Tag Archives: Bill Nighy

Underworld: Evolution (2006)

underworld-evolution-movie-kate-beckinsale-original-poster-print

“My God. Brother, what have you done?”

Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Derek Jacobi and Tony Curran

After the events of Underworld, Selene (Beckinsale) and Michael (Speedman) go into hiding in the wilds of Caucasistan*, hunted not by the now-defunct vampire establishment but by the last elder, Markus Corvinus (Curran), first vampire, winged hybrid, and wearer of some seriously samurai loon pants.

Continue reading Underworld: Evolution (2006)

I, Frankenstein (2014)

The I Frankenstein is fully compatible with the complete range of Apple products.
The I Frankenstein is fully compatible with the complete range of Apple products.

“200 Years Later, He is Still Alive”

Directed by Stuart Beattie
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovsky and Miranda Otto

After killing his creator’s bride and returning the body of Frankenstein – dead of exposure – to his family graveyard, the Creature (Eckhart) is attacked by demons intent on his capture, and so becomes embroiled in the age-old war between the Gargoyle Order, led by Queen Leonore (Otto), and the 666 infernal legions of the Demon Prince Naberius (Nighy). Despite his best efforts to avoid the conflict, he is tracked by the demons and intercepted by the Gargoyles when he tries to take the fight back to his hunters.

Meanwhile, Naberius is working with human scientist Terra Wade (Strahovsky) to recreate Frankenstein’s work as a means of reinforcing his legions and breaking the deadlock in the war. Only the nigh-indestructible Creature – named Adam by Leonore – has the power to stop him. Continue reading I, Frankenstein (2014)

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

jack-the-giant-slayer

“If you think you know the story, you don’t know Jack.”

Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson and Bill Nighy

Jack (Hoult), a farm boy, and Isabelle (Tomlinson), a princess, grow up hearing the same stories of a giantomachy in the history of Albion. When the machinations of an evil chancellor (Stanley Tucci) bring the return of the giants, led by General Fallon (Nighy, with a second head played by John Kassir), it is up to Jack, Isabelle, and the leader of the King’s Guardians, Elmont (Ewan McGregor) to stop them.

What’s wrong with it?

The film is split into two parts. The first is a spin on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk, with Jack and Elmont trying to rescue Isabelle when her desire for adventure leaves her stranded at the top of the beanstalk. Alongside this, Chancellor Roderick plots to use the giant-controlling crown of King Eric to, dare I say it, rule the world. At the midway point, however, Roderick dies and Fallon becomes the main antagonist, triggering a shift to a siege movie.

The problem with this is that it leaves both halves of the movie feeling a little rushed.

The tone of the film is similarly split, uncomfortably divided between light and jokey action on the one side and horrifically brutal deaths on the other. This might work, but the film tries to play some of the deaths for comedy, which really doesn’t work, and the broader comic elements (such as a running ‘there’s something behind me’ gag) fall flat in part due to the juxtaposition.

The other major flaw in the movie is Isabelle, who is presented as a tough, feisty princess, but is, nonetheless, an unrelenting damsel in distress, primarily there to be rescued by Jack. Apparently this is due to the same reluctance to have women involved in scenes of violence and death that led director Singer to include no female giants at all.

In fact, most of the problems with the film seem to stem from the fact that the filmmakers decided to include things that, in the end, they weren’t comfortable showing, like a woman actually doing something in a fight or giants eating people.

What’s right with it?

Outside of those big problems, the film is a pretty decent adventure yarn, with decent CGI and a cracking pace. The acting is all pretty top notch.

How bad is it really?

Jack the Giant Slayer is flawed, rather than terrible, and on the surface is a lot of fun to watch. Its problem is that it gets worse the more you think about it, which is really the wrong way around.

Best bit (if such there is)?

At the end of the film, Jack begins telling the story to his children. Over a montage of the crown being hidden in gold and finding its way into the crown jewels of England, a series of voices tell versions of the story as it mutates into the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk.

What’s up with…?

  • Creepy, Stanley Tucci-looking kid at the end? Did the film miss that it knocked him off as antagonist at the halfway mark?
  • All the fart gags? It’s as if they looked at their giants and all the deaths and the eating people, realised that it was a bit strong for a family movie, then figured it was okay if they picked their noses and broke wind a lot.
  • All the single giant ladies? Do the giants just exist? Their hearts are stone, so were they made?
  • Jack wearing the crown at the end? Seriously, even if they had some aversion to the princess, blood heir to Eric the Great kicking arse at any point, she was still the logical one to wear the crown, rather than meekly standing a little behind and to the side of Jack as he crowns himself.
  • Albion and the Kingdom of Cloister? Given that the crown becomes the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, this is clearly England, so where does all this Cloister business come from?

