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JACK DETH IS BACK . . . AND HE’S NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE: An Interview with Tim Thomerson by Kent Hill

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I was mid-way through my interview with C. Courtney Joyner when Tim Thomerson’s name came up. Joyner of course, had directed Tim in Trancers 3, and cooler still, he had just had him round for breakfast earlier that day. You might call it an imposition, but I mentioned that if there was even a remote possibility that he could put me in touch with Tim, I would be forever grateful. Courtney told me he was seeing Tim again on the weekend and would put forward my proposition. Soon after, I received a message with a phone number.

Now, I’m usually in the habit of arranging an appropriate time and day to call, but Courtney had left it open. I remember for the first time, in a long time, being nervous to make the call. After all this was Tim Thomerson who was going to be picking up the phone; a guy, a legend that I had watched for years. So I summoned my moxy and dialled the number. The familiar international ring-cycle began and then . . . “Thomerson,” the voice on the other end of the line said.

I’m going to come off as an idiot here, but I.D.G.A.R.A. “Damn,” I remember thinking. “He sounds exactly like he does in the movies.” Stupid, I’m well aware. But the moment was profound, and I was instantly transported to that time when I sat in the theatre watching Metalstorm, and that glorious afternoon I first sat down to watch Future Cop (aka Trancers). Here was Jack Deth now, on the end of the line and talking to me like we had been buddies since forever.

I did kinda wish we could have jumped into our chat right there. Tim was at once disarming, candid and as cool as i had expected him to be. He was off to his retreat in the desert to do “old man shit” as he put it, and, while I realize he is an aged gentleman now, that voice, the larger than life character that he is still packed all of the vitality, swagger and youthful exuberance that very much belies his years.

I didn’t have to wait long before we would talk again, and when we did, the conversation picked up right where it left off. I would take a significant amount of time to go through the length and breadth of his career, so I restricted myself to personal favourites among his credits. We talked about his beginnings, his great friendships, his bumping into Mel Gibson at the doctor’s office, him working with his idols, Australian Cinema and his meeting with the legend that was Sam Peckinpah.

For those of you who regularly check out my stuff here on the site (God bless you), I fear I might be starting to sound like a cracked record. A number of times in the past I have found myself gushing about the opportunities I have enjoyed whilst writing for PTS, and how humbled and indeed awe-struck I have been as a result of these encounters with the folks who make the movies. Sadly I’m now going to do it again. Tim Thomerson is a hero of mine and it was at once spellbinding and an indescribable treasure to have had the chance to shoot the breeze with an actor I have long held in high regard . . .

. . . and an equal pleasure it is, to now share it with you.

Enjoy.

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Brian Taylor’s Mom & Dad

I read an article a while back saying that at the premiere of Brian Taylor’s Mom & Dad, the director attended the screening and prefaced it by saying that his film has “mental problems.” Well… he wasn’t wrong. Taylor is one half of the Neveldine/Taylor genre filmmaking team, a blitzkrieg duo responsible for both of the Crank movies, plus Gamer, and if you’ve seen any of those you’ll have an idea of the way their sense of humour slants towards the bizarre. With this one it kind of trundles headlong into willfully fucked up territory though, and before you know what’s happened, it’s scant 86 minute runtime is up and you’re left there in the dust, feeling somewhat violated. The concept is blunt and visceral: everywhere, all at once, the nurturing instinct in parents is savagely reversed and they immediately start to murder their own children. Only their children, mind you, and with a disturbing lucidity that I couldn’t decide whether to laugh at or get spine chills from. An amped up Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play your average upper middle class parental unit, and the film mainly focuses on their eventual snap, and a subsequent tooth & nail fight to snuff out their poor son and daughter (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur). That’s pretty much the film, although for such a seemingly simple concept within a short piece it somehow manages still clearly articulate its narrative amidst the ruckus and even comment on something deeper than it’s 70’s Midnite Movie veneer initially suggests. Cage treats this as the ultimate midlife crisis, and indeed his acting these days is more gonzo than ever. He’s got a mental breakdown midway through the film and before the killer epidemic even breaks out that is so over the top it reaches a kind of feverish harmony, not to mention appearing scarily un-faked on the actor’s part. Though quick and fierce, the film could have still tightened the pace a bit in the opener and extended the super violent, Home Alone-esque second act a smidge, but oh well. Watching Cage and Blair overact to the heavens as they try and kill their own kids with every household item they can grab including a meat tenderizing hammer (ouch) and a Sawzall (“Sawzall… saws…. all…”) hits some blissfully transcendent notes, if you have the twisted mind to stomach it. There’s a scene that will test boundaries though and walks a fine line between crazy and flat out uncalled for (one of my friends walked out of the room in disgust), but hey, that’s the kind of stuff this director is known for, so try and roll with it. Things get really bizarre when Cage’s own parents show up to add to the cluster-fuck, his demonic veteran daddy personified briefly and perfectly by a ferocious Lance Henriksen. Accompanied by a sketchy, warped and nerve-shredding score and some off kilter editing, this will either be your thing or it won’t, there’s just no middle-ground in an arena this fucked up. Good luck.

