Tag Archives: stuart wilson

Michael Bay’s The Rock

Who loves Michael Bay’s The Rock? I think a better question is who doesn’t. It was one of my first introductions to the action genre as a kid and I sat there in Saturday morning disbelief at just what was possible in the realms of cinema. Alcatraz Island, nuclear warheads filled with horrific poison gas, Nicolas Cage in charismatic goofball mode, Sean Connery basically reprising his 007 role one last time, a rogues gallery of gnarly character actors all hamming it up to high heaven, a score from Hans Zimmer that soars and invoked both emotion and adrenaline, what’s there not to fall in love with.

The plot here is besides the point: angry rogue military general Ed Harris takes Alcatraz hostage, threatens to launch warheads across harbour into crowded San Fran. Chemistry guru Nic Cage, ex MI6 super-spy Sean Connery and a team of Navy Seals covertly lead a siege on the rock to stop him. Many guns are fired, a lot of shit blows up and endless one liners are uttered. That’s the nutshell version though, the actual experience is something blissful and perfectly pitched in terms of the recipe for a great action film. Connery is intense yet somehow laid back and steals the show as the pissed off, blacklisted agent who really doesn’t care about the threat towards the city, or at least pretends not to. Cage, whether strumming his guitar, banging his super hot Italian American wife (Vanessa Marcel) or referencing Elton John right before killing a bad guy, is comic dynamite and a source of desperate, scenery chewing energy that somehow works despite how ridiculous his performance is (it’s like the antithesis of his work in Con Air, the sister film to this). What I love about Harris’s villain here is that, unlike many huge budget action flicks, you actually care about this guy and what he wants, despite the extreme measures he’s gone to get them. He’s calm, resolute and sorrowful and not much about his performance suggests an antagonist except for the situation the character is written into and it’s an interesting, thoughtful choice for the film’s baddie. The real nasty characters are the mercenaries he hires to carry out his mission, who include the more subdued likes of David Morse and John C. McGinley, the less subdued Bokeem Woodbine and Gregory Sorlader and the positively psychotic Tony Todd as Captain Darrow, the last guy you’d want on either side of the moral fence as his seems to be absent. On the other side of the action we get John Spencer as a cranky FBI bigwig, legendary Michael Biehn as the Seal commando, always awesome William Forsythe as the one FBI agent with a brain in his head and cameos from Pat Skipper, Claire Forlani, Danny Nucci, Tom Towles, Jim Caviesel, Stanley Anderson, Raymond Cruz, Xander Berkeley, Philip Baker Hall and Stuart Wilson.

From the moment Harris’s team steals the rockets to the explosive sequence where Cage flags down the military in a sly Platoon reference, this thing fires with everything it’s got. Connery’s escape and car chase through the streets of San Fran goes on needlessly long and exists only for the purpose of an action sequence, making it all the more awesome. Harris and Biehn’s utterly badass stare down and frantic chicken fight over who will order a stand-down first always gets me. It’s such a well made action film that even the Bay haters sound like ignoramuses when they bash it. Roger Ebert, who has routinely torn Bay new assholes over the years in his reviews, loved it. Zimmer’s theme is the perfect symphony for fighter jets, commandos, yellow hummers’ (“You shtole my humvee!”), trolley cars, assault weapons and high powered rockets to thunder across the harbour in spectacular fashion. The Rock rocks.

-Nate Hill

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Martin Campbell’s The Mask Of Zorro

Martin Campbell’s The Mask Of Zorro still holds up today, thanks mostly to its sumptuous, sultry production design and three passionate, swashbuckling and delightfully self aware performances from Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas. This was one of the first more intense and violent adventure films I saw as a young’un, and while the PG13 heroics seem tame in comparison to other films, it still has that menacing edge for me. Hopkins is a scene stealer as Don Diego, the fearless rascal who takes up the mantle of Zorro and passes it along to haughty young thief Alejandro (Banderas) years after he’s betrayed by despicable nobleman Montero (Stuart Wilson, slimy and then some). The real eye catcher is drop dead gorgeous Zeta Jones as Diego’s daughter Elena, whose swordplay and roguish attitude both match and spar with that of Banderas, their chemistry onscreen is pure Latin fire in full flame. It gets quite lighthearted and theatrical at times but this is after all Zorro and not Batman we’re talking about here, he’s kind of like the Latin Lone Ranger and the flamboyant flourish is part of the charm. The supporting cast is fun too, but Matt Letscher is a bit vanilla to play the dastardly secondary villain who literally keeps heads in a jar, they would have been better off going the grizzled character actor route instead of a golden boy like him. All is well with Maury Chaykin as a testy prison warden and the late L.Q. Jones as a crusty outlaw who mentors young Banderas and has arguably the most memorable scene of the film. The star power of our three leads is where it’s at though, Banderas is smokin’ good in the charcoal black outfit waving the classic needle sword around in people’s faces, Hopkins exudes an amused nobility and Jones… man, you don’t find beauty and charisma like that every day. James Horner’s score is a trumpet blast of celebratory cues that fires up the action energetically, Cecilia Montiel’s production design lovingly brings the world and time period to life, while Campbell paints in broad, playful director’s strokes, all to bring us what has become an adventure classic. There is a sequel, but it’s kind of a listless, gaudy retread that loses the magic in cheesy set pieces, stick with this diamond instead .

