Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Year: 2012
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Marton Csokas

Plot: An alternate story of Abraham Lincoln, on how he became a vampire hunter before he became President of the United States of America.

Review: In order to enjoy this film, you're gonna have to allow yourself to accept that a real historical figure was a supernatural hero of sorts. That is the premise of this film.

Based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, it envisions Abraham Lincoln as a man who was a vampire killer before he joined politics and abolished slavery. The story begins when he was a child, as he witnessed his mother being killed by a vampire, and sought vengeance ever since. To that end, he learns the craft from Henry Sturgess, who saved him from being killed by a vampire.

Of course, this being Abraham Lincoln, the film fits in the important moments in Lincoln's life, like how he met his wife Mary Todd, how he becomes president, his famous speeches and the Civil War. The Civil War in particular is the most interesting aspect, as Grahame-Smith nicely connects Lincoln's war with the vampires to the conflict between the Union and the South.

Visual wise, director Timur Bekmambetov uses the same style he perfected in Wanted and the Nightwatch films: quick cuts and slow motion shots. Thankfully this actually works splendidly with the kind of film they were going for, even though sometimes it is hard to see the action clearly. The final action sequence involving a moving train is easily the best scene in the film.

Little known actor Benjamin Walker plays Lincoln, and is believable enough in the role. Walker looks a lot like a younger Liam Neeson, to be honest. The script unfortunately doesn't allow Walker to exercise too much of his acting chops, focusing more on his battle with the undead instead. Dominic Cooper fares better as Sturgess, the mysterious man with a score to settle. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a good job as Lincoln's wife while Rufus Sewell is sly as always as the antagonist Adam, head of the vampires.

Speaking of the vampires, the filmmakers rightfully made them look pretty intimidating, reminiscent of the ones in Van Helsing, but a lot less campy. No Twilight type bloodsuckers here, they're all business, brutal and bloody.

ALVH turned out to be a very entertaining action fantasy flick. It could use a bit more meat on its script and a bit more time to develop its characters, but it is a lot of fun to watch. Recommended. (3.5/5)  

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Year: 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce

Plot: An expedition to a distant planet to find mankind's origins turns ugly when they discover something more sinister.

Review: Prometheus has been widely anticipated because everyone wants to know whether it's a prequel to Alien or not. The answer is not quite, but it is set in that same universe, especially since the company funding this expedition is the Weyland Corporation, the same one from the Alien films.

Ridley Scott is known for two things as far as his work is concerned: details and great casting. Like most of his previous efforts, he scores on both fronts again here. The amount of detail that went into the construction of the Prometheus spaceship to the planet and its mysterious structure is incredible. It's gorgeous and scary at the same time, looking at the vastness and darkness at every corner. The aliens we eventually see in the film are also impressively done. As a viewer, you could almost feel yourself being in the crew's shoes, experiencing everything they are, being scared and awed all at once.

And of course, there is the great cast. Noomi Rapace acquits herself well here as Shaw, the scientist that leads the expedition. She is different from Ellen Ripley of the Alien films, being far more vulnerable and yet tough as well. Michael Fassbender however is the one who steals the show as the android David, who has a sinister agenda. Fassbender impresses as a character who really seems like the good guy, but probably is the one you shouldn't trust completely. Charlize Theron does better here than Snow White & The Huntsman, playing a cold bitch representing the company. Idris Elba fills the ship captain's role and does so very well indeed. Look out for a near unrecognisable Guy Pearce as Weyland himself.

Basically, Prometheus is a space thriller not unlike the first Alien film Scott made back in 1979. But here, he is more focused on mystery and intrigue rather than straightforward space horror. He paces the film well, never allowing it to remain stagnant for too long and keeping the viewers guessing with what's happening next. But I have to admit, there are still many questions left unanswered, and it feels like there ought to be one more story to be told before they get to the Alien timeline.

I thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus, and am thankful Scott didn't hold back on anything except certain questions left behind. The visuals, the mystery, the gore ( the surgery scene is awesome) all adds up to one hell of a film. (4.5/5) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snow White And The Huntsman

Year: 2012
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Vincent Regan

Plot: The second of two adaptations of the Snow White fairytale. No comedy, no Bollywood dancing. They're all business here.

Review: From the trailers, this Snow White film looks very much inspired from Lord Of The Rings, and indeed it is. We have magic, sorcery, knights in armor and battles galore, complete with a castle siege. It's nowhere near the level of Peter Jackson's epic, but it's okay because it doesn't need to be.

Rupert Sanders, a relatively new director, does quite well on his major feature film effort. Many directors wouldn't have went through the amount of detail Sanders had in making this film. The film runs slightly over 2 hours, which allows Sanders to explore his main characters thoroughly and not simply presenting them to the audience half expecting them to already know them from the books. As a result, the audience gets to respect and understand them, even though some may say it's not imperative to the plot.

Visually, Snow White is impressive as well. The evil Queen's sorcery, made up of youth sapping spells, armies of crows and the magic mirror all look awesome. The Queen's final confrontation with Snow White in particular uses a lot of visual effects and certainly succeeds in making this tale stand out.

Kristen Stewart has been given the honorable task of playing Snow White, and there are still so many out there who give her flak for it. To be fair, Stewart makes the most of her role as best she can, and manages to be convincing enough as the feisty Snow White. She's still a long way from an Oscar, but I'm happy to see her in this role. Chris Hemsworth, looking like he just came off the set of The Avengers, is also great as the huntsman, who is pictured here as a broken drunk looking for a reason to live, and finds it in the girl he'd been hired to hunt down. Strangely enough, it's Charlize Theron that slightly disappoints as the Queen. She chooses to ham up her performance to a level we would call overacting, as she barks and screams and wails half the time, abandoning nearly all of her subtlety.

Sam Claflin of Pirates Of the Caribbean 4 gets the role of William aka Prince Charming, but doesn't get a lot to do. And then there are the dwarves, eight instead of seven, played by the who's who of British film (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan among others), that add a bit of humor sorely needed in the film. But like Claflin, they don't get as much screentime as we'd like.

Overall, Snow White And The Huntsman is very entertaining but not without its flaws. With some restraint from Theron, more time for the dwarves, more humor and more action sequences from Stewart, this film would be perfect. But I still love it anyway. (4/5)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Men In Black 3

Year: 2012
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg

Plot: When a hostile alien known as Boris the Animal travels back in time and kills Agent K, Agent J must go back in time as well to save him and stop history from being altered.

Review: I must say that I've never really been a fan of the Men In Black films. I always considered them too weird for my liking. But as it so happens, I couldn't get tickets for Snow White and The Huntsman last Sunday, so I had to settle for this.

And as it turns out, MIB3 isn't half bad after all. Will Smith thankfully isn't as annoying as he usually is, and even better news is that he makes a good team with Josh Brolin, who plays the younger Agent K. Tommy Lee Jones on the other hand, doesn't get much screentime, but it's probably for the best since his age is really starting to show.

As with all MIB films, things tend to get really weird, with all the strange aliens going around. But to my relief, I didn't find it disgusting this time. The action is just average, but nothing to complain about. 

Credit must be given to Brolin for a spot on imitation of Jones' Agent K, from the deadpan delivery right down to the accent. Jemaine Clement makes an excellent villain as Boris, being intimidating and funny at the same time. Emma Thompson has a nice turn as the new chief, Agent O.

Plotwise, it isn't very original, but Sonnenfeld and co manage to surprise the audience with a twist in the climax that will actually make you care about our heroes.

All in all, MIB3 turned out to be more watchable than I expected. I sure as hell can't recall MIB2, so this instalment is a welcome addition to the franchise, and hopefully the last one. They ought to just quit while they're ahead. (3.5/5)


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