Blu-Ray Review: Fright Night

Director: Tom Holland
Screenplay: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys
Country: USA
Running Time: 106 min
Year: 1985
BBFC Certificate: 18


Halloween might have been and gone and Christmas is around the corner, but Eureka have gone against the grain to choose the Holiday season to re-release a cult classic horror favourite, 1985’s Fright Night on Blu-Ray (with a dual format edition to follow in April). Written and directed by Tom Holland, it was popular enough to not only spawn a sequel in 1988, but also a remake in 2011 starring Colin Farrell, Richard Tennant and the late Anton Yelchin. When the remake came out I wanted to see the original first, but never got around to it, so never saw either. So this re-release gave me the perfect chance to play catch up.

Fright Night sees typical teenager Charlie (William Ragsdale) grow suspicious of his new next door neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). After seeing him and his lodger Billy (Jonathan Stark) carrying a coffin into their house in the middle of the night, he’s sure something isn’t right. Then he sees a fanged Jerry seducing young women who turn up dead and thinks he spots him turning from a bat into a man. So Charlie is certain his neighbour is a vampire. Unfortunately no one believes him of course, so it’s up to him to put an end to his reign of terror. His girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t believe him either, but are worried about his sanity and what he might do to his ‘innocent’ neighbour. So the two team up to help prove Jerry is human and the only way they can think of to do this is to enlist the support of washed up horror star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), of whom Charlie is a massive fan. Meanwhile, Jerry and Billy do their best to mess with Charlie and take the three youngsters and cowardly old actor out of the equation.

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VOD Review: Dark Places

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Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah’s Key, Walled In, UV)
Novel: Gillian Flynn
Producers: Azim Bolkiah, A.J. Dix, Matt Jackson, Beth Kono, Stéphane Marsil, Matthew Rhodes, Cathy Schulman, Charlize Theron
Starring: Charlize Theron, Sterling Jerins, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloë Grace Moretz
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 113 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 
For an alternate take, Kurt’s festival review of the film can be found here.


After Gillian Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl, and its subsequent David Fincher film adaptation, took the world by storm, it was only a matter of time before her two previous works were adapted to the screen in one form or another. While her debut work, Sharp Objects, is still in the process of being turned into a television series, the film adaptation of middle child Dark Places has finally been released after having been shot almost two years ago, and the results are less than impressive. Often times writers aren’t usually the best option when it comes to translating their work from the page to the screen, but with Gone Girl Flynn demonstrated a ruthless pragmatism in terms of what needed to be altered and excised for the new medium. Her hands are sorely missed in Dark Places, as director Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah’s Key) takes on adapting duties as well, and misses the mark by a thousand miles.

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Dark Places tells the exceptionally bleak story of Libby Day (Charlize Theron), the survivor of the brutal massacre of her family decades earlier, for which her brother Ben (Corey Stoll) was convicted, largely based on her testimony. Libby has coasted through her life of squalor on the donations of people who felt sorry for the poor young girl ever since, as well as payment from a hokey tell-all that she’s never read, let alone had actually written. As her finances begin to dry up, she realizes that the only people left who even care about this old tragedy are those belonging to a seedy underground society called The Kill Club. Led by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), this group of makeshift detectives is obsessed with grisly true crimes, with Lyle in particular leading a faction to try and discover what truly happened that night at Libby’s Kansas farm so many years ago. Desperate for cash, Libby agrees to help Lyle investigate the truth and see if they can help free the brother who she helped put away. If he’s truly innocent, that is.
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Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

 

Frontiers are where you find them.

I haven’t written much about movies for awhile now. Mostly due to work, family and other outside interests, but I haven’t really felt the immediate need to scribble down my pearls of wisdom regarding my film viewing. It’s not that I haven’t seen anything good or that I haven’t thought of anything to write about, but there’s been a definite lack of “passion” towards expressing my thoughts down in pixels.

But then a film like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! comes along and specifically speaks to passion – and not just in an overly simplified generic “follow your bliss and do what you love” kind of way. Through its casual, “let’s all hangout” vibe, it suggests an open, accepting, come-what-may approach to life that embraces the uncertainty ahead and suggests that there’s no rush to find out exactly who you are. Just make sure you enjoy the process. That sounds a bit dangerously close to the cliche that “it’s the journey not the destination”, but the film is never that reductive (even if it does occasionally feel a bit overly written in some of its philosophical meanderings).

