Miguel Ferrer

DeepStar Six (1989, Sean S. Cunningham)

DeepStar Six is a bad looking movie. There’s maybe one decent special effects moment–very limited, slightly gory–and it comes at the end, after the film has flubbed bigger effects sequences and other gore moments. Director Cunningham pretends he’s doing “Jaws at the ocean floor” for a while, though it’s never even clear if there’s one monster or multiple ones. Because it’s not a shark, it’s some prehistoric crab thing.

Except the prehistoric crab thing looks like a fifties sci-fi alien mixed with Audrey II. And really cheap. Cunningham and editor David Handman do try to hide the cheapness, but they can’t. Worse, they cut away from the monster so often, it’d be preferable for them to just embrace the cheap and have the thing onscreen. Action sequences might make more sense.

The film takes place at an experimental ocean floor Navy installation. There’s a staff of Navy personnel and civilian scientists. The scientists are Russian Elya Baskin and South African Marius Weyers. It’s not clear why the Navy’s got foreign nationals installing underwater nuclear warhead launch platforms but whatever. None of the Navy personnel wears uniforms or has ranks (other than captain Taurean Blacque) and John Krenz Reinhart Jr.’s production design harkens back to those fifties sci-fi cheapies, not state-of-the-art eighties Navy stuff.

The sets are way too big too. No one’s cramped. There’s always plenty of room, especially in the submersibles. Or Cunningham and photographer Mac Ahlberg are just shooting through walls and it’s not clear because the direction’s so bad it doesn’t matter. Cunningham does nothing good in DeepStar Six. Sometimes he composes for the eventual pan-and-scan (the film’s an utter waste of a Panavision frame), sometimes he doesn’t. In the times he doesn’t, usually because there are just too many cast members in the shot, it’s slightly better. Not the direction, the experience of watching the film. It makes a little more sense, having all those people crammed into a frame. The shots having action taking place at different distances from the camera.

It’s a terribly directed film. Anything helps.

Because the special effects sequences don’t help either. The undersea exteriors are bad. There’s a dullness to them to “hide” them not being shot underwater. Of course, any of those bad underwater special effects are nothing compared when there are shots on the water. Then the composites are just hideous. And the mattes are awful.

Maybe the only surprise–which sadly isn’t Harry Manfredini having a good score (it’s not awful and it’s better than the film deserves, but it’s not good)–so a bigger surprise, actually, is the acting. Greg Evigan gives a better performance than Miguel Ferrer. Evigan’s the enlisted man, working class submarine pilot. Ferrer’s the working class mechanic. Ferrer freaks out at everything and dooms the cast on multiple occasions. Evigan’s romancing pseudo-Ripley Nancy Everhard. She’s the first woman to go through Navy Seal training and, for whatever reason, she wants to manage annoying civilians on the ocean floor.

Matt McCoy is the other submarine pilot. Nia Peeples is a scientist. She’s more convincing than Weyers, who just plays his part like an asshole. Peeples at least has some intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately she also gets the bulk of the objectifying and an unlikely romance with McCoy.

Cindy Pickett is the doctor. By the end of the movie, she’s probably turned in the best overall performance. She’s got nothing to do at the start and a weak finish, but once the monster attacks, she’s always active.

Everhard’s occasionally likable but not good.

Ferrer’s terrible. It’s not entirely his fault–Cunningham’s got a hands-off approach to directing the actors and Ferrer’s got some really bad writing. Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller’s script is risible.

Given the bad script and the bad direction, the cast being at all likable is an accomplishment. Especially since it’s an And Then There Were None burn through the cast. Most of them don’t even get cool monster deaths–none of them do, not even when it’s a monster death because the special effects are so bad–but usually the movie doesn’t even try. It’s a disaster movie about the least prepared undersea operation in history. They’re not prepared for any problems. It’s stupefying.

So there’s the one good effects sequence, the curiosity of the adequate against the odds performances (he, Everhard, and Pickett are all extremely earnest, which helps), and the final jump scare. That one got me, even though I was waiting for it.

With a bigger budget, a better script, a better director, a better cinematographer, a better production designer… DeepStar Six might be downright mediocre. Instead, it’s pretty bad. If Cunningham had just embraced the cheapness though–gone for the fifties sci-fi–it might have worked out close to as is.

But of course Cunningham didn’t, because he makes bad choices leading to bad movies. He sinks DeepStar Six.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham; screenplay by Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller, story by Abernathy; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by David Handman; music by Harry Manfredini; production designer, John Krenz Reinhart Jr.; produced by Cunningham and Patrick Markey; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Nancy Everhard (Collins), Greg Evigan (McBride), Miguel Ferrer (Snyder), Nia Peeples (Scarpelli), Matt McCoy (Richardson), Cindy Pickett (Norris), Marius Weyers (Van Gelder), Elya Baskin (Burciaga), Thom Bray (Hodges), Ronn Carroll (Osborne), and Taurean Blacque (Captain Laidlaw).


