I’ll start with the Thomas Edison quite that this film opens with because I just love it:
“Nobody knows whether our personalities pass on to another existence or sphere, but if we can evolve an instrument so delicate to be manipulated by our personality as it survives in the next life such an instrument ought to record something.”
I’m not sure what film critics were watching back in 2005 that caused such a knee jerk reaction of overall negativity, but the White Noise I saw was a chillingly effective, moodily atmospheric and very well done horror with a solid lead performance from Michael Keaton and one hell of a central premise. I mean it’s a bit low key, favouring hovering room tone and slow paced suspense over frenzied thrills or jarring shocks but that tends to be what I gravitate towards in horror anyways, so here we are. Keaton plays a Canadian construction CEO in Vancouver whose recently pregnant wife (Chandra West) doesn’t come home one night. A few days pass and her body is found near her crashed car, vaulted over a seawall gorge. As he begins mourning her, a mysterious gentleman (Ian McNeice) approaches him and claims that she has been contacting him via a phenomenon known as EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon in which the spirits of the dead can speak out across the gulf between worlds using electronic equipment, in this case a VHS recording system and a screen full of the titular white noise. Keaton is skeptical at first but it soon becomes clear that this is very real and with the help of another grieving woman (the great Deborah Kara Unger) he sets out to communicate with his wife and discern whatever message she has for him. Problem is, the VHS system is an open receiver and she isn’t the only spirit out there who can hear or talk, which sets the conflict in motion. I won’t say more but it’s a tense, brooding thriller and the Vancouver setting provides that classic rainy day, chilly PNW feel while much of the action is shot through these muted blue grey filters and accompanied by unnerving, otherworldly cues from the score by Claude Foisy. The scenes of communication over the VHS equipment are the film’s strongest attribute and fill the visual auditory realm of the film with a stark, creepy sensory dreamscape of fuzzy movement, shadows around the corner and wailing souls crying out from the abyss. Like I said, I’m really not sure what the issues were with this film from a critical standpoint other than the fact that they play fast and loose with plot a bit, but even then there’s a clear answer and resolute final act, while overall they focus on atmosphere and tone, which is my jam anyways. Great film.
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!
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….
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.
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!
Frank and Tom are joined with former guest, and now recurring co-host, Mac McSharry to discuss three Tim Burton films. Burton is very well known, directing over nineteen films and his steadfast collaboration with Johnny Depp. Tune in to find out which three Tim Burton films are discussed, and what the next topic will be for 3 for 3 with Frank, Tom, and Mac.
Following the cinema changing smash of PULP FICTION, marking the first and last time (so far) in his career, Quentin Tarantino adapted a property by someone else By adapting Elmore Leonard, Tarantino made the story and his characters his own, by using a set story and characters, he populates each character with his hallmark casting and colors in Leonard’s dialogue with his own Tarantinoisms. JACKIE BROWN has long been hailed Tarantino’s most “mature” work, and in a sense, that is a more than a fair assessment.
Tarantino’s cast is rather remarkable in this picture. He changes the name and skin color of Leonard’s heroine by casting Pam Grier in her finest role that acts as both a callback continuation of some of her most seminal 70s characters and an empowering role of fierce feminism. Robert Forster, another mainstay of forgotten roles in cinema gets cast in one of Tarantino’s best characters, Max Cherry, the stoic bail bondsman who assists in Grier’s caper.
Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro are magnificent in meaty roles that act as respective undercards in their rich canon of characters; it truly is a shame that Tarantino never worked with Keaton and De Niro again, because he gets unique performances out of them, that is tremendously underrated. And of course, Samuel L. Jackson gets a very Sam Jackson role, and he is such a magnificent son of a bitch to watch in the film. Bridget Fonda has never been better or sexier.
Tarantino crafts a film populated with older actors, giving us a pulpy crime caper, where the action is moved forward by dialogueless characters, Forster and De Niro’s total dialogue probably would take up three pages in the screenplay, through their reactions, stares, and movements very much move the film along. The cunning screenplay foregoes Tarantino’s violent nature, through the guise of character progression.
Tarantino’s love for the dangerous and sexy heroine is on full display in this film. Pam Grier’s take on the role that she’ll more than likely be remembered for is phenomenal, and she shifts back and forth between manipulating the bad men in the film and falling for her sidekick, Forster.
The reason this film is deemed Tarantino’s most mature is that the film laminates stoicism through Grier and Forster. The film is about living with mistakes, living long enough to know your limitations, and how to survive. All these characters have lived a life of struggle and hardship well before the cameras start rolling. The film builds up and cascades into an emotional moment between two genre actors that get dropped into a mainstream, highly polished film and that is such a beautiful thing.
Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown runs right around two and a half hours, and if you were to go through the film and separate all the scenes that are directly about the central plot specifics from the ones that are simply characters hanging out, shooting the shit and socializing, you’d probably cut the film in half. There’s a lesson I was taught in film school and it goes something like “every scene in the script must serve/move the plot and anything that doesn’t must go.” Well, I get the creative sentiment there but it’s often much more complicated than that, and often very subjective what one person will distill personally from a scene and use for their appreciation of the story overall versus another person being bored by it. In the case of Jackie Brown, I absolutely loved each and every laidback scene of breezy character development. These people start talking about movies, weed, cars, guns, the city or anything offhand and slowly, gradually they shift into what the story is about, which is the genius of Tarantino’s screenplay, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch.
As the titular Jackie Brown, Pam Grier gives the performance of her career as a desperate middle aged career woman trying to score a little extra loot for herself, and getting trapped between a rock and a hard place in the process. She smuggles cash in from Mexico for low rent arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a fast talking psychopath who enlists his newly released ex con pal Louis (Robert De Niro) into helping him out with the latest gig. Also involved is Ordell’s beach bunny stoner girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda), a low level thug on his payroll (Chris Tucker) and stoic, sad eyed bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). All these players shuffle around the LA chessboard, often lazily and in no rush and it’s these scenes that give the film its lifeblood. Jackie and Max find compassion, solace and bittersweet romance together, Tarantino let’s them circle each other in no great hurry and later in the film when they do share a kiss it’s just the most beautiful, well built up moment. Grier comes from a blaxploitation background and it’s apparent in her performance, but we also get the sense that this operates on a real plane, much more so than many other Tarantino films. Forster is always noble, observant and calm in most of his career, there’s a few obscure manic performances from him out there but for the most part he underplays his work. Max has to be his best creation, a steely journeyman dude who’s seen enough and wants something new in his life, something he finds in Jackie as he falls in love with her literally at first sight.
This is a character piece, and in addition to Grier and Forster we get incredibly vivid, funny and idiosyncratic work from all involved. Jackson is hysterical as the most verbose cat of the bunch, he’s also scarier than Jules in Pulp Fiction too. DeNiro plays Louis as a dim-headed fuck-up who seems to be playing dumb to stealth people, then seems to actually be thick again until we’re just not sure right up until the hilarious last few beats of his arc that result in some of the funniest black comedy I’ve ever seen. Fonda let’s a stoned veneer hide a deep resentment and hatred for pretty much everyone around her until she takes it one step too far and pays for it hilariously. Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen show up doing a flawless good cop bad cop routine as a local Detective and an ATF agent on both Jackie’s and Ordell’s trail. Watch for Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister and genre veteran Sid Haig as well.
I get conflicted when ranking this amongst other Tarantino films because he’s adapting someone else’s work and therefore it’s not purely his creation, which is always when his most energetic and inspired stuff happens. Jackie Brown is a masterpiece and one of my favourite films, no doubt. But it’s Tarantino doing something else, chilling out in the pool and letting this cast of characters hang out too, in bars, beach apartments, cars, cluttered offices, malls and airports. There’s no great momentum or surge behind this story, it’s all very laconic and easy breezy, which is the strongest quality. But it just as much feels like a Leonard story as it does Tarantino, which works too. His crazy, wild style and pop culture obsessions are given a modest track to race around because of Leonard’s low key, slow burn dialogue aesthetic and the resulting flavour is so good it’s almost perfect. But it’s not just Quentin at the helm. Whatever your thoughts on that and comparisons with this film next to the ones he’s both written and directed, there’s no arguing that this is a beautiful, hilarious, touching, suspenseful, romantic classic of the crime genre.
Seems to me NIGHTBREED had been out for a while before I made a point of sitting down to watch it. I’d seen the trailer a bunch of times, been curious, but it wasn’t until I read the illustrated screenplay that I admit to really becoming hell bent on checking it out.
It is at once a phantasmagoria, a dark fantasy, a love story – a rich, self-contained world that seemed on the verge. But, as I would discover, the powers that be didn’t receive from Clive Barker what they were hoping for. He had produced for them two Hellraiserpictures, thus they made the mistake of assuming they were set to receive yet another study in fear. Especially with a title like, Nightbreed. Hence you have the reason for the fractured state of the movie and all the subsequent releases and restorations – the producers attempting to fashion the movie into something it was never meant to be.
