Tag Archives: Michael Biehn

Puncture (2011, Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen)

Puncture is a crusading attorney picture with a couple twists. First, there’s no trial and, specifically, no eureka moment in the trial. Second, the crusading attorney in question–played by Chris Evans–is haunted by more than demons or the bottle, he’s a rabid drug fiend. Oddly, Puncture never condemns the character’s drug use. In fact, he seems more with it high than not.

The film features technically wonderful performance, but no engaging character relationships. Co-director Mark Kassen plays Evans’s law partner–the responsible one–but their relationship never resonates. The film shows its most personality when it’s Evans, Kassen and Jesse L. Martin (as a mutual friend) hanging out. But Martin only shows up for two little scenes.

Brett Cullen is great as the bad guy attorney and he and Evans have a mildly interesting rapport. Puncture‘s problem is how the Kassen Brothers present Evans. They don’t really know what to do with the character; it might be a case where being accurate to history (it’s a true story) hobbles a film.

The only weak performance is probably Marshall Bell as Evans and Kassen’s client. He’s supposed to be fed up, vulgar and endearing. While Bell looks the part, he’s never believably earnest. On the other hand, Michael Biehn looks slicker than a used car salesman in Pomade but he still comes off as earnest.

The direction’s okay, though the wide frame is a mistake. The digital transitions are lame.

Puncture‘s plodding, but worth it for the acting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen; screenplay by Chris Lopata, based on a story by Paul Danizger and Ela Thier; director of photography, Helge Gerull; edited by Chip Smith; music by Ryan Ross Smith; production designer, Christopher Stull; released by Millennium Entertainment.

Starring Chris Evans (Mike Weiss), Mark Kassen (Paul Danziger), Michael Biehn (Red), Brett Cullen (Nathaniel Price), Marshall Bell (Jeffrey Dancort), Jesse L. Martin (Daryl King), Roxanna Hope (Sylvia), Jennifer Blanc (Stephany), Tess Parker (Jaime Weiss), Kate Burton (Senator O’Reilly) and Vinessa Shaw (Vicky Rogers).


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Aliens (1986, James Cameron), the special edition

I always think of Aliens as a precisely choreographed ballet. Director Cameron moves his large cast–though it does winnow over time–around in these cramped sets and everyone has something to do; Cameron draws the viewer’s attention to one character, but the rest are in motion setting up the next moment in the scene.

Watching the film this time, I noticed how Cameron’s subtle introductions to each character later define them. Sure, there’s a handful of characters who don’t get much focus, but about nine do. It’s like a ballet on wires.

Cameron’s script is also able to keep up its urgency throughout. The titular aliens don’t even appear at the start of the second act; Cameron holds them off as long as possible, which later lets Aliens constantly break expectations. Cameron organically sets up and knocks down various possibilities for the film… all while following some definite horror genre standards.

Aliens is meticulous–Ray Lovejoy’s editing is truly astounding, whether he’s passing time with a fade or perfectly cutting the action scenes. Adrian Biddle’s photography’s excellent–as is the effects work–but Lovejoy’s editing is simply wow.

All of the principals are excellent. Obviously Sigourney Weaver, but Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Paul Reiser are great too. Carrie Henn is fantastic in her difficult, understated scream princess role. I love how the script implies character relationships developing offscreen. It’s wonderful.

Cameron achieves a major success. Aliens is exhilarating. Like most great films, it gets better with every viewing.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by James Cameron; screenplay by Cameron, based on a story by Cameron, David Giler and Walter Hill and characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by James Horner; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Carrie Henn (Newt), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Paul Reiser (Burke), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez), William Hope (Lt. Gorman), Al Matthews (Sgt. Apone), Mark Rolston (Drake), Ricco Ross (Frost) and Paul Maxwell (Van Leuwen).


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Streets of Blood (2009, Charles Winkler)

Of all the crap Millennium Films has released theatrically, it’s shameful they let Streets of Blood go straight to DVD. Sure, there’s an absolutely ludicrous Sharon Stone (playing a faded Southern belle Ph.D., the worst Ph.D. casting since Will Smith), but it’s a solid cop thriller slash character study slash Katrina exploitation film. It’s even mildly subversive, with the federal government playing the bad guys. And there is some bad acting–besides Stone–Barry Shabaka Henley, for example, is awful and, even though his character’s arc is solid, Brian Presley is lacking.

But the film does feature, as far as I can tell, the best Val Kilmer performance in about ten years. Maybe a little less, but definitely his best since Spartan. It’s an amazing leading man performance–again, it’s a shame this one didn’t a) get a theatrical release and b) a lot more production money thrown at it once it was clear the caliber of Kilmer’s performance. Kilmer really should have been done the Dave Robicheaux adaptation instead of Tommy Lee Jones.

