Browsing all articles from January, 2012

This list began as a kind of ‘Reasons to be cheerful’ for the year ahead. But after giving it some thought, I soon realised that the smallest flicker of optimism doesn’t stand a chance against the horrifying reality of 2012. So what do we have to look forward to? Well there’s a new series of Game of Thrones, a new Ridley Scott sci-fi film and probably some other stuff but, unfortunately, none of it stands a chance against the following. But on the bright side, if one of the predictions below comes true it won’t matter anyway…

1. Gypsy Come Dancing

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Producers kept Jeff Brazier on speed-dial

While the UK’s annual obsession with, cooking, dancing dogs and semi-talented but visually unappealing people will show no sign of abating, the real star of the televisual annum will be Gypsy Come Dancing, a TV talent contest about travellers teaming up with minor celebs and dancing for their supper (not to mention their own reality series and a Works-warming ghost-written autobiography). This will be accompanied by an ITV 2 after-show featuring a trollied Olly Murs brawling with members of the audience in a Yates Wine Lodge car park and Stacey Solomon fighting off the advances of a celebrity groper in the ‘Caravan of Love’.

2. Jurassic Renner

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‘Wait, so I’m going to be in EVERYTHING?

Did you know that out of the several hundred films being released by Hollywood this year just under half will feature Jeremy Renner? This is a marked increase of 212% on last year and suggests that by 2016 films not featuring Renner will have their own genre. It seems that Jeremy Renner, like hiring a good director, or getting a decent script, is one of the foolproof ways to improve a film’s prospects. So don’t be surprised to see more ‘Renre’ films announced throughout the year – including Blade Renner, where Jeremy Renner has to hunt down clones of himself in the future, Jeressic Park, a bit like the other example but set in the present day and featuring a green and scaly Jeremy Renner with claws and movement-based vision, and Jeremy’s Ladder where an actor playing an Iraqi war vet has nightmarish visions of the future.

3. Sporting comedown

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Exciting: The 2012 Olympics

By 2012 we will have seen every single possible athletic configuration of man and pole. Some will be lucky enough to have obtained tickets to see a man throwing a pole down a field, others will be sitting at home watching some men chasing some other men down a track with a pole. Some will even have to make do with listening to a man jumping over a pole with a bigger pole on the radio. Even though these colossal events are months away, the hype for 2012’s been building ever since Zeus invented Lucozade. But, inevitably, by the end of the year we’re going to be bored shitless of sports. Things are just not going to be that good again. Sure, we’ll have smaller athletic gatherings but they won’t be marked with a £27 million pound Danny Boyle choreographed intro featuring dancing nurses and Boris Johnson firing OAPS from the cannons of the Queen’s new state funded warship to satisfy the blood-lust of Poseidon.

4. The end of the government

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Clegg: used to love Fridays

The coalition government as we know it will no longer exist by 2013. There are already early signs of fracture: Nick Clegg being notoriously unable to handle his booze on ‘Crème du menthe Fridays’, George Osborne secretly seething every time Vince Cable puts on his Chumbawamba CD. When the dust settles, David Cameron will probably grow a beard, buy the jacket from a vagrant and use his retirement from politics to finally try and understand the underclass. Once he receives confirmation that 100% of society’s problems come from the 99%, he will then return in costume to do what he couldn’t actually do in government: beat them up with his fists. Nick Clegg will probably look sad on Clinton cards and then become the world’s first monochrome human being and the government will be led by the least successful Aardman creation since Flushed Away (a title that may have some additional relevance).

5. The Apocalypse

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‘That’s right, £150 with Super Mario 3D’

We’ve had a few false starts in recent years with bird flu, foot and mouth and monkey mumps but 2012 promises to be the biggest yet: an apocalypse predicted the Mayans, who had a great record of predicting every single major event in history – bar their own downfall. The Mayan’s history is littered with successful predictions: the swift discounting of the Nintendo 3DS, Ricky Gervais not actually being as funny and clever as people thought and Cthulu turning up to ruin the opening ceremony of the Olympics (prediction pending) so it would be remiss not to mention it here and use it as a full stop – not just on this article but perhaps on existence itself.

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Red Dawn 1984: Pseudo what pack?

John Milius wasn’t born; he punched himself out of his mother’s womb – probably prematurely, and on a battlefield – and was immediately bathed in deer’s blood to forever share the wild spirit of the forest creatures. Similarly, John Milius the writer doesn’t just ‘write'; he smelts iron and forges the molten ore into words with his manly fists, which he then drags through the wilds and punches into live bears. The bloody pelts of which are then sometimes made into films…films like Red Dawn.

