Tag Archives: James Remar

Oz Perkin’s February, aka The Blackcoat’s Daughter

I like Emma Roberts, and really dig the career path she’s chosen for herself so far. Daughter of eccentric, legendary badass Eric Roberts and niece to Hollywood’s darling superstar Julia, she could have easily taken the oft trodden path of teen sensation, appearing only in stuff that appeals to a new generation that’s forgotten much of the odd, freaky stuff of former times. Instead she’s deliberately accepted best, off kilter genre scripts, using an ongoing stint on FX’s American Horror Story as a launching pad for some really interesting projects that duck the mainstream, just like her dad. Oz Perkin’s February is one such outing, a laconic, nightmarish mood piece that plays like a demon possession film without all of the tired hysterics, using pacing, atmosphere and glacially mounting dread to tell its story. Roberts plays a young runaway stranded outside a hospital on one cold night. Picked up by a kindly man (James Remar ditching the villain shtick) and his wife (Lauren Holly, who apparently is still in films after all!), she embarks on a tense road trip towards a county far away. In said county, two forgotten girls (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) spend the holiday break at their catholic school. Gradually they start to feel some presence in the building, haunting them, and then shit gets crazy. This is textbook slow burn territory though, and anyone expecting a trove of jump scares need not apply. There are a few well earned moments of terror, but they’re fleeting, and all the more disturbing as a result. There’s a vagueness to the narrative too, with just enough left unexplained to spark some interesting Reddit discussions. A dark, moody flick that rewards those who give full attention with some scary secrets and a smothering atmosphere of danger on the horizon. You’ll find this titled as ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ on demand and iTunes, but that title seems to not mean much except to quite an eerie song used throughout the film.

-Nate Hill

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Danny Devito’s Duplex

I will never not love Duplex, Danny Devito’s jet-black ode to neighbours from hell, a ninety minute domestic squabble of epic proportions and one of the funniest films of the last few decades. Devito knows how to do comedy at it’s meanest, lowest and most shamelessly un-PC, whenever he’s in the director’s chair you know you’ll get something that will either land squarely with those who have a deranged sense of humour (moi) or drive of the prudes in droves. Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore play a hapless NYC yupple (yuppie couple, just made that shit up) looking for their perfect little love nest to settle down in. They think they’ve found it in a gorgeous, spacious Brooklyn split-suite, but there’s just one problem: sweet, ninety year old Mrs. Connolly (Eileen Essell), who is the tenant equivalent of the plague. At first she’s a benign darling, but after a few weeks pass, she’s a harridan hellbent on making their lives into an extended nightmare of never ending chores, sleepless nights and maddening disruption. The solution? Well there’s many in the real world, but in Demented Devito realm it’s to kill her, of course, an eventual resolution they come to quicker than your average ruffled landlord. It’s all in good fun if you’ve got the wicked internal lens to angle at it, and I find it to be a consistent laugh riot with each repeated viewing. Essell is comic dynamite, pretty spry for an old gal and always game to make the dialogue sizzle, as the film sort of relies on her character to work. Stiller and Barrymore stir up a collective brew of exasperation and screeching hysterics, while the wicked good supporting cast includes Wallace Shawn, Robert Wisdom, Justin Theroux, Swoozie Kurtz, Maya Rudolph, Amber Valletta, Tracey Walter, Michelle Krusiec, James Remar as a shady hitman and Broadway’s beloved Harvey Fierstein as New York’s sleaziest real estate tycoon. Devito’s scripts almost always veer into a dark, bizarro cartoon style once the antics get feverishly out of hand, and bearing witness to the many varied and idiotic ways Stiller and Barrymore try to kill the old broad are a showcase of him at his nuttiest. Gross, unpleasant, cheerfully in bad taste, relentlessly raunchy and delightfully mean spirited, pretty much all the things a great comedy should be.

