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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.
If you are in the mood for an uncomplicated, lighthearted and a feel-good romantic-comedy viewing, then Nancy Meyers is the one to turn to for help. Known for movies such as Private Benjamin, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, the 65 year-old writer-director – who is often referred to as the female version of Woody Allen – always delivers and she does so again with The Intern: a likable cross-generation comedy that is kept afloat by a dependably engaging script and a couple of amiable lead performances.
Set in New York City, The Intern is centered on Ben Whittaker (De Niro); a 70-year-old widower who has become frustrated with the retirement lifestyle and is desperate for something to fill that ‘hole’ in his now, mundane and predictable everyday existence. Luckily, his prayers are soon answered, when he comes across an advertisement for a senior internship program at an online fashion company, founded by the high-strung CEO, Jules Ostin (Hathaway).
Ben applies and is soon accepted, ultimately landing a spot as Jules very own personal assistant. However, Jules is not so keen on the idea and doesn’t really know how to deal with the unusually well-mannered senior, deciding its best to keep him at an arm’s length. Nevertheless, Ben – an extremely patient man who may not be particularly tech savvy but knows a thing or two about life– soon finds a way to get closer to his boss and offer her the much-needed support, just in time when her career and position of power is at stake.
There is something awfully comforting about watching a Nancy Meyers film, as not only are her movies pleasing to the eye –her movie sets have ended up wondering onto the pages of numerous decorating catalogues over the years – but there is also something terribly gratifying in knowing how her stories will turn out in the end. Straightforward and extremely likable, the same goes for her latest directorial effort, a movie which may not be on the same creative level as Something’s Gotta Give perhaps, but still has plenty of its own harmless charms – no matter how far-fetched they may seem – to earn a warm viewing recommendation; a stamp of approval aimed mainly at a slightly older audience.
Stuck somewhere between a buddy-comedy and a romantic drama, The Intern is not entirely flawless and Meyers seems to have had a little trouble in setting out an even tone throughout; additionally, the subplot involving Rene Russo – who plays the company masseuse– is never really looked into or explored. However, it’s the two leads that keep The Intern from falling apart as both De Niro and Hathaway bring so much heart and chemistry to their respective roles that it makes it awfully difficult not to be drawn into their white-collar world.
Easygoing, likeable and perhaps a little too safe, The Intern is not Meyers’ best work to date but, it’s reliable and entertaining. What more do you need?
Despite being another seemingly generic entry from the endless production at Blumhouse Production - see Paranormal Activity, Sinister, The Gallows - M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit is an oddly enjoyable and surprisingly affective found-footage horror.
The film follows the story of two siblings, fifteen-year-old Becca (DeJonge) and thirteen-year-old Tyler (Oxenbould), who decide to head out to rural Pennsylvania to spend a week with their estranged grandparents, Nana (Dunagan) and Pop Pop (McRobbie). The last time their mother, Paula (played by the always reliable Hahn), had seen her parents was fifteen years ago when she left home for good and now Becca - an aspiring filmmaker - is hoping to document their entire visit and shed some light on the longstanding separation.
Excited at the prospect of finally getting all of her questions answered, Becca and Tyler - who helps her to make sure that every angle and frame is fully covered - try their best to make the most out of their visit. However, something seems to be off with Nana and Pop Pop who, after the lights go out, begin to show a much darker side to their already peculiar personalities.
Creepy more than scary, The Visit marks the director’s lowest budgeted feature film to date and although it can’t hold a candle to his 1999 hit, The Sixth Sense, for example, it feels like Shymalan has once again found his footing after a series of duds - think The Last Airbender and After Earth.
Tapping into a familiar concept and turning it into a thoroughly frightening and an ominous experience is what makes The Visit shine. Subtle, simple and refreshingly straightforward, Shyamalan also manages to blend in a light dose of humor into the proceedings and, even though some of the scares can be seen from a mile away and the shaky-cam work does get a little disruptive, the overall result isn’t all that bad.
Delivering a couple of convincing performances, both DeJonge - as the intelligent and extremely grounded older sister - and Oxenbould as her wannabe-rapper younger brother are engaging as the victims-to-be, though Dunagan and McRobbie steal the show with their quietly eerie and wildly unpredictable representation of grandparents-gone-gaga.
Never taking itself too seriously, The Visit is a watchable and undemanding faux-documentary thriller that many have attached the word comedy too. There is definitely a lot to appreciate in this creepy little number, however, if you’re not a fan of this particular sub-genre, then you’re probably better off looking for your frights elsewhere.