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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.

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Gremlins (1984) I didn’t get to see Gremlins at the cinema. I wanted to, as I had worked myself into a state of great anticipation. There was a six-month gap between its (unseasonal) US release and arrival in the UK, so I had plenty of time to devour clips of cute Gizmo on Film ’84 (the only reason ever to catch Barry Norman was a tantalising glimpse of a much awaited movie, rather than his drab, colourless, reviews) and Gremlins trading cards that came with bubble gum attached (or was it the other way round?). But Gremlins ’ immediate fate for many an eager youngster in Britain was sealed when, after much deliberation, the BBFC granted it a 15 certificate. I had just turned 12, and at that time an attempt to sneak in to see it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind. I’d just have to wait for the video. I didn’t realise it then (because I didn’t know who he was as a filmmaker), but Joe Dante’s irrepressible anarchic wit would have a far stronger effect on me than the un