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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.
Subtlety has never really concerned Australian-born filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann. The man who brought us as Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge is both known and reviled for his dazzling and glitzy visual panache, and the notion of impossible love is forever present as the heart of his largely theatrical and melodramatic productions.
Flamboyant and extravagant, The Great Gatsby is visually striking, but when stripped down, has little to offer.
The film opens with a depressed and weary Nick Carraway (Maguire) who is being treated for alcoholism. Unable to articulate his thoughts on a man named Gatsby, he begins to put pen to paper under instructions from his doctors.
We then flash back to 1922, where Nick, then a bond salesman, moves to the fictional town of West Egg, nearby to his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Edgerton). Nick’s new home happens to neighbour that of a mysterious and elusive Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). An enigma to his neighbours, Gatsby perennially throws the most extravagant parties, but the millionaire generally lives his life as a recluse.
After discovering that Tom is having an affair, Nick receives an invitation to one of the Gatsby’s infamous parties. Once there, Gatsby reveals that he is still in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, after a brief romantic encounter years before. As Nick slowly becomes entangled in the bizarre life of Gatsby, the cynicism and hypocrisy of West Egg’s inhabitants drives the characters to great lengths to preserve their own vanity and sense of self-importance.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has continually struggled to translate onto the big-screen and previous adaptations have failed to capture the essence that made this the ‘Great American Novel’.
Disappointingly, Luhrmann’s stab at the project has yielded few improvements. The director’s trademark approach is extraordinary, and over-the-top doesn't begin to describe the flamboyant visual experience that he creates. But while for the most part it works, the unflinching visual style and the sweeping overhead shots prove to be a little too sensational for what is an intricate and complex plot.
However, the biggest downfall is the emotional hollowness of the story. Luhrmann fails to infuse emotional connections between the characters, while the soundtrack – which features everything from jazz and hip-hop to techno and dance – is every bit as awkward as it sounds.
Despite Luhrmann’s misguided post-modern motions, DiCaprio gives the film depth with an excellent interpretation of the eponymous character’s charm and allure. Meanwhile, Mulligan plays her character in a way that maintains her position as the object of desire perfectly; though she too is a victim of the absurdities of West Egg, it becomes difficult to surrender any sympathy to her. Maguire, on the other hand, shines in his wallflower role; although he is guilty of enabling many of the decisions that the characters make, he retains an innocence and naivety that is integral to the plot.
All in all, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fails to render the novel’s grandness in terms of plot, but taken as a whole package, the stylistics make for an entertaining piece of cinema.
Star Trek Into Darkness marks the twelfth instalment in the Star Trek franchise – which dates all the way back to 1966 – and plays as the direct follow-up to the 2009's successful reboot, Star Trek.
The film launches into action with a thrilling opening sequence which finds Capt. James T. Kirk (Pine) in deep trouble. In an attempt to save Spock (Quinto) and the natives of Planet Nibiru from a catastrophic volcano eruption, Kirk puts the entire Starfleet in danger by revealing the U.S.S Enterprise's hideout and by interfering with Nibiru’s primitive civilisation – prime directives which should never be broken.
Even though his intentions were moral, Kirk knows that he's crossed the line. Facing demotion as an executive officer and with Spock reassigned to another ship, Kirk’s lofty ambitions look more and more unlikely. Soon, all is forgotten, however, when an act of terrorism shakes London. The man behind the attack – as the Starfleet soon learns – is John Harrison (Cumberbatch); an ex Starfleet agent gone rogue, who has now escaped to the Planet of Klingons.
With Kirk and Spock reassigned to the U.S.S Enterprise once again, the crew – which includes ship Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (Cho), Chief Medical Officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy (Urban), Chief Engineer Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott (Pegg) and Communication Officer Nyota Uhura (Saldana) – are sent on a dangerous mission to capture and eliminate the terrorist.
However, their mission – as Captain Kirk and his team soon learn – is not at all what it seems and disturbing secrets soon bubble their way to the surface.
Director J.J. Abrams - along with the team of returning writers, Roberto Orci, Alex Krutzman and Damon Lindelof – continues to breathe life into the beloved science-fiction series and his newest addition makes the four year wait for a sequel worth it. It’s nothing short of an edge-of-the-seat extravaganza with plenty of excitement to keep everyone – including the non-Trekkies – amused. Aside from the expected action-packed scenes, the writers also manage to find time for more character-oriented threads, which allow the audience to connect just a little bit more to these iconic characters.
As far as the die-hard Trekkies are concerned, don't despair; there are plenty of nods to the past and trips down the memory line with references to former characters, locations and weird alien species.
Pine seems to be settling into the role of the infamous Captain Kirk pretty well; emotional and driven, Pine possesses the charisma to anchor such an epic. Meanwhile, the terribly talented Quinto is magnetic; his restrained and cold exterior provides plenty of laughs and, at the same time, plenty of stirring moments as we witness significant character growth. Pegg and Urban offer much of the comic-relief, while Saldana unfortunately fades into the background. Most significantly, however, Cumberbatch shows plenty of depth as what is slowly revealed to be a complex antagonist.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness offers guaranteesd entertainment. As an exhilarating and often moving addition to the franchise, JJ Abrams has proved that remakes, reboots and sequels can still be done well. Good job.