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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.
Most actors and directors will tell you that tackling a biopic is no easy task. The portrayal of any iconic figure – loved or hated – comes with pitfalls and any filmmaker faces an uphill struggle before the first scene is even filmed.
Such is the case with Diana; a biopic detailing the most tumultuous times of the late Princess Diana that ultimately fails to match the splendour and majesty of one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
Based on Kate Snell’s book, Diana: Her Last Love, the story opens on that ill-fated night in Paris in 1997 with Princess Diana (Watts) walking down a hallway towards a waiting elevator – recorded by the hotel’s CCTV cameras – before heading out and climbing into a waiting car.
The events then rewind back to two years before the tragic death, with Princess Di finding herself drowning in bad publicity, following her separation from Prince Charles. The once media-darling struggles to keep her private life away from the public eye and bloodthirsty paparazzi.
She soon finds comfort in British born- Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Andrews), whom she meets during a hospital visit. Diana is instantly besotted and she quickly begins pursuing the sweet-talking doctor who is, naturally, flabbergasted by her interest in him.
Their relationship is soon splashed all over the media and the immense pressure of it all becomes a too difficult for Hasnat to handle. Trying to balance his now highly-publicised love affair with one of the most influential women on the planet and the disapproval of his family in Pakistan soon drives Diana away and into the arms of one Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) as more drama ensues.
Two-time academy-award nominated actress, Naomi Watts, tries her best to bring authenticity to the monumentally tricky role and, to her credit, succeeds in some parts. That aura of vulnerability, that soft-spoken voice and the all too famous shy gaze beneath those long lashes is captured wonderfully; however, anything else that may have been buried deep beyond the façade is never fully explored.
Meanwhile, Andrews – of Lost fame – looks like he may have bitten more than he can chew; aimless and ineffectual pretty much the whole way through, he manages to overstate his every move and that spark of chemistry – which initially brought these two lovebirds together – is never really felt on screen.
Directed by Oliver Hirchbiegel, this could have been a heart-rending tale of one of the most beloved figures of our time. Instead, it fails to really utilise the endless well of inspiration that is impossible love.
Diana never truly grabs your attention; it’s ultimately uninteresting, unexciting and a little too inclined to the haziness of a soap opera.
The follow up to Carlos Saldanha’s vibrant animated feature, Rio – a film that grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office - finds the Brazilian-born filmmaker returning to the pulsating streets of Rio Di Janeiro, before setting off into the wilderness of the Amazon.
Picking up some time after the end of the first film, Rio 2 finds the Blue Macaws, Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), happily married and living a carefree life while raising their three hatchlings, Carla (Crow), Bia (Stenberg) and Tiago (Gagnon), at the Blue Bird Sanctuary.
However, their children’s overly-domesticated habits begin to worry Jewel, who is fearful that her children are slowly losing touch with nature and what it means to be a bird. So, when she hears that there may be a flock of Blue Macaws living in the Amazon rainforest, the family decides to fly across for a vacation and a bit of an investigation.
Once there, not only does the family discover that there is more of their kind in the world, but that the flock is led by none other than Jewel’s long-lost father, Eduardo (Garcia). Jewel soon finds herself toying with the prospect of moving her family there for good, while Blu – who now must prove himself to Jewel’s apathetic and unconvinced father – isn’t too sure whether he’s ready to give up his life in Rio. Meanwhile, Blu’s lifelong nemesis, Nigel the Cockatoo (Clement), who is no longer able to fly, follows the family to the rainforest in search of revenge.
Eisenberg and Hathaway return to reprise their roles as the lovable Blu and Jewel and, although their shared chemistry can still be felt throughout, it seems that their second outing is not as charming as their first. Clement is hilarious as the grouchy Nigel, while all of the supporting characters, excluding Chenoweth’s hysterical performance as Gabi – a poisonous frog hopelessly in love with Nigel – aren’t given much of the spotlight, apart from indulging in a few impromptu sing-offs, including yet another cringe worthy rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.
Just like the original, Rio 2 dazzles with its vibrant and bubbly tone; the opening scenes of the New Year’s Eve celebration on the bustling streets of Rio Di Janeiro are breathtaking and Saldanha, succeeds in adapting the alluring and captivating magic of Brazil.
The story, unfortunately, is not as engaging the second time around and Saldanha seems to have sent the story on a downward spiral the minute he decided to step out of Rio and move his flock of birds into the back woods of the Amazon rainforest.
There are still plenty of thrills and spills, but had it not been for the infectious Brazilian music and a handful of interesting characters, this would have been a complete washout.