Skip to main content

Welcome to the Spanish Inquisition.

Movies on My Mind
Week Ending 14 May 2016

The Accountant

I’d like to have seen a trailer this week I could get behind, but… Gavin O’Connor is perhaps the most irksome kind of director, one makes technically surefooted movies but nurses the illusion there’s some actual weight to his projects, when all he leaves in his wake is resounding vacuity. Somehow he attracts stars, probably because there’s a lot of vacuity out there and his veneer of substance serves to hoodwink them. Here, Batfleck plays an autistic assassin. And why not? It’s fun to exploit disabilities, after all. Not so much to listen to Radiohead, if you want a reasonably positive day. All that said, this is a well-put together trailer, in a “The Accountant might do reasonable business on its opening weekend” way. By my count, though, Ben has about one unqualified hit (Gone Girl) he didn’t also direct in the last decade, so it’s definitely not a foregone conclusion.


Billy Long’s Halftime Walk

Super-special 120 frames per second high definition vision from Ang Lee (“But it looks like video”, rebounds the universal complaint). Always an interesting film-maker, even if his ambition doesn’t always come off (Life of Pi left me both impressed an unimpressed). The forced irony of this trailer isn’t really selling Billy Long to me (the umpteenth version of Heroes, a teary platform for a medal, the leading question that everyone knows the answer to, even if it’s just through seeing First Blood; “It weren’t good”).

Additionally, how many of these personalised war movies do we need that circumvent the broader political motives for slaughter on both sides? It’s all very well to be individually cynical, or probing of the emotional fall-out, but it provokes nothing but a cosy teacup tornado before returning to one’s chicken salad. The not-quite-Coming Home of the two thousand and teens? Joe Alwyn will probably become a star off the back of it, regardless. On top of which, it looks like no-brainer Oscar bait. Also, Vin Deisel’s in it, and Gareth Hedlund is still getting work after Pan, so that has to count for something.


Assassin’s Creed

I had a lot more interest in this (which wasn’t enormous anyway, to be fair) before I saw Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, an adaption of the Bard that led  you to suppose he was the kind of ‘wright who made a habit of skimping on plot. Surely, this Creed trailer has its fair share of well composed shots, stylistic moves and impressive cinematography, but all those things were true of Macbeth, and that was a borderline stinker. Maybe this will be good, but it’s from the writers of Exodus: Gods and Kings, so probably not.


Lucky Logan

Did Steven Soderbergh hope people would sit with bated breath, holding out for him to start making movies again, what with his massive, er, four-year, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hiatus from features? I’ve always been receptive to his work (although I couldn’t be doing with The Knick; I lasted about four episodes), but he’s sadly the very definition of a passionless filmmaker, and thus one who doesn’t engender passion from filmgoers clamouring for his next opus.

Soderbergh makes clever movies, sometimes insightful movies, occasionally topical movies, and also reasonably funny movies, but he’s only ever made one movie that feels like he cares about the characters, and thus a resultantly warm movie (although it makes me a little queasy to say so) and that’s Out of Sight. And it’s his best movie (as the Russo Brothers noted in a recent interview, where they extolled his virtues as a mentor).

Lucky Logan, a crime movie set during a NASCAR race, will star Channing Tatum (naturally), Adam Driver and maybe Seth MacFarlane (because the world needs more Seth MacFarlane in movies). That it was previously called Hillbilly Heist tells me enough of what to expect here, that it will go on the pile of movies Soderbergh made but never knew quite why he made them, other than he had the the technical moxie to do so (so, most of them). Maybe he should go make a superhero movie. That might at least be different for him, present a challenge. Who knows, everyone involved might come up smelling of roses. (As for the femme Ocean’s 11 spin-off, good luck to all concerned, but to make it interesting they want to do something as skew-whiff as Ocean’s 12, maybe the director’s most fascinating feigning of a commercial Hollywood exercise.

