A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  (B-).  Somehow I missed this 2014 black & white foreign-language vampire flick during its original release, but happily a friend invited me to a special showing last night at the Alamo Drafthouse.  (Actually I tried to talk her into seeing Logan instead, but she wasn’t having it.  She’s been a big vampire fan ever since New Moon.)  It’s a weird movie, but interesting.  Our hero is some ordinary guy living in a bleak industrial town called Bad City.  His father is a junkie, and a drug dealer takes our hero’s beloved car because dad can’t pay his debts.  Then the drug dealer abuses a prostitute who works for him.  This draws the ire of our vampire (Sheila Vand, Argo), an ordinary-seeming woman who ghosts around town at night and can sprout fangs in a jiffy.  Later she menaces a little boy and takes his skateboard.  After that she meets our hero after he has gone to a costume party (as Dracula!), and instead of making a meal out of him she actually seems to start liking him.  But you’re never really sure if she’s eventually going to chomp on him or not; her affect is pretty flat.  More stuff happens after that, in a slow, moody, artsy kind of way.  It held my interest.

(I’m categorizing it as a foreign film because it’s in Farsi, but I have read that it was actually shot in California.  The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, is Iranian-American.)

This was my first trip to an Alamo Drafthouse, and it was a pretty interesting experience.  We got to our theater pretty early, and before getting to the real previews they showed a bunch of film clips and trailers from cheesy old horror movies back-to-back.  It was fine to set the mood, I guess, but it made conversation difficult.  I got food, which I seldom do at movie theaters, and got a mediocre Royale Burger with Cheese and some cold fries out of the deal.  The seats were comfy, though.

What We Do in the Shadows

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

What We Do in the Shadows  (C-).  It’s not every day that you get a chance to see a mockumentary about a quartet of vampires sharing a flat in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand.  The most outgoing vampire, a foppish dandy named Viago, is our guide to the the blood-suckers’ trials and tribulations.  For example, flatmate Deacon hasn’t done the blood-stained dishes in several years, and they are really starting to pile up.  The most venerable vampire, Petyr, is an 8000-year-old freak who apparently seldom leaves his massive crypt in the basement.  (So Viago kindly brings him a chicken from time to time.)  And when the dark, moody Vladislav isn’t brooding over a centuries-old defeat by a creature called The Beast, he’s wondering why they don’t just get some slaves to do the housework, like in the old days.  It’s mildly amusing, but I really thought it would be funnier than it was.  It probably didn’t help that there were only about 4 of us in the theater, so the laughs didn’t have much synergy to work with.  On the plus side, it’s only 86 minutes long.

Only Lovers Left Alive

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Only Lovers Left Alive  (C).  Here’s a new take on the vampire genre.  In this film directed by Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers), the vampires are fairly traditional: they seem to be basically immortal, but they require human blood to survive, and they are vulnerable to sunlight and wooden stakes through the coronary region.  Otherwise, they seem reasonably human in personality (although they rather insultingly refer to human beings as “zombies”), and they can make their way through human society when need be (at night, of course).  The film focuses on a married couple of vamps, Adam and Eve (played by Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers, and the amazingly pallid Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel).  They’ve been separated for a long while, and Adam, a musician, is getting pretty depressed in his ramshackle house in the ramshackle city of Detroit.  Eve figures out that her hubby is really bad off, so she takes a night flight out of Tangiers to join him and cheer him up.  The movie is rather slow and talky; don’t go expecting a lot of gore (although there is a little) or hot werewolf-versus-vampire action (there is none).  Indeed, Adam and Eve are so civilized they prefer to do their grocery shopping on the medical black market rather than harvest their sustenance straight from the source.  Things perk up a little bit when Eve’s troublemaking little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) shows up uninvited, but otherwise this is a pretty low key and meditative sort of movie.

The Last Man on Earth

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The Last Man on Earth  (D+).  When I bought this DVD for a dollar, I did not realize I was buying the first film adaptation of the 1954 novel I Am Legend, which was later turned into the rather more famous films The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and I Am Legend starring Will Smith.  In this 1964 black-and-white film, Vincent Price (House of Wax) stars as the titular character–the only survivor of an apocalyptic plague that turned everyone else into creatures that he calls vampires but that act more like zombies.  Indeed, according to IMDB.com, this movie was an inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the godfather of all subsequent zombie movies.  Unfortunately, this film is not very good.  The acting is poor, and the long flashback to show how Price’s character got where he is now just isn’t very compelling.  There’s only one fairly creepy scene, and it is short.  Otherwise, pretty forgettable stuff.  At least it’s short (86 minutes).

