Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

November 10, 2012

Double-ovember: Skyfall (Matt’s Take)

Skyfall – Dysfunctional

I’ll set the record straight; in no way am I as big a fan of James Bond than my co-reviewers.  I’ve seen the more well-known Bond films (Goldfinger, Thunderball, and the Pierce Brosnan flicks).  I enjoyed the re-done “Casino Royale” and thought Daniel Craig did a great job as a young (and crazy) 007.  However, watching “Skyfall” I found myself wondering; when did it become so cool to become a nihilist?

Let me start from the beginning before I lay into “Skyfall,” the 23rd Bond film, and third to feature Craig as the MI6 agent.  When I watch these new Bond movies I can’t help but realize that everyone wants to go the Christopher Nolan, Batman, route.  If I had to rename this film I would probably call it “The Bond Knight Rises.”  By the end of “Skyfall” James Bond has become Bruce Wayne in many ways, and I have a hard time understanding why they decided to go that route, oh wait, I know; it both makes money and is a sure-fire plot device.

When you think of iconic characters you could say Batman, Indiana Jones, John McClane, and James Bond.  They are part of our pop culture DNA and while I do appreciate a darker, more anti-hero, aura around heroes, it comes to a point where the soul is sucked out from them and they become a hollow shell with few redeeming qualities.  Apparently this is what our society has comes to.  They crave blood, vengeance, and nihilism.  For my money I might call “Skyfall” one of the most polarizing, and dysfunctional entries in Bond’s 50 year cinema history.

I don’t want to say too much bad about “Skyfall” because I know I’ll catch hell for it.  But, I’m going to do it anyway.  The plot, as paper thin as it is, includes a stolen hard drive containing important MI6 information, a former MI6 agent now terrorist, and a plot to kill M (Judi Dench).  There is a lot of MI6 stuff in this film as you can tell.  As we’ve come to know this new breed of Bond we know that he hates authority, hates women (sort of), but loves his country.  If anything can be said, “Skyfall” can live by the monikers, “Britain Soldiers On,” or “Bond Kills a Lot of People Without Remorse.”

Another issue I have, and this comes right back to dysfunction, is the identity of “Skyfall.”  The atmosphere is stark and everything seems critical and any wrong move can mean someone’s death.  Then you have something ridiculous where a komodo dragon eats someone (you have to see it).  This goes back to our review for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”  Either be serious or silly, you can’t be both, especially after how serious both “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” were, it seems like the writers jumped into their DeLorean and decided to revive plot devices from “Die Another Day” one of the more ridiculous Bond films in recent memory.

To wrap up my gripes, I’d also like to bring up the third act of the film which devolves into two things.  One, Bond’s past.  This I really didn’t mind but it felt force fed and not necessary to the overall plot of the film.  Like I said before, they tried to turn Bond into Batman, and it seems contrived.  Two, the clear “Home Alone” rip-off.  Yes, imagine James Bond, the most bad-ass spy of all time, taking cues from Macaulay Culkin.  Again, this is something that you will have to see for yourself because you might think that I’m kidding, but unfortunately, I’m not.  I was waiting for both Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to slip down a staircase at some point.

The one saving grace is Javier Bardem, who plays the primary antagonist, Silva.  He is clearly a bad-ass former spy with some serious sexual confusion and seems to hate women, just like Bond.  Throw in some mommy issues, a bad soft palate, and you have the makings of a great villain, but just like “Skyfall” he falls short, with poor character development and not enough screen time.  This is the film’s biggest mistake which usually prides itself on larger than life bad guys.  Silva is by far the best villain the series has seen since maybe Sean Bean’s 006 or Christopher Lee in “The Man With the Golden Gun” and it feels like he is just window dressing.

With two Bond movies already under his belt, you have to wonder how many more films Daniel Craig will stick around for (he already is signed up for Bond 24 and 25).  Yes, “Skyfall” is going to bank a bunch of cash just based on the 007 name.  However, tread carefully, there are a lot of issues with this newest Bond installment; thin plot, fodder characters, lackluster action scenes (though I do appreciate how they used a lot of practical shots, in particular the opening scene), but worst of all, an identity crisis.  Fanboys will love it, especially the end, but the casual fan; you might find yourself scratching your head.

Fun Fact:  Before he was Bond, James Bond, Daniel Craig starred in the “Tales From the Crypt” episode, Smoke Wrings in 1996.

November 1, 2012

MONTH IN REVIEW

FAV of the month

Creepshow 
Review

SoSo of the month

Burial Ground

HATE of the month

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Review

TV SHOW of the month
 The Walking Dead, Season Three Premier
Review

October 17, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

RIDICULOUS

When I first heard that they were making a live action adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, my ‘BAD IDEA’ alarm went off like a tugboat horn.  When I found out that Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Wanted, was helming the project, my ‘GIVE IT A CHANCE’ indicator light began to flash.  But after watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I’m saddened to see my ‘SATISFACTION’ tank is on E.  I drive a really strange car.

Whew!  Where do I start?  The acting?  Honest Abe is played by Benjamin Walker.  Walker plays him as bland and boring as you might imagine Abe Lincoln to be.  But that is the problem.  You’ve resigned to the fact that your hero will be boring, and yet, give him no one fun to play off of.  Well, they do but he is very underutilized.  And that character is Henry Sturgess played by Dominic Cooper.  You may remember Cooper as a young Howard Stark in Captain America.  Now there is a film with a patriotic hero who could have easily been boring but wasn’t, while still not betraying his character.  Though, Benjamin Walker is no Chris Evans.  I digress.  Cooper has the only performance in this film that seems to feel right.  He is having fun.  Everyone else is either sleepwalking or overacting to the point of mugging at the camera.  Even the love story between Abe and Mary Todd seems forced.  Yes, they made one of the most historically famous romances seem forced.  

Visually?  I’ll be frank.  The special effects in this film, whether it be because of budget restrictions or laziness, are surprisingly awful.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  The worst vampire effects I have ever seen, by far.  And that includes Van Helsing.  The CGI face transformations for the vamps in this make them appear more like cheap cartoons than creatures of the night.  You remember in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when Christopher Lloyd…..24 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT….reveals he’s a cartoon and becomes an amalgamation of live action man and Chuck Jones animation?  That is what these vampires look like when they go all savage.  Any moment that they are supposed to be scary is sabotaged by these lackluster effects.  They could have gone practical for much cheaper and garnered a better result.

What about the action?  Well, the action scenes are poorly staged and executed   Which baffles me seeing as this, AGAIN, is the director of Wanted.  There is a fight scene in this film that takes place during a stampede of horses.  And I have no hesitation saying that it is the most RIDICULOUS action sequence I have ever witnessed.  It is a perfect storm of horrible CGI, horrible action staging, horrible acting, and a horrible payoff.  This was when I knew I was in trouble, because this laughable scene happens only 40 minutes in.

Despite all these things, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s number one flaw is it’s tone.  It is something that, if they had gotten right, would allow us to ignore the other mistakes.  This is a story about Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president, being a vampire hunter.  And they play this film entirely serious.  The title, let alone the concept, screams ‘tongue and cheek’.  Yet, this film tries to invoke an emotional response from you.  And they do it haphazardly.  Middle of the road doesn’t work for this material.  If you want to go dark with this…go really dark.  If not, you have to go campy.  Instead, it tries to stick with the same tired, cliched, tropes you can probably see coming from a mile away.  So, here is an equally tired, cliched, summation of this film that you can probably see coming from a mile away.  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has no fangs, no teeth, no bite…it just plain sucks.  Watch it…bring your garlic…then tell me I’m wrong.

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