Tag Archives: Clancy Brown

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review,

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Brendan Gleeson

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is six individual tales of life and violence in the Old West, following a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters. None of these short tales are connected in anyway and there is no Tarantinoesque intertwining themes here. 

Surprisingly The Ballad of Buster Scruggs segment also headlines the film and begins light hearted, with comedic tone and a catchy sing song it the local saloon. Tim Blake Nelson plays the singing cowboy who likes to be known as “The San Saba Songbird” and breaks the forth wall every now and then to talk to the viewer. It’s abrupt finale will surprise you but also prepare you for an unexpected piece of storytelling throughout its duration. As the film moves forward it’s tone shifts and reaches some really dark places. Keeping this review as spoiler free is important for anyone experiencing the film for the first time. It’s the little shifts that take place in the storytelling that keep you captivated and wanting to know what is coming next.

In the second segment named “Near Algodones”, a cowboy played by James Franco attempts to rob a bank, but what looked like a simple robbery goes completely wrong and the cowboy wakes up in an awful predicament. For a Coen Brothers film this segment barely has much dialogue and relies on the story and the landscape. If I’ve to take anything from the shortest segment is how quickly things can go downhill for a character in the old west through bad choices.

I’d probably say that the Meal Ticket (The films third segment) is my joint favourite story. Liam Neeson plays an an Impresario who arrives in a town and advertises a show by “Harrison: ‘The Wingless Thrush’ – Celebrated Thespian, Orator, and Entertainer.” The performance is a one-man show by the Artist played by Harry Melling, an actor with no arms or legs. The Artist recites famous segments of Shakespeare and the first showing we see is well received but as the two travel from town to town the numbers are dwindling and Neeson’s character must rethink his strategy to survive. Again I’m not going to reveal any spoilers but what I will say is some of the decisions in this segment are brutal. What I got out of this story was how ruthless some people are to succeed in show business. Ironically, the Impresario also realises how lowbrow he can go to succeed.

All Gold Canyon is my favourite story and is essentially a one-man show by Tom Waits for the most part. It looks like the most invested segment of the film by the Coen Brothers with its stunning scenery and amazing score. Waits performance is excellent as a lone prospector working around the clock to unearth gold from the river. There is moments in this segment that although the prospector is “a ruthless gold digger” show the character has respect for his surroundings and the wildlife around. I nearly hated what I thought was the ending (steady now, no reveals) but thankfully there is a moment that redeems the situation and leaves you satisfied.

The Gal Who Got Rattled (The films fifth segment) is probably the one story that frustrated me the most in its ending. I get this is what the filmmakers where going for and there is a sense of a Romeo and Juliet ending to this one without the love of the  two characters in their predicament. Siblings Gilbert and Alice are on route to Oregon but when Gilbert dies of cholera his sister is left with nothing and a $400 debt to a character who runs their wagon named Matt. A kindly cowboy named Billy Knapp in charge if the train becomes friendly with Alice and asks her to Marry him which in turn assumes her debt. As the story develops the trail continue to travel across the landscape and somewhere down the line Alice has wandered off and Billy’s partner Mr. Arthur finds Alice and both are in a situation with Comanche. The Gal Who Got Rattled is the most personal story of the six. The characters are more connected in this segment than the others based on the situation and ruthlessness of the previous stories I understand that. There is a more loving human element to this story that ends in sadness.

The final instalment of the film is titles The Mortal Remains. The story is about Death and ironically no one dies (is that really a spoiler? I’m only telling you something that didn’t happen so not really) The Mortal Remains resembles Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” opening in its setting and dialogue heavy scenes. Appearing in the story is Tyne Daly, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubenik, Brendan Gleeson and Jojo O’Neill. Although not my favourite segment The Mortal Remains reveals itself as an interesting tale and in places a surreal experience ending to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Overall an expected enthralling film by the Coen Brothers who utilise the Netflix platform to its maximum capabilities. The service attracts the best filmmakers and actors and the filmmakers have complete control over their work with very little studio interference. A win-win situation for all to be had. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs works for me and I enjoyed all the sections and the characters. What we are presented with is a film by the Coen Brothers who capture the essence of the old west beautifully with stunning visuals capturing the different seasons and settings perfectly, which made me think that each six short film could easily have been made into six feature films. Enjoyable and Highly Recommended.

