ORBzine - Young Adult Adaptations Movie Reviews


Abigail (2019) AKA Magical Adventures In The Forbidden City

Adventures In The Magic City (2019) The protagonist is a teenage girl who lives in a Sci-Fi city. It is a dystopia, policed by an army of men in metal masks. Their main job is to hunt down The Infected, people who are somehow different from regular people. It turns out that The Infected have super-powers, and the girl is one of them.

The girl's quest is to find her father (Eddie Marsan - Hancock (2008) ), who was disappeared by the secret police when she was a child. She teams up with the rebels, who have their own plans.

This was made in Russia. The only English-speaker is Eddie Marsan - everyone else seems to be a Russian-speaker who was over-dubbed in post-production. But this is not like the cheap Italian movies of the 1970s. The CGI SPFX are incredible, and the city's zepplin airships have an original design.

The Darkest Minds (2018)

The Darkest Minds (2018) This is based on a YA book by Alexandra Langham . It is set in a world where all human children fall ill with a strange disease, so they are rounded up and put in quarantine.

The guards allow a stroppy teenager to murder one of their own. Presumably they want to enslave the strongest mutants as warriors. However, the kids are then processed by an unarmed Doctor (Wallace Langham - ) who does not have any guards or other protection. The protagonist's power is to do the Jedi Mind Trick. At first it only affects people she touches, even through their clothing. Later she develops the power to use it at much longer range.

The President is Bradley Whitford ( Handmaid's Tale ). Most of the villains are creepy white men. In fact, villains of colour are not well represented.

The protagonist is helped by a friendly lady doctor ( Mandy Moore ). But does she have a secret agenda? The setup is the standard YA one. The kids have superpowers, and they cannot trust the adults.

The Fifth Wave (2016)

The Fifth Wave (2016) Yes, yet another post-Apocalyptic action movie with a teenage heroine like Hunger Games and Divergent . The protagonist is Chloe Grace Moretz , but she is not the kick-ass hit-girl we are used to.

Alien starships arrive and hover over the major cities, like in V: The Series . Then they start their attacks. The first wave is an EMP, which makes planes drop out of the sky like in Revolution . The second wave is more literal, a massive tsunami like in Deep Impact . The third wave is an outbreak of disease. The fourth wave is a bunch of hillbillies with hunting rifles.

Finally the US Army arrives on the scene, led by a Colonel (Liev Schreiber - Scream ) and Sergeant ( Maria Bello ). It turns out they are building an army of child soldiers to fight the Fifth Wave of the alien invasion. Anyone who has seen the film Oblivion will be a bit cynical about this whole series of events.

The Giver (2014)

The Giver (2014) This is set in a futuristic city, isolated from the outside world - a standard trope in Sci-Fi. The story is based on a Young Adult novel, and is quite derivative of other works. Our protagonist (a male, which is unusual for this sub-genre) turns eighteen, and attends the standard job-allocation ceremony (like in Divergent ). He is allocated a strange job - he is to be a receiver of memories, the guardian of almost-forgotten knowledge. Jeff Bridges (almost as beardy and unkempt as he was in True Grit ) is his predecessor and trainer, who now becomes the Giver of memories. The old man teaches the youngster by means of a telepathic link.

Naturally, when our hero discovers the dark side of his Utopia he rebels against the system. In this case the grown-ups are his Mother ( Katie Holmes ), Father (Alexander Saarsgard - True Blood ) and the community's Matriarch Meryl Streep .

The Host (2013)

The Host (2013) This is based on a book by Stephanie Meyer , best-known as the creator of the Twilight Franchise, and shares a couple of familiar tropes with it.

It starts with a voice-over that delivers exposition. Earth has been conquered by aliens, who possess human bodies and can be told apart by their glowing eyes. So far, so Stargate .

One of the few human survivors, Melanie ( Saoirse Ronan ), is captured by The Seeker ( Diane Kruger ). An alien called The Wanderer is inserted into Melanie, and explores her memories in order to find clues as to where the human Resistance is hiding. We get lots of flashbacks on her personal backstory, which is a lot more informative than the simple voiceover exposition that summarised the enslavement of the entire human species.

Melanie survives as a voice in the Wanderer's head, and talks her into escaping from the aliens. Melanie and Wanderer, now a team named Wanda, make their way to the Resistance hideout. It is deep in the desert, like in Airwolf. Jeb (William Hurt - ) and Maggie ( Frances Fisher ) reluctantly allow her to stay, but Kyle (Boyd Holbrook - Logan (2017) ) wants to kill her to be on the safe side.

