Sunday, June 11, 2017

TOM CRUISE'S NEW VERSION OF THE MUMMY STAYS ASLEEP

Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis in 2017's The Mummy
Since The Mummy first lurched onto the screen in 1908 there have been more than 40 film versions of the story, some good, some bad, some so-so. But probably the best was 1932's hit which starred Boris Karloff  as the Egyptian priest Imhotep returning to life and looking for his love, who he believes has been reincarnated as a Cairo woman named Helen. 
  Among Imhotep's many great pickup lines was the classic, "My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods."
Boris Karloff as The Mummy
   Sadly the latest version, starring Tom Cruise as a soldier of fortune who accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years, has no great lines and little to commend it. It has received abysmal reviews and critics have called it the worst movie of Tom Cruise's career.  Audiences have agreed and are staying away in droves leading to the unavoidable conclusion that Cruise's drawing power has dimmed considerably. While his track record is not disastrous, his movies are not raking it in the way they used to. In fact since War of the Worlds was released in 2005 only one of his non-Mission Impossible titles---2014's The Edge of Tomorrow--- has managed to cross the $100 million mark in the U.S., and that just barely.
  While Cruise is preparing for a new version of Top Gun---a remake no one is clamouring to see---- Universal Studios executives will doubtless be pondering on the fact that the Mummy, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, has failed in its mission to stir excitement and anticipation for the studio's coming cavalcade of monster movie remakes such as The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

 

Friday, May 26, 2017

DAVID LYNCH HASN'T SEEN A MOVIE IN YEARS---BUT LOVES TV CAR SHOWS.


  David Lynch is recalling a day in 1981 when, he says, he "rescued" five Woody Woodpecker toys that he saw hanging up as he drove past a petrol station.

"I screech on the brakes, I do a U-turn, go back and I buy them and I save their lives," he says seriously. "I named them Chucko, Buster,   Pete, Bob and Dan and they were my boys and they were in my office. They were my dear friends for a while but certain traits started coming out and they became not so nice."

  Looking straight ahead he says with a grim finality: "They are not in my life anymore."

   It is a story like much of his idiosyncratic work---intriguing but mysterious and with an inconclusive ending---along the lines of the thematic aesthetic dubbed "Lynchian."

  We are talking in a Beverly Hills hotel shortly before the 71-year-old filmmaker is due to leave for Cannes with the first two hours of his 18-episode return to the lumber town of Twin Peaks.

   He spent five years creating the new Twin Peaks with his co-writer and collaborator Mark Frost. "I love the world of Twin Peaks and I would think about it fondly and sometimes would wonder what people were doing and wonder about how things were left," he says. But I didn’t really think of going back into the world until Mark Frost invited me to lunch and we started talking."

   The early episodes have received decidedly mixed reviews and he says: "You don’t know what will happen until you release something into the world. It’s out of your control. So it was a big surprise that Twin Peaks traveled around the world and people really liked it. And now, going back in, the rule was to follow the ideas, be true to the ideas, do it as good as you can, and when it’s finished, you release it. And there’s nothing you can do. You just do the best job that you can."

   His body of work, containing as it does babbling dwarfs, ominous red curtains and episodes of hideous violence, has variously been described as "weird," "trippy,"  "bizarre" and "twisted, " So it is no surprise that David Lynch himself comes across as a strange and occasionally baffling man.

   Plain spoken yet inscrutable, he is something of a dichotomy: cheerful and friendly yet enigmatic and brusque at times. Much like his work, he defies a tidy description. 
  
 More of a surreal artist than a traditional movie director and writer, he also composes songs and music, has produced several albums, makes wood sculptures, has exhibited his paintings, drawings and photographs around the world, designed a nightclub in Paris and founded a coffee company.

    He says he loves cinema but goes on to say: "I have not seen anything for years and I am not really a movie buff. I love to make them, but I don’t really see a lot of films. And I don’t watch much TV except I have been watching this Velocity Channel, where they have  car shows and customise and restore cars. I have learned so much--- the metal work and the upholstery and the engine work that these guys and gals do  is thrilling to me. A lot of these people are real artists."

