Clancy Brown

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e06 – The Prisoner

It is a dark time for “The Adventures of Baby Yoda.” Second lackluster episode in as many weeks, with the show creators really thinking anyone cares about the adventures of “Mando the Mandalorian” Pedro Pascal when he’s not being an adorable dad with Baby Yoda. This episode’s director, Rick Famuyiwa, isn’t much better than last episode’s director—and as far as the use of wipes to move between characters, in real-time, meaning a wipe every minute and a half, is the worst creative decision in “The Mandalorian” so far. Whether it’s Famuyiwa or editor Jeff Seibenick’s idea, it’s a terrible device and kills any suspense in the scenes. Though it’s unclear if there’d be suspense in the scenes given the middling Ludwig Göransson music and the ineffectual sound design.

What’s so bewildering about “Mandalorian”’s recent fails is how obvious they’ve been. This episode has Pascal teaming up with some space mercenaries to do a heist. There’s humanoid leader Bill Burr, who manages to give one of the episode’s better performances just because he’s not awkwardly bad. There’s Richard Ayoade voicing a really boring insect-headed droid (I think I had the figure). Then there’s Clancy Brown as a devil alien with horns. He’s terrible. And it seems like he’s terrible because his makeup is done in such a way he can move his facial muscles. As for other aliens Natalia Tena and Ismael Cruz Cordova, whether they’re bad because of the makeup or the performances, it doesn’t matter. Famuyiwa and company’s lack of interest in having good performances is aggravating, especially since there’s so little Baby Yoda and so many minutes (at forty-three minutes, The Prisoner is the longest episode so far).

Mark Boone Junior shows up as the heist planner. He’s okay, though completely phoning it in. They also credit him as “Mark Boone Jr.,” which isn’t his name but whatever. They don’t have to be accurate or even good. They know if you’re hooked on Baby Yoda, you’ll keep showing up.

Actually, when you think about it, they didn’t know everyone would be hooked on Baby Yoda because Jon Favreau really thought people wanted to watch him play with his classic Kenner Star Wars figures.

But it’s concerning bad Famuyiwa does with the direction. It’s a kind of intensely pedestrian and makes me want to avoid his other work. Very different from the previous directors (oh, wait, the women), whose direction encouraged interest.

Shoot to Kill (1988, Roger Spottiswoode)

Shoot to Kill is an exceptionally bland action thriller. It shouldn’t be bland–there’s a decent concept to it. Kirstie Alley is a wilderness guide, cut off from the outside world, and one of her obnoxious fly-fishing white male character actors is secretly a killer. Who will it be? Richard Masur? Clancy Brown? Andy Robinson?

Unfortunately, Shoot has almost nothing to with Robinson, Brown, Masur or even Alley. It’s all about Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger out to save Alley and stop the unknown killer. Berenger’s a rugged mountain man, Poitier’s a street smart FBI agent. Only neither of them ever gets to exhibit their skills. They both bumble because it perturbs the plot and creates opportunities for drama. Director Spottiswoode captures that drama in the blandest way possible, composing his Panavision frame for eventual VHS pan and scanning. Shoot to Kill is one of those eighties action movies so ineptly directed–with Spottiswoode wasting Michael Chapman’s photography–it probably plays better on an eleven-inch, standard definition television.

With commercial breaks.

It does seem like it should be better though. Poitier and Berenger certainly seem respectable and, to some extent, they are. They just don’t have characters to play. Alley’s the most convincing just because she’s able to suggest her character’s relationship with Berenger, even though they don’t have any establishing scenes.

And Poitier’s in trouble right from the start. He’s got this huge FBI stand-off at the beginning and it does nothing to establish his character as anything but a sensitive, hard-working bumbler. At least when Berenger bumbles, he falls off a mountain or something. Not Poitier. He just screws something up and Spottiswoode doesn’t go for a reaction shot because Poitier can’t be self-aware or the script doesn’t work.

Though the script–from Harv Zimmel, Michael Burton and Daniel Petrie Jr.–rarely works. For its better moments, Shoot to Kill gets away with it because (even though Spottiswoode wastes them) it has good locations, whether the mountains or Vancouver. Standing in for Vancouver. The San Francisco stuff doesn’t work out.

