperous career that has been anything but ordinary. He’s a writer, former actor, that has watched the industry ebb and flow. He’s directed Boogie Boys, had encounters with Demonic Toys and of course, of late, he’s been a part of an action-thriller in Manila. Craig has other projects in the works, and with the company he keeps, these efforts are, I’m sure, set to explode and entertain. Yet he remains a humble gentleman with a passion for his work and a dedication that has seen him endure as a great veteran of the movie business.

 

 

 

John McTiernan’s Nomads


John McTiernan’s Nomads is one of the best, and most unconventional horror flicks that you’ve never seen. Nestled so far back into the 80’s that it stands as the mile marker for Pierce Brosnan’s first onscreen leading role, it’s a beautifully tense, atmospherically crafted fright flick that’s been lost to the hazy aeons of time. Unique in it’s ambiguity, this is a film bereft of bells, whistles, gore effects or even obviously spooky apparitions, relying solely on mood to impart illusory menace that’s never shoved in your face of spoon fed. Brosnan plays a French (hon hon) archeologist who begins to suspect he’s being followed by a group of unruly urban punks which, upon further introspection, could possibly be the malevolent spirits of a now extinct tribe he discovered years ago. It’s a vague, very weird concept, but it just somehow works, the presence of these grimy streetwalkers inciting palpable fear at the thought that they’re not what they seem at all. Opposites are at work here; by showing nothing, the filmmakers tell us and make us feel everything that is unseen, daring us to imagine what these mysterious beings might actually be, unsettling us further by having them appear in such benign (relatively speaking) form. It’ll frustrate many, but those tuned into the film’s eerie frequency will get the same chill down their spine that Brosnan perpetually walks around with, harassed no end by these meanies. The actors for these things are all especially chosen as well, each coached beautifully by McTiernan to act just normal enough to blend into the derelict fringes of an urban environment, while giving their demeanour an unnerving esoteric aspect, until they seem like a cross between mute versions of the Near Dark gypsy vampire clan and spectral coyotes. Brilliant concoction of subtle horror, clammy tension and gorgeously layered atmosphere.

-Nate Hill

Making mashed potatoes with Walken: An Interview with Andrew Bryniarski by Kent Hill

You might not know his name, but you’ve certainly seen his movies.

Andrew Bryniarski is a high-octane actor. His explosive and memorable performances stay with you. He is full-tilt, funny and furious. He has worked with an impressive array of Hollywood’s ‘big hitters’ like Tim Burton, Oliver Stone, John McTiernan, Michael Bay and John Singleton. He has starred alongside Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Raul Julia, Richard Lynch and Scooby Doo. He is beaten the shit out of Superman and made out with his girlfriend. Now if that is not an impressive resume, I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, I have done a number of interviews, but this one was a BLAST! Andy I feel has more great stories in him, only a few of which he was able to share over the couple of conversations we had. I would love this guy to sit down and write a ‘tell-all.’ The things that he has done, the places he has been, his experiences as a guy who was plucked out of obscurity and propelled from there to a Hollywood career that has spanned three decades, and has seen him do everything from sacking quarterbacks to wielding chainsaws, in that old Texas-massacre kinda way. It’s a tome that would be utterly enthralling.

The same enthusiasm that Andy applies to his work is apparent in his personality and his perspective. I get the impression there is no half-way with this man, and though it might seem that he has drifted from one grand adventure to another, there is a relentless dedication beneath the surface bravado that has been the catalyst behind his success.

It is always my intention to transcribe my interviews as, at times, the quality of the recording is not that great. But this is one of those times where you have to hear it from the man himself. No one does Andrew Bryniarski better than Andrew Bryniarski, unless of course it’s Andrew Bryniarski doing Christopher Walken (which I promise you’ll love.)

On that point, Andy sent me a message the day after our initial chat, saying that he had forgotten a line in his anecdote regarding Walken. It reads as follows:

Walken’s father was a baker and during the depression, there was a flour shortage so they used sawdust so they got ‘the rickets.’ By the time Chris Walken came along they had flour, so he was taller than his father. But Andy – he had orange juice.

It doesn’t make sense I know. But take note of the missing line (above here underlined) and listen to the incomparable Andrew Bryniarski tell it in his ‘awesome’ Christopher Walken voice…

A Chat with Actor Mark Acheson: An Interview by Nate Hill 

  

Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Mark Acheson. Mark has played countless distinct characters in film, including the mailroom guy who befriends Buddy in Elf, the thug who attacks Rorschach in Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, Moses Tripoli, the head of the North Dakota mob in FX’s Fargo, and more. He has also appeared in John Mctiernan’s The 13th Warrior, Reindeer Games, The Chronicles Of Riddick, Hot Rod, She’s The Man, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Crossfire Trail and more. Enjoy! 

Nate: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
Mark: My first play I performed in grade 7 at age 11. My school loved the bad boy character and suddenly I was popular. I was hooked from then on.

Nate: Some actors/films/filmmakers who have inspired you in your own work?
Mark: I always loved movies and television and my idea of the perfect actor is Daniel Day Lewis who I think is unrecognizable from role to role. That to me is true acting.

Nate: Fargo: How was your experience with that show? Any stories from set?
Mark: Fargo was perfect. I remember the incredibly talented Noah Hawley who wrote the script always on set polishing constantly. I was very proud that our episodes won three Emmys including best miniseries and best casting by Jackie Lind who is truly a force of nature.
Nate: Watchmen: your experience working with Snyder, and on the film?
Mark: Zach was the youngest and possibly one of the most gifted directors I have ever had the pleasure to work for. He was relaxed and made the set even more so.

Nate: Some of your favourite roles you have played so far in your career?
Mark: So many great projects I have been lucky enough to be in but working with Will Farrell in Elf had to be the best. I have been recognized all over the world from that one small part. Director Jon Favreau let us ad lib everything. Will is a genius!!
Nate: You went to Langara College’s Studio 58. I myself went to their somewhat new subsidiary program called Film Arts. How do you find that theatre training has affected your work in film? Do you still do any stage work? 

Mark:  I entered theater school at age 15 and it changed my life. To play Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Gave me my start as a pro and my first agent. I miss the stage very much especially Shakespeare which I enjoyed so much. Sadly these days stage is too infrequent and too much of a time commitment.
Nate: The 13th Warrior: excellent, underrated film with a notoriously troubled production. How was your experience working on it?

Mark: This was originally titled Eaters of the Dead. Difficult set. Schwarzenegger was originally booked but fought the studio about shooting in Canada. He was getting ready to run for governor. Best part was to meet and work with Omar Sharif. Such a film legend and an even nicer man.
Nate: Your dream role?

Mark: After acting for almost 50 years my dream is just to keep working. I love it all especially the variety.
Nate: Any upcoming projects, cinematic or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to talk about?

Mark: I currently have 4 projects in the can including Lewis and Clark for HBO airing this Christmas but I am barred from any pics or descriptions until they air. July I will start another movie that looks like alot of fun but as usual I will be killed like I was on two shows last week. Just making a living dying.

Nate:  Thank you so much for your time, and the opportunity to chat. Best of luck in the future!
Mark:  Thanks again Nate. All the best. Your interest makes all the struggle and auditions I didn’t get worthwhile.