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a long time agoThere has been lots of talk about where the Star Wars saga should go.  I was skeptical about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and if it were a good idea, ultimately it turned out to be fantastic.  The as yet untitled Han Solo movie is a step further.  Firstly to make a young Han Solo movie it requires a new young actor to plan Han Solo, if you have to do it, Alden Ehrenreich is a good choice, but do they have to do it?  Is Han Solo’s past not best left a mystery?  It is clear why Disney want to make the film; existing properties are the vain of gold that the studio are most expert at tapping, the value of this vein is greatly increased by the addition of an A list character from the franchise.  So where does the franchise go from here? han solo movie cast

Around the time of the original release of Return of the Jedi, I remember an interview with George Lucas where he spoke of a nine film series.  The original trilogy followed by two further trilogies, one prequel, on sequel.  By the time the prequels came out Lucas had changed his tune suggesting that he was too old to make any further films beyond the second trilogy and furthermore, there was only ever going to be two trilogies, the original and the prequel series telling the story of the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. star_wars_episode_one_the_phantom_menace_ver1

As luck and a strange twist of fate, or to be more honest money would have it, we are now getting the third trilogy.  But what next? to quote Winston Churchill (hopefully correctly) “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning”.  So what next, after the Han Solo movie and episodes VII and IX?  There has been constant suggestions of a Boba Fett movie, I am not sure why, he has never been an interesting character.  There is however a whole universe and a thousand generations of stories to be told!

A notable thing about original story is the time in which they are set.  The fight for good and evil, light and dark is told over three films, each set over no more than a few days, this works for the original films but will not work with an origin story.  The second and third prequels stretch the idea to tell their storey over a longer period, this is to their detriment. So back to those thousand generations.  The original conversation between Ben/Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker tells us so much of the Star Wars universe, in some ways too much as George Lucas had to retcon so much of it to fit the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi into the mythology, this was even before he started rewriting everything to make the prequels work.  But there remains one statement from Obi-Wan Kenobi still untouched of diluted:

“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic… before the dark times… before the empire.”luke and obi wan

How long is a thousand generations and what stories could be told?  Best guess, a thousand generations is around 20,000 to 25,000 years.  The stories are endless, You could start with the origin of the Jedi and the start of the battle between light and dark.  This however could be too much of a religious allegory , far better would be individual stories of turning points in the battle.  These could be told in a single stories or trilogies.

The possibilities are endless.  Where and when did the Jedi begin?  Was this a time before intergalactic travel and set on a single planet?  Would you tell the story of The First Jedi?  Who came first, The Jedi or The Sith?  Did one begin as a balance to the other, or did they start out as the same thing and one broke away over disagreements on the use of the force.  I like the idea of a story of a young apprentice learning the ways of the force with his master, only to discover that they are the bad guys not the good guys, we the audience should realise this before the apprentice but not before long before.  The final act would be the apprentices own personal battle between good and evil as he/she has to choose between what they have always known and what they now understand to be right.  Both the prequels and The Force Awakens suggest young Jedi are taught as a collective before been taken on by a master, is there room for a Jedi high-school movie? Jedi are presented as little monk like, how about the story of the first female Jedi? What about Yoda origin story, or even better a story of a power struggle on the Jedi council with a young Yoda as new, headstrong and less wise character than we know.yoda and younglins

As mentioned, the possibilities are endless, I am sure Disney have both the quality and quantity of writers to be able to think up more and better ideas than me, I just hope they do it, I want to hear a thousand generations of Jedi stories.

How did we get here?  Sixteen years ago The Fast and the Furious was the type of mid budget film that we don’t see much of these days.  It cost around $40million to make and took just over $200million at the worldwide boxoffice. Certainly enough earn a sequel, but seven ever growing sequels, did anyone see that coming? the fate of the furious submarine

The Fast and the Furious (2001): The modest (in comparison to later films) movie started out as a magazine article “Racer X”, about groups who got together to illegally race customised Japanese cars late at night on New York streets.  The story was expanded by adding the plot of Point Break with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel taking over the Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze parts.The fast and the furious

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): Leaving the rest of the original cast behind, and sticking with Paul Walker’s undercover cop.  This film introduces Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) who become mainstays of the later films.  Roman starts out as s tough ex-con, in later films he has become the comic relief of the series and not the tough guy.  The budget nearly doubled that of the first film but the boxoffice was only up a fraction.2-fast-2-furious-2003-movie-poster

