Skip to main content

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Movies on My Mind
Week Ending April 9 2016

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Directly contrasting with director Matthew Vaughn’s comments in the most recent Empire (“I think the world would like to see Colin again, but sadly we’re not a sci-fi movie”), the Kingsman 2 teaser poster rather suggests we will be seeing the return of Harry Hart. For which, I for one would be grateful. As fine an actor as Taron Egerton is, and more than capable of carrying his own picture (see Eddie the Eagle), I felt The Secret Service achieved a perfect balance of elements prior to Colin Firth’s decisive exit from the proceedings, leaving a hole afterwards.

It wasn’t a Ben Kenobi-sized hole, more of a Han Solo-shaped one, where you’re ecstatic that, having sloped off, he returns to save Luke from Darth Vader in the Death Star trench. Of course, there’s the possibility Vaughn took a look at the general critical response to, and box office take of, Grimsby, and decided it might not be wise to release another movie about an oik who teams up with Mark Strong to fight bad guys.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Talking of Star Wars, the first “Anthology” entry, no scratch that, “A Star Wars story” trailer has hit. And, well, yes. I quite like the music, riffing as it does on a number of trailer tropes via the classic John Williams theme, with its post-Inception bassy rumbles and Alien/Prometheus –esque sirens.

Some have suggested Rogue One looks like the Star Wars: Battlefront video game, but I wouldn’t know about that. I did get a strong Full Metal Jacket vibe, though, from those AT-ATs stomping about on a bunch of palm trees. Which, if you’re going to imitate a war movie, is definitely one to pick. Ben Mendelsohn looks rather splendid in his beige ensemble, there’s a running robot rebel, and director Gareth Edwards has a great eye, possibly even two. But then, Godzilla also looked fantastic, didn’t it?

Mostly it’s Felicity Jones’ character that concerns me. She’s got attitude, she’s feisty (“This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel”); she’s an undiluted, post-modern, post-Abrams, post-Whedon, post-Buffy well-worn cliché. Add to that familiar far away galaxy touchstones (Death Star, Star Destroyers, Mon Mothma, stormtroopers variants to keep the toy range lively) and Rogue One mostly looks too-reassuringly safe, even with its determined “grit”. Which is what Disney wants, of course, a guaranteed, non-confrontational hit. I’m not sure they wanted to evoke memories of Battlefield Earth, however, which is what happens every time I see or hear Forest Whitaker in a science fiction spectacle.



Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman continues to plummet, rather than taper off in its global box office performance. Back at the beginning of the year, I estimated an $850m worldwide gross, which is looking like a fairly reasonable guesstimate, if possibly a bit too high, and is definitely a result Warner Bros will be rueing.

As I said in my review, I don’t have enough interest in the DC-verse to be up-in-arms over the treatment of Superman, although I certainly get the beef. More of a concern is that, if this represents the kind of storytelling we can expect going forward, the WB/DC movies won’t even able to rely on strong openings before very long.

It will be interesting to see how Suicide Squad fares, particularly from a director (David Ayer) not exactly known for his commercial touch. There isn’t even a semi-official budget out there for the picture, which ballooned from a smaller, Deadpool-sized production ($40m) to a $100m-plus one, complete with Big Willie on board. One source even suggests $250m, which is insane, but WB has been making some insane decisions regarding their comics franchise, so maybe that’s accurate. Certainly, with the reshoots and the positive reaction to the Bohemian Rhapsody trailer, Suicide Squad now has considerable expectations riding on it, where originally it might have been the one that snuck in there and pleasantly surprised (like Deadpool, which whatever your feelings on the movie, has outperformed even the most extravagant expectations).


The BFG

The Big Fucking Git was published a little too late to become a Roald Dahl childhood favourite, so I’m not invested in the film version respecting its source material the way I was The Fantastic Mr Fox (which didn’t, but it was Wes Anderson, so neither could I really complain too much about its transgressions). It definitely has Mark Rylance going for it, who’s so hot right now.

