When Michael Keaton was cast as Batman later in the Eighties, it was a popular joke that they cast Mr. Mom as the Dark Knight. Today, it’s a sign of Keaton’s versatility, and a cautionary tale of how we shouldn’t be quick to judge casting decisions: Keaton is great as Batman, and he’s one of the best parts of “Mr. Mom” (1983). But even though John Hughes wrote “Vacation” the same year, “Mr. Mom” does not rank as one of his finer efforts.
With the sequel “Screamers: The Hunting” (2009), we get further away from the Philip K. Dick source material adapted into 1995’s “Screamers”: the 1953 short story “Second Variety.” But not as far away as you might think. “The Hunting” is that old-school type of cheap horror sequel that repeats the story from the original, starting with a narrative excuse to return the same territory.
Archaeologist Nora Kelly enters the pantheon of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s heroes in “Thunderhead” (1999), an early and still great example of their Southwestern mystery adventures. In 2019, she’d still be going strong in “Old Bones,” the first of a series marketed with Nora as the lead character. I picture her in my head like “Lost World: Jurassic Park”-era Julianne Moore.
The Crow: Salvation” (2000) is the third straight “Crow” film where I see objective filmmaking and storytelling problems, yet I still kind of like it. In fact, this one has the most coherent narrative so far, and for the first time it makes it clear – “clear” being a relative term – that the crow (as in the bird) is a familiar of the human Crow, and that the human Crow can also turn into a crow if need be.
For a novella published in 1898, Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” is having a boffo 2020. The Netflix miniseries “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is rightfully getting all the hype, but “The Turning” also came out this year, in January before the mass theater shutdown. I watched this lesser-known adaptation out of curiosity after finishing “Bly Manor.” It gets some appeal from the intrigue of how a different creative team (screenwriters Chad and Carey W. Hayes of “The Conjuring” and director Floria Sigismondi) adapts the novella, but also loses suspense because I knew the story’s broad strokes.
It’s an excellent month for an exorcism. From Oct. 21-31, I’m looking back at the five films of “The Exorcist” series as we celebrate Spooky Month here at Cold Bananas. Next up is the second film, “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977):
Heathers” (1989) is one of the most oft-referenced titles in teen-movie scholarship, and the film itself regularly gets referenced in other works. Namely, the term “Heather” now refers to a self-centered popular girl. More subtly, Christian Slater became the go-to heartthrob of the 1990s – for example, the girls in the equally classic “Clueless” (1995) plan to attend the new Christian Slater movie.
It’s an excellent month for an exorcism. From Oct. 21-31, I’m looking back at the five films of “The Exorcist” series as we celebrate Spooky Month here at Cold Bananas. First up is “The Exorcist” (1973):
After his four high school films as a director, John Hughes moved on to four family friendly films – the last of which is the strangest: “Curly Sue” (1991). On one level, this is another easy-to-like yarn about family and friendships. Chicago has never looked better in a Hughes film, as cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball showcases both halves: the glitzy side and the seedy side. The latter half is still appealing because it features our lovable, homeless title kid (Alisan Porter) and the surprisingly principled dad (Jim Belushi as Bill Dancer) who devises small-time cons to get their next meal.
With “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) – his spiritual (pun intended) sequel to 2018’s “The Haunting of Hill House” — Mike Flanagan continues to solidify his status as a horror auteur tapped into the tragic beauty afforded by the genre. A damp, dark-haired, white-dressed, hidden-faced woman in a Flanagan work is more than a scary ghost: She symbolizes the bittersweet tragedy of a forgotten past. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)