MINOR ROLES THAT HAD A MAJOR IMPACT – JAGUAR OWNER FROM SPEED

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A minor role will usually only involve a few minutes of screen time but will usually see the character given a name and have some relevance to the main characters. A friend who in a twist is the key villain, a mother who only offers advice in one scene, somebody whose importance to the plot is only revealed at the eleventh hour. Other times it’s a showy role for only one scene and everybody is talking about that performance after they leave the film.

A long time ago there were these ice skaters named Torville and Dean. They scored a perfect 6 from all the judges in their final routine at the 1984 Winter Olympics and naturally became legends. Image result for torvill and dean in australia 1994Following their Gold Medal winning performance at the winter Olympics they went professional and performed for several years. In 1994 they returned to the Winter Olympics and won Bronze. Some time passed and they came to Australia to perform. My family were fans and on a whim one day decided they would see if they could get tickets. It was not in my parent’s nature to go to such shows, they were luxuries to be weighed up heavily. Hence the last minute enquiry and the resulting lack of availability. So as a consolation prize we decided we’d go to the movies. Speed termed as a “Die Hard on a Bus” was out  with Keanu Reeves playing against type. We knew of his Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Parenthood (1989) and Point Break (1991) although only the first had been really watched by me as the others were probably deemed too adult. We went in with no expectations, my father, mother and siblings. I still think about that night every now and again watching Speed up on the big screen. Kids become teenagers and get too old to go see movies with their parents. Then your parents tend to not want to go out to the movies because its easier to wait until it comes out on Foxtel. 🙂 Speed was on the cusp of that change and an unexpected gift. This action film inadvertently became a family film  because we all have that memory and we all enjoyed that night and that movie. A great movie will be universally loved and bring people together.

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Torville and Dean would have been a once in a lifetime experience but there are no memories from that day tinged with disappointment only amazement. It turned out Speed was to be bonafide classic with amazing cinematography, a rip roaring score, amazing stunts, witty dialogue, and a fantastic ensemble cast. There’s no denying that Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have a huge part to play in engaging the audience and making them care about the outcome. As a kid who’d never seen Easy Rider it made Hopper relevant again, it introduced the world to Sandra Bullock and it allowed Reeves to be seen in a new light. Yet there is not one speaking part in that film that isn’t memorable. That gun wielding latino “Stop the busss!”, the aw shucks tourist “We’re at the airport…I’ve already been to the airport.”, the lady with the G-string coming out of the elevator, the elderly African American couple weeping “The baby.” just before that incredible jump. I could fill out the rest of the year in this series of posts with actors from Speed. I’m half tempted to, but on initial viewing there was one guy who we all strode out of the cinema talking about-the black guy who’s car gets commandeered.

Credited as Jaguar Owner Glenn Plummer is still listed seventh on the cast listing at IMDB. An ordinary man finding himself in the extraordinary situation of flying down the LA Freeway after a commuter bus that has a bomb on it. I look back now and wonder how this played to African American audiences to see a black man in an expensive vehicle have his car commandeered at gunpoint by a white police officer (Keanu Reeves’s Jack Traven) who then proceeds to wreck said vehicle and put both of their lives in danger. Related imageAt the time this was standard behaviour for film action heroes to pull guns when civilians black or white did not play nice with them. Now I wonder if Plummer’s performance is a little over the top, at the time African Americans were featuring more and more in films and to Australian audiences any unique ways they spoke were lively and fresh and exciting to see. Bad Boys come out a couple of years later and the banter between Martin Lawrence and Will Smith was riveting because we weren’t used to seeing this in mainstream American films. Now two decades later I wonder if Glenn Plummer was encouraged to ham it up but I like to think he maintained his dignity. Related imageThe characters always plays as real to the situation, the off hand way he says “Take the phone.” after losing his car door feels right but you know a white guy wouldn’t say it the same way and that’s kind of the point. Well I guess it will be interesting to hear what you think but I thoroughly enjoyed  Glenn Plummer’s performance as Jaguar Owner and it seems I wasn’t the only one.

They made a point of having his character now named Maurice appear in a similar manner in the sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) courtesy of an amazingly ridiculous coincidence and he got some high profile roles directly after Speed in Showgirls (1995), Up Close & Personal (1996). More recently Glenn Plummer had roles in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Saw II (2005), Sons of Anarchy (2008) and Suits (2016).

