Black Panther – The Revolution Will Be Televised!

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You know how some days are – non-stop work, no time to think, you come home exhausted and… there’s a new trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther waiting for you. Result!

Feast your eyes on this and we’ll talk more after…

Well, that looks cool as heck, right!? Ryan Coogler’s take on the hidden nation of Wakanda is spectacular, and looks ready to open up a whole, new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with that truly amazing cast Black Panther is shaping up to be another in the increasingly refreshing run of Marvel movies led by Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

As a bonus you can ogle the lovely new poster, below.

Black Panther opens on February 16th and that date can’t arrive quickly enough.

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The New Mutants Trailer – Fox/Marvel Go Full-On Horror

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After the success Fox have had with more individual writer/director projects, Deadpool and Logan, it seems the studio is forging ahead with this gameplan, seeing Josh Boone lurch into full-on horror with The New Mutants.

It doesn’t look like there’ll be much room for blue/black and yellow leotards in the movie, coming April 13th 2018, but the film suggests it will make up for that in scares. It certainly has a different feel to the main run of X-Men movies.

With an great cast including Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and the increasingly wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), the film promises a “Stephen King meets John Hughes” vibe while bringing in the Demon Bear character from the highly regarded run of New Mutants comics by Bill Sienkiewicz and Chris Claremont.

The New Mutants becomes more intriguing the more I hear about it. What are your thoughts…?

Star Wars – The Last Jedi Trailer

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Let’s face it, I could pretty much be writing my shopping list here but you’ll be skipping past my no-doubt exciting consumer needs to take a look at the final trailer for Star Wars – The Last Jedi. Okay, off you go…

Well, there’s certainly a lot to unpack, with a great deal more of the story hinted at than in previous trailers. Personally, I’m rather excited to see what Rian Johnson has in store for us at Christmas, to the point where I’m actually rather disappointed that Disney/Lucasfilm decided to go with J J Abrams again for the final episode of this trilogy in the latest round of Hire-And-Fire-The-Director.

Will this be a simple nostalgia retread, like The Force Awakens, or will we get some real development in the saga this time? I guess we’ll see soon enough…

Star Wars – The Last Jedi opens on December 13th (at least, here in Norway, your country’s mileage may vary). Book your tickets now.

Okay, so… cereal, two pints of milk, brunost…

The Truth Is Out There… Again.

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While I found the last series of The X-Files to be somewhat hit and miss, I’m still happy to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson break out the flashlights for one more go around the FBI headquarters block, especially if, as suggested by Anderson at the New York Comic-Con today, this might be Scully’s final run.

The season eleven trailer looks like the usual mix of aliens, monsters, conspiracies and (seemingly) the end of the world as brought about by Mulder & Scully’s son. As we head into darker autumn nights and the Halloween season this all seems particularly welcome (even if the series doesn’t hit until next year).

Here’s the first trailer to whet your appetites…

 

Can They Be Heroes…? Justice League Trailer

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And so the latest (in a seemingly long, long line) of Justice League trailers hits.

Each trailer has shown a marked improvement and the greater reliance on character has been showing through more each time. What does this mean for the movie with Joss Whedon taking over after director Zack Snyder’s departure due to a terrible family loss? That remains to be seen, of course, but at least the trailers have been getting better.

Not much else to say at this point. Let’s hope Justice League can continue the rehabilitation of the DC Extended Universe after the promise shown by Wonder Woman.

More Human Than… Blade Runner 2049

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Let’s get this out of the way first: Blade Runner 2049 has not resulted in the kind of film I feared it would be when I first heard that this belated sequel would happen and thought: “That has to be the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.”

Quite the opposite, in fact. Director Denis Villeneuve, screenwriters Hampton Fancher (also partly responsible for the original) & Michael Green, executive producer Ridley Scott and their crew have offered up one of the most powerful science fiction films of the new millennium. It’s been a long time, in fact, since we’ve been given a cinematic experience as pure as this.

Set 30 years after Scott’s classic, the sequel sees a mystery set in place when Ryan Gosling’s Blade Runner retires a Replicant-in-hiding who has been guarding a secret which could change the course of the world forever.

From just that plot description it’s clear this is no mere retread of the first movie, which had a fairly contained hunter versus hunted narrative.

Villeneuve and company paint on a much broader canvas, and this time the questions seem to revolve around not what it is to be human, but what it is to be more than human. It has an utterly palpable mood of tense gloom, giving you the constant feeling that something big and awful is about to happen, but it does this by widening the scope of Scott’s world, which is quite an act to pull off.

The music (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, with plenty of nods to Vangelis) is bold and wonderful, the sound design by Theo Green and Mark Mangini is overwhelming and the cinematography by the cinematic god that is Roger Deakins is dazzling and beautiful, all of which work together to produce something that absolutely demands to be seen on the big screen. As big a screen as possible.

