Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Prometheus”

It’s funny how our expectations going into a film shape our perceptions of it while we’re watching it and, ultimately, our final opinions about it after we’ve seen it. Case in point : yesterday on this very blog I was talking about Snow White And The Huntsman, a movie I frankly expected nothing from, and about how, even though it delivered nothing but a substance-free series of pretty pretty pictures to look at, I wasn’t too pissed off about spending my hard-earned money to see because I wasn’t even sure it would deliver that much (or that little). Today, on the other hand, I’m going to be discussing a flick that I flat-out expected to suck, and that pretty much delivered on those expectations — yet left me feeling pretty well ripped off even though it, too was gorgeous to look at and even though, again, I figured it would be at least as bad as it was, if not worse.

I’m talking, of course, about Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s completely unnecessary Alien prequel. The reasons I went into this with essentially no optimism whatsoever are numerous — Scott hasn’t made a good film since Blade Runner, the script was co-authored by some guy named Jon Spaihts and one of the chief culprits behind the unwatchable, thoroughly confused mess that was TV’s Lost, Damen Lindelof (who’s apparently irked huge segments of the online film geek community with a recent series of over-the-top-in-the-self-serving-department comments), and frankly because any film that set out to “explain” and “demystify” the H.R. Giger-designed evil aliens form the original film series sounded like something with the power to not only be completely pointless (some power), but to actively detract from the impact the first film had by filling in a bunch of blanks that are best left — well, blank.

Of course, there were reasons for optimism, as well — a first-rate cast, sure-fire scrumptious CGI effects, and a promised “return to the Alien series’ roots” after some rather unfortunate side-steps and detours all sounded pretty cool, but I still went into this one prepared for the worst.

I didn’t get that. Instead I got a confused, cliched, every-bit-as-unnecessary-as-I’d-expected mess of a film that, in its defense, at least really does look amazing. Which was enough for me to give Snow White And The Huntsman a pass, admittedly — but hyprocrite that I am I just can’t be as forgiving when it comes to Prometheus. Why not? Because at the end of the day I don’t really give a shit either way about the Snow White legend, but I do care about the Alien franchise. A lot. Scott’s first film rates right up there with John Carpenter’s The Thing on my list of all-time great sci-fi horrors, and I even enjoyed most of the various sequels to one degree or another. So it’s fair to say that, even though I didn’t figure it would be, I still wanted this flick to be good.

So where to begin with the reasons why it wasn’t? Well, how about we start with that stellar cast I mentioned a minute ago. It’s completely wasted. Apart from the film’s “Ripley-lite” protagonist, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, who turns in a heck of a good performance), none of the characters are developed at all. the very talented Idris Elba is stuck in a one-dimensional role as the titular ship’s captain and can’t even seem to decide what accent he should settle on when he’s speaking. Charlize Theron plays an ice princess — again. Michael Fassbender, at the top of pretty much every current Hollywood “hot” list, turns in a dry, uninvolved turn as the ship’s android that won’t be causing Ian Holm to lose any sleep (although, in Fassbender’s defense, the fact that Spaihts and Lindelof reveal that he’s robotic from the outset doesn’t help matters any). Guy Pearce, as old man Weyland, the expedition’s financier, might as well be replaced with a computer-generated stand-in. There’s even a completely pointless two-second cameo from Patrick Wilson inserted for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. So much talent with oh so little to actually, you know, do.

Then there’s the script. Dear God, what a disaster. Shoehorning a bunch of unnecessary Chariots Of The Gods-style crap into the Alien “mythos” is about the worst direction these truly Lost writers could have chosen to go. Instead of illuminating anything (not , again, that much “illumination” was really needed — the original story stood on its own just fine), it just muddies the waters. There’s some laughably atrocious dialogue that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Ed Wood film (like when the ship’s geologist, in the midst of a massive freak-out, declares ” I like rocks, right? I really like rocks!”). And the main thrust of the action is essentially a direct carbon copy of the “story arc” from the first film (you know, for instance, who the only survivor is going to be from the outset). It’s like Spaihts and Lindelof can’t decide between trying to do something completely out of left field (albeit thoroughly confusing) or just settling on the same old blueprint so in the end, they go for both — and end up doing each competing narrative impulse a massive disservice.

