Monthly Archives: January 2011

Korean Cinema #1: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

By Nathanael Griffis

An easy way to find a “buried” film is just to watch a foreign film. Any film will do really, unless it’s on the shortlist with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Pan’s Labyrinth, or Amélie. In recent years foreign films have gained a wider audience in the United States. I meet fewer and fewer people who roll their eyes at subtitles; we’re still in the minority, no doubt, but progress is being made.  In recent years I’ve come to be very impressed with Korea’s filmmaking in particular. Some of the names are familiar enough to our conversations that we can say we’ve heard of them (The Host, Oldboy, My Sassy Girl), but the viewing public doesn’t realize the magnitude of the work being done in Korea.

Therefore, I aim to rectify this unfortunate lack of attention. I’ll watch ten films from the past ten years of Korean cinema that should truly be noticed. I’ll pay attention mostly to four big directors who consistently deliver quality films: Joon-ho Bong, Chan-wook Park, Ji-woon Kim, and Ki-duk Kim. These directors do get mentioned from time to time in film criticism circles, normally under the context of “you should see this movie by fill-in-the-blank,” but I think they deserve better than that.

All that stated, it was hard for me to decide which film to watch first. I was introduced to Korean cinema with Joon-ho Bong’s The Host, which is one of the best monster or sci-fi films ever. I’m not willing to consider The Host a “buried film” per se (Tom, Steve, or Alban are welcome to disagree and write an article if they wish), but Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy is another consideration. Oldboy is part of a thematically connected trilogy of films based around revenge, so I decided I would start with that trilogy from the beginning.

Well, if you're going to be brutally stabbed it might as well be in a red tracksuit.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is Chan-wook Park’s first film in his “Vengeance Trilogy.” Released in South Korea in 2002, it follows the story of two characters as they seek revenge for the loss of their loved ones. The film begins on Ryu, played by Ha-kyun Shin, a deaf and dumb young man who sells his kidney to organ dealers. Through various complications, Ryu and his girlfriend Yeoung-mi (played by Doona Bae) decide to kidnap the daughter of Ryu’s former boss Mr. Park, played by the great Kang-ho Song. Without giving too much away, Ryu seeks vengeance on the organ dealers, and Mr. Park seeks vengeance on Ryu.

No room for bulletin boards and thumb tacks in revenge, huh?

This film is unique and daring, to say the least, and definitely not for everyone. The violence is harsh, and the pace is slow and deliberate. The editing of the film is brilliantly disorienting; time moves fluidly as the director and editor demand it to. Chan-wook Park’s directing is amazing. How and when he decides to expose the audience to the horrors of violence and revenge is haunting. One scene in particular comes to mind: Mr. Park is watching an autopsy and we only see his face, but you hear the entire excruciating process. I had to look away, but was shocked, because I was looking away from nothing.

This is later repeated in a similar scene, but with a different person on the coroner’s table, and it truly highlights the spectacular Kang-ho Song, who I believe is one of the great actors working today. He was the star of The Host, and I’m going to be talking a lot about him in future articles, so we’ll just leave it at that. Ka-kyun Shin as Ryu is also especially fascinating. It’s a challenging job to play a deaf and dumb character. The few scenes where he gets to emit sound are eerie and arresting. Chan-wook Park’s use of silent titles with simple characters on them to represent Ryu’s thoughts is a great way of making the viewer experience Ryu’s world.

This film is simply brilliant and beautifully shot, especially every scene involving the river. It’s evaluation of revenge is a complex picture of compulsion and regret. The characters are driven by an urge to satisfy a thirst for retribution, but consciously realize the consequences their actions will bring upon them.  It’s a bleak picture, and my one regret is the lack of hope. Chan-wook Park never gives us a sense that one could resist the pull of vengeance. Every character regrets the violence they perform, but this knowledge has nothing outside of a reflective effect on them.  I highly recommend this film, but add a word of caution: the violence is starkly realistic and the film eases you into it, so you might not suspect it. Also, the pace is slow. This is a very visual film that takes its time explaining things, and Chan-wook Park expects you as an audience member to do some work to figure out what’s going on. If those stipulations don’t hold you back, then this is a must-see. If they do hold you back, try challenging them, and watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Oh look, a happy scene to get our hopes up.

