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Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Far From Home" (1989) - Drew Barrymore in the Desert Heat

Drew Barrymore Sparkles in "Far From Home"

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
"Far From Home" (1989).

There are films to watch not because they are cinematic classics, but simply because they are light on the mind, easy on the eye, have a weird and creepy vibe, and pass the time in interesting surroundings. Such is the case with "Far From Home" (1989), a Lightning Pictures/Planet Productions/Vestron Pictures thriller directed by Meiert Avis and set in a nowhere town in the middle of the desert. Shot where the "Burning Man" festival takes place in Black Rock Desert, the scenery is stunning. While Drew Barrymore did not even draw top billing, she dominates this film and is the real reason to watch it today (with all due respect to the other great talent involved, and there is a lot for such an unknown film).

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Drew plays Joleen, who is bored by her father's companionship in "Far From Home."

After taking a cross-country vacation with his daughter Joleen, writer Charlie Cox is driving home to LA when he runs out of gas in a small Nevada desert town. There is no gas to be had, so they are stranded. Joleen is a precocious teenager just learning about life and love, and Charlie wants to get her home before her 14th birthday in a few days. Little do they know that their time in Banco, Nevada will be more exciting than any birthday.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Joleen starts to wonder what is going on in the small town in "Far From Home."

While trying to find someone to sell them some gas, the two enter a small supermarket only to stumble across a dead body. It is the store's owner, covered in blood. After leaving the scene with the local sheriff in charge, they meet Duckett, a friendly Vietnam Vet who runs the only gas station in town. He tells them there is no gas in town, and the supply truck won't be there for another day at least.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Joleen checks out their "overpriced camper" lodging in "Far From Home."

Not wanting to camp out in their car, Charlie books them into the Palomino Guest Ranch and Trailer Park, owned by Agnes Reed. Agnes has a son, Jimmy Reed, who is about Jolene's age. She also meets Pinky Sears, another teen who lives in the trailer park. That night, while Agnes is taking a bath, somebody pushes a fan into her bathtub and she is electrocuted.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
A promo still from "Far From Home"

The next day, Jimmy, who had tried to seduce Joleen the day before, loses control and tries to rape Joleen. She fights him off with the help of Pinky, but doesn't make a fuss about it. Charlie, now desperate to get them out of town despite the fact that the fuel truck hasn't shown up, tries to arrange a ride with neighbors Louise and Amy, but before they can leave, somebody blows up their car - with Amy in it.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


Joleen has been keeping a diary, and somebody steals it. Jimmy Reed (Andras Jones), who affects a "wild boy" attitude, tries to rob Duckett's gas station, and winds up being accused of that and the recent murders. Thus, as things start spiralling out of control, Jimmy is the character who seems most likely to be the culprit.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
While at the local swimming pool, Joleen hears something strange in "Far From Home."

Duckett wants to talk to Pinky's mother about it, but when he goes to her trailer, he finds that she has been killed and her body preserved in ice. Pinky then arrives and stabs him with a screwdriver. Pinky runs off to his secret hideaway, and Joleen runs after him. She finds a diary there and realizes that Pinky is the real killer.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Another promo still from "Far From Home."

Duckett, who survived the attack, then radios the Sheriff and tells him that Pinky is the killer and has abducted Joleen. They all head to Pinky's hideaway, where Pinky kills the Sheriff.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Andras Jones and Drew Barrymore in a promo still for "Far From Home."

Pinky is obsessed with Joleen. He chases after her when she tries to escape and corners her in a radio tower. When Charlie tries to rescue Joleen, Pinky beats him off, injuring Charlie's hand.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Drew Barrymore acted up a storm in "Far From Home."

Now temporarily safe with Joleen on the tower, Pinky professes his love for her. Duckett, a skilled marksman from his war days, managed to use a rifle to shoot Pinky, who falls off the tower and dies. Duckett then explains that Pinky probably lost his mind when his mother got sick and died. All of the murders were simply Pinky's attempt to keep Joleen in town long enough for him to seduce her. Badly shaken, Charlie, Joleen and Louise get some gasoline and leave Banco behind.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Drew Barrymore a few years later. You can tell the difference between the raw innocence of "Far From Home" and her later studied charm.

