DC Comics. McKean’s art illustrated the seminal 1989 graphic novel written by Grant Morrison (republished here five years ago in a deluxe edition). The modern video game, “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” is only loosely based on the book. It is easy to confuse the two because the original graphic novel is also alternately called “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”
If you’re acquainted with this blog at all, then you’re already aware of the sheer reverence I have for Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982). So I won’t belabor that subject yet again in order to note Rutger Hauer’s passing this past Friday.
Hauer was a prolific actor, and his fans can remember him fondly from any number of roles. Below are the trailers for my three favorites.
The first is 1986’s “The Hitcher,” which might have been the first modern, adult horror film that I truly loved. (This is leaving aside Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 “The Birds” and various monster movies aimed at kids.) I’m a little concerned that the trailer below misrepresents the movie, though. “The Hitcher” aspired to be a serious film, and was truly a great horror-thriller, in my opinion. It was moody, atmospheric, thoughtful and methodically paced (although it didn’t lack blood and violence either). It was far better than the 80’s action-horror boilerplate movie that the trailer seems to depict.
Hauer was terrifying. (If you are wondering, that is indeed C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh costarring. And if you watch the trailer very closely, you can see Jeffrey DeMunn — who contemporary audiences will recognize as Dale from “The Walking Dead.”)
The second is movie is 1985’s “Ladyhawke,” which saw Hauer co-star with none other than Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer. It had far more mainstream appeal, and it reliably kicks up nostalgia every time it’s mentioned on social media. (Seriously, go try it.)
The third is one that far fewer people will remember –1989’s “Blind Fury,” which rode the tail end of the decade’s martial arts craze. It was zany stuff, and it didn’t hold back on the 80’s-era cheese, but it had a lot of heart and was surprisingly earnest. Some of the action sequences were damned impressive too. (And if you were a nut for 80’s ninja movies, you’ll of course recognize Sho Kosugi as the acrobatic villain here.)
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
— Rutger Hauer’s closing soliloquy in “Blade Runner” (1982), Ridley Scott’s seminal adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 science fiction novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” The actor co-wrote the speech that appears in the movie.
Hauer died Friday at age 75. The news of his passing was reported today.
His role in “Blade Runner” will always define him in my mind. But I also grew up seeing him in “Ladyhawke” (1985), “The Hitcher” (1986) and “Blind Fury” (1989); and later was pleased to discover him in “Batman Begins” and “Sin City” (2005). Believe it or not, it was “The Hitcher” and not “Blade Runner” that first made me love Hauer’s performances. I was still in early high school when I saw both films. The former was among the first horror movies I truly loved, and I wasn’t yet mature enough to fully appreciate the latter.
Hauer was Knight in the Dutch Order of the Netherlands Lion.
What an amazing artist, whose creativity in his craft brought so much enjoyment to others.
If I could tell my 19-year-old self discovering superhero comics in college exactly how good their big screen adaptations would become, I wouldn’t believe me.
I saw “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) tonight with expectations that were very high. It was still better than I thought it would be. It was easily better than last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” (although I think of them as two halves of the same epic movie). I don’t pretend to be a film expert, so take this as speculation — I personally think the pair of “Infinity” films have made comic-book movie history in the same manner as the original “Superman” (1978), Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy (2005-2012).
I don’t really want to make any more observations, because I’m too afraid of inadvertently posting spoilers. But I will say that there is a massive tonal change between “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” The banter and humor of the former is largely left aside, and this concluding story is darker and far more emotionally sophisticated. It’s moving. It feels strange to write here, but I kept thinking during the movie that this was a more “grown up” Marvel film.
And it is EPIC. I honestly can’t imagine how Marvel can top it with future films. There is an action set piece that made my jaw drop. I can’t say more.
This is an obvious 10 out of 10 from me.
“Pet Sematary” (2019) is an unnecessary remake, but still a decent one. I personally prefer the flamboyant 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel; it was more garish and stylish, if a little campy. (And its flashback sequences involving one character’s deceased sister are priceless horror fare.) But this sleeker, more restrained update is nonetheless still made and sometimes pretty scary. I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.
The writing and directing are generally good, even if certain jump scares were so heavy-handed that they were nearly laughable. (The script wisely capitalizes on the universal, existential dread of mortality, as the first film did.) There are few new bells and whistles here; the 2019 film instead tries to distinguish itself with a key variation in the plot of King’s eponymous 1983 book. (I won’t describe it here, as I’m not certain whether it is a spoiler. But this change isn’t “shocking,” as The New York Times’ headline proclaims; it’s simply a basic story alteration.)
The cast is roundly quite good. A surprise standout for me was Amy Seimetz, who plays the mother of the story’s troubled Creed family with surprising power and nuance. She’s a damned excellent actress. And I was surprised to learn that I failed to recognize her as one of the doomed spacefarers from 2017’s “Alien: Covenant” — another role that required her to portray apprehension and panic.
There were two possible nitpicks that occurred to me as I watched “Pet Sematary,” but these probably aren’t the fault of the filmmakers, as they likely stem from the literary source material. (I read the book several times, but I was a young teenager when I did so.) As an adult, I am only a fuzzy on two story elements:
- How is the character of Victor Pascow (played here by Obssa Ahmed) able to offer help to the troubled Creed family? Can anyone in his circumstances do so? Might others step forward as well? Why should Pascow be uniquely motivated? (I am again trying to keep this review spoiler free.)
- Why is the mother’s traumatic childhood a factor in the story’s present? It’s … mostly tangential, right? It is a compelling character element, and portrayed beautifully by Seimetz. But I don’t fully understand how it seems to affect what transpires before us.
One final note — I’ve seen a few people on the Internet compare John Lithgow’s performance to that of Fred Gwynne in the 1989 film. (They both play the character of Jud, the family’s elderly neighbor.) Lithgow is predictably wonderful here — especially when Jud is showing kindness to the young daughter (played charmingly by Jete Laurence). But Gwynne was better, because he was so perfectly cast. It was a role that he was born to play.
I’m all for a good vampire story. But this isn’t a particularly good vampire story.
Or, at least not yet, it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong — the premiere of “The Passage” wasn’t the worst hour of television I’ve ever seen. I’d rate it a 5 out of 10 for being somewhat average. It has two good leads in Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney. Gosselaar is no Laurence Olivier, but he’s good enough, and he looks and fits the part. He seems like an excellent physical actor in the premiere’s brief action sequences, which weren’t altogether bad. Sidney is downright terrific — and she’s an adorable kid too.
The show also has a great plot setup going for it, which I won’t spoil here. It’s based on a trilogy of dystopian horror novels by Justin Cronin, which actually sound like some quite interesting books. There are even a couple of sly references to well known horror films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and “28 Days Later” (2002).
Regrettably, however, “The Passage” suffers a lot from rushed and clumsy storytelling. The script is a poor one, with a lot of awkward exposition and forced emotion. (It shares a weakness with this year’s vastly superior “Bird Box,” in that it tries to fit too much of its source material into too little screen time.) It falls well short of being scary, too, which is probably what will alienate modern horror fans, unless it improves. (This is a primetime network TV show, and isn’t any more frightening than the average episode of “Star Trek.”)
Weird world — Gosselar is none other than the Zack from “Saved By the Bell” (1989-1993). And am I the only one that thinks he is the spitting image of Chris Pratt in a lot of shots. I almost thought it was Pratt from the ads.