July 2019 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
July 6, 2019
Disney has dominated the year 2019 so thoroughly that describing their conquests quickly becomes a banal exercise in mounting unrelenting tedium. Hobbs & Shaw on August 2nd is about the first chance any 2019 film that is not from the Disney factory has of crossing the $200m mark in North America (this month's big superhero film is technically from Sony, but give me a break).
In July, the two Disney-fused films will again reign supreme on our land. So let's move on to the fun stuff: July's got two horror films, some Quentin Tarantino, and the long-anticipated, oft-promised pairing of Kumail Nanjiani/Dave Bautista and that's it.
Six movies in all, the smallest number of wide releases of any month in at least the second half of the 2010s, and probably well before that, research pending. And remarkably, this forecast is still thousands of words long.
1. Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2nd) (sigh)
As a child, I learned English reading Spider-Man comic books (and look how I turned out!), but it looks like they've finally lost me.
I haven't viewed you yet, "third time's the charm" Spider-Man reboot. But oh, how do I loathe thee?
Let me count the ways!
(and count, and count, and)
- 1. This is the eighth Spider-Man film in seventeen years. Would the culture have just died with only six in twenty?
- 2. Tom Holland directed Fright Night in 1985, Child's Play in 1988, and Thinner in 1996, and now plays a remarkably convincing teenage Spider-Man. (no, really, screenwriter/director Tom Holland, born in 1943, had to see both his most famous film and then his very name remade in the span of two weeks, unimpressively. I feel your pain).
- 3. "The Elementals." I don't know what that is, but it doesn't sound good. And do we need it in a Spider-Man movie?
- 4. That Hydro-Man-looking mother----er in the trailer that probably isn't Hydro-Man.
- 5. Nick Fury.
- 6. "You don't ghost Nick Fury!"
up arrow. This is the point at which a giant bell started ringing, "Ding! Ding! Ding!," the lights in the theatre came on, and a man in a grey suit and tie cautiously came out from behind a curtain to present a "Worst Line of the Year" Award and 4,000$ check right there at Coming Attractions.
Don't spend it all at once.
- 7. This film contains a Flash Thompson who makes Peter Parker look like Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed with that bigger guy that Arnold always had to take on at the end of the movie. Consider that in Spider-Man in 2002, high school student Flash Thompson was played by a 25 year-old Joe Manganiello. That would mean the character's lost about 350 pounds since, and yes, it's all muscle.
- 8. Aunt May is still played by Marisa Tomei. As I said two years ago, this casting is all, all wrong. Were Jennifer Lawrence and Elle Fanning unavailable? Is Kate Upton still in acting? That little girl who's in Annabelle Comes Home?
- 9. Mysterio is involved in some complex real estate scheme, and looks a little like Jake Gyllenhaal.
- 10. The film's Rotten Tomatoes rating is 92%. I don't know, dudes... Why not 94%? Why not 95%? Was 98% unavailable?
I mean, who could possibly doubt that it's that good? Why, superhero films routinely receive near-perfect critical scores, (while previously "ironic," this sentence has simply been "factual," since 2008)...
- 11. This is the twenty third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and also happens to be the twenty third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have been granted a "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, thus beating the records of Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, and even Michael Bay! Who knew?
- 11A. No, I'm not implying the reviewers have been bribed to generate all this goodwill. Not at all. Would that they have been! "Film critic" doesn't pay that much, not always, and these brave men and women who venture out into the dark of the movie theatre every day have mouths to feed. Accepting a small if generous fee for a consistently positive review would have been an understandable human impulse.
No, my suspicion, which I'm almost too frightened to blurt out loud and certainly have not confirmed, is that these movies get 98% Fresh scores because ''critics actually like them.''
- 12. Tony Stark is finally dead (oooops and ding dong), and people are still talking about him,
taking up 5 seconds of valuable trailer time
likely at least 15 minutes of the movie. There were many dry eyes in the house, but none on Tom Holland's face.
- 13. J. K. Simmons's performance as newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson is so iconic that none of the five subsequent Spider-Man films (you know, the ones that wiped Simmons from the historical record), have even dared include a new version of the character, not even the 2018 CGI animation. (a classic memorable original performance is perhaps also the reason why the Power Rangers film of 2017 didn't throw in a rebooted Bulk & Skull).
- 14. In the (very, very, very long) film Avengers: Endgame (even longer than this forecast!), it was established that half of the world's population has vanished, while the other continued living on earth for five years before that missing half returned, unaged. Remarkably, Peter Parker and every one of Peter Parker's high school friends necessary to further the plot were presumably among the vanished, since here they are all back in high school together, rather than screwing off at college or just being five years older elsewhere.
