‘Dracula Untold’ Review

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Dir:  Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Paul Kaye, Diarmaid Murtagh, Noah Huntley, and Charles Dance

Synopsis: Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Dracula is probably, if not, the best known vampire of all time. His story has been told many times in the past and has always been connected to the historical figure Vlad ‘The Impaler.” Dracula Untold is no different. While, I have seen the character of Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure – having to live with immortality and the need to drink blood all the time – director Gary Shore’s movie tries to bring that to the forefront, but the way Shore goes about it was not the best way to go about it. It also doesn’t help that Shore also relies on CGI bats to carry an action scene.

 

The movie starts with a narration telling us that in the 1400s, the Turkish Empire stole young boys to fight in their army. Among them was Vlad (Evans), who become a legendary warrior for killing so many and for impaling them to wooden spikes. When the war ended, he went to live a quiet and peaceful life as Prince Vlad in Transylvania with his wife Mirena (Gadon) and son Ingeras (Parkinson). We then go to the Vlad and his men encountering what is Turkish Scout armor in a river but no sign of the actual men. It turns out that lived in peace with the Turkish Empire but soon a Turkish ruler Mehmed (Cooper) comes to claim the young boys from the castle, including Ingeras.

 

Vlad takes offensive to this and ends up killing the troop sent to collect his son. When he realizes he has sign his people’s safety, he goes to the mountains to make a deal with the Master Vampire (Dance). Vlad wants the power to protect his family and people but the Master Vampire tricks Vlad into drinking his blood to get his powers but with a catch: he has to resist feeding for three days to become mortal again, or stay as a vampire forever.

 

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It’s hard to suspend some disbelief for the movie knowing how it’s going to turn out. And if you think that’s a spoiler than well I’m sorry. However, it’s the journey that counts, and for some parts, Dracula Untold did have some great moments, and I use some very loosely. Like I said earlier, I do see Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure, and the movie does try to play with that. Vlad isn’t a villain, although he has done bad things, he saw them as a way to stop more bad things from happening. All he wants his family to be safe and to live in peace, but is constantly reminded that he has done evil things and as a character says to him “you’ll always have that in you.” So it makes his decision to make a deal with the Master Vampire slightly understandable.

 

The meeting between Vlad and Master Vampire, I think is one of the best scenes in the movie. Despite the small amount of CG involved in the scene, it’s a great back and forth between two great actors in Luke Evans and Charles Dance. The scene involves a lot of mythology and starts to turn the movie into a fantastical territory. I also wish there was a lot more of it and sometimes it did feel a bit rushed but it serves its purpose.

 

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Speaking of the acting, Dracula Untold belongs to Luke Evans. He gives Vlad the perfect amount of humanity to makes feel his suffering, but can also makes us a bit uneasy when he vamps out. Dance, although only having a couple scenes is terrifying as the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon’s Mirena thankfully isn’t a forgettable character and actually serves some purpose to the story, although I wish she did have some more to do. Unfortunately, the always reliable Dominic Cooper fails as the villain and just shows up from time to time to remind us there is someone that Vlad has to kill.

 

Unfortunately, Dracula Untold does have many missteps. One of them sadly falls into what should, and could have been, a highlight of the movie. It’s when Vlad takes on a big group of soldiers on his own with his newly equipped superhuman powers. Instead we get a massive amount of shaky cam, CGI, and quick moments that really don’t allow you to enjoy it the way you’re supposed to. I don’t mind shaky cam as much as others do but the amount of it in the scene really bothered me. The other issue, even though it’s a small one, is the rules of the vampirism in this world are not established. Vlad seems to be able to go out during the day time, even in an overcast, as long as he doesn’t step into direct sunlight. Silver also bothers them but doesn’t necessary kill them and one character even attempts to use a wooden stack that seems to show some effect. Maybe it’s nitpicky but rules do need to be established.

 

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The movie does have some cool visuals. The CGI bats, which are heavily advertise, are okay but the effect works better when Vlad uses them to disappear and reappear. Some shots look like cool screensavers and costumes are pretty damn impressive. Overall the movie does have a gothic feel and look to it, which is pretty welcomed considering Vlad is being presented as a somewhat dark superhero.

