Not Watching This Weekend: Nighthawk

(I’d stopped doing these, but then this dropped down through the space-time continuum and I felt NWTW deserved resurrection to share it with you…)

Film Review: Nighthawk (no stars)

Big-screen remakes of old TV series are not uncommon, but there’s a good chance that Zack Snyder’s new film Nighhawk may just have killed them off for good, hopefully along with his career. A terrible script that’s poorly directed is one thing, but I’ve never seen one so horribly misjudged in tone, casting and everything else as this. To some, what follows may count as spoilers, but I choose to call them protectors instead, because hopefully they’ll protect you from any desire you may have to go and see this film.

It begins looking just like a horrendously-miscast version of the TV series it’s based on. It’s World War Two, somewhere in France, and café owner Rene Artois (Channing Tatum) is secretly an agent of the Resistance, working to help fugitive British airmen escape the Nazis. At the same time, he’s trying to avoid his wife (Lea Seydoux in a bad wig) and keep up his affairs with two waitresses (Kelly Brook and Keeley Hawes, neither of whom seem sure about whether they’re meant to be doing French accents). All this is happening under the noses of two inept German officers (Ray Winstone and Alexander Armstrong) and all seems set for an inept farce, especially when SS officer Herr Flick (Adam Sandler) arrives on the scene.

At this point, everything goes so bad you begin to wonder if someone has filled the cinema with hallucinogenic gas. A cackling Herr Flick guns down a field of Resistance women and the priceless painting they are carrying (incredulously referred to throughout the film as The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies) is soaked in their blood and things begin going to hell. Literally. Suddenly, Edith’s singing is not just bad, but has the ability to warp holes in reality, and all involved – the cafe staff, the surviving resistance, the Nazis, even an undercover British agent with an inexplicable speech impediment (Paul Bettany) – find themselves on the same side as demons swarm over the French countryside (which looks oddly Californian most of the time) and Great Old Ones prepare to rise from the inky depths.

Several insanities, rendered limbs and buckets of blood later, we reviewers had managed to get ourselves out of the cinema and wondered just what had gone so wrong with our world. At what point does everything – even ‘Allo! ‘Allo! – have to have a a grim and dark retelling in the hands of ‘Visionary Directors’? What is gained by watching Winstone slur his way through a tongue twister about how the drug in the mug and the candle with the handle on the gateau from the chateau are needed to prevent Great Cthulhu from devouring Paris?

I tell you, if Jason Statham’s Fairly Secret Army is as bad as this, I might stop going to the cinema altogether.

(thanks to Jennie Rigg for some of the inspiration for this)

Not Watching This Weekend: Eggbound 2: The Powdering

"I still have a very particular set of dietary requirements."
“I still have a very particular set of dietary requirements.”
The Pitch: Following the unexplained success of Eggbound, a sequel was inevitable. With production set to start, no original script was available so another script was press ganged into service, with names hastily find-and-replaced to match the original, and no one really caring that it moved the franchise into a whole other genre.

Brendan McPuncherson, the world’s most inexplicably Irish accented and still egg-dependent CIA agent is on a visit to London to meet an equally inexplicable friend who happens to be a Professor of Science at the Queen’s London University of Sciences. After a scene in which McPuncherson mentions the quality of British eggs (special marketing consideration: the British Egg Marketing Board), his friend is brutally murdered by a group of vaguely Eastern European terrorists (played mainly by actors taking a few weeks off from EastEnders) who want access to ‘the Device’ created by Brendan’s friend. Brendan discovers it amidst his friend’s cluttered office in a castle, and accidentally activates it, which sends him and the chief terrorist back in time to the Blitz. Brendan finds himself hunting London both for Albert Einstein, the only man who might be able to understand the Device and send him back to his own time, and for a source of egg-based protein in a country under rationing. Meanwhile, the chief terrorist falls in with a group of upper-class Nazi sympathisers, ready to use his knowledge to overthrown Winston Churchill and let the Nazis win the war.

Can Brendan find Einstein in a world where he’s weakened by only being able to eat powdered egg that he has to specially prepare every thirty minutes? Will the plucky Cockney girl he meets be able to help him and convincingly pretend to have a sexual attraction to an aging actor while deploying an accent even Dick Van Dyke would wince at? Which actor will get the chance to don the fat suit and carry the unlit cigar to play a curiously cheerful Churchill? How many historians will die laughing when attempting to watch the film and catalogue its inaccuracies? Will the promotions department be able to resist publicising it as ‘Finally, Liam Neeson Punches Nazis!’?

