Tag Archives: Vince Vaughn

HBO’s True Detective: Season 2

So just what was it about season two of HBO’s True Detective that caused such a monumental ruckus of ruthless criticism? Well, who can say. I imagine it had something to do with the dark, difficult and byzantine way that creator Nic Pizzolatto presents the material. Maybe it’s the fact that it had to follow the lightning in a bottle, southern gothic, out of left field mastery of season one. Simply just the shift in tone and setting? I’m reaching for straws here because the hate and rejection that this brilliant piece of television has amassed always flew over my head. This is deep, dark LA noir at its finest, most gorgeously dangerous and I love every challenging, impenetrable episode to bits.

The setting shifts from bayous of Louisiana, the amount of lead characters multiplies significantly and where there was once eerie folk horror and occult conspiracy we now find decadence, corruption most high and a focused, implosive inwardness in exploring each individual the narrative focuses on. Colin Farrell is unbearably intense as LA cop Ray Velcoro, a haunted addict who has fallen from the grace of both the department and his family, but isn’t down for the count quite yet. Vince Vaughn is emblematic of every career criminal trying to go straight as Frank Semyon, a stubborn small time kingpin with dreams of scoring big in California real estate. Rachel McAdams is haunted as Ani Bezzerides, a cop with a tragic past and the deep set trauma to prove it. Taylor Kitsch is Paul Woodrough, a pent up special ops veteran turned state trooper who rounds out this quartet as they’re faced with the kind of miserable, insurmountable odds one always finds in the best kind of film noirs. There’s an unsettling, decades old conspiracy afoot in the fictional yet uneasily realistic county of Vinci, CA, a brooding, festering menace that seems rooted in the now booming transportation system that has taken the economy by storm. Our heroes struggle to fight treachery, debauchery and excess run mad everywhere they turn, for their souls and California’s itself alike as the slogan for promotional material “We get the world we deserve” seems stingingly apparent throughout.

Farrell is my favourite as Velcoro, the anxiety ridden badass who displays the horrors of his past in the manic whites of his eyes and drowns them out with enough booze and blow to feed a city’s collective habit. He’s an antihero type, moonlighting as an enforcer for Vaughn but maintaining a fierce moral compass when all else is naught. Vaughn feasts on the stylized dialogue here and produces verbal poetry so good it hurts and you hit the rewind button just to hear his delivery again. His Frank is a hard, jaded piece of work with a soul hiding beneath the layers of anger and distrust for the world around him. McAdams’s Ani comes from a place of childhood trauma so unthinkable that they barely show it in hushed flashback, and it’s apparent in her caged animal body language, by far the actress’s most affecting work. Kitsch makes the slightest impression of the four and his arc didn’t seem as immediate as the others but he still did a bang up job in intense physicality. After the success of season one a host of excellent actors were drawn to this project, standouts here include David Morse as Ani’s commune leader dad, Kelly Reilly as Frank’s intuitive wife and second in command, Rick Springfield (!) as a shady plastic surgeon, Ritchie Coster as Vinci’s terminally alcoholic mayor, W. Earl Brown, James Frain, Ronny Cox, C.S. Lee, Lolita Davidovitch and the legendary Fred Ward as Ray’s bitterly prophetic ex-cop father.

Pizzolatto spins a very different kind of story here, one composed of long glances, deep shadows, arresting establishing shots of Vinci’s sprawling highway system, as dense and tough to navigate as the season’s central mystery, which isn’t one you get a sense of in just one, two or even three viewings. Impatience and frustration are easy to understand with this narrative, but one shouldn’t write off this piece so easily and I’m sure that’s what happened. A few people don’t have the time to invest in it, get hostile and throw some negative reviews out there and before you know it it becomes cool to hate and there’s folks throwing around words like ‘flawed’ before they’ve attempted a single episode, but that’s the way the internet works I suppose. Balls to them though, this is a deliciously dark, highly stylized, very emotional ride through a world whose themes, intentions and true colours aren’t readily visible until you descend several layers deep alongside these compelling characters. It’s thoughtful, pessimistic yet just hopeful enough to keep a candle lit in all that darkness and has some of the most beautiful acting, camera, dialogue and music work I’ve seen from anything. Masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

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S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete

