19 movies to look forward to in 2019
After the typical slow start to the year, the year in movies finally gets its first blockbuster (offense very much intended to Keanu Reeves' "Replicas") with M. Night Shyamalan's "Glass." And things are only going to get more exciting from here.
We've got superheroes ("Captain Marvel," "Spider-Man: Far From Home" and "Shazam") and spinoffs ("Hobbs and Shaw," "Men In Black: International"), TV adaptations ("Downton Abbey") and horror movie hits ("Pet Sematary," "Brightburn" and a "Grudge" remake). And if you're Disney, it's deja vu all over again with headed with "Aladdin," "Dumbo," another "Frozen" and another "Toy Story" all coming back to the big screen. There's a new Linklater, a new Ang Lee, a Sonic the Hedgehog movie for ... some reason, a "Cats" movie musical that I'm literally allergic to and a movie where Liam Neeson plays a revenge-seeking snowplow driver named Nels Coxman.
And those are just the movies I left off this list.
Here's the 19 movies you should already have your popcorn ready for in 2019.
1. "Us" (March 22)
For Jordan Peele's big-screen debut behind the camera, the "Key & Peele" star created a critically beloved horror/thriller that made absolute bank at the box office ($176 million domestic on a reported budget less than $5 million), became a cultural sensation inspiring thinkpieces and internet memes – the ultimate pop culture currency these days – and rode its undimming buzz and love for an entire year to the Oscars, where it was the rare horror movie to win over voters, nabbing a Best Picture nomination and a Best Original Screenplay win.
Not bad for a first go-around. But here comes the hard part: following all that up.
No reason to lose faith, however, as his second feature looks just as good – and maybe even scarier. "Us" reteams "Black Panther" stars Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke as parents taking their two kids on vacation when they're menaced by some familiar intruders: themselves. And they brought scissors! Not great!
The first preview plays like absolute gangbusters – whoever came up with the "I've Got 5 on It" musical motif deserves a raise and a vacation, though one preferably without a murder family down the block – showing just enough to feel different from the usual home invasion thriller while still hopefully withholding its best secrets. And while normally pushing back a release date is bad news, Universal's recently announced delay from March 15 to March 22 shows they've got confidence "Us" will kill at its South By Southwest debut two weeks prior and wants to build the buzz that made "Get Out" a monster hit.
In conclusion, PUT IT IN MY VEINS PLEASE.
2. "Avengers: Endgame" (April 26)
It wouldn't be a movie preview in the 21st century without mentioning Marvel – and the modern blockbuster behemoths will be back at it in 2019, between March's "Captain Marvel" and July's "Spider-Man: Far From Home." (By the way, Spidey seems to be feeling much better now, Mr. Stark!) But in the name of this list not being one-third comic book movies, we'll narrow it down to just one MCU entry: the ultimate Marvel movie, "Avengers: Endgame."
Marvel already pulled off the seemingly impossible by making "Infinity War" worth the decade-long wait, balancing all of its star-studded pieces while also delivered an ending that truly shocked many watching. So how will "Endgame" follow that up? Who will be de-snapped along with Spidey and Nick Fury? And how much of the film will be just hanging with Thanos on his space farm, relaxing and basking in a job well done? I demand at least an hour.
Anyways, after paying off ten years of blockbuster filmmaking, coming through on just 365 days of hype and anticipation should be nothing.
3. "John Wick Chapter 3" (May 17)
In a world of epic superhero spectacle, gigantic extended universes of comic book characters and all-CGI world-saving exploits from living myths, it's kind of wonderful that the best and most consistent action franchise to come from this era started with a guy and his dog.
Now it comes to a (presumed) end with Baba Yaga running from an entire world of assassins – including the "Iron Chef America" guy! – battling gangsters with kitanas on motorcycles, murdering a henchman with a book, roaming around sand dunes and doling out his favorite party favor – headshots – on horseback.
So that escalated.
And I can't wait to watch. No series in recent memory has mastered the combination of cool, clean action surrounded by a world effortlessly filled with fascinating character. They just better leave his dog alone.
4. "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" (May 31)
What's better than one monster? Well, if we're talking reality, no monsters would be preferred. But if we're talking Hollywood blockbusters, the more the merrier – and the messier. And I can't wait to see what mess Godzilla and friends make in this monster mash, with the fire-breathing lizard king inviting all of his Toho friends – Rodan, Ghidorah, Mothra, #JusticeForMechagodzilla – to smash up the globe while an overqualified cast including Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Millie Bobby Brown and the Verizon commercial guy look on in horror. The first trailer is some gorgeous chaos – and that's just two minutes, so yes, give me two more hours, please.