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): Dropping the entire cast of the first two movies (almost). Looking everyone of his 24 years, Lucas Black plays a 17 year old high school student sent to live with his U.S. Navy officer farther in Tokyo.  There he gets involved with drift racing and the Yakuza.  Although Black does make an apearence in a later film he didn’t become part of the “family”.  Han Lue (Sung Kang) however, did!  For reasons that you will understand if you have seen the film, the introduction of Han into later films needs a little crow-baring to fit the continuity.  Vin Diesel returns in a cameo pointing the way forward.  The weakest performing movie both taken as overall boxoffice and return on investment.the fast and the furious tokyo drift movie poster

Fast & Furious (2009): The “family” are back together, original cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodríguez and Jordana Brewster all return and are joined by Sung Kang in his second film.  The film also introduces new family member Gisele Yashar played by future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot.  Following the dip in performance the fledgling franchise was experiencing, the budget did not go up from the $85million spent on the previous film, and when adjusted for inflation was actually less than the $76million budget of the second film.  It took nearly $365million, over double the previous film.fast and furious

Fast Five (2011): Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Sung Kang and Jordana Brewster all return, as does Gal Gadot, Ludacris  and the new more comic version of Tyrese Gibson return from the second film.  The turning point of the franchise where things stated to get sill also saw the introduction of Luke Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson and Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) who has a significant part in the latest film.  I am not sure if Universal made a conscious decision to turn the franchise into a high octane heist movie.  I am not sure if they have ever confirmed or denied it, but the was a suggestion it was based on a script that started out as a sequel to the Italian Job remake (2003).  It is totally ridicules, but great fun, probably the high watermark for the franchise.  With the new direction the studio backed the franchise with a budget of $125million.  They were rewarded with a boxoffice of nearly $600million.fast five

Fast & Furious 6 (2013): Continuing the globetrotting high octane heist movie of Fast Five the “family” are back on the right side of the law for a while.  All the main cast from the previouse film return along with Michelle Rodriguez whose character Letty Ortiz returns from the dead.  Gina Carano also join the cast possibly for the sole reason to fight with Michelle Rodriguez.  Luke Evans plays villain Owen Shaw with Jason Statham appearing in a post credit sting as his brother.  The budget went up to $160million and returned nearly $800million.Fast & Furious 6

Furious 7 (2015): Following the events of the previous film, the “family” are back home in LA having being given amnesty for their past crimes.  Until Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) shows up after revenge for what happened to his brother.  This is all mixed in with a convoluted plot about a computerised McGuffin.  Don’t worry Kurt Russell is on hand as Mr. Nobody aka, Basil Exposition to explain everything.  Nathalie Emmanuel joins the family as Ramsey, a British computer “hacktivist” who is integral to the McGuffin.  The cast also features Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey.  By far the biggest movie of the franchise so far, the budget had swelled to $190million but the world boxoffice exceeded $1.5billion, or to put it another way ten times what Tokyo Drift made.  It is ranked 6th in the all time world boxoffice (before any adjustments for inflation), it was the third highrst grossing film of 2015 coming behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World but beating Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It isn’t all good news, as has been well publicised, Paul Walker was killed before the end of productionFurious 7

The Fate of the Furious: And so we come to the eight film in the franchise.  There was certainly a gear change at number five, but the series hasn’t so much changed, but it has evolved or morphed over time.  While placing the first and the most recent films alongside each other in isolation would look strange, the transition makes sense in a bonkers Hollywood way.  Charlize Theron is the main antagonist Cipher, a little like Blofeld in Spectre is revealed to be behind everything, not quite, but you get the idea!  In the franchises biggest Retcon, bigger than bringing Letty back from the dead, Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is now a good guy.  No bad thing, as he is the best thing in the movie, closely followed by Helen Mirren playing his mom.  Yes, I did say Dame Helen Mirren as The Stath’s mom, complete with an “alright gov’nor” cockney villain accent.  I have made a bit of a joke about the “family” in films, this is because it is the ongoing theme of the movies, the thing that keeps this group together is that they are a family.  However who is left of the ordinal family? Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has obviously been written out.  Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) is mentioned but is now with Brian and their own family, so all that remains of the original family is Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz.the fate of the furious poster

What next?: No post credit stings to show us the way, Charlize Theron’s Cipher is still alive so expect her back, but what of the Toretto Family?

Original members:

  • Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
  • Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)

Long term members:

  • Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)
  • Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges)

New members:

  • Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)
  • Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

Possible future members:

  • Eric Reisner / Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood)
  • Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)

Back in 2009 in the infancy of this sit, I started compiling a top ten most promising actors and actresses.  While I was still deciding on who would make the grade, Caz from Lets Go to the Movies posted a list of top ten actors.  I duly decided to drop my actors list and write about ten young actresses.  I didn’t have a hard and fast criteria, but set an age limit of 25 and excluded anyone who was an established A list star, such as Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley who were both 24 at the time.  So what has happened since then?  The most significant thing, Scarlett Johansson aside, most of the biggest stars have broken through since the my 2009 article they include: Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley , Carey Mulligan, Rooney Mara, Dakota Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Mia Wasikowska and Emma Stone.  The most significant people I failed to mention were: Saoirse Ronan and Anna Kendrick.  So what of those I mentioned?

The Hunger Games

Dakota Fanning: 15 at the time now 23, Dakota’s most significant performance that I have seen since my original post was as Cherie Currie in The Runaways.  Although still giving good performances the great roles don’t appear to be coming her way.  She seems to have been somewhat eclipsed by her Younger sister Elle (19 today). She does have the interesting looking Ocean’s Eight coming out next year.Dakota Fanning

Kristen Stewart: I sighted Adventurland as proof that Stewart (who turns 27 today), could act and had a career beyond Bella Swan.  I think I have been proved right.   With standout suporting roles in Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and excellent starring roles in Personal Shopper and Equals she has not only proved to be a great actress, but also one who makes interesting choices.  I am yet to see Certain Women but have heard positive things about it. Kristen Stewart

Nikki Reed: 13 is remains and will probably remain the actresses most significant work.  Now 28 she has totally dropped off my radar, I don’t think I have seen her in anything since the Twighlight movies.   Nikki Reed

Ellen Page: After my original article Page now 30 went on to star in the hugely successful Inception directed by Christopher Nolan.  She reprised her role as Kitty Pryde in the X-Men franchise playing a relatively small but very significant part in the excellent Days of Future Past. Kitty Pryde Ellen Page

Evan Rachel Wood: I first say  Wood now 29 starring alongside Nikki Reed in 13.  At the time of writing she had appeared in The Wrestler alongside Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, she appeared to be on the brink of mega stardom but never really made the jump.  She has since found her most significant part and greatest acclaim on TV in Westworld.Evan Rachel Wood

Camilla Belle: At the time of writing back in 09, Belle’s star was on the rise.  Now 30, I haven’t seen her in a single movie.  She is still working with 10 IMDB credits it the time, I just haven’t seen any of them. Camilla Belle

Olivia Thirlby:  Best known as Juno’s best friend Olivia Thirlby was a bit of a long shot for the list.  Now 30, she hasn’t found the breakthrough role she needed.  however, she has starred in one excellent film, the massively underappreciated Dredd. Olivia Thirlby

Kat Dennings: Dennings now 30 is currently best known for the TV show 2 Broke Girls and for providing comic relief in the Thor movies . Kat Dennings

Megan Fox:  Now 30, I expected Fox to try more interesting roles following Jennifer’s Body, unfortunately the Transformers star seems to be concentrated on rubbish comedies and the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Amanda Seyfried: At 24 then and 31 now, Seyfried is the oldest star on the list.  She has proved to be a first rate and diverse actor.  Most exciting of all, she is set to appear in the new series of Twin Peaks later this year. Amanda Seyfried

I also had a couple of bonus picks:

Olivia Wilde: At 25, now 33 Wilde was older than the rest on the list and still largely a TV star.  She made the breakthrough with several movie roles, the highest profile being TRON: Legacy.  She continues to work in both TV and film. olivia wilde tron

Jennifer Ulrich: I predicted the German actress now 32 would make the jump to Hollywood, she hasn’t.  She has continued to work in German TV and Movies. Jennifer Ulrichwe are the night

King Arthur

A little like Robin Hood, every few years sees a new version of King Arthur, more often than not they fail to live up to the potential.  With the latest incarnation: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword due out next month, it’s a good time to look back at some past interpretations of the story:

