By BRUCE DENNILL
Barely Lethal / Directed by Kyle Newman / 13DL 6
Pan / Directed by Joe Wright / PGV 7
There are a number of films that have tried to transfer the secret agent formula to a tween audience, some of them starring actors from Malcolm In The Middle (which is not a commendation). This one stars Samuel L Jackson, which is better, but not great. The tweak to the recipe is that the young special ops agent at the centre of Barely Lethal’s plot, Megan Walsh (Hailee Steinfeld), wants to be normal high school student rather than a deadly operative, where the usual scenario is the other way around. But being in the black ops game seems to be like the Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave – so Megan has to fake her own death to try and achieve her goal. And school turns out to be a more difficult challenge than her own life. The concept doesn’t quite take, but the idea gives director Kyle Newman room to play around with a number of setpieces, including a couple of ideas that are crazy enough to shock viewers expecting the action to be toned down. Steinfeld is a very likeable presence, and adept at the requirements expected of her in the action sequences – enough to keep the concept rolling along in an entertaining fashion.
Peter Pan is one of the most famous and best-loved stories in history, and hundreds of different producers, directors and other storytellers have taken a stab at presenting it in a fashion that renews its energy and expands its audience. Pan is a different animal in that it scraps the rulebook, creating a sort-of origin story for the well-known characters and adding an utterly nuts spin on the narrative. Neverland is no longer a romantic getaway with a couple of pantomime baddies sailing around in a pirate ship off the beach. Now it’s a downgrade from the orphanage Peter (Levi Miller) escapes from, essentially a giant sweatshop run by a megalomaniac named Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman, having a ball), and an environment in which there’s a new, probably scary adventure around every corner, and in which every friend available is valuable. It’s a romp, an imaginative overhaul that doesn’t detract from the integrity of the original – it’s too different – but which keeps alive the magic of the classic that JM Barrie dreamed up.