(On TV, October 2017) I really didn’t expect much from Dracula 2000: Vampire movies are a hit-and-miss proposition even at the best of times, and this one had slipped under my radar back in 2000 even as I was seeing nearly everything else in theatres. More than a decade and a half later, the only thing that looks noteworthy about the movie is a cast that includes Johnny Lee Miller, pre-300 Gerard Butler and Christopher Plummer. The plot is a half-hearted contemporary update to Bram Stoker’s Dracula featuring professional thieves and an unexplainable New Orleans setting. Even looking at bits and pieces of the film are grounds for disappointment, as the film features very dated directing and editing. Still, I had more fun than I expected from this low-profile horror movie: It’s not Blade II, but it’s more enjoyable than Blade III. The contemporary update is almost interesting, the Dracula-as-Judas thing may not be fresh but it’s clever and I think that Dracula 2000 was one of the first movies to popularize it. Justine Waddell (looking a lot like Ashley Judd) isn’t particularly remarkable as the heroine, but Colleen Ann Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Esposito and Jeri Ryan as Dracula’s three brides are a very good choice. Jonny Lee Miller plays close to his Elementary persona (minus the whole genius thing), while Gerard Butler is almost unrecognizable as Dracula. There is, in other words, just enough in Dracula 2000 to surprise, even though the execution of those things may not be good enough to fully satisfy. Nonetheless, the film endures just a bit better than many B-grade movies of the time, and seventeen years later that’s not a bad claim at all.
(On Cable TV, October 2017) I didn’t have very high expectations for T2 Trainspotting. While I liked the first movie, it’s not one of my favourites. The idea of revisiting the same characters twenty years later didn’t seem all that appealing, and I wasn’t too sure I wanted to go back to drug-addled Edinburgh for two hours. But, as the mantra goes, trust Danny Boyle. Boyle’s worst movies are more interesting than most directors’ best, and if he was interested in going back twenty years later, then why not? As it turns out, it doesn’t take a long time for T2 Trainspotting to announce its themes and grab our attention. Twenty years later, our characters have grown older but not necessarily better. They still struggle, albeit now with the added pressures of middle-age weighing on them. Some of them are miraculously still alive. All four main actors are back in their roles, although Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller get the most challenging assignments in taking on two characters with many issues to resolve. But the film’s best asset is indeed in going back twenty years later to the same places, knowing that it can’t recapture the magic of the original, knowing that life gets less forgiving the more you age, and contemplating youthful excess with something approaching burgeoning wisdom, or at least melancholy. T2 Trainspotting doesn’t forget to have a bit of fun through comic set-pieces, character reunions and action sequences, but it’s at its best when it’s looking around itself and wondering how its characters made it through twenty years. It’s self-aware in ways that most long-delayed sequels should be, acknowledging the passage of time and using it as a central thematic engine. It’s surprisingly enjoyable, but also surprisingly engaging.