“Bates Motel” on A&E
Unbeknownst to all but the most dedicated of TV viewers, NBC tried making a TV series out of director Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1987. That aborted version of “Bates Motel” starred Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) as Norman Bates’ roommate at the lunatic asylum, who gets out and reopens his kill-crazy pal’s old roadside haunt. For better or worse (mostly the former), the pilot movie (still unavailable on DVD) never got picked up for a full series. Now A&E is trying again, rebooting writer Robert Bloch’s familiar oedipal plotline as a weekly cable series.
The Vintner’s Luck
Wine and cherubs combine to create occasionally lovely but inconsistent love story
New Zealand writer-director Niki Caro and actress / fellow Kiwi Keisha Castle-Hughes last teamed on the magnificent 2002 drama Whale Rider. At the time, Castle-Hughes was a mere 11 years old. In the intervening years, she’s grown into a lovely young woman. As expected, seeing the two artists reunite is one of the small joys contained in the new historical drama The Vintner’s Luck.
Occasionally (but not always) “well balanced” is a synonym for “flat”
Increasingly arresting actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Up in the Air) strikes out in a bold new direction, directing and starring in her first indie feature. The disarmingly intelligent spiritual drama Higher Ground is based on Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, about the author’s born-again life in an independent, evangelical Christian church. The film approaches Christianity from a very different viewpoint—neither pandering to the converted (as most religious films do) nor demonizing the religion (as many Hollywood films are apt to do).
Up in the Air
Mature look at the world of corporate downsizing mixes romance, humor and a timely personal touch
When Up in the Air marches confidently into February’s Oscar race (and it will), it will be on the strength of its sharp writing and expertly grounded performances. If Up in the Air succeeds at the box office (and it might), it will be due largely to the film’s timely theme.