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Vampire/Gothic

Vampire/Gothic

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

I'm sure everything will be fine, she seems perfectly sane

dir: Guillermo del Toro

2015

Ghosts are just a metaphor…

It’s said so many times in the movie, that you know that the ghosts are actually meant to be ghosts, as well as metaphors for metaphors. When the characters within a ghost story question the parameters and plot points of ghost stories, I think we’re officially in the realms of the “meta” without ever having intended to take a trip there.

Crimson Peak is kinda sorta a ghost story. If you took the ghosts out completely, it would not affect or change the outcome, or even the path along the way, at all. The ghosts are queasy and nightmarish in some instances, but I would humbly suggest that they don’t really do much that couldn’t be easily done otherwise from a story point of view.

In fact, just to keep belabouring the point, I would argue that the screenplay already has the plot elements being discovered by the various relevant characters just fine, and then unnecessarily has those revelations underlined sloppily with these spectral redundancies.

Plus, it makes little sense. They’re maybe trying to help Edith with advice and warnings and such, but all they’re doing is scaring the shit out of her so that she makes dumb decisions that would seem to make it harder for her to achieve their goals.

Rating:

What We Do In the Shadows

What We Do In the Shadows

A proud alternative family, like the Addams family, just less interesting

dirs: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

2014

From the very start, as the logo for the New Zealand Documentary Board makes its scratched and dusty way onto the screen, we know we’re in for a real low rent experience.

Well, it would have to be. At this stage of the game, a film about vampires has to be doing something extraordinary in order to be worthy of our interest. Surely we had reached vampire saturation even before the Twilight movies drove a poorly acted stake through the genre?

Well, instead of an extraordinary take on the genre, what we have here is an extremely ordinary take on the genre.

Not typified solely by its low budget, which perhaps enhances rather than detracts from the experience, at least in theory, What We Do In the Shadows depicts these creatures of the night as the complete antithesis of the charismatic and highly fuckable vampires that we’re more used to.

These vampires live in a filthy sharehouse, they speak in heavy Transylvanian by way of Kiwi accents, and they live in that renowned haven of the undead, Wellington, New Zealand.

Rating:

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only watchers left awake will be the ones predisposed to liking Tilda,
Jarmusch, Loki and / or old guitars

dir: Jim Jarmusch

2013

It’s a film about vampires, and that’s enough to send up red flags. There have been exactly 14,798 vampire movies made in the last 10 years alone. The world needs no more. No more, never again, never.

It’s a Jim Jarmusch film about vampires, though. That sends up a sequence of red flags in itself. The idiosyncratic director has never bothered making movies that sit well with mainstream audiences, and this is even more eclectic that what he usually manages.

This is where the stream of caveats begins: an audience member being able to enjoy a film like this is going to depend entirely on whether they can watch films about characters who don’t really do that much for two hours. It’s a strange little duck that gets excited about such a prospect.

Calling Jim Jarmusch’s film’s slow kinda misses the point. They’re frustrating until you understand that the tension generated in scenes that aren’t speeding towards the next point on a plot line is your doing, not the film’s, and misses the whole bloody point of him making films in the first place.

What destination, impatient person? Who promised you a speedy cab ride along a sequence of highs and lows, before some pat denouement and closure is achieved for everybody concerned? You bought a ticket to the tea cup ride and are angry that it’s not the rollercoaster?

Rating:

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

What a lovely family portrait of a despicable bunch of people

dir: Tim Burton

And this is what home video was invented for. You know, watching stuff on VHS or even Betamax tapes in your lounge room. No, I don’t mean porno. Well, maybe on laser disc or DVD. Definitely not Blu-Ray.

This is an artefact not just from the 60s, but from a time when we expected nothing more than to be entertained by something no matter how ludicrous it might be. Tim Burton may just be the most successful B movie director in the history of American cinema. I can't think of the last time or the first time he made something genuine, heartfelt and 'real', whatever that might be. He's happier with completely melodramatic fantasy, and who can blame him?

Johnny Depp certainly can't, which is just one of the many reasons why he's not only on board as the lead here, but also as one of the producers. I have no idea why Tim Burton and Depp thought making this would be profitable, successful or desirable to anyone else but themselves. But that's only because I know absolutely nothing about the show this is based on, other than it was a supernatural soap opera in the 1960s. Called Dark Shadows. That was probably even sillier than this.

Rating:

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld Awakening

Awakeworld Underning: No-one asked for more of this. You're welcome.

dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein

A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?

In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.

Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?

Rating:

Fright Night

Fright Night 2011

Those dreamy eyes... that overcompensating axe.. the perfect recipe

dir: Craig Gillespie

I… I don’t know what to say. I’m almost ashamed of myself for saying this.

I enjoyed this remake of Fright Night.

