Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Adaptation: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The A-word.
It's the bane of cinephiles, everywhere.

That book you love; the comic you remember; the show you used to watch; the game you lost an entire summer playing? Oh, someone's adapted it and it's getting made into a movie! Whether a cause for pre-emptive celebration or foreboding caution, it leads to only one thing: expectation. And expectation is the death of the 'clean' movie-viewing experience; no matter how closely the film sticks to its source material, or how much it tries to distance itself, it will be faced with the hurdle of comparison.

And while the movie industry loves the pre-built marketing buzz of 'now a major motion picture!', they loathe the comparative references which will be made from the first review onwards. Because many punters will expect to get exactly the same reaction from a completely different medium, to a story they already know. And therein lies the problem.

In this monthly series, we'll look back at some of the most respected and best-loved properties which have made the perilous journey to the big screen; often with some controversy, and almost always with far too much hype. This isn't so much a review of the films themselves, more an appraisal of their suitability as an adaptation.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill (1999)

The final comic-adaptation of this run makes makes an interesting counterpart to the last two works of Moore's I've read. Whereas Watchmen took place in an alternate-present USA and V for Vendetta showed an alternate-future England, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen inhabits an alternate past.

Just before the dawn of the twentieth century on Blighty's shores, the literary heroes (and villains) of the era share a borderline steampunk world. Campion Bond, a government agent supervised by the mysterious M, draws together a strike-team to defend the interests of the British Empire, knowing a fantastic threat calls for an extraordinary solution. Calling upon Wilhelmina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jeckyll/Edward Hyde and one Hawley Griffin, the table is set for a rollocking adventure. A Victorian Avengers, if you will.

On the surface at least, League is an interesting combination of those previous works I've covered, in that it's a tale of bickering costumed adventurers pulled together to face a greater foe in the name of national security (Watchmen), and has a borderline fixation with an unattainable (or certainly unsustainable) Glorious Britannia™ which only existed in the minds of those who were benefitting from its excesses (Vendetta). But whereas Moore's earlier pieces had heavyweight social themes running through meticulous plotting, this story is more of a rip-roaring homage to Boys' Own adventure journals (although it is not a child-friendly tome), tongue-in-cheek and aimed at an audience for whom mockery is one of the sincerest forms of flattery. While the coarser humour never reaches levels of outright discomfort, Moore's comedic digs at colonialist attitudes of the past are, at times, barely distinguishable from the real thing. But he's always had a dark-streak when it comes to laughs.

The first book is steadily paced but it struggles to fit the main story-thread alongside all the character introduction (comprising six collected issues of the comic-run), although there's also a wealth of background in-universe material presented as an appendix. The second volume feels more problematic, beginning on Mars and working in characters from John Carter*1 and War of the Worlds. It's a strong start, but again the six-issue structure hampers the amount of storytelling which can reasonably occur with the now considerable cast. In the middle of the run you can feel Moore's attention wandering away, and the focus of the writing dips markedly, as a lengthy detour works Dr. Moreau and his menagerie of visual gags into the proceedings and any previous character-building is pretty much thrown in the bin.

The actual conclusion to the main narrative of Vol.II takes place over six panels, two pages from the end, and pretty unconvincingly to boot. It's as if Moore and O'Neill had suddenly realised that this was the arse-end of the last issue. This could, to be fair, have been a nod to my existing bugbear with some of the inspirational source-material, but it feels like a tacked-on ending to a gradually unravelling story.

Also, it would have been nice to see Mina actually using her 'super-power'. One proper female character in the whole thing and she gets pretty much nothing to do. I imagine that could be addressed in Volume III, but Vol.II's shenanigans*2 have put that well on the back burner to be honest…

Not as culturally insightful or impactful as the author's earlier works, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is nonetheless to be commended for its its scope, methodology and (for the most part) its execution. It's not that the books have nothing to say, just that they have enough trouble telling their own central story without throwing subtext into the mix.

