There have been 17 Marvel Cinematic Universes films thus far released, and literally dozens of others making their way through various stages of development. And, as the years go by, the choices of characters that Marvel chooses to make movies about are only going to get more and more obscure — after all, with all the bigger heroes taken, there’s a lot more room in the development world for the likes of Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, even with the slate expanding to lesser and lesser-known characters, Marvel continued to ignore what seems to be a sure-fire, established property: that of Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow.
She’s been featured all over the MCU thus far, and is almost certainly one of the most beloved members of the main Avengers team. Furthermore, she’s played by Scarlett Johansson, undoubtedly one of the most bankable actors in the world. And with Marvel very much trying to expand what an MCU movie can be, and delving into a bunch of different genres as a result (Ant-Man is a heist movie, Guardians is a space opera, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a high school coming-of-age movie, etc.), it would make sense to add Black Widow on to the pile — the espionage/noir movie you can build around the character practically writes itself!
And, yet, Marvel has been oddly reluctant to actually give Natasha Romanoff her fair due. They’ve talked about it for years (since she came out as one of the breakout heroes in The Avengers, really), but a movie was never actually produced. It’s been nearly seven years after the character was first introduced in Iron Man 2, and its just been endless talk after endless talk. But coming off 2017, whose 3 highest grossing films all starred a female, it seems Marvel might be thinking twice about having such a male-heavy slate…and is once again looking at giving the Black Widow character her chance at a standalone.
That’s at least my takeaway from today’s big news, as the much-discussed project finally moves forward into development. As first broken by Variety, Marvel has hired up-and-coming writer Jac Schaeffer to pen the script for the potential project. Schaeffer is a bit of an unknown quality at this point, with her only produced projects on IMDB being the indie sci-fi comedy TiMER (which she also directed), and, umm, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. But I’ll try not to hold that last thing against her.
Johansson is of course attached to reprise her role which, by the way, she has done in SIX MCU films as a supporting character so far. If you ask me, she more than deserves her due to lead a standalone. In fact, she deserved it like five Marvel films ago. Honestly, it would have been great to have Black Widow lead the current charge of female-led action films, rather than simply being an effect of it. But I guess this is one of those situations where I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This movie is probably happening, and that should be celebrated. Even more so if Marvel manages to attach a strong director to it. May I be the first (of probably many) to suggest one Michelle MacLaren? If DC won’t have her, you can!
Also published on Medium.
10 Years Later, Cloverfield Remains The Pinnacle of Found Footage Films
There’s been a lot of found footage films. But none of them can equal the scale and ambition of Matt Reeves’ monster movie masterpiece.
There could be a bit of recency bias in my recollection here but, for me, there might be no more important year in the history of 21st Century film than 2008. There’s a few reasons for that, most of which I will discuss in the months ahead (let’s just say it was a big year for superhero movies, and leave it at that for now.) But when it comes to notable film’s celebrating their 10th Anniversary, one film in particular instantly sticks out to me: Cloverfield. And the reason why is two-fold — not only is the film’s release date extremely memorable (it was going by the title 1-18-08 for the longest time, after all), but the film itself has been one I’ve been thinking about quite a bit in the decade since.
Sure, there might be other films in 2008 that had a larger impact on the world and on cinema, but for me, at least? Cloverfield remains an absolute marvel of a film, a technically brilliant disaster film that not only defined a format, but pretty much give it a kick in the pants the moment it needed it the most. Since Cloverfield we have had many, MANY found footage films, but none have had the initial impact that Cloverfield had for me. And with the film turning ten today, I thought it would be the perfect time to reevaluate its mertis. After so many years, and what feels like a lifetimes worth of other movie releases, would Cloverfield be able to elicit quite the same response? For me at least, the answer is a clear yes. Cloverfield is a film that left me absolutely gobsmacked the first time I saw it and, revisiting it 10 years later, still leaves me rather breathless.
And, for me at least, that euphoria all comes from the result of some absolutely stellar filmmaking. At the time, it was rather shocking just how well made Cloverfield was: nothing about the shaky cam footage and blurry visuals looked like they would amount to much, at least from what the vague trailers showed us. But, now, it’s far easier to see just how technically proficient this film is. Hindsight is 20-20, but also having a grasp on who’s behind the camera helps you appreciate the artistry on display much more.