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: The Surgeon aka Exquisite Tenderness


The Surgeon is an overlooked little hospital horror chiller that’s worth the price of admission just for the opening scene alone, a spooky black and white prologue in which a young boy witnesses a surgery gone horribly wrong, all set to that cheery ‘Lollipop Lollipop’ song, quite a memorable way to kick your film off. After that it’s fairly standard, as he grows up to be a scalpel wielding slasher who roams the wards of a huge hospital, killing patients, doctors and undergrads at leisure. Two intrepid doctors in training played by Isabel Glasser and James Remar are onto this beast and gradually begin to realize there’s foul play afoot, and the demented surgeon, played by Sean Haberle, continues his stealthy rampage throughout the halls. Malcolm McDowell is also there for a bit, sorely underused as an arrogant, short lived doctor who likes to trial weird drugs on chimpanzees in the basement. Peter Boyle chews scenery as a bumbling detective, Charles Dance has a fun bit and it all hurtles along like the B movie it is. That opening though, quite a well accented bit with the song, and an eerie setup for the schlock to follow. The film’s actual title on IMDB is Exquisite Tenderness, which was rebranded for DVD release as The Surgeon, which is slightly less.. European of them than the original one, but it does suit the low grade silliness. Decent stuff, for what it is. 

-Nate Hill

Hellraiser: Inferno 


Hellraiser: Inferno marks the first juncture in the franchise where ideas deviated beyond the formula set in place by the first borderline surreal, masochist piece.

Gone is the dreamy, sordid aesthetic used back then, the Cenobites who were front and centre are reduced to limited appearances and the story is less otherworldly and something decidedly more noirish and down to earth. Whether that’s accepted by franchise die-hards and horror hounds alike is subjective, but I didn’t mind it’s slow burn approach or sidewinding tone. Craig Sheffer, the closest thing you’ll get to Josh Brolin without breaking the bank, plays a crooked Detective who finds himself dragged down a rabbit hole of creepy, murderous goings-on when he’s assigned to hunt a serial killer known as ‘The Engineer’. Of course the murders always seem one step ahead of his grasp, and naturally dark secrets from his sketchy past are brought to light as he gradually begins to lose his mind. Doug Bradley does eventually return as the iconic Pinhead, with a few members of the Cenobite posse, but their presence is kept mostly on the back burner for quite a while. Taking antagonist duties for a while instead is Sheffer’s eerie psychiatrist, played with sinister charm and knowing charisma by James Remar, a dubious fellow with a few tricks up his own sleeve. This is the one entry that sticks out from the franchise in it’s diversion from the usual path of distinct, abstract psychosexual horror and mutes the whole icy nightmare down to rebuild a story in it’s own image. You’ll either appreciate the initiative, or you’ll miss the good ol’ freakshow of the original film. Up to you. 

-Nate Hill

ABC’s FlashForward: here in a flash of brilliance and gone after one season 


ABC’s Flashforwad was a gripping psychological/supernatural epic with potential to run many seasons and provide us with solid entertainment for a long time a lá Lost (which it bears some similarities with), but the network mysteriously axed it after a single season, leaving a vacuum in the air as far as it’s story, and many viewers left stranded, wanting more. The show was built around a wicked concept: one day, every human being on planet earth simultaneously blacks out for a few minutes, and in that time has a precognitive vision of the future some months away from their present time, then promptly wakes up. This of course causes sheer chaos all over the globe, initially with millions of car crashes, disasters and planes falling out of the sky, and eventually the uncertainty, paranoia and confusion as to just what these flash-forwards are all about, and if it will happen again. An FBI task force spearheaded by the likes of Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance is commissioned to investigate the matter, and their mission takes them to some truly weird places, both geographically and thematically. There’s strange forces at work with this one, secrets that are kept close to the chest and gradually doled out over the expansive twenty three episode arc, a great length of run that should really be the standard for television. It’s similar to Lost in the sense that every week the mystery deepened as opposed to circling a resolution, clues and questions piled on top of the previous ones without a hint of finality or exposition to light the way, an audience tested, surefire way to keep people from flipping the channels mid episode and a great of garnering new viewers via word of mouth. The trick is to also add rhyme and reason to your bag of mysteries, provide a modicum of answers to keep the frustration just at bay, a formula which this one actually succeeds better at than Lost ever did. The scope and budget here are both enormous, giving new meaning to both the terms ‘globetrotting’ and ‘ensemble piece’, a truly vast attempt at long form storytelling. The cast is eclectic, other leads including John Cho as another hard-nosed Fed, Zachary Knighton as a doctor whose life is perhaps affected most by the incident, and brilliant turns from Jack Davenport, Sonya Walger, Peyton List, Dominic Monaghan, Brian F. O’Byrne and the late Michael Massee as nefarious, shadowy ultra-villain Dyson Frost, who serves as a sort of mcguffin during the first act of the show. Guest arcs included James Remar, Thomas Kretschmann, Rachel Roberts, Gabrielle Union, Shohreh Ahgdashloo, Annabeth Gish, Callum Keith Rennie, James Frain, Peter Coyote as the US President and so many more. The show looks amazing too, a brightly lit, well oiled mystery machine with all sorts of storytelling wizardry including nifty slow motion musical montages, trippy time jumps, non linear what-have-you and all manner of neat stuff. Gone way, way before it’s time, this one is well worth a watch and shouldn’t have been written off so soon. And remember: D. Gibbons is a bad man. 

