Tag Archives: Will Smith

Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend

There’s nothing quite like the sight of Will Smith armed with a high powered rifle, dog at his side, left completely and utterly alone in a deserted metropolis to scavenge, wander and roar down an empty main drag in abandoned super cars. This is an applicable film right now because that’s kind of how I’ve felt being downtown at work these days, minus the dog and super cars. Smith is Robert Neville, the last man alive on Manhattan Island, or so he thinks. By day he wanders around, searches for food and keeps himself occupied, by night he barricades himself inside a modest fortress while the rest of NYC comes crawling out, now turned into savage marauding zombies by a mysterious virus. Robert tried his best to contact anyone who might be out there by radio and tirelessly works in his lab searching for a cure. This is a strange rhythm that continues for the first half of the film or so until the inevitable progression of a Hollywood narrative interrupts it. I kind of have a love hate relationship with this film, in the sense that I love it for some aspects but not so much others. The first portion of the film is one of the most effective uses of immersive atmosphere and drawing the viewer in I’ve ever seen. Seeing this in iMax back in the day I really felt like I was there with Robert, felt that isolation, despair, restlessness end even blessed solitude at certain moments. It’s a sensational way to open your story, but then as soon as other human characters are added later on, the vacuum like aura is yanked away and it becomes kind of… I dunno, routine. You’ve gotta be a pretty special post apocalyptic film to trick your audience into not only believing the premise but imagining themselves in it, and at the outset they more than succeed. It’s just later on the illusion foibles and loses us a bit. That and the dodgy CGI used on the zombies who are scary no doubt but still a bit rough in the FX department, but hey this was 2007 and Weta was busy working on King Kong so what can you do. I nitpick here and that shouldn’t suggest I don’t love this film, because I do. I just believe a piece that leaps out of the gate so effectively, so convincingly should keep up that lightning in a bottle magic for the whole duration, but that’s just me. It does have one of the single most heartbreaking scenes cinema has to offer, acted flawlessly enough by Smith to leave any badass viewer bawling. Anyone reading this who’s seen the film will know. Oh, and there’s also a weird Batman Vs. Superman poster in Times Square, I’m not sure what the deal is with that but it seems odd for 2007 considering that film wasn’t even made until 2015, no? Maybe there’s some cool time travel trivia to the making of this one.

-Nate Hill

Bad Boys For Life

My first thought after seeing Bad Boys For Life: Will Smith beating the living piss out of that fat fucking potato DJ Khaled is the most cathartic, pleasing thing thing I’ve seen all month. The film overall? It’s complicated, but I thought it was solid. Here’s the trajectory thus far: the first Bad Boys film was a fairly conventional, hugely enjoyable Michael Bay action romp that neither stood out nor faded from memory. The second film, however, saw Bay lose his mind in the best way possible and make the most batshit insane, balls out, edgy, fucked up screaming unhinged roller coaster flick probably… ever. Not since Crank 2 had a sequel utterly and obnoxiously left its predecessor in the dust wondering what happened, and to this day it’s one of my favourite action films ever made. So the thing is, Bad Boys 3 was just never going to reach the levels of drugged up, casually racist, cheerfully homophobic, unapologetically tasteless, hugely entertaining chaos. That being said, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are older, the world has unfortunately changed and their adventures this third time around are a tad more laid back, a bit more introspective yet still filled with enough explosions, gunshot wounds, blood, profanity and the irresistible buddy comedy chemistry that makes their pairing such a winning dynamic.

Smith’s Mike Lowry never seemed to lose his daredevil, thrill seeking edge while Lawrence’s Marcus is now a grandfather with thoughts of retiring and putting all the chases, shootouts and violence in his rear view. That works for a time until dangerous people from Mike’s past roar back into both their lives to terrorize Miami and spur them both back into action for one last ride. They’re joined by AMMO, the obligatory millennial update to the climate of any given old school franchise that finds itself resurrected, with badass characterizations from Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nuñez and a smokin Vanessa Hudgens. Joe Pantoliano also returns, stressed out as ever as their captain, he gets one of the film’s moments of surprising gravity when he basically uses parable to tell Mike he’s gotta slow his roll or he’ll kick the bucket soon. There’s a hell of an antagonist in the wings stirring trouble, an intensely attractive, hellishly angry Mexican Bruja witch (Kate Del Castillo) with designs on obliterating Mike and everyone he knows. Cue a series of chases, stakeouts, firefights and impressive action sequences, my favourite of which has to be a highway pursuit with Mike on a motorbike and Marcus in sidecar messing about with a terrific arsenal of cartel weaponry (“that is God’s gun!!!”). It’s a rock solid sequel and one can’t really complain or find anything to gripe about here other than the fact that it’s just so much more relaxed and less certifiably loony than Bad Boys 2, but I’ve reconciled that. I miss that deliberately provocative, nihilistic aesthetic but I appreciate this slightly more mellowed out, plot based one too. A good time at the movies.