Where’s Marlowe? (1998, Daniel Pyne)

Where’s Marlowe? is a pseudo-documentary about a pseudo-documentary about private investigators. Miguel Ferrer is the private investigator and he seems like a good fit for the role, only director Pyne and co-writer John Mankiewicz don’t actually need him for anything. The point of the film, as things move along, is getting the documentary makers (played by John Livingston and Mos Def) more involved with the private investigating.

When the film centers on Ferrer, who’s a good-natured rube who cares too much about his clients and their problems to be fiscally solvent, Marlowe at least has some charm. And as appealing as Mos Def gets in his performance, he and Livingston are still unlikable. Once Allison Dean–as Ferrer’s suffering secretary and Def’s love interest–gives up on Def (and the documentary), it’s hard to stay onboard.

The film has some good supporting performances, particularly from John Slattery as Ferrer’s partner, and also Clayton Rohner as a client. Miguel Sandoval has a nice cameo. Livingston is bad, so’s Barbara Howard in a smaller, but important role. Howard’s real bad, Livingston it might be the script’s fault.

Speaking of the script, the writers don’t pay much attention to keeping their characters consistent. It really hurts Ferrer, though nowhere near as much as his unexplainable absence during some of the second act hurts the film. It’s a messy script, which Slattery overcomes because he’s not the lead. Poor Ferrer stops getting character development after twenty minutes.

Marlowe’s a misfire.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Daniel Pyne; written by John Mankiewicz and Pyne; director of photography, Greg Gardiner; edited by Les Butler; music by Michael Convertino; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Clayton Townsend; released by Paramount Classics.

Starring Miguel Ferrer (Joe Boone), John Livingston (A.J. Edison), Yasiin Bey (Wilt Crawley), John Slattery (Kevin Murphy), Allison Dean (Angela), Clayton Rohner (Sonny ‘Beep’ Collins), Elizabeth Schofield (Monica Collins), Barbara Howard (Emma Huffington), Kirk Baltz (Rivers), Miguel Sandoval (Skip Pfeiffer) and Wendy Crewson (Dr. Ninki Bregman).


Robocop (1987, Paul Verhoeven), the director’s cut

There are a lot of acknowledged accomplishments to Robocop. Pretty much everyone identifies Rob Bottin and Phil Tippett. Bottin handled the startling makeup, Tippett did the awesome stop motion. Director Verhoeven gets a lot of credit–rightly so–and Basil Poledouris’s score is essential. Big scene or small, whenever Poledouris’s music kicks in, the film hits every note better.

One scene in particular is the Robocop in his old house sequence–which is just after Peter Weller starts to get the role as a character and not an automation; seeing Weller make that transition is amazing because he can’t do it with expressions, only pause.

That scene’s also fantastic for the unacknowledged Robocop accomplishment–Jost Vacano’s photography. He’s the one who makes the film feel real. Well, along with Verhoeven and the writers distaste for the cool-looking future they create. The writers are able to get in some great observations, but they never let the future get too real. It focuses the story’s attention unexpectedly well.

It doesn’t hurt the film’s perfectly acted. Easy examples are Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer, but everyone’s great. Nancy Allen is the perfect sidekick for Weller. Given how fast their characters get established in the film, they have to work well together immediately and they do.

Verhoeven’s the real star–he, Weller and Bottin, actually. Without Bottin and Weller, Robocop wouldn’t seem real, but without Verhoeven the film wouldn’t work. His approach to the violence–and the quiet–are essential to Robocop’s success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Verhoeven; written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; director of photography, Jost Vacano; edited by Frank J. Urioste; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, William Sandell; produced by Arne Schmidt; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Peter Weller (Officer Alex J. Murphy), Nancy Allen (Officer Anne Lewis), Dan O’Herlihy (The Old Man), Ronny Cox (Dick Jones), Kurtwood Smith (Clarence J. Boddicker), Miguel Ferrer (Bob Morton), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Warren Reed), Ray Wise (Leon C. Nash), Felton Perry (Johnson), Paul McCrane (Emil M. Antonowsky), Jesse D. Goins (Joe P. Cox), Del Zamora (Kaplan), Calvin Jung (Steve Minh), Rick Lieberman (Walker) and Lee de Broux (Sal).


Justice League of America (1997, Félix Enríquez Alcalá)

Justice League of America is a strange mix of okay and terrible. What it does have going for it is sincerity. Sure, there’s a fair amount of incompetence thrown in and director Alcalá is awful and the script from Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton is bad… but there are actually some good things about it.

