Saturday, May 22, 2004

Movie Review(Van Helsing)...

Van Helsing

The year is 1887. Van Helsing is in Paris in pursuit of Mr. Hyde. Upon accomplishing his mission there, he returns to Rome, where he is assigned a new task from the Vatican; to help Anna Valerious and her brother Velkan, to finally destroy Count Dracula. They must visit Transylvania, where they fight alongside Frankenstein’s monster, against Dracula, his three brides and a werewolf.

The concept of teaming up three of Universal studios’ most famous monsters and pitting them against a legendary vampire slayer, is so great it makes one wonder why it hasn’t already been done. Director Stephen Sommers seems to have a sort of infatuation with the monster genre, his previous two films being ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Mummy Returns’. The cost of Van Helsing has been rumoured to be in the region of $200 million, and it shows.

Portraying Gabriel Van Helsing (originally Abraham) is Australian actor Hugh Jackman. Jackman has starred as Wolverine in both ‘X-Men’ movies and as a computer hacker in ‘Swordfish’ alongside John Travolta. He brings a much needed mysterious quality to the role, even when charged with the task of spitting out some of the worst written dialogue ever put to paper. Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, Underworld) stars as Anna Valarious, Van Helsings’ trusty sidekick and eventual love interest. Her performance is utterly forgettable and pales in comparison to Jackman’s star turn.

Despite paper thin characterisation and a convoluted plotline, Van Helsing is the most fun to be had at a cinema in a long time. When you hear of a movie rated 12PG involving Vampires, Werewolves and Monsters, you don’t go in expecting a dramatic masterpiece. You want to be entertained, and in this respect Van Helsing delivers.

3.5 out of 5

Friday, May 21, 2004

Movie Review(Eternal Sunshine)...

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tells the story of a miserable couple who fall out and undergo a memory wiping treatment to be completely free of each other for once and for all. Written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and directed by acclaimed music video director Michel Gondry, ‘Eternal Sunshine’ delivers an extraordinarily honest, yet imaginative tale of heartbreak and happiness.

Having just broken up with Clementine (Kate Winslet), Joel (Jim Carrey) is surprised and disappointed to discover that she has had her phone number changed. Upon further investigation, he discovers a business card that explains how Clementine has had all memories of him erased from her mind, so he should never be mentioned to her again. Distraught and unable to get over the love of his life, Joel opts for a similar memory wiping procedure. Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) is the pioneering scientist, aided by two young assistants, Stan and Patrick, who seem unable to resist manipulating the technology for their own benefit.

Jim Carrey has never been better in a dramatic role. He manages to deliver a deeply complex performance, whose depressed, self loathing loner conveys both pain and desperation mixed with moments of pure joy and happiness. Winslet brings a real authenticity to the fore as the enigmatic Clementine, a young woman clearly in search of meaning but perhaps not giving herself the time to find it. Complemented by a fine supporting cast including Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst, both Carrey and Winslet succeed in captivating and involving the audience from the get go.

Both Kaufman and Gondry have crafted an incredible exploration of love, memory and the stress and helplessness of forgetting a painful past and building a brighter future. ‘Eternal Sunshine’ is a consistently poignant and endlessly thought-provoking film which forces the audience to consider the true value of memories, good and bad. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is highly recommended viewing.

4 out of 5

Movie Review(Troy)...


Hollywood has attempted this story before. The 1955 feature, Helen of Troy, covered the main plot of Homer’s ‘The Illiad’ while including some other elements of Greek Mythology such as the trojan horse, which actually appeared in a separate story, ‘The Odyssey’. Going by what seems to be a rule of thumb in Hollywood, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Narrative liberties have been taken to try to force the story into the traditional blockbuster mould. Comparisons to Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ have been bandied about, perhaps in an effort to maximise interest (and profit), but unfortunately ‘Troy’ doesn’t even come close to matching that films’ sophistication and beauty.

Director Wolfgang Petersen first won recognition for his work when the classic World War II submarine thriller Das Boot was completed in 1981. Since then his output has included Air Force One, Outbreak and The Perfect Storm. With these films, Petersen had managed to command respectable, if not great, performances from his leading men; the likes of Dustin Hoffman, George Clooney and Harrison Ford. Petersen’s first choice for Achilles, “the greatest warrior the world has ever seen”, was Brad Pitt. Perhaps not surprisingly, his performance is respectable, not great.

The real standout here is former stand up comic, Eric Bana, as Trojan prince Hector. His performance in ‘Chopper’ as Australian criminal Mark Brandon Read and his rendering of Bruce Banner in ‘Hulk’, convinced Peterson of his ability to bring both grit and nobility to the role. Orlando Bloom, of Lord of the Rings fame, has perhaps the most difficult role as Prince Paris of Troy. A lover, certainly not a fighter, Paris’ affair with Helen which plunges the Greeks and Trojans into war seems like too great a challenge for the young actor. After a dire performance in ‘Pirates of the Carribean’, Bloom overacts almost every expression and his dialogue seems forced and ultimately laughable.

If you can manage to ignore the sometimes atrocious dialogue, blatant posing from Pitt and Bloom and the boring first hour, the movie certainly picks up for act three. Undeniably entertaining, this is where you begin to wonder, had the movie endured a more rigorous editing process, would we be looking at a far greater movie? As it is, Troy is a bloated epic with thinly drawn characters whose underlying motivations of glory, greed, and revenge seem all too familiar and remarkably unexciting.

3 out of 5