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.
With the tedious inevitability of an unloved season (there’s one for long time Bond fans), No Time To Die, the 25th film in the James Bond franchise, has seen its November release pushed back for a second time.
Originally slated to release back in April, the final outing for Daniel Craig’s secret agent will now see the light of day on April 21st, 2021, just over a year later. Maybe.
MGM, Eon Productions and Universal were determined to make the November release, but it’s likely the solid but not spectacular box office take of Warner Bros.’ Tenet, along with the ongoing worldwide problems at the hands of Covid-19, have convinced the studios that Bond would need to cool his heels.
“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of No Time To Die, the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience. We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing No Time To Die next year,” says the official statement.
Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow had already delayed their early October and early November releases, respectively, so this latest delay is frustrating but not really surprising. Expect Dune to follow suit shortly and shift from its current Christmas Day release slot.
2020 is destined to be a terrible year for cinemas, so let’s hope things begin to improve in the new year…
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.
The trailer for WandaVision, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe series to hit Disney Plus dropped last night, and it looks like things are about to get mighty strange…
Not much is known about the plot for WandaVision, but it does apparently take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which saw The Vision meet his synthetic maker (that can’t possibly be a spoiler for anyone now, right!?). That in itself makes this show intriguing, to say the least.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles from the Marvel movies, joined by Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, Randall Park, and Kathryn Hahn, while the six episodes have been written by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman.
No date was given for the release of the series, just a generic ‘Coming Soon,’ though since the series was originally supposed to drop in December, following Falcon And the Winter Soldier (which has been delayed in production due to that all-encompassing Covid-19), it now looks like WandaVision will kick off the Disney Plus Marvel bandwagon.
We’ll just have to wait and see when exactly this slice of Marvel weirdness will arrive on our screens, but this trailer certainly has me looking forward to it…
I have to be honest, I’m a little obsessed with Tatiana Maslany. It’s her teeth. They are, and I’ll brook no argument on this, the sexiest teeth on television.
That aside, the fact that Marvel have landed Maslany for the title role in their new She-Hulk series for Disney Plus is excellent news, because her performances in BBC America show, Orphan Black, were fabulous. Maslany was nominated for three Emmys and a Golden Globe during the show’s run between 2013 and 2017, winning the Emmy for best actress in a drama series in 2016.
She-Hulk, to those who are behind on their Marvel Comics’ lore, is the alter-ego of lawyer Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin who, at least in her four-colour origin, is tranformed into an intelligent, green-skinned giant after a life-saving blood transfusion from her (in)famous relative. Mark Ruffalo has coyly intimated he may even reprise his role as Banner for a cameo on the show.
She-Hulk’s debut on the screen is shaping up nicely, as Maslany’s casting joins the announcement from earlier this week that Kat Coiro had been signed as director and executive producer. She will direct the pilot and additional episodes of the series. Jessica Gao is writing the series and serves as executive producer and showrunner.
Coiro has directed shows including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Dead To Me, while Gao has Rick and Morty on her resume, which suggest She-Hulk might follow the frequently semi-comedic tone taken by the best of the character’s comic book appearances (star artist/writer John Byrne produced a memorable run in the 80s, with Shulkie, as she’s affectionately known, frequently breaking the fourth wall to address readers).
She-Hulk, with a currently unknown release date, will join other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows on Disney Plus, including Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Loki, with Hawkeye, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel also in development.
We’ll bring you more news as it hits.
Tatiana Maslany photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Director of Warner Bros.’ forthcoming reboot of The Batman, Matt Reeves has revealed the first look at incoming Bruce Wayne, Robert Pattinson, in costume as the Dark Knight…
The short, atmospheric video is part of a camera test for the film, so this may not be the final costume, but there’s no doubt that Pattinson looks good in the cape and cowl.
The cast for The Batman also includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as Riddler, Colin Farrell as the Penguin, John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and Peter Sarsgaard in an as-yet unrevealed role.
The Batman hits our screens on June 25, 2021.
UPDATE: Apparently that IS the Bat Suit and also the music is from Michael Giacchino, who’s scoring the film. That makes this clip a whole lot more intriguing.
Hey, anyone interested in seeing the trailer for the new James Bond film, No Time To Die?
There’s a lot riding on this, as not only is it Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as 007 (like, 99.99999999% probably), but after the critical drubbing handed out to the previous film, Spectre, fans are hoping that Craig will bow out on a high note for the long-running series.
Director Cary Fukunaga, infamously replacing Trainspotting’s Danny Boyle – who bowed out after disagreeing with producers on the direction of the script – also has a lot on his plate with this. He’s had a pretty acclaimed run as director up to this point (True Detective season one, Beasts Of No Nation, etc), so he’ll be hoping this won’t be The Spy Who Killed Him.
It’s an interesting one even further behind the scenes too, as it will be the first Bond film distributed internationally by Universal Pictures, following the expiration of Columbia Pictures’ contract after Spectre. I’m sure the studio will be crossing their fingers for a successful debut.
So, y’know, no pressure on this being a Bond barnstormer. That being said, this trailer seriously kicks all the ass; it looks beautiful, the action (of course) looks amazing and there’s even the strong suggestion of a great storyline.
