Skip to main content

They call him "The Weapon".

The Last Witch Hunter
(2015)

(SPOILERS) Don’t you shake your gory locks at Vin, pestilent witch-hags, and definitely not when he’s sporting some proficiently hirsute wig-age himself. Something of a dream project for Vin (but aren’t they all?), being a big D&D fan (the big, bald, lovably nerdy schlub), and another of his doomed dreams for a franchise starter. No Vin, no one wants to see you non-Dom (well, I’d rather like to see you Riddicking-out again, but any chance of further escapades there seem done and dusted), I suspect not even xXx-ing. In this case, though, mostly because The Last Witch Hunter’s rather boring.


I like a good B-witch movie as much as the next person content to make light of the terrible injustices perpetrated through the Middle Ages and beyond by vilifying the old ways and accusing anyone who took one’s non-fancy of being one, but this isn’t among their number, alas. I’d much rather encore the daft but fun Nic Cage Season of the Witch. That at least was period-centric, and gave Nic a titan of hair tendrils. Here, Vin, wanting to play husky modern man Vin, can’t even be bothered to stay put. Before we know it, having defeated the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) and been cursed with immortality, like an even less expressive Connor McLeod, follicly flatulent McKaulder is given an extreme makeover, resurfacing with familiar shiny pate and in the old 21st, slaying dread witches (now a race, distinct from humans) for the saintly order of The Axe and Cross.


There’s an assortment of familiar faces lending support, from Michael Caine, well into his 80s but appealingly showing he’s as ready to swoop in for a payday and a payday only, the art be damned, as he was 30 years ago, playing Kaulder’s right-hand man (Vin unconvincingly refers to him as “kid”; they have zero rapport), to Elijah Wood as a slightly creepy priestly replacement (is there any other Wood role, aside from innocent; creepy tells you enough about the character’s ultimate destination, anyway), to Rose Leslie of Game of Thrones, the evidence suggesting she should steer clear of the posh accent (she looks like she’s having a devil of a time chewing on it), as a good witch. 


Occasionally, someone shows up and lends a touch of class, such as Isaach De Bankole’s blind dealer witch, but portly bad guy Belial (Olafur Darri Olafsson) isn’t fooling anyone that he’s a match for the Diesel (although his fake beard is equally fake looking, so there’s that).


Vin’s been here with doomed genre forays before, of course, such as the well-meaning but largely banal Babylon A.D. Witch Hunter likewise arrives laden with clichés. It comes as no surprise that the not-especially-interesting Witch Queen, the presumed vanquished foe of the first scene, wishes to stage a rematch, or that she does so in the company of a bucket load of CGI. Meanwhile Vin, despite 800 years to come to terms with his lot, is still doting over lost love, and annoyingly obsessed with taking a vision quest of which no good can come.


The Last Witch Hunter is blessed with a plot so undemanding, it’s difficult to summon any resolve trying to relate it, so I won’t even try. I don’t really blame director Breck Eisner (brought into replace Timur Bekmambetov), since his Crazies remake (already half a decade old) was really quite respectable. And Dean Semler ensures the visuals look forgettably proficient enough. No, mostly it’s the writers who warrant acrimony. I’ll hold off on criticising Cory Goodman, without anything else to compare against, whose Blacklist script got this moving, but the rewrite by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, go-to guys for shite fantasy vehicles (Dracula Untold, Gods of Egypt) is probably the chief culprit. That and the problem of Vin’s enthusiasm for different genres outweighing his adaptability. This is closer to Arnie taking on one of these sorts of roles in his late ‘90s-early ‘00s decline, and rather suggests an actor who mistakenly thinks he has the star power to get by through playing his own self-styled type.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Life is like a box of timelines. You feel me?

Russian Doll Season One
(SPOILERS) It feels like loading the dice to proclaim something necessarily better because it’s female-driven, but that’s the tack The Hollywood Reporter took with its effusive review of Russian Doll, suggesting “although Nadia goes on a similar journey of self-discovery to Bill Murray’s hackneyed reporter in Groundhog Day, the fact that the show was created, written by and stars women means that it offers up a different, less exploitative and far more thoughtful angle” (than the predominately male-centric entries in the sub-genre). Which rather sounds like Rosie Knight changing the facts to fit her argument. And ironic, given star Natasha Lyonne has gone out of her way to stress the show’s inclusive message. Russian Dollis good, but the suggestion that “unlike its predecessors (it) provides a thoughtfulness, authenticity and honesty which makes it inevitable end (sic) all the more powerful” is cobblers.