He has also branched out into other jobs co-writing, producing and directing in 2006 VooDoo Curse: The Giddeh (2006) and the upcoming Charlie Charlie (2017).

Some people will remember him in his early work in Menace II Society (1993) and his break out role in South Central (1992). Others know him from his recent television work. Yet if you’ve seen Speed it’s doubtful you’ll not remember him in that. He took a small thankless role and sold every line, every joke, every reaction and I hope to see him again soon holding my full attention with his incredible talent.

-Lloyd Marken

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES REVIEW AVAILABLE AT BUZZ MAGAZINE

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Johnny Depp plumbs new depths in the latest Pirates movie out tomorrow. Thankfully Geoffrey Rush remains a better part of a franchise on its way out. I wish I could tell you otherwise but alas you can read more of my thoughts here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-tales/

I’m very grateful to have another review of a brand new blockbuster movie published over at the wonderful Buzz Magazine. It means a lot to get published on such sites and I appreciate anybody taking the time to click on the extra link and check out my work.

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

My wife enjoyed the film well enough so maybe it’s just me but I feel a responsibility to tell you that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still out in cinemas and a damn fine film. Once again I appreciate anybody who clicks on the link to read it and hope you enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

ALIEN CONVENANT SURE WON’T BE MISTAKEN FOR ALIEN: COVETED

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Alien: Convenant has opened to mixed reviews and solid if not exciting box office. Such a reaction may spell the end of Ridley Scott’s plan to close out a new trilogy of Alien films for this decade but will this film grow in prestige with time. Setting out to serve two audiences it may fail to completely satisfy either but there’s no denying there’s good stuff here. Is it enough?

GenXers growing up in the shadow of the first two films were always keen for more go arounds when rumours would arise of James Cameron or Ridley Scott returning to the franchise. At one point long before Avatar took up his time there were even rumours Scott would direct a film written and produced by Cameron but alas that was not to be.

in 2012 though Scott returned to science fiction for the first time since 1982 with Blade Runner to make a Prometheus that would deal with origins of the Aliens and answer finally who was that infamous space jockey. The infamous space jockey turned out to be a giant, bald grey humanoid who took a shot of tequila and made human kind. Or at least one of his ilk did a million years ago. Beyond that we didn’t learn much about them but the ending of Prometheus promised us we would find out in the next film. We don’t.

Prometheus saw the Hollywood debut of Noomi Rapace who did a solid turn as Elizabeth Shaw and before heading off on a new adventure at the end setting up a compulsory sequel. Don’t expect to see much of her in this sequel.

Prometheus sported some incredible visuals but its weak point were fucking moronic characters who played cute with space cobras and took off space helmets for no good reason so they could propel the narrative forward, felt ill and possibly contaminated but still had sex with their girlfriends and in a panic ran in straight lines ahead of rolling giant objects bearing down on them.

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Thankfully there were bright spots and not just some neat sexual tension between naked push-ups champ Charlize Theron and handsome Idris Elba. There was Michael Fassbender as peroxided android David. A character you definitely couldn’t trust but was endlessly fascinating whom with a mix of intelligence and naivety engaged me.

I had time for some of the human characters in Prometheus, but I wanted to find out what happened next to David. To this end Alien: Convenant is more of the same. Michael Fassbender returning as David and also starring as Walter a newer model android is easily the most engaging performance/s of the film. Nothing against Katherine Waterston or Danny McBride who acquit themselves well but they’re types and also lambs for the slaughter. Nobody is still wearing a space helmet again but at least the word quarantine comes up in conversation and it just seems like the momentum is always against the human characters here that you understand why mistakes are made even if they are still clearly mistakes.

I guess you want to hear the plot right? Okay people on a ship in cyrosleep going to a planet. Fire on ship, people wake up. Get signal from other planet. Decide to go there because it is habitable and just had people die on fire on ship. Get there and….aliens. Sort of.