That man here is of course Matt Reeves, who made his directorial debut with Cloverfield. Reeves would go on to make two of the best blockbusters ever made (IMHO, but it really should just be considered a fact at this point) with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, but right from the get-go he proved himself an able craftsman with Cloverfield. While the film bares resemblances to both its found footage forefathers AND later successors (think The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Paranormal Activity), it’s clear from the get-go that Cloverfield is working on an entirely different scale altogether. This is a film packed to the brim with huge special effects, crazy monster designs, and the literal destruction of New York City in the span of a half dozen hours. Paranormal Activity, by comparison, is about a bedroom.
None of which is to belittle other films in the found footage genre: I happen to be a fan of the conceit, generally. But, man, none of them have been able to push my buttons in the way that Cloverfield did. It was a revelation, and one that only got better and better as it spun out into grander territory. Even with the intense viral marketing and captivating trailer, I was not prepared for the ride that I initially went on with Cloverfield. And I was far from the only one — remember all the reports of the people getting sick in the theater, becoming disoriented and dizzy by the action unfolding onscreen? That’s purposeful, and though I’m sure those who experienced it would probably disagree with me, very much one of the film’s strong suits. On the surface, it’s a mere monster movie. But the way that the film tells its stories turns it into a powerful, disorienting, enthralling thrill ride.
Which is kind of the point anyways, right? The whole reason found footage exists as a genre is to give viewers a rawer, more visceral experience. Take away the excesses of traditional film techniques, and you also separate the barrier between what appears fake…and what doesn’t. You end up taking away people’s perception of it “just being a movie,” to the point that they too might really be convinced that a witch killed some kids in the forests of Maryland.
Now, obviously, the same can’t really be said of Cloverfield. No one was going to get fooled into thinking the events of this film actually happened, unless they just happened to chose the film as their first bit of entertainment after coming out of a twenty-year long coma. But the fact that it feels so real despite that is what makes Cloverfield so magical: through the use of its found footage conceit, it strips away the artifice of the standard disaster movie template, and creates something far more horrifying and powerful in the process. The found footage element of Cloverfield isn’t just some gimmick to make the movie stand out amongst other monster movies — it’s essential to what the film is trying to accomplish and, ultimately, what it is trying to say about the very nature of the genre.
While it would be incorrect to say Cloverfield is the most “realistic” monster movie for this reason, I would argue that it makes it the most down to Earth one. In fact, what I love so much about the movie is the fact that it takes your standard Godzilla-esque story, and recontextualizes it entirely by focusing on your standard, run-of-the-mill people. Throughout the film, our main group bears witnesses to a bunch of soldiers running around, trying their best to combat the unstoppable monster and save the city. In most movies, you would be following the military dudes going after the monster, with the background characters trying to escape simply serving as the backdrop. But what Cloverfield so beautifully realizes is that the more interesting story is buried within these background figures, that a tale of basic human survival is far more affecting than the umpteenth story of some military figures or scientists trying to save the world.
And if you’re going to commit to telling that story, what’s the best way to bring the action down to their level? Why, by literally presenting it from their point of view. The camera only catches the occasional glimpse of things, and misses a bunch of key moments, and is usually just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of chaos happening on screen. But if you were in the shoes of Rob, Hud, Lily, Marlena, or Beth, wouldn’t you be overwhelmed too? The camera is a nice way to give the film some flair but, more importantly, it’s a way to get into the headspace of the main characters.
Main characters who, by the way, are far better handled than they had any right to be. Props should most likely be given to screenwriter Drew Goddard in that department — like Reeves, time has only gone to further show how amazingly talented this man is, with The Martian and (especially) Cabin in the Woods subsequently earning raves. But even in penning his first feature film script, Goddard already showed a knack for inventiveness, and a willingness to form strong character arcs even amidst the nuttiest of concepts. While the center love story between Rob and Beth isn’t the most amazing one in the world, it has its benefits. The idea of risking your own life and safety just to save another in a time of crisis is a meaningful one, and the film’s use of in-camera flashbacks (through a pretty smart “overwriting” technique) also provides a powerful glimpse into how simple and relatable the lives of our main characters used to be before things went to shit. But most important of all, fleshing out the characters the way Cloverfield did gives the film a drive and emotional throughline that so many modern blockbusters really lack.
