Skip to main content

They like to get the landmarks.

Movies on My Mind
Week Ending April 23 2016


Aliens II

Just when you thought the Alien franchise was safe from Neill Blomkamp, Sigourney surfaces and only goes and says it’s still on. She also attests that the script is great, but we know by now she’s not the best judge of all screenplays Alien, let alone those in the rest of her career.

Blomkamp is a talented director but an absolutely rotten writer, and I can’t see that changing with what is variously suggested to be a direct continuation of Aliens – bringing back Hicks and consequently dropping the second and third sequels’ continuity – and not dumping Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection at all. It sounds about right that he’d be inspired by the least interesting sequel in terms of content (which isn’t to say it’s not the best of the sequels in spite of itself).

Independence Day: Resurgence

My feelings about this latest trailer are entirely the same as they were when news broke that Will Smith wasn’t returning; I had marginal interest in a continuation anyway, and nothing the Fox marketing department have produced has changed that. I wonder how out on a limb that feeling is. I have no idea how Murdoch Corp expect this to perform without Big Willie.

I love Jeff Goldblum to bits, and he’s really ramping up that quirky… delivery, which is for the good, but as someone who didn’t much care for the original (despite a sneaking like for Roland Emmerich’s B-hokum generally), I’m presuming it’s assumed this will feed off nostalgia from a group I wasn’t a part of; those who were pre- or early teens in 1996. Do they want to see Liam Hemsworth be the hero? Does anyone (as far as I can tell no one even wants to see his brother be the hero, outside of playing Thor)? Or do they just have a yen for an Independence Day 2 regardless, like Jurassic World?


The Founder

It’s a shame Michael Keaton won't be appearing in Spider-man: Homecoming (although Robert Downey Jr can’t seem to cash enough cheques as the recurring Marvel elder statesman). As for The Founder, I’m intrigued simply because I know so little about McDonald’s history and the underhand activities of Ray Kroc. The trouble is, I’m unconvinced the perpetually lukewarm John Lee Hancock is the guy to deliver a sermon full of barbs. He’s so wet, even Ron Howard’s The Alamo would have been superior to his version.


Jason Bourne

I’m presuming Universal know everyone will see Bourne 4.5 regardless, which is why they can’t be bothered to tell us why we need to go see it. Namedropping topical tremors such as Snowden and Greece, and showing protest demonstrations, is a heavy-handed announcement by Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon that “This is why we made this. THIS!” rather than giving us a merest sniff of, you know, a plot to ensnare our interest. If I was to guess, though, I’d guess Julia Stiles doesn’t make it out of the picture alive.

Still, it looks BIG, and I’d be shocked if it isn’t propulsively watchable. But as a generic trailer it’s entirely lacking in conviction, with the most banal, irritating editing and sound effects. So it’s a good thing my ticket is already bought.


Box Office

The Huntsman: Winter’s War appears to be on course to belly flop. It can be difficult to gauge the appetite for sequel fare; did anyone really expect Ted 2 to be brushed aside so emphatically last year? The lack of Kristin Stewart wouldn’t necessarily be the harbinger of doom for Huntsman, since she doesn’t attract audiences post-Twilight anyway. Rather, it’s a case of potential attendees deciding they didn’t like the first one all that much in the first place, or they didn’t expect to get anything they desperately desired from a second helping (Ted 2).

Being able to call it, though, when an unlikely 300 prequel can do perfectly well, thank you very much? I expected The Huntsman to come in a good $100m worldwide lower than the original, but at current pace, it will be very lucky if it gets any where near $200m. Like Divergent, all bets are off for assumed franchises right now. Will Alice Through the Looking Glass be the next sequel no one much wants? Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2? Is the eventual Maleficent 2 actually anticipated? It can be easier to tell with a comedy; there was never going to be much chance for Horrible Bosses 2, and the just-announced Daddy’s Home sequel is going to have no one queueing round the block.


On TV

I should probably revisit Tequila Sunrise some time. While Mel and Kurt’s first co-starring vehicle proved much less memorable than the much less auspicious combination of Sly and Kurt in Tango and Cash, and I don’t expect it to suddenly reveal itself as really good, I suspect it’s more likely to hide hidden merits thirty years on from that initial disappointment.