Inferno

I’m sure someone could make a silk’s purse out of Dan Brown novel, but it definitely isn’t Ron Howard. Felicity Jones either needs money or hasn’t seen the last two instalments. Hanks (likely the first and last movie he’ll make where he’s informed “You are humanity’s final hope”) and Howard both need hits, so much so they’ve skipped The Lost Symbol until they’re really desperate.

Maybe there’s still an audience for this (Wikipedia requires a citation for the six million copies Inferno has sold to date), but if anything’s going to make people sick to the back teeth of the merest whiff of a conspiracy theory, it’s a Dan Brown concoction. As for David Koepp, who should surely have realised a lost cause when he adapted Angels and Demons, he’s now officially a much better director than he is purveyor of screenplays.


Godzilla 2

So Gareth Edwards isn’t attached any more. Which can’t be too much of a surprise, really. I’m guessing it’s an indicator that he isn’t lukewarm about the prospects for Rogue One. To be honest, I’m dubious about any big screen monster movie of this ilk coming good. That is, when you have the monster as an effective protagonist. Jackson’s King Kong is eggy and indulgent, and Edwards’ Godzilla has a big black hole where its characters should be. As unpopular as it may be to suggest, Emmerich’s Godzilla is a much better monster movie than either. Will Kong: Skull Island be a hit? I mean, apart from Tom Hiddleston being so hot right now? I don’t hold out great tranches of hope, unless they come up something really intriguing in terms of how to plot the thing. The tail always ends up wagging the dog, with bloated effects leading and under-sustained everything else.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Reviews have begun to trickle out, and they seem to be confirming what everyone with eyes to see (and possibly even just those who could hear a good line, of which there weren’t any) knew from the trailers. That it sucks. I had in mind this coming in under the $600m mark, but if it’s as lousy – and plain boring – as they say, it may not hit $500m. Given how expensive it was, that’s very bad news for Fox. Really, they’ve had one big hit in this franchise (the last one) since Brett Ratner shat out the third movie, as he’s wont to do.

On the plus side, Murdoch’s movie house may finally realise that, far from being the life blood of the franchise, Bryan Singer is a hindrance, bringing with him stylistically unexceptional chops and a long-since inappropriate aesthetic. He’s been talking up where he’d like to take the series next. It’s always good to sound optimistic, before the grosses start coming in.  

Fox should have taken their cues from the best in the series, not coincidentally Matthew Vaughn’s contribution, when they could. Now they find themselves in a year where a cheap throwaway, Deadpool, has proved an unlikely salvation, out-grossing Days of Future Past (the biggest X-hit), which cost four times as much. It comes to a point where Fox and their producers incarnate should admit they know nothing and hand the keys someone who has a clue. They’re talking about a fun-er Fantastic Four (with maybe the same cast) but they already had a fun-er Fantastic Four, and it was rubbish (actually, I liked the derided Josh Trank reboot quite a bit more than Tim Story’s movies, but I’m no Four-ite).

Dungeons and Dragons

On the rethink front, Warner Bros already appears to be pre-empting the possible (likely?) underwhelming reception for Legendary’s Warcraft (irrespective of whether or not it’s any good, and with Duncan Jones at the helm I find it difficult to believe it will be outright bad) by taking the humorous approach to fantasy game adaptations. Rob Letterman, no stranger to so-so family movies (Monsters vs. Aliens) and bad ones (Shark Tale, Gulliver’s Travels; I’ve yet to see Goosebumps, which appears to have sealed his deal for this) will be steering this ship, and everyone will be hoping it does better than the previous, Tom Baker-headlining effort. If Warner isn’t careful, though, this could be another Land of the Lost.

Box Office


What are the chances the summer of ’16 could witness a whole spate of underperformers? Bad reviews don’t preclude a movie going great guns, of course, far from it. It’s more a question of the appetite for the material in the first place.

