THE P.T. ANDERSON FILES: BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

It’s a strange thing to consider but for all of the power that sex wields to start wars, topple the powerful, and put people into financial or personal ruin, the porn industry is small time. That’s not to say that the porn business doesn’t make boatloads of cash. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I mean, if one really wants to believe that the only things subsidizing the porn industry are the spending habits of amoral perverts, that person may want to try and show their math on that assertion if only to sooner realize that there just aren’t that many degenerates wandering the earth. In other words, a whole lot of people you encounter at work, in the streets, and (gasp) at church have at least dipped a toe or, more likely, engaged in a full baptism into one of the four corners in the pool of the sex industry. But yet, for all of the dough the films generate, there are precious few hardcore actors or directors that have been able to transcend the hermetic shell of the adult film world either in name or deed. For every John Holmes, Ron Jeremy, or Sasha Grey, there are a thousand others whose stopover into the world of porn occurs because it’s a place that, if they can’t build a legacy, they can definitely make a buck.

It is because of this that, despite actually working at a General Cinemas theater at the time, I’m unsure as to what went through the public’s mind when they saw the expertly cut and energetic trailers for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights prior to its release in the summer of 1997. Here was a film that was going to be playing in the multiplexes and malls across America that would, in seemingly frank terms, follow the story of an ersatz John Holmes as he navigated the literal ups and downs in the pornographic film industry in the 1970’s and 80’s. Would America be able to reckon with its very real attachment to pornography to feel comfortable enough to go and see it and give it the respect it deserved or would the film flop given the culture’s mind-bogglingly puritanical attitude towards THIS KIND OF SEX™️? If there is anything to challenge the accepted notion that sex sells, it’s to invite people to sit through two-and-a-half hours of it.

But Boogie Nights was a hit and, surprisingly, a quite sizable one. Anchored in the front by a dynamite and keenly sensitive central performance from a then-risky Mark Wahlberg and, in the back, by a jaw-dropping return to form by Burt Reynolds with incredible, fearless performances by Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (among others) between them, Boogie Nights was received as a rollicking, exhilarating American epic that was an intoxicating mix of Scorsese-like rhythms and editing being navigated by Demme/Ashby-like heart across an Altman-like canvas; the most joyous piece of pop filmmaking since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction three years earlier.

Boogie Nights appeared at just the right time in America to make the splash that it did. The years of peace and economic expansion under the Clinton administration turned the 90’s into a freewheeling party which saw the birth of the internet and, also, a certain lax in our social mores as latchkey kids from the 70’s who grew up sneaking peeks at their parents’ poorly hidden porn stashes rolled into their twenties with a more permissive, NBD attitude towards Boogie Nights’s subject matter. All of the moments within the film that focused on the hilariously crude approach to adult filmmaking (and its spot-on recreations of the final product) were met with the appropriately knowing chuckles of an audience that couldn’t do anything but acknowledge that they understood exactly what they were looking at and, in the words of Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye, it was (at long last) ok with them. And it was the good fortune of everyone cast in the film that the worm of American culture had somewhat turned as Boogie Nights is a virtual “who’s who” of talent that was just beginning to crest a professional summit out of indie-world and the film’s success would propel almost every single one of them to mainstream fame.

One of the things that has continued to work in Boogie Nights’s favor almost a quarter century later is its anticipation of the succeeding generation’s devotion to 100% acceptance and the encouragement of full positivity among its peers. To this end, Anderson doesn’t excuse his characters’ flaws but is ultimately sympathetic to all of them (save and except Diggler’s mother, Joanna Gleason in a ferociously monstrous performance). The characters are small time but, almost presciently, exist in a world of total support and encouragement; one in which, from the point of view of those on the ground in the actual time and place, seemed like more of a legitimate enterprise than, say, selling blowjobs on Hollywood Boulevard for a hot meal and/or somewhere to sleep. So maybe it’s technically incorrect (and borderline irresponsible) for Julianne Moore’s mother-surrogate, Amber Waves, to fawn over Wahlberg’s decidedly not-very-talented (but massively endowed) Dirk Diggler as “so fucking talented,” but is it really worse than how his actual mother treats him in the neatly trimmed “normal” world of Torrance? Sure, Jessie St. Vincent’s (Melora Walters) paintings are uniquely awful but, really, are they any more subpar than some of the tacky prints that adorned the walls of suburbia at the same time? Are those adult award shows any more moronic and stupidly self-congratulatory than the Oscars? Certainly, the ephemeral static attached to the porn industry doesn’t make it look like the most positive environment to some people who live nine-to-five existences but, as the film makes crystal clear, the need-driven support structure within it is mighty alluring for the socially outcast, the marginalized, and the abused.

