Archive for January 11, 2009

Dracula 2000

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

The film opens in 1897, with Count Dracula’s voyage to England on the Demeterand his arrival in London. The narrative then moves forward to present-day London, with a group of thieves infiltrating the antique shop Carfax Abbey. Penetrating into its innermost vault they expect to find a fortune in treasure. Instead they encounter a sealed coffin. Upon attempting to move the coffin, some of the treasure-hunting party are gruesomely killed by the vault’s security system, leading the survivors to believe the coffin is the treasure they have come for. It is no surprise when the coffin is later revealed to contain the dormant body of Count Dracula. We learn that Carfax Abbey (also the name of Dracula’s London residence in Bram Stoker’s original novel) is owned and operated by Dracula’s nemesis, Abraham Van Helsing, who, after trapping and subduing Dracula a century before, has been keeping himself alive with injections of the vampire’s blood filtered through leeches until he can find a way to destroy Dracula forever.

While flying the coffin back to the United States one of the thieves manages to open the coffin, releasing Dracula. The count proceeds to feast on the blood of the thieves, one of whom happens to be flying the airplane, causing them to crash in the swamps of Louisiana. Surviving the crash, he heads to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Van Helsing’s estranged daughter Mary and her best friend Lucy live. Meanwhile Van Helsing and his assistant Simon head to the U.S. to recapture Dracula.

The one significant twist this film brings to the Dracula legend is its explanation of his origin. In this film, Dracula is established to be Judas Iscariot, cursed to walk the earth as an immortal for his betrayal of Jesus, being denied admission to both Heaven and Hell. This explains some of the vampire’s best-known weaknesses, primarily Christian iconography and silver, as Judas was paid in silver for betraying Christ to the authorities. Although Bram Stoker makes no reference to a vulnerability to silver in his novel, it is a part of some examples of European vampire folklore.

REVIEW:

A few weeks ago, I tortured myself by watching one of the worst movies of all time, Dracula 3000. Dracula 2000 is not the best of Dracula movie by a long shot, but it is head and shoulders above that abomination.

This film is really no different from any other Dracula film except it offers a different take on the origin and a few of his powers. In this adaptation, Dracula is said to be Judas Iscariot, which explains his hatred for things such as crosses and silver. I had never heard that theory before, and found it quite interesting.

Speaking of his powers, fort he most part, the film portrays the basic batch of Dracula powers except for one scene where it appears he has control of the weather. I may not be that well-schooled in Dracula lore, but I do know that I’ve never seen that before.

The methods with which Abraham Van Helsing, played by Christopher Plummer (yes Capt. Von Trapp from The Sound of Music) used to keep Dracula subdued were interesting, such as a cross on his crotch, leeches to suck his blood, and a special casket.

As I said earlier, this is far from being the best Dracula film, but it’s not the worst. It’s one of those that could have been alot worse than it ended up being. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest running out to see it, but chances are it won’t be shown on TV anytime soon, so you may have to if you can’t wait.

3 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In Christmas of 1954, a young Hellboy is told a bedtime story by his adoptive father, Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), involving an ancient war between man and magical creatures, all started by man’s greed. The master of the goblin blacksmiths built a golden mechanical army for King Balor (Roy Dotrice), the one-armed king of Elfland. The Golden Army devastated the humans so mercilessly that Balor forged a truce with them to stop the bloodshed: man would keep his cities and the creatures would keep their forests. Prince Nuada, Silverlance, son of King Balor, (Luke Goss), did not agree with the truce, and left in exile. The magical crown controlling the army was broken into three pieces, one piece going to the humans and the other two kept by the elves, so the Golden Army could never be used again.

