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

You know, I think you may have the delusion you’re still a police officer.

Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) (SPOILERS) At the time, it seemed Alec Baldwin was struggling desperately to find suitable star vehicles, and the public were having none of it. Such that, come 1997, he was playing second fiddle to Anthony Hopkins and Bruce Willis, and in no time at all had segued to the beefy supporting player we now know so well from numerous indistinguishable roles. That, and inane SNL appearances. But there was a window, post- being replaced by Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, when he still had sufficient cachet to secure a series of bids for bona fide leading man status. Heaven’s Prisoners is the final such and probably the most interesting, even if it’s somewhat hobbled by having too much, rather than too little, story.

They wanted me back for a reason. I need to find out why.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) (SPOILERS) I wasn’t completely down on Joss Whedon’s Justice League (I had to check to remind myself Snyder retained the director credit), which may be partly why I’m not completely high on Zack Snyder’s. This gargantuan four-hour re-envisioning of Snyder’s original vision is aesthetically of a piece, which means its mercifully absent the jarring clash of Whedon’s sensibility with the Snyderverse’s grimdark. But it also means it doubles down on much that makes Snyder such an acquired taste, particularly when he has story input. The positive here is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell. The negative here is also that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell (with some extra sprinkles on top). This is not a Watchmen , where the unexpurgated version was for the most part a feast.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016) (SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

Oh, I love funny exiting lines.

Alfred Hitchcock  Ranked: 26-1 The master's top tier ranked from worst to best. You can find 52-27 here .

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody loves a tax inspector. They’re beyond the pale!

Too Many Crooks (1959) (SPOILERS) The sixth of seven collaborations between producer-director Mario Zampi and writer Michael Pertwee, Too Many Crooks scores with a premise later utilised to big box-office effect in Ruthless People (1986). A gang of inept thieves kidnap the wife of absolute cad and bounder Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas). Unfortunately for them, Gordon, being an absolute cad and bounder, sees it as a golden opportunity, rather enjoying his extra-marital carry ons and keeping all his cash from her, so he refuses to pay up. At which point Lucy Gordon (Brenda De Banzie) takes charge of the criminal crew and turns the tables.

Well, it must be terribly secret, because I wasn't even aware I was a member.

The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) (SPOILERS) No, not Joseph P Farrell’s book about the Nazi secret weapons project, but rather a first-rate TV movie in the secret-society ilk of later flicks The Skulls and The Star Chamber . Only less flashy and more cogent. Glenn Ford’s professor discovers the club he joined 22 years earlier is altogether more hardcore than he could have ever imagined – not some student lark – when they call on the services he pledged. David Karp’s adaptation of his novel, The Brotherhood of the Bell is so smart in its twists and turns of plausible deniability, you’d almost believe he had insider knowledge.

What do you want me to do? Call America and tell them I changed my mind?

  Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) (SPOILERS) The demolition – at very least as a ratings/box office powerhouse – of the superhero genre now appears to be taking effect. If so, Martin Scorsese will at least be pleased. The studios that count – Disney and Warner Bros – are all aboard the woke train, such that past yardsticks like focus groups are spurned in favour of the forward momentum of agendas from above (so falling in step with the broader media initiative). The most obvious, some might say banal, evidence of this is the repurposing of established characters in race or gender terms.

Now all we’ve got to do is die.

Without Remorse (2021) (SPOILERS) Without Remorse is an apt description of the unapologetic manner in which Amazon/Paramount have perpetrated this crime upon any audiences foolish enough to think there was any juice left in the Tom Clancy engine. There certainly shouldn’t have been, not after every attempt was made to run it dry in The Sum of All Our Fears and then the stupidly titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit . A solo movie of sometime Ryan chum John Clark’s exploits has been mooted awhile now, and two more inimitable incarnations were previously encountered in the forms of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Like Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit , however, diminishing returns find Michael B Jordan receiving the short straw and lead one to the conclusion that, if Jordan is indeed a “star”, he’s having a hell of a job proving it.

I don't think this is the lightning you're looking for.

Meet Joe Black (1998) (SPOILERS) A much-maligned Brad Pitt fest, commonly accused of being interminable, ponderous, self-important and ridiculous. All of those charges may be valid, to a greater or lesser extent, but Meet Joe Black also manages to attain a certain splendour, in spite of its more wayward impulses. While it’s suggestive of a filmmaker – Martin Brest – believing his own hype after the awards success of (the middling) Scent of a Woman , this is a case where all that sumptuous better-half styling and fantasy lifestyle does succeed in achieving a degree of resonance. An undeniably indulgent movie, it’s one I’ve always had a soft spot for.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you got yourself killed.

Bloodshot (2020) (SPOILERS) If the trailer for Bloodshot gave the impression it had some meagre potential, that’s probably because it revealed the entire plot of a movie clearly intended to unveil itself in measured and judicious fashion. It isn’t far from the halfway mark that the truth about the situation Vin Diesel’s Ray Garrison faces is revealed, which is about forty-one minutes later than in the trailer. More frustratingly, while themes of perception of reality, memory and identity are much-ploughed cinematic furrows, they’re evergreens if dealt with smartly. Bloodshot quickly squanders them. But then, this is, after all, a Vin Diesel vehicle.