Release Schedule Fever

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Over the past week Marvel released their updated slate for the next five years, and whilst there were no real surprises at a sequel to Ant-Man and a new Spider-Man film, the internet has gone crazy at the news of 3 unnamed films in 2020.  Pretty much every news source have crafted long winded articles speculating on what three films they will be, ranging from a third Guardians of the Galaxy film, to a third part for Infinity War, and even (oh I wish) a Howard the Duck film.  That’s not forgetting the debunked Fantastic Four theory – although some people still believe a deal was made with Fox as similar debunking was done regarding Spider-Man.  But, with so much page space taken up this week with articles about the three new films, what do we actually know?

Well, simply put, we know nothing.  Zip.  Nada.  Zilch.  All we know is Marvel are releasing 3 films in 2020.  How the heck is that considered news?  They are releasing 2 or 3 films each year over the next 4 years anyway, so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine 3 films in 2020.  Heck, why didn’t they go the whole hog and outline plans for 3 unnamed films in 2021, another 3 in 2022, and then go crazy with 4 in 2023 (after all, they can drop some later if they wish…nobody will miss a film they don’t even know the name of)?

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Look, I'm serious. Just give us a proper Howard film already!

I love Marvel films as much as any other member of Stan’s Merry Marvel Marching Society, but this rush to release ‘plans’ for the next half decade of film slate is getting a tad ridiculous.  If there isn’t any actual news to release, then just don’t release it.  Marvel aren’t the only ones at fault here.  Look at DC/Warner and their ever shifting schedule.  In a race to show they can match Marvel, DC announced a slate of films a couple of years back which included standalone sequels to Man of Steel.  This year the slate was updated, and along with a variety of films moving release dates from one year to the next, now MoS 2 has vanished, and Batman is added to the mix.  In fact the DC slate changes so often that the only definite thing so far is Suicide Squad and BvS next year.

You may argue that these long term announcements with no real detail creates a buzz, and generates excitement, but does it really?  Seriously,  you know something is coming out in 5 years but don’t know what.  Speculate all you like about it being a New Universe spin off, or Secret Wars 1, 2 and 3 filmed back to back, but all that will happen is that when it is revealed to be Iron Man Armour Wars, Planet Hulk, and another Thor film, you will just feel a bit daft for having gotten giddy about wild speculation.

Let’s focus on the actual films in production, not the flights of fancy from an undetermined future.

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Daniel Craig Hates Being Bond (or how the Internet blows something out of context)

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Earlier this week Time Out published their interview with Daniel Craig, the star of the upcoming Bond film, Spectre.  In the days since the article was posted, the story has grown from being a simple interview, to Craig stating he never wants to play the role again, to him stating he doesn’t care about the character, and now to him saying he’d rather kill himself than be in another Bond film.  The public response to this has been generally a lot of comments about how ungrateful he is, and how he should just sod off then if he hates it so much.  But did he really say he hated the role?

Well, anyone who actually read the interview fully will have seen that it was conducted in July.  Craig had only finished filming for the movie four days earlier, after a gruelling 8 month shooting schedule.  If you know anything about films then you will know that an 8 month schedule is quite extensive.   Now the interview begins by making clear it is early morning, and the actor is knocking back espressos like there is no tomorrow. Here’s a guy who is finally getting a chance to relax after a long shooting schedule. Earlier questions in the interview are responded to with Craig’s usual dry wit and bluntness. Then, the question that every media outlet has focused on over the past few days is rolled out…

Can you imagine doing another Bond movie?
‘Now? I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.’

Whilst I read that, and imagined a wry smile on the actors face, the junk media has taken it as venomous spite, as though it was yelled in anger, and have clearly missed the other questions about the role and his responses… especially the very next question in the article…

You want to move on from Bond for good?
‘I haven’t given it any thought. For at least a year or two, I just don’t want to think about it. I don’t know what the next step is. I’ve no idea. Not because I’m trying to be cagey. Who the fuck knows? At the moment, we’ve done it. I’m not in discussion with anybody about anything.

It is worth noting that production on Spectre began pretty swiftly after Skyfall, so the series has dominated Craig’s life for a good while now. All he was saying was that he just wants to take some time off, look at other projects (an earlier answer highlighted that the schedule for something like Bond meant he had to turn away other jobs), and doesn’t want to even think about the role for a while. He further goes on in later questions to point out how great it is to be associated with such a character, and how much of an opportunity it is for an actor to be a part of something so important to so many. As he concludes himself in the interview…

You’ve got to push yourself as far as you can. It’s worth it, it’s James Bond.

The reporting of this story by various press outlets this week has highlighted how you should never pay attention to second hand storytelling. As any good historian will tell you, first hand evidence is the important stuff, and any secondary recitals will contain embellishment and must be taken with a hint of skepticism. If you ever read an article that refers to another article, make sure you check out the original article yourself. That way you can see the story in the correct context and not be duped by sloppy reporting.

So, if you haven’t already, check out the full interview at Time Out

Review: The Martian

At the very end of the film, as the credits begin to roll, the words, “a film by Ridley Scott” pop up on screen and, for the first time in over a decade, you feel that actually means something.  You genuinely feel that this is a film for a director to be proud of.

The Martian is adapted from the novel by Andy Weir, which tells the story of an astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who finds himself stranded on Mars when the Mission is forced to abort during a major storm.  Believed to be dead, the rest of the crew blast off into space and begin their journey back to Earth.  Finding himself alone and without enough supplies to last out until a rescue attempt could make it back to him, the Mark puts his scientific knowledge to the test in order to grow food, and repair equipment, in the hope he can survive.
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The story was adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard, known for his work on films such as Cloverfield, World War Z, and Cabin In the Woods, as well as prominent work on a variety of TV shows.  His touch is certainly present throughout with a witty style, and strong pacing of story, ensuring that even when the film gets heavy with the science, it doesn’t get bogged down in detail and instead keeps things clear and concise.  Complementing the strong script is Ridley Scott’s direction alongside cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who worked on films such as Dark City, The Crown, and more recently Prometheus alongside Scott.  The similarity in visual style between this and Prometheus are clear, and regardless of what you thought of that film it is hard to dispute that it looked stunning.  With The Martian, vacant landscapes of rock and desert are given a striking beauty, whilst the shots of the Ares III as it carries the crew through space are simply stunning.  Scott’s recent return to sci-fi has highlighted his strength for the genre, and helped put him back on the top of his game.

Cast wise, Damon does a great job, and is supported by a wealth of names, all delivering fine work.  Jeff Daniels appears to still be in Newsroom mode, which isn’t a bad thing, as Teddy Sanders the head of NASA.  Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean lend some screen presence as two of NASA’s directors, and the crew of the Ares III sees names such as Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Michael Pena (who is finally getting the roles he really deserves this year) among others all delivering fine performances is what are essentially small parts.  After all, in essence this is a one man show.  The core story is about Matt Damon as Mark, and he delivers a solo performance that grips you, surprises you, amuses you, and thrills you in equal measure.  With nobody else to play off, Damon talks to video logs as a means to interact, and holds it together perfectly, sometimes just offering a simple look in order to convey a lot more than words could deliver.
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The Martian is a stand out film in what has generally been an average, and slightly underwhelming year.  Had the year not kicked off with films such as Birdman and Whiplash, this would easily be my film of the year so far.  As it stands, it sits in an extremely respectable third place, and is certainly one to experience on the big screen (although not particularly in 3D).