A pumped-up remake of the same-named 1984 vampire horror-comedy, “Fright Night” represents a well oiled machine of goosed senses that unfortunately has no clearly defined motivating purposes, even within genre confines of its own story. Fun and engaging performances carry the movie a great distance, but it eventually bogs down courtesy of loosely defined stakes (no pun intended) and poorly incentivized action.

The story centers on Las Vegas high school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), who lives with his single mom real estate agent, Jane (Toni Collette), and has successfully pivoted away from his geeky past enough to bag a popular girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots). Things get turned upside down when his nerdy pal Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), announces his belief that Charley’s new next-door neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell, oozing dark charm and menace) is a vampire. Charley’s not inclined to believe him, but when Ed goes missing he does some investigating and quickly confirms the Ed’s worst suspicions. Charley then turns to professional magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who touts his vast knowledge and collection of the occult as part of his act. Jerry, for his part, does little to hide his true nature, and soon he and Charley are locked in direct conflict, with the intertwined fates of Amy, Jane and others hanging in the balance.

Fright Night

“Fright Night” possesses some good individual set pieces, and in transposing the material to the outskirts of Las Vegas, Marti Noxon’s updating of Tom Holland’s script finds a visually and emotionally compelling backdrop for the story that successfully divorces the conceit from stale Gothic cliches. But the story also feels beholden to a series of character choices and actions that make no particular sense, and the ostensible cleverness of its setting — wherein a vampire moves to Sin City, with its go-go nightlife and highly transient population — is irrevocably undermined if your villain goes around offing people in their cars during dusk or blowing up houses, both of which are the case here.

The movie’s indiscriminate killing ultimately seems a lot less interesting than the idea of Jerry stalking and targeting those who have been previously victimized by abusers. Crucially, too, there’s a late line of dialogue explicitly linking Jerry to Peter’s tortured past, which then inexplicably goes unremarked upon by any of the characters. Peter doesn’t necessarily need a personal motivation to help Charley, but to awkwardly cram it into the script with absolutely no payoff is beyond strange — it’s flat-out dumb.

Housed in a Blu-ray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover with groovy, lenticular imaging, “Fright Night” comes to home video in a couple different formats, the most notable being its three-disc, four-format offering. The 3-D Blu-ray presentation offers up resolute coloring but does little, obviously, to correct the problem that large swathes of the movie take place at dusk and/or in low light, which is compounded by the dimming effects of the technology. Better is the film’s regular 1080p 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray presentation. DVD and digital copies round things out, with optional Spanish, English and French subtitles stretching across all formats.

Bonus features consist of five minutes of deleted and extended scenes, exclusive to its Blu-ray presentation, and three minutes of bloopers in which flubbed lines and lewd improvisations often dissolve into fits of laughter. An eight-minute making-of featurette machine-guns through the movie’s production design, character choices, special effects work and the like, though it alights on each topic so briefly that it’s hard to gain a real or lasting grasp on the production. A two-minute promo piece for Peter Vincent’s Las Vegas stage show showcases Tennant’s commitment to character, while there’s a full, three-minute version of a dorky home video project by Charley and Ed, “Squid Man.” Finally, there’s also a music video for Kid Cudi’s “No One Believes Me.”

Catch .44

Doubling the title of its famous would-be progenitor, “Catch .44” boasts a quite recognizable cast, but that’s about all it has going for it. A fog of self-satisfied certitude hangs over this precious, ridiculous, noir-infused, crime flick rip-off of Quentin Tarantino’s early work, written and directed by Aaron Harvey. The story finds three female guns-for-hire — Tes (Malin Akerman), Kara (Nikki Reed) and her half-sister Dawn (Deborah Ann Woll) — sent out of town in rural Louisiana by crime boss Mel (Bruce Willis) to intercept a big money dope deal that’s supposedly infringing upon his territory. Things go wrong, however, bodies hit the floor, and additional guns get waved about by barkeep Billy (Shea Whigham) and psychotic henchman Ronny (Forest Whitaker), both of whom also work for Mel.