Gosling is great in the lead (as ‘K’), and while it’s a little difficult to go into depth on his role while avoiding spoilers, he finds just the right balance of what must have been a tricky character to get right. The rest of the cast is filled out by superb actors who know how to make the best of smaller roles, but the film really belongs to Gosling and, of course, Harrison Ford.

Ford returns as Blade Runner, Deckard, and I honestly can’t recall when I last saw him so fully engaged and fully immersed in a role. He is magnificent, Deakins’ camera loving every deep crag and crevice on his sandblasted face, and is a full-on the movie star of the old guard. I hope this is the beginning of a renaissance for the actor, because I’ve missed seeing him do great work onscreen.

There is a slight thorn in this rose, however. An unfortunate element that stands out is that the future as presented here is very much patriarchal: street-walkers roam in packs, artificial women are everywhere, as companions and toys for men, their sole aim to pleasure. And there’s a great deal of violence towards women (four female characters are brutally murdered). This troublesome theme pushes to the forefront of the story with Jared Leto’s Wallace, as he casually kills one of the synthetics his company has just given birth to. It’s a (deliberately) horrific scene, and I’m still trying to decide whether this is a deliberate part of the texturing, a barbed comment on misogyny in society and even if so, whether it was a necessary choice for the film. I’m not so sure.

I love the original with a vengeance, and while I’m glad they didn’t attempt to replicate (…sorry…) that film, what results is a somewhat colder effort than Scott’s remarkable and enduring tone poem, and only time will tell whether this will similarly work its way into my affections.

It’s rather like hearing  a new track by Led Zeppelin, riffing on one of your favourite Beatles songs, you know you’re getting something astonishing but you’re not sure if you’ll grow to love it.

However, against all the odds, Blade Runner 2049 is a towering achievement, a smart, powerful juggernaut of a movie which ultimately suggests something akin to hope for mankind. In an era of cookie cutter sequels that we’ve been given a sequel to a great movie that forges it’s own unique path is close to a miracle, which means that, much like the original, it’s a film which comments on its own premise (you’ll need to see the film to fully understand that).

Movies like this don’t come along too often and when they do we should celebrate them. Go to a cinema and experience it.

 

It’s Star Trek, Jim, But Not As We Know It – Discovery Arrives

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Star Trek: Discovery finally arrives, after troubling tales of behind the scenes problems and somewhat less-than-thrilling trailers, and I suppose the first question to ask is whether it’s the disaster many were expecting?

Happily the answer is no. The first two episodes, which dropped yesterday on CBS and the network’s CBS All Access subscription service in the U.S.A. and on Netflix almost everywhere else today, are generally exciting and well-told, with high production values and a decent cast. However, at least with the evidence at hand, it does veer away from creator Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful spirit of exploration, and this may be an issue for some.

Taking place some ten years or so before the original series’ tales of Captain Kirk and co (a point I’ll come back to later), Discovery features as its focus not the traditional Starfleet Captain (though there is one, played by Michelle Yeoh) but instead on the first officer of the USS ShenzhouMichael Burnham, as portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green.

Burnham’s parents were killed by Klingons, which resulted in her being raised by Spock’s father, Sarek, on the planet Vulcan. This becomes important in the opening episode when Burnham’s ship is the first to engage in a direct encounter with the Klingons in almost one hundred years. Needless to say, the encounter quickly goes pear-shaped and we’re treated to a pretty epic space battle, alongside some interesting twists and turns for the characters (particularly in the second episode).

Michelle Yeoh is good value, and thankfully brings more humour and emotion to her role than the stilted trailers led us to believe, Science Officer Saru, played under heavy prosthetics by the always welcome Doug Jones, is also immediately likeable. Without these two the show would definitely have been lacking the human touch, as the rest of the crew singularly fail to register anything beyond dark-haired man, red-haired woman and grizzled admiral who only appears as a hologram, etc.

Viewers should be advised there’s also a lot of Klingon grousing about purity of race and what a rum lot we humans are. With subtitles. Of course, looking at the state of the world right now, it’s difficult to disagree with their summation of mankind. Let’s hope the show gives us enough of an opposing viewpoint to feel better about ourselves as it goes on.

Jason Issacs, another actor I usually enjoy, didn’t make an appearance in the first two episodes, so we have that treat to look forward to.

My biggest problem with Discovery was with Martin-Green, who faces the tricky problem of engaging us with a human raised by the emotion-subsuming Vulcans. It’s a delicate balance pulled off marvellously over the years by the late, great Leonard Nimoy, but across the first two episodes I found that balance to be weighted in favour of some stiff-sounding line readings and an inability to connect with the character.

