Total films seen so far this year: 405
Films seen in the last two weeks: For A Good Time, Call..., Fun Size, Call Me Kuchu, Broken, The Master (again), Excision, A Late Quartet, Happy Happy
FILM OF THE WEEK: THE MASTER
Mickey and George: Disney Buys Lucas, Announces New Star Wars Film
This week, unless you've been frozen in either cryogenic suspension or carbonite, you cannot fail to have missed the news that the House of Mouse bought Lucasfilm for a cool $4.05 billion and promptly announced their intentions to make a new Star Wars trilogy that would comprise episodes 7, 8 and 9 of the Star Wars saga. Several issues arise as a result of this news.
The first is the shocking failure of film journalists everywhere to pick up on this news in any way, shape or form before this week (when I asked on Twitter if this was really the case, it turned out that SlashFilm had tweeted the rumour over a year ago, but either no-one believed it or no-one, including SlashFilm themselves, followed up on it).
Just how it's possible for such a huge story to remain a complete secret is mind-boggling in itself and it's tempting to see it as evidence that most official news stories are really just rehashed press releases dictated by studios and PR companies.
The second issue is the prospect for the films themselves. Will they be any good? My gut feeling is almost certainly not. No Star Wars fan over 30 has ever really forgiven Lucas for the crushing disappointment of Episodes 1-3, so the prospect of Episodes 7-9 is hardly an appetising one, regardless of the extent of Lucas' personal involvement (the official line is that he will remain on board as a “creative consultant”).
Maybe twenty-five years ago, with Ford, Hamill and Fisher all still young enough to be credible versions of their characters, maybe then, Episodes 7-9 would have been greeted with more enthusiasm, but now, well, you only have to look at Indiana Jones and the Perspex Skull to realise what a terrible idea it would be to resurrect those characters.
Which means that what we'll probably end up with is “Son of Skywalker” and they'll cast some whey-faced teen idol as Luke Jr and it'll be Anakin all over again. The other alternative is to create an entirely new set of characters and surround them with Ewoks, Wookies, droids (you can bet C-3PO and R2-D2 will be around, at least), Gungans and other merchandise-friendly characters.
But then, if you're going to create all new characters, why bother calling it Episode 7? One thing is certain, the merchandising is going to be off the scale, which is really saying something. Incredibly, the film is already scheduled for a 2015 release and apparently there is already a Lucas-approved story treatment. I can't deny that I'm not fascinated by the prospect of watching all the details leaking out over the next few weeks and months, but I have long since learned to beat down any actual enthusiasm for the project itself.
It's original trilogy or nothing for me and, frankly, I can even live without Empire and Jedi (well, maybe not Empire, but definitely Jedi). Anyway, I'll leave the last word to this amusing photoshop image, just one of several comedy responses thrown up by the internets in response to the news.
Films I Am Dying To See: Django Unchained
Despite being an enthusiastic fan of both Tarantino and westerns, I had somehow not managed to watch the teaser trailers for Django Unchained or indeed the full trailer until...well, until just now. I confess, I'm not a big fan of Jamie Foxx (Ray aside, I find there's usually an air of smugness about him and his performances just aren't very exciting to watch), but the snippets of his turn as freed slave-turned bounty hunter Django here are very promising.
It's also interesting to see that Tarantino's love affair with Christoph Waltz continues unabated, with Waltz turning in what's sure to be another iconic turn as bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (it's unclear from the trailer whether the dentistry is a cover identity or not). The plot is simple: Schultz rescues Django from a chain gang and teaches him the ways of bounty hunting, enlisting his help in capturing a gang of villains.
In return, Schultz agrees to help Django rescue his captured wife (Kerry Washington) from a brutal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio, who looks like he's having a huge amount of fun). The trailer is packed with cool-looking moments (hat-tosses, sudden shootings, flowers getting splattered with blood etc) and some funny dialogue – I particularly like the exchange: “Are you really free?”/“Yes”/"You mean you WANT to dress like that?” and Django explaining at the end that the D in his name is silent.
Again, it's unclear from the trailer whether the film will feature one of Tarantino's trademarked cool-as-hell soundtracks, but the odds must be fairly high that that's the case, despite the music being anachronistic. Let's hope so, anyway – along with Wes Anderson, one of the highlights of a new Tarantino movie coming out is buying the accompanying soundtrack. For me, anyway.
