Skip to main content

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy
(2014)

My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.


I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping to be a contender. The first of Richelle Mead’s series, one whose title helpfully requires zero work on the reader’s part to divine just what it is all about, was published in 2007. The sixth instalment came in 2010, and the series has sold over 8 million copies, so I guess it deserves to be labelled popular.


The school setting obviously takes a leaf out of Buffy’s book (I know, vampires weren’t really attending school in then series) but, since it’s the also part of the Twilight vogue, I’m sure there were ready sources of inspiration for this vampire education all over. And, you know, the kids can relate. Mead’s take has half-breed (not actually vampires) offspring of humans and vampires (Dhampir) acting as guardians for the (good) vamps (Moroi). Which seems like it’s the wrong way round, but what do I know. The Dampir also have magic abilities (which is handy), able to control the four elements (only one each though, I believe). There are also bad vampires (the standard sort, before Anne Rice came on the scene), Strigoi, who are undead and drink blood.


Rose (Zoey Deutch, daughter of Lea Thompson – Marty McFly’s mum – and Howard Deutch – director of, er, Some Kind of Wonderful) is a guardian-in-training, Lissa (Lucy Fry) is the Moroi princess (vampires have royalty, of course) she protects. They have a strong bond, but only a lesbian one unless you’re keen on Vampire Academy fan fiction, and Rose is able to experience the latter’s thoughts. Which sounds like a recipe for Whedon-esque whip-smartness but mostly flounders. Lissa meanwhile can bring the dead back to life; rules are up for grabs and any shit goes.


The movie almost surprises in the first instance by starting mid-story (and avoids extended flashbacks), with the two girls on the run, but can’t take credit as this was part of the novel. That might encourage the picture to feel very “busy” but it’s also because neither Waters is able to focus on the main story until quite a late stage; there are threats to Lissa’s life, school bullying, an Angel-esque smouldering older love interest (Josh Hartnett-alike Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri) for Rose and an age-appropriate one for Lissa (Dominic Sherwood as Christian).


The pervading sense of familiarity may be part of the reason this one didn’t catch on, although there are more particular problems in execution. The leads are desperately poor shows, particularly Deutch. She fails to bring a lightness of touch, stumbles through her witticisms and fails to sell herself as best buds wirh Rose and romancing Dimitri. I don’t particularly want to be hard on her; her mum’s a great actress and her dad, well he directed Some Kind of Wonderful. Fry seems to be concentrating so hard on her perfectly aristocratic RP accent she forgets to put in a performance. As a result, it’s hard to tell how much of this is down to Daniel Waters’ script; no one is able to carry the dialogue.


Well, no one central. There are some decent thesps on the periphery; Olga Krylenko has fun as a disciplinarian headmistress, Gabriel Bryne cashes the cheque but that’s still more value than most can muster, Joely Richardson gives it some amusing regal and Claire Foy does dotty. The best of the youngsters is Sami Gayle as chief (school) antagonist Mia, but she’s the only one you could imagine holding her own in Heathers (Sarah Hyland is also good as the geek girl concealing a really pretty girl as if you didn’t notice, but she’s more Clueless).


Generally, one would expect better from the combined forces that brought us Heathers and Mean Girls. The school setting doesn’t have enough bite; a wicked streak is required but it feels passé, more Harry Potter with spot of blood licked off walls than “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw”. As noted, Academy threatens to become interesting (only threatens) when the plot kicks in during the last 20 minutes. But that’s nothing to do with the teen angst bullshit with a body count plot, which is the opposite of what you might reasonably expect (before which there are a series of twists, none of which take much to guess). Little of the dialogue sticks in the mind, aside from “She writes Twilight fan fiction”. Which only serves to highlight that Vampire Academy has a cheek trying to come over all superior.