Bad music from John Scott doesn’t help anything.

The cast, misdirected and occasionally miscast, is professional. They make the film nearly tolerable, until it collapses. Even when an action set piece should be good, Spottiswoode screws it up. It’s not really his fault in some ways; the whole thing is misguided and poorly produced.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode; screenplay by Harv Zimmel, Michael Burton and Daniel Petrie Jr., based on a story by Zimmel; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by George Bowers and Garth Craven; music by John Scott; production designer, Richard Sylbert; produced by Ron Silverman and Petrie; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Sidney Poitier (Warren Stantin), Tom Berenger (Jonathan Knox), Kirstie Alley (Sarah Rennell), Clancy Brown (Steve), Frederick Coffin (Ralph), Richard Masur (Norman), Andrew Robinson (Harvey), Kevin Scannell (Ben), Michael MacRae (Fournier), Milton Selzer (Mr. Berger), Les Lannom (Sheriff Arnett), Robert Lesser (Minelli) and Walter Marsh (Sam Baker).


A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, Samuel Bayer)

Watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, I can’t believe remake director Bayer ever saw any of the original movies. Because he doesn’t even want to borrow the better techniques of those films. He instead goes with a thoughtless approach to the film. Specifically, the dream stuff. He doesn’t have any interest in it. Not just as narrative possibility or narrative tricks to play on the audience, things to get them to think about to get a built-up scare instead of a jump scare. Bayer doesn’t even have interest in the effects. He’s cashing a check and doesn’t have the professionalism to feign interest.

The script’s terrible, but it’s clear Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer are familiar with the original movies. They try to make it more realistic and try to exploit little kids. They succeed with the latter, which makes for an unpleasant viewing experience (though it’s “funny” how prime time procedurals desensitized audiences better than slasher movies ever could have). The script just uses tragedy to fuel the characters because they have nothing else. The film’s universally badly acted, but there’s not a single well-written part.

Also, the script’s arranged poorly. Strick and Heisserer try to show off plot feints, but they’re obvious ones. Maybe if Bayer were doing anything but he’s not, except dressing Katie Cassidy like an eighties Barbie doll. It’s the only time in Nightmare I actually thought Bayer was trying, but I’m not sure. Maybe it was coincidence. Anyway, with the eventual reveal, it’s clear the film should’ve at least had a more natural flow.

So real bad acting from the following–Kellan Lutz, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy. Bad acting but in completely the wrong part from Kyle Gallner and Jackie Earle Haley. These two are exceptionally miscast. It’s kind of hilarious how little anyone actually tried making this movie any good.

And Rooney Mara’s almost okay. She goes from really bad to not as bad to deserving of pity. She and Gallner’s arc is rough going as far as what Mara gets to do with scenes.

There’s no reason a Nightmare on Elm Street remake couldn’t be good. This film’s problems are all ones it intentionally, maliciously and not, brings to the table on its own.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Samuel Bayer; screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, based on a story by Strick and characters created by Wes Craven; director of photography, Jeff Cutter; edited by Glen Scantlebury; music by Steve Jablonsky; production designer, Patrick Lumb; produced by Bradley Fuller, Michael Bay and Andrew Form; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Rooney Mara (Nancy Holbrook), Kyle Gallner (Quentin Smith), Thomas Dekker (Jesse Braun), Katie Cassidy (Kris Fowles), Kellan Lutz (Dean Russell), Lia D. Mortensen (Nora Fowles), Connie Britton (Dr. Gwen Holbrook), Clancy Brown (Alan Smith) and Jackie Earle Haley (Freddy Krueger).


Pathfinder (2007, Marcus Nispel), the unrated version

If Pathfinder weren’t so long, it might be more amusing. For the first hour, it’s actually rather tolerable. It’s not any good, of course, but the story of this Native American tribe encountering invading Vikings does look good. There’s decent photography from Daniel Pearl and director Nispel, for all his problems, does compose the wilderness shots well.

