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Holiday Movie Preview 2019!
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 13:24:31

The holiday movie season for 2019 is upon us. Here is what's in store.

My top 6 most anticipated:

6. A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood
5. The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle
4. Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
3. The Aeronauts
2. Witness For the Prosecution
1. Knives Out

October 4 - Joker

It's not surprising to me that it took 11 years before anyone dared take on
Joker after Heath Ledger's iconic take in 2008's The Dark Knight. Even after
more than a decade, I wasn't sure who could do it, but Joaquin Phoenix has all
the necessary loose screws to pull it off. He looks great in the trailer, but
on the other hand I'm not sure if we really need an origin story about the
character. Isn't the Joker more interesting as a malevolent force of nature,
much like the other clown villain appearing in theaters this season?

October 11 - El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Not a theatrical release, but I'm including it anyway. This movie catches up
with Jesse Pinkman after the events of Breaking Bad. Writer-director Vince
Gilligan has done something truly special with Breaking Bad. Inasmuch as I
didn't feel like I needed to see the world expand, the spin-off show Better
Call Saul is at least as compelling, more in some ways. I can't wait to see
where Gilligan goes next. The film opens on Netflix on October 11 and will
get airings on AMC later.

October 11 - Gemini Man

Will Smith starts as a hitman...and a clone of himself sent to kill him.
It's one of those great hook premises that sound great enough in pitch
meetings to get greenlighted. Director Ang Lee is enough of an auteur to
keep the film feeling like it has a singular voice, which is good because
with six credited writers (with past work as diverse as Game of Thrones, Ali,
and Shazam!) it's hard to imagine that the screenplay itself has one.

October 11 - The Addams Family

Am I the only one that misses 2D animation? The creepy, kooky humor of the
Addams Family is particularly unsuited to the spatial awareness that 3D
animated films must have. 2D is capable of so much more, stylistically, and
would have been a great choice. The original comics that birthed the
characters were obviously 2D drawings and evocative ones at that; one could
easily imagine them coming to life in animation. But the 3D renderings of
the characters for this upcoming film remind one more of forgettable factory
line fare like Hotel Transylvania than Charles Addams' indelibly offbeat

I did like the first of the live-action Barry Sonnenfeld movies and felt that
they did a wonderful job in bringing the Addams' world to life, so I know
it can be done in other mediums. But in this case, what are the odds?

October 18 - Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Angelina Jolie reprises her role as Maleficent in this sequel to the
remake/spin-off of...gee, I don't even know how to describe this thing's
creative heritage.

While I think cranking out live-action versions of animated classics is a
creatively bankrupt new trend, I've wanted a dark live-action fairy tale
to work for decades. Fairy tales, in their original more mature and
psychologically complex incarnations, should be great source material, but
I've been waiting for that potential to be realized ever since "Snow White:
A Tale of Terror" (1997) fell immediately into a mostly deserved obscurity.

So far, the successes in this area have been with original material (think
Pan's Labyrinth). The Disneyesque takes ("Snow White and the Huntsman,"
"Mirror, Mirror," "Alice In Wonderland") have all had to walk this balance
between what I'm talking about here and the Disney animated classics (which
I adore but which are nothing like what I'm talking about here) and don't
quite work. The best efforts so far have been enjoyable in the moment
but quickly forgettable. Does anybody particularly remember Maleficent?

October 18 - Jojo Rabbit

This is an odd one. A plot summary would miss the point, but let's set the
stage anyway: a young German boy, fully under the sway of Nazi indoctrination,
to the point where Hitler is his imaginary friend, discovers his mother
(Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. It's tough to
know what to make of the trailer, which has a completely original feel. I
have no idea whether this offbeat satirical comedy-drama will be any good or
not, but props to writer-director Taika Waititi for doing something new.

October 18 - Witness For the Prosecution

It's difficult to overstate Agatha Christie's mastery of story construction.
Some of her greatest works are nearly a hundred years old, and they are still
as popular as ever, both to read and to adapt into other mediums. Witness
For the Prosecution, originally a play, is one of the best of the best, a
wildly layered, twisty court room mystery. There is already a great film
of it -- the 1957 Billy Wilder adaptation starring Tyrone Power, Marlene
Dietrich, and Charles Laughton. Normally, that would make me reluctant to
welcome a new adaptation, but where repeated adaptations wear most stories
out, they only seem to make Christie's even stronger. Cases in point:
And Then There Were None and Murder On the Orient Express, both of which
have spawned at least three good films apiece.

