Happy New Year! In David’s annual feature, here are 25 films and 10 new TV series he’s keeping an eye on in 2018.
These lists are hardly exhaustive, of course, and there are probably many “big” releases missing — not to mention the many terrific films that will hit the festival circuit that neither you nor I have even heard of yet. But since it’s never too soon to mark your calendar for things, please enjoy this countdown of what I’m looking ahead to in the new year (all release dates subject to change):
25. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (6/22)
Full disclosure: I liked Jurassic World quite a bit when it was first released. I don’t so much anymore, of course, but there are still parts of it (mainly the production design, the score, and a few shots here and there) that I dig. Mostly, though, one of my mortal weaknesses is that I will show up for Jurassic anything. So that means that no matter how bad Fallen Kingdom looks, I’ll be there. I’ll be there for Jeff Goldblum and all the dino mayhem I can stomach, which is a lot. Maybe it’s not terrible?
24. Mortal Engines (12/14)
I don’t know anything about this series; I’m not especially interested in yet another unending YA adaptation; but this one has Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and the entire Weta team behind its production, so color me curious at the least. Lord of the Rings concept artist Christian Rivers directs the story of post-apocalyptic roving steampunk cities. I guess it’s Mad Max meets Howl’s Moving Castle?
23. The Favourite (TBD)
Yorgos Lanthimos, director of accessible box office smashes like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is back again this year with a period piece. It’s set in 18th Century England, the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman, getting her reps in before the next season of The Crown), and promises to be “a bawdy, acerbic tale of royal intrigue, passion, envy, and betrayal.” Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult, and Mark Gatiss co-star.
22. Bohemian Rhapsody (12/25)
Big question marks hanging over this one, and the film’s numerous false starts have been well documented: scripts thrown out or watered down, actors dropping out, and, most recently, director Bryan Singer fired mid-production (for…reasons) and replaced by previous director Dexter Fletcher. But goodness gracious, the images of Rami Malek in character look downright eerie. Can he sing? Probably not, but if Fletcher and 20th Century Fox are able to drag Bohemian Rhapsody over the finish line, it could be a surprise holiday treat.
21. Creed II (11/21)
Everyone loved Ryan Coogler’s Creed, myself included. Can the anticipated sequel — rumored to feature the son of Ivan Drago, because of course — live up to its predecessor? Director Stephen Caple, Jr. has only one indie feature credit (The Land) to his name, but so did Coogler at the time. We know how great Michael B. Jordan is. Tessa Thompson is back. Stallone is still here, after publicly flirting with directing it himself before being reminded that he is an old white man, and his take on the material was not wanted.
20. Backseat (TBD)
Yes, that’s Christian Bale, putting himself through the weight gain ringer once again to play…Dick Cheney. I don’t know anyone who is clamoring for a biopic on the Darth Vader of Vice Presidents, but writer/director Adam McKay (The Big Short) has shown a surprising ability to make the unwatchable watchable, and with a supporting cast that includes Amy Adams (as Mrs. Cheney), Steve Carell (as Rumsfeld), and Sam Rockwell (as Dubya!), this will either be a biting satire or a painfully overlong SNL sketch. No in-between.
19. Early Man (2/16)
Not much to add here except that every Aardman release is a treat (remember The Pirates? I loved The Pirates), and this Bronze Age tale stars Redmayne, Hiddleston, and Maisie “Arya Stark” Williams. I don’t love this trailer, but they usually keep their best jokes hidden.
18. Mission: Impossible 6 (7/27)
If all I knew about M:I 6 was that this was the film that contractually obligated Henry Cavill’s Superman to wear a mustache, I’d still want to see it. Even so, this series has stealthily become the best action franchise of the decade (it’s true! Think about it and get back to me), and director Chris McQuarrie (Rogue Nation) returns for yet another round of the Tom Cruise Hangs On To/Jumps Off Of/Runs Away From Things Spectacular. What will be the big stunt this time? What was so insane that Cruise broke his ankle, shutting down production for weeks? Is this the year he finally does a spacewalk? I can’t wait to find out.
17. The Kid Who Would Be King (9/28)
Seven years. That’s how long it’s been since Joe Cornish’s last film, the cult hit Attack the Block (which, lest you forget, featured a star-making debut from John Boyega). Since then, Cornish has been quiet: he contributed to the scripts for Spielberg’s Tintin and Marvel’s Ant-Man (before buddy Edgar Wright dropped out), but we’ve all be waiting to see his directorial follow-up. So what is it? A present-day Arthurian tale about an English schoolboy (Louis Serkis) who discovers Excalibur and must defeat the medieval evil that pursues it. Rebecca Ferguson plays Morgana, and Patrick Stewart is Merlin. I’m so, so in.