But can I see why it'd be optioned for a film-release? Absolutely

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Stephen Norrington (2003)

Wow, this film's taken some flak over the years. Some of it well-deserved admittedly, but in terms of an ensemble-cast Victorian superhero movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen delivers just fine. And it's not like the source-material is quite as iconic as others on the same shelf...

Landing in the same year as X-Men 2 and from the same studio, the film's very much of a similar style and tone, but that was largely 20th Century Fox's modus operandi circa 2003. Pretty much all of Alan Moore's arch humour has been replaced with an altogether more pedestrian action-movie-slapstick. Some of the visuals haven't aged particularly well in the intervening years, but it more or less holds up for a fourteen-year old movie crowbarred into the marketplace by a studio not content with having All The Mutants. And when you look at what Universal were putting out the year before with The Scorpion King, it ain't so bad.

Updates for the screen-version include the addition of Special Agent Tom Sawyer, the near-invincible Dorian Gray and the book's original villain (half) appearing under the pseudonym of The Fantom (spelling deliberate).

As screen-time gives more leeway than comic-pages, the actual character interaction is far better in the film (and many of the less savoury aspects of the book have been eliminated altogether), although the dialogue itself is perfunctory to the point of patronising. Sean Connery's Quatermain isn't just there for random bouts of exposition, he basically just describes things as they happen, like an in-universe Audio Description channel.

Is it a faithful adaptation of the book? Not particularly. Would it have been afforded the same cast, budget and distribution if it were? Absolutely not. But the book was an uneven pastiche mash-up at best, frequently getting sidetracked by its own gimmicks. The film may be imperfect, but it's consistently that way. It's not that the original work is 'unfilmable', just that Fox don't make movies like that (although we'll see what they do with the rumoured reboot, now that Deadpool and Logan have widened the scope a little).

Okay, it's not the best film of its genre (it's not even the best film of 2003), but LXG is a perfectly acceptable, if disposable, action/adventure movie.

Is the original thing any good, though?
...It starts better than it ends.
I'd read the graphic novel back in around 2004 and didn't really 'get' it, as I'd seen the film first (indeed that's why I bought it). Having revisited it and its companion volume in relative 'isolation', I get it more now but think I somehow like it less

Is the film-version any good, though?
Many would say not.
I've seen far worse.
In the last week

So, should I check out one, both or neither?
If you're intrigued by the idea and its possibilities, both.

Oh, is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: That Sean Connery's in this (he's in next month's Adaptation, too), and he was in that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade alongside Harrison 'Solo' Ford, Julian 'Veers' Glover, Michael 'Ozzel' Sheard, Nick 'Drallig' Gillard and Derek 'Yavin IV Guard' Lyons.

*1 At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I think we're all aware that the movie-version of League currently enjoys a less-than stellar reputation, with a critic-score of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, whilst 2012's John Carter adaptation languishes at 51% (even though it's near-universally derided) and 2009's Dorian Gray sits at 43%. What is it about Victorian sci-fi that doesn't translate to the modern screen for audiences and critics? For the record and in the interests of full-disclosure, I'm one of about twelve people on Earth who enjoyed John Carter. I think the other eleven work at Disney, and even one of those sat in a Monday meeting after release and asked "…why can't we just buy Star Wars, though?". [ BACK ]

*2 And not to put-off anyone who hasn't read the books, but while Moore's fascination with erotica is well documented, League is a bit 'rapey' in more than one sequence. By which I mean four. It's not a defining trait of the book, but it doesn't have to be to leave a bad taste. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review: Transformers - The Last Knight

Name: Transformers: The Last Knight (2D) / Student Responsible: Michael Bay / Age: 12 (advisory) /Studied: 10 years / Projects Completed: 5 / Latest Project Length: 149 minutes
This has been a difficult year for Michael as he struggles to find coherence in his creative activities. Never the highest achiever in his peer-group, he has nonetheless been a conscientious student in the past, delivering projects to the best of his ability. Recent years have seen him coast into unfocused laziness however, an attitude resurgent in his end-of-year project, The Last Knight. While we wouldn't expect the fifth part of his ongoing series to be a vie for critical acclaim alone, after watching the performance we weren't sure who it was actually aimed at. If Michael is to succeed in his chosen field, he needs to spend more time thinking about why his projects exist, rather than just how to complete them.

