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The Karate Kid: A Welcome Remake
This reviewer admits to never having seen the 1984 classic The Karate Kid; so a fair comparison could not be made. Nonetheless, a depleted remake gives itself away, and the new Karate Kid is a great example of an update that works on its own. It’s no instant classic, but kids are going to find it empowering and engrossing, in much the same way that kids in the eighties found the original. And for the grownups, the new Karate Kid offers over two hours of harmless fun that doesn’t play it down.
Jaden Smith as Dre Parker is the new unlikely hero; the young Smith may not have as much charisma as his father, but he’s clearly on the right path. Never acting like an adult, he seems comfortable with the fact that he’s a 12-year-old kid and uses his childish charm to his advantage. Dre moves to Beijing with his mother (Henson), escaping the drudgeries of Detroit to start a new life. He’s not happy about the move and he pleads with his mother to go back home. However, he is forced to face the reality of this new life, home and mild culture shock.
Dre then meets a cute Chinese girl in his class who plays the violin, and the two of them develop a crush. However, another boy likes the talented violinist; one who is bigger, tougher and a whole lot meaner. The two get into a fight and Dre ends up getting beaten to a pulp. The good news is that Dre’s handyman, Mr Han (Chan) is not just an eccentric old fellow; he’s also a great Kung Fu teacher that takes Dre under his wing to train him for the film’s climatic showdown at the Kung Fu tournament.
The 2010 Karate Kid is brutal, ruthless and quite the entertainer. The fight scenes can match the intensity of any adult martial arts film. The bad guys are a bunch of kids that belong to a morally questionable dojo; they are so believably menacing, that their performances give stakes to the final showdown. Chan downplays his usual spastic persona and offers a new kind of mentor, wise yet not above it all; Ying and Yang as the Chinese say.
There is a sense of wonder about the Karate Kid that has been missing from family films lately. Heroism went a little out of fashion recently and instead cynicism became trendy. Maybe it’s the 80s nuance, or the mesmerising Chinese landscapes; but the film offers a fresh take on these classic ideas. Karate Kid reminded us why it matters to stand up and face the music.
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.