Cut Snake (2015): Smoldering Sullivan Stapleton (Review)

Sullivan Stapleton and Alex Russell

Set in 1970s Australia, Cut Snake features a smoldering Stapleton Sullivan who moves through most of the film like a big jungle cat. He visits his old mate Sparra Farrell (Alex Russell) and finds him engaged to Paula (Jessica De Gouw).

Directed by Tony Ayres, from a screenplay by (Blake Ayshford),  Cut Snake puts the audience on tender hooks almost from the first frame. Pommie (Sullivan) travels from Sidney to Melbourne to see his pal, Sparra.  Once he arrives,  Pommie wastes no time integrating into  Sparra and Paula’s life. 

As the fim progresses the audience learn more about Sparra and Pommie. Pommie is all testosterone fueled aggression and  he seems full of cheerful menace. Sparra is adamant that he has gone straight. Pommie sets about tearing down his friend’s new life after prison.

Ayres gives the audience a brilliant bit of misdirection. The first part of Cut Snake is full of Sparra’s unease at Pommie’s emergence from prison.  Both men increase the tension level with their “back and forth” and it seems that initially Pommie is interested in Paula.

The film then shifts direction and it is revealed that Pommie is not interested in Sparra’s fiancée at all.

Cut Snake is a nerve wracking film to watch. Even after Pommie’s true motivations are revealed, the tensions do not abate  one iota. The vast majority of the film is spent waiting for that other shoe to drop.

Midway through it does and it lands heavily.

At its core, Cut Snake is a romance film set against a thriller background.  All the actors really deliver and delved deep to find their characters’ inner truth.  The unease felt every single time that Stapleton appears on screen, never goes away.

The desperation felt by Sparra, who frantically tries to go straight, is equally present in Pommie. The violence prone hard man is pure frustrated  rage topped by a crushing longing for something that, he learns eventually, he cannot have.

Ayres puts the film together brilliantly. The scenario is compelling and nigh on impossible to stop watching. Sullivan looms large in every single scene he is in.  He emits a presence so intense it is difficult to imagine sharing screen time with the actor.

The music screams the ’70s, from Linsey de Paul to David Essex singing the eternally catchy tune Rock On,  it all brings 1974 Sydney to living breathing life.  The clothes look perfect and everything from the sets to the cars is spot on.

Sparra’s carefully laid plans crumble to pieces as Pommie refuses to leave. He drags his old cellmate down back into a life Sparra swore to leave behind.

Sullivan, who is currently wowing the world on Blindspot makes Pommie bigger than life. The former convict is all muscle and attitude in his quest for what he desires. By the end of the film viewers who are not familiar with Sullivan’s work will realize he has Goliath sized chops.

Alex Russell holds his own in this intense story of love, betrayal and criminal activities down under. De Gouw does not shirk her acting duties either and all three really deliver in this  Aussie thriller.

Cut Snake is streaming on Hulu  and is definitely worth watching.  This is 5 star entertainment. The film, almost two hours long, never drags and is impossible to stop watching.  Check out the trailer below:

‘Between’ Episode 2: Who’s the Boss (Recap/Review)

Between Tumblr page header
Episode 2 of Between, titled Who’s the Boss, starts on day 14 with almost 7,000 dead adults. The Canadian Prime Minister tells the children in the quarantine zone that they must burn the bodies before the fence comes down. Adam survived the soldiers shooting at him when he attempted to escape and Wiley is not interested in the baby at all.

As interesting as this series could be, thus far it fails to convince. The “poor kids” are in a feud with the rich family who apparently own every big business in Pretty Lake. In the fortnight that things have fallen apart in the community, the streets look like a war zone. Abandoned vehicles, bicycles, rubbish, and shopping trolleys fill the streets.

The kids still text, tweet and Facebook each other in order to meet and exchange information. There is a murderer running about and Lana; the rich kid’s sister, has been shot and left in the woods. The killer tried to make it look like a suicide but M.I.T. Adam quickly worked out that it was not. Someone hacked off Mrs. Marshall’s finger to remove an expensive ring and Amanda almost burns down the supermarket.

Despite all the things going on peripherally; murders, theft and bad feelings between certain factions, Wiley is almost burnt to death after mistakenly being put in the “dead” pit and Adam finds what he believes to be the start of the killer plague, the dead are collected and set on fire per the PM’s mandate. According to her, the fence will come down as soon as the dead are disposed of.

Mark (played by Jack Murray), apparently the only prisoner under the age of 22 in the local jail, has been let loose and he repays the equally young prison guard by knocking her out cold. The Pretty Lake kids all help in lighting the “adult” bonfire. The viewer is meant, by this time, to feel badly for the surviving children but instead, one wonders about the lack of cohesion in the story.

