Another One Bites the Dust

With the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado last week, it's pretty safe to assume that violence in movies is getting picked apart by the media. And we've already seen some fallout from this. Gangster Squad has gotten moved back into 2013 because they had to re-shoot some scenes. If you watched the latest trailer (which has been pretty much pulled from the internet), you'll see a scene where the mob opens up fire from behind the movie screen in a crowded theater. It's completely understandable why they had to re-shoot. On the other hand, part of me just shakes my head thinking how absurd it is that the studio has to completely bail on what may be a very horrific scene but which may also provide insight into this idea of glorified violence. We'll never really know how that scene was going to play out, but it's too bad that we won't be able to see the true version of the movie. It reminded me of when Spider-Man first came out - there was a shot of the Twin Towers at the end of the teaser. But obviously 9/11 happened and at the time the teaser trailer showing the towers was a big deal, but I don't think too many people remember. Hopefully that's what will happen with Gangster Squad.

But in the meantime, I've had to dig through the trenches to find another movie to add to my list. It wasn't that hard, because just a couple of days ago, they released a five minute trailer for Cloud Atlas.  I purposefully avoided putting this movie on my most anticipated because A) I didn't know too much about the film except that it was a sweeping, fantasy/sci-fi epic and B) It was co-directed and co-written by the Wachowski brothers (of The Matrix fame). Now don't get me wrong, those two guys have certainly made/written some great movies (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) but they've also crashed and burned pretty stupendously with the two Matrix sequels and Speed Racer. So I've been hesitant to mention this movie at all, but I'm a sucker for well-put together trailers and I will tell you this trailer lasts more than five minutes, but it only felt like two. Plus any trailer that uses an M83 song is instantly one of the best trailers ever.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving
Director: Tim Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Release Date: October 26

I'll be damned if I know what's going on, but I think stories like these are hard to tell and hard to sell. The Fountain is one of those types of movies and honestly it's the best comparison I can think of for Cloud Atlas. I loved The Fountain a lot, so I'm hoping I'll fall in love with this movie. I'm actually anxious to read the book it's based on now that I'm pretty sure the subject falls under my wheelhouse of multi-storylines and sci-fi. The cast looks great too - there's so many great big names (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant) and a solid cast of character actors (Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Keith David). I'm pretty stoked about this movie, but my expectations are a bit low because this could turn out to be a real big mess. Either way, I'll be punching my ticket for this movie in October.

Most Anticipated: Act of Valor

34. Act of Valor (PG-13) - Runtime: 110 minutes
Starring: Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano
Director: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh

It's completely understandable that some executives saw the Call of Duty video game franchise and decided that they should cash in on this craze and make a movie exactly like it. Unfortunately, this is all the movie is - a cash grab. Sure, it stars real Navy SEALS and is based on actual missions, but everything rings hollow with this movie.

Take for instance, the opening monologue. It's filled with chest-thumping AMERIKAH! rah rah bullshit and honor and duty and all those cliches. And it lasts for fucking ever. Seriously this movie is supposed to be about the SEALS taking names and kicking ass, but you don't get to that until twenty or so minutes into the movie. They're trying to get us to sympathize with the soldier with all this exposition, but instead of providing us with character interactions and decisions and letting the context shape how we see these soldiers, the movie decides to dump all this information either in the monologue or on these annoying HUD-like screens that pop up with useless army jargon that normal folk wouldn't possibly comprehend.

And this is the major fault with the movie - I don't care about these guys at all because I really didn't know them. Sure there's a guy who's going to be a father and another guy who is a father of 5 or something. There's even a token black guy! But despite the buttload of information they give us, I had no idea who was who during the whole movie. One of the guys dies (Not Spoiler Alert! We all saw this coming) and I really didn't know who it was! And forget about the plot - what a mess. Supposedly I cared about the jihadists who were going to wreak havoc on American soil with this new suicide bombing technology, but honestly the movie was poorly edited.

