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Van Helsing (2004)
Van Hel.....who cares!
I really wanted to like this film. It had so much potential to be epic. Dracula. Frankenstein. And a host of other monsters. What happens when they are thrown into a pot along with a bankable star and some CGI? S**t happens. The film is such a mess, the hero is meh, the love interest tries to be feisty but comes across as annoying, and the villain looks like a rock star from Spinal Tap. The only real plot is point and shoot, with no decent plot to it and some laughable hammer homages from the cast. If you value your time on this earth, do not waste your time with this disaster. I beg you to reconsider watching this laughable flick who's best performance comes from CGI bats.
The White Queen (2013)
A War that won't be won on the battlefield
As a history buff I was skeptical about this series but I was also interested to see the story of these historical women who helped shape history as we know it today.
The series is based on the Cousins War series written by Phillipa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl. The Cousins War consists of five books, each focusing on a different woman who has a hand in the battle for the crown of England. The first book is The White Queen focusing on Elizabeth Woodville; the second book is The Red Queen looking at the mother of Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort as she looks to secure her son's position as a future king. The Lady of the Rivers looks at the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta Woodville, a Burgundian Duchess who marries out of duty before marrying a lowly squire for love. The Kingmaker's Daughter follows the daughter of Lord Warwick, Anne Neville, and her journey as she is sold as a pawn in her father's bid for power before finally becoming the Queen of England, wife of Richard III.
The series follows the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville; three women who are largely forgotten in history. With its debut it has received mixed reviews; the daily mail found the inconsistencies laughable - the drainpipes in the background; the telegraph believed it left much to be desired on all fronts; however Harry Vennings reviews that "somehow the show succeeds as a historical drama" despite being "unashamedly romantic in it's approach".
I myself was skeptical but have since jumped on the bandwagon and am hooked. That doesn't mean that there aren't things that I don't like, such as the super romanticized love between Elizabeth and Edward IV. I understand their relationship is important in the grand scheme of things but it's just too sugar sweet for my taste. Four episodes later and the story has moved far beyond a simple love story, but a battle for survival as Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort fight to survive for the sake of their children, and Anne Neville is forced to grow up fast on the battlefield.
It is the women who are the focus of the show as they plot to stay in power or gain power, or simply to just stay alive, and they are interesting in their own right. The one who stands out from the beginning is Jaquetta Woodville, former confidante of Margaret D'Anjou, who made her first appearance in episode 4. Jaquetta is a very shrewd woman who knows how to take care of herself; the best example is her trial in which Warwick accuses the Lady Rivers of witchcraft and she leaves the kingmaker speechless - I don't want to spoil it for you, but it is a great scene.
The character who has grown on me is Anne Neville who was a sweet but naive young girl forced to grow up fast as she is married off to the Lancastrian Prince Edward and heads off to battle in the train of Margaret D'Anjou, even gaining respect from the self proclaimed "Queen Militant" who I found fascinating too. A woman in a man's world with a husband incapable of remembering what day it is never mind ruling a kingdom; so she takes a stand to secure her son's crown. When you think about it, would you stand back as someone steals what you believe rightfully belongs to your child? Wouldn't you at least try to fight for their inheritance? By the end of episode five I had a great respect for the vilified "she wolf" and the kingmaker's daughter.
My least favourite is Margaret Beaufort who seems as if she has some kind of mental disorder the way she walks around talking to God. She is not very likable, but you can understand that she hasn't had a happy life - she was only twelve when she was married and pregnant with her only child Henry. She was then forced to give him up and marry another man, but her life is devoted to her son and God and she believes that her son is the next King of England, so she becomes determined to see it come true.
The series has received a lot of negative reviews, but personally I'm enjoying the show. It's not The Tudors but it isn't meant to be and I like that it brings the women to the foreground taking part in the "game" if you will, rather than having them on the sidelines cheering on their men.
The British Buffy? No, but fun nonetheless!
Have to say that I found this to be better than I expected. Not a brilliant show, but don't think it's a bad as what people make out.
The story centres on Cassie Hughes (Christina Cole) a shy college girl who finds an old vase which leads to strange things happening, including her best friend Thelma (Jemima Rooper) being sacrificed to Azazeal (Michael Fassbender), the show's main antagonist.
Cassie and Thelma (now roaming around as a ghost) are left alone to fight off Azazeal and prevent evil from coming into our world. Well, that's the idea that they try to get across, but most of the time it's about Cassie trying to stop herself from jumping into bed with Azazeal. Which she eventually does.
As a protagonist, Cassie is not the most interesting character. She's a beautiful young girl, and isn't totally convincing as a shy, average 'Jane Eyre' type. On the other hand, Thelma brings comic relief to the show, with Rooper often outshining Hughes, coming across as a very likable character who does her best to keep Cassie away from Azazeal. Which she fails at.
