This flick offers more vampires for the tween set, but takes them to a slightly darker place than The Twilight Saga was ever willing to go. That said, if you are not into the whole death, love, eternity and the feasting on human blood thing, then you are out of luck, because Byzantium riffs on those ideas in a visually splendid tale of a mother and daughter vampire duo who put a whole new twist to parenting. Mother Clara (Gemma Arterton), has a decidedly old school view of the sex and violence of vampirism, while convent-raised daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) takes a kinder, gentler approach, occasionally providing welcome release to the old and infirm. She also writes about her life, threatening the secrecy that is essential to her and her mother’s continued existence. The story does not always advance in a particularly logical or convincing fashion but director Neil Jordan’s (The Crying Game) poetic sensibility does much to smooth over the narrative shortfalls. There is a splendid performance by Arterton, and Ronan, with her wistful eyes and pale complexion, seems made for the role. Byzantium ignores many of the vampire tropes made familiar by Twilight and manages to build its own mythology around this modern-day Gothic romance.
The Legend of Hercules
We’ve already had Clash of the Titans and the subsequent Wrath of the Titans featuring the not particularly memorable Sam Worthington. Now Hollywood continues to mine the riches of Greek mythology for yet another muscle-bound epic, this time featuring the demi-god Hercules, played by Kellan Lutz, who makes Worthington’s performance seem like a nuanced expression of what it is to be big, strong and angry. Lutz, who is probably best known for his role as Emmett Cullen, one of the less articulate of the Cullen clan from The Twilight Saga, does not progress far as leading man, and his wooden acting is often made humorous by the clunky script. There are some solidly choreographed fight sequences, but echoes of Gladiator manage to niggle, and the shift in tone when Hercules discovers his divine powers brings the film into videogame territory. There is a good deal of shouting and dying, but this is at least more entertaining than the anemic attempt at romance with Gaia Weiss as the Princess Hebe.
Back in 2009 we had The Hangover, with four young guys going off to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. Of course it gets out of hand and things go wrong, but the film had its moments. Now we have Last Vegas, pretty much the same movie, but for geriatrics. Instead of Bradley Cooper and his friends, we have Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, who are all, let’s face it, very much past their first youth. There’s no argument that they are all fine actors, and there are some amusing lines about growing old, but it all comes from the same store as films like RED and Space Cowboys. There is simply too much onscreen talent for the film to be awful, and the story glides along, satisfying expectations while always aiming low. You pretty much know what you are going to get when you walk in the cinema, and the surprise is that, for moments at least, it is a little better.
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D
There are some pretty nifty 3D and CGI effects, but these are a long way from being enough to hold up even this 87-minute movie about growing up as a dinosaur. There has been too much CGI under the bridge now for Walking with Dinosaurs to be any other than pretty good standard fare, on the technical front at least. Unfortunately, the attempt to provide an entertaining story and solid paleontological education has defeated the screenwriters. At its best it trudges along laboriously, the attempts at humor often falling flat, but obviously trying hard to entertain. Along the way it does provide some interesting information about dinosaurs, and is clearly serious about presenting a realistic portrayal of the big reptiles. At worst you will wonder why you are paying cinema prices and enduring headache-inducing 3D glasses to watch a rather second-rate educational flick.