Tag Archives: tiny lister

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown runs right around two and a half hours, and if you were to go through the film and separate all the scenes that are directly about the central plot specifics from the ones that are simply characters hanging out, shooting the shit and socializing, you’d probably cut the film in half. There’s a lesson I was taught in film school and it goes something like “every scene in the script must serve/move the plot and anything that doesn’t must go.” Well, I get the creative sentiment there but it’s often much more complicated than that, and often very subjective what one person will distill personally from a scene and use for their appreciation of the story overall versus another person being bored by it. In the case of Jackie Brown, I absolutely loved each and every laidback scene of breezy character development. These people start talking about movies, weed, cars, guns, the city or anything offhand and slowly, gradually they shift into what the story is about, which is the genius of Tarantino’s screenplay, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch.

As the titular Jackie Brown, Pam Grier gives the performance of her career as a desperate middle aged career woman trying to score a little extra loot for herself, and getting trapped between a rock and a hard place in the process. She smuggles cash in from Mexico for low rent arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a fast talking psychopath who enlists his newly released ex con pal Louis (Robert De Niro) into helping him out with the latest gig. Also involved is Ordell’s beach bunny stoner girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda), a low level thug on his payroll (Chris Tucker) and stoic, sad eyed bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). All these players shuffle around the LA chessboard, often lazily and in no rush and it’s these scenes that give the film its lifeblood. Jackie and Max find compassion, solace and bittersweet romance together, Tarantino let’s them circle each other in no great hurry and later in the film when they do share a kiss it’s just the most beautiful, well built up moment. Grier comes from a blaxploitation background and it’s apparent in her performance, but we also get the sense that this operates on a real plane, much more so than many other Tarantino films. Forster is always noble, observant and calm in most of his career, there’s a few obscure manic performances from him out there but for the most part he underplays his work. Max has to be his best creation, a steely journeyman dude who’s seen enough and wants something new in his life, something he finds in Jackie as he falls in love with her literally at first sight.

This is a character piece, and in addition to Grier and Forster we get incredibly vivid, funny and idiosyncratic work from all involved. Jackson is hysterical as the most verbose cat of the bunch, he’s also scarier than Jules in Pulp Fiction too. DeNiro plays Louis as a dim-headed fuck-up who seems to be playing dumb to stealth people, then seems to actually be thick again until we’re just not sure right up until the hilarious last few beats of his arc that result in some of the funniest black comedy I’ve ever seen. Fonda let’s a stoned veneer hide a deep resentment and hatred for pretty much everyone around her until she takes it one step too far and pays for it hilariously. Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen show up doing a flawless good cop bad cop routine as a local Detective and an ATF agent on both Jackie’s and Ordell’s trail. Watch for Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister and genre veteran Sid Haig as well.

I get conflicted when ranking this amongst other Tarantino films because he’s adapting someone else’s work and therefore it’s not purely his creation, which is always when his most energetic and inspired stuff happens. Jackie Brown is a masterpiece and one of my favourite films, no doubt. But it’s Tarantino doing something else, chilling out in the pool and letting this cast of characters hang out too, in bars, beach apartments, cars, cluttered offices, malls and airports. There’s no great momentum or surge behind this story, it’s all very laconic and easy breezy, which is the strongest quality. But it just as much feels like a Leonard story as it does Tarantino, which works too. His crazy, wild style and pop culture obsessions are given a modest track to race around because of Leonard’s low key, slow burn dialogue aesthetic and the resulting flavour is so good it’s almost perfect. But it’s not just Quentin at the helm. Whatever your thoughts on that and comparisons with this film next to the ones he’s both written and directed, there’s no arguing that this is a beautiful, hilarious, touching, suspenseful, romantic classic of the crime genre.

-Nate Hill

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Renny Harlin’s Prison

Before Lord Of The Rings shot him into the stardom we know today, Viggo Mortensen had one oddball of a career leading up to it. Between playing the Devil, appearing in one of the more bizarre Texas Chainsaw sequels and training Demi Moore to be the first female Navy Seal he did Renny Harlin’s Prison, a little known, low budget horror flick that’s actually quite a lot of fun. A slick, schlocky hybrid between classic grassroots prison films and effects heavy gore of the 80’s, it sees an ancient precinct becoming haunted by the ghost of a long dead inmate who got the chair, perhaps wrongfully. The Warden (Lane Smith) is an angry old prick whose demons are coming back full force and he’s taking it out on the convicts big time. Mortensen is Burke, a mysterious con with integrity and grit who helps out when he can doesn’t stand for the warden’s bullshit. Chelsea Field is a prison board member who gets swept up in the whole thing and watch for Tom Everett, Kane Hodder, Lincoln Kilpatrick and Tiny Lister too. Smith plays the Warden not as so many have done like an outright sadistic villain, more a severely stressed out career man who has turned ugly overtime and started to project his frustrations in the most damaging ways, given his position of power. This is very low budget stuff and it shows, but there are still some striking set pieces including a solitary cell that heats up like a red hot furnace and fries those inside gruesomely and a string of barbed wire that comes to live and wreaks all kinds of havoc. Harlin made his debut here and it’s a strong one, he makes exciting decisions with the actors and handles the horror excellently. I could have used a tad more backstory on Mortensen’s character as some more exposition regarding the ghost convict, but other than that this is a blast.