Dragged Across Concrete is exploitation auteur S. Craig Zahler’s third feature film, and so far stands as his best. I use the terms auteur and exploitation vaguely here because neither can completely encapsulate what the man is doing with his work, the flavour he strives to bring us is so specifically distilled and perfectly see-sawed a recipe that there are really no pins to drop on the cinematic landscape or existing terms for it, and he may have pioneered something new entirely. He blared onto the scene with primal horror western Bone Tomahawk and followed it up with brutal flick Brawl In Cell Block 99, but Concrete is his most deliberate, suspenseful, heavily charismatic, thoughtful and entertaining piece yet.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are Ridgeman and Lurasetti, two sinewy older detectives prone to excessive force and bitter attitudes, until a particularly violent arrest lands them on a viral video and an unpaid suspension from their captain (Don Johnson in a delicious extended cameo). Feeling slighted by both the department and the civilians they’ve served for decades, they decide to tap into underworld contacts and win back some currency as they both have family problems that unemployment wouldn’t serve well. “We have the skills and the right to acquire proper compensation” growls Gibson through a muskrat ‘stache and eyes clouded with anger, and it’s easy to see why he’s miffed. The film is under vague fire for showing us two racist asshole antiheroes and while their actions in the opening collar sequence are extreme and not very nice, they’re not as played up, hateful or heinous as I’ve read some whiny reviews claim. These two are hard bitten jerks, but when the anvil comes down and we see the moral core of each laid bare, they are essentially decent guys who won’t stand by when real injustice rears it’s ugly head. It does too, in the form of nasty arch criminal Vogelmann (an icy, evil Thomas Kretschmann) after a tip off from an underworld contact (Udo Kier, all too briefly). They decide to try and score some mob loot just as ex con Johns (Tory Kittles) and his childhood buddy Biscuit (Michael Jai White) gang up with Vogelmann to do some criminal shit.

This film has its action scenes and close encounters but what really enthralled me is the patience it takes to show us stakeouts in real time and set up incident on its own clock. The two cops post up in their car, eat snack food, nap, banter and compare world views as they simply wait for their quarry to make his move. This is the kind of character cultivation and pacing that leads to investment in the story, so that when the payoff comes we are riveted. I’ve already spoiled too much because I just saw this and want to gab about it endlessly but it’s essentially a long, measured surveillance game followed by a chase and one knockout of a confrontation scene that’s insanely suspenseful and ducks many expectations we have given what we’ve seen so far. Gibson and Vaughn are just so great here, they eat up the dialogue like fast food served with fine wine, it’s Mel’s best performance in years and he owns it. Zahler has a way of writing that is like protein for the ears, a poetically rich timbre as if every character has several thesaurus’s on hand and uses rich, offbeat dialogue to place you right in the scene. Some will inevitably find it too purple or pretentious a script, but I love the way this guy writes. Further down the cast lineup we get turns from Zahler regulars Jennifer Carpenter and Fred Melamed as well as Laurie Holden, Cardi Wong, Matthew MacCaull and others.

My only one gripe is the ongoing and blatant use of Vancouver as other cities when it’s very clearly not. It’s supposed to be Bulwark here but they’re sat up there in Don Johnson’s office on like the twentieth floor somewhere in Coal Harbour with the whole Burrard Inlet visible and it’s like… get real, it’d be nice to see things filmed where they’re set for personality instead of just lazily using my city, but oh well. Probably not a gripe for most, but having grown up here it takes me out of the story just a bit when everything under the sun is recognizable. This has to be Zahler’s most complete and streamlined creative vision so far, a nasty gutter-ball genre piece that shows life in the inner city boiling over the pot into street violence, heists gone up in flames and good intentions shot to ribbons by high powered artillery. The best film I’ve seen so far this year.

-Nate Hill

S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl In Cell Block 99- Thoughts from Nate Hill


