In Movies & TV

"Avengers," "Lion King" and "Us" are all headed your way this year.

19 movies to look forward to in 2019

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9. "Velvet Buzzsaw" (Feb. 1)

I have plenty of screenwriting pet peeves – ask me sometime about voiceover narration! – but few things test me like when a character says something like, "We're going viral," etc. But those three seconds at the end of the "Velvet Buzzsaw" trailer can be easily ignored after the preview's previous two minutes of absolutely bonkers-bananas art world horror shenanigans, led by Jake Gyllenhaal as a pretentious gallery owner who gets his hands on a dead man's art that now wants to get its hands on his throat. Also there's a robot homeless man that I shall here forward call HoboRoboCop.

Add in one of the best casts of the year – featuring John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs of "Hamilton" fame, "Hereditary" star Toni Collette and Natalie Dyer of "Stranger Things," plus Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo reteaming with their "Nightcrawler" writer-director Dan Gilroy – and this Netflix release looks to be a hoot with brains and blood. Just maybe turn the trailer off before those final three seconds.

10. "Little Women" (Dec. 25)

Jordan Peele's not the only breakout star behind the camera in 2017 coming back to theaters this year, as Greta Gerwig will treat audiences to her follow-up to the buoyant, beautiful "Lady Bird." (For those who think a movie like this is easy to make, a personally felt yet emotionally universal coming-of-age dramedy that feels new, may I point you in the direction of Jonah Hill's "Mid90s" from last year?)

Her next project? An adaptation of the beloved book "Little Women," starring … well, listing everybody involved would take up another thousand words, so just know it stars pretty much anybody who's every been good on a screen. Even remove the killer cast, Greta Gerwig and Louisa May Alcott's novel seems like a match made in both literary and cinematic heaven. The only thing it's missing is my eyeballs – and that'll be fixed when it arrives on Christmas.

11. "It: Chapter 2" (Sept. 6)

What do "Thor: Ragnarok," "Justice League" and "Logan" all have in common? Yes, they're all comic book movies – but that's boring. They also all made less money domestically than the first "It" movie. Thanks to great timing, a stellar cast of kids and the timeless creep-out factor of clowns, the Stephen King adaptation floated to the top of the fall box office in 2017 – and there's still a whole other movie to go this fall.

Director Andy Muschietti is back, as well as the creepy-ass smile of Bill Skarsgard, but the kids are all grown up and played by Bill Hader, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and the handsome horse-riding Old Spice commercials guy. While I certainly didn't miss Pennywise (the nightmares were unappreciated, Mr. Skarsgard!), I'll miss the great child performances, though most of them are on the IMDB cast list, so maybe we'll get some flashbacks. And with Chastain, Hader, McAvoy and company picking up where they impressively left off – and Muschietti back behind the wheel – "It: Chapter 2" should scare up some serious money again come September.

12. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (July 26)

Quentin Tarantino once said that he only wants to make 10 movies. If you believe that (he also said he was going to make a "Pulp Fiction" spin-off about the Vega brothers so *shrug emoji*), we're nearing the end of our Tarantino output. But even if Tarantino pulled a Soderbergh and un-retired, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" would sound exciting, a drama about a TV star and his stuntman (Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio) clinging to fame during the Manson-haunted days of Hollywood – complete with Margot Robbie as the unfortunate Sharon Tate.

In addition to the intriguing premise, as with all Tarantino pictures, he's gathered an impressive lineup of stars old and new, including Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Damian Lewis, James Marsden, Tim Roth, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley and Lena Dunham. Hold on, Lena Dunham in a Tarantino movie? Here's a live shot of the think pieces coming our way when the movie hits theaters in late July:

13. "The Irishman"

Love crime movies? Well, "The Irishman" – the story of a mob hitman and his, uh, handiwork involving Jimmy Hoffa – might just be the holy grail, not only reteaming Robert De Niro with his "Heat" co-star and fellow mafia movie legend Al Pacino, but also bringing De Niro and Joe Pesci back together under the eye of their "Goodfellas" captain, Martin Scorsese. That's a lot of brilliant legacy packed into a single movie – all working for the future of the industry, Netflix. I'll admit I have a hard time getting excited for a film, even one with this resume, that'll be dumped on my television – but maybe the streaming service will pull a "Roma" and give it a theatrical release. Considering all the talent involved, likely making their last project together, "The Irishman" would certainly deserve it.

14. "The Kitchen" (Sept. 20)

For whatever reason, Steve McQueen's "Widows" didn't click with audiences, despite being damn great. Maybe it was coming after the vaguely similar heroines-on-a-heist movie "Ocean's 8." Maybe it was the marketing that made it seem like a Very Important and Serious Movie. Maybe we, movie audiences, suck. (As one who's tried to shut down many a cell phone user in the theater, yeah, it's probably that last one.)

