Tag Archives: Vampires

Underworld Awakening

2 Feb , 2012,
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Underworld: Awakening - Poster Art.

You’d think that after 3 movies, the Underworld franchise would go to pot. After all, there’s only so much you can do with vampires, werewolves, and their perennial war in the shadows.

And then suddenly, humans come along, and you realize that hey, they’re really trying their damnedest to milk the franchise.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I appreciate Underworld’s latest iteration Awakening for all it’s juicy bits – the fluid choreography, the intense sequences, the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale as Death Dealer Selene – but like it’s earlier installments, this film remains mired in hackneyed World of Darkness tropes and a water-thin plot that only just manages to pass muster.

With the elders all but dead and all order crumbling, vampires and werewolves alike are hard pressed to fight against a new enemy – the humans they’ve herded and victimized for centuries.

The public has discovered the presence of the “Infected”, and their reaction is anything but friendly.

Selene and her hybrid beau Michael (played by a faceless extra this time) are caught in the resultant purges, and when the huntress wakes up from her cryogenic sleep, more than a decade had passed.

Breaking out from the medical facility where she’s held, she discovers that it’s a different world out there, that her erstwhile beau is dead, and that her only link to the past is Subject 2, the daughter she’d somehow conceived during her twelve-year torpor.

And get this, that’s just the setup. The next half of the story has, predictably, Selene doing what she does best – dealing death with twin guns blazing as she embarks on a quest for some answers.

Plot aside, the show manages to plod credibly forward thanks to Beckinsale’s powerful performance. It’s a shame Scott Speedman (who played Michael Corvin in Underworld 1 & 2) had to give this one a miss though.

Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein have to be commended for their aesthetic choices in the creation of this film. Awakening was decidedly gorier, darker, and more in keeping with the genre than it’s previous incarnations, and hopefully, that’s something we can expect in Underworld 5 (coming soon to a theater near you).

The way Selene tears through Antigen guards during her escape in the initial half of the show was bloody brilliant (pardon the pun), and it only gets better as the show progresses.

Ultimately, Awakening’s not all that bad if you watch it for what it is – a supernatural action thriller – and leave the grey matter at the door.

Old-school fangboys will also appreciate the fact that vampires and werewolves in this movie can actually kick-ass and kill stuff, and that’s always better than just looking pretty and sparkling in the sun, no?

Fright Night: It's got bite!

22 Sep , 2011,
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Fright Night - Poster Art

Bloodsuckers these days suck.

They’re emo and effeminate, they sparkle and glitter in the sun instead of going up like a pile of dry kindling, and they’ve all got about as much street cred as Justin Bieber. It’s a sorry state of affairs (Bram Stoker’s probably gonna turn in his grave if he knew), which is why the new Fright Night is such a gem.

Helmed by Craig Gillespie, this remake of the 1985 cult classic puts a modern spin on the original though the story and despite the paradigm shift, the premise, at least, remains mostly the same.

Instead of being a complete dork, Charlie’s (played by Anton Yelchin, who nevertheless looks like a dork) a cool kid now. He hangs out with the jocks, has a semblance of a life, and it’s high school nerd Ed who thinks there’s something wrong with Charlie’s next door neighbour Jerry Dandridge (played by Colin Farrell).

Ed, of course, bites off more than he can chew, and that’s when things begin to get exciting.

Naturally, it’s Colin Farrell who steals the first half of the show. His vampire is the quintessential nocturnal predator – tall, dark, handsome, fundamentally vengeful, and incredibly dangerous. It’s a nice change, seeing as how Hollywood emasculated the vampires in Twilight.

His performance is mirrored by David Tennant, who plays Las Vegas illusionist Peter Vincent with the same kind of frenetic charm and irreverence  that made him so endearing in both Doctor Who and Hamlet.

There’s much to be said about the midori-chugging curio collector and charlatan (and also a fair bit of plot exposition to boot), but why read about it when you can actually watch it?

