Tag Archives: Eric Roberts

B Movie Glory: Slow Burn

Slow Burn is just that, one of those dreary, stylized neo noirs about a low rent private investigator (Eric Roberts) who is on a case but seems only half interested, probably because the plot meanders around making little sense or holding less interest than a ruptured hull does water. Roberts is always engaging so it’s not all bad, plus there’s some eclectic cast members supporting him and an appearance from young Johnny Depp in what was one of his first roles, probably filmed in between takes of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Roberts is hired by a kooky New York artist (the great Raymond J. Barry) to investigate Depp’s stern rich parents (Beverly D’Angelo and Dan Hedaya), who may have some vague familial ties or be involved in a decades old scandal. Or are they? Do we care? Does it matter? It certainly didn’t matter to any potential distributors, as there seems to be literally no North American DVD release, I had to watch one of those choppy ten part YouTube versions. It’s interesting to see Depp and Roberts together in a few quick scenes, they are two legends of cool and it’d be nice to see them in something else together again. Overall though this is a particularly slow burn, and not a very enthralling one at that.

-Nate Hill

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B Movie Glory: American Strays

There’s a turn of phrase that I like to avoid in where a writer compares any eclectic crime film they can find to the work of Quentin Tarantino by labelling it a ‘Tarantino knockoff’, or any variation in vocabulary. I renounce this lazy, unimaginative jab as it’s based in the worst form of criticism, that of negative comparison and ignorance of a film’s original qualities. However, in the case of American Strays, even I have to concede that it’s a blatant, unapologetic ripoff of QT’s style that makes no efforts to mask the plagiarism or do it’s own thing. He should sue. Not to mention the fact that on it’s own terms it’s just a horrible, boring, awkward fuckin piece of shit movie. It’s set up in the same anthology sequence except none of them are even connected, let alone make sense. Two nimrod hit men (James Russo and Joe Viterelli) drive through the desert engaging in strained extended dialogue that’s neither funny nor stimulating. A psychotic vacuum salesman (the great John Savage) goes door to door harassing people until he meets his match in a femme fatale housewife (Jennifer Tilly). A stressed out family man (Eric Roberts, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else) drives his dysfunctional brood through the desert. Elsewhere, Luke Perry plays a depressed, suicidal weirdo who sits around in a shack with a guy he’s paid to literally beat the shit out of him. The worst is a cutesy pie, insufferable Bonnie and Clyde style couple that are so obviously emulating Clarence and Alabama from Tarantino’s True Romance that you begin to wonder if they gave up and just set the script on autopilot like one of those knowingly ridiculous knockoffs you see on Netflix that are simply there to decoy you out into clicking a title that looks *almost* like what you want to watch (TransMorphers, anyone?). None of these vignettes are remotely engaging, it’s like a parade of shitty, awkward, misguided SNL skits from a dimension where humour and wit don’t exist. Every actor just looks tired, every line lands with a hollow thud. Just. Don’t. Bother.

B Movie Glory: Heaven’s Fire

There’s an expression around the campfire of film criticism called ‘Die Hard clone’, a residual effect of how influential that movie was on the action genre. Although that term certainly applies to the terminally goofy Heaven’s Fire (that title tho), I resist the impulse to always trace films back to their inspiration as a negative connotation, and view every story as it’s own encapsulated adventure. Now that aside, this one is pretty shitty on it’s own terms, as you can probably tell by the almost deliberately shabby DVD art. It’s worth it for two reasons only, if you’re a fan of either: Eric Roberts and Jurgen Prochnow, two charismatic genre players who are always so much fun to see, even in Fisher Price knockoff crap like this. Prochnow, for like the tenth time in his career so far, plays a terrorist who seizes a high rise building, planning to hold the city ransom or blow it up. Roberts, that charming bastard, plays an off duty treasury agent who happens to be on a tour through the facility with his family and gets caught in the middle. You can guess where it goes. Gunfire, cringy one liners, standoff’s, inept hostage negotiations, all the tropes are present and accounted for. The script is so bad it almost seems like an SNL parody concocted by fifth grade guest writers, you almost can’t even hate the film because it reaches levels of absurdity that are, dare I say, *adorably* terrible. Eric and Jurgen ham it up in their own special way and if you enjoy their work (I’m something of a fanatic) it’s worth tracking down just to see the two legends side by side. Oh and like so many two bit flicks of this nature, Vancouver is the home-base for filming, which is always a plus no matter how shitty your movie is, because I get to take in the scenery and spot landmarks I pass by every day. Silly, silly stuff, and I’m pretty sure it’s rated PG13 too as there’s no swearing and all the violence is Grade school play level.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: The Grave