And Boogie Nights was never going to be a movie that reveled in its orgiastic pleasures for its own sake. Much like Goodfellas, there is a real “set ‘em up and knock ‘em down” formula to the film’s structure. The film’s first half looks like a total blast of wanton abandon; an effervescent celebration of the largesse of the sexual revolution replete with a pulsating soundtrack and the promise of a perpetual California sunset. As an audience member, you WANT to be there, even if you’re just hanging out in a lounge chair poolside while drinking a margarita while everything else swirls around you. But, sweet Christ, brutal is the comedown that occurs in the second half of the film when the organic pleasures of the 70’s are replaced with the synthetic coke high of the 80’s. A nonstop stack of nightmares including a murder-suicide, crippling addiction, accompanying sexual dysfunction, mounting legal challenges, the cold yet practical move from film to video, and violent moments of terrifying, rock-bottom sobriety show that Boogie Nights is just as eager to argue the downslope as convincingly as it does the ascension, though without any kind of sanctimony in regards to its characters’ plights.

But as much as Robert Altman utilized the titular city to examine America as a whole in 1975’s Nashville, Anderson is using the porn industry in the bracketed time frame to explore the fluid boundaries of family much like he did in Hard Eight the year before and he would in Magnolia two years later. And, to be sure, the world of Boogie Nights remains his best Petri dish in which to study this dynamic as the film’s libertine atmosphere mixes with its members’ outcast and discarded statuses which create disarmingly moving and powerful moments throughout the film, most especially those involving any combination of Wahlberg, Reynolds, and/or Moore.

And so it is that Boogie Nights endures not just because it’s a naughtily hilarious and dramatically satisfying film, well-remembered by Gen-Xers who pine for the sun-kissed days of the mid-90’s. It endures due to the fact that it was written and directed by a guy not yet twenty eight who could resist the easy temptation of sniggering at its subject matter in favor of focusing on the longer view that included poignancy, care, and familial love shared among its characters, ensuring that it would continue to pay dividends to its audience well into the future.

Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter

I’ve always loved the absolute hell out of Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter, a mean, violent, very broad and totally enjoyable action flick with a western flavour woven in and some jaw dropping set pieces along the way. The story is like, beyond over the top, Mark Wahlberg is a near invincible force of nature, the villains are so intense they feel like they’ve walked out of a Walter Hill flick and the overall tone is just this side of tongue in cheek territory while still feeling like a legitimate thriller. Marky Mark plays an ex marine sniping guru who lives alone in the Canadian wilderness with his doggo until he’s lured back to Vancouver by his conniving former boss (Danny Glover) for a high profile political assassination. Basically blackmailed into it, he finds himself set up by his own people to take the fall for the job, betrayed, left for dead, the works. Also, as we observed in John Wick, don’t kill the dog of someone who can take out literal armies of goons and will come gunning for you and everyone in your employ. On the run he’s assisted by a rookie cop (Michael Pena) who intuits his innocence and the girlfriend (a smokin hot Kate Mara) of a former army buddy who he seeks shelter with. The villains here are truly spectacular and I must spend a portion of my review on them: Glover is so arch and evil he literally gets to say “I win, you lose” *twice* and he somehow pulls off a ridiculous line like that just because he’s Danny Glover and he’s smirking like he knows damn well what kind of script he’s waded into. His top lieutenant is a despicable, sadistic piece of work played by the great Elias Koteas in high style, all leering stubble, violent urges towards Mara and creepy charisma in spades. They all work for the the most evil US Senator in the country, a tubby, southern fried, amoral, genocidal maniac Colonel Sanders wannabe played by Ned Beatty, who doesn’t just chew the scenery, but strangles it with his bare hands while he’s at it. The cast is off the hook and also includes Tate Donovan, Mackenzie Grey, Rhona Mitra, Lane Garrison, Rade Serbedzija and a cameo from The Band’s Levon Helm. They just don’t make actioners like this anymore and even for 2007 this felt like a dying breed. Classic, melodramatic, hyper violent, neo-western revenge stuff that was huge in the 80’s and 90’s and I miss greatly. There’s a brilliant exchange of dialogue where Beatty and Glover marvel in desperation at Wahlberg’s refusal to back down or stop hunting them. “I don’t think you understand,” he growls at them: “You killed my dog.” It’s a great line sold 100% by Wahlberg and the film is full of spot on moments like that as well as visually breathtaking action sequences (that mountaintop standoff tho), a playful yet deadly tone and villains that would be at home in the Looney Toons. Great film.

