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Posts Tagged ‘Debra Hill’

The Replacement Killers

Monday, September 7th, 2020

I try not to be too set in my ways, which is a good reason to rewatch a movie years later and see if you respond differently than the first time around. So something told me it was time to revisit something from those heady days when the emerging international popularity of Hong Kong action cinema fired peak John Woo and Chow Yun Fat out of a cannon aimed at the heart of Hollywood. I’m not sure what kind of a cannon shot them so that Woo landed in 1993 and Chow not until 1998, but life is a mystery. Anyway, they exploded and in the case of Chow, we were mostly disappointed and then happy that he didn’t stick around that long, because Hollywood clearly didn’t know what they were doing with him.

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS was significant not only as Chow’s first Hollywood/English language movie, but the directorial debut of Antoine Fuqua, who became a much bigger deal when 2001’s TRAINING DAY won Denzel Washington an Oscar. That kind of gave him the air of an Important Filmmaker for a little bit, but I think now he’s settled in as the type of director who makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and THE EQUALIZER 1 and 2, which is more like the expected trajectory for the director of this one. He came from directing music videos, most famously “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio, but also “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by Prince.

Chow plays “John Lee,” who’s pretty much a remix of his character in THE KILLER. He’s an assassin who owes one more hit to L.A. Triad boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang, A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2, THE KILLER, SUPERCOP, RUSH HOUR 2). But he’s sent to the home of LAPD Detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker, CLIFFHANGER) and sees the man’s wife and son through the sniper scope and decides he can’t do it. (In a corny touch, Zedkov doesn’t see him but looks right into the scope as if sensing him.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Fog

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_fogFive minutes before midnight and the 100th anniversary of the founding of his coastal California town of Antonio Bay, John Houseman tells a ghost story to a group of kids gathered around a campfire. He claims the town was founded on gold stolen from a deliberately sunken pirate ship (like in the cool samurai movie GOYOKIN, or the Tom Laughlin western THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER), and the original owners will be coming back tonight for what’s theirs. This would be corny as a wraparound story, but it’s perfect as a prologue and a warning. We enjoy the art of oral storytelling and a brief pause before the movie marches into an atmospheric title sequence set to a great synth score that could only mean this is a John Carpenter film.

This is more of an ensemble than many Carpenter movies. I’d say the lead is Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), local DJ who broadcasts out of a lighthouse she owns. She ties the other characters together because they hear her voice and music wherever they go. She plays mostly old timey jazz, which makes for a good soundtrack and also can sound eerie when echoing tinnily in an empty room.

Then you have Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), a local driving home late at night who picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Think about this. Curtis as Laurie Strode, with her presumed virginity, was patient zero for the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie. In this one her character gets picked up by an older stranger and is in bed with him within the hour. This is never implied to be a bad thing and they both survive and are heroic. Isn’t that what they call “sex positive”? And does a “sex positive” cancel out a “sex = death”? (I’m not good at math.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Halloween II

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

tn_halloweeniiHALLOWEEN II is… not HALLOWEEN. But I guess that’s why they added the “II” on it. I should’ve caught that.

Continuing immediately from the end of John Carpenter’s genre-defining much-imitated timeless unkillable masterpiece classic, and using most of the same crew (including cinematographer Dean Cundey), it’s able to imitate the style enough to recapture the feel sometimes. Other times it just emphasizes how outstanding and impossible to duplicate Carpenter’s touch was.

To be fair, this was written and produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by Carpenter, who also chose the director, Rick Rosenthal (who later ended the series in disgrace with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) on the basis of a short he directed. Then, when it was filmed and Carpenter didn’t think it was scary enough he went and shot gorier death scenes. So he has a hand in it, for good or bad.

This is one of the rare sequels that just continues exactly from the ending of the last one. So it starts by replaying the ending of the original, where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shows up to rescue Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) by shooting Michael “The Shape” Myers (in the new footage played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, the only major cast change), who then disappears. I always wonder if the end of HALLOWEEN, a series of shots of empty locations, was meant to imply that Michael could be anywhere, or that he IS everywhere. But part II goes with the first choice. He snuck off.

The sequel proper begins with an excellent steadicam P.O.V. sequence. Carpenter has his scene from the point-of-view of young clown-costumed Michael spying on and then murdering his sister on Halloween night. Rosenthal has adult Michael walking around dark Haddonfield unseen by unsuspecting suburbanites. We hear his breath, the dogs barking and nearby cars driving by as he walks through an alley and looks into people’s homes. Some of the innocents he comes across are doomed, most will not know how close they came, or that they walked right past him without noticing his presence. (read the rest of this shit…)

Motorcycle Gang

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

tn_motorcyclegangI found this DVD called MOTORCYCLE GANG, starring Carla Gugino and Jake Busey, directed by John Milius. That’s gotta be a TV movie, right? Yes, upon closer inspection I figured out it was part of the Rebel Highway series that Showtime did in 1994.

Rebel Highway was what happened when producers Lou Arkoff (son of Samuel Z.) and Debra Hill (one-time producing partner of John Carpenter) put together a group of ten directors and let them choose titles from the American International Pictures library of ’50s drive-in movies. They could remake it or just use the title if they wanted. They got low budgets and short shooting schedules, but apparently they were given final cut and encouraged to make them sleazy. So it was alot like the original AIP. Some of the directors included John McNaughton, Joe Dante and William Friedkin. The only one I’d seen before this was ROADRACERS, which was Robert Rodriguez’s practice movie between EL MARIACHI and DESPERADO. (read the rest of this shit…)