If you're just looking for a well-made ghost story, Mama fits the bill nicely.
Mama, a supernatural horror movie, is "workmanlike" in the best sense of the word. It's not particularly innovative or deep, but if you're just looking for a well-made ghost story, Mama fits the bill nicely.
Mama isn't very gory, and unlike most contemporary ghost stories, it doesn't spring any particularly wild twists on its viewers. In fact, the story is rather straight forward, and the audience more or less always knows what's happening and why. Mama's charms are more simple, almost quaint: haunting atmospheres and spooky visuals, likable and smart characters, and strong acting across the board.
I would compare Mama to Ring, The Others, and The Sixth Sense.
Dollhouse is a very smart show; I love it despite it having some significant flaws.
I love Dollhouse. It's one of the smartest, deepest sci-fi shows I've ever watched. It explores themes of identity, memory, free will, gender, and the very essence of humanity, while keeping you entertained with lots of awesome spy-fi geekery.
However, the show has some significant flaws: The first 5 episodes are mediocre at best, but since the show is heavily serialized, you can't really skip them. Eliza Dushku doesn't have quite the range or the presence to fully convince as the main character. The show never quite looks or feels as sharp as it should, especially compared to "Alias" or "Fringe". As it nears its endgame, Dollhouse reveals a major plot twist that barely makes sense on a plot level and certainly doesn't make any sense on an emotional level.
Despite all those flaws, Dollhouse is still a great show if you bring just a little good-will and patience. Dushku's shortcomings as an actress are actually balanced out by a truly fantastic supporting cast (Dichen Lachman, Enver Gjokaj, Olivia Williams, Amy Acker, Summer Glau, Tahmoh Penikett, Alan Tudyk etc...)
In a way, Dollhouse has similarities to spy-fi shows like "Alias" and "Nikita", bit it has much more on it's mind. It explores some seriously deep issues instead of being just mindless entertainment. I would compare the show most to "Fringe", "Orphan Black", and the old 60es cult series "The Prisoner". I recommend Dollhouse to anybody with a taste for cerebral sci-fi.
Excellent on a craft level, but politically problematic
On a pure craft level, "Zero Dark Thirty" is impeccable. The acting is strong across the board, the direction and storytelling elegant, the action scenes tense, the score unobtrusive and just right. The whole movie is just put together very nicely. It's the reason why I gave it a relatively high score.
But I find the movie problematic, and I'm not even talking about the torture controversy (about which I don't have a solid opinion yet.)
"Zero Dark Thirty" begins with the proclamation that the story is "based on first-hand accounts of real events", while real-life audio from the 9/11 attacks plays in the background. The entire movie is shot in a dry, matter-of-fact way. "This is the way it happened, these are the facts", the movie seems to be telling us, literally and stylistically.
But the movie is also fiction, and in interviews, the filmmakers talk about how they allowed themselves some creative freedom for narrative reasons.
But where is the line between fiction and journalism here? For example, the movies main character "Maya" does not exist in real life... but she's "based on a real person". Various real life events are depicted, but are they really connected to each-other the way the movie suggests? Are the filmmakers making changes to the story for narrative reasons alone, or are they manipulating us, with a political agenda in mind? While watching the movie, I found myself asking those questions. I felt uneasy, and not in a good way.
I think the movie lacks transparency when it comes to just how accurate it is. That wouldn't be a problem if it was a period piece, but I think it's a huge problem here, when dealing with very recent events that still have a lot of political weight. This movie has the power to sway public opinion on hot-button issues one way or the other, and to me, its murky mix of journalism and fiction seems downright immoral in that context.
'The Fourth Kind' is basically 'X-Files' crossed with 'The Blair Witch Project'. An alien abduction mockumentary, following a psychologist who's using hypnotherapy to find out just what is going on in her home town, where people keep disappearing under mysterious circumstances.
I've read more than a couple of reviews that complained how the 'based on a real story'-shtick wasn't believable. Well, it's not, but I think those people are missing the point. "The Fourth Kind" is clearly pure fiction, and not meant to be taken as anything else. The mockumentary trappings are just meant to add some style to the story, and they succeed in that.
