Tag Archives: Kelly Preston

Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are good buddies and have always sort of played on each other’s side of the fence in terms of creativity, collaborating here and there over the years on cool stuff, but my favourite tandem venture they ever did has to be From Dusk Till Dawn, a crime horror action schlock hybrid that has aged beautifully over the years, doesn’t fuck around in terms of packing a punch in all of the specific genres it works in and is a glowing testament to the powers of practical/prosthetic effects over CGI.

The first half of this thing is a classic Tarantino slow burn: George Clooney and Quentin himself are the Gecko brothers, a pair of murderous bank robbers in swanky suits, on the run from southern law following a bank robbery bloodbath (never actually seen a lá Reservoir Dogs) and causing violent trouble all over the rest of the state. After narrowly escaping Michael Parks’s immortal Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, they kidnap a retired preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his two kids (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) and make a beeline for the Mexican border and the sanctuary of an impossibly rowdy strip joint and trucker bar called… wait for it… The Titty Twister.

Once at the bar Rodriguez takes over the reins and in a split second we segue into horror most gory as our unconventional protagonists realize that this bar is actually a nest of Mexican vampires, and they’re ready to spring the trap. This includes an unbearably sexy dance from Salma Hayek’s vamp queen Santanico Pandemonium, a biker named Sex Machine (Tom Savini) with guns where his guns are, a literal army of hairy undead beasts, a giant rat, a human spinal column used as a saxophone, crossbows, more gallons of blood and various gore than I’ve ever seen amassed for one film and just too much else to mention.

For most folks, the first half of this film is the pay-dirt; Tarantino’s laconic, dangerous approach to the Gecko brothers’s rampage is no doubt one of the coolest things he’s written, particularly the sequence with Michael Parks and any dialogue between Keitel and Clooney, who gives probably the most fun and uninhibited performance of his career. Tarantino chomps at the bit and is downright terrifying as the worst kind of unstable psychopath, it’s the best acting work he’s ever done. I myself prefer the latter half with all the horror though.. the sheer amount of gooey lunacy, latex drenched creativity in design is something you don’t see anymore, unless it’s a deliberate throwback. The bar is populated by what seems like hundreds of varied and equally disgusting bloodsuckers until after a while and dozens of kills you get the sense that every character needs a good shower. Keitel brings a grizzled nobility to the priest, while Lewis tones down her usual bubbly mania for something decidedly more down to earth. Danny Trejo plays a grumpy vamp bartender, blaxploitation icon Fred Williamson shows up as a badass Nam vet and watch for cameos from John Hawkes, Greg Nicorato, Kelly Preston and 70’s icon John Saxon. Cheech Marin also shows up of course, in three obviously different roles because why the fuck not and has a monologue that would burn the ears off of any conservative viewer. Some will say this film is too much, and hey I’m not one to argue with them, but for me if it’s too much of anything, it’s a good thing. The horror is old school schlock-schploitation and the hard boiled crime yarn that comes before is equally stylistic and fun. It’s Quentin and Robert attuned to different wavelengths but somehow on the same frequency, and the result is a bloody, chaotic horror crime western classic.

-Nate Hill

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Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire

Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire is probably one of the most engagingly likeable films I’ve ever seen, on both a star-power and script level it positively glides. I’ve heard it described as the ultimate feel good movie, and while I would be quick to agree, I think there’s more to it. There’s countless films out there about unscrupulous maverick in the professional world who have a crisis of conscience, an ethic conundrum or call it what you will, but Tom Cruise’s freewheeling, silver tongued sports agent may be the only case I’ve seen where said crisis happens literally at the beginning of the film as opposed to a midsection turnaround or climactic final resolution. Because of this, the rest of the film is completely affected each step of the way by his awakening in the first scene, which I find so interesting.

The hero has his realization early, and it seems like the kind of weighty lesson that sums up the bulk of the film, but it only leads to more complicated questions, tricky interpersonal communication based on previous impulsive behaviour and a trickle effect down into even more life lessons, always given the unexpected flourishes and cathartic pathos of Crowe’s script, which has to be among the best ever written.

