There’s a new The Last Jedi trailer and I suddenly can’t function as an adult anymore.

Just when I thought I was safe from movie hype, Lucasfilm release a new trailer for The Last Jedi. Now, I’ve been trying to act like a mature, reasonable movie enthusiast, immune to artificially induced movie hysteria. Confident in my ability to rationally divorce myself from the excitement of ‘nostalgia piano’ or ‘Inception base drops’.

So when I saw the tweet from Rian Johnson, urging fans to maybe skip the trailer, in favour of going in blind to the movie. I thought I might even give that a try this time. But I happened to be watching the Monday Night Football game between the Bears and the Vikings. When halftime came, the First Order Storm Troopers hit the field (TV screen). With the remote too far away, and the trailer rapidly approaching, I couldn’t look away.

1. First Order’s arsenal

As the trailer begins, we hear an ominous voice over from Snoke talking about raw power, presumably that of Kylo Ren. We see some scenes of the arsenal of The First Order, including the impressive looking AT-M6 (All Terrain MegaCaliber Six), stalking across what I presume is about to become a battlefield. These things look like an unholy cross between an AT-AT and a gorilla. Later scenes reveal that they’re going up against a squadron of Alliance Bombers in what should be an impressive battle scene.

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AT-M6 from The Last Jedi – Source: Starwars.com

2. Rey spends a lot of time on Ahch-To

The Force Awakens closed with a tantalising, yet mute, meeting of Rey and Luke on Ahch-To. Which was revealed as the planet of Luke’s exile in the novelisation of The Force Awakens. There’s some ‘teach me’ quotes from Rey, and some scenes of her training that very much reflect Luke’s own training in Empire under Yoda. We also get a great close up of Luke’s mechanical hand. Which makes me think that the themes from The Empire Strikes Back will echo through this film.

The Last Jedi
The Highlander training montage – Source: Starwars.com

We then hear Luke’s voice for the first time in a while, as he expresses fear over someone’s raw strength. This references Snoke’s quote from earlier in the trailer, making both quotes seem quite ambiguous. Are they both talking about Ben (I like using his given name – great name) Solo? Or are they talking about Rey? Maybe they’re each talking about their respective pupils? The Luke quote runs over what appears to be extensions of the visions Rey saw in Maz’s Cantina in The Force Awakens.

3. Kylo Drops his Lollies again

Then we’re back with the First Order. There’s some shots of Kylo’s all dressed up for Halloween and having a classic Ben Solo tantrum. This is followed by an epic looking space battle. In which Kylo is piloting a mean looking Tie fighter variant (I can’t keep up with them all anymore).

Kylo talks about ‘killing your past’ over some images of Leia, but I’m thinking that he might be talking to Rey here (more on that later…).

The Last Jedi
Did you bring any blue milk? – Source: Starwars.com

4. Also Starring…

From here The Last Jedi trailer becomes a bit of a montage. We get a glimpse of the Falcon being pursued by Tie fighters through a cave. Chewbacca and your kid’s next toy, the Porg, are in the cockpit. But it’s not clear who’s at the helm. Poe Dameron is being inspirational and flying an X-Wing. While Finn faces off against Captain Phasma armed with a force baton.

There’s more space battles. Some weird Pokemon looking Ice Foxes, and Luke giving us a variation of the foreboding ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ quote. Leia looks sad in a scene that’s eerily similar to the time Luke was sleeping in a Tauntaun on Hoth in Empire. Rey goes swimming. Finn appears to be captured by the First Order (maybe Phasma owned him in the previous scene). A wrinkly (non holographic) Snoke talks about destiny and Rey does (Snoke induced?) Yoga. We then cut to black with some nostalgia piano background music.

5. Rey and Kylo have an interesting encounter

Perhaps the most interesting part of The Last Jedi trailer is saved for the end. We have a close up on Rey saying ‘I need someone to show me my place in all this’. We then cut to Ben Solo extending a helping hand to Rey.

The Last Jedi
What happens in round 2? – Source: Starwars.com

What does The Last Jedi trailer tell us?

Honestly, now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I don’t think there’s anything too surprising here. Lucasfilm has been teasing the darker imagery and tones of this film for a while now and this trailer followed suit. As I mentioned earlier, the film seems heavily influenced by The Empire Strikes Back. Which excites me, as it’s my favourite of the original trilogy.

The Last Jedi Trailer features some typically impressive set pieces. Battles in space, battles on land, battles against the shiny Captain Phasma. Again, I hate to keep banging on the ‘it looks like Empire‘ drum, but I think we’ll see the First Order strike back in a big way in this film. But that’s no sin, this being a trilogy and all. Things will have to get to their darkest before the dawn.

It also looks like we’re in for some Rey exposition. If I were a betting man (and I am, but I suck at it) I’d wager that Luke has some uncomfortable news for Rey. They have an unhappy parting, similar to that of Luke and Yoda in Empire, and she seeks answers from Kylo. If that’s where this is going, I like it. If it’s not, I trust these film makers to give us something better that what I can imagine.

So, did I miss something? Think I’m wrong? Tweet me @benaldridge58 to let me know!

J.J. Abrams will replace Colin Trevorrow as the Director of Star Wars: Episode IX.

When the news broke that Colin Trevorrow had parted ways with the film, we wondered who would take over. Well, wonder no more! J.J. Abrams, director of The Force Awakens, will return to helm the (presumably) final entry to the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

“With The Force Awakens, J.J. delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy on Starwars.com.

The other film-maker strongly touted to take over from Trevorrow was The Last Jedi director, Rian Johnson. However, he reportedly declined the job, leaving J.J. as favourite to finish the trilogy he started.

J.J. has possibly negotiated some breathing space for himself though with the release date for the film being pushed back from May 2019 to December 2019.

Star Wars
Rian Johnson has had enough for now – Source: Starwars.com

A Safe Bet

J.J. is seen as a safe bet by many to close off the trilogy. As the man who reintroduced Star Wars to a new generation, he is a steady, experienced hand, who knows what he’s getting himself into.

He received a lot of praise for his reboot of Star Trek in 2009, and proved that he was no one trick wonder with The Force Awakens. Which, for all intents and purposes, was a soft reboot itself.

Rebooting, or restarting the Star Wars franchise in a way that generally made people happy, is possibly one on the best achievements in recent film-making history. Having been given the keys to one of the most beloved cinematic universes of all time, J.J. Abrams made The Force Awakens one the most successful films of all time. It was a high pressure job, and Abrams (switching off his targeting computer) pulled it off!

Challenges to come

If there was a tougher job than kick-starting the Millennium Falcon again, it’ll be closing off the series. Let me tell you why. Let’s assume that The Last Jedi will be a success. Which, I think is another safe bet, because Rian Johnson wasn’t replaced during the filming. And, as far as we know, there haven’t been extensive re-shoots occurring. So surely the film has been thoroughly vetted by the Lucasfilm / Disney executives that are so fond of disposing of directors (or bringing in others to finish a film).

J.J. Abrams
We will never see her like again – Source: Entertainment Weekly

So with two of three films being successful, Abrams now has to finish the trilogy off strongly. But there’s an added complication: the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher last year (R.I.P you amazing person!).

Carrie had finished filming her scenes in The Last Jedi and Lucasfilm has to now find a way to end Leia’s story without the actress around. Her role in the Episode IX was reported to have been quite significant, providing a very large challenge for the franchise to work around.

So, once again, J.J. Abrams will take on one of the toughest gigs in Hollywood, navigating the tricky waters of Disney / Lucasfilm executives, the hype of Episode 9 and the ending of one the films most beloved characters.

Is this good news? Tell me on Twitter @benaldridge58.

Who shot first? Lucasfilm and Trevorrow have ‘mutually parted’, but what’s really going on with the Star Wars directors?

What is going on with Lucasfilm and its directors? The recent announcement that Colin Trevorrow would not be directing Episode 9, marked the third time that Lucasfilm parted ways with a director since Disney bought the company.