Now, the mockumentary angle is overly familiar, as is the story, which unfolds exactly as you would expect. If you're looking for originality and surprises, skip this one. But as a meat-and-potatoes horror movie, it's perfectly solid. There are some good scares, and some haunting moments. If a horror movie about alien abductions sounds like something that would entertain you, 'The fourth Kind' is likely to do the trick.
casshern is a unique, dazzling visual spectacle, but otherwise its deeply flawed.
the history of film is full of entries that have more style than substance, but rarely has the divide between the visuals and the content been this wide. casshern is a unique, dazzling visual spectacle, but otherwise its deeply flawed.
lets talk about those flaws first. casshern makes the classic sci-fi nerd mistake of wrapping an undercooked idea in an overcooked plot. the resulting story is boringly simplistic and incomprehensibly convoluted at once. at its core, casshern is an anti-war movie, but not only does it have nothing interesting to say other than "war is eeeevil", but it contradicts itself by fetishizing violence, and clutters its main message further with a vague anti-bio-engineering stance that seems completely unfounded. add some outrageously dated gender roles, a sluggish pace, unclear character motivations, lots of heavy-handed melodrama, and a plot so byzantine its all but incomprehensible on first viewing, and you have... a hot mess.
however, for those who are patient and bring some good-will, some of those problems become less pronounced on second viewing. once the plot more or less clicks, the story shows a little more depth than it initially seemed.
but the one thing that makes this movie worth watching - and make no mistake, it IS worth watching - is its visuals. words can not describe what a gorgeous steam-punk sci-fi animé masterpiece this is. every minute is brimming with dazzling pictures, from the eye-popping landscapes, to the head-spinning battle scenes, to the terrifying flashes of war-memories. really, I'm not gonna go further into this, because whats the point? just go and see it. you will probably find the story acceptable at best, terribly boring at worst, but the visuals will make sure that you wont regret a single second of it.
Lots of eye-candy and ultra violence, and not too much bullshit surrounding it
"Mutant Chronicles" is a steam-punk action flick that borrows more than a few elements from "The Lord of the Rings", shares its monochromatic goth sensibilities with the "Underworld" franchise, and wears its artificiality proudly like "Casshern" or "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow". It's not a good movie in the strictest sense of he word, but like the most of the movies mentioned above, it's a lot of fun and a perfectly enjoyable pulp flick.
What doesn't work: Somewhat typically for the genre, the story is very simple (get from A to B, mow down everybody that stands in your way) yet told in a overly convoluted way. Notably all the religious mumbo-jumbo doesn't really lead anywhere and is just plain annoying. There is a particularly boring, exposition-tastic stretch between the opening action scene and when the party finally goes on its mission. That part also includes a cameo by John Malkovich who gives a jaw-droppingly awful performance.
On to what does work: The movie clearly had a limited budget, but the filmmakers turn that to their advantage, as they don't hide the video-game aesthetics but revel in them, making the whole movie a stylish, proudly low-budget affair. The performances are all solid (with the exception of Malkovich). The party is a unexpectedly likable bunch, and i would love to see them in more adventures together. Particularly Thomas Jane, Anna Walton, and Devon Aoki stand out. They Might not blow away anybody with their acting chops here, but they are a joy to look at and make formidable action heroes, coming across as incredibly cool, despite some clunky dialog.
Ultimately, with those kinds of movies, the question is mostly whether the good out-weights the bad, and in this case it does. Lots of post-apocalyptic eye-candy and ultra violence, and not too much bullshit surrounding it - perfectly enjoyable.
an unapologetic genre film, consisting entirely of familiar elements
"Push" is an unapologetic genre film, consisting entirely of familiar elements. The story about super-powered people being hunted recalls "X-Men" and "Heroes", the rebells-vs-evil-government theme is taken straight from "V For Vendetta", the run-down future echoes "Blade Runner" and "Children Of Men" with a little bit of "Firefly/Serenity" thrown in, the arty direction is reminiscent of the Bourne movies. So the question is, can "Push" make such overtly familiar elements feel fresh again? The answer is yes and no.
