These reviews are unforgivably late, but the election ended up swamping all of my time -- you know, because I thought I was living in a country that wanted to be saved and not one that chooses free stuff over freedom.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [Blu-ray]
Despite a terrific title and premise, the story just doesn't deliver. The mash-up of a young Abe Lincoln discovering a hidden world of vampires he must contend with as he moves up the ladder of American politics and historical greatness, just doesn't work. Tone is everything in a film and this one is never not awkward. The action scenes, which are all CGI and flash, salvage nothing.
Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells actually put his finger on the problem when he suggested a different approach: Think how much better the story would've been had Lincoln learned of this secret vampire world as president; and after winning the Civil War and unifying the country, faked his own assassination in order to save his country one last time. An older, wizened, and exhausted Lincoln hunting vampires. Now that would've been something.
Chernobyl Diaries (DVD + Ultraviolet Digital Copy) (2012)
A group of American twenty-somethings on vacation hire a black market tour guide to take them through the ruins of a city abandoned after the 1986 Russian nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Obviously, they end up running into much more than they bargained for.
Though (thankfully) it doesn't use the conceit of "found footage," "Chernobyl Diaries" does still give off that vibe thanks to a low budget and amateur actors. The set-up is surprisingly good, as are the actors. The tension builds slowly, thanks to subtle clues, but once it all hits the fan the story falters until it eventually collapses.
Fun but nothing special.
The Lucky One (DVD+UltraViolet Digital Copy) (2012)
As an Iraq War vet who believes a photo of a lovely woman (Taylor Schilling) worked as a talisman to keep him alive, Zac Efron is surprisingly good in the lead role. But because the film is based on another Nicholas Sparks novel, what's bound to happen after he tracks the woman down is glaringly obvious before the opening credits are even done rolling. And that hampers the last half of the film in a very big way.
Still, in its values and themes, what we should appreciate is an old-fashioned romance set in a beautiful part of Louisiana. What we can't embrace, though, is a clichéd plot that never surprises beyond the fact that it seems to go on forever.
Dark Shadows (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet Digital Copy Combo Pack)
After many successful pairings ("Sweeney Todd," "Ed Wood," "Edward Scissorhands," "Sleepy Hollow," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), director Tim Burton and his star Johnny Depp deliver their second dud in a row ("Alice In Wonderland" was the first) with this absolutely dreadful remake/reimagining of a forty year-old daytime soap opera.
Depp plays a vampire plopped into 1972 after being buried alive for two centuries, and what follows is a breathtakingly unfunny fish-out-of-water story.
Before the movie started, I told my wife that anything starring the trifecta of feminine movie star awesome that is Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eva Green would be worth the purchase price regardless of the end result. Other than the polls, never have I been more wrong.
Snow White and the Huntsman (Two-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet)
This feminist fairy tale reimagining was a huge hit, but an undeserved one. Over-plotted, overwrought, and absurdly dull, there isn't a single moment or scene that doesn't play out like a high-end video game brought to the silver screen. Most glaringly bad is Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen who chews the scenery like Al Pacino on meth.
Movies this bad that are this big of hits make me weep for the future.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC