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Bill Paxton had the kind of star quality that Hollywood was never able to entirely utilise. When his popularity soared on the back of standout bit parts (The Lords of Discipline, 1983; Streets of Fire, 1984; The Terminator, 1985) and movie-stealing support characters (Weird Science, 1985; Aliens, 1986; Near Dark, 1987), the studio suits shoehorned him into leading man parts that failed to do his unique talent justice. We are grateful for his blockbuster hits, but no one will cite Twister (1996), Titanic (1997) or Mighty Joe Young (1998) as the films that capture what was engagingly ‘wild’ about ‘Wild’ Bill Paxton.

Having passed away at the age of 61, the always-in-demand actor was working up until his death. The cult success of his HBO drama Big Love and the role of Randall McCoy opposite Kevin Costner in the mini-series Hatfield & McCoys ensured that he was always welcome on the small-screen; his latest role was the lead in the series, Training Day. As an industry that respected and a fan base that adored him begins to mourn their loss, we recall his fearless, soaring, often unhinged big-screen performances...

Private Hudson in ALIENS (Dir: James Cameron; 1986)
Cameron met Paxton when they were both working for pennies on the set of a Roger Corman shoot over three decades ago. The director gave the manic young Paxton an on-screen shot as the nameless punk who incurs the merciless wrath of Schwarzenegger’s killing machine in The Terminator (1984). The young actor earned enough industry credibility to secure the role of Chet, the hilariously unhinged militaristic older brother in John Hughes’ Weird Science (1985). When Cameron was casting his sequel to Alien, he called upon his friend to drop the comedic ‘bigness’ of Chet and give full flight to the ‘unhinged military’ side. Paxton stole every scene as Private Hudson, the tough-talking but increasingly terrified marine whose on-screen meltdown and last defiant act of heroism gives the classic sci-fi action-thriller a crucial and soulful human warmth, as well as some of genre cinema's most quoted lines ("Game over, man"; "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen"; "Why don't you put her in charge!?"; "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?"). The director and the actor would remain lifelong friends, working together on True Lies (1994), in which Paxton gives one of his funniest performances as the con-man Simon, and as salvage expert Brock Lovett in Titanic (1997). In a statement released overnight, Cameron said of his late friend, “"It was a friendship of laughter, adventure, love of cinema, and mutual respect. He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo.” (Pictured, above; Paxton, with co-star Michael Biehn, in Aliens)

Severen in NEAR DARK (Dir: Kathryn Bigelow; 1987)
Bigelow and Cameron were romantically linked at the time; she had seen the character work that Paxton had put into creating Hudson and the audience empathy his presence engendered. When casting her modern-western/vampire-noir horror film Near Dark, Bigelow realised his ballsy swagger and imposing masculinity was perfect for the role of sadistic predator Severen, the most heartless of the roaming band of bloodsuckers. She also knew that the chemistry between the Aliens cast was something special, casting Paxton’s co-stars Jenette Goldstein and Lance Henriksen. The film failed to catch on at the box office (it was late to the party in terms of cool vampire pics, with The Lost Boys premiering only two weeks prior), but quickly became a must-watch VHS favourite and remains a cult classic. The bar room bloodbath, during which Paxton utters the line, “I hate it when they don’t shave,” as he feasts on the jugular of an unkempt cowpoke, is unforgettable.    

Gus in THE DARK BACKWARD (Dir: Adam Rifkin; 1991)
Adam Rifkin’s putrid, magnificent take on celebrity culture could not have come at a worse time for Bill Paxton. In the four years since the industry buzz generated off Aliens, he had starred in critically acclaimed work that no one had seen (Near Dark; Pass the Ammo, 1988) and commercial efforts that had underperformed (Slipstream, 1989; Next of Kin, 1989; Navy Seals, 1990; Predator 2, 1990). In hindsight, an occasionally sickening but inspired satire co-starring Judd Nelson as a man who grows a third man out of his back only to be exploited for fame by Paxton’s slimy, grimy garbage man was not the most thought-through career move. But fans of the film (including yours truly, who penned a wordy appreciation in 2014) cite it as the stuff of legend and absolutely crucial to one’s understanding of the appeal of Paxton as an actor. From his Fellini-esque romp with obese prostitutes to his devouring of a rotten chicken leg to his amorous nuzzling of a garbage tip corpse, Paxton is mesmerizingly disgusting yet entirely sympathetic.

