Dracula retold, and refreshingly sparkle-free

dracula untold
I’m really wish people would stop ruining vampires for me. You know what movies I’m talking about, without me even uttering the dreaded “T” word. And some of the lame, wimpy, effeminate vampires that have paraded around screen and in books in recent years. So I admit, I almost didn’t even bother to watch Dracula Untold. I figured it would be yet another disappointment.

Fortunately, I figured wrong, at least to a certain extent.

I could nitpick some flaws in this movie, but I’m going to give it a pass on a few things. Maybe my standards have dropped a little too low with some of the poor vampire movies out there, but I actually thought this was pretty damn good.

Dracula Untold tells the story of the origin of the great vampire legend, with an ancient vampire who has been cursed and dwells in a cave. And much like a Marvel superhero, he and his protégé he passes his curse along to can command bats. And let me tell you, they can make these bats do some bitchin’ things, as Ve Neill would say.

They can create storms and huge whirlwinds like tornadoes that the newly crowned Dracula uses as a cover to plow through entire armies by himself, trying to save his kingdom from being taken in a bloody war.

You see, this spin on the Dracula legend has him willingly taking the blood of the cursed vampire in the cave to take on superpowers, which will all go away and he’ll return to human if he can resist feeding for 72 hours. As you can imagine, this can sort of complicate date night with the wife, among other things.

All kidding aside, this movie has beautiful cinematography, fairly nice special effects — and yes, of course they use CGI for the bats (boo, hiss) — but overall this is a very solid entry into the annals of vampire movies.

It’s sort of like 300 with vampires and without the abs. Check out the trailer…

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‘Penny Dreadful’ is anything but

There are horror films and shows that make you cringe because they’re so predictably bad, roll your eyes at their reliance on cheap “boo” moments, laugh because they’re campy, and make even the most hardcore horror fan squee with delight at their sophisticated creepiness. “Penny Dreadful” falls into the latter category. In spades.

(Here come the spoilers.)

Where does one begin with such delicious and stylish horror? Well, style I suppose. You can’t go wrong with Victorian London for a time frame loaded with lush wardrobe and sets, although thankfully they keep it pretty raw here and not too pretty. But there is definitely plenty of substance to this exercise in style, as well.

First of all, to be able to weave together so many elements of classic horror stories — and some Jack the Ripper for good measure — is a feat in itself. Yet, most of the pilot retained a refreshing originality in the writing, except I did sense a bit of homage to “The Last Samurai” in the introduction of Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) as a drunken performer putting on wild west sideshows. And you can see where the vampire styling references “Nosferatu,” although these vampires are a hell of a lot scarier —  one has to wonder if the creators were inspired by “30 Days of Night,” which starred Hartnett.

Do not expect anything sexy here. Or glittery, thank god.

(more…)

Tonight on TV: ‘Grimm’, ‘Dracula’ and ‘Haven’

grimm-dracula

If you’ve seen the preview clip for tonight’s “Grimm,” is sorta give you the impression that Monroe gets shot. Well, he does get shot tonight. Sorta.

You don’t really think I’m going to give you any more than that do you? Tonight’s episode is what happens when the Three Little Pigs gets real. Those Blutbats and Bauerschwein just cannot get along, can they?

Also check out “Dracula” after that, and tonight’s episode is previewed in glorious photos below.

And last, but not least on these busy Fridays, make sure to tune into or DVR “Haven,’ that fabulous little sleeper on Syfy. Everybody’s hooking up over there… romance, or a reasonable facsimile, is heavy in the air. And we left off with a helluva cliffhanger last week. Did Audrey really shoot Nathan, just as the gang figured out that wouldn’t stop the Troubles?

I don’t know the answer to that one because I haven’t seen it. And let’s face it, I wouldn’t tell you even if I did know. Just watch it already, ‘kay?

 Grimm Photos

Dracula Photos

Haven Photos

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Tonight on TV: ‘Grimm’ Wesen, vampires and ‘troubles’

DRACULA — Episode 2 — Pictured: (l-r) Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander Grayson, Victoria Smurfit as Lady Jayne Wetherby — (Photo by: Jonathon Hession/NBC)

Thank goodness for DVR, or horror fans would find themselves in a real bind on Friday nights. We’ve got “Grimm,” “Dracula,” and “Haven” all in one night. Of course, I know I have my certain preferences on which are must-see TV in which… not so much, but your mileage may vary.

“Grimm” premiered Season 3 last week, picking up where we left off at the end of last season with Nick (David Giuntoli) being zombified on a crazy toxin, along with a whole horde of other people. But Nick found himself in the control of the evil Royal family and on the verge of flying off to Europe, sealed in a coffin in full zombie coma.

Now you know this is where the spoilers start, right?

