Tag Archives: Kate Beckinsale

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

For me, the Underworld franchise is kind of like the Resident Evil film franchise — seemed like a cool idea initially, but with every passing entry I’ve cared less, albeit still enough to check it out just because they’ve gone to the effort of making another one. And it was with this indifference that I stumbled across Underworld: Blood Wars, the latest installment in the adventures of Selene (Kate Beckinsale).

In all honesty, I don’t really know what’s going on in the Underworld movies any more, and I doubt the makers of this movie had any idea either. Does it matter? Not particularly. All that matters is that Kate Beckinsale again dons her tight leather outfit and kicks a lot of ass amid some everlasting feud between vampires and werewolves — sorry, I mean lycans.

Underworld: Blood Wars seems to take a page out of the Game of Thrones handbook. The look of the sets and the new characters have a distinct Thrones feel, as does the convoluted plot full of backstabbing and double-crossing. You do need some knowledge of the previous installments to fully follow what’s going on. That said, even though I have seen the previous films I could not remember anything pertinent. Not that it made much of a difference to the experience.

The nicest things I can say about Underworld: Blood Wars is that it did not suck as bad as I thought it would, and that it’s a much better-made movie than Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.  The action is at least coherent and with a little more creativity, there seems to be some inherent logic in the storyline, and the performances from the cast — Beckinsale, Theo James (from the Divergent series), Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and the great Charles Dance himself — are not embarrassing despite the shoddy lines they have to recite.

On the other hand, it really does feel like more of the same old stuff, without any genuine thrills or excitement. There are only so many ways vampires can fight werewolves. The plot is also full of annoying exposition and convenient inventions — when it needs X to happen for the sake of the plot, it concocts some character or item or special ability to make it happen. It gets tedious after a while.

So there you have it, yet another unnecessary sequel that will unlikely please anyone except the diehard, hardcore fans of the franchise. Underworld: Blood Wars is not pure trash, but there’s just nothing interesting or fresh about it to warrant your precious time.

2.25 stars out of 5

The Disappointments Room (2016)

Wentworth Miller, everyone’s favourite escaped convict, penned the script for the 2013 hit Stoker, a surprisingly atmospheric and eerie thriller starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. And so it seemed normal to expect that his sophomore writing effort, The Disappointments Room, wouldn’t be too shabby either.

Hory shet. Talk about a disappointment.

Bad supernatural horror movies are a dime a dozen these days, but The Disappointments Room is shocking because it should not have been this terrible given the names involved. Directed by DJ Caruso, who was at the helm of some pretty decent movies — Disturbia and Eagle Eye (we’ll forget about I Am Number Four) — the film features the archetypal horror premise of a young family moving into a big new house in the middle of nowhere for a “fresh start.”

Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido play the couple, Dana and David, who have a five-year-old son named Lucas (Duncan Joiner). Shortly after moving in, Dana finds a secret room in the house (guess what it’s called?) and weird stuff starts happening to her. She has deadly visions or hallucinations that seem real and there’s a mystery behind it all she needs to solve. Of course, no one believes her. She’s mental!

When I first found out why the room is called a “disappointments room”, I still thought the film had potential. The concept was intriguing and creepy, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was just a cheap gimmick and an excuse to heap loads of horror cliches onto it.

Sadly, the film is almost completely devoid of scares. There’s just no build up of tension or atmosphere, and the characters are all poorly developed. It gets worse as it plods along and introduces a new handyman character played by Lucas Till, though his presence adds nothing to the plot and his part of the story is actually never resolved! In fact, the entire film just loses the plot in the third act and spirals into utter incoherency. By that stage, however, no one gave a shit.

The Disappointments Room has a spectacular rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 0%, and I can’t say I disagree with every critic included in the assessment. Just a real embarrassment for everyone involved.

1 star out of 5

2014 Movie Blitz: Part V

Too many movies to review, so I’ve grouped some of the less important ones together in yet another blitz post.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

stonehearst

This is one of those films that, when you see the poster, make you wonder why it didn’t get a bigger release. For starters, it’s based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story, and it features a star-studded cast including Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, David Thewlis and Michael Caine. The story itself is also quite interesting, about a young man (Burgess) who takes residency at a mental asylum allegedly using unorthodox methods to treat its patients.

Despite having all the pieces in place, Stonehearst Asylum turned out to be just a little better than adequate. It does have the feel of a Poe short story, with a good dash of insanity and creepiness, and plenty of devilish twists and turns, though the overall presentation and feel of the film came across as rather flat. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it dull, though thrilling it definitely is not. I just wish the execution could have lived up to the interesting premise.

Fans of this type of genre film could get something out of it, but for me, Stonehearst Asylum is straight-to-DVD selection — albeit a pretty decent one by straight-to-DVD standards.

