18 December 2018

Coming this Christmas! Sherri Bobbins, Miami Man, Bumblebee Prime

We've been in a black hole all Fall, and in the process missed out on some great previews. The latest crappy Harry Potter movie that's trying to be a thing. An animated Grinch that seemed to direly miss the point. Another Creed. Another Ralph. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) that I can't figure out was good or bad. Another Robin Hood movie for some reason lol. And a Spider-Man animated film that is actually pretty amazing. Oh, Mortal Engines (2018), haha man that looked stupid.

This "Road to a Blockbuster" column has been going strong for a while here at Norwegian Morning Wood - I suppose we just wrapped up a month's worth of critical introspection with a few quick lines. There's your Fall Blockbuster season. It was pretty rough. But we need to dig a little deeper for a bunch of releases scattered across this week and the Holiday Season! Let's dive in!

Sherri Bobbins Returns
I've been singing you songs all day I'm not a bloody jukebox

Even as a kid I could not give less than a flip about Mary Poppins (1964). Maybe it was just the weird way everyone was totally okay with this random magic chick popping in and zapping everything. Something never sat right with me. Young Dick van Dyke is pretty amazing and although I'm more a fan of Blonde Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music (1965), her role is certainly iconic here. The movie is significant enough that other movies are made about making this movie. That one-two punch for Julie Andrews is actually damned amazing.

So we have Mary Poppins Returns (2018) which is really just the latest in a long line of Disney re-hashes in their bid to take over the world. Like, none of these movies are good. Except The Jungle Book (2016), that was actually super underrated. These are worse than superhero movies taking over. It's totally derivative. Returns is at least some attempt at continuing the story, but I get the impression that it'll drip nostalgia and fan service in the cringiest way. I have no interest in settling in for a warm fuzzy trip down memberberry lane, especially when I don't even like the original source material.

I'm not sure exactly why that is. I usually enjoy musicals and I'm a big fan of silly cute animation. Mary Poppins just always feels so smug and I hate winking at the audience. In the end I'm too cynical for the cheer she brings to the little children. But seriously, she's like a witch, right? She probably fucking eats these kids.

All that said, the crew behind this is pretty good. Emily Blunt is very reliable and she pairs this with A Quiet Place (2018) to have one of the stronger 2018s. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer are great additions along with some classic actors like van Dyke, Angela Landbury, and Julie Walters for some reason. Gotta appeal to the crowd who actually saw the 1964 flick in theaters I suppose. Director Rob Marshall is also a real safe pick for the modern musical. It's also got Lin Manuel-Miranda who I'm just totally over. I mean, he's okay but everyone thinks he's the greatest artist of the century. He's the epitome of New York Bubble. Drives me crazy. It ought to be clear that I'm not that into this and will totally skip it.

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy

We've also got Aquaman (2018) in a few days. First in Entourage and now real life! Word is this movie is just bonkers and insane and makes no sense in all the best ways. Somehow Jason Mamoa and Aquaman are perfect casting and this could be one of those few great DCEU films.
As long as he's surfer bro we're gonna be fine

I stay up late at night wondering what is going to happen to this crappy cinematic universe. What kind of world do we have where Batman and Superman movies fail and the Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies knock it out of the park? So much of this rides on casting. The MCU largely works because the three leads of Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth just own each of their roles. Affleck was never right and while Cavill could have and should have been a great Superman, Synder really wasted him. Gadot and Mamoa, it's up to you.

Director James Wan is more famous from horror films and Furious 7 (2015), otherwise known as the second-best Fast and Furious movie. He's already proven to be a great, conscientious, and marketable director, and a cast rounded out by Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, along with Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Willem Dafoe (is that all for real?) makes an intriguing picture, even if it's totally just the exact film as THOR (2011) but underwater. Who cares, I liked THOR. Also Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta who totally has the exact bomb-ass helmet and laser eyes from the comics and Superfriends TV show. I'm so pumped about Black Manta. That to me just shows that Wan's sensibilities are in the right place.

Ultimately Aquaman caps off an incredibly competitive Superhero year, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) which literally just happened. I think it can stand on its own, but it's not going to bust through any records. Disney is pretty bold in not backing down from Mary Poppins Returns' release date, but also totally right that they'll come out ahead.

Bumbletron

Competing most directly for dumb male butts in seats is Bumblebee (2018), the first of what we can only hope to be many Transformers stand alone spin-off films. The trailer got a lot of hype, I didn't much care because these movies are so bad, but this is also the first non-Michael Bay movie, so there's hope! Sweet Primus there's hope.