Well, if you missed "Widows" in theaters, at least you'll have another chance to check out a bunch of boss ladies take over the crime genre in "The Kitchen," a thriller about gangster wives taking over for their husbands when they're locked away. "But Matt," you say to your computer screen for some reason, "that sounds kind of familiar." Sure, but the cast it's wrangled together sure isn't, featuring Melissa McCarthy continuing to flex her dramatic muscles, Tiffany Haddish trying the genre out for size, Elizabeth Moss, Margo Martindale (TV's "The Americans") and many more. From the cast to the premise, "The Kitchen" sounds like it's serving up quite a meal this fall.

15. "Joker" (Oct. 4)

The DCEU has mostly been a colossal mess-up so far. (You don't make a "Justice League" movie in the hopes of finishing tenth at the box office.) But all of that failure earned the studio some welcome freedom, ditching the darkness and exhausting chains of an expanded universes to instead make oddballs like an Aquaman movie that feels unapologetically Aquaman – re: gloriously weird and dorky – and a goofy-looking, small-scale comic book comedy "Shazam!" in April.

But the oddest of DC's upcoming slate is "Joker," ditching Jared Leto's version (*throws confetti and tickertape out the window*) for a crime drama starring Joaquin Phoenix (!?) as the criminal clown during his downfall from stand-up comic to underworld mastermind. There's so many bizarre choices going on here: Why is Joaquin Phoenix doing this? And Robert De Niro? (Well, he did "Dirty Grandpa" too, so not a real shock.) Why is the guy behind "The Hangover" directing it? A movie focused on a inhumane, enigmatic villain, one who's most interesting when not explained, seems like a bad idea, right?

I can't tell if all of these choices are signs of inspiration or signs that somebody at Warner Bros. just threw up their hands and yelled, "Screw it, who cares?" But in an era of knowing everything about every formula-following comic book movie years in advance, it's kind of fun and fascinating to see a question mark on the schedule big enough to make the Riddler proud.

16. "The Laundromat"

Frankly, this spot could go to Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh's other new release, Netflix's business of basketball drama "High Flying Bird." (So much for that retirement a few years ago.) That looks pretty stellar as well, but let's go with his other procedural-esque, nitty gritty behind-the-scenes drama "The Laundromat," which chronicles journalists uncovering millions of files linking millions of dollars in secret, tax-sheltered bank accounts.

OK, that definitely doesn't sound like the kind of premise that makes movie studios and film marketing experts see dollar signs, but it should make any film fan excited. Soderbergh is terrific at finding the meaning, politics and fascination behind a process. Something else Soderbergh's great at? Gathering up outstanding, unexpected casts – including Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, David Schwimmer, Jeffrey Wright and many more found here. If the movie's as good as it sounds, "The Laundromat" could find itself cleaning up at the Oscars. (You see, because laundromats.)

17. "Midsommar" (Aug. 9)

Lessons I learned from this past summer's horror hit "Herediary": Chocolate nut cake makes a bad party snack, never meet your mom's friends and, most importantly, don't miss whatever writer-director Ari Aster makes next.

That final lesson will go into effect this summer as Aster already has his follow-up ready: "Midsommar," about two young lovebirds (Jack Reynor of "Sing Street" and Florence Pugh of "Outlaw King") who go on a summer vacation to Sweden only for their friend (Will Poulter of "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch") to introduce them to a weird cult up to very un-festive festivities. I look forward to another round of Aster's thoughtful character work and creepy, dread-soaked craftsmanship – as well as learning another new lesson: Just go to IKEA instead.

18. "Knives Out" (Nov. 27)

Rian Johnson is one of the most intriguing writer-directors working, from the high school noir of his debut "Brick" to the smart sci-fi morality mind-bending of "Looper" and his last project … damn, its name is escaping me.

So, of course, I'm all in on his next feature, "Knives Out," currently only described as "a modern murder mystery in a classic whodunit style." Though the plot synopsis may be short on details, the cast list is already huge in high-profile names, including Chris Evans making a rare outside MCU appearance, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield of "Sorry to Bother You" (and the terrific "Short Term 12") and Christopher Plummer. That's a murderers' row of potential murderers, and while the story is vague right now, murder mystery is a genre all too untapped right now – and Johnson seems like just the guy to bring some new twists and ideas to it.

Now, I'll wrap up this list shortly – just give me a second to remember what the heck was the name of his last movie …

19. "Star Wars: Episode IX" (Dec. 20)

Oh yeah, this.

After Johnson's gorgeous and thrilling "The Last Jedi" giddily carved away the least interesting aspects of "The Force Awakens" (re: Rey's parents, Commander CGI Lumpy Face, anything "mystery box" related) and carved a whole new path for Hollywood's most beloved franchise, it'll be interesting to see where J.J. Abrams plans to take the Skywalker story in its final saga. Knowing the famously secretive director is back behind the wheel, we likely won't know much until, well, when we're in our seats on opening night. Heck, we don't even know its name yet.

But one thing that's not a secret: Abrams is a crowd-pleaser at heart, with a firm finger on fandom and delivering the familiar in energetic, unfamiliar ways. So this final trip to this particular corner of a galaxy far, far away should come to a smooth landing.

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