No Time To Die also stars Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright and Léa Seydoux reprising their roles from previous films, along with newcomers Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah and Billy Magnussen. And yes, as revealed here, Christoph Waltz is returning as Blofeld.
The film is currently scheduled for theatrical release on 2 April 2020 in the United Kingdom and on 8 April in the United States.
Things have been relatively quiet on the Marvel front post-Endgame/Far From Home, but now you can get your Marvel geek on again with the Black Widow teaser trailer…
…that looks like a whole bunch of fun.
Scarlet Johansson and Rachel Weisz are always good value, Florence Pugh is increasingly on my radar after Midsommar and, honestly, who doesn’t want to see David Harbour squeeze his dad bod into the Red Guardian’s costume (straight out of the comics, natch)!?
I’m sure we’ll be getting a more expansive trailer closer to the film’s May release, but honestly, I’m sold already.
Black Widow moves us fully into the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four on May 1st, 2020 and I am all here for it.
If I tell you that the first episode of The Mandalorian – the new high profile, live action Star Wars series helping to launch the Disney + channel – is simple, I trust you’ll understand that I’m complimenting it.
Set five years after the fall of the Empire, as seen in Return of the Jedi, the extremely straightforward storyline of this premiere episode follows the adventures of a Mandalorian bounty hunter (played by Pedro Pascal, though so far he remains firmly under the helmet) hired to round up or exterminate a mark. And for the first 38 minutes, that’s pretty much it.
Carl Weathers crops up, as does (in a much-ballyhooed, sublime piece of casting) existential German film director, Werner Herzog, who appears to be having a blast in his role, plus we meet (sort of) Nick Nolte and Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit). It’s a heckuva cast for what amounts to a little spaghetti western in space.
What you really want to know is: does it feel like Star Wars? Yes, it does, and it feels like exactly what I had hoped for, Star Wars without the Skywalkers, or Jedi, or the Force (at least so far), and what a lot of fun it is. The Mandalorian comes across as if show creator Jon Favreau and pilot director Dave Filoni are just kicking back and enjoying themselves in the Star Wars universe. They even manage to throw in a deep-cut gag taken from the infamously reviled Star Wars Holiday Special TV show from 1978.
The Mandalorian looks and sounds totally Star Wars too, with some really top notch VFX and creature FX (many of which, I’m overjoyed to say, are practical). Whoever thought we’d live to see a weekly Star Wars TV series with movie level special effects? Not this kid who saw the original movie more than twenty times at the cinema in 1977 and 1978, that’s for sure.
There’s no great human drama, so far, but we get a lot of world-building in just over half an hour (with no necessary Star Wars knowledge needed, but plenty of nods to fans), events are set neatly in place and some intriguing threads are left dangling. We’re offered just enough of what might make the title character of interest (he’s a bounty hunter with a heart of gold), but the main point here is to make us want to come back for more. And if the showrunners can ensure this level of pure enjoyment for the next seven episodes then that won’t be a problem.
Simply put, The Mandalorian is uncomplicated fun.
So… Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Ken Loach and Marvel movies.
A lot of people have been asking me if I’m angry at the disparaging comments from these revered directors, about Marvel films not being “cinema”, seeing as I’m such a fan of the studio’s output.
And my response to this? Well, actually… not in the slightest.
I mean look, these three directors have made some genuinely amazing movies between them, undeniable classics of cinema, including Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Kes and I, Daniel Blake.
Scorsese, Coppola and Loach have worked long and hard in the film industry and produced an incredible body of work and now they’re all of a certain age and they’re perfectly entitled to their opinions, no matter how grouchy.
But those opinions don’t affect my love for what I consider to be far more than just churned-out fare from the Hollywood factory. I think the Marvel movies, some fair, some good and some downright amazing, constitute a bold, incredible experiment in long-form narrative, told with passion and love for the source material by creators who care about making the best in escapist entertainment.
I don’t want all movies to be Marvel movies, but they have a place in the world that fits just fine with my sensibilities (and clearly those of many others). Of course I recognise that they are part of the larger corporate design, but that doesn’t mean the creatives aren’t doing their best work within that environment.
And if I have some criticism of what Scorsese et al. are saying, it’s that it all feels a little churlish to undermine that work. Frankly, it just makes the three of them a little diminished in my eyes, a little lacking in class to throw unnecessary shade across the bow of the efforts of fellow industry creatives.
But beyond that, what they’ve said doesn’t affect me, it shouldn’t affect you, and it doesn’t change what I love about Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange or The Avengers. It also doesn’t change what I love about Casino, The Conversation and Cathy Come Home.
If these three old masters want to define “cinema” in such narrow terms, well good for them, they’ve more than earned the right.
For me, however, cinema is a broad and wonderful church, from the smallest, most personal stories, to huge, archetypal tales of soaring wonder, and everything in-between.
Cinema is whatever each of us wants it to be.
– Dave King, Editor In Chief, is a multi-hyphenate, which sounds rude but isn’t. He is an animation director-producer-writer-lecturer-bon viveur whose work has been seen in books, newspapers, magazines, comics, TV and web series, commercials, music videos and documentaries.
He is also an Englishman in Norway, which means he drinks from the skulls of his enemies but lifts his little finger while doing so.