Tag: Stephen Lang
F-list actress Gina Carano stars as Ava, a trained fighter with a dark past in the movie In The Blood.
When her new husband (fellow F-lister Cam Gigandet) vanishes during their Caribbean honeymoon, Ava uncovers a violent underworld of conspiracy in the middle of an island paradise. Armed with a deadly set of skills, Ava sets out to discover the truth – and to take down the men she thinks are responsible for his abduction, one by one.
The movie In The Blood gets a very limited theatrical release (second and third run cinemas) the same day that it debuts on Video On Demand.
Film Review: In the Blood
I’ll be honest about this film, I am NOT a big action film fan nor do I like ultra-violent films. In the Blood is clearly BOTH of these— especially the latter. The amazing thing is that although the violence made me cringe, it was also a movie that kept me glued to the screen…and my adrenalin pumping!
The film stars Gina Carano and if you’ve never heard of Miss Carano, I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s only done a few films, though she is famous…as an MMA and Muay Thai fighter!! And, as you’d expect from a woman with such training, her skills are INSANELY good. Heck, she seems tougher and more capable than all the male action stars of the genre—and she makes it all look so real! By comparison, films by Van Damme and Steven Seagal look like kids’ films!!! I also love Carano because although she is pretty, she’s NOT the Hollywood type. She has real curves and looks like she’s NOT the product of plastic surgery and bulimia!!
The film is set on some fictional Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation or, perhaps, they intend it to be the Dominican Republic (there are three Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean—and it’s not Cuba and they said it wasn’t Puerto Rico in the movie*)—they never say. Regardless, the place is corrupt…very, very, very corrupt.
It’s so corrupt that when an American tourist is kidnapped (or possibly killed), those responsible for it pay EVERYONE to pretend it never happened—even the cops! So, this leaves Ana (Carano) all alone in a hostile country where practically no one seems able or willing to help. The neat thing about the film is that it is wonderful at misdirection. It’s a very smart film as again and again I was surprised by who was behind all this and why. And, how it all ends is simply impossible to anticipate**.
Overall, this is a super-high action film with an amazing heroine—one that doesn’t stand around waiting to be saved by a man—and I love that. Carano plays the real thing—and action hero in every sense of the word— and a darn scary one!!
So do I recommend the film? Well, I don’t know. Its violence level is off the charts and it’s certainly NOT a film for the kids, your mother or Father Flannigan! Plus, even if you THINK you like action films, you might just find this one too intense, bloody and violent. Often, Ana kills—much like Sonny Chiba did in his Street Fighter films. But aside from the violence, it’s an exceptional film all around. Heck, even NOW after the movie’s been over for some time, my heart is STILL pounding… it’s that intense and that well made.
*They said the film is NOT set in Puerto Rico and talked about how they can escape to the nearby island of Puerto Rico. But, in reality, the film was actually made in Puerto Rico. I don’t know what this will do for tourism!
**If you SERIOUSLY anticipated all the twists, turns and surprises in this film, drop me a line. You are DEFINITELY psychic and I want to talk to you about the Florida Lottery.
In the Blood
Directed by: John Stockwell
Starring: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzmán, Stephen Lang, Eloise Mumford, Yvette Yates, Hannah Cowley
Screenplay by: James Robert Johnston, Bennett Yellin
Production Design by: Monica Monserrate
Cinematography by: Pedro Juan López
Film Editing by: Lucas Eskin, Doug Walker
Costume Design by: Milagros Núñez
Set Decoration by: Carmen Marie Colon Mejia
Music by: Paul Haslinger
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language.
Studio: Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: April 4, 2014
Pioneer is set in the early 80’s, at the beginning of the Norwegian Oil Boom. Enormous oil and gas deposits are discovered in the North Sea, authorities aim to bring the oil ashore through a pipeline 500 meters deep. Petter, a professional diver, is obsessed with reaching the bottom of the Norwegian Sea.
Along with his brother Knut, he has the discipline, strength and courage to take on the world’s most dangerous mission. But a sudden, tragic accident changes everything. Petter is sent on a perilous journey where he loses sight of who is pulling the strings. Gradually, he realizes that he is in way over his head and that his life is at stake.
Pioneer is a portrait of a Norwegian deep-sea diver in the early 1980’s, set within the thriller genre. I’m drawn to stories told through the protagonist’s point of view. In “Pioneer” I looked to create a character that is searching for a truth, which threatens his ability to comprehend reality. Thus the distinction between paranoia and conspiracy is at times blurred. True to the genre, the film has a protagonist and a number of potential antagonists.
