What We Do in the Shadows

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

It's a vampire comedy. Starring, co-written, and co-directed by one-half of Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement. So of course it's funny. It's R-rated (MPAA: "bloody violent content, some sexual material and language.")

The idea is that it's a documentary, filmed in a reality-TV style. Except the subjects are vampires, four of them living in a unremarkable house in Wellington, New Zealand. They have the typical housemate spats: who's gonna clean up all that blood, stuff like that.

It's a funny premise, maybe a tad too thin when stretched to an hour and a half. Another theatrical-release sputterer, our second in a row. What's the deal there? Maybe it did better in New Zealand.

The Drop

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A little crime thriller based on a Dennis Lehane short story; Lehane also wrote the screenplay. The story was set in Dorchester, because, well, Lehane. The movie moves the action down to Brooklyn, and adds a few more characters and plot threads.

The protagonist is Bob Saginowski, a nebbish who lives alone, and works tending bar at his cousin's joint. His cousin is Marv, played by the late James Gandolfini, his last role. The bar is called "Cousin Marv's" and it's a so-called "drop bar", where the primary source of profit is its use as a temporary repository of cash used in illegal transactions.

One night, Bob hears whimpering coming from a trash can; he investigates and pulls out a half-dead pit bull puppy. He also meets Nadia (the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself, Noomi Rapace) who helps him nurse the puppy back to health. All would seem to be well, until a local criminal psycho shows up with all sorts of demands. Bob seems totally helpless in the face of malevolent evil. But is he?

Despite all the star power, the movie fizzled in its theatrical release. I was particularly impressed with Tom Hardy: this is the same guy who played Bane? And Mad freakin' Max? And here's he's just a schlub, albeit one with unexpected qualities.