From 2009 to 2013, Dark Horizons ran a multiple volume look at the various feature releases hitting cinemas each year. This annual ‘Notable Films’ guide I assembled entirely myself and was a massive undertaking, requiring lots of research and analysis and writing as the standard day-to-day running of the site had to be conducted at the same time.
In 2013, in its fifth consecutive year, it got so ridiculously bloated it ended up covering 420 films across fifteen volumes and coming in at a paperback novel size of around 120,000 words in total. Multiple 90 hour work weeks left me a complete physical and emotional wreck by the time it ended – it was simply too much for any one person to do and it was yielding little in the way of responses so I gave up on doing it again.
After a four year break from it, and after many calls for its return, I’ve decided to resurrect it albeit in much tighter form. Confined to around 350 films over seven volumes, and with a strict word limit this time out, this year’s Notable Films guide should come in at a much more accessible and easy novella size of around 45,000-50,000 words total.
Organised in alphabetical order, each volume explores many of the films set to screen at the big multiplexes, the boutique art house theaters, and on premium V.O.D. over the next year with the remaining volumes to go online every few days between now and mid-January. Sadly it won’t be as deep diving as previous years, but it should at least prove handy. Should it go as smoothly as planned, it will see a return in the years to come. Onto the first volume:
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig (“Exfil”)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Elsa Pataky, Trevante Rhodes
Details: Based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers,” the Bruckheimer-produced tale is one of this year’s attempts at an inspirational modern war drama following in the footsteps of the likes of “American Sniper,” “Lone Survivor” and “Unbroken” and is mainly of note for filming in New Mexico as opposed to anywhere near the Middle East.
The cast includes Thor himself Chris Hemsworth (and wife Elsa Pataky), “Moonlight” breakout Trevante Rhodes, funnyman Rob Riggle and the always great Michael Shannon, William Fichtner and Michael Pena. The story deals with Task Force Dagger, a team of CIA paramilitary officers and US Special Forces sent to Afghanistan immediately in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. They join with the local Northern Alliance to help conduct unconventional warfare against Taliban forces.
The 15:17 to Paris
Director: Clint Eastwood (“Sully,” “Unforgiven”)
Cast: Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadle, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer
Details: Clint Eastwood seems the perfect fit to helm stories of Americans doing inspirational things. While “Sully” crossed not only partisan lines but also proved a global success, this is a much more limited appeal film with its true story tale of three American friends with military training who overpowered an ISIS terrorist that was planning to kill more than 500 people on a Brussels to Paris train in 2015.
Originally casting actors in the leads, Eastwood surprised with an eleventh hour decision to instead get the actual men to play themselves alongside trained actors in supporting roles – from the trailer it doesn’t look as though it has paid off. The film also includes a bunch of their backstory which is where this will likely divide audiences in terms of potential pro-militarism politics masked in an ‘inspirational’ tale. Despite concerns though, these films do well not only with audiences but also critics so, hopefully, Eastwood’s can assuage doubters with something on a “United 93” level.
Director: Tyler Perry (“Boo! A Madea Halloween,” “For Colored Girls”)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Nicolet, Ajiona Alexus, Tika Sumpter, Lyriq Bent
Details: He’s starred in a few, but actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry tries his hand at directing a dark psychological thriller with this upcoming revenge on a philanderer tale in which a faithful wife (the great Taraji P. Henson), tired of standing by her devious husband after eighteen years together, takes action when it becomes clear to her that he has betrayed her. Beyond Perry’s name nothing much separates this from a number of films of this type, but it should find an audience.
Acts of Violence
Director: Brett Donowho (“No Tell Motel,” 5 Souls”)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Cole Hauser, Shawn Ashmore, Ashton Holmes, Melissa Bolona
Details: This Lionsgate Premiere title may have Bruce Willis as its lead star, but the focus is as much on a trio of ex-military brothers (Cole Hauser, Shawn Ashmore, Ashton Holmes) who set out to rescue the fiancee of the eldest one when she gets kidnapped by human traffickers. Willis plays a cop on his own investigation into the same smuggling ring and the corrupted bureaucracy who supports it, and ends up teaming with one of the brothers to help. It’s getting a limited theatrical run but otherwise will be a premium VOD title next month.
Director: James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland
Details: Coming off the critical success of “The Lost City of Z,” filmmaker James Gray turns his sights towards epic science fiction with this tale which is akin to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in storyline and boasts it incorporates the “most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”. Space will be shown in all its natural and cold hostility towards our form of life, helped along by “Interstellar” and “Spectre” cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema.
