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No Country for Old Men (2007)
No Country For Sane Men...
The Coen Brothers are, truly, one of the finest the quintessences of awesome film-making. No Country For Old Men demonstrates this perfectly. OK, it's an adaptation of a book. And we all know how many times that concept results in cringeworthy failures and the loss of important factors. Like plot. But, the Coens make good on their turn. Very good.
Cormac McCarthy's book is as desolate and sparse as the harsh, dusty, barren South-American desertlands it sets itself in, but it's highly descriptive and powerfully jarring. McCarthy's ability to convey pages and pages in one sentence is brilliant, and it makes it a very direct and jolting reading experience, whilst at the same time being slow-burning and steady. The story is a classic deadly cat-and-mouse-style intrigue, but it's not a story that's wrapped up in a neat little bow with all the bad guys in prison and the all the good guys sipping margaritas in a Mexican sun-trap! The ending to say the least is ambiguous (which is personally why I think a lot of people disliked the movie version) and the pace is sharp but slow.
Josh Brolin is excellently cast as Llewellyn Moss, (although it was the lighting courtesy of Robert Rodriguez in his audition tape that caught the Bros' eyes as opposed to his acting. Oops.) the grizzled Vietnam-Vet-Turned-Welder-Turned-Hunter who stumbles across a fortune in heroin and a satchel of cold, hard cash in the outback open country of Texas. Cue: Moss is plunged into a chase with a madman - all hell breaks loose. Brolin's performance is amazing, he's baffled, disbelieving, cynical, yet sets about his surreal situation with grim determination. And a large shotgun. Whilst I suspect millions of dollars would be a sturdy motivator for most people to go head-to-head with a psychotic, weird-haircut-wearing hit-man, Moss still has more grit than a fleet of ice-trucks.
Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurgh is the first time since Darth Vader that a film character has truly disturbed me. Just like Darth, I had the inescapable feeling that bad things were imminent and people were surely going to expire horribly whenever this guy coolly sauntered on screen. His complete cold detachement is chilling - he is a complete dyed-in-the-woool killing machine, and his menace is only further enhanced by his truly strange 'do, his love of pneumatic weapons, and his complete trust in that fickle master of horrors himself, Fate. A man who thinks nothing of flipping coins to determine a person's survival is a man who is monumentally insane. Or just sociopathically ambivalent towards human life. Look out for the self-surgery scene, which is a testament to Chigurgh's overall inhuman detachment. Amazing.
Tommy Lee Jones is also fantastic as always, he's a perfect old school Texan Sheriff, who is truly appalled at the carnage exploding around him, and having a murderous ghost like Chigurgh around, the body count soon mounts up. Sheriff Bell is one of the most human elements of the film - he does his grim duty and tries gallantly to put a stop to the killing and general decline of society, but he's a man sensing his battle is a lost cause. It's all he can do to keep his head above water and he finally retreats, world-weary and battle-drawn into retirement, longing for the days of old where sheriffs never wore guns and hit men never used cattle bolts to kill people.
Kelly Macdonld isn't bad as Carla Jean either, Moss' southern-belle young wife. Her accent's good (she's a Scot! Cool!) and she's the only character who gives Chigurgh what for - admittedly she's like a scared rabbit caught in headlights when she finally meets him, but she still stops him in his tracks a bit. Which is a great juxtaposition, as he puts paid to burley fellow hit men, hard-ass mexicans with a well-stocked cache of very large guns and scores of poh-lice with great ease. Not to say Carla Jean escapes unscathed, but she's still somewhat victorious! This movie is understated excellence, the script remains respectfully true to it's source material, the characters are well-defined and explored (enhanced by fabulous acting, which is always a plus) and it deserves recognition as a stand-alone film, not just an adaptation. The whole film also looks beautiful, with stunning, epic sun-baked desert-esquire vistas, and claustrophobic, dusty, edge-of-Mexico motels. The violence is just like McCarthy's writing style - pared-down, to the point and jolting, without ever crossing the line into gratuitous, Tarantino-like caricature (which is not a bad thing, but would be completely at odds with the slow, almost delicately paced story and the careful dialogue). This is a class film, well-acted, gorgeously shot and faithfully reproduced from a fantastic source material. It's an amazing movie, but I would suggest a read of the book, because for me, it made the film's ending sit much better. Although the amount of fellow movie-goers who were vociferously deflated with the lack of conclusion would disagree with me. And probably hit me with a pressurised cattle bolt or something.
