June 24th, 2012

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Back in December, we're getting out of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. One of my friends in the posse gives her farewells and wanders towards the exit. She quickly marches back at a determined pace. She had apparently seen the giant stand up promo for Abe Lincoln. "All I saw was the title, and Tim Burton. Did you know about this??! Of course, you know about this? *monosyllabic excited and confused exclamation that could not have been English*" I just gave a big grin with just a hint of evil. After she composed herself, I did correct her that Burton was just a producer, but yes, very much aware and very much excited.

While the whole vampire thing has arguably run its course, I still run to these movies (when their antiheroes don't sparkle, of course). Yeah, there's a lot of crap to wade thru, but every once in a while, you find that gem that gets it right. Dark with enough levity. Serious with enough camp. Knows its place in the genre and Hollywood in general. Embraces that place with a good heart and doesn't attempt to be anything else while also not trying too hard to fit its pigeonhole. Daybreakers is a semi-recent example I can think of that fit that. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, even more so.

The way I see it with vampire stories, is you can categorize them two ways. You've got your big drawn out epic storylines and your smaller scale ones. Their goals are entirely different. With your Buffys and True Bloods and Vampire Diaries and Vampire Chronicles, you're building these dark and conflicted characters, with a lot of emphasis on the vamps themselves. You watch their struggles, and it overtime turns kinda soap-y with fangs. Then you've got your one-offs. Maybe its a single movie/book or just a couple of quick ones in a finite series. For them, it's not important to completely draw you in to the vampire's plight. It's not about examining the soul of the souless, it's about having fun with some new bloodsuckers that you're not gonna get attached to. They're gonna bring in some new twists on the mythology, give you a quick spin thru their world, and then leave you back at your world just like any other movie. Abe Lincoln brilliantly masters that balancing act of establishing its rules and its world and then going to town on it. In basing the story around such an well known historical figure, it manages to maneuver around a lot of the character build up (leaving more room for vamp-y-ness) but is also so ridiculous that you just have to go into this with a fun spirit. You know not to expect anything deep and meaningful, so you can just let go and have fun with it.

With all the vampire stories I've followed over the years, it still surprises me when I see new "rules" that I can appreciate. Not all vampires are created equal. Each franchise is gonna set up its own take on a lot of the basics: sunlight, stakes, coffins, etc. The one that really got me is "only the living can kill the dead". In other words, vampires can't kill other vampires. Whoa. Imagine how that'd would have (NOT) worked out for Angel et all in the Buffyverse. The other that worked for me for the first time ever is silver. I've always been adamant that silver is a werewolf thing, not vampires. However, for this one story, I like it. There was something just so badass about his silver tipped axe (even if my days on my color guard-esque flag team made me cringe at the way he'd spin it in front of him), and it proved to have other significance throughout the story. Well played indeed.

I was also incredibly impressed with the visual. Based on the quality, I'm guessing this was actually shot in 3D, and it was used pretty well during the fight scenes. A lot of quick, what-just-happened seconds of things jumping out that jarred you from your seat. But really, it was worth it for the vampire eyes. Such a small percentage of the area of the screen for such a small percentage of the movie, but anytime you had a vamp in full on demon mode, their eyes looked amazing. I can't even describe what the effect was. But for that reason, I am telling you, if you have any interest whatsoever in this movie, go see it in 3D.

As an action junkie, I verily appreciated how the fight scenes played out. Sidenote on the subject. Went paintballing yesterday with some coworkers. I hit my stride about halfway thru the day and for a few rounds had the right mix of confidence and clear enough field that I stopped just hiding behind the furthest back bunker and was moving my way across the field. I was told that my moves looked like I was a spy or something, but that it was really cool how I'd go from barricade to barricade. My response? "Yippie kai yay mother \m/" followed by "I watch too many action movies". Point being, I know my shizz on the subject. Well, so does director Timur Bekmambetov. He's responsible for Wanted, which is a criminally underappreciated favorite. It's his creativity with staging the scenes that makes me love him. He realizes that overly realistic is boring, so if you're gonna go for fantastic, make it stand out and have some fun along the way. There's some smooth acrobatics and quick scenes with images that look like they're straight outta a graphic novel (which was kinda the case with Wanted). He's definitely staying on my radar for this genre.

Wonderful wonderful cast as well. LOVED Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln. Enough so that I spent half of the movie regretting that I never saw him in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Granted, that show closed just before I started to _really_ get in the swing of heading to NYC for broadway shows, but that doesn't make me feel much better. I actually just paused this paragraph to go and iTunes that soundtrack. Anyhoo, I could believe both sides of him. The one that wanted to avenge his family and save his country, and the side that was capable of kicking some undead booty. I was a little thrown when it comes to how far into his life the story progressed. I'd thought that the whole thing would be over before his presidential days, but it actually kept going right thru the thick of 'em. The film may have lost a bit of its footing as the fangs fleetingly faded, but it recovered with grace and a stunning climax. History wasn't exactly my best subject in high school (all memorization, no comprehension didnt work for me) but I know enough to have caught all the significant moments. And the audience laughter at each of those reaffirmed it.

Oh yeah, there was a lot of laughter. Not something you'd expect in a movie that has such dark undertones, but it was the pure ridiculous and cheese factor. But the laughter came because we were having fun. How many movies can boast that?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/
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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Capping off a truly fantastic weekend the only way I know how, by cramming in as many movies as possible. Today called for a trek to Kendall Square Cinema for Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. I was just there a couple days ago for Safety Not Guaranteed. The feelings elicited by the two were such opposite.

Safety had kind of a sarcastic depressing feeling throughout most of it, but ended on such a happy and uplifting note. While Friend started off in the darkness, most of it had a sarcasticly hopeful feel to it, and then the ending was just depressing. I mean c'mon, we are talking about a movie about the end of the world.

To be completely honest, the concept of this movie scares the \m/ out of me. Its not that I'm afraid of the world coming to an end. It's that I'd be afraid of knowing exactly how long until it happened. I wouldnt have the first clue how to live in a world with no consequences. I plan things. I dislike uncertainty. I need order and structure. I srsly would not know what to do with myself if I had to make decisions in the moment without thinking about their effects down the line. That's just not me. Watching the movie had me stressing over what I would do in that situation. Go home to see my mom and gorge on Mexican food? Stay holed up here and marathon my favorite movies as long as the power holds out? I'm on the verge of a panic attack just thinking about it.

But the movie was a fun ride. It becomes more of a buddy road trip movie and you forget about the impending doom. I was a little disappointed in Steve Carell, not because he was bad, but because it seems like his sorta downer loser character is all we ever see of him. You could have swapped his character with the one in Crazy Stupid Love and no one would have ever noticed the difference. He plays it well, but the man is capable of so much more. He's created some iconic comedic characters so I expect greatness.

On the flip side, this was a very different role for Keira Knightly. This is the first time since her career really skyrocked that we've seen her having fun. Yes, she's a fantastic actress and can handle difficulty and meaty roles (there was a trailer for Anna Karenina before the movie that has me quite intrigued) but part of why Hollywood fell in love with her in Pirates is because of her fun and whimsical spirit that lies beneath her stoic surface. I feel like this is the role that's allowed her to most be herself, and I loved it.

I'm also loving the dogs that have been appearing in indies lately. This one wins for most clever name (besides spoiling, it doesnt make sense out of the context of the movie so lips sealed). Reminded me a lot of the pooch last summer in Beginners. I think they could have been friends.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - \m/ \m/ \m/ \n