Tag Archives: Richard Kelly

BLINDING ACTION: The Making of BLINDSIDED: THE GAME by Kent Hill

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It’s funny how the fates play their hand. Not long before I hand completed the interviews for this piece, I found I had been gifted the opportunity to interview Phillip Noyce, who happens to have directed BLIND FURY – a film that was both the inspiration behind and the film that came to mind when I first heard about Blindsided: The Game. And what a film! Walter is a seemingly unassuming guy who likes his peace and serenity – and his warm apple pie. His daily life, to the voyeur, would appear idyllic – that is until he decides to visit his local convenience store at the wrong time. A gang of stand-over men are looking for payment on a debt owed by the proprietor, and Walter’s friend. You know something is rotten in Denmark, and Walter looks as though he is the kinda guy to let sleeping dogs lie. No way! Like Josey Wales before him, Walter is the man, the hero who’ll always double back for a friend. That’s when the ACTION begins….

You might find yourself, as I did, waiting for something to happen. When Walter reveals his secret however, you’ll marvel and the grace, fluidity and devastating ability that the film’s hero has been keeping under his hat. The ensuing war which Walter wages with the movie’s antagonists is fierce – with a satisfying resolution.

I think the only thing I wasn’t happy about after watching Blindsided is that it ended – ’cause I, for one, wanted more. So it was an honor and a privilege to sit down with the filmmakers behind this veritable dynamo – this indie action gem waiting in the wings.

Blindsided: The Game pays homage to classic action films like Zatoichi and Blind Fury not only in its protagonist Walter, a blind swordsman, but also in that the film places heavy emphasis on storytelling combined with great action. This is no surprise with Clayton J. Barber in the director’s seat, who comes with over 20 years of experience as a stunt coordinator in Hollywood. Leading man Eric Jacobus plays Walter, a lovable cook who’s an expert gambler and swordsman. The character is the amalgamation of Jacobus’s 18-year career as a comedic action performer in the indie film arena. Director Clayton J. Barber is pushing the boundaries of modern action entertainment by bridging Hollywood with the indie action film world.

Barber notes that, “Eric Jacobus came from the indie action film realm. He was like a punk rocker of the action genre using raw film-making. We’re bridging these worlds together to create a totally new kind of action experience.” Jacobus echoes Barber’s sentiments: “Indie action guys have all the tools they need to showcase their skills, but the element of storytelling still has to be there. Clayton’s that storyteller who knows action. This is our Le Samurai.”

Barber and Jacobus aren’t the only stuntmen involved in Blindsided: The Game. The film features an ensemble of action stars and stunt performers both behind and in front of the camera. Roger Yuan, a veteran action star featured in action films such as Shanghai Noon and this year’s Accident Man, who plays the shopkeeper Gordon, also choreographed one of the film’s major fight scenes. Producer David William No (Altered Carbon from Netflix, and Matrix Reloaded) acts as a knife-wielding card shark and goes toe to toe with Jacobus in the climax. Veteran stunt performer Joe Bucaro (xXx, Iron Man) plays the ruthless gang leader Sal, Nicholas Verdi (Close Range, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) plays Nico and acted as director of photography, and Sal’s enforcer is played by Luke LaFontaine (Savage Dog, Master and Commander) who also served as the sword fight coordinator.

Production company, JB Productions, is dedicated to delivering strong storytelling and first-rate action, created by people who truly understand action. Barber says, “This is a new approach to action film-making. Blindsided: The Game is the perfect collaboration for us, and we hired great stunt performers to play the lead roles and even work behind the camera with us because we wanted to work with folks who knew action. That’s the brand people are buying into, and we’re always looking to build that brand by collaborating with talent both in America and overseas.”   Jacobus and Barber previously collaborated on the hit short films Rope A Dope and Rope A Dope 2: Revenge of the Martial Arts Mafia. Blindsided: The Game is an expansion of the 2017 short film Blindsided, which was the first title under the Jacobus / Barber (JB) Productions banner. Blindsided was released to much acclaim, with fans craving a conclusion to the story. Blindsided: The Game replays the entirety of the original Blindsided and carries the story to completion, capping the film off at the length of a TV pilot.

Jacobus and Barber are confident that Blindsided: The Game will fulfil fans’ desires for a complete film. Blindsided: The Game will be free to stream on YouTube NOW!

