It’s obviously impossible to start judging a movie year when it’s not even a quarter of a year over yet (we have to at least make it to the end of the Cannes film festival), but even by the standards of January and February, 2020 feels like it’s been off to a rough start. And I’m aware that I have a lot of February to catch up with yet (I’ve been fearsomely sick), but something tells me that I’m not missing on any diamonds in the rough because I haven’t gotten around to Fantasy Island or Downhill yet. Anyway, I bring this up because March seems to be hugely unlikely to reverse this trend – but please, if it looks like I missed something, call it out in comments. I need hope.
That hope might, once upon a time, have come in the form of a new film from Pixar Animation Studios, but that company had a pretty dispiriting decade, and I can no longer bring myself to screw up my enthusiasm just because of their branding anymore. And even so, Onward looks particularly drab, with a high concept that looks to be both too much and too little simultaneously. It’s offbeat and potentially fun to have a high fantasy world turned into a boring, everyday setting; it’s peculiar and needlessly particular to have it be the late ’70s in that fantasy world, for some reason. Anyway, Bright shat that conceptual bed for at least another few years. It is probably not the case that this is the least-excited I’ve ever been for a Pixar movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s the least-excited I’ve ever been excited for a Pixar movie that does have the word Cars followed by a numeral in its title.
Counter-programming: Ben Affleck plays an alcoholic high school basketball coach in The Way Back, and I steadily refuse to believe that Affleck has reached the “coach in an inspirational sports movie” phase of his career. And yet here we are.
In limited release, Kelly Reichardt’s latest, First Cow, makes its commercial bow after a very well-received festival run. I’m trying not to get too excited for a movie that I almost certainly won’t have a chance to see in theaters, but it’s so far and away the most appealing-looking movie opening in the United States this month that I feel like I have to at least mention it.
What’s weirder than a biopic about a Christian rock song? A second biopic about a Christian rock song, but here comes I Still Believe to remind us all that there is an entire ecosystem of films and film viewers who exist entirely outside the ken of this website and everybody reading it.
That’s arguably the strangest wide release of a weekend that simply reeks of stuff getting dumped in a panic – it’s one of those marvelous grab-bags where it seems like every single release has a roughly equal chance of winning the weekend box office or making about $5 million for its entire run. For example: the delayed My Spy, which finds Dave Bautista reaching the “make a vile-looking children’s comedy” stage of his career, an important rite of passage for every big muscly wrestler or weightlifter type trying to make a play as a comic character actor. But this is one is rated PG-13, for some reason, which makes it hard to imagine how many of the children in question are going to show up. Speaking of meaty actors, Vin Diesel (whose children’s comedy was The Pacifier way back in 2005) is also on-hand with Bloodshot, a movie about a government supersoldier learning the truth about his evil handlers, and it is the most generic late-’90s/early-’00s sounding thing I can imagine. It is apparently based on a comic book; given Diesel’s affection for nerd properties, I suppose it is even a comic book that has been well-received, though I have never heard of it.
Given all of this, I will at least hold out the hope that The Hunt will at least be interesting;. Or at least interesting enough to justify the amount of agony it has caused, though given how much it looks like a slightly funnier Purge movie, I confess that my hope is slender and feels not long for this world.
Given that the only thing worthwhile about A Quiet Place was a gimmick that appears to have been shelved for A Quiet Place, Part II, I cannot fathom having the remotest desire to see it. Like, I’m actually more excited for the Dave Bautista kiddie flick. But whatever, they don’t make films for me.
Given that Disney is an unalloyed force for evil in the universe right now, I hate to give them credit for anything, and these dreadful, soul-sucking live-action remakes of their animated films least of all. But, I have to concede that Mulan looks like it has some things that none of these have had yet: actual cinematography, actual production and costume design, and an actual director riding herd over all of it. And I will say that, while director Niki Caro has done a lot to squander the goodwill I had for her back in the mid-2000s, cinematographer Mandy Walker, production designer Grant Major, and costume designer Bina Daigeler are all people who should inspire at least some, or even a great deal of confidence. And so here I am, mildly excited for a Disney live-action remake. I am disgusted with myself, and you should be also.