16. Mute (TBD)
Duncan Jones’s Warcraft film was a flop, but the Netflix release Mute finds the Moon and Source Code director back in comfortable sci-fi territory. It’s also a neo-noir in the vein of Blade Runner, about a mute bartender (Alexander Skarsgard) searching for his missing girlfriend in seedy 2052 Berlin. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux also appear.
15. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (11/16)
The first Fantastic Beasts was a fun if lightweight piece of world-expansion, and Potter-heads will surely enjoy this next installment in the planned five-film prequel series. The least interesting thing about this, to me, is the titular Grindelwald, and it’s more than just my developed allergy to Johnny Depp. I’m absolutely here for Jude Law as The Young Dumbledore, though.
14. Mary Queen of Scots (11/2)
It’s another British historical drama, but the log line is basically “Saoirse Ronan attempts to overthrow Margot Robbie, and also David Tennant is here,” so if that doesn’t get your blood pumping…okay, you probably just aren’t me. Acclaimed stage director Josie Rourke adapts Beau Willimon’s screenplay.
13. Mary Poppins Returns (12/25)
I’m not a big believer in Rob Marshall, but I do believe in Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Mary Poppins Returns finds the nanny returning decades later, with the Banks children all grown up; we can assume singing and dancing ensue. Miranda plays Jack, a lamplighter; the film also includes Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, and appearances from Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. Music from the Hairspray duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
12. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (TBD)
Can it be? Is it real? Terry Gilliam has spent nearly three decades trying to make his Don Quixote passion project, and has suffered much. The original 2000 production famously collapsed due to “acts of God,” as documented in Lost in La Mancha; the following years would see a revolving door of actors — the late John Rochefort and John Hurt out, Jonathan Pryce in; Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor out, Adam Driver in — and financial backers. But it seems, barring a similar supernatural event, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will finally make its way to screens in 2018. Regardless of the film’s quality, that statement alone is worth cheering.
11. Ocean’s 8 (6/8)
Do we need another Ocean’s movie? Yes, if it looks like this. Sandra Bullock plays George Clooney’s similarly incarcerated sister, who gets her own crew together for a heist at the Met Gala. Thieves include Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, and Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway as the mark and appearances from Richard Armitage and James Corden. Of all possible female-driven franchise reboots, this is by far the most welcome, and a true test of style for the usually down-the-middle director Gary Ross.
10. The Death of Stalin (3/9)
This has already gotten a UK release (hence its inclusion in last year’s preview), but we’re not getting it until March, so here it is again. The great satirist Armando Iannucci left Veep to make this, his first feature film since 2009’s brilliant In the Loop. Based on a graphic novel by Fabien Nury, it follows both the Soviet dictator’s final days as well as the chaos created by the sudden power vacuum. And if that doesn’t sound ripe for comedy, you don’t know Iannucci. The mostly British cast includes Jason Isaacs, Paddy Consadine, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, and Steve Buscemi.
9. First Man (10/12)
La La Land director Damien Chazelle re-teams with Professional Handsome Man Ryan Gosling for what will — barring an unexpected twist — be his first film not about jazz music. Instead, Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong in a biopic that also covers the early days of the American space program. As that’s been an obsession of mine since childhood, and I still ride harder than you or anyone you know for Whiplash, I’m going to be all over this one. Co-stars include Claire Foy, Jon Bernthal, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin.
8. Ready Player One (3/30)
I know, I know. The book is not good. It’s been several years since I’ve actually read it, and I remember enjoying it for what it was (Willy Wonka in the Matrix, with gratuitous 80s references), but I’m more than a little embarrassed by it now. Not helping matters is that author Ernest Cline’s execrable follow-up, Armada, showed that he only has one trick, and it’s not character or dialogue or story. However, this is Steven friggin’ Spielberg we’re talking about, and this trailer indicates a return to the visual imagination he showed in Minority Report and A.I. Do you trust him to sand down the worst elements of the novel and deliver a rollicking, nostalgic ride? Why wouldn’t you? Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe, and Simon Pegg star.
7. A Wrinkle in Time (3/9)
Speaking of great directors adapting science-fiction novels for overgrown children, you couldn’t find a better counterpoint than Ava DuVernay and A Wrinkle in Time. Newcomer Storm Reid plays Meg, a brilliant girl who gets help from trans-dimensional beings Oprah Winfrey(!), Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling in rescuing her scientist father (Chris Pine) from the forces of darkness. If you never read the novel as a kid, you probably aren’t well-adjusted. Most of all, it’s about time someone gave DuVernay this kind of money.