-Nate Hill

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys is his Bad Boys II before college or like a drug problem, still a raging good time and a great action film but not quite the certifiably deranged mega production that he whipped out of his pants with that sequel. Nevertheless, it’s the warm up round, the pre-drink session and I love it to bits as well. I’ve read reviews comparing it to or accusing it of directly aping Beverly Hills Cop, and while it’s easy to see the thematic connection, I disagree and feel like it’s a separate aesthetic entirely. 90’s Miami, the simultaneous fast talking tornados that are Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, large scale action mayhem, constant improvised bickering, Joe Pantoliano perpetually on the verge of several strokes, it’s a vibe all its own and although this one is considerably more dialled back than II, it’s no less of a blast. Smith’s hotshot rich boy Mike LOWRY and Lawrence’s persnickety family man Marcus Burnett are live wire vice cops investigating a violent, elaborate drug smuggling ring lead by Tchecky Karyo’s Fouchet, a psychopath written as one note but the Turkish badass breathes life into him anyways. Tea Leoni is Julie, material witness to one of his murders and therefore tagging along with Marcus and Mike throughout the films chases, shootouts, verbal confrontations and what have you. Bottom line: In these roles, Smith and Lawrence are either your thing or they’re not, no middle ground. They’re loud, crass, politically incorrect goofballs who can’t sit still to save their lives and I love spending every minute with them. Also an acquired taste (and quite a cause of controversy in film discussions across the land) is Bay’s slick, noisy aesthetic, which may sometimes land with a hollow thud, but there is just no denying in one’s rational mind that the guy can’t stage absolute motherfuckers in the way of action set pieces, his films have a diamond crisp quality to the visuals, and his explosions are always shock and awe glory. The final car chase here across a giant airport tarmac is something else, feels real and dangerous, the eventual crash n’ burn a terrific payoff. The supporting ranks here are populated by the likes of Theresa Randle, Marc Macauley, Michael Imperioli, Marg Helgenberger, Kevin Corrigan, Anna Levine, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Karen Alexander, Shaun Toub and briefly Kim Coates, hilariously credited as ‘White Carjacker.’ If you like your action movies funny, and your comedies full of action, this is the ticket. But you also have to be tuned in to Smith and Lawrence’s particular brand of lunacy, which understandably isn’t for everyone. Bring on the third film as soon as possible.

-Nate Hill

The HAMMER and the DOOMSDAY DEVICE by Kent Hill

 

Eight versus eight hundred! Now at any other time of day you’d have to say, “those odds aren’t good.” Well of course they’re not – unless of course the leader of this fateful eight happens to be a walking charge of TNT.

That’s right folks; Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson explodes upon the screen as Stoker, the leader of a daring band of warriors out to uncover a Nazi doomsday weapon lost during World War 2. At Williamson’s side are The Fighter, The Samurai, The Texan, The Priest, The Sniper, The Blade and The Rookie.  An incredible cast bring these roles to life with a combination of on-the-rise-exciting-action-stars like Mike Moller, veterans like Wolfgang Riehm, new-comers like Josephine Hies – not forgetting an awesome appearance by the Snake Eater himself, Lorenzo ‘The Snake’ Lamas.

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With a mixture of razor-sharp intensity blended with blinding action Nazi Doomsday Device/Atomic Eden packs a massive entertainment punch which The Hammer himself says goes well with buddy’s and a brew. Nico Sentner has crafted, along with his collaborator and my former guest Dominik Starck, an engrossing action extravaganza which reminds one of the good old action movie days, while showcasing the best and brightest of the new breed – both in front of and behind the camera.

 

It was a privilege to talk with the man in the director’s chair, also known as the Godfather of Krautsploitation and his ever-cool leading man. Together they have made a ferocious little picture that not only swings for the fences, in spite of its size, but knocks it out of the park. NDD is an audacious step towards greatness for Sentner (in this man’s opinion). I eagerly wait to see where he takes it from here. Though I must admit, I’d have a tough time trying to follow a gig where I was directing Fred Williamson. So let’s keep fingers crossed…

…let’s hope for a sequel.