 

All in all, Dracula Untold isn’t a perfect movie but does have very few redeeming qualities to it. It also serves as the first movie in the Universal Monsters shared universe they are setting up. While it doesn’t totally feel like it was a complete setup, it is there. Out of the whole movie Evans and Dance’s cave scene is the best thing about the movie.

 

Dracula Untold

3.5 out of 5

October Movie Preview

I did this once at the beginning of the year a couple of years ago and at the time I didn’t know it was a mistake because movie change release dates all the time and the year wasn’t even finalized yet.  I intended on doing this every month, but of course I never did. Better late than never right?

The way this list will work is I’ll give you the full schedule, some buzz and my thoughts. But instead of telling you let me show you. I’ll also mainly be talking about nationwide releases, with a few limited releases. Also some of these limited releases will most likely get wider releases as the release date approaches. (Release dates are according to Box Office Mojo and IMDB)

 

3rd

Left Behind: The movie’s buzz is mostly because of the fact that it stars Nicholas Cage as a pilot with a small band of survivors, that include Chad Michael Murray, Lea Thompson, Nicky Whelan, Martin Klebba and Jordin Sparks, during the supposed Rapture. The trailer alone got people talking so maybe this has some chance. (It also happens to be based on a book that I didn’t know about).

Gone Girl: This probably has the most buzz of any film coming out this month. Based on the very popular and best-selling book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, the movie is being directed by the great David Fincher and is headlined by Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Scoot McNairy and more. The movie has some people talking because of the supposed final act change – although those rumors had died down since then – the film looks great nonetheless, so I can’t wait.

Annabelle: The horror movies so far this year have been a bit meh, and now that October has rolled around, they might begin to pull a little more weight. What better way to start it off with the prequel/spinoff of The Conjuring. The movie will follow the events following the Annabelle doll, which has a real spooky history, but also the events before the opening of The Conjuring. The trailer promises some scares and the same aesthetic from James Wan films (he is also producing the movie).

 

10th

The Devil’s Hand (limited): At first I thought this movie was going to get a wide release but after hearing nothing for a while and then the movie going through three title changes, I guess a limited release is the way to go. The cast includes; Rufus Sewell, Adelaide Kane, Jennifer Carpenter, Thomas McDonell, and Leah Pipes.  Synopsis: When young girls start to go missing within a religious cult, older followers fear a long-told prophecy while the younger members suspect abusive elders are killing them off.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (limited): Dead Snow got some attention for its horror comedy mash-up that followed a group of friends out in the mountain trying to have fun before zombie Nazi’s coming back. The sequel will see those Nazi Zombies coming back to battle the survivor of the first movie and a group of rag-tag zombie killers.

Whiplash (limited): This has been getting a lot of attention out of the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie follows a young jazz musician played by Miles Teller who gets more than he bargained by asking for help from a drumming instructor played by J.K. Simmons. I can’t for it.

Addicted: I really feel like this is just a rehash of a movie that came out last year but can’t recall what it was called. I really don’t have anything to say considering this doesn’t peak my interest. Synopsis: A wife is tested when she cheats on her husband, and it threatens to ruin her and her family.

Kill the Messenger: Talk about a loaded cast; lead by Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen, Andy Garica, Paz Vega, Rosemarie Dewitt, Richard Schiff, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael K. Williams, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, and Oliver Platt. The movie is based on true story of reporter Gary Webb, who reports on exposing the CIA’s role in arming rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. The trailer makes it looks like a great tense thriller.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Based on a child’s book of the same name, the movie has the lead cast of Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, and Ed Oxenbould playing the lead character. The movie looks like a typical Disney family film, which isn’t a bad thing and actually looks better than I thought.

Dracula Untold: The movie has a crazy production story as it’s has gone through so many delays, different directors and actors in the lead that it was kind of a surprise when it finally got made. But now it’s here and Luke Evans will be portraying Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler and the man that, in this version, turns into the famous character Dracula. The movie looks okay and I’m a huge of Evans and can’t wait to see this take of the character.

