Sunday, January 13, 2019

Movies of 2019: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe

We're already nearly two weekends into January, which means it's about time I give you my yearly preview of 2019. I meant to get this out a bit earlier, but I got a bit busy. Such is life. When it comes to my yearly previews, I experimented with this format in 2014 and immediately felt I struck gold, so I've done it every year since. I think it's a fun way to look at the year. If you're one of my new friends or are randomly stumbling upon this in some way, the way this goes is that I separate all the movies I feel like talking about from the upcoming year into three categories: the movies I'm looking forward to (the good), the movies I'm dreading (the bad), and the movies that I'm currently on the fence about for one reason or another (the maybe). Pretty simple. And yes, my opinion might vary as we get closer to these movies' release dates and there's always movies that I was dreading that I loved, as well as movies I was excited about that disappointed me. But I think this is still a good snapshot of what I was thinking at this time and should give you a decent overview of what we're in for this year, so I hope you enjoy this. It also should be noted that each category is organized by current U.S. release date, which is always subject to change.

The Good:

Glass - January 18
I can't tell you how many times I have watched the movie "Split" because I lost track. The movie is a modern-day "Psycho" on steroids and I think Hitchcock himself would've loved how Shyamalan constructed the film. "Unbreakable" I've only seen once, but it was an enjoyable watch and I was fascinated by how Shyamalan secretly created his own cinematic universe in an age where everyone is desperately trying to do the same. And now "Glass" is the film where both movies come together, which is an exciting prospect. Now with Shyamalan, there's always the risk that he doesn't quite deliver. Consistency is not really his thing. Thus I'm not expecting this movie to be as good as either "Split" or "Unbreakable." I'm just hoping for an enjoyable journey. And we're going to get to go on said journey really soon.

Happy Death Day 2U - February 14
I know horror sequels don't often work out. And I know "Happy Death Day" wasn't the most epic masterpiece to begin with. But by goodness I was thoroughly entertained by it. If you have no idea what it is, it's a horror version of "Groundhog" day where our protagonist had to relive the day of her death until she can figure out what in the heck was going on. The movie knew what it was and had fun with. As long as they bring the same mindset to this sequel where the girl gets stuck in the time loop again, I also am expecting a fun journey.

Captain Marvel - March 8
It's the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Do I even need to say more? Captain Marvel is the character that Nick Fury paged in the end credits scene of "Infinity War," which means she's going to come in and play a big role in the Avengers stopping Thanos. But before we get to see how that all plays out, we'll get a flashback to the 90's to see what she's all about. And if you don't know much about Captain Marvel, she's essentially Marvel's version of Wonder Woman, so she's kind of a big deal. It's the second film in the MCU with a female character in the title, following last year's "Ant Man and the Wasp." But this time around, Captain Marvel doesn't share the title with a man, so this is a big deal for Marvel. On that note, the movie is being released on International Women's Day. Even if we put all of that aside, I've loved all of the trailers. The movie looks like a blast and I'm excited to see what Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson can do with this character. In Marvel we trust, right?

Us - March 15
Jordan Peele floored me in 2017 with his horror movie "Get Out." I mean, who on planet Earth saw THAT coming from Peele of Key & Peele? But yeah, "Get Out" was a genuinely solid horror movie. It's cultural relevance even caused it to get nominated for best picture at the Oscars while Jordan Peele WON best director. Now Jordan Peele is on everyone's radars and he'll get a chance conjure up some more magic with his next horror film, simply titled "Us." If you watch the trailer, this looks quite bizarre. But in this case, I think that's a good thing, especially with Jordan Peele behind the camera.

Shazam! - April 5
Has DC finally made it back onto the winning side of things? It's been a rough road, but I think DC has learned with "Wonder Woman" and "Aquaman" that the way to properly do this superhero thing is focus on the individual movie instead of desperately trying to set up a cinematic universe or catch up to Marvel. Marvel was successful because they initially made a handful of individual movies that a lot of people loved BEFORE they brought everyone together. DC had to learn things the hard way, but I hope they now have that in their heads. That appears to be the case with "Shazam!," which blew me away when I saw the trailer. He's one of the first DC comic book characters, initially named Captain Marvel, actually. I was a bit weary about the idea, but that trailer was a work of genius. This movie looks like a pure gem that's sandwiched right in between Marvel's two big movies this spring.

Missing Link - April 12
In the middle of all this superhero buzz that will be going on around this time, don't let yourself forget about this little movie that looks like a stop motion animation gem. I have a special place in my heart for stop motion animation due to how long it takes to make a movie like that, yet I am saddened how little people pay attention as compared to your typical 3D animation. But not only is this simply a stop motion animation film, this comes to us from the kings of stop motion animation, Laika themselves. Laika is the studio responsible for "Coraline," "ParaNorman," "The Boxtrolls" and "Kubo and the Two Strings." They're four for four on those, so why should I expect "Missing Link" to be any different?

Avengers: Endgame - April 26
This is the most obvious inclusion on this list. I mean, who's going to skip out on the second half of the "Infinity War" story after one of the craziest cliffhangers in cinema history? That would be like never tuning into "Return of the Jedi" after witnessing "The Empire Strikes Back." Some people initially thought that "Infinity War" was the culmination of the last 10 years of the MCU. Not quite. It was just the beginning of the end. The equivalent of the penultimate episode of season of a TV show, if you will. "Endgame" is the season finale. Marvel movies will obviously continue after this. There's another one coming out just two months later. But this is the end of an era and the beginning of a brand new chapter. The movie event of a lifetime.

Detective Pikachu - May 10
Ever since I was young, I've dreamed of the idea of seeing a live-action Pokémon film. I watched the show. I played the games. I still have a collection of cards. It's kind of a big deal for me. And now it feels amusingly surreal to see that finally coming to fruition, because I never actually thought it would happen. What I didn't see coming is that the specific direction they took with the first live-action Pokémon film was the "Detective Pikachu" route. Although that's probably because this is a fairly new game, released in Japan in 2016. I'm not quite up to par with my recent Pokémon stuff. But still, the idea of this was rather amusing to me, especially upon hearing that Ryan Reynolds was to be the voice of Pikachu. Seeing that trailer, though, brought me so much childlike joy and I've watched it many, many times. It's Deadpool voicing Pikachu in a movie that seems like it's out to simply have a lot of fun as a movie that's not to be taken too seriously. And I'm so ready for that ride!

John Wick: Chapter 3 - May 17
One of the best action franchises today is, without a doubt, "John Wick." The first movie was a very pleasant surprise and the second one managed to build upon the lore while maintaining the wildly entertaining feel to it. The best part of both movies is that director Chad Stahelski has developed the textbook example of how to properly film an action sequence. For anyone who wants to learn how to do action right, look no further. And with Stahelski coming back to finish his trilogy, I couldn't be more excited for what is sure to be a wild ride.

Aladdin - May 24 
As crazy as it may seem, out of the big Disney trifecta this year, the movie I'm most looking forward to is "Aladdin." I have questions about "Dumbo" and "The Lion King" that we'll get to later, but at the moment I am perfectly confident in this Aladdin movie. The teaser trailer proved that this is going to be a visual treat, but more than that, I think they have the perfect cast with the right ethnicity for the movie and, from what I hear, they also found people who can sing and dance. I think this is going to be quite the spectacle to behold. The original "Aladdin" has some of the best overall music out of all of Disney's movies, so that leaves the door wide open for this to be grand. The only question here is the obvious. How is Will Smith's Genie going to be? Based on set photos, quite different for sure.

Godzilla: King of Monsters - May 31
Not everyone liked that 2014 "Godzilla" movie, but I was among the crowd who loved it. The problem was it came out too close to "Pacific Rim," which left people with the mindset that the monsters should be revealed early and often. "Godzilla" took the classic monster movie approach, which consists of helping people be more patient by not revealing the monster until the second half of the movie. And now we have a sequel wherein Godzilla goes to battle with Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah, all with 2019 technology! What's not to love about that?

Men in Black International - June 14
It's been a while since I've been excited for a new "Men in Black" movie. The first movie came out 21 years ago and the two sequels weren't exactly what you call quality. But instead of trying to do the same premise with the same actors, they wiped the slate clean and have this fourth movie star Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. In other words, this is "Thor: Ragnorok Part 2"? Essentially. Speaking of Tessa Thompson, with her inclusion in one of the lead roles, does the title "MEN in Black" really fit here?

