Tag Archives: Michael Parks

B Movie Glory: Stranger By Night

Stranger By Night is an all but forgotten cop thriller starring Steven Bauer, a charismatic actor who, after a showcase role in Brian DePalma’s Scarface and a handful of other prolific 90’s appearances, fell from grace into the netherworld of direct to video releases, like so many other former heavy hitters. This one sits above the bilge water because of a uniquely psychological angle towards the ‘killer terrorizing an urban neighbourhood’ motif, a great central performance from him and some memorable scenes. Bauer his precinct are looking for a murderer, but the kick is that he has a sketchy mental mindset, experienced weird blackouts, fits of rage an missing hours, which not only makes tracking down any suspects difficult, but always puts the crosshairs of suspicion on him. He’s an unreliable protagonist who means well but keeps getting sabotaged by his own demons, a theme played up nicely. The story involving the killer is fairly run of the mill, but anything to do with his character developments is cool stuff, especially in an introspective conversational has with his father (J.J. Johnston). There’s another cop played by the great Michael Parks, but the underwritten role is wasted on an actor meant to shine, but at least the production benefits from his credit. This one is low key, but I enjoyed the exploration in character for Bauer, as well as a hectic opening montage that sets the maniacal tone.

-Nate Hill

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Indie Gems: 13 Moons


It’s anybody’s guess how ones like 13 Moons slip through the cracks, but in this case it was probably a case of nonexistent marketing and no effort put into a proper release. Despite having a cast that’s speckled with all kinds of big names, character actors and cameos, it has the appearance of barest of bones indie digs, and looks suspiciously like it was filmed bootleg/guerrilla style. I’ve not a clue what the story behind it’s conception is, but it’s a brilliant little flick that you won’t find anywhere these days, but deserves a look. It’s one of those moody, nocturnal L.A. set ensemble pieces in which a group of eclectic characters wander about, intersecting in various subplots until it finally comes together in the third act. This motif is overdone these days, and I just have to throw a jab at Paul Haggis’s Crash, which has aged like Kraft Dinner left for a week in the Florida sun, but my point is that they either work or topple over like a jenga tower buckling under the weight of each character and scenario. This one is so low budget it looks like it was shot on an etch a sketch, but thankfully the story is powerful, emotional, hilarious and strange enough to make a lasting impression. Steve Buscemi and Peter Dinklage are two sad-sack clowns who wander the nightscape, and in fact the image of absurdly out of place clowns roaming the lonely streets of NYC, getting caught up in a raucous night out involving a man (David Proval, an underused talent in the industry) and his young son who is dying of cancer and desperately seeks an organ doner, while his mom (Jennifer Beals) looks for them. Meanwhile there’s an insane clown played by Peter Stormare who’s running about, and when I say insane I do mean it. Stormare is always a little zany and flamboyant, but his work here takes the cake and whips it at the wall. It’s easy for actors to be uninhibited in indie fare like this, free from the prudence of studio chaperones, and he knows this, his character eventually playing a key role but most of the time careening around like a bat out of hell set loose in New York. The cameos are fleeting and fascinating, and one wonders who was buddies with who and pulled what favours to swing their appearances, but it’s nice to see them irregardless. Sam Rockwell and Michael Parks are fun as two bartenders, real life ex-hoodlums Danny Trejo and Edward Bunker show up briefly as.. hoodlums, and watch for quick turns from Pruitt Taylor Vince, Michael Badalucco and others. The film is thoroughly indie that no one has, or probably will ever see it, and my review probably adds to the scant half dozen or so write ups that are out there. Sadly many little treasures like this exist, unbeknownst to most. 13 Moons is a sweet, scrappy, somewhat star studded little piece that is well worth anyone’s time, if they love a good story in an oddball of a package. 