The Judge: This one wasn’t on my radar because I didn’t really know anything about it, but with a cast of Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton and a great looking trailer, I’m all for it.

 

17th

Men, Women, & Children (expansion): Yet another movie that had a lot of buzz out of the Toronto International Film Festival that follows “a look at the sexual frustrations that young teenager and adults face in today’s world.” I don’t know about the movie other than that and that it had good buzz. The cast stars Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, and Judy Greer.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (limited): This is acting like a reboot/spiritual sequel in where the first movie apparently existed in the movie’s world and is now happening in real life. The first trailer came out and there have been some mixed reactions. I still don’t know how I feel.

The Best of Me: It’s a Nicholas Sparks movie. What else do you want me to say.

The Book of Life: Produced by Guillermo del Toro and taking it’s style off Mexico’s Day of the Dead art, the movie looks like a great fun movie. Visually it also looks beautiful.

Birdman: Directed by the impressive Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel and Biutiful), this looks absolutely crazy, but in a good way. This follows a struggling actor played by Michael Keaton, who played an iconic superhero called Birdman, trying to stay relevant. The rest of the cast includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan and Zach Galifianakis.

Fury: Another one I’m really excited for is David Ayer’s (Harsh Times, Street Kings, and End of Watch) WWII tank action drama that follows a crew at the tail end of the war. The movie stars Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, and is lead by Brad Pitt playing someone named Wardaddy. Yeah.

 

24th

St. Vincent (expansion): I really knew nothing about this until recently and follows a “young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran lives next door.” The movie stars Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Terrence Howard and Chris O’Dowd.

White Bird in a Blizzard: Based on a book by Laura Kasischke, it stars Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Thomas Jane, Gabourey Sidibe, and Angela Bassett. This is another movie I didn’t know anything about until I looked at the schedule but I don’t see myself watching this. The movie will follow a young girl whose mother disappears and her life gets thrown into chaos.

Ouija: Yes, it is a horror movie based on an Ouija board. The movie is trying to pull a story together about a group of friends that want to find out to their friend that just died. The movie doesn’t really look that good and it’s being produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes banner, ugh.

Laggies: I didn’t know anything about this until some good reviews came out of film festivals last year. The movie has Keira Knightley who hasn’t “grown up” and lies to her fiancé about going on a retreat but ends up hanging out with a high school student played by Chloe Grace Moretz. The movie also stars Sam Rockwell as Moretz’s father. The trailer made it look like a fun, charming, pseudo-coming of age movie.

John Wick: I was completely surprised by how pretty good this looked in the trailer. The movie has Keanu Reeves playing a former hit man who gets back in the business after some people take the last good thing from him, he gets back in the business and ends up killing a lot of people. The rest of the (impressive cast) has Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, Bridget Moynahan, Jason Isaacs, Alfie Allen, Lance Reddick, Michael Nyqvist and Ian McShane.

 

31st

ABCs of Death 2 (limited): 26 short horror movies directed by different directors. I hadn’t gotten around to watching all of the first movie.

Horns (limited): Based on the very popular book by Joe Hill of the same name, Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish who wakes up after his girlfriend mysteriously dies (played by Juno Temple) and starts to grow horns on his head. The movie has some descent buzz around it and with the book being pretty good, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Before I Go to Sleep: Yet another movie I didn’t know about until I looked at the schedule but follows Nicole Kidman as a woman who wake up every day remembering nothing after an accident and then starts to remember things that makes her question everything. The movie also stars Colin Firth and Mark Strong.

Nightcrawler: This has been getting a ton of buzz recently and some are saying that Jake Gyllenhaal might get nominated for an Oscar and that’s it’s one of his best performances in his career. The movie follows Gyllenhaal’s character as he delves into the criminal underground of L.A. The movie looks great and also stars Bill Paxton and Rene Russo.

 

So what movie or movies are you looking forward to in October?