The last "Godzilla" romp withheld a lot of why we go to a Godzilla movie. Somehow, I get the impression this one won't do the same.
5. "The Lion King" (July 19)
Full disclosure: I only put this movie on this list because I had to. A preview of the year's biggest movies missing "The Lion King" remake, which is guaranteed to make approximately (*punches numbers into calculator*) all the money, is just willful ignorance.
But pardon me if I just don't see the point of Disney remaking one of its best movies just with technically better animation (other than the aforementioned ocean of cash). It's a movie about talking animals; I don't need it to look "realistic." If anything, the photo-realistic look could harm the movie's emotional impact; animals from reality don't emote the way their animated versions could, meaning audiences will be left pondering blank lion stares during the big emotional crescendos of the royal drama rather than faces we can read. Plus does anybody really think the uber-detailed new trailer looks better than its bright, clean and lush 2-D predecessor? Did we learn nothing from the overdesigned mess of "Beauty and the Beast"? Considering that movie grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide, no, probably not.
In fairness, perhaps "The Lion King" will surprise me. The cast list, featuring Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen and the return of James Earl Jones, is great, and the post-trailer word is that it won't be a shot-for-shot remake – which good. I've seen that movie already; it was 1994's "The Lion King," and it was great as is.
We won't know anything until it comes out on July 19. All we know now is that people really need to stop calling this a live-action remake. Unless they trained an actual baboon to pick up an actual lion cub while actual elephants and actual zebras bow in unison, it's not live action – and if that is the case, I'd much rather watch the behind-the-scenes footage of how they pulled off that miracle than "Lion King 2.0."
6. "Detective Pikachu" (May 10)
Do I love "Detective Pikachu"? Or do I hate "Detective Pikachu"? These questions have haunted me more than this shot of a frighteningly furry Jigglypuff mean-mugging the camera.
On one hand, a live-action Pokemon movie – featuring Ryan Reynolds voicing a furry electrocuted rodent who solves crimes, because obviously – seems like an awful, silly and cynical idea and that's before I even I set eyes on that realistic Jigglypuff above. (Jigglypuff should obviously be a sentient marshmallow, not a hairy animal.) On the other hand … it doesn't look bad? Like, at all. The neon noir visuals look gorgeous, the performers seem to be having a good time and dammit, Pikachu looks adorable – even with Deadpool's voice coming out of him. Will it be a delight or a damnation? I'm not sure; all I know is that I'll be there opening night to find out.
7. "Ad Astra" (May 24)
When people ask me what my favorite film genre is, I always give the same answer: good. But in the rare occasions when I'm not being a smartass, the honest answer is probably original sci-fi. It's a thrilling canvas for unearthly visuals and digging into current issues and philosophical ideas without sounding preachy or painfully obvious – plus, in today's Hollywood, it's always fun to see a studio and director take a big swing with a new (and probably expensive) concept.
Enter "Ad Astra," one of those aforementioned big swings from writer-director James Gray, last seen taking his lush, thoughtful frames into the jungle with the critically lauded "Lost City of Z." He'll now launch that beloved camerawork into space with Brad Pitt, playing an astronaut searching for his father and finding a threat to humanity in the process. They never find a planet of lollypops or a meteorite made of smiles in these movies, do they?
Along for the ride is Ruth Negga – so terrific in the underseen "Loving" – Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Kimberly Elise and … Jamie Kennedy? Jamie Kennedy of "Malibu's Most Wanted" fame? Well, this just became an even bigger swing than expected. Godspeed, James Gray.
8. "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" (Oct. 18)
Mister Rogers isn't quite done making you cry yet, as hot on the trail of Morgan Neville's documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" comes "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," a drama about a journalist assigned to profile the beloved children's show host – based on the real story of writer Tom Junod.
It's sure to be an inspiration story, but there's some inspired choices involved already – like hiring Marielle Heller to direct, whose soon-to-be Oscar nominated "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" has a lovely bittersweet, melancholy tone that could help balance out any excessive saccharine sweetness. Then there's the man playing Mr. Rogers: who but Tom Hanks. That's right: America's dad is going to play America's other dad – and they're both going to make you sob.
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