18 movies to look forward to in 2018
2017 was not exactly a banner year for Hollywood. The box office set the wrong kinds of records, scoring the lowest attendance numbers in decades. Franchises both old ("Transformers") and wannabe ("The Mummy," "King Arthur") flopped. "The Emoji Movie" came out. And all that's not even including the all-too-late cleaning out of sexual predators from the industry.
But even with all that turmoil, when it came to the movies themselves, there were still incredible cinematic experiences to be had in 2017. It may have been a bad year, but the movies were still good – and 2018 looks to keep that going.
Disney has another star-studded plate, including "Incredibles 2," a new Mary Poppins, a "Wreck-It Ralph" sequel and a live-action "Mulan." Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson and my personal favorite director Alfonso Cuaron all have new projects coming your way. "Tomb Raider" might actually be the first video game movie not to suck, while "Aquaman" might wash the stink off of "Justice League" – or at worst blind you with Jason Momoa's otherworldly pecs. There's going to be a new "Jurassic World," a new "Mission: Impossible," a hopefully final "Fifty Shades" entry, a new "Fantastic Beasts" and … a "Mamma Mia" prequel? Sure. And, of course, a new Star Wars – because Disney will make new Star Wars movies until audiences drown to death under them.
And those are all the movies that DIDN'T make my list of movies to look forward to in 2018.
So here's the rest of everything you should start getting excited about coming to theaters this year.
1. "Black Panther"
There's a movie starring Iron Man, Captain America, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor and more coming out this summer … and yet all of those icons are playing second fiddle to Marvel's "Black Panther." And deservedly so.
As we've learned more and more through this comic book boom, gigantic team-up movies tend to be big, clunky works of machinery while solo adventures are typically lighter, leaner and just overall more freely entertaining and interesting with fewer gears to churn. The cast here is impeccable, from Chadwick Boseman as our legendary lead to Oscar winner Lupita N'yongo to Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis playing our seething villains. Meanwhile, behind the camera is Ryan Coogler, who blended invigorating camerawork and a unique, authentic black perspective into a seemingly exhausted franchise to create a total triumph with "Creed."
Add in the history being set – it's the first solo black superhero film in this comic book golden age – and "Black Panther" is probably going to be huge. Better yet, considering the talent involved, it'll probably be really good too.
Writer-director Alex Garland's brand of coolly smart, chilly thrills previously explored the sci-fi worlds of space ("Sunshine") and artificial intelligence ("Ex Machina"). "Annihilation," however, appears to go into alien territory (maybe literally?) with The Shimmer, an eerie giant sentient wall made of melted Lisa Frank binders hiding profoundly creepy, un-Lisa-Frank-like things behind it.
Things don't look like they'll go great for our crew of biological explorers. Considering the crew is made up of Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Thor: Ragnarok" scene-stealer Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez (with Poe Dameron himself Oscar Isaac sitting safely in a coma), things look great for viewers hungry for some more intelligent and exciting sci-fi.
And in other bad news that's actual good news, Paramount recently sold the international rights to "Annihilation" to Netflix, with producers concerned that it's "too intellectual" and "too complicated" for audiences. When studios are concerned about a movie being too interesting for viewers – especially the distributors of the "Transformers" franchise – you should get excited.
3. "Untitled 2018 Cloverfield Movie"
I have a hard time putting movies without any trailers or clips on these preview lists. How excited can you get without any actual footage to go on? So consider how excited I have to be to add this entry to my list considering it doesn't even have a freaking name yet, much less any trailers, clips, press photos or posters.
Merely the brief plot synopsis story, however, is enough to get geared up for this new "Cloverfield"-branded thriller: A group of astronauts are abandoned and isolated in space after a particle accelerator experiment makes the entire Earth disappear. Oops. But also awesome – and made even better with the cast, including David Oyelowo ("Selma"), Elizabeth Debicki ("The Great Gatsby"), Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("Beauty and the Beast"), Daniel Bruhl ("Captain America: Civil War") and Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids").
In this world of trailers for trailers and constant production updates, it's exciting to know so little about a fairly big movie coming up. It's even more exciting when what little we know sounds like a nifty pocket "Twilight Zone" concept thriller (aka my wheelhouse). More of this please. More of less.
4. "The Death of Stalin"
Wait a second: Weren't you on this list last year, "The Death of Stalin"? Poor form … but I'll allow it.
