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Vampire Academy: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Vampire Academy (2014) movie poster Vampire Academy

Theatrical Release: February 7, 2014 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Mark Waters / Writers: Richelle Mead (novel), Daniel Waters (screenplay)

Cast: Zoey Deutch (Rosemarie "Rose" Hathaway), Lucy Fry (Vasilisa "Lissa" Dragomir), Danila Kozlovsky (Dimitri Belikov), Gabriel Byrne (Prince Victor Dashkov), Dominic Sherwood (Christian Ozera), Olga Kurylenko (Headmistress Kirova), Sarah Hyland (Natalie Dashkov), Cameron Monaghan (Mason), Sami Gayle (Mia Rinaldi), Ashley Charles (Jesse), Claire Foy (Ms. Karp), Joely Richardson (Queen Tatiana), Dominique Tipper (Guardian Gabriela), Edward Holcroft (Aaron), Chris Mason (Ray), Ben Peel (Spiridon)

Buy Vampire Academy from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet DVD Instant Video

For every phenomenon like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight, there have been multiple flops like Cirque du Freak,
The Mortal Instruments, and Beautiful Creatures. Still, Hollywood continues to look to young adult fiction for potential franchises with rabid fan followings. That low success rate shows little chance of changing, with only the rarest adaptation falling in the chasm between box office behemoth and commercial infamy.

Vampire Academy undoubtedly falls into the latter camp. Its $7.8 million domestic gross is one of the all-time worst showings from a 2,500-theater engagement. Only four films have ever earned as little from that many theaters, the most recent of them (Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return) still likely to eke out a little more. I'd love to tell you that Vampire Academy, based on the first installment of Richelle Mead's six-novel series, doesn't deserve the indifference it received, but that simply isn't true.

Vampires like Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), Natalie Dashkov (Sarah Hyland), and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) have a high school of their own in "Vampire Academy."

The film opens in Oregon, where two teenage vampiresses have been hiding out since leaving Saint Vladimir's Academy. Protagonist and narrator Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) explains that there are three types of vampires. She is a Dhampir, while her British friend and fellow escapee, Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), is a Moroi. The two girls have an unusual relationship. Rose can read Lissa's mind. She also provides a shoulder on which Lissa, an animal healer, can feast. Their two classes have a deadly common enemy: the Strigoi, evil vampires who only come out at night and can only be killed with a silver stake through the heart.

Rose and Lissa are tracked down by Saint Vladimir's faculty and returned to the Montana boarding school. There, Rose resumes the rigorous training on which she has fallen behind and Lissa finds her boyfriend has moved on and is subjected to some catty gossip and rivalry. The school's administration -- namely, cold Headmistress Kirova (Olga Kurylenko) -- appears to be keeping something from the girls involving the mysterious retirement of Ms. Karp. Where Victor Dashkov (Gabriel Byrne), a sickly, sympathetic benefactor who like Lissa descends from royalty, fits in remains to be seen.

While Lissa flirts with some interchangeable love interests, sometimes with Rose looking on telepathically (as her eyes turn fiery), Rose crushes on Demetri (Danila Kozlovsky), her serious mentor and trainer eight years her senior. Just as you seem resigned to the fact that the intricate plot doesn't seem to make sense or add up, the film doles out a twist ending you've already seen coming and one that makes little difference anyway. It follows its resolution with a laughable attempt to set up a sequel, which we can now be certain has zero chance of ever becoming a reality.

Headmistress Kirova (Olga Kurylenko) is reluctant to let the girls in on some of Saint Vladimir's secrets. Rose likens her hunky, serious mentor and potential love interest Demetri (Danila Kozlovsky) to a "disturbingly sexy uncle."

This adaptation of Vampire Academy hails from two brothers who have made lasting contributions to the high school comedy genre.
Screenwriter Daniel Waters wrote the dark cult classic Heathers, while younger brother Mark Waters directed the popular Mean Girls fifteen years later. Their first collaboration to date occurs at a time when both have seen their careers taper off, with Daniel only working twice this century and Mark having followed his two Lindsay Lohan hits (he helmed her Freaky Friday remake first) with movies that have been relatively profitable but decreasingly well-received.

