1. The only thing you need to know about The Day Shall Come is that it heralds the return of comedy eminence Christopher Morris, who wrote and directed this farcical comedy thriller.
2. It is unquestionably in the same wheelhouse as Morris’ last big-screen outing Four Lions (2010), about a crew of incompetent wannabe jihadists determined to launch a terror attack in the UK.
3. In the meantime, he has been directing episodes of Veep, while also co-writing the brilliant Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, but mostly keeps a low profile.
4. Of course, he will always be best known for the still-extraordinary satire Brass Eye, whose “Paedogeddon!” episode was, at the time, the most-complained-about episode in British television history and even got raised in Westminster.
3. Anyway, The Irishman. Lots of Marty’s trademarks are present and correct in this trailer, and the man’s mere association with the genre he helped shape is a selling point in itself. Documentaries aside, he’s got two broad modes that he has bounced back and forth between over the years: the spiritual/personal Scorsese last seen in Silence (2016) and the energetic and confrontational Scorsese last seen in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), which a lot of people seem to dislike but for me is among his best. I like to hope that The Irishman will find itself somewhere in between the two. Scorsese is a master filmmaker; there’s little doubt he will find a way to work his own life experience into the thread. After all, he, De Niro and Pesci (and Keitel) were young men when they first began working together, now they’re wrinkly old codgers, de-aging CGI or no.
4. How great it is to see Robert de Niro back where he belongs. 20 years of dreadful comedies suggest he got bored of acting somewhere in the late 90s (1998’s Ronin, for me was his last confirmed sighting), so to see him understating it as a double-hard bastard is a pleasure. Maybe Dirty Grandpa (2016) was the last straw for Scorsese who simply had to step in and make things right.
5. Meanwhile, Joe Pesci seems to have been retired since 2010; he appears to have lost none of his ability to terrorise the screen just by sitting there saying nothing.
6. The only thing that would give me pause for this movie is the aforementioned use of CGI to de-age the actors as the story plays out over decades. This is apparently the reason for the rumoured €200m budget, another massive gamble for Netflix. That last shot, where de Niro says “whatever you need me to do”, if you play it back a couple of times it starts to look a little hinky. For one thing, the hand holding the phone is clearly not de Niro’s hand, it’s superimposed onto the screen. We’ll have to wait and see.
7. As for Netflix, I’ve talked here lots of times before about the meaning of these A-list actors and directors going straight to the small screen. The studios just are not willing to spend that kind of money on a non-sequel, non-franchise movie, no matter who is in front of or behind the camera. At the same time, you’ve got to admire Scorsese for leaning into the technology (streaming, that is, but heavy CGI as well to be fair). While the likes of Spielberg and Nolan are churlishly gate-keeping, including getting Cannes and Academy rules changed to make it as difficult as possible for Netflix to win any awards, Marty is acknowledging (A) the opportunities it presents and (B) the fact that it is here to stay. As, it seems, is he.
1. I recall reading somewhere that Stephen King has had more works adapted for the big screen than any other author; Shakespeare or Dickens (or Danielle Steel) might disagree, but where multiple adaptations of their works would beef up the numbers, story after story after story by the King of Horror has been adapted – with varying degrees of success.
5. Doctor Sleep reacquaints us with Danny Torrence, now an adult who looks just like Ewan McGregor. Torrence, still traumatised by the events at the Overlook Hotel, works at a hospice using his clairvoyant gifts to provide comfort to terminally ill patients. It’s a peaceful life until he meets Abra (newcomer Kyliegh Curran), a teenager with the same gift being pursued by a ruthless group who want to use “the shine” in their quest for immortality.
6. I love the tone of this trailer. It puts its debt to Kubrick front and centre, mostly avoiding jump scares and any of that “red band” nonsense, instead concentrating on a sense of dread and anticipation.
7. Take the recreation of that shot of Jack Nicholson looking through the smashed door – one of the most recognisable images in all of cinema. Rather than a vain attempt to recreate the moment, it’s done in a detached and dreamlike way, as though it’s something Danny only half-remembers. It’s light-years from Steven Spielberg‘s vandalism of the same film in Ready Player One.
9. Both of those were effective and well-made, if a little derivative, but to be fair to Flanagan it’s practically impossible not to be derivative in the horror genre. He also directed the superb King adaptation Gerald’s Game for Netflix.
10. I’m not familiar with the source material, but despite being overdue and unasked-for, this feels and looks like it might be one of the good ones. It seems that despite the appearances of going back to the well instead of coming up with something new, with Doctor Sleep, King expands and deepens The Shining rather than rehashing it. If this film can do the same thing, it could be a winner.
12. Finally, of the upcoming King stuff, I’m most looking forward to the TV adaptation of King’s apocalyptic 1978 masterpiece, The Stand.
13. No cast or other details have been announced, but done right, the story of the end of the world and what comes next has the potential to be one of the greats, with a strong contemporary resonance in the Trump era through its malevolent villain Randall Flagg.
1. Game of Thrones is kind of the only game in town (for another week or two anyway), so this teaser for HBO’s upcoming small-screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen got lost in the mix a little bit.
2. In case you’re not familiar, the ground-breaking 1986 original depicts an alternate past and present where crime-fighting superheroes not only walk among us, but were directly involved in major turning points in US history, including Vietnam and the successful cover-up of Watergate. Decades after vigilantism was eventually outlawed, the Watchmen are called out of retirement to investigate the murder of one of their own.
3.It was previously adapted by Zack Snyder in 2009. His version was faithful to a fault, mimicking the source novel’s glacially slow pace and sombre atmosphere. It was also a miracle of production design and overall ambition; Watchmen was one of those novels previously considered “unfilmable”. It also boasts one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film you could name.
4. As you would expect, not a lot is known about HBO’s new version. It’s immediately clear that it’s not completely faithful to the original, being set in a more modern era. According to executive producer Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek), it is set “after” the story depicted in the original. One wonders in that case if it’s a sequel to Snyder’s film, which had a considerably different ending to the book.
5. Despite the modern aesthetic, it looks to remain faithful to the original in other ways. The blocking, colour schemes and camerawork are very reminiscent of artist Dave Gibbons‘ original frames.
6. The cast includes Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Louis Gosset Jr and Regina King, who recently won an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk.
7. With Game of Thrones gone (for now), HBO is angling for its next global hit. WestWorld was a pretender to the throne but disappeared in a puff of its own self-importance, while smaller shows like The Deuce and Big Little Lies, while great, just don’t have the longevity.
8. In my opinion, the real test of a series’ potential in the current era is whether it is forward thinking enough to set up its own endgame right from the start. Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones got people addicted on day one by asking “how is this going to end?”
9. It’s not the only way. Mad Men, The Sopranos and The Wire meandered through their seven seasons with multiple storylines and thematic explorations rather than one big buildup.
10. The crucial difference there was that they were much more grounded in reality and a depiction of (relatively) everyday life. The higher the concept, the higher the stakes need to be, so if Watchmen wants to find as wide an audience as possible, it’s going to have to work extra hard to keep viewers interested.
11. After all, the original Watchmen was one big whodunnit, so the stage is set already. Let’s see if I’m right.
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).
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).
2.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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
What you may need to know
1. After years of false starts and broken promises, the long-hoped-for return of HBO’s masterful western drama is really real.
2. 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’
Release: May 31 (Sky Atlantic TBA)
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.
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.
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”
3. 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.
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.
4. 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.