by Hunter Bush
Well this is it, gang. The final EOINA of the year. Jesum Crow, 2018 really feels like it's been a lot longer than standard year-length, doesn't it? I know it's been especially rough for some of us, but writing these columns for y'all is, honestly, a highlight for me. A somewhat stressful highlight, I won't lie, but a highlight just the same. So thank you, as ever, for reading.
I know not too many people read Everything Old is New Again, but those of you that do are like me: you love movies. Everybody here at Moviejawn loves movies, which is why I love writing for them and knowing them. Movies are wonderful, magical, healing things, even when they suck. I've had some of my best times, my favorite times, watching or talking trash on movies I would never, ever, never want to see again. But I wouldn't trade those viewings for anything because of the times had as a result.
So as we close out the year and the heavy holidays roll back around, don't let them stress you out or bring you down. Grab a buddy and head to a theater, or Skype with them from the comfort of your bed (do people still Skype?) Point is: see a movie. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good, but build a good memory out of it.
I hope all of you end the year better than you started it, even if you started it great! I'll be here in the New Year to chat with you about cinema some more. Long live the movies!
SUSPIRIA - Dear lord, it is finally happening! I've had "Suspiria remake" written on my notepad for like, two-ish years waiting for this project to materialize. The long-planned remake of Dario Argento's 1977 original (which was part of a thematic trilogy) is finally hitting theaters! Dakota Johnson attends a Berlin dance school run by witches! I get the impression that we're gonna get a lot of very intense sequences from director Luca Guadagnino. There's a line in the trailer that "when you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of its creator" which I find really interesting. I've always liked the concept of magic as "the dark arts"; that you could dance or sing or sculpt your magic and I think/hope that's concept that gets explored here. There's also some very uncanny imagery cut into the trailer (Does that being on the floor not have any hands or feet? Is that young woman sensually levitating up a door frame?), and it's done in such a way that it's hard to be sure of what exactly you saw. I like that. I want a bit of high strangeness in my occult films. Speaking of high strangeness: they've apparently dropped the pretext now, but for a minute there was a fake IMDb account for the actor playing Dr. Josef Klemperer (it's really Tilda Swinton in old man psychoanalyst drag). This is such a strange choice and I am over the moon that it is happening here! With a cast that includes Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz among others (as well as multiple roles for Tilda Swinton) and original music by Thom Yorke, this could be the goods. I love the original, but I'm still extremely excited for this.
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - The story of Freddie Mercury, one of the greatest front men and singers in history, and therefore also the story of Queen, which he helped make into the greatest arena rock band of all time. Some version of this has been in development for decades and it's finally coming to theaters. Much as I'd like to want to see this, I'm still trepidatious about it and the trailer didn't really give me much to go on. Everything *looks* okay, especially Rami Malek, weirdly (by which I mean, if you had told me beforehand that he'd make a surprisingly good Freddie Mercury, I wouldn't have believed you, yet here we are). My problem is that the trailer doesn't showcase much acting (besides Malek). Now, this could entirely be an editing problem; perhaps dialogue from one scene was placed over footage from a different one to make the trailer work better, either way, the end result didn't electrify me as much as I want to be electrified by a Freddie Mercury movie. My biggest, most cynical fear is that Bohemian Rhapsody is less about celebrating the life and accomplishments of this amazing human being and more about getting folks to download a new Best of Queen album.
BOY ERASED - This appears to be the story of midwestern boy whose midwestern parents are secretly two Australian actors (Nicole Kidman & a paunchy Russell Crowe). Oh, that's not the story. The story is, the boy (Lucas Hedges) has homosexual leanings and is sent to some sort of pray-away-the-gay camp, which is led by a pastor/minister/whatever played by director Joel Edgerton (looking oddly like Walter White from Breaking Bad). I mean as far as these type of dramas go, this looks predictably emotional. Mom appears to have regrets about what they're doing and I'm sure the emotional lynch pin of the film will be Dad having to learn to love his son. The thing that really cements this in my interest is Joel Edgerton. Not only is he an impressive and committed actor, but his feature-length directorial debut (2015's The Gift) was really solid as well. I'm curious to see what specifically about Boy Erased (adapted from the memoir by Gerrard Conley) drew Edgerton's interest.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND - This is that thing where I'm stretching the boundaries of exactly what qualifies for coverage in an EOINA column, but hey, I make the rules here. So The Other Side of the Wind is directed and co-written by Orson Welles (with Oja Kodar) and has taken 40 years to complete (or close enough: I believe the finished product will still be missing some small pieces, but I dunno). Wind tells the story of a maverick man's-man, old Hollywood director (John Huston), called "the Hemingway of cinema" directing the titular film-within-a-film The Other Side of the Wind at a time when American cinema was giving way to to more avant-garde tastes. Added to that is the suggestion that Huston's Jake Hannaford is "just making it up as he goes along". This has been on my radar for quite some time and I figured I'd end up watching it out of pure cinematic intellectual curiosity, but after watching the trailer, I'm legitimately excited. There are some truly captivating visuals in the trailer, which features a mixture of some black and white footage and some in shocking color! I'm sure there will be a lot of inside-baseball that will most likely go over my head not only because I am *not* anything like a Hollywood insider, but also the relevant cultural touchstones predate me by almost a decade, but I'm still very, very intrigued. I'm also dying to know what it took to complete, and for Netflix to finally straighten out whatever legal troubles had been dogging Wind for decades.
