Author Archives: Doug Whelan

Liam Neeson (centre) and Brendan Gleeson (above) both star in The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs available on Netflix from November 16

Netflix has been churning out original content almost faster than anyone can keep up with the past few years.

Dramas, sitcoms, stand-up specials and even chat shows come and go with hundreds of hours of new material appearing every month.

Trailer Park key-holder Doug Whelan writes:

Netflix has mostly gone for quantity over quality so far; for every instant classic (e.g. the stunning Annihilation) there have been two absolute turkeys.

The next few months, however, are looking like a pretty special run in the film department for Netflix.

A combination of extremely deep pockets (far deeper than those of traditional studios wary of making a return) and the transient nature of the medium means that chief content officer Ted Sarandos is far more willing to spend money willy nilly, just throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks.

Probably much to the disapproval of the Cannes jury, the next few months will see a glut of releases from the highest-profile directors. It’s quite a lineup, so here goes…

22 July (Paul Greengrass) – aviaalble October 10

First up is a Paul Greengrass’ dramatisation of the Utoya Island terror attack in Norway, and its aftermath. His signature style is the star here – handheld cameras adding a documentary feel to thrilling, meticulously restaged true-life events – and that is the risk in this case.

By focusing on the perpetrator of that unthinkable crime, will it inadvertently glamorise his motives and ideology? Greengrass previously surprised everyone with United 93 (2006), his thrilling and well-handled drama about 9/11, so you might expect the same combination of tension, suspense, sensitivity and sensibility here.

Verdict: Grim, but essential.

The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles) – availible November 2

Yes, that Orson Welles. 42 years after filming ended, and 33 years since his death, Welles’ final feature film has been completed, following protracted legal battles over who owned the rights.

The film, which stars John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich, is a groovy mockumentary satirising “the passing of Classic Hollywood and the avant-garde filmmakers of the New Hollywood of the 1970s”.

The freewheeling style reminds me of Easy Rider (1969) more than anything else, for some reason. It certainly won’t be for everyone; but kudos to Netflix for getting it out there anyway.

Speaking of Orson Welles, it will be 80 years this Halloween since his radio adaptation of The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells caused havoc among audiences who thought they were listening to an actual alien invasion.If you’ve never heard it, give it a listen here or on Spotify. Eight decades later it remains an absolute stunner.

Verdict: I’m going to enjoy this with a nice glass of Paul Masson

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (The Coen Brothers) – available November 16

Another common trend this weather is the migration of filmmakers to the realm of TV series. The longer format allows much more rich and detailed storytelling, after all. Previously, the Coens supervised the sublime TV adaptation of Fargo, and this effort actually started life as a six-part miniseries before being re-tooled into a one-off by those two explorers of the American condition.

“We hoped to enlist the best directors working today,” they said upon announcing the pivot, “and it was our great fortune that they both agreed to participate.” Enough said.

There’s the double Irish there too, with Liam Neeson AND Brendan Gleeson among the enormous, enthusiastic cast.

Verdict: Coen Brothers should make all the films

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) – available December 14

Despite Cuarón being responsible for some of the biggest Oscar-busters of recent years, his latest effort, the much more low-key but no less ambitious Roma – looks like it would absolutely struggle to find an audience in today’s fickle multiplexes. And that is a great shame, because this looks very special. There’s something poetic about the depictions of mundane daily life; epic, even.

Cuarón clearly is inspired by French New Wave cinema, in particular Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959), including its famous tracking shot and beach scene, both specifically recreated by Cuarón. Combine that with Cuaron’s own trademark long takes and elaborate staging, and you’re left wondering just what to expect from Roma.

Also watch out for the overt visual references to Cuarón’s Gravity and Children of Men as they’re mentioned on screen.

Verdict: Moving (cameras and hearts)

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) –  tbc

There’s no trailer or release date for The Irishman, but here’s the only promotion it’s probably going to need: Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci, Pacino.

Robert De Niro, who has not been in a good film in 20 years (Ronin in 1998 being the last confirmed sighting for me), plays Teamsters leader and alleged mafia hitman Frank Sheeran, who by all accounts spent much of his life cracking heads.

Joe Pesci is coming out of retirement for his old pal Marty, and Pacino (who plays Jimmy Hoffa) has been fairly in the wilderness himself in recent years. It’s the dream team, basically, but they’ve all got a lot riding on it.

Even with those marquee names, Paramount got nervous last year about the film’s budget and sold it mid-production to Netflix, which agreed to stump up the reported $140m budget. Let’s hope it’s money well spent.

Verdict: Hard to say, but expect lots of shouting and pistol-whipping.