In my next article, I’ll continue my review of Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy with Oldboy.

–Nathanael Griffis

Lies, True Lies & Action Movies

by Steven Moore

James Cameron has a knack for making his hero’s escape from danger both fantastical and plausible. While Cameron’s True Lies is certainly a cheesy 90′s action movie, the worst decade for action in my opinion, it also has subtle moments of genius buried in the cinematography and choreography. The generic action scene when the hero narrowly escapes the giant fireball rushing mercilessly toward him doesn’t feel clichéd in Cameron’s movie because he fosters a suspension of disbelief (or believable impossibility, if you prefer). You, the viewer, know exactly how the hero got where he is and how he is getting away. There’s a flow to the bangs and booms. Everything about this film feels careful and calculated, a rare thing in the action movie world.

Schwarzenegger & Curtis in "True Lies"

The plot starts with Harry Tasker, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, living a double life as a spy, while his wife, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, lives blissfully unaware of her husband’s daily mortal danger. She believes him to be the boring businessman that he is in their suburban life together. She seeks adventure and excitement, which pushes her to flirt with another man. The flirtations lead to a series of events where, through the separate machinations of both our hero and the bad guys, Harry reveals all his secrets. In the process, Curtis transforms from housewife to co-spy so gradually and meticulously it seems natural for a middle-aged suburban working mom to become an international covert agent. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is silly, but it does silly with a master’s hand.

This is not a perfect movie by any means. The secret agent with an unwitting family is a generic enough theme that’s only been pulverized to death in the years since True Lies‘ release. Harry appears to be the typical homeric action star, but he has no problem blurring ethical boundaries, like hiring his unwitting wife to be his prostitute and making her think she is performing a striptease for a complete stranger. There are serious moral questions here that our hero just skates right past without so much as a “hmm?” I see some marriage counseling in their future. Although this is probably his finest performance, Arnold’s acting still boils down to frequent grunts and shouts punctuated by some painfully enunciated sentences. The plot is standard fare with few surprising reveals and the villains are borderline offensive Arabic stereotypes.

Yet, this movie remains entertaining after all these years. Why? All media critics wrestle with the problem of entertainment versus depth. All critics, and I would hope most moviegoers, need a certain amount of depth from their films, regardless of entertainment value. Entertainment is fleeting without something more that speaks to the human experience, and movies that forget that are often labeled forgettable. Forgettable movies aren’t bad; they just make no impact other than to entertain for a couple hours. You rarely go back and watch them a second time.

However, within the action genre a movie can be pure spectacle and still worth watching again and again for that spectacle alone, which is why I dislike action movies obviously. I might even say I avoid action movies, but only because there’s a part of me that loves action movies so much. That ancient reptilian part of my brain wants nothing more from a film than ‘splosions, big guns, and a pretty girl–preferably, a pretty girl with a big gun causing a ‘splosion. And that’s all I need. No questions about life or human existence or our existential need for connection, just boom, bang, and wow. So, when an action movie does more than spectacle, it becomes something special. It satisfies both sides of my brain, which is what the best movies achieve. Die Hard, El Mariachi, and Casino Royale all transcend the Action genre by delivering characters who struggle with the human experience all while getting pretty girls, firing lots of guns, and making big ‘splosions. Unfortunately, this is so rare in the action genre that I’ve lost faith.

(From left:) Bruce Willis as John McClane in "Die Hard" (1988); Carlos Gallardo as "El Mariachi" (1992); Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 in "Casino Royale" (2006)

True Lies is more than a one night stand with the reptilian brain. It doesn’t quite reach the same level as the previously mentioned films, but it is a fun ride, and it provides a technical insight that’s more than just spectacle. That is to say, it does spectacle in a special way, which placates my snobbier sensibilities. Too bad it’s an action movie.

–Steven Moore

A Year of Movies

8. Courage Under Fire (1996)

Cast: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Sean Astin, Matt Damon, Seth Gilliam, Scott Glenn, Tim Guinee, Zeljko Ivanek, Michael Moriarty,Lou Diamond Phillips, Bronson Pinchot, Tim Ransom, Regina Taylor.Written by Patrick Sheane Duncan. Directed by Edward Zwick.

