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Holiday Movie Preview 2018!
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Friday, December 7, 2018, at 12:03:16

Better late than never! I wrote most of this post in October 2018, before any of these films had come out. Rather than go back and edit, I figured I'd release my thoughts as they were.


What do you get when you combine holidays with movies? Holiday movies, of
course! And what you get when you combined holiday movies with RinkWorks is
a RinkWorks holiday movie preview post, like this one for 2018!

Because I'm insane, I'm also still going to list out my top most anticipated
movies, despite an egregious misjudgment with my most anticipated summer movies
list earlier in the year. (The Happytime Murders? I wanted to see that?)

They are:

6. The Girl In the Spider's Web
5. Creed II
4. The Favourite
3. Widows
2. Under the Silver Lake
1. Glass

And here are my thoughts on what's coming up:

November 2 - The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Director Lasse Hallstrom was a professional Oscar chaser for a number of
years, with such constructed-for-awards titles as What's Eating Gilbert Grape,
Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News, and An Unfinished Life.
His recent work has fallen under the radar, but a shift from melodramatic
acting showcases to this Disney spectacle of color and costumes puts his work,
if not necessarily himself, back in the limelight. But hey, there's another
credited director, Joe Johnston, who has done Disney spectacle before
(The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger). It's Hallstrom's
film, but Johnston filled in for reshoots when Hallstrom was unavailable.
That sort of thing happens all the time, but guild rules rarely permit
directors to share credit in the absence of a history of working together.

While not technically a live-action remake of one of Disney's animated
classics, the movie feels very much in that vein, and may benefit from not
having a cultural touchstone to invite comparisons. Typically I like this
sort of thing, but only a few of them achieve any sort of cinematic longevity.

November 2 - Bohemian Rhapsody

Bryan Singer directed this biopic about Queen, and Freddie Mercury
specifically. It's an acting showcase, with Rami Malek playing Mercury,
but the film has a lot of baggage to overcome around the circumstances of
its production if it is to make a splash in awards season.

November 2 - Nobody's Fool

Is there a filmmaker working today who's as quietly prolific and consistently
profitable than Tyler Perry? His Medea films get the most attention, but
they're the tip of the iceberg. In this one, a woman reunites with her sister
and grows to suspect she's in a relationship founded on falsehoods. While
still a comedy in the vein of most of his work, this one hits dramatic notes

November 9 - The Grinch

I kind of don't care if this is any good. Feel free to dismiss my comments
entirely if you don't share my biases. But is there a more perfect film
celebration of Christmas than the Chuck Jones cartoon that airs on television
every year? I submit not. So what's the point of having another one, even if
it's good?

I realize that, theoretically, it's entirely possible to answer that question
with a legitimate answer. There is a small handful of remakes that manage to
justify their existence, against all odds. And I'll say this: this one
stands a better chance than the live-action Jim Carrey film ever did. But
I don't understand the artistic reason this was made, only the business one.

As a side-note, I also don't understand the artistic reason that people keep
adapting Dr. Seuss books with 3D animation. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel,
is one of the most iconic and distinctive creators of 2D illustrators of all
time -- why are we always diluting that look and style by trying to translate
it into a different medium? I admit two things: (1) The Horton movie was
pretty interesting in how it managed to execute that translation and still
retain the spirit of those illustrations, and (2) given that we already have
a great 2D animation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it makes sense to
attempt it in another medium if we must attempt it again at all. But this
makes the third 3D animated adaptation in 10 years, when we haven't seen
a 2D adaptation since 1995 on television and since 1950 theatrically.

November 9 - The Girl In the Spider's Web

I don't know what it is about Lisbeth Salander that makes her so compelling,
but somehow I knew that the David Fincher film, despite its inexplicably weak
reception, wasn't the last we'd see of her. Rather than continuing to remake
the original Swedish adaptations in English, we're jumping ahead to a new
story, which is based on a book written by the original author's successor.
Did you follow that? I would have liked Rooney Mara to continue the role, or
Noomi Rapace to come back to it, or at least someone with a double O to fill
in. But Claire Foy is a really interesting casting choice, and a striking
shift from her breakout role as Elizabeth II in "The Crown." If she can pull
off that kind of versatility, it's not hard to imagine her as something of a
go-to choice for casting directors looking for anything off the beaten path.

