by Hunter Bush
Hello there! Welcome to Everything Old is New Again, Vol. 2: March and April, 2018. If you're new to the column, EOiNA is where I spotlight some upcoming films that are inspired in some way by a previously existing concept, work or franchise: remakes, adaptations or long-gap sequels.
How was your January and February? Did you see that Eagles Super Bowl win? I did (Go Birds!). Did you catch any of the Winter Olympics or snag any deep discount day-after-Valentine's Day candy? More pressingly: Did you see any good movies? And hey, were any of them ones I covered in EOiNA Vol.1: Jan. and Feb. 2018? If you did, I'd love to hear what you thought. Leave a comment below why dontcha?
I saw Them Horse Boyz (I mean 12 Strong) btw, and was pleasantly surprised. Not enough Michael Shannon though.
Alright, who's ready to look ahead a bit? There’s a lot, so let’s jump right in.
DEATH WISH - Based on the 1974 Michael Winner cult film starring Charles Bronson (itself based on the '72 novel by Brian Garfield), this adaptation is directed by Hostel director Eli Roth and stars Bruce Willis. I'll be honest with you gang, I dunno about this. I enjoy a good revenge flick and I love Willis generally, but...I just don't know. Death Wish, as a franchise, has a sordid history to start with: Garfield's book was decisively anti-vigilantism while the '74 film was seen as being very strongly pro (Bronson himself, among others, argued this read of the film). Regardless, when it premiered it received generally negative reviews, while simultaneously inspiring conversations nationwide about the violence epidemic the country was going through. Could Roth's Death Wish inspire similar conversations? Possibly, but it seems like a much more calculated attempt; forcing the zeitgeist rather than tapping into it. And frankly, a white man and his firearms taking the law into his own hands coming just two weeks after the most recent mass-shooting in the country (a phrase that is sickeningly mundane now) just seems...poorly timed. Call it Tone Deaf Wish (patent pending).
RED SPARROW - This sexpionage thriller from director Francis Lawrence, reuniting with his Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) is based on the novel by James Matthews. Lawrence plays Dominika, a Russian ballerina coerced into being a sexy distraction for an enemy of the state. Of course she then witnesses his murder and is given the choice to either join him in death or become a "Sparrow"; basically weaponized con-men & -women trained to read targets and "become (their) missing piece" to better manipulate them. It also seems like she will end up falling for her newest target, CIA operative Joel Edgerton. On its surface, Red Sparrow resembles the Marvel's Black Widow movie that for some reason never materialized, but, not being a tentpole franchise film, Sparrow has the opportunity to be darker and delve deeper than the entirely non-existent Widow surely could have. Whether it takes advantage of the opportunity or not remains to be seen. I will probably try to catch this one, but if it stinks I'll start imagining it as the Black Widow movie and see if that helps at all.
THEY REMAIN - Y'all. I am so excited for this! It's based on a short story from author Laird Barron, who has in the past two years become a personal favorite of mine. Though I haven't read this particular story ("--30--"), Barron's works are of the kind that hook me immediately: eerie, sensuous and hinting at a greater cosmological uncanniness than we're aware of. They Remain follows Keith (William Jackson Harper) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson), two scientists with a romantic history investigating strange animal behavior on the site of a "Manson Family-style" cult's land. Writer / director Philip Gelatt, with cinematographer Sean Kirby, have filled the trailer with intriguing dialogue and beautiful, distinct visuals. They Remain starts in limited release in New York & LA. Here's hoping it makes its way to Philly before too long.