I watched the Watchmen. And I'm still in turmoil somewhat. In essence, I reckon it lost a bit of something in translation. Now there's been a lot of Snyder-bashing just recently over this movie, but let's face it, the man is fantastic at what he does - he makes things look awesome. Poppcorn-munchingly, fanta-freeze-slurpingly eye-poppingly awesome. But
that seems to be it. Which sometimes isn't bad. We all like movies we can put on and enjoy without engaging brain too much. But the source material this movie owes itself to is not mindless gloss. It's a very complex, well-drawn, brilliantly written multi-layered triumph. It's a Harvard study text for crying out loud. I think that's what's lacking. Some of the characters are not great, some are fantastic. Rorshach? Dark, sinister, psychotic, and brilliantly played by Jack Earle Haley. The Comedian? He looks like he's been pulled straight from the comic book. Nicely done. Nite Owl? He's great, a timid, slightly repressed pseudo-loser, well-portrayed by Patrick Wilson who incidentally, has one of the most gorgeous mouths I've ever seen! Malin Akerman's Laurie, to be brutally honest, sucks. Bad. She's nothing much more than a quasi-feisty, foot-stomping piece of eye-candy. Which is pretty much what she is in the book, but she's also a real spitfire. OK, movie Laurie throws some wickedgood punches, but in a Zack Snyder film, EVERYONE can kick ass. Billy Crudup's Dr Manhattan's not bad - a little scary, but I suppose a naked blue dude wandering around babbling about quarks would have that effect on many people. Ozymandias is a bit of a weird casting choice. He reminds me too much of the character of Niles from 'Fraiser', a little effeminate and delicate. He doesn't do bad though, he's just a bit different from what I'd have expected. (lest we forget, Ozymandias had brains AND brawn.) The whole look of the movie is amazing. Snyder has an unmistakable cinematic style. It's glossy, - relatively faithful to the book, too, look out for the Gunga Diner balloon! - dark, and ultra slick, and coupled with Snyder's signature fast-mo/slow-mo action sequence filming (which a lot of people find highly annoying. I find it highly cool, even if it is purely visual-only), it does look breathtaking. This movie spawned a trailer that promises fabulous things, and from an aesthetic point of view, it doesn't fail. It triumphs, it's a beautiful movie to look at. Aside from that though, I don't think it delivers much else. Even with dialogue lifted directly from the comic (Rorshach's monologues. Brilliant!) and being as faithful as possible to the plot line (less some edits, and a slightly altered ending) it still lacks a certain something
something that the comic book had a big fat stockpile of. Maybe Snyder is just a purely looks-only filmmaker, maybe I expected too much from a film of a comic book that I've loved for years. But there's still something niggling at me, and until I see this film again, I'll be bugged as hell about it.
12 Angry Men (1957)
"You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?"
A pure, simple, undeniable classic. This movie is a thoughtful, well shot, amazingly scripted, fantastically acted masterpiece. Even though the word masterpiece is often over-used (like genius) it certainly, and without dispute applies in this case. Sidney Lumet's directing is top-notch, and Henry Fonda is the still turning point of this small, microcosmic little world - his role has to be one of the most finely acted ever committed to film.
Set in an actual New York jury room, it's a claustrophobic, tightly confined set, where 12 very different men deliberate over the guilt of a young boy. Their prejudices, morals and personalities are thrown together and, sometimes violently, clash. Along with a great parallel commentary from the weather (at the beginning of the film, it's a stuffy, oppressive sweatbox, which becomes sidelined by a dark, stormy maelstrom outside the jury room) this is a fantastic film. You'd never think there were so many angles you could get from one single, uncomfortably confining room. Sidney Lumet's directing is amazing, as Fonda's chain-smkoing, softly spoken moralistic character could have been played so much darker; he manages to turn everyone around, slowly but surely, almost effortlessly converting even the most staunchly opposed and stoic juror - but he's not manipulative, sly or underhanded about it. He simply presents what is - he's the pure voice of reason, and he has some cracking lines. The other jurors are great, too. I'm sure we all know someone who fidgets through something important because they've got a football game starting in ten minutes - they all highlight broad generalisations of very human characters. I defy anyone not to find a character that illustrates someone they know in this motley crue. Except maybe Fonda - I don't know anyone cooler than this guy.
Superman Returns (2006)
OK, so some of the more harsh views of the movie have received some backlash, with people making excuses for the less-than-decent aspects of the latest celluloid instalment of everyone's favourite superhero. I'm no film-maker, but I must admit, taking on THE best-loved and biggest cinematic franchise on earth is no small task, so on that hand a little leeway for the cast, crew and director perchance? On the other hand, I have to side with the harsher critics, as portions of this film really do fall flat. Badly. For example, having been away for upwards of five years, surely the word would be a crime-ridden hellhole without Superman? But aside from the few bits and pieces we're permitted to see of the Man O' Steel doing what he does best, he's locked in orbit round Lois Lane's house, pining. Bah. How very un-Kal El.
