Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head, Oliver Stark
Written by: Cory Goodman, based on a story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman
Directed by: Anna Foerster
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, and some sexuality
Running Time: 91
Date: 01/06/2017

Underworld: Blood Wars (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lickin' the Lycans

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The fifth movie in this supernatural action/horror series -- after Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Underworld Awakening (2012) -- isn't the worst, but it isn't very good, either; it has moments of mindless fun, but too much overt seriousness and mood-killing awkwardness.

Following a brief recap of the previous four movies, Underworld: Blood Wars begins as Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off some lycan attackers; the leader of the lycans, Marius (Tobias Menzies) wishes to find Selene's daughter, a pureblood vampire-lycan hybrid, to gain access to her potent blood. But Selene has hidden her daughter away so securely that she herself doesn't even know the location.

Then, David (Theo James), who owes his life to Selene, learns a long-hidden secret about his birth. Meanwhile, treachery abounds within the vampire ranks, with various factions vying for power, and everything leading up to a mighty showdown between the vampires and the lycans, perhaps once and for all.

Beckinsale brings a kind of grace and dignity to her role, and looks great doing it. In smaller roles, Dance gives the movie a little class, and James is a likable hero. But too many others, mainly underlings, are terribly clumsy in their smaller roles, killing at least half the scenes in the movie.

A new director takes over here, former cinematographer Anna Foerster, and it might have been interesting if she had provided a fresh female viewpoint, but it seems as if all she can do is struggle to hold everything together. The composition and editing is sometimes off-puttingly clunky, and the story — building from four movies' worth of silly stories — trails off into certain directions that it never returns from.

In short, every time the movie finds an enjoyably silly spot to be in, something comes along to ruin it.

Sony's Blu-ray release is about as good as expected. This is a dark film, largely consisting of blacks, purples, and blues, and the images are sharp, even if they don't exactly pop; the audio is faultless. A digital copy is included. As for extras, there is a digital comic book, which looks great, except that you have to read it on your TV screen, with music playing in the background. There are also four short studio-produced featurettes, and several trailers.

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