Posts Tagged ‘film’


Maury Chaykin’s Grits

July 27, 2010

Maury Chaykin looked a little lost, a huge, shambling, shaggy man in the corner of the bar, by himself and clearly overwhelmed by the film festival crowds.

So I said hello. He gave me a look that I would later learn meant “Are you the guy with my cigar?” I introduced myself. I really wanted to meet the man; he’s a great actor, a classic Canadian face and one of the few celebrities I’ve always expected would be more down-to-earth than the usual Hollywood star.

He wasn’t. Not off the bat. He rocked back and forth on his heels and looked around the smoky room. You could still smoke in bars back then, which is good, because this was a cigar bar, and he thought I was a waiter, because I was young and thin and dressed in black.

“You know what my favourite line of yours is?” I asked, fuelled by an amber-coloured elixir called Warthog Ale.

“What?” he sighed, clearly expecting me to recite some obscure bit of dialogue from Atom Egoyan’s The Adjuster, which I had to look up on IMDB just now because I don’t watch that kind of artsy crap. I was at this film festival because of the Midnight Madness horror marathon.

So I recited the line: “No sef-respecktin Sutherner uses INSTANT grits!” And his face lit up. This is how I spent a beer-soaked, cigar-sampling night hanging out with Maury Chaykin, swapping stories about how good it feels to love bad movies — or to be in them, as he has been. The titles are legend: Iron Eagle, Wild Thing, Turk 182, Meatballs III: Summer Job and many, many more. Most of us know him from Dances With Wolves, of course. I know him from Whale Music, a sadly underseen Canadian drama, one of my favourite films.

I told him how the one TV channel I could get on my hospital TV during my long convalescence in 2000 showed A&E’s Nero Wolfe series over and over again, so much so that I can’t think of Wolfe without thinking of Chaykin.

When I mentioned the old pulp theory that Nero Wolfe was the bastard son of Sherlock Holmes, Chaykin roared with laughter. “I was told that, and I didn’t believe it,” he said. “Maybe if I’d known, the series would have lasted longer.”

Maury Chaykin died a couple of hours ago, on his 61st birthday.

He was a sweet guy, a terrific actor, and one of those single-serving friends I will never forget.


STDVD: Black Dawn

July 8, 2009

This will be a short review, because I didn’t finish Black Dawn. That’s rare for me. I’ll sit through almost anything, but this product — I hesitate to call it a film — was so horrible I switched it off around the 3/4 mark.

The plot, in a nutshell: Steven Seagal is former CIA agent Jonathan Cold, who is caught up in a dangerous game of something or other involving people in black clothing, and nobody knows where his allegiance lies, or something. I know, I know, you got to “Jonathan Cold” and zoned out. I did, too.

Actually, what did it for me were the cheap-ass opening titles, which looked like they were done in MS Paint and run off on a colour copier. The first five minutes are incomprehensible, until Seagal shows up, at which point things just get stupid.

Kudos, though, to director Alexander Gruszynski, who uses a variety of techniques to disguise the fact that Seagal is no longer the sleek, svelte action star he was for a day or two in the 1980s. Seagal, who used to be notable for being skinny in an action world of Arnolds and Sylvesters, now looks … a fair bit different. Solution? Put him in a lab coat! Have him stand behind things! Shoot him in shadows! Bring in a body double who looks nothing like him!

Another problem for me is the presence of Matt Salinger. For those of you with taste in films, Matt played Captain America in the stupid 1990 live-action movie of the same name. For whatever reason, Matt decided Captain America was a bit of a Nancy, and that horrendous acting choice has haunted him ever since. His name in the titles immediately drops a movie 10 points in my book. Wait, make that 20.

I talked about Black Dawn on an old episode of Weather Station 3, so I’m going to recycle the joke here: There’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD. And there’s only one thing worse than a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD, and that’s a Steven Seagal movie that went straight to DVD that you’ve never heard of.

What makes this movie such a disaster is not its confusing, boring story, or its terrible acting, or Seagal’s generalized state of ridiculousness. It’s just a really badly made movie. Throughout, you see behind the curtain, noting bad crash test dummies, plot holes, effects that don’t work … I swear I even saw the crew in a lot of the scenes. Cheap, sloppy and boring is no way to go through life, Steve.

If you really feel you have to see some Seagal, stick with the first three or four, in which he plays a lone wolf who uses his martial arts skills and ponytail to strike back at the bad guys who’ve targetted his family. I like the one where he wakes up from a seven-year coma, ready for action, and immediately gets with his nurse.

From last time around, a refresher on STDVD:

This is the latest in an occasional series I’ll be bringing you. I have this stack of bizarre movies, DVDs given to me a few months back. You may have heard me go through some of these on Weather Station 3, but that was more of a review of their stupid covers and stuff. Now I’m really watching them.

Most of them are STDVDs. You know, bad movies that get passed from person to person, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes on purpose, with a deliberate hint of malice. It might also stand for straight-to-DVD, I guess.

There are a few definite signs of an STDVD. Remember these, as I will refer to them often:

  1. You’ve never heard of it. This becomes a bigger problem if it features well-known actors, but you still haven’t heard of it.
  2. It looks like a recent theatrical release, but something’s off. “Wasn’t it called Snakes on a Plane?”
  3. It stars siblings of famous actors. “Wow, this movie has Don Swayze in it!” Worse: He’s promoted on the cover by his last name only.
  4. It has a wrestler in it, not counting The Rock. He cracks me up.
  5. It has Jean-Claude Van Damme in it. I have about a half-dozen Jean-Claudes, and they’re at the bottom of the pile.