Friday, January 31, 2014

Me, Watch: I, Frankenstein

With monstrous special effects and a budget that would make any village restless,  I, Frankenstein lumbered into theaters this January. 


ARTH VADER (AV): This is not the Frankenstein’s monster I grew up with, Ponty, though this newly re-imagined look is curiously compelling. Mary Shelly’s original fiction about a scientifically reanimated corpse was a cautionary tale to the science community and society at large. The subtext was this; when women create life it is of the natural order of nature and life. When man creates lives, you get… well a monster. Sadly, Frankenstein is still a story that men are still butchering nearly 200 years later since this movie has nothing to do with Shelley’s anonymously published tale originally published in 1818. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have never read the comic graphic novel this film is based on and know this film bares no resemblance to Mary Shelly’s classic. That said, I found the idea to be intriguing even though it wasn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been. 


AV: As for acting, there just isn’t any in this film. The casting could have been far worse than Aaron Eckhart and Bill "Are you sure this isn't Underworld" Nighy. And while Yvonne "Killer Elite" Strahovski is easy on the eyes, I'm not altogether sure what role she's supposed to play. Damsel in distress? Naive, well-meaning doctor? Deceived do-gooder? Confusing at best. Sadly, though Eckhart is not necessarily a believable re-animated monster, he does hold a menacing sort of air. The direction was undeniably dark and with lots of sweeping wide-angle shots for me to lap up the big battle sequences. The camera does a solid job of keeping the effects shots prominent. 

TP: Aaron Eckart takes a crack at being the action hero… and I’m not so sure he sold audiences. He has always been a capable actor, I’m just not so sure this was the role for him. Bill Nighy is one of my favorites. No matter what he plays in, he brings something special to the screen and his role here was reminiscent  of his head vampire role in Underworld. Truth be told, there were really no standout performances and the rest of the cast seemed rather two dimensional for me. Never once was I vested in anyone in the film… just intrigued by what Bill Nighy was going to say or do next.
AV: Good solid, explosions, CGI-built environments and great-looking Gargoyles (you know, you gotta have Gargoyles, Ponty!), the visual effects are solid though I must say… really nothing new. And what the hell (literally) was up with the demons? Their looks, make-up and transformations were all tired and lazy, as if they were all after thoughts. That’s not a good sign for a flick that is trying to sell me on an eye-candy experience. 

TP: There was no new ground broken in this film, but it also didn’t completely screw the FX up either. I found them passable and actually entertaining. The contrast between “descending” and “ascending” was nice and there was one scene where the use of slow motion was done better than I’ve seen it done in a long time. The fights were predictable, but there was one in particular that was obviously well rehearsed and practiced to perfection as I sat wondering why most fight scenes in films I watch won’t invest such effort. Overall, good effects.
AV: This movie is the culmination of the writers, SFX artists, producers and even some of the actors from the famed Underworld series. Pontificator, I can sniff out made-for-sequel films from here to Transylvania and this one even ends with a monolithic, 'more to come' feel as the main character's epilogue delivers voice over that is unimpressive and foreboding. He does not have much to say about a senseless story involving demons and gargoyles that is both hard to follow and confusingly trite. The title of the film suggests the monster has fragmented speech but throughout the film, Eckhart's overly handsome 'monster' is articulate, intelligent and resolute. Mixed signals at best. 

TP: Ah Vader…I’m wishing I had something good to say, but instead I have a couple of complaints. Although I liked the idea of the story, the classic good versus evil with the monster of Frankenstein caught in the middle, there were some story elements that just didn’t make any sense… at all. Terra, the human doctor tasked with replicating the process that created Adam (Frankenstein’s monster) has just been told that her world is going to be overrun with demons… indeed, sees proof that they exist after helping Adam defeat one, but still starts the process that will unleash hundreds of thousands of them on Earth to try and reanimate her colleague that has just been killed? Umm… they weren’t lovers, and even so, she’s going to hand the world over to the demons for him? Dumb. Leonore, the head Gargoyle, finds the thousands of demons I just spoke of, in the middle of the reanimation process… and orders the two other other Gargoyles with her to start destroying them… one by one? Say what? How about just destroying the machine that they are all hooked up to and stop the reanimation sequence? Wait… that makes too much sense.


AV: You could tell from this movie’s narrative that it has “Trilogy” written in its DNA. I believe screenplays are already written for follow-up installments of I, Frankenstein. Based loosely on the fairly decent Darkstorm Comic's graphic novel and series written by Kevin Grevioux, there is a great deal of source material for this story, and if I know Hollywood–they will systematically ignore every bit of it. P-Man, how say you? 

TP: While the idea was good, the delivery wasn’t nearly good enough to sink a single dime into another go round. Please, don’t try to bring this back to life.

ARTH VADER rates I, Frankenstein: Swing and a miss, Hollywood. TIME Magazine Online reviewed this movie under the title "I, Frankenstein is NOT the worst movie ever made." I concur. Its fun to look at, a great idea (that gets fundamentally butchered as soon as the film begins) and has promise for future installments. Unfortunately, the absence of story, plot or acting (not to mention common sense) as well as a screenplay that assumes the audience is a group of over-stimulated 8-year olds, drops this movie where it lumbers. The movie simply fails to inspire. Still, I went to the lab and stitched together four (4) Busted Blocks and threw the switch still hoping for a spark. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates I, Frankenstein: Not the worst film of the year, but certainly not the best. Although the acting was lackluster, and the story stalled in some sections, the idea was interesting and there was some entertaining scenes. This movie killed the blocks, but managed to reanimate six (6) of them for mindless entertainment value.