Dust off the cobwebs in a corner the forgotten ruins of VHS land and you’ll find charmers like The Grave, a enjoyable, forgettable little haunt that stars 90’s indie beauty queen Gabrielle Anwar, her kooky real life husband Craig Sheffer, Breakfast Club alumni Anthony Michael Hall and B movie sultan Eric Roberts, if you’re quick enough to spot his cameo. It’s one among an infinity of B movies from back in the day that starred earnest character actors involved in lurid criminal escapades and sensual deception, each plot only slightly altered from the last. This one see a troupe of escaped convicts (Sheffer, Hall, Donal Logue and others) running around out west in search of a treasure chest full of loot that’s supposedly buried next to it’s millionaire owner. This setup leads way to betrayals, double crosses, Coen-esque hayseed black comedy and all sorts of shenanigans. Anwar plays the scheming ex girlfriend of one of them who gets in the way of all involved like any self respecting femme fatale should. Curiously, Eric Roberts has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and only shows up for like a minute long cameo as a country bumpkin who gives hitchhiking Anwar a ride when her rig breaks down, talks her ear off for a spill and then heads off never to be seen again. Huh. Must have owed the director a favour from the last B flick he headlined. Anyways it’s a fun one on low key, inconsequential terms.

-Nate Hill

Jonas Ackerlund’s Spun

Jonas Ackerland’s Spun is a film you’ll be onboard with in seconds, or jumping ship before the credits even start. It’s unpleasant, epileptic, downbeat, hyperactive, fucked up, strung out, cartoonish, nonsensical, unstructured, and is a complete masterpiece for those willing to lend an empathetic ear towards lost souls mired in the doldrums we call drug addiction. Set on a particularly sweaty day in the suburbs of L.A., all the film really does is try to keep up with a sorry bunch of meth-heads as they meander through a hazy existence filled with confusion, mania and that ever present need to score. Jason Schwartzman’s Ross is the default protagonist, and he moves from locale to locale, encountering the denizens of each dwelling in all their warped glory. John Leguizamo’s trademark brand of crazy is right at home as Spider, a maniacal dealer who can’t sit still for a nanosecond, along with his haggard looking girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari). Brittany Murphy is excellent as wayward Nikki, who leads Ross to her cook boyfriend, a strange fellow credited as literally The Cook, played in a brilliantly dark pitched, sad turn by Mickey Rourke. There’s others flitting about as well, including Patrick Fugit’s nutball Frisbee, a couple of frenzied narcs played by Alexis Arquette and Peter Stormare, plus cameos from a grab bag of figures like Debbie ‘Blondie’ Harry as a fearsome diesel dyke, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford as a porn shop clerk, Ron Jeremy, Larry Drake, Josh Peck and a surprise Eric Roberts who gets a reunion of sorts with former costar Rourke. Director Ackerland, also a music video whiz, employs every stylistic trick and balls out editing fuckery to his film, until we have some wild inkling of what it must be like for these deranged urban pixies and their ADHD addled misadventures. It isn’t all comedic though; Once in a while the crazy curtain lifts and we see the deep set sadness that lives in these characters, a melancholy self loathing in which the actors find truth amongst the raging din, especially Murphy and Rourke, who provide the best work of the film. Mickey has a final act monologue that encapsulates the weary trajectories inhabited by these folks. Much of the film is stylized sound and fury though, a cavalcade of noise, vulgarity, offbeat altercations and loosely strung together events that have no meaning to anyone outside this asylum’s inner circle of addicts. One of a kind experience, and the most blatantly honest film I’ve seen on the subject of drugs.

