Tag Archives: Ellen Barkin

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Dennis Quaid Performances

What’s the first thing you think of when Dennis Quaid is mentioned? Western? Action film? High concept SciFi? Disney flick? For a guy with hero good looks and a winning smile he has deftly managed to avoid being totally typecast in his career and although very frequently nails the romantic lead, also shows up in unconventional, challenging roles that test and allow him to grow as an actor. He’s got charm through the roof but there’s also a darkness brooding in his persona that I always enjoy seeing brought forth in the work, as well as a talent for quick paced deadpan humour. Here are my top ten favourite performances:

10. Vaughn Ely in Martin Guigui’s Beneath The Darkness

Villain roles are a rare breed for him to be found in, but there is the odd one out there. This is a low budget ‘serial killer next door’ type horror flick in which a group of teenagers try to prove that their upstanding, affable neighbour (Dennis) is in fact a mass murdering maniac. Sounds fun, right? It is but only thanks to Quaid’s certifiably fruit-loopy performance that steals the whole thing. It’s new ground for the actor but he seems right at home in dark, tongue in cheek character work and plays the pants off of this unhinged suburban maniac.

9. Jack McGurn in Alan Parker’s Come See The Paradise

This is an important, heartfelt performance and one of the only ones where he doesn’t use that winning smile or roguish charm. Set in the US following the attacks on Pearl Harbour, he plays a family man married to a Japanese woman who, along with their young daughter and entire family, are imprisoned in internment camps during a period of history that is shamefully not discussed very often. It’s a terrible situation to find you and your loved ones in and his performance, which spans over a decade, reflects the hardships and turmoil of that time while retaining a fierce love for family and country.

8. Davidge in Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine

An intergalactic survival story sees military pilot Quaid and an extraterrestrial (Louis Gossett Jr.) marooned on a strange planet together. Fighting as mortal enemies in a war, they are forced to reconcile hatred and rely on each other for survival. A bond like no other is formed and both actors handle the mutual character development beautifully, making this much more than just a SciFi adventure story.

7. Doc Holliday in Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp

This is frequently known as ‘that other Wyatt Earp’ film because in most circles it is eclipsed by the admittedly superior Tombstone. Easy to see why as it’s moody, emotional and dour where it’s counterpart is essentially a cheerful swashbuckler. Val Kilmer’s pitch perfect take on Doc gets all the raves and rightly so but I find Dennis’s rendition to be equally as compelling, a snarky, fatalistic loudmouth who blindsides in certain scenes by laying down lucid emotional truths and providing sad yet profound insights.

6. Jimmy Morris in John Lee Hancock’s The Rookie

I’m not usually huge on sports films but this one is such a great underdog story, father son drama on two levels and just an all round feel good piece. Quaid plays a prodigy pitcher who never got his shot at the major leagues as a kid but now, in his mid forties, he’s thrown another chance when most of the guys around him trying out are half his age. You just find yourself rooting for this guy so willingly when you see the shine in the eyes of his kid (Angus T. Jones) and the blooming admiration his own father (Brian Cox, excellent as always) shows when he succeeds. Quaid plays it stoic, achingly modest and unsure of himself until that magic pitching arm gets to come into play and he becomes youthful again in the blink of an eye with a remarkable piece of acting.

5. Remy Mcswain in Jim McBride’s The Big Easy

About the cockiest hotshot vice cop you could find on the streets of New Orleans, Quaid’s Remy is womanizing, fast talking, fun loving, well meaning and just a tad corrupt, which spurs on the conflict of the film. He clashes royally with uptight DA Ellen Barkin until sparks inevitably fly and we are treated to some of the hottest, most adorable romantic chemistry I’ve seen in cinema. Quaid is easygoing and lighthearted in the role but never too goofy or self parodying, and there’s several scenes of sobering gravity that show his range even in a role as walk-on-the-clouds effervescent as this. We also get to see one of the most mature, realistic and down to earth sex scenes in film history, which is all too rare in Hollywood.

