Film Review: Into the Night (1985)

Release Date: February 22nd, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Ron Koslow
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas, Kathryn Harrold, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Art Evans, John Hostetter, Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Dedee Pfeiffer, Don Siegel, Jake Steinfeld, Roger Vadim

Universal Pictures, 115 Minutes

Review:

“[to Diana] I need you to appease Shaheen. She will demand blood; yours will do.” – Monsieur Melville

After recently watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I couldn’t help but want to revisit a similar film from the same year by John Landis.

However, after revisiting this, it’s not all that similar other than it’s a “yuppie in peril” story. Also, the girl makes it to the end of this film and it’s more of an actual love story while also being more lighthearted and action heavy. The two films certainly have some parallels but this one is more accessible and probably more fun for most filmgoers.

Personally, I don’t like this as much as After Hours but it’s still a movie that I enjoy quite a bit.

It’s hard not to enjoy a film with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer as its stars, though. Both of them are great in this and I liked their chemistry and kind of wished they were paired up in more movies.

Beyond the two leads, we have a film full of lots of great talent, as well as more than a dozen cameos with other filmmakers and behind the camera legends in small, bit parts. Hell, even this film’s director, John Landis, plays a roll throughout the film as one of the four thugs in pursuit of the main characters.

I really liked David Bowie in this, though. He steals the scenes he’s in and it made me wish that his role was bigger.

The story sees a man, after catching his wife cheating, stumble upon a woman running away from some dudes with guns in an airport parking garage. They speed off together and we’re sent on an action adventure romp through Los Angeles, as they try to figure out how to get her out of trouble and survive all the trouble that’s coming for them.

There are so many great characters in this and every sequence in the film is pretty damn memorable because of that.

It’s strange to me that this isn’t considered one of Landis’ top films but it was also the first film of his to come out after the tragedy that happened on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I think that because of that, this wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been and the public already had a bad taste in their mouths and probably, rightfully so.

However, looking at this as its own thing, separate from the grim reality of an unrelated picture, this is a solid comedy that did just about everything right.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: After Hours and other “yuppie in peril” movies.

Film Review: Cat People (1982)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1982
Directed by: Paul Schrader
Written by: DeWitt Bodeen, Alan Ormsby
Music by: Giorgio Moroder, David Bowie
Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee, Ed Begley Jr., Frankie Faison, John Larroquette

RKO Radio Pictures, Universal Pictures, 118 Minutes, 93 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Oliver doesn’t love you. He loved the panther. He wants you because he fears you. Let Alice have him. She thinks his fear is courage. And he thinks his fear is love. Well, they were made for each other.” – Paul Gallier

It’s probably strange that I had never seen this until now. I grew up in the ’80s on a steady diet of horror and fantasy and in the time since, I’ve adored the original Cat People series of films put out by RKO Radio Pictures and producer Val Lewton in the 1940s.

This stars Malcolm McDowell, one of my all-time favorite actors, especially in darker roles, as well as Nastassja Kinski, daughter of Klaus Kinski, who enchanted me in the Wim Wenders masterpiece, Paris, Texas.

The cast is rounded out by John Heard, Annette O’Toole and smaller roles for Frankie Faison, Ed Begley Jr. and John Larroquette.

Cat People‘s plot is very similar to the film it’s a remake of but it’s a much darker twist on that film and it also explores the mythos quite a bit more. It also adds in a steady helping of gore and eroticism. I wouldn’t quite call this exploitation but it’s probably as close as “high art” can get to that.

The cinematography is haunting and effective and director Paul Schrader did a great job of staging and capturing just about every scene and shot in the film. It certainly looks incredible and the atmosphere really becomes a character within the picture.

Overall, this is pretty good but I did find it a bit slow at times. But almost everything in it feels necessary and I can’t imagine how disjointed the 93 minute cut of the film must feel. Hopefully, those who have judged this harshly in the past didn’t watch the shortened version without realizing that there was a more developed version of the movie.

I really liked the characters in this and how each one felt like they were alone in their own way, exploring and discovering parts of themselves where the overlap of knowing one another created a dangerous situation for all parties involved.

Ultimately, though, the real highlight was getting to see the werepanther transformation. The effects worked extremely well.

All in all, this was a cool movie that was made even cooler by the use of different versions of David Bowie’s “Cat People” mixed with interesting and moody cinematography.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other were-creature movies from the time like An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, as well as the film it is a remake of and it’s sequel/spinoffs from the ’40s.

Documentary Review: David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017)

Release Date: January 7th, 2017 (UK)
Directed by: Francis Whatley
Music by: David Bowie
Cast: David Bowie (archive footage), Michael C. Hall, Sophia Anne Caruso, Toni Basil

BBC, HBO, 90 Minutes

Review:

I own more David Bowie records than any other musical act. I actually own every single album in some form or another. I have almost all of them on CD, except maybe two, I have many on tape and in recent years, I’ve come to own many of them on vinyl. He is, hands down, my favorite recording artist of all-time. Hell, in the nearly 50 years that he released albums, there isn’t even one that I find mediocre.

