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Films, television, videos, or other visual media that's currently caught my eye ...

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I caught a matinee of Daybreakers yesterday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village (avoid the brunch scones), and find it a good, worthwhile film.

It's a newish take on vampire lore (not unique to the film, but not as tired as a lot of genre conceits), stylish and at times gritty, and it did a good job of sucking me in (ahem).

The basic premise is that it's the future, vampires are the dominant population, and humans are facing extinction as they're farmed or hunted for blood. But blood's running out, and unless a substitute is found, vampires face their own extinction as they devolve into brainless animals.

Vampire fandom aside, I'd watch Ethan Hawke or Willem Dafoe just sit and drink coffee, so I was likely to enjoy this movie just because of them. The hard-working Claudia Karvan makes a great muted romantic foil, and I appreciate that she's strong and sexy without being overbearing or slutty (both in-character and in the film).

Despite my enjoying the film, I do have to say it is amazingly uneven -- on pretty much every front (other than the acting, with the possible exception of Sam Neill, who plays up the whole "evil corporate entity"" role way too stereotypically).

By "uneven", I mean from the pacing to the focus on the mythos to the cinematography to the dialog.

Pacing ranged from staid and thoughtful to frantic and music video-like. The film didn't feel like it knew what to do with the mythos -- here was this great take on a modern vampire utopia, complete with the mundane versions of non-vampire living (commuting, getting coffee, etc.), that was at first set up and explored, and then thrown out to focus on serial happenings.

Ironically, this caused the film to lose a bit of its humanity, as it bulleted through plot points, at the expense of the relationships and exploring the societal impacts of this whole system.

The shooting is great, though there are some marquee moments in the film I found jarring, because you can almost see someone working hard to pose the actors and setup the shot, for the sake of it looking "bad-ass", at the expense of authenticity (and frankly, I almost laughed out load when I saw them).

At the same time, there are some great nods to traditional vampire tropes (staking, etc.) that are put in in surprising, fun, and non-obtrusive ways.

Overall, a worthwhile flick, at times unnecessarily gratuitous, but, overall, a good movie to add to your queue.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009


So, every once in a while, I watch a move, read a book, play a game, or shoot a film that makes me very, very happy.

Zombieland did that to me tonight.

In the game space, we talk about "Triple-A" games, where the sum total of the experience is stellar, even if there are minor miss-steps in some of components (graphics, gameplay, design, hook, basics, etc.). And a really amazing AAA game wouldn't have any miss-steps.

Zombieland is amazing triple-A.

I don't want to spoil the movie, but there are zombies. Lots of them. Filling the land. Creating a zombie land.

And the various trailers do a good job of showing the film for what it is -- a survival horror comedy film.

But not flick, which is why I'm glad it falls outside of the summer throwaway popcorn diversions, but before the slasher shocktaculars of this Halloween.

And not the stuff underneath that multi-genre classification.

Firing on all cylinders, Zombieland is fun, funny, horrific, heartfelt, and polished -- not an easy combo, by any stretch -- and it doesn't fall into the tropes that horror films can fall into (cartoonish titillation, overly cheap startles, etc.).

From the overall gimmick to the VO narrative to the text special effects, the movie's a treat.

The one thing that I thought was a miss-step -- overdone gruesomeness in the first act of the film -- is actually a factor of production and narrative. First, gory, detailed effects are expensive -- use them early to get the affect you want, then cheat them later. Second (and more importantly), even though this is a comedy survival horror film, it's a survival horror film. The audience needs to get that this situation is bad, and not "pristine - get - shot - by - stormtroopers - with - lasers" bad. It's messy, gory, scary bad. Done and done.

OK. No more. See the film. If you're of age. And not overly squeamish.

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