I, Frankenstein: 5 / 10 Busted Blocks 

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Legend of Hercules: A Legendary Fail

New take on a classic character leaves a lot to be desired


ARTH VADER (AV): Not sure what part of this film claims to be faithful to the ancient tale of Hercules, the human son of the Greek God Zeus but this movie, for all its flaws does try to make a case for Hercules' humanity. By having him not only be completely in the dark about his heritage, Herc renounces his Dad (Zeus) as an absentee Father. Pontificator, I must say, I wanted to buy what this movie was selling but there was nothing (and no one) to get behind in this film. As for the characterizations of this film—how does 'unwatchable' grab you? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): It grabs me just fine Vader. There are many stories of Hercules, some that come from the classic mythology, some that don’t, and some that mix a little in while telling their own tale. This film is one of the latter as the only part taken from classic mythology was the killing of the Namean Lion…and the only part accurate was the lion itself, not the circumstances surrounding the encounter.


AV: The opening segments of this film starred a conquest-minded King Amphitryon (played squarely by Scott "Zero Dark Thirty" Adkins ) were not bad at all, right? I mean, we've seen these giant, re-cap war montages before in Lord of The Rings movies, Troy and 300 to name only a few and this was well done. But the casting of Kellan "Hey is this another Twilight film?" Lutz in the role of Hercules, was just… what the hell?!  Who green-lighted this? Do the people who even cast movies go see them? My God in heaven, what were they thinking? Kellan, who has little screen presence, appeared as far from the ideal of a young Hercules as one could get. His vapid, one-dimensional acting was as fake as his tan and to quote Hamlet (if I may) "There is something rotten in the state of Denmark." if you think that's all it takes to portray Hercules. 

TP: This is where the pain begins Vader. Casting was as disastrous as the acting. King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) spends the entire film angry and yelling. Gaia Weiss is so new and inexperienced that she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Hercules (Kellen Lutz) is never once believable, and probably should never stop doing Twilight films. The only person worth seeing that does a decent job is Liam McIntyre (Spartacus of Spartacus: Vengeance and Spartacus: War of the Damned). You know things are bad when a supporting role is the best part of the film. 


AV: There were no notable effects in this film. Now, I'm sure that many of the sweeping cityscapes in the wide angle and panoramic shots were all CGI as well as the blue-fire whip and the lightening zooming down from the heavens when he cries out "Father I believe in you!" (what?). And you can't forget the crazy and bizarre all-CGI lion Herc fights near the start of the film (huh?). One would think that a movie like this–given the state of VF/X these days–would have more need or use for visual effects. But you would be wrong, Ponty. Very, very wrong.

TP: This is where the pain continues Vader. The CGI is absolutely horrible, at least ten years behind what is being used in film today. The costumes are laughable, best taken back to whatever Broadway play they were stolen from. I have never seen a more liberal use of slow motion action sequences in my life. There was slow motion in some scenes that weren’t even combat oriented…just slow motion, just because. There was even one scene where the scenery is clearly on a scrolling screen to simulate movement. I mean…really??? There should be some sort of quality assurance process before something like this makes it to the silver screen. Seriously.


AV: This movie is so bad it actually held a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Given that was ALL reviewers (since on opening day no one else had seen it yet) that tells you that us snooty reviewers hated it. As for me, Ponty, there were moments when I had a good time with this film. No it’s true! I'm able, most of the time, to shut off my brain entirely and just watch a movie. Now how on Earth this movie cost $70 million to make is far beyond my meager understanding of Hollywood movie production. An epic fail in the opportunity column as this film does little-to-nothing to embrace the viewer and give them something to connect with. Even the ex-Twilight heartthrob couldn’t even bring a handful of teen girls in to see his rippling muscles tear down columns of granite and steel. 

TP: This is where I explain the pain, where I explain why my eyes were bleeding Vader. What I can’t explain is how a film, seemingly made from the budget of a week’s pay of a supermarket cashier, made it to any theater. The acting was as ridiculous as the story and the effects, which were neither special or effective. It’s probably easier for me to explain what was right about this film: The opening fight scene, and the fight scene between Hercules and the six Greek champions. Other than watching Liam McIntyre lower himself from cable television, that was it. This is a shining example that Hollywood has no shame. 


AV: Ten minutes after leaving the theater I would have forgotten this movie entirely, if it weren't for this blog. I would not think this movie would have left the hands of the distribution people but here we are reviewing. Unless there are scores of producers in Hollywood with untold millions to toss away, I can’t envision a world where a sequel to this train wreck is made. And to those  millionaires looking to recklessly throw away millions, please contact us through this blog. We need to sit and chat, because we have story ideas that will blow your mind (and your budget!). You’re up, old friend…

TP: This will be where the pain will become torture Vader. If they even think about a sequel, it will be the clearest indication ever, that Hollywood hates us and takes some sort of sadistic pleasure from our screams of agony. Just to echo, millionaires looking for great movie ideas…contact us, great ideas is what we do. Really.


ARTH VADER rates The Legend of Hercules: It’s too early in the year to give this movie a bomb of the year nod but there is no way in good conscience I would or could recommend this movie to anyone. While I did enjoy parts of this movie, there are far better ways to spend the cost of a movie ticket. Give it to the homeless or buy a book, hand it out to a kid on the street or even just see a different movie. This movie busted two (2) cement blocks (somehow!) and lets us never speak of it again.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Legend of Hercules: This film is horrible and busted a block for every high point it had: two fight scenes worth watching and showing why Liam McIntyre has his own series. That’s a total of only three (3) busted blocks…and I’m being generous! 

The Legend of Hercules: 2.5 Busted Blocks

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