I keep coming back to the amazing visual prowess Scott’s CGI gurus display here consistently from start to finish, and I suppose it’s worth mentioning one more time just to balance the scales here a bit, but what’s that old saying about lipstick on a pig? Prometheus cakes on the makeup, but underneath, its true face is still that of the victim of a particularly nasty car wreck. And like an accident victim, it’s so disfigured and tragic that you’re almost tempted to feel sorry for it — until you learn that said victim was driving drunk at 150 mph and the person in the other car (I guess that would be the audience in this case — bear with me as I stretch this metaphor way beyond the breaking point) didn’t make it out alive.

It takes an almost Herculean effort to not be as bad as I was fearing Prometheus would be yet still somehow leave me feeling even more cheated and let down than I would have felt had it actually been even worse (if that makes any sense at all) —yet that’s exactly what Scott, Spaihts, and Lindelof  have managed to do here. File that under “go figure” and then, to return the already-worn-out accident metaphor, move along, folks — nothing to see here.

Dance Scenes That I Love: Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem from Jesus Christ Superstar

Today, Arleigh and Pantsukudasai have left town to attend the Anime Expo and I find myself momentarily alone here at the TSL Bunker, curled up on the couch in my beloved Pirates t-shirt and Hello Kitty panties, and cursing my asthma.  As I lay here, it occurs to me that it’s been a while since I’ve shared a “scene that I love” here on the site.  So, why not rectify that situation now?

Norman Jewison’s 1972 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar is a film that I’ve been meaning to review for a while but for now, I just want to share my favorite scene from that film, the performance of Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem.

There’s several reasons I love that scene but mostly it just comes down to the fact that it captures the explosive energy that comes from watching a live performance.  Larry Marshall (who plays Simon Zealotes) has one of the most fascinating faces that I’ve ever seen in film and when he sings, he sings as if the fate of the entire world depends on it.  That said, I’ve never been sold on Ted Neely’s performance as Jesus but Carl Anderson burns with charisma in the role of Judas.
Mostly, however, I just love the choreography and watching the dancers.  I guess that’s not that surprising considering just how important dance was (and still is, even if I’m now just dancing for fun) in my life but, to be honest, I’m probably one of the most hyper critical people out there when it comes to dance in film, regarding both the the way that it’s often choreographed and usually filmed.  But this scene is probably about as close to perfect in both regards as I’ve ever seen.  It goes beyond the fact that the dancers obviously have a lot of energy and enthusiasm and that they all look good while dancing.  The great thing about the choreography in this scene is that it all feels so spontaneous.  There’s less emphasis on technical perfection and more emphasis on capturing emotion and thought through movement.  What I love is that the number is choreographed to make it appear as if not all of the dancers in this scene are on the exact same beat.  Some of them appear to come in a second or two late, which is something that would have made a lot of my former teachers and choreographers scream and curse because, far too often, people become so obsessed with technical perfection that they forget that passion is just as important as perfect technique.  (I’m biased, of course, because I’ve always been more passionate than perfect.)  The dancers in this scene have a lot of passion and it’s thrilling to watch.

A Warning From The Past: The Road To Ruin

Good Morning!  It’s Thursday and we all know what that means.  The weekend is approaching and that means that all the usual temptations of the weekend are approaching as well.  These temptations include drinking, smoking, dancing, premarital sex, prostitution, and near incest.

These are the temptations that are dealt with in the 1934 film The Road To Ruin.

Do you have an hour to spare?

If so, consider watching this film (a personal favorite of mine) and learning from the mistakes of Ann Dixon…

Here’s a few interesting facts about The Road To Ruin:

  • The Road To Ruin is a prototypical example of the first independent films.  Films like this one dealt with “social problems.”  Typically, they would be about an “innocent” who would be led astray for 55 minutes before spending the last 10 minutes of the film either repenting or suffering the consequences of their actions. 
  • Since these films were shot outside of the Hollywood establishment, they were also “free” to show things that studio films wouldn’t even hint at.  By today’s standards they may seem “tame” but for the 1930s, they were considered to be quite scandalous.
  • This film is an almost shot-for-shot remake of a silent film that was also called The Road To Ruin.  The first Road to Ruin was the top-grossing film of 1928 and was directed by Norton Parker.  Helen Foster played the lead role in both versions of the film.
  • According to the opening credits of the 1934 Road to Ruin, the remake was directed by Melville Shyer and “Mrs. Wallace Reid.”  Mrs. Wallace Reid was actually Dorothy Davenport, a former silent film starlet.  After her husband — the actor Wallace Reid — died of a drug overdose in 1923, Davenport directed several “social problem” films as Mrs. Wallace Reid.
  • Despite the fact that this film is, technically, quite primitive, I love it for several reasons.  The historian side of me loves that the film basically serves as a time capsule, preserving the society and the attitudes that produced it. 
  • The film lover in me loves just how melodramatic this film is.  Seriously, I love how smoking cigarettes and sneaking a drink always serve to pave the road to Hell in films like this one.  It’s interesting to contrast a film like this with modern-day anti-drug propaganda. 
  • Finally, as a lover of exploitation films both new and old, I love how this film shows off everything that it’s claiming to condemn.

