New Star Wars Characters Revealed by Vanity Fair!

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It’s always an exciting time in the run up to a new episode in the Star Wars saga and that excitement was dialled up today with the reveal of a fantastic and exclusive gallery of photos by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

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As well as action shots of familiar characters, staged portraits and behind the scenes glimpses, the photos reveal characters new to the saga, including those played by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, who portray Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and “the shifty ‘DJ'” respectively.

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Head over here to Vanity Fair to see the full stunning gallery, and get ready for December 13th when Star Wars: The Last Jedi explodes into cinemas worldwide.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer Swings In!

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Marvel have just dropped a brand new trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming and while there isn’t much left to say about how excited we are here at Out Of Dave’s Head towers for this film, the trailer really rocks.

Perfectly capturing the feel of the original Spider-Man comics, light, breezy and with a distinctly friendly neighbourhood feel (Spidey won’t be dealing with giant, planet-threatening villains), let’s hope this film is really a case of third time’s the charm for everyone’s favourite webhead!

Let us know your thoughts on this: are you excited by this latest reboot or are you all webbed out?

Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into cinemas on July 7th.

Twin Peaks: The Return – Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride!

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Writing a review of the first two episodes of Twin Peaks, or Twin Peaks: The Return, if you will, is a difficult task for a number of reasons.

Firstly, reviewing any David Lynch production is tantamount to trying to explain a night of fractured dreams to someone using only the art of mime. No amount of wild gesticulation can adequately communicate so much that’s based on symbolism and mood. Lynch’s tales come complete with codes to be deciphered and visuals and sound that defy narrative description but stain themselves onto the viewer’s psyche like blood on a carpet.

Secondly, these first two episodes are part of what Lynch sees as one eighteen hour long movie broadcast across consecutive weeks, so trying to make sense of the overall narative arc now is an impossibility. Especially given the Lynchian parameters as mentioned above.

What I can say is that it is both the Twin Peaks longtime viewers have come to love (or loathe) and yet it isn’t.

Familiar characters are introduced leisurely across episodes one and two (and “leisurely” is a word I’ll come back to), particularly in regards to Agent Dale Cooper still being stuck in The Black Lodge after twenty five years, but we’re also thrown into the deep end with a bunch of new characters – a young man in New York city watching a strange glass box, a principal in Buckhorn, South Dakota who may or may not be responsible for the brutal killing of his school librarian.

These new locales (and the vastly enlarged cast, including Matthew Lillard, Ashley Judd and Jennifer Jason Leigh in episodes one and two) open up the canvas of the series, giving a much more expansive feel to events. How Lynch will tie all these together with the more familiar surroundings of Twin Peaks (the town) is anyone’s guess. Or maybe he simply won’t.

Lynch moves everything along at a deliberate, leisurely pace, sometimes wonderfully frustratingly so. The episodes feel like absolutely nothing else on TV right now and that is a complete joy. The thought of spending another sixteen hours being amused, mystified, frustrated, amazed and horrified makes me give a big Cooper-like thumbs up to see how television drama has evolved to a point where an idiosyncratic master of dreamscape storytelling like Lynch can be afforded the opportunity to unfurl his tale in exactly the way he wants, at the pace he wants, without the horror of network executive notes telling him to hurry things along because he might lose those viewers not up for the journey.

Massive bouquets of blue roses should be showered upon Showtime for giving Lynch the room to breathe that modern cinema seems to have lost the possibilty of doing.

If you love his work, Twin Peaks: The Return will be like mainlining pure David Lynch. If you’ve resisted his unusual charms then this might not be the show for you. If you’re a complete newbie, then you’re in for an experience like nothing you’ll have seen on TV before: treading the gossamer line between dream and nightmare.

Either way, load up with pie, donuts and coffee, buy the ticket and take the ride. Who knows where Lynch and Twin Peaks will take us!? But I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange…

Alien: Covenant – Look On My Works And Despair!

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When Ridley Scott returned to the Alien franchise with Prometheus in 2012 hopes were high that the venerated director would give audiences the kind of scares associated with his original 1979 classic. What we got instead was a disjointed meditation on creation with a group of characters whose actions often seemed more alien than the series’ title creature.

