Tag Archives: thandie newton

Brad Anderson’s Vanishing On 7th Street

Brad Anderson’s Vanishing On 7th Street pulled a vanishing act of its own almost immediately following release, sinking into the background with little acclaim or celebration. I really love its slow, atmospheric and ambiguous take on the post apocalyptic chiller. Anderson has two brilliant thrillers under his belt (Session 9, The Machinist) another two great but flawed ones (The Call, Transsiberian), but this is up there with his best for me, and definitely his most overlooked. Anakin Skywalker plays a Detroit news anchor who wakes up to something sinister: people are disappearing into the long, gaunt shadows that have started to amass here and there, especially at night where light sources are scarcer. By disappearing I mean just that; the dark hits them and suddenly there’s just a pile of clothes where they were standing, it’s quite jarring. He forms a band of desperate survivors including plucky Thandie Newton, her son (Jacob Latimore), an orphaned girl they find (Tyler Groothius) and custodian John Leguizamo, excellent as that one guy who won’t go down without a fight. It’s a dim, dark and depressing film that slowly drains the hope and light from the corners of each frame, but I love that primal terror one gets from it. Usually when we are scared of the dark we can keep the fear at bay by staying away from it, but here the darkness has a life of its own and comes for you, a chilling premise that Anderson really makes the most out of. Top tier horror for me. Oh and watch for a subtle tie in to a popular mystery in American history right at the end, implying all sorts of origins for this phenomena that Anderson wisely leaves unexplained.

-Nate Hill

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Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla: A Review by Nate Hill

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Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla was the third British crime comedy caper for the director, and it could have easily been the misstep that signaled him wearing out his welcome. Happily I can tell you that it’s a winner, and although not as cracking as Lock Stock or Snatch, it sinks into its own distinct groove that’s fairly removed from it’s two predecessors. Once again we are treated to the life and times of a bunch of hoods and gangsters in London, but not the grungy, back alley soup kitchen London that we’re used to from Ritchie. No, this is a glistening, prosperous London, filled with real estate money ripe for the taking and developers making underhanded deals with shady businessmen. The climate has definitely changed in Ritchie’s aesthetic, but the characters remain the same, just as witty, eccentric and chock full of piss and vinegar. The story centers around the wild bunch, a cozy little clan of East end petty thieves led by One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba). Their third musketeer is Handsome Bob, played by a hilarious Tom Hardy who has a secret up his sleeve that spills out in what is the most adorable scene Ritchie has ever written. The gang is hired by a mysterious chick (Thandie Newton) to rob some dudes, and that’s where the trouble starts. Elsewhere in town, arch gangster Lenny Cole (a frothing Tom Wilkinson) negotiates a land deal with dangerous russian billionaire Uri (Karel Roden switches up his trademark psychosis for smooth talking menace here) that hinges on a missing painting. Lenny dispatches his right hand bloke Archie (Mark Strong, subtly trolling us) to find it along with his rock star nephew Johnny Quid. Got that? Nevermind, half the fun is the how and not the why of Ritchie’s stories, and I find it best to just let the flow of it wash over you as opposed to thinking out each detail and missing the sideshow. Toby Kebbell is off the hook as Quid, a wiry stick of dynamite and a comic force to be reckoned with, truly the most exciting performance of the film. Ritchie has a knack for bringing out the funny side in actors, even ones that aren’t usually the type to make you laugh. Strong is terrific, with a few carefully timed moments of sheer hilarity that deftly make you forget how dangerous he is. Ludacris and Jeremy Piven are fun, if a bit out of place as two event promoters. Butler and Elba have an easy-peasy rapport that’s light, friendly and believable. Wilkinson dances between alpha assuredness and aging buffoonry nicely, always commanding the scene and oddly reminding me of Mr. Magoo. There’s a playful tone to this one, glitzy and celebratory in places where Snatch was grim and sketchy, and the whole affair feels like a new years party with a bunch of old friends. Watch for cameos from Matt King, Nonzo Anonzie, Jimi Mistry, Mundungus Fletcher and Gemma Arterton. Very fun stuff.

GRIDLOCK’D – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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“This is gonna be a fucking nightmare day, I can just feel it.” These rather prophetic words are spoken by Stretch (Tim Roth) as he and his best friend, Spoon (Tupac Shakur) start the day trying to kick their drug habit in the film, Gridlock’d (1997). But it’s not going to be that easy as the duo run into bureaucratic red tape at every turn.