With its digressive philosophical monologues, shoehorned-in jokes during moments of putative tension and multiple gun standoffs, “Catch .44” isn’t very subtle about its sources of inspiration. It starts off not very interesting and proceeds to get worse from there, though, with flashbacks and repeated overlaps in the story — in theory revealing a bit more of the narrative each time — not doing much to ratchet up the anxiety or stakes. None of the characters or situations are particularly believable, even within the genre confines of the narrative, so nothing that happens holds any consequence, or even entertainment value. Well… except for Willis, in the one scene where he gets to cut loose, sporting a half-opened bathrobe and black dress socks, and nattering on about how he loves pecans. (Yes, seriously.) That, and a self-aware sequence that pokes fun at Willis’ rendition of “Respect Yourself” represent the movie’s high point. Everything else is noisy bore.

“Catch .44” comes to Blu-ray presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix, and optional English and Spanish subtitles. The only bonus feature comes by way of an audio commentary track Harvey and editor Richard Byard, wherein the filmmaker curiously notes his attempts to “channel older grindhouse” (this isn’t a grindhouse flick) and also talks about how various dolly and steadicam shots had to be sacrificed in order to make his shooting schedule.


A slightly more satisfying — if only by very small degrees — slice of straight-to-video exploitation mayhem arrives in the form of “Carjacker,” which finds divorced mom Lorraine (Maria Bello) trying to outwit on-the-lam robber Roy (Stephen Dorff), and assure the safety of her little towheaded five-year-old kid (Connor Hill). The acting here is sometimes a bit unfocused (the kid is terrible, and director John Bonito encourages raucous raving a bit too much), and the multiple, jump-cut-laden montages evoke giggles more than tightening anxiety or mood. It’s amusing, too, to see the same pull-away insert used over and over. Still, screenwriters Michael and Sherry Compton (also among the title’s 18 credited co- or executive producers) come up with a few theoretically interesting cat-and-mouse exchanges which color the characters in interesting ways. If its dumbed-down packaging and an absurd third act that turns the table between captor and captive prevents it from really going anywhere, there are enough moments here for fans of the two leads to find some small measure of entertainment.

“Carjacker” arrives on DVD in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with Dolby digital 5.1 and Spanish mono audio tracks, and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The only supplemental extra is a worthless, three-minute behind-the-scenes featurette in which no one even attempts to defend the material; it’s just a bunch of raw material thrown together, sans even EPK interviews, under a bad rock tune. If you’re not showing audiences footage of Dorff squinting and smoking on set, then you’re just not trying, DVD producers.

Maniac Cop

Penned by Larry Cohen (“Phone Booth”) and directed by William Lustig, cult action-horror flick “Maniac Cop,” from 1988, plays like an elongated, demented episode of “Hunter” with a pinch of stalking urban horror thrown in for good measure. Whether that’s a delightful thing or a yawning bore depends largely on one’s appreciation of genre moviemaking wherein elbow-grease effort trumps imagination. The story centers on Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins), a grizzled New York City police force veteran who, in the wake of a string of violent murders committed by a uniformed man, finds himself waging an uphill battle trying to convince superiors that the killer really is a cop. When the affair of rookie officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) with fellow cop Teresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) gets exposed in the wake of Jack’s wife’s murder, he becomes a prime suspect in the media-fanned “maniac cop” case. Naturally, he has to try to clear his name, as more bodies pile up.

One of the movie’s kills, involving wet cement, is imaginative, and another stunt — involving the wide-shot capture of an individual’s jump off a truck speeding off a dock’s edge, into the water — is superb. But the rest of the action is poorly conceived and even more terribly staged. (Especially comical is a shower fight sequence that would have the collaborators of “Eastern Promises” shaking their heads in derision.) Continuity errors abound (Jack leaves for a night shift with daylight visible outside), and attempts at moodiness generally fail, too. However improbably, two sequels followed “Maniac Cop,” but that likely says more about the lowest-common-denominator home video audience for authority-inverted violence and mayhem than any of the narrative merits or effectively lingering questions on display here.

