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Review: Daybreakers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Genova and The Necessities of Life

By August 18, 20102 Comments

I am sick of vam­pires. Sick to death. As a great philo­soph­er once said, “What is point, vam­pires?” and I have to con­cur. They’re every­where you seem to turn thses days and the most bor­ing of the lot (the Twilight mob) are back in June to bore us all to death once again.

Daybreakers posterSo, my heart sank a little when I saw the trail­ers for Daybreakers, an Aussie hor­ror about a world con­trolled by vam­pires, hunt­ing and farm­ing the remain­ing humans for their plasma. One of the pleas­ures of this gig is when the sur­prises are pleas­ant and Daybreakers def­in­itely turned into one of those. Tightly wound and (for the most part) logic­ally sound, the tyres have been well and truly kicked on the premise before the cam­er­as (and digit­al com­pos­it­ors and Weta mask makers) got involved.

Ethan Hawke plays the Chief Blood Scientist for the big cor­por­a­tion that provides most of the world’s sup­ply. Ten years earli­er, an infec­ted bat caused an epi­dem­ic which rendered most of the pop­u­la­tion undead – a few, like CEO Sam Neill went will­ingly when faced with the offer of immor­tal­ity. Hawke is work­ing on a sub­sti­tute – he’s veget­ari­an in a human blood kind of way – and sup­plies for every­one are run­ning low. When a reneg­ade bunch of humans (led by Willem Dafoe) tell him about a pos­sible cure he is forced to choose between his boss, his human-hunter broth­er and what’s left of his humanity.

As if Dracula had been pro­duced by an eco­nom­ics pro­fess­or, Daybreakers is an excel­lent inter­na­tion­al debut from The Spierig Brothers whose writ­ing is as sharp as their direction.

Hot Tub Time Machine posterIf you liked The Hangover last year (and who did­n’t), you’ll get a kick out of Hot Tub Time Machine, star­ring John Cusack and the man­ic Rob Corddry. Four friends head to the moun­tains to try and rekindle some of their lost youth: 25 years ago when they were all young, hand­some and full of, what’s that word, poten­tial. Their favour­ite resort has fallen on hard times though and it isn’t until a dip in a hot tub main­tained by a mys­ter­i­ous (and wel­come) Chevy Chase that the going gets good. When they wake up – they’re back in 1986 with a chance to fix a few of their many regrets.

A great premise is pro­pelled by plenty of gags and some nice work from all the act­ors (the film really gains from Cusack’s soul­ful per­form­ance) but I get the feel­ing that nobody really knew how to end it. At least, the end­ing they’ve giv­en us is deli­ciously amor­al if not all that logical.

Genova posterMichael Winterbottom is one of my favour­ite dir­ect­ors (In This World, The Claim) but he has a few misses on his cv. We need to add Genova to that list. Colin Firth plays a wid­ower who takes his fam­ily to a teach­ing gig in Italy to help them get over the recent loss of their moth­er in a car crash. The drama nev­er really emerges and the shouty scenes that replace it are largely clichéd and overwrought.

The Necessities of Life posterFinally, a very worthy film from Canada called The Necessities of Life: in 1952, dur­ing a Canadian TB epi­dem­ic an Inuit man (played by Natar Ungalaaq from Atanarjuat) is sent away from his fam­ily and his home to a san­at­ori­um. Nobody speaks his lan­guage, or is remotely inter­ested in his cul­ture, and so he begins to with­er away – des­pite or per­haps because of the care he is get­ting. Eventually, a kindly nurse finds anoth­er patient (a young boy) who speaks his lan­guage (and French too) so his recov­ery can begin. Worth a look, but be pre­pared to be com­pletely unsur­prised by any of it.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times way back on the 21st April, 2010.


  • Craig Ranapia says:

    The really annoy­ing thing about Daybreakers is that it’s two thirds to three-quarters of a really ter­rif­ic film where some thought has gone into the world-building and design, and even a story that makes sense. (Really loved the open­ing where we watch a vam­pire com­mit sui­cide – because she can­’t stand the thought of being a teen­ager forv­er. Which, when you think of it, is rather funny and bloody sad.) Then you have the sharp left-turn into stand­ard issue (and not that well-staged) action beats and an end­ing that only made any sense as a hook for a sequel. Shame.