-Nate Hill

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter- A Review by Nate Hill 

Some franchises feel stale and wrung out by the time the third effort comes along, but not From Dusk Till Dawn. In fact I’d even be so bold as to say that despite not having quite such a budget and resources as the original Tarantino/Rodriguez splatter party, this prequel almost has more in the way of imagination. The first came out of the gate roaring and paved the way, the second was a more mellow heist orientated flick that incorporated the horror elements in as it went, but the third does something altogether different. It’s a period piece, set a hundred years in the past, sometime around the Mexican/American war. When notorious outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) dodges the hangman’s noose and escapes, he brings abused daughter Esmerelda (Ara Celi) along and scrambles for the state line. The ferocious hangman is none too pleased, given the menacig scowl of Maori bad boy Temuerra Morrison, who played Jango Fett in another prequel we all love. Rounding up a posse, he hunts Madrid and his scurvy gang through the terrain. Madrid is unknowingly headed for a far worse danger though, when he and Esmerelda run straight into the iconic Titty Twister bar, dressed up like a frontier whorehouse this time around. Also along for the ride are a group of wagon travellers including a young newlywed couple (Rebecca Gayheart and Lennie Loftin), oddball Ezra (Orlando Jones) and the real life writer Ambrose Bierce, played with alcoholic grit and gallows humour by Michael Parks. Bierce is famous for actually disappearing somewhere in that area back then, and I like how the film cleverly weaves fact and fiction, putting in a commendable effort to make the turn of events fascinating beyond just a servicable horror level. Danny Trejo also returns, as he must, playing pretty much the same character he did in the first and second, never mind the fact that he keeps dying (you can’t really kill Danny, everyone knows this). I love the formula for these films; they always start out with a slower paced, pulp/crime style narrative that suddenly explodes into creature FX, blood orgies and vampire mayhem without much warning. The first was the bank robbers on the run with hostages, the second was the heist crew and the third is a rousing Desperado style actioner that morphs into the horror we all know is coming. Well produced with a lot of love and some real thought put into the story, exciting and provides more than enough for any horror fan. Definitely the better of the two sequels. 

Blood Father: A Review by Nate Hill 

Blood Father is the best I’ve seen from Mel Gibson in years. Between extended cameos in the Machete and Expendables franchises and the underwhelming Get The Gringo, there just hasn’t been a film in a while that I thoroughly enjoyed and felt that cinematic rush I used to feel when watching his older, classic stuff. This has it all: a rough, rugged story line, an older, grizzled and disarmingly jacked up Mel, and a surprising rose of an emotional core that’s embedded in a violent bed of thorns which serves as our narrative. Later in his career Mel has been playing older, meaner versions of antiheros from his past, and one gets the comforting feeling that any of these jaded brutes could be the unofficial versions of those very same characters. Desert dwelling excon tattoo artist John Link could easily be an older Porter, the protagonist from my favourite Gibson film, Payback. I’d like to think that such parallels are deliberate on the filmmaker’s part. Whoever he is, Link has a long and checkered past of broken bridges and incarceration, etched like a road map onto his shaggy visage. When his troubled teenage daughter (Erin Moriarty, terrific here as well as this year’s Captain Fantastic) re-enters his life on the run from her psycho cartel brat of a boyfriend (Diego Luna), the fire in Link is kindled. Taking her on the run, he goes into ultimate protective dad mode and let’s the old forges of violence burn bright once again, in hopes of finding some kind of redemption. William H. Macy hangs around as Link’s AA sponsor, but the real supporting gem comes from legendary Michael Parks as Preacher, a vile neo nazi scumbag and former associate of Gibson’s. He’s icky and repellant, but coos with Park’s patented purr and steals his sequence of the film menacingly. The action is down and dirty, reigned in by an obvious small budget, but that comes as a welcome gift in a genre hampered by big style fireworks that smother story. Not here. The crucial part of it is Link and his daughter, and their glib back and forth that just hides the pathos we get to see in full bloom near the end. We wouldn’t give a damn about the whole deal if their relationship, and the actor’s chemistry, didn’t work. Gibson and Moriarty knock it out of the trailer park. I couldn’t give a laminated shit about whatever Gibson did or said to piss so many people off. That’s seperate from the work he does and should be treated as such. Everyone who stifled and shunned him professionallly for something which occurred in his personal life should be flogged. Nevertheless, I hope we get to see more stuff like this from him moving forward. He’s a bit older, a bit more rough around the edges, but goddammit he’s still our Mel. 