Ratings

Production values – Top drawer stuff; an effective blend of CGI and live action. The squirm cuts away from people actually being eaten are the only clunky moments. 4
Dialogue and performances –  For the most part, the dialogue is sparky, but a few lines are decidedly forced. In particular, a lot of the broader humour suffers from the tonal uncertainty. The acting is top notch, however. 8
Plot and execution – The plot changes villains mid-stream, and the direction is self-defeating with its tonal shifts and unwillingness to either give up some of the nastiness or go the whole hog. Bryan Singer is a great director, but not here. Bonus points for screwing up the action girl so terribly. 16
Randomness – The moat tunnel, the fart gags. Creepy, Stanley Tucci-looking kid. The fact that this is apparently set in actual England, despite being called Albion/Cloister and its anachronism stew of bizarre costumes. 12
Waste of potential – The film is mostly solid, but that just makes the missed opportunities – the rubbish princess, the uneven tone – harder to forgive. 11

Overall 51%

Total Recall (2012)

TotalRecall2012Poster

“Is it real? Is it Recall?”

Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston

Douglas Quaid (Farrell), a blue collar worker in a post-apocalyptic world where the only places to escape chemical bombardment at the end of the 21st century were the vast remoteness of Australia and the political and industrial giant of Northern Europe. Troubled by dreams of a woman he has never met and dissatisfied with his life, he visits Rekall Inc, a company offering realistic false memories, but when his spy fantasy seems to come true, he finds himself on the run from police forces led by his (alleged) wife (Beckinsale), and in the company of the woman of his dreams (Biel). Pursued across the United Federation of Britain – well, London anyway – he finds himself embroiled in a plot to frame an anti-British resistance movement for terrorist acts and invade the Colony (Australia) with robot soldiers.

What’s wrong with it?

Like the 2001 Planet of the ApesTotal Recall is based on an earlier adaptation of a written original, in this case a Philip K Dick short story, and in its attempts to be both reverent and different it strays away from both coherence and the fundamental point.

The film is Earthbound, cutting out Mars altogether and replacing it with Australia, which looks like something out of Bladerunner. There is actually quite a lot of the film that is reminiscent of other movies, and adding hover car chases and police tactics rather akin to Minority Report leaves one wondering if this isn’t a remake of every Philip K Dick adaptation ever.

There is a heavy focus on the action, which unfortunately is mostly ridiculous.  Most of the fights are just exchanges of fire with literally faceless robots, or vastly extended chase scenes through nonsensical futuristic landscapes.

The film frequently cuts away from Quaid/Hauser to focus on the actions of the villains, which undermines the original’s central conceit that the entire narrative could be the fiction in Quaid’s disintegrating mind in favour of a more existential question of what makes a person who they are, which would be great if it did it well. Instead, there is very little question of which is the real persona and a single line of dialogue from Matthias (a criminally underused Bill Nighy), and then at the very end of the film it suddenly tries to claw back the original idea by having Hauser question the reality of the preceding two hours.

Bizarrely, most of the cast are British actors doing American accents.

What’s right with it?

I watched the director’s cut on DVD, and damn if it doesn’t make a difference. A smattering of additional news reports bring the villainous plot into greater focus, and make it less a blatant act of fascist anschluss and more a satire of the Gulf War’s WMD justification. It also features Ethan Hawke as Hauser’s original face, and by having Melina identified as Matthias daughter explains both the importance of keeping her alive (to extract a false confession to legitimise the invasion) and Nighy’s American accent.

How bad is it really?

Total Recall‘s sin is that it doesn’t know what it is, and thus it mangles its plot and its purpose. It tries to do something different, but can’t bring itself to jettison the old, and thus ends up burdened with both unnecessary plot complications and the curse of unfulfilled nostalgia.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Cohagen engages in a knife fight with Hauser; fun simply for the conceit of the most powerful politician on the planet being a frontline badass instead of a backroom general.

What’s up with…?

  • The Federal Intelligence Service’s flexible attitude to civilian casualties? While trying to frame the Resistance as murderous terrorists, their own people fire wildly into crowded elevators.
  • Lori’s final attempt on Hauser’s life while disguised as Melina? Given that she is sitting there when he wakes up from unconsciousness, the fact that she hasn’t already put an air bubble in his drip or something speaks volumes of her incompetence.
  • Hammond? He calls Hauser, calls him ‘Henry’ instead of Carl, suggesting he only knows his alias, and then gets killed rescuing him from Cohagen without ever offering a scrap of explanation, or indeed getting any more lines.
  • Most of northern Europe having survived a global conflict intact?

