Tag Archives: Nicole Kidman

Joel Schumacher’s Trespass

Joel Schumacher used to be a household name amongst Hollywood directors, and then kind of sailed off the face of the map (Coppola seems to have done the same). He was one of the most prolific filmmakers of the 80’s and 90’s and then it cooled off in recent years, but he still churns out a flick or three now and again, one of which is the high gloss home invasion thriller Trespass. It’s in the vein of Cimino’s Desperate Hours, not just for having an almost identical premise but also for the fact that it’s not a great movie, but one that services the genre nicely, gives the crowd just what they’d expect from this fare and even throws in a few earned surprises. Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman play a wealthy couple who live in a fortress of a house that comes under siege from three rabid criminals who are after… something. Is it the alleged diamonds in Cage’s impenetrable safe? Is it the money he claims is all gone or stuck into his lavish home? Or is something darker at stake here? The guessing game that ensues is pretty well done, with perspective flashbacks and red herrings used nicely. The burglars are played by a quartet of the excellent Ben Mendelsohn who give yet another sketchy, terrifying villain portrait, fondly remembered TV actress Jordana Spiro, The always reliable Dash Mihok and Cam Gigandet, who sadly keeps getting casted in stuff way beyond his talent level. His psycho/pretty boy role here is one of the most demanding parts in the script and the guy just doesn’t have anything under the hood except for his looks (see Pandorum for another painful case of him ruining a well written role). Kidman is wistful and scared, doing the same thing she did in Dead Calm without the cold resilience, while Cage does crazy to a T, no surprise there. I heard that midway through filming he suddenly wanted to switch to one of the villain roles, and didn’t get his way. I laughed upon hearing him bellow out ‘shit-hole’ in that maniacally screechy, petulant way of his and I pictured him having a tantrum at the producers for not giving in. This is a humdrum flick that isn’t built to last or make huge impressions, but it serves as an energetic, well mounted domestic siege thriller with enough violence and commotion to keep eyelids from dropping.

-Nate Hill

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THE RIDDLE OF STEEL with Matt Greenberg & Kent Hill

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Matt Greenberg returns, and after the most excellent first time round it was never a question of if, but when. Matt is, of course, not only a cool cat but a talented screenwriter (Reign of Fire, 1408). In our first interview (which you’ll find here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2017/01/13/writing-with-fire-an-interview-with-matthew-greenberg-by-kent-hill/) we discussed his career, the highs and lows – basically his adventures in the screen trade.

This time round I really had no plan, and I find that makes for the best interviews, cause, man, it can go anywhere. I love his unfiltered take on the epicenter of the film industry, his encounters with certain movie town luminaries, his hilarious CliffsNotes on the status of the latest cinema fodder, and his seeds of wisdom when we’re talking shop.

From possible titles for Meatloaf’s next album to O.J. Simpson, to the best idea I’ve ever heard for a reality TV series, Matt and I don’t just shoot the breeze, we gleefully fire and Uzi into the clear blue sky and I hope you’ll delight, as I do, with what hits the ground.

So for luck, for laughs, for the unknown, join us now, me and my mate Matt as we sit down again. And don’t worry – we also talk about movies…

Phillip Noyce’s Dead Calm

Fear of isolation has been a staple element in film since the beginning. A quiet, shrouded forest. A damp, derelict back alley. The endless waters of earth’s oceans, which is where Philip Noyce’s nightmarish psychosexual shocker Dead Calm takes place. The key is not in projecting fear of being isolated, which is bad enough, but instilling the unnerving notion that you’re not actually alone after all, and be it human, supernatural or the forces of nature, something is out there with you. This is what vacationing couple Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman discover, only in this case it’s no creature or ghost, but Billy Zane instead. I know what you’re thinking, that perennial goofball Zane is the farthest thing from fearsome you could find, but he’s actually one of the most memorable and shit-scary movie villains out there. Neill and Kidman are a couple with enough issues to begin with, sailing their schooner somewhere way out there trying to forget past tragedy, until Zane brings new trouble onto their horizon. After they rescue him half dead floating on the waves, he tells them of a capsized ocean liner, and claims to be it’s only survivor. Neill isn’t quite bought and sold on his story and ventured off to see for himself, unwisely leaving his wife behind with this strange dude, which is loose thriller plotting 101, but oh well, inciting incidents have to come from somewhere, don’t they. Zane turns out to be an unstable maniac of the highest order, and steers the schooner off on his own course with Kidman in tow, and Neill left in the wake, trying to find them out there and save her. The scary thing about this villain is that he has no plan, no goals, no endgame or reason for doin this, he’s simply certifiably out of his fucking head, and there’s an unpredictability to that which I found immensely freaky. The scenes aboard the boat with him and Nicole on their own are charged with a tangible danger and crazed frenzy, a canary in a cage circled by a thoroughly crazy cat. The acting sells it there, with Kidman’s raw terror and Zane’s oddball sociopathy walking a narrow, rigid tightrope that could snap any second, and does. When the action comes it’s fierce, R rated mayhem as Neill vengefully charges back into the picture, and although not as intimately scary as the horror bits, still holds our gaze. Zane also gets one of the coolest villain deaths ever seen, shot in full gory detail as well. A chamber piece at sea, a glowing example of effective filmmaking in the thriller genre, and scary in spades.

