Category: Hollywood Movies
Dreams çome true at night.
A glamorous Parisian cop investigates a death in remote northern Scandinavia in this intriguing series opener. Plus: Mystery of the Man on the Moor.
Here’s an A-level physics question. A middle-aged Frenchman is tied to the rotor blade of a helicopter, head facing out, away from the axis. Actually, it’s not important that he’s French or middle-aged, but it adds colour. Anyway, the helicopter is started up, and the rotor begins to rotate, accelerating at an angular rate of x rad/sec. Given that the ultimate tensile strength of middle-aged French neck is y MPa, how long before Pierre literally loses his head?
It has been a while since I did physics A-level; some extra data may be required – thickness of neck, mass of head, distance from axis of rotation. And does Coriolis force come into it? A fascinating problem, though, I think you’ll agree. The answer appears to be about about 35 seconds, according to Midnight Sun (Sky Atlantic).
It certainly makes for an arresting/memorable/horrible opening sequence. We – the helicopter, Pierre, his now scattered head – are in the far north of Sweden. What is this smartly dressed, wealthy French chap doing here, and what has he done to deserve this grim demise?
That’s what jaded local prosecutor Rutger (Peter Stormare) has to find out. With help from his timid, dithering sidekick, Anders (Gustaf Hammarsten), and glamorous Parisian cop Kahina (Leïla Bekhti). The investigation, and the series, is a Swedish-French collaboration, The Killing meets Spiral, Abba covers Je t’aime, köttbullar au vin. It’s a promising flavour combination, gory and gothic, even if the meat may be a little underdone for some palates.
The Swedes are reassuringly straight-talking, stoic, gloomy and pale; Kahina combines ridiculous north African beauty with comedy shruggy-chic Gallic cool, pffff. Everyone has the requisite personal complications – relationships, families, ghosts, miseries. A little humanness to add to the beastliness.
There’s stuff going on underground in Kiruna as well, rumblings and cracks opening up. Because of the mine. Mother, the locals call her. She produces enough iron ore every day to make six Eiffel Towers. I hope it’s just a mine, and that Midnight Sun isn’t going to go all otherworldly Fortitude nonsense.
And because of the latitude and the fact that it’s midsummer, everyone’s a little mad. Kahina can’t sleep; there’s something of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia about it. Perhaps the handsome helicopter pilot will help her…
Hello, who’s this, though, naked and chained to a rock? Prometheus? Not quite the right part of the world, it’s probably something to do with Thor. And it’s not an eagle that visits, but wolves, a pack of them. Aaarwwwooo! Shoo! Noo! Oww! The man is missing a foot … well, that’s better than a head I guess, but he’s got wounds all over, cuts, he’s lost loads of blood. He manages to get one word out: järv. Which means not wolf, but wolverine. Intriguing…
Mystery of the Man on the Moor (Channel 4) tells another story of a body found in a wild, remote place. Only this time it’s not fiction. There are no wolverines – or wolves – on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District, but there was strychnine in the body, and that’s not something Oldham CID comes across every day.
You’ll remember it: the man, inappropriately dressed for the outdoors, with no identification, who, after months and months of police work, was found to be David Lytton, former London Underground driver, who had recently spent time in Pakistan. This documentary follows that painstaking investigation. And it’s both totally engrossing and ultimately a bit disappointing.
Engrossing because of the extraordinary nature of the case, the enigma of David and his death. The film has access to his brother, Jeremy, and to his former girlfriend Maureen, who contribute something to who David was and to the human side of the story. But it’s disappointing because in the end I didn’t learn very much that I hadn’t already read.
I realise this was the story of the investigation and it wasn’t going to find answers to the fundamental questions the police and the inquest hadn’t. Such as: why had he come to the Pennines? And was it really suicide?
But a documentary, and what you want from it, isn’t always the same as an investigation. There was one area in particular I feel should have been explored further: Pakistan.
We got a tiny tantalising glimpse of David’s life in Lahore, on some footage of his flat the man from the National Crime Agency brought back. That was it, though. The crew didn’t go there, didn’t track down his new girlfriend, or the man who helped David buy a house there.
Maybe, as his brother says: “The fact that it didn’t make sense makes perfect sense.” But I wanted to know what the hell a Jewish Londoner who hated the heat was doing living in Lahore for 10 years. And it would have been a better film if it made more effort to find out.
