Directed by Denis Villeneuve Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto
1984’s Blade Runner was and is one of the seminal works of cinematic science fiction. It secured the place of Ridley Scott in the roster of great directors, whatever missteps he might take in the future, and alongside fellow class of 84 alumnus Neuromancer it shaped the genre that became known as cyberpunk.
The Late Sequel
In 2049, Replicants are made by a new company in an even larger and more opulent pyramidal HQ than that of the Tyrell Corporation. Under the guidance of Niander Wallace (Leto), a new line of obedient Replicants has been produced, including K (Gosling), who works under LAPD Lieutenant Joshi (Wright) as a Blade Runner, retiring the remaining Nexus 8 Replicants who survived an unsuccessful rebellion in 2020.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Russell Crowe
The first Mummy movie – and, as the original Universal Mummy, the direct ancestor of this current version – was The Mummy (1932), starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep, an Egyptian priest, mummified alive for the blasphemy of trying to restore his girlfriend Ankh-es-en-amon. Restored to life by someone carelessly reading aloud from a scroll, Imhotep seeks forthe reincarnation of his love, intending to kill and mummify her, so that Ankh-es-en-amon can be returned as an immortal mummy. In the nick of time, the girl in question remembers enough of her past life to call on Isis, whose statue ends Imhotep’s unlife with a god laser to the magic scroll.
There have been roughly a shit-tonne of mummy movies since, including a Hammer Horror series, beginning with The Mummy in 1959 which featured Christopher Lee as the title character, Kharis.
The Hammer series wrapped up with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb in 1971, a rather histrionic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Jewel of the Seven Stars’ which featured a rare instance of a female Mummy (Valerie Leon).
The next major entry – as opposed to direct to video efforts – was Stephen Somers The Mummy, a 1999 super-loose remake of the 1932 film, but bigger, dumber and just… a whole lot of fun. Featuring Brendan Fraser as adventurer Rick O’Connell and Rachael Weisz as librarian Evelyn Carnahan, this version was a rollicking adventure with an emotionally tough heroine who displayed genuine agency. It was followed by the vastly inferior The Mummy Returns (2001) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), which had an interesting idea, but poor execution and a marked lack of Weisz (Maria Bello stepping into the role with an iffy accent.) It also span off the Scorpion King series, so there’s that to thank it for.
The new version is the first film in the ‘Dark Universe’, Universal’s somewhat delayed (DraculaUntold was intneded to be the first, but has since been detached from the franchise) attempt to get on the expanded universe gravy train.
In 1197, a group of crusader knights bury their comrade with a significant red gem. In the present day, the tomb is discovered by Crossrail excavation and taken over by a mysterious group of archaeologists in black, led by a man we will later learn to be Dr Henry Jekyll (Crowe), who proceeds to translate and narrate the story of Ahmanet (Boutella), an Egyptian princess of the New Kingdom who responded to being disinherited in favour of her infant brother by murdering her father, stepmother and the baby after making a pact to bring the god Set into the world. Prevented from completing the ritual, she is mummified alive and buried far from Egypt.
Directed by Dean Israelite Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
After astronauts on the Moon open a space dumpster and release the space witch Rita Repulsa, space wizard Zordon and his irritating robot sidekick recruit five ‘teenagers with attitude’ to become the Power Rangers and battle Rita, launching a multi-series franchise which worked by revamping many largely unconnected Japanese super sentai series through a mix of voice dubbing and new footage for the Western market.
On primeval Earth, a team of armoured, alien warriors led by Zordon (Cranston) are killed battling an enemy named Rita (Banks), but drop a rock on her before she can seize the crystal she was pursuing. Millennia after, the town of Angel Grove has grown up over the site. High school football star Jason Scott (Montgomery) wrecks his future by sneaking a cow into a rival school’s locker room then crashing his car while fleeing police. He winds up in long-term detention with disgraced cheerleader Kimberley Hart (Scott) and autistic tinkerer Billy Cranston (Cyler), and the three of them end up at the town’s gold mine at the same time as the rebellious Trini (G) and reckless Zack (Lin) when Billy unearths a wall of volcanic glass from which they remove five medallions which quickly prove to have mysterious powers.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly
1933’s King Kong was a black and white movie about a movie crew looking for a lost island, finding a giant ape which is in no way a grotesque caricature of a black man. The ape, Kong, falls in love with the starlet – on some level or other – and the crew catch him, then bring him back to New York, where he escapes and is shot from the top of the Empire State Building by biplanes. It was remade in a contemporary setting in 1976, and again in its original era in 2005 by Peter Jackson. In 1962 Kong was added to the Toho studios kaiju universe in Godzilla vs. King Kong.
