Long before the teen angst pangs of Twilight or the fever heat of True Blood, director Kathryn Bigelow had an inkling of what a southern-fried vampire romance could be. Near Dark delivered on her vision of hillbilly vamps, an eighties cult classic that’s hard to believe is coming up on its thirtieth anniversary. The cinephiles at TIFF have dug out an archival print, so this Friday, July 21st, Bigelow’s blood-sucking hicks will rise again.
As always, I’ve been playing catch up with a few films that have been sent my way for review. Here are three – two worth watching, and one must avoid:
CHIPS (Warner Brothers) – This big screen film based on the beloved tv series from the late 70s got zero audience and poor reviews when it was released earlier this year, but guess what: this Dax Sheppard-directed film, that co-stars Sheppard and Michael Pena is a hell of a lot of fun. The two have genuine chemistry together as reluctant highway patrol partners who wind up as friends, as they work to take down corrupt members of the California Highway Patrol, led by the always entertaining Vincent D’Onofrio. The humour is fairly low brow, but there are some genuine laughs, and the cast definitely give it their all. While far from a classic, CHIPS deserved better than it got in theaters, and now is the perfect time to catch up with it. And I don’t think you’re going to hear a better line all year than “Shut up and turn down the fucking Toto.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming made an impact at the box office, bringing the wall-crawler back to critical and commercial glory following a series of missteps. Here’s what went down:
The first Marvel/Sony collaboration, Spider-Man: Homecoming brought in an estimated $118 million, which would make it the second highest debut for a Spider-Man film after Spider-Man 3’s $151.1 million back in 2007. That film, though, was a critical bust, while this newest one has received some of the best reviews for a superhero film.
I literally just walked out of it and I can tell you, I sat there with a grin on my face for nearly the entire run time. Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker, who skews younger here than in any other incarnation. Meanwhile, as The Vulture, Michael Keaton, is, alongside Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2, one of the greatest incarnations of a villain in any Spidey film. Being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows for some great jokes and cameo performances from familiar faces, but this is still a film that rests on the shoulders of the main character, not to mention the young crop of actors that do help deliver the John Hughes vibe that had been mooted for Spider-Man: Homecoming. A win for everyone involved, along with fans.
This summer, TIFF’s having a crime wave. French crime to be exact. They’re mounting two programmes, both bursting with criminal intent. I’ll take a look at the second bunch next week, a brilliant collection of flicks called Panique: French Crime Classics. Opening today is a different but related programme, Army of Shadows: The Films of Jean Pierre Melville. It’s a great ride, too, full of cool noirs and hard-boiled thrillers, from the best director named Melville that most definitely did not write Moby Dick.
There are those who might not be aware of “Nordic Noir,” a term used to describe the recent influx of Nordic genre films and television, but if the quality of genre fare coming out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland continues to remain high, that should change soon. The latest film added to this list is Lake Bodom, from director Taneli Mustonen, who co-wrote the script with Aleksi Hyvärinen.
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It seems unbelievable that a masterpiece like Peeping Tom seriously derailed Michael Powell’s career, but that is just what happened. Peeping Tom was a departure for the director, known for his collaborations with Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes) over the course of three decades. Thankfully, thanks to critics like Raymond Durgnant and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, there was a backlash to the backlash, and Peeping Tom is now considered not only a classic of British cinema, but also of the often-derided slasher subgenre in horror.
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High school dramas are back with a vengeance. There’s the noir soap opera shenanigans of Archie, Betty and Veronica on Riverdale, and the sharply observed teen pathos of Thirteen Reasons Why. Both series paint a portrait of high school about fifty shades darker than the quaint distractions of a John Hughes movie. Out on the big screen in limited release this weekend is My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, joining the class of 2017 with a surrealistic romp fusing teen comedy and disaster movies to hilarious effect.
Take one novelist making her screenwriting debut.
Add in the magical world she created some twenty years ago, but in a new continent and era.
Throw in some of the best actors in the world right now, including an Academy Award winner and star who shines in an ensemble.
Top it off with the director behind some of the most successful fantasy films of the decade and what you get is something….
“The answer my friend/is breaking in the wind/the answer is sticking out your rear”
This is the poetry of Booji Boy — Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh wearing a baby mask — as he walks through a deserted, post-apocalyptic landscape. This is the beginning of Neil Young’s Human Highway.
Human Highway is legendary for its weirdness. Before it was released on DVD in 2016, the film was notoriously hard to find and only available to those lucky enough to find the laserdisc or VHS copies kicking about. Featuring Neil Young as a goofy mechanic who longs to be a rhythm and blues man and Devo as nuclear fallout cleaners, the film is packed with characters, straying storylines, musical numbers and oddness, making it natural material for this column.
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I’ve been obsessed with Anne of Green Gables since I was a kid, and I’m always a bit nervous when new adaptations appear. I never want to see anything that ruins my Anne, so as I sat down to watch the PBS Holiday special, I crossed my fingers, and did my best to keep an open mind.