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There-done. I can’t state this enough Fassbender and Guy Pearce having a conversation in a white room at the beginning of the film was far more thrilling for me than an Alien tearing down spaceship corridors in the third act. Everything with David and Walter was far more fascinating to me than the alien scares and I suspect the same for Ridley Scott. Despite this though I do think the venerable director has had a red hot go at making the xenomorph scary again and giving us fantastically gross deaths to try and top the chest-bursting scene of the original. Creatures in long grass leaping out at dusk illuminated by nearby burning wreckage. Bursting open backs rather than stomachs. Neomorphs braying quietly an inch from you like a horse. The classic cliché of a shower sex coupling interrupted by other appendages moving in are memorable images as are pathogens moving through ear canals. If there is any complaint it is that it would have been nice to up the creep factor a bit with some of these sequences. Sadly the creatures themselves often move too fast and with little weight obviously rendered by computer their movements are now too sleek compared to the haunting creature in the earlier films. However the scene much touted in the marketing where a belayed Waterston does battle with the classic xenomorph on top of a careening space vehicle while packing a modified Steyr assault rifle is the kind of sequence that couldn’t have been done 20 years ago the same way and makes great use of modern technology.

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The film itself is less pretty than Prometheus sporting harsher colours, the planet in this film replaces the bare black volcanic rock with forests and medieval like structures but the sky is darker, the colours even more muted adding up to convey a nightmarish quality of a ruined world. Positively gothic. Which is kind of the point and maybe why this may struggle to find a huge audience. This is a dour film offering no real easy answers. There’s plenty of horror and action in it but its more interested in bigger themes. Yet saying that big themes and moodiness is why this film won’t click with some is just an excuse. Plenty of dour films can still entertain you with their effectiveness. There are interesting ideas in Alien: Convenant, some neat deaths and two compelling performances from Michael Fassbender. I was angry about the idea of having already waited five years for answers when Convenant was only going to leave me hanging for more but I am now intrigued to see where Scott takes this. Yet that does not a satisfying film make and Alien: Convenant is far from satisfying. Wait for it to come out on Disc or streaming. While Alien: Convenant seeks to address some of the criticisms of Prometheus I would argue the latter is still the better film. I’m also putting it out there in this corner of the internet, Sir Ridley I’d like to see Alien 5 with Ripley, Newt and Hicks more than I ever wanted to see this.

-Lloyd Marken

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EXTRAS WHO ADD A LITTLE SOMETHING – NEIL MULLARKEY

We’re stretching definitions with Extras in this series of posts. Extras are termed that by the fact that they are mostly in the background and once they have a line of dialogue they cease to be extras and becoming speaking parts. We’ve featured people who spoke but barely previously in this series. Here we’re pushing the boundaries further with a speaking part of several lines that plays over a scene. The character does not get a name and it is doubtful you would remember them but they are not really an extra and probably those in the previous posts weren’t extras either. So what’s the difference between an Extra Who Adds A Little Something and Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact? For me the latter usually involves more screen time, involves a scene I always remembered with a character who may significantly alter how the story goes. Yet these are not hard and fast rules to play by. For me there is a difference but it could all be in the eye of beholder. This week we’re talking about a scene that I don’t think really stuck in my mind but when I watched the scene again recently I enjoyed the way the performer did his moment. For Extras who truly stood out please refer to the awesome post by Mental Floss.

Finally we come to this months Extras Who Add A Little Something.
Recognise this man?

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How about now?

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Educated at Cambridge, 55 year old Neil Mullarkey worked the pub circuit as a double act in the early 1980s with British comedian Tony Hawks. When Hawks left, Mullarkey teamed up with Mike Myers. Image result for neil mullarkeyOften they would perform at the George IV in Chiswick where a young Hugh Grant was performing in the Jockeys of Norfolk revue. That must have been a grand time. Mullarkey remains a working comic performer, writer, voice-over artist and actor making a living doing what he loves and doing it well. To me this is a wonderful achievement.

In 1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery came at an interesting time in Mike Myers career. He had become a star thanks to Saturday Night Live, gone supernova with Wayne’s World and an obligatory sequel but had failed with So I Married An Axe Murderer. I don’t know if having old friends around were a comfort or even if Myers doubted this film would be good but Mullarkey who had done script edits on Axe Murderer appears here with his old colleague as the Quartermaster Clerk (listed 21st on the cast list at IMDB).

