By John H. Foote
The movie season is divided into three specific categories. From January through April we have the dumping ground, the months the studios release their films that they are unsure of. From time to time we get a Captain Marvel to shake things up, but usually audiences are still going to see the Oscar nominated films and then the winners. May through the end of August are when the summer blockbusters are released, the bread and butter of the studios. The studios have long ago locked down their release dates, laying claim to this weekend and that, anticipating huge dollars. And finally, September through December 31 is awards season, festival season, prestige season rolled into one. Check out 10 Best lists at year end, chances are the best films of the year will have been released during this time.
So far in 2019, Disney owns the box office with massive earnings already from Captain Marvel and The Avengers: Endgame and seems poised for even more box office glory this summer with live action remakes of two of their greatest nineties animated films. Spider Man swings back into theatres, no doubt to substantial earnings and this is just the beginning.
Here is a preview of what the coming months will bring.
THE LION KING is the biggest in the Disney animation to live action, though in this case the CGI dominates the film. The Lion King (1994) might be the most iconic of all their new animated films, a major film, stunning song score, brilliant adaptation to Broadway and now this, back to film. The only returning cast member is James Earl Jones as the doomed King Mustafa, while Donald Glover takes on Simba and Beyoncé Knowles is Nala. In the key role of Scar, Chiwetel Ojiofor steps in for Jeremy Irons, which sounds exciting. The film is directed by Jon Favreau who has guided Disney animation to live action art before with the acclaimed The Jungle Book (2016). This should be the biggest hit of the summer.
ALADDIN could be huge though naysayers have been attacking Will Smiths’ blue Genie since the trailer premiered online and in theatres. Again, Disney turns an animated classic into live action though the ghost of Robin Williams hangs over this production. It does not matter if Will Smith delivers the greatest performance in film history, he cannot win. No one will ever do what Williams did with the role. No expense has been spared into bringing old Arabia to life and the visuals are said to be splendid. Can Guy Ritchie do it? We will soon see.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino and could be the one which lands him that Oscar for directing. Yes, this summer release could be the years best film, a major Oscar winner and instant pop culture phenomenon. Suffice to state the obvious, the expectations are huge. A massive cast enacts the late sixties in Hollywood, with the Manson gang and murder hanging on the peripheral. Remember Tarantino has changed history before, killing Hitlermoff in a movie palace in Inglorious Basterds (2009) so will the Manson gang be able to see their nights of horrors through? Brad Pitt, Leonardo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie, and a cast including just about everyone in Hollywood should delight, shock and stun audiences with its look behind the scenes of sixties Hollywood, television, the hippy culture and the madness of Manson.
THE HUSTLE features two solid comedic actresses, the hysterically funny Rebel Wilson and Academy Award winner Anna Hathaway as a couple of hustlers, conning wealthy men out of their millions. They could not be more different, with Hathaway confident, smooth, sexy trying to teach the uncouth Wilson the better ways to pull off a con. The pair have a lovely chemistry together and make the film a great deal of fun throughout.
MA has Oscar winner and nominee Octavia Spencer as a villain, leaving behind her best friend roles which she has been cast into far too often. She won an Oscar in The Help (2011) as a decent though fiery maid who is among those interviewed for a book which exposes the horrors of racism in the Deep South of the early sixties. Cast usually as the outspoken best friend in The Shape of Water (2017) or Hidden Figures (2016), she steps away from that typecasting as a dangerous homicidal woman who offers a group of teenagers her basement for play and parties. The closer they get to her, the more they realize she has been horribly abused in her past, which has turned her into a very dangerous maniac. While she smiles, there is insanity under that smile. The Help director Tate Taylor again works with Spencer and the results could be very cool.
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is another attempt to make Godzilla relevant to today’s movie goer. After the god-awful film of 1998 with Matthew Broderick running from the big green lizard in New York, I had hoped we had seen the last of him. No such luck, he’s back in a new picture battling a group of monsters. A sequel to the hit film of 2014, it continues the mayhem brought about by monsters fighting Godzilla. Has kind of a who cares vibe to it. Sorry. Did we really need another Godzilla picture?
SPIDER MAN: FAR FROM HOME sees Peter Parker off to Europe for a class trip, London specifically where he will, of course end up swinging from webs as Spider Man. Brought back to life in The Avengers: Endgame in an incredibly moving scene, Spider Man is back. Tom Holland returns as the engaging teenage super hero, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a magician who becomes an ally of the webslinger when Nick Fury recruits the kid for an assignment in London. Like all the Marvel films, this is critic proof, and a money machine for guess who? Yep, Disney. Again.
ROCKETMAN is the story of how Reginald Dwight became Elton John. After the staggering success of last years Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), which included a Best Actor Oscar for Rami Malek and three other awards, I suspect we might see several of these rock star bios. Taron Edgerton is cast in the plum role of the young man who will become Elton John, one of the greatest singers of his time. An extraordinary showman, John disappeared into the character of Elton onstage, enjoying the flamboyant costumes and bizarre eye glasses. Edgerton is said to be terrific, but we will see. This will either flop or soar. Either way it is being released in the formidable shadow of the hugely overrated Queen film.
YESTERDAY has one of the most interesting narratives I have heard in a long time and is a film I am genuinely excited about. Suppose you were a young musician about to give up on your dream, when you woke one morning to discover no one, except you, knows of the Beatles and their music. It seems they have been wiped from history. So Jack, our hero passes some Beatles tunes off as his own and before you know it, he is a major song, hailed for his song writing as much as his singing. Digging into the songbook of the Fab Four, he becomes the greatest song writer of his time, but can it last? Danny Boyle directs, could be great.
BRIGHT BURN poses the fascinating question, what if a baby arrived on earth in the same manner as Clark Kent, was raised by farmers, educated in a small town, had the same powers as the man of steel but was entirely evil. No truth, Justice or American Way for this kid, he is evil incarnate and realizes he can use his magnificent powers against humanity. Imagine having the powers of a God and knowing there was nothing mankind could do to stop you? Elizabeth Banks is the woman who adopts this monster, played with icy raw power by Jackson A. Dunn, in a terrific performance. This could be a sleeper hit, huge.
TOY STORY 4 is yet another in this years old Disney domination. My question is, how will they even begin to top the Oscar winning Toy Story 3 (2010) an instant classic and tear inducing masterpiece. Can they even come close? The plot involves Bo Beep returning to the gang, Woody and Buzz very much in charge. They have done a great job keeping the plot quiet, nearly impossible in this age of instant news. No reason to think this will not be as good as those previous, and a massive hit. Walt will be smiling listening to those box office coffers.
IT – PART II is the final chapter in the adaptation of Stephen King’s massive horror story. The first film explored the horror of the small town and how it murders the children, taking them to his lair. Penny wise, the horrific clown manifests into whatever the victim is terrified of, killing them, then hibernating several years before coming out of its long sleep. The kids in the first film sent the clown to its long sleep, but now he is awake, or rather It is awake. The kids, now grown, come home to try and end the creature. The first film was a knockout, brilliant, and there is no reason to believe this final instalment will be any less. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy headline a terrific cast, with young Bill Skarsgård back as the murderous clown.
And much more including remakes of Childs Play, Shaft, an international Men in Black, and much more, including a new X Men film.
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”