Tag Archives: chris mulkey

B Movie Glory: D-War aka Dragon Wars

D-War, aka Dragon Wars if the obnoxious CGI cover art wasn’t obvious enough, is a slovenly, sorry ass piece of pseudo sci-fi wannabe Godzilla garbage that manages to take a concept ripe with silly Corman-esque potential and turn it into something so boring it will melt your frontal lobe before the ‘dragons’ even show up. Apparently based on a Korean legend, I’d be fascinated to snoop around and see just what liberties were taken with the lore, because this plays out more like a Transformers movie but if the Autobots were giant Pokémon. An investigative reporter (Jason Behr) spends most of the time staring vacuously into the horizon as he and a hot chick (Amanda Brooks) race towards LA to try and stop a race of giant monsters from destroying everything. Where did they come from? Couldn’t say, and neither could the film from what I remember. What do they want? To smash and break things. Poor Robert Forster slums it up as an old mentor to Behr who has some vague sagely knowledge about the dragons, while Twin Peaks’s Chris Mulkey plays a corrupt FBI agent with his own agenda who hunts them down. The whole thing reeks of rushed, scattered production values and the shared knowledge among cast and crew that this wasn’t ever going anywhere but straight to DVD, no matter how prolific a legend it’s based on. Blech.

-Nate Hill

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John Woo’s Broken Arrow

When Hong Kong action alchemist John Woo mixes up his gracefully brutal aesthetic with big budget Hollywood high gloss, the results are an irresistible flavour. While not quite the balls out, blitzkrieg masterpiece that Face/Off is, his military gong show Broken Arrow is still one walk on the wild side of stunts, explosions, overblown madness and maniacal behaviour from John Travolta, who seems to be amping up the histrionics in double time just to cover Nicolas Cage’s shift this time around. He’s a navy pilot psycho called Deakins here, an unstable traitor who hijacks a volatile nuclear warhead and holds congress hostage, giggling like a schoolgirl the whole time. It’s up to his trainee and former partner Hale (Christian Slater) to hunt him through Death Valley where they’ve crashed, causing as much pyrotechnic commotion as possible and prep for the inevitable one on one smackdown that’s neatly foreshadowed by an opening credits boxing sequence between the two that’s an appetizer for the adrenal glands in prep for the chaos to follow. The action is fast, fierce and extremely violent, as is the amped up macho banter between the two, but Travolta really takes the role and sails off the charts into the ‘here there be dragons’ realm of acting reserved for only the most memorably over the top performances in history. “You’re fucking insane”, Slater sneers at him; “Yeah! Ain’t it cool?” Travolta smirks back with a face that would be straight if not for the knowing glint in his eyes. Park ranger Samantha Mathis helps Slater in his quest to bring the lunatic down, and there’s an impressive laundry list of character actors rounding out the military faction including Howie Long, Delroy Lindo, Frank Whaley, Bob Gunton, Chris Mulkey, Daniel Von Bargen, Vondie Curtis Hall, Jack Thompson, French Stewart, Raymond Cruz and Kurtwood ‘Red Forman’ Smith. Hans Zimmer does the score here and it’s an undervalued composition in his canon, a chromed up tune that drips cool and hurtles alongside the action awesomely. Woo has had some dodgy luck in Hollywood since (Mission Impossible 2 and Paycheck are painful), but this is one of his best stabs at the Western style of action, brought to eccentric life by Travolta’s oddball psycho and full of crazy ass action spectacle.

