Author Archives: Doug Whelan

What you may need to know.

1. Look, I know it must seem like Marvel movies are the only trailers I actually write up here, and you’d be right, but it’s hard not to when they’re knocking them out this fast. If you don’t like the look of them, you should see the absolute tripe that comes and goes. Transformers 5? Cars 3? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

2. That said, I am looking forward to Manchester by the Sea 2: Electric Boogaloo.

3. Anyway, here comes Marvel, making it look easy again. Every trailer they roll out, whether it’s Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming and now this, is met with near-complete enthusiasm. In contrast to blockbuster rivals DC’s ongoing woes, that is. Wonder Woman has been very well received over there but the upcoming Justice League looks like another hyperactive, adolescent, CGI overkill snore festival.

4. While the format and formula looks largely to remain unchanged something-teen movies in, they key to that enthusiasm is the studio’s sharing and rotating creative contributions with appropriate directors. In the role of Thor, Chris Hemsworth has shown an unlikely comic talent, so the reins to Thor: Ragnarok were handed to What We Do in the ShadowsTaika Waititi. And Black Panther being Marvel’s first black superhero (est. 1966), who better to direct than one of the most talked-about young African American directors of the moment, Ryan Coogler.

5. Coogler is currently two for two, having made his debut with Cannes-prize-winning indie Fruitvale Station (2013), and the improbably excellent Creed (2015), his hip-hop hymn to Rocky Balboa. Both films, and this one, star The Wire alumnus Michael B. Jordan. Coogler was tapped for the Black Panther job just as Creed was being released, but it was too late to cast Jordan in the title role, since Chadwick Boseman was already filming the character’s debut in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

6. Alongside Boseman and Jordan, you’ve got Lupita Nyong’o, Forrest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Marvel regulars Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman.

7. Strong use of Legend Has It by Run the Jewels, currently the toast of hip-hop and of whom Marvel Comics are big fans. Their fist/gun symbol has featured on more than one Marvel cover in the past couple of years.

8. Now. Black Panther was Marvel’s first superhero and it’s not insignificant that the Studio is now putting up the cash for an Africa-set, black-cast, black-directed blockbuster. Relatively few black actors have fronted mega-budget blockbusters (Will Smith is the only one I can think of off the top of my head); for an unknown like Boseman to lead one is unheard of. Combine that with the recent feminist success of Wonder Woman this month, and it’s apparent that attitudes are changing in Hollywood. Who said Blockbusters don’t matter?

9.
Not linking to it, but racist dicks on 4chan and Twitter are having their say all the same. Something about a liberal agenda, you can guess the rest. It will be interesting to see how the film will address racism as it exists in the world today.

10. On the topic of “#OscarsSoWhite and the steps taken by the Academy to revise its imbalance, read this excellent New Yorker article.

11. That remarkable Afro-future costume design comes from another Coogler collaborator Hannah Beachler.

Verdict: Panther like a Panther

Release Date: February 9, 2018

What you may need to know

1. To quote another fantasy series, we come to it at last: the great battle of our time.

2.
The seventh season of Game of Thrones, despite coming three months later than the usual April debut, consists of just seven episodes. An eighth and final season will follow in 2018.

3. The shorter season and later debut mean that more time has been spent on writing and filming, while vastly more cash has been spent on each episode. That’s quite clear from those sweeping battle shots and brand new sets.

4. Filming was also pushed back so as to avoid the usual summer (as in last summer) shooting schedule. It’s winter in Westeros now, so shooting took place later in the year in Northern Ireland.

5. It’s endgame time: Season 7’s plot will see the long-gestating confrontation between, well, everybody, as the war for the Iron Throne enters its (apparent) final phase. Fresh from her Corleone-esque massacre of her enemies, Cersei Lannister sits on the Iron Throne but her reign promises to be a short one as Daenerys Targaryen arrives to reclaim her throne. Meanwhile, in the North, Jon Snow aims to keep the White Walkers on the right side of the Wall, because if he fails, it doesn’t matter who rules King’s Landing. Meanwhile, Arya Stark may just make it back to Winterfell, Tyrion will continue to find his place in the world and a zillion other plot points will approach their conclusion.

6.
If all that sounds like gibberish to a non-fan, well, it is, but make no mistake, Game of Thrones is the real deal. Everyone may live in castles and swing swords, but themes of politics, class division, family religion and faith, the horror of war and more make it one of the most brilliantly realised TV dramas of this or any other era.

