BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Dennis Villeneuve has some big shoes to fill. After all, he’s following up on Blade Runner, one of the most beloved and influential science fiction movies of all time. He should fear the wrath of the fans. But if there’s anyone who can live up Ridley Scott’s vision, it is the guy who directed Arrival. It turns out, Scott intended Blade Runner to be a series of sequels and spin offs ala Dune. Let’s see if this is the beginning of something bigger.
Ryan Gosling plays blade runner K. The film has been vague about the plot, but it has something to do with him finding Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), whose been on the run for decades. If the storyline’s going with Deckard being a replicant, it seems he has been designed to live longer than 4 years. We also get a lot of stars in this film though we aren’t given much information about them. As far as we can tell, Jared Leto is playing a blind designer of replicants and Robin Wright will play K’s superior. I don’t know if there are contests and fan theories about who’s a replicant and whose human.
What does stand out is the visuals. The set designs are astounding. I hear Villeneuve is drawing inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker). For those who don’t know, Tarkovsky is known for his slow moving, philosophical science fiction films who put more emphasis on visuals than on story. His style tends to be polarizing to some audiences, but for some, his style pulls you in with his visual storytelling and haunting imagery. Villeneuve seems to be using visuals to tell the story.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT – Sean Baker made a splash writing and directing his feature debut Tangerine using an iPhone. Now he goes from the day in the life of transgender escorts to a day in the life of kids living in a cheap hotel with The Florida Project. We follow precocious 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) as she and her friends spend their summer days tossing water balloons at guests and throwing dead fish in the pool. If it’s like Baker’s previous film, there won’t be any major plotline. The film will just go through an average day. What the audience may connect to is Moonee’s bond with hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), her father figure.
BREATHE – Before he creates his motion capture adaptation of Animal Farm, Andy Serkis (Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy) makes his directorial debut with this live action biopic.
The subject of this film is Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a tea broker who became an advocate for persons with disabilities after stricken with Polio. With the help of his friend Teddy Hall, he developed a wheelchair with a built-in respirator that allowed other polio victims to live outside of the Iron Lung.
The film seems to focus on his relationship with Diana (Claire Foy), going from their courtship to their eventual marriage. You know, I’m noticing a trend of a certain kind of biopics. Since A Beautiful Mind, there is a secret genre of biopics centering around the relationship between a woman and a ground-breaking scientist struggling with disability/mental illness. The most recent one is The Theory of Everything. They all use the couple as the emotional centre of the film, showcasing their strength through their struggle. Judging by the Oscars these films have been getting, this formula seems to be working. Could this mean an Oscar for Garfield or Foy? We’ll have to wait until February to find out.
GOODBYE CHRISTOPER ROBIN – This is the story of how A.A Milne created Winnie the Pooh. Milne (Domhall Gleeson) returns from the Great War suffering from PTSD, leaving him emotionally distant. But in time, he starts to reconnect with his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) through his playtime with the boy’s stuffed animals. From this inspiration, Winnie the Pooh is born.
This film seems to follow the classic biopic tropes at first, with the early parts focusing on the bonding between the writer and his son. But it’s the second half that seems interesting, looking at the pressures of fame and its effects on Christopher Robin.
MARSHALL – Chadwick Boseman is this close to being the king of biopics. He has already gained acclaim for playing Jackie Robinson (42) and James Brown (Get on Up), and now he is playing Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Judge.
Actually, this film takes place long when he was just an NAACP lawyer. But when black servant Joseph Spell (Emmy Award Winner Sterling K. Brown) is falsely accused of raping socialite Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson) in the deep south, Marshall would defend the man in this earth-shattering case. Proving him innocent proves a big problem when the judge forbids Marshall to speak in court. So, he’s forced to rely on white attorney Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to speak for him.
If you’re getting some To Kill a Mockingbird vibes, well guess we finally know where Harper Lee drew inspiration for her story. We are certain to see first hand the racism Marshall had to go through back then. Sam also gets a taste of the racism black people were forced to endure at the time.
WONDERSTRUCK – From Todd Haynes, the director of Carol and Far from Heaven steps away from his usual Douglas Sirk-esque period pieces with Wonder Struck, a family film based on the novel by Hugo writer Brian Selznick (who also wrote this screenplay). Sure, it’s technically a period piece, but this is his first to be made for a younger audience.