The story centres around a university freshman named Jake who is about to start his baseball scholarship and takes place completely within the 4 days before the start of classes in the Fall of 1980. Jake meets his housemates/teammates, parties with them and engages with life. That’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Actually, usage of the word “plot” here may be an overstatement. The movie is about interacting with your environment, the people in it, what they bring to it and what you can give back. There’s no major 2nd act conflict, no life changing moment and very little tension as our characters converse, drink, compete, drink, annoy each other, drink and philosophize – usually with a beverage in their hand. And it is so incredibly refreshing to just simply spend time with them.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Director: W.D. Richter
Screenplay: Earl Mac Rauch
Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd
Country: USA
Running Time: 103 min
Year: 1984
BBFC Certificate: PG


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cult classic from the 80’s that I’d never seen, but always wanted to. I didn’t really know much about it, but I found the title strangely appealing and was aware of its status as an oddball cult classic. Luckily for me, Arrow came to the rescue once again and offered me a chance to review their new feature-packed Blu-Ray re-release. So I strapped myself in for a trip across the 8th dimension.

Buckaroo Banzai (played by Peter Weller) is a half-Japanese, half-American brain surgeon, daredevil scientist and rock star. He and the Hong Kong Cavaliers, his band of hard rock scientists (as described in the opening crawl), are famous around the world, with their own branding and even a comic strip and arcade machines.

After successfully removing a tumour from a patient’s brain, Banzai heads to the salt flats to test a jet powered car which houses an Oscillation Overthruster. Banzai manages to use this device to open a door to the 8th dimension in the side of a mountain. He sees some crazy stuff in there before re-appearing out the other side with a strange creature/thing attached to the car.

This test is celebrated as a great success, but it draws the attention of the Red Lectroids, an alien race (led by Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli) who have teamed up with the deranged Dr Lizardo (John Lithgow). In the past, Lizardo had worked with Banzai’s scientist partner Professor Hikita (Robert Ito) on the prototype Overthruster, which went wrong and let the Red Lectroids escape from their inter-dimensional prison. Lizardo and the Red Lectroids now want to get their hands on the Overthruster so they can regain power over the world they were originally banished from, which is currently in the hands of the Black Lectroids. The Black Lectroids meanwhile, although friendly to the humans, feel their only hope of survival is to blow up the Earth if the Reds aren’t stopped in time. Banzai, with his team of agents/band members, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, must stop both sides before it’s too late!

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Blu-Ray Review: Midnight Run

Director: Martin Brest
Screenplay: George Gallo
Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina, Joe Pantoliano
Country: USA
Running Time: 126 min
Year: 1988
BBFC Certificate: 18


The majority of films I review are first time watches or at least films that I haven’t seen for a while. This is largely due to the fact that I mainly just review screeners and don’t often take discs offered that I already own. However, when a Midnight Run press release reached me recently I went against the grain, reviewing something I own and saw (for the first time) only a few months ago. I decided to go with it partly because the original DVD release was terribly presented (see the bottom of the page), but also because I really enjoyed the film and couldn’t resist an excuse to watch it again.

Midnight Run is not quite a ‘cult classic’ in the Rocky Horror sense of the phrase. It’s more of an under-appreciated gem that picked up some strong reviews on its release and made a bit of money, but wasn’t really the hit it was expected to be (it came out on the same day as Die Hard which didn’t help) and kind of disappeared from people’s radars over the years. It has picked up a bit of a following though so the fine people over at Second Sight deemed it worthy of a brand spanking new Blu-Ray release.

The film stars Robert De Niro as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, who is hired by bail bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano) to track down and bring in former Mafia accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), who has embezzled $15 million from notorious mob boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina). Jack finds The Duke straight away, but the journey back to prison isn’t so simple because Serrano’s goons are hot on their heels as well as the FBI and another bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton) who wants in on the action. The unlikely central pair clash during the long journey across the country, but a friendship slowly develops despite their differences and the obvious elephant in the room of Jack’s job and The Duke’s crime.

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Trailer: Turbo Kid

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It is not only Astron-6 doing cheesy 1980s throw-backs. Out of Montreal, Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissel originally made T is for Turbo for the first ABCs of Death anthology open-submission contest. It did not win the slot (losing to claymation T is for Toilet), but ABCs producer Ant Timpson, along with Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener, liked the short so much they decided to produce it into a feature. It bowed at Sundance in the midnight program, but to coincide with its premiere last night, they released this 80s synth-scored trailer.