The story begins twenty years after a man’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) left on a one-way mission to Neptune in order to find signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence. The son (Brad Pitt) travels through the solar system to find him and learn what went wrong. It’s currently slated for a wide release in January 2019 but will very likely pop up on a few screens around Christmas this year for awards qualification.
Director: Baltasar Kormákur (“Everest,” “2 Guns”)
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne
Details: Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur has certainly shown his skill with survival dramas like “The Deep” and “Everest,” and after a few English action films like “Contraband” and “2 Guns” he’s combining the two skills with this true story tale. “Divergent” alum Shailene Woodley plays a woman yachting with her husband when they’re caught up in the most massive hurricane in the history of the Pacific Ocean.
Knocked unconscious, she awakens to find him gravely injured and their boat ruined. It becomes a race against time to save them both. Boasting some big talent behind the scenes including cinematographer Robert Richardson (“The Aviator,” “Platoon”) and “Lion” score composer Hauschka, this will probably try and get a festival debut first.
Director: James Kent (“Testament of Youth”)
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, Alexander Scheer
Details: Based on Rhidian Brook’s best-seling novel of the same name, the story is set in Germany 1946. Knightley plays a woman who arrives in the ruins of Hamburg in the winter to settle down with her British colonel husband charged with rebuilding the shattered city. She is soon stunned to discover that they will be sharing their grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. The charged atmosphere of the house gives way to passion and betrayal.
Ridley Scott is producing the project which boasts a script by Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse and Brook. With Fox Searchlight and BBC Films backing it all the way, expect this to very much try for an awards play.
Alita: Battle Angel
Director: Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “Spy Kids”)
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Jennifer Connelly, Eiza González, Christoph Waltz
Details: A long gestating passion project of filmmaker James Cameron, his “Avatar” sequel commitments prevented him from pursuing it and instead he’s stepped into a producer role and handed over the steering wheel to Robert Rodriguez. Armed with a ridiculously huge $200 million budget, the live-action film released its first trailer the other week to a mixed response with the title character’s CG-enhanced ‘anime eyes’ look creeping people out.
Adapting only the key central storyline of the first four books in Yukito Kishiro’s epic manga, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and focuses on a cyborg who has lost all memories and is found in a garbage heap by a cybernetics doctor. He rebuilds and takes care of her as she ultimately becomes a bounty hunter and tries to learn the truth of her past. It’s one of the unexpectedly biggest gambles of the year.
Director: Albert Hughes (“The Book of Eli,” “From Hell”)
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leonor Varela, Jens Hulten, Johannes Haukur Jóhannesson
Details: Prehistoric stone age dramas are always a tricky thing on film, the caveman element immediately a turn off to major audiences unless it’s in a more comedic context. “Alpha,” originally titled the far more interesting “The Solutrean,” has no comedy aspirations. It’s a serious affair somewhere between the haunting realism of “The Clan of the Cave Bear” and the epic monster madness thrills of “10,000 B.C.”.
Set 20,000 years ago in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic period, the story sees a hunting expedition gone awry and a young caveman struggles to find his way home all the while developing a friendship with a wolf. Shot in Canada and Iceland early last year, the project got into a bit of trouble due to some alleged bison deaths, while the first trailer seemed to be trying to market this to teens on Spring break – an odd target audience to say the least.
Director: Bart Layton (“The Imposter”)
Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson
Details: Crafting one of the greatest feature documentaries of the past fifteen years with “The Imposter,” filmmaker Bart Layton finally returns with his first narrative feature and Sundance has welcomed him with open arms for this ‘mostly true’ story about one of the most audacious art heists ever attempted in U.S. history.
In the tale, four young men mistake their lives for a film which convinces them of their skill to pull off the deed. There’s impressive young talent here including Even Peters from “American Horror Story,” Blake Jenner from “Everybody Wants Some,” Barry Keoghan from “Dunkirk” and Jared Abrahamson from “Detour”.
Angel Has Fallen
Director: Ric Roman Waugh (“Snitch,” “Felon”)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman
Details: The third and (hopefully) final film in the franchise that began with “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen,” Gerard Butler once again returns as Secret Service agent Mike Banning and this time he is the target. Those after him also hope to take down Air Force One and half of Washington, D.C. in the process. Made for economical budgets, both previous films have been box-office successes with $160 & $200 million respectively along with a sizable fanbase (aside from critics who loathe the films).