THE GRINCH - Listen y'all. I love the Grinch. I love the story, I love the 1966 Chuck Jones How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (it's Boris Karloff, dawg!) but I don't get the desire to expand it to feature-length. It's a thin fuckin' story. Remember in 2000 when Ron Howard released what amounts to video of him torturing Jim Carrey with prosthetics? I didn't understand that one either. The Grinch, as a character, has a very short arc, but he's also the only interesting character in the piece. So in expanding the thing to feature-length, any time you spend away from Dat Grinch is wasted time; boring time. The good news here is that co-directors Yarrow Cheney & Scott Mosier and screenwriter Michael LeSieur seem to know that. Judging by the trailers, this animated film spends a lot of run time with The Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch doing an oddly nasal, not very Benedict Cumberbatch-y voice. They've also added a very cute yak-type beast to his group in addition to Max the dog. The animation looks nice, with very fun visuals that clearly take much of their inspiration from Dr. Seuss's original designs but this has one big, huge, steaming roadblock for me, personally: Tyler the Creator's Grinch Theme. First of all, he sounds fucking bored, lazily mumbling his way through the lyrics, and as Harvey Danger taught us all, "when you're bored, then you're boring" and besides that, nobody can hold a candle to Thurl Ravenscroft (who sang the song in the '66 version) either in pure songmanship (that's a word I made up) or in awesome nameness (that one too).
OVERLORD - So, I believe I mentioned Overlord a while back because it was long rumored to be another "secret" wol universe installment. Recently, word on the digital street is that *isn't* the case? I've elected to still include it because I'm skeptical by nature, and so in the words of Squiggy on an old episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast: "I'll see it when I believe it". Anyhoo: Overlord follows some American soldiers in WWII (lead by Wyatt "Yes, I'm the Son of Kurt" Russell) trapped behind enemy lines in a German-occupied village where Ze Nazis are performing reanimation experiments, apparently inspired by Wolfenstein. Whether this ends up secretly being "Cloverlord" or not, it will most surely be a fun, gun shootin', monster stompin', things-go-boomin' good time at the theater.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB - Based on the book by David Lagercrantz, continuing Steig Larsson's Millennium series (which famously included the thrilling The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and then two, less-thrilling installments), Girl in the Spider's Web kinda looks to me like the CW network version of Dragon Tattoo. This time, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) uses elaborate boobytraps and has a long-lost sister (Sylvia Hoeks), with whom she used to play evenly-matched games of chess (lazy shorthand for "child genius") in an orphanage! Also: Explosions! Cars, driving fast! Sniper! You get it. So while the story may or may not blow your hair back, Spider's Web looks like it'll still be a reasonably fun action movie with a solid supporting cast including Stephen Merchant and one of my favorite new(er) actors, Lakeith Stanfield!
FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM 2: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD - Hey, why is Johnny Depp in this? Is this a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in? Oh, wait. Are the crimes of Grindelwald that he slapped his girlfriend around? Did I solve it? Am I a wizard now? Fuck. That was easy. This wizard shit is not as hard as I was led to believe. Blerg. Anyway, this is...another Harry Potter movie, full of "magic" (by which I mean CGI special effects) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne; who is just flat out too good, too fun an actor to play the boring hero straight man) bouncing around Paris to prevent Grindelwald from doing something evil that seems to be visualized as dingy sheets rising into the air. Also Newt says "I don't do sides", thereby assuring us he will absolutely pick a side before the flick ends. The only thing I really enjoyed about this trailer was the reveal that Voldemort's trusty snake Nagini apparently used to be a circus acrobat lady. I mean, I guess it was a reveal; I didn't know that. Also, yes, the beasts are a highlight. There's some legitimately cool creature design and who doesn't love a good, magic-y animal movie?
