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Threes and 2007’s – SF Films of the Year

2007 was the “Year of the Threequel”, an unwieldy term that referred to the bewildering number of sequels churned out by the major studios, many of which had reached the magic “trilogy” point but also included head starter Harry Potter 5 and catch-me-up wannabe Fantastic Four 2. An optimist could allude to increasing box office revenue producing better films. A pessimist would point out a dearth of imagination within the studios, turning successful products into factory franchises, aware that, providing enough money is hosed at the special effects, the punters will gleefully turn up in droves. It’s easy to moan about vacuous tat, until you remember that film is primarily a forum for entertainment – intellectual themes and solid dialogue are welcome extras in the greater scheme of things. Then you look at the unadulterated tedium of Ocean’s Thirteen and suddenly your critical faculties are reduced to desperate levels as the nicest thing you can say about this criminal waste of time and celluloid is that it wasn’t as bad as Ocean’s Twelve. A similar damnation with faint praise could be levelled at Resident Evil: Extinction, the third in the series of films loosely based upon the popular Capcom franchise. Saying it’s better than part two is not really helpful given that Resident Evil: Apocalypse was the worst zombie film of all time. Extinction, directed by Russell (Razorback) Mulcahy, is at least a passable film as Alice (Milla Jovovich) hooks up with a group of survivors looking for a quiet life in zombie-free Alaska. But dastardly corporate meanies Umbrella Corp want Alice dead so they can experiment on her DNA. Although there’s plenty of zombie action to enjoy, the film lacks tension. Better, but not a patch on the taut original, was 28 Weeks Later, where zombies (who aren’t really zombies but they do a really good impersonation) terrorise what remains of Britain after the US military have declared London to be free from contagion. Which of course it proves not to be. Plenty of gore, although some of it (yes, the helicopter bit) doesn’t sit easy with the serious tone of the film and its themes about loss of love, humanity and self-control. Still, it’s an interesting piece with a British backdrop that manages to hold its own.

Planet TerrorThere was more zombie action in Robert Rodriguez’s jaw-droppingly tasteless Planet Terror where an experimental airborne virus turns a community into flesh hungry maniacs. What sets Planet Terror apart is its impish glee, as it piles on each new atrocity to hysterical levels. Rodriguez simply puts as much mindless fun as he can muster onto the screen, with zombies spraying gallons of blood, chowing down on victims or being pulled into pieces. Hilarious for gross-out fans, the humour is simplistic but hits the mark – “This case is a no-brainer,” declares a mortuary attendant as he turns over a corpse, revealing the back of the victim’s head is missing. The film even goes as far as to degrade the stock, skip frames and, in one audacious move, miss an entire reel! The only fault is that, due to a disastrous turn at the US box office, this was not released as a double bill with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof under the title Grindhouse, meaning that we had to pay twice to see what should have been a three-hour programme of irresponsible fun, complete with guest director trailers including Werewolf Women of the SS featuring Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu. Extended by half an hour and overlong by, oh, about half an hour, Death Proof is a far talkier affair, with Kurt Russell playing Stuntman Mike whose death proof car allows him to engage in a peculiar pastime of deliberately causing fatal road accidents.