Christopher Reeve will ALWAYS be Superman - on that point, Brandon Routh did a brilliant job of taking over such a difficult part; How the hell are you supposed to make a role like this your own? Frank Langella could spend two hours pretending he was a field mouse - he'd still get an Oscar. James Marsden is basically re-playing the role of Cyclops from X-Men, still hampered by a girlfriend-bothering superhero, but without the hi-tech sunglasses. Kate Bosworth, bless her, just wasn't convincing as Lois Lane. Although I do believe someone better could've been chosen to play the role, I' not going to get into a round of Kate-bashing. The poor girl's already had enough of that on here. Suffice it to say that Screen presence, chemistry (sadly lacking between both her and Superman, AND her apparent fiancé) charm, appeal...not talents she demonstrated in this film. Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor only darkened enough for me once - during his confrontation with Superman towards the end of the movie. Unfortunately, as he didn't have much evil plotting to do, the camp, gleefully evil side of him spilled over into caricature. Having said that, given a better script or plot line, Spacey would've been even better. Spacey is the man.
As for action, the best scene was pretty much the only fabulously chair-gripping, popcorn-gobbling, geek-gratifying piece of action in the movie. Superman halts a stratosphere-skimming jet from plummeting into a baseball field. Saving lives AND the nation's favourite sport? You can't get much more all-American superhero than that, methinks. Foolishly, this sets us all up for thinking that we're in for a roller-coaster ride of pure retro superhero-styled escapism. But then, film-makers can be cruel....
Despite slightly delusional casting, thin plot lines and cringe-making script ("I'm always around, Lois." Sinister, much????) it's not a bad effort. It's not hugely brilliant either. Kind of a cinematic limbo, I guess. God only knows if the second instalment will make good on the promise of what Superman's all about. Heroics, action and lifting cars with one hand.
pretty.....but not beautiful.
I wanted to like this film the minute I heard it was in production. A story set in the present, smack-dab in the middle of a war between vampires and werewolves. OK, what's not to like about that idea? Well, nothing really. Underworld delivers a huge slice of supernatural warfare with amazing style from guns that use ultraviolet bullets, to of course, Kate Beckinsale dealing death with two huge guns whilst slinking about in a black leather cat suit. So admittedly, the movie looks amazing. But that's really about it
During the latest skirmish, Seline (Kate Beckinsale), one of the vampire coven's elite Deathdealers discovers that the Lycans are trying to capture a human (Scott Speedman). Seline sets out to find him before the Lycans do, and discover their purpose.
To be fair, this movie has many good points. It looks amazing, the sets are ipeccably atmospheric and the action scenes are short enough to keep your attention. There are also some good performances here. Kate Beckinsale, if you can get past her constant frowning is very watchable as Seline, although she does adopt a rather annoying monolithic pout as soon as she gets a gun in her hand. (She's almost like 'The Matrix's' Trinity. Except with longer hair, bigger guns and well, fangs.) Bill Nighy does quite a menacing turn as the vampire coven's Elder, Viktor. He's almost fatherlike in some ways, and his scenes with his vampire daughter Seline are reminiscent of a Father rebuking a wayward child. But other times he's sinister as hell. Shane Brolly's Kraven, although slick and sophisticated, begins to grate on the nerves. (By the end, his whining and foot stamping make one want to administer a few swift kicks to his face) Disappointingly, Lucien and Michael seem to fade into the background a bit, despite being central to the movie's plot.
The whole movie though, is as slick as it gets; kind of an ultra-modern film noir. The exterior shots are made up of imposing buildings, moody back streets and perpetual downpour (Not a good advertisement for Hungary where the movie was filmed, eh?) and the whole movie is stylishly faded and muted. For a vampire vs. werewolf film though, the gore factor was (sadly) rather understated, and although the battle scenes are quite good, the whole pace seems to stagger about a bit, almost as if there's too much story to try and cram into the time available. The story is a good idea, but by the end I'd lost interest; mainly because the movie looks good, but there isn't that much else to it. Which is a shame as the plot could make for an amazing movie. But alas, it seems to rely too heavily on it's looks and it's main star after all, gorgeous as Kate Beckinsale is, there's only so long one can wear a leather catsuit without looking silly.
One of the best and most beautiful vampire films ever.
This film is amazingly beautiful, from the sets, locations, even right down to its main characters (apparently this film prided itself on the casting it used four of cinema's most gorgeous actors). The casting for this movie is pure inspired genius, although Cruise did cause absolute uproar when he got the part of Lestat. Let's face it, he's not portrayed as the most likable of people, (not to mention being a tad unhinged) or even as a decent actor (remember 'Legend'?) but he does an amazing turn as Lestat. He's vicious, villainous, camp and demonically gleeful in this role. Even Anne Rice sent him a letter of apology after she saw his performance. Brad Pitt's portrayal of Louis is a fair show too; he manages to maintain constant melancholy without crossing the line into whiny annoyance, although his constant pouting detracts from his character somewhat (you're a vampire, not Zoolander!). Kirsten Dunst's Claudia is pure childlike evil. Hard to believe she was only 12 when she made this film.