There are too many questions unanswered that no one really cares about. The inclusion of a murder in the mix, signposts clearly that the newly released Mark will be accused. Of course the two “redneck” brothers may become the first suspects considering the existing animosity between the two families.

It seems that communication is beginning to be shut down, or at the very least controlled, when Frances gets a call from her auntie (who is outside the quarantine area) and mid-conversation the signal breaks up and fails. The main problem with Between is the lack of agency interaction. There are no CDC types running around (or the Canadian equivalent), no biohazard suited technicians ever appeared to help the locals deal with all these unexplained and age targeted deaths.

Sadly for Jennette McCurdy, her character was saved from a hideous death and now she will have to limp along with this show until its conclusion. The one thing that could save this series would be characters that one can really get behind and empathize with. Annoyingly, everyone, even Goody-Two-Shoes Gordy, are not given the chance to be fully developed and become someone we really car about.

The rich kid’s family, even with the seemingly obligatory “handicapped” sibling just seem like a variation on a stereotype. The best that can be said of the show so far is that McCurdy has been allowed to cease her Juno impression.

29 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison by James W. Clarke – Death on the Road

Cover of book by James W. ClarkeQuartzsite is not just the burial place of a historical figure, Hi Jolly lays at rest there with a favorite camel to keep him company in the “Hereafter,” it is also a spot where Snowbirds flock every winter to keep warm while the rest of the country shivers in the blustery cold. This small quiet burg also has a horrific dark side. In 1978 Gary Tison, escaped from an Arizona prison and his route of meandering escape, that ran over three states, took him right through Hi Jolly territory.

Living up to his reputation as being a cold-blooded killer, Tison’s trip through the quiet Arizona town was marked with murder. In James W. Clarke’s book “Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison (Houghton Mifflin Company 1988) the second chapter of the book is devoted to the Lyon’s family murders. This wholesale slaughter took place just outside Quartzsite off I 95 on the Yuma side of town.

After Tison Sr. and Randy Greenawalt shotgunned the 24 year-old Marine Sergeant John Lyons, his wife Donnelda and their son Christopher to death, along with John’s niece Teresa Tyson, who died after the attack from her injuries, they took the family’s car and continued their wandering path to Mexico.

James W. Clark writes about the escape and his novel follows the journey and interactions of this small group of men. The author reveals that he and his young family were very near the fugitives as they fled authorities. In Colorado where Tison and his group murdered a honeymooning couple for their van, the writer and his wife spent a sleepless night. They were convinced that some unspeakable evil was watching their temporary campsite and only later did they learn that Gary Tison, Randy Greenawalt and Tison’s three sons were literally yards away.

Clarke does a good job documenting the flight of Tison and co. He lists all the various players and does a good job with backstory on each. He also remembers to pay attention to the victims of Tison and Greenawalt. At no time does the author forget to show the cost to surviving family members of the blood-soaked journey of the fugitives.

The book also looks at the power Tison had over his family and others who came into contact with him. A picture is drawn of a charismatic and manipulative man who appears to be pure evil. Tison’s end, dying of dehydration and exposure in the Arizona desert yards away from water, is one of poetic justice and not for the faint hearted. The man suffered an incredibly painful death and one that many would feel is still inadequate for the crimes he committed.

While telling Tison’s story, Clarke also reveals the corruption that was prevalent in 1970s Arizona penal system. He touches briefly the Don Bolles murder and the connection with Tison.  While the newsman’s death was the direct result of his investigating the mafia, the corruption pointed out by Clarke had to do with the correction system and its apparent policy of hiring inept individuals to run their prisons.

Consider this: The governor of the prison where Tison escaped was given multiple warnings that Tison was planning to illegally leave the institution and did nothing.  It is amazing that the Lyons’ and Judge’s families did not take the man to court as being an accessory to the murders committed by the fleeing criminals.

This is a chilling and disturbing account of one of the most horrific murders committed in the Southwestern desert. Prepare to be upset and frightened. In a short “review” of the book, I mentioned that reading this would reveal monsters scarier than anything made-up. Gary Tison, and his accomplice Randy Greenawalt, are terrifying.

James W. Clarke has written a book that should be read in the daylight while surrounded by others. Avoid reading at night, in the desert, alone. This true tale, despite the criminals being gone now, proves that truth is stranger than fiction and much more disturbing. Just as disturbing  perhaps as the made for TV film in 1983 starring Robert Mitchum and James Spader which purports to tell the story of Tison and his sons, Killer in the Family. A movie that one can be forgiven for missing considering the real facts of Tison and his bid for freedom.