If I have any reservations at all, and I do, it's that director Fede Alvarez's
past work suggest he's up to the series' sensational tropes but none of its
literary grounding.

November 9 - The Front Runner

Seems like every time I write one of these, there's a new Jason Reitman to
talk about, right? I haven't even caught up with the last one. This time
it's got Hugh Jackman playing doomed presidential candidate Gary Hart, whose
1988 campaign derailed when a love affair came to light. This feels like
something that early cynical Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) should have
handled, rather than the more earnest recent one we've got now, but, then
again, maybe not. It all depends what the film's ambition is. At this
point, it's tough to tell.

November 16 - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

David Yates returns to the world of Harry Potter for this second installment
of the prequel series. While I enjoyed the first film, the fact that it was
so clearly originally written for the screen made the world a little less
magical to me. There was something special about the ever-broadening
literary world and the fact that the films, ambitious as they were, could
never quite contain. With Fantastic Beasts, it's unconvincing that the
characters and world persist when the camera isn't pointed at them.

November 16 - Widows

Steve McQueen (the director, not the actor) follows up his Best Picture
winner 12 Years a Slave with this film about women who have lost their
husbands to the consequences of their criminal activities and seek to reclaim
their lives together. McQueen's work hits hard and dives deep into the human
soul. It's fascinating to see what subjects he chooses to tackle. While I'm
not always up to following him on his journeys, this is one I am eagerly

November 16 - At Eternity's Gate

Julian Schnabel directs this biopic of Vincent Van Gogh. It's kind of
surprising there aren't more biopics about Van Gogh, turbulent and crazy as
his life was, but I'm not sure I care about Schnabel's take. While his
directorial hand is competent, even admirable sometimes, I find his voice
pretentious and ultimately hollow.

November 23 - Ralph Breaks the Internet

Disney's sequel to Wreck-It Ralph ventures from the world of classic video
games to the Internet. Is that a good idea? It's probably better than a
sequel that retreads old material, but part of the reason the original film
worked (forgettable as it wound up being in retrospect) is that it trades on
the nostalgia people have for the classic era of video gaming. Is anybody
nostalgic about the Internet yet? At the very least, the premise should have
been that the characters find a 2400 baud dial-up modem, not a wifi router.

November 23 - Creed II

It's official! We have not just a spin-off film but a spin-off series.
I loved Creed, both because it presented us with a greatly compelling new
central character, and also because it found a way to keep us in touch with
the Rocky Balboa character we love so much without retreading old ground.
But is the Creed series already stretching itself with this sequel's premise
of a match with the son of Ivan Drago (the antagonist of Rocky IV)? Maybe not,
because these movies rarely rely on their premises for the drama, instead
using them as jumping-off points for the drama. Let's hope this episode does
the same, but it worries me that Creed's director Ryan Coogler did not return
for the sequel.

November 23 - Robin Hood

Inasmuch as I trashed the idea of yet another adaptation of How the Grinch
Stole Christmas, I have no problem with any number of retellings of Robin
Hood. No matter how great any particular adaptation of Robin Hood might be,
it's the legend itself that is the cultural landmark, not the details of any
particular telling of it. We recently had a high-profile failure, but that's
okay. What worries me, though, is that the trailer for this one scarcely
looks any better. It's hard to tell from the trailer, but it has the same
kind of design-by-committee feel that the Russell Crowe version suffered from.

November 23 - The Favourite

This royal period drama about Queen Anne, a close friend, and a servant girl
is building up quite the collection of ecstatic early reviews. Inasmuch as
the genre itself carries prestige apart from merit, my sense is that this one
will earn it. Besides Best Picture buzz, the film carries a triple threat
for Best Actress (Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone). How do you
say no to that line-up?

November 30 - If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight is this story of a pregnant woman's
crusade to prove the innocence of her fiance. It's showing up on the bubble
on a lot of people's Best Picture nomination lists, but it's hard to tell
how much of that buzz comes from the film itself and how much comes from
Moonlight's famous win.