Wanda has two personalities, and now she has two love interests. Yes, the ultimate Young Adult trope - the love triangle - rears its ugly head here. Well, that is what made Stephanie Meyer rich and famous.

Melanie's younger brother injures himself. Although the humans have been experimenting in surgery that can remove an alien from a human body, for some incredible yet unexplained reason they have no technology that can handle tetanus. Luckily, Wanda can go into the alien-occupied city and steal a Star Trek type hypo-spray.

The Seeker is obsessed with tracking down Wanda. However, this plotline is quickly resolved. The real focus is on the love triangle.

There is also a final sequence, not actually post-credits but the next best thing, introducing Nate (Bokeem Woodbine - ). Presumably this was a setup for a potential sequel, which was never made. The story itself is self-contained, but there is still room for new stories to be told.

I am Number 4 (2011)

I am Number 4 (2011) This is based on a novel, but the unoriginality does not begin there. The producers are Gough and Millar ( Smallville ) and Marti Noxious ( Buffy ). The plot is a rehash of Roswell . Alien teenagers are in hiding on modern-day Earth. Our hero, Number Four, is one of them. His guardian/mentor is American Jedi Timothy Olyphant (the male Julie Benz - he is in everything!). Our hero goes to a new High School, where he meets love interest Diana Agron . She also plays a High School girl in Glee , though she (like the rest of the cast) is about ten years too old. There are the usual two-dimensional jock and nerd stereotypes too.

Our heroes are hunted by the Trench Coat Mafia - they have tattoos, they are the least subtle villains since Charmed . Their leader is Joshua from Dark Angel ! Speaking of that show, there is also a mysterious Buffy-lookalike, Faith-acting motorbike chick ( Eliza Taylor ) ...

The result is predictable enough. But if you know what to expect, you have no right to complain.

Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets (2019)

Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets (2019) A computer genius/tech billionaire named Atticus Virtue (Chad Michael Murray - ) invites five teenagers to his mansion, which is run by an AI named Haven ( Marina Sirtis ). The idea is for them to play a treasure hunt game, and the winner will get the mansion as a prize. Unfortunately it does not go as advertised.

The teenagers are all Internet obsessives - a narcissistic influencer, a bullying troll and so on. Haven isolates and traps them, then uses VR simulations to mentally torture them by making them re-live their worst fears and memories.

This is a generic setup for a horror movie. However, the YA nature of the story makes it all fall a bit flat. There is no sex, violence or swearing ...

Mortal Engines (2018)

Mortal Engines (2018) This is adapted from a trilogy of YA novels. A lot is squeezed in, perhaps because the film-makers knew this would never be successful enough that the other parts of the trilogy would be adapted to film. As a result, this is a simplistic film that even fans of the books would find disappointing.

Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan - Misfits ) works for Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving - The Matrix ), who works for Magnus Crome (Patrick Malahide - The World Is Not Enough ) - the leader of the city of London. Since the cities have become mobile, predatory entities that hunt each other down, this makes Crome and Valentine very powerful. When someone tries to assassinate Valentine, Tom finds himself emeshed in an adventure.

This is typical YA fare, combining a post-apocalyptic world with an extreme concept that the tweenage protagonists must rebel against. There were more books in the series, but this film was not successful enough to warrant a sequel.

The film's visuals are very impressive, so it is the writing that is lacking. After all, a lot of stuff had to be left out in order to squeeze this into a single movie. The world-building is basic but unexplained. If London has a population of a hundred thousand, and an average of five tons per citizen, then each of the city's eight caterpillar tracks is carrying sixty-four thousand tons. The amount of energy necessary to move that much weight is unbelievable.

The other main problem with the story is the stakes. It is set in a world where the miving cities are in the West, chasing each other around what was once Europe. Their society is based on municipal darwinism, but since they are fighting over limited resources the outcome will be monopolisation and starvation. In the East, behind a massive wall, the Asian societies have massive tracts of fertile land and an excessive amount of resources. Is it fair that the East should hoard its excess, instead of trading with the Westerners - some of whom are now resorting to cannibalism? It seems the Easterners simply want to starve the West. Since the audience has no reason to empathise with the East, the so-called villains of London seem quite sympathetic.

Wrinkle In Time, A (2018)

Wrinkle In Time, A (2018) Chris Pine ( Star Trek ) seems to be the default choice for male damsel-in-distress roles these days. In this movie he is the father of the protagonist, a young girl. When he goes missing, she must find and save him.