The film begins on New Year’s Eve as Spoon’s girlfriend, Cookie (Thandie Newton) overdoses on heroin. This intimate brush with death forces Spoon to face his own mortality. “Do you ever feel like your luck’s run out, man? Lately, I’ve been feeling like my luck’s been running out.” These lines take on a rather eerie significance when you realize that Shakur was killed shortly after this film finished shooting.

And so, the two struggling musicians make a New Year’s resolution: to go into rehab and get off drugs for good. The only problem is that not only are they constantly given the runaround, hassled, and turned away by government workers, but an evil and very persistent drug dealer (Vondie Curtis-Hall) and his henchman (Tom Towles) are also pursuing them.

Now, this may sound like the makings of a moralistic film but Gridlock’d refuses to fall into this trap. Instead, it comes across as a very stylish social satire — a strong indictment against the United States health care system and their welfare programs. The ultimate irony is that Stretch and Spoon want to do the right thing but their attempts are constantly thwarted at every turn by overburdened social workers that are too burnt out to care.

Gridlock’d
marked the directorial debut of Vondie Curtis-Hall, an actor by trade who has appeared in such films as Die Hard 2 (1990), Broken Arrow (1996), and a regular spot on television’s Chicago Hope. Hall wrote the screenplay for Gridlock’d in 1993 and it was originally conceived of as his final film school project, based on his actual experiences with drug addiction in the 1970s in Detroit. “Heroin is the drug of the ’90s. But it was also the drug of the ’70s, when I was doing it,” he said in an interview. Much like the two main characters in his film, Hall and a friend sought treatment for their addiction only to be told that it would take weeks for them to get admitted into a program.

But Hall kicked the habit, paid his dues an actor, and cashed in some favors to get this personal project off the ground. Polygram agreed to finance the film with a modest $5 million budget. Hall sent the script for Gridlock’d to actor Tim Roth while he was working on Rob Roy (1995). Initially, Roth wasn’t interested in doing the film but Hall met and convinced him to do it. For Roth, it was the script that attracted him to the film. “Normally you’d work through a screenplay and say, ‘We’ll have to change that and that and somehow try to make it work’, but here the dialogue was always dead-on.”

Hall wrote the character of Spoon with Laurence Fishburne in mind but couldn’t afford the veteran actor. He had considered Tupac Shakur for the role but thought that the rapper was too young and was also just out of jail. However, someone gave Shakur the script and Hall ended up auditioning the rapper who really wanted to do the film. Shakur made the cut and Hall said that with this film, the rapper “wanted to prove that he was a good actor,” and felt that he was “actually a lot like I was at the time the film was set. He wanted to sort himself out and was looking for some help.”

Gridlock’d
’s strength lies in its two leads. The interaction between Roth and Shakur is excellent. For example, there is a scene where the two men sit at the bedside of their unconscious friend and Shakur delivers a heartfelt speech where he decides to stop doing drugs. It is an emotional moment as Shakur looks over at Roth who says nothing — he gives Shakur a little smile. It is an action that says a lot more about their friendship than any words could. They also display crackerjack comic timing with Roth’s Stretch a manic goofball to the laidback cool of Shakur’s Spoon. They play well off each other which is crucial in a buddy film like this one.

The visuals in Gridlock’d are also worth mentioning. The film’s camerawork is very stylish but never overwhelms or obscures the story or its characters. Instead, the film’s imagery only enhances the mood of any given scene. There is a great shot early in on the film when Spoon and Stretch wait in the hospital to hear any word on Cookie’s condition. The two men are sitting on a bench with a huge mural of an idyllic setting: a peaceful cottage scene complete with lake and a sailboat. It is an ironic image when you consider where they are, what has happened, and how they feel. And yet, coupled with very soulful music on the soundtrack, it is an oddly peaceful image juxtaposed in a fast-paced film.

Gridlock’d
is filled with many clever moments that elevate it above the usual drug movie. Without resorting to preachy sermons, it does an outstanding job of showing how bad the drug problem is the United States and how badly equipped they are in dealing with it. Gridlock’d is a smart film with plenty of humor and action to alleviate the rather serious subject matter. Best of all, it refuses to sentimentalize or romanticize its characters. And in an age of political correctness, this is a refreshing concept.

