by Hunter Bush
Happy new year! Welcome. Whether you're a regular reader or this is your first time, this is Everything Old Is New Again, my bi-monthly column covering remakes, adaptations, and legacy sequels.
In case you don't know what some or any of those terms exactly mean, I'll explain by using The Wizard of Oz. If for whatever reason, you've never seen it, you're definitely aware of it, yes? Well, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland is an adaptation as it was based on a previously existing piece of fiction, L. Frank Baum's 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Over the years many different interpretations of Baum's Oz series popped up from time to time in various formats. But it wasn't until thirty-three years later that an "official" sequel was made, 1972's animated Journey Back to Oz, starring Liza Minnelli (daughter of Garland) as Dorothy. That 33-year gap qualifies Journey as a "legacy" or "long-gap" sequel. In 2013 (you may recall) Disney released Oz the Great and Powerful (starring James Franco in the title role). Though the Mouse House can call it a "spiritual prequel" until they're blue in the face, it's clearly just a type of remake, geared towards reintroducing the franchise to a new generation; the Franco-phile generation. Sadly (?) it didn't stick.
So there you have it: Adaptation, Legacy Sequel, and Remake. The bread 'n' butter of EOINA. The thinking behind making these types of movies is that the Intellectual Property (the IP) will have some name recognition or positive connotation in the audience's mind that will bring them (editor’s note: domestic and international audiences) more readily to the theater. How the column itself works is: I generally try to guesstimate the plot, tone and what-have-you of a movie from its trailer alone, though sometimes that's quite difficult.
This time I'll be taking you through the applicable flicks that you'll have access to in January and February. They might be hitting theaters or a streaming service, or they might be straight to physical media & View On Demand services but, however you might see them, these are what's coming.
THE UPSIDE - Based on the French buddy-dramedy The Intouchables from 2011, The Upside stars Bryan Cranston as the wildly wealthy quadriplegic Phillip and Kevin Hart as down-on-his-luck Dell whose sassy attitude gets him the job of being Phillip's primary caretaker. This looks like straight-up Oscar-bait (which is ironic given Hart's recent abdication of host duties for the upcoming 91st installment) and, while I would usually be all for it to see the Cran-man stretch his acting muscles a little, the vibe I get from the trailer is really annoying. The background music for most of the trailer is obnoxiously quirky, followed up by the kind of soft rock song they would have played under a touching moment on The Office. Nicole Kidman is also in this as some other assistant of Phillip's seemingly, though I suppose maybe she takes care of the business while Dell handles the day-to-day (?) Anyway, if the idea of watching Bryan Cranston relearn to appreciate life through the antics of a fast-talking Kevin Hart appeals to you, I think this is the boat you've been waiting for.
A DOG'S WAY HOME - From the same author as 2017's A Dog's Purpose (the movie best known for the allegations of animal abuse) comes A Dog's Way Home, a movie whose plot is exactly what you'd expect. Narrated by Bryce Dallas Howard as Bella the dog (yes, really) the movie follows her relationship with her owner (Jonah Hauer-King) which is, I guess, fine and dandy until the day she chases a squirrel and gets lost. Determined to find her way back, she travels a great distance (though exactly how far is unclear), encountering badly-CGI'ed wolves, worsely-CGI'ed mountain lions and an avalanche (!) before reuniting with her owner. Yup. That's in the trailer. Them reuniting is in the trailer. So...what else ya wanna talk about? I know that in 99% of animals-prove-that-love-is-stronger-than-any-distance -movies have a happy ending (with Old Yeller (1957) and Marley & Me (2008) being the big exceptions) but still. You're just gonna completely eradicate even the concept of tension? What is the point of that? Honestly, how amazing would it be if that actually *wasn't* how it ended? What if the damn dog died and this was some tricksy trailer editing to put saps into seats? Wow, what a power move!
PERFECTOS DESCONOCIDOS - This Mexican film, whose title translates to Perfect Strangers, is centered around a small dinner party between friends wherein the hostess announces that all gathered will place their cell phones in the center of the table and will play or read aloud all messages and calls for the entire group to hear. A lot of the dialogue and performances in the trailer look very dramatic (at one point someone says "I could lose her because of a single picture") but whatever the music is that plays throughout sounds like a Spanish ABBA (which as a concept I'm fine with) but the bouncy tone seems really dissonant against the performances. This film is based on an Italian film, also called Perfect Strangers (or Perfetti Sconosciuti) from 2016, BUT WAIT! There's also a SECOND Spanish-language adaptation that debuted in Spain at the end of 2017 (which, confusingly, was the first result to come up when I initially searched for info on this). So, if this premise interests you but you hate subtitles, I guess just wait a year or two and there will inevitably be an American version.
