I’ve started watching Game of Thrones again recently — just to see if season eight is as bad as the internet insists it is. I’m only on Season Four so it’s too early to tell — so I felt absolutely in the right frame of mind to watch this, Robert Eggers’ latest effort following an acclaimed and inventive start with The Lighthouse and The Witch. He’s maintained his distance from the tried and obvious path with The Northman.

This is a historic nordic-epic based on the story of the likely fictional 10th century Viking Prince Amleth, which would become the basis of Hamlet. Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father (Ethan Hawke) is brutally murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang), who kidnaps the boy’s mother (Nicole Kidman). Two decades later, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is now a Viking berserker who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress (Björk) who reminds him of his vow — save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father. So with the help of Olga (Anya Taylor Joy), off he goes to do that.

And honestly, that’s 80% of the movie. Throw in some mysticism and prophecies and you’ve got the other 20%. Simplified like this, though, and it probably sounds a bit like the Sword and Sorcery movies from the 80s I enjoyed, like Conan, and Flesh + Blood. But that would do it a disservice.

Instead, it’s a brutal, and one would imagine accurate, portrayal of Viking life if you discount all the sorcery stuff. With all those swords getting thrown around, sooner or later people are going to start getting hurt. Amleth as a berserker is a terrifying sight, surrounded by other terrifying sights, as he and his buddies plunder a Slavic village for no other obvious reason than they can and it was in their way. Our heroes are seen here butchering villagers, burning women and children, branding others to put into slavery.

Any heroes here, though, are of the anti variety. If you’re in this movie, you’re going to do some deplorable stuff in a day that would keep you occupied on a therapist couch for a lifetime. But in these folklore tales, these are brave men doing brave deeds in the name of something, and everyone is the hero in their own story.

I really enjoyed this without ever loving it. It took me about twenty minutes to tune into the Scandanavian accents and names, and for spells I didn’t know what was going on or who anyone was until something clicked, roughly at the point that Amleth goes off to get his revenge, and I started to settle in and could make sense of it all.

Eggers co-wrote this with Icelandic writer and poet, Sjón, and they do an amazing job keeping this as authentic as it feels, resisting the temptation to dumb any of it down for its audience. They give you some work to do and the movie is all the better for it. Filmed mostly on the island of Ireland, the landscapes are beautiful and occasionally CGI enhanced to appear more Icelandic, and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke wrangles light in a quite incredible way.

It’s captivating, relentless, visceral, and a hundred other things but it’s maybe just a little bit too bleak, a little bit too lacking in good to be an absolute triumph, but it comes pretty close.

I genuinely have no idea where to begin with this one.

MIchelle Yeoh puts in an extraordinary performance as Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American laundromat owner whose head seems to be filled with what her husband, Waymond (wonderfully played by Ke Huy Quan who you’ll remember as Short Round from Indiana Jones), calls hobbies she confuses with jobs. She has a problem seeing things through, perhaps scared of failure, perhaps scared of success. Unbeknownst to Evelyn, Waymond is plotting to divorce her and tensions are already at boiling points as the IRS are auditing their business, Evelyn’s granddad is now living with them, and her daughter, Joy (superbly portrayed by Stephanie Hsu), is gay which Evelyn flat out refuses to accept. 

The family head out to an audit meeting with IRS Inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra, played by an incredible Jamie Lee Curtis. There, there seems to be a glitch in the universe and Waymond becomes possessed by a version of himself from an alternate universe, warning Evelyn that the fate of the entire multiverse may well be in her hands, all the while as the IRS move closer to reclaiming her business, believing that they don’t have Evelyn’s full attention.

It’s a frenetic opening. In the initial scenes in the laundromat, as the family prepares for the Chinese New Year, conversations fly around in Chinese, English, amalgams of both, and it’s like the movie is trying to discombobulate the senses of the viewer in preparation for what’s about to happen next.

