I’ll admit that I wasn’t very eager to write my column this week due to the lack of quality new releases, but because I had to skip doing one last Tuesday for personal reasons, it seemed irresponsible to miss another week without a better excuse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really make these movies any better, so let’s just get on with it, shall we?
As a fan of the first “Underworld” movie, I really wish that Screen Gems would stop making these horrible sequels already and just let the franchise die a quiet death. While it was natural for the studio to want to continue the story after the breakout success of the original, every successive installment has been shoddier than the last, and “Underworld: Awakening” is no exception. Not even the spandex-clad return of Kate Beckinsale can save the film from being as bad as it is, because it simply has too many problems to overcome. Although I enjoyed the addition of series newcomers Charles Dance and Theo James as a father/son pair of vampires with conflicting ideas on how to save their race, the story is generic, the dialogue isn’t much better, and the CGI is incredibly inconsistent. But above all else, “Awakening” is just plain dull, and that’s probably the worst thing you could say about any action film.
Blu-ray Highlight: There’s quite a bit of bonus material packed onto the disc, but as you might imagine, the standout extra is creature related. By far the most detailed of the included featurettes, “Building a Better Lycan” covers how the suits were designed, the performers that wore them, and the improvements made from the previous three films.
I’m not as crazy about Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” as most people my age, but the movie is still an amusing, family-friendly spin on the classic creature feature that holds some nostalgic value. Believe it or not, it took Warner Bros. six years to release the inevitable sequel, and although it contains a handful of laughs, “The New Batch” is mostly a campy cash-in that goes way too far with its wackiness. The idea to transport the titular creatures to New York City definitely had potential, but the movie quickly devolves into a hodgepodge of random ideas that feels more like than an excuse to dress up a bunch of Gremlins in different costumes than anything else. Dante does have a bit of fun satirizing movie sequels as well as the original “Gremlins” with some clever references that are sprinkled throughout, but despite trying to avoid rehashing the events of the first film, “The New Batch” feels oddly familiar. Plus, it’s surprisingly short on screen time for its furry star Gizmo, and that’s just not cool.
Blu-ray Highlight: The audio commentary with director Joe Dante, star Zach Galligan, writer Charlie Haas and producer Michael Finnell isn’t particularly entertaining, but there’s enough good information here about the making of the movie to interest fans.