Electronic Arts’ street racing video game series gets the movie treatment in next Spring’s “Need for Speed” series, with “Breaking Bad” leading light Aaron Paul taking the lead and trying his level best not to be outshone by souped-up Bugatti Veyrons and their exotic automotive ilk.
I’m a little bemused by the approach that the marketing bods have taken to this film, to be frank. The obvious comparison, Universal’s “Fast and Furious” movies, are big on broad-strokes drama but never entirely convince, as the increasingly loopy set-pieces in the flicks means that you can’t take all of the sotto voce, ‘we’re all about family‘ nonsense seriously.
Paul’s voice over duties on this trailer suggest that those behind “Need For Speed” are gunning for a street racing crime flick which is more Scorsese-lite crime saga than excuse to flip some million dollar sports cars around in blatant defiance of established physics.
And I don’t know what to feel about that. Imogen Poots and Dominic Cooper generally improve anything that they’re in, so maybe this is one 2014 action franchise which might be worth a look.
Or, to put it another way, I’ve signed up for an evening class. Mathematics has never been my strong point and it’s about time that I did something about that. It’s the first time that I’ve taken an evening class in a subject that I wasn’t already intrigued by in some way.
I don’t like maths, maths doesn’t like me, but darn it – some good will come of this. Possibly.
I’m imagining that my class is going to look something like this:
I really enjoyed director Neill Blomkamp’s debut sci-fi movie, “District 9” in 2009.
It did a great job of embedding social commentary beneath the surface of a sci-fi action flick, finding time to suggest that Racism Is A Bad Idea whilst also not forgetting that we were probably watching the film to see cardboard cut-out bad guys get satisfyingly splattered by big ass alien weaponry.
It was cheap as chips, knew that it was a genre movie and wasn’t afraid to have an idea or two – “District 9” was a rather wonderful piece of filmic sci-fi.
Expectations, then, were high for Blomkamp’s follow-up, the Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley starring “Elysium”.
It’s a tale of haves and have-nots on a suitably epic scale, with Moneybags One Percenters in the far future having left a polluted and overpopulated Earth to the empty-pocketed masses and fetched up on Elysium, an orbital gated community-cum-gated community where tasteful, monied excess is the order of the day and all diseases are cured by magical space technology.
On Earth, former crook-going-straight Max (Matt Damon) is having a much scabbier time – when he’s not being brutalised by the no-tolerance police droids which he helps to build in William Fichtner’s factory, he’s getting horrifyingly irradiated in an industrial accident which gives him five days to live. His one hope is, yes, an illicit run to Elysium on a shuttle which will probably be shot down by Jodie Foster’s head of security.
This is, as you might have gathered, a less than subtle and occasionally ham-handed “District 9” follow-up from Blomkamp, which at least has glorious action cinematography and genius industrial design to distract you from a screenplay which is frequently so earnest and simplistic as to make anybody with half-a-brain roll their eyes in dismay at the contrivances and technology fails evident throughout the story.
The world building is still magnificent – Blomkamp does convincing, beaten-down future settings in the style of his filmmaking forebears Ridley Scott and James Cameron and invents environments which have clearly had more consideration paid to them than the plotting of this film has.
Potential viewers of this film whose politics are right of centre are probably best advised to skip this at the cinema as the film’s wide-eyed liberal politics, nay actual socialism, will just piss them off. And I say that as a liberal soul who frequently found himself whilst watching this film wondering whether Blomkamp actually wants his viewers to take up rail guns in order to get access to the medical care which they are denied by glitzy CEOs in space Bugattis?
Damon’s good as the titular, rough-hewn hero – and he’s matched by Copley who makes a superbly hissable villain (you might need to fine tune your hearing to pay attention to his none-more-Sarf-Iffrickan accent, but it’s worth the effort). The only weak acting link in this movie, bizarrely, is Jodie Foster who appears to decided that what this movie really needed was an accent and characterisation which wanders between French diplomat, “Barefoot Contessa” tv chef Ina Garten and a minor member of the British Royal family.
It’s utterly perplexing – can we retrospectively revoke acting Oscars? Is that a thing, yet?
Nonetheless, “Elysium” is a very entertaining action movie with sufficient forward motion that it can temporarily blind you to the fact that it doesn’t really hang together when you view the plot and events therein afterwards (Brain data transfer? Surface to orbit missiles shot from a hand held rocket launcher? Changing one word in a computer code sub-routine magically reboots the global social order?).
The idea at the heart of the film – that healthcare should be free and universal – is one that I wholeheartedly agree with so it’s nicely subversive if not actually deliciously eccentric to see it form the centrepiece of a summer action blockbuster. Wonders will never cease…
Fans of the extended “Star Wars” universe will get the titular reference, but for the uninitiated Grand Admiral Thrawn is a pivotal bad guy in Timothy Zahn’s follow-up trilogy of “Star Wars” novels which follow on from the climax of “Return of the Jedi”.
Thrawn is a popular villain in the great canon of despicable galactic ne’er-do-wells – Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Jabba The Hutt – as in Zahn’s novels he manages to embody the all-conquering, militaristic might of the Empire whilst being drawn in shades of moralistic grey quite at odds with much of the established “Wars” canon.
Rather than immediately smote a lower-ranking officer for suggesting that his strategies are at odds with the overwhelming evidence of reality in front of them, Thrawn’s the kind of guy who knows when to pack up the fleet and head for hyperspace and save the fight for another day.
All of which preamble obscures the main, non-news of the last twenty-four hours – Benedict Cumberbatch is the latest name linked to J.J. Abrams and Disney’s 2015-bound “Star Wars – Episode Seven”.
It’s hardly surprising, really – if you throw a dart at a casting director’s wish list, the British actor’s name is probably near the top, near Tom Hiddleston’s – and this rumour seems to have as much basis in fact as last week’s feverish speculation over Rachel Hurd-Wood and Alex Pettyfer auditioning for the apparently pivotal roles of Skywalker offspring.
Until Abrams and Disney let some, you know, actual information loose and tell us something, any actor with a half-competent agent is probably angling to get their client linked to a role in what should be the all-conquering movie franchise for the next decade (the potential for lucrative spin-off movies, merchandise and theme-park tie-ins must have Disney’s board thinking that the $4 Billion cost of buying Lucasfilm is but so much chump change…).
I’d actually like to see Cumberbatch play a more heroic role, if only to offset the expectations of villainy which come with his being cast in a Hollywood movie. The old ‘Posh Brit Actor = Dastardly Evil’ equation is getting rather wearing, wouldn’t you say?
Whilst a well-drawn villain is often more attractive to actors than the prospect of playing a Peter Perfect white hat with no moral grey areas to draw upon, I’d like to see Michael Arndt and the “Star Wars” writing team draw from the expanded universe and let these new “Star Wars” heroes and villains embody different shades of the character spectrum.