I’ve been writing most anticipated lists for quite a while now on the internet, and usually when I do so, I choose to structure the piece by selecting an equal number of films to the year that I am writing about. So if the year was 2013, I would choose 13 films for the list—14 for 2014, 15 for 2015, etc. Well, now we are in the year of Our Lord 2018, and quickly this is becoming an overwhelming enterprising. The number keeps going up, and I know that eventually there has to be a breaking point. If I keep this going all the way until 2027, for instance, am I going to really choose 27 anticipated movies to put on the list? Someday, I’m really going to have put a stop to this expansion.
…But today is not that day! A new year means a new set of films to look forward to, which means yet another list arbitrarily ranking my anticipation for them! At first, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to find 18 films to fill out the entire thing, but as always, the number of releases in the forthcoming year that have a lot of potential vastly outway the ones I can actually include on the list. My working list had like, thirty at the end of the day. Maybe I’m capable of doing the “27 Films To Look Forward To In 2027” list after all!
In any case, here’s the 18 films worth looking forward to in 2018. As always, there’s one major stipulation: all the films on this list had to have an official, confirmed release date — which means a lot of smaller indies that we suspect will be released in 2017, but have no actual plan in place for their distribution, have to get the shaft. Sorry smaller films — I have to find a way to cull the list somehow. But even if pretty much all of these are studio joints, there’s still plenty of variety amongst the selections. Take my #18, for instance…
18. Sicario 2: Soldado
Release: June 29, 2018
When Sicario 2 was first announced, I was filled with nothing but apprehension and confusion surrounding its mere existence. Why the hell does the world need a follow-up to a gritty, depressing thriller about the pressures of life of law enforcement on the border? Especially one without so many elements that made the first film great–namely, director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and main star Emily Blunt. It seemed like Sicario 2 was destined for the “forgettable sequel” bin right from the get-go. And, for what it’s worth, Siciario 2 could very well wind up in that bin anyways. That being said, the first trailer for the film was actually pretty great, and the involvement of writer Taylor Sheridan (whose three-for-three after Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River) has me hoping that there’s actual artistic merit to this follow-up. The plot synopsis raises my eyebrows a bit on that regard (MEXICANS BE SMUGGLIN’ TERRORISTS ACROSS THE BORDER), but I can only hope that the actual film will be just as fascinating–and enthralling–as its predecessor.
17. Paddington 2
Release: January 12
FUCK YEAH Y’ALL, PADDINGTON 2! IT’S THE RETURN OF THE FUCKING MARMALADE EATING, HAT BRANDISHING, JACKET WEARING BEAR MOTHERFUCKER! HELL FUCKING YEAH.
MOTHER. FUCKING. PADDINGTON. TWO.
16. The Happytime Murders
Release: August 17
I have been looking forward to The Happytime Murders for what feels like over a decade…because, apparently, it has been over a decade. This is one of those projects that has an incredibly promising concept (R-rated puppet noir in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), but just can’t seem to pick up enough steam to actually be put into production. But finally, after ten years of struggles from director Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson himself,) The Happytime Murders is a 100% real project that will likely be hitting theater screens in the next few months. I guess that’s the power of getting a big-time star involved…who, in this case, happens to be Melissa McCarthy. She wouldn’t be my first choice for the lead of a puppet comedy noir, but she can be extremely funny when given great material to work off of, so I can only hope The Happytime Murders will lean more towards Spy than it does Identity Thief. With a concept this high, the potential for failure is huge…but even just on the promise of seeing this thing actually hitting theaters, I’m very much looking forward to the film’s late Summer release.
15. Mission: Impossible 6
Release: July 27
Despite everything that would seem to be set against it, the Mission: Impossible series has been going on for nearly twenty years, and through six separate entries. And here’s the craziest thing of all: the past couple installments haven’t been worse than the first few. Heck, the series just keeps getting better and better every time, if you ask me. At this point, I’m certain the franchise as it stands is destined to have a comedown of some sort…but since that has yet to happen, I am as psyched as ever for Mission: Impossible 6. Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie did fantastic work on Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, and though it will be a little strange for a director to come back and do another Mission: Impossible (a series first), I’m interested to see if this series can wow us once again. I’ve learned plenty of time never to underestimate its potential, that’s for sure.
