Movie reviews: Ashfall, Cats
This action blockbuster might be about a disaster, but thankfully it does not play out as one on the big screen.
Ashfall imagines what the Korean peninsula would be like after its tallest volcano straddling the China-North Korea border erupts, leaving the only course of action to be counteracting further deadlier eruptions - by stealing missiles held by North Korea.
Though overtly politically charged, viewers might be more drawn to the subplot and wonder whether the bomb diffuser-turned-mission captain (Ha Jung-woo) will return in time to reunite with his pregnant wife (Bae Suzy).
He is likeable and portrays the family man in a way that makes the film seem more real when set amid the apocalyptic scenes.
The antics of a North Korean elite officer and prisoner (Lee Byung-hyun) also keep us entertained. Ashfall does not keep viewers guessing and delivers a message that love can indeed save the day.
This musical has had a critical lashing for many reasons, though the design of the humanoid cats is not the worst offender. Nor is it the poor quality of the graphics – so lacking that a version with improved effects has been dispatched to some cinemas.
The big problem is that Cats, which revolves around a tribe of cats that must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer (whatever that is) and come back to a new life, is too slavish to the long-running West End and Broadway musical it is based on.
There's an assumption that what works on a stage is not destined to wow on film.
And it goes beyond the apparent belief that everyone knows what the highly-repeated word "jellicle" means.
Take the tap dancing. Live and on stage, it is a feat of skill. On film, it is just a shaking leg and some clacking sounds.
Also, the sound mix during the songs is way off, leaving those unfamiliar with the musical straining to make out what is being sung.
Most telling is the performance of Memory by Jennifer Hudson. It is the show's most famous song – possibly because it is the only one to not have the word "cat" peppered throughout each verse.
Hudson provides the one high point as she belts it out with real emotion - tears, snot, the lot.
In doing so, she shames everyone else who, comparatively, are merely singing words to tunes. The irony is that Cats is so bad it deserves to be seen if only to be studied.