- 15. This is the year Samuel L. Jackson finally reprised two characters he played in 2000, in long-rumoured sequels that theoretically should never have happened (Unbreakable and Shaft). Now, instead of dragging Nick Fury into this mess, couldn't he have made it three sequels and gone for Rules of Engagement II? Whatever did happen to Col. Terry L. Childers?
- 16. Spider-Man: Far From Home could very well be the single highest-grossing Spider-Man film ever, which if happens will be an act of pure evil, inexcusable, and unforgiveable as it is illogical. Your move, Mr. President.
- 17. Michael Keaton is in the movie, but he isn't in the trailer, which is a shame because he's the only reason anyone could possibly have for seeing this film.
- 18. Shailene Woodley was originally cast as Mary Jane Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014; and yes, it existed! once!), and even filmed her scenes for that film. But they were cut for overcrowding reasons, and now she shall reign forever as the lost Mary Jane, living on only in our dreams and in a canister of highly-guarded film stuck at the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. She must be released from her earthly prison!
- 19+20+21+22+2..... Happy Hogan is now romancing Aunt May. (what were they thinking when they came up with this one? Anything? And who is Happy Hogan?)
I was going to see Spider-Man 8 just for the record, to throw a piece on the memory logs, but when I read that little factoid, I checked out. Nope.
This is called trolling by film. And I saw Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Revenge. Three times. But some stuff you just don't mess with (fact: if Hogan had romanced Aunt May as played by Rosemary Harris in the 2000s, I would have been absolutely delighted. How about it, Marvel?).
Opening weekend: $163 million (5-day? 6-day? All week?!?) / Total gross: $348 million (and stay there)
2. The Lion King (July 19th)
Here there be another millennial hallmark, The Lion King, a film released in 1994 to moribundingly-positive reviews, a ghoulishly high box office total ($312m!), and an invisible Academy Award for Best Animated Film Oscar (no such category then).
And here is its remake, a Disney traditional animation painted over as live action, demanding and screeching and bellowing out from the plains of Africa into the night sky and across the ocean and on through our bedroom windows, hollering, reminding, prodding, to all the children who grew up watching and re-watching the film in the mid 1990s: come! Join us once more. Drive down to the cinema again and bust down the theatre doors, with marked enthusiasm, and witness the birth of the Lion King yet another time. Let's make box office history.
I was one of those children, and yes, I too have heard the call deep in the night. "M'kay," I said. "I probably should. But do I have to?" Shoulders shrugged.
While Spider-Man 8 inspired my passionate and fruitless rebuke, I really have got nothing to say about The Lion King except that the film's making and its path to existence seem to have progressed in a kind of boringly perfect order, each checkmark applied right on schedule.
First, the studio hired a director, Jon Favreau, who has delivered wildly successful children's entertainment in general (Elf, $173m) and then a Disney animated remake in particular (The Jungle Book, $364m). The film has new and remixed songs on its soundtrack, primed and booming and masterful, ready to dominate the airwaves. And it has chosen a release date that is a check mark on two fronts: it is congruent enough with the original - a mid-summer date, roughly 25 years after The Lion King's June 1994 date; as it is with this summer's schedule, coming two weeks after Spider-Man (there's your breather, family audiences! Don't say we didn't give you nothing), and then even two more after the last CGI animation (Toy Story); and with enough room before anything strongly appealing to children is released (I mean Dora the Explorer on the 9th, although I suppose Hobbs & Shaw on the 2nd could qualify. It is rather... child-like).
And The Lion King in live action is meticulously, perfectly, precisely cast, with not a note of entertaining elbows sticking out the side: James Earl Jones reprises Mufasa, and newly-crowned musical icon Donald Glover is Simba, the current lion cub, future orphan, futurer lion king; Beyoncé, who will never need anther introduction, is love interest Nala (oh, yes, there will be musical interludes); Chiwetel Ejiofor is the persistently evil Scar; Alfre Woodard as the lion queen mother; and comedic actors summoned at will to provide us their humorous vocal chords - Seth Rogen (...), typecast, as the jolly mutant warhog Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as meerkat Timon, and John Oliver as red-billed hornbill Zazu. This is the bunch that's really into singing Hakuna Matata. Get your earlobes ready.