For an unknown low-budget film, the quality of "Far From Home" is quite high. The atmosphere is moody and subdued, reflecting a childlike view of normality intermixed with bouts of unexpected terror. Matt Frewer, better known as tv's Max Headroom and the Trashcan Man from Stephen King's "The Stand," does a fine job as Charlie. Richard Masur, a widely-respected actor, is amiable as Duckett. Anthony Rapp, in only his second film role and who much later did "Rent," is crazily creepy as the disturbed Pinky, while Jennifer Tilly, early in her career and still taking bit parts, is a standout as ditzy Amy.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Title scene from "Far From Home."

While "Far From Home" probably isn't at the top of any of their resumes, they turn in quality performances that make the film eminently watchable. Scenes were filmed on location at American Flats near Virginia City Nevada, giving the setting a spooky and quite original backdrop that you won't see very many other places. There also is an early remark by Joleen about her father still typing on a typewriter "instead of a computer like everyone else," which underscores the period of transition when this film was made.

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Drew Barrymore in "Far From Home."

Director Meiert is an Irishman who got his start in documentaries and then switched to music videos and commercials. It was a fairly common career path in the 1980s, when music videos were in vogue, and Meiert was in the thick of it (he worked with U2 as well). "Far From Home" was his first film, and his original take on standard scenes (he does not rely on cheap slasher thrills, but instead emphasizes the characters' emotional journey) is refreshing. Meiert recalls:
Drew kept it all together. Funny as hell. She always had her lines well prepared, full of life. A professional. Matt Frewer is the funniest man on earth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a comedy.
Meiert recalls that the production company, Vestron, was in Chapter 11 when the film was released, destroying its marketability and basically consigning it to oblivion. Meiert aptly sums up "Far From Home" as "'Psycho' for teenagers." You may read the complete interview here.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Andras Jones
Drew Barrymore with bad boy Andras Jones in "Far From Home."

I'm not trying to pawn this off as better than it is - there is overacting galore, silly "thriller" moments, implausible situations (such as Pinky's hideout, which is a trip to see, or the idea that you could electrocute someone with a house fan, which is quite impossible), overuse of the phrases "far out" and "man," and the usual '80s touches. Richard Masur in particular overdoes it at times with his take on Dennis Hopper's crazed hippie from "Apocalypse Now," but at other moments he is quite effective and a formidable presence. Susan Tyrrell, as Jimmy's mother, goes way, way over the top (perhaps intentionally to establish her character quickly), but at least manages to leave a mark with her character. Director Avis overdoes his use of the fisheye lens, but maintains a fine pacing with strong characterizations.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Andras Jones
The Anthony Rapp and Drew Barrymore characters develop a strange bond in "Far From Home."

There isn't much to the movie, but it is a nice time capsule of 1989. Make no mistake, some people are not going to like this at all and will consider it a complete waste of time. For what it is, though, a typical thriller of the time that is a half-step above a tv "movie of the week," "Far From Home" is quite passable.

Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
A typical knowing gaze from Drew Barrymore in "Far From Home."

Yes, "Far From Home" is about more than Drew. However, the other actors could all emote at the level of Laurence Olivier and Meryl Streep and that still wouldn't be the reason to hunt down the quite rare "Far From Home." Instead, it is Drew Barrymore, who pulls off a stunning acting job as the "no longer a girl, not yet a woman" role of the naive Joleen, who is the gem in the tiara. She conveys an innocent girl at a very fleeting moment of her life who is barely in control of her own hormones and thus willingly and naively places herself in dangerous situations. It is a very down-to-earth characterization, one you will probably recognize from someone you know. Obviously, Joleen is a victim who deserves nothing that happens to her, but the film is effective at showing how she places herself in position to incur some of her own difficulties.

Drew Barrymore Far From Home movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


Drew actually was about her character's age at the time of filming, and she still has her baby fat. Otherwise, Drew Barrymore has the appearance and poise of a mature woman. She displays no self-consciousness and does a nice job of acting tired of her father's company. Just like a teen, she becomes possessive of her father when his attentions seem to wander toward Amy and Louise, then her own eye wanders and is drawn like a moth to the flame by the (few) boys in town. Director Avis hit the jackpot of catching Drew at a unique moment in her life, a moment which included a lot of mixed publicity for Drew.

