Back to the future

Upcoming releases by world-class directors.

After the release of long-awaited films, such as Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In and Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, we take a look at what's coming next from some of our greatest living directors.

Twixt (2011), Franis-Ford Coppola

In Coppola's new detective thriller, Val Kilmer plays a pulp horror writer living in a Californian town, who becomes involved in a dramatic murder story of his own. Narrated by Tom Waits, the cast includes Ben Chaplin, Bruce Dern and Elle Fanning.

Making a rare public appearance, this year Coppola showed parts of Twixt to the Comic-Con fan convention in San Diego. He used real-time editing tools to present a version of the film which was directly influenced by the audience's response. This was the first run of an interesting project due before Twixt's theatrical release: a national tour in which Coppola will show a different version of the thriller each night.

Carnage (2011), Roman Polanski

Carnage is based upon God of Carnage, the 2009 Tony-winning play written by French playwright Yasmina Reza. Reza and Polanski started adapting the play for the big screen in 2009. Set in Brooklyn, Carnage is based on the interaction between two sets of middle-class parents who meet after their sons are found fighting in the school playground. In this witty film, hostility and resentment are unleashed between two couples: the Longstreets (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster) and the Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet). Premiered at the Venice Film Festival, Carnage will open the 49th New York Film Festival on 30 September.

Melancholia (2011), Lars von Trier

From the director of the 2000 Palme-D'Or-winning Dancer In the Dark, comes this visually stunning end-of-the-world melodrama. The film was in the running for this year's Palme D'Or, but lost to Terence Malick's Tree of Life.

A mysterious new planet called "Melancholia" threatens to collide into the Earth, which has a damaging affect on the relationship between two sisters: Justine and Claire. Kirsten Dunst won Best Female Actress at Cannes this year for her role as Justine, a bride-to-be who suffers from depression. The more rational sister, Claire, is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. The film also stars Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt.

Gambit (2012), Michael Hoffman

The remake of the 1966 British action thriller starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine has a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen.

In his first film since The King's Speech, Colin Firth stars as a cat burglar trying to rob a billionaire. The criminal employs the help of a waitress (Cameron Diaz) who closely resembles the billionaire's ex-wife. Gambit's shooting in London began in May this year, and it should be released in 2012.

The Great Gatsby (2012), Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann is dedicating a vast budget of £90m to his film production of one of the best novels of all time. First published in 1925, F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby conveys how a materialist and hedonistic culture can both attract and estrange people from one another. The novel is set in Long Island and New York City, but the film is being shot in Australia.

In parallel with his role as Jay Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is stupendously rich, topping the 2011 Forbes list for the top-earning male in Hollywood. Tobey Maguire plays the novel's narrator Nick Carraway and Carey Mulligan stars as Gatsby's love, the enigmatic and unforgettable Daisy Buchanan. In other roles, Isla Fisher stars as the sassy Myrtle and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan.

It's said that Luhrmann will shoot the film in 3D. This has sparked anger from some who fear that the form is suited to fast-paced action films rather than to an adaptation of a classic novel.

The Bop Decameron (2012), Woody Allen

Woody Allen's first film set in Rome is a romantic-comedy partly influenced by Fellini and the Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio's 14th-century collection of bawdy stories.

Allen will star in the film, alongside actors such as Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and Ellen Page. This is the second time Allen has directed Penelope Cruz - the first time being Vicky Christina Barcelona in 1998, for which Cruz won an Oscar. Allen has also casted real life members of Rome's paparazzi.

Pinocchio (2014), Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro will direct a new version of Pinocchio in 2014, an exciting prospect after his mesmerising dark fairy-tale Pan's Labyrinth, which was set in facist Spain.

A follow-up to The Five Obstructions, Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier

Scorsese and Lars von Trier have confirmed that they will collaborate to make a follow-up to The Five Obstructions- von Trier's 2003 documentary about filmmaking. In 1967 Danish film director Jorgen Leth made a short film about human behaviour. The Five Obstructions was based on von Trier's challenge to Leth to make five remakes of his film under certain constraints, such as to shoot the film in the "most miserable place" Leth could think of. It is rumoured that in this follow-up von Trier will challenge Scorsese to remake the Taxi Driver.

