The Vow * * 1/2

Genre: Drama

Director: Michael Sucsy

Writers: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy

Cast: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill

Running Length: 105 minutes

Synopsis: A car accident puts Paige (McAdams) in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo (Tatum) works to win her heart again.

Review: Despite a “based on true events” premise, The Vow is about as rote a romantic drama as it gets. In fact, it almost seems Nicholas Sparks had a hand in it, even though that’s not actually the case. This is a movie squarely targeted at the women, and its box office success in the US is testament to the power of this demographic. Unwilling husbands and boyfriends will no doubt be dragged to the cinema to catch this, and while it won’t be an entirely moot outing, it’s hard to imagine any (straight) men getting into this movie.   

The best thing about The Vow is Rachel McAdams, who puts forth a great performance despite the limiting material here. There is, however, little real chemistry between her and Channing Tatum, and as a result their tortured romance post-trauma never comes across as being quite believable. Channing Tatum is obviously here as a pretty face and body, and although he tries hard to emote (with uneven results), Tatum would be most remembered for his multiple bare-bodied scenes here, including one where he shows off his bubble butt. Jessica Lange and Sam Neill seem to be downgrading their career trajectories by appearing in a film like this one, but at least Lange gets one good scene out of the movie, essentially out-acting every other cast member in those few minutes.

The Vow isn’t afraid to come across as being a cheesy melodrama, and it embraces both aspects with aplomb. In its own way, that’s a charming thing to do and The Vow works well as a date movie. Unfortunately, those looking to vesting more emotion into the movie may find themselves somewhat disappointed – very little is done with the premise of the movie, and eventually the script writes itself into a corner with no way out. The Vow avoids some of the expected clichés – no second bump on the head to magically restore Paige’s memory, for example – but the scribes add nothing in to replace the void. There’s no pat denouement apart from an end title card detailing the outcome of the real life couple, but at least Michael Sucsy has managed to resist injecting forced tragedy into the tale, unlike how a Nicholas Sparks novel/movie would have panned out.      

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)


Wrath of the Titans * * 1/2

Genre: Action

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Writers: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson, Greg Berlanti

Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Edgar Ramirez, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston

Running Length: 100 minutes

Synopsis: A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) – the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) – is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus' godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramírez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans' strength grows stronger as Zeus' remaining godly powers are siphoned…

Review: Few films in recent memory have benefitted from lowered expectations like Wrath of the Titans has – after all, its predecessor was a pretty terrible mess, from the clunky dialogue to the awful tacked on “3D” (the most 3D aspect being the Mandarin subtitles), and it really wouldn’t take much to improve upon that travesty of a remake. This time round, the story comes with much less baggage, and despite another post production 3D conversion, looks far better than the first film. That’s not to say that Wrath of the Titans is a masterpiece, but at least it’s much less painful to sit through, with a number of decent action set pieces, and the injection of much-need levity into the proceedings. It also helps to view this film on as large a screen as possible (IMAX 3D being the most ideal), as it amplifies the cinematic experience and makes the film’s flaws more tolerable.

And there’s no shortage of things to pick on in Wrath of the Titans, if one is inclined to do so. The dialogue is painfully clunky, with characters often delivering dialogue solely for exposition’s sake, and the script borders on incoherence very often. The production team does seem to be aware of that, and occasionally poke fun at themselves (at one point, one character tells another to “avoid the big speech”), which makes it a little more tolerable. There’s also a lot of soap opera going on for an action movie, and these exclusively male, uncomfortably melodramatic scenes really weigh down the narrative.

Still, the film largely looks good, and the action sequences are quite impressively choreographed, with the most memorable not being the climactic showdown, but rather a “smaller” scene involving a number of Cyclops and the lead characters. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes bring higher quality acting and gravitas to the table, while an almost unrecognizable Bill Nighy steals the show with his high energy portrayal of Hephaestus. Action junkies should still leave the cinema feeling sated, but here’s hoping that if there’s a third film in the franchise, that it would be a higher quality production all round.   

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)