The yes-parts: Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans are likable and charming leads. and the whole movie is generally quite stylish, nothing reaches eye-rolling levels of stupidity, which is worth mentioning in these kinds of movies. everything is done quite well and with a certain sophistication. But here start the no-parts: everything is done quite well, but nothing really stands out, nothing really grabs you. Furthermore, the exposition is clumsy, the plot is convoluted yet uninteresting, the whole movie goes on for too long, and Camilla Belle basically sleepwalks through the entire thing.
So, a mixed bag of good and bad, sophisticated and boring. It's worth a look if you're fond of the movies referenced above and you don't mind the lack of originality.
The first two X-Men movies got the balance just right. The third entry? Not so much.
Warning: major spoilers! Another warning: comic book geek speaking!
Producing a good X-Men movie must be extremely difficult. The filmmakers ideally would have to appeal to both casual audiences and fan-boys, juggle an extensive cast, deal with the inherent pulpiness of the source material, work in dramatic character moments and heady concepts alike, and excel at action scenes and special effects. The first two X-Men movies were pretty much perfect, getting the balance just right. The third entry? Not so much.
On the surface, the "X-Men: The Last Stand" at least feels coherent with the previous entries, so director Brett Ratner deserves some credit for getting the tone right.
I also liked the idea of combining the "Dark Phoenix Saga", arguably the most iconic X-Men story ever written, with "Gifted", a modern classic. The biggest problem with "Dark Phoenix Saga" is that it doesn't really resonate with the X-Men's central themes of oppression and prejudice; bringing in elements of "Gifted" for thematic relevance was a smart move.
So much about what I liked. Unfortunately, the filmmakers screwed up about everything else.
The whole movie feels rushed. The plot is extremely simple, and the characters don't have enough space to breathe. Important characters are shoved to the background or unceremoniously killed off (Rogue, Cyclops). Other, less developed characters inexplicably take center stage (Storm, Colossus, Shadowcat). Wolverine gets so much screen time it becomes annoying.
With both characters and plot taking a backseat, the movie is reduced to an action- and cgi-spectacle. Sadly, the movie doesn't really impress on that front, either. Some scenes are sweet (the opening flashback, Magneto attacking the truck, Juggernaut chasing Kitty), but mostly, the effects are disappointingly mediocre.
From a comic geek point of view, I was also bothered by how much the movie diverges from the comics. The previous entries made some significant changes, but it always felt like the source material was highly respected. I didn't get that feeling when they killed off Cyclops, or introduced their versions of Calisto and her entourage.
Ultimately, "X-Men: The Last Stand" just doesn't work on a number of levels, and is a very disappointing conclusion to the trilogy.
"Tin Man" hasn't got any depth, and it doesn't have enough style to compensate for it's lack of substance.
"Tin Man" is "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz" re-imagined as a dark, epic steampunk fantasy. The concept of bringing out the darker undercurrents of a beloved children's tale reminded me a lot of the computer game "American McGee's Alice", although "Tin Man" isn't quite that violent. Another obvious influence is Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
It's a concept with the potential to be very entertaining, but it doesn't quite come together. The biggest problem is that "Tin Man" hasn't got any depth whatsoever - the original tale's messages are completely lost - and it doesn't have enough style to compensate for it's lack of substance.
Some of the special effects just look cheap and some sets and costumes are terribly unimaginative. The cast isn't all that great either. Zooey Deschanel is adorable, but she makes a terrible action heroine, coming across as unintentionally clumsy and clueless. Worst of all is Raoul Trujillo as the laughable "Raw" (the character analogous to the Cowardly Lion). And the whole series just goes on for way too long.
There are nice moments scattered throughout the series, such as the re-imagined Emerald City, and some of the actors do a pretty good job. But ultimately "Tin Man" is a wasted opportunity.
neo-paganism was very popular amongst the teen crowd in the mid-90es, and "the craft" is the teen flick that cashed in on that trend. the movie is flawed but still enjoyable in a b-movie way.
