Trailer park: Ultron, Tomorrowland, Crimson Peak and Aloha

To butcher Led Zeppelin lyrics a little, there’s a whole lotta love out there for a whole lotta films coming out in the next few months. Too many to go through in much depth, but here’s a few I’d like to briefly pick out for your consideration.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ok, not everyone is a fan of this current glut of superhero films, yet this one really does look impressive. And so it should, given the budget, cast and studio muscle. At one point or another it’s all going to implode, it has to. But for now, I’m on board.

Tomorrowland
This film started life as a theme park ride and whether it turns out to be a franchise behemoth a la Pirates of the Caribbean remains to be seen. What we do know is that Clooney is attached, and he rarely joins doomed projects, so it could be a blast.

Crimson Peak
It’s high time Guillermo del Toro got back to what he does best… inhibiting a niche genre perhaps only rivalled by Tim Burton. But where Burton comes at his stories from more of an oddball outsider perspective, del Toro opts for horror and macabre fantasy.

Aloha
Ah, the sweet and observant writer-director Cameron Crowe, who doesn’t love his films? His last beautiful little story was We Bought a Zoo in 2011, so he’s been out the game a while. This looks like a good return to form with a cracking cast to boot.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – what went wrong?

angelina jolie

Clearly I must be a churl. According to Pulitzer prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert I fit the profile, at least to a degree. To explain, I was flicking through channels today – I know for those of you that read my posts regularly it may sound like I do this a lot, I really don’t – and settled on watching a bit of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for one simple reason, Angelina Jolie. There is literally no other reason to watch this film.angelina jolie
When it came out in 2001 Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars saying ‘Lara Croft elevates goofiness to an art form. Here is a movie so monumentally silly, yet so wondrous to look at, that only a churl could find fault.’ This left me conflicted, am I a churl? I see many faults!

For those of you not in the know, a churl is defined as a surly, ill-bred person. Now I’m sure that’s not me, however I take the point, this film really is ridiculous. But if you cannot embrace its ridiculousness, I don’t think that makes you a churl. Similarly I don’t think it’s that wondrous to look at, Angelina excepted. I could forgive its ridiculous nature if other things didn’t bug me, let’s examine them.

Supporting cast
Angelina excluded, who clearly was Lara Croft, the rest of the cast – including Daniel Craig – just didn’t cut it. Ok, Craig did ok, but the rest? Chris Barrie (still best known as Rimmer from Red Dwarf) was doing his best Alfred the butler impersonation. I suppose he was comic relief but his presence seemed jarring, especially when you stuck him next to Angelina. A perfect modern day alternative? Assuming Michael Caine is busy and you want some young blood, I’d go with Matt Smith, great comic timing and quirkyness. Then, to replace the tech IT nerd character that also assists Lara, I’d go with the excellent Ben Whishaw, soon to be seen as Q in the new Bond, Skyfall.

Gary OldmanBad guy
Played by an actor called Iain Glen (recently in season 1 of Game of Thrones), who actually has solid acting credentials. Aside from the fact he looks a little like a cut-price Steven Seagal, he just wasn’t compelling – or evil – enough to hold the screen against Angelina. You need an actor with a track record in big, brash evil villains, like Gary Oldman. Tom Berenger’s been having a bit of a revival lately, or Gary Busey. The latter filed for bankruptcy earlier this year so might bring a lot of evil frustration to the role – he could do with the money!

Script/plot
Some of the dialogue was pretty corny and wooden and the plot often felt contrived. There were whole scenes where they had to explain a lot of story points (John Voight’s letter from beyond the grave scene springs to mind), which is not the best way to let a plot unfold. A lot of this could have been smoothed over with more assured direction. Which brings us to…

Director

Simon West is an English Director best known for his debut film, Con Air in 1997. He was originally set up to direct Black Hawk Down, but due to conflicts took up Tomb Raider instead. I feel he would have been supremely out of his depth with the former. However, his loss was our gain, as we got Ridley Scott on that one.