KILL BILL VOLUME I – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“How did you find me?”

“I’m the man.”

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When you strip away all the genre and sub-genre elements from Quentin Taraninto’s KILL BILL VOLUME 1, what lies beneath is a heart wrenching story of a woman seeking vengeance against a former lover who tried to kill her, her unborn child, and her fiance and the new life she constructed after she fled from him.

What we end up with, is the genius of Quentin Tarantino. This film is a full on culmination (obsession, even) of everything that is Quentin Tarantino. His obsession with actors, westerns, kung-fu, women’s feet, popular music; absolutely everything he loves is smeared all over the screen. A faceless David Carradine, a sly Michael Parks, the resurrection of Sonny Chiba, an iconically cool Michael Madsen are all acute aspects that support the greatness of this film.

Tarantino uses the camera to make love to his muse, Uma Thurman, constructing one of the fiercest alpha females to ever be on screen. She’s a woman on a one way mission. She is going to lay waste to everything her path, as she slowly crosses names off her hit list, until she gets to her former master and lover Bill.

KILL BILL is a lot of fun to watch – Tarantino’s homages from Sergio Leone to Brian De Palma, his love for all aspects of cinema is blatant. It’s not just that love for cinema that makes his films such an explosion, but it’s also his love for pop culture, comic books, and music that creates such a fertile pallet for his films to create themselves upon.

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The short anime segment, explaining Lucy Liu’s background is supremely emotional! Perhaps even more emotional than most give it credit for. It’s heartbreaking! The beauty of Sonny Chiba crafting and passing his sword over to Uma Thurman so she can progress on her mission of vengeance; and one of the best action sequences in modern film that achieves it all without any explosions, monsters, or superheroes is an enormous cinematic feat.

This film really hits the mark on every level. Cinematography, stunts, editing, costume design, production design, sound design, original music by RZA; every single corner of every single frame of this film is fleshed out in full detail. It truly is a marvel to watch. At the core of this film, apart from all the sheen and the cinematic perfection, Tarantino delivers us his most heartfelt and emotional film to date.

Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof: A Review by Nate Hill 

Death Proof is… not the best flick in Quentin Tarantino’s career so far, but an entertaining little ride through the B movie corn nonetheless. It’s Quentin playing in the sandbox, and although he tends to fling it about too energetically in spots, and dawdle around listlessly in others, one can forgive such pacing issues when you consider how much fun it is for the most part. It also helps that his Grindhouse effort is heaps better than his pal Robert Rodriguez’s painfully lame Planet Terror, but that’s a whole other chestnut. Death Proof works mostly thanks to the bubbly, endlessly sexy performances from an extensive roster of irrisistable cbicks, and one gleefully evil bit of work from genre legend Kurt Russell, having a devilish blast as Stuntman Mike, a psychopath who batters helpless chicks to death as he rattles them around in his specially rigged vintage muscle car, primed for murder and ready to burn rubber straight to the ER. A fair chunk of the film is spent simply observing these girls talking, bickering, socializing and indulging in idiosyncratic pop culture banter that’s a facet of the Q Man himself. He loves to project his own affinities onto the written page and use them as backbones for his characters, and although that may be one of the core elements of screenwriting in itself, it’s always a little more pronounced with QT. Writers are books, but he is a popup book, always a tad more garish than the rest of the kids on the playground. I don’t wanna say that such lenghthy swaths of running time spent on girls chilling out isn’t fun (it’s captivating, especially with this bunch), but it is essential to the Grindhouse vibe they set out to emulate? A minor quibble, but a quibble all the same. To their credit, the girls are simply terrific. The first bunch include Rose McGowan’s angelic and short lived Pam, Sydney Poitier’s spunky radio DJ Jungle Julia, and Vanessa Ferlito’s wiseass Latina. The first act sees them run into Stuntman Mike in a roadhouse bar owned by Tarantino himself, who just can’t resist casting himself in his own shit lol. Oh well, at least he didn’t try an Australian accent this time around. The second time act we meet Rosario Dawson, stuntwoman Zoe Bell and cutesy pie Mary Elizabeth Winstead, all in the crosshairs of Mike’s radar, but this time he may be in way over his greaser hairdoed head. The vehicular mayhem is traditionalist and non CGI, and quite honestly a spectucalr firework show of blood, glass, metal and scorched asphalt. I just wish there was more of it, man. Sure, the character building with the gals is awesome, but it eclipses the action in gross proportion. A little balance between talky talky and vroom vroom would have been appreciated. Russell is a hoot in a role that was originally going to be played by Mickey Rourke. He just has that knowing gleam in his eye and good ol’ boy charm that makes it work so well, especially in a naughty little fourth wall break that shows you just how much Mike enjoys his sick little game of bumper cars. There’s characters that bleed in from Rodriguez’s side of the fence, including Michael Parks as the seemingly immortal Texas Ranger Earl Mcgraw, and Marley Shelton as his daughter. It’s a valiant effort, with plenty of Mad Max style merit and a seriously smoking lineup of luscious ladies. I just feel like he over fed certain ingredients to the pot when cooking this one up, and neglected others in areas. Still though, even average Tarantino is brilliant, and this one glows, if for a few dull spots. 