Really, this trailer could be for any tinkly-winkly prestige kids’ adaption, from a Harry Potter (or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) to doing a Burton in terms of look. Spielberg’s become that indistinct, a much of which is down to his ever-present cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. The BFG himself is currently (perhaps the effects will be finessed over the next few months before release) a very obvious motion capture creation (while his fellows look like they’ve wandered in off Warcraft monitor screens). Listen to that John Williams score evoke awe, and be less-than-dazzled by the blandly colour-graded photography.  Perhaps future trailers will liven things up with an outbreak of flatulus.



Edge of Tomorrow 2

Wherefore an Edge of Tomorrow sequel? Because Tommy C is clinging on for dear life to any non-M:I property that might maintain his slender box office star status (that Jack Reacher sequel certainly won’t)? I suppose the attached writers might pull a rabbit out of the hat, and devise something as convolutedly satisfying as Back to the Future Part II. Other than that, this seems like the most egregious example of an obvious “Just don’t go there” you can think of, apart from a Blade Runner 2


Blade Runner 2

This sequel’s really happening, and it’s certainly possible to hope it won’t be a complete wash-out. Rick Deckard virtually personifies Harrison Ford’s weary, couldn’t-give-a-shit latter-day performance persona, so he’ll surely have no trouble reassuming the mantle. And the casting thus far, of Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright and a shoe-in-to-be-a-replicant Dave Bautista, is promising.

But this is still produced by Ridley Scott, who clearly didn’t get that the ambiguity of Deckard was integral to the original (and really, it works so much better if he isn’t one). And Denis Villeneuve, highly accomplished as he is technically, has been let down to a greater or lesser extent by sloppy scripting in his Hollywood ventures thus far. Of which, Hampton Fancher’s name suggests fidelity to the original, but it’s the absence of David Webb Peoples that really gives me pause. The tester will be whether Vangelis comes back. The original film is Vangelis.


The Predator

Shane Black’s filmmaking choices are alright with me, so I guess he knows what he’s doing if Fiddy Cent is indeed appearing in The Predator. Perhaps he plays someone who can’t act. Perhaps he’s there to make Arnie look vital? Perhaps he and Steven Seagal will be killed off in the first reel?


Blood Father

Grizzled, hoarse and haunted Mel, with a big bushy beard, being relentlessly tough? He may be persona non grata, but Gibson’s screen presence remains indelible even when he’s mimicking Arnie’s shotgun move from T2. This might well turn out to be forgettable B-movie material, although Mel’s last starring role (Get the Gringo) was highly enjoyable (and little seen), and Jean-François Richet is a more than capable director.



The Night Manager

I don’t tend to keep an eye out for BBC shows these days, mainly because so much of their output has been so mediocre, and they’ve been attempting to (inadequately) copy US TV, for such a long spell now. Yet with The Night Manager, following on the heels of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Wolf Hall, they’ve produced three superb adaptations in only two years, which is something of a resurgence, despite their endemic problems in terms of remit and reach.

Everyone’s talking about Tom Hiddleston as the next 007 in the wake of his surefooted, confident performance in the John Le Carré adaptation (it was Tom Hollander who really impressed me, but I can’t see a five-foot Bond happening; there are some barriers to equality that just aren’t going to be broken any time soon). I’m not quite so certain, as there’s something about him that’s almost too suave and charming. But definitely appealingly to bruiser Daniel Craig, so welcome on that basis alone (Craig still seems in a permanent grump at all that money he gets from having to pump up those massive man tits every couple of years, so I’m not sure he’ll really be missed). I still think Henry Cavill, following his Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., clearly on to a loser as long as Zach Snyder is around to hate Superman, is the pick of the mooted names.


Chalk

As far as the BBC copying US TV goes, we have the self-regarding (whyever not, genuine fans should be in short supply after the disastrous last couple of seasons of Doctor Who, despite having picked a perfect leading man, and turning Sherlock from a surprisingly fresh take on the classic detective into an entirely inward-looking, redundant one in an incredibly short space of time) Steven Moffat  announcing his Who spin-off Chalk, I mean Class.