WIDOWS - I have been hearing nothing but positives about Widows (based on the book by Lynda La Plante, script by director Steve McQueen & Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn) which is about a group of, I guess they're all widows (?) who take on the task of completing a job left unfinished by Viola Davis' deceased husband Liam Neeson. The cast is incredible, featuring, in addition to Davis & Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Jackie Weaver (!), Jon Bernthal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Daniel Kaluuya (!) playing the big baddie forcing the widows' hands.
A PRIVATE WAR - Based on the Vanity Fair article, Marie Colvin's Private War by Arash Amel, Rosamund Pike (the Gone Girl herself coincidentally enough) plays Colvin, a bold war reporter with plenty of experience. The trailer isn’t super clear on what the main through-line is, plot-wise. Either this is a "Dewey Cox has to think about his whole life before he goes onstage" -type thing where we'll be getting an overview of Colvin's experiences or possibly there will be a main timeline, possibly interspersed with flashbacks. Either way, it seems like A Private War will cover numerous expeditions to assorted war zones including one incident of combatants firing on reporters and another (?) incident resulting in Colvin's being forced to wear an eyepatch. In short, it looks...intense. Pike is a fantastic actress and I've always been intrigued by the mindset of war reporters, so this one definitely has my interest.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET - I just don't know about this one. I seriously loved Wreck-It Ralph (except for a few music cues) and as much as I love the idea of returning to a world where video game villains have a support group, I'm not as enamored with "the internet" as a concept. If this steers more into the world of online gaming and indie game development, then that's something interesting, but it doesn't seem like that. It seems like the goddamn Emoji Movie. It seems like we're slow-pitching a bunch of easy internet culture references. Case in point, they lampshade the obvious title problem: "Shouldn't it be Ralph Wrecks the Internet?" Ralph (John C. Reilly) asks. "Well, 'Breaking the Internet' is kind of a...thing" Yess (Taraji P. Henson) replies. My confidence in this movie is not bolstered by this being viewed as a "trailer-worthy" clip. Lampshading something is not better than fixing it, but if you're gonna go that route, your justification should be better than "it's kind of a...thing". I dunno. I'll reserve final judgement until some more footage rolls out, but right now I'm sadly hesitant. On the positive side, though, is Vanellope's (Sarah Silverman's) storyline, which seems like it's exploring the idea of allowing yourself to grow individually and not feel beholden to anyone no matter how much you care for each other. It's an interesting idea, even if it appears to be motivated by Vanellope's realizing that a larger world exists outside of her arcade cabinet racing game world, which is a thing she should have theoretically realized after her adventures from the first film, but whatever, I guess it's just a...thing.
CREED II - Listen, I won't even pretend I'm not going to see this. I watched Creed on Netflix last year and it blew me away. Story-wise, none of the films in the Rocky-verse are especially complex: they're about proving yourself through physical combat and about pride and belief in yourself. Creed II falls into the "an athlete must choose between accepting a dangerous challenge and upholding his obligation to be there for his family" type of films, with the added weight that Victor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is the son of Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis's (Michael B. Jordan's) father. My hands down favorite thing in this trailer is the shot of Adonis training underwater, a thing that Muhammad Ali famously just made up for shits & giggles in an interview, which has become an actual training thing.
ROBIN HOOD - This is another one I just don't get. Remember last year, when everybody was real critical of Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? Well how is this any different as an approach? Cuz to me, this looks like the same concept: an ever-so-slightly more "modern", more "street-wise" take on a several-hundred-years-old fable. This go-round, Taron Egerton is Robin and Jamie Foxx is Little John, who trains Robin in how to become the hood that Nottingham deserves. There's a clip in the trailer where Robin asks John "What are your doing to my coat?" and I swear to sweet Satan, if Jamie Foxx has sewed a hood onto it and has to say "I've given you a new identity" or something, I will absolutely die laughing in that theater. I mean, listen, I was actually excited for Ritchie's King Arthur because it looked to maybe add a new angle to the story's cinematic legacy, but this...I mean, I've got like two seasons of Arrow on Netflix to catch up on (a show that has fought to hammer out its very specific "serious in a soap-opera way" tone) before I run out to see this. Though, it does feature Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham and who doesn't love a good Mendelsohn villain performance?