-Nate Hill

Anyone you can catch, kill and eat: Remembering No Escape with Michael Gaylin by Kent Hill

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Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of Aliens and The Terminator, headed the charge back in the early 90s toward the adaptation of a book written by Richard Herley titled, The Penal Colony.

Set in 1997, it tells the story of how the British Government runs island prison colonies as a means to stem the tide of an overflow in mainland jails. There are no guards, no cells, and the island is monitored via satellite surveillance.

We follow the  a character named Anthony Routledge, who is brought to the island for a sex-crime that he did not commit. He soon discovers that under the guidance of a charismatic leader, a community on the island has evolved.

Now if that’s not the ideal film to make here in Australia, (if your are aware that it is pretty much how our nation began) then I don’t know what is. The production would hire future Bond director Martin Campbell, along with stars Ray Liotta, Lance Henriksen, Stuart Wilson and Ernie Hudson.

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Then a screenwriter named Michael Gaylin, a man who had slaved away in obscurity in Hollywood for more than a decade, would come into contact with a colleague of Hurd’s. He went for a meeting and, finally, after a career of false starts and forgotten promises, he was going to be writing on a film that would eventually, make it to the big screen.

After a long wait, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Michael about his career and his experiences during the making of No Escape or Escape from Absolom (as it was released over here). What I discovered, during our conversation, was not merely an insight into a film I heartily enjoy, but also the story of a resilient writer who finally had one script break through. A real life story very much akin to the journey of the hero of the film; who would take on all conflicts and eventually overcome them . . .  and escape.

It is a great film in the grand tradition of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Michael Gaylin.

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B Movie Glory: Necessary Evil

There’s always those B Movies that seemed to be sewn together out of bits of other scripts and produced solely so SyFy or Space has something, anything to fill up their 3am Saturday time slot. It’s like production team grabbed discarded narratives from all kinds of genre flicks, shoved them in a magic bullet, but purée and served up whatever the result is to the distributor. Now, this can often be a terrible idea resulting in boring mish-mash horror flicks that make little sense, or they can oddly kind of work in their own absurd way. Necessary Evil… kind of works, kind of doesn’t, there’s definitely something splattered on the canvas with it’s narrative, what it is though, I’m not even sure the filmmakers had an idea. It’s part Lovecraftian horror, part psychological something, part social satire and all schlock, but these themes bleed into each other until even the most attentive viewer will have not much of a clue what they’re watching. Best I can describe it: a super sinister doctor named Fibrian (Lance Henriksen) runs a shadowy psychiatric ward. There’s all kinds of rumours about illegal testing, dodgy pharmaceuticals, mass mind control and occult ties, none of which is ever made clear or disproved. However, when you have Lance playing your asylum director, you can almost be sure the place is up to something it shouldn’t be, he just has that cavalier maliciousness that he always switches on for these types of parts. A police detective and a reporter are onto him, and do theor best to infiltrate the facility, but his powers have already spread to the city outside, causing people to act strange and… well, a bunch of other weird shit. Danny Trejo has an amusingly hostile extended cameo as some vague operative working for Fibrian, and yada yada. It earns points for sheer WTF-ness though, it’s like every day on set they picked one crew member to add the craziest thing they could think of to the script and just ran with that (which would be a cool free association method of improvisational filmmaking, now that I think about it. They outdo themselves in a hilarious, out of left field cliffhanger ending that gets pretty cosmic and out there, adding a straight up supernatural element that cements the demented vibe they’ve strived for with the whole thing. A true oddball.

