John Maybury’s The Jacket


The Jacket is a curiosity of a film, and didn’t stand out for many critics when it came out, but for some reason it’s stayed in my thoughts for years since and has become one of my favourites, of any genre. Moody, cold, desolate and sketchy, it’s an at once alienating and life affirming piece that puts you front and centre with the kind of crushing loneliness one must feel when the mind becomes broken, and then wraps us in a comfort blanket with the notion that forces unknown to us, and some not so mysterious (human contact is touched upon), one might extricate themselves to a better situation. Adrien Brody is confusion incarnate as haunted gulf war vet Jack Starks, a gaunt silhouette of a soul who suffered a head wound, the neurological fallout of which has left gaps in his perception of reality and a jagged sense of cohesion. Shipped off to a nightmare of a mental facility run by Kris Kristofferson, whose character almost certainly shouldn’t be left in the care of troubled minds as his idea of treatment consists of pumping patients full of untested pharmaceuticals and shunting them into a morgue drawer. This is where, by unexplained phenomena, Jack is able to bounce forward in time from his drab 1999 timeline over to a slightly less drab 2007, where he meets Jackie (Keira Knightley), a girl who might have ties to his past. The film sounds high concept, almost Sci Fi, but the way it’s composed is anything but. The supernatural elements are shown frankly and never overblown, gilding the psyche of the characters in a more internal, psychological fashion, especially when Brody is in that drawer and all manner of bizarre subconscious phantasms dance before his vision, before he’s whisked off to the future. All the characters but one are listless, withdrawn and somber, from Jennifer Jason Leigh’s sympathetic, forlorn doctor (she’s terrific here) to Kristofferson, who provides grizzle and a welcome depth where other actors would have gone the straight up Dr. Frankenstein cop-out route. Daniel Craig is the one live-wire who breaks the mold, and I enjoy his early career work before he calcified into the stoic 007 template. He’s a treat here as a rambunctious fellow patient and spirit guide to Starks. Appearances from Brad Renfro, Kelly Lynch and Stephen MacKintosh are notable as well. There’s a despondent, bleak blanket over much of the film, a coldness brought through in broad strokes by director John Maybury, whose distinct European approach to filming (multiple extreme closeups, subtle voiceover, trippy experimental effects) helps the mood really soak in. There’s a contrast at work too though, amidst the film’s themes of loneliness and unrest there shines through a deep emotional warmth, a reassuring grasp on the reins from Brody’s character to seize back a life that was taken from him, and wake up from his nightmare, with help from those around him. A willingness to keep going, to change the course of one’s life when it swerves off track, explored quietly, underplayed in harmony with the seeping discomfort hidden in many of the frames. Part Hollywood thriller, romance, art house flick and psychological horror show, there’s just no other film like it. 

-Nate Hill

Eye See You 


You know those films that you just seem to get fixated on and love for no particular reason, like they’re not even that good, you just… really like them? That’s Eye See You for me (known as D-Tox to all you folks across the pond), a heavy handed snowbound horror vehicle for a sedated Sylvester Stallone. It’s silly to the max, thoroughly implausible and perforated with cliches, but for whatever reason I just can’t get over the damn thing. Now, I admittedly have an affinity for the Agatha Christie style murder mysteries, especially ones set in the snow (cue fond memories of Hateful 8 and The Thing), and this one piles on a blizzard of red herrings, multiple shady characters, extremely graphic violence and paranoid unease. Maybe it’s that cast, a platoon of tough guy characters actors backing Sly up in one serious roster of a supporting cast. Old Rocky plays a big city FBI agent who is trying to find a jarringly vicious serial killer that targets law enforcement and has that classic obsession with his pursuer. After his girlfriend (Dina Meyer) falls victim to this beast, Sly unravels and following a suicide attempt, is sent up north by his mentor (Charles S. Dutton) for a little R&R,

and both R’s in that stand for rehab in a special remote facility designed just for cops with issues to work out. The place is run by Krusty Kris Kristofferson, and home to so many recognizable faces one has to give the casting director a tip of the fedora. A disgraced Mountie (Robert Prosky), emotionally fragile ex SWAT commander (Sean Patrick Flanery),