Dale ‘Hurricane’ Dixon in ONE FALSE MOVE (Dir: Carl Franklin; 1992)
Hank in A SIMPLE PLAN (Dir: Sam Raimi; 1998)
Dad Meiks in FRAILTY (Dir: Bill Paxton, 2001)
Paxton was a born-and-bred Texan and, as this trilogy of films connected by their rural settings reveal, he never shied away from representing the darkly shaded complexities of life on the land. In Carl Franklin’s indie crime thriller One False Move, Paxton played Sheriff Dale Dixon, the Arkansas lawman whose thrill at working with LAPD investigators is muted when secrets from his past merge with revelations about the case. In A Simple Plan, Sam Raimi’s snowbound tale of mistrust and doublecrosses, Paxton plays the outwardly decent man Hank, whose crumbling morality and descent into a life of compromised principles represents one of the actor’s best roles. By the time he directed and co-starred with Matthew McConnaughey in the chilling religious-themed Frailty in 2001, Paxton was deep inside the minds and hearts of country folk and the angels and demons that occasionally drive them to unforgivable acts of devotion. Roger Ebert recognised Paxton as “a gifted director”, calling Frailty “a complex film that grips us with the intensity of a simple one.”

Astronaut Fred Haise in APOLLO 13 (Dir: Ron Howard; 1995)
Perhaps because his most beloved and successful roles were slightly off-center or perhaps because he just never actively sought them out, Bill Paxton rarely got to play the ‘everyman’ (one exception was Jan de Bont’s blockbuster Twister, though his performance suggests he was a bit disinterested in the thinly-drawn lead role).  When afforded the opportunity by Ron Howard to play the beaming young astronaut Fred Haise in Apollo 13, Paxton revealed a glowing goodness of character and sturdiness of spirit that came to represent the inherent heroism celebrated in the film. If Tom Hanks’ Jim Lovell was the embodiment of good ol’ USA derring-do and Kevin Bacon’s Jack Swigert was the square-jawed non-doubter of the new technology, Paxton was the rest of us, the one for whom space travel was a mystical, soul-enriching journey to the heavens. Not for the first time in his film career, Paxton was the perfect conduit for viewer empathy and engagement. Howard recognised that the actor possessed that rare quality that instantly ingratiated him to audiences. It was an asset that probably cost him A-list fame – stars need to construct an air of mystery and ambiguity about their true character – but it ensured he was and will remain much loved.



A broad synopsis outlining what we can expect from Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant has been issued by 20th Century Fox, further fueling fan expectation surrounding the the highly anticipated return of the British director to the universe and mythology he made famous 38 years ago.

Released to the global press day-and-date, the coverage reads:  The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. Pictured above are the principal cast (l-r): Katherine Waterston, Amy Seimetz, Tess Haubrich, Alexander England, Nathaniel Dean, Demián Bichir, James Franco, Danny McBride, Uli Latukefu, Benjamin Rigby, Callie Hernandez, Jussie Smollet, Carmen Ejogo, Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender.

Earlier reports that surfaced in late 2016 also indicated that ‘David’, the synthetic character played by Michael Fassbender in 2012’s Prometheus, would reappear as the sole inhabitant of the paradise planet. It has been confirmed that in addition to the blonde android, Fassbender will also play Walter, a second synthetic who shares the deep-space craft with the human crew (pictured, above; Fassbender as Walter, with Carmen Ejogo).