The movie jumps from a bunch of information/dialogue dumped upon the viewer to these big action set pieces. But even the action wasn't all that stunning. Maybe it's because I've played most of the Call of Duties and they've all had way better, more well-choreographed action sequences. So I was kind of yawning throughout. This movie tries sooooo hard to be Call of Duty: The Movie that they even integrate the first-person perspective almost too much. It gets really annoying because it doesn't add anything special to the movie nor does it enhance our immersiveness into the world of a Navy SEAL. It just made me want to fire up a video game.

And that's too bad - this could have been a really cool movie with just balls-out action. But the mixture of terrible dialogue and plot with ho-hum action just doesn't add up. It's one of the worst movies I've seen all year and it's best you avoid this one!

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

Most Anticipated: Project X

24. Project X (R) - Runtime: 88 minutes
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel
Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Uhhhhnnnnnnnnn, this movie was so, so disappointing! I was really fired up for this one! I really thought this would be a fun teenage, Risky Business/Superbad type of movie - just told through docu-drama style (which I hate BTW, but was willing to see this weird mashup of genres). Unfortunately, it's a mess of a movie with no real funny or fun parts to it. Instead, this movie just made me feel old as shit.

Normally I'm not a prude - I understand the need to party and get down. I love these types of movies - from Can't Hardly Wait to Superbad. These movies had fun characters you cared about and really, really funny jokes. Instead this movie is tired and played out - the movie takes forever to get started and when the party starts it instantly becomes the most epic party within 5 minutes! The movie then spirals out of control as it tries to keep one-upping itself. At one point the drug dealer comes looking for the kids with an Iron Man suit on and a flamethrower! Oh man that was so....so.... WTF?

This is certainly a cringe-inducing hot mess. It's really just an excuse to show off as many boobs as possible because there really wasn't any point to this movie. The kids get the respect they so admired and become instantly popular, but in so doing they have forfeited the right to live as a fully functioning adults (seriously, if you follow the path the movie takes, the main kid won't be able to go to college because he's too busy paying off the massive damage he's incurred and he won't get a decent job because he'll be a convicted felon). It's all really really sad, which leads me to a revelation I had during the movie.

At a couple points during the movie, there are flashes of self-awareness with the camera. There's a few montages of people partying, but they just look miserable and cracked out. Like they're not having a good time. And this happened enough during the movie that I thought maybe the film is trying to be anti-partying. And I thought, wow, that's brilliant! It all makes sense - this is a commentary on social status in high school and popularity, etc. etc. But then the movie reverts back to its BOOBS BOOZE DRUGS noise and ends on a completely hollow note that my whole revelation/theory collapses in on itself. Oh well.

Seriously, if you want to see topless women and people doing stupid and mean things to a harmless dog, by all means this is your movie! But if you're looking for a movie filled with decent characters, funny jokes and some semblance of a story, stay far far away from this movie!

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

Most Anticipated: The Dark Knight Rises

3. The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) - Runtime: 164 minutes!
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway
Director: Christopher Nolan

I've had a week to process this movie. Not that you need much time to process this movie, but I just didn't feel like writing about this movie every time there was an opportunity. It seems trivial after the tragic events in Colorado unfolded. But instead of being angry or frustrated about writing this review, I want to focus on the movie itself and the lasting legacy of Nolan's ambitious trilogy will have. I don't know how long people will keep mentioning the Aurora shootings whenever this movie comes up in discussion, but my hope is that people won't forget the lives lost. I've seen the movie twice (and right before it I've re-watched the previous two films) and so far my conclusion is that this is one of the greatest trilogies of movies ever put to celluloid.

My main concern going into the movie was how was Nolan going to top The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's memorable take on the Joker? The answer was to go bigger, louder and just more epic in every sense of the word. I don't normally like using epic to describe movies because once you use it too many times, that word seems to lose it's impact. But epic is the only way to describe TDKR. I loved this movie. I loved how it ties back to Batman Begins more so than The Dark Knight. This movie doesn't have three acts, it unfolds in five acts! It's that big and the way Nolan leaves the franchise - Warner Bros. can reboot or keep following the same trajectory and I would be content with either decision (because you know there's going to be at least three more movies in the next twenty years).

