Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) has a condition that only could happen in a movie like this. Not only does she have Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but also has excessive amounts of cortisol in her body, so when she does get enraged, it gives her augmented strength and agility. She has been studied and in therapy since childhood and now works as a bouncer. She finally meets a nice guy, Justin (Jai Courtney), who accepts her affliction, only to have him murdered just as she starts to care about him. Now Lindy uses her condition to her advantage, as she tracks down Justin’s killers to get revenge.
Yet another flick that wants to be hip while mixing hyper-violence and offbeat humor and fails miserably. Amazon Original is routinely directed by Tanya Wexler from an unimaginative script by Scott Wascha. It’s dull, even though filled with violent encounters, and almost all of the attempts at humor fall flat. The CGI blood spatters soften and lead Beckinsale seems to try hard as Lindy, but this flick shambles along from one dull fight to the next and even the surprise ending is exactly how we knew this would end up. Simply a waste of 90 minutes and a waste of Beckinsale, Courtney and Stanley Tucci, who plays Lindy’s therapist.
The Disappointments Room is exactly that. Kate Beckinsale stars as architect, wife and mother, Dana, who is moving into a rural country home with her family. Exploring her new house she finds it has a hidden locked room in the attic. Research reveals it’s a disappointments room…a room where well-to-do families hid deformed or handicapped children, to live out their lives in secret without ’embarrassing’ their families. Dana, having lost one of her own children, is especially disturbed by this and starts to see and be haunted by visions and apparitions of a past family and their deformed daughter. Is she just experiencing delusions caused by grief over the accidental death of her baby daughter, or is she really being haunted?
Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), from a script by he and Wentworth Miller, this is an incredibly generic ghost story. All the well-worn clichés are present, such as Dana being the only one who sees these apparitions and the husband (Mel Raido) leaving mid-haunting to go away for a few days with the haunted wife now home alone with her son (Duncan Joiner). Beckinsale really tries hard here to give her emotionally strained mom some depth, but the incredibly bland script doesn’t give her much to work with. Raido’s husband is the typical doubter who believes it’s all in his wife’s head and there is the stereotypical young, hunky handyman (Lucas Till) to hit on Beckinsale’s hot mom, in a sub-plot that goes nowhere. Caruso directs competently, but achieves only a few spooky moments and holds our interest only by a thread. Bland and very familiar.
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As a fan of the Underworld series I was both eager and apprehensive about this 4th installment, but as the credits rolled I had a smile on my face and had a good time. For starters, Kate Beckinsale is back in black latex returning as Death Dealer Selene. The story opens as man has discovered both Lycan and vampire and Selene has been separated from Michael, captured and cryogenically frozen as the war to cleanse the world of these supernatural species is underway. When released 12 years later, Selene finds a police state where Lycan and vampire are all but extinct and she has a 12 year old daughter (India Eisley) who’s unique nature makes her central to a sinister experiment. To save her daughter and her people, Selene finds herself with unexpected enemies and allies and that’s just fine with her.
Flick is directed this time by the duo of Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein from a script written by four people, including original series director Len Wiseman. At barely 90 minutes Underworld: Awakening is all about the action and there is plenty of it. It slows down to give us some story here and there and is surprisingly good at utilizing the time to move it along without stoping the momentum and the film does move quite fast. Selene is thrust into doing what she does best quite regularly and it is fairly well staged and gruesome at times. The only real weakness here is the CGI which was never very strong in this series. Otherwise it’s a brisk, fast paced fun time which won’t convert any new fans, but should please those there are.
Beckinsale is once again sexy and lethal returning as Selene. We do wish we got to know some of the new character’s a bit better such as Charles Dance’s vampire elder, filling the void of Bill Nighy’s Victor and Steven Rea’s bad guy scientist with a secret, is a fairly generic villain. Theo James is handsome and noble as David and Michael Ealy is fine as a human cop who may possible be being set-up as a human love interest for Selene. Too early to tell. Rounding out is India Eisley who is impressive as the young hybrid daughter that is a chip off the old block.