Katherine Waterson (pictured, above) takes the central role as the terraforming scientist Daniels, with James Franco as her husband, Branson. Billy Crudup is on board as the captain of the spacecraft, with Danny McBride as the ship’s pilot and a support cast that includes Callie Hernandez, Carmen Ejogo and Oscar nominated Demián Bichir. Holdover cast members from Prometheus include Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth and Guy Pearce as corporate villain Peter Weyland, though Scott has been circumspect as to the size of their contributions.

It is believed that the film is the first of a new trilogy that will conclude in line with the narrative of 1979’s Alien. The events of Prometheus unfolded in 2093, one year after the birth of the original film’s heroine, Ellen Ripley; Covenant will take place in 2103, approximately 19 years before Ripley’s first encounter with the Xenomorph.

Alien:Covenant shot in Sydney at the Fox Studio complex from March to July last year, before exteriors were completed in New Zealand. The projected production costs are estimated at US$150million, a significant proportion of which was invested into the Australian production sector; it is understood close to 600 jobs were created to service the blockbuster shoot. In a press conference to announce the project, Scott (pictured, above, during the shoot) indicated the planned sequels would also shoot Down Under.


ALIEN: COVENANT will be released on May 18.



More often than is really fair, film critics are taunted with, “Oh, you’re just looking for things to hate.” Nothing could be further from the truth; we do what we do because we desperately want to love everything we see. We enter every screening passionately hoping to bestow 5-star praise upon that which hides behind the big curtain. It takes a lot of hard work to hack away at the enthusiasm we have for cinema, leaving us gutted with disappointment, stunned into critical disbelief. In 2016, no films worked harder to that end than this lot…

Read THE BEST FILMS OF 2016 here.

The puddle-deep world of high fashion is usually ridiculous enough to offer its own form of self-parody without shitty cinema adding to the spectacle. In 2016, two rehashed properties well past their primes tried to recapture whatever made them interesting a decade or so ago, but fell embarrassingly short. The Ab Fab movie was an interminable slog, foregoing the London-set Patsy/Edina dynamic of the largely plotless TV series in favour of a stupid Euro-narrative; big mistake. Zoolander 2 decided to mimic the first instalment except louder and bigger, to absolutely dire consequences. Is Ben Stiller’s future as a small-screen star now inevitable? These films represent about 200 minutes of completely laugh-free ‘comedy’. (Editor’s note: Zoolander 2 is our official ‘Worst Film of 2016’). 

The desperation on everyone’s part to see their bad decisions through to the end infests every frame of this unwanted sequel. Unlike the sleeper hit original, which boasted beautiful production design and committed performances, this expensive follow-up looks low-rent, misses Kristen Stewart’s darker charms and fails to establish any dramatic conflict between the overpaid, under-performing trio of Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron.

Respectfully, it had been a long while since the late director Garry Marshall made a good film. But it was a cruel twist of fate that Mother’s Day was his swansong. Every obituary referenced this horribly twee, schmaltzy, shrill bore in the same breath as his gems Pretty Woman, Frankie and Johnny and The Flamingo Kid. The cast were uniformly terrible, none more so than Julia Roberts as the wig-wearing TV host. Every dramatic beat was fake and forced; every joke, bad sitcom-standard. The 'Hidden Homosexuality' subplot was demeaning and insulting on just about every level. What were they thinking...? (Editor's note: No wait...maybe this was the year's worst film?)  

The ‘Sundance film’ hit its nadir this year with Florian Cossen’s pulse-free accidental piss-take of the ‘Sundance film’. A typically maudlin teen outsider ‘hero’ (soulless sap Alex Ozerov) mumbles through the small-Americana setting, hoping his pixie dream girl (the film’s bright spot, Bea Santos) can liven things up. The mopey, millennial disconnect that this film indulges in makes for insufferably self-conscious drama; by the time the smirking leads eulogize a dying animal with an impromptu ukulele hymn, I was ready to damn their entire generation.