Performance in specific areas:

Attendance: C-
Whilst Michael has succeeded in the relative non-achievement of engaging the theatre department's Mark McMark for a second consecutive production, it has been noted that the performer only initially became involved because of the director's falling out with prior collaborators Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox from years 3 and 2, respectively. In his latest presentation, Michael seems incredibly self-satisfied to have secured returning supporting cast-members from earlier productions, namely Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Glenn Morshower. This charitable act of continuity on Michael's part is undercut slightly given that LaBeouf and Fox either haven't been asked to reprise or just aren't interested, although the former's image is presented as a photograph at one point, presumably as a move in some manner of theatrical tit-for-tat. In addition to all this, the film sees the return of the Megatron character, but voiced by the music department's Mr. Frank Welker, as it apears Hugo Weaving has changed his phone number.

Design Work: B-
Michael's main mechanical-cast look visually impressive as always, and the director has managed to abstain from following the film's female characters around at bottom-height, this time. However, sunsets and lensflare continue to be a problem, and the filmmaker's boastful use of Imax cameras throughout means that the 99.9% of cinema audiences who won't be watching on the proprietary format will still be subjected to an aspect ratio which isn't even as wide as 16:9, never mind the generally expected 2.35:1. Because the school auditorium's side-curtains were not operational at the time of our performance, the examination panel could actually see two sets of black bars at the picture's sides as a result.

Physical Education: B
The Last Knight establishes in its first act a ticking countdown-timer of three days. The story's principal characters manage to stay alert, active and energetic for that entire duration despite apparently going nowhere near a wink of sleep. Extra points are awarded in this category for the same characters' resourceful good hygiene in having frequent changes of clothes, despite both having been effectively kidnapped on the fly in the first twenty minutes.

Chemistry: C
With the exception of Anthony Hopkins who overacts gleefully in every single scene of his, the vast majority of exchanges here consist of cast members awaiting their delivery cues, be that the director shouting 'action', someone else's line of script or just a prop thrown into shot by a runner to simulate some robots fighting off-camera. While there is little-to-no meaningful interaction between the human characters, this doesn't actually matter in The Last Knight.

Physics: C
Whilst Michael has a broad grasp of gravity, he continues to be unsure of basic time/distance travel calculations, the resulting actions of a 20+ tonne machine walking upright over a muddy field, and the impactful introduction of a moon-sized object within the Earth's atmosphere and onto the planet's surface. Mr Spielberg has offered Michael extra tuition on these and further items on several occasions, to no avail.

Logical Reasoning:
See Physics.

Sociology: C-
For a film with a concept of robot-smacks-robot, the population is far too high. Outside of the core cast of Mark McMark, Laura Haddock and Anthony Hopkins, the story introduces significant numbers of tertiary (human) characters who are apparently forgotten about until they're wheeled in to deliver exposition at some later point.

Creative Writing: D
Michael has been assisted by four writers here, all apparently obsessed with sassy, comedic bickering but encumbered with a cast unable to deliver it. People in closed rooms shout at each other as general conversation. The narrative makes no sense, the script is awful, the characters are flimsy, the cast lack direction and the direction lacks coherence. The Last Knight ends up like a two-and-a-half-hour cutscene from a video game nobody needs to play.

English Language: E
"The judgement… is death!" cries one executioner-robot during the film's finale. No, the sentence would be death. The 'judgement' would be guilty. And this is a character with a computer for a brain, remember…

Geography: Unclassified
This is where we have serious concerns with Michael's performance at our school. Although operating in a fictional, non-documentary capacity, The Last Knight has such a basic disregard for its locations that we have refused to award a mark for this module. Bay may believe his core audience is too young to think about the internal logic of the film, but to even hold children in educational contempt is nothing short of shameful.

