by “Doc” Hunter Bush, Staff Writer and Podcast Czar
Y’all I have the end-of-summer blues worse than I have since I was in grade school. I just feel like this summer went by so quickly and I’m not ready for the decent weather to end. That’s probably due to it being swelteringly hot for a chunk of it, combined with me just returning from a genuine vacation (much needed) and just wishing I was still gone.
We (that being myself, my partner & podcast co host Allison, and our friends and fellow MovieJawnies Ben & Rosalie spent a long weekend at the Mahoning Drive-In in Lehighton PA for their annual Universal Monster Mash, where they show a bunch of the Universal monster films over a weekend on 35mm. We stayed nearby in a nice little cabin with a hot tub. Overall, a very calming experience. I mean, there was some kind of monster that tried to break in one night, but it didn’t try very hard. There was also a weird, hairy owl, but I digress.
I’m back now, and as ready as I’ll ever be to write an installment of Everything Old is New Again for September 2022. This column covers movies and TV series debuting in a given month that are based on some previous intellectual property; an older movie/series, a book, a song, etc. I find ‘em, I watch the trailers, and I give a breakdown of what I know of the property, and what I think of the trailer. Then, down at the bottom in the SPOTLIGHT section, I’ll recommend some older movies coming to streaming services this month that count as EOINA material.
PREMIERES – Brand new entertainments for your viewing or avoiding pleasure.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (series)
Last month I went off on a bit of a tirade about prequels. They kind of annoy me, but I understand (and have witnessed) how clever filmmakers can use the constraints of the prequel to have fun with a property. My biggest problem is the, I guess nearly irresistible urge to drop elbow-nudge references to the things we know are coming. Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power seems to mostly be devoid of that tendency. Sure, some of the characters in this will have been heard of or seen before but as long as we avoid gags like “I think I’ll name the baby… Legolas”, I’ll probably enjoy this.
As far as I can tell, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is our main character and that’s totally fine. She’s not directly involved with the Fellowship of the Ring beyond aiding them in the midst of their quest a few times. She’s a side character to their narratives whom we can infer is powerful and well-respected. Now we get to find out how she became that way by seeing her story and the changing of the landscape around her – the rise of Sauron and etc. – at the same time, a similar approach as Star Wars: Andor (see below). I think this is a smart tactic to choose.
Aside from that, the show seems to have everything you could want from a LotR series: diverse peoples, sword-and-sorcery action, scary monsters, fanciful locations; the whole shebang. I’ll probably check this out, if only to stick it to (direct competitor) Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon.
A quick tangent: How (HOW?) is the preferred hashtag to share on social media for that show #HotD? AND HOW (HOW.) has no one but me decided to run with this? What is happening? We used to be a proper country. Please, every Sunday, join me in telling HBO how you can’t get enough #HotD and wish you didn’t have to wait so long between getting more #HotD. (Editor’s note: One of my personal group chats is all about being thirsty for that Hot D! -Ryan “Fire & Blood” S.)
Pinocchio (dir. Robert Zemekis)
Based on the Italian children’s character created in 1883, but clearly a rehash of Disney’s 1940 animated film, this looks – in a word – bad. This phase of Disney’s output really lacks soul. Just kicking the IP can down the road to maintain copyright is, I guess, a necessary evil (?) but the way they promote these things really sucks. This, like Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and etc. before it, is being marketed as “live action” despite being mostly CGI from what I can tell. Would I watch an actual live action Pinocchio? Hell yes! Perform Pinnochio with an actual puppet, and make Jiminy Cricket, Honest John, and etc. Muppets, do a practical effects version of Monstro the whale! The mind reels at the potential beauty and craftsmanship, especially with the money of the Mouse House behind it!!
But this is Robert Zemeckis, lately director of things like that The Witches remake no one saw, and notably for this project: The Polar Express. Like Polar Express, this costars Tom Hanks (as Geppetto) who seems to be the only wholly live character of any import in the trailer. The blue fairy (Cynthia Erivo) is probably “live” from the eyebrows to the chin with a motion capture performance augmented by CGI magic fairy dust – but that’s all just a guess. Even if I am wrong however, that would make this movie maybe, tops, 20% “live action”.
It’s the thing that makes my brain check out of the finales of every big spectacle MCU film (and similar): no matter how much I can intellectually appreciate the work that went into creating this scene out of disparate green screen elements and tons of code, it’s hard to completely dispel the unreality of it, which makes it just as hard to emotionally connect to what’s happening. Conversely, if this version of Pinocchio was a live Hanks in a half animated world à la Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’d be here for it because actual animation isn’t trying to fit seamlessly into our reality, it creates its own. There’s just something that feels like manipulation in calling a movie “live action” for containing 1 fully human performance amidst dozens of CGI characters. Which turns me off to the whole thing.
