As the Weather Changes, Let's Huddle in the Theater
Fall 2019 New Movie Preview
With the Summer Movie Season drawing to a close, it's time to look ahead to Fall with it's promise of cooler weather, changing leaves, and terrible movies. At least, that used to be the case as Fall traditionally was a time between the big blockbuster season and the winter holidays with their own glut of movies. Now, though, big budget movies are released all year long (except for January which is still a dead zone), so even Fall will bring new movies to watch along with the falling leaves. It's time to once again see what's new in theaters that can keep us warm during these colder months:
Comes Out: October 11, 2019
There was a time when a new Will Smith movie was an event. Whether good or bad (or at least amusingly shitty), a movie with the Fresh prince in it would head the Box Office and make hundreds of millions of dollars. That time is past, with his star cred having dropped some around the time of After Earth, but Smith is still a draw. You can tell that's part of Hollywood's thinking with Will Smith's new film, Gemini Man: "If one Will Smith is good, two is even better. Let's make a movie where Will Smith has to fight himself! Brilliant!" And then they go play golf for a few hours because that's all the brainstorming they really needed to do on this project.
And yet, despite what could be a flimsy premise -- Will Smith plays an assassin who discovers that years earlier his government handler took his blood and made a clone, so there's an old and a young Will Smith, and they're trying to kill each other -- this film looks pretty good. A lot of that has to do with the fact that instead of getting some cut rate director (Rob Cohen or Brett "I Like Big Butts" Ratner) the studio hired auteur director Ang Lee. Lee is great at getting human performances out of his actors and he can really make you connect and care about the story in front of you. Again, that's front and center in the marketing, as both the first and the second trailer desperately want you to remember Lee for The Life of Pi. That was a good movie, no doubt (although after one watching I don't know if I'd ever go back to see it again), but Lee has made other movies, too...
Don't get me wrong, I love Ang Lee's movies. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is my favorite wuxia film, and his famous movies -- Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi -- are solid, emotional films. But then you have to remember that his last big action movie was Hulk and you have to start thinking about if a big budget action film is really something Lee should handle. I'm not saying he can't, just that his track record in this genre isn't sterling.
Gemini Man is a film I'll keep my eye on. It looks like Smith is giving a fabulous performance under Lee's care, so it's just a question of it the director can get thee right handle on the Sci-Fi material. I'll probably keep a close eye on the reviews before I decide whether to see this in theaters or not.
The Addams Family
Comes Out: October 11, 2019
I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon but the Addams Family movies from the mid-90s -- the two starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, and Christina Ricci -- are just about perfect. Sure, they have their flaws (mostly centered on Fester), but there's so much good material in those films, from the performances to the black-as-night humor, that it's hard to top those movies. Not that Hollywood hasn't tried. There was an attempt at a third film, loosely related and aired on TV and which then spawned a ABC Family TV series, but there's something so right about those movies it's hard to imagine anything coming close to those films.
If you want clear evidence of that, look no further than the teaser and the trailer for the new animated Addams Family movie. This is one of a long string of cut-rate animated movies from the likes of Sony and Dreamworks that trades on easy jokes to make little kids laugh while missing out on the better material waiting right outside. The Addams clan is at its best when it can play to its pitch black humor, but this film looks like it was made to be as inoffensive and family friendly as it could be. They clan is just... silly. It's hard to imagine this version of the family putting together a Shakespearean production for their kids with gouts of blood spraying across the stage. It's hard to imaging them, honestly, doing anything half-as-cool as that.
The film looks like it'll be perfectly serviceable family entertainment, not challenging or dark in the least. On that accord it probably has much more in common with the old, safe 1960s show and the ABC family series. Maybe that's what people are looking for from the Addams family. Personally, if we have to have a revival of the family I'd rather see one with Huston's Morticia playing grandmother and Ricci's Wednesday as matriarch of a new generation of creepy Addamses. That's a pitch-dark movie I can get on board with.
Lord knows I'll probably watch this animated version for the site, right around the time I decide to do a deep dive of the whole Addams saga. For now, though, this film is a hard pass.
Comes Out: October 11, 2019
I am always down for zombies. It's very rare I somehow miss out on undead cinema, having caught all the terrible Romero remakes as well as a fair selection of foreign zombie movies. You put a ghoul in a movie and I will arrive, ready to eat a steak and enjoy the disemboweling. Hell, I was sold on Black Sheep on the premise of undead sheep terrorizing New Zealand. What's not to like about that?
