There’s a lot to love about Matt Reeves’ take on The Batman.
The character’s introduction is one of the best onscreen portrayals of him yet, as we see how two years of dwelling in the shadows has bred fear into the criminals of Gotham, with some chilling shots of them staring into dark alleyways, fearful of what will emerge. And there is a fresh arc to the Batman’s role in Gotham, evident by the end of the film, a take on the character we haven’t really seen highlighted for some time. Gratifyingly, it’s an arc earned both plot-wise and emotionally.
His relationship with Jeffrey Wright’s excellent Jim Gordon (though really, when isn’t Wright excellent…!?) is a highlight, though doesn’t pay off as satisfyingly as we might expect. Perhaps they’re saving that for the inevitable (and bluntly teased) sequels.
And finally, after decades of being ignored in the various cinematic versions of Batman, ‘the World’s Greatest Detective’ (as he’s known in comic books) takes to the screen, and very welcome he is (albeit set against a typically convoluted film noir plot).
Noir is a major touchstone here, and Jake Gittes would be at home in Reeves’ Gotham as much as he was in Polanski’s Chinatown (I almost expected someone to pull Gordon aside and say “Forget it, Jim, it’s Gotham”).
The other influences are strong: Scorsese’s Taxi Driver weighs heavily on Pattinson’s Batman/Wayne, and Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac loom close at hand in numerous ways, while the dynamic between Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Batman here could easily be traced back to Sutherland and Fonda’s in Pakula’s Klute. Meanwhile, comic book series such as Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween also make their presences keenly felt (Zoe Kravitz’s winning take on Kyle/Catwoman has its DNA placed firmly in the former).
These textures make for a far more refreshing version of the character than I was expecting, and while the distinctly non-frenetic pace is to be applauded, a tighter edit could easily have trimmed fifteen to twenty minutes from the bloated three hour running time without any detraction from the overall film.
While Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne occasionally veers a little too close to being a moody emo boy under his floppy locks, he nevertheless brings a fine vulnerability to the role, gifting the character with liberal (*cough*) doses of white guilt and a couple of touching revelatory moments for both of his alter-egos. Happily, the actor/director/studio choice not to make Wayne growl absurdly as Batman pays dividends, as that has been too much of a diversion in recent iterations of the character.
The film’s main villain never feels quite as present or chilling as he should be. Despite some truly grisly crimes he tends to get a little lost in the story’s mass of convolutions, and his final confrontation with Batman ultimately suffers when compared to, and yes, that is an elephant in the room, Ledger’s Joker. Indeed, The Batman is unable to escape from the long shadows cast by the far-too-recent Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy (or, to a far lesser extent, the Snyder Batfleck efforts), and perhaps expects audiences to have moved on too quickly from that cultural juggernaut. It’s a sure bet that Reeves’ outing with the Caped Crusader would have felt fresher with a little more distance from those films.
Having said that, Reeves should be applauded for his almost stoic anti-blockbuster approach, deftly juggling elements of noir, horror, and mystery, for resolutely refusing to spoon fed audiences yet another version of the Batman origin story, and for leaving the character in a place that bodes well for his next outing.
Though maybe next time Reeves could bring some sharper scissors to the edit suite.
Hours after finishing The Beatles: Get Back and I’m still buzzing from it. Ignore anyone who says it’s too long because, well… they’re wrong.
As the Fab Four attempt to overcome their reluctance to perform in front of an audience, Get Back was conceived as an early multimedia production; while they put together the songs for a new album, a camera crew films for a documentary which will culminate in their first live show in two years. They have roughly three weeks to create the songs and rehearse them for the show, then Ringo Starr is off to make a movie. So, no pressure. Well, except the internal band pressures that were growing steadily between them all.
With TikTok and short attention span visuals becoming the norm, the documentary series is that much-treasured beast: long form storytellng that demands, and repays, your investment. It simultaneously blows apart and reinforces received wisdom of this period in the band’s history: in many ways they’re at their lowest ebb, musically and personally, yet gradually the sheer joy of creating and playing together is rediscovered. Challenging long-held views of this period – not least of which by the band themselves – even during the pain, there was much laughter and spontaneous creativity, it’s revelatory to see.
