Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton R.I.P.

That's it, man. Game over. 
                                        - Hicks

My favorite Bill Paxton flicks (in alphabetical order) in case you were wondering.

Aliens - As Hicks he earned the audience's contempt and supplied much needed comic relief during the un-ending tension of the film's last three quarters. He did it well, but a lot of that was in the writing. To also make us sorry to see him go? That took a special performer.

Frailty - As star he gave a chilling portrait of religious zealotry and child abuse, as director he announced himself as a talent with a true ear for tone and a taste for material in the bullseye of my sweet spot. Unfortunately, as a director, he never returned to my favorite places.

Near Dark - As the flashy danger in a nomadic-RV-bound tribe of heartless heartland vampires in Kathryn Bigelow's ground breaking flick - still the benchmark for rednecksploitation cool.

Next of Kin - As the youngest brother to Liam Neeson and Patrick Swayze relocated from coal country to the urban wasteland, it's a minor role in what remains, to my knowledge, the only crime flick set amongst Chicago's citybilly underground. ***Dennis McMillan points out Medium Cool's Chicago citybilly setting.

Nightcrawler - As the mentor who would've been turned competitor and then victim of Jake Gyllenhaal's freelance crime scene photographer he put in solid work in a movie yet to really get its due.

One False Move - The first starring role Paxton made an impression on me in. He plays an Arkansas cop with a big heart and a dark secret. Outclassed as a lawman by the FBI and outmatched in ruthlessness by the killers on their way to his town, the character and the performer nevertheless hold their own against the heavyweights (including co-star and screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton) in Carl Franklin's country noir.

A Simple Plan - If a greed-tragedy is to succeed it has to have a convincing innocent to topple - one whose fundamental decency is believable without being off-puttingly pious and whose craven depths are too relatable to ignore. Terrific, haunting thriller from Sam Raimi (based on the novel by Scott Smith) with Paxton front and center.

Tombstone - Probably lost amongst the densely stocked pond that is the cast of George P. Cosmatos' all-flash-bur-really-who-gives-a-shit western, as Morgan Earp his worship of his brother Wyatt gives the audience permission to as well. And his death gives Kurt Russell all the reason this moviegoer needed to justify the bloodbath that followed. Jeez, good thing I'm not in a position of any real-world authority or influence.

Traveller - As a nomadic conman in North Carolina Paxton has to be charming enough to make a living duping marks and world-weary enough to shoulder a little moral weight in this under-exposed drama.

Trespass - The concept of Arkansas firemen looking for buried treasure in abandoned East St. Louis building and getting caught in the crossfire of a gang war with major players including Ice Cube and Ice-T is just fucking rad. Especially for me as a fresh Arkansas transplant to St. Louis when I first saw it. It's pure pulpy exploitation tasteless tastiness served up by Walter Hill (who also cast Paxton in his rock'n' roll fantasy Streets of Fire).

Of interest and yet to be seen...
Mean Dreams - Returning to One False Move territory as a small town policeman with a lot of menace.
Training Day - The TV version finds Paxton stepping into the role Denzel Washington won an academy award for.

Friday, February 17, 2017

No Hablo

On The Crime Fix podcast this week Peter Dragovich and I talked about english-language remakes of foreign films inspired by the January release of Sleepless directed by Baran bo Odar (The Silence) and starring Jamie Foxx. It's a remake of the french language original Sleepless Night directed by Frederic Jardin (who's been directing some episodes of the french TV show Braquo - which I've heard Kent Gowran favorably compare to The Shield, so sign me up).

Neither of us have seen Sleepless (though I'm definitely going to check it out soon), but we're both big fans of Sleepless Night and hope that the remake at the very least shines some light on that fantastic original. 

Our discussion included english remakes that were better, worse, shot-for-shot identical to their origin material or significant to us for other reasons good or bad. In the order discussed, here's the ground we covered.

Le Dernier Tournant (1939) directed by Pierre Chenal and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) directed by Bob Rafelson were both based on the novel by James M. Cain and actually neither are as well known as the 1946 Tay Garnett-directed version starring Lana Turner and John Garfield.

Contraband (2012) directed by Baltasar Kormakur who also produced the original Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008) which was directed by Oskar Jonasson's original. I apologize for my terrible pronunciations and for mis-crediting (switching) Kormakur and Jonasson on the podcast.

Sorcerer (1977) directed by William Friedkin and Wages of Fear (1953) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot were both based on the novel by Geroges Arnaud. 

The Departed (2006) directed by Martin Scorsese was a remake of Infernal Affairs (2002) directed by Andy Lau and Alan Mak.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) directed by Anthony Minghella and Renet Clement's Purple Noon (1960) were both based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Neil Jordan's The Good Thief (2002) is a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1956 original Bob le Flambeur.

Tom Ripley made another appearance in the discussion this time as portrayed by John Malkovich in Liliana Cavani's Ripley's Game (2002) based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith as was Wim Wenders' The American Friend (1977) featuring a very different performance by Dennis Hopper opposite Bruno Ganz. Anybody out there seen Barry Pepper as Ripley in the 2005 Roger Spottiswoode adaptation of Ripley Under Ground?

Walter Hill's Last Man Standing was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) as was Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars, but I think Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest is probably the real basis for all three.

Michael Haneke's Funny Games (2007) is an english language remake of his own Funny Games (1997).

And Gela Babluani also remade his own feature. 13 (2010) was originally 13 Tzameti (2005). 

I'll leave the content of the discussion for the podcast, but here are a few we didn't discuss that I wasn't aware until recently even were remakes...

Before the Russo Brothers were taking over the Marvel Cinematic Universe they made the comic caper film Welcome to Collinwood with a knockout cast that included Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Luis Guzman, Isaiah Washington, Michael Jeter, Patricia Clarkson and George Clooney. It's one I just revisited for the first time since catching its theatrical run in 2002 and the first two-thirds really hold up. It kinda falls apart in the final act, but it's well worth killing time with if you want some light-hearted criminal fare.

I had not realized it was a remake of Mario Monicelli's 1958 film Big Deal on Madonna Street. I'll have to seek that one out.

Sean Penn's third directorial effort, 2001's The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson is a pretty terrific tale about a detective disappearing beneath an obsession with an unsolved case.

It's based on the novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, which in turn was based on his own screenplay for the 1958 film It Happened in Broad Daylight directed by Ladislao Vajda.

On the Christmas episode Pete and I discussed Daryl Duke's 1978 heist flick The Silent Partner, but it wasn't until this week that I knew it was a remake of the 1969 Danish film Think of a Number directed by Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt.

Both versions are based on the novel Tænk på et tal by Anders Bodelsen. 

Plenty of others we didn't get into including Point of No Return/La Femme Nikita, Criminal/9 Queens The Next Three Days/Anything For Her, as well as both versions of Breathless, Nightwatch, Bangkok Dangerous, Oldboy, Pusher, Insomnia, We Are What We Are and The Vanishing. Maybe we'll do something like this again sometime.

Over at Letterboxd I've put together as complete a list as I could think of: English Language Remakes of Foreign Crime Flicks. Lemme know what I missed.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dog Soldiers/Who'll Stop the Rain

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