Spider-Man: Far from Home - July 5
The biggest question with "Spider-Man: Far from Home" is how the heck do they plan on advertising this movie given the end of "Infinity War"? Isn't showing a trailer too soon a partial spoiler for "Endgame"? But you can't wait until after "Endgame" to release the trailer because that means you only have two months to advertising. Comic book fans like me will be perfectly fine. But the general public needs to know this movie is coming out. Anyways, Tom Holland was a revelation as Spider-Man, successfully revitalizing the character. On top of that, "Homecoming" was a well-crafted movie all around, so I'm excited for the next chapter via "Far from Home," especially since we have Jake Gyllenhaal as Myserio.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - July 26
It's a Quentin Tarantino movie. Enough said. I mean, when it comes to a modern director with a consistent track record for quality films, you don't get much better than Tarantino. The man is very selective with the films he chooses to direct and most of them have turned out to be amazing films. So any time we have a new Tarantino film, it becomes an event film. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" sees Tarantino taking on the story of the Manson Family murders and brings in Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Scoot McNairy and a whole bunch of others. That all sounds rather intriguing.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - August 2
Before we get to "Fast & Furious 9" next year, we have a quick appetizer with the franchise experimenting with a spin-off following Hobbs and Shaw, arguable the two best side characters the franchise has to offer thanks to the star power of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. I'm a big fan of the "Fast & Furious" movies, especially since the last four have all been extremely entertaining. Anyone who is begging them to stop making these movies obviously hasn't sat down and watched them or else they wouldn't be saying that.

IT: Chapter 2 - September 6
The 2017 adaptation of Stephen King's "IT" was a huge horror phenomenon, earning $327.5 million at the domestic box office, a record high for any horror film without adjusting for ticket price inflation. And it made that much for good reason. It was a perfectly done horror movie. A modern classic, if you will. But that was the easy part as it was an adaptation of the first half of the book when all the kids were young, which is the part that everyone loves. "IT: Chapter 2" will take on the second half of the book with our main group of kids now grown up as adults. That's the more controversial part, so the filmmakers have their work cut out for them. But hey, they got a solid cast here with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and Isaiah Mustafa leading the way for the grown-up loser's club, so that's a good first sign.

Kingsman 3 - November 15
They haven't revealed the subtitle for this movie yet, so "Kingsman 3" won't be the official title here. But I really loved "The Secret Service" and "The Golden Circle," the first two "Kingsman" movies. They're crazy, insane action movies where you get to sit back, relax, and enjoy all of the extremely entertaining insanity. Whatever they have planned for us third movie, I'm in!

Frozen 2 - November 22
The whole world loved "Frozen" when it first came out. It was a worldwide phenomenon. In fact, the world loved it so much that the second wave of people who didn't see it initially were expecting it to be the greatest movie ever made and thus labelled it a horrible abomination when it didn't live up to those lofty expectations. That second wave of people have become so loud that now "Frozen" almost has a bad reputation as one of Disney's worst movies, which I think is flat-out frustrating. Yes, I'm one of those people from the first wave of people who loved it. I even think I saw it close to five times in theaters. Not just that, though, I can STILL sit down and watch it today and be thoroughly entertained. I don't care what all the haters say and I'm prepared to defend it at moment's notice. And yes, I'm excited for "Frozen 2." It's the same people who made the first movie a success. And Disney doesn't have as bad of a reputation as you may think with their main branch. Most of the awful sequels came from DisneyToon. Disney's main branch has only done "Rescuers Down Under" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet," and possibly the 2011 "Winnie the Pooh" and "Fantasia 2000" if you count those as sequels. That's a decent group there and thus I'm anticipating quality out of "Frozen 2."

Jumanji 3 - December 13
I don't think anyone was excited for "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" when it was first announced. Which is why we were all shocked out of our minds when it ended up being a solid movie. The goodwill and nostalgia carried it to a jaw-dropping $404.5 million at the domestic box office, which obviously means Sony immediately ordered another one, given that it's now Sony's highest-grossing movie ever, not adjusted for ticket price inflation, narrowly edging out the $403.7 million of Sam Raimi's original 2002 "Spider-Man." And now they certainly have my attention. I'm totally ready for another fun Jumanji adventure.

Masters of the Universe - December 18
I've heard close to nothing about this live-action "Masters of the Universe" movie outside the constant carousel of directors and writers jumping on and falling off. I haven't even heard of a revealed cast or news of them having started filming the movie. Thus I'm not convinced it's actually coming out this year. I'll bet money on it being postponed, especially since coming out two days before "Star Wars: Episode IX" seems like a bad idea. But as of now, it's still on the schedule, so I'll tentatively throw it on here because I'm down for a modern, live-action movie with He-Man, Skeletor and the gang... whenever it comes out.

Star Wars: Episode IX - December 20
According to Star Wars fans, "The Force Awakens" was an awful movie because it was too similar to "A New Hope." The same group of fans were again furious when "The Last Jedi" was too different. So regardless of what Lucasfilm does, it seems like fans are determined to hate it, making Star Wars fans the worst fan base on Earth right now. I almost don't even want to associate myself with them. In fact, I banned all of my Facebook friends from talking negatively about "The Last Jedi" because I got sick of the debate. But the truth of the matter is that I AM a fan of Star Wars. Always have been for as long as I can remember. And I really loved both "The Force Awakens" AND "The Last Jedi." So of course I'm pumped for "Episode IX." But part of me just wants to watch it quietly by myself in peace, then ignore the internet for a few months so I don't have to be subjected to the rage of fiery hate that this movie is inevitably going to receive by fans that have already predetermined to hate it before the title has even been released. And you know that I'm right with that statement.

Little Women - December 25
Well this is a weird movie to include on this list. I really have little to no knowledge of "Little Women," neither the original novel nor the 10,000 adaptations that it's had. So why is this here? One name: Greta Gerwig. I fell completely and insanely in love with her movie "Lady Bird," to the point where it beat out "The Last Jedi" as my favorite movie of 2017. "Little Women" is her next film so I just have to see what she does with it. It also helps that it stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, James Norton and Bob Odenkirk in the movie. That's a solid cast.

The Bad:

A Dog's Way Home - January 11
Listen. I know this movie is already out and the reviews are on the positive side of Rotten Tomatoes. But I still had to include this movie on this portion of the list as a snapshot of my brain from what I was thinking when the year started. They've been shoving "A Dog's Way Home" down our throats with the trailers for a while now and they've looked absolutely stupid. Not only does it seem like the voice-over is horrendously bad, but the trailer also showed the whole movie and it looks like a cheap knockoff of "Homeward Bound." The book it's based off of is from the same author who wrote "A Dog's Purpose" and a bunch of other dog books. And maybe they just don't translate well to the big screen because "A Dog's Purpose" also wasn't a super memorable film, even though it didn't deserve that massive wave of controversy it received shortly before it was released.

Cold Pursuit - February 8
It's Liam Neeson doing what Liam Neeson does best. Remaking "Taken" yet again. I mean, the plot of this movie is that Liam Neeson is a snowplow driver who is seeking revenge against the people who killed his son. Granted, I enjoy Liam Neeson as an actor and I hope that this one is extremely entertaining, but the more I think about it, the more I think this will simply be destroyed by critics and audiences for being monotonous and unoriginal. It will bomb at the box office and be completely forgotten by March until someone picks it up in a $5 bin at Walmart in a year or two, most likely in a collection set with all of the other Liam Neeson movies you also forgot about. You can't argue with me there, can you?

Alita: Battle Angel - February 14
I'm also rooting for this movie. I want it to be an entertaining sci-fi movie. But whenever a movie keeps getting postponed because the studio has zero confidence in the movie due to the competition it ends up being against, then red flags go up like crazy for me. Even worse, it ended up landing in February, which feels like the studio just gave up and dumped it in a spot where they can cut their losses and move onto other things. Apparently this is a movie that James Cameron wanted to direct for a long time, but he's spent his whole life doing nothing but "Avatar" sequels, so he gave it over to Robert Rodriguez, who directed "Sin City" in 2005... and nothing else notable. Unless you're a fan of his "Machete" movies.

Wonder Park - March 15
I felt bad putting this here. For some reason, I was determined to include "Wonder Park" on this list, but I didn't know where to put it. It was literally the last movie I placed because I was at a loss. So I just put it here because I'm not really excited about it, nor do I have the feeling that it could be good. It looks kinda cute and will probably be some harmless entertaining, especially useful to distract your 3-year-old with in the mornings. But I don't know if it will be anything that anyone with a double digit age will really care about.

Hellboy - April 12
The first part of the year, especially March and April, is swarmed with superhero movies. Marvel has "Captain Marvel" at the beginning of March. DC has "Shazam!" at the beginning of April. Then Marvel is back up to bat with "Avengers: Endgame" at the end of April. And in the midst of all that, a "Hellboy" movie was crammed onto the schedule. Whenever we have a whole bunch of similar movies close together on the schedule, there's usually a bit of cannibalism that happens. One of these four movies is going to take a huge hit and I'm betting the house on "Hellboy" being one of the first epic failures of 2019. I'm not necessarily a "Hellboy" aficionado, but I do know that "Hellboy" fans have been clamoring for "Hellboy 3" for a long time now. One with the same cast and same director. A "Hellboy" remake was NOT what they were asking for. Not helping things out here is that when they dropped the trailer, it looked awful. And when the released the poster a bit before, their Facebook comment to go with it was "Savage AF," as if a 10-year-old boy was put in charge of marketing.