FRED ‘THE HAMMER’ WILLIAMSON

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Former Oakland Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs football star who rose to prominence as one of the first African-American male action stars of the “blaxploitation” genre of the early 1970s, who has since gone on to a long and illustrious career as an actor, director, writer, and producer! Burly, yet handsome 6′ 3″ Williamson first came to attention in the TV series Julia (1968) playing love interest, Steve Bruce. However, his rugged, athletic physique made him a natural for energetic roles and he quickly established himself as a street wise, tough guy in films including That Man Bolt (1973), Black Caesar (1973), and Mean Johnny Barrows (1975). Talented Williamson established his own production company “Po ‘Boy Productions” in 1974, which has produced over 40 movies to date. Like many young American stars of the 1960s and ’70s, Williamson was noticed by Italian producers who cast him in a slew of B-grade action movies that occupied a lot of his work in the 1980s. From the late ’80s onwards, much of his work has been of the “straight to video” fare (often playing police officers), but none could deny he has kept actively busy in movies and TV for over three decades, both in front of and behind the camera. More recently, indie director Robert Rodriguez cast him alongside FX guru Tom Savini as two vampire killing bikers, in his bloody action film From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), and he has most recently appeared on screen (displaying his wonderful comedy skills) playing grumpy Captain Dobey in Starsky & Hutch (2004).

NICO SENTNER

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The so-called Godfather of Krautploitation, Nico Sentner was born on November 25, 1982 in Quedlinburg, German Democratic Republic. He is a producer and actor, known for Atomic Eden (2015), Sin Reaper 3D (2012) and Dark Legacy (2005).

UK VIEWERS IF YOU WANT TO GET IN ON THE ACTION THIS IS THE LINK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nazi-Doomsday-Device-Fred-Williamson/dp/B07KZDTMWC/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1544840285&sr=1-1&keywords=nazi+doomsday+device

 

 

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II

Michael Bay is a great filmmaker and Bad Boys II is a masterpiece, one of the best action movies ever made. I know there are those out there who have nothing but contempt for Bay and his balls out, blitzkrieg blockbusters, and that’s okay. But there’s also those of us who recognize that the guy just has bushels of talent when it comes to staging breathtakingly explosive, propulsive large scale action sequences. I’ll concede that he has been perpetually slumming it in Transformers-ville for ten punishing years, but honestly I think that’s just to harvest dollars from the Asian box office overseas, because that’s where those big dumb flicks are most popular.

Bay’s core filmography is legendary, and while I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, I’d say Bad Boys II if you held a gun to my head, definitely because of aforementioned action sequences but also it’s just one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever seen, thanks to the combustible camaraderie between Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and a host of scene stealing others. This film is insane in all the best possible ways, it starts at brutal excess and only escalates from there until taste, shame and any other employments of restraint have been pummelled by a beautifully un-PC masterwork of ultra-violence, cheerful profanity, unabashed nihilism and enough Miami gunplay to constitute a civil war.

While Bay’s first Bad Boys was a great time, it was kind of like pre-drinks at buddy’s place before really getting the night underway, and II is the penthouse party that blows the lid off of everything, gets the cops called and shuts down the entire block. Smith and Lawrence’s Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett kick off the proceedings by noisily barrelling through a KKK rally in the Everglades which results in Marcus getting accidentally shot through the ass cheek by his own partner, going on to be a priceless running joke. Then it’s on to take down simultaneously terrifying and hilarious Cuban drug baron Johnny Tapia, played by Jordi Molla in a performance so manic and unhinged that to me he represents the Spanish Gary Oldman. This results in a deafening, barnstorming tirade of extended car chases, ferocious shootouts, almost horror movie level carnage, excessive drug consumption and so much bickering between our two leads that we begin to wonder what was improv and what was scripted, but I suspect it was mostly the former. Bruckheimer seriously just threw paint at the wall here and let Bay set fire to it, this has to be one of the most precious, time capsule worthy, fucked up blockbusters that has ever come down the Hollywood assembly line. Gabrielle Union has never been sexier and holds her own as Marcus’s DEA sister, Bay favourite Peter Stormare hams it up almost as much as he did in Armageddon as an unstable Russian gangster and the cast is insane with memorable work from Michael Shannon, Yul Vasquez, Teresa Randle, Oleg Taktarov, Jon Seda, Antoni Carone, Henry Rollins and more. A huge shout-out to Joe Pantoliano as their stressed out Captain, he reaches levels of exasperation that I didn’t think were possible, and the scene where Marcus shows up in his living room fucked up on ecstasy is one of the most indescribably great comedic moments of the millennium, played to the hilt by all three actors.

From drug infested Miami Beach nightclubs to all out warfare on the highway overpasses to attitude filled family pool parties at Marcus’s crib to a thrilling showdown outside Tapia’s Cuban mansion and everything in between, Bay pretty much set the bar for the R rated action comedy, and set it pretty fucking high. Critics like Ebert hate this one because it overflows with unpleasantness, excess and mean spirited humour, and hey who am I to argue. If your sense of humour is tuned in to this kind of stuff then you’ll dig it, if not then it won’t be your bag, it’s very much an early 00’s film and most of it sadly wouldn’t even come close to being green-lit in today’s big budget world. I love this crazy ass film to pieces, it’s showcase Bay, hallmark Bruckheimer, the comedic pinnacle of both Smith and Lawrence’s careers (“Big fuckin eyes, but a nice fuckin fish!!”) and a milestone in the action genre. Woosahh.