One thing that may get the critics onside this time out is the hiring of Ric Roman Waugh as director following much acclaim for his recent film “Shot Caller”. Morgan Freeman also returns but no other cast members like Melissa Leo, Robert Forester or Radha Mitchell have yet been revealed and Aaron Eckhart is already confirmed to not be coming back as the U.S. President.
Director: Luc Besson (“Valerian,” “Lucy”)
Cast: Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy
Details: Coming off the massive budget but costly flop of “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” Luc Besson returns to the crime thriller genre that kicked off his career with the likes of the great “Leon: The Professional” and “Nikita”. The decidedly more conservatively budgeted $30 million English-language action thriller sees strong Brit talent like Helen Mirren, Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy supporting Russian model newcomer Sasha Luss in a story based on an original idea by Besson. Specifics of the plot however are under tight guard.
Director: Leos Carax (“Holy Motors,” “Pola X”)
Cast: Adam Driver, Michelle Williams
Details: “Holy Motors” filmmaker Leos Carax’s first English-language drama, “Annette,” has seen numerous casting changes since it was announced with Rooney Mara, Rihanna and ultimately Michelle Williams all linked to the female lead opposite Adam Driver. The story is described as a musical drama about a stand-up comedian whose opera singer wife is deceased. He finds himself alone with his two-year-old daughter who has a surprising gift. Amazon bought the $15 million project a while back but Carax is taking his time and the film remains stuck in pre-production with only an incredibly slim chance of making it out this year.
Director: Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Oscar Isaac
Details: High on many people’s most anticipated films of 2018 list, “Annihilation” has everything going for it – a fascinating and ambitious premise, a strong and diverse cast of female talent, and this being Garland’s second effort following his superb directorial debut with “Ex Machina” and his strong writing work on the likes of “Dredd” and “Sunshine”. However it was last month where things took an even more interesting turn as Paramount sold off the international rights to Netflix.
As details emerged of the handover, namely that Paramount ditched it because film’s subject matter was dubbed too intellectual and not easily appealing enough for mainstream audiences, it only made the interest in the film soar higher. Sadly this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s books, in which a biologist heads into an environmental disaster zone with three other scientists in search of her husband who went missing on a previous expedition, will only get big screen play in select markets – but at least on Netflix it will be seen.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Director: Peyton Reed (“Ant-Man,” “Bring it On”)
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne
Details: While there’s a definite fan base, few put the first “Ant-Man” high on the list of Marvel Studios’ best films. There’s a much appreciated smaller scale to the whole thing and a charming cast, but it’s lacking in any real engaging stakes, has a terrible villain and its comedy is pretty slim. The switching out of Edgar Wright with Peyton Reed seemed to take its toll in the form of an overly manufactured and ‘safe’ product emblematic of Marvel’s conformity problem.
This time though, Reed has free rein from the get-go along with bringing in a stronger supporting cast including Walton Goggins as the villain, Laurence Fishburne in a key role, the return of Michael Pena and his two friends, and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Michael Douglas’ long-lost wife. Hopefully will be as much an improvement as we got between the first and second “Captain America” films.
Director: Gareth Evans (“The Raid,” “The Raid II”)
Cast: Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, Lucy Boynton, Bill Milner, Kristine Froseth
Details: Following his trio of Indonesian action films with both “The Raid” movies and “Merantu,” Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans returns to his homeland for his first English language effort which Netflix smartly snapped up before it began shooting. In the film Dan Stevens plays a mysterious man who travels to a remote island in search of his missing sister who was kidnapped by a religious cult.
The cult is demanding a ransom for her return, but it soon becomes clear they will regret the day it baited this man, who digs deeper and deeper into the secrets and lies upon which the commune is built. Expect his revenge to be played out with Evans usual style, but the filmmaker has previously made it quite clear to expect something a little different this time. The idea of Stevens’ hero vs. Sheen’s cult leader is too tantalising a prospect to miss.
Director: James Wan (“Furious 7,” “The Conjuring”)
Cast: Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe
Details: The sole DC Comics major film title hitting screens in 2018, “Aquaman” also marks the first film in a new direction for Warners and their comic book movies – throttling back on an interconnected universe in favour of focusing on stronger standalone affairs such as the initiative’s one true breakout critical and commercial success this year – “Wonder Woman”.
