Byzantium

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The vampires who keep coming :: Ever since Byzantium released, I have been looking forward to watching the same, and it is only much later that I had a chance. May be Byzantium is not a movie for everyone or most of the normal people, and the multiplex owners seems to have realized it even before the movie had any chance to grace the theatres – I guess they would have done the same with Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles if released in this decade without Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. My desire for a good vampire movies has rarely been given wings and neither did any possible werewolf love, thanks to the pathetic creations like Twilight and Mortal Instruments which have used the supernatural beings in a terrible manner, forcing me to abandon any thoughts of watching movies with vampires in it – saying no to vampire stuff was never that easy before. There was also Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters which seriously contributed to the same (it at least had the stunningly beautiful Zoey Deutch, unlike the Twilight series), only turning itself to a funny movie whenever it was really serious. Then I had to watch Byzantium, and that made me come up with a few points why I loved this wonderful movie.

1. Byzantium is the best vampire movie after Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles of 1994, belonging to the same class as the 2010 movie Let Me In (or Let the Right One In) and slightly better than the less appreciated movie of 1997 – Vampire Journals.

2. Byzantium is a good thing to have if you did accidentally put your head into Twilight or Mortal Instruments, as it has that ability to bring you back to love the supernatural and the vampire yet again; thus the antidote you will need.

3. The movie stands right between Let Me In and Twilight, with a romance that has a teenager falling for the very old teenage vampire girl, but with all the creepiness of the former, and no bloody exaggerated romance like Bella vomits on Edward Cullen.

4. The bloodsucking is given a new dimension with the use of nails, while we have been looking at bites all the time – coming from the same director who gave us Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, I was expecting something new like that.

5. The story has two female protagonists, a mother and daughter who are vampires who are always on the run, and mystery that surrounds them if unfolds in such a beautiful manner that you can’t stop thinking about it.

6. There is a code among these two vampires, as one of them only feeds from the weak and the dying, sending them to eternal joy from the world of pain, and the other one feeds on those who attempts to take advantage of the weak.

7. There is no turning the other into vampire by biting, and the vampirism of this movie is something that is gained by being prepared to sacrifice one’s life – only by being ready for death can one achieve eternal life – now that is no usual evil vampire stuff.

8. The use of flashbacks is beautiful, and they come up with something every now and then as the story of the present moves on. It is never without its captivating ability, and the background story is a big boon for this one.

9. Saoirse Ronan is an awesome young vampire who has complications with her mother who never ages, and makes them go around the world. Her words and the pain that she narrates with it, are striking; and then there are her eyes and the way she stares.

10. Gemma Arterton as Clara Webb is wonderful with her ability to survive, from being the subaltern among all due to one bad decision of her life, she keeps making the right decision, and supported by her beauty and charms, she thrives; looks more beautiful than ever.

11. Jonny Lee Miller’s Captain Ruthven is a as close to a dreadful villain as possible, one who unfortunately for the viewers, is not seen in the present, but with those flashbacks, he is responsible for all that the mother and daughter are now, a man of pure evil.

12. Sam Riley’s Midshipman Darvell also has a certain amount of charm, being the man who could have avoided this plight, but was not given the opportunity by the young lady. This depiction shows him as a man in pain and helplessness which he tries to hide.

13. The movie has a haunting atmosphere right from the beginning to the end, and there is no real happy side to it. There is some brutal telling of the story which is dark and with abiding sadness, but still not that horror or tragedy that one would expect.

14. Byzantium is incredibly powerful in its dealings with the supernatural as well as the human side. It has a huge darkness element in each of its characters, which is surely more than any sign of goodness we see in this movie.

15. There is a river of blood which flows down through a waterfall and meets the sea, while birds make strange sounds a fly away, as dark clouds fill the sky – that moment of transformation which is an awesome moment of visual splendor.

16. The movie has successfully captured the feeling of being alone and different with the daugher, and that of being mistreated and punished for no crime of oneself with the mother, and there is so much beauty in how it is shown.

17. There is a certain amount of contrast being made, with the humans and the vampires, with all the humans in the movie being either good and weak or evil and strong, just the vampires being in the middle of all these with no specific side.

18. The cinematography is too beautiful in this movie, and every time we look at it, we see a beautiful world created with a suiting surrounding, and lovely looking people around, as the two leading ladies steal the show.

