Tag Archives: Doug Whelan

To bouldly go…

Doug writes:

Readers may care to have a goo at this new mobile game Star Trek Fleet Command, which has just launched worldwide and is made right here in Dublin by Digit Game Studios.

It’s a nifty resource management/strategy/MMORPG set in the Star Trek universe (specifically, JJ Abrams’ latter-day iteration).

Build up your starbase, get better ships, crew them up and head out into the galaxy to complete missions, play out the storyline or just get in scraps with other players.

I Have been playing since the ‘soft launch’ a few weeks ago and it really is one of the richest, most engaging mobile games I’ve come across.

It’s free to play with in-app purchases; microtransactions aren’t forced on you though – unless you want to speed up your progress.

Anyway, it’s tons of fun, highly recommend it. This not an ad.

Star Trek Fleet Command

What you may need to know

1. That live-action remake of DUMBO (1941) you didn’t ask for is almost here.

2. Alongside the Mary Poppins sequel, The Lion King remake, the Aladdin remake, the Lady and the Tramp remake and the Mulan remake, what we have here is proof that innovation and modernism is the name of the game at Disney right now.

3. Director Tim Burton has arranged a decent cast, to be fair. Colin Farrell plays a “one-armed war veteran and former circus star” hired to care for a baby elephant who, his children discover, can fly.

4. Burton alumni Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton play a kindly circus owner and ruthless entrepreneur (hmm) respectively. If there isn’t an overt reference to Batman Returns (1992) in there somewhere, I’ll be very upset. Eva Green, meanwhile, is also a Burton regular.

5.
Johnny Depp was in talks to play the elephant, but the deal fell through when he kept insisting on more prosthetics, despite it being a motion capture gig.

6. Burton’s gothic aesthetic felt tired a long time ago. Other than the earlier stuff where he made his name, he’s been much better in the colourful art-deco storybook stylings that are on show here. The likes of Big Fish (2003) and, er, Big Eyes (2014) have been far more memorable than anything else he’s done since the 90s.

7. It’s worth noting that another Burton mega-regular, Danny Elfman, is on soundtrack duty

8. Lack of originality aside, this does look quite lovely. Despite Dumbo being a beloved children’s movie everyone watched 30 years ago, adapting Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl’s novel (also 1941) is probably a safe distance from “stop ruining my childhood” territory, so I’m fairly on board with this.

Doug’s verdict: I’m all ears

Release: March 29, 2019 (because there’ll probably be nothing else to talk about that day)

What you may need to know

1. Is there a better sporting metaphor than boxing? For years we’ve all been enthralled with the story of Katie Taylor, Bray wunderkind who – as this new documentary plainly states – is the greatest female boxer of all time, but who has faced her fair share of personal struggles along the way.

2. Produced by Ross Whitaker and Aideen O’Sullivan (When Ali Came To Ireland), ‘Katie’ comes highly recommended, having won the award for Best Irish Feature Documentary award at the Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year.

3. It tracks Taylor’s life and career, from tricking her way into the ring at a young age, rising through the amateur ranks to win every title possible, including Olympic gold in 2012.

4. That all came crashing down in Rio 2016, at which point Taylor turned professional and had to start all over again.

5. The story is still ongoing, with Taylor set to defend her two world titles in Boston this very weekend. It’s a crucial time for the fighter, and for the sport itself as it faces increasing competition from the MMA world.

6. Add to that the personal drama surrounding Taylor’s deteriorating relationship with her father and one-time trainer Pete Taylor, and this documentary looks to have it all in the drama department.

Doug’s verdict: Let’s skip straight to the statue on Bray seafront already

Release:
October 26

What you may need to know

1. When Kevin Spacey was #cancelled last year; it’s a shame they didn’t cancel House of Cards along with him.

2. The most recent season was some of the worst TV I’ve ever seen. If all the dialogue had been replaced with the sound of flushing toilets, nobody might have noticed.

2.
Here goes with the fifth and final season, in which Mrs Underwood (Robin Wright, always the best thing about the show anyway) has been promoted to the lead role and the big job.

3.
Perhaps worth a watch to see how they kill off Foghorn Leghorn Frank Underwood, but don’t expect much after that.

Doug’s verdict: Flushing White House toilets

Available: November 2

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.

4.
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. 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. 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. 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