Angelina Jolie was the 1st to portray badass Lara Croft in ‘Tomb Raider’ back in 2001, & this past weekend the star checked out the movie’s reboot with her sweet kids.
Taking her kids to see the new Tomb Raider movie on March 18, Angelina Jolie, 42, looked incredibly chic in a black wrap coat and stiletto boots. While Alicia Vikander, 29, is playing video game heroine Lara Croft in the film’s reboot, Angelina was actually the first actress to take on the iconic role in 2001. We love that she took her youngsters to see Alicia reprise her character in the new movie! She was photographed going to see Tomb Raider with her 9-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne, and two daughters Shiloh, 11, and Zahara, 13. Click here to see adorable pics of Angelina Jolie’s six kids.
Although her cinema trip was low-key, Angie looked uber stylish dressed in head-to-toe black. In fact, she projected a sense of off-duty elegance and mystery! The actress rocked a sophisticated wool wrap coat paired with suede knee-high boots and oversized shades. Meanwhile, her and Brad Pitt‘s, 54, kids sported more casual looks, with Zahara and Shiloh both wearing zip-up hoodies, and Knox sporting a printed bomber jacket. The family seemed to be in high spirits too, as they walked to the theater — talk about a fun weekend activity!
Although Angie had already achieved notoriety with her award-winning performances in Gia and Girl, Interrupted, before she took on the role of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider is what arguably established her as a leading Hollywood star. And despite having big shoes to fill, Alicia has already been praised for her portrayal of Lara. “I’ve been dreaming to be apart of a big action adventure film since I was a kid. I’ve wanted to push myself and in this film I really get to do that,” Alicia shared during an interview with the film’s distribution company Warner Bros. “Our story is very much an origin story… this film is about her becoming the hero that we know her to be.”
We can only imagine Alicia would be thrilled to hear Angie took her kids to see her new movie in theaters. After all, Alicia has revealed that Angie is someone she looks up to. “Angelina is a woman I would love to meet… she made an icon out of that character. She’s quite an incredible woman,” she gushed to E! News recently.
It is often said that the brain is the most important erogenous zone. It’s often said, too, that there’s nothing sexier than a sense of humour. I’m not sure whether either of these assertions has been scientifically proven but, if they have, it could explain why Fifty Shades Freed is about as arousing as staring at a mildewed patch of wallpaper.
This is the third film to be adapted from EL James’ trilogy of zillion-selling “mommy porn” S&M bonkbusters, and its protagonists are two attractive young lovers who can’t keep their hands off each other, so it should be a turn-on, if nothing else. And yet Fifty Shades Freed is so unarousing that it could be used as therapy in a sex addiction clinic. The complete lack of intelligence and fun has got to be a factor.
The film opens with Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) getting married to Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), Seattle’s most eligible bachelor. Their high-society wedding is dispensed with in a montage. Then their luxury honeymoon in France is dispensed with in a montage. And then, well, everything else drifts by with so little structure or intrigue that it might as well be a montage, too. Ana and her friends buy dresses; Christian buys a house. Ana drives a car; Christian drives a jet ski.
On and on this product placement-heavy conspicuous consumption goes, but there’s hardly any personality to it, and even less plot. Would it be cruel at this stage to mention that the screenwriter, Niall Leonard, also happens to be James’ own husband? Maybe. But, to be fair, his scripting is no more perfunctory than James Foley’s directing. Between them, they seem to have been aiming for the will-sapping vapidity of a Kardashian reality TV show overseen by Tommy “The Room” Wiseau.
Still, Fifty Shades Freed isn’t wholly without incident. Every now and then, Ana goes to her office in a publishing firm, thus establishing that she is the only senior fiction editor in America who doesn’t have a single manuscript or proof copy at home. And every now and then she and Christian bicker about having children – the kind of work-life disagreement which would barely fill the Charlotte storyline in an episode of Sex and the City.
And sometimes – oh so rarely – the film-makers remember that Ana is being stalked by her cartoonishly psychotic former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), at which point the stupidity ramps up, but not the excitement. Hyde’s hazily motivated attacks on Ana are quashed with laughable ease: Christian’s collection of riding crops would be more likely to do her an injury. But it’s still impossible to understand why Jack is treated so nonchalantly by the authorities. Halfway through the film, he tries to abduct Ana from the Greys’ swanky flat.
