My kids had to wait for me for an hour in the cinema once. There, it’s out there: I’m a terrible parent. One child hour is the equivalent of three adult hours and 300 in Narnia. That’s a lot of fawn teas to get through.
It gave them time to reflect on the 69-minute film they’d just seen. More rubbish forced on them so their father could watch the latest James Bond – yes, it was long, wasn’t it. Really though, I should be more sensitive as bad films can scar you for life.
Clouseau the corpse
These days I choose films based on aggregate critic scores, but with kids it’s based on how cute, cookie and colourful the poster is. They need guidance – the kind I never got when my mother bought herself two more hours down the shops (kids films used to be soooh much longer).
Police Academy sequels, anything featuring a ‘likeable’ robot or dog, that film in which Eddie Murphy finds the Dalai Lama but loses his career – I should have been warned.
The worst of the lot was Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). ‘Skidmark of the Pink Panther’ would have been a better title – a film so traumatising it is mostly remembered today via hypnosis.
Inspector Clouseau, who was never to make me laugh again, was either missing, bandaged, miraculously transported back to the 1960s, or undergoing a head transplant. And they followed it up with another one.
Can’t beat the real thing
nobody had bothered to tell me Peter Sellers was long dead, and he’s not the only deceased actor to rack up an IMDB entry from beyond the grave. Just last year Rogue One: A Star Wars Story used the likeness of Peter Cushing to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin – 22 years after his death!
But there’s no danger of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec 13; Not Released Worldwide) doing that with Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, even though CGI was used to render her likeness as a young 20-something in Rogue One. Fortunately all of Fisher’s scenes had been shot before her tragic death late last year.
Attack of the Porgs
Not only is Last Jedi the biggest release of this issue, it’s the biggest of the decade. Say what? That’s right. This really could be the successor to The Empire Strikes Back the world has been waiting for.
Rian Johnson (Looper) is the first director/writer of an episode since George Lucas to be given complete creative control. Over 400 million dollars of Disney money and a singular vision – who would have thought?
The merchandise promises to be insane. Porgs, doleful, big-eyed bastards with a hint of puffin about them, will be on every kid’s wanted list, although mine will have to wait at least 300 Narnia years.
Dying of laughter
From the best blockbuster of the decade to one of the funniest – and you know that’s no idle boast when we’re talking about Armando Iannucci (The Thick of it, early Alan Partridge, Veep) and the rest of his writing team.
Albeit restricting itself to the living, The Death of Stalin (Dec 14; 88 on Metacritic) has assembled a dream cast, with Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor just three of the heavyweights assembled.The Russian Ministry of Culture is not amused though, alleging the film could be part of a “western plot to destabilise Russia by causing rifts in society”. One Russian politician called it an “unfriendly act by the British intellectual class”, which has a Pol Pot ring to it.
Trust the new guy
The writer is also crucial to the appeal of the unconventional Wind River (Jan 4; 73), a character-driven thriller that follows a murder investigation in an icy Wyoming wilderness.
Taylor Sheridan, fresh from the success of his manuscripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water, has made a film evocative of Coen Brothers noir.
Another writer trusted with the helm for a change is Mike White, a co-creator of the TV series Enlightened. Brad’s Status (Dec 14; 72) stars Ben Stiller as a middle-aged man re-evaluating his life in light of the superficial success of his old school pals.
While first-time director Michael Gracey comes from an esteemed advertising background – so much so that he has been entrusted with The Greatest Showman (NRW; Dec 25), a musical about the rise to provenance of circus founder PT Barnum. This is the film Hugh Jackman was auditioning for when he ran amok at the Oscars.
Old hands come unstuck
But don’t worry, the big time directors are still strutting their stuff, even though it is mostly duds.
After a promising start behind the lens, George Clooney’s luck would appear to have run out. His latest effort sees family man Matt Damon fighting back against hoodlums in Suburbicon (40; Dec 7), and the critics haven’t been kind.
Likewise Woody Allen is going through the motions in Wonder Wheel (55; Dec 25), a drama about a failed marriage on Coney Island with a cast that is too big and starry for its scope, including Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake and every surviving star of The Sopranos.
Kids are alright
Pssst. Don’t tell the kids it’s any good and surprise them with Paddington 2 (Nov 30; 90). It’s apparently brilliant – or as much as family feel-good fun can be.
Likewise, Ferdinand (Dec 14; NRW), the tale of a bull trying to return home, looks like dependable festive fun as well.
But if it’s believability they want, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (NRW; Dec 25) probably isn’t their ideal Christmas gift. Four kids playing a video game that propels them into an African jungle is one thing, but casting The Rock as an archaeologist – that really is going too far.
Guardian wondering why
If Star Wars isn’t enough, the teenagers are well looked after, even if Pitch Perfect 3 (NRW; Jan 4) is hardly going to set their world alight.
For more thought-provoking fare, Wonder (68; Jan 4) is a sobering, but ultimately feel-good drama about a kid with a disfigured face finding his way in junior high.
It’s a struggle to get through the trailer without welling up, although the Guardian was unmoved by the “ham-fisted heartwarmer”, finding particular fault with the casting of Owen Wilson, “who looked a lot more emotionally engaged with his labrador in Marley & Me”, and Julia Roberts as the parents.
But seriously! Being nasty to a film about a kid with a disfigured face who overcomes adversity to triumph. Good luck begging for sympathy money after that review!