• Nighthawks

    Nighthawks

    ★★

    Mostly dull, occasionally enlivened by a rocking suspense/chase sequence bang in the middle, grubbily appealing location photography (gross 80s Manhattan, gross 80s London and gross 80s Paris) and the fact that it catches Sly right at the moment of his career that his preferred performance mode tips over from well-intentioned lunk to automaton-like killing machine.

    Major benefit: although the tone is mostly glum, there’s some sweet unintentional comedy in here, including Sly’s subway meltdown ("Mutha-fuckaaaaa!!!"), and (best of all) an…

  • The Old Guard

    The Old Guard

    ★½

    If Charlize Theron, Matthias Schoenaerts and Chiwetel Ejiofor seem mildly out-of-sorts, it's presumably because they've unwittingly found themselves in the movie equivalent of a first-draft, with placeholder plotting, dialogue, editing, photography and (most of the) characters. Presumably someone went and released it to the public before they could raise their concerns with the producers.

  • Troop Zero

    Troop Zero

    ★★★

    This Bad News Bears/Little Miss Sunshine mash-up may be twee, resolutely derivative and (mostly) predictable, but it also has Mckenna Grace in full charm-offensive mode, which is worth plenty - if movies didn't already exist, someone would have to invent them to provide a mass delivery system for her toothy, crooked grin.

  • Rambo: Last Blood

    Rambo: Last Blood

    Each Rambo movie since the first has been fatally misconceived on multiple levels, but just in case the ridiculous title didn't tip you off, I can confirm that Rambo: Last Blood takes this worrying tendency to jaw-dropping new extremes. Yet for all of its many failings, what struck me most was its complete lack of storytelling fundamentals. This is a movie for anyone who thought that the rescue mission in Rambo: First Blood Part II should have ended with the…

  • Gaslight

    Gaslight

    ★★½

    And the award for the most acting goes to...

    I have to admit to being a little mystified by the critical adulation traditionally heaped upon the 1944 version of Gaslight. The original play is a self-conscious throwback to Victorian-era potboilers, complete with a ludicrous treasure-hunt MacGuffin, generally ill-suited to the high-gloss MGM treatment - this is a modest story yearning for a more modest treatment.

    This tonal mismatch is not helped by the fact that George Cukor predictably directs Ingrid…

  • It

    It

    ★★

    An Abridgement Too Far; or How I Learned That There’s Nothing Remotely Scary About a Wikipedia Synopsis.

    Honestly, this project was probably destined for the drain the moment that a) the decision was taken to turn King's doorstop novel into a pair of movies rather than a ten-part HBO series, and b) a production team was assembled that thought that the primary attraction of this material was its spook-house theatrics rather than the lives of its characters, who get spectacularly…

  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

    The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

    ★★★★

    "Every voyage has its own flavour..." Sinbad (John Phillip Law)"

    Definitely my favourite flavour of Harryhausen, and a childhood perennial that I can't even pretend to be objective about. The usual array of stop-motion beasties are as eye-popping as we've come to expect (Kali is a charismatic all-timer), but almost uniquely they lack the "disconnected set-piece" feel common to these Harryhausen joints - because their presence mostly arises smoothly out of the plot, this world has an unusually coherent, lived-in…

  • The Scorpion King

    The Scorpion King

    ★½

    Mathayus: "There is much work to be done here."

    Yeah, there is... on your script! (high-fives self) Honestly, this is not really a releasable motion picture, primarily because it has about fifteen minutes' worth of story, yet still feels like it's about six weeks long. There's a significant part of my brain that's an easy mark for a junky Howardian wannabe-epic, but even that part would rather be watching Kull the Conqueror. I wish I was joking even a little bit.

  • The Mummy Returns

    The Mummy Returns

    ★★

    This is actually an improvement on its predecessor in some key areas. The original's emphasis on comedy is toned down, so instead of a slapstick farce masquerading as an adventure, we get an adventure with a strong sense of humour, which is a far better fit for this sort of pulpy material. The actors appear to relish this shift of emphasis - Weisz's newly buxom badass may only be an equal exchange for her mousy librarian, but Fraser's more committed…

  • The Mummy

    The Mummy

    ★★½

    If director Stephen Sommers has been guilty of anything throughout his career, it's a complete inability to get his stories to change gears when they need to. This means that, at his worst, you get celluloid hellscapes like Van Helsing or G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, where the film starts at 120mph and stubbornly stays at 120mph for two whole hours, mercilessly pummelling you until you start wondering whether the world would be better off if movies had never existed…

  • Extinction

    Extinction

    ★½

    For the first twenty minutes or so, Extinction has the makings of a decent little science-fiction B-film, but from the moment the foreboding set-up gives way to the actual plot, the film disappears down the toilet and never re-emerges. The writers attempt to juice up their tedious Earth-invasion shenanigans with a few late plot revelations, but since these only serve to deepen the levels of derivativeness and stupidity already on display, it’s fair to say their efforts are largely wasted. If you’ve seen a science-fiction film (any of them) in the last twenty years, you can safely avoid.

  • Piranha

    Piranha

    ★★½

    Dr. Hoak (Kevin McCarthy): “They called it… Operation Razor Teeth.”

    Not really all-out scary or all-out funny, Piranha somehow works all the same, largely thanks to a playful tone that does just enough to soften the spectacle of seeing a gaggle of children being attacked and partially devoured by carnivorous fish. My favourite scene was undoubtedly Barbara Steele’s doom-laden conversation with Heather Menzies – the pair are standing in the same room, but while Steele is bathed in an atmospheric…