Technically speaking, the last necessary chip in the woodpile is still on the table: gushingly positive reviews have not yet been released, although it's only a matter of time before the blockade is lifted. One sunny Tuesday night at 11:59PM there will be no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and then when you hit reload a second after midnight suddenly the film is 97% Fresh with 113 accredited critical evaluations ("I loved it!," "So good," "Two fingers up!," etc.). That's weird. But that's the process.
Perhaps the film, largely featuring CGI-assisted animals with no human characters (tourists were eaten only off-screen), may lack the clear element of animation-to-live action transition that's been part of the appeal of so many of these remakes. But then The Jungle Book had the same issue (with one human cast member, Neel Sethi, who doesn't even have a Wikipedia page any longer), and nothing stopped its domination. Biggest movie of May-to-August? Here you go.
Opening weekend: $181 million / Total gross: $514 million
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26th)
Once Quentin Tarantino walks himself into a genre, he really runs with it, man: he began with 1990s labyrinthine crime stories (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown), proceeded into delicious genre heaven with tales of women's vengeance (Kill Bill: Volume 1, Kill Bill: Volume 2, and Death Proof), and has now found himself in the 2010s reshaping tragic history into cinema with consistent, unlikely happy endings - the Holocaust in Inglourious Basterds, 2009, slavery in Django Unchained, 2012, and then the post-Civil War era in the particularly masterful The Hateful Eight, which is still underseen and underrated. (his last film set more or less in present day was, indeed, Kill Bill).
History is retold yet once more in Tarantino film number ten. "Once Upon a Time" is 1969, with Leonardo DiCaprio as a star of B-movies (would that he were) and Brad Pitt as his stunt double, delving into the underbelly of Los Angeles while starring in the kind of films Tarantino fondly recreates and remembers. Elsewhere, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) enjoys the fruits of her Hollywood success and pregnancy, as the summer of 1969 comes to a sad close.
In and around all this, there is Hollywood intrigue and period glamour and the Manson Family, and whether fiction makes over fact with how the tragic real life story here turns out is something I've purposefully neglected to check. Tarantino devised a brand new death for Adolf Hitler. Is Charles Manson getting it next?
While not true of the recent Eight, Tarantino films have a knack for lapping up luxurious casts, long credits lists of leading men and women mingling freely with B-movie stalwarts. Here we have not only the three stars but also Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Lena Dunham (! THE Lena Dunham?!?), and even Luke Perry, in his first wide release since since The Fifth Element in 1997 (there was a gasp in the theatre when Perry's name came on. RIP, sir). Elsewhere, Bruce Dern is a rickety old farmer, in a role meant for Burt Reynolds.
Reviews are a near-unanimous "Yes." (why, if he works long and hard enough, Mr. Tarantino could even match the Marvel Universe's long and august critical record someday. Keep plugging away!) Three of the Tarantino titles have grossed $100m, and perhaps The Hateful Eight would have too, if not for some leaked early copies making their way around the internet and then into too many surround-sound-sporting home viewing centres.
The new film could be a tough sell, with a strident running time (165 minutes...it's long) and a premise that mixes period specificity and kitsch with brutal violence. The film gets a nice weekend all to itself, however, and should serve as the only grown-up non-horror entertainment (sorry) in a sea of Disney magic. Say, Leonardo DiCaprio began this decade with a huge three digit grosser in July (Inception), and as I believe in the cyclical nature of life, he is likely to end the decade this same way.
Opening weekend: $38 million / Total gross: $134 million
4. Crawl (July 12th)
There's so much horror this summer! And at the movies, too - Ma, Godzilla, Brightburn, and The Intruder in May, killer doll soulmates Chucky and Annabelle in June, and two more titles this month, Midsommar and Crawl, in anticipation of several yet more in August.
This is good. If not for Disney and horror, we'd scarcely have anything to watch.
With Crawl we have a classic release schedule delight, when a plucky studio (Paramount's back!) slates a little-gossiped about project smack dab in the middle of summer, between more notorious and bigger-budget titles, and hopes for the best. Sometimes, such films outgross universal brand names with ease. Let's see.
The premise here is simple, a high-concept horror film with nature, as a woman stuck in a flooding water-logged tiny Florida town must combat crocodiles who happened to have swum into their spacious Main Street, and who subsequently and perhaps understandably have pegged her as their nutritious lunch. It's just the circle of life, as another film on this list will tell you, but our heroine wants a food chain slot with a better view.
Kaya Scodelario is the lead, the crocodile-slayer, in the tradition of Blake Lively and the sharks in The Shallows (2016, $55m), Mandy Moore and Claire Holt and even more sharks in 47 Meters Down (2017, $44m), soon to be sequeled, and finally Shailene Woodley venturing out far within the Ocean and then demanding to be allowed back on shore in Adrift (2018, $31m).
