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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.

2 and 1/2 gargoyles

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Even someone like me who has been watching movies for almost five decades and can be very cynical about them at times can be pleasantly surprised occasionally by a movie I wasn’t expecting much from. Odd Thomas is one of those pleasant surprises. Based on a book of the same name and the following series of novels by Dean Koontz, Stephen Sommers’ adaptation tells the story of Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) an eccentric young fellow who lives in Pico Mundo, a small town in California, and has a very unique talent. He is a clairvoyant who not only sees dead people, but other unearthly spirits as well. Odd Thomas…his real name…uses his special gifts to not only bring justice to those whose deaths are caused by foul play, but to thwart evil in general whenever it rears it’s ugly head. He has a beautiful, loving girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin) who understands his powers and is very supportive and acts as a sidekick. He also has a good friend in the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) who is grateful to Thomas’ ability to find the guilty and prevent heinous acts before they are committed. But there is an evil brewing in Pico Mundo signaled by the appearance of a strange man (Shuler Hensley) surrounded by demons and a rash of nightmares suffered by Odd, and some close to him, that foretell of a coming doom…a doom that even Odd Thomas may not be able to stop. But Odd is going to try, even if it costs him his life.

Despite being a far smaller film than Mummy and G.I. Joe director Stephen Sommers is used to, he brings his creative energy and fine-tunes his over-the-top style to give Odd Thomas a fast paced and eccentric tone that perfectly fits the material. He also creates some very creepy moments with his visual eye and crafts some very tense and suspenseful sequences, especially in the nail-biting last act. But what really made Odd Thomas a special treat for me was the combination of Sommers’ witty script banter and the wonderful work from his cast, especially lead Anton Yelchin. Yelchin creates a very likable hero who is saddled with a great burden and yet, not only uses it to do good and defeat evil, but is actually happy to do so. The banter between he and adorable leading lady Addison Timlin really creates a delightful character dynamic between the two and totally makes the relationship between this strange, yet noble, young man and his spunky and fiery girlfriend, work. It’s very effective and makes you really care about both of them. The same goes when either character is onscreen with Dafoe. The dynamic between the three characters is a delight to watch and really is what makes an already good supernatural suspense thriller even more enjoyable. Timlin and the veteran Dafoe shine in their parts and are great support for what is Yelchin’s show, one he carries to perfection. Shuler Hensley is also creepy and unsettling as “Fungus Bob”…Odd’s name for the man who triggers the events of the film…but he is just the tip of the iceberg and I will say no more as the less you know going in, the better it draws you into Odd’s attempt to uncover the diabolical plot in the making.

Odd Thomas is an odd and off-beat but very effective film from a writer/director usually more at home with bigger, more comic book-style stories. But here he shows he can also take things down a few notches and gives us some chills and entertainment on a smaller and more intimate scale. He can also gives us some very endearing and three dimensional characters to go with his story. And this book-based story of evil, both supernatural and human created, and the young man who stands in it’s way, is very entertaining if anything. A really fun and very plesant surprise. Shame this flick is getting dumped unceremoniously onto home media when so much junk gets a theatrical release.

Check out my review of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas book series HERE.

3 and 1/2 baseball bats.

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