4. Arlis Sweeney in Steve Kloves’s Flesh & Bone

A dark, chilling tale sees Quaid play the son of a ruthless killer (James Caan) who falls in love with a drifter (Meg Ryan) that has some connections to their collective past. This is a stormy, doom laden psychological family drama that didn’t see half the exposure it deserves. Quaid plays the role introverted, a man haunted and confused by events he is still trying to reconcile, pitted against his demon of a dad and on a path to a violent, destructive conclusion.

3. Frank Sullivan in Gregory Hoblit’s Frequency

Trust Quaid and costar Jim Caviesel to make such an ‘out there’ premise feel so down to earth. As father and son they are able to communicate across a thirty year gulf of time and transcend the barrier of death itself via a very special HAM radio. Quaid makes comforting magic out of the Everyman/dad/firefighter/baseball fan archetype. There’s a warmth and genuine love he has for his family that jumps off the screen as grounds the film in human emotion.

2. Guy/Joshua Rose in Predrag Antonejevic’s Saviour

A little seen or heard of film, this one is brutal to sit through but worth it every second. A French foreign legion soldier with a tragic, bloody past, Quaid’s rough hewn mercenary finds himself awash in the Serbian/Bosnian war with no discernible side to fight on, genocide abound at every turn and a stunning lack of humanity poisoning the region. He finds a modicum of redemption in caring for a woman (Natasha Ninkovic) and her baby that is the product of rape by muslims, something her whole village has now shunned her for. This is dark, grim stuff we witness along with Guy, but his actions and eventual turnaround of soul are something wonderful to see. Quaid plays him streamlined of any heroic sensibilities or obvious moral fabric, just a man of few words with a tortured spirit trying to navigate a region tearing itself apart with evil.

1. Nick Parker in Disney’s The Parent Trap

This is a very personal choice for me, it’s one of the first films I ever saw as a kid, and was my introduction to Dennis’s work as an actor. There’s something cosmically perfect and warm about his performance here and to me no other film or series has captured his essence quite like this. Just a laidback Napa valley winemaker, a loving father and husband who finds himself in the wackiest of situations. His father daughter chemistry with both versions of Lindsay Lohan as well as Natasha Richardson just works so well and their whole unconventional, very sweet family dynamic carries the film to memorable heights.

Thanks for reading!! Please feel free to share your own favourite performances from Quaid and as always stay tuned for more content!

-Nate Hill

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Michael Caton-Jones’s This Boy’s Life

Michael Caton-Jones’s This Boy’s Life is based on a true story of abuse, of which there are thousands every year, many heard and many unheard. This one doesn’t end up as bad as some or as good as others but I liked that it didn’t make the abuse a centrepiece for the film and rather used it to show a fascinating character dynamic between 50’s teenager Tobias (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his nasty stepfather Dwight (Robert DeNiro). Tobias and his mother (Ellen Barkin) come from a free spirited background, abandoned by his birth father and left to roam the States looking for a new provider. She meets and marries Dwight pretty quick, and Tobias also figures out what he’s made of real quick too. Dwight is a nasty, bitter, violent, pathetic piece of human garbage whose self esteem is so low he’s just gotta take it out on others around him, often in a cartoonish way. He’s the type of guy that if you fronted on him in a bar or he got in your grille, you’d just laugh and brush him off rather than fight because you just feel sorry for the guy. Tobias is a teenager though and can’t actually stand up to him in a brawl, making him a prime target for years of physical and psychological abuse which his mom refuses to be a referee. This isn’t a sad or depressing film because we realize that this can’t go on forever, the real life man it’s based on grew up to be a successful professor of literature and the film is never downbeat, just desperate. This is Leo’s debut lead role and he kills it, finding that anger and resilience that will go on to be building blocks in his now legendary career. DeNiro is very anti DeNiro here if you catch my drift. Used to playing extroverted alpha males, he switches it up for an extroverted weasel who thinks he’s hot shit. The only thing I would have eighty-sixed is the Fargo style Minnesota accent he tries on for size as it doesn’t suit him and he’s never been an accent savvy actor. Watch for an uncomfortable appearance from Chris Cooper as well as striking early career work from Carla Gugino, Tobey McGuire and Eliza Dushku who is so young here she’s unrecognizable. This film feels loose and episodic at times but remember these are someone’s memories here and those can be tricky, illusory beasts. I love the way it feels, like several slices of life during adolescence, a point where life can be at its most tempestuous and confusing, therefore making for excellent material. Set in the lush Pacific Northwest and attuned with production design that is studious to the 50’s aesthetic, this is a great film for any actor to find their debut in.

