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Review: Byzantium by Jamie

The vampire craze doesn’t seem quite as strong as it once did. Twilight is over, True Blood has essentially become a parody of itself and the Underworld movies… are they still making Underworld movies? I dunno. My point is that there is perhaps a waning in the interest in stories about Vampires whilst their undead brethren, the Zombies, continue to shamble on triumphant (though I honestly think that could change is World War Z is as bad as I think it is going to be). Still the effect of the popularity of these big budget Vampire efforts is that we’ve also seen some far more interesting, smaller films be released. Films like ‘Let The Right One In’ and it’s American remake ‘Let Me In’. It is with those films that Byzantium resides.

Let me start of by saying that this film is directed by Neil Jordan, director of 1994’s ‘Interview With The Vampire’ and it’s pretty clear why he was hired to direct. The main thrust of the plot of Byzantium, adapted from the play ‘A Vampire Story’ by Moira Buffini, is all about a 16-yeat old (well, technically 216 year old) girl, Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan) who wants to tell the story of her creation and two hundred year existence as a vampire but being unable to because of the rules that she lives by in order to remain safe. She just wants to live and love and considers herself a monster. It’s, well, it’s a story that’s almost identical in that regard to ‘An Interview With A Vampire’. In tone, however, this film shares far more with Let The Right One In especially as the story focuses more on her developing relationship with a young boy named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones)

So yeah, it’s fair to say that in some ways this film feels like a mish-mash of two different vampire films but that’s certainly no bad thing when both of those films are great and you can’t help but give them a little leeway since the director of one of those films is also the director of this one. And despite this the film remains an original story. There are also a number of tweaks to vampire mythos which purists may find annoying. These vampires can go out in the sun and rather than fangs, they pierce their victims skin with a retractable claw-like thumbnail. However, they also seem to able to be killed in ways that would kill a normal human, though may be able to take a little more punishment before death would occur.

I don’t really have a problem with that in this film. The reason that the sun thing annoys me in Twilight is that it’s obviously done just to make the Vampires look pretty. It’s also not balanced with any weakness to anything else. It seems, pretty much, as though the only thing that can kill another Vampire in Twilight is another Vampire or a Werewolf. By all rights, we should be living in a vampire-dominated world in those films.

I think it’d be fair to say that this film will not be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s slow and ponderous as a meditation on immortality perhaps should be. There is also the problem that all Vampire films seem to have ever since Interview (though that film manages to avoid this problem itself) and that’s that there isn’t really a character who seems to enjoy immortality. It’s possible that Eleanor’s progenitor Clara (Gemma Arterton) does though it’s never really made one hundred percent clear. It seems as though all modern vampires are made in the mould of Louis. They’re all so mopey. Don’t any of you enjoy the fact that you’re going to live forever? So you lost your soul? You don’t need one if your never going to die.

Despite all this, I still really enjoyed this film and found myself hooked as more and more of Eleanor’s story was revealed. Like I said though, it’s not gonna be for everyone. It does have Gemma Arterton dressed like a hooker throughout most of it so, yeah, there is that as well. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

Byzantium.

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Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon by Jamie

Spoilers ahead…

Some time last year I took a look at the first ‘Twilight’ film in a double header review with ‘Let The Right One In’. Now it seems as though I came away from that film fairly positively and, whilst I still don’t completely hate the last part of the film, it was written after the first watch and I guess I hadn’t completely taken the film in. On subsequent viewings I have to say that the films flaws stand out more and more and now I certainly wouldn’t recommend renting it like I had back then.

So when last year saw the release of the sequel ‘New Moon’ I pretty much ignored it. The film came and went as it’s defenders screamed at it’s detractors and I tried to just wash my hands of the whole thing. And so life went on New Moonless and I was relatively happy. That was until the Rifftrax crew released their new commentary track for the film. I knew I was fucked.

I love Rifftrax. I love the way they manage to make films like ‘Battlefield Earth’ and ‘Transformers 2’ a thousand times more watchable. They also manage to put me in an awkward situation because I generally like to watch the film sans-Rifftrax beforehand because otherwise you can find yourself drifting off into the admittedly generally shitty plot and missing some sweet jokes. So now I found myself in the position of having to watch ‘New Moon’. Thanks Rifftrax. Vengeance will be mine.

Now, I want to be clear that I’m not hating on Twilight just for the sake of hating on Twilight. I’ve never read the books and so I’m judging purely based on the films. The books might be fantastic, I may give them a look but the movies, in my honest and humble opinion, just aren’t very good. Now the first one still does have some redeemable features as previously stated. One of the things I did quite like was the relationship between a prey animal and predator animal and the problems that entailed. In ‘New Moon’ that’s dealt with again but to no where near the same degree. It’s just sort of there this time serving more as a plot point than contributing in any way to character development. What I’m getting at is the fact that ‘New Moon’ is essentially ‘Twilight’ with all of the redeemable features stripped from it.