It’s a simple scene, superspy from the 1960s Austin Powers has woken up from cryosleep in 1997 and is being handled his personal effects. It’s funny as so many scenes in this film are, one item Powers is handed plays a part later on in saving his life but not much happens. Yet Mullarkey’s line reading of “Babee” always makes me smile. He also ties the scene in a nice little bow at the end with his final gesture.

I just don’t see the scene playing as well in lesser hands than Mullarkey and Myers but maybe that’s just me. You can check out more about Neil Mullarkey at his website here http://www.neilmullarkey.com/

-Lloyd Marken

 

STAR CHARACTER ACTORS – AL LEONG

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Character actors are actors who get stuck playing a type in several high profile productions. Maybe over time they become famous for doing several of these roles or they become well known and branch out. Al Leong as a stuntman trained in martial arts with a distinct look was destined to play henchmen and whenever Hollywood went through a martial arts craze he was well placed as an Asian performer to get roles. I never knew his name but as a child from the 80s I never failed to recognise the guy with the long flowing goatee and receding hairline. Looking over his credits at IMDB it’s not hard to see why, he was in almost every damn TV show I watched back then. Image result for al leongThe Greatest American Hero, The A-Team (re-cast in several episodes as different henchman or thugs), Knight Rider, Airwolf, MacGyver and Magnum fucking P.I.

No wonder I recognised him in his more famous film appearances which include Big Trouble in Little ChinaLethal Weapon, Die Hard, Black Rain uncredited, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as Genghis Khan rolling around on a skateboard, uncredited in The Last Action Hero and uncredited Big Showdown in Little Tokyo. Image result for al leong

In 2000 he wrote, directed and performed in the film Daddy Tell Me A Story, a small film which I don’t recall. Unlike say Stephen Tobolowksy though Mr Leong never really got to branch out into different types of roles. Maybe his range as an actor was limited but we may never know since there are few opportunities to see for ourselves. Two come to mind, his reluctant torturer in Lethal Weapon in which he got a few lines and delivered them well. The other is Die Hard where his henchman in tense moment comically scavenges a chocolate bar. The kind of decision a performer will make to give their character some personality and add some extra flavour to the film. Health issues including beating brain cancer and enduring two strokes led to him doing less film work. You can read more about his life here at Dazed where he was interviewed upon the publication of his memoir The Eight Lives of Al “Ka-Bong” Leong in 2014.

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Whatever he’s doing, I hope he’s happy, recent photos suggest he’s remained in tip top shape. We should find out soon as the documentary Henchman: The Al Leong Story is in post production. Al Leong left an indelible impression on my childhood with his professionalism, graceful physicality and a love for Crunch chocolate bars.

-Lloyd Marken

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 REVIEW AVAILABLE ON BUZZ

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There were two films I was most looking forward to in 2017. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Good trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman have me excited about those films like Logan did previously and of course I can’t wait for Oscar season every year. But Guardians was it for me and it came out last week in Australia.

While I’ve never read one of the comics there was something new and interesting about the team since I saw the concept art for the first film. After the trailer for the original dropped I told friends in early 2014 that this was a film that could be Star Wars for a new generation. As it turns out we were lucky enough to have Star Wars be Star Wars for this generation but Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be a success beyond expectations too.

Three years later and you can read my review of the sequel here http://buzzmagazine.com.au/guardians-of-the-galaxy-review/ at Buzz Magazine.

Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.

It is a huge honour to have anything I write appear on their website but to have it be for such a hotly anticipated film that I have fallen in love with is quite a thrill. Once again I appreciate anybody who clicks on the link to read it and hope you enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

BERLIN SYNDROME REVIEW AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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I continue to be fortunate enough to have reviews published online at respected magazines. If you wish, please click on the link to read my review for Berlin Syndrome here at https://heavymag.com.au/film-review-berlin-syndrome/#.WQhkK421vIU

An effectively made horror film without the gore but all the squeamishness, it boasts two brave performances from Teresa Palmer and Max Riermelt. I applaud the technique of the filmmakers but wonder who will really get much out of a film that deals with such harrowing subject matter as abduction and imprisonment.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I am very grateful to have had this review published on their website.

-Lloyd Marken