One of the cons of pursuing a part-time M.A. course is the relative lack of direction. Sure, who wouldn’t love to have no exams in January? I mean, think of all that free time! But wait – what do I do until Refreshers Week?

When I have nothing to do, I have taken to devolving into a child-like, irresponsible state – I catch up on yet another disappointing episode of The Walking Dead, and marathon the Marvel Netflix shows or I watch Lets Plays of Skyrim. It is when I reach this nadir of human dignity, that I take to the nearest keyboard. Do I take advantage of my time to do prep work for the coming semester? Get started on the reading list? No, instead I knock out yet more drivel about the endless stream of trash Hollywood is pumping out!

Speaking of Hollywood trash, we have two big blockbusters this week. We’ve got a trailer for a Power Rangers reboot that nobody asked for, and one for Logan, which marks Hugh Jackman’s 383rd consecutive appearance as Wolverine. You’d be wrong to think I’m just bashing Hollywood though, because we’ve got Indie trash to compliment the Hollywood trash! What’s interesting about the Indie trash, is that half of those films have already been aired at festivals such as Sundance, or the Toronto International Film Festival, so I’ll add their current Rotten Tomatoes score in the description – and yes, that will have a direct effect on my personal ‘Excitement Level’ score. Well, without further ado, lets keep this gravy train rolling.

COLLIDE

  • UK Release Date: 2017 (24/02/17 in the US)
  • Action, Thriller
  • Excitement Level: 4/10 John Wick ripoff’s

Any middle-class student in their 20’s will no doubt be familiar with ‘the film snob’. They’re the type of people who roll their eyes at the mainstream, and endlessly proselytise about the virtues of the independent film. I disagree. In fact, Collide seems to confirm my belief that indie film projects are not inherently free from the mediocrity that touches so many Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, this action flick – which is apparently a joint venture between several small L.A. based studios, with German financial backing – wants to be a Hollywood film so bad.

The trailer itself comes across as a compilation of old narrative devices that were already tired by the early 90’s, let alone by today. Former badass turns over a new leaf after meeting a girl, then she gets put in danger and he has to return to his dark past to save her; this is followed by a lot of shooting and car chases. There’s nothing wrong with that in concept – some modern examples of action films take these tropes and make them work i.e.  John Wick and Taken (the first one anyway). Bad examples are the Transporter franchise and the Taken sequels. Its clear to me that Collide takes inspiration from those flicks too.

One thing this has going for it is the cast. It never ceases to amaze me how such schlock always gets good talent behind it. Ben Kingsley has been appearing in less than stellar stuff for a while now, so his inclusion isn’t shocking. Anthony Hopkins might have taken me aback a few weeks ago, but he was in the Transformers trailer, so that got all the surprise out of me. Nicholas Hoult, and my future wife Felicity Jones are at the height of their careers however, which makes their presence slightly odd. Could it be a good sign? Maybe there’s something about the script that attracted them? Or perhaps not.

In spite of the talent attached to this, the director is inexperienced, and the whole thing looks too generic for my ‘hoighty toighty’ tastes.

COLOSSAL

  • UK Release Date: 2017 (07/04/17 in the US)
  • Sci-Fi, Comedy, Action
  • Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
  • Excitement Level: 7.5/10 outdated Anne Hathaway sucked at hosting the Oscars jokes

If Collide represents the folly of the independent film industry, Colossal may well represent its strengths – that is, innovation, and good old-fashioned weirdness. Could you imagine Warner Brothers, or Paramount, or Disney signing off on a relatively low budget project, starring Anne Hathaway as a woman who can inexplicably control a Japanese ‘kaiju’ type monster from across the world? If you answered yes….well…shut up.

Initially, I didn’t know this was a parody/satire of kaiju films, so the trailer struck me as corny to begin with; Anne Hathaway’s stilted delivery was particularly disconcerting. Then, without missing a beat, the trailer dives into the concept of the film, and in a flash all was forgiven. I enjoy it when film makers go out of their way to bend the genre they’re satirising; Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino come to mind as directors who are adept at this technique.

With the little the trailer gives us, it seems we’ve got a great concept and an impressive cast that includes SNL alum Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens and of course, Anne Hathaway. Reviews have been positive, if not exactly glowing. Its definitely my kind of film, and I’m sure to give it a chance when (or indeed, if) it comes out in jolly old Britain.

LOGAN

  • UK Release Date: 01/03/17
  • Action Adventure, Superhero, Sci Fi
  • Excitement Level: 9/10 terribly written Wolverine/Professor X fan fiction stories on Tumblr

Another year, another X-Men sequel, right? Well, sort of.

Logan supposedly depicts a dystopian alternate timeline, after which the world has fallen apart, and the X-Men are all dead except for a much older Logan and Professor X.  As of late, 20th Century Fox has sought to establish the X-Men as being distinct from the other superhero mega-franchises out there. They’ve accomplished this by putting a focus on time travel stories – with somewhat mixed results (Apocalypse is worse than X-3, say what you like).