True Blood: Season 4

A new review from The Bleacher Bum.

True Blood, Season 4 was too much, too fast, too many people, and too many storylines.  Generally, HBO shows know how to pace itself.  Often the first couple of episodes of a new season of an HBO show are so slow that some viewers get bored.  This slow, ramping up pace is done deliberately for proper story development. The first three seasons of True Blood followed this model to the letter; however, Season 4 did not.

This season introduced more characters and each character has a special talent of their own. I think we are up to eight different forms of the supernatural since the show began. Vampires are the least of our worries these days.  True Blood also went very soap opera this season with lots of relationship drama.  Of course, Sookie was in the middle of all it, solving as many problems as she created.  To date, Season 4 is my least favorite season of True Blood, but there is a payoff at the end that sorta makes it all worth it. Sorta. Grade: B-.

Dark Shadows

The Movie Snob gives you fair warning.

Dark Shadows  (D).  Who would have thought that a joint enterprise by director Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland) and actor Johnny Depp (the same) could turn out to be so deathly dull?  Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a wealthy fellow in colonial Maine who gets turned into a vampire and buried in a chained-up coffin by a wicked witch (Eva Green, Casino Royale).  Fast forward 200 years to the early 1970s.  BC is set free and makes his way back to his ancestral mansion where the last few members of the Collins family live in a state of advanced aristocratic decay.  Oh, and the witch is still hanging around the area causing trouble for the Collinses.  Previews suggested that the film was a comedy, but it is not funny.  (Gags involving BC’s encounters with “modern” phenomena like lava lamps and the Carpenters inevitably fall flat.)  Nor is it exciting, scary, romantic, dramatic, or anything else that might make it the slightest bit interesting.  Avoid it unless you have 2 hours you really need to waste.

Twilight

Nick at Nite favors us with a DVD review

Twilight

Ordinarily, I am drawn towards all things Vampire, Zombie, etc … As such, one would expect that I would devour Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. That said, I have not read the books, and I did not camp out to see the movies. Frankly, I am just not that interested in reading a book or seeing a movie based on any teenage love story – even if it involves Vampires (isn’t this every episode of an afterschool special with a little horror mixed in?). So, I will admit that I was shocked when my wife rented this movie and it turned out to be good. My wife loved it. Of course, she had read the book. As a non-believer (in the movie, not Vampires), I was ultimately swayed by a new twist on an old tale. These Vampires – all impossibly young – are vegetarians. They only eat animal flesh. Mostly, I appreciate the complicated back story that my wife was explaining to me during the movie. I give Meyer credit for her creativity, and I say check it out. Also, I was surprised to learn that sunlight does not kill Vampires and that they don’t sleep in coffins.

Twilight

New review from The Movie Snob

Twilight (C). I am totally unfamiliar with the book on which this movie is based, but I gathered from the media that it was something about teenaged vampires in love. I know, it sounds good, but it is surprisingly lame in execution. First of all, why do these new-fangled vampires break all the standard vampire rules? Daylight doesn’t kill ’em, mirrors don’t faze ’em, and there’s nary a wooden stake in sight. Anyhoo, an angsty teen named Bella (Kristen Stewart, Zathura) moves to a small town in Washington State. No sooner has she started school than she falls in love with one of the apparently very few vampire members of the student body, the pallid Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Talk about the good girl being attracted to the bad boy! But of course Edward isn’t so bad, even though his natural instinct is to eat her up with more than just his smoldering eyes. The acting is weak, and it’s hard to imagine what a hundred-year-old vampire like Ed would see in a moony teenager like Bella. Seriously, Stewart’s acting is not good. She’s all fluttery eyelids, weird facial twitches, and incoherent utterances. Maybe C is too generous…