I think it matters that about the only thing I really liked about the original was nothing. Well, almost nothing. I kinda liked Roddy McDowell’s performance, because he was always a camp delight to behold on any screen. But I found the flick way too silly to ever like it or be scared by it, even as a kid, watching it surreptitiously on video without parental consent or knowledge. Though, to be honest, I still get the heebie-jeebies from the poster.

No, it was just too silly. Chris Sarandon was just too odd and wacky to be scary, and I hated the guy who played Charley, and always did for ever more. Especially on Herman’s Head, which is a tv show and war crime the Hague should get around to prosecuting any day now.

This remake isn’t particularly great, groundbreaking or goddamn gothically grotesque either, but it’s definitely better than the original, and its even dumber sequel.

I’m not sure if Anton Yelchin is that great in the role either, but he’s a likeable chap. Even though he’s a total dweeb, or perhaps because of it, he plays the role in a relatable or even believable way.

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Priest

Priest

Don't let the awesome poster fool you, this movie is pretty
fucking far away from being awesome

dir: Scott Stewart

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick…

Pity poor Paul Bettany. No, really. He’s a decent actor, he’s achieved the Mt Everest of personal achievements by having had sex several times with Jennifer Connolly, and even married her, and had kids with her. He’s handsome, he’s charming, but he can’t get a decent break as an actor.

The most successful films he’s been in are ones in which he doesn’t physically appear (he does some computer voice in the Iron Man films), and in The DaVinci Code he played a self-flagellating albino nun-raping assassin. Have fun telling your mum about that role.

Almost everything else he’s done has been shit. No, that not fair, he was a splendid Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but other than that, it’s all terrible crap.

To whit, he somehow was one of the few people who saw that terrible film Legion that came out a couple of years ago and thought “Wow, I should work with that terrible director again!”

And he did, because, on some level, Legion must not have been one of the dumbest and worst flicks he’s ever seen or been in. Sure as shit it’s one of the worst flicks from 2010 that I saw, so one of us is clearly wrong.

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Let Me In

dir: Matt Reeves
[img_assist|nid=1370|title=For god's sake, let her in before she kills us all|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=566]
Remakes. The making thereof. Proof of creative bankruptcy, or just outright mercenary greed?

Let the Right One In was only made a few years ago, but it suffered from being made in the native language of its author, being Swedish. When certain Hollywoody types saw that film, they thought, “The film is so awesome that the only way we can improve upon it is by making it in American. That’ll earn us a packet, and show the Swedes how it’s really done.”

Of course, they remade it, it was little seen, and the point of the exercise, or the merits, remain solely on the artistic level.

I liked Let the Right One In plenty when I saw it at the cinema, and I read the book as well. In Swedish, initially, which was quite frustrating, since I can’t read Swedish. Then I tried in Swahili, then Farsi, and finally in an English translation. The book is solid, too. I have no particular axe to grind against an American remake in theory, so I went into this with my closest approximation of an open mind.

Rating:

Twilight Saga: Eclipse

dir: David Slade
[img_assist|nid=1292|title=This stuff really is beyond parody, mostly because it's a parody of the human capacity for junk tolerance already|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=299]
And the shit keeps on rolling out…

Wow, has it really only been a year since the last Twilight movie? Surely our years and entire lives are now structured around the release of new instalments in this rightly labelled saga? And it is a saga indeed. Epic, if you will, in proportions, length, width, girth, and in precious emotions.

Big emotions. Huge emotions. Bigger than anything you’ve ever snored through in your entire life!

See there’s a girl called Bella (Kristen Stewart) and every boy’s in love with her, because she’s so wonderful, despite not doing, saying or thinking a single interesting thing in her life. She does nothing, thinks nothing, imagines nothing, nothings nothing. She’s such a nothing that four books are devoted to her. Who ever said there was presence in absence was thinking squarely of Bella Swan and Kristen Stewart’s non-acting abilities.

Rating:

Twilight Saga: New Moon

dir: Chris Weitz
[img_assist|nid=1290|title=Time spent with you cretins is a hell beyond human reckoning|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
The problem, the problem with this is… let me just put my finger on the problem…

How do you make a good flick out of a terrible book? How do you get good performances out of terrible actors playing terrible characters? How do you achieve what alchemists have been trying and failing to do for centuries, being the transmutation of shit into gold?

I don’t know. Neither do the people making this flick.

No-one expects either Spanish Inquisitions or full scale refutations of the basics of physical chemistry in order to achieve the impossible, and I didn’t exactly go into this with an open mind. You cannot have read any of the despicable books by Stephanie Meyer in this series and have any hope either for a film version to be a decent film, or hope for humanity in general.

