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.

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…

Garage freak? Jesus. What kind of a crazy fucking story is this?

All the President’s Men (1976)
It’s fairly routine to find that films lavished with awards ceremony attention really aren’t all that. So many factors go into lining them up, including studio politics, publicity and fashion, that the true gems are often left out in the cold. On some occasions all the attention is thoroughly deserved, however. All the President’s Men lost out to Rocky for Best Picture Oscar; an uplifting crowd-pleaser beat an unrepentantly low key, densely plotted and talky political thriller. But Alan J. Pakula’s film had already won the major victory; it turned a literate, uncompromising account of a resolutely unsexy and over-exposed news story into a huge hit. And even more, it commanded the respect of its potentially fiercest (and if roused most venomous) critics; journalists themselves. All the President’s Men is a masterpiece and with every passing year it looks more and more like a paean to a bygone age, one where the freedom of the press was assumed rather than a…

You’re the Compliance Officer. It’s your call.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
(SPOILERS) The mealy-mouthed title speaks volumes about the uncertainty with which Tom Clancy’s best-known character has been rebooted. Paramount has a franchise that has made a lot of money, based on a deeply conservative, bookish CIA analyst (well, he starts out that way). How do you reconfigure him for a 21st century world (even though he already has been, back in 2003) where everything he stands for is pretty much a dirty word? The answer, it seems, is to go for an all-purpose sub-James Bond plan to bring American to its knees, with Ryan as a fresh (-ish) recruit (you know, like Casino Royale!) and surprising handiness in a fight. Yes, Jack is still a smart guy (and also now, a bit, -alec), adept at, well, analysing, but to survive in the modern franchise sewer he needs to be more than that. He needs to kick arse. And wear a hoodie. This confusion, inability to coax a series into being what it’s supposed to be, might explain the sour response to its …

Oh look, there’s Colonel Mortimer, riding down the street on a dinosaur!

One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975)
(SPOILERS) There’s no getting round the dinosaur skeleton in the room here: yellow face. From the illustrious writer-director team who brought us Mary Poppins, no less. Disney’s cheerfully racist family movie belongs to a bygone era, but appreciating its merits doesn’t necessarily requires one to subscribe to the Bernard Manning school of ethnic sensitivity.

I’m not going to defend the choice, but, if you can get past that, and that may well be a big if, particularly Bernard Bresslaw’s Fan Choy (if anything’s an unwelcome reminder of the Carry Ons lesser qualities, it’s Bresslaw and Joan Sims) there’s much to enjoy. For starters, there’s two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Ustinov (as mastermind Hnup Wan), funny in whatever he does (and the only Poirot worth his salt), eternally berating his insubordinate subordinate Clive Revill (as Quon).

This is a movie where, even though its crude cultural stereotyping is writ large, the dialogue frequen…

It's not an exact science, this business.

The Mummy (2017)
(SPOILERS) A pinch of salt is usually needed when reports of a blockbuster’s rep as great or disastrous start singing from the same song sheet, as more often than not, they’re somewhere in between. A week ago, Wonder Woman was being hailed as some kind of miracle (or wonder), when really, it’s just another decent-but-formulaic superhero movie. This week, there have been post-mortems up the wazoo over The Mummy’s less-than-remarkable opening gross (which have a predictably US-centric flavour; it’s still the biggest global figure for a Tom Cruise movie). Is The Mummy as terrible as has been made out? No, of course not. It isn’t particularly good, but that doesn’t make it significantly worse than any dozen or so mediocre blockbusters you’d care to pick that have been lavished with far less opprobrium.

The thinking behind the savaging is understandable, though. There’s so much hubris on display here, it’s ridiculous, from Universal assuming they can fashion a Dark Universe …

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

The head is missing... and... he's the wrong age.

Twin Peaks 3.7: There’s a body all right.
First things first: my suggestion that everyone’s favourite diminutive hitman, Ike “The Spike” Stadtler, had been hired by the Mitchum brothers was clearly erroneous in the extreme, although the logistics of how evil Coop had the contingency plan in place to off Lorraine and Dougie-Coop remains a little unclear right now. As is how he was banged up with the apparent foresight to have on hand ready blackmail tools to ensure the warden would get him out (and why did he wait so long about it, if he could do it off the bat?)


Launching right in with no preamble seems appropriate for his episode, since its chock-a-block with exposition and (linear) progression, almost an icy blast of what settles for reality in Twin Peaks after most of what has gone before this season, the odd arm-tree aside. Which might please James Dyer, who in the latest Empire “The Debate”, took the antagonistic stance to the show coming back and dismissed it as “gibbering nonsen…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

I have a problem with my liver.

Twin Peaks 3.6 Don’t die
The season resumes form with the sixth episode, and incongruity abounds – as much as anything in Twin Peaks is any more or less incongruous than anything else – from the most endearing to the most alarming. The latter of which is up there with the very nastiest nastiness witnessed in a David Lynch joint in the form of butcher for hire Ike “The Spike” Stadtler (Christophe Zajac-Denek), the most alarming killer dwarf since Donald Sutherland led himself on a wild goose chase around Venice in Don’t Look Now.


Lynch’s use of music in Don’t die is both eclectic and exemplary. He concludes with Sharon von Etten crooning Tarifa over the credits, but it’s Ike going on a bloody frenzy to the innocuous and innocent sound of BluntedBeatz’ “I AM” Oldschool HipHop Beat that really sets the episode on edge. This is Lynch at his most visceral, immediate and palpably perturbing. You hear it before you see it, the screams of the first victim in Lorraine’s office, before the pint-…

I will beat you like a Cherokee drum.

Fast & Furious 8 aka The Fate of the Furious (2017)
(SPOILERS) Fun. Brio. That’s what any director needs to bring a sense of to the ever more absurd Fast & Furious franchise at minimum. Action chops are definitely up there, but paramount is an active affinity with how plain silly the series is. And it’s a quality F Gary Gray doesn’t really have, or if he does, he’s never shown it, previously or here. Even his action leaves something to be desired (his The Italian Job remake is far superior in that regard). Which isn’t to suggest there isn’t fun to be had from Fast & Furious 8/The Fate of the Furious, but it’s much more sporadic and performance-based than the previous outing, lacking the unbridled gusto James Wan brought to Furious 7.

But maybe I’m wrong about this. While I’ve seen every instalment in the franchise (only the once, mind) I haven’t followed it avidly in order (1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, I think, only the first and last two at the cinema), although, it isn’t as if t…