Charlie Connelly1 on the author-turned terrorist who led the attack on the Nakatomi Plaza building…
Charismatic, cultured and hugely intelligent, Gruber was perfectly equipped to become a shining light in the reunified Germany that was only a matter of months away at his death. If the ambition, daring and meticulous planning employed in the Nakatomi heist could have been harnessed for good at an early age, who knows what he might have achieved after the new European dawn of the early 1990s.
Well, he was certainly cynical enough to have ended up going into politics. Imagine Hans Gruber, having spent the last couple of decades working his way to the top of the European Commission, facing off against the masterminds behind the Brexit negotiations. (Or don’t, please. So many smug bastards convinced of their own brilliance in one small room.)
[Via Happily Imperfect]
- NB: if you’re not a subscriber you might find it tough to see the whole piece behind the paywall. It’s worth digging out if you can. ↩
By the time Tim Burton came to making Mars Attacks he was (rightly) pretty darned famous, which explains the cast he could get at the height of his powers:
Between 1988 and 1993, Burton made a string of classics: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. So it was no surprise that some of the era’s biggest celebrities had lined up to make what is arguably the director’s weirdest and most divisive movie:****Mars Attacks!
“It was a strange and fun movie to make,” Burton tells Inverse.
_Mars Attacks!_stars Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close as the President and First Lady. The disaster-film pastiche also features Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lukas Haas, Martin Short, Danny DeVito, and Tom Jones dancing in a desert with a bird of prey on his wrist.
Do not forget Tom Jones. None of us who watched it could. And the above list of successes omits Batman Returns, which may have been messy but it was the sort of mess that modern superhero films aren’t permitted to be. Also, it gave the world Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on Catwoman, which was vastly better than what Halle Berry brought us a decade or so later.
For my money the good bits in Mars Attacks! were well up to the mark – the dogs with human heads attached, apparently just because the invading Martians could do that; the ineptitude of Jack Black’s GI trying to respond to the Martians opening fire; the Martians carefully toying with major US landmarks before knocking them over – and even the jokes that didn’t quite come off were quickly overtaken by the next visual joke that did work. That was one very fun film, even if US audiences didn’t quite see the joke.
Even after his remake of Planet Of The Apes five years later – a woeful mismatch of director and material, for my money – we still see the odd flash of the old Tim Burton in projects like Big Fish and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Unfortunately, all we can rely on Tim Burton for nowadays is his unreliable touch when it comes to choosing projects. (That, and we can rely on Burton trying to employ Johnny Depp as an actor long after that was a good bet.)
It’d be great to have the old Tim Burton back again someday. We’ve missed him.
Steven Johnson on Learning From Get Back:
To me, the scenes where we see the Beatles reaching back to an idea they first started noodling on years ago — an idea that we know they will keep cultivating for another few years — are some of the most inspiring moments in Get Back. Yes, for most of us, the stakes and public spotlight are not as intense as it was for those four lads back in 1969, but all of us know what it feels like to crunch under the pressure of an imminent deadline. But ask yourself: how often do you find yourself venturing back to an idea you first had in 2018, or 2008, and exploring how you can refine or add to it in your present context? Every now and then, a pressing deadline can concentrate the mind and produce a fully-realized idea, ready for airplay. But most of the time it’s a long and winding road.
Dammit, I’m just going to have to watch Get Back, aren’t I? Because the clip of Paul McCartney coming up with Get Back a few weeks before the rooftop performance really is compelling (especially if you’re old enough to feel as if it’s been in your life forever, and yet here he is at the age of 26, putting it together on camera.)
Towards the end of a lengthy snark-fest of a MeFi thread, following an interview in which Ridley Scott blamed the poor box office of his latest directorial project, The Last Duel, on "millennials" came this comment on Scott’s career:
Ridley Scott is right about one thing. Blade Runner was ahead of its time.
Well, that and that it was his third movie (Alien was his second). If he had stopped at three, he would be a figure of mythic status, an unparalleled and unprecedented science fiction visionary. Instead he has chosen to spend the following four decades frittering away all his goodwill with tedium.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:58 AM on November 28
In fairness to Sir Ridley, as befits his background in advertising, even the "tedium" tended to loook very good when seen on a big screen.
