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

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

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…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

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…

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.