Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Film Preview:

I'm going to be thirty this year. That's a terrifying thought to me, one of those goddamn millennials, forever stuck in a state of arrested development. I'm beginning my third decade on this planet and I feel like there's still so much I haven't accomplished, still so many things I've screwed up. I can feel myself getting older. I have aches and pains that weren't there before. I'm tired all the time. The hours slip away and there's always so much to do.

Even as my latest existential crisis mounts, one thing has never abandoned me: The movies. I feel myself getting older in that regard too. It's getting harder to muster enthusiasm for the constant cycle of blockbuster cinema. (Not like that will stop me from seeing them...) Yet that's just one part of the spectrum that cinema offers me. Films from all corners of the country and world beckon to me, each one offering new possibilities and experiences.

I haven't spent nearly thirty years looking up at the big screen for no reason. I love the movies and, more often than not, they give that love back. So here's ten (plus many more) movies I'm excited for in 2018. Some will disappoint, some will impress, some will probably disappear without getting made. But there's always that chance that a new favorite will emerge. So here's to this year.

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2018:

1. The Nightingale

In 2015, “The Babadook” blew me away, a terrifying and emotionally cathartic horror film that still hasn't been topped. Since then, I've been eagerly anticipating director Jennifer Kent's follow-up. And it sounds fucking amazing. Set in Tasmania in 1825, it follows a woman going on a hellish journey through the countryside, seeking revenge for her family with the help of an Aboriginal tracker.

Kent has described the movie as a brutal story, dealing with Australia's historical treatment of native people and women.  It sounds exactly like the uncompromising and emotional rending story Kent specializes in and I can't wait.

2. The Incredibles 2

And I've been waiting even longer for this one. Pixar and Disney began making unnecessary sequels to their films a while ago, with the Mouse Factory rolling out “Wreck-It Ralph 2” this year as well. Meanwhile, the only one of their films that actually cried out for a continuation remained a stand alone story.

After Brad Bird's trip to “Tomorrowland” failed to divert audiences, he finally returned to his widely beloved superhero family. The sequel will supposedly pick up right where the original left out and focus primarily on baby Jack-Jack. I have no idea if this long awaited follow-up will live up to the original. In fact, considering Pixar's diminishing returns lately, I suspect it won't. Yet the chance to see these beloved characters again is still so exciting.

3. Isle of Dogs

The last time Wes Anderson made a stop-motion directed movie, it was during a slight slump in his career. Anderson's second animated feature is coming off two of the best films of his entire career. Besides, “Isle of Dogs” has a much more interesting story than an adaptation of everyone's sixth favorite Roald Dahl book. Described as an extended homage to Kurosawa, set in a futuristic Japan, it's set on an island inhabited by intelligent dogs who are making their first tentative contact with humans in years. The trailer, gorgeous in that particular Wes Anderson-esque way, promises a quirky, dryly funny, immaculately designed, and softly melancholic experience. Whatever the outcome of this one, I'm sure they will remain good dogs.

4. Summer of '84

“Turbo Kid” appeared to be another nostalgia-baiting, tongue-in-cheek, throwback horror movie. Instead, it was a hilarious, creative, and weirdly touching genuine cult movie item. Now the same trio of directors – Fran├žois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell – have returned with a follow-up.

“Summer of '84” sounds like it will have a darker relationship with eighties nostalgia. About a group of adolescents who discover their next-door-neighbor is a serial killer, the film sounds like an especially dark take on the kids-on-an-adventure movies. This couldn't be more timely, since “Stranger Things” and “It” has led to something of a revival of this subgenre. The premise also reminds me of one of my favorite Purple Stuff Podcast episodes, which might actually be the primary reason I'm excited for this.

5. Love Child

There's no guarantee the next two entries on my list will actually come out in 2018. Considering both haven't even started filming yet, it's actually really unlikely. But this wouldn't be the first time something on my Most Anticipated list wouldn't come out for several more years. If they even come out at all.