Friday, May 19, 2017

'LONDONER' GILLIAN ANDERSON RETURNS FOR YET ANOTHER X-FILES

with Gillian Anderson in London

 Her friends and fans were horrified when Gillian Anderson did the unthinkable.  She was a pop culture icon and one of the biggest television stars in America thanks to her role as the sceptical FBI agent Dana Scully in the landmark series The X-Files.  
   But after nine seasons she turned her back on television and Hollywood to move to London to take on smaller theatre and film projects.
   Now, 16 years and several love affairs later she has no regrets, considers herself a Londoner and is more visible than ever in a string of high profile television projects.
   She starred as a detective hunting down Jamie Dornan's serial killer in The Fall, had a recurring role as Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist in Hannibal, starred in the series Crisis, is now portraying the Goddess of Media in the new series American Gods and is preparing to return for yet another X-Files series, almost 25 years after it first hit the screens.
  When we talk in London's May Fair hotel suite the 48-year-old actress is walking with the aid of a crutch.  
With X-Files  partner David Duchovny
   "I fractured my foot jumping into a swimming pool in Costa Rica that was too shallow but I'll be OK," she says with a faint smile. "It could have been a lot worse."
    She expects to be fully recovered for the next season of American Gods and for her return to the X-Files in the eleventh series of the sci-fi adventure,  although she admits she knows very little about it yet.   
  "It’s really us taking the opportunity to maybe bring closure to the story," she says. "I didn’t really feel like the end of the last season we did was a place for us to finish because we ended up doing less than we had intended to. So there was a lot of consideration about whether it was something that we could improve on and in the end we agreed that we would like to have one more go at it.
  "We know that the fans are still there. I think the surprising thing is that there are new fans--- a whole other generation of fans who discovered it and I'm still surprised to be met by 13 years olds who are talking about how they have seen all the episodes or they just started watching a year ago and can’t wait for the new season. I guess it means  it has a longevity beyond what we had ever imagined."
 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

REVIEW KING ARTHUR? NO THANKS! TOO BAD!

Charlie Hunnam as a Cockney King Arthur
  A few days ago I was asked by a national newspaper in England to write a review of Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, which I had seen in New York. 
  Although I'm reluctant to turn down work I refused this commission because I hated the movie so much. Writing a bad review doesn't usually bother me but in this case I thought perhaps I was at fault and had misjudged the movie because the audience I saw it with cheered, clapped and seemed to love it.
Guy Ritchie: I didn't tell him what I thought
  But now other reviews have come out and most critics disliked it as much as I did. So although I feel vindicated in my judgment, I am also kicking myself for not having had the courage of my convictions and written what I thought.   
 What I particularly disliked were Ritchie's manic cutting; the continual battles, some for no obvious reason; the Cockney crew surrounding Charlie Hunnam's King Arthur. And Hunnam himself.
 
   Here are some of the reviews, with which I totally agree:

   “Ritchie and his regular editor James Herbert cut up the action scenes with the desperation of the life of the party who’s secretly afraid to go home to his empty apartment,” writes TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde. “‘King Arthur’ seems constantly panicked that the audience’s attention span won’t last another second, so each moment is a frenzy of sight and sound (particularly Daniel Pemberton’s emphatically percussive score), and the ultimate effect is more exhausting than exhilarating,” he added.

  And Evan Saathoff, Birth.Movies.Death:

“If you have problems with ‘Refusal of the Call’ heroes, this movie is going to be rough for you. Hunnam’s Arthur has no interest in the sword and yanks it only at the end of another. It takes him almost the entire movie to wield it because it gets into his brain and makes him relive his parents’ deaths whenever he tries. (You will see Arthur’s mom get killed more than in all the Batman movies combined.) Even when the film is near its final act, he’s throwing the thing away.”

And Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:
 
“Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ values style and cool over everything else, and the results, which are handsome but trite, reflect that. At least the ‘Sherlock’s had extremely charismatic lead performances from Robert Downey Jr.; despite his rugged features, a sweet shearling vest, and a physique that would make a crossfit model jealous, Charlie Hunnam isn’t in Downey’s league, and his legion of ten or so sidekicks have maybe three personality traits between them.”
 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

COMING SOON: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS....AND A GLUT OF AGATHA CHRISTIE

On the Stamboul Station set of Murder on the Orient Express
    I recently spent a day on the set of the new Murder on the Orient Express movie and another day seeing an extended clip from the film and talking with the director and star Kenneth Branagh and some of the cast.
   It is the first of a series of Agatha Christie works being given a fresh lease of life now her estate has signed off on new TV and film adaptations 40 years after her death. 
   Murder on the Orient Express was previously filmed in 1974 and starred Albert Finney as the famed detective Hercule Poirot. But Kenneth Branagh, sporting a huge moustache as Poirot, has given the story some new characters and fresh twists. 
  The Oscar-nominated actor describes Christie's work as "dark, mysterious and compelling."
  He says of his dual roles as director and star: "What I found with this was that there was absolutely relentless, remorseless demand every day. Every time you did something difficult, there was something else difficult to come along, although it’s not brain surgery difficult, it’s pretty labor intensive, and boy did I feel it."
  But, he adds, "I'd love it if we could make some more films based on her books."
  The movie has a star-studded cast which, as well as Branagh, includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Derek Jacobi. 

