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Van HelsingVan Helsing

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh and David Wenham
Directed by: Stephen "The Mummy Man" Sommers

Bluntly speaking? For the first half of the film you're slipped into a flamboyant schlock homage as Universal digs into their vaults of horror-movie history and follows the past's hodge podging of the tried and true mega-names in supernatural lore; Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's Monster!

Then suddenly - as if somebody watched the dailies and spewed, "Monsters. See. We need monsters. These kids today want more action. See. And call those bums in props - get some of that green goo that's so popular with today's audiences!" as the house lights come up, a group of clipboard wielding droogies barked back, "Yes, JW. " - viola! For the last half-ish of the film you feel as if you're in some pulsing Playstation® dreamstate.

But, Van Helsing is simply campy multi-plex multi-creature feature fun, it doesn't take itself seriously - you'll giggle at the often-clever dialog guffaws planted within all the super loaded special, remarkably entertaining effects. And production designer Allan Cameron nailed the familiar eerie lairs and creepy castles and foreboding town down to the finest of macabre details.

Story goes…Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a growling smarty-pants styled hitman for the Vatican - with a past he can't recall, but he's sure is pretty dark.

When Transylvanian citizen braggart Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) steps over his quota of villager he's granted to nosh upon, the Big V sends Van Helsing to "tidy" up the villain.

En route to his latest battle Van stops by the Vatican's underground James Bond (if it were1868) institute of wacky scientists to load up on evil fighting tools of the time. He gets a few bottles of blessed H2O, a multi-stake shooting gun thingy and a new trusty - reluctant - sidekick, with a goofy Beatle haircut, Friar "Carl" (David Wenham).

Van and his daffy genius man Friday arrive to Drac's hood and find a town filled with hostiles. None more so than the reigning noble archenemy of Dracula, Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). Anna's family tree has been pruned for over four hundred years by the fanged scoundrel Drac.

But as we know even in the days of Vampiric Armageddon lusty love finds its ways into the seams of any self-respecting B horror film… so the sexual sparks immediately fly 'tween her and Herr Helsing, as the two ass-kicking do-gooders battle a nonchalant Count Chocula™ accented Dracula and his gaggle of Hustler-photo-shoot-in-a-harem styled brides.

The evil plan Drac's brewed up this time around? Seems the old devil has found a way to use Dr. Frankenstein's life-creating device to animate his bat-demon seedlings from their oh-so-sci fi fig shaped pods of gobbley goo. But, natch, Dracula killed the fine Dr. in a heat of rage, and now relies on the Dr.'s left over ne'r do well rat, Igor (Kevin J. O'Connor), to guide him…

So, using (for some reason) Dr. Frankenstein's monster (Shuler Hensley) to "ignite" the web of extension chords that run into the pod filled "nursery," Drac's hoping he can rule the world or something sinister like that (don't pick at the threads or it'll all start to unravel dear).

Ah, but if Van and his band of misfit do-gooders figure out what an odd, ominous, foretelling medieval painting, strategically hanging in a "study" means…which is obviously the KEY (along with some ripped scroll of paper Van Helsing's been schlepping about…just a hunch) - the world will be saved!

Till the sequel…

Hugh "Humina Humina" Jackman's looking quite edible in his form-fitting Omish style costume…he's like a big ol' vat of Carpathian goulash; spicy ingredients of manly yum…bubbling within a brooding barrel of finely roasted male bits!

Fear not ye feline lovin' lot of you! Kate Beckinsale will have you in fit of flutter - once you get over her silly Young Frankensteinish accent that is.

The underling co-stars are kept far from the graces of the cinematographer's fine haired paint brushes - though Will Kemp (a studmuffin on-the-rise) makes one's eyebrow properly rise in lustful lilts - and the "brides" are basically purring sex kittens Eartha Kitt would be proud of - the film is designed to showcase Kate and Hugh. The Frankenstein monster, played by Shuler Hensley, is gratingly awkward - in a Shakespeare on the Green leaping-over-the-Shiringshire-fence-top dramalogue way - I'd have edited his droll stitched buttocks right outta the piece.

Strap yourself in, leave the plot seeking, logical, cynical, side of the brain at home and you'll enjoy a kind of high tech visual ride with oodles of familiar monsters. The gates of the official summer blockbuster season are being whacked open! And these filmmakers are in a tap dancing frenzy ultimately for your enjoyment!

Snack recommendation: Lightening crispy fried chicken and Carpathian Port

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