The problems which were noted included (but were not limited to):

• Mark McMark's chauffeured aeroplane arrives at the United Kingdom and actually touches its wheels down on the While Cliffs of Dover, the implication being that his host Anthony Hopkins lives in his castle in Dover. Otherwise, why would the vehicle have landed in Dover? After several scenes of messy exposition, it's revealed that this castle is actually about three minutes drive away from Westminster in London (which is in actual fact 85 miles away from Dover), and also about five minutes drive from the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford (which is 59 miles from Westminster, and 144 miles away from Dover). Audiences in England (especially the Southern counties) will be acutely aware of this disparity.

• In fact, if the aeroplane is flying in from America (which is to the west of Britain, if we remember correctly), why would it be seen approaching the White Cliffs of Dover (which are located on the south-east coast)? The plane would be skirting over Cornwall at an absolute push, which is still hundreds of miles away from London. The only time you see those cliffs is if you're coming in from Calais, France.

• Additionally, Hopkins' jaunt into the capital takes him within walking distance of "Trinity Library", as it's named in the script. While this is is not geographically described in the film, it is nonetheless revealed to be the very famous library of Trinity College in Dublin, which is 369 miles from London.

• The exterior of Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace has been filmed as a Nazi stronghold in a Second World War flashback-sequence, and while the building is not intended to be its actual self, Michael has nonetheless chosen a very visually distinctive landmark already associated with that war (being the birthplace of one Winston Churchill) to pretend is somewhere else completely. Presumably he could not find any other old buildings in England to film outside of.

• Back in London, the film implies that one can just walk up to the front door of 10 Downing Street (one cannot), and then that there's a 'secret back door' entrance in the Strand, which is about half a mile away and in the opposite direction to the one in which Anthony Hopkins walks off.

• And our most contested moment might have been where Hopkins instructs McMark to liberate a submarine from "the Naval Museum", which in London can only realistically mean Greenwich. This action is duly performed and the craft is seen cruising under London's Tower Bridge having travelled eight and a half miles up-river for no reason whatsoever, before next emerging at the foot of Dover's White Cliffs in what can only have been a coastal-skirting waste of time. Here is that every-second-counts journey on a map:
Transformers: The Geography of Michael Bay

There IS a (slim) chance that the Naval Museum which Hopkins refers to is the one in Portsmouth (where the scene was actually filmed), but given that's 73 miles south-west of London, this wouldn't explain why the submarine is then spotted at Tower Bridge before arriving back at Dover...

For audiences with even a basic grasp of UK landmarks or geography, this film is going to be unwatchable.

We appear to have reached Peak Bay; The Last Knight is absolute cinematic gibberish. It is the school's recommendation that Michael should leave to pursue more varied projects in the wider world, allowing other students to experiment, flourish and learn from his follies.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Transformers: Age of Extinction. It is like that one.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you must.
Although I'll warn you now: I had a headache by the time we get to Mark McMark's junkyard twenty minutes in, and it did not shift until I was back out in the street after the film. Never before have I welcomed the tranquility of rush-hour traffic

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
In Michael Bay's head, it probably does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
By no means, although it's oddly harmless considering everything that's wrong with it.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Oh, probably not. For everything I've written*1, I didn't actively hate The Last Knight. Apart from anything else I didn't have a chance to, I spent too much time trying to work out what the actual fuck was going on.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I may be mistaken, but I believe the film actually opens with one, melded into some other sound-effects. Not that I'm going to watch it again to make certain, of course.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: That Uncredited First Order General / Stormtrooper from The Force Awakens / Rogue One is in this. Yes, of course that counts.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I hope you're impressed, by the way, that I've gone this far through the review without needing a single footnote.
I know I am. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Review: Gifted

Cert: 12A / 101 mins / Dir. Marc Webb / Trailer

My local cinema hosted an advance screening of Marc Webb's new movie last week. I was due to go, but plans shifted so that I delayed watching a heartwarming, uplifting tale of sacrifice, perseverance and belief in favour of seeing an old friend and getting blind drunk instead. This decision-making process should indicate that I'm not really the target audience for Gifted, and the rest of this review should be translated accordingly.