In the present, Nuada declares war on the humans. He collects the first piece of the crown from an auction and kills his father for the second. His twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) escapes with the final piece. Meanwhile, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is having relationship issues with his girlfriend Elizabeth Anne Sherman (Selma Blair). He is also having trouble accepting that their organization, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, must remain a secret. During a mission to eradicate thousands of ravenous Tooth Fairies, which Nuada set loose as he took the first piece of the crown, Hellboy allows himself to be revealed to the world. In the commotion, Abraham Sapien (Doug Jones) discovers that Liz is pregnant. Furious about the public unveiling, Washington sends a new B.P.R.D. agent, the ectoplasmic medium Johann Krauss (Seth MacFarlane, John Alexander, & James Dodd), to take command. With Krauss in charge, the team tracks the Tooth Fairies to the Troll Market, an enormous merchant city hidden under the Brooklyn Bridge, for clues. Abe stumbles into Nuala, who has obtained a map leading to the Golden Army, during their search, and quickly falls in love with her. She is brought under B.P.R.D. protection following an attack by Nuada’s companion Mr. Wink (Brian Steele) and an Elemental Forest God. During the Elemental fight, Hellboy questions whether it is right to fight for the humans when he too is perceived by humans as a monster.

Nuada tracks his sister to the B.P.R.D. headquarters using their magical bond, which causes them to share wounds and allows them to read each others’ thoughts to an extent. Nuala, sensing her brother’s arrival, burns the map, along with the canister in which it came, and hides the final piece of the crown within one of Abe’s books. However, the real map is on the canister. Nuada kidnaps his sister and mortally wounds Hellboy with his spear. Unable to remove the spear shard, Liz, Abe, and Krauss take Hellboy to the location of the Golden Army, hidden in Northern Ireland. They encounter a goblin (Alexander), and he brings them before the Angel of Death (Jones), who has been waiting for their arrival. Though told that Hellboy would doom humanity if he lives, and that she’ll suffer the most from it, Liz pleads for Hellboy’s life. Amused by her choice, the Angel removes the shard from Hellboy’s chest and tells Liz to give him a reason to live. She reveals to Hellboy that he’s going to be a father, and he recovers.

The goblin leads the team to the resting place of the Golden Army (revealing that he is the builder of the Golden Army), where Nuada awaits them. In exchange for Nuala, Abe gives him the last piece of the crown. With the crown reformed, Nuada awakens the Golden Army and orders them to kill the agents. Fighting proves pointless, as the soldiers magically heal themselves when killed. Hellboy challenges Nuada for the right to the crown, and Nuada is forced to accept, since Hellboy, as Anung un Rama, son of the Fallen One, is royalty in Hell. Hellboy defeats Nuada and spares his life, but Nuada tries to stab Hellboy. Nuala commits suicide to stop her brother. Abe rushes to Nuala and psychically tells her his feelings for her before she dies. Liz then melts the crown, shutting down the Golden Army forever. As the B.P.R.D. agents leave the underground compound, Thomas Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) reprimands them for their actions. To his surprise, Hellboy, Liz, Abe, and Krauss all hand over their belts (though Hellboy keeps the Samaritan) and announce their resignation from the B.P.R.D. As they walk away, Hellboy contemplates his future life with Liz and their baby. Liz stops and corrects him, saying “babies”, surprising him with the fact that she is pregnant with twins.

REVIEW:

I’m not well versed in the Hellboy universe, other than the previous film and a few issues and cartoons I’ve seen, but I can say that this is one of the most entertaining films I saw in 2008, not just in terms of action and story, but visually.

Ron Perlman’s performance as Hellboy is even better in this one than the first. He seems more comfortable with the character, and at the same time it feels like he was born to play him.

I’ve read reviews that have said that Selma Blair’s performance as Liz Sherman left a lot to be desired. I’m not so sure I agree, but she did seem to be on the rag for a good portion of the film, then all of a sudden switched to being supportive. Can we say mood swing?

Doug Jones had the chance to reprise his role as Abe Sapien, but this time he was able to use his own voice, as well as give vocals to the Angel of Death and The Chamberlain. As far as Abe goes, I didn’t even really notice the change from David Hyde Pierce to Jones until it was mentioned. The Angel of Death is one of the best looking characters in the film and Jones gave it a voice that was both creepy and fitting.

