This Week at the Movies

Performances elevate the average "Fright Night" and the likable "One Day," while Spanish film "The Last Circus" is sheer lunacy.

In recent years, bloodsuckers have become synonymous with teen angst and mopey romance. Culprits include "Twilight," The Vampire Diaries" and "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."

In the remake of “Fright Night,” Colin Farrell plays one of the meaner, nastier vampires of recent cinematic memory. His performance is so delightfully creepy that he nearly saves the picture from mainstream horror mediocrity.

The plot remains true to the 1985 cult classic. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has become convinced that his new neighbor, Jerry (Farrell), could be among the undead after the former notices that the latter does not cast a reflection in mirrors.

The fact that women show up at Jerry’s doorstep and then seem to disappear also helps Charley’s case.

Thrown into the story's mix are Charley’s single mother (Toni Collette), who is charmed by the vampire, girlfriend (Imogen Poots) and former best pal (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of “Superbad” fame).

“Fright Night” is at its best when it sticks to old school thrills, including a scene during which Charley breaks into his neighbor’s home to search for evidence. And it also earns points for its sly subtext: the Las Vegas outskirts town where the film is set is littered with lawns bearing "For Sale" signs and terrorized by a bloodsucker.

But the picture loses steam after Charley enlists the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a cheesy Vegas magician and alleged “vampire killer,” to aid his battle against Jerry.

The film quickly devolves into a series of battles and action sequences, including a car chase in the desert and an exploding home, that would feel more at home in one of the summer’s blockbusters than in a throwback to a 1980’s horror movie.

Farrell’s performance is the selling point here. The film, otherwise, is lacking the necessary bite.

Subtlety is not the strong suit of Alex de la Iglesia’s “The Last Circus,” which follows a storyline similar to “Water for Elephants,” but is set in Franco-era Spain, includes touches of surrealism and a script wilder than anything ever imagined by Quentin Tarantino or Alejandro Jodrowsky.

At the film’s beginning, young Javier witnesses his father, a circus clown, gunned down by a cruel general during the Spanish Civil War. Several decades later, Javier (Carlos Areces) is looking for a circus to which he can add his talents as a self-described “sad clown.”

He quickly develops a rivalry with a violent, loutish clown named Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) over the affections of Natalia (Carolina Bang), a trapeze artist. If this all sounds fairly innocuous, then think again.

“Circus” takes several demented twists and turns – Sergio’s face is left deformed during a fight and Javier loses his mind in his quest for Natalia’s love. The picture culminates in a violent fight to the finish between the two clowns atop a tower in the Valley of the Fallen as Franco’s police close in.

Iglesia may lose control over the material in the film’s final quarter, but the picture never lacks for passion, originality and outrageousness.

“One Day” is the week’s only film not to include copious amounts of bloodshed. The movie, directed by Lone Scherfig (“An Education”), is an old-fashioned tearjerker that manages to be charming despite its adherence to the rules of its respective genre.

Its success mostly rides on the likability of its leads, Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, two Londoners who nearly spark a romance on July 15, 1988 but decide to just remain friends.

Each year, we check back in with the duo on that date. Hathaway’s Emma flails as a writer and spends several years working as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant before getting involved in a lukewarm relationship with a comedian (Rafe Spall).

Dexter (Sturgess) ends up as a smarmy host of a talk show aimed at teenagers. He develops a drinking problem and drug habits as he watches his mother (Patricia Clarkson) fade away from cancer.

This is a romantic dramedy, so there are several near misses for Emma and Dexter. They appear to love each other, but he cannot commit and she becomes frustrated with his lifestyle.

At times, the film’s use of a specific date to reconnect the characters comes off as a bit gimmicky and the story takes some turns into melodrama towards its finale.

But “One Day” manages to work despite these elements because Hathaway and Sturgess inhabit their characters well and earn our sympathy. And its period detail – the film begins in 1988 and spans 18 years – is well handled without being overbearing or drawing too much attention away from the story.

The film may follow an old Hollywood formula, but it is an example of a time honored story well executed.


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