So it looks like Antoine Fuqua is going to be directing a remake of Scarface. I’m sure you’re very excited about that. The Magnificent Seven hasn’t even come out yet but the man who followed up the tedious Tears of the Sun with the forgettable King Arthur with the mediocre Shooter with the just-okay Brooklyn’s Finest with the not-quite-as-bad-as-everyone-thought-it-would-be Olympus Has Fallen with the already entirely forgotten The Equalizer has already got his next project lined up.
Good for him. Hollywood’s a rough place where a lot of directors struggle, so it’s good that a guy who makes such insipid films gets to keep doing what he loves and making more, but I’ll tell you this… I’m not going to see any of them.
You notice who else never seems to be out of work? Len Wiseman. The guy who in the last 10 years has given us nothing but a terrible Underworld sequel, a terrible Total Recall remake and a terrible Die Hard sequel is being let behind the wheel of Die Hard Year One. Meanwhile, Chris Columbus is already back in the saddle after the disastrous Pixels and Joe Carnahan, after a string of disappointments, is helming Bad Boys 3.
The best thing you can say about these guys? Their movies make great trailers. Yet Hollywood loves them, seemingly ready with a blank cheque for whatever their next gig may be.
And it just doesn’t seem fair some of my favourite directors have gone years without a sniff of a big budget project being green-lit. I can’t think why that is. They clearly have talent. Far more than the Louis Leterriers or the James Mangolds or the Zack Snyders of this world.
But then I thought… maybe Hollywood isn’t giving work to my favourite directors because they don’t know they’re my favourite directors. How would they? I never told them. So here we go. For the benefit of everyone in Hollywood, these are the ONLY directors I care about.
If you’re going to talk about great directors struggling to get movies made you might as well start with the poster boy for great directors struggling to get movies made. Surely no director with so much genius has struggled so hard to get a project off the ground since Orson Welles.
And why is that? Near as I can tell, no major studio has wanted to touch Gilliam since The Adventures of Baron Munchausen went $10m over budget back in 1987. Since then he’s been stuck on low budget, micro budget or no budget projects, but at least he’s got the work done (with one major exception).
His travails with The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (finally due out in 2017???) are well-documented elsewhere, particularly the doc Lost in La Mancha, but of all the problems he encountered on that film, you know the one that finally sunk it in 2000? His financial backers walked away.
It doesn’t matter what the issue is, Terry Gilliam has the talent to overcome it. But he needs some money behind him. Not a lot, but some. And still he struggles to find it.
And that baffles me. Are there really no Terry Gilliam fans among the gold-plated Hollywood elite? Has no-one with pockets deep enough to fund a Terry Gilliam film ever seen a Terry Gilliam film? What are these people watching?
Just look at the work! The man made Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Throw a dart at his filmography and you’re likely to hit a bona fide classic. Even his years in the wilderness have produced works of dazzling creativity. The divisive Tideland is, to my eyes, a legitimate masterpiece, while both The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Zero Theorum are… interesting.
Time and again he’s proven his talent and as he gets older I think it’s time Hollywood shows him some bloody respect and makes things a little easier for him by driving a dump-truck of money up to his house and letting him make what he wants to make.
A team of Canadian filmmakers comprising Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Conor Sweeney and Steven Kostanski, Astron-6 is primarily known for producing most of my favourite films of the last few years.
Probably their most famous – and my first experience with them - is Father’s Day, their homage to 80’s grindhouse cinema, which pits a demon-possessed dad-raping serial killer against a team of vigilantes led by an eye-patch wearing badass named Ahab.
It’s a film that’s by turns revolting, upsetting, incomprehensible and totally unpredictable, all shot through with a sense of humour that veers from goofy to pitch-black to absurd. It was the second-best film of 2011.
Produced and distributed by Troma Entertainment, it is far superior in quality to anything else Troma has ever made (I say that as a Troma fan) and further releases from Astron-6 have proved they’re no one-hit wonders.
Micro-budget sci-fi epic Manborg (filmed in someone’s garage) is great fun, but Bio-cop, the short that accompanies it, is even better. The Editor, released last year, is a love letter to giallo that manages to surpass almost every giallo film I’ve seen in terms of lurid psychedelic dreaminess (while managing to squeeze in a cameo from Udo Kier).
The ABCs of Death series is worth purchasing for the Astron-6 segment alone, while their DVD compilation Astron-6 will make you regret not spending your 20s hanging out with friends and making movies.
Honestly, I don’t know if Astron-6 want anything to do with Hollywood or its stockpiles of cash. Their latest feature, The Void, is a practical effects-heavy horror film that was part-funded through Indiegogo. I backed it. If the opportunity comes up, I’ll back them again. They’re that good.