But then the Vikings, led by the Kurgan–Clancy Brown in the film’s “best” performance–capture the hero (Karl Urban) and his lady friend (Moon Bloodgood). The sequence goes on forever, with Nispel borrowing action thrills out of Predator, Cliffhanger and probably Commando, only without knowing how to direct them.

Nispel’s inability to shoot action–he thinks making it gory covers him–is one of the biggest problems with Pathfinder. Another big problem is how stupid it gets. Having the Vikings be the villains sounds like an action figure play set from the seventies–Vikings vs. Indians–but, if the filmmakers played it straight, might at least be interesting as a “what if” thing. Instead, as my wife pointed out, they turned the Vikings into Klingons, complete with vicious dogs.

Will the hero–I forgot, Urban was a Viking lad stranded during their previous invasion who grew up with the Native people–battle Kurgan of the Klingons? Will he save Bloodgood? Will the movie ever end?

Urban’s got a terribly written part but he’s better than Bloodgood. No one’s worse than Russell Means. Jay Tavare’s nearly okay.

Pathfinder’s a terrible movie. Boring too.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Marcus Nispel; screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the film by Nils Gaup; director of photography, Daniel Pearl; edited by Jay Friedkin and Glen Scantlebury; edited by Jonathan Elias; production designer, Greg Blair; produced by Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and Nispel; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Karl Urban (Ghost), Moon Bloodgood (Starfire), Russell Means (Pathfinder), Ralf Moeller (Ulfar), Jay Tavare (Blackwing), Nathaniel Arcand (Wind In Tree), Kevin Loring (Jester) and Clancy Brown (Gunnar).


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984, W.D. Richter)

Buckaroo Banzai‘s greatest contribution to cinema–well, if it didn’t get Peter Weller the Robocop role at least–is as a warning against trying to adapt authors like Thomas Pynchon to motion pictures. Banzai goes out of its way–the Pynchon references are well-known, to the point Pynchon even referenced Banzai in a novel (Vineland)–and it’s not hard to imagine the film as a novel being a lot better. If the novelist were good, anyway.

But as a film, it’s mostly an example with what’s… maybe not wrong, but what’s lacking in the medium. Richter and writer Rauch are enthusiastic to a fault and do a good job–unintentionally, I assume, but maybe it’s another joke–making Banzai feel like there’s something else going on… when in truth, there’s not.

The film’s absence of subtext or genuine human conflict doesn’t work with Richter’s otherwise fine direction. Richter painstakingly tries not to let it get absurd, when absurd is about all you can do with a New Wave Doc Savage retread.

The script doesn’t allow for much in the way of performances. Weller’s solid in the lead, but nothing spectacular. Ellen Barkin is wasted as the almost always offscreen love interest, same goes for John Lithgow’s alien Mussolini. Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd have nothing to do–the film’s only really impressive performance is from Lewis Smith.

Even Clancy Brown disappoints.

I’m curious if they acknowledged they were trying to sell America a science hero–America hates smart guys.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by W.D. Richter; written by Earl Mac Rauch; director of photography, Fred J. Koenekamp; edited by George Bowers and Richard Marks; music by Michael Boddicker; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Neil Canton and Richter; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai), John Lithgow (Lord John Whorfin), Ellen Barkin (Penny Priddy), Jeff Goldblum (New Jersey), Christopher Lloyd (John Bigboote), Lewis Smith (Perfect Tommy), Rosalind Cash (John Emdall), Robert Ito (Professor Hikita), Pepe Serna (Reno Nevada), Clancy Brown (Rawhide), William Traylor (General Catburd), Carl Lumbly (John Parker), Vincent Schiavelli (John O’Connor) and Dan Hedaya (John Gomez).


The Informant! (2009, Steven Soderbergh)

How does Steven Soderbergh pick projects–more, what kind of artist’s statement would he make? The Informant! is his best film–among all his other rather good films–in a while and it owes more to what he learned on Ocean’s Eleven 12 and 13 than on any of his other films. It’s a great time, but it’s a great time with a bunch of humanity. I think I’ve said it before, but one can look at a Soderbergh film and see where he’s learned something from a previous effort but this identification doesn’t hinder the work at all. It’s still brilliant, even if it’s clear he developed some approach or method from, say, Solaris.

