Tag Archives: vampires

Unlikely Vampires Inhabit Awkwardly Funny ‘Shadows’

What We Do in the Shadows
Two and half stars (out of four)
Not Rated (violence, sexual content, language)
86 minutes
(The film received an extremely limited release and is playing this week and next at BLVD Cinemas in Lancaster.)

When it comes to vampires and geography, we tend to think of Transylvania, New Orleans, London, Forks, Wa., even Santa Cruz (ah, “The Lost Boys”). We don’t tend to think of New Zealand.

To most Americans, New Zealand is famous as the location of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and not much else. It’s not a place we’d except to find a thriving coven of brooding bloodsuckers.

The utter unlikeliness of the setting is the primary source of humor in the vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows.” The film was made by and stars New Zealanders in the capital city of Wellington — not exactly a recipe for the sexy, gothic, darkly thrilling vampire movies audiences are accustomed to.

To be frank, the creatures of the night who inhabit “Shadows” aren’t very good at being vampires.

Drawing much of its appeal from its irresistible brand of awkward, laid-back Kiwi humor, “Shadows” was written and directed by Jemaine Clement, the goofier looking half of hilarious comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and actor-filmmaker Taika Waititi.

Like the short-lived “Conchords” HBO series, “Shadows” revolves around oddball flatmates who fit together comfortably, whatever their quirks, but are clumsy when it comes to navigating the outside world.

In the movie, these flatmates are centuries-old monsters, holed up in a crumbling, genuinely creepy ruin on the outskirts of Wellington. They’ve invited a documentary crew to take a glimpse into their everyday lives, which are more mundane than anything Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer ever envisioned.

The den mother of these fanged fiends is Viago (Waititi), a cheery Victorian nobleman with a flair for antiquated fashion, still pining after an unrequited crush.

Viago tenderly looks after pals Vladislav (Clement), a Dracula-type with a taste for orgies and sadism; 8,000-year-old Petyr, a hideous fanged thing who lurks in the basement; and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), the 183-year-old youngster of the group and self-professed party animal.

Like most roomies, these guys squabble over chores, give each other fashion tips (it’s hard to put together a nice ensemble when you can’t see yourself in the mirror), play pranks on their guests (Here’s a tip: don’t eat the spaghetti), weather catastrophes, like “fatal sunlight accidents,” and look forward to the social gathering of the year, the Unholy Masquerade.

Improvising heavily and impressively, Clement, Waititi and the rest of the cast mine laughs by subverting vampire movie tropes from everything from “Interview With the Vampire,” to “The Lost Boys,” to “Twilight,” and classics like “Nosferatu.”

There’s nothing suave, sexy or even very sinister about these bloodsuckers, who dress like they’re appearing in a mash-up of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Saturday Night Fever” and struggle to adapt to modern technology, including cellphones and Facebook, with the help of their new human friend, IT guy Stu (Stuart Rutherford). Stu is so helpful, they’ve all agreed not to eat him.

“Shadows” has a very loose plot, revolving around the conflict that erupts with the addition of newly initiated, indiscreet vampire Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) to the group. Some viewers may find this tedious.

Still, the film’s got enough gore and fun special effects to satisfy horror aficionados. If the initially clever concept begins to feel a bit threadbare, there are more than enough high points to make up for it.

In one scene, Viago and friends encounter a pack of testy but polite werewolves, led by ginger-headed “Conchords” alum Rhys Darby.

“We’re werewolves, not swearwolves,” he declares.

That’s a hashtag if there ever was one.

Photo: movies.mxdwn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiddleston Vamps It Up, Hardy Takes a Drive: What to Watch This Weekend

The end-of-summer movie doldrums have arrived with nary a major new release in sight this weekend.

Hollywood is busy taking stock of a disappointing season — it was the worst summer at the box office since 1997. As usual, it was a season dominated by childish fare, including hits “22 Jump Street,” “Godzilla,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Maleficent” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

The good news is that fall is on its way with a tantalizing selection of “grown-up” Oscar bait and enough art house offerings to satisfy even the most snobbish cinema palate.

