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Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Very enjoyable and engaging
From beginning to end, my eyes didn't stray from the screen. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater that I was so transfixed by.
A number of great performances from polished actors complimented some truly spectacular action scenes and plot developments and twists.
The title alone says exactly what the film accomplishes, as the story 'evolves' seemingly by the minute, and it never becomes stale or overtly contrived.
I found myself able to predict certain parts of the film, and even still in those instances, the events that unfolded shortly thereafter kept me from feeling disappointed in the very fact that I was almost certain of what was coming.
If the standard notion amongst avid movie buffs is that sequels rarely, if ever best their predecessor, 'Underworld: Evolution' defies that notion through and through. Much like 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' was able to take a solid foundation from its predecessor and take it to a level where it became the standard for sci-fi/action films at the time of its release, U:E should become the blue-print for all werewolf and/or vampire action/dramas to come, or creature-related action/dramas in general, for that matter.
The pacing was very good, the dialogue was at times great, overall very fitting (and never poor), all questions a viewer could have possibly coming into the film are addressed and sufficiently answered, and some of the subtleties of the film, such as the appropriate use of brief flashbacks, kept the film from ever becoming confusing or difficult to follow, which I felt happened on occasion in the first film the first time I saw it.
Kate Beckinsale delivers a performance that shows she is a very versatile actress who just so happens to be strikingly beautiful, and Scott Speedman was more than just a little eye-candy for the ladies, delivering a performance that made me believe he was the perfect Michael Corvin far more than the first film. And the supporting cast around the two main stars were all equally up to the task, with many turning in performances that are likely to be career defining.
Hats off to Len Wiseman for living up to a last name that couldn't be more fitting. He never compromises his vision, and more importantly the story by trying to woo the crowd with over-the-top (Matrix-y) action scenes or gratuitous sexual imagery, as many directors do to try to win over their audiences, and yet the movie has some of the best action scenes the genre has seen in years, and a sexual chemistry between Selene and Michael that is very believable, and yet not over-done. Even in one very intimate scene between them, it is never excessive or tasteless.
I will likely go see this film in theaters again before it is out, and the only film I've ever seen in theaters twice was 'Batman' when I was 10 years old and the second viewing was for a birthday of a friend of mine at the time. I will also certainly be buying the DVD when it is released in an effort to support film-making at its finest. For anyone who liked the first film, you will most likely love this one as I did (do), and for anyone on the fence, you will likely find yourself joining us fans in rejoicing over this highly anticipated sequel. As for doubters of the first film, just give it a chance and you'll likely find that whatever your gripe was with the 'Underworld', 'Underworld: Evolution' does not suffer from the kinds of flaws you may have found the original to have had.
b/c I can only vote using IMDb's scoring system with whole numbers I am giving it a 10, but on a scale of 1 to 10 including halves, with 10 being the best, I give it a 9.5/10, whereas I give the first an 8/10
...what Youngblood attempts, which is to tell the story of an up and coming star at a crucial point in his hockey career. Of all the hockey movies I've seen, including Slap Shot, The Mighty Ducks movies, The Cutting Edge (which focuses on hockey for only the beginning of the film) and the Van-Damme action-film Sudden Death, (which in my opinion is the absolute worst hockey-related movie ever made) the plot of Youngblood is the most reasonable to me. I have not seen Mystery Alaska, but from a friend of mine's description, it sounds quite far-fetched. (although I suppose a group of Alaskans probably would have a chance against the Rangers :)
I was born late in 1979, and first saw Youngblood when I was quite young. In fact, it was the first hockey movie I ever saw, and to date the only one I own. Part of my fascination with this film resulted from my passion for the sport of ice hockey, which I began playing at the age of 4 and maintained competitively through the collegiate level.
What I like most about Youngblood is that the story is centered around one player (Dean) and his struggles to advance his career, despite his talent. The obstacles he faces in the film: lack of toughness, and clashing with the coach, and knowing his chances to go pro are running slim, are typical themes hockey players share as they advance toward the ultimate goal of one day playing in the NHL. While Slapshot is hockey's cult classic, it is more like Animal House on Ice than a realistic attempt to portray ice hockey, which Youngblood attempts, and quite honestly a film of such nature should be produced for the avid hockey fans around the world.
Without a doubt, Youngblood fails to portray skillful hockey, and the off-ice action only mildly captures the life of a junior hockey player, but had the proper research been done and certain changes made pre-production, Youngblood could have joined Slapshot in hockey fans' movie collections. The games needed to be faster, the dialogue snappier, (especially the Keanu Reeves brainbusters) and the Rocky-ish training diminished the quality of the film, because not only would Dean not go from being the weakest in the league to kicking the toughest guy's butt in a week, but most wannabe professionals and junior teams have regimented training programs to follow on a regular basis, and do not begin two days before the championship game of the league they're in.
Cutting that scene could have made room for a far more realistic side of the game, such as Dean being contacted by prospective coaches, agents and other interested parties to notify him they'd be coming to watch his games. (like most prospects with hopes of going pro have to deal with)
Dean simply mentions that he wants to go pro and needs to play juniors if he's going to get a contract, but that is the last we hear about him playing pro, aside from mentioning it to Jessie, coach Chadwick's sexy daughter, and Dean's love interest. From my experiences, any player in junior hockey who did not receive a fair amount of attention from scouts was quite likely not going anywhere, so there should have been some effort to include them to advance the plot of his odds of making it, because scouts would have certainly had more influence on Dean playing tougher than anyone in the film does, although in reality his teammates should have been getting on him too.
As for character interplay, Dean's relationship with Chadwick's daughter is entertaining, if far-fetched. Perhaps the most realistic relationship between characters in the film is the one between Sutton and Youngblood, as the top talents of hockey teams often have an appreciation for one another and pal-up off the ice. Not to mention, the Hollywood impact on the film is the only logical explanation for Youngblood leaving the team after Sutton's injury. In all my years as a player, I'd never heard of that one, although, I suppose it just explains Dean's irrational behavior resulting from his conflicts with coach Chadwick and his nemesis, Racki.
On the whole, I appreciate this movie, but I certainly wish it had more of an advanced pace and that it better explored and explained some of the typical stereotypes of hockey players that it shows (star player chases and gets the girl everyone wants, the bar scene, the initiation, the opposing team's heckling fans, etc.)
As a long-time hockey player and fan who now studies Scriptwriting at Ithaca College, I feel somewhat obligated to pen a true-to-life hockey film for the die-hard lovers of the game out there. Somebody needs to!! Youngblood, if nothing else, at least will make a decent reference.