Navy Seal Mark Wahlberg and his friends are caught behind enemy lines with no means of escape in Lone Survivor
LONE SURVIVOR (15)
Based on the true story of a failed Navy Seals operation to kill a high-ranking member of the Taliban, Lone Survivor is a rousing tribute to the men who perished in June 2005 while serving their country.
Director Peter Berg is no stranger to explosive action and male posturing, having previously helmed The Kingdom, Hancock and the water-logged 2012 blockbuster Battleship.
He is the perfect fit for this gruelling material, delivering a final 30 minutes that will have audiences wincing in horror as four Seals fling themselves down the Hindu Kush Mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border during a gunfight with the Taliban.
Broken bones jut through shattered limbs and bullets scythe through flesh as the four-strong team continues to fight to the tragic end, aware that their struggles could be in vain.
It’s a heroic and harrowing portrait of bravado in combat and the bonds of brotherhood behind enemy lines.
At Bagram Air Base, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) await their assignment.
During downtime, they welcome Shane Patton (Alexander Ludwig) into the ranks via an initiation ceremony, which involves dancing in front of the other men and reciting a Navy Seals mantra.
“No matter how dark it gets, or how far you fall, you are never out of the fight,” he barks.
Soon after, Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen (Eric Bana) gives the order to hunt Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), who is suspected of killing marines in Afghanistan.
The reconnaissance is fatally compromised when three shepherds, two of whom are boys, stumble on the Seals’ hiding place.
The men argue about whether they should shoot the locals or let them go.
“It’s nobody’s business what we do up here,” argues Axelson.
Murphy takes the final decision to let the villagers go and within hours, the Seals are surrounded by hundreds of gun-toting Taliban.
The title of Berg’s film might give away the ending, but Lone Survivor still jangles the nerves as Luttrell and co refuse to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds.
Wahlberg, Kitsch, Hirsch and Foster rise to the physical challenge with gusto, propelling themselves around hazardous mountain terrain as the enemy swarms.
Berg directs the climactic sequence with aplomb, seemingly turning up the volume of sound effects to accentuate every crack of a cranium on jagged rocks.
While Lone Survivor hits hard in the action set-pieces, and leaves us breathless and slightly queasy thanks to brilliant make-up, the film is underpowered when it comes to fleshing out the characters and their back stories.
Berg compensates with bookended footage and photographs of real Seals, including the men who fell during this Operation Red Wings.
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (15)
Tom Gormican’s smutty-minded comedy explores the mating rituals of 21st century 20-somethings and concludes that the pursuit of love is as precarious now as it has ever been.
The internet, smartphones and dating apps might have made it easier to make initial contact, or simply enjoy fleeting physical gratification, but for the embers of a fledgling relationship to smoulder, a few smiley faced texts simply won’t suffice.
That Awkward Moment charts this haphazard search for physical and emotional closeness through the eyes of three swaggering best friends, who live and work in New York City.
Gormican’s film demands a huge suspension of disbelief.
It asks us to believe that High School Musical dreamboat Zac Efron, who reduces hordes of teenage girls to screeching harpies, would struggle to find a woman of substance to keep the other half of his duvet warm at night.
He plays Jason, who chases single women in local bars in the company of best buddy and co-worker, Daniel (Miles Teller).
The third member of the dude posse is Mikey (Michael B Jordan), who married young and is happily settled with his beautiful wife Vera (Jessica Lucas).
Or so he thinks...
Returning home early one day from his shift in the ER, Mikey learns that Vera intends to divorce him.
Jason and Daniel console their pal by taking him to the nearest bar to celebrate his new-found freedom.
“We’re staying single with you. Nobody changes their status,” grins Daniel as the three Manhattan musketeers embark on their latest journey of sex discovery.
They booze and socialise, and Jason is bewitched by one acid-tongued girl at the bar, Ellie (Imogen Poots), who seems equally taken with him.
The relationship blossoms but Daniel is ill-equipped for his new role as a supportive boyfriend.
“Being there for people, that’s all relationships are,” Ellie tutors him.
Meanwhile, Daniel wrestles with his true feelings for his best friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) and Mikey comes to terms with losing Vera so he can move on.
That Awkward Moment is a sweet yet instantly forgettable ensemble piece that throws in the now obligatory raunch and nudity to draw in teenage audiences.
Thus two of the central trio demonstrate a unique way to relieve themselves while under the influence of Viagra and Efron attends a fancy dress party with an oversized rubber appendage that could take someone’s eye out.
On-screen chemistry between Efron and Poots isn’t convincing and in a pivotal declaration scene, she wrings out tears convincingly while he can’t.
Teller is a far better actor than the script allows him to be here and Jordan provides solid support in another underwritten role.
I, FRANKENSTEIN (12A)
There have been many silver screen versions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but the latest, I, Frankenstein, sees the nuts, bolts and ghoulish green paint of yore cast aside for a rather more attractive ‘monster’, played by the handsome Hollywood star Aaron Eckhart.
In the film, Eckhart, who has been Christened Adam and is implausibly made out of the corpses of eight equally attractive hunks, has been roaming the earth for 200 years looking for his purpose in life.
While doing this, Adam meets the demons and the gargoyles who are embroiled in an age-old conflict between good and bad.
The demons, fronted up by Bill Nighy, are desperate to get their mitts on Adam, to see if they can use his soulless body to resurrect their late demon pals, and have also got hold of Adam’s creator’s diary to find out how to create more monsters.
The gargoyles, meanwhile are busy enough trying to keep peace on earth. A big task and one they take very seriously, as they repeatedly imply.
Naturally, when a young scientist played by Yvonne Strahovski finds out what the Demon Prince (Nighy) is up to, she tries to help Adam get the diary back and abort the demon prince’s plans.
Will they get the diary back? Can Adam be saved? Will the rest of the cast perfect their pained expressions in time for the final fight..?
To be honest, by that stage, you’ll scarcely bother to ask the question, let alone be interested in the answer.
Despite I, Frankenstein being billed as an epic battle of good versus evil, the simplistic plot, one-dimensional writing and next level corny script (entirely lacking in intentional humour) mean you neither root for the good, abhor the evil or cheer on the monster. You simply don’t care.
That’s not to say that Eckhart is bad, he’s not, it’s just that I, Frankenstein is beneath his, and the rest of the cast’s, talents.
The film is mercifully short though. And, on a plainly visual level, Eckhart’s monster is the only one in cinematic history that most people would like to see rip off their shirt and prepare for dissection. So there is that.