The problem is Alcalà and the writers don’t seem to get what works. It’s funny to have superheroes running around suburban Vancouver. Alcalà just doesn’t know how to shoot establishing shots. It makes League–a mercifully failed television pilot–look cheap when they could have just as easily made it look thrifty.

The concept–think “Real World,” but a very nice one, mixed with superheroes–is fine. The cast is mostly appealing. Kimberly Oja’s good as the newbie superhero. Matthew Settle’s good, Michelle Hurd’s really good, Kenny Johnston manages to be okay even though he’s got the worst dialogue. Of the principals, only John Kassir is bad. And he’s even inoffensive in the “Real World” interviews….

Miguel Ferrer’s downright great as Oja’s boss and David Krumholtz is hilarious as a teenager courting Hurd. How Alcalà got such sincere performances out of the cast–especially when the costumes are so ludicrous (which no one seems to acknowledge, another shortcoming)–is beyond me. He doesn’t do anything else right.

Oh. David Ogden Stiers. I think he was happiest of all League didn’t get a series order.

There’s no reason to watch Justice League… but it’s got moments.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá; written by Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton; director of photography, Barry M. Wilson; edited by Ed Rothkowitz; music by John Debney; production designer, James Lima; produced by Larry Rapaport.

Starring Matthew Settle (Guy Gardner), Kimberly Oja (Tori Olafsdotter), John Kassir (Ray Palmer), Michelle Hurd (B.B. DaCosta), Kenny Johnston (Barry Allen), David Krumholtz (Martin), Elisa Donovan (Cheryl), Ron Pearson (Dr. Arliss Hopke), David Ogden Stiers (J’onn J’onzz) and Miguel Ferrer (Dr. Eno).


Point of No Return (1993, John Badham)

I can’t remember any good Hollywood remakes of recent foreign films. Point of No Return was supposed to be a big deal–Bridget Fonda getting the coveted lead was a big deal (she went on to say she’d never read reviews again after No Return).

The film’s basically a shot for shot remake of Nikita; besides screenwriters of questionable pedigree, the real problem is John Badham.

As a friend once said, “John Badham makes bad movies.”

Badham trying to make this film is ludicrous. It’s got a complicated character arc–villain to hero–and Badham doesn’t work well with complexities. He also doesn’t do well when he doesn’t have a strong, movie star lead.

Part of the point of Point of No Return is Bridget Fonda not having a strong personality. When she’s in scenes with Gabriel Byrne or, especially, Anne Bancroft, it’s a complete misfire under Badham’s direction.

Hans Zimmer’s absurd score is no help either. Zimmer gives an action movie a zany comedy score. And it’s always blaring.

The film’s very much of its time–Harvey Keitel shows up post-Reservoir Dogs, Dermot Mulroney is still in big studio releases–but it’s hard to understand why Warners thought Badham was the right director for this picture. Badham was never an A-list director and this picture was–at least, like I said, in my recollection–intended to be a major release.

Maybe after Luc Besson turned it down, Warner gave up trying.

Instead, Badham made a boring remake.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Badham; screenplay by Robert Getchell and Alexandra Seros, based on a film by Luc Besson; director of photography, Michael W. Watkins; edited by Frank Morriss; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Philip Harrison; produced by Art Linson; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bridget Fonda (Maggie), Gabriel Byrne (Bob), Dermot Mulroney (J.P.), Miguel Ferrer (Kaufman), Anne Bancroft (Amanda), Olivia d’Abo (Angela), Richard Romanus (Fahd Bahktiar) and Harvey Keitel (Victor the Cleaner).


Dark Horse Presents 118 (February 1997)

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I thought the other Monkeyman & O’Brien stories were bad. Here, Adams seems to forget how to draw with perspective and scale. It makes the story a hideous curiosity, but not much else. The script’s incomplete at best.

Then Trypto finishes up and it’s probably be Leialoha’s best installment as an artist… and Mumy and Ferrer’s worst script. Trypto apparently isn’t from space. No, he’s an inter-dimensional ghost dog out to do something. Get back with his original family. How he got the new family in this story is never explained. There’s also a talking raccoon. It’s a very strange finish for the series, which started so strong.

As for Dorkin’s Hectic Planet? I liked the art a lot. The story’s about Dorkin making fun of this character, both in plot with supporting cast mocking him. It’s exceptionally mean-spirited and not aware of it. Still, it was compelling enough.

