2019’s just around the corner, and with it a whole host of new movies coming to a box office or streaming service near you. I always like to look ahead and put together a list of movies that interest me in the coming year, though I know it’s basically an exercise in futility since I so rarely make it to the theatre. But one can always hope, right?
The first Lego Movie seemed completely pointless when it was first announced. It turned out to be delightful in every way, from its madcap visuals to its surprisingly philosophical storyline. All credit for that was due to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote and directed it, and found some soul in the world’s most popular building blocks. They’re writing (but not directing) the sequel, which takes Emmett, Lucy, Batman, Princess Unikitty, et al. into outer space to confront a new threat. Based on the trailer, the zany sense of humor is still there, but will the sequel have the same emotional resonance as the first Lego Movie? I can’t wait to find out. Release Date: February 8
Alita is a young cyborg who awakens with no memory of her past in the distant future. But she possesses amazing fighting skills, which makes her the object of interest for some very dangerous people. She may also unlock the secrets of their world. James Cameron spent nearly two decades trying to make a live-action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s cult classic manga, but it was ultimately Robert Rodriguez who brought it to the big screen (though Cameron’s producing). When the first trailer dropped, a lot of discussion centered on the look of Alita, specifically her big, anime-esque eyes, which was faithful to the original manga but also veered a little too close to the uncanny valley. Release Date: February 14
My initial reaction to Chaos Walking was ambivalence even though it stars Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, and Mads Mikkelsen. Generally speaking, YA adaptations don’t pique my interest (I’ve still yet to see any of the Hunger Games movies in their entirety). But then I saw that Doug Liman was directing, and suddenly, my interest was piqued. Liman has delivered some solidly entertaining films, including 1996’s Swingers, 2002’s The Bourne Identity, and 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow. Based on that history alone, I’m willing to give Chaos Walking a shot. Release Date: March 1
Back in 2011, Joe Cornish released Attack the Block, a wonderful little film about an alien invasion in London that deserved far more attention than it received. His follow-up film is a modern take on the King Arthur mythos, in which a young boy discovers Excalibur, teams up with Merlin, and must confront the evil sorceress Morgana. I’ll be honest; if anyone other than Joe Cornish was releasing this, I’d probably dismiss it. But I’ve been wanting to see what Cornish does next, so I’m all in. Plus, my son saw the trailer and he thought it basically looked like the coolest thing ever. Release Date: March 1
At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Nick Fury managed to send off a message before he turned to dust. In Captain Marvel, we get to meet the recipient of his message: Carol Danvers, a former fighter pilot who was transformed by the Kree into one of the galaxy’s most powerful individuals. Noteworthy for being Marvel’s first female-led movie, there’s a lot riding on Captain Marvel, but here’s hoping it can stand on its own and not get swallowed up in the shadow of Avengers: Endgame (see below). Geek note: Captain Marvel’s hair mohawk helmet looks all kinds of cool. Release Date: March 8
Set ten years after an alien race has conquered Earth, Captive State follows the lives of those who’ve collaborated with the aliens as well as those who seek to overthrow the invaders. Starring John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, and Ashton Sanders, and directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Captive State looks like it could be decent, suspenseful take on the alien invasion genre. Release Date: March 29
Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is one of the great movie production stories of all time. For more than two decades, Gilliam has been trying to film an adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. But the director experienced numerous setbacks, including studio and funding problems, casting changes, health issues, floods, and lawsuits. The film finally played overseas, most notably as the closing film at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it received mixed reviews. But American audiences will get to decide for themselves when it’s released in the States this spring. Release Date: March 2019
DC’s Cinematic Universe has developed a reputation for being pretty grimdark, but Shazam! looks like a nice change of pace. Ordinarily, the titular hero is just a young orphan named Billy Batson, but upon uttering the magic word, he transforms into a hero with the power of the gods. The tone here looks light and carefree, as Batson tries to master his newfound powers while also coming face-to-face with his arch-nemesis, the evil Doctor Sivana. Release Date: April 5
Guillermo del Toro’s two Hellboy movies have quite a devoted following, and for good reason: they’re fun and fanciful comic book adaptations. But Neil Marshall’s Hellboy is promised to be darker and grittier. I don’t really get that vibe from the trailer, though. Marshall’s Hellboy still looks fun, though not too far apace from del Toro’s movies. Arguably, the question in everyone’s mind is whether or not David Harbour (Jim Hopper in Stranger Things) can take the mantle of Hellboy from Ron Perlman, who basically seemed born to play the part. Release Date: April 12
At the end of Avengers: Infinity Way, Thanos had succeeded in his plan of destroying half of all life in the universe. Decimated and defeated, the remaining Avengers return in Avengers: Endgame to try and undo the Mad Titan’s damage. Avengers: Infinity War ended on a massive cliffhanger unlike anything ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so you have to know that I’ll be there to see Captain America et al.‘s final, desperate gambit. Theories abound as to how the Avengers will fix the universe, with time travel supposedly playing a major role. If that’s the case, then Cap and Peggy Carter better finally have that date. Release Date: April 26
I may have mocked the first John Wick’s premise — retired hitman goes on a rampage of revenge after his puppy is killed — but the result was a truly kick-ass film that brought a new intensity to Hollywood action movies. Chapter 2 dramatically expanded the franchise’s world and mythology and ended with the titular assassin on the run with a massive bounty on his head. So I assume that Chapter 3 will pull out all the stops, which likely means watching Keanu Reeves dispatch wave after wave of bad guys while looking cooler than cool in a sharp suit. Which, if you think about it, is all we really need. Release Date: May 17