Because what happens next really is very difficult to explain. Alternate Waymond quickly explains verse-jumping to Evelyn, an ability to tap into any of the infinite alternate versions of herself and steal their skills and memories for the fight ahead. Evelyn’s attempts at this are hit and miss to begin with, introducing us to universes where people have hot dogs for fingers, and one where bludgeoning someone to death with sex toys is standard fayre.

At its heart, and in as few words as possible, it’s a martial arts movie. The fight sequences are breathtaking to watch, given that there are no rules here and Evelyn is as likely to become a master in an instant as a henchman is of turning to glitter. Hint: very likely. And it’s these punctuations of multiverse variables that keep everything fresh and exciting.

But the difference between this and a mindless romp is that the emotional heart of the movie beats so strongly. There’s a villain behind all this destruction, by the way most of it happens in the IRS office, there’s an evil force that we suspect we know who is out to destroy Evelyn, and so it comes as no surprise to learn who that is, and at this point, we begin to wonder exactly how much of this is just a hyper-exaggerated metaphor for appreciating life, accepting those around us, taking joy in those grains of pure happiness that life affords us.

Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, it takes around two-and-a-half hours to figure all of this out, and if I’m honest, it began to feel it in the end. But as I exhaustedly made my way back to the car, an emotional wreck, and as I tried to confirm that I really had just watched one of the best movies I’ve ever seen or the worst, I realized how much it reminded me of Scott Pilgrim and how it dealt with its metaphors, and its existential message is one of hope and beauty, and it feels important, and a movie absolutely needed today, as it provides a very odd and difficult to describe reassurance. 

It’s going to be okay, folks.

It may not be obvious, but I try to put a bit of effort into this sort of thing. And by a bit of effort, that usually means pecking out 500 words and doing my best to make it look and read like a review you could see in the culture section of a newspaper or magazine. I’m still waiting for the call-up to the pros so we can debate how successful or otherwise I’ve been over the last decade. Hint: not very.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is because it’s a commitment that’s easier for some movies than it is for others. The Lost City, for example, I could quite happily have taken another 1,000 words going on about things I loved about it. Your Highness, on the other hand, I believe I chickened out after the opening preamble to instead deliver a recipe for jambalaya. Compartment No. 6 is a strange sort of in-between. It feels like I could talk about it for a while, but I’m not sure how much I want to.

Directed by Juho Kuosmanen and based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Rosa Liksom, the movie follows Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish student living in Moscow with her somewhat ambivalent lover, who travels by train the 1,200 miles north to Murmansk, up near the Finnish/Swedish border, to see some ancient petroglyphs. In the train, her compartment-mate is a gruff Russian laborer or miner, Lyokha (Yuri Borisov), who is a bit of a drunken mess when he meets Laura for the first time and within five minutes, he assumes she’s a prostitute and starts talking about her genitals. Off to a bad start, then. Over the course of the movie, Laura and Lyokha grow to understand each other and a strange bond develops between them. And that’s about it. Oh, and it snows a lot.

My difficulty in bonding with the movie starts with the ambiguity that permeates it. It never really establishes what year we’re in. It seems old. It seems eighties. The music is eighties. The Rubik’s Cube solution discussion is eighties. The presentation of transport problems in Russia feels pretty eighties. We see cassette tapes and an old Sony camcorder. But then there’s a section where they discuss Titanic, which definitely isn’t eighties.

Then we have Lyokha, and really nothing about him is revealed enough to allow us to join the dots with him. His purpose for traveling to Murmansk seems to be for work, but the type of work isn’t really explained and his position in the organization is unclear. He seems to be connected in some manner but we don’t know why or how. Halfway through the journey, he stops off to meet with an old woman who he says isn’t his mother, but then never explains who she is. He steals a car to do this. None of this is explained or mentioned again.

