DeNiro, Pacino, Pesci, Scorsese, The Irishman – Watch This Now

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With that list of names above you are going to watch this immediately, right? Okay, let’s do it…

There have been plenty of event movies to get excited about this year, but arguably none more so than The Irishman.

Based on the non-fiction novel, I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt, this adaptation sees the reuniting of one of the greatest directors ever with some of the greatest actors of our time, in a milieu in which they’re all extremely comfortable, the gangster movie.

The titular Irishman (played by DeNiro) is, as you can guess from the trailer, a hitman working for the mob, and it probably won’t surprise you that nefarious deeds are afoot with the involvement of Pacino’s union leader, Jimmy Hoffa. And I don’t need to tell you what happened to him, right?

Netflix originally green-lit Scorsese’s hugely anticipated new movie at $130 million, but the budget escalated to $200 million because of the complicated and unprecedented amount of CGI de-ageing process on the actors (seen here working impressively on DeNiro).

Let’s face it, after that trailer, I could be writing my grocery list here, but let’s all reconvene to talk about its brilliance when Netflix release The Irishman this autumn.

Is it autumn yet…?

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“Please Won’t You Be My Neighbor…?” Tom Hanks Clears Shelf Space For His Next Oscar

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There’s really not much to say here, except: Tom Hanks, Mister Rogers, next year’s Oscar winner. Here’s your trailer (get your tissues ready):

If you’ve seen Morgan Neville’s documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighboryou’ll already be on board with this film. If not, you should prepare your heartstrings to be tugged by A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Tom Hanks playing one of America’s great cultural icons frankly seems like a sure bet for Oscar nomination, and if it turns out to be as heartwarming as this trailer (spoiler alert: it will be), then we’re in for something quite lovely, and probably rather needed, given the times in which we’re currently living.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, starring America’s nicest human being ™ , Tom Hanks, and directed by Marielle Heller (Diary Of A Teenage Girl), opens November 22. That gives Mr Hanks three months to prepare shelf space…

Rocketman Sparkles And Soars But Doesn’t Dig Deep Enough

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Elton John is one of the world’s most famous rock stars and this authorised account of the singer’s life and career (with Elton and his husband, David Furnish, serving as executive producer and producer, respectively) begins on the usual biopic trope of the comeback concert, but immediately takes an intriguing turn as the narrative style weaves an inventive path with the equally standard flashbacks.

Rocketman wears its themes (the need for love, self-acceptance) on its attractively garish sleeve like the lyrics of a Taupin/John song, and that’s no denigration as the film is exciting and emotional from start to end. It shuffles both time, story and songs like a Spotify playlist, and works all the better for it, allowing the visuals and the many well-loved songs to tell much of the story, instead of the usual, oftentimes trite biopic dialogue.

And in speaking of trite dialogue, it’s worth mentioning the similarities between this film and 2019’s other big rock biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody: iconic gay rock stars who emerge, chrysalis-like from ‘umble, workin’ class backgrounds to become hedonistic stars of the 1970s and facing the challenges of falls from grace before life-affirming, triumphal returns to public and creative favour, despite the pitfalls of predatory rock and roll managers and all manner of troubled love lives. Plus of course, both were directed by Dexter Fletcher. Mostly anyway.

There is a world of difference between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, which Fletcher came onboard to complete after the removal/departure of original director, Bryan Singer. That film felt felt like the compromised vision it was in every sense of the word (and featured some of the most atrocious editing seen in a major feature since, well, probably one of the last Transformers movies).

Rocketman instead feels like the work of a more singular voice, one with a vibrant visual flair. I don’t know whether Fletcher was deliberately referencing the late British bad boy auteur, Ken Russell (which would be apt considering the links between Russell and Elton John), but his direction here is frequently redolent of the great man’s work – inventive, bombastic and florid, but capable of finding the quieter, emotional moments.

