by Hunter Bush
Hello again and welcome back to Everything Old is New Again, the column where I write about the movies & series coming to screens of all sizes in the next two months, but specifically the ones based on some previously-existing work, intellectual property or franchise. I also included two movies coming to limited release based on true stories because, cynic that I am, I question the ethics of releasing these stories Right Now. But we'll get there.
When the last Everything Old is New Again dropped, a new thing was happening here at Moviejawn that I neglected to mention because I didn't wanna jinx it. Now however, I have some exciting news. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. I've got three words for you: Pizza. Film. Club. Essentially, a bunch of the Moviejawn contributors get together once a month to eat pizza and watch a lesser-known film. We make snacks and cocktails, at least some of which are themed around the film we're about to see and generally just hang out and have a great time.
We've held Pizza Film Club meetings for three consecutive months and now, you'll all get to join in after the fact, or at least read about it. In August, we're starting a Pizza Film Club column here on Moviejawn that will drop early in the month, covering the previous month's meeting. We'll describe the movie and the snacks, share recipes and give those in attendance a chance to sound off on the flick we watched. Plus there will be plenty of pictures! Think of it like a newsletter from your Moviejawn family!
But that's an entirely different column, I'm just really excited to share it with y'all! Anyway, let's look at what else is coming up! Something to keep your eye on: Awkwafina (recently of Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians) appears in three of the flicks covered below!
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME - I'm so tired, you guys. I'm tired of talking about Marvel stuff. You're probably tired of reading it. But I can't stop. I must go on. This is the 2nd film in the canonical Marvel MCU Spider-Man franchise, and apparently the last film of this current Phase of the MCU. In it, Spidey/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is travelling abroad with his friends from school while simultaneously trying to deal with the fallout from that last 'Vengies movie. While in...Europe...somewhere... Spidey encounters what looks like giant building-sized people made of water or fire or earth (y'know: the elements) and also Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio (who in the comics has, let's say "illusory abilities" which maybe explains the elemental people?). The latest trailer drops a whole lot of wild (and seemingly spoilery) shit that I won't detail but involves parallel universes and people discovering Spider-Man's secret identity? Those seem like huge story reveals to just hand out in a trailer...maybe Marvel is worried about Franchise Fatigue hurting attendance? Anyway, I really, really enjoyed the previous Spider-Man flick, because it was just so much fun and mostly not weighed down with the anchor of continuity. This time we seem to be leaning pretty hard in the other direction and I'm definitely less enthused. Mysterio is one of my favorite lesser characters from the comics, he has a fishbowl on his head(!) and they've made his crazy powers look very cool and spooky in the trailers, so... I'll probably see it and probably enjoy it. But still, can we just get a year off? No, right? Read The Old Sport and Best Boy’s review HERE for their mostly continuity-free viewpoint on it!
THE FAREWELL - Based on writer / director Lulu Wang's own experiences (which she recounted on an episode of This American Life podcast) with her family when they learned that her grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Since her grandmother didn't speak English, it was up to her parents to translate and they elected not to tell the Grandmother because it would ruin her mood. This sounds crazy, and it kind of is, but their reasoning has roots in Chinese tradition and the view that a person's life is not just their own but belongs to everyone. I think that's a very interesting concept to explore. That covers the story behind the film, but as for the film itself - it seems visually gorgeous and, just from what I've seen, it seems to balance humor and heart in a very appealing way. Awkwafina stars as Billi, (Lulu Wang's avatar) and already has a lot of buzz around her performance. I definitely want to see this.
FIRECRACKERS - Based on the 2013 short film of the same name from writer/director Jasmin Mozafarri, Firecrackers follows two friends (Michaela Kurimsky & Karena Evans) on the eve of abandoning their shitty small town for a better future. But when one lets the plan slip to the other's abusive boyfriend, things begin to spiral. The visuals here are good - I'm a sucker for that dark night, parking lot, neon sign color palette - but this seems to get intense. I definitely get the impression that the shitty boyfriend sexually assaults the one Firecracker and they maybe go looking for revenge? This might be worth a look, but for sure it won't be an easy watch.
THE LION KING - Exactly like Disney's animated Lion King from 1994 but with CGI lions. New voices include: Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen, James Earl Jones (again), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Keegan Michael Key, Billy Eichner, John Kani, Eric Andre & John Oliver amongst, I'm sure others. I will, and I cannot stress this enough, NOT be seeing this. No one should.
