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madam_Q

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13 reviews in total 
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Grimm Love (2006)
46 out of 60 people found the following review useful:
A worthy watch, if not an easy one, 28 February 2007
7/10

I can't help but wonder, after reading so many negative reviews, if people really got this movie. Yes, it is a commentary on a depraved culture. But, as the narration points out, the important things are not what makes us different from people like cannibal Oliver Hartwin, but what makes us the same.

As Hartwin, Thomas Kretschmann does a great job in a role that can be described in a mastery of understatement as "difficult." He plays a man who fantasizes about eating human flesh. He finds the yin to his yang in Simon Groembeck (Thomas Huber, equally superb), a man who's veritable truckload of I.S.S.U.E.S. see him abandoning his GQ model boyfriend to be eaten by a guy with a Herman Munster haircut and a predilection for beige. Go figure. They hook up over that great haven for all the demented and depraved - the Internet. Go team!

Kerri Russell narrates the film in a somewhat unnecessary framing device. Quite frankly, what I found most irritating about the film were the most over obvious attempts to sell it internationally - Russell is the known "face" but the majority of the cast is comprised of German actors. Why not film it in German? Why not drop Russell altogether and instead focus on the relationship between the two men? A relationship which is, in its own way, oddly affecting. For as the title implies...this is a love story.

Well, come on. How many movies does Hollywood churn out annually based on the central premise of a woman (once upon a time Meg Ryan, lately her mini-me Reese Witherspoon) and a man (preferably Hugh Jackman but Mark Ruffalo or one of the Wilson brothers in a pinch) who are made for each other? When you really examine it, this film is based around the same premise. These are two men who are, in Russell's own words as she drably narrates, a perfect match. Far too much screen time is given to Russell poking around Hartwin's farm house and looking generally freaked out, at the expense of the developing of the relationship between two true oddballs. This is not monster and victim - these are two lonely men who have found each other, and not nearly enough time is devoted to the why of it all.

In it's look, the film very much honors it's subject matter, to great effect. It is shot mostly in muted tones, yet avoids the trap similar films have fallen into - namely looking too dark and leaving the audience wondering if they need to turn the contrast on their TV up. Very much a 1970s horror movie feel. Clever tricks abound - we see a grisly horror film being enjoyed by Hartwin reflected on his eyeball in an extreme close up, while in an earlier flashback the camera travels under the sheets to watch him reading under his bedclothes as a child. The running time is concise, a mere hour and a half, with the majority of the film's most difficult to watch scenes occurring in the final twenty minutes. There is the odd unexpected moment of black humor - yes, you feel guilty for chuckling - while the bare bones script is stripped of exposition and all the better for it. On the whole it is a well made movie, not what you'd call entertaining, but a worthy watch none the less.

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Great fun, not without its flaws, 29 July 2006
8/10

Middle installments of trilogies often tend to suffer, especially when the original was not necessarily made with a sequel in mind. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. Put "The Empire Strikes Back" on the opposite side of the sequel coin to "Matrix Reloaded" - there most decidedly IS a precedent for second films emerging from the shadows of their predecessors.

Thus my hopes when I went in to see "Dead Man's Chest" were reasonably high. The fact that all of the original cast had returned, along with quality additions like Stellan Skarsgard and Bill Nighy, only buoyed my optimism. And surely Johnny Depp wouldn't have let himself be pulled into any old crap, contractual obligation or no.

Like "The Empire Strikes Back" this is a considerably darker affair than the all out fun of the original. The themes dealt with here are more somber - betrayals and double crossings are commonplace even among the good guys, and issues of mortality dealt with by Davey Jones and his crew make them far more frightening than the villains of the original - indeed, Barbossa and his men look almost cartoonish by comparison. There are some real scares here, and this is definitely not a film that I'd recommend to parents with young children, bladder busting running time aside.