If you’re looking forward to the more sophisticated films of fall but find yourself at a loss this weekend, here are a couple of recent home viewing releases to tide you over until fresh reinforcements arrive.

Whether renting or streaming, you can’t go wrong with the pair of intriguing dramas below. Released in mid-August on DVD, they’re easily two of the most compelling films of 2014.

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Only Lovers Left Alive
R (language, brief nudity)
123 minutes

The artful, eccentric films of writer-director Jim Jarmusch are legend (“Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai,” “Coffee and Cigarettes,” “Broken Flowers”) but these languidly paced gems can often be a chore to sit through.

Not so with Jarmusch’s latest, which is a total delight, dark, romantic and playful and starring the irresistible Tom Hiddleston and often creepy, always fascinating Tilda Swinton at their very finest.

People may think that the sappy, sparkly bloodsuckers of “Twilight” effectively killed off the vampire film, but then a movie like this comes along, delightfully toying with the genre in clever ways that would make Anne Rice proud.

Just pause for a moment to let that sink in. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a vampire movie. By Jim Jarmusch. Oh yeah.

Hiddleston and Swinton play centuries-old creatures of the night, old souls and soul mates who live on separate continents, only to reunite in the inky midnight of his improbable hometown of Detroit.

Hiddleston’s Adam is a brooding Byronic bloodsucker with a passion for beautiful old instruments, mainly guitars, and a talent for composing moody rock music that has teenage groupies encamped outside his house.

This drives Adam crazy. He’s an analog guy in a digital age and he’s not happy about all the changes he’s seen in his immortal lifetime. It’s got him so depressed that Swinton’s Eve is concerned enough to make the exhausting red-eye journey from her home in exotic Tangier to cheer him up.

Eve is Adam’s polar opposite, free-spirited, cultured and open to new things — she’s got an iPhone while Adam is still stuck on rotary. She’s not so modern, though, that she’s forgotten her rich past. One of her best friends happens to be Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), the guy conspiracy theorists believe wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Jarmusch has a lot of fun with that.

The director’s vision of the 21st-century vampire lifestyle is hilarious, sexy and literate in ways that will make English majors swoon. Adam and Eve are like rock stars, staying up all night, with their disheveled hair, shades and gloves, listening to music, debating existential questions and jonesing after their next fix (they’re vegetarians and blood is like a drug to them).

In true Jarmusch style, “Lovers” never goes quite where you expect it to. When the credits rolled, I had fallen head over heels for this wonderful, bookish, effortlessly cool film.

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Locke
R (language)
85 minutes

Tom Hardy is one of the most talented young actors of his generation, proving his subtle charm, versatility and serious chops in such films as “Bronson,” “Inception” and “Lawless.”

He’s a forceful guy and we’re used to seeing him in films that are violent or big on spectacle, which is why the quiet, brilliant one-man show that is “Locke” comes as such a surprise.

Penned and directed with considerable minimalist style by Steven Knight (writer of “Closed Circuit,” “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things”), “Locke” consists entirely of Hardy alone inside a car as his character makes a late-night drive from Birmingham to London.

The movie begins as a mystery. Ivan Locke has abruptly abandoned his post at a construction site, where he is supposed to be supervising a critical cement pour. His mission is urgent and we slowly learn where he is headed and why in a series of frantic phone calls between him and his irate boss, his worried wife, an increasingly drunk co-worker and a panicked woman from his past.

“Locke” is a thriller in the truest sense but it’s a rare film in that its dilemmas are moral ones. As Hardy takes one harrowing call after another — his car is conveniently equipped with a state-of-the-art hands-free system — our feelings about Locke’s motivations are in constant flux. Is he a man of integrity or a man who can’t let go of his destructive past?

Knight uses shifts in lighting to conjure up a mood of suspense. This is one of the most stressful movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Other actors give voice to the ensemble Locke speaks to via phone but this is all Hardy’s show and it’s amazing how he brings the screen to life, simply sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The sole flaw to be found in “Locke” is Hardy’s occasional railings against his character’s dead-beat dad, who he imagines is sitting in the backseat. It’s a distracting theatrical device in a ride that is otherwise impressively smooth.

Photos: Yahoo, YouTube