I've been hearing good things about Little Monsters, and after watching the first trailer for the film I can see why (although the second trailer feels like it's trying too hard to sell the humor of the movie). This film, about a teacher taking her little tykes to a petting zoo only to have the field trip interrupted by zombies, looks like a hilarious, gore-filled good time. Everything I said above about wanting to see a movie with a pitch-black sensibility is answered right here by this movie.
Seriously, if you aren't sold on the movie from the trailer I don't know what's wrong with you. It looks absolutely funny and promises all the zombie action, terror, and gore (with giggles) I want in my zombie comedy. I'm sold on it already and I still have a few weeks to wait. As a bonus it's been picked up by Hulu so I'm expecting we'll get to see it for free on Hulu. That's a win-win for me.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Comes Out: October 18, 2019
It's fair to say that the Disney live action remakes of their animated masterpieces have been hit or miss. Most of the films turn out like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King: well meaning but unable to justify their own existence. Few of the films have really done enough to make you go, "now I understand why this movie was made." Obviously Disney is making these films because they keep making money and people are dumb enough to go see them (despite having the animated versions to watch instead). Honestly, the one time they managed to make a live action version of one of the animated classics was when Sleeping Beauty was inverted to be a tale about the evil sorceress, Maleficent.
Seriously, on paper the film shouldn't have worked. And yet, once they cast Angelina Jolie and let her vamp and chew her way through the movie, Maleficent became a sparking, glitter movie that worked so much better than it had any right to. Disney, of course, learned the wrong lesson and thought they could just remake their old classics when, what really worked about Maleficent was that it found a new angle on the classic story to tell, making it something different and more interesting.
That said, I don't know if the film really needed a sequel. Traditionally Disney didn't make sequels to their animated masterpieces, at least not ones they released in theaters (Rescuers Down Under being the sole exception that comes to mind). With the live action films, though, Disney clearly doesn't have that same barrier (and, as we'll see down below, they've given up on it for their animation as well). Thus we're getting a Maleficent II, one where, as per the trailer, she has to go evil again to protect the little girl she loves, Aurora. I mean, sure, okay, it doesn't really seem like different a movie from the previous adventure: royalty does her wrong so Mal goes all out, using her powers to spread darkness over those who offended her. We've seen this before, doesn't seem fresh or new. But the first movie made a ton of money so may as well hit that well again.
Only reason I'm interested at all is, once again, because Jolie is in it and she seems like she's having just as much fun with the character the second time around. Plus, Michelle Pfiffer is in it, and if she chews even half as much scenery as Jolie, it could bee an absolute vamp fest. It might be terrible, but I also suspect it will be infinitely watchable.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Comes Out: October 18, 2019
Zombieland is a horror comedy classic. I know it has its detractors, but I was hooked by the movie when it came out and have watched it multiple times since. It fun and doofy but also gory and slickly produced. There might be better zombie comedies out there (Little Monsters might take that title), but Zombieland gets a high spot on my list to this day.
The sequel, though, doesn't look like it'll deserve that same high praise. Ever since the first movie came out there's been talk about a sequel. For whatever reason the sequel just kept not happening, and then instead of making the sequel the creators of the film went off and tried to relaunch the franchise on Amazon (from everything I've heard, that pilot was absolutely terrible). It took ten years of false starts and a lot of work to get the sequel out the door, but the first trailer just makes it look so tired.
When people say sequels are difficult to pull off, I think they'll be able to hold up Zombieland: Double Tap as an example. The trailer makes the film look like a retread of the best bits of the previous film, just without the gutsy punch of the original. Its the same shtick, just ten years olds and so much flabbier. It makes me think that everything that needed to be said about Zombieland had already been said by the first one (a fact that the failed pilot should seem to back up).
Who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a lot of good jokes that are hidden in the movie, buried so that all the best bits aren't in the trailer. However, the fact that there aren't any good bits in the trailer has me worried. This is a film where I'll have to wait for a second trailer, and then the reviews, before I decide if seeing this in theaters is actually worth my time. Right now, I'm leaning towards, "no."
Terminator: Dark Fate
Comes Out: November 1, 2019
If you had asked me a couple of years ago, after Terminator: Genysis, if we needed any more TerminatorIs it a series about a future nuclear war and the survivors of the aftermath? Is it a series of chase movies set in the present day? Is it a series about time travel? That fact is that the Terminator series is all of those concepts. The mash-up of genres and ideas shouldn't work, but the films have proven adept at mixing into a heady series unlike any other. films, I would have said, "no." The series was perfect with The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and everything that's come out since has only diluted (and ruined) those two movies. This is not a series that needed to continue, and yet it did, over and over again, for no real reason.
