From start to finish in three tedious hours

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Unbearably long, lots of explosions, plot thinner than a randy nun’s knickers.



Deadpool is some sort of mercenary, either intimidating people or shagging his hot girlfriend (or she shags him; either’s good in Deadpool’s world). Unfortunately, Deadpool gets cancer and is offered a cure which will alter him physically, turning his lovely smooth skin into an approximation of a pink-coloured lunar surface and rendering him immortal. The treatment is horrible, but Deadpool eventually escapes to hunt down Frances, the man who turned him into a mutant.

There’s a big fight at the end set on a derelict aircraft carrier and with the help of a couple of cut-price X-Men, Deadpool takes out Frances and his minions.

By dint of being different, Deadpool is, to a degree, a bit more entertaining than the usual Bowdlerised superhero films. It’s not as metrosexual as the Guardian hacks gushed because it’s a parody. The girl-on-boy action is part of the mockery; so, too, when Deadpool gets shot up the bottom.

Entertaining, rather silly, and not for everyone.


The Earth is dying. Well, American farmlands are dying. NASA, working in secret, has sent astronauts on a one-way mission through some wormhole that has appeared near Saturn. Cooper, an ex-NASA rocket jockey, finds his way to NASA’s secret base where Michael Caine instantly appoints him to the expedition to go in search of the pioneering astronauts on the other side of the wormhole. When the expedition arrives, they find that the whole thing has been a failure, and that Matt Damon has gone mad and causes part of the expedition’s mother ship to be destroyed. Cooper uses a local black hole to try and slingshot himself to safety, but ends up behind the bookcase in his daughter’s bedroom, trying to send her messages. Somehow he’s rescued and wakes up inside a Dyson torus.

The other half of the film is about what’s been happening on Earth while Cooper is in space. His bad-tempered teenage daughter grows up to be a bad-tempered teenage woman who hates her father for abandoning her, but ends up working for NASA and working out that Michael Caine had already solved the gravity equation, only lacking one vital piece of information, viz. what happens beyond the event horizon of a black hole.

By that stage, the audience has ceased to care about this rambling, baffling film, which seems to be a metaphor for something entirely different. Something about fathers and daughters? Oh, who bloody well cares? Lacks adequate explanatory power.

The Revenant.

A group of hunters is attacked by the Ree, who are searching for the chief’s daughter, Powaqa. The survivors start making the trek by river and overland to Fort Kiowa. On the way there, their guide, Hugh Glass, is badly mauled by a bear. When it becomes clear that the rest of the hunters cannot haul him all the way to safety, he is left behind with his son, Hawk, Hawk’s mate, Bridger, and the villainous Fitzgerald, who kills the former, tries to kill Glass, and intimidates Bridger.

In spite of his horrific injuries, and encounters with the Ree and the French (also, the man seems strangely immune to being thrown into ice-cold rivers where he ought to be dying of exposure), Glass is eventually rescued and Fitzgerald’s crimes are exposed. Even after all he’s been through, Glass insists on pursuing Fitzgerald and eventually leaves him to the tender mercies of the Ree.

The Revenant is an intense film, but drags on and on and on (which seems to be a common feature of all the films which I’ve watched recently). By the time Glass fights Fitzgerald, the whole plot has outstayed its welcome and the final battle descends into bathos with the two men crawling across the snow.

The cinematography is gorgeous, though, and the wintry American wilderness has never looked so nice.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A considered survey of the parts of this film would almost certainly end up with it being reduced by an hour to an hour and a half with the removal of all the tedious bloat. By asking the questions “Where did the First Order come from?” and “How can the rebels be the rebels if they restored the Republic, and just who is the government?”, the film almost entirely vanishes.

The main storyline is that a BB8 droid has the final piece of a map leading to the location of Luke Skywalker, who appears to have disappeared after Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, turned to the Dark Side just as his granddad, Anakin Skywalker did under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The droid eventually reaches the rebels, who also have to see off Death Star++. Han Solo leads the away team, tries to get his son to return to the family fold, and gets skewered on a light sabre for his pains.

