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Thank you all for visiting and reading my thoughts on the films I see. I have recently ported this blog over to my parent site of and will be posting new reviews and work there from now on. All links from this blog will shortly redirect to their counterparts on the new site, but, for now, feel free to come on over and see what new films have been watched.

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When reading the synopsis for 1998s French film Le dîner de cons, I was surprised at how close to the new Americanized version, Dinner for Schmucks, it actually was. Both titles allude to the fact a dinner is involved—one hinging on the invitation of guests with high levels of idiocy. After all, the one to make company owner Fender (Bruce Greenwood) laugh most is awarded a trophy for his/her trouble; a chalice designating the winner as “Most Extraordinary” to his face, but “Biggest Loser” behind his back. You’ve seen the trailers and heard Larry Wilmore speak the words, “Best dinner ever!” so you hope the title describes the setting for the majority of the film, a wild and crazy combination of kooks, suits, and the large chasm which divides them. But then you recall this is Hollywood and its director is Mr. Diminishing Returns himself, Jay Roach, dragging your mind back to reality and the harsh truth awaiting. Our main Schmuck Barry (Steve Carell) may be the lynchpin for some of the biggest laughs and deepest moments of heart, but it is his ever-present ability to drag endearing over the edge to obnoxious that leaves the most lasting memory.

Much like Carell’s role in “The Office”, Barry is the kind of simpleton creature who for some reason remains likeable despite his abject cluelessness. You pity him more than you hate him—although the character here is nowhere near as offensive and completely loathsome as Michael Scott—and hope for the best as a result. To be absolutely candid, with the stunning craftsmanship of the ‘Mousterpieces’, whose creation serve as backdrop to the opening credits, and the possession of not one mean bone in his body, Barry is the kind of guy I could get behind. While Carell is billed first, however, the film’s true lead is Paul Rudd’s Tim, a ‘not so close to a stockbroker at all’ looking to earn a promotion by banking his firm a boatload of cash. He is living the life: great job, nice car, beautiful almost-fiancé, (Stephanie Szostak is drop dead gorgeous as Julie), and a quick wit combined with a cultural knowledge in the arts. Unfortunately, staying on the cabbage-smelling sixth floor won’t sustain such a lifestyle for much longer; he needs to be strong and show Fender what he’s made of. To do so, though, means he must go against the wishes of Julie and find some poor soul to ridicule and join the ‘boy’s club’ he so covets.

Everything happens for a reason—a sentiment overused throughout—and Tim literally runs into Barry serendipitously two days before the event. Almost having the moral fortitude to walk away and risk everything by refusing his seat, the diorama taxidermist/IRS employee’s eccentricities were too much to disregard. If only Tim knew the sort of destruction this strange man’s tenacity could create, the childlike innocence of pure aloofness becoming an avalanche of misfortune and tragedy. Barry pushes Julie to leave, allows Tim’s stalker access to his home, causes his new friend to be complicit in a breaking and entering, and watches the man’s life fall apart, unaware his meddling was the cause. The story becomes that age-old tale of seeing past the surface of an idiot and into the pain beneath the eagerness to please. We soon learn about Barry’s past and the not so mirrored comparison with Tim’s unraveling existence, learning how one must fight for whatever it is he wants. It’s about being the goat willing to do anything necessary for happiness, even if it means eating himself.

Tim’s entire reasoning for going after the promotion is to prove he’s worthy of Julie. He wants to be successful and powerful, unaware of how complete his life already is, her being by his side all he needs. So, the plot turns into an unoriginal journey toward this epiphany, teaching lessons about talking behind someone’s back and cherishing what we love. Sappy sentimentality seeps in and drags the middle third to a screeching halt of monotonous tedium, showing Carell’s Barry making one misstep after another. But these pitfalls are necessary for Rudd’s Tim to hit rock bottom and realize the error of his way. The question, though, is whether we want him to. Tim is a self-centered jerk, quickly proving the ‘man Julie doesn’t know’—capable of doing the things even he abhors to achieve his goals—is his true self. You can’t help but begin to despise the character you should be getting behind, unable to even cheer on Barry because of his ineptitude and the fact his accidental triumphs only bring Tim closer to victory. Dinner for Schmucks therefore ends up less the wanting to see how it turns out than the twisted desire to see how far these imbecilic characters will go.

The dinner itself is by far the biggest laugh of the bunch with Octavia Spencer’s pet psychic, Chris O’Dowd’s blind swordsman, and Patrick Fischler’s vulture keeper. Other memorable supporting cast members include David Walliams’s Swiss billionaire Müeller, Lucy Punch’s bruiser of a stalker Darla, and Jemaine Clement’s rugged art photographer—the work of which is a less effeminate Matthew Barney-type with Francis Bacon’s grotesquery thrown in to fill the void. Zach Galifianakis is humorous too, but for the most part too deadpan, causing the one-note joke to falter, carrying on way longer than is good for it. There are a ton of one-liners, though, and the chemistry between Carell and Rudd is for the most part effective when not cringingly repetitious, so despite my lackluster reaction to the film, most who want to see it should end up enjoying the derivative format and jokes. In all honesty, I should applaud any work this uninspired for making me at least laugh consistently, if not uproariously at any point. Perhaps those reactions lean more towards the source material than what’s been put to script here. I do, in any event, want to now seek the original and see for myself what Hollywood saw to give it the bland remake treatment its known for.

Dinner for Schmucks 5/10

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[1] Steve Carell and Paul Rudd in Paramount Pictures’ Dinner for Schmucks.
[2] Steve Carell and Jemaine Clement in Paramount Pictures’ Dinner for Schmucks.

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What did I just watch? To say Bitch Slap is an oddity would be an understatement. Half soft-core porn without the nudity and half blood-soaked action orgy, Rick Jacobson’s film is a fourteen year old’s wet dream. Sitting through it is like watching a movie from the mind of Donald Kaufman, the fictional brother in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, putting action and sex above any semblance of quality acting or coherent storytelling. I laughed throughout and do believe that reaction was intended despite it’s attempts at surprising its audience with multiple twists and turns in a plot of espionage and double-crossing. There is absolutely no way you could take any of those heist aspects seriously, though, not when every free moment has the camera slow down to show off the actresses’ prevalent assets before having to listen to the comically perverse language being spoken. Complete with cat screech sound effects when one of the leads gets punched in her privates, proclaiming the flick as tongue-in-cheek may be the biggest oversimplification ever.

