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Life

‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ is an oft-quoted term. In Hollywood, the many celluloid imitations produced must make it the most sincere place on earth. That’s probably untrue although that hasn’t stopped frequent mining of the story pool in search of megabucks. ‘Life’ may feel familiar to science-fiction admirers as its plot mirrors the Ridley Scott film ‘Alien’. Akin to cinematic comfort food, it should appeal to undemanding viewers unconcerned about unoriginality where even space is filled with imitators.

The crew aboard the international space station examine a probe from Mars which has a sample inside. Among the station’s crew are David (Jake Gyllenhaal), Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) and Rory (Ryan Reynolds). Studying the contents, they believe the find may prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life. When the sample begins to gain intelligence events rapidly deteriorate. Trapped and isolated, the crew must find a way to destroy the threat before they reach earth.

‘Life’ is a diverting sci-fi horror yarn using the premise well. It’s been seen several times before but this version is saved by competent performances and great CGI. You’re never sure who will be next target for death’s door with that providing ghoulish fun. Whilst the plot is unimaginative and pedestrian, how Daniel Espinosa’s direction handles the tension and menace hides any script deficiencies. He goes through the usual mechanics well and ensures the film has several unexpected twists.

The cast bring gravitas to ‘Life’ with believable characters facing mortal peril. Although sketchily written, it’s easy following their progress against the alien evil. The other star of the show is the CGI which is suitably amazing. It effectively conveys the isolation within the station’s confines and the vastness of space. Cinema has come a long way from the classic 1930’s space serials with the visual realism of ‘Life’ bringing genuine authenticity.

‘Life’ may not win awards for originality with noticeable nods to ‘Alien’ and others. Its main success is in its creation of atmosphere and flawless special effects. Hopefully a good screenplay will join these elements in future imitations with good ideas always recycled in Hollywood’s dream factory.

Rating out of 10: 6

Dance Academy

Over three seasons, the Australian TV series ‘Dance Academy’ danced a storm. Proving popular with teenage audiences, its’ soap-opera style dramatics made stars of the talented participants. Exploring the often cut-throat world of professional dancing, the issues raised were ones all could relate. With any success come spin-offs with the movie version now here. As high quality as its TV forebear, it should appeal to fans with toe-tapping action within its compelling canvas.

Eighteen months after a fall nearly ends her career, aspiring dancer Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin) aims to return to the fray. Determined to utilise her talents, she travels to New York so she can be selected for a prestigious dance company. Along the way she hooks up with friends including Christian (Jordon Rodrigues), Kat (Alicia Banit) and Ben (Thomas Lacey). Fate hands Tara and her friends with unusual twists in their journey towards achieving their dreams.

Those who loved the series will find much to enjoy in ‘Dance Academy’s film. The core ingredients are easily seen with strong characters, direction and writing evident. It also expands the series’ canvas by going overseas and showing a wider world of dancing competition. It isn’t all tutus and tiaras with rivalry and deception paramount. These are expressed with skill by a solid young cast effortlessly slipping back into familiar roles.

Where ‘Dance Academy’ falters is in its lack of backstory. Whilst long-time fans can easily pick up on previous plot threads, the film makes little allowances for non-fans. Exposition goes a long way to bring in broader audiences which is a mistake several TV to film franchises have made. This takes away from the movie being a complete success despite the energy all bring. The locations and visuals, especially in the dancing sequences, are superb and add another colourful flavour to the existing series.

For fans, ‘Dance Academy’ provides a satisfying experience. Others may be perplexed at character relationships and motivations. It will be interesting if this spins-off into a film franchise with scope for more back-stage tales and drama as only the series can provide.

Rating out of 10: 7