(very mild spoilers ahead. not that it really matters, since predictability is one of "the craft"s problems.)
the plot is about a coven of teenage witches who start using their powers for their own selfish goals, but then must learn the hard way that unleashing magical forces is much easier than controlling them, and that there is a price for everything. so far, so predictable. however, the story rarely follows its own rules: Sarah and Rochelle must never really pay for what they did to Chris and Laura. and why its implied that Bonnie has to pay for getting rid of her awful scars by having more scars, i don't understand; its not that she was hurting anyone with that spell. the general message comes across, but the story falls apart upon closer inspection.
the performances are a mixed bag. Fairuza Balk is deliciously evil and Neve Campbell does a good job as well. but lead actress Robin Tunney is a bit too bland, and her character development from ordinary girl to reasonable witch to pathetic crybaby to super-tough power-wicca seems forced. Rachel True's presence is forgettable, but that has more to do with her painfully underwritten character than her acting.
despite its many flaws, "the craft" is still breezy fun with its wish-fulfillment/power-fantasy story line and generally likable tone. just don't expect too much.
the by far most compelling interpretation of the dark knight
i was terribly disappointed by Burton's first batman movie. so i was very surprised by "batman returns", which just blew me away. what a great interpretation of a great superhero!
"batman returns" has the atmosphere of a dark, Gothic fairytale, full with Burton's trademark grotesque and whimsy, and a dash of sexual kink. the set pieces, costumes and make up are gorgeous. but the darkness never becomes depressing, the movie is always fun to watch. for adults, anyway; for children, it might be a bit too dark and violent.
Batman fights three villains, all of which are compelling characters. Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken give good performances as the psychotic Penguin and the ruthless businessman Max Shrek. but its Michelle Pfeiffer who steals the show with her amazing interpretation of the arguably greatest DC character ever, Catwoman.
"batman returns" has a couple of flaws, most notably Batman himself, played by Michael Keaton. he delivers a solid performance, but he has absolutely zero sex appeal or charisma. it doesn't help that he wears a dorky looking rubber costume that stands out in its ugliness amidst all the beautiful set-pieces and costumes. its a good thing then that the movie seems to focus more on the villains than the hero, since each one of them is far more interesting than the lead.
other flaws include the story, which feels more like a series of events rather than a well constructed arc, or the rather mediocre action scenes. but these things barely register, since "batman returns" has more than enough momentum and charm to even get away with having a weak lead. this is the by far most compelling interpretation of the dark knight and the twisted world he lives in.
"shakespeare in love" is, at its core, nothing more than a standard romance movie. furthermore, like most movies about artists or works of art, fictional or not, it suffers from trying to explain genius. but "shakespeare in love" is raised above mediocrity by all-around good performances and stunning costume design. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow are adorable as star-crossed lovers, and they get fantastic support by the comical Geoffrey Rush and the dashingly handsome Ben Affleck. the best performance, though, comes from Judi Dench who has a short but delicious turn as queen Elizabeth. all in all, a better than average romance movie and a must see for fans of period costumes.
a great and unique artistic vision, but they completely blew the execution
moulin rouge! seems to be universally beloved, so i saw it with high expectations, but also with an open mind. i really wanted to like this movie. however, i was rather disappointed.
i think i can see what they are trying to do here: the cinematic equivalent of a great pop song. simple in its content, glamorous in its presentation and honest in its emotion. its a great and daring artistic vision and certainly unlike anything I've seen so far. so it really pains me that they completely blew the execution.
the biggest (but far from only) mistake is casting Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as the leads. neither of them can sing, which is fatal in a love story in which the lovers express their feelings by bursting into song. furthermore, they lack chemistry and utterly fail to convince in their roles. Kidman spends the first half of the movie squeaking hysterically and the second half being the passive observer of her own fate; McGregor is styled as if he was a member of the Backstreet Boys.
but there are so many other things that bothered me. the comedy parts are so over the top that they are more annoying than funny. the voice-over narration is just lazy. and i know in a movie like this the story is not really important, but still, it wouldn't have hurt to have a slightly less idiotic plot.
the selection of songs is a mixed bag: Patti Labelles "lady marmalade" and the polices "Roxanne" are a given, and there are flashes of brilliance (eg. Nirvanas "smells like teen spirit", Madonnas "material girl"). but "the sound of music" and "rhythm of the night"? "up where we belong"? really? and for a film that relies so heavily on its production design, Moulin Rouge! is remarkably tasteless, even for a film that embraces kitsch. (check out Sofia Coppolas "Marie Antoinette", François Ozons "8 Femmes" or Todd Haynes' "velvet goldmine" to see how these things should be done.)