TALL TALES FROM THE MAGICAL GARDEN OF ANTOON KRINGS - Based on the books by Antoon Krings, this is another animated kids movie about the secret lives that insects may or may not be living right under our noses, like A Bug's Life or, to a lesser extent, Antz. In Tall Tales, a travelling performer cricket (Justin Long) is framed in the kidnapping of the local garden's hive queen (Kate Mara) by a malicious bee who wants to usurp the throne and something something something. This is one of those trailers that shows you the entire story up to and including the fact that the hive queen is rescued and order is restored (again: WHY ARE WE DOING THIS IN TRAILERS NOW?) so I guess if you're unsure of whether to catch this or not, the trailer will sort you out. Also, at one point Justin Long says the dialogue "Unhand my queen, Sphinx Moth!", so uh... that's... something. I love animated kids movies, but they need to not talk down to the kids and this seems underwhelming to say the least.
GLASS - Completing the trilogy begun by writer/director M. Night Shyamalan in 2000, Glass follows David Dunn (from Unbreakable, played by Bruce Willis) a man impervious to physical harm, Kevin Wendell Crumb (from Split, played by James McAvoy) a man whose numerous alternate personalities battle inside him and Elijah Price (also Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson) the brilliant but warped mind who engineered their crossing paths. The trailer shows them in some kind of institute, speaking to Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who believes their "superpowers" are simply a new form of delusion of grandeur. I really like that Shyamalan seems to be starting the movie off kicking the tires of his concepts. In 2000 audiences maybe weren't quite ready to get on the superheroes-could-be-all-around-us concept, but Shyamalan waited and now he seems to want to make sure everyone is on the same page: just because it seems improbable doesn't make it untrue. There's a lot of nice visuals on display in the Glass trailer, and especially nice color work (use of color was a theme mentioned in Unbreakable and it'll be nice to see it expanded on here) as well as what looks like a whole lot of action: chained cheerleaders held hostage, a police standoff and of course, some Dunn v. Crumb (Dawn of Justice) battling. But this is definitely Elijah Price's movie, he is Mr. Glass after all, and I'm intrigued that we don't really have any idea what his plan is. I'll have a review of Glass up next week right here on Moviejawn, so check back!
ADULT LIFE SKILLS - Current Dr. Who Jodie Whittaker stars as an emotionally stunted woman approaching 30, dealing with the death of her twin brother who finds a kindred weirdo-spirit in the son of the woman next door. Adult Life Skills comes from writer/director Rachel Tunnard and is based on her 2014 short Emotional Fusebox, which also starred Whittaker. It seems like Anna's (Whittaker's) immaturity will meet in the middle with young Clint's (Ozzy Myers') old soul maturity, and that's just such a patently cute idea that it runs the risk of coming off as saccharine but from everything I can see in the trailer, Adult Life Skills looks very sweet without being too sweet.
DON'T COME BACK FROM THE MOON - I was planning on goofing on this movie's title being something I would yell if I were a supervillain, casually tossing minor annoyances to the moon as punishment but this looks...pretty good. Based on a novel by Dean Bakopoulis, the big names in Don't Come Back From the Moon are James Franco and Rashida Jones, but the stars seem to be the kids (Jeffrey Wahlberg and Alyssa Elle Steinacker especially). The movie's through-line seems to be paternal abandonment, as the trailer opens with Wahlberg (in voice over) mentioning several instances of fathers abandoning their families (the title comes from something one of them wrote on a mirror by way of explanation) and later we get snippets of Franco and Jones arguing about him wanting to leave their dried up resort town. This looks like an intense emotional experience, but my lord the visuals were beautiful and haunting. I'm looking forward to this one.
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING - I was already pretty into this trailer and then, THEN Sir Patrick Stewart showed up! Seriously, The Emoji Movie aside, isn't he The Greatest? But as I said, I was already digging The Kid Who Would Be King's tone and energy. It reminded me instantly of the movies I loved as a kid, especially The NeverEnding Story. Though it isn't based on a book or whatnot per se, it is obviously an modern retelling of the King Arthur myth, complete with an unassuming young titular kid-who-would-be-king (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), a Merlin (Sir Pat Stew, disguised as Angus Imrie), some Knights of the Round-when-you-fold-out-the-leaves Table (Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris and Dean Chaumoo) and an evil Sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson). As a kid, I was a big fan of the Arthur mythos and the idea that I might one day discover the famous Sword in the Stone, pull it out (inexplicably since I'm an American) and rule England. Sadly, it has yet to be. Maybe I'll go see The Kid Who Would Be King and live vicariously through Louis A. Serkis (who, incidentally is Andy Serkis' son).