-Nate Hill

PSYCHO IN THE WATER BY KENT HILL

Rolfe Kanefsky is back at it again, impressing the hell outta me by doing so much on a budget. This time there’s no possessed paintings that help plug you in to the terror. No dear readers….if there is a pool in your backyard…YOU…COULD…BE….NEXT!

In this engrossing hybrid, Kanefsky takes elements of FEAR (1996), PACIFIC HEIGHTS and Hitchcock’s PSYCHO and fuses them into this impressive debt of one, Tanner Zagarino. Yes, Zagarino. Readers out there familiar with the SHADOWCHASER movies will thrill to learn Tanner is the son of the man, the legend, Frank Zagarino. And, let me tell you, I can’t wait to see this young fella progress. He goes from Prince Charming to Norman Bates in the batting of an eyelash, and there are moments when Tanner’s character is at his silently starring at you from distance best. Those are the same menacing eyes I see in his father watching SHADOWCHASER and it was a shiver up my spine kinda time.

The strong female lead of the movie, Jessica Morris, is so dependable and I love her work under Kanefsky’s direction. It was a thrill at last to catch up with Sarah French, who gets to be that all-important first victim. The cast is rounded out with solid performances, and Rolfe is good at building tension and anticipation of the moment; the reason I feel he is a luminous presence and original voice in this genre he seems to command.

Pool Boy Nightmare is a sexy suspense thriller about Gale (Jessica Morris, Art of the Dead) a divorced woman and her 18 year old daughter, Becca (Ellie-Darcey Alden, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) who have just moved into a new home that comes with a beautiful pool in the back yard. Gale hires Adam (Tanner Zagarino, son of action star Frank Zagarino, in his film debut), a local pool boy who used to work for the previous owner, Rhonda (Sarah French, Automation) who died in a “freak drowning” accident. Turns out that Adam has a thing for older women and has a fling with Gale. Knowing she made a mistake, Gale ends the affair quickly but Adam is a very determined young man. He starts dating Becca, Gale’s daughter, to make Gale jealous. As the twisted love triangle heats up, danger also mounts since Adam will do just about anything to get the woman he wants! As Jackie, Becca’s best friend (Cynthia Aileen Strahan, Art of the Dead) and Gale’s ex-husband, Tony (Clark Moore, Stumptown) soon discover, Adam is not only obsessed but very dangerous! In the end, nobody is safe from this POOL BOY NIGHTMARE!

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:

Although Rolfe Kanefsky has been writing and directing movies for over thirty years in multiple genres, this is the first time he has both written and directed a Lifetime thriller with POOL BOY NIGHTMARE. Rolfe has worked in the Lifetime world for years, having authored the productions of “WATCH YOUR BACK” aka “KILLER PHOTO” starring AnnaLynne McCord, “DEADLY SORORITY” with Greer Grammar and Moira Kelly, as well as “STALKED BY MY PATIENT”, “DEADLY VOWS” and “THE WRONG BABYSITTER” starring Daphne Zuniga.

Being a big fan of classic television thrillers from the ’70s and ’80s, Rolfe saw this as an opportunity to embrace the feel that Steven Spielberg created with his first television movies like “DUEL” and “SOMETHING EVIL” as well as Dan Curtis’ classics “THE NIGHT STRANGLER”, “TRILOGY OF TERROR” and “DEAD OF NIGHT”.