Bring a strong stomach with you to S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl In Cell Block 99, a casually vicious ode to 1970’s exploitation that pulls no punches, kicks, backhands or wet-crunchy head stomps that will make your balls retreat up in those nether regions. Zahler is also responsible for 2015’s incredible horror western Bone Tomahawk, which set him on the messianic path to bring hard hitting genre cinema back to the forefront of our awareness. He’s proved here that he plans to make that his long-game plan, with an utterly unapologetic, icily paced prison flick that ramps up into levels of violence that shake and stun. Vince Vaughn, that neurotic, rotund teddy bear, sheds his image as well as his shirt to ruthlessly pummel anyone that gets in the way of his quest to save pregnant wife Jennifer Carpenter after a drug deal gone bad, an area of employment he only entered to provide for those he loved. Stuck inside a minimum security prison, he’s visited by a deliberately sinister old gentleman (Udo Kier, whose very presence solidifies the film’s perpetual eccentricity) who uses the man’s captive wife as leverage, and orders him to get himself transferred to a hellhole of a facility run by a nasty warden (Don Johnson, sadism incarnate). There’s he’s forced to fight tooth, nail and skull to stay alive, and fight he does. It all sounds rather lively, doesn’t it? Not so much. Zahler is fascinated by subverting stereotypes and upturning genre expectations, going ballistic here with the film’s patient, slow-cooker pacing. There’s a Tarantino vibe to the wait vs. payoff in terms of violence especially in the last side of the third act, but it’s much more perverse and played up, and if the carnage in Tomahawk made you queasy, you’ll go full chunder with what Vaughn inflicts on his fellow jailbirds here, and shudder at Kier’s casually evil approach to his job. Zahler has given the ol’ German another chomp at the bit in terms of roles, as he hasn’t done much in years, but he’ll turn up again next year in the director’s ‘Dragged Across Concrete’, which headlines Vaughn and Mal Gibson, so there’s that to wet your panties over. Like Tarantino, Rob Zombie and others, Zahler like ms to handpick actors from bygone eras and showcase them in his roster, a quality I love in a filmmaker and one that shows they’ve done their research. Vaughn is an absolute demon here, a man with a specific, patriotic code of ethics and honour, but also not one to shy away from getting his hands dirty. Don Johnson is riding the wave of a magnificent comeback, his characters here has a southern prince exterior, with evil positively oozing from beneath. This was not the film I expected, not should it have been. It’s unique, purposefully dodging expectations, and hits home with the crippling impact of Vaughn terrifying fists. An unconventional winner.

-Nate Hill 

Paparazzi 


Paparazzi is one of those ones that probably sounded pretty silly on paper, but one of the studio execs had a good sense of humour on a morning after getting laid and said “aw hell, green light this just for kicks.” It doesn’t hurt to have Mel Gibson as a producer either, who also makes the teensiest cameo. The concept is simple: action film star Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) is harassed by a sleazy hyena pack of determined celebrity photographers, until they take it one step too far, resulting in tragedy. Bo then plays the art imitating life card, goes all vigilante on them and quite literally hunts each one down and kills them. A synopsis like that has to illicit a dark chuckle from anyone who reads it, and you’d think the resulting film would be oodles of fun, but they’ve somewhat played it safe. A concept this ridiculous should be over the top, reach for the stars insane, a hard R black comedy Death Wish set in Hollywood, if you will. What we get is something more on the glossy side, the filmmakers dipping their toe into the pond of potential, yet never saying ‘fuck it’ and diving right in. The paparazzos are played to the heights of hilarity by a solid scumbag troupe: Tom Sizemore is so perfect as their a-hole ringleader, just a dime piece of a casting choice. Daniel Baldwin looks seriously haggard, while Tom Hollander and Kevin ‘Wainegro’ Gage round out this quartet. Dennis Farina is fun as a sharp, shrewd Detective who gets wise to Bo’s act as well. It’s all serviceable, and yet I wish it went that extra mile to give us something downright shocking and memorable. Perhaps they should have reworked the script, brought in a wild card director and gone the indie route. Oh well. 

-Nate Hill

Mel Gibson’s HACKSAW RIDGE

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Most of HACKSAW RIDGE is so conventional, it is admirable. It is a sweeping period piece epic that really doesn’t get made anymore, and if it does, it lacks the heart and soul that Gibson brings to this film. The battle sequence that is prominently featured in the trailer is truly awesome; it showcases Gibson’s supreme talent as a visual storyteller, blending CGI effects with practical explosions.

Gibson cast this film well. While at times it is strange seeing so many Australians and Europeans playing American GI’s, but never once does their native accent bleed through. Each actor selected for their respective role looks and feels the part, particularly the GI’s battling on Hacksaw Ridge. Vince Vaughn’s rebirth into dramatic roles is not getting enough attention. He really does America this film up monumentally, and he steals every single frame he is in.

