We’re two months into one of the weakest years for box office in recent memory, though that’s about to change in a huge way. Quality-wise, though? I have my doubts, give or take a pair of genre films that look, respectively, gloriously trashy and just plain good. It’s a scrawny-looking sort of a month: only eight wide releases across five weekends, at least two of which are transparently just getting burned off. After the banner year of 2018, I’m starting to feel like 2019 is coming back to earth, and it feels a little bad.
Here comes gloriously trashy: Greta, in which Isabelle Huppert is a creepy stalker who plays surrogate evil mom to Chloë Grace Moretz. “Isabelle Huppert is a _____” is a surefire way to get me excited for anything, and the fact that Neil Jordan, of all people, is responsible for this one is a nice bonus. I suppose there’s no real chance that it will be good, but high camp is good enough for this time of year, right?
Elsewhere, A Madea Family Funeral is allegedly going to be the last film starring Tyler Perry’s magnificently irritating grandma, and that’s a bit hard to believe. Though it has certainly become clear that Perry is bored out of his mind by the character. So let’s go with it, and thus we’ve got ourselves a proper end of an era. It’s almost even a little sad.
The latest in a long history of documentaries about the Apollo program, Apollo 11, starts its limited release, and by all accounts, it’s got some of the best footage that this particular subgenre has ever seen. So I’m in, whenever the hell it presents itself in my part of the world.
Captain Marvel is coming out, and I cannot even pretend that I care. Definitely not ready for weaponised ’90s nostalgia yet, no sir.
In as clear-cut a case of “why bother scheduling anything in week 2 of the Marvel movie” as you could hope to find, the wide releases consist of Wonder Park, some unfathomably random-looking cartoon about the power of imagination, and Five Feet Apart, a new “teens with fatal diseases in love” picture. But all is not lost! Jia Zhangke’s new film, Ash Is Purest White, starts its limited release run, and how can we possibly be anything but excited for the new Jia Zhangke film?
There’s only one film of note coming this weekend, but it looks like enough to redeem the whole sodden mess of a month. It’s time for Jordan Peele’s second film as director, Us, and it comes on the back of one of the best trailers out there right now. How much of that is entirely due to the phenomenal use of music, I can’t rightly say; but I can with great enthusiasm declare that I rarely to never get as disquieted by a horror trailer as this one. It’s hard to see this one tripping over itself in the same way that Peele’s fun but frustrating debut, Get Out, did; that ultimately proved to be “just” a Blumhouse thriller, and Us already looks more stylish and artfully weird than that movie ever did. I mean, if all it had was those shots of bunnies, I’d be more than slightly curious, and it obviously has much more than bunnies.
And no sooner does that ray of sunshine come along than it gets snuffed right out again. The better of the weekend’s two releases, will probably be Dumbo, but mostly by default. It has a lot stacked against it: these Disney live-action remakes have gone from “cute” to “unbelievably dire”, and this one is literally twice the length of the exquisite original animated feature. It’s also coming to us from the mind of Tim Burton, as the trailer so eagerly points out, which would be a bigger selling point if Burton hadn’t been churning out such dismal trash for most of the 21st Century – more than half of his career at this point. Yeah, it looks pretty fucking awful-
-and yet, does it look better than Unplanned, the story of a Planned Parenthood clinic director who is told by Jesus to stop abortions? Yes, I think that yes it looks much better than that.