It’s also a great choice to go solo with – Momoa’s casting is widely liked and an underwater superhero is something we’ve genuinely never really seen on screen before in a major tentpole picture. They also have Wan’s stellar pedigree, an excellent supporting cast, and serious potential to take some risks with the storytelling. The question is will they? Let’s hope so.
Director: Jonathan Watson (debut)
Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Danny McBride, Luke Wilson, Elizabeth Gillies, David Alan Grier
Details: A frequent first assistant director for Seth Rogen and James Franco projects, Jonathan Watson graduates to full helmer with this dark crime comedy set in the midst of the 2009 housing crisis. Rosemarie DeWitt stars as Cassie Fowler, a single mom and struggling realtor whose life goes off the rails when she witnesses a murder. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” producer Luke Del Tredici penned the project which premieres at Sundance in January.
The Art Of Self-Defence
Director: Riley Stearns (“Faults”)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Alessandro Nivola
Details: Following his little seen directorial debut at SXSW, “Faults” filmmaker Riley Stearns returns with this new and more high-profile second film in which Jesse Eisenberg plays a man attacked on the street. Determined to learn self-defense, he enlists in a dojo to learn how to defend himself – only to find a strange and frightening world therein. Eisenberg may be the headliner, but Nivola is the more interesting actor choice and the real draw here.
Ash Is Purest White
Director: Jia Zhangke (“Mountains May Depart,” “A Touch of Sin”)
Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Xiaogang Feng, Yi’nan Diao
Details: Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s most ambitious film to date, this sweeping romance tale spans the entire run of the 21st century so far. Set in a frontier fortress city, the epic and violent love story takes place against the backdrop of China’s crime underworld as a young dancer falls in love with a local mobster.
During a fight between rival gangs, the dancer fires a shot to protect her love and is sentenced to five years in prison. Upon her release, she goes looking for him to try to start all over again. Zhao Tao (“Mountains May Depart”), Jia’s wife, stars as the dancer opposite Liao Fan (“Black Coal, Thin Ice”) as the mobster. Shooting has been underway for months and continues well into 2018 so it may not be ready until 2019.
Ashes in the Snow
Director: Marius A. Markevicius (“The Other Dream Team”)
Cast: Sophie Cookson, Peter Franzen, Martin Wallstrom, James Cosmo
Details: Based on the best-seller “Between Shades of Gray” by Ruta Sepetys, the coming-of-age tale follows 16-year-old Lina Vilkas (played by “Diary of a Teenage Girl” breakout Bel Powley) who is deported to Siberia amid Stalin’s reign of terror in the Baltic region. An aspiring artist, she secretly documents her harrowing journey with her drawings whilst living in a work camp. Shot in Lithuania last year, expect a festival run over much of next year.
Director: Sam Levinson (“Another Happy Day”)
Cast: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Bella Thorne
Details: Barry Levinson’s son Sam has carved out a name for himself already as a writer, winning the Waldo Salt screenwriting award for his directorial debut film “Another Happy Day” and most recently penning HBO’s Bernie Madoff film “The Wizard of Lies”.
Now he returns to Sundance with this “Heathers” style black comedy about a quiet, all-American town where four teenage girls become the focus of unwanted, worldwide media attention after their personal information is leaked by an anonymous hacker. Joel McHale, Cody Christian, Bill Skarsgard and Anika Noni Rose appear in supporting roles in the film which will depend on that festival buzz to see if it can go places.
At Eternity’s Gate
Director: Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “Before Night Falls”)
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Friend, Niels Arestrup
Details: Dafoe as van Gogh? An unexpected piece of casting for “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly” director Julian Schnabel’s new film which explores the time in the famed Dutch post-impressionist artist’s life when was in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Also onboard are Oscar Isaac as fellow artist Paul Gaugin, and Rupert Friend and van Gogh’s physician Dr. Gachet.
The story explores the creativity and the sacrifices he made to produce the masterpieces that are instantly recognizable around the world today. Schnabel says it’s very much his interpretation of van Gogh’s life and an artists relationship with history as opposed to an accurate biographical account – which would explain the age difference and how 62-year-old Dafoe can play van Gogh who died at the age of 37.
Avengers: Infinity War
Director: Joe & Anthony Russo (“Captain America: Winter Soldier”)
Cast: Who Isn’t In This Movie
Details: After ten years and nearly two dozen films building toward it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to a crossroads with the culmination of its ‘third phase’. Practically ever major character from the earlier films show up to take on Josh Brolin’s purple and impossibly square-chinned intergalactic warlord Thanos in what’s far more than a film – it’s the first of a two-part major spectacle and easily the biggest cinematic event ever made.