Director Peter Jackson luxuriates in the utterly necessary time it takes to show the ebb and flow of this journey, anything less would diminish it. Yes, the first part is slow, and frequently agonizing, as this was the nadir, and the band’s (first) break-up is both understandable and desperately sad. These aren’t people who hate each other, they’ve just lost the means to communicate. The Beatles, icons, shown in the most fractured, human light.
And even the slower first part contains moments of astonishingly casual beauty: at one point, waiting for a seemingly perpetually late John Lennon to arrive, and with the band on the verge of desperation to bring in new material, engineer Glyn Johns is hanging out at the piano with Paul McCartney and asks him: “So, have you written any new stuff (over the weekend)?”
“Well, I’ve got this…” McCartney replies and starts noodling out the beginning of arguably one of the most well-known songs in musical history – The Long And Winding Road. It’s a moment of sublime exhilaration, one which moved me to tears.
Through moments of tedium, the humour, love and alchemy created by these four uniquely talented individuals reemerge. The pay-off, both in the creation of these sessions and for the viewer, is of course the legendary concert high above London, on the roof of the Apple Records building.
Seeing a band, who just days before had barely finished a single satisfactory version of a song, suddenly rip through nine miraculously together takes of five songs, looking at the sheer enjoyment on their faces, becomes an extended sequence of pure euphoria. It’s also heartbreaking to know this would be the last time they would perform in public, with music that was urgent and fresh, and far along the creative path that saw them explode the horizons of popular music.
The reconstruction and restoration of the footage, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the 1970 film, Let It Be, is breathtaking, making vast improvements to the original quite dour look, and filling in some necessary gaps in the narrative as creatively – if not always unobtrusively – as possible.
The Beatles: Get Back is a phenomenal look at the creative process and a privileged glimpse into cultural history that feels like it was filmed yesterday.
– Dave King
The DC FanDome online event has just dropped the second trailer for Matt Reeves’ forthcoming film, The Batman.
Starring Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, this latest trailer reveals much more of Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and Colin Farrell as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot, A.K.A The Penguin. Still held back from all but the briefest view is the film’s chief villain, Paul Dano’s The Riddler.
In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.
Reeves has promised that this iteration of the DC Comics character will place a greater emphasis on his detective skills, though since this trailer mainly focuses on action beats, we’ll have to wait and see if that bears out.
Originally set for release on June 25, 2021, the pandemic saw that date come and go, and The Batman will now emerge from the Bat-Cave into cinemas in March, 2022.
EDIT: Director Reeves released a higher quality res version via his Vimeo account:
Time weighs heavily on James Bond in Daniel Craig’s final outing.
No Time To Die, the 25th film in the beloved James Bond franchise, had quite the tortuous road to cinemas, as reported in several posts here on Out Of Dave’s Head: the hiring and departure of director and writer Danny Boyle and John Hodge, replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga and long-time Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade (with the later addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and then the little matter of a worldwide pandemic, saw Bond 25 shift from it’s original release date of November 2019 several times until it’s eventual release this week.
So it’s pleasing to report that the finished production shows little of the troubled path taken by its long development. No Time To Die is a fine addition to the long-running series, and a superb send-off for the Daniel Craig era.
Opening with the first ever flashback sequence seen in a Bond film, the first indication of time’s conceptual importance here and the closest Bond has ever come to horror, the story then shifts to pick up almost where the previous entry, Spectre, left off: with Bond and Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann driving off into the sunset for a life of bliss. But fate (and the scriptwriters) have other plans for the couple as both of their pasts catch up with them in a fantastic action sequence through the streets of Maltera, Italy.
Five years later and Bond and Swann are in very different places, but the past refuses to die, bringing together a plot to eradicate large portions of the population of the world, with many of the characters who have featured in Craig’s Bond’s narrative, from Casino Royale onwards.
The film is not without its faults, the twin villain strands detract from each other, leaving Rami Malek’s terrorist Lyutsifer Safin curiously underdeveloped, the editing often feels like sequences have been cut too short (particularly affecting Malek’s character in the climax), and Lashana Lynch’s much heralded new 007, Nomi, is something of a characterless let-down and a creative dead end.
But No Time To Die is excitingly directed by Fukungawa, with some genuinely breathtaking sequences and it all moves at a great pace (despite a little wavering in the middle third). The film’s secret weapon, Ana de Armas, is a delight and a joy, playing against the character’s initial impression to become one of the highlights in a sequence set in Cuba that manages to be both a throwback to the classic Bond elements of charm and style while simultaneously updating those elements with humour and panache. The campaign for her character, Paloma, to get her own spin-off movie, officially starts here!
