Tag Archives: Bill Paxton

The Set of 400: #57 – My Favorite Elevator Police Horse

Today! Because I remember the first time I got shot out of a cannon –

True Lies (1994)

Directed by James Cameron (x4)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (x3), Jamie Lee Curtis (x3), Tom Arnold, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton (x6), Grant Heslov, Eliza Dushku (x2), Charlton Heston (x2), Art Malik

I have a tendency to forget how balls-out insane the climax of this movie gets, because the brilliant middle section of the film pulls the action-adventure epic so far into straight comedy. In a lot of ways, True Lies is the ultimate ’90s action film, while somehow working as a terrific parody of the genre and cinematic era in general. It’s hard to tell if the movie builds toward the utterly ludicrous final showdown as a way of satirizing the bombastic action movies of the day and before, or if it just wanted to try and top them all. Amazingly, it works in either fashion, from certain points of view.

Schwarzenegger’s recent forays into full-on comedy with the likes of Kindergarten Cop and Twins served him well playing secret-agent-disguised-as-computer-salesman (albeit a super jacked one) Harry Tasker. His James Bond/Rambo operative gets off plenty of jokes and light-touch comic moments, amidst the daring and derring-do, opposite great comedy turns by Tom Arnold and Grant Heslov as his team members, Jamie Lee Curtis as his unsuspecting wife, and especially the late, great Extreme, Bill Paxton, as the oily car salesman gaslighting as a secret agent himself. When this middle section of the film starts, it feels like a wild left turn in the plot – up until then, we are just following a fun but routine spy-centric plot about smuggled weapons and Tia Carrere’s revealing eveningwear – but quickly resources are diverted, attention is shifted, and Paxton’s sleezy Simon is full center. While this whole sequence does open the door for all the wacky complications that lead to the film’s kidnap escaping/nuclear explosion/helicopter-limo rescue/Harrier jet-skyscraper third act, it also is the true genius stroke of the film, even if it only tangentially matters to the story. Without Simon trying to seduce Helen, you’d have an undoubtedly fun but pretty standard Schwarzenegger romp. Forever MVP the Extreme! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #84 – My Favorite Oklahoma Sing-a-Long

Today! Because Billy is the Extreme –

Twister (1996)

Directed by Jan de Bont

Starring Bill Paxton (x5), Helen Hunt (x2), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x7), Cary Elwes (x6), Alan Ruck, Lois Smith, Jami Gertz, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick (x2), Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Zach Grenier (x4), Jeremy Davies, Wendle Josepher, Anthony Rapp (x2)

Oh what, are you too good to admit how much you enjoy the rip-roaring popcorn spectacle that is Twister? Not this guy! I know this movie is chock full of utter ridiculousness, from the hyper campy dialogue – “The finger of God”, “The cone is silent”, “The suck zone” – to the flying cows to the most peculiarly reinforced house in human history, that is able to roll into the roadway for their truck to drive straight through. I know! There’s tons of goofy nonsense in this movie! But here is a list of reasons why this movie works:

“I think that was the same one”

1) The flying cows – It was a great gag in the trailer and it’s a great gag in the movie. It is indicative of the overall tone – despite it being a full-on disaster movie, with many lives at peril and some deaths, it knows how silly it is, and embraces it. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #222 – My Favorite Game Over, Man

Today! Because mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are –

Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron (x2)

Starring Sigourney Weaver (x5), Michael Biehn (x2), Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton (x4), Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston

Oof, look at that poster! I already regret picking that. It doesn’t look like anything! It certainly doesn’t look like something we associate with Aliens. Even if they couldn’t cram a xenomorph on there somewhere, or a Paxton, or a goddamn Newt, you’re telling me that blue globe thing with Sigourney’s rocking ’80s hairdo wouldn’t have sold some tickets? Come on!

The only film in the series to make the list (sorry, Ridley Scott fans!), Aliens is such a huge jump up from the original that it almost verges on that much-talked-about mental disorder I seem to have – where a superior sequel relegates a chronological predecessor to prequel status. This isn’t quite that – Alien, while not on this list, is still a pretty great movie. But it also has completely different aims. Where that film is a relatively slow creeping space horror flick, the James Cameron follow-up is a slam bang bullets and muscles action movie, replete with unlikable, expendable Paul Reisers, more human than human androids, and Paxton delivering great, funny lines with his indelible Paxtonness. And instead of just having a pet cat tagging along for the adventure this time, there’s a grubby human child now! Fun!