30 Days of Night

DVD review from Nick at Nite

30 Days of Night

I am starting to think if I have seen one Vampire film, I must have seen a hundred. They are all starting to run together. This Vampire film is equal parts The Thing, Underworld, and Vampires. As in, it is very cold, everyone dresses in black, and the Vampires are very messy. It has apparently taken centuries for Vampires to learn that if they were hungry all they needed to do was go to the northernmost city in Alaska, a city where once a year the sun goes down for thirty consecutive days and nights, to feast on the living for thirty consecutive days and nights. Like all Vampire films some people die, some people live, and there is lots of blood spilt along the way. It was okay, not great. I give it a “B-.“

Night Watch

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Night Watch

Watched this Russian horror film last week. It was horrible. I was expecting it to be subtitled. Instead it was dubbed like a bad Godzilla movie. Something about people who live in the dark and people who live in the light and the eternal battle they have had for the last five hundred years. Apparently, they started a truce so that they could coexist on the planet during a battle five hundred years ago (the flashback sequence was the only good part of the film). Ultimately, I think the good guys won. I found myself rooting for either side to get killed off so the movie would just be over. Honestly, I got so bored that I started reading a book during the movie – not a very good book at that. Sad. Very sad. So, don’t believe the hype. I think the critics proclaimed this to be the best Russian movie last year because it was the only Russian movie made last year. I give it an “N.” For Nyet. Isn’t that a Russian word?

The Descent

DVD review by Nick at Nite

The Descent

Good and creepy. Don’t look for the happy ending because you won’t find one. Clever tale about seven ladies who take extreme vacations every year (one of the ladies is a special guest on “This Descent” and thus serves the role of the first die, also known as the “Star Trek expendable crewperson”). Usually, the vacation revolves around a little whitewater rafting or rock climbing. Adventurous, but not crazy vacationing. Well, after one of their whitewater rafting vacations our lead protagonist’s husband and daughter die in a tragic motor vehicle accident. They die right after our lead protagonist is clued into the fact that her husband has been having an affair with one of her vacationing buddies. Fastforward to the next year’s vacation. The seven ladies gather, drink a bunch of beer, and try to cheer up the lead protagonist. The seven ladies then climb into an unknown, never-before-explored cave in the Appalachian Mountains. They believe they are going into a known, completely explored cave … except the adulterer among them has planned this vacation as a really extreme trip into the unknown, never-explored cave. She is trying to bring out their inner strengths. Deliverance pales in comparison to what they find in the cave. A rock slide gets them stuck in the cave. The go deeper into the cave in an attempt to come out of the cave. The don’t find the way out, instead they find crazy vampire-like humans who like to hunt animals and humans. Our seven ladies are taken out one by one. I will not give away any of the three twists at the end of the movie. I will say the adultery plot finally seems like less of rabit trail and makes sense. Check it out yourselves. This movie has a very high gore factor. Some mild cussing. No nudity – unless you count the crazy vampire-like humans. It can’t be that bad, my wife actually watched it with me. I give it a “B.”

Nick at Nite knows horror

New DVD reviews from Nick at Nite

Silent Hill

I should know better. A movie based on a videogame, and a videogame that is just not very good. Moved by the spirit of Halloween, not to be confused with the friendly, happy spirit of Christmas, I rented this film. Well, the only horror is that I wasted two hours of my life trying to unravel this garbage. The plot, or what I could make of it, is as follows: over-bearing religious types try to burn girl for being a witch, she is sort of saved by a well-meaning police officer, the devil makes some sort of bargain with the very badly burned girl, the devil and girl set fire to whole town, the fire rages for years, girl or girl’s evil twin or devil’s twin is adopted by unsuspecting family, and unsuspecting family is lured back to burned town and bad things happen. Honestly, this is just a bad movie. I was so confused and bored. I give it an “F.”

Underworld: Evolution

Two great things that go great together: leather and vampires. This sequel to the surprising Underworld is low on plot and high on special effects. If you like your vampire movies mixed with science fiction and plenty of gun play, then this is a good movie for you. We start at the end of the last movie with our heroine and her werewolf/vampire boyfriend being hunted by other vampires. Big chase ensures. Our heroine (Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship) discovers how she became a vampire and why her family was killed. Lots of high-flying fisticuffs and goth imitations. I give it a “B” for adventure and a “D” if you are looking for a good Halloween flick.

Night Watch; Thank You for Smoking

DVD reviews from the Court’s newest reviewer, CBG.

