Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Underworld: Awakening

The 4th installment in this sci-fi thriller series is best remembered for star Kate Beckinsale's skintight black latex outfit filmed in 3D. Aside from that, the less said the better.

This is barely a 90 minute film that is one long fight sequence shot in dark blue tones with little enhancement by the 3D effects. Ms. Beckinsale as vampire Selene, is quite the adept fighter and gunslinger. In this 4th waste of time, she is protecting the hybrid child she never knew she had from her sworn enemy, the werewolves. This is the flimsy plot that only exists as an excuse to watch Ms. Beckinsale in action.

Ms. Beckinsale sat out the third film but I guess money changes everything. I expect the studio will continue making sequels as long as the cash rolls in. Let's hope they stop with "Underworld 10: Retirement Home".

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as "Coriolanus", Shakespeare's tragic Roman general. The film takes place in modern day Serbia substituting for "a place called Rome". The warfare, costumes and sets are all modern but the language is the original Shakespeare. Another modern touch is the use of TV newscasters as the Greek chorus. The landscape is bleak to match the mood of the story but the acting is very powerful and Mr. Fiennes, along with his excellent cast hold your attention until the very end.

The film co-stars Gerald Butler as Tullus Aufidius, Coriolanus's sworn enemy, who is invading Rome at the beginning of the film. There is a wonderfully choreographed fight scene between the two men. Mr. Butler is fit for his role but under Mr. Fiennes direction, he whispers his lines which I found distracting. Also starring in key roles are Brian Cox as Senator Menenius, Jessica Chastin as Virgilia (Coriolanus's wife) and in a terrific role, Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, the general's mother. Ms. Chastin handles the language well but is becoming too predictable in the supporting wife role. Ms. Redgrave, on the other hand, has some key scenes that really shine and remind us of her ageless talent.

Mr. Fiennes favors close-ups framing just one or two actors, which is both powerful and yet claustrophobic at times. The climatic turning point of the film is very well staged and sets up the tragic conclusion beautifully.
If you enjoy Shakespeare with a modern twist (Ian McKellen's "Richard III" comes to mind), "Coriolanus" is for you.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol

Your mission, Mr. Cruise, is to make the 4th installment in a series that's jumped the shark and somehow make it fresh. With the help of director Brad Bird, mission accomplished. This is the best Mission Impossible since the first film and while you can argue, it's bloated and could have been shorter, it's still a lot of fun.

Tom Cruise does everything he can to please his audience and finds new locations and stunts to make it happen. The film is a beautiful world travelogue but you don't have much time to enjoy the scenery as the action is pretty much non-stop. Much of the action sequences appear to be done minimally or completely without CGI which makes them all the more incredible. Of course everything is over the top but that's why you buy a ticket for a film like this. What makes it all bearable is how well Mr. Cruise and the cast "sell" it. It's not Oscar caliber acting but everyone works hard to make their characters credible.

The involved plot involves framing the IMF team for bombing the Kremlin. This requires them to go rogue (hence "Ghost Protocol") in order to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war. If Mr. Cruise was acting alone, you would think you're watching the new James Bond film but it is a team effort. His team consists of Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner. Everyone plays their part well although Mr. Pegg's witty banter does start to wear thin. Mr. Bird is a veteran director of some beloved animated films and this time he has created a live-action cartoon realizing Ethan Hunt (Mr. Cruise) as a cross between Bugs Bunny and The Roadrunner. Everyone though, gets in on the action (including Mr. Renner in a sly homage to a key scene in the first film).

Don't try to analyze this one. Just sit back and enjoy the sheer fun of it all.