Earlier: Broadsheet Trailer Park: The Mule


What you may need to know

1. Clint Eastwood hasn’t been in front of the camera since Gran Torino (2008).

2. At 88 years old, you’d have thought he was done with acting, but he’s back at it again with crime drama The Mule.

3. He’s arguably been off the boil as a director since Gran Torino too, but this looks pretty special.

4. It looks like something of a spiritual sequel to his 1993 drama A Perfect World, which starred Kevin Costner and himself. Similar visuals, setting and themes.

5. Anyway, the guy is just unstoppable.

Doug’s verdict: Shut up and take my drug money.

Release date: December 14.

What you may need to know

1. Almost 50 years after they first formed, and 27 years after the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, “They” have gotten around to creating a biopic of the band that everybody loves to love, Queen.

The official synopsis reads:

“The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound, their near-implosion as Mercury’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid, where Mercury, facing a life-threatening illness, leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.”

2. Naturally, the main focus is on larger-than-larger-than-life Mercury, played with frankly alarming physical presence by Rami Malik (Mr. Robot). Joseph Mazzello plays John Deacon, Gwilym Lee plays Brian May and Ben Hardy plays Roger Taylor. You may not recognise the names, but you’ve definitely seen them.

3. The film has been in development for several years, with multiple changes on both sides of the camera. Sacha Baron-Cohen was attached to star and produce back in 2011; inspired casting for sure, but he eventually left (amicably, according to Deadline) during pre-production. It seems Cohen wanted to produce a gritty and dramatic “tell-all” about Mercury’s life, while remaining members of Queen Brian May and Roger Taylor were keen on a more family-friendly affair – as we can see from the finished product.

Meanwhile, David Fincher was touted as director in those early days, but the gig eventually went to Bryan Singer. After on-set tension between Singer and Malik, however, Singer was fired from production mid-filming, and is subsequently unmentioned in any of the film’s official literature. Yikes.

5. Bryan Singer was replaced by – of all people – Dexter Fletcher, director of the musical Sunshine On Leith (2013) and last year’s Eddie the Eagle. Also people may remember him from pretentious late-80s CBBC teen drama Press Gang.

6. There’s the ubiquitous Aidan Gillen, playing one of the band’s managers over the years. Also representing the parish is Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech.

7. Looks like all the musical biopic clichés are present and correct here. That said, Mercury was (and still is) a fascinating figure, and without doubt one of the most influential rock stars who ever lived. Despite some questionable licensing decisions, May and Taylor should be commended for the work they’ve done to keep his legacy alive all this time.

8. Plus, there’s the fact that a biopic is in many ways a fairground ride through a band’s greatest hits. For that reason alone, this is certain to get a lot of attention when it’s released later this year.

Verdict: A night at the cinema (insert your own Queen pun here if you wish; there are a zillion)

Release: November TBC

What you may need to know

1. Look up the term “development hell” and Terry Gilliam‘s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be at the top of the list. The former Python’s adaptation of the influential 17th century novel Don Quixote looks to be finally complete, 20 years and countless delays, setbacks, bad-luck runs and downright curses later.

2. Along the way Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and, er, Jack O’Connell have been attached to star, as have Michael Palin, Robert Duvall and John Hurt. As you can see from the international poster (above), the director’s eventual good luck charms are Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce.

3. The novel’s plot follows the adventures of nobleman Alonso Quixano, whose obsession with literary romance leads him to set out on a surreal adventure bringing justice and chivalry to the world, with farmer Sancho Panza at his side.

4. Rather than a straight retelling of the story, the film is about an eldery man in the modern era (Pryce) who becomes convinced he is Don Quixote, who mistakes a young advertising exec for the character of Panza. The pair embark on a bizarre journey which may or may not involve time travel between the 21st and 17th century, with the pair becoming “consumed by the illusory world, unable to determine dreams from reality.”

5. As if the film itself wasn’t meta enough, Gilliam’s noble failure originally led to the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, which contrasted Quixano’s adventures with Gilliam’s own mythical quest.

6. It sounds a little bit like Michael Winterbottom’s excellent A Cock & Bull Story (2005), a similarly surreal and metafictional adaptation of The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which starred Steve Coogan as Steve Coogan…as Tristram Shandy.

7. The somewhat ramshackle trailer (possibly intentional) features lots of Gilliam-esque production design, and Driver and Pryce look to be having the time of their lives. He’s a director whose films don’t really exist on a spectrum of good to bad like others, more a spectrum of weirdness. How ready for that you are will dictate whether the film is successful.

8. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is expected to premiere at Cannes next month.

Verdict: Gillers never Quix

Release: TBA

What you may need to know

1. “First look” at yet another Netflix sci-fi effort, this time based on a novella by George R.R. Martin, him who gave us Game of Thrones.

2. Of all places, Nightflyers is currently filming at Troy Studios in Limerick. Great get, guys.

It stars Boardwalk Empire‘s Gretchen Mol, and Irish talent in the shape of Eoin Macken and prolific character actor extraordinaire Brían F. O’Byrne.

4. Nightflyers was previously adapted into a 1987 film that it looks as if nobody saw.

No release date is set, but Netflix will screen the series everywhere outside the USA when it debuts, presumably later this year.


What you may need to know…

1. I’m not a big horror fan but this one caught my eye on the back of a screening yesterday at the SXSW festival, currently ongoing in Texas. Twitter exploded in a big ball of hype overnight, as it tends to now and again.

3. Hereditary received its world premiere in January at the Sundance film festival in Utah, and received ecstatic reviews. Variety says it will be right at home in the multiplex horror-film-of-the-week slot, but that first-time writer/director Ari Aster has crafted something sophisticated and artful that goes way beyond the genre’s perceived limitations.

4. The AV Club calls it “traumatically terrifying” and “pure emotional terrorism”.

5. There’s “our own” Gabriel Byrne, fresh from his lifetime achievement award at the IFTAs, and the always-dependable Toni Collette, who has quietly carved out a very respectable career for herself over the past 25 years. Her performance here has been touted as an early contender for next year’s awards season. It seems the success of Get Out (2017) has paved the way for genre fare to be taken more seriously by voters.

6. “Good” supernatural horror films are released every year, sure, but only occasionally do we get great ones – ones that will stand the test of time alongside your Exorcists, your Omens, your Shinings and your Blair Witches (yeah I went there – the last true original of the genre). Even when they do, they are almost always derivative, one way or another. It Follows from 2014, for example, was terrific in the teen horror sub-genre, but shamelessly (and beautifully) lifted its style and tone from John Carpenter’s Halloween. The Insidious series was fun, but descended into knowing parody as it went along. And so on.

7. Hereditary too looks derivative in that all those horror tropes that make the genre what it is (creepy kid, bockety house, scary old lady, family secret, possession, the list is endless), but if the reviews are anything to go by, Aster has expertly blended them with a worthy drama that’s as deep as it is wide.

8. Hereditary also comes with the promise of a “what it’s about…isn’t really what it’s about” type twist; sure to get it lots of attention this summer too, when it goes on wide release.

9. Not much else to say about it, other than it’s coming down the line and people are excited:

Doug’s verdict: Fetch my brown trousers.

Release: June (tbc)

What you may need to know:

1. Here comes Mute, the new film from Duncan Jones, the talented British director known for Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011), two of the best science fiction films of the past ten years.

2. He has described Mute as a spiritual sequel to Moon, in that it is set in the same universe. Eagle-eyed viewers should expect references, veiled or otherwise, to that stark, sorrowful knockout that coaxed the performance of a lifetime out of Sam Rockwell twice.

3. Jones followed those two up with video game adaptation Warcraft in 2016, which got a bit of a mauling. For that reason, some voices out there have urged viewers to manage their expectations regarding this latest outing.

4. Mute is set in Berlin of the future, a neon-soaked cyberpunk hellhole not unlike Blade Runner’s rain-soaked Los Angeles or the works of William Gibson. This town is populated by losers, psychos, criminals and misfits, including Alexander Skarsgård’s taciturn bartender Leo, whose search for his missing girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh) brings him into the orbit of two volatile American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux).

5. Mute is Jones’ Don Quixote. He tells Uproxx the film has been in the works for 16 years; even with the critical success he has (mostly) enjoyed, studios have turned his script down time and time again. The interview also simply describes Mute as “insane”, while Jones himself calls it “dark and weird”; make of that what you will.

6. Enter Netflix, which has both the money and the canvas to take creative risks like this. No matter how it turns out, it’s a shame a film with clearly such a strong visual element will never be seen in cinemas. The cinematic landscape is changing though; whether anybody likes it or not. So rather than a churlish refusal to embrace change (we’re looking at you, Christopher Nolan), Jones has opted to change with it. He has lamented, however, that the film will never get a Blu-ray release – or the packaging design possibilities that come with it.

7. I call it Don Quixote above, but Jones himself has called Mute “Casablanca of the future”; an evocative and alluring possibility – hence the stunning poster which loudly recalls that WW2 masterpiece. Someone should tell him though – we already got our Casablanca of the future in Barb Wire (1996) starring Pamela Anderson. No, really.

