Alcides is the son of Olympian ruler Zeus and mortal Queen Alcmene who brought him into the world secretly with the true name of Hercules. He knows not of his real name or the circumstances of his conception, and instead believes his father to be the tyrant King Amphitryon. He knows that there's something about himself that doesn't fit in with the rest of his family; his father favours his brother and heir to the throne Iphicles, who is promised Hebe, Princess of Crete (and Hercules lover) as a wife. In a desperate bid to stay together, Hercules and Hebe plan to elope, but before they can make their move, Hercules is ordered to battle. When an army fails to kill him, he is forced alongside his comrade to take part in a series of gladiator events, but it soon becomes clear that Hercules is no ordinary man when he starts to reveal his indomitable strength.
This epic action flick is based on the original Ancient Greek myth and has been directed by Renny Harlin ('Die Hard 2', 'Deep Blue Sea', 'Cliffhanger'), alongside writers Daniel Giat ('Path to War'), Sean Hood and Giulio Steve. 'The Legend Of Hercules' is due to be released in the UK on March 28th 2014.
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Maleficent is a cruel sorceress who will stop at nothing to destroy those who have stolen her wings and ruined her world. As a child, she lived happily in the forest kingdom with a powerful force inside her that she was mostly unaware of. However, it wasn't long before it spun out of control at the arrival of the human kingdom's brutal army, who were intent on taking over. She fought bravely as the guardian of her land, but her valour soon turned to viciousness when she is callously deceived. A new person now filled with a dark desire for vengeance, she takes it upon herself to curse the daughter of her betrayer's successor, forcing her to die when she reaches her sixteenth birthday. Can Princess Aurora persuade Maleficent to turn her curse around, or is the wicked fairy truly a lost cause?
Adapted from the 1959 animated Disney movie 'Sleeping Beauty', 'Maleficent' is the untold story of the film's embittered villain. It marks the directorial debut of double Oscar winning visual effects designer Robert Stromberg with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton ('Beauty and the Beast', 'The Lion King'), Paul Dini ('Superman' animated TV series) and John Lee Hancock ('The Blind Side', 'Snow White and the Huntsman'). It is due to hit the UK on May 30th 2014.
Hercules is the secret son of Zeus and a mortal queen though he grows up not knowing his real identity or, indeed, his birthright. Believing he is the son of a dictatorial king, he struggles against an ongoing feud with his brother Iphicles; the heir to the king's throne who is promised Hebe, Princess of Crete as a wife. Hebe is the love of Hercules who plans to go to any lengths to elope with her, but he is banished to battle when Iphicles and the king realise his opposition to their plans. He subsequently finds himself enslaved and forced to fight armed opponents for sport, but his true destiny starts to unfold when it is found that no-one can match his indomitable strength. Will he manage to succeed in saving the love of his life from a loveless marriage? And will he fulfil his true purpose and overthrow the king?
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Maleficent is a merciless sorceress who dubs herself the 'Mistress of All Evil'. But she hasn't always had a heart of stone. As a beautiful young girl she was happy and contented with her life in the forested kingdom, but deep down she held within her a powerful strength; a strength that would surface when she became the guardian of the entire land as a brutal army take siege. However, through all her great feats of bravery, she is faced with a callous deception that transforms her completely. In a fit of rage she places a curse on baby Princess Aurora; the daughter of the usurping King's successor; that would see her prick her finger on a spindle and die on her sixteenth birthday. However, on meeting a much older Aurora, Maleficent starts to wonder if she could actually help to bring happiness back to the land, and to Maleficent herself.
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Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) continues to explore experimental styles of cinema (see Timecode or Hotel) with this playful in-joke about the act of artistic creation. It's an ambitious idea that never quite overcomes the indulgent approach, but the gimmicky touches and mysterious noir vibe hold our interest even if the characters are never very clearly developed.
At the centre is screenwriter Martin (Koch), who lectures at a London film school as his long-awaited new script is finally going into production. His daughter Sarah (Night) has landed a lead role in the film, and Martin celebrates this with her at her 25th birthday. He also becomes fascinated by her friend Angelique (Verbeek), who turns up dead in a canal the next morning, leaving him as the prime suspect. A police inspector (Cranham) is especially suspicious since Martin's wife (Fox in flashback) went missing 15 years ago. Then Angelique's twin Therese (also Verbeek) turns up to twist things further.
Figgis continually throws us out of the story by referring to the film within the film. For example, characters are continually picking up movie scripts that describe them picking up movie scripts. And Figgis further tweaks us with on-screen captions, split-screen angles and movie-set camera gags, plus of course the fact that a central character is an identical twin. But because of all of this self-referential trickery, we can never engage with the story or characters at all.
Continue reading: Suspension of Disbelief Review
Martin and Claudia are two lawyers who were formerly in a relationship. They are roped into a case together on the defense team of an alleged terrorist, following a tragic bombing in a London market one morning in November. It may be a difficult job to being with, but things don't get any easier when they covertly discover that their client was actually assigned as an undercover spy for MI5 and was supposed to lead them to the bombers before the attack. They soon begin to realise that their every move is being closely watched, and with threats on their life by some powerful people following their investigations and risky suggestions in court, they must escape the controlling force that is the government before they are eradicated - though it could be too late.
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A riveting performance by Helen McCrory holds our attention even if this dramatic thriller suffers from efficient but bland direction and a script that fails to dig very far beneath the surface. The role is a gift for any actress: a strong, intelligent and sexy middle-aged woman. And she's so good that she makes it worth seeing even when the plot becomes rather corny and implausible.
McCrory plays top British aerospace expert Frankie, who is relentlessly pursued by one of her students, the much-younger Algerian Kahil (Oudghiri). Her father (Cranham), a fellow aircraft expert, warns her against falling into a torrid romance, but she can't resist. And soon her colleagues are whispering behind her back that she may be compromising her work on military drone technology by sleeping with a Muslim. This of course puts her back up, but it also sparks some nagging doubts, so she begins to look into Kahil's story. And some irregularities make her wonder if he might be using her for information.
The way the film plays on our own prejudices and fears is very clever, using a hot current issue like military drones. And the plot races along so quickly that we barely have time to register that it's not actually holding water. Small problems (like the fact that a top military contractor wouldn't password-protect her laptop) multiply as the story progresses from a relatively superficial romance into more sinister suspicion and then an all-out political thriller. But since everything is based around suspicions and subterfuge, it begins to look a bit silly.
Continue reading: Flying Blind Review
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