I’m a sucker for a vampire movie, especially one having to do with our not-so-friendly Count Dracula. When I was a kid, I saw all of the Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi, Jack Palance, Christopher Lee and others. I subscribed to the monthly comic book “The Tomb of Dracula” and later on, the short-lived Dracula Magazine entitled “Dracula Lives”.
But there was always something missing – and that was the origin story of our Count. Nobody ever delved into his past, what he was like before he became a vampire. Not until now, that is. Needless to say, I was excited when I heard that the new film directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold was just that – the story of how and why Vlad Tepes became a vampire.
Truth be told, I was a tad hesitant because some of the reviews I’d read were on the lukewarm side. I personally loved the film and felt that the writers came up with a very good Dracula origin story.
In the 15th century, Vlad Tepes, played by Luke Evans, and Vlad’s young family live in Transylvania, where he rules as a Prince. We learn that as a child, he was given to the Turkish Sultan and was tortured, trained and then forced to kill in the sultan’s army, during which he became known as Vlad the Impaler. Given his freedom, he has been allowed many years of peace between the two kingdoms.
Then one day, things turn to hell. Messengers from the new Sultan, played by Dominic Cooper, turn up and demand a thousand boys – including Vlad’s own son – for the Turkish army. Vlad refuses, knowing that this decision will ultimately lead to war between the two kingdoms – with the enormous Turkish army and Vlad’s non-existent army.
Out of desperation, the kind-hearted prince Vlad makes a decision with a dark and ancient supernatural force in order to protect his kingdom…and we all know how that turns out.
I couldn’t think anyone more suited for this role than Luke Evans. Dracula Untold is not a happy film and Evans’s dark and brooding yet sophisticated portrayal of Dracula was more than impressive. The prince’s struggle to protect his kingdom and his family – and his willingness to tamper with a terrible, dark power in order to do so was brilliantly portrayed, as was his transformation from hero to anti-hero.
During the movie I sympathized with the prince’s plight – and cringed as the situation worsened for him. Evans’s performance was not only believable, it was smooth and brilliant, and I felt that he was the perfect embodiment of the character of Vlad Tepes. He also did an excellent job at balancing his human and monster characteristics.
The chemistry between Vlad and his wife, played by Sarah Gadon, was outstanding as well and added a touch of sweet romance to this otherwise dark, angsty tale.
Many people who were disappointed in this film expected a classic vampire story, complete with the maniacal count drinking blood and attacking young maidens.
This was not the purpose of the film. This is not a vampire film. This is not even a horror film. Rather, it portrays the agonizing decision that Vlad had to make in order to protect his kingdom – and the price he had to pay for such a decision. It was about one man’s transformation from being good…. to being…not quite so good.
While the battle scenes were brutal, they were not gory. There was very little bloodletting and needless gruesome violence. That’s not what this film was about. Rather, it’s an origin story of the infamous Count Dracula, how he lost everything to save his kingdom and the ultimate sacrifice he had to make to save his family.
The story was dark as were the visuals (alas, no sparkly vampires here!). The effects were quite good however (loved the bats!), with the battle scenes appearing realistic without unnecessary gore. Rather, the director took an artistic approach to this film leading to some quite stunning visuals.
I felt this reboot of the Dracula story was beautifully executed with the visuals successfully drawing in the audience into the story. The film’s pace was perfect, with a nice mix of action scenes and slower, contemplative scenes.
Loved it! This stylish, well-plotted, innovative film was a delight to watch and provided a fresh perspective on Vlad the Impaler aka Count Dracula. This original story reinvents the evil Count Dracula as a tragic hero who loved and lost, a tale of hope versus despair. All in all, I felt it was an excellent story and left me wanting more.
The ending of the movie left an opening for a sequel so perhaps we will get more. If so, I’ll be first in line.
I decided that I wanted to read something different so I thought I’d dip my toe into the Steampunk genre. I’ve never been particularly drawn to Steampunk but when someone recommended to me a novel entitled The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, suggesting that I might enjoy a combinaton of fantasy, magic and steampunk elements, I was intrigued.
Below is the publisher’s blub:
Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.
Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.
After I completed the novel, I can say that The Clockwork Dagger was an excellent recommendation. This Steampunk airship adventure was well-written with eloquent prose and a gripping plot. I especially enjoyed the combination of both Steampunk and magical elements – kind of a magic meets technology theme with a tinge of romance.
Most of the novel’s action takes place on an Airship called the Argus on which we meet many zany – and dangerous – characters. Being true to the genre, the setting for the novel occurs during the prudish Victorian era. Thus, we have the puritan prim & proper attitudes and language combined with mystery, mayhem, danger, gremlins, corrupt governments, assassins, war, swashbucking spies and murder – all of which were expertly weaved into the story.
We are introducted to many strange contraptions, ideas and beliefs which aid in drawing us further into this Steampunk world. It’s a world that’s both magical and mechanical – modern yet ancient. I felt that the author did an excellent job at creating a believable and fascinating society.
