Sunday 13 July 2014


Sunday 13 July 2014
½★ (out of five)

... me, bored

UNDERWORLD remade, only with gargoyles and demons replacing vampires and werewolves, with a bastardised version of Mary Shelly's titular creation stuck in the middle. I, FRANKENSTEIN is based on an idea—best-suited to a video game, which it resembles throughout—from UNDERWORLD writer-actor Kevin Grievoux, who also appears in this film as baritone henchman Dekar. It's directed by Stuart Beattie, best-known for writing COLLATERAL and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (well, outlining the story), but who's since given us G.I JOE: RISE OF COBRA and PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. I can only assume someone bought Beattie an Xbox between 2003 and 2008, so he's lost to that medium's aesthetic.

I, FRANKENSTEIN is a heinous mess of boring action, smothered in CGI beasties (themselves embellished with 3D, if you're so-equipped), following a storyline that feels like it's been told a good dozen times in the past five years alone. In 1795, Dr Frankenstein creates his monster (Aaron Eckhart), dies trying to avenge the murder of his wife at the creature's hand, and his soulless progeny is found and captured by a group of gargoyles, led by Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who are embroiled in a centuries-long battle with demons. They want Adam to use his strength and stamina to help their cause, but he rejects them for 200-years, only to reconnect in the modern-age and grudgingly agree to help fight the demons—whose leader, Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy), wants to see takeover the world, by possessing corpses his sexy scientist Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski) reanimates.

Got that? Good. You can likely fill in the gaps yourself and largely predict exactly how this film plays out. There really isn't much to it, as it feels like a calculated excuse to release a higher-priced 3D movie into multiplexes with the promise of supernatural smack-downs every few minutes. On that score, it delivers, but there's no actual excitement to any of the fights, and the choreography isn't very inventive. But if you're a fan of seeing slaughtered demons turn into charred skeletons, amidst swirling flames, this is your movie.

The actors do very little with the shoddy material, and most either look bored or are going through the motions. I'm sad that Eckhart's post-DARK KNIGHT career has already sunk to this level, Nighy's U.S career seems blighted by his willingness to play fantastical villains, and small-screen favourite Strahovski looks completely lost and superfluous.

We can at least be grateful I, FRANKENSTEIN's poor box-office performance ($69m worldwide) has likely destroyed any chance of a sequel—although I hear the intention was to eventually make a crossover film with UNDERWORLD... and, as much as its pains me to say it, there would be some fun in that ridiculously unlikely scenario happening.

★★ (out of five)

As director, Ben Stiller crams in some gorgeous shots (helped by Mother Nature) and there are some imaginative flights-of-fancy whenever Walter Mitty stops to day-dream...

However, after a promising start, things begin to drag half-way through, and this wasn't quite as life-affirming as I wanted it to become. It felt like the emotion rested too much on the soundtrack, and Stiller's performance just didn't grab me. It also felt ridiculous how Walter's suddenly able to skateboard and mountain climb like a professional, if he's supposed to be a shut-in.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY has some inventive moments and will please eyeballs, but on a deeper level I was unmoved.

★★★½ (out of five)

A much better movie than its more successful predecessor, I was surprised to discover ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES tanked at the box-office back in 1993. It made just $48m compared to the original's $113m takings; and that, coupled with the tragic death of star Raúl Juliá, appeared to nix any possibility of a third film.

Still, we have this very funny and swiftly-paced sequel to cherish and most people now agree it's a huge improvement on the entertaining enough 1991 hit. Once again the main source of comedy is very simple: the Addams Family are a "creepy and kooky" bunch who rejoice in the macabre side of life, and suck the joy and fun out of the everyday folk they occasionally interact with. The best example here is the excellent sub-plot where morose Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and her brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are forced to attend a cheerful summer camp, and clash with upbeat owners Gary (Peter MacNicol) and Becky Granger (Christine Baranski), and blonde brat Amanda (Mercedes McNab). It's a wonderful source of fun and never fails to tickle me, ending in a crowd-pleasing sequence where Wednesday (playing Pocahontas in an asinine Thanksgiving celebration), enacts tribal revenge on the "white settlers"—and, by extension, her own summer camp tormentors.

The larger story concerns Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) getting hitched to beautiful nanny Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), unaware she's a serial killer nicknamed 'The Black Widow' who marries rich men and bumps them off to inherit their fortune. It, too, is a very funny and entertaining storyline, as freakish Fester proves impossible to kill and a nightmare to live with. The least successful storyline concerns Gomez (Raúl Juliá) and wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) becoming parents again, to moustachioed baby Pubert, but it's nothing that distracts too much from the better stories in its orbit.

And as with many movies over 20 years old, it's fun spotting now-famous people in early roles. I could hardly believe my eyes to realise camp owner Becky is Christine Baranski from THE GOOD WIFE, or that Mercedes McNab appears years before cropping up on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL as Harmony. And yes, that's David Hyde Pierce from FRASIER as a delivery room doctor, SEX AND THE CITY's Cynthia Nixon as a potential nanny, MONK's Tony Shalhoub as a sailor singing "Macho Man" in a bar, and Nathan Lane as a desk sergeant.
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