What the hell did just watch. Oh boy, what can I say about this one without tearing it a new one. Alan Rudolph’s Trixie is a dud, a paperweight, a misguided, clumsy disaster of the highest order. It has the tonal equilibrium of heart attack on a flow chart, and a troupe of actors who mercilessly embarrass themselves into the ground with work that goes beyond tireless pantomime. It’s sad, because I’ve seen this type of thing work nicely before, with the right amounts of quaint and quirky qualities, but here the mixture tanks in a god awfully messy cannonball of a landing. It tries to be a detective story, but fails to realize that you need some semblance of a story to care about, and I just…. didn’t care. It’s a slog to get through, a struggle to stay focused on, and basically a big awkward failure on every level. Also puzzling is the fact that cast, all of which are excellent actors who I love in almost everything they do, all made me want to hit them here, and when you’ve got a cast this good, that’s no easy feat. Emily Watson will make you want to tear your hair out as titular Trixie, a casino security guard with aspirations of taking on a big detective case, an irritating Chicago accent and apparantly mild brain damage that causes her to mispronounce every expression, figure of speech and slang term in a fashion that is neither cute nor funny. She’s wooed by Dex (Dermot Mulroney) a goon who works for sleazy land developer Red Rafferty (Will Patton). Soon, through a set of circumstances both inane and cartoonish, they find themselves deep in some sort of backhanded scheme involving murder most foul, tied to a corrupt state senator played by Nick Nolte, who is the peacock of the bunch, sucking all the energy out of the room with dialogue that is literally lifted straight from political speeches from the past. I’m not even kidding, he blusters out platitudes that vaguely have a place in whatever seen is going on, but barely. There’s also a hot young waitress (a bouncy Brittany Murphy), a flamboyant lounge singer (Nathan Lane is excruciating), a washed up pop star (Lesley Ann Down) and a bizarre cameo from Stephen Lang who attempts an accent that made me supremely uncomfortable. It’s weird, cumbersome and altogether pointless as everything it tries: comedy, thriller, romance, whodunit.. all fall miserably flat. Bummer. I’m gonna go make a list of all the things I could have been doing with the two hours I spent on this wreck.
An Occasional Hell is one of countless cable TV crime melodramas that start to blur together if you’ve seen enough. They don’t often have high budgets, and as such usually only contain a few elements: a handful of actors, a murder mystery, deception, eroticism and very little in the way of fancy special effects. This one has a solid lead in Tom Berenger, who can make anything watchable, and great supporting players who pitch in as well. The story, or lack thereof, is where the problem arises. Berenger plays an ex cop and forensics wizard turned college professor, who is hired by sultry widow Valeria Golino (remember her from Hot Shots? Lol) to solve the murder of her husband and his hot young mistress (Kari Wuhrer), who has vanished. It turns out the mistress may have been involved with drug runners (random) the state troopers get involved and it’s all one big mess that neither Berenger nor the plot can seem to figure out. There’s a cynical lead Trooper played by a snarky, laid back Robert Davi, and other assorted people including Richard Edson, Ellen Greene, Geoffrey Lewis and a kooky Stephen Lang, who shows up in flashbacks as Golino’s eccentric civil war enthusiast husband. None of it makes all that much sense or seems to flow in a way that’s believable, but Berenger makes it somewhat worthwhile, as do that other players. Just below average stuff.
