Author Archives: Doug Whelan

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

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.

There’s the double Irish there too, with Liam Neeson AND Brendan Gleeson among the enormous, enthusiastic cast.

Verdict: Coen Brothers should make all the films

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) – available December 14

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.

Earlier: Broadsheet Trailer Park: The Mule

 

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. “First look” at yet another Netflix sci-fi effort, this time based on a novella by George R.R. Martin, him who gave us Game of Thrones.

2. Of all places, Nightflyers is currently filming at Troy Studios in Limerick. Great get, guys.

3.
It stars Boardwalk Empire‘s Gretchen Mol, and Irish talent in the shape of Eoin Macken and prolific character actor extraordinaire Brían F. O’Byrne.

4. Nightflyers was previously adapted into a 1987 film that it looks as if nobody saw.

5.
No release date is set, but Netflix will screen the series everywhere outside the USA when it debuts, presumably later this year.

Nightflyers

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. Here comes Mute, the new film from Duncan Jones, the talented British director known for Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011), two of the best science fiction films of the past ten years.

2. He has described Mute as a spiritual sequel to Moon, in that it is set in the same universe. Eagle-eyed viewers should expect references, veiled or otherwise, to that stark, sorrowful knockout that coaxed the performance of a lifetime out of Sam Rockwell twice.

3. Jones followed those two up with video game adaptation Warcraft in 2016, which got a bit of a mauling. For that reason, some voices out there have urged viewers to manage their expectations regarding this latest outing.

4. Mute is set in Berlin of the future, a neon-soaked cyberpunk hellhole not unlike Blade Runner’s rain-soaked Los Angeles or the works of William Gibson. This town is populated by losers, psychos, criminals and misfits, including Alexander Skarsgård’s taciturn bartender Leo, whose search for his missing girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh) brings him into the orbit of two volatile American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux).

5. Mute is Jones’ Don Quixote. He tells Uproxx the film has been in the works for 16 years; even with the critical success he has (mostly) enjoyed, studios have turned his script down time and time again. The interview also simply describes Mute as “insane”, while Jones himself calls it “dark and weird”; make of that what you will.

6. Enter Netflix, which has both the money and the canvas to take creative risks like this. No matter how it turns out, it’s a shame a film with clearly such a strong visual element will never be seen in cinemas. The cinematic landscape is changing though; whether anybody likes it or not. So rather than a churlish refusal to embrace change (we’re looking at you, Christopher Nolan), Jones has opted to change with it. He has lamented, however, that the film will never get a Blu-ray release – or the packaging design possibilities that come with it.

7. I call it Don Quixote above, but Jones himself has called Mute “Casablanca of the future”; an evocative and alluring possibility – hence the stunning poster which loudly recalls that WW2 masterpiece. Someone should tell him though – we already got our Casablanca of the future in Barb Wire (1996) starring Pamela Anderson. No, really.

8. Going by Duncan Jones’ own word, Mute won’t be for everyone. That’s the point of it though. We complain that cinemas are overflowing with superhero and comic book films, which they are. Studios won’t go near anything that isn’t a guaranteed money-maker. It’s why you don’t see much from creatively idiosyncratic filmmakers, whose first objective is to challenge their audiences, outside of the festival circuits. Tastes will come back around eventually, but before they do we should embrace films like this whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Verdict: Shout it from the rooftops

Release: February 23.