After her bodyguards have dealt with him – which they do, without breaking a sweat – a police detective reassures her: “Don’t worry about Hyde, we’ve got enough to hold him.” And, somehow, he says it with a straight face. Enough to hold him?! The guy’s just broken into the home of Christian Grey – the wealthiest, most influential man in the city! And he’s held a foot-long knife to Christian Grey’s new bride! Of course you’ve got enough to hold him! You’ve probably got enough to send him straight to the electric chair! But apparently not. A few minutes later, Hyde is granted bail and walks free – and nobody tells Christian. That’s how head-slappingly idiotic Fifty Shades Freed is.
You could argue that none of this vacuousness matters, and that the film exists for its sex scenes. But these tend to be brief, discreet, waist-up interludes. Christian, it seems, is growing out of the whips and chains which obsessed him when the series began. He may be obnoxiously controlling in regards to every other aspect of Ana’s life, but he can’t be bothered with bondage. At their most daring, the newlyweds have sex in a car (a parked car, mind you – safety first), and they have sex on a kitchen table in their Aspen holiday home, during which Christian frets that they might wake up their fellow guests.
And while these tame couplings could, in theory, have been titillating, the film’s pervasive joylessness acts as a cold shower. The ever-frowning Dornan has to take the blame. As usual, Johnson brings some much-needed flirtiness and recognisable human emotion to Ana, but Dornan always sounds as if he’s got a blocked nose, and always looks as if he would rather be at tomorrow’s board meeting. In one scene, Christian is so grumpy with Ana that he gives her a “not-tonight-I’ve-got-a-headache” brush-off, and that’s the only moment when Dornan’s performance has any conviction.
As feeble as it is in almost every respect, Fifty Shades Freed might perhaps have been watchable if Christian had been played by Bridget Jones-era Hugh Grant or by Wall Street-era Michael Douglas – or, for that matter, by any actor with confidence and swagger and a devilish twinkle. Instead, we’re stuck with a leading man who seems to be having a miserable time. Everyone in the audience will have a miserable time, too.
Here’s a quick conundrum for you. Your evil arch-enemy is crossing a canyon on a thin, wobbly metal ladder which has been laid across the gap. How do you stop him reaching the other side? Do you…
(a) shake the ladder, thus ensuring that he plunges to his well-deserved doom? Or do you …
(b) leap onto the ladder yourself, thus ensuring that you’re just as likely to plummet to your doom as he is?
If you answered (a), then congratulations, you are officially cleverer than Lara Croft, the dim-witted and generally inept heroine of Tomb Raider.
When the character made her video-game debut in 1996, she was marketed as a cyber sex symbol. The media focused on her rugby ball-shaped breasts, and a waist so minuscule she could have worn a wristwatch around it. But the game’s designers liked to point out that Lara’s IQ was even more stellar than her physical attributes, and by the time Angelina Jolie played her in two films, in 2001 and 2003, they could just about get away with calling her a feminist role model.
Fourteen years on, you might assume that she would be even more capable, and the casting of Alicia Vikander, a multi-lingual Oscar-winning Swedish actress, was certainly encouraging. But, despite the fact that people keep saying how amazingly gifted Lara is, she is so useless that you end up wondering if they are being sarcastic.
We first see her in an East London gym, where she loses a kick-boxing match. She then goes on a bike race around the city, a race she concludes by crashing into a police car. And when her adventures eventually get underway, she is less like James Bond than Inspector Clouseau. In Hong Kong, she wanders around a harbour, bleating, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” She is saved from three muggers by a shotgun-toting sailor (Daniel Wu), and he immediately cracks a code that had baffled her. Some role model.
I appreciate that the Lara in this film is still a trainee tomb raider, so she has an excuse for not being the hyper-confident bad-ass played by Jolie. I also understand that this depiction is true to the game that relaunched the series in 2013. But it isn’t much fun to watch her obeying other people’s instructions, relying on other people to rescue her, and responding to danger with screams and yelps rather than snappy one-liners. Are there really so many proficient big-screen action heroines out there that we now need one who is rubbish at everything?