Let’s take a look at the casualty ward and the lady in charge of the Star Wars films, Kathleen Kennedy, to see what’s going on.

The Trail of Destruction

When Disney bought out Lucasfilm in 2012, they announced that a sequel trilogy and standalone films would be made. Because you don’t spend $4 billion on a franchise to not have it make you money.

To help power the hype train and put tremendous pressure on filmmakers, director announcements followed almost immediately afterwards. Here’s how the chips fell.

Star Wars
The Fantastic Trank – Source: Variety

Josh Trank

Josh Trank burst onto the movie scene with a smash hit debut, Chronicle in 2012. A huge Star Wars fan, he produced a short YouTube video entitled Stabbing at Leia’s 22nd Birthday. This video drew the attention of Hollywood and not too long after, Trank was picked to direct the Max Landis scripted, Chronicle. 

The success of Chronicle led to the announcement that Trank would be directing an untitled Star Wars anthology film. However, once stories began to circulate about his next project Fox’s Fantastic Four, his tenure with Lucasfilm looked shaky.

Trank was reportedly vague and uncommunicative on set, making the producers of the ultimately terrible film nervous. Lucasfilm were paying close attention and announced that they had mutually parted ways with the director shortly after the release of Fantastic Four.

So what do we make of this one? Trank certainly proved that he is talented with Chronicle. But it appears that he wasn’t ready for the pressure that comes with a big studio franchise. Trank worked with a $12 million budget for Chronicle, whereas Fantastic Four cost Sony $155 million. It seems like he didn’t step up to the big league well. So it’s hard to argue with Lucasfilm on the call to drop him.

Star Wars
Gareth Edwards on set – Source: Slash Film

Rogue One

I freaking loved Rogue One. I loved its premise, I loved its morally grey characters and I really loved the ending. But the ending we saw was different to the one originally shot by director, Gareth Edwards.

Before production finished, there was word of executive dissatisfaction and extensive re-shoots. And we know that many scenes viewed in the trailer didn’t make it into the movie. Writer and director Tony Gilroy was brought on to oversee the third act re-shoots and to re-work some of the dialogue.

I think this was less about Disney’s lack of confidence in Edwards and more a symptom of production that wasn’t clearly defined from the beginning.

An interview with Gilroy in February reveals a unique production process. Where the story was conceptualised from a collage of other movies (like Aliens. I’d love to see that!) before a script was even written. From there, the movie’s major action sequences were developed. All this work was done before there was even a script!

So, a different scenario from that of Trank. But another example of tight hold that Disney and Lucasfilm executives have over their franchise. I wonder what would happen to a director (or directors) who tried to put their own unique style into a Star Wars Movie? (Oh, what ominous foreshadowing).

Lord and Miller in happier times – Source: Starwars.com

Lord and Miller

Rarely has a director (or directors) been dismissed in the midst of shooting a movie. But Phil Lord and Chris Miller found themselves in that ignominious position while working on the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film.

Let it be known that Lord and Miller are no hacks. As directors, they have given us Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie. All terrific films, in my opinion, and they’ve been even more prolific as producers. They’ve also got credits from How I met Your Mother, to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and one of my personal favourites Son of Zorn (I’ve sworn a bloody vengeance on those responsible for it’s cancellation).

So what happened here? Well it seems as though Lord and Miller, known for a particular comedic and improvisational style, were straying too far from the script, story and tone that Lucasfilm wanted for their movie (as we wrote about here).

So once again, the execs had their way, and Ron Howard was brought on to finish the film, and presumably re-shoot some scenes.

Episode Nine: The Executive Strikes Back…again

Which brings is to the latest news that Colin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World, has been sacked four months after the start of Episode Nine production. This just leaves The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as the only post-Disney-takeover films without some kind of director replacement/interference.

The news about Trevorrow echos that of Trank, except that the difficulty with Trevorrow was that he was getting a bit full of himself. Acting like he had directed Jurassic Park instead of the easy, soft reboot that was Jurassic World. Talented as he is, Spielberg he ain’t.

So, who’s been behind all the decisions to interfere with the artists directing these films? There’s probably not just one person calling all the shots from Disney / Lucasfilm (the interchangeable antagonists of this article). But you could bet that a large chunk of their decision making process involved Kathleen Kennedy.

Star Wars
Kathleen and Mark: Source: Starwars.com

Kathleen Kennedy. She made your childhood good!

Kathleen Kennedy began her film-making life as an associate to Stephen Spielberg on a little film called Raiders of the Lost Ark. She’s gone on to produce just about all that great film-maker has made ever since. This includes everything Indiana Jones, everything Back to the FutureGremlins, Jurassic Park and many more. She’s had a hand in most of my cherished childhood favourites. She’s quite amazing.

In 2012, she was named co-chair of Lucasfilm, with none other than George Lucas himself. She became the sole president of the company when it was bought by the House of Mouse in the $4 Billion dollar deal of 2012.

Kennedy isn’t the kind of clueless executive we often think of inhabiting the luxurious office spaces of Hollywood. When someone with her kind of production pedigree speaks, people listen. Considering the money paid by Disney for the franchise, the prestige of the franchise itself, the production experience and reputation of Kennedy, puts the dumping of these directors into perspective.

There’s probably no one in Hollywood with her success. There aren’t too many movies as well known as the Star Wars movies. If anyone in the industry can afford to treat directors so flippantly, it’s her (and her company – and Disney).

And it’s hard to say that the art has suffered greatly as a result. The movies released to date have been great, though many feel that there’s a certain sort of corporate safeness to The Force Awakens and Rogue One. I agree with those people, but I also kind of like the very thing they are complaining about (and so does the movie going public).

Star Wars
Rian Johnson and someone’s daughter – Source: Starwars.com

Where to from here?

So, Trevorrow is gone. Who will replace him? Many names have been thrown in the mix, including J.J. Abrams and The Last Jedi’s director Rian Johnson. Whoever it its, surely by now they have the message that Lucasfilm will not suffer your inexperience, ego, or your own unique style to mess with your brand.

So let’s all spare a thought for the future directors of the Obi-Wan film and Episode Nine. They will clearly be stepping into an environment that will be ruthless when it comes to the final product.

Hit me up on Twitter @benaldridge58 with your suggestions for director of Episode 9!

News broke today that a standalone Obi-Wan Movie will be developed by Lucasfilm and Disney. Let’s explore this idea with help from Belated Media’s, Michael Barryte

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story today that an Obi-Wan movie is in the works. At the news, millions of voices suddenly cried out in excitement, and have not remained silent. I feel something amazing has happened.

When Disney and Lucasfilm announced their intent to produce Star Wars Anthology films such as Rogue One and Han Solo, many wondered if an Obi-Wan movie would also follow. Well, it appears we may get our wish. I’ve got four reasons for you to get happy about this news.

Obi-Wan Movie
Mos Eisley real estate prices force Old Ben to live on the fringe of town – Source: Starwars.com

1. The Unanswered Questions

If you were an old mate of Darth Vader and wanted to take his secret love child into hiding, would you go to his home planet? Would you only slightly change your name and continue to dress like a Jedi? Apparently Obi-Wan would. The reason he did is either one of George Lucas’ biggest plot holes, or there’s something else going on. The answer to that question could well be the core story of the Obi-Wan movie.

If you managed to sit through the prequel trilogy, you might remember that Yoda had some training for Obi-Wan to complete in exile (it was mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, the least worse of the prequels). This training had something to do with Qui Gon Jinn and the after life of the Force. But what exactly does that involve? Is there a story there also?

What if this film explained the reason why Obi-Wan could hide in plain sight? That he was there under Vader’s sufferance to watch over his last remaining link to Padme? Could it be the beginning of Anakin’s redemption story? Something like that could add more weight to Obi-Wan’s exile, and Vader’s tragic story.