“I wanted to make something sexy and suspenseful that still fit in the Lifetime mode but created some visual tension and a little more style that is currently found in today’s television thrillers. Although we didn’t have a lot of time or money, I was determined to shoot this as a real theatrical movie. Getting my DP, Michale Su, who has shot my last two flicks, “ART OF THE DEAD” and “BUS PARTY TO HELL” was a great help and we pulled off some great moments of tension and action. I was also able to pull together a great cast. I wrote the script with Jessica Morris is mind to play Gale. Having recently worked with her in ART OF THE DEAD and her track record with these kind of thrillers, she was perfect and glorious in this role. I was also able to get Cynthia Aileen Strahan and Sarah French into the cast. They were also recently in my ART OF THE DEAD flick and fantastic as always. I was excited to discover two overall newcomers. Ellie-Darcey Alden sent in an audition tape which impressed me. When she came in for a callback, I was even more impressed to find out that she was British, having done a flawless American accent. Ellie had a small part in one of the Harry Potter movies when she was very young. I knew she and Jessica, playing mother and daughter, would really capture the dramatic moments of the piece and their scenes together are some of the highlights, elevating the acting that is usually found in these kind of movies.”

“And then there’s the “pool boy” himself. In his first acting job ever, Tanner Zagarino landed the role of Adam, the dangerously sexy villain. The funny thing about this casting is that I immediately recognized Tanner’s last name, Zagarino because years ago, I had worked with an actor named Frank Zagarino who made a lot of B action and sci-fi films back in the day. I had written an action thriller script called “SHATTERED LIES” that starred Frank Zagarino and his wife, Elizabeth Giordano. They also produced the film and happen to be the father and mother of Tanner. I think Tanner was like 3 or 4 years old at the time. So, cut to 17 years later and I’m directing their son in his first motion picture. It’s a small world.”

Now I present my chats with wonderful and beautiful Sarah French, and the talented breakout Tanner Zagarino….

TANNER ZAGARINO

SARAH FRENCH

POOL BOY NIGHTMARE premieres on The Lifetime Channel on Labor Day, Monday, September 7th at 8:00 pm as part of their “End Of The Summer Marathon”. It plays again later that night and the following Sunday, September 13th at 7:00 pm and throughout the month. Check your local listings for showtimes and airings. Visit MyLifetime.

Adam McKay’s The Other Guys

I don’t know what it is about Adam McKay’s The Other Guys but it’s one of those comedies I’ve seen literally over fifty times and it’s never not funny, in fact it gets even more fucking hilarious with each new viewing. It’s essentially a sendup of the buddy cop genre starring a perpetually cranky Mark Wahlberg and a half mad Will Ferrell, but it’s also so much more than that in ways you don’t initially see coming. I think it’s the lack of script and encouragement from everyone involved to rely on loopy improvisation that works so well for me here.. it’s like for every scene they tossed away all the scripted takes, kept all the ‘end of the shooting day giggles’ material and deranged bloopers and just loaded that shit up into the final cut, which is a stroke of mad scientist genius. Wahlberg and Ferrell are Allen and Terry, two hapless NYPD detectives constantly living under the shadow of a couple hotshot alpha badasses played briefly by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson until.. well let’s just say they get their moment to shine, as Ice-T dryly narrates the action when he feels the need to pipe in. They get involved in an impossibly intricate conspiracy involving diamond heists, a corrupt hedge fund guru (Steve Coogan almost walks off with the film), an Aussie private security prick (Ray Stevenson, priceless), the power-ball lottery and so much convolution that it’s taken me this many viewings to get that yes, it indeed does have a plot that makes sense when you work it all out but that’s besides the point anyways. It’s almost like Naked Gun level shenanigans where it doesn’t quite take place in the real world but an almost surreal comedic version of it. Just beholding Allen and Terry play ‘Bad Cop Bad Cop,’ get their car hijacked by a coven of perverted homeless dudes called ‘Dirty Mike & The Boys,’ recount Allen’s life as a college pimp, the precinct goons convincing Allen to do a ‘Desk Pop’ and so much more is enough to realize that you’re not in Buddy Comedy Kansas anymore and you’re gonna see some shit that defies genre expectations. I love when Steve Coogan is like “I’ll give you each a million dollars to let me go, and it’s not a bribe.” Ferrell retorts: “Of course it’s a bribe, you’re offering us money to not do our jobs”. Coogan looks him dead in the eye and sincerely reiterates: “It’s not a bribe.” Fucking gets me every time man. The cast is peppered with so many effective oddball performances I couldn’t mention them all here but be on the lookout for Eva Mandes, Rob Riggle, Josef Sommer, Brett Gelman, Derek Jeter, Damon Wayans, Bobby Cannavale, Anne Heche, Andy Buckley, Natalie Zea, Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez and more. Best of all has to be Michael Keaton as their police captain, a loopy fellow who also works at Bed, Bath & Beyond for some reason and quotes TLC songs multiple times throughout the film but pretends he has no idea who they are, it’s a brilliant bit of knowingly subtle supporting work that also gets me every time, as does the film overall. This one just exists outside the box and does it’s own thing, getting abstract, bizarre and frequently ‘WTF’ to the point it feels like something by SNL at their absolute weirdest or… I don’t even know what to compare McKay’s aesthetic to, but I’ll say that this is likely in the top ten funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. Aim for the bushes!

