Is there such a thing as a successful remake anymore? After seeing Fright Night the answer is (surprisingly) a resounding “Yes.” Craig Gillespie’s shiny reimagining of the 1985 kitsch classic is very much its own movie but like any good spawn it doesn’t forget where it came from.
The film’s plot is not born of a novel concept. Las Vegas teenager Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is doing just fine. He managed to shake his nerd image he’s got a hot girlfriend (Imogen Poots) and he even puts the de facto cool kids to shame on occasion. Life’s pretty great until he meets the neighbor: Jerry (Colin Farrell). People are disappearing and Charlie’s old friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has a theory: Jerry’s a vampire. Armed with only the vampirical evidence doled out by Criss Angel reincarnate Peter Vincent (David Tennant) Charlie is forced to defend himself his mother (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend from the silver pointy clutches of Jerry the vampire’s endless blood-lust. And a suspenseful hilarious time ensues.
Fright Night is successful in large part because it keeps things simple. Charlie: good. Jerry: 16 shades of blood-curdling evil. Game set match. It’s scary and gory with a dash of humor – essentially a good old-fashioned senseless horror flick with a glossy big-budget cover. It’s cleverly self-aware and expends great effort to lend a sense of quality to something that promises to be nothing more than a bloody slasher flick. But the bottom line is that it works.
And the cast is big part of that. Farrell’s bloodsucker is the antidote our Twilight-riddled generation so desperately needs; this is what vampires are supposed to be. His twitchy growling yet somehow seductive vampire successfully strikes a precarious balance along the sexy-scary line and while the role doesn’t demand a great deal of Farrell's talent he’s fully committed to his psychotic relentlessly violent character and the result is deliciously despicable.
As for our band of plucky good guys Yelchin is perfectly adequate as our hero. He’s likeable he’s trustworthy and he holds his own amongst onscreen presences that threaten to drown him – Mintz-Plasse Farrell and Tennant are tough acts to outshine. Collette is generally wasted – anyone could play her part but she does what she can with the material she’s dealt. Poots really shines here; it’s almost surprising that she’s able to bring such much power to the typical girlfriend role but she manages to make her character more than just a love interest. But of course the one man who stands above the entire cast is Tennant who’s all but eliminated from the trailers for the film. The former Doctor Who star jumps into the mainstream as Peter Vincent Las Vegas performer and vampire expert extraordinaire and every minute he’s onscreen is comedy gold. His timing delivery stature and expressions are all pitch perfect. His performance alone is worth giving Fright Night two hours of your time.
Of course Gillespie makes some very stark choices with the film. The dark scenes are almost too dark; it takes a few scenes to adjust to the lighting much like being suddenly shut in a dark room. And while it’s probably not great for anyone’s ocular health it really heightens the element of fear. Then there’s the element of 3-D which is thoroughly used throughout. At first it borders on schlocky but when the vampy action gets going everything from blood to holy water to fire comes bursting out of the screen and lends an enjoyable but decidedly B-movie flair to the whole ordeal.
While the story wheels out of control leans heavily on ridiculously convenient solutions and generally has only two goals – fear and bloodshed – the film itself is so much fun that those elements don’t really matter. If you’re looking for something to stimulate your intellect run like hell from this movie but if you want two hours of unadulterated messy creepy fun look no further than Fright Night.
There comes a time in every filmmaker’s career when it suddenly feels like they’re coasting. They’ve made a name for themselves had some success and challenged themselves in one way or another so now it’s time to take it easy do what they do best and give the people what they want. Perhaps they’re taking a break before they try to do something big again or maybe they’re paying off the debt of a previous flop but the one thing they’re not doing is taking any risks. It’s the same-old same-old and while it might please the fans the real admirers probably won’t be pleased. It happens more often than we’d like to admit but unfortunately it does happen.
This is the case with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs the latest from the director who gave us Amelie Delicatessen and City of Lost Children (the latter two co-directed with Marc Caro). Those films earned him comparisons to Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton but Jeunet proved he had a unique and witty cinematic style that he could call his own and with the international popularity of Amelie audiences everywhere took notice granting this very talented director a lot of leeway to make films in his own style. With his next film 2004’s A Very Long Engagement he decided to stray from the style of his previous films and attempt something more dramatic and though the film was generally well-received Jeunet decided to go back to the well of whimsy with Micmacs with very mixed results. While casual fans should be pleased anyone interested in watching a filmmaker grow artistically (as Jeunet had been) will shrug and leave disappointed.
