The One

The One was apparently written as a vehicle for that fine thespian The Rock, and that makes a lot of sense, being ideally matched to his range in the same way that The Terminator was to Schwarzenegger’s. But as he dropped out it now stars Jet Li.

The premise is daft but ingenious, in that our universe is just one element of a ‘multiverse’, and versions of Jet Li are killing each other off, aggregating their strength to become ‘The One’ and run the whole shop.

Li is fine and there are short appearances by Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham, but the main attraction is that this is the second movie by Glen Morgan and James Wong, known to us for producing many of the better episodes of X-Files, Millennium and Space:Above and Beyond, as well as last year’s hit movie Final Destination.

With that in mind, it’s a bit of a disappointment, as they never take full advantage of the idea, preferring to stage spectacular fights between Li and er, himself, and make a few funny throwaway jokes. Still, it’s very entertaining as long as you’e not expecting much.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Crazies

The Crazies 2010 Advance one-sheet

Elegant remake of Romero’s 1973 classic, throwing away the politics and concentrating on the central characters.

Timothy Olyphant stars as a small-town sheriff (surprise) who is the first to realise what’s happening to the residents. As he’s married to Radha Mitchell, the movie focuses on their attempts to escape town to possible survival, with deputy Joe Anderson and Danielle Panabaker in tow.

As with the original, there’s a lot of fun to be had from guessing which cast member will be next to get the twitches and the urge to go nuts. However, there’s no sense of the panic and chaos created by Romero, despite a budget around 100 times the size. Part of that is due to our knowledge that this is made for mainstream audiences who don’t want to be too upset beyond the odd gory-set piece, and to be fair the film caters for this very well. There’s also an over-reliance on zombie-style make-up which needlessly tips us off as to who is insane.

The cast do well – there’s a tiny cameo appearance from Lynn Lowry from the original, but sadly there’s no room in this version for an equivalent of Richard France’s stroppy doctor who may be developing the cure by eating the scenery. Olyphant can do ‘small town sherriff’ in his sleep by now, but nevertheless brings a lot of charm and conviction to his role.  The angry seventies tone of the original is replaced by a glossy lack of trust in anyone, which is about the best we can hope for from a big studio remake. And there’s a cynical (not to mention incredible) finish which is about as political as it gets. If you’re happy with this approach, then you’ll enjoy it.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★½☆

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Make up your own caption

I don’t know the genesis of this project, but it seems kinda foolproof:  take some monsters, add some adjectives to make sure that no-one misses the point, then cast a couple of famous names to attract anyone who is still undecided. Then take advantage of the recent advances in CGI to create a series of crazy set pieces wihout having to break the bank. Perfect Saturday night TV.

And it surely is a formula, as this movie has been followed by similar exercises following the template slavishly.  The only problem is that monster movie territory, which used to be the exclusive preserve of Bert I. Gordon, Jack Arnold and the like, has been invaded  in recent years by ‘serious’ film-makers like Spielberg (War of the Worlds) and major studios (Godzilla), not to mention overseas rivals (The Host).

As a result,  things like bad continuity, slack pacing, amateur acting and shaky effects – the things we used to forgive in B-movies in exchange for crazy ideas and an endearing enthusiasm for ignoring logic – are no longer acceptable, because we can get all these positives in our blockbusters without any of the negatives.

So is Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus any good? Well, not on any logical scale. Some of the acting is Ed Wood standard, the continuity is no better (check out Debbie Gibson’s nail polish in the early scenes on the submarine – whose hands are those?) and the effects are often crudely outlined against the backgrounds. But am I going to be hard on  any movie which has the nerve to attempt a scene where a plane is attacked by a shark? Or the scene in the still above? Of course not. It’s hardly art, and it could have looked a lot better with a massive budget, but the cast keep a straight face and the makers deliver on the promise of the title, so I’ll take it.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★½☆☆

Open Range

Westerns seemed to be going through one of their periodic revivals in the early part of the century, and not one confined to the prairies, as anyone who’s seen Firefly will realize. First out of the corral, and best of the lot, was Open Range, the third movie directed by Kevin Costner. That will immediately put a lot of the potential audience off, but Costner proves again that he’s a fine film-maker.

Near Dark

Near Dark was made in 1987 and reunited Bill Paxton with his Aliens co-stars Lance Henriksen and Jeanette Goldstein, as part of a family of modern-day vampires. Farm boy Adrian Pasdar finds himself mixed up with them as they travel across America, and the whole thing is perfectly directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with the exception… Read more »

Cutter’s Way

Cutter’s Way is directed by Czech Ivan Passer, and based on Newton Thornburg’s superb novel Cutter and Bone – a title under which you might find this movie occasionally. Despite mostly taking place in the Californian sunshine, it’s a dark and desperate story about the clash of ideologies between two men who have very little… Read more »

The Town

After his stunning debut with Gone Baby Gone, Affleck returns with another portrayal of the Boston criminal class. This time it’s a combination of a glossy Michael Mann-style heist thriller and and a European police procedural, with Affleck as the leader of a small group of career bank robbers. He’s hindered as much as helped… Read more »

Gone Baby Gone

  Gone Baby Gone is one of Dennis Lehane’s Boston-based detective novels featuring Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. It must have seemed a bit of a gift for Ben Affleck, making his directorial debut, to be able to use such strong source material and a great cast, as well as to film it in his… Read more »

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Continuing the tradition of games turned into movies, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider received a lukewarm critical response. Angelina Jolie does her best – apart from her obvious qualifications, her English accent is so good it’s disconcerting – and her dad turns up in a few scenes, presumably cos he fancied a holiday. There’s also Chris… Read more »

Salt

Salt was apparently intended as a Tom Cruise vehicle, so it’s interesting to see what changes are made to accommodate  Jolie as his replacement. OK it’s relatively interesting. Salt is so scared of being boring that it shoehorns enough plot for a trilogy into an incomprehensible single movie, and ends up being irritating. Jolie plays… Read more »