14. Black Panther
Release: February 16
There’s obviously a far bigger-ticket Marvel Studios’ film in the pipeline for 2018 (don’t worry, we’ll get there), but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on Black Panther. Everything we’ve seen from the project has been extremely cool, and director Ryan Coogler has the talent to really make this something special (he absolutely knocked my socks off with his last film, Creed.) To see Marvel give him the reigns to what looks to be a crazy ass Black Panther movie is extremely gratifying. Add in a crazy good cast of almost entirely black actors (Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman withstanding), and you have the makings of what should be another great Marvel origin movie. By design it likely won’t be the standout for Marvel in 2018, but it can still be one hell of a delicious, early-in-the-year appetizer for what is to come.
13. The Predator
Release: August 3
Shane Black is making a goddamn Predator movie. That alone, really, should be enough to justify the film’s inclusion on this list. And, since I still have 12 more films to get through on this list…it will be.
Release: February 23
I think Alex Garland impressed us all collectively with his directorial debut, 2014’s Ex Machina, which alone would make his follow-up worth getting invested in. But apparently, the source material for Annihilation, the novel by Jeff Vandermeer, is pretty great, and perfect for an accomplished writer/director like Garland to adapt. Add in an EXCELLENT cast of primarily female performers ( led by Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez, with a masculine dash of Oscar Isaac as the cherry on top), and Annihilation could end up being the very best science fiction film of 2018. And, to be honest, the behind-the-scenes drama only makes the entire enterprise MORE enticing. A science fiction film that tested poorly because it was too complicated for general audiences, and because it has an unsympathetic lead character? CONSIDER ME SOLD.
11. The Kid Who Would Be King
Release: September 28
We haven’t seen ANYTHING from The Kid Who Would Be King, which for some reason for a lot of films that made my list this year, is actually the norm. But my excitement for the project can be linked pretty directly to the man in charge of it: Joe Cornish, who absolutely blew me away with his directorial debut Attack the Block, and has since vanished for nearly seven years. Cornish is now back behind the camera though with this original adventure fantasy film, which tells the story of “A band of kids embarking on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace.” Vague, yes, but nonetheless enticing. Plus, Patrick Stewart. Everything’s a little bit better with a helping of Patrick Stewart.
10. Bad Times At The El Royale
Release: October 5
Speaking of secretive follow-ups to great movies from first-time directors…you probably haven’t heard about Bad Times At The El Royale. To be quite honest, I hadn’t really either, at least not until I started doing research for this list. But though there’s not a lot to work with when it comes to El Royale (“The film is set in the 1960s in a dilapidated hotel in the Lake Tahoe region in California,” says the brief IMDB plot summary), it seems that secrecy is very much the intent with this one. In fact, the Fox executives who bought the script weren’t even given paper copies of it — they had to read the thing on an iPad, and give it back afterwards. That makes me think some crazy shit is actually going on in this movie, only reinforced by my main point of excitement for the film: it’s being written and directed by Drew Goddard, who is no stranger to writing mysterious things (he wrote Cloverfield, and was a writer on Lost, after all.) And the last time he both wrote and directed a film, we got Cabin in the Woods, a genre-bending meta exercise that was also, like, the best. Will Bad Times at the El Royale (which is being fronted by the intriguing pair of Chris Hemsworth and Jeff Bridges) be able to measure up? All I know is that I’m incredibly eager to find out.
9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Release: December 14
I was incredibly skeptical of Sony making an Animated Spider-Man movie at the same time they were developing a whole new live-action trilogy for the character…but then they got Phil Lord and Chris Miller on board. That pair has yet to let me down, and seeing them put their stamp on my favorite superhero filled me with excitement. Then the first trailer for the movie was released last month, and my anticipation only skyrocketed further. This movie has the potential to be really great, even if getting an animated Spider-Man movie, big budget Spider-Man videogame, and an appearance from the character in Avengers: Infinity War all in the span of eight months seems to tilt the property to the point of oversaturation. But if any character can survive being overused in popular culture, it’s certainly Spider-Man, right?
