Film Review: After Hours (1985)

Also known as: Lies (script title), A Night In Soho (working title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1985 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Joseph Minion, Joe Frank
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O’Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Bronson Pinchot, Martin Scorsese (cameo)

Double Play, The Geffen Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, come on, let’s go find my statue, man. It’s got to be around here someplace. That makes me sick. You know, that statue is the first thing in my life that I ever bought! See what happens when you pay for stuff! Somebody rips it off.” – Neil

How have I never seen this film until now?

While this has been in my queue for quite awhile, I only really heard about it a few years ago. And honestly, that’s kind of unfortunate, as after seeing it, it’s now become one of my all-time favorite Martin Scorsese films.

I think it was forgotten due to it being a straight up comedy, as opposed to his more popular crime films, many of which have received a sort of legendary status as the years have rolled on. However, in its own way, After Hours is just as great and deserves more recognition than it receives.

To start, I’ve always really liked Griffin Dunne since first seeing him as a kid in John Landis’ ’80s horror classic, An American Werewolf In London. Apart from that film, I’ve liked him in everything I’ve seen him in, as he has real charisma and he’s just really damn likable. Taking him and throwing him into this “yuppie in peril” comedy story, just enhances the film greatly in a way that would’ve been hard to achieve with just about anyone else. Dunne is simply perfect as this character.

This is also a big ensemble piece, as the story has so many great characters that weave in and out. It’s well cast from top-to-bottom, however, and there really isn’t anyone that doesn’t pull their weight and give something great to the film.

The story is about Dunne’s Paul, who meets a girl, goes off to see her in Soho and ends up having a series of mishaps that balloon out of control to the point that they would make Larry David jealous. The film slowly escalates but it does so really well, as you eventually get to a point where things are completely bonkers. However, within the rules of this film, which evolve with the story, everything works well and there’s a real magical, charming quality about the movie.

I could see where the finale might be a bit much but I thought it was perfect and brought everything full circle in a rather poetic way.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as this is probably best enjoyed not knowing much about the details. In fact, even though I always post a trailer at the end of my reviews, if you’ve never seen this, I’d skip the trailer and go into this film completely blind, as I did.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other “yuppie in peril” movies, specifically comedies and from the ’80s.

Film Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Release Date: November 16th, 1977
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Lance Henriksen, Carl Weathers

Columbia Pictures, 135 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with Dad. It’s okay, though. I’m still Dad.” – Roy Neary

So I went to a special 40th anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the movie theater really shit the bed, as I couldn’t watch it, they were out of most food and the place was a ghost town other than employees who had no idea what this movie was. I ended up going home to stream it instead.

I hadn’t seen this picture in a really long time but I had fond memories of it as a kid, even though it wasn’t on the level of E.T. and Jaws in the early Spielberg years. The special effects were cool and the use of matte paintings for vast expanses still looks magical and taps into the otherworldlyness of the picture.

However, revisiting it all these years later, it just isn’t something that I have as much love for as Spielberg’s other early works. Looking back, I never rented this movie as much as his other films and I really never thought about it until reflecting on it while watching it. Ultimately, it just doesn’t resonate in the same way or at least not as strongly. Also, compared to his other work, it is fairly dull.

The acting is pretty good and you do care about the characters to an extent but some of the things that happen are either nonsensical or kind of horrible when put into perspective. While it is a cool looking movie about wonder and excitement and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the main character basically goes crazy, scaring away his wife and kids and then abandons them to go away with the aliens and all the while, we’re supposed to feel his amazement and relish in this man’s opportunity to see the stars. Plus, the aliens abduct a child but that’s cool because he comes back seemingly normal. They must be a truly evolved species, stealing kids and other people and then just throwing them back when it suits them.

You kind of don’t care about these details when you’re a kid but as an adult, the film leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m not just going to accept that they are some space travelling further evolved beings and that they can just do whatever they want. Fuck these aliens, they’re assholes. And we’re America, we don’t trust our neighbor.

And who’s to say that these returned people aren’t implanted with a chip that will make them wipe out humanity so that the aliens can steal our limestone to build an amusement park on their homeworld? Our government doesn’t even like our neighbors from the south moving in and they’re just going to be like, “Aw, fuck it… these guys are cool. Besides, we can’t build a wall around the sky.”

In all seriousness, Close Encounters is a pretty good flick with great effects and yes, it does bring out your inner wonder. However, it doesn’t hold up as well as the other Spielberg classics. That’s okay, though. This was a precursor to E.T. and if making this film helped to make E.T. a better picture, it served a noble purpose. I mean, E.T. is pretty close to perfect.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Release Date: December 15th, 1974
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Kahn, Gene Hackman

20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes 

Review:

I was fortunate enough to see Young Frankenstein on the big screen this past weekend thanks to one of my local theaters being awesome and featuring films offered by Flashback Cinema. Being that I am a pretty big Mel Brooks fan, it was certainly a treat. Also, the only Brooks film I had ever seen in the theater before this was Dracula: Dead and Loving It. That was a tragedy that needed to be rectified.

I am also a bigger fan of the Universal Monsters franchise. While this isn’t a film put out by Universal, parodying itself, it still is a wonderful comedic homage to those films and it’s pretty cool that 20th Century Fox put up the cash to make it.

Written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, from a humor standpoint, it seems to have a bit more Wilder in the script. The great thing about the man, is he knew how to write comedy for himself. Brooks, on the other hand, was very good at making things work well for an ensemble of hilarious characters. He also makes completely absurd situations work. Together, these two men had a perfect marriage with the script for Young Frankenstein.

The film is as close to perfect as a parody movie can get. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of parody films, except for those put out by Mel Brooks because he just has the ability to capture the spirit and magic of the films he pokes fun at. Brooks’ parodies are more like an old school classic Dean Martin Roast of movies he loves, where the modern parodies done be filmmakers (with less than a tenth of Brooks’ talent) are just an atrocious string of racist, dick, fart and fat jokes that could be better executed by first graders on a playground. Needless to say, Brooks has mastered an art and no one else has even come close to his level. Young Frankenstein is one of the Brooks films where this is completely apparent.

Young Frankenstein is magic. It recaptures the look and feel of the James Whale Frankenstein pictures of the 1930s almost flawlessly. It is impressive how authentic the sets and props feel. The cinematography is a near match of those films, especially the lighting and the tone. The use of contrast creates a great sense of depth that makes it feel like those old classic horror pictures. It is also worth mentioning that the great score really adds a lot of character to the film’s presentation and helps to enhance the visual side of things.

This is one of the absolute best roles that Gene Wilder has ever played. The same can be said for Teri Garr and Marty Feldman. Peter Boyle has had a weird mix of fantastic and different roles over the years but he’s perfect in this as the Creature. Madeline Kahn is also stupendous and utterly hilarious. The one character I have always loved though, is the Inspector played by Kenneth Mars.

Young Frankenstein is a great movie and certainly a classic that deserves its fanfare. I think its biggest strength is its story. While it parodies the many Frankenstein pictures put out by Universal in their horror heyday, it is its own unique tale backed by complete hilarity and a talented cast and director.

Rating: 9/10