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Look at the Actors Who Are Popping Up in B-Movies

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January 29, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The latest crop of "Killer B's"--movies either with a limited release or made for the video market--features award-winning actors and popular performers.

Tim Roth, one of the most talented members of the "Brit Pack," has given riveting performances in such films as Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction." Two years ago, he received a best supporting Oscar nomination for his villainous turn in "Rob Roy."

So one wonders why Roth ended up in such a throwaway film as "No Way Home" (Live), a turgid drama about an ex-con who finds life is just as hard on the outside as it was in prison. Roth, though, manages to rise above the skimpy material and gives a sturdy performance as a sweet, brain-damaged man who was sent to prison for a crime his double-dealing brother (James Russo) actually committed. Deborah Kara Unger ("Crash") plays Russo's harried, long-suffering wife. You may want to fast-forward through the blood bath of a finale.

Christian Slater's latest film, "Hard Rain," failed to impress critics and audiences when it opened two weeks ago. And it's equally hard to find anything impressive about "Julian Po" (New Line), a weak, strained comedy-drama that saw very limited release last fall.

A rather beefy Slater plays a mysterious drifter who arrives in a sleepy town. The suspicious residents immediately think he's a criminal or even a hired killer. But when he tells them he's actually there to kill himself, the town befriends the young man and gives him food, clothes and even free haircuts. Julian also wins the heart of a young woman (Robin Tunney) who believes he is quite literally the man of her dreams.

A snooze at even under 90 minutes, "Julian Po" wastes the talents of Slater, currently serving a 90-day prison sentence, and his co-stars Michael Parks, Howard Keel and Tony Award-winning actress Cherry Jones ("The Heiress").

Slightly better is the wispy little romantic comedy "Mohave Moon" (Trimark), starring Danny Aiello, recent Golden Globe winner Anjelina Jolie, Anne Archer, Michael Biehn and Alfred Molina. Jolie plays a young free spirit who falls for an older man (Aiello). Complications ensue when Aiello in turn falls for her pretty mom (Archer).

Biehn, currently on CBS' "The Magnificent Seven," plays Archer's jealous boyfriend, and Molina is quite amusing as a struggling actor. Directed by Kevin Dowling ("The Sum of Us").

Jon Harmon Feldman wrote and directed "LoveLife" (Trimark), a well-acted soap opera with comedic overtones that examines the romantic relationship among six friends. Sherilyn Fenn, Saffon Burrows, Jon Tenney, Carla Gugino and Bruce Davison head the talented cast.

Oscar winner Christopher Walken ("The Deer Hunter") hams it up as the evil angel Gabriel in "The Prophecy II" (Dimension), a sequel to the 1995 film. In this campy thriller, Walken's Gabriel returns to Earth to lead the evil forces against mankind. He's out to kill a young nurse (Jennifer Beals), impregnated by a good angel (Russell Wong), who is carrying the "Niphelem," a half-angel, half-human child prophesied in the Bible as the savior of mankind. Walken seems to be having a field day and he almost makes this silliness worth watching. Be warned, the gruesome "Prophecy II" is not for the faint of heart.

"Schemes" (Peachtree) is a predictable, substandard thriller about love, lust, murder and blackmail starring James McCaffrey as a handsome young widower who falls for a woman (Leslie Hope) who claims she was friends with his late wife. However, she's actually working for a ruthless con man (Tony Award-winning John Glover) who is after the insurance money McCaffrey collected from his wife's policy. Polly Draper, late of "thirtysomething," and John De Lancie of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" are also trapped in this waste of time.

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