There may not be much of a, shall we say, culturally tactful or sociopolitically subtle premise behind No Escape, but I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t an almost unbearably suspenseful, purely nightmarishly effective thriller. Owen Wilson and Lake Bell play a wealthy American couple on a business trip to some unnamed southeast Asian country that is going through kind of a rough patch, politically and economically. When the hotel they are staying in is stormed by a citizen’s army of ruthless, barbaric rebels staging an infrastructure-shattering coup, they are forced to flee through the dangerous streets of the city with no law enforcement or anyone to help them, save for one British intelligence agent played by Pierce Brosnan, an undercover operative who does his best to help them amidst the chaos of a country turning itself inside out. Now, I see from this director’s filmography that his work is almost all in the horror genre so far, which makes sense because this film is so punishingly, exhaustively suspenseful and tense that it could almost be classified as horror itself. The rebels are a terrifying, almost inhuman threat around every corner and are both willing and capable of inflicting frightening atrocities, as this family dodges them at every turn. If I were this director though I would have mayhaps lent my talents to a better, more tasteful script though, and here’s why: Wilson and his kin barely register as characters of their own, but rather blank, terrified chess pieces being frantically shunted across the board of pre-constructed dangers with no real agency or unpredictability of their own. The rebels are a faceless army of homicidal, rape inclined psychos and we get zero grasp on their cause or agenda beyond hunting this family down at al costs. The city they’re in doesn’t even have a name, and that’s how much this script cares for specificity or nuance. The only believable, well rounded character is Brosnan’s guilt ridden agent, he brings an obligatory Bond-esque charisma to the role while retaining this sort of haggard, world weary resolve too and is actually quite good. But his character and the unbelievable talents of the director in generating horrific suspense could have been put to use in a much better setting, premise and story beyond ‘white American family is brutalized by savage Asians in a crumbling third world.’
Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is a tantalizing political l thriller with one powerhouse performance from Pierce Brosnan as the UK’s shadiest former politician, a galaxy of terrific supporting talent, some truly inspired bits of brilliantly orchestrated suspense, and Ewan McGregor too. He plays the titular ghost writer, a handpicked scribe first hired to unofficially pen the memoirs of Brosnan’s fiery former Prime Minister, an endeavour that turns into much more of an… involved position than anyone ever planned on. The moment he arrives at the man’s lavish Cape Cod private island residence, a nasty scandal springs forth in the media that forces him into hiding and causes McGregor to suspiciously question his past, both personal and professional. McGregor serves as kind of an audience proxy and gives a solid if unremarkable turn, but Brosnan removes the muffler and fires on all cylinders for a charismatic, cunning barnstormer of a performance, especially in the last act where his life and reputation are thoroughly unravelled. The supporting cast is wonderful, with Olivia Williams being the standout as Brosnan’s long suffering wife who teeters on the brink between loyalty and exasperation. Jon Bernthal is McGregor’s agent, Timothy Hutton and a startlingly bald Jim Belushi are bigwig fixers for Brosnan and there’s nice work from Kim Cattrall, Robert Pugh, a fossilized Eli Wallach and a subtle Tom Wilkinson as a mysterious lynchpin character. The film has a luxurious, over two hour runtime which allows you properly sink into the serpentine narrative full of murky political espionage, dirty secrets, sins of the past, clandestine shifts in power and some truly impressive Hitchcockian twists of fate. Much of the action is set on Brosnan’s beautiful Cape Cod island home, which is actually filmed in Germany and Denmark because, as we know, Polanski can’t go stateside but it looks and feels right just the same and provides a chilly, mist shrouded coastal atmosphere that suits the mysterious nature of this story unfolding. The ending is a kick right in the balls in several different ways and each character reaches the end of their arc with a ruthless, grim yet very appropriate sense of dark, poetic and karmic justice. Excellent film.
Join Frank, Mac and the esteemed Tom Zielinski as they discuss Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as 007 in Lee Tamahori’s DIE ANOTHER DAY. The film also features Halle Berry, Judi Dench, Toby Stephens, Will Yun Lee, Michael Madsen, John Cleese, and Rosamund Pike. The film grossed a little over 400 million at the global box office, which at the time was considered a box office success, yet the producers decided to take the franchise in another direction, released Brosnan, and then cast Daniel Craig to take the series in a new direction. For our next episode in the For Your Ears Only series, Frank and Tom will be joined with filmmaker Wayne Kramer and actress Ivana Milicevic to discuss CASINO ROYALE.
We welcome author and James Bond connoisseur Deborah Lipp to join in our discussion of the 19th 007 picture in the EON series THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, as well as the latest edition of her highly regarded book, “The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book.” Please explore the works of Deborah at her bookshop.
Join Frank, Tom, and Mac with special guest Perrin Spychala as they discuss Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as 007 in Roger Spottiswoode’s TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Released in 1997, the film also features a terrific ensemble composed of Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Ricky Jay, Gotz Otto, Vincent Schiavelli, and Joe Don Baker.
