As with most pieces of digital content, this series was meant to be only two short parts, but has eventually expanded into three. So in this, the honest to God final installment, I’ll cover some of the odds and ends that I’ve missed so far.
Here we’ll take a look at the studio and/or higher profile indie projects that were glossed over the first time around.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
After 2018’s heart melting documentary about Mr. Rogers. Hollywood has decided to re-up on hitting those tear ducts by casting Tom Hanks as the beloved television personality. Unfortunately the premise here is a little groan worthy, as Hanks convinces a skeptical journalist (played by Matthew Rhys) that he is doing good work on his show. However Marielle Heller is directing, and her adroit and insightful character dramedies (Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me) proves she has the ability to craft an interesting study of a supposedly flawless man.
Perhaps the gnarliest YA series to rise up in the post Harry Potter world, this sci-fi adventure takes us to a world where women have gone extinct and men’s thoughts literally leak into the air. Sounds like an internet commenters paradise. I’m shocked that Hollywood is still trying to adapt this with big name talent (Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Mads Mikkelsen will be directed by Doug Liman with a script by Charlie Kaufman). The books are relentlessly grim, have a formal gimmick that would be almost impossible to reproduce on screen, and are violent in a way that is honestly more than a little upsetting (no swearing though). With the tide of the YA boom ebbing it seems like this may be an artifact from earlier era, but if done well there won’t be another blockbuster quite like it.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Not everyone was a fan of the 2014 reboot of the classic giant monster franchise. Many found the tone leaden, the plot ponderous, and the human characters humdrum, but what it did have was an incredible sense of scale and style. Giving the ever so slightly goofy monsters a beauty and grace that had eluded previous American outings. For the first direct followup they’ve brought in the big guns: Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah will all clash in this monster melee.
I greatly enjoyed the 2014 film, but what sold me on this one was the first trailer they released; amping up the awe inspiring nature of these creatures with a bombastic rendition of Clair de Lune. It’s so effective that I got shivers the first time Mothra unfurled its wings. If that kind of wonderstruck beauty can play through the whole film we’ll have a winner on our hands.
Adapting a beloved novel is hard. Adapting a beloved novel that is also 800 pages long into a single movie is an act so difficult that I only hope the cast and crew are ready when readers come with their knives out for cutting their favorite partz. All that granted the groundwork is all there for a fascinating film. The story follows a boy (Finn Wolfhard as the younger version, Ansel Elgort as the older) who is orphaned by a terrorist bombing, and in a moment of impulse, steals the titular painting. From this point onward his life transforms into a Dickensian picaresque as he is swept around the globe, making friends, connecting with criminals, and falling in love.
Luckily there are some able hands behind the camera. Director John Crowley has demonstrated a penchant for trans-Atlantic character study with Brooklyn, and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins guarantees this will be amazing to look at.
Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child
Grind horse gore hound and conservative reactionary S. Craig Zahler has finally done something totally surprising, make a family movie starring an animatronic puppet designed by The Henson Company. While I’ve enjoyed Zahler gnarled pieces of tough guy trash, I’ve always been queasy about his politics and the thematic framing of his stories. So having him tackle a tale about a disfigured and abused child kind of sounds terrible, but it also could fall squarely in the “just crazy enough to work” camp.
John Wick Chapter 3
John Wick’s back baby, and this time he’s riding a horse. Modern action cinema’s most elegant franchise concludes (?) with looks like to be a grand and bloody spectacle. It’s also added Jason Manzoukas playing a character called The Tick Tock man, so I expect this to be an absolutely bonkers affair.
Prisoners of the Ghostland
American maniac Nicolas Cage is starring in a movie by Japanese maniac Sion Sono (Why Don’t you Play in Hell, Tokyo Tribe). This promises to bring all of your Cage related dreams come true.
