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)
While John Lewis and the other shops prepares to woo people with big-budget ads about inflatable shoes or a talking Christmas brick or whatever, the supermarket Iceland (it hasn’t gone away you know) takes the opportunity to draw attention to rampant deforestation and the global demand for palm oil, which is destroying orangutan habitats. Co-produced with Greenpeace, voiced by Emma Thompson.
“Banned” is a strong word, but it seems UK body Clearcast declined to clear it for broadcast due to its political messaging, in breach of the UK’s Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice.
What you may need to know:
1. He hasn’t gone away you know.
2. Everybody’s favourite growling, artistically unpretentious Ballymena man has two big roles coming up, and appears to be subscribing to the “one for them, one for me” method of choosing. The question then becomes which one is which?
3. First up, Steve McQueen’s Widows. What’s interesting here is that Liam’s somewhat ironic, happily-married-man-of-action screen persona is being put to intensely dramatic effect. OK, it seems he’s out of the picture in the first act, but McQueen, like every director who has hired Neeson since Taken ten years ago, is clearly impressed with his particular set of skills. (i.e. acting really well and being a double-hard backstard).
5. Among the storming supporting cast, special mention should go to Jon Bernthal, who has been a standout in everything he’s done so far.
6. Farreller is in there too; he’s made some really impressive choices in his roles the past few years and settled into middle age very well. We’ll be seeing him in high places for many years to come yet. Next year he’s starring in, ahem, Tim Burton’s Dumbo.
7. Now, Liam’s one for them. Say hello to the marvellously-named Cold Pursuit.
8. That name again is Cold Pursuit.
9. The first portion of this promo is standard Liam Neeson fare, until the Guy Ritchie–style name cards start flying all over the place and it all goes a bit Fargo.
10. The tone is slightly confusing here. A movie in which Liam Neeson goes around cracking heads, but that also looks interesting, if not particularly original? It wouldn’t be the first time. The Grey (2011), in which Liam straps broken glass to his fists and fights a wolf, turned out to be one of the best films of the decade.
11. Another special mention for Laura Dern, who magically reappeared the past couple of years and is now, luckily for us, in everything.
Doug’s verdicts: Never change, Liam
Release: Widows – November 6; Cold Pursuit – February 2019
1. Do “They” still make big-budget Christmas movies? The 80s and 90s was riddled with them, but I can’t name any from recent years that have penetrated the public consciousness in the same way.
2. Until now. After a decade in apparent semi-retirement, our greatest living actor Kurt Russell has been quite visible the past few years, in particular with Tarantino in The Hateful Eight (2015) and S. Craig Zahler’s exceptional and brutal western Bone Tomahawk (2015). Two intensely violent roles clearly called for a professional digestif, so here he comes in the role of…Santa Claus.
3. Is it Kurt himself winning these roles, or his facial hair? It’s hard to tell if that beard is real, but going by the frankly incredible moustaches he sported in the above two roles, I would not be surprised.
4. For what it’s worth, having Chris Columbus in the producer’s chair does give it an air of Christmas movie legitimacy. It’s not Netflix’s first Christmas outing (e.g. see last year’s diabolical surprise hit A Christmas Prince), but as with hiring all those A-list directors, the streaming giant seems to have identified another niche: genuinely watchable Christmas movies for children of all ages.
5. There’s no point talking about the plot though. It’s Christmas, Santa’s gonna Santa. That’s about it. But Santa is Kurt Russell. What else do you need to know?
6. Could have done without the CG elves, but the kids will probably love it.
Doug’s verdict: Did we mention Kurt Russell is playing Santa Claus?
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.
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
1.Saoirse Ronan REALLY likes doing period dramas. After almost winning her Oscar in last year’s grungy drama Lady Bird, she’s back on home turf in the meaty role of Mary Stuart, 16th-century ruler of Scotland who briefly attempted to usurp Elizabeth I. She was first announced for the role way back in 2012.
2. That role is played by Margot Robbie, also very much on the hunt for awards after coming close in last year’s I, Tonya.
3. As with that movie, you can see here her continuing effort to be “taken seriously as an actor” (I say that in all seriousness) through the use of makeup and prosthetics that play up Lizzy’s skin condition, (*googles*) which was a result of her contracting smallpox in 1562.
4. The screenplay is by Beau Willimon, creator of Netflix’s House of Cards. Of all the things that have been said about that show, I don’t recall it being singled out for its silky dialogue.
5. There’s Guy Pearce at 1.46, one of the most underrated and underused actors out there. Should be in more things, and better things. David Tennant is in there somewhere too, concealed beneath a great big bushy beard. Not sure if Lord Flashheart will make an appearance.
6. Directed by Josie Rourke, who is making her screen debut after a strong 20-year theatre career.
7. I have a vague recollection of seeing a drama about this historic rivalry before, but nothing about it other than that. Anyone?
8. This trailer walks a peculiar line between historical thriller and a starchy period drama, but seems to try a little hard on both counts without really taking off. Two proven terrific leads will make it worth a watch, but there’s always a risk that they’re better than the material.
Doug’s verdict: Lavish.
Release date: January tbc (in time for awards season)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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)