The story involves three scantily clad women—two bad-asses on the trail of a bag of diamonds and one naïve and vulnerable stripper caught in the middle. The trio has kidnapped a pimp who works for the mythical Pinky, a gangster no one has ever seen yet whom all fear. Michael Hurst plays Gage over-the-top and theatrical as he is abused in order to spill the location of the stones, all the while wise-cracking and throwing his sexual innuendos at the girls. He begins to make mention of Camero in a way that seems to surprise the other two, ushering in the weirdly conceived construct of flashbacks to the story. Periodically sprinkled throughout the rest of the movie, these glimpses into the past also progressively get further and further away, humorously going from ‘4 hours earlier’ to ‘4 hours and 3 minutes earlier’ to ‘3.17 months ago’. The gimmick is just one more reason to put a smile on your face and hopefully deflect the fact that the acting and script is pretty much atrocious. Jacobson and company at least realize that if they can’t give us a well-made piece of cinema, at least they can keep us entertained.

And there is no denying that fact; I did have fun with this thing. Despite the increasingly convoluted screenplay, turning these women into spies, cold-blooded killers, and insanely imbalanced human beings on what seem like whims, you cannot deny the effectiveness of watching three maybe sex workers and possible lesbians at varying levels of attractiveness seducing and kicking each others’ asses. There is no straight male on the planet that wouldn’t willfully check Bitch Slap out for that level alone; it’s just unfortunate that the film offers little else. Besides the present time locale of a desert wasteland, the rest of the movie is obviously shoddily shot in front of a green screen, giving the flashbacks a cartoonish feel that doesn’t suit it. Then there is the cast of eccentric miscreants such as William Gregory Lee’s mohawked and Tourettes afflicted Hot Wire and his razor-yoyo swinging sex kitten Kinki played by Minae Noji. This stuff cannot be made up—it all needs to come from the minds of some very strange people. The fact it even got a limited release in theatres kind of stuns me, but its debut in the Midnight Madness series at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival could have been one helluva time.

Through all the craziness, though, you have to give some credit to the three leads for giving it their all and having fun. Erin Cummings’s Hel is the self-anointed leader of the troupe, slowly being found out to be playing the other two for her own gains. Able to talk her way out of any situation, having the knowledge to use prototype military weaponry, and unafraid to engage in fisticuffs with anyone in her way, Hel is a badass with a purpose, definitely seeking the diamonds but surely looking for more than she’s letting on. Camero, played by America Olivo, is a role that showcases her ability to go absolutely postal. It’s not like she’s the greatest actress in the world, but when her facial ticks and itch to punch anything in her way kicks in, she becomes the funniest thing ever. A couple of extended fight scenes later—choreographed by none other than Zoe Bell, whom I’m surprised didn’t take a larger role in the film itself—and you’ve realized not much has happened except for the fact these two women have traded kicks, bruises, and cuts, all while getting bloodied and dirty. All this happens after the slomo sequence of them pouring ample amounts of water over each other. Yeah, that happened.

At least the film knows what it is and never tries to be more. I can’t deny it tried something different and definitely succeeded in its goal to titillate the 12-18 demographic of boys it most certainly aims for. It may be R-rated, but it’s nevertheless looking at that age group to find a way to watch it, either by viewing with a parental figure who sees it as a legitimate alternative to porn or catching a glimpse while they are away. That level of cheap thrill is the only reason I can think why anyone would ever watch it again; one time is definitely enough for me so that I can at least say I gave it a try. There is a sort of charm to the campiness and eventual absurdity of the covert spy plotlines later introduced, especially with the inspired choices of having cameos by both Hercules and Xena, (Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless). If I’m going to take anything away from Bitch Slap, however, it will be the stunning beauty of Julia Voth as the innocent waif—or is she—Trixie. By far the most attractive of all involved, her character’s transformation at the end leads you to believe that her horrid acting at the start may have been just that, an act. Either way, the ability to see Voth onscreen for almost the entire duration definitely made the rest tolerable.

Bitch Slap 4/10

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[1] Erin Cummings stars as Hel and America Olivo stars as Camero in IM Global and Epic Slap’s Bitch Slap (2010)
Copyright © IM Global and Epic Slap. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Julia Voth stars as Trixie in IM Global and Epic Slap’s Bitch Slap (2010)
Copyright © IM Global and Epic Slap. All Rights Reserved.

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This list is accurate as of post-date. So many films and not enough time to see them all, the potential for future change is inevitable, but as of today here are the best …

Another year gone, another 100+ releases down. 2009 was one that included a lot of good directors and some great ensemble pieces. Out of all the inclusions to my top ten, plus honorable mentions, only three really contained a central figure worthy of mention above the work itself; the others truly were complete packages consisting of group success. Not only that, but for the first time in a while, the foreign language pieces proved that the Hollywood machine is far from telling great stories, relying instead on blockbuster special effects and scantily clad models. I enjoy a good Transformers 2, Fired Up, and Zombieland like the next guy, but it’s the indies like Lymelife, Two Lovers, and Sunshine Cleaning that show what cinema should be. No one knows that more than the excellent directors abroad, whether it be Spain, France, Korea, and even Australia this year. I hope that one day soon the studios take a page from their book rather than try to import them over to make work here with their hands cuffed behind their backs. If staying home and crafting tales that hit hard emotionally mean we Americans must read subtitles, then so be it. Next year sees even more famous auteurs returning to the big screen and no moneymen should be allowed to hinder their artistic visions, especially for such a bigoted reason as their films not being in English. We shouldn’t underestimate our own country’s ability to appreciate high art, no matter how much people prove time and time again that we should.

Films not seen yet that have potential of creeping into the top 10:
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; Black Dynamite; Coco avant Chanel [Coco Before Chanel]; Crazy Heart; Julia; The Last Station; Le silence de Lorna [Lorna’s Silence]; Chi bi xia: Jue zhan tian xia [Red Cliff 2]; Sugar; Tyson

Honorable Mention (in reverse order):
The Hurt Locker, review: All the press and acclaim is deserved for Kathryn Bigelow’s new film. It takes an impartial stance on the war and instead relies on showing the psyche of the soldiers sent to disarm bombs. Authentic, gritty, funny, and dramatic, The Hurt Locker could be the best war film to come out in quite some time, leaving all the politics and agendas behind.