8. First Man
Release: October 12
After Whiplash and La La Land (two films I both loved to almost equal measure), I’m fully in on the directing career of Damien Chazelle. First Man represents a bit of a different project for him (being a biopic about Neil Armstrong, I doubt it will include much in the realm of music or singing…probably), but I have to imagine there was something about the script that led Chazelle to attaching himself to the project. With Spotlight’s Josh Singer credited for the most recent version, hopefully there will be more to this project than just a simple biopic. And even if not…Astronaut Ryan Gosling? Sure, why not!
7. Deadpool 2
Release: June 1
I really, really liked 2016’s Deadpool, very close to the point of loving it. But as super fun and watchable as the original Deadpool was, I still feel like the film didn’t quite practice what it preached. Deadpool wanted to be an unconventional, strange, and abrasive superhero film, and occasionally was that. But beneath all that was a surprisingly standard superhero origin story, one that failed to be as subversive as what you would expect from a “true” film starring the Merc With A Mouth. However, my reservations about the first film are a feature for Deadpool 2, not a bug. I really believe that the original told a necessary story to get people sold on the concept, and cut certain corners that could be deemed too weird to attract general audiences. But with Deadpool being a bonefide smash, and the business of telling the character’s origins out of the way, I’m hoping the sequel will be given a lot more room to play around with, and truly embrace its weird-ass self. The bonkers teaser trailer for the film is certainly leaning in the right direction, and I can only hope the finished product will be a nutty, vulgar, and fun time at the theater. Deadpool set a strong foundation, and I am eager to see what Deadpool 2 (if it ultimately goes by that title) will do to build upon it. At the very least, having John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch on board should provide for some absolutely kickass action scenes, right?
6. Isle of Dogs
Release: March 23
Wes Anderson has created a lot of really great movies (and The Darjeeling Limited) in his over two decades of filmmaking, to the point it’s really hard to say which one is really his best. Is it one of his earlier works like The Royal Tenenbaums? Something newer like The Grand Budapest Hotel? Something, umm, weird like The Life Aquatic? I don’t even know for sure, but I know one thing: by far his FUNNEST film is Fantastic Mr. Fox. A wonderfully realized, incredibly funny piece of stop-motion greatness, Fantastic Mr. Fox is just a delightful little movie everytime I see it. From the initial trailer, it seems like Anderson’s return to the world of stop motion will be a bit more on the serious side (as serious as a Wes Anderson joint can get, I guess), but that doesn’t make his return to the format any less exciting. In fact, I’m super eager to see what Anderson will do with the wide canvas that animation allows him in bringing an original work to life. And with a cast of seemingly everyone in the world (Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johannson, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban…good lord, it’s endless), the project certainly isn’t lacking in star power. Plus, DOGGIES! STOP MOTION DOGGIES! What do you need, a roadmap?!
Release: November 16
My Top 5 most anticipated films are regretfully light on original fare, which means including this film on it should in and of itself show how much I’m looking forward to Widows. The first film from Steven McQueen since his Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave (which, jeez, came out almost five years ago), Widows also boast a script by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, which makes for one hell of a critically acclaimed pair here. Widows also has a really fresh premise, as a heist film starring the widows of a bunch of dead criminals puts a nice contemporary spin on the age-old bank robbery flick. And though many films on this list feature great casts, I would argue Widows could go toe-to-toe with any of them. Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and of course, Carrie Motherfucking Coon. Consider me very much on board for this.
4. Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
Release: November 21
Wreck-It Ralph 2 has me just based on the quality of the first film, which remains one of my favorite Disney Animated films in the modern age. As a gamer, the concept is pure catnip to me, and even putting aside all the fun little in-jokes and witty references, there was a really sweet message and relationship at the center of Wreck-It Ralph that really made it sing. I don’t know if the sequel will have quite the same emotional impact, but at least conceptually, it’s just as enticing as the original. Taking the Wreck-It Ralph characters and throwing them into the world of the internet is a genius concept for a sequel and, from what we’ve heard about the film so far, it’s only going to get more and more hilariously meta in its storytelling. With returning writers/directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston once again at the helm, I say bring it on. I’ve been game for more of this franchise ever since the final shot of the first one. And yes, that was a pun. You may stop reading this now.
Release: Sometime in 2017
Speaking of films I’ve been waiting a while for, let’s talk Duncan Jones’ Mute. The long-promised spiritual sequel to Jones’ brilliant sci-fi debut, Moon, Mute was originally supposed to be released in 2017, until Netflix rather silently pushed it into 2017. And while the film still doesn’t have a release date at this point, I’m making a slight exception and including it on this list, because A) it’s already completely done, so I have no idea why Netflix would push it any further and B) it sounds SO AWESOME, guys. Jones tackling a Blade Runner esque future noir is 100% my cup of tea, and with folks like Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux playing characters by the name of “Cactus Bill” and “Duck Teddington,” respectively, this movie could end up being a masterpiece. At the very least, it might be the type of brilliance that puts Netflix’s original movies on the map…after all, Bright sure as hell didn’t.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Release: May 4
In this list, I have tried my best to provide a variety to the overall selections, doing my darndest not to over-saturate things with just superhero films. But, ultimately, the heart wants what the heart wants…and my heart very much wants Avengers: Infinity War. Even with the slightly underwhelming teaser trailer, I am completely psyched for what is unequivocally Marvel’s most ambitious movie yet, seemingly cramming in everything to ever happen in the grander MCU, and finding a way to make it work between two huge blockbuster films. We’ve been building up to this moment for literally a decade and, at this point, it’s hard not to buy into the hype that such a build-up very much warrants. The Russo Brothers knocked my socks off twice with The Winter Soldier and Civil War, and it will be one hell of a disappointment if they fail to do it once again with Avengers: Infinity War. But I trust those two. I trust Marvel. I really feel this one is going to deliver.
1. Incredibles 2
Release: June 15
But, as always, there can only be one. And in this particular case, this one was pretty much pre-ordained from the moment it was announced, a long, long, long ten years after its predecessor was first released. But the years have only improved the strengths of The Incredibles in my mind, and made the wait for a follow-up all the more unbearable. At this point, I don’t need much of anything else to increase my anticipation: I just want to see more from this world, and these characters, and from writer/director Brad Bird. Barring Tomorrowland (which, like most of America, I try my best just not to think about), Brad has yet to really let me down, and considering how long he waited until returning to this series, I’m hoping he found the perfect story for our superhero family to get wrapped up in.
Regardless, I absolutely can not wait. After all, I already did my waiting. 13 years of it.
IN AZKABAN PRISON Writing endless articles on the internet! I NEED this movie, you guys. And, more importantly, I need it to be great. Ball is in your court, Pixar. Good luck — we’re all counting on you.
And there you have it, the 18 films I believe are worth looking forward to in 2018. Think I missed any particularly egregious ones? Well…sorry? Go complain about it on Twitter.
Also published on Medium.
Feel Free To Take The Rest of The Day Off, The John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer Is Here
The national holiday known as John Wick Trailer Day begins…now.
I love movie trailers. I know for some they find the mere act of watching a movie trailer a “spoiler” for what is to come in the final film, and look, I get it. Sometimes, there are moments and things I see in a trailer that, when I watch the full movie, I wish I could have taken back seeing. But, for me, there’s something so magical about the trailer watching experience that I can’t throw away the art form entirely. And though you might bristle at my definition of trailer making as an “art form”…eh, you’re wrong. There is a beauty to a well produced, well edited trailer, and the best ones are examples of the power that come with the form. Yes, they’re marketing, and yes, they’re sometimes scattershot, thrown together bores. But the good ones? Watching those come hand in hand with watching movies, at least from my perspective.