former Scotland Yard (Christopher Fulford), hostile ex narc (Jeffrey Wright with some pretty Harvey Dent facial scars), an insufferable macho asshole (Robert Patrick), ex military (Tom Berenger) who serves as caretaker, sympathetic therapist (Polly Walker) and a seriously creepy Stephen Lang. That’s a whole lot of suspicious characters to pick a killer from, because (you guessed it) the meanie has followed Sly out to the mountains and is posing as a member of their group. It’s a guessing game right up until one severely bloody climax, with ex cops dropping dead all over the place along the way, and Stallone looking more hollow and dishevelled as each body turns up. He’s not in action mode here at all, hell, he’s not even in sorta kinda Cop Land action mode, he’s a broken man trying to heal who’s forced back into shit kicking, and it puts a visible strain on him that the actor handles surprisingly adeptly. The rest do their job terrifically, with Flanery standing out in the scant but affecting screen time he’s given, and Patrick blustering through every scene until you’re just praying for the killer to target him next. There’s downsides galore, mind you, this isn’t well thought out territory, it’s gory genre nirvana and not much else. There’s a level of predictability that could have been avoided by making the identity of the killer a bit less… obvious, for lack of a non spoiling term, but oh well. It’s also just overblown lurid potboiler madness, but what else do you expect from this type of thing? I get exactly what I want out of it: a nice helping of ultra-violent intrigue to tune into on a cozy night, and not much more. In fact, I think I feel a revisit happening this week.

-Nate Hill

Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes


I’m going to catch some heat for this, but I’ve found Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes to be a far better film than any of the three recent versions. I can’t explain it, but there’s something so otherworldly and exotic about the production design, makeup and effects, a true storyteller’s touch used, resulting in a piece with elements of fantasy and world building brought lushly to the forefront, whereas the newer films just felt somewhat clinical and sterile, going through minimalist motions without any real sense of wonder applied. Oh and another thing: real, tactile makeup on actual human actors, which will win against motion capture/cgi any day. There’s also an old world, medieval feel to this planet, as the ‘humans being subservient to apes’ dynamic has already been in full swing for generations, as opposed to a lengthy origin story that takes up most of the newer trilogy. No build up here, just Marky Mark getting marooned on a distant world dominated by simians, fighting his way through their ranks, sort of falling in love with one (Helena Bonham Carter as a monkey=kinky) and attempting to find a way back to earth. There’s various apes of all shapes and sizes at war, the most memorable of which is a sleek, snarling Tim Roth as Thade, a volatile warlord who despises humans. Michael Clarke Duncan towers over everyone as Attar, his cohort and fellow soldier, and seeing already be-jowelled Paul Giamatti as a cumbersome orangutan is priceless. The human faction is led by weathered Kris Kristofferson and his daughter (Estella Warren, quite possibly the most beautiful girl on the planet), leading the dregs of humanity as they exist in hiding and fight for their lives. No expense was spared in filling every frame of this planet with lived-in splendour and atmospheric decoration, from suits of armour and architecture to the overgrown thickets of mountainous vegetation that grow on this world. As for the apes themselves, it’s terrific how real they feel. It’s the same thing that happened with Lord Of The Rings vs. The Hobbit, and the switch from practical Orc effects to the overblown cgi madness of the goblins in the later films. The human eye is inherently adept at deciphering what is real and what is not, and the effects of the later Ape films with Andy Serkis just felt lifeless and orchestrated, whereas here the makeup prosthetics are organic, authentic and wonderful to look at. Don’t even get me started on the ending either, it’s completely brilliant and will leaving you in cold isolation as the credits roll, a perfect gut punch to a film that could have easily turned sappy in the eleventh hour. So that’s my two cents. Bring on the backlash. 

-Nate Hill

PTS Presents CINEMATOGRAPHER’S CORNER with TIM ORR

TIM ORR POWECAST

T.O. - Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland 2009-44 (1)Podcasting Them Softly is extremely proud to present our latest addition to Cinematographer’s Corner — Tim Orr! Tim is one of the busiest guys behind a camera currently working in Hollywood, having amassed 40 credits over the last 15 years. He’s the cinematographer of choice for filmmaker David Gordon Green, having shot all of the versatile director’s films, along with pairing up with a diverse field of directing talent on a wide variety of other projects. Tim has worked on some of our favorite comedies from the last few years, with credits including the instant classic Pineapple Express, Jody Hill’s brilliant Observe and Report, the underrated Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Mike White’s charming black comedy The Year of the Dog. He’s also no stranger to dramas, having shot the gritty Nicolas Cage film Joe, the dreamy Zooey Deschanel romance All the Real Girls, the Terrence Malick produced southern thriller Undertow, and film festival favorite George Washington. TV Credits include HBO’s hilarious Eastbound and Down and he shot the pilot for the upcoming Amazon original comedy Red Oaks, which was executive produced by Steven Soderbergh. In late October, his newest feature film hits the big screen — the highly anticipated Sandra Bullock political comedy Our Brand is Crisis, which was produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. One of his most recent efforts is something we’re super excited to see — Pee Wee’s Big Holiday– which marks the return of Pee Wee Herman — and was produced through Netflix and is set for release in March of 2016. We hope you enjoy this fantastic chat!