So the Scooby gang tries to stop that airplane, but it takes off. But here’s the thing: because Nick is a Grimm, he doesn’t react to the toxin like most people, and is able to fight back and come out of his coma. Apparently he also has superhuman strength, and is able to punch his way out of the coffin, going berserk on the airplane in flight.

Crazy, zombified man + airplane in flight equals= crash. And I think that’s pretty much where we left off at the end of last week’s cliffhanger episode, although there were some new developments with Adelinde (Claire Coffee), as well. I’ve actually seen the second episode already, so I have to be careful not to give too much away, but suffice it to say Nick is going to wreak some serious havoc on the ground, as well as in the air.

And speaking of crazy, let’s talk about last week’s episode of “Haven.” Whoa there, Audrey/Lexie (Emily Rose.)

Or actually, I guess that was Nathan’s dream, with his favorite fellow officer going all dominatrix on him in a dream sequence. You know those dreams where you’re naked? Well, it seems Nathan (Lucas Bryant) had one of those naked dreams, but in a schoolhouse with Audrey/Lexi as a teacher. A hot teacher with a paddle.

Did I detour into “Fifty Shades of Haven?” I don’t remember seeing this in “The Colorado Kid.”

In other developments on “Haven” last week, the Ice Truck Killer just doesn’t fare well with brothers. (Surely you all have watched “Dexter.”) He was done in by his brother again on this show, which you should know was Duke (Eric Balfour.)

And Audrey’s performance as Lexie — supposedly forgetting who she really is — is starting to fail as the townspeople are wising up to her game to keep Nathan alive (She has to kill the man she loves to stop the troubles, but if she pretends to be Lexi and not in love with Nathan, The Guard won’t try to force her to kill him.) She’s just getting a little too good at that police work thing to keep up the façade much longer. Although she has that part about keeping poor Nathan at arm’s length down pat.

It sucks to be you, Nathan.

Speaking of sucking, NBC has debuted its new series “Dracula.” Because God knows, the Dracula story has not been done enough. I saw a screener of this a couple weeks ago and absolutely hated it, I have to admit. But, in its defense, seeing the fully edited version improved my opinion somewhat. It happened to occur to me that the special effects had not been put into it yet, influencing my opinion.

Unfortunately, some of the bad writing was still intact. I realize is the first episode and you have a lot of information to set up, but please ease up on the info dumps. Please.

I still find it full of clichés, and sort of silly in the ways that it tries to break from the clichés, but some people may dig it. And they do have beautiful styling, and beautiful photos of the episodes, which they are very generous with sharing. So there’s a gallery of photos from the upcoming episode below, which is certainly eye candy at the very least.

So Friday nights, tune into “Grimm” and “Dracula” on NBC, and “Haven” on Syfy. Work that DVR.

“Haven” Photos

 

 “Dracula” Photos

“Grimm” Photos

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Christopher Lee gets film tribute from Johnny Depp

Christopher Lee gets film tribute from Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp made a surprise appearance Saturday night to pay tribute to a true legend of the silver screen — Sir Christopher Lee, who received a prestigious British Film Institute Fellowship for his long and distinguished career. The two, who have worked on three films together, had nothing but the kindest words for each other. Depp called the 91-year-old actor “a national treasure” and “a genuine artist,” while the elder statesmen of horror declared depth one of the few younger actors “who is truly a star.”

Lee was visibly struggling with his emotions as he approached the podium to accept his award from Depp, telling him, “I didn’t know you were going to be here. I must try and pull myself together.”

Director Tim Burton is the man who brought this pairing together, with Depp and Lee working together on “Sleepy Hollow,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Dark Shadows.”  Lee also lent his voice to “Alice in Wonderland.”

While the younger generation knows Lee for his roles in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, all of the classic horror fans know him for his work with Hammer Studios alongside Peter Cushing. Along with Vincent Price, the trio made up a sort of (un)holy trinity for horror fans in that era, although rumors abound that Lee has since distanced himself from his work in “Dracula.”

Of course, it’s only fair to presume that the reason Burton cast him in his movies was his love of all the old Hammer films, which he has said that “Sleepy Hollow” pays homage to. I’d venture a guess that Peter Jackson had those old Hammer films in mind when casting Lee in “Lord of the Rings” movies, as well.

It’s great to see Lee getting his due from the film community, but his somewhat frail appearance in the photo of him and Depp together gives rise to concern that we may be losing the last icon of the golden age of horror all too soon. (And no, 91 years isn’t nearly enough.) It’s a shame that most of the commentary on the photo revolves around Depp’s blonde hair and not the screen legend seated next to him.

Lee is bigger than his role as “Dracula,” or any of his roles. He is the last connection we have to not only the time when Hammer Studios ruled, but our last connection to the legends of that time like Price and especially to Cushing. As long as Lee is still with us, we still have a little piece of the magic that was Cushing and Lee together. But when Lee is gone, it will truly be the end of  not only a legendary actor, but the greatest era of horror itself.

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