Here’s a little data point for y’all: on our recent podcast of the most-anticipated spring films, Rob, Carrie and myself named 12 different films, and exactly half of them are set to come out in March (this is, to be fair, due almost entirely to me). So a big month, and yet almost all of the U.S. wide releases look pretty damn desolate, in my eyes. Ah well, it is still the bleary opening months of the year.
I cannot, to save my life, get a bead on Red Sparrow. First I thought it was going to be horrible, then I started to get excited, then some of the reviews bummed me out, then some other reviews made me curious. It does, at the least, seem like a thriller about Soviet sex spies has a lot of individual ways to go bad, and I’m not a Jennifer Lawrence partisan. Anyway, it should be interesting to talk about.
A packed weekend, and my sense is that at least one of the planned wide releases ends up getting a technically “wide” but still pretty underwhelming 800 theaters, or something like that. Because only one of these looks like it can possibly make a dent at the box office, that being Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. I’m not the target audience here – insofar as “fan of the book” seems to be distinctly not the target audience – so to hell with me or whatever, and I do think it’s worth rooting for director Ava DuVernay in general, but the trailers look unbearably tacky and garish, and not in a fun a way. In a “this is the one box-office flop Disney has per year” way. In a, dare I say it, Tomorrowland way.
For enthusiasm, however muted, I instead turn to The Strangers: Prey at Night, the apparently in-name-only sequel to 2008’s The Strangers, which looks like it does more or less exactly the same things. And those things were, as I recall from 10-year-old memories, rather impressive and scary. So I’m letting myself be… not optimistic, but more interested than I typically would be for a March horror release.
Leaving us with a pair of absolute nothings to round out the wide release schedule: weather-based crime thriller The Hurricane Heist, and Gringo, a film about which I have seen and heard nothing, despite it starring David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, and Charlize Theron.
In limited release, things look a little better; while I suppose that Golden Globe nominee The Leisure Seeker is terrible, bland, and forgettable, the 2017 Sundance indie Thoroughbreds looks like it might have the right kind of nasty attitude. And as for the satire The Death of Stalin, directed by The Thick of It co-creator Armando Iannucci, that just looks great, plain and simple.
Since I’m not remotely excited for any of these, I suppose I might as well give pride of place to Love, Simon, a coming-out romantic dramedy that made Carrie’s most-anticipated list. The other candidates are, after all, a new adaptation of Tomb Raider, and a biopic about the writing of a very famous Christian rock song I have only ever heard of because my theater was obsessively playing the trailer a month or so back; both film and song are titled I Can Only Imagine. What can only be imagined is left as an exercise to the reader.
My standard for these posts is to foreground the wide releases first and only mention limited releases second, if at all, but fuck it: Isle of Dogs looks marvelous, with a strange quasi-apocalyptic premise and the same fussy dollhouse aesthetic of Wes Anderson’s last stop-motion animated feature, 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s not just my most-anticipated film of the month (and the first quarter), it’s high on my list for the whole year.
As for the rest of a very full weekend, the best we can say is that it is diverse. Over here is a sequel that I can’t imagine too many people actually wanted (outside of audiences in China, maybe), Pacific Rim Uprising; over there is an inspirational religious biopic, Paul, Apostle of Christ. Somewhere in the middle is Midnight Sun, which appears to originate from the idea “what if we did Everything, Everything again, only now the dreadful disease is just a quirky, somewhat easily-overcome inconvenience?”
Special attention must be paid to Sherlock Gnomes, an unnecessary sequel to make Pacific Rim Uprising look like the most sober-minded & bankable idea in the world. And lastly, and I hope not least, is Unsane. Steven Soderbergh directing a psychological horror film gets me in the door; Steven Soderbergh shooting an entire film on an iPhone means that I am cautiously walking through that door, rather than running. And there had goddamn well better be more to it than “she’s trapped in an asylum – is she ACTUALLY insane?”, because we have all seen that movie before, and if there’s nothing else here, it makes the iPhone thing seem like even more of a gimmick.
So, I get that The Post was just a couple of months ago, and that really should have taught me never to doubt Steven Spielberg again, but I am really super not feeling Ready Player One. Rob is, though. So we’ll see who’s right.
You know what I am super feeling, and this is absolutely not even me being a little ironic, is the third team-up between writer-director Tyler Perry and Taraji P. Henson, Acrimony. Their second (and Henson’s only other leading role in a Perry film), I Can Do Bad All By Myself, is both my favorite Perry film and his one genuinely excellent movie, so that’s enough to get me a little excited; and then it turns out to be rated R? Now that’s a surprising mix of filmmaker and content, and it’s enough to get my sufficiently excited that I’ll be genuinely disappointed if this is just a Tyler Perry film comme une autre.
Also: God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, which will undoubtedly find God once again being contested by some authority, though with both the university system and the courts having been dealt with in previous films, I’m not sure what’s left. The film involves a church burning down; could it be that God gets turned down by the insurance companies.
On a brighter note, Andrew Haigh’s latest feature, Lean on Pete, shows up in limited release, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s to trust Andrew Haigh.