KING OF THIEVES - Another film based on an unusual source is James Marsh's King of Thieves, which takes inspiration from a Vanity Fair article by Mark Seal, based on the real Hatton Garden robbery from 2015. Though this has been the inspiration for two previous films, none of those has Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay ,and Ray Winstone as the heist-pullers! Also featuring ex-Daredevil star Charlie Cox, King of Thieves seems to have a lot of humor and good-natured ribbing between the thieves and the trailer straight-up says "there's no honor among thieves", implying that someone is double crossing the rest. This is a great cast and I personally have a soft spot for heist movies, so I'm looking forward to King of Thieves.
PIERCING - Piercing is based on a novel from Ryu Murakami, author of the novel Audition, itself made into a film in 1999 by Takashi Miike. The plot descriptions are a bit vague but the general consensus is that a man (Christopher Abbott) has decided to kill a prostitute (Mia Wasikowska). The trailer seems to imply that he is delusional (voices on the phone encouraging him to kill her) and at one point he is (most probably) hallucinating things like the carpet forming tentacles and climbing across his body. It looks extremely stylish and unsettling in a David Lynch, Mulholland Dr. kinda way. I'm expecting an intense viewing experience.
JACOB'S LADDER - Well, I was all set to write the word "why?" over and over again in varying font sizes, colors and etc., but it seems the Movie Gods have smiled upon us all as this wholly unnecessary remake has been delayed indefinitely. The story of a Vietnam veteran who seems to be experiencing a complete mental breakdown is one of the most iconic modern psychological thrillers and I legitimately don't understand the idea of remaking it. I guess it would be a more recent war? Whatever. Who could care? Just go watch the O.G., it's streaming on Amazon Prime.
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART - 2014's The LEGO Movie is probably the best Lovecraftian, existential nightmare film ever made, AND it's a damn fine kid's movie to boot. How they intend to live up to my personal expectations, I can't even guess, but they seem to have the damn-fine-kids-movie thing down to a science. The LEGO Movie 2 finds Emmet (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the other survivors of the Taco Tuesday events from the first film living in a post-apocalyptic Bricksburg when they are visited by a sophisticated alien being from the "Sis-star System". Wyldstyle (and everybody but Emmet) are kidnapped back into space and it's up to Emmet along with charismatic hero Rex Dangervest (a meta poke at Chris Pratt's numerous lead roles also voiced by Pratt) to rescue them. Since the original LEGO Movie ended with the reveal that their lives and adventures were being controlled by an actual human boy and his dad (Oh, the Lovecraftian, extradimensional horrors!), I think it's obvious that the alien being from the "Sis-star System" is the boy's sister, but rather than being disappointed, I'm intrigued. I'm left with questions, like “What else are they up to? What aren't they showing us? and Who's got the hallucinogens?”
WHAT MEN WANT - Wait, what? Someone went and made a new version of the inexplicably enjoyable Helen Hunt / Mel Gibson vaguely supernatural rom-com from 2000? Wow. Ok. In Women, Gibson's macho dumb-dumb ad exec is struck by lightning and can somehow read women's thoughts, allowing him to better relate to his new boss, Hunt. In Men, Taraji P. Henson drinks lavender tea laced with "weed, peyote, and crack" and gets K.O.'ed on the dance floor, only to awaken with the ability to hear men's inner thoughts. Presumably this will allow her to get the respect she has been lacking at work. This trailer makes What Men Want seem a whole lot dumber than What Women Want, so I'm really not sure which way it might ultimately tip, but the gag of having Uncle Drew scene-stealer Shaq think about himself in the third person and then question why he does it genuinely made me laugh, so there is that.
COLD PURSUIT - Based on the film Kraftidioten (which literally translates to "power idiot" but I'm guessing means something like power-mad or power-hungry) written by Kim Fupz Aakeson which is known stateside as In Order of Disappearance and stars Stellan Skarsgård, Cold Pursuit follows an apparent long-haul / ice road trucker (Liam Neeson) whose son is found overdosed on heroin. Neeson and his wife (Laura Dern) know their son wasn't involved in drugs, so Neeson goes digging to find that the son was mixed up with local drug-running gangster types (with nicknames like Speedo, Viking, and Eskimo) and ended up murdered. Of course, this being a post-Taken Liam Neeson, he goes looking for revenge. Listen, this is Liam Neeson continuing to lean into his later career reputation as a (usually vengeful) badass and I am here for it. On top of which, the trailer has a definite knowing sense of humor about itself and what it is and that kind of meta-awareness, combined with some of the briefly-glimpsed set pieces and locales, makes me think this might be Neeson's John Wick (I know, I know, those are big shoes to fill, but y'know what they say about shooting for the stars and all that).