Nelson Mandela: Officially Declared Dead After Months of Obscene Travesty

Nelson Mandela: Officially Declared Dead After Months of Obscene Travesty

Nelson Mandela; the name calls up images that some would like forgotten. Apartheid for one and years in prison for a lone man whose white-haired exit from his enforced incarceration caught the world’s attention, compassion and imagination. The most recent image that springs to mind is that of an obscene travesty. One that was started by the great man’s avaricious family who have now officially declared the beloved Madiba dead after months of maintaining the fiction of him still clinging to life.

1000 Posts! Blimey, That Was Quick

The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was literally a few days ago that I looked down and saw that I was at least thirty some odd posts from hitting a 1000, I look down this morning and I see that I’ve now hit 1002! Of course it looks more impressive than it really is. But the first thought that jumped  immediately into my head was, ‘Blimey, that was quick.”

There will be those of you who read that last sentence and think, where does an American pick up the word blimey from and why would it be his first thought? Sure he lives in England, but he’s just being cute, or thinks he is.

Muppet.

Well, I have my late mother-in-law to thank for that. She didn’t use the word a lot, but enough for my magpie mind to grasp hold of and  still not let go. Even years after her death and the end of my marriage to her “step-daughter” when anything surprises me, it is the first word out of my mouth, or in this case brain.

I guess I should explain the ‘muppet.’

For over ten years, I workd in Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Working in the volatile environment that was the Juvenile prison estate. I started as an OSG, which stands for operational support grade, I only had contact with the “little darlings” via the library where I worked as one of my OSG duties. [the little darlings, were murderers, rapists, and other  creatures from the ages of 15 to 18, one day when I’m allowed, I will write about my time “behind bars.”]

The pay for OSG was, and still is, Draconian in its meanness. In order to pay off all your bills and feed your family, overtime was a fact of life. I made the switch over to Prison Officer as quickly as possible. The pay was better and, if anything, the job more interesting and definitely adrenaline inducing.

Although, future Governor’s of the prison that I worked in would change it, the vernacular of a juvenile prison officer was sprinkled with sayings and “nicknames” for the criminal youngsters we dealt with. All of these were incredibly funny and never meant maliciously. The lads we watched over usually used these same terms that someone had invented on or to each other.

I loved it.

It allowed the staff and the lads to have a chuckle and although I’ve only mentioned a few of the terms, they were a part of everyday life inside. But to explain the terms I’ll start with muppet.

A “muppet” was a lad who just didn’t get it. Not a fuzzy cute puppet with a hand up his/her backside. Someone who was a tad, thick and who had  no common sense.

You would often hear a lad being told off for breaking a rule, followed by the phrase, “Ya Muppet!”

Another favourite was, Fraggle. For those of you too old, or conversely, too young to remember them, Fraggle’s lived in Fraggle Rock and they were idiotic and, in our opinion, slightly mad creatures who just did not have a clue, worse than a muppet by far. The main characteristic of the prison Fraggle was their propensity to hover around one, or sometimes more, prison officer rather than mingle with the other lads.

When a prison officer found himself surrounded by a small group of Fraggles, he was known as the Fraggle Magnet for that day.

There were other words used to signify a lack of smarts or common sense, Numpty was another one. “Ya Numpty'” still erupts out of my mouth unbidden, much like blimey, because it’s another word that I fell in love with and my brain immediately latched onto. I have no idea where that particular word originated. But it too was a favourite.

Blimey! I’ve just noticed that I’ve written well over 500 words and only a few of them are actually about the 1000 posts and how quickly it got here!

What a muppet!

I do have to say that having that many blog posts isn’t all that impressive. Of late, I’ve been providing a lot of links to articles I’ve written for the paper I work for, which is about the laziest thing I can think of. But I am proud of what I’ve written for my guys and gals over at the Guardian Express and I want to share.

It is still writing, which is what blogging is all about and I hope you’ve all enjoyed the links that I’ve posted. I know this little act has driven a lot more views of my little ramblings. Sure it’s a little disheartening to realise that the most popular link post so far seems to be the one dealing with Kate Upton‘s nudity, but hey, you have to share.

I do try to share all my links with you, the lovely folks who follow, like, comment and, most importantly, make no demands of me or my little blog. So I have to say, I’m pleased that I’ve managed to hit over a 1000 posts, even if it was by re-blogging and linking a lot the last couple of months.

But I’ll still say thanks to you guys and gals for reading and putting up with my diminished in the area of  “purposefully” written input and my horrid lack of visiting anyone else’s blog’s at the moment. I’m still working on a schedule of my day that allows it. I won’t go into all the things that one has to do when living alone, I’m sure most of you don’t need me to point out all the things that a couple or a family take care of get done by one lone chap.

But I do appreciate you all and I will continue to share my links and re-blogs. I am also still attempting to increase my written output and to visit you guys more often, and I will get there. I know I will.

Hey! I’m no Fraggle, ya know!

Cheers,

July 21, 2013

United Kingdom

Fraggles!
Fraggles! (Photo credit: arbyreed)