Tag Archives: Shawnee Smith

Michael Bay’s Armageddon

As Michael Bay’s Armageddon opens, a stern, well spoken Charlton Heston informs us that once upon a time a great big asteroid slammed into our planet and killed all the dinosaurs. He also makes mention that it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. Well, Michael Bay takes that and runs with it for nearly three furious hours of jump cuts, character actors, explosions, music montages and delirious extended Americana fanfare, and I love the resulting film to bits with no apologies or hesitation. Bay haters (Bay-ters to us cool kids) can whine and rip on the guy all he wants but fuck em, Armageddon is one kick ass film and an all time favourite for me. I feel like people just latch onto the glossy, runaway excess of the Transformers films and are blind to the fact that the guy has several classics under his belt, this being chief among them.

Never mind that the plot defies logical scrutiny or science, it’s an excuse to see Bruce Willis and his merry band of oil drillers train for NASA’s space program, climb aboard the space shuttle that might as well be a party bus, blast around the moon and hang out on the surface of a freaky looking meteor that Steve Buscemi’s loopy Rockhound literally refers to as ‘Dr. Seuss’s worst nightmare.’ If there’s one thing you can count on in a Bay film it’s no expense spared on spectacle and set pieces, even the ones that aren’t necessarily central to the plot. Before Willis and his team are even briefed on the situation there’s a mini-asteroid demolition derby that shreds NYC and a busted valve on his oil rig that sends equipment flying everywhere and goes on for a good ten minutes as he’s somehow chasing Ben Affleck around with a shotgun as an aside to the main event. Willis and Affleck spar with each other over his daughter (Liv Tyler) and call me an old school sap but I’ve always fallen hook line and sinker for their romance, put to the test by the potential end of the world and accented by the now infamous Aerosmith song belted out by her dad in the background. The cast is stacked too, as per Bay. Scenery chewing occurs thanks to Michael Clarke Duncan, Owen Wilson, Keith David, Jason Isaacs, Udo Kier, Eddie Griffin, Grace Zabriskie, Keri Russell, Chris Ellis, John Mahon, Shawnee Smith and Peter Stormare in probably the craziest Eastern European characterization he’s ever pulled off as the caretaker of the Russian space station who has more than a few screws loose.

As wild and crazy as much of the film gets, there’s a few characters who provide dramatic depth and weight that I’ve never seen mentioned in reviews, as most of them seem to be just focused on bashing Bay and his tactics instead. Billy Bob Thornton Is uncharacteristically grounded and dignified as the head of NASA, ditching his usual cocky prick attitude for a much more down to earth turn. Will Patton always makes me tear up as Chick, compulsive gambler who just wants to do right by his wife and kid, as well as make it home to see them. William Fichtner gives powerful work as an Air Force hotshot who also fears for his family’s lives and gets the most affecting scene of the film in a tense, emotional confrontation with Willis. Sure there’s the inherent silliness of the ‘Leavin On. A Jet Plane’ scene (it’s actually kind of sweet) and the overall maniacal attitude plus the constant stream of deafening pyrotechnics and special effects. But there’s also key dramatic moments and a host of excellent performances, and it would do many well to remember that. It’s an all timer for me, and a childhood classic that I fondly remember watching on VHS with my dad countless times. Oh, and fun fact; the guy who plays the US President here is Stanley Anderson, who also got the role in Bay’s The Rock, which pretty much suggests they exist in the same universe. I like the thought of a Bay multiverse, heh.

-Nate Hill

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James Wan’s Saw

As much as the Saw franchise has become a screaming mad runaway train from which there is no escape or slowing down (I think they just rolled out the eighth one? Fucking Christ), sometimes I need to remind myself that the first is in fact an excellent horror film and worthy of the mythic status it has earned these days. Written by and starring Leigh Whannell who has recently branched out to direct this year’s awesome genre bender Upgrade, it’s directed by James Who has gone on to become a superstar in the genre, but it’s a bit ironic because with this he basically pioneered a whole new tributary of gore-centric horror, yet went on to do fright flicks that notoriously toned down the carnage in favour of real scares. In a dark, damp room, a doctor (Cary Elwes) and a smart ass (Whannell) are held prisoner, chained to radiators. They are informed by unseen serial killer Jigsaw that they must either chop off a limb with the rusty hacksaw laying about, or die in captivity. A corpse lies near them as well as several other tools and riddles, both of the men have secrets that will come to light and play a part in the unfolding horrors to come. Elsewhere, a weary police detective (Danny Glover) follows the trail of clues and tries to hunt down the elusive Jigsaw killer. It’s all a wickedly paced mechanization that moves along like one of Jigsaw’s jagged, gruesome traps until it reaches that final staggering revelation that has since become legend. Others along for the ride include Lost’s Michael Emerson, Tobin Bell, Monica Potter and Shawnee Smith as the now infamous Amanda. The key to all this, and something that they forgot when churning out those ridiculous sequels, is that less is more. This was a low budget shocker that largely relied on one location, and the looming threat of grisly violence rather than wanton gore every other minute. I suppose every successful idea gets saturated by money and excess once the ball gets rolling but holy fuck did they ever let these Saw films get out of control. The first two are like being at a bar with a few of your friends having casual drinks, then three and four roll in as those crazy friends of friends who order way too many shots and start breaking stuff, by the time five and six show up everyone is dancing and throwing up all over the bar and you forgot how you even got there, and the seventh (in 3D no less, because that’s what we needed) is the anguished hangover the next morning and by then you just want it to stoooopppp. At least that’s how I felt watching the them. I’d just as soon stick to this one, it’s a dark, surprisingly thoughtful chiller with a strong story and one of the best yuck moments in the genre. People forget how measured and restrained it is compared to the un-contained wildfire that those sequels smothered it with.

