David Hasslehoff: not pictured.
It’s amazing how many dodgy movies you can watch on a trans-Pacific flight. Especially when you really should be sleeping. that’s why there’s a bit more substance to this month’s reviews than I had expected. A pleasant surprise, though few of the movies in question were.
Green Lantern: A superhero film with a split personality, Green Lantern is half space-based, exposition-heavy mythology and half Earth-based “coming to terms with your past” hero creation. The film deliberately goes for an epic feel, but a script that insists on explaining every point bogs it down, and the grand spectacle of the ultimate enemy loses any emotional weight in the welter of unconvincing CGI. In the other half of the story, Ryan Reynolds struggles to avoid equating “overconfident” with “asshole” while the remainder of the cast fail to stand out much.
Super 8: JJ Abrams’ homage to the Spielberg movies of the ‘80s, Super 8 throws a bunch of kids into an encounter with an alien that’s a little bit ET and a little bit Cloverfield. The kids themselves are well cast, as are the adults that surround them, and the ‘80s setting is meticulously replicated, but there’s a certain hollow feeling, as though the surface but not the heart of the original films has been recreated. This is particularly notable in the level of gore in the film, which is somewhat surprising in a film ostensibly aimed at a family audience.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Johnny Depp returns as Jack Sparrow in the latest in the money-spinning series of films from Disney, breaking free from the convoluted story of the original trilogy into a more straightforward search for the Fountain of Youth. Several familiar faces return, and new ones are provided in the form of Ian McShane’s Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz as his daughter, but despite an Orlando Bloom replacement, the focus is entirely on Depp this time, and his prancing, mascara-laden character may well be one we’ve seen quite enough of already. It’s a decent enough action film and an improvement on the overblown messes that the previous two films in the series were, but the profit-driven motive behind spending money on this and not on something a little more original is wearying.
The Inimitable Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse: Gentle, superbly crafted and almost guaranteed to raise a smile, Wodehouse’s tales of the genial wastrel Bertie Wooster and his efficient, all-knowing butler Jeeves are not so much literature as a pick-me-up in literary form. The episodic stories are a little repetitive, with Bertie struggling with problems caused by his troublesome relatives and friends until Jeeves devises a solution, but the reason it all works so well is Wodehouse’s masterly command of the English language and his creation of an idealised world of fools and cads. Delightful to step into at any time, this is an ephemeral confection that even those with no time for the idle rich will find it hard to resist.
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman: As an author, Neil Gaiman excels in creating worlds that the reader would love to visit, no matter how many villains inhabit them, because they run on beautifully logical fairytale versions of the everyday world’s cause and effect. Neverwhere, a novelisation of the BBC series of the same name, presents a version of London in which a shadowy underworld exists, based on the names and geography of the upper world, extended literally and metaphorically as deep as they will go. A classic hero’s tale, populated by some of the most appealing and quirky characters Gaiman has ever invented, it’s a story that’s over far too quick for all it promises to contain.