Los abrazos rotos [Broken Embraces], review: Pedro shows once more that he is like a fine wine. One would think he could only do the handicapped artist embroiled in a unique love triangle melodrama so often without becoming tired, but this Spanish wizard will hear nothing of it. Penélope Cruz is fantastic as always, but it’s Lluís Homar’s portrayal that makes this film great.

Where the Wild Things Are, review: It is not easy to turn a beloved children’s tale full of nostalgia and happy memories into a good film, let alone a great one. Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers did just that and brought Maurice Sendak’s world to life. Darker than most Americans might want to expose their sheltered children to, Where the Wild Things Are expresses the isolation and strong emotions every young kid experiences as they deal with issues parents feel are too adult to fully explain to them.

A Serious Man, review: It may not have the blatant humor or the pitch black drama that a great Coen Brothers film usually excels in, but A Serious Man does have the intrigue needed to keep you riveted to your seat. With an intelligent screenplay, great performances from a mostly unknown cast, and exposure of the mystical secrets and traditions of Jewish religion and culture, the black humor leaves you slightly off-kilter, never knowing what tragedies could possibly occur to Larry Gopnik next.

35 Rhums [35 Shots of Rum], review: On the top of so many lists I’ve read this awards season, Claire Denis’s French film lives up to the praise. Love is a central theme, showing how important it is to survival while also how it can hinder your own evolution by trapping you in the past. We try so hard to please the ones who love us that sometimes we don’t allow for the time to be happy ourselves. Stellar acting and gorgeous cinematography complement the dramatic story, showing its audience that being selfish in order to be happy can be okay.

The Top Ten of 2009 (in reverse order):

10. (500) Days of Summer, review: The romantic comedy for guys and girls alike. Marc Webb’s film brought in audiences with its quirky, inventive setup, making it one of the year’s surprise hits. It has comedy, heartbreak, impeccable taste in music, and even a musical number complete with animated bird. Told out of linear order to let character emotion drive the plot, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are relatable and perfect stand-ins for ourselves, showing us the highs and lows of every relationship we’ve ever been in.

9. Inglourious Basterds, review: I think I have to watch it again to hail it as a masterpiece like so many others do—Pulp Fiction is still my favorite Tarantino—but it doesn’t take a second viewing to realize its greatness. The scale is the largest he’s ever tackled with multiple locales and plot threads, numerous languages and subtitles, as well as his own absurd take on history, changing everything we’ve learned about the end of WWII. All you know and love about Quentin is here from the witty dialogue to the use of constant visual homage, but it does appear that he has grown as a filmmaker it each aspect, further entrenching this former video store clerk as one of the best filmmakers of his generation.

8. Up in the Air, review: George Clooney may have outdone himself with this film. Never have I said, “Wow, Clooney really knocked that one out of the park,” but Reitman has gotten that type of performance out of him here. Full of heart and really funny, Up in the Air was a huge surprise when I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival, especially having walked in knowing the talent but not the plot. This sets the bar for where adult cinema should be—honest and raw in how people interact and converse in the business world, giving even a man who excels at firing people the room to redeem his life and for once find happiness.

7. The Limits of Control, review: Built like a David Lynch film, Jarmusch has amped up the surrealism and crafted a film so dreamlike that the true meaning he attempts to get across is unnecessary. I’m sure The Limits of Control has a different effect on each of its viewers, making all decipher the puzzle based on their own life experiences. Isaach de Bankolé is stoic perfection, wandering through the landscape of his mind as he works towards destroying what it is that has been undermining mankind’s ability to stay creative and use their imaginations.

6. Avatar, review: Sometimes the extreme spectacle of new technology can live up to expectations. Cameron’s Avatar risked overexposure through advertising and hype, very easily having the possibility of complete and utter failure, but once again he delivered on his word. The new 3D tech is mind-blowing in comparison to anything that came before it and the motion capture computer graphics have never been better. So many look to the weak story in order to dismiss it as pretty but devoid of a soul. That reaction is simple and convenient, though, because if you’ve ever wanted to be transported away into another world when seated at the movie theatre, Avatar makes it happen.

5. Moon, review: Sam Rockwell and director Duncan Jones are Moon. Science fiction deserves to be this stark and sterile, showing the dehumanization of technology and isolation space holds. Rockwell gives the performance of his career as cabin fever sets in and the existence of another version of his character arrives in the spaceship. The answer to this wrinkle comes quickly, leaving the rest of the film to keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what it is actually going on miles and miles from Earth.

4. Up, review: Pixar has made its best feature in Up. The only animation studio that relies on the intellect of its audience, they are never afraid to put story in front, whether it means a lack of dialogue or fantastical worlds of talking animals. With an opening scrapbook representation of Carl and Ellie’s lifetime together that will have you in tears before the film’s actual plot even begins, Up’s journey is vast and full of detail. For kids and adults alike, no other animated movie has ever resonated so strong emotionally—equal parts goofy humor and heart-warming companionship.

3. Sin Nombre, review: A harsh representation of gang lifestyle taking place in South America, Sin Nombre gets everything right. Combining the storyline of a young man standing up to his superiors in the brotherhood with a girl escaping to America that he crosses paths with allows this film to be more than just a crime drama. No matter how much evil you’ve done, an opportunity to turn things around and try to do good will always exist. Once you get in bed with the devil, though, your fate is all but sealed; it becomes what you do before you die that creates the legacy you leave behind.

2. Das weisse band [The White Ribbon], review: It took a little while afterwards to officially realize how great Haneke’s new film was, but it hit hard when it did. A sprawling epic of a seemingly quiet town in Austria, the movie will leave you with more questions than answers. The mysteries occurring could be answered in many ways depending on you own outlook on humanity. Murder and abuse occurs, religion is used to punish, and war breaks out across Europe, leaving the kids at hand here to soon inherit their parents’ mistakes in the years leading up to Hitler’s reign of terror. Haneke loves to make art that begs its audience to think, using their own preconceptions and feelings of persecution to create answers. He challenges us to see how maybe we aren’t as righteous as we may believe, making us complicit in the tragedies he puts on screen.