There’s one question though – will it be any good? As ‘Ultron’ and ‘Civil War’ showed, bigger isn’t necessarily better. “Avengers” has the advantage of being so well planned out in advance it won’t hit many of the issues that the slapdash hot (if occasionally entertaining) mess of “Justice League” did, but could be hampered by juggling so many characters it spreads things too thin – or Thanos himself might be a letdown after so many years of build-up. Marvel has their best people working on this, fingers crossed all that effort will be worth it – either way, we’ll all be seeing it.
Director: Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Anchorman”)
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Bill Pullman
Details: Stepping away from comedy into serious politically fuelled drama with his economic crisis film “The Big Short,” Adam McKay follows that path even further with his new film which explores the life of Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton and Vice President under George W. Bush. In his time Cheney was the most powerful VP ever to hold office and was a key supporter in the decision to invade Iraq.
Annapurna is taking on the film which sees the reunion of “American Hustle” duo Christian Bale and Amy Adams as Dick & Lynne Cheney, both nearly unrecognisable on set with Bale gaining an immense amount of weight and shaving his head and eyebrows for the role. McKay has made his politics clear and it will be interesting to see how much blowback he gets from conservative groups in these controversial times. A critical slamming from President Donald Trump could well be the film’s biggest endorsement.
Backstabbing for Beginners
Director: Per Fly (“The Inheritance,” “Monica Z”)
Cast: Theo James, Jacqueline Bisset, Ben Kingsley, Rossif Sutherland
Details: Danish filmmaker Per Fly makes his English language debut on this political thriller based on the memoirs of Michael Soussan. Theo James, taking over from the originally cast Josh Hutcherson, plays a young program coordinator at the United Nations who stumbles upon a corruption scandal involving Iraq’s oil reserves and his boss (Ben Kingsley). Jacqueline Bisset co-stars in the film which boasts a script by “Any Given Sunday” writer Daniel Pyne and is getting a release via celebrated arthouse distributor A24 which means there’s some proper potential here.
Director: Dean Devlin (“Geostorm”)
Cast: David Tennant, Kerry Condon, Robert Sheehan, Jacqueline Byers
Details: After the big budget failure of “Geostorm,” Dean Devlin’s second attempt at a directorial effort is a much more manageable and less risky affair – a home invasion crime caper tale in which former “Doctor Who” and “Misfits” stars David Tennant and Robert Sheehan play car valets who practice home burglary on the side. It’s a lucrative business until they break into one house only to find a woman being held captive. “Apt Pupil” and “Wicker Park” scribe penned the script for the film which has yet to score distribution.
Bad Times at the El Royale
Director: Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods,” TV’s “The Good Place”)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Bridges, Cailee Spaeny, Cynthia Erivo
Details: Forging his writing skills on “Buffy,” “Angel,” “Alias” and “Lost,” Drew Goddard has had a strong career in recent years with his work on both “The Martian” and “World War Z” yielding decidedly above average blockbusters, and more recently directing the opening episodes of one of the best series on television right now – “The Good Place”.
His first directorial effort with “Cabin in the Woods” has become a new cult favourite, and now he returns with his second time behind the camera in a retro crime thriller about a group of shady characters converging on and violently clashing in a dilapidated hotel in the Lake Tahoe region in the 1960s. Little is known beyond that, but with Goddard’s skills expect it to be at least solid and likely surprising.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight & Batman Ninja
Directors: Sam Liu (“The Killing Joke “) & Jumpei Mizusaki (“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”)
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Koichi Yamadera, Jennifer Carpenter, Tara Strong
Details: Two very different direct-to-video animated films based on the Batman comics hit this year and offer ‘Elseworld’ takes on the Caped Crusader that vastly differ from the usual run of the mill DC animated universe films. “Gotham by Gaslight” adapts the Mike Mignola comic about a Victorian Era Dark Knight in pursuit of Jack the Ripper.
“Batman Ninja” on the other hand uses CG-enhanced anime (designed by “Afro Samurai” creator Takashi Okazaki) to tell its story of Batman and other key members of Gotham City finding themselves thrown through time and landing in feudal Japan – only to discover Joker has become the most powerful man in the country and is leveraging his power to alter Japan’s history.