None of that means this particular adaptation will necessarily be any good,
but the source material provides a rock solid starting point, and the director
and star provide another: Ben Affleck is the creative force behind this.
Whatever you think of his acting choices, his track record behind the
camera is unblemished.

October 25 - The Aeronauts

This biographical period adventure film has Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne
make an unprecedented and risky voyage in a hot air balloon for the purpose of
scientific research. It appears to be more of a buddy movie than an obligatory
romance, then turns into a thriller when things start to go wrong up high.
Big screen viewing might be a good choice here, unless you'd rather not
feed a fear of heights.

November 1 - Terminator: Dark Fate

This is a tough one to call! First let me say that, I'm much more positive
about the various non-Cameron sequels than virtually anybody I know:
especially Terminator 3, which I thought was quite good. Obviously none
of them can touch Cameron's stone cold classics, but what can?

With Terminator: Dark Fate heralding the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Linda Hamilton to their original roles, and additionally James Cameron's
purportedly higher level of involvement (though still not as director),
the hype is that this is a return to form, a partial reboot of the series
that supplants everything from 3 onwards with, ironically, an alternate

There are two problems here. One, Terminator 2 ends on a very specific and
unfortunately poorly understood note. A compelling case can be made that
it's impossible to make a sequel that does justice to it, because intrinsic to
that ending is that what happens next is unknown.

I'm not *completely* swayed by that argument, but it's hard for me to discount
it either. I would also point to the great Blade Runner 2049 as another
successful sequel to a sci-fi classic whose ending would appear to preclude

But here's my problem: Not one single frame of the trailer suggests that
Dark Fate is a spiritual sequel to Terminator 2, or that it isn't *exactly*
the kind of sequel that Terminators 3-5 were.

But hey, I kind of liked 3-5, so I'm game anyway.

November 1 - The Irishman

Martin Scorsese's mob drama about the mysterious disappearance of Jimmy
Hoffa was a passion project of his for many years. He finally got it off
the ground in this 3 1/2-hour film that stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino,
both of whom have turned in some pretty disappointing work in recent years
but who still deliver under a strong directorial hand. This is something
of a homecoming for Scorsese, who of course built his reputation on mob

November 1 - Harriet

This biopic of Harriet Tubman caught my eye because I can't believe it hasn't
been told on film more often. The director is Kasi Lemmons, who works more
often in front of the camera, but her directorial work includes at least one
landmark accomplishment, Eye's Bayou.

November 1 - Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton directs himself and Bruce Willis in this 1950s-era New York
murder mystery. The main character is a private investigator with
Tourette's Syndrome. On an unrelated note, the MPAA rating description
talks of "language throughout."

November 8 - Doctor Sleep

Stephen King recently wrote a sequel to The Shining. The main character is
the now adult Dan Torrence, who wrestles again with sinister, supernatural
forces. It's a fresh story, not at all a "here we go again" kind of sequel,
which is a correct if risky creative choice. Director Mike Flanagan comes to
this fresh from another Stephen King adaptation, Gerald's Game.

November 8 - Midway

The story of the Battle of Midway was told well in another film with that
title. That one was made in 1976 and had a head-turning roster of stars:
Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and Robert Mitchum, to name a few.
It was a respectable if flawed work. Will we be able to say that of this
2019 version? I approach with the greatest of reservations: the director is
Roland Emmerich, who has one of the most ridiculous filmographies possible:
The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Godzilla (1998), White House Down....
Stuff that's only defensible by the "I just wanna stop thinking and eat
popcorn" line, which is well and good until you're dealing with a real
wartime story that warrants honorable treatment. If this is something like
Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, which I think is a disrespectful, even insulting
work, then that would be a great shame.

There may be grounds for optimism, however: The film's press materials say
that the story of the battle is "told by the leaders and the sailors who
fought it." I don't quite know what that means yet. The film has real
actors (Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, and Dennis Quaid) and is not a documentary.
But it does suggest that Emmerich has changed up his approach.

November 8 - Honey Boy

The IMDb summary starts "From a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his
own experiences," and then I stopped reading. I figured that was all I
needed to know.