So when Bowie died, it was a big blow to me. Sure, I’ve felt it pretty hard when other artists have died but Bowie felt immortal and there was something about his long and storied musical history that touched me in ways other artists couldn’t.

Not to sound sappy but it took some time before I felt like watching this. I finally got around to it and I was really happy with how this documentary turned out, as it covers Bowie’s life in his final five years. Granted, it does go back further than that and spends some time talking about his Reality Tour in 2003.

The documentary features interviews and insight from a lot of the people that worked with Bowie during his last few years. There are no interviews with family but that’s okay, as this came out about a year after his death and I’m sure it was a bit too soon for them to feel as if they should chime in.

The interviews are all pretty solid and informative, though, and they really paint a picture of the man’s later years, how he was still passionate and how he viewed things like fame, especially later in life.

This goes into the production of Bowie’s later albums, music videos and a stage musical that he wrote and produced.

For Bowie fans, this is definitely worth a watch. If anything, it will make you miss the man, his infectious charisma and his pure, unlimited talent.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent music documentaries: Gimme Danger and A Band Called Death.

Film Review: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Release Date: March 18th, 1976 (London premiere)
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Written by: Paul Mayersberg
Based on: The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Music by: John Phillips, Stomu Yamashta
Cast: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey

British Lion Films, 138 Minutes, 119 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Well I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity.” – Thomas Jerome Newton

David Bowie is in the upper echelon of artists I have loved and followed my entire life. I first discovered him, as a kid, when I was creeped out a bit by his music video for “Look Back In Anger” and enchanted by his video for “Ashes to Ashes”. I was really young, mind you, and this was all experienced when MTV was just sort of becoming a thing. I also grew up seeing him in Labyrinth and in other places, all while enjoying his tunes in the ’80s.

I never went back in time to check out The Man Who Fell to Earth until I was quite older. Actually, I first saw it in my early twenties, playing on television sets at a pretty intense party where the events and visuals in the film weren’t too dissimilar from the party itself.

I’ve since seen it sober and with my full attention, free of distraction.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a real work of art. It’s not an incredible film when you look at the sum of all its parts but there are aspects of it that are exceptional, unique and inspirational. It has gone on to influence other motion pictures since it’s release and Bowie fans still adore it generations later.

The film follows an alien named Thomas Jerome Newton. He goes to Earth in search of water, as his home world is suffering from an apocalyptic level drought. He teams up with a patent attorney and invents a lot of things, advancing the technology on Earth and making himself rich. His ultimate goal is to have the money and ability to transport water back to his home. Sadly, Newton becomes distracted and corrupted by sex, alcohol, materialism and all aspects of the physical human world on Earth. Ultimately, Newton loses his way.

While the film is a bit long and feels very drawn out, it sometimes moves at a pace that is too fast. It is sort of disorienting, at times, when you go from one scene to the next and its obvious that a large portion of time has passed due to the effects of age being apparent on the characters that aren’t Newton. But there was a lot of ground to cover and I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure how it compares to it. I’d assume that a lot had to be left out because the time jumps leave you feeling like you missed something important.

For this being David Bowie’s first big acting role, he did a fantastic job. Granted, this is a role that seems tailor made for him, especially at this point in his career. He loved singing about space and aliens and now he got to take over the screen as an odd yet intriguing extraterrestrial.

Bowie is surrounded by a pretty good cast that features Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry and Bernie Casey. The chemistry between Bowie and Clark is good and Clark is really sweet in the first half of the film. That is, until things go sour for the romantic relationship due to Newton being driven a bit mad by the vices that control him.

The film is trippy and surreal. The alien planet scenes are enticing and charming. Also, whenever alcohol makes Newton have visions, we get to go on bizarre rides through time, space and imagination.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is an underrated gem that almost seduces you from its opening moments and continues to lure you in at every turn. While it isn’t very well known today, I don’t think that it is a film that will ever be truly lost to time because of David Bowie’s presence in it. Bowie transcends music, movies and pop culture and even in death, he will always attract new fans and many of them will most likely have the urge to experience this strange and unique film.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Man Who Fell to Earth TV movie from the ’80s. Also, for Bowie fans, this flows well with The Hunger.

