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 I, Frankenstein

Based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein is a movie very much set in the template of Grevioux's Underworld. That story posited a secret war between vampires and werewolves; a hook-up between a mortal and an immortal held the key to its resolution.

Just substitute "demons" and "godly gargoyles" for vampires and werewolves, and you've got the gist here. Instead of mining Dracula for gothic inspiration, screenwriter-director Stuart Beattie turns to Mary Shelley's undead monster as its anti-hero. The problem with that, of course, is that, where vampires are inherently sexy (Underworld's latex-clad mutant-minx Kate Beckinsale, for one), a creature cobbled together from miscellaneous body parts is not. In theory.

That is a flaw Beattie attempts to overcome by casting the handsome Aaron Eckhart in the role of the monster, with the result that the crudely disproportional beast of Shelley's fiction now resembles a male model who's been the recipient of a botched facelift.

As per Shelley, the movie's preamble shows how the monster turned against his creator, murdered his bride and exiled himself to the Arctic North, where he was unsuccessfully hunted down by Frankenstein himself.

Picking up from there, the monster, dubbed "Adam," has come to the attention of a race of demons seeking to learn the secrets of his creation. The head demon, Naberius, is played by Bill Nighy, more or less duplicating the role he played in Underworld: a fiendish yet dapper supernatural being with aspirations to conquer the world.

Adam is rescued by the gargoyle minions of Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto), who explains that it is the duty of all good gargoyles to keep the demons at bay. The unimpressed Adam says thanks but no thanks to Leonore's offer of shelter, but returns to her massive cathedral headquarters to finally get to the bottom of what the demons are plotting.

He discovers that, in his absence, Naberius has hired on the predictably lovely, skinny blond scientist Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) to duplicate Frankenstein's original experiments. Adam intercepts Terra to let her know that the corpse-reviving experiments she is conducting on behalf of a mysterious megalomaniac may be, um, inadvisable.

Adam professes disinterest in the affairs of humans, but Terra softens him with the observation: "You're only a monster if you behave like one."

Right. And you're only a crappy movie if you look like one. I, Frankenstein looks more like a motion comic book than a motion picture, especially with its light-show battle scenes between gargoyles and demons.

Adam is not the only thing in this movie without a soul. In short: It's not alive! It's not alive! 2 stars

 That Awkward Moment

If you're looking for some rude fun with Zac Efron, beeline over to the nearest multiplex playing Neighbors. At least that raunchy comedy competently serves its broad audience demographic. That Awkward Moment, on the other hand, is a guy-centric rom-com, with male characters who suffer romantic rejection and find consolation in pints of ice cream -- without irony.

Efron plays Jason, a book-cover designer who takes pleasure in playing the field in the sexual playground that is New York City. When it comes to anything long-term, his loyalty is reserved for his two longtime pals Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan).

When the married Mikey is confronted by his wife and her divorce lawyer -- who also happens to be her lover -- he retreats into a state of paralyzing insecurity.

To help build him back up, Jason and Daniel promise to stay single and unattached along with him, precisely the kind of foolish act of solidarity you would only find in a romantic comedy.

Their timing is off. Jason has just met the winsome writer Ellie (Imogen Poots), whom he initially mistakes as a new breed of trendy hooker. Meanwhile, Daniel is re-evaluating his own relationship with his female best friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), a womanly wingman who perversely enjoys helping Daniel hook up with women at bars.

Things start to get serious between both these couples. And just to round things out, Mikey starts to gain some momentum in reconciling with his estranged, unfaithful wife (Jessica Lucas).

In order to keep some of these relationships from naturally blossoming into love, someone is going to have to do something unnaturally stupid. Done and done.

The three male heroes in this movie have charm (Teller) and good looks (Efron and Jordan) but they're an emasculated lot -- selfish, self-serving and dishonest to their women and themselves. Yet Gormican begs the audience -- and the female characters -- to cut them slack, a stance that results in the most ghastly of all rom-com tropes, the reconciliation in a public place. Yech. One star

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2014 C14

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