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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.
Well-deserving of all the attention it’s been getting, James Marsh’s Theory of Everything – an emotional and a rousing look inside the life of one Professor Stephen W. Hawking and his loving but, turbulent thirty-year long marriage to Jane Hawking – is nothing short of wonderful.
Sourced from Jane’s 2008 memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the story begins in 1963, with an exceptionally charming twenty-one physicist, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), on his way of pursuing his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
It is there that he first meets the beautiful literature-major student, Jane Wilde (Jones); a devout Christian whose outlook on life – and science in particular – doesn’t necessarily fall in line with his more agnostic and mathematical assessments of human existence.
Just as the love between the two begins to blossom and Stephen begins preparing for his final thesis, he discovers that he is suffering from motor neuron disease; an illness that will soon begin to take away his ability to walk and talk, amongst other things. Having been given only two years to live, the young and the highly-intelligent physicist – whose thirst for knowledge and passion for life refuses to surrender – slowly begins to challenge his weaknesses. However, as he continues to grow professionally, his life at home with Jane – who is single-handedly carrying his physical limitations on her frail shoulders – begins to show signs of despair.
While this is in fact a biopic – a simple and a straightforward one at that – which celebrates the life and work of Hawking, it is also very important to note that this is not a story that goes deep into his rise to fame as the renowned physicist we know today. It’s a much smaller scale story of love and compassion and a one focuses on human endurance, courage and, most of all, hope.
The Theory of Everything is shot beautifully and a real sense of romanticism and nostalgia – driven by a sensual and a tear-jerking classical score – can be felt throughout. It’s an emotionally-rich drama that, although sometimes can feel a little too sugary, manages to stay grounded. It is, to a large degree, thanks to Redmayne’s extraordinary performance audiences will be able to appreciate what is an insightful and meaningful peak inside the private life of one of the most respected and remarkable minds living today.
Sinking further and deeper into its very own rabbit-hole of absurdity, Taken 3 – the third and hopefully last chapter in Luc Besson’s generally well-liked but unmistakably flawed Taken trilogy – has finally outstayed its welcome. Abandoning logic and pretty much everything that connects its concluding statement to any of its predecessors, Taken 3 disappoints and not even Bryan Mills – and his special set of skills – can save it from its demise.
Directed by Olivier Megaton, Taken 3 takes us to the sunny streets of Los Angeles where ex-government operative, Bryan Mills (Neeson), is adapting to his relatively quiet and uneventful single life. Realising that his daughter Kim (Grace) is no longer the little girl he wants her to be, Bryan continues to look for ways to become a part of her life, while his ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen) – who is experiencing marital problems with her husband, Stuart (Scott) – is trying to become a part of his once more.
It doesn’t take long before Bryan is swung into action when Lenore is found murdered in his very own apartment and, just like Harrison Ford in the Fugitive, Bryan is the suspect. Escaping from the hands of the law, our hero – with the help of some old friends – sets off to carry out his own investigation, in the hopes of finding the person responsible before he’s caught by Agent Dotzler (Whittaker).
Apart from the title and the central characters, Taken 3 shares very little common thread or connective tissue with any of its previous instalments. The Euro-action grit introduced in the first movie is long gone and tension has been reduced to a simmer; a handful of dubious Eastern European, unforgiving plot holes and the over-zealous editing leave the film hollow of what made the previous films stand above the usual action spiel.
Neeson, who allegedly did all his own fight sequences, is still his capable and charming self, however, the improbability of the situations he finds himself in – not to mention the laws of gravity he dares test – fall into typical Hollywood ridiculousness. The ever dependable Whittaker serves to be a wonderful addition to the film, though his talents, along with the story’s initial potential and appeal, are shamelessly underused.