Fassbender does a good job as the villainous and smoldering Azazeal, though doesn't do much other than seducing Cassie in order to impregnate her with his demon-child. Yes, there is a reason why he's after Cassie! He wants her to have his child, who will bring the destruction of mankind. Will Cassie get pregnant or will she be able to stop the end of the world, eliminating Azazeal's plans? This is where series one ends, setting up an intriguing cliff hanger for the second series.
Series two picks up where series one left off with Cassie and Thelma continuing to fight off Azazeal. This time they get some help from an old enemy of Azazeal's, Ella Dee (Laura Pyper), a witch with her own arsenal of weaponry.
Ella turns up in episode one searching for Azazeal to stop him from fathering his child, too late obviously. When Cassie finds out that her child is alive she sets out to take him from his father and sacrifice him for the sake of mankind. However after bonding with the child, Cassie can't let her son die and sacrifices herself instead.
Yes, season two sees a major cast change, with our lead protagonist exiting, leaving the space open for Ella to take centre stage.
Ella proves a vast improvement over Cassie. She's fun, knowledgeable and can hold her own in a fight. Even Thelma gets along with her. Her history with Azazeal proves more interesting than his relationship with Cassie, and we see some interesting confrontations between the two before Azazeal leaves, making way for Malachi - Azazeal and Cassie's son - to become the major villain.
All in all, not great but watchable. If you are willing to forgive the show's flaws such as a lack of solid plot then 'Hex' is a fun and enjoyable series, a cult show with likable characters and good dialogue. More a guilty pleasure, but definitely not the British 'Buffy'.
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Oz: The Dull and Lackluster
As a fan of the original 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz I admit I was intrigued to see the origin tale of Oz and all the characters we've come to know and love. Unfortunately, I was not left blown away by the movie. Essentially, the scenery appears to be the real star of the movie, with the characters added in to give a sense of nostalgia for the viewer.
In saying that, it isn't entirely a disaster; the film boasts a great amount of CGI that is stunning, but beyond the spectacle of Oz itself, it has nothing new to offer. My main issue is really with the characters within the story; I just didn't care about them. I know that Oz is supposed to be smug and narcissistic and then develop into the hero, but his journey was just predictable and therefore not particularly interesting. His sidekicks actually interested me more because they were funny and endearing in their own ways, even though we don't really get to see much of them at all.
Then there's Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Unfortunately she fits in as the stereotypical romantic interest who helps the hero discover the greatness within himself, but she is really bland; there's nothing interesting about her in regards to personality or character development. And her connection with looking like Dorothy's Aunty Em is really the only part of her story I found interesting.
The villainess Evanora, played by the fantastic Rachel Weisz, also disappoints; we don't know why she's evil except that she made herself that way. There's no back story for Endora to show why she is evil, yet Glinda's story about her father is all that they seem to talk about. Evanora starts off as potentially the villain before taking a back seat for the majority of the second half.
The focus shift is the part that I was really looking forward to: How does the Wicked Witch of the West come to be? Through a broken heart. That's it. She falls for Oz after knowing him for five minutes and becomes insanely attached; rather than being cute it kinda makes her look a bit crazy and desperate; and a possible bunny boiler. Through her sister's manipulation Theodora witnesses Oz and Glinda together and is heartbroken, believing the Don Juan has betrayed her. This is sad for any girl, but there's hardly any development into the relationship between Oz and Theodora to make it heartbreaking. We know that Oz is a player, so we're not really surprised when Theodora learns that he had no plans of spending his life with her.
The evolution of the iconic wicked witch being a result of a broken heart could've been so much better; the tragedy is that the story isn't well developed enough to make us hope for her redemption. We want her to be evil because that's why we loved her in The Wizard of Oz. The transformation of Theodora is very impressive, and a lot of work has gone into making this the most anticipated transformation in the film, way more than Oz's, but the young girl she was before just didn't really have any interesting characteristics about her to make us feel sorry for her; she was similar to Glinda, except even more naive.
The finale was quite good. Oz comes up with a good plan and saves the day, sending the wicked witches on their way, but it's still predictable. There's nothing new for an audience to really learn about the characters because they aren't very well developed. The real star of the film is OZ itself. The CGI is great, to the point of overshadowing the narrative.
I think Oz: The Great and Powerful is a good popcorn film, but nothing else. What really made the film suffer was the lack of characterization. Oz was a jerk and then had an epiphany, not really a surprise without much just cause; Glinda is the angelic witch without any flaws whatsoever thus making her really dull; Evanora had the potential to be a good villain but she was sidelined in favour of her sister. Theodora as a good witch wasn't interesting at all, and way too naive; her transformation is the best part of the film, with the green hand and black nails scratching the surface of a table, then the excitement dissipated with no real development beyond Theodora's evolution as the Wicked Witch. The characters don't really change at all, only carry on doing the same thing as before.
The film fails where the original succeeded - interesting characters that feel love, pain, fear, anger etc. Here they don't go through any significant change the way the cowardly lion or scarecrow did, they just exist for the sake of nostalgia.