In the blue-collar coastal suburbs of Florida, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is the adoptive uncle of orphaned mathematical prodigy Mary (Mckenna Grace), struggling with moving her from homeschooling to mainstream education in a bid to build her social skills and let her enjoy her childhood. But a regular school offers no intellectual challenges, only behavioural ones, and the child's grandmother has other plans for Mary's development...

What begins as an ochre-washed, ukulele driven twee-fest to rival the best of Nicholas Sparks*1, goes through the motions of sighs, tears, revelations, pacing of the courtroom floor, the swelling of the strings-section and hugs before bedtime. The film is efficiently executed, but lacks inspiration all round. Credit where it's due, the central performances by Mckenna Grace and Chris Evans are very strong. They're excellent individually, and the pair have a chemistry in their scenes together which defines the heart of the film. And Gifted does have a heart, it just expresses that through the medium of Hallmark Channel Autopilot™.

As Octavia Spencer's over-protective neighbour, Jenny Slate's wet-blanket of a teacher and Linsday Duncan's meddling grandmother-character dutifully tick off the boxes on their Plot Device Checklist, the problem soon arises that the more secondary/ancillary characters are introduced, the more irreversibly clichéd the while thing becomes. The film sags terribly at around the half-way mark and never manages to regain its composure. Even a shoehorned sequence of 'will Frank make the drive across town before they put the cat to sleep?'*2, is so phoned-in that by the time our hero breathlessly arrives in the vet's backroom murder-chamber, Ginger Fred's basically sitting filing his claws murmuring "Oh, you're here, then?". It's a safe play in a script that was never going to take any risks in the first place.

Also, this loses a point for Frank using 'Legos' as a collective term for pieces of the popular branded construction-set. And if the kid had been as bright as the screenplay makes out, she'd have thoroughly schooled him over that one. Legos. I ask you.

I understand why Evans wanted to do Gifted, of course, and as he's one of the two great things about the movie it's another string to his bow. But as not-inconsiderable as that bow is, the string itself is thoroughly unremarkable…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Something like Me Before You, probably.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No, this is made for skipping past on a weekday afternoon when you're looking for something to watch.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Oh, probably.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well it's the star of The First Avenger and director of Amazing Spider-Man 2, SO HOW ABOUT NO?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not one jot.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: TC-14's in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Full disclosure, I'm generalising there. I've never watched any Nicholas Sparks output. Seen plenty of trailers, haven't had the strength to attempt the films themselves though. I seem to recall seeing the promo-reel for The Longest Ride and thinking 'but this looks exactly the same as every other story he's written?'. Then it occurred to me that the target demographic for these movies probably has that precise reaction while I'm two rows away squealing over the latest Marvel trailer, so fair play I suppose... [ BACK ]

*2 Spoiler: of course he does. Although I'd be interested to see one of these flicks where he doesn't. Where the wheels basically fall off everything at the end of Act III, and the final scene features the mentor character talking to their young charge, saying "Yeah, that's life I'm afraid. An unending torrent of inconvenience, loss and pain where everything drifts toward entropy until you're too tired to fight and too numb to care. But hey, there's always bourbon. Whiskey for me, biscuits for you; you're only eight.", then the beaten-car drives off into a sunset while the camera tracks over to a dude wearing a 'the end is nigh' sandwich board and the gun poorly concealed in the pocket of his dirty coat...
And that's why they keep returning my screenplays. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: The Mummy

The Mummy (2017)
Cert: 15 / 110 mins / Dir. Alex Kurtzman / Trailer

Hey, I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong. Repeated exposure to the trailers for Universal's 2017 reboot of The Mummy had already convinced me that Sofia Boutella would be the best thing in an otherwise desperate franchise-startup. As it turns out, the French-Algerian kickass dancer and actress is almost wasted in the film, with most of the focus being reserved for Tom Cruise's range of expression*1. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