8. Going by Duncan Jones’ own word, Mute won’t be for everyone. That’s the point of it though. We complain that cinemas are overflowing with superhero and comic book films, which they are. Studios won’t go near anything that isn’t a guaranteed money-maker. It’s why you don’t see much from creatively idiosyncratic filmmakers, whose first objective is to challenge their audiences, outside of the festival circuits. Tastes will come back around eventually, but before they do we should embrace films like this whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Verdict: Shout it from the rooftops

Release: February 23.

What you may need to know.

1. The internet is moving at light speed currently, as illustrated by last night’s surprise SuperBowl “drop” of producer JJ Abrams’ latest entry into the Cloverfield franchise, in its entirety, on Netflix before anyone had even seen a trailer or a single still from it.

2. It was so quick, in fact, that while everyone was processing this information and mulling over it as a new media experiment in anti-marketing or audience sleight-of-hand (something Abrams has lots of form in), the first reviews came in to reveal that The Cloverfield Paradox is mostly garbage, and the surprise release was more than anything an emergency exit for an unmarketable mess of a film.

3. Amid the other mostly forgettable blockbuster previews rumbling out on SuperBowl night, the world finally gets to see a teaser for Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney and LucasFilm’s latest entry into the Star Wars universe.

4. It’s been a troubled production, with original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller unceremoniously sacked near the END of filming last year, due to “creative differences” with LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy. (“Ace Ventura in Space” was one insider’s description of what the duo were apparently shooting for. As great as that sounds, perhaps not the best route for an origin story of one of cinema’s most iconic and beloved heroes).

5. Journeyman director and old friend of LucasFilm Ron Howard, was drafted in to take the reins, and now we finally get to see a preview of what’s to come this May.

6. Plenty more of those Star Wars itches are being scratched in Solo. It revolves around young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and frenemy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Young Chewbacca is in there too of course (could he reasonably be called a puppiee in this?), while Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and everyone’s best bud Woody Harrelson round out the cast.

7. Little is known about the plot, but this trailer has something of a Noir-ish feel, in contrast to Rogue One’s WW2 flavour. All eyes will be on Ehrenreich’s performance as Solo, who exhibited great comic timing in Hail Caesar! (2016) There’s a dash of the character’s brashness here for sure, but do people want to see something different, or a straight up Harrison Ford impersonation? Just as long as there isn’t some conspicuous reference to the infamous) “Han shoots first” scene.

8. Last week there was mostly apathy surrounding the movie, due to the controversy, plus the fact that it’s out so soon after divisive The Last Jedi (2017). I may be buying into the hype, but from this first look, it appears Ron Howard might have saved the day after all.

9. If Lord & Miller wanted to make ‘Ace Ventura in Space’ happen on their own time though, that would be just fine.

Verdict: Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.

Release: May 25

What You May Need To Know

1. I went through a whole denial-anger-acceptance thing watching this. First I was horrified, thinking my god, how could “They” possibly deem to sully a milestone of Antipodean culture like Crocodile Dundee (1984) by knocking out a snarky, decades-overdue sequel.

Then I thought, hang on a second, it’s Crocodile Dundee not The Godfather (1972). Who cares, let them do what they want.

3. THEN I thought, holy chozzwozza, this looks quite funny, and pretty great. Look at that cast! Russell Crowe hamming it up as a Murdoch-esque super villain? Sold. But does it look at little TOO good?

4. THEN I read up on it, and realised it’s not a film at all; it’s actually an extremely well-made viral advert for Tourism Australia, part of a campaign running with this weekend’s Super Bowl.

Doug’s verdict: Well played, everyone.

Release date: n/a

What you may need to know:

1. Hmm.

2. HMM.

3. Incredibly bad timing, or incredibly good timing?

4. Amid the scandal engulfing Hollywood currently (which, in fairness, has been brewing for 100 years), Louis CK has starred in, written and directed, practically in secret, this dangerously on-the-nose comedy drama about creepy old filmmakers, young women and the nature of complicity.

5. The thing is, even without the Weinstein drama, there’s all sorts going on between the lines here. Louis CK himself has been the subject of some pretty sleazy rumours over the past few years. The comedian Jen Kirkman has been most vocal about it, while also maintaining her own distance. Now more than ever, such accusations and allegations need to be taken very seriously so…yeah.

6. Louis is even more in Woody Allen mode than ever before here, so…oh for fu-

7. Look, it’s a film, it’s been made, it’s out later this year.

Verdict: Verdict? Really?

Release date: November TBC