November 15 - Charlie's Angels

We used to talk about the endless remakes that Hollywood churned out. I
tracked the decline of cinema by counting them and seeing the annual numbers
of remakes increase. But those aren't the numbers that tell the story anymore.
Now we should be counting remakes of remakes. So far I've covered
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (sequel to a spin-off of an adaptation) and
The Addams Family (remake of an adaptation of an adaptation), and now here's
another third-generation exercise. This time the Angels are Naomi Scott,
Elizabeth Banks, and Kristen Stewart. Other than providing a directorial
vehicle for Elizabeth Banks, who should be doing better stuff anyway, I can't
think of a single reason for this to exist. The trailer is instantly
forgettable. Say what you will about the Drew Barrymore films (and I've said
lots of bad things about them), they at least had a personality. This
version, from the trailer anyway, just feels like everybody's bored and
going through the motions.

It's odd, because Charlie's Angels has the sort of loose premise that should be
infinitely reusable. It was designed for a long-running series, after all,
and should be as easy to do great things within as James Bond and
Mission: Impossible are. Sooner or later, surely somebody will.

You know what, though? Maybe I'm wrong about this. Some movies don't lend
themselves to good trailers. If the screenplay wasn't actually written with
the trailer in mind, maybe it'll be a lot of fun. There IS a recent
precedent for this: I was surprised and delighted at how much I enjoyed
the recent Man From U.N.C.L.E. remake. But it didn't sell well in a trailer,
so nobody saw it. Too bad.

November 15 - Ford v. Ferrari

I'll go with the IMDb synopsis on this one: "American car designer Carroll
Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics
and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and
challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966."

The film stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon, both of whom can pull off
traditional leading man roles as well as quirky character studies. But it's
director James Mangold that catches my attention: Mangold has quietly
excelled in lots of different genres with movies like Walk the Line, Identity,
Cop Land, Kate & Leopold, Knight and Day, 3:10 To Yuma, and mostly recently
Logan. He also directed Angelina Jolie to an Oscar in Girl, Interrupted.

November 15 - The Good Liar

Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen spar together in this con artist drama from
director Bill Condon. McKellen, Condon, and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher
all reunite here after 2015's Mr. Holmes, an outstanding, quintessentially
British take on Sherlock Holmes as a older man.

November 22 - Frozen II

Sequel to one of the most successful animated films in years -- is there
anything for me to say about this?

November 22 - A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks looks uncannily like Mr. Rogers in this biopic by Marielle Heller,
whose "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" turned some heads last year. Fred Rogers
was a remarkable man with an inspirational vision that may come off as corny
in today's cynical times but which was admirably sincere. A good movie
should be able to get some mileage out of that, and it seems like that's
what this one is trying to do.

November 29 - Knives Out

Rian Johnson's comedy mystery Knives Out seems to be heavily inspired by
Clue, which in turn has classic movie roots in a subgenre nearly as old as
the medium itself. Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Michael
Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, and Don Johnson, among
others, all dress up in ritzy clothes, romp around in a ritzy mansion, and
seem to be having a lot of fun, if the trailer is any indication.

Johnson, like James Mangold whom I mentioned earlier, also has an impressive
filmography that spans a lot of different genres. But whereas I would call
Mangold a great journeyman director, with no implied slight, Johnson is
more of an auteur and has his own distinct personal vision. His past work
includes the great Brick, the pretty good Brothers Bloom, and the divisive but
stylistically inspired Looper. Most recently, he was co-opted by the Star
Wars franchise for The Last Jedi, but whether you loved or hated that episode,
don't use it as a barometer for how Knives Out might turn out. Working on
an established property with tons of money and lots of executive producers is
a whole different ballgame than what he's playing at here.

December 13 - Jumanji: The Next Level

The new kids are back together for another adventure. Jake Kasdan returns
to the director's chair. I was surprised to enjoy "Jumanji: Welcome To the
Jungle" as much as I did and hope the formula doesn't wear thin this time

December 13 - A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick is an odd duck. He makes two masterpieces in the 70s,
disappears for 20 years, comes back with The Thin Red Line in 1998, then
gradually ramped up into being an actually prolific director with a new film
every two or three years and occasional shorts and documentaries in between.
His poetic, meditative style is distinctive and usually brilliant. It
scarcely matters what the subject matter is, but this time it's about a
real-life Austrian conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis
in World War II.

The film has already been seen, as it had its premiere at Cannes earlier this
year. Rotten Tomatoes' critical summary says something I might have
predicted: "A Hidden Life may prove inscrutable to non-devotees -- but for
viewers on Malick's wavelength, it should only further confirm his genius."