The lengthy cast page on the imdb also lists the likes of Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Tom Savini and Samuel L Jackson, so we should be in for something of a treat, cameo-wise. Rather shamefully, I haven't seen any of the classic Django spaghetti westerns (star Franco Nero makes a cameo in Tarantino's films), so I suppose I should try and rectify that before the film comes out. At any rate, Django Unchained is released here on January 18th and I can't wait to see it.
Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Three new entries into the top ten this week, with Paul Thomas Anderson's literally masterful The Master (which I confess I needed to see twice before I properly loved and understood it), Jacques Audiard's audacious Rust and Bone (which won Best Film at the London Film Festival) and powerful documentary Call Me Kuchu all making it onto the list. I'll also put in a good word for both Excision (a very impressive fucked-up teen movie) and female buddy/phone sex comedy For A Good Time, Call..., both of which I enjoyed, despite their various problems.
There now follows the traditional plea to See Smaller Films First (#SSFF) – if you are planning on seeing Call Me Kuchu or Excision this week then please, please, PLEASE see them in the cinema this weekend, as smaller films need visible opening weekend support to survive, whereas the likes of The Master and Rust and Bone will both be around for weeks to come.
Interview-wise this week, we have a semi-exclusive interview with Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard and screenwriter Thomas Bidegain and another semi-exclusive interview with Sean Bean, star of the apparently terrible Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.
Elsewhere you can still read: our exclusive interview with Room 237 director Rodney Ascher; our exclusive interview with Ginger & Rosa star Alice Englert (also the star of upcoming franchise smash Beautiful Creatures); our exclusive interview with Tim Burton for Frankenweenie; our exclusive interview with Martin Landau for Frankenweenie; our exclusive interview with Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara for Frankenweenie; our semi-exclusive interview with actor Paul Dano and co-director Jonathan Dayton for Ruby Sparks; a press conference interview with Dano, Dayton, writer-star Zoe Kazan and co-director Valerie Faris; our press conference interview with Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower; and our semi-exclusive interview with Liam Neeson for Taken 2.
Come back next week for exclusive interviews with The Sapphires director Wayne Blair and interviews with Grassroots star Jason Biggs and director Stephen (father of Jake and Maggie) Gyllenhaal.
1. The Master
4. Rust and Bone
5. Call Me Kuchu
7. Room 237
8. Ruby Sparks
9. Hotel Transylvania
10. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
DVD of the Week: We Are The Night (out now, online RRP £9.49)
This week's DVD of the week is German vampire thriller We Are The Night, which is more or less the perfect film for the end of Halloween week, particularly if you missed it at FrightFest or couldn't make it to its all too brief theatrical run. Directed by Dennis Gansel, the film is set in present day Berlin and stars Karoline Herfurth as Lena, a punky pickpocket (think Rooney Mara's Lisbeth Salander) who is bitten on the neck and subsequently inducted into a coven of decadent, thrill-seeking female vampires led by 250 year-old Louise (Nina Hoss).
However, despite being accepted by fellow coven members - melancholy ex-silent era starlet Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) and perky hedonist Nora (Anna Fischer) – Lena eventually angers Louise by continuing to resist her sexual advances, as well as not quite relishing the whole idea of killing people. Nina Hoss is terrific as Louise, both chilling and heartbreaking in equal measure, particularly when her true motives and the background of her relationship with Charlotte are revealed (her performance also deliberately recalls Delphine Seyrig's Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness).
Similarly, Herfurth makes an appealing lead and Fischer brings a lively and amusing enthusiasm to Nora, while Ulrich is 1920s sultriness personified as Charlotte - one brilliantly composited scene shows her watching herself in Fritz Lang's Doctor Mabuse: The Gambler. Gansel's direction is extremely stylish throughout, aided by some colourful production design work and a pulsing German techno soundtrack.
Likewise, the action sequences and gory moments are extremely well handled and there are some deliciously shocking moments. On top of that, the film is filled with intriguing ideas and there are some memorably striking scenes, e.g. the four women playing an endurance game while watching the sun come up as they begin to burst into flames. In short, this is a stylishly directed, sharply written and hugely enjoyable vampire thriller with great characters, some nice ideas, impressive visual effects and terrific performances from the entire cast.
The superb extras package on the DVD includes: 12 minutes worth of excellent and worthwhile deleted scenes; two alternate endings; a 25 minute Making Of (including interviews with the director and cast); a 20 minute on-set Video Diary; a short featurette on the VFX (including the compositing of Charlotte into Doctor Mabuse); and the option of the soundtracked German original version or the English dub. So, basically, the DVD is well worth a look even if you've already seen the film. Highly recommended.