Uglydolls - May 3
This movie is in a similar category as "Wonder Park." I don't think this is necessarily going to be an awful movie. It'll probably be a great movie for its target audience of very young children. But they keep shoving this trailer in my face every time I see a new animated movie and it's quite annoying that's filled with every kids movie cliche in the book. I also think it's a giant musical. If not, then why are Janelle Monae, Nick Jonas, Bebe Rexha, Kelly Clarkson, Charlie XCX, Blake Shelton and Pitbull all in the movie? And if so, I can see it as the type of kids musical that small kids play on repeat while driving all of the adults crazy.

A Dog's Journey - May 17
Apparently Hollywood thought "A Dog's Purpose" did so well that we have TWO follow-ups coming out this year, both based on books by W. Bruce Cameron, the author of "A Dog's Purpose." In January, aka this weekend if you're reading this upon me posting it, we have "A Dog's Way Home," which is a Sony release. "A Dog's Journey" is a Universal release, which is the studio who released "A Dog's Purpose." In fact, "A Dog's Journey" is the movie that is the direct sequel to "A Dog's Purpose," with the same dog that's narrated by Josh Gad. Apparently these books have good reviews, but I just don't know if this is the type of movie that translates well into a movie and I'm mildly annoyed that we'll now have three of them by the end of May.

Minecraft - May 24
I'm not convinced that this animated "Minecraft" movie is coming out this year. We're four months away from release, yet we've heard close to nothing. I'm expecting an announcement any time now that the movie has been postponed to next year, or perhaps towards the end of this year. But as of now, it's still on the schedule for May. So I'm putting it here. Now, yes, I know how popular "Minecraft" is. It's one of the biggest things out there right now in the gaming world. But there's not that much of a plot to the game, so how do you turn it into a movie? Until I see some sort of trailer to figure out what they have planned, I'm not going to be convinced that this is a video game adaptation that's going to work. I mean, video game movies have a really bad rap because most of them are awful. I highly doubt that "Minecraft" is the one movie that's going to change that.

Dark Phoenix - June 7
Fox has made this movie before. It's called X-Men: The Last Stand. People hated it so much that it killed the initial X-Men series, forcing Fox to reboot things with X-Men: First Class. Now Fox was doing really well with "First Class" and "Days of Future Past," but then the crashed things into the wall again with the disaster that was "Apocalypse." And now it seems almost fitting that history is set to repeat itself as the Dark Phoenix story arc is going to kill the X-Men franchise twice as this is the final movie with Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and company before Disney takes over and reboots it all again. "Dark Phoenix" is a movie that I questioned the second it was announced. I got even more nervous when it kept getting postponed. And now I'm almost confident that it's going to be a complete dud after seeing the trailer that looks like pure crap. The worst X-Men movie yet, perhaps?

The Secret Life of Pets 2 - June 7
I'm not going to lie, the first teaser for this movie, the one with all of them at the Vet, had me chuckling a bit. But an amusing teaser is not enough to get me on board with this movie when the first movie was about as lazy and mediocre as you can get when it comes to animation, which is sad because it had a solid premise. It just didn't have good execution. Yet somehow it ended up as Illumination's highest grossing movie, anyways, so of course they quickly threw together a sequel because that's the smart thing to do. It doesn't mean I have to be excited about it, though. Unfortunately for Illumination, "Toy Story 4" comes out two weeks later, so I'm doubting this sequel's ability to hit as high as the original.

Child's Play - June 21
So because last year's "Halloween" was a huge success, that gives us permission to reboot every classic horror franchise now? Maybe if I see a good trailer I can be convinced otherwise, but until then I think we've seen so many creepy doll horror movies that I think this specific subgenre of horror movie should be put to rest. Chucky started the trend, or at least popularized it, but are people going to care about him, or whatever this "Child's Play" doll is named, in 2019? The only thing that I'm giving this movie kudos for is that the initial teaser poster is almost an exact replica of the "Toy Story 4" teaser poster. And the two movies are getting released on the same day, so that's well played by the marketing team.

Grudge - June 21
I know very little about the "Grudge" franchise. But this is still a rebooted horror franchise in 2019 and for the most part, those don't work out, so I am confident it putting this here. And why is this getting released on the same day as "Child's Play"? A horror movie and a Pixar movie can work on the same day. It's called counterprogramming with "Child's Play" and "Toy Story 4." But two horror movies on the same day is cinematic suicide, so Sony HAS to reschedule this or else no one is going to see this.

New Mutants - August 2
Oh how a year has changed things. "New Mutants" was on this list last year, but on the good section. Because Fox had a trailer out last January for this movie and it looked like an X-Men horror movie, which had me very intrigued. But then they pulled the plug nearly last minute, as if Fox new that they had a bad movie on their hands and wanted to see if they can fix things before it's too late. Then they postponed it again and suddenly my excitement dissipated. Now it seems like Fox's X-Men movies are going to whimper out like a dog with its tail between his legs. "Dark Phoenix" and "New Mutants" will be the last two movies before Disney takes over and I'm predicting both of them will be duds.

Artemis Fowl - August 9
I have plenty of friends who are excited about this movie because they are huge fans of the book series and are excited to see what Disney is going to do with it. But I'm sorry, the more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that this is a movie that should've come out 10 years ago when the "Harry Potter" and "Hunger Games" phase of cinema was in full gear. Since those franchises have ended, Hollywood has desperately searched for the next young adult book series to adapt into a film series and they've come up blank every time they've tried. Audiences just don't seem to care as none of these movies have done anything. The genre is dead. Yet Disney is going to try again in 2019 with "Artemis Fowl"? No. It's not going to work. It reminds me of "The Giver" in 2014. The book was borderline revolutionary. Way ahead of its day. But it took forever for them to make a film and when they finally did, it was way too late. The movie fizzled out and died. With Disney putting most of their focus this year on "Dumbo," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King" this year, "Artemis Fowl" just seems like an afterthought for them. This year's "Nutcracker," if you know what I mean.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 - August 16
I'm choosing not to rank these movies because I like the idea of listing them all in order of release date. But if I were to rank them, this would easily be the No. 1 bad movie on the list. "The Angry Birds Movie" was utterly appalling in so many ways. I don't even want to recount them because it brings back bad memories of a film I was hoping to forget forever. But for some reason, that apparently did well enough for a sequel to be justified. I can only hope that this is an epic box office disaster so that we don't have a trilogy of putrid "Angry Birds" movies.

PLAYMOBIL - August 16
I saw this on the schedule and was wondering what the heck PLAYMOBIL was because it sounded familiar, but I couldn't place. Turns out it's a brand of toys. I immediately gave an ugly sigh. "The LEGO Movie" was liking catching lightning in a bottle. But just because that succeeded, it doesn't mean we have to every other brand of toys to turn into movies. Let's adapt things that naturally fit the format of a movie instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel. There's a reason why everyone is saying Hollywood is running out of ideas.

The Addams Family - October 11
I'm going to be a Grinch with this one until I see what this movie actually is. All I know is that it's an animated reboot of "The Addams Family" and I just raise my eyebrow at that. "The Addams Family" was a great thing in its day. But do we need to bring it back in any format?

Untitled Terminator Movie - November 1
I hear a lot of positive buzz from people about this new "Terminator" movie. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of "Terminator" and "Terminator 2." The latter movie is especially one of the best action movies ever made. But it also wrapped up the story. But then "Terminator 3" ignored that ending and created a disgustingly bad movie anyway. Instead of giving it up, they keep trying to make more "Terminator" movies as if people actually. And they have all sucked. So I just want them to give up and let this die. Yes, I know. Linda Hamilton is back. Yes, I know. Tim Miller is directing. Maybe he cares enough about the first two to actually give us a good movie. Yes, I know. They're going the semi-reboot route as they're pretending everything after the second movie doesn't exist. Could it be this year's "Bumblebee"? Perhaps. But I'm also thinking it could be this year's "The Predator." Everyone was excited for Shane Black to bring the franchise back to its former glory. But it was a rotten piece of dog turd. They need to make something epic in order to win me over.

Sonic the Hedgehog - November 8
Where do I begin with this one? The Sonic era of video games was my thing. The Sega and the SNES were excellent consoles with a lot of fun games. But I'm very weary of taking those characters and giving them movies. Yeah, sure, there's a lot of fun stories worth exploring, but if we're going to go this right, it needs to be with a studio or team I trust and it should be animated. The director with "Sonic" is Jeff Fowler, whose only previous directing work is a 2005 Oscar-nominated short film called "Gopher Broke." And I'm pretty sure they've gone the live-action/CGI hybrid route. This doesn't seem like it's going to work. We should take notes from "Into the Spider-Verse," which looked like an actual comic book with its animation style. Take that idea and turn "Sonic" into a classic Sega-style animated movie with a director I trust and maybe I'll be on board. This just feels like a disaster, though.

Cats - December 20
I know that "Cats" is one of the most popular Broadway musicals ever. So on that note, it makes sense to give it a movie with how popular movie musicals are today. But this spot was supposed to be where our movie adaptation of "Wicked" was going to be, so I'm kinda bitter that they shelved it and replaced it with "Cats." Plus, you're going to have to convince me that "Cats" is a musical that successfully transitions into a movie and at this point, I'm not so sure about that. You have a bigger uphill battle to climb when you inform me that Taylor Swift and Rebel Wilson are starring in this. I love me some T-Swift. But she's a singer, not an actor. I need someone who can do both. And Rebel Wilson is cinema poison for me. Her presence makes every scene she's in exponentially worse. Tom Hooper is director, which is a positive sign for "Les Mis" fans. But I didn't like that "Les Mis" movie, so that doesn't help me much.