Not to say its all gloom and doom. Definitely not. The visual effects are virtually flawless, and the action set pieces - particularly a three way sword fight between Jack, Will and Norrington while Elizabeth throws a temper tantrum (not to mention rocks) on the sidelines is fantastic. The script is great, not only containing a good measure of great one liners (of which Captain Jack predictably gets the lion's share) but also real deepening of relationships between the characters. Jack and Elizabeth in particular. Ragetti and Pintel are great fun, trading on their great rapport like they did in the original, and Norrington finally gets to be something other than a "prat in a wig" (as the lovably self deprecating Jack Davenport described himself in a magazine interview).

Inevitably, it lacks the freshness and the "wow" factor of the original. But there's nothing the filmmakers could have done to avoid that. Because, lets face it, nobody expected the original to be as successful as it was. A Disney flick based on a theme park ride starring Edward Scissorhands, Legolas and the skinny chick from "Bend it Like Beckham"? Who knew? Pleasingly, though, there's no sense of anybody resting on their laurels - in particular I had dreaded Jack's antics skirting into caricature territory but Depp is, of course, far too "savvy" an actor to fall into that trap.

The ending, like that of "Back to the Future Part II", is predictably a cliffhanger ensuring that everybody and their dog (or monkey) will drag themselves back to see part three, but oddly the feeling of being manipulated is somehow all part of the fun. And if part three is even anywhere near the quality of part two....we're in for an awesome ride...

10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
We are the knights who say...this film is BRILLIANT, 1 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*MINOR SPOILERS*

God, how I love this movie. And perhaps even more so for being a fan of the time honored myths and legends this film so skillfully lampoons.

This is not so much a film as a collection of sketches - the narrative is not so tightly strung together as in the other Python classic, The Life of Brian, but how could this matter when there are so many moments of knicker-wettingly brilliant hilarity? There's the 'Invincible' Black Knight ("I'll bite your kneecaps off!")....the Castle Anthrax ("Can't I have just a little more peril?") and, my most oft quoted moment, the French who defeat Arthur and his knights, by first taunting them and then slinging farm animals over the castle walls. I post on message boards here quite often, and still tend to pull out "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" as an insult when the going gets tough!

The Python's strength lies in the fact that they are masters of humour in all it's forms. They are equally at home with schoolboy smut as they are with high brow satire - and the result is a film which constantly throws the audience curveballs and leaves them wondering what to expect.

My favourite Python, the wonderful John Cleese, excels yet again in multiple roles as the noble Lancelot, the Black Knight and Tim the Enchanter, among others. You get the impression of barely contained rage hidden within Cleese's rangy form, and I often wonder how he would make the transition to dramatic performances. Robin Williams has made the jump, while Steve Martin has had less success - and they are two comedians who's on screen personas are considerably more "cuddly" than Cleese. The scene in which Lancelot storms the castle to rescue Prince Herbert from his impending wedding, believing that there is in fact a princess held captive, is a highlight for me. This is purely because of Cleese's rather gentlemanly reaction to news that he, in his onslaught, stabbed the bride's father in the head - "Oh dear. Is he alright?"

And then there's the Holy Hand Grenade of Saint Antioch. "And he, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it!" And the witch trial, featuring some incredibly dense peasants...."She turned me into a newt.....I got better!" Then there are the communist peasants..."I didn't know we had a king! I thought we were an autonomous collective!" And, of course, the Knights Who Say Ni.

Irreverent, childish....utterly hilarious. Complete class from start to finish.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Noble intention, poor execution, 18 July 2004
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*MINOR SPOILERS*

Logic dictates that taking Britain's most well known and oft told myth and stripping it of everything that makes it memorable is a bad idea. This did not deter the makers of 'King Arthur', and while the premise is interesting, it's execution is sloppy, leaving behind a film doomed to reside in the shadows of such great predecessors as the film 'Excalibur', and the TV min-series 'Merlin'.