-Nate Hill

Walter Hill’s The Long Riders

◦ I’m pretty sure that Walter Hill’s The Long Riders does something that no film had done before or after, least to that extent: pull off the biggest sibling stunt casting session in history. Based on the rowdy, violent exploits of the James Younger gang in the old west, Hill casts real life brothers as the troupe, a choice which could have been south of silly in any old director’s hands, but works like gold here. James and Stacy Keach play Frank and Jesse James, David Robert and Keith Carradine are the Younger clan, while Randy and a very mean, very young Dennis Quaid fill the boots of the Millers. It’s fairly brilliant, well organized and pays off nicely, especially if you’re a fan of any of these guys, which I am and then some. Now, the film. Most westerns about these hotshot outlaws take a quippy, cavalier standpoint and go for sterling silver charm. Not Hill, a notorious trend shirker and trailblazer whose tactics in casting, music, editing and tone have never followed the Hollywood grain. The film is downbeat, somber and mostly a series of vignettes that topple against each other like dominoes. The gang shuffles from robbery to holdup almost reluctantly, like it’s written in the stars and they have no choice but to commit crimes. They clash royally with the ruthless Pinkerton agency, who cause more than a few casualties on their side. The shootouts here are no sanitized 50’s Lone Ranger fluff, they’re brutal, bloody and amped up to extreme violence, which is always to be expected from Hill. The life of an outlaw is not glamorized here either, a choice rarely, if ever made in the western department. These are hard men resigned to their rough lives, not fast talking hot-doggin prince charmings like insufferable Young Guns type crap. There’s scattershot subplot about the brother’s lives, but mostly the focus is rooted in their exploits and run ins with the law. David Carradine’s Cole Younger has a cool knife fight sequence up against half breed injun Sam Starr (Hill favourite James Remar) over the favour of pretty hooker Pamela Reed. The actors are all gritty and grizzled, from James Keach’s long-faced, Moody Jesse James to Dennis Quaid’s volatile psychopath Ed Miller. Hill’s go to music guru Ry Cooder provides another achingly gorgeous score with echoes of his composition on Southern Comfort a few years later, a melancholic tune stripped bare of any action sequence swells or orchestral hoo-hah. Pretty damn underrated as far as big screen westerns go, with a tone and look that seems somehow far more genuine than many others in the genre.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Dark Moon Rising 


You want a romantic werewolf flick that rises above the vomitus of Twilight and gives you nostalgic pangs for stuff like The Howling and Bad Moon? Dark Moon Rising is your ticket, and proves that you don’t need heaps of PG-13 gloss, mopey teen bottom feeder ‘actors’ and a vacuous script to make a young adult oriented horror film. This one is admittedly low budget and feels just south of finished in spots, but it’s well crafted, made with love and bereft of CGI. The story couldn’t be simpler: a small town girl (Ginny Weirick), her stern Sheriff father (Chris Mulkey) and the new boy in town (Chris Delvecchio) who just happens to be a werewolf. Young love is always just a stone’s throw away from danger, which arrives in the form of the boy’s dangerous, monstrous father Bender (Max Ryan) who also happens to be a werewolf. You can imagine how it goes: steamy New Mexico supernatural melodrama with a few buckets of gore tossed in and a handful of super cool genre actors. Sid Haig, Lin Shaye and Maria Conchita Alonso have wonderful extended cameos, but the standout is Billy Drago, a staple villain actor who gets to do something different here. Blessed with a reptilian visage that just demands evil behaviour from him, he’s given a sympathetic detective role here, a heartbroken lawman on the hunt for Bender to appease personal anguish. The makeup and prosthetics are terrific, retro latex nightmares that made me miss the good old days before I was born when every horror flick had to rely on the ingenuity of a hardworking team of gorehounds. Despite a few weird pacing issues (tighter editing would have been appreciated), this one is a little indie horror well worth your time. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Slow Burn


Slow Burn is.. odd, to say the least. Living up to its title, it pretty much goes nowhere, tagging along with James Spader and Josh Brolin as they stumble around in the desert, both hitting on treasure hunter Minnie Driver, who constantly outwits them. This kind of lower budget, steamy stuff just seems to have a licence to languish, in the sense that story is of little concern, it’s more about mood and episodic character interaction than anything else. Spader and Brolin are doing the ‘Of Mice & Men’ shtick here, playing two hapless escaped convicts, one a sharp tongued weasel (Spader) and the other a dimwitted lug (Brolin). They’re kind of lost, in both perpetual arguments and the vast Mojave around them, when they run into Driver, whose presence, and the idea that there’s a whole whack of diamonds buried out there somewhere, inevitably stirs things up. The diamonds belonged to her parents, and there’s hazy scenes relating back to a tragedy involving her gypsy father (Chris Mulkey, briefly) and a mysterious character played by Stuart Wilson who serves as pseudo-narrator as he wanders around out there too. Got that? It’s ok, they barely explain it better than I just did, I’ve seen the thing twice and I’m still not sure how it all adds up either. Sweat, sand, sensual looks snuck between Brolin and Driver, dreamy atmosphere, threats of violence from Spader’s overacted, crazy eyed moron, a treasure hunt and general lack of cohesion is all you’ll find out here in this desert. Good for an absent minded watch or for background noise, not much else though. 