The time between Obi-Wan going into exile and meeting Luke in A New Hope is mostly unknown to us. Star Wars: Rebels has filled some of that in, including a fateful second encounter between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul. So there’s plenty of room to explore the deeds of Luke’s debonair mentor.

Obi-Wan Movie
Boba Fett can wait his turn – Source: Nerdist

2. More Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan is a great character. A compelling mentor in the original trilogy, we watched him grow from apprentice to Bombad General in the prequels. He had one of the more compelling story arcs in the prequel. So where would his story go in a Star Wars Anthology film?

I asked Michael Barryte (@belatedmedia), writer, film critic, and creator of the excellent YouTube channel Belated Media (check out: ‘What if Star Wars: Episode 1 was good?’ video) about his ideas for an Obi-Wan movie:

“Personally, if we’re existing in the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, it would be fun if Obi-Wan sort of reaches urban legend status on Tatooine or some other planets before he settles on our twin-sunned planet. I’d also like to believe he’s doing more for the rebellion than just watching over Luke, but we shall see.”

Michael’s idea is really cool. More of an Adventures of Obi-Wan than Star Wars: Episode 3.5. But as fun as that would be, we’re more likely to see a commercially safe film along the lines of The Force Awakens or Rogue One. Especially after the recent sackings of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the Han Solo movie, who were removed for not sticking to the tone laid down by the studio.

3. Act Two of the Obi-Wan Story

I imagine this movie being the second act of the Obi-Wan story. If the prequel trilogy takes us through the first act, the complication becomes the fall of his best friend to the dark side. The Obi-Wan movie could be his coming to terms with this and his new role as protector of the Skywalker progeny.

It’s much too early to get a feel for what the story will be. There’s still no script or any solid story in place. But whichever way they go, I’m sure I’ll be lining up at the theatre multiple times. After all, when has more Star Wars been a bad thing? (Note: the horrors of the prequel trilogy have been erased by the solid quality of the last two films for me).

Obi-Wan Movie
Producers travel in single file to hide their numbers – Source: Starwars.com

3. A Great Director in Stephen Daldry

Stephen Daldry is apparently attached to direct the Obi-Wan movie. Not an obvious choice, he’s most know for Billy ElliotThe Hours, and the excellent Netflix drama The Crown. With that kind of pedigree, you know that he’ll be a great director of a dramatic film. Which doesn’t mean that there won’t be any action in the film, but maybe the emphasis here will be character and story.

Michael Barryte had this to say about his appointment: “It’s hard to say how much Daldry will actually affect the tone or style of the film – we’ve seen to an extreme degree with the Han Solo movie that when directors lean too large, they get the boot – but as long as Daldry’s willing to color in the lines Disney has put forward, I think he’ll do fine and maybe be allowed a few contemplative shots or some more artistic moments.”

As Michael rightly points out, Disney are very invested in these movies. And the high profile sacking of Lord and Miller wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by anyone signing up to direct.

When studios hire a director with a well known style or tone to direct their IP, it usually means they want that person to bring that style to their property. And though that may have backfired (initially) for the Han Solo film, if it works for the Obi-Wan movie, we would could be getting something pretty special indeed.

Obi-Wan Movie
An excellent episode of Rebels. Source: Starwars.com

4. Will Ewan McGregor return?

Will he? And who else will star in the film for that matter? I’ve got to say, I’ve been very impressed with the castings of all the new Star Wars films. Starting with Adam Driver and Daisey Ridley as the leads of the sequel trilogy and everyone’s favourite motion capture actor, Andy Serkis as the mysterious Snoke. Through to Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk in Rogue One who were all great castings.

And I haven’t even mentioned the cast of the Han Solo film (and I’m not going to. The football is about to start and I want to wrap this up!).

They’ve gotten some tremendous actors into these films, and why wouldn’t they? It’s Star Wars! I have faith that they’ll get it right, but I really hope we’ll see Ewan swinging the blue blade again.

There’s no script yet, no start date, no release date and no actors attached to any roles. But damn I’m excited about this one! Hit me up on Twitter @benaldridge58 and tell me what you think of the news. Also, check out Michael Barryte (@belatedmedia) on Twitter and YouTube, who was kind enough to share his thoughts with us.

Deadpool was a huge hit for Sony in 2016. So what can we expect from Deadpool 2?

Today we got our first shot of Josh Brolin as time traveling X-Man, Cable. So now would be as good a time as any to think about what we can expect from Deadpool 2 in June 2018.

More Brolin

Josh Brolin will star as Marvel villain Thanos in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (May 2018). And after he loses his purple make up, we’ll see him suit up as Cable.

Cable is a time travelling mutant who also happens to be the son of Cyclops. Originally created in the 1990’s by artist Rob Liefield (who also created Deadpool), Cable has paired with the Merc-with-a-mouth on and off over the years, playing the straight man against the manic Deadpool.

This role would be similar to that of young Agent K from Men in Black 3. Cable is tough as nails and doesn’t have time for nonsense, and Josh Brolin is perfectly cast as in this role. He really looks the part too.

Initially, I was kind of hoping for a Cable that was as ridiculously muscled and imposing, as he was in the comics. But it would be near on impossible to find anyone built like a 1990’s Rob Liefield drawing. I’m loving these shots of Brolin as Cable though.

Who’s excited? Source: YouTube.

More Reynolds

It’s funny to think how similar Reynolds’ portrayal of Wade Wilson was in both X-Men Origins: Wolverine (the first act, at least) and Deadpool. Most fans of the character were pretty pleased with his early scenes in Wolverine and were hoping that Deadpool would give us more of that.

Well, it did… and then some. You’d have to look pretty hard to find a humourless, pale, unhappy, jerk that didn’t like what Reynolds did in Deadpool.

Expect that handsome Canadian to give us more of what we love in Deadpool 2. The success of the first movie has guaranteed that Reynolds will be dialled up to eleven for the sequel.

Coolest name ever? – Source 20th Century Fox

More X-Men (X-People)

One of the better fourth wall breaking scenes from Deadpool was his quip about the studio’s budget affecting the number of X-Men in the movie. And while the budget of Deadpool 2 is still fairly restrained, I think they’ll stretch for a few more cameos this time.

Obviously we’ve already mentioned Cable and you can be sure that Monica Baccarin’s Vanessa will return (in mutant form as Copycat?). Then there’s the recently announced inclusion of Domino (pictured below). And it’s already been confirmed that Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead will return.

But none of the aforementioned mutants are villains. Word on the street is that actor Jack Kesy will play the occasional Deadpool foe, Black Tom Cassidy. And with Fox relaunching the X-Men movies, I’m sure they’ll find a way to jam more in!

We’ve seen this somewhere before? – Source: @VancityReynolds

More Meta

Deadpool wants you to know that he knows that he’s a self-aware fictional character (did that even make sense?). He’ll break that fourth wall, he’ll speak of film tropes, and he’ll even refer to DC films! So imagine the fun the filmmakers are going to have calling out all of the usual sequel cliches.

I’m sure this will be reflected in the marketing campaign for the movie too. The first Deadpool had some of the most brilliant film marketing of recent years. It was almost as good as the movie itself. And the campaign is already begun. Surely you haven’t missed this little gem below.

More Movies

As we have come to expect from these superhero movies (especially the good ones), Fox have already announced Deadpool 3! This is a pretty safe bet though. The success of the first basically guarantees a trilogy if the studio wants it.

Also, I mentioned the future X-Men movie above (to be called X-Men: Dark Phoenix). Well, we’ll soon be seeing an X-Force movie! It has no firm details yet, but obviously this is Fox’s attempt to get in on that sweet cinematic universe money.

So that’s a quick overview of Deadpool 2 (I hope they give it a better title). I’m looking forward to it. Are you? Or perhaps you’re the humourless, pale, unhappy jerk mentioned above? Go on and nerd rage at me on twitter @benaldridge58.

