The calibration is a bit off in The Sitter David Gordon Green’s comedy about a young slacker (Jonah Hill) tasked with minding three unruly children over the course of one insane evening. Green aims to evoke Uncle Buck and Adventures in Babysitting – feel-good ‘80s family comedies from which the film freely borrows – while indulging in the same hard-R irreverence of his previous two films 2008’s Pineapple Express and April’s Your Highness. But the dual impulses prove impossible to reconcile resulting in a comedy that while often quite funny is also wildly uneven. Rarely have I laughed out loud and rolled my eyes so much in the same film.
Hill plays Noah an aimless college dropout who reluctantly agrees to babysit a neighbor’s brood so that his harried single mother might enjoy a rare night on the town. Anticipating an easy evening on the couch he quickly has his hands full with the dysfunctional trio: 13-year-old Slater (Max Records) is a heavily-medicated basket-case; 10-year-old Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) an adopted El Salvadoran immigrant likes to blow things up; and 9-year-old Blithe (Landry Bender) is in the midst of a “celebutante phase ” emulating her sleazy reality-show idols. Things begin to go awry for Noah when in the first of several questionable decisions he opts to take the kids along on a trip to score drugs for his sort-of-girlfriend (Ari Graynor).
As you might have gathered we’ve already ventured far far away from John Hughes-land. And yet Green doesn’t seem to recognize as much. As Hill and co. embark on a series of ever-escalating comic misadventures there’s a strange dissonance that pervades The Sitter which tries to intermingle moments of outrageous vulgarity with scenes of high-grad Hallmark sap. The latter eventually take on a certain comic absurdity of their own: My favorite was a third-act dialogue exchange barely two minutes in length in which Noah newly enlightened by the night’s encounters with a drug dealer (an unhinged scene-stealing Sam Rockwell) car thieves kickboxers steroid-pumped goons and the like manages to wean one of his charges off his psychiatric meds and cure him of his sexual-orientation anxiety in one fell swoop. Is Green a former indie darling bowing to studio dictates with such a patently artificial crock or slyly subverting them? Either way it's a futile endeavor.
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.
Drive Angry directed by Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) is an action thriller with a resolutely trashy grindhouse ethos. This weekend should you require an antidote to the Academy Awards’ hauteur pretentiousness and altogether unreasonable commitment to quality this lowbrow orgy of carnage nudity and roaring muscle cars will surely do the trick. Then again so will a few episodes of Jersey Shore. But that show unlike Drive Angry isn’t available in eye-bludgeoning 3D. Yet.
The film stars Nicolas Cage as John Milton a cigar-chomping Jack Daniels-swilling ex-con who has escaped from hell (literally) to save his granddaughter from being sacrificed by an apocalyptic cult. Fear not B-movie aficionados: The character’s name a winking nod to the author of Paradise Lost is about the only discernibly literary or philosophical element to be found in Drive Angry which otherwise keeps its aim squarely below the waist. Knowledge of Milton’s 17th-century epic poem or of literature in general is not required for the enjoyment of this film. In fact it might hinder it.
Some films inadvertently earn the “so-bad-it’s-good” label; Drive Angry aspires to it. The plot is spotty and nonsensical crafted mainly to connect the dots between bloody spurts of stylized mayhem. Milton drifts through various small southern towns populated entirely with louts and sluts leaving behind a trail of bodyparts as he rushes to confront the cult leader (Billy Burke) who abducted his granddaughter and who intends to offer her up to the Dark Lord at the next full moon.
Along the way he picks up a sidekick Piper (Amber Heard) a pugilistic potty-mouth in daisy dukes included in the film for the very express purpose of giving us something pretty to look at betwixt the gory shootouts and car chases – a considerate gesture on the part of the filmmakers truth be told. She is however only tangentially related to the plot. Which would be a problem if plot were a priority.
Drive Angry’s holy triumvirate of sex violence and muscle cars merges into one unified splatter-drenched whole during the film’s climax in which Milton launches his ’69 Dodge Charger into the center of an orgiastic cult gathering picking off with a shotgun the few revelers he can’t run over before finally following through on his pledge to drink a bottle of beer from the skull of his dead nemesis. This is actually one of the film's more endearing moments.
Cage for his part has a few moments of inspired batshitry my favorite being a scene in which he enjoys a bizarre sexually charged exchange with a randy waitress before pulling her in for a sloppy French kiss but for the most part his eccentricity is disappointingly muted. He’s more of a grim gunslinger out of the Sergio Leone mold in Drive Angry shooting much and saying little which doesn’t leave much room for those manic outbursts I’ve come to regard with such genuine affection.
Slyly stealing the show from Cage in Drive Angry is the man who pursues him The Accountant played by esteemed character actor William Fichtner. A sort of bounty hunter sent by the devil to bring Milton back to hell The Accountant moves with a kind of creepy grace his utter disregard for conventions of personal space throwing every character he encounters off-balance. Fichtner’s wry observations are the comedic highlight of a movie that tries hard to ape the dark offbeat humor of Tarantino's Death Proof but falls woefully short in the end.