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The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Spongebob

Directors: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne
Writers: Stephen Hillenburg (television series SpongeBob SquarePants), Stephen Hillenburg (story)
Stars: Tom Kenny, Jeffrey Tambor, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Nickelodeon could have really made a hash of this beloved character and show and Hollywoodised the transfer from animated television show to cinema. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and everything you loved about the tv series remains in this 2004 release. Okay it attracted a few stars in Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson, who merely are supporting voice actors here to the established cast.

Why am I doing a Movie Review on “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”? Simple answer is my daughter asked me to do it and if I’m being honest there is a little self indulgence thrown in as I think the television series although mainly aimed at children cater for the child in most adults too. In the film, there’s no difference.

So the plot to the movie is SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) takes leave from the town of Bikini Bottom in order to track down King Neptune’s (Jeffrey Tambor) stolen crown with his trusty friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) at his side in this very funny adventure. To be honest the plot was always going to be simple and effective, more importantly was, could Stephen Hillenburg and Mark Osborne maintain a steady flow of humour for the duration of the film? Could they keep the audience who were used to a 23 minutes sketch interested long enough? The answer to both questions was yes and yes. 

Hillenburg and Osborne manage to have a gag almost every 20 seconds throughout. It’s something to be able to achieve this but to keep the story rolling merely forward without the humour taking you out of the plot is something that they appear to manage with ease. I always thought that 20 odd minute animated shows shouldn’t try this format as it’s difficult to maintain, I was certainly wrong here but perhaps not in the release of The Simpson’s Movie that came out a few years after this release my fears came true. The Simpson’s still is a very funny show but perhaps hit a blip when they decided to have an overblown plot that didn’t suit or match the TV show. This is why I think The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie succeeds. It doesn’t try too hard to appear as a movie, but more as 4 episodes of the same story continuing without a break. There is some terrific writing in here that is comedy at its best but also one of the saddest scenes you will experience in animation when Spongebob and Patrick are dehydrating their ways to certain death that precursors the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.

The cast have been very tight in the last 2 decades on the show and the latter movie releases. Here they have that same energy and I’m still trying to process Clancy Brown voicing the very funny Mr. Krabs. The same Clancy Brown who played a bad ass prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption a decade earlier. There is a line in the movie that cracks me up in his line delivery in the opening of his new restaurant “The Krusty Krab 2” in which he openly admits to the press that he loves money “Hello, I’m Mr. Krabs, and I like money” to which the reporter asks why he is opening a second Krusty Krab restaurant, Mr. Krabs simply replies “Money” This line of course will never do it any justice in a Movie Review as it’s down to Clancy Brown’s voice and Mr. Krabs demented face that have my daughter and I in stitches every time.

Tom Kenny as the ever youthful voice of Spongebob never loses that spritely zing and flair that comes with the ever energetic character that is Spongbob Squarepants. Those opening scenes of disbelief of not receiving an assumed promotion are some of the best voice work from Kenny. From ever optimist to depressed sponge in a matter of moments is funny and emotional at the same time. Kenny along with Fagerbakke are an amazing double act in Spongebob and Patrick and it’s both these actors who carry the film throughout. It is after all their adventure and the stakes couldn’t be higher in a life or death quest to retrieve The King’s Crown .

Overall, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a brilliant funny comedy that is aimed at the whole family and although the title and character name is assuming at times as a kids character I can guarantee all ages will enjoy this adventure. Hillenburg and Osborne done well not to fall into the trap of blowing their formula out of proportion and kept the story simple with the writing clever and layered. If you aren’t a fan or have never watched the television series it doesn’t matter. The film is a self contained joy and newer audiences will get a kick out of the film. Highly recommend.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Movie Review By John Walsh

Shawshank Redemption

Director: Frank Darabont
Writers: Stephen King (short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”), Frank Darabont (screenplay)
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore

What can you say about a film nearly every single person on the planet has seen? This film in particular is so universally loved by such a massive proportion of the population that memes have exploded on the internet of people kidding on they’ve never seen it before. The Shawshank Redemption is easily within my top five films of all-time and everything about it just seems to marry together to create cinematic magic. 

It’s adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same (or similar) name, which unsurprisingly, I haven’t read. I don’t know if Frank Darabont did the novel justice, few films do that great mans literary genius justice, but regardless, it’s a standalone masterpiece of its own. It follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker that’s wrongly convicted and imprisoned for murdering his cheating wife. The majority of the film unfolds at Shawshank Prison under the watch of corrupt Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and his murderous, right hand man, Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown). 