And man, is that kid grubby!

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The Set of 400: #287 – My Favorite Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do

Today! Because our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world –

Stripes (1981)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Starring Bill Murray (x3), Harold Ramis (x2), John Candy (x5), Warren Oates (x2), Sean Young, John Larroquette (x3), P.J. Soles, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty (x2), Dave Thomas, Timothy Busfield (x2), Donald Gibb (x3), Bill Paxton (x3), Robert J. Wilke, William Lucking, Conrad Dunn, Antone Pagan

Stripes gathered up half the cast of SCTV, added Bill Murray, had them join the Army, and the whole thing worked. Okay, the first half of the movie is the more memorable one – the second half has them steal a tank and invade Czechoslovakia, sort of, so yeah, if you mostly just recall the basic training sequences, you’re excused. And that part of the movie is terrific, Murray’s John Winger butting heads with Warren Oates’ Sgt. Hulka, the misfit group getting in trouble and rebounding to pull it together, that great graduation drill. Also, as the only movie where Murray and Candy share any significant screen time, Stripes would’ve been significant no matter what. But thankfully it still holds up, for the most part, as these comedians in this era made rare missteps.

Great, messy times!

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The Set of 400: #296 – My Favorite Heart of the Ocean

Today! Because I’d rather be his whore than your wife –

Titanic (1997)

Directed by James Cameron

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x2), Kate Winslet, Billy Zane (x3), Bill Paxton (x2), Kathy Bates (x2), Frances Fisher, David Warner, Bernard Hill, Victor Garber (x2), Gloria Stuart, Suzy Amis, Danny Nucci, Ioan Gruffudd, Jonny Phillips, Ewan Stewart, Bernard Fox, Jason Barry

First off, let me begin by saying SHUT UP. I am fully aware of the awesome shortcomings of this film. The dialogue is often atrocious, some of the poor actors forced to play ethic stereotypes get completely mangled in the gears of this film (we forever honor you, Fabrizio!), and the plot – the driving romantic engine of the film – is the most hackneyed, retread, unimaginative piffle they could’ve lit upon. I get all of that. It’s way too long – like, a good forty to fifty minutes too long – and in retrospect can be viewed as pretentiously so, given everything connected to this film that was to follow – Oscar speeches, no follow-up Cameron film for a dozen years, etc.

Ugh, this guy

All that being said, people who regularly slam this movie – then and now – are you seriously telling me you don’t think the second half of Titanic is an amazing movie? I know, it’s half a movie, and you’ve had to slog through nearly two hours of set dressing and nonsense to get there, but once they hit that iceberg straight until that old lady is tossing her baubles overboard, it is as impressive a piece of moviemaking as exists. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #306 – My Favorite Latin Argument

Today! Because you are a good woman, then again, you may be the antichrist –

Tombstone (1993)

Directed by George P. Cosmatos

Starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer (x2), Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Dana Delany, Paula Malcomson, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Billy Zane (x2), Jason Priestley, Dana Wheeler- Nicholson, Jon Tenney, Michael Rooker (x2), Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Ben-Victor, John Corbett, Terry O’Quinn, Frank Stallone, Harry Carey Jr. (x2), Robert Mitchum (x2)

In the hectic western revival of the early ’90s – following Clint Eastwood’s masterful return to form with the Best Picture winning Unforgiven in ’92 – we as a people had a serious choice to make. Would we adopt a Kurt Russell Wyatt Earp movie, directed by the man who brought us Rambo: First Blood Part II, as our one-and-only, or would we opt for the Kevin Costner version, an hour longer and directed by Empire Strikes Back screenwriter and Big Chill director Lawrence Kasdan? This was some kind of dilemma.

Thankfully, the first one to make it to theaters (by six whole months) was perfectly enjoyable, and we could all save ourselves three-plus hours of our lives, at the beginning of Costner’s rapid descent from stardom in the mid-’90s. Tombstone may be the glossier, goofier take on the old legend, but it is infinitely more fun, and features an arguably superior cast (Costner’s does have Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rosselini, Michael Madsen, and Three-Timer JoBeth Williams, though). Plus, it doesn’t try to out-western Clint – while Wyatt Earp really thought it could bring the gravity by adding running time and a brooding Costner. But hey, Earp did earn that one Oscar nomination – more than Tombstone by one! Congrats, Best Cinematography nod! Continue reading

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