Anyway, in case you'd been living in a cave, The Mummy is an overhaul of the cinematic-property in general, last gracing our screens under Brendan Fraser's auspices in the 1999+ series. Now set in the present day, our hero is Tom Cruise's Nick Morton, an 'entrepreneur of antiquities' who, with his partner in adventure Chris (Jake Johnson), accidentally wakes up a very angry Egyptian lady (Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet) after stealing a map from a slightly less-angry British archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis)*2. Thrown into the mix is Russell Crowe's London-based research scientist, Dr. Henry Jekyll, anxious to get his hands on the newly-risen queen For Research Purposes™. As you can imagine, there's hell-on.

This of course is the first installment in the new 'Dark Universe' franchise, fresh out of the stable with a suitably hubristic ident following the standard Universal Studios intro. And there are, of course, an utterly shameless number of setups and future callbacks established here, with the studio not only throwing their hat into the continuity ring, but also betting the housekeeping on their eventual outcome. Front and centre of all this is Tom Cruise, leading a film as only he can, gleaming and coiffured in pretty much every scene, with a strategic box-to-stand-on when the need arises.

And you know what? I rather enjoyed this film.
There. I said it.

Having braced myself for the worst (the aforementioned trailers, plus the fact that the movie's been out for almost two weeks here and I hadn't summoned the willpower to walk ten minutes from my house to watch it), it becomes apparent after about fifteen minutes or so that it's not at all bad. I mean sure, it's The Tom Cruise Summer Blockbuster By Numbers Adventure Hour™, but it's bloody good at being that. I've certainly seen far, far worse this year, that's for sure. It helps that the film's a 15 certificate rather than the standard 12A. Things never get gory or even particularly savage, but there's an occasional level of intensity that you can't generally carry off at the lower age-rating*3. Conversely, there's no denying that Tom Cruise brings a lightness of touch to The Mummy which the film (and indeed series, if it's to continue) needs at its outset, in this age of desaturated frowny-destruction. Not all of the gags land in the correct place, but Big Tom has a surprising poker-face when it comes to delivering quips which would make many another actor stumble.

You'd expect this flagship offering to borrow tonally a little from the 1999 film-series, and that it does at first, with a decent amount of restraint. Although the screenplay also steals beats from Indiana Jones, which again is expected/fine. Oh, and The Birds. And Hellraiser. And An American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys, Shaun of the Dead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As tribute-acts go, The Mummy has pretty strong game.

As referenced up top there, it's more than a little disappointing that Sofia Boutella has been cast in the antagonist-role as a furious, vengeful sociopath and is then pretty much reduced to padding around in bandages and murmuring threats like a Sexy Mumm-Ra™, while the story revolves around what Tom's currently up to. But I suppose it's The Summer, right? Not Mad Mummy's Murder-Hour™.

Considering quite how generic this opening chapter is in both concept and execution, The Mummy is a pleasing ride. This isn't Universal's big splash, they're just testing the water at the moment. But you just know they've got their moves mapped out, and if the studio can maintain this level of accessible, disposable fun, they might just make their money back. Stranger things have happened…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well other than all those movies it riffs on, it's very much .

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
For best effect, probably yes.
The transition to the small screen will not be kind on this movie

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Against all odds, it pretty much does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not one jot.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars Sofia Boutella of course, used to far better effect in Kingsman, alongside Mark 'Skywalker' Hamill and Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Oh, Tom does all of his face in this movie! [ BACK ]

*2 For some reason, the Oxford-born Wallis has apparently forgotten how to do an "Oxford-English" accent, instead slipping into Americanising her character's voice every third scene or so like an overenthusiastic DJ on a regional radio station. This infuriates me with American performers, but it's frankly baffling with an English one… [ BACK ]

*3 Although honourable mentions must go out to The Woman In Black, The Scorch Trials and Miss Peregrine, for showing exactly what you can do with a 12A... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.