Scodelario is a trooper, having braved through The Maze Runner parts one through three (I missed the last chapter - I assume she made it?) and also that recent Ted Bundy movie with Zac Efron, where her character, an ardent Bundy innocence activist, displayed perhaps quite questionable judgment.
The film is the sort of easy-to-sell set-up (woman fights crocodiles in floodbath) that draws both agreeable opening weekends, and even largely positive reviews, oddly enough (47 Meters Down is the only "Rotten" film among the name-checked list above, and it was close). In a summer without a lot of breakout hits, if Crawl is good, it probably has room to grow amidst the presumably large (if ever-shrinking) chunk of audiences who seek something a little more hard on the PG-13 scale than the Lion King and the Spider Man can afford.
Opening weekend: $16 million / Total gross: $45 million
5. Midsommar (July 3rd)
Young care-free travelers venture out into the woodsy outdoors in far-flung Scandinavia (yes, I know that's a country), where they partake in joyous festivities in the open fields timed at precisely the movie's title and release date (while July 3 is not, actually, the middle of summer, it is the middle of the summer movie season, which is even better. It's the only schedule that counts).
Then our travelers are attacked by tree cultists, slain, decapitated, and eaten. In that order.
The film cheerfully informs us that even today, Nordic earth cults prowl the friendly countryside seeking fresh prey, which is a relief because the fact of their existence in 2019 is delightful.
Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh are the couple, he an Irish actor who blazed across the screen running from tireless evil robots in Transformers 4 (2014), and she an English starlet who's been cast so often lately that she can be seen on the big screen at regular intervals this year (the next remake of Little Women includes her among their number). I write pulpily, but these two have done some strong, solid work in smaller films, and are joined by Will Poulter, who has trained from a young age at becoming the U.K.'s next great character actor (I didn't check, but something tells me most of them are playing Americans here. It happens).
The film is noted in critical circles because it is the sophomore bow of director Ari Aster, who helmed Hereditary (89% Fresh) last year (the one with the... unforgettable scene with a car and a stop sign... to say the most I ever will about it); and because the film has received largely Hereditary-esque acclamation, with critics settling on 81% Fresh this time. As usual, the audiences went the other way - while Hereditary garnered a hard-earned D+ Cinemascore, Midsommar has gained itself a measly C+, indicating perhaps less persistent bad taste (anything in the Ds is always a must-see for me). The running time is more operatic, too - while Hereditary was 127 minutes, Midsommar kicks in at two hours and twenty seven, which actually means it is one of the longest horror movies ever to reach wide release.
No matter. Dissenters to Disney's reign are delighted at any opportunity for counter-programming, and Midsommar and its horror compatriots should be attended early and often. These films are not gross untold hundreds of millions of dollars domestically and many billions more internationally, but nevertheless the real winners are us.
Opening weekend: $12 million (3-day, of course) / Total gross: $38 million
6. Stuber (July 12th)
It's a buddy movie! Or a wunza film, as Roger Ebert correctly tabbed them ("one's a cop, one's a criminal"). The film Stuber (the name is a pun, unapologetic) lays it out this way: one's a meek uber driver and one's shaped like a fire truck and happens to work for the LAPD. No casting against type was committed here: Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista are the wunzas who meet, pretend to dislike or at least thoroughly misunderstand one another, and then must bond like most men do, dodging a hailfire of bullets and solving crimes involving the usual suspects - mobs, drugs, international spies (martial artist Iko Uwais supplies the lead dealer). Chases, humour, and women with very big guns fill the screen. Mira Sorvino, Betty Gilpin, and Karen Gillan are among the supporting thespians.
In the tradition of professional wrestlers/MMA fighters/man-killers, Bautista broke out in a big blockbuster franchise (Guardians of the Galaxy) and is now making his way through various sub-genres of the comedy scene, his size providing the natural set-up for comedic reception. Nanjiani co-wrote and starred in The Big Sick, and has his second big role in what is a more conventional action-comedy than I had anticipated (not that intellectual humanistic humour is superior).
The film premiered at the SXSW festival, a late 2010s-haven for comedies that cultivate buzz months before their theatre date. Stuber's wunzas may not outgross Disney, Quentin, or young people facing off crocodiles and Norwegian death cults, but they've got to get some mileage from being the only pair this month to dare star in a comedy, at a time when said genre feels so sorely abandoned, ignored, and unloved?
Opening weekend: $7 million / Total gross: $20 million