Ratings

Production values – Some of the CGI is a little dated, but overall the effects are pretty shiny. 5
Dialogue and performances –  There are some very dubious accents going on. In Lori’s case it sort of makes sense, as her cover has an American accent while she is British, but the others are less clear. The dialogue is humdrum, but thinks it is profound, and thus wastes some solid acting talent. 11
Plot and execution – The core plot, in the director’s cut, is actually pretty sound, but in the original release made very little sense. 9
Randomness – Why Britain and Australia? Why a trans-mantle elevator? Why is everyone in Britain and Australia American12
Waste of potential – With a strong cast, big budget and excellent concepts to work with, this would have been vastly improved as either a more faithful remake or if it had the courage to strike out on its own path. As it is, by trying to do both it does neither very well. 15

Overall 52%

From the Archive – Underworld (2003)

Underworld

 

Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman

For fourteen hundred years the vampires have been at war with the Lycans (that’s werewolves to you and me); both races immortal – barring serious accident or bad cases of killing – and apparently none-too-bright. The Lycan general, Lucian, has been dead six centuries, and for all that time the vampire elite, the Deathdealers, have been on the verge of wiping out the last werewolves, but have never managed it.

Selene (Beckinsale) is one of these Deathdealers and while hunting Lycans she realises that they are showing an unusual interest in a human, Michael (Speedman). She also stumbles on a den of werewolves larger than any seen since Lucian’s death. She is all suspicious and stuff, but the leader of her coven, the aptly named Kraven (Shane Brolly), is too busy trying to get into her knickers to care. Oh; and the vampires are about to have a transfer of power between two of their elders.

Selene investigates Michael and gets the hots for him. Lucian – whose death was somewhat exaggerated by the only witness, Kraven – also shows up looking for him. Michael gets freaked out at the sheer number of fangy, gun-toting maniacs coming after him for one reason or another.

There’s a whole lot of killing and bloodshed and betrayal, then Michael and Selene fulfil Lucian’s plan by turning Michael into a super-hybrid of Lycan and vampire and offing Bill Nighy, lord of the undead.

What’s wrong with it?

Underworld is one of those films in which a whole bunch of good ideas get pissed away in a frenzy of fast-editing and wacky SFX. There are moments when the idea of a centuries old war, of a vampire populace yearning to forget about the war and get on with being all cool and Goth and stuff and the torturous and Byzantine politics almost get interesting, before some ludicrous set piece or clunky line of dialogue (“Silver nitrate! Bet you didn’t see that coming!”, oh, you were up all night for that kiss-off) brings the whole thing crashing back to Earth.

There are also a great many instances where you just wonder how these slackers have lasted as long as they have. Lucian’s Lycans wipe out a train full of veteran Deathdealers with nary a scratch in return, yet Selene can drop them by the dozen. Lucian successfully hides his existence for centuries, then Selene stumbles on his army and he lets Kraven – his creepy, weasel-traitor, unloved ally – be dragged into his lair with a gun. How did this lot manage to last so long.

A friend is quite insistent that I mention here that Selene tells Michael that he saved her life, when she’s actually undead, but the fact is that she isn’t undead. Undead is a word that never shows up in Underworld and all evidence suggests that these vampires are as vital as anyone.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s some cool Gothy bits and impressive special effects, and the lead characters manage to be reasonably sympathetic, despite an excess of kewl. There are also some splendid ideas, however little time may be given over to them. And Bill Nighy; always good for the money. Many people also rate Kate Beckinsale in leather as a big draw, but by that standard you’d have to say Van Helsing was a winner.

How bad is it really?

None too. I mean, there’s some decent action, they don’t get bogged down in their own stupidity nearly as much as they could and at least it isn’t Underworld: Evolution. Or Blade II.

Best bit

Okay, it’s been a while. Nothing really sticks out.

What’s up with…?

  • Ultraviolet bullets? I mean, huh?
  • Kraven’s kiss-off line to Lucian? “Silver nitrate! Bet you didn’t see that coming.” Well, he didn’t see anything coming, did he, otherwise he would have taken away your gun and you could have shot him with silver bullets, exploding rounds or whatever. The silver nitrate is the chemically-questionable icing on the explody death cake.
  • Mr Razor Wire Whips? Come on; you’re just asking to get et.
  • Bill Nighy is the Lord of the Undead?

Ratings

Production Values: High. A little too much darkness, but basically sound. 4

Dialogue and Performances: A film somewhat lacking in snappy one-liners, which is a shame as it’s the kind of film that really needs that lift from time to time. The dialogue that there is isn’t bad, but it’s basically just, y’know, functional. There’s no zip, no fire, no poetry; not even bad angst poetry. 12

Plot and Execution: PWP, turned up to 11. Erm, the stuff with the blood and the big monsters and…stuff. Oh, you’re the spit and image of the girl I used to love. Huh? The film does well to avoid getting mired in all this crap people are spitting out by way of exposition. 13

Randomness: Bill Nighy is the lord of the undead?* 7

Waste of Potential: With a little more script work and a little less devotion to po-faced sombreness, this could have been a hell of a lot of fun. It’s still fun, just not a hell of a lot of it. 9

Overall 45%

*Although in fairness, since this review was first written, this has become a thing.