In terms of genre, we aimed to reinterpret the American 70’s thriller. Growing up in the 70’s, I was heavily influenced by films such as “The Conversation”, “Chinatown” and “All The President’s Men.” These films inspired not only my aesthetic approach to filmmaking, but also my interest in genre films. I believe genre films can be used successfully to explore character dilemmas for a wider audience. I wanted to reinvigorate the approach I used in my first film INSOMNIA, by directing a character driven thriller.
To me, much of filmmaking is about giving an audience the physical experience of going somewhere different. In “Pioneer” we wanted to convey the physical and emotional impression of what it’s like to work at the bottom of The North Sea. Inspired by research, we aimed to contrast the claustrophobia of the diving bell and helmet diving with the enormity of the clear, dark sea. I took great inspiration from the way sci-fi movies deal with infinity and scale. We also aimed to make the sea blacker than the traditional notion of blue sea.
As PIONEER is inspired by real events, the film also has an historic aspect. I grew up in a country that had discovered enormous oil and gas resources that we didn’t know how to utilize. Experiencing the change in our national mentality through the period of blooming wealth served above all else as my inspiration to direct PIONEER. To me, it’s ultimately a story about the ways sudden wealth changes you.
Q & A WITH Director Erik Skjoldbjærg
How did the project land on your desk?
Erik Skjolbjærg: The producer, Christian Fredrik Martin, came to me several years ago. He had heard of the idea of North Sea divers from two Norwegian film graduates, Kathrine Valen and Cathinka Nicolaysen. The angle that appealed the most to me was to depict the pivotal moment in our history when we had discovered oil but didn’t know if we could secure the resources. I grew up in the seventies and I remember that those were totally different times. I was interested in showing how we managed to secure those resources to become a rich nation. Another key element is that my first film, “Insomnia,” was a thriller told from the main character’s point of view and I wanted to explore this type of thriller again.
You share the writing credits with no less than four people, including the Swede Hans Gunnarsson (Arn) and Norwegian Nikolaj Frobenius (co-writer of Insomnia). What were the major challenges in the writing process?
ES: I started working with Kathrine and Cathinka. We did a lot of research. It was like a filtering process. We soon decided we would take all researched material and mold it into a thriller. The challenge was huge. After working on a few drafts we turned to Hans Gunnarsson who has lots of experience working on different genres. He helped develop the lead character of Petter (played by Aksel Hennie.)
Then I collaborated with Nikolaj Frobenius who helped build the plot into the thriller genre. The research was complex because the pioneering oil period is something that not everyone wants to be associated with. There is an ongoing conflict between some of the divers and the government, who are supposedly responsible for some sort of neurological traumas that the divers suffered after the experiments. So the subject is still controversial in Norway. The case is currently under review at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
We spoke with the divers and researched various events and accidents that took place. We used all of this as a template for our film and condensed it into a simple story for the audience to follow. But a lot of elements are based on reality.
There are two aspects to the story: a heroic aspect with divers wanting to push their limits, and a darker side of human exploitation and sacrifice linked to the financial ambitions at stake…
ES: Yes we decided to show today’s audience what it must have felt at the time. The divers then had a mentality similar to people doing extreme sports today. They were adrenaline junkies who wanted to push their limits. At the same time, we tell the story from the point of view of a diver who discovers the power struggle between the Norwegian government and the international oil community about who is to control the oil.
In terms of casting, was Aksel Hennie in your mind when you wrote the script ?
ES: Yes he was. Aksel was very involved from the very start. Besides the fact that he is a very emotional actor, he has a screen presence and understands the process of filmmaking. He was a fantastic collaborator throughout the film.
Was it difficult to nail down the three US actors?
ES: It’s hard for Scandinavian films to attract US actors in supporting roles. The only way to do it is if you wait until just before the shoot. Wes Bentley came in four weeks before shooting, Stephen Lang two weeks before and Jonathan LaPaglia one week before. It was truly nerve wrecking.
Claustrophobia and paranoia are portrayed in most of your works and in this film again. How did you work with your production designer and cinematographer to create those feelings?
ES: Basically the film shows that in the seventies, there was a lack of concern for security, unlike nowadays. All technical equipment of the time is no longer in use. We had difficulty finding sets such as gas chambers and diving ships, so we ended up building it all. Our gifted production designer Karl Júlíusson has done major sets for Kathryn Bigelow so he had the experience and the authority to deal with this challenge on a Scandinavian budget. Similarly the costume designer Anne Pedersen did a great job.