Cruise is aggressive, tender, charismatic and compelling as Jerry, the archetypal American business shark who flounders in the deep end of a narrative seemingly built as an obstacle course for character renewal and self discovery. Renee Zellweger is an actual angel as Dorothy, the single mother who realizes that idolizing and loving someone can be different things, one and the same or a confusing mixture of both. Cuba Gooding Jr. is a stirring bundle of joy and frustrations as Rod, Jerry’s last remaining athletic client, a fiercely loving family man with a self referential chip on his shoulder and enough energy to fill a stadium on his own, it’s the best work I’ve ever seen him do. The supporting cast is unbelievable and includes Jerry O’Connell, Jay Mohr, Beau Bridges, Eric Stoltz, Donal Logue, adorable Jonathan Lipnicki, Kelly Preston, Mark Pellington, Jared Jussim, Toby Huss, Drake Bell, Ivana Milicivic, Lucy Liu, the always lovely Bonnie Hunt and an absolute knockout Regina King as Rod’s fiercely passionate wife, it takes a lot of effort to steal every scene in a film that’s already packed to burst with scene stealers but she is really something else here.

I’ve read reviews saying that this is too much of a good thing and that there’s too many strong elements to absorb or focus on all at once and I disagree. I think that whoever wrote that has underestimated the cinematic appetite of people who crave well written, emotionally ambitious films that don’t just break the mould but drop kick it full field goal. Jerry Maguire is at once a brilliant character study, a rocking ensemble piece, a genuinely thought out and heartfelt romance, a morality play and what’s more, Crowe handles all of the above in a fresh, unique way. Having finally seen this I still can’t say that it dethrones Vanilla Sky as my favourite Crowe film (a tall order indeed), but I loved Jerry Maguire to bits, I was locked to the screen for the entire two plus hours, it’s a wonderfully told story and is now inducted into my list of favourites.

-Nate Hill

James Wan’s Death Sentence: A Review by Nate Hill 

Charles Bronson ain’t got nothing on the level of grit seen in this revenge story. James Wan’s Death Sentence is obviously inspired by the endless Death Wish films, which by their end had gone from classy exploitation (sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me, it’s a thing) to lazy spoofs. This one goes back to the gritty roots, as well as udating the setting to our present time and laying on the gloomy, oppresively violent atmosphere so thick you’ll want a shower and some cartoons after. Kevin Bacon is Nick Hume, a mild mannered advertisement executive living an idyllic life with his wife (Kelly Preston) and two young sons. All that changes one night when one of his boys is murdered in cold blood by some punk in the midst of a gas station robbery. The thug gets released on a technicality, and Nick gets shafted of both justice and peace of mine right at the start of his grieving process. Making one of those penultimate crossroad decisions that alter both his life and the fate of the film’s narrative, he takes it upon himself to murder the perpetrator in a grisly display of vigilante justice. Only problem is, that ain’t where it stops. The murderer has a brother who makes him seem like tweety bird, a terrifying urban scumbag named Joe Darley (Garrett Hedlund) who puts Nick and his family directly in the crosshairs of revenge. Nick is forced to become a one man army to protect his family and eradicate the evil that has entered hiss life once and for all, assisted by a wicked arsenal of nasty weapons provided by sleazeball arms dealer Bones Darley (John Goodman). If you look up ‘scene stealer’ in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of Goodman’s jolly visage grinning back at you. No matter who he plays, he’s the life of the party, and his Bones is a fast talking gutter-snipe who jacks up every scene he’s in with scuzzy dialogue. He plays an integral part in Nick’s brutal and often disturbing quest for justice, a hard R urban bloodbath that pulls no punches and aims to shock. Bacon often plays morally questionable pricks, walking a fine line between upright heroes and corrupt nasties. In one character arc he gets to traverse that whole spectrum here, a regular guy who is pushed to criminal extremes until he’s barely recognizable, even to himself. Intense stuff that heads down a dark alley of human unpleasantness.