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE - Based on the 2011 BAFTA-winning short Zombie Musical by Ryan McHenry, this expansion (also written by McHenry with Alan McDonald) is described in the trailer as "Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land". I didn't see La La Land, but it's a musical and Shaun of the Dead has zombies and doesn't take itself too seriously, so: I guess? I feel like zombies + Christmas bs + musical is gonna appeal to a very specific niche subset of people, but I do not feel like that niche is large enough to be a huge success. As always with an unusual concept, I hope I'm wrong; I seriously love when a weird little gem of a movie hits. If I'm being honest, had you asked me what I thought Shaun of the Dead's chances were, I'd have been similarly skeptical and I'd have been extremely wrong. Anna and the Apocalypse has a lot going for it: a catchy name, zombies (hot right now), musical numbers (as hot right now as they've been for quite a while) and some nice subversive Christmas imagery (my favorite shot from the trailer is of, presumably Anna (Ella Hunt) and a young man watching a pine tree burn in the snow). It would be really cool if this was an excellent and successful movie, but I feel like comparing it to beloved genre masterpiece Shaun of the Dead and multiple Oscar winner La La Land are some pretty big snowshoes to fill.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE - This looks incredibly cool! Not only is it gorgeously animated with an incredible voice cast, but the central story is such a great choice for an animated feature because it would be so much more difficult to pull off in live action. Essentially, this is the story of parallel universes and how each universe has its own version of Spider-Man. Best of all, our POV character isn't Peter Parker (though he does appear), but Miles Morales! Much as I love Tom Holland as Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the other MCU films, it was a mistake not hiring an actor of color to play the Miles version of Spidey. This goes at least a little way toward rectifying that. Anyway, the animation as mentioned above, has a very comic book-y unreality to it, chock full of bold color and textures. The voice cast is excellent with Shameik Moore as Miles, Jake Johnson as Peter, Liev Schreiber as big bad The Kingpin, Mahershala Ali as vigilante The Prowler, and Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Hailee Steinfeld and Nic Cage (!!!) as assorted parallel Spider-People! This looks like it will be a really fun time.
MORTAL ENGINES - Hoo boy, this is a wild one. Based on Philip Reeve's book of the same name (the first in a series), Mortal Engines takes place in a world where cities were forced to become mobile after an event called "The Sixty Minute War" that ruined the planet for quite some time. The setting of Mortal Engines is London, one of, if not the largest of these hulking battling cities, which "eats" smaller cities to break down into raw materials to continue to fuel itself. Into this madness comes a political undercurrent when Hester (Hera Hilmar) attempts to assassinate a powerful city official played by Hugo Weaving. She and a boy (Robert Sheehan) are ejected from London to supposedly die in the wasteland, but then also Weaving seems to want them alive, so I don't know why he'd kick them out in the first place, but what do I know? This is the kind of YA movie fare that will live or die based mostly on the visuals, and luckily producer Peter Jackson and his WETA Workshop folks are behind that aspect (though the movie itself is directed by Christian Rivers). The cities look incredible but there are also airships and some kind of glowing-green-eyed cybernetic steampunk monstrosity (played by Stephen Lang) in the trailers as Weaving hunts down Hester for her connection to a mysterious artifact. I like a good, crazy concept and Mortal Engines definitely has that. Bolstered by the impressive special effects, this could be a really weird, fun time.
MARY POPPINS RETURNS - Taking a similar tack as that Ewan McGregor Christopher Robin movie, Mary Poppins Returns sees the titular magic nanny titularly returning to help sort out the now-grown Banks children (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) who are about to lose their familial home and in Michael Banks' (Whishaw's) case, dealing with being a widower and single father to two children. Fun! But if that sounds a little too heavy, this picture's gonna lighten things up with Lin Manuel Miranda and an appearance from Dick Van Dyke! Van Dyke is the only cast member returning from the original (Emily Blunt replacing Julie Andrews as Mary) and the sight of him in a big scruffy beard hopping up out of a chair to dance filled me with joy. I grew up on The Dick Van Dyke Show and the 1964 Mary Poppins, which this is canonically a sequel to. As the Philadelphia's own The Burning Brides once sang: "Mary Poppins flies among the witches..." There are worse ways to end a year than sitting in a nearly empty holiday lull theater, watching Mary Poppins work her magic.
