Bill Paxton

October 4, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1987: Near Dark

DECENT

Near Dark – Decent

It was only a matter of time before I’d sneak a vampire review in here, and I tried to think of one of the most obscure ones I could. This brings me to “Near Dark” and if you pay close enough attention, or use your imagination you might think this is a vampire sequel to “Aliens”

Out tale begins with Caleb, a cowboy on the prowl for a lady love; he finds one in Mae, a mysterious girl who needs to be home before dawn. Caleb bites off more than he can chew after he asks for a kiss and soon finds himself turning into a vampire. He is kidnapped by Mae’s “family” which includes Severen (Bill Paxton) and Jesse (Lance Hendrickson). Jesse tasks Caleb with making his first kill within two days or the family will kill him.

Meanwhile, Caleb’s father, Loy, along with his sister are on the hunt to find him and find him they do, while they narrowly escape from the family with Caleb in tow. At the end of the day Caleb figures out a way to stop the vampires and lives happily ever after.

There are a lot of interesting things about this film. First is the cast, which is pretty much half the cast of James Cameron’s “Aliens.”The other tie-in is the director, Katheryn Bigelow, who was married to Cameron at the time. I almost feel like as soon as “Aliens” wrapped Paxton and Hendrickson walked over to a set right across the street and started filming this.

Speaking of Paxton, he steals the show as Severen, the most loony of this vampire family. His antics in the bar scene make the film and show his comedic timing as well as his acting mania. People might give him crap for his overacting in “Aliens” but his overacting in “Near Dark” is exactly what is needed in this film.

Overall, “Near Dark” is a fun film and you can see the tidbits that shows like “True Blood” stole from this offbeat look on our favorite onscreen bloodsuckers.

Here are some other awesome flicks from 1987:

Bad Taste
Creepshow 2
Dolls
Evil Dead 2
Hellraiser
Nightmare of Elm Street 3
Opera

November 11, 2014

Nightcrawler

TURN

Nightcrawler – Turn

Coming off of the heels of my review of “Zodiac” I liken that review to more of a catchup and brush up on Jake Gyllenhaal and where he is as an actor. The more I see, or re-watch of his career I wonder why he isn’t as popular as most other actors of his ilk. I really don’t think there is an actor working right now that takes as many chances and transforms himself as often outside of maybe Christan Bale. He takes on difficult roles, owns them, and is still able to play someone that we the audience slightly relate to. This brings me to his latest role, another turn in his career that you could also call a career-defining role. That film is “Nightcrawler” a gritty neo-noir in the vein of “Drive” “Network” and a dash of “Collateral.”

“Nightcrawler” takes the classic trope of following the American Dream to extreme, but somehow, necessary lengths. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a small-time crook looking for a chance to prove himself. Fate knocks at his door one evening when he witnesses a woman being rescued from a burning car by two police officers. It’s not the women’s distress that catches his attention however, it’s the cameramen who capture the harrowing rescue which appears on the news the next day. Being the go-getter that he is, Bloom procures funds to buy a camera and decides his calling is to “nightcrawl.”

Finally capturing some useable footage, Bloom delivers the goods to late-night news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) and the two begin a working relationship much to the chagrin of Nina’s co-worker Frank Kruse who finds the “if it bleeds, it leads” method of news broadcasting lacking. Bloom continues to thrive in his new calling and teams up with Rick, a homeless Angelino looking for a shot, just like Bloom.

The stakes reach their apex after Bloom and Rick witness a deadly home invasion which leaves three people dead. Sensing a breakthrough, Bloom puts all the pieces together in order to not only get the best news story, but to create the news himself.

There is a lot that could be given away in my synopsis, so I’ll stop right here because all the fun of “Nightcrawler” is to actually go on this twisted journey that features some of the best acting to date from Gyllenhaal. His take on Lou Bloom, starting from a scab who is stealing manhole covers and reselling them to a scraper, to a video camera-wielding scab making real money and becoming his own boss. One scene which stands out is Lou and Nina’s discussion about compensation for footage which Lou is trying to sell. While Nina tries to stonewall him, Lou knows everything he needs to say in order to shut her down and not only gets what he wants, but turns the tables in favor of his eventual endgame.

There is a lot of talk about “Nightcrawler” also being the “Network” for this generation. Well, having seen “Network” I say that is a pretty easy comparison being that this film is namely about the sensationalism of violence in our society and the apathy that news directors have in order to keep showing up the worst of humanity. Russo’s turn as Nina Romina is very similar to Faye Dunaway’s turn as Diana Christensen. Both are cutthroat newswomen, but unlike Christensen, Romina, while she thinks she is in control, is overtaken by Bloom who knows much more than she thinks he does. This also brings up a good point; how we obtain information in this day and age. Unlike 1976, there really wasn’t a precedent for the Internet and the sharing of information at a massive scale. Lou is able to position himself where he knows more about Nina than Nina almost does which gives him all the advantage he needs in an situation, which leads to some of the film’s best, and intense, scenes.