1. A Single Man, review: Visually stunning and powerfully acted, Tom Ford’s debut is a wonderful piece of art. Colin Firth is a revelation playing a three-dimensional soul in pain—a far cry than his usual British love interest in romantic comedies. Speaking about issues such as life and death, giving visuals to psychological pain, and portraying the way in which we all are taken over by memories of happier times, A Single Man is a masterpiece, bringing the interior workings of a desperately distraught human being to life through the marriage of intense close-ups and haunting melodies. I seriously wanted to see it again as soon as the end credits began to roll.

Some films to keep on the radar in 2010 are listed here.

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There are no clean breaks. Life is messy and wonderful all at once as we grow older each day, striving for that little bit of excitement and longing to continue on. We all have dreams and aspirations, but oftentimes they fall into the background as life itself takes over, pushing us in one direction without a chance to breathe and say no. There is always that love keeping us going whether from a significant other or a child or a friend. Sometimes too, that love could be someone not able to reciprocate it, no matter how close the two of you are to each other. The living move on while the dead are laid to rest, relationships evolve or devolve depending on fate, fact, or age. Claire Denis understands these simple truths and has encapsulated them all in the magnificent gem that is 35 Rhums [35 Shots of Rum], showing us four Parisians that have lived in disharmonious harmony for what seem their entire lives. For some reason, however, the period of time displayed explodes in a powderkeg of emotion and progression, finally allowing each to take stock of his or herself and move on towards the future they’ve kept in front of them for too long.

Lionel, his daughter Joséphine, her surrogate mother Gabrielle, and her childhood friend Noé all come together one last time, an event that hasn’t occurred in forever. Each is at a crossroads wondering about their next step, carefully watching the others for some sign or clue for what to do. Lionel sees his friend retire from their job running the trains/subway and the loneliness and fear of the unknown he shows. Seeing his own mortality, he begins to worry about his daughter spending so much time taking care of him, hoping and trying to let her know that he will be okay. Jo herself is in school, studying hard, and working a part time job at a record store, being the woman of the house when she comes home, cherishing the routine that has served the duo well for so many years. Gaby is entrenched with her taxicab, loving the adventure it creates with new customers each day, but longing for something big, not to mention pining for Lionel and hoping that one day he will notice her as she does him. And Noé is a successful young man constantly traveling for business, retaining his parents’ old apartment and belongings, including the family cat, rather than leaving to make his own mark. Jo asks him one day why he has stayed and his smile tells us—if she doesn’t want to accept the truth—that it is her, the only attachment he has allowed himself to keep in his heart.

All four characters go through the weeks, maybe months, shown onscreen by crisscrossing one another and pretending everything is all right when in fact nothing is. They are all living in the past, dreaming their dreams but doing nothing to let them come true. It is the oldest story in the book, something each and every one of else deals with at some point of our lives. There is always the easy answer keeping us from achieving the big prize out there for the taking, if only we were bold enough to reach out and grab it. Their reunion together as a ‘family’ eventually reaches its climax while attempting to see a concert in the city. Car trouble ensues, Noé sees another man court his Jo, and the foursome find themselves at a bar past closing time, looking each other in the eyes and taking the plunge for better or for worse. There is dancing, there is kissing, there is love, and there is heartbreak. When all is said and done, decisions are made that risk shaking up the equilibrium all have become so accustomed to. Their lives are forever changed by this one night—a wrench thrown into the middle—accelerating choices to be made and allowing all to look behind them and say goodbye to the past, whether that means the death of a family pet or visiting the grave of a deceased family member. In order to move forward, one must acquiesce with what’s been left behind.

I love how the film was shot, very up close and personal. We see the quivering faces during times of sadness and the jubilance at times of happiness as the camera frames each actor to allow them to do their thing. Many shots linger on hands or feet; we see menial activities such as cooking dinner, taking a shower, or smoking on the balcony awaiting the return of a loved one. It is the little details that draw you in to the big picture on display. By watching them all partake in the everyday minutiae, we are able to project ourselves into the film, relating to every emotion by remembering the last time we felt the same. This foursome of actors fully embody their roles; bringing each to life for us to follow. They are everyday folk that we work with, pass in the street, and share a beer with at the pub. Nicole Dogue’s Gaby shows her ceaseless sense of joy and love towards Jo as though she is her own daughter. No matter what Lionel does to hurt her feelings, she keeps the smile on her face, looking towards a new day. Grégoire Colin’s Noé has that deer in the headlight stare, contemplating his next move, hoping that Jo will finally look at him the way he does her. Unable to ask her to go with him due to her father being alone, all he can do is wait for life to intervene. And Mati Diop’s Jo is so strong and weak altogether. She gives so much of herself to those around her that she has never discovered a way to live for only her.

But the real story here pertains to Alex Dascas’s Lionel. This man is stoic perfection, finding himself on the outskirts, always watching and listening. A man of few words, he is also one of many emotions, knowing far more than he lets on of what is happening around him. Denis has crafted him as the one they all look towards for guidance, but, until he sees his friend’s inability to go on after retirement, he doesn’t realize how far they have all come without ever really going anywhere. There has been no real day that has stood out to him as one to remember above all the others; he has trapped himself away from the rest of the world for too long. Life does eventually start to move forward without him, pushing his own necessity for progression quicker than he might have wanted. But Lionel is an adapter, able to look at the future and smile with hope. All we can do, any one of us, whether we feel stuck in a rut or in over our heads, is hope for that one day that comes along once in a lifetime to be able to put caution to the wind and drink up thirty-five shots of rum in one sitting. That is the day we all strive for and hope to see before life gets too far ahead of us.

35 Rhums [35 Shots of Rum] 9/10

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It’s a real shame that I could never give a film featuring Harry Potter the status of a perfect film. Each tale relies so heavily on those that came before or after, so one can never be a truly all-encompassing work. Sure, the three-act structure can be utilized, but without the background info, or the knowledge that more will be coming, watching a middle installment alone will leave you confused and disorientated. The reason I bring this up is the fact that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is good enough to warrant the praise and to put the idea in my head about whether to call it a masterpiece. The tone is perfect, the laughs are many, the darkness is charcoal black—how could this be the same director as the abysmal—in comparison to the rest of the series—Order of the Phoenix, David Yates? Two words … Bruno Delbonnel.