…Like Godzilla, for instance. Now I was going to try my best not to make this article just another takedown of that 2014 remake, but rewatching Cloverfield reminded me just how much better this film handled the idea of a stripped down, barebones disaster film. While Godzilla wasted about an hour of time with secret military tests, scientists talking about ultimately unimportant things, and criminally underutilizing Bryan Cranston, Cloverfield opens with a bunch of 20somethings having a fun party, and using that party as a way of laying down the groundwork for their future behavior and character arcs. While Godzilla spends an agonizing amount of time following ARMY MAN Aaron Taylor Johnson doing absolutely nothing of value while hopping from country to country, Cloverfield lays out the central mission of the movie a third of the way in, and focus on said mission for the rest of its runtime. While Godzilla got off on withholding its main monster through smudgy cinematography and baffling cutaways, Cloverfield uses said withholding to instill a sense of foreboding and chaos. While Godzilla is an overlong, dreary mess, Cloverfield is a brisk 85 minute roller coaster ride of action and horror. One that also happens to feature a cast of characters I actually give a shit about which, believe it or not, is pretty important for a film! Anyways, I’ll stop picking on Godzilla now. I just needed to release that rant, since I’ve been holding on to it for nearly four years.
Anyways, what more can I say? Clearly I love Cloverfield and, rewatching it now, I’m taken aback with how much it still very much works. Not quite as much as it did the first time I watched it unfold on the big screen but, to be fair, what could? Seeing Cloverfield back then was a magical moment for me, as I sat in pure awe watching this crazy monster movie unfold before my very eyes. The fact that the experience can even be 1/10 as awesome some ten years later speaks to how, even pushing aside the mystery and the presentation, the film works incredibly well as a subversive, visceral disaster movie.
Part of me wants to say that I wish we got more original blockbusters that are as gutsy and crazy as Cloverfield but, really, that’s one of the film’s ultimately greatest accomplishments. Even with the found footage format being one of modern horror’s go to devices, there is nothing else that can quite match the scale and ambition of Cloverfield. And, honestly, I doubt there ever will be. I can only just hope that the ongoing Cloverfield set of anthology films will continue to find equally compelling ways to tell unique, compelling sci-fi stories. Hey, they are two for two so far! Hopefully April’s mysterious Cloverfield 3 will continue the trend.
But, until that happens, I highly recommend revisiting Cloverfield. The film unfortunately isn’t streaming on Netflix or Hulu or anything like that, but you can rent it on Amazon, and where all purchasable streaming films can be found. Or you can just watch it on a Blu-Ray disc, like me. PHYSICAL MEDIA 4EVAH.
(You might disagree with what I have to say about the film, but no one can argue this isn’t one of the all-time great teaser trailers, right? Makes one hell of a first impression, and perfectly sells the madness of the finished film.)
Here are some other things of note I thought about while re-watching the film. Also they are spoiler-heavy thoughts so, if you got this far and haven’t seen the film…just go do that instead, okay? Okay.
- There’s a lot of oners in the film, which must have been very difficult to do with the budget and level of secrecy that the film had. Just makes the technical wizardry all the more impressive.
- The scene where Rob has to tell his mother that his brother died is so, so great. Once again, it’s not the type of shit you usually get in a monster movie. You don’t get the time to see the direct human cost of the monster wreaking havoc, at least not as it extends outside the core group of characters. Of course all the mothers of the world would be calling their children. And of course a fair amount of those mothers are going to end up heartbroken.
- I remember there being a huge uproar from people about how stupid it would be for someone to keep filming throughout the entirity of such a crazy attack. But, personally, I never got the argument. Hud from the beginning explains why he keeps filming everything (“People will want to see this”), and I found the sentiment mostly rang true. It was also clearly a way for him to handle the enormity of the situation, which rather intelligently made the motif an additional, but intrigual character quirk. Also, in the modern age, the idea of someone filming everything they are seeing is more believable than ever. If Cloverfield actually happened in real life, you bet your ass someone would be streaming the entire thing on Youtube.
- The tunnel scene is TERRIFYING. The visualization of the hatchlings is just so perfect, with the creature designs overall being top notch. Props to man designer Neville Page and the rest of his team on that.
- Marlena’s exploding head death was a visual that stuck with me for a decade. That’s when you know a film is good.
- The slanted skyscraper also made for some neat compositions, and even cooler set designs.