I knew, off the bat, The Informant! was going to be amazing for a couple reasons. First, the opening titles. It looks like The Conversation, only with the titles in this goofy font. Then, the music. Marvin Hamlisch. The score’s this amazingly fun, vibrant, colorful thing of its own. It’s incredible to see a nearly mainstream picture with this kind of approach. It makes up for Matt Damon wasting his time in those Bourne movies.

Damon’s performance in the film probably has to be his best, if only because he too is mixing genres. He’s creating a real person, but with all the humor stuff he learned in the Ocean’s films. And Soderbergh’s use of Scott Bakula against type as a sensitive FBI agent.

Or Melanie Lynskey’s outstanding performance as Damon’s wife.

A fantastic film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Steven Soderbergh; written by Scott Z. Burns, based on the book by Kurt Eichenwald; director of photography, Peter Andrews; edited by Stephen Mirrione; music by Marvin Hamlisch; production designer, Doug J. Meerdink; produced by Gregory Jacobs, Jennifer Fox, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein and Eichenwald; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Matt Damon (Mark Whitacre), Scott Bakula (Agent Brian Shepard), Joel McHale (Bob Herndon), Melanie Lynskey (Ginger Whitacre), Thomas F. Wilson (Mark Cheviron), Allan Havey (Dean Paisley), Patton Oswalt (Ed Herbst), Scott Adsit (Sid Hulse), Eddie Jemison (Kirk Schmidt), Clancy Brown (Aubrey Daniel), Richard Steven Horvitz (Bob Zaideman) and Tony Hale (James Epstein).


Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009, Sam Liu)

I’m sure there are some hardcore gay comics less homoerotic than Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman, so the prospect of seeing it as a cartoon was irresistible. While Warner Premiere ostensibly intends their latest line of animated DC Comics adaptations for “adults” (i.e. men in their twenties and thirties with the discretionary income to waste it on a Blu-Ray of a poorly illustrated cartoon), these films are timed for eventual Cartoon Network airing–seventy minutes or less.

And Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is just as gloriously homoerotic as an animated movie as it was as a comic book. It’s a shame there’s no make-out scene.

The comic book also directly equated George W. Bush to a homicidal, drug-addicted maniac. Maybe the movie doesn’t go as far–Clancy Brown sounds way too smart–but it comes close. It’s something to see something geared, essentially, towards kids portray the President of the United States as a power mad psychopath, out to ruin the world for his own profit. It’s a little problematic (there’s no Dick Cheney analog in the movie), but it’s something.

Between the politics and the super-gay superheroes, the countless defects are almost forgotten. But not really.

Based on Ed McGuinness’s art, Public Enemies looks cheaper than an advertisement for Hostess fruit pies on afternoon television. It’s got some awful CG, but the composition is generally all right.

Brown is good, Tim Daly is good–Kevin Conroy is lost.

It’s a decent conversation piece, not a movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Liu; screenplay by Stan Berkowitz, based on a comic book by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness and characters created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, C.C. Beck and Bob Kane; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Bobbie Page; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman), Allison Mack (Power Girl), John C. McGinley (Metallo), Xander Berkeley (Captain Atom), LeVar Burton (Black Lightning), Ricardo Chavira (Major Force), Jerry O’Connell (Captain Marvel), Robert Patrick (Hawkman) and CCH Pounder (Amanda Waller).


Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven)

The only “real” pro-war movie I can think of is The Green Berets. But Starship Troopers is also pro-war, even if it’s, well, startlingly so. I mean, the scene where Casper Van Dien grins after getting his battlefield promotion, following a colleague’s horrific death, is a fine example.