-Nate Hill

Ocean’s Thirteen: A Review by Nate Hill

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As silly, gaudy and drawn out the Ocean’s franchise had gotten by its third outing, I still somewhat enjoyed Ocean’s Thirteen, an overblown attempt to keep the magic alive that most of the time trips over its own bells and whistles. That being said, the gang is all there, and that alone is good for some laughs. This time around, Eliott Gould’s cranky charmer Reuben has been ousted from his Vegas property by Willie Bank (Al Pacino) a ruthless and ludicrously rich casino tycoon with big plans for the future. Reuben is left in a dazed depression, and the gang all drifts back together to try and rob the hell out of Pacino, using methods and cons so over the top they almost seem like a parody of the former films. Pacino is a bit more clownish than Andy Garcia’s grim Terry Benedict was in the first film, which adds to the cavalier absence of any sense of real danger. In fact, Benedict is now chummy with the gang himself, which is a cute turn of events but kind of seems to silly. Ellen Barkin adds a lot of class as Pacino’s head honcho, fitting into the Ocean world nicely. The gang I’d all back and more eccentric than ever, with Matt Damon scoring comedic points in one of the funniest prosthetic jobs I’ve ever seen. Newcomers to the show include Julian Sands, Oprah Winfrey and a reliably hapless David Paymer. It’s not that this one takes the formula too far, it’s just that we’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and there was really not much need for it. I won’t say no though, because the blue print of what made the first so fun is still there, it’s just been jazzed up and adorned with a few too many gilded sequins and fancy jib jab. Still enjoyable.

Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law: A Review by Nate Hill

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You have to be in a very particular type of mood to properly tune into a Jim Jarmusch film. He populates his often black and white and always slightly mournful films with awkward, dazed individuals who more comfortable in the uncertain pauses between dialogue than the actual words themselves. When I feel like a Jarmusch film (other than Dead Man which is an all timer for me) it’s always during times when I feel the daydreamy grey matter coming on, an otherworldly, downbeat relaxation that his  work is rife with. Down By Law is a signature example of this, and most likely the film I connect with most of his, after Dead Man. This one concerns three wayward and very different souls who by fate and unfortunate circumstance end up in jail together. Zach (Tom Waits) is a radio DJ who is hounded by his girlfriend (Ellen Barkin) to be more proactive and less relaxed. Jack (John Lurie) is a laid back pimp, and they both find themselves incarcerated in a Louisiana prison where they meet the eccentric Italian tourist Roberto (Roberto Benigni, hilarious). The trio are a puzzling gaggle of misfits, moments of startling pathos and stinging humour sprouting as their time together goes on. Soon they discover that Roberto may know of a way to escape, and see it as their chance. The characters in any given Jarmusch film never seem the same as usual film archetypes; they’re always quirky and completely their own person, which is no doubt a product of a very intuitive directorial process, and an excellent relationship with the actors. It can be disarming to spend time with such distinct people in film, but when you stop to realize just how weird everyone around you in real life is vs. what is common for movie scripts, it feels geniune. This one is lived in, authentic and funny in that intangible way where you can’t even say why it’s so hilarious. We all a-scream for ice  a-scream!

