Author Archives: Doug Whelan

What you may need to know.

1. Only this: It IS a Christmas movie.

2. So says this new official trailer from 20th Century Fox (above), promoting the just-released 30th anniversary Blu-Ray release.

Release: Now

Meanwhile…

Just ‘dropped’.

The Men in Black are back.

No.

Thanks Jack Jones

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. Two Disney remakes on the trot? Give the people what they want. Next week it’ll be a Tibetan film festival winner projected onto the side of a yak; promise.

2. Jon Favreau is on directorial duties for this “live-action” (CGI, really) remake of the iconic 1994 animation. He’s got form in the pantheon of animated animals; his last outing was the 2015 remake (what is going on??) of The Jungle Book.

3. Much was made of the impressive (and almost entirely black) cast when it was first announced. James Earl Jones reprises his role of Mufasa from the original; multi-talented Renaissance man Donald Glover plays Simba and the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor takes over from Jeremy Irons as villainous uncle Scar. Beyoncé, Keegan-Michael Key and Alfré Woodard also feature.

4. Elton John’s songs from the original (including the Circle of Life heard in this trailer) will be reworked for the remake; safe to assume Beyoncé will belt one or two out. Hans Zimmer is also in there, because as well as having scored the original, he has apparently been contracted to score every film that gets made these days.

5. It is quite pleasing to see those opening shots from the original recreated, as well as that famous scene of the wildebeest charging down the hill. With that in mind, I’m curious as to how much this movie will stray from the original screenplay – which, as we all know, was a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If that is the case, this movie’s real raison d’etre will be the visuals.

6. As a technical exercise, The Lion King looks like it will be another great leap forward in ultra-realistic CGI. But for me, the advances in cinematic visuals are becoming a bit of a problem.

7. The tagline for Superman back in 1978 was “You will believe a man can fly”. Audiences had simply never seen such a thing. Jurassic Park changed everything 15 years later with its depiction of dinosaurs; one of several times Spielberg managed that feat.

8. 25 years after that, he tried to change the game again, by extrapolating the notion as far as it can logically go. This year’s hyperactive (and terrible) Ready Player One threw absolutely everything at the screen all at once. It was an epileptic nightmare that proved that there is officially nothing that CGI can’t do.

9.
Because of that, it almost feels as if nothing can be impressive anymore. Certainly not in the same way as seeing Christopher Reeve fly 40 years ago, or a T-Rex running amok in 1993. Because when we know there is simply nothing that can’t be depicted, what is the point in depicting anything?

10. I’m after getting off the point completely. Yay, The Lion King!

Doug’s verdict:
You will believe a lion can talk

Release:
July 19, 2019

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)

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.

And that”s why mum’s gone to Iceland.

FIGHT!

Iceland’s Christmas TV advert banned for being too political (The Guardian)

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).

4. In Widows, Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez star alongside newcomers Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo. Female-led action thrillers have always been few and far between; while Widows is undoubtedly more complex, it doesn’t look a million miles away from 1996’s Set It Off, in which Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett…y’know…set it off.

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 Ritchiestyle 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

What you may need to know:

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?

Release: November 22.

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. 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)

Previously: The Envelope, Please

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