"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare."
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I think war stinks but there is a rule about it that I believe to be true: The side that is willing to fight the dirtiest will pretty much always win.
From unmanned drone bombing missions, to the Hiroshima atomic bomb to genocide, chemical weapons and whatever other crappy means our world "leaders" have thought up over the years, it seems the further we stoop from humanity, the more likely "victory" is ours. But at what cost?
Victory through inhumanity is also the general idea behind Dracula Untold, which opens at the Village 8 this week, and looks to be a sub-mediocre origin story that takes a big, warm, squishy dump on one of culture's best known icons. Faced with turning over 1,000 of his best young Transylvanians (including his own son) to the ever-bullying Turks, Vlad Dracula (a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler) hedges his bets and drinks the blood of a wrinkly old vampire who lives in a dank cave. This gives him the superhuman strength and power required to vanquish his foes, and the "deal" is, if he can hold off drinking anyone else's blood for three days he will return back to normal.
It's not a bad premise except every single person on earth knows how it ends — Dracula stays as Dracula — so with very little at stake we're left with a few big battle sequences, a definite Game of Thrones feel, some pretty nifty (if overused) flock of bats shape shifting effects, and creamy Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Maps to the Stars, A Dangerous Method) as the devoted wife/fang cushion.
With strong visuals and a nice quick run time (85 mins) the problem here is tone — no real horror, a lack of passion or sex, and now we're supposed to feel sorry for Dracula because he was just trying to protect his family? Vlad the Impaler is actually just misunderstood? Hogwash. Dracula Untold should have probably stayed untold.
But at least it's a jumping off point for some real-world stuff. Canada is hopping into another "war on terror" in the Middle East, committing six bombers to drop death on an already barren landscape from about 10,500 metres above. I'm just a movie guy, but has anyone ever considered that the reason we even have to deal with "terror" in the first place is because it's easy to get pissed off at people who are constantly screwing you over for natural resources, media-washing your entire culture in the image of a few bad apples, and then bombing your homes with remote control planes and fighter jets that have no real way of telling (and probably don't care) who is a "terrorist" and who is just a regular dude?
If it's a race to the bottom then I'd probably go drink the Vampire cave-blood, too.
One would hope that our world's geopolitical issues are more complex than that, but because they probably aren't the Download of the Week is Team America: World Police, a highly satirical movie starring puppets that, as time marches on, is sadly becoming less satirical and more bang on. It's hilarious because it's true, and it's a puppet movie... What a crazy world.
Nothing a Disney movie can't fix, though, right? Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day also opens this week and with a gimmicky title like that who isn't chomping at their retainer to hit up this pre-pubescent allegory where inner confusion so illustratively manifests itself into a shitstorm, and all because of one kid's birthday wish. It's like Big, but with a title eight times as long (and a movie only 1/8 as good.)
It's Thanksgiving though, and one thing to be thankful for is Nas: Time is Illmatic, a documentary highlighting the early life and artistry of the rapper Nas and his much-heralded 1994 album Illmatic. Hip-hop culture is entirely different now than it was two decades ago when this album dropped, but that only means there is that much more to learn and cherish from this 71-minute flick put together by journalist Erik Parker and graffiti artist One9.
The Nas show at World Ski and Snowboard Festival two years ago was one of the best things to ever happen in Whistler, and this flick gives an incredibly honest and satisfying look at the man with the mic. It plays two shows at Vancouver's Vogue Theatre on Thursday Oct. 16, and after the movie ends Nas himself comes out and performs Illmatic start to finish.
Make turkey, not war. Happy Thanksgiv'r.