ERIC JACOBUS

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CLAYTON J. BARBER

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DAVID WILLIAM NO

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LUKE LaFONTAINE

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WATCH THE FILM NOW…

Donnie Darko: A Review by Nate Hill

  

The director’s cut of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. It transports you to its many layered dimension with unforced ease and tells it’s story in chapters that feel both fluid and episodic in the same stroke. It has such unattainable truths to say with its story, events that feel simultaneously impossible to grasp yet seem to make sense intangibly, like the logic one finds within a dream. These qualities are probably what lead to such polarized, controversial reactions from the masses, and eventual yearning to dissect the hidden meaning which at the time of its release, didn’t yet have the blessing of the extended cut and it’s many changes. A whole lot of people hate this movie, and just as many are in love with it as I am. I think the hate is just frustration that has boiled over and caused those without the capacity for abstract thought to jump ship on the beautiful nightmare this one soaks you in. Movies that explore the mind, the unexplainable, and the unknowable are my bread and butter, with this one taking one of the premier spots in my heart. Kelly has spun dark magic here, which he has never been able to fully recreate elsewhere (The Box is haunting, if ultimately a dud, but his cacophonic mess Southland Tales really failed to resonate with me in the slightest). Jake Gyllenhaal shines in one of his earliest roles as Donnie, a severely disturbed young man suffering through adolescence in the 1980’s, which is bad enough on its own. He’s also got some dark metaphysical forces on his back. Or does he? Donnie has visions of an eerie humanoid rabbit named Frank (James Duval) who gives him self destructive commands and makes prophetic statements about the end of the world. His home life should be idyllic, if it weren’t for the black sheep he represents in their midst, displaying behaviour outside their comprehension. Holmes Osborne subtly walks away with every scene he’s in as his father, a blueprint of everyone’s dream dad right down to a sense of humour that shows he hasn’t himself lost his innocence. Mary McDonnell alternates between stern and sympathetic as his mother, and he has two sisters: smart ass Maggie Gyllenhaal (art imitating life!) and precocious young Daveigh Chase (also Lilo and Samara from The Ring, funnily enough). The film also shows us what a showstopper high school must have been in the 80’s, with a script so funny it stings, and attention paid to each character until we realize that none are under written, and each on feels like a fully rounded human being, despite showing signs of cliche. Drew Barrymore stirs things up as an unconventional English teacher, Beth Grant is the classic old school prude who is touting the teachings of a slick local motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze). The plot is a vague string of pearls held together by tone and atmosphere, as well as Donnie’s fractured psyche. Is he insane? Are there actually otherworldly forces at work? Probably both. It’s partly left up to the viewer to discern, but does have a concrete ending which suggests… well, a lot of things, most of which are too complex to go into here. Any understanding of the physics on display here starts with a willingness to surrender your emotions and subconscious to the auditory, visual blanket of disorientation that’s thrown over you. Just like for Donnie, sometimes our answers lies just outside what is taught and perceived, in a realm that has jumped the track and exists independently of reality and in a period of time wrapped in itself, like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sound like epic implications? They are, but for the fact that they’re rooted in several characters who live in a small and isolated community, contrasting macro with micro in ways that would give David Lynch goosebumps. None of this malarkey would feel complete without a little romanticism, especially when the protagonist is in high school. Jena Malone is his star crossed lover in an arc that finds them spending little time together, yet forming a bond that that feels transcendant. Soundtrack too must be noted, from an effective opener set to INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart to the single most affecting use of Gary Jules’s Mad World I’ve ever heard. It’s important that you see the director’s cut though, wherein you can find the most complete and well paced version of the story. There’s nothing quite like Donnie Darko, to the point where even I feel like my lengthy review is stuff and nonsense, and you just have to watch the thing and see to truly experience it.

