Summer of samurai,
It’s shaping up to be a pretty safe summer of sequels and remakes – but there’s always a hobo
IT’S A nervous time for the film industry. Thanks largely to 3D releases – and the concomitant surcharges – the last few years saw cinema takings surge quite comfortably. The opening few months of 2011, however, have been worryingly short of breakout hits. As ever, the studios will look to the summer for salvation. The economics are complicated. Whereas, during the warm months, cinema attendances do not rise dramatically in this part of the world – we like to be out in the sun – the American bean counters regard the period as boom time. If you’re sweltering in Arkansas, an air-conditioned cinema – even one showing Killer Reptile V – presents an enticing prospect.
So the big guns are out. But, my word, a lot of familiar faces (and masks) are on display. Complaining about the number of sequels and remakes has always been a popular activity among film-goers. With recession still lurking and new technologies yet again threatening traditional cinema exhibition, the studios seem to have become more conservative than ever.
If you crave a popcorn flick that is neither a sequel, a remake nor a comic-book adaptation, then you had best look away now. Pirates 4, Spy Kids 4, X-Men 4 1/12, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2. Now look, here, JJ Abrams. Super 8, a rare original idea, had better be good. Robert Pattinson rejoins the mortal world in this romance set amid a travelling circus during the Depression. Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz are among the carnies. Japanese master Takashi Miike brings us a samurai film concerning a baker’s dozen of killers. A remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film of the same name. Joe Wright, who launched Saoirse Ronan in Atonement, directs a thriller in which the young star plays a teen assassin. Highly praised documentary concerning the world Irish dancing championships. The hair is large and the children are feisty. Rachid Bouchareb offers a follow-up to the acclaimed Days of
with this story of Algerian resistance fighters in post-war Paris. Controversial stuff. Continuing his merry trawl through lowbrow material, Paul Bettany stars as a more than usually violent priest pitched against ill-tempered vampires. Based on an acclaimed Korean comic. Conor Horgan, successful photographer and short film-maker, delivers his feature debut with an excellent drama set in post-apocalyptic Ireland. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Chadian film, runner-up at Cannes last year, concerns a former swimming champion who now works as a pool supervisor at an upmarket hotel. Allegorical. Joe Cornish – of TV’s Adam and Joe – makes his feature debut with a comic horror involving alien invasions in south London. Sorted! Promising Australian thriller – a class of latter-day Down Under western – following a cop during his first day on the job. The writers of That ’70s Show stretch themselves with an ensemble comedy set in 1988. The underemployed Topher Grace and the chortlesome Anna Faris savour the power ballads. Emilio Estevez directs his father, Martin Sheen, in a drama set among pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Twinkly James Nesbitt twinkles as an Irish writer.
Does that mean the tides are awash with people you haven’t met or that they are more peculiar than usual? Never mind. You don’t need to be told what this is. Should take squillions. Thriller concerning the formation of the commando unit headed by Ian Fleming during the second World War. Not sure the old Etonian would approve of Danny
Dyer’s presence in the cast. We still await a satisfactory adaptation of a book by first-class Irish crime writer Ken Bruen. This one stars Jason Statham as a tough (what else?) policeman on the trail of a serial killer. Guillermo del Toro presents (whatever that means) a horror film concerning a woman who, as blindness advances, must investigate a mysterious death. To be fair, Señor del Toro knows a good shocker when he sees one. Tom McCarthy, director of The Station Agent and The Visitor, returns with a comic drama concerning a decent New Jersey lawyer facing bankruptcy. Paul Giamatti employs his best hangdog look. Sequel to one of the most successful comedies ever at the Irish box office. This time round, the dissolute dudes are in Bangkok for Stu’s wedding. Liam Neeson no longer has a cameo. Second film adapted from Jeff Kinney’s books concerning a young nerd and his largely likeable family. Harmless fun for, well, some of the family. Moving, sentimental drama following a young South African girl’s efforts to keep her family together in a town ravaged by Aids and prostitution. Khomotso Manyaka is stunning in the lead role. Good grief. Where has this been? This is the film – concerning a soldier detailed to deliver bad news to families – for which Woody Harrelson received an Oscar nomination last year. Who were the X-Men before they were X-Men? It seems that Professor Xavier was James McAvoy and Magneto was Michael Fassbender. Sounds plausible enough.