I missed Red Dawn when it did the playground discussion rounds as a kid. Instead I watched Patrick Swayze in Steel Dawn, which was quite enough films starring Patrick Swayze with ‘Dawn’ in the title, thankyouverymuch. It’s a shame really; while watching Red Dawn on Netflix it struck me that Red Dawn would probably have bypassed every other region of my ten-year old brain and deeply embedded itself in the part that distributes random positive adjectives. There it would probably have been labelled ‘ace’, ‘skill’, ‘mint’, ‘fresh’ or ‘awesome’. And it would have probably stayed there for some time, reaching ‘best film of all time’ status before losing its place to Renegade or Robot Jox.

On a base level Red Dawn is like an incredibly violent episode of The A-Team that lasts for two hours and features children as the heroes. This is evident from the opening: a group of commie parachutists surround a high school, shoot the teacher and then proceed to blow up loads of cars. A group of pseudo-Brat Packers escape to the mountains, but not before stocking up on the essential items you’d normally find at a motorway service station: knives, arrows, bullets, rifles and cans of Sprite.

It’s not long before the John Milius hallmarks creep in. The boys hunt a deer with their rifles. The novice hunter is blooded by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen (uh-oh), who tell him that drinking the deer’s blood allows you to take on its spirit and that doing so changes you forever. In typical Milius fashion – and as is no doubt the case when Charlie Sheen introduces someone to a new substance – the boy does actually change and you’re not sure if his new violent demeanour is down to the dehumanising effects of war or the deer spirit actually having its revenge by making him act like a tool.

Milius’ renowned obsession with Theodore Roosevelt also gets an airing: the statue outside the school bears a quote from the former president and the National Park from where ‘the Wolverines’ fuck shit up is also the site where Teddy planted loads of trees*. Rooselvelt was a progressive cowboy, combining intellect with a love of guns (apparently these aren’t mutually exclusive – despite what years of watching bottom shelf actioners has taught me). His mantra: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’ is perfectly met in John Milius: a right-winger firmly ensconced in the arts.

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It’s this contrast that makes Milius the go-to guy for films that possess more masculinity than Chuck Norris’ favourite tipple (a mixture of whisky and dragon semen for the interested). It’s also this contrast that rears its head in Red Dawn. Despite the invading army possessing the motivation and personality of a Manimal villain for the most part, the naughty Cuban general takes time to open up his heart and pine for his lost love. This isn’t uncommon in Milius’ work; he’s forever contrasting the tolls of war with affairs of the heart: Kurtz’s letters home in Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian pining for his deceased lass by burning her body and looking a bit confused.

Without the Milius hallmarks Red Dawn would be exactly like what my ten year old self would have taken from it: a violent A-Team film. With them it becomes sombre, dark and expansive – whilst also being an undeniably bat-shit piece of entertaining propaganda that wears its right-wing heart proudly on its sleeve. You can say what you want about John Milius – and I expect many already have – but he’s sure-footed, unique and puts his stamp all over his projects, which means Red Dawn leaves an impression and, despite its politics, isn’t the brainless forgettable fodder I was expecting.

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Red Dawn 20??: Plot, villains and sets added in post

If its pre-release is anything to go by, I suspect the remake of Red Dawn will fulfil the brainless remit. Originally set for release in 2010, it replaces Russians and Cubans with invading Chinese. Unfortunately, producers thought better of alienating one of the world’s largest economies and so changed the origin of the invaders to North Korea in post-production – presumably because all Asians look the same.

Since then there was a slight chance of the western world befriending North Korea, which must have made the producers fairly nervous. And then the Russian government started acting like dicks again, which probably made them question whether audiences could tell the difference between ‘Choreans’ and ‘Chussians’. But, if his love of food, polyester and weapons is any indication, Kim Jong-un seems like a chip off the old tyranical block, so they can probably rest assured in their second choice of villain. Not that it matters as the chance of seeing the Red Dawn remake seem about as plausible as Russians actually invading the United States. Until then the default Red Dawn is a dated but compelling tale from a time when Hollywood was either braver or more naive. Either way, it’s a worthy watch.

*The Roosevelt duality is illustrated further with a Russian translation that incorrectly states that the site is where Roosevelt slayed thousands of Indians in battle. This example also serves to make the Russian’s look incredibly stupid, which is a win-win for Milius.

