Welcome to the Newsreel, a new Featurettes feature where we'll share news from the entertainment world each week. I also occasionally stumble into internet rabbit holes, so I might share some anachronistic morsels I've found there as well.
The Dunkirk trailer was released last week, reminding us that no one is a better casting agent than Christopher Nolan. This article from The Ringer summed up my feelings exactly, not only with its title ("I Hope Dunkirk is Four Years Long") but also its astute observation of Nolan's weakness:
But when you watch this trailer, you realize that this is the perfect story for Nolan at this point in his career. He needed this. Nolan is a director of prodigious visual gifts, but his stories are, to be completely frank and a bit vulgar, poppycock. The highlights — Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight; Anne Hathaway almost getting hit by a tidal wave in Interstellar — obscure the gaping narrative holes found in his movies. ....[H]e trips over the density of his source material, whether it’s an astrophysics textbook or DC comic book. Dunkirk is different. Dunkirk is Spartacus-meets–Masterpiece Theater.
Gaping narrative holes may run in the family, since that's just how I felt about Jonathan Nolan's HBO project Westworld. You can see my review of the series here.
Two new cinematic releases--Passengers and Rogue One--have more in common than space travel. They also provoked ethical debate. Passengers was the worst offender, no doubt. It might be worth spoiling the plot to read CBR's blistering review:
At first blush, “Passengers” seems like an ideal escapist adventure: a spaceship-set tale where mega-charming A-listers Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play star-crossed passengers whose bliss is broken by a terrible revelation. But that very disclosure is what soils both the romance and fun of “Passengers,” spinning the film into a repulsive, tone-deaf drama.
As for Rogue One, the CGI resurrection of Peter Cushing to play Grand Moff Tarkin made me queasy. Some people agreed, some found it inevitable, and some didn't even notice. Indie Wire surveyed multiple critics on their reaction. No one was angrier than IndieWire's own David Ehrlick:
The results are unnatural, unethical, and borderline unholy. Worst of all, they’re hideous. Cushing’s lifeless digital husk is a blight upon the most beautiful ‘Star Wars’ film to date, its presence squeezing the air out of several different scenes. Zombie Tarkin is macabre, distracting, and the start of a long slide down a slippery slope, but — worse than that — his presence isn’t just a blemish on the face of ‘Rogue One,’ it’s a symptom of its fatal decision to glorify the past at the expense of charting a new course for the present.
And finally, my Internet Rabbit Hole morsel... I was reading Pajiba's list "The Stupidest WTF Plot Twists of 2016" which includes the aforementioned Passengers faux pas. It also included a link to TK's review of Batman v Superman from March, which reminded me that I am overdue for a good hate-watch of this movie, and it is now available on HBO Now.
But worse than any of that is that the film is boring. It’s a hopeless, hapless grind, stumbling about like a wounded elephant, occasionally crashing into things, but never accomplishing anything. It takes forever for the story to develop, because Snyder can’t get out of his own ass and so he needs to include countless exhausting expository scenes and speeches. The dialogue is horrendous — no one in this film just talks to each other. Instead, every single line is delivered as if it’s a moment of incredible weight and importance, with everyone glowering morosely at each other. It’s a banal, dull, joyless effort, with the two or three sad attempts at humor plummeting to their deaths amidst its relentless gloominess and undying awfulness.
Sounds like a blast! In the meantime, The Featurettes will be writing about our favorite Christmas movies every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Don't miss it.