Apocalypse lacks (very much of) Hugh Jackman (Wolverine’s solo outings illustrate he doesn’t guarantee a hit, but his absence certainly doesn’t help) and any clear hook (I wouldn’t call the ‘80s a hook). Alice Through the Looking Glass may be based on the false assumption that anyone liked the original (as opposed to liking post-converted 3D), and doesn’t even have Tim Burton in charge, which may spell bobbins. Warcraft is betting the bank on two notoriously difficult genres; fantasy (outside of Tolkien, how many hits can anyone guarantee?) and computer game adaptation (outside of Resident Evils, which come cheap, it’s a disaster zone).

Independence Day: Resurgence? Still a big question mark without Will Smith. Ghostbusters has some very vocal ill-will attached its female reboot, so it will be interesting to see how much of that is merely bluster (it also depends on whether the movie is, you know, funny). Star Trek Beyond; after screwing the pooch with the last one, all bets are off for this, especially now audiences can get an annual fix from Star Wars-related movies and there’s a new Trek TV show in the pipeline. And Legend of Tarzan and Ben-Hur may find audiences against the odds, but then again, probably not.

On Television: Twin Peaks

David Bowie was going to be in this? What a complete bummer. Contrastingly, it’s nice to hear how kitchen sink Lynch has been about this whole return (despite the occasional conspicuous absences), particularly as the majority of Philip Jeffries ended up on the Fire Walk with Me cutting room floor.

I’ve been revisiting On the Air, or I should say visiting, since I can’t remember ever catching more than one episode when it was first broadcast. I’m askance that ABC ever commissioned it, let alone approved a pilot, let alone made seven episodes before pulling the plug. It isn’t the greatest thing Lynch has been involved in, but it’s inimitably from his mind, and occasionally quite brilliant (notably the ones with Lynch’s name in the writing credits). At least there’s no danger of Peaks ’17 being compromised. Whether it’s good or bad, it rests entirely on the shoulders of Jimmy Stewart from Mars.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Popular posts from this blog

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

What’s so bad about being small? You’re not going to be small forever.

Innerspace (1987) There’s no doubt that Innerspace is a flawed movie. Joe Dante finds himself pulling in different directions, his instincts for comic subversion tempered by the need to play the romance plot straight. He tacitly acknowledges this on the DVD commentary for the film, where he notes Pauline Kael’s criticism that he was attempting to make a mainstream movie; and he was. But, as ever with Dante, it never quite turns out that way. Whereas his kids’ movies treat their protagonists earnestly, this doesn’t come so naturally with adults. I’m a bona fide devotee of Innerspace , but I can’t help but be conscious of its problems. For the most part Dante papers over the cracks; the movie hits certain keynotes of standard Hollywood prescription scripting. But his sensibility inevitably suffuses it. That, and human cartoon Martin Short (an ideal “leading man” for the director) ensure what is, at first glance just another “ Steven Spielberg Presents ” sci-fi/fantas

This risotto is shmackin’, dude.

Stranger Things Season 4: Part I (SPOILERS) I haven’t had cause, or the urge, to revisit earlier seasons of Stranger Things , but I’m fairly certain my (relatively) positive takes on the first two sequel seasons would adjust down somewhat if I did (a Soviet base under Hawkins? DUMB soft disclosure or not, it’s pretty dumb). In my Season Three review, I called the show “ Netflix’s best-packaged junk food. It knows not to outstay its welcome, doesn’t cause bloat and is disposable in mostly good ways ” I fairly certain the Duffer’s weren’t reading, but it’s as if they decided, as a rebuke, that bloat was the only way to go for Season Four. Hence episodes approaching (or exceeding) twice the standard length. So while the other points – that it wouldn’t stray from its cosy identity and seasons tend to merge in the memory – hold fast, you can feel the ambition of an expansive canvas faltering at the hurdle of Stranger Things ’ essential, curated, nostalgia-appeal inconsequentiality.

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do

Whacking. I'm hell at whacking.

