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It’s no secret that Hollywood is running out of ideas. Just about everything that comes out these days is based on something else in one way or another. That doesn’t mean every film is bad, it just means there aren’t a lot of films featuring original stories or characters. Because those don’t have a built-in audience, so who knows? Maybe nobody at all would go see them! At least, that’s the logic those executive types use. But most actual filmmakers know better, and there are a number of movies coming out later this year attached to no existing franchise. Here are five that I’m personally looking forward to.
Okay, this one is tied-in to a theme park area, but cut me some slack. It was originally going to be called 1952; it was retitled later, Mouse’s orders. But anyway, it’s been a while since we’ve had an optimistic, upbeat science fiction movie. And this looks to be exactly that: the trailers we’ve gotten show a girl named Casey (Britt Robertson) finding a mysterious pin. She picks it up, only to be instantly transported to a strange, futuristic place and time called Tomorrowland. The director is Brad Bird, who can do no wrong, and has already had extraordinary success with retro-style SF in “The Iron Giant.” It’s also being co-written by him with David Lindelof, who has…problems, but the influences he’s cited, such as Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, have reassured me for the moment. Every bit of information I hear about this movie makes it sound more fun and less cynical. From Wikipedia: “[Starring] George Clooney as Frank Walker, a grizzled inventor.” A grizzled inventor! When was the last time we had an honest-to-Glob, unironic grizzled inventor? That alone makes this worth being exited for.
Some of director Tarsem’s recent projects have had mixed reception. But he did direct The Fall, a visual masterpiece, and a triumph of old-fashioned, no-CGI, shoot-in-over-20-different-countries filmmaking. And it looks like while he still has that ambition, he’s channeling it into something very different this time around: a thriller based on an smart, Nolan-esque premise. The film will focus on a billionaire who is terminally ill, but is effectively able to begin buying immortality: through an experimental, underground procedure called “shedding”, he is able to inhabit the former body of a younger, healthier man. But he begins to experience flashbacks body’s previous life, slowly revealing the disturbing cause of how he died in the first place. In the right hands, this could be a fascinating ride, and while Tarsem’s reach may sometimes exceed his grasp, this looks like exactly the sort of film where he can show some restraint, and I can’t wait to the see the results.
3. Inside Out
Yeah, one more shill for Team Rodent. It used to be that Pixar was the one studio you could count on to deliver a new set of characters every time out. Four sequels later, that assurance is gone. But Inside Out is the most interesting project they’ve announced in a long time. This film is set to take place mostly inside the mind of a little girl named Riley. That’s about as conceptual as children’s media gets. Apparently, most of the main characters are the girl’s conflicting emotions: Amy Poehler will voice Joy, Mindy Kaling will voice Disgust, Bill Hader will voice Fear, Phyllis Smith will voice Sadness, and Lewis Black will voice Anger. I’ll repeat that last one: Lewis Black is going to be playing the personified concept of Anger. There hasn’t been casting like that since Raquel Welch played Lust in Bedazzled. All in all, there’s a lot to look forward to, and if Pixar delivers like they usually do, then it won’t disappoint.
4. Crimson Peak
A return for Guillermo del Toro to the genre that got him started, Crimson Peak is a supernatural horror film set in rural England in the 19th century, where a young author (Mia Wasikowska) discovers that there is more to her new husband (Tom Hiddleston) than meets the eye. In almost all the promotion for the film, though, del Toro has focused less on the plot and more on the tone and feel of the film, describing it as “…classical Gothic romance ghost story…,” though he says it will also feature scenes “…that are really, really disturbing in a very, very modern way.” Also, it will be a definite R. So, basically, the opposite of everything that makes most current mainstream horror films suck: no found footage, no sterilized violence, and more emphasis on atmosphere and tension than jump scares. We had another haunted house movie that flew in the face of now-standard horror conventions last year in Jennifer Kent’s masterful film The Babadook, but where that film experimented, Crimson Peak looks to be firmly set in the tradition of the Gothic horror story; and it’s about time that got a revival.
5. Hail, Caesar!
At this point, anything the Coen brothers do is worthy of feverish anticipation. But it’s been a long time since they did a comedy, which makes this latest project a bit more special, since as we all know, Coen brothers comedies are the cosmic staples that hold the universe together. Hail Caesar! will be set in Hollywood in the fifties, focusing on a fixer trying to discover what happened to an actor who disappeared during the filming of a movie called “Hail, Caesar!” I know what you’re thinking: a clever twist on the crime genre? How are the Coens going to pull that off? Okay, enough snark, because this sounds legitimately wonderful. Seeing the return of several Coen regulars including Josh Brolin and George Clooney, the film will also bring Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and and Ralph Fiennes into the fold. Not much more information regarding the plot has been released yet, so we’ll all just have to go see it. Maybe if we do, the industry will finally start cluing in to the fact that there is a big market for originality, and will be a bit more lenient towards up-and-coming filmmakers with new ideas in the future.
Now that that’s out of the way, doesn’t the new Mad Max movie look awesome?
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