And then there’s the whole keystone of the movie; the relationship between Lyokha and Laura. Given that he essentially assaults her in their first scene, any progression is a mystery, and yet the relationship does develop and Laura at several points puts her trust in this man where everything she knows about him has to be through the lens of their introduction. From his point of view, he becomes enamored with Laura despite reacting dismissively toward her reasons for travel.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing as many foreign-language movies as I’ve seen over the last few months, and I’m grateful that more and more seem to be finding their way into our local theaters. This Finnish/Russian collaboration certainly provides an insight into how stories can be told so very differently across different cultures. Plus, there’s little moments that illuminate my ignorance where the introduction of another Finnish character means that for long periods, I wasn’t sure which language they were all speaking or who understood what.

Despite perfectly decent acting, with its bleak palette and presentation of depressing ways to travel long distances, the movie was too much of a struggle, and its inability to throw me a bone or show me some way to connect left me underwhelmed, full of questions and confusion, and entirely surprised that I’ve managed to write this much without reaching for the recipe book.

You’ve got to admire it, really. Hollywood loves sticking to a formula. The worst thing a movie can be is original and successful because you can guarantee that for the next fifty years it’ll be rehashed, returns will be diminished, and goodwill will be destroyed until it gets to the point where no one can remember what was so good about the original in the first place. I had cause to think this as I walked by posters for The Lost City on my way to the screening. I mean the trailer looked pretty good but the trailer has one job, right? Trailers tend to make a movie look good and then bite you for falling for their charms yet again. I’d seen this movie before. Would actually seeing it make a difference?

Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, a disillusioned romance-adventure novelist, recently bereaved when her archeologist husband passed away, and forced to go on one more book tour by her pushy manager, Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), where she is met by her Fabio, Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), a bit of a freeloader who is only included on the ticket because he’s the muscly blond cover model, the embodiment of Loretta’s hero, Dash.

The first leg of the tour is a disaster and as she storms from the venue after arguing with Alan, Loretta is kidnapped by hoods who work for Daniel Radcliffe’s unisex-named villain, Abigail Fairfax. Turns out that in researching her latest novel, Loretta is a bit of a world expert in dead languages and is the key to deciphering a parchment that will lead to a secret treasure in the real Lost City, an ancient settlement on a North Atlantic island. Keen to apologize, Alan has chased after her, sees her being dragged into an SUV and sets off to rescue

None of this is important.

Well, very little of it.

What is important is that I’ve managed to get through five paragraphs without mentioning Romancing the Stone. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons. The palpable chemistry that existed between Turner and Douglas back in 1984 was lightning in a jar, but it’s recaptured here between Bullock and Tatum and as they go through what is essentially a reboot, what makes it interesting is how the writers, working with a story by Seth Gordon, have subverted that inspiration to keep it fresh.

Where Kathleen Turner played a timid damsel in distress author who relied on Michael Douglas’s Jack to rescue her (at least in the beginning), Loretta is resourceful, intelligent, calm, and in charge of the situation while Alan, very much the anti-Dash, is a fish out of water, desperate to impress, longing for the chance to put his finger to her lips, shush her and tell her she’s safe. Their relationship absolutely shines from the screen.

The story has been done to death. Just from the last few months, Uncharted and Jungle Cruise spring to mind but if anything, The Lost City feels like it’s managed to resurrect a dead genre. Just like Uncharted and Jungle Cruise, I really had seen this movie before, but it didn’t feel like it.

The script is sparkling and witty without being too self-aware and knowing. A scene where our heroes dispatch a couple of henchmen in a more permanent way than they planned is a prime example. Bullock and Tatum could’ve been given carte blanche by duel directors Adam and Aaron Nee and riffed for a couple of minutes, but instead it’s kept tight, edited correctly, and the story is allowed to proceed with minimum delay. The fact that Loretta was kidnapped in a ruby-sequined jumpsuit and is kept in this attire for most of the runtime is a joke that keeps on reminding you it’s there but still doesn’t feel overplayed. There’s also a breathtaking cameo from Brad Pitt that I simply can’t wait to see again.

The adventure elements maybe fail to shine as well as the comedic or romantic aspects, and the scenery, while lush and very jungle-like, looked like it either existed on a hard drive somewhere or was significantly enhanced, but even this part of it has a little sting in its tail that ensured the smile stayed on my face right to the end.

