Interview with Peter Winther – director of PAINKILLERS

image source: IMDB
image source: IMDB
Peter Winther is the director of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”

NOTLP.com had the opportunity to ask Mr. Winther a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie industry Enjoy!

NOTLP: What attracted you to Painkillers?

PW: I love Science Fiction as an entertaining genre to reflect issues that affect our society today. The themes of our origins on the grand level and a tale of redemption on the personal level attracted me to Painkillers.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

PW: Brilliant, Handsome, Humble.

NOTLP: One of your early jobs was as an Associate Producer on Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi action adventure Stargate. I saw some of that project’s DNA in Painkillers. Were you conscious of the similarities when you were making the film?

PW: Every film you make affects the ones you will make. Roland has been a great friend and mentor to me so certain aspects of his style have rubbed off on me. Things like composition and how he is excellent at leading the cast and crew into battle are aspects I admire the most about him. As far as story similarities, I don’t see any. I suppose there is certainly a similar sense of wonder about what is discovered though for sure.

So was I conscious of the similarities? Not at all. Sub-Consciously? Maybe.

NOTLP: Do you have a personal interest in military and government conspiracy theories?

PW: I do like a good conspiracy from time to time. I think we all do. It’s always fun to explore the great “what ifs”. Like they say, it’s not a conspiracy if it’s TRUE!

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

PW: If there was a physical aspect of TIME. I would love to find that as we never have enough time to shoot.

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

PW: The first one that comes to mind was on Stargate, going back to that. There is a scene where all the bedouins come over the sand dunes at the end to fight the aliens. We were shooting in Yuma, Arizona where they have these amazing sand dunes. They shot all the Jabba the Hut scenes there for Return of the Jedi. We had spent a lot of time and energy keeping this one area of sand dunes clear of any vehicles or people so that they would be pristine of footprints or tire tracks. This was an alien planet after all. So the big scene arrives. The dunes are clean. We have one take at this as 1000 extras. actors and stunt people are about to defend the dune. 6 cameras are placed. Action is called. Our actor who is leading them into battle races toward the main camera straight ahead of him as directed.

However for some reason, ALL the extras didn’t follow him. They went a sharp right. They were told to run to the camera, but the only camera they could see from their starting place is to the right!

Now we were faced with a torn up sand dune. So while Roland went off to shoot some other things, we all grabbed brooms to sweep the footprints away as back then the tech wasn’t there to digitally remove the footprints. But we came back end of day and got it done.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?

PW: For me its creating the emotional arcs of the characters. With that, hand in hand, comes the structure. But if you don’t create enticing characters, you can’t attract top talent to play the roles and consequently get the film financed.

NOTLP: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?

PW: We were actually talking about this the other day. The one that came to mind then was the Dennis Quaid film DREAMSCAPE. I think we could knock that one out of the park now.

NOTLP: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?

PW: Independence Day was a huge experience for me obviously. But I think the most memorable to me was my first movie. Straight out of college, in fact I didn’t even attend graduation to work on it, I worked on a film called THE GOOD MOTHER that starred Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson. I started as a PA, but then the director asked for me to be his assistant on the film. The director happened to be Leonard Nimoy. Not only did I learn alot from him about directing, about how you need the courage to make choices and lead from the front and so on. However, he also taught me about being a good person. He knew everyone’s name from PA to lead actor. He treated everyone with respect and listened to all ideas. He was simply a great man and I’ll never forget my time with him.

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?

PW: Dean Devlin is a great mentor of mine and he’s also quite hilarious. I remember one day coming into his office on one of the films we did together. I would tend to come to him when I felt something was going wrong and had to vent. This day in particular I was wearing shorts due to the heat and what I had to say was quite helpful toward the project. So after that Dean said I should always wear shorts when I have something important to say as then he would know it actually was important. That turned into a running gag over the years. I kept a pair of shorts handy at all times and would put them on when ever I had to make a point. No matter where we were. =)


 

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Film Review: MARTYRS (2016)

Tribute or Triumph: A Review of the Film MARTYRS (2016)

What happens after we die? Is there such a thing as an unwilling martyr? Is the suffering of the flesh a skill set, something that transcends this world  and could set one apart from humanity?

(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

How far would you be willing to go to find answers to life’s great mysteries? Would you kill? Would you torture? These are some of the questions that MARTYRS (Blumhouse Productions, The Safran Company, and Temple Hill Entertainment) asks – and wants you to ask yourself. But before you can begin to answer, there are other questions that should be considered.

Did they need to remake the film in the first place? Were they able to add something to the conversation as opposed to just asking it again in English? The question of what purpose a remake serves is not an easy one to answer. Remakes are a lot like cover songs; they’re done out of love. But are you making it your own or is it simply a copy?

