Tag Archives: Mako

Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994, Andrew Morahan), the European version

About the only complementary thing in Highlander: The Final Dimension is Steven Chivers’s photography. The film’s got a terrible color palette, which isn’t a surprise since all of director Morahan’s decisions are bad, but Chivers never lets the film look cheap. It’s clearly cheap, but Chivers refuses to acknowledge it. It’s kind of cool. But only with a qualifier or two, because the crappy color palettes are a real problem. Most of Morahan’s direction is bad and Chivers does nothing to alleviate its damage on the film.

Well, I suppose there really isn’t much you could do for Final Dimension. A better director would have helped, but only so much. It’s one of those pictures not just without anything going for it, but without anything good in it. Deborah Kara Unger arguably gives the film’s best performance, but only because it’s the least worst. Unless you count Mako, who stands in for Sean Connery in this entry. He manages to keep a straight face opposite Christopher Lambert.

Final Dimension is one of those too craven sequels. It borrows story beat after story beat from the first film–though Unger doesn’t even get to be the damsel in distress, Lambert’s got a little kid to threaten in this entry. As that little kid, Gabriel Kakon is atrocious. No surprise, but Morahan can’t direct actors either. So it’s like watching all the action from the first film done in Panavision by a bad director shooting it in Canada. With photographer Chivers trying so hard to distract from its lack of domestic shooting locations, he just makes the film look terrible to hide it. Like I said, it’s kind of admirable. Chivers can clearly do a better job–lighting this terrible palette takes skills–but he doesn’t. There’s no excelling in the Final Dimension.

As the villain, Mario Van Peebles is almost funny. He’s just strange enough not to be sad, but he’s not strange enough to be interesting. A lot of it is an objectively bad performance. Some of it has the promise of a better performance. Again, Morahan. Also, it’s a terrible script. What is anyone going to do with a terrible script? Unger tries with her crusading archeologist bit but once the film gets her clothes off, it stops giving her anything to do.

Really bad performance from Martin Neufeld as the angry cop who’s after Lambert. Final Dimension fails on every level. It can’t even do bit parts well. It doesn’t have a script going for it, doesn’t have a director, doesn’t have production values (awful music from J. Peter Robinson, bad editing from Yves Langlois), but it doesn’t even have a good casting director. Maybe because there’s no credited casting director.

It’s a movie with a terrible Christopher Lambert performance I don’t even want to pick on. It’s such a bad script, turning Lambert into a nineties action hero dad while more T–800 than Highlander… it’s not a fair fight. Amid all the crappy work in Highlander: The Final Dimension, there apparently can be only one to do the crappiest work and it’s screenwriter Paul Ohl.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Andrew Morahan; screenplay by Paul Ohl, based on a story by Brad Mirman and William N. Panzer and characters created by Gregory Widen; director of photography, Steven Chivers; edited by Yves Langlois; music by J. Peter Robinson; production designers, Gilles Aird and Ben Morahan; produced by Claude Léger; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Mario Van Peebles (Kane), Deborah Kara Unger (Alex Johnson), Gabriel Kakon (John MacLeod), Martin Neufeld (Lt. John Stenn), Daniel Do (Dr. Fuji Takamura), Michael Jayston (Jack Donovan) and Mako (Nakano).


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Robocop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker)

It’s actually not hard to find nice things to say about Robocop 3. There’re about fifteen nice seconds of Phil Tippett stop-motion, Dekker’s got a neat way of shooting cars to give a sense of realism (his cinematographer, Gary B. Kibbe, did a lot of Carpenter’s films)… umm… wait, I’m sure I can find a third. It was cool seeing Jeff Garlin in a movie? Does that one count?

Robocop 3 is an unmitigated disaster, made on the cheap–made a few years later, if Orion Pictures had maintained solvency, it would have just been a direct-to-video entry–the only amusing way to pass a viewing experience is to rate the actors’ sense of embarrassment. Worst has to be Nancy Allen, who had so much vested interest in the sequel’s artistic import, she demanded to be killed off. There are a few “reasons” Peter Weller didn’t return–the costume, filming conflicts–but maybe he just read the script. As a PG-13 movie, Robocop 3 is silly. It turns RoboCop into a Saturday morning cartoon superhero, complete with bad one-liners.