Very little’s known about this movie, which features Brad Pitt as an astronaut on a journey to track down his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who took a one-way trip to Neptune. Ad Astra also stars Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, and Jamie Kennedy. I’m always up for an original sci-fi title, and this one comes from the mind of James Gray, who received acclaim for his adaptation of The Lost City of Z. Release Date: May 24
The first Godzilla movie was alright, but it made a few mistakes (like killing off Bryan Cranston’s character too soon). But Godzilla: King of the Monsters looks to really give us what we want: the big G squaring off against his biggest foes — Mothra, Rodan, and of course, King Ghidorah — with the fate of planet Earth in the balance. As long as there’s plenty of monster smackdown action, I’ll consider my ticket money well-spent. Release Date: May 31
I have a real soft spot for the first Men in Black movie; any time I come across it, I’ll watch it, if only for the chemistry between Will Smith’s cocky Agent Jay and Tommy Lee Jone’s grumpy Agent Kay. I’m sure that the upcoming Men in Black: International will have lots of flashy special effects, but what I really want to know is whether or not Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H and Tessa Thompson’s Agent M will have a similar chemistry. They were pretty great in Thor: Ragnarok, so I’m inclined to think that’ll be the case here, as well. Release Date: June 14
Toy Story 4 seems rather unnecessary, especially considering how well the stories of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the toys were wrapped up in Toy Story 3. So of all the movies on this list, I feel particularly skeptical concerning this one. And yet, Pixar can still perform great magic, even with sequels. What’s more, both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have described the movie’s ending as very powerful. Finally, it helps that Toy Story 4 will be directed by Josh Cooley, who worked on Inside Out and directed the Riley’s First Date? short. Release Date: June 21
I recently saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and so at this point, I just want to see more animated adventures of Miles Morales. Which isn’t meant to denigrate Tom Holland’s take on the ol’ Webslinger. Spider-Man: Homecoming had its moments and Holland’s Spidey had some of the best lines and moments in both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It’ll be particularly interesting to see if and how Spiderman: Far From Home deals with Spidey being dusted at the end of Avengers: Infinity War when he travels through Europe and encounters classic Spider-Man villain Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). Release Date: July 5
Makoto Shinkai’s previous film, 2016’s Your Name, is one of the most successful anime films of all time, even becoming something of a cultural phenomenon in Japan. Needless to say, expectations are high for his follow-up film, Weather Child: Weathering With You, which is about a boy who meets a weather-controlling girl. Given that this is a Makoto Shinkai film, you can expect gorgeous artwork and animation as well as loads of heart-wrenching melodrama. Release Date: July 19
Ang Lee directing Will Smith in a movie about an assassin who takes on a younger version of himself? If this just means two hours of Will Smith trading quips, insults, and one-liners with himself, than consider me interested. Release Date: October 4
The first Zombieland, released back in 2009, was a refreshingly comedic take on the zombie genre, due in large part to performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Bill Murray. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel for years now, and we’ll finally get one a decade later. The whole cast is back sans Bill Murray, which is sad but understandable given his fate in the previous film. Release Date: October 11
I’d hoped that Rian Johnson would go on to write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX after his success with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But he’s not done with Star Wars yet, as he’ll be creating a new trilogy of Star Wars films. But before returning to the galaxy far, far away, he’s making Knives Out, a whodunit murder mystery starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette. Release Date: November 27
Some think that Star Wars: The Last Jedi wasn’t just a bad movie, but actually ruined Star Wars as a whole (and by extension, their childhood). I think that while it had its flaws, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a necessary evolutionary step for the franchise, one that both paid respect to its past and freed it to move forward in new ways with Episode IX. But will director J.J. Abrams — who stepped in after Colin Trevorrow left due to “creative differences” — build on what Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi? I have some doubts, as Abrams often relies on nostalgia to carry his films. That worked well for The Force Awakens, but after The Last Jedi, I want to see Star Wars continue to move in new, unexpected directions. Release Date: December 20
The following movies have been announced but have no official release date yet.
In 2016, Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively known as Daniels) released Swiss Army Man, which might be best known as the movie featuring Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse. For their follow-up movie, they’re directing the always great Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is being billed as an interdimensional action movie. Bonus: It’s produced by the Russo Brothers (Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War), who know a thing or two about crafting action films.
On paper, Jojo Rabbit’s storyline — about a young boy living in World War II-era Germany whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler — seems not only a bit heavy, but also possibly quite inappropriate and offensive. But the film is written and directed by Taika Waititi, the genius behind What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok. (Waititi portrays Hitler in the film and his script earned a place on the Black List, which recognizes the best unproduced scripts every year.) Jojo Rabbit could be a controversial mess or a subversively brilliant work. With Waititi’s involvement, I’m inclined to think the latter.
Bong Joon-Ho’s last film, Okja, which was released by Netflix in 2017, was a bit underwhelming. But the fact remains that Bong remains one of South Korea’s most interesting directors, thanks to films like The Host and Mother. Details are sketchy about his next film, Parasite. But it’ll be his first Korean-language film since 2009’s Mother, it stars frequent collaborator Song Kang-ho (one of South Korea’s most acclaimed actors), and it’s about a family whose members have unique characteristics (whatever that means).
Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, his return to martial arts filmmaking after 2006’s Curse of the Golden Flower, toured the festival circuit this year and received widespread acclaim for its stylish visuals, action choreography, and twisting plot. It’ll return to the States in 2019 for a limited run, which I hope comes somewhere near Lincoln. Because based on what I see in the trailer, Shadow deserves to be seen on the big screen.