“I can’t wait to see that movie!”
As a kid, those words came out of my mouth about every month. It didn’t take much to get me excited about the latest Star Wars flick or action adventure. Maybe you can relate.
Now that I review movies for a living, I don’t get quite as amped up for flicks as I used to. Turns out, Hollywood cranks out a lot of films that you’d literally need to pay me to see. And even when a movie comes along that I am excited for, I have to turn my inner fanboy off and judge the movie fairly, noting any problems it might have along the way.
But we at Plugged In still have our eyes fixed on the entertainment calendar, looking at what’s trickling down the entertainment pipe into theaters or streaming services this fall. This list reflects a few of the most interesting flicks we’ll be reviewing in the next few months, and why: big blockbusters that we’re wondering how family friendly they’ll be; small indie films with an interesting spiritual twist; kids’ movies that we hope will play nice with families; movies we’re scared won’t be nice at all. Oh, and yeah, a couple might even have a hint of “I can’t wait to see” in there, too.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Sept. 17): Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, when television evangelism was at its apex, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were at the top of the evangelical heap—and a pair of punchlines for the secular world. Tammy Faye, with her outsized personality and her flamboyant eye makeup, was a particular target. But when the Bakker ministry collapsed in disgrace, Tammy Faye divorced, remarried and re-invented herself as something of a gay icon. The movie’s already been praised for taking Tammy Faye from punchline to complex character, and it could be up for awards down the road. We’re interested to see how this film treats the faith behind the figures—and the issues behind the eyes.
Mass (Oct. 8): A mom and dad, grieving the tragic loss of their son, face the parents of their son’s killer in a church basement. This film might be the most challenging, and problematic, on our list—an R-rated, dialogue-driven film about an extraordinarily difficult subject. You can bet some bad language will be thrown about. But given the movie’s title, and its setting, I want to know whether faith or God enters into this deeply personal, painful confrontation. And the four performances are said to be in the Oscars conversation, too.
No Time to Die (Oct. 8): Daniel Craig is taking his final turn as James Bond, who comes out of retirement to track down a missing scientist. We know, of course, that every James Bond film comes with plenty of Plugged In problems: the sex, the violence, the consumption of vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred). But here’s an interesting twist. Bond’s old 007 moniker was given to someone else in retirement—a woman named Nomi. While some were furious that a woman might “become James Bond,” Plugged In may see it as a positive for the franchise trajectory going forward. If Britain’s next 007 is a woman, might she bring a different, more restrained sensibility to the job?
Dune (Oct. 22): This is the second attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic to the big screen. The first, which hit theaters in 1984, was not a success (despite featuring a young-but-still-bald Patrick Stewart and a very intense Sting). This version may please Dune readers more, what with its bevy of top-shelf stars and promises to adhere to the source material (even if it does just cover the first half of the book). It’s also directed by Denis Villeneuve, who directed Arrival (which won our Plugged In Movie Award for adults back in 2017) and Blade Runner 2049 (which had some interesting spiritual themes, in spite of its R rating), so I don’t think he’ll be shying away from Dune’s own quasi-religious underpinnings.
Ron’s Gone Wrong (Oct. 22): Combine the functionality of Alexa with the cute relatability of the family pet, then stuff the results into a bowling ball-sized caplet, and you’ve got Ron. Or, at least, what Ron should be. While the gizmos are advertised as your “best buddy,” digitally speaking, Ron’s a little off. And that’s a bummer. Because his insecure owner, Barney, is about to enter middle school, and he could sure use a friend. Ron’s Gone Wrong delves into a lot of things that Plugged In cares about: kids, parents, technology, social media, you name it. We’ve already had a pretty good movie (in most respects) on those subjects just this year: Netflix’s the Mitchells vs. the Machines. How will this story measure up?
Eternals (Nov. 5): Superheroes have always flirted with the spiritual. Their stories beg us to consider the natures of good and evil, and their powers inherently can seem godlike. Some in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been called “gods.” The Eternals—beings who have lived on the earth for 7,000 years to protect humanity from ne’r-do-wells known as the Deviants—push the envelope one step further, it would seem. Indeed, in the comics, one Eternal outpost was on Greece’s Mount Olympus, and many Greeks confused them with deities. How will the MCU deal with these super-powered protectors? Will we see echoes of Christianity here, a comic-book religion or a little of both? We’ll find out come November.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Nov. 19): Speaking of stories that inherently invoke spirituality … well, you can’t get more spiritual than the spirits of long-dead folks released from a subterranean holding cell to possibly threaten the world as we know it. OK, so the Ghostbusters franchise has never taken this sort of spirituality seriously: No faith system on Earth would suggest that the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man would bring about Armageddon. Still, our collective, insatiable nostalgia for all things ‘80s has made it one of the fall’s most hotly anticipated flicks; this time around, the story seems to be predicated not on workmates, but a tight-knit-but-messy family. We’ll be interested to see how nicely Afterlife plays with its concept—as well as how well it treats younger viewers.
Encanto (Nov. 24): This is Disney’s big late-year splash, and it promises to be magical. No, not necessarily magical in terms of its quality or messages (we’ll have to see about those), but the story itself is steeped in magic. Indeed, the whole fictional Columbian town where the movie takes place is magical—all except for Mirabel, who doesn’t have a lick of magic in her. And when she insists that she’s “just as special” as her extra-special relatives, one young child tells her, “Maybe your gift is being in denial.” It sounds like a nice premise designed to help kids see just how unique they really are. And with music from Hamilton and Vivo’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, you know the music’s going to be good. But Disney sometimes sneaks some surprisingly problematic content into even its sweetest films.
So slap these dates on your calendar (though movies, especially in the age of COVID, tend to move around a lot), and be looking for our reviews. If we’re interested in seeing these films, chances are some of you might be interested, too. We’ll fill you in on all the good, bad and otherwise, as best we can.