A WRINKLE IN TIME - Like the beloved sci-fi / fantasy book from Madeleine L'Engle from 1962, this adaptation from director Ava DuVernay follows the Murry children's quest to find their missing father (Chris Pine). If you're unfamiliar with the book, I don't want to ruin too much of it for you, but it involves a lot of very strange characters, unique locations and... spacey science magic. It's incredibly original and a lot of fun, and the trailers for DuVernay's film look like they're swinging for the fences. Personally, reading A Wrinkle in Time, I always imagined colder vistas than those DuVernay's effects team seem to be delivering, which is a change I suppose I understand and largely agree with (though the color palette is a bit Lisa Frank at times). I do wish there were more practical effects, but what can ya do? On top of the inarguably impressive visuals, Wrinkle boasts an a-ma-zing cast (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Peña, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis and, oh yeah, Oprah Winfrey!) as well as a new song from Sade! I really hope the finished product is as unique as it has the potential to be, otherwise, what a waste.
THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT - Coming *ten years* after the original Strangers (which is riveting) from the same writer, (Bryan Bertino) Prey at Night seems, based on the trailer, to feature the same trio of masked killers as the first film in addition to...an unfortunate amount of the same scares. Bearing in mind that the killers would no doubt stick to their methodology (targeting isolated families), a *lot* of what's shown in the trailer could almost be taken directly from the 2008 Strangers. Personally, I'm hoping that this is a clever editing choice, showing us imagery we'll be familiar with so as not to ruin the unexpected scares the film has in store for us.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY - This tenth film in the Children of the Corn franchise comes seven years after its previous entry, 2011's Genesis, and from the same writer, so I suspect they'll connect in more than just the obvious ways. Though the Children of the Corn franchise began in 1984 (based on a short story by Stephen King), only the first two films made it to theaters; all others were direct-to-the-format-of-the-era affairs. Writer Joel Soisson seems to be trying to make Runaway a good jumping-on point for new viewers, as we follow Ruth (Marci Miller) a single mother attempting to give her son a normal life away from the Corn cult in which she was raised. I'll be honest, I haven't checked out a Corn Kids movie in a long, long time, but this one looks like it might be a fun watch: creepy, menacing kids; spooky, supernatural phenomena; all in a rural setting? What more could you ask for?
TOMB RAIDER - Starting with the video game series that originated on PCs in 1996 (!), the Tomb Raider / Lara Croft franchise has been a near constant pop culture presence across most major gaming platforms and twice in theaters, with Angelina Jolie. This film franchise relaunch stars Ex Machina's Alicia Vikander as Croft and seems to hew pretty close, set-up and action-wise, to 2013's game franchise reboot Tomb Raider: a young Lara Croft gets shipwrecked on an isolated island while searching for clues to her missing father's fate. Good news: The game is great, so using it as a jumping off point is a smart choice! Better News: Walton Goggins is in this movie! Honestly, so long as it hits that Indiana Jones sweet spot where the action adventure / exploration meets the supernatural goings-on, I'll be happy.
LOVE, SIMON - Based on the book Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is the story of a closeted gay high school student who is blackmailed into coming out. The cast features Nick Robinson in the lead role, with Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as his parents and a number of rising stars in the supporting roles. There really isn't ever a bad time to make a film telling kids to be proud of who they are, is there? The tone in the trailers is well-balanced between the lighter and heavier aspects, but they seem to be downplaying the blackmail aspect, which is a weird choice I think.
PACIFIC RIM UPRISING - Does Pacific Rim Uprising technically qualify as a Long Gap Sequel? It's only been five years since Guillermo del Toro's *truly* excellent original Pacific Rim rocket-punched its way to theaters but in this day and age, where there's a new Star Wars flick every single year, those five years seem like an eternity. Regardless: Despite my fanatical enjoyment of the original, Uprising has me skeptical. Only about half the major cast is returning (Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman & Charlie Day) with new characters played by the likes of John Boyega (Yay!) and Scott Eastwood (Yawn.). There are also almost a half dozen writers credited on the film, which while not exactly a death sentence (it really depends on how well the disparate parts are brought together) it's never a *great* sign. The directorial duties have passed from GDT to TV veteran Steven S. DeKnight, taking his first crack at a feature film. Most worrying for me is that the visuals & effects seem a lot more...Transformers-y (?) than the original, which managed to look and feel entirely unique. The thing that has me the most hopeful is that while the plot at first seems obvious, it takes an intriguing turn. Obviously the giant monsters (Kaiju) have returned, requiring a new generation of pilots for the giant robots (Jaegers), but: instead of them breaking into our world, it would seem someone from our world *let them* in. Based on the footage of two Jaegers duking it out, my bet is someone within the Jaeger organization is behind it all...