- Pulling the rhubarb out of Beth’s shoulder is horrifying, and without even showing a damn thing. It’s the little things that make this movie so great.
- “What is that!” “It’s a terrible thing!”
- “What is that?!” “I don’t know, something else, also terrible.” Like any good thriller, Cloverfield also takes the time for some very much appropriate comic relief. Shame it has to come out of the mouth of T.J. Miller, though. Time has been kind to Cloverfield in many areas but, uh, not that one.
- Speaking of genuine emotions: I love how people are actually FREAKING THE FUCK OUT throughout the entire film. Not your standard screams and other crowd noises, but genuine “OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE” rantings. Can see how some could be turned off by the detail, but it just makes me appreciate the film’s authenticity even more.
- The shot of Hud being eaten/seeing the monster for the first time. Next level stuff, people. Matt Reeves is a brilliant, brilliant man. I’m so happy he’s doing a Batman, and I have all the confidence in the world it will be great.
- “My name is Beth McIntyre. And I don’t know why this is happening.” Can’t think of a more succinct line to express the film’s ultimate theme than that. At the end of the day, the main characters are just a bunch of tiny figures, going through a world-shattering event, and trying their best to make it out alive. And, if a monster attack happened in real life, you can bet the vast majority of audiences would be right there with them.
- “I had a good day.” And then that final line is just…mean.
Also published on Medium.
Why The Hell Did Fox Just Push Back The New Mutants To 2019?
And why the are they still trying to make that Gambit movie happen? These questions, and more, below.
Fox is in an incredibly weird position when it comes to the future of their Marvel mutant properties. By far one of the studios most profitable properties, they recently doubled down on the franchise, putting what seems to be dozens of X-Men adjacent films into development. But then a wrench was thrown into all these spin-off plans, a wrench in the form of a corporate takeoff and a massive, groundbreaking acquisition.
Yes, Disney now is in the process of purchasing Fox, which will certainly have repercussions on how the two studios proceed with the future of their Marvel properties. But, for now? Fox has no idea what to expect, so is just proceeding with business as usual when it comes to all the X-Men plates they have twirling in the air. And business today, I guess, is pushing back a film, moving up another, and continuing to live in denial about the increasingly slim possibilities of a third one while they are at it.
All this happened just a few hours ago, as The Hollywood Reporter filled us all in on the shifting schedule of Fox’s X-Men branded films. The most surprising of the bunch by far is Fox’s decision to completely push back The New Mutants, not just by a few weeks, but by AN ENTIRE YEAR. The horror-tinged mutant film was on track for release on April 13, with marketing already commencing and everything, but will now hit theaters on February 22, 2019. Yes, a grand 13 months away…or a substantial 17 months after the film first concluded filming.
That type of delay is rare to happen on a big Hollywood blockbuster, especially one so close to release. So the question must be asked: why did Fox delay the film? Well, like all things to do with Hollywood blockbusters, the answer is pretty muddled. THR’s sources tell them that Fox was afraid of having too many X-Men films in release at the same time, what with Deadpool hitting theaters in June (at least at the time — more on that in a second.) But that excuse doesn’t at all add up, as it was Fox’s decision from the start to release the film’s so relatively close together. Why wasn’t it a problem back when Fox chose the release?
(Might want to change the date at the end of this trailer now, Fox.)
Furthermore, why couldn’t Fox have just delayed the film a little bit to, say, August? Or maybe push back X-Men: Dark Phoenix instead, giving it the February 22 release and putting New Mutants in its November 2 slot? Marketing hasn’t really kicked off for the former film, and a delay of three months for it is far less drastic than the 10 month one for New Mutants. Or, if Deadpool 2 is the problem, why not push that one to July, giving a healthy gap of three months to all the Mutant properties? No, no, that reason does not hold up in my mind. Far more likely is the fact that New Mutants was having trouble in the editing room, and isn’t up to snuff to what Fox is wanting. Will the Josh Boone helmed horror film manage to come out of this delay a good film? History is not kind to films that get delayed in such a substantial way, but anything is possible I assume.
But New Mutants failing is Deadpool 2‘s gain, as the still untitled sequel has been pushed up from its original June 1 release date to a prime May 18, 2018 slot. That’s great…on the surface. But beneath the assumed confidence such a move would dictate, I’m kind of baffled why Fox would do this. It’s been widely assumed that Disney was going to own May 2018, what with the release of Avengers: Infinity War at the start of it and Solo: A Star Wars Story at the end of it. Why would Fox chose to throw Deadpool 2 right smack dab in the middle of the Disney madness?