Song of the Day: How You Like Me Now? (Performed by The Heavy)

Today has not been a good day to be an asthmatic.  Along with a high temperature in the triple digits, the air is full of all sorts of evil things that all seem to serve little purpose beyond inspiring me to reach for my inhaler. 

On a miserable day like this, it only seems appropriate to make one of my favorite songs of all time the song of the day.

Ever since I first heard it used in a commercial featuring a Sock Monkey taking a road trip to Las Vegas with his friends, the robot and the weird red thing, I have been in love with the song How You Like Me Now?  As performed by the British band The Heavy, How You Like Me Now is one of those songs that always makes me smile.  The easiest way to get me excited about seeing a film is to include this song in the film’s ad campaign.  Perhaps that explains why it’s shown up in trailers for everything from Faster to the Change-Up to the upcoming Ted.

For me, David O. Russell made perfect use of this song in his Oscar-nominated film The Fighter.  Who can forget the sight of Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg strutting through the streets of Lowell while this song played on the soundtrack?  It was an iconic scene, featuring an iconic song and I loved it.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Snow White And The Huntsman”

Having proven yesterday how little I know about all things vampire with my review of Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter, I figured I’d take a crack at another mythic genre, namely the fairy tale — or “folklore,” if you prefer — today. Why stop when you’re on a roll, right?

To be honest, though,  I guess what we’re here to talk about isn’t even “folklore” per se so much as the modern interpretation of a very popular piece of folklore indeed, since the film under our microscope this evening is first-time director Rupert Sanders’ Snow White And The Huntsman, the second “reimagining” of the Snow White legend to hit the screens this year following hot on the heels of Mirror, Mirror, and definitely the decidedly more “mature” of the two.

There were, frankly, a lot of reasons to be skeptical about this movie going in — Kristen Stewart sure isn’t my idea of perfect casting in the lead, for one thing — but on the whole, I actually walked out of this one pleasantly surprised. Not blown away, by any means — hell, not even bowled over — but it visually arresting enough and well-paced enough to sustain my interest throughout, even though the idea of Snow White as some kind of bad-ass warrior queen seems absurd to a guy like me who basically only knows the Disney version, and remembers it very faintly at that.

Sanders, who I understand got his start in music videos, definitely brings the kind of “these folks have a short attention span, so let’s not let up on the gas” attitude you’d expect from somebody fresh out of that milieu, and while he doesn’t really seem to be much of an actor’s director — Charlize Theron in given free reign to ham it up to the hilt with her interpretation of the evil Queen Ravenna, Chris Hemsworth is essentially just reprising his Thor role as the co-titular Hunstman, and Stewart does what she does “best,” namely look completely lost but somehow project an attitude that we’re supposed to think that’s “sexy,” and that we’re damn lucky she even inhabits the same planet as us mere mortals, as Snow White herself — but when he’s laying out a visual feast this scrumptious, I can live with a few of the ingredients being a bit sour and/or stale.

And what a feast it is! Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of liberal borrowing from the Tim Burton playbook going on here, particularly with little tricks like superimposing the heads of the likes of Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane onto CGI dwarves’ bodies, but Sanders’ overall vision of  the fantastic is considerably less color-saturated and joyful than Burton’s, and frankly a little edgier. When Burton goes “dark” or “morbid” he does so with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, while Sanders really seems to mean it — this shit is supposed be more than just a little bit intimidating.