During production of Alien: Covenant word of mouth suggested that Scott and the production team had taken onboard complaints that Prometheus had strayed too far from the formula and that this time… this time… we would see our beloved xenomorph restored to its full, chest-bursting glory.

Picking up ten years after we last saw Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender (as Dr Elizabeth Shaw and David) wander off into deep space to find mankind’s creators, we focus now on the crew of the colony ship, Covenant, heading for a remote planet, Origae-6, with two-thousand colonists and a thousand embryos on-board, monitored by an upgraded android resembling the earlier David, named Walter (also played by Fassbender).

Of course things go wrong on the mission and the ship is soon taking a detour to investigate a human signal coming from an alien planet – seemingly also ripe for colonisation.

Before you can say “In space, no one can hear you scream” the landing party runs into further trouble and for a while the film seems to be leading us along a familiar path with new forms of alien creatures, the neomorphs, making short work of everyone.

Then Fassbender’s David reappears and the film lurches into gothic Hammer horror territory. This might seem like an intriguing diversion but while Covenant IS more of a horror movie than Prometheus, Scott and his writers appear to have lost all interest in the alien. The real monster here is David, serving as Victor Frankenstein to the now dethroned star of the franchise.

Events reach a climax on the planet and the survivors return to the Covenant for a bizarre and utterly shoehorned in final fifteen minutes which attempts to recreate elements of both Scott’s 1979 original and James Cameron’s equally loved 1986 sequel, Aliens.

I have too much respect for Scott to suggest that Covenant’s Reader’s Digest abridged-version finale was a studio-dictated necessity but that is, sadly, exactly what it feels like. Events are rushed through and more crew members are dispatched with such rapidity that it would be easy to miss the true (and highly effective) horror enacted by David in the film’s final moments.

There are two movies struggling against each other, the attempted return to the scary roots of the franchise and the story Scott and co. are really interested in, that of David and Walter and the struggle with what they are, where they come from and their quest to find answers among the stars – which provide some of the most interesting moments of Covenant. Sadly, these two movies fail to cohere and we’re left with a story that satisfies neither requirement.

Scott is far too good a director for Covenant to be a disaster: there’s lots to enjoy and admire and there are moments of beauty, of intrigue and of genuine horror (and also, sadly, of unintentional humour… the baby alien raising its arms to copy David is a series low point). Unfortunately the ambition to turn the franchise into something of wider philosophical concerns dilutes the simple funhouse horror of the central creature, leaving him somewhat toothless and the film itself oddly schizophrenic.

Rare Grooves – The Green Slime

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Welcome to the latest in an occasional series of articles where I’ll be looking at the songs that have graced some of my favourite films through the years. Of course, since this is OODH, it’s unlikely I’ll be tackling anything from Grease or The Little Mermaid (fabulous as the Ashman & Menken tunes were in the latter).

The Green Slime is a truly wild piece of space opera which, like the previous entry in this series, The Last Dinosaur, was an American/Japanese co-production, here between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Toei. MGM provided the funding and script while Toei provided the film crew and location to shoot the film. In fact a third country was involved, as the storyline originated in Italy and was supposed to be part of Antonio Margheriti’s Gamma One tv movie series.

The script was written by William Finger (the co-creator, arguably the creator, of huge swathes of what we now recognise as the Batman mythos), Tom Rowe and Charles Sinclair from a story by co-producer Ivan Reiner. The film was shot in Japan with a Japanese director and film crew, but a non-Japanese cast of Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel and Luciana Paluzzi.

The plot sees a group of scientists sent into space to destroy an asteroid on collison course with Earth. They return from their mission to the asteroid with an unwanted guest, a glowing piece of space fungus which mutates and multiplies into the screeching, tentacled green slime monsters of the title.

It’s camp, goofy and madly entertaining, and never less than breathlessly directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who also made the seminal Battles Without Honor and Humanity film series (1973-74) and the controversial Battle Royale (2000).

The music score was written by Toshiaki Tsushima, but Charles Fox re-scored much of the film for its release in United States. Fox, of course, was co-composer (along with Norman Gimbel) of Grammy winning hit song Killing Me Softly With His Song, and created the famous theme tune for Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman TV series (“In your satin tights, fighting for your rights…”).

