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.

Maleficent

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The Sleeping Beauty :: There are not many of us who don’t know the Sleeping Beauty or Princess Aurora, being as famous as the little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Gretel and Rapunzel, may be a little more popular than Goldilocks – the heroines of the tales of our childhood, at least belonging to some of them. Red Riding Hood returned darker in 2011, Snow White in 2012 and Gretel in 2013. All these movie have been coming up with a darker version of the old fairy tales. I have felt that there is nobody like Amanda Seyfried to be a fairy tale character. I have found these re-imagining of stories pretty much interesting except for Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Snow White which ruined it for me. There is always something about seeing a story which you have known in the childhood presented in another way, and with this movie coming from the perspective of the antagonist who features in the posters and impresses us, Maleficent was not going to be a movie to be missed. Well, it is not always about the princess; for there are so many things which are not royal, but is yet better than they are. Then, this movie has Angelina Jolie; a long time since she was last seen in a movie – I guess the last ones were two fine movies, The Tourist and Salt in 2010.

What is it about? :: Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a faeire living in the magical forests which the human kingdom has always wished to capture. Despite having no king or standing army, the forests have always managed to keep the armies of the greedy human king away. She actually serves a certain kind of leader to the creatures of the woods, being the only faerie of human size. Her only human acquaintance is Stefan (Sharlto Copley) whom she met when they were both kids and grew up together, falling in love. As the old friend and lover returns one day, she lets him in, only to have her wings taken away from her. Maleficent, in her state of sadness, pain and anger turns darker with her magic, and with that, turns the magical fairy kingdom darker, depriving it of the colours. With a shapeshifting raven Diaval (Sam Riley) for company, she decides to give the man who betrayed her what he deserves. The current situation is that the man is now the king of the human kingdom, and his wife has given birth to a baby girl. She finds that her window of opportunity to march to the castle and give the newborn baby a gift from her dark magic which will make sure that her former lover would remember her for a very long time.

The defence of Maleficent :: No matter what other movies might have, we have Angelina Jolie here, coming back to the big screen after a long time, except for her voice that we heard in in Kung-fu Panda. Maleficent has a lot of visual splendor, right from the beginning when we are introduced to the cute little protagonist faeire who sleeps on a tree at the top of a cliff, flying around and having her fun with the creatures of the magical woods. All these creatures are nicely created to give us a taste of the magical forest in such a way that we can feel that it is different from the human side as well as the darker side to which we are introduced later. The trees surrounding the faerie world as well as the mounted warriors of nature also needs some special mention. But what thrives is the awesomeness of her with those wings and the final dragon. The cute ones are rather those which you usually expect to see. The movie’s environmental theme is real good, but it could have been used in a more visible manner. The difference in the story is nicely worked out even if not fully utilizing the available resources. The 3D is effective at times. The kids are going to love this one, that is for sure.

The claws of flaw :: Maeficent reminds us of so many movies, including Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the great and Powerful, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansal and Gretel: Witch Hunters and finally, Snow White and the Huntsman which had Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart instead of Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning here, even as this movie is surely better except for not having, may be Charlize Theron. There was the need for more imagination, which is why this movie struggles and drags at parts. It actually remains too predictable at times, and when it is not, it just manages to make its story good enough. With the classic story of the sleeping beauty in the pocket, they could have done better, may be with a better information about how this one big faerie came into existence as one of her kind, and how she mastered black magic getting so powerful. Another question would remain about the mental state of Princess Aurora whom we know is the one narrating. Some things just happen here, and even as there is the unreal atmosphere around, it needs to explain within that circle, but it doesn’t, and also fails to connect with the audience emotionally at times. The jokes and other dialogues are not memorable.

Performers of the soul :: Angelina Jolie has everything under control in this movie. Just like the poster, she has herself inscribed all around the movie; she is majestic as the defender of the magic realm when left with her wings, and magnificent as the sorceress who takes on the powers of dark magic when deprived of her wings. It is really a joy to watch her in such an avatar; I have always felt that she would make a great villain, an evil sorceress – this feeling of mine has actually come to screen with this one. The horns, the wings, the black dress and the wicked smile; then there are those cheekbones and the fury in the eyes, they are all perfect. The idea of sending the enemy’s daughter into eternal sleep on her sixteenth birthday – now she is indeed fit to give such a curse. Even the girl who plays her childhood was so good. The beautiful magical world indeed belongs to her! Elle Fanning, the sister of Dakota Fanning (Jane Volturi of the Twilight series) plays the role of Princess Aurora in the movie. She is the next best thing as she becomes one of the cutest princesses one has ever seen on screen, and wait until you see with a crown on the head in the end. Sam Riley’s human-raven hybrid avatar was nice. Sharlto Copley made a pretty good villain, but with not enough space and screen time.

Soul exploration :: Maleficent is not just a story of the past or unreality. It is in many ways parallel to what is happening in our world. They not only keeps the famous villain in the shades of grey and closer to white, they also divides its world into the human world of science and technology and the magical world where nature thrives. The humans are always motivated by that desire to destroy nature with their new scientific inventions after looting whatever wealth they can find from there. The human king and his subjects fear what they can’t understand, because it is beyond their scientific explanations, and it is the same reason why they feel that it should be destroyed. But the wealth of the forest in also too attractive, and thus they keeps making an attempt to take control of the territory and deprive it of the resources. On one side, there are the greedy humans, and on the other side, there are the creatures of the forest who live a happy life even with no control or rules imposed by the society. The enemies of the faeries are the products of new technologies, and in this case, iron. The movie is a battle between the righteous nature and the evil man’s scientific inventions, the same thing that happens in the present.

How it finishes :: Maleficent is not a movie that you can avoid even in the presence of a number of regional movies which have gained positive reviews; in our case, those like How Old are You and Bangalore Days. It doesn’t have the power to make a huge impact in the presence of the other movies, but one can’t deny that it has its magnets to attract, starting from Angelina Jolie. The movie is short too, and thus making sure that it won’t lose its way moving towards the end that has quite the difference that is needed. Yes, there is no true love, and all that romance and stuff is a lie – this movie has such dialogues throughout, claiming that true love doesn’t exist, and even the breaking of curse is supposed to be by true love which everyone knows doesn’t exist. Now, I would say that it is a great step taken when the stories of dumb romance have been spreading through the air. This realization that human beings are inherently evil and there is no love between even the most seemingly romantic couple, is what contributes powerfully to the dark and powerful side of this movie, which has to be appreciated. Yes, this is that kind of a world when the prince gets drunk on the way to the castle, arrives late, and the sleeping beauty dies; end of the story.

Release date: 30th May 2014
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Miranda Richardson, Lesley Manville, Kenneth Cranham, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, Eleanor Worthington Cox, Janet McTeer, Ella Purnell, Isobelle Molloy, Toby Regbo

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.