The Gilroy trio of Dan, Tony, and John, who direct, produce, and edit, respectively, create a vision of Los Angeles that is lively, dreamlike, and something out of a horror film all at the same time. However, my one minor gripe is the score of James Newton Howard. The score simply doesn’t seem to fit the setting of this seedy underbelly of LA. It’s a little too…..chipper? And this isn’t even to say that the score is bad, it just doesn’t fit.

Overall, “Nightcrawler” is everything it sets out to be; a social commentary with top-notch acting, solid action sequences, that looks great to boot. As it stands now, Gyllenhaal’s performance is by far my favorite of the year, and it will be a shame if he’s not one of the five nominees for an Oscar this year.

Fun Fact: Gyllenhaal lost over 20 pounds in order to obtain the gaunt look of Lou Bloom.

June 6, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

THROWBACK

Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he knows how to make entertaining films.  Yeah, yeah.  There are some Knight & Day and Rock Of Ages anomalies in there.  However, you would be hard pressed to go through his filmography and find a film of his that you didn’t at least think was fun.  From the grossly underrated Oblivion, to the pulpy Jack Reacher, to the exhilarating Ghost Protocol.  Tom Cruise STILL can make films that are exciting and fun.  Edge Of Tomorrow is no different.  It is a THROWBACK to some of the balls to the wall sci-fi action films I grew up watching as a kid.  Aliens, Total Recall, Terminator, etc.  It takes a sci-fi concept and blends it with great action set pieces and smart dialogue, hello Christopher McQuarrie, to create a film that gets you munching popcorn in the theater like a rabid woodchuck.

Edge of Tomorrow, based on the way better titled book All You Need Is Kill, tells the story of a cowardly soldier forced onto the front lines of a war against an alien invasion.  Through a miraculous set of circumstances, he gains the power to reset the day every time he gets killed.  With every reset, the soldier learns the skill and the courage he will need to defeat the aliens and save humanity.  And yes, I’ll be the one millionth person to use the analogy…IT’S GROUNDHOG’S DAY WITH ALIENS AND MACHINE GUNS!  Although, I see Edge Of Tomorrow as a little less complex than that.  In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character becomes a better person on the inside through use of the recycling days.  Edge Of Tomorrow uses it’s time traveling concept mainly for the goal of defeating the enemy.  Some personal growth is there, but most of it takes a back seat to the mission at hand.  You might think that I’m saying that this is a bad thing, but I honestly think it works here.  The movie never slows down and the repeated timeline gimmick never becomes tedious or, ironically, predictable. 

Tom Cruise’s performance in this is…well…very Tom Cruise.  He doesn’t break ground on any particularly new territory here.  But this is a film where he doesn’t really have to be anything other than Tom Cruise.  The biggest range of acting we get from Cruise is seeing him actually portray a coward.  Despite his long history as a leading man, this is something we rarely get to see him play and he does it quite well. 

The biggest weak spot for me in Tom Cruise’s other recent sci-fi film Oblivion was that the connection he has with actress Olga Kurylenko didn’t feel that strong to me.  Their chemistry just wasn’t right.  On the other hand, Emily Blunt is literally chemistry personified.  By that I mean she seems to just have amazing chemistry with every leading man they put her up against.  Whether it’s the chemistry she has with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper, or the insane amount of chemistry she has with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau.  Seriously, watch that film again.  The bathroom scene between her and Damon is a textbook example of what onscreen chemistry looks like.  Blunts powers once again come into play because every scene with her and Cruise is great.  Surprisingly, some of the scenes where they are just talking are as entertaining as the scenes where they are blowing things away.  Maybe it would have been better if Blunt was in Oblivion and Olga was in Edge, seeing as Oblivion is more dependent on the chemistry between the two leads than Edge Of Tomorrow is.  But I digress.

The rest of the supporting cast fill in their roles well.  Bill Paxton is just as humerus as he needs to be, and the members of Cruise’s J Squad are memorable and entertaining enough in their limited screen time to stick with you.  I was so hoping for Paxton to appear later in the film during an airdrop into alien territory so as to assuage my Aliens similarities fetish, but alas.

For as competent of an action director Doug Liman is, he really flies under the radar. This is likely due to him focusing more on producing than directing as of late.  However, this is still the man who brought Jason Bourne to the silver screen.  Hell, his romantic action comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith is the reason that there is such a thing as Brangelina.  Liman can do action, and he does it well here.  There is nothing as eye jarringly exhausting as Neill Blomkamp’s other exosuit extravaganza Elysium.  Just solid set pieces with thrilling, coherent action beats.  This saddens me because Edge Of Tomorrow will probably be the last action film I’ll see before Michael Bay’s new Transformers movie maces my eyeballs.

Edge Of Tomorrow fully embraces the summer popcorn flick philosophy while still delivering enough smart dialogue and concepts to keep you guessing.  It isn’t interested with hitting you over the head with social commentary or a heavy handed message.  It just wants to entertain you over and over again.  Grab an extra mag…an extra battery…don’t get injured anywhere near Emily Blunt…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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