if seen with lesser expectations, Moulin Rouge! is still an enjoyable rush with an admirable artistic vision buried somewhere underneath its many flaws. its certainly courageous and unique, and it will probably be even more hilarious to see it in ten or twenty years. but really, i don't understand why it was so successful.
after the first sequel was just a little too long and convoluted to be fully satisfying, the pirates of the caribbean franchise is definitely back on track with its third entry. OK, it still runs a little longer than it ideally would and the plot still is a little more complicated than necessary, but these flaws barely register as everything else is amplified to the level of ultimate awesomeness. stunning cinematography, gorgeous costumes and sets, dazzling special effects and action scenes... the visuals are just mind-blowing. the movie also has a darker and more epic tone than the previous entries that makes it feel significant; fortunately, it still keeps a healthy sense of humor.
the characters still are what makes this franchise so great. Johnny Depp (as Jack Sparrow) remains the star and he has great chemistry with newly returned antagonist Geoffrey Rush (captain Barbossa). but the biggest surprise is Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) as her character finally gets developed the way she deserves. she now definitely isn't the typical romantic interest/damsel in distress anymore, and Knightleys impressive performance gives the film a subtle, very welcome feminist undertone. more fantastic characters are introduced, most notably Chow Yun-Fat as Captain Sao Feng and Keith Richards as Captain Teague. my secret favorites, however, are Lian and Park (the twin-girls in the first scene with Yun-Fat) and mistress Ching of the Brethren court.
so, despite its flaws, at worlds end is so awesome that I've actually enjoyed it more than the original pirates of the caribbean. if this is the end of the franchise, its a graceful exit. if they'll keep making sequels, i can only hope that they'll be as great as this.
the weak and confusing story weights down all thats good
underworld: evolution is clearly made for those who liked the first underworld film, and it cant stand for itself. but as a sequel it does many things right by keeping most successful elements of the first movie and improving on the flaws. so, Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman are still great as the leading sweethearts while Shane Brolly (as Kraven) is killed off early. the production design is still awesome while the action scenes and special effects have improved drastically.
however, the most surprising good thing about the original underworld was its story, which is also this sequels greatest letdown. not much happens throughout the movie, its basically just one action scene after another. and yet i found what little story there is kinda hard to follow. who wants what exactly for what reason? why is everybody always fighting everybody? is Michael the first and only hybrid, or is Marcus a hybrid as well? Alexander Corvinus doesn't have the heart to kill his son but helps Selene do it? its really a pity the weak and confusing story weights down all thats good about this movie.
with dead mans chest the pirates of the caribbean make the jump from one time sugar rush to full fledged franchise. its a good idea, since that fictional world has tons of potential and the characters are great. the filmmakers get almost everything right: the characters we all fell for are back, new fun characters are introduced (my favorite being Naomie Harris as voodoo priestess Tia Dalma), and there is lots of kinetic action, a good sense of humor, lovely visuals and some spooks. unfortunately, the film is burdened with a incomprehensibly complicated plot that sucks away a lot of energy. it doesn't help that the film goes on for much too long and spends a lot of time focusing on Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom) who is the least interesting of the three main characters. the story involves at least three major parties, all of which have secret motives and keep lying and double-crossing one another. its probably best to not think too much about the plot and just enjoy the ride and see where the film takes you. dead mans chest is ultimately a bit of a disappointment, but as it turned out, its just the build-up for the next entry, which is much better.
every idea in equilibrium is stolen from better films (THX 1138, blade runner, the matrix...) and the one original idea it has ("gunkata") doesn't make any sense. the story is awfully predictable and has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. the twisting plot is more ridiculous than suspenseful. the love story doesn't ring true. the production design is cyber-punk at its most generic. the soundtrack is annoyingly overblown. everybody in this movie seems to be at least a little stupid. the guys were supposed to be rooting for (the "resistance") look like a bunch of junkies. the world the filmmakers show us doesn't really work if you think about it (characters that are supposed to be completely without emotions keep displaying emotions... the dictators who are out to destroy all art have artwork in their headquarters... the citizens just sit around in front of huge screens that explain the plot... the list goes on).
