Lucy (Ashley Judd) is a small town girl just getting by with her small-town job and small-town roommate. Relationships are forgettable to her mainly because she tries to sneak out before her lovers even wake up. But Cal (Jeffrey Donovan) wants more than a one night stand. He actually cares encourages her to stay for breakfast and maybe even have a conversation. This is all new for Lucy. Someone actually cares about her feelings? How could that be when she doesn’t even care about her own? It changes her approach to all her usual routines--her boss (Stacy Keach) her family and her church. But positive change has a hard time sticking and old habits threaten to ruin Lucy’s progress. That’s about as far as we can stretch this plot description. Really it’s just sleeping around trying to stay faithful and open and going about small-town life. It’s really slow or you could call it deliberate if you’re being kind--so you’d better love promiscuous drunks to spend 90 minutes with them. Judd gives her most powerful performance in decades since her debut performance in the indie film Ruby in Paradise. She may not be playing a suicidal cutter in Come Early Morning but she gets to show real emotional pain. She cries yes but what’s really going on with her self-esteem is much more subtle. An awesome supporting cast makes sure Lucy exists in a real inhabited world. Keach is an honorable boss who hopes against hope that maybe Lucy will pick up and follow him to bigger and better places but kind of resigned in the knowledge that people don’t leave their nest. Laura Prepon (TV’s That ‘70s Show) plays Lucy’s roommate as spunky as small- town folks get but never in an obnoxious way. Diane Ladd plays what may be Lucy’s future a bitter old woman taking crap from a sexist grump. These kinds of people really exist and these actors portray them as slightly complicated people considering the simple examples they are meant to serve in the film. Donovan sure makes Cal a lovable guy and you almost root for him to find someone more stable than Lucy yet he’s never a pushover just an honest good soul. Actor-turned-director Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy) really loves the small-town setting so she lets the camera linger on loving establishing shots. It creates a believable world of folks in their routine. She cast perfect supporting players to beef up the star vehicle and really just lets them go. Some are familiar faces professional enough to tone down any personas they may have. Others are unknowns who bring more authentic color outside of Hollywood. The story gives them all quirks to show but a lot of it is just effective casting. There is nothing flashy about the style of Come Early Morning. It’s definitely an indie in the vibe of people sitting around talking but there are no extended diatribes á la Kevin Smith. Come Early Morning is focused on moving the characters’ emotional journeys forward. That’s exactly what Adams should be doing in serving this rural relationship drama. If given a subject with broader appeal or a killer hook Adams could surely have a long career behind the camera.
In the late 19th century Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) a misunderstood monster hunter is summoned to Transylvania to ferret out Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and kill him once and for all. When Van Helsing gets to the small village where the vampire was last spotted he discovers he also must contend with Dracula's three seriously twisted vampire brides Dracula's angry henchman/werewolf--and a lovely gypsy princess named Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) who is hell-bent on eradicating Dracula and his bloodsucking kind for slaughtering her entire family. Oh and let's not forget Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) who holds the key to Dracula's evil master plan--something about releasing his minions of unborn bat-like children from their goo-filled cocoons so they can wreck havoc on the world. Yuck. Sounds like our resident monster stomper and his sword-swinging gal pal have their work cut out for them. If Van Helsing does manage to kill all his monster foes does that mean he's out of a job?
Jackman has the whole antihero thing down pat. He adequately embodies the younger more virile Van Helsing dishing out as much pain and torture as he can on the undead--but the Aussie actor isn't given nearly as much meat to chew on as he did say delving into the complicated Wolverine in X-Men. Instead the monster hunter is relegated to carrying big weapons wearing a big hat and muttering something about having bad dreams to a past he can't remember. Same goes for Beckinsale. The British actress was oh-so-cool on the other side of the fence playing the chic vampire Selene in Underworld cutting her way through a myriad of werewolves. As Van Helsing's heavily accented female counterpart Anna however she just runs around with her sword blurting out such pathetic dialogue such as "Dracula took everything away from me and now I'm alone in the world" while Roxburgh's Dracula--who can't hold a candle to other far more charismatic Draculas before him--wails about being so very alone as his luscious brides hang upside down in front of him. Give me a break. At least Australian actor David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) provides much-needed comic relief as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl a Catholic friar who doesn't much like playing hero.
With the requisite dark mood and tone action sequences and snazzy CGI-creations including the winged vampire brides and formidable werewolves you can see exactly where writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) spent Van Helsing's nearly $150 million budget. But even all the bells and whistles can't tie together the film's vacuous nonsensical mumbo jumbo as Sommers attempts to bring classic movie monsters together in the same movie. Maybe in a tongue-in-cheek Abbott and Costello movie it could work but as a serious action-packed thriller clearly Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man do not need to meet. On top of that Sommers steals from other movies as well such as recent films Underworld (the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Van Helsing defeats a rather familiar-looking Mr. Hyde at one point). Whatever originality there is in the film leaves you either scratching your head--Dracula has kids?--or rolling your eyes--Anna needs to kill Dracula so her nine-generations of family can reunite in Heaven? Please.