Dendy Cinemas are screening retro classics across all their locations!

Are you unimpressed with modern movies? Sick of predictable rom-coms featuring that currently hot young actor or actress? Are you looking forward to another one of those comic book movies? (actually I am, but I’m trying to make a point). Do you long for the days when not everything was a remake, reboot, sequel, side-quel, spin-off? Or an unashamed cash in of a popular IP (looking at you Emoji movie). Well then, you should see what Dendy Cinemas has to offer!

Dendy Cinemas across the country are hosting screenings of some of your favourite cult and retro classics. For those suffering Superhero fatigue (again, not me) and longing for a little bit of nostalgia, you need to check this out.

Dear Sir, you are not acting in a professional manner – Source: Miramax

Not only are they screening some great movies, but in order to enhance your viewing experience, they’re pairing these films with themed food, drink and other special features.

Last night, I attended a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs at Dendy Cinemas Canberra. With the movie ticket, I got a beer and a hot dog. It took me a while to figure out the relevance between the movie and the food (I’m not a deep thinker).

This experience is quite reasonably priced too. A movie, hot dog and beer will set you back $18 ($15 for Club Dendy members). The beer alone would have cost you at least $8 in that part of town! And considering my last family trip to the movies cost me about $100 (to see Despicable Me 3, I didn’t take the kids to Reservoir Dogs), I consider Dendy’s retro night very good value.

Dendy Cinemas are filling a gap in the Australian cinematic landscape.

You probably own most of your favourite old movies on DVD or Blu-Ray by now. I definitely do (I have three copies of Conan the Barbarian on DVD for some reason). You also probably have at least one of the many streaming services overwhelming you with content to consume.

But it’s easy to forget that these films were originally made for the big screen. And if you’re like me (a thirty something, balding old man with an exponentially slowing metabolism), you too were too young to see the best that 80s and 90s cinema had to offer. You had to wait until you aged up slightly until your parents could rent them from Video Ezy (oh, I miss that place).

Obviously, I didn’t see Reservoir Dogs in cinemas as an eight year old in 1992. In fact, I don’t think I saw it until after Pulp Fiction had already become a big hit much later in the 90s. And while I could quote you most of the lines from the film, I couldn’t describe much about the style of the cinematography, or even particularly well shot scenes.

Old School Movies doesn’t mean old school comfort – Source: Dendy

That changed last night for me. Seeing Reservoir Dogs on the big screen was like seeing it again for the first time. Tarantino’s first directed film is actually pretty well shot. And you can see how this style has carried through to his later films.

Watching last night, I was struck by how similar this film was to his latest entry The Hateful Eight. I’m talking stylistically. Both films were sort of a locked room style mystery.

Bigger screen, broader perspective

Having recently traveled to Los Angeles (in fact, I watched The Hateful Eight at QT’s own cinema), I found myself noticing more of the geography of the city on the big screen than ever before.

Again, Reservoir Dogs isn’t well known for portraying the home of American Cinema in an especially beautiful way. But LA itself is a major character in the film and it was cool to be able to take more notice of it on the big screen.

Even without the hot dog and beer gimmicks (I’ll still take them), the ability to catch these films in the cinema, and see them in a new light, is why I’ll keep turning back up to Dendy Cinemas.

We need more of this – at least I want more of this. The recent release of Terminator 2 4K and 3D was great. And I’m up for any digital remastering of my favourite movies. But not every old movie is going to get the T2 4K 3D treatment (and many shouldn’t).

If more cinemas could jump on this retro cinema bandwagon, we’d all have many more movie options. Which is never a bad thing.

Dendy Cinemas are hosting retro events like this monthly. Next month (28th of August) they have another great pick, The Princess Bride. This time, it’s a quote-a-long. And for the same admission price, you get a beer and complimentary quote sheet (…but who needs that).

If that doesn’t float your boat (get away from me…jokes), there’s plenty more similar events to check out.

Will the Ready Player One Movie Live up to the hype?

The Ready Player One Movie will come to the big screen in March 2018. Based on the successful Ernest Cline novel, the film adaptation is also predicted to do great things next year.

Ready Player One is set in a not too distant dystopian future. Where a Bill Gates type figure has created a virtual reality MMO called OASIS. And it has pretty much taken over all aspects of life. With the actual world being pretty freaking horrible, people of all ages, races and wealth status spend most of their lives plugged into the OASIS (…as if that’ll ever happen).

The book kicks off with the death of James Halliday, creator of OASIS. In a virtual reading of his own Will he promises his entire fortune, and the control of the OASIS virtual universe, to whoever can unlock a number of Easter Eggs he had planted in the game.

The film version appears to have a terrific cast and will be directed by non other than Steven Spielberg himself! Let’s have a look at some of the reasons to be excited about this film.

You’ll have good calves in the future – Source: Nerdist.com

Would you like Pop Culture with that?

The book version of Ready Player One is absolutely dripping with pop culture references. OASIS creator James Halliday, was obsessed with 80s culture and created whole virtual worlds dedicated to it. Inside OASIS the main protagonist, Wade Watts, hunts for Easter Eggs through worlds dedicated to Blade Runner and Dungeons and Dragons with weapons from Star Wars and Japanese anime.

Of course, Watts and his Egg Hunter friends, don’t have it all their own way. There is an evil corporation trying to find the Eggs to pervert the OASIS for their own purpose. So when our heroes meet these villains they fight with everything from space ships, magic, swords, blasters and giant robots from every movie, TV show or video game you’ve ever heard of.

Herein lies a problem for the Ready Player One movie as I see it. Many of the most notable moments from the novel rely on the use of intellectual property that might be difficult to use in the film. Produced by Warner Bros (and some others), there’ll be quite a lot that they can do in house. But using references from other sources might prove difficult. For example, Star Wars references feature heavily in the novel. Would Disney let them use their new IP in this film?

Olivia Cooke as Art3mis – Source: Moviehole.net

It’s got some great actors attached

In terms of big names, the Ready Player One movie has got more that a few. T.J. Miller (Deadpool) will star as i-ROk. Miller is a great comedic actor who will play a Boba Fett type bounty hunter in the film. Also on the villain team is Australia’s own Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One). He will be playing Nolan Sorrento, an exec from Innovative Online Industries. A nasty corporation trying to commercialise the OASIS (an evil Google perhaps?).

On the less evil side of the film is Mark Rylance who recently featured in Dunkirk (and you should check out our review). Rylance will play James Halliday, the deceased billionaire/game designer who initiates the story with his Egg Hunt quest. And his former game designer partner, Ogden Morrow, will be played by Simon Pegg (Shawn of the Dead). It seems like they’re really going for comedic actors (e.g. Miller and Pegg) in these supporting roles. Which might give you a clue as to the tone that they are going for in the Ready Player One movie.

Rounding out the good people side of the movie is Tye Sheridan as our hero, Wade Watts (Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse). And Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) as Art3mis. Both good young actors who I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future. In fact, we’ll see Sheridan as Cyclops in the next X-Men movie, X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Senior Spielbergo – Source: Hollywood Reporter

Steven Spielberg: The Man Who Invented 80’s Pop Culture

Well, he wasn’t solely responsible. But with his involvement in 80’s hits like Raiders of The Lost Ark, E.T., The Goonies, Back to the Future, he was probably more influential than most. And even though he’s responsible for the best movies of the 80’s, Stephen Spielberg won’t be referencing his own movies in the Ready Player One movie. Which I find to be an odd decision. The book, of course has many references to the man’s work. And Spielberg movie references inside a Spielberg movie is exactly the type of intertextuality Hollywood goes for these days (mmmm those memberberries!). But I guess when you’re Steven Spielberg you can just say no to those studio enforced nostalgic moments.