Then, as the film is a co-production, I was working with an international crew and ended up taking on Swedish cinematographer Jallo Faber. It was one of the best creative choices I ever made because I really think that our idea to recapture the seventies feel in Scandinavia was the right one. We also did research on industrial diving. We decided to create claustrophobic spaces and infinite spaces because that’s the reality for North Sea divers. We looked at top shots and angles from above because the film is about people at the bottom of the sea and at the bottom of the hierarchy. We were also inspired by sci-fi movies that deal with infinity and scale in an interesting way.
In terms of location shoots, I think you went to Iceland to shoot some underwater scenes?
ES: We had the Finnish underwater team from Matila Röhr MRP Productions. They said the clearest water you can get with sand at the bottom is in a lake in Iceland where you have water from a glacier being filtered by lava sand that comes into this underwater trench. It’s incredibly clear and perfect for underwater filming. We shot other underwater scenes in Germany.
The film opens in Norway and has been selected for Toronto. Are you anxious to see how the international audience will react to this Norwegian tale of underwater heroes and conspiracy thriller?
ES: Above all, the film takes people where they have never been before, on an epic adventure. We’ll see how people will react in Toronto, but signs are that there is an audience as the film has been pre-sold to several territories including the US and Japan.
What’s next for you? Any interest to go back to Hollywood where you have a name as the creator of Insomnia that was eventually remade by Christopher Nolan?
ES: I have several projects. Among those is a script that I’m developing with Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, who wrote Everything Will Be Fine for Wim Wenders. Our project is based on Gaute Heivoll’s novel ‘Before I Burn’, itself inspired by the true story of a pyromaniac who started dozens of fires in Southern Norway in the summer of 1978.
As for Hollywood, I’ve been there. If the proper project comes along and I can work freely on it, then I will consider it. I’m always open to explore new things. We’ll see in Toronto!
Written by Annika Pham
Directed by: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Starring: Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Aksel Hennie, Stephanie Sigman, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ane Dahl Torp
Screenplay by: Nikolaj Frobenius, Hans Gunnarsson
Production Design by: Karl Júlíusson
Cinematography by: Jallo Faber
Film Editing by: Jonas Aarø, Frida Eggum Michaelsen
Costume Design by: Anne Pedersen
Set Decoration by: Louise Drake
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: December 5, 2014
Surly, a curmudgeon, independent squirrel is banished from his park and forced to survive in the city. Lucky for him, he stumbles on the one thing that may be able to save his life, and the rest of park community, as they gear up for winter – Maury’s Nut Store.
Set in fictional Oakton, The Nut Job follows the travails of Surly (Will Arnett), a mischievous squirrel and his rat friend Buddy, who plan a nut-store heist of outrageous proportions and unwittingly find themselves embroiled in a complicated adventure.
About the Story
In the fictional city of Oakton City in 1959, a selfish purple squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) and his rat partner Buddy who does not talk much reside in Liberty Park and their thieving reputation has made them outcasts. A group of urban animals led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and his Cardinal assistant (who mostly chirps) store food for winter in a giant tree in the park called Liberty Park.
Raccoon is informed by his servant Mole (Jeff Dunham) that there is a food shortage in the park. Surly and Buddy’s attempt to rob a peanut cart goes haywire when it is impeded by Raccoon’s helpers, a compassionate red squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl) and the “park hero”, a gray squirrel named Grayson (Brendan Fraser) whose heroic antics prove to be incompetent. The selfish Surly ignores Andie’s help and tries to get a bag of nuts while the owner Lucky and his associate Fingers gets distracted by a bratty girl scout customer and a police officer that the girl issues her complaint to.
The heist also gets invaded by Lucky’s pet pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph). After fending her off by having her bite the pipe of a propane tank, Surly and Buddy escape with the cart and Andie manages to guide it to Liberty Park. Surly threatens Andie and Grayson with a torch, unwilling to share the food, but accidentally causes it to ricochet across the park.
Although the animals (except for Grayson) get off safely, the cart is sent into the tree, where it explodes along with the tree and the animals’ food supply. Grayson however, survives the ordeal. When Surly is identified as the culprit by the Groundhog Bruisers Jimmy (Gabriel Iglesias), Johnny, and Jamie, Raccoon banishes him from Liberty Park following a unanimous vote forcing him to survive in the city.
The Nut Job
Directed by: Peter Lepeniotis
Starring: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Stephen Lang, Sarah Gadon
Screenplay by: Peter Lepeniotis, Lorne Cameron
Film Editing by: Paul Hunter
Art Direction by: Ian Hastings
Music by: Paul Intson
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor.
Studio: Open Road Films
Release Date: January 17, 2014