The protagonist and her friends get help from a trio of magical women - Mrs Wotsit ( Reese Witherspoon ), Mrs Who ( Mindy Kaling ) and Mrs Oprah ( Oprah Winfrey ).

The children magically travel through weird landscapes. Their mission is to save the universe from The Darkness, which is slowly consuming everything. If this sounds familiar, that is because it was the plot of Neverending Story 2 .

The problem is that there is no central villain. While there is a minor sense of threat and urgency, this is basically just a drama with only internal conflict.

Maze Runner Franchise

Maze Runner (2014)

Maze Runner (2014) An amnesiac teenager, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien - American Assassin ) wakes up in a location filled with other teenage boys. They are in a concrete pen, many acres in size, with only one way in or out. During daytime hours the gate is open, and the boys can explore the maze outside. But at night the gates automatically lock, while the Maze resets itself. And anyone locked outside at night is left to the mercy of monsters so terrifying that nobody has ever seen them and lived to tell about it.

The setting is original but the storyline is quite basic. Our protagonist must make allies, explore the maze and eventually save everyone. It is adapted from a Young Adult novel, so it is not overly complicated. However, it is well-made and the style makes up for the substance. All in all, quite a watchable effort.

  • Scorch Trials
  • Death Cure
  • Maze Runner 2: Scorch Trials (2015)

    Maze Runner 2: Scorch Trials (2015) The original film in the series seemed to be exactly that - original, to a greater or lesser extend. However, this sequel is a derivative and predictable piece of work.

    Thomas (Dylan O'Brien - American Assassin ), Newt (Thomas Brody-Sangster - Game Of Thrones ), and the rest of our teenage heroes find themselves guests in a bunker where they are checked out by medical personnel. But does the boss (Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones ) have their best intentions at heart? Or is this like in The 100: Season 2 ?

    Our heroes make their way across the desert, AKA the Scorch of the title. It does not live up to its reputation, as it is not the thing that actually inflicts damage on their group. No, what puts them in danger is their tendency to REPEATEDLY wander around in dark creepy ruins where the Fast Zombies are lurking! Also note, when wandering in the desert everyone seems to use camp-fires that can be seen many miles away. And they assume that the villains will be unable to track them down!

    Our heroes meet Giancarlo Esposito (an untrustworthy renegade who is a more ragged-looking version of his character in Revolution ) and Alan Tudyk (not at all like his character in Firefly ). Can they find Sanctuary, like in Loganís Run ? Will the rebel leaders ( Lilli Taylor and Barry Pepper - Battleground Earth ) shelter them? And since the villains use helicopters as their main assault vehicle, do the rebels have lookouts and Anti-Aircraft weapons at the ready?

  • Maze Runner
  • Death Cure
  • Maze Runner 3: Death Cure (2018)

    Maze Runner 3: Death Cure (2018) This is the third and final installment in the series. It should have come out a year earlier, but production was delayed by an on-set mishap. As a result, the previous films may not be in the forefront of the audience's memories. At least this series has a concluding chapter, unlike the Divergent Series .

    Thomas (Dylan O'Brien - American Assassin ), Newt (Thomas Brody-Sangster - Game Of Thrones ) and the teenage heroes of the series try to rescue their still-imprisoned friend. To do this, they must hijack a train guarded by a SWAT team. The kids have a couple of token adults to help them - Giancarlo Esposito ( Revolution ) and Barry Pepper ( Battleground Earth ).

    The boss (Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones ) is still after the teenagers. They are valuable because they are subjects in an experiment to find a cure to the virus that has destroyed most of the human race. Infected people, basically Fast Zombies, roam the wastelands. The survivors are few and far between.

    The teens have to penetrate the villains' inner sanctum. It is a walled citadel, inside the fabled Last City. Yes, one city of humans has actually managed to survive thus far. The outskirts are a typical Mad Max shanty town ruled by Walton Goggins ( Predators ). He will help them infiltrate the inner city, where all the rich people still live comfortable middle-class lives. But only if the kids help him destroy the urban utopia!

    Thomas discovers his love interest ( Kaya Scodelario ) has converted to the cause of the so-called villains. They are the only ones who can get a cure for the zombie-itis. Okay, they are only doing it so they can be powerful and rule the world. However, since they already have most of the guns and the food we can safely say that they already control as much as they need to.