The Beach Bum
Director: Harmony Korine (“Spring Breakers,” “Trash Humpers)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Isla Fisher, Bria Vinaite
Details: Rebellious indie auteur Harmony Korine found himself on the other side of the fence in 2012 when his neon and girls gone bad crime tale “Spring Breakers” proved a surprise crossover hit and even mini-pop culture phenomenon. His proposed next project, the ensembler “The Trap,” never came together and instead he has switched focus to this project about a stoner named Moondog played by Matthew McConaughey.
One report pegged the film as being about a womanizer whose recently deceased wife leaves him a large inheritance – with the stipulation he must first publish the series of poems he’s been writing for years. Others have it as McConaughey and Snoop Dogg effectively playing a new generation of Cheech and Chong. Either way, the ‘McConaissance’ has now been on the decline for a few years so maybe the actor can restore some energy to his rep here. Whether Korine’s wish to hold screenings with marijuana smoke puffed through the air system will happen though – that’s not yet clear.
Beast of Burden
Director: Jesper Ganslandt (“Blondie,’ “Apan”)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Grace Gummer, Pablo Schreiber, Renée Willett
Details: A contained, high-concept real-time thriller in the vein of “Locke,” Daniel Radcliffe stars as Sean Haggerty – a pilot who smuggles drugs across the U.S. & Mexico border. From the cockpit of his Cessna, and with only an hour to do so, he must deliver 55 pounds of cocaine in his cargo hold. All whilst reassuring a drug cartel, a hitman, and the DEA that nothing is wrong and make sure his kidnapped wife survives. Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt helms the project.
Director: Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” “With Friends Like These “)
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan
Details: In the works for nearly a decade, this story deals with meth addiction and recovery as seen through the eyes of a father (Steve Carell) helplessly watching his son (Timothee Chalamet) struggle with the disease.
Aiming to offer an empathetic take on the issue of addiction, filmmaker Cameron Crowe and actor Mark Wahlberg previously tried and failed to get it going, ultimately Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen won the gig. The draw though is not only Carell in a more serious role but the young Chalamet who could well win an Oscar for his work in “Call Me By Your Name”. Should he do so, this film would potentially reap some of the benefits of that victory.
Been So Long
Director: Tinge Krishnan (“Junkhearts”)
Cast: George MacKay, Michaela Coel, Joe Dempsie, Arinze Kene, Luke Norris
Details: Netflix’s largest acquisition of a UK film to date with a multi-million dollar pre-order, “Been So Long” has been dubbed a neon-soaked musical and modern day love story set on the streets of Camden. Adapted from Che Walker and Arthur Darvill’s acclaimed stage musical at the The Young Vic, the BFI and Film4-backed project incorporates a diverse soundtrack including RnB, Nu Soul, UK dance and cinematic orchestration.
“Chewing Gum” star Michaela Coel and “The Pass” actor Arinze Kene team on the project about a dedicated single mother who, on a rare night on the town, is charmed by a handsome yet troubled stranger igniting old and new feelings in this ever-changing city. Tinge Krishnan helms the film which has a very strong British producing pedigree.
Director: Brad Anderson (“The Machinist,” “Session 9”)
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jon Hamm, Shea Whigham, Mark Pellegrino
Details: Set to premiere at next month’s Sundance Film Festival ahead of an April release, “Beirut” is set in the war-torn Lebanon city and follows a former U.S. diplomat (Hamm) who returns to service, a decade after a tragic incident at his home. His mission is to save a colleague from the group responsible for the death of his family.
The diplomat is assigned a CIA field agent (Pike), working undercover at the American embassy, and she is tasked with keeping him alive. Shot in Tangier in 2016, the film boasts a script by “Michael Clayton” and “Bourne” trilogy alum Tony Gilroy marking his first solo scripting effort since 2009’s “Duplicity”.
Ben is Back
Director: Peter Hedges (“Dan in Real Life,” “Pieces of April”)
Cast: Julia Roberts, Holly Burns, Lucas Hedges, Ben Burns
Details: Filmmaker Peter Hedges teams with his son, the suddenly in demand “Manchester by the Sea” and “Lady Bird” actor Lucas Hedges, for this Christmas set tale that has also managed to rope in Julia Roberts. Hedges plays a young man who returns home to his unsuspecting family on Christmas Eve and his mother soon learns he is very much in harm’s way. During the next 24 hours, she must do everything in her power to avoid the family being ripped apart. Filming on the project is currently underway in New York City with a likely Fall festival debut.
