Author Archives: Doug Whelan

What you may need to know:

1. Joaquin Phoenix looks simply astonishing in this grounded and gritty-looking “origin story” of the clown prince of crime and Batman’s arch-nemesis.

2. Martin Scorsese was on board as producer early on, and despite departing the movie this time last year, his presence is still very apparent: Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982) both are clearly major influences, underscored by the presence of Robert de Niro.

3. Yes, it’s the prequel nobody asked for, but despite unfortunately being one of those “teasers” that in fact gives away the entire movie, Joker has suddenly shot up the list of 2019’s most anticipated movies.

4. The question now is, will the Batman – due for yet another reboot after Ben Affleck‘s disastrous turn in the cape – make an appearance ahead of, well, The Batman (2021)?

Doug’s verdict: No laughing matter.

Release date:
October (US), TBC (Europe).

What you may need to know

1. Jim Jarmusch, one of the most significant US indie directors of the past four decades, returns with undoubtedly his most audience-friendly film to date. That’s not to say he hasn’t been accessible in the past, but the wacky slapstick and record-scratch punchlines on show here are quite far removed from the austere drama in the likes of Dead Man (1995), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) or The Only Lovers Left Alive (2010).

The Dead Don’t Die is Jarmusch’s second film with Adam Driver, following 2016’s light-hearted drama Paterson. It’s also his second film with Bill Murray after Broken Flowers (2005) and Tilda Swinton (The Only Lovers Left Alive), plus he has worked with Tom Waits and Iggy Pop on several occasions over the years, most notably in 2003’s Coffee and Cigarettes – overtly referenced here by undead, coffee-craving Iggy Pop.

It’s always pleasing to see Tom Waits on screen; he’s doing a lot of acting at the moment with roles in Robert Redford’s The Old Man and the Gun as well as The Ballad of Buster Scruggs last year; some new music would be even better but it’s good to know he’s out there either way.

With The Twilight Zone currently making its TV comeback, you can’t help notice that opening voiceover aping Rod Sterling’s ominous voiceovers from the original 60s TV series. Take it as another attempt to help audiences make sense of 2019.

5. “Ghouls” is why Adam Driver is one of the best in the business at the moment.

6. We’ve seen plenty of zombie comedies pave the way for this one, of course, most notably Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009), but the sardonic, deadpan tone here is one that can only come from an indie type like Jarmusch, and will offer something new to the genre.

Doug’s verdict: A horror movie with brains

Release: June TBC

What you may need to know

After years of false starts and broken promises, the long-hoped-for return of HBO’s masterful western drama is really real.

Deadwood, set in the eponymous frontier town in the late 19th century South Dakota, initially ran for three seasons from 2004-2006. It didn’t find much of an audience at the time but has since been consistently hailed as one of the all-time greats due to its realism, complex characterisation, production value and blending of actual events with fiction.

3. Ever since its rather undignified cancellation, creator David Milch and much of the cast kept a candle lit for its eventual return. That has taken more than a decade, but fans are currently punching the air in ecstasy.

4. A healthy portion of Deadwood’s acclaim is for Ian McShane (top) in the role of saloon owner and local crime boss Al Swearengen, whose penchant for soliloquies and getting his hands dirty for what he believed to be the greater good gave him the air of a dusty Shakespearean king.

5. Beyond that, there are actually too many good things to say about Deadwood, other than there’s plenty of time to catch up between now and the end of May.

Doug’s verdict: Yer darn’ tootin’

May 31 (Sky Atlantic TBA)

What you may need to know:

1. The 9th film from Quentin Tarantino, as he is fond of pointing out. He has said on occasion that he intends to retire from directing when he reaches ten.

2. The official blurb:

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.”

3. It is in no way a true story, but film is known to also be related to the infamous murder of Sharon Tate and four others at the hands of the Manson Family. Tate is played by Margot Robbie.

4. I don’t know about anyone else but I really don’t want to see those events dramatised, especially in Tarantino-land.

5. Also in the typically starry cast are Al Pacino, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Scoot McNairy, the late Luke Perry and more.

6. All of the usual Tarantino tropes look to be present and correct, meaning Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will likely be review proof, sidestepping the quality scale and instead existing on a plane of how much of his self-indulgent tendencies you have the patience for.

Doug’s verdict: As long as it’s not three hours long, sold.

Release: July

What you may need to know:

1. There’s just too much to get into at this stage. It’s season 8, with a dizzying amount of loose ends, subplots and mysteries to be sorted out. At this stage you’re either in or out.

2. The shortened season will consist of six episodes rather than the usual ten, with each hyped as a “mini-movie”

It has gotten its share of criticism over the years, due to excessive and often gratuitous violence and scenes of rape.

4. Some say Game of Thrones took a dip once the writers overook George R.R. Martin’s source material, but there’s no question it will go down as one of the all-time great TV series and pop-culture touchstones.