Encouragingly, Logan is taking a different look and tone than the other X-films, which have become somewhat stale. It actually resembles a Cormack McCarthy-style contemporary Western more than anything. That was especially true of the downbeat first trailer from October, but here, we see the film has a lighter, more humorous side – stemming mainly from the mysterious girl who Logan finds himself teaching basic life lessons, such as ‘don’t brutally murder shop assistants’. Further, in a disarmingly meta moment, it is revealed that in this universe the X-Men are depicted in comic form. This begs the question of whether that is now official canon, or just part of this alternate future – a question I’m sure the hacks at Fox will never answer.

In any case, I’m a fan of the superhero genre, and I love the visuals I’ve seen from this film so far – with a special shout out to the visceral violence that we get a glimpse of in regard to the action scenes (y’know, because Logan’s power has been to cut people to pieces this whole time). Add in Patrick Stewart’s effortless charm, and I’m definitely seeing this opening weekend (as if I wouldn’t anyway).

POWER RANGERS

  • UK Release Date: 23/03/17
  • Action Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Excitement Level: 3/10 are you kidding me’s(?!)

Alright! I tried. I tried, but I couldn’t hold it together. I laughed until my sides hurt watching this.

Never mind the fact I didn’t watch the Power Rangers TV show, a trailer should be engaging regardless of the source material, but good God, did they drop the ball with this. Not only does the film itself look like a weak  version of Transformers but even on its own merits, the trailer is trite.

If I see one more trailer use Kanye West’s ‘Power’ as a backing track, I’m gonna burst a blood vessel – mostly because it gives me Vietnam War like flashbacks to 2015’s horrible Fantastic Four, which also used it. Worse still, the interaction between the Rangers seems off, not to mention forced.  Yet another tragedy is the fact that Bryan Cranston is in this as a giant talking wall. Then again, this also represents a homecoming of sorts for him, as one of Cranston’s earliest TV roles was as a voice of an obscure Power Rangers villain (the one in the weird snake-man suit). Adding insult to injury, there’s a generic robot sidekick/unfunny comic relief character voiced by Bill Hader in the film too. Please, make the pain stop.

Okay, so I do try to be fair to these things, so I guess I’ll try to find positives. From what very, very little I saw of the TV show, it was aiming for a campy tone on purpose. This was because of budget constraints, which meant that the company behind the Power Rangers couldn’t film their own action scenes. Consequently, they took footage from an equally low budget Japanese TV show, and just slapped on voice overs during the fight sequences. The studio then filmed some ‘story’ scenes in a high-school set – and wouldn’t y’know it, they had a billion dollar franchise! That cheapness is deeply ingrained in what people have come to associate with the Power Rangers, so I suppose its good for the fans that even with a much higher budget it still looks crap. There’s some comedy in here too. Some of it is intentional (like casting Elizabeth Banks as the villain) but most of it isn’t (everything else).

Ultimately, its one for the kids – as well as for nostalgic fans – so if you’re excited for this more power to you.

THE LOST CITY OF Z

  • UK Release Date: 24/03/17
  • Historical, Action Adventure, Drama
  • Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
  • Excitement Level: 8/10 standing ovations by posh film critics

Rounding off the haul for this week, we’ve got the first international trailer for The Lost City of Z. My bachelor’s degree was in History, so period films are something I’m attracted to almost out of habit. Unlike Dunkirk however, this is a seemingly forgotten chapter in history – one that I wasn’t aware of until now.

Both aesthetically, and thematically the trailer resembles the 1972 Werner Herzog film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, which follows a rogue conquistador on a doomed quest to find the fabled city of El Dorado along the Amazon river. This too centres on a monomaniacal explorer, as he travels the Amazon in search of a rumoured lost city. There’s a lot of meat to a story like that, and the mysterious nature of the expedition only makes it more fascinating. The scene in which Lt. Colonel Fawcett announces his intention to find the city in front of a full auditorium, reminds me a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and emphasises that it is Fawcett’s devotion to archaeology that drove the expedition against the better advise of his companions.

Charlie Hunnam (of Son’s of Anarchy fame) stars as Fawcett, and he is joined on the expedition by Tom Holland, who portrays Fawcett’s son, and Robert Pattinson – who sports a big old bushy beard. Other supporting characters include Fawcett’s wife, portrayed by Sienna Miller, and a guy who appears at 1 minute 1 second into the trailer who I swear looks like Ian McDiarmid (the Emperor from Star Wars).

This has already aired at the New York Film Festival to strong reviews, and was quickly snapped up by several prolific film studios for U.S. and international distribution. With independent film’s, which rely on festival hype for advertisement, this is a very encouraging sign.

With the critical response, the real life expedition, and the cast all in mind, this one is going to be a surefire success.


That’s a wrap people! I must leave you once more…