Silence, Martin Scorsese

Scorsese's next feature film, Silence, is set to begin production in early 2012 and will have an impressive cast, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Benicio Del Toro and Gael García Bernal.

Marvel Studios
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In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, every other line reeks of a self-help manual

This lame sequel suggests the makers have largely forgotten why the original was so refreshing.

The 2014 romp Guardians of the Galaxy boasted the budget of a blockbuster and the soul of a B-movie. What that meant in practice was that audiences had to endure the same biff-pow battle scenes and retina-blistering effects as any space adventure, but they were rewarded with eccentric characters and tomfoolery for its own sake.

Despite the Marvel Studios imprimatur, the film showed the forces of intergalactic evil being fought not by superheroes, but by a ragtag band of bickering goofballs: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord, a self-regarding rogue in the Han Solo mould; the green-faced alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana); Drax (Dave Bautista), a literal-minded hulk; Rocket, a racoon-like warrior (voiced by Bradley Cooper); and Groot, a piece of bark that says “I am Groot” over and over in the dulcet tones of Vin Diesel. Movies this odd don’t usually become $770m smash hits but this one did – deservedly.

Those characters return in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (the “Vol 2” reflects Peter’s love of mix-tapes) but the new film suggests the makers have largely forgotten why the original was so refreshing. Gags are rehashed; several sequences (including an interminable slow-motion section involving a laser-powered arrow) are dragged way beyond their desirable lifespan. Late in the day, Rocket tells his shipmates that they have too many issues, which rather pinpoints the problem with the screenplay by the director, James Gunn. Gunn has saddled his characters with unreasonable baggage, all of it relating to family and belonging. No matter how far into space they travel, all roads lead back to the therapist’s couch.

Peter, raised by his late mother, is delighted when Ego (Kurt Russell) materialises claiming to be the father he never knew. The old man makes grand pronouncements, only to undercut them within seconds (“’Scuse me, gotta take a whizz”) but, on the plus side, he has his own planet and pulls the whole “One day, son, all this will be yours” shtick. Gamora also has family business to contend with. Her blue-skinned sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), wants to kill her: Nebula has never quite got over Gamora being Daddy’s favourite. To be fair, though, he did force them to fight one another, replacing parts of Nebula’s body with metal whenever she lost, so it’s not like we’re talking about only one sister being allowed to watch Top of the Pops.

The more Peter gets to know Ego, the less admirable he seems as a father, and soon we are in the familiar territory of having parenting lessons administered by a Hollywood blockbuster. The reason for this became obvious decades ago: the film industry is populated by overworked executives who never get to see their children, or don’t want to, and so compensate by greenlighting movies about what it means to be a good parent. Every other line here reeks of the self-help manual. “Please give me the chance to be the father your mother wanted me to be,” Ego pleads. Even a minor character gets to pause the action to say: “I ain’t done nothing right my whole life.” It’s dispiriting to settle down for a Guardians of the Galaxy picture only to find you’re watching Field of Dreams with added asteroids.

Vol 2 gets by for an hour or so on some batty gags (Gamora misremembering the plot and star of Knight Rider is an especially juicy one) and on the energising power of Scott Chambliss’s glorious production design. The combination of the hi-tech and the trashy gives the film the appearance of a multimillion-dollar carnival taking place in a junkyard. Spectacular battles are shot through scuffed and scratched windscreens, and there are spacesuits cobbled together from tin pots and bubble-wrap. This is consistent with the kitschfests that inspired the Guardians aesthetic: 1980s science-fiction delights such as Flash Gordon, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.

If only Vol 2 had mimicked their levity and brevity. Gunn ends his overlong movie with a bomb being attached to a giant brain, but this is wishful thinking on his part. He hasn’t blown our minds at all. It’s just a mild case of concussion. 

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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