Interview With the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire (Blu-ray)

By Johnny Bray

Interview with the Vampire came out when I was in my mid-teens. At the time, I thought Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas were nothing but prettyboys. Naturally, this looked like pretty much the lamest movie ever. So, I never saw it. Even once I got over my hatred of the actors, I still had a subconscious, premature dislike for the film.

Years later, a friend mentioned what a great movie it was, and was shocked that I’d never seen “one of the best vampire movies ever!” In my twenty-something open-mindedness, I opted to give it a go.

Now I can safely say it is one of my favorite vampire movies, right up there with Coppola’s Dracula (though Dracula is still better).

Brad Pitt plays Louis, a vampire living in modern (ish) day San Francisco. He’s giving his two-hundred-year life story to a young reporter (Christian Slater), recounting how he initially became a vampire, his lengthy struggle to accept his fate and, most importantly, his relationships with other vampires. We meet his “maker” in the form of Lestat (Tom Cruise), a veteran vampire eager to spread his undead joy unto others. He teaches Louis all about being a vampire, and urges him to embrace his newfound powers.

Naturally, things go awry. And then get better. And then go awry some more. But it’s a very enjoyable journey through the life of an immortal. All of the actors turn in some of their finest performances (especially Cruise), and the overall look and feel is very authentic.

The only real flaw is that the pacing feels a little bit off. A few parts seem to drag on a bit, and then there are lengthy sections that don’t seem to let up. It’s a minor complaint, but prominent enough to prevent the film from reaching greatness.

A slightly different take on the whole “vampire” scene, Interview with the Vampire is more than entertaining enough to deserve a place alongside the great undead flicks. Provided you can handle watching a bunch of prettyboys.

Despite being an older DVD, the movie looks great on that format. The Blu-ray, however, adds much more detail to a very dark film. The issue with a movie that features vampire protagonists is that there aren’t a lot of daytime scenes. As a result, you often won’t see what’s going on in the background. The high-def viewing of this film revealed some things we didn’t notice before. Not really anything important, mind you, but little things that added to the overall feel of the film and the setting. That’s not to say that the Blu-ray version is brighter – just cleaner. What was background fuzz on DVD is actually people and fancy sets on Blu-ray.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Blu-ray image has much more depth, as well as detail. It’s not perfect, but it’s a wonderful improvement and definitely makes the film more enjoyable (at least for me).

The audio, interestingly enough, is only available in Dolby Digital 5.1 – no HD track. It still sounds great, but it seems odd to not have HD audio on a Blu-ray these days. That’s all we have to say about that.

In terms of extras, we get a commentary by Neil Jordan, a boring half-hour documentary, and a trailer. Finally, when you start the film, you’ll be treated to a completely useless introduction by Anne Rice, Neil Jordan and Antonio Banderas. It looks like the kind of intro that belongs to a boring half-hour documentary, and appears to have been filmed at the same time as the movie. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they film a new introduction and make it about the Blu-ray? And why Antonio Banderas? We love his work, but he’s only in the movie for, like, ten minutes. Oh well…

This is surely the best presentation of the film so far, and fans would do well to pick it up.

Interview with the Vampire, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
123 min. 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea and Christian Slater
Screenplay by Anne Rice based on her novel, Directed by Neil Jordan


Constantine on Blu-ray disc

by Johnny Bray

Whether you’re a particularly religious person or not, it doesn’t matter: Constantine is not really a religious film.

Yes, it features (and is based upon) certain elements of religion, such as the existence of heaven and hell, but you don’t need to have ever spent time in a church in order to follow along. You simply mustn’t have lived under a rock for your entire life. Simple enough (with no offense intended to any sub-rock dwellers).

John Constantine is an exorcist. Not your typical exorcist, mind you, and his methods may be questionable, but we’re certain few traditional exorcists would have such a success rate. He’s somewhat surly, but it’s hard to imagine battling demons on a daily basis and doing so with a smile on your face.

When a mental patient (Rachel Weisz) commits suicide, John is enlisted by her twin sister, Angela (also Weisz, obviously) to investigate. Angela’s angle is that her sister is quite religious, and would not ever commit suicide because that would mean an eternity of fire and brimstone. Naturally, Constantine, with his strange connection to the afterlife, seems a logical choice of person to turn to.

Thus begins an otherworldly battle of epic-ish proportions that could hell-ify mankind or leave things pretty much as they are.

Despite a bizarre concept, the film plays out pretty well. The story is ridiculous but surprisingly compelling, and at no point does it feel like it’s dragging on. The effects are also effective, with really creepy-looking demons and a very nice overall look. And of course, what Keanu Reeves movie review would be complete without mentioning the acting…

Other than the two leads, Constantine features several fine actors in rather small supporting roles. But let’s forgo such typical procedures and focus squarely on Reeves. Most people openly mock the man for being a bad actor. Many still, after twenty years and a pile of movies, can’t help but see his born-for role as Theodore Logan in every performance. So how is it possible that he manages to acquire the lead role in some mega-huge Hollywood blockbusters and still be taken seriously? It’s because despite his thesbian shortcomings, you’ll rarely meet anyone who actually dislikes him. It’s because there are some real-life people out there who speak in monotone and evoke no emotions other than indifference and subtle bewilderment. Most importantly, it’s because he makes some really good movies. He may be out of place sometimes (Dracula, anyone?), but some roles seem perfectly suited for his dry, unenthusiastic delivery. Like Constantine, for example.

It’s not a perfect movie, but Constantine is great fun. It works better as an action-thriller than a horror-action, but take it as it is and you should enjoy yourself just fine. Whoa.

The DVD of Constantine, released three years ago, was a fine example of the format. Now, on Blu-ray, it remains a fine example. The picture quality is absolutely stunning, with only a quick shot near the beginning of the film (which featured a bit of grain) proving to be anything less than flawless. There are plenty of special effects, all of which are integrated seamlessly. While there’s not a lot of color, the overall level of detail rivals some of the finest Blu-ray discs out there (Transformers and Speed Racer come to mind).

Like any good Blu-ray should, Constantine also features HD audio (Dolby TrueHD here) which, in this case, positively booms. While not technically a “horror” movie, there are many horror movie-esque sound effects that all work very well. The entire surround system will get a great workout with this one.

Extras include two audio commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, 14 featurettes on the various aspects of production, a music video and some trailers.

Constantine, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
121 minutes, 1080p 2.40:1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LeBeouf and Peter Stormare
Screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, Directed by Francis Lawrence

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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