    At its heart, this movie is basically action-adventure. The climax is a CGI-intensive explosion-fest.

    Since the story is basically one of teenage anarchists rebelling against the tyrannical authority of adults, there can be no good ending. They live in a Fast Zombie apocalypse. The best outcome they can expect is the one at the end of Planet Terror .

  • Maze Runner
  • Scorch Trials
  • Divergent Franchise

    Divergent (2014)

    Divergent (2014) This is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, when all life on Earth has been destroyed (apparently) except the MegaCity of Chicago. The population has been split into five factions, each representing one human personality trait. Sort of like Herman's Head, but dumbed down and without the jokes. They are the snobs (intellect), the rude people (honesty), the hippies (growing food), the public servants (giving the food away to the homeless) and the Dauntless (free-running teenagers). The teenagers must take a test to find their aptitude, so they know which faction to join. This is not a written test, it is a drug-induced state allowing the testers to observe the candidate's surface thoughts via a monitor. Maggie Q is the test administrator, so we know she will pop up later.

    Our heroine is Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), raised as a public servant, chooses Dauntless. She does not have the physical fitness necessary, and the necessary character traits are not established so it all seems out of character. I mean, Katniss in Hunger Games was established as a bow-hunter, but this girl is never shown as having an interest in free-running.

    There is another problem with her leaving her home Faction. You can choose a new Faction, but they do not have to choose you. The bottom 35% of testees are dropped, and since they cannot return home they become Factionless. They will be excluded from citizenship and all the creature comforts, but are still allowed to live in the city (as homeless scroungers in cardboard boxes). Now, this means that there are three times as many of them than of any single faction! That said, there are always the suicides and the selective murders.

    Kate Winslet , leader of the snobs, decides to launch a Coup D'Etat against the city leader, the head of the Public Servants - Ray Stevenson ( Punisher: War Zone ). His associates, including Katniss' mother ( Ashley Judd ) are all marked for death. Can Katniss and her friends save the day?

    The story has an open ending, because there are two more books in the series. Like Captain America 2 (which was released at the same time) it is PG-13, so the action is CGI violence - there are no realistic injuries. Of course, this effort has a much more simplistic plot, but that is really where the differences end.

  • Insurgent
  • Allegient
  • Insurgent (2015)

    Insurgent (2015) The second book in the Divergent Series, this takes off just were the original leaves off. There is no character development to speak of, the characters are just as two-dimensional as they were in the first film. Yes, the previous filmís Heroís Journey resulted in absolutely no character development for the supporting cast.

    The English BF discovers that his mother ( Naomi Watts ) has disguised herself by becoming a brunette and looking ten years younger. She faked her death, and is now the secret leader of the Casteless Untouchables. She plans a violent rebellion against the ruling clique, so she is the perfect ally. However, her son (who has had minimal contact with her for over a decade) condemns her as completely untrustworthy. How can he be so certain? And more importantly, is he correct?

    The teenage heroes must infiltrate the villains' HQ and overthrow the evil regime. No surprises there.

  • Divergent
  • Allegient
  • Allegient (2016)

    Allegient (2016) This is the first half of third book in the Divergent Series.

    The English BF's mother Evelyn ( Naomi Watts ) has her own agenda. She kills anyone who does not do what she says. She starts with Kate Winslet's followers, but then goes on to kill Joan's followers as well.

    Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), her English BF and her brother make a break for freedom. Miles Teller ( Fastastic Four ) tags along, despite having double-crossed Tris (and been forgiven by her) in both the previous two movies. They discover a utopia ruled by ... However, Tris is paranoid about things that are too good to be true. After all, we all know how Mount Weather turned out in The 100: Season 2 .

    The villains plan to release a gas that gives everyone in Chicago a memory wipe. The heroes act as if it is a terrible idea, but it is a non-lethal weapon that will stop the war and prevent any further killing.

  • Divergent
  • Insurgent
  • Millennium Trilogy Franchise

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The (2011)

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The (2011) The film kicks off with an Uber-stylish credits sequence, like something out of a James Bond film, to a Trent Reznor cover version of a classic rock song. It then proceeds into a pulp 1970s-style revenge thriller that Quentin Tarantino would be proud to have written. Of course, David Fincher gave us slick pieces like Se7en so this is much less gaudy or lurid in delivery.

    Our hero is Crusading Journalist Stieg Larson - oops, I mean Mikhail von Blumberg - who looks like International sex symbol James Bond (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale ). He is in trouble for harassing and slandering a businessman who is supposed to have helped finance the Croatian Militias in the defence of their families during the Serbian genocide of the 1990s. Wow, no political point-scoring here.