Night Watch

Maybe you saw this movie and just didn’t know it. It’s the first of a trilogy which centers on the epic struggle between good and evil and an unfulfilled prophecy about the ONE who will change everything. Smartly shot. Cool Special Effects. Choreographed Fight Scenes. Yeah, yeah, yeah… what was it? The Matrix? No—that’s not it—LOTR? No, no, no . . . Star Wars? Wait a second, that had six parts. Regardless, if you like epics—see this movie. If you like vampires and shapeshifters—see this movie. If you like stuff that creeps you out—see this movie. If you like movies that pay a dividend when you pay attention—see this movie.

Yeah, it’s got a derivative plot line. Guy with special powers finally figures out he’s special—an “Other”—and gets swept up in the eternal battle between the forces Light and Dark, which constantly monitor each other during the night and day respectively (hence the title). But the film works. Originally shot in Russian (I was disappointed they only released the dubbed version), the post-Soviet, eastern bloc feel is perfect for this horror/science fiction/fantasy fare. It’s got a grimy, dark feel that builds momentum as it goes forward.

It’s got its rough spots—some of the special effects are cheap looking and the dubbing doesn’t always work—but this is definitely worth renting and would probably stand up to a second viewing. And this is the perfect time of year to check it out. Stay up late, turn off the lights and crank it up. You won’t regret it.

Judgment: B+

Thank You for Smoking

This is like eating a truffle. Tasty, but not that substantial. This movie has a lot to offer: snappy dialogue, great characters with great actors behind them, a healthy dose of cynical humor all wrapped up in a spiffy, well paced, post-Michael Moore mocumentary package.

Want to see what’s wrong with our culture (okay, SOME of what’s wrong)? Check it out. Want to know why? That’s not this movie. Keep that in mind. There’s nothing wrong with truffles, as long as you don’t eat them all the time.

Judgment: B+

Ultraviolet is Ultrabad

New from Nick at Nite

Ultraviolet. Usually, science fiction and Milla Jovovich are “two great things that go great together,” e.g. The Fifth Element, Resident Evil, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, you know, just like chocolate and peanut butter. In this movie, they don’t go too well together, you know, just like Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. Ultraviolet, based on a Japanese comic book, is the story about humans who become infected with a virus that turns them into something similar to a vampire, but without the blood sucking. Turns out the uninfected humans hate the infected humans. Milla Jovovich is infected and is trying to make it so everyone can just get along. FX are incomplete and unimpressive. How do all these people die, literally hundreds by swords and gun play, yet there is not more than an ounce of blood spilled by any of the characters? Plot? What plot? If you want to see some science fiction and you are a big Milla Jovovich fan, rent The Fifth Element. That Luc Besson film is excellent and strange. Save your money on this stinker. I give Ultraviolet, which should be right down my alley, an “F.”

Cube Zero; The Historian

Nick at Nite sounds off:

Cube Zero

Year’s ago I used to watch Joe Bob Briggs on the monster movie marathon or movies for guys who like movies. I still remember his introduction of the John Carpenter classic The Fog. After talking about Carpenter’s brilliance, Joe Bob paused and then said, “We present for your viewing pleasure the cinematic excellence of The Fog.” He was right; it was cinematic excellence. After I finished watching Cube Zero the other night, I remember wishing Joe Bob had been there to: (1) introduce the movie . . . “We present for your viewing pleasure the cinematic crap of Cube Zero“; (2) explain the movie . . . “Plot? We don’t need no plot, we just need heads exploding”; and (3) explain why there have been two sequels to The Cube. This movie sucked. And I usually like this garbage. Basically, in some future world, people volunteer for an experiment whereby they end up in a giant rubix cube, where they must move from room to room looking for escape. If they go into the wrong room, they are assured a horrible death. Seriously, does this movie need to be made more than once. A sequel? Why? I know — because people like me will watch it. Thank God for cable. I give this movie an “F.” I know Greg will be surprised.

A book review . . .