But a funny thing happened a couple of years ago: the rights to thee franchise revered to series creator, James Cameron, and he decided he wanted to revisit his creation. Considering the fact that the only good movies in the series came from Cameron, it seemed like if the magic of the franchise could strike thrice it would be under his care. Now, Cameron is busy (making eighty billion Avatar movies) so he wasn't able to actually direct the film, but he put together a murderer's row of creative minds and oversaw the writer's room, so it still seemed like Cameron's care was being given to this product.
And then the teaser and the trailer came out and, yeah, this looks like the continuation of the franchise we were waiting for. The thing that the sequels failed to understand is that the story isn't really about John Connor. Sure, he's the savior of mankind, but that happens in a future we usually don't get to see (except in the really tedious Terminator: Salvation which, really, just proves my point). John is a plot device, but the first two movies focus on Sarah, her fight, her needs, her future. When Sarah didn't come back for the sequels (or had to share time with Kyle and John for a weird family story in Genysis) it lost focus. That's something the TV show at least understood, for the most part.
But Sarah is back here and the film seems to find a way to make it personal for her. This is her story and even if she passes the torch to the new characters after this film (which, come on, of course there will be a sequel), it seems like this film is setting it up to do it right. Let's just hope Dark Fate doesn't end up a Dark, Poorly Lit, Hard to Care About Mess like so many other Terminator films to come before.
Comes Out: November 8, 2019
I'm not entirely a fan of movies based on Stephen King's books. While there are some that work (mostly the ones from Different Seasons, like Stand By Me, Apt Pupil, and The Shawshank Redemption), there are way more misses than hits. I know a lot of people rave about The Shining, but, honestly, I've never managed to get into that movie. It's well made, certainly, but the all=consuming passion many feel for Stanley Kubrick's film has never struck me.
Of course, just because I haven't gotten into a movie doesn't mean it's not geek-worthy. And as a sequel to that film (well, film and book, as far as the producers are concerned), Doctor Sleep is certainly worthy of attention. The teaser and the trailer make it look interesting enough, with Ewan MacGregor's Danny Torrence finding a girl with psychic powers (just like his own) and the two of them fending off a cult of psychic bad guys. It has the potential to be an interesting, well acted, well made movie.
Or it could be a total flop. It's a Stephen King adaptation, so the vote is out on this until the film has gone through its theatrical run, all the reviews are in, and I can watch it on home video to see if it measures up. Regardless of my opinion, though, hordes of geeks are going to complain because someone has touched Stanley Kubrick's work, and they write whole screeds about the travesty of it and how they'll never watch the movie because it somehow ruins their childhood. And then they'll go see it. So whatever.
Comes Out: November 15, 2019
There are plenty of people that are fans of the classic Charlie's Angels. There are also people that grew up with the newer movies from the 2000s. I can't really say I'm a fan of either -- while the movies were amusing enough, I never bothered with the TV show, and what I did see of all the media before this wasn't enough to hook me in. It makes sense there's a new film coming out in the long series, as it's a property people remember and it's been a while since we last saw the Angels on a screen. I just have a hard time caring.
Don't get me wrong, spies can be either gender and I'm certainly intrigued enough in films with flipped gender dynamics that I have no problem watching one of these films. Heck, I did see both of the previous films in the franchise, and I didn't get annoyed by the films because of the fact that women were in the lead roles. I just wasn't hooked by the story, the acting, or the tone. They were perfectly fine, disposable films of no real consequence to me. It happens.
The new film, from the trailer that's out, looks like another fine, decently fun, largely disposable film. The tone still seems wonky, the action doesn't look all that stylish, and the whole thing seems like a low-budget spy flick. Nothing wrong with that, per se, as it's par for the course from the franchise. Honestly, if it was a big budget extravaganza with huge action and over-the-top effects, it probably wouldn't feel like Charlie's Angels. I'm sure this is exactly the film fans of the original show are looking for. I'm clearly not in that fandom.
If the film gets rave reviews I'll likely watch it on video. This is a pass for me in theaters, though.
Comes Out: November 22, 2019
Even though I'm going to say it, I think it goes without saying that the original Frozen was a juggernaut. Powered by a catchy song, and then backed by a solid script with a female-empowerment love story (about two sisters), the original film became a smash hit and is one of Disney's biggest films of all time. So, naturally, Disney was going to have to make a sequel to it, and not just a direct-to-video release. This film had to be big and get released in theaters.