The Maybe:

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part - February 8
Have you ever watched a trailer that you were excited about and had to lie to yourself in order to pretend to enjoy it? Yeah, that was me with "The LEGO Movie 2." I loved "The LEGO Movie." It was such a creative movie with a brilliant ending. The idea that the whole thing was a little kid playing with LEGOs I still think is one of the best movie twists. But now that the secret has been revealed, is it possible for them to recapture the same magic? At best I think this is a fun movie because I don't think it's possible for them to hit the heights of the first movie. But given that the trailer didn't capture me like I wanted it to, I'm also considering the possibility that this could be one of the big disappointments of 2019. Lord and Miller are still attached, but they're not directing this time as the main director is the guy who did "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Shrek Forever After." There's also six people with writing credits on the film. These are things that raise red flags for me. I hope I'm wrong with these premonitions, though.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World - February 22
One of these days I'm going to do a ranking of all of Dreamworks' animated movies like I've done with Disney and Pixar. When I do that, "How to Train Your Dragon" is going to be towards the top of that list because I think it's a stunning work of art. But "How to Train Your Dragon 2" just did not hit for me. I have several good friends that see that sequel as a masterpiece, but I just must've been subjected to a different movie. It took forever for Dreamworks to finally get the final chapter in this trilogy, but they're doing the same thing that they did with the second movie, that being showing the WHOLE MOVIE in the trailers. Based on that, I see it as an average movie. The 100 percent score it has on Rotten Tomatoes is nice, but that's with only nine reviews counted. From what I can tell, most of those people are among the crowd who also thought the second movie was a masterpiece, so said reviews don't mean much to me. I'm not yet willing to call this "bad," but I am anticipating this being one of my more controversial reviews of this year.

Chaos Walking - March 1
Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley star in a movie directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) that's about a dystopian world where there are no women and all living creatures can hear each others' thoughts in a stream of images, words, and sounds. That sounds like a fascinating movie with something interesting to say. But this movie is scheduled to come out on March 1 and there's no trailer yet. What's going on?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - March 22
This is a movie directed by Richard Linklater, director of "Boyhood," which is still one of my favorite movies of this decade. So that alone has me curious. It's about a 15-year-old girl whose mother disappears, so she does everything she can to track her down. Starring in the movie is Cate Blanchett, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudrup and Laurence Fishburne.

Dumbo - March 29
Disney's original "Dumbo" is a nice, little film that's essentially the story of the Ugly Duckling. A character who is a misfit until he finds where he belongs. I enjoy it. But I emphasize the word "little" in my description. It's only 64 minutes long. And a part of that 64 minutes includes a lot of filler, like the racist crows led by Jim Crow or the scene where Dumbo accidentally gets drunk and has hallucinations of pink elephants. So what is Disney going to do here in order to get this to the length of a full film that also cuts out the scenes from 1941 that DON'T hold up? Yeah, the trailers show a lot of emotion. But my questions regarding the film still haven't been answered. And I'm worried that Tim Burton might have a little too much fun with the pink elephants scene, if you know what I mean. So we'll see here.

Pet Sematary - April 5
Well, the trailer for this is excellent. And the cast is great. But I just don't know enough about "Pet Sematary" to know if remaking this film in 2019 is a good idea or not. It'll give me the opportunity to go visit the 1989 film, so that's a positive, right? And maybe we'll get on a good streak with Stephen King movies following "IT" in 2017 and now "Pet Semartary" in 2019. But I just don't know yet. And seeing Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer as directors makes me nervous because I haven't even heard of anything they've done.

Booksmart - May 24
A comedy directed by Olivia Wilde. That's all. Olivia Wilde is a great actress, but she's never directed a full-length film. Just a few random shorts. Can she do it? I don't know. But it grabbed my attention. Actors transitioning to directing has worked really well recently, with the likes of Bradley Cooper and John Krasinski being two great examples from 2018.

Brightburn - May 24
What if Superman came to Earth, but ended up growing into a crazy, super-demon horror child? I have no idea what to think of this. This was one of the strangest trailers for a horror movie that I've seen recently. And no, this is not technically Superman or Clark Kent. Officially speaking, this is an original horror movie that's not based off of any DC comic book. But still. That's what it looks like. And I honestly don't know if this is going to be an atrociously bad movie or an epic horror film. And that's a weird feeling to have after watching a trailer.

Rocketman - May 31
A musical biopic of the legendary Elton John, with Taron Egerton playing Elton John. That sounds like it could work. But I don't know. Maybe it's just that I just got burned hard by "Bohemian Rhapsody" and am thus extra grumpy, but I'm not completely sold. The strangest thing, though, is that this seems like it's part musical biopic and part fantasy. In the teaser they released, everyone starts floating in the air during one of his performances, so I feel like there's going to be a lot of weird in this movie and I'm not sure what to think about that.

Toy Story 4 - June 21
I'm remaining stubborn on this one until I see something to get me excited. That teaser trailer, which was more of an announcement trailer, with the characters spinning in a circle was not the thing to get me excited. Yes, I realize that all the "Toy Story" movies have been excellent, with "Toy Story 3" and "Toy Story" being my two favorite Pixar films. But they had such a perfect trilogy that I think they should've left alone. And if Pixar has a kryptonite, it's their recent sequels. The "Cars" movies are unfortunately a thing, "Monsters University" was underwhelming, and even "Incredibles 2" and "Finding Dory" weren't quite on the same level as their predecessors if I'm being nitpicky. So even if "Toy Story 4" ends up being good, I don't see any scenario where this becomes equal to any of the three "Toy Story" movies. It seems predestined to be the worst of the four that was only made because Pixar made a fortune with "Toy Story 3" and wanted to cash in with another movie. There's a difference between making a movie because you came up with a perfect story to tell and making a movie because the previous one you did made you a lot of money and you have dreams of dollar signs.

The Lion King - July 19
Is it live-action or animation? That's the debate right now. I don't really feel right with either label, if I'm being honest. I say glorified animation because it's a movie made completely on a computer that gives the appearance of live-action. Looking at the trailer, I am convinced that this is going to be a visually stunning movie that will be a great showcase of what can be done on a computer. However, I do hope that this is more of the exception than the rule. I am a fan of real sets and old-fashioned filmmaking. But the bigger question I have with this movie is plot. If the plot in this movie is an exact copy of Disney's animated movie, then what was the point of doing this outside money? On the flip side, if they switch things up a bit, well then they're messing with perfection because "The Lion King" as is was practically perfect. This seems like a lose/lose. Also, we need to brace ourselves for the trauma that will come with having to see Mufasa die all over again.

Spies in Disguise - September 13
Blue Sky will be up to bat again in September and they're an animation studio that is typically pretty safe. They're not known for making masterpieces, but most of their films are fairly inoffensive and enjoyable. I'll admit to not having seen all 19,000 "Ice Age" movies they made, but the first one was really good. I also loved "The Peanuts Movie" and thought their most recent movie, "Ferdinand," was a cute enough movie. So I have faith that "Spies in Disguise" will be some harmless entertainment that I can enjoy in the Fall. The movie is about a world class spy who gets turned into a pigeon and has to figure out how to survive. Providing voices in the movie are Will Smith, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan and Ben Mendelsohn.

Abominable - September 27
Last year at about this time we got the movie "Smallfoot" from Warner Animation Group. It looked bad, but ended up being surprisingly enjoyable. But now we get another Yeti movie a year later, this time from Dreamworks? That's odd. There's not much information about this film outside the basic premise about it being about a magical Yeti who needs to return to his family, but it is Dreamworks, which means it has the potential to be something good?

Joker - October 4
I like the idea of DC putting aside their goal of building a cinematic universe and simply focusing on making individual movies. I don't even mind that this movie has nothing to do with the DCEU given that this is not the same Joker that they set up in "Suicide Squad." Joaquin Phoenix is an excellent choice for Joker as he's great at crazy and Todd Phillips is a solid choice for a director. So this movie does have a lot going for it. But the major underlying question is still there. Do we need a Joker origin story? Part of the fun of the character is the ambiguous nature of where he came from. Heath Ledger's Joker, for example, had several different stories as to where he got his scars and ruled in pure anarchy, which is why he was so haunting. So I don't know. I question this idea. If done right, though, this movie playing as a psychological thriller is right up in my wheelhouse, so this very well could end up as a favorite of the year. I'm just not going to blindly trust it, if that makes sense.

Gemini Man - October 4
Ang Lee is a tough man to nail down. One year he'll be directing the 2003 "Hulk," then follow it up with "Brokeback Mountain," with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" coming shortly before. Then he'll deliver us "Life of Pi," but follow it up with "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk." Haven't heard of the latter? Exactly. But does that mean he's back on in 2019 with "Gemini Man"? It's about an older man facing off against a younger clone of himself, which sounds a lot like "Looper." Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Will Smith, Clive Own and Benedict Wong consist of part of the cast. So maybe this is an Oscar highlight of the year? Or could it be one that gets completely forgotten like "Billy Lynn"? I guess we'll find out in October.