The sweeping score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is fantastic, and the music wonderfully supports the epic visuals that Gibson carefully crafts. Simon Duggan’s cinematography is near perfect, making every shot in the film seamless and organic. The props, set design, costumes, and battlefield aesthetics are so on point, it makes the viewer wonder how much time was spent making sure they got everything just right.

The film certainly runs the risk of its religious conviction subject matter becoming overbearing, the point is clearly made, and made again, yet regardless of your personal beliefs, you cannot help but admire and applaud Desmond Doss as a hero. Andrew Garfield’s turn as Doss is very good, but in a year of overwhelmingly solid performances from male leads, it is a bit surprising he got nominated, but considering the Academy’s abundant love for the picture, it makes sense.

A lot has, and continues to be said about Gibson and his previous transgressions. But for those of us who can separate a person’s personal life from their art – this is a flat-out welcomed return from a cinematic titan who has been sorely missed. HACKSAW RIDGE may not be more worthy than other films that missed being nominated for Best Picture, but after viewing the film, you can’t be upset that the film and Gibson were nominated.

 

Ten Actors Who Are Perfect For a Quentin Tarantino Film

Many of us love Quentin Tarantino films for a multitude of reasons; the story, his use of popular music, his dialogue, and especially his casting.  He resurrected the careers of John Travolta, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Jamie Foxx, David Carradine and introduced Michael Fassebender, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman into the mainstream of cinema.  Along the way he has also brilliantly used Kurt Russell, Michael Parks, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Madsen, and many other great actors that have given some of their best performances in a Tarantino film.  There are so many actors that Tarantino should work with, so making a list of just ten is nearly impossible.  But this is my dream list.  Some are more realistic than others.

 

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Jaqueline Bisset

                Most recently, Bisset gave a show-stopping performance in Abel Ferrara’s WELCOME TO NEW YORK.  Not only was it great to see her work with such compelling material, but it was also incredible to see her work with Abel Ferrara, a director that’s transgressive works wouldn’t normally attract an actress of that clout and cinematic reputation.  She gives a fierce performance in the film, and I could only imagine what she would be capable of in a Tarantino film.

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Russell Crowe

                Russell Crowe is in prime career transition.  His days of the young, muscular cinematic asskicker are long gone.  He’s currently floating between the mentor, the heavy, and the middle-aged leading man.  His performance in THE NICE GUYS is one of his best in recent memory, and his turn in LES MISERABLE is one of the most underrated performances within the last ten years.  He’s more than suited to headline or sidestep back into a Max Cherry-esque role.

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Daniel Day- Lewis

                It’s widely noted that one of the only roles that Day-Lewis has ever sought out was the role of Vincent Vega in PULP FICTION.  First of all, I can’t imagine what DDL would have done with that role, and secondly, I can’t imagine Tarantino, hot off his indie hit of RESERVOIR DOGS telling the studio and DDL no, I’m going with John Travolta.  Day-Lewis can take a role, even in some of his more mediocre films, and knock that role out of the park.  He’s showy when he needs to be, and knows when to reign in a performance to make it so slight and subtle.  Imagine what he could do with the colorfulness of Tarantino’s dialogue.

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Jane Fonda

                Whatever is left of cinematic royalty, it’s Jane Fonda.  Throughout the years, she has continued to stay relevant in both film and not television with Netflix’s GRACE AND FRANKIE.  Recently, she gave a briefly pulverizing performance in Paolo Sorrentino’s YOUTH.  Casing Fonda would not only be a callback to some her earlier performances, but she would also bring an air of golden movie star cache that we rarely see on film anymore.

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Harrison Ford

               Let’s face it, Harrison Ford is one of the biggest movie stars of all time.  He is Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard, Jack Ryan – yet for the past twenty years or so, he hasn’t been as compelling as he used to be.  Yet, his return as Han Solo in THE FORCE AWAKENS is one of the best things he’s ever done.  The return was phenomenal, thrilling, and heartfelt.  His performance was organic, and there wasn’t one moment in the film where it felt as if he were phoning in the performance.  Ford has had quite the ride as a movie star, and his persona would go a hell of a long way inside of a Tarantino film.

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Mel Gibson

                If there is any actor at this moment in time who is due to make a cinematic resurrection, it is Mel Gibson.  His most recent leading turn in BLOOD FATHER shows, without a doubt, that his screen presence is still an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.  His smaller roles in MACHETE KILLS and THE EXPENDABLES 3 further prove that he and Tarantino are a perfect match.  Regardless of how outlandish or low key that theoretical role would be, Gibson would absolutely kill it.

