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Underworld: Awakening: Flashy Vampires and Werewolves
The fourth film in the Underworld series, Awakening starts off with the vampire and lycan communities being exposed and the humans declaring an all-out war against them. During the purge, vampire Selene (Beckinsale) and hybrid Michael are taken captive and cryogenically frozen. Selene awakens twelve years later in a lab to discover that the humans have won and the remaining vampires and lycans have been driven deep into hiding. While searching for any evidence of Michael’s fate, she runs into the young girl who freed her from the lab, her hybrid daughter, who is being tracked by people desperate to get her back.
Beckinsale doesn’t seem very interested in being in the film. She’s ok when she’s fighting, mainly because the camera’s moving too quickly for you to keep tabs on her, but when the action settles down into an emotional moment, she seems bored at best. Her character barely seems fazed by her lost twelve years or by the fact that she now has a daughter. She has a going-through-the-motions vibe going on, which is completely at odds with the heightened stakes she’s up against. That being said, the sheer amount of bodies she leaves strewn in her wake is highly gratifying, as is the image of her brandishing her twin guns while defying gravity.
The film is flashy but confusing, and this confusion doesn’t stem from a lack of prior knowledge of the series, but by shoddy storytelling and lazy acting. The direction doesn’t get a free pass either. The rapid, choppy fight scenes look impressive but are nonetheless infuriating, especially when they make the logistics of the more important killings vaguer than they already are.
On the plus side, though, the stunts have a sort of balletic quality to them. When Selene jumps off of buildings or over fences, she could almost be mistaken for a dancer if not for her bright blue irises and icy expression. Also, the lycans look like a feral version of Xmen’s Beast and while they aren’t particularly scary, the scenes where they transform from humans to werewolves are pretty cool.
The most irritating thing is how the human versus vampire/lycan war was almost completely ignored. It was used almost solely as a set up for Selene to be captured, completely sidestepping a perfect opportunity to forge a connection between the film universe and the real world. This ethnic cleansing war should have, at the very least, struck a political and emotional chord with the audience. And while a twist in the middle of the film does bring the story back around to how the vampires and lycans dealt with the war, it’s overshadowed by the onscreen bloodbath.
If you’re a fan of the previous Underworld film, this one is more of the same and may be worth a watch.
Peter Jackson’s fourteen-year-long Middle-Earth adventure has finally come to a close with the third and final instalment Bilgo Baggins’ journey with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; a slightly bloated, but generally successful, finale that boasts plenty of action and technical superiority over its immediate predecessors.
Hitting the ground running and wasting no time in plunging audiences in the deep-end, The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the second film left off, with Smaug (once again voiced superbly by Cumberbatch) setting Laketown ablaze.
Lonely Mountain’s hidden treasure is soon left without its viscous watchman, driving all involved parties to claim some, if not all, of its golden prize. Meanwhile, Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) along with Bilbo (Freeman) and his army of loyal dwarf-followers decides to claim the Mountain himself.
Poisoned by ‘dragon sickness’, Thorin insists on protecting the gold in spite of the demands made by the people of Laketown, who have adopted Bard (Evans) as their new leader.
This doesn’t sit well with King Thranduil (Pace) and the elves, either, and with the orcs also gathering their forces for a sneak attack, the battle for the mountain is imminent.
A With a running time of just over two hours, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all of The Hobbit entries, though it’s also one of the most ambitious and visually-creative of the lot. The cinematography is exquisite and the CGI techniques seem to have been pushed to their very limit. However, there’s an obvious lack emotional depth and character-development which, in turn, develop into plot holes, so to speak.
Nonetheless, the cast is, as always, steadfast and dependable with Armitage shining, while Freeman’s usual whimsical nature and superb comic timing is, surprisingly, underused. Similarly, the rest of the cast, including Lilly as the she-elf, Evans as the newly-emerged leader of Lake Side and McKellen seem like bit-part players.
In hindsight, the decision to split the three-hundred page novel into an almost nine-hour long epic trilogy seems a little redundant, when it really could have been told just as, if not more, affectively in one, slightly long, three hour film.
The tension and atmosphere is palpable in Jim Mickle’s latest genre-bending thriller, Cold in July; a riveting and a deliciously twisted adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s crime-novel of the same name.
Set against a Texan backdrop, Cold in July takes place in the early 80’s and centres on a man dealing with the shock of having killed an intruder in his own home. Richard Dane (Hall) is a quiet and a good-mannered frame worker who live in a small town with his wife, Ann (Shaw), and their young son, Jordan (Hall).
His relatively mundane, but happy, life is sent into turmoil after the deadly confrontation. Despite being assured that the man he shot and killed was a wanted felon, his guilt pushes him to visit the cemetery in which his victim is buried, where he comes by the deceased’s father, Ray (Damici); a paroled convict who seems intent on avenging his son’s death.
If you’ve already had the pleasure of watching Jim Mickle’s efforts in the moody and the somewhat unconventional 2013’s thriller, We Are What We Are, then you probably already know what to expect from the director’s fourth entry.
Following three unconventional horror films, Jim Mickle manages to channel his bloodcurdling standards into something much more grounded without losing his penchant for the unsettling.
Grim, edgy and full of unpredictable twists and turns, Cold in July keeps its audience on its toes the entire way through. As the two main characters begin to interact, things become much more complicated and a potential case of mistaken identity propels the plot into more than just a revenge mission. Just as you think the leads figure out a piece to the puzzle, the story takes a new direction altogether.
Deeply-layered and underlined with a sense of unpredictability throughout, one of Cold in July’s biggest assets is the stellar performance of its cast, who, collectively, manage to keep the story authentic amidst the twists and turns. Leading the way is Hall, who is convincing as an everyman caught up in a violent world; Shepard is his usual fantastic self while Johnson – who comes in a little later into the story – is infectious as a detective with quintessential Texan predilections.
While this film is unlikely to make a huge mainstream impact, it serves as another example of Jim Mickle’s terribly underrated directorial prowess. Its slow, broody build-up doesn’t sit comfortably in the scope of modern thrillers, but given time, it unfolds into a unique piece of filmmaking that will linger with you for days, maybe even weeks, after the credits roll.