(On Cable TV, May 2013) Nobody asked for this remake, but as it turns out, this updated take on the fondly-remembered eighties horror/comedy is pretty good on its own merits. Fright Night pleasantly skips over most of a conventional first act as the teenage protagonist quickly discovers that his preposterously charismatic neighbor is a vampire. Mayhem quickly ensues, in good bursts of memorable action beats. The film’s biggest asset is probably Colin Farrell, all animal magnetism as the vampire antagonist. The teenage protagonists are competent enough to make us root for them, but Farrell is the one who holds the picture together, proving once again that a strong antagonist helps a lot in defining a movie’s impact. The pacing of the film gets faster and better as it goes along, while the direction has a few noteworthy touches here and there –the best being a quasi-subjective chase sequence in which our screaming protagonists are stuck in an SUV trying to escape a relentless opponent. The deserted Las Vegas suburb in which the film takes place adds an unusual creepy atmosphere, while the 3D effects aren’t too obtrusive when seen on a flat screen. While this new Fright Night isn’t and won’t become a classic, it’s a well-executed film that does not dishonor its inspiration. There have been considerably worse horror remakes out there in recent years, and this isn’t one of the bad ones.
(In Theaters, May 2013) Going back to theaters after nearly a year spent at home enjoying a fully-loaded movie cable package with video on-demand feels… strange. So many inconveniences. Ill-behaved strangers. Endless commercial come-ons. Uncomfortable seating. Oh well; at least Iron Man 3 is the kind of film designed to warrant theater viewing: It’s a big, loud, crowd-pleasing blockbuster spectacular, and it’s actually quite good at what it does. You have to be a fan of the first two films (and having seen The Avengers helps as well, which by coincidence was the previous film I saw in theaters) in order to get the most out of this third entry in the Iron Man series: It re-uses many of the relationships set up in the previous movies in order to deliver a few dramatic pay-offs, from Gwyneth Paltrow suddenly cast as an action heroine, or seeing how deftly writer/director Shane Black is able to take the mantle from Jon Favreau and yet make the film his own, much in the same vein as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The direction isn’t perfect –the action sequences aren’t as clean as they could be– but who cares when the dialogue is delicious, the plotting is strong and Robert Downey Jr. delivers another pitch-perfect performance as Tony Stark, a character so closely aligned with Downey’s public personality as to be undistinguishable from it? It’s all good fun, and Black’s subversive instinct go from unconventionally unsentimental dialogue to messing with big audience expectations at the third-act pivot point. That twist works as long as you’re willing to laugh at the reversal, and see how well it meshes with Stark’s thirst for being visibly indissociable from his superhero identity –otherwise, well, it’s one big thing the trailers haven’t revealed. As the launching entry in Marvel Studio’s “Phase Two”, Iron Man 3 is a solid film. It’s hardly perfect, but it’s accomplished and maybe even more purely enjoyable than the first two entries.