Historians have long speculated over the real identity of the mysterious King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table and, as the prologue of this film tells us, recent archaeological discoveries point to him being a descendent of Sarmatian knights. As it stands, this is only speculation, but gives the film its premise. As the film opens, the Romans are pulling out of 'indefensible outposts' such as Britain, leaving the native people to defend themselves against the bloody thirsty and murderous Saxons. Artorius (Arthur to his pals) and his knights are eagerly awaiting their deeds of emancipation so they may return to a home they barely remember after fifteen years of service in Britain. But he and his knights are handed one final mission - to rescue an important Roman family who have settled, for reasons best known to themselves, on the other side of Hadrians Wall. This is the film's first misfire - it makes no sense. If this family are so important, why have they been allowed to live in such a dangerous place? To reach them, Arthur and his knights are forced to travel through territory controlled by native Britons, known as 'Woads', making their task a virtual suicide mission. Except it isn't. Because Merlin, paying lip service to the Arthurian legend as the leader of the Woads, knows that the rampaging Saxons will shortly be on their doorstep and Arthur and his knights could be their only hope against a much stronger enemy.

After a strong first act, the film becomes a gloomy, murky stew. The characters founder - Arthur's knights are virtually interchangeable and have surprisingly little of the screenplay devoted to them. Ray Winstone's rambunctious Bors is memorable, but all the others, even Lancelot, are as dull as ditch water. Keira Knightly adds her own sparkly charm as Guenevere but her character is woefully underwritten. Her only purpose is to let loose a few arrows - Orlando Bloom showed her a thing or two on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, it seems - and throw a spanner in the works as Arthur's love interest. But this only paves the way for what is, in my mind, the biggest disappointment in the film - the fabled love triangle between Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot has been scrapped. Oh sure, Lance spies Guennie looking fetching while bathing and there are a few meaningful looks, but the ultimate opportunity to create a drama with the potential to actually suck us into this world and make us care about these characters has been abandoned.

Still, that may be no bad thing because the fewer occasions on which Clive Owen is required to emote the better. Clive has his own physicality that serves him well in the fight scenes, but speaks his lines as though reading from a cue card. This is disastrous - like Russell Crowe's Maximus in 'Gladiator', Arthur is the foundation this whole house of cards is built on.

Oh, if an actor of Russ's caliber had taken the helm, it could have been a completely different film. Without a charismatic leading man, the film steadily crumbles as it heads towards a climax you just don't care about.

But, hey, it doesn't matter if the hero is a big dull dud as long as you have an interesting villain, right? Ehm, wrong. As the leader of the Saxons, the usually serviceable Stellan Skarsgard looks bored and gives the impression that he is working on another much more interesting movie during the week and only mucking in on 'King Arthur' on his days off. We only know he is a baddie because he issues orders like "Burn every village, kill everyone" and, in a confusing sequence, saves a woman from being raped and then orders her death.

So the film lumbers on to the inevitable final climactic battle. Guenevere reappears in a costume (well, if you can call two strips of leather a costume) that Xena, Warrior Princess would blush and back away from and Arthur and his knights get to look cool while silhouetted on a hill top - the filmmakers apparently confused as to whether they are retelling the Arturian legend or paying homage to 'The Magnificent Seven'. The battle that follows is confusing, choppily edited and uninvolving. Some of the fighting is impressive, but pales in comparison to the far superior swordplay in previous epics such as 'Troy'. Like much of the preceding film, it's dark, dour and gloomy. When it's finally over we are treated to the prerequisite happy ending, which contrasts too much with the rest of the movie not to throw the whole thing off balance.

The look of the film is another major downfall. Yes, this is a 'realistic' retelling of the story of King Arthur, but why must it be so gloomy? Sitting in the cinema I felt like somebody needed to turn the contrast up. It lacks an epic feel that you might have expected in this sort of movie - there is a stunning paucity of sweeping aerial shots and stunning scenery. Instead, it gives the impression of being made on the cheap, with one section of forest standing in for a variety of locations. Everything is dark - the sets, the costumes - nothing stands out as remarkable. There is none of the punch or dazzle usually associated with a Jerry Brukheimer film.

