Now that my Open University studies are over for another year I've been doing a little ctaching up with some of the movies I've missed this year. And I have to say, I've been pretty disappointed with the lot of 'em.

28 Weeks Later was great - for the first ten minutes, but the rest of it left me cold. Okay it did expand on the original but only in terms of a slightly larger scale. There were some nicely unpredictable moments (the reconciliation scene between Robert Carlyle's character and his wife certainly didn't go the way I expected!), but on the whole it just seemed like more of the same, and with a lot of characters I couldn't really care about. I know sequels are generally all about 'more of the same', but maybe because this was a British effort I expected something more substantial.

Next up was Eragon. Eek. Tiresome, plodding, oh-so-predictable, and ultimately pointless, with a lead actor so unconvincing I wanted to reach into the film and give him a vigorous shake. I so wanted it to be good. But it simply confirmed what I've always felt: that every effort to do epic fantasy outside The Lord of the Rings is just a waste of time and effort. I mean, how epic was it gonna be at 98 minutes? It was so dull I can't even remember what happened in the end. It reminded me of Dungeons and Dragons (another Jeremy Irons' cinematic faux pas) and that's not a good film to be reminded of any day of the week.

Last night, I rented Next. Hmmm. Yes it had an interesting central conceit (Nic Cage can see two minutes into the future and thereby avoid all manner of scrapes and stop the occasional mad gunman from blamming people, which is a handy skill to have). But despite the action set-pieces and the chases it just didn't satisfy on any level. The romance between Cage and the lovely Jessica Biel didn't convince ("she's young enough to be your daughter!") and the 'rewind' ending, whilst interesting, just felt a little too much like "he woke up and it was all a dream", and I just couldn't help but feel cheated in some fundamental way. Once again this was based on a story by Philip K Dick, (or a 'novel story' as the credits claim, whatever a 'novel story' might be in these prosaic days), and I think the poor chap must be spinning in his grave. Maybe if the Hollywood filmmakers could trust themselves just a little bit to do justice to their source material more often, they might end up with a few more Blade Runners and a few less Paychecks. Next? Quite.

All in all a lacklustre bunch that have done nothing to convince me that Hollywood are still able to turn out 'great' sf films like they used to. CG technology is so advanced now the filmmakers can pretty much film anything you can imagine. Why, oh, why, then do we keep getting fed the same old 'safe', imaginatively-stunted stuff? Big-budget blockbusters in particular need to get smarter, and by that I mean more imaginative and challenging, if cinema is to survive the next twenty years. I know every film can't scale the heights of the Rings Trilogy, but they could at least try.


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