Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

by Bram Stoker
The major book on the Dracula legend and the origin of Van Helsing

. "Van Helsing"

Could this be overkill? So many of the classic movie monsters are engaged in this struggle for power you almost miss Peter Jackson's orcs. What director Stephen Sommers M.O. seems to be is to ensure a sure summertime hit by including everybeast and turning up the CGI voltage to the breakpoint. It's a scattershot approach but I wouldn't be surprised if it pays off with the target audience. When your fix is adrenalin, where better to find it than in the clutches of Count Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, a few werewolves, gorgissimo vampirettes, a sexy Transilvanian and the odd nightmarish freak or two.

And, oh yes, there's Van Helsing (the magnetic and much sought-after Hugh Jackman). He's not an ordinary monster-chaser; he's commissioned by the Vatican like it was a branch of M-6. And, once he puts away the radically large Mr. Hyde (of Dr. Jekyll fame) in a CGI tour de force (any resemblance to Robert Lewis Stevenson's good and evil hero is to be ignored), he gets his own little Q to outfit him with weapons and devices that we know are going to come in most handily when the going gets tough against the next problem: Dracula and his powerful cohorts, minions of the devil, all.

The new assignment for the suddenly younger and more virile Van Helsing than when he was created as a 60 year old by Bram Stoker, lies deep in the mountains of Carpathia where sits the castle and home of that annoyingly insistent Count Dracula (Stephen Sommers) with his underlying bat morphability. Though Van Helsing arrives to help save the peasants and the town from his and his harem of undead beauties' appetites for blood. But a stranger is a stranger, and he's got no eticket here. This group of village natives would just as soon hang a saviour as look at him. (Remind anyone of anything? Say, in the news?)

But the natural leader here is Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale, fresh from "Underworld" with a yet tighter body suit) who seems to be suffering from a serious superiority complex. No way does she need help from a stranger, however charismatic and garbed in a cape and a big hat. Not even when she's grabbed and taken off by a flying member of the ravishing Dracula sisterhood does this chick plead for help or thank a kindness. This attack becomes a major set piece letting us know what devilish powers are in the air. It includes an interesting moment when clouds suddenly clear and the sun chases the vampire attackers away, proving far more effective than Van Helsing's Gatling gun-like arrow shooter.

But then the clouds return and the battle that seems as if humans have no survival options continues. Until, that is, Van Helsing realizes that his gun, if tipped into a basin of holy water that just seems to be conveniently placed outside the church as a design detail, chases the flying bloodsuckers in tight, breast enhancing outfits, to permanently quit the place. Dracula, the hombre in charge of these malicious maidens has now been warned that there's a new dude in town.

Not that that puts any fear into his heartless breast. He's busy trying to develop hordes of offspring -- little Dracs -- to rid the world of the living. Only, for that, he needs the Frankenstein monster to borrow the technology for making hybrid life that Dr. Frankenstein perfected. Since the Dr. is dead, he's got to go looking for his monster in hiding. He... well, you'll see.

This should give you an idea of where this is going. Those who live for this stuff will know it's for them and make a hit at the boxoffice out of it. I don't use a game pad but count me in. I liked the updated characterizations of old horror movie favorites and thought the overpaced action spun my thoughts away from a comparison to the classic concepts. Talk about escapist. Anyone who's expecting plausibility has gone to the wrong movie.

Director Sommers sucks the commercial adrenalin out of so many nightriding creatures from days and decades past, you'd think he wants his film creation to live forever. Well, through the summer, anyway.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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