Who is Delbonnel you may ask? Well, he is the brilliant cinematographer behind the camera. I may have blamed the failures of the fifth film on its screenplay as Steve Kloves was glaringly absent, (he being the writer of each other film, including this new one), but a film is a team effort. Therefore I guess maybe I shouldn’t put all the accolades on one man now; I just feel absolutely compelled to do so because so many moments linger in my mind due to the beauty of their composition and use of their environments to stay interesting and exciting at all times. Visually, you cannot be bored. It just goes to show that it is never the director alone, but also the team he or she brings along. I like Yates and was surprised at how much I disliked his first foray in the Potter universe, granted, I felt the book itself was sub-par at best. Thankfully, he did not disappoint with his second of three, (make that four as book seven goes to a two-part finale), because, as it was with the novels, Half-Blood Prince is by far the best of the series—until Deathly Hallows of course. And adding the pedigree of a guy like Delbonnel, with films such as Across the Universe, A Very Long Engagement, and Amélie in his back pocket—all stunning works of art—only makes his job easier.

I can’t get over the use of close-ups throughout, or the multiple instances of framing used to hide something onscreen. Oftentimes, the camera pans or cuts to reveal something in the fringes, to highlight the focal point when it’s not centrally located, or literally move our eyes to exactly where the filmmakers want them to be. The blocking is superb with some scenes blurring the edges and keeping only our main object of interest in focus, timing and positioning executed with aplomb. And did I mention the close-ups? (Yes, I know I did.) One sequence, with Harry and Ginny running through a field of tall grass after intruding Death Eaters, is shot with a high speed pan to keep the characters crisp as the foliage darts and blurs in their wake. I’d be remiss not to mention the special effects as well, especially when dealing with the black smoke trails from Voldemort’s flying goons as well as the wispy pensieve. Whether completely computer generated or practical dye clouds in water, the effect is pitch perfect, even dissolving each memory in sections, leaving important pieces, like young Tom Riddle, to be lingered on just a second longer than the rest.

But wait—there is actually a story and actors involved too. J.K. Rowling truly stunned me with this book being as good as it was after such a poor effort with Phoenix that, in my opinion, added nothing to the saga and could even be skipped without missing a beat. She reinvigorated my love for the story. Half-Blood Prince is where we find out exactly who has the stomach to fight and who does not. Many say they are ready for the dark times ahead, but not all realize those times have arrived and they need to have the fortitude to do what’s necessary right now. Introductions to those fighting with the Dark Lord—who is absent this go around—are made, (nice to see Dave Legeno’s Fenrir Greyback looking as menacing as I imagined). The roles Malfoy, (I really liked Tom Felton here, showing some nice range and rough emotional turmoil), and Snape, (who doesn’t like Alan Rickman?), play in the tale come closer to fruition as well, if not completely solved. War is upon the magical world, sides have been chosen, and it all reaches its apex a year from now.

As for the leads, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson are solid as usual, (Radcliffe showing some solid comedic chops after taking luck elixir), and Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley gets some room to break free. But it is the supporting roles that deserve notice. Helena Bonham Carter will scare children, so kudos to her, and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore will win even more hearts as his leader finally allows Potter into the inner circle of the plan to rid the world of Voldemort, it now being a circle of two. It is newcomer Jim Broadbent, however, as Professor Slughorn who steals the show. Broadbent is known for his many comical expressions and his rubber face is utilized to great effect here. A blowhard and man with many “friends”, his jubilant smile and need to collect powerful and famous wizards for his Slug Club are ever-present, bringing some levity as well as effectively hiding the dark secret that lies beneath.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince succeeds in the details. It is an exercise in minimalism and showing only what is necessary to the plot. Condensing the novel better than ever done before, Kloves has given Yates the tools to make a film and not just a visual representation of the words. What had previously been done best by Azkaban’s Alfonso Cuarón, this one works better at retaining more subplots and not stripping it quite so bare. With subtle moments such as Death Eaters being bounced off the force field around Hogwarts, to Malfoy’s footsteps disappearing on the Marauder’s Map left visible in the corner of the frame, to the hourglass’s sand standing still when the subject of Voldemort is brought up to Slughorn, to the photograph of a black cliff amidst water in young Tom Riddle’s orphanage room, the tools are planted in your psyche to be activated later. No longwinded exposition is needed to make us, as an audience, feel stupid and lectured to. Instead Yates and crew allow us to show our intelligence and ability to use our eyes and memories to piece things together, making the experience more enjoyable as we believe we are solving the mysteries and not the director who is skillfully guiding us through. I’d say it couldn’t get better than this, but my confidence in Yates has been renewed and my hopes that Deathly Hallows is treated with respect is at one hundred percent, so who knows what the future has to offer?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 9/10

As comparison:
HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone 7/10; HP and the Chamber of Secrets 7/10; HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban 8/10; HP and the Goblet of Fire 8/10; HP and the Order of the Phoenix 6/10

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[1] (L-R) ALAN RICKMAN as Professor Severus Snape, EMMA WATSON as Hermione Granger, RUPERT GRINT as Ron Weasley, DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter and MAGGIE SMITH as Professor Minerva McGonagall in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Photo by Jaap Buitendijk
[2] JIM BROADBENT as Professor Horace Slughorn and MICHAEL GAMBON as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[3] Dark clouds swirl over Hogwarts in a scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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OK America, before you go blindly into an animated film with your young children, why don’t you do a little research on what they are about to witness. A PG rating and stop-motion animated aesthetic do not always make a child-friendly adventure. Based upon the horror novella by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick’s Coraline is chockfull of heavy material, dark story threads, and bleak possibilities. For a guy like me, those things equal undivided success; for a child aged ten, those things equal nightmare filled evenings and parents writing angry letters to Focus Features for subjecting their children to lewd and horrific imagery. Well guess what parents? No one is to blame but you. I’m not saying keep all youngsters away, but do use some discretion on whether your son or daughter can handle the fantastical elements. This is very much Alice in Wonderland displayed in all its non-Disney possibilities. A cautionary tale on being careful what you wish for, our heroine must discover the difference between a world of people neglecting her and that of people doing all they can so that they may give her all she could ever want in the future. Life is not about getting it all right now, but instead a slow and steady climb built on love and trust, one whose benefits far outweigh the whirlwind romance that is never truly as it seems.