There’s a real plethora of interesting themes explored throughout the 142 minute running time. Most notably, friendship, the indomitable nature of human spirit in face of adversity, the institutionalisation of long term convicts and last but not least redemption. There’s three men, two of particular importance, who are embroiled in a desire to gain that very thing. 

Andy, Red (Morgan Freeman) and Brooks (James Whitmore) being the very chaps. Brooks’ arc is a tragic, heartbreaking one. An elderly inmate, that ran the library and spent nearly the entirety of his life inside, he just couldn’t cope with the hustle and bustle of ‘modern’ life. He was useful in Shawshank, he had a purpose that was gone the moment he left. Brooks was unable to overcome his institutional life and obtain the redemption he deserved. His final moments never fail to bring out the emotion or give me a lump in my throat, despite having seen this film dozens of times, I still will him to integrate and find happiness to no avail. 

Then you have Mr. Dufresne. Andy never gives up hope throughout the entirety of the film, despite his wrongful imprisonment and the series of horrific situations he must face. Most notably, the constant harassment by the sisters, a group of homosexual predators, to having the hope of being exonerated ripped away from him by the nefarious Norton, who murders Tommy (Gil Bellows), a young man ready to testify to his innocence. Andy had mentored and educated the troubled inmate and his death is the pivotal moment in the latter’s journey to freedom and personal redemption. 

The ‘you were right Warden, salvation lies within’ moment and the entire sequence that unfolds prior to and after that are perhaps my favourites in the film. The combination of Hadley and Norton getting a swift dose of karma, whilst seeing Andy walk away a free man, with a new identity, created under the nose of the former is the sweetest thing. They also feature two of my favourites pieces of music ‘And That Right Soon’ and ‘His Judgement Cometh’. 

That leaves Red, the man who can get things, at a crossroads in his life with a decision to make. Should he get busy living or get busy dying? His journey is my personal favourite. He goes from being resigned to his fate, which would see him locked up ad infinitum and constantly being rejected for parole, from being an institutionalised man like Red to meeting and befriending Andy. The latter imbues him with hope and a dream of looking upon the beautiful blue tones of the Pacific. His journey echoes Brooks’ before him. He does the same job, stays in the room, carves his name in the same spot but he chooses a different path, heading down to Zihuatanejo to reunite with his old friend. 

Interestingly, the symmetry of the two men doesn’t end there. The two themes ‘Brooks Was Here’ and ‘So Was Red’ play out like a yang and yang beyond the parameters of the film itself. Red is the living embodiment of every theme explored in the film. You can argue the redemption in the title is about Andy and Red, because it is, both leave an indelible mark on each other’s psyche. I’ve always believed it relates more to the latter’s journey however of regaining a renewed zest for life and reason to reintegrate into the outside world.

But there’s plenty more happening in this film away from the whole redemption main arc. I think it’s the combination of real interesting background characters and side stories, interspersed with the main arc that make this great film what it is. It gives the story, the prison and the people within a layer of authenticity. It makes the world feel lived in, which in turn, makes it infinitely easier to connect with what you’re seeing. Watching the Shawshank Redemption feels like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers or that sensation of taking a warm bath in a cold and wet wintery night. Something about it just connects with me, makes me happy inside and I believe it’s a combination of the likeable characters and just the feel of it all. 

From the corruption within the prison and Norton embezzling the state; the Sisters side arc that culminates in Bogs (Mark Rolston) being savagely beaten (another favourite); the hunt for rocks to be shaped into chess pieces; the general hilarity and camaraderie between the inmates; anything involving Heywood (William Sadler), who’s a fantastic, standout peripheral character and Andy’s one man mission to expand the library that leads to ‘Marriage of Figaro’ blaring out of the prison tannoy, which is just another incredible and iconic moment. For the briefest of moments, he brings a sense of freedom and hope to everyone. Speaking of which, who could forget that roof tarring, beer scene?

I can’t discuss this film and not mention Thomas Newman’s score. It’s beautifully emotive in parts and stirringly powerful in others. Without his perfect score, the film would be greatly and irreparably diminished. I usually try my best to highlight a favourite theme but there’s honestly so many that it’s nigh on impossible. I mentioned a few earlier, but to ignore ‘So Was Red’ and ‘Shawshank Prison’ would be akin to sacrilege, but then you’ve got ‘May’ and ‘Workfield’ with their infectious country style string arrangements that are so distinctive in their own way and lighten the often somber feel of the others. 

There’s just something about the truly great film composers that make them standout immediately, they have their own sound. You can immediately identify an Alan Silvestri, a Hans Zimmer or John Williams film and Newman is the very same. 