THE BOYS - Based on a pretty violent, pretty genre-savvy comic series from writer Garth Ennis & artist Darick Robertson, this Amazon Prime original series takes place in a world where superheroes exist but many have let their fame go to their heads. Essentially, it's like any tale of celebrity corruption and debauchery, but the guy on the week-long bender can punch helicopters out of the sky. These super-celebs need to be monitored and controlled and that's where The Boys come in. When Hughie's (Jack Quaid's) girlfriend ends up dead as "collateral damage" from some super or another, he comes in contact with The titular Boys (played by Karl Urban, Elisabeth Shue, Laz Alonso, Karen Fukuhara & Tomer Kapon). The comic ran for 70-some-odd issues and dealt with some fairly racy, fairly crazy, definitely violent subject matter. I'll be interested to see how well that translates to the Amazon series. But to be honest, I'm a little annoyed with A-zon right now for just recently cancelling The Tick (which would have paired nicely as a candy-coated alternative to the grimness of The Boys).
SKIN - From director Guy Nattiv, stars Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliott fame, recently of Rocketman) as real-life ex-skinhead Bryon Widner who wants to leave the skinhead world he's been a part of for most of his life to settle down with a woman (Danielle Macdonald) and her two kids. He is, of course, nearly covered head-to-tail in tattoos proclaiming his particular beliefs (y'know, so we all learn not to judge people by their...Skin). The overarching narrative here seems to want to drive home the concept that "not all skinheads are bad people deep down" and I have some problems with that. While I do believe in second chances and that people can learn to be better, I think that trying to sell the general public the idea that they shouldn't judge hate group members "too harshly" at this exact moment in time in America is incredibly ill-timed. While I am interested in Jamie Bell's recent career trajectory and the projects he has been choosing, I will 100% be skipping this one.
DORA & THE LOST CITY OF GOLD - Based on the Nick Jr. show that ran for 8 seasons, this live-action adaptation sees Dora (Isabela Moner) shipped off to a U.S. high school while her parents (Michael Peña & Pia Miller) go to find the lost city of gold. Dora experiences the usual fish-out-of-water high school stuff (kind of reminded me of the first stretch of Mean Girls a little bit) before she, along with cousin Diego (Jeffrey Wahlberg) and three or four classmates are kidnapped and taken back to the jungle to help bad guys find the lost city. This looks fun, if not exactly my thing, but I have one major complaint about the trailer footage I've seen. They're burying the lead by not showcasing the fact that Boots the monkey is voiced by Danny Trejo and Swiper the fox is voiced by Antonio Banderas! That's a major selling point! To me at least. This isn't a rush-to-the-theater viewing for me, but I'm not going to go out of my way to avoid it either.
FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW - I have only the barest experience with the Fast & Furious universe but I am aware that in the course of eight or nine movies these characters that started out as regular-degular folks into illegal street-racing have evolved into a bunch of super-criminals who routinely do the literal impossible at top velocity. Hobbs & Shaw focuses on two characters who've appeared in previous installments taking on a mission on their own, together. Hobbs (Rock "The Dwayne" Johnson) was some sort of fed at some point, but I don't know how or if that may have changed, while Shaw (Jason Statham) is just one member of the villainous Shaw family who have bedevilled the Fast franchise, possibly since the beginning. So your basic buddy-cop-meets-The-Odd-Couple pitch. What threat could possibly unite these two apparently opposite worldviews? None other than Brixton (Idris Elba) playing, and I kid you not, "an enhanced supersoldier" who refers to himself, rightfully so, as "black Superman". I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much I love that a street-level crime franchise has embraced Big Dumb Action Movie-hood so thoroughly that its ninth film (but first spin-off) now has, in essence, a comic book super villain! I hope they never stop making Fast movies and I equally hope that at some point I actually get to watch them all. Hobbs & Shaw also features the big screen debut of contentious WWE champion Roman Reigns (who is cousins with The Dwayne iRL)! I will be reviewing this one I believe, so I'm very excited for that!
ARTEMIS FOWL - This young adult sci-fi fantasy film is based on the first two books of a series by Irish author Eoin Colfer looks like a crazy mess, but that might actually just be the books themselves? For example, here are a list of some key words from across the plot descriptions of both books on which the movie is based: teenage genius, fairy blackmail, a bodyguard named Butler, leprechaun puns, goblins, centaurs, a missing father, an ailing mother and (I kid you not) the Russian mafia! Trailer-wise Artemis Fowl looks confusing. It's like it was made from things the filmmakers picked up at the Mid-Grade CGI Warehouse 4th of July Sale, but the overall effect is Harry Potter-meets-Men-In-Black with all kinds of creatures, runes, steampunk-y gears and some kind of underground civilization with characters living in a cave system travelling around in hover-cars! What's most odd to me now, having perused a Wikipedia on the series, is that the trailer seems like a by-the-book Chosen One Saves the World story while in the books, Fowl sounds like kind of a conniving brat. He kidnaps a prominent fairy and holds them for ransom in the first book, to leverage back his lost family fortune. I guess the studio doesn't want to push that their main character is a scheming 1%-er who's not above criminal means to achieve his ends?