Clearly intent on the kind of mini-mogul status old colleague and boss Russell T Davies held, but narcissistically wanting to top that, Moffat has out-endured him as Who’s executive producer (which, in return for one good season – his and Matt Smith’s first – is no kind of recompense) and now plans to give us his own Torchwood. One set in a Coal Hill School bearing such remote resemblance to its 1963 counterpart that fans will doubtless be running for the inexplicably popular Remembrance of the Daleks as a template for how to revisit iconic spots from the show’s history.

Moffat also invoked the new show as "a British Buffy". Wait, isn’t that exactly what Russell did eleven years ago when he established nu-Who as revolving around Wose? The most shocking aspect of Moffat’s progression to showrunner has been the deterioration of the reliable writer responsible for some of the best episodes under Davies into the sloppiest, most complacent and self-congratulatory of writer-producers. So I’m sure Chalk, I mean Class, will be a breath of fresh air.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mondo bizarro. No offence man, but you’re in way over your head.

The X-Files 8.7: Via Negativa I wasn’t as down on the last couple of seasons of The X-Files as most seemed to be. For me, the mythology arc walked off a cliff somewhere around the first movie, with only the occasional glimmer of something worthwhile after that. So the fact that the show was tripping over itself with super soldiers and Mulder’s abduction/his and Scully’s baby (although we all now know it wasn’t, sheesh ), anything to stretch itself beyond breaking point in the vain hope viewers would carry on dangling, didn’t really make much odds. Of course, it finally snapped with the wretched main arc when the show returned, although the writing was truly on the wall with Season 9 finale The Truth . For the most part, though, I found 8 and 9 more watchable than, say 5 or 7. They came up with their fair share of engaging standalones, one of which I remembered to be Via Negativa .

You know what I sometimes wish? I sometimes wish I were ordinary like you. Ordinary and dead like all the others.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) (SPOILERS) Bryan Forbes’ adaptation of Mark McShane’s 1961’s novel has been much acclaimed. It boasts a distinctive storyline and effective performances from its leads, accompanied by effective black-and-white cinematography from Gerry Turpin and a suitably atmospheric score from John Barry. I’m not sure Forbes makes the most of the material, however, as he underlines Séance on a Wet Afternoon ’s inherently theatrical qualities at the expense of its filmic potential.

You have done well to keep so much hair, when so many’s after it.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) (SPOILERS) Hitherto, I was most familiar with Jeremiah Johnson in the form of a popular animated gif of beardy Robert Redford smiling and nodding in slow zoom close up (a moment that is every bit as cheesy in the film as it is in the gif). For whatever reason, I hadn’t mustered the enthusiasm to check out the 1970s’ The Revenant until now (well, beard-wise, at any rate). It’s easy to distinguish the different personalities at work in the movie. The John Milius one – the (mythic) man against the mythic landscape; the likeably accentuated, semi-poetic dialogue – versus the more naturalistic approach favoured by director Sydney Pollack and star Redford. The fusion of the two makes for a very watchable, if undeniably languorous picture. It was evidently an influence on Dances with Wolves in some respects, although that Best Picture Oscar winner is at greater pains to summon a more sensitive portrayal of Native Americans (and thus, perversely, at times a more patr

A ship is the finest nursery in the world.

A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) (SPOILERS) An odd one, this, as if Disney were remaking The Swiss Family Robinson for adults. One might perhaps have imagined the Mouse House producing it during their “Dark Disney” phase. But even then, toned down. After all, kids kidnapped by pirates sounds like an evergreen premise for boy’s own adventuring (more girl’s own here). The reality of Alexander Mackendrick’s film is decidedly antithetical to that; there’s a lingering feeling, despite A High Wind in Jamaica ’s pirates largely observing their distance, that things could turn rather nasty (and indeed, if Richard Hughes’ 1929 novel  had been followed to the letter, they would have more explicitly). 

You’re a disgrace, sir... Weren’t you at Harrow?

Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966) (SPOILERS) I hadn’t seen this one in more than three decades, and I had in mind that it was a decent spy spoof, well populated with a selection of stalwart British character actors in supporting roles. Well, I had the last bit right. I wasn’t aware this came from the stable of producer Harry Alan Towers, less still of his pedigree, or lack thereof, as a sort of British Roger Corman (he tried his hand at Star Wars with The Shape of Things to Come and Conan the Barbarian with Gor , for example). More legitimately, if you wish to call it that, he was responsible for the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu flicks. Our Man in Marrakesh – riffing overtly on Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana in title – seems to have in mind the then popular spy genre and its burgeoning spoofs, but it’s unsure which it is; too lightweight to work as a thriller and too light on laughs to elicit a chuckle.

I tell you, it saw me! The hanged man’s asphyx saw me!

The Asphyx (1972) (SPOILERS) There was such a welter of British horror from the mid 60s to mid 70s, even leaving aside the Hammers and Amicuses, that it’s easy to lose track of them in the shuffle. This one, the sole directorial effort of Peter Newbrook (a cameraman for David Lean, then a cinematographer), has a strong premise and a decent cast, but it stumbles somewhat when it comes to taking that premise any place interesting. On the plus side, it largely eschews the grue. On the minus, directing clearly wasn’t Newbrook’s forte, and even aided by industry stalwart cinematographer Freddie Young (also a go-to for Lean), The Aspyhx is stylistically rather flat.

My Doggett would have called that crazy.

The X-Files 9.4: 4-D I get the impression no one much liked Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), but I felt, for all the sub-Counsellor Troi, empath twiddling that dogged her characterisation, she was a mostly positive addition to the series’ last two years (of its main run). Undoubtedly, pairing her with Doggett, in anticipation of Gillian Anderson exiting just as David Duchovny had – you rewatch these seasons and you wonder where her head was at in hanging on – made for aggressively facile gender-swapped conflict positions on any given assignment. And generally, I’d have been more interested in seeing how two individuals sympathetic to the cause – her and Mulder – might have got on. Nevertheless, in an episode like 4-D you get her character, and Doggett’s, at probably their best mutual showing.

The best thing in the world for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse.

Marnie (1964) (SPOILERS) Hitch in a creative ditch. If you’ve read my Vertigo review, you’ll know I admired rather than really liked the picture many fete as his greatest work. Marnie is, in many ways, a redux, in the way De Palma kept repeating himself in the early 80s only significantly less delirious and… well, compelling. While Marnie succeeds in commanding the attention fitfully, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. And Hitch, digging his heels in as he strives to fashion a star against public disinterest – he failed to persuade Grace Kelly out of retirement for Marnie Rutland – comes entirely adrift with his leads.

Duffy. That old tangerine hipster.

Duffy (1968) (SPOILERS) It’s appropriate that James Coburn’s title character is repeatedly referred to as an old hipster in Robert Parrish’s movie, as that seemed to be precisely the niche Coburn was carving out for himself in the mid to late 60s, no sooner had Our Man Flint made him a star. He could be found partaking in jaundiced commentary on sexual liberation in Candy, falling headlong into counter culture in The President’s Analyst , and leading it in Duffy . He might have been two decades older than its primary adherents, but he was, to repeat an oft-used phrase here, very groovy. If only Duffy were too.

Just wait. They’ll start listing side effects like the credits at the end of a movie.

Contagion  (2011) (SPOILERS) The plandemic saw Contagion ’s stock soar, which isn’t something that happens too often to a Steven Soderbergh movie. His ostensibly liberal outlook has hitherto found him on the side of the little people (class action suits) and interrogating the drugs trade while scrupulously avoiding institutional connivance (unless it’s Mexican institutional connivance). More recently, The Laundromat ’s Panama Papers puff piece fell fall flat on its face in attempting broad, knowing satire (in some respects, this is curious, as The Informant! is one of Soderbergh’s better-judged films, perhaps because it makes no bones about its maker’s indifference towards its characters). There’s no dilution involved with Contagion , however. It amounts to a bare-faced propaganda piece, serving to emphasise that the indie-minded director is Hollywood establishment through and through. This is a picture that can comfortably sit alongside any given Tinseltown handwringing over the Wa