While we all know that Spielberg will go down as one of the greatest film makers of all time, not too many of his recent films have been great hits. Not that they’ve been bad, but they won’t be films that we’ll really remember him for. You’d have to go back as far as Saving Private Ryan in 1998 for one of those Spielberg super classics. I do feel like Ready Player One could break that trend. It’s a story more in the style of his lighter, earlier films than his recent films with more significant messages.

So Are You Ready….Player One?

The Ready Player One movie won’t be released until March 2018. But there’s plenty of hype and fan engagement already. There’s even a competition to have your own avatar featured in the movie! Hopefully we’ll get more than just the teaser image above (possible even at San Diego Comic Con?) Stay tuned for more news!

Sony have made a large offer to keep a reluctant Daniel Craig in the Bond Franchise. But is it worth it?

The James Bond movies have been big hits for Sony Pictures in the past few years. It’s possibly the company’s biggest and most recognised franchise. Beginning with Casino Royale in 2006 (oh, that makes me feel old), through to 2015’s Spectre, the franchise has stabilised Sony through some tough years.

Daniel Craig has been a large part of that success, but while promoting Spectre, he was not too enthusiastic about future films. In fact, he stated that he would rather ‘slash his wrists’ and that he would only be doing it for the money. And I think that’s fine, really. He did great, made a tone of money for Sony and MGM (and himself). With Craig, they brought 007 into the 21st century. Job done. Nice work. Let’s move on.

And move on they did. With some great dudes lined up to take on the role such as, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba attached to take up the tux, Bond seemed in safe hands.

So when news broke that Craig would return for a fifth Bond film, I had to wonder why he would bother. Had he fallen back in love with the role? Did he need more ivory back scratchers?

Elba, Idris Elba – Source: IndieWire

As James Bond, you only live once

Daniel caused quite a commotion with his thoughts on a future film in 2015. Though, when you read all of these comments in context, they do seem like fair points. He’d played Bond in four movies, sustained a serious knee injury filming Spectre and he just sounded tired. It was a candid interview, and Daniel was interacting honestly with a reporter that he was comfortable with. It was refreshing!

But it didn’t sit well with studio execs, who felt that Daniel wasn’t giving his all when promoting the movie. And people have been speculating since if he would go on. He was (and is) still contracted for a fifth film, but it seemed like it would suit both parties to separate.

One of Craig’s biggest gripes about being Bond was that it was such a large commitment. It tied him into playing one character for too long. Limiting his freedom to do other things with his career.

Tom Hiddleston. The cheeky Bond? – Source: Rolling Stone

Reluctantly Daniel Craig is still on Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Since expressing his reluctance to return as Bond in 2015, Daniel Craig has backtracked a little. Speaking about the issue in 2016, Craig stated that he’d ‘keep doing it as long as I still get a kick out of it’. Stressing that the physical demands of the job, along with the long time away from home had him feeling fatigued. But are these the true feelings of the man? Or is it a conciliatory statement from a man contractually obligated to be Bond again?

I’m inclined to think the former, as he seems like someone who often speaks his mind often. But since his 2015 comments, people had gotten used to the idea of the franchise moving on. When we also heard that Sam Mendes would not be returning to direct the next instalment, that just further cemented the idea that times were changing for the British Spy.

Why I think they should move on from Craig

I loved Daniel Craig as James Bond. In fact, he’s actually my favourite. The man looks more dangerous than anyone that’s played the role. Casino Royale is my favourite of all the Bond movies, a sort of soft reboot for the films, it made us all take the character seriously again. It was a great modern reset of a series that many thought wouldn’t survive into the modern age of Jason Bourne and Johnny English (I’m not serious about that last one).

As for the movies that followed, they were of varying quality. Quantum Of Solace was pretty average, but so were most things that were made during the writers strikes around 2007 and 2008. Skyfall received a lot of well deserved praise, but Spectre was a little disappointing. Just a bit too many ideas in that film. And, if I’m honest, the three of these films kind of blur into one for me.

Now would be a good time to really shake it up again. If they leave Daniel Craig in the role, I feel like they’ll just try to recapture the magic of Skyfall, a strategy that failed for them in Spectre (critically, that is. Obviously it was still a commercial success). With director Sam Mendes also leaving the party, I think they’ll find that the Skyfall magic might be a bit out of reach.

I feel like modern day Bond would have tattoos –
Source: The Guardian

The Possibilities of a New James Bond

With a new director coming on board, would come new ideas and maybe even a new style. It’s what made Casino Royale great after some average 1990’s Bond films. When there was talk a few months ago that Christopher Nolan might take on directing the film, some assumed that he would bring frequent collaborator, Tom Hardy on to star.

Nolan proved to us in his Batman trilogy that he knows how to take a character, with a long screen history like Batman, and produce a film that respectful of it’s source material while still moving the character forward. I think he could do this with Bond.

But what if Nolan had to cast George Clooney in Batman Begins instead of Christian Bale? Nolan will be able move the character forward much better if he can recast the role. And as I’ve already stated, there’s no shortage of great actors lined up. Imagine a slightly sly and cheeky Tom Hiddleston? Imagine a stern and imposing Idris Elba? Daniel Craig is great, but I really do think we need another refresh.

Final Thoughts

I’m never one to write off a movie before I’ve seen it and despite all I just said, I’ll buy my ticket to the next Bond movie with or without Daniel Craig. But it seems to me that with all his initial reluctance to be Bond again, and with the winning formula of Craig / Mendes being split up, perhaps it’s in everyone’s interest to move on.

Max Landis: Love him or hate him, he’s going to be around for a long time.

I first started taking notice of writer/director Max Landis in the post Star Wars: The Force Awakens round of reviews and opinions. Landis had caused a bit of an online storm with some comments on the movie on an episode of the YouTube channel Screen Junkies. Drawn to the controversy by some click bait headline, I decided to check out the comments for myself.

Now, before you get out your pitchforks, let me say that I did like The Force Awakes. I saw it three times on opening day, and a few more times in the weeks to come. That movie got lots of my money. But I did think that it was maybe a little too safe. And I did also have a problem with Rey.

Not a gender problem (I said put the pitchforks away!). I just found that her competence was a little unbelievable. She could fight, she could fix the Falcon, I could believe that. I couldn’t believe that she could also fly it as well as Han, that she could so easily figure out how to use the Force and also defeat Kylo Ren in battle (and while on that subject…).

Character competence, or rather their incompetence, helps an audience to connect with them. If you know that they suck at something, you’ll be more emotionally invested when they’re tested (unintentional rhyming).

1990’s Godzilla with Max Landis – Source: LA Weekly

Mr Wrong!

As I watched the footage that got Landis in trouble, I found myself agreeing with the guy’s criticism of the character. Rey’s apparent infallibility did make for a less compelling protagonist.

As he points out in one of his vlogs, Luke was interesting because he failed so often. In contrast, just about everything Rey touched turned to gold in The Force Awakens. It made sense to me.

The fallout from his words though was quite severe and the issue was intensely debated online. Landis was labelled a sexist, a misogynist and many other things.

I’m not trying to reopen that debate, but I think that if he’s guilty of anything, it’s that he didn’t tread carefully enough through a conversation (streamed online!) that is a very sensitive subject for many, many people. Landis is often very unfiltered and it get’s him into trouble.

Landis isn’t Landis

Intrigued by the issue, I looked a little Deeper (potential upcoming Landis film title pun) into Landis and his work. I was pretty impressed with what I saw.

He’s young, but has had a lot of success. He’s been involved in some really great projects, like Chronicle and Dirk Gently. Landis also regularly engages with his fans on social media and provides insightful comments on current films and television. He’s also written some great comics, including Superman: American Alien and Green Valley. And most interestingly he’s a creator who regularly and generously comments on the craft of storytelling.

Max Landis seems to get a lot of heat for things he’s said, with people quick to characterise him or label things he says (the Shadow Max phenomena). Variety wrote a particularly scathing piece last year.

