Japan has its fair share of bombastic action films and novels, but it also has many mannered and cleverly compartmentalised stories that unfold like so many origami cranes. Director David Leitch (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) is not one for subtlety and never has been. In Bullet Train, Leitch has taken the puzzle box of author Kotaro Isaka’s superbly titled Maria Beetle and shot it, smashed it, poisoned it, and ran over it with a train. It’s quite a different experience to the book, but it’s not the worse off for it: Bullet Train is a literal high speed breakneck action comedy that keeps the audience engaged right up to the largely superfluous third and a half act.
With over 12 million copies sold, Where The Crawdads Sing is considered one of the best-selling novels of all time, written by a naturalist who is wanted for questioning in Zambia for her connection to the murder of an elephant poacher. One of the breakout titles of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club, Where The Crawdads Sing is a borderline racist mid-twentieth century adventure that can be read in the space of one day. As a film it’s come out as more Nicholas Sparks than its own movie, and cut-rate Nicholas Sparks at that, no matter how good the cast or scenery may be.
If you know anything from horror, you’d know that Stephen King has two sons, both of whom are also authors. One of them, Joe Hill, made his name in shorts and comics before revealing his identity. Hill’s 2005 collection 20th Century Ghosts featured a twenty page story called The Black Phone that was, among other things, about a haunted telephone. Twenty pages can fit a lot of detail but, as a film, The Black Phone is proof positive of the power of converting short stories rather than full novels into movies – there’s a lot more room to breathe. Apart from the basic concept, The Black Phone is made up from near whole cloth. There’s so much going for it that it’s difficult to feel bad for Scott Derrickson’s (Doctor Strange) unceremonious ouster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: some men were meant to not only play, but thrive, in the world of small budget horror.
Despite what Sony keeps trying to tell you, there is no such thing as the “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe”. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was clearly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the whole time, even with the up in the air nature of No Way Home’s conclusion, and Tom Hardy’s Venomhasn’t had much to do yet. But Morbius, one of the most deserving victims of the multiple COVID-19 influenced delays, has finally been born. It adds nothing to the cinematic canon, the comic book movie canon, or the Marvel cinematic canon. It can’t add nothing to the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, because that does not exist.
Long ago, back in the mists of time, the Playstation 3 had no games. This all changed in 2009, when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released and packed in with the console — admittedly a paradox when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released on the same platform two years earlier — and Sony was saved. In this series, which is like a modernised Indiana Jones (or, more cynically, “a boy version of Tomb Raider”), a man with a gun and preternatural ability for climbing globetrots for treasure and gets involved in a dizzying series of betrayals, triple crosses, and flirtations with the supernatural.
Few tentpole films have suffered more from the privations of the last two years than No Time To Die, which has been slated and reslated so many times that one could have been forgiven for thinking it would never see release. Star Daniel Craig, famous for his exhaustion with the productions, had to follow the promotional trail far longer than any mere multimillionaire actor should reasonably be expected to. Somehow not the Craig Bond film burdened with the most meta-narrative (a title owned by the largely forgotten Quantum of Solace, brung low by industrial action), No Time To Die is nonetheless the end of an era: Craigâ€™s swan song, a Bond vehicle that hits so many of the right notes that the ones it muffs are both glaringly obvious and largely forgivable.
In times of trouble, humanity needs hope. We need the likes of Kong and Godzilla, to ruin our cities and cause billions in collateral damage. Godzilla goes where he pleases, but Kong is historically transported against his will. Godzilla vs. Kong posits a question first asked in 1962, and recently twisted by Zack Snyder: what if two of the worldâ€™s greatest heroes came to blows? Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth entry in what has been termed the Monsterverse, and it is easily the dumbest yet, in the best possible way. You may protest â€œthey should be friends!â€ but, as a great man once said, â€œlet them fightâ€.
If you recall Tom Cruiseâ€™s 2017 incarnation of The Mummy, you may also remember that it was supposed to kick off a shared monster continuum called the â€œDark Universeâ€, which was already cast and featured one Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. 2020â€™s The Invisible Man, while still produced by Universal, is not that movie. Itâ€™s a Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) and Blumhouse special, which means that its budget is so vanishingly small that it should make money no matter what it does. The Invisible Man is not particularly heart warming, but rather a twitchy and paranoid gaslit thriller lead by a woman who can only take so much before she snaps.
Bonnet dramas are an institution in the UK, the way that the BBC keeps the classics alive, from Austen to Dickens to Gaskell. Sometimes the bonnets escape to the big screen, where they are necessarily concatenated but can offer either a bright sumptuousness or a gritty natural lighting, as the director dictates. While the nineteenth century could be a gloomy place, music video director Autumn de Wildeâ€™s feature debut Emma. offers a genteel rural paradise where the emotions are deeply felt, the servants audibly silent, and the houses impossibly large for only two people to live in. Jane Austenâ€™s fourth novel is brought to the silver screen for fourth time (including Clueless), and this incarnation crams the novelâ€™s charms while despatching with many of its blind alleys.
Some books are classics, but in the modern era they serve better as blue prints for adaptations. Louisa May Alcottâ€™s 1869 novel Little Women is a landmark novel, but to the eyes of today it is fragmented, moralistic, and bigoted against the Irish. In her own version of Little Women, writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) takes most of the greatest elements of the novel â€” and at least part of one of the dumbest â€” and fashions them into something vibrant and new.