Back with the threes, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was probably the year’s most anticipated film, coming on the heels of the stupendously successful (some might add “inexplicably” here) Dead Man’s Chest. Our swaggering semi-anti-hero-villain Cap’n Jack Sparrow is having a tough time having been swallowed by the Kraken in part 2 and finding himself in Davy Jones’ Locker. Meanwhile the regular crew, including a reanimated Barbossa, are seeking a way of releasing Jack, against their better judgement. Having written themselves in a corner at the end of part two it seems as though the only way out for the film-makers was to create a whole pantheon of gods and artefacts to give the film a sense of gravitas and mythmaking, something which was almost absent from the refreshing original. It’s all strangely reminiscent of that other “back to back” self-satisfying clunker The Matrix. Admittedly the visual design is impressive but overall the effect is that of a pudding so over-egged it may as well be called an omelette. Coming in early in a packed season of tentpole flicks Spiderman 3 initially appeared a touch disappointing but Raimi’s sure-footed and exhilarating direction coupled with his ability to include, shock, characters with emotions that aren’t limited to love or anger alone makes for superior entertainment. The Spiderman films have always challenged the boundaries between good and evil, fate and design and this time round is no exception. Peter has not only to wrestle with his conscience, he also faces the wrath of former buddy Harry Osborn, now re-inventing himself as the vengeful New Goblin, as well as Uncle Ben’s real murderer – transformed into the Sandman. Compounding his problems is some alien goo that turns his powers up to eleven but makes him a narcissistic idiot. When he finally realises the error of his ways his rejection of his dark sides leads to the birth of his most evil foe yet… Venom. Spiderman 3 suffers from a case of too many crooks spoiling the plot, almost as though they had decided that this was to be the last film in the series and that they might as well roll out their favourite bits from the comic books in one big bundle. The result is a bit muddled – the comic relief sections either helping to balance the dark tone of the film or stop it in its tracks depending on your point of view, but at least it has some coherence and the action is superbly staged throughout. Coherence was sadly lacking in the dreadful Shrek the Third. Dreamworks have finally got their render engine to sing but sadly they seem to have lost any ability to animate their characters resulting in individual shots looking fabulous… until they move. Shrek faces becoming the heir to the land of Far, Far Away but still prefers the quieter life so tries to arrange a replacement. Meanwhile Fiona is belatedly paying homage to McG’s Charlies Angels films by setting up a trio of “not meant to be like Disney Princesses gone hard-ass” kung-fu fighters to prevent the smarmy Prince Charming pulling off a coup d’etat. The end result is a film entirely devoid of humour, bar some lazy post-modernism that was wearing thin last time around. Be warned, a fourth outing and a Puss In Boots spin-off are in the pipeline. Still it’s not as though other animation companies can rest on their laurels. Disney produced Meet the Robinson’s, a bizarre, lifeless cross between The Jetsons and The Time Machine where orphan inventor Lewis is dragged to the future by William Robinson (Will Robinson – how clever!) to see a world of “zany wonder” that is under threat from Bowler Hat Guy – a pantomime villain with ill-fitting trousers, an outrageous cape and handle-bar moustache who appears to have wandered in from a Penelope Pitstop cartoon. Sadly the maudlin orphan scenes sit uneasily with the Futurama-for-kids future world and the “wacky humour” falls as flat as my soufflés. Remember, Disney ditched its 2-D department to make films like this over Lilo and Stitch or Beauty and the Beast. At least temporarily (see Enchanted). Far better for being cell animated was Goro (son of Hayao) Miyazaki’s Tales from Earthsea which, complete with all the exquisite background paintings and Ghibli animation we’ve come to expect, was surely destined for greatness. Sadly the end result, while sporadically exciting, is unevenly paced and relies too much upon understanding details from the books. Adherence to the text is, of course, not crucial for creating a good film but Goro was a first time director trying to live up to the reputation of the greatest living cell animator and there is a sense that the film is “Greatest Hits of My Dad”. It has the feeling of buying a classic album and finding out it’s been re-recorded by a cover band. Tales from EarthseaTales from Earthsea doesn’t balk at showing fantasy violence, something western animations are still a bit wary of doing, though Beowulf may well make strides in changing that. So it’s nice to see the re-birth of those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a CGI extravaganza which goes to show that fighting in films can be fun again although there’s no way that the gore of the original comics is likely ever to be realised. A more bizarre concept is the aforementioned Beowulf, made with the same motion capture technique used in, of all things, Polar Express, a retelling of the millennium old Anglo-Saxon poem scripted by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery. It’s hard to imagine how this got green-lit, a state of the art $150million CGI fantasy featuring people being skinned alive, ripped into little pieces and massacred by psychotic deformed monsters. Add to that the sight of a computer generated naked Ray Winstone poking a deranged Crispin Glover in the eye or Angelina Jolie propagating her race through metamorphosed seductions (including fashionable 8th Century high heeled heels) and you wonder not only “what were they thinking?” but “how on earth did they get a 12A rating for this?” The answers are academic, the result is a strange but compelling mixture of ancient and modern – exciting, visceral and raw, steeped in atmosphere and surprisingly refreshing in sticking to the morbid tragedy of the story. The script makes modern sense of the classic poem without overly dumbing down, the salty talk among the soldiers, the foetid air of decay and the ever increasing tales of (unlikely) bravery all follow the testosterone fuelled tradition of heroic epics, as much about bravura as actuality.