Curtis Jackson’s bad in the monologue sections but he does well with Kilmer. It’s impossible to think anyone could not do well with Kilmer (even Presley does and Henley doesn’t have any scenes with him) in this one.

Only Stone and Kilmer come off wrong, with her character being totally nonsensical.

Oh, and Jose Pablo Cantillo is excellent.

But the problem’s the script. It needed a capable rewrite.

Even so, Kilmer makes the film essential viewing.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Charles Winkler; screenplay by Eugene Hess, based on a story by Hess and Dennis Fanning; director of photography, Roy H. Wagner; edited by Clayton Halsey; music by Stephen Endelman; production designer, Gary Constable; produced by Randall Emmett, George Furla, Avi Lerner, Matthew O’Toole, John Thompson, Charles Winkler and Irwin Winkler; released by Millennium Films.

Starring Val Kilmer (Andy Devereaux), Curtis Jackson (Stan Green), Sharon Stone (Nina Ferraro), Michael Biehn (Agent Brown), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Pepe), Brian Presley (Barney), Barry Shabaka Henley (Capt. John Friendly), Luis Rolon (Fernando Chamorro), Defecio Stoglin (Jambalaya Jake), Davi Jay (Ray Delacroix), Pilar Sanders (Yolanda Green), Darcel White Moreno (Tanya) and Shirly Brener (Selina).


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The Terminator (1984, James Cameron)

I remember The Terminator being a lot better. Even as it started–I think during the first chase sequence (Michael Biehn in the department store)–I thought about the great highway chase sequence at the end. Then, as things went sour during, I kept waiting for that sequence, sure it would bring things around.

But it doesn’t bring things around. It’s short and loud–maybe the only time in the movie Brad Fiedel’s score doesn’t work. The disappointment might also be because Linda Hamilton, during this sequence, goes from waitress who gets picked on by little kids (I guess her restaurant does not reserve the right to refuse service) to the full-on James Cameron super-woman. It’s an inexplicable character change, sort of like her romantic clinging to future stalker Biehn. Where Terminator has the most opportunity for real character development (does Hamilton cling to Biehn because of her previous and frequent rejections?), it doesn’t seem to notice them. It does try to show Biehn’s incapable of having a regular conversation, emotion scarring from the future, but Biehn’s terrible during these scenes. Actually, he’s terrible once he meets up with Hamilton. Before them meeting up, he’s fine… even if he only has two lines.

The first three-quarters (or half) of the movie–before the police station shoot out–is great. It’s some of Cameron’s finest work, just because it shows he can show people walking down the street or going to work. Even if Hamilton and Bess Motta give bad performances, them getting ready for their dates is a good scene. There’s a texture to the film, even if there isn’t one to the screenplay. Cameron’s become so enamored with the fantastic, he seems to have forgotten the effectiveness of the uncanny. It doesn’t take him five or ten years though, by the second half of The Terminator he’s made the transition.

The second part has all the stupid future stuff, the terrible romantic stuff and the unexciting ending (the movie’s really Biehn’s and the protagonist transition to Hamilton fails).

The movie starts so strong–down to Bill Paxton’s moron punk–and doesn’t let up for a long time. Most of the credit goes to Fiedel, the sound designer (The Terminator‘s most interesting, technically, for how Cameron uses sound and music to create mood) and Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield. Winfield and Henriksen’s bickering cops brings a human element to the film–and real characters, something sorely missing with Hamilton and Biehn–and once they’re out of the story, it’s just a bunch of sci-fi tripe. The reality is gone.

As for Schwarzenegger, he’s fine. Though he’s interchangeable with a model head and a stop motion robot, so I’m not sure the performance is particularly successful.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by James Cameron; screenplay by Cameron with Gale Anne Hurd, with acknowledgment to the works of Harlan Ellison; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Mark Goldblatt; music by Brad Fiedel; produced by Hurd; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Paul Winfield (Lieutenant Ed Traxler), Lance Henriksen (Detective Hal Vukovich), Bess Motta (Ginger Ventura), Earl Boen (Dr. Peter Silberman), Rick Rossovich (Matt Buchanan), Dick Miller (Pawnshop Clerk), Shawn Schepps (Nancy), Bruce M. Kerner (Desk Sergeant), Franco Columbu (Future Terminator), Bill Paxton (Punk Leader), Brad Rearden (Punk) and Brian Thompson (Punk).


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