And it’s the theme song for The Green Slime which brings us here today. Written by Fox and produced, arranged & performed by surf music pioneer Richard Delvy, the song gives us outré lyrics such as:

“What can it be; what is the reason?
Is this the end to all the seasons?
Is this just something in your head?
Would you believe it when you’re dead?
You’ll believe it when you find
something screaming across your mind …green slime!”

Once heard, never forgotten, this song will worm its way into your psyche like… well… green slime. Enjoy!

 

Blade Runner 2049 Trailer is A Thing of Beauty

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Considering I once thought of Blade Runner 2049 as being on top of my ‘Most Unnecessary Sequels Ever’ list I’m amazed this film has become one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and the brand new trailer has only ramped up that anticipation.

One of the most enticing aspects promised by the trailer (and everything else we’ve seen from the film so far) is that, while it’s obviously set in the same world as executive producer Ridley Scott’s 1982 original, it already very much feels like its own thing.

This possibly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since director Denis Villeneuve has displayed such a strong voice in films like Sicario and Arrival, but it’s heartening to have it confirmed that this won’t be a soulless retread.

It’s also worth pointing out just how beautiful Blade Runner 2049 is looking, and cinematographer Roger Deakins is certainly earning his pay. This baby is going to be eye-wateringly stunning on the big screen.

Released on October 16th, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, along with Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto (no, wait… come back…), Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davies and Edward James Olmos.

Hopefully you’re as buzzed by this as I am…

Guardians 2 – Galaxy 0 – Gunn Scores Again!

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When James Gunn hit with the original Guardians of the Galaxy, back in 2014, the film took many by surprise. For those of us who had been following both Marvel’s careful universe-building gameplan (up to that point) and Gunn’s career – starting with his days at Troma, through projects such as PG-Porn and onto the low to mid-budget gems, Super and Slither, the tone of Guardians was less of a surprise. More surprising, perhaps, was the fact that so much of Gunn’s off-kilter sensibility shone through the Marvel house style.

Happily, that sensibility has been allowed full reign for the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, perfectly encapsulated by the opening sequence which involves the already in-situ Guardians battling a tentacled space beast accompanied by the glorious harmonies of E.L.O.’s Mr. Blue Sky. Gunn being Gunn, the focus of the battle is kept to the background while we follow Baby Groot dancing along to Jeff Lynne’s most famous tune.

It’s this kind of oddball choice that gives both volumes their charm, and that’s added to by a cast now fitting snugly into their roles. Chris Pratt, Zoe Salanda, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Karen Gillan are all clearly having a ball, and Michael Rooker and Pom Klementieff grab their expanded and new roles respectively with relish.

The stand out star of Vol 2 for me however, was Dave Bautista. His Drax is an immensly likeable character and Bautista kills every single line and beat with expert comic timing. Vol 2 has several great laugh out loud moments and Bautista is at the heart of many of them.

Newcomers (to the MCU) Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone provide welcome gravitas and there are several fun and surprising cameos for both casual viewers and Marvel geeks (like me). Russell in particular plays well against Pratt and it’s something of a clash of the charmers whenever they share screentime.

Vol 2 is bold in style and is easily Marvel’s most colourful production to date – in fact the film generally resembles a particularly fine LSD trip, with shining rainbow colours splashed around gleefully. It’s a welcome expansion to Marvel’s usual colour palette, and one which the forthcoming Thor Ragnarok looks set to continue.

Also welcome is the greater emphasis on family relationships – a theme layered across several different sets of characters and one which even manages to colour the McGuffin that drives the plot. If this McGuffin feels a little underwhelming at first (even though it involves the end of the galaxy as we know it) a little reflection reveals surprising depth at the ostensible villain’s plans (I’m being deliberately circumspect here to avoid spoilers).

This emphasis makes for quite an emotional ride too, and you shouldn’t be surprised if your heartstrings aren’t well and truly tugged upon by the film’s climax.