The way I see it, releasing Deadpool 2 at the start of June pretty much gave the Merc with A Mouth the whole month to himself — the only other real blockbuster competition was in the form of Incredibles 2, which wouldn’t even be opening until a couple weeks after anyways. All I see happening from placing Deadpool 2 in May is the film running into Avengers: Infinity Wars legs, and having its very own cut off by Solo: A Star Wars Story. Did Fox learn nothing from War for the Planet of the Apes, which faltered at the box office by being smack dab right in the middle of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Dunkirk? And did they learn nothing from the FIRST Deadpool, which managed to be their highest grossing movie by, in large part, having little competition in its February release? C’mon movie studios, stop overcrowding all the blockbusters!
Moving on to the final bit of X-Men franchise news is our old friend Gambit, which at this point has been in development for about 77 years. The Channing Tatum led (maybe?) spin-off was supposed to be directed by Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski…until he abruptly quit the project earlier today, making him the 124th director to do so (my numbers might be a little off, but you get the point.) Due to once again having no one direct the film, and New Mutants now occupying the previous February 2019 release date, Fox has moved the film to June 7, 2019.
Of course, the movie isn’t going to actually come out then — in fact, I am starting to question that this movie will ever see the light of day. Despite what seems to be the initiative of one executive (or maybe Tatum himself), no one is demanding a Gambit movie. And even more troubling for the film’s production, no one is willing to make one either. When the Disney/Fox deal is finalized, I expect Gambit to be one of the first movie casualties. But, until then…sure, Fox. Believe what you want to believe. When Marvel Studios reabsorbs the X-Men, will any of this even matter anyways?
Also published on Medium.
18 Films Worth Looking Forward To In 2018
Can 2018 measure up to the cinematic greatness of 2017? These 18 films certainly show it’s a possibility.
I’ve been writing most anticipated lists for quite a while now on the internet, and usually when I do so, I choose to structure the piece by selecting an equal number of films to the year that I am writing about. So if the year was 2013, I would choose 13 films for the list—14 for 2014, 15 for 2015, etc. Well, now we are in the year of Our Lord 2018, and quickly this is becoming an overwhelming enterprising. The number keeps going up, and I know that eventually there has to be a breaking point. If I keep this going all the way until 2027, for instance, am I going to really choose 27 anticipated movies to put on the list? Someday, I’m really going to have put a stop to this expansion.
…But today is not that day! A new year means a new set of films to look forward to, which means yet another list arbitrarily ranking my anticipation for them! At first, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to find 18 films to fill out the entire thing, but as always, the number of releases in the forthcoming year that have a lot of potential vastly outway the ones I can actually include on the list. My working list had like, thirty at the end of the day. Maybe I’m capable of doing the “27 Films To Look Forward To In 2027” list after all!
In any case, here’s the 18 films worth looking forward to in 2018. As always, there’s one major stipulation: all the films on this list had to have an official, confirmed release date — which means a lot of smaller indies that we suspect will be released in 2017, but have no actual plan in place for their distribution, have to get the shaft. Sorry smaller films — I have to find a way to cull the list somehow. But even if pretty much all of these are studio joints, there’s still plenty of variety amongst the selections. Take my #18, for instance…
18. Sicario 2: Soldado
Release: June 29, 2018
When Sicario 2 was first announced, I was filled with nothing but apprehension and confusion surrounding its mere existence. Why the hell does the world need a follow-up to a gritty, depressing thriller about the pressures of life of law enforcement on the border? Especially one without so many elements that made the first film great–namely, director Denis Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and main star Emily Blunt. It seemed like Sicario 2 was destined for the “forgettable sequel” bin right from the get-go. And, for what it’s worth, Siciario 2 could very well wind up in that bin anyways. That being said, the first trailer for the film was actually pretty great, and the involvement of writer Taylor Sheridan (whose three-for-three after Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River) has me hoping that there’s actual artistic merit to this follow-up. The plot synopsis raises my eyebrows a bit on that regard (MEXICANS BE SMUGGLIN’ TERRORISTS ACROSS THE BORDER), but I can only hope that the actual film will be just as fascinating–and enthralling–as its predecessor.