19. The past and present comes together, and when it is finished and the mosaic is complete, we have a finished product which is nothing less than a poetry which we were told to complete during our school days.

20. I quote from the movie: “My story can never be told. I write it over and over, wherever we find shelter. I write of what I cannot speak: the truth. I write all I know of it, then I throw the pages to the wind. Maybe the birds can read it“.

The final Vampire Bat touch :: I believe many of us might have thought that there is nothing new to come up with the vampires, unless Anne Rice gets younger and come up with some new book or Suzanne Collins moves into some kind of futuristic vampire science fiction story. But this movie proves otherwise. Even with slight drag and often lacking in big surprises, this exquisite movie successfully battles the popularity of stupid vampire romance for teenagers, and leaves us hoping that it had a better release around the world. Neil Jordan once again scores, this time, without the help of a novel. Well, how can one expect the Vampire Bat not to like a vampire movie which has some intellect and imagination associated with it? *Meanwhile, I have reached twenty posts of the story @ The Divine Epic (http://divineepic.wordpress.com/) and I hope you all can have a look my fiction work 😀 As I have separated the story into four separate timelines, I believe that it will be easy to follow if you click on each timeline and read the story instead of going ahead right from the beginning to last post 😉

Release date: 28th June 2013
Running time: 118 minutes
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Daniel Mays, Caleb Landry Jones, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Warren Brown, Thure Lindhardt

byzantium copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Runner Runner

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✠ This was a week blessed by no releases which came out with a good critical reception, and the after-effects of that movie Besharam was haunting me. It re-iterated the need for a good movie, and I had high expectations about this flick, but those waxen wings were burnt yet again, and therefore it is necessary that Count Dracula take over half of those expectations. This has been a bad beginning to a month which starts with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday right on the second day, and considering the fact that I had to watch Besharam on that day was sad, and as I add this movie’s score to, the total should be 57/200 which is undoubtedly the worst beginning I ever had to a month this year. With that sadness concerning a month which might not rise in quality much if an average is taken, I have to take you back to the legendary vampire.

Count Dracula: So you are back. You had Jumper, Sinister, Offender, Parker, Looper and now Runner; that too twice. The names of the movies are indeed strange. Among those movies ending with -er I would have preferred those less complicated ones like Hellraiser, Dreamcatcher, Outlander and the inverted version ending with -re, possibly with the word “vampire”.

Vampire Bat: I can see that the absence of Twilight movies are bringing you back into this world. Yes, the title is Runner Runner, and it is good that they had chosen such a title, as the movie drags a lot in between and it is a good thing that people get to know that it is running.

Count Dracula: Do you mean to see that a movie which was so much awaited, a flick which has Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton is quite bad and doesn’t deserve to be watched?

Vampire Bat: That would be pure nonsense. I am surely recommending this one, even as not that much as most of those other movies of the earlier weeks; and this movie might be the winner of this week which was plagued by Besharam and is not supported by any superstar movies from Malayalam industry. Runner Runner might not win by a big margin considering the number of people who were present in the theatre even during the best time of a semi-holiday, but if there is a movie which needs some appreciation among those released this week, it is this movie. The critics might have panned it a little too much in my opinion, for this is no Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance.

Count Dracula: Why did you have to remind me of that movie? Wasn’t the reminder about Twilight and Besharam enough for the day. You always ruin my day like those wood elves. I need to eat a hobbit, but that would take some time too.

Vampire Bat: That should be mainly because I am not here to make you listen to what you want to hear. But let me tell you that this movie scores with its cast. Its greatest advantage remains Justin Timberlake. He was good in Bad Teacher, and I loved his performances in Friends With Benefits and In Time. Here also, he is really good, but his character is let down by the story which goes on through the predictable lines and even as they seem to promise for some surprises at times, there is nothing risky in a gambling movie, and when they don’t dare to do that in a movie which is all about taking risk and gambling, that is a real shame.

Count Dracula: It doesn’t make any sense that you have not started talking about Gemma Arterton. What about her? Her presence in Byzantium makes me wish to go back to the civilized world again. I had heard that they didn’t release that movie in your land. They should be really evil, as it is one of the best things which has happened to the vampire world since my last bloodbath.