Everything leads towards an ending which, though somewhat messy in execution, has a huge emotional pay-off, something that hasn’t really been achieved in a Bond film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in 1969. It’s a massively bold choice for Bond and one for which the makers should be applauded. To say I was in tears would be an understatement.
Mention of George Lazenby’s only outing as Ian Fleming’s character is entirely appropriate, as that film is quite deliberately echoed both in one of the film’s thematic conceits and indeed in reprising John Barry’s song, We Have All The Time In The World. Long time Bond fans will appreciate the callback and newbies will immediately recognise the weight it gives to No Time To Die‘s story.
Craig’s Tom Ford boots are going to be difficult to fill, as both he and the producers caught the zeitgeist, with Craig playing against the archetype to make Bond a deeper, richer and more human character. His unconventionally handsome, rock-face features and pugnacious interpretation of Bond will be greatly missed. But his time in the role has been rightly celebrated in his imperfect but courageous final outing, proving that the Bond franchise still has the ability to surprise, after all this time.
Following the film’s emotional denouement, it was indeed something of a relief, for those of us who stayed in the cinema to watch the credits roll, to read the familiar final caption: James Bond Will Return.
Godzilla vs Kong – come for the monsters, forget about the humans.
The important point first: Legendary’s Monsterverse mash-up is a HUGE amount of fun. The storyline is enjoyable, and while scrupulously avoiding spoilers, I’m happy to announce that the monster action is bug nuts crazy. And there is a LOT of action, and there are a LOT of monsters.
Kong and Godzilla are the final remaining apex predators among Earth’s titans, so the stage is set very simply to bring the two into conflict. And those conflicts will absolutely not disappoint: huge, ear-shattering, eye-popping battles that really deserve to be seen on the biggest possible screen, with the best sound system you can find.
Then there’s the plot. Well, that’s gossamer thin but a heap of fun too, pure sci-fi pulp, involving the search for a power source that ties together threads from previous entries in the franchise.
So that’s the good news. The bad news is the human protagonists: the Team Kong gang (Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle) are written almost entirely without character, very nearly complete blanks. But at least they carry their section of the plot by sheer force of likeability, thanks to the actors. The real problem comes with Team Godzilla.
A returning Millie Bobby Brown is pretty much wasted (particularly so considering the easy shorthand she should have provided from our previous encounter with her character), while her partners-in-exposition, Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison, are two of the most absurdly irritating, charm free zones to grace the screen in quite a while, whose every attempt at humour falls resoundingly flat. I felt them derailing the film every time they appeared, which thankfully isn’t too often. Demián Bichir props up part of the plot reasonably but not memorably, while Kyle Chandler pops in and out briefly without affecting much of anything. They’re all shockingly poorly written, so let’s quickly move on…
Without a doubt, the strongest characters are the title stars; Godzilla takes more of a secondary role, but that works effectively in providing a suitable threat to Kong, whose arc here builds on the mythology in a curiously compelling way.
I had a great time with Godzilla vs Kong – particularly in the climax, as the titans go to town on each other in a neon-drenched Hong Kong, a quite beautiful sequence of which director Adam Wingard can be rightly proud. But it does feel like this should probably be the, mostly satisfying, conclusion to the Monsterverse.
You’ll enjoy yourself as much as I did if you go in knowing this is ALL about the monsters.
At the big Disney Investor show today the company launched a massive wave of new Star Wars projects – cinema features and TV series for their Disney + service.
Due to its success on Disney + The Mandalorian will gain two spin-off shows: Rangers of the New Republic, and Ahsoka, which will see Rosario Dawson reprise her Jedi character (first seen in animated form during The Clone Wars series), both set in the same timeline as the show that launched them. The Mandalorian will, naturally, receive a third season.
Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy also announced Andor, starring Diego Luna’s Rebel character Cassian Andor, in a spin-off from the film, Rogue One. You can now see the sizzle reel for this show, starring the character we know will ultimately meet his fate retrieving the plans for the Empire’s Death Star:
The Acolyte will be a mystery-thriller from Leslye Headland “that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era”; Lando, is a new event series in early development from Justin Simien, writer/creator of Dear White People (with no announcement yet whether this will star either Billy Dee Williams or Donald Glover, who have played the character in other live-action Star Wars films); Star Wars: Visions, will be an original series of short films from Japanese anime creators coming in 2021.
