Saturday, 9 April 2016

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.

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