2.75 stars out of 5

Out of the Dark (2014)

outofthedark

Julia Stiles, Scott Speedman — two actors who have fairly solid careers but never seeming to be able to break through into stardom. That’s even less likely to happen now that they have resigned themselves to starring in the “meh” supernatural horror, Out of the Dark, which debuted at the Germany’s Fantasy Filmfest last August.

Following a typical horror opening where some guy is mauled by an unseen malevolent force, the film follows Stiles and Speedman as a couple who move to Colombia to take over a business run by Stiles’s father, played by Stephen Rea. Naturally, there are scary ghost kids loitering around, and the couple have find out why that’s the case before something bad happens to their daughter.

A couple of effective creepy sequences aside (let’s face it, ghost kids are always scary), Out of the Dark is pure cookie-cutter. You just know there’s some sinister plot behind the haunting and that Colombian superstition stereotypes will be used. I’m not exaggerating when I say I figured out the mystery even before the halfway mark, and I predicted how it was all going to end.

The presence of Stiles, Speedman and Rea will probably ensure that this film gets some attention, but there’s no denying that Out of the Dark is a forgettable experience that offers nothing fresh for horror aficionados.

2 stars out of 5

The Anomaly (2014)

anomaly

The Anomaly is a British sci-fi thriller I would put in the “good try, but no” category. Written and directed by Noel Clarke from Doctor Who, it kicks off with an interesting opening where an ex-soldier, Ryan (played by Clarke), wakes up not remembering who or where he is. He has just enough time to rescue a kidnapped boy prior to losing consciousness, only to wake up again later at a different time and place, with a limited amount of time to put some pieces of the puzzle in place before it happens all over again.

Unfortunately, despite it’s lofty ambitions to be some kind of absurd mix between Memento, The Manchurian Candidate and Source Code, The Anomaly crumbles under the weight of trying to do too much without being clever enough to be able to break through genre conventions or offer anything truly outside the box. And it’s a shame, because the project’s concept was good enough to attract names like Ian Somerhalder (whose face dominates the film posters despite a supporting role), Brian Cox, Alexis Knapp and the least-know of the Hemsworth brothers, Luke.

There are Russian gangsters, sultry prostitutes, federal agents, crazy scientists and plenty of stylistic slow motion hand-to-hand combat sequences, but The Anomaly can’t seem to escape its own campiness. Rather than the brilliant sci-fi classic Clarke was aiming for, the film comes across as more of an uneven, B-grade romp that runs out of steam way before it reaches the third act. There are pleasures to be had from such film experiences, though no pleasures derived from The Anomaly were enough for me to call it anything but a failure.

2 stars out of 5

Dying of the Light (2014)

Dying_of_the_Light_poster

Dying of Nicholas Cage, more like it.

In this profoundly boring thriller, the “actor who will do absolutely anything” plays an old CIA agent who remains obsessed with the terrorist who got away more than 2 decades ago. So when a clue pops up suggesting said terrorist might still be alive, Cage sets out to track him down with the help of a young agent played by Anton Yelchin. Never mind that Cage (and by that I mean his character) is literally losing his mind from a debilitating illness.

Given that Cage’s character is well into his 60s for the vast majority of the film, it’s kind of strange that they preferred to dress him up as an old man rather than simply finding an older actor for the role. Or maybe they just thought Cage was really really good at playing someone losing his mind.

Anyway, Dying of the Light offers very little in terms of intelligence, excitement or thrills. There are a couple of graphically violent sequences and a chase scene, though for the most part the film is devoid of genuine action, especially at the supposed climax, when you’re expecting it.

To be honest, I don’t know what writer and director Paul Schrader, whose distinguished career reached its nadir with Lindsay Lohan and The Canyons in 2013, was aiming for here. If he had intended to resurrect his career by creating a tense, stylish thriller with character depth and political intrigue, then Dying of the Light was a failure of epic proportions. On the other hand, if he just wanted to join Mr Cage in becoming a “keep gettin’ ’em checks” guy by sleepwalking through a straight-to-DVD effort, then I suppose you could call the film a success.

To be fair, Dying of the Light might actually be Nicholas Cage’s best film in a while, but that’s like calling the dump you took this morning the best smelling shit you’ve chucked in years.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

Admit it. Mention “three boobs”, and the first thing that pops into your mind is Total Recall. No, not the 2012 remake with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, but the 1990 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s the kind of classic it was and is, and its many iconic images is a huge reason why it landed at number 10 on my list of the 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time.

Ultimately the problem with Total Recall 2012 is that it pales in comparison to the memorable 1990 version. While not a horrible sci-fi action flick in its own right, and despite featuring far more attractive actors (no offense to Arnie, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin) and impressive special effects, the film just didn’t feel like it could match the intensity, humour and freshness of the original.

