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…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

I am so sick of Scotland!

Outlaw/King (2018)
(SPOILERS) Proof that it isn't enough just to want to make a historical epic, you have to have some level of vision for it as well. Say what you like about Mel's Braveheart – and it isn't a very good film – it's got sensibility in spades. He knew what he was setting out to achieve, and the audience duly responded. What does David Mackenzie want from Outlaw/King (it's shown with a forward slash on the titles, so I'm going with it)? Ostensibly, and unsurprisingly, to restore the stature of Robert the Bruce after it was rather tarnished by Braveheart, but he has singularly failed to do so. More than that, it isn’t an "idea", something you can recognise or get behind even if you don’t care about the guy. You’ll never forget Mel's Wallace, for better or worse, but the most singular aspect of Chris Pine's Bruce hasn’t been his rousing speeches or heroic valour. No, it's been his kingly winky.

It was one of the most desolate looking places in the world.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old, broadcast by the BBC on the centenary of Armistice Day, is "sold" on the attraction and curiosity value of restored, colourised and frame rate-enhanced footage. On that level, this World War I documentary, utilising a misquote from Laurence Binyon's poem for its title, is frequently an eye-opener, transforming the stuttering, blurry visuals that have hitherto informed subsequent generations' relationship with the War. However, that's only half the story; the other is the use of archive interviews with veterans to provide a narrative, exerting an effect often more impacting for what isn't said than for what is.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

It seemed as if I had missed something.

Room 237 (2012)
Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous, obsessive approach towards filmmaking was renowned, so perhaps it should be no surprise to find comparable traits reflected in a section of his worshippers. Legends about the director have taken root (some of them with a factual basis, others bunkum), while the air of secrecy that enshrouded his life and work has duly fostered a range of conspiracy theories. A few of these are aired in Rodney Ascher’s documentary, which indulges five variably coherent advocates of five variably tenuous theories relating to just what The Shining is really all about. Beyond Jack Nicholson turning the crazy up to 11, that is. Ascher has hit on a fascinating subject, one that exposes our capacity to interpret any given information wildly differently according to our disposition. But his execution, which both underlines and undermines the theses of these devotees, leaves something to be desired.

Part of the problem is simply one of production values. The audio tra…

Believe me, Mr Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
(SPOILERS) Some of the reactions to Spectre would have you believe it undoes all the “good” work cementing Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond in Skyfall. If you didn’t see that picture as the second coming of the franchise (I didn’t) your response to the latest may not be so harsh, despite its less successful choices (Blofeld among them). And it isn’t as if one step, forward two steps back are anything new in perceptions of the series (or indeed hugely divisive views on what even constitutes a decent Bond movie). After the raves greeting Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan suffered a decidedly tepid response to his second outing, Tomorrow Never Dies, albeit it was less eviscerated than Craig’s sophomore Quantum of Solace. Tomorrow’s reputation disguises many strong points, although it has to be admitted that a Moore-era style finale and a floundering attempt to package in a halcyon villain aren’t among them.

The Bond series’ flirtations with contemporary relevance have a…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.