There are no likeable characters in this film with the exception of Alice, the precognitive vampire, and Michael Sheen as the head of the Italian council of Vampires, the name of which escapes me. He’s just a great actor no matter what shit he appears in this and his campy, over the top performance is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the piece. The rest of the characters, on the other hand, are either unlikeable, annoying or set dressing.

The worst example of this is the main character Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart (Who by the way it was a total insult to have presenting the special tribute to horror at the Oscars)). There is absolutely nothing to like about Bella in this film. She’s a selfish, whiny bitch who spends the entire film with one expression. And then there’s the way she says her lines. For some bizarre reason she doesn’t seem capable of speaking in full sentences always leaving…… huge pauses before finishing what she was going to say. I mean for fucks sake! Am I meant to be so blown away by the sheer brilliance of the thoughts she is conveying that it takes a few seconds for me to truly think about what she said during the first part of the sentence or something? Seriously, the fact that this movie made me spend around two hours with a character so lacking in depth was like being stabbed repeatedly in the face for the same period of time.

So the other two main characters really ‘worth’ talking about are Edward and Jacob. Right so let’s just sum up Edward by saying he’s barely in this film at all and when he is he’s either a spectral image of himself warning Bella not to risk her life or he’s brooding\upset\sparkling. And that’s it. Not much else to say about him. Jacob, on the other hand, plays a much bigger role in this film and it turns out that he’s a werewolf. Well, kind of. He can just transform into something more akin to the prehistoric Dire Wolf at will. Good for him. I don’t know why these books are primarily named after phases of the night as none of the normal nocturnal rules of these monsters seem to apply in this series.

Still he’s a werewolf and he’s inexplicably attracted to Bella. Now let’s take a little moment to just talk about what werewolves traditionally represent. Now if vampires represent the suave yet dangerous and dark side of sex then werewolves are representative of the dangerous and dark side of mans own savage nature. They are monsters that are very similar in nature to Mr. Hyde or even the Incredible Hulk. They are the raw, base and animalistic side of human nature, instinct over intelligence. And this is touched upon ever so slightly in ‘New Moon’ in what seems more like a throw-away scene about what can happen to a werewolf’s loved one if a werewolf were to get angry and lose control. Meh. The werewolves really serve as nothing more than vampire hunters and I couldn’t really give a fuck about them. If you want a good werewolf film you can certainly do better. Start of with ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ Hell, if you want a good vampire versus werewolf film than the first ‘Underworld’ is better than this. Oh and the CGI werewolves look like shit. The practical werewolf in ‘An American Werewolf in London’ was far more convincing even with it’s weird shuffling method of locomotion.

Anyway Jacob. Well, now that I think about there isn’t really that much to say about him either. All he really does is walk around being brooding\upset\shirtless. Seriously, there’s more brooding in this film than on a poultry farm. HAHAHA… You see because when domesticated fowl sit on their eggs to incubate them it’s called brooding… Oh, fuck off.

So yeah, that’s the characters, if you can really call them that, so what about the plot? Well, just like the first one the plot drags along during the beginning and the middle of the film but then it kinda picks up again during the end. This time though it’s not because action starts to happen it’s purely because of the introduction of Michael Sheen. What can I say? The guy could be playing a man in a coma and I’d probably still find him entertaining.

Now I’d like to, if I may, take a personal moment here to say a massive fuck you to this film. There’s a point in the film where Bella and her friend come out of a zombie film and her stupid cunting bitch of a friend starts basically calling zombie movies shit. She bitches about the social commentary within zombie films regarding consumerism which I can only take as a slam against George A. Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Excuse me, movie? Did you just take a shot at not only one of the greatest zombie movies of all time but one of the greatest horror films of all time? The unmitigated gall. Zombie movies have an infinite amount of depth, importance and meaning in one rotted corpse than this shite could ever hope to have. She also claims that zombies are a metaphor for leprosy. Well fuck you, you moronic bitch. Zombies are not a metaphor for leprosy, they are a metaphor for the inevitability of death. You can try and outrun them, you can try and hold up in a store against them but eventually they will get you. Just like death. If I may quote my face book status immediately after seeing this scene “So ‘New Moon’ takes a swing at zombie movies? Well, fuck you New Moon. Fuck you in your stupid, emo, mumbley, incoherent, stupid, barely emotive, pale, sparkly, whiny, bitchy, miserable, annoying, pointless, inexplicably pausey, shitty CGI werewolfy, staccato speech, unlikeable and selfish lead chacatery ass.” I realise I said stupid twice but I was pretty pissed off.

