Skip to main content

I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye.

Movies on My Mind
Week Ending 28 May 2016

Deepwater Horizon

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.


James Bond

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

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.



Box Office

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?)


On Television

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He made me look the wrong way and I cut off my hand. He could make you look the wrong way and you could lose your whole head.

Moonstruck (1987)
(SPOILERS) Moonstruck has the dubious honour of making it to the ninth spot in Premiere magazine’s 2006 list of the 20 Most Overrated Movies of all Time. There are certainly some valid entries (number one is, however, absurd), but I’m not sure that, despite its box office success and Oscar recognition, the picture has a sufficient profile to be labelled with that adjective. It’s a likeable, lightweight romantic comedy that can boast idiosyncratic casting in a key role, but it simply doesn’t endure quotably or as a classic couple matchup the way the titans of the genre (Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally) do. Even its magical motif is rather feeble.

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

Bleach smells like bleach.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’d like to be able to say it was beyond me how Clint’s misery-porn fest hoodwinked critics and the Academy alike, leading to his second Best Picture and Director double Oscar win. Such feting would naturally lead you to assume Million Dollar Baby was in the same league as Unforgiven, when it really has more in common with The Mule, only the latter is likeably lightweight and nonchalant in its aspirations. This picture has buckled beneath the burden of self-appointed weighty themes and profound musings, which only serve to highlight how crass and manipulative it is.

I’d kill you too, Keanu. I’d kill you just for fun, even if I didn’t have to.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)
(SPOILERS) The pun-tastic title of this Netflix romcom is a fair indication of its affably undemanding attributes. An unapologetic riff on When Harry Met Sally, wherein childhood friends rather than college attendees finally agree the best thing to be is together, it’s resolutely determined to cover no new ground, all the way through to its positive compromise finale. That’s never a barrier to a good romcom, though – at their best, their charm is down to ploughing familiar furrows. Always Be My Maybe’s problem is that, decent comedy performers though the two leads may be – and co-writers with Michael Golamco – you don’t really care whether they get together or not. Which isn’t like When Harry Met Sally at all.

You're reading a comic book? What are you, retarded?

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)
(SPOILERS) It’s a decade since the holy grail of comic books finally fought through decades of development hell to land on the big screen, via Zach Snyder’s faithful but not faithful enough for the devoted adaptation. Many then held the director’s skills with a much more open mind than they do now – following the ravages he has inflicted on the DCEU – coming as he was off the back of the well-received 300. Many subsequently held that his Watchmen, while visually impressive, had entirely missed the point (not least in some of its stylistic and aesthetic choices). I wouldn’t go that far – indeed, for a director whose bombastic approach is often only a few notches down from Michael Bay (who was, alarmingly, also considered to direct at one point), there are sequences in Watchmen that show tremendous sensitivity – but it’s certainly the case that, even or especially in its Ultimate Cut form and for all the furore the change to the end of the story provoked,…

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

They went out of business, because they were too good.

School for Scoundrels (1960)
(SPOILERS) Possibly the pinnacle of Terry-Thomas’ bounder persona, and certainly the one where it’s put to best caddish use, as he gives eternally feckless mug Ian Carmichael a thorough lesson in one-upmanship, only for the latter to turn the tables when he finds himself a tutor. School for Scoundrels is beautifully written (by an uncredited Peter Ustinov and Frank Tarloff), filled with clever set pieces, a fine supporting cast and a really very pretty object of the competing chaps’ affection (Janette Scott), but it’s Terry-Thomas who is the glue that binds this together. And, while I couldn’t say for sure, this might have the highest “Hard cheese” count of any of his films.

Based on Stephen Potter’s 1947’s humorous self-help bestseller (and subsequent series of -manship books) The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship (or The Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating), which suggested ungentlemanly methods for besting an opponent in any given field, gam…

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.