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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’ve enjoyed the type of quirkiness in 2009’s Coraline or the creepy-goofiness of 2012’s ParaNorman, then The Boxtrolls – the latest stop-motion creation and an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! novel – might be right up your alley.
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is set in a Victorian-like city of Cheesebridge. The residents, through scary and gruesome fables, believe there are deadly Boxtrolls living underneath their streets.
When a human boy goes missing, it is believed that the scary monsters from down-under have eaten him. Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Kingsley) – a sneaky pest exterminator – offers to go in and eradicate the threat himself, in the hope of gaining access to the elite society known as White Hats. However, the missing boy in question is in fact an orphan named Eggs (Hempstead-Wright), who has been living with the the so-called monsters ever since he was two years old and, just like them, he now spends most of his time collecting recycled trash and building various devices and gadgets out of them.
Luckily, Eggs and his faithful buddies are more than capable of staying out of trouble and far away from Archibald’s menacing grip; that is until, Eggs – a boy who is part-human and part-Boxtroll – lays his eyes on beautiful young human girl, Winnie Portley-Rind (Fanning), and instantly falls for her. However, Eggs begins to learn the hard way that his infatuation with her is going to cause him problems.
The latest production to come out of Laika studios – a renowned stop-motion animation company specialising in feature films – is another unique and quirky addition to the company’s filmography. Dark, whimsical and delightfully unconventional, The Boxtrolls sings to its own tune and succeeds in creating an original setting and a story that stays unique to Disney and Pixar. The time and effort that went into creating the world of Cheesebridge – and all of its peculiar, British-speaking residents – is evident.
Led by Game of Thrones’ Hempstead-Wright – better known as Bran Stark of Winterfell – the performances were equally solid and although Eggs could have had a little bit more spring to his step, it was Kingsley – as the deliciously evil exterminator – who steals the show along with Frost, Ayoade and Morgan, who provide the voices for Archibald’s thugs.
The Boxtrolls; it’s by no means groundbreaking, but it is an incredibly fun and unusual watch.
Back in 2002, a straight-to-DVD adaptation of the novel, Left Behind, left what could have been a potentially interesting film franchise a horrible mess. For some reason, a Hollywood bigwig decided to give the green-light to a new adaptation.
Left Behind begins its story at JFK airport where we meet Chloe Steele (Thompson); a college student who has just arrived home to celebrate the birthday of her pilot father, Captain Rayford (Cage). Unfortunately, her father, portrayed as a heartbreaking player amongst his peers, is unable to attend; he has decided to work the overnight flight to London – in order to get away from his wife, Irene (Thompson), and her newly-found relationship with God – and also, to have a little bit more time to canoodle with the attractive air hostess, Hattie (Whelan).
Disappointed by her father’s no-show, Chloe soon pours her heart out to TV reporter, Buck Williams (Murray), whom she meets before he boards her father’s flight. Soon after, she heads home to see her mom but only to end up having a heated argument – mainly about religion – forcing her to storm out and take her younger brother, Raymie (Dodson), out to the mall. However, strange happenings soon begin to take place when millions of people – including Raymie – mysteriously disappear, leaving only their clothing and belongings behind. Similar occurrences take place on her father’s flight, leaving the Captain and what is left of his passengers, wondering what or who could be responsible for the catastrophe and whether ‘The Rapture’ is nigh.
Based on a popular book series of the same name written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, there are no words to describe just how terrible and poorly-executed Left Behind really is. There’s zero cohesiveness to the story and the production values are embarrassingly cheap.
Poorly paced and filled with a lot of unnecessary dialogue – everyone seems to have something to say – most of the story takes place within the confinement of the airplane and it takes a really long time before anything remotely exciting happens.
In what appears to be one of his most questionable roles to date, Cage is his usual melodramatic self, while Thompson’s character as a born-again Christian brings embodies the notion’s clichés and stereotypes without a shade of pragmatism. The only member of the cast to bring any kind of sincere conviction to his role is Murray, as the helpful TV reporter.
Overall, Left Behind is a shockingly poor and devastatingly boring take on the ‘end of days’ and it is, just like it states, probably just better off left behind.