Drew Barrymore Far From Home movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Drew Barrymore was getting a lot of real-world publicity around the time of "Far From Home," and not all of it positive, as in this January 16, 1989 cover story.

"Far From Home" was made when Drew later claimed that she was fighting off various addictions. While there is no evidence of that in "Far From Home" and she is the very picture of health, you can quite understand how Drew's electric mixture of innocence and poise could have led her down the wrong path whilst hanging around the wrong crowd.

"Far From Home" is one of my personal "guilty pleasures" because, despite the hokey plot, it really captures a moment. If you are a Drew Barrymore fan, "Far From Home" is well worth seeking out.



Far From Home Drew Barrymore movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
"Far From Home" (1989).

2017

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014).

Guardians of the Galaxy, Hooked on a Feeling

Guardians of the Galaxy movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
"Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014).

The studio synopsis:
"In the far reaches of outer space, an American pilot from the 1980s named Peter Quill teams up with a motley collection of outlaws and finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan the Accuser."



Walt Disney Studios bought Mavel for $4 billion a few years ago, and it is about to start getting some more of its money back.

"Guardians of the Galaxy," a live-action superhero film, was released on August 1, 2014. It turned into a massive hit that spawned a franchise, with the first sequel released in 2017.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" features the Guardians battling the insectoid aliens known as the Sakaaran. Ronan the Accuser also is featured.

Here is the official synopsis, which is a bit wordy:

An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits–Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand–with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.
Couldn't they have just said "Earth guy on the run in Outer Space" like just about every other science fiction film?

Fans of the classic Marvel comic books may wonder why some of the more prominent characters, such as the Badoon, aren't featured. Well, to make a long story short, it is because of who owns the rights to what. It is useful to go through this just to clarify things.

Apparently, it goes like this. Disney owns Marvel, and Marvel owns the the rights to the Guardians. So far, so good. Disney/Marvel can make a movie about the Guardians.

However, Marvel does not retain the sole rights to everyone else in the Guardians universe. Rights to the Skrulls, for instance, are split between Marvel and others. Apparently, if the rights are split, that means whoever owns a piece can use those characters - at least usually.

Marvel/Disney does not retain the rights to "Fantastic Four" and "X-Men." Those rights were sold to Twenty-First Century Fox for them to make their motion pictures about them. A similar deal was made for rights to "Spider-Man," which now are owned by Sony. So, Marvel/Disney cannot make films about them or use those characters.

Why are Ronan the Accuser and the Sakaaran all right for Marvel/Disney to use? Because their rights were never sold off. Sometimes, it comes down to a fine-line judgment of with whom a particular character is most involved. Marvel retains rights to "The Avengers," so any character that interacts more with them than with "Fantastic Four" or "X-Men" or "Spider-Man" is all right for Marvel to use. However, even if a character interacts with "The Avengers," if he or she interacts more with "Spider-Man" or "X-Men," then Marvel may not use them - unless the rights are considered split.

Think of it this way: suppose Lex Luthor and Lois Lane somehow made a quick cameo in a single comic book of "The Avengers." That wouldn't give Marvel the rights to use them forever. The characters are intimately part of the Superman universe and their rights stay with whoever owns the rights to Superman (originally DC Comics, of course, though it's unclear who owns them right now).

So, since the Badoon are considered (by the lawyers) more a part of the "Fantastic Four" universe than "The Avengers," they can only be used in products created by (or licensed away from) Fox. You won't see them in "Guardians of the Galaxy," a Disney/Marvel product.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, that is how what you see on the screen is decided in Hollywood these days.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Lee Pace as Ronan. It is directed by James Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay.

Oh, and to save you the trouble - here's that song from the trailer (you know you were going to look):


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2017

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Stills

X-Men: Days of Future Past movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014).

Below are still from "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014), which involves a time-trip back to the '70s and the Nixon Administration to solve a problem.

The film stars:

Jennifer Lawrence as Raven / Mystique
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Evan Peters as Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast
Hugh Jackman as Logan / Wolverine
Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier
Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde / Shadowcat
Anna Paquin as Marie / Rogue
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe / Storm
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto - older
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake / Iceman
Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier
Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok
Booboo Stewart as James Proudstar / Warpath

The production teased the public throughout the run-up to "X-Men: Days of Future Past" as to the actor playing Richard Nixon. We know now that the President is played by Mark Camacho.


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2017