2018 film preview


With almost 100,000 words written about film and television in 2017, I had a blast watching many features (“Get Out,” “Wonder Woman,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Florida Project,” “The Disaster Artist,” “I, Tonya”) cried in three (“A Ghost Story,” “Okja,” “Lady Bird”), and sat through quite a few snoozers/stinkers (“Snatched,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Should Remain Deader,” “Transformers: Monty Python’s Flying Robots”). Regardless of quality, I loved writing about all of them, and 2018 looks like a doozy of popcorn flicks, sequel madness, literary adaptations, awesome ensembles, and solid genre entries.

With more than 20 sequels, an estimated 10 remakes/reimaginings, and at least four spinoffs and two reboots of popular genre franchises, the film schedule for 2018 can sometimes seem like a nonstop barrage of plasticized, committee-driven, focus-group tested products cranked off an assembly line at a Funzo factory that markets in vanity projects, star vehicles, cash grabs, and other soulless revenue streams. As vapid and listless as some seem to be judging from their trailers, there does look like a fair scattering of fun popcorn features throughout the year whose effective nostalgia or star chemistry may substitute for a lack of originality.

It’s hard to distinguish a true remake from a reimagining, especially if the original is a classic or has helped define an actor’s or director’s career. A few films seem innocuous if fairly needless, as with “Peter Rabbit” (Feb. 9), “Robin Hood” (Sept. 21), or “The Grinch” (Nov. 9), while others are treading on vulnerable territory by remaking a cult classic or flipping the formula on a decade-specific feature such as “Death Wish” (March 2) or “Overboard” (April 20). While Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite 10 years after 2008’s “Step Brothers” as “Holmes and Watson,” which might be just gonzo enough to work, Bradley Cooper’s oft-delayed remake of “A Star is Born” with Lady Gaga is the third reimagining of the fireworks and perils of show business after the 1937, 1954, and 1976 versions.

A few sequels will attempt to wrap up their series with as much enthusiasm and chemistry as their stars can muster (“Maze Runner: Death Cure” on Jan. 26; “Fifty Shades Freed” on Feb. 9), while others are continuations of a loosely connected group of films (“God Particle” as the third installment of the Cloverfield movies on April 20).

“Avengers: Infinity War” (May 4) has Tony Stark getting the band back together for the third time, “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (Nov. 2) will reunite for the fourth, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the fifth installment in the Frankenstein’s dinosaur franchise, and Tom Cruise is still kicking as Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible 6”

(June 27).

This year also holds an unusual amount of sequels that are coming years after the original or previous film: the Jaegers and Kaiju battle again in “Pacific Rim Uprising” (March 23) five years after the first film, while “Wreck-It Ralph” is back in the arcade six years later in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Nov. 21). Both “The Strangers: Prey at Night” (March 9) and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (June 20) are returning a decade after their respective originals, the superhero Parr family is back after 14 years in Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles 2” (June 15), and the boys from the Vermont highway patrol will engage in more shenanigans after 17 years in “Super Troopers 2” (April 20). While Shane Black’s “The Predator” comes 31 years after the writer-director played Hawkins in the 1987 science-fiction musclefest, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, squaring off against Michael Myers 20 years after their last confrontation in 1998’s “Halloween H20” and 40 years since the 1978 horror classic. However, the 2018 winner of biggest gap between sequels goes to the return of the practically perfect British nanny, now played by Emily Blunt, in “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 25), 54 years after the original but still with Dick Van Dyke.

“Mom and Dad” (Jan. 19) capitalizes on Nicolas Cage going full-on Nicolas Cage in this horror-comedy in which parents are overcome with some bizarre mass hysteria and try to kill their kids. Think “The Crazies” meets a reversal of “Children of the Corn” with Cage channeling his Castor Troy character from “Face/Off.”

Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”) brings everyone’s favorite fantasy novel to read in 5th grade to glittering life with “A Wrinkle in Time” (March 9), featuring a stellar cast from Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Reese Witherspoon to Chris Pine and Michael Peña. Seriously, the cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler and costumes by Paco Delgado look radiant in the early footage and trailers.

While Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus Christ in Garth Davis’s vision of “Mary Magdalene” (March 30), I am more excited to see him as a tormented war veteran resolved to rescue a young girl from prostitution in Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here,” which made a splash at Cannes last year. I’m still haunted by Ramsay’s last feature, 2011’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” so I look forward to seeing her study of violence and revenge.

There are two female-centric heist films this year: “Ocean’s 8” (June 8), in which Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) assembles a team of thieves to steal a diamond at the Met Gala, and “Widows”

(Nov. 16), in which four women are related only by their late husbands’ debts and who team up to pull off an armed robbery themselves. While the former has a crazy amount of star power such as Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Armitage, and James Corden, the latter film looks tastier as it is a little less slick and more gritty — plus, it is directed by the amazing Steve McQueen (“Hunger,” “Shame, “12 Years a Slave”).

Late in the summer, Lenny Abrahamson (“Frank,” “Room”) directs Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson in “The Little Stranger,” a horror-mystery set in a crumbling old estate in England where a young doctor (Gleeson) is called to help a sick patient who might be suffering from something more supernatural than physical.

Admittedly, I am excited about three comic-book heroes getting their standalone films throughout the year: on Feb. 16, Ryan Coogler, who directed 2015’s excellent “Creed” (the sequel to which with Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone will premiere Nov. 21), helms “Black Panther” featuring alum Chadwick Boseman (“Fruitvale Station”) as T’Challa, who returns to the kingdom of Wakanda to not only assume leadership but also prevent his country from being included in war. It also boasts another fabulous cast including Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Danai Gurira, and Jordan. Later in the fall are “Venom” (Oct. 5), featuring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, and finally “Aquaman” (Dec. 21), where a tatted-up Jason Momoa claims the throne of Atlantis.

Also in December is Christian Rivers’ adaptation of Philip Reeve’s sci-fi/fantasy epic “Mortal Engines,” from a screenplay written by LOTR alums Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh, about a post-apocalyptic world of floating cities that literally consume smaller towns for energy and resources.

See you at the movies!