-Nate Hill

James Cameron’s Aliens 


Each of the four Alien films has their own distinct and noticeable personalities. Ridley Scott’s original creeping horror show is a tense, streamlined, gracefully vicious film that slinks along at its own pace, not unlike the resident feline Jonesy who wondered about on the spaceship Nostromo back then. If Alien has the qualities of a cat, James Cameron’s Aliens has those of a rambunctious puppy dog, a rip snortin, go get em action backyard barbecue knockout that runs up and gives the audience a big wet slimy kiss. All animal metaphors aside (I’m running out of oh-so-clever ways to open my reviews, ok? Been at this shit for two years now), Cameron’s film is an undisputed classic, still jaw dropping to this day, even after what feels like hundreds of viewings, nostalgic yet fresh in different ways every time, and simply one of the best films ever made. It’s the gold standard for creature feature sci fi too, and while many argue whether or not it in fact outdid Scott’s original white knuckler, I can’t bring myself to be petty and pick favourites out of the quadrilogy, I love them all for a whole bunch of reasons. Aliens picks up quite a while after the catastrophic events of the first, with Ripley floating around in that cryo-pod for way too long, until she happens to cruise past earth, crossing the vision of the Weyland/Yutani corporation once again. Because they always make astute, well thought out choices, they decide to send a research team, accompanied by a very reluctant Ripley and a group of hoo-rah, bull in a China shop colonial marines to far off industrial exomoon LV-426, where they have lost communication with the settlers. After a brief, clammy build up, all hell breaks loose, and we get to see the full impressive extent of Cameron’s skill as a visual storyteller, as well as the oh-so-gooey, inspire practical effects work that brings those gorgeous Xenomorph beauties to snarling life. The cast is the epitome of badass, as we are constantly reminded of by Bill Paxton’s Hudson, the film’s resident squirrel who gets hilariously skittish when things get dicey (“game over, man!” Will never not out a big, Paxton sized grin on my face), but who heroically holds his own once he gets his sillies out. The other side of that coin is Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn, never slicker), cool as ice, shaken by nothing, including an atmosphere entry landing that would make Alfonso Cuaron pee himself, but doesn’t come close to disturbing Hick’s afternoon nap. Every Alien team must have an artificial human, some of which are trustworthy, and some not. Lance Henriksen’s Bishop is as solid as they come, never losing his head (despite being reduced to a puddle of spilt dairy product) and sticking by Ripley’s side until the bitter, hectic end. Ripley herself is a little older, a little wiser and a lot tougher, her intensity calcified into grit after losing her daughter, and given somewhat of a surrogate in the form of Newt (Carrie Henn) an orphaned child who has survived months living like a rodent in the air ducts. “They mostly come at night… mostly” she eerily warns Ripley. Oh boy, do they ever. LV-426 is positively teeming with them, and they show up to provide speaker shattering, pixel scattering action like only Cameron can do. The facehugger in the room sequence is still one of the most terrifying sequences in any film, and serves to make you hate Weyland weasel Burke (Paul Reiser) with that deep loathing reserved for the scummiest traitors in film. The final thirty minutes of the film are a showcase of action cinema, and it’s amazing to think they pulled off the Queen fight without any cgi back then, a slam-bang marvel of a climax that fires on a thousand cylinders, and to this day has never been topped. That goes for the film too. It’s *the* action sci-fi film, and as close to perfection as you can get.  
-Nate Hill