-Nate Hill

ALEX PROYAS: An Interview with Kent Hill

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Dark City was (and is still) an incredible experience when it arrived in theatres – albeit in a form which didn’t accurately reflect the director’s vision.

Yet the power of the film is undeniable. Thinking about it and revisiting it makes me sad in many ways. In part because original films that tell stories that are fun, entertaining and with unique complexity are few and a galaxy far, far away in between. In the age of streamlined, market-researched, great score on Rotten Tomatoes-type movies, we see few, if any, interesting tales told from personal places as opposed to a facsimile of what’s trending well at the moment.

Director ALEX PROYAS on the set of KNOWING, a Summit Entertainment release.

Enter the cinema of Alex Proyas. Be it low budget or big-time-blockbuster, Alex injects his work with a very distinct style, a mastery of cinematic arts along with a passion for the story he is bringing to a theatre near you. But what I found most intriguing is that there is a price for everything in the market place. A toll which one must pay on many levels as a concept makes the arduous journey from script to screen.

Alex has fought many battles both while making the movies he wants to make, but also after the film is taken out of the camera and projected for your viewing pleasure. And, personally, I feel it is a nonsensical exercise to place hurdle after hurdle in front of the artists giving their all to satisfy themselves and we the movie-loving public. A foolish endeavor to hinder the music makers and the dreamers of the dreams – when all they seek to do is take you away from your dreary existence for an hour or two.

Filmmakers have usually already talked about, at great length, the makings of their pictures. So, as much as I love his work, I decided to talk to Alex about the state of movies in general. It is after all, always fascinating to hear the other side of the story. I’ve always been as intrigued by the mechanics of films and the men who make them, as I am with the end result.

It was truly an honor, as it ever is, to have a chat with an artist one admires – Alex Proyas was no exception. A great gentleman, an important filmmaker . . . my dear PTS listeners . . . I give you, Alex Proyas.

“We’ve got some unique time constraints.” : Remembering Déjà Vu with Bill Marsilii by Kent Hill

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Initially I felt the same way about Déjà Vu as I did Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Both of the inaugural screenings I attended were sullied by external forces which greatly influenced my mood during the viewings and thus, my opinion of the films.

But time, it was once said, is the ultimate critic. Under different circumstances I watched both films again, and, this time around, my feelings toward both movies were drastically adjusted.

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In several books on the art of screenwriting it is often put about that, if you cannot sum up the film you are writing in a single sentence, then you may want to rethink the plot. There is a great moment on the commentary track of this film in which the late, great Tony Scott admits that even he struggled to distill Déjà Vu into the logline form.

It’s a science-fiction/action/thriller/time-travel/romance in which the hero, Denzel Washington, meets the girl he will eventually fall in love with on the slab – dead as disco. Unbeknownst to him, he will eventually join a team that will, along with the help of a device that can see into the past, aid him in bringing her killer to justice. And it was from this humble yet intriguing premise that my guest, Bill Marsilii and his co-writer Terry Rossio constructed this rich, multi-layered tale which deserves more applause than some would proffer for its inventiveness and compelling real-world take on the age old time machine story.

 

But what I uncovered as I spoke to Bill was far more than a series of behind the scenes anecdotes and your typical boy meets idea, boy turns idea into a screenplay, screenplay sells for big dollars, boy lives happily and successfully ever after in Hollywood kind of scenario.

And yes, while it is true that Déjà Vu is the highest earning spec script thus far, beating out other entries like Basic Instinct, Panic Room and The Last Boy Scout, the story of how Bill came to, not only the concept, but how the writing and selling of the script changed his life is just as compelling as anything Jerry Bruckheimer and Co. managed to get onto the screen.

 

This interview, at least for me, proved also to be somewhat of a masterclass in, not only screenwriting, but the ever painful and soul-crushing journey the writer must endure to actually sell the script. It’s about the luck, timing, persistence and internal fortitude that you must have sufficient quantities to survive the gauntlet that exists between the page and the screen.

Bill’s heart-warming, inspirational adventure to make it in the realm where dreams are brought to life with that strange blending of art, science and commerce – that ultimately no one can tell you how, when a film is successful, it all comes together in the perfect proportions to ensure success is on the menu – is a conversation that could have gone on and on.

I hope you’ll will enjoy some extended insights into Déjà Vu, but more than that, I hope you, if you are one of those dreamers still out there trying to write your own ticket to cinematic glory, that Bill’s wisdom you’ll take onboard and continue pounding away on those keys until fortune smiles and your efforts will be coming soon, to a theater near us…

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Bill Marsilii . . .

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