Remember folks, this is a story that won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers; it’s not all sing-songy like Selick’s masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas. With that said, however, it is very, very good in a very, very different way. Be prepared for a methodically and deliberately paced story. More psychological terror than jump out at you scares, the tale of Coraline escaping into a parallel world, perfectly mirrored of her own only inhabited by animated dolls, is one of enlightenment and discovery of what love truly means. Do we all want the parents that dote on us? The guardians that will do what we want and when we want it? Of course we do. But that idyllic utopia doesn’t exist, especially in the times for which we live today. Children need to be raised and supported and that takes money and a lot of hard work. What may seem like neglect in the eyes of a child is really two people doing all they can, sacrificing their time, in order to give him/her a chance at success. Only when Coraline sees the manipulation and truth behind the “kindness” her Other-Mother gives her does she realize what she has back at home.

What we are shown is a world through a tiny door in the wall of an old triple-segmented home. There are stories about this door used to explain the disappearances of some local children, including the sister of loudmouthed and shy Wybie Lovat’s grandmother. Only a weathered black cat appears to know what is going on, what the too good to be true farce beyond the door is actually masking behind it. This cat can travel between worlds, (I always knew I had a subtle fear of those creatures for a reason, they are on a totally different dimensional plain that us), and therefore knows it all, allowing him to warn Coraline by orchestrating events via those she encounters. A disgruntled child is easily malleable and fooled when doted upon and given sweets and a smile. The mantra “never talk to strangers” is never more applicable than it is here. With something a tad off-kilter in the fantasy world, Coraline finds herself shaking it off and relishing the opportunity to experience all that she had dreamed of, not knowing that if her parents succeed with their new gardening catalog, those dreams will be fulfilled in reality. Patience is a virtue and youngsters unfortunately don’t learn that fact until they are all grown up, finding ways to apologize to their parents for being such confused and naïve monsters.

With some very nice voicework—Dakota Fanning shines as our titular heroine; Keith David’s baritone brings the cat’s mixture of foreboding and help to life; Robert Bailey Jr. gets the nervous tick and stammer on the nose for Wybie, (short for WhyBorn, now that’s a name you hope your parents never considered); and both Ian McShane and Mr. PC himself John Hodgman add to the supporting cast successfully—you do find yourself enveloped in this world. A rare thing for an animated film to begin with a cast listing, it thankfully doesn’t detract from the escapism by making you think of the actor rather than the character. This fact works best with the mother, played by Teri Hatcher. I would never have been able to pick her voice out, but that just enhances it all the more, breathing life into the stop-motion clay form on screen, becoming the wolf in sheep’s clothing villain necessary for it all to work.

The real success, however, is Selick’s use of the technology to create stunning visuals. And I’ll say it now—you must experience the 3D spectacle. He never makes it a gimmick, throwing things at you or sticking sharp objects out, well too much at least, but instead uses it for atmosphere and realistic depth. When outside, there is always a branch or other obstruction used to both frame our focal point as well as create true space. The shining achievement comes in the Jones’ kitchen when Coraline lines up seed packets on the windowsill. The way you feel as though a pane of glass is between you and her, while the rain beads down it, is just absolutely spectacular.

Definitely soak in the aesthetic and intelligent storytelling as Coraline is for a thoughtful audience willing to delve deep into metaphors and hidden meaning. There is no “approved for your Attention Deficit Disorder child” stamp of approval here. In much the opposite direction, don’t be surprised if your child hates you for making them sit through it. However, it is a tale that will resonate for a portion of the public, hitting on their own feelings of selfishness and wanting the spoils without the work. When your child is intellectually mature enough to handle a rich and deep story, you as a parent will know. When he or she can see a couple of big-bosomed, large older women dressed as mermaids with pasties and not laugh or get uncomfortable, that is when you should let them see Coraline. It is ultimately a film for all ages; one that shows you as adults how it all will get better—junior will one day understand the sacrifices you are making—and you children a fantastical world to escape to with consequences that will shake you into the realization of what you have right in front of you at home.

Coraline 8/10

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[1] Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) travels through a portal between worlds in Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated 3-D adventure CORALINE, from LAIKA Entertainment for release by Focus Features. © 2008 Laika, Inc. All rights reserved.
[2] In the Other World, Wybie (voiced by Robert Bailey Jr.) and Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) are drawn to a circus in Henry Selick’s stop-motion animated 3-D adventure CORALINE, from LAIKA Entertainment for release by Focus Features. © 2008 Laika, Inc. All rights reserved.

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People who know my film tastes can tell you that my favorite movies are those that stray off the beaten path. Film’s that break the fourth wall and involve me as the viewer in the actual plotline always seem to hit the right spot. Chalk up JCVD as another great entry to that style of filmmaking, but also understand that there is a lot more going for it than just being experimental and unafraid to be abnormal. Not only does Jean-Claude Van Damme give possibly his best performance ever—I mean really, really good—but he does so playing a character that is so much like his real life self you would believe this to be an autobiography if you didn’t know better. How director Mabrouk El Mechri talked him into agreeing to this format, I don’t know, but thankfully he did. As an entertaining thriller, bank heist flick it succeeds in spades. However, you should look deeper and see the form of catharsis it must have instilled in Van Damme, finally being able to set the record straight about the women, the money, and the drugs. Complete with a heartfelt monologue that doubles as a prayer to God from JCVD and a plea to the public from Van Damme himself that he has turned his life around, this is just fantastic cinema.