THE KITCHEN - Speaking of criminal means... From writer/director Andrea Berloff, based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Ollie Masters and illustrated by Ming Doyle, The Kitchen is the story of a group of crime-wives, the significant others of gangsters in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. Possibly inspired by that "sisters are doin' it for themselves" song (though more likely by outside forces driving them to take action) they decide to do crime on their own terms. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish & Elisabeth Moss star as the wives and honestly, they look great, especially McCarthy who has recently been playing things a bit straighter than her more well known comedic roles. That isn't to say this doesn't have humor, it just isn't a capital-C Comedy. The only thing that bugged me in this trailer is the inclusion of a Rolling Stones song in a New-York-set, 70's-era crime flick. We all know Scorsese OWNS that.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK - When I initially heard that Guillermo del Toro was going to be involved in bringing Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories franchise to the big screen, I was already sold. My only question was how exactly would they manage it? The books, while very frightening, were just short stories with terrifying illustrations by Stephen Gammell, without even a nesting narrative to tie them all together. In the trailers, a group of kids find a book of scary short stories in the local creepy, decrepit house and before long, the stories begin to write themselves, with the kids in the lead roles! So plot-wise it's as if someone made the Goosebumps movie, but actually scary, which is as meta a thing that could happen when you think about it. Visually, there's a lot to unpack in the trailers including a creepy scarecrow (a favorite movie monster of mine), several generally monstrous spookums that seem to have climbed on creaky, inhumanly nimble limbs directly out of Gammell's original illustrations and even an adaptation of one of the most fear-inducing Scary Stories ever: The Red Spot (if you don't know, look it up. Or don't). One final note: I'm not sure when exactly the movie takes place. The rural setting means we're not really exposed to much technology or advertising that might date the film. I like the idea of horror movies taking place in some era-less non-time (unless the story demands otherwise) but that's just personal taste. I cannot wait to see this flick!
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN - Before I write anything else about this, I feel I must inform you all that the poster for this movie features the tagline "Meet the dog who will show the world how to be human". Keep that in mind while I tell you that this flick, based on a 2008 Garth Stein novel, stars Kevin Costner as the voice of the dog (whose name I believe to be Enzo). If you were about to make an "I guess the dog must be a washed-up baseball player" joke (as I did), it may surprise you to know that you're not *that* far off! The dog is apparently a savant at race car driving and apparently also relating life lessons through car race metaphor! Maybe-Enzo's owner (Milo Ventimiglia) actually is a racer, named Denny Swift of all things, and....I don't know. The movie seems to be more about Denny's relationship with Eve (Amanda Seyfried) than actual racing. I say that as if more racing would make this a better movie. This looks dumb as a bag of hammers, even when considering the low bar of dog-centric Life Lesson movies.
BRIAN BANKS - So, as gross and ill-timed as I feel Skin is given the current political climate in the country, Brian Banks seems even more so. Based on a true story, Brian Banks was a football player set to go pro before being falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of sexual assault. Banks later managed to get a taped confession from his accuser, admitting the charges were false, which was enough at least to get Banks removed from the sex offender registry. Sure this happened, and sure that is an awful thing, but to have the audacity to release this now? Just putting that thought of "y'know, sometimes the allegations are false" into the cultural zeitgeist is an underhanded and dangerous thing to do. Yes, there is absolutely a time to have this conversation, and the conversation about a black man being manipulated by the American legal system, but now seems like a very unwise time to start it. Hard fucking pass from me.
