Near Dark

Near Dark is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Near Dark (1987) – Rated R

“A young man reluctantly joins a traveling “family” of evil vampires, when the girl he’d tried to seduce is part of that group.”

“What you people want? ” – “Just a couple more minutes of your time, about the same duration as the rest of your life. “

Please note that I have used some of the older poster art for this film. The new art is absolutely ridiculous. They spend a good deal of time trying to make Near Dark look like Twilight, even going to the extent of making you think that the man is the vampire by changing his skin color. I seriously laughed out loud the first time I saw that art.

Near Dark was directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow. Yes, the Kathryn Bigelow who would become the first female to win an Oscar for Best Director (The Hurt Locker). Bigelow’s writing creates complex characters and gives you that wonderful feeling that this world existed before the movie began.

One of the best things about Near Dark is the mini-Aliens reunion. The main vampires are Lance (Bishop) Henriksen as Jesse Hooker, Jenette (Vasquez) Goldstein is Diamondback, and Bill (Hudson) Paxton is Severen. Near Dark is not as good as Aliens but Near Dark is quite good and those three actors work great together.

Honestly the three of them are the best thing about Near Dark. The leads are not bad but any time the vampire family is not on screen, you miss them. The Aliens veterans really chew up the scenery. James Cameron suggested she use his cast and Cameron and Bigelow would later (briefly) marry.

Adrian (Heroes) Pasdar is our protagonist, Caleb, who really gets to pay for hitting on the wrong girl. The quirky Jenny (Young Guns II) Wright has mixed feelings as the newly vampirized Mae. Joshua John Miller is cute as an eternally too young vampire, Homer. Genre veteran Tim Thomerson has a brief role as Caleb’s father.

Near Dark makes wonderful use of the American southwest, even more so than John Carpenter did in Vampires. Bigelow creates some incredible set pieces here, particularly a grueling yet humorous bar scene and a daylight assault on a hotel room. Action is quite good and the only thing I found lacking was the romantic plot. Tangerine Dream contributes a decent score but it is not iconic like the ones for Sorcerer or The Keep.

People Watch: James Cameron has a cameo as the man who flips off Severen.

Terminator 2 – Second Verse Same as the First week

This week I have decided to cover the unjustly derided vehicle known as the sequel. This is Second Verse Same as the First week. Terminator 2 – Judgment Day is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Rated R for strong sci-fi (not Syfy) action and violence and for language.

“In this sequel, director James Cameron delivers scene after scene of action-packed thrills. A bigger, better Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is gunning for a shape-shifting T-1000 who is out to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong), the son of Sarah (Linda Hamilton), the original Terminators nemesis”

As with Alien/Aliens, Terminator is a better film than Terminator 2 but Terminator 2 is the more enjoyable film. Cameron is a master of wonderful cuts. In the opening he segues from children playing on a playground to a rather stark vision of the future.

As he did with Aliens, Cameron has also interwoven a theme here. In T2, the overall theme is an examination of what it means to be human. This is more pronounced in the extended version which I was surprised to discover this was. This version contains a scene with Sarah talking to Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), an extra scene with Arnie being worked on, an extra scene with workaholic Miles Dyson, and others.

Cameron loves to have strong female protagonists in his films. This is one of the things I love about Cameron as the action film genre often has a “Men Only” sign on it. Here Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is very buff and capable if somewhat psychologically screwed up. Linda Hamilton does a fine job of grounding many fantastic sequences.

Besides his genius at pacing that I mentioned yesterday, Cameron also excels at injecting appropriate humor into deadly, often grim, encounters. I say “appropriate” because the humor is funny without detracting from the seriousness of the situation.

The opening action sequence where Arnie acquires clothing has great action and humor. Unfortunately if you stop to consider it, the scene makes no sense. For an example of what The Terminator series looks like without humor, watch Terminator Salvation.

Arnold returns as a different T-800 and all jokes aside about his robotic delivery, he makes an excellent Terminator. In the first film he was the ultimate Terminator but here he is practically obsolete next to the new T-1000 model.

Robert Patrick plays the new liquid metal Terminator and the smoothness of his face really lends credibility to the changes. Of course a large part of the new Terminator are the special effects used. It seems with every film, Cameron graphically pushes the envelope of what can be accomplished.

