One of the most mournful summer movie seasons of the modern era is now behind us, and we’re zooming towards prestige movie season. Ah, but there is a trick: we still have to survive September, the month where all of the Oscarbait that the studios know is going to suck gets burned off. Given how underpopulated this particular September is – only seven wide releases are on the calendar for North America! – maybe that means the Oscarbait performed to expectations this year. Or maybe it’s just that cinema is dying. Anyway, as we hear about all the wonderful films playing at Venice and Telluride and Toronto, here’s what we mere civilians are going to get to pick from:
At least the month is going to start big: two years after It set all kinds of wild records on the first post-Labor Day weekend, It: Chapter Two is looking to do more of the same. We’ll see how that turns out. Notwithstanding how good the trailers have been for the new movie – and they have been excellent – there are two things keeping my enthusiasm firmly clamped down: the first is the 169 minute running time, which is simply asinine for a horror movie. The other is that all of the good material from the book has already been used up, and it was anyway pretty clear from the moment the project was announced that the film that got saddled with all of the adult material was going to be a massive step down from the one that just got to show the characters as kids.
But the trailers are really damn good.
I can think of no clearer demonstration of what I meant in that first paragraph when I talked about the Oscarbait that sucks getting burned off than The Goldfinch. Let us be extremely clear what we have here: a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been turned into a movie. That movie has Nicole Kidman in the cast, and it was shot by Roger Deakins. The director’s last film was a Best Picture Oscar nominee. If this was any good, it would be coming out in New York and Los Angeles in the last week of November or the first week of December, and getting a wide release the second week of January. Period. And I mean, if it was any good. If it was only as good as “the movie sucks, but Kidman is amazing”, it would be getting that release. So we must therefore assume that this is complete, unwatchable garbage; and 149 minutes of it, too! What fun!
Comparatively, Hustlers, in which Jennifer Lopez leads a gang of strippers who are trying to con money out of 1%-er clients, seems like it’s probably going to be a pretty safe bet.
To the surprise of nobody who follows my work, I’m jumping-out-of-my-seat excited for Rob Zombie’s new 3 from Hell, sequel to House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, getting some kind of not-actually-a-release for three days. I will be no fun at all if this one isn’t good, for the very peculiar Rob Zombiefied definition of “good”.
Here’s where I hope my “failed Oscarbait” prediction is wrong, and instead we’re getting a “too weird to know what to do with it” release. Ad Astra looks amazing, a perfect continuation of the hyper-real space movie cycle that has been cropping up the past few years. Plus, it has its own cluster of major actors, and a critical favorite director, in the form of James Gray (whose work I generally find unengaging, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed here). So why not October – why not Gravity‘s exact release weekend? Because it is a confounding art film, I will continue to hope, right up until I can’t hope it any more.
No question at all why Rambo: Last Blood got a September release. It is the quintessence of an early-autumn movie, the kind that dads will seek out no matter where in the calendar it falls, and non-dads will never ever see. At a minimum, I think the chances for this to be the second-best movie of its franchise are decently high.
Lastly, I have not at any point officially announced this, but I’ve set myself the goal of seeing every wide-release film of 2019 (that is, anything that plays for at least one week in 600 or more theaters) before 2019 ends. Not reviewing them you understand; a lot of the forgettable junk from the winter and spring I’ve been renting on DVD, sullenly sitting through, and then moving on. The point being, when Downtown Abbey: The Movie got promoted from limited to wide release about two weeks ago, it made me extremely sad.
Hey, a cartoon, it’s my job to care about those. Nothing about Abominable looks in and of itself interesting (though the very self-serious violin cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in the trailer is at least odd enough to catch my attention), but I am extremely curious about the film’s existence in the international marketplace. Basically, DreamWorks Animation, which has been looking for every possible way it can to save money while still turning out interesting products, is making a Chinese co-production, with the Chinese industry presumably hoping that this will finally be the one that gets a Chinese animated feature some kind of traction in the rest of the world. I doubt that it will, but this fall is completely dead for family films, so perhaps we will be surprised. Anyway, it will be fun to pick it apart from an industrial standpoint, if maybe not aesthetically.
The limited release that officially kicks off actual Oscarbait looks to be Judy, a Judy Garland biopic starring Renee Zellweger. Or, not to be a stick in the mud, you could just go watch a Judy Garland movie. The Pirate is good, if you haven’t seen it.