And so, six years later, Frozen II arrives with a new story about two sisters protecting each other while evil forces come for their kingdom. The trailer for the film does look pretty solid, with new locations for the ladies to explore, new ways for Elsa to use her ice magic, and not a single pee of "Let It Go" (although the on screen text at least makes a nod towards it). For parents sick of the original movie (and its incessant soundtrack), this film is probably a godsend.
There are some movies I can't escape and no matter how little I care to see them in theaters I'll still go. I feel that way about Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. and the original Frozen is in that category, so I'll end up going to see this, too. It's what you do for the biggest films of the season. The original is fine and I don't hate it so unless Disney completely whiffs this (like they did with Wreck-It Ralph 2, I'm sure this one will be perfectly watchable as well. It's inescapable, so I won't bother trying.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Comes Out: December 13, 2019
So my inner curmudgeon is gonna come out again here, but I don't care about Jumanji. I watched the original film way back when it came out and it was, well, meh. Average and not all that interesting to me. It's a beloved family adventure film, but it's never done anything for me. The fact that years later is somehow managed to get a sequel, Welcome to the Jungle (as well as a semi-related spin-off, Zathura) speaks to the fact that a lot of people apparently love this franchise. I, personally don't care. I didn't watch the 2017 reboot, this, despite the fact that Karen Gillan was in it and I'll basically watch anything she's in.
That film was successful, though, powered by a video game-related concept and the Rock's fandom. The fact that there's a sequel doesn't surprise me, but from the trailer it really doesn't seem like the film is pushing itself all that hard. I'm amused they managed to suck a couple of old people (Danny Devito and Danny Glover) into the film to crack jokes and be amusing, but on the whole this still feels like a retread of the previous film, which itself didn't seem all that interesting to me either. I didn't watch it and I still don't care.
And yet, people love this franchise. It's got an interesting fantasy hook ad enough geek cred among the people that grew up with the movie that, at some point, eventually, I'm sure I'll break down and watch the movies. I just hope I can put that off a little longer than November. Ugh.
Comes Out: December 13, 2019
As should be obvious by now, I love slasher flicks. I will watch just about anything that features a creepy killer going around butchering other characters. I've watched both of the previous Black Christmas films, both the 1974 original which was pretty decent, and then 2006 remake which left a lot to be desired. All they had to do was put the name "Black Christmas" on the film and I was going to show up regardless, ready to watch it in theaters.
That said, I will credit the film for, apparently, giving us a new spin on the material. As the trailer showcases, this version of the film starts off as just another remake of the original before branching out and adding in a secret fraternity and the girls fighting back. Female empowerment is apparently the theme for the back half of the season, and when it comes to my slasher films I'm all for it. Give me girls hunting down the boys while Christmas carols play in the background. More on-screen murders should be set to "Carol of the Bells".
Will Black Christmas be any good? Who cares? There are a ton of Christmas-themed slasher flicks and they're all pretty terrible and I'll still watch them. But then, there are plenty of slasher films in general that are pretty awful and I watch all of them. I'm in whatever the reason, but this one has a good twist to it that might actually be enjoyable. Good slasher films are rare enough that I have to show up when they happen
Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Comes Out: December 20, 2019
I feel weird talking about a film that doesn't even have a trailer out yet, but this Star Wars, so if I don't mention the new movie coming out at the end of the years I haven't done my job in this article. So far all we have to go off of is a teaser trailer and a special look (the latter of which barely shows us anything about the new film and mostly just montages the old movies). While the footage we've seen looks awesome -- Rey takes out a tie fighter with a lightsaber, the guys sail around on sand skiffs, BB-8 shows up a ton -- we still know next to nothing about what will happen in the next film.
But then that's just how director J.J. Abrams likes it. He loves his mysterious puzzle boxes and enjoys building anticipation without ever telling his viewers anything. I wouldn't be surprised if this is all we get about The Rise of Skywalker and then the movie will just come out and make $3 Billion because it's Star Wars.
Sure, the eighth movie is flaws, and the seventh before was just a big redo of the films to come before it, but the fans are going to go wild for a film that brings an end to George Lucas's original series. This movie could be two hours of Chewbacca working on his saxophone solo and the fans would still turn up in droves. This is what the Saga does to people.
Who knows if Rey turns bad or if the Emperor really shows up or what role Luke plays. Every geek in the world is going to show up for this film and it'll make all the money ever. Because it's Star Wars.
And That's It...
And with that we close out the season and the year. 2019 goes out with a Sci-Fi bang, and then we head into January for another month of crappy films and quiet releases. My time of year!