Tag Archives: bill paxton

Near Dark – Review

3 Feb

Kathryn Bigelow has had a very interesting career in Hollywood, and she has a fair share of really good movies supporting her filmography. Her most recent feature, Zero Dark Thirty, garnered plenty of controversy, but I can’t say that it wasn’t a very well made and designed film. I also recently reviewed Point Break, which was one of her earlier efforts but still packed enough over the top entertainment to keep me interested. Today, I’m going back even further to her 1987 film Near Dark. This is a extremely interesting and well thought out take on modern vampires, and this is easily one of the best vampire movies ever made.

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Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is a young farmhand that helps his father on their farm in a small south western town. One night, he meets the beautiful, yet mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright), who seems in a rush to get home and in her panic bites Colton on the side of the neck. Colton is then taken off the road by Mae’s travel companions. The leader of the group is Jesse (Lance Henriksen) and his girlfriend Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein). Along with them is the sadistically violent Severen (Bill Paxton) and Homer (Joshua Miller), a kid who is much older than he looks. It also turns out that these travelers are vampires who roam the countryside looking for easy prey. Colton now is being forced by these vampires to accept his new life and kill in order to survive. This leads Colton on a wild ride of murder and utter chaos.

If you look close enough, you might notice that the cast to this movie is pretty close to the cast of James Cameron’s Aliens. As many people know, Bigelow and Cameron were married for a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cameron recommended these actors to Bigelow, and it worked out great. Henriksen is one of the most recognizable character actors working in film and television with good reason. He’s constantly bringing his best to every project he’s in and Near Dark is no exception. The same can be said about Bill Paxton, who really brings it in this movie. Because of Paxton’s excellent performance, mixed with Bigelow’s creative writing and direction, the character of Severen can easily be remembered as one of the great cinematic vampires. The rest of the supporting cast, along with Pasdar in the lead role are all very believable and do their jobs well, I just have to point out Henriksen and Paxton especially do great work.

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While the story of Near Dark is a pretty standard vampire tale, there are so many elements and scenes that put it a leg above the rest. For one thing, the vampires in this movie look like they could just be any person on the street. They aren’t pale or have fangs or anything like that, but they are just as vicious as any other traditional vampiric predator. There’s also a big focus on the affect that sunlight has on them. In fact, it’s one of the main components of the story. They don’t rest in coffins during the day, but they do have to take whatever precautions necessary not have a beam of light touch them. If it does, their skin burns and smoke starts rising off them. It’s really super cool. There’s also a now famous scene that takes place in a bar that really puts this movie up with other class-A horror films.

There have been so many vampire films made over the years that it’s hard to make the idea seem fresh and exciting. What Bigelow did here was take the vampire horror genre and mix it with the western genre to create a very unique feeling and looking film. There’s so much excellent imagery in this movie from the RV with the tin foil wrapped around the windows, to the vampires with blood dripping from their mouths in the bar scene, to an excellent shootout which results in lots of exposure to sunlight. These images are so well constructed and make this movie feel like such an original take on the lore of vampires. That’s really what I want to praise this movie for. Above all else, it is an original take on a tale that everyone knows so much about, but the newness and originality of this movie makes it feel so fresh.

Near Dark is a wonderfully original vampire film that grabbed me from the start and wouldn’t let up until the credits began rolling. It acts as a horror film, a western, and an action adventure movie all in one. I really tried my best to find something negative to say about this movie, but I had such a fun time with it that I don’t think it’s possible. This is one of those one of a kind movies that I could watch again and again without getting bored.

Final Grade: A

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Frailty – Review

23 Apr

To get into the mind of a serial killer can be close to an impossible task. With everything going on in the world, there can be many triggers that can change a seemingly normal and functioning mind into that of a psychotic and murderous lunatic. This is the strongest part of the film Frailty, the directorial debut of the well known character actor Bill Paxton and the feature screenwriting debut of Brent Hanley. This movie made a big mark when it was released in 2001, with people like James Cameron, Sam Raimi, and Stephen King all hailing it as one of the best horror films to come out in years. This is a powerful movie that would’ve been a perfect psychological thriller if it wasn’t for a god awful ending that has the potential to spoil the entire experience.

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In the present day, FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) is called into the office late one night because a man calling himself Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) says he has important information on the serial killer known as the “God’s Hand Killer.” According to Fenton, his brother Adam, who has recently committed suicide, is the killer. The evidence for his claims dates back to 1979, where the younger Fenton (Matt O’Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) are living a simple yet happy life with their widower father (Bill Paxton). That happiness is destroyed one night when their father claims to have been visited by an angel with the instructions to collect a grouping of holy weapons then find and destroy demons that are walking the earth disguised as humans. As the bodies begin to pile up, the young Fenton becomes more and more uncomfortable with his father’s “mission” and knows that somehow he has to put a stop to it. In the present time, as an older Fenton recants this story, Agent Doyle begins to suspect that something isn’t right with this mysterious visitor in the night.