At the heart of this story is two children from different time periods. First there’s Rose (newcomer Millicent Simmonds), a 12-year-old girl coming to terms with her deafness in 1927. Fed up with her austere upbringing, Rose runs away from home and heads to New York City. Fifty years ahead, we meet the 11-year-old Ben (Oakes Fegley) as he is grieving the death of his mother (Michelle Williams). He also runs away from home and heads to New York. Both their journeys lead them to New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where Ben gets help from a mysterious museum worker.
Judging by the trailer, the film seems to use contrasting styles for each story. Rose’s story is shot in black and white to fit with the period. I suspect Haynes will try to film it with as much silent as possible to both emphasize the period and put you in the perspective of a deaf girl. In contrast, Ben’s story will be shot in colour. Though there’s more emphasis of green to bring out the dirtiness of 70s era NYC. Quite fitting for the book, the film is based on, which also used contrasting styles by telling Rose’s story through drawings and Ben’s through prose.
KILLING OF A SACRED DEER – Greek satirist Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster) returns with another surreal picture, this time leaning toward the psychological thriller. He reteams with Colin Farrell, who plays charismatic surgeon Steven Murphy, who takes a troubled youth (Barry Keoghan) under his wing. But that troubled youth comes to terrorize Murphy’s wife (Nicole Kidman) and their daughter (Raffey Cassidy), forcing him to make unthinkable decisions.
I don’t know much of the plot, but considering the director, I guarantee three things:
- It’s going to get real fucking weird.
- It may get uncomfortable.
- There’s a satirical undertone to it.
It’s also guaranteed to be a unique experience.
PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN – Boy was this film lucky to have been released now. With Wonder Woman being a film sensation, now is the perfect time to tell the story of the man who created DC’s greatest superheroine.
Man is this guy fascinating. Believing that women should rule the world, Wonder Women creator Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) brought us the ultimate feminist icon. He practiced what he preached when he and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) developed a threesome with fellow student turned academic Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). He was also a bondage fetishist, which seeped into a few comics. He also invented the lie detector test. If you want more details, you can read the Secret Life of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. Or you can watch this movie.
THE SQUARE – We finally get to the Palme D’or winner of the year. From Roben Ostlund, the director of Force Majeure comes this satirical look at the world of modern art.
As curator of a modern art museum, Christian (Claes Bang) makes it his mission to bring out the most current and boundary pushing artwork. He hopes artist Lola Arias will deliver with her exhibit “The Square.” It’s essentially a giant glowing square in front of the museum people can stand in. As you can guess, things don’t go well.
The trailer reminds me of Federico Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita. The Square seems to have a similar stylistic vibe as Fellini. I also suspect the film won’t have a straightforward storyline, but a series of vignettes looking at Christian’s various misadventures in his life.
We also get some stunning visuals. I’ve been to major art museums in both New York and London, and from what I’ve seen in the trailer, the film perfectly captures the environments. You can imagine the Square being a real-life exhibit.
SUBURBICON – When you get to work on a screenplay by Coen Brothers, you just can’t say no. Originality is guaranteed from Joel and Ethan Coen, who always put a spin on the typical genre trope. Even when it’s not directed by them, their trademark twist still seeps through some story elements. No matter how weak the film is, you always get something a little bit refreshing. Anything created by the Coen Brothers is an event you want to watch.
George Clooney, not so much. By that I mean George Clooney as a director. He’s an extraordinary actor with charisma few actors have. But as a filmmaker, he is hit and miss. For every good movie he makes (Confession of a Dangerous Mind, The Ides of March), he brings us something mediocre (Leatherheads, The Monuments Men). I hate to say this, but none of his films are that special. With the possible exceptions of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, you don’t hear people talk much about his films years after they’re release. The Coen Brothers films are special movies that people still talk about. But if there’s anyone who can adapt a Coen Brothers script, it’s Clooney. Having worked in a few Coen Brothers films (Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Burn After Reading), he seems to share their sense of humour. So, he’d be perfect to direct a black comedy written by the two indie legends.
Gardner (Matt Damon) seems to be living the perfect suburban life as the perfect husband and the perfect father. But he finds his perfect life upended with a home invasion that ends with the death of his wife. As usual, there are dark secrets underneath the white picket fence facade. Turns out Gardner might be in debt to the mob. When they come back for further threats, Gardner finally snaps and beats a mobster to death. With another Mobster (Oscar Isaac) blackmailing him and the cops at his feat, Gardner will do whatever it takes to protect his perfect life.
The film certainly has the dark humour of the Coen Brothers. It’s especially noticeable with the image of Gardner casually eating a sandwich while covered in blood. Plus, it seems like the most fun film Clooney’s ever directed.
 Arguably, he’ll be known more as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
 Though I think The Ides of March deserves more attention.