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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Gentle & Sweet Romantic Comedy
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, based on Paul Torday's bestselling novel of the same name, unites Hallstrom and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire – to tell a story that is quirkily engaging, witty and a delight to watch.
When fishery expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor), is approached by the lovely Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) – a PR girl who handles the UK based assets of wealthy Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) – for a salmon fishing project in the Yemen, Dr. Alfred is quick to dismiss the outrageous idea. He can't imagine a project set in such poor climate conditions and sees dismisses the proposal as a crazy idea belonging to the Sheikh's extravagant lifestyle.
In the meantime, the prime minister's press office is scrambling for a piece of good Anglo-Arabian news that "isn't to do with something exploding" for a change. However, when the chief press officer, Patricia Maxwell (Scott-Thomas) – a woman who knows what she wants and exactly how to get it – comes across the story, things begin to look a lot brighter.
With his marriage in the slums and after a fair bit of convincing done by both Harriet and the Sheikh, Dr. Jones finally gives in. He leaves the drab halls of London for the warm open spaces of the Middle East and both him and Harriet go on to undertake the Sheikh's money-is-no-object project of introducing salmon fishing to the Yemen shores.
The story is not just about the art of fly-fishing, political agendas and the vast Yemeni desert; it's a gently told story of faith and hope. It starts off strong; the witty banter between the somewhat up-tight McGregor and the easy-going and irresistibly charming Blunt is enticing and the audience slowly gets reeled in. The concept of building a dam in the Yemeni desert and flying the fish over from Northern Europe to swim upstream in the man-made river is definitely outlandish, yet somehow engaging. Hallstrom's focus is on the romantic thread and the other elements of the story merely fall into the background in comparison.
Despite its solid start, the film's well intentioned emotional track eventually enters murky waters. The subplot with Harriet and her boyfriend of three weeks is melodramatic and the Sheikh's eternal enemies – who accuse him of importing Western values – seem a little far-fetched.
Nevertheless, McGregor and the rest of the cast do manage to keep the film humming. McGregor is endearing as he pours his heart into the role and there is no shortage to his underrated comedic talents. As always, Blunt is a joyous treat and Scott Thomas' ferocious burst of energy and sarcasm is a scene-stealer.
Waked, one of Egypt's most successful and sought after actors, finds himself in the robes of a wealthy Sheikh whose fondness for fishing is merged with his steadfast faith. Waked is sincere and manages to keep his character grounded despite his lavish way of life.
Despite its fishy moments, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is gentle, sweet and a pleasure to watch.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.