Vampire Bat: Yes, she has been an unavoidable force for me from the days of Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and finally Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters this year. But I didn’t like her that much in this movie as I expected. She was pretty and did all that she was supposed to do, but one has to wonder what purpose has her character really served in the movie by coming out of nowhere at regular intervals. Yes, she makes me ask for sequels to both Prince of Persia and Hansel and Gretel, but not for this one.

Count Dracula: You don’t need to say that Ben Affleck was good, as I have known that already. I am not predicting what you saw in the theatre, or what was to happen, but I am pretty much confident about that. I am not sceptical about his upcoming role as Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel either, as most of the people are. He has been Daredevil and he can be Batman. Matt Murdock can be Bruce Wayne, and not every Batman needs to be the same.

Vampire Bat: You are very good at taking words out of the mouth of others, and this is no exception. Yes, the three people forms the pillars of the movie, and the two male characters run the show. Gemma’s character could have had a lot more to do, but I guess we can’t have a Gretel or Tamina every time. Still, there is no denying that the scope for such a character in a movie like this is almost limitless.

Count Dracula: I am not a gambler, my friend. Neither am I a gangster. So, my interest in such a movie is limited. I am rather a vampire who often forgets to brush my teeth and visit a dentist. How did the gambling side work out with you? And does it have enough blood?

Vampire Bat: No, it is far behind in action, and therefore also the blood. Its adult certificate is for the sexual content which is censored at this part of the world, and the near absence of clothes is more of fashion, and I didn’t see those people who came to watch the movie with families leaving, and therefore the lingerie stuff should be okay with them. I would wonder if the gambling side worked at most of the theatres in this part of the world though, as most of us are not aware of the thing properly. But did Justin Timberlake’s character narrate between action to make it known better? I don’t think so.

Count Dracula: So tell me how does it end? Don’t throw the spoiler at me, but still let me know about it. I shall buy only the DVD of that movie, and I have to know the whole thing a little better.

Vampire Bat: Well, it is about a student who loses all his money to an online gambling game, and after coming to know that he was cheated, goes to Costa Rica to find the owner of the site and confront him only to taken to his side. He is romantically linked to the former lady love of the man and is bothered by the FBI to assist them in finding proof for taking the lord of gambling into custody. There are enough suspicions and double-crossing stuff to deal with, and the climax is pretty good.

Count Dracula: So, Runner Runner is worth a watch, and I surely have to get that DVD. I shall look for it the next time I go to the goblin market. If I can’t find it there, it shall be upon you to get that to me.

Vampire Bat: I shall still recommend this one if you are going for a movie this weekend. Now, it is the time to go home and have that cup of tea, and therefore until we collide on a hunt again, good bye, Count.

Count Dracula: Good bye, best of my winged brethren; for now. May the shadows be with you.

Vampire Bat (to himself): I am fully in support of this movie in the form of a DVD, as an uncut version, and if you also live in such a part of the world where the options are the same as mine, go for this movie in the theatre. The beauty of Costa Rica and the three leading actors might be enough to make your day as this is a shameless week for us as far as movies are considered.

✠ For a Malayalam movie fan, this flick brings back the memories of Jose Praksh’s “muthala kunjungal”, for our dear antagonist has crocodiles as pets and feeds them very well, and there is a scene involving him almost feeding his opponents to the creatures in water. Well, this movie doesn’t go to crocodiles of Lake Placid, nor does it goes to the dinosaur of Jurassic Park. With a better plot and a better characterization of Gemma’s character, the three could have done wonders here. Do keep the ears ready for some good lines in the movie, and be prepared for half a fun ride which might be enough for some and not at all working for others. The movie is that much of a gamble that you have to take as it happens inside, and there is a big chance that this will come up okay, and a slight chance that this won’t work at all – there is much lesser chance of this impressing you to the core. Next time, I hope that when they make a thriller, there would me more risks taken and big twists explored, rather than going in a straight path as if it is a drama movie. It is a short movie, both in content and in running time, and may be it is for the good.

Release date: 4th October 2013
Running time: 87 minutes
Directed by: Brad Furman
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, David Costabile, Sam Palladio, Oliver Cooper, Ben Schwartz

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Hansel and Gretel

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We have had the darker versions of fairy tales, one each in the last two years – Red Riding Hood in 2011 and Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. The latter getting better reviews than the former was a strange a thing just like this one getting negative reviews – this is astrange world for sure. The one thing which might be agreeable to the fans of all three movies might be that none of them really made an impact on the critics like they did on the box-office. While Amanda Seyfried lead the way in the former, it was the antagonist Charlize Theron who made the impact in the latter. But, here comes Hansel and Gretel, which surely is a much better watch; and a clear winner as a creation of dark fantasy.