In that sense, he’s probably closer to the original intent of the Brothers Grimm and their contemporaries than he may even have consciously been aiming for, since “fairy tales” weren’t just designed to keep the young’uns of years gone by entertained, but to scare the shit out of them by illustrating the consequences of what would happen if they didn’t do as they were told, as well. There’s irony, I suppose, in the fact that this film, clearly billed as an “adult” take on the Snow White legend, actually ends up being closer, in tone and spirit, to the original than the decidedly more “family-friendly” Mirror, Mirror, but it’s the kind of irony I can certainly get behind, especially when the end result, while ultimately as disposable as most any other summer blockbuster fare (notice how pretty much all my praise here is aimed solely at the film’s visual sensibility and nothing else — there’s good reason for that, as the story is essentially exactly the kind of  hollow, by-the-numbers modern Hollywood take on the proceedings that you’d expect), is this downright fascinating to look at. Beneath the surface, there’s not much of anything going on in Snow White And The Huntsman, to put things as kindly as possible —but the surface is so damn lush, cryptic, and enthralling that you won’t realize, or even care, that you’ve pretty much been had until well after you leave the theater.

‘Wings of Desire’ Review (dir. Wim Wenders, 1987)


I should probably start by saying that I’ve always had a strong personal connection to and love for films that explore human nature and existence. What it means to live, isolation, and the inter-connectivity of human beings and the strains between the physical and spiritual world are questions that have had the biggest impacts on me. This is probably why when I look back at my favorite films they are those directed by auteurs like Bergman and Kieslowski, who tackled these themes with such intimacy and beauty. I say this to remind you that I know what I like…so when I say “Wings of Desire”, after two viewings in one day, is probably my new favorite film, I do it without hyperbole. But be warned, like most intellectually challenging films, and those that connected with me on an emotional level more than anything, this review consists a whole lot of rambling and not so coherent thought.

I’d first like to just state that I truly believe that this is one of the most poetic and beautiful stories ever put to film. It is the tale of Damiel and Cassiel, two of many angels who have wandered earth since its beginning, bearing witness to its growth and the development of man. They are not the angels of the Christian faith, but rather those from poetry, more metaphorical and spiritual beings observing and acting as guardians. They can’t directly alter our fate but can often guide or comfort us in times of great pain. For example when Damiel finds a victim of a motorcycle accident lying on the curb, covered in blood, fearing his death as regrets start to surface, he comes to his side. To calm him Damiel places his hands upon the mans head and begins to recite beautiful memories and images. Suddenly the victim begins to do the same, his fear now replaced with a sort of tranquility, as if Damiel has helped him face death by making his life pass before him.

A great deal of the film follows Damiel and Cassiel through their usual routine of listening to the tortured thoughts of humans, helping those they can, and sharing with each other specific human thoughts or actions worth remembering. On this particular afternoon Damiel expresses to Cassiel his wanting to relinquish his immortality to become human. He explains that he has been on the outside looking in for too long. Now he yearns to live, to touch, to be hurt and most importantly to love. He wants to experience the importance of true existence when time and the acknowledgment of your morality creates a passion and joy for even the simplest things, like a hot drink on a cold day or rubbing your hands together to warm them up.

This desire to take on a human form is intensified when he begins to fall for a trapeze artist named Marion. He first encounters her in a local circus, gliding through the air on her swing dressed as an angel. Damiel’s fascination with her grows when the circus is shut down, and Marion falls into a sort of despair. She is alone, away from home, her dreams of being a great trapeze artist slipping. In this time Damiel visits her often, hoping that his presence helps her, while being spellbound by her beauty and how she handles her emotions.

Meanwhile, Cassiel begins to follow an elderly gentlemen named Homer, a professor and a poet, who has been unable to write, he has lost all motivation for his muse and storyteller are gone. The thing these characters share is afeeling of isolation and disconnection that mirrors the world around them. Marion loses her audience when the circus closes. She is now left alone, wanting to be loved. Homer explains how his listeners, once huddle together in groups with ears open are now scattered readers. This feeling of isolation and disconnect is made all the more poignant as it is set in West Berlin while a wall literally divided Germany. The two, along with most of the people we see our angels listening to, have thoughts filled with worry and sadness. They are missing something, we all are, but what? This is where Damiel and Marion’s eventual unity becomes very important. Offsetting them all is Peter Falk, playing himself, shooting a new film in the city. He displays a sort of passion in life that intrigues both Damiel and Cassiel. Falk cares about the simple things, even the most minor details and seemingly insignificant human moments. Here is a man that values every second of life, which gives Damiel all the more reason to want to share that experience.

On a technical level one of the films greatest achievements is how most of the film is devoid of color. It is meant to be the world seen through the eyes of the angels. Everything to them seems so plain, and all detail and color is lost. It is a bold choice, but one that not only works but when there is a transition to color when in a human perspective, the beauty, ecstasy and warmth of life is much more apparent. This imagery and cinematography, particularly the lighting, is all absolutely beautiful. This comes as no surprise given that it was done by Henri Alekan who did “The Beauty and the Beast” (1946) which is one of the most visually breathtaking black and white films ever made.

