2 Jan 2019

Coming soon: 60 films to watch out for in 2019

8:28 pm on 2 January 2019

Many of the most interesting feature films by the most fascinating movie-makers are now bypassing theatres altogether, with online behemoths like Netflix and Amazon snapping up movies, and then releasing them online at the same time all over the world.

But there will still be plenty of interesting films appearing at your local cinema in 2019, and RNZ has your guide to 60 of the biggest and best.

Superheroes and other blockbusters

Marvel Studio's superhero films have ruled the global box office for the past decade, so it's a safe bet that Avengers: Endgame (out 25 April*) will make more money than anything else this year. The culmination of the Avengers series is also the climax of the comic book studio's entire run of films so far, with many members of the huge A-list cast indicating this would be their last hurrah. The first half of this Avengers wrap-up ended on an incredibly dour note, but expect loads of huge super-battles, heroic sacrifices and world-saving.

If you can't wait until April for your Marvel fix, Captain Marvel (7 March) is out a month earlier and features Brie Larson as the studio's first female lead (she is also due to show up in the Avengers film), while the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (3 January) is out this week and features a host of new Spider-Men and Women. The live-action Spidey returns later this year in Spider-Man: Far From Home (4 July), even though the last time he was seen on screen he was turning to dust.

The X-Men movies might have reached a natural conclusion with 2016's Logan, but are still barrelling ahead, with a new 1990s-set film in the current saga - X-Men: Dark Phoenix (6 June) - and a long-delayed spin-off New Mutants (1 August) following soon afterwards. Possibly.

DC might be Marvel's biggest competitor in the comicbook field, but the movie versions have been seriously lagging after with lacklustre Justice League, and will be hoping to capitalise on the lighter tone of the recent Aquaman with Shazam (4 April). A lighter tone should not be expected in the Joker (3 October), a new film focused on the origin of Batman's main nemesis, the harlequin of hate. If you're after a movie that is a little more female-driven, there's still the next Wonder Woman film, set in the 1980s, but that isn't due until 2020.

Other films that will be seeking big box office gold this year include M Night Shyamalan's Glass (17 January), a proper follow-up to Unbreakable after his earlier Split turned out to be a stealth sequel; cyber-punk Managa adaption Alita: Battle Angel (14 February), from a script by NZ-resident James Cameron; and return engagements for monster reboots Hellboy (11 April) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (30 May); while Charlie's Angels (24 October) is being rebooted, with Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott and Kristen Stewart set to kick arse and take names.

There is still some big-budget originality coming, with interstellar quest movie Ad Astra (23 May) starring Brad Pitt, while Will Smith will face off against Will Smith in Ang Lee's Gemini Man (3 October), as a hitman facing a younger clone of himself in a film that has been in development for more than two decades, (but still doesn't have a trailer).

But outside of the Marvel Universe, the only sure bet this year is the currently-untitled Star Wars Episode IX (19 December), out just in time for Christmas.

Period pieces, worthy dramas and award bait

The start of the year usually sees a lot of prestigious films fill out the cinema, as big studios and minor independent companies try to cash in on awards season. Some films out to catch Oscar's eye before the Academy Awards ceremony on 25 February include period drama Mary Queen of Scots (17 January), and Eighth Grade (10 January), the critically-acclaimed story of a US girl's last week of classes before graduating to high school.

Moviegoers can get their fix of noble characters battling institutional racism with Green Book (24 January), where Viggo Mortensen drives a cultured Mahershala Ali around the 1960s Deep South; or get their fix of noble characters battling institutional sexism with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On The Basis of Sex (7 February), although star Felicity Jones will have to go a long way to match the real thing, as seen in last year's documentary about the US Supreme Court judge.

Clint Eastwood is bringing his legendary squint to his role as an elderly drug smuggler in The Mule (24 June); Matthew McConaughey is grunging it up again in trash-crime story White Boy Rick (24 January); Destroyer (7 March) has Nicole Kidman ditching the glam make-up and ramping up the intensity as a former undercover cop; and Julia Roberts just wants her drug-addicted son back in Ben Is Back (31 January) .