El Mechri has some flair to his work and makes the proceedings exciting. The story is told out of order, with good reason, and broken up with title cards of quotes, (“the stone falls on the egg … the egg breaks” and “the egg falls on the stone … the egg breaks” for example), just remember them because they do become part of the dialogue before the end. And talk about starting with a bang; the entire opening credit sequence is one long take, choreographed to perfection, of Van Damme wreaking havoc on bad guys, kicking them into car windows and saving a hostage. An impressive feat for anyone, let alone a 47-year old action star, it ends very tongue-in-cheek, with a flub followed by an upstart foreign director ignoring his star, wondering why he thinks they are making the next Citizen Kane. Between this moment and the few scenes involving his agent, the satire on Hollywood and its money marketing is handled quite well. Better even than a film like What Just Happened, whose main focus was just that. You really begin to feel for Van Damme and the pressures that brought him back to Belgium after leaving so long ago. A washed up has-been here in the states; he is still the idol of many back in his homeland.

You must give the star a ton of credit for leaving it all out there for this performance. To have to pretty much reenact the courtroom drama of trying to get his daughter’s custody must have been very trying, if not also easy to bring up the emotions necessary to make the scenes work. His utter disgust on how the films he made and the fake violence he inflicted was used against him when it was those same two things that supported his family is there for all to see. Here he is, in a rush to make the post office/bank to wire money so he can retain his attorney, and getting out of his cab still takes the time to pose for photos at a local video store. Despite everything, here is a genuinely kind man, someone who admits to not wanting to have to apologize for his success, for his dream as a thirteen year old coming true. He worked hard and he made it to the top, but sometimes fame can destroy too. A wonderful scene in the cab, talking to the driver shows this very perceptively. Here he is, a tired man who hasn’t slept in two days wanting to rest in the backseat and he gets called rude because the driver is a fan. If he wasn’t a star, his request would have been acknowledged, but for some reason fans feel entitled to a star treating them with “respect”. Maybe there is truth to that, but honestly, it is we the public doing so that makes celebrities so reviled. Our intrusiveness makes them mean and spiteful; we’ve created the monsters.

There is a lot of humor mixed in with the action and suspense. The whole premise revolves around the robbery of a post office/bank for which the police believe JCVD is the perpetrator. As such, the entire city comes out in support of their hero—signs saying “Free Van Damme”—and the police commissioner, played nicely by François Damiens, tries to use the celebrity in his favor. By getting his lawyer on the phone and bringing his parents down to the scene, things start spiraling out of control inside. Things are not always as they seem, however, shown by the repetition of scenes. What is first viewed from the outside of the post office, the start of a robbery while police arrive, becomes completely different when shown again later from the inside, following JCVD as he attempts to get his money wired to Los Angeles.

The medium of film is utilized to its fullest capabilities in this way. We are able to see things multiple times, from differing vantage points; we are allowed a moment alone with the star as he takes himself out of the movie and enters reality in a brilliantly subtle way, raising right out of frame until he’s on level with the stage lights; and we are even shown a scene in Van Damme’s mind, a dream sequence played out before the film rewinds itself and portrays what really happened. Hollywood may love the happy endings of heroes beating all odds and saving the day, but unfortunately real life is never so forgiving. However, despite the cynical way in which the whole ordeal ends, El Mechri does allow for one last moment of heart, completing the film with a sense of quasi-redemption and allowing Van Damme’s catharsis an end he may hopefully see outside of the movies too.

JCVD 9/10

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Courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival

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Mr. Pierre Morel, you have picked an express train to latch on to—good for you. Something about Luc Besson just works every single time. I’m sad that his declaration of being finished with the director’s chair may be true, however, his scripts are mounting and churning out entertaining action flicks. If you can get the Transporter series to make money from its wit and smart action, you know you are doing something right. I’ve yet to see these two guys’ first collaboration, District B13, but as far as the sophomore effort goes, Taken, I have one more reason to finally seek it out. Released in Europe last year and finally making its way stateside at the end of January, the tale pits a retired US government “preventer” with the Albanian captors that stole his daughter in Paris. His job ruined his marriage, strained the relationship he had with his child, yet gave him the specific skill set to get it all back. All he has to do is kick some butt, kill numerous baddies without a glimpse of remorse, and call in a few favors, while burning some old bridges in the process. Liam Neeson shows the physicality that George Lucas must have seen when casting him as a Jedi warrior, but didn’t utilize. Well, Morel sure opened the floodgates and Neeson does not disappoint.

The European flair shows face right at the start with the film’s opening credits. Sure the star gets top billing, but who do you ask gets second and third? That’s right, the director and writers, then followed by the title. Someone understands the true creativity behind a feature film. Well, not just someone, a continent. Whereas we in the states only care about who we see—“doesn’t that new Brad Pitt film look awesome?” “Oh, I don’t know, I kind of wanted to check out the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson.” “Who?”—cinephiles abroad know the creators, the orchestrators, and the people for whom there’d be no words for Pitt to speak. It’s a shame that the name Luc Besson won’t fill the seats by itself here in America, because I’m sure if you mention a lot of his filmography to a film fan and ask what they all have in common, the answer would be, “all films I really enjoy”. And yet the person answering probably has no idea what the common factor is allowing them to be such.

Shot with a kinetic pace, not quite Tony Scott speed as my friend suggested, more Bourne Supremacy, but even a bit clearer than that, the action excites at every turn. Neeson is a man on a mission; a man with everything on the line to find and save his daughter before the estimated 96 hours are up and she is lost forever, sold on the black market to be used, abused, and most likely disposed. Friends, enemies, strangers, you name it; they are all potential targets to be shot at. Neeson’s Bryan Mills is the ultimate badass working from his heart—using his head, but only to survive, not to censor his actions so as to stay out of trouble. He gave it all up to rekindle a relationship with his seventeen year old, yet I’m sure never thought that the only way to do so would be to use all that training. The flip remark from Leland Orser, calling him Rambo, is more appropriate than you may think.

The supporting cast is definitely a necessity to keep the plot moving, but, in the end, it’s all about Neeson moving forward and bull-rushing his way through extras. Maggie Grace can sadly get very tired, but I don’t fault her as much as casting. She is a 26-year old playing 17, so her overly annoying, girlish tendencies are overblown because she is overcompensating for the age difference. Famke Janssen and Xander Berkeley, two favorite character actors of mine, are solid in small roles, while my favorite supporter is Olivier Rabourdin’s Jean-Claude. Playing a French Internal Government agent, an ex-associate of Neeson, he portrays the duality of wanting to help his friend while still keeping his job and financial influx intact. He knows that whatever is uncovered in the one-man vigilante escapade could potentially harm his paycheck by exposing illegal dealings with criminals on the part of the police force, so he is never completely open. And that guardedness leads to a fantastic dinner scene.