Top Ten Quentin Tarantino Characters: A Write Up by Nate Hill

Quentin Tarantino’s career has been vividly defined by all the beloved qualities which we hold dear in film: visuality, music, dialogue, emotion, conflict and especially character. His films contain some of the most captivating, idiosyncratic and unique people to ever grace the screen, played by an incredible lineup of actors, some of which he would go on to use time and time again. Below you will find my personal top ten picks from the rogues gallery of individuals who have appeared in his stories. Please keep in mind these are characters from films he has both written and directed only, not just ones he has written. Enjoy, and if you do, please share!

10. Zed, played by Peter Greene in Pulp Fiction. 

  

      Greene refused this part multiple times, causing Tarantino to hunt him down like a dog and basically beg him to play the role. When the director has a face in mind for a role and won’t quit like that, you’d better believe he’s gonna make magic with it if he ever manages to sway the actor. He does, and so does Greene, an actor with a distinct, sinister look who plays the absolute hell out of the character, spinning a small supporting turn into one of the most terrifying movie villains ever, and certainly the scariest character in Tarantino’s career. Everyone’s favourite redneck rapist sheriff, Greene leaves quite the unsettling impression with his work. 

9. Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, played by. Michael Parks in Kill Bill, Grindhouse and From Dusk Till Dawn

  

Tarantino casted underrated acting chameleon Parks as this character several times, each appearance resulting in pure gold. My personal favourite has to his bit in Kill Bill Volume 1, where he’s called to the El Paso wedding chapel massacre. Parks can literally play any part thrown his way, be it melodramatic French Canadian drug runner, neo-nazi hit man or the laconic southwestern lawman archetype, which he nails down to the detailed mannerisms here. McGraw is a lynchpin of Tarantino lore and an absolute pleasure to see every time he pops up. 

8. Captain Koons, played by Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction

  

Walken balances weirdness and gravity like no other, often blurring the lines between the two to amusing and touching effect. When given what is perhaps the juiciest monologue ever written by Tarantino, Walken gives us a mesmerizing account of his time in the war, and his efforts to protect a coveted family heirloom which he then presents, with much ceremony, to a young Butch Coolidge. The film halts the momentum dead in its tracks to allow Walken to do his thing, completely off the leash and inhabiting his own special corner of the beloved film. He’s unforgettable, and makes a two minute appearance speak the volumes of eons.   