Donnie Darko: A Review by Nate Hill

  

The director’s cut of Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. It transports you to its many layered dimension with unforced ease and tells it’s story in chapters that feel both fluid and episodic in the same stroke. It has such unattainable truths to say with its story, events that feel simultaneously impossible to grasp yet seem to make sense intangibly, like the logic one finds within a dream. These qualities are probably what lead to such polarized, controversial reactions from the masses, and eventual yearning to dissect the hidden meaning which at the time of its release, didn’t yet have the blessing of the extended cut and it’s many changes. A whole lot of people hate this movie, and just as many are in love with it as I am. I think the hate is just frustration that has boiled over and caused those without the capacity for abstract thought to jump ship on the beautiful nightmare this one soaks you in. Movies that explore the mind, the unexplainable, and the unknowable are my bread and butter, with this one taking one of the premier spots in my heart. Kelly has spun dark magic here, which he has never been able to fully recreate elsewhere (The Box is haunting, if ultimately a dud, but his cacophonic mess Southland Tales really failed to resonate with me in the slightest). Jake Gyllenhaal shines in one of his earliest roles as Donnie, a severely disturbed young man suffering through adolescence in the 1980’s, which is bad enough on its own. He’s also got some dark metaphysical forces on his back. Or does he? Donnie has visions of an eerie humanoid rabbit named Frank (James Duval) who gives him self destructive commands and makes prophetic statements about the end of the world. His home life should be idyllic, if it weren’t for the black sheep he represents in their midst, displaying behaviour outside their comprehension. Holmes Osborne subtly walks away with every scene he’s in as his father, a blueprint of everyone’s dream dad right down to a sense of humour that shows he hasn’t himself lost his innocence. Mary McDonnell alternates between stern and sympathetic as his mother, and he has two sisters: smart ass Maggie Gyllenhaal (art imitating life!) and precocious young Daveigh Chase (also Lilo and Samara from The Ring, funnily enough). The film also shows us what a showstopper high school must have been in the 80’s, with a script so funny it stings, and attention paid to each character until we realize that none are under written, and each on feels like a fully rounded human being, despite showing signs of cliche. Drew Barrymore stirs things up as an unconventional English teacher, Beth Grant is the classic old school prude who is touting the teachings of a slick local motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze). The plot is a vague string of pearls held together by tone and atmosphere, as well as Donnie’s fractured psyche. Is he insane? Are there actually otherworldly forces at work? Probably both. It’s partly left up to the viewer to discern, but does have a concrete ending which suggests… well, a lot of things, most of which are too complex to go into here. Any understanding of the physics on display here starts with a willingness to surrender your emotions and subconscious to the auditory, visual blanket of disorientation that’s thrown over you. Just like for Donnie, sometimes our answers lies just outside what is taught and perceived, in a realm that has jumped the track and exists independently of reality and in a period of time wrapped in itself, like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sound like epic implications? They are, but for the fact that they’re rooted in several characters who live in a small and isolated community, contrasting macro with micro in ways that would give David Lynch goosebumps. None of this malarkey would feel complete without a little romanticism, especially when the protagonist is in high school. Jena Malone is his star crossed lover in an arc that finds them spending little time together, yet forming a bond that that feels transcendant. Soundtrack too must be noted, from an effective opener set to INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart to the single most affecting use of Gary Jules’s Mad World I’ve ever heard. It’s important that you see the director’s cut though, wherein you can find the most complete and well paced version of the story. There’s nothing quite like Donnie Darko, to the point where even I feel like my lengthy review is stuff and nonsense, and you just have to watch the thing and see to truly experience it.

PTS Presents Cinematographer’s Corner with Steven Poster Vol. 1

POSTER POWERCAST

PosterHeadshotHiResPodcasting Them Softly is extremely excited to present a chat with cinematographer Steven Poster.Steven has compiled an eclectic mix of credits throughout the years, stretching over a wide range of genres and styles. He’s worked with maverick indie director Richard Kelly on the cult classics Donnie Darko and Southland Tales as well as the underrated sci-fi thriller The Box. He shot the provocative Los Angeles sexual drama Spread, Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me, Rocky V, Big Top Pee Wee, and 80’s classics Strange Brew and The Boy Who Could Fly. Early second unit credits include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China, as well as camera operation duties on Robert Altman’s brilliant 1978 drama A Wedding. Steven also currently serves as President of the International Cinematographers Guild. His upcoming projects for next year include the horror sequel Amityville: The Awakening and the indie drama All Good Things. We hope you enjoy our discussion!

CINEMATOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT: STEVEN POSTER, ASC — BY NICK CLEMENT

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Veteran cinematographer Steven Poster, ASC has compiled a wide-ranging mix of theatrical and television credits throughout the years that stretch various genres and styles. After getting a start as a camera operator on Robert Altman’s brilliant 1978 comedy A Wedding, he moved into second unit work, getting a chance to cut his teeth on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, Starman, and Big Trouble in Little China. In recent years, he’s developed a close working relationship with maverick indie director Richard Kelly on the cult classics Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, as well as the underrated sci-fi thriller The Box, which approximated the look and feel of the 1970’s in ways that few modern movies ever attempt. He shot the provocative Los Angeles sexual drama Spread from rising star director David Mackenzie (Perfect Sense and Starred Up), Ridley Scott’s 1987 neo-noir thriller Someone to Watch Over Me, audience favorite Rocky V, the subversive and totally wild sequel Big Top Pee Wee, and 80’s classics Strange Brew and The Boy Who Could Fly. In addition to his duties behind the camera, Steven currently serves as President of the International Cinematographers Guild, and in previous years, served as President of the American Society of Cinematographers. His upcoming projects for 2016 include the horror sequel Amityville: The Awakening, a new Richard Kelly movie, and the indie drama All Good Things. He’s an artist always looking to change it up with varying material and specific aesthetic choices, while always stressing smart control with imagery and a disciplined sense of camera placement.

Donnie Darko announced the arrival of the challenging filmmaker Richard Kelly, and the film became a calling card for the director, and for a generation of high school and college kids looking for something offbeat and unique. A big reason for the film’s overall level of success is the dreamy visual style that Poster brought to the project. Shot in 2.35:1 widescreen and frequently emphasizing the middle of the frame, the film has an ominous tone all throughout, with much of the story set at night, while Poster’s camera glides through one surreal cinematic moment after another, using slow-motion in a perfect fashion, heightening the emotional moments with force and purpose. Another Poster/Kelly collaboration is Southland Tales, the divisive, Dr. Strangelove-esque political and social satire that feels like 10 movies stuffed into one, with an aesthetic style that feels like a smart and logical extension from Donnie Darko, again maximizing the use of the widescreen space, filling the screen with hallucinatory images that wash over you like some sort of wild, psychedelic trip. The saturated colors favored by Poster in this film made the volatile world being presented in the narrative all the more seductive, while the final 30 minutes represent something of a stylistic freak-out on the part of everyone involved, with Poster emphasizing the otherworldly through lens flares, bold nocturnal images, with an exploding zeppelin and a floating ice-cream truck providing him with the opportunity to craft images that feel like nothing you’ve ever seen. And Poster’s work on Ridley Scott’s underappreciated thriller Someone to Watch Over Me is a clinic on how to shoot a neo-noir that never feels overly slavish to other genre entries, always taking cues from the past while imbuing it with a (for the time) slick and sexy visual style that feels oh-so-gloriously late 80’s in retrospect. Shadows, smoke, darkness, moonlight, neon, and all sorts of atmospherics played a big part in Poster’s overall mise-en-scene, and under the firm direction of Scott, Poster was able to craft one of the best looking films of his stellar career.

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RICHARD KELLY’S SOUTHLAND TALES — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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How can one accurately “review” Richard Kelly’s mind-bendingly crazy and divisive film Southland Tales? Kelly, whose debut was the incredibly enjoyable cult classic Donnie Darko, totally shot for the moon and back with his second directorial effort, which is filled with an insane amount of ambition and spontaneous sense of creativity. A sprawling, Los Angeles-based head-trip, Southland Tales feels like one of the most expensive experimental films ever made, bowing to zero concessions, devised by a mad scientist who often times feels like he’s making up new rules as he goes along. For some, Southland Tales will inevitably be a maddening viewing experience, especially upon first glance, but over the last few years, I’ve grown to absolutely love the movie, and I constantly feel compelled to revisit it. The film’s extra-packed midsection, at first, seemed purposefully meandering, but I’ve realized that it’s just extra dense, and requires some careful dissection. While some may feel that Kelly possibly bit off more than he could chew overall, it’s impossible to dismiss this film the way a majority of critics did, if for no other reason than it takes serious chances as a piece of storytelling, and because it’s a surreal, distinct vision that could only have come from a filmmaker with immense talent and a high level of chutzpah.

