Tag Archives: Liam Cunningham

Red Sea

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

by Hope Madden

I give people credit for finding new ways to tell the Dracula story. And I’m always up for whatever director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) wants to show me. So, I was in for The Last Voyage of the Demeter, even though the trailer didn’t do that much for me.

If you’re familiar with the Dracula story, the Demeter was the derelict ship bound from Varna found outside London, nothing left but a dead captain who’d lashed himself to the wheel, and his fateful captain’s log.

Øvredal’s film, written by Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Samaritan) and Zak Olkewicz (Bullet Train, Lights Out) from a handful of Bram Stoker’s pages, confines itself almost exclusively to that watery passage. So, the writers have their work cut out for them, since we know the shape the ship’s in when it hits England.

First things first. Let’s get acquainted with the crew. Can’t connect to a scary story unless you’re invested in those trapped on the high seas with a bloodthirsty monster. Corey Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth) is Clemens. He’s a man of science, so has no patience with the inevitable “devil on board” nonsense.

David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad) plays against type as the one guy who is not weird, the second in command after Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham, elegantly authoritative as ever). His grandson Toby (Woody Norman, C’mon C’mon and Cobweb) brightens and tenderizes the crew.

Most importantly, Javier Botet plays Dracula. The 6’7” actor (and he can act – please see Amigo for proof of that) brings tremendous presence to the beastly creature rationing crew until he can get to the smorgasbord that is London. The monster looks pretty good, too – kind of a cross between Neil Marshall’s crawlers (The Descent) and Tobe Hooper’s Mr. Barlow (Salem’s Lot).

Øvredal’s camera lurks and leers around corners, from above, through rigging, creating a constant unease while offering great visual variety, given the limited location options. Performances are strong, FX are solid, and there’s a mean streak to the carnage you may not see coming.

But the writing is not The Demeter’s strength. The plot does nothing intriguing, the story offers nothing new nor does it do anything to deepen or enrich the Dracula legend. The inevitability of the story doesn’t help, nor does the full 2-hour run time.

Turns out there may be a reason no one’s told this part of the story before. There’s just not that much to say.

Surrender the Booty

The Vault

by George Wolf

If we were going to add a third certainty to join death and taxes, how about the fact that heist movies are fun?

A good one makes you want to go assemble your crack team to trade quips, try on parkas and steal a Picasso. A bad one just makes you want to watch the good ones again.

The Vault (formerly titled Way Down) borrows from a host of similar films, keeping the formula familiar, the pulse quick and the scenery exciting for a ridiculous caper that never takes itself too seriously.

Freddie Highmore is Thom, a 22 year-old engineering genius fresh from the University of Cambridge. Bored by all the job offers from Big Oil, his interest is piqued by a mysterious opportunity to “change his life.”

Adventurer Walter Moreland (Liam Cunningham) offers Thom a spot on his “salvage” team, and the chance at untold riches. The plan? Break into the Bank of Spain and steal a centuries-old treasure first buried by Sir Francis Drake. The vault holding the booty is a puzzle of engineering yet to be solved, and Moreland is counting on Thom to be the big brain that outsmarts it.

The upper-crust thieves will have a timely distraction on their side. Spain’s World Cup final will be shown on a Jumbotron set up right outside the bank, meaning that during the match, all security cameras will be pointed at the huge crowd of soccer fans flooding the street, and not at the bank itself.

The script-by-committee mentions “Danny Ocean” early on, which is just stating the obvious. The Italian Job and Now You See Me, Now You Don’t will also come to mind, but director Juame Balagueró ([REC] and [REC2]) isn’t pretending he’s breaking new ground, just trying out a new playground.

Balagueró keeps his pace impatient from the opening minutes. Expect a succession of fake outs, multiple “We’re screwed!” exclamations and a shameless amount of “all is lost” moments. Realizations come only at the most fortuitous junctures and the tests to Thom’s genius never seem quite that strenuous.

And the effect of all of that on the film isn’t nearly as deadly, or taxing, as it should be.

The two hour run time feels about half that. Balagueró gives his camera a stylish flow and keeps us supplied with plenty of opportunities to feel like we’re in on the con, and have a stake in the success of the heist.

And you know what that is?