We are told that the 2012 Total Recall is not strictly a “remake” of the 1990 film, but merely another very loose film adaptation of the Philip K Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. I don’t know if I buy that because based on this Wikipedia entry, the 2012 remake appears much closer to the 1990 film than the short story itself.

The plot of the 2012 film virtually mirrors that of the 1990 film, minus that whole Mars business. Okay, so it’s a little more intricate than that, but all you need to know is that it’s the future and there is an autocratic superpower and a bunch of rebels fighting against them. Colin Farrell is Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who suffers from a recurring nightmare which suggests that he is some kind of secret agent. Like Arnie before him, Quaid heads to this place called Rekall, which can supposedly implant fake memories, but all it does is reveal that perhaps his nightmares are more than just dreams.

The progression of this remake is roughly similar to that of the original but the fact that they remain firmly on Earth instead of heading to Mars means the films have some very significant differences. There are, of course, no mutants now, but instead there are these lame robots. There’s none of the reddish sand of Mars, but rather, a post-apocalytpic, clearly Blade Runner-inspired future that offers a wet, crowded blend of Eastern and Western cultures. The vast improvements in special effects mean prettier landscapes, cooler machines and gadgets.

None of these changes, however, have translated to a better film in substance.

Farrell exhibits more emotional range than Arnie (not hard) and Beckinsale and Biel are sexier femme fatales than Stone and Ticotin, but unlike their predecessors, none of them seem to be having any fun (not even Bryan Cranston!). Save for a few one-liners from Beckinsale, this film is dead serious from beginning to end. The 1990 film was often wry; this one is nearly always bleary.

There are a lot of fast-moving gun fights, explosions and chase scenes (on foot and in vehicles) but few generated genuine excitement for me. Much of it was because I never really cared for the characters or what they stood for, and more importantly, because I never got the sense that they were in any real danger. It was pretty to watch but not gripping from an emotional standpoint.

The film also has a bunch of references to the original (yes, including the three boobs), but it felt like they were there for the sake of being there, rather than as tributes. It begged the question of why a film that is uninspiringly stuck halfway between a remake and re-envisioning was really necessary in the first place.

One of the most interesting things about the 1990 film for me was that, even at the end, you still questioned whether what you were seeing was real or in Quaid’s head. Disappointingly, the 2012 film, through various story-telling devices, makes its answer very obvious early on and left no doubt by the end.

Total Recall 2012 is directed by Len Wiseman, husband of Kate Beckinsale and best known for his work on the Underworld series and the fourth Die Hard instalment. I can’t deny that he has a certain visual flair and I thank him for keeping the smoking Kate Beckinsale around for much longer than Sharon Stone, but I can’t say it was one of his stronger efforts. I am willing to bet that years from now, the mention of “three boobs” will still conjour up memories of the original, and not this film.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Underworld: Awakening (2D) (2012)

Man, I’ve been lazy again. Well, not really lazy, but just busy. Had some freelancing opportunities for a few spare dollars and I went for it. Anyway, I’m now back and will be posting up a storm.  To kick things off, Kate Beckinsale and Underworld: Awakening.

For me, the Underworld series has always been one that’s been more style than substance. It’s also one of those franchises where the concept (of a secret war between vampires and werewolves…sorry, lycans) is much better than the movies themselves. And, despite all this, I’ve watched all (four) of them.

Surprisingly, Underworld: Awakening is one of the better ones, and for a fourth instalment that is a remarkable achievement. The story picks up from the end of the second film, Underworld: Evolution, and humans have captured the majority of vampires. Kate Beckinsale’s Selene is on the run with her loverboy vampire-werewolf hybrid Michael (originally played by Scott Speedman but is replaced here by CGI, a stand-in and some archival footage – it wasn’t actually too bad). They get captured, she gets cryogenically frozen, wakes up 12 years later, and unleashes hell on everyone.

That’s really about it. There’s a little girl who’s kinda freaky (reminds me of those Japanese horror movies) and this mother of a werewolf who is twice the size of everyone else. Apart from that it’s just watching Kate Beckinsale in a tight-fitting leather outfit kicking ass, which is, let’s face it, a big reason why a lot of people decided to watch this thing in the first place.

The special effects remain strong but not exceptional. That Scott Speedman thing was pretty impressive. I don’t think a lot of people would have known that the actor was never in the film. Apparently he has left open the possibility of returning in the future. Yes, it looks like there will be a fifth instalment.

I say it’s one of the better ones because the story is not too convoluted and the film focuses more on the relentless and often gory action. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who expects there to be an actual story here, you might come away disappointed. I never cared much for the story of this franchise, which is why I appreciated the emphasis on the action. The 88-minute running time also ensured a blitzing pace.

Ultimately, this might be one of the more forgettable films of the year, but I had fun at the time I watched it.

3 stars out of 5