But if you can put all that aside – and you should – Max Landis is an interesting person to follow. He’s polarising for sure, but if you took the time to look through his comprehensive online presence, you might end up liking what you see.

Let’s have a look at his career to date, some exciting looking upcoming projects and some of his thoughts on storytelling.

A Bright Prospect

I’m not sure what exactly he would label himself as these days, but I’d say that first and foremost, Max Landis is a writer.

His first start in the business was a piece he co-wrote with his father (director John Landis) for a TV horror anthology called Masters of Horror. In the years that followed, Landis did a lot of writing, and also some selling.

His detractors (there are quite a few) will say that he’s the beneficiary of a nepotistic industry. That his name has got him to where he is. Which wouldn’t be entirely untrue. It’s probably slightly easier to be heard in a noisy industry when you’ve got a famous name. But once you’ve gotten their attention, you have to keep it.

Chronicle of Success

His big break as a screen writer came with the surprise 2012 hit, Chronicle. Directed by Josh Trank (infamous for the 2015 Fantastic 4 reboot), the relatively small budgeted film made a bunch of money with its fresh take on the superhero story. Landis was able to springboard off this success into selling a few other projects.

Three films written by Landis were released in 2015: Me Him HerAmerican Ultra and Victor Frankenstein. None of these films achieved much commercial success, and reviews were mixed. The worst received by critics was Victor Frankenstein, a movie that departed significantly from Landis’ original script. For what it’s worth, I quite liked Me Him Her and American Ultra (didn’t see Victor Frankenstein).

Samuel Barnett as Dirk gently – Source: BBC America

2016 was also an interesting year for Landis with another movie release and a foray into TV show-running. The former being the hit-man comedy, Mr Right and the latter being a series for BBC America, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (a Douglas Adams adaptation).

Again, these projects received mixed reviews. But Dirk Gently was given a second season (not bad in this day and age) and Landis’ name was still getting attached to other upcoming projects, unlike his partner on Chronicle, Trank. He’s only now emerging from movie jail.

I’ll take this opportunity to mention his curious fascination with the music of Carly Rae Jepsen. Stay tuned for his thesis in July!

Scripts and Movies in the Works

When he’s not writing unsolicited theses on Carly Rae Jepsen, Max Landis is writing scripts. Which has probably helped contribute to his success as much as his talent has. A compulsive writer, Landis will often share excerpts form these scripts to tantalise his fans, or to help illustrate a screenwriting tip.

Max has sold a lot of these scripts too, but as is often the case, not all of them have been made yet. Maybe some won’t be at all. For example, Landis was hired to write a script for the new Power Rangers movie, with Lionsgate hoping to get a Chronicle like piece from the formerly rainbow haired writer (the rainbow locks are gone now). However when he turned in something closer in spirit to the original TV series, rather than his 2012 hit, they moved on to other writers. You can read his original script online. It’s an entertaining read that gives you a real sense of his manic energy and style.

Will Smith in ‘Bright’ – Source: Esquire.com

Another project in the works is Bright. This is an interesting prospect that stars Will Smith as a cop in a fantasy influenced Los Angeles. And when I say fantasy, I mean it in the genre sense, complete with Orcs, Elves and magic! It’ll be released in December this year and will be directed by David Ayer.

I think Bright will become a good study into the mind of Max Landis. It’s an original idea in an industry that currently seems to prefer remakes and reboots of established brands.

Son of The American Werewolf in Paris

And speaking of reboots, in late 2016 it was reported that Landis was going to direct a remake of his fathers classic movie, An American Werewolf in Paris. While this certainly won’t help him get away from the ‘product of nepotism’ tag his detractors saddle him with, it will be interesting to see what he does with the film.

If you’ve seen enough of Landis’ movie pitches online, you’ll know that he has some interesting takes on reboots. He creates these pitches often to convention crowds for entertainment or for storytelling exercises.

If you want to check these out, just google ‘max landis pitch’. I won’t name them specifically for fear of spoiling their endings!

Max Landis’ Open Source Storytelling Agency

These pitches are often accompanied by explanations of their storytelling devices and are of great educational value for anyone who likes to write. His own YouTube channel is packed with musings on writing, movies and storytelling in general. In fact, less than 24 hours after I began writing this piece, Landis dropped some high octane writing motivation. Watch below:

It’s rare for people in the industry to drop advice as freely and regularly as Landis does. And as far as I can tell, his advice seems pretty good. At least it corresponds with most conventional wisdom that can be found on storytelling.

Also, you can’t deny that his methods aren’t working for him. Which I think just gives another reason for people to hate him.

Landis’ ideas for his writing and storytelling vlogs seem to originate with a particular career experience he might have had. If you watch through in publication order (not an easy task – he’s uploaded a lot of videos), there seems to be a story there. Earlier posts deal more with story synthesis and how to have ideas. While later posts, from when Landis involved in more complex collaborations, detail the reality of getting scripts through to production.

In other words, because of his compulsive vlogging, we have a historical account of a screenwriter’s career unfolding. Which is kind of cool.

The Death and Return of the Spec Script

Many have complained about the apparent lack of originality in the movie industry of today. Studios, interested in protecting their bottom line, are less likely to take a chance on a property that doesn’t come with a built in audience. This is why we get so many remakes, reboots, unwanted sequels and adaptations of average dystopian teen novels.

This is where I see a place for a creator like Landis in the future of the movie business. He’s positioning himself as a bit of a spec script specialist (spec script: an unsolicited screenplay. Usually a completely original idea. E.g. Thelma and Louise or Good Will Hunting). And if the big studios aren’t willing to take up his ideas, online streaming companies, like Netflix are poised to benefit from their caution.

These V.O.D. services, without the built in franchises of the big studios, are beginning to fulfil the demand for original movies. With the release of Bright (remember: starring a relatively well known actor called Will Smith), we might be witnessing the rebirth of the spec script.

This is a good thing for audiences. Let the big studios continue to make Terminator 8, Fast and the Furious 13, and so on. Companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime may one day produce an Oscar winner (providing they change their admission rules… a discussion for another day).

Final Thoughts

For a young creator, Max Landis has had quite a lot of success – and this success has maintained his career momentum.

Currently filming a second series of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and with his name attached to many future projects (including a Pepe Le Pew movie!) Landis is probably going to be around for a very long time. And if the last few years are anything to go buy, there won’t be too many dull moments!

Nintendo will release the SNES Mini Classics on September 30.

Following the success of the NES Classic, Nintendo have announced the sale of the Super Nintendo Mini. It’ll be on sale September 30.

The Super Nintendo was one of the most successful consoles of the 1990s. It gifted us classic games such as Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X (the best IMO) and who could forget, Super Mario Kart!

And for any retro collectors who already have the games listed below, Nintendo are including the previously unreleased Star Fox 2, which can only be accessed once you complete Star Fox 1.

Super Nintendo Classic
The Super Nintendo Classic Mini – Source: Nintendo.com.au

In even better news, Nintendo have responded to criticism about the lack of dual controllers for the NES Classic, with… dual controllers, obviously…

Retailing for $119.99 dollarydoos here in Australia, the console will launch with the following games:

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars™
  • Donkey Kong Country™
  • EarthBound™
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO™
  • Kirby™ Super Star
  • Kirby’s Dream Course™
  • The Legend of Zelda™: A Link to the Past™
  • Mega Man™ X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox™
  • Star Fox™ 2
  • Street Fighter® II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV™
  • Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts™
  • Super Mario Kart™
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars™
  • Super Mario World™
  • Super Metroid™
  • Super Punch-Out!!™
  • Yoshi’s Island™

You can already pre-order the SNES classic from most gaming retailers now, so get in quick! The package contains all 21 games listed above pre-installed and an HDMI cable. Also, don’t forget to buy a USB AC adapter, available for purchase also on September 30.

This is great news for Nintendo fans, who are still buzzing from the other Mario news from E3 earlier this month.

A 1990s Classic, but get in Quick!