Witness (1985) (SPOILERS) Witness saw the advent of a relatively brief period – just over half a decade –during which Harrison Ford was willing to use his star power in an attempt to branch out. The results were mixed, and abruptly concluded when his typically too late to go where Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had gone before (with at bare minimum Oscar-nominated results) – but not “ full retard ” – ended in derision with Regarding Henry . He retreated to the world of Tom Clancy, and it’s the point where his cachet began to crumble. There had always been a stolid quality beneath even his more colourful characters, but now it came to the fore. You can see something of that as John Book in Witness – despite his sole Oscar nom, it might be one of Ford’s least interesting performances of the 80s – but it scarcely matters, or that the screenplay (which won) is by turns nostalgic, reactionary, wistful and formulaic, as director Peter Weir, in his Hollywood debu

Are you telling me that I should take my daughter to a witch doctor?

The Exorcist (1973) (SPOILERS) Vast swathes have been written on The Exorcist , duly reflective of its cultural impact. In a significant respect, it’s the first blockbuster – forget Jaws – and also the first of a new kind of special-effects movie. It provoked controversy across all levels of the socio-political spectrum, for explicit content and religious content, both hailed and denounced for the same. William Friedkin, director of William Peter Blatty’s screenplay based on Blatty’s 1971 novel, would have us believe The Exorcist is “ a film about the mystery of faith ”, but it’s evidently much more – and less – than that. There’s a strong argument to be made that movies having the kind of seismic shock on the landscape this one did aren’t simply designed to provoke rumination (or exultation); they’re there to profoundly influence society, even if largely by osmosis, and when one looks at this picture’s architects, such an assessment only gains in credibility.

That, my lad, was a dragon.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) (SPOILERS) It’s alarming how quickly Peter Jackson sabotaged all the goodwill he amassed in the wake of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A guy who started out directing deliciously deranged homemade horror movies ended up taking home the Oscar for a fantasy movie, of all genres. And then he blew it. He went from a filmmaker whose naysayers were the exception to one whose remaining cheerleaders are considered slightly maladjusted. The Desolation of Smaug recovers some of the territory Jackson has lost over the last decade, but he may be too far-gone to ever regain his crown. Perhaps in years to come The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be seen as an aberration in his filmography. There’s a cartoonishness to the gleeful, twisted anarchy on display in his earlierr work that may be more attuned to the less verimilitudinous aspects of King Kong and The Hobbit s. The exceptions are his female-centric character dramas, Heavenly Creat

Gizmo caca!

Gremlins (1984) I didn’t get to see Gremlins at the cinema. I wanted to, as I had worked myself into a state of great anticipation. There was a six-month gap between its (unseasonal) US release and arrival in the UK, so I had plenty of time to devour clips of cute Gizmo on Film ’84 (the only reason ever to catch Barry Norman was a tantalising glimpse of a much awaited movie, rather than his drab, colourless, reviews) and Gremlins trading cards that came with bubble gum attached (or was it the other way round?). But Gremlins ’ immediate fate for many an eager youngster in Britain was sealed when, after much deliberation, the BBFC granted it a 15 certificate. I had just turned 12, and at that time an attempt to sneak in to see it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind. I’d just have to wait for the video. I didn’t realise it then (because I didn’t know who he was as a filmmaker), but Joe Dante’s irrepressible anarchic wit would have a far stronger effect on me than the un

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… dyin’ time’s here!

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Time was kind to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome . As in, it was such a long time since I’d seen the “final chapter” of the trilogy, it had dwindled in my memory to the status of an “alright but not great” sequel. I’d half-expected to have positive things to say along the lines of it being misunderstood, or being able to see what it was trying for but perhaps failing to quite achieve. Instead, I re-discovered a massive turkey that is really a Mad Max movie in name only (appropriately, since Max was an afterthought). This is the kind of picture fans of beloved series tend to loathe; when a favourite character returns but without the qualities or tone that made them adored in the first place (see Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull , or John McClane in the last two Die Hard s). Thunderdome stinks even more than the methane fuelling Bartertown. I hadn’t been aware of the origins of Thunderdome until recently, mainly because I was