What you ultimately take away from Barker’s monster-piece is the feeling of wanting more – and not just a re-cut of the existing elements. I suppose that’s why the idea of a Nightbreed series, I feel, would work better than another motion picture. There is so much to mine, so many characters – along with my favorite, Kinski (played by my guest Nicholas Vince), that I would love to see make a return.
So, kick back and enjoy our discussion on all things concerned with the tribes of the moon. “God’s an Astronaut. Oz is Over the Rainbow, and Midian is where the monsters live.”
How did this wonderful film slip through the cracks? There was little to no word about this utterly enthralling and compelling story about the ‘other’ man behind the bat.
I admit to you now – I was in the dark. While comics were a staple of my formative years, as that time receded, my interest had diminished to ‘casual’ by the early 2000’s. Even then I was far from what you would refer to an an aficionado. Comics were flame bursts in the dark. Most of mine were not pristine, and I collected them by the bundle when my Grandmother would take me along with her to the Book Exchange and allow me to parlay a stack of her used paperbacks for a pile of superhero awesomeness.
But, back to the topic at hand. I read comics without much regard for who created them (that attention to detail I reserved for my first obsession, the movies). I was there to indulge, pure and simple. Still, as our awareness grows, so do we seek out ever greater detail – the mechanics that make our preferred mode of escapism tick and thus our experience is enriched and the depths of our interest continue to descend into the pop culture sea that abounds, seemingly fathomless.
Such is the story brought to life by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. Like the equally incredible Searching for Sugar Man before it, Batman & Bill traces the steps of the elusive Bill Finger – the man who, in case you didn’t know, co-created Batman with Bob Kane. And, like Sugar Man, the plot, which on the surface might seem to have a logical conclusion, just keeps unraveling as the real life seeker of justice, Marc Nobleman, tracks down and lets the sun shine brightly on the life, labors and legacy of Finger.
Now I’m not going to spoil this at all. You must, must, must seek out this glorious unfolding of a sad, arduous, but ultimately triumphant saga which is predominantly about rewriting history, but at its heart there is a drum that beats and reminds us to stand tall in the face of adversity, and the film depicts this, in the form of the mammoth uphill battle to place Finger’s name next to Kane’s as a creative force behind one of the truly monolithic heroes from the realms of illustrated storytelling.
All I will say is that the end broke me up like Field of Dreams always manages to. Yes, strong men also cry, to quote The Big Lebowski, but you’ll walk away from this film ever changed and with a sense of pride having seen honor restored, a name reclaimed and a final note so satisfying it’ll touch your heart.
Read the book, see the film, and as for right now enjoy my chat with the extraordinary team who have captured beautifully this tale of a watchful protector who fought with a pen mightier than any sword to see the ‘other’ man behind the Dark Knight, rise…
Pacific Heights is one of those 90’s ‘yuppie thrillers’, in the best possible way. See stuff like Malice with Nicole Kidman or Disclosure with Demi Moore for reference and a jumping point for research into this time capsule of a sub genre. Heights is a wicked little domestic thriller, and the penultimate ‘tenant from hell’ film (barring Danny Devito’s Duplex, which wouldn’t be released for another decade or so). Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith are the proud owners of a gorgeous San Francisco urban estate here, proud of their purchase, poised to dive into renovation and on the market for a tenant. It just so happens that affable, seemingly nice guy Michael Keaton is on the market for tenancy, and a few other nefarious things while he’s at it. This isn’t quite a psycho thriller though, it’s more like the moment he’s moved in, their lives turn into a waking nightmare full of noise issues, unauthorized self renovations, scams, thefts and all sorts of scumbag shit. The hilarious thing is, he somehow does all of this just inside the boundaries of the law so that Modine and Griffith are pretty much powerless to kick him out or take action. How do you deal with a scheming cockroach like that? Well you’ll see, but it’s great entertainment, and one of Keaton’s best villain roles because of how stoic and vague he is, it’s like this is all business to him and he’s just showing up at his 9 to 5 job that happens to be robbing landlords blind. Hans Zimmer does some of his best unconventional work here too, with a restless, jangly opening theme that introduces hilly San Fran and suggests the impending havoc Keaton is about to wreak on this poor young couple. A forgotten gem.
Frank is joined with filmmaker and recurring Podcasting Them Softly co-host, Derek Wayne Johnson to discuss one of their favorite films, Tim Burton’s BATMAN. Derek also speaks on his current projects in post-production, STALLONE: FRANK THAT IS and his documentary on the original ROCKY.