One of the big draws to the story here is the love and friendship between John and long- time lyricist, Bernie Taupin (a winning performance from the always reliable Jamie Bell). Brave enough to show much of their relationship as unrequited love on Elton’s behalf, including a lovely sequence set to Tiny Dancer (which still doesn’t transcend the song’s sublime use in Almost Famous, but comes close) and a scene where the singer finishes composing Your Song as a ballad to his friend was beautifully direct. A tear or two may have been shed.

It was also good to see Elton’s sex-life not shied away from, though I’m sure many would suggest it didn’t go far enough (an element I feel sure Russell would have insisted on handling more boldly).

But the whirlwind, jukebox tour of Elton’s life comes at a cost.  Despite the hugely impressive performance by Taron Egerton (and it really is superb), we never quite seem to reach deep enough beneath his skin to make the part fully resonate. Although, for example, the script and performance show a kindness towards his ill-fated marriage to Renate Blauel, we’re never allowed to truly feel the indignity such a union must have been for both of them. So although the film excels at showing us why Elton is such a highly regarded artist, it doesn’t succeed so fully in showing us the man behind the artistry.

I was happy the film didn’t fall back on giving us a huge, uplifting comeback finale (that comes a little earlier, with the recreation of the I’m Still Standing video) of the dishonest kind provided by the Queen film, but I suspect many would have left the cinema waiting for that last, big triumphant number.

On that note however, I side with Fletcher, who’s penning a smarter tune here than on the film he was brought in to rescue, and leaves us with a more satisfying and engaging production, despite its flaws.

And while you might leave the cinema still not fully knowing the man behind the spectacles and wondering if Elton had any fun at all after his initial rise to fame, the fantastical, fantasy sequences and greater visual fluency makes this film the clear winner of the 2019 Dexter Fletcher musical biopics.

Get Ready For Your Head To Explode. Here’s Part Of Phase Four Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe!

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Marvel Studios are back at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con, and as expected, Kevin Feige has been onstage (after officially confirming Avengers: Endgame as the biggest film of all time – sorry Avatar) to announce the next slate of movies we’ll all be getting excited about and buying tickets at the box office for years to come.

First up, on November 6th 2020, will be The Eternals, a huge cosmic adventure featuring more characters created by the great Jack Kirby! Alongside Richard Madden, Bryan Tyree Henry, Don Lee and Kumail Nanjiani, Marvel have landed the big guns of Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie to star in director Chloe Zhao’s first epic.

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan then took to the stage to discuss their upcoming limited series for the new Disney Plus channel, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will also feature Daniel Bruhl reprising his role as Baron Zemo, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Next up on the movie front, we’ll see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The film will finally introduce the real villainy of  arch bad guy The Mandarin (as opposed to Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3), to be played by screen legend, Tony Leung. The title role of Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, is taken by Simu Liu (best known for appearing in the TV series, Kim’s Convenience). Awkwafina also stars in the film, which will be released on February 12th 2021 (that’s a great birthday present for me) and be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen then came out to promote WandaVision, their limited series for Disney Plus in spring 2021, which will see the Scarlet Witch and Vision in adventures taking place after Avengers: Endgame.

Tom Hiddleston also appeared to announce his Loki mini-series, also for Disney Plus (I guess we’ll all be subscribing to this channel…), also in spring 2021.

Excitingly for yours truly, director Scott Derrickson then came out to announce the fabulously-titled, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (take that, the days of just adding a 2 to the title), which will cast its spell in cinemas May 7th, 2021. “We’re going to make the first scary MCU film,” said Derrickson, making this Doctor Strange fan positively salivate!  The sequel will feature Elizabeth Olsen, as Scarlet Witch teams up with Doctor Strange and it will follow on from the events in the WandaVision series. That subscription just became even more unmissable!

The always wonderful Jeffery Wright came out to announce he would be the voice of The Watcher in What If…?, the first animated series in the MCU, with many actors from across the MCU reprising their roles as voice talent. Streaming exclusively on Disney Plus, in the summer of 2021.

