Tomorrow's Theater ... Today

Greg Dean Schmitz

FML's newest column continues this week with upcoming movies associated with this week's Dumbo, The Beach Bum, and Unplanned.

Amazing Grace (4/5/2019)
Neon is a new indie distributor (since 2017) that's recently given us movies like 'Colossal,' 'Ingrid Goes West,' and 'I Tonya,' and is this week delivering Matthew McConaughey's 'The Beach Bum.' We're about to enter a couple of months when Neon will deliver four or five films (including 'Little Woods,' 'The Biggest Little Farm,' 'Wild Rose,' and 'This One's for the Ladies'). The next movie to come out of this batch from Neon will be the musical documentary 'Amazing Grace,' which has been held back in legal negotiations since the 1970s. The recently late Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) recorded her fourth album Amazing Grace in early 1972 at a Los Angeles church, and the 'Amazing Grace' documentary was originally supposed to be released in 1972 (in a double feature with 'Super Fly,' even). (Look out for a Rolling Stone cameo in the trailer around the 1:30 mark.)

Aladdin (5/24/2019)
Walt Disney Pictures has a big year planned for their remakes-of-Walt-Disney-Animation-Studios classics, with adaptations of movies #4 (Dumbo), #31 (Aladdin), #32 (The Lion King), and a sequel (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) to the adaptation of #16 (Sleeping Beauty). Disney went into their live action remake of 'Aladdin' with a bold casting strategy that started with a big casting call for Aladdin and Jasmine which focused on finding fresh faces of Middle Eastern heritage. Mena Massoud (Aladdin) is Egyptian; Marwan Kenzari (Jafar) is of Tunisian descent; and Naomi Scott (Jasmine) is of Indian/British descent. For their new Genie, Disney went with Will Smith, complete with a blue CGI body and (probably) face. That choice quickly became a meme, but could it turn out to work as an online promotion?

Men in Black: International (6/14/2019)
Speaking of Will Smith, one of his former franchises is making a return this summer with 'Men in Black: International,' which will feature a score co-written by Dumbo composer Danny Elfman. The new agents fighting aliens this time around will be 'Thor: Ragnarok' costars Chris Hemsworth (Agent H) and Tessa Thompson (Agent M), with their bosses to be played by Liam Neeson (High T) and Emma Thompson (no relation) (Agent O). We also learned this week via one of the 32 character posters for 'Avengers: Endgame' that Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie character survived the 'Avengers: Infinity War' snap, so she will be reuniting with Chris Hemsworth in 'Avengers: Endgame' too.

Toy Story 4 (6/21/2019)
You may be forgiven for thinking that the Toy Story franchise's story ended with 'Toy Story 3,' but Disney and Pixar also like money, so here we are with movie No. 4 coming out this June. 'Toy Story 4' is arguably a soft reboot, as the movie will feature several new characters (including Key & Peele, Keanu Reeves, Timothy Dalton, etc). What's less clear is which voice actors are returning for 'Toy Story 4' (one surprise this week? The late Don Rickles is still voicing Mr. Potato Head). Jodie Benson is reportedly returning as the voice of Barbie, but reports vary about whether Michael Keaton (from this week's Dumbo) is also returning as the voice of Ken.

Spider-Man: Far from Home (7/5/2019) (Michael Keaton rumored)
Curiously, 'Toy Story 4' is just the first of two movies this summer in which Michael Keaton's involvement is unconfirmed or rumored. The other is 'Spider-Man: Far from Home,' in which Michael Keaton is rumored to be returning as Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture. There are a few different factors that suggest either "yay" or "nay" on Keaton's return. On one hand, Laura Harrier, who played Toomes' daughter Liz in Spider-Man: Homecoming, is not known to be returning. On the other, there are spoilers/speculations that would easily lead to Vulture returning (without getting into specifics, that has to do with the villain supergroup Sinister Six).

The Lion King (7/19/2019) (Disney adaptation)
We don't yet have a trailer for the fourth of Disney's remake cycle for 2019, the sequel 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' (10/18/2019), so we'll end this preview with a look at the remake of 'The Lion King.' One has to be particularly careful about describing exactly what 'The Lion King' is, because the argument is out there to be made that it's not a "live action remake." All of the characters appear to be very well-done CGI animated, and probably most of the background art is not live action either (though some of it might be). Similar to their approach to Aladdin, Disney tried to cast African-American stars for all of the lion roles, including Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, and James Earl Jones returning as the voice of Mufasa.