What’s worse is that Lara’s incompetence is her only distinctive characteristic. Actually, that’s not true. Vikander is absurdly gorgeous, so if you want to watch a muscular young beauty running around in a sweat-soaked camisole, you’ll get your money’s worth from Tomb Raider. But her personality is no more developed than that of Pac-Man or Sonic the Hedgehog.
It was Lara’s father (Dominic West) who trained her in archery and puzzle-solving as a girl, and it is her father’s occult research that inspires her as a woman, but apart from her devotion to daddy’s memory (never mind that he spent most of her childhood disappearing on mysterious expeditions), she doesn’t seem to have any interests or relationships. In the opening London scenes, there is a man in a restaurant kitchen who fancies her, and a woman in the gym who chats to her. Neither of them is ever seen again.
The rest of the film is just as undistinguished as its heroine. Leafing through The Bumper Book of Mystical McGuffins, the screenwriters have stuffed their script with references to “The Devil’s Sea” and “The Chasm of Souls” – which is what you have to do when other screenwriters have already claimed the Egyptian pyramids and the Ark of the Covenant – but the story is drab and predictable. And, yes, it’s all about Lara’s absent father. He vanished seven years earlier after he went in search of an ancient Japanese Empress’s tomb. The Empress, according to legend, had the power to kill anyone she touched, so her own generals buried her on an uncharted island. Now a sinister organisation calling itself The Order of Trinity wants to dig her up and harness her magic, which is why Lara’s dad tried to reach her first.
As well as being worryingly close to the plot of last year’s Tom Cruise debacle, The Mummy, this scenario doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. If, after all, the Empress’s generals could defeat her 2000 years ago, how much use could her powers possibly be in an age of nerve agents and nuclear weapons? The Order of Trinity might have been better off investing in internet start-ups instead.
Still, this bog-standard premise is sufficient to send Lara to a remote, jungly island, where she is captured by a bog-standard villain (Walton Goggins). And this just-about-good-enough quality runs through the film. None of the digitally-assisted stunts will make you gasp, none of the dialogue will make you laugh, none of the twists will shock you, and none of the elaborate subterranean traps will seem as fiendish as they did when Indiana Jones faced them decades ago.
The London scenes deserve credit for their contemporary, untouristy vision of the city, with glass office blocks around the corner from graffitied alleys. But once Lara washes up on the Empress’s island, the cinematographer sticks to a palette of dingy greys, greens and browns, as if he wasn’t sure whether Tomb Raider was meant to be a blockbuster or a camouflage jacket. Vikander’s earnest performance gives Lara more life and emotion than the screenplay does, but the only truly exciting thing about the film is its director’s name, Roar Uthaug.
Unlike Jolie’s Tomb Raider outings, though, this one is not an incomprehensible mess. Nor is it as terrible as Assassin’s Creed, the recent video-game adaptation starring Vikander’s husband, Michael Fassbender. It’s an efficient franchise-starter and a passable Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off. It’s competent. And while that’s not saying much, it’s more than can be said for its heroine.
The stars’ new war thriller evokes the Hollywood classic – but can it compare? Whatever one might think of Allied, a glossy World War Two espionage thriller starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as secret agents who try to forge a viable family life in the midst of a world on fire, it’s worth celebrating that Robert Zemeckis is firmly dedicated to filming flesh-and-blood people again.
Zemeckis has always been a superb craftsman, with a particular gift for assimilating technical advances in the art of moviemaking, but he lost over a decade of his creative life pursuing the sterile art of motion-capture animation, nearly getting lost in the uncanny valley for good. It’s hard to think of a major filmmaker who came so close to being ruined by technology, just as it’s hard to believe that anyone except film historians will be watching Beowulf, The Polar Express or A Christmas Carol even a decade hence.
Rather than pushing towards the future, Alliedlooks to the past, and not only in terms of its plot. The movie begins with Pitt’s Canadian spy, Max Vatan, parachuting into the Moroccan desert, and within minutes we’re in Casablanca – and, perhaps more to the point, in the film Casablanca. Max and Cotillard’s Marianne Beauséjour are highly trained agents with a deadly, top-secret mission, but that doesn’t prevent them from looking fabulous while doing so.
