Showing posts with label bill paxton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bill paxton. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Favorite Roles of Bill Paxton

Eighties cinema churned out Hollywood icons left and right, and became synonymous as huge stars from that era. Bill Paxton was one of the few to break out of the mold from old Hollywood into new. Known for roles in movies like Terminator and Weird Science, he crafted an every day Burt Lancaster type of filmography: tough, rugged, but vulnerable and sensitive old-Americana guys. He could decipher money makers from "January jobs" so he could take smaller roles, made space for other people in the industry, and kept wanting to make good work. With a Texas drawl and steely glance, he was a force of nature.

Honestly, he was just a cool dude, laidback, charismatic and hardworking on-screen and off. As a fan of his, it was a sad day to hear of his passing. At the time, I didn't quite know what to say when the news first broke. I didn't know how to remember him until I could figure out which roles meant a lot to me, and to be honest, there were too many. So I thought why not at least share five today, on what would've been with sixty-second birthday. Hope you enjoy! What were your favorite Bill Paxton movies? Feel free to share in the comments below

Apollo 13

A space movie with three of Hollywood's iconic stars gives most other old-Americana films a run for their money. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton portray Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, respectively, aboard the Apollo 13 en-route for U.S.'s third moon landing when disaster strikes. Crutched together in a real-motion spacecraft in zero gravity, and recreating weightlessness in a sound-stage, the cast shares an effortless camaraderie as a tiny ensemble. While Haise is helping his crew-mates survive freezing temperatures, nearly non-existent water supply, and limited communication to NASA, it's funny to imagine Paxton's excitement of filming scenes in zero gravity in NASA's KC-135, nicknamed The Vomit Comet. But that's exactly how Ron Howard described it. His heartfelt performance makes you believe he was the small-town guy who almost made his way to the moon.

Big Love 

 This was one of my biggest fandoms as a teenager, though at the youngish age I was, I'm not quite sure I comprehended everything this show was about: the complications of a polygamist family. As the head of the house, he delivered complexity in trying to be the traditional patriarch of this lifestyle, balancing his wives' expectations, and getting in hot water with the church. Paxton managed to weave a complicated anti-hero of sorts who you could root for, despite the unfamiliarity of this culture and way of life, as a husband trying to juggle it all.

Titanic

For a movie that's nearly three hours long, it's hard to believe Paxton's screentime is so mall. Yet the whole story is bookended by Brock Lovett's quest for the Heart of the Ocean necklace. He starts out as a guy out for glory but still has a sense of connection to Titanic and Rose as she tells her story. He's transformed by what she went through and what that necklace represented; not just the melodramatic a woman's heart is an ocean of secrets, but by letting the tragedy of what happened truly sink in beyond what he could financially gain from it. Titanic also speaks to what a nice guy people in Hollywood knew Paxton as. He and director James Cameron had a lifelong friendship, working with each other before on Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, and later for another Titanic expedition Ghost of the Abyss.

A Simple Plan

Sometimes an amazing performance is a subtle one; the way an actor can purely emote confusion, regret, getting backed into a corner and making you feel like he has no way out except the horrible decisions he's facing. Paxton does this in A Simple Plan, where three friends in a small nowhere town come across a stash of four million dollars. The owner is a dead pilot in a crashed airplane. It's a classic question of what would you do if you found money like this? what lengths would you go to claim it for your own, not get caught, or keep it long enough to share? Paxton is brilliant as Hank, a genuinely happy guy with a wife (I'll be writing her sometime) and baby on the way, a decent job, who gets caught up in some trouble. And every step of the way he makes you feel like the only choices he has to dig his way out of his mess are the worst ones, but never quite feels like the villain.

Twister

 Anyone who might know me is familiar with my unequivocal love for Twister.  The epic soundtrack, insane practical effects, and all-around entertaining story makes the move is a bit larger than life. With any other cast, it could've been a disaster or forgettable. Having grown up in Texas experiencing a lot of tornadoes as a kid, and learning about meteorology and going on storm chases for the part, Paxton creates an every day man, who the crew calls The Extreme (and equally Helen Hunt's badass Jo 'Boss Lady). He fearlessly faces twisters lacking any sense of safety or threat of dying, but despite how epic the action scenes are, he's still a grounded guy. It was a bit refreshing when he passed away to know that I wasn't the only one who loved this movie or Bill's part in it- he and Hunt inspired a generation of storm chasers; that's just what good movies and actors do. There's no game over to his influence in film.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Twister (1996) is the supreme disaster flick

Twister movie review
Photo Credit: Twister / Warner Bros
Tucked into the disaster genre under classics like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) or flash-in-the-pan epics like 2012 (2009), Twister remains popular twenty years after its original theatrical release. Instead of focusing on an end-of-the-world or survival against nature plot, this flick is all about facing one of nature's awe-inspiring sights in order to understand its mechanics.

