Filmism.net Dispatch May 3, 2017

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Welcome back (after long delays) to the Filmism.net Dispatch. In this edition I want to explore an idea that's not exactly new but hasn't been taken as far as it should be. It's a twist on the oft-told tale of the decline of the star system.

Ever heard of Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese or Jane Campion? Of course you have. Now, ever heard of Colin Trevorrow, David Yates, James Wan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts or Gareth Edwards? No, not a lot of people have.

But where Spielberg, Scorsese and their contemporaries are rock stars to movie fans, the above names are rock stars behind the closed doors where they control the green lights.

After a single indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, Trevorrow shepherded Jurassic World to a global haul of US$1.67bn. David Yates, director of the last handful of Harry Potter movies and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, has made up to or over a billion dollars on every one. Wan toiled in low budget horror (Insidious, Saw) before joining the billion dollar club with Furious 7.

Vogt-Roberts, who like Trevorrow had made one small dramedy called The Kings of Summer, joined the giant monsters-iverse with the half-billion dollar snaffling Kong: Skull Island and Gareth Edwards got to make the first standalone Star Wars movie, Rogue One, that also tripped a billion, and that was after making only two films.

Now, here's the thing. Even though you don't know any of those guys by name, you know the names Star Wars, King Kong and Harry Potter very well. It's been a long time since 'name' actors brought punters to cinemas anymore – not like Cruise, Carrey or Schwarzenegger used to. Schwarzenegger hasn't made a single critically or commercially successful movie since leaving political office, Cruise now trades on names like Mission: Impossible and The Mummy , and how long since you've seen Jim Carrey in anything?

Could the same thing now be facing directors? The last films from some very big names have been fair to middling both with audiences and at the box office. Spielberg's The BFG represented the first real flop of the directing legend's career since 1941. Scorsese's Silence was a complete bust. Francis Ford Coppola hasn't made anything for decades that you've actually seen (unless you watched the artful but unexciting Tetro).

The first thing many people wondered about Fede Alvarez after the success of his horror hit Don't Breathe was whether he might do a Trevorrow or Edwards and let a rich studio snap him up for a tentpole franchise. When asked in an interview, the director said an offer to do a Star Wars movie might sway him, but if Marvel or any of the other big movie universes with cookie cutter creative approaches came calling he wouldn't want to be 'only a shooter'.

Such a comment confirmed a brutal truth about Hollywood we all suspect in the wake of failures by the biggest directors in the business. It's not just movie stars who've lost their pulling power at the cinema, it's the star directors who used to own the 80s and 90s. If you hadn't realised, movie studios now sell brand names just as much as your local toy store or pizza parlour. The age of the director might be just as dead as that of the actor.

Filmism.net has seen fewer movies than usual since you heard from us last and we have a lot to catch up on, but there are a couple of recent gems. One that's every bit as good as you've heard was Logan, the comic book movie for those of us who are completely over comic book movies.

One you probably missed (and if you did hear about it, it was probably the scathing reviews that put you off) was Mr Church. I'd watch anything with star Britt Robertson, but even though it rambles, she's joined by Eddie Murphy in the kind of role you've never seen from him and the whole thing is sweet and heartfelt.

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