Martin-Green faces a difficult task, especially being the viewer’s eyes through these shenanigans, but the cliff-hanging climax to the second episode at least suggests she’ll be getting a promising arc as we move forward. Of course, some better dialogue might help too. *cough*

My second big issue comes with the show’s setting. As mentioned above, we’re rolling around a decade before Kirk and co, but everything here looks WAY more advanced than the original series. Again, this was always going to be a tough nut to crack: you either embrace the 1960s-produced vibe of the original series or you say “Screw it, no one will buy that in the age of shiny CGI” and go for a modern design ethic. The producers of Discovery have chosen the latter.

Is this a geek-only problem? Will more casual viewers give a hoot that it looks more like the new timeline-set, JJ Abrams movies (particularly in its annoying overuse of lens flare) than a prequel show? Casual viewers may not care but this decision is baffling when so much of Discovery’s Klingon Cold War setting relies on understanding its place in Star Trek’s chronology. If nothing else it smacks of indecision at best, and downright carelessness at worst. The large number of producers and executive producers listed in Discovery’s opening credit sequence may suggest an answer to this…

What is for sure is that most of Roddenberry’s idealism is gone, as Discovery has more in common with a Game of Thrones viewpoint that humans suck and war is hell than it does with discovering Tribbles and dallying with green-skinned dancing girls, while it rams home analogies about fundamentalism with all the subtlety of a Klingon punch to the face.

Finally then, Discovery shows some promise in its set-up, but it’s likely to tick-off many long-term Star Trek fans. Personally, we have endless hours of Star Trek in its various forms before this, so I’m happy enough to see the franchise try something different. However, it’s so mired in Star Trek history (while simultaneously contradicting it left, right and centre) that I’m not certain how much it will appeal to Trekkies or non-Trekkies. Which could be something of a problem.

Whether or not that different feel is enough to sustain my interest in the long run remains to be seen, or to bring in those obviously much-hoped for casual viewers, but I’m certainly intrigued enough to see what this… sorry to use the word, but… grittier take on the final frontier has to offer. I had fun for its duration, and there’s something to be said for that, plus it’s good to see Star Trek back on television, its spiritual home.

Beam me up, at least for now…

Netflix and King – 1922

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Netflix appear to be getting into the Stephen King business in a big way.

With their film of Gerald’s Game dropping this week and looking as kinky, creepy and gnarly as King’s book, the channel has now released a trailer for 1922, based on a novella taken from his 2010 collection, Full Dark, No Stars.

Starring the always watchable Thomas Jane as a farmer who manipulates his son into murdering his wfe, the Netflix film looks like it will fully embrace the ghastly goings-on as Jane’s wife (played by the equally watchable Molly Parker) comes back to torment him along with a plague of rats.

With the success of IT and these two new productions from Netflix, it’s good to see a rash of King adaptations that might just help us to forget 2017 was the year Sony made a trainwreck from The Dark Tower.

1922 arrives on Netflix on October 20.

Who Watches The Watchmen… Again?

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The news today that HBO have ordered a pilot for a new series of Watchmen, based on the comic book and graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, comes with a whole bunch of raised eyebrows.

The first question to be asked is whether or not the world needs another adaptation (if indeed that’s what this will be, rather than a continuation or expansion) of the material so soon after Zack Snyder’s somewhat underrated 2009 film (flawed but definitely with its heart in the right place and with a rather elegant solution to the climax)?

The second question concerns the creative in charge of this new iteration. Damon Lindelof arrives with a whole lot of baggage, not all of it boding well. While his show The Leftovers has garnered many fans and a great deal of acclaim, he was also partly responsible for the complete mess that was Lost and also for large chunks of the script for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which was chock full of irritating characters doing and saying stupid things. In other words, a complete mess. Again.

So the thought of Lindelof taking the comic book that Alan Moore describes as “inherently unfilmable” definitely comes with caveats. We can only hope to get a show from The Leftovers Lindelof, rather than the Prometheus Lindelof.

Allowing that this baby is going ahead regardless of (or in spite of) its creators’ blessings (Moore has been in dispute over creative ownership of Watchmen for decades), a TV show could certainly allow the concept some breathing room, possibly giving time to the Tales of The Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic that was exised from Snyder’s film. It could also, if we’re really lucky, look at the nature of storytelling in a fresh way from the approach taken in the comic and adapt that for the filmic medium.

I’ll certainly be watching this one as it progresses.

 

 

Anna and the Apocalypse – The Scottish Teenage Zombie High School Musical We’ve Been Waiting For…?

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If the above description of forthcoming movie, Anna and the Apocalypse (a Scottish, teenage zombie, high school musical for those who can’t remember anything above the header photo), doesn’t grab your attention as much as it does mine, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog. Oh, it’s also set at Christmas, but at this time I can’t confirm the involvement of either Tim Burton or Shane Black.

The film is directed by John McPhail, and stars Ella Hunt, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye and includes up-and-comers Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins and Marli Siu.

Beyond its screening at this week’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, release details seem a little sketchy, but frankly the sooner this apocalypse is released upon the world the better.