-Nate Hill

Jim Kouf’s Gang Related

Jim Belushi and Tupac Shakur are an odd pairing on paper to star in a cop flick together, but they’re extremely effective in Jim Kouf’s Gang Related, a twisty neo-noir with a great cast and a few tricks up its sleeve. They play two inner city detectives who are corrupt, but the script doesn’t treat them with the same jaded judgment and moustache twirling villainy that some dirty cops get in Hollywood, there’s a surprising empathy towards them especially in Tupac’s performance. After they accidentally murder an undercover DEA agent, they try to frame a nearby homeless man (Dennis Quaid), coach a few witnesses and make it seem like they were never involved. Things get spectacularly messy when they discover that Quaid’s disheveled hobo isn’t just a nobody and there are people in high places, not to mention both the DEA and gang factions coming after their morally duplicitous asses. It’s kind of like a reap what you sow tale, these two guys aren’t especially nasty characters, but they did commit a really shady act and now the proverbial karmic dildo has come back to royally fuck them. Belushi is the tougher, more unflappable veteran who is more willing to compromise his soul with the cover up, while Tupac is the younger, more impressionable cop and fears the road he’s being led down, and well he should. They both put in fantastic performances, while Quaid does well against type and the three of them are supported by Tiny Lister, David Paymer, Lela Rochon, Wendy Crewson, Gary Cole and James Earl Jones. A solid urban crime thriller, fairly overlooked as well.

-Nate Hill

Jack Sholder’s Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies

Everyone knows the expression ‘go fuck yourself.’ But can anyone think of a film where that actually, physically… happens? Well it happens in Jack Sholder’s Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. I’ll get to that in a minute. Robert Kurtzman’s original supernatural splatter-fest is a supremely underrated horror flick with a concept that pretty much begs for sequels, and while there’s a bunch, only this one is really worth checking out. The success of these really hinges on Andrew Divoff’s deliciously sinister performance as the ancient evil Djinn, a being who tricks people into making wishes which he grants on his own terms, before harvesting the unwitting soul of the wisher to fuel his powerful dark magic. Raspy voiced, narrow eyed and dripping with dangerous charisma, Divoff is a scene stealer and whoever decided to recast him for Wishmasters 3 and 4 should be fired, but in any case those two aren’t worth checking out. This one sees the Djinn get inadvertently woken up by a cat burglar (Holly Fields) during a botched robbery. In sneaky human form he calmly takes credit for the crime and deliberately goes to prison where he can reap all those juicy repeat offender souls and take advantage of how dumb they all are. It’s a cool setting and gives actors like Paul Johansson and legendary Tiny Lister (who is in every movie ever, apparently) a chance to play assholes who get in the Djinn’s way, but it’s Divoff’s show all the way. Now, the part you’ll want to hear about. During a meeting with his lawyer, an uncooperative felon (Robert Lasardo) makes the ill conceived wish that the attorney should ‘go fuck himself.’ The Djinn, never one to not put on a good show, works his magic and moments later… well. The lawyer gruesomely bends backwards in a way no human is meant to and quite literally does in fact fuck himself. It’s quite a thing to have suddenly show up in your otherwise run of the mill horror sequel, simultaneously surreal, awkward, outrageous and, if you have a sense of humour as demented as I do, pretty goddam hilarious. The film overall does the trick, I mean it doesn’t have the charm, chutzpah or awesome genre cameos of Kurtzman’s balls out original, but it’s still pretty sweet.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Soulkeeper