Perhaps my favorite things about the film is Bruno Ganz’s wonderful performance as Damiel. He has the face and presence of a man who has been around for a long time and doesn’t feel very much because he has seen and heard it all; yet he still expresses a sense of longing for life and love boiling under the surface. When he eventually takes a human form the joy he exudes is an absolute delight to watch. Right up there is another stand out performance by Peter Falk who sadly passed away last year. He plays himself, with that face and voice like no other, and is easily the most “human” character in the film.

Now under the surface of the beautiful imagery, the wonderful performances and poetic story there are many themes Wenders wishes to explore. What seems to come up most is how disconnected and divided we humans are, even though we live in a world filled with so much life and beauty. We are at times just too blind to see it. We aren’t angels yet we often look at the world as if it is in black and white. This divide seems to be present even amongst the world of angels as Damiel and Cassiel are both quite different; again these differences coming from ones ability to appreciate even the smallest of things. While Damiel is fascinated by life and drawn towards pleasure, Cassiel on the other hand seems drawn towards suffering. Cassiel spends numerous times thinking back to the war, seeing images and memories of the destruction. He seems almost haunted by these things which is why the idea of morality may not appeal to him. There is no joy in the life he sees, even though his own journal of human events contain moments of joy amongst the bad. He is conflicted, a feeling brilliantly displayed in one scene set during a Nick Cave concert. He is following Damiel who is searching for Marion. Cassiel stands behind the stage, eyes closed, as lights cast three moving shadows of him on the wall, like his fragmented soul is standing right before our eyes. What has he, a master of the spiritua world, not been able to find that Damiel has? The answer is an appreciation of the sensual, which for Damiel is represented by Marion.

But even she seems at times lost, asking questions such as “why am I me and why not you?” What is the cause of our individuality, why must we shut ourselves out to others? Why can’t we be one? What separates us? This is where Damiel’s relationship with Marion becomes not just a sentimental romance subplot, but an example of how unity and love are possible. If Damiel represents the spiritual, then Marion is the sensual, material world. The blending of the two, their love for one another, is what opens the door for more worldly love and a growing appreciation for life; and most importantly the binding of us all. It’s that connection to our spiritual, not just material, side that brings us true joy.

Of course this is only how I viewed the story. After my second viewing I spent a lot of time contemplating what it all meant, while also reading reviews and analysis from others. I always love reading how others personally view films such as this. Many came to similar conclusions as I did, and even those that viewed it differently seemed to share the same appreciation for it all as me. That isn’t to say some might not find it all overwhelming, especially when the pacing is slow and deliberate, though I personally never once found it dull.

So in the end, I think what I took away from the film is that the passion for and the celebration of life is what separates us from angels and connects us all. Our morality is perhaps the greatest gift we could have ever received. A gift we all share, and once we realize this and let sensuality and spirituality flow together than love and peace can conquer. It is this profound and beautiful notion that “Wings of Desire” delivers, set amongst a metaphysical and poetic tale of romance intertwined with political and philosophical questions and observations about human nature, connections, and existence that give it an emotional and intellectual state that few other films since perhaps those by Bergman and Bunuel have ever achieved. What is perhaps more astonishing is how it achieves this all without an ounce of pretentiousness. There are no manipulated or exaggerated claims by Wenders in an attempt to drive these themes home. He simply observes, in an often humorous and lighthearted manor, these universal fears, desires, questions and emotions; and it drew me in from beginning to end as I was mesmerized by everything on screen. It is because of all this that I say “Wings of Desire” is probably my new favorite film, and should be seen by anyone with a love for life and cinema.


Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (dir. by Timur Bekmambetov)

Timur Bekmambetov is one filmmaker that can never be said to hold things back visually on any of his films. He has a style that can be called a combination of the Wachowski Brothers and Zack Snyder. Now one can read that and just groan. The Wachowskis and Snyder are not what one would call the paragon of the filmmaking community. What they do tend to do are create pop-friendly and consumer-friendly films. Whether thse films are of high quality is another thing altogether.