Recently animation has been steering away from cell to CGI but there is one branch of the animated film that has been less conspicuous in recent years – the live-animated mix, a hybrid that started as far back as Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) with pioneering animator Winsor McCay interacting with the delightful titular dinosaur. This year two films took different approaches to the way this sub-genre could be adapted to a modern family fantasy, one using CGI, one cell animation (oh, and a pile of CGI too, just in case). Arthur and the Invisibles (Arthur et les Minimoys), directed by everyone’s favourite genre maverick Luc Besson and based upon his books, takes Arthur (Freddie Highmore) on a journey deep into the garden of his grandmother to recover treasure buried there by his missing grandfather and save the family home from an evil property tycoon. Arthur must engage in a moonlit ritual ceremony to shrink himself to the size of the Minimoys, tiny environmentalists. While miniaturised, our hero finds time to fall in love with a feisty princess called Selenia and, armed with a magic sword, sets out to set things right. Arthur turns into a CGI version of himself when joining the Minimoys, blurring the lines between real and fantasy in a deliberate way. This is a charming film, a simple and diverting adventure with a good heart and much to enjoy, even if the voice acting (in the UK dub) is a touch variable. Even more unexpectedly enjoyable is Disney’s Enchanted, the Mouse House’s answer to the hip Shrek films, which sees the studio partly return to its cell animated roots. The premise is a plainly generic combination of fish-out-of-water meets pre-teen rom-com with the added twist of being a “Disney Princess” franchise piece – not an inspiring prospect, but somehow it pulls it off by being feelgood, yet cynical enough to be plausible. Having fallen in love at first sight, Princess Giselle is to marry a handsome prince, after much singing and a day of strictly chaste courting. It is not to be, for an evil queen dumps the gullible princess into a well… that leads to modern day live action New York. Where Enchanted Enchanted works is in the total belief in the Disney-verse as separate from our reality and what happens when the two clash together. The opening animation is a pitch perfect distillation of all the woodland clichés from their classic output. When the action moves to New York this ethos is turned on its head with deliberately unlikely live action musical numbers. Admittedly once the resolution is under way everything becomes a little by-numbers but this safe Pleasantville-in-reverse is diverting uplifting fun nevertheless, proving a family film can be engaging and charming to most ages. This is something the makers of the $200million travesty Evan Almighty would have done well to have thought about in this mirthless, charmless, turkey sequel to the tolerable Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty. This time Steve Carrell takes the lead as an congressman who’s given the task of building an ark, old school style. And that’s it. As funny as the plague (every joke is laboured), its anaemic take on religion is pretty much insulting to anyone, and ultimately it is just plain bad film-making. And no, we aren’t even going to say nice things about Morgan Freeman because, frankly, he chose to do it and presumably got paid. Night at the Museum was a more satisfactory affair as Ben Stiller gets a job as a security guard in the Museum of Natural History and discovers that the exhibits come to life each night. Only Ricky Gervais’ irritating performance put a damper on what was a generally amiable fantasy. Similar shenanigans could to be found in the less frenetic Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, where Dustin Hoffman plays the 243-year-old eccentric owner of a magical toyshop.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is not about internet savvy grannies but a return to the day-glo squabbles of our four superhero chums as they take on board another bout of relationship issues while trying to save the world, oh, and maybe Reed and Sue could finally get married? This time the apparently indestructible Silver Surfer, pawn of snack-on-a-planet bad dude Galactus crashes in on the party, partly invited by a mashed up Dr Doom. It’s moderately exciting with bigger effects sequences and at least some attempt at moral dilemma but again Ben is miserable, Reed is boring, Johnny is annoying and Sue is either invisible or looks constipated. There’s even more Marvel in the air as Nicolas Cage finally gets to become Ghost Rider. When Peter Fonda offers to cure his father’s illness in return for his soul, reckless stuntbike performer Johnny Blaze takes the bait and becomes the demonic ghost rider whenever the devil bids him. But there’s an even badder boy in town, Blackheart, who plans to find a contract that will unleash the power of 1,000 souls and give them power over Hell and Earth. Unwittingly Johnny has become the executor for Mephistopheles. Cage is in his element hamming up these kind of roles, adding a touch of Elvis (a la Wild At Heart) and a completely bizarre sweet fetish to his range of quirks but it’s not enough. Rather like the original comics, it feels that the film’s premise of damned souls and flaming skulls is totally at odds with its Comic Code Seal of Approval. Cage also appeared in Next as a Las Vegas magician who has the vaguely useful but marginally silly ability to see a few minutes into the future. There should be loads potential for the film to play with time and create something interesting but it’s completely blown away by an all-too-linear plot and an “is that it?” ending.