The Lost City is something of a rarity. It’s a rehash that’s somehow the pinnacle of its genre. It’s not the best movie I’ve seen this year, but it comes pretty close and it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year. I’m already impatient for its slightly disappointing sequel. It can’t come quick enough. I hope it has a good trailer.

X, like a lot of movies these days, jumps right into it, dispensing with any credits until the end. Not only that, it opens after the events of the next hour and a half have taken place as police arrive at a lonely Texan farmhouse, discovering blood and gore galore, and an unseen artifact in the cellar that makes these hardened cops catch their breath.

We jump back 24 hours to a burlesque joint in Houston and a merry bunch of characters set off to make a dirty movie. It’s 1979, the home video market is about to explode and executive producer Wayne (Matthew Henderson) sees a way to bring porn to the masses and make a killing. He brings with him cameraman and writer RJ (Owen Campbell) who wants to make something avant-garde, mousy and quietly-spoken boom operator Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), along with the talent: Mia Goth as Maxine, Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne, and Scott Mescudi as inexplicably named ex-Marine Jackson Hole.

They drive out to the farmhouse from the very beginning, passing a gruesome accident involving a cow on the highway, which is owned by a very strange and very elderly couple; Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (obviously Mia Goth again in a lot of prosthetics and make-up), and set up in the guesthouse. Howard and Pearl don’t know the youngsters’ intent and when Pearl, jealous of their youth, discovers them “mid-scene”, it gets her all hot and bothered and when Howard is too worried about his heart, matters take a very grim turn.

Directed and written by Ti West, it borrows an awful lot from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which means lots of long shots of big sky and small subjects, lots of heat, lots of claustrophobia, the occasional dead animal on the road. Incidentally, the movie was shot in New Zealand, which has now pretended to be Texas and Montana in films I’ve seen this year.

Life inside the farmhouse looks almost unsustainable with the only sign of contemporary living being an ancient TV permanently tuned into an evangelism channel. Everything is grim, and dirty, and nasty, and there’s a fairly interesting metaphor bubbling away here of the porno the gang are intending to make being representative of the supposed corruptive effect adult movies in the home video market will have, with the farmhouse and the old couple representing a protesting society that’s already corrupt.

West’s direction does a decent job in the opening act of establishing the characters and the tension without appearing to try too hard to do so. Mia Goth’s Maxine sees herself as a future star, reciting positive mantras in a mirror to herself after another bump of okey-doke, but the movie doesn’t try to paint her as an innocent. She has edges, she’s been broken before, we sense, and so we want her to succeed.

Where the movie starts to fall apart for me is in the inventiveness of the kills, or rather the lack thereof. After doing a decent job of maintaining the suspension of disbelief and delivering the goods, it very quickly ebbs away as the movie drags on to its conclusion. And it’s a shame because while this was never in any danger of being the best, scariest or goriest horror I’ve ever seen, it at least brought an interesting premise to the ever-decreasing-characters style of slasher movie. At this point, the script which had been crisp and pretty precise seemed to go for a few chuckles and to me that was just utterly ill-advised.

There’s word of a prequel that was made in secret along with this movie, and supposedly if I’d hung around to the end of the opening/closing credits, I’d have gotten a sneak peak. I feel disinclined to beat myself up about this and while I may very well go along to see a bit more of this story, it’s likely to be with diminished enthusiasm and expectations.

I chose the moment of actually taking my seat in the cinema to decide that I wasn’t really in the mood for a horror movie. There’s so much dread from just existing these days that paying money to sit in a dark room for the privilege feels excessive and borderline idiotic when the news is available at home for free. Thankfully, though, this ended up being pretty far from a horror movie although it did manage to fill me with unease.