The Woman in the Window - October 4
Speaking of Oscar potential, Joe Wright ("Darkest Hour," "Atonement") is here with a crime thriller. Vague plot descriptions of a woman in New York witnessing an act of violence after spying on her neighbors. So we don't have a whole lot of information at the moment. Or at least I don't. It's based on an acclaimed novel of the same name written by A.J. Finn that was published in 2017, so maybe some of you know all about this. I'd like to keep myself in the dark, though, because these types of movies are often best if you know close to nothing going in. But it does star Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry and Anthony Mackie, so there's more good news for this movie.

Zombieland 2 - October 11
By all intents and purposes, a "Zombieland" sequel should be something that's a highlight of 2019. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are all returning from the original, as are director Reuben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. A "Zombieland 2" is something that fans of "Zombieland" have been begging for since the first one came out and now it's finally happening with the right people in control. But I don't know. We've been burned several times before by comedy sequels that arrive way too late, even with the same cast and crew. Think "Dumber and Dumber," "Anchorman" and "Zoolander" sequels as examples that the general public didn't quite take to as much as their predecessors.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - October 18
Why can't we just be content with excellent documentaries? It seems like every time an extremely well made documentary comes out, a movie biopic comes shortly after. Generally speaking, the documentaries are usually much better than the biopics. And I'd be willing to bet the same here. If you haven't seen "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and you're a huge fan of Mr. Rodgers, go find it. It's one of the best documentaries that I've seen lately. But is this Mr. Rodgers biopic going to match that in quality? I highly doubt it. I mean, Tom Hanks is an excellent actor with a long list of iconic performances. But he looks nothing like Fred Rodgers. The set photos that have been released of him in character look like he's doing a Fred Rodgers cosplay. We haven't seen any trailers yet, but he also sounds nothing like him. So if Tom Hanks can successfully disappear into the role, making me believe it is the guy I watched everyday of my childhood and not the Tom Hanks that I've seen countless times in film roles, then by all means give him every trophy possible. I'm just not going to believe it until I see it. If you watch "Won't You Be My Neighbor?," you'll get the actual man in the movie and not Tom Hanks dressed up like him. Can't get any better than that, right?

Charlie's Angels - November 1
I haven't decided if this reboot is one that anyone on Earth actually asked for. When you think of movies or TV shows that need to be revisited, I don't think "Charlie's Angels" would be that high on anyone's lists. However, the more I think of this, the more that I feel that this could be a surprise hit that fits well into the progressive era of the modern age of filmmaking. We want more female directors and more female-led films, right? So maybe if they were to ditch the sex appeal in "Charlie's Angels" while focusing more the trio of crime fighting detective women, perhaps this fits right in. Our angels in this are Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks and Kristen Stewart, all three of whom are capable of pulling off the boss female action star. And Elizabeth Banks is also directing this. I highly doubt she is making this in order to turn herself into eye candy for the male audience. My guess is the female empowerment route is where she's going. But since we have no information on this movie at this point in time, these are all just my personal ideas of what a good "Charlie's Angels" movie could look like. I have no idea what they're actually planning here, which is why this is a maybe.

Midway - November 8
A movie about the Battle of Midway from World War II that is being released during Oscar season sounds like a fascinating war film that audiences could fall in love. I personally love myself a good war film. And with a cast including Patrick Wilson, Alexander Ludwig, Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Darren Criss, Ed Skrein, Dennis Quaid, and Aaron Eckhart, this should be a huge success, right? The problem is that Roland Emmerich is the director here and I don't trust him to be able to make a good movie. All he's ever done are brainless action films that are flat-out awful, showing that he probably doesn't know what makes a good action movie. And if you throw the "Independence Day" argument out at me, well that might backfire on you because all that proves is that he made one good movie 23 years ago, but has done nothing but utter crap ever since. So am I supposed to believe he's even capable of directing a good war film? This sounds like Michael Bay doing "Pearl Harbor" to me. But if Roland Emmerich can pull this off, then maybe he deserves the Razzie Redemption Award for 2019 because that would be truly impressive.

The Good Liar - November 15
I stumbled upon this one and learned that it was a movie starring Ian McKellen as a con artist who stumbles on a wealthy widow played by Helen Mirren. He thinks he's going to pull off an easy con of her until he starts to actually care about her. I'm a fan of a good con artist story and Ian McKellen plus Helen Mirren sounds like it could work really well. So I officially have it on my radar for smaller movies to look out for at the end of the year.

Knives Out - November 27
Believe it or not, Rian Johnson did not ruin my life by making "The Last Jedi." In fact, I love what he did with Star Wars. I think it's exactly what the franchise needed. But even if we put that aside, Rian Johnson is known for making bold and daring films. He directed "Brick" and "Looper," as well as my two favorite episodes of "Breaking Bad." I like a filmmaker who loves taking risks. Perhaps you could argue that that's not the style of filmmaking that Star Wars needed. I would disagree with you, but I'd see your point. But if you take that style and apply it to his own personal film that's not part of a giant franchise, perhaps all you "Last Jedi" haters could agree that "Knives Out" might be a solid movie. I'm willing to bet that he wrote it and directed it in order to distract himself from all the noise. I mean, have you seen his Twitter feed at all? Every time he tweets, even if it's not about "The Last Jedi," he STILL has hundreds of angry Star Wars trolls attacking him for ruining their lives. I feel bad for the man. I'm just putting the movie in this section because I don't know anything about it just yet, outside it's a Rian Johnson directed murder mystery starring Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Lakeith Stanfield, Jaeden Lieberher and more. It sounds like something worth checking out.

The Call of the Wild - December 25
I feel like I know Jack London's "Call of the Wild." Perhaps I read it in school during some point of my life? It's a short book published in 1903 about a team of sled dogs in the 1890's. It was previously made into a film in 1923, 1935 and 1972. I have no idea if I've seen any of those versions. When I figure all of this out, I'll let you know. But for now we have a live-action/CGI animated hybrid version of sorts coming out on Christmas starring Karen Gillan, Harrison Ford and Dan Stevens. When I know more information, I'll pass it along.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Movie Preview: January 2019

Another year has come and gone as we all officially said goodbye to 2018 at the beginning of this week. In terms of the box office, 2018 finished in record-breaking fashion, earning $11.8 billion at the domestic box office, topping 2016's previous record. Although it is worth noting that this was partially due to the constantly increasing ticket prices, that averaged out at $9.14 per ticket in 2018. In terms of tickets sold, 2018 is nowhere close to the top of the list, but it was still a solid year overall, especially if your name is Disney, who earned $3.1 billion of that overall total, which was 26 percent of the market share. The end of 2018 also means there's a whole lot of new movies to look forward to in 2019, meaning my giant 2019 movie preview is on its way very soon. But before I get to that, it's first time to take an in depth look specifically at the month of January, which has gained a reputation of being notoriously bad for movies. There's plenty of legitimate reasons for that as its not an ideal month for studios to release a new film. But there's at least one movie this month in "Glass" that will be going against the trend as well as a handful of other films that will try to sneak a few quick bucks out of audiences, so let's dive in and explore all of those titles coming our way this month.

January 4th - 6th- 

The first weekend of January will mostly be dominated by holiday holdovers, which is always the case for this weekend. That means "Aquaman" is set to three-peat at top with "Mary Poppins Returns," "Bumblebee" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" all looking at solid totals. Sneaking in somewhere in that mix will be the lone new arrival, Escape Room. This is a horror film where a group of people get stuck in a sadistic game of sorts where they have to escape from room to room or else die. The first person to escape the whole thing gets rewarded with $1 million.  Putting quality aside, January has been a solid month for horror films as its become tradition to start the year out with a new horror film. This has been the case ever since "The Devil Inside" opened to $33.7 million in the inaugural weekend of 2012. Hollywood took note of that and it's worked decently well ever since. Other success stories include "Texas Chainsaw 3D" ($21.7 million in 2013), "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" ($18.3 million in 2014) and "Insidious: The Last Key" ($29.5 million in 2018). Without the brand name recognition, "Escape Room" isn't likely to hit quite that high, which is why 2016's "The Forest" ($12.7 million) might be the best comparison here.

January 11th - 13th-

The second weekend of January looks to be a competitive one as "Aquaman" is poised for a fourth weekend around $12-15 million. Is that enough to sneak in a fourth straight win at the box office? Could "Mary Poppins" returns hold well and swap places with "Aquaman"? Or is there a new title that could spoil the fun for both movies? If the latter is true, the most likely candidate is A Dog's Way Home. This is a semi-sequel to the 2017 January movie "A Dog's Purpose," which bucked a huge wave of controversy to an $18.2 million opening weekend and a solid hold after that. "A Dog's Purpose" followed the story of a dog, narrated/voiced by Josh Gad, who kept getting reincarnated until he eventually found his way back to his original owner, who was a lot older. "A Dog's Way Home" doesn't follow the same story or characters, but it has the same style of storytelling and is also based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron, the author of the book "A Dog's Purpose," who has also helped with the screenplay of both movies. This time around, a dog manages to get lost from her owner and travels 400 miles in an effort to return. Fans of "A Dog's Purpose" will likely show up for this follow-up movie, but will enough of them show up to help this match the first movie's opening?