So what's “Love Child?” It's the latest film from Todd Solondz, everyone's favorite purveyor of extreme neuroses, suburban misery, and blackly comical sexual depravity. It sounds like “Love Child” will have plenty of all three. It's a modern retelling of the Oedipal story, concerning an eleven year old boy with an unhealthy fixation on his mother, who convinces another man to seduce his mom and murder his abusive father. Penelope Cruz and Edgar Rameriz are set to star, while the key roles of the boy and the dad remain uncast. This is exactly the type of super disturbing psychological disorder that Solondz can spin into deeply humanistic and highly troubling gold.

6. Freak Shift

I'm touch and go on Ben Wheatly, really enjoying some of his films and being underwhelmed by others. His most recent film, “Free Fire,” didn't really work for me. His next project, which also hasn't started filming, sounds one-hundred percent like my kind of shit though. Wheatley has boiled the premise down to “Women with shotguns fighting giant crabs,” which is really enough to sell me. To be more specific, it's set in the future and follows a misfit team of cops hunting monsters underground. Fifties sci-fi, Paul Verhoeven, “Hill Street Blues,” “Doom,” and 2000 A.D. have been cited as influences. Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer will star and I'm super pumped for it.

7. Apostle

Gareth Evans' “The Raid” series already seems primed to be the defining action films of our time. Evans' next movie sounds like it will similarly mine a simple premise for maximum intensity. Set at the turn of the century, it'll follow a man rescuing his sister from a doomsday cult. Considering cults are a source of fascination for me, that sounds pretty cool already. Adding to my anticipation level is that Dan Stevens, hopefully returning to “The Guest” territory, will be starring. Sounds all around bad-ass.

8. Aquaman

Following the underwhelming response to “Justice League,” DC Comics' cinematic universe is still struggling to obtain their biggest rival's level of success. Nevertheless, I keep getting drawn back. There's an obvious reason for that. Simply put, Aquaman is my favorite superhero. I never thought, in a thousand years, that he would ever be getting his own movie. And yet here we are.

Despite WB/DC's less than stellar track record, there's even some reasons to suspect “Aquaman” will be good! Jason Momoa's cool dude-bro take on the character was a highlight of “Justice League.” Director James Wan has promised “funderwater adventure” and compared the tone to a classic swashbuckler story. Considering Wan's background in horror, I wonder if the Trench or some other aquatic monstrosity will appear. Mostly, it's absolutely mind-blowing to me that characters like Mera, Black Manta, Ocean Master, Vulko and Queen Atlanna will actually be appearing on the big screen. Here's hoping for the best.

9. The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

You know, I've never seen “Eastbound and Down” or “Vice Principals,” though both on our my long list of TV shows to catch up with. However, I'm a big fan of creator/director Jody Hill's “Observe and Report,” essentially a rewrite of “Taxi Driver” as a mall-set comedy. Hill is returning to features with the exquisitely entitled “The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter.”

The film's premise can't help but resonate with me personally. It follows a teenager forced to tag along with his weirdo dad on a hunting trip. Oh boy, I can relate to that concept a little too well. Considering how delightfully fucked-up Hill's antiheroes usually are, I'm preemptively declaring “Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter” the movie about my dad, though presumably with less cocaine and Foghat. Probably.

10. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Here's another sign that we are inching ever closer to the apocalypse. “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is actually coming out. I'm not even that big of a fan of Terry Gilliam but this movie's release is a momentous occasion. I'm sure you all know the story about how Gilliam has attempted to make this film at least three times over the last twenty years, only for production to be canceled due to disastrous circumstances.

Somehow, the stars have aligned and the director has managed to finally completely film a movie with this title. The premise has mutated quite a bit over the years – it's now a meta story about a filmmaker making a movie about Don Quixote, instead of the time traveling adventure originally pitched – but it's still amazing Gilliam got as far as he did. The cast is solid too. Adam Driver and Olga Kurylenko are the leads, with Jonathan Pryce playing Quixote.