It's a paired down flick featuring, to our knowledge, just the Yellow Autobot Bumblebee and I guess the Decepticon Blitzwing? Bumblebee teams up with Hailee Steinfeld, who is awesome but hasn't quite matched her work in True Grit (2010) against both that jerk and John Cena, who I hope punches through a wall or something. Reserved WWE Films The Marine (2006) and 12 Rounds (2009) John Cena is not great. Insane Blockers (2018) and Sisters (2015) John Cena - now that's something I can get behind. He works best as a meme, people.

Anyway, this has been getting good reviews, but for a Transformers movie that's like being the smartest kid with down syndrome. At best we already got perfection with this "Kid befriends Space Robot" in The Iron Giant (1999) and a surprising amount of other movies. As franchises mature, though, and folks realize that something like Age of Extinction (2014) is past its Optimus Prime and over the top, yet STILL make a movie worse with The Last Knight (2017), it's nice to see the powers that be try something new. This has worked well with the X-Men franchise which long ago got tired of making the same X-Men movie and started doing period pieces, comedy pieces, lone gun westerns, and psychological horror movies (in addition to you know, also the same crap). I'd like to see where this goes.

At any rate it gives me an excuse to watch one of my favourite videos ever. Long live Oreobot! I mean, if they don't play John Cena's theme during every single explosion they've really missed out on a golden opportunity here.

There really is something beautiful about not even remotely trying to hide your product placement. Or male gaze for that matter. Michael Bay is not deceptive. Deceptivecon. Moving on.

Second Act

I don't know what this is. Jennifer Lopez is someone who gets fired and steals someone's identity or something? I half-watched the trailer. I think I have the just of it.
Haha, alright, cool.

First of all, there's a lot of "Woman YOUR age" jokes, which I think are supposed to land except that Jennifer Lopez turns 50 next year and totally looks 30. That ends up being a rough call on women who absolutely look great for their age. They should have cast someone who has aged horribly. Leah Remini is a year younger and right there!

There's actually a bit of madcap humour here and Migo Ventiglia or whatever is really rocking that This is Us moustache everywhere he goes I guess. This is not terrible counter-programming for old women who don't want to see any of the crap I listed above and to be honest, it's like #2 on movies on this list that I'm interested in right now.


Welcome to Hell

Or Marwen. Marwen, need to get that right. This looks terrible. Just truly awful. Steve Carell is some PTSD survivor living out his fantasies through puppets or something. I think it's problematic at best that he fantasies women in his life as objects for him to play with and control his destiny and at worst it's... well, probably that. Robert Zemeckis is one of our greatest directors ever for everything he did in the 80s and most of the 90s, but damn has he fallen down the shitstorm rabbit hole. I'll give him credit for maintaining a drive to make really weird animated stuff, but his sense of story and mass appeal has gone out the window. It's not great.

Surecock Holmes

There's a nice callback for long time readers. I've avoided everything here. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are Holmes and Watson - done, I'm in, it'll be great. Probably. For some reason Sherlock has been done to death lately, on literally every level - period movies with Downey, Jr, modern-day stuff with Cumberbatch, and that one with Lucy Liu on CBS that no one cared about. Arthur Conan Doyle's creation is still really popular, who knows why. I suppose it's just public domain and it's easy to reproduce the beats with really simple notes to go on without being so specific as to offend any serious fans. Easy as that. Hopefully this is funny or something.

Vice

Adam McKay's takedown of Dick Cheney really appealed to Golden Globes voters and could make a splash with the Academy. I didn't think The Big Short (2015)'s method of parceling out fast-paced, "you don't really need to understand these crooks" method of storytelling really worked, but individual scenes work incredibly well. McKay is still a phenomenal director and I'm curious how he does with the bio pic, especially for a figure no one really likes.

The cast is top to bottom amazing, from Christian Bale to Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Amy Adams, Alison Pill, Eddie Marsan, Lily Rabe, and Tyler Perry for some reason. I'm disappointed that Tyler Perry is making another appearance in a non-Tyler Perry film that's not randomly in Star Trek (2009) or his ridiculously good work in Gone Girl (2014). Haha, I forgot Alex Cross (2012) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016). Tyler Perry's non-Tyler Perry work is insane.

I digress. This ought to be fun.

That about wraps it up for the year. What are you looking forward to seeing in December?

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