Might be more of a combination of…
a) His failing eye for a good script that can pull in a modern audience; plus,
b) A certain reluctance on the part of modern audiences1 to venture into a crowded, enclosed darkened room with several hundred total strangers while there’s still a global pandemic still capable of evolving into new variants out there in the wider world.
- Millennials, Boomers, Gen-X/Y/Z, and all the other age cohorts marketing folks love to divide us into. ↩
Dammit, the cast listed in the credits for that film (which form the backdrop for the video) keep almost persuading me that I really should consider taking a trip to a local cinema for the first time since our first lockdown. Such a high concentration of actors I generally welcome whenever they pop up on-screen, classing up the joint.
And then I remember the last time I tried a cinema trip early in September, only to find that local cinema chains are packing audiences in at normal seating densities because they’re keener on maximising income having been allowed to open again than they are on providing reduced audiences with some spacing so as to deal with that whole virus thing. I’d naively assumed they’d at least seat audiences double- or triple-spaced and require that masks be worn, but apparently not.
All of which means I’ll be catching up with The French Dispatch via my friendly local streaming service when it shows up.
I’m indebted to Tim Bray for the pointer to jwz’s They Live and the secret history of the Mozilla logo, which I must have read at the time but which I don’t think I posted about here:
I’m going to draw a line through 1930s agitprop, Ronald Reagan, methane-breathing zombie space aliens, the Mozilla logo, Barack Obama and the International Communist Conspiracy. It’s a long walk, so please stick with me. […]
It’s a longish read, but it’s about ancient history about important software and one of John Carpenter’s best films: how could I resist?1
- Also, a commenter pointed to a collection of essays on They Live by Jonathan Lethem that I bought sight unseen. ↩
Take a plot that amounts to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom minus the dinosaurs. Throw in a couple of known Western names – director Simon West and actor Jason Isaacs – to help it get some profile in Western media, then shoot a film with lots of dodgy CGI and a plot that eschews any hint of irony or complexity in favour of a thrill ride showing people caught in a disaster working together for the most part, and the Chinese production company give us just over 90 minutes of undemanding silliness that is just what I was in the mood for yesterday evening.
Isaacs plays a debt-burdened Australian tycoon who has put together a project that built a resort on an island right next to an active volcano and hopes that the deal he’s about to close as the film starts will clear his debts. It may not come as a complete surprise to you to learn that by the time the plot plays out, his company is destined to be tied up in court for a decade or two, if it’s even got enough money worth pursuing in court.
Nobody is winning any awards for their acting here. Basically, we get a bunch of pretty but bland actors who are utterly unknown to Western audiences. After fifteen to twenty minutes of setting up relationships – the primary thread is that we have a heroine whose geologist mother was killed on this same island twenty-odd years ago during an earlier eruption, and who is now herself a geologist running a project to monitor the volcano using an array of sensors, but who can’t persuade Jason Isaacs’ tycoon to delay the next phase to let her continue studying what’s going on to make sure it’s safe – the volcano erupts and everyone gets to run/drive around dodging CGI fireballs and toxic clouds of hot gas and contending with some very dodgy physics. It’s laughable stuff, but no more laughable than it was when they added CGI dinosaurs and had various directors give us Jurassic Park sequels at umpteen times the budget, or when a different Chinese production company gave us Jason Statham (plus a few other names better-known in the West) versus a really big, ancient shark-ancestor in The Meg.
Basically, this branch of the Chinese film industry seems to have mastered delivering undemanding blockbuster-lite fare.1 The nicest surprise was that in the podcast they referred to this being something we could get from Amazon for US$10 and said there are plenty of other things we all drop that sum on in these desperate-for-entertainment times, yet when I went to Amazon Prime Video it cost me just £1.99 to add it to my Video Library. The exchange rate hasn’t plunged that far in a couple of days, so I have no idea whether this is different pricing strategies in different markets or just a mistake.