The Super Nintendo was the first console I ever owned as a kid (I also had a hand-me-down Commodore 64 that I could never quite get to to work properly). It’s the console that really hooked me into gaming as a kid and I’m a little bit giddy that this package is going to be released.

Nintendo have promised to make more of these than the NES Classic Mini, which infamously sold out really quick, but I think the sooner you get your pre-order in the better.

What a time to be alive!

After a difficult development, The Dark Tower hits cinemas in August. Let’s take a look at its possibilities of success.

The Dark Tower series is one of the most well loved of Stephen King’s works. I fell in love with the novel series in 2004 after finding the first novel The Gunslinger at Sydney Airport. The airport bookshop was carrying the first two of the series and I was about to spend two weeks on a beach. I’d only read a few of King’s books at this stage, had generally liked what I’d read, and decided to give it a go.

I was immediately taken with the series. It’s an amazing mix of high fantasy, western, sci-fi and horror, which King himself described as his magnum opus. A film adaptation titled The Dark Tower hits the silver screen this August, and I don’t know how to feel about it.

I’m generally happy for my favourite novels to remain novels only. But there are some that I’d dearly love to see brought to life. Not so much for the sake of the story itself, but more for some of the visuals that my tiny brain struggles to imagine.

A classic example is the battle outside Minas Tirith in The Return of the King. I’ve come to hate the overuse of the word ‘epic’ in today’s language, particularly when it’s used to describe things that are usually quite mundane, but that scene WAS epic. Tolkein’s language is so immersive and heroic that it’s hard not to get swept up in the scene.

The palaver – darktowerwikia.com

‘Death, but not for you, Gunslinger’.

But for all the majesty of the writing, it is still amazing to see the scene brought to life. I don’t even care that it’s 190% CGI (exaggerated for effect and to avoid actual research). And with every re-read of the novel since viewing the film, my imagination enhances Tolkein’s words with Peter Jackson’s own imagination, and my whole experience is better for it. Ultimately, I feel that a good film adaptation can compliment a novel, and vice versa.

In this article I’m going to examine what we know of The Dark Tower adaptation so far. I’ll outline (without spoiling) King’s original story, fawning over it some more, and touch on some of the features that made the story so great. I will look at the development history of the film and also discuss some of the things that I’ve seen in the trailer that I’m excited about, and some things that I’m not so excited about.

The Man in Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

Think of all the novels you’ve ever read. Can you remember the opening lines? You’ll remember characters, plot, maybe a few scenes. But very few opening lines I’d imagine. The opening line of a novel should convince you to read the first page, and the first page should convince you to read the book (ideally). But once the line hooks you, chances are you won’t remember it.

I’ll never forget the opening line to The Gunslinger however. It’s etched into my brain (and the sub-heading above). This line tells you so much about the characters, the tone and the setting of the story in just a sentence. And while a picture can paint a thousand words, sometimes just a few of the right words, can do so much more. This is the trouble with adapting great novels to movies.

Filmed on location? – ew.com

What is The Dark Tower’s story?

The Dark Tower novels tell the tale of Roland Deschain. He’s a Gunslinger, which is a kind of mix between a knight, a cowboy and a noble.

Roland comes from Mid-World. A world that’s a strange mix of Old West and medieval. This is somehow both pre-industrial, post-industrial and post-apocalyptic!

Mid-World is dying, and as the last Gunslinger, Roland is charged with a quest to find the Dark Tower in order to stop that from happening. The Dark Tower being some kind of a nexus of time and space mcguffin. He doesn’t know where it is. But he’s going to get there.

Roland has a nemesis. The Man In Black. He goes by a few names, Walter O-Dim, Randall Flag are just a few of them. He’s been a reoccurring villain in quite a few King novels, but he’s more like a Saruman, than a Sauron (to continue the LOTR analogy). A seriously evil dude (The Walking Dude – for The Stand readers), who just wants to watch the world burn.

Along the quest to the Tower, Roland finds some companions. In the book, these are Jake Chambers, a young boy from a 1980s New York; Eddie Dean, from New York in the 1980s; and Odetta Holmes from…New York in the 1960s.

New York in kind of a big deal in this series. We only know for sure that Jake will appear in The Dark Tower movie at this stage. But I hope we’ll see the others (including Oy, a strange Raccoon/Dog hybrid).

The Walking Dude – Sony Pictures

Why I love The Dark Tower.

I’ve always been a fan of the fantasy genre and King’s work. So The Dark Tower was right in my wheelhouse. But there are many things to love about the series that I hope can be translated well into the film.

Firstly, Roland makes for a great protagonist. There’s no denying he’s a hero, but he’s not without significant flaws and contradictions. While he cares for and loves his companions, he struggles with the possibility of having to sacrifice them for his quest.

Roland is also incredibly formidable. And not just physically. As his enemies are quick to point out, his most dangerous asset is his unyielding will. In the novel, Roland is tempted many times to ‘swear off the Tower’. But he can’t. As his companion Eddie Dean puts it, he’s ‘a tower junkie’. Which also puts his companions on edge, who wonder where he’d stand if confronted with a choice between them and the tower.

Like a lot of King’s works, the mood of the series is quite dark (which shouldn’t be a surprise). You won’t be comfortable when reading these books. And I don’t expect you’ll be comfortable watching the movie either (mentally, not physically).

There are some difficult subjects: addiction, mental illness, murder and of course plenty of death. These themes are wrapped around the main characters so masterfully that you’re pulled through their journeys with them. You can’t look away and you won’t want to.

Don’t forget the art!

Hardback copies of the novels also come with some great artwork by some amazing illustrators. My favourites were the first and seventh novels and the artwork my Michael Whelan. An amazing artist whose style and colour doesn’t seem to have been adopted during the development of the film (if the trailer is any indication). This is a little disappointing for me, but I won’t write it off yet.

There’s also a really great Graphic Novel series by Marvel that details some of the events that take place before the novels, and events that are only hinted at during the novels. I’m working my way through these now and I love them. The art in these is also awesome, with many great artists working on the project, including Jae Lee, one of the industry’s best.

The prospect of seeing all these things being brought to life is intoxicating. The realisation that it might be possible to replicate in anything but a superficial way fills me with dread.

Heroic Squinting – Sony Pictures

It can’t be easy to adapt…

Stephen King’s novels have never been easy to adapt. King himself has proved hard to please with greats such as Stanley Kubrick failing to please the author with his adaptation of the Shining.

His shorter stories have fared better however. The Shawshank Redemption is an adaptation from a King novella that received much praise. If there’s a trend to be seen here, it’s that perhaps the longer stories result in worse adaptations. Well, The Dark Tower is one of King’s longest…

There is fantastic imagery in Dark Tower novels. They have scenes that were so vividly described that I can remember where I was when I read them. And not just the place, but the warmth of the room, the time of day and the music I was listening to. As though the words hypnotised my brain into exceptional memory retention. That’s a lot for a movie to live up to.

I don’t want to get into a literary sledging match with anyone, but adapting something like The Dark Tower is going to be a little more difficult than your average shiny vampire, dystopian future movie for teens. It’s a seven novel series, with ties to dozens more of King’s stories.

King’s created very complex characters, with deep (and sometimes connected) backstories. A fully realised fantasy world, with its own history and legends. There’s no simple way to adapt that (and I have to come to terms with this).

But I’m not the only one who’s realised that this adaptation is next to impossible (of course not, and the people you’re about to read about are far more talented than me).

A difficult development history

Ten years ago. I still had hair, a slightly mobile metabolism, no children keeping me awake ’till the small hours. And J.J. Abrams was in the midst of a moderately successful TV show called Lost. Not satisfied with his wins at the time, he and his fellow (Damon Lindelof) took a stab at adapting The Dark Tower.

The pair were obviously daunted by the scope of the project however and their attachment to a planned seven movie series started to look in doubt. Eventually, the pair dropped out of the project altogether after their three year option expired.