King Arthur Legend of the Sword

The best interpretation of the legend I have come across came, not on the screen but on the page.  Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles (The Winter King (1995), Enemy of God (1995) and Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur (1997)) is a trilogy of books telling the story of Arthur from a more grounded prospective.  Set in a Post-Roman Britain at a time when the nation was under constant threat of invasion at the same time as being torn apart from within by petty struggles from the kingdoms.  There is also a struggle between the new Christianity that is sweeping the country and the Old Religions. The reason the story works so well is the way the magic is stripped away  to little more than superstition and legend leaving the writer free to tell a story of realistic historical fiction that retains all the elements of Arthurian mythology. Using the original Welsh legends of the Dark Ages as a foundation, but also including later European characters such as Lancelot.  Very  cinematic in its structure I am always surprised it has never been adapted for the screen, large or small.

The Warlord Chronicles

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): A ludicrously low budget and silly telling of the story that hits the marks you would expect in a story of Arthur with the comic inclusion of The Voice of God, killer rabbits, holy hand grenades, a wizard named Tim, a Trojan Rabbit, and who could forget The Knights who say Ni.  The budget didn’t stretch to horses so the actors skipped along pretending to be ridding they way children would in the playground, while their aids followed banging coconut shells together simulating early foley work.  The result is totally ridicules, but hilarious as you would expect from the Python’s.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Excalibur (1981): Taking its name from the legendary sword of King Arthur, John Boorman’s film is based on the 15th century Le Morte d’Arthur (the death of Arthur) by Thomas Malory.  Malory’s work has become the basis of many people’s Arthurian stories, it was itself based on existing stories from English, Welsh and French stories as well as his own inventions.  The film tells the story of Arthur from his conception to his downfall.  The story contains all the characters you would expect: King Arthur, Merlin, Guenevere, Morgana Le Fay, Lancelot, Perceval, Uther,  Pendragon, Igrayne, Mordred.  A million miles from the reality based version of Bernard Cornwell, this is pure fantasy and, probably the best fantasy version of the story.

Excalibur

King Arthur (2004): Let’s begin by saying the movies tagline “The True Story Behind the Legend” is a bit of a stretch, well actually it is total bullshit!  The story is as fictional as any other legend of Arthur.   Setting the story in a similar time to Bernard Cornwell’s take on the story, this Antoine Fuqua directed effort goes a stage further taking every sense of magic and fantasy out of the story.  Arthur (Clive Owen) is depicted as a Roman cavalry officer.  Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is a native Briton and the Daughter of Merlin (Stephen Dillane -best known as Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones) a tribal leader.  The story is a little convoluted but culminates in a Briton/Roman battle against Saxon invaders.  The film was met with nearly universally poor reviews but was actually an enjoyable if slight film with a fantastic cast making the most of the underwritten characters.

King Arthur

Again like Robin Hood, Arthur has also appeared on TV many times, here are a few of the memorable ones:

Merlin (1998): A three part miniseries depicts Merlin as the central character of the story.  A fantastic cast is led by Sam Neill as the titular Merlin and Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan Le Fey. The effects look dated now but  the story is good.

Merlin

The Mists of Avalon (2001): I have never seen this two part, three hour miniseries but am intrigued.  The IMDB synopsis reads: Based on the bestseller by Marion Zimmer Bradley It tells the story of the women behind King Arthur; including his mother, Igraine; his half-sister, Morgaine; his aunt Viviane, the Lady of the Lake; and his wife, Gwenwyfar.

The Mists of Avalon

Camelot (2011): It ran for just one 10 episode season on HBO and was largely overshadowed by Game of Thrones that started around the same time.  It wasn’t great but has some interesting ideas, namely complicated flawed human characters rather than black and white portraits of good and evil.  The main reason to watch are Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and Eva Green as Morgan. It is probably a good think that it didn’t catch on as it may have stopped Eva Green making the amazing Penny Dreadful.  The other reason I mention the series here, is that its look is very similar to what I can see of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from the trailer.

Camelot

There has also been a very popular series Merlin that ran on primetime BBC from 2008 to 2012, I gave up on it after the first episode so don’t really know anything about it beyond its popularity.  Will King Arthur: Legend of the Sword be any good and go on to be a franchise, or will Excalibur (1981) remain the benchmark for Arthurian movies.  Check back in a month or two to find out. 

After a gap in proceedings last month I finally caught up on Moonlight and Fences, the last two Oscar contenders I had missed.  Making up for lost time I also saw another dozen movies: 

Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books.  More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise.  Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.