The movie opens with a brief, expositionary prologue in Korean where a child is punished with bare electrical wires by her mother, the Umma of the title. We skip forward a number of years and are properly introduced to Amanda (Sandra Oh) and her teenaged daughter, Chris (Fivel Stewart), who are living a life off the grid on an Arizona farm where they make award-winning organic honey from the bees they keep. There’s a sense straight out the gate that all is not well for Amanda. She is haunted by memories of her abusive mother, determined to avoid generational trauma when it comes to her own daughter. When she’s visited by Danny (Dermot Mulroney, who you may remember as Gavin from Friends, as well as everything ever released, it seems), the local store owner and seller of Amanda’s honey, he’s careful to park a distance from the farm, storing his turned-off cell phone and watch in the glove compartment. It’s all a bit Better Call Saul.

In an unflinchingly obvious nod to the prologue, Amanda claims to have an illness where she is essentially allergic to electricity. Chris has been dealing with this for years so doesn’t quite realize how unconventional her life is as she wanders around her home by gaslight, sans Phone, and sans friends. She has designs to apply for college, which would mean separating from her mother. Amanda is then visited by a very old-school uncle who has tracked her down from Korea to inform her that her mother died some months ago, and he delivers her a box with her mother’s ashes and various cherished belongings. Amanda was already haunted by her abusive mother before her death, and this only intensifies now, as she says, they are in the same room together again. The haunted moments increase and we’re left to guess, as Chris becomes more curious and involved with the box, whether the haunting is done by Amanda’s mother, or Amanda herself, and why Amanda didn’t just throw the stupid box away as soon as she got it.

Considering that Sam Raimi is a producer, it’s surprising how by the numbers the whole affair is. This is director Iris K Shim’s first feature and she also gets the sole writing credit. As a debut horror, she gets a lot of the basics right. The cast and locations are very much running on the bare minimum and there isn’t an overreliance on fancy CGI. It’s a pretty basic affair with very little left to distract. Sadly, this leaves problems with the story on view for all to see.

Occasional fleeting moment of interest notwithstanding, it’s really dull. Like, really dull. And it’s a bit of a shame because it’s still possible to watch the movie and see what it could’ve been. There’s a touching family drama in here that’s not fully developed. There’s a potentially interesting gaze toward what it means to be an immigrant, as Amanda’s mother was, following a husband to a foreign land where she doesn’t speak the language and is too old to learn. There’s the ties that bind trope which we know very well is suited to the genre (Hereditary, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Psycho etc). There’s the seismic cultural shock as old-world clashes with new. But it just doesn’t work on any of these levels, and it doesn’t even seem to try. It just plods on through at a single, dreary pace until it’s done.

The score thinks the movie is terrifying. If you were to just listen to the soundtrack and keep your eyes shut, it might even generate a jump or two out of you. Eyes open, though, and everything is signposted in neon with a guy employed to spin an arrow around standing right next to it. The denouement plays out like a first draft that Shim forgot to fix later. And at a mere 83 minutes, I’ve never been more sure that this was once much longer but it’s been cut back to the bone and as a result feels very disjointed. Fun fact, Raimi’s The Evil Dead clocked in under 90 minutes too. Drag Me To Hell wasn’t much longer. This couldn’t be further from both.

It’s a shame, really. Sandra Oh is as watchable as ever. Fivel Stewart, who I haven’t seen in anything, is great. It’s proof that bad acting can kill a good story, but there’s not much anyone can do to salvage anything from a bad ghost story that isn’t remotely scary.

At some point in our lives, for most of us anyway, we wonder about what we want to be, what we want to do, what sort of role do we want to have. Some people figure it out. Some people figure it out eventually. Some people find themselves working a job for thirty-odd years and still consider themselves at the stage where they’re wondering what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Not that I’m talking about anyone in particular there, you understand.

And this is an internal conflict that dogs Julie, played in a captivating sort of way by Renate Reinsve, throughout Joachim Trier’s 2021 offering, The Worst Person in the World. Told with a prologue and epilogue bookmarking twelve chapters, she starts her university career wanting to study medicine, switches to psychology, switches again to photography, dumps a boyfriend for a professor, works in a bookstore, meanders through relationships until she meets Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a somewhat famous comic book artist, renowned for a series that features a cat with a butthole. Hey, it’s Norwegian, okay?