7. On top of that, and the masterful acting and production value, I’ve always said the key to Game of Thrones addictive success is the same as what made Breaking Bad such a hit. Right from the very beginning, the question was put to the audience: how’s it going to end? With BB, the question was what will happen when Walter White is caught; here the question was and is who will be the last one standing? Each time a new person has climbed those steps over the past six years to sit on the throne, it has always felt temporary. Now that Dani and (as it turns out) Cersei Lannister are set to go to war with one another, whichever one comes out on top really will be the conqueror.

8. This show famously hasn’t shied away from killing off its heroes, don’t forget, so it’s entirely possible that fearless, scheming thunder-bitch Cersei might well be that last one standing. Unless (personal prediction alert): history repeats itself and the Kingslayer becomes the Queenslayer, but we could go on about that all day.

9. Along with the vast returning cast, the great Jim Broadbent has taken up a role for season 7.

10. As with season 6, events of the show have long overtaken the events of George R.R. Martin’s source novels. His last instalment, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011, while The Winds of Winter is still a work in progress. In your own time, George.

Verdict: Do we even need to say?

Date: July 16, Sky Atlantic.

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What you may need to know

1. A few months ago I said to look out for lots more shared universes on the big screen. While you wouldn’t quite call the collected works of Stephen King a shared universe, he is certainly being tapped heavily at the moment as filmmakers look for ever-more ways to get bums on seats.

2, With that, here comes The Dark Tower, an adaptation of King’s epic eight-book cycle (1982 – 2012); part The Lord of the Rings, part The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The film has been in various stages of development over the past ten years; J.J. Abrams was attached to direct at one point (when is he not?), before Ron Howard came close with a hugely ambitious alternating film-TV-series-film project covering each book. Howard remains as producer, with Danish director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel in the chair now.

3. Condensing is understandable given the sprawling nature of the source material, but this looks to be a very, very, condensed. Proceedings look to have skipped most of the first two books and eliminated several earth-bound characters that otherworldly “gunslinger” Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) encounters on his travels.

4. Fact fans: King’s original inspiration for the story was the 1855 poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning.

5. A companion TV series covering other segments of the book series is planned for 2018, according to Entertainment Weekly.

6. There was confusion in the air when Matthew McConaughey was first cast; rumours flew that he was to be cast as Randall Flagg, the villain in a new adaption of King’s apocalyptic masterpiece The Stand. Flagg in that book and The Man in Black here are implied in the text to be the same character (along with several other King novels). Sadly, The Stand – in development as a trilogy by Ben Affleck before he torpedoed his own career by taking the Batman gig – has once again been shelved. Which is a shame because McConaughey is perfect for that role. Maybe that shared universe would work after all.

7. And speaking of shared universes, let’s play a game of Good Idea/Bad Idea. As well as The Dark Tower, It, and any one of a number of his novels currently in “development hell”, Castle Rock was announced quite quietly some months back. It’s a drama series apparently blending characters, stories and situations from several of the author’s best-known works. J.J. Abrams is involved. When is he not? Anyway, Gotham was relatively successful at something similar, and as we keep seeing, everyone wants a piece of that shared universe dollar. It’s a good dollar.

8. The Dark Tower looks very, very different from what one might have expected from the books, where there’s a gloomy, sorrowful atmosphere to proceedings. Mid-World (King’s fantasy Wild West) is shrouded in a dream-like atmosphere, while the visits to Earth were originally set in the 1960s and 70s, taking time to explore the social issues of those eras. Eliminating those situations and characters, and putting the focus on to 11-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) really makes this look like just another teen dystopian adventure, the kind Hollywood has been churning out non-stop over the past few years.

Verdict: Might hang on for IT instead

Release Date: August 4

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What you may need to know:

1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe rumbles on; it’s the third Thor movie but we’ve kind of lost count what the total number is by now.

2. Thor and its sequel Thor: The Dark World are arguably the worst of the series so far, so Kevin Feige and the lads had a bit of a gamble on their hands for a third outing. When Guardians of the Galaxy was an unexpected (sic) smash hit, all the praise went to its comedy elements. Marvel have now doubled down on that by engaging the services of New Zealand director Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi gave us Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014), two of the funniest films of the past few years.

3. Hard to tell whether Thor: Ragnarok will go full comedy, but that big green punchline at the end is timed well. Chris Hemsworth has shown some promise in the comedy department now and again as Thor too, including with these spoof shorts.

4. Everyone reacted well to Guardians’ rock soundtrack, so it seems now the rule is all comic book movies need to go that way. Great use of Led Zeppelin tbf. It’s fitting, unlike the truly horrific choices made in Suicide Squad. Eminem? K7? Who thought that was a good idea.

5. There’s Cate Blanchett, looking the part. A quick wiki tells us she plays Hela, ruler of Hel and Nifleheim, frequent foe of Thor in the source comics. Her schemes often involve attempting to raise the dead from Valhalla.