Also for Disney Plus (oh, just take my subscription money already), Jeremy Renner will reprise his role as the Avengers’ ace archer in a Hawkeye series, which it was confirmed will feature the character of Kate Bishop from the comics and also look at more of Hawkeye’s time as Ronin.

The Cinematic Universe gets another fabulous title with Thor – Love and Thunder, reuniting Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, and directed again by Taika Waititi. In even better news, Marvel have persuaded Natalie Portman to return as Jane Foster and (as in Jason Aaron’s run of comics) she will become the female Thor! This, my friends, is going to rock and will hit our theaters, November 5, 2021.

As regular readers of this blog will be more than aware (since we broke the story of its Norwegian location filming) Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, and Rachel Weisz star in Black Widow. Directed by Cate Shortland, the film lands in theaters May 1, 2020. “I’m looking to wipe out some of that red in my ledger,” said Johansson, and I’m happy we’ll get the chance to see her do that at last. Footage shown at SDCC promises a very Jason Bourne feel, which I’m totally down for.

As if the announcements couldn’t get more insane, the MCU will be reintroducing Blade, the vampire slayer, as played by Academy Award winner (and huge favourite at Out of Dave’s Head), Mahershala Ali! No release date has been announced yet.

Finally, get ready for your geek heads to explode (as mine did), because alongside the likes of Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Captain Marvel 2, Feige also mentioned… New Mutants (which will presumably preclude the some way off introduction of the X-Men) and… huge drum roll for those of who’ve been clamouring for this, Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four!

Okay, so that’s everything announced for Phase Four (and the accompanying TV shows) FOR NOW (well, for the next two years)! Remember we haven’t even mentioned The Avengers or Spider-Man yet. It’s safe to say we’ll be throwing our money at Marvel forever so I’m considering some kind of neural transfer of half my earnings until retirement.

UPDATE: In the crazy rush to put this news piece together, I ascribed New Mutants to be one of the forthcoming projects from Marvel Studios. Fiege actually said “there’s no time left to talk about mutants, and how mutants fit into the MCU.”
This leaves the fate of the Fox New Mutants film up in the air, but bodes well for even more exciting news to come about Marvel’s Mutants, possibly at the forthcoming D23 even in August. Stay Tuned!

Meanwhile, courtesy of the fine folk at JoBlo.com, here’s a handy visual (including all the newly released logos) to help you keep track on the Marvel Madness…

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Engage With Some Familiar Faces In The Extended Star Trek: Picard Comic Con Trailer!

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You’re here for Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard, so let’s take a look at him before we talk more…

This extended trailer (and its shorter variant) just dropped at the San Diego Comic Con, and seems set to allay fears that the new CBS All Access show will be all about the beloved Starfleet Captain treading grapes.

Giving us a much clearer idea of where the story will be headed, and what (or rather who) will lead Jean-Luc Picard out of retirement and back into space, I find myself becoming increasingly excited for this show. The glimpses of familiar faces in the trailer certainly adds to that excitement.

As well as the very unexpected return of Brent Spiner’s Data, I’m sure we’re all happy to see Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine, plus less unexpectedly (given that character’s return) the reappearance of the villainous Borg!

Star Trek: Picard is coming early 2020, and I can’t wait for CBS to make it so!

Is There Life On Mars…? Watch The Watchmen Trailer Now!

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Okay, cards on the table, I am fully vibed for Damon Lindelof’s new Watchmen series for HBO. Watch this trailer (just dropped at San Diego Comic Con) and you should be too…

That final shot! Wow! Hands up who’s excited for the return of Dr. Manhattan?

I mean, what’s not to love here? Definitely (and thankfully) not another run through of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s iconic comic book series (Zack Snyder already gave us a perfectly good and faithful film in 2009).

