Author Archives: Doug Whelan

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.

2.
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

What you may need to know…

1. Disney “dropped” the long-overdue trailer for The Last Jedi last night during Monday Night Football in the States.

2. The first teaser arrived in April, followed by a behind the scenes feature in July; this is the first that offers more firm plot details. Director Rian Johnson offered this caveat.

3. In terms of plot, it’s as you might have guessed. Rey (Daisy Ridley), last seen on Skellig Michael in Kerry, has begun her Jedi training with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, looking decidedly Oliver Reed-esque). He seems concerned about just how powerful she is, as does Snoke (Andy Serkis), who hints that he’s more interested in her than in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, angsty).

4. On Ren’s side, he’s still struggling with the Dark Side, as illustrated by his hesitation to blow his own mother’s ship to smithereens. Unless this is a big fake-out, it’s sad to see that Leia (Carrie Fisher) has been hastily written out of the film due to Fisher’s sudden death last year.

5. Could Rey and Ren be about to switch allegiances?

6. The cute little animal thingies are called Porgs. Presumably there’s a factory in China knocking out 5,000 Porgs an hour, of various sizes, to be shipped to Disney stores all over the world in time for Christmas. Gotta get those toys out there. Merchandising is the real reason Disney paid $4bn for LucasFilm back in 2012, after all.

7. It’s a good trailer, does the job. But to me it feels like there’s something off about Star Wars’ image at this stage. With the firing of Colin Trevorrow from Episode IX (2019), the firing of Lord & Miller from the untitled Han Solo Movie (2018), and various other changes and replacements, it feels like we’re getting to see the sausage made.

8. LucasFilm and Disney are so fiercely protective of Star Wars that they are unwilling to take a single risk. When this film finally arrives, it’s clear that the immensely talented Rian Johnson will have toed the line completely, and the finished product will have been audience tested again and again, edited by committee and approved by a zillion executives to push all the right nostalgia buttons and so on. Is it the directors they don’t trust, or the audience?

9. That’s not to say it won’t be good. You could interpret it as a return to the old studio system that Hollywood operated until the 1960s, where the producer had complete creative control and the director was a mere technician. Marvel (arguably) keep getting it right, after all. What that led to was an independent film revolution, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the whole “Hollywood is out of ideas” thing. Which it is, but it’s all part of the cycle.

10. Anyway, I shouldn’t complain. Yeah Star Wars!

Doug’s Verdict: Doesn’t matter. Will be huge no matter what.

Release Date: December 15

What you may need to know

1. IT’S SO QUIRKY

2.
The latest quirky oddity from that ever-so-aloof master of whimsy, Wes Anderson. He’s returning to the stop-motion animation style he employed for his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) for this story of a near-future Japan in which all dogs are banished to live on a garbage island.

3. A young boy travels to the island to rescue his own best friend (sorry), and a positively Anderson-esque adventure ensues.

4. Animation aside, all of Anderson’s many trademarks are present and correct. These include the sprawling all-star cast (going by the poster, could it be his most sprawling and all-star to date?) delivering droll, sardonic dialogue, symmetrical angles, flat camera shots, unusual close-ups and cuts, the works.

5. People either love or hate Anderson’s shtick. I’ve found him hit and miss over the years. It’s often said that he cares more about the process than the finished product, hence the obsessive attention to detail on all of the above.

6. There’s no doubt he’s a brilliant storyteller though who has been out there on his own, with his own voice, right from the start. As such, anything he does is worth paying attention to, and if it ends up one of his less well-received outings, there will doubtless still be lots to love about it.

7. SO quirky

Doug’s verdict: So fetch

Release date:
March 23, 2018

What you may need to know

1. Here comes comedy royalty Armando Iannucci, creator of (among others) The Thick of It, In the Loop, Veep, The Day Today, Time Trumpet and more, with his second big-screen outing The Death of Stalin. It appears that one of the great satirists of our time has decided that the modern world is indeed beyond satire, so there is no point anymore.

2. Instead, he has assembled a remarkable cast to throw back to Moscow in the 1950s when, upon the death of soviet dictator Stalin, various factions within the Soviet Central Committee began squabbling over who could, should and would succeed him.

3. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Fabien Nury.

4. Steve Buscemi plays Nikita Khrushchev, alongside Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale and more as a host of real-life figures whose names we really couldn’t be bothered spelling out here.