    The title character is Lizbo Salamander ( Rooney Mara ) , who has single-handedly invented the Goth-chick look. Wow, how original! She is a ward of the state - ooh, poor victim. Wait a minute, she is a violent sociopath with multiple convictions for violent felonies. If this story had been re-set in the USA, rather than having English-speaking actors pretending to be Swedish, she would be just another ex-convict being hassled by her Parole Officer. Instead we are meant to side with her against the corrupt socialist institutions that the author Larson himself champions!

    The protagonists are hired to investigate a missing persons case. They stumble across a serial killer - more of a Ted Bundy than a John Wayne Gacy, so it is Fem-Jep instead of gay-bashing. The implication is that this is linked to Nazis and anti-Semitism. In reality, Sweden was one of the LEAST fascist European countries in the 1940s - despite having pro-Nazi dictatorships for all their neighbours, and the spectre of invasion by Stalinist Russia, the Swedes remained staunchly neutral (and thus saved thousands of civilians from the Holocaust). Also, not all Nazis were anti-Semitic (and vice versa). But Larson, ever keen to make political attacks on people he disagrees with, ignores the facts.

    The morals of the story? Freedom of speech is vital, unless you disagree with Stieg Larson's opinions. Big business is corrupt and should be shut down - by an equally corrupt Socialist regime. Rape is horrible and should not be glamourised or exploited - except in stories like this. All in all, self-righteous hypocritical crap.

  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The
  • Girl Who kicked The Hornet's Nest, The
  • Girl In The Spider's Web, The
  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The (2009)

    Girl Who Played With Fire, The (2009) This is a made-for-TV follow-up to the original film. It is in Swedish, with subtitles.

    A Female Supremacist ( Buffy meets Romper Stomper) named Lizbo Salamander ( Noomi Rapace ) takes on the organised sex trade. This is hypocritical, since she pays for lesbian sex herself. A pity that Emma Watson did not get the role for the US remake, because the film would be a great hit if it had Hermione Granger going down on another woman!

    This was written by a journalist with his own political agenda to push, and it shows. His hypocrisy is dreadful. In the book he states that a woman merely experiments with bondage, while he accuses a man who does the same of acting out sick rape fantasies.

  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The
  • Girl Who kicked The Hornet's Nest, The
  • Girl In The Spider's Web, The
  • Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, The

    Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, The This movie is a direct follow-up to the previous film. It is structurally unusual insofar as the protagonist, the title character of the movie, spends most of the movie in a hospital bed and has relatively little outcome on the ending. Besides a tacked-on conclusion, that is.

    While Lizbo Salamander is hospitalised after her family reunion in the previous film, the story mostly falls to the author's surrogate - a left-wing journalist with a self-richeous agenda. In the first movie, the villains were Ustasche, a Croatian militia whose only crime was to protect their people from genocide by the Chetniks. Now, the new villains are Swedish civil servants who protected their country from genocidal Stalinists during the Cold War. Yes, the person who write this has got their moral compass the wrong way round!

    The climax is a courtroom drama, which sees Lizbo face off against her former psychiatrist. Luckily for her, she is not being tried by a jury of average citizens. Instead it is a panel of frumpy feminists, so her lawyer's tactic of throwing a pity-party seems to work. This series relies on the old canard of the Establishment is against Women, but it is clearly run by Feminists for the benefit of Feminists. While Salamander and the lefties claim to be against the Swedish Establishment, they are as deluded and hypocritical as Nigel Farage when he claims to have fought against the English Establishment.

  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The
  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The
  • Girl In The Spider's Web, The
  • Girl In The Spider's Web, The (2018)

    Girl In The Spider's Web, The (2018) After the original remake's mediocre performance, the lead roles were re-cast. Rather than continue to remake the Noomi Rapace movies, they decided to start adapting the new spin-off novels. Yes, this is franchise fiction at its worst.

    Lizbo Salamander ( Claire Foy ) may be the richest woman in the world, but she still lives the life of a down-and-out. Somehow she is a wanted criminal, despite having the ability to scrub her own records. She spends her time indulging her sadistic hobby of beating up and robbing rich men. Well, she is really stealing from their wives.

    One piece of work-for-hire she accepts is from a computer programmer named Baldur (Stephen Merchant - Logan (2017) ). He took a job from the American NSA, to create an ultimate code-breaker that can access nuclear weapons codes. Now he wants her to steal his work back, although he has no intention of returning the salary he was paid to create it.