Instead, seemingly a direct sequel and highly intriguing take on the world of masks and vigilantes posited in the original story, everything about this screams class: from the cast to the music – provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Here’s the official synopsis to further whet your appetite:

“Watchmen takes place in an alternative, contemporary reality in the United States, in which masked vigilantes became outlawed due to their violent methods. Despite this, some gather around in order to start a revolution while others are going out to stop it before it is too late, as a greatly wide question levitates above them all; who watches the Watchmen?”

No release date has been given yet, though rumours persist it’ll be before the end of 2019.

I trust you’ll be watching the Watchmen with me…

Christoph Waltz Back As Blofeld For Bond 25. Probably.

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In news unlikely to be a huge shock to the system of anyone paying close attention to the development of the still officially untitled Bond 25 (I’m still laying cards on Shatterhand), it seems that Christoph Waltz will break with Bond tradition by returning as arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld for Daniel Craig’s final stint behind the wheel of the Aston Martin.

Daily Mail journo (but don’t let that put you off, he’s usually pretty on the ball with Bond) Baz Bamigboye reports that a visitor to Pinewood spotted Waltz on the Bond set, only to be told by the actor, “You haven’t seen me.”

This would be an unusual move for the Bond series, which has never seen a return appearance by any actor playing Blofeld (at least one whose face is seen). But industry scuttlebutt suggests Bond’s adoptive brother (…ugh) won’t be the main villain, with that honour falling instead to Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek.

True Detective Season One’s Cary Fukunaga is directing whatever Bond 25 will be called. Did I say Shatterhand already…!?

Balanced Web-Spinner – Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Following up the successful first collaboration between Columbia/Sony and Marvel (Spider-Man: Homecoming), the cosmic hugeness of Avengers: Endgame  and the culmination of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe always promised to be a tricky task, but returning director Jon Watts and returning scriptwriters Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers have managed a pretty balanced movie that nicely answers all those demands.

Set eight months after half of humanity was restored to existence in Avengers: Endgame (now referred to as The Blip), the film wastes no time showing us some of the ramifications of this but also throws us headlong into a plot which, by necessity, has to stretch out more broadly than Homecoming’s friendly neighbourhood feel.

Terrifying giant creatures, Elementals, have seemingly crossed over into our world from another reality and, while attempting to enjoy a summer class vacation through Europe and engage with a blossoming relationship with MJ, Peter Parker is pulled into battling these monsters by a heroic newcomer, soon named Mysterio.

With Tony Stark no longer around, Mysterio becomes a mentor figure to Peter, but all is not quite as it first appears and events soon spiral out of our young hero’s control – both in and out of his webby mask.

Jake Gyllenhall’s Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) works well against Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, in an arc which nicely defines Peter coming to terms with loss, while underlining his constant struggles with responsibility from a fresh angle. And while the resolution of this arc might be one of the film’s weaker moments, there is still a great deal to savour.

In terms of character development, the high-point of the film is undoubtedly Peter and MJ’s romance. Zendaya’s MJ is a real treat; snarky, goofy and vulnerable, and I could happily watch an entire movie of her and Holland just playing off against each other.

Holland is, it almost goes without saying, a pretty much perfect Peter Parker, beautifully playing the push and pull the character feels between his heroic responsibilities and his teenage life, continuing to make him highly relatable.

The actions sequences are excellent, the climax in the centre of London is one of the best Spider-man set pieces since Spider-Man 2’s train battle ( I saw the film in 3D, which really enhanced this sequence), and the film balances action, drama and (a great deal of) humour deftly, giving it a distinct feel while still integrating it firmly into the MCU.

It’s a superb summer movie, and a lot of fun (often mischievously so), even if a certain amount of Homecoming’s down to earth charm has been sacrificed.

Do make sure you stay through the end credits, as one of the two stings brings not only a wonderful cameo (particularly for long-time Spider-Man movie fans) but a pretty seismic cliffhanger for Spider-Man’s status quo.

The best thing about the film is that it makes you want to spend more time caught up in Spider-Man’s web and in the company of these characters, so bring on Spider-Man: Home From Home, Home Run, Home Sweet Home, or even Don’t Try This At Home