Seth McFarlane really brought life to Johan Krauss with his voice. Not to mention the funniest part of the film. A German accent and saying “focused” don’t go together. I can just imagine how many uptight parents had a cow about that.

Nuala and Nuada are pretty cool, but the fact that when Nuada was hurt in battle it would hurt Nuada reminded me of Tomax and Xamot from the old  G.I. Joe cartoon. That’s not to mention the creepy incest type relationship it appears they have and the fact that when they died they turned into some sort of soap looking material.

As I said before, this film is visually stunning. Honestly, did you expect less from Benecio del Toro, the man who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth?  The sets and creatures are works of art and compliment the styling of the source material.

This is what a comic book film should be, filled with action and fun, and not dark and broody to the point that you’re depressed when the film is over *cough* Dark Knight *cough*.  I hope that this isn’t the last in the Hellboy series, but it could b a while before he returns to the screen since del Toro is busy in Middle Earth. It’ll be worth the wait, though. Watch this one and you’ll see why!

5 out of 5 stars

Tropic Thunder

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Prior to the film a faux commercial and several faux trailers are shown, in a similar matter to those shown prior to the 2007 film Grindhouse. The commercial depicts Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) promoting his two brands: the “Booty Sweat” energy drink and “Bust-A-Nut” candy bar. The first trailer shows Tugg Speedman’s (Stiller) latest film, Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown, the latest entry in a large action-adventure film franchise. The following trailer is for Jeff Portnoy’s (Black) film, The Fatties: Fart 2, about a family (with each member played by Portnoy) which enjoys farting. The final trailer, entitled Satan’s Alley, features Kirk Lazarus (Downey) and Tobey Maguire (cameoing as himself) as two gay priests at an 18th century monastery.

During the filming of Vietnam veteran John “Four Leaf” Tayback’s (Nick Nolte) memoir Tropic Thunder, the stars—fading action hero Tugg Speedman, five-time Academy Award-winning method actor Kirk Lazarus, rapper Alpa Chino, and drug addicted comedian Jeff Portnoy—behave unreasonably (with the exception of newcomer supporting actor Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Production is going poorly: rookie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is unable to control the actors while filming a large war scene and $4 million of explosions go off with no cameras rolling, and filming is reported to be a month behind schedule after only five days of shooting; consequently, the media dubs the production “the most expensive war movie never made.” Cockburn is ordered by studio executive Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) to get the production back on track or risk having it shut down.

Acting on Tayback’s advice, Cockburn drops the actors into the middle of the jungle, where he has installed many hidden cameras and special-effect explosions rigged so he can film “guerrilla-style”. The actors have guns that fire blanks, along with a map and a scene listing that will guide them to the helicopter waiting at the end of the jungle route. Unbeknownst to the actors and the production, the five actors have been dropped in the middle of the Golden Triangle, the home of the heroin-producing Flaming Dragon gang. The gang believe the actors to be Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. Shortly after the group is dropped off, the actors are stunned to see Cockburn blown up by a land mine left by the French during the First Indochina War. Speedman, believing Cockburn faked his death, attempts to convince the other actors that it was a hoax. After a brief battle with the Flaming Dragon gang, he is able to persuade Chino, Portnoy, and Sandusky into believing that Cockburn is alive and that they are still shooting the film. Lazarus is unconvinced that Cockburn is alive, but joins the other actors in their trek through the jungle.

When Tayback and pyrotechnics operator Cody Underwood (Danny R. McBride) attempt to locate the now-dead director, they are captured by the drug gang, at which point Tayback is exposed as a fraud when Underwood pulls off his prosthetic hooks to reveal fully functioning arms. Meanwhile, the actors continue to forge through the hostile jungle. After Lazarus and Sandusky discover that Speedman is leading them in the wrong direction, the four actors, tired of walking through the jungle and hoping to be rescued, part ways from Speedman who leaves by himself to follow the film’s scene listing.