Tom and Frank are back with special guest Mac McSharry to discuss Martin Campbell’s GoldenEye, which was Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as 007. Also discussed is the pop culture effect the film had on home video as well as video games along with being a world wide box office smash and how that jump started the franchise. Join us next time as we discuss Brosnan’s follow-up, Tomorrow Never Dies!
Liam Neeson ruthlessly pursuing Pierce Brosnan across an unforgiving post civil war US landscape, from snowy peaks to vast plains to acrid deserts and all the midlands in between. David Von Ancken’s Seraphim Falls is a stunning, folklore inspired tale of revenge, burning guilt, wayward ambitions and the joyless act of the hunt, portrayed not as thrill here but more as grim duty.
Brosnan is Gideon, an ex General now on the run from Carver (Neeson), another high ranking soldier who harbours deep hatred and rage against him for reasons the film wisely keeps to its chest until the last few minutes. This allows us to form our own picture of each man that is cultivated by each passing deed, and the labels of bad and good, hero and villain need not apply, which is how stories should be told anyways. They both appear to be good men in some instances, and both hardened killers in others. The film starts off in the snowy northern mountains, moves below to hills, valleys and ranches, continues on to the river lands and finally winds up in a scorching desert where the final revelations are laid bare and each man must make a choice. Von Ancken gives this story an almost biblical tone, from the Dante-esque journey from one specific natural setting to the next to the appearance of several key characters that seem to have supernatural undercurrents including a lone First Nations man (Wes Studi) who mysteriously guards a watering hole to a strange medicine lady (Anjelica Huston) who appears in the desert as if a phantom.
Neeson and Brosnan are phenomenal here. Liam lets the sickness of revenge spill out in his behaviour, that of a man with tunnel vision and no hesitations on letting anyone in his way become collateral damage. Pierce is haunting as a man running from both his adversary and his past, scenes where he hides out in a farmhouse and interacts with a young boy are subtly heartbreaking when you finally see the big picture later on. He’s grizzled to hell too, and there’s nothing like watching him patch up a bullet wound on his own, frontier style. Von Ancken carefully chooses his cast with wonderful character actors and familiar faces like the awesome Michael Wincott as Neeson’s roughneck hired bounty hunter, Xander Berkeley, Ed Lauter, Kevin J. O’Connor, Angie Harmon, Jimmi Simpson, James Jordan and more. I’d like to think that this exists in the same western universe as Von Ancken’s AMC drama Hell On Wheels because Tom Noonan briefly shows up here as pretty much the same Minister character he went on to excellently portray in the show, which I thought was a nice touch. This is a mean, callous, relentlessly and graphically violent piece of filmmaking that throws nods to Eastwood films of the same ilk while subtly doing its own kind of mythic, folklore thing that thrums along under the main story arc for you to pick up on, if you’re tuned into it’s ever so slightly esoteric frequency. Great, underrated film.
Ever watch Mrs. Doubtfire lately? Some 90’s films haven’t aged all that well in the years since, but if anything this one has improved, and endured as a sterling classic. What was it about Robin Williams that made him such a dynamic, magnetic and beloved artist? The list is long but for me it was his uncanny, intuitive ability to feel his way around a scene using both dramatic tenderness and that wildly energetic comedic mania that was his trademark. There’s this childlike earnestness when he’s expressing himself in a serious or sorrowful scene that is so damn genuine, and the unbridled mayhem in comic sequences interplays in a delicate balancing act that no one has ever replicated.
Here as voiceover actor and loving father Daniel Hillard he proves that he’ll go to any lengths for his three children (Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence and Mara ‘Matilda’ Wilson) including elaborately disguising himself as a late middle aged British nanny just so he can spend more time with them. This is thanks to his makeup whiz of a brother (The lovable Harvey Fierstein) and ends up fooling everyone including the kids, his ex wife (Sally Field) and even her swanky new suitor (Pierce Brosnan, clearly having fun). The thing is, in the hands of almost any other actor this would be some creepy ass shit. I’ve even seen some spoof trailers on YouTube that recut this to look like a horror flick. But Williams was so talented and put his heart into it to the point that the concept just sells, and feels real despite being completely nuts on paper.
There’s two scenes that sort of cement both his character here and the kind of magic he was capable of on camera as an actor.
In a drab divorce hearing he pleads with the stone faced judge to let him have equal custody, lamenting that he can’t exist without being near his children and the emotion clouding his face feels immediate and organic. Later he has to rapidly switch in and out between the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise to fool a cantankerous social worker (Ann Haney) into believing he’s got his shot together. It involves slam dunking his face into a cake to mask the fact that he accidentally whipped his real mask out the window, and it’s absolutely hilariously inspired work that really illustrates his gift for delirious comedy. He had a long and varied career in film, but this has to be one of the showcase ventures. Aside from his work there’s a breezy, laidback San Francisco vibe and lovely work from a supporting cast including Polly Holiday, Rick Overton, Paul Guillfoye, William Newman and jolly old Robert Prosky as a scotch swilling network TV kingpin.
