If you haven’t figured it our by now, my tastes tend to be a little on the quirky side. So it should come as little surprise that while most people were breathlessly awaiting the new Batman movie, I was standing in line to buy tickets for a little period piece with far too little fanfare.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012) is the film adaptation of a book by Seth Grahame-Smith, a little known author with big impact. “Abraham Lincoln,” like Smith’s first book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” takes a story that everyone knows well and gives it a twist. You see, the history of one of America’s favorite presidents has a secret: he’s really a master vampire hunter.
Adaptations of books is a tricky thing for the movie business. Its impossible to present a direct translation, but when the author is also the screenwriter, you know you’ll get close. Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov give the subject gravity and excitement without getting too campy. The cast of primarily unknown actors is entirely believable and well case. The great Rufus Sewell is the one name actor in the case, giving primary vampire Adam an ease and intensity that meshes well with the subject matter.
With a book adaptation and story mash-up such as this its way too easy to go overboard, stepping on toes and become ridiculously cheesey. This thankfully, stays perfectly serious, creating an enjoyably fun film full of Vampire slaying goodness. This one will be soon be added to my collection.
There are a lot of movies that come and go. Some are block-buster smashes, some are forgotten. “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” was in the theaters 8 years ago, but it’s barely remembered.
Set in a 1939 alternate universe, “Sky Captain” is a mixture of Buck Rogers, Captain America, and the Rocketeer. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are the heroes who can’t seem to quite sort out their feelings. Nice surprises in the casting include Michael Gambon, Angelina Jolie, and even an archival footage appearance by the great Laurence Olivier. It feels like a classic Warner Brothers war film in dialogue and art direction, but never quite gets the formula right. There are too many clichés and close calls to really be enjoyable.
The muted color saturation is beautiful and seems to fit the portrayed time period well. The over abundance of computer generated graphics give the film a comic book feel that reminds me in a way of “Sin City” (2005). They’re not entirely off-putting, you will just be aware the entire time that this is completely a fantasy world. There’s enough about this film that should ensure its syndication on cable TV, and I would very happily turn it on as small diversion to my everyday activities.
I’ve really gotten into BBC’s “Sherlock.” The way they’re adapted the Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes for the modern age is completely engaging and entertaining. So I thought I might go back and see other inspirations from the past. But instead of critiquing the iconic Basil Rathbone encarnation, I took the way-back machine a little further.
Buster Keaton‘s 1924 film “Sherlock Jr.” (1924) is a wonderful example of how the character has influenced popular culture for a century. Keaton stars as our young hero who is trying to woo his love interest by day and works in a cinema at night. Fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, he dreams himself into a mystery. This movie completely tickles my film nerd bones, for as the character dreams, he imagines himself not only as Holmes, but as apart of the cinema world that, as a theater projectionist, he views everyday. Of course, reality always spills into a dream, and he finds his lady deep in a mysterious robbery and kidnapping, that only he can solve. The rest is less mystery and more silent comedy hijinks and fantastic stunts. In this Keaton is an absolute master, keeping you constantly engaged and oblivious to the skill involved in the flawless execution and timing.
I love this film. Its brisk 45 minutes goes by far too quickly and leaves me wanting to start it all over again.