5. As if it wasn’t perfectly obvious, that thing about modern life being beyond satire is even more accurate than you think. At a recent talk in Sydney, Iannucci revealed an unused story for The Thick of It was for a politician to walk to Westminster in order to seem “more relatable”, only to insist on a car following behind to carry his briefcase. The idea was eventually abandoned the idea because it seemed just a little too unrealistic.

6. Some months later, it emerged David Cameron was keen on cycling to the House of Commons…with a car following behind containing shoes and a clean shirt.

7. After that you can see why the decision was taken not to drag The Thick of It out any longer than it had to. Why waste time hanging politicians out to dry when they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves?

8. Anyway, The Death of Stalin screens at the Toronto Film Festival next month, and will arrive in cinemas in October.

9. Speaking of Stalin, any excuse. “Not a lot of people” know about this historical TV drama with just about the greatest piece of casting you’ve ever seen.

Doug’s verdict: Potempting

Release Date: October 20

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As you may have heard, the original and biggest ‘Con took place in San Diego over the weekend, as illustrated by the steady flow of tentpole trailers rumbling onto the net Saturday night.

Some went down better than others, and some sank without trace.

Here goes with the highlights…

Ready Player One

1. Between Stranger Things, Star Wars, Trainspotting 2 and any one of a number of properties that have been dusted off over the past number of years, we are truly living in the age of hardcore nostalgia.

2.
Here comes “cinematic game changer” Spielberg to hitch his wagon to that post with Ready Player One, an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s “holy grail of pop culture”.

3. Steady on lads. If Ready Player One was set in the run-down Ohio of the future glimpsed in the beginning, I’d be interested, but this hyperactive CG bonanza, complete with 80s references left, right and centre, makes this look like Attention Deficit Disorder: The Movie.

4. That said, it will be great to see Spielberg back in sci-fi territory for the first time in more than a decade. Let’s hope this is more Minority Report than War of the Worlds.

Release date: March 30, 2018

Thor: Ragnarok

1. Now this looks like a scream.

2. As we’ve noted before, Chris Hemsworth has showed himself to be a talented comic actor through the Marvel film series, so it’s good that New Zealand revelation Taika Waititi is behind the camera for his third standalone outing.

3. Much is made of the interplay between him and Mark Ruffalo (who may never star in his own Hulk movie due to rights issues between Marvel and Universal), while Cate Blanchett is having a ball as the villain, north of England accent and all. Sounds like she went from Coronation Street straight to Asgard.

Release date: October 27

Stranger Things 2

1.
This is how you cut a trailer.

2. Rising tension, tease out the plot and promise to escalate the supernatural action to beyond expectations.

3. High-concept shows like Stranger Things tend to head south very quickly after promising debuts (Heroes, we’re looking at you), but a talented young cast, a good grip on the nostalgia meter and this outstanding teaser look like Stranger Things 2 has plenty to offer.

Release date: October 31

Star Trek Discovery

1. Disappointed by this trailer, both as a piece of work and in terms of the direction Star Trek seems to be taking. It’s quite unfocused, with little explanation of what’s going on and where in the ‘Trek universe this new series is set (it’s pre-Kirk era fyi).

2. It offers little in the way of plot, but not in an intriguing way, more of a messy way like they just flung together what they could with what they had and added a cod-philosophy monologue.

3. The redesigned Klingons look a bit silly, as do some of the VFX shots (that explosion near the start looks like it was rendered on an Amiga 500). And does every trailer need a sexy pop song over it these days?

4. Change and evolution is good, but this neither looks nor feels like Star Trek. Bring back the Borg, we say.

Release date: September 24.



Justice League

1. Every time Marvel makes it look easy with their latest teaser, DC aren’t far behind, continuing to flail about, slightly unsure of what they want their film series to look or feel like.

2.
There is little hope that this won’t be a bloated mess, seeing as that’s what Zack Snyder’s movies always turn out to be.

3. The wild success of Wonder Woman put a bit of wind in the series’ sail, and there does seem to be a little wit here that was absent from the joyless Batman vs Superman.

4.
Snyder has stepped back from production due to a personal tragedy, with Joss Whedon (The Avengers etc) overseeing post production. Whether that will save the film from itself remains to be seen.

Release date: November 17

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=109&v=phFM3V_dors

WestWorld – Season 2

1.
Finally, HBO presented an ever-so-teasery teaser for the second series of its ambitious/baffling (delete as appropriate) sci-fi fusion WestWorld.

2. The first run look and sounded extraordinary, featured flawless performances (in particular from Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton) and promised much with its (very) slow-burning storyline.

3.
Jonathan Nolan would want to tighten things up for the next season though. Ambitious is good, challenging is good, but entertaining is a must too.