17. Paddington 2
Release: January 12
FUCK YEAH Y’ALL, PADDINGTON 2! IT’S THE RETURN OF THE FUCKING MARMALADE EATING, HAT BRANDISHING, JACKET WEARING BEAR MOTHERFUCKER! HELL FUCKING YEAH.
MOTHER. FUCKING. PADDINGTON. TWO.
16. The Happytime Murders
Release: August 17
I have been looking forward to The Happytime Murders for what feels like over a decade…because, apparently, it has been over a decade. This is one of those projects that has an incredibly promising concept (R-rated puppet noir in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), but just can’t seem to pick up enough steam to actually be put into production. But finally, after ten years of struggles from director Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson himself,) The Happytime Murders is a 100% real project that will likely be hitting theater screens in the next few months. I guess that’s the power of getting a big-time star involved…who, in this case, happens to be Melissa McCarthy. She wouldn’t be my first choice for the lead of a puppet comedy noir, but she can be extremely funny when given great material to work off of, so I can only hope The Happytime Murders will lean more towards Spy than it does Identity Thief. With a concept this high, the potential for failure is huge…but even just on the promise of seeing this thing actually hitting theaters, I’m very much looking forward to the film’s late Summer release.
15. Mission: Impossible 6
Release: July 27
Despite everything that would seem to be set against it, the Mission: Impossible series has been going on for nearly twenty years, and through six separate entries. And here’s the craziest thing of all: the past couple installments haven’t been worse than the first few. Heck, the series just keeps getting better and better every time, if you ask me. At this point, I’m certain the franchise as it stands is destined to have a comedown of some sort…but since that has yet to happen, I am as psyched as ever for Mission: Impossible 6. Returning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie did fantastic work on Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation, and though it will be a little strange for a director to come back and do another Mission: Impossible (a series first), I’m interested to see if this series can wow us once again. I’ve learned plenty of time never to underestimate its potential, that’s for sure.
14. Black Panther
Release: February 16
There’s obviously a far bigger-ticket Marvel Studios’ film in the pipeline for 2018 (don’t worry, we’ll get there), but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on Black Panther. Everything we’ve seen from the project has been extremely cool, and director Ryan Coogler has the talent to really make this something special (he absolutely knocked my socks off with his last film, Creed.) To see Marvel give him the reigns to what looks to be a crazy ass Black Panther movie is extremely gratifying. Add in a crazy good cast of almost entirely black actors (Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman withstanding), and you have the makings of what should be another great Marvel origin movie. By design it likely won’t be the standout for Marvel in 2018, but it can still be one hell of a delicious, early-in-the-year appetizer for what is to come.
13. The Predator
Release: August 3
Shane Black is making a goddamn Predator movie. That alone, really, should be enough to justify the film’s inclusion on this list. And, since I still have 12 more films to get through on this list…it will be.
Release: February 23
I think Alex Garland impressed us all collectively with his directorial debut, 2014’s Ex Machina, which alone would make his follow-up worth getting invested in. But apparently, the source material for Annihilation, the novel by Jeff Vandermeer, is pretty great, and perfect for an accomplished writer/director like Garland to adapt. Add in an EXCELLENT cast of primarily female performers ( led by Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez, with a masculine dash of Oscar Isaac as the cherry on top), and Annihilation could end up being the very best science fiction film of 2018. And, to be honest, the behind-the-scenes drama only makes the entire enterprise MORE enticing. A science fiction film that tested poorly because it was too complicated for general audiences, and because it has an unsympathetic lead character? CONSIDER ME SOLD.
11. The Kid Who Would Be King
Release: September 28
We haven’t seen ANYTHING from The Kid Who Would Be King, which for some reason for a lot of films that made my list this year, is actually the norm. But my excitement for the project can be linked pretty directly to the man in charge of it: Joe Cornish, who absolutely blew me away with his directorial debut Attack the Block, and has since vanished for nearly seven years. Cornish is now back behind the camera though with this original adventure fantasy film, which tells the story of “A band of kids embarking on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace.” Vague, yes, but nonetheless enticing. Plus, Patrick Stewart. Everything’s a little bit better with a helping of Patrick Stewart.