The first two thirds of this movie are really something special in the most dark and twisted kind of way. What we have is a brutally clever and psychological story about a man who seems to lose all sense of reality, and in doing so completely shatters the psychological well being of his two young sons. This makes for a very interesting story that was made scary by its realism. Anyone who reads up on serial killers knows that for a lot of them, God is a major factor in their twisted psyches. This isn’t to say that all serial killers murder people because of God, but there have been instances in the past where the phrase “God told me to do it” has been uttered. It didn’t have to be God that made Fenton’s father feel the need to kill. The whole point of interest is that he went from a normal human being to something a whole lot worse, but Frailty almost plays this in a way where we don’t want to hate the killer.

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As I was saying, and let me really emphasize this, the first two thirds of the movie are note perfect and part of the reason is because of the superb acting on display. Matthew McConaughey doesn’t really have a huge part, but his acting is entirely believable and appropriately eerie. Bill Paxton steals the show as the perfect father who’s own supposed mental breakdown changes him into a totally different person. The part that Paxton is in is complicated, having the duty to portray a serial killer who the audience is supposed to understand and feel for in a way. He is still totally off the walls and makes for a frightening human being. Even the two kids, Matt O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, do commendable work, which I really wasn’t expecting.

All’s going well so far. Then… Oh, then… A third act comes along that ruins the movie in a way that an ending has never done to me before. I don’t want to spoil anything, although it’s really difficult not to. There’s so much I want to say about this god awful joke of an ending. To summarize, let’s just say that it takes everything that was really cool, scary, and interesting and completely throws it all out the window for some bullshit twist. Ever since The Sixth Sense, it seems almost obligatory that psychological thrillers of this kind have some kind of twist to them. Well, the difference between The Sixth Sense and Frailty is that the twist of Shymalan’s masterpiece is tricky and thought provoking instead of stupid, like what we see in Frailty.

I don’t want to say that Frailty is a bad movie solely because of the ending, because that wouldn’t be fair. In all honesty, Frailty is an above average psychological thriller that people seem to have forgotten. It deserves the praise that it’s gotten from people like Sam Raimi and Stephen King, but I can’t help but be really bothered that someone thought the ending was a good way to wrap up the story. I don’t want to dissuade anybody from seeing Frailty because it really is a good experience, just be ready when the ending completely throws you off due to the writer’s need to try to make the movie more thought provoking than it really needed to be.

Haywire – Review

23 Aug

There’s a lot of things about Haywire that made me really excited. For one thing, Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors and seeing him tackle an espionage action/thriller film would be awesome. Secondly, the cast looked out of this world awesome, with the lead  character being an MMA fighter. And finally, I heard nothing but great things about the action sequences. I felt concerned right before the film started that I would be disappointed with it, and disappointment with this movie would be a big letdown.

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Mallory (Gina Carano) is the top employee of a company, led by Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), which gets hired out by different corporations to get certain jobs done. This time, the contractor is American government official Coblenz (Michael Douglas) and his Spanish contact, Rodrigo (Antonio Bandaras).  The mission goes well but she is soon betrayed by another agent, Paul (Michael Fassbender), which starts her on a mission of vengeance that will rope in her father (Bill Paxton) and a close employee (Channing Tatum).

It’s difficult to summarize this movie because there are so many twists and turns packed into a 90 minute movie. What I gave is pretty skeletal, but I certainly don’t want to ruin the movie, especially one that is as entertaining as this! Steven Soderbergh does it again, and this time he takes the spy genre and throws his own unique vision over it all. The only thing that really wears the film down is its plot. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it seemed to just take a back seat to everything else. It’s a simple story with a lot of complex twists and characters. In that sense it became more about the action and the characters more than the story, which is fine, but it’s sort of weird for this genre of film.

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This cast is way too big to ignore. Gina Carano, who is known for being an MMA fighter, does fine but can come off as a little flat sometimes. More on her later though. Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Antonio Bandaras are adequately sleazy and easy to distrust right off the bat. I really liked Michael Douglas’ performance as the government official who is working for himself, pretty much. I still don’t know what he’s all about and Douglas played it perfectly. Bill Paxton was fine, nothing too special, but fine nonetheless. Now we come to Channing Tatum. Ok, I see why people don’t like him, but I stand by a statement I previously made in another review. If you put him with the right director and/or give him the right role, he acts very well. This is one of those times, and Soderbergh also seems to agree, casting him in Magic Mike and Side Effects as well.

Now this is the part I really want to talk about. The action sequences. You know how cool the fight sequences are in The Bourne Identity and its sequels? Well, picture those scenes, with a camera that is far from the action, and completely still. Those are the fight scenes in Haywire. This is where Carano shines the most. Using her skills as an MMA fighter, the interesting camera placement by Soderbergh, and the lack of any music, these fight scenes are really something to behold. You can see every punch, kick, or defensive maneuver that a character does, and the sounds of grunts, hits, and broken bones only help to immerse you in what is happening.

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Haywire is definitely a great way to spend 90 minutes of your time. With Soderbergh’s attention to style, the action sequences, and the all star cast, Haywire is a surprisingly memorable movie. There are plenty of ways to mess up an espionage film, but this one borrows from the ’60s and reinvents itself into something new. I recommend Haywire to everyone. It’s awesome.