CREDITS

Monkeyman & O’Brien, Gorehemoth – The Garbage Heap That Walks Like A Man, Part One; story and art by Art Adams; lettering by Lois Buhalis. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Six; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Hectic Planet, Part One, 5 Years Ago and Counting; story and art by Evan Dorkin. Dr. Spin, Part Four, Doc Spin: Agent Of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 117 (January 1997)

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Okay, Dr. Spin and Trypto come around a little here.

First, Rennie finally finds some kind of narrative for his characters (reassembling a disbanded team) to go along with all the comic book jokes. Though he does coin the title, “Infinite Crisis,” here. A shame he couldn’t sue DC. Langridge’s art is excellent, but the composition doesn’t allow for one to easily notice all his details.

Mumy and Ferrer find a story on Trypto too. The kid finds out his dog is some kind of space dog (Leialoha’s terrible about illustrating the bad aliens as cats though—it’s sort of incredible). The story’s a got a mildly touching ending, following a nice alternate reality sequence.

Then there’s the Aliens story, from Barr and Colan. Colan’s already in his pencils only phase here and Dark Horse published them without much clean-up. It’s okay Colan, decent dialogue, total waste of time.

CREDITS

Aliens, Headhunters; story by Mike W. Barr; art by Gene Colan; lettering by Sean Konot. Dr. Spin, Part Three, Requiem for a Heavyweight; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Five, Days of Future Past; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 116 (December 1996)

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Unfortunately, it’s a very loose issue.

Musgrove’s installment of Fat Dog Mendoza here is a big improvement over his previous work. Musgrove goes for cheap sight gags and a less narration while doing some decent artwork. It’s painless, occasionally amusing, but never funny.

Without the dogfighting element, Trypto is lost. There’s a space alien element introduced, which is a whole lot less interesting than what Mumy and Ferrer were doing earlier. Again, they give Leialoha a script he can’t render coherently. I’m assuming the ending—with dog and his boy owner kidnapped by aliens—means something will happen next time.

As for Rennie and Langridge’s Dr. Spin? The joke’s old and it’s only the second installment. Langridge’s art keeps the story going to some degree, but making fun of crossover events and grim and gritty comics needs some structure. Rennie just has it pop up everything. It’s a disappointing development.

CREDITS

Fat Dog Mendoza, Lies (Sweet Little Lies); story, art and lettering by Scott Musgrove. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Four, Lost in Space; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Dr. Spin, Part Two, Sgt. Bananas and the Baboon Platoon; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 115 (November 1996)

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Wow, what a downer.

Arcudi’s The Creep returns (with O’Connell on art this time). It’s a very depressing story about him hanging out with a prostitute. It’s utterly fantastic. It still shocks me Arcudi can be so subtly devastating.

Trypto has a happy installment though; the dog rescues his owner from a drug cartel. Again, Leialoha’s art doesn’t convey the story well. Mumy and Ferrer’s emphasis has changed… it’ll be interesting to see where they go now.

Rennie and Langridge’s Dr. Spin is a bunch of fun too—it’s an anti-superhero comic superhero comic. It’s a lot of fun, with Rennie getting in a lot of jabs at the industry in general. Langridge is a little more restrained than usual, but excellent.

Then there’s Lowlife. It’s Brubaker writing from a girl’s perspective about her unhappy romances and perpetuating them. Some hiccups in the perspective, but it’s an effective downer.

CREDITS

The Creep; story by John Arcudi; art by Brian O’Connell; lettering by Sean Konot. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Three, L.A. Proved Too Much for the Man; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Dr. Spin, Part One, Trapped in the Dimension of Pretension; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge. Lowlife, Part Three, When I Started Saying “We”; story, art and lettering by Ed Brubaker. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 114 (October 1996)

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Miller’s pseudo-anti-misogyny Lance Blastoff is back… it’s amazing how someone can turn in something so stupid and pretend it’s profound. I guess the sci-fi setting means Miller has to work a little harder on his art.

Trypto gets weird this time. The dog develops superpowers and goes around (flying like Krypto) freeing and magically rehabilitating dogfighting dogs. And maybe killing the fight audience. Mumy and Ferrer’s script is fine. They turn their passion for the cause (anti-dogfighting) into a working story. Again, Leialoha bites off more than he can chew art-wise.

Simonson copies and pastes a bunch of panels, zooming sometimes, for Star Slammers. It’s some dumb sci-fi thing (better than Blastoff, but not really).

And Brubaker’s Lowlife? Wow. He gives another breakup this end of the world importance and drags his protagonist through the gutter. Then gets somewhere quietly profound. Very good story.

CREDITS

Lance Blastoff!; story, art and lettering by Frank Miller. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Two, Where Angels Fight; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Star Slammers, Fever Dream; story and art by Walt Simonson; lettering by John Workman. Lowlife, Part Two, Under a Big Black Sun; story, art and lettering by Ed Brubaker. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

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