10. Bad Times At The El Royale
Release: October 5
Speaking of secretive follow-ups to great movies from first-time directors…you probably haven’t heard about Bad Times At The El Royale. To be quite honest, I hadn’t really either, at least not until I started doing research for this list. But though there’s not a lot to work with when it comes to El Royale (“The film is set in the 1960s in a dilapidated hotel in the Lake Tahoe region in California,” says the brief IMDB plot summary), it seems that secrecy is very much the intent with this one. In fact, the Fox executives who bought the script weren’t even given paper copies of it — they had to read the thing on an iPad, and give it back afterwards. That makes me think some crazy shit is actually going on in this movie, only reinforced by my main point of excitement for the film: it’s being written and directed by Drew Goddard, who is no stranger to writing mysterious things (he wrote Cloverfield, and was a writer on Lost, after all.) And the last time he both wrote and directed a film, we got Cabin in the Woods, a genre-bending meta exercise that was also, like, the best. Will Bad Times at the El Royale (which is being fronted by the intriguing pair of Chris Hemsworth and Jeff Bridges) be able to measure up? All I know is that I’m incredibly eager to find out.
9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Release: December 14
I was incredibly skeptical of Sony making an Animated Spider-Man movie at the same time they were developing a whole new live-action trilogy for the character…but then they got Phil Lord and Chris Miller on board. That pair has yet to let me down, and seeing them put their stamp on my favorite superhero filled me with excitement. Then the first trailer for the movie was released last month, and my anticipation only skyrocketed further. This movie has the potential to be really great, even if getting an animated Spider-Man movie, big budget Spider-Man videogame, and an appearance from the character in Avengers: Infinity War all in the span of eight months seems to tilt the property to the point of oversaturation. But if any character can survive being overused in popular culture, it’s certainly Spider-Man, right?
8. First Man
Release: October 12
After Whiplash and La La Land (two films I both loved to almost equal measure), I’m fully in on the directing career of Damien Chazelle. First Man represents a bit of a different project for him (being a biopic about Neil Armstrong, I doubt it will include much in the realm of music or singing…probably), but I have to imagine there was something about the script that led Chazelle to attaching himself to the project. With Spotlight’s Josh Singer credited for the most recent version, hopefully there will be more to this project than just a simple biopic. And even if not…Astronaut Ryan Gosling? Sure, why not!
7. Deadpool 2
Release: June 1
I really, really liked 2016’s Deadpool, very close to the point of loving it. But as super fun and watchable as the original Deadpool was, I still feel like the film didn’t quite practice what it preached. Deadpool wanted to be an unconventional, strange, and abrasive superhero film, and occasionally was that. But beneath all that was a surprisingly standard superhero origin story, one that failed to be as subversive as what you would expect from a “true” film starring the Merc With A Mouth. However, my reservations about the first film are a feature for Deadpool 2, not a bug. I really believe that the original told a necessary story to get people sold on the concept, and cut certain corners that could be deemed too weird to attract general audiences. But with Deadpool being a bonefide smash, and the business of telling the character’s origins out of the way, I’m hoping the sequel will be given a lot more room to play around with, and truly embrace its weird-ass self. The bonkers teaser trailer for the film is certainly leaning in the right direction, and I can only hope the finished product will be a nutty, vulgar, and fun time at the theater. Deadpool set a strong foundation, and I am eager to see what Deadpool 2 (if it ultimately goes by that title) will do to build upon it. At the very least, having John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch on board should provide for some absolutely kickass action scenes, right?
6. Isle of Dogs
Release: March 23
Wes Anderson has created a lot of really great movies (and The Darjeeling Limited) in his over two decades of filmmaking, to the point it’s really hard to say which one is really his best. Is it one of his earlier works like The Royal Tenenbaums? Something newer like The Grand Budapest Hotel? Something, umm, weird like The Life Aquatic? I don’t even know for sure, but I know one thing: by far his FUNNEST film is Fantastic Mr. Fox. A wonderfully realized, incredibly funny piece of stop-motion greatness, Fantastic Mr. Fox is just a delightful little movie everytime I see it. From the initial trailer, it seems like Anderson’s return to the world of stop motion will be a bit more on the serious side (as serious as a Wes Anderson joint can get, I guess), but that doesn’t make his return to the format any less exciting. In fact, I’m super eager to see what Anderson will do with the wide canvas that animation allows him in bringing an original work to life. And with a cast of seemingly everyone in the world (Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johannson, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Ken Watanabe, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban…good lord, it’s endless), the project certainly isn’t lacking in star power. Plus, DOGGIES! STOP MOTION DOGGIES! What do you need, a roadmap?!