LORDS OF CHAOS - Currently there isn't an actual trailer for Lords of Chaos, but I do know it's based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Moynihan & Didrik Søderlind about the founding of the Norwegian Black Metal music scene in the early 90's; primarily the bands Mayhem and Burzum. The two teaser trailers (each ~30 seconds long) do give an accurate representation of the tone of the book: that these people who helped create this air of serious, frightening, evilness around their music were just, y'know: dorks. They were like any similar bunch of teens & 20-somethings: dumb, horny, and committed to being taken seriously. Unlike most similar kids, this leads to some pretty wild, pretty fucked up stuff happening in the name of "authenticity". I wish I had more to go on, but it is what it is. If the movie is half as interesting and humanizing as the book, it could be a really entertaining flick.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL - A long time coming, this project was originally to be helmed by James Cameron, but I guess he got too caught up with them blue kitties and handed the controls over to Robert Rodriguez. Alita: Battle Angel is based on an iconic manga series and subsequent anime films, known in the US as Battle Angel Alita about an amnesiac cyborg found and rebuilt by a benevolent scientist (played in the film by Christoph Waltz). The world she inhabits finds the poor living in a city called Scrapyard, which has grown up out of the literal scrap of the high-society floating city Salem that's always overhead. It is populated with other cyborgs, though something about Alita makes her special. Over time she remembers a long-forgotten martial art called Panzer Kunst and starts to think she may have been important in some way at some point in the past. The footage I've seen features Mahershala Ali siccing a phalanx of vicious cybernetically-enhanced mercenaries on Alita (Rosa Salazar), with the ultimate goal of destroying her before she can achieve her destiny. The cast is filled out by Jennifer Connelly, Michelle Rodriguez, Jackie Earl Haley, Jeff Fahey and oh, hey, Casper Van Dien. Weird. But let's not mince words: this is gonna be a movie where CGI cartoons murder each other and ultimately teach us a lesson about the concept of humanity or some such, so if those movies aren't your thing, consider this your heads-up.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY - Okay, follow me on this: in 2012 there was a documentary made about "the first family of British wrestling", the Bevis family. WWE fans would be most familiar with daughter Saraya-Jade Bevis, who wrestles with the company as Paige. This documentary (called The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family) followed the clan Bevis as they dealt with normal family troubles magnified by the relative (no pun intended) insanity of being professional wrestlers. Now, writer / director Stephen Merchant is adapting the general story as a semi-biographical film starring Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Jack Lowden & Nick Frost as the Knight family. When a recruiter (Vince Vaughn) calls to have Raya (Pugh) and Zak (Lowden) try out for the WWE, they'll have to deal with only one of them getting to go to the big show. Speaking of: WWE wrestlers The Big Show, Sheamus, and notably The Rock appear, though I'd imagine more will as well. I love wrestling and I genuinely enjoy Merchant's writing and character work, so this is a pretty solid bet for me.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD - This, the third How to Train Your Dragon film (based on the book series by Cressida Cowell) finds the dragons and vikings living in harmony with one another and all is well until Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless (a "Night Fury" class of dragon) find a female "Light Fury" (the same as Toothless, except ivory-colored) and try to hook those two crazy dragon kids up. Seems the Light Fury was being tracked because a dragon-hunting villain, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) appears and threatens their entire society. Now Hiccup, Toothless and all their friends, both viking and dragon alike, will have to fight Grimmel and his armada. At some point, the Light Fury had shown them how to reach the titular Hidden World of the dragons and my guess is the movie will end with Grimmel defeated, but Hiccup and co. having to bid tearful goodbyes to their dragon friends who they'll leave in the safety of this dragon sanctuary. But as I said, that’s only a guess as this trailer managed to be over a full minute long without explicitly showing me how the movie ends! Imagine that. Anyway, educated guess? Bring tissues.
Anything in here you're particularly jazzed to see? Let me know. Let's have a discourse. I love movies. Everyone at MOVIEJAWN loves movies and I'm sure we'd all like to talk about them with you, so drop us a line. Check back in March for EOINA Vol. 8 and Long Live the Movies!