Edward Furlong plays John Connor, future leader of the human race. Unfortunately John Connor at this stage is just a juvenile delinquent. Furlong is pretty good but it is often difficult to see where his leadership qualities will spring from.

Joe Morton has a small but meaty role as Miles Dyson, whose discoveries lead to Skynet and ultimately armageddon.

It can be no surprise that I wholeheartedly recommend one of the greatest action films of all time. The special effects hold up quite well.

Netflix presents T2 in high-definition for those of you with adequate internet connections. The picture is better than DVD quality but a bit shy of the Blu-Ray.

People Watch: Xander Berkeley (Mason in 24) and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez in Aliens) have brief roles here as foster parents to John Connor.

Aliens – Second Verse Same as the First week

This week I have decided to cover the unjustly derided vehicle known as the sequel. This is Second Verse Same as the First week. Aliens is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Aliens (1986) – Rated R.

“In this acclaimed sequel, the only survivor from the first film, Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), finds her horrific account of her crews fate is met with skepticism — until the disappearance of colonists on LV-426 prompts a team of high-tech Marines to investigate. This special edition features an introduction by director James Cameron, commentary by cast and crew members and both the theatrical and special edition versions of the film.”

“Game over man, game over.”

Please note that the description refers to the disc version. The instant version is the theatrical release.

Alien and Aliens are two of my all-time favorite films. While Alien is the better film (by just a smidge), it takes a long time to set up the story and mythos and even once the action starts, the movie moves in fits and spurts. Aliens with its extreme emphasis on action is the more enjoyable film.

James Cameron is an incredible director. He made three of the best action films ever made (Aliens, Terminator, and Terminator 2) as well as the blockbusters Titanic and Avatar. Every thing he touches since Piranha 2: The Spawning is apparently made of gold.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) completes her transformation here from Alien. Besides being the main character of a wonderful ensemble, she is also central to the theme woven throughout the film. Cameron visits and revisits aspects of motherhood throughout the production (more so in the extended version). There is a wonderful initial scene of the face of a sleeping Ripley that fades into a scene of the planet Earth.

Comedian Paul Reiser plays wonderfully against type as friendly corporate representative Burke. Genre veteran Lance Henriksen is genuinely creepy as Bishop. This is the only film child actor Carrie Henn appeared in and she is quite good (she is a schoolteacher now).

The soldiers are all great. The underrated Bill Paxton has a field day as the panicky Hicks. Michael Biehn is the quiet but ultra-competent Hudson. Jenette Goldstein steals many a scene as the uber macho Vasquez. Even William Hope is good as the hapless Lt. Gorman.

While all of the film is impressive, I think the thing Cameron does best is that he knows how to properly pace the film. After a lot of buildup (and a couple false scares to keep us interested), Cameron brings us to the best action setpiece in the movie. It is an incredibly tense confrontation between the marines and the Aliens.

The important part is that right after that is over, there are a few character beats so we can catch our breath before the next action sequence. After the following sequence, we get some very humorous dialogue especially from Hudson and then more buildup as the survivors prepare for a siege.

It is hard to believe that Cameron only had a half-dozen alien suits to work with. It seems as though there are a never-ending swarm of aliens, particularly in a sequence involving the auto sentries in the extended edition.

Well it can hardly be a surprise that I heartily recommend one of my favorite films of all time. While Cameron does spend some time setting up the story, it is like the long climb of a roller coaster before you go over the top. Once you hit the peak, the ride is utterly thrilling all the way to the end.

Thankfully Netflix presents this movie in HD. While not without flaws, the 720p image looks so much better than my DVD. This has me eagerly awaiting the 1080p Alien Blu-Ray box set due this fall.

Trivia: Kathryn Bigelow, first female to win a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, directed Near Dark. Near Dark features Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Bill Paxton (Hudson), and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) from Aliens as vampires and in one scene, the movie Aliens is playing in the background. It is an interesting film – just ignore the ridiculous new cover they gave it to make it look like Twilight.

People Watch: Mark Rolston, who plays Drake here, played Dan Erickson in Saw V and Saw VI.