-Nate Hill

A chat with Tammy Lauren- An interview by Nate Hill

  
Excited to bring you my first interview in some time, with the lovely Tammy Lauren!

Tammy has made vivid impressions in numerous films including Wes Craven’s Wishmaster, Costa Gavras’s Mad City, I Saw What You Did, Chains Of Gold, Tiger Warsaw and more. She has also appeared in quite a few television shows including Little House On The Prairie, Criminal Minds, ER, Two & A Half Men, Home Improvement, Crossing Jordan, MacGyver and more. She’s a great talent and was a pleasure to speak with, enjoy!
Nate: What led you to acting? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or did you stumble into it unexpectedly?
Tammy: My parents put me in the business when I was 8 years old. My parents put me in a children’s acting class, which then led to me auditioning for a play in San Diego (The Music Man) and the director of the play told my parents I should try and do TV and film. So, I’d say I stumbled into it.
Nate: Wishmaster: incredible, iconic horror film. How was your experience working on it, with all those unbelievable special effects, and starring alongside Andrew Divoff?
Tammy: It was exhausting. All that running and crying and freaking out…I loved Andy and Bob, the director and thought having all the horror icons involved was super cool. I just saw Bob and Andy at a horror convention and they taped the three of us watching the film and commenting for the Blu Ray, which brought back a ton of memories. Andy eating jelly beans to get his voice the way it was as the Djinn, Bob FREAKING out about the special effects and Red Room (the part that was supposed to be inside the Djinn’s mind), me FREAKING out that my performance was probably JUST AWFUL. 
Nate: Costa Gravras’s Mad City: How was your experience working on this one?
Tammy: Incredible. I first met John Travolta when I was a kid and he was at Paramount filming Urban Cowboy, I did a film years later that John produced and starred in, Chains of Gold and so at that point, I’d known John for a few decades. I was enamored of Dustin and of course, Costas. And this was the film set I got engaged on! My husband proposed to me in my dressing room and John and Dustin had some cake and stuff brought on stage to throw us an impromptu engagement party. 
Nate: Little House On The Prairie: how did you get involved with that, and how was it working on such a legendary show?
Tammy: I auditioned for it. At the time, it was very popular so I was excited. My favorite memory from that is working with Robert Loggia, playing his daughter. He’s an incredibly talented actor. His character was supposed to terrify me, which he did but he was also SO kind to me.

Nate: A few roles over your career that have been your favorite so far?
Tammy: Homefront was a favorite role of mine. When I was young, it was Mork and Mindy because of Robin. I also really liked doing Criminal Minds because my character had rabies and honestly, how many times do you get to do THAT? 🙂

Nate: Who inspired you (actors/filmmakers) growing up and in your work as well?
Tammy: Actors – Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, Jack Nickelson, Carol Burnett. Filmmakers – Francis Ford Coppola, James Brooks

Nate: The tv movie I Saw What You Did: My favourite role of yours alongside Wishmaster. Lisa was quite the character. How was that experience for you?
Tammy: Awesome. Because Carradine brothers. And Shawnee. That was actually the second movie for television we had done together and we both played similar roles in both. I liked that one too.
Nate: Do you have any upcoming projects, film related or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to mention? 
Tammy: I’ve been in tech for a while now, I don’t act a lot anymore. It’s more a thing of someone I know is doing something and for some reason, they call me. I am not as active when it comes to pursuing work. But I do stuff occasionally.
Nate: Thank you so much for sharing, Tammy, and for your time, it’s been an honour!
Tammy: Hope this helps Nate. Hope you and yours have a very happy holidays!

Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours: A Review by Nate Hill 

Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours, despite only really being a servicable home invasion/hostage thriller, still has a lot of fun with it’s two leads, brash sociopath Mickey Rourke and even brasher estranged family man Anthony Hopkins. Based on a creaky old Humphrey Bogart film, Cimino obviously vamps up the violence and eroticism that simmers beneath it quite a bit, and when you have Rourke as your antagonist you know it’s not going to be anywhere near a relaxed affair. He plays Michael Bosworth,  a dangerous felon on the run with two other goons, his volatile brother (Elias Koteas) and another creepy lowlife (David Morse). He crashes into the home life of Tim Cornell (Anthony Hopkins) a boorish father visiting his wife (Mimi Rogers) and children. The film mainly takes place inside the house, as the creep factor rises along with the threat of blaring violence which we know will come, made all the more likely by the growing police presence outdoors, and the tensions of everyone involved, threatening to snap at any moment. Rourke walks a tightrope between amiable and unstable, a man sure of himself, who always gets his way, and is capable of bad, bad things if he feels he won’t. Hopkins plays Cornell as a man used to being in control, but his inability to hold his family together is made worse by the gang’s arrival, rubbing salt in an already festering wound. Cimino has a brawny style to his violence, a trademark that’s seemingly born of both De Palma and Peckinpah, rich bloody gun battles and accentuated slow motion death scenes. Most of the film is held back, but the flood gates do eventually open and action hounds will get what they came for. Watch for Lindsay Crouse, Kelly Lynch, Shawnee Smith, James Rebhorn and Dean Norris as well. Not groundbreaking in the least as far as thrillers are concerned, but still an entertaining little piece made memorable by Rourke and Cimino’s ever interesting pairing.