'King Arthur' would have benefited from a tighter storyline and more focus on the central characters. I would have liked to see the relationships between Arthur and his knights better developed. We find out nothing of their motivations or why they are so attached to Arthur that they will follow him to almost certain death instead of beating a path to the utopia of Rome like sensible people. That's the film's biggest mystery - why would anyone want to follow the sour faced Mr Owen ANYWHERE?

Overall, it's a pleasant way to waste a Sunday afternoon. Much of the fun is in seeing the filmmakers' imagining of where the classic hallmarks of Arthurian legend - the round table, Excalibur - originated. Remove the familiar elements and you are left with a gritty and sour period piece that is ultimately disappointing.

49 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
Funny, heartbreaking and true, 6 July 2004
10/10

Who needs expensive movie stars when a group of unknowns can light up the screen like this lot?

On paper, it sounds like a failure - a cast comprising almost entirely of untrained and untested performers, set in working class Dublin, based on the novella by Roddy Doyle. By God, does it defy expectations.

Jimmy Rabbitte is a working class Dublin lad who's been collecting unemployment benefits for two years. But he dreams of bigger things, namely making it big in the music industry. He sets out to form a soul band, and assembles a motley crew of musicians and singers, most of whom don't know each other and many of whom can't stand each other.

The look of the film is gritty and realistic - nothing is glossed over. North Dublin is presented in all it's glory. The home lives of the band members are depicted warts and all - their private lives set the scene for the inevitable personality clashes that are almost as explosive as the music. In the mix is the unique character of the Irish people - at one point Jimmy enters a tenement block and, as he waits for the lift, looks over to see a boy with a horse. "You aren't taking that in the lift, are you?" he asks. "I have to," the boy replies. "The stairs would kill him."

The real star of the show is the music - this film spawned two hugely successful soundtrack albums. The band members were cast partly due to their musical ability, and the results are superlative. The stand out is Andrew Strong as Deco - would you believe this kid was only 16 when the film was made? His amazing voice belies his tender years, and suggests that he's been smoking a packet a day since the age of about four. At the end of the day with is a fine ensemble piece, much like the band. The acting may be a little wonky at times, but the hysterical dialogue makes up for that.

Most remarkably, this is a feel good film that does not rely on any of the conventional feel good plot devices. There are no group hugs, no plot conveniences, no trite happy endings. Just a shrewdly observed and wittily captured human story about people who dream of making it out of their dreary world. And isn't that something we can all relate to?

The Hole (2001)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Decidedly lackluster, 27 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*SPOILERS*

The teen slasher is not a genre British film concerns itself with too much. The exception is the The Hole, an ill-advised and lackluster attempt to lock horns with vastly superior across the pond cousins such as The Blair Witch Project with, inexplicably, two Americans in leading roles.

The film opens with Liz (Thora Birch) being found, bloodied and disheveled, after going missing along with three pals. The film unfolds in flashback as traumatized Liz recounts her experience to a police psychologist. This is all very well, but structuring the film in this manner removes all dramatic tension - we know that Liz survived, we assume that her friends did not. It is also somewhat episodic and disjointed - the flashbacks are out of sequence and this makes it difficult to become involved with the story. The script is completely lacking in polish and gives the impression of being perhaps only a second draft - it falls down at the basic level of explaining who these characters are and why we are supposed to case about them. "Liz and Frankie are almost the same person," comments Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank) at one point. Spot on he is too, but this has more to do with the fact that the script fails to give any character depth or chemistry than any hamfisted but well-intentioned attempt to give the film a 'Single White Female in a British Public School' plot dimension.

The young cast acquit themselves well, with good performances from Birch, Desmond Harrington and a then-unknown Kiera Knightly. As Martyn, Brocklebank pulls off the typical disdainful brainiac who's smarter than pretty much everyone else and knows it, but he's set up too early as the 'fall guy', once again killing off any potential tension.