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The film starts off in 2005, at a backyard, Fourth of July barbeque in Texas. Home video camera footage shows families playing with sparklers and eating hot dogs. Then, the unthinkable—a mushroom cloud can be seen in the horizon. An atomic bomb has been dropped in Abilene. The world is forever changed. We then jump three years into the future to Los Angeles; again, it’s July 4, but the world we knew is gone. Society stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental disaster. A fascist government is in control with big brother lurking everywhere. Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is an action-movie star who’s stricken with amnesia. He crosses paths with a calculating porn star named Krysta Now (a sassy Sara Michelle Geller), who, among other things, is developing her own reality television project. The two of them concoct a movie idea that has Boxer set to play a cop. Meanwhile, good-guy police officer Ronald Taverner (an excellent Sean William Scott), agrees to allow Santaros to shadow him so he can get the feel for police life in an effort to turn in a convincing performance. But, it turns out that Taverner may hold the key to a vast conspiracy that nobody is ready to comprehend. There’s a lot more to Southland Tales than that. Radicals are stirring up a political uprising, using Venice beach and Santa Monica as their staging ground, while much of Los Angeles has been reduced to a DMZ. Armed soldiers monitor the beaches and streets with itchy trigger fingers. Then there’s the finale with two Roland Taverners, time-portals that open up into new dimensions, a floating ice cream truck, rocket launchers, and an exploding, futuristic zeppelin. There’s more…much more…but I’m at a loss to know how to summarize all of it. It’s a massive piece of filmmaking, going off on tangents and filling the frame with tons of visual detail (Kelly’s regular collaborator, the versatile Steven Poster, handled the aggressively stylish cinematography). This is a film that takes elements of political satire, post-apocalyptic nightmare, science-fiction fantasy, romantic drama, and movie-musical and throws them all into a blender and swirls them up into a wild smoothie of a movie.

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Making all of these seemingly disparate threads add up to a cohesive whole had to have been a herculean task. This is a staggeringly original piece of work, filled with homages to classic films, while still operating as a unique vision all its own. While narratively stuffed at times, and with performances that veer this way one moment and the other way the next, Kelly’s film is never boring and is fascinating on many levels, mostly because Southland Tales is satirizing a world that doesn’t totally exist. Kelly created a frightening political and social landscape, one that in fact may not be too far away for all of us in reality. But by not basing his vision in any sort of fully realistic setting, the audience isn’t in on the joke as much as Kelly; he’s poking fun at a world that is removed from our own, and as such, the satire sometimes feels a bit esoteric. But that’s because Kelly truly KNOWS this world that he’s created. The performances are broad, and in many respects, over the top, but that was likely the directorial intention. The true acting surprise of the film was easily Sean William Scott, still best known at the time for his immortal role as “Stifler” in the American Pie franchise, and here, give the chance to be someone totally different from the lovable and immature clown that he so memorably portrayed. Granted, his character (much like the audience), spends most of the film in a fog of confusion, but the charm and ease that he brings to this zany movie is very effective and emotionally engaging. I always had the sneaking suspicion that there was more to him as an actor, and throughout much of Southland Tales, he makes good on that promise.

As Southland Tales moves towards its fiery climax, the film really ups the momentum and becomes something truly fantastic. The last 30 minutes are awesome in a deranged, Terry Gilliam-esque fashion, with bracing moments of chuck-it-all abandon, which makes for some delirious fun. Kelly and Poster conjure up one fantastical image after another, using the widescreen space as their ultimate surrealistic playground, riffing on commercialism, surveillance tactics, and filmmaking in general, all in effort to yield something as different as possible. Kelly re-edited his film extensively after the initial three hour cut was derided at the Cannes Film Festival, which in retrospect, as he mentioned in interviews, was likely the A-1 worst place for this film to debut, especially in an unfinished state.  He snipped about 30 minutes from the run time, got rid of entire characters (Janeane Garofalo was a cast-casualty), and added some special effects; I’d love to see his initial cut for the sake of comparison. A film this creative, unique, and brazen could only come from an individual with an enormous imagination, and in today’s cookie-cutter Hollywood landscape, Kelly deserves points for making a film as out there as this one, which easily ranks as one of the most ambitious if at times perplexing films I’ve ever come across, one that has aged extremely well over time as our social landscape continually changes.