It’s rare that I get through a movie this bad without losing sympathy for the actors, but they all come off well, it’s the writing that lets them down, channeling a story of underground immortal warriors covertly helping people (whenever people can be helped through extreme violence) into a by-numbers movie full of cliche lines. At least everyone in the movie is gay (except the homophobic US military).

KiKi Layne, unrecognizable from Beale Street, is the wide-eyed newbie getting welcomed to the immortals club just as old-timer Charlize Theron is losing her powers. Teammates Joe (Aladdin 2019’s Jafar) and Nicky (Martin Eden himself) work with the vaguely Tim-Rothian Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts of A Bigger Splash), who is selling them out to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who works for evil tech billionaire Harry Melling. Unexpected “six months later” sequel setup when their ancient ever-drowning companion returns from the deep, but I’m checking who in my network recommended this so I can ignore their review when the next movie comes out… looks like Singer, Kois, and oh no, D’Angelo.

Every year a new Jessica Chastain movie where Matt Damon’s left all alone on a planet. A Ridley Scott movie with screenplay by Drew Goddard, I was expecting the light tone, the relentless science (this movie loves science), the upbeat ending, the highly convincing Martian landscapes, but I wish the visuals were half as impressive as those in Prometheus. Maybe I needed to watch the 3D version.

Wounded Damon is left on planet by Chastain and Michael Peña and crew, NASA head Jeff Daniels argues with project head Chiwetel Ejiofor and something head Sean Bean on what to do, with further ground help from Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover and Eddy Ko.

I completely enjoyed this at the time, so not sure if it’s the movie’s fault or some other reason that I turned on it a few days later, deciding it was formulaic entertainment and that all movies look the same and I need to start watching new kinds of things before I start boring myself. I’m looking at showtimes for Crimson Peak and Bridge of Spies and Coming Home and Truth and Sicario and Beasts of No Nation and thinking “ugh, how awful” and pondering going on an avant-garde spree (or at least a Nagisa Oshima spree) instead. It’s probably just a phase. In the meantime, The Martian is my Birdman of the year: convincing in a theater, troubling immediately afterward.

Finally, justice for Chiwetel. McQueen’s follow-up to Shame, which I skipped. I was bracing for a no-holds-barred art film, but it’s closer to a typical Hollywood drama than Hunger was, based on the real guy’s memoir and adapted by John Ridley (Three Kings, Red Tails).

Chiwetel is kidnapped by circus tricksters and sold to Django Unchained vet Chris Berry, who immediately kills fellow slave Omar and throws him overboard. Chiwetel is auctioned by Paul Giamatti to relatively-decent Benedict Cumberbatch, but pisses off watcher Paul Dano and so is sent to Fassbender’s place. Fass is fucking female slave Lupita Nyong’o and Fass’s wife Sarah Paulson knows it – guess which of those three will get the shit end of the stick (or the whip). Chiwetel seeks help from Garret Dillahunt, who sells him out, finally gets it from forward-thinking Canadian Brad Pitt.

Amazing story, certainly a well-made and well-acted movie, but the closing titles leave things depressingly unresolved and one yearns for some Django-style payback. IMDB lists the previous adaptation, starring Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fame, as a comedy/drama!