There's already been at least one lawsuit to halt the current production but that seems to be resolved now. Assuming the hard drives the production company is keeping the film on don't explode or the Toddler-in-Chief doesn't start World War III, we may be watching this legendarily delayed motion picture by this time next year.

Other Upcoming Films of Note:

Alita: Battle Angel
Speaking of long delayed projects! James Cameron has been talking about adapting this relatively obscure anime to film since the mid-nineties. Since he's too busy in “Avatar” land for the foreseeable future, Cameron passed the project onto Robert Rodriguez. We've already seen a teaser trailer and “Battle Angel” looks weird, imaginative, and dynamic in its action. American adaptations of anime rarely turn out well but this has the potential to be one of next summer's biggest surprises.

Anna and the Apocalypse
Just when I think the zombie genre is entirely burned out, here comes a new take on things. “Anna and the Apocalypse” is a horror/comedy set at Christmas, a combination that always appeals to me. It's also a musical. How's that for a combination of styles? The film has already played the festival circuit and the buzz has been highly favorable thus far.

Avengers: Infinity Wars, Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp
The Marvel machine marches on. Despite generally enjoying the superhero studio's output, I'm finding it difficult to get too excited for their 2018 slate of films. “Black Panther” looks cool but the good trailers are only do so much to counteract my lack of knowledge of the character. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is probably the Marvel film I'm most looking forward to this year, as the first “Ant-Man” was a lot of fun and I'm hoping the sequel explores the psychedelic microverse some more.

Lastly, there's “Avengers: Infinity Wars,” a massive event movie acting as the culmination of the first ten years of Marvel's movies. Between the gargantuan hype and the enormous cast, I see no way for this film to be anything but disappointing. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

With the underperformance of last year's “Transformers: The Last Knight,” it seems like control of the robot franchise is finally being wrestled away from Michael Bay. “Bumblebee” is not a straight-up reboot but a eighties-set prequel, so presumably it won't be totally divorced from the nonsensical mythology of Bay's films. However, in the film's favor is Travis Knight, who previously directed “Kubo and the Two Strings,” a fantastically imaginative film. Combined with a decent cast, and we've got a shot at a “Transformers” movie that isn't totally hateful garbage.

Godzilla: Monster Planet
Toho continues to take their 21st century Godzilla series in new directions. The follow-up to “Shin Godzilla” will forego a theatrical release, going straight to Netflix. It also, in another series first, will be animated. At first, the idea of an animated Godzilla movie struck me as fantastic. That could allow the already imaginative series to go to even wilder places! The premise, a far future sci-fi tale of humanity returning to an Earth ruled by kaiju, sounded just right. But then I saw the trailer, with that ugly cell-shaded quasi-CGI animation, and all that enthusiasm dried up. Hopefully it'll be better than I'm thinking.

The latest attempt to reboot the “Halloween” franchise has more going for it than previous iterations, I'll give it that. John Carpenter seems to be more involved, beyond just rubber stamping the use of his characters, and may even compose the music, which would be really cool. I'm only familiar with David Gordon Green's stoner comedies but his more down-to-Earth films suggest he at least knows what he's doing. Say what you will about Blumhouse but they know how to get casual audiences excited for horror movies.

It's the story details that concern me about the latest “Halloween.” It's yet another reboot, in a franchise that doesn't really need anymore of those. The idea of Jamie Lee Curtis coming back is neat but the film risks the chances of simply being a retrend of “Halloween H20,” one of the better sequels. And now Nick Castle, the original Michael Myers, is reprising the role. So we're going to have a senior citizen Shape? I'm really not sure where they're going with this one.

