Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

R | 105 mins | Sci-fi, Action, Adventure, Horror | July 4, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rufus Sewell

In light of the upsurge of twisted fairy tale movies comes an alternate retelling of historical events via Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This was based on the mash-up fiction novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. It reveals the supposed secret life of the 16th President of the United States as a slayer of the undead. Abraham "Abe" Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), one of America's well-loved president, discovers vampires are planning to take over the US and makes it his mission to annihilate them. Like Harry Turtledove, the father of alternate history, Grahame-Smith masterfully wields this fiction genre where he rewrites classic literature and mix it with zombies and monsters. 

It's hard to imagine Lincoln as a vampire hunter. Learning about his 'real' life story and his ideals, and memorizing The Gettysburg Address in highschool, the title just seems silly and derogatory. But mind you the story (based on the book) itself was well researched and, though suggests ridiculousness, made sense to me that's for sure. How? Abraham Lincoln is an ideal vampire hunter because of his outdoorsy background and his towering height, he was in good shape. Lincoln portrayed as an excellent fighter has basis, he in reality likes fist fights (check "Ten Things You Don't Know About: Abraham Lincoln" on History Channel). A historian said once that during a campaign speech, he went down the platform to pound on a rival supporter who was beating up his own follower then went back and continued with his speech.

Benjamin Walker channeled the stern look of Lincoln well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good in her portrayal as Mary Todd, proving that she can take on serious roles and she's not just a Sky High character. 

I wasn't too impressed with the CGI, especially that scene where Lincoln chases a vampire through a stampede of horses. They just couldn't realistically create the animals, sorry. (Read: Don't watch it in 3D) The sound effects could be better. Twas so nonsensical when a 2-inch toy sword made of plastic that's dropped on carpet sounded like King Elendil's Narsil dropped on a mass of metal. The scoring could have added the needed depth to the story. It could've been worse, but at least the movie brought the novel to life enough. Bekmambetov's earlier directorial work, Wanted, was a flop for me. It was more of a comedy than a serious movie to me, so imagine my surprise when Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter worked out OK taken as a whole. 

More than the technical atrocities, I still enjoyed it. Well, mainly because of the refreshing story really. This is something different.  Vampire cum history lovers will like this! But, just a heads up, the vampires here don't sparkle in the sun. LOL.

RATING: 6/10


The Amazing Spider-Man

PG-13 | 136 mins | Action, Adventure, Sci-fi | June 29, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary

Unlike the earlier films, The Amazing Spider-Man is a mature and darker version of the Marvel hero's untold story. It tells the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an introverted loser highschool kid in New York City who was left by his parents as a boy in the care of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He would later discover that he is the son of a top scientist who had done extensive research in cross-species genetics, leading him directly to Oscorp and his father’s ex-partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). He gets bitten by a radioactive spider that granted him incredible powers. Dr. Connors' experiment to regrow his right arm went out of hand and transforms into The Lizard, Spider-Man's nemesis. Peter would juggle with his affection for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), whose eyes make me weak and strong at the same time, and his responsibility as a hero.

The movie is rich and dark; all the stunt work and the effects and the blood seem to be going for the Dark Knight track. Although the main character was altered from the original comicbook source -- i.e. Peter Parker would never expose his superhuman powers especially not showing off in the school gym to humiliate the school bully in front of his schoolmates-- I understand it was necessary to drive home that point. That feel of grittiness is definitely present in the movie. What stood out for me here was how that legendary heartbreak of Peter losing his Uncle Ben was made even more tragic. There were light moments too, comedic scenes that gets the audience laughing. 

Garfield has acting chops, he proved it in The Social network then and he proves it again in The Amazing Spider-Man now. Much to my own surprise, he actually is right for Peter Parker. I read someone cleverly wrote, Tobey Maguire may have been the first to bring the comicbook superhero to life, but it was Andrew Garfield that made him human. The guy gives the character a boost making you root for him. His on-screen chemistry with Stone was engaging, and their lovey-dovey moments was a welcome contradiction to the film's dark mood. Stone fuses cute and sexy naturally well and rocked those rain boots, er, Gwen Stacy's signature go-go boots. And those eyes of hers, Teddy Geiger must've wrote the lyrics "Cuz I could fall asleep in those eyes, like a water bed" for Emma Stone. Gwen Stacy is portrayed as gutsy rather than ditsy. Ifans was believable in his peculiar and personal battle as Dr. Connors and the Lizard. While I thought Sheen was effective as Uncle Ben, Field's character Aunt May fell short for me. Aunt May lacked character development, when she was supposed to be a central figure. She was so downplayed that the character appeared dispensable. Take Aunt May out of the story, the movie can still stand on its own.

My only little issues were that, one, the supposed untold story about his childhood is refreshing but hardly vital at this point though. It may all make sense when the sequel comes out (Yes, there is one. You should've known better than to leave right away, because Marvel movies always have teasers after the credits). And two, I still think it would've been a smarter and a more interesting story if Peter invented instead his webbing all by himself from scratch and not just use Oscorp's technology.

Director Marc Webb did not rely on CGI and did a splendid job overall. Webb understands that the audience do not want a lengthy, slow and boring telling of the origin story events so he kept it concise, snappy, easy to digest and most importantly let Spider-Man swing into action faster and longer. And boy, does he swing! This is the Spider-Man that any fan, and non-fan, would have imagined him to be. The rock anthems complemented Webb's vision for the movie, but Danny Elfman’s musical scoring of the Raimi movies is still the better arrangement for me. 

Expectations were high for this film, because it's an incarnation so soon of the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire letdown that is Spider-Man 3. But these expectations were positively met. The Amazing Spider-Man is what a blockbuster movie should be. It's worth a watch! 

RATING: 8/10

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