In making a remake, the choices shrink, thus making those small decisions magnified and more important. Do you “re-interpret” the melody, structure, etc; do you change the style completely and turn a punk song country? Or do you do your damnedest to be faithful to the original, an homage, a tribute of devotion?

(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

If you change nothing, you risk having fans of the original decry that the decision to remake it was pointless. If you change everything, fans of the original will say it doesn’t remain “true” enough to the source material. It’s a no-win situation. The only solution is perhaps to ignore what anyone who has seen the original would want/think – an impossibility of course as one would have to assume that the principle decision makers would all have seen the original before signing off on a remake, and they would certainly have their own opinions on what should be done.

Does MARTYRS go the route of re-interpretation or cover song, of inspired adaptation or architectural blueprint, of victim or martyr?

Let me start by saying that in many ways I wish I had not seen the original French version first. I believe I would have enjoyed the American remake more and be less-inclined to judge it based on its decisions. Unfortunately, it is a remake, and as such, it has to be judged as a remake. How it compares and what choices it makes are ultimately what will determine much of its value and interest. It can never be a standalone experience in the grand scheme of things.

(L-R) Troian Bellisario as Lucie and Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
(L-R) Troian Bellisario as Lucie and Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

And ultimately, MARTYRS is a slick production. The visuals and sound are strong. The directing (Kevin Goetz and Michael Goetz) is not poor – I may quibble with some of the decisions, like lighting such a dark story so brightly and presenting such grim and stained characters so cleanly, but overall, the scene to scene machinations are solid. The acting is fine, and when not delivering exposition-heavy dialogue or reacting too strongly to convey emotions that should have been better balanced by other factors (lighting, makeup, etc), when allowed to lose themselves in the story and characters, the actors (especially Troian Bellisario, Kate Burton, and Bailey Noble) are believable and help carry the weight of a difficult film.

But back to my initial foray – what kind of remake is MARTYRS? A risky one. And a safe one. It accepts the challenge of walking the line between faithful homage, presenting the first half of the film in a not entirely shot-for-shot of the original but pretty close fashion (outside of some unnecessary additional  exposition-driven dialogue, presumably to help less savvy American audience understand what is very literally and specifically going on). In the second half, there are many changes. And I would say many of them are successful – and even those that weren’t as successful are interesting.

Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Bailey Noble as Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to give too much away, but the largest non-plot related decision was to make the character of Ann (Bailey Noble) more passive. Throughout the movie, I thought this was a mistake, but the work that was done in conjunction with some of the larger changes, ultimately led to a satisfying ending for her character. Truth be told, I found myself wishing they had done more to be different. Given themselves more freedom to stray. The strongest moments were in the differences. In the scenes that paralleled the original, the film was unable to live up to the darkness and despair that inspired it, evoking but providing mere echoes of the greatest strength of the French version – the haunting, nearly visceral feel of the suffering. It is clear that this has been done intentionally, reducing the violence for a more mainstream audience. Fans of the original will no doubt hate them for this more polished and neutered vision.

Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

But, I feel that first time viewers will appreciate much of what has been done. It has a stronger thriller spine and provides a more American and Hollywood ‘happy’ ending. For the weekend, escapist moviegoer, this is a film that will in many ways be more satisfactory than the original. For purists, and for those that have seen the original, it will likely be difficult to accept. But if you can look beyond the scenes that are pale comparisons and ignore the moments that force explanation of theme and purpose, I think you’ll find enough to justify a remake. And that is no small achievement.

Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

So – does it survive? Do the sacrifices transcend? Does MARTYRS do what it must to provide answers? It’s difficult to say. This viewer found the remake to be more victim than martyr. It offers a glimpse, but I do not believe it truly sees beyond what was offered up in the original. As a result, unfortunately, there are just too many shortcomings for me to rate this as 4 stars. But I would remiss if I did not note that it is a very strong 3.

*** / *****

 

 

 


**MARTYRS is a retelling of the French 2008 horror cult film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. This MARTYRS film’s screenplay was written by Mark L. Smith who is also the co-writer of THE REVENANT screenplay along with Alejandro González Iñárritu which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.**

TITLE:  MARTYRS
IN THEATERS & DIGITAL HD: January 22, 2016
VOD RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2016
DIRECTORS: Kevin and Michael Goetz
WRITER:  Mark L. Smith
CAST: Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton
SYNOPSIS: Ten-year-old Lucie flees from the isolated warehouse where she has been held prisoner. Deeply traumatized, she is plagued by awful night terrors at the orphanage that takes her in. Her only comfort comes from Anna, a girl her own age. Nearly a decade later and still haunted by demons, Lucie finally tracks down the family that tortured her. As she and Anna move closer to the agonizing truth, they find themselves trapped in a nightmare – if they cannot escape, a martyr’s fate awaits them…
GENRE: Action, Horror
DISTRIBUTOR: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Interview with Tahmoh Penikett – star of PAINKILLERS

Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett is the star of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”Penikett is also know for his work on the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” “Supernatural,” and many others. NOTLP.com had the opportunity to ask Mr. Penikett a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie and television industry. Enjoy!