December 7 - Mary Queen of Scots

Speaking of queens, here's one about Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her
cousin, Elizabeth I, from the throne. Well, we know how that turned out.
Like The Favourite, the female cast is stellar: Margot Robbie and Saoirse
Ronan, among others. But the film itself, a straight telling of a well-known
story, appears to travel a more familiar road and thus isn't getting the same
kind of early attention.

December 7 - Under the Silver Lake

David Robert Mitchell, best known for the breakout horror film It Follows,
takes a stab at my favorite genre, the mystery-thriller. It's about a man
who finds a mysterious woman swimming in his pool, only for her to disappear
the next morning. He can't get her out of his head, and because of it he
finds himself embroiled in a bizarre conspiracy. That kind of material is
responsible for a whole genre of brilliant films made in the 40s and 50s
and, with more self-awareness, again in the 70s, and off and on ever since.
Given that Mitchell has revitalized one genre already, the potential is there
for him to do it again.

December 14 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This animated Spider-Man film has our hero teaming up with alternate versions
of himself to stop the end of everything.

December 14 - The Mule

Clint Eastwood directs himself in this story of an old man who is caught
transporting drugs for a cartel. It's not particularly a true story, although
it was inspired by a real news headline. It fits cleanly into Clint Eastwood's
wheelhouse, which in the latter part of his career has frequently covered
characters who are somehow out of step.

December 14 - Mortal Engines

The Lord of the Rings writing trio of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa
Boyens wrote this screenplay about a mystery woman, an outlaw, and an
outcast who team up against a moving monster city...or something like that?
It's based on a post-apocalyptic YA novel and, interestingly, comes along just
as all the popular movie series in that genre have wound down. Will this
revive interest or affirm that the fad is over? Either way, expect no
expense spared on spectacle.

December 21 - Aquaman

Wonder Woman excepted, I haven't managed to stir up the interest to stay
current on the DC cinematic universe. Is Aquaman cool now? It seems like
only yesterday that he was the punching bag of the DC world. The writers on
the Superfriends always seemed to be stretching to find a use for him (him
and the other water-based superhero, Zan, better known as the lame half of the
Wonder Twins).

December 21 - Bumblebee

I haven't managed to stir up the interest to stay current on the Transformers
cinematic universe. Is Bumblebee cool now? It seems like only yesterday that
I was making fun of my friend's collection of Transformers toys. I wonder
if he still had them when they became worth something (albeit out of their

In principle, I do like the idea here. If this generally useless film
franchise MUST continue, why not take a stab at toning it down a little,
telling a real story, and focusing on the only character (robot or human)
that ever had any humanity? I'm not saying or expecting that I think
this film will be successful doing that, or even that that's the film's
intended purpose. But while many blockbuster franchises become overblown
and top-heavy over time, Transformers is one that started out that way.
The only way out of that cycle of trash, other than to stop it completely,
is to strip away the cruft and try to zero in on the bit of it that has

December 21 - Mary Poppins Returns

This is a tough one for me. How worked up I got about The Grinch, above, is
nothing to how demoralized I got when I learned Disney was going to make a
sequel to Mary Poppins. That announcement really got under my skin --
irrationally, I know, because all I have to do is not see it, and my world
is unchanged right? Only it's not quite that simple. Is there a single
discussion about Jaws, for example, that isn't also about its sequels?

My stance on Mary Poppins has long been that, while it might not be outright
my *favorite* film, it's nevertheless the one I most commonly say is the one
someone should see if they only ever saw a single film. There is something
definitive and magical about it. I don't want to know what happens to Jane
and Michael after they grow up. I resent that the idea was put into my head
that they ever *do* grow up.

But I'll say this much: the trailers have made me cautiously optimistic that
this won't be a complete disgrace. I was dreading a modern sensibility and
clumsily trendy humor. I was particularly worried that the writers would
misunderstand the subtly complex balance of ingredients that makes the
character work at all. But the indications I see so far are that the
filmmakers might have actually gotten a lot of this right. And while Julie
Andrews will forever be the definitive Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt, whom I love,
looks like she does an incredible job pretending to be her.