Stephen Lang Week: Day 2
There’s a scene early on in The Men Who Stare at goats where hapless General Dean Hopgood (Stephen Lang) attempts a platform 9 & 3 quarters style sprint towards a solid wall, in attempt to use ‘psychic abilities’ he is being taught at a hush-hush military base. He smashes headlong into it, and in the most deadpan drawl, mutters “damn” in all seriousness. This one moment sort of sums up the absurd vibe that thrums throughout the whole film. It’s kind of like a Coen Brothers thing; you either get it or you don’t. This film isn’t quite as hilarious as it’s sister, Burn After Reading, but damn if it doesn’t try, and come out with some really weird and memorable stuff. It’s colorful hogwash that the cast sells with the enthusiasm of a drunken used car salesman, and speaking of cast, wow there are a lot of heavy hitters playing in the sandbox here. George Clooney, in yet another of his patented lovable goof roles, plays Lyn Cassidy, a former US Army nutjob who claims to have been a part of a clandestine program called the New Earth Army, employing paranormal powers in their missions. Bemused journalist Ewan McGregor is shanghai’d into following him on a mad goose chase to find out if any of his stories are true, but mostly just to babysit him, as he’s kind of a walking disaster. Ineptitude reaches a breaking point when we meet pseudo hippie Bill Django, played by Jeff Bridges who channels every other oddball role he’s done for maximum effect. Bill headed up the program until he got stymied by opposing official Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), a tight ass skeptic with no patience for such silliness. In fact, one must have a huge tolerance for such silliness to sit through this, and a sense of humour just south of normal to appreciate what it has to offer. I have both, and greatly enjoyed it, despite being thoroughly bewildered. Watch for Stephen Root, Glenn Moreshower, Rebecca Mader, Nick Offerman and good old Robert Patrick in a cameo as some sort of vague spy dude. A clown show to rival a high school play, no doubt, and I mean that as a compliment.
It’s mind-bender time with The I Inside, a supremely trippy little psychological thriller with shades of everything from Stay and Jacob’s Ladder to Memento and The Jacket. It’s not derivitive though, finding it’s own little bubble of confusing plot twists and unreliable reality for our protagonist, played by Ryan Phillipe, to navigate. He plays a man who awakens in a hospital with no memory of the last two years, how he got there or what went wrong. The head doctor (Stephen Rea) informs him he’s come out of a coma, but offers little other information. Soon time blurs out of mind and he awakens yet again, this time two years in the future, once again in the same hospital. Somehow he can travel in a rift between 2000 and 2002, and must find the connection between the two, and how it relates to him. Now, forewarning: This is one goddamn confusing film. I’m usually pretty adept at distilling dense, scattered or otherwise inaccessible story lines, but this is a doozy. I’ve only seen it once and wound up not having a clue how it all ended up, whether it was due to scattershot writing, or the filmmakers deliberatly making it near unfathomable just to put you in his predicament for effect. Either way, it’s a confounding blizzard of time shifts, strange characters, mental blank spots and perceptive trickery that I’ll need at least a few more viewings to get a handle on. Two different women show up at various points in time, played by Piper Perabo and a chilling Sarah Polley, each claiming to be his wife and messing with his head even more. The only thread that links the two time periods besides him is a mysterious heart trauma patient (an excellent Stephen Lang) who recognizes him in the future and gets his own dose of WTF in the process. This is based on a stage play called Point Of Death, and as such has that intimate, one location feel. We’re never allowed to see outside the hospital in either era, adding to Phillipe’s paranoia and unease. I sometimes think about this film, and what it all really meant, and keep reminding myself to slot in time for a revisit. Take a look, and see if you can figure it out the first time around.
There’s no other way to put this; DON’T BREATHE is fucking gnarly. Set inside a singular house, a group of young friends set to rob a blind man for an easy “once in a lifetime” heist. Sounds simple enough.
Except the blind man is Stephen Lang.
Fede Alvarez is one of the best young directors currently working in Hollywood. His EVIL DEAD remake, which at the time seemed incredibly unnecessary, remains to be one of the best remakes of recent years (very much akin to Marcus Nispel’s fantastic TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake). Alvarez is an absolute maestro behind the camera.
While the film could have been just another run of the mill genric horror/thriller film, it excels with Avarez’s razor sharp eye and the casting of Stephen Lang in one of his most sinister and brutal turns yet.
Lang is one of my favorite actors. The guy has been in so many great films, projected so many great characters, yet he never has been held to a typecast. In this film, he takes the big bad antagonist and obliterates the screen with his physical intensity. He’s a blind man, with a dark secret, who surpasses any and all boundaries to keep it safe.
Alvarez creates a small and intimate film, that builds and layers suspense to the point where you are constantly squirming in your seat and find yourself looking away from the transgressive visuals and sounds protruding off the screen. If you enjoyed the dark nature of GREEN ROOM, you’re going to love DON’T BREATHE.
