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Van Helsing doesn’t make it to dawn

25 Jul


Writer/Director Stephen Sommers attempts to follow-up his blockbuster success of the Mummy franchise by digging up two of the most famous undead characters, Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and Frankenstein (Shuler Hensley) to fight Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), not to mention a cursed family championed by Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and her werewolf brother Velkan (Will Kemp). I was waiting for Abbot and Costello to show up since it is a Universal Horror film, but unfortunately they did not appear. The script becomes an alphabet soup of characters that are unable to come together and spell out anything that makes sense. There are some cool scenes and well-timed humor, but once the machine gun-like crossbow appears everything starts to go down hill. It would be one thing if Sommers was going for campy Evil Dead 2 humor, but the over-produced action sequences, high-profile cast and long run time kills such an idea from working.


Chuck’s Grade: C-

Adam’s Grade: C-

REPO! The Genetic Opera

22 May


Repo! The Genetic Opera is the latest cult film to emerge from the online streaming market. Released in 2008, writers Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich’s project comes to life under the direction of Darren Lynn Bousman as a horror/sci-fi opera about a twisted corporation supplying organs parts on credit, but if the customer cannot pay, then a Repo man takes it back. The story is told through a string of Goth songs and sung dialogue about greed, addiction, and death, as well as a series of comic book frames to introduce the main characters. For me, it took fifteen minutes to become interested when Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega) is established as the protagonist. Her solos and duets with her father (Anthony Stewart Head) are great, as well as the talented Sarah Brightman’s signature voice as Blind Mag. The costumes, make-up and dance help hide some poor casting choices. I didn’t join the cult, but I can appreciate an original effort.


Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C-

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does not live up to the hype

17 Dec


Director Peter Jackson’s first installment of the much anticipated J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit does not live up to the hype, but it does not mean audiences are going to turn their backs on the second and third parts of the series.  On the contrary, The Hobbit was a respectable film that gave an honest interpretation to the Tolkien’s text, but it probably wasn’t the best decision in this case because of the slow moving exposition, the intentional children friendly sequences, and the repetitive Gandalf to the rescue episodes.

The dwarfs are a fun group to follow, even though you have no idea who is who, and the reprise roles of Cate Blanchet, Hugo Weaving, and Christopher Lee are welcomed back with great enthusiasm, but the anchor that holds the ship from going off course is the appearance of Gollum and the famous riddle game. The Hobbit will be a successful franchise and I expect better things to come.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: C-

Centurion breaks the chain of command

2 Dec


The film opens with a shirtless Michael Fassbender running through the snow for his life. By the end of the movie I wished he had died in the snow because I did not feel any empathy for him at all. Writer/Director Neil Marshall’s story revolves around a Roman officer that has escaped the deadly clutches of the Picts, only to find himself running back to where he first began, in order to rescue a Roman General. Actually, I was more interested in how the ruthless female Pict tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko) was going to kill the Roman soldiers than hoping these men survived or not. The ironic thing about Kurylenko’s character is that she is mute, which is probably the main reason I enjoyed following her killing spree because she was all business. Although the script is flawed, Marshall does create a visually striking film at times that indicates there are better things to come from him.


Chuck’s Grade: C-

Adam’s Grade: C-

Ninja Assassin kills everyone

11 Nov

Martial art enthusiasts knew little about this random film produced by Joel Silver and The Wachowskis, but the opening scene let everyone know this movie meant business. Ninja stars fly through the air at machine gun pace while the “bad guys” lose body parts in a digital gore-fest. Audiences are primed for a wild ride, but this vehicle started at the top of the hill and descends quickly into a weak script, bad acting, and repetition. Raizo (Rain) is a ninja hellbent on revenge from his former master’s tyrannical ways. The ending looks promising with ninjas going head to head, but an unwanted Interpol police force invites themselves to the climatic ending and makes an otherwise exciting series of fight scenes stall out.

American audiences wondered who this ultra ripped ninja could be, but after a little research, he was a Korean pop singer/dancer voted one of the most beautiful people in the world by People magazine in 2007. Enough said.


Chuck’s Grade: C-
Adam’s Grade: C-

Immortals will not live on forever

17 Oct

This film has some wonderful moments, but not enough to place it into Hollywood’s pantheon of Greek God inspired classics.  I get excited every time Hollywood decides to explore Greek mythology, but lately contemporary films have abandoned the traditional reverence for the Gods and focus its attention towards an approach that presents the mortal characters in positions of defiance. The scenes featuring the Gods are memorable and exciting to watch, but unfortunately audiences must wait patiently for their appearances.

Director Tarsem Singh eye for design helps this 3-D film become an aesthetic wonder, but that’s about it. The film’s main shortcomings are the dialogue and the casting of the film’s protagonists. Theseus (Mark Cavill) is unable to match Mickey Rourke’s performance as the evil King Hyperion. Actually, all of the principal actors are outclassed by Rourke’s presence in the film. Also, the film’s graphic violence can be off-putting and distracting at times. Unfortunately, Immortals will not live on forever.


Chuck’s grade: B-
Adam’s grade: C-

The Grey gets lost in the snow

25 Sep

Here’s a movie that had all of the ingredients of being great film, but instead it settles for mediocrity. The story follows John Ottway (Liam Neeson), in another role similar to hi recent film Taken. Ottway and his co-workers are stranded in Alaska after a plane crash and they are then forced to survive repeated attacks from a pack of wolves. Man against beast has been a successful Hollywood vehicle for ages, but this film is nowhere near JAWS.

Writer/Director Joe Carnahan tries to create likeable characters that audiences could care about, but this group makes some of most stupid decisions ever. The script is slow moving and the action reminds people of a horror film they have seen numerous times before. The intensity of the Neeson’s acting keeps the film watchable, but its abrupt ending forces audiences to question what Carnahan was thinking.


Adam’s Grade: C-

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Nickelodeon takes us back

13 Sep

Nickelodeon takes audiences back to the early days when small independent film companies were trying to circumvent the Patents Company’s monopoly over the movie business.  Peter Bogdanovich creates a heartfelt comedy about a young writer/director learning how to make movies on the go with a Keystone-like cast of misfits in the unpopulated plains of California. The cast includes Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds (with and without a mustache), John Ritter, Stella Stevens, and a young Tatum O’Neal.

The film is a tribute to early filmmakers making the transition from hired help to artists. There are many “inside” references to the business throughout the film, but I believe the film’s humor can stand on its own without audiences having knowledge of people like D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. I admit there are times when Bogdanovich could have shorten scenes to help with the film’s pacing, but I can forgive those moments because he is paying tribute to our cinema’s wonderful history.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C-