-Nate Hill

Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential

I was honestly expecting a lot more from Spenser Confidential considering the creative forces of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, like come on dudes. It’s an update of an old PI tv show which I’ve never seen so all I have to go on is what they’ve done here, which is honestly not much more than a predictable, humdrum B movie that just happens to have A list talent on-board kicking back and not trying too hard. Wahlberg is disgraced Boston cop Spenser, incarcerated for kicking the shit out of his scumbag superior officer (Michael Gaston, the dude who shoots dogs in The Leftovers lol). Upon release he hooks up with his former friend and mentor (a nicely crotchety Alan Arkin), who is now also friend and mentor to an aspiring boxer (Winston Duke) and they all live together as roomies in one of those classic flat roofed, 3 story Southie housey things, how cute. Pretty soon Spenser is back to his corruption busting ways, sniffing out a hidden conspiracy involving his slimy former partner (Bokeem Woodbine, who I always love to see in anything), a pathetic fat-ass thug called ‘Tracksuit’ (James Dumont) and shady real estate development deals. Spenser also has a girlfriend (Iliza Schlesinger) who is one of those foul mouthed ‘BAW-STAHN’ skanks and I guess she’s meant to be charming but comes across as just fucking obnoxious. Oh yeah and that weirdo Post Malone is in it too, and isn’t half bad as a nasty Aryan Brother nazi boss, anyone out there who dislikes this dude will get a nice kick out of seeing Wahlberg not only one punch him but blackmail later by threatening to run a train on his wife. It’s a bit frustrating because all this really should have been something fun with the talent attached, like it’s a great idea for a story. Unfortunately the execution comes across as cheap, lethargic and boring. The fights are decently staged but don’t pack the bloody punch that the R rating should warrant, the profane Boston banter comes nowhere close to being a snappy and comedic as it should and it all feels lazy, tired and cheap. If you want a much better crime buddy comedy thing starring Wahlberg check out 2 Guns with him and Denzel Washington because that one really slaps. There is one scene here that does in fact slap, when Spenser drives a jet black 18 wheeler semi right through a convoy of Cherokee jeeps at full throttle, it’s a fun moment and briefly raises a pulse, but unfortunately it’s the only ten second interlude that does so in an otherwise meh film. Big meh.

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Bill Paxton Performances

Bill Paxton was one of those guys who could be the most affable dude in the room, the friendliest guy on the block and without warning, at the drop of a hat turn the energy of his performance around 180 degrees into something dark and dangerous before the audience even had a chance to react. A boisterous, scene stealing, standup guy and just as talented in the director’s chair as he was in front of the camera, this guy was one of cinema’s greatest treasures. Here are my top ten personal favourites of his many excellent performances!

10. Wayne Caraway in Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams

This indie drama was one of his last films before passing and one of the most terrifying, despicable characters he’s ever played. Caraway is a corrupt county sheriff who is running drugs as a side hustle and letting his daughter (Sophie Nélisse) become collateral damage in the process. He’s volcanically unpredictable, heinously abusive and frequently very violent, especially towards the kids around him. It’s an arresting portrayal of renegade small town law gone bad to the bone and he relishes every rotten mannerism and brooding, misanthropic gesture.