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Stephen Lang

                Stephen Lang is much like Daniel Day-Lewis.  He’s a cinematic chameleon.  Decade after decade the guy has disappeared into so many memorable roles in so many memorable films.  Most recently, Lang has taken a career transition as a muscular badass in James Cameron’s AVATAR and this year his gives a tour de force performance in Fede Alvarez’s DON’T BREATHE.  He owns Michael Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES, outshining both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.  Mann knew exactly what he was doing casting Lang, bringing in a skilled actor to bring the film to an absolute stop during the final moments of his epic gangster saga.  The merging of Tarantino and Lang is a cinematic match made in heaven.

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Ben Mendelsohn

                I can’t think of many current actors who has been in so many great films in such a short time span.  KILLING THEM SOFTLY, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, ANIMAL KINGDOM, SLOW WEST, and his next two films are polar opposites: UNA based off of the transgressive and acclaimed Broadway play, BLACKBIRD and ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY where he is cast as the evil Imperial Director Orson Krenick, the man in charge of the Empire’s military.  A lot of Tarantino’s work is cast in moral ambiguity, and there isn’t anyone better at playing that, than Ben Mendelsohn.

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Vince Vaughn

                Thankfully, Vince Vaughn has successfully shaken off his prolific comedic career and has heavily vested himself back into dramatic works.  The amazing second season of TRUE DETECTIVE reset Vaughn’s path as an actor.  His next film is Mel Gibson’s long anticipated World War II film, HACKSAW RIDGE where Vaughn plays a rough and tough commanding officer.  After that, Vaughn is going to be in BONE TOMAHAWK director S. Craig Zahler’s  BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 that sounds as dark and gruesome as BONE TOMAHAWK did.  Vaughn, who can play both humor and drama would be an excellent mesh with Tarantino’s words and look of his films.

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Sigourney Weaver

                Whether she’s killing aliens or emotionally breaking Kevin Kline, or romancing Bill Murray; Weaver has always had a unique and powerful presence on screen.  Her work is always solid, regardless of the end result of whatever project she is working on.  She belongs to the same class of actresses like Pam Grier, Daryl Hannah, and Jennifer Jason Leigh – those actors who had at one point were A list actors due to not only their sex appeal, but also their carefully crafted performances.  Whether she’d be a femme fatal, or a badass hero – she would fit perfectly into Tarantino film.

Clay Pigeons: A Review by Nate Hill

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Clay Pigeons is one of the odder films floating around out there, but it’s a damn good time at the movies. It fits into a subgenre that I have lovingly dub as ‘desert noir’, other prime examples being Oliver Stone’s U Turn and John Dahl’s Red Rock West. Intrigue and murder abound under a sun soaked, parchment dry landscape in these types of films, always with a healthy helping of dark humour and unsettling, psychopathic characters running around, perpetually up to no good. Joaquin Phoenix (adding to the U Turn vibe) plays Clay, a good guy who seems to have a real problem with bad luck. He finds out his friend has killed himself, which seems to be the first swirl in a spooky spiral of trouble that veers towards him like a dust devil. Soon nosy FBI agent Dale Shelby (reliably perky Janeane Garofalo) comes to town, turning her attention towards him. Dan Mooney (ever great Scott Wilson stealing scenes with perched stealth) is Clay’s friend and the town Sheriff, also on the lookout for clues. These two are the least of his worries though, as the worst is yet to come with the arrival of charming serial killer Lester Long (Vince Vaughn). This is my favourite Vince Vaughn performance because he shows his versatility with the brittle, lightning quick turns of personality injected into Lester. One minute he’s your best buddy and a lovable loudmouth, the next a coiled viper with untold violence beneath the jovial exterior. They always say serial killers are charmers, and Vince Vaughn takes that sentiment, dances around you in circles with it and then proceeds to strangle you with it when you least expect it. So yeah. The bodies pile up and no one seems to be able to tie them to anyone. Lester treats everyone like his best friend until they’re too comfortable to see the blind side coming, and poor Phoenix wanders around looking disshvelled and stressed out. It’s good fun all the way through, doing a nice see-saw rhythm between quaint, cartoonish antics and a grim, scary turn of events. Underrated and more than worth your time.