Never one to blow up one car when you could blow up ten, the hyperactive and much maligned director Michael Bay seemed like a good choice to do Transformers, after all what can possibly go wrong with big robots that change into cool stuff beating the living daylights out of each other while trashing lots of cities and military hardware in the process? a) mecha are cool b) metamorphosing mecha are cooler and c) throwing a & b around is even cooler still. Add a blistering amount of carnage and the results are an 84 minute energetic whoop out loud action romp. Except. Except that it runs at 144 minutes. Sadly in the midst of the action is one of the most cringe-worthy geek bonding stories since ET and a truly horrible teen-fantasy romance. It is achingly bad, like they had spliced that Citroen advert with Weird Science. Cheaper and far better for it is Timur Bekmambetov’s Day Watch, the sequel to the wonderful Night Watch, which provides more eclectic and eccentric thrills, the innovative effects once again proving that a bit of imagination can often produce something as spectacular as Hollywood’s money-hose. We await Twilight Watch with eager anticipation.

Back to numbers again but not in a threequel way. 1408 sees another in the endless stream of Stephen King adaptations where the titular room number is investigated by a doubter of the paranormal. Genuine creeps give way to a disappointing conclusion but it’s a worthy ride. Joel Schumacher’s The Number 23 has the hilarious premise of a man being persecuted by a recurring number, a paranoia he gets from a small publication strangely prominent at a local bookshop. Is this just a psychotic quirk (he is, after all played by the ever variable Jim Carrey, here in not-at-all-over-the-top mode, well at least compared with the film), or is there some “dark secret”? Well of course it’s the latter as the plot spirals into murder, hallucination and madness culminating in dark revelations. Utter hokum from start to finish but it holds the attention as it tries to grasp the convoluted plotting with both hands and run with it straight faced. Mr Brooks tried a similar feat with Kevin Costner having conversations with his alter-ego trying to curtail his passion for serial killing. This alter-ego (William Hurt) is on screen and refreshingly free of special effects trickery or cheesy voiceover – the effect is startling in its bare-faced simplicity. Brooks’ “one last” job is marred by a voyeur who wants to get in on the action. Like Spiderman 3 a bewildering class of additional villains makes the whole feel more like professional wrestling minus the lycra but there’s enough inventive material to keep you engaged and the performances are nicely balanced. Balanced is not something you could accuse 300 of, a breathtaking, hilarious exercise in overindulgence and bombastic excess. Indeed it is so full of machismo that some cinemas handed out testosterone repellent to worried customers. No-one can talk when shouting will do as Gerard “airbrushed pecs” Butler leads his Spartans to certain doom, leaving piles of corpses in his wake in order to prevent the Persians taking their land. But these are no ordinary corpses, oh no, these are a deranged assortment of masked ninjas, gimps and trolls, armoured elephants and treacherous freaks butchered with super-spraying CGI blood and limbs, all ruled by the campest villain in cinema history (yes, even camper than the one in Bride with the White Hair). Loud, brash and without irony the sheer pace carries this stylistic interpretation of Frank Miller’s comics to its inevitable climax. That said at least it lacked the pretensions of the tedious Gladiator or the nihilistic übermensch trappings of Mel Gibson’s lovingly crafted grimfest Apocalypto – a strange experiment in brutality where the bare-bones plot – man goes from A to B and back again while bad shit happens – makes for an almost fableistic tale of the decline of civilisation through the eyes of a “real man”. Gibson’s insistence on shooting his epic in Mayan keeps an otherworldly distance from the frequently intense scenes of utter carnage on show. Also in the same subgenre was the slightly unhinged Pathfinder, where the rejected son of a Viking grows up in a native American tribe, spearheading escape and rebellion against future Scandinavian oppressors. Brief strokes of visual inventiveness can’t hide the loopy premise and the foreshadowed “guys chained together trying to tiptoe over dangerous mountain passes” scene is just hilarious.

Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter’s status as grim 12a goth-lite again had many younglings turned away from cinemas or desperately seeking adult accompaniment. Order of the Phoenix still suffers from a script that just condenses Rowling’s sprawling novel rather than adapts it, a sort of visual Reader’s Digest. Rather than cut chunks out of the book we gloss over them, removing some repetition but also character and depth. Still this fantasy manages to retain a politically anti-authoritarian edge as the increasingly totalitarian wizarding authorities oust Dumbledore from Hogwarts and instigate a grand Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge (a genuinely unnerving performance from Imelda Staunton) to quell any dissent. Indeed some of the Hogwarts declarations look like they crept in from Ripping Yarn’s Tomkinson’s School Days. Sadly the climax is over too quickly to take in Harry’s loss and Helena Bonham Carter’s truly terrifying Bellatrix Lestrange is underused to make way for the increasingly wide net of regulars they need to squeeze into the running time.

A decade ago the idea that a fantasy film would make any money would be laughable but how times have changed. With Lord of the Rings over and the Potter lad rapidly approaching graduation the search is on for the next fantasy torchbearer. Last year’s Eragon and this year’s The Dark Is Rising proved you couldn’t just throw a popular book at a film studio and hope to make anything from it, whether the quality of the original is debateable or excellent. Although integrity to the spirit of the book is something a film-maker should strive for it is impossible to recreate something in a completely different medium. The big contender for the early Christmas season was undoubtedly The Golden Compass, a stupidly expensive adaptation of a fair chunk of Philip Pullman’s preachy, polemic but sporadically exhilarating The Northern Lights (apparently the budget didn’t stretch to naming the film correctly in the UK). Glossy, impressive visuals and a menacing performance from Nicole Kidman make for a lean and exciting adventure. The break-neck pacing and tight scripting follows our insolent and feisty heroine Lyra as she journeys North to free kidnapped children, aided by the last remaining Alethiometer and her ever changing daemon. Her adventures take on magical flying machines, ageless witches and, best of all, hard-rucking polar bears. By ignoring the wearisome sections of the book and getting on with the adventure The Golden Compass manages to make a stab at restoring faith in the tentpole flick with its sheer pace and bravura. There was more from Neil Gaiman this year with Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Stardust. Despite a (relatively) modest budget this turned out to be a real treat as lovelorn Tristan ventures beyond the wall that mysteriously separates his village from a dangerous fantasy world in order to retrieve a shooting star for the undeserving focus of his amorous intentions. Stardust maintains its own internal logic that makes it an eminently satisfying romp in the spirit of The Princess Bride. After an unspectacular start the film throws a bewildering array of witches (Michelle Pfeiffer in a career topping role), camp pirates of the air (Robert de Niro, would you believe) and assorted ghosts, curses and magic into a feelgood pot of celluloid fun.

Similarly there was a time when the horror film was dead and buried but recent years have seen a huge resurgence of interest in the genre. The result? Well we’re beginning to see the cracks once more – horror films follow trends more quickly, aggressively and cheaply than virtually any other mainstream genre so it doesn’t take much for the marketplace to become saturated with apparently indistinguishable product. This year the litany included Hostel 2 (Hostel, with chicks!), Paradise Lost (Hostel in South America!), The Hills Have Eyes 2 (a sequel to a re-make), The Hitcher (Sean Bean plays Rutger Hauer) Saw IV (the Saw trilogy is over… let’s start another one) and, of course, Halloween. Or should we say “visionary director Rob Zombie’s re-imagining of Halloween”? HalloweenAnother woeful attempt to re-make a John Carpenter film (we await Escape From New York with utter dread) Zombie replaces 100% of the tension with boring violence and completely destroys Michael Myers’ unexplained bogeyman persona by giving him a massive backstory about childhood hardship. Like we care. Others had a stab at originality – Black Sheep saw two rival brothers at their family homestead battling over more than inheritance as a new breed of genetically altered sheep prove not to be the money spinner anticipated when it turns out they have a taste for flesh. The sheep that is. This New Zealand film has more than a nod to early Peter Jackson in its range of genre caricatures, slapstick and OTT gore and while it’s always entertaining it’s never quite as funny as a film about killer sheep really should be (although using mint sauce as an acid substitute is pure genius). Also notching up points for trying something a bit out of the ordinary 30 Days of Night places its roaming nosferatu in an Alaskan outpost where, cut off from the outside world and a month in arctic darkness, the inhabitants stand little chance against the undead. Surprisingly effective direction, including a superbly detached overhead massacre that recalls, of all things, Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, 30 Days of Night uses its comic book origins as a striking jump-board for the on-screen bloodletting. Scary stuff made enjoyable with an air of the fantastic and some John Carpenter style sieges. I Am Legend replaces the pompous self-righteousness of The Omega Man as Military scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith) seeks a cure to a virus that has decimated humanity and turned pretty much everyone into light-sensitive beings with an insatiable appetite for blood. Neville is immune and his only companion lies with his dog Sam and a collection of shop dummies at the local DVD emporium. Although the film spares graphic blood-letting its deliberate build up and nihilistic tone make for a refreshingly solemn blockbuster which, despite its upbeat conclusion, really does offer its hero a desolate fate.