All of which is a long preamble to me saying that, on Youtube, I have a private little playlist of trailers for movies, TV, and video games that I absolutely LOVE. Trailers that I return to again and again and again, just because the craft that went into them is so staggering. One of those trailers is this first one for John Wick: Chapter 2, which was my first indication that “Woah, this one is going to be something special.” And it very much was! But even outside the general kickassery of that sequel, the trailer was and is absolutely delightful. So coming into today’s big release of the John Wick: Chapter 3 trailer, I had some very high hopes. Would — and could — this trailer manage to match the quantified hype levels™ that the Chapter 2 teaser put out?
Honestly, no, not quite. But the first trailer for Chapter 2 didn’t show us a FREAKING KATANA MOTORCYCLE CHASE/FIGHT, so it rather evens out, don’t you think?
And not being as masterful as the first Chapter 2 trailer ≠ being bad. In fact, from a purely technical and academic level, this trailer would probably best be described as something that, fundamentally, “fucks to the max.” You got the aforementioned motorcycle chase, which indeed fucks hard. You got the much teased “Keanu on a horse” action, which indubitably fucks. You got John Wick murdering people with a book, which of course fucks, how could you even question such at thing. And you got Halle Berry and her attack dogs joining in on all the fun, which in this franchise of course, is murdering people. Sounds like Trailer Fucks Bingo, if you ask me.
And what the trailer does so well (and what I hope the film will do well too) is amp up the tension, to an insane degree. Ending the second film on that huge cliffhanger was a brilliant move, as seeing Wick prepare in the “one hour head start” he has to get the hell out of New York before literally every hitman around comes to assassinate him makes for a heck of a sequel pitch. And the trailer plays around with that deliciously, racketing up the tension in the first half to deliver the true fireworks in the second. Set to a remixed version of the crooner tune “The Impossible Dream” by Andy Williams, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the operatic, pulse pounding remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” used in the Chapter 2 trailer, but it still makes for an interesting, exciting contrast.
And everything else about this trailer is classic John Wick greatness, from the many, MANY creative kills (seriously, that book thing) to the surprisingly crisp, exciting photography brought to life by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. Lausten took an already pretty presentation from the original John Wick and made it flat our gorgeous, and that sense of visual beauty is all over this trailer. I love action movies that take the time to actually look good, and John Wick is one of the few franchises committed to having that kind of aesthetic. In addition to the mayhem, carnage, and wacky-ass world building, of course.
Anywho, this is a great trailer, but it does little to change my overall excitement for the film — after all, it’s hard to go much farther than “PUMP THIS SHIT IN MY VEINS NOW,” right?
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (yes, this one has a subtitle, to the annoyance of SEO managers everywhere) hits theaters on May 19. And even if the first trailer is a smidge below the one for John Wick: Chapter 2, the astounding first two posters released for the film more than make up for it. BRB, clearing wall space.
“John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run for two reasons… he’s being hunted for a global $14 million dollar open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim was a member of the High Table who ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he’s “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.”
Also published on Medium.
God Damn It, Sony is Back On That Ghostbusters 3 Shit Again
“I am so freaking tired writing about Ghostbusters sequels.” – Me, in the year like Two-Thousand-God-Damn-Twelve
I thought we were passed this, you guys. I really, truly did.
After nearly a decade of writing stuff about Ghostbusters 3, I thought the release of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot (maybe subtitled Answer the Call? I don’t fucking know) signified the end of an era. All the in-fighting, fanboy hyperbole, acute sexism, accusations of sexism, controversies, cameo wrangling, and nostalgia baiting all led up to 2016’s Ghostbusters — and it all fizzled like a recently used Muon Trap. The reboot got mixed-positive reception from critics, but absolutely bombed at the box office, grossing a paltry $229 million worldwide off a budget of $144 million. After literally decades of build-up, I thought this was how the saga ended: a middling-to-bad reboot that would end up being forgotten to time, in a franchise that likely wouldn’t see the light of day for decades to come.
