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…

Your honor, with all due respect: if you're going to try my case for me, I wish you wouldn't lose it.

The Verdict (1982)
(SPOILERS) Sidney Lumet’s return to the legal arena, with results every bit as compelling as 12 Angry Men a quarter of a century earlier. This time the focus is on the lawyer, in the form of Paul Newman’s washed-up ambulance chaser Frank Galvin, given a case that finally matters to him. In less capable hands, The Verdict could easily have resorted to a punch-the-air piece of Hollywood cheese, but, thanks to Lumet’s earthy instincts and a sharp, unsentimental screenplay from David Mamet, this redemption tale is one of the genre’s very best.

And it could easily have been otherwise. The Verdict went through several line-ups of writer, director and lead, before reverting to Mamet’s original screenplay. There was Arthur Hiller, who didn’t like the script. Robert Redford, who didn’t like the subsequent Jay Presson Allen script and brought in James Bridges (Redford didn’t like that either). Finally, the producers got the hump with the luxuriantly golden-haired star for meetin…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

Who are you and why do you know so much about car washes?

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
(SPOILERS) The belated arrival of the Ant-Man sequel on UK shores may have been legitimately down to World Cup programming, but it nevertheless adds to the sense that this is the inessential little sibling of the MCU, not really expected to challenge the grosses of a Doctor Strange, let alone the gargantuan takes of its two predecessors this year. Empire magazine ran with this diminution, expressing disappointment that it was "comparatively minor and light-hitting" and "lacks the scale and ambition of recent Marvel entries". Far from deficits, for my money these should be regard as accolades bestowed upon Ant-Man and the Wasp; it understands exactly the zone its operating in, yielding greater dividends than the three most recent prior Marvel entries the review cites in its efforts at point scoring.

The simple fact is, your killer is in your midst. Your killer is one of you.

The Avengers 5.12: The Superlative Seven
I’ve always rather liked this one, basic as it is in premise. If the title consciously evokes The Magnificent Seven, to flippant effect, the content is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but played out with titans of their respective crafts – including John Steed, naturally – encountering diminishing returns. It also boasts a cast of soon-to-be-famous types (Charlotte Rampling, Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland), and the return of one John Hollis (2.16: Warlock, 4.7: The Cybernauts). Kanwitch ROCKS!

I freely chose my response to this absurd world. If given the opportunity, I would have been more vigorous.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
(SPOILERS) I suspect, if I hadn’t been ignorant of the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee selling secrets to the Soviets during the ‘70s, I’d have found The Falcon and the Snowman less engaging than I did. Which is to say that John Schlesinger’s film has all the right ingredients to be riveting, including a particularly camera-hogging performance from Sean Penn (as Lee), but it’s curiously lacking in narrative drive. Only fitfully does it channel the motives of its protagonists and their ensuing paranoia. As such, the movie makes a decent primer on the case, but I ended up wondering if it might not be ideal fodder for retelling as a miniseries.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
(SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison.

Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War, Infinity Wars I & II, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions (Iron Man II), but there are points in Age of Ultron where it becomes distractingly so. …

You use a scalpel. I prefer a hammer.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
(SPOILERS) The latest instalment of the impossibly consistent in quality Mission: Impossible franchise has been hailed as the best yet, and with but a single dud among the sextet that’s a considerable accolade. I’m not sure it's entirely deserved – there’s a particular repeated thematic blunder designed to add some weight in a "hero's validation" sense that not only falls flat, but also actively detracts from the whole – but as a piece of action filmmaking, returning director Christopher McQuarrie has done it again. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is an incredible accomplishment, the best of its ilk this side of Mad Max: Fury Road.