9. Bokky in Traveller

This is an obscure little indie focused on the lives of the descendants of Irish Gypsy ‘Travellers’ in the states, making their living as con artists. Paxton’s charming Bokky is a seasoned pro who mentors a young rookie (Mark Wahlberg) with roots in the community, both eventually finding themselves in over their head. It’s a quaint, eccentric caper flick that showcases a niche society you don’t often get to hear too much about.

8. Dale ‘Hurricane’ Dixon in Carl Franklin’s One False Move

Dale lives up to his name, a bull in a china shop of a small town sheriff played expertly by Paxton as extremely warm and welcoming at first, until we see a dangerous core smouldering just under the salt of the earth exterior, brought out by a violent, twist laden crime narrative that lets no character off the hook.

7. Earl in Baltasur Kormákur’s 2 Guns

A spectacularly corrupt CIA agent in a Panama hat, Earl is out to get back a stolen slush fund that somehow ended up in the hands of the cartel and then the film’s two heroes (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg). He isn’t just the pursue and retrieve type of fellow though, he relishes his power and has a nasty sadistic streak that comes out in ruthless Russian roulette torture bouts he puts his captives through. A cheerfully psychotic, scene stealing villain, Bill has a lot of fun and banters around with the rest of the cast nicely.

6. Hank in Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan

Just a small town dude who finds a whole whack of stolen money, things spiral out of control for him, his girlfriend (Bridget Fonda) and dullard brother (Billy Bob Thornton) in this brutal, icy and brilliant morality play of a thriller. Paxton always excelled at showing the dark side of seemingly harmless characters and this is no exception, giving the old saying ‘money is the root of all evil’ a run for *it’s* money.

5. Jerry Lambert in Stephen Hopkins’ Predator 2

This is a fucking great film and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Lambert is the spitfire rookie in Danny Glover’s impossibly badass squad of tactical street cops, which include familiar faces like Ruben Blades and Maria Conchita Alonso. This being an 80’s action flick, Paxton gives his trademark lovably obnoxious and inexhaustibly verbose energy and is a terrific addition to an already packed cast.

4. Brock Lovett in James Cameron’s Titanic

Brock is one of the characters who only exists in the present and sort of anchors the historical facts with his presence. Paxton gives this scruffy treasure hunter a laid back yet determined edge and rocks a pirate hoop earring awesomely.

3. Dad Meiks in Bill Paxton’s Frailty

This was his feature directing debut and what a film it is. A sort of Southern Gothic horror whodunit, he gives an absolutely haunting, harrowing turn as a loving father who gradually begins to lose his marbles and display murderous tendencies. He plays the horrific elements straight and frankly, making his curve into madness hit all the harder.

2. Private William Hudson in James Cameron’s Aliens

“Game over man!!” Paxton made that hilarious line and many others iconic in this portrayal of the ultimate badass who has the ultimate nervous breakdown when danger shows up and ultimately actually fights pretty damn impressively and redeems himself for freaking out like a little bitch earlier on. He’s also riotous comic relief and gets all the best moments.

1. Severen in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark

One in a pack of roving vampires, Severen is undoubtably the most rambunctious and bloodthirsty of the pack, an unpredictable wild card who murders humans on a cheerful whim and always has a quip ready before blasting someone’s face off. In a career full of rowdy behaviour and off the wall performances this one stands out as the most impressive sustainment of energy for a feature length running time I’ve ever seen.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

William Monahan’s Mojave

William Monahan‘s Mojave is garbage dressed up in hopeful noir tropes, a flick that could go either way when you see the promising trailer, but ultimately ends up as the little movie that tried, and failed pretty darn bad. What works, or at least helps it limp through its extremely violent final act, is a performance from Oscar Isaac that’s a lot of fun, if never exposited very well. It’s like The Shining by way of The Dark Half but with less King and more paradoxically muddled pseudo supernatural desert pulp, which admittedly sounds great when I write it like that but really is just repetitive and frustrating. Garrett Hedlund does a moody turn as a morally twisted Hollywood screenwriter who is ready to punch his own ticket. On a spontaneous solo trip out into the desert, he meets a mysterious, sinister weirdo (Isaac) who causes nothing but trouble and chaos from the moment he enters the narrative. Latching onto Hedlund, he follows him back to the city, makes his life hell and they slowly play a circular game of cat and mouse that the filmmakers don’t quite realize is only their own narrative circling the drain from being too exhausted and deliberately oblique. Walton Goggins shows up as a sleazy Hollywood figure and Mark Wahlberg has an amusing cameo as a producer, but it’s mostly Isaac growling out dark, nonsensical platitudes and not making much sense, despite being pretty entertaining in his efforts and putting in good villain work. Parts of this seem to have come from a better movie where… I dunno, where things actually make sense, but the way everything is organized and presented here is one big shitty head scratcher, and misses the dartboard overall. Pass.