American Gigolo (series)
This actually looks decent, and seems like a better fit for expansion into a series than I’d initially thought about it. In the 1980 American Gigolo (dir. Paul Schrader), Richard Gere’s high-end male prostitute Julian is being framed for a murder and briefly goes to jail before being rescued by a married woman who sacrifices her reputation and marriage to a senator to give him an alibi. In 2022’s American Gigolo series, Jon Bernthal’s version of Julian has been in jail for 15 years. Supposedly this version of Michelle (Gretchen Mol) did not alibi him out, and it’s implied her senator husband (Leland Orser) is behind framing Julian in retaliation for the relationship with Michelle.
It seems like the series will be about Julian trying to stay alive and out of jail until he can prove he was framed, and rekindle his relationship with Michelle. The cast is a solid mix of character actors that these kinds of series allow to really shine, which is always a plus – in addition to Bernthal, Mol, and Orser, I spotted Rosie O’Donnell and Wayne Brady in the trailers. I like a good noir or neo-noir, and as a fan of casual male nudity in film (just to balance the scales) here’s hoping that Bernthal does full frontal like Gere did in the original.
Clerks III (dir. Kevin Smith)
Where: in theaters
I have nothing but good will for Kevin Smith. As a child of the ‘90s, his films were an entry point that showed me I could potentially make movies! And he’s made a couple really good movies over the years, but if I’m being honest (and it feels almost mean to say this because the dude is so genuinely nice and positive) he hasn’t made anything that I’ve enjoyed since Red State. I was interested in Tusk because it had such an unusual creation but the film was ultimately disappointing.
Now, Smith goes back to his oldest well, again, and takes the aphorism “write what you know” to new lows. Clerks (1994) is the story of two cashiers working their day jobs. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) has relationship troubles, and Randal (Jeff Anderson) is just a shit-stirrer. They have some pals, some regular customers, some misadventures and they talk a lot about pop culture. Cool. In 2006’s Clerks II, Smith revisited these characters to find that Dante still had relationship woes – though he eventually settled down with manager Becky (Rosario Dawson) – and Randal was still a shit-stirrer. Also a donkey show happens.
Which brings us to now. After Randal suffers a near-fatal heart attack (the impetus for which being the one Smith survived in 2018, I imagine) he gets a wild hair up his ass to make something of himself and write and direct a movie. What movie? Well, it looks like it’s basically Clerks.
Almost out of obligation, I sat through 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot which was just an exhausting experience. In that film, which is entirely about film culture being devoid of creativity and endlessly recycling content like a human centipedal ouroboros, which he acknowledges is boring and lazy unless he does it, which we’re supposed to find cute. This feels like that, and as much good will as I have for these characters and actors, I just cannot be bothered to watch him slouch his way through another production. I continue to hope he will find some story inside himself which he feels is worth telling without cloaking itself in several layers of protective irony, but as time goes on and each successive project slumps across the finish line into the public eye, that prospect seems less and less likely.
Confess, Fletch (dir. Greg Mottola)
Where: in theaters/Pay VOD
Heads up: this will get a wider streaming release via Showtime on Oct. 28
I’ve seen Fletch (1985) once or twice and I enjoyed it just fine. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for Chevy Chase’s particular brand of humor, but my read on Fletch as a character was that he was basically that one kid in your class (or maybe it was you) who was probably a bit too smart for the room and acted out because they were bored and not being appropriately challenged (because this country has been in the midst of an educational crisis since before any of us were born). He’s very clever, finds your average person and any run-of-the-mill interactions with them boring, so he makes his own fun. He also had a penchant for disguises.
Jon Hamm has inherited the role of Fletch now (a good call I feel – he has amazing comedic timing and is handsome enough by a huge margin to get away with a lot of shit you or I could never), but the trailer doesn’t really give me a good idea of Fletch as a character. Moments shine through that feel like what I think of as Fletch, but (and this may just be a trailer thing) a lot of gags seem to lean on Fletch being dumb, which just ain’t it.
The plot is appropriately convoluted for a comedic noir: an heiress approaches Fletch about solving the theft of a piece of artwork from her family’s home. He turns her down and she turns up dead, with Fletch being the prime suspect. Shenanigans obviously ensue. There weren’t really any stand-out moments from the trailer necessarily, but I’m willing to err on the side of the humor not translating super well to out-of-context nuggets.
