Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Movie Name: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Stars: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Rufus Sewell, Martin Csokas, Erin Wasson, Joseph Mawle, Robin McLeavy, John Rothman, Alan Tudyk
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Russian director Timur Bekmambetov experienced his biggest hit to date with "Wanted", which was an adaptation of a comic book by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is the adaptation of the novel from the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also co-wrote the screenplay of Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows"). The film introduces the audience to young Abraham Lincoln, who loses his mother following an attack by a vampire. Young Abraham grows up and tries to avenge his mother's death, upon which he is tutored by Henry Sturgess, a vampire himself, in the art of killing the undead. Lincoln, becomes a resourceful vampire hunter, but also studies to become an attorney and gets involved in politics. As the years move on, Lincoln becomes president of the United States, and leads the movement to abolish slavery, something that the vampires want to stop at all costs.
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is a film that holds an interesting premise - mixing an iconic historical character, with fictitious events that would allow to bring out an adventuresome angle to the whole story. However, the film ends up faltering precisely due to an unresolved screenplay. The director decides to create two major action set pieces within the story, both involving battles with vampires, but both cases are underwhelming. Abraham Lincoln, even as an adventurer never really comes alive, the same going for any of the other supporting characters - they are all uni dimensional (even the vampire villains are... bloodless). Where the film does come alive are in the fantastically staged action scenes, where the visuals are indeed superb. An interesting premise that deserved a better screenplay.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Movie Name: Moonrise Kingdom
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, L.J. Foley, Jake Ryan, Charlie  Kilgore, Gabriel Rush
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

After the wonderful "Fantastic Mr. Fox", director Wes Anderson is back to his traditional universe, populated by whimsical details and nostalgia for a time that has long gone. The film follows the story of two young kids, Sam and Suzy, who plot and runaway from their surroundings, in hopes of finding a sense of belonging. Sam lives with a foster family and is a cub-scout, whereas Suzy lives with her parents and three brothers in a huge house, where she feels lost and at odds with everyone. They both decide to run away, upon which a whirlwind of people find themselves on their tracks in order to restore some order to their lives.
The films of Wes Anderson are always about the journey that the main characters make. Be it journeys of growth into adulthood ("Rushmore") or journeys centered around family ("The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou", "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Darjeeling Limited"). The path is populated with interesting characters that make the journey colorful and interesting, which is where the core of his films lie. An interesting display of quirks and oddities of characters that are different, yet filled with insight and with a core that is, for the most part, decent and humane. Some of the characters are not strongly developed, but fit within the larger picture that is being built. "Moonrise Kingdom" is no different: the story of young love is punctuated with interesting characters (and situations) that surround the young children at the core of the story. The film has a wonderful cast, from the usual Bill Murray, but also the excellent Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton. Another interesting film to the work of Wes Anderson. It will be interesting to see what comes next from his universe.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Movie Name: Prometheus
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Patrick Wilson, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Lucy Hutchinson
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Suspense
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3

Prolific director Ridley Scott is back, after his latest disappointing titles, "Body of Lies" and "Robin Hood". "Prometheus" is a prequel to the "Alien" saga, and tries to establish ties and connections to the events that occurred in the original "Alien" also directed by Ridley Scott. The film introduces us to a couple of researchers, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway who discover ancient writings in a cave that point out to a civilization who are the creators of human life. The information gathered points out to a planet situated in a different galaxy. With a crew sponsored by the Weyland corporation, they set off to find out the birth of the human species, and end up discovering something quite different.
Ridley Scott is a master at creating environments and ambiances. "Prometheus" excels at building a futuristic landscape that is simultaneously alien, beautiful, but also vaguely menacing. The film is possessed of a beauty in terms of art direction, set design and perfect integration of special effects, however the characters and their arc/development is very limited. The screenplay has plenty of ambitions and lots of ideas, but forgets to populate it with characters that have some depth and some motivation. The actors have little to do, and Noomi Rapace never really brings the dimension and strength that Sigourney Weaver made so fully realized in the "Alien" saga. Charlize Theron is as always fantastic, but in the end, she has little to do. A high point should be made of the fantastic Michael Fassbender, who creates the unforgettable David. The film is a mixed result - for all it's connections to "Alien" (even in the design details), the screenplay is definitely not as accomplished as that classic ever was.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snow White and The Huntsman

Movie Name: Snow White and The Huntsman
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Rupert Sanders
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Noah Huntley, Lily Cole
Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Rupert Sanders' debut feature film, following a career in commercials, is the second project of the current year to tackle the Snow White fairytale (the first one was Tarsem Singh's "Mirror, Mirror"). The film follows the story of Snow White, whose father, the beloved king of a prosperous kingdom, marries a malevolent woman, who quickly kills him in order to seize the throne. Ravenna holds magic powers in her hands and wants to gain immortality. In order to vanquish all opposition, she has most of the king's supporters killed or banished, and imprisons Snow White. Once she reaches adulthood, Ravenna decides to consume her heart, in order to gain her much sought immortality. Snow White escapes to the Dark Forest, trying to elude her grim future.
Rupert Sanders clearly has a visual style, however in this film in particular, it tries to be many films simultaneously. There are influences from Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and also from Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth". The main problem with this film is that it tries too much to be many things and go in many directions without really embracing any. The screenplay simply doesn't go anywhere with any depth - the elements of fantasy aren't really embraced, nor are the more belligerent ones. The film has an uneven rhythm also - starting out quite dynamically and then leaving the main characters without much to do or say during most of the film. Another big problem in the film is Kristen Stewart, who simply doesn't have the acting ability to carry the character, who is asked to be simultaneously innocent but also iconic and charismatic. Charlize Theron ends up being the best thing about a film that definitely had a lot more promise than it finally delivers.