Meanwhile, Rey, some random girl from Jakku, goes and finds Luke Skywalker.

Not boring, but definitely flabby and full of holes.

X-Men: Apocalypse.

Terry, the first mutant, who was a bit of a bastard, is raised from suspended animation by some chanting Egyptians. How does that work? (Oh, and I’m calling him Terry because he doesn’t appear to have a name.) He goes in search of the biggest bastards among the mutants of the 1980s, including Magneto. Only the X-Men can save the world.

Actually, only Jean Grey can save the world because she seems to be the only mutant powerful enough to taking down the power-sucking Terry, which begs the question why she wasn’t brought into play sooner, thus sparing the audience considerable amounts of suffering.


Anno Dracula

By Kim Newman.

Anno Dracula is based on what might’ve happened if Dracula had defeated Van Helsing and his merry band, and had then turned Queen Victoria into a vampire. In this world, some people prefer to remain human (or “warm” as they’re called) while others, typically social climbers, are keen to become vampires. The vampires themselves are split between the elders such as Dracula and his bodyguards, and the newborns. At the same time, being a vampire doesn’t always convey fame and fortune, and a lot of vampires live in grinding poverty. In additional, those vampires who are descended (so to speak) from Dracula can have various birth defects.

The action centres around the activities of Jack the Ripper, who specifically targets new-born vampires. The killer is John Seward (one of the characters from Dracula), who was unhinged by the death of Lucy Westenra. (No, this isn’t a spoiler because Seward is revealed to be the Ripper very early on.)

Charles Beauregard is employed by the shadowy Diogenes Club to investigate the murders. During the course of his investigation, he falls in with Genèvieve Dieudonné, an elder vampire who even predates Dracula himself.

Their investigation reveals the killer, and enables Beauregard to enter the presence of the bloated Dracula himself, the intention of the Diogenes Club being to bring him down, though not in the way the reader might predict.

The book is essentially another take on the League of Gentlemen and similar tales. The cast isn’t entirely a mixture of characters of fictional and real historical people, but it is a who’s-who of certain sorts of Victorian literature.

While I like the underlying idea, I generally wasn’t much interested in the Seward chapters, and there were episodes in the story (e.g. Genèvieve being pursued by the Chinese vampire assassin) which seemed to serve no real purpose. The episode with Lily, the little girl who has been turned and dies trying to shape shift, is never resolved. Genèvieve may promise to track down the vampire who is responsible, but nothing happens.

The language is also repetitious. Where “warm” (i.e., human) might’ve added to the colour by being used now and then, it got too much airtime; and “newborn” was the same, being overused without any explanation as to when a newborn vampire might become an “adolescent”. Newman did have Lord Godalming take the next steps in his development, but the rest of the newborns seemed to be a a bunch of idiots, constantly getting caught out in the sun.

The ending was somewhat abrupt. When Beauregard uncovered who the Ripper was, it seemed there was a substantial amount of book left, but the visit to Buckingham Palace, and the confrontation with Dracula were relatively brief things, which were somewhat glibly cleared up, still leaving quite a lot of book.

The remainder, which could be safely ignored, was Newman explaining various references, listing the copious number of people who had read the manuscript, a short story, and an article he wrote for a magazine. He seems to be rather keen on explaining himself, but ought to start a Facebook group to cover this material for the fans. The appendices didn’t really add anything to the experience.

I liked the conceit that John Seward had gone stark raving mad and was Jack the Ripper, but the real reason for Beauregard to solve the crime and gain admittance to Buckingham Palace was less satisfying. The Diogenes Club, which was allegedly some powerful secret organisation, seemed to be quite widely known, and yet remained apparently immune to the attentions of Dracula.

Anno Dracula is not a bad story, but the style sometimes irks.