Oh, but don’t underestimate the folks at Sony Pictures! Apparently it only took them two years to turnaround from the failure of 2016’s Ghostbusters, wipe their hands on their jeans, and get back to work on revitalizing the series. So in a move that I can’t imagine anyone in the year of our lord 2019 asked for, we’re getting another Ghostbusters movie, completely divorced from everything set up from the last one. So another reboot, essentially!
But, no, that would be inaccurate. Because this project will be a sequel of sorts…a sequel to the original two Ghostbusters, that is. In what should have been clear from the start, but inexplicably wasn’t for the team behind 2016’s reboot, these “thirty years later” revitalizations are incredibly popular nowadays. From The Force Awakens to Creed, every series that was once popular decades ago is now being revitalized, with a younger cast indeed “rebooting” the series, but the old guard sticking around to serve as a continuation, rather than a rehash, of what came before. It’s like having your cake and eating it too: the studio gets their “new” franchise off the back of an old one, but you respect and excite fans by showing more of what they loved the first time. It’s a win-win and, quite honestly, I think the quality of these legacyquels (as Matt Singer so brilliantly coined) has been better than the standard reboot/remakes we were getting for a while there.
By going this route, franchise films can at least make a statement about their own impact, or their place in the pop culture cannon, which is a lot more than standards reboots usually do. Those end up just saying the same exact story over again, trying to tap into the magic of seeing it for the first time, but absolutely failing to do so. You know, like how the 2016 Ghostbusters did. As much as one group might like to bitch and moan about how casting women ruined everything, it wasn’t the genitals of the cast that took down Ghostbusters, and it’s absolutely insane I have to write something like that in the first place. It was the uninspired, meandering, and ultimately forgettable way Ghostbusters tried to cash in on its predecessor’s clout that ultimately did it in.
But let’s make like Sony, and forget that whole movie ever even happened: a new Ghostbusters is coming, whether you like it or not. And if you think this is just in the planning stages, or something Sony rattled off as a potential project during an investor’s meeting, think again. Because, slightly burying the lede here (that you probably read everywhere else, so forgive me for assuming you already know) is the fact this project is coming from none other than Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind Tully, Juno, and the like. He’s also the son of franchise director Ivan Reitman which, y’know, I’m sure is totally unrelated.
Anywho, he has been working on it in secret for a while now alongside Monster House writer Gil Kenan, and the project is already set to begin shooting by the end of the year for a Summer 2020 release. Still don’t believe me? Just take a look at the already released teaser for the film, reportedly done by Reitman himself, and brandishing the “Summer 2020” release in plain sight. This one’s coming folks, and coming fast.
Now just in case you needed reminding, this one DEFINITELY takes place in the original continuity — you hear that Elmer Bernstein score? Oh yeah, buddy, that’s OG shit right there. And on the surface, yeah, it’s pretty cool to ape that aesthetic. And Jason Reitman is a strong director, even if this one seems like a very strange fit for him (his films are funny, sure, but not out-and-out comedies: his sensibilities are more Sofia Coppola than Judd Apatow). But I just can’t get excited about this thing, not in a way I might have back in 2012 or whatever. After years and years of talk about further Ghostbuster films, only to get the subpar 2016 reboot, I’ve rather soured on this franchise. Unless the pitch is really strong, and the actors involved (all teenagers, from what’s been reported) are interesting, I just can’t get enthused about the prospects of Ghostbusters 3: Here We Fuckin’ Go Again.
Even worse will be the discourse around it, and the shit that stained the last one floating back up to the surface. Another round of talking about whether or not the original movie is good (it is.) Another round talking about whether Ghostbusters 2 is bad (it is, very.) Another round of needless appreciation for Paul Feig’s tepid reboot. Another round of MRA asshats whipping their dicks out and complaining about how only men can shoot imaginary beams out of imaginary packs while capturing imaginary beings in an imaginary story. Another round of well-meaning but overbearing people, in kind, giving more credit than necessary to a movie that frankly doesn’t deserve it. And another round of me whining about the discourse, whilst doing absolutely nothing to divorce myself from it.