Allied is a movie about loyalty and trust, about the bonds that hold people together and sometimes blind them, but it’s also a movie about how silken fabrics fall on Marion Cotillard’s frame, and how dashing Brad Pitt looks in a knitted v-neck. Joanna Johnston has been Zemeckis’s costume designer for nearly three decades – and is therefore partly responsible for the person who walked by me on Halloween when I was wearing a down vest and called out, “Hey! You look like Back to the Future!” – but between this and last year’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., it feels like she’s abruptly risen to a new and dazzling level of accomplishment.
Although there’s no show-stopping set piece to rival Flight’s plane crash or The Walk’s Twin Towers tightrope act, Allied is technically immaculate from stem to stern. Every shot framed by Don Burgess feels purposeful, every one of Mick Audsley and Jeremiah O’Driscoll’s cuts precise. It’s a movie that ought to be studied in film schools, both for its technical achievements and as an example of how it’s possible to get every one of them right and still produce something that feels hollow inside.
Casablanca is driven, above all, by a call to self-sacrifice, the idea that next to the struggle against the threat of global fascism, whether one man and one woman end up together or not doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Allied is about the hill of beans. It’s set against the same backdrop, and given the alarming resurgence of neo-Nazi ideology around the world, it stops you dead the first time a swastika armband swoops in front of the lens. But Allied’s Nazis are ultimately no more frightening than Top Secret’s.
Zemeckis has always styled himself as an apolitical filmmaker, claiming that the overtly right-wing Forrest Gump was intended to poke fun at both ends of the political spectrum, but here that disdain for taking sides robs the movie of what ought to be its core conflict. Once Max and Marianne tumble into each other’s arms we’re mainly worried about whether they’ll be found out, not whether their romantic entanglement might end up getting anyone else killed. The most inventive sequence in the movie doesn’t involve spy craft or the art of war but the two characters coupling in a car in the midst of a Moroccan sandstorm, the camera circling around their increasingly unclothed bodies as the wind whips ever-faster around them.
Its classical Hollywood reference points notwithstanding, the movie Allied most resembles is Zemeckis’s What Lies Beneath, which was also a Hitchcockian genre piece motivated at heart by questions of fidelity. (There’s an intriguing overlap, too, with Mr and Mrs Smith, in which Pitt and Angelina Jolie played professional liars who could never quite be sure if their love for each other was a deep-cover con, and last year’s Jolie-directed By the Sea, which was similarly animated by the pleasures of gazing at Pitt’s body and a woman in negligees.) Here, war is hell not because good people die, but because it makes it impossible to trust even the people you think you know, and those suspicions don’t end simply because an assignment does. Allied spans countries and continents, but the world it’s concerned with feels awfully small.
The first official trailer for Fifty Shades Darker has been viewed online 114 million times in the past 24 hours, according to Universal.
The spot debuted on Sep. 14 at 8 a.m. PT, and racked up its multimillion view count across all digital platforms — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc. Within the first hour of the trailer’s debut, the trailer received more than 2.5 million views on Fifty Shades domestic Facebook page alone.
Darker was viewed 39.4 million times in North America but the majority of online views came from over 32 international markets like the U.K., Mexico and France, where the spot received 74.6 million official views.
Previously the highest performing full-length trailer was the preview for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which racked up 112 million views online in 24 hours.
The Force Awakens broke the record set by its own teaser trailer, the second to debut for the movie, which screened in April 2015 at Star Wars Celebration and amassed 88 million views in the first 24 hours.
Darker will see the return of Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in the adaptation of the second installment in E.L. James’ best-selling book series. The first film in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey, grossed over $571 million at the global box office.
In the fifth instalment of Danny Leigh’s series about modern cinema, he examines the shift in film-making brought about by digital. The Dogme 95 movie Festen, made at the tail-end of the 20th century, revealed the unavoidable future. But it still cost over a million dollars to produce.
The real revolution, beyond the liberation offered by digital cameras, was ushered in by Tarnation, which foretold society’s obsessive fascination with self-curation on a budget of $218. On another scale, Alfonso Cuarón’s beautiful and terrifying rendition of the vastness of space, Gravity, was made possible with massive processing power. Back on earth, the great Iranian director Jafar Panahi avoided the gaze of the regime that had banned him by shooting Taxi Tehran on tiny dashboard cameras. Catch up on earlier episodes Sex, Money, Death and Film, below.
