Joy (David O. Russell, USA 2015)
- I’m tired of Bradley Cooper.
- I’m tired of Robert De Niro. (I think he actually retired about twenty years ago without anybody noticing. He’s just showing up now and saying, “I’m great, because I’m De Niro.”)
- I rather liked Three Kings (though admittedly I remember very little of it, so it didn’t make a huge impression on me), but I really haven’t been a fan of Russell’s much-praised work since.
- The trailer looks like this film has about a nine-act story.
- A film centered around a family’s holiday dinners. That’s what this looks like. Which I assume means it’s going to be a mean, unhappy little movie in spite of its title.
- I’m not tired of Jennifer Lawrence, but that’s really because I haven’t watched most of what she’s done. There have to be people suffering from fatigue of her by now.
Concussion (Peter Landemson, USA/Australia/UK 2015)
- You cast one of the world’s leading Scientologists to play a doctor who is yelling at people to listen to evidence. We don’t have to carry Will Smith’s personal life into his performances, but that just seems particularly odd.
- Was that really the best title you could come up with?
- The trailer was in some way very annoying. Something about the sound and the pacing just was very grating to me. And a couple people in the theater were laughing at it . . . not a good sign.
Point Break (Ericson Core, Germany/China/USA 2015)
- The idea of a remake of Point Break has been such a meme for so long that I’m shocked it took until now for someone to do it. That’s the only way I’ve ever heard of the original film.
- From what I gather, the idea is that there’s a gang of athlete-robbers and the FBI sends someone undercover to infiltrate them. That sounds like a really stupid movie waiting to happen. I guess it’s a really stupid movie that’s already happened?
The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, USA 2015)
- This was actually a really interesting idea for a trailer. It was essentially what one would assume the beginning of the film is. It’s clearly about a man going on a tour of vengeance against people who left him for dead, half-buried, after being mauled by a bear–and the trailer actually shows us the bear attack, the decision to bury him, and his rising up out of the shallow grave. I would guess that all happens in the first ten minutes of the movie. What’s interesting is that it was willing to reveal that much of the specific set-up and yet revealed essentially nothing of what the bulk of the film would be. It’s a very different strategy than usual.
- Birdman disappointed me a little, but I still find Iñárritu interesting.
- Tom Hardy appears to be the innocuous nominal lead in about 1/3 of the movies that come out while a bigger name plays the flashier villain who we’re actually going to remember.
The Forest (Jason Zada, USA 2016)
- There’s a pretty prominent video game named The Forest. If it were a book or a TV series, Hollywood wouldn’t ignore that in titling a film. But they’re so convinced that video games don’t matter that they ignore that.
- It looks like a film version of the game Passing Pineview Forest. Which is basically a walking simulator that kills you for no apparent reason if you stray from the path.
- I spent the entire trailer thinking that the lead actor looked very familiar but I couldn’t place her. Apparently her name is Natalie Dormer, and she’s never been in anything I’ve seen. Weird.
- I do feel the need to point out that, as far as I have been able to tell, there is no evidence behind any of the weird ideas about Aokigahara–the so-called “suicide forest” of Japan that is the setting for this film. While I have not done exhaustive research and a quick search did not turn up any comprehensive skeptical work on the area, my understanding has been that a popular novel included suicide in the forest in the ’50s or thereabouts and that gave a number of people the idea to follow the book. Copycats followed them. And then that made the forest “haunted,” which caused more. Nothing weird or supernatural. Just people being bandwagoners, even in suicide.
- (This is also not the first film based on Aokigahara. It hasn’t exactly been successful before.)
- Why not actually shoot in Aokigahara? If you’re going to depend on the “reality” of the location selling the film, pretend you’re actually taking on the “danger” by going there!
Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, USA 2015)
- “One thing I know for certain: ghosts are real.” I’m out.
- “Directed by Guillermo del Toro.” I’m back in.
- It looks like a standard issue haunted house movie, but del Toro once made a masterpiece, so I will probably give him the benefit of the doubt.
- The interesting weirdness of the approach that the trailer to The Revenant took is thrown into sharp relief by this trailer. It was so standard–give us snippets of story and some jump scares so we know the entire basic plot and that it’s a horror film but no particulars. And I will admit that this trailer didn’t interest me at all, while The Revenant‘s did. It’s probably good to take some chances with trailers, guys.
- Just finished re-reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It’s even better than I remembered. And I have to admit that the BBC series did hew about as close as one could have expected. It felt like it was rushing through the story, but it had to. A lot of depth was lost, but it couldn’t be saved. I think a good film version of the book could be made, but it would be best done by a trilogy of long-ish films all based around the theme of the dangers of golden age thinking. Build the entire thing around the idea that Norrell and Strange caused their own undoing by their obsession with the past, and it could work in spite of having to lose so much of the amazing depth the novel has.
- The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe had an interview with Andy Weir last week and a longer version of that interview was available for premium members like me. I’m going to add a link to the review of The Martian. When they review the film this week, I will also add a link to that. As always with science fiction, the SGU is great for breaking down the scientific (in)accuracy.