By this point, Julie is approaching 30, Aksel is in his 40s, and he breaks up with her following their initial tryst, citing the age difference, a conflict in what they want from life, and a concern that they would end up hurting each other, she decides at that moment that she loves him and so they embark on a relationship that will define them.

It’s not exactly treading bold, uncharted territory here, but what makes it shine is Reinsve’s engaging performance — there’s probably a camera pointing at her for 95% of the two-hour runtime — and a sparkling script from Trier and Eskil Vogt, aided in no small measure by the sterling job undertaken by whoever was in charge of the subtitles. So often it seems that some subtitled movies lose something of the nuance of the language it’s translated, but here it felt like every line delivered was captured perfectly.

The story is also careful to avoid many of the tropes that seem to plague romantic comedies. We discover fairly early on that Aksel’s fears were well-founded, particularly around the subject of children, but the couple continues on and it makes perfect sense when they do so. We start to see the relationship develop and change to the point where Aksel chastises Julie’s dad rather brutally in his own home for avoiding his daughter’s birthday and never visiting.

This development, however, serves up probably the only criticism I have of the movie. It’s never particularly clear how quickly time is passing. Initially, it seems to race through the years but then we learn that Julie is still 29, and it’s only when understanding is altered that the film seems to put its foot on the gas. This isn’t helped by the use of chapters and particularly stating upfront how many of them there are. An hour in and only being on Chapter 5 did make me a little uppity in my seat.

It’s a small complaint, though, and more than made up for by the fresh approach and a few inventive setpieces; my favorite being a whistlestop tour of Julie’s female ancestors’ accomplishments by the time they were 30.

Amusing without really forcing many laughs, moving without clawing at the emotions, it makes the viewer appreciate that there is a difference between not wanting children and not wanting children with a particular person, and maybe that person doing the same job for over three decades always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up after all.

Let’s get this out of the way immediately. I absolutely loved Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman, and I adored Christian Bale’s portrayal through that trilogy. For me, it demonstrated what could be done with a comic book hero. That was about as far removed from Tim Burton’s Batman as Tim Burton’s Batman was from Adam West’s. It can do no wrong. So there’s a bar set for me before the house lights went down, and it was pretty high.

Matt Reeves’ version, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego, gives it a damned good try and starts very strongly. We land right in the middle of things, on Halloween, as Batman reflects on his two years as Gotham City’s masked vigilante while we see Paul Dano’s The Riddler stand in the shadows of the mayor’s home as he watches election coverage on the news.

Moments later, and the mayor is dead, with some clues left behind for Batman and Lt Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright, suggesting a conspiracy of corruption within the great and good of the city. Those people should be very worried but thankfully for the purposes of the story, they do very little to up their security and so begins a race against time to discover the identity of The Riddler before too many of them are killed in an inventive manner. All the while, we have Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman on a mission to investigate the disappearance of her roommate and girlfriend which may be tied into all this.

It’s a movie that reminded me an awful lot of Se7en. Gotham is dark, gloomy, and sitting under a perpetual cloud of precipitation, and there are thematic similarities as our heroes home in on the killer on a mission. Towards the end, there’s a sequence where I wouldn’t have been surprised if Kevin Spacey suddenly appeared, although I would have been very disappointed.

I’ve enjoyed Robert Pattinson in everything I’ve seen him in where he wasn’t a vampire and he makes a very good Batman. It has to be said, though, that he brings a bit of an Edward Cullin vibe to proceedings, but in a better, more interesting way. I very much appreciated the little touches, such as when he’s demasked, Bruce Wayne still has black make-up around his eyes, making him look a bit like the singer out of Placebo. But it’s Colin Farrell in a role and under some magical make-up who you would never guess was Colin Farrell even if you were told beforehand that Colin Farrell was in the movie. Let’s not investigate too much how I can say that with such confidence.