Release date: “Sometime in 2008.”

What you may need to know:

1. With Wimbledon currently taking place, no better time to serve this trailer for Borg/McEnroe, a Swedish-made drama exploring the rivalry between two of the greats of the game, John McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf) and Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason).

2. Their match in the 1980 Wimbledon final has been touted as one of the greatest games of tennis ever played. It was not, however, the one in which McEnroe heckled the umpire with his immortal “You cannot be serious” line. Some of his many on-court tantrums can be seen here.

3. Petulant spoilsport or perfectionist genius? That appears to the thrust of the film is about for LaBeouf’s character, contrasted with Borg’s lifetime in the game in Sweden under the tutelage of coach Lennart Bergelin, played by the always-great Stellan Skarsgård.

4. Naturally, Shia LaBeouf states he was attracted to the role of John McEnroe due a similarity between the pair: both misunderstood in their passion for what they do. Not sure McEnroe was ever on camera racially abusing a police officer, but there you go.

5. McEnroe did get in a bit of bother recently with his comments about Serena Williams though. While they were slightly taken out of context, the jist of it (which he did decline to walk back on even after getting all the stick) was while she’s probably the greatest female player of all time, she’d probably rank around the 700s in the men’s game. If ever there was a sweeping statement that proves why feminism exists, it’s that. “Look, she’s amazing, but there’s probably like 700 men better than her and that’s that.”

6. Which leads us nicely to the other tennis movie we’re getting this year….

That’s right, as is so often the case, Borg/McEnroe isn’t the only fact-based tennis movie we’re getting in 2017. Steve Carrell and Emma Stone will star later this year in Oscar-bait Battle of the Sexes. It tells the high-stakes 1973 exhibition match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, a milestone in the mainstream acceptance of women’s professional sport.

8. Until then, smouldering Bjorn Borg and over-excited McEnroe will have to do.

Doug’s Verdict: Advantage Stone

Release: September (both)

What you may need to know:

1. You might recall some months ago, photos of Pierce Brosnan on the set of his next film emerged, in which he bore a striking resemblance to Gerry Adams. Well, we’re delighted to report that wasn’t an exaggeration and this is a real film that got made. Here comes The Foreigner, also starring Jackie Chan, who it appears has come of age and is ready to challenge Liam Neeson for the disgruntled father with a particular set of skills niche.

2. The trailer unleashes most, if not all of the plot so instead let’s talk about Gerry…sorry, Liam Hennessy. The blurb says he’s a British government official whose own past may hold the clues to the elusive killers (of Jackie’s daughter, that is). The timing of releases like this is really something. We almost never see film or TV address the IRA in a modern context (broadly speaking – feel free to correct me below).

3. Now, when there’s a worry that things may start to slip backwards if we’re not careful, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve made a knockabout Taken-style action movie that appears to imply that the IRA are not only detonating bombs in London, but also that DEFINITELY FICTIONAL reformed terrorists-turned-Deputy First Ministers are actually anything but reformed.

4. The last major cinema release about the Troubles was the brilliant ’71 (2014), which declines to take sides, instead depicting good and evil on all sides of the conflict. The result felt as if John Carpenter and Ken Loach made a film together.

5. Anyway, The Foreigner. The filmmakers got a slap on the wrist when filming, by blowing up a bus on a London bridge. Not everybody got the memo that it was for a movie.

6. The film reunites Brosnan with his Goldeneye (1998) director Martin Campbell, who also gave us Casino Royale (2006). That said, he also gave us The Green Lantern and The Mask of Zorro, so swings and roundabouts.

7. Jackie Chan may be getting on a bit, but it looks like he can still swing off/jump over/jump off things with the best of them. This looks to be a bit of a departure. Usually his stunt-heavy, kung-fu crazy roles are played for laughs (think Rush Hour and, I dunno, The Tuxedo or one of them). This movie, and his character in particular, look to be quite humourless (not for nothing, of course).

8. He hasn’t been seen on the big screen here since 2010’S The Karate Kid remake, but has been knocking them out at a ferocious rate in China. He was also awarded an honorary Academy Award in November last year, for his “extraordinary achievements” in film.

9. Based on Stephen Leather’s novel ‘The Chinaman’, which was a title that definitely needed changing. Any excuse.

10. Some eagle-eyed internet people spotted that his passport (@57) says he’s Vietnamese and that this itself is a slur as Chan is Chinese.

10. Finally, it’s Pierce Brosnan so again, any excuse.

Verdict: This is a work of fiction

Release: September 28

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