A key expansion this week that I briefly mentioned in last month's preview is the Ruth Bader Ginsburgh biopic On the Basis of Sex. The movie opened in 33 theaters on Christmas Day and made $686,355 on the ensuing opening weekend. Through January 3, it has amassed $2.1 million, a decent run for a limited release film. On this second weekend of January, it is set to expand to around 2,000 theaters. 2018 was the year that cinema decided to put Ginsburgh, currently an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court since 1993, in the spotlight as the documentary about her, titled "RBG," was released in May 2018 and made a total of $14.0 million, a solid total for a documentary. In terms of Oscar-hopefuls expanding in January, the most recent comparison here is Steven Spielberg's "The Post," which made $19.3 million in its first weekend of wide release. If "On the Basis of Sex" were to match that number, it could steal the weekend. However, the challenge it will face is that it doesn't have a lot of awards season momentum, nor does it have very strong reviews (70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). That makes it likely that it slides into the range other best picture candidates like "Selma" ($11.3 million) and "Extreme Loud and Incredibly Close" ($10.0 million).

Given how hard it is to bet against Kevin Hart when it comes to the box office, another likely contender for the top spot this week is The Upside, which also stars Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman alongside Hart. Cranston plays a rich quadriplegic while Hart plays an unemployed man with a criminal record who gets hired to be his caretaker. If that plot sounds familiar, it's because it's the third remake of "The Intouchables" after the Indian film "Oopiri" and the Argentinian film "Inseparables." "The Intouchables" is a French film that was released in 2011 and is currently No. 40 on IMDb's Top 250, so it has quite the solid reputation. How will audiences take to this comedic, American remake of the film. Probably not too well. The movie was actually released at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to mixed reaction, but got shelved for a while as it was one of the upcoming Weinstein releases during the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It was eventually purchased by STX and dropped in January, which is not a sign of confidence. But Kevin Hart fans often don't care about what critics. He's had plenty of poorly received movies that were box office hits. The issue here might be the competition. Not all of these releases here can break out. 

Later in 2019, fans of Keanu Reeves and the two "John Wick" movies will likely swarm out to "John Wick: Chapter 3," which is easily one of the more highly anticipated movies of 2019. Until then, a few of them might show up to this smaller Keanu movie Replicas as a means to whet their appetite. "Replicas" stars Keanu Reeves as a man who recently lost his wife in a car accident, but instead of moving on with life, he comes up with a way to clone her and bring her back. These types of sci-fi films generally don't work out for the protagonist as we've learned with various movies about artificial intelligence or other related films. Speaking of which, said premise more than likely will feel like a "been there, done that" sort of thing. And given the January release date, any level of average to poor reviews will likely cause audiences to completely ignore this, especially since awareness for this movie isn't necessarily super high at the moment. A best case scenario seems to be an opening similar to "Transcendence," an April 2014 sci-fi film that opened to $10.8 million. But hey, Keanu Reeves has surprised before. "John Wick" wasn't initially thought to be much of anything until reviews went through the roof, which propelled word of mouth. So crazier things have happened.

January 18th - 20th-

While the second weekend of January might prove to be a competitive race, there's absolutely no question that Glass is set to absolutely dominate in the third weekend. In fact, no studio has even dared to compete with "Glass," allowing it to have the weekend all to itself in regards to new releases. In regards to the premise here, the secret is out. "Unbreakable" and "Split," both movies directed by M. Night Shyamalan, are directly connected to each other. "Unbreakable" was released in 2000 and took a more grounded and realistic approach to the superhero genre, starring Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a man who couldn't be broken. This he began to realize when he was the lone survivor of a train wreck that killed the other 131 passengers, yet David Dunn remained unhurt. On the flip side, "Split" tells the story of a very broken individual named Kevin Crumb, played by James McAvoy, who is so psychologically damaged that he has a severe case of Dissociative Identity Disorder wherein he has 23 distinct personalities. "Glass" is the movie where the two of them come together. Building off the goodwill of both movies, the hype for "Glass" is through the roof, meaning that the January opening weekend record, held by "American Sniper" with $89 million, could be in jeopardy.

January 25th - 27th-

The final weekend of January will almost certainly be dominated by "Glass" once again. Even if it were to only hit the $40 million that "Split" opened to, that movie earned $25 million in weekend two, which is a mark that The Kid Who Would Be King is not going to get close to. Along with Robin Hood, King Arthur is a story that Hollywood just cannot let go of. Thus we have yet another iteration of the story. Although this version has a bit of a twist to it as it's about a young kid in the modern age who accidentally grabs the sword of Arthur and brings all sorts of fantasy and fairy tale lore into the lives of everyone around him, both at home and at school. Despite being a very worn-out subject matter, the advantage that this movie has is that its main target audience, that being younger kids, aren't nearly as critical as the adults. If this movie can manage to be a fun, harmless adventure for the younger crowd, it could be a sleeper hit that parents decide to go take their kids to. With very little out there for family audiences in January, that could be a huge advantage. The only problem there is that "The LEGO Movie 2" gets released just two weeks later. Given that it's the parents paying for the tickets, are they going to choose to save their movie for that one instead?

Closing us out for January is Serenity. No, not THAT "Serenity." This has nothing to do with Joss Whedon's "Fire Fly" and the "Serenity" movie in 2005 that finished it off. This is a late January thriller directed by Steven Knight, who's only previous two directed films are "Redemption" and "Locke" in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Neither of those hit wide release. This does have a giant cast, which includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou and Jeremy Strong. McConaughey is a fisherman who gets approached by his ex-wife, played by Hathaway, who requests that he kill her new husband, played by Clarke. The tone here is that of a neo-noir thriller that could be a sleeper hit given the cast and the premise. But as is the case with a lot of these January releases, the release date doesn't necessarily inspire a ton of confidence, especially since this was initially set to release this past fall, prime time for awards season, but then got pushed back to January. But thrillers have been known to become sleeper hits. While not the perfect match plot-wise, "The Boy Next Door" opened to $14.9 million in January 2015. If it connects, "Serenity" could at least sneak ahead of "The Kid Who Would Be King" this weekend.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns Review

The Disney monster is at it again, capping off what has been an absolutely incredible year for them at the box office. In the United States alone, Disney made a whopping $3 billion at the box office, which was 26 percent of the total market share. Both of those numbers are what Disney was able to accomplish in 2016 as well, while in 2017 they *only* got $2.4 billion and 21 percent of the total market share. So yeah, that's three straight years where Disney has reigned supreme. And we all know that's only going to continue in 2019 with the likes of "Captain Marvel," "Dumbo," "Avengers: Endgame," "Aladdin," "Toy Story 4," "The Lion King," "Frozen 2" and "Star Wars: Episode IX" all on the schedule. Yes, it's true that a lot of people might complain at Disney's dominance as it looks like they are searching for a monopoly of the movie industry. But as long as they are making movies that have a great appeal to general audiences, Disney is going to listen to the dollar bills rather than all the commentary from the peanut gallery because the silent majority often speaks quite loud when it comes to what they want at the cinema. In this case, it's really hard to not be super excited about "Mary Poppins Returns," especially when it looked like such a magical experience. 

In regards to the original "Mary Poppins," the story behind it's development is a fascinating one that may or may not be told accurately in "Saving Mr. Banks." Long story short, Walt Disney promised his two daughters that he would make a film version of "Mary Poppins," which was their favorite book. But it took 20 years to get it made because author P.L. Travers was not a fan of the idea. She finally agreed mainly because she was running out of money, but the agreement included her getting the final script approval. In a bit of a devious move, though, Disney essentially tricked her into getting his version of the movie made despite her disapproval because she wasn't given any say during the editing process, which she thought she was going to get when she officially approved of the script. This resulted in her hating the movie. In fact, she hated the movie so much that she cried during the film's premier, an event that she wasn't even invited to initially. After the premier, she approached Disney and told him that the animated sequences were the first thing that needed to go, to which Disney replied, "Pamela, the ship has sailed." In other words, after 20 years of frustration, he finally got his version of the movie made and he didn't care what she thought of it.

That's kind of brutal if you think about it. But is this a case where the end justifies the means? Should Disney have given in to her demands since she is the original creator? Does an artist deserve more creative control when their property is being adapted? Should Disney have shown her more respect rather than tricking her into letting him do what he wanted? These are all interesting questions to ask, but I find myself not feeling too bad for Travers that she thinks her original property was ruined by Disney because the movie made her a multi-millionaire since she was given a certain percentage of the royalties. Also, I tend to love Disney's final product. Travers may have been a Grinch when it came to animation, but I think the combination of live action and animation was used brilliantly to help teach the positive use of creativity and imagination for kids. Travers also may have not liked exactly how the character of Mary Poppins was portrayed, but I think Julie Andrews gave an absolutely iconic performance. Not only is the character a lot of fun, but she does a perfect job of helping teach the young Banks kids a lot of important life lessons while also helping out their parents. And of course the music and dance numbers are some of the best that musicals have seen.