Another Canadian. Is this why Hollywood isn’t drafting these guys to the big leagues? Anti-Canada bias? Who knows.
Anyway, Jason Eisener is the man who brought the world the best film of 2011, Hobo with a Shotgun. That film, you may recall, developed as the result of a trailer competition run prior to the release of Grindhouse. Eisener’s trailer was screened along with Grindhouse in some regions and generated enough interest to secure financial backing for a feature starring (and I still can’t get over this) screen legend Rutger Hauer.
Now, as well as trailers, Grindhouse comprised two separate feature films – Planet Terror from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. It also birthed Rodriguez’s Machete franchise, which so far has included Machete and Machete Kills!
Let me be clear - Hobo with a Shotgun is significantly better than ALL those films. That, at least as far as I’m concerned, makes Jason Eisener an objectively better director than Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino.
And yet… he hasn’t directed a feature since. In the months after Hobo was released, there was talk of a new project, he wanted to do something in a similarly ultra-violent vein to Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, something called Blatant Violence High. But it never materialised. Why? I dunno. But I’ll bet it’s money.
We’ve now had five years without a follow-up, which seems crazy to me. I’ve had to make do with a few brief but brilliant shorts, one music video and the traditional viewing of Treevenge every Christmas.
It was recently announced that Eisener is finally getting back in the director’s chair for New York City Outlaws. I couldn’t be more excited. I just hope the wait between that film and his next isn’t so long.
No-one can say that John Hyams isn’t working. You can’t really claim that his career isn’t moving in the right direction. But for me, he’s still not where he needs to be. And that’s really what I need Hollywood to understand.
If you don’t know the name, John Hyams is the son of Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, Outland, Enemies Closer) and director of two direct-to-DVD Universal Soldier sequels, Regeneration and Day of Reckoning. He’s also the director of low-budget actioner Dragon Eyes (starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller) and executive producer/director of everyone’s favourite zombie show (everyone with any taste, that is) Z Nation.
And he is also one of the greatest – perhaps THE greatest – action filmmaker working today. Seriously. If you haven’t seen his Universal Soldier films – see them. Not only so they feature some of the greatest shootouts, fist-fights and beautifully-composed tracking-shot bullet ballets of the last decade, they also have great stories and incredible performances. Hyams took old warhorses like JCVD and Dolph Lundgren and didn’t just capture some of the best fights of their careers, he teased out of them perhaps the greatest performances of their careers.
Hyams clearly never considered working on a direct-to-DVD action franchise to be ‘slumming it’. He crafted action films that are better than any of the CGI-heavy crap that gets forced down our throats at the multiplex. Which rather neatly brings me to my next point…
John Hyams should have directed Expendables 3. I don’t know why he didn’t. I don’t know how Patrick Hughes ended up with the job. Ultimately, it’s perhaps for the best that Hyams didn’t get it, because I don’t think he could have flourished in a PG-13 wheelhouse, but he has proven himself more than capable of getting great action and great performances out of iconic action heroes and he is the best hope we have of finally getting an Expendables film that we can consider great.
If I need Hollywood (specifically Sly Stallone and Avi Lerner) to understand anything, it’s this. If you make The Expendables 4, John Hyams HAS to helm it. There can be no other. Right now he’s prepping a remake of Maniac Cop for Nicholas Winding Refn, but once he’s through with that he should be all yours. So get the deal done.
I don’t need to tell you who John Carpenter is, do I? He’s generally regarded as one of the world’s greatest living directors. He definitely directed the greatest horror film ever made, though there’s some dispute about exactly which of his horror films that is (it’s The Thing).
From 1974 to 1994 (beginning with Dark Star and finishing with In the Mouth of Madness) John Carpenter experienced a period of creative success unrivalled by any director I can name. He was at the top of his game for so long that eventually the inevitable happened. He burned out.
Subsequent works up to Ghosts of Mars proved his creative energies were pretty much spent, so he took a vacation that lasted almost 10 years (excusing Masters of Horror episodes), returning in 2010 with The Ward, a film that, while it didn’t exactly set the world on fire, suggested he was back on fighting form and ready for more.
But six years have gone by and there have been no more. Every so often we hear rumours of a new project he’s trying to get off the ground, but it never materialises. And I don’t think any studios are going to him to make offers.
John Carpenter doesn’t have to work, of course. He has enough in the bank from people securing the rights remake his films (and suing the ones who don’t) that if he wanted to, he could see out the rest of his days getting high, making music and playing video games.
But I can’t shake the feeling that John Carpenter has at least one truly great film left in him. And it would be a crime if we never got the chance to find out. So once again, I’m going to make a suggestion, Hollywood. Let’s drive a dump-truck full of money up to his house… and see what happens.
Those are the only directors I care about. If you think there’s somebody important I’m leaving out, let me know.