CNN 18 Places to Visit in 2018

Fourth on CNN’s list of 18 Places to Visit in 2018 is Serbia.

The jigsaw puzzle of countries that once made up Yugoslavia have, in recent years, become some of Europe’s most talked about destinations, particularly the Adriatic coastlines of Croatia and Montenegro. Serbia has somehow lagged behind. Not for long though. Visitors are beginning to descend on this largely undiscovered corner of the region, lured by terrific scenery, rich history, incredible value for money and a lot of cheese.

Belgrade has already established itself as a city that can party and — in much the same way eastern Europe’s big cities did 10 or 15 years ago — is shedding urban Soviet gloom and rushing headlong towards a glitzier future.

By its borders with Bosnia and Kosovo, Serbia’s Kopaonik and Zlatibor national parks offer winter sports and summer escapes in epic mountain scenery. The Tara National Park has gorges overlooked by forested karst hills. In Serbia’s deep south, ?avolja Varoš or Devil’s Town offers a crazy geological spectacle of weird rocky pinnacles. While Serbia lacks its own coastline, the mighty Danube River still lures summertime swimmers to a castle-strewn “riviera.”

Star Trek, Beyond: Even the Big Guns Suck at Marketing

Over at ScyFy, Simon Pegg has been bemoaning the atrocious marketing job done for Star Trek Beyond. He’s particularly scathing about the trailer above.

…It used ‘Sabotage,’ which was our surprise moment in the end. It was supposed to be a very fun and heightened twist, and something that was a big surprise, and they blew it in the first trailer, which really annoyed me. They also made the film look like a boneheaded action film. And they were scared, I think, of mentioning the 50th anniversary. It was fumbled as a thing; they didn’t know what to do with it, and it’s a real shame.

Now here’s a bigger shame: I didn’t even know there was a Star Trek Beyond, at least not as a stand-alone film. As far as I can tell from the series’ marketing to date, all of the new Star Trek movies are completely interchangeable, without any unique selling points, and all essentially one big recycled drama about the tense three-way between Kirk, Spock and Uhuru. Plus some “beam me ups” for good measure. And I had no inkling whatsoever that it was the series’ 50th anniversary.

So you see, sometimes even the Big Guns really suck at movie marketing.

Aquaman’s Missing Trailer Means it’s a Crap Film ….. Discuss.

One way that the major studios drum up audience interest in their “forthcoming attractions” is by dropping trailers of hotly awaited films to coincide with the actual release of actual hotly awaited films. This works in so far as it drives eyeballs, but on the other hand, the routine has set up something of a negative expectation amongst audiences; because if a trailer doesn’t drop like clockwork nine months before a film’s release, the rumor mill kicks into action with all sorts of concerns that the film in doomed doomed doomed. Scott Mendelson discusses the problematic trailer strategy with regard to Aquaman over at Forbes.

If Aquaman works on a primal “underwater Lord of the Rings” way, then there is zero incentive to release a too-early first teaser. If Aquaman stinks, then there is no reason to let the cat out of the bag…to appease a fan base that has become spoiled by early marketing campaigns…

My Friend the Rapist, My Friend the Survivor

Each year I join the pre-selection committee of the Monte Carlo TV Festival Golden Nymph Awards. I truly love this experience because it exposes me to a whole bunch of top flight global television that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise get to see, and my life is definitely richer for it. Over time, it’s been interesting to note the content, developed all around the world, comes in thematic waves. Two years ago it was Nazism, last year, immigrants, and this year there are several entries about the rape and abuse of women. (the above image is Emily Mortimer in Apple Tree Yard.)

Interestingly, it would so far appear that rapes in these series are not chucked in as plot points or useful mechanisms for driving the drama (I’m looking at you Christopher Nolan) but as devastating pivotal moments in the lives of real human beings. Whether this approach is because of increased awareness of global activism – #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc – or instead a cynical ratings ploy of commissioning editors jumping on bandwagons, remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s both? Film, after all is both a reflection and a driver of culture.

I’m musing on this now because the issue is close and personal. Back in 2016, (more…)

Skyscraper: the sky’s the limit for Dwayne Johnson

Skyscraper is the year’s biggest “not based on anything” studio release, and the weight of its expectations is resting on the broad shoulders of its affable lead, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson is one of a tiny handful of modern-day movie stars able to front mid-to-big budget vehicles based on their perceived value to the audience moviegoer. And before Skyscraper, there’s Rampage, the movie trailer that got me thinking about our Dwayne this morning….