Bekmambetov is an interesting filmmaker from Kazakhstan (who could easily pass for what we imagine Genghis Khan to look like if he was still alive) whose brand of action films tend to focus on all style with little to no substance. For some audiences this just means dumb, brainless fare that has no reason to be paid to see, but I tend to think these same people who shout loudest about how these type of films are dumbing down it’s audiences secretly watch them like crack addicts once they’re on cable. Bekmambetov’s latest film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, definitely follows his unique action and storytelling template he’s established with past films as Nightwatch, Daywatch and Wanted.

The film lives and dies on the simple conceit that one of the United States’ greatest Presidents was also vampire hunter of some skill. We see how an encounter with the vampire which led to the death of Abe’s mother (who had died of the condition known at the time as milk sickness) propels him through the intervening years to plot revenge on the same vampire. It’s during a failed attempt at revenge that he’s noticed by one Henry Sturgess (played by Dominic Cooper) who sees another potential vampire hunter in the young man (adult Lincoln played by one Benjamin Walker who could easily pass for a very young Liam Neeson). We get the usual training montage where Sturgess teaches Abe the finer points in vampire hunting and killing. It’s only proper that Abe would end up picking the rail-splitting axe he’s more comfortable in using than the more practical firearms.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is almost a straight adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name. Some minor subplots are discarded to keep the film moving in the one path the filmmakers and screenwriter (Grahame-Smith himself) decided to concentrate on. It’s this one thing that really pushes the film into a level that would win an audience to it’s cause or lose them altogether. This thing I speak of is the idea that slavery was due to the vampires who have set themselves as the so-called shadow aristocracy of the South and needed a ready source of food to keep themselves hidden from the humans. Yes, slavery was started and made into a near industrial level by vampires. This in turn moves Lincoln to move beyond just vengeance on the vampires who have affected his life from such an early age and instead go towards abolishing slavery from the country as a way to destroy the vampires once and for all.

These are heady ideas that doesn’t seem to fit well with historical facts and figures. Yet, the film does a good enough job of keeping things serious with just the right amount of over-the-top action sequences that Bekmambetov has become well-known for. One such action sequence involves Lincoln and a vampire having a chase scene involving a huge horse stampede. They fight in and amongst the stampeding equines and then on and above them. It’s a sequence that’s equal parts exciting and ludicrous that one just has to either sit back and enjoy it or stand up and walk out. Which is the film in a nutshell. One either goes all-in on the film’s story or folds mentally.

This is not to say that the film has no flaws. It has some glaring flaws that threatened to push the film over the edge of being a fun action flick into all-out dreck. For starters the vampires themselves made for good villains, but Rufus Sewell as the leader of the American vampires (who happens to call himself Adam) looked bored with the whole proceedings. There were brief moments when the charm that we expect from vampire leaders show, but it’s far and few between. Most of the time Sewell looks to be just standing in a particular scene looking bored. The rest of his clan of vampires are no better though Marton Csokas asBart, one of Adam’s lieutenants and main supplier of slaves, did such an over-the-top performance that one wouldn’t be surprised to catch a glimpses of scenery stuck between his teeth.

It’s really the performance by Benjamin Walker in the title role that keeps the film afloat. He has a commanding presence on the screen and he’s able to be convincing as Lincoln both as a young man and then as the elder statesman (some very good old man make-up effects that put the elder Peter Weyland make-up in Prometheus to shame). Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln also does a good job in what could’ve been a thankless role, but she didn’t look out of place in this peculiar period piece.

The action sequences themselves were choreographed well even though Bekmambetov was still relying a lot of his own brand of slo-mo to accentuate the cool kills Lincoln makes with his silver-coated axe. After awhile this gimmick began to get repetitious, but then again one shouldn’t be surprised to see such a thing over-used in a Bekmambetov film. If one has seen his three previous films then they should know what to expect. Yet, even this doesn’t detract from what this film ultimately turned out to be and that’s just plain fun despite lacking in the acting in certain roles and the sensational, some would say tasteless, use of the Civil War and slavery to tell a story about a vampire-killing President.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will not make filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Lars Von Trier and Michael Haneke quake in their shoes. It’s not a film that was made to win awards (though I can see it being nominated for best fight sequence in the MTV Movie Awards). What this film does seem to succeed enough in doing is be a fun and exciting film that rises above it’s source material on the strength of it’s lead and the action created by it’s filmmaker. For a genre film it certainly did a better job of mashing together disparate ideas than last year’s Cowboys & Aliens. Maybe if this film is enough of a success we’ll finally get some movement in the planned film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s other literary classic mash-up: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. One can only hope.