Happy days followed shortly after when Ron Howard announced that he’d be taking up the quest (get it?…Happy Days…Ron Howard?…shut up). Howard paired with Universal Studios to create a trilogy of films with two TV series sandwiched in the middle. This was promising news for fans of the series. Howard was an Oscar winning director who had worked with some of the film industries best (and will soon be working on this little flick).

But alas, the happy days were soon gone. Despite having names such as Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris attached, Universal soon passed on the idea. Howard kept working away at getting the series off the ground however, with Warner Bros, Columbia and even Netflix being touted as a possible home for the movies and TV series.

Warner Bros, with Akiva Goldsman now writing, were lining up Russell Crowe and Aaron Paul for the main roles. Eventually they too passed on The Dark Tower. 

The film’s saviour came in the form of Sony Pictures. Howard moved on (but remains a producer for his loyalty) and Nikolaij Arcel was brought in to direct. I don’t know much about him, but that’s not a bad thing. More on him later.

The Crimson King – Michaelwhelan.com

So will The Dark Tower movie be any good?

That’s the million dollar question (the producers will be hoping for more than a million). So let’s break it down.

Firstly, the studio. Sony have not had a lot of success lately. In fact, they haven’t had a significant hit since Spiderman in 2002 (significant in this instance being $500 million gross).

In terms of brand recognition, The Gunslinger is nowhere near as well known as Web-Slinger. So I’m sure that Sony wouldn’t be expecting Marvel/Star Wars/Disney levels of success. But they’ll want a reasonable return for this film, and with a reported budget of only $60 million, they might get it.

Sony are able to make good films. It’s just been awhile. In this instance, they have good source material to work from, and good writers (Goldsman is still attached) to adapt that material.

As for the director, he’s not terribly well known, but he’s an up and comer. He helped adapt The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and directed the well received A Royal Affair, starring Mads Mikkelsen. Sony are trusting this fellow with a potential new franchise, they must have quite a lot of faith in his talent.

And back to the budget for a moment. $60 million is not a lot of money (for a film, that is. It buys me a lot of Chicken Big Macs). I’m not sure what they’re spending on promotion, but if that added another $40 million, Sony are still only spending $100 million on the film. It’s a fairly safe amount, and if the film does well, it might make a tidy profit. We’re probably not talking Deadpool money (it had a similar budget), but maybe enough to kick off a sequel or two.

Alright, Alright, Alright!

Don’t forget the stars of the film either!

Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey star as Roland and The Man in Black respectively. These are choices that I’m very happy with. Elba has gravitas to spare. He is perfectly suited to this role. He projects an air of majesty like no other, but still looks like he could tear the head off a grizzly.

And McConaughey? Who better than him to play an unassuming, but completely twisted and evil villain? (No one, says I). These are great castings that give me much hope.

And one more thing…

This isn’t strictly speaking a direct adaptation. It’s more like a sequel to the novels. I can’t say too much more without spoiling the end of the novels, and potentially the movie. But when I heard this little tidbit of information, I was very intrigued and quite pleased with the reported approach. I’ll leave it at that…

The clearing at the end of the path

Any novel adaptation is fraught with danger for a movie studio. Particularly one like Sony Pictures, who will be relying on movies like The Emoji Movie to keep investors happy this year. But no great movie franchise has ever been made without some kind of risk.

I’m glad that The Dark Tower is finally getting made. The time is right. There are good writers attached, great actors and a director who clearly knows how to make a good film.

If this film bombs then it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll probably still buy the Blu-ray and sit it on a shelf next to The Shining and The Stand and any other great King novels that seem impossible to adapt. But as mentioned in that little paragraph above, Arcel and his team have a little ace up their sleeve. A kind of ‘get out of the adaptation free’ card that I think will come in handy and lets the makers tailor the source material to the medium of film.

I can’t wait to see it!

Five Things We Noticed in the Black Panther Teaser Trailer

T’Challa, The Black Panther, made a stunning MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War last year alongside another fan favourite, Spider-Man. This weekend we were given a glimpse of what to expect from the movie in February next year. Helmed by Creed director Ryan Coogler, The Black Panther will take us to the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

Here are five things I was excited to see in the Teaser.

Black Panther Movie
Source: Marvel

1. Wakanda: Vibranium Capital of the World

Wakanda is the fictional African nation that is home to the Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman). In Marvel Comics it is a wealthy and reclusive, technological …uh…marvel (the editor will fix that) ruled by T’Challa.

Wakanda’s wealth is derived from it’s vibranium deposits. This metal is what Captain America’s shield is made from. It’s a rare and powerful metal in the MCU.

We caught a glimpse of it in a post credit scene in Civil War, but we got much more in the teaser. We see a gleaming utopia that wouldn’t look out of place in a Star Wars prequel. It’s a seriously cool place that adds even more depth to the MCU.

Black Panther Movie
‘My precious hand’ –
Source: Sciencefiction.com

2. Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue!

The last time we saw Andy Serkis in the MCU he’d lost his hand courtesy of Ultron, and now, Ulysses Klaue is back.

In the trailer, we see him with his hands (hand?) tied to a chair as he is interrogated by Everett Ross (played by Martin Freeman). Serkis brings his A game to every role and his cameo in Age of Ultron was great. In Black Panther he’s again rocking a pretty convincing South African accent but now he’s missing that hand.

Klaue (usually anglicised as Klaw) sports a vibranium sonic emitter and was responsible for killing T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka. In the MCU however, King T’Chaka was killed by Baron Zemo, and Klaue has been branded a thief for stealing vibranium. That vibranium that was used to create Vision. Confused yet?

Black Panther Movie
Why does the Black Panther need a bodyguard? – Source: marvelcinematicuniverse.com

3. The Dora Milaje

The Dora Milaje serve the Black Panther both as bodyguards and potential future Queens. Surely nothing awkward will ever come of that?

Nakia and Okoye, the most famous of Dora Milaje, are played by Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira. I’m sure they didn’t hire an Oscar winner (Nyong’o) and Michonne from The Walking Dead for bit parts, so expect to see more of them. These are fantastic characters played by amazing actresses. It would be a crime to waste them.

Black Panther Movie
M’Baku the Man-Ape –
Source: Marvel.com

4. M’Baku the Man-Ape!

At about the minute and a half mark in the teaser, you’ll notice some angry looking men wearing white fur trimmed Armour. I believe this to be M’Baku the Man-Ape.

A rival of T’Challa and member of the White Gorilla cult. He gains his power from consuming the flesh of a sacred white gorilla proving that PETA doesn’t exist in the MCU.

M’Baku has a great rivalry with T’Challa, and has tried to usurp the throne of Wakanda many times, but I don’t believe he’ll be the main antagonist in the film, which brings me to…

Black Panther Movie
‘Take that Disney money, Son’ – Source: Den of Geek

5. Erik Killmonger

Played by one of my new favourite actors, Michael B Jordan, Killmonger’s comic history is tied in to that of Klaue.

His father was coerced into working for the villain and is consequently exiled for that service. So they may go with this in the MCU, but I have a feeling that they’ll find a way to tie T’Challa and Killmonger more directly together (I’m excited to see the Creed actor in the MCU either way).

Jordan and Coogler have worked together on a number movies now, and both of their careers have been better for it. Also, now we’ll have two former Johnny Storms in the MCU (the other was Chris Evans, of course).

Marvel Keeps on Marveling

Does anyone even doubt anymore that a Marvel movie will be bad? The confidence with which they roll out their IP is astounding. People (not me) thought they’d finally jumped the shark when they announced a film featuring a talking Raccoon and a walking Tree. False.

The only risk I see is with this film is superhero fatigue. An often talked about, but rarely experienced philosophy, that supposes the world will tire of these films one day. I’m not sure if it’s going to happen, but if that teaser is anything to go by, it won’t be until well after February 2018!