-Nate Hill

Anyone you can catch, kill and eat: Remembering No Escape with Michael Gaylin by Kent Hill

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Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of Aliens and The Terminator, headed the charge back in the early 90s toward the adaptation of a book written by Richard Herley titled, The Penal Colony.

Set in 1997, it tells the story of how the British Government runs island prison colonies as a means to stem the tide of an overflow in mainland jails. There are no guards, no cells, and the island is monitored via satellite surveillance.

We follow the  a character named Anthony Routledge, who is brought to the island for a sex-crime that he did not commit. He soon discovers that under the guidance of a charismatic leader, a community on the island has evolved.

Now if that’s not the ideal film to make here in Australia, (if your are aware that it is pretty much how our nation began) then I don’t know what is. The production would hire future Bond director Martin Campbell, along with stars Ray Liotta, Lance Henriksen, Stuart Wilson and Ernie Hudson.

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Then a screenwriter named Michael Gaylin, a man who had slaved away in obscurity in Hollywood for more than a decade, would come into contact with a colleague of Hurd’s. He went for a meeting and, finally, after a career of false starts and forgotten promises, he was going to be writing on a film that would eventually, make it to the big screen.

After a long wait, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Michael about his career and his experiences during the making of No Escape or Escape from Absolom (as it was released over here). What I discovered, during our conversation, was not merely an insight into a film I heartily enjoy, but also the story of a resilient writer who finally had one script break through. A real life story very much akin to the journey of the hero of the film; who would take on all conflicts and eventually overcome them . . .  and escape.

It is a great film in the grand tradition of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Michael Gaylin.

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B Movie Glory: Slow Burn


Slow Burn is.. odd, to say the least. Living up to its title, it pretty much goes nowhere, tagging along with James Spader and Josh Brolin as they stumble around in the desert, both hitting on treasure hunter Minnie Driver, who constantly outwits them. This kind of lower budget, steamy stuff just seems to have a licence to languish, in the sense that story is of little concern, it’s more about mood and episodic character interaction than anything else. Spader and Brolin are doing the ‘Of Mice & Men’ shtick here, playing two hapless escaped convicts, one a sharp tongued weasel (Spader) and the other a dimwitted lug (Brolin). They’re kind of lost, in both perpetual arguments and the vast Mojave around them, when they run into Driver, whose presence, and the idea that there’s a whole whack of diamonds buried out there somewhere, inevitably stirs things up. The diamonds belonged to her parents, and there’s hazy scenes relating back to a tragedy involving her gypsy father (Chris Mulkey, briefly) and a mysterious character played by Stuart Wilson who serves as pseudo-narrator as he wanders around out there too. Got that? It’s ok, they barely explain it better than I just did, I’ve seen the thing twice and I’m still not sure how it all adds up either. Sweat, sand, sensual looks snuck between Brolin and Driver, dreamy atmosphere, threats of violence from Spader’s overacted, crazy eyed moron, a treasure hunt and general lack of cohesion is all you’ll find out here in this desert. Good for an absent minded watch or for background noise, not much else though. 

-Nate Hill

No Escape: A Review by Nate Hill 

  

No Escape is the type of flick that Stallone or Schwarzenegger would have headlined, had it been given a higher budget and major studios presence. It’s almost better that it didn’t, because instead we got a scrappy little post apocalyptic actioner starring a cheeky, roughneck Ray Liotta, who you just can never say no to when he shows up. He plays J.T. Robbins here, an army official who’s been disgraced and stripped of his title following an incident involving a superior officer. He’s being shipped off to Absolon, a remote island that’s been fashioned into a massive prison for convicts who are never to be released. Two groups of prisoners inhabit Absolon: a piratical group of violent miscreants led by flamboyant Walter Marek (Stuart Wilson commands attention with his uproariously weird performance), and a peaceful tribe of hut dwellers, presided over by father (Lance Henriksen). Robbins wants only to escape, a prospect that has been fervently shot down in his face by Absolon’s overbearing Warden (Michael Lerner). Using his military cunning and inherent brute force, he tries to start a war between the two factions and raise enough of a commotion to make a break for it. What he doesn’t count on is his fondness for the people within Father’s group, and his eventual need to get some of the, out as well. It’s pure aged mid 90’s dystopian action cheese, and a delight for any lovers of the gourmet dish. Liotta is strong, silent and nasty when provoked, a great antihero. Henriksen is unusually compassionate and reserved, and Wilson struts around without any inhibitions, wearing his best grade school play face chomping scenery like a wildebeest. Watch for work from Kevin Dillon, Ian McNeice and Ernie Hudson as well. A lighthearted romp with its heart in the right place and the competence to back it up.