How do vampires really work in the real world? Do they truly sparkle in the sunlight? Do older vampires adapt to the fast paced life of the modern life? Documentary film makers, Jemain Clement and Taiki Waititi, bring us a glimpse at the life of four vampires who share a home and struggle to keep up with the fast pace of modern times. Running at a length of 86 minutes, this mockumentary manages to be one of the most memorable vampire movies in the last few years.
From a visual standpoint, What We Do In The Shadows is not the most eye pleasing film. Often times the movie will look like it was done over several weekends instead of being a feature but it actually helps authenticate the feel of watching a documentary. The actors, or subjects, also do a great way of portraying the different quirks and irritations that each of these vampires has with each other whilst sharing the same home. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is the roommate who used to be the terror of Europe until “the monster” humiliated him ages ago. He’s lost his touch and a good portion of power since then. Viago (Taiki Waititi) is the roommate who moved to New Zealand in search of his beloved. He does his best to keep harmony and cleanliness throughout the household with various degrees of success. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the irresponsible peasant turned vampire. His transformation was through the hands of Petyr (Ben Fransham) the eldest of the four flatmates.
The comedy in this movie is unlike anything I have seen recently. What We Do In the Shadows revives old vampire lores and uses them to poke fun at the more recent renditions of vampires. The way each characters dresses denotes what time period they are from while at the same time providing humor at how absurdly they are dressed. The addition of other characters throughout the movie are never dull and offer a good amount of laughs. Even the camera men are not safe as they are often targeted by other dark entities throughout the course of their filming. What would it be like for a meeting between vampires and werewolves on the street really be like? The movie explores these things and even more.
The “best” two documentary film makers (try and name two others) of New Zealand bring a brilliant new glimpse at what the life of a vampire is truly like. Solid performances and a plethora of humorous situations make it seem like the footage of this movie is just too short. Any fan of Flight of the Conchords or Monty Python’s Flying Circus will absolutely enjoy What We Do In the Shadows. With any luck, we might even get a documentary about the werewolves.
TL;DR: Classic Formula, fresh result. What We Do In The Shadows takes the classic vampire lore and brings us a hilarious spin on what it’s like to live in the shadows.
Rockit Raccoon Rating: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
With a mega cast that includes Oscar nominated actors like Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly promised an entertaining time. The movie is small chronicle of Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at one of the most renown hotels in the world. Although it follows Gustave, the story is told by Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who worked as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) in his youth and became the concierge’s apprentice. When Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a hotel regular, is murdered, a series of events unfolds that has Gustave and his lobby boy on the run.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has a little sprinkle of everything placed throughout its story. Moments of humor, suspense, and romance are all carefully laid out and spread out enough to keep the movie fresh. Unlike other directors, Wes Anderson stayed focused on the story of the Grand Budapest and did not spend too much time giving screen time to the large amount of A-List actors that are in the film. Not only did this make the story run smoother, it kept the movie from feeling like it was dragging on too long. One of the more interesting choices that I noticed was giving Willem Dafoe’s character, Jopling, very little lines in the movie. As a villain, this limited dialogue helped emphasize the danger that the character represented to everyone else and worked wonderfully. The cast for this movie did not disappoint and no matter how small the role, it seemed as if every actor fit in perfectly into their roles.
Wes Anderson is a director known for his unique style of portraying characters and locations and Grand Budapest is not an exception. Just about every scene in the film looks as unique and interesting as the last. Everything from the hotel to the train that the characters are in have their own unique feel. This feel is not only because of the way the movie is shot but also because of the great score that Alexandre Desplat composed for the film. Every character, location, and event in the film has a certain charm that is not present in a lot of other movies.
It’s hard to watch a film by a director like Wes Anderson and not compare the Grand Budapest to the rest of his films but this might be his best movie. Of course, choosing his best movie comes down to preference but it is hard to deny that the Grand Budapest Hotel is some of his best work. With a moving story and his trademark look, Wes Anderson has created a story that is memorable and enjoyable to watch. Nothing feels out of place and for its running time of 100 minutes, it packs quite an array of thrills, laughs, and even a little heartbreak.
TL;DR: Some of Wes Anderson’s best work. Worth the price of admission.
Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
American Hustle follows the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two work as con artists until they are caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso makes a deal with Irving and Sydney that involves them helping him arrest corrupt politicians and possibly members of the mafia.
David O. Russell’s film features an impressive amount of talent which is not limited to Bale, Cooper, and Adams. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Peña, and even Louis C.K. make an appearance. Being a very character driven movie, input to each actor’s role was necessary. Having gained about 40 pounds, Christian Bale once again surprised the audience with one of his famous body transformations. The performances that Russell managed to get from each actor were good for the most part and some of them are going to be memorable for a while. Who is seriously going to forget seeing Jennifer Lawrence as a Jersey housewife or Michael Peña as Mexican playing an Arab? One of the things about the film that did end up bothering me was that there was more than one scene in the movie that seemed to drag on too long. I understand that some scenes were completely improvised which in turn showcased each actor but there were times when characters were on screen long after they had played their part in the story.
Christian Bale gained weight for the role as Irving
The movie is definitely a character driven movie. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with the story which is solid and even gives the audience a few surprises and pieces of comedy here and there. Russell also gives us a clear look at styles and cultures in the 70’s and constantly reminds the audience of this.
Despite the showcase of talent from the cast of American Hustle, there are lots of things that I found wrong with it. The main culprit is the pacing of the film. Russell had a decent plot to start off with and talented actors but overindulging them with improv seemed to slow down and kill some of the story. Despite the problems that the characters got themselves into, there seemed to be very little suspense within the film itself. The other thing about Hustle was the fact that there were more than a few characters that seemed one dimensional and the fact that they got a lot of screen time made it seem as if the director was forcing the audience to like them.
American Hustle is by no means a bad movie but it did lose my attention multiple times throughout. By the time I finished watching it, it felt like the movie had no real pay off. David O. Russell certainly made the movie seem interesting but at the end of the day, it seemed to lack substance. The best way to describe this movie would be to compare it to a bag of chips. Everything about the packaging seems as if it’ll be a good buy but once you open it you realize that there’s more air inside than actual food. Slow pacing and scenes that dragged on robbed the story of the potential suspense that every crime movie should have. American Hustle has its moments of brilliance but without the actors attached, it might have been just another bust.
TL;DR: Unless you’re a fan of an “actor’s” movie, just wait for the DVD release to watch it.
Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Murder Party is writer and director Jeremy Saulnier’s first feature film. The story follows Christopher (Chris Sharp) as he goes to a mysterious “Murder Party” that he picked up an invitation to. Unbeknownst to him, the purpose of the party is to murder whoever picked up the invitation. Why is this group of people interested in killing someone? Why it’s all in the name of art of course! The group is assigned this task by a man who promises the group of artists a grant if they can creatively dispose of Christopher.
Now this is not the most remarkable horror/comedy movie ever made but it’s certainly entertaining to watch. There are several moments of comic relief despite how out of place it may seem at times. Saulnier did an excellent job not only writing the story but controlling the flow of it as it progressed. The movie starts off looking like a goofy 80’s horror flick but soon escalates to a gratuitous murder romp and this is accompanied by a change in the way that the movie is filmed. As the action escalates and our protagonist struggles to escape, the camera shots become more and more claustrophobic. Due to the fact that this movie was filmed with virtually no budget, it was interesting to see how well all the effects and action were handled.
The acting throughout the movie was not bad at all. Chris Sharp did a great job at portraying the awkward protagonist of the film and despite the fact that he did not have too many lines, he projected all of the fear that his character was feeling. William Lacey who played Bill was another interesting actor. The way he was able to portray a nonchalant character and then a complete murderous maniac did not seem terribly off as it tends to with some other actors.
This movie is not without its faults however, there are a few instances of “Why didn’t they just…” moments. Other than that, the movie is well worth a watch. The sight gags combined with the gore make this one of the best B-movies that people haven’t seen. In the long run, the low budget used to make this movie may have helped it produce some laughs that might not have been there otherwise. This movie is far from perfect. Murder Party may not even be a memorable horror film to some but there is bound to be at least one scene that will make you laugh.
TL;DR: Great debut film from Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier. Has what it takes to gain a cult following.
Rockit Raccon Rating: 7/10