Article by: Josh Bradley
Black Panther. Aquaman. Ant-man and the Wasp. An inevitable Jurassic World sequel. An overdue Incredibles sequel. Avengers: Infinity War. Solo: A(nother) Star Wars Story. Jamie Lee Curtis returning for a direct sequel to Halloween (1978) that ignores the other nine films in the franchise. Reboots of Tomb Raider and Predator. Creed 2. Mission: Impossible 6. Ocean’s 8.
Okay, now that we’ve mentioned those, let’s talk about these:
Directed by: Alex Garland
Release Date: February 23, 2018
After the lone surviving soldier of an expedition (Oscar Isaac) emerges from a mysterious “environmental disaster zone” gravely injured, his biologist wife (Natalie Portman) teams up with a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an anthropologist (Gina Rodriguez), a surveyor (Tessa Thompson), and a linguist (Tuva Novotny) to form a second expedition team in order to find out what happened to him. Based on the first book in a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.
As the writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, and the utterly marvelous Ex Machina (which he also directed), Alex Garland has established himself as one of the preeminent sci-fi filmmakers of the past ten or fifteen years. He seems as good a candidate as anyone to tackle what sounds on paper (and appears in the teaser) like a new twist on Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi masterpiece Stalker – where characters similarly identified by only their professions explore a dangerous and mysterious wilderness area called “The Zone”.
Annihilation also appeared on last year’s version of this same list when it was slated for a late-2017 release. The only other movie to similarly appear on two of my “Most Anticipated” lists due to a delayed release was The Circle, which – as we learned – was delayed because of reshoots to try to salvage a garbage movie. While that makes me a little gun shy, I don’t think Annihilation will burn us in the same way; it appears to have been delayed due to disputes between producers Scott Rudin and David Ellison, the latter of whom feared Garland’s movie was “too intellectual” and “too complicated” to appeal to a wide audience. Garland/Rudin’s intact “intellectual” cut (allegedly) won out, but as a compromise, Paramount is handing international release of the movie over to Netflix, which will make the movie available on the streaming site (in non-US markets) 17 days after its theatrical premiere in the US.
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Steve McQueen’s first film since 12 Years A Slave, which won Best Picture four years ago, is a heist thriller adapted from a British TV show from the 1980s. Four widows of slain armed robbers (Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo) team up to finish the job that got their husbands killed. A stupid-number of talented people are in this, including Colin Farrell, Andre Holland, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, Carrie Coon, Garret Dillahunt, and Jackie Weaver.
I’m not sure we deserve a heist thriller starring Viola Davis and directed by Steve McQueen, but here we are; maybe 2018 won’t suck after all. Steve McQueen is a capital-A Artist and one hell of a filmmaker. His first two films, Hunger (2008) and Shame (2010), are beautiful, gracious, brutal, and powerful. His third won Best Picture, and remains one of the best films of this decade. Widows will be his fourth, and the first he didn’t also write (a theme among auteurs on this list). It was instead written by Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Release Date: 2018
In an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel of the same name, a young man is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned just before his baby is born. Starring Kiki Layne, Stephen James, Regina King, Teyonah Parris, Dave Franco, and Diego Luna.
Speaking of follow-ups to Best Picture-winners, this is Barry Jenkins’ first film since the beautiful and devastating Moonlight (2016). With the same director, cinematographer (James Laxton), and editors (Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders), we have reason to hope Beale Street will be as gorgeous a film as Moonlight (we should be so lucky). Barry Jenkins wrote the screenplay around the same time he wrote the Moonlight screenplay, the latter which won him a well-deserved Oscar. Also, note that James Baldwin, the author of the source material, was recently the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary adapted from his work, I Am Not Your Negro.
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Release Date: October 12, 2018
For better or for worse, Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle (and the movies they made in 2016) will be forever associated in my mind because of the flub at the Oscars, so it’s only appropriate I list Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land after Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight.
Fresh off his Best Director win at the Oscars a year ago (at 31, he is the youngest winner ever), Chazelle’s fourth film is a biopic of Neil Armstrong and the first he did not also write. It was instead written by Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Rita Pearlman and Spotlight co-writer Josh Singer, adapted from First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the official biography of the first man to walk on the moon. Starring Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, Claire Foy (The Crown), Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, and Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight, 13 Reasons Why).