Visually, Reeves and his cinematographer, Greig Fraser, do a remarkable job. In his opening voiceover, Batman says that the bad guys think he’s in the shadows, but he is the shadows. Well, this movie is also the shadows but despite its darkness — an hour after getting home and I can’t honestly remember a scene set during the day — the lighting is exquisite, making colors pop out like they were added post-production to black and white stock. The downside to this, though, is a few scenes where it felt impossible to tell where we were in the shot. The upside is the setpiece from the trailer when the only thing illuminating the scene is the flash from the muzzle of automatic weapons. The sound design is a bit whispery and growly, to be expected in a Batman movie to some degree, and plays second fiddle to Michael Giacchino’s booming score.

The storyline is maybe a little too simplistic to be entirely satisfying, with some of The Riddler’s riddles not exactly being cryptic, and at nearly three hours long, on paper it at least appears a bit self-indulgent but it doesn’t feel like it’s three hours. That said, it also doesn’t feel like it’s 90 minutes, and it’s probably about as long as it could feasibly get away with, especially when it decides to be a bit of a disaster movie in the final act.

Messrs Nolan and Bale can rest easy. They’ve still made my favorite Batman movies, but I enjoyed this immensely and would happily sit through it again, although maybe next time I’ll take a cushion with me. In this case, there’s no shame in second place.

Rock and Roll, and simply Rock music, has had a long and variable history with cinema. At last count, Elvis Presley made fourteen thousand movies (mostly involving a race of some kind), the Monkees had Head, Pink Floyd had their Wall, Prince had Purple Rain, The Beatles got some Help with their Hard Day’s Night. Add to the list, then, venerable rockers Foo Fighters, who put all that practice from acting in their music videos to the test here.

We open on a scene in a spooky-looking Encino mansion in the 90s where a woman with a nasty bit of thigh bone sticking out of her leg tries to crawl her way to safety from a hammer-wielding maniac who successfully dispatches her in a particularly gruesome manner. Before we can get over this, we jump to the present day and the members of the Foo Fighters having a chat around their manager’s office as they discuss the recording of their upcoming tenth studio album. Looking for somewhere new, somewhere with character and a soul, the manager has heard of a certain mansion in Encino that may just fit the bill.

One night, singer and creative powerhouse, Dave Grohl, is suffering from writer’s block and descends to the mansion’s basement where he finds an old reel-to-reel machine. The music he hears reawakens his creative juices but also possesses him with the spirit of the maniac from the opening. Grohl returns to his bandmates determined to commit this new sound in the shape of a neverending song, and with a bloodthirsty look in his eye.

Directed by BJ McDonnell with a screenplay written by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes that’s based on a story by Dave Grohl, it’s a movie that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. Evil Dead, Halloween (John Carpenter wrote the movie’s score and has a small role), The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and yes, Scooby Doo and also that episode of South Park that had Korn in it, can all be seen.

It’s a gloriously gory affair, with plenty of inventive and bloodthirsty kills, along with a few jump scares, to give horror fans something to talk about. But for the most part, it’s done knowingly and with tongue firmly in cheek, and there are more than enough laugh-out-loud moments, including an unexpected cameo, to keep the mood light.

The band members aren’t about to win any awards for their acting prowess, but they’re all more than happy to poke fun at themselves. Guitarist Pat Smear finds himself without a bedroom in the mansion so sleeps on the breakfast counter with a Wee Willy Winkie hat. Drummer Taylor Hawkins criticizes Grohl for continually trying to write Everlong again. More seasoned turns come from Whitney Cummings as the nosy neighbor with the good lemon drizzle cake, Will Forte stands out as a delivery guy trying to get his demo tape to Grohl, and metal fans will rejoice in seeing Slayer’s own Kerry King as Krug, the drum tech named after the bad guy in Last House on the Left.

