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PCR # 215  (Vol. 5, No. 19)  This edition is for the week of May 3--9, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Van Helsing"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham and Shuler Hensley
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

In what is now referred to as the "Golden Age" of Hollywood, various studios were identified with a style of film. MGM had the musicals. Paramount, with the Marx Brothers in their stable, had the comedies. And Universal had the horror films. Characters like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and others sprung from the studio, sending shivers down a generations' spine. It is only fitting that the same studio has now found a way to combine some of its greatest monsters in a top-notch film. That film is Van Helsing.

The film opens in late 19th century Transylvania, where Doctor Victor Frankenstein, under the watchful eye of Count Dracula (Roxburgh), has just given his creature life. "It's Alive," he exclaims. "It's Alive!" But before he can celebrate, those pesky townspeople, armed with their torches and pitch forks, knock down the castle doors and drive the doctor and his creation to their presumed death. Fast forward one year to the city of Paris, where quite a battle is taking place at the cathedral. Inside, the mysterious man referred to as Van Helsing (Jackman) is dealing with a cigar-smoking, unrepentive Mr. Hyde. Prevailing, Van Helsing returns to the group that sends him on his missions. Think of him as James Bond and it's easier to understand. He even has his own version of the gadget wielding "Q," a friar named Carl (Wenham). They are sent to protect the last members of a family that has vowed for 400 years to end Dracula's reign of terror. Sounds simple, right?

A mix of the best of the classic horror films of the '30s and the non-stop action of films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Van Helsing is a great compliment to all of those movies.. Director Sommers, who also did The Mummy, gives these characters the respect they deserve. It is obvious that he has a great affection for this genre, and there is not one false note about the various creatures. The action is top-notch and the script is full of great lines. When Igor is asked by Dracula why he torments the other creatures all he can do is shrug his shoulders and exclaim, "It's what I do." Jackman, who already has a great franchise character in the X-Men's Wolverine, can easily do the same here. He is a man who doesn't question his mission and truly feels he is helping his fellow man. Kudos also to Roxburgh and Hensley, who must make fans forget the indelible images of the great Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Both do well, especially Hensley, who plays Frankenstein's monster with a sense of humanity. The fact that he can speak, while Karloff was basically quiet, gives him the opportunity to flesh out the character, no pun intended.

An excellent film to start off the summer movie season, I give "Van Helsing"  One star

This week's movie review of "Van Helsing" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.