Having read Anne Rice's infamous 'Vampire Chronicles' a hundred times, it wasn't until I saw this movie that I'd even heard of them (shameful, no?). Even after reading the book, it was one of those rare moments when you think, "well the film was just as good". And to say that a LOT of the narrative was cut, it retains everything about the original story that it should; the atmosphere, the gloom, the characters, it's all there. Even the gore factor is stylishly done; for one, the blood looks real, which, let's face it is one of the most important, yet overlooked elements in most vampire films in Blade, they used what looks like ribena, in Dracula, they used red jelly, and in The Lost Boys they used something resembling passata. The vampires themselves also look absolutely amazing. (To quote Louis "Do you find us beautiful, magical? Our white skin, our fierce eyes ") The makeup and contact lenses, for once, do more than just make the actors look like they've got flu.
Unlike "Queen Of The Damned" this movie sticks to its content, and gives the audience the story, remaining true to it at every stage. There's no story jig, no idiotic and pointless changes to plots and the whole thing is as stylish and sinister as you can get. It does justice to the book and remains a brilliant film in its own right. One to add to any film-junkie's collection.
Blade II (2002)
Fab sequel....but not like the first....
This is Blade's second outing (nothing like stating the obvious, I suppose). And really rather good, considering it's lack of similarities to the first movie. Blade once again, continues to fight the good fight against creatures of darkness. Only this time, it's not the vampires he's hunting. This movie brings forth an idea about a strain of vampires being 'created'. These 'reapers' aren't what you would call normal vampires, although there are a couple of similarities between the two. They still feed on fresh human blood, sunlight fries them to a crisp, and they have the customary supernatural strength that vampires have. However, they're a little harder to kill than ordinary vampires. And they're spreading at an alarming rate. The vampire nation, disconcerted by this new breed of bloodsuckers need help to eliminate them before they infect and turn the entire human race. So they call in Blade to help them. But can the two races put aside old grudges and unite to destroy this frightening new evil? This film was made almost 4 years after the first movie, and with a different director at the helm so the look of the whole thing is entirely different. Not a bad thing though. I think with sequels a lot of people expect the subsequent films to look and feel exactly like the first one. This doesn't always work. With Blade II, there's an entirely new set of characters, a new race of vampires, new weapons and Whistler undergoes some interesting changes between this movie and the first one too. It all adds up for another serving of deliciously dark action adventure.
So we have Blade teaming up with the Bloodpack an elite group of vampire warriors going after the reapers to destroy them. (Interestingly enough, the bloodpack was supposedly put together to try and take Blade out.) Some of the Bloodpack are a bit laughable though. Priest is just a bad-tempered git with an Irish accent. Lighthammer was obviously cast for his build and not his acting. Verlaine does little other than pout and look worried, and Chupa spends the entire movie having a go at Whistler whilst clad in some kind of weird chain-mail vest. Snowman and Reinhardt more than compensate for the rest of the gang's mediocrity though. Donnie Yen, who is one of the coolest martial artists alive, plays Snowman (and earns his paycheque choreographing the movie's fight scenes), and Ron Perlman (a Del Torro favourite) gives an excellent performance as Blade's nemesis-esquire Bloodpack heavy, Reinhardt. Leonor Varela is quite good as Blade's number two, Nyssa. She's another black leather catsuit-wearing hottie of the vampire-movie universe, and like Selene in Underworld, she looks rather good. Although I'll never understand why women in action films feel the need to spend two hours constantly frowning. Maybe it's the universally accepted symbol of 'hardass female'. Hmm Luke Goss plays Nomak, the lead reaper, and is amazingly good in this film. Even though his accent seems to falter somewhat. He sounds like a cockneyfied Czech which is pretty remarkable. His overall portrayal is outstanding though, he looks dark, grim and murderous he even gives Blade a run for his money in the fight scene stakes.
All in all, the plot line, characters, gore, action and soundtracks are sufficiently entertaining (keep an eye out for an echo of the infamous clubscene from the first Blade movie), and although not as good as some have said, it's enjoyable enough for what it is an action/vampire movie.
amazing film, superb cast, fantastic action...nuff said?
Awesome. Awesome. AWESOME. This film should make Marvel proud that people still want to turn their comic books into movies. It's dark, atmospheric, fast-paced, well scripted and visually brilliant.
Blade is based on and adapted from the popular comic books by Marvel. Blade, a half-human, half-vampire hybrid spends his nights hunting down and killing off vampires. Using an array of big guns, big swords and sometimes just plain cool martial arts moves, he dispatches said creatures of the night in huge style, creating CGI orgies of vampire-death-by-disintegration and beating senseless anyone else that gets in his way (look out for Officer Krieger). Helped along by Whistler, his faithful yet badass human partner, Blade's quest is to rid the world of these pesky bloodsuckers altogether. However, a certain power-hungry vampire has other ideas, and he sets about clawing his way to the top of the food chain
This is one of the few movies that are actually better than their accompanying trailer. Rare, I know, but it's true. Everything about this film is astounding. The casting for one, is fantastic. Wesley Snipes was director Stephen Norrington's first and only choice for Blade, and he does a fantastic job. Really the only film I truly like him in. Seeing him as any other character, he just looks strange without his black leather coat, sword, impossibly cool shades and tribal tattoos. This role was made for him. Stephen Dorff is brilliant as Deacon Frost, the maniacal and murderous un-pureblood vampire who wants to take over the world. (Ah, the old take-over-the-world ploy. Never fails.) He even manages to scare Udo Kier's master vampire Dragonetti into submission. Kris Kristofferson's Whistler is great a decrepit and world-weary creature, almost like a father figure who keeps Blade in good supply of guns, swords and easily wieldable Ultra-Violet light sources. As Blade details their relationship quite astutely "he makes the weapons. I use them." Just happens to help that Whistler wants to wipe out the vampires as much as Blade does. N'Bushe Wright is fantastic as Blade's hematologist sidekick, Karen Jensen. She's attacked by Frost's second-in-command, Quinn, (brilliantly played by Donal Logue) and subsequently rescued by Blade. Most female action sidekicks tend to grate on the nerves after about five minutes of screen time, but Wright has a good mixture of sass, brains and she looks good carrying a shotgun. I don't understand why she didn't pop up in the sequels though. Traci Lords is aptly sexy and sinister as Frost's vampire minion Mercury (because of course, you have to have at least one slinky female vampire).
The look of this movie is amazing too everything is dark, moody and ominous. Even the few daytime scenes are overcast and gloomy. The dialogue, cinematography and acting are all first-rate, but the action scenes are probably why this movie is so popular. They're brilliantly choreographed, snappy and just brutal enough to make you giggle. Thankfully, they're also filmed in such a way that allows you to actually see what's going on. Most fight scenes these days are filmed way too close to the actors, and everything just becomes a blurry mess. I want to see that fist connect with that guy's chin, damn it. The soundtrack to this film is outstanding too - a hardcore techno slice of musical menace that fits the film brilliantly. Listening to the soundtrack is almost as good as watching the film. But nothing beats the club scene at the beginning with blood spraying from a demonic version of a sprinkler system, and New Order's 'Confusion' thumping away at your eardrums. Sensory assault.
Even though this film is nearly ten years old, it hasn't dated. The dialogue is still wry as hell, "-There are worse things out tonight than vampires -Like what? -Like Me" the gore is still gory and the characters are still impossibly cool. This is another movie that'll age well, along with other films like The Lost Boys and Near Dark. And I still feel compelled to watch this quite frequently. Usually late at night when blood and guts and darkness show up so well in a room with no lights on
james woods is the king.....
This movie was released in the same year as Blade. This is of a slightly different theme though whilst still a vampire film, it has more of a western feel to it, from the sparse desert landscapes and gunslinging vampire hunters, to the whole overtone of vengeance and retribution. Some say this is one of Carpenter's worst films, but when you've made a name for yourself, and established a solid reputation, you're free to churn out a bit of bilge every now and then, eh? Personally, I think this movie's quite entertaining
This plot line is quite a good one. Vampire slayers, employed by the Catholic Church (another catholicism-basher, then?) are on the verge of wiping them out for good. Tracking the latest batch of pesky bloodsuckers, they believe they've found the 'nest'. Apparently, according to their 'Slayer Rules' if "you find the nest, you find the master." Unfortunately, they don't find him at the nest, but he finds them at their motel. Valek, the Master, wipes out most of the slayers, leaving him free and unmolested to perform an ancient ritual that will enable him to walk in the daylight, and reign supreme. The whole 'take-over-the-world' ploy rears its ugly head once again.