Logan

Trespass Against Us: Family crime drama set within a traveller community.  Michael Fassbender again proves to be one of the best actors working today.  Brendan Gleeson has fun with the more showy role.

Trespass Against Us

Moonlight: Had I seen this before all the hype I would have probably declared it the best small independent film in years.  As good as it is, and although I wouldn’t argue with its Oscar win, I have seen films in the past year that I prefer.

Moonlight

The Great Wall: As stunning to look at as you would expect from Yimou Zhang.  The story is silly beyond belief but is entertaining and fun.

The Great Wall

The LEGO Batman Movie: The follow up to The LEGO movie is essentially a Batman spoof and not a LEGO movie.  Ultimately it is good fun with the jokes coming thick and fast.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Kong: Skull Island: Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War a group of scientists and soldiers go in search of the titular giant ape.  Uneven and disjointed but always fun.  Not a patch on the 1933 original but better than most other attempts to update the story.

Kong Skull Island

Viceroy’s House: Essentially the Cliff Notes of Lord Mountbatten and Britain’s Withdrawal from India.  Entertaining and informative but lacking any great depth.

Viceroy's House

Fences: Denzel Washington’s movie adapted from August Wilson’s play.  Fantastic acting but the film fails to escapes its theatrical origin.

Fences

Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more incoherent time, well not exactly; 1978, an arms deal goes wrong resulting in a violent but often amusing shootout.  Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.

Free Fire

Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previouse film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star.  A haunting film the seeps into your psyche.  Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.

Personal Shopper

Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller.  Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for.  Best of all it is tremendous fun.

Get Out

Life: Is there life on Mars? Scientists on the international space station examine samples from The Red Planet and find that there was Life on Mars.  Engaging, largely thanks to a likeable cast but without the grit or originality of Alien.

2219634 - LIFE

Power Rangers: Surprisingly not terrible.  Most of the film is a teen drama that is clichéd but not dull.  The robots hitting each other ending is as bad as anything Transformers has to offer.

Power Rangers

Ghost in the Shell: Like action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s seminal 1995 cyberpunk manga anime.  It looks amazing and Scarlett Johansson is brilliant perfectly playing a charter who is literally uncomfortable in her own skin.  Unable to transcend its manga and anime origins it is a little cold but texture is added by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s fantastic retro future score.  If that hasn’t sold it to you, to top it all off, it also features Takeshi Kitano.

Ghost in the Shell

Not every film I saw this month where great, but I enjoyed them all in some way, even the weaker ones.  When you strip away the also ran’s we are left with five contenders for movie of the month.  You could argue that Moonlight is the best film this month but it isn’t the movie of the month.  Did I truly love Personal Shopper or did I just love Kristen Stewart’s performance? Get Out is the cleverest and probably most relevant movie of the month and is so close, but not the movie of the month.  Logan was my movie of the month right up until I started writing this last paragraph, I can’t get beyond the simple sublime brilliance of the movie of the month: Free Fire. 

Free Fire movie poster

Dom 5

I had a couple of Oscar articles planned before the awards but was ill at the time and didn’t get around to it, I also didn’t get around to posting Sixth Annual Groovers Movie Awards.  Better late than never! All awards are chosen by me and the criteria for eligibility is decided by me.  The categories for the awards given aren’t always the same year on year.  The award, is called the “Dom”, if you don’t know the relevance you need to watch the movie Fandango (1985).

Best Film: Should I christen it the Denis Villeneuve  award?  For the second year in a row the best movie of the year is directed by Villeneuve: Arrival

arrival

Best Director: Tom Ford. Proving A Single Man wasn’t a fluke, Ford is back with Nocturnal Animals.  The second best movie of the year and one that is directed with a precision reminiscent of David Fincher, past master John Ford.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Best Performance: This is where it gets complicated, do you give Amy Adams the best performance award for Arrival or Nocturnal Animals? It doesn’t matter, you would be right either way.

Amy Adams

Most Fun Movie of the Year: Sing Street, John Carney’s story of a teenager who starts a band for the most noble of reasons, to impress a girl, is fun, funny and charming.

sing-street

Best Horror: To be honest, Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to Blue Ruin is more a violent thriller than an horror, but it is shocking, violent, bloody and visceral; all the elements of a great horror.

green-room

Breakout Star: The startling thing about the breakout star, Anya Taylor-Joy is how out of nowhere that she came.  Last years winner Alicia Vikander had been a star of TV and film in her native Sweden for a decade before her moving to English language movies.  Prior to The Witch, Taylor-Joy has just two IMDB credits, a bit part in Vampire Academy and an episode of TV Show Endeavour.  As well as her sensational performance in The Witch she is also fantastic in the underrated Morgan and  Split.