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension: A Review by Nate Hill

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The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension. There’s a title, eh? The film lives up to it too, and is simply one of the most unique, bizarre and original sci fi flicks out there. It’s the very definition of cult to its abstract bones, filled to the brim with eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. For me it represents a certain genre niche that’s nestled squarely in goofball mode, splayed out across the borders of science fiction, comedy and farce, without a care in the world and not an iota of self consciousness or any fucks given. Call it Buck Rogers meets The Avengers meets Bonanza doesn’t even scratch the surface. Peter Weller, that eternally cool bastard, plays Buckaroo Banzai, who is somewhat of a renaissance man. He’s a neurosurgeon, a rock star, a scientist and above all a lover of adventure, always sporting Weller’s unmistakable deadpan charm. Buckaroo and his band are also a crime fighting team called The Hong Kong Cavaliers, and include roughneck but lovable cowboy Rawhide (Clancy Brown) and slick New Jersey (Jeff Goldblum). Buck has perfected a device called the oscillation overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter and on into the eighth dimension. Only problem is, the red lectroids, an alien race from planet 10, want to steal the device for their own. They are led by an unbelievably funny John Lithgow who gets the spirit of the film and then some. Buck also finds romance with the adorable Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), whisking her off into super sonic adventure with him and the Cavaliers. It’s beyond silly, super arbitrary and random, and I love every glorious unfiltered minute of it. This type of wantonly bizarre stuff is my cinematic bread and butter, especially  when it’s done with such pep in its step, as well ass love and commitment to being an oddball venture. The cast is huge and all in that loopy sleep deprived state where everything is funny and strange organic creation comes from the abstract. Watch for Dan Hedaya, Lewis Smith, Pepe Serna, Vincent Schiavelli, Jonathan Banks, John Ashton and Christopher Lloyd too. A wacky gem with a style all its own, constantly tapped into a well of creation, humour and fun.

Into The West: A Review by Nate Hill

  

Into The West is a charming Irish folktale with two excellent lead performances from Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin, who have been married in the past and therefore have a natural, easygoing chemistry. The film takes place in rustic Ireland, where two young boys are given a magnificent and mysterious white stallion by their gypsy grandfather (David Kelly). They come from a poor neighbourhood, somewhat left to their own devices by their downbeat alcoholic father (Byrne), who lost his wife and their mother years before. The horse seems to have some type of sixth sense related directly to their family history. The two boys are in that state of wonder where fables and magic still exist, and follow the horse wherever it leads. Byrne desperately pursues his sons to whatever end, helped by a fellow Traveller and old flame (Ellen Barkin, excellent and passing quite well as an Irishwoman). The horse seems to know his past and leads him to places which have sentimental value to him, leading him one step closer to his kids, while teaching him an esoteric lesson along the way. Great stuff, kid orientated but still has an eerie and mature atmosphere. Watch for early appearances from Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham. Beautiful film. 

Crime & Punishment In Suburbia: A Review by Nate Hill

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Crime & Punishment In Suburbia follows the theme and story just as loosely as you’d imagine by glancing at both title and poster. It’s It’s own little nasty deviation on the classic tale, set in a decadent white neighborhood, and full of characters who are barely hiding the decaying darkness behind their fake personalities. Having never read Dostoyefsky’s book myself, I can’t in fact tell you how much is different, but I could damn well know that it’s probably very much so. It concerns a hot young teen named Roseanne (Monica Keena, with a dash of Brittany Murphy in those eyes) who is outwardly a normal girl, but has elements in her life which start to taint that image and prompt violent behaviour. Her stepdad Fred (Michael Ironside, dialing up the drunken sleaze to a slow boil) is abusive towards her, and a alcoholic train wreck to boot. Her mother Maggie (Ellen Barkin in screeching cougar mode) is an unstable, clueless mess. Situations like that almost always end badly, which is an understatement here. One night when Fred gets too friendly with Roseanne, she snaps, something comes over her and Maggie and they both brutally murder him in an extended, grisly sequence that would give Oliver Stone bad dreams. From there on in its a dark and trashy morality play involving deception, false incarceration and manipulation on all the everyone’s part. The film seems to revel in the excessive bad behaviour of it’s characters, a decision which can be polarizing for audiences. It’s ugly, sleazy stuff, but it does that very well, with all the actors taking full advantage of the mean spirited script, especially Ironside and Barkin. Just don’t expect any pathos or straight arrow characters, this is a sociopath’s game, through and through.