Stories from real life that have been adapted for the silver screen this year include Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan and Ollie (21 February), gay conversion drama Boy Erased (14 March) and Hotel Mumbai (11 April), which dramatizes the 2008 attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The recent success of Bohemian Rhapsody is also a good sign for Rocket Man (30 May), with Kingsman's Taron Egerton strapping on the ludicrous platform shoes to play Elton John.

For those knocked out by Moonlight in 2016, director Barry Jenkins is back with If Beale St Could Talk (7 March), while those who have ever been disgusted, bemused or turned off by a Lars von Trier film should probably stay well away from his latest, serial killer nightmare The House That Jack Built (7 March).

Remakes and sequels for the kids

Family friendly fare is following a familiar template this year, with a host of sequels and remakes of old classics pouring into the multiplex.

The onslaught has already started with Mary Poppins Returns (1 January), out earlier this week and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (3 January) following tomorrow.

Other sequels that parents will be forced to sit trough 10,000 times in coming years include the new Lego Movie (11 April), The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (20 June) and the much-anticipated Toy Story 4 (27 June), with Frozen 2 (32 November) also out later in the year.

Disney seems to think it has found a winning formula with live-action (and CGI-heavy) remakes of animation classics by A-list directors, and has three of them being released in the coming months - starting with Tim Burton's Dumbo (28 March), followed by Guy Ritchie's Aladdin (23 May) and Jon Favreau's The Lion King (18 July).

There are some family films later in the year that aren't remakes or sequels, but don't worry, they are still based on established properties, with book series Artemis Fowl (19 September) taking flight into cinemas and Sonic The Hedgehog (12 December) leaping straight out of ancient video consoles into theatres.

Other box office options

What do you do to follow up a blockbuster that makes all the money in the Nine Worlds? If you're Taika Waititi, you swap Thor's hammer for Hitler's moustache and make a film about a young German boy set during WW2. There isn't a release date yet for Jojo Rabbit, but you can be assured it will be one of the must-see movies of the year.

Other NZ films due in the next few months include Daffodils, (21 March ) a musical romance based on the Kiwi cabaret featuring classic songs from the likes of Crowded House and Bic Runga, while Aotearoa's finest reggae band are in the documentary spotlight in Herbs: Songs of Freedom (2 May).

Meanwhile, Jordan Peele is following up the success of his Get Out film with Us (14 March), with the expected dose of social commentary slamming into the story of horrific dopplegangers.

Peele isn't the only filmmaker trying to scare the pants off audiences in 2019, with more remakes and sequels on the way, including Happy Death Day 2 U (14 February), Pet Semetary (4 April), It Chapter Two (5 August) and Zombieland 2 (10 October).

Action junkies will mainly have to get their fix in spandex this year, but Keanu Reeves is back as the unstoppable Mr Wick in John Wick 3 (16 May), while Liam Neeson finds that driving a snowplow is all the skills he needs to murder a bunch of gangsters in Cold Pursuit (7 February).

For those who prefer their action to take place around the dining room table, Downtown Abbey (12 August) is making the jump from TV to feature film, while The Kid Who Would Be King (17 January) is a modern retelling of the Arthurian legend from director Joe Cornish, whose last film Attack The Block introduced a Star War star and the latest Doctor Who to the world.

And Quentin Tarantino is back for his first film since The Hateful Eight, heading back to 1960s LA for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (25 July). Little is known about the film, other than it revolves around the Manson family murders, but expect extreme violence, razor sharp dialogue and a cast to die for (including DiCaprio, Pitt, Pacino and original Spider-Man Nicholas Hammond).

(Maybe) coming to a cinema near you

There is also a bunch of interesting films from some big directors which don't yet have a release date for next year, or might not even get to a cinema, with online streaming services putting up the big bucks.

Netflix are putting up a budget believed to be pushing $200m for The Irishman, the latest Martin Scorsese crime epic, featuring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin, a cast so strong it really should be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Other acclaimed directors with new offerings include Pedro Almodovar's apparently biographical Pain And Glory (Dolor Y Gloria), while the extremely mannered Wes Anderson heads to France after WW1 for The French Dispatch. Terence Malick's film Radegund will undoubtedly feature lots of whispering about the nature of existence as it tells the story of a conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis.

There's also the unknown film - the movie that comes out of nowhere and knocks everybody off their feet. There's always a couple every year, and it's always a pleasure to find them.

* All release dates are current as at 3 January, but are subject to change