Slowly going insane, Speedman is captured and taken to the Flaming Dragon’s heroin factory, which he initially believes to be a prisoner-of-war camp from the script. The gang soon realizes that he is the star of the box office bomb Simple Jack(the only movie they have, on VHS) and force him to reenact it several times a day. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Speedman’s agent, Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey), is trying to negotiate with an uninterested Grossman a to-date unfulfilled term in Speedman’s contract that entitles him to a TiVo on location. When they are contacted by the Flaming Dragon gang and are asked for a ransom, Grossman instead curses out the gang and then tells Rick and Slolom, who is also present, that they can benefit more by collecting the insurance claim on Speedman’s death, even offering the agent a share of the profits along with his own personal airplane.

The other actors stumble upon the Flaming Dragon’s heroin factory. After seeing Speedman being tortured, they plan an ambush based on the film’s plot line. Lazarus impersonates a farmer who has caught Jeff in his farm, distracting the armed guards so Chino and Sandusky can sneak into the building where the captives are held. After the gang notices inconsistencies in Lazarus’ story, the actors open fire on the gang, temporarily subduing them. When the gang realizes that the suspected DEA agents are only actors using guns filled with blanks, they begin firing on the actors.

Chino, Portnoy, Sandusky, and Lazarus locate Speedman and attempt an escape in Underwood and Tayback’s recaptured helicopter. After rejoining with Tayback and crossing a bridge that Underwood has previously rigged to detonate, they meet up with Underwood at the helicopter. Speedman asks to remain behind with the gang which he considers his “family”, but he quickly returns with the murderous gang in hot pursuit. Tayback detonates the bridge just in time for Speedman to reach safety, but as the actors and crew escape from the jungle, the gang fires an RPG at their helicopter. A disheveled Rick unexpectedly stumbles out of the jungle carrying a TiVo box and throws it in the path of the RPG, saving them all.

Footage from the hidden cameras is compiled into a feature film, Tropic Blunder, which ends up becoming a major critical and box office hit and a multiple-Academy Award winner. The film breaks Speedman’s streak of flops and he wins Best Actor, which is presented to him by the previous year’s winner, Lazarus. The film concludes with Grossman dancing to “Get Back” as the credits appear beside him.

REVIEW:

Upon seeing the trailer for this film this summer, I assumed it was just a war film and had no intention of seeing it. Then, it came out and got rave reviews from many of my friends. I still waited for the DVD, mainly for financial reasons. It was either gas or movie tickets and gas won out.

Who would have ever thought to that a film with Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. would be not only hilarious, but a pretty good film cinematically speaking, as well.

Ben Stiller is obviously the star of the film (not to mention he directed). He’s carried films before, but this time he has help as Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr. (who’s popularity from Iron Man  brought in some major buzz). Stiller does a competent job, but this is not his best work, comedically.

Robert Downey, Jr. had been written off as an addict before this year in which he has had success in every film he’s been in, and this was no exception. His role as Kirk Lazarus was nothing short of amazing. He was, as he says near the end of the film, “the dude playing the dude dressed as another dude.”

Jack Black is his normal self, and to be honest, not really sure why he gets star billing.

Tom Cruise makes a surprise appearance as over the top studio exec Les Grossman and steals the show, especially during the later terrorist scenes and at the very end.

Also making a surprise appearance is Matthew McConaughey. Sorry ladies, he keeps his shirt on in this one. McConaughey gives a good performance as Stiller’s agent and probably could have done with a bit more screen time, but that was probably cut in the final editing.

The film starts off a bit odd, with trailers for each of the “stars”, but those are some of the funniest parts of the film. I’ll tell you, though, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr.’s characters films could actually end up being made.

This film is a spoof on war movies and how actors can be. One must wonder how much is truth and how much is spoof, though.

The plot is pretty good, though I kind of wished there was more about the actors lives off set before they came to work on this film, but that’s a minor qualm.

From the moment this movie came out, I’ve heard nothing but how hilarious this film was and how I needed to see it. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t blown away by it. It is funny, but I’ve seen funnier. This is one of those that you have to see for yourself to make your own decision about.

4 out of 5 stars