Episode 1 / Film
The first episode examines how film itself is referenced in contemporary movies: beginning with Mulholland Drive, David Lynch’s sensuous, distorted dissection of Hollywood and of film itself then continuing with Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, where an actor criss-crosses Paris where each location in his odyssey becomes a strange, anarchic movie. Finally, in Joshua Oppenheimer’s extraordinary documentary The Act of Killing, Danny considers how the director relives the 1965 massacres in Indonesia. Here, the unrepentant gangsters who formed the death squads also happen to love films, so the director convinces them to restage their crimes for a ‘movie’ in order to set the record straight.
Episode 2 / Money
In the second episode, Danny looks at movie portrayals of money – and the people making it. Margin Call, starring Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, takes an insistently authentic look at the rarefied world of investment bankers in 2008, just as Wall Street is about to open up beneath them. In The Wolf of Wall Street, audiences loved Leonardo DiCaprio’s gangster-as-banker Jordan Belfort, who was “at least honest about his dishonesty”, making it Martin Scorsese’s biggest box office success. Spring Breakers features four girls desperate to head to the Florida sun, who land with James Franco’s character Alien, a “svengali, drug dealer, rapper and enthusiastic capitalist”. Is this the good life?
Episode 3 / Sex
The third episode of Film Now takes a look at sex and gender. The Hollywood sex scene’s heyday was rendered obsolete by the internet’s arrival. Away from the mainstream, arthouse auteurs reacted to online porn’s challenge – or perhaps took advantage of it. As well as being explicit, and sometimes brilliant, films like Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac were about women as seen by men, and directed by men. But, slowly, women have started to get their visions seen on-screen, and they see women differently – soaringly so in Celine Sciamma’s Paris-set Girlhood. And gender, sexuality and relationships are central to Tangerine, which portrayed trans street culture in Los Angeles and smashed conventions with both its casting choices and filming techniques.
Episode 4 / Death
The fourth episode of Film Now, Danny Leigh’s exploration of modern cinema, takes a look at approaches to death in three key 21st-century films. Directed by Paul Greengrass, United 93 was the tragic story of the only flight of the four hijacked on the morning of September 11th 2001 not to reach its intended target.
Only God Forgives was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, his follow-up to the much-loved Drive, and again starring Ryan Gosling. This time, the response was what we would politely call divided, to a movie slick with Refn’s stylised bloodshed. And at first glance, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows looks like that most mundane of things, the American suburban teenage horror movie, with a cast destined to be sliced, diced and forgotten. But it messes with every expectation.
Danny Leigh introduces the series
In film the urge is always to look ahead or behind us. In one direction there’s the giddy rush of new releases, the endless Willy Wonka conveyor belt of colourful forthcoming treats, often better in anticipation than reality. In the other there’s the weight of history, that glorious movie past, a gorgeous panorama of black-and-white filled with Monroe and Brando, Hitchcock and Citizen Kane.
What we do less is look at the moment. So I wanted to dedicate six short videos to the century of cinema so far. The 21st, sixteen years in. As well as enthralling us, movies can be a mirror. On the surface there are headlines, beneath it the stories we tell ourselves on screen, a collective subconscious bubbling up into characters and plots.
So what’s been on our minds, I wondered, in the era that began with a sigh of relief that the Millennium Bug hadn’t snuffed out civilization, and which brought us to right here. Wherever this is.
Some of the videos we’ve made are about film itself – reshaped by the rise of digital technology and filled with thrilling new talents, but still with room for Scorsese, Lynch, Lars von Trier, Kathryn Bigelow.
Most are about the place where it meets the real world. Not film as it was, or might be in the future. But about film and money, love and sex, fear and death, how we see ourselves and each other. In other words: about film now.
Training Day writer David Ayer directs this feature based on the DC Comics anti-heroes, following a secret government agency that recruits imprisoned supervillains to carry out black ops missions. An all-star cast play the rogues gallery of inmates, with Will Smith as the assassin Deadshot, Jared Leto as The Joker and Margot Robbie as his clown-faced partner Harley Quinn.