Thursday, January 13.

The basics: Washington plays an Army officer investigating the increasing discrepancies surrounding the story of a female chopper commander (Ryan) who has been nominated to receive the Medal of Honor for bravery in combat in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

The experience: I had never seen this film before. It was in fact the only of Zwick’s historical/political films I had not seen. I am a fan of his other work, including The Siege (which was underrated and chillingly prophetic) and especially Glory, Blood Diamond, Defiance, and The Last Samurai which had a major personal impact on me back in 2003. As with The Patriot, my grandpa was watching Courage Under Fire on TV while I was working in the other room. Thus, I heard quite a lot of the movie without watching it, which is interesting with a movie one has never seen, and a bit frustrating for someone like me who values the first-viewing impact a movie can have. It’s my own fault though; I’ve had almost 15 years to see it. Anyway, the movie had a big impact on my grandpa, who was sorry he had not been able to see the whole movie. He handed me some money and told me to find it and buy it, so that’s what I did. Today, I went out and tracked it down, which took awhile, because it was no longer available in any of the major DVD retailers. I found a copy at a secondhand electronics store. I brought it back, and we watched it together immediately, and we both thought it was a great movie. I wish I had seen it sooner.

The good: Like I already said, it’s a great movie. The way the plot unfolds, the details of what really happened in that incident slowly coming to light, was intriguing. It was interesting to see pre-Good Will Hunting Matt Damon (though I’d seen a couple scenes already on Inside the Actors Studio). Denzel Washington is downright amazing in his multi-faceted role, digging for truth while coping with demons from his own war experiences and the effects it has had on his family life. He didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this? Shame. Zwick’s direction is heart-pounding as ever. The rest of the cast is decent enough, though….

The bad: Some of the character interactions do fall a bit flat. Meg Ryan is perhaps slightly out of her depth in this intense role, though, to her credit, she gives it her all. She is, for the most part, affecting, but just sometimes the obviousness of how much she’s forcing it out of herself can be distracting. Lou Diamond Phillips is still not the greatest at heavy dramatic scenes. (Remember his monologue from Young Guns?) But this is quibbling about a dramatically engaging film. The film’s biggest problem is the way the big revealing scene is handled in the end, and unfortunately, to go into detail would constitute spoilers of epic proportions. Suffice it to say, the impact is diminished by one of the worst, and regrettably most laughable, uses of slow-motion in film history. This needless and counter-productive climactic slow-mo is, I fear, Zwick’s biggest shortcoming. It’s the same problem that diminished the climactic impact in The Siege and especially Legends of the Fall.

The verdict: Courage Under Fire is highly recommendable. Technique aside, the story itself is so engaging and the truth so shocking (if you don’t know the truth ahead of time, which I unfortunately did because of the aforementioned overhearing of the film the day before) that it is, in the end, a very effective film. One more time: Denzel is phenomenal. My Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. My IMDb rating: 8/10. Current rank on my Flickchart: 464/2201 (Top 500).

–Tom Kapr

A Year of Movies

7. Neshoba (2008)

Directed by Micki Dickoff & Tony Pagano.

Tuesday, January 11.

The basics: Documentary filmmakers Dickoff and Pagano revisit the 1964 Ku Klux Klan-perpetrated murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, Mississippi; then, they document the 40-year-late trial of preacher and alleged mastermind behind the killings, 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen.

The experience: I watched this with my father, who introduced the film to me. He got ahold of the DVD from the brother of Andrew Goodman himself. I’m usually the one in the know about little-seen films documentaries, so for my dad to be this far ahead of me is something. I’m grateful, because I knew next-to-nothing about this particular notorious incident. It’s a chapter of American history that every American should know. We should teach our most despicable moments as well as our grandest, without making excuses. How else are we to learn from our own history? How else are we to heal?

The good news: Enlightening, regarding the racial perspectives and social dynamics of present-day Philadelphia, Mississippi, and disturbing, in ways you won’t see coming. The interviews with the citizens of Neshoba are a wealth of introspection, and these are in-depth looks at both the activists still working to make change, and at the unabashed racists who wish they would leave well enough alone. The filmmakers are incredibly restrained, spending a lot of time with Killen and other Klan sympathizers, enough to show their true colors while simultaneously humanizing them. It is quite a feat of documentary filmmaking.