There are enough gun fights, explosions, spurting blood and shots of Kate Beckinsale’s perfectly shaped black latex wrapped bottom to keep everyone well entertained till the final scene, which hints that the sexy and lethal vampiress may not be hanging up her guns, or fetish gear, quite yet. And that’s fine with me.
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At this point the makers of the Underworld series aren’t even trying to lure in new viewers, just keeping the loyal fan base of this franchise interested and happy. But even the most loyal viewer would have to admit that with this entry, entertaining as it may be, the saga is starting to run out of gas. Blood Wars finds vampire hottie, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) having abandoned her daughter, to keep her safe and now being pursued by Lycan and Vampire alike. The wolves want her hybrid daughter’s blood to become more formidable, to tip the scales in their war with the vampires. Vampire councilwoman Semira (Lara Pulver) wants the latex covered Selene’s powerful blood so she can overthrow her coven leaders and take over. Selene’s only allies are Vampire Elder, Thomas (Charles Dance) and his hunky son, David (Theo James), who gained heightened abilities when given some of sexy but dour Selene’s blood in Underworld: Awakening. Still with me? Of course new Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) is out eradicate the vampires once and for all and has some bloody secrets of his own to help him accomplish this and poor, curvy, quick-triggered Selene is caught in the middle of it all. What a bloody mess!
Fifth go-around is competently directed by newcomer Anna Foerster from a script and story by Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward and is entertaining enough to pass the time. You have to be a fan of this series to appreciate the theatrical melodrama mixed with bone crunching action, but even then, it’s getting far too familiar to really set this new chapter apart from the last one…or any of the others. The filmmakers have realized this stuff has more of a cult audience and this flick has half the budget of the previous flick and thus is smaller scaled and delivers far more of that melodrama than some of the previous entries. There is still a decent amount of action, though it is fairly by-the-numbers and is nothing beyond what we expect from this series by now. It’s in the Twilight-esque moments that the film is weakest, thought, thankfully, those moments are usually bookended with some blood-spattering as the rapid fire editing keeps things from stagnating and us from thinking too much about how silly it all is. That is also one of the film’s weaknesses as there is little time to let dramatic plot points resonate and sometimes the movie jumps forward a little too quick for it’s own good. Selene’s final confrontation with Marius is a good example, it’s just over too quickly to have impact, despite a shocking reveal in it’s midst. The editing can be choppy in spots, as if there was an effort to get to the action more quickly and the opening chase is hard to follow as a result of being a bit too rapidly cut…much like the opening chase in the James Bond epic A Quantum Of Solace. Foerster seems to have a good visual eye and the snow set scenes are especially eye-catching, but if the series is to continue…and there are indications it is going to…they need to really shake things up a bit and give the series some new blood…pun intended.
The cast all take this stuff very seriously and it helps us do the same. Beckinsale can basically play Selene in her sleep at this point and the story has her a bit more sullen than usual. Pouting over her lost daughter and love Michael (played in flashbacks by both original actor Scott Speedman and stand-in Trent Garrett, who looks nothing like him) Selene is quite the sourpuss here, although she still looks stunning in latex and seems to cheer up when blasting Lycans or ripping out their spines. Theo James is a fine hero as David. The actor does the vampire heartthrob thing adequately, although the character does seem to only have been added to lure in the Twilight crowd who have nothing new to watch. Charles Dance is regal and noble as Thomas. A class actor giving the role strength beyond the simple script. Tobias Menzies is menacing enough as Marius, though he could have used a bit more charisma and Lara Pulver gives leading lady Beckinsale a run for her sexy money as vampish vamp Semira.
Overall, the movie did entertain, but only for fans who have enjoyed the previous flicks and are forgiving to the familiar material. Even so, the series needs some freshness injected into it or it may start to lose even it’s most loyal followers. Perhaps have Beckinsale’s Selene pass the torch to her wayward daughter and let mom’s latex covered buns only cameo, because, to be honest, we’d miss those latex covered buns if they were gone completely…after all, bullets, blood and buns is why we watch these movies.
