Underworld (2003)

Directed by Len Wiseman
Starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, Wooden, Insanely convoluted.

    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 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 Bekinsale 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...?


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%


X-Men: The Last Stand

"Take a stand."

Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and God knows how many other people (see 'What's wrong with it?')

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, Hell of a letdown, Bloated, Too big a cast, Too many plots

    In this third and final installment of the X-Men films, a company produces a 'cure' for mutants, to the horror of Professor Xavier and the outrage of Magento. There follows a series of flashy set-pieces and some vileness from Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil, while Jean Grey reappears apparently alive but psychotic, we discover that the Professor has no scruples, new guy Beast deals with politics, there's a flying bridge and a big fight, Rogue wonders if she wouldn't be better off with the cure and Vinnie Jones...is.

What's wrong with it?

    It's a mess. I mean, really, there's just too much going on and the director fails to make us give a toss about any of it. When Professor X gets vaporised halfway through the film I thought: holy crap. Then I realised I'd thought it, not felt it. Professor X just got vaped and I didn't care. When we find out Scott's been killed, I could hardly muster a cheer!

What's right with it?

    Well, it looks pretty, I guess.

How bad is it really?

    Not terrible, just really, really disappointing. I liked the first two; I really did. This was just...blah.

Best bit


What's up with...?


Production Values: No complaints, if a little over-reliant on spectacle. 1

Dialogue and Performances: Decent to good performances can't hide a pretty cliche ridden script. "I'm the only one who can stop her!" Blah. 11

Plot and Execution: That big scene where Magneto makes all the trucks pile into one another. That's your plot that is. 17

Randomness: Split personalities? I mean, okay, you're trying not to talk about the aliens, but still. And the flying bridge? 9

Waste of Potential: Did you see the other films? 18

Overall 56%


The Secret Of My Success  (1987)

"There's no such thing as an overnight success...Bradley Foster took two weeks."

Reviewed by Jimmy The Hat

Director Herbert Ross
Starring Michael J. Fox, Helen Slater, et al standard eighties alumni.

Bad Movie Mecca Keywords: So bad it’s good; Commercial; shameless band-wagon jumping.

Michael J. Fox, fresh from his time-travelling adventures, is Brantley Foster a resident of Kansas who decides he can make it in the big smoke, i.e. New York.  Discovering an empty “executive” office in the building he eventually ends up working in he begins a doppleganging caper balancing two jobs at the same time, one as an office postboy/gopher, the other as an executive a la Gordon Gecko, only not as nasty.  This naturally results in such high-jinks as being caught with his trousers down, holding up lifts whilst changing from one unconvincing disguise to the other and generally mooching around doing very little work.  He also manages to solidify his position within the company (owned by his Uncle no less) by slipping his aunt one, getting it on with the only female exec (Slater) and gaining the support necessary for a frequently quoted “hostile takeover” via an incredibly eighties montage, some intricate bed-hopping and a private jet.

What's wrong with it?

It’s just all cheese man.  Eighties haircuts, clothes, clichés (from the eye-candy who doesn’t want to know eventually being tutored on the path of righteousness to the wise-cracking senior (ish) postroom-gopher who instantly becomes Marty’s, sorry, Brantley’s best friend), and just generally being cringe-worthy.  You can picture the movie exec’s discussion: - “that short guy from Back to the Future is really popular right now.  What else can we give him?”  You can also spot the ending a mile away.

What's right with it?

Having noted all the above I must point out that I actually bought this recently because I love it so much.  I was about six when this came out and I remember viewing it the first time round.  Michael J. Fox is a very watchable chap and this is definitely one of his better efforts, always putting in a vast amount of energy resulting in some genuinely funny moments.  And we all like a bit of cheese don’t we?

How bad is it really?

It’s a very by-the-numbers standard rags-to-riches eighties fare, wide gaping plot holes you could fit a bus through but the cast make it more than worthwhile.  No-one seems to be really ‘phoning it in and it amiably passes the time.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Brantley conducting the movements of the couple shagging next door, reaching a collective nirvana when he opens the can of beer in his hand which then runs down his arm.  Makes me laugh every time.

What's up with...?


Production values This film has been dipped and treated in eighties schmaltz from start to finish.  From the keyboard heavy opening tune (you can actually hear the mullet) to the shots of models strutting their stuff (a young Cindy Crawford can be spotted here) and the various montages, footage of crowds of “suits” walking to work, the brief appearance of the “Oh-Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and the mid-eighties sets.  KC and the Sunshine Band make an appearance as well.  This all makes it seem rather dated. 10.

Dialogue and performances Well performed dialogue, an almost career best from MJF, an almost convincing Helen Slater and that angry-uncle guy from Home Alone and other John Hughes films are all as expected. Only MJF’s high powered Uncle/boss seems to be on autopilot.  15

Plot and execution Predictable plot is the real let-down here.  It could have been made a bit more twisty-turny but hey-ho.  It is a huge and sticky slab of eighties bubble-gum.  The papering over of a few more plot holes would have added to the charm.  10

Randomness The sudden appearance of the song from Ferris is a bit random and adds weight to the band-wagon jumping case, both films emerging around the same time.  Other than that it pretty much sticks to the formula.  Oh yeah, Brantley photocopies his face and arms as his business card.  That’s a bit random.  8

Waste of potential As good as you can hope for really.  Doesn’t seem to take itself that seriously – does exactly what it says on the tin.  5

Overall: 48%.  Not a bad effort.  Could have tried harder but is generally enjoyable.  A big old melting pot of cheese.