6. There’s Jeff Goldblum. If this wasn’t already shaping up to be a hoot, well…

7. As for the title, Ragnarok is Norse mythology’s version of the apocalypse, during which a great many natural disasters befall the world, leading to the deaths of many of its gods.

8. To be followed by Black Panther in February 2018 (directed by Ryan Coogler, whose blistering debut Fruitvale Station was followed by the improbably excellent Rocky spin-off Creed), and Avengers: Infinity War in May 2018 – rumoured to be the first ever film to touch a budget of €1billion. Before any of those we’ve got Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 this May and Spider-Man: Homecoming in July. Hard to keep up, isn’t it?

Verdict: Aswell as spiralling budgets, the MCU seems increasingly willing to take risks as the years clock up. There’s little to lose with the Thor franchise (see pt. 2). Pretty sure this will be ace.

Release Date: October 27th 2017

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What you may need to know:

1. Here comes the new one from Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013), sometimes known as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. You’d have thought the trailer would signpost that fact, but it looks like a bit of a tonal shift for him so perhaps you don’t want to create an expectation of the same kind of slapstick comedy and endless film references.

2. Wright was also responsible for Channel 4 sitcom Spaced (1999 – 2001) and the underappreciated graphic novel adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010).

3. Baby Driver sees Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) play the title role as an unnaturally talented driver who puts his skills to work as a wheelman for Kevin Spacey’s idiosyncratic armed robbers. That is until he meets the girl of his dreams and sees a way to get out of the criminal life before his ruthless boss blackmails him into one last….wait a minute, we’ve got déjà vu

4. The similarities to Drive (2011) are certainly there, right down to the hero’s savant-like skills, but that was hardly a groundbreaking work itself. According to Wright, his film owes more of a debt to Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978) than anything else. Also, given Wright’s track record, you’d hope Baby Driver has a similar surfeit of ideas that would give a well-told story a feeling of freshness.

5.The film, while not a musical, is entirely driven by music happening within each scene – i.e. what’s Baby’s iPod rather than on a soundtrack or score. (It’s less common than it sounds). The film takes its title from this Simon & Garfunkel song.

6. The supporting cast includes Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, as well as (if rumours are to be believed), an uncredited Meryl Streep. Oh, and Flea.

7. Wright has also been busy with Marvel in recent years. He was slated to direct Ant-Man (2015) but left the role after shooting had begun, while retaining screenwriting and executive producer credit. Given his hyperactive directing style, it’s a good bet he wanted to do something “different” with the otherwise indistinguishable Marvel universe, but Kevin Feige and the lads had different ideas. That’s a question of ‘who knows best?’ Look what happened with Rogue One last year, for example.

8. Aswell as being needlessly long, this trailer struggles to put across the tone of the film. It’s colourful, with plenty of pause-for-a-one-liner moments, but none of them seem particularly funny. Spacey is playing it straight, while Foxx and Flea are not, and Elgort is somewhere in between. The vehicular stunts do promise there’s plenty more where that came from though…dig those donuts and reverse-180s. The reviews from its premier last weekend at SXSW are mostly very positive.

9. Variety calls Wright’s style of directing “a bit like someone smoking in a fireworks factory”: packed with potential but with the possibility of all going horribly wrong at any moment. Sounds about right.

Verdict: Bad trailer for a great film? Let’s hope so.

Release: TBC

alien-covenant-poster

What you may need to know:

1. Ridley Scott’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s prequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi classic. Who says Hollywood has run out of ideas?

2. Prometheus (2012) was ambitious and very well made, but spoiled by a few too many plot points and lots of unanswered questions; Covenant looks like it wants to answer some of those questions. Hopefully it doesn’t throw up a load more.

3. Another thing Prometheus arguably got wrong was the absence of the actual Alien; probably why it didn’t use the moniker. This movie clearly aims to make up for that with Alien and Facehugger carnage dialled up to eleven.

4. The official synopsis:

“The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.”

5. You can guess the above, but there looks to be more going on. Fassbender’s presence is wisely unelaborated-on; it’s safe to assume he’s an android, the same type last seen as David’s talking lopped-off head, escaping from the Engineers to go and find their homeworld and do…something. (It was a baffling movie really). He’s credited on wiki as Walter/David so let’s leave it at that for now.

6. There’s Kenny Powers being an action hero.

7.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was the creator of human life. A Covenant, meanwhile, is a formal agreement with God. What we might glean from this is David/Walter is aware of the trap the crew is walking into, while they have no idea he is an android – just like Ian Holm’s character in the 1979 original. But who is God in that case? The Company? Peter Weyland? Then there’s the Adam + Eve connotations we can take from the crew of couples travelling to what they believe to be paradise.

