Tag Archives: Underworld

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

When there’s a vampire around, odds are a werewolf isn’t far away. In the last couple decades movies concerned with the bloodsucking creatures of the night — Twilight, Van Helsing, even What We Do in the Shadows — seem inevitably concerned also with slightly hairier, howlier creatures. They’re never equally concerned with werewolves, though, casting them consistently in cameos for pure shock value, and so the conceit of the third Underworld film Rise of the Lycans is a smart one: give the werewolves their due.

The result is by no means a good movie, unless you’re somehow enraptured by the Underworld series. If you’re not, then you might refer to Rise of the Lycans as The One Without Kate Beckinsale, which is a large part of the film’s undoing in the same way the new Independence Day could essentially be subtitled The One Without Will Smith. The bitch of it all is that Michael Sheen, starring as head were-dude Lucian, is a far better actor than Beckinsale will likely ever be. He’s a Shakespearian tragedian, she’s an action hero. Underworld, of course, actually needs the latter, and sadly Michael Sheen just isn’t an action hero. His head’s too big. He’s got the biceps, sure, but everyone has the biceps these days. Have you guys seen Jonathan Lipnicki lately? Sheen is somehow more naturally proportional in his werewolf form than as a regular human. Maybe they should have CGI’d his forehead down.

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True Detective 2.7 – “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

One writer I enjoy reading and rereading is Don DeLillo, author of Underworld and White Noise — arguably his most famous works — and my personal favorite Libra. I rambled about him in relation to Birdman in this article. His relation to True Detective? Negligible, mostly, except for the fact that the sheer volume of characters in play during the second season of the HBO series has frequently recalled the densely-populated neighborhoods of DeLillo’s books. This dude packs characters into his stories, and if it gets out of control at times it’s still a very intentional and graspable phenomenon wherein the primary characters both stand out from the pack and blend into it. They get sort of out of control, these chessboards of intermingled personalities, and in the case of the 800+ page Underworld things get downright daunting; but it’s all controllable and palatable at the same time, somehow, in the way that all of the disparate colors in a kaleidoscope can still be explained as part of a single device made of cheap plastic.

True Detective is, I hope, more akin to that kind of a story than we’re able to grasp with the final episode (which will be an extended 90-minute finale) still to go. At the moment, one would be forgiven for wondering what in the heck it is we’re even rooting for here. Caspere’s killer? Maybe. That’s the event that kicked the season off, and it’s definitely still “unsolved”. But there are more loose threads in this season than there are loose threads on David Morse’s drug rug, so let’s get down to detecting some truth. Spoilers follow for the seventh episode “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”.

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Birdman (2014): Riggan the Supernova

Our Take Two column offers second opinions and alternative angles on films and TV series reviewed elsewhere on Motion State. Head here for our original review of Birdman.

There’s a story about these guys, Jack and Murray, who head out to the countryside to visit The Most Photographed Barn in America. They follow the signs and arrive at the barn site, finding a visitor center, an observation deck, droves of people with cameras, the actual barn up on a little rise. “No one sees the barn,” Murray notes. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” Jack says nothing as more tourists arrive, snap pictures, buy postcards. Murray continues. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one,” he says. “Every photograph reinforces the aura.”

That story is from White Noise by Don DeLillo, an author who largely concerns himself with the same exploration of modern celebrity at the heart of Iñárritu’s Best Picture-winning Birdman. And that aura, so built up around the little red barn that the mass awareness begins to eclipse the individual identity, is not at all unlike the celebrity in which Michael Keaton’s actor Riggan Thomson finds himself trapped. The “public Riggan” — an image maintained in tabloids and represented by the superhuman Birdman — is so overwhelming that it obscures the real Riggan, the artist beneath the public persona, threatening to further that obscurity by tempting Riggan with Birdman 4. Plenty of films address Hollywood and modern celebrity in this way, and we’ll mention a few more from this past year in a moment. It’s Riggan, though, who most fully and tragically shows how impossible it is for an artist to escape the machinery of fame.

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