The Happytime Murders
“The Happytime Murders” is a project that Brian Henson has been developing since 2008. It sounds like the film is finally coming out this year. Described as a sex, violence, and drug filled murder mystery that just happens to be about muppets, the film has cycled through several stars during its long developmental process. The latest actor to come aboard is Melissa McCarthy, who has a bad habit of destroying clever comedies with her overly broad mugging. That's what is keeping me from being more excited about this bonkers sounding project.

Hard Powder
Liam Neeson remains the reigning king of the Dadsploitation movie, to the point that his latest entry into the genre almost sounds like a parody. In “Hard Powder,” Neeson plays a snowplow driver seeking revenge for the murder of his son, eventually running afoul of a local crime boss. If that sounds like a typical Dadsploitation flick, keep in mind that Hans Petter Moland is directing. Moland previously made “A Somewhat Gentle Man” and “In Order of Disappearance” (the latter of which this is a remake of), both of which where somewhat sarcastic riffs on the crime genre. I'd love to see Neeson poke fun at his own image a little.

Hold the Dark
I'm very disappointed that Jeremy Saulnier, director of “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room,” didn't include a color out of the title of his latest film. In seriousness, the director sounds like he's bringing his particular brand of intense action to the man vs. wilderness genre. The film is about Jeffrey Wright searching for a missing child in the Alaskan winter, amid rumors that wolves are killing local kids. Sounds dark and intense, which is right up Saulnier's alley.

The House That Jack Built
Lars von Trier, Europe's most irrepressible provocateur, previously made “Nymphomaniac,” a five hour long movie following the history of a woman's sexual misadventures. He follows that up with “The House That Jack Built,” following the history of a man's life as a serial killer. I can't help but think of the two as companion pieces. Something about society encouraging women to be sexually submissive and wanting men to be proactive and violent. This one will presumably not be five hours long though. Matt Dillion is the titular Jack. No word on who is playing the house he builds. 

I Think We're Alone Now and Piercing
It's a good year for willowy blonde waifs having tense, solitary confrontations with men. First off is “I Think We're Alone Now.” The film follows Peter Dinklage as a recluse who welcomes the apocalypse, as a chance to have more alone time. Elle Fanning will presumably play the woman who disrupts his isolation. Yes, I'm expecting either Tiffany or Tommy Shondell to make an appearance.

After that is “Piercing,” which has Mia Wiaskowska playing a prostitute who turns the tables on an abusive john. Which reminds me of “Hard Candy.” I love switcharoo stories like that.

Incident in a Ghost Land
Pascal Laugier exploded onto the indie horror scene with “Martyrs,” a movie which managed to be more disturbing than any American torture horror films while actually being about something. Laugier followed that film up with “The Tall Man,” an uneven thriller derailed by a frustrating twist. Since then, Pascal has been pretty quiet. “Incident in a Ghost Land” is his first feature in seven years. The premise sounds like its mixing a home invasion story with something weirder. Hopefully Laugier hasn't lost any of his spark over the years.

The Kid Who Would Be King
Another director we haven't heard from in a while is Joe Cornish. “Attack the Block” was an impressive debut. Despite being attached to a few other things, Cornish has been picky with his folow-up. He finally returns with “The Kid Who Would Be King.” Sadly, the premise doesn't strike me as especially interesting. The film is described as a family/fantasy flick following a band of teenagers taking down a medieval menace. Not the most unique set-up. Hopefully Wright brings something special to the table.

The New Mutants, Deadpool 2, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix
With Disney speeding ahead the corporate oligarchy by just flat-out buying their competition, the future of Fox's “X-Men” series is in question. The buy-out couldn't have come at a more awkward time either, as the studio has three mutant themed super-flicks on the horizon. First up will be “The New Mutants.” I have zero attachment to the four-color version of this team but the promise that the film will be more horror movie than superhero movie – a promise the trailer seems to uphold –  definitely has me intrigued.

Next up is “Deadpool 2.” I don't object to anyone finding the character or his film annoying, but I was a big fan of the first “Deadpool.” The sequel is introducing some cool new characters and seems to be moving even further into the meta direction. The year caps off with “X-Men: Dark Phoenix.” I was one of the few people to really like “X-Men: Apocalypse” and am looking forward to the series going in a more cosmic direction, though this is clearly the least interesting X-film in 2018.

