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
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,
The Predator (2018) (SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.
It Couldn't Happen Here (1987) (SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.
The Avengers 5.21: You Have Just Been Murdered Slender in concept – if you're holding out for a second act twist, you'll be sorely disappointed – You Have Just Been Murdered nevertheless sustains itself far past the point one might expect thanks to shock value that doesn't wear out through repetition, a suitably sinister performance from Simon Oates (Steed in the 1971 stage adaptation of the show) and a cartoonish one from George Murcell (1.3: Square Root of Evil) as Needle, of the sort you might expect Matt Berry to spoof.
Ghostbusters (2016) (SPOILERS) Paul
Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough
to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped
make his Ghostbusters remake (or
reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not
even being that great a movie in the first place.
lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem,
but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s
ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the
asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the
subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no
great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure
that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant
nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters,
but aside from …
The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).
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.
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 Matrix – The 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…
If Panos Cosmatos’ debut had continued with the slow-paced, tripped-out psychedelia of the first hour or so I would probably have been fully on board with it, but the decision to devolve into an ‘80s slasher flick in the final act lost me.
The director is the son of George Pan Cosmatos (he of The Cassandra Crossing and Cobra, and in name alone of Tombstone, apparently) and it appears that his inspiration was what happened to the baby boomers in the ‘80s, his parents’ generation. That element translates effectively, expressed through the extreme of having a science institute engaging in Crowley/Jack Parsons/Leary occult quests for enlightenment in the ‘60s and the survivors having become burnt out refugees or psychotics by the ‘80s. Depending upon your sensibilities, the torturously slow pace and the synth soundtrack are positives, while the cinematography managed to evoke both lurid early ‘80s cinema and ‘60s experimental fare.
Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of
satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers.
Small Soldiers finds him back after a
six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the
military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence
forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The
only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a
director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all
Dante acknowledged Small
Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins,
and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one
level it has something in common with Gremlins
2: The New Batch, in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that
suited it oblivious to whether the audience was on …