AQUAMAN - There's a lot going on in the available Aquaman trailers. A ton of characters from the comic books appear: Black Manta, Mera, and Ocean Master to name the big ones. There's also quite a lot of action including undersea battles involving giant, ride-able seahorses, immense war crabs (?) and I think Jason Momoa riding a damn dinosaur (!?!). Also Momoa (as Aquaman) seems to love catching shit right in front of his face, as it happens TWICE in the trailer footage. Let's see, there are evil-looking CGI fish-men, Atlantis (almost of course, right) and a "Trident of Power". I also get alternating vibes of both Indiana Jones and Game of Thrones from different bits, neither of which I really expected, but both of which are welcome! I'll level with you, gang. I was a die-hard Marvel kid and for the past ten years I think Marvel has had the better, more cohesive movies. But Aquaman looks genuinely crazy and fun. It also appears to have both humor AND color, two things a lot of the previous DC flicks were short on. It also doesn't seem to take itself as seriously as the rest, which allows it to be, y'know, a comic book movie. We'll see, but I think James Wan may have nailed this one.
HOLMES & WATSON - Okay, I'll be honest: I laughed at this trailer. It's dumb as hell and the expected amount of childish humor from Will Ferrell (as Holmes) and John C. Reilly (as Watson) but it got me. Right around the time Watson was firing a pistol into a swarm of bees, it got me. This also has an appearance by Adam Scherr (WWE's Braun Strowman) so it is aiming to land directly in my wheelhouse. Am I the target audience for this? I'm 35, I was assured I had aged out of being ANYONE'S target audience until my "prune juice and side-by-side bathtubs" years. Anyhoo, The plot involves Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) giving the titular duo four days to solve a murder or else he will kill the Queen (Pam Ferris)! Steve Coogan, Hugh Laurie, and Lauren Lapkus appear as well. Coogan's is an unnamed role, which is interesting. But, actually, the most interesting thing is that I guess we've all just assimilated Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes performance into the cultural lexicon because this makes a point of parodying his deductive method, which results in the bee swarm when Holmes kills a mosquito with a cricket bat. That's cool, ‘cause I love those Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies.
BUMBLEBEE - Is this a prequel to the regular-degular Transformers movies? Because Bumblebee is a classic VW Bug in this and I *think* he was when those movies started before Bruckheimer rubbed his car-fetish funk all over it and he became...I dunno, some...yellow...car? I'm not a car guy. Anyway, in Bumblebee, some random girl (Hailee Steinfeld) befriends the giant alien robot that can change shape who is the movie's namesake. We see some shots from his home planet Cybertron, including the villainous Shockwave, who looks tremendous. For some reason, some of the Autobots (good boys) are still on Cybertron, so it's up to just Bumbo to protect Earth (us) from the Decepticons (bad dudes). Also, John Cena is there! As a bad guy! He plays a military so-and-so who has teamed up with some of the Decepticons to hunt Bumbo down. Thing is, I think he's been tricked into thinking Bumbo is a bad dude. Typical bad dude behavior. Anyway, hopefully Cena gives those bad bots an Attitude Adjustment! (It's a wrestling thing. Just ignore me.) Here's the thing. These Transmofos movies were never for me. They're for folks who are really into cars, whose eyes don't immediately go cross-eyed watching the tidal wave of CGI circuits turn a five-story robot into a truck. But. This one, visually harkening back to the various robots' classic designs, is maybe slightly more for me. Plus they added a wrestler. Holy crap, I think I *am* still somehow in a target demographic! Haha...you guys are fucked. I like a lot of really dumb and / or really esoteric things so if I'm becoming some kinda tastemaker...hoo boy! Look out!
BIRD BOX - This is an odd one. Based on the book by Josh Malerman, Sandra Bullock stars as a mother in a world where...something has happened. Or is happening. This whatever-it-is takes the form of your worst fear when you look at it (like a boggart from Harry Potter). And I guess maybe seeing your worst fear kills you? The end result is Sandra, her kids and assorted other survivors blindfolding themselves to get from wherever they are to...somewhere else? Somewhere safe? The trailer is a little unclear of the stakes and goals, but to be fair, it did a good job hooking me without those things. The trailer jumps around a bit in time, opening with a blindfolded Bullock in a wooded area pleading with whatever's out there not to take her children. It's heavy, and at first I thought it was a terrorist / kidnapping movie, before the reveal that it's some kind of mystical / alien / supernatural strangeness. I'm intrigued.