However, the consequences of Disney not treating Travers well was that it took forever to get this sequel made. Walt Disney wanted to get a sequel made shortly after the original, but Travers refused. Long after Walt himself passed away, Disney kept trying to get Travers to let them do another movie, but she never let them, so they gave up and had to wait until she passed away, which wasn't until 1996. By that time, the ship seemed to have sailed on a Mary Poppins sequel. That is until this modern age of revisting all of their old franchises left the door wide open to finally fulfill Disney's wishes of getting a sequel made, which was finally approved by Travers' estate. It also helped that musicals are very much in right now thanks to the likes of "Les Mis," "Into the Woods," "La La Land," "The Greatest Showman" and "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again" all finding great success at the box office. So "Mary Poppins Returns" felt like it fit perfectly into 2018. Initially I was slightly skeptic, but mostly cautiously optimistic. I thought it was a fine idea, but I knew the movie would live or die based on the musical numbers in the movie. They didn't need to be as good as the original, but if the music wasn't acceptable, the movie wasn't going to work. 

For those reasons, I wasn't necessarily beaming with excitement. Not initially, anyways. That all changed, though, when they started showing footage. The initial teaser didn't show much, but it set a tone for the movie that was visually impressive while Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins looked and sounded brilliant. So it had my attention. But then that full trailer arrived. Just... wow! This seemed like Disney had something special on their hands. I didn't realize how much I needed a Mary Poppins sequel in my life until I saw how magical that trailer looked. And, yeah, I'm happy to report that the movie is just as magical as the trailer. In regards to plot, the movie takes place in 1935, 25 years after the events in the original movie. Michael and Jane are now grown adults. Jane is still single, but Michael is now a widower after his wife has passed away a year ago, leaving him to raise their kids on his own. He's also ran into a lot of financial difficulties as his wife was the one who was good with the finances. So it's safe to say that he's in a bit of a dark place that gets even worse when two lawyers show up to the door and tell him that he has only a few days to pay off a huge loan he took or else his house is going to be repossessed, which is the same house they grew up in as kids.

Enter Mary Poppins who is here to save the day. And she does so in a very Mary Poppins way. She's there as a nanny spending most of her time with the three children, but the ultimate goal is to help Michael get back on his feet. He's lost a lot of his passion and creativity that he had as a kid that certainly wasn't helped by the passing of his wife. This is a bit reminiscent of "Christopher Robin" from earlier this year, which showed Ewan McGregor's portrayal of Christopher Robin as one who had become so obsessed with work that he had all of his priorities a bit backward. Although what makes Michael's position in "Mary Poppins Returns" feel more real and intense is that feeling of loss that has completely wrecked him. I think this aspect of the film has a good chance of hitting home for anyone who has experienced a similar loss like this and it's boosted by an excellent performance from Ben Whishaw as Michael, as well as Emily Mortimer as Jane, who is such a great sister as she's there to provide support wherever he needs it, whether it be watching the kids or helping him find a deed for the bank that could help them save the house. I mention these performances first because I don't want them to get overshadowed too much by some of the other performances.

But of course one of the said performances get most of the attention is Emily Blunt, who steps into some very large shoes as she tries to follow-up on Julie Andrews' performance. Talk about pressure there. As I stated earlier, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins is one of cinema's most iconic and well-loved performances. What makes Emily Blunt so excellent is that she takes that pressure and makes it look so easy. I watched the original "Mary Poppins" literally right before I went to the theater for the sequel and this is one of those performances that made me convinced that someone had a time machine and was able to go back to 1964 and convince 29-year-old Julie Andrews to come to 2018 to reprise her iconic role. Not only do I have to give props to the make-up, hairstying, and costume design teams for helping Emily Blunt look like Mary Poppins, but she also had the voice, the personality and all the mannerisms down perfectly. This movie worked because Mary Poppins was back. The very Mary Poppins that I grew up adoring because of how perfect she is. The only major difference is that Emily Blunt's singing voice isn't quite on the same level as Julie Andrews, but few females on this Earth are and thus I think Emily Blunt does a great job in her own right.

Because of this performance, Emily Blunt is rightfully getting a lot of praise and I'm totally on that bandwagon. Between this and "A Quiet Place" from earlier this year, someone give that woman a trophy. She deserves. The other person who deserves of trophy is one of the world's current favorite entertainers and that is none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda. He's not stepping into the shoes of Dick Van Dyke's character of Bert because, unlike Mary Poppins, Bert is a normal human who ages and is thus not in this film. But Miranda plays a new character named Jack, who is a former apprentice of Bert and is a lamplighter who knows all about Mary Poppins. So he's essentially plays the same exact role as Bert did in the original even if he's technically a different character. Like with Bert, it's all about spectacle and performance with Jack and boy does Lin-Manuel Miranda put on quite the show. Given that the movie, much like the original, feels a bit like a stage performance, Miranda is right in his element here and takes full advantage of whenever the limelight is on him with some excellent singing and great dancing. In addition to that, he's so charming and charismatic that it's easily to immediately fall in love with him.

Speaking of singing and dancing, I said earlier that I initially thought this movie was going to live or die based on how good the music in the movie is. That turned out to not exactly be the case because I genuinely thought the story line of the movie had the right amount of emotion and depth to it, and I loved all of the characters and the arcs that they experienced. But boy is this movie a beautiful spectacle. The director here is Rob Marshall, who has a lot of experience with this genre and it's evident that him and the team around him knows how to properly craft a musical. The dance choreography is a blast to watch while the music is well written and well sung. I do think that it's a bit unfair to directly compare the music and dance to the original since those numbers have had 54 years to entertain audiences. I think we need to give this new music a bit of time before we give it a final judgment, but I honestly think this new music has the potential to be just as well-loved for this new generation of kids as the original music did for its generation and the many that have followed it. I didn't walk out of the theater with the songs stuck in my head, but I really enjoyed them as they were happened and I think I just need to give the movie a few more watches and it might stick.

So yeah, when all is said and done, this was a very well done sequel by Disney that I think Walt himself would've been very proud of. After watching both movies back to back on Christmas Eve, I walked out of this new movie feeling that they had perfectly recaptured the magic of Mary Poppins. Some might complain that this movie was too similar to the original with not enough creativity and ingenuity to it. I don't see it that way. I saw it as filmmakers and actors who loved and respected the original movie and wanted to bring it back for a new generation of families to love. And they succeeded. And not only did the movie do a good job at pleasing me personally as one who grew up with this movie, but I was a bit surprised to see how much all of my nieces and nephews loved the film as well, so this serves as the perfect family film for this holiday season and beyond. The movie has already played quite well at the box office in the last week and a half, showing some great signs that it'll have a leggy box office run and that makes me delighted. If you haven't yet jumped on the train yet, then now is the perfect time. This has the potential to develop into a new classic for Disney and if they keep making movies like this, I'm happy to give them my money. I'll give "Mary Poppins Returns" a 9/10.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Aquaman Review

Christmas has come and gone, so it's time to finally sit down and put out some reviews that I haven't gotten around to due to the busy holiday season. First up in that is our latest trip to the DC Extended Universe, which been really struggling as of late as they've desperately tried to catch up to Marvel. And that there has been a big part of the problem. Marvel very patiently set up their universe with a handful of solo films that turned "The Avengers" into an event film like no other. DC decided to not be patient and forced their way prematurely to "Justice League," which then caused it to crash and burn. As a long time DC fan, it's been really hard to watch this take place because I want properly done DC films, but the people in charge haven't been able to give that to me. In fairness, I didn't hate "Justice League" or "Suicide Squad." I thought "Justice League" was an mindlessly entertaining popcorn blockbusters and "Suicide Squad" had a lot of great characters. But the problem there is that both movies deserved so much more. And while there were elements of good in "Batman v. Superman," the fact that they crammed five movies into one was really frustrating. And I'm doing my best to erase the abomination that was "Man of Steel" out of my memory.

Despite all this, I still was excited going into "Aquaman." Why? Because DC has had one huge success and that was "Wonder Woman." With "Wonder Woman," the focus wasn't to help set up a cinematic universe or to try too hard to copy Marvel. The focus was to simply make a good movie. A competent director in Patty Jenkins was hired and she did her absolute best to bring a proper "Wonder Woman" movie to the screen. And that brought me so much joy. With "Aquaman," I saw legitimate signs that DC had learned from what they did right in "Wonder Woman" in order to bring us a proper "Aquaman" film. An excellent director in James Wan was hired to take charge and, from everything I saw, it seemed like they gave him full control to do what he wanted with the movie. And that was an exciting prospect. Based on the trailers and advertising, it seemed like Wan's focus was to give the world a good "Aquaman" movie. DC deciding to put their focus primarily on the individual movies rather than their cinematic universe is something that I wish they had done from the very beginning, but at least they appear to be learning from their mistakes instead of stubbornly continuing down the same road, which was only going to bring them even more scorn from everyone.