I KILL GIANTS - Based on the charming 2008 Image Comics graphic novel written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by J. M. Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants is the story of Barbara (Madison Wolfe), a troubled girl who escapes her life into a fantasy world laid over top of our own in which she is the only one who can prevent a giant from destroying the town. The giants are symbolic of those inescapable moments in life that, to quote Barbara "take away everything you care about", and she sees one coming and will do whatever it takes to stop it, even to the point of putting herself in danger. The trailers gave me a distinctly Goonies vibe of kids dealing with change through fantasy. Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots round out the cast as Barbara's counselor and sister, respectively. I think this could end up being a sleeper hit and definitely has the potential to be a beautiful film.
READY PLAYER ONE - I read Ernest Cline's 2011 novel just last month and...it wasn't for me. Far be it for me to disparage anyone's enjoyment of it (or Cline's success) but I thought that, as a book, it was mostly...not a book. It was mostly a list of cool, nerdy things Cline likes & knows about, with some genuinely interesting trivia sprinkled throughout, all tied together with a paper-thin narrative about a poor boy in the post-apocalypse competing in a global alternate game-world called the Oasis for the ultimate Easter Egg: control of the Oasis. Having said that: This film will be a massive success. Everything that didn't work for me in the book will work (at least a little better) onscreen: instead of paragraphs listing cool things that people use as their avatars in the Oasis, we'll actually see them...so that's fun. I guess. My biggest hope is that Cline (who adapted his novel with writer Zak Penn) can flesh out the story to make it a bit fuller and not entirely reliant on eye-candy and ear-candy (there better be a lot of Canadian smarty-pants prog rockers Rush, of whom I am a smarty-pants fan). The cast is a mix of solid supporting players and up-and-comers and it's directed by a guy you may have heard of, so again: This film will be a massive success.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE - Based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, You Were Never Really Here tells the story of Joe (Jaoquin Phoenix), a veteran suffering from PTSD, existing in civilian life as a not-entirely-legal enforcer for a man named Angel (Frank Pando). When Joe's latest job, rescuing a young girl from a human trafficking brothel, turns out to be more complicated than it was presented to him, his already violent and traumatic existence becomes much more so. Director Lynne Ramsay is no stranger to dark subject matter, having directed the devastating We Need to Talk About Kevin in 2011. Add up Phoenix's refusal to take on easy projects, the trailer's beautiful cinematic imagery and its reputation as a spiritual successor to Taxi Driver & Drive and I suspect we could have an emotionally complex, brutal neo-noir classic.
DEEP BLUE SEA 2 - In 1999 Renny Harlin gave us the modern shark popcorn masterpiece that is Deep Blue Sea, a film that gave us, among other things, LL Cool J paired with a foul-mouthed parrot, the most infinitely meme-able Samuel L Jackson pep talk of all time and, if nothing else, increased Thomas Jane's "oh, yeah, that guy" quotient by 70%. I love it. The SyFy Channel must also love it (or maybe they just really love sharks) because on top of innumerable Sharknadoes, they're willing to throw some money at another shark-based franchise. The cast in this one is less recognizable, though does feature Rob Mayes (the titular John of John Dies at the End), which is a shame as these types of popcorn flicks are tailor-made for character actors. The plot seems just-different enough from the original to not qualify as a straight-up remake, but a lot of the visuals seem awfully familiar. My completely unfounded hope for Deep Blue Sea 2 is that it's a stealth Sharknado prequel, explaining how the sharks learned to control the weather in the first place. Man...SyFy really do love their sharks. Are we sure their CEO isn't a shark?