Directed by: Adam McKay
Release Date: 2018
Christian Bale – who famously lost 63 pounds to get scary-skinny for The Machinist (2004) only to immediately gain 100 pounds in the following six months for Batman Begins (2005) – is to back to his body transformation antics to play Dick Cheney in this biopic. To anyone under the age of, like, 20: that was George W. Bush’s Vice President, and who some call the most powerful Vice President in American history. Also starring Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Pullman as Nelson Rockefeller, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.
Speaking of Oscar-winning follow-ups, I’m very much here for the Adam McKay career turn into prestige movies. As is the case for a lot of people who were of a certain age when Anchorman came out thirteen years ago, McKay’s wildly successful collaborations with Will Ferrell dominated my late-middle school/early-high school years, and watching his filmmaking and filmography mature — in small steps withThe Other Guys and in slightly bigger steps with The Big Short — has been a joy to watch.
ISLE OF DOGS
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Release Date: March 23, 2018
After his delightful and often-overlooked Roald Dahl adaptation, Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Wes Anderson returns to the worlds of stop-motion animation and anthropomorphic animals. In a dystopian future Japan, all dogs are quarantined to the eponymous island of garbage due to a “canine flu” outbreak. Five dogs, voiced by Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and Bob Balaban (the narrator inMoonrise Kingdom), help a young boy who crash lands on the island in search of his dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Other voices provided by F. Murray Abraham, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Yoko Ono, and others.
A deliciously Wes Anderson premise with a deliciously Wes Anderson cast and a deliciously Wes Anderson trailer; this is his ninth movie and we pretty much know what we’re getting at this point. And we’re so, so lucky to be getting it.
UNDER THE SILVERLAKE
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Release Date: 2018
Little is known at this point besides that it’s a neo-noir crime thriller that takes place in Los Angeles starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, and Topher Grace. To be honest, that sentence alone is enough to pique my interest, but I’m a sucker for LA crime thrillers (I mean, who isn’t? Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, Heat, Nightcrawler, c’mon). Written and directed by a guy with three first names (and distributed by A24, if that means something to you – it should).
This list is largely compiled by simply checking in on filmmakers whose work I’ve admired in the past and seeing what – if anything – they have on the slate for 2018. In some cases, there’s a lot of past work to judge (Wes Anderson, Cuaron, McKay), and in others, less so. With David Robert Mitchell, I really only have one movie to go on, but when that one movie is as tense, endlessly clever, and well-executed (no pun intended) as 2015’s It Follows, one movie is enough.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Release Date: 2018
Ok, fine: this list is mostly Oscar follow-ups. Roma is Alfonso Cuaron’s first movie since winning Best Director for Gravity (2013).
The only plot details we have are a single sentence in a Variety article announcing Cuaron’s next project: a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the 1970s. The only other news about the production in the sixteen months since was that five crew members were sent to the hospital after being robbed and assaulted by people impersonating Mexican authorities back in November 2016 (Cuaron was not personally on set at the time). Once filming wrapped last March, Cuaron revealed that they shot in Mexico City in order to recreate the Corpus Christi Massacre – where Mexican soldiers executed student demonstrators in the streets in 1971 – so we can assume that event figures into the plot.
Given that Cuaron’s filmmaking career is well into its fourth decade (fun fact: he was the Assistant Director on the 1989 Oscar Romero biopic starring Raul Julia), it’s frankly shocking that this will be only his eighth directorial work and only the fifth that he also wrote. But when his last two films were both among the finest of their respective decades (Gravity, Children of Men), anything Cuaron touches will have my attention, even if he was unable to work with long-time collaborator (and threepeat Cinematography Oscar winner) Emmanuel Lubezki on this project due to scheduling conflicts.
THE LITTLE STRANGER
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Release Date: August 31, 2018
Domhnall Gleeson (if that name means nothing to you, please look up his filmography) plays a doctor in the 1940s who makes a housecall to a manor where his housemaid mother once worked, only to find the family members there (Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter, Ruth Wilson) are being haunted by something he doesn’t understand. A ghost story based on the 2009 gothic novel of the same name by Sarah Walters, adapted by Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl).