Phillippe Grandrieux has his supporters (Locarno, SITGES and Venice have all honoured his past works), but there is no defending his sordid, contentiously misogynistic look inside this nonsensically cinematic version of black-hearted porn industry melodrama. If you’re so inclined, you might get a thrill out of the frank depiction of erections, blow jobs, torture and murder, but 156 minutes of this stuff, shot with a stomach-churning shaky-cam, spot-lighting obsessed style, is insufferable. With all due respect, the standard of acting is what you might expect from the porn genre.

The studio tried to spin this as not being a remake of the Charlton Heston classic but a throwback to the source novel. It failed spectacularly, on either front; from the casting of the anaemic, whiny Danny Huston as Benny, to the heavy-handed and muddled religious message, to the cringe-worthy effects, this is the grand, grotesque folly of 2016. By the time the adversaries saddled up for the obligatory chariot race (really the only reason this film exists, let’s face it), not a single audience member gave a damn. Even the burgeoning faith-based audience smelt a cynical cash-grab of biblical proportions, ignoring the film and condemning it to wallow in red-ink for immortality. (Editor's note: Oh, yeah, this is definitely the worse!)

I know I’m rowing this boat alone; the overwhelmingly positive response to Todd Haynes’ drama (94% on RT) was backed by AMPAS, who bestowed upon it six Oscar nominations. But there was a nagging, obtrusive disconnect between Haynes’ overtly stylized 50s New York society and the heartfelt warmth of Rooney Mara’s blossoming wallflower. In so blatantly drawing upon the works of Douglas Sirk, Haynes was revealed to be no Douglas Sirk at all (despite his 2002 Sirk-a-thon, Far From Heaven, which is an immeasurably better film). And then there is Cate Blanchett’s unforgivably theatrical performance, brought to life with such technical precision as to rob her scenes of any life. My mounting frustration with Carol was brought into focus when Bret Easton Ellis dissed the film in his podcast, calling it no more than the director “moving his little lesbian Barbie dolls around.”

Can anyone explain that ending to me? (Spoilers ahead) If it was literal, it required such a huge leap of audience faith in the narrative as to be ridiculous; if it was all happening in the protagonist's head, it meant the establishment had won and the spirit of the film was all for nought. It was the biggest bummer of the 2016 movie roster, shafting moviegoers' emotional involvement and sticking it to Viggo Mortensen’s free-spirited anti-hero. And that hilariously ill-conceived bonfire dance-off jam session was unforgivably terrible.

What the f*** has happened to Kevin Smith?!? One can’t begrudge him having a bit of fun, but the sharp dialogue, vivid characterisations and on-the-pulse pop culture relevance of his best work seem a billion years away. Yoga Hosers is a new low; as the two convenience store clerks battling weiner-Nazis (don’t ask), the director’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith and her lovely but vacuous BFF Lily Rose-Depp are the dullest heroines of the year. Not even the target audience (heavy smokers of the green stuff) could find this watchable. Smith needs to stop drinking the bong water and rediscover some kind of ambition (and keep Johnny Depp out of his films). (Editor's note: That's it, I'm out of here.)

Could have been this generation’s Dimboola, but Sony’s B&S Ball-set romantic comedy proved neither romantic nor funny. The rowdy outback tradition of gathering locals together for a wild night of uninhibited partying should have been rich cinematic fodder. But directors Tim Ferguson and Marc Gracie (it took two?) capture none of the flavour of such an event; Spin Out looks like it was shot out the back of Fox Studios with a cast of Bondi millenials. Except for leading man Xavier Samuels, who is too old by ten years for this schtick. An icky drag-equals-gay subplot, a mechanically contrived denouement and an adherence to PG-level bawdiness hamstrung the film, too.

Dishonourable Mentions:




(to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’)



Finally, the obligatory end-of-year indulgence we film types preposterously call ‘The Best of… List.’ Smart film critics have taken to calling them ‘My Favourite Films’ or ‘Standout Pics We Loved’ or something like that, because to assume that one’s personal picks are inarguably better than anyone else’s personal picks is a bit dickish.