-Nate Hill

The Hidden


The Hidden is the kind of flick that makes you sit back, sink a little deeper into the couch, take a long swig of lager and nostalgically murmur “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Maybe I was just born in the wrong era, but the 80’s and 90’s just seemed to hurl forth so many winners, unbridled genre bliss that only got better with age, worth the revisit every time. The effects were practical, the stories were told with love, care and inspiration and the action was real, hard hitting and built to last. This film one opens with what can literally only be described as a cinematic version of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto; we see a well dressed, determined man (Twin Peak’s Chris Mulkey in batshit mode) rob a bank, obliterate several police officers with a big honkin’ shotgun, steal a Ferrari, drive said Ferrari through a busy park, smoke a dude in a wheelchair at over a hundred clicks, lead the entire police force on an apocalyptic highway chase and cheerfully get ventilated in a hailstorm of bullets upon careening through their barricade. Case closed, right? Not for a mysterious FBI Agent (Kyle MacLachlan) who arrives out of nowhere and commandeers the case from the leading detectives (Ed O Ross and a wicked sharp Michael Nouri). MacLachlan knows something the force doesn’t, let alone would ever believe: there’s an alien running around inhabiting human bodies a là Body Snatchers, and going on hedonistic tirades of the worst possible behaviour, hence the shotgun tantrum in the opener. How does he know this, you ask? Because he himself is an alien in a Kyle suit, intrepidly pursuing the other one from a distant galaxy to halt it’s destructive shenanigans forever. It’s a premise that could have opened the door to all sorts of ooey gooey creature effects, but the film minimizes on those, choosing a few key moments to show the slime, and focuses mainly on glass shattering, guns blazing action, a neat recipe of three parts action with a tablespoon of yuck, if you will. MacLachlan, still very young at the time, anchors his performance with emotional heft, amusing aloofness and the necessary grit that can be found in his iconic portrayal of Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, and I was reminded more than a few times of that character while watching him in this. As the extraterrestrial nutjob moves from host to host, blowing everything up and leaving a trail of massacred people in it’s wake, the two of them race at every turn to catch up, and it’s Nouri who finds the seething anger one must get watching an outsider roll up and stamp all over someone else’s territory. The alien isn’t interested in world domination, resources or assimilation, it just wants to fuck shit up and have a good time, man. Blasting rock n’ roll music, gorging itself on steak dinners, stealing every Ferrari it can get it’s hands on and raiding the police evidence room for all kinds of heavy artillery, this thing doesn’t slow down for a second. This is the only film I know that paints off-earth visitors quite like this, just a gleeful, anarchic adrenaline junkie asshole, and I admire the brutal honesty, because I know of quite a few morons who would probably engage in the exact same behaviour, should they ever find themselves incognito and without consequences on an unassuming, far away planet. This one is pure screaming fun the whole way through, and should be every bit as iconic as other sci fi tales that are remembered more prolifically. Watch for the tiniest Danny Trejo cameo, playing (guess what) a prison inmate.  

-Nate Hill

Indie Gems with Nate: Dreamland

   
 

Dreamland is an introspective little indie drama concerning the life of Audrey (Agnes Brucker). She lives in a sleepy trailer park way out in the desert somewhere, far and away from anyone else. She longs for a life somewhere else, but is torn between that and caring for her agoraphobic father (John Corbett), who is severely broken following the death of his wife and her mother. Fresh life is breathed into their environment with the arrival of kindly Herb (Chris Mulkey), and his musician wife Mary (Gina Gershon). Along with them is Herb’s son Mookie (Justin Long is a tad miscast), who immediately has eyes for Audrey. The two strike up an easygoing romance that is tested by her rebellious nature, and the commitment she feels for her ailing father. Corbett is sensational, giving the best performance of the film as a damaged soul that needs caring for, and to find the strength to move on. Mulkey and Gershon are real life guitars strummers, giving their characters an authentic, earthy feel. The title matches the tone nicely; everything is non rushed, relaxed, laid back and dreamy, as one would imagine life out there might be. I was lulled into the hazy routines and moving relationships that bloom for these individuals out on the far side of nowhere. Great stuff.