First and foremost: the biggest reason to watch this film is James Woods. He does a brilliant job of his hard-ass, sardonic and murderous vampire slayer, Jack Crow. He has some of the best lines in the movie "Vampires are not romantic. Its not like they're a bunch of f*ckin' fags hoppin' around in rented formal wear and seducing everybody in sight with cheesy Euro-trash accents, all right?" and he looks cool with a crossbow. (Of course, his parents were killed by vampires, which explains why he spends the entire movie being perpetually angry.) Daniel Baldwin is Jack's second in command, Anthony Montoya. He is clearly meant to be the strong, silent type who backs his partner up with unfailing loyalty. Unfortunately, Montoya seems hellbent on challenging Jack's every idea, and there's quite an amusing scrap between the two towards the end of the movie. (Guys, eh?) Sheryl Lee's Katrina is a hooker who becomes inescapably involved with things after being bitten by the Master Vampire, and Jack and Montoya use her to help them find him. She basically does what she was famed for in Twin Peaks she spends the entire film looking mostly dead, and predictably, there's the token scene where she's in the buff for no good reason. Tim Guinee does a good turn as a vampire-hunter-wannabe-priest who chiefly gets in Jack's face a lot. Jack responds by kicking the hell out of him at every given opportunity. Interestingly enough, Guinee appears in Blade as Karen Jensen's ex-boyfriend. He turns into a vampire, and she kicks the hell out of him. Thomas Ian Griffin is very good as Valek. He's very menacing and rather grotesque in a way, and he makes some interestingly gory kills. (If this film taught me one thing, it's to watch out for guys with sharp fingernails.) Maximillian Schell does a good job as the Cardinal that Jack's slayer-gang report to. He's obviously corrupt and conniving . just look at his beard.
The rest of the film looks really good. (Having a jedi of directing like John Carpenter at the helm, you would expect this.) It's full of dusty yellow, heat-hazed desert panoramas, long open roads, blood, sweat, guns and seedy motels. Just the kind of life a roaming vampire-slayer would have. Jack and his crew of miscreant vampire-slayers look like hi-tech pest control. Valek and his band of minions who look like a heavy metal band who take their costuming very seriously cause necessary murder and havoc. Check out the Monastery scene towards the end of the film. There's something about people in dusty black coats throwing monks against walls that only John Carpenter could make look amusing.
For all it's bad reviews, this film makes good on a few things, like cracking one-liners, ("don't make me come over there and beat the sh*t out of you, Padre") an amazing amount of gore, and John Carpenter's home-made (slightly dodgy) soundtrack. This movie is more than adequate for a Saturday night in with a couple of friends, a few beers and a pizza. Just don't expect more than that, and you won't be disappointed.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....
This is the most recent adaptation of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Lestat has arisen after a hundred years of 'sleep' to become a rock star. His music reveals names and secrets of Vampires the world over, enraging the entire vampire community. Akasha, the mother of all vampires, has been awoken from her sleep by Lestat's music. She decides to make him her consort and resume her rule as Queen of the Damned.
Firstly, Michael Rymer needs to be chased naked through nettles by a pack of rabid dogs. Secondly, When Anne Rice offers to do your screenplay for free, ACCEPT! Then you might end up with something that amounts to more than a prolonged music video for a very bland and childish character. And that's what Stuart Townsend's Lestat is. Yes, he's gorgeous, and OK, his Creole accent's passable, but how do you follow on from one of the most amazing portrayals of Anne Rice's most beloved vampire? Quite simply you don't. (Tom Cruise spoils it for everyone again.) Bit of a shame, because Townsend does have his moments. He is very slick and sexy in the music video segments of the movie, but with dialogue as inane as this screenplay's it's hard to make a character believable when he spouts idiotic lines like "Boo Back " not much of the sensuality, egotism or charm of the original character remains in this version this time around, Lestat is a whiny, tantrum-throwing angry young man. And there's a big difference between hammy acting and lack of talent. So it's a bit of a shame the whole movie centres around him, really.
Aaliyah's portrayal of Akasha is good, although she unfortunately does little more than squint in a sinister way, belly dance about in a small metal bra and set other vampires on fire. Aaliyah's acting dodgy Egyptian accent aside is probably the best in the movie, but again, she's that underused that her character loses her menace. After a while she's just this pissy bitch who wants her own way all the time. Which is a true shame as her motives in the book do actually have a point. And to say this movie's title is Queen Of TheDamned, said Queen is curiously shoved into the sidelines, and the movie becomes more about Lestat's rise to rock superstardom and his moral struggles. Akasha's attempt to regain her rule over the world of Vampires is almost an afterthought.
The rest of the vampire alumni included in this movie were, on paper, really rather exciting (for a vampire novel-reading geek like me). Marius, Maharet, Mekare and Armand are all included (apparently) but harshly overlooked, and dismissively underused. No time is spent on these characters at all, despite them all being some of the most important in the story and for those who haven't read the books, there's probably a certain amount of who-the-hell-are-these-guys?-syndrome happening. It's almost like the writers took a pair of garden shears to the book, put it through a blender and then filmed what was left. Yes, the sets, costumes and makeup effects are good, the Death Valley concert scene is well done, but the whole movie dithers about for 97 minutes, unsure as to whether it's following the' Queen of the Damned' or 'The Vampire Lestat' plot lines. A tad ambitious I feel. And look what happened. The movie falls flat on its face with all it's glamour, black leather, body piercings and tattoos in a heap around it. And I just want to stand pointing and laughing.