Taking its cue from Deadpool, Suicide Squad marks a change of pace from the usual comic book blockbuster, as Ayer told The New York Times. “Instead of this Soviet-style series of apartment-block movies that are all built to the same blueprints, there’s room for some Craftsman homes and a little more elegance.” After a critical panning for the most recent DC blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ayer is hoping for an adaptation in the spirit of The Magnificent Seven or The Dirty Dozen. “It’s a little morally challenged, but we know we can get away with it.” On general release from 3 August.
Southside with You
As Obama nostalgia already sets in, this take on the soon-to-be-former president’s first date with Michelle will warm the cockles of anyone fearing what might lie ahead. Writer-director Richard Tanner’s debut feature has drawn praise for its casting, with Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers going “beyond impression to deliver something real and human-sized” as the First Couple back in 1989.
According to Variety, the film “stands as something unique, even audacious in American independent movies: a fact-based presidential ‘prequel’ that seeks to present two iconic world figures as convincing and relatable romantic leads… Whether taken as storytelling, propaganda or an artful hybrid of both, it’s a movie that unabashedly wraps its real-life subjects in a humanising embrace.” Released 26 August in the US and 31 August in France.
Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s twentieth film is a more muted affair than melodramas like Talk to Her or Volver: according to Time Out, “the emotions are more buttoned-up, the twists more maudlin”. Nevertheless, it’s “a sombre, ravishing study of grief, guilt and burden… only a master of his art could make it look so easy”.
Based on three short stories by Alice Munro, it follows a mother and daughter as they struggle to cope with the death of a loved one. Almodóvar has said that “maternity inspires me more than paternity,” and The Evening Standard praises Julieta as “a harrowing examination of broken maternity and ever-present mortality”. Released 4 August in Germany and Russia and 12 August in Finland.
Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass reunite for the first time in nearly a decade: and, according to BBC Culture’s Nicholas Barber, still have viewers on the edge of their seats: “Greengrass stages the action with bone-jarring immediacy, using wobbly handheld cameras and rat-a-tat editing to make the viewer feel as if they could be hit by a stray fist or bullet at any moment.”
The fifth installment of the spy-thriller weaves in an Edward Snowdon-esque storyline a year after Bond, but avoids looking jaded by virtue of its star. Time magazine praises Damon for lifting Bourne beyond generic action, claiming that “Watching Damon, in motion or in a rare moment of rest, is the movie’s purest pleasure… Damon, his eternal boyishness finally settling into the inevitability of middle age, brings the personal touch this movie needs. Its action is generic, but he’s always special.” Released 4 August in Argentina, 5 August in India and 11 August in Germany.
Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan co-star in this drama based on a true story, playing two soldiers from the Czechoslovakian army-in-exile sent on a mission to assassinate SS officer Reinhard Heydrich. Parachuted into their occupied homeland in December 1941, they seek to eliminate the man behind the Final Solution, the Reich’s third in command behind Hitler and Himmler.
The UK-French-Czech historical thriller is directed by Sean Ellis, nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Cashback; according to Variety, “if Ellis’ intention was to remind what these real soldiers actually accomplished, as opposed to selling some revisionist Hollywood fantasy of Nazi opposition… mission accomplished”. Released 12 August in the US and 9 September in Ireland.
The latest adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ colonialist story proves it cannot be given a modern overhaul, writes critic Sam Adams.
The Legend of Tarzan, the latest big-screen version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vine-swinging he-man, is a sincere and well-intentioned attempt to wrestle with the legacy of European colonialism in Africa. It is also a movie in which a man punches a gorilla. You could say it’s at war with itself, but it’s a war involving soldiers who are never quite sure who they’re fighting, and who are as likely to slip in the mud and break their own necks as they are to get off a clean shot.
Directed by David Yates and written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, Legend would more accurately, if less economically, be called The Legend of the Legend of Tarzan. When we pick up the story in the late 19th Century, John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) is already an international folk hero, an English nobleman raised by apes and returned to his native land. As George Williams (Samuel L Jackson), an American soldier of fortune who’s come to persuade John to return to the Belgian Congo, puts it, he is “Africa’s favorite son”.
The irony of that epithet being bestowed by a black Civil War veteran is not lost on The Legend of Tarzan. And indeed, for a time, it seems as if Yates and company have a handle on how to reshape Edgar Rice Burroughs imperialist fantasy for the modern age. The opening sequence, in which a fastidious Belgian commander leads his soldiers through the jungle mists, is full of redolent images: the bodies of dead troops hung on makeshift crosses, their own rifles used as crossbars; an African tribesman starring indomitably into the lens, a colonist’s white linen hat perched incongruously atop his head.