Obviously, one of the joys of encountering a great movie from an unfamiliar filmmaker is seeing what they do next – see Moonlight and It Follows above. On the other side of that coin is discovering what that filmmaker has done in the past, much like how I found the bizarre and beautiful Frank (2014) after bawling my eyes out during (repeated viewings of) Room (2015). Between the two, Abrahamson demonstrates his ability to elicit wonderful performances from his actors (a skill the general public often overlooks in a director), to make remarkable cinematic use of space (they shot Room in an actual 10’ x 10’ room without “fly-away” walls), and to infuse shit-serious drama into comedy and off-kilter comedy into drama.
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Release Date: 2018
An aspiring American dancer (Dakota Johnson) begins to unravel the dark, supernatural secrets of the prestigious dance academy she attends. With Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, and the amazing Tilda Swinton.
Italian director Luca Guadagnino is currently working his way through the awards’ circuit hoping to build Oscar buzz for his wonderful film, Call Me By Your Name (which has found surprisingly little awards’ season love as of this writing, despite some of the best reviews of the year and a ripe awards campaign).Call Me By Your Name completes what Guadagnino calls his Desire trilogy (a thematic trilogy, with I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015)) and the original 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria was the first in a thematic trilogy by director Dario Argento, his “Three Mothers”. Is Guadagnino aiming to do his own Three Mothers? Doubtful, but it felt worth mentioning.
Interestingly, Guadagnino is adamant to not call this a “remake”. Same basic plot, adapted from the same source material, and the same title, but it’s not a remake. Maybe call it a “reimagining”. The Coen brothers claimed their 2010 film, True Grit, wasn’t an adaptation of the John Wayne film, just adapted from the same book.
THE BEACH BUM
Directed by: Harmony Korine
Release Date: 2018
(Author’s note: the proper way to read this paragraph is to precede it with a heavy sigh and a healthy eye roll) A Harmony Korine “stoner comedy” starring Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, Zac Efron as Flicker, and Isla Fisher as yet unnamed Moondog’s Wife. Also starring Bria Vinaite, Snoop Dogg, and — unless someone on Wikipedia and IMDb is fucking with all of us — Jimmy Buffet, as himself.
If you know Harmony Korine’s work, there’s a good chance you feel a certain way about it. If the name Harmony Korine means nothing to you, proceed with caution. I’m not saying stay away, but proceed with caution.
To put it simply, his films are incredibly nihilistic, raw to the point of being off-putting, and usually much more than they might appear on their meandering surface. Example: he directed a (sort of) found-footage movie (I guess?) called Trash Humpers. It’s 78 minutes long, and it’s what it sounds like. Three characters in rubber old-person masks (Korine and his wife, Rachel, playing two of them) gyrate against piles of trash and get into a random of assortment of increasingly misanthropic and upsetting antics. There’s (eventually) a point to it all, sure, but is it worth it? I doubt Korine cares whether or not you think so; he aims to make you squirm, because that’s part of his point. I want so badly to be able to dismiss his movies (eye roll, heavy sigh, etc)… but I can’t. Yes, his films make me want to take a shower, but they also give me things to ponder during said shower.
Also, Spring Breakers — his most recent and most widely seen movie by far — is a really great film. I just want to sneak that in because a lot of people hated it, but a lot of people are wrong.
Others of Note:
THE FAVOURITE. The latest film from idiosyncratic Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, following the universal acclaim of The Lobster (2015) and the polarizing-but-mostly-acclaimed Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017).
WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? A Richard Linklater movie (yay!) adapted from the 2012 best-selling comedy novel of the same name by Maria Semple. Fun fact: the first draft of the script was written by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, the super-talented writing team behind (500) Days of Summer andThe Disaster Artist.
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Director Marielle Heller’s sophomore directorial effort after the criminally overlooked coming-of-age dramedy Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015). Starring Melissa McCarthy and adapted from the memoir of Lee Israel, a literary forger and thief.
RADEGUND. Terrence Malick claims he’s backing away from the (literally) meandering style he’s employed since Tree of Life (2011) and returning to more structured storytelling with this WWII drama about a conscientious objector. I’ll believe it when I see it.