The bad news: This mostly relates to the legal side of things. The filmmakers present almost no evidence against any of the alleged murderers, merely taking for granted that these are the bad men. I have no doubt that they are the bad men, since it is well known who was in the Klan, who still has ties to the Klan, who was proud of their bloody deeds in 1964, and whose land the bodies of the three men (as well as several others) were found. The present-day trial of Killen, which the cameras document in much detail, even inside the courtroom, is a sort of catch-22 of effective filmmaking: Dickoff and Pagano again present almost no evidence, but nor is there much evidence to be presented. Most of the present-day trial springboards off separate trials and testimonies related to the incident from 1965.

The verdict: Though underwhelming in several areas, mainly the lack of presented evidence and “we know he did it” attitude pervading the trial footage, this is an enlightening and powerful document of a dark chapter in our history and of a culture in present-day America where civil rights workers are still working to break down the walls of racism. My Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. My IMDb rating: 8/10. Current rank on my Flickchart: N/A (this film is not yet in the database). Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1337155/

–Tom Kapr

A Year of Movies

6. The Patriot (2000)

Cast: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tchéky Karyo, Rene Auberjonois, Lisa Brenner, Tom Wilkinson, Donal Logue, Leon Rippy, Adam Baldwin, Jay Arlen Jones, Joey D. Vieira, Gregory Smith, Mika Boorem, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Trevor Morgan, Bryan Chafin, Logan Lerman, Mary Jo Deschanel. Written by Roger Rodat. Directed by Roland Emmerich.

Tuesday, January 11.

To be fair, I started watching The Patriot part-way through, but I was listening to a lot more of it from another room. My grandpa was watching it on TNT. I hate watching movies on TV, but I won’t go off on a rant about the state of commercialization, blah blah blah. We all know television largely sucks, especially if you want to watch a movie. (TCM, you still rock.) Anyway, I kept getting distracted, stopping my work, going into the other room to watch this scene or that. I’ve seen The Patriot a few times over the past decade, so I know the parts I want to see. Soon enough, after my immediate website-editing task was finished, I figured I’d go watch the rest of the movie. But the only reason I would have done this is because I own the DVD, which I put on, picking up at the point where TNT had left off. I always liked this movie, but always thought it had a lot of flaws, and the more times I’d seen it, the lower it fell in my estimation. It’s overly sentimental, it lays the patriotic rhetoric on thick at points, and it plays fast and loose with history. But it’s also thrilling in its spectacle and affecting in its quieter moments. For a big Hollywood war film, it’s at its best during the intimate moments–between father and son, father and daughter, young people in love, a racist and a slave fighting side by side, a tête-à-tête between opposing commanders, etc. For all its problems–the excruciatingly gratuitous slow-motion; the overly dramatic speeches with John Williams’ less-than-subtle music swelling in the background (this is not one of his best film scores); the idea that Mel Gibson is the least-racist white landholder in America–it’s still a good film. Rodat’s screenplay shows a true and optimistic love of liberty in all its forms, and though that keeps it from being historically accurate, I’m okay with it, because it makes me feel more optimistic about myself as an American and the potential of my country to still be the land of the free. And it is by far Roland Emmerich’s best directorial effort, and not just because it’s the only one that isn’t super-cheesy sci-fi. Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. IMDb rating: 8/10. Flickchart rank: 521/2198 (Top 1000). Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/

–Tom Kapr

Buried Cinema, Artifact #006: Gangster No. 1 (2000)

by Nathanael Griffis

It’s not easy to find movies that are buried; for one thing, no one knows about them because they’re buried. I discovered Gangster No. 1 while watching the special features of Lucky Number Slevin (both directed by Paul McGuigan). Annoying titles with numbers aside, I sought out Gangster No. 1, driven by a fascination for buried films. I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed is the cast. Headlined by Paul Bettany, the film relies on outstanding performances, with Malcolm McDowell arguably starring and David Thewlis supporting.

Where have I seen that look before... hmmm?