Soulkeeper is a diamond in the rough, in the sense that it has all the trappings of a forgettable trashy B grade flick, and ends up being something way more fun and adventurous than it has any right to be. Dressed up like your average schlocky horror fling, it also carries a cheeky Indiana Jones vibe with it’s two treasure seeking bro-tagonists and all the right character actors showing up in all the right places. The two renegade brothers are after an ancient relic from the age of Simon Magus (he shows up briefly too) and all that hocus pocus, an artifact that is valuable beyond anything but also has the power to bring evil souls and demon spirits back from the underworld, which naturally causes all kinds of gory chaos for everyone later. It’s super duper fun, with evil curses bringing forth all kinds of gooey special effects, in the tradition of everyone from Joe Dante to Sam Raimi. Then there’s the eclectic genre cast: Brad Dourif does a hysterical Vincent Price pastiche as an eccentric archeologist, Robert Davi charms as the ghost of some Italian nobleman who guides our heroes here and there, Michael Ironside literally phones in a cameo a lá Charlie’s Angels as the mysterious employee of their mission, and watch for Tiny Lister as well as the late great Karen Black too. This won’t go down in history as one of the greats, but you can certainly do a lot worse in terms of this genre and budget range, it’s pure horror/fantasy/adventure escapism. Oh and if you can score a DVD somewhere it comes with a wicked cool retro cover slip with an awesome hologram 3D poster where one of the many gruesome monsters leers out at you. Cool stuff.

-Nate Hill

Barb Wire


Bear with me here for a sec while I say this, but Barb Wire is actually a genuinely great flick. Based on a kinky Tank Girl-esque comic book and boasting a busty starring turn from Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, it’s got a lot more going for it than the porn vibes the poster probably gives off at first glance. Picture this: Pam is Barb, night club owning bounty hunter in a Neo-fascist futuristic American industrial town called Steel Harbour, ducking gestapo style soldiers and playing the double agent against a government gone rogue. She’s propelled back into action when her former boyfriend Axel (Temuerra ‘Jango Fett’ Morrison) blows back into town with fellow freedom fighter Cora D (Victoria Rowell). Barb is now faced with protecting her club, extricating all of her friends to a safe haven in Canada (come on up) and battling the forces of supremely evil Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback, chewing the scenery and then some). It’s a total blast of perverse steampunk mayhem, Pam solidly playing a badass heroine who’s fun to hang around with. Udo Kier shows up as her friend and club manager Curly, eccentric as ever, and watch for Clint Howard, Nils Allen Stewart, Jack Noseworthy, Xander Berkeley and Tiny Lister as well. Not half as much of a novelty or gimmicky film as some would have you believe, this one actually takes itself seriously for the most part and proves to be a solid genre effort. Good times. 

-Nate Hill

Little Nicky


I’ve never been one to actively nab the Adam Sandler flicks off the rental shelf, but even he has made the occasional winner, one of the best being Little Nicky. For some reason it’s panned over other far worse ones he’s churned out of the gumball machine (ever re-watch Billy Madison? What the fuck were we/they thinking back then?), but when you part the curtains of Sandler Stigma™ and really just look at what the movie is in itself, it’s a hoot. What other film can boast Rodney Dangerfield playing Harvey Keitel’s dad in hell? That’s right, Keitel is the red beast himself, coming down off a ten thousand year unholy monarchy, with no plans to retire. This infuriates his two wicked sons, played by Tiny Lister (must have been a different devil-mom) and a slick Rhys Ifans. They depart the inferno and set up their own devilish franchise up in New York City, raising all kinds of hell, the most amusing of which is lowering the drinking age to ten (where were these guys when I was that age?) and forcing Regis Philbin to say naughty things on live primetime. Their younger, slightly retarded brother Nicky (Sandler) must pursue them on their haunts and trap them in a magic flask before it’s too late. Dumb concept, right? Sure it is, but try and tell me it’s not hilarious m, especially with the amount of inane visual gags and trippy production design these folks have dreamed up. Between Hitler dressed as a slutty maid getting a pineapple repeatedly rammed up his rectum to a giant gorilla massaging mammaries that have sprouted on a dude’s head like fleshy succulent pigtails, there’s no shortage of wtf moments. Sander picks an odd character mask as usual, sporting a metal-head swoosh of a haircut and lisping his way through his lines sounding like he had a stroke from watching Billy Madison dailies one too many times. Patricia Arquette is in it, as a sweet, shy girl he meets topside and the closest thing to a sane person you’ll find in this madhouse. Cameos abound, from usual Sandler cronies like Jon Lovitz, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Peter Dante and Allen Covert, to randoms like Michael McKean, Clint Howard, Laura Harring, Henry Winkler, Ozzy Osborne, Reese Witherspoon as Nicky’s angelic mom and Quentin Tarantino as a blind preacher. I don’t really know what else to say about the thing, because its it’s own thing and you either rock out with it, or you don’t. Visually it’s never boring, the script was conceived in the toilet and jumped straight to the gutter, the performances are all garishly obnoxious and the overall tone is that of an sixth grade birthday party gone rogue. 

-Nate Hill