Tag Archives: Kevin Bacon

Oliver Stone’s JFK

I’m not so much for political films but Oliver Stone’s JFK is an engrossing, obsessive, feverish and altogether brilliant piece of clandestine intrigue and I loved every minute of its impossibly long runtime (the director’s cut runs well over three hours). It might be excessive to take such an indulgent amount of time for one story to play out but Stone is fixated on every single aspect and detail of his narrative, scrutinizing the dark corners of shadowy politics, leaving no stone unturned and the result is a film that draws you in so close that at times the effect is breathless, a surging momentum full of moving parts, characters and secrets all unfolding in a mammoth production.

Stone has taken the real life investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, used it as a launching pad and blasted off into his own theories, queries and plot turns. Kevin Costner is excellent and uncharacteristically vulnerable as Garrison, an idealistic family man determined to shine a light on the truth until he realizes he and his firm are in over their heads. This thing has one of the most jaw dropping ensemble casts I’ve ever seen assembled, right down to supporting turns, cameos and walk-ons populated by recognizable faces. Costner and his team are the constant, a dogged troupe that includes varied folks like Laurie Metcalf, Wayne Knight, Jay O. Sanders, Gary Grubbs and the always awesome Michael Rooker. We spend the most time with them as they discuss theories at length, argue in roundtable fashion, interview witnesses and it all feels eerily as if every discovery they make leads to ten more even more unnerving ones. Others show up throughout the film and when I say this is a cast for the ages I’m not even kidding. Jack Lemmon does paranoia flawlessly as a nervous informant they visit, Gary Oldman is a super creepy Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Pesci impossibly rambunctious as oddball David Ferrie, Tommy Lee Jones and his poodle wig are icky as a corrupt US Senator and that’s just the start, there’s great work from everyone under the sun including John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Vincent D’onofrio, Kevin Bacon, Martin Sheen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Edward Asner, Frank Whaley, Brian Doyle Murray, Bob Gunton, Lolita Davidovich, John Larroquette and more. Donald Sutherland is pure showstopper as a mystery man who has an epic, sixteen minute long tinfoil hat monologue that is so well delivered and perfectly pitched that we don’t even really notice what a massive enema of exposition it is simply because he and Stone keep up the energy levels and, in turn, us riveted.

That’s the thing here, I went in expecting perhaps something intriguing but maybe a little dry in places or bits that might lag because it is, after all, a three plus hour film revolving around politics. This is Stone though, and the way he films it is taut and immersive the *entire* way through, which is just so fucking impressive. He plays rogue agent with the facts, using established suspicions to draw one wild conclusion after another until we aren’t sure if everyone we see onscreen perhaps had something to do with JFK’s death. That’s his goal here though, he seeks not to provide concrete answers (how could he) but instil the kind of creeping dread, mounting uncertainty and fear that I imagine gripped the nation for years following this event. Conflicting conspiracy theories, clues that lead to nothing, unexplained and admittedly suspicious witness deaths, it’s all here and it all makes for one damn good mystery film.

-Nate Hill

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“Roadblocks won’t stop somethin’ that can’t be stopped.” : Remembering The Wraith with Mike Marvin by Kent Hill

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The Wraith was like many a glorious find back in the day at my local video store. The cover had a holographic shimmer to it – a strange robot-like character standing in front of some bad-ass, customized car that looked as though it would be more comfortable zipping through the galaxy rather than flying at break-neck speeds along the long stretches and cactus-lined roads of Arizona.

Yes sir, that cover held the promise of sci-fi mysticism combined with heat-thumping vehicular action to rival the Road Warrior.

Oddly enough, Dr. George’s post-apocalyptic action-adventure was the template for Mike Marvin’s Cult Classic. When the man who started out making skiing films came to Hollywood and saw an opportunity to fuse High Plains Drifter with Mad Max 2, one would assume it was a concept any studio would be happy to throw their weight behind.

