I, Frankenstein Review – Dead Movie Walking


Director: Stuart Beattie

Writer: Stuart Beattie (screenplay, Kevin Grievoux (graphic novel)

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto


Release date: March 20th, 2014

Distributors: Lionsgate, Hopscotch Films

Countries: USA, Australia

Running time: 92 minutes


 

1/5

Best part: Aaron Eckhart.

Worst part: The wafer-thin narrative.

Hiding in the shadows of Hollywood’s smallest studios, one screenwriter/producer/actor keeps on getting work. Despite the idiocy of the screenplays and productions he creates, his immense power and surprising intellect pay-off more often than they should. This man is Kevin Grievoux. Sound familiar? Nope. Okay, I’ll explain. Grievoux, delivering the Underworld franchise and now I, Frankenstein, doesn’t deserve his notoriety. However, despite my overt cynicism toward his work, his immense stature scares me. Playing a large Werewolf in the Underworld series and a scary henchman here, Greivoux, literally and figuratively, stands by everything he creates.

Aaron Eckhart.

At the very least, he bares commendable intentions. However, despite holding several degrees, graphic novels, and screenplays to his credit, this hard worker delivers nothing but B-grade fluff. No offence Mr. Greivoux, but you don’t deserve anything except for criticism. Judging by the lacklustre marketing campaign, everyone around him must be embarrassed by this dull action flick. Kicking off this ridiculous thrill-ride, the movie’s prologue glosses over Mary Shelley’s original material. As we all know, Dr. Victor Frankenstein created a monster out of 12 parts from 8 corpses. Realising he has conquered God’s true power, he strives to kill the monster (Aaron Eckhart). After Dr. Frankenstein and his wife’s death, the monster takes his creator’s body to the family graveyard to give him a proper burial. Inexplicably, to advertise the target demographic and potential for perplexing action sequences, demons ambush the monster and attempt to control him. However, as soon as the monster escapes his captors, Gargoyles attack and kill the demons. The Gargoyle forces, led by Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) and bodyguard Gideon (Jai Courtney), invite the monster into their labyrinthian lair. Convinced they can convert the monster (renamed “Adam”, for some reason) into a soulful warrior, the Gargoyles are fighting a losing battle. This goofy fantasy then jumps forward 200 years, and mysterious Benefactor Charles Wessex (Bill Nighy) pushes employed scientist Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski) to track down and study the monster. 

Yvonne Strahovski.

There are several reasons why these movies continually become box office bombs. Like the titular character of this uninspired effort, these action flicks are noticeably flawed. To further criticise the movie’s actors, director, and audience, I’m glad to announce that this year’s the Oscar season has overshadowed their efforts. Thankfully, post-Oscar season dreck, like this, is now looked down upon by the masses. Believe it or not, we are evolving beyond I, Frankenstein. The plot, such as it is, is flimsier than the casts’ agents and publicists. Suited for stupid 11-year-old boys, the movie will bore anyone with two braincells to rub together. In fact, those braincells will no doubt develop more chemistry than the movie’s performers. I’ll admit it, I fell for mega-flops like Van Helsing when I was 11. Similarly, I, Frankenstein‘s brainlessness and chaotic nature might bewitch some viewers. However, unlike similar fare, it forgets to have fun. Fittingly, Frankenstein’s monster represents this comic book adaptation’s execution. Like the mistreated creation, the movie comes off like several disparate parts awkwardly stitched together. From the get-go, the movie establishes itself as a no-nonsense action-adventure flick. Unfortunately, inexplicably overlooking its own stupidity, the movie takes itself way too seriously. Unlike Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire, I, Frankenstein doesn’t solidify its absurd plot mechanics or bizarre aesthetic. Hilariously, breaking through the movie’s straight-faced facade, the overwhelming  production issues hinder the final product. Cutting away from action sequences, limiting the scope, birthing generic creature designs, and delivering dodgy CGI throughout, writer/director Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow When the War Began) mishandles the premise’s most intriguing intricacies.

“I, descender of the demon horde. I, my father’s son. I…Frankenstein.” (Adam/Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart), I, Frankenstein).

Gargoyle vs. Demon.