STEPHEN LANG is an award-winning actor known for his work on TV, film and stage. Lang has been cast in a recurring role as Waldo in the upcoming AMC genre-bending material arts series INTO THE BADLAND. He will also be reprising his role as Colonel Miles Quaritch from James Cameron’s AVATAR in the three upcoming sequels. Lang can be seen starring in WGN America’s hit series SALEM as Increase Mathers. Recently, Lang took his acclaimed stage production of BEYOND GLORY on the road to eight cities nationwide. You can also watch Lang in the documentary BEYOND GLORY which the actor as he tracks the ten year odyssey behind his one-man show about eight medal of honor recipients.
Last fall, he starred as Coach Farris in 23 BLAST, a sports drama based on the true story of a high school football star who is suddenly stricken with irreversible total blindness. He also starred as Increase Mathers in the first season of WGN America’s hit series SALEM. Lang can be seen in such films as Stephen King’s A GOOD MARRIAGE, THE NUT JOB, IN THE BLOOD, and PIONEER. He was also featured in the cast of the HBO documentary LOVE, MARILYN. Lang’s many films include LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, TOMBSTONE, GODS AND GENERALS, GETTYSBURG, PUBLIC ENEMIES, WHITE IRISH DRINKERS, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, CHRISTINA, and AVATAR.
Film awards and nominations include Saturn Award for Outstanding Villain, The Grace Prize, MTV and Teen Choice Awards, Best Actor Buffalo-Niagra Film Fest, Outstanding Acting Achievement VisonFest X.
Extensive work on TV includes Michael Mann’s classic CRIME STORY, and TERRA NOVA. His extensive work on the New York stage includes A FEW GOOD MEN, THE SPEED OF DARKNESS, DEATH OF A SALESMAN DEFIANCE, THE GUYS, and HAMLET, as well as 101 critically acclaimed performances of his solo play, BEYOND GLORY at The Roundabout.
He received the NEA Chairman’s Medal for Distinguished Service for bringing BEYOND GLORY to American troops around the globe, as well as the Bob Hope Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for his portrayal of American fighting men. Other theatre awards and nominations include The Tony, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Joseph Jefferson, Helen Hayes, and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Lang holds Honorary Doctorates from Swarthmore College and Jacksonville University, and is a member of The Actors Studio.
Exeter marks a return to the straight-up horror genre for slice-and-dice specialist Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Pathfinder, Conan the Barbarian). This gonzo, surprisingly funny, high-energy, EXTRA-gory horror flick puts a simple and fresh spin on the classic exorcism narrative and throws in some twists along with a supreme sense of style. A bunch of teenagers have decided to turn a run down children’s mental hospital into the makeshift location of a rave, and after doing some excessive partying, a group of friends splinter off and begin to get into some seriously messed up situations with the ghosts of dead children. Possessions ensue, exorcisms are attempted, people can no longer be trusted, the bodies start to hit the floor, and the film goes totally nuts in the final act, featuring one of the nastiest bits of horror movie violence I’ve seen in a while. This isn’t my normal cinematic milieu, and I’m not as well versed in this sort of material as so many others clearly are, but I was drawn to the project by Nispel (long an effective stylist drawn to hardcore material) and the involvement of the great character actor Stephen Lang, who gets the film’s best scenes and lines of dialogue. One of those talents who spruces up any picture that is lucky enough to cast him, Lang clearly had a blast getting down and dirty with this bit of extreme nastiness. Shot on a low budget but never looking anything less than spectacular, Nispel and cinematographer Eric Treml bathe the film in saturated colors, lens flares, and jet blacks with cool blues, employing hand-held cameras with variable shutter speeds, creating a visceral effect that puts you in the middle of all of the limb-lopping, glop-filled fights and kills that Nispel so clearly has a ball in staging. One bit, involving the loss of half of one’s face, is, for the lack of a better word, horrifically memorable. Production designer Guy Roland and set decorator Sarah Hill Richmond had fun with the scuzzy and threatening solo location, and the editing by Blake Maniquis never rests for a moment but never overwhelms the picture with incoherence. For fans of this sort of extra-grisly yet still playful horror madness, Exeter should more than easily hit the mark.