A multi-million pound deal with Agatha Christie's estate has created the opportunity for younger audiences to see her work, with four films in the pipeline
 There will also be a seven-programme series on the BBC and another adaptation of Hercule Poirot.
Previously Christie's estate have closely guarded the author's work, keen only to consider the 'right' offers.
 However, Hilary Strong, chief executive of Agatha Christie Limited, said it was the 'natural time for these stories to be retold for a new generation of people.'
 The Miss Marple author, who died aged 85 in 1976, wrote 66 crime novels with her play the Mousetrap is famously the world's longest running play.
  Film and TV versions of her work may be forthcoming, but a biographical film is another matter.
Christie's estate are not interested in placing her life on screen and have declined to commission biopics.
Both Alicia Vikander and Emma Stone had been rumoured to be in the running to play the author at different stages of her life, but it seems fans may have to wait until they see her story played out. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

SIX YOUNG PERFORMERS ON THE HIGH SEAS AND HEADING FOR THE TOP

 On the few cruises I have been on I've never been impressed with the entertainment. Lounge singers, second rate comedians and even the occasional magician have all left me cold.
  But on a Mediterranean cruise on the maiden voyage of the new Silversea ship Silver Muse this spring I saw a show that turns the accepted norm of cruise ship entertainment on its head with a vibrancy, joie de vivre and originality rarely seen in a show designed to cater for all tastes.
with Marisa (left) and Kate
   Las Vegas could learn from The Voices of Silversea, a team of three guys and three girls who were chosen Monkees-style and put together after answering advertisements and auditioning in London. Multi-talented singers, dancers and entertainers from a variety of backgrounds, their sheer enthusiasm and obvious love of what they do make for memorable evenings, even for jaded veteran cruisers. 
   Amazingly, they only had a month to rehearse all their routines for a series of different shows which feature costume changes, imaginative set designs and special visual effects,
   With the exception of Mary McElree and Johnny Lee, who are both from Dallas, none of the others--Marisa Nelson from Minneapolis, Josh Eflin from Washington DC, Kevin Fagan from Dublin and Kate Rotheroe--- knew each other and, says Kate: "We got to know each other very quickly and we all get along so well."
   Kate, from the Isle of Man, is a trained opera singer and has performed throughout Europe. She was in Belgium when she got the call to audition for the Voices of Silversea and although her singing talent instantly ensured her a place in the team---"only the most musically insensitive or cloth-eared could find her coloratura anything less than stunning" wrote one critic---her dancing was not of such high quality.
  "I couldn't dance when I joined and I had to learn as I went along,." she laughs. One would never know now as all the routines gell seamlessly.
   The six performers are all on six month contracts. And after that?
   "Who knows? Anything could happen," says Kate.   
   It's a safe bet the world will be hearing more of them.


Friday, March 31, 2017

SEQUELS, SCIENCE-FICTION AND PLENTY OF ACTION---WHAT WE'LL SEE AT THE MOVIES THIS SUMMER

  Many of the movies we can expect to see in theaters later this year have been unveiled for the first time in Las Vegas over five dizzying days. 
  I came back from the CinemaCon convention reeling from the onslaught of movies, star appearances, presentations, parties and non-stop hype as studio executives talk up their forthcoming movies. 
  Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Cara Delevigne, Anthony Hopkins, Mila Kunis, Matt Damon, Tom Holland, Jessica Chastain and many more were on hand to help push their movies. 
   Although I didn't see every studios' reels---that would be too much for any sane person---I got a good idea of what to expect
Matt Damon and George Clooney at CinemaCon
from this summer and autumn's upcoming movies, many of which are sequels (such as Transformers 5!). Very few of the movie clips I saw, apart from animations, didn't have guns, car chases, action, violence and, of course, NOISE. One of the few exceptions was Molly's Game starring Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, who ran the nation's most celebrated----and celebrity-filled-undergrad poker game.

   Some of the most promising footage belonged to Matt Damon, who stars in Suburbicon, which was directed by George Clooney and in which he portrays the widower of a woman at the centre of a life-insurance fraud investigation, and in Downsizing, about people who volunteer to be shrunk to miniature size in order to afford a more luxurious lifestyle--- a mansion the size of a doll's house can be had on the cheap. 
  Dwayne Johnson was there, entering through the crowd accompanied by swimsuit-clad beauties to introduce the stars of the new Baywatch movie, whom he dubbed "The Avengers of the beach---Team Baywatch."

  So....plenty of action, plenty of science-fiction and more than a few sequels. Happy cinemagoing!