David Mitchell’s 2004 novel is one of the most bafflingly over-rated books of the last decade. Six novellas stitched together, and wanting a medal for referencing their own sub-Stoppardian structuring, it comprises pastiches of Golding/Melville, Huxley/Isherwood, 1970s Pakula, Amis, and even The Matrix; small wonder then that it’s the Wachowskis who’ve filmed it with co-writer/director Tom Twyker. But they’ve added another layer of inanity, not since Zelig have people played other races so ridiculously. February 22nd sees Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, and Ben Whishaw being racially insensitive in the service of a misguided interpretation of the novel as in thrall to metempsychosis rather than meta-textuality.
Oz: The Great and Powerful
James Franco achieves every stoner’s dream when listening to a certain synched Pink Floyd album and floats his way to Oz. Or rather to a greenscreen warehouse where Sam Raimi promised he’d CGI Oz in around his roguish Kansas magician later. The rights to Baum’s novels are out of copyright but don’t expect to see any innovations made in the classic 1939 film because it’s not out of copyright. Raimi’s not directed anything truly impressive in ages but his witches are quite a triumvirate: Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz. Incidentally did you know that Wicked is coming to Dublin in November? Go see Wicked…
Saoirse Ronan has been on a bad run of giving performances better than the film that houses them, and this looks like another example. In Time auteur Andrew Niccol adapts and directs the latest Stephenie Meyer franchise. Ronan is Melanie Stryder, whose body has been claimed by an alien but whose mind resists the parasite. Liam Hemsworth is her love interest and William Hurt and Diane Kruger are Melanie’s relatives put on the spot by her reappearance. On March 29th we’ll find out if Niccol has managed to find a method to convey the struggle of two minds in one body that is any way, shape, or form visual.
I venerate F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, and the trailers of Baz Lurhmann’s suspiciously postponed splashy film bespeak a totally disastrous adaptation. Leonardo DiCaprio is a good choice to play the enigmatic titular old sport, as is Joel Edgerton as his nemesis Tom Buchanan, but the blanker-than-thou Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway may narrate us all into a coma, while Carey Mulligan has the eternally thankless role of Daisy. Lurhmann has a remarkable inability to handle subtlety; Gatsby is not about swooping thru raucous parties and zeroing in on high camp comedy scenes. And as for the delay, ‘allegedly’ for a Jay-Z score; Aliens was scored in less than a fortnight…
The Hangover: Part III
May sees the latest instalment of the inexplicable comedy franchise spawned by a crude film with a handful of good gags and a not nearly as clever structure as it thought it had. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis this time head to Mexico. So, more racist stereotypes, idiotic cameos, and crass humour. But at least a different plot as we’re promised a character death… The Hangover is largely responsible for making Galifianakis a star, and, given how dispensable he is from Bored to Death say, that’s an awful lot to set against getting Cooper in the position where he could star in Silver Linings Playbook.
Man of Steel
On June 14th 300 director Zack Snyder will unveil his first PG-13 film deliberately scripted as such. Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Martha and Jonathan Kent are all solid casting choices, while Michael Shannon as General Zod is truly inspired. Against that Henry Cavill as Superman is a gamble. The first non-American to don the cape, he’ll struggle unless David S Goyer’s script eschews angst and that doesn’t seem likely. Maybe this’ll be the origin story we didn’t know we needed, but trying to Nolanise such an optimistic character seems like a folly.
World War Z
June 21st finally sees Brad Pitt’s UN worker try to prevent a global zombie epidemic in an adaptation of the seminal Max Brooks novel by Matthew Michael Carnahan, writer of the inert Lions for Lambs. The studio ordered massive reshoots and the third act was rewritten by Drew Goddard so we’ll see if that and the presence of Matthew Fox and David Morse can save proceedings. Director Marc Foster was handpicked by Pitt, but reports have it that they ended up communicating only by messages to a studio executive; perhaps because of small mishaps like how production started before there was an agreed make-up design for the zombies.
Guillermo Del Toro hasn’t made a film since 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Talking Movies was rather hoping he’d never make another one, and just stick to writing novels with Chuck Hogan, but somebody has relented and financed a giant aliens versus men in giant robots blockbuster. So, the last 5 minutes of Aliens but supersized and with bad CGI instead of great VFX… Oh, and clockwork. It’s great to see Rinko Kikuchi’s stellar turn in The Brothers Bloom rewarded with a leading role opposite Charlie Hunnam as the mind-melding pilots fighting the Kaiju water monsters in IMAX 3-D, but, even with Clifton Collins Jr, can this work?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
This film should have been released last year but was pushed to this year (in one of the funniest stunts ever pulled by a major studio) because Channing Tatum had some major hits just before its release and so they wanted to do some reshoots, as he died in the first act. So a Superbowl ad, warehouses full of toys, and Jon Chu’s original directorial vision be damned! Here comes a completely different G.I. Joe: Retaliation in which The Rock, Bruce Willis and Adrianne Palicki tackle Cobra’s evil Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo, Lee Byung-Hun, and Ray Park in a script from Zombieland’s writers – now with added Tatum!
The Lone Ranger
Pirates of the Caribbean shipmates Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp lurch aboard a tremendously over-budget revisionist take on the Lone Ranger character. It has the same release slot as the first POTC, August 9th, but the self-indulgence involved in this movie’s budgeting farces makes you think it’s more of a POTC 3 endeavour. Armie Hammer is the masked avenger who’ll be playing second fiddle to Depp’s super-authentic Native American tracker Tonto. Helena Bonham Carter also appears, even though Tim Burton is not directing. Mind you, Verbinski does share some traits with Burton; he also gets fixated on quirkiness and loses sight of his story and his bland heroes.
August sees District 9 writer/director Neill Blomkamp make his Hollywood debut with a sci-fi that pits the 1% in the shape of Jodie Foster against the 99% in the shape of a bald Matt Damon. Blomkamp’s South African colleague Sharlto Copley is also in the cast as is I Am Legend’s Alice Braga. This is set in a 2159 world where the poor live in overcrowded slums on Earth while the rich orbit above in an immaculate spaceship. The concept sounds not dissimilar in feel to the Total Recall remake. But that could be because this film’s been much delayed by reshoots and rescheduling; which might suggest grave studio concerns.
Alfonso Cuaron hasn’t made a film since 2006’s Children of Men, perhaps because he’s returning in October with another film which is more about its own shooting style than anything else. It’s in 3-D, it’s incredibly CGI heavy as it tries to grasp weightlessness, and the opening sequence is shot in one continuous silent 17 minute take. Sandra Bullock stars, with support from George Clooney, as astronauts who survive a catastrophic incident aboard a space station and have to find a way to return to Earth. Every actress in Hollywood seems to have been interested in this script, but not to the point of committing to it; which raises suspicions…
The 2000s were marred by two notable co-dependencies; Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott; which hurt all involved. Let us hope that poor Michael Fassbender is not getting sucked into the sinkhole that sunk Crowe’s leading man career as he reunites with his Prometheus director Scott for a drama about a lawyer getting in too deep with his drug-trafficking clients. The cast includes Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, logically enough, and Javier Bardem, also logically enough; as this is No County for Old Men novelist Cormac MacCarthy’s first original screenplay. Expect terse dialogue, stark amorality, brutal violence and no catharsis.