    Lizbo does the necessary, and hacks the NSA mainframe. Now she is the only person with a copy of the most important program in the world. Of course, she thus brings down hell upon herself. Not just from the NSA, who only have a singleAgent to go after her. No, there is a murder-squad with military-grade weapons as well. They also go after Baldur and his autistic son (Martin from Gotham .

    In the second book of the original trilogy, Lizbo took out her father's organised crime network. It was all a bit small-scale and seedy. Now, however, it has been re-activated. Lisbo's albino sister is now in charge. yes, there has been a massive embellishment to her original backstory. Worse, the sister has a massive blond henchman - like a cut-price version of her own brother. Their base is a remote mountainside fortress, more like something from a James Bond movie than anything in the original series. Luckily the walls are made of wood, which comes in useful when it is dramatically appropriate.

    Lizbo also berates her journalist ex-lover, because he wants to write stories about her. She ignores the fact these stories will clear her name and help bring villains to justice.

  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The
  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The
  • Girl Who kicked The Hornet's Nest, The
  • Hunger Games Franchise

    The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023)

    The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023) fifth installment in The Hunger Games film series, serving as a prequel

    Hunger Games (2012)

    Hunger Games (2012) Once upon a time, 13 colonies rebelled against their Government. The Colonies - err, districts - were defeated. The victors, Canada - err, Capital - instituted an annual TV reality show ( Running Man ) as punishment. Every year, a boy and girl from each District are put in a giant televised dome ( The Truman Show ) where they hunt and kill each other. Sort of a Battle Royale - avec cheese!

    Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ) lives in poverty, in a rural district where food is scarce. This is in contrast to the country's Capital, which is Nouveau Georgian in style - all powdered wigs and face-paint (and that is just the men)! Capital controls the districts through their food supply; So where is the food actually created if not in the rural districts?

    Our heroine volunteers for the Hunger Games in her sister's place. She gets trained (supposedly) by Effie ( Elizabeth Banks ) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ).

    The Great Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) and his minions - Wes Bently ( Underworld 3 ), Stanley Tucci ( The Core ) and Toby Jones ( Your Highness ) can manipulate the games. The Dome is fitted with hard-light hologram projectors that can create a forest-fire or a horde of man-eating hounds. Unfortunately, despite this massive Holodeck (a dome several miles in diameter) they cannot be bothered to build food replicators to feed the starving. Yes, they may have circuses but not bread.

    The result is a mediocre effort. The cast is incredible, but that is because there was a huge budget. The problem is that the action scenes, the real core of the film, are ruined by shaky-cam.

    Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

    Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Just like in the first film, we spend the first half of the film in the setup. The Presidential Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) is concerned that Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ), by prompting a change in the rules of the Games last year, is encouraging rebellion. The new gamesmaster, Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Mission Impossible 3 ), advises him that character assassination will be better than actual assassination. As a result, this year's Hunger Games will consist of the victors of the previous years' Games.

    We get to meet some of the other survivors of previous games. Some of them are potential allies, while others may become arch-rivals. Johanna ( Jenna Malone ) is near breaking point. Jeffrey Wright ( Casino Royale ) is a brainiac. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ) is still around to give Katniss advice. His scene at the end sets up the next film.

    It is nice to see action scenes that are not ruined by shaky-cam. Also, as Big Government cracks down on the rural poor we get a lot more of the political background to the series. The first movie was about survival, while this is more about resistance.

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) Katniss and the others reach sanctuary in District 13. The President of 13 ( Julianne Moore ) needs the Victors of the Games as a propaganda tool. Katniss agrees, under certain conditions. Unfortunately the scripted lines they feed her are dreadful.

    Katniss spends most of the film in an underground bunker. There is a single action scene she is part of, where she uses a single arrow to shoot down TWO enemy fighter-bombers. Apart from that, the film relies mainly on suspense and tension as she watches other people take all the risks. As a result, some viewers feel that splitting the book was a mistake - presumably most of the action-adventure stuff happens in the second half. Some people regard this as being too thought-provoking and not explosive enough.

    District 13 have been stockpiling weapons, although these are presumably out-of-date compared to the Capitalís next-generation weaponry. However, the tactics employed by both sides seem unusually wasteful of manpower.