After all, a razor sharp dark political satire about the backstabbing chaos in the Kremlin after the notorious Soviet dictator's death hasn't gotten any less relevant since last January. But forget timeliness, because no matter the headlines, it's always the right time for a new comedy from the profoundly profane pen of "Veep" creator and "In the Loop" writer-director Armando Iannucci. But the best time would be as soon as possible, please, with no more delays.
5. "You Were Never Really Here"
Fans of "Drive" should start revving their engines for Lynne Ramsay's "You Were Never Really Here," a grim-looking, Cannes-raved thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as a brutal enforcer whose job returning a politician's kidnapped daughter goes awry (because these jobs always go awry in movies). Cue ominous strumming from Jonny Greenwood's already intense-sounding score and Phoenix doing his best MC Hammer impression.
If that's not enough Phoenix murder mayhem for you in 2018, however, there's also "The Sisters Brothers," which may sound like a comedy but is instead about an 1850s gold digger on the run from two assassins, which doesn't seem like a laughing matter. Then again, Dr. Steve Bruhl himself John C. Reilly stars as one of the brotherly Sisters and Jake Gyllenhaal's prospector is named Hermann Kermit Warm ... so maybe it is?
Either way, I'm looking forward to being terrified of Joaquin Phoenix in the coming year.
6. "Avengers: Infinity War"
This is what Marvel's been building toward – and though the era of the bombastic mega-hero team-up feels like it's died off a bit, "Avengers: Infinity War" will certainly give it one big final kick in the bank account. I'm mostly not concerned. Marvel's mastered the art of just venturing enough outside its comfort zone to make all of its movies feel fresh and exciting, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo showed in "Civil War" that they can make these colossal superhero smashups live up to your childhood action figure sandbox battles.
There is, however, one big looming question mark that's been lingering over these movies since the first "Avengers": Thanos. For the ultimate bad guy in Hollywood's ultimate franchise, he's been overall a non-factor – and our first look of him in the trailer doesn't inspire much fear either. He looks like a frostbitten Stone Cold Steve Austin who accidentally ran his chin over a pasta cutter. If "Infinity War" can make him into a true monolithic threat, it could live up to the years of hype. And if it doesn't … well, let's be real, it'll still probably live up to the hype.
7. "The Strangers: Prey at Night"
When Bryan Bertino's "The Strangers" hit in 2008, it was a breathe of fresh air in a horror world filled with loud remakes and tired torture porn. The creepily quiet home invasion thriller was a solid surprise hit too, nabbing $52 million domestic on a less than $10 million budget, so I and many other fans patiently waited for the assumed sequel.
And waited. And waited. And then stopped waiting and moved on with our lives.
A decade later, however, we're finally getting the sequel we wanted, "The Strangers: Prey at Night," finding a new family (including Christina Hendricks from "Mad Men" and Martin Henderson of "Grey's Anatomy") for our trio of silently menacing masked murderers to chase around. After ten years, though, can this sequel stand out like its predecessor during a historically high tide for horror movies? And while we're on that topic …
2017 may have been a nightmare financially for the film industry, but times have maybe never been more dreamy for the horror genre. As of current writing, Pennywise the Dancing Clown made $100 million more in the U.S. than the combined forces of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, while "Get Out" is not only looking at multiple Oscar nominations but potentially a chance to win a few trophies too.
Horror's always been a hot place for Hollywood to make easy money, with its generally low costs and locked-in young audience, but the iron's arguably never been hotter for big-name horror. And accordingly, 2018 is loaded with options hoping to scare you out of your seat – and out of $10 at the box office.
The year will start with an "Insidious" sequel this weekend, but there's also another "Purge" entry and a new "Conjuring" spin-off in "The Nun." Chance the Rapper, Jim from "The Office" and Oscar-winner Helen Mirren will all take a stab at scares with "Slice," "A Quiet Place" and "Winchester," respectively. Sony clearly thinks it has a "The Ring"-level franchise starter of its own with "Slender Man," while even superheroes want in on the action with the eerie X-Men tangent, "The New Mutants." And that's all before David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (yes, THAT Danny McBride) bring "Halloween" back to the big screen – with Jamie Lee Curtis in tow.
And yet, it's a different remake of a horror staple that's catching my eye: "Suspiria." Dario Argento's iconic horror classic is a creepy, colorful and bizarre one-of-a-kind creation that would seemingly be impossible to duplicate – but if anybody could, it'd be Luda Guadagnino, possibly coming off a Best Director nomination for "Call Me By Your Name." But in general, 2018 will be a great year to be scared – and not just due to skimming today's politics on Twitter.
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