Is Bane an equal to the Joker? No, not at all, but they have completely different worldviews - so I'm not going to try and compare them. I would agree that Ledger's performance tops Hardy's - but that's mainly due to the fact that Hardy is restricted somewhat by that gigantic face mask. I was impressed at Nolan providing an equal, if not superior, match to Batman. Bane is bigger, tougher and way smarter. He enters the game when Bruce Wayne/Batman hasn't been paying attention to Gotham and he knows when to strike when his opponents are weak. The movie slowly builds upon this climax of a showdown between Batman and Bain and it's pretty gruesome. It's a pretty gruesome scene to watch and I think it was effective in showing how dire the situation turns once Bane takes over Gotham.

My other real big concern was Anne Hathaway. I wasn't overly fond of the casting choice - I just thought she didn't quite fit. But Hathaway proved me wrong - not only does she bring that witty, I-don't-give-a-damn attitude, she's slick and quite convincing as a cat burglar. Another great choice was Joseph Gordon-Levitt as detective John Blake. SPOILER ALERT! I would absolutely love it if the studio decides to turn his character into Robin/Batman. I think JGL would make a fantastic Batman 2.0 and they wouldn't have to reboot the series at all. There's all sorts of possibilities they could go if they decide to bring him on as the next Batman. My only hope is they find the right director. END OF SPOILERS!

The rest of the cast is solid. Michael Caine will always be Alfred - there is no other in my mind. He's the moral center of this trilogy and he always has very important things to say. Morgan Freeman is great, but he doesn't get as much screen time. Marion Cotillard was perfect for her role. She's always been a solid actress and even though she's won an Oscar and has starred in a few big time movies, I feel like she's under appreciated by the general public. Hopefully this movie helps to turn that around. Much like Michael Caine is Alfred, Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon. There's simply no other choice.

Although a lot of the themes running throughout the movie are similar to Batman Begins, you see a lot of fallout and consequences stemming from The Dark Knight. Alfred's decision in the second movie to burn Rachel's letter causes Bruce Wayne to shun the living world and go hide in recluse because he believes he's done all that he could and his life is meaningless without her. I didn't know Wayne was such a pussy! But Commissioner Gordon also has to deal with a lie he's lived with for eight years and it's interesting to see how he deals with propping up a false idol. Who knew there would be real-life parallels with the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal? Not that Nolan and company could have foreseen something like that happening, but it's nonetheless interesting to see fiction and real life cross paths

Overall, this is hands down one of the top three movies of the year so far and I would say this movie is way better than anything that came out last year! If you haven't seen this, stop reading and go now! If you have seen it, watch it again! There's lots of great stuff the second time around that you may have missed! Nolan's Batman trilogy will be one of the greatest and most appreciated trilogies of all time. I'd put it up there with Star Wars and LOTR. Only time will tell how well these movies hold up, but I'm guessing we'll be seeing Nolan's formula copied many, many times over.

Rating: See It! Twice!


Most Anticipated: Lockout

51. Lockout (PG-13) - Runtime: 95 minutes
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace
Director: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger

I got to hand it to whatever marketing team did for this movie. Plastered on the rental cover is a blurb from some jackass who has apparently never seen Blade Runner: "A cross between Die Hard and Blade Runner!" If they mean in the sense that the movie has nothing whatsoever to do with Blade Runner, in tone or plot, then yes, he nailed it! Seriously, the movie has more in common with Dude, Where's My Car? than Blade Runner. Just because a movie has sci-fi elements does not make it Blade Runner-esque nor does it make it a sci-fi film for that matter. Now, you may be thinking that because I'm being so harsh with this movie, it must really suck. Well, yeah, the movie crossed over into sucking so bad that I actually enjoyed parts of it. The problem with this movie is that, much like the boy band One Direction, it tries so hard to make you like it.