Anna Taylor Joy

Fandango Award: Kelly Fremon Craig – Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout film-makers of the year:  This years winner; Kelly Fremon Craig had just one credit as a writer before writing, directing and producing The Edge of Seventeen.  As the director of the best teen movie in a generation she is in some pretty impressive company: John Hughes, Mark Waters, Michael Lehmann, Richard Linklater and Nicholas Ray.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Dom 5

Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently. And choose watching history repeat itself. Choose your future. Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero-hour contract, a two hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen. And then… take a deep breath. You’re an addict. So be addicted, just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love. Choose your future. Choose life.

t2 trainspotting

I saw T2 Trainspotting back in January on general release.   I didn’t get around to writing about it at the time so wasn’t going to bother.  With the North American release imminent now is as good a time as any.  However, there is little point in reviewing it as there are already a plethora of opinions online.     

To talk about T2 Trainspotting, first we have to go back to the original film from 1996.  Trainspotting was a special film in its day.  In 1996 I was a student and immersed in the culture of the day.  Times were good, it was pre 9/11, the economy was booming after the recession of the early 90’s, Brit Pop was at its height, The England football team weren’t.  At the movies Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and particularly Quentin Tarantino were spearheading a new independent cinema that spoke to our generation, but they are all American.  Trainspotting was different, Trainspotting was British, Trainspotting was ours.  Overnight Trainspotting posters started replacing Reservoir Dogs posters on the walls of every student house in town.  It was the tinny glimmer that a British film industry could make modern contemporary and exciting films.

Trainspotting-Poster

The first thing that is worth mentioning is that Trainspotting wasn’t really set in 1996.  Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel from three years before it, a date is never actually mentioned but it feels more like the late 80’s early 90’s, a less hopeful time.  The Choose Life mantra dates back to the Katharine Hamnett T’shirts of the mid 80’s.  Did this squalor make us feel even better about the time we were living in?  The new film appears to be set in the modern day, Renton’s new choose life speech tells us how it all went wrong and how we have a less optimistic outlook, making it truly a film for 2017 and the political climate.

Irvine Welsh

Back in 1996, there was a certain buzz about Trainspotting long before release, partly thanks to the cult status of Welsh’s novel but more to do with Danny Boyle’s feature début Shallow Grave from two years before.  I still went to see the film with a certain amount of trepidation because of the subject matter.  How much fun could a film about heroin addicts be?  But Trainspotting isn’t about heroin, it is about life, it is about the choices we make.   It doesn’t glorify heroin, but it doesn’t condemn its protagonists, it glorifies life.  Along with well drawn characters, this is what lets the film be both compelling and devastatingly funny.

So, as Simon aka Sick Boy asks Mark Renton: what have you been up to, For 20 years? For a start, director Danny Boyle and star Ewan McGregor had a famous falling out over the studio’s insistence at casting the more bankable Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach.  This gap has made a difference.  Boyle has spoken about how they tried to make a sequel after ten years based on Welsh’s follow up novel Porno.  The twenty year gap has given the story and its characters space to breath.  The film starts with Renton running on a treadmill, a perfect juxtaposition to his running from security guards after shoplifting in the opening to the first film.  Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie are all doing about what you would expect of them.  Spud (Ewen Bremner) is the biggest revelation of the movie, the least used and often comic relief of the first film becomes the most significant and poignant character of T2.  I have never seen a sequel that uses so much of the original film.  The nods and flashbacks are a great risk, but actually provide many of the films best moments.  Along with flashbacks to the main characters as children this not only makes for an interesting film, it also adds extra colour to the original film.

t2-trainspotting-teaser

I was lucky enough to catch a screening of the original film a week before seeing the sequel.  Anyone planning on seeing T2 should re-watch Trainspotting first to get the most out of both films.   In the movie, Sick Boy accuses Renton of being  nostalgic, “You’re a tourist in your own youth”.  The film is nostalgic, in fact, it is both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable.  It isn’t as good as the original but Trainspotting set the bar so high I didn’t expect it to be, most fans won’t be disappointed.