but for its many, many flaws, equilibrium still feels more like an admirable effort rather than a cheap rip-off. easily the best thing about the movie are the carefully choreographed gunfights; as stupid a concept "gunkata" may be, it at least looks pretty. Christian bale gets the most out of a role thats practically identical to keanu reeves' in matrix (also, we see him shirtless). there is an artistic vision behind all this, even if its one that relies heavily on borrowed ideas, and thats what makes equilibrium a reasonably enjoyable film for fans of the genre.
ultraviolet might very well be the worst movie I've ever seen. im not exaggerating, i rarely give ratings this low. also, im saying this as a fan of the genere. i enjoyed aeon flux, underworld and tank girl despite their many flaws. but ultraviolet is in a different class of awfulness.
nothing, absolutely nothing about ultraviolet works. the story doesn't make any damn sense. the futuristic world the story is set in doesn't make any sense (you can fool the army with a hologram created by a disposable cellphone from a vending machine). the characters are as flat as they can be. the acting is laughable. the special effects look cheap. the production design is shockingly tasteless. neither the drama, nor the action, nor the martial arts works (although the latter comes closest to being acceptable).
even worse, every single idea in ultraviolet is stolen from an other, better movie. the action and fighting from matrix and wimmers own equilibrium, the cyber-vampires from blade and underworld, the plot about super powered outcasts fighting against oppression from x-men, the future-as-a-mtv-clip/fashion-show from aeon flux, the main character and the biotechnology stuff from resident evil. there is not a single original idea to be found here.
its unbelievable how much this movie sucks. its worse than catwoman, easily.
the original comic book version of tank girl is a cheerfully nonsensical riot of sex, violence and awesome fashion. unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, the filmmakers have decided that the film-version of tank girl has to make more sense and be more "deep". so they gave her an environmental motivation, a shy best friend she can empower, and a little girl whos mother figure she can be. none of this works, and it takes away a lot of the charming randomness that made the original tank girl so awesome. add some pretty bad performances, unfunny jokes and a boring plot, and you have a seriously awful movie. and yet and yet... i found myself enjoying it. is it because of my low expectations? or because of my weakness for ass-kicking female leads? the funky costume-designs? the high energy level? or was i just won over by that male strip early in the movie? (every movie should start with a cute dude getting nekkid!) whatever it was, tank girl is fun despite its frustratingly low quality - the way barbarella or xena warrior princess are fun.
competent and occasionally quite good, but also a little bland
i watched "sunshine" because it got compared in reviews to space horror flicks like "alien" and "pitch black", disaster movies like "armageddon" and "deep impact", and arty meditations like "2001: a space odyssey" and "solyaris". how could a movie combine such different subgeneres? the answer is: by being a little bland. it must be said, though, "sunshine" is always decent and occasionally quite good.
the concept (astronauts versus the sun) doesn't sound very exciting, but the filmmakers manage to get a remarkably suspenseful story out of it. the characters are a likable bunch, which is a nice change from the usual internal-conflict-torn ensemble cast. the actors all deliver good performances, although some remain frustratingly underused. the visuals are quite nice too, if not quite as mind-blowing as some reviews had led me to believe.
the main problem is that the movie feels a bit direction-less. there is some slasher-style horror, some pyrokinetics, some claustrophobic drama, some mystery and suspense, some philosophical musings; but none of it really goes anywhere.
it is almost impossible to write about dark city without comparing it to the later released but more successful matrix. in both movies, somebody realizes that there is something terribly wrong with the world he lives in, and tries to find out about it and fight its secret masters. both movies use sci-fi/fantasy to raise philosophical questions about reality and humanity; both movies wrap their heady messages in thrilling plots, lush, somber production designs and spectacular special effects. however, dark city differs from matrix by being set in a dark, Gothic, almost fairytale like retro world based on the early 20th century rather than in a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk future. it looks a bit like a restrained tim burtons take on metropolis.