-Nate Hill

Just wild about Larry: An Interview with Steve Mitchell by Kent Hill

Steve Mitchell has been on quite a ride. Having begun in the world of comics, he has the distinction of inking the very first book by a guy you might have heard of . . . Frank Miller. But being in New York with all his friends heading west, Steve, after forging an impressive beginning to his career, took a phone call one night from his another friend and filmmaker Jim Wynorski. Jim wanted an opinion on an idea that, if he could make it work, they might be able to get the picture made. From that conversation a film would be born. It was the cult classic Chopping Mall.

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So like Horatio Alger before him, he went west and continued writing for both the worlds of film and television. The fateful moment would come one day while looking over the credits of the legendary maverick auteur, Larry Cohen, on IMDB.  Astounded by the length and breadth of Cohen’s career, Steve saw an opportunity to possibly make a documentary that would chronicle the life and exploits of the successful filmmaker.

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After receiving a blessing from the man (Larry) himself, Steve set about the mammoth undertaking of  not only pulling together the interviews with Cohen’s many collaborators, all of the footage of his many works , but also the financing to bring these and the countless other elements together to form KING COHEN: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen.

This truly insightful and utterly entertaining look at the, thus far continuing, career of Cohen is the passion project of a man with whom I share a kinship. Not only for the stories behind the men who make the movies, but also how the films we know and love were pieced together with money, dreams, light, shadow and the technical tools which help capture and refine the many wondrous adventures we as cinema goers have been relishing since our very first experiences.

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KING COHEN is a great film made by a really great guy, and it is my hope, as it is Steve’s hope, that you enjoy the story of Larry Cohen, but also come away from watching the film wishing to then seek out and discover the movies contained within that you may have only experienced for the first time as part of the documentary. The films of the filmmaker that inspired Steve’s film in the first place. (that’s a lot films)

Enjoy…

It’s good to be the King: An interview with Larry Cohen by Kent Hill

There is a quote attributed to Robert Rodriguez (another independent maverick filmmaker) that states:

“If you are doing it because you love it you can succeed because you will work harder than anyone else around you, take on challenges no one else would dare take, and come up with methods no one else would discover, especially when their prime drive is fame and fortune. All that will follow later if you really love what you do. Because the work will speak for itself.”

It is the always interesting, ever-changing, always inventive, ever professional life and work of Larry Cohen that really personifies the above quotation. King Cohen has been out there in one form or another in an impressive career spanning multiple decades. He has been the director of cult classics; he has been the writer of hot scripts that have incited Hollywood bidding wars. His work has been remade, imitated, venerated.

These are the hallmarks of a man and his movies whose personal voice rings out loud and clear, high above the commercial ocean of mainstream cinema that carries, beneath its shiny surface, schools of biodegradable blockbusters that are usually forgotten about only moments after having left the cinema.

This is not true of the films of Larry Cohen. For his work is the stuff (pardon the pun) that came before, the stuff the imitators latch on to, the stuff from which remakes and re-imaginations are conceived. This is the fate of the masters. The innovators come and bring forth art through trial and error. They are followed by the masters who take the lessons learned from the innovators and make them, shape them by sheer force of will. But, then there comes the imitators who stand on the shoulders of these giants and take home the glory.

Still, when there is an artist that is in equal parts innovator and master; this causes the imitators to stand baffled.

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Rather than accepting my humble oration, I urge you to seek out Steve Mitchell’s most excellent documentary KING COHEN. Watch it, marvel, rejoice, and remember that there are great filmmakers out there. They may not be coming soon to a theatre near you, but they did once, and their work still stands, silently, waiting to be discovered.

Until you get to see KING COHEN please, feel free to bask in my little chat with the king himself, Larry Cohen, a gentleman of many parts, many stories and of course . . . many movies.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Larry Cohen.

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