It did remind me of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but our good re-telling of the old fairy tale happens to do better by a long way. Then once again, the critical reception might favour the wrong movie even as it is marginal. But trusting someone else who doesn’t know your taste is the worst mistake you can do. I almost made the same mistake, but I could see beyond it, as Ghost Rider 2, the worst Hollywood movie to reach the theatres of India in the last two or three years had more approval than some of those above average movies. This might have been a little long introduction, but it was strange to see that the shows of Hansel and Gretel were cancelled and I had to wait for days to watch it. Therefore, forget the critical ratings; and may be ask your friends who share your interests, and go for the movie.

The Grimm Brothers had given the world the story of two kids who outsmarted a witch; a story which was one of my favourites during childhood. After saving themselves from an abusive step-mother and the evil witch, these children do live happily ever after, as I can recollect. It is absolutely correct until the death of the witch in the movie too. But then comes the “living happily” part, which is a little existential in character. They are witch-hunters – professional ones; one of them is diabetic and the other one is later found to be a ” ” (it is a twist and there will be no spoiler here). But still, they might have found fun in doing their job – it is athletic and they get good payment for it. There is the possibility of ending in a witch’s cauldron or simply as a corpse, but considering what people do these days for attention, I would say that witch-hunting is not that horrible unless that witch got too many fans on facebook. Vampire bats do that often in the dreams.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are the grown-up versions of the awesome little ones, who have dedicated their lives to fight the evil: to save the world from the broomstick-riders who fly better than some of the airlines. Hansel and Gretel start the latest adventure by preventing the town’s Sheriff Berringer from executing a young woman who is accused to be a witch (has the same name Mina – reminding of Mina Harker) after the siblings were hired by the mayor to find and bring back a number of children believed to be abducted by witches. Berringer hires his own men who are killed by a powerful witch, Muriel in the dark woods. The one who is left alive doesn’t last long with a curse for the hunger of crawling things.

Hansel and Gretel discover that the witches are preparing for the notorious ritual of Blood Moon, which requires sacrificing six boys and six girls with certain peculiarities.  The town is attacked by Muriel and her minions, which include a troll Edward (never away from that name from Twilight, but the fans can forgive the appearance of this troll). Now the witches have enough children to sacrifice for Blood Moon, but they need something else (which shall not be revealed to break the suspense) and the remaining question is whether the witches succeed in the ritual which would make them almost invincible. The twists include the truth about their step-mother who was not really evil, the mystery about Mina and the last ingredient of the Blood Moon ritual which would change the siblings’ idea about witches and witch hunting.

This story might sound too familiar and not that awesome to follow, but it is made better with the movie’s great CGI which is one of the best. The 3D effects make it one of the best horror-action experiences through the glasses with bullets, explosions, arrows – all coming towards you in frequent intervals, as well as the dark beauty of the atmosphere which catches you out of the screen. Right from the opening title scenes to the ending credits, it promises and delivers the same. Famke Janssen does remind one of her role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in X-Men III: The Last Stand, but she is surely better as Muriel. The witches look much better than in any movie released in the last few years, and the variety in them brings the culture element into the play – they are not the same. They are incredibly detailed to be just side-kick witches. Their screams create that fear element even when they are not on screen.

The most conservative, horror-hating, gore-fighting people of the pseudo-realistic world needn’t watch this movie though. Let the wonderful action sequences and breath-taking fights be missed by you. The 3D and the CGI can treat the deserving eyes. There are times when one has to cease being intellectual, and what is science but full of contradictions and uncertainty? Therefore, why be against a movie of magic and fantasy saying that it is not real? There is thousand times more chance of this happening than anything of the Twilight series. But the fact is that you don’t even realize why you are in this world; none of us do. Our life is in the hands of the greater power that guides us. So don’t be judgmental on this one, for this is not there to be judged by some superior intellect which goes to Moon or Mars and search for water – this is there to be enjoyed, supported by imagination. This is not a product of perfect reasoning power supported by some random theory; this is not simple every day life – this is dark fantasy. I love action-horror movies and I feel this has only strengthened the genre.

Release date: 25th January 2013 (USA); 1st February 2013 (India)
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.