The film traces the past of a violence-obsessed gangster’s rise to the top of the London underworld and his eventual confrontation with his previous boss Freddie Mays (played by David Thewlis). McDowell plays the older version of the present day (1999) nameless Gangster. The majority of the film, though, takes place in 1960′s London as the young gangster (Bettany) becomes a thug and eventually removes Freddie Mays from power. Mays’ subsequent release from prison some thirty years later is the Gangster’s impetus for telling us his story.

Admittedly, the voice in his head is Malcom McDowell.

The performances of all three lead actors carry the film. It’s the best I’ve seen McDowell since A Clockwork Orange. Paul Bettany’s transformation from low-level thug to sadistic killer and eventual crime lord is amazing. Bettany’s transformation and motivation to become violent is truly the best thing about the movie. It’s rare to see a film so concerned with approaching and discussing the motivation behind criminally violent behavior. David Thewlis’ crime lord is a unique criminal who’s trying to go legitimate and is equally revered and despised by the Gangster.

The unique acting partnership between McDowell and Bettany elevates the film. McDowell’s older voice narrates much of the story and most of Bettany’s actions. It’s as if Paul Bettany is simply doing pantomime to McDowell’s voice acting for most of the film. Bettany channels a diluted, sadistic, and jealous killer, whose greatest weakness is his simplicity. He’s a simple thug who doesn’t know what to do once he’s achieved his goal. Give the man a hatchet and a chisel and he’s Picasso, but he can merely mimic Freddie Mays leadership abilities.

Malcolm McDowell dances a jig, something else to look forward to.

The second amazing aspect of this film is Peter Sova’s cinematography, which was one of the things that so amazed me in Lucky Number Slevin. Sova’s way of shooting the film and utilizing the wonderful production scheme and design is nothing short of brilliant. The film runs on the unique shots to convey confusion, control, obsession, revulsion, and any number of emotions. From the unwavering static scope of Freddie Mays’ office to the chaotic, upsetting pans of the Gangster’s climactic kill of a rival crime lord, the film relies on and is fed by Sova’s skill.

The script is adequate, if too reliant on vulgarity, as is Paul McGuigan’s directing and supporting cast. The score is fine, using the typical convention of beautiful, iconic music over stylized violence to convey irony. What, you mean Neil Hannon’s The Good Life doesn’t typify bashing a skull in with a baseball bat? Who knew? The film has its flaws, no doubt–the largest being the distracting age difference between McDowell and Thewlis, who left prison with a strange taste for bad makeup, in the climactic confrontation. The language, while befitting the Gangster’s character, becomes so excessive as to lose its punch. It’s worth a watch, though, if you enjoy stylized, hyperviolent gangster flicks, or if you just want to see Paul Bettany go from charming to psychotic. If you prefer movies involving bunnies and kissing–well, have you seen Fatal Attraction?

(Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210065/)

–Nathanael Griffis

A Year of Movies

5. Ink (2009)

Cast: Chris Kelly, Quinn Hunchar, Jessica Duffy, Jennifer Batter, Jeremy Make, Shannan Steele. Written & directed by Jamin Winans.

Saturday, January 8, 22:00.

It’s far from perfect, but I loved this movie. I had never heard of it until a few weeks ago when it appeared on my Netflix page. We discuss it on our podcast this week, so I won’t go into too much detail here except to say that it is one of the beautiful, spiritually profound fantasy films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Some of the supporting roles are played by less-than-stellar actors, but the main cast (listed above) is good, often great. It takes a good 15 minutes for the film to find its footing, but stick with it–it’s rewarding in the end. Jamin Winans also produced and edited the film and composed the musical score, while Kiowa K. Winans (whatever relation they are to each other) co-produced and did the costumes, sound, and art direction. Talented family. Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. IMDb rating: 8/10. Flickchart rank: 207/2196 (Top 250).

–Tom Kapr

A Year of Movies

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Starring, and written by: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, & Michael Palin. Also starring Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland. Directed by Gilliam & Jones.

Wednesday, January 5, 23:00.

