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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.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.
From Chucky in Child’s Play to the Clown doll in Poltergeist, there’s nothing there’s nothing quite as creepy as silent doll coming to life as a sort of a blood-thirsty monster. Sadly, the The Boy is not as scary as you its premise promises and, although relatively high on the creep-front, it doesn’t fully realise its ambitious ideas and get to the end without stumbling over.
The plot tells of Greta Evans (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), who in escaping an abusive relationship decides to leave her home in Montana, U.S.A, heads to rural England, where she’s to work as a nanny for elderly couple, Mr. Heelshires (Norton) and Mrs. Heelshires (Hardcastle) at their country house to care for their eight-year-old son, Brahms.
However, when she gets there, Greta is shocked to learn that Brahms is no ordinary boy, but in fact a life-size porcelain doll. At first, Greta is taken back by the discovery and thinks that she’s part of some sort of prank, but she quickly realises that the pained-looking couple treat the doll as their son and even provide Greta with a strict set of rules that she must follow if she is to care for him well. Naturally, it doesn’t take long before a series of strange events begin to occur around the house when the Heelshires leave her to go on their well-deserved break, forcing Greta – along with the help of potential love interest, Malcom (Evans) – to look into Brahms’ troubled and shady past.
While there are a couple of genuinely creepy moments of terror to recall, The Boy mostly relies on its mood – impressively restrained at first and unsurprisingly threadbare towards the end – and the predictable jump-scares to indeed make you jump nonetheless. Turning what is often a refreshingly subdued and an atmospheric film into a dreadfully insipid story of a creepy life-size porcelain doll and its predictably helpless nanny – Cohan is not as terrible as one might think - the suspense surrounding Brahms is conveyed in a relatively convincing way.
However, the sheer ridiculousness that unravels within some of the scenes takes the shine off the film, so to speak, even inciting an unintentional laugh or two. This is no more apparent than with an equally ridiculous third-act twist, which seems motivated only by setting up a sequel.