September is half-over and Christmas decorations are starting to crop up in department stores. 2016 is a dying beast, and some people are already writing their Best Of lists. But there are books (yo, Wall of Storms), games (yo, Mafia 3), and even movies yet to be released that we’re craving. I just knocked off Don’t Breathe, which I have many, many thoughts on.
But that can wait. Let’s talk about cool movies that are coming out alarmingly soon.
1. The Mermaid
You might not have heard that The Mermaid is the most popular film in the history of China. Releasing earlier this year, it has already doubled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s lifetime box office, and is heralded as revolutionizing Chinese Fantasy films.
The Mermaid is a remix of Chinese folklore through the unique lens of director Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer). Trailers promise a comedy about a lovable loser being harassed by a mermaid, or a tragic love story of that same duo being pulled from each other by a cavalcade of figures from Chinese folklore. Despite the CG battles, I’m hoping for more of a comedy, because no director has Chow’s knack for oddballs.
You probably haven’t heard of it, though, because it was licensed by Sony Pictures. The company released it on just 35 theaters across the entire United States. Fortunately, it’s received an On Demand release.
2. The Blair Witch (September 15)
Do you remember earlier this year when Lion’s Gate presented “The Woods,” with minimal plot description and glowing critical reviews? Well it was all a ruse, as they’d spent the last two years hiding that they’d made a sequel to The Blair Witch Project, and last month dropped their curtain. It was a sneak almost as cool as Bad Robot hiding that they had a new Cloverfield movie.
The angle is natural: the siblings of the original filmmakers have grown up and have gone looking for them. But the world’s grown up, too, and they’re hunting with GPS, cell phones, and a plethora of recording devices. They shouldn’t possibly get lost, though trailers promise it’s what will find them that they should fear.
It’s being made by the writer/director duo that launched V/H/S and You’re Next, which is a great pedigree for a duo that now has a remix a controversial canon. I am an unabashed lover of The Blair Witch Project, but the combination of reviews and atmospheric footage have me squirming to get into the cinema.
3. Under the Shadow (October 7)
In 1980s Tehran, war is breaking out and people are fleeing the city. The same day that her father leaves them, a little girl witnesses a missile smash through the ceiling of her room – but it doesn’t explode. At first, the mother and daughter are relieved, but the daughter begins feeling a presence. Something spared them, or came here on that weapon, and begins following them, refusing to let them escape Tehran.
The early trailer makes it feel like Poltergeist-via-Iran, and it’s been sweeping up awards and critical acclaim. Great thanks to Netflix for scooping it up, subtitling it, and preparing to release it on their service the same year the movie premiered.
4. Shin Godzilla (October 11)
The original Godzilla (1954) was a cathartic metaphor for the atomic bombing and domestic-front warfare of Japan. The fictional radioactive dinosaur was no more absurd than the real mushrooms of smoke that swallowed two cities.
Shin Godzilla (2016) returns to Godzilla-as-Disaster-Metaphor, this time in reference to the Fukushima disaster. Reviews suggest it’s the most cynical Godzilla film, with heavy criticism of how bureaucracy stalls help or outright jeopardizes citizenry. This is one of my favorite elements of kaiju film, which were entirely lacking in Gareth Edwards’s 2014 American film: at their most dire, kaiju films are about how we react to catastrophes far outside our control.
Funimation is releasing Shin Godzilla in US cinemas for just one week – from October 11-18. I’m doing a workshop that week far away from any participating cinema, but will bend my whole schedule to see this leading lady on the big screen.
5. The Arrival (November 11)
It’s a movie based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life.” Ted Chiang doesn’t write anything less than great stories.
Not sold yet? Fine, have a premise: alien spacecraft arrive on earth and seem to be counting down to something, but earth hasn’t figure out what. Linguists are dispatched to crack the code between our languages and theirs, hoping to communicate before something drastic happens. If we can’t even talk, what huge cultural mistakes could we make towards each other? It promises to be a thoughtful SciFi movie after a long year of hollow explosions.
Also: Ted Chiang seriously only writes great stories.
6. The Wailing
This ties with the trailer for The Witch for commercials that make me uncomfortable. The tone leaks through the frames. Citizens in a South Korean village find a mysterious disease spreading through their numbers, one that drives people to murderous outbreaks before burning out their systems and killing them. Police, doctors, and a shaman race to find where the disease came from, and whether it can be cured, before there is no one left.
If you were at my Horror panel at Worldcon, you may remember my long ramble on why it’s so great to be a Horror fan today. One reason is that foreign novels and films that never would’ve come stateside are now accessible. The Wailing is a Korean film that has torn it up with critics, got a limited US theatrical release, and is now poised for an On Demand release all around the internet.
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I also have a lot of catching up to do. I still haven't watched Dope or The Boy and the Beast, and we're not even getting into the never-ending cycle of television that gets buzzed about on Twitter. But what are you looking forward to?