Droids will be an animated adventure featuring C3PO and R2D2. Kennedy said, “This epic journey will introduce is to new hero guided by our most iconic duo… on a secret mission known only to them. What could possibly go wrong?”
The Bad Batch is a new animated series from The Mandalorian’s co-creator, Dave Filoni, who says the show “follows in the immediate aftermath of the Clone War. Members of Bad Batch — a unique squad of clones who vary genetically from their brothers in the Clone Army — each possess a singular exceptional skill which makes them extraordinarily effective soldiers and a formidable crew. In the post-Clone War era, they will take on daring mercenary missions as they struggle to stay afloat and find new purpose.” No release date for this was given, but we do have a sizzle reel to share with you:
Finally, on the Disney + front, it was announced that Hayden Christensen will reprise his role from the Prequel Trilogy as Darth Vader, for the Obi-Wan Kenobi event series starring Ewan McGregor. The series will be set 10 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, as the Jedi is in hiding and Vader comes to terms with his greatest loss:
Back in the dark of the cinema, JoJo Rabbit and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, fresh off his stint helming multiple episodes of The Mandalorian, will helm his first Star Wars feature film. Waititi has completed his script and locations are being scouted. No further details were forthcoming, but this can’t be seen as anything except exciting.
Rian Johnson’s previously trumpeted new trilogy of Star Wars films failed to make an appearance in the new round of announcements, so it remains to be seen where those films stand beyond the recent news that their release had been bumped back to 2023, ’25 and ’27. Frankly, typing these far-off dates makes me examine my own mortality.
Finally, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, will helm a feature film of Rogue Squadron:
Even the most cynical among us will find this announcement video from Jenkins rather touching:
And that, folks, is all the brand Star Wars news. Basically, between everything here, plus the Marvel, Pixar and Disney announcements, the Mouse House will pretty much own our entertainment needs for at least the next decade or so. As to whether or not that’s a good thing, I’ll let you argue among yourselves.
But one thing is for sure, The Force will be with us for a long time to come…
2020 has been the first year in a decade not to see any Marvel theatrical releases. While I’m certain I don’t need to explain why that is, the news from today’s Disney Investors meetings should keep fans of the studio’s output very happy. Buckle up, because this is quite a ride…
A slew of new releases will begin on January 15th, as WandaVision becomes the first Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series, crossing over onto Disney +. Here’s the new trailer for this extremely exciting looking show, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Paris and Kat Dennings:
Following that on the same channel, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, starring Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp and Wyatt Russell, will arrive on March 19th. Marvel dropped a brand new trailer for this:
The first trailer also arrived for the Loki series, starring Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief, Owen Wilson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw:
And finally we have a sizzle reel, including the first snippets of footage, for the as-yet undated Ms. Marvel, starring Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms.Marvel:
Also announced and/or confirmed without release dates, were forthcomng series Hawkeye, seeing Jeremy Renner reprise his role, alongside Hailee Steinfeld as comic book favourite, Kate Bishop, and She-Hulk, with Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Tim Roth returning as the Abomination and an appearance from Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo.
Meanwhile, What If…? and I Am Groot will see animated adventures on the channel, and just announced at the last minute: James Gunn will write and direct The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, for an unannounced date in 2022, and the same year will see Don Cheadle in his own series as James Rhodes, in an adaptation of a famous Iron Man comic book storyline, Armor Wars.
Looking further ahead to shows in development, Moon Knight will get his own series (apparently with Oscar Issac in the title role, as a bizarre and complex vigilante), Samuel L Jackon’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull, Talos from Captain Marvel, team for Secret Invasion (another comic book series, which saw the shape-shifting Skrulls infiltrate the Marvel heroes on Earth), and finally, Dominique Thorne will play genius inventor Riri Williams in Ironheart, a series about the creator of the most advanced suit of armor since Iron Man.
The long-delayed Black Widow movie will finally be released, to cinemas according to Marvel Studios’ head honcho, Kevin Feige, on November 6th, 2021. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has now completed production and will be in theaters July 9th, 2021.