You just can’t. They’re bad, but they’re bad in the way that precludes being ironic about it, taking it as camp, as kitsch, as anything than what it is: a painfully earnest, unintentionally hilarious but soul deadening attack on human dignity.

That’s gilding the lily if I’ve ever gilded anything. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad.

Rating:

Thirst (Bakjwi)

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=1168|title=I, too, am thirsty, but not for Korean blood|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=347|height=500]
It’s an odd film. It’s interesting at times, boring at others, mostly enjoyable but also emotionally and stylistically flat some times. I’m sure it was deliberate. Chan-wook Park is an accomplished director, but don’t go expecting this to be too much in line with either Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.

It’s clear to me that he really intended on telling a very different vampire story from the ones popular with the girls and their wine cooler soaked mothers at the multiplex. He also intended on supplying the audience with a fairly leisurely, some might say lazy, broad satire of Catholicism. It seems odd to me that a Korean director would give a damn about Christianity, but then again I have no idea how widespread the Christbotherers are in South Korea, or even if the sky is blue and grass is green over there.

All I know about the peninsula is that the North Koreans have some fiercely choreographed high goose-stepping soldiers, millions of them, all starving for attention, freedom and a handful of rice.

Rating:

Twilight

dir: Catherine Hardwick
[img_assist|nid=165|title=Love is stronger than Death, stronger even than mental retardation|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=469|height=339]
Oh good gods is it terrible! Make it stop!

Stop the night terrors, the images of atrocious acting that march through my nightmares each night since subjecting myself to this awful, awful movie. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this truly is a flick so atrocious that it almost seems like a parody of itself, a parody of teen vampire romances, and a parody of filmmaking in general. This film uniquely captures, the way dogcatchers uniquely capture stray and rabid dogs, a collection of actors giving performances so terrible that if they were racehorses, you would surround the cast and crew with screens, load up the shotguns, and put them all out of our misery.

Rating:

Underworld Evolution

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=902|title=Excuse me, could you get me a can opener? I'm having trouble getting out of this outfit|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Evolution, if we are to believe in Darwin’s satanically inspired theory, occurs incrementally over a great amount of time, resulting in minute changes on the micro level, and new species on the macro level. But over a great expanse of time.

The only connection the term ‘evolution’ has with this vampire / werewolf action flick, Underworld: Evolution, is that as if by a miracle, this sequel is better than the original film. The improvement, however, is tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and, like changes in species, will require millions of years before it really matters.

No ‘evolution’ of any sort occurs in this film, as far as I can tell. Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride go to extraordinary lengths to embellish the backstory they created in the first one, with painstaking attempts at linking everything and avoiding obvious plotholes and continuity mistakes. Really, they spent a great deal of time on the script.

But so fucking what? It’s a stupid story anyway.

Rating:

Blade: Trinity

dir: David S. Goyer
[img_assist|nid=976|title=Even dumber than it looks|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=420]
You have to wonder what the attraction is with this franchise. Wesley Snipes hasn't exactly done any memorable acting work in donkey's years. The Blade character is so two-dimensional that when Blade walks side-on from the camera I always expect the guy to be paper-thin. It hasn't really set the box office alight (none of the three films were big earners in that respect). Marvel, I'm sure, has plenty of other comic book franchises dying to be made (and I'm sure plenty of them are already in development).

As a vampire scenario it's not a particularly intelligent, original, amusing or otherwise worthwhile one. The main character's motivation is solely to kill vampires and try to gruffly protect humanity (which seems secondary). There's not a lot of room for character arcs, thematic development, social significance or transcendent insights into human or vampire nature amidst the averagely choreographed fight scenes and the most ordinary action set pieces.

Rating:

Underworld

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=1012|title=Sure she looks cool all in leather holding two guns. Even I would look cool all in leather holding two guns. And I ain't cool.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=308|height=450]
Read here, my people, read and weep...

It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.

Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.

Rating:

Forsaken: Desert Vampires

dir: J.S. Cardone
This film opened yesterday. [img_assist|nid=1074|title=Good advice|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=500]
I watched the first session with about three other people in the audience. I'm amazed they stayed until the end. I'm amazed I stayed until the end.

The actual cinema (no. 4 Hoyts) I watched it in has a grand tradition, a legacy to live up to. Nearly ten years ago I had the good fortune to be horribly drunk on a Sunday night, and the female friend in my company was even more drunk than I. As she was an esteemed employee of the Hoyts Corporation, we were lucky enough to just be able to walk into any of the films showing, whenever we wanted to. This particular night we staggered into a "special" screening, an advance screening for an upcoming release that was expected to do big business.

The audience was packed, we tried to quietly make our may to the only available seats, but had as much luck as a sumo wrestler wearing nylon. It was about half way through the film, but considering our blood alcohol levels, it didn't matter.

Rating:

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