All in all a great movie, and probably one of the best remakes I’ve seen so far. I’m kinda keeping my fingers crossed for The Thing, but that’s another movie for another month.

Don’t forget to check this one out, folks. And that goes double if you’re a fangboy.

Dylan Dog – A Doggone Tale

26 May , 2011,
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Dylan Dog - Poster Art

Dylan Dog‘s something of an underdog in comic book circles, never having quite achieved the same measure of popularity in the U.S. as it did in Italy. And that was kinda why I was surprised when I discovered that this obscure Dark Horse title had actually managed to make it to the big screen, and that it was showing in most cinemas here.

Simply put, Dylan Dog’s a title that mashes up old school noir with vampires, werewolves and a healthy dose of mystery. The titular character is a private eye that straddles the world of the living and the world of the dead, and every chapter or so, he succeeds in solving a new supernatural crime. It’s all very pulpy, rife with dubious femme fatales, the alleyway confrontations, and the eponymous rooftop encounters.

Don’t get me wrong. The genre conventions are all there (well, mostly there), but other than Dylan and his idiosyncrasies, almost everything else deviates from the comics.

Set in New Orleans, Dylan’s big screen outing thrusts him into the center of a murder investigation, when an antique dealer gets murdered by something tall, dark and furry. Things get personal when Dylan’s sidekick Marcus gets killed, and this propels him out of his funk, and into some funky detective work.

Along the way, Marcus comes back to life (as a zombie), Dylan gets romantically entangled with his client (what else is new), and tussles with both the vampires and the werewolves whilst hunting down the murderer and an ancient relic called the Heart of Vlad.

It’s a pretty standard B-grade story as far as things go. There are no funky twists, no unpredictable plot devices, and the humor (there’s a bit of it) kinda misses the punchline.

Brandon Routh made for a horrible Dylan Dog. While he could pull off the look, his voice just ruined the entire experience for me. He didn’t have the neurotic intensity I’d come to expect of the character, and overall, like his other performances (in both Superman Returns and most recently, Scott Pilgrim), came across as lackluster.

Sam Huntington, who played Marcus, was by comparison the better actor. He was the right sort of whiny, the right sort of smarmy, and the right sort of annoying. Few can do zombies with panache, and well, Sam is it.

The camera angles and effects weren’t entirely bad, and director Kevin Munroe (who also did the Ninja Turtles movie in 2007) demonstrated a high degree of aesthetic competence. The feel of the movie was sufficiently gritty, and the action sufficiently creative to not be a total bore. It was evident though, from the creature effects, and some of the special effects, that this wasn’t a big budget movie (as if all the B-listers on cast weren’t indication enough).

All told, this movie makes for a doggone tale.

It’s just another entry in a long list of Hollywood B-movies about supernatural dicks and their adventures in undeadland. And while it doesn’t do the comic book it’s based off any justice (just read the comics, and you’ll know what i mean), it’s watchable, in the same way that movies like Big Trouble in Little China and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are watchable.

It makes for an excellent time waster.

Armed and Defrocked – The Priest Movie

11 May , 2011,
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Priest - Poster Art

If you loved Hyung Min-Woo’s Priest, and were actually hoping to see Ivan Isaacs, the undead,  gun-toting titular character going at it with Temozarela’s fallen angels, then perish the thought. This big budget re-imagining helmed by Scott Stewart (who directed 2009’s Legion) has more in common with Blade Runner and Aliens than it does Korean manhwa.

Still, Priest has got its share of manhwa moments. It’s a fairly stylish piece overall, and while the script and characterization leaves something to be desired, it beats last year’s glittery vampires hands down just on the cool factor alone.

Priest starts out strong, with an elaborate animation sequence created by Russian animator Genndy Tartakovsky,  contextualizing the eternal war between humans and vampires, and these vampires aren’t twinkly, High school fangboys either. They’re pasty skinned, eyeless mutants with distended mouths filled with razor sharp teeth, kinda like the Chiropterans from Blood. They’re, in a word, nasty.