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story (5/25)
Can you believe we’re just five months from another Star Wars movie? Can you also believe that the best promotional material available is this photo, which is nearly a year old and includes the co-directors (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) who were replaced by Consummate Anonymous Workman Ron Howard with just a few weeks left in production? The whole thing has been a non-stop rumor factory, and it’s weird. But it’s Star Wars, and even if Howard has reportedly re-shot something like 80% of the film, Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm have gotten out of worse jams. Just like Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo, I suppose. We still get Donald Glover as Young Lando, and Emilia Clarke, and Paul Bettany, and Woody Harrelson, and a screenplay from Lawrence Kasdan that, according to reports (again), is supposed to be brilliant. Fingers crossed.
5. Incredibles 2 (6/15)
It’s Incredibles 2, guys. Brad Bird returns to animation (after the underappreciated Tomorrowland), and to my favorite Pixar film, picking up the moment the first one left off. All the original adult cast is back, plus Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener. It’s going to be great.
4. Black Panther (2/16)
It’s taken me this long to get to superheroes, but it’s not due to lack of options. You’ve got your Deadpool sequel (shrug) and your Aquaman (meh) and your Dark Phoenix (sigh) and your New Mutants (hmm) and your Ant-Man and the Wasp (sure?) and your Hellboy (David Harbour!) and your Venom (Tom Hardy!) and that’s all fine and dandy, but let’s get real: the only two titles I’m really looking forward to this year star the King of Wakanda. T’Challa’s solo film is first up in February. There’s a lot of pressure on it, and all of it is crap: of course Ryan Coogler is blockbuster-ready. Of course there’s a massive audience for a predominately black cast. The list (Lupita! Sterling K. Brown! Angela Bassett! Daniel Kaluuya!) is impressive beyond imagination. Let’s get hyped.
3. Isle of Dogs (3/23)
I’ll drop everything for a new Wes Anderson film, especially when he’s returning to the stop-motion style he executed so well in 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox — my favorite film in his catalog. It’s an ideal medium for his meticulous and whimsical style, and I love his technique of recording his voice cast together in real locations. Isle of Dogs, an original story from Anderson and frequent collaborators Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura, looks like another home run, featuring an eclectic cast of returning company players too long to list, plus additions like Bryan Cranston and Greta Gerwig. If I’m being truly honest with myself, it’s number one on my list.
2. Annihilation (2/23)
Another one to file under “I thought this would be released last year.” The good news is that Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina) adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s deeply weird novel — a fascinating mix of Crichton, Lovecraft, and Lost — has reportedly remained intact after a barrage of ill-considered studio notes, and we’ll finally be seeing Annihilation in February. For the uninitiated, it’s about Natalie Portman’s biologist joining a team to explore “Area X,” a pristine and dangerous jungle that one day suddenly appeared without explanation; the less you know from there, the better. Also features Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. If it all works out, we can slot it alongside the best cerebral science fiction has to offer.
1. Avengers: Infinity War (5/4)
It’s almost impossible for this to be an objectively “great movie.” Too many characters, too many franchise obligations, not enough interest in Josh Brolin’s Big Bad, Thanos. But it also doesn’t entirely matter. This the culmination — or at least the beginning of the culmination — of a decade of patient work from Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios, as they payoff their years of teasing while starting to close the book on this generation of superheroes. Crossovers are messy business, even in print, and Infinity War has its work cut out for it. But it’s #1 here for a reason, and that’s because there is no blockbuster in 2018 that is riding a larger cultural cachet and wave of good will. Get that man a shield, and let’s do this thing.
But wait, there’s more: Andy Serkis releases his darker, grittier, mo-cappier take on Mowgli…Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider…John Boyega jumps into the drift in Pacific Rim: Uprising…Nicholas Hoult plays Tolkien…Brolin and Del Toro return for Sicario 2: Soldado…new films from Steve McQueen (Widows), Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Steven Soderbergh (Unsane, shot entirely on an iPhone), Clint Eastwood (The 15:17 to Paris), and Terrence Malick (Radegund)…Brian Henson does Muppet Noir with The Happytime Murders…possibly, the long-gestating Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara from Spielberg…and if we’re lucky, Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea’s Tomm Moore completes his trilogy of Celtic myths with Wolfwalkers.
10. Mosaic (Mobile/HBO, 1/22)
This might be Steven Soderbergh’s craziest experiment yet. Already available as an app, Mosaic is described as an “interactive storytelling experience” where you can select from a number of branching narratives around a pre-plotted story — sort of a Choose Your Own Rashomon. All of this material is being assembled into a six-part miniseries to run on HBO later this month: a murder mystery starring Sharon Stone, Garret Hedlund, and Allison Tolman.
