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…

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances.

A Few Good Men (1992)
(SPOILERS) Aaron Sorkin has penned a few good manuscripts in his time, but A Few Good Men, despite being inspired by an actual incident (one related to him by his sister, an army lawyer on a case at the time), falls squarely into the realm of watchable but formulaic. I’m not sure I’d revisited the entire movie since seeing it at the cinema, but my reaction is largely the same: that it’s about as impressively mounted and star-studded as Hollywood gets, but it’s ultimately a rather empty courtroom drama.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

If you never do anything, you never become anyone.

An Education (2009)
Carey Mulligan deserves all the attention she received for her central performance, and the depiction of the ‘60s is commendably subdued. I worried there was going to be a full-blown music montage sequence at the climax that undid all the good work, but thankfully it was fairly low key. 

Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are especially strong in the supporting roles, and it's fortunate for credibility’s sake that that Orlando Bloom had to drop out and Dominic Cooper replaced him.
***1/2

Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.

Empire 30:  Favourite Films of the Last 30 Years
Empire’s readers’ poll to celebrate its thirtieth birthday – a request for the ultimate thirty films of the last thirty years, one per year from 1989 – required a bit of thought, particularly since they weren’t just limiting it to your annual favourite (“These can be the films that impressed you the most, the ones that stuck with you, that brought you joy, or came to you at just the right time”). Also – since the question was asked on Twitter, although I don’t know how rigorous they’re being; does it apply to general release, or does it include first film festival showings? – they’re talking UK release dates, rather than US, calling for that extra modicum of mulling. To provide more variety, I opted to limit myself to just one film per director; otherwise, my thirty would have been top heavy with, at very least, Coen Brothers movies. So here’s they are, with runners-up and reasoning:

What happens at 72?

Midsommar (2019)
(SPOILERS) Ari Aster, by rights, ought already to be buckling under the weight of all those accolades amassing around him, pronouncing him a horror wunderkind a mere two films in. But while both Midsommar and Hereditary have both received broadly similar critical acclaim, his second feature will lag behind the first by some distance in box office, unless something significant happens in a hitherto neglected territory. That isn’t such a surprise on seeing it. While Hereditary keeps its hand firmly on the tiller of shock value and incident, so as to sustain it’s already more than adequate running time, Midsommar runs a full twenty minutes longer, which is positively – or rather, negatively – over-indulgent for what we have here, content-wise, and suggests a director whose crowned auteurishness has instantly gone to his head.

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.