Out in cinemas this week: The G.I. Joes are out in force, and Stephanie Meyer turns from fantasy to sci-fi as the backdrop for her romances of destiny.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
The second Joe movie, this time from a director specializing in high-energy dance visuals and the writers of Zombieland, aims at on-screen intensity and, coming just after the equinox, kicks off the lead-up to the summer blockbuster season. In other franchises the sequel might have been a chance for the star, of the first film to consolidate his dominance, but a glance at the poster shows Channing Tatum has been literally reduced in size behind action superstars Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. (Chu and Tatum did work together on Step Up 2, another sequel in which Tatum was sidelined, for very different reasons.) More accurately, G.I. Joe 2, in which only Tatum, Ray Park, and Byung-hun Lee return from the original, was designed to emphasize the team over the players, which is how it should be in a dance, er, action movie, but the film was delayed from last summer reportedly to beef up Tatum's scenes.
The story: The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock), Jonathan Pryce (President), Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow), Elodie Yung (Jinx), Ray Stevenson (Firefly), D.J. Cotrona (Flint), Adrianne Palicki (Jaye), Channing Tatum (Duke), Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Luke Bracey (Cobra Commander), Walton Goggins (Warden Nigel James), Arnold Vosloo (Zartan), Joseph Mazzello (Mouse), Nick Erickson (President Picture Double), RZA (Blind Master).
Directed by: Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never).
Written by: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).
The Host (2013)
Good grief, Stephanie Meyer's not-vampire door-stopper of a book is already a movie. This time we have puppet masters, which at least is a bit less common than the vampires and werewolves, and a talented writer-director is on board (Andrew Niccol) who's cast actors with multiple facial expressions. Max Irons, son of Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons and so a double acting-scion, was the rich and callow Henry in Red Riding Hood, but that movie's failures weren't his fault; Saoirse Ronan has already had tremendously memorable roles in Atonement, City of Ember, and The Lovely Bones; and Jake Abel, who hitherto has ended up being the twist-reveal villain in both Percy Jackson and I Am Number Four.
The story: When an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories, Melanie will risk everything to protect the people she cares most about, proving that love can conquer all in a dangerous new world.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan (Melanie and Wanda), Jake Abel (Ian), Max Irons (Jared), Diane Kruger (Seeker & Lacey), William Hurt (Jeb Stryder), Rachel Roberts (Soul Fleur), Shyaam Karra (Soul Anshu), Brent Wendell Williams (Soul Winters), Jhil McEntyre (Soul Lake), Jalen Coleman (Soul Nafisa), Stephen Rider (Seeker Reed), Jaylen Moore (Seeker Song), Stephen Conroy (Seeker Sands), Marcus Lyle Brown (Healer Fords), Michael Parker (Seeker Wolfe), Phil Austin (Seeker Waverley), Chandler Canterbury (Jamie), J.D. Evermore (Trevor Stryder).
Directed by: Andrew Niccol (writer-director of In Time, Lord of War, S1m0ne, Gattaca).
Written by: Andrew Niccol, from the novel by (sigh) Stephenie Meyer.