Director Neil Jordan's 1994 feature first came under controversy over the casting of Tom Cruise in the famed tale from novelist Anne Rice. The film portrays a dark world that lives upon tone, atmosphere. It doesn't present vampires as the dark, stunning evil beings, but shows them instead trapped as immortals.
The film starts with one of the vampires, Louis(Brad Pitt) sitting down to be interviewed by a journalist in San Fransisco(Christian Slater). The story opens in 1791, where he falls victim to Lestat(Cruise), and joins this villian in enternal life. Eventually, a "daughter" joins the duo - Claudia(played extremely well by Kirsten Dunst), is a child who at first enjoys the lifestyle, but eventually becomes furious at the thought of being a child forever.
"Interview With A Vampire" occasionally could have pulled the story along quicker; it's never really boring, but the pacing could have used a bit of a boost in places. All three of the main actors - Pitt, Cruise and especially Dunst, do a fine job and are the main reason why the film is as entertaining as it is. Of course, the film also gets the tone right; the sets are wonderfully dark and subtly creepy, and the cinematography by Philippe Rousselot captures it all quite well. The film blends elements of pure darkness, drama, gloom and even dark comedy, balancing all of it out very well. Again, if anything, the film just needs a more defined path from point A to point B.
Based upon the popular DC comic "Hellblazer", "Constantine" had all the elements of success - or at least cult success - a picture about one guy trying to save Earth, which is in the middle of a battle between Heaven and hell. The guy being John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a reluctant hero who manages to see through different beings in the world and spot bad spirits. Constantine, unfortunately, also is suffering from lung cancer due to smoking since he was young - and the outlook doesn't look good.
Meanwhile, Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz, who makes for a nice pairing with Reeves) is a cop investigating the death of her twin sister. Apparently, it had something to do with the discovery of the spear of destiny, an object that can bring great power to whoever gets control of it. There's also something about a battle between Heaven and hell, and the fact that Constantine is working to spiritually redeem himself by sending demons back to where they came from. Throw into that pot the archangel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) and demon Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale, former lead singer of the band Bush.)
In other words, the plot doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot - the movie only tries to get across the general idea and goes from there. While the plot is a bit of a mess, I was at least encouraged by the fact that the picture was trying. In a sea of repetitive, cookie-cutter pictures coming out, to see a studio picture this bizarre, this dark, at least meant that I was never not quite involved with this flick.
The feature debut of music video helmer Francis Lawrence, "Constantine" looks great - the picture has a strong visual style and yet isn't edited in rapid-fire fashion. The CGI effects aren't 100%, but they are still very effective. Also helping matters is Reeves who, while not offering a tremendous performance, is still better here than he's been in a while. Weisz and many others (Rossdale is surprisingly good in a moderate-sized role) add fine supporting efforts.
While not something that's going to win any awards, "Constantine" was a rather wild, entertaining picture that I found consistently engaging.
While the film seems more tame now (and was parodied rather decently on "Family Guy" not too long ago), "Poltergeist" was one of the films that I found particularly scary as a little kid. The 1982 picture (directed by Toby Hooper and produced by Stephen Spielberg) is a masterful exercise in chills - and largely plays up the idea of what you don't see is just as scary - if not scarier - than what you do.
The film focuses on the Freeling family - mother Diane (JoBeth Williams), father Steven (Craig T. Nelson), sister Dana (Dominique Dunne), son Robbie (Oliver Robins) and youngest daughter Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) - who move to a California suburb as the movie opens. For a while, everything is normal and the loving family goes about their daily lives. However, strange things start to occur, and while the parents are initially skeptical, the paranormal events become bolder and it soon becomes evident that ghosts are trying to communicate (using the TV) with young Carol Anne, who famously announces, "They're here." When Carol Anne is kidnapped by the spirits and taken to another realm (oh, and a tree tried to grab Robbie), it's up to her family and a set of parapsychologists (as well as a medium, played well by Zelda Rubenstein) to try and get Carol Anne back from the other side.
The film's effects work understandably appears rather dated at this point, but the effects were impressive at the time and still remain fun to watch over 25 years later. The performances are also terrific, especially Williams, Nelson and the late Heather O'Rourke. "Poltergeist" may look its age, but some of the scares are still immensely eerie after all these years. While the sequels were unfortunate, the original still remains a classic.
VIDEO: "Constantine" is presented in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1) by Warner Brothers. While not without a couple of little issues, this was largely an outstanding transfer that did an excellent job presenting the film's bold, ultra-slick style. Sharpness and detail are often astonishing; even in the film's many dark/dimly-lit moments, fine details are usually still clearly visible.
Although a couple of minor instances of noise are spotted, the film otherwise looks impressively clean and clear, with no edge enhancement, print flaws or other additional concerns. The film's rich color palette is presented superbly here, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns. Lots of subtitle options: English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.
"Interview With a Vampire" is presented in 1.85:1 (1080p/VC-1) by Warner Brothers. The majority of the film takes place in the shadows, with few exceptions, and the image is consistently sharp, offering good detail. Clarity is also never a problem, even in the darkest scenes. Colors are usually natural, but understandably, are kept slightly subdued. There really aren't many problems to be found with the image quality; there is a bit of a grainy look on occasion, as well as a couple of tiny marks on the print used. Other than that, I didn't notice any shimmering or pixelation. Philippe Rousselot's cinematography creates a number of memorable images, which look excellent on this disc. "Interview" offers English, Spanish, French & Japanese subtitles.
