‘Byzantium’ flows with delicious twists, picturesque imagery
This week, we begin in a small coastal town:
Rated R, 118 minutes. Available now on DVD and Blu-ray and in various download formats.
The older member of the mother-daughter vampire team found in Byzantium, the blood-sucking caper from director Neil Jordan, likes to tell people she and her daughter are sisters. And who can blame a lady for shaving a little off when you’re more than 200 years old?
In this stylish twist on the undead, the poor daughter, Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), just never knows when mom Clara (Gemma Arterton) may drag home a body drained of blood. That’s only one of several delicious surprises director Jordan takes from Moira Buffini’s original play and screenplay.
The two main actresses in Byzantium make a handsome pair who would find no trouble in attracting gullible men. But at that, the similarities end, as Clara rips through her victims, leaving behind a bloody mess, while Eleanor will dispense only of the most elderly.
Jordan executes a double plot, beginning in 1804 when Clara works as a prostitute, eventually giving birth to Eleanor. Mom eagerly, and sneakily, becomes one of the undead, hoping that it will help her break her depressing occupational cycle.
But flash ahead 200 years, and mom still earns money the same old way, much to her daughter’s disapproval. This mother-daughter contrast grows progressively richer with every disposed victim.
Simultaneously, a subplot plays out about one of Clara’s original vampire connections (Sam Riley) chasing her through the ages but only now as a police detective.
Jordan first gained fame in the genre with 1994’s Interview With the Vampire and this time delivers a movie that, for him, is typically picturesque, with a striking series of images: a line of nuns walking single-file on a beach, a couple walking through a penny arcade while being filmed off surfaces, a waterfall flowing with blood, a fun house’s warped hall of mirrors filling the frame with distorted reflections.
At its core, Byzantium delivers the expected vampire shocks and horrors, but it’s Neil Jordan’s keen eye that makes it look so good and keeps it interesting.
The DVD includes a whopping 12 interviews with cast and crew.
My Name Is Nobody (3 stars) This 1973 tongue-in-cheek Western, now available with a high-definition transfer for the first time, looks to poke fun at the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone — who, incidentally, supplied the idea behind the film and is credited in some sources with partial director’s credit.
Terence Hill plays the unnamed gunman of the title, an upstart gunslinger who professes his childlike admiration of celebrated gunslinger Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda). The film roars through through several subplots involving gold shipments, a prodigal brother and various intrigues.
Director Tonino Valerii shows whimsy in having “Sam Peckinpah” buried in the local cemetery, a horde of outlaws called the Wild Bunch ride into town to the strains of “The Ride of the Valkyries” on harmonica, and a nod to Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai with a shootout in a hall of mirrors.
The constant action receives an intermittent serenade from Ennio Morricone’s jaunty music. Rated PG, 115 minutes.
This week’s TV arrivals include several noteworthy series:
Magic City: The Complete Second Season Mad Men recreates Madison Avenue of the 1960s while this stylish series evokes the Miami area of the late 1950s.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Ike Evans, majority owner and general manager of the plush Miramar Playa hotel. But he must deal with his former showgirl wife, Vera (Olga Kurylenko); a mob boss who owns part of the hotel, Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston); and two sons, including one, Danny (Christian Cooke), who works for the district attorney (Matt Ross), and the other, Stevie (Steven Strait), who enjoys the dangerous side of his situation.
The season — the final one, since Starz canceled the series — sees Ike fend off a challenge from the Butcher for control of the hotel, the possibility of legal gambling coming to Miami, a visiting Chicago mob boss (James Caan) causing trouble, an expensive yet troubled dance production for the hotel arranged for Vera, and a convoluted scheme to persuade Fidel Castro to let Ike run casinos in Cuba.
Not rated, 411 minutes. The season’s eight episodes come on three discs. The set includes five-minute featurettes on “Criminal Elements” and “Tales From the Underbelly,” and six minutes on the series’ always evocative music. Plus, brief featurettes on “Magic City Style” and the “Gamble for Havana,” and more.
Under the Dome: Season 1 Only Stephen King could come up with the premise of this surprise summer hit series. A small Maine town, Chester’s Mill, unceremoniously suddenly finds itself surrounded by a giant, impenetrable, transparent dome. It rises to more than 20,000 feet, and no one can enter or leave.
From there, the plot thickens around daily dramas, including the shenanigans of a shady City Council member (Dean Norris); a murder committed by a mysterious stranger (Mike Vogel), who kills the husband of Julia (Rachelle Lefevre), the town’s only journalist; and a deranged teenager (Alexander Koch) who traps and locks his girlfriend (Britt Robertson) in a fallout shelter.
Inhabitants fight to make outside contact while bedlam escalates inside. The creepy and suspenseful 13 episodes arrive on four discs, also available on Blu-ray.
Not rated, 541 minutes. The DVD set includes four deleted scenes, a 29-minute featurette on filming the pilot, 12 minutes with King talking about his book and the series, 15 minutes on the book itself, a 30-minute “making of” featurette on this first season, a five-minute gag reel, and the 11-part “Joe’s Blog.”
The Blu-ray set contains additional supplements, so check labels.
Mad Men: Season 6 As it roars towards its conclusion in 2015, the latest season of TV’s finest drama again appears on DVD.
In these 13 episodes, on four discs, a new ad campaign begins at the agency, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) entices a new client, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) struggles to regain her footing at the firm, Joan (Christina Hendricks) reunites with a friend, Roger (John Slattery) tries to land a client, and, not surprisingly, Don (Jon Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Pare) hit a rough patch in their marriage — mainly because Don is having an affair with a neighbor, played by Linda Cardellini.
But these are just the outlines, as unexpected dramas pop up every week in creator Matthew Weiner’s much-praised series, which includes two episodes directed by Slattery this season and one by Hamm.
Not rated, 618 minutes. The set also includes a 26-minute featurette on “Recreating an Era” and 30 minutes on the decade’s drug scene, with particular emphasis on LSD, in “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,” and a still picture gallery on “The Summer of Love.”
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Girl Most Likely, Grown Ups 2, Lovelace, Parkland, Passion, White House Down.