Indie Gems with Nate: Phantom

The submarine film seems to have died off a little bit since semi recent entries like Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19 and Tony Scott’s Crimson Tide, which is why it’s nice to see an effort like Phantom come along. Spare, streamlined and straight to the point, it chronicles the fate of a Soviet submarine crew tasked with transporting a deadly nuclear missile during the Cold War, and the dangerous KGB stowaway who will stop at nothing to gain control of the ship and hijack the warhead. Now, this is one of those films set in Russia but with an all American, English speaking cast, so as long as you can get past that without whining, you’ll enjoy it. What a cast it is though!! Ed Harris brings grizzled nobility to the role of the captain, handpicked for this mission by unseen forces who know of his disgraced past and are betting on him to fail. David Duchovny has always had a bit of slimy, subversive danger to his aura, and he’s in full blown wrecking ball mode as the ruthless rogue agent bent on seizing the vessel and no doubt causing all kinds of global problems in the process. William Fichtner is a supporting standout (when is he not?) as Harris’s resilient second in command, and the crew is populated recognizable faces including Jason Beghe, Jonathan Schaech, Dagmara Dominzyck, Kip Pardee and Sean Patrick Flanery. Throw in an intense cameo from Lance Henriksen and you’ve got one hell of a lineup of heavy hitters onscreen. The intrigue is somewhat cloaked, and the mutiny goes both ways, accented by plenty of palm sweating scenes of suspense, a mandatory staple in any submarine film. Lower budget, yes, but centered on story and character as opposed to action, and notable for a surprisingly esoteric end sequence that I did not expect. Recommended.  

Broken Lizard’s The Slammin Salmon: A Review by Nate Hill 

The hype surrounding comedy troupe Broken Lizard quieted down somewhat after the hullabaloo of both Super Troopers and Beerfest, but that didn’t mean they halted their output. In 2009 they released the insanely funny screwball romp The Slammin Salmon, which nobody seems to have seen and garnered nowhere near as much buzz as their previous films. It’s just as much of a riot, this time landing the gang into a Miami seafood restaurant, after their jaunts in rural law enforcement and extreme competitive alcohol consumption. The restaurant they all ‘work’ at is owned by a hulking bull in a china shop named Cleon ‘Slammin’ Salmon, a gigantic ex pro boxer played by the late great Michael Clarke Duncan in one of his last, and best, appearances. Cleon runs the restaurant with an obnoxious iron fist, a giant petulant brat with a penchant for beating up his staff and the social skills of a grizzly bear. On a busy night he announces to his staff that they must sell enough deceased marine life on plates to come up with a ten grand debt he owes to the Asian mob. This sets off a chain of reliably hilarious shenanigans involving the whole Broken Lizard crew, and a few cameos from salty hollywood veterans, a welcome trend that is commonplace among their films. The pushover manager Rich (Kevin Hefferman) attempts to keep the order. The lunatic head chef (Paul Soter) and his dimbulb busboy brother (also Soter) create trouble for everyone. Douchey waiter Guy (Eric Stolhanske) plays dirty to boost his sales. Ditzy server Mia (April Bowlby) dolls up her smile and smart one Tara (Cobie Smulders) plays it crafty to get ahead. Funniest by far is Jay Chandrasekhar as Nuts, a weirdo whose alter ego Zongo makes insane appearances whenever he forgets to take his meds. Clarke Duncan is the bellowing life of the party though, in an untethered romp through the comedic corn that clearly has been improvised a lot and shows the actor having some of the most fun I’ve ever seen onscreen. It’s a chaotic flick that captures the mania of restaurant life perfectly, with nods to everything from Monty Python to Blake Edward’s The Party, while still retaining a contemporary personality of it’s own. Broken Lizard has a knack for making every joke land in their films, and it’s laugh city all the way through this one. From engagement rings in fecal matter, third degree burns from scalding soup, endless situational fisacos and satirical characters, it’s just wild. Watch for Lance Henriksen, Carla Gallo, Olivia Munn, Jim Gaffigan, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Morgan Fairchild, Vivica A. Fox as a pop star named Nutella (lol) and a priceless Will Forte. On par with Troopers and Beerfest, funny in spades and so damn re-watchable. An essential for comedy fans.