NOTLP: How were you cast as Major Cafferty in Painkillers?

TP: Got a phone call from my agent that the director and producer, Peter Winther wanted to discuss a project with me. I read the script, liked it, we had a Skype conversation where I shared my thoughts on it and we signed not soon after.

I also suggested some casting ideas, one of which they were actually able to cast, Colm Feore as Doctor Troutman. He’s an amazing actor and i’ve always been a huge fan. I can’t tell you how excited I was to work with the man.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

TP: Cold blooded! Hangry! Disruptive!

NOTLP: You’ve made a career of playing characters at the center or periphery of vast conspiracies. Has this made you paranoid?

TP: Paranoid? Who said i’m paranoid?! Oh.. I see your game. You work for them, don’t you?! Of course you do.. So, for the record, I Tahmoh Penikett have nothing to be paranoid about. Dec. 15th, 2015. 1:33 PM.

Joking aside, I of course I have some paranoia. Anyone living in the Western world who doesn’t in this day and age is likely living in a bubble. We’ve quickly gone from the suggestion of an App having access to our private photos, text, emails and even our phone conversations being widely considered a huge invasion of privacy and an illegal act, to now blindly accepting that this is a normal part of having a phone and living in the digital age. If the fact that anything you type, any photo you take, any correspondence you have in confidence can in theory be accessed by a god dam flashlight application you’ve downloaded, means that we shouldn’t have some level of paranoia , I don’t know what does.

Have you heard about the Dollhouse?

NOTLP: I’ve heard that you’re into Muay Thai. Have you ever had to use these skills to defend yourself in the real world?

TP: Yes. Yes.

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

TP: Ninja weapons to attack the producers and cast with.. but like, child friendly ones, so one really gets hurt. BUT, i’ll have everyone soon looking over their shoulder for surprise Ninja throwing star attacks, or Nunchucks attacks to their cabbage!

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

TP: I don’t know about disaster, but we did stop shooting Dollhouse one day and quickly cleared the studio because of a strong earthquake tremor. I’ve also unfortunately heard about loved ones passing while working.

NOTLP: What’s the scariest movie of all time?

TP: The Exorcist. Without a doubt.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a role?

TP: For me, I want to challenge myself as an artist. Meaning, i’m trying to take roles that scare me. But, foremost I need to understand the characters story that i’m potentially going to take on. I want to understand what drives this character in the story.

NOTLP: If you could play any role from horror or sci-fi literature, comics or film, what role would you choose and why?

TP: Roy Batty in Blade Runner, of course. Because it’s the most bad ass role ever in all of time. I don’t in anyway think I could ever do better than the amazing Rutger, he was absolutely brilliant, but damn would I love a crack at it!

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your acting mentor ever gave you?

TP: Hmm.. I once was in a hot, sweaty, cramped room in the dead of summer with forty other eager drama students, patiently waiting for a very well respected, veteran actor who was going to speak to us about the craft. He was over an hour late., but finally arrived with a cocktail in hand, three sheets to the wind, smoke in his mouth, and every bit the cool ass actor we expected him to be. We all wiped the sweat from our brows and excitedly focused in for the experienced wisdom he was about to gift us all with. To summarize, the most memorable thing he said was, “it’s all bullshit. Just remember, it’s all bullshit. The whole f-ing thing. Bullshit.’ There was about 45 minutes of this and then it was done. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but definitely unforgettable.

NOTLP: What’s your favorite line of dialogue (yours or anyone else’s from any film, TV show, etc)?

TP: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. or  It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?”

NOTLP: We asked our readers/listeners what questions they would like us to ask and these are the two big ones.

NOTLP Listeners: Is the set of the television series “Supernatural” as fun as it looks?

TP: Yup. It is. The cast and crew have a well oiled machine, obviously. Jared, Jensen and Misha really set the vibe though with their funny and light on set attitudes. But, they’re always professional when the camera is rolling and they knock it out like the pros they are.

NOTLP Listeners: Were you satisfied with the conclusion of “Battlestar Galactica?”

TP:  Satisfied. Yes, very. Do I think it could have possibly gone on for a season or two more, potentially yes. But, it was Ron Moore’s creation and his to conclude when he saw fit.


 

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