Comedy is hard, especially this kind, but I think I’ll check this out eventually.
Goodnight Mommy (dir. Matt Sobel)
This remake of a 2014 German film from Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala looks pretty damn cool. Two young brothers go to visit with their mother (Naomi Watts) but arrive a little early, and find her recovering from plastic surgery, with her face still fully bandaged. They begin to suspect she isn’t their mother, but how can they be sure?
This trailer is so menacing! Watts lays down the rules for the kids: No running or shouting in the house, and both her bedroom and the barn are off limits. Suspicious. There’s a gnarly toe skin peeling scene, and some stray audio of Watts shouting for them to repeat “You are my mother!” after her, and generally things seem not great. Also something will be set on fire. Maybe the barn?
I’ll be finding out asap.
Pearl (dir. Ti West)
Where: in theaters
Not a long gap sequel, but rather the shortest gap, this prequel (another one!) to Ti West’s X was filmed concurrently with that film which was only released in March of this year! Wild. When the trailer for X dropped, I was unimpressed. It looked like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but if the van full of kids were all making an amateur porno. I hoped that Ti West, a filmmaker I quite like, would have something else in store that the trailers weren’t properly communicating.
Kinda not, turns out. While I liked X just fine, it lacked something for me. It just felt like pretty standard horror fare: kids visit a farm, run afoul of the landowners, and get murdered. Whatever that missing thing was, I think Pearl has it. Everything about Pearl appealed to me: the Sound of Music/Wizard of Oz vibe (the color saturation, costuming, locations, etc.), the daylight horror of it all, and most importantly Pearl as a character.
Pearl (Mia Goth) just wants to be a star, to escape the confines of her “normal” life, caring for aging and unwell family members. To that end she’ll do anything to get those goals within reach, including bumping the fam off and slaughtering (seems like) quite a lot of livestock. Now, I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to violence against animals, but as I mentioned: I quite like Ti West and trust him as a director so I’m willing to see what’s up.
There’s an odd moment in the trailer where the image of a roast being set on a table is mirrored. I wonder if this is some kind of stylistic quirk of West’s, or is explained in the film itself, OR if this was done in the trailer to hide some aspect of the shot? I find this very interesting. Could be nothing, could be a clue.
Mia Goth gave a great dual performance in X as both a wannabe porn starlet and the aged Pearl, and I’m very interested in the narrative that she and West were just so inspired by their ideas for the character that they HAD to make Pearl ASAP. I’ll check it out, but I’m already more interested than I expected to be.
In 2016 the mouse house entertainment juggernaut released the first of a proposed Star Wars release strategy: with entries in the main storyline scheduled to drop every other year, they felt there was an opportunity to release other ancillary stories in the off years to maintain financial momentum and interest. To that end, Rogue One was released, the story of the courageous and doomed rebels who acquired the plans that lead to the destruction of the original Death Star in 1977’s first Star Wars.
One of these doomed characters was Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) a smuggler who through the pure likeability of Luna as a person managed to feel like anything but the obvious Han Solo surrogate he was written as. I’m honestly happy that Luna will get to play in the Star Wars sandbox again but since he was, as I mentioned, doomed, Andor (the show) is a prequel.
It looks like Andor (the character) was from a more primitive planet, before a ship crashed presumably drawing intergalactic attention. The show will presumably follow his path from average guy to freedom fighter by contrasting his story with that of a young Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) who will eventually become the leader of the rebel alliance by the time of Star Wars (1977). This actually makes the concept of it being a prequel work better for me because it’s *potentially* not just the same beating a dead horse logic following one character, but rather, using them to tell stories about a specific time in the Empire’s reign.
Rogue One worked very well for me as a movie for a few reasons (aside from Diego Luna and the rest of the cast) not the least of which was that there were no force users, it was a purely espionage heist story, and had a by-default fatalistic ending. It just felt different enough from all the other Star Warses, while still obviously being one. The trailer for Andor seems to also be leaning more heavily on civil unrest, political cloak-and-dagger shenanigans, and boots-on-the-ground characters, which is way more interesting to me from a storytelling point of view.
The Munsters (dir. Rob Zombie)
Where: in theaters
I don’t get it, y’all. You tell me that The Munsters are going to be getting rebooted in 2022 for some reason and that the director will be Rob Zombie. Ok. First thing that happens is I see everyone worrying that Rob will Zombify The Munsters. I too shared this concern: Would the Munsters live down the street from an abusive white trash drunkard, his foul-mouthed stripper wife and promiscuous step-daughter? Would The Munsters themselves be Hellbillies? Nobody wants that.
