Tag Archives: Maria Bello

David Koepp’s Secret Window

David Koepp’s Secret Window is a terrific little psychological chiller, with just the right doses of fright and camp. Based on a Stephen King short, it’s got everything you’d want in a little vignette from the master: secluded wilderness setting, paranoia, whacked out protagonist, cerebral mind games wrapped in a classically meta package, the story being about a writer itself. The problem with the film is that it has a twist, and in this day and age after the loss of cinema’s innocence, everyone and their mother has seen a film with some variation of the revelation that Window has to offer. But this is not the film’s problem, really, because it hails from a simpler time back in the late 90’s, early 00’s, when twists like that were still somewhat new. The Sixth Sense hype had barely died down, the new age of psychological horror hadn’t yet dawned and stuff like this seemed really fresh. This one is terrific on its terms though, and has a certifiably loony central performance from Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey, a depressed nut-job novelist who’s holed himself up in a cabin on a lake to cook up his newest book, but really he’s just there to mope about his wife (Maria Bello) leaving him for the considerably less dreamy Timothy Hutton. His bout of self loathing is interrupted when freaky stranger Shooter (John Turturro) shows up at his door and aggressively accuses him of plagiarism. Turturro plays the guy in a weird Amish getup and with enough menace in his southern drawl to rival his perverse lunatic Jesus from The Big Lebowski. Anywho, after that Depp descends into sketchy paranoia, unsure of what’s real, who’s real, who double-crossed who and who’s trying to get the better of him. Set in rural Maine as per usual, this is classic King and benefits a lot from Depp, who wisely chooses to make his performance fun, engaging and just cartoonish enough where other actors might try to be too realistic or serious. If you watch it these days in the wake of countless other thrillers that have filled the gulf of time between 2004 and now, you might not be all that impressed. Try and retain your sense of wonder in terms of the genre, you may have a blast. I always enjoy this one.

-Nate Hill

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Amazon Studio’s GOLIATH

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Amazon Studios quietly released a new series in October called GOLIATH from creators David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro.  It stars Billy Bob Thornton in his Golden Globe winning turn as Billy McBride.  Thronton is his seminal drunk, lovable loser role but with a twist; he’s a brilliant (defrocked) lawyer.  Thornton reluctantly gets lured into a case against a weapons contractor that is represented by a gigantic law firm that he helped created and no longer is a part of.

The casting of the series is wonderfully rounded out by Maria Bello who is Thornton’s ex-wife, Molly Parker as a cut throat lawyer working for Thornton’s former film, Harold Perrineau as the judge overseeing the case, Dwight Yoakam as the CEO of the weapons contractor Borns Tech, and William Hurt in a beautiful showboat of a performance as Donald Cooperman, Thornton’s former partner.

This show has a very complex structure.  It is equal parts CALIFORNICATION with Thornton in an apathetic daze, where he spends his days drinking and co-parenting his daughter with Bello – yet it is steeped heavily in dark LA noir.  Just when you forget about how transgressive and dangerous the show is while watching Thornton bumble through a scene with his trademark zeal – we get quickly reminded of the dangers of the show by a cut to William Hurt who is always seated in his dark office, face half covered in burn scars, listening as his gaggle of lawyers discuss their best course of action against Thornton, as he answers their questions with a paratrooper signalling clicker.

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The affability of Thornton is starkly contrasted by the overbearing menace of Hurt.  He’s the big bad of series, and his danger and power is very much akin to a Blofeld esque villain of importance and stature.  Hurt’s brilliant performance is a reminder that he hasn’t faded as an actor, but that he is constantly able to turn out remarkable work decade after decade, never allowing himself to disappear as time carries on.

It hasn’t been announced if there will be a second season of GOLIATH, whispers are that the show will not continue; which comes as bittersweet news.  The series wrapped itself up brilliantly, without the finale hinging upon a second season.  Much like HBO’s LUCK or AMC’s LOW WINTER SUN, the series contains and closes its taut narrative within a singular season, yet the characters are so rich and developed with complexity and care that it truly would be a shame to let them go so quickly.  Whatever the fate of GOLIATH may be, it stands tall and even superior to most of Netflix and HBO’s original programming.

GOLIATH is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Assault On Precinct 13: A Review by Nate Hill 

Assault On Precinct 13 is less of a remake of John Carpenter’s balls out, guerilla action treatise and more of a branch off into timeless, near western archetypes, as well as the good old siege thriller format. It’s also one of the meanest, grittiest cop films of the last few decades, deserving a higher rung on the ladder of adoration than it has so far ascended to. Dark, merciless and full of yuletide gallows humour, it’s a searing blast of gunfire and snowbound pulp starring a roster of fired up talent, starting with an intense Ethan Hawke and an unpredictable, predatory Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne is Marion Bishop, a legendary criminal kingpin wrapped tight in police custody and shipped off to a remote precinct on New Years eve with a busload of fellow prisoner transports. The station is run by a few relaxed cops, all preparing to punch that clock and get the New Year’s festivities underway. Unfortunately, a gang of corrupt detectives have other ideas, descending upon the ill guarded outpost with the fury and firepower of animals set loose, determined to murder everyone inside and level the place to the ground in order to cover up their actions. Hawke is the veteran cop with a dodgy undercover past, blessed with the grit and gristle necessary to rally the troupes and self preserve til the morning light. Drea De Matteo, who’s awesome and welcome in anything, is a tough female sergeant, Maria Bello the sharp police psychiatrist caught in the middle, Brian Dennehy the salty old dog, and a laundrey list of rabid felons who pitch in to save their own asses, including Ja Rule, Aisha Hinds, Currie Graham and a wired up John Leguizamo. Together they all make a veritable wild bunch to hold down the fort, but the forces they’re up against are tactical and terrifying. The opposition is headed up by a dangerously quiet Gabriel Byrne as deeply a corrupt Police Captain, doing a coiled viper rendition of a Christopher Walken villain, his work one of the strongest aspects of the film. Watch for Matt Craven and Kim Coates in brief cameos as well. The action is a ballistic blitzkrieg of firefights, standoffs and ditch efforts, scarcely giving the audience time to breathe, let alone tally up the casualties, of which there are many. This ain’t no cakewalk, in terms of action films. It’s down, dirty and has no time for quips, smart mouths or villains that monologue. Everyone involved in a caged animal prepared to go to extremes at the drop of a hat in order to achieve their goals, with kneejerk reactions and off the cuff violence that feels real, and cuts deep. If you are serious about your action films, and enjoy ruthless, non patronizing narratives that get as cold as the snow drifts surrounding the precinct and as casually indifferent as the bullets that ventilate it, this is your ticket.