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Hollywood goes all-in on original films

/ 12:25 AM August 30, 2019
Hollywood goes all-in on original films

Brad Pitt in “Ad Astra”

NEW YORK—When 20th Century Fox green-lit James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari”—an original movie with a nearly $100-million budget—the director’s agent had some advice.

“Enjoy this,” Mangold recalled him saying. “This will be the last one of these you ever make.”

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“Ford v Ferrari,” which viscerally recounts the efforts of an automotive designer (Matt Damon) and a race car driver (Christian Bale) to build a Ford that could beat Ferrari at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1966, has a lot going for it: Big-name movie stars, a director coming off an Oscar-nominated hit (“Logan”) and a nearly hourlong racing finale. But it doesn’t have what typically scores such a large budget in today’s Hollywood: franchise-making IP (intellectual property).

This coming movie season, in particular, Mangold is far from alone. Oscar season always brings a welcome wave of originality after the reboots, remakes and sequels of summer.

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The stakes are high. Following the success of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” there’s reason for optimism.

“I do think we have to fight back at this practice of overwhelming the market with blockbusters,” Martin Scorsese, whose gangster epic “The Irishman” was bankrolled by Netflix after all the major studios passed, said in an interview earlier this summer.

The franchise films and sequels have far from receded. On tap in the coming months are “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22), “Joker” (Oct. 4), “Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil” (Oct. 18), “Terminator: Dark Fate” (Nov. 1), “Charlie’s Angels” (Nov. 15) and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Dec. 20).

Hollywood goes all-in on original films

“Frozen 2”

But many of the season’s most anticipated movies—“Ford v Ferrari” (Nov. 15), “The Irishman” (Nov. 1), the Brad Pitt space adventure “Ad Astra” (Sept. 20), Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Nov. 22), with Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers—will be seeking audiences as much as awards.

Some are aiming to chart a new way forward for movies by not just relying on throwback thrills, but literally turning back the clock. “The Irishman,” which Netflix has shelled out a reported $200 million to make, features digitally “de-aged” versions of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

In Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” (Oct. 11), Will Smith, playing an assassin, faces off with a clone of himself, 25 years younger.

“Gemini Man” will be a major test-case for those possibilities that could, potentially, remake the theatrical experience years after the promises of a 3D revolution largely fizzled.

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Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) is more focused on the communal aspect of moviegoing, something that could be quite powerful for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

There are many other freshly original films on tap, too, including the Donna Tartt adaptation “The Goldfinch” (Sept. 13), the stripper revenge tale “Hustlers” (Sept. 13), Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers satire “The Laundromat” (Sept. 27), Robert Eggers’ mad monochrome tale of 1890 lighthouse keepers “The Lighthouse” (Oct. 18), the Lena Waithe-penned black outlaw drama “Queen and Slim” (Nov. 27), Noah Baumbach’s divorce chronicle “Marriage Story” (Nov. 6), Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet Tubman biopic “Harriet,” Edward Norton’s Jonathan Lethem adaptation “Motherless Brooklyn” (Nov. 1) and “Parasite” (Oct. 11), Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or-winning class satire.

The most affectionate ode to moviegoing might come, ironically enough, from Netflix. “Dolemite Is My Name” (Oct. 4) stars Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore during the making of the 1975 Blaxploitation classic “Dolemite.”

A handful of filmmakers will also be stepping off the franchise treadmill: In “Jojo Rabbit” (Oct. 18), Taika Waititi will break from “Thor” installments for a madcap Nazi satire in which he, himself, costars as Adolf Hitler.

In “Knives Out” (Nov. 27), Rian Johnson’s follow-up to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the writer-director crafts an elaborate Agatha Christie-inspired whodunit. —AP

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TAGS: Ad Astra, Frozen 2, Hollywood, Movies
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