Watching the first movie in a franchise — when the series has moved on to having several entries by the time you first check it out — can be an odd situation. You’re aware the film was successful, and that several of its sequels were, but the quality of those sequels can be a mystery. This is particularly true when the original film occupies that tiny little quality tier which consists of films that aren’t great, but aren’t bad either, and which show the potential for both improvement and deterioration. Such was the case when I watched Underworld a few weeks back. I enjoyed the film, but it was unquestionably a flawed and in some ways stupid film. But it was fun, it had style, and the concept had some potential for an interesting, if not fantastic, action series.
So I decided to watch the second film, Underworld: Evolution, while it was available to me. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from it, but was hoping it would take the good points of the first film, and bolster the weak points, even if only slightly. The first film had entertaining action sequences, but when it came to plot and characterization it was rather thin. I felt that if Underworld: Evolution showed improvement in those regards, it would be a better film overall. This was a fairly low bar to step over. Underworld: Evolution gracefully limbos under that bar. Continue reading →
There is a reason why so many films, particularly action films, stick to the same basic concepts. The cop placed in a situation that’s far beyond his normal line of duty, the soldier who has to become a one-man army, the getaway driver who ends up going on a war of revenge against those who betrayed him… these are familiar themes because as implausible as they may be, they are nevertheless — with a certain allowance for Hollywood invulnerability — vaguely possible. They are therefore slightly believable, and the recurring use of them makes them more believable as we come to accept them. Incorporating different themes — particularly into a film that otherwise still adheres to the conventions of action films and a modern day setting — creates a basic risk vs. reward scenario. The reward is that the film will stand out from the pack, and if done well may earn a major following. The risk is that the less familiar something is, or the less plausible it is, the greater the chance of it looking ridiculous.
Underworld posits a version of today’s world — or 2003′s, which is still recent despite being ten years gone now — in which there is secretly a war going on between vampires and werewolves. It is supremely ridiculous. Continue reading →
It’s time once again for the Weekly Weblinks. It’s the last Friday in September, and that means we’re almost to that time of year when half the movie blogs, this site included, start filling their rosters with a bunch of horror films and monster movies. But even though we’ve had a few early arrivals, this week is (almost) free from frights, at least in the blog posts, though certain classics make appearances in the news post.
On the blogging front, a couple classic films get reviewed, as well as one of 2012′s, and a combination review and interview about an under-the-radar film from last year. In the news, a franchise relaunches, another gets a sequel, and a couple unexpected movie-to-TV adaptations. Read on for the details! Continue reading →
The fourth Die Hard film, released as Live Free or Die Hard in the United States and simply Die Hard 4.0 elsewhere, came out in 2007, twelve years after the release of Die Hard with a Vengeance. There had been gaps in the series before (there was a five year gap between the second and third films), but nothing quite like that. So there was some question as to whether it would be a good entry in the franchise… especially as the 2000s and onward have been full of very-belated sequels that don’t live up to the originals.
Len Wiseman, director of the first two Underworld films, takes the helm here. Bruce Willis returns, of course, as John McClane, and of course John’s life outside of fighting crime and terrorism hasn’t gotten any easier. His daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is estranged from him, refusing to even use the same last name, but has a lot of the same belligerent attitude John himself has. But he soon has little time to worry about that, as FBI deputy director Bowman (Cliff Curtis) calls in a favor to NYPD to bring in a hacker that the FBI is interested in after a cyber attack. McClane arrives just as assassins try to kill the hacker, and we’re off to the usual assortment of shootouts and explosions. Hey, we all know why we’re here. Trying McClane’s patience is the hacker himself; Matt Farrell (Justin Long) is hyperactive, needy, and prone to rant on anti-corporate conspiracy theories, and quickly gets on McClane’s nerves. Continue reading →