Christian Bale is confirmed to be joining the cast of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder, released May 6th, 2022.
Meanwhile, Brie Larson returns as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel 2 on November 11th, 2022, directed by Nia DaCosta. Joining the cast are recently announced Ms. Marvel, Iman Vellani, and Monica Rambeau played by WandaVision’s Teyonah Parris.
Peyton Reed is back to direct the third Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer all return. Kathryn Newton joins the cast as Cassie Lang and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. No release date was given for this yet.
Although news on Black Panther 2 was somewhat understandably slim, Feige confirmed that T’Challa, as played by the late Chadwick Boseman, will not be recast.
And, as if all this wasn’t breathtaking enough for Marvel fans, Feige announced that Jon Watts (director of the MCU Spider-Man films) will bring Marvel’s First Family (created by Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby, in 1961), Fantastic Four to the screen at last, thanks to the all-powerful Disney returning the characters to their rightful home in the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox. There have been two previous screen versions of these characters through Fox (including a rights grabbing abomination, infamously directed by Josh Trank in 2015), but fans of the Four have longed to see them integrated into the MCU, and now that will happen.
2020 may have been a quiet period for Marvel fans, but it’s safe to say the studio will be back with a bang in 2021.
Arriving almost stealthily but just in time to prove 2020 isn’t all bad, The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix is a riveting story of loss, genius, addiction and chess.
Smartly and economically written, gorgeously designed and shot, and with an excellent score (by Carlos Rafael Rivera) the series however, is owned lock, stock and barrel by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Emma).
The actor plays orphan Beth Harmon and the seven episodes detail her meteoric rise through the world chess rankings. Director/writer Scott Frank (Godless) makes full use of Taylor-Joy’s eyes throughout, which seem to sometimes threaten to burn right through the screen. It’s a frequently astonishing performance, one that starts from those eyes and manifests a dark and fascinating inner life for her character. This was clearly a rather special collaboration between the two.
Based on a 1983 thriller novel by Walter Tevis (who also wrote The Hustler, The Colour of Money and The Man Who Fell To Earth), the story moves forward propulsively but never less than thoughtfully and also highlights a complicated but tender relationship between Beth and her adoptive mother, played by Marielle Heller.
The cast is uniformly good, featuring superb turns from the likes of Isla Johnston (as young Beth), Bill Camp (the care home janitor who spark’s Beth’s nascent talent) and Moses Ingram (as Beth’s closest friend, a character we should definitely have seen more of in the narrative).
But this is Taylor-Joy’s show and a great showcase for the young actor. Frank and Taylor-Joy give us a fascinating, magnetic character in Beth, and mostly avoid making her talent magical by highlighting her obsessive and destructive traits.
The Queen’s Gambit feels very much like a piece of classic Hollywood storytelling, yet rises above that with a cool boldness that feels utterly compelling.
The series brings a wonderful, stylish slice of viewing joy (sorry, not sorry) to a pretty awful year.
The music video has been released for Billie Eilish singing the theme song from the forthcoming 25th entry in the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die.
While the song was originally released back in February, the official music video has been held back until now, due to the film’s Covid-19 related delay.
Now, with the film hitting cinemas in just a few short weeks (you can view the latest trailer here), we can see Eilish being sultry all over clips from the film, highlighting the troubled relationship between Bond and Dr. Madeleine Swann.
No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing in the tailored Tom Ford suits as 007, directed by Cary Joi Fukunaga from a screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with a score by Hans Zimmer, and co-starring Léa Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Lashana Lynch and Rami Malek, will be with us on 12 November (in the UK and Australia) and the 20th November (for the USA).
Deadline just dropped the news that Marvel have found their Kamala Khan, AKA Ms. Marvel. Newcomer Iman Vellani will play the character in a new series for Disney Plus.
Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book.
The new series for the streaming channel will be written by Bisha K. Ali and centers on Khan, a Pakistani-American teen based in New Jersey. It will mark Vellani’s first big role in the film and television industry.
The news follows on swiftly from the recent announcement that Tatiana Maslany has been cast in the title role of a She-Hulk series, and this week’s announcement that the studio is developing a Nick Fury series, to star Samuel L. Jackson.
We’ll bring you more word on Ms. Marvel as the show moves into production, but this is exciting news for fans of the character.