-Nate Hill

James Cameron’s Aliens 


Each of the four Alien films has their own distinct and noticeable personalities. Ridley Scott’s original creeping horror show is a tense, streamlined, gracefully vicious film that slinks along at its own pace, not unlike the resident feline Jonesy who wondered about on the spaceship Nostromo back then. If Alien has the qualities of a cat, James Cameron’s Aliens has those of a rambunctious puppy dog, a rip snortin, go get em action backyard barbecue knockout that runs up and gives the audience a big wet slimy kiss. All animal metaphors aside (I’m running out of oh-so-clever ways to open my reviews, ok? Been at this shit for two years now), Cameron’s film is an undisputed classic, still jaw dropping to this day, even after what feels like hundreds of viewings, nostalgic yet fresh in different ways every time, and simply one of the best films ever made. It’s the gold standard for creature feature sci fi too, and while many argue whether or not it in fact outdid Scott’s original white knuckler, I can’t bring myself to be petty and pick favourites out of the quadrilogy, I love them all for a whole bunch of reasons. Aliens picks up quite a while after the catastrophic events of the first, with Ripley floating around in that cryo-pod for way too long, until she happens to cruise past earth, crossing the vision of the Weyland/Yutani corporation once again. Because they always make astute, well thought out choices, they decide to send a research team, accompanied by a very reluctant Ripley and a group of hoo-rah, bull in a China shop colonial marines to far off industrial exomoon LV-426, where they have lost communication with the settlers. After a brief, clammy build up, all hell breaks loose, and we get to see the full impressive extent of Cameron’s skill as a visual storyteller, as well as the oh-so-gooey, inspire practical effects work that brings those gorgeous Xenomorph beauties to snarling life. The cast is the epitome of badass, as we are constantly reminded of by Bill Paxton’s Hudson, the film’s resident squirrel who gets hilariously skittish when things get dicey (“game over, man!” Will never not out a big, Paxton sized grin on my face), but who heroically holds his own once he gets his sillies out. The other side of that coin is Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn, never slicker), cool as ice, shaken by nothing, including an atmosphere entry landing that would make Alfonso Cuaron pee himself, but doesn’t come close to disturbing Hick’s afternoon nap. Every Alien team must have an artificial human, some of which are trustworthy, and some not. Lance Henriksen’s Bishop is as solid as they come, never losing his head (despite being reduced to a puddle of spilt dairy product) and sticking by Ripley’s side until the bitter, hectic end. Ripley herself is a little older, a little wiser and a lot tougher, her intensity calcified into grit after losing her daughter, and given somewhat of a surrogate in the form of Newt (Carrie Henn) an orphaned child who has survived months living like a rodent in the air ducts. “They mostly come at night… mostly” she eerily warns Ripley. Oh boy, do they ever. LV-426 is positively teeming with them, and they show up to provide speaker shattering, pixel scattering action like only Cameron can do. The facehugger in the room sequence is still one of the most terrifying sequences in any film, and serves to make you hate Weyland weasel Burke (Paul Reiser) with that deep loathing reserved for the scummiest traitors in film. The final thirty minutes of the film are a showcase of action cinema, and it’s amazing to think they pulled off the Queen fight without any cgi back then, a slam-bang marvel of a climax that fires on a thousand cylinders, and to this day has never been topped. That goes for the film too. It’s *the* action sci-fi film, and as close to perfection as you can get.  
-Nate Hill