7. Bill, played by David Carradine in Kill Bill

 

There’s a scene in Kill Bill Volume 2 where Uma Thurman discovers Bill waiting for her outside the wedding chapel, playing his pan flute. There’s an epic passage of Morricone music, and he looks her dead in the eye. Upon reviewing a rough cut, Tarantino turned to Carradine and said “I think this is your best moment of the film.” Carradine’s response was, “Hell, I think it’s the best moment of my whole career!.” Bill is a mythic, titular antagonist who is built up no end for the duration of the films, the ultimate badass villain, and when the climax arrives in the eleventh hour, Tarantino writes an exodus for the character that is far more personal, emotional and grounded than I imagine anyone saw coming. It’s a gift to Carradine and fans alike, a villain with depth and purpose who exists in a surreal comic book world where the people couldn’t be more human or real. Carradine purrs his way through the role of his career and on into legend. 

6. Budd, played by Michael Madsen in Kill Bill

  

Tarantino brings out the best in Madsen, a purely charismatic dude who unfortunately makes a lot on unwatchable junky poo movies these days, squandering his obvious talent. This is is shining hour, playing Budd as a bitter backwater kid and younger sibling, nearing the end of his road and fermenting in bitter loneliness way out in the California desert. Madsen channels tough guys of the golden age as Budd, a rotten son of a bitch with a glint of humanity showing through his booze-dimmed eyes. 

5. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds

  

Quite possibly the most entertaining villain in Tarantino’s work, due the the exuberant and absolutely committed performance of Waltz, in a trailblazing turn that would put him on the map in a big way. Beaming from ear to ear in almost every scene with a charming grin that dissipates occasionally, showing traces of the spider beneath, he’s a wonder in the role, a nazi A-hole rotten straight to the core. He doesn’t even possess any constitution or debt of faith in the cause which his smartly emblazoned SS uniform advertises; he’s in it for himself only, which is one more despicable quality to add to the list of traits one might use to define him. Perhaps the biggest Basterd of them all, and a joy to watch. 

4. Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction

  

Pulp Fiction kickstarted Travolta’s career back into gear in a huge way, and it’s easy to see why as we watch his Elvis-esque slickster prance about the screen with effortless, heroin addled coolness and one hell of a dance sequence. His hair deserves its own spinoff film, he steals scenes by simply laying low and playing the dude with flair that never makes itself overly known. 

3. Mr. Blonde, payed by Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs

  

A stone cold psycho to the bone, Madsen relishes in brining this cop killing sadist to life, and dancing his way through one of the most iconic Tarantino scenes to date. Madsen has a rumbling threat to his work, a paced, portentous vibe that suggests the onset of a dangerous storm, but always seems to veer on the edge. With Mr. Blonde he crosses that line and shows us what a true madman looks like, without even raising his voice above a willowy growl. A class act in violent behaviour that laced with the blackest humour that we feel bad for laughing at. Mr. Blonde all the way. 

2. Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction

  

A rain of hellfire awaits any viewer who has the privilege of seeing Jackson bellow forth biblical fury in his first collaboration with Tarantino. He’s the life of the party in Pulp Fiction, an articulate, relentless loudmouth with a character arc that amusingly negates his belligerent nature and makes Jules all the more fascinating for it. Jack sonics at his most magnetic when he’s in Tarantino films, and this is mile zero, baby. Not for a second does the spark leave his eye, or the threat of violence evaporate from his wake. Criminals who ruminate on life, love and cunnilingus have become a goldmine for writers post Tarantino, and one which he only mined the first nuggets of. Jackson is ground zero for the character type, and fires it up in a way which none of us will ever forget. 

1. The Bride a.k.a. Beatrix Kiddo, played by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

  

Tarantino’s muse has been Uma Thurman since the days of Pulp Fiction, and here he writes a titanic revenge epic in which the actress gets to bare her claws and sink her teeth into the single most affecting and arrest in female role that he has ever written, also forging the best, or at least my favourite performance from any actor or actress in his films. The Bride is the revenge archetype, an angry blonde angel forsaken by her lover and dead set on a bloody warpath. Tarantino isn’t above writing in moments of stirring emotion, including the final twenty minutes of Volume two which is Thurman’s showcase piece as an actress and an achingly appropriate send-off for The Bride, as well as the one which she deserves. 
Thanks for reading, more to come!