2014’s opening line-up

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Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

This Sunday I am giving the floor to my friend Manuel Genato. Manuel is a constant companion at the movies and he is qualified to take over today because he watched the “big” opening films for 2014. Here are his reviews of this week’s post-MMFF releases.

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‘The Legend of Hercules’
This one’s a hybrid Greek myth film that harks back to simpler times at the cinema.

Alceides / Hercules (Twilight’s Kellan Lutz), demi-god hero, is unaware of his true nature. As the son of Zeus, he’s blessed with extraordinary strength.

His stepfather King Amphitryon betrays him—and Hercules and his friend Sotiris (Spartacus’ Liam McIntyre) are ambushed, nearly killed and sold into slavery. Where they—surprise—have to fight gladiator death matches and win battles so as to make their way back home, depose the evil king and restore peace to the land.

It’s a lightweight beefcake sword-action spectacle with a cheesy script and mediocre actors—escapist muscle and blood entertainment.

‘47 Ronin’
This is a fantasy adventure based on one of Japan’s most enduring tales.

Found in a forest, young Kai is a half breed who pledges allegiance to Lord Asano of Ako.

Rival Lord Kira and his witch successfully plot Asano’s ritual suicide. Older Kai (Keanu Reeves) is sold into slavery and Asano’s samurai become ronin.

Two years on, Kai joins Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his 47 Ronin to seek revenge by killing Kira and restoring the honor of their fallen lord,

The costumes and sets are stupendous but the pace of the film is like trudging through a muddy path for hours until you find it ends at a muddy pool.

Hearing the dialogue in English also weakens the “Japanese-ness” of the story.

Reeves is as wooden as ever, plus he’s showing his age.

Tales of samurai loyalty are legend. Two serious Japanese 47 Ronin films (1941, 1994) are already classics. Why Hollywood had to give it a sword-and-sorcery slant for mass appeal is beyond me!

‘Lone Survivor’
In this story of the American “Operation Red Wings” on July 28, 2005, four Navy SEALS go on an ill-fated mission to terminate high level Taliban leaders but are ambushed by enemies in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan.

Spec-ops team leader Mike Murphy (T. Kitsch), Comm Specialist Matthew Axelson (B. Foster), Gunner’s Mate Danny Dietz (E. Hirsch) and Medic Marcus Luttrell (M. Wahlberg) look for and get the fight of their lives.

No foreign policy or regional politics here: just a crucial moral question that, when answered, risks the whole assignment. It’s a cut and dried film about the savage methods of Islamic radicals and American elite soldiers fighting them on their land.

Knowing how it ends, however, doesn’t diminish your desire to run from the violence on the screen, but you’re glued.

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Films that opened last Wednesday: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tarzan, The Wolf of Wall St., Grudge Match and Special ID. Next Wednesday look out for: I, Frankenstein, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Hut Job, Police Story and Mumbai Love.

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