It’s surprising how quickly “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” becomes a vanity project for director Kenneth Branagh. Rather than a tale of a monster wreaking havoc on his master, the film feels more like Jane Austen co-starring the monster who is kind of a nuisance and then becomes a threat to his creator. I’ve rarely seen Frankenstein movies where the creature is the third banana, but lo and behold Branagh pulls it off in what is more a film about Victor Frankenstein having a lover’s spat with his wife, who discovers her husband has committed some evil selfish acts. To his credit though, Victor Frankenstein is no hero. He’s selfish, self-centered, and has a God complex, but Branagh is very obsessed with chewing the scenery. So much so that he even manages to outdo Robert DeNiro.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost twenty years since the release of Brandon Lee’s final film, but here we were with a brand new release of his landmark film “The Crow.” In a long overdue treatment it deserves more than most titles out on the Blu-Ray format as we speak “The Crow” hasn’t shown wrinkles at all. “The Crow” is a film that garners a soundtrack with some of the most notable rockers of the nineties, along with some rather of the decade colloquialisms, and still manages to feel completely and utterly timeless. That’s because the world Alex Proyas shapes in his 1994 masterpiece is void of shape and time.
With bad editing and terrible miming, Tara Reid (at her usual level of atrocious) cuts out the eyes of Lily (Emmanuelle Chriqui at her worst) and hangs her because she… likes her eyes, she hints. But merely it’s there for shock value sans the shock. Every single performance in this movie is excruciating with Boreanaz mugging for the camera with an over the top zealousness incapable of playing off of Reid who couldn’t act off of a cardboard box. The two have zero chemistry thus you can’t buy that they’re lovers and partners in crime. Then Mungia relies on the talents of Eddie Furlong to carry the movie once Chriqui has worn out her welcome and Reid fails to pick up the slack, which is their biggest mistake because he’s hard to buy as this imposing harbinger of death and looks bloated most of the time.
Dunst, in spite of delivering a pretty shrill performance, works well off of Mabius and portrays an interesting enough character who becomes more and more vindictive when she learns Alex is actually a hero and her heroes the villains. Bharat Nalluri is able to help this entry stand out by painting it with a darker blue hue and grain that makes “Salvation” feel more like a low budget horror film. Mabius isn’t perfect in this role but he does look and sound very menacing when taunting his killers and reveling in their pain. He even manages to horrify a pedophile cop and scares the ever loving soul out of two innocent girls caught in the cross fire. The movie doesn’t completely sink as the supporting cast actually helps it stay afloat, particularly Fred Ward who is a most despicable villain who is the obvious culprit.
I don’t know if it’s the horrible editing or what, but the final moments are painfully jumbled as writer Goyer explains that Ashe’s power was taken so he was destined to be a wandering soul and drift through the world looking for the afterlife… but he also re-united with the spirit of his son and went in to the afterlife. Which is it, exactly? It seemed like Goyer and co. wanted to end the story in case the third film didn’t pan out but leave it open to interpretation in case Ashe and his tale continued on. “City of Angels” was a golden opportunity that was blown big time from a studio obviously hesitant to explore new realms of O’Barr’s story and just stick to the mold set by Proyas and Brandon Lee. Ashe, not surprisingly, did not come for the third outing. As if that wasn’t enough the third “The Crow” film was turned over to IMF Studios, a company related to Dimension and went on to visit the purgatory known as Direct to Video land, allegedly after piss poor test screenings.
They’re all so interchangeable and never quite pose a real threat to anyone. There’s a goon named Spider Monkey obsessed with the drug his boss Judah touts who suffers a fate involving a massive explosion that gives the director an excuse to use pyrotechnics. The explosion in the drug factory is eye catching but then once the crow flies past the palm trees setting them ablaze, I just scratched my head. Was that entirely necessary? Then there’s Rob Zombie’s “Boogeyman” blaring as Ashe emerges from the wrecked factory which would have been incredible had Ashe actually been somewhat of a charismatic force of nature who you’d be frightened of. The confrontation between Ashe and Spider Monkey is lame and I never quite understood why he was worth focusing on for a portion of the film. From there we follow Ashe through the city as he battles yet another annoying caricature Nemo, who dons a red wig because of his baldness and is a veritable addict of sex and voyeurism. How does that play out in the story?
Now “City of Angels” tries to be two different things. It tries to demonstrate some originality with its new story, but also relies on devices that hearken back to the 1994 original that shows the studios and Goyer really don’t have much faith in what they’re doing and want people to remember Lee’s film and invest just as much emotion in its imagery. Instead of a flaming crow there’s a crow formed out of shattered glass, and instead of devising new face paint for the main character, the protagonist Sarah paints him to look almost exactly like Eric Draven. And even Gabriel makes a few appearances! That wacky cat! While the story tries to chalk the face paint up to her obsession with Draven and the crow, this instead looks just derivative. There’s a considerable cowardice and exploitative undertone here that the Weinsteins rely on to try and keep this franchise in motion.
The final frame of “The Crow” reads: “For Brandon and Eliza.” Back before the opening of “The Crow” in 1994 life imitated art yet again as when just as filming was wrapping up, Brandon Lee was set to marry his fiancé Eliza Hutton a week after wrapping production much like Eric was set to marry Shelly a day before Halloween before tragedy took its toll Brandon was buried next to his father in a ceremony where reports indicate he was buried in his wedding tux. During the memorial service his future wife Eliza wore her wedding dress, never having children with him.
And not surprisingly, the media jumped on this horrific accident disgustingly describing his death as yet another victim of the “Curse of the Dragon.” In actuality it was the accident on the set of “The Crow” that led to his death, and not a ridiculous curse used to sell books and air time on primetime news with talking heads discussing the cursed Lee bloodline. Unfortunate human error has no place when it comes to making profit off of human suffering. The footage that showed Lee being shot was never used and promptly burned and Hutton has insisted that no one will ever see it again, thankfully.