Clearly, Vampire was neither well-received nor profitable even on a $30 million budget that made it a much smaller gamble than effects-intensive films like Divergent and Percy Jackson. Not screened for critics, Vampire ended up being trashed more unanimously than even the weakest of YA adaptations. It still could have fared okay had it won over fans of Mead's books and the general public, but it absolutely didn't.

And why would it? This feels like a CW pilot masquerading as a feature film. It opened a week before Valentine's Day and though Mead's books are classified as romances, there is little of that to be found here. Instead, we get awkward attempts to speak hip lingo ("blood whore" is uttered at least three times) and a generic friendship run through the ringer. The whole infrastructure of young wizards/demigods/vampires is getting tiresome. The titular institution is so plainly derivative of Hogwarts, Camp Half-Blood, etc., while bringing virtually nothing new to the table.

We don't even find a single actor who really seems to believe in the material or breathe life into it. The few somewhat recognizable adults (Byrne, Kurylenko, and Joely Richardson) look like they believed their agents when they told them "this will be the new Twilight" but didn't care enough to do anything interesting with their roles. Of the principal cast, Deutch gains some attention for looking like a sexy Ellen Page and Sarah Hyland stands out for being able to fit this in between seasons of "Modern Family."

Three months after bombing in theaters, Vampire Academy reaches home video today from The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD and in the Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet edition reviewed here.

Vampire Academy: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Vampire Academy is treated to terrific picture quality in the Blu-ray's 2.39:1 transfer. No negative issues of any kind arise in this sharp, spotless presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also won't muster much in the way of complaints. The only feature you could hold against it is its penchant for peaks and valleys, which does have you reaching for the remote to raise and lower the volume. Still if inconsistent dynamics are of no concern, then you should appreciate the crisp mix with its smattering of unknown electronic pop.

Dhampir and the other two types of vampires are introduced with animation in this alternate opening. Author Richelle Mead discusses her books and this feature film in a brief interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray includes three short standard

definition video extras.

An alternate opening (1:20) uses graphic novel-style animation and authoritative narration to introduce the three kinds of vampires.

Next, we get five brief deleted scenes (4:18), none of which would have had any consequence on the film.

Finally, author Richelle Mead (2:51) gives a very rehearsed interview about the ideas of her book, the experience of seeing it translated to the big screen, and the film's cast and crew.

The disc opens with HD trailers for Scream 4 and Dark Skies. Neither is menu-accessible, nor is Vampire Academy's trailer, which is nowhere to be found.

The routine menu plays clips under a rose-bookended listings bar. Regrettably, like all Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-rays, this one does not support bookmarks or allow you to resume unfinished playback.

An insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet code and advertising the Vampire Academy books and spin-offs is all that joins the disc inside the ordinary blue keepcase.

After much vigorous training, Rose (Zoey Deutch) finally gets to unveil her badass side in the "Vampire Academy" climax.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Add Vampire Academy to the pile of movies that aimed to be the next big young adult film franchise and fell short. Presenting that bad movie feel early on and never shaking it, this joyless teen comedy fantasy perhaps will possess some camp value down the line. For now, though, it's just a dull effort with no ideas of its own that seems to exist only to invite unfavorable comparisons to things like Harry Potter and even Twilight.

Buy Vampire Academy from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Zoey Deutch: Beautiful Creatures | Olga Kurylenko: Oblivion Erased Magic City: Season 1 Seven Psychopaths
Sarah Hyland: Geek Charming Modern Family: The Complete First Season Bonnie & Clyde | Cameron Monaghan: Prom
Gabriel Byrne: The Usual Suspects Dead Man | Joely Richardson: Red Lights The Last Mimzy | Sami Gayle: Stolen
Vampires: Vamps The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Dylan Dog: Dead of Night Bram Stoker's Dracula Embrace of the Vampire (2013)
The Roommate Mean Girls 2 The Faculty Paranoia Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Sky High
Directed by Mark Waters: Mr. Popper's Penguins Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The Spiderwick Chronicles Freaky Friday (2003)
New: Veronica Mars Devil's Due Tanta Agua

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Reviewed May 20, 2014.



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