Despite obtaining a $65 million budget, Beattie highlights the narrative’s more conventional and laughable aspects (hard to believe he wrote Collateral). Despite his previous screenwriting efforts, Beattie’s work here delivers contrivances, unintentionally laughable moments, and forced dramatic tension. Crowbarring the monster into this silly feud as a Christ-like figure, the movie even throws in symbolism. To be fair, kids would fall head-over-heels for ancient history if the Roman Empire/Barbarian war had involved Gargoyles and Demons. Beyond this, I should be angrier! Shot in Melbourne’s Docklands Studios, it’s nice knowing my taxpayer dollars last year went toward this banal Blade rip-off. Do yourselves a favour, save your money and re-watch the Blade and Underworld franchises. Whilst not being Oscar-worthy successes in-themselves, those movies deliver more intentional laughs, ambition, and memorable action beats than I, Frankenstein. Here, despite Beattie and Greivoux’s commendable intentions, their ideas stall this over-the-top action extravaganza. However, despite placing the best action sequence in the first half, the movie’s first few set pieces deliver slight shades of joy. Featuring sword-wielding Gargoyles and Parkour-loving Demons, these sequences almost elevate this brain-dead material. Sadly, the action and CGI, in the second half, become exceedingly more transparent and monotonous. Depicting Frankenstein’s monster as a baton-wielding vigilante, the martial arts sequences add nothing to the movie’s befuddling mythology. Flaunting his character’s nonsensically rugged aesthetic, Eckhart bolsters his frustrating role. Growling every line, his dark performance is, by far, the movie’s best asset. Unfortunately, the supporting players are underwhelming. Otto, Nighy, Strahovski, and Courtney deliver gormless turns in underwritten roles.

Despite the cheap thrills and fine cast, the movie falters because it doesn’t make sense. There are several questions left lingering after certain twists and turns. How is the human population so oblivious to this ancient war? Why is ascending to heaven this horrible? Why is the love interest’s apartment so decrepit compared to her impressive workplace? Thankfully, there won’t be a sequel charged with addressing these nitpicks. With a diminutive scope, derivative story and character traits, and dodgy CGI, I, Frankenstein‘s lead character is nowhere near as listless and pitiful as the movie around him.

Verdict: A trashy and pointless action-adventure.

The Raid 2: Berandal Review – The Ultimate Gut-punch


Director: Gareth Evans

Writer: Gareth Evans

Stars: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusawedo

The_Raid_2_Berandal_teaser_banner


Release date: March 28th, 2014

Distributors: Sony Pictures Classics, Stage 6 Films

Country: Indonesia

Running time: 150 minutes


Best part: The inventive fight choreography.

Worst part: The convoluted sub-plots.

Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

Verdict: A pulsating and revelatory martial arts flick.

The Monuments Men Review – Stuck in Trenches


Director: George Clooney 

Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov (screenplay), Robert M. Edsel (book)

Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman

monuments_men_xlrg


Release date: February 7th, 2014

Distributors: Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 118 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: The fun performances.

Worst part: The dreary pace.

What ever happened to the concept of ‘classic Hollywood’? The Golden Age of Hollywood was defined by artistic efforts created by influential and enviable crusaders…I presume. Having researched this part of entertainment history (I know, I’m a nerd), I’ve come to a predictable yet apt conclusion – Hollywood doesn’t make movies the way it used to. Literally and figuratively, this statement sports several obvious and subtle traits. Modern Hollywood, continually compared to what it was, doesn’t stand up to criticism. So, who better to boost Hollywood’s wavering reputation than national treasure George Clooney? From Tibet to Timbuktu, everyone knows who he is.

Matt Damon & George Clooney.

In fact, Clooney’s latest effort, The Monuments Men, strives to make gigantic and awe-inspiring leaps of faith. Unfortunately, the movie trips and falls more often than not. Tellingly, this movie contains the right ingredients. In particular, not to be overlooked, the movie’s A-list performers have boosted some of the past decade’s greatest works. However, this saccharine docudrama’s reach exceeds its grasp. Embarrassingly, the movie keeps reaching for Clooney’s previous efforts’ level of quality. His immense star power and determination fight to bring classic Hollywood back. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men comes off like an elaborate dress rehearsal. Needing one-or-two final look-overs, this mawkish dramedy fits great assets into awkward places. Admittedly, this is an inspirational and unique story. Based on Robert M. Edsel’s literary account The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History (had me at the title alone), this kooky adventure flick can’t decide what it wants to do. Here, multiple characters take this troop’s intentions across harsh lands to all corners of Europe. Set during WWII’s final moments, the movie picks up with the Nazi’s retreating to Berlin. Stealing priceless artefacts and destroying cities and communities, Adolf Hitler’s forces are taking everything to hell with them. Noticing their disgraceful actions’ impact, Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney, of course) presents his findings to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Cate Blanchett.