It’s all just…so…tiring.
Like Bill Murray in another, non-Ghostbusters movie (that actually is a lot better than Ghostbusters if you think about it), I can’t help but feel I am stuck in an endless loop writing about this thing. Ten years from now? I’ll be writing about Ghostbusters 3. Twenty years from now? Ghostbusters 3. Thirty years from now? I won’t be writing about anything, what with the collapse of all life on the planet and what not. But the last thing I write before I fight in the water wars, or engage in vehicular combat for gasoline, or — most likely — drown in the rising sea levels?
Fucking Ghostbusters 3, man.
Also published on Medium.
The Crushing, Existential Sadness of The Disappointing Glass Reviews
R.I.P. Shyamalanassaince: September 2015 – January 2019.
I am eternally fascinated by the career of M. Night Shyamalan. After bursting on the scene with The Sixth Sense nearly 20 years ago, the man went on to gain an incredibly rare status amongst his directing brethren: actual name recognition! He’s one of the few directors who many people outside Film Twitter can name — up there with Spielberg, Scorsese, and Tarantino. But unlike those other directors, Shyamalan’s brand can probably be described more as “infamous” than famous, especially in recent years. The man went from the New Spielberg to a laughing stock…literally.
And well his fall from grace is, in some accord, deserved (his movies post Signs are all dire to varying degrees), I still can’t help but feel pretty bad for the guy. He went from being a huge up-and-coming talent, the next big thing in the world of Hollywood, to an absolute joke amongst critics, audiences, and his peers. It’s the classic Hollywood rise-and-fall, played out in slow motion over a twenty year period. But right when all things seemed over for Shyamalan, and he delivered for the first time something Hollywood would not allow (a legitimate box office bomb in the form of After Earth), Shyamalan attempted what few failed artists can surmount: an honest-to-goodness comeback.
And it wasn’t a sudden comeback either: Shyamalan spent years revitalizing his public image, first doing so with the surprisingly solid The Visit back in 2015. It was a return to low-budget roots for the director, and its nature as a sort of pallet cleanser for the director was very much apparent. It was a movie he seemed obliged to make to get even an ounce of his creative juices flowing again, and it turned out to be a pretty fun little comedy/horror movie to boot.
After some decent television work developing and directing Wayward Pines, Shyamalan came roaring back to life with another low budget delight, 2017’s Split. It was a film that was thrilling, funny, well crafted, and genuinely exciting. Basically, it was something we hadn’t seen from the man in damn near 15 years, and audiences took notice. On the backing of a bravado post credit scene, linking the film to his previous cult classic Unbreakable, response to the movie was incredibly promising. And remember that whole thing about Shyamalan’s Hollywood clout running out because he made a bomb? Well, Split, off a $9 million budget, made $238 million — making it a massive, massive hit. A good movie AND a hugely successful one? Yup, Shyamalan was back, and as a huge fan of his first three features, I couldn’t have been happier for him.
Now we stand a mere five days away from the release of Glass, Shyamalan’s newest feature. As a sequel to his current hit Split, and one of his past hits, Unbreakable, it serves as pretty much a crescendo for the entire man’s career. One of those “everything has been leading up to this” moments those voiceover guys are always talking about in the commercial. Glass was — had to be — the thing that solidified the Shyamalanassaince.
…And he whiffed it. Goddamn it, he fucking whiffed it.
That’s at least according to the first reviews for the film, which were released Wednesday following the lift of the film’s press embargo. To say they were incredibly mixed is an understatement. Here’s just a sampling of some of the notable ones:
‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Grounded Superhero Movie Is the Biggest Disappointment of His Career
I don’t say this often because I’m not a character in an early 90’s sitcom, but…ouch-a-rooney. Those are not pretty reviews, and are a direct return back to the critical dragging that was unleashed upon films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender. And though it would be easy to cry “Well, the critics are wrong!” here (as people on the internet often do, bafflingly)…they weren’t wrong with those last three. They were all terrible. And with Shyamalan’s track record, I’m unfortunately going to have to take the critic’s side here: by all accounts, Glass is an excruciating disappointment. And, man…what a fucking bummer.