    The Capital is a massive mega-city with a holodeck several miles in diameter. This is powered by a hydro-electric power plant similar to the Hoover Dam. So what on earth do they need ten thousand hillbillies to mine coal for? And for every ten miners there are five guards to act as slave-drivers. This is a terrible waste of resources!

    District 13 has weaponry and trained soldiers, but they do not distribute them to the local Resistance movements like the SOE did in World War Two. Instead they rely on the revolting peasants to use human wave tactics, losing so many civilians that the villains run out of ammunition. So is District 13 any better than the Capital in terms of wasting human life?

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

    Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015) Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ) is reduced to a propaganda tool for the President of 13 ( Julianne Moore ). However, our heroine has a different plan. She makes her way to the frint line, where she is talked into joining a team of combat aces. Despite being the best of the best, their mission is not to go after enemy targets - merely to shoot more propaghanda footage. However, they must do this in a war zone, within the Capital itself.

    The Presidential Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) uses his minion Robert Knepper (Prison Break) as a scapegoat for military failures. Then he gets the games-makers to weaponise their forcefield technology. Instead of repairing the mile-wide holodeck they create hundreds of replicators that function as boobytraps, creating deadly flame or oil to kill the approaching rebels.

    Katniss also has personal problems. Both her love interests are included in the propaganda team. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson - Bridge to Terabithia ) has been brainwashed by the villains, and Gaela (Chris Hemsworth - Expendables 2 ) is now too deeply integrated with the District 13 mindset for comfort.

    The gamesmaster, Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Mission Impossible 3 ) is missing from a couple of key scenes because the actor died during production. His loss is keenly felt, even though the film papers over his absence.

    Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Franchise

    Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life

    Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life Lara Croft ( Angelina Jolie ) is ambushed by SCUBA-diving Chinese bandits. The British Government hires her to retrieve a magic orb that will lead her to Pandora's Box. Not only is she the only one with the necessary skills, but she is also on first-name terms with most of the persons involved.

    Lara recruits an untrustworthy ex-lover, Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler - Dracula 2001 ), as a guide - he knows many of the players too. However, she tends to ignore his advice. He wants to take the slow way into China, whereas she has a high-tech alternative already lined up. If she does not listen to him or even trust him, why does she bother to bring him along?

    Evil billionaire Mr Rice (Ciaran Hinds - Ghost Rider 2 ) is after the artefact, knowning it will lead him to Pandora's Box. The box contains a deadly disease, which is why Alexander the Great had it hidden in a magic cave guarded by supernatural monsters. Rice wants to sell it to the highest bidder as a bio-weapon, like the villain of Mission Impossible 2 . Naturally this would end in a Zombie Apocalypse, but Rice does not seem to care. He has forgotten the saying there are no pockets in a shroud.

    In modern times, many Hollywood blockbusters are filmed in China for financial reasons - to secure a spot in the Chinese market. This film, released in the year 2003, evidently got its funding from product placement. The Chinese setting seems purely because it is glamourous and exotic. At least there is some nice cinematography, courtesy of director Jan De Bont .

  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
  • Tomb Raider (2018)

    Tomb Raider (2018) This is a reboot of the series originally featuring Angelina Jolie . The story is a lot more simplistic, but what really stands out (no pun intended) is the new Lara's physique. The actress worked out to the level of peak fitness, but this meant she lost all her body fat. Not exactly what one associates with the notoriously buxom heroine.

    Lara Croft ( Alicia Vikander ) refuses to acknowledge that she is an orphan, and instead leaves the family fortune in the hands of her step-mother ( Kristin Scott Thomas ) and her lawyer (Derek Jacobi - Dead Again ). The orphan earns a living as a bike messenger, like in Dark Angel (1999) , and practices extreme sports to keep herself busy.

    Lara's father (Dominic West - John Carter ) has been missing for seven years, so rather than just declare him dead in absentia she goes off to find him. She ends up on an island that is basically Lian Yu from the Arrow TV show, which is run by rent-a-villain Walton Goggins ( Django Unchained ). He manages a slave labour camp, which has spent seven years trying to dig into an ancient tomb.

    Lara quickly develops a taste for killing, and wipes out a lot of hard-working guards. The McGuffin is an ancient bacterium that can be weaponised, a bit like the one in Cradle of Life . This could potentially destroy all life on Earth, unless someone could whip up an antidote in time.

    The somewhat cheesy and predictable ending is setup for a sequel.

    Red Dawn Franchise

    Red Dawn (1984)

    Red Dawn (1984) This was written and directed by John Milius . Its epic feel is best summarised by its ending voice-over: In the early days of the Third World War, guerrillas - most of them children - carved the names of their dead upon this rock.