The film is Turbo Kid and it is set in the apocalyptic future of 1997. A young solitary scavenger becomes a reluctant hero when he meets a mysterious girl in the wasteland. The villain is well represented by Canuck legend, Micheal Ironside. If you grew up on everything from BMX Bandits to Hell Comes to Frogtown to Solarbabies, then this might hit your nostalgia sweet-spot when it pops up on the genre festival circuit, or I’m guessing, VOD. If you reside in Canada, indie distributor Raven Banner already has the rights for the great white north.

Trailer: Kill The Messenger

It is telling that all of our ‘investigative journalism’ stories are now period pictures. Jeremy Renner here plays San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb who uncovered the fact that the CIA was smuggling cocaine into the United States for the purposes of funding Central American Contra activities. (On a side note: This is also why former LA police detective Michael Ruppert turned down CIA appointments and became a full time investigative journalist and conspiracy researcher, and the subject of the 2009 film, Collapse. And while Ruppert is not in any way involved in this particular story, in real life, both Ruppert and Webb eventually committed suicide.)

Adapted from Webb’s 1999 book Dark Alliance and directed by Michael Cuesta (TV’s Homeland and Dexter) this looks very solid stuff, in a genre of film that isn’t made as often as I would like. The massive supporting cast is stacked to the gills with great actors: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Paz Vega, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Michael K. Williams, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Tim Blake Nelson, Berry Pepper, Robert Patrick, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Cinecast Episode 217 – Capraesque!

 
 
With no Matt Gamble to be heard this week, we decided we needed someone to take the feminine point of view on the Cinecast this week. Row Three contributor Jandy Stone stops by to give some schooling to the boys on the MGM musicals of the 1940s, Yasujirō Ozu and Agnès Varda. We dig into Super 8, that accomplished and elusive Spielbergian zone of nostalgia known as the ‘Amblin Film,’ and whether or not the Rubik’s Cube was popular in small town America in 1979. Do we think it is a Goonies or merely a *batteries not included? Basically, Kurt continually bags on the JJ Abrams whilst confessing to really like Super 8. We also have a look at the state of 3D as the summer gets underway in earnest, and we might not see eye-to-eye on Braveheart. Lots of DVD picks and a few tears are shed as more Criterion titles gently slip through the tight grip of Netflix.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_217.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Matt Brown Talks SUPER 8 and SPIELBERG

 

Mamo!’s Matt Brown is over at The Substream (god bless ’em!) and up to his usual shenanigans. That is to say, wonderful and personal commentary on a movie currently in wide release. This time Brown tackles Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Super 8, and his own childhood.

We will embed the high-resolution video when it pops up on Youtube, but for now (unless you use an iPhone/Pod/Pad), you can watch it in flash over at The Substream:

DVD Review: The Informers

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Director: Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly)
Screenplay: Bret Easton Ellis, Nicholas Jarecki
Producer: Marco Weber
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Jon Foster, Amber Heard, Rhys Ifans, Chris Isaak, Austin Nichols, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mel Raido, Brad Renfro
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 98 min.

1.5/

On the surface, The Informers appears to have everything going for it: great source material, a fantastic cast, a good director so what went wrong? The film, which premiered at Sundance earlier in the year, has been universally panned and for good reason too, it’s a mess of a film with no direction and nothing to say.

TheInformersMovieStillBased on a collection of short stories from a man infatuated with the 1980s, Ellis’ original work from which the script was based is itself a mess; a collection which was put out as a gap filler for his (at the time) continuously delayed “Glamorama.” Frankly, Ellis’ work started getting old sometime after “American Psycho” and though I can appreciate his stories, he has mined his own themes to the point of obscenity.

It’s difficult enough to adapt a film from one book but The Informers suggests that it may be impossible to create any semblance of a film from a collection of loosely tied short stories. Robert Altman may be able to pull it off but as much as I like director Gregor Jordan’s work, he’s no Altman and as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

So what’s the film about? If you know anything about Ellis, your guess of “excess of the 80s and the me generation” is pretty accurate. The joy of watching adaptations of Ellis’ works is seeing how different filmmakers get at that theme but Jordan fails to do get at anything beyond the surface. The film is a mess of threads and ideas varying from complete disaster to mediocre. Add in the fact that the stories run their course interspersed between each other and it’s all that more confusing. There are simply too many characters and stories to keep track of and the film would have been better served by having each story told independently of the other. Heck, this would have made a great anthology film.

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