Like his fellow fantasists Gilliam and Burton Jeunet’s detractors have often described him as a stylist first and storyteller second. I’ve never subscribed to that theory until now — I always felt a connection to his offbeat characters and stories — but with Micmacs he either has failed to help us make that connection or he simply doesn’t care enough himself. Part of the problem is that the film hangs on the flimsiest of plotlines: Homeless man Dany Boon seeks revenge on the feuding weapons manufacturers responsible for the landmine that killed his parents and the bullet in his head (a result a drive-by shooting) by teaming up with a rag-tag group of other homeless people all of them with their own set of special skills. A picture like this should hook us in from the very start or it’s never going to get off the ground and Micmacs’ opening already suggests that Jeunet isn’t breaking any new ground here; whimsy for whimsy’s sake will only yield limited results especially without a real story in place. Although it’s filled with a number of the filmmaker’s patented set pieces Micmacs is never as engaging as it would like to be. Numerous sequences that resemble Rube Goldberg meets Warner Brothers cartoons are definitely amusing to watch and offer some trademark Jeunet imagery but there’s no reason to care about what we’re seeing. Boon’s plight should be a moving one but for Jeunet it feels more like an excuse to shoot his regular co-star Dominique Pinon out of a giant cannon.
Pinon’s presence represents another problem with Micmacs: although the film is very well cast almost none of these characters register with the audience. Boon’s homeless “family” is filled with faces out of the Jeunet central casting book but we never really learn who they are nor do we understand why they follow Boon’s character through the lengths that they do. Just because they’re “characters” doesn’t really give them character to portray and though the film is energetically performed by all (with special recognition going to the charming Marie-Julie Baup) they’re just figures for Jeunet’s giant Parisian play set. There’s no question that there are certain pleasures to be found in Micmacs; it looks wonderful with some great production design and cinematography by Tetsuo Nagata and Jeunet’s use of classic Max Steiner music definitely adds to the fun. But these enjoyments are really surface-level only and the film doesn’t have enough weight to hold them up. I certainly wanted to like this one more than I did and I’m sure many of you will disagree with my assessment and enjoy yourselves anyway but Micmacs ultimately isn’t the best example of what Jean-Pierre Jeunet is capable of.
As dean of a small college Coleman Silk (Anthony Hopkins) has made a nice life for himself--until a false accusation of racism ruins his career and he loses his wife to a brain aneurysm. Suddenly Coleman has nothing--until he embarks on an intensely sexual relationship with Faunia Farley (Nicole Kidman) a local woman with an abusive ex-husband Lester (Ed Harris) who won't leave her alone. The intensity of Coleman's love for Faunia leads him to reveal his long-held secret: He has been passing himself off as Jewish and white for most of his adult life but in reality he is a light-skinned African-American. From there a series of flashbacks to the 1940s introduce us to a younger love-struck Coleman (Wentworth Miller) and reveal the events that led him to his fateful decision. Somehow Coleman's deep dark secret isn't as shocking as it's probably meant to be but the relationship between Faunia and Coleman is--especially when it slips into the danger zone with Lester breathing down their necks.
Wentworth Miller who makes his film debut as the younger Coleman does an amazing job with his role establishing Coleman's quiet yet fierce determination to live a life free of intolerance. And as ever Hopkins is the consummate professional with flashes of intense passion and brilliance in his steely eyes. One does have to get over the fact that a Welsh actor has been cast as an elderly light-skinned African-American but if Hopkins can give nuance to a declaration of how Viagra has changed his character's life (ick) he can pull off the race thing easily enough. Kidman as the dour Faunia also has some stunning moments easily sinking to the depressive depths required of her character--not surprising considering she won the Oscar doing the same thing in The Hours. What really makes you clench your teeth though is when the two of them get together on screen--in the biblical sense. These Oscar winners are so sorely miscast as tortured lovebirds that their sexual moments make you squirm in your seat. It's not the age difference; there's simply no spark between them.