8. It wouldn’t be the first time the series has invested in religious symbolism. Let’s once again take the opportunity to point out David Fincher’s Alien3 (1992) is a massively underrated film and I will fight anyone who says different.

9. That said, it’s also possible we’re looking too much into a film essentially about loads of people getting killed by monsters, but these elements don’t make their way into films by accident.

10. Lots to intrigue and satisfy fans in this trailer; it really didn’t need that last shot. Kind of overkill, like LOOK LOOK THERE’S PROPER ALIENS THIS TIME AND THEY DO COOL STUFF OK PLEASE WATCH IT.

Verdict: Stop Your Grinnin’ and Drop Your Linen (RIP Bill Paxton)

Release Date: May 19.

oscars

All the noms in ONE place..

Ronan Kealy writes:

I’m a bit of movie buff and enjoy doing some video editing now and again on the side. I have just created an Oscar montage of all the movies nominated in all of the categories (except Docs/Foreign and Short Film – I was under time constraints ) for this year’s awards. I just thought it would be something fun and relevant. It ends with the titles of each of the Best Picture Nominees ( 9 in total)….

In fairness.

TDK Heat

It’s widely known how Christopher Nolan used Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) as inspiration for The Dark Knight (2008) in terms of the look and feel, themes and so on.  

This side-by-side comparison of the two shows exactly where that influence ended up. There are also some shots from Mann’s other films Collateral (2004) and LA Takedown (1989) – of which Heat was a remake.

Full screen + HD for maximum enjoyment.

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What you may need to know

1. He’s back. (sorry)

2. Aftermath is an upcoming drama based on the events and, er, aftermath of the Überlingen mid-air collision in 2002. Probably don’t read up on it if you don’t want to know how the film ends.

3. As you can see, Arnie plays a doting grandfather, and is acting his bristly beard off. Is this against type? It’s hard to tell. His post-political output has been patchy; his action chops aren’t what they used to be, while his indie/drama output has tried its best to utilise his singular presence to confound audience expectations with limited success. 2015’s Maggie was a bit of a revelation, while Terminator Gene-whatever was simply appalling. He looked like he didn’t even know where he was in The Expendables 3 (2014).

4. Also on Arnie’s slate, you’ve got action comedy Why We’re Killing Gunther (he plays Gunther) and Russo-Chinese fantasy adventure Viy 2: Journey to China (no, really) in which he stars alongside Jackie Chan, Rutger Hauer and Charles Dance. Sold. Oh, and The Expendables 4.

5. Aftermath is written by Javier Gullón (2013’s Enemy), and produced by Darren Aronofsky, whose The Wrestler (2008) was of course a brilliant paean for Mickey Rourke’s own career as well as his character’s. That’s the kind of thing Arnie should be angling for at this stage.

6. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pain, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, EVER…until you apologise.

Verdict: They should have taken the chopper

Release Date: April 7, 2017.

startrek

What you may need to know

1. Before you get excited, this is not an actual trailer, more of an “announcement” that production has finally begun on CBS’s latest addition to the 50 year old sci-fi franchise.

2. That’s better than nothing, since the original plan was for the new series to air in January this year. That’s obviously not going to happen. Do you want it done quick, or do you want it done right?

3. Discovery is the first Star Trek TV series since the disappointing Star Trek Enterprise ended in 2005.

4. It hasn’t been a smooth ride so far: admired showrunner Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) was at the helm initially, but announced last year, before a single frame had been shot, that he would be stepping back from the role due to the responsibilities of other TV shows he was juggling. According to Variety, he has remained on board as executive producer and the show will follow his creative vision.

5. As for the plot, little has been revealed thus far, other than it is set before the original 1963 series. From the show’s wiki page: “The season-long storyline revolves around an incident and an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored”. There’s a ton of speculation about what that could mean here:

6. Michelle Yeoh has been cast in a major role, but it’s thought that the lead character (for the first time) won’t be a starship captain, but a lower-ranked officer.

7. Also – pay attention now – Star Trek Discovery will be set in the “original” universe (i.e. William Shatner and the lads) rather than the “alternate” timeline created by the recent big-screen reboots (i.e. Chris Pine and the lads). It’s a whole time travel thing that Star Trek fans will be au fait with, but nobody else will probably care.

8. It’s about time we got a high-profile, big-budget sci-fi series. The insane success of Game of Thrones – among non-fantasy or high-concept fans, crucially – proves that there’s an appetite out there for more than just crime drama series. Applying the 21st century style of small-screen storytelling to Star Trek’s rich tapestry is an enticing prospect for everyone.

9. No air date is set but May of this year is the best guess. On Netflix, naturally.

Verdict: Fascinating.