-Nate Hill

Who would your wife rather go to bed with, Stallone or Goldman…? An Interview with Paul Power by Kent Hill

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“Power Pack” as he was dubbed by director Peter Berg (The Rundown, Hancock, Battleship) is a more than appropriate substitute of a name for an electric personality that has done it all when it comes to the trade of an illustrator.

The Australian born lad who started out drawing comics for newspapers soon found himself becoming a fully fledged commercial artist, working within the music industry, designing album covers. From there he would come to the City of Angels and at Hanna-Barbera he would work, animating some of Saturday morning’s finest cartoons.

The film industry would become his next conquest. He has credits as a storyboard artist and conceptual illustrator are numerous, to put it simply. He was there when Richard Donner blew up at Spielberg, he and Arnold Schwarzenegger retooled the ending of Predator, he was working on a sequel to The Last Starfighter that never took flight, he was stuck in transit and drawing cartoons for sushi when he was set to act in Anthony Hopkins’ directorial debut, Slipstream.

Paul has pissed off a few people off in his time, but he continues to speak his mind and states that if people don’t like him, or if his work is not good enough then he’ll walk, moving on to the next adventure. That could very easily be one the screenplays he is at work on now as I type these words. One is a film adaptation of his awesome comic East meets West.

He was as inspiring as I had hoped to chat with. His devotion to his work is a lesson to all who have dreams of glory whether they be cinematic or artistically inclined. I find myself forgoing things that used to take me away, easy distractions if you will, from my work till my work is complete in the wake of our conversation. It’s not enough to will things into existence – you must strive for excellence, pay your dues, give it all you got and that might get you half way. The rest of the journey is built on hard work, of which Paul Power is the personification. When he’s not doing impersonations of Schwarzenegger or talking wrestling with David Mamet he is ever busy.

If you have a few minutes now, hang out, have a laugh, be inspired. Have pencil will travel.

PTS listeners, I present the irrepressible Paul Power.

http://www.paulpower.com/

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Just wild about Larry: An Interview with Steve Mitchell by Kent Hill

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Steve Mitchell has been on quite a ride. Having begun in the world of comics, he has the distinction of inking the very first book by a guy you might have heard of . . . Frank Miller. But being in New York with all his friends heading west, Steve, after forging an impressive beginning to his career, took a phone call one night from his another friend and filmmaker Jim Wynorski. Jim wanted an opinion on an idea that, if he could make it work, they might be able to get the picture made. From that conversation a film would be born. It was the cult classic Chopping Mall.

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So like Horatio Alger before him, he went west and continued writing for both the worlds of film and television. The fateful moment would come one day while looking over the credits of the legendary maverick auteur, Larry Cohen, on IMDB.  Astounded by the length and breadth of Cohen’s career, Steve saw an opportunity to possibly make a documentary that would chronicle the life and exploits of the successful filmmaker.

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After receiving a blessing from the man (Larry) himself, Steve set about the mammoth undertaking of  not only pulling together the interviews with Cohen’s many collaborators, all of the footage of his many works , but also the financing to bring these and the countless other elements together to form KING COHEN: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen.

This truly insightful and utterly entertaining look at the, thus far continuing, career of Cohen is the passion project of a man with whom I share a kinship. Not only for the stories behind the men who make the movies, but also how the films we know and love were pieced together with money, dreams, light, shadow and the technical tools which help capture and refine the many wondrous adventures we as cinema goers have been relishing since our very first experiences.

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KING COHEN is a great film made by a really great guy, and it is my hope, as it is Steve’s hope, that you enjoy the story of Larry Cohen, but also come away from watching the film wishing to then seek out and discover the movies contained within that you may have only experienced for the first time as part of the documentary. The films of the filmmaker that inspired Steve’s film in the first place. (that’s a lot films)

Enjoy…

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