The Lost Boys (1987)
fabulous late-80s vampire fare....
This film was made in 1987, and it still looks cool. Kiefer Sutherland sports a height-of-eighties-fashion bleach-blonde mullet and he still looks cool. It's a fabulous mix of vampire/teen/comedy/horror and nearly 20 years after it's release, it still remains a favourite amongst many movie fans, and this has to be one of the most popular vampire movies of all time. Every child of the eighties knows and loves it, and the plot rings true with anyone who's been roped into doing something slightly dodgy by some git who's cooler than you are.
The story centres on Michael Emerson. He, his mother and brother have recently moved to Santa Carla after his mother's divorce. With nothing to do until school starts, he spends his evenings mooching around the beachfront's boardwalk and eventually falls in with a motorcycle gang. Who just so happen to be vampires. Nothing unusual there, then. Egged on by the gang, Michael unwittingly drinks blood, which gradually transforms him into a vampire. Michael's brother enlists help from a pair of vampire hunting brothers to save Michael (and the rest of the town). The cast are superb they're all pretty 80s youngsters, obviously employed because of their market value at the time, but decent actors nonetheless. Jason Patric is perfect as Michael, the gorgeous but gullible new kid in town, who falls for the beautiful Star and unknowingly, descends into vampirism to get closer to her. Kiefer Sutherland does a great turn as the ultra-cool, menacing (but seductively persuasive) leader-of-the-pack-vampire, David. The vampire gang are impossibly cool, the epitome of 80s fashion and teen attitude. Not to mention having cast Alex Winter as Marco - Bill S. Preston Esquire with fangs! Jami Gertz's Star is fittingly mysterious and evasive, but for me, the real stars of the show are the Frog brothers - teenage vampire hunters/comic bookstore owners, fighting the good fight for Justice, Truth, and The American Way. Michael's brother Sam enlists their help to put a stop to vampirism taking over his family (and, eventually, the town). With lines like "Kill your brother. You'll feel better" they're the best bit of comic relief in this movie. Corey Haim manages a good performance as Sam, Michael's younger brother and Diane Wiest is fab as their unsuspecting mother.
The entire film really looks good too. It's comically gory, lots of body parts exploding, stakings and burnings. And it contains some of the more 'realistic' vampire-esquire makeup effects the vampires look like they really would like to tear your face off. Although the movie is nearly 20 years old, apart from certain elements of hairstyles and clothing, (like David's choice mullet and Star's exploding-poodle-style perm) it doesn't look that dated at all, and has a cracking 80s power ballad soundtrack. Set in Santa Carla's beachfront (so named to avoid associations between Santa Cruz and the film's gang-related themes.) it's full of carnival music, twinkling lights and sparkling nighttime beaches, which give it a slightly surreal atmosphere. Think what it'd be like living in Blackpool permanently. I think I'd turn to vampirism just for something to do. Of course there's always the token struggle between good and evil, from Michael's Mother nearly sucumbing to the charms of the head vampire, and Michael almost being shoved across the line into fully fledged vampirism, but it's all still very entertaining.
Slightly darker than a teen movie, but just as fun, this will remain a firmly beloved classic for at least another 20 years.
Near Dark (1987)
Fantastically dark lil movie about roaming vampires
Near Dark has to be one of the most underrated vampire movies ever made. The fact that it was released a few weeks after The Lost Boys probably didn't help. That movie had well-known stars, and a well-known director, and as much as I love it, Near Dark has a better cast, a darker story and much more gore.
The story concerns Caleb; a young cowboy who becomes besotted with a young girl he meets called Mae. Mae is mysterious and evasive, panicking over the approach of dawn and nibbling Caleb's neck. Just a bit too hard for comfort. Convinced she just got carried away with herself, Caleb lets her go and begins his own journey home. Doubled over in pain, things get worse as the sun rises. He starts to burn. Just before he completely goes up in flames, and close enough to home to be within sight of his sister and father, Mae and her family 'rescue' him by bundling him into their caravan. Unfortunately for Caleb, Mae and her 'family' are roaming vampires who aren't too thrilled at the prospect of an unannounced addition to the group.
For a vampire film, the V-word is never once mentioned, and the vampires themselves don't display the usual appearance traits i.e., fangs, glowing eyes, pale skin. And although they are certainly brutal and sadistic (check out the bar scene) they're constantly on the run - both from sunlight and the law.
