Tag Archives: Jonny Lee Miller

Byzantium

31 Oct

byzantium

 

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Moira Buffini (play)

Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 118 minutes

 

 

Although film and TV vampire stories are being remodeled for younger viewers – Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries – one of the best remains Neil Jordan’s 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. That was an adult tale of two vampires in a very gothic 18th century New Orleans. With Byzantium the same director returns in subject matter and tone, but the two vampires are female and the setting is a distressed English seaside town.

Gemma Arterton is Clara, a streetwise exotic dancer and guardian to sensitive Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan). They wash up in a rundown coastal town after Clara has a violent encounter with a thug from their past. They are seemingly on the run, but it’s not clear from what. Their relationship is also ambiguous as the age gap makes them closer to sisters than mother and daughter. The 200 year back story is revealed slowly and in fragments. Their first encounters with vampires are explained and that past is carried as a burden.

The two women take refuge in a defunct boarding house called Byzantium. Clara meets the owner Noel (Daniel Mays) whilst turning tricks down by the pier. As the dancer / hooker Gemma Arterton is saddled with a shaky accent, but is effortlessly enticing. The harlot with a heart of gold is a bit of a cliché, but never has it been played with such sex appeal. Arterton does well, but is outperformed by Ronan who is typically captivating. At 19 she is already a mighty talent.

The look of Byzantium is washed out, distressed and grey. There are splashes of colour, such as the symbolic red cape that Eleanor wears, but mostly the aesthetic is reminiscent of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) by Tomas Alfredson. I like the production design in this, it suits the story and frankly most English seaside towns are shabby, dull and foreboding.

Those chasing Clara and Eleanor include Sam Riley as a shady policeman. He appears in present and in flash backs as part of some form of vampire secret society. Jonny Lee Miller also appears as a rotten naval officer. The centuries evolving plot is borderline ridiculous, but the actors commit to it and the slow reveal keeps it interesting. There is a nice modern day relationship, very much taken from Let the Right One in (2008, again Alfredson), involving Ronan and local teenager Frank (Caleb Landry Jones). Its youthful sweetness part balances the sourness of the adult liaisons.

There is a nice mix of serious and schlock in Byzantium and I enjoyed it. The film is sexy and scary at times and the cast is impressive and works hard throughout. It is not young and dumb like so much of the content in Twilight or True Blood and that’s one way to put some freshness back into the immortal bloodsuckers.

Dark Shadows

19 Sep

 

 

Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), John August (story)

Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green

Motion Picture Rating: 12A

Run time: 113 minutes

 

Dark Shadows is another weird, gothic, humorous and oddball drama from Tim Burton based on existing material. In the last 12 years he has updated Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland. Those were more recognisable sources, but Dark Shadows, based on a late 1960’s TV show, follows closely on their heels. Tim, it seems, likes to keep busy and loves his updates. Burton is a bit like the Coen Brothers these days, but sadly that’s not the compliment that it once was. Whilst inside jokes, recurring cast members and signature shots can make Burton and Coen movies really fly, we are seeing too much output from both with diminishing returns.

This film is close in tone to Burton’s earlier films Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands whilst also borrowing from The Addams Family. It is gothic, the humour is dark and most of the characters are over the top cuckoo. Depp stars, as back-from-the grave vampire Barnabas Collins, Burton’s wife Bonham Carter is a drunken psychiatrist and the original music is by long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman. The other main players are Eva Green as resident town mogul / witch Angelique and Michelle Pfeiffer as matriarch Elizabeth Collins. She is the 1972 head of the Collins family and hence a modern relation of the returning Barnabas (who was buried alive by Angelique in 1772). The 1970’s Collins clan also includes Jonny Lee Miller (Roger) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Carolyn).

The 1970’s nostalgia here is nicely handled, but we know Burton can do kitsch. The set-up has a lot of potential and the cast is strong. Unfortunately the comedy of Dark Shadows is weak with only a few good jokes. The best one, that has Barnabas urging the back of the TV set to reveal its “tiny songstress”, mines the fish-out-of-water status of Depp’s reborn character, but that seam is not mined hard enough. Better done is the Barnabas and Angelique love/ hate relationship. However, Eva Green dials it up to 11 whilst Depp stays at 7 throughout. If ever there was an indication of how underwhelming the movie is, it is Depp’s low energy performance. This film feels rushed, actually rather unloved and the ending is awful.

%d bloggers like this: