by Hunter Bush
Hello all, and welcome to Everything Old is New Again, my new and improved regular column on Moviejawn dot com (the site you are currently reading)! As Jerry Seinfeld once wondered aloud (about Tide detergent no less) "How can something be both New AND Improved?" Well, I can't speak about Tide, but as far as this column goes, I can actually explain.
Everything Old is New Again is where I take a look at upcoming movies based, in some way, on an existing intellectual property: Remakes of older or foreign films, Adaptations of stories from other media (most commonly best-sellers, but comic books and video games aren't exactly rare) and long-gap sequels to older films attempting to revive their fanbase. There'll be a lot of speculation and more than a little of my personal opinions as well.
I have done this type of column before on MJ, but it was twice a year (six months apart) and didn't have a fancy title (you can check it out here and here). There were, fair to say, some drawbacks in this format. The first being: I had to sift through a LOT of movie descriptions and trailers (if I was lucky) all at once and then, even after all that, sometimes the movies would get pushed back. Now, I'm not so egotistical as to think that anyone would be bookmarking my li'l old articles as firm proof of a release date, but as any decent person would, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret at having passed on the wrong information. Just so you know, I'm nothing even resembling a Hollywood Insider, I'm just a guy toiling away over a laptop in a house in South Philly full of spooky bric-a-brac and the smell of good baking. So I'll still not have any control over if the flicks make it to screens when I've said they're supposed to, but in an attempt to keep on top of any last-minute changes like those, Everything Old Is New Again will be gracing your screens every other month.
Thus it is both New AND Improved.
Honestly, I just hope you dig it. Enough preamble, let's dive in.
MOLLY'S GAME - Based on Molly Bloom's book, Aaron Sorkin directs and adapts the screenplay about Molly's time running the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the world. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba lead the cast as Molly and her lawyer Charlie Jaffey, respectively. This one has the vibe of a pretty standard biopic, with a star-bedazzled cast (Kevin Costner as Molly's father, Graham Greene as the judge and Michael Cera as Player X, a composite of Hollywood bigwigs like DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and others) but trying to give to the appearance of greater inclusivity. Melissa Strong feels in her MJ review that ultimately Molly’s Game falls short. What do you think?
DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE - This VOD remake of the late, great George Romero's 1985 original Day of the Dead seems to follow roughly the same plot: A med student/scientist (Sophie Skelton) hunkered down in a military bunker in a post-zombie-apocalypse world, working on a cure for the zombie virus with a Very Special Zombie (Jonathan Schaech) chained up to experiment on. As you may expect, things don't go well. This remake, from director Hèctor Hernández Vicens, isn't getting the best reviews but for a $7 rental fee (on Google Play, Vudu and the Playstation Network) it sure beats braving the chilly aftermath of that Bomb Cyclone to hit a theater, right?
PADDINGTON 2 - This is based on the long-running book series written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum starring the very polite anthropomorphic bear, Paddington. In this sequel to the 2014 Paddington, Pads wants to buy a pop-up book of London for his aunt who is also a bear who has always wanted to come to London but can't. So he takes odd jobs to pay for it. Then the book gets stolen by Hugh Grant who's doing a very Count Olaf-y character (a la Lemony Snicket). Pads gives chase, but gets the slip and the cops think he stole the book so the bear goes to jail. I don't know if this mirrors any plots from any of the books, but with 150+ books since 1958, chances are...maybe? Either way, the tone works for me and with the added zany vibe of Grant's costume-swapping character, I'm sold.
MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER - Based on the novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, this traditionally animated film from Studio Ghibli regular (and The Secret World of Arrietty director) Hiromasa Yonebayashi follows the seemingly average Mary (Ruby Barnhill) a young girl who, one afternoon, finds the titular flowers that give you special, magical powers for one day. She attends what appear to be witch classes, meets Flanagan the talking fox (Ewan Bremner) and becomes integral to an older witch's plot to find the rare flowers. This seems like a pretty standard fairy tale story, but as with anything with that Ghibli pedigree, I am there for it. It also has a solid voice cast (which also features Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent) and some really cool visuals and character designs!
12 STRONG (THE DECLASSIFIED TRUE STORY OF THE HORSE SOLDIERS) - I've seen this trailer a bunch in theaters the past two months or so and every time, I'm struck by the thought "This should really just be called Horse Soldiers, that's a better title!" Based on the book (correctly titled Horse Soldiers) by Doug Stanton, this flick has a phenomenal cast, featuring two of my favorite Michaels (Shannon and Peña), William Fichtner, Rob Riggle and Chris Hemsworth (among others) playing the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. I'm usually skeptical of military films and all, but, like, Michael Shannon so...y'know. Yes, gimme them Horse Boys!
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE - I know next to nothing about these Maze Runner movies, but from the trailer, there appear to be no mazes in this one and honestly not that much running. Based on the book series by James Dashner, the plot appears to be the Maze Runner and his friends (or maybe they're all Maze Runners?), having escaped from an oppressive society run by a company called WCKD, now have to break back in for some reason I didn't really catch. There's dialogue about a cure to a plague that the Maze Runner(/s) are immune to, but I can't imagine WCKD have a cure, as it's implied that Thomas Brodie-Sangster's character, Newt, will have to decide whether to sacrifice himself to make one, so...why? On the plus side: Walton Goggins, Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Ki Hong Lee are among the cast. If I'm being honest, while I never like to say something "isn't for me" until I give it a fair shake, The Death Cure just looks soooo much like all these other young adult dystopian movies/book adaptations that it just makes me want to nap. Maybe one day I'll catch them on TV on a Sunday afternoon or something and regret skipping them, but then again maybe not.
MONSTER FAMILY - Based on the book Happy Family by David Safier, this animated film is the story of a regular-degular human family who mistakenly get an invitation to an all-monsters costume party. (Where the monsters dress up as humans, you dig?) They get outed as monster impostors (better title) and cursed by a witch to become the costumes they're wearing. So Mom is a vampire, Sister is a mummy, Brother is a werewolf and Dad is a (farting, ugh,) Frankenstein's monster and they can't turn back until they're a "happy" family. Ugh. This one looks bad, gang. The writing seems immature and lazy. If the Franken-fart wasn't bad enough, there's a bit in the trailer where the Sister mishears another Mummy's name (Imhotep) as "Johnny Depp." UGH. Worst of all, the voice talent is pretty great, with Emily Watson, Jason Isaacs, Nick Frost, and Catherine Tate all lending their pipes to....whatever this is.
PETER RABBIT - If you're the kind of person who thinks things like "Y'know, those timeless children's books by Beatrix Potter sure could use a modern reboot," this may be the movie for you. Also you're a monster and I don't want to know you. For real, there's a scene where Peter Rabbit (voiced by Carpool Karaoke guru James Corden) makes it rain cabbage leaves like he's in a strip club! Get right the fuck out of town with that bizness! Now, I'm not saying this will be awful, but it sure is being presented to the audience that way. Casting Domhnall Gleeson and Sam Neill as your Farmers McGregor is a good choice though and the voice talent isn't lacking: Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, and even Sia, among many others, all voice various critters.
THE 15:17 TO PARIS - Based on the book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone (with Jeffrey E. Stern) this biopic tells the story of the three men foiling a terrorist incident on the titular train in 2015. Clint Eastwood directs Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone as themselves with character actors like Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, Jaleel White, Thomas Lennon, and Tony Hale playing various parents, teachers, etc. in the more historical autobiographical sections. This one is a bit of mixed bag for me. I like a lot of the people involved but I get some real questionable vibes from this (a Gung-Ho Patriotism vibe and an Award-Thirsty vibe specifically) that kind of leave me cold.
50 SHADES FREED - In this, the final (?), film based on the final (?) book in E.L. James's 50 Shades series, Ana (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are living the married life. They have a gorgeous house (yet are going to have a gorgeous-er one built?) and still enjoy their oh-so kinky lifestyle until...something...something kidnapping? Apparently, Ana's old boss has some vendetta against her and Christian both. So he kidnaps Christian's sister. Meanwhile Ana suspects Christian of infidelity, possibly due to the reappearance in his life of Elena (Kim Basinger), the woman who first introduced him to BDSM. Cards on the table, y'all. I have never read (and have no plans to read) the 50 Shades books, nor have I seen any of the movies. So when this trailer played in a darkened theater, I honestly didn't know what movie it was I was laughing at. Afterwards when the title rolled, the realization of what I'd been watching only made it funnier / more outlandish / better. I would consider actually seeing this one, if only because it looks batshit stupid crazy.
BLACK PANTHER - I am so excited for this movie, fam! Besides adding some much-needed diversity to the Superhero Franchise Blockbuster genre, after Chadwick Boseman's scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War, I'm so excited for BP's own film! Directed by Ryan Coogler, the story looks like it expands on new King T'Challa (Boseman)'s place in the larger Marvel universe, debuting his home, the hidden land of Wakanda, and a boatload of amazingly-costumed supporting characters (the cast includes Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker as well as returning MCU alums Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis). Plot details are scarce, but it seems like a group of T'challa's enemies rise up and attempt to dethrone him possibly? My big takeaway from the trailer is how incredibly sick all the costuming is! Like the Amazons' armor in last year's Wonder Woman, this was a visual itch I didn't realize needed to be scratched until I saw this trailer. Design-wise, comics are an incredibly diverse medium but after a while, it's easy not to notice how similar everything looks. Obviously, that applies to the casts as well, so, on both fronts, I'm incredibly excited to see Black Panther shake things up!
EVERY DAY - This one looks pretty weird, y'all and I'm...kinda intrigued. Based on the novel by David Levithan, this is a movie about Rhiannon, a teenage girl whose been having relationship troubles with her boyfriend Justin until one day they go to the beach and have a heart-to-heart, really opening up to each other. Only that wasn't Justin, it was some kind of wandering spirit called A that can inhabit people's bodies; a new one (wait for it)...every day. Now A has fallen in love with Rhiannon and has to, not only, convince her of the truth but also find a way to stay with her. Now, I get the impression that this is gonna lean a little too far into Christian fiction for me (and way too far away from a horror movie, obvs) but I think this one could be a real fun stay-at-home and yell-at-your-TV movie night.
ANNIHILATION - Based on Jeff VanderMeer's novel (the first of his Southern Reach trilogy), this film is directed and adapted by Alex Garland and follows Natalie Portman who plays The Biologist (no proper nouns appear in the novel). She is part of the 12th expedition into an area (known as Area X in the novel / apparently called The Shimmer in the film) where the laws of nature don't seem to function as we normally experience them. The Biologist's Husband (Oscar Isaac) was a member of the previous expedition and returned seriously ill. The Biologist and other characters played by Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez comprise a 12th expedition who explore The Shimmer to find what it is and what is happening within it. This is a killer cast, working with a smart, genre savvy director who isn't afraid to make challenging work, telling a story full of creativity, mood and invention; I will be in theaters for Annihilation! See our write-up and watch the trailer here.
These are by no means the only Everything Old is New Again-applicable movies coming in the next couple of months, but they're the more widely-available ones and the ones I found most attention-grabbing. What do you think? Any of these you'll be seeking out? Any you'll be skipping?