The Latest Remake
During WWII, American and Japanese pilots crash land on an island where their attempts to kill one another are interrupted by the appearance of a giant gorilla. In 1974 the island is picked up on satellite imagery. Bill Randa (Goodman), biologist San Lin (Jing) and geologist Houston Brooks (Hawkins) of Monarch tag along with a Landsat survey team to look for monsters. They recruit a helicopter platoon on the way back from Vietnam, lead by Colonel Packard (Jackson) and professional tracker and ex-SAS badass Conrad (Hiddleston), while anti-war photographer Mason Wheeler (Larson) gets herself attached to the survey.
This may seem like a lot of characters, but wait; there’s more. Captain Chapman (Kebbell), a major heading home to his family; Landsat official, Nieves (Ortiz); and members of the platoon including Mills (Mitchell), Cole (Whigham), Slivko (Mann) and Reles (Eugene Cordero).
Directed by Oliver Parker Starring Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Blake Harrison, Daniel Mays, Bill Paterson
Dad’s Army, by Jimmy Croft and David Perry, is perhaps the most beloved and enduring of Britain’s classic sitcoms.
Set in the seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea, the series told the story of the local Home Guard platoon, who for nine years engaged in scrapes and shenanigans more or sometimes less war related, from camouflage exercises, to hunting down escaped IRA operatives, to capturing enemy parachutists and submariners. The writers and the characters became national treasures, the series continues to be repeated long after the morbid passtime of calling out which of the actors had since died during the closing credits became monotonous, and a scene in which a German prisoner asks for the name of the youngest platoon member, only to be cut off by Mainwaring’s sharp “Don’t tell him, Pike!” was voted the nation’s favourite comedy line over many more recent offerings.
Often conceived as ‘cosy’, Dad’s Army was pretty racy for its time, with about half the characters engaged in extramarital affairs. It revived the Home Guard in the national memory, launched a thousand catchphrases and while ostensibly focused on the comedy of old men and boys playing soldiers, never failed to present its protagonists as intelligent, good-hearted and courageous. With a run almost unprecedented in the history of British sitcoms, it established unusually rich characters in a full and developed world.
There was also a 1971 film, which remade the early episodes about the formation of the platoon, and added a hostage rescue with German airmen invading the church hall.
In 1944, the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon still diligently guard their little stretch of the south coast, under the command of Captain Mainwaring (Jones) and the leadership of Sergeant Wilson (Nighy). The arrival of glamorous reporter Rose Winters (Zeta-Jones) throws the platoon into a spin, provoking the jealousy and ire of the women of the town as the men prove once more the claim of Cleopatra, that all men are fools and what makes them so is beauty like what she has got.
Directed by David Yates Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Colin Farrell
Harry Potter. Seriously, if you’ve been sufficiently living under a rock to not know, I can’t remotely do it justice here, but I will pencil in a massive rewatch and review sometime after I find the time for my Jackson-Tolkien extended editions marathon.
The important thing, vis a vis Rebourne, is that after seven books – made into eight movies, because the last book is always two movies – JK Rowling swore up and down that she was done with the boy wizard and off to writing grim and gritty detective fiction. And technically that still holds, as someone else wrote the script for the two-part stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and this film is actually a prequel without Harry or any of his immediate relatives (the nearest it gets is a photo of his godfather’s aunt.)
The Totally Unexpected Prequel
In 1926 the US magical establishment, headed by President Picquery (Ejogo), is in turmoil as a series of seemingly magical events, and the actions of dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald, threaten to reveal the magical world to the No-Maj (American for Muggle) community. Unto this came Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a hapless-looking chap with a suitcase full of magical beasts. A series of accidents lead to Scamander crossing paths first with No-Maj wannabe baker Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) and then with ex-Auror Tina Goldstein (Waterston), and his case being swapped for Kowalski’s.
* The poster with a tagline was quite small and hard to read – it seemed to spell this ‘furor’, so I guess it was intended as a play on ‘fuhrer’.
Directed by Susan Stroman Starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart
A failing producer and an accountant team up to produce a deliberate flop, realising that they can make more money by overselling the show and failing than by having a hit which needs to repay its investors in the first and arguably the greatest film of Mel Brooks’ directorial career. When their deliriously tasteless bomb arrives, however, it crosses the line twice and becomes a runaway success, bringing about their downfall.
