Film Review: Dracula Untold

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14 October 2014.

The fundamental problem with this film from first time feature director Gary Shore is that for a tale about blood drinking creatures of the night, there is surprisingly little of the red stuff.

In a kiddie friendly reinterpretation of the Dracula origins story, Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, The Three Musketeers) stars as Vlad the Impaler. Sent as a child to the Turks to be a soldier, he gained a reputation as a fierce warrior (thus the nickname) and has now returned to his home of Transylvania to rule as a peace loving King (as you do).

The evil Turks now return demanding a new delivery of child soldiers (including the young prince) and desperate to save his people, Vlad sells his soul for three days to the Vampire King (a hammy Charles Dance). With the powers (and weaknesses) of a vampire, Vlad, now Dracula, must vanquish his enemies before he succumbs to “the thirst” which will render him a bloodsucker forever.

With the recent melee surrounding Ridley Scott’s upcoming epic Exodus: Gods and Kings and its controversial casting of a tanned Aussie Joel Edgerton as Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, it is interesting that not a peep has been heard from the internet regarding Dracula Untold’s Turk leader Mehmed being played by the usually pasty UK actor Dominic Cooper. Imagine the furore when it is revealed that Welshman Luke Evans is also not actually a vampire. You’ve read it here first, folks.

Dracula Untold has plot holes to drive a truck through. Why would the Turks sacrifice hordes of soldiers in battle for a measly thousand child soldiers? The evil Mehmed seems to immediately recognise the need to use silver and wooden stakes against Vlad. How does he know this? Why would you pursue a child army when a vampire army would be potentially unstoppable? Why do the Transylvanians not become suspicious immediately after Vlad wipes out an army on his own?

Typical to this sort of film, most of the the action takes place in the dark, and I really had problems seeing what was happening, which is unusual for a 2D feature. I can say that I have seen Dracula Untold, but I can’t say that I saw Dracula Untold, if you catch my drift.

I’m not entirely sure why this film even has the word “Dracula” in its title. The characterisation and origins of this lead character were completely out of synch with my expectations. Sure, this is a reinterpretation but there has to be at least some tropes of a traditional fangastical Dracula tale to deserve the name.

It has been announced that Dracula Untold will be the first in a series of reboots to the Universal Monsters franchise. Let’s hope that the rumoured next in line, The Mummy, fares better than this pointless feature.

Dracula Untold typically ends with a strong hint that a sequel is in the work. Let’s hope not. This Dracula story should have remained untold.

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Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 12:42  Leave a Comment  
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The Simpsons Tapped Out Update and Universal Movie Tycoon Review

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th April 2012.

Back in March I wrote about a new game launched on iTunes that was so popular that it caused a server meltdown. The Simpsons Tapped Out, a time management game similar to Farmville and My Smurfs’ Village, was withdrawn from the Apple App Store a few days after release allegedly due to high demand on the servers of the game’s producers, EA Games.

It now appears that there was more to the game’s withdrawal. The thousands of players worldwide who had already downloaded the app were allowed to continue playing the game (and spend money on premium features). Within a week or two, reports started to flood into internet forums of lost game progress, missing characters and in-game dollars and points not being recorded.

My Springfield fused with another player’s town, leaving me with a mess of streets and houses that looks more like The Rocks than the orderly custom designed town my slightly OCD mind created.

Almost six weeks after the withdrawal and initial promises of updates and patches to fix the app, EA Games has gone quiet. The game is still missing from the iTunes store and there are no signs of any relief for the players who have already dedicated hours and hours of game play to Homer and company.

It seems that The Simpsons Tapped out was rushed out for release with major flaws and little beta testing. Apple has started to refund money to players but the lack of communication from EA Games may well have tarnished the cash cow that this game was destined to become, at least in the eyes of early adopters.

The void in the “freemium” game marketplace left by the MIA Simpsons has already been filled by a new franchise, this one based on movie making. Universal Movie Tycoon is free to download and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the famous film studio. As head of the studio, players get to build sets and remake famous films, selecting from an array of virtual directors and actors.

As expected, progressing through this game is painfully slow without spending real money on the premium currency of the app, Movie Magic. Unlike other games of this type, a couple of dollars seems to go a long way. There is, however, the ridiculous option of buying 5000 Movie Magic credits for $51.99. You could buy every premium decoration, set and building, upgrade every actor and director to the max and still have credits to spare.

Unfortunately there is no social functionality which is the norm for games of this ilk. What’s the point of building your own virtual film studio if you can’t visit other nerds online and leave them virtual gifts? Initially fun, the game soon becomes repetitive and boring. It says so much about the current sad state of the film industry when a game designed to promote Universal Studios encourages you to remake the same movies over and over again. So far I’ve remade The Fast and the Furious 33 times, Despicable Me 23 times and Seabiscuit 22 times. I don’t think this game will be on my iPad much longer.

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 12:52  Leave a Comment  
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