What I mean is that Guy Pearce is constantly making one-liners. Wait, let me rephrase that - his only dialogue is one-liners. Yeah, that doesn't get annoying. And the movie makes the assumption you're actually going to care why Pearce is on-board a prison in space. That's where this movie went wrong - they over-explained too much and in doing so I did not care what happened to anyone in this movie. Frankly, I thought it would be fun to root for the prisoners - like some of these dudes were wrongly convicted and just looking for a way home. Of course from this perspective, the movie does not have a happy ending.

So you want to hear the plot? Yeah you do! Maggie Grace (the annoying, kidnapped daughter from Taken) once again finds herself being kidnapped in a prison, in space! And she's the president's daughter! Of course, through some bizarrely awful plot exposition, we find that the only man for the job is a disgraced ex-CIA badass named Snow (Informer, ya' no say dadda me Snow me I'll go blame,
A licky Boom Boom Down!
). He has some horse in this race but by the time the movie ends you don't care that he gets un-disgraced and triumphs over the corrupt government agent that double-crossed him...I think?

The movie had a great hook - a prison in space! - but failed to expand upon that one idea. At one point they start throwing random plot points into the movie. For instance, did you know that the company in charge of the prison (Yay capitalism! Prisons are now privatized! Take that Obama!...You know what? I may have found a deeper layer to this movie - a thoughtful critique of the right's crusade to privatize everything!) was actually using the prisoners and lab rats to find out the effects of deep space travel? Yeah, they casually mention this in the beginning of the movie, but you don't find out it's for real until the end of the movie and by then no one gives a damn, so it's summarily dropped.

On top of all those shenanigans, the movie just doesn't make any sense. The whole reason for the prison going into riot mode is because the security is so lax they can't be bothered to do pat downs. Seriously, when we're seeing weekly on the news about babies, the elderly and the mentally handicapped being given the business at airports, you're telling me that the most dangerous prison (in the solar system!!!!) cannot be bothered with such trifles as full body pat downs?

So if you're looking for a trainwreck or for some new snazzy one-liners for your dinner parties - then do not hesitate to watch this movie. There's some real fun moments, but overall - I'd give a pass on this one.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

Review: Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids (R) - Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt

This was one of the few genuine surprises this year for me! I heard a lot of great things about this movie, but I wasn't anticipating to fall in love with this movie! Despite the somewhat hipster-vibe coming from the title and internet, I was hoping that this would be a funny and wonderful romantic comedy and Westfeldt's script was every bit as refreshing and honest and hilarious as I hoped it would be. It doesn't hurt that a few of my favorite actors are in it (no, I'm not talking about Megan Fox).

The movie centers around Jason and Julie, who are two really close friends with a unique relationship. They act a lot like a couple, but are not attracted to each other. And in typical romantic comedy fashion - they're biological clocks are ticking but they haven't found "the one." So instead of waiting to have kids with the right person, they both decide to have a kid together without all the mess of an actual relationship. We see first hand what having a baby can do to a couple with Jason and Julie's two couple friends. It turns out that things significantly change (for better or worse - mostly worse) when a kid is brought into the equation. Of course, Jason and Julie end up having a kid and everything's going according to plan when they find their respective soul mates. But obviously nothing is perfect and slowly their perfect plan starts to unravel as they begin to lose control of their relationships as well as their friendship.

Where to begin? First of all - the writing is fantastic. You're not going to get a more upbeat, fantastically-written movie this year, hands down. Westfeldt knows how to make these characters pop - they feel honest but they're not dull. Jason is an arrogant, uptight jerk constantly throughout the movie, but there's enough sweetness in him that you cannot help but swoon for him a bit. Julie plays somewhat like most other female leads in this genre - a bit needy and constantly in need of reassurance. And although the movie follows most romantic comedy cliches, it's done with such whimsy and delight. Not only is the dialogue smart, it's absolutely hysterical. I laughed hard during this movie - no subject is taboo for this movie and if you find yourself sitting down to watch this with your parents or parent-like figures, just get up and walk away. It's too awkward and you won't be able to look them in the eye for a day or two and conversations will only revolve around the weather and food.

