Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - Page 10 News List

Movie releases

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Contributing reporter

Hercules: The Thracian Wars

Greek mythology is getting a heavy workout in Hollywood these days. As yet, apart from the visual inventiveness of Zack Snyder’s 300, this sub-genre of the swords and sandals epic, enhanced with massive quantities of CGI, has produced no particularly good movies. And it is not for want of trying. The character of Hercules features in two movies this year alone, and Hercules: The Thracian Wars, starring that outstanding specimen of prime beefcake, former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, should not be confused with The Legend of Hercules, starring Kellen Lutz, whose main claim to fame is playing the buff Emmett Cullen in the Twilight franchise. Johnson is a perfectly acceptable screen presence, and has been effective in various supporting roles movies such as The Mummy Returns and Luke Hobbs in the Fast and Furious series. Sadly, he is not really up to a leading role, and despite support from the likes of Ian McShane and John Hurt, as well as a host of scantily clad beauties, Hercules: The Thracian Wars is utterly silly and not very engaging. The script is clunky, often undermining the epic tone it seeks to achieve, and occasionally stumbling in unintended humor. It has none of the cheekiness that made films such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s early Conan movies so much fun.

Cruel and Unusual

Weird psychological fantasy from Canada by Merlin Dervisevic in his debut feature film. The story centers on a shabby everyman named Edgar (David Richmond-Peck) who may, or may not, accidentally have killed his Filipina wife (Bernadette Saquibal), and who then finds himself in a group therapy session in which he is forced to relive the murder for eternity. Through the process of endless confession, a kind of murderous Groundhog’s Day, he realizes that it may actually have been his wife who was trying to kill him. It is all quite cleverly constructed, and Richmond-Peck does an outstanding job of portraying the bemused protagonist struggling toward some understanding of his situation. For all its qualities, Cruel and Unusual has a self-serious earnestness that drags the whole thing down, drawing it toward film school territory and making this relatively compact package (running time 95 minutes) into something of a drag.


The sort of horror flick that deserves to go straight to DVD and then into the trash. 甀 is devoid of scares, and its attempts at creating character and exploit psychological thrills falls flat. Flight 7500 departs Los Angeles International Airport bound for Tokyo. As the overnight flight makes its way over the Pacific Ocean, the passengers encounter what appears to be a supernatural force in the cabin. But do we care about what happens to the cardboard cutouts on the flight? Do we discover why they are there in the first place, or how the snippets of backstory enhance the audience experience of their plight? Do we ever jump out of our seats? The answer is a uniform no. If you must watch people have a bad time on an airplane, watch the DVD of Snakes on a Plane instead.

A Thousand Times Good Night

English-language film by Norwegian director Erik Poppe tells the story of a female war photographer passionately committed to her dangerous profession and caught up in her family’s fear that her job, which brings her to some of the most dangerous locations on the planet, will almost certainly get her killed. The film is anchored by a strong performance from Juliette Binoche, who plays photojournalist Rebecca, who has a compulsion to make others see what she sees through her photographs. The story focuses more on her inner compulsion rather than conflicts of journalistic values as in such Hollywood classics with a similar set up as Under Fire. Binoche is ably supported by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (from Game of Thrones) as Rebecca’s marine biologist husband, and Lauryn Canny as her daughter, who is torn by the abandonment consequent on her mother’s work, and the vocation, or addiction, it represents. Deftly sidestepping both melodrama and family-values messaging, director Poppe, who worked as a photojournalist in the 1980s, imbues the film with enormous emotional resonance.

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