-Nate Hill

Tony Scott’s Days Of Thunder 


The first ten minutes or so of Tony Scott’s Days Of Thunder should be used to demonstrate the power of any new home theatre/speaker/sound system freshly harvested from Best Buy. As it opens on a piping hot stock car race-track in the midst of noonday sun festivities and preparations for the day’s events, Hans Zimmer’s explosive, patriotic thunderbolt of a score kicks in and you feel that mad rush of adrenaline reserved for only the most combustible, rabidly entertaining movie magic. It’s just too bad that the rest of the film can’t keep up with the level of energy on display in that whopper of a prologue, despite doing it’s very best. An obvious sister film and coattail hugger of Scott’s other ‘loud noises’ film Top Gun, there ain’t much to it other than screaming race cars and a daredevil Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) trying to prove his sporting worth to various folks including the romantic interest, a doctor played by sexy Nicole Kidman and the sagely Yoda of stock car lore (Robert Duvall). He also has quite a few homoerotic run-ins with rival/partner Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker is certainly someone I’d tag with the adjective rowdy), and of course races a whole bunch of race cars as well as crashes a few. You gotta hand it to cinematographer Ward Russell, as it can’t be an easy task to do crisply capture those vehicular torpedoes as they careen by at a zillion miles per hour, let alone immortalize the afternoon sun glancing off the Wonderbread sponsor logos so beautifully. Like I said, after that initial banger of an opening credits sequence, its run of the mill in terms of story, albeit dynamite in terms of stunts. Watch for work from Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes, Fred Dalton Thompson, John C. Reilly and mega-producer Don Simpson in a neat extended cameo. The real magic happens with Zimmer’s score though, go check it out on YouTube, as iTunes only has some weak retread by some philharmonic orchestra schmucks. Quite possibly one of the maestro’s best works. 

-Nate Hill

Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker


Despite being a fairly dull film overall, Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker has a few redeeming qualities that almost put it up there with other far better efforts in the wartime espionage subgenre, namely a terrific score from Hans Zimmer and one of the most flat out badass George Clooney actions scenes you’ll find anywhere in his career. It’s a shame the film you find these qualities in is a heavy handed, by the motions anti-terrorism headbanger that says and does nothing we haven’t seen a million times over. Clooney is the seasoned military man, on a globetrotting mission with Nicole Kidman’s intuitive agency analyst, tracking down several Russian nukes that were lifted off a train somewhere in Europe during a painfully static opener. There’s a radical out there played by French actor Marcel Iures, hiding as a piano teacher of all things, biding his time till he gets to go kaboom somewhere stateside and get revenge for some horrendous misdeed against his family. He’s actually the most interesting character, thanks to Iure’s obvious talent and the near sympathetic light they’ve painted his character in. The film is so by the numbers it’ll put you to sleep though, and the positively supersonic score from Zimmer feels like it deserves a better film. Still, you can’t go wrong with the sequence just after a droning car chase where Clooney has T-boned the baddie’s ride and trapped him inside. George promptly steps out, walks over and empties an entire fucking clip into this guys face, it’s pretty much the coolest thing the he’s ever done onscreen. Too bad the film as a whole couldn’t keep up with the organic, intimate level of energy infused into this one moment, we could have gotten something memorable. 

-Nate Hill

Dark Cities, Dark Futures, Dark Caves: An Interview with Bruce Hunt by Kent Hill

Young Bruce Hunt loved movies and blowing things up. This love, and learning the basics of the craft from film magazines of the period, would firmly cement in his mind the path on which he would travel. As it was said in a film that Bruce would later work on, “Fate it seems, is not without a sense of irony,” a teenage Bruce would encounter Academy Award winning special-effects artist Dennis Muren in a cafe in London.

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It was Muren that would advise the dreamer to seek out an effects house in his native Australia for possible future employment and, after art school, that is what the talented Mr. Hunt would do. Working with small production houses on commercials his work would soon catch the eye of the founder of one of these companies, a man named Andrew Mason. It would be Mason, producing a film directed by Alex Proyas called Dark City, that would call on Hunt to bring his passion, and by then, professional eye for effects photography to his first big screen gig.