I think the real meat of the movie comes from certain scenes that are more dramatic than funny. The dinner conversation on the ski trip was the tipping point for the movie. The plot advancing hinged on what transpires during this scene. The movie perfectly balances the extreme of heated arguments and revelations with funny jokes and the absurd awkwardness of these very public fights. As much as the film owes to the script, the performances are amazing - Scott and Westfeldt both are amazing - they have a good chemistry together and they both have great comedic timing and delivery. The supporting cast (even Megan Fox, surprisingly!) is good - Chris O'Dowd is another actor I'm quickly growing fond of. The only flaw is that Kristen Wiig has only a few lines of dialogue in this movie and they're all not jokes. But with a cast this large, some characters can only have so much screen time, it's just too bad Wiig and Hamm draw the short stick on this film.

This is honestly one of my top five movies this year - I had a lot of fun watching this movie and now that I'm writing about it - I would love to watch it again very soon. Everything about this movie is nearly flawless. You really can't get any better than this when it comes to character-driven comedies.

Rating: Rent It!


Most Anticipated: The Amazing Spider-Man

8. The Amazing Spider-Man (PG-13) - Runtime: 136 minutes
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Director: Marc Webb

It's pretty absurd that a studio would go ahead and relaunch a very lucrative franchise like Spider-Man. I thoroughly enjoyed all of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies, including the third one, despite its flaws (Emo Peter Parker was hilarious - c'mon it was pretty funny). But when I found out the direction they were taking with the new trilogy (oh yes, this is going to be a trilogy - it's been confirmed on their Facebook page which is the weirdest of all places to announce that bit of news), I was intrigued to say the least. Then they decided to hire Marc Webb as the director. His only movie was (500) Days of Summer, which was one of my favorite movies a couple years back. And then they got some wonderful up and coming actors to fill in the leading roles and I was immediately hooked into seeing this opening weekend. And while the original trilogy will still hold a special place in my heart, I think this new direction will take Spider-Man to new heights much like the Batman reboot did in 2005.

The story doesn't stray too far from the original. Sure there's a new villian - the Lizard - but essentially this origin story has many similar beats to the original. However, the impact of certain scenes (particularly Uncle Ben's death) is felt much deeper than the original. There's a sense of mystery that pervades the whole film whereas Raimi's version stuck with the campy and cheesy (and true to the nature of comic books in general). And although some may be sick of the "serious superhero movie" schtick that's permeated this genre, The Amazing Spider-Man does a great job of creating a much more sinister world than before. I really enjoyed the tone of the film - it seemed more realistic in many ways (well, as realistic as a Spider-Man film can get).

I loved Garfield's portrayal of Peter Parker. He's not a total geek in that he has trouble with the ladies or he's not popular. The film actually dismisses a lot of the high school shenanigans - there's a few scenes involving a bully, but that story actually has more nuance than just your typical bully scene (spoiler - the bully actually has feelings!). But back to Parker! He is an outcast - he feels his parents have abandoned him and he feels all alone so he's a bit of a loner. Except when it comes to Gwen Stacy. As soon as Parker finds himself with these new powers, he's beginning to feel more confident as not only himself, but who he should be. And Emma Stone is fantastic as Stacy - she's charming and makes everything seem so effortless (this is definitely not the Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man 3 - she's an intern at a scientific research lab and undoubtedly smarter than Parker, who's no slouch, either!). They've got good chemistry together and I cannot wait to see how they work with they're storyline in the next movie.

The rest of the cast is great - Dennis Leary as Stacy's father and the chief of police is genius casting. And Martin Sheen as the wisdow-spewing Uncle Ben is perfect. Sally Field is another great casting choice - she does a great job at playing worrisome but strict mother figures and Aunt May is the perfect fit for her.