After creating a masterstroke with The Tree Life director, and fan of grain blowing in the wind at sunset, Terrence Malick has struggled somewhat to refocus and find purpose in his beautiful images. Perhaps a trip to the past will help him. This time he travels to Austria to follow the life of a conscientious objector during WWII. And while I’m sure the images of Austrian farms will be gorgeous, I hope he’s finally able to say something of interest again.
Star Wars Episode IX
Solo was bad, but Last Jedi owns, so hopefully the sequel trilogy will end on the right note.
Jake Gyllehnal gave a career best performance in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, so it’s no surprise that the two are re-teaming for another thriller. The catch now is the plot of this one sounds completely nuts. Gyllenhal plays an art dealer who happens upon a cache of haunted paintings that apparently curse people who buy them. And did you see the glasses Jake’s wearing in that screenshot. This has the making of a total disaster, but no matter what it will be an intriguing watch.
Behn Zeitlin, returning 7 years after his breakthrough with Beasts of the Souther Wilds, reimagines the Peter Pan story by focusing in on the perspective of Wendy. The Pan mythos has become a staple of modern pop mythology, and the last big update (Pan) was pretty terrible, but it will be interesting to see if Zeitlin can bring some of that American magical realism to the tale.
I’ve highlighted a lot of projects here that have unique premises, enticing talent, or cult appeal. But I wanted to make space for two of the wildest, most insane film projects of the year. Features that have the possibility of imploding on themselves and be reserved for the lower depths of cinephilia, with people murmuring about their existence like forgotten legends.
First things first, this movie is 14 hours longs. Yes 14 hours (868 minutes to be precise). And in those 14 hours are six sections that have no narrative connection. They criss-cross between style and tone, from spy thriller to horror to musical to melodrama, each beginning and ending abruptly. The only thing these chapters have in common is that they star the same four women (or The Piel de Lava)
The latest mind warp from Argentinian director Mariano Llinas seems like some sort of end of cinema statement. A project that took ten years to shoot and edit and contains every format busting technique and idea within it’s lengthy runtime. It almost seems like a joke, a giddy game of one-ups-manship, an opportunity by a director to say “I’ve outdone Rivette’s Out 1!” But from all the preview coverage it seems like the experience is more lively than all of that film school rhetoric. In fact the director deliberately made these sections in the modes of pulpy genre films to entertain as well as bewilder. I have no idea how and when one will have the opportunity to see this, but I might recommend taking the opportunity to see it on the big screen if it does show up in a theater near you.
This is the story of Soviet scientist Lev Landau directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky. But I don’t know if it’s even movie. I don’t even know what it is. In 2006 Khrzhanovsky built a full scale replica of mid-fifties Moscow in the Ukraine. Took a bunch of people who then lived, Truman Show style, on the set while filming commenced. The shoot was wrapped in 2012, and the set destroyed, and only today has a form of release been announced. According to critic Siddhant Adlakah, “after FOURTEEN years Dau finally has a premiere date: Jan 24th to Feb 17th. ’13 feature films; a slate of series; an innovative digital platform; psychological & intellectual, physiological & spiritual, numerous other experiences to be explored 24 hours, 7 days a week’ ”
Yes la Flor may be 14 hours but Dau is 13 feature films. I don’t know where this premiere is happening (apparently Paris) or how the public we be able to see it (it is a spiritual experience after all) or if this is some weird piece of performance art. But I will point you all to this great article written by Adlakah last year about its production.
Maybe Next Year
Most film release dates (outside the big blockbuster stuff) fluctuates and pop up at random times. So here are some titles slated for 2019 that I think will be released in 2020: Wes Anderson’s “ode to journalists” The French Dispatch. Denis Villeneuve’s mammoth two part adaptation of Dune. Michael Mann’s biopic Enzo Ferrari. Ben Wheatley’s monster hunting horror story Freakshift. Luca Guadagnino’s period drama Burial Rites. And David Lowrey’s Roundtable revamp Green Knight.
As always I’m sure I missed something, so sound off below, and let us know what you’re looking forward to.