King of nothing
Unfortunately, the imperative to produce a viable box-office entertainment trumps The Legend of Tarzan’s noble intentions at every turn. We’re cued to hiss at Rom (Christoph Waltz), the Belgian commander, whose first onscreen act is to rip an African flower from its stem, and who, in an especially rococo touch, uses a spider-silk rosary as an offensive weapon. But when tribal soldiers spring from the water beneath his feet, in the variable-speed slow motion that Yates abuses throughout, the effect makes them seem both more and less than human.
We meet kinder Africans later, the cheerful villagers who take John in after his battered body is discovered in the jungle. But it’s Jane (Margot Robbie), the white daughter of an American missionary, who nurses him back to health, and who later becomes his wife. It’s a story inextricably entwined with Europe’s relationship to ‘the dark continent’, and yet actual Africans keep getting pushed to the side.
The Legend of Tarzan has other problems, like its inability to decide whether it wants John Clayton to be James Bond or Aquaman – although it’s best when he’s Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone. This Tarzan doesn’t just speak to the animals: he commands them – the word “conquer” is used without apparent irony – eventually mustering an army of incompatible species to fend off an influx of Rom’s troops that would effectively make the entirety of the Belgian Congo a slave state.
One waits in vain for the revelation that Rom’s real surname is Blofeld. The movie’s initial feints at gritty relevance seem disingenuous, if not downright foolish, once John starts swinging from vines and conversing with crocodiles. At one point, the camera lingers on a boxcar full of elephant tusks, and later, we see another train carrying African men in chains. But then it’s on to another perfunctory chase scene, or a confrontation between Waltz’ moustachioed villain and Robbie’s defiant hostage. (Of course he takes her hostage: for all its contemporary touches, Legend’s plot could have been lifted from a silent melodrama.) These images of unfathomable atrocity are newspaper stuffed in the movie’s cracks, fresh filigree on a dull and worn garment.
At times, Yates seems desperate to jazz up the action, shooting one conversation between John and George in a series of whirlpooling shots that add nothing to the scene but a mild feeling of motion sickness. Perhaps it’s a way of compensating in advance for the movie’s action scenes, a lackluster jumble of weightless CGI and chiseled abs. (Yes, Skarskård’s sculpted torso is impressive, but it’s an unlikely physique for a man in the 1890s.) Major studio movies increasingly feel like acts of brand maintenance first and stories second, and Legend is the latest link in that worn-out chain. It’s a Tarzan movie because there have always been Tarzan movies, not because there was any compelling reason to add one more to the list.
At its core it’s the story of a white European who asserts his dominion, however benevolently, over wild African creatures: like Kipling’s The Jungle Book, it can be tinkered with, but its heart doesn’t change. Humans need stories, but the stories we need change, and sometimes old ones die out because the needs they addressed or the ideas they encompassed no longer apply. It might be time to let Tarzan vanish back into the jungle.
Emily Blunt won’t be returning for the follow-up that is set to focus on del Toro’s hitman.
Details on the sequel to Sicario – one of last year’s most underrated dramas – has begun to trickle in following its greenlight earlier this year.
Officially titled Soldado, the follow-up is moving ahead without original director Denis Villeneuve. Instead, Deadline reports that Stefano Sollima will step behind the camera. The filmmaker’s previous credits include acclaimed Italian miniseries Gomorra and gritty drama Suburra.
Casting-wise, it was previously reported that Emily Blunt would be reprising her role of idealistic FBI agent Kate Mercer. However, her decision to take on the role of Mary Poppins in Disney’s upcoming remake has officially rendered her unavailable with Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin sharing lead duties.
Their characters – hitman Alejandro Gillick and CIA Agent Matt Graves – will return in a story from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan that continues to focus on the illegal smuggling of drugs across the border between Mexico and the U.S.
While the Spanish word ‘sicario’ means ‘hitman’ in English, the translation of ‘soldado’ is ‘soldier.’ Original director Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is currently hard at work making Blade Runner 2 with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and House of Cards ‘ Robin Wright.