Thanks for reading Cine-Mas, my 12-part, 18,000-ish word review of the year in film. With 4 likes, 3 shares and 2 comments via Facebook, it clearly tapped the zeitgeist. I’m joking, of course. Thank you for the support and kind comments about Screen-Space, this soon-to-be-5 lark that you’ve come to know and disregard. I love you all, except those who commented on my review of The Red Pill, you fucking psychos. Appreciate the traffic numbers, of course, but the whole bigotry and misogyny thing…not cool.

So, in a year that saw me suit up for my first Cannes Film Festival, discover the (now-defunct) delights of the Hanoi Cinematheque and spend 40 minutes chatting movies with Ted Kotcheff, I’ve chosen a bunch of films that lingered longest in my increasingly bewildered mind. Some I saw in general release, when I was forced to sit with the phone-checking Neanderthals; others, in the rarefied palaces of the festival circuit or at press screenings (also, Neanderthals). I grant you the respectfully-titled “Screen-Space’s Indisputably Perfect 10 Best Films of 2016”… (no particular order, although we all know which is clearly the best, right?)

THE NEON DEMON: Nicholas Winding Refn paints a lurid, dazzling nightmare-scape of the LA fashion scene, in which competition is cutthroat and the ambition of unwary ingénues is consumed like mince. It is all perfectly shallow, magnetic to the gaze and wrapped in the execution of the most thrilling, divisive director working today. Left me stunned and giddy, but expect it to surface on a few ‘Worst of…’ rants as well; its Cannes premiere was raucous, and distributors have shied away from it in droves.

SING STREET: John Carney (Once; Begin Again) takes as his starting point the hoary old ‘Let’s start a band’ premise and proceeds to make a work that soars beyond that simple premise into something truly extraordinary. The feel-good, toe-tapping vibe hits a crescendo at the start of Act 3; how the film plays out is daring and utterly beautiful. Gets everything about '80s teen culture wonderfully right; the music, the fashion, the belief in romance is beat perfect.

LA LA LAND: Damien Chazelle does for dreamy LA romantics in La La Land what he did angry drummers in Whiplash. That is, paint a richly realised fantasy existence, where heartbreak, longing and struggle is every bit as crucial to the creative process as the journey of falling in love. The dance sequences exhibit old-school expertise and genre understanding; the all-in freeway opener is grand Hollywood, while the purely fantastic planetarium showstopper reveals a Euro influence. Emma Stone’s emotionally resonant spin on the ‘pixie dream girl’ archetype is the role she was born to play.  

YOUR NAME: 2016 was a stunning year for animation (see the names I’ve regretfully bumped to ‘The Next 20’ pile below). Makoto Shinkai’s romantic fantasy, which weaves the story of a dream-state connection between two teens separated by time, place and an impending act of God, struck a chord with Japanese audiences; a country healing from a run of natural tragedies found strength in this spirited, special fairytale love story. International audiences are responding to the deeply emotional, profoundly lovely ‘Romeo & Juliet’-like journey; if Shinkai’s story takes a hold of you, like it did your cynical critic, expect to be reduced to a sobbing mess.

THE WAILING: A schlubby cop and his slightly goofy precinct offsiders are drawn into a murder-mystery that runs the gamut from ‘random act ugliness’ to ‘serial killer intent’ to something otherworldly entirely. Hong-jin Na’s slow-burn horror classic wasn’t the breakout hit of his South Korean peer Sang-ho Yeon’s zombie rush Train to Busan, but in hindsight that level of audience acceptance seemed unlikely; few films in recent memory have kept doubling-down of the unblinking moments of inspired terror like The Wailing. Not for the first time in film history, Asian filmmakers offered the year’s most truly revelatory genre works.

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS: In collating and cutting together photos, footage and audio that spanned the great band’s vast, superb and turbulent history, Ron Howard (yes, that Ron Howard) has crafted both a vivid account of the scope of Beatlemania and an intimate insight into the dynamic of the greatest songwriting unit in the history of pop music. Some of the content will feel warmly familiar, but so much seems new and fresh and purely ecstatic; Howard captures the raw energy and unique personalities that brought the band together and the price they paid for attaining idolatry.   