The easiest way to explain West’s style is if you think of him as a budget version Michael Bay – then you’ve got some idea of what he does to films. Just look at his latest offering Expendables 2. In terms of alternatives, I would love to see a remake of Tomb Raider with Guillermo del Toro at the helm. I know I suggest him for a lot of films, but with good reason. A mystical journey, tombs with monsters, a kick-ass heroine – imagine what he could do!

Ok, so that’s my lot, rant over, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts. Now I’m not saying if you’re flicking channels and this film comes on, to turn over. You have to enjoy it for what it is, relatively average action, slightly rescued by the fact we get to look at lovely Angelina. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, it’s ridiculous but you have to love it!

Three Amigos: Rise of the Mexican Directors

guillermo del toro

Ok, for this piece I’d like to discuss my love of Mexico’s finest Directors. In terms of what got me fired up to write this, bear with me whilst I set the scene.

The other night I was watching an old episode of the BBC miniseries, Luther, starring Idris Elba (check out a clip here, worth looking up if you’ve not seen it), and it got me thinking about the film Elba is currently working on, Guillermo del Toro’s latest, Pacific Rim.

guillermo del toroNow I’m intrigued. I’m a massive del Toro fan and it’s a shame he couldn’t deliver his version of The Hobbit. I am sure Peter Jackson’s take will be epic, but I bet Guillermo’s would have been quite something.

The reason I’m a fan of del Toro is simple, his filmography: Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. 

Like many others, I love the worlds he creates. His monsters are equally terrifying and beautiful. I suppose it helps that he spent 10 years as a special effects make-up designer before breaking into directing.

For example… Let’s take a moment to savour the scene where Liz bargains for Hellboy’s life with the Angel of Death…

Guillermo has often been described as creating fairy tales for grown ups. This is an apt description as Pan’s Labyrinth is not for the faint hearted. Yet in some ways, the worst monsters in his films are human: the fascist Captain in Pan’s Labyrinth, Rasputin in Hellboy etc.

And if we’re talking dark, it’s not just Guillermo that has a fascination with the macabre, his directorial partners in crime – Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Inarritu – also follow a similar path, albeit sticking more to drama than fantasy.

Mexico’s finest
Let’s start with Alfonso Cauron. His standout for me, was Children of Men; gritty, grimy, set in a bleak future and critically well received. He was a bit of a leftfield choice to direct the third Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban. However, his style and tone fit the subject matter surprisingly effectively. Again, it was well received and largely seen as the bleakest, darkest instalment in the franchise. No bad thing at all.

alfonso cuaron
Then there’s Alejandro G. Inarritu. He’s had a stack of nominations for his filmography to date, most of which are linked by the theme of death: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful.

Team players
All three directors tend to help each other out. Both Guillermo and Alfonso helped produce Inarritu’s Biutiful. Cuaron helped produce Pan’s Labyrinth and Inarritu edited it. You could say that, through this tag team effort, the film achieved greater heights than del Toro alone could have managed.

However, I think it’s just a case of three, talented individuals working together to create a masterpiece. This sort of collaboration hasn’t adversely affected their solo careers, as all have been successful in their own right. Indeed it’s benefitted them.

And whilst they all have their own style, there are themes and influences that link them together, like a happy family: life, death, darkness, light, magic, and fantasy. Pretty much the voiceover for the Pan’s Labyrinth trailer.

katnissThe future for the amigos?
Well, del Toro has Pacific Rim, plus rumours of Hellboy 3, which would be an exciting prospect. Inarritu has The Revenant, with DiCaprio and Sean Penn. Cauron has Gravity, a space film starring George Clooney.

Most interestingly though, Cauron is in the running to possibly direct the second instalment of the Hunger Games franchise (I think it’s safe to call it a franchise already right?). Entitled Catching Fire, it’s set to release November 2013.

So all in all, the Three Amigos are doing fine, with some exciting stuff in the pipeline. In celebration of this, let’s finish on a lighter note. Here’s the original Three Amigos in action with My Little Buttercup. Classic comedy.