Tag Archives: tony shaloub

Steve Beck’s Thir13en Ghosts

Thirteen Ghosts is one weird fuckin movie. It’s the closest thing I can think of to a direct movie version of the haunted houses you find at carnivals, which is good for carnivals but not really handy for keeping up a story that makes any bloody sense. I would have loved it if the my just completely abandoned attempts at logic and made this a full music video or something but no, they just had to get the exposition cannon out and needlessly blast us all. At least it looks great.

The ‘story’ goes as follows: the nephew (Tony Shaloub) of a creepy old billionaire (F. Murray Abraham) has inherited his giant old haunted mansion and the thirteen vicious ghosts the reside within it, specifically in big glass cubes engraved with special incantations so they’ll stay put. Of course they don’t, and when the nephew invites a bunch of folks over to observe these spectres with special Ghost Vision Goggles they all get loose and start terrorizing everyone no end. Among the cannon fodder are Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth and Embeth Davidtz who is just as far above lowbrow shit like this as Shaloub and Abraham are.

Now my words so far may suggest that I dislike this film, but that’s not the case. I love it despite knowing full well that it’s wanton trash. The whole thing is a ludicrous theme park of crashes, bangs, loud metal and pandemonium not helped much by chainsaw editing, frenetic music cues, bombastic performances and hilarious special effects. The design, names and makeup of the thirteen ghosts are actually quite inspired, from a great big fat murderous adult baby to an angry, beautiful spurned lover and more. This is part of a trio of films that I have unofficially dubbed the ‘ Warner Brothers late 90’s/early 2000’s heavy metal chaotic horror remake’ trilogy alongside Ghost Ship and House On Haunted Hill. They’re not effectively scary, subtle or otherwise anything close to what horror should be. But for clanging, rambunctious background noise and stark, surreal imagery at a Halloween party they do the trick, this one especially wth all its baroque weirdness.

-Nate Hill

A Civil Action


A Civil Action is a quiet, sobering tale of gross corporate evils and one lawyer with the stones to stand up to it all. John Travolta can be the skeeviest slimeball, the most affable Everyman, terrifying arch villain or unwavering hero in his work, he’s just that adaptable. His character here is a small time lawyer in a four partner firm that can barely afford a collective pot to piss in, and are in dire need of a case. In a local county, there’s suspicion of a factory dumping lethal toxic waste into the nearby rivers, causing the death, illness and birth defects among many children. Problem is, it’s a ruthlessly expensive case that could bankrupt their entire firm, and the rival lawyer (Robert Duvall) is an Ivy League bigwig who could bury them. Travolta is steadfast though, calmly and methodically tackling one obstacle at a time with compassion for the victims, determination to smoke out the corruption and a reserved charm that puts the film in a relaxed yet pressing groove. The cast here is absolutely unreal as well. Standouts include James Gandolfini and David Thornton in heartbreaking turns as blue collar workers affected by these misdeeds, Dan Hedaya as a malicious perpetrator, William H. Macy and Tony Shaloub as Travolta’s firm partners, Daniel Von Bargen as a belligerent witness, as well as further work from John Lithgow, Harry Dean Stanton, Zelijko Ivanek, Mary Mara, Sydney Pollack, Stephen Fry, Paul Ben Victor, Michael P. Byrne, Josh Pais and more. It’s never too hectic though, despite having so many characters and being a courtroom drama, a sub genre usually steeped in fire and brimstone melodrama. There’s a sad, quiet aura to the proceedings here. The damage is done, and all these people are looking for is a little recognition, compassion and a settlement to ease the strife thrown at them by a very callous and uncaring bunch of people. Travolta is the harbinger of catharsis, a warmhearted man who gets invested in so deep that it isn’t about the money anymore for him, it’s about helping those in need. Powerful, understated stuff. 

-Nate Hill

Walter Hill’s Tomboy: A Revenger’s Tale


Walter Hill’s Tomboy: A Revenger’s tale went through a few different titles, first Tomboy, then (Re)assignment, and has been quietly released this week under the simple and bland ‘The Assignment’, which tells you nothing of how batshit crazy it is. It’s a film I’ve waited to see a long time, partly due to its controversial, bizarre premise (it’s been boycotted already), and partly because it marks the return of action guru of yesteryear, the great Walter Hill. I’m sad to say the final product is somewhat underwhelming, aside from a few key elements that shine through the dour mood, the best being star Michelle Rodriguez, in her first leading role since 2000’s Girlfight. Here she plays Frank Kitchen, a scumbag of an assassin who takes his orders from wiseguy mobster ‘Honest John’ (Anthony Lapaglia, quite fun in the film’s only other decent performance). Frank is a creature of brutal instinct, a street rat and cold blooded killer with a taste for bullets, booze and blonde bimbos, basically the finer things in life. So, Michelle Rodriguez as a man. This could have gone either way, and she herself, always having a somewhat masculine presence anyway, does fairly well. She can only do so much with the makeup and prosthetics she’s given though, and let me tell you, they are horrendous. Sporting a ponytail, goat’s pube beard and plastic looking Ken doll torso, she’s a shining beacon of amateur hour from the effects team, for the first third of the film, impossible to believe as a dude. Anywho, ‘Honest’ John proves to be anything but trustworthy, double-crossing our Frank and delivering him into the hands of a rogue plastic surgeon played laughably by Sigourney Weaver, who has quite the bone to pick with him. Here is where it gets nuts: Weaver forcibly performs a gender reassignment surgery on Frank, turning him into a woman to release him from his ‘macho prison’. Frank wakes up with brand new lady parts, the prosthetics all gone and Michelle in her final form, ready to dole out vengeance on both John and the surgeon. This is all told in retrospect of course, as Weaver sits in a padded cell and blathers on and on to a wormy psychiatrist (Tony Shaloub), about the philosophical nature, the lofty how’s and why’s that fuelled her actions, while the audience is sitting there going, “Nah bitch you just crazy.” It’s all the sleaziest fare, and doesn’t work as well as a premise like this should, but there’s something about the gritty sight of a post surgery Michelle wandering around in a hospital gown, tits loose and waving a gun around that has potential and may have done well in a better film. As far as the concept itself goes, anyone who arches their back or (lol) boycotts this film is expending unnecessary energy; it’s a down n’ dirty B movie throughout, never meant to be taken seriously one bit. It’s just a shame it wasn’t more fun. 
-Nate Hill