Here's a review of *this week's #1 Film* I stole from the Arizona Daily Star:
Underwhelming ripoff of 'Matrix' movies
By Phil Villarreal
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.21.2006
Remember those "Matrix" movies? The producers of "Underworld: Evolution" sure do. And by "remember," I mean "copy."
Seemingly every shot, camera trick and design aspect, right down to the black-leather kung fu with techno music in the background, is ripped off from "The Matrix" and its sequels. At least the "Underworld" people had the imagination to subtitle their film "Evolution" rather than "Revolutions." And, just so absolutely everything wouldn't be a wholesale copy of "The Matrix," the elaborate and grotesque death scenes are cribbed from "Mortal Kombat" video games.
The theme for "Underworld" is that vampires and werewolves have carried on a discreet rivalry for centuries, battling for supremacy while hiding out from humans.
In case you haven't seen the first movie, and few have, judging from the paltry $52 million domestic gross, the new movie opens with an extended prologue. The opening, set centuries in the past, proves that even in the year 1202, unnecessarily shaky cameras and stomach-churning rapid-fire editing plagued the Earth. Then comes a CliffsNotes version of the first film, including its best scene, in which the bad guy's head is sliced diagonally in half, causing the top portion to slide off.
Flash forward to modern times, and death-dealing vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has learned that her family has told her a series of lies her whole life, or something. Whatever; anything for an excuse to run around exploding things. Alongside her is Michael (Scott Speedman), the half-human, half-vampire, half-werewolf — that's a lot of halves — who shared a forbidden romance with her in the first film.
This time around, the romance isn't forbidden, because vampires and werewolves not only don't fight so much, they're the best of friends, protecting each other's hidden castles and pouncing through walls to one another's defense. After all the vitriol between the races in the first film, the friendship seems a little fishy, almost uncomfortably buddy-buddy, in the vein of George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Most of the fighting in the sequel is vampire-on-vampire violence. Whenever werewolves appear onscreen, they always tear in for the kill, while vampires at least have the decency to taunt their foes with archaic dialogue. It's easy to see why the 'wolves are so angry. There are absolutely no werewolf chicks to hang out with. The vampires have all the ladies, who leap around in tight leather and often partake in wild orgies in dark catacombs.
The villain, Marcus (Tony Curran), can transform into a bald bat and jab people with spikes that protrude from his wings. He's more powerful than the other vampires, thanks to an infusion of werewolf blood.
One important question the film never confronts is what to call a vampire-werewolf mix. The term "hybrid" is casually bandied about, but c'mon, that's so Honda Civic. At least go werepire or vampwolf.
You can always tell who's really a vampire, if not for their protruding fangs, then because they walk around with miserable pouts that resemble Ben Stiller's "blue steel" male model facial pose in "Zoolander."
Selene, in particular, has the look down cold. She makes passionate love to Michael — blue steel. She learns a grave secret about the origins of her family — blue steel. She learns she won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes — blue steel.
OK, that last one doesn't happen; they've got to save something for the threequel.
● Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.