The Casting Gods were in a good mood yesterday, and so today we bring you this news: David Tennant of BBC's Doctor Who (and Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad (and, most recently, Kick-Ass) have joined Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the 2009 Star Trek reboot and the titular star of Charlie Bartlett) and Colin Farrell (you know Colin Farrell) in DreamWorks' upcoming remake of the 1985 cult classic Fright Night.
For those who haven't seen the original, directed by Tom Holland (whose company Dead Rabbit Films will be releasing the remake), the new Fright Night will follow Charley (Yelchin), a teen who becomes convinced that his new new neighbor (Farrell) is a vampire. When his friends begin disappearing, Charley turns to his childhood hero Peter Vincent (Tennant), a 'Mindfreak'-like television magician with a history of hunting Vampires, for help. But Charley and his celebrity magician-mentor will also have to contend with Charley's nerdy best friend "Evil" Ed (Mintz-Plasse), who is the first to suspect that there's a vampire in the neighborhood (Charley says he's been watching too much Twilight), and who ultimately decides to join forces with vampire-Farrell.
Honestly, I don't think this casting could be any more perfect for turning Fright Night into a 21st century cult hit; just the thought of McLovin' and Colin Farrell tramping around suburbia, preying on their neighbors and building a coven of vampires sounds like cinema gold. The original Fright Night was a delightful melange of campy and horror, and with the hilarious Mintz-Plasse-Farrell vampire pairing, we can probably look forward to a Shaun of the Dead-inspired tone for the remake. The Yelchin-Tennant team should also be good fun, as fans of Tennant's Doctor Who or Yelchin's superb acting in Charlie Bartlett and Alpha Dog should be aware. The role of Charley's girlfriend Amy has yet to be filled, but if the other casting decisions are any indication, I think we can expect another great actor to join this already terrifically quirky ensemble.
Michael De Luca and Alison R. Rosenzweig are set to produce Fright Night with a script from Marti Noxon and Craig Gillespie directing. Lloyd Ivan Miller, Michael Gaeta and Josh Bratman are executive producing the remake, to be released some time in 2011.
Myers’ Guru Pitka could have used a little more back story and a little less shtick. The thin plot has Pitka uttering philosophical piddle like “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind ” and repeating his mantra “Mariska Hargitay” over and over. But Pitka is not happy with his standing in the spiritual community--especially with the success story of his childhood friend and colleague Deepak Chopra (who cameos in the film). Chopra has been on Oprah for god’s sake! Suddenly Pitka sees the possibility of the fame when Jane (Jessica Alba) the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team summons him to help get back her star player Darren’s (Romany Malco) mojo back after his wife Prudence (Meagan Good) leaves him for the legendarily well-endowed L.A. Kings star Jacques “Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake). Pitka’s spiritual mission? Get Darren and Prudence back together in time for the Leafs to win the all-important Stanley Cup. If you’re looking for one-man shows Mike Myers is your man. Clearly the actor is this generation’s Peter Sellers choosing to play characters far from his own persona such as spy Austin Powers or Wayne Campbell. Guru Pitka fits right in. In Love Guru Pitka throws all sorts of self-help mumbo jumbo around hoping some of it sticks. He is like a distant cousin to other Sellers incarnations in films such as The Magic Christian I Love You Alice B. Toklas and particularly his Indian actor Hrundi V. Bakshi in The Party. But Love Guru doesn’t match those films or even any part of the Austin Powers trilogy largely because the gags take precedence over any true character development. For every Bollywood musical takeoff that works there’s a couple of bits that fall flat. It’s hit and miss despite Myers best efforts to sell this show as something more than an SNL sketch. Surrounding the star is the spectacularly unfunny but still beautiful Alba and the surprisingly funny AND beautiful Justin Timberlake who holds his own in the comedy department especially with his broken Canadian accent. Austin Powers sidekick Verne Troyer is back as the not-so-swell coach of the Leafs and he makes a good hockey puck while Ben Kingsley does his thing as the master Guru Tugginmypudha. First-timer Marco Schnabel is credited as director but it’s a good bet star/co-writer (with Graham Gordy) Mike Myers was calling most of the shots; it appears Myers did not have someone behind the camera reigning him in. Too bad. A sharp comedy director could have shaped the film into more than just a series of sight and sound gags designed for quick laughs at the expense of a coherent story. For his first live action film in five years (he does the animated Shrek films in between) it’s a little disappointing The Love Guru isn’t better than it is particularly from the creative mind behind the Austin Powers trilogy. Myers says he came up with this idea while seeking spiritual guidance from Deepak Chopra after his father died. The opportunity for some sharper satire and a stronger storyline is traded for a hit or miss 88 minute skit that has its moments but never finds it’s true Karma.