Geoff Cox’s DVDs: Divergent, The Legend Of Hercules, Half Of A Yellow Sun, Venus In Fur
Sci-fi adventure DIVERGENT (12: Entertainment One) is a Hunger Games clone with enough menace and suspense to make it reasonably diverting.
Teens inhabiting post-apocalyptic Chicago are tested to determine their personalities before being separated into warring factions.
Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a so-called Divergent who doesn’t fit into any one group and is therefore seen as a danger to society.
She doesn’t mesh with the fearless ‘Dauntless’ faction and that makes her a threat to the budding fascist ‘Erudite’ brigade, led by a sinister Kate Winslet.
Information overload affects the film and Tris’s brutal initiation trials are a bit of a slog, while a romantic subplot doesn’t add much intrigue.
The action is more brisk than imaginative, but at least director Neil Burger, who also made Limitless, delivers a rousing finale.
> Threadbare fantasy tale THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (12: Lionsgate) is a low-budget trudge through Greek mythology by well-known director Renny Harlin, whose glory days are clearly far behind him.
Kellan ‘Twilight’ Lutz gets top billing as the son of Zeus, who’s betrayed into gladiatorial slavery, but fights his way back home for the love of a princess and revenge on his deceitful half-brother.
Although Lutz certainly has the muscle to play the demi-god, the script is one-dimensional and the movie borders on pantomime with its overdone villainy and banal dialogue.
With dodgy special effects, there’s little spectacle on offer and it’s enough to make you nostalgic for the cheap and cheerful Steve Reeves epics from the 1950s and ’60s.
> HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (15: Soda Pictures) is a harrowing, yet superficial, drama set during a tumultuous decade in newly liberated Nigeria.
After being granted independence from Britain in 1960, the Igbo people rise up to establish the Republic of Biafra with British-educated twins Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) caught in the maelstrom.
Olanna leaves Lagos to be with revolutionary academic Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), while Kainene stays to run their father’s business and be with an English writer (Joseph Mawle).
But as civil war decimates the nation, Kainene winds up running a refugee camp and Olanna is forced to cope with Odenigbo’s infidelity, his disapproving mother and fixation with the houseboy.
The film’s tone lurches between highbrow and soap opera, but is elevated by committed performances and some memorable set-pieces, like a wedding under shellfire.
> VENUS IN FUR (15: Artificial Eye), Roman Polanski’s psychodrama exploring dominance and submission, is based on a hit Broadway play.
On a claustrophobic theatre stage, unknown actress Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner, Mrs Polanski) arrives late to audition for an adaptation of 1870 novel Venus In Fur.
Convinced she’s too brassy and loud for the lead role, the director changes his mind when she gradually becomes the demure seductive heroine of the novelist’s, and his, fantasies. It’s similar to Death And The Maiden, which Polanski transferred from stage to screen 20 years ago.