Am I on Malick's wavelength? I usually am. I didn't think much of The
Thin Red Line, but I think Days of Heaven and Tree of Life are brilliant,
singular works. His films aren't the kind of thing I seek out with urgency,
but then once I do catch up with them, I am usually blown away and berate
myself for taking so long to get around to them.

December 20 - Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

J.J. Abrams returns to direct the conclusion of the third Star Wars trilogy,
which ostensibly wraps up the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. Lots
of people didn't like The Force Awakens, and more didn't like The Last Jedi,
but the reality is that Star Wars is so iconic and was left alone for so long
that nothing could have lived up to expectations.

Personally, I don't have the energy any more to make the new trilogy either the
best or worst thing of all time. I think the new trilogy is perfectly fine,
and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

December 20 - Cats

It's frankly about time that this huge Broadway musical found its way to a
film adaptation, but I'm not a fan of the CG used to put fur on the human
actors, which drops the characters into the uncanny valley. What's wrong with
cheesy costumes? That approach was good enough to make Cats such an
unprecedented success in the first place, right?

December 20 - Bombshell

Jay Roach directs this accounting of the downfall of Fox News boss Roger
Ailes and three of the key women who took him on. Charlize Theron, Nicole
Kidman, and Margot Robbie are exactly the powerhouse cast you want for
something like this, and Theron in particular seems to have undergone a
transformation as comprehensive (if not quite as shocking) as the one she
had in Monster.

This is an important story to tell, no question. I only worry that the film
will be tempted to make a statement about party politics when it should be
about human decency. If it does, I think that would be too bad and water
down its effectiveness. The #MeToo movement rightly took down men of all
political stripes. We need the whole country, not just the left half,
listening to women.

December 20 - Superintelligence

After experimenting with her range in films such as Can You Ever Forgive Me?
and The Kitchen, Melissa McCarthy returns to more familiar territory in this
comedy where she is directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, for the fourth
time (after Tammy, Life of the Party, and The Boss). I don't think he's doing
her any favors. McCarthy's anarchic comedy needs structure to push against,
or it's all just a silly mess. Her best signature comedic performances
(Bridesmaids and The Heat) were directed by Paul Feig, who grounds the world
around her better.

But hey, if you like the above titles, there's probably no reason you wouldn't
like this too. In Superintelligence, an AI, which may or may not be
malevolent, starts taking over electronic devices around her and being snarky
and stuff. Seems like there is ample opportunity there for her brand of
slapstick and attitude.

December 27 - Little Women

Here's another work of classic literature that never buckles under the
weight of many adaptations. Greta Gerwig directs this one, and the screenplay
was written by Sarah Polley. The cast includes Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan,
and Emma Watson.

December 27 - 1917

Sam Mendes' World War I drama has two British soldiers sent on a mission
deep into enemy territory to deliver a message that would stop a contingent
of their men from being massacred in a trap. The film has a number of
British stalwarts in it, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth.

December 27 - Spies In Disguise

I don't have much interest in this animated film from Blue Sky Studios, as
they do not have a great track record. I'm only commenting to ask -- how
many spies *aren't* in disguise?

January 17 - Bad Boys For Life

Yes, this is Bad Boys III, with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence returning to
their original roles. There is good news: Michael Bay isn't involved this
time, so, who knows, maybe this will improve on Bad Boys II and be about more
than self-conscious posturing and weak jokes and noise. Smith and Lawrence
are more than capable of great chemistry and humor, but Bay only let them
play around the edges of his hyperactive level of explosions and car crashes.

January 17 - The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle

You didn't know how much you needed Robert Downey Jr. to play Doctor
Dolittle until you heard he was going to, right? This has such potential.
But there's a knife edge here. Indulge the slapstick kiddie humor that
talking animals always tempt, and all is lost. The Doctor Dolittle novels
were adventurous and surprisingly thoughtful and worked on that basis. (They
were also marred by racial stereotypes, it must be said, so let's put that
aside.) In the world of film, we already have a pretty good musical and a
couple of dumb comedies. There's still ample room for a straight up

I don't know if hope on this point is well-founded. The film initially tested
poorly and underwent extensive reshoots because, apparently, the comedy
and computer-generated elements of the film weren't working. Did the reshoots
fix it, or were they a coat of paint on rotten wood? Time will tell.

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