It took me several months, but I have finally finished The Historian. This is a very long, at times boring, book. It is about Dracula, sort of. It is about a love story, sort of. It is about a search for family, sort of. It is about the Ottoman Empire, Romania, and a bunch of other countries I don’t care about, sort of. It goes on for over 600 pages. I got to the end last night and saw that it had an Epilogue and thought to myself, “Good Lord, what else can this woman possibly have to say?” That said, it is a generally interesting story. It is a unique twist on the history and tale of Vlad Teppes. I say go for it. Give it a read. I don’t want to give away the ending, but for those of you who are afraid of vampires, I have some tips: (1) do not start looking for them, it makes them mad, and they come looking for you; (2) do wear garlic, it works; (3) do wear a cross, it works; (4) do not break the cross, then it doesn’t work; (5) apparently, a bullet kills vampires, not wolfs; and (6) you will be okay if you are bitten by a vampire twice, but look out if you are attacked for a third time. I give this book a “B.” A condensed version would get an “A.”

The Day After Tomorrow; Van Helsing

That Guy Named David reports:

The Day After Tomorrow (D+)

Good special effects. Horrendous acting. I am making a new rule for myself that I will not watch any movie from here on out whose primary star-power is Dennis Quaid. The plot was ridiculous, and as mentioned before, the acting was mind-numbingly bad; however, the special effects kept this movie relatively entertaining for a while. The only way I recommend it, though, is if you are at someone else’s house who has rented it and their cable is out, there is no one with whom to talk, and there are no books or magazines in the home.

Van Helsing (D-)

What a great night of movie-watching. First, I get to sit through 2 hours of the “end of the world” sci-fi with The Day After Tomorrow (see above review), and then I get to top it off with one of the single worst sci-fi/horror flicks ever made. Well, it appears Hugh Jackman has found his niche playing unconvincing “super-heroes” with no acting ability whatsoever. And this story… good God. At the beginning of the movie, I literally thought it was a bed-time story that was being told to a kid or something, much like The Neverending Story. But as the movie progressed into Jackman… sorry, “Van Helsing” fighting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (who in this movie was about 20 feet tall) and then Dracula, I knew it was going to be a real task just to make it to the final credits. But I persevered, only to get to an ending that sucked about as bad as the rest of the movie. Horrible.

Van Helsing

From Movie Man Mike:

Van Helsing (B-) This is a fun Summertime action movie, but you better be prepared to suspend disbelief. Any movie that has vampires, werewolves and a Frankenstein monster should tell you what to expect in the way of reality. I would have enjoyed this movie so much more if they had not tried to punch it up with some light humor and sap. David Wenham plays Carl, a friar who is a 17th century version of James Bond’s Q. Carl’s Papal laboratory and weaponry are way ahead of its time–although the weaponry does add to the action of the movie. Carl’s character also adds some comic relief to the film, and in my opinion, the film would have been more suspenseful and dramatic without the comic relief. And then there’s the relationship between Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). The directors leave you with the clear “Hollywood” impression that there is a romantic spark between these two characters, but I got the distinct impression that the scenes with the romance were left on the cutting room floor. From the standpoint of the story, I had a hard time understanding the history between Van Helsing, Count Dracula and the Valerious family, and how Count Dracula was supposed to have come into being. It doesn’t add up. Otherwise, the story-line was suspenseful, and there was some good action. I enjoyed this movie, but it could have been so much more.

Underworld

From the Movie Snob.

Underworld. (C-) I can say with a great deal of certainty that this is the loudest movie I have ever seen. Not that I expect a movie about the centuries-old war between vampires and werewolves to be quiet and peaceful, mind you, but during the fight scenes the director turns the volume up to 11. By the end, I was covering my ears to avoid discomfort. The heavy-metal soundtrack, or whatever the kids call this non-musical noise these days, added to the painfulness. Anyhoo, the movie itself was pretty lackluster. The movie frequently grinds to a halt to allow various characters to give expository monologues about the origins of the war and the current goings-on in the vampire and werewolf camps. Kate Beckinsale shoots for “tough and ruthless” but comes off mainly as “cute” as the spunky vampire Celine, a professional werewolf-killer who would rather be out pumping the enemy full of silver bullets than dealing with her effete and decadent kin back at Creepy Vampire Mansion. Since she’s only about a third as large as anyone else in the movie, I thought the moviemakers wisely opted to minimize her participation in the frequent bone-crunching fights between blood-suckers and shape-changers. Bottom line: this one’s for hardcore vampire and/or werewolf fans only.