“Maniac Cop” comes to Blu-ray housed in a standard case, presented in a 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, with a 6.1 HD master audio track, as well as complementary 4.0 and 2.0 tracks. Bonus features are anchored by a 12-minute interview with Robert Z’Dar, who plays the freakish namesake killer, though Atkins, in an 11-minute chat, gives better anecdotal overview of the production, revealing that Lustig didn’t care much for coverage and that they only had a small handful of days to shoot in the Big Apple, versus other locations. A three-minute chat with another bit player is also included (he joyfully recounts the thrill of beating up Campbell), and there are also three different trailers, two TV spots and a Spanish radio clip for the movie. Maybe most interestingly, though, is a five-plus-minute collection of excised scenes which were apparently included in the Japanese TV broadcast of the film; in bulk, they basically delve more into the various political pressures in the mayor’s office being caused by the title character’s spree killing.

Nick Di Paolo Raw Nerve

“Nick Di Paolo: Raw Nerve” showcases the comedian’s hour-long Showtime special, but is perhaps most notable for a DVD cover box that is ridiculously airbrushed and framed in an effort to disguise the 48-year-old stand-up comic’s age. Divvied up into 10 chapters, the special finds Di Paolo — an Emmy-nominated writer for “The Chris Rock Show” and a costar on Louis C.K.’s “Louie,” on FX — riffing on everything from seat belt laws and the danger of iPods to porn and drugs. He rhapsodizes about the benefits of being paralyzed in an auto accident, since his wife would then have to do everything for him, but misfires frequently with strange analogies, like comparing eating only a couple slices of pizza to demurely kissing a naked Heidi Klum, or talking about the illicit drugs of the 1980s in relation to prescription meds of today. Di Paolo also often seems to cycle through some of his strongest material too quickly, as when, as part of a bit on childhood obesity, he makes the observation that, “Fourteen-year-old guys should be learning to get a bra off, not put one on.” The only bonus feature on “Raw Nerve” consists of four minutes of backstage material, in which Di Paolo free-associates about tour life and makes a couple wan jokes about contract riders. He’s not without some talent, but Di Paolo seems better suited for life as a second banana.

Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven

On the documentary front, two different titles offer up viewers a chance to slip away and experience other cultures and vistas. First up is “Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven,” about veteran restaurant owner Sirio Maccioni and his three sons. Director Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”) knows the material and milieu well, as his father once owned a tony restaurant in New York, so he’s able to convey in efficient strokes what it is about the food, man and venue that New Yorkers find so appealing. But, in charting the 2004 closing of its original incarnation and its re-opening two years later, this is also very much a movie about tradition and generational culture clash, so the celebrity factor doesn’t overwhelm the proceedings as with recent docu-biopics on Yves St. Laurent and Coco Chanel. Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Rossi’s film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo audio track. Bonus features consist of a selection of excised scenes, subject and crew biographies, and a scrollable text Q&A session with the director.

Meanwhile, for those interested in South American government, public policy, ecological issues and where the three meet, there’s “Ecuador: Rainforest Vs. Globalization,” from director Jacques Sarasin. The film centers on economist turned crusading politician Rafael Correa, who was elected Ecuador’s president in 2006 and began enacting policies designed to transform the country into a more participatory democracy. Analyzing the country’s IMF debt structure and slowing the exploitation of its natural oil resources in order to protect biodiversity and the indigenous peoples living in its rainforests, Correa is one of the more dynamic head-of-state reformers today. A nice companion piece to Oliver Stone’s recent “South of the Border,” Sarasin’s film is in some ways a bit of a hagiography — it features interviews with many members of Correa’s cabinet, as well as the president himself — but it does give some voice to the opposition, and at a trim, focused 72 minutes, it informs and illuminates without overstaying its welcome. Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, “Ecuador” comes to DVD on a region-free disc, in subtitled French and Spanish. In addition to trailers for other Cinema Libre home video titles, there’s a brief featurette spotlighting Correa’s thoughts on the Yasuni National Forest Project. For more information on the movie, visit www.EcuadorDocumentary.com.

Written by: Brent Simon

By Brent Simon

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International, Newsweek Japan, Magill's Cinema Annual, and many other outlets. He cannot abide a world without U2 and tacos.

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