But, then as now, the movie business can be treacherous, and Marvin’s experiences making The Wraith were far from pleasant. As a matter a fact, they were a nightmare. Plagued by unscrupulous producers, a tragic death while filming – along with all the other perils of production – it is a wonder that this certified 80’s classic ever made to to the screen.

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Lucky for us, however, thanks must go, in no small part, to a string of wonderful performers, a dedicated crew and a talented director at the helm, The Wraith survives as a one of a kind mash-up of genres that has endured and is, for this film writer at least, yet to be equaled.

This interview was conducted before I was able to sample Mike’s great and candid commentary on the Region 1 DVD release of the film. And while some of what he relayed to me you will find on that release, the truly glorious thing that I experienced was to hear these insights, plus a couple that were not covered in that commentary track, first hand from this journeyman warhorse of a film-maker.

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So seek out the The Wraith, those of you who have not yet experienced it. Let this interview, hopefully tantalize your interest to learn more about this incredible film that really was both ahead of its time, a product of its time and most assuredly one of a kind…

Ladies and Gentlemen…Mike Marvin.

 

 

Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River


Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River is one of the most gut wrenching, haunting, stressful experiences one can have watching a film, and I’m only talking about the first ten minutes so far. On a quiet 70’s era Boston afternoon, three young boys play street hockey near their homes. After writing their names in freshly lain concrete sidewalk, a sinister ‘police detective’ (John Dolan, who I can never ever see as anyone but this character, he’s that affecting) hassles them and tries to lure the youngsters away. Two of them are wise to his game and escape. The third does not. This crime spurs a ripple effect into the future for these boys, as we see them grow up into very different and equally troubled men. Jimmy (Sean Penn has never been better) is a small time hustler with anger issues, Sean (Kevin Bacon) a cop with his own demons and Dave (Tim Robbins), the boy who was successfully kidnapped and held all those years ago, is a fractured shell of a human whose damaged soul lashes against the whites of his eyes and prevents him from functioning normally. Malcontent comes full circle to find them once again when Jimmy’s young daughter (lovely Emmy Rossum) is found murdered, setting in motion one of the great tragedies you’ll find in cinema this century or last. Eastwood lets his actors quietly emote until the floodgates open and we see raw despair roil forth from three men who are broken in different ways, and how it affects everyone in their lives. Penn is tuned into something higher here, and I’ll not soon forget him arriving at the scene of his daughter’s murder. Robbins let’s the horror of buried trauma deep through the family man facade until we see the deformed psyche left beneath, while Bacon reigns it in for a performance no less memorable than the others. Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney are excellent as Dave and Jimmy’s wives, while Laurence Fishburne provides the faintest ray of humour as Sean’s partner. This is as much a murder mystery as it is an intense interpersonal drama, but the whole story is ruled by emotion; that burning need for revenge from several angles, the hollow pit of loss left behind when someone dies, the psychological scar tissue that trails in the wake of abuse, everything slowly coming to light as the grim, doom laden narrative unfurls. Tom Stern’s camera probes inlets along the harbour, sprawling neighbourhoods and hidden barrooms, Brian Helgeland expertly adapts the novel from Dennis Lehane and Eastwood himself composes a beautiful lament of a score, while the actors turn in galvanizing work. One of the finest films of the last few decades and not one you’re ever likely to forget, once seen. 