Work on another big flick would follow, as Mason would again tap Bruce and bring him to work on the Wachowski’s cinematic masterpiece The Matrix. There would be work on the film’s sequels before, at last, Bruce would sit in the director’s chair for The Cave, an adventure in deep terror. He would emerge from the darkness to work on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia only to descend again soon after for Guillermo del Toro’s Don’t be afraid of the Dark.

Through it all his love of the movies continues to drive him and, as you will hear, he has plans to get his visions back on that big screen, just as soon as he can. It was great to sit down with Bruce. Not only is he a filmmaker I admire, but it was great to just talk about movies with him.

If you don’t know his work then now is the time to check it out. But, if you already have and you’re a fan like me – then kick back and enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my good mate . . . Bruce Hunt

Jackman Unleashed Week: Baz Luhrmann’s Australia

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By J.D. Lafrance

After his debut film Strictly Ballroom (1992), writer/director Baz Luhrmann never looked back, creating lavish, ultra-stylish musicals William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), and let’s not forget that $5 million Chanel commercial starring his cinematic muse, Nicole Kidman. With, Australia (2008), he decided to take national pride to a whole new level by creating a sweeping romantic epic about his home country that takes place between the World Wars and was made by and starring Australians. With a budget in the neighborhood of $130 million, the pressure was on Luhrmann now more than ever before to deliver at the box office and, while underperforming in North America, it went on to gross $200 million worldwide despite a lukewarm critical response.

Lady Sarah Ashley (Kidman) is a headstrong English aristocrat who travels to Northern Australia in 1939 to meet her husband at their ranch Faraway Downs. Within a few minutes of arriving, she meets her guide to this strange new land, a man known as the Drover (Hugh Jackman), a hard-drinking, two-fisted Australian version of a cowboy. They take an instant dislike to each other: she thinks that he’s crude and uncultured and he thinks that she’s too prim and proper.

They arrive at Faraway Downs to find her husband dead (apparently at the hands of an Aboriginal) and the ranch in disarray and in danger of being foreclosed. Mr. Carney (Bryan Brown), the local tycoon with a monopoly on the local economy, has his right-hand man, Mr. Fletcher (David Wenham) try to sabotage Lady Ashley. In order to save Faraway Downs, she has to drive 1,500 head of cattle to Darwin and so she enlists the help of the Drover. Along the way, they befriend a young Aboriginal boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters) whom she protects from being taken away and forced to assimilate with white folks.

As with his previous films, Luhrmann populates Australia with broad, stereotypical characters and tells a classic story. The film revels in archetypes: Ashley is a pure, upstanding woman, the Drover is the rugged western hero, Fletcher is the dastardly villain, and Nullah is the adorable child who narrates the story. As he proved with is previous films, Luhrmann has an uncanny knack for casting. Who can forget the undeniable chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet and the sparks that flew between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!? He’s at it again with this film with the casting of Hugh Jackman and Kidman as the romantic leads.

Jackman finally fulfills those early comparisons to Clint Eastwood, playing the Drover as a tough, dependable hero who’s not afraid to show his vulnerable side. He’s never been more charismatic as he proves to be equally adept at the physical demands and the emotional range that the role requires. No one knows how to photograph Kidman quite like Luhrmann. She looks stunning, even covered in a layer of dirt and dust from a cattle drive. At first, her stuffy English aristocrat comes off as a cartoonish stereotype but as her character becomes acclimatized to the country and she develops a bond with Nullah, she becomes warmer and more empathetic.

Beginning in 1939 and climaxing with the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942, Luhrmann’s Australia mixes the larger-than-life melodrama of Gone with the Wind (1939) with the exciting cattle drive in Red River (1948) and with a dash of The Wizard of Oz (1939). His film clearly harkens back to the kind of cinema that they just don’t make any more with very little CGI used and everything built from scratch and on location. Australia is the kind of ambitious Technicolor epic that might have been made by John Ford or George Stevens. It is a marvel of absolutely stunning cinematography – only Luhrmann could make the desolate outback look vibrant and alive. He alternates between sun-drenched day scenes and night scenes that appear to be impossibly illuminated by the stars.

One should not go into Australia expecting realism. Luhrmann presents a mythologized take on his country. Love him or hate him, you have to respect Luhrmann for not being afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. He’s arguably the most romantic filmmaker working today with the possible exception of Wong Kar-Wai. And with Australia, he has made an unabashed love letter to his homeland on a grand scale.