Not willing to repeat the mistake of my 2011’s worst posters article, where I foolishly declared that no poster would plumb the depths reached by the X-Men face-violation posters as long as we could still take breath to sigh at its unrivalled awfulness. Then the poster for New Year’s Eve appeared, and through a stylistic combination of self-satisfaction, design inconsistency and a thoroughly misguided attempt at dazzling with cumulative star-wattage (Til Scheweiger AND Bon Jovi!), it made me attempt to tie knots in my optic nerves…

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Why does Ashton Kutcher look like he was photographed in the street? Perhaps he was so busy having his legs removed for his new role in 2 and a Half Men to look annoying in a studio environment. And what have they done to Natalie Portman’s nose in the bottom middle square? It’s like a Poltergiest inspired advent calendar: you’re going to want to close each door as soon as you’re exposed to the horrors on the other side, even at the expense of the helpful, mystic midget trapped on the other side.

But that’s enough of printed horrors. Since I didn’t make it out to the cinema as much as I’d like in 2011, as the films I was eagerly awaiting kind of disappointed (Kill List was excellent for the most part, and may have been my film of the year if I’d died before the final ten minutes), I’ve decided to list my 9 favourite trailers from last year. I couldn’t think of a tenth so please feel free to suggest one in the comments section below.

Now, on with the list…

9. Biutiful

Biutifil’s trailer ticks all the boxes: it offers a lot of well shot stuff happening at a fast-tempo then slows things down and offers an equally stunning array of shots at a more languid pace, conveying a moving and hard-bitten piece of work. And it does all of this without spoiling a darn thing. Trailer editors, take note!

8. I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil’s trailer sells the concept and tone perfectly. The concept is a revenge film; the tone is Loony Tunes with emphasis on the ‘loony’. It’s entertaining, intriguing and makes you want to watch the full thing. I once described it to a friend as ‘James Bond vs. Fred West’ and the trailer offers all that entails without appearing like the most ridiculous film of all time.

7. Tree of Life

If a new film by Terence Malick wasn’t enough to make you visit the cinema then the trailer almost certainly should have been. It’s beautiful, intriguing, unsettling, joyous and rather good.

6. X-Men First Class

When it came to the film’s marketing, First Class’ trailers were doing all the work. The film’s one-sheets were so bad that several commentators were convinced that the actual film being good was as scientifically impossible as meeting a large blue and furry scientist. Then the trailer was released and it looked very good indeed. In fact, just watching it again makes me want to revisit it, which is both testament to the trailer and the equally enjoyable film that followed.

5-3. Hobbit/Prometheus/ Dark Knight Rises

The last week of December was an almost embarrassingly rich time for fans of 2012’s most promising big-budget releases. First up was The Dark Knight Rises which offered a spine-tingling snapshot of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy capper, despite not explaining much. Still, it’s apparent that the enjoyment of the rich sports fans of Gotham will be in direct contrast to the viewers’, which is no bad thing.

The Hobbit trailer followed and offered a nostalgiac return to Middle-Earth without being overly cynical and cloying. It made me remember how earnest Peter Jackson’s films were, and how refreshing that was when they were first released. And then I remembered that it’s been 10 years since the first one opened the door to epic fantasy filmmaking that wore its heart on its sleeve, and we still haven’t seen anything like it since. Still, absence makes the heart and all that, which makes The Hobbit even more keenly anticipated.

The trailer for Prometheus also offered a return to a familiar world under the stewardship of a director who opened the door to a brave new world of genre filmmaking. Unlike The Hobbit, the world of Prometheus only makes you want to visit from the comfort of a cinema seat. It offers little in the way of plot, aside from a few familiar elements from Alien, but even without the appearance of the xenomorphs, it’s impressive to see a hard sci-fi film on this scale and unless Fox decide to digitally insert Predators at the eleventh hour, we could be seeing a welcome return to form from both Mr Scott and the genre.

2. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

If you haven’t read the book, you’ve seen the Swedish original. If you can’t read you’ve probably had it recommended to you. In fact there’s little of Stieg Larsson’s world that hasn’t been explored or revealed in one form or another. And while that offered intriguing possibilites for David Fincher’s adaptation, it also offered up a trailer that made no attempt to explain the concept, aside from a bleak tone and knowing wink. It’s a superior match of editing, shots and music and, since it appears to have been officially released in bootleg form, you could also say it’s an interesting approach to viral marketing. Even more telling, the trailer offers far more food for thought than the actual film.

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

One of X-Men First Class’ other great additions was the score by Henry Jackman, in particular the memorable ‘Frankenstein’s Theme’, which is used to great effect in the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy trailer. The theme gives the trailer a sense of urgency that may have been lacking in the final film but the John Barry styled strings perfectly complement the film’s period setting and make the viewer long for a time when they made proper films for grown-ups.