Their announced reunion, The Barbary Coast, this time bringing Kurt’s daughter Kate along, sounds like it could be something special. With Gibson directing (and co-writing), as per all his auteurial efforts, it’s a dip into history, and as is his inclination, it explores bloody deeds; in this case, the lawless birth of San Francisco amid the California gold rush of the mid 19th century. It sounds right up Mel’s street, and is based on Herbert Asbury’s follow-up to Gangs of New York. Let’s hope it’s more even than Scorsese’s take on that, and more shrewdly judged than his prohibition set Boardwalk Empire.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Having revisited The Force Awakens on Blu-ray, it stands reasonably firm to my initial thoughts. Whether it still nudges Return of the Jedi into third place in the Star Wars rankings, I’m not quite so sure; they’re both equally-stricken with regard to narrative and character failings. The Force Awakens lacks anything as emotionally compelling as Jedi’s Luke-Vader confrontation, but generally it’s pacier and more consistently engaging. Like Prometheus, it succeeds to an extent simply because it’s very well made, style and confidence papering over a welter of weaknesses.

It’s also a much, much better Han Solo movie than Return of the Jedi. Harrison Ford actually seems engaged with the kids, and with Chewie, and his “It’s all true, all of it” may be the closest we get to magic in a picture achingly in need of some faux-spirituality. His death worked better for me second time, I guess because I’ve filled in blanks of his relationship with Ben Solo in the meantime; it still isn’t earned in the way the Obi-Wan/Vader duel is, but it now felt less like an artless paralleling with the original trilogy.

In contrast, the attack on, and destruction of, Starkiller base is even more perfunctory. Carrie Fisher looks like an extra from Brazil, and Dameron Poe is as superfluous and paper-thin as ever (I simply don’t get the popularity of the character, beyond his being played by Oscar Isaac, and that can only get you so far). And Luke looks like he’s been living out of bins for three decades. I’d be inclined to say that much of what we have here is much more JJ than Kasdan, with a Star Wars Babies vibe that threatens to overwhelm the proceedings at points, and self-referentiality that occasionally diminishes any conviction in this world (Han and Chewie’s crossbow). Daniel Craig’s “Aaaand I’ll drop my weapon” is still the best delivered line in the movie, though.



The Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey documentary, from the highly prolific Laurent Bouzereau is really no more than a well-appointed puff piece, but I doubt anyone was expecting a warts-and-all reveal of the pushes and shoves, and rewrites and wrangles, that got this to the screen. We’ll have to wait another decade for something of that ilk, possibly more since there’s far more protectiveness surrounding the Disney franchises (Marvel, Lucasfilm) than, say, Alien. It’s very watchable, but little stays with the viewer.

One occasionally checks oneself, such as the desire Abrams and Kasdan’s professed to “tell a story that would delight us” (you really gain delight by rehashing A New Hope so shamelessly?) Kathleen Kennedy’s “I don’t really think we ever felt like we were really ready to go” is the closest to an admission that the haste and hurdles involved had a knock-on on the picture’s ultimate quality. That and the sight of a snowspeeder chase in the (very brief) deleted scenes, a signal of just how much rewriting and finessing went on, far beyond the stage where they decided Poe would live (and don’t the joins show there?) John Boyega comes across incredibly well, a bundle of infectious enthusiasm. Of which, I particularly liked the crica-1976 clip of Hamill cracking up at Ford mocking Lucas’ dialogue from the Falcon’s cockpit.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds . Juno and the Paycock , set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.

Dr. Strangelove  or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (SPOILERS) Kubrick’s masterpiece satire of mutually-assured destruction. Or is it? Not the masterpiece bit, because that’s a given. Rather, is all it’s really about the threat of nuclear holocaust? While that’s obviously quite sufficient, all the director’s films are suggested to have, in popular alt-readings, something else going on under the hood, be it exposing the ways of Elite paedophilia ( Lolita , Eyes Wide Shut ), MKUltra programming ( A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket ), transhumanism and the threat of imminent AI overlords ( 2001: A Space Odyssey ), and most of the aforementioned and more besides (the all-purpose smorgasbord that is The Shining ). Even Barry Lyndon has been posited to exist in a post-reset-history world. Could Kubrick be talking about something else as well in Dr. Strangelove ?

Sir, I’m the Leonardo of Montana.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) (SPOILERS) The title of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s second English language film and second adaptation announces a fundamentally quirky beast. It is, therefore, right up its director’s oeuvre. His films – even Alien Resurrection , though not so much A Very Long Engagement – are infused with quirk. He has a style and sensibility that is either far too much – all tics and affectations and asides – or delightfully offbeat and distinctive, depending on one’s inclinations. I tend to the latter, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the trailers for The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet ; if there’s one thing I would bank on bringing out the worst in Jeunet, it’s a story focussing on an ultra-precocious child. Yet for the most part the film won me over. Spivet is definitely a minor distraction, but one that marries an eccentric bearing with a sense of heart that veers to the affecting rather than the chokingly sentimental. Appreciation for