What’s peculiar about the film is the cast. It’s a veritable who’s who of television personalities–famous ones. There’s Stephen Root from “NewsRadio,” he’s really bad. CCH Pounder, I’ll use “ER” as an example to keep up the strange NBC connection, is also bad. She’s usually quite good, so I suppose by not being more visibly embarrassed while delivering her lines–well, there’s a compliment somewhere in there. Jill Hennessy from “Law & Order.” She’s absolutely atrocious. Robocop 3 was delayed a couple years while Orion worked its way out of bankruptcy and I wonder if, had it come out as scheduled, she’d ever have gotten another role again.

But my favorite has to be Bradley Whitford, if only because he’s actually all right in Robocop 3. His character’s a generic corporate slime, but Whitford’s got a couple good deliveries. It doesn’t make the movie any better, but they’re funny deliveries. I wonder if he kept the glasses he got to wear in the movie.

I haven’t seen Robocop 3 in ten years and it appears to have corked rather significantly. I haven’t even gotten to some of the worst performances, which is mind-boggling since I have mentioned Hennessy already. I’m just worried I’ll forget the stunt performers, who jump long before they have any reason to, creating an almost surreal effect. But I don’t think Dekker was trying to bring Fellini to Robocop.

There’s an annoying little kid in this one–Remy Ryan Hernandez–she’s real bad. She’s got a great scene where–after doing calculus at a Doogie Howser age–doesn’t seem to understand her parents have been bussed away (the script’s got some real logic problems). Every scene with Hernandez is painful. It’s like the filmmakers were trying to appeal to a Disney girl audience or something.

Rip Torn is also terrible here, mugging for the camera (I’d believe it if they told him he was just doing a voice for a cartoon, which might explain his exaggerated expressions and so on). John Castle, terrible. Mako, terrible. Daniel von Bargen, okay.

As the new RoboCop, Robert John Burke is the pits. Why they didn’t just leave the helmet on all the time and hire Peter Weller to dub in the lines….

Well, that suggestion makes sense and nothing in Robocop 3 makes any sense.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Fred Dekker; screenplay by Dekker and Frank Miller, based on a story by Miller and characters created by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; director of photography, Gary B. Kibbe; edited by Bert Lovitt; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Hilda Stark; produced by Patrick Crowley; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Robert John Burke (RoboCop), Nancy Allen (Officer Anne Lewis), Rip Torn (The CEO), John Castle (Paul McDaggett), Jill Hennessy (Dr. Marie Lazarus), CCH Pounder (Bertha), Remy Ryan Hernandez (Nikko), Bruce Locke (Otomo), Stanley Anderson (Zack), Stephen Root (Coontz), Daniel von Bargen (Moreno), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Warren Reed), Felton Perry (Johnson), Bradley Whitford (Fleck), Mako (Kanemitsu) and Jeff Garlin (Donut Jerk).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE ROBOCOP TRILOGY.

Conan the Barbarian (1982, John Milius)

John Milius takes Conan the Barbarian very seriously. The occasional use of slow motion and the endlessness of Basil Poledouris’s cheesy score signal Milius’s dedication. So do the long and frequent sequences of shirtless Arnold Schwarzenegger playing with big swords. At the beginning of the film, when it’s the prologue and Milius strange approach actually feels like the 1970s maverick (or friend of the mavericks) making a movie with James Earl Jones in a wig, it’s okay. Milius’s commitment there, it’s misguided and silly, but it isn’t idiotic.

Shortly after Schwarzenegger shows up, it gets idiotic. There are probably ten reasonable minutes (or seven) with Schwarzenegger. Then it gets to be too much. Schwarzenegger, obviously, cannot deliver dialogue (so when Milius gives him a couple monologues at the end, when the film’s already causing bleeding from the eye and mass suicide among brain cells, it’s astounding), but he can’t even emote properly. Had any of Schwarzenegger’s opponents for governor just run clips from this film… I can’t believe he would have won. It’s almost cruel how Milius uses him.

Then the rest of the cast shows up–near as I can tell, Jones was solely cast for his name recognition and to deliver a “my son” line straight out of Empire–and it just gets worse. Sandahl Bergman gets most of the lines–her frequent cooing at Schwarzenegger is icky as opposed to romantic–and she’s awful. She’s probably better than Schwarzenegger, who really doesn’t have much dialogue (it probably all fit on a page… half a page if the repeated lines are removed), but it isn’t saying much. In some ways, she doesn’t embarrass herself because she’s not a real actor, like Jones. However, Mako does embarrass himself. Max von Sydow, on the other hand, does not. He’s only got one scene–most of his dialogue is in one shot–and he’s in a big goofy costume. I didn’t even recognize him.

