Richard Curtis’s Pirate Radio (Universal), a tribute to the pirate radio stations that broadcast rock and roll from the ships off the British coast when rock music (and, in fact, all pre-recorded music) was restricted on BBC stations in the mid-sixties, is a perfectly enjoyable comedy that never strays beyond its playlist of colorful personalities and comic antics.
There’s no political meat in its satire of the British government or any real story in the episodic succession of events, and its portrait of the (pop) culture of the time is really just a movie fantasy. But the cast (which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost and Bill Nighy, who proves himself once again the funniest deadpan on Earth) is good company, the film has a killer soundtrack (the British title of the film is “The Boat that Rocked,” and it does) and you get to hear Kenneth Branagh (as the ultimate petty bureaucrat determined not to let anyone have any fun) say “Twatt” and “Clitt” (the unfortunate names of his immediate subordinates) repeatedly. As I wrote above, it’s episodic and there’s another 45 minutes of deleted episodes (not just cut scenes but complete sequences) in the supplements. The Blu-ray has a bunch of inconsequential bonus featurettes as well. I review it for MSN here.
Wes Craven made his directorial debut in 1972 with his original The Last House on the Left, a grotesquely violent, often artless, just as often wrenching horror that reworked Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf Virgin Spring by way of Straw Dogs in the visceral American exploitation film mode. Set in the shadow of Vietnam, Woodstock, Kent State and sixties permissiveness gone psychotic, it turns on working class American parents of a murdered girl who find that their traditional values skew toward the Old Testament as they exact their bloody, righteous revenge on the killers, who unknowingly take refuge in their house as guests. Along with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Craven’s Last Hosue helped redefine American horror, but unlike his fellow directors, Craven set his squarely in the heartland of modern America and gave it an uncomfortable verisimilitude.
Craven hands the reigns of scripting and directing to others in this by now inevitable remake, watching over as executive producer as this largely faithful version makes minor alterations with major shifts in the dramatic dynamic. The blue-collar parents are now a wealthy professional couple (played by Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) who, with their swimming champ daughter Mari (Sara Paxton), are taking a weekend in their country vacation home. The criminal band, a warped mirror of the “good” family, opens the film with the violent escape of vicious crime family patriarch Krug (Garret Dillahunt, suitably creepy and often on the edge of explosive rage) from police custody. From the opening scene and its murder of two police officers, it’s clear they have no compunctions about killing and nothing to lose. What’s less clear is why any police department would think nothing of transporting a psychotic criminal in a cruiser with two cops through a remote, isolated country road in the dead of night.