Perhaps the most surprising sf film came in the shape of Sunshine – British made, with a half-decent budget and a cast you actually have heard of. What’s more it generally treated its audience with a modicum of intelligence. When the sun shows signs of sputtering out a team of scientists are sent to jump start it but mysteriously disappear. Seven years later a new team aims to repeat the mission – with less catastrophic results – and save the planet from eternal night. Okay, so Sunshine is basically Alien meets 2001 (with, dare we suggest, a hint of The Core?) but frankly it’s been so long since we’ve had a big screen existential sf blockbuster that we’ll forgive it. Yes the film is left wanting a prologue and some of the action is incongruous but generally the tension is palpable, the acting believable and the cinematography is simply ravishing.

Also a big screen must see is Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou’s latest martial arthouse film, which is very different film from the Rashmon-inspired Hero and the convoluted melodrama House of Flying Daggers. Sumptuous sets and lavish visuals add sheen to this tale of lust, hatred and betrayal. Rot beneath the surface threatens to plunge the country into ruin and bloodshed as the Empress plans a coup d’etat over her husband, who is in turn arranging to have her slowly and painfully poisoned. Each is aware of the other’s plans (in part) but neither can lose face by admitting it. Some truly spectacular martial arts sequences pepper this almost Shakespearean tragedy and there’s no denying the audacity at merging two such apparently disparate genres to such ravishing effect.

More threes in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, the director’s third film, in which we follow the attempts of Hugh Jackman’s Tom to save his dying love across the ages. Set in (you’ve guessed it!) three separate time strands – 16th century, present day and 26th century – the film linked through the ages by its protagonist, rendered immortal by an ancient tree. This dense, exquisitely designed romance is a visual treat, the by-product, paradoxically, of a tortuous pre-production history. The result is a glowing, sumptuous feast for the eyes that is astonishingly free from CGI (save in compositing), relying on old-school micro-photography effects to realises its psychedelic extremes. Maybe it is not as profound as it would like to think but it is undeniably an intense, surreal and thought-provoking cinematic experience. A similar charge could be levelled at Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s follow-up to Donnie Darko. SF is only one element of this comedy, musical, drama set so near in the future it’s probably the past by the time you read this. Is it a work of genius or madness? Only you can decide.

Overall 2007 has been a disappointing year for genre with only a few lights desperately twinkling out of the darkness. Even the likes of David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, a perfectly solid, decent film, or the sporadic raw genius of David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE felt just a little lacklustre. It’s difficult to see where the market is heading – clearly there is still a huge interest in the blockbuster film but the ubiquity of CGI is increasingly looking like the Emperor’s Not-So-New Clothes, a way of justifying budgets for films that really need a better scripts. Ironically there is hope in two of this year’s major, if heavily flawed, releases – Beowulf shows that new technology can be used to create something bizarre and yet still turn a profit while Enchanted shows that there is still merit in solid film-making and old school techniques. Maybe these will sow the seeds of a refreshed industry, striving to provide something new but in a way that acknowledges what worked in the past. Otherwise we’re going to be stuck with Shrek 17 and the next 5-hour Pirates movie. Now that is scary.