The main Alien cast come together again for yet another dark tale of death and survival. Still badass, still murderous, they all do great jobs of their characters. Lance Henrikssen is as menacing as they come as 'daddy-vampire' Jesse. Apparently he lost a lot of weight for this role, as he wanted to 'look' like he thought his character should a skinny moth-eaten savage who's spent more time on this earth than he cares to remember. Genius. Jenette Goldstein is quietly sinister as Diamondback, certainly the maternal force of the group. But when I say maternal I mean maternal in the sense that she'd rip your throat out if you talked back to her. Jenny Wright is sweet as Mae a blonde, waifish southern belle, obviously the daughter of the group. Adrian Pasdar is great as the very besotted but slightly confused Caleb (could they have gotten anybody cuter than him to play this role? I think not ) but Bill Paxton is a sure-fire favourite as Severen. He unabashedly steals the show, nabs all the best lines and all the best killings and plays his character with devilish glee. The only character I feel that lets the side down is Homer, played by Joshua Miller. A little too much like the role of Laddie in The Lost Boys, (a small boy dropped into the middle of a gang of blood-thirsty vampires) Homer is a grumpy old man in the shape of a boy. And although some of his scenes are a bit dark smoking cigarettes, gambling and shooting people I couldn't help but feel pleased when he finally went up in flames.
Though not as polished and glossy looking as it's famous counterpart, Near Dark is surely the better movie. More of a western than anything else, stark desert landscapes and sprawling black skies give us a sense of drifting isolation. In the 20th century where every unnatural death is investigated thoroughly, a vampire can have a hard time feeding. Even though these guys aren't the nicest characters you'll ever come across, you have to feel sorry for their nomadic lifestyle, having to skip from town to town to evade the long arm of the law. Especially since Caleb's father is desperately trying to find his son. The gore in the movie is brilliant, but is localised to mostly one blood-soaked bar scene. Although vaguely tame by today's gorenography standards, there are a few sufficiently messy killings (including the most imaginative way of using spurs) and a few nicely written lines "I just want a few more minutes of your time. Which is about as long as the rest of your lives". A lot of critics (and IMDb members) wrote that the ending to the movie was 'disappointing', and while this is not the way I'd put it, it certainly seems a bit rushed. Compared with the rest of the film's careful dialogue and exploration of its characters, yes it is a bit overlooked. And yes it is a bit sickly sweet and light for such a dark and bloody film. But for what you get to sit through prior to said ridiculously happy ending, it's worth it.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
looks like a music video, but entertaining as hell!!
Set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, (intriguingly, it was filmed a whole six months after the real Mardi Gras) the whole film has amazing vibrancy and colour, although a lot of critics agreed that the whole movie has a 'rock music video' quality about it. For me, that's what makes it so enjoyable. New Orleans seems to be the favourite setting for films that encompass decadence, seduction and sinister indulgence within its themes. While the dialogue may not be of Shakespearean proportions and the acting at times, can dip its toe into the pool of pantomime, the film itself is very enjoyable. But most of all, it offers a new take on the ideas of Dracula's origins.
All in all, this movie fares a lot better than I thought it would. For one, the casting is tremendous. Gerard Butler's Dracula has to be one of the most menacing, sexy and downright cool portrayals of the fanged one ever brought to screen. Johnny Lee Miller is savvy and slick as the noble, yet slightly unlikely crusader-against-all-evil/antique-dealer. Jeri Ryan, Jennifer Esposita and Colleen Anne Fitzpatrick all ham it up with relish as a trinity of Dracula's sinister and seductive 'Brides'. Christopher Plummer's eccentric and slightly insane Van Helsing is pure class, proving he can be as unhinged as you like, and still look good in a three-piece suit. The only one I think lets the movie down is Justine Waddell as Mary Heller. Tough as it may be to constantly be in terror, she doesn't do such a grand job. She's cold, prissy and damned annoying. Now, if you knew Dracula was after your immortal soul, you'd put up a bit more of a fight really, wouldn't you? The soundtracks are also top-notch, and it brings the Dracula story bang up to date. You have to laugh, as Dracula stands transfixed under a huge video-wall blaring out a choice heavy rock tune along to images of gyrating strippers, nuclear explosions and body piercing. "Brilliant!" he says. Although after being locked in a coffin for a hundred years, a Westlife music video would probably seem like a work of genius to this poor guy.
As anyone who watches a vampire film will agree, one of the things that makes a film like this good, is the gore factor. The film doesn't disappoint, although it's a little more subtle than some would like. There's some amusing beheadings, vampire attacks, and even one or two short fight scenes thrown in for good measure (although I'll never understand why all vampires seem to have a certain amount of martial arts expertise). All of this, and it still manages a few good one-liners, like Simon's victorious "Never, ever f**k with an antiques dealer!" As long as you try not to engage brain too much and let the pretty colours, pretty actors and pretty soundtracks entertain, you won't be disappointed.