It’s a bit like one of their conceptual music videos stretched out from a five-minute idea into a feature film. Weighing in around the 115 minute mark, it’s not exactly long by today’s standards, but it does suffer from baggy sequences, particularly around the middle and towards the end. it could easily be half an hour lighter and no one would complain. A movie that’s ostensibly about a neverending song, runs the risk of feeling neverending itself. There are at least three attempts to get to the end credits here and I can’t honestly say any one of them is particularly satisfying.

However, for the most part it’s great fun, even a little charming in its own messed up kind of way, and the band manages to confirm the suspicions that they are nothing less than thoroughly bloody nice blokes. One has to wonder what people who aren’t fans of Foo Fighters would think about any of it, but for me, there was easily enough to get pass marks.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been au fait with PlayStation games. These days, if I’m sitting down to play a game, it’s far more likely to be something that resembles my day job. I play factory games where processes are designed and outputs are optimized and other tedious stuff like that. My days of dropping my PS Controller in fright because a wolf lept out of nowhere to attack Lara Croft are decades behind me. And yet, I feel like the Uncharted game is still from my era. Why on earth are they making a movie of this now? Should we expect Daley Thompson’s Decathalon to get a theatrical release this summer?

The truth of the matter is that this has been in Development Hell since around 2009 with David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Seth Gordon, and Dan Trachtenberg all being lined up to direct at various points before the spinning bottle finally settled on Ruben ZombieLand Fleischer. It’s been lingering around unmade for so long that Mark Wahlberg has aged from being the leading actor to the supporting actor. Tom Holland, who replaced Wahlberg in the lead role, has been signed up since 2017 where, if possible, he looked even younger. Even discounting COVID, this has been a difficult birth. So was it worth the effort, then?

Well, things start off interestingly enough. In a move that is becoming more common these days, we open in the middle of the action, sans title card, with Tom Holland’s Nate Drake coming round in the unlikely position of having his foot caught in a rope that’s holding a string of cargo as it falls out of the back of a plane in flight. As ridiculous as it seems, it’s perfectly in keeping with the computer origins. It’s imaginable as a level in a game; one of the levels where you expect to die a lot.

We learn that the opening scene really comes from a point about two-thirds of the way through the story, so we jump about a bit as we learn that Nate and his brother, Sam, were orphaned at an early age, but have grown up loving tales of Magellan’s expedition (big hit with orphans, apparently) and with a penchant for stealing antique maps and artifacts. They’re caught and Sam goes on the lam for the next ten years.

We next meet Nate serving bar in New York and pickpocketing in his spare time when he’s introduced to Wahlberg’s Sully, a conniving, older fortune hunter who has heard tales of Magellan’s lost treasure and may have information about Sam’s whereabouts, if only Nate would help him steal a golden cross thought to be a key to reaching further clues and lots and lots of gold. Meanwhile, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, and Tati Gabrielle care enough to varying degrees to try and beat them through the series of clues left behind by 16th Century Spanish sailors, who let’s face it absolutely loved clues, traps, and poison arrows shooting out of stone blocks.

If it sounds like you’ve heard this before, and you suspect you’ve seen this before, you’re right. For all the impressive set pieces, the sheer disregard for physics, gravity, and probability, when you boil it down, if you’ve seen National Treasure, you’ve already seen this done much better.

Tom Holland is a charming presence, although it takes a while to get used to him being old enough to be a bartender, not helped by his propensity to put his big old man nipples on display every half-hour or so. He delivers his quips and one-liners far better than most of the feedlines deserve and he moves around the screen with the indestructible fluidity of his sprite equivalent. Wahlberg is less impressive and when he goes walkabout for an extended period, it’s hard not to imagine the whole affair would’ve been better off without him

Fleischer directs like he knows this is not his best work, and if there’s a sense of urgency through the movie, where perhaps it would help if people took a quick breath to explain exactly what they think is going on, it’s probably because he wanted it to be over and done with as quickly as possible. Wahlberg has his one foot out the door from before the halfway point.

There are a few laughs to be had, and a few genuinely thrilling sequences, but vast swathes of it make no sense and it’s almost like corners were cut because everyone involved knew you could fill in the blanks from the other times you’ve seen this play out.