Thankfully I can report here that my optimism towards this movie was rewarded with a positive cinematic experience. It feels rather refreshing to walk out of a DC movie having been thoroughly entertained without feeling like I deserved more. It also feels refreshing that "Aquaman" successfully stands on its own as a movie you can watch and enjoy without thinking about whatever big picture it is that DC is planning. There is one brief reference to "Justice League" as Amber Heard's character briefly mentions Aquaman having helped stopped Steppenwolf. But that's it. If you skipped any movie in the DC due to the general negativity towards the DCEU, there is no need for a marathon or for you to read the Wikipedia pages of the films. You can go in completely blind, not knowing anything about the DCEU or the underwater world of Atlantis and be totally fine. In fact, doing so would put you at an advantage because the movie itself starts completely fresh. I even think that there are scenes in "Justice League" regarding Aquaman that they completely retconned or ignored and I am totally fine with that. I think it was the right decision to make. Acknowledge the past, like they briefly did, but move forward with fresh eyes and a fresh vision for this character.

In regards to the comic book version of Aquaman, it's worth noting that I'm not as well versed when it comes to him like I am when it comes to other DC characters such as Batman, Superman or the Flash. But I do know that he's been a character who has been commonly mocked and made fun of. He wears bright clothes, swims around in the water and talks to fish. He's not a very manly character, nor is he a very cool one. But yeah, the casting of Jason Momoa is a direct attempt to go against those stereotypes and make him cool again. You don't get any more manly than Jason Momoa. And in regards to his powers and the talking to fish thing, James Wan did an excellent job of creating a fascinating universe unlike any we've seen in the cinematic comic book world up to this point. Aquaman's powers are also really intriguing, so they successfully transformed Aquaman from the butt of every joke into someone to take seriously, which is impressive. And it's also really nice that James Wan actually knows what to do with Aquaman to make him interesting, which is something that Zack Snyder had no idea how to do as Aquaman just sort of stood around and existed in "Justice League" while acting as a cheerleader for the other characters.

As a character, Aquaman has an Atlantian mother and a human father, making him the perfect individual to stand as a mediator for both worlds, yet the drama in this film is that he has no desire to do anything with Atlanta. He grew up on land with his father and is convinced that the Atlantians killed his mother because she left them to start a relationship with a man on the land. So he fully plans to stay on land and not associate with the Atlantians at all. Early on as a kid, he discovers his ability to communicate with the sea creatures and initially his peers make fun of him for it, but then when he gets mad at this bullying and uses all the sea animals to intimidate the bullies, that's an intense scene. It made me want to have those powers of communicating with the sea. Imagine what you could do with all that! On top of that, the ability to swim as fast as an underwater sea vessel while being able to breath and talk under the water would be really awesome. And the icing on the cake is that he's super strong. So yeah, all of this immediately makes him quite the appealing and likable character. And with the backstory regarding his parents, it gives him some emotional depth that I wasn't expected, which sets up for some real character growth.

As far as the plot of the film goes, I will fully admit that this is a lot of movie. It's not like "Batman v. Superman," which is like five movies in one. There's just a lot of story that they tell. I walked out of the theater feeling like I had just binged an entire season of an Aquaman T.V. show rather than having simply watched the pilot episode. This is both a positive and a negative in certain ways. On a positive note, this makes it much more than just your average origin story that I have a habit of being super picky with. But on the negative side, they could've done a better job of focusing the movie up a bit. In fact, there's one specific story arc that they could've completely cut out and the movie would be improved. I'll leave you hanging there for a second because I plan on diving into that a bit later. But as is, both of these positive and negative elements end up cancelling each other out a bit to the point where I was able to accept what was happening and simply enjoy the long, crazy ride that I was being taken on. Because, yeah, this is quite the adventure and the great part is that none of it is taken too seriously. It felt like a 90's superhero cartoon brought to life and dumped into the end of 2018, making the whole thing an enjoyable and relaxing ride that felt fairly nostalgic.

The main element of the plot involved Nala coming to Simba to inform him that there is a lot of commotion happening at Pride Rock with his Uncle Scar. Simba has ran away from home and wants nothing to do with Pride Rock. He's moved on with life. But Nala is here to beg him to come back to Pride Rock and take his rightful place as king because Simba is the one person who is capable of bringing order back into the world. Eventually some sense is knocked into Simba, so he runs back to Pride Rock in order to challenge Scar for the throne. And here's where the twist is. Before he is able to challenge Scar, Rafiki comes to Simba and tells him that he must first find the Holy Grail so that he can properly take the kingdom back. He's a little rebellious at first, so he challenges Scar anyways and mostly fails, but before all is lost, Nala comes to save the day and then they are off to find the Holy Grail as Simba has successfully transformed himself into Indiana Jones, who then has to face all sorts of fancy obstacles along the way, which get more and more intense as the journey goes on. In the midst of that, we also go on a random tangent where Simba/Indiana Jones has allowed a random evil dude's father die, causing evil dude to have a serious vendetta against him.

OK, I'll come back down to Earth now and start talking about "Aquaman" again instead of "The Lion King" or "Indiana Jones." Although I hope you grasped my point there. Earlier this year I gave "Black Panther" a lot of flack for being "The Lion King" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some people were blown away by the Shakespearean of "Black Panther" since "The Lion King" is simply a re-telling of "Hamlet" with the African animal kingdom. To me I felt like it was a bit of lazy story-telling, which caused me to be a lot more "meh" about the film than your average person. So I figured if I gave "Black Panther" some flack, I had to be fair here and also give "Aquaman" the same flack. The big difference here is that no one is claiming that "Aquaman" is the greatest superhero film ever made and it's not on track to be the highest-grossing domestic superhero movie ever, which was the case with "Black Panther." So that caused me to push back on "Black Panther." With "Aquaman" there's nothing to push back against, so I'm more accepting of the story here. No one is calling "Aquaman" the greatest superhero film ever made. Most people are simply enjoying the fact that the DC has actually made a decent film.

The other point I wanted to make with that paragraph is to illustrate the fact that this is a lot of movie without giving specific plot details. I can draw comparisons to "The Lion King" and "Indiana Jones" to prove a point and I don't have to spoil "Aquaman" in the process. I will add that it does veer away from both of these movies quite a bit. In regards to "The Lion King," it's his younger half brother that's in control of Atlantis and not his uncle. And Aquaman didn't run away from Atlantis following the death of his father. It's his mother that ran away before he was born, and was then forced back to Atlantis before Aquaman was too old. And the whole Indiana Jones thing isn't following a specific Indiana Jones story arc. He's not actually searching for the Holy Grail. He's searching for something else. But the idea there is that he's searching for a lost artifact that is thought to have not existed or permanently lost a long time ago. And yes, the final part of that is the tangent involving the movie's secondary villain, which is precisely the story line that I was referring to earlier when I said there's an element of the movie that could've been completely cut out. Since the cat is already out of the bag, that secondary villain is that of Black Manta, a popular Aquaman villain from the comics.

Now I did enjoy Black Manta in this movie. He's played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who does an excellent job in the movie. He has solid motivation and is a formidable opponent for Aquaman with quite the epic supervillain suit. It's just that the story arc itself felt like more of a side thing that distracted from the main story. I think they should've saved Black Manta solely for the sequence while focusing this movie specifically on Aquaman's half brother, who is also played brilliantly by Patrick Wilson. In fact, there's a lot of great acting in this movie. Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are more than just eye candy for fans. They own it in the lead roles. And in addition to who I've already said, we also have Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgreen and Temuera Morrison in the film who all work together to provide a great cast of supporting characters who are all directed excellently by James Wan in order to provide us with a cinematic experience that felt great in magnitude. And the aquatic visual effects were honestly breathtaking. We've done a lot of things with superheroes in the last 10 years or so, but exploring the sea is not something we've done very much, so that element managed to make this movie feel a bit fresh and unique when compared to the rest.

In summary, if you've not been on board with the DCEU at this point, I don't blame you. It's been a really rough ride as of late that have caused many fans to give up on DC. But the great thing about "Aquaman" is that it feels separate from all of that. We can pretend for a moment that "Man of Steel," "Batman v. Superman," "Suicide Squad" and "Justice League" all ceased to exist and that this is the second DCEU movie after "Wonder Woman." With that in mind, it feels like a much safer venture to dive into "Aquaman" because "Wonder Woman" is the DC movie that "Aquaman" belongs in the same conversation with. No, it's not as good as "Wonder Woman." But it shows that the success of "Wonder Woman" was not a fluke and that DC actually can make good movies if they continue to follow that formula instead of what they were trying to do before. Because this works. "Wonder Woman" and "Aquaman" are both good movies and it gives me a renewed sense of hope for the DCEU moving forward that makes me confidently excited for "Shazam!" in April, because that seems like yet another example of DC done right. As far as a grade goes, that's a bit fickle. It's easily the second best DCEU movie, so take that as you will. For now, I'll give "Aquaman" an 8/10.