APOCALYPSE NOW FINAL CUT - Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Goldilocks. Fancying herself a bit of a film buff, Goldilocks made the long trek into the big city, all the way downtown to the Three Bears Theater for the Apocalypse Now triple feature. Inside she ducked into the first theater she came across. It was showing Francis Ford Coppola's original 1979 Apocalypse Now, loosely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. But the 1979 theatrical cut only had a run time of 2 1/2 hours. For all the travelling Goldilocks had done, that was just too short. In the next theater was the 2001 release Apocalypse Now Redux which had a run time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. That was too long. Then, in the last theater was Apocalypse Now Final Cut which was just 3 hours and 2 minutes long. "That's just right" Goldilocks said as she sunk into her seat. Then the security guard who was also a bear came and asked to see her ticket stub, but she didn't have one because she snuck in so he ate her because that's how fairy tales used to be: dark. The End.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 - I never played this game, but from what I understand the birds are angry at the pigs for some reason. That much I know. Well in this, the sequel to 2016's original Angry Birds movie based on said game, the birds must now team up with the pigs to take on...bigger birds. I think they're all eagles? So maybe it's a predator/prey thing? I dunno if there was a second installment in the game series which they're drawing on, but, just from an optics standpoint, it would be nice if they were united against some new kind of animal, right? Gimme a nice aardvark army! Anything! Featuring a busload of recognizable voices from the likes of Peter Dinklage, Awkwafina (again), Tiffany Haddish & Bill Hader among many others.
THE INFORMER - Based on a Swedish novel Tre Sekunder (Three Seconds) written by a journalist, Anders Roslund and ex-con/activist Börge Hellström, the plot is the usual kind of ex-con going undercover in prison to break up the mob's drug smuggling ring with one exception...no, actually that seems to be exactly what this is. To be totally fair, I don't know much about the original Swedish story, so there may be some added depth to the story that just won't translate outside of giving it a full viewing. The cast includes Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen and Common as well as Joel Kinnaman as the titular informant. There's nothing wrong with another movie like this, but there isn't really anything that makes it seem special either. At least the trailer didn't play the Stones.
PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE - Playmobil toys are a bit like LEGOs but easier. The pieces aren't as small, the possibilities not as endless. It's then fitting that the Playmobil Movie is a little like The LEGO Movie, but simpler. Two kids from real life get (I guess) magicked into a Playmobil world via the beam of some Playmobil lighthouse and somehow *immediately* get separated, so big sister (Anya Taylor-Joy) must adventure through one silly genre-specific location after another to find little brother (Gabriel Bateman). There's vikings, pirates and at one point a pegasus hanging around in the old west, so that should appeal to the younger crowd's attention spans if nothing else. This is just another pilot fish swimming in The LEGO Movie’s wake.
WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE - This flick, based on the books by Maria Semple, has shifted release dates several times from as far back as April of last year. When a woman (Cate Blanchett) with a happy & fulfilling life up and disappears, her husband (Billy Crudup) and daughter (Emma Nelson) try to piece together where'd exactly she go. According to the book plot synopsis, Bernadette (Blanchett) is agoraphobic, which adds to the mystery. The novel is also described as comedic, a tone that the trailer totally nails. This looks fun and weird, and has a deep bench of supporting talent including Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne & James Urbaniak, but I have one huge quibble with both the book and film: for a title with SO MUCH punctuation, where's the damn question mark? Looking at the title makes me surprisingly annoyed. Every time I see it, I want to just write one in at the end, but that would just leave me with a laptop screen covered in Sharpie.
THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE - Based on the 1982 Jim Henson & Frank Oz dark fantasy puppet production The Dark Crystal, Age of Resistance is a prequel series coming to Netflix that will explain how the Skeksis (the original Angry Birds) came into power on the planet Thra. I only remember The Dark Crystal in the fuzziest, fever-dreamy way despite having seen it many times as a kid. So while a lot of the imagery in the trailer I've seen was familiar, the exact importance of a lot of it was lost on me. I recognized some of the beatsies and the orrery of Aughra the astronomer (I had to look it up) but that's about it. The trailer is pretty thin on plot, but it might even show the origin of the powerful gem from which both movies take their names, which is kind cool. The thing that intrigues me most is that the Henson company folks will have access to more technological means of augmenting their trademark innovative puppetry. The voice cast is also responsible for your Awkwafina Hat Trick! but in addition to her, features a million other exciting voices such as Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Hamill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Simon Pegg, Sigourney Weaver, Benedict Wong and Harvey Fierstein!
Well, that appears to be all for this EOINA. As always, if you have anything you'd like to discuss, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to stay in touch between now and the next installment. But fair warning: If I get arrested for scrawling question marks on every Where'd You Go, Bernadette poster in Philadelphia, I might need to borrow bail money.
Please download, share and enjoy Hate Watch Great Watch the podcast I co-host with new Moviejawn contributor Allison Yakulis, and featuring various guests. The latest episode is on Luc Besson's The Fifth Element from 1997, so that's fun! Thanks for reading as always and Long Live the Movies!