9. Counterpart (Starz, 1/21)
If you’ve ever been unsatisfied with just having one J.K. Simmons, you’re in luck: in the new espionage series Counterpart, there are two. He initially plays Howard Silk, a United Nations employee who makes an uncomfortable discovery: his doppelgänger from an alternate world has crossed through a Cold War-era portal, which would be awkward for anyone. Co-stars include Harry Lloyd, Olivia Williams, and J.K. Simmons. Hopefully it’s fun and Fringe-y.
8. The Chi (Showtime, 1/7)
Master of None’s Lena Waithe is the showrunner here, a coming-of-age series that hopes to do for Chicago what Atlanta does for…Atlanta. Common is an executive producer, and Chance the Rapper is expected to be heavily involved as well. The ensemble of fresh faces includes Jason Mitchell and Jacob Latimore.
7. Castle Rock (Hulu, TBD)
Stephen King is back in a big way (the failure of The Dark Tower notwithstanding), and Hulu and Bad Robot have teamed up for the audacious Castle Rock, a horror series that uses the titular Maine town as the flashpoint for all sorts of King-verse shenanigans. Purported to be an anthology series, the first 10-episode run centers on an attorney (Moonlight’s Andre Holland) representing a Shawshank inmate with an “unusual legal problem.” Sissy Spacek and Bill Skarsgard will appear, but not necessarily as who you think. It’s also produced by Manhattan’s Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason.
6. Waco (Paramount Network, 1/24)
What’s the Paramount Network, you ask? Great question. It’s the Great Rebranding of Spike TV, no longer content to run syndicated muscle car shows and 80s action movies, but launching its first foray into original “prestige” material just when it’s no longer financially sustainable. In any case, Waco, a six-part miniseries based on the fatal Branch Davidian standoff in 1993, looks fascinating. Taylor Kitsch plays David Koresh, and Michael Shannon plays the FBI negotiator trying to defuse the situation. Also stars John Leguizamo, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Benoist, and Rory Culkin.
5. Barry (HBO, 1/15)
Bill Hader co-wrote and directed the pilot for Barry, a half-hour comedy finally dropping this month (it was originally scheduled for 2017). He also plays the lead, a low-rent hitman who tracks a target from the Midwest to Los Angeles and accidentally falls in with a troupe of tryhard theater actors. The cast includes Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, and Ron Funches.
4. Maniac (Netflix, TBD)
True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga is the director and co-creator (with Patrick Somerville) of this one, based on a Norwegian series. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star as mental patients who escape into fantasy worlds. Justin Theroux and Sally Field recur. Almost all other details are being played close to the vest. Did I mention it’s a dark comedy?
3. The Terror (AMC, 3/26)
Another one bumped to 2018: Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, and Ciaran Hinds topline this handsomely Gothic anthology series based on a 2007 novel by Dan Simmons, which itself is based on one of the Royal Navy’s most enduring mysteries: what happened to the HMS Terror, which went looking for the Northwest Passage in 1848 and never returned? Simmons and AMC posit…monsters. That the real-life ship was, no joke, rediscovered just last year probably doesn’t constitute as a spoiler alert.
2. Good Omens (Amazon, TBD)
This one made the list on that image alone; I don’t even need to know what it’s about. But in case you do, Neil Gaiman is bringing his and Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy novel to Amazon Prime: an angel and a demon (Michael Sheen and David Tennant, respectively), who have come to enjoy hanging out on Earth, team up to stop the apocalypse. Other cast members include Michael McKean as the last sergeant of the “Witchfinder Army,” Miranda Richardson as a psychic, and Jon Hamm as the archangel Gabriel. You read that right.
1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix, TBD)
The Coens are coming to television! And it’s a western! If you haven’t already had your fill of anthologies, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is here to disabuse you of that notion. Details are scarce (naturally), but we do know that it’s at least partially about a singing cowboy, played by Tim Blake Nelson; each of the six episodes follows a different character, but it all ties together somehow. Cast includes James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, and Stephen Root. What a time to be alive.
But wait, there’s more: Tons of intriguing science fiction this year, including Netflix’s Altered Carbon (something something cyberpunk memories) and Lost in Space reboot, and Amazon’s Black Mirror-ish Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams…Beau Willimon dramatizes The First mission to Mars for Hulu…American Crime Story returns with the Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)…John Krasinski suits up as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (Amazon)…Daniel Bruhl and Luke Evans solve murders in 1896 New York in The Alienist (TNT)…Jason Katims hopes to do for high school theater what he did for football in NBC’s Rise…and Matt Groening goes to Netflix for his third original series, the animated medieval fantasy Disenchantment.