I feel the film would have worked better with a more linear plot line. I would have liked to see more of the gang's initial hedonism and bonding in the hole, these scenes are brushed over far too quickly. I'm surprised that the script writers didn't take the opportunity for some serious character development with this scenario. They've taken four people, put them in a confined space and given them nothing to do but talk to each other - and they don't! The film moves straight from their initial partying to their realisation that they are trapped in the hole and the bickering and sniping starts. Non-existent character development is the film's biggest problem. Without exception the characters are unsympathetic and impossible to root for - they're just too unlikeable. When the inevitable 'twist' comes, not only was I unsurprised, I just didn't care.

Saved by great performances, 14 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*MINOR SPOILERS*

After her mother murders her cheating boyfriend, a teenage girl drifts through a series of foster homes. If it wasn't for the stellar acting by a great cast, this would be strictly 'movie of the week' stuff.

Alison Lohman and Michelle Pfieffer are the standouts here - they are utterly convincing as mother and daughter. Pfieffer in particular shines as the seductive, manipulative Ingrid and manages to coax every ounce of humanity from her character. We are ultimately invited to sympathise with Ingrid and her futile attempts to control her daughter's life from behind bars. Lohman, as Astrid, the film's central character, has a difficult task - she's the link in the film's somewhat episodic structure. Earmark this girl as a star of the future, because she pulls it off a treat. This film is her journey from adolescence to adulthood, and Lohman confidently takes the audience with her in each step. I only wish the film makers had put more faith in her acting ability and not elected to show the passing of time with drastic changes to her hairstyle. It looks somewhat ridiculous, since Pfieffer doesn't change a jot. Then again, this could be a deliberate plot by the film makers to symbolise that Astrid is changing and growing while Ingrid stagnates and clings to her old life.

Robin Wright Penn and Renee Zellweger do well in underwritten roles as Astrid's foster mothers. Wright Penn get her teeth into Star (colorfully described by Ingrid as "Bible-thumping trailer trash") and makes us remember that this lady is not just Sean Penn's wife - she can act! Star is a picture of hypocrisy - she has Astrid baptised and espouses 'finding Jesus' yet is not married to her live in boyfriend and wears clothes that would make a guest on Jerry Springer blush. Zellweger has even less to do as the fragile and emotionally needy Claire, the one foster mother Astrid truly bonds with. Renee does her best, but Claire is ultimately too vapid and passive to be really engaging.

This is a woman's movie and as such the male parts don't do so well. Billy Connelly is barely glimpsed as Ingrid's murdered lover. Noah Wyle is Claire's self-centred yuppie husband who's work based travel means he's hardly on screen. Patrick Fugit fares better as Astrid's love interest - I'm so pleased that they didn't select a conventionally handsome 'teen idol' for this part. Fugit has the chops to become a great character actor.

At the centre of this story is the mother and daughter relationship, and it is wonderfully rendered. The tables gradually turn - at the beginning of the film, Ingrid is the strong one. By the end that has been neatly inverted. Themes of love, loss and letting go will resonate with mothers and daughters everywhere.

I was entertained by this movie. It was slow and occasionally melodramatic, but held aloft by great performances.

168 out of 212 people found the following review useful:
A visual feast with bite, 13 June 2004
8/10

Harry Potter is growing up! The voice is deepening, the shoulders are broadening and...hurray! You no longer feel like a creep for having a little crush on Daniel Radcliffe...whoops, did I say that out loud? Say what you will, I see him making the jump from child star to adult actor in a way that Haley Joel Osment only dreams of.

Appropriately, this third film in the Harry Potter series has matured along with it's young stars. At first glance the storyline itself is relatively simple - Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban Prison and young Harry is on his hit list. But the reality is that this movie is about being a teenager and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. On one level, Harry is like any other kid at school - he puts up with torment from bullies, gets into scrapes with his teachers and hangs out with his friends. But this is not just any school. This is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Harry has a whole OTHER set of problems. Like an escaped madman who may just want to kill him, for example.