ROGUE ONE: “A Hollywood franchise entrant that harkens back to an era before those words carried ugly loading.” Read our full review here.

RAW: “Raw is above all else a gut twisting work of classic body horror.” Read the full review here.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE: “A superbly crafted, white-knuckle chamber piece.” Read the full review here.

PERSONAL SHOPPER: “A moody, occasionally frustrating, often brilliant study in isolation, grief and disenfranchisement.” Read the full review here.




A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

Imagine the last 100 years of cinema without the like of Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, Hepburn & Tracy, Bogey & Bacall, Hope & Crosby, Newman & Redford, Bergman & von Sydow, Cassavetes & Rowlands, Scorsese & De Niro, Almodovar & Banderas, R2-D2 & C-3PO, Raimi & Campbell. Perfect film pairings have provided magical moments, driven collaborative genius, challenged artistry to break new ground. In 2016, two unlikely pairs came together and inspired new and unique reserves of strength and creativity in each other…

A headline-grabbing ‘hot button’ issue at Cannes 2016 was how star Isabelle Huppert and director Paul Verhoeven portrayed the central character’s rape and PTSD-based reaction in their engrossing, disturbing, often blackly funny collaboration, Elle. The attack, shot from different perspectives and revisited on several occasions (in real time, in flashback, from her point-of-view, then his) demanded that the actress and her director be in a place of unflinching trust and unified vision. In calling the film “a masterpiece of suave perversity”, The New York Times critic A.O. Scott hailed the work as “a duet for director and star.” The drama, which confronts gender roles, sexualised violence and accepted rape psychology, is a throwback for the director, who started his career with such boundary-pushers as Diary of a Hooker (1971), Turkish Delight (1973) and The 4th Man (1983). He told Variety that Huppert’s fearlessness in the role was an inspiration. “Several times during the shoot she became explosive and did things that were not in the script because she was so deep in character,” he said. “In normal times, I would have said ‘cut’ but her performance was so powerful I couldn’t stop her.” At a Q&A after its New York Film Festival debut, Huppert acknowledged the trust and respect her director afforded her. “Paul said that he was interested with what I was doing, because since I was a woman, by definition I would know more than him, what I was supposed to do,” she said. The mutual admiration and affection extended beyond the shoot; when asked about deflecting criticism from the world press, Huppert cited the strength of her friendship with the director. “When I’ve travelled with Elle, Paul has been there,” she told Collider. “If I was just by myself maybe I would be nervous but I think we protect each other.”

Yes, one half of this cinematic pairing is a CGI monster of the deep. But so compelling a villain was director’s Jaume Collet-Serra’s underwater killer, it drew a performance of powerful physicality and raw instinct from star Blake Lively as only the best supporting actor parts can. The non-speaking, even non-human counterpoint is not without precedent, of course. Consider the big-screen impact of the relentless semi-trailer in Steven Spielberg’s Duel and the frenzied panic it inspired in leading man Dennis Weaver; the mind games that astronaut Keir Dullea had to conjure to beat renegade computer, Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey; and, perhaps most appropriately, the stand-off between Dee Wallace and a rabid St Bernard in Cujo. Like all good actresses, Lively tried to understand the motivation of her screen partner, stating “Sharks are trying to survive the damage to their environment and habitat just as Nancy is trying to survive in the water. I went from having that standard primal fear that people have of sharks to really appreciating, understanding and respecting them.” Diving with great whites off the South African coast gave the actress a respectful perspective. “I was always terrified of great white sharks, but being in the water with them, being within their habitat, they don’t look like big, monstrous creatures,” she told The Lifestyle Report, adding “they’re beautiful, peaceful and serene.” What emerged on screen was a thrilling game of predator vs prey, a primal struggle that transcended its B-movie premise and provided its lead players with some of the most terrifying movie moments of 2016.