The Cast:
Brendan McPuncherson: Liam Neeson
Chief Terrorist: David Tennant
Plucky Cockney Girl: Mila Kunis
Deputy Chief Terrorist: The bald one from EastEnders who’s not a Mitchell brother
Chief upper class Nazi sympathiser: Tim Pigott-Smith
Other terrorists: That one from EastEnders who used to be in Hustle, Vinnie Jones, A couple of non-speaking Polish extras looking uncomfortable
Nazi sympathising aristocrat who realises the error of her ways, then sacrifices herself to help McPuncherson escape: Someone from Downton Abbey
Albert Einstein: Mark Gatiss
Winston Churchill (and most of the budget, because someone’s got to get the money to keep the Old Vic going): Kevin Spacey

Not Watching This Weekend: The Remake

"I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements."
“I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements.”
It has come to our attention that barely weeks after its official release, one of the earliest projects of Not Watching This Weekend Studios is now being remade by a rival fantasy production studio. This gang of young upstarts, apparently known as The Conservative Party have announced plans to remake Not Watching This Weekend’s classic British comedy The Empty Chair.

Rumours also persist that this remake will change the script of the original debate, and rather than featuring a Prime Minister battling his way across a gridlocked London to avoid an empty chair, this version will instead feature a Prime Minister and his team who are so poor at negotiating that he manages to get himself into a situation where he rules himself out of any debates, and then ends up looking flabbergasted when they go on without him. (There’s talk that this will then lead up to a comic twist where the PM who can’t negotiate with TV companies will insist that he has the ability to renegotiate the entire country’s relationship with the European Union, but we think that would be straining credibility even for the Carry On Voting-esque farce this version appears to be becoming)

Some hopes for a good film were raised with news that an Old Etonian had been cast as the lead, but it appears that Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne were all unavoidably detained elsewhere when the casting director called, so the lead role will instead be played by one of the current leads of BBC Two’s Wednesday lunchtime comedy-drama Politishout! Whoever this guy is, the next David Tennant he most certainly is not.

Unfortunately, after consulting with our lawyers, it turns out that we do not have the power to prevent this remake taking place, but they do assure us that it will likely only have a short run in cinemas before disappearing. They also believe that the very existence of it – and its near inevitable box office failure – will prevent any future remakes from taking place, because surely no one would want to recreate a bomb like this.

We look forward to not watching David Cameron in his Empty Chair, and then continue to not see him for many years to come.

Not Watching This Weekend: Inspiration

It's the mockbuster version of this, basically.
It’s the mockbuster version of this, basically.
The Pitch: So, there’s this blogger, yeah? He’s been doing it for a while and still getting ideas for things to write about, but he refuses to learn lessons from his past. So, despite his recurrent failure to keep themed series of posts going, he decides to create a new one, telling himself it’ll be different this time, that he’s sure to be able to get inspiration, and it’s only one post once a week. Surely he can manage that?

Inevitably, things go wrong, and he finds himself one weekend completely devoid of inspiration. Rather than admitting his own failure, he strikes on a last desperate plan: surely inspiration will return in the next week, so all he needs is something, anything to fill the gap this week. That’s how he ends up plunging into the world of metafiction, making this week’s post entirely about his inability to come up with a post in the hope that someone, somewhere will be hugely impressed by a gambit that might have been interesting twenty years ago but is now pretty hackneyed and dated.

The ending comes rather surprisingly when he realises that he can’t even come up with a punchline, so things just sort of stop rather than concluding.

Not Watching This Weekend: Helmer

"an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment"
“an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment”
The Pitch: It’s the early days of Twitter, and someone’s had an idea for a parody account. Surely, nothing could be more amusing than a right-wing Tory MEP who continually misunderstands things, gets his facts wrong and continually blusters and insists he’s right regardless? So, our protagonist creates the account, and finds the perfect picture to illustrate it in an illustrated dictionary’s image for ‘harrumph’. The account – called Roger Helmer MEP – begins to pick up an appreciative audience

Soon, though, our protagonist discovers that someone, or something, else is posting to the Twitter account and it’s even more in character than he’s ever managed. Curiously, he also starts to notice references to things that Roger has supposedly done in the news, and gradually he begins to realise that not only has his parody Twitter account developed sentience, it has begun to manifest itself into the real world. Soon, a person claiming to be the real Roger is giving speeches in the European Parliament and having an impact in politics, culminating in him breaking free of his creator by defecting from the Tories to UKIP (which, the film implies, may be yet another parody that’s gone too far). Now completely free of his creator’s control, can anything stop Roger Helmer?