Film Review: The Hunger (1983)

Release Date: April 29th, 1983 (US), May 10th, 1983 (Cannes)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Ivan Davis, Michael Thomas
Based on: The Hunger by Whitley Strieber
Music by: Howard Blake, Denny Jaeger, Michel Rubini
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Beth Ehlers, Dan Hedaya, Willem Dafoe (bit part), Bauhaus

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You’ll be back. You’ll be back. When the hunger hurts so much it knows no reason! Then you’ll need to feed. And then you need me to to show you how.” – Miriam Blaylock

The Hunger is pretty well regarded by vampire aficionados and a lot of the goth kids I knew in high school and in my twenties. It’s a pretty cool and interesting film and considering that it has David Bowie in it, there is already an added magical element that he brings to everything he does.

The main star of the film however is Catherine Deneuve, who plays the vampire Miriam Blaylock. This is a character that resonated with a lot of vampire fiction lovers and for good reason. She was different, as were the vampires of the film. Here, they are explained through science instead of being simple supernatural creatures that we just accept for the fantasy element surrounding their historical representation in fiction.

Also, this film deals with issues that weren’t really seen in vampire fiction at the time. Here, we see killers that have to deal with the challenge of finding their victims, dealing with dead bodies and having to keep their ancient secret on top of the stresses of modern life and better science.

Deneuve was convincing and stellar as Miriam and her scenes with Bowie, who played her aging mortal lover, as well as Susan Sarandon, the new apple of her eye, were all pretty damn good. The film is slow, at times, but its pacing kind of works to its advantage and really, it isn’t a very long film to begin with.

The style and cinematography have a very strong neo-noir aesthetic. I’m not sure if that was intentional but the narrative has a classic noir aspect to it, as well. There is a femme fatale, twists and turns, some lover trickery and heinous crimes being committed. Is there such a thing as a goth-noir?

The beginning of the film is heavily accented and the tone set by the performance of the band Bauhaus, who do their most recognizable hit “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. It’s a very fitting way to kick this film off, as it gives homage to the king of classic cinematic vampires while referencing his death and telling you that you are now getting into something new in vampire fiction.

I like The Hunger but not as much as its hardcore fans. I get and understand their appreciation for it but it is far from being the greatest cinematic representation of vampires. Maybe in 1983 it was a refreshing take but I’d much rather watch Neil Jordan’s Interview With A Vampire, which I feel has been more influential on vampire cinema, fiction and culture.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Interview With a Vampire and for Bowie fans: The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Film Review: Labyrinth (1986)

Release Date: June 27th, 1986
Directed by: Jim Henson
Written by: Dennis Lee, Terry Jones
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Frank Oz

Henson Associates Inc., Lucasfilm Ltd., TriStar Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

Thanks to Flashback Cinema, I got to relive the theatrical experience of Labyrinth for the first time since I saw it at seven years-old.

The film is a classic of children’s cinema and also one of the coolest things that Jim Henson did, even though everything Jim Henson did was beyond cool. It was also produced by George Lucas and Lucasfilm just after they became household names with the original Star Wars trilogy and a few Indiana Jones movies.

The film also stars a very young Jennifer Connelly in the role that first introduced her to the boys that fell in love with her in the 1980s. It also stars messiah-like space alien David Bowie, who has never not captivated audiences in anything. Bowie literally is a god but we saw him downgraded a bit here to the role of goblin-ruling wizard or Jareth, the Goblin King. But when your goblin army is made up of Jim Henson Muppets, you may actually surpass your status as a god.

While the film is fantastic for all the right reasons, thirty-plus years later, it does feel quite dated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I don’t feel as if it would be effective for the children of today’s film market. It’s not the children’s fault but when everything they have been brought up seeing is CGI festivals of gigantic proportions, it is hard for something like Labyrinth to compete with that.

However, it does greatly excel at fun, creativity and heart and those are the keys to unlock a child’s imagination. It is hard for me to say how it may effect kids, as no one in the theater was a child. My experience watching this now, involved sitting in a dark room with other people in their thirties. It would have been cool to gauge a child’s reaction to the film on the big screen because I know how it effected those of us in the 80s.

The film is well shot and the cinematography is mostly pretty good. There are sequences that don’t look great, however. The scene with the Fireys didn’t necessarily look good at the time the film was made and it looks even worse now, as the imperfections are much clearer when the mind can’t help but compare it to films today. There are also scenes were you do see puppet strings, which weren’t as easy to hide in 1986. All thing considered, the strings never bothered me though; I know that this is really just a puppet show and it doesn’t really take you out of the magic of the film.

Despite the talents of Bowie and Connelly, the acting isn’t superb. Granted, this is one of Connelly’s first big roles and she was very young. Also, Bowie was playing it up for the subject matter but was still alluring and mesmerizing as Jareth, the Goblin King. The real issue with the acting probably falls more on the script and the directing of Jim Henson, who is more a maestro of puppets than human beings.

With Labyrinth, the positives far outweigh the negatives and it isn’t a film you see for superb acting and pristine cinematography. It is a film about imagination and fun. It accomplishes what it sets out to do and it is still a worthwhile experience.

Rating: 6.5/10