    In an alternate universe, NATO has collapsed and the USA stands alone. Suddenly, the USA is invaded from all sides. Patrick Swayze ( Steel Dawn ) teams up with other tweenagers, including Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey . Of note, Swayze and Grey later teamed up together for Dirty Dancing.

    Steel Dawn (1987)

    Steel Dawn (1987) This might be mistaken for a sequel to Red Dawn (1984) . After all, it stars Patrick Swayze in a post-apocalyptic America some time after World War Three. Also it has the word Dawn in the title, although that might just be coincidence.

    Swayze hangs out in the desert, meditating while doing a handstand. The place does not just look like Tattooine, it is also full of Sandpeople. They are armed with gaffi sticks, and have their heads swathed in bandages. Unfortunately for the Tusken Raiders, Swayze is a martial arts expert with his own sword.

    Swayze and his mentor are ambushed by the villain's brutal henchman and his minions. Even the casting is cliched. The mentor is a Japanese Samurai, while the antagonist is an Englishman. The incidental music is OTT, and gives the film a strangely dated feel.

    Swayze moves on, across a desert filled with stranded ships. Lots of great helicopter footage to set the scene. Eventually he arrives at a moisture farm run by Lisa Niemi and guarded by Brion James ( Enemy Mine ).

    Unfortunately our hero finds himself in the classic Western movie scenario, as the entire genre seems to owe a lot to the real-life Johnson County Range War. The small farmers are being oppressed by their powerful neighbour, Damnil (Anthony Zerbe - License To Kill ), and his band of hired thugs. One of them is Arnold Vosloo ( The Mummy (1999) ), which marks this out as made-in-South Africa. The plot itself devolves into Shane.

    Tomorrow, When The War Began (2010)

    Tomorrow, When The War Began (2010) This starts with a group of tweenagers The Final Girl Caitlin Stasey organises a camping trip with her best buddy ( Rachel Hurd-Wood ) and the posh townie girl ( Phoebe Tonkin ). They bring along a few boys. For the sake of diversity the boys are one of each kind. There is a cowardly rich white one, a hard-working middle-class Chinese one and a criminal underclass Greek one. No Aboriginals or polynesians, of course.

    Basically, this movie has about the same amount of diversity as The Breakfast Club. In fact, that is unfair to the John Hughes movie. Breakfast Club has diversity of archetypes, but it also has diversity WITHIN the archetypes too. The whole message of the film is that nobody is JUST a geek, a jock, a nerd, a princess or even a teacher. However, three decades later it would be decried as just a bunch of rich white folk.

    The kids actually make it home from their camping trip unscathed. This is probably the first time ever in a movie. However, they discover they have wandered into a rehash of Red Dawn (1984) . Except their country is Australia and the invaders are

    The invaders' countries are not identified by name. However, the kids listen to a radio broadcast that claims they have invaded because their countries are poor and they need Australia's vast natural resources. Unfortunately the part about poverty cannot actually be true. After all, the soldiers have brand new body armour and their air cover outnumbers the locals by three to one. Also, it is lucky that there is a token Chinese teenager in the group because the invaders appear to be from an oriental country.

    The story needs a climactic third act. Luckily, the small town is right next to a strategic road-bridge that the invaders need to keep their main supply route operating. The teenagers manage to outsmart the trained soldiers protecting it. However, will the Christian one manage to get character development and overcome her pacifist beliefs when the plot demands it?

    Red Dawn (2012)

    Red Dawn (2012) This is either a Near Future Sci-Fi piece about the USA being invaded by North Korea, or a modern-day piece about Iraqi insurgents resisting some Korean-American marines from the USMC. Basically, off-duty US Marine Chris Hemsworth ( Thor ) leads fellow MCU alum Adrianne Palicki and some teenagers to a Cabin in the Woods , and they become an elite hit-squad who take on Bond Villain Will Yun Lee ( Die Another Day ). Oh, and the Comedian ( Watchmen ) and his band of expert killers would be useless without the children to help them!

    The script is mostly the same as the original, but the execution is flawed. It lacks the epic feel that John Milius delivered, and there is no moral ambiguity. Instead, the protagonists are flawless and virtually unkillable most of the time. For example, they develop their skills though makeshift training rather than on-the-job learning. No matter how stupid the insurgents' actions are, the heavily-armed and armoured North Korean Marines are easy victims.