The only real beef I had with the movie is the Lizard. He's just not suitably evil enough for me - Ifans does a great job - but he's not exactly menacing. I never thought Spider-Man was in trouble. And this leads into another spoilerish scene - when the movie spends so much time showing Spider-Man getting the crap kicked out of him by the Lizard and then he can barely walk because he got hit by a stray bullet is just lazy. The logic is a bit fuzzy sometimes and I didn't necessarily buy the whole "NYC blue collar workers rally to help Spider-Man" at the end of movie. It was a bit manipulative of the movie - trying to get that America! Fuck Yeah! feeling from the audience seemed exploitative. This is where the tone of the movie seemed to falter - it did not fit with the rest of the movie.

But aside from that scene - I enjoyed every last minute of this movie! It's a great start to what's sure to be an exciting (and intriguing!) trilogy. I will once again make the comparison to Batman Begins. A lot of people really really loved Tim Burton's two Batman movies, but Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are clearly the superior versions - they hold up much better. And I have a feeling The Amazing Spider-Man is going to be on the same track. I don't think it's ever going to match the scope or dark tone of the Batman films; after all, Spider-Man is a much more light-hearted affair than the depressing nature of the Batman universe. The movie is definitely worth your hard-earned money!

Rating: See It!


Most Anticipated: Magic Mike

46. Magic Mike (R) - Runtime: 110 minutes
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn
Director: Steven Soderbergh

I'm going to be completely honest - I think I'm developing a crush on Channing Tatum. It's really not that hard - he's easy on the eyes and charming enough. When he first came onto the scene in Step Up, he just seemed like another meathead actor. And for a while he didn't do too much to prove that stereotype wrong (Fighting, G.I. Joe). But it really only takes one or two movies for me to start to like an actor and this definitely solidified my endorsement of all things Tatum. In fact, this is going to be the year of the Tatum - he probably would have had four (FOUR!) $100 million dollar movies if G.I. Joe 2 did not get pushed back to next year. Magic Mike is infectiously good and one of the best movies I've seen all year. I wouldn't go so far as to say Magic Mike is Oscar worthy, but you could have a legitimate case for it's inclusion in the Oscar race.

Maggie had asked me if I wanted to go see this movie and secretly I was going to ask her if she didn't first. This is truly a ladies' movie, but I still wanted to see what Soderbergh could do and I am a sucker for romantic comedies, too. I don't know exactly how much Maggie liked the movie (she did like it!), but I certainly fell in love. And I wasn't alone in this sentiment - there was a lot of hootin' and hollerin' by the mostly female audience. It actually made the movie far more fun to watch than I expected!

Besides the fantastic acting on hand, a lot of the Magic Mike's success has to do with Soderbergh. I really wish this dude wasn't abandoning the director's chair because he really knows how to shoot a movie. He can jump from genre to genre and here he has finally shown he can do a romantic comedy. I had a big smile across my face the whole time during this movie. The characters are extremely likable and incredibly talented and the dance scenes are so amazing and well done I want to go back and watch it again. There's just something, well.... magical about the whole thing (yes pun intended!). I kept looking over at Maggie during those dance numbers and her jaw was agape most of the time. I have never been to a strip club (male or female - yes I am such a prude), so I really didn't know what to expect and neither did Maggie (at least, I think she's never been to a strip club! Although I wouldn't put it past her to hide her hidden shame/obsession of cavorting around at male strip clubs, throwing money like it was candy at a parade).

I mentioned the acting was incredible and I gotta hand it to Tatum and crew - they really nailed it. Especially Tatum - this movie is partially based on his experiences and it doesn't surprise me that he's in his element here. He just seems really comfortable with the character and you really get sucked into his life. The supporting cast is great - Pettyfer is another pretty face but totally has the ability to play the newbie, "The Kid" so fine that you're either going to love him or hate him (I hated him!). Cody Horn plays The Kid's sister who's the responsible one and finds herself trying to straddle being a responsible guardian to her little brother but at the same time respecting his choices and obviously falling for Mike. She does a fantastic job playing this conflicted character - being the film's (somewhat) moral compass can be daunting, but she has enough charm that it's effortless for her.

