Tag Archives: Malcolm McDowell

Funeral for a Friend

Moving On

by Hope Madden

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda like each other, this is clear. And mainly that’s meant good things for audiences. Their treasure 9 to 5 was smarter, funnier and more feminist than anything else 1980 was likely to see. They had seven solid seasons as besties on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Yes, we did have to sit through 80 for Brady, but at least that got adults back into theaters.

For Paul Weitz’s Moving On, the pair tosses aside broad comedy showcasing the hilarity of getting old in favor of something more insightful and less insulting.

Fonda plays Claire, in town from Ohio to go to her best friend’s funeral and murder the widower (Malcolm McDowell, as reliable a villain as ever). At the service, Claire runs into another old friend with no love lost for the old man, Evelyn (Lily Tomlin).

Maybe Evelyn will help!

As contrived and zany as that sounds on paper, in action it’s a relatively nuanced look at modern problems that aren’t really that modern. And though the story is overstuffed, Weitz  (who also writes) and his leads draw attention to subtler comedy laced with the melancholy realities facing seventy- and eighty-somethings.

Fonda dials down the horny hijinks she seems to bring to every new role, and the tender evolution of Claire’s love life is far richer for it. Tomlin is Tomlin: eccentric, unaffected, maybe stoned, easily the coolest person in the room.

Part of what makes this duo so fun to watch is the way they balance each other out, and though the characters are allowed more room to breathe than usual, the result is the same.

Richard Roundtree charms as Claire’s ex, while Sarah Burns is the glue holding the film together portraying the bereaved adult daughter and only rational thinker.

Weitz tacks on a side story about a kid who likes to visit Evelyn and borrow her earrings, but the result is undernourished and adds little to the narrative. Tomlin’s great in these scenes, though, but even better in scenes on her own illustrating loneliness as it’s rarely been done.

What a refreshing film Moving On is. Not a great film, but a genuine piece of entertainment made for actors who deserve a project like this.

Hillbilly Noir

The Big Ugly

by Hope Madden

When my son was young, we liked to watch Animal Face-Off, an educational program that proposed hypothetical battles between animals that wouldn’t normally fight. Sperm Whale v Colossal Squid, African Lion v Nile Crocodile, Walrus v Polar Bear.

Ohioan Scott Wiper delivers a similar culture clash movie: Brit gangster v hillbillies with money. The filmmaker drops us in the Appalachians along with London mob elite Harris (Malcolm McDowell), his muscle, Neelyn (Vinnie Jones), and Neelyn’s girl, Fiona (Lenora Crichlow).

After decades of hard, dirty work, these men are about to make a deal with an oilman who can’t get legal money to drill. They finance Preston (Ron Perlman) and his son Junior (Brandon Sklenar) now, and it pays off for the rest of their lives.

Bills are exchanged, drinks are drunk, but when the dust clears the next day, Fiona comes up missing.

Even at 55, Jones is still an intimidating presence. He’s looking a bit worse for the wear here, but the effect gives Neelyn a weariness that serves the character well. And while it’s always wonderful to see veterans McDowell and Perlman with real characters to dig into, it’s Sklenar who impresses most.

His entitled sociopath schtick slides fluidly from charming and hateful, and the fact that he and writer/director Wiper offer the character both intelligence and physical prowess makes this a villain who may just stand a chance.

It’s also to the filmmaker’s credit that the West Virginians are rarely the oversimplified hillbilly clichés we’ve come to expect.

Which isn’t to say the film is full of nuance. Though the tone is less laughable, The Big Ugly sometimes takes on a Roadhouse feel about it. Plot contrivances and obvious resolutions mark a film that’s clearly breaking no new ground.

The subplot about the heads of the families carries too little weight and too much screen time. It’s hard to complain about an honor-among-thieves conflict between two such beloved genre veterans as Perlman and McDowell, but Wiper tells of the bond more than he shows it, so the payoff feels unearned.

Still, for a B-movie, The Big Ugly delivers what it needs to. Our favorite Animal Face-Off was Hippopotamus v Bull Shark because we love it when the big, lumbering beast you’d bet against turns out to be the badass. Doesn’t everybody?



by Hope Madden

Before heading to the screening of Rob Zombie’s new flick 31, I hopped on imdb to find out how long a film it was. I needed to know whether Chipotle would still be open when the movie got out. While on the site, I happened to notice that 31 possessed a metacritic score of 11.

For those of you new to metacritic, it’s a website that calculates a film’s ratings from major film critics across the globe and offers an aggregate score from 1 to 100. Now, I didn’t read those reviews – I like to go in clean – but still…


It’s Halloween night, 1976. A van full of what appear to be do-it-yourself carnies pulls into a dusty, woebegone Southern gas station and meets a couple of creepy characters.

You’ve seen at least one horror movie in your life. You know things cannot end well for everyone involved. But if you’re familiar with Zombie’s work, you’ll know that 31 is neither a spoof nor a ripoff. Every film in Zombie’s repertoire is a mishmash homage to everything from slashers to Blaxploitation flicks to grindhouse movies to the “savage cinema” of the Seventies. 31 is no different, except that the mishing and mashing don’t work especially well.

The homages continue with the cast. As is the director’s way, Zombie’s populated his overly familiar yet strangely mismatched world with similarly remembered yet out-of-place faces. Favorites Sheri Moon Zombie (natch), Jeff Daniel Phillips and Malcolm McDowell join Laurence Hilton-Jacobs (that’s right! Boom Boom Washington, people!), Meg Foster and Richard Brake in a game of death on Halloween night. (31 – get it?)

The writing is dreadful and the acting worse. While Zombie’s attempts at humor may make you recoil, the carnage itself is generally uninspired. He contrasts the grimy fight on the ground with a weirdly opulent games-masters celebration (powdered wigs and all). What I’ve learned is that you can bedeck Malcolm McDowell with all the frilly collars and broaches you like, he can’t deliver with a shitty script. And if he can’t manage, what’s a hack like Sheri Moon Zombie supposed to do with it?

“You want to know what’s in this head of mine? I’ll tell you what’s in this head of mine. What’s in this head of mine is…”

Do you know what that is?

That’s bad writing.

Is 31 an 11? No. It’s probably a 31 – not bad enough to be memorable, not good enough to pay to see.

The great news, though, is that Chipotle was still open.