The Cast:
Roger Helmer: A CGIed version of Geoffrey Palmer from Fairly Secret Army
Roger’s creator: Craig Roberts
Nigel Farage: Chris Morris

Not Watching This Weekend: Find Me A Writer!

"You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people."
“You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people.”
The Pitch: There’s been a lot of complaint that TV mainstream doesn’t have much, if any, programming about books (rather than just being based on them). This show aims to change that by finding Britain’s Next Top Writer in a primetime show. Having made one giant leap of originality by doing a show about books in primetime, the rest of the show will be a complete ripoff of other talent formats. Thus, one round will feature wannabe writers reading a small sample of their work to celebrity writer judges, who’ll be sitting in the chairs from The Voice that have been badly modified to look ‘writerly’. Writers will be expected to jump across genre, style and form at a moment’s notice. (An amateur playwright protesting they know nothing about novel structure being berated by an angry Salman Rushdie will become a YouTube favourite) The life of a writer will be presented as effortless luxury, casually dispensing bon mots at cocktail parties between dashing out a newspaper column and being showered in money by benevolent publisher.

The climax will come in a live final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff where a book-wielding audience of thousands will watch as the four finalist writers discover that the hours they’ve spent sweating over their work, carrying out every edit and demeaning video diary task ordered by the producers, was utterly wasted as the executives have discovered no one really likes reading books, so they’ll be engaging in It’s A Knockout style contests with a vaguely books-that-have-become-well-known-movies theme. The winner will discover that there book was already published for free as a sample on Amazon that morning and they’ve made £2.35 from the millions of downloads.

Initially planned judges/mentors by the producers: JK Rowling, that one who wrote that thing that we were all reading last year in Tuscany, what was it, look, just get me JK Rowling. What do you mean, she doesn’t want to do it?
Actual judges: A generally confused looking Salman Rushdie, three other authors who could be made to look vaguely presentable on camera and are happy to appear on The One Show and regional radio programmes on an almost daily basis to plug this.
Likelihood of actually boosting book sales across the nation: Low

Not Watching This Weekend: Eggbound

"I have a very particular set of dietary requirements."
“I have a very particular set of dietary requirements.”
The Pitch: Following a freak accident on a previous mission, inexplicably Irish-accented CIA agent Brendan McPuncherson must now eat a raw egg, crushed in his own hands, every thirty minutes or he will die a slow and agonising death. Now he’s back on the job (and carrying a large amount of eggs in his car) when he discovers some disturbing news. The chief terrorist he thought he killed in his egg-related mission is still alive, and is now planning to kill every chicken in North America in an attempt to gain a twisted revenge on McPuncherson. High-speed chases over cobbled streets, cardboard tray tampering, the world’s highest stakes egg and spoon race, Liam Neeson eating a quite incredible number of eggs and the catchphrase ‘No! Duck eggs don’t work!’ feature in this high-albumen thriller.

Likelihood of this movie actually happening if the Liam Neeson Punching People genre continues: Higher than you’d hope
Likelihood of endless sequels with minor twists and increased punching: Depressingly high
Likelihood of Fox News headlining a discussion ‘Are Our Chickens Safe?’: Pleasingly high

(Based on an original Twitter conversation with Justin McKeating, who writes much better stories than me)

Not Watching This Weekend: Mr Benn

Mr_Benn_Gladiator_book_coverThe Trailer: Voiceover man begins with ‘some heroes wear many costumes’. The whole trailer is shot through heavy filters, mostly dark and grey just to ensure everyone is clear that this is a Serious Film taking the source material Seriously. As it’s a trailer, we see all the best bits of the film mashed together through hyper-kinetic editing, complete with out of context quotes scattered over them.

We see Mr Benn (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, hear the Shopkeeper (Jim Broadbent) give a garbled explanation of how this is a role handed down from generation to generation to protect history and fantasy. There’d be flash cuts of fighting as a knight and as gladiator, doing complicated things as a spaceman and casting magic as a wizard, all shot in glorious Grimdark-Serious-O-Vision.

‘Protecting them from who?’ he asks, and the trailer shows the designated Bad Guy (Matt Smith), possibly interspersed with occasional shots of the Official Love Interest (Sienna Miller), cropping up in various times and places. Then the trailer slows to show us the Big Dramatic Scene.

Mr Benn, in a cowboy outfit celebrating something, when a bloodstained fez rolls across the screen and lands against his feet. He picks it up, looks out and sees the Bad Guy wearing a suit and bowler hat.

