glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | may 2015
Believe it or not, summer is nearly here and for the cinema that means a busy time of pumping out those hyper budgeted noisemakers known as the action blockbusters. Designed almost entirely to get 'bums on seats,' the action blockbuster is one of those things I always find myself torn on. On the one hand, there are some fun films that come along that aren't too demanding of the audience and can happily kill an afternoon that possibly should be spent enjoying the outdoors. They're usually easy going and often a lot of fun if a little soulless. On the other hand, they're more often pandering to the lowest common denominator, providing noise and explosions in lieu of a substantive story. Yeah I know, over analysing a blockbuster is missing the point, it's like complaining about the scenery surrounding a roller coaster ride, but considering these movies are often the only point of contact that an audience have with cinema these days, it would be nice for a little less focus put on shell shocking an audience with noise and explosions and having a bit more attention on telling a really great story (with explosions where needed of course).
My cynicism aside, let's take a look at some of the upcoming season of cinematic noise makers and see what's coming up, after all 2014 was, for me, a largely disappointing year for films in general, with only a few notable exceptions so it's with some hope I look forward to what's coming over the rest of the year.
Avengers Age of Ultron (May 1)
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo
Another stupendously overblown explosion-fest hits our screens, but so far this franchise and its many strands have proven to be a hell of a lot of fun and managed to develop the characters significantly along the way. The interesting thing about this franchise is its ability to fuse eye-popping action with an unusually high political awareness for this kind of film and that looks set to continue which makes me happy as a critic and a fan.
Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15)
Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz
This is one that I'm actually looking forward to. There is more than a little real world action rather than being all about the CGI and it looks like it takes plenty of inspiration from the feel of the original Mad Max films. Tons of action, loads of post apocalypse style cars and the bleakest of worlds for it all to happen in frankly makes me very keen to check this out. I like Tom Hardy a lot, he's quite the chameleon as actors go and I have only the most fleeting expectations of disappointment when it comes to this.
Jurassic World (June 12)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Stars: Chris Pratt, Judy Greer, Ty Simpkins, Bryce Dallas Howard
This could be the case where a later sequel reboots the franchise at the expense of the previous sequels. Given the lacklustre attempts before to continue the series, this may be for the best despite my normal feelings towards such revisionism in filmmaking. It looks like it plays as a natural sequel to the first film though, from the trailer it certainly seems to tread some old ground and it's also playing a potentially disastrous game with the new big bad. The story of “Jurassic World" follows the genetic monster angle of the first, but this time we're upping the stakes with a brand spanky new monster, which as a story element could work fine, or it could just be the kind of one-upmanship that makes the entire movie ridiculous. There is a lot of opportunity for this film to be exciting and have some interesting commentary going on underneath the mayhem if the writing is handled smartly. I'm looking forward to it, this is one I sincerely hope doesn't make an arse of itself in public like its predecessors.
Terminator Genisys (July 1)
Director: Alan Taylor
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, J.K. Simmons
I can't say I am expecting anything other than another annoyance from this semi-reboot. I'll be addressing reboots, re-imaginings and remakes in next month's article, but this looks like a hideous plagiarism and splicing of the first two films, complete with their iconic lines of “I'll be back!" and “Come with me if you want to live," which in this context feels like the studio either grudgingly tickling the under-carriage of the fan boys or desperately invoking nostalgia for the great first two films. While it looks pretty as it could be (Young CGI Arnie aside) it also looks so vapid and overly reliant on old glories that I am entirely certain this will not be able to live up to the classic James Cameron episodes. And one more thing ... If I hear Jetta's “I'd Love to Change the World" in one more bloody trailer, I will be buying a ticket to Hollywood and peeing in the drivers seat of the trailer editor's car. It's a great song, but its use in the trailer is about as original as this film is likely to be.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (July 31)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Stars: Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise, America Olivo, Jeremy Renner
Tom Cruise has been slowly and earnestly working his way back into our good books since several high profile embarrassments, and the Mission Impossible films have by and large been the platform from which he has regained that important credibility as an audience draw. MI:5 looks set to be as fun a ride as the previous film, and as a Simon Pegg fan, I'm glad to see him back as the franchise's version of Q along with Jeremy Renner whose presence is always shockingly low key but very welcome. It's been one of those few action film series that manages to ride that delicate line of seriousness and humour with uncommon skill, and that seems set to continue here with Cruise throwing himself entirely into the role. This is certainly one to catch on the big screen, as it looks suitably overblown and spectacular.
Fantastic Four (August 7)
Director: Josh Trank
Stars: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell
I really want to see a good Fantastic Four film. This re-imagining is a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment with only the most vague of trailers available and it's looking like we will have to sit through yet another origins movie which, given the fact that the last two Fantastic Four films were rather forgettable at best, may not be entirely a bad thing, but still. The tone seems to have shifted with this one, with it feeling more serious and that could be a good thing. At this point I have modest hope that it'll be decent, and it looks like one to keep an eye on, but for some reason, this is one of those franchises that like Spiderman has struggled to find its feet in the world of the moving image. Fingers crossed Marvel won't drop the ball on this one.
Spectre (November 6)
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci
With “Skyfall" I found a film that was unusually involved in terms of subtext for a Bond film. It went back to basics, stripping Bond of the trademark gadgets and in short, it was much more about the story than the spectacle, which I for one thought was very important for the survival of the franchise. The puns and gadget-of-the-week shtick had worn thin many years ago. This looks set to continue with “Spectre" with more exploration of Bond as a man with a history and thankfully with Daniel Craig, who is in my opinion one of the most interesting and best explored Bonds. I will certainly be off to catch this.
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (December 18)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver
I could write an essay on this film simply from the trailer and the audience reaction to it. Putting aside the asinine complaints about Storm Troopers being the wrong color, or the practicalities of a lightsaber with a cross guard, I have to say I like what I see so far. With the exception of the robot on a ball gag, which makes me fear some pandering to the under 8's, the film looks like it treats the series with the dignity it needs after the almost entirely disappointing prequels. Abrams gets his share of criticism either way, but generally I've found his films to be very watchable and at least interesting in the direction he takes with them, so I'm fairly confident that he will deliver a film that at least won't make you want to choke on your popcorn. With some of the classic characters returning, I think there will be some nostalgia evoked assuming Harrison Ford can be kept in one piece long enough for Solo to save the day once again.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.
For more of Glenn's work visit his Youtube channel under the name lampyman101.