I had a fun time with this movie and it's a little bit more than just a romantic comedy - there's some terrific characters and drama unfolding plus the wild and crazy dance scenes that will leave a lot of people hot and bothered. If you're a guy, I understand the hesitation to see this movie, but it's actually a lot of fun and surprisingly funny and heartwarming.

Rating: See It!

Most Anticipated: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

10. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (R) - Runtime: 105 minutes
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Coming in at number 10 on my list, I was super, super stoked to watch this movie. I had read the book about a year ago and thought it is Seth Grahame-Smith's best book (he also wrote Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters). The book is told in diary form so I was very interested to see how the movie would approach the story. Luckily, the movie doesn't stray too far from the book's tone and was actually a really fun movie.

It's not very hard to explain the story - it says it right in the title. Abraham Lincoln's mother dies from the hands of a vampire, although he does not know this himself until later when he gets recruited by another vampire hunter. Eventually they become a team - taking out vampires hiding as friendly locals. But soon they learn the fate of the nation is at stake when the Civil War breaks out - the South is pretty much made up of powerful vampire plantation owners. And it's up to Lincoln to stop them.

If Lincoln wasn't already larger than life, this story sets to make him more legendary than real history could ever imagine. Who doesn't like the idea that one of our most beloved presidents having a secret life? The story is great territory to explore the ideas of myths and legends and how we interpret those characters and possibly exploit them for our own world views/ideals. Now don't get me wrong - this is something I've read into the book and movie - this is first and foremost an action movie. And it's a blast!

I've been a fan of Bekmambetov - I thought Wanted was a great, great movie and visually one of the coolest action films. This story fits well with that slow-motion, trippy style he loves to use. And although the idea of Lincoln being a vampire hunter just sounds silly, the movie does a great job at creating a very serious and deadly world where vampires are real and are a threat to the nation. The film makes you feel alongside Lincoln as he starts to grasp the nefarious and secret world that was hiding from him all along.

It's rare that an action movie makes you feel for the main character so much, but the movie takes you along his journey growing up and you can't help but be moved. As for the action - it's pretty insane - there's a lot of vampire killing and it's truly awesome! Bekmambetov knows how to shoot a good action scene and he does it to perfection here. Although there is a really awful CGI scene where Lincoln has to kill a vampire while trying to out run a stampeding herd of horses. It just seemed like they didn't get enough time to capture the animation and it was blurry and too erratic to really grasp what was happening. Other than that - flawless.

Benjamin Walker does a really good job of playing Lincoln and he's quite believable as the 16th president. But Rufus Sewell should have gotten more screen time - he's really good as the main vampire looking to take over the nation. Other than those two roles, most of the other characters are fairly two-dimensional. Even Lincoln's mentor, played by Dominic Cooper, really has no meat to chew on. They give a sympathetic backstory, but it arrives too late in the movie to care about. The one really disappointing aspect of the movie is the women. They're barely given any dialogue and only show up when absolutely needed. Mary Todd Lincoln is supposed to be Lincoln's support, but she's reduced to a babbling mess near the end when she finds out the truth about her husband's secret identity. I guess we'll have to wait for Gloria Steinem: Werewolf Killer to come out to see women get similar treatment.

Of course I'm probably reading too much into this brainless action movie - but I believe there is  some underlying thematic issues about slavery and, to some degree, how we've painted over history with large brushstrokes and have glorified our leaders to some degree. Like Lincoln says in the beginning "History prefers legends to men; soaring speeches to quiet deeds." Most certainly the movie has continued the legend and has created something truly unique. In a summer filled with a lot of sequels and reboots, it's fairly refreshing to see an original tale.

Rating: See It!