Then, the trailer drops and we all see what looks like the Batman 1966 version of The Munsters: color, goofy costumes, corny gags! The thing was practically begging for a canned laugh track! And everybody is just as- if not somehow more- dismissive of it. I. Don’t. Get. It. What do you people want?
The Munsters is a particular kind of corny inherently. It’s a sitcom monster family living a sitcom life. In comparison to The Addams Family, who are themselves sinister, The Munsters are completely earnest and benign. So what do you want noted musician and horror movie director Robert Zombarelli (not his real name) to do with this set-up that would make you happy?
I actually think it looks cute. The plot centers on Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) meeting, dating, falling in love with, and marrying Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips), which her father the Count (Daniel Roebuck) objects to. This will be spooky and corny and cute. And what’s wrong with that?
Hocus Pocus 2 (dir. Ann Fletcher)
Have I seen the original Hocus Pocus (1993)? You betcha. Can I tell you really anything about it? …Not so much. I know a young girl in Salem, Mass. awakens three witch sisters (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker respectively) and there’s a dead boy from the witch trials (right?) and a cat. But plot-wise I just cannot remember a damn thing. To that end, this looks like the same exact movie. (Editor’s note: it’s actually a boy who lights the black flame candle to bring back the Sanderson sisters. Also the fact that he’s a virgin is important to that candle magic. -Ryan “Amok” S.)
The young girl is now sixteen, but other than that ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Part of that is due to only a teaser trailer being available, which gives away almost nothing (though there is a neat black flame visual effect). I dunno. I was never super hot on Hocus Pocus, but now, as I actively try to recall the film and cannot, I wonder if I should give it another go? For (unrecalled) old times sake? I guess that’ll help me make up my mind whether to watch this one or not.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (dir. Damon Thomas)
Grady Hendrix (author of the novel this is based on) writes great, poppy, scary, funn, inviting horror. People online like to talk about what makes good “gateway horror” – something you could show to someone who is maybe on the younger or potentially more delicate side who is actively interested in getting into horror movies – and, having never seen this nor having read the book (though I have read others from Hendrix) I’m willing to bet My Best Friend’s Exorcism is great gateway horror.
Set in the ‘80s, on the eve of a small group of friends going their separate ways post-high school, they trespass in a spooky cabin with a spooky backstory (“One last adventure?”) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller) gets possessed, leaving Abby (Elsie Fisher) to save her and her soul. There’s some good creepy imagery (spooky animate eyeball in the haunted cabin), some classic possession shtick (demon tongue, fire breath, vomit) and some comedy (after being vomited on: “Hey! This is a Lacoste!”) so I think this will appeal to many, many people preparing for the Spookiest Month.
SPOTLIGHT – Not new, but recommended EOINA-friendly fare.
10 Things I Hate About You (dir. Gil Junger) (1999)
We covered this one on the Hate Watch/Great Watch podcast back about a year ago and even though I had fond memories of it, I was pleasantly surprised how well it held up (you can listen to the episode HERE, if you’d like). An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew but set in a late-1990s California high school, the characters are all well-defined and fun, the performances are great – the standouts being Larry Miller and Heath Ledger – and the soundtrack is bop after bop. Silly, fun, and with just the right amount of high school melodrama, it’s a perfect flick for back-to-school season.
There you have it. I hope I’ve brought your attention to something you might’ve otherwise missed. I’ve been seeing a lot of people lamenting that they didn’t know George Miller’s 3000 Years of Longing was coming to theaters. These people obviously don’t read my column; I not only mentioned it, but gave it a positive write-up (I still have yet to see it), so if you *did* see something you find interesting, why not mention it on social media? Raise awareness for projects that might otherwise fly under most folks’ radars?
And hey, as long as you’re on the socials, why not share this column? Maybe recommend it (and MovieJawn in general) to anybody you can? It helps us all out tremendously to get more eyes on the site. And as long as I’m asking for stuff, mayhap you’d like to listen to some episodes of Hate Watch/Great Watch. This month we’ve got episodes on the board game-whodunnit comedy Clue (1985) with many-time guest Krystal Brackett and her boo, first-time guest Sean Brady, and a guestless episode on Austin Powers (wait for it) in: Goldmember (2002) which I had never seen before.
Thank you for reading, thanks for sharing/commenting/etc. if you do, and thanks as always to MJ for hosting and posting. Consider supporting the MovieJawn Patreon if you’re able. You’ll be rewarded handsomely.
Until next time – Long Live the Movies!
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