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.

Popular posts from this blog

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

I don’t think Wimpys still exist.

Last Night in Soho (2021) (SPOILERS) Last Night in Soho is a cautionary lesson in one’s reach extending one’s grasp. It isn’t that Edgar Wright shouldn’t attempt to stretch himself, it’s simply that he needs the self-awareness to realise which moves are going to throw his back out and leave him in a floundering and enfeebled heap on the studio floor. Wright’s an uber-geek, one with a very specific comfort zone, and there’s no shame in that. He evidently was shamed, though, hence this response to criticisms of a lack of maturity and – obviously – lack of versatility with female characters. Last Night in Soho goes broke for woke, and in so doing exposes his new clothes in the least flattering light. Because Edgar is in no way woke, his attempts to prove his progressive mettle lead to a lurid, muddled mess, one that will satisfy no one. Well, perhaps his most ardent fans, but no one else.

It looks like a digital walkout.

Free Guy (2021) (SPOILERS) Ostensibly a twenty-first century refresh of The Truman Show , in which an oblivious innocent realises his life is a lie, and that he is simply a puppet engineered for the entertainment of his creators/controllers/the masses, Free Guy lends itself to similar readings regarding the metaphysical underpinnings of our reality, of who sets the paradigm and how conscious we are of its limitations. But there’s an additional layer in there too, a more insidious one than using a Hollywood movie to “tell us how it really is”.

The voice from the outer world who will lead them to paradise.

Dune (2021) (SPOILERS) For someone who has increasingly dug himself a science-fiction groove, Denis Villeneuve isn’t terribly imaginative. Dune looks perfect, in the manner of the cool, clinical, calculating and above all glacial rendering of concept design and novel cover art in the most doggedly literal fashion. And that’s the problem. David Lynch’s edition may have had its problems, but it was inimitably the product of a mind brimming with sensibility. Villeneuve’s version announces itself as so determinedly faithful to Frank Herbert, it needs two movies to tell one book, and yet all it really has to show for itself are gargantuan vistas.

Give poor, starving Gurgi munchings and crunchings.

The Black Cauldron (1985) (SPOILERS) Dark Disney? I guess… Kind of . I don’t think I ever got round to seeing this previously. The Fox and the Hound , sure. Basil the Great Mouse Detective , most certainly. Even Oliver and Company , so I wasn’t that selective. But I must have missed The Black Cauldron , the one that nearly broke Disney, for the same reason everyone else did. But what reason was that? Perhaps nothing leaping out about it, when the same summer kids could see The Goonies , or Back to the Future , or Pee Wee’s Big Adventure . It seemed like a soup of other, better-executed ideas and past Disney movies, stirred up in a cauldron and slopped out into an environment where audiences now wanted something a touch more sophisticated.

Monster nom nom?

The Suicide Squad (2021) (SPOILERS) This is what you get from James Gunn when he hasn’t been fed through the Disney rainbow filter. Pure, unadulterated charmlessness, as if he’s been raiding his deleted Twitter account for inspiration. The Suicide Squad has none of the “heart” of Guardians of Galaxy , barely a trace of structure, and revels in the kind of gross out previously found in Slither ; granted an R rating, Gunn revels in this freedom with juvenile glee, but such carte blanche only occasionally pays off, and more commonly leads to a kind of playground repetition. He gets to taunt everyone, and then kill them. Critics applauded; general audiences resisted. They were right to.

It becomes easier each time… until it kills you.

The X-Files 4.9: Terma Oh dear. After an engaging opener, the second part of this story drops through the floor, and even the usually spirited Rob Bowman can’t save the lethargic mess Carter and Spotnitz make of some actually pretty promising plot threads.

Three. Two. One. Lift with your neck.

Red Notice  (2021) (SPOILERS) Red Notice rather epitomises Netflix output. Not the 95% that is dismissible, subgrade filler no one is watching but is nevertheless churned out as original “content”. No, this would be the other, more select tier constituting Hollywood names and non-negligible budgets. Most such fare still fails to justify its existence in any way, shape or form, singularly lacking discernible quality control or “studio” oversight. Albeit, one might make similar accusations of a selection of legit actual studio product too, but it’s the sheer consistency of unleavened movies that sets Netflix apart. So it is with Red Notice . Largely lambasted by the critics, in much the manner of, say 6 Underground or Army of the Dead , it is in fact, and just like those, no more and no less than okay.

Oh hello, loves, what year is it?

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) (SPOILERS) Simu Lui must surely be the least charismatic lead in a major motion picture since… er, Taylor Lautner? He isn’t aggressively bad, like Lautner was/is, but he’s so blank, so nondescript, he makes Marvel’s super-spiffy new superhero Shang-Chi a superplank by osmosis. Just looking at him makes me sleepy, so it’s lucky Akwafina is wired enough for the both of them. At least, until she gets saddled with standard sidekick support heroics and any discernible personality promptly dissolves. And so, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continues Kevin Feige’s bold journey into wokesense, seemingly at the expense of any interest in dramatically engaging the viewer.

What about the panties?

Sliver (1993) (SPOILERS) It must have seemed like a no-brainer. Sharon Stone, fresh from flashing her way to one of the biggest hits of 1992, starring in a movie nourished with a screenplay from the writer of one of the biggest hits of 1992. That Sliver is one Stone’s better performing movies says more about how no one took her to their bosom rather than her ability to appeal outside of working with Paul Verhoeven. Attempting to replicate the erotic lure of Basic Instinct , but without the Dutch director’s shameless revelry and unrepentant glee (and divested of Michael Douglas’ sweaters), it flounders, a stupid movie with vague pretensions to depth made even more stupid by reshoots that changed the killer’s identity and exposed the cluelessness of the studio behind it. Philip Noyce isn’t a stupid filmmaker, of course. He’s a more-than-competent journeyman when it comes to Hollywood blockbuster fare ( Clear and Present Danger , Salt ) also adept at “smart” smaller pict