We’re not owners here, Karen. We’re just passing through.

Out of Africa (1985)
I did not warm to Out of Africa on my initial viewing, which would probably have been a few years after its theatrical release. It was exactly as the publicity warned, said my cynical side; a shallow-yet-bloated, awards-baiting epic romance. This was little more than a well-dressed period chick flick, the allure of which was easily explained by its lovingly photographed exotic vistas and Robert Redford rehearsing a soothing Timotei advert on Meryl Streep’s distressed locks. That it took Best Picture only seemed like confirmation of it as all-surface and no substance. So, on revisiting the film, I was curious to see if my tastes had “matured” or if it deserved that dismissal. 

Mountains are old, but they're still green.

Roma (2018)
(SPOILERS) Roma is a critics' darling and a shoe-in for Best Foreign Film Oscar, with the potential to take the big prize to boot, but it left me profoundly indifferent, its elusive majesty remaining determinedly out of reach. Perhaps that's down to generally spurning autobiographical nostalgia fests – complete with 65mm widescreen black and white, so it's quite clear to viewers that the director’s childhood reverie equates to the classics of old – or maybe the elliptical characterisation just didn't grab me, but Alfonso Cuarón's latest amounts to little more than a sliver of substance beneath all that style.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

We’re looking for a bug no one’s seen before. Some kind of smart bug.

Starship Troopers (1997)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi trio of Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers are frequently claimed to be unrivalled in their genre, but it’s really only the first of them that entirely attains that rarefied level. Discussion and praise of Starship Troopers is generally prefaced by noting that great swathes of people – including critics and cast members – were too stupid to realise it was a satire. This is a bit of a Fight Club one, certainly for anyone from the UK (Verhoeven commented “The English got it though. I remember coming out of Heathrow and seeing the posters, which were great. They were just stupid lines about war from the movie. I thought, ‘Finally someone knows how to promote this.’”) who needed no kind of steer to recognise what the director was doing. And what he does, he does splendidly, even if, at times, I’m not sure he entirely sustains a 129-minute movie, since, while both camp and OTT, Starship Troopers is simultaneously required t…

Even after a stake was driven through its heart, there’s still interest.

Prediction 2019 Oscars
Shockingly, as in I’m usually much further behind, I’ve missed out on only one of this year’s Best Picture nominees– Vice isn’t yet my vice, it seems – in what is being suggested, with some justification, as a difficult year to call. That might make for must-see appeal, if anyone actually cared about the movies jostling for pole position. If it were between Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody (if they were even sufficiently up to snuff to deserve a nod in the first place), there might be a strange fascination, but Joe Public don’t care about Roma, underlined by it being on Netflix and stillconspicuously avoided by subscribers (if it were otherwise, they’d be crowing about viewing figures; it’s no Bird Box, that’s for sure).

Now we're all wanted by the CIA. Awesome.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
(SPOILERS) There’s a groundswell of opinion that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the best in near 20-year movie franchise. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but only because this latest instalment and its two predecessors have maintained such a consistently high standard it’s difficult to pick between them. III featured a superior villain and an emotional through line with real stakes. Ghost Protocol dazzled with its giddily constructed set pieces and pacing. Christopher McQuarrie’s fifth entry has the virtue of a very solid script, one that expertly navigates the kind of twists and intrigue one expects from a spy franchise. It also shows off his talent as a director; McQuarrie’s not one for stylistic flourish, but he makes up for this with diligence and precision. Best of all, he may have delivered the series’ best character in Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust (admittedly, in a quintet that makes a virtue of pared down motivation and absen…

Yeah, she loused up one of the five best days of your life.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
(SPOILERS) The zeitgeist Best Picture Oscar winner is prone to falling from grace like no other. Often, they’re films with notable acting performances but themes that tend to appear antiquated or even slightly offensive in hindsight. Few extol the virtues of American Beauty the way they did twenty years ago, and Kramer vs. Kramer isn’t quite seen as exemplifying a sensitive and balanced examination of the fallout of divorce on children and their parents the way it was forty years previously. It remains a compelling film for the performances, but it’s difficult not to view it, despite the ameliorating effect of Meryl Streep (an effect she had to struggle to exert), as a vanity project of its star, and one that doesn’t do him any favours with hindsight and behind-the-scenes knowledge.