Then they took the piss out of action films and I was left pretty pissed off from there on out.

So yeah, that’s all I care to say about this stupid, stupid film. 1 pint out of 5 and that’s for Michael Sheen.

Now please enjoy this ‘New Moon’ parody and this parody of the trailer for ‘Eclipse’ that I found on YouTube. They’re by JacksFilms



The Vampire Double Feature: Let The Right One In and Twilight by Jamie
17/02/2009, 6:52 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ah, Vampires. I’ve always liked the undead, blood-sucking little bastards. Wow, Microsoft Word doesn’t recognise the word undead. That’s unexpected. Anyway, blood drinking monsters have existed for as long as civilisation but the suave, pale seducer that we know as the vampire today has only really been around since the 19th Century and is most famously portrayed in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula.
In this day and age, Vampires are not just some of the most popular movie monsters but also some of the silver screens most popular sympathetic characters. They symbolise the gift and curse of immortality, the inherent loneliness of living forever, the harsh truth behind the fantasy. They also represent a dark side to our sexuality, a very real, forbidden predatory nature with the act of penetration replaced with the biting of the neck and the drinking of the blood.
So with that in mind, let’s get into today’s two reviews, the 2008 Swedish language film, Let The Right One In and another 2008 film, this one in English, Twilight. Let’s begin with Let The Right One In.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist of the same name, Let The Right One In, tells the tale of a 12 year old Swedish boy and his blossoming friendship with a 200 year old vampire.
Set in the 1980’s, Oskar is a young troubled boy, bullied at school, who spends his free time alone stabbing trees. It’s whilst doing this that he first meets Eli, someone who has recently moved into the area with a man who is apparently her father. She only comes out during the night and has an odd choice of clothing for the freezing cold weather.
Over time their friendship grows, cemented in the fact that they are both outsiders with no friends but each other. They begin communicating with each other by banging on the wall between their rooms when they can’t be outside together. Their relationship eventually reaches a point where Oskar decides to cement their relationship by cutting their palms and mixing their blood. At this point Eli cannot help herself and so her secret is revealed to Oskar.
This is about all I’m willing to reveal about the plot. I honestly cannot express how much you owe it to yourself to see this film. It manages to tell a sweet, romantic story between the mortal and the immortal, whilst balancing it perfectly with the acts of horrific gore that Eli must perpetrate in order to survive. It also touches on some of those familiar vampire themes mentioned earlier, particularly the loneliness of the immortal soul but it also manages to place equal emphasis on the loneliness of the mortal in this relationship as well.

And so to the second film in this double feature, Twilight, another vampire film based on a novel, this time the wildly popular 2005 first novel in the series of the same name and tells the tale of a seventeen year old American girl and her blossoming romance with a 108 year old vampire.
The story begins with Bella Swan moving from Arizona to Washington to live with her father since her mother and step-father are going on a bit of a road trip. At school she makes a few new friends and becomes interested in an apparently young man by the name of Edward Cullen. It seems at first that Edward is repulsed by Bella but a few days later he saves her life when she’s nearly hit by a van, apparently making use of super speed and super strength. A few days later Bella figures out Edward’s secret.
In the sake of fairness I’m going to leave any revelations about the plot there, though this certainly isn’t a film you need to see in the same way as Let The Right One In. I was however surprised by it. I wanted so much to hate this film. It seems, though I consider my self politically liberal, when it comes to movie monsters I’m deeply, deeply conservative. I want my zombies slow and numerous, my werewolves to be vicious, instinct based killers and my vampires to be fanged and to worry a little more than sun burn if they go out in the daytime. And for the first part I did hate this movie. I felt cheated that after 45 minutes I’d seen more compost than blood and more dress shopping scenes than on screen kills. In fact most of the first half of the film seemed to be made up of awkward, furtive glances across a school cafeteria but in the second half of the film things pick up a little with an awesome special effects-laden baseball game and finally a little bit of violence.
Once more the main theme of this film is loneliness and accepting the fact that the immortal can find companionship in a human, but it also explores the relationship between the predatory nature of the vampires and how they regard humans, their prey, which I thought was a nice touch.
Overall I have to say I did enjoy Twilight. I’d definitely recommend it for a rental when it comes out on DVD and depending on the special features, I might even consider adding it to my collection. I mean, hell, I own The Super Mario Bros. movie on DVD and I don’t enjoy that at all.




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