There’s also a surprising maturity in a narrative that could have easily patronized and pandered to the younger audience. There are core lessons to be learned that are never preached but written in seamlessly and the ending doesn’t cop out or cave in like many films would and do, but remains steadfastly rooted in this bittersweet situation, feeling all the more genuine for it. Williams is the rock, heart and soul of it but it’s a classic all across the board.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is a blast of serotonin in cinematic form, a pure ‘happy’ movie that may be even more fun than the first. I’ll level with you though: to enjoy it you’ll need to a) love the music of Abba, and b) not be one of those stiffly stiffersons who puckers their sphincter at the very mention of the word ‘musical.’ Both those boxes are heartily checked off for me, so it’s nothing but a glowing review on this end. Sunny Mediterranean skies, an unbelievable all star cast clearly having some of the most fun of their careers, all the glorious Abba music you want and a heartbreaking poignancy that both blindsides you and wasn’t quite all the way there the first time around, what’s not to love? Sure, it’s gimmicky, ditzy, silly beyond compare, but like Mrs. Mia Wallace would say, don’t be a 🔲. Staged as both sequel and prequel, this one zooms back to the raucous 70’s to show us just how Meryl Streep’s Donna found her way to that idyllic Greek island and stumbled into the hotel business. She’s played by Lily James here who is a true find, a charismatic beauty with a singing voice that could clear a cloudy day right out. The amazing, uncanny thing here is how they’ve managed find young actors who really do emulate their older selves, in the case of the three famous potential fathers she meets, and her two hilarious best friends, played again in the present by scene stealing Christine Baranski and Julie ‘Mrs. Weasley’ Walters. Amanda Seyfried has really come into her own as an actress, I’m always looking forward to whatever she does next because I know she’ll do it with grace and gravity, and her character blooms here as a strong pillar of the story as opposed to the fresh faced bride role she got in the first. Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard return and give the film a shot of humour and warmth, while Andy Garcia charms everyone in a role which ties into a hit Abba song later in a way that’s so funny you don’t know whether to clap or roll your eyes. And yes, Cher is in it, her voice is still a powerhouse but she must have had so much work done that she’s more synthetic that organic these days, she’s gotta be in her early 70’s and looks like she just got done recording like her second album, it’s slightly terrifying. If you’re a true Abba buff you’ll appreciate two wicked cameos from founding members cleverly added. The film is fluff and sunshine for the most part, with emotion being relayed by the not always deep or resonant lyrics of Abba, let’s face it, they were a playful disco band. Curiously, there’s one song that really plumbs depths and reaches the most grounded and emotionally truthful height from both actors and audiences that these films have ever ascended to, and, not surprisingly, it’s the one song we get from Meryl Streep, who sadly has no more than a hyped up cameo, but five minutes of Meryl is enough to turn anything gold, really. This seems like an unreleased Abba song, one from mother to daughter sung to Seyfried, and anchors the film right into lucid pathos that I didn’t think was possible with a jumping bean of a flick like this. Like I said before, it’s love it or hate it. I grew up listening to Abba on vinyl, and these songs are a part of me. Every actor in the cast is someone I love to see, it’s set in one of the most beautiful locations in the world, uses the power of music to literally give nutrients to the soul, and is the perfect recipe for summer escapism.
It was an absolute thrill to sit and chat with Cheryl Wheeler, legendary stunt woman, stunt double, and stunt driver of the movie industry. She has been the stunt double for Rene Russo, Kathleen Turner, and Goldie Hawn.
Cheryl began studying Yoshukai Karate at 15 – coming from a family of mostly boys; she was forced to learn to hold her own. She started kickboxing when her instructor commenced training an amateur team. She has also studied Judo, Aikido, and grappling and trained for a while with kickboxer and actor Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, and is a three-time WKA World Kickboxing Champion
Beginning work in the film industry in 1987, Cheryl’s extensive filmography of stunt work in such films asBack to the Future Part II, Bird on a Wire, Die Hard 2, Lethal Weapon III & IV, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Charlie’s Angels. She was inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame as 1996 Woman of the Year. She appeared on the cover and in a feature article in Black Belt Magazine in July 1997, and also received a Stunt Award for “Best Stunt Sequence” in the 2000 film of Charlie’s Angels.
I could honestly have spoken to Cheryl for hours – slowly traversing and delighting in the stories from all of the films she has participated in. We also chat about her involvement in The Martial Arts Kid 2 which she comes to as a producer with her long-time friends Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.
It was a true pleasure, and I trust you will enjoy this fascinating interview with an awesome Hollywood veteran. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Cheryl Wheeler.