Movies on My Mind
Week Ending 28 May 2016
A tale of unparalleled heroism, based on one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent years? Yep, that would be the latest movie from inveterate patriot and establishment drone Peter Berg, a director intent on ensuring propaganda that would make John Wayne proud lives on today, in only slightly distilled form (albeit including the occasional sop to a different point of view, in the interests of balance, don’t you know).
Berg’s movies, the quite underrated Hancock aside, have been a lexicon of jingoistic flag-waving for the past decade. If one were to be charitable, one might suggest he’d been MK-Ultra’d and now stands proud (or dead-eyed) as a brainwashed figurehead for whatever piece of stylised corporate or political indoctrination Hollywood has been instructed to spew forth next: The Kingdom, Lone Survivor, Battleship (which he decisively sunk), and now Deepwater Horizon, which, whether directly or not, looks like it was sponsored by BP to cast them in a less remiss light. Berg isn’t necessarily a bad director, but his sensibility and choice of subjects are incredibly blinkered, from his very bad debut Very Bad Things onwards. It’s no surprise to learn he will be spreading an “official” Hollywood veneer on the Boston Marathon bombing next, in Patriot’s Day.
Why concentrate on the trifling ecological disaster when you can barnstorm with the invigorating excitement of bravery and self-sacrifice in the eye of the storm? One might at least have hoped for a more composed, Silkwood-esque dramatic approach, focussing on the negligence that led to the disaster. Right-leaning stalwarts Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell (who also appeared in Silkwood, of course) are along for the ride, suggesting a concerted effort to tell a tale from an expressly individual and ineffectual point of view (which may also be why JC Chandor, nothing if not an intelligent writer and director, left the project).
Quite aside from the narrative focus, one wonders how well Lionsgate can expect this to do. On the face of it, it looks like they’re binning money down the chemical toilet. Perhaps they’re all out of ideas (see also The Divergent Series bottoming out). One presumes they’re hoping it goes down a Perfect Storm with audiences, but I suspect they’ve tried to overlay that noble blue-collar template on entirely the wrong subject matter, and it will show out closer to The Finest Hours box office-wise. The oily character posters aren’t exactly the height of shrewd marketing either. Particularly hilarious is John Malkovich, sucking on the one bad sherbet lemon that spoils an otherwise delicious packet.
I guess, if Eon are going to cast Tom Hiddleston as the next 007, now’s probably the optimum moment. If they wait another three years (through somehow strong-arming Daniel Craig back into the role), he’d be the same age Craig was when he took on the super spy, which would likely entail increasing discontent as infirmities slowly begin seizing up his joints. A decade in the role (for the sake of argument) through until he’s 45 is probably about right for such action man business.
Whether he’s the best pick for the part, though? Well, there was simply no chance Henry Cavill was going to get it, impressively Bond-like as he was playing Napoleon Solo, not when he’s pulling Supes duties. I think my concern, on the basis of The Night Manager, was that we might end up with a Bond who’s a bit too smooth and charming. Which shows I probably have some kind of 00-Stockholm Syndrome from seeing bruiser Craig for the last four films. I don’t doubt Hiddleston can deliver with aplomb; he might be the best actor to take the role, if he’s been offered it, and if he accepts it. He’ll certainly be the most dapper chap since Rog in his heyday. And since Rog is obviously the best Bond, that has to count for something.
Finding Dory appears to have been strung together through such formulaic means, it really oughtn’t to have been allowed. I’d like to credit Pixar with producing more than a mere greatest hits package, going above and beyond revisiting every character from the first and even simply regauging the title, but all bets are off given their form in recent years.
Dory is likely the only animated movie this year that will give Zootopia a run for its money (currently approaching the $1bn mark), although that’s assuming a touch of audience fatigue with the fifth Ice Age (a franchise that has somehow eschewed the inevitability of diminishing returns, despite being the animated equivalent of the unending Police Academy series). It’s already looking as if Angry Birds isn’t going to hit the spot in anything like a half billion-plus way (I had it for the third biggest animation in my beginning of the year guesstimates), but whether The Secret Life of Pets, pegged midway between Dory and Ice Age: Collision Course, can make an impression is debatable. Universal have been pretty unstoppable with their despicable animations of late, but they’re going to have their work cut out against these two titanic, known properties.
Beauty and the Beast
Apparently, the Beauty and the Beast trailer has been a phenomenon of gargantuan proportions, besting Star Wars: The Force Awakens with 92 million views on its first day. Bill Condon is not to be underestimated as a director capable of adding nuance to otherwise empty vessels, but from the briefest snippet this looks as entirely inessential as Sir Ken’s Cinderella, complete with insufferably drippy music.
Disney is also planning a live action Little Mermaid, a really good idea when it was made as Splash 30 years ago (back when little Ronnie Howard still showed promise as a director). Just to reassure us they aren’t always right, though (because they’ve been unstoppable this year thus far), it looks as if the Mouse House has come a cropper with Alice Through the Looking Glass. I didn’t think it would get close to its predecessor, for obvious reasons of artificial 3D inflation first time, but its projected $40m first weekend doesn’t spell at all well for its overall performance (the rest of the world will have to be very taken with the original, and extraordinarily enamoured with Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter).
Indeed, right now Disney will be suiting up their legions of damage limitation consultants, hoping that, by the time Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is released, Johnny Depp’s new-found ignominy re Amber Heard’s divorce petition and restraining order will have blown over. Of course, if he’s on a mid-life bender (you’d be forgiven for thinking so from his recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!), it could lead to a whole world of Mel.
The box office poison doesn’t end there. Tracking for Warcraft is in “Like, duh!” territory, with a $25m opening predicted stateside, on a $160m budget. That’s a potential turkey of Gods of Egypt proportions. At this rate, even if X-Men: Apocalypse ultimately underperforms (and it is opening respectably, at least, albeit a not inconsiderable $30m off its predecessor), it will smell of comparative roses when paraded beside the assembled box office stinkers lining up to be knocked down this summer. Movies the suits failed to consider whether there was actually an audience for in advance, before shelling out $100m and change, or ones that may just be too damn similar to each other (how will Pete’s Dragon fare in the wake of The BFG?)
I probably just shouldn’t read movie lists, but they’re perfect quick view junk food, easy to wolf down but invariably resulting in mental indigestion. The new Empire magazine’s 50 Greatest Sci-fi Moments surprisingly has a fair few laudable calls (The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Stalker) and some I wouldn’t have thought of off the bat (David’s homecoming in Flight of the Navigator is indeed a really good sequence, elevating an otherwise fairly inconsequential movie), amid the perfectly acceptable obvious ones.
No.18 on the list is just plain rancid, though. Of all the possible scenes in Doctor Who that could be labelled with a proper sci-fi resonance, nu- or old/classic, they go and pick the Tenth Doctor leaving Rose on a beach. Inadvertently, Empire highlights what a self-serving character, unrecognisable from the original, the lead has become, when they quote his confession “I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye”. Well get a grip, Time Lord, and stop mooning over an emotionally immature teenager. For all that it’s representative of the show’s essence, the staff would have been as well choosing the Sixth Doctor strangling Peri.
Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.