Before the new film version, the musical adaptation played on Broadway with much of the same cast.
Max Bialystock (Lane) is the falling star of Broadway, producer of flop after flop reduced to romancing little old ladies for funding. When public accountant Leo Bloom (Broderick) looks over his books, he realises that it should be possible to make more money with an oversold flop than a tightly funded hit.
Directed by Paul Greengrass Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles and Riz Ahmed
Based – really loosely – on a novel by Robert Ludlum, 2002’s The Bourne Identity kinda sorta changed the nature of the espionage action movie… I won’t say completely and forever, but substantially and in ways that are still felt today. It brought a harder edge to action with its brutal fight scenes and jarringly intimate, naturalistic camerawork. The franchise made star Matt Damon into a megastar as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac assassin turned into the perfect weapon by a CIA program called Treadstone. It was followed by the increasingly loose adaptations The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and then in 2012 by The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross replacing Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne in what was intended to be the start of a new chapter in the series. After the lacklustre box office and critical response of Legacy, the series returned to type, lead and director with 2016’s Jason Bourne.
The Late Sequel
Series veteran Nicky Parsons (Stiles), hacks a CIA black ops database for information on its ongoing program of superspies and other shenanigans. With cyber-ops supremo Heather Lee (Vikander) on her trail, Parsons contacts Bourne to arrange a meet in Athens during a riot.
Directed by Kazuaki Kiriya Starring Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, Cliff Curtis, Aksel Hennie, Ayelet Zurer and Tsuyoshi Ihara
The Ako incident was a historical event in feudal Japan, in which the forty-seven surviving retainers of Lord Asano Naganori took bloody revenge on the Imperial courtier who had their master dishonoured and executed. Fictionalised accounts of the event, known collectively as Chushingura, are a staple of Japanese literature, to the point that the true and fictional versions are difficult to disentangle. Hollywood finally copped to the story in 2013’s 47 Ronin. This film starred Keanu Reeves as the obligatory white character, although the rest of the cast was Japanese, and added fantastical elements. In 2015, a reimagining of the story was produced, with few Japanese cast and a mediaeval European aesthetic, but a Japanese director.
After a great war, an order of warriors emerged to protect an Empire, the Knights of the Seventh Rank.
Led by Commander Raiden (Owen), the retainers of Lord Bartok (Freeman) exemplify the code and honour of the knights in a time when they are in decline, with the Empire increasingly under the grasping hand of corrupt Minister Geza Mot (Hennie). Denied a bribe, Mot goads Bartok into striking him in order to have him executed and dishonoured, his retainers scattered and his family dispossessed.
Directed by Aleksander Bach Starring Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto and Ciaran Hinds
Hitman began life as a series of successful computer games, in which the player controls Agent 47, the ‘perfect assassin’; six-four of shaven-headed, barcode tattooed white beefcake with the ability to disguise himself as a Chinese waiter. Using said mastery of disguise and an arsenal of weapons, the player must plan and execute an assassination to meet the terms of a contract. Some of the games have an ongoing plot i which a series of unconnected jobs add up to a conspiracy, but some are just a series of jobs, and their appeal is not story so much as the replay value inherent in trying various approaches to perfect each kill. The game series was first adapted into a movie in 2007. Hitman was a frankly appalling film in which 47 – played without engagement by Timothy Olyphant, fresh from critically acclaimed yet cancelled TV series Deadwood and with payments due on the mortgage – is betrayed by his superiors as part of an insanely moronic plot to seize control of Russia by treating the entire world as if they were idiots.
So, apparently someone at 20th Century Fox really believed in the potential of a Hitman movie, because despite a modest commercial success and critical mauling, and Timothy Olyphant going on record on the Nerdist podcast to confirm that bit about the mortgage, the collapse of a planned sequel, and the death of intended new Agent 47 Paul Walker, just eight years later they decided to reboot.
In this version, Agent 47 (Friend) is sent to assassinate the founder of the Agent programme, Petr Litvenko (Hinds) and his daughter, Katia Van Dees (Ware), for reasons that are never adequately explored, but possibly as part of a shadow war between two ideologically indistinguishable conspiracies. Katia is initially protected by international man of mystery John Smith (Quinto), before he is revealed as an agent for the Syndicate, the enemy of 47’s International Contracts Agency.