What Verhoeven does here, in Starship Troopers, is directed the finest made “science fiction” film–and those quotations just generalize, meaning a film set in the future in space with spaceships–since 2001. Really. No one else has ever done as competent of space scenes since Kubrick. It’s stunning. Verhoeven’s no innovator here–he borrows liberally from 2001, the Star Wars movies (a little) and the Star Trek movies (a lot)–but he mixes them together into something astounding. I once called, without being familiar with the novel, Starship Troopers the sci-fi hit (i.e. the Star Wars) if the Nazis had won. And it is–not just in terms of setting (the gloriously fascist future), but in terms of its approach to narrative. Neumeier and Verhoeven do an amazing job with this film’s structure–it’s impossible not to cheer at the end and never to once question what one’s cheering.

Even the cardboard acting from “90210” and “Melrose Place” guest stars (Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards and Patrick Muldoon all appeared on those Shakespearian actor spawning grounds) is somehow perfect–Starship Troopers is certainly Verhoeven’s best film since Robocop and the most deceptively postmodern blockbuster film ever made.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Verhoeven; screenplay by Edward Neumeier, based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Jost Vacano; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Caroline Ross; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Alan Marshall and Jon Davison; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim), Seth Gilliam (Sugar Watkins), Patrick Muldoon (Zander Barcalow), Michael Ironside (Jean Rasczak), Rue McClanahan (Biology Teacher), Marshall Bell (General Owen) and Brenda Strong (Captain Deladier).


Highlander (1986, Russell Mulcahy)

Almost nothing in Highlander works. There’s the maniac driving scene at the end, that one works pretty well–with the exception of the unrelated car crashes cut in. In that scene, Clancy Brown really embraces the absurdity of his role and Russell Mulcahy shoots Roxanne Hart so well, she can’t help but be good (to be fair, all she has to do is scream). There are also some good transitions (the fish tank and the Mona Lisa fade). Michael Kamen’s score has its high points (though he recycled a lot of it in Die Hard), the Queen music’s good.

But otherwise?

It’s an incompetent mess. The script’s a joke–the kind of thing a bunch of twelve year-old boys would come up with. Even if there were good moments in the script, someone would ruin them. Mulcahy cannot convey a narrative. He’s a beautiful director, but his use of wide angle, perception-distorting lenses is silly. Lots of Highlander looks like great montage shots, except they’re used in continuous action instead. Hart’s bad. Christopher Lambert’s performance is astounding. His subsequent career–not to mention his fan base–is inexplicable. And the way Mulcahy directs him? Highlander could play as a comedy, if it weren’t so well-lighted by cinematographer Gerry Fisher. Peter Honess’s editing is also sublime.

Some credit has to be given to the production for its ability to overlook its own stupidity. Nothing in the film–down to the impromptu homophobia, the chatty skid row motel clerk or the survivalist (who cruises Manhattan looking for trouble)–is ever insincere. The filmmakers really think they’re producing quality product here. It’s just too humorless for them to think otherwise.

Highlander suffers from being a dumb idea, poorly written, then poorly produced. I first saw Highlander, like most other people, on video (or maybe it was HBO… I think Highlander was an HBO hit). Maybe the movie’s just more suited for a nine year-old’s intellect (which does not explain why it gained a following of adults, of course), but it seems to just get more unimpressive with each viewing. I last saw it maybe eight years ago and was still a lot more impressed with the final sword fight. I don’t know what I was thinking, since there’s no suspense to it (Lambert never gets hit) and it’s really rather short.

With the possible exception of the Scottish clan battle at the beginning, the movie’s lack of epic scope is sort of surprising. The urban setting doesn’t lend itself, I suppose. This time, I made sure to watch the theatrical version, which is much less stupid than the director’s cut. Now, that thought’s scary… that Highlander could be even stupider.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; screenplay by Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood and Larry Ferguson, based on a story by Widen; director of photography, Gerry Fisher; edited by Peter Honess; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Roxanne Hart (Brenda J. Wyatt), Clancy Brown (Victor Kruger), Sean Connery (Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez), Beatie Edney (Heather MacLeod), Alan North (Lieutenant Frank Moran), Jon Polito (Det. Walter Bedsoe), Sheila Gish (Rachel Ellenstein) and Hugh Quarshie (Sunda Kastagir).


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