Given the all-clear, Stokes recruits representatives from Western Civilisation’s brightest sectors. After throwing Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon) back into the action, Stokes invites a gaggle of veteran soldiers to take-on Germany’s fiercest armies. Honestly, I’m trying to make this movie’s intricate plot seem more interesting than it is. Though their names aren’t important, the supporting characters are boosted by a plethora of acclaimed performers. Soon enough, Manhattan architect Sgt. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), sculpter Sgt. Walter Garfield (John Goodman), painter Lt. Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), theatre director Pvt. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), and Lt. Donald Jefferies (Hugh Boneville) join Stokes. Gathering intelligence proving Hitler’s Fuhrermuseum to be in development, the group infiltrates  Europe to such retrieve artefacts as the Van Eyck Altarpiece and Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. Sadly, despite the immense talent dousing each frame, star power and attention to detail don’t distract from The Monuments Men‘s crippling flaws. Obviously, the premise is boosted by these esteemed actors. It’s invigorating seeing these actors collaborate and crackle on screen. Unfortunately, from the twenty-five-minute mark onward, this rambunctious crew splits up to take on different missions. The narrative, separating into several under-utilised and tedious parts, exhaustively plods. Within the first third, the movie’s jarring tonal shifts and underwhelming turns stick out. After their separation, Granger meets up with disgruntled museum curator Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett). With Simone key to the mission’s success, Granger’s intentions become distorted. At least, that’s what I thought his story-line was about. For this subplot highlight’s the movie’s biggest flaw – cluttered with convoluted arcs and under-utilised concepts, the movie’s underdeveloped plot-lines are disjointed and meaningless deviations.

“Stop, stop. Stop. I seem to have stepped on a land mine…of some sort.” (James Granger (Matt Damon), The Monuments Men).

Bill Murray & Bob Balaban.

Beyond Clooney’s hubris blinding his gaze, his and long-time co-writer/producer Grant Heslov’s screenplay lacks depth, charm, and consistency. Steering away from emotional impact, the exposition-and-cliche-driven story-lines lack definitive resolutions. Considering Clooney’s greatest works (Good Night, and Good Luck, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), he should know how to fuse relevant, politically-driven narratives with eclectic, period-piece settings. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men‘s broad, bloated sub-plots distract from Clooney’s grand vision. With plot-strands switching from blissfully lighthearted to disturbingly dark and vice-versa, this homage to classic Hollywood already feels wholly dated. Irritatingly so, Clooney’s influences and viewpoints rest close to his heart. Like with The Ides of March, Clooney uses his democratic, no-nonsense agenda to kick this movie into overdrive. Thanks to the true story’s significant profundities, the movie almost  becomes socially and spiritually involving. Commenting on art’s effect on culture, the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the first world, Clooney’s fiery viewpoints reach breaking point. Amongst Clooney’s feisty attacks, the hit-and-miss gags also distort his intentions. Injecting slapstick humour into heartbreaking sequences, The Monuments Men awkwardly  connects contrasting genres and influences. Beyond the kitsch opening credits sequence (honouring The Dirty Dozen), Clooney’s overt sense of humour hinders this heavy-handed docudrama. Thankfully, Clooney’s visual style elevates this otherwise underwhelming dramedy. Along with the movie’s sumptuous and electrifying mis-en-scene, Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is jaw-dropping. Overcoming Clooney’s tonal transitions, the visuals are far more substantial than his overwhelming opinions. 

I hate to criticise Clooney’s work. For an entire generation, his scintillating screen presence and immense talent establish him as one of Hollywood’s greatest treasures. However, The Monuments Men, despite the commendable intentions, is an uninspired, confused, and weightless dramedy. Hampered by Clooney’s agenda and affection for classic Hollywood, his ambitiousness and profile prove costly. Somehow, this WWII docudrama lacks dramatic tension, laughs, and genuine thrills. Despite Clooney and co.’s involvement, its clear why Brad Pitt didn’t show up. 

Verdict: A lively yet disappointing WWII dramedy.