Humanity’s hard earned victory is attributed to the Priests, a cadre of clerics schooled in mystical martial arts and armed to the teeth with deadly silver weapons. Trained solely for war, and left bereft of a purpose at the war’s conclusion, the priests faded into obscurity. That is, until the events of this movie.

The titular Priest (played by Paul Bettany) is roused into action when his brother’s (Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame, amusingly enough) homestead is attacked and his niece Lucy kidnapped by marauding vampires. Defying the orders of Monsignor Orelas and the College of Cardinals ruling the dystopic, Church-led city he hails from, Priest embarks on a journey across the wastelands, seeking his niece’s kidnappers, whilst uncovering a deadly plot that threatens the very safety of the world he has come to know.

Of course, the film isn’t about one defrocked vigilante’s battle against things that go bump in the night. He’s accompanied by Hicks, a lawman who also has the hots for Lucy (Cam Gigandet, who did Twilight), and another cassocked crusader (a Priestess, played by Maggie Q), and they form the classic adventuring trio.

But for all their cool kungfu tricks, it was the villain, credited as Black Hat (Karl Urban), who stole the show. Capering through the streets of a burning city, whilst Mozart’s Dies Iraes plays non-diagetically on an off screen gramaphone just screams awesome. It was probably the best scene in the entire movie, and the only scene that truly stuck.

Priest’s visual effects weren’t half bad. I didn’t mind the camera work, and the visuals were certainly the film’s highest points. The scene where Priest invoked Psalm 23, before flinging cross shaped shurikens of death willy nilly was pretty cool, and the part where Maggie Q faced down Mad Max-esque punk riders with a flail wasn’t shabby either. There’s not a whole lot going on that merits forking out another 5 bucks to watch it in 3D though.

For a Hollywood adaptation, Priest certainly bucks the trend by being passably good, rather than incredibly bad.

While it certainly has its shortfalls, least of all in the script (which was really pretty mundane and lacking in the intellectual rigor a film about priests and vampires could have possessed) and the 2-D characters, it’s one of the better vampire films I’m seen churned out in the West in awhile.

Watch for the aesthetics, if nothing else.

Something to sink my teeth into

4 Jan , 2011,
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Drain - Cover Art

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a copy of the Drain TPB (trade paperback), which I’d been dying to get my hands on for the past year and a half.

Released in late 2008, it was one of those Image titles that had slipped past my geek radar, and when I’d finally resolved to track it down, I’d discovered, too late, that the handful of copies actually available in Singapore had been sold out.

Why did I want Drain so bad? Considering how 2009 (and by association 2010) was the year of vampire movies (including, but not amounting to those about vampires that sparkled in the sun), I was seriously craving a solid vampire fix. One that had a proper narrative, and didn’t, for want of a better word, suck.

Drain is a hauntingly beautiful work, written by Marvel’s C. B. Cebulski and painted by Sana Takeda, a Japanese illustrator with several American comic book credits.

It tells the tale of Chinatsu, a Japanese vampire with a centuries old blood feud against her maker. It’s a revenge story, but it’s also got lesbian vampires (and you can’t go wrong with lesbian vampires) and strong cultural underpinnings.

Drain’s filled with the requisite gore and violence I’d come to expect of the genre, and it’s elegant gore, splashed across ephemeral, watercolored landscapes with dashes of flying cherry blossoms, water features, and freshly fallen snow.

In other words, it’s stylish, and where vampires are concerned, you can’t really argue with style.

I can see why he wants a piece of her. XD

Get what I mean? XD

Character designs are dark, fleeting and sensual, embodying both danger and mystique. The paneling, story flow, and action sequences are boldly reminiscent of wuxia (Chinese martial arts) comics, especially in the use of dynamic poses, strong lines, and lettering.

I was also impressed by the decision to use multiple full page spreads (again very wuxia style) to convey action and dramatic tension, as well as the artist’s attention to detail. You know an artist is putting in lots of effort when you can count each individual drop of blood in a frame, or study the intricate lacework on a character’s stockings.

It’s arguably the best Christmas present ever. XD