Of course, I have yet to see film myself (I’m not special like all those other film journalists), and I remain somewhat hopeful I’ll come out on the positive side of things. But, at this point, it’s undeniable that this whole thing has put a massive dent in the pent up anticipation for the film. Since Split, it’s been a solid two years of anticipation from Shyamalan apologists like myself: we finally got the sequel we spent a decade asking for and, even better, it came in a way that seemed unique, fresh, and necessary. It wasn’t just a last ditch effort for Shyamalan to gain some clout back from his former fans. He did the work, guys! But like a drug addict who was on the op-and-up, only to suffer an insurmountable relapse, Shyamalan has fallen once more. He was supposed to be our Timothee Chalamat — our Beautiful Boy. And now we’re all very, very sad Steve Carrell.
Because, on a personal note? This has massively curbed my enthusiasm for Glass which, up until this point, was pretty sky high. I really had faith in the movie — naively, I admit — and my hype was frankly off the charts for it. I’m currently in the process of writing up my list of most anticipated films of 2019 (yeah, yeah, I’m late, whatever), and let’s just say Glass had a very high ranking amongst that list. Emphasis on the had — as much as I want to see the film still, I just can’t get excited for it like I was before the negative reviews. And I doubt I’m the only one either; this really puts a damper on the pre-release hype, as you would expect.
On my planned path to MAXIMUM HYPE, I just got done re-watching Unbreakable in the lead up of Glass‘s release. And guess what? That movie still fucking rocks. It’s slow and contemplative and weird, but it manages to engross me with every single frame. And just seeing it again made me slightly more optimistic for Glass, if anything to see these characters again. But in the back of my mind, that voice was still being cautious: “it’s going to be a disappointment. It’s very bad, apparently. DON’T. GET. EXCITED.” That voice is probably right…but also a fucking buzzkill.
And the saddest thing of all, to me, is that it seemed no one really saw it coming. Usually when a film is going to be poorly received by critics, press releases are held very close to the film’s opening weekend. You don’t want bad word-of-mouth to sour the launch, so you cut off as many people from seeing it as you possibly can. And yet, Glass screened almost two weeks earlier for critics: usually, a sign that the people involved imagined that it would be, at the very least, tolerated. Hell, when I first saw Film Twitter commenting about the press screenings, I got exciting, thinking that Universal and Shyamalan probably imagined the film was going to get great reception, and wanted to ride that buzz into the film’s launch. I mean, you wouldn’t set up a series marathon across the country a week before the film’s domestic release if you didn’t have faith people would respond well to it…right?
That’s my thinking at least, which leads to a pretty depressing conclusion: the poor response is blindsiding everyone involved. They screened the movie early because, generally, they thought that people were going to end up liking it. The fact that a majority didn’t (and, even worse, some outright despised it) probably came as something of a sneak attack. And for a director whose probably experienced that experience MANY times in his career (for better or worse, Shyamalan seemed to buy into his own hype there pretty bad for a while), for it to happen to him again right on the cusp of his grand return is probably the harshest sting of all. Or in Simpson meme:
There’s a reason why so many movies are about underdogs: everybody loves them. To see a character rise up from the bottom and make it to the top is one of the most common — yet satisfying — forms of storytelling. Even more satisfying is the “comeback kid,” someone who manages to rise from the bottom, fall from the top, and rise up yet again. It’s inspiring to know that, despite our failures, we can still succeed — and we love to see that narrative play out. But this is no movie: this is real life, and things don’t always turn out as we want them to in real life. Rocky gets knocked out in the first round. The Slumdog Millionaire beefs it on Question #1. Daniel-San gets his ass handed to him instantly. And M. Night Shyamalan makes yet another bad movie. For as much as the characters in his movies might be Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan sure as hell isn’t.
Also published on Medium.
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