The Predator
For his follow-up to the amazing entertaining “The Nice Guys,” Shane Black is returning to the franchise he had a previous hand in. It's true that the “Predator” series has never had as much momentum as its sibling “Alien” franchise. The plot details we've gotten about Black's film sound like a very different take on the series. Apparently, it'll be set in the suburbs and prominently feature a young kid, played by Jacob Trembley. I won't say I trust Black implicitly but I imagine he can probably cook up an interesting take on the “Predator” formula.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
Full Moon has been pumping out “Puppet Master” movies for the better part of twenty years. While I have a certain fondness for the earlier entries, the majority of the films are terrible. “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich,” a studio-backed reboot, offers something the franchise hasn't seen in a long time: An actual budget. It's pretty sad that this will be the first time in years that a “Puppet Master” movie won't have to rely on stock footage and visible rod puppets. In addition to that, “Brawl in Cell Block 99” and "Dragged Across Concrete's" S. Craig Zahler is writing the script, suggesting this may be an extra-brutal entry in the series. The cast is inspired too, with Barbara Crampton returning to the series and Udo Kier playing Toulon, the puppet's creator.

Out of all the video games that could've gotten film adaptations, “Rampage” would not have been my first pick for an adaptation. A game solely devoted to giant monsters wrecking cities and eating toilets doesn't offer much in the way of plot. But I guess the Rock's star power can get anything greenlit. The trailer makes “Rampage” look like a lot of fun, actually. The film seems to embrace the tropes of the kaiju genre and will feature three-way combat between a giant albino ape, a huge wolf, and a crocodile. It'll probably be dumb as hell but hopefully it's fun too.

Ready Player One
Watching the trailers for “Ready Player One” feels like eating at a buffet that only serves chocolate cake. I love chocolate cake but too much of it makes me sick. Here's a movie that will throw together Chun-Li, Freddy Krueger, King Kong, the original Gundam, Chucky, the Iron Giant, Tracer, the Battletoads and probably many more characters I adore. But stringing together a bunch of random pop culture references does not make a compelling story. From what I've read, this is a memo the book's original author did not get. Steven Spielberg has woven less than grand source material into gold before. The trailers for this make it seem like he's embracing the most excessive tendencies of modern day blockbuster filmmaking. If this results in anything worth while, beyond some cool cameos and neat effects, is yet to be seen.

Slaughterhouse Rulez
I'm very fond of Simon Pegg but there's no denying that his films made without Edgar Wright tend to be less than swell. “Slaughterhouse Rulez” has Pegg re-teaming with director Crispian Mills. The two previously made “A Fantastic Fear of Everything,” a movie I actually thought was alright but many people disliked. The film's premise, about a fancy prep school thrown into chaos when a portal to Hell opens up outside, sounds highly amusing. Pegg's main boy, Nick Frost, is joining him on this ride. That's a lot of things in this one's favor. For me, anyway.

The Widow
Neil Jordan has quietly been on a good run with his last few films. I loved both “Ondine” and “Byzantium” but neither were very widely seen. For his latest, Jordan has assembled a strong cast. Isabelle Huppert plays a widow that strikes up a friendship with two teenage girls, played by Chloe Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe. The film is classified as a thriller, so someone presumably has less than friendly intentions in mind. The combination of that cast and Jordan is enough to peak my interests.

Further films I'm looking forward to in 2018 include:

The Art of Self-Defense, Damsel, Destroyer, Domino, The Endless, Gags, Hellboy, Hotel Artemis, The Irishman, Jin-Roh, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mandy, The Meg, My Abandonment, Nosferatu, Outlaw King, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Poor Agnes, Proud Mary, Revenge, Ruin Me, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Thoroughbred, and Tully.

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