The Chronicles Of Riddick: A Review by Nate Hill

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David Twohy’s Pitch Black was a dank, murky horror sci fi that took place inside a claustrophobic killing jar, all the action unfolding on one planet, and over a short amount of time. With The Chronicles Of Riddick, he lifts the lid off that jar, unveiling more planets, characters, creatures and broadening both the scope of what is seen visually and what takes place in the story. What began as a simple human vs. monster survival tale crystallizes into a full blown operatic space saga, and I loved every minute of it.  Now there are a lot of people who hate it, and fine for them if they want to live inside such negativity. I was sold after the intro, in which a snarky, canine – like bounty hunter (Nick Chinlund) chases a haggard looking Riddick a across the bizarre, jagged face of a planet that would make the asteroid from Armageddon sweat. This film takes place sometime after Pitch Black, the few survivors scattered across the galaxy. There’s  a price on Riddick’s head, which Toombs (Chinlund) intends to collect. Riddick unwittingly wanders into the path of something far more dangerous in his evasive efforts: a powerful, fascist master race known as the Necromongers are cutting a swath through the known universe, converting or killing anyone they find. They are led by the “” (Colm Feore), and commanded by Lord Vaako (another badass character for Karl Urban to another do to his rogue’s gallery), a nasty piece of work who is futher soured by his insidious wife (Thandie Newton). Riddick has encounter with them, as well as an old friend from former times (an all too brief Keith David) and is taken far and away, to a dangerous prison on a planet called Crematoria, where the wrecking ball of a sun fries everything on the surface every half hour or so. It all happens fast (and furious hehe), in a somewhat rushed frenzy of sci fi action, cool effects and surprisingly vicious antics for a PG-13 flick. Diesel was born to play Riddick, a growling night wolf of an antihero and endlessly watchable. There’s all sorts of half Cooke ideas running around, some fun and others left unexplored. There’s a prophecy involving the Purifier  (Linus Roache) who has ties to Riddick’s tragic past and the fate of his race, a strange elemental (Judi Dench looking confused), another person from his past (Alexa Davalos) and other intrigue involving Urban. Best to sit back and let it wash over you like the fun it is. Chinlund is hilarious as Toombs, the only character who seems to have wandered in from inner city L.A., a wide ass prick with a hate streak for Riddick and that old school charisma that carries scenes. The set pieces are exhilarating and make up for the plot which is at times spread too thinly, but never hurts the film. I love it, watch it all the time, let the haters sulk… more for us. 

Neil Jordan’s Interview With The Vampire: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Neil Jordan’s film version of Interview With The Vampire is simultaneously one of the most sumptuous and tedious visions of the affliction to ever hit cinema. On the one hand, it’s an absolutely gorgeous, atmospheric and old worlde glance at two damned souls who carry out their macabre destiny with flair and vicious grace. I say tedious as some kind of bitter compliment, because no other film has quite captured the internal torture of eternity or the nocturnal gloom that must prevail over such an existence quite as well as this film has. It barely runs over two hours and we feel like we’ve been planted in front of the screen for years. Such is the dedication of director Jordan, a sneakily versatile gent who augments his stylistic and tonal approach to whatever material he is working with. The film is exciting and raises a pulse, but only on its terms, and for long periods of time we sit through languishing despair that no doubt adds to the mood, but exists to serve the psyches of our two leads, and dares the viewer to suffer alongside them. I have somewhat of a bone to pick with certain producers behind the scenes who no doubt had a forceful hand in the casting of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. You see, author Ann Rice had her heart set on a filmic version starring Rutger Hauer as Lestat, and Lance Henriksen as Louie. Now, Cruise and Pitt are at the utter opposite end of casting types in Hollywood, and while Jordan is never a guy to compromise or chase stars right off that bat, I am still sour when I think of the film we’ll never see, starring two actors infinitely more fascinating and vampiric that Brad and Tom. Nevertheless, I have som much appreciation for the film that I can’t take it too hard, and remain a steadfast fan. Pitt plays Louie, a depressed Louisiana plantation owner with nothing left, especially to lose. He meets roaming vampire Lestat (Cruise), who promptly turns him, and the two embark on a century spanning odyssey of nighttime escapades, thoroughly fraught with homoeroticism. It’s isn’t so much an organized narrative as it is a lengthy look at these two, trapped by their condition and making the bitter best of it. They meet others along the way, including Armand (a slinky Antonio Banderas), Santiago (Jordan regular Stephen Rhea, lively evil incarnate) and Claudia, a child who Louie turns. She’s played by Kirsten Dunst in the best performance of the film. A young girl with the vampire curse thrust upon her at such an age, who mentally matures into a steely, furious woman trapped in the body of a ten year old. Not many actresses could succeed at that, but she is a spitfire little shryke who dominates every scene. All this is being retold by Louie to a 1990’s journalist (Christian Slater) who morphs from bemused disbelief to cold terror, and eventual morbid fascination. It’s a slog to get through, but an ornately beautiful one with some really bloody effects and the always terrific stewardship of Neil Jordan, whose films are never short of mesmerizing, whichever genre they fall into. A dark, dingy horror with lacy elegance at its core.