Tag Archives: Doug Whelan

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

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. 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)