If Vol 2 outstays its welcome by ten minutes or so, and wanders a little too amiably here and there (hello, extended sojourn on the Ravagers’ ship), that’s a small price to pay to spend two hours in the company of such superb characters. Honestly, I’d happily spend two hours with Drax, just revelling in his blunt as a brick one-liners.

This e-number fuelled adventure is a full on funhouse ride and as much of a good time as can be had without losing your underwear, and Gunn has definitely hit two for two. Bring on the promised Vol 3, I say.

*** Oh, and in the tradition of Marvel’s post-credit scenes, Vol 2 features no less than five, and viewers are advised to stay until the very, very end…

BREATHE! Star Wars – The Last Jedi Trailer Is Here!

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As expected, the teaser trailer for Episode 8 – The Last Jedi dropped just now at the Star Wars Celebration and, well, here it is…

It’s very Luke and Rey-centric, and it’s more of an atmosphere piece than anything. But there’s some cool looking stuff in there – possibly nothing that will convert a non-fan to Jedi-ism but, hey, you know Disney’s money is already in the bank, right!?

Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi opens on December 15th, 2017 and very possibly three quarters of the world will go to see it.

Thor: Ragnarok Wins Battle of the Led Zeppelin Trailers!

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In the last week or so we’ve been treated to two trailers for forthcoming big, studio tentpole movies, both of which rely on the trusty wailing, axe slashery (as in guitars, though there are plenty of real axes in the trailers themselves) and drum pounding of the mighty Led Zeppelin!

First out of the gate came Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, accompanied by Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (from the Zepp’s 1969 debut album). It’s all very blokey and muddy and grey with a bunch of Ritchie’s usual tics (speed ramping, etc) and ultimately, for me at least, didn’t feel in any way unique (and it has some very big boots to fill against John Boorman’s mad and operatic, Excalibur). The Arthur story appears to have been given the Game of Thrones/Sherlock Holmes treatment and if you’re up for that, then I guess I know where you’ll be spending your movie cash this summer.

Next up comes Taika Waititi’s first crack at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, well, take a look for yourself:

The Thor films have frequently felt like the poor relations of the Marvel movies, neither quite reaching the targets they were aiming for (though I still find them both very enjoyable… Dark World in particular only really misses its mark due to the now frequent Marvel trope of the underdeveloped villain, with poor Christopher Eccleston doing his best under heavy make up).

A trailer is no proof of the finished product, of course, but judging from what we see here Marvel have let the Flight of the Conchords/What We Do In The Shadows director have his head of steam.

Already we see something lighter, brighter and far more cosmically ‘out there’ than the previous entries in this franchise, and certainly allowing Chris Hemsworth’s comedy chops to shine is a stroke of genius. Plus of course, there’s *that* guest appearance… it’s no trade secret that Thor: Ragnarok borrows from a certain set of well- loved stories from the comic books and the sight of those two characters (I’ll avoid spoilers here in case you’re the only person on the planet unaware of this) facing off against each other is just too delicious. Additionally, everyone knows Jeff Golblum automatically improves any movie he’s in.

Finally, we have the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III. Now you might want to subtract a point or two after the song’s spellbinding use in the trailer for David Fincher’s slightly less spellbinding The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but really that would feel somewhat churlish in light of its perfect use here.

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

If this official synopsis above for Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t get you vibed (along with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2), well, there’s always King Arthur for you to look forward to. I’ll be gleefully diving into Waititi’s gloriously colourful immigrant song…

Justice League Come Together In New Trailer

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Aaaaand so the new trailer drops for Justice League and what do we have…?

Well, it all looks very Zack Snyder (your mileage may vary… mine is getting shorter every time he releases anything), there’s a little humour, some REALLY dreadful CGI (hello, Cyborg) and a lot of crunchy guitar wailing, courtesy of Aerosmith’s cover of Come Together (Come Together, y’see… because the Justice League… well, they come together and… oh, never mind…).

Suicide Squad has left my impressions of the DC Extended Universe at absolute ground zero (if I’m kind) and while I have some hopes for Wonder Woman’s solo outing this team effort is going to need a lot more pizzazz than I’m seeing here to get my panties wet.

Justice League opens November 16 and it’s looking unlikely I’ll be any more excited for it by then.