Murder A La Mod (June 19th, 2016)
Director: Brian DePalma
Starring: Margo Norton, Andra Akers, Jared Martin, and William Finley
Not every director makes a movie that spells out what they’re all about right out of the gate. But DePalma did. He’s always shown a fascination with voyeurism and a propensity for Hitchcockian narratives. So in this first movie of his outside of school, he made a movie that shares some structural (at first) similarities with Psycho. Not the only time he’d go to the Psycho well, doing it much better in Dressed To Kill. There’s also his fascination with filmmaking, which ties into voyeurism. And there’s the interest in fucking with the audiences suspension of belief, with moments to break the illusion of the narrative. Now, this is all interesting to see as the rosetta stone of his filmography. But it doesn’t work all that well. It’s more interesting in a broader sense than as an actual film. The story starts off to be a much more complex movie, until it devolves into a movie that just retells one scenario from 3 different POVs. And the tone of it doesn’t work. It wants to be this psychosexual drama at points, then it wants to be this goofy comedy following this doofus of a character accidentally stumbling onto the murder story. Trying to make a point about the industry chewing women up and destroying them, but doing it in such a muddled and frankly uninteresting way. He would go on to tackle that in his masterpiece Blow Out. So once again, his career path is kinda laid clear here. It feels very rough and thrown together, definitely something made on the cheap but with a passion that is clear. It’s ambitious even if it doesn’t reach it’s lofty goals. For anyone interested in DePalma, definitely check this out. It’s included on the Criterion Blu Ray for Blow Out. But as cinema, leaves a bit lacking.
Dracula Untold (June 22nd, 2016)
Director: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, and Charles Dance
This is not the trainwreck I thought it was supposed to be. There’s actually a good deal of potential in this movie to be something cool and different from the leagues of Dracula movies that have been made in the last century. It takes a bit of a seed from Coppola’s movie, diving into the Vlad The Impaler stuff and latching onto the tragic lover aspect. But it does so to a more heroic end, making Dracula less villainous. At least in this movie. A sequel (that we will never get) could have dived into the tragedy of a good man doing the wrong things for the right reasons and becoming corrupted. But in this movie, we just get the tragedy and no sign of villainy. Vlad (Evans) is the Prince of Transylvania and his old friend (Cooper), whose father raised him as a war ransom, is now the ruler of the Turks. The Turks believe the Vlad’s men killed a battalion of Turk soldiers, so they demand 1000 boys to be raised as soldiers in the Turk army. Vlad doesn’t take too kindly to this, especially when his son is in the demands, so he foolishly goes to war. The Turk battalion was killed in a mountain by what turns out to be a Vampire, who Vlad goes to for help. Vlad wants his power to take out the Turkish horde, as his army is in no way strong enough to fight off the Turks. His wish is granted, and he will revert back to humanity after 3 days if he doesn’t give in to the thirst of human blood. Obviously, this doesn’t go well. Honestly, if this movie was like 2 1/2 hours or more, this would be a badass movie in the vein of Braveheart/Gladiator/Ben Hur but with a supernatural bent. They could have dived into the relationship between Vlad and the Turk ruler. There could have been more time devoted to the familial relationship that Vlad is willing to damn his soul for. Get more into the world around him and the fear of the Vampiric curse that spreads through the ranks. If they just went deeper, I would have loved this movie. But as is, it’s only 1 1/2 hours long. So it’s pretty eh. It’s not outright bad or laughable, just lacking. It never fully sparks into any great territory, just flirting with it and disappointing due to it’s potential greatness being missed. Evans is good in the role, but doesn’t get the material to fully chew into to make Vlad’s fall as powerful as it could be. The action is fine and big and ridiculous, but it would have had more impact if the narrative wasn’t so rushed. I find myself liking this movie in spite of itself, knowing full well it isn’t very good. What could have been the beginning of a Breaking Bad style narrative for Vlad The Impaler ends up becoming yet another big budget movie that failed to kickstart the franchise it so blatantly wanted to. I wish better for Evans, who would be better sticking with character roles than Hollywood hero roles. The movie has some interesting things in it regarding the world, never being completely derivative. I just wanted more and it could have used it.
Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24th, 2016)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, and Bill Pullman
For more, click here.
1. Dracula Untold
2. Murder A La Mod
3. Independence Day: Resurgence