5. This is hardly goodbye. HBO has already confirmed it will go back to the well for a new “prequel” series, set in one of the multitude of historical eras outlined in the mythology.

6. Glorious fart acting from Lena Headey at 1.06.

Doug’s verdict: Winter really is coming this time

Release: April 14/15, Sky Atlantic

What you may need to know.

1. After The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Roma (and others), another A-list director going straight to Netflix is further evidence of the vicious circle cinema is stuck in.

2. Studios just aren’t willing to spend the kind of money these guys want, and can easily get from Netflix, with its deep pockets and near-zero interference.

3. The Irishman’s production budget is $200m+ according to Wikipedia; no studio would pony up that kind of money for a septuagenarian crime drama, not in a million years.

. What happens instead is those A-list dramas are going straight to the small screen (albeit with a limited US release) leaving audiences with the perception that multiplexes are filled only with superhero movies – which the studios ARE willing to splash out on because their serialised and homogenised nature draws audiences back again and again.

5. They are the only sure things, currently.

Doug’s verdict: n/a

Release date: Autumn 2019

Earlier: Favourtiism

What You may need to know

1. Over the past 20 years, the “golden age of TV” combined with the DVD revolution led to a shift in how series were written. We’ve gorged on long-term character development, microscopic attention to detail and ostensible “ten-hour movies”.

More recently though, maybe due to shortening attention spans, streaming services or a simple push-back from writers who don’t want to put out War & Peace every time they do something, anthology series are currently where it’s at. Also, audiences at this point don’t want to feel like they’re making a six-year commitment every time something new comes along.

3. That has led to the rise of single-season stories like True Detective, American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Fargo and so on. Then there are single-episode series like Black Mirror, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, the upcoming Love Death + Robots, one called Room 104 and more.

4. The common theme for the latter group is they all tend to have a science fiction or supernatural angle. With that in mind it was probably a no-brainer for CBS to bring The Twilight Zone back to life. It first ran from 1959–64, then again 1985-1989, briefly in 2002, and now in 2019.

At the same time CBS were coming to this decision (it has been in development since 2012), Jordan Peele was over there reinventing himself from sketch comedy actor into Oscar-winning writer and director of Get Out (2017) which – as The Twilight Zone often did – blended horror and social commentary in a way that resonated with audiences in a very big way.

6. As well as executive producing, Peele will “host” the series as Rod Serling originally did, narrating the episodes and teeing up the stories.

Lots of familiar faces in there, including Tracy Jordan, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani and also Adam Scott, who will play the lead in a remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, one of the original’s best-known episodes and an early role for William Shatner.

8. The first look came in the form of a coveted “Superbowl trailer” a few weeks back, in which Peele pointedly asks “when truth is not even truth, what dimension are you in?” – surely a wry reference to the GUBU world in which we’re already living.

9. Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out will arrive in cinemas next month. Us looks to have a similar theme to its predecessor, whereby an African-American family is hunted by their own murderous doppelgangers. Peele has said Us is more of a full-on horror movie; “spill-your-soda scary” as opposed to the “existentially terrifying”. Get Out.

10. The Twilight Zone will run on CBS All Access in the states, so hopefully it will appear on Netflix in this part of the world before long.

Doug’s verdict: Get in.

Release: April 1


What you may need to know.

1. Is there a more reliable British director out there than Danny Boyle? Looking at the past 25 years he has tried his hand at quite a broad range of genres that includes horror, science fiction and children’s alongside black comedy, drama and crime and has slam-dunked it pretty much every time.

2. That includes the recent phenomena of “two-decades-overdue sequel”, in which he confounded expectations by making Trainspotting 2 one of the best films of 2017.

3. Following T2 he was an inspired choice for the untitled Bond 25 (2020), but departed some months later due to dreaded “creative differences” with Bond gatekeepers Eon Productions. It seems he wanted to cast an unknown actor as the villain while producers Barbara Brocoli and Michael G. Wilson were keen on an A-lister.

4. Given his pedigree as a director, you could also say he wanted it to be good and they didn’t, but hey.

5. ANYWAY, never mind all that, because he’s back in feel-food family comedy mode with Yesterday, which has been “penned” by another English stalwart, Richard Curtis. You’ll probably have mixed feelings about Curtis’ back catalogue, but there’s no doubt about it that it’s a sparkling partnership on paper.

6. The plot is right there in the trailer so enjoy that. The real-world-fantasy element isn’t a million miles from Curtis’ last big screen outing, the excellent romantic comedy About Time (2013), with added Beatles songs.

7. Someone in Beatles PLC has a knack for getting the name out there for a new audience every few years, lest anybody forget. Just last week it was announced that Peter Jackson will direct a new documentary based on hundreds of hours of footage of them (and Yoko…) in the studio recording Let It Be.

8. Speaking of Yoko, if you’re wondering what she’s been up to, get a load of this.

9. Sorry.

10. Why does James Corden have to be in EVERYTHING?

Doug’s Verdict: Here comes the fun

June 28 tbc