I anticipate the film with a measure of dread, but perhaps no longer disgust.

December 21 - Welcome To Marwen

"A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet
to help him through the recovery process." So says the IMDb, and in doing so
illustrates why a plot synopsis is a terrible way to summarize the essence of
a movie. Going by the theory that movies aren't what they are about, but how
they are about it, it might help to say that this is a comedy-drama by Robert
Zemeckis, and that this appears to be not a million miles away from Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in its approach to exploring what goes on in the
human mind. (I suspect these two movies diverge in many ways beyond what that
one statement.) Steve Carell plays the lead, and while he continues to be
known for silly comedies, he has quietly built up an impressive resume of
off-brand work that show his depth and range.

December 28 - Holmes & Watson

Sherlock Holmes has probably been filmed more times than any other fictional
character, starting with a 30-second short in 1900. In the 118 years since,
there has seldom been more than a few years between adaptations. The best
known ones, with Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr, and
Benedict Cumberbatch, only scratch the surface. What is it about this guy
that's so compelling? Or is it not so much the character as the genre he
spawned? Or is it as simple as that the character (though not all the
stories written about him) have fallen out of copyright? I'm sure all three
have something to do with it.

Anyway, with the resurgence in updated but otherwise "straight" adaptations
in both film and television, it stands to reason it was time to do a comic
version again. "Without a Clue," with Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley, was a
nearly great comic take on Holmes (wherein the premise is that Watson is the
real detective genius, while Holmes is merely his buffoonish front man), but
"Holmes & Watson," starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, takes a more
on-the-nose and presumably Americanized approach.

December 28 - Stan & Ollie

Laurel and Hardy probably remain the greatest comedy duo in film history.
There is something so sweet, so simple, so...*universal* about their act.
Humor can be so subjective and regional and personal, but Laurel and Hardy
are funny at any age and in so many different cultures. My 6-year-old can sit
stone-faced through the best of Pixar (he loves Pixar and finds the characters
funny, just isn't motivated to laugh out loud), and yet can't restrain himself
from loud belly laughter through even a minor moment in a Laurel & Hardy short.

I think part of their secret, something in sharp contrast to, say, the Three
Stooges and any number of more modern acts, is that neither one of their
characters think they're funny or what to be funny. Hardy has no greater
aspirations than to get through life with his dignity intact; his only error
is choosing for a best friend an earnest, unwitting man by whom the universe
has decreed should be forever surrounded by chaos and mayhem.

From the reports I've read, this biopic is as gentle and earnest as their
characters were. It generally does justice to their legacy, but on the other
hand if it seems light on drama, well, so also was the real-life story.
Unlike Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers, whose real-life stories are
full of rivalry and tragedy, Laurel and Hardy were the best of friends for
their whole lives and seem never to have quarrelled about anything.
What undercurrent of drama the film includes -- centering on some latent
resentment Laurel has that Hardy once worked with other comedians for a time --
is basically manufactured for the film, but the film would appear to tell
their story faithfully otherwise.

December 28 - Destroyer

Nicole Kidman as you've never seen her before! Kidman has done such a breadth
of roles, and yet it's startling to see her in this, barely recognizable
as the weatherbeaten, battle-worn, mad anti-hero of this dark action thriller.
It's as dramatic a makeover as Charlize Theron got for Monster. Whether or
not the film as a whole will hold up, it'll be worthwhile just to see a
great actress unleashed.

January 18 - Glass

[Spoilers for the 2016 film "Split" follow!]

Years after even I wrote off M. Night Shyamalan (who went from writing and
directing my favorite film of 1999 to my least favorite film of 2010), somehow
he seems to have found his way again. In 2016, he made the excellent
dark fantasy thriller Split. Not until the end of that film is it revealed
that all along Split was a secret sequel to his great 2000 film Unbreakable.
Now comes Glass, which combines the characters from both films into a
culmination of sorts. Unbreakable, so the story goes, was originally
conceived as a longer story, then sliced into thirds. It seems doubtful
that Split and Glass are what Unbreakable's contiuation was going to be, but
regardless, and against all odds, I loved Split and can't wait to get back
to David Dunn to see how he wraps up that storyline.

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