Speaking of great, Roger Deakins was the cinematographer and you know what you’re getting when he’s involved. I said that everything seems to marry together to make cinematic magic and the visuals are a massive part of that. The final shots of the stunning Pacific, the wide shots of the prison as Andy crawls out the sewage pipe to that amazing flyover opener are few examples of the mans brilliance. It’s a travesty that he had to wait over forty years for an Oscar win, but not even I could argue over Janusz Kamiński’s win for Schindler’s List in 1994. 

There’s not many films in existence that I’ve seen over twenty to thirty times, but ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is one of them. It’s perfection to me. The only minor criticism I have is the modern car that was caught in the driveway at the end and even then that’s now a much beloved easter egg. There’s a good half dozen performances that I would deem to be excellent, the visuals and score are up there with the best, Frank Farabont’s direction is fantastic and it never fails to mesmerise me every time it pops up on the TV. 

If you haven’t seen this film then you’re either an alien, under the age of five or from a part of the world that is still to be acquainted with its brilliance. If it’s the latter then do yourself a favour and get it watched immediately. 

Rating: 5/5

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

SUPERMAN BATMAN PUBLIC ENEMIES

Director: Sam Liu
Writers: Jeph Loeb (comic book), Ed McGuinness (comic book)
Stars: Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Xander Berkeley, John C. McGinley

I have to say that i am enjoying my current DC Animated Universe binge-a-thon at the moment. Revisiting some great animated action and being introduced to some of the films that I missed the first time around, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies being one of them. Almost a decade old I feel pretty ashamed that I somehow missed out on this film on it’s original release. I have no excuses and for someone who claims to be a massive Superman and Batman fan, words fail me. I’m can only apologise for my ignorance.

Anyway, I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of this film and what a film it is. When Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) gets elected US President, he uses the threat of an oncoming kryptonite meteor striking Earth as a rationale to frame Superman (Tim Daly). Even the thought of Luthor somehow becoming President of the United States of America gives me the chills, but somehow it works and I accepted it pretty quickly as the introduction in a old fashioned newsreel narrative we are introduced to a country torn and on the verge of collapse and implosion. Crime is everywhere, poverty is everywhere and although the narrative doesn’t really go into the nitty gritty on how the US ended up in this sorry state, society in desperation turns to Luthor as the saviour and quite honestly he does a great job in getting the country back on its feet.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Luthor pulled a Palpatine on everyone and somehow he was the cause of the collapse of a country. Let’s be honest, that’s totally a Lex Luthor thing to do. Nevertheless, with a looming kryptonite meteor heading in Earth’s direction it is up to Luthor to entice Superman to let bygones be bygones and work together to save the earth. In all honestly it’s a stitch up job by Lex into framing Superman and outcasting him (along with Batman (Kevin Conroy) and turning the nation on both Superheroes. Don’t get me wrong the Meteor situation is true and shows the twisted mind of a megalomaniac into thinking what he can get out of the crisis situation. With both Superman and Batman “Public Enemies” it is up to our heroes to clear their name. Do battle with Luthor and other Super Villains who have sided with Lex and stop the Earth from it’s pending doom from the rock in the sky hurtling towards their home.

I loved the fact that before Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) we had DC’s two most iconic characters teaming up in an unusual situation and although both heroes have different ideologies and methods it was interesting to see how Director Sam Liu along with writers Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness would handle this without taking the characters out of themselves. Sometimes their relationship was friendly and other times it was rough, but overall you could sense a respectfulness between both of them. The dialogue was excellent in both characters and overall the cast, but with the main leads and along with the great delivery of iconic voice actors Daly and Conroy you would think you are stepping into the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight world with the tone and feels to this film and that’s thanks to the excellent dialogue and screenplay. The inclusion of (to me) lesser known villains and heroes like Captain Atom, Captain Marvel / Solomon Grundy, Major Force, Power Girl, Metallo, Black Lightning and Toyman is a great way to involve these other DC characters and perhaps encourage the casual fan to investigate these comic books.

Overall Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is an enjoyable film that just wasn’t long enough. Seriously I could have watched another hour of this but perhaps that is its appeal. Making the audience wanting more. Sam Liu delivers an emotional storyline that is satisfying and entertaining. The cast of Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Xander Berkeley, John C. McGinley to name a few is stellar and shows why these DC Animated films are respected and enjoyed by the fans (hardcore and casual) alike. If you haven’t seen Superman/Batman: Public Enemies yet then what are you waiting for. Highly Recommended.