Basically if you took the first Underworld movie and threw it in a blender with Stephen Sommers’ delirious cheese-fest Van Helsing… I, Frankenstein is what you’d get. And that isn’t all bad as I quite enjoyed Van Helsing for it’s audacious ridiculousness. I, Frankenstein is co-written by Underworld co-creator Kevin Grevioux based on his graphic novel and produced by the producers of the series that made Kate Beckinsale and latex catsuits a fanboy dream come true. The story tells of a war waged for centuries between the guardian Gargoyles and Hell spawned Demons lead by their prince Naberius (Bill Nighy). The creation of Dr. Frankensteins’s Monster (Aaron Eckhart) adds a dangerous twist as Naberius and the Demons seek to find out the legendary scientist’s secret of re-animating corpses so, they can create soulless vessels to host the spirits of all the Demons that the Gargoyles have vanquished, thus brining their souls back from Hell. Still with me? Now they have pursued the creature, named Adam by the Gargoyle queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), through two centuries into modern day as the monster has steadily been vanquishing them in return for bothering him. But, now with the help of a naive scientist, Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) the Demons have literally thousands of corpses stored ready for the time when they possess the creature or his creator’s journal and they can unleash their army of possessed corpses upon the world… and that time has come, as the journal is in their possession and Adam seeks to thwart their plans if the Gargoyles don’t destroy him first to keep him from their enemies’ hands. Whew! I think that’s it!
Despite the utterly ridiculous and convoluted plot, the movie can be fun at times especially due to the fact that it is taken so seriously by the filmmakers and cast despite being quite silly. Director Stuart Beattie (who co-wrote with Grevioux) does a really good job almost making you buy the ludicrous premise and stages the action well and keeps the melodrama at a level that doesn’t ever spill over into camp… though it skates close… and actually gives it a bit of weight. The film can be a little too serious at times considering it is about Frankenstein’s Monster caught between Gargoyles and Demons in a centuries old conflict between good and evil. And the film could have used a bit more ‘over the top’. Also, if the film added a conflict within Eckhart’s creature as to which side he should take, it might have been more interesting but, despite his reluctance to take sides, he seems to be leaning toward the anti-demon stance as they do want to take him apart to see how he ticks. Beattie has a really good cast. Eckhart is a proven good actor and he really gives a good performance in a cartoonish role that makes a superhero out of one of the most famous monsters in history. His going along with it and treating it with respect makes his Adam work despite the preposterousness. Nighy once again proves he is simply a great actor by giving strength and majesty to a cartoonish character similar to his Viktor in Underworld. The man can do no wrong in my book and can make any role work as he does here. Strahovski doesn’t do much but, look concerned, bewildered and pretty but, since that’s all she’s required to do, she does it well. Rounding out the cast is Miranda Otto giving regality to a cartoonish fantasy character, that of the Gargoyle Queen Lenore. A classy actress giving her all in a comic book part and she makes it work, too. We also have Jai Courtney in a supporting role as chief Gargoyle warrior Gideon. He gives the role a nobility but, the character really doesn’t amount to much when all is said and done. And, as with Underworld, Grevioux has a supporting role as a bodyguard. The SPFX are well done, there is some weak CGI but, most is quite suitable and the budget is used quite well in giving the film a lavish Gothic fantasy look to support the action.
So, I, Frankenstein was not the disaster that it’s weak box office led one to believe. It is a comic book style movie with a ludicrous plot and has the audacity to take itself very seriously when it could have easily been played for laughs. The story is ridiculous but, has some solid action and a great cast who give the cartoonish events and characters respect and play it straight. And despite the preposterous goings on, the solid cast and more then competent direction almost had me going along with it… almost. Not a great film by any means but, it passed the time and I did have a little fun with it. Not as audacious as Van Helsing but, close and if you were able to chuckle at that, give this a spin.