The plot contains the requisite amounts of twists and turns. The focus is on Harry's past - Sirius Black was his godfather but just may have been in league with he who's name cannot be mentioned. There is the usual game of 'are they or aren't they?' when it comes to deciding which characters are really the baddies. Alan Rickman continues to walk the finest of lines between good and bad with his marvelous performance as Professor Snape. Has there ever been a better match of actor and character? Snape shows again that, while he may take occasional delight in making his students' lives difficult, he does have their best interests at heart - like any good teacher. Other plot quirks worked well - I enjoyed the way the time travel angle was worked in and the map showing the location of everyone in Hogwarts was a delight.

Visually, this is a much darker film and it is a sumptuous treat for the eyes. There is so much incredible detail in the sets that it's impossible to absorb it all in one sitting. All the staples from the other films are there - the paintings talk, the staircases move, ghosts roam the halls - watch out for the knights on horseback crashing through windows! The special effects are all top notch. A word of caution for any parents - there are some genuine scares here. The Dementors are particularly nasty, and I would certainly think twice about letting very young children watch this film. This is without even considering it's running time - two and a half hours - which is a very long time to expect some children to sit still.

One of the most impressive things about this film is the way that the young cast are more sure of themselves. As Hermione, Emma Watson grated in the first film with her occasional woodenness. Pleasingly, she has grown into herself as an actor and her performance here is much more mature. A leading lady of the future, perhaps? Hermione is growing up and is tired of being taken for an irritating goody-two shoes know it all. Rupert Grint provides comic relief and Daniel Radcliffe gives an outstanding performance, considering the whole film rests on his shoulders. Harry is the hero - the audience needs to identify with him. By the end of this film teenage girls will want to take him home to mother, while their mothers will just want to take him home and adopt him!

New cast members acquit themselves well. The role of Sirius Black was tailor made for Gary Oldman - he has a requisite creepiness with just a dose of humanity to bring the character to life. Daniel Thewlis is good as Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts master who takes Harry under his wing. Emma Thompson is amusing as a Divinination professor with bad eyesight. She can see into the future but can't tell which students are falling asleep in her class!

Many have criticised Michael Gambon's performance as Dumbledore. While it's true that he is no Richard Harris, I personally was pleased that he didn't attempt to imitate his predecessor. Gambon is accomplished enough a performer to stay true to the character while at the same time putting his own stamp on it.

Take away the magic and monsters, and what you have is a coming of age movie. Harry is forced to grow up and confront both his past and his future, and come to terms with the reality that he is no ordinary wizard. With the spectra of 'you know who' continuing to loom on the horizon, roll on film four!

Chopper (2000)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
For those who take their comedy black with no sugar..., 20 May 2004
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*MINOR SPOILERS*

I've never really been a fan of violent movies. So it was with some trepidation that I finally sat down and watched Chopper about six months ago. I've watched it two or three times since, and it's only since Eric Bana has become the latest Hollywood it boy that I felt compelled to comment. Because, very simply, Eric is the star of the show. It's a masterful piece of acting.

At the end of the day, career crim Mark 'Chopper' Read it presented as a bit of a sad git. He's paranoid and has a serious anger management problem. In Pentonville prison, he stabs one of his many enemies in the face with a pair of pliers, then offers him a cigarette by way of apology. In the movie's most disturbing scene, we watch as he instructs a fellow inmate to hack off his ears. There is no rhyme or reason to Chopper. He dances to the beat of his own drum.

When he's released from prison, he has a few scores to settle. Or does he? It becomes impossible to separate fact from fiction. Chopper is a teller of tall tails! He spreads rumours about himself, then denies them. Is he working for the police? Do half the drug dealers in Melbourne have a contract on his life? Or is Chopper just some sort of paranoid schizophrenic?