Release: November 16
My Top 5 most anticipated films are regretfully light on original fare, which means including this film on it should in and of itself show how much I’m looking forward to Widows. The first film from Steven McQueen since his Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave (which, jeez, came out almost five years ago), Widows also boast a script by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, which makes for one hell of a critically acclaimed pair here. Widows also has a really fresh premise, as a heist film starring the widows of a bunch of dead criminals puts a nice contemporary spin on the age-old bank robbery flick. And though many films on this list feature great casts, I would argue Widows could go toe-to-toe with any of them. Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Robert Duvall, and of course, Carrie Motherfucking Coon. Consider me very much on board for this.
4. Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
Release: November 21
Wreck-It Ralph 2 has me just based on the quality of the first film, which remains one of my favorite Disney Animated films in the modern age. As a gamer, the concept is pure catnip to me, and even putting aside all the fun little in-jokes and witty references, there was a really sweet message and relationship at the center of Wreck-It Ralph that really made it sing. I don’t know if the sequel will have quite the same emotional impact, but at least conceptually, it’s just as enticing as the original. Taking the Wreck-It Ralph characters and throwing them into the world of the internet is a genius concept for a sequel and, from what we’ve heard about the film so far, it’s only going to get more and more hilariously meta in its storytelling. With returning writers/directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston once again at the helm, I say bring it on. I’ve been game for more of this franchise ever since the final shot of the first one. And yes, that was a pun. You may stop reading this now.
Release: Sometime in 2017
Speaking of films I’ve been waiting a while for, let’s talk Duncan Jones’ Mute. The long-promised spiritual sequel to Jones’ brilliant sci-fi debut, Moon, Mute was originally supposed to be released in 2017, until Netflix rather silently pushed it into 2017. And while the film still doesn’t have a release date at this point, I’m making a slight exception and including it on this list, because A) it’s already completely done, so I have no idea why Netflix would push it any further and B) it sounds SO AWESOME, guys. Jones tackling a Blade Runner esque future noir is 100% my cup of tea, and with folks like Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux playing characters by the name of “Cactus Bill” and “Duck Teddington,” respectively, this movie could end up being a masterpiece. At the very least, it might be the type of brilliance that puts Netflix’s original movies on the map…after all, Bright sure as hell didn’t.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Release: May 4
In this list, I have tried my best to provide a variety to the overall selections, doing my darndest not to over-saturate things with just superhero films. But, ultimately, the heart wants what the heart wants…and my heart very much wants Avengers: Infinity War. Even with the slightly underwhelming teaser trailer, I am completely psyched for what is unequivocally Marvel’s most ambitious movie yet, seemingly cramming in everything to ever happen in the grander MCU, and finding a way to make it work between two huge blockbuster films. We’ve been building up to this moment for literally a decade and, at this point, it’s hard not to buy into the hype that such a build-up very much warrants. The Russo Brothers knocked my socks off twice with The Winter Soldier and Civil War, and it will be one hell of a disappointment if they fail to do it once again with Avengers: Infinity War. But I trust those two. I trust Marvel. I really feel this one is going to deliver.
1. Incredibles 2
Release: June 15
But, as always, there can only be one. And in this particular case, this one was pretty much pre-ordained from the moment it was announced, a long, long, long ten years after its predecessor was first released. But the years have only improved the strengths of The Incredibles in my mind, and made the wait for a follow-up all the more unbearable. At this point, I don’t need much of anything else to increase my anticipation: I just want to see more from this world, and these characters, and from writer/director Brad Bird. Barring Tomorrowland (which, like most of America, I try my best just not to think about), Brad has yet to really let me down, and considering how long he waited until returning to this series, I’m hoping he found the perfect story for our superhero family to get wrapped up in.
Regardless, I absolutely can not wait. After all, I already did my waiting. 13 years of it.
IN AZKABAN PRISON Writing endless articles on the internet! I NEED this movie, you guys. And, more importantly, I need it to be great. Ball is in your court, Pixar. Good luck — we’re all counting on you.
And there you have it, the 18 films I believe are worth looking forward to in 2018. Think I missed any particularly egregious ones? Well…sorry? Go complain about it on Twitter.
Also published on Medium.
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