"We leave a stain a trail and imprint " Philip Roth writes in his novel the third in a trilogy on postwar America. "It's the only way to be here." The author goes on to explore myriad themes around this main premise including how we leave our marks how our decisions have consequences and how people can find one another under the direst circumstances. Unfortunately these big ideas get lost in translation on the big screen and the film suffers from adaptation blues. Director Robert Benton and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer gives Roth's ideas voice only through Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise) the reclusive author Coleman asks to write his life story and even that artistic character talks more about how sex is clouding Coleman's judgment than about his own life or ideology. Ultimately Meyer focuses his script too heavily on the guarded Coleman leaving the other characters too little developed. Why has Nathan secluded himself away from the world? What haunts him? Sinise does what he can with the character but there's too little background. The same goes for Faunia. Although she describes in one monologue after another the horrors of her life--she was abused as a girl and lost her two children in a terrible fire--Faunia's hardships seem distant and it's hard to connect with her character. Only the wounded Lester a Vietnam veteran seems made of real emotions and desires--he's filled with hatred and passion--and if he makes only a brief appearance in the film he certainly leaves a mark.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., March 19, 2000 - Rene Russo, the actress, didn't win any awards for her head-turning performance in "The Thomas Crown Affair." But tonight here at the Beverly Hilton, Rene Russo, the haircut, did. Welcome to the first-ever Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, where the above-the-title stars take back seats to behind-the-scenes primping professionals.
Yes, it was the beauty folks' turn to make Oscar-like acceptance speeches and bask in the praise of thankful A-list celebrities who they've made look good, "day after day, year after year, facelift after facelift," as host Rita Rudner drolly put it.
"It's the American dream that I've heard so much about. It's happening to me right now," hair stylist Enzo Angileri said, accepting the so-called Georgie award for doing Russo's do in "Thomas Crown," named best contemporary hairstyling work.
Decades ago, hair and make-up people were treated like celebrities themselves. But the list of big names attending the awards ceremony showed that, while movie and TV beauticians may no longer make it into the gossip columns, they nonetheless are held in high esteem by those who do.
"It's an art form," said actor Billy Bob Thornton, an award presenter. As if to prove that point, Thornton showed up in full make-up (complete with oily gray hair) and costume (a Slim Whitman-meets-Colonel Sanders outfit) from "Waking Up In Reno," a film he's now shooting, in which he plays an aging country singer.
"A lot of people don't realize how much time we spend in make-up, how many hours we spend being literally transformed by these artists," he said.
Other name brands handing trophies included: Holly Hunter, Brendan Fraser (greeted by cat-calls from the audience), Ellen Burstyn, Mimi Rogers, and cast members from TV shows like "That 70's Show," "Freaks and Geeks," and "Providence." Before the event, crowds of fans and electronic lined the Beverly Hilton lobby as the stars rolled in.
Tony Curtis presented the lifetime achievement award to makeup artist Monty Westmore, who recently retired after a 50-plus-year career that included more than 100 films, ranging from "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" with Humphrey Bogart to the forthcoming "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" with Jim Carrey.
Unlike the Oscars, which have been plagued by mishaps this year despite 72 years of experience, the Georgies basically survived their first go-round with almost no problems. Ballots were mailed out to the 1,100 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706, who voted on the 17 different award categories. And the golden statuettes, which look vaguely Oscar-like, didn't disappear en route to the event.
But note the phrase: Almost no problems. Amid the celebration, two important items were missing: The champagne and sunglasses. The champagne ordered for the ceremonies never arrived, and was believed to have been delivered to another hotel. And the Calvin Klein shades that were to be supplied by the designer label and given out to the presenters, also were no-shows.
When informed of this caper, actress Christina Applegate (of "Jesse" fame) was understandably dejected.
"Was I supposed to get some glasses?" Applegate said. "Darn."
Here's a complete look at the night's winners:
Best Contemporary Makeup (Feature) Toni G and Will Huff "The General's Daughter."
Best Period Makeup (Feature) Leonard Engleman, "Tea With Mussolini."
Best Character Makeup (Feature) Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch, "Sleepy Hollow."
Best Effects Makeup (Feature) Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford, "Bicentennial Man."
Best Contemporary Hair Styling (Feature) Enzo Angileri "The Thomas Crown Affair."
Best Period Hair Styling (Feature) Vivian McAteer, for Cher in "Tea With Mussolini." Television TELEVISION
Best Contemporary Makeup (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler, "Thank You Providence," "Providence."
Best Period Makeup (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham, "Triangle," "The X-Files."
Best Character Makeup (Television) Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French, Episode #507, "Mad TV."
Best Makeup Effects (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Kenny Myers, Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe, and Brigette Myre-Ellis, "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."
Best Period Makeup (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey, "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story."
Best Character Makeup (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Douglas Noe, for Cicely Tyson in "A Lesson Before Dying."
Best Contemporary Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata, "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You."
Best Period Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series -- Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Gabriella Pollino, Deborah Piper, Valerie Scott and Cindy Costello, "Prom Night," "That 70's Show."
Best Character Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor, "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager."
Best Innovative Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor, "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager."
Best Period Hair Styling (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Marlene Williams and Tim Jones "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story."