Jo (Helen Hunt) and Bill (Bill Paxton) are estranged storm chasers trailing several twisters across Oklahoma before their rival (Cary Elwes) beats them to the punch. Wrangled together by a contentious divorce, they lead a crew trying to release a data-gathering instrument to transmit tornadic behavior.

The film is as much of a love story as it is an action movie. Jo's passion for how tornadoes work was brought on by a tragedy during her childhood. Her near-obsession, now as an adult, affects her marriage and drives her daredevil ambition. Awesomely played by Hunt, she doesn't pull punches, knows how to get under Bill's skin, knows what she wants and gets it done. Like the cyclones, she takes command of every scene and everyone around her.

On the other hand, Bill is not diluted to a white-knight trope. Having accepted becoming a weatherman and planning to remarry, his stubborn, ambitious, and hot-headed nature pits him against her on always having the final word or being right. This also the biggest attraction they have towards each other. Though Paxton's acting may be a bit over the top at times, he and Hunt share good chemistry. Both characters have strong personalities and neither one softens who they are but try to make it work. It's refreshing.

Though Bill and Helen are as big of stars as the twisters, the supporting characters aren't flat or one-dimensional. With the exception of Melissa (Bill's fiance), she is the only real fish-out-of-water character who gets sucked into chasing tornadoes. Played by Jami Gertz, even she gives a sympathetic performance of being forced into the field for the first time and truly understanding what Bill did for a living.

Though their crew doesn't have deep arcs or development, they have a genuine presence in supporting Bill and Jo as revered leaders. There is a sense of camaraderie between all of them. Perhaps the biggest stand-out is a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty, the eccentric adrenaline seeker. He has some of the best lines. Even the showy villainous role of Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), whose greatest crime is going the corporate route and adapting their design of Dorothy to his own, doesn't feel like an empty role.

As much the film offers in terms of over-the-top '90s gold, it also harbors awesome special effects. Rather than being overwhelmed with CGI, which provides technical aspects that couldn't have been achieved in real time, the added force of on-set effects takes the green screen components to another level. Director Jan de Bont was adamant that the actors had on-set obstacles to play off until the tornadoes were digitally added in. He employed seven giant wind machines and two specially rigged jet engines to blow 200 mph winds as well as water (for rain effects). During the biggest chase, a two-story home and 18-wheeler were dropped by cranes into the actor's path. More impressively, Hunt and Paxton performed a myriad of their own stunts and suffered a laundry list of injuries.

With six major action scenes evenly paced, the movie does not feel overwhelmingly violent. The chases not only play to will they or won't they be able to disperse their data-transmitting equipment successfully but will Bill and Jo end up together. Every chase is spotlighted in its own way growing bigger in scale, more intense, and raising the stakes for the characters. Mark Mancina's score combines original score and heavy metal bands, adding a hardcore element to the adventure.

Twister has been one of my favorite summer movies, if not, one of my favorite movies of all time. One of the greatest wonders for this movie is just how many fans accept the fallacies of its science. It's not accurate, but blockbusters are meant to be a fun ride. Too many try to pack in a thin story that is burdened with a green screen everywhere and a variety of characters without any real objectives or chemistry. Twister isn't too ambitious that the effort doesn't pay off or fall to be too goofy that it's Sci-Fi channel unwatchable. The movie may not be perfect and doesn't depict twisters as correctly as many would like, but damn, it's fun and surprisingly doesn't suck. If you watch, hold on for your life!

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Twister? What do you think?

P.S. And, as for that cow scene:
Real-life storm chaser Vince Miller gives high marks to the special-effects wizards who brought the cyclones to life. "There's a scene in the movie where a cow flies by," says Miller, a one-time consultant at the Weather Channel. "I've never seen anything like that. But there was a tornado in South Dakota in the '60s filled with flying rocks. It turns out the rocks were a herd of cattle. (x)