Daniel Waters’ work on Heathers and Hudson Hawk made him the skewed humourists to watch in the early part of the ‘90s, and he at least made Batman Returns the most peculiar movie in that franchise while Demolition Man became a likeably random Stalloner. His work here feels indistinct, though (the reverse of Sex and Death 101), strictly a bill-paying job. As for brother Mark, I never pegged him as a great, but he was at least a competent hand; Mean Girls is well observed, and he also showed a surprising flair with kids’ fantasy The Spiderwick Chronicles. On paper he doesn’t seem like a bad choice, but everything about the execution is off. The action is leaden, while the staging and cinematography shouts TV movie on a number of occasions.


That the Weinsteins produced this may explain everything. For every picture of theirs (and this was also true of their former Miramax) that gains plaudits and garlands there are many more where Harvey Scissorhands couldn’t resist butchering it in the blinkered (since he never has in all his many meddlings) belief that he could improve it. It’s alleged that Harvey had Vampire Academy cut down to the essentials, which would explain a lot; I’m more inclined to give Mark Waters the benefit of the doubt than say David Ayer for the messed up Sabotage, but Academy comes unstuck with the leads and deteriorates from there.


As always happens when Harvey gets his chubby mitts on a movie, he eviscerates it, loses interest, and then dumps it to die a slow disinterested death. The legions of the devoted have been trumping up a crowdsourced sequel but I’d be as dubious of that as the announced City of Bones one. Which led to the much more likely avenue. Bones has been announced as a TV series and, if Vampire Academy has a chance of adapted life beyond the limits of this misfire, that seems more likely. Lacking in wit, miscast and mangled, this pretty much what you expect from Weinstein pictures that aren’t aiming for Oscar glory, and also from a good few of them that are. The teaser poster warned “Prepare to be tested”. It was right.



Comments

  1. Lemons are routine and they are generally defective vehicles a car manufacturing company has sold to the public
    knowingly or unknowingly. And that means that regular tire maintenance after a speedy oil change is one of the very best ways to
    keep your automobile is operating in as safe a way as possible.
    If it is a brand new Honda or perhaps a used Honda you
    want, Peter Warren Honda.

    ReplyDelete
  2. These articles are exactly what I need. It is very nice of you to share your understanding. I have learned interesting things. I have a liking for your posts. Please, upload more and more postsshipping bar app
    , Shipping Bar for Shopify , https://autoketing.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really want to read more your posts. They are so useful that I can use them to solve issues. I hope you will upload articles frequently. I like them very much. They are pieces of advice for me. the best currency converter shopify , daily discounts on Shopify , Discount master app , 15 best apps on shopify 2019

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Monster? We’re British, you know.

Horror Express (1972)
(SPOILERS) This berserk Spanish/British horror boasts Hammer titans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (both as good guys!) to its name, and cloaked in period trappings (it’s set in 1906), suggests a fairly standard supernatural horror, one with crazy priests and satanic beasts. But, with an alien life form aboard the Trans-Siberian Express bound for Moscow, Horror Express finishes up more akin to The Cassandra Crossing meets The Thing.

Countess Petrovski: The czar will hear of this. I’ll have you sent to Siberia. Captain Kazan: I am in Siberia!
Christopher Lee’s Alexander Saxton, anthropologist and professor of the Royal Geological Society, has retrieved a frozen corpse from Manchuria. Believing it might be the Missing Link he crates it up to transport home via the titular train. Other passengers include his colleague and rival Dr Wells (Cushing), an international spy, and an antic monk called Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza, strikingly lunatic), who for some rea…

Mountains are old, but they're still green.

Roma (2018)
(SPOILERS) Roma is a critics' darling and a shoe-in for Best Foreign Film Oscar, with the potential to take the big prize to boot, but it left me profoundly indifferent, its elusive majesty remaining determinedly out of reach. Perhaps that's down to generally spurning autobiographical nostalgia fests – complete with 65mm widescreen black and white, so it's quite clear to viewers that the director’s childhood reverie equates to the classics of old – or maybe the elliptical characterisation just didn't grab me, but Alfonso Cuarón's latest amounts to little more than a sliver of substance beneath all that style.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.