DVD Roundup: Swords and Steaks- Fright Night and Ironclad

This week two movies from last year that I missed in the cinemas.

Kicking us off is Fright Night, a remake of the 1980s comedy horror of the same name. Anton Yelchin stars as Charley, an awkward teenager who has turned his back on his geeky past to start dating popular girl Amy (Imogen Poots), but is approached by his old friend “Evil” Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is investigating the disappearance of various locals and believes that Charley’s new neighbour, Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.

Charley is disbelieving, but tags along but nothing is found at one of the crime scenes and they part after an argument. On his way home Ed is attacked and bitten by Jerry.

With Ed missing and feeling a little guilty Charley begins to snoop around and discovers the truth. His problems are made worse by the fact his mother, Jane (Toni Collette) is attracted to Jerry. Charley goes to the magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant) who claims to be an occult expert but turns out to be a drunk and turfs Charley out.

Jerry attempts to kill Charley, Jane and Amy, hospitalizing Jane. Ed returns as a vampire and fights Charley, and Amy is turned and Charley decides to go after Jerry so that he can turn everyone back to humans, and finally, Peter turns up to back him up, revealing his past that links him to vampires and Jerry in particular.

I really dug this movie. While the original has its own charms and a cheap and cheerful 80s vibe, I thought this one was a better movie, in a large part due to the casting. Yelchin is an engaging, likable hero and captures Charley’s awkwardness and heroism rather well, but he’s overshadowed by the supporting cast.

Colin Farrell seems to have a lot of fun as Jerry, and is well cast, making a far more convincing seductive vampire than Chris Sarandon in the original. He has this very animalistic, predatory vibe and is a damn fine looking man too.

Colin Farrell an improvement on Sarandon

But the scene stealing goes to David Tennant, the Peter Vincent character in the original was a washed up Hammer horror style actor, but here he’s a much more entertaining OTT magician, a swaggering, campy figure who reminded me of Russell Brand he spends much of the film drunk and Tennant revels in the characters mix of posturing and cowardice. Tennant makes him a bit of a douche but an oddly likable and entertaining one. He comes good at the end and his back story is quite a nice touch.

Tennant as Peter Vincent-A likable and entertaining douche.

The effects are pretty good, although having been made for 3D there are annoying “3D moments” where things fly at the screen, but that’s the only real flaw in a film which is quite good fun. There are pop culture references throughout and there’s a tongue in cheek vibe that I really dug.

It also has more heart than the original, down largely to the changes they’ve made to the Evil character, who in the old version was just a bit of a douche and incredibly awkward, whereas Christopher Mintz-Plasse brings a more sympathetic side to the character, the way that he and Charley have drifted apart feels true of teenage friendships and their relationship is convincing, especially the tension surrounding Charley’s new relationship. Their final confrontation has genuine pathos to it, and Evil’s last lines are quite a touching moment, as is Charley going through a realistically nerdy video they made together.

Its a strong performance from CMP, and he’s now 4-0 in terms of films of his I’ve enjoyed (this joining Superbad, Role Models and Kick-Ass).

Perfect record- Christopher Mintz-Plasse

All together, a superior remake and a whole heap of fun. 7/10.

Second up is Ironclad, a pretty fun action movie.

Set in the reign of King John (Paul Giamatti) it sees the King going against the Magna Carta and trying to reassert his rule, and the stand made by a small number of men to stop him.

The film opens with a quick history lesson ending with “what happened next is not remembered” which essential tells you that what follows is hogwash, but highly entertaining hogwash at that.

Templar knight Marshal (James Purefoy) is one of three knights who helped defeat John who are attacked while traveling unarmed and their guide, a monk, is killed, along with the other two knights. Marshal is extremely damaged, jaded with war and tired of fighting he merely wishes to leave the order and attempt to build a life for himself.

Marshal visits the bishop who crafted the Magna Carta (which protected the rights of the free men and limited the King’s authority) and along with Baron Albany (Brian Cox) hatches a plan to slow John’s progress by holing up at Rochester Castle and waiting for support to come from France.

John’s forces, bolstered by Danish mercenaries led by Tiberius (Vladimir Kulich) make their way for the castle, as Marshal and Albany gather their own small force, including Albany’s men a ragtag bunch of criminals and hardened soldiers (Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook, Jamie Foreman, Rhys Parry Jones) and his naive squire, Guy (Aneurin Barnard). The seven take command, against the wishes of the castle’s lord, Baron Cornhill (Derek Jacobi).

Cornhill’s young wife, Isabel (Kate Mara) is drawn to Marshal but his vows mean he tries to resist her charms. John’s men lay siege to the castle, and the small force holds out for a time, but it soon becomes apparent that the French might not be coming and the castle may fall. With numbers dwindling they prepare for the final battle.

I really dug this movie, I love a good old-fashioned action movie of sword fights and heroism and this has plenty of both. The handling isn’t old fashioned though, with the characters swearing frequently and the action having this really visceral, bloody feel to it that had me wincing at times.

Its one of those movies that tries to convey the horrors of war and the fact its been glamourised in stories, mainly through Guy’s first experience of battle changing his preconceptions, but the action is so well handled that you actually enjoy it a lot and in a way it glamourises it itself. The fight sequences are superb, with the hits feeling like they really hurt and limbs and blood littering the whole castle by the end of the movie.

Some of its predictable, and the love story is fairly obvious, but at the same time, if you were locked up in a castle with Derek Jacobi I can see why Purefoy would be tempting. But the dialogue avoids cheesiness and it never loses steam.

Purefoy does well in the role, despite my early misgivings. At the start of the film he’s undertaken a vow of silence, and he’s rather broody throughout which is a shame as my man crush on him started when he played more colourful, roguish characters like Marc Antony in Rome. But in a different role he’s just as good, with this quiet charm and a quite powerful onscreen presence. He looks the part as a total badass, the way he carries himself and his whole aura makes it clear he is a man with whom not to mess.

A man with whom not to mess- Purefoy as Marshal

The rest of the cast do their roles perfectly well, particularly Brian Cox who makes Albany a foul mouthed and engaging brawler, and you can fully understand why his men are so loyal to him. Its also good to see Jason Flemyng do something a little different, as I’m used to him being comic relief or minor characters, but he makes a rather convincing warrior and is something of a badass in this flick.

Jason Flemyng- a surprising badass

Paul Giamatti is good as John, and the character is well crafted. Decidedly villainous and shown to be scheming and ruthless, he never crosses over into hamminess and even fleeting moments where you feel for the man, who truly believes he was chosen by God to rule.

A bloody, brutal brawl of a film, with some good performances and lots of fun. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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