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.
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 2.23: The Positive-Negative Man If there was a lesson to be learned from Season Five, it was not to include "man" in your title, unless it involves his treasure. The See-Through Man may be the season's stinker, but The Positive-Negative Man isn't far behind, a bog-standard "guy with a magical science device uses it to kill" plot. A bit like The Cybernauts, but with Michael Latimer painted green and a conspicuous absence of a cool hat.
The Avengers 5.24: Mission… Highly Improbable With a title riffing on a then-riding-high US spy show, just as the previous season's The Girl from Auntie riffed on a then-riding-high US spy show, it's to their credit that neither have even the remotest connection to their "inspirations" besides the cheap gags (in this case, the episode was based on a teleplay submitted back in 1964). Mission… Highly Improbable follows in the increasing tradition (certainly with the advent of Season Five and colour) of SF plotlines, but is also, in its particular problem with shrinkage, informed by other recent adventurers into that area.
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.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (aka Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) (2017)
(SPOILERS) The biggest mistake the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels have made is embracing continuity.
It ought to have been just Jack Sparrow with an entirely new cast of characters
each time (well, maybe keep Kevin McNally). Even On Stranger Tides had Geoffrey Rush obligatorily returning as
Barbossa. Although, that picture’s biggest problem was its director; Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge
has a pair of solid helmers in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which is a
relief at least. But alas, the continuity is back with a vengeance. And then some.
Why, there’s even an origin-of-Jack Sparrow vignette, to supply us with prerequisite,
unwanted and distracting uncanny valley (or uncanny Johnny) de-aging. The movie
as a whole is an agreeable time passer, by no means the dodo its critical
keelhauling would suggest, albeit it isn’t even pretending to try hard to come
up with …
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) (SPOILERS) Some of the reactions to Spectre would have you believe it undoes all the “good” work
cementing Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond in Skyfall. If you didn’t see that picture as the second coming of the
franchise (I didn’t) your response to the latest may not be so harsh, despite its
less successful choices (Blofeld among them). And it isn’t as if one step,
forward two steps back are anything new in perceptions of the series (or indeed
hugely divisive views on what even constitutes a decent Bond movie). After the raves greeting Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan suffered a decidedly tepid response to
his second outing, Tomorrow Never Dies,
albeit it was less eviscerated than Craig’s sophomore Quantum of Solace. Tomorrow’s
reputation disguises many strong points, although it has to be admitted that a Moore-era
style finale and a floundering attempt to package in a halcyon villain aren’t among
The Bond series’
flirtations with contemporary relevance have a…