RAMPAGE - Based on addictively destructive 1986 Bally Midway arcade game, Rampage could go either way. In the original game, you could choose to play as either a giant ape, lizard or werewolf, each of which had been transformed in various ways from normal humans to Pacific Rim-style Kaiju. From there, your goal was to smash all the buildings while avoiding being shot or blown up by humans, who you could actually eat (along with things like roast turkeys) for health. As that is barely anything, Rampage has a lot of room to grow (no pun intended). Director Brad Peyton reteams with his San Andreas star Dwayne The Rock Johnson as primatologist Davis whose albino gorilla pal George gets sprayed in the face with a mysterious green MacGuffin gas canister and begins turning into a giant albino gorilla. But will they remain pals? I mean probably. A mutated croc / gator and a wolf (minus the were- part) also feature in what is surely the climax of the film and the smart money is that Davis and George will have to team up to stop them from wrecking civilization (or at least whichever west coast city the movie takes place in). I can't imagine this won't be a fun watch but I wouldn't expect much more than that from it.
OVERBOARD - A remake of 1987's now somewhat problematic Kurt Russell / Goldie Hawn slobs vs snobs amnesia farce, 2018's Overboard swaps the genders of its lead characters with Anna Faris as the hardworking, financially-troubled Kate and Eugenio Derbez as the rich, prickish Leonardo. In the '87 version, Russell sees Hawn as his ticket out of his lower-class existence, and while that may be a factor in the 2018 version, it's presented more as Kate wanting to teach Leonardo what it's like to work for a living. Derbez is an interesting choice for the role as he is largely unknown to American audiences despite having starred in (as well as directed and co-written) Instructions Not Included in 2013, which became the highest-grossing Spanish language film ever. The cast is rounded out by Eva Longoria, Swoosie Kurtz, John Hannah and Mel Rodriguez and genuinely looks like a lot of fun.
SUPER TROOPERS 2 - I won't lie to you, gang, I loved the 2001 Super Troopers. Even so, I was skeptical when I first heard they'd be doing a sequel this year. When it comes to a much-loved comedy, we're all afraid of getting Wayne's World 2-ed: a stale rehash of what we loved the first time*. And then, sitting in a theater for, of all things Insidious: The Last Key, I saw the trailer for Super Troopers 2 and...laughed my buns off! This time, instead of busting a drug smuggling ring, the titular Vermont state troopers are tasked with taking over for the Canadian Mounted Police force when it's revealed that a border town once thought Canadian is now technically on American soil. Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter & Erik Stolhanske) retread familiar ground comedically, without repeating exact jokes. Brian Cox and Marisa Coughlan return and are joined by (deep breath) Jim Gaffigan, Tyler Labine, Hayes MacArthur, Will Sasso, Rob Lowe, and Lynda Carter (!!!) among others. This has the potential to be my favorite comedy of the year (though it has strong competition from Game Night), but I wouldn't advise going on opening night unless you're looking to catch a contact high.
* (To be fair, I've heard that the reasons for this were beyond Mike Myers & co.'s control, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an ultimately unfulfilling sequel).
That's it for March and April, y'all. Thank you for reading, but before you go, I'd like to mention a few non-movie bits of EOiNA business:
One franchise making a surprise return in 2018 is Fangoria Magazine! Widely considered to be the modern horror film fan magazine, Fangoria began publication in 1979 and continued reliably well into the 2010's before printing costs, staff & management shakeups and other factors started to take their toll. Its final print issue (#344!) was released in October of 2015, at which time Fangoria became an online-only entity. Word is that the first new print-edition Fango' in years will hit before Halloween!
Another long-running franchise that celebrated an impressive 35th installment in February, that I neglected to mention was...me! In lieu of belated birthday wishes, please share this column with your friends and tell anybody who'll listen to check out MOVIEJAWN, because this is an awesome site.
And, since the next EOiNA won't drop until May, this is my last chance to remind you: Don't forget to file your taxes if you haven't yet. I'm just looking out for you.
See ya when I see ya!