-Nate Hill

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man: A Review by Nate Hill 

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man is one of the most scummy, awful, overblown ridiculous shit masquerading as a movie that I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. It’s also entertaining on a level that suffocates you with unpleasantness and knowing stupidity at every turn. Verhoeven has taken what could have been a fascinating and suspenseful premise and turned it into a one note, bottom feeding genre pile of piss that is pretty hard to sit through. Scientifically inaccurate (not that that matters in this terrain) relentlessly unpleasant, super awkward and an all round disaster, it’s still pretty compelling to witness, like a school bus on fire. It’s a wreck to be sure, but there’s plenty of glee to be found, if you’re feeling masochistic. Kevin Bacon has laid down a path of many asshole characters over the years, but Dr. Sebastian Caine just takes the cake. He’s an egotistical, psycho sexual maniac in charge of an underground research lab, working on a brand new cheeseball formula to make the invisible man. He’s creepy and possessive with his girlfriend  (poor Elizabeth Shue) callous to his lab staff (Josh Brolin included, before his second coming, as well as Kim Dickens) and an all around jerk off. But that’s really nothing compared to what happens when the formula works, effectively turning him invisible, with a few nasty side effects. He goes from a nasty dude to an all out monster as he starts to arbitrarily prey and perv out on his co workers in their underground bunker, going full on Lon Chaney with a side of Ted Bundy in a grating performance that is a career sinkhole for Bacon. I read Ebert give golden praise to the special effects in a scene where he teansforms from visible to invisible, but i have no idea what he was smoking that day because they are an abysmal effort. Verhoeven always has a sort of knowing layer of hedonism blanketing his work, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Hey, at least there’s a cameo from the always welcome William Devane! The rest is just a vomitorium. There’s a sequel floating around out there with Christian Slater, I’m curious but have never have come across a copy. 

Balto: A Review by Nate Hill 

Anyone remember Balto? I remember Balto. Pepperidge Farm remembers Balto too. How can you not, when it was one of the most charming, beautifully done non Disney animation films we saw as kids. I think the fact that it was not made by Disney threw it into obscurity a bit, but there’s the odd copy floating around out there in the Arctic snow. It’s an underdog story (built in pun there eh) about half husky, half wolf Balto (Kevin Bacon having a blast) who hangs around Nome, Alaska and is ridiculed by the local sled dogs for being a mudblood. Every dog has his day though, and Balto gets his when a deadly epidemic breaks out in town during a storm, and he courageously volunteers to make the perilous journey to a far away outpost that has the required medicine. Joining him are his lovable goofy goose friend Boris (Bob Hoskins trading in his jovial cockney accent for a jovial russian accent), ant two adorable polar bears called Muk and Luk. Watching out for him is the only purebred dog in town who cares about him, Jenna the husky (Bridget Fonda), determind to muster a rescue party when he gets in over his head. Balto must brave raging blizzards, treacherous fellow sled dogs and the world’s biggest grizzly bear (seriously that thing is like 15 feet tall) to save the town’s population, and he does it all with bravery, charisma and a winning attitude that’s essential in any animated film. His sidekicks are endearing, his efforts intrepid and the film a winner. 

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. 

Stir Of Echoes: A Review by Nate Hill 

Stir Of Echoes is not outright horror, not plain old thriller but rests somewhere in between, a nerve frying festival of suspense and the type of scares which send those lovely shivers down your spine. Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky, an ordinary dude who agrees to be hypnotized, just for funsies, by his sister in law (Illeanna Douglas). As soon as he’s under, he’s subjected to a terrifying and confusion vision that suggests violent torment. It turns out that he’s one of the fabled ‘one percent’ of humans who are so succeptible to hypnotism that they unwittingly soak up other psychic energies in their vicinity. Something, or someone from the other side has found him and latched on, which is bad news for him and us, as we get to sit through several sequences that will cause you to need new pants. The initial vision is nothing outright or discernable; just images and abstract impressions that eventually serve as clues. That’s what makes it so creepy though. Someone being murdered is someone being murdered, but specific, harrowing little glimpses unnerve us all the more in their fleeting nature. Reminds me of that infamous videotape from The Ring in it’s style. Tom finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery, never sure whether the forces guiding him are on his side or pose a threat, always hit with a sense of dread upon turning every corner. This is the only kind of horror that actually scares me, in the true sense of the concept. Creeping, uneasy and subtle, where anything could be haunted and the scares aren’t predictable. What’s more,  it’s a smartly written, tightly paced, remarkably well made film. One of the best paranormal thrillers out there, plain and simple. There’s a sequel with Rob Lowe (of all people lol), but I’ve avoided it thus far, it looks kind of cheap. Stick with this original fright fest, it holds up wonderfully.