“You wore a costume and stepped into my world. Didn’t you realise that I could wear one and step into yours too?”

Another blizzard of disconnected images then the screen goes black. Voiceover Guy: ‘This summer, choose your outfit carefully.’ Graphics tell us MR BENN: THE MOVIE is Coming Soon.

Likelihood of director and writer claiming that this was always the intended vision for the character: High
Likelihood of anyone who’s seen the TV series keeping a straight face while watching it: Low
Likelihood of straight-to-streaming sequels with a tiny budget and none of the original cast: High

Not watching this weekend: Deus Ex Social Machina

madeuthinkThe Pitch: This Black Mirror episode is told through the story of four friends, all of them eager modern types who are regular users of social media, obviously. One of them discovers a mysterious and anonymous account that is sending messages to celebrities, revealing supposed secrets and telling them to ‘repent for their sins’. Surprise turns to shock when it’s revealed that the secrets are all true and celebrities all over the world start confessing their secrets. Soon, more and more of these accounts appear, all revealing deeply held, personal and private things that no one but the accused could have known about. Suddenly, it’s not just celebrities being accused but politicians and business leaders as more accounts spring up, each using the same format and all talking about sin. Finally, the accounts turn to the rest of the population, and everyone finds their sins exposed for the whole world. Before long, it’s realised that the Second Coming has occurred, and God has returned to judge everyone through the internet.

The final shot is a room deep within a CIA facility, as a man smiles to himself while typing code into a computer. We see it running the accounts and then a flash of code reveals it to be the Global Online Database.

The Cast:
John (Friend capable of delivering infodumps as dialogue): Ben Whishaw
Alice (Friend good at showing other people what she’s found online): Faye Marsay
Tamara (Friend good at asking questions that move the plot along): Jenna Coleman
Brian (Friend who’s American, to help us sell it there): Aaron Paul
Newsreader: Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Newsreader who didn’t want to appear, but don’t tell Krishnan that he wasn’t our first choice: Jon Snow
Scarily intense fire and brimstone priest interviewed on TV: Donald Sumpter
Very liberal priest who becomes more fundamentalist with each TV appearance: Russell Tovey
Ambiguously smiling CIA person: Rob Lowe

Likelihood of dominating Twitter trending topics while on: Very high
Likelihood of people finding the ending a shocking twist, not a dodgy cop out: Worryingly high
Likelihood of someone implying you’re thick and didn’t understand the subtlety because you didn’t like it: Very high

Not watching this weekend: The Empty Chair

(The first, and possibly last, of a series of pitches for films that don’t exist)

From an early draft, which ended with a musical number.
From an early draft, which ended with a musical number.
The Pitch: The country’s in the middle of an election campaign, and the Prime Minister discovers that his advisers have got it badly wrong. Despite his refusal to participate, broadcasters are still going to go ahead with a leaders’ debate and he’ll be represented merely by an empty chair if he’s not there. Realising he needs to be there, he now has just 90 minutes to get across a gridlocked London, but can’t use any governmental resources. His quest takes him on a bizarre journey across the capital, discovering new truths about himself and his country. Can he avoid the empty chair, and if he gets there, what will we he say?

The Cast:
Prime Minister: David Tennant
Aide who’s a bit sleazy and doesn’t have much to do in the second half of the film: Matthew Horne
Aide who’s very idealistic and about to quit until she sees the human side of her boss: Romola Garai
Adviser played by someone who we clearly only had on set for a few days because he had better things to do: Steve Coogan
Supposedly edgy street kid who never swears or does anything that dangerous: Some poor sod fresh from the Brit School who’ll look back on this as the highlight of their career
Leader of the Opposition: Christopher Eccleston
Leaders of other ill-defined parties: David Mitchell, Olivia Colman
PM’s party enemy who’s somehow hoping to benefit from all this: Rupert Penry-Jones
Antique expert (archive footage): Arthur Negus
Debate moderator: Keeley Hawes
Overly stressed producer: Pip Torrens
Those annoying cameos you expect in any British movie: Danny Dyer, Meera Syal, at least one member of Girls Aloud, Roger Moore, Ken Livingstone, Anne Widdicombe, Jeremy Paxman’s beard
Pointless cameos just to make sure the fanboys watch it: Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy
Not returning our calls, no matter how desperate we got: Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi

Likelihood of good reviews: Low
Likelihood of anyone abroad understanding 10% of what’s going on: Very low
Likelihood of appearing continually on ITV2 from now until the end of time: High