"Poltergeist" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1). While the presentation isn't without a few flaws, image quality sees a noticeable upgrade over the previous DVD edition. Sharpness and detail are impressive, considering the age of the picture and also, taking into account how prior home video editions appeared. Some minor specks and dirt was occasionally seen on the print, but the film otherwise looked surprisingly fresh. Some minor noise was occasionally seen, but no edge enhancement was seen. Colors appeared tighter and richer than on prior releases, with solid saturation and no smearing or other faults. Black level also looked stronger on this edition, as well. Overall, a mostly great presentation of the film. "Poltergeist" offers English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish subtitles.
SOUND: While the film looks just terrific on this Blu-Ray release, it also sounds (in Dolby TrueHD 5.1) nothing short of remarkable, too. Given the supernatural events of the movie, there are no shortage of instances of otherworldly sound effects swirling around the listing space. Surrounds kick in early and often, providing some eerie and effective sound effects and ambience. Audio quality is quite good, with sound effects that seem dynamic and dialogue that remained clean and clear. Some instances of strong, deep bass are also present during the most intense sequences. We also get Dolby Digital 5.1 presentations in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese.
"Interview" offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation - unfortunately no HD options are offered. Much of the film is dialogue-driven, but occasional instances of surround use are heard at times for creepy effects and ambience. Audio quality is perfectly fine, with clear dialogue and effects. This is a perfectly acceptable audio option for a film from the era, but it's still disappointing that a lossless option was not included.
"Poltergeist" is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 by Warner Brothers, and I suppose the results are about as good one can expect, given the age of the film. Surrounds are put to use reasonably often to deliver a few creepy effects and occasional instances of spooky ambiance. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and a clear, full-sounding Jerry Goldsmith score.
EXTRAS: "Constantine" offers: Two commentaries: one with screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello and the other with director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The latter has the duo providing a relatively low-key (if still moderately interesting) discussion regarding elements such as the inspiration for certain story elements, working with the cast, elements that were not used in the final film and some discussion of the production issues behind some of the major scenes. The two writers, who are a little more animated, provide a fine discussion of the writing process.
A series of featurettes ("Channeling Constantine", "Conjuring Constantine", "Director's Confessional"), "Collision With Evil", "Holy Relics", "Shotgun Shootout", "Hellscape", "Visualizing Vermin", "Warrior Wings", "Unholy Abduction", "Constantine's Cosmology", "Foresight: The Power of Previsualization", "Demon Face" and "Writer's Vision" are included. These featurettes run as much as several minutes each and do a fine job exploring different aspects of the production. Altogether, these featurettes add up to a feature-length and in-depth look at the making of the film. It is rather bizarre, however, that there is no "play all" option.
We also get 18 minutes of deleted scenes, the teaser and theatrical trailer, as well as a music video (for Perfect Circle's "Passive".) Finally, we get an optional picture-in-picture feature ("In-Movie Experience") that displays behind-the-scenes footage at points throughout the film.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Neil Jordan. I was not entirely pleased with the commentary that the director recorded for his recent DVD release of The End Of The Affair, but, in general, I found this discussion to be more enjoyable. For one thing, he sounds noticably more energetic in offering comments here, and I found much of what he had to say informative.
Even during the early portions of the commentary, I found many great tidbits, such as when Jordan points out a number of special effects, which were done by Rob Legato("Apollo 13", "Titanic", "Armageddon"). Of course, like every other commentary, the director discusses early on what and who brought him to the project. As the discussion goes on, he also comments frequently about the choices that were made by the actors to create their characters.
Occasionally, he falls back to simply chatting about what's going on on-screen, but doesn't stay in this mode for long. He covers quite a bit of ground, not only chatting about the performances, but the story as well - the tale in general and in comparison to the original book version.
There are a few pauses here and there with Jordan stopping to let a scene play out, but other than that, Jordan is able to talk enough on his own, and keeps things moving throughout the discussion.
"In The Shadow Of The Vampire": This is a documentary that takes an equal look at first, the story, and then, the production. Interviews are included with Jordan, Rice, Cruise and seemingly just about everyone else included in the cast. A little over halfway through the documentary, Stan Winston offers his discussion of how his effects were able to make some of the scenes complete. Rob Legato also chats here about how his visual effects work blended into the film to make some of the scenes work. The documentary runs for about 30 minutes.
Special Introduction: A newly produced intro from director Neil Jordan, Anne Rice and others. Strangely, this plays every time the viewer starts the movie. It makes for an interesting few moments once, but you can't skip past it in future viewings - you can fast forward past it, though. One thing I did notice is that if you choose to start the film with the commentary, you go directly to the film and past the intro. Not a big deal, simply an observation.
Finally, "Poltergeist" only sports one extra feature - the rather basic featurette, "They Are Here", which explores the reality of poltergeists.
Final Thoughts: "Constantine", "Interview With the Vampire" and "Poltergeist" are three terrific horror films, and the three varied scare flicks would make for an interesting triple feature on Halloween. All three are available separately on Blu-Ray.