My friend Clarissa is moving away this weekend, so we had a get-together tonight to wish her well. At the end of the night, we decided to watch a movie. (This is how most get-togethers end up.) She had never seen this, one of the greatest comedy films of all time, and since the decision was hers, this is the one she settled on, which of course I was pleased with. I used to be able to quote full scenes of Holy Grail, and still quote the movie quite often. What Monty Python fan doesn’t quote this movie at least once a week? I hadn’t actually watched it though in about five or six years, so I was due. Though I realized this time that there is a scene or two when things drag a bit, I still love this movie, and, having now seen it maybe half a dozen times all the way through, and some scenes probably a dozen times or more, I can still see myself watching this movie over and over again and laughing every time. It’s some of the most quotable, absurd dialogue ever written, par for the course for the Monty Python comedy troupe. Their series from the late 60s and early 70s, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, is just as consistently smart and funny. These guys are amazing, and their humor is still edgy after forty years. Netflix rating: 5/5 stars. IMDb rating: 9/10 stars. Flickchart rank: 107/2179 (Top 250). Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071853/

–Tom Kapr

Remembering Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011)

by Tom Kapr

I “came of age” as a cinephile in the mid-90s. 1996 in particular seems to stand out in my mind as the year I started to realize that movies could do something more than entertain. They could move something inside me, way down in deepest part of me. This may sound a bit silly, considering the film, but I remember clearly the first footage of DragonHeart I ever saw. I was watching TV–I don’t remember what–and a commercial break came. I saw the silhouette of a hill against the dusk sky. The silhouette of a warrior on horseback crested the hill. Suddenly, a dragon came flying up over the hill. Not a cheap-looking puppet–a real-looking dragon, flapping its great wings and moving gracefully through the sky. What a shot! DragonHeart as a film may be underwhelming, but that single shot is forever etched in my memory, and that is why this silly movie is one of the most important in my personal movie-watching experience.

Postlethwaite as Gilbert of Glockenspur

The reason I’m telling you this is because this was about the time I started paying attention to actors as well. Not just movie stars, but actors. I love Dennis Quaid, but DragonHeart is not one of his greatest moments in film history. However, it is because of Dragonheart that I remember Dina Meyer, David Thewlis, and “Gilbert of Glockenspur” himself, Pete Postlethwaite. He was in a thankless role, but he was good.

Then there was Father Laurence in Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet, complicated big-game hunter Roland Tembo in Spielberg’s The Lost World, and of course, Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. He was also in two of the films we’ve discussed on our podcast this past year, The Town and Inception. Here was a guy who could take a secondary character, even in a mediocre film, and make him interesting. It is quite possible that with DragonHeart in 1996, Pete Postlethwaite was the first time I was aware of what a character actor was, even if I didn’t know the term at the time.

Postlethwaite’s final role is in the upcoming Irish comedy Killing Bono (yes, that Bono) in April. I’ll be looking forward to it.

I’m sure I’ll discover more great Pete Postlethwaite performances as I continue to see some of the lesser-known films of the past 30 years. But I’ll always remember him as that mischievous friar and dragon-friend, Gilbert of Glockenspur.

–Tom Kapr

A Year of Movies

3. 30 Days of Night (2007)

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Rendall, Manu Bennett, Megan Franich. Screenplay by Steve Niles and Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson; adapted from the comic by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Directed by David Slade.

Sunday, January 2, 23:00.

Nate had shown up part-way through About a Boy. After spending time going over our podcast archives (which is a hilarious thing to do), we sat down to watch one of the few good vampire movies, 30 Days of Night. This is possibly the only really good vampire film of the past decade. Going back further, there was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula in 1992, Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire in 1994, and 2000′s Shadow of the Vampire. Good vampire films are rare, and they’re becoming rarer. I saw 30 Days of Night at the cinema when it first came out three years ago, and even then I remember being thankful for a good vampire movie. I liked it then, and after my second viewing, I still like it, though now I am more aware of its pacing and timeline problems. I can cut a film a lot of slack if it offers something unique in its vision and style, and 30 Days of Night does that. Hartnett and George are good protagonists, and Danny Huston is one of the all-time scariest villains. Netflix rating: 4/5 stars. IMDb rating: 8/10 stars. Flickchart rank: 652/2174 films (Top 1000). Learn more about the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0389722/

–Tom Kapr