Friday, January 06, 2012

Underworld and vampire overload....

Today,one of the creators of Comic-con apparently died, and I was going to do a post of good and blah memories of Comicon- but it'll take too long and I'm pretty under-the-weather today.

Instead, a quickee on news of a new "Underworld" movie with the beautiful but charmisa-challenged Kate Beckinsale, and meanderings on the giant explosion of vampires on tv, movies, etc. etc. etc.

As you know (or figured out), I REALLY dug the 'Angel' tv series (though, in looking back, it's not quite as solid or as good as other shows that have evolved since then. It's still in the top twenty, but maybe not top ten of personally beloved tv shows... mainly because genre television has gotten so much better in the last ten years)and originally held a bit of resentment towards other 'serious' (quote unquote) box office successes with broody moody vampires that didn't aim to have as much social comment nor wit as "Angel".

But- time moves on, and I didn't want to be stuck on not giving new things a chance.
So--- ended up seeing most of what's out there, if only to keep up.

It is a bit nuts how many 'vampire' films/tv shows are out there. Suprisingly, some are not all that bad.

The UNDERWORLD series:
I give a tip of the hat to Len Wiseman for being a comic fan first & hearing that his drawings and sketches for this movie helped get his project made....

Aside from the look, there's just no real heart or interest in any of the characters... and we're not really given any real reasons why we should care on a personal level.

Len Wiseman directed a (suprisingly) great "Die Hard" film, with some really inventive action set pieces. But, with all the projects that never get made, it's hard to feel good about this series of rather drab films getting a greenlight for sequels.

The TWILIGHT series:
Once one gets past the idea that the primary audience for this are love-hungry teens that love the book series, the movies are definitely a hop and a skip past the Underworld series as far as watchability goes. The first has more than a few over-the-top moments that have been easy targets for parody- (and there are a number of them as well in the sequels as well- the prime one being a laughable one when the 17 year old heroine talks about 'knowing what suffering is like in life')- but, the sequels have been engaging enough and more consistent than a good number of other genre films I've followed. (*It's not Lord of the Rings, mind you, but what is?)

Haven't read the books (a well-read relative has who LOVES the books but HATES what the movies have done with them), but the movies have had the luck of attracting directors with some great movies on their resume (Chris Weitz, David Slade, Bill Condon)- and it is kind of neat to see a series of genre movies set in a specific universe with the same cast and a continuity that progresses.

One thing I'll give the series credit for, is giving the characters a dark twist in the fourth one- where all the illusions of 'romantic love with a vampire' takes a pretty perverse (but welcome) twist where actual negative consequences come with that illusion. If real life turns many romances sour with consequences, why shouldn't genre films? If anything, it grounds the movie experience with a bit more gravity.

Speaking of vampire shows with more gravity...

I haven't read the books that these are based on either,(Have I mentioned that aside from "Angel" I'm not a big horror/vampire fan yet?) but the main attraction to this show is the person who developed the show (and showrunner) Alan Ball, who won the best screenplay Academy Award for his "American Beauty" and is responsible for the brilliant ultimate show about death, HBO's "Six Feet Under".

The thing about Alan Ball's work is that it always has a great intelligence behind it, not to mention a snarky DARK sense of humor as well that's often tough and often vulgar--- which is strong enough to balance and puncture any pretentiousness or silliness that could come with a 'vampire in love' scenario. (*In fact, a perfect scenario would have had Alan Ball write/direct the 'Twilight' series)

I can totally understand why this show gets the attention it does, if only for its magnificent cast. There isn't a weak link among any of the actors, and (at least for the first season- the second season had some funky issues) there actually seemed to be things that wanted to be said with substance in the subtext about the world, beyond just telling a 'human in love with a vampire' story. The quality was equally as good as, if not better than, most movies I see at the theatres.

With season two, things got a bit dull and freaky with a storyline about a witch that takes over the city- and season three seems to be a bit directionless.... but even if it's suffering from 'series-itis' (a condition I made up where storylines get very static in no small part because we see the characters in fabricated situations JUST to see the characters on screen, and not much else)- I still find it good enough to watch and admire for the solid ensemble acting.

Whereas Underworld feels false, and Twilight seems too pretty and at times a bit infantile, True Blood has a bad attitude, but in an entertaining way most of the time.

I wonder at times if we'll ever get back to 'classic' Dracula- where sex was more of a metaphor for the situation, rather than dripped in it, with love themes accompanying theme available for sale on itunes, but... for now, it'll be interesting to see how many more variations spin out before the current series all disappear (Twilight's books are on their last, Underworld's Kate Beckinsale isn't going to stay 30 forever, and there's only a limited number of books that True Blood can adapt before the series ends)...until then-

So long as Hollywood doesn't recast and reboot "Angel" without Joss Whedon, I'm happy.
Carry on.
((*Footnote: Hollywood does, however, totally have my permission to do anything they wish with "Vangelis".)) ;)

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