This is Eric Bana's movie. Supporting characters come and go, we aren't given enough information to care about them. Bana's screen presence is incredible. He IS Chopper. Whenever he's on screen, he commands attention.

A lot of detail is left out- the screenwriters seem to assume that the viewer will be familiar with Chopper's story. Most of us here in Oz are, but I can imagine overseas audiences being a little mystified. His writing is thrown in ten minutes from the end as almost an afterthought. His connections to half the people he antagonises aren't fully explained.

Something that surprised me is how funny this movie is. I was laughing out loud for most of it. The most amazing part of Bana's performance is that his Chopper is likable. You're actually rooting for him! He's portrayed as a bit of a larrikin, a genuine down to earth Aussie bloke. This is a man who punches his girlfriend in the face, then headbutts her mother. He's fond of waving his gun at people. He exposes himself to women in bars. The fact that we don't find him completely reprehensible is a testiment to the subtlety of Bana's performance. He has Chopped down pat. His voice. His mannerisms. His genuine but slightly off kilter charm. You're invited to almost feel sorry for him. He loves the media circus he has created, but the final scene is of him sitting in his prison cell, alone and cut off from a world in which he is really nothing but a novelty.

It's not pretty. In fact, in places is downright disturbing. But the comparisons to movies like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are justified.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Check your brain at the door, 9 May 2004
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*MINOR SPOILERS*

What do you get when you take a woeful script, an incoherent story and a bucket load of special effects? Why, it must be Van Helsing!

In the interest of fairness, I'll start with what I liked about this movie. The visuals is striking and the production design outstanding. Every set is suitably moody and atmospheric. The special effects are the real star of the show, no surprises there, and are beautifully done. I suspect, however, that this has something to do with the fact that virtually every scene takes place in near darkness and that hides a multitude of sins. The action is also outstanding- the stunt work is well done and there are a couple of great set pieces.

However, this is not enough. Much has been made of how bad the script is and unfortunately it is truly appalling- the actors founder with characters lacking any depth or chemistry. Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale have both been better. Kate's career has been on a steady downer since Pearl Harbour- does this girl have a thing for overblown, special effects laden tripe where she gets to wear tight costumes or what? And as for Hugh, there were a couple of points where I got the feeling he was going to nod off and go to sleep. His job was to look surly, wield impressive weapons (Freud would have a field day here) and occasionally come out with the sort of droll one liners that would be better placed in the next Die Hard movie. A mysterious guy with an anger management problem and no clue about his past? Gee, Hugh, where have we seen THAT before.

The supporting players fare no better. David Wenham is wasted in the standard 'sidekick' role, Richard Roxborough chews scenery as Count Dracula and the less said about his brides the better- all three of them act from the cleavage and are about as frightening as a clown at a kid's birthday party.

I could go on- the story is all over the place and the finale leaves several loose ends untied. Van Helsing's burning quest is to find out his origins. He doesn't. This can mean only one thing- a sequel...or even worse, a franchise. Yeesh.

There are too many gaps in the plot, too many developments left unexplained. Why is Frankenstein's monster so critical? Where exactly do the werewolves fit into to it all? Yes, this is a monster movie, but too often things just seem to be inserted because they look cool rather than them having any relevance to the plot. It all slaps of sloppy film making. It's similiar in many ways to The Mummy, but unlike that movie, this is seriously lacking in humour. The fun quotient just isn't there.

'What do you expect, it's only a popcorn flick' is the defense I've heard most often. I'm sorry, but no. I've seen enough examples of good popcorn flicks to know that some things are inexcusable. Even action fans deserve good dialogue and a story that makes sense. Pirates of the Caribbean is the example that most readily jumps to mind. Even though there were several plot gaps there too, you were having too good a time to really notice.

Save your money. Rent X-Men and Underworld, make it a double bill and call it a night.


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