Taken is action-packed and a great showcase of Liam Neeson’s ability to break out of the mild-mannered Brit he sometimes gets relegated into playing. No one is safe from his wrath and no obstacle will get in his way; in fact, those obstructions actually help him hide and kill with even more accuracy and safety. Besson also keeps his streak going of highly entertaining scripts helping to launch the careers of Frenchmen—Louis Letterier going from Danny the Dog to Hollywood’s The Incredible Hulk anyone? If this, and the high praise for District B13, is any indication, the name Pierre Morel may soon be one on billboards stateside as well. As I said, he hitched his trailer to the right perpetually moving train.

Taken 8/10

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[1] In TAKEN, Liam Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, an ex-government operative who has less than four days to find his kidnapped daughter – who has been taken on her first day of vacation in Paris. Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu
[2] Only moments away from being taken by a vicious band of kidnappers, Kim (Maggie Grace) makes an urgent phone call to her father. Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu

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When I first decided to check out the prequel/third installment to two of my favorite guilty pleasure vampire/lycanthrope films, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, I joked to myself that I’d be shallow enough to say it failed right from the start by not having the beauty that is Kate Beckinsale. Well, I was half right. You need to remember, this thing would never be a real success because of the sheer non-necessity of it. This story is told effectively enough in Underworld as flashbacks and history, to actually need a feature length showing us it all again is just overkill. That said, though, I really enjoyed it. The tone remained, the aesthetic stayed true, but the Beckinsale factor was missed—no, not because of her looks, but actually her acting. Something about her lent a vulnerability to the character, a softness that showed a bit of humanity behind the vampiric power. With Rhona Mitra, you just get the hard-edged badass, leaving the reality of her falling for a Lycan all the more implausible.

One must give credit to the series on a whole for staying relevant and true to itself. I think that if it became anything less, some sort of caricature being churned out by the Hollywood machine, none of the original talent would have bothered to return, no matter what kind of cash was thrown their way. Bill Nighy is the kind of guy that definitely doesn’t need to be doing action films anymore. After reading interviews with him following the initial film, he complained about the sheer physicality of the role and the amount of training he had to experience. Yet here he is, six years later, still getting into the dungeon water with swords and wirework, completing the story that he began. And by his side is an actor who’s star has risen to the A-list, Michael Sheen, bringing credibility to a genre film that usually doesn’t deserve it, let alone contain it. The Lycan leader, Lucian, is the role that brought Sheen into America’s consciousness and you have to think his friendship with the producers and his belief in the material got him to reprise the role despite recently playing Tony Blair and David Frost.

It is that credibility that makes the series so popular, though. Ever since the first film, billed as a horror, gore flick, surprised by being something of substance, the mythology has taken on a life of its own. Its subtle spin on the immortality yarn was fresh enough to intrigue and rooted in reality to be relevant. This installment may actually hurt because of its time period taking place centuries ago. The neat gadgets and garlic clove bullets are replaced with medieval armor and whips, swords and horses. However, it works if you have embraced the complete story at hand. We always knew that the feud began ages ago, these two races do live forever after all, so to see it play out does excite on some level. We were shown a taste of it in Underworld: Evolution, but here it becomes reality. Even though this film was practically written in the original movie, and just expounded upon here, it still keeps a strong enough script to hold our attention and succeed as a fun ride if not adding anything new.

The reason that fact is also a detriment leads us to Rhona Mitra. In my mind I always saw Sonja as this girl who had love and compassion in her heart. Someone who saw beyond the cold, cruelty of her father to realize what combining the bloodlines could do for the peaceful harmony of their races. I thought of someone like Beckinsale, a former human that still held a shred of morality in her body, a softness to see why Lucian would fall for her. What we get from Mitra, and it is what she does, is a pureblood vampire, born and raised to kill. She is so steely-eyed and stone-faced that while her brazen attitude with her father and need to protect her people works remarkably, the moments when she needs to tear down her shield ring false. I don’t necessarily blame her as much as casting. The filmmakers saw that young men wanted to see a hot woman kicking butt and didn’t realize the other layers Kate’s Selene added to the overall tone of Underworld. As an action film she is perfect, but as a story of love and a future above prejudice and civil war, there is just something lacking.

Michael Sheen then attempts to do it all himself, showing incredible range with just a silent look at a vampire guard abusing one of his kind. Grabbing his arm to stop the whip, his eyes show the seriousness with which he makes the transgression, but also the pleading warmth for this monster to show a little compassion and respect. You can only beat someone so much before they either can’t work anymore or they wake up to the fact they are strong enough to stand their ground and fight. Sheen’s Lucian tries so hard to force those feelings of revolt down in order to keep his affair with Sonja alive, but sometimes the master’s lashings can be withstood only so long. His dynamic with Bill Nighy’s remorseless—although he shows some weakness in abandoning his daughter—bureaucrat is felt. It becomes old school versus the new and a beginning to the long war yet to be forged against the two.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is by no means crucial viewing for the series to make sense, but it also isn’t something to completely dismiss. Showing what we knew fully adds a layer that may or may not effect how you view the other two installments afterwards. If nothing else, it answers some questions about how each character became whom they do. I’d almost recommend seeing it just to experience the origins of Raze. Kevin Grevioux is one of the series’ creators and killed himself off in the first film only to be resurrected here in the past. His history is an intriguing one and probably the only surprise I had watching, unthinking that how he becomes Lucian’s right-hand man could occur as it does. However, it makes perfect sense and actually creates a whole new level about the relationship between immortals and humans. It’s just one more thread to bolster the mythology and add some depth to an already fleshed-out premise.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 6/10
As comparison: Underworld 8/10; Underworld: Evolution 8/10

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[1] Michael Sheen stars in Screen Gems’ action thriller UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS.
[2] Bill Nighy and Rhona Mitra star in Screen Gems’ action thriller UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS.
© 2008 Lakeshore Entertainment Group LLC. All Right Reserved.


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