So, Chinese producers are starting to push out basic, palatable-yet-unhealthy junk at the Western market. It’s a strategy that served McDonalds well in a very different field, so we’ll see how it does in the world of film.
- I suspect that until the Asian stars and starlets turn out to have a following in Western media, Hollywood and British studios won’t get too worried about this. I didn’t spot this until afterwards when I visited the IMBD, but our Taiwanese-Australian female lead here was also in Skyscraper alongside The Rock the year before this was released. I didn’t notice her in that, and unless she ends up playing English-language roles I very much doubt I’ll ever notice her when next I see her. The language barrier doesn’t render CGI-heavy work like this unintelligible in other languages, but it’s still liable to be a barrier to further progress outside of the cheap-but-cheerful fast food market this film operates in. To some extent, stretching a film’s reach by adding CGI is mostly a sign of how cheap basic CGI has got, if you’re not too picky about breaking new ground. That’s not what anyone is trying to do here, so everyone’s moderately happy. ↩
Given the way film release schedules have been disrupted over the last year, it feels strange to read an article about Upcoming Must-See Movies in 2021 and contemplate just when and where these might show up.
For what it’s worth, out of that selection I’m looking forward to…
- Malcolm and Marie General rule of thumb: putting two ridiculously sexy actors together on screen is a decent starting point. It may not be enough, but the trailer suggests that it might. (Also, John David Washington deserves a break after being in Tenet.)
- Godzilla vs. Kong Look, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was surprisingly good and Kong: Skull Island was tolerable, so it’s not impossible this will be both very silly and yet worth a look. In any fair match-up Godzilla wipes the floor with Kong, but if we could somehow arrange for this to be a crossover with the Pacific Rim franchise this could be one for the ages.
- Last Night in Soho Edgar Wright hasn’t let me down yet.
- Candyman I remember the first take on this story being excellent and I’m an optimist, what can I say?
- Dune Villeneuve has the chops to make this work, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be memorable even if it turns out not to be so good.
- The Matrix 4 I know it’s not going to have the impact the first film did, but I just have a feeling about this one. Also, I loved Sense8 and Jupiter Ascending and Cloud Atlas, so you now know that I’m a Wachowski fanboy and can calibrate your assessment of my standards accordingly.
- The French Dispatch The pleasures of watching that cast in a Wes Anderson film just can’t be underestimated.
Granted that’s a very nostalgic (and, some might add, very optimistic) list, but worst case scenario is that for every one of the above films that disappoints there’ll be something else that unexpectedly that turns out to be better than them.
It remains to be seen whether we’ll get to see them all on a big screen or a small screen, or whether by the end of 2021 the inevitable Disney-Apple-Amazon-Sony-Facebook-Tesla-BBC-Netflix-Microsoft merger will have brought all audiovisual digital entertainment under a single streaming service to which we’ll each pay a tithe for the rest of our days, but apart from that What could go wrong?
David Squires shares with the world his take on The Queen’s Gambit: Hungry Hungry Hippos edition:
A popular tabletop game that requires considerable guile and skill
Has to be said, there’s a small part of me that would have really liked to see this.1 And a large part of me that thinks that take on the project might have had a little more difficulty in getting funded by Netflix.
- Not least because I suspect Anya Taylor-Joy wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at having to adapt her performance a bit. ↩
Nice snark from Molly Templeton at Tor.com, reacting to the latest trailer for comet-impact disaster movie Greenland :
Greenland takes the general premise of Deep Impact and kicks it up a notch: Why simply have one comet on a trajectory to strike the earth when you could also have many smaller pieces of the comet wreak utter havoc first? They’re like the worst opening band humanity has ever had to sit through.
Yes, of course Gerard Butler is in this.
It’s as if he’s adopted the Michael Caine career strategy 1 without ever managing to do a single decent film along the way. Which is probably best viewed as a reflection of the extent to which even actors who end up in leading-man roles are at the mercy of forces beyond their control when it comes to the quality of the end product. 2