the plot starts off a little confused, but it all comes together (more or less) as the story unfolds. the characters are a little flat, but the casting and acting is solid (although i wished the main character was a little bit more handsome). some special effects are a little dated now, but others are still mind-blowing (such as the buildings that grow out of the ground). and i cant stress enough how gorgeous the production design is, something the DVD-covers don't even hint at. that makes the frenetic editing and the overblown soundtrack all the more frustrating, as they prevent the visuals from unfolding all their potential. still this is a movie well worth watching, especially for those who like their fantasy dark and Gothic.
being a movie about leather-clad vampires fighting werewolves with guns, underworld will never be regarded as a cinematic masterpiece and brilliant work of art, but thats not what it wants to be in the first place. it wants to entertain, and while doing so, it manages to be a surprisingly good movie too.
no, underworld hardly breaks any new ground. and yes, it has its flaws. the limitations of the budget show throughout the movie, the action scenes are quite unspectacular for an action movie, and Shane Brolly is just terrible. but the rest of the cast does pretty well. especially Kate Beckinsale plays the lead character to perfection and she has great chemistry with romantic interest Scott Speedman and father figure Bill Nighy. the Gothic set and costume designs are beautiful. the most surprising thing, however, is how well constructed the story is. this kind of action/fantasy/sci-fi movies often have terrible plots, but underworld is built on a story that actually makes sense, comes with a decent twist, and even resonates emotionally. while its not as good as matrix, its much better than van hellsing, catwoman, aeon flux, ultraviolet, or about any other movie of this kind.
crap movie partly saved by great production design
first of all, this version of aeon flux has absolutely nothing to do with the original animated series, except in some very superficial ways (such as the names of some characters.) and taken on its own, its not very good either. the acting is acceptable, but the plot is boring. the story pretends to be making a point about cloning when its really just stupid. however, you might want to watch this movie if you have an interest in design, especially architecture and fashion. the way the makers imagined this future world in all its details is spectacular, combining real world modernist and contemporary architecture of berlin with 50es period costumes, cutting edge fashion and sci-fi designs inspired by biology. the whole production is pure eye candy, futuristic and retro at once, and unlike anything i have ever seen. its really too bad they used all these wonderful design ideas for such a idiotic movie.
the movie is too melodramatic and inaccurate to really work as a historical movie, but it doesn't really work as a drama either. it works even less as a political conspiracy movie or as a war movie. but all these different genres are forced together in a awkward way. and while the story is told as it was an epic, it's schizophrenic nature never allows it to really feel epic. what the hell does this movie want? allow Blanchett to play queen Elizabeth once more, it seems. her performance is outstanding, it must be said, and the costumes are impressive too, but unfortunately that's not enough to carry the movie. also, the portrayal of England as the glorious land of heroes and Spain as dark, evil kingdom is so over the top that it insults the audiences intelligence.
the premise of Xena: the beautiful, formerly evil warlord Xena is on her quest for redemption, accompanied by her best friend (and possibly lover) Gabrielle, a naive peasant turned amazon bard. together, they wander through a fantasy world loosely based on the ancient world, battling evil, living through dumb comedy and wailing melodrama and generally kicking ass.
if that sounds like the most idiotic thing ever to you, don't even bother with this series; "Xena" is definitely not for everyone. but if you like strong female leads and the ridiculous mix of action, fantasy, comedy and melodrama, then you will love this. i think whedons "buffy the vampire slayer", tarantinos "kill bill" and claremonts 80es work on "x-men" are comparable references.
but don't set your expectations too high: Xena is dumb and trashy. there are fans who think that the series is intelligent in some way. i disagree, although i consider myself a fan as well. the acting is a mixed bag; Lucy lawless plays the titular heroine to perfection and she has great chemistry with co-star Renee O'Connor, but her limited range shows whenever she is asked to play an other character (which actually happens quite often). the other actors vary from impressive to not-so-great to downright terrible. the writing is even more shaky; the plots are often ropey and sometimes incomprehensible, logic goes flying out the window on a regular basis, and plot-convenient coincidences and deus ex machinae are waiting behind every corner. worst are the often unfunny comedy parts. more often than not, its all a ridiculous mess. but then again, the series never takes itself too seriously, so its all good and fun. just don't expect "Xena warrior princess" to be as carefully written as "buffy" or as hipstery clever as "kill bill".