Ben Davidson and Sven-Ole Thorsen, as the two secondary bad guys, are worse, acting-wise, than even Schwarzenegger.

The production’s all very ornate (even if the special effects are out of a TV movie) and somewhat impressive. But Milius’s script is just dumb. Bergman’s character’s never even named in dialogue. Milius didn’t stick much to the Robert E. Howard library except for some details–Jones’s villain is nothing more than a cult leader, something Milius created–but then, the stuff he does keep doesn’t work because his Conan is so limply written. Sure, Schwarzenegger can’t deliver real dialogue, but the character doesn’t make any sense. Most of the time, when people talk and Schwarzenegger is supposed to be listening, it really looks like he’s trying to understand a foreign language.

I actually didn’t realize Schwarzenegger made Conan before The Terminator. For some reason, I thought it was one of his subsequent vehicles. I can’t wrap my head around it being a hit–did 1982 audiences like being bored?–but it seems to have kicked off the idiocy of 1980s Hollywood action epics quite successfully.

And I suppose there is some amusement in the constant state of bewilderment… it’s just so dumb.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Milius; screenplay by Milius and Oliver Stone, based on stories by Robert E. Howard; director of photography, Duke Callaghan; edited by Carroll Timothy O’Meara; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Ron Cobb; produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis and Buzz Feitshans; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan), James Earl Jones (Thulsa Doom), Max von Sydow (King Osric), Sandahl Bergman (Valeria), Ben Davidson (Rexor), Cassandra Gava (The Witch), Gerry Lopez (Subotai), Mako (The Wizard), Valérie Quennessen (The Princess) and William Smith (Conan’s Father).


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Taking Care of Business (1990, Arthur Hiller)

Hard as it is to believe, I’d sort of forgotten about Jim Belushi having a film career. For a while during Taking Care of Business, I kept thinking I’d seen him in something recently (which I haven’t), then I realized… his performance in the movie is a rip on Bill Murray. Expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms. They all play like Bill Murray.

Of course, I doubt Bill Murray could have done anything with the role either.

Taking Care of Business is one of those movies I watched a lot when I was twelve. The last time I wanted to watch it, almost ten years ago, someone stopped me. I never realized the favor he did me.

The problem is the script. Charles Grodin has absolutely nothing to do except be a jerk to Anne De Salvo, who’s very funny. Grodin’s playing his caricature here and Arthur Hiller can’t direct his redemption scene. Well, he doesn’t have one. Jill Mazursky and J.J. Abrams’s script is really terrible, just awful. It’d be weak as a sitcom.

Strangely, there is some excellent acting in the film from the supporting cast. Mako, in particular, is hilarious as the Japanese businessman who thinks Belushi is funny (it’s good someone does, I suppose–and there are a few funny Belushi moments, but most are obscene and obvious). Loryn Locklin’s character is probably the worst written, but she’s funny and appealing. It’s surprising she didn’t go on to anything. Hector Elizondo’s good too. Of course, there are some terrible performances too. Veronica Hamel and Gates McFadden are both the pits.

The script’s biggest problems have to do with plotting, but it’s also just dumb. Belushi’s a convict who escapes for the World Series and all the other prisoners band together to help him do it. It’s like a Disney prison movie–oh, wait a minute… it is a Disney (Hollywood Pictures) prison movie.

The signs of trouble start from the opening credits, which are poorly done animated ones.

Given how bad the movie is, I won’t even point out not having concluding scenes between the respective romantic couples was–narratively speaking–a pea-brained move. I just realized I didn’t get around to talking about the thirty-five minute first act either. Too bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Arthur Hiller; written by Jill Mazursky and J.J. Abrams; director of photography, David M. Walsh; edited by William Reynolds; music by Stewart Copeland; produced by Geoffrey Taylor; released by Hollywood Pictures.

Starring James Belushi (Jimmy Dworski), Charles Grodin (Spencer Barnes), Anne De Salvo (Debbie Lipton), Loryn Locklin (Jewel Bentley), Stephen Elliott (Walter Bentley), Hector Elizondo (Warden Toolman), Veronica Hamel (Elizabeth Barnes), Mako (Mr. Sakamoto), Gates McFadden (Diane Connors), John de Lancie (Ted Bradford Jr.), Thom Sharp (Mike Steward), Ken Foree (J.B.) and John Marshall Jones (LeBradford Brown).


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