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NEW RELEASES

BLADE: TRINITY Blade II was that rare sequel that managed to trump the original, but the franchise ascension ends there. Blade: Trinity is easily the least of three, an overlong action yarn with nothing fresh to say on the subject of vampires nor on the curious holding pattern of Wesley Snipes' career. Snipes again plays the taciturn Blade, the half-man, half-vampire whose mission is to wipe out all bloodsuckers with the help of his mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson). Instead of Whistler's mother, it's his daughter (Jessica Biel) who joins the fray, assisted by the wisecracking Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds, the poor man's Jason Lee) and a motley assortment of vampire hunters. This time, their target is the most famous sucker of all: Dracula (a dull Dominic Purcell), recently resurrected to help his demonic descendants take over the world. Or something like that. Except for the amusing inclusion of a vampire Pomeranian, writer-director David S. Goyer's thudding screenplay lacks a sense of the fantastic -- who wants to see endless car crashes in this context, or a foot chase between Dracula and Blade? And Goyer's attempts to add some levity to the story via Reynolds' sophomoric quips (most involving his dick) don't jibe with Snipes' humorless portrayal of Blade. Parker Posey appears as a bitchy vampire, and don't you just sense the sun inching a little bit closer to the earth every time this celebrated indie actress appears in mainstream claptrap like Josie and the Pussycats, Laws of Attraction and now this? 1/2


CURRENT RELEASES

AFTER THE SUNSET As a celebration of the beauty of Salma Hayek, After the Sunset ranks as a four-star affair, lovingly photographing this earthbound Aphrodite as she sashays around the film's tropical setting in any number of bikinis and low-cut gowns. Oglers of Pierce Brosnan should also find this a thumbs-up affair: While the retiring James Bond has apparently made the switch from martinis to milkshakes, he's still dashing enough to provide the necessary yang to Hayek's sensual yin. But beyond the eye candy represented by the stars and their sun-soaked surroundings, there's little else memorable about this disposable tissue of a movie in which an FBI agent (an overripe Woody Harrelson) tries to trip up a pair of jewel thieves living it up in the Bahamas.

ALEXANDER Suddenly, Caligula is starting to look good. Alexander is unremittingly dull, visually unappealing, narratively muddled, inadvertently campy, indifferently acted - and that's just for starters. Colin Farrell gets trampled under the weight of director Oliver Stone's expectations in tackling the role of the warrior king whose claim to fame was conquering most of the known world by the time he was Ashton Kutcher's present age. Anthony Hopkins provides the doddering exposition - lots and lots of exposition -- and, as Alexander's parents, Angelina Jolie (sporting an accent that suggests she's channeling Bela Lugosi) and Val Kilmer get to bellow and howl and gnash their teeth, to little avail. As for the murky battle sequences, they seem to have been shot by a camera while it was tumbling around inside a dryer.

BEING JULIA It's not entirely true that Annette Bening is the show, the whole show, and nothing but the show, but let's just say that without her presence, the curtain would fall a lot faster on this adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's book Theatre. She's awfully fun to watch as she whirlwinds her way through this backstage yarn (set in 1938 London) about an aging actress whose young lover (Shaun Evans) might be using her. The film's greatest strength rests in its intricate character dynamics (aided by such luminaries as Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon); its biggest flaw comes from the miscasting of the bland Evans, whose flat performance makes it impossible to believe the dynamic Julia would fall so strongly for such a drip.

BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON This follow-up to the delightful Bridget Jones's Diary is the laziest sort of sequel, lifting episodes wholesale from the original before spinning off in directions that don't even begin to make sense. So even though the film opens where the original ended, with Bridget (Renee Zellweger) finding true love with lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), the writers create a series of unlikely conflicts between the couple, simply so they can rehash the same scenario where Bridget has to choose between Darcy and bad boy Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). It all culminates with Bridget landing in a Thai prison, where she leads a chorus line of hookers in a sing-along to Madonna's "Like a Virgin" -- a ludicrous sequence that suggests there wasn't enough cogent material to fashion a sequel in the first place.

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