The plot is full of surprises, twists and turns and at one point, we – along with our clever heroine – aren’t quite sure whom to trust. Though the setting takes place in an era of Victorian morals and behavior, I loved the fact that Octavia was no pushover and when threatened or in a crisis, she deftly held her own. While certainly a woman of the period, she also demonstrated wit, quick thinking and bravery. Our fiesty heroine was not afraid to break social behavior expectations when necessary.
The Clockwork Dagger was non-stop action and intrigue and I enjoyed the story immensely. In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime because I couldn’t stop reading. It was a thrilling and engaging read with excellent dialog, well-developed characters, fast-paced action and a storyline that kept me turning the pages.
I look forward to the next book in the series (The Clockwork Crown) and to future books from this author. Because of her, I will be adding additional Steampunk-themed books to my every-growing reading list. Recommended!
You can check out The Clockwork Dagger HERE
Last weekend, I went to see The Maze Runner film, which is based upon a best selling novel of the same name by James Dashner. To be truthful, I had not read the book before seeing the film and up until the release of the movie, I hadn’t even heard of it. What attracted me to the film was when I learned that Dylan O’Brien, one of my favorite actors in the Teen Wolf series (yes, I’m a “wolfie”). was playing the lead. Teen Wolf is one of the few television shows that I watch so hearing that Dylan was in The Maze Runner immediately put the film on my radar. I’m also a fan of Dystopian films so I was excited to see what The Maze Runner was all about.
A young man named Thomas wakes up in what appears to be a rusty freight elevator with a group of boys looking down at him. He has no memories of where he is or what happened to him. Initially, he couldn’t even recall his own name.
Alby (played by Aml Ameen), the group’s leader, tells Thomas that he is now in a place that they call “The Glade” – a colony consisting of several dozen boys. Alby explains to him that the exact same thing happened to every one of them: they woke up one day in the elevator, remembering nothing except their own name. Every month, a new boy arrives in the “The Box”, with the first arriving three years before.
Thomas also learns that his new home is completely surrounded by a intricate and dangerous maze in which lives enormous and deadly mechanical spider-like creatures called “Grievers”. Nobody has ever survived the sting of a Griever.
Among the group of boys are a few chosen “Runners”. Once a day, these Runners race through the maze, learning it, memorizing it and looking for a way out. The Runners only have the day to explore the maze because each night the entrance to the maze closes and the layout of the maze changes.
It is of upmost importance that the runners make it out of the maze before the entrance closes because, as we learn, nobody has ever survived a night in the maze.
Once Thomas arrives, things begin to change in The Glade. For the first time, the Grievers have stung one of the Runners in broad daylight, something that’s never before occurred. Until that point, the Grievers only entered the maze at night (hence the reason why nobody has ever survived a night in the maze). Thomas begins to question the self-imposed rules that this brotherhood of boys lives by.
He then makes the decision to enter the maze (breaking the “only runners can enter the maze” rule) just as the entrance is closing to rescue Alby, who has been stung by a Griever. Thomas and Minho (plalyed by Ki Hong Lee), the chief runner, hide Alby as they prepare themselves to face the night in the maze. As predicted, the Grievers arrive but using his quick wits, Thomas manages to kill one of the them. Thomas and the Runner spend the rest of the night hiding.
The maze entrance opens the next morning and to the shock of the rest of the boys, Minho and Thomas, along with an injured Alby, appear at the doorway alive.
Up until now, the boys had accepted their lot – that they are stuck on the Glade. But Thomas has given them hope – hope that there might be a way out. He becomes one of the chosen Runners and along with Minho, discovers that there just might be a way out.
The news of a possible escape from The Glade is not welcome by everyone in the colony however. Some of the boys are so afraid of the Grievers, that they believe that their current self-imposed rules must not be violated – and that above all else, the ultimate goal is to protect each other. The boundary between them and the Grievers must be respected in order to remain safe.
However, for the first time, some of the other boys have latched onto hope. This is where the brotherhood splits into two different camps, very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, with half the boys following Thomas and the other half following Gally (the movie’s antagonist, played by Will Poulter), who believes that Thomas’s actions are jeopardizing everyone’s safety.
All through the movie, there are several questions that the viewer asks him or herself:
Just where is the Glade, exactly?
Who runs the Glade and the Maze?
Why are the boys there?
Why can’t they leave?
What happened to them?
Where do the Grievers come from?
These questions all get answered in time – but I won’t spoil anything for you.
It’s a tense, dramatic thrill-ride of movie which I felt was well-plotted and well-executed. The movie is in no way predictable and concludes with a surprising and unexpected ending, opening the way for a sequel. This film definitely succeeded in keeping me interested and on the edge of seat wondering when (or if) my questions would be answered and whether the boys would escape – or end up getting killed by the nightmarish Grievers.
The acting in the film was strong and I felt that the lead and secondary characters were believable, strong and well-developed.
The Maze Runner is definitely worth a view and I am already looking forward to the Maze Runner 2. I give it strong B+.