Movies in Theaters on Friday, August 19, 2011
This weekend brings us a reboot of one of the best vampire films of the '80s, a reboot of one of the best, uh, '80s movies featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger with a sword and a 20-year on-again, off-again romance that begins in the '80s. Too bad movie tickets don't have their '80s prices any more.
"You're so cool, Brewster!" The original Fright Night (1985) remains a model of its kind; a horror-comedy that manages to pull off the near-impossible trick of being both a horror film and a comedy (and a great one on both counts, at that). The film, which follows the plight of high school student Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) as he recruits the services of washed-up horror show host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, who's wonderful) to help battle the suave vampire who's moved in next door (Chris Sarandon, wonderful as well), is charming and clever throughout; unfortunately, this reboot looks to be crass and witless in comparison, trading the chess-game theatrics of the original for crude and loud pyrotechnics and the genuine fear that Charlie felt at his situation with an oh so hip sarcasm and "meh" indifference (the original Charlie Brewster would never in a million years have said something like "That's a terrible vampire name: 'Jerry?'"). Also, the original film had a sense of nostalgia that made it both self-aware and an effective ode to the horror films of yesteryear; cut to 2011, and "meta-clever" has been reduced to making Twilight references. Hrmph.
One thing's for sure -- this new Conan looks to be considerably more barbaric than its now-quaint 1982 predecessor starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones) claims Arnold's legacy here as a Cimmerian warrior who stomps, stabs and fucks his way across the nation of Hyboria on a mission to avenge the murder of his father (Ron Perlman, who the hell else?) and the senseless slaughtering of his village by nefarious villains. Along the way, Conan becomes something of a folk hero as he takes on various supernatural foes looking to enslave the people and wreck general havoc. Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, the Friday the 13th remake) is actually the perfect director for this kind of epic (and probably ultimately disposable) silliness, with Stephen Lang of Avatar once again called on to do the larger-than-life bad guy thing and Rachel Nichols and Rose McGowan playing the bodacious fantasy babes. Hey, how long as it been since we had a bloody, sweaty, R-rated fantasy flick, and in 3D, no less? Enjoy it while you can, because there probably won't be another one any time soon.
One Day, based on the much-beloved bestselling novel by David Nicholls, is an extra-heavy-on-the-existentialism romance chronicling the 20-year relationship between Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), two British youngsters who meet on the night of their college graduation and are then shown on the same day each year for the next two decades -- sometimes together, often apart, for better and worse. With high-concept romances like this, casting is everything, and Hathaway and Sturgess might have just the right chemistry to keep us interested in such a fussy premise (though, admittedly, the casting of Hathaway is a bit confusing -- were there no actresses who are actually, you know, British available?). Another plus: Lone Scherfig, the Oscar-nominated director who proved he could handle difficult material with "An Education," called the shots. Put it all together and who knows? We might have the near-perfect romantic melodrama with which to end a decidedly loud and aggressive summer movie season, though how convincing the aging makeup is will be the final make-or-break element.