Director: George Gallo (“Columbus Circle , “Middle Men”)
Cast: Julianne Hough, Tyler Hoechlin, Aneurin Barnard, Calum Von Moger, Kevin Durand
Details: “Bad Boys” and “Midnight Run” scribe George Gallo takes to the director’s chair for an inspirational tale of Joe & Ben Weider, two Jewish brothers who overcame poverty and anti-Semitism to build their own bodybuilding empire and effectively kickstart the global fitness movement. The pair also founded the International Federation of Bodybuilding and the Mr. Olympia contest.
“Dunkirk” star Aneurin Barnard and “Teen Wolf” alum Colton Haynes and Tyler Hoechlin co-star in the film which includes Australian muscleman Calum Von Moger playing a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Barnard and Hoechlin play the brothers while the openly gay Haynes will play early fitness advocate Jack LaLanne who has made headlines for his homophobic remarks.
Billionaire Boys Club
Director: James Cox (“Wonderland,” “Highway”)
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Kevin Spacey, Cary Elwes
Details: One of two projects this year left in question due to the downfall of Kevin Spacey, director James Cox spent many months researching and writing this film based on court documents, oral transcripts, and published articles for a film he describes as: “What if ‘Wall Street’ became ‘Alpha Dog’ halfway through?”
The true story tale follows a group of rich young boys in Los Angeles during the early 1980s who started the Billionaire Boys Club to run a Ponzi scheme – leading to deadly consequences for those around them. “Baby Driver” and “Kingsman” alum Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton lead a cast that includes Cary Elwes as Andy Warhol along with Jeremy Irvine, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, Judd Nelson (playing the father of the character he played in the 1987 mini-series), Bokeem Woodbine, and Rosanna Arquette. Shot two years ago, its fate already looked uncertain pre-Spacey. Now? Who knows.
Director: Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager,” “In a Better World”)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, Rosa Salazar, Jacki Weaver
Details: Netflix tries its hand at a post-apocalyptic tale and has enlisted one hell of a cast and crew to do it. Coming off the success of AMC’s “The Night Manager” which she helmed the entire run of, Susanne Bier returns to the big screen with this tale co-written by “Arrival” scribe Eric Heisserer in which an alien invasion has driven the world’s population to deadly violence.
As a result, a woman and her two young children must make their way on a terrifying journey twenty miles in a rowboat whilst blindfolded. This boasts not just big names like Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich but also fresh faces like Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”), Danielle Macdonald (“Patti Cake$”) and Rosa Salazar (“Alita: Battle Angel”) along with the wholly unexpected casting of Machine Gun Kelly in a role. Sounds fairly self-contained, but nonetheless fascinating.
Birds of Passage
Director: Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent”)
Details: Described as Ciro Guerra’s most ambitious film to date, a big call after the universally adored “Embrace of the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage” is dubbed a film noir, a western and a Greek tragedy all blended together. Employing thousands of extras, the Maria Camila Arias and Jacques Toulemonde-penned film was one of the biggest productions in Latin America in years when it was filmed. It was so big Guerra brought on his ‘Embrace’ editor Cristina Gallego to co-direct.
Set in Colombia in the 1970s, the demand for marijuana quickly turns farmers into seasoned businessmen. A Wayuu indigenous family living in the Guajira desert takes an unexpected leading role in this new drug trade and discovers the perks of wealth and power and the violence and tragedy inexorably linked with it.
Director: Spike Lee (“,” “Do the Right Thing”)
Cast: Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold
Details: Spike Lee leaves behind the black female sexual empowerment themes of his past two works to tackle a fascinating piece of true crime and historical racism with a little help from “Get Out” duo Jordan Peele and Jason Blum.
The story deals with Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) who was an African-American police officer from Colorado who successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter. Adam Driver plays an anti-social, brave and dedicated undercover police officer sent in Ron’s place for any in-person meetings. Despite the period setting, it should prove very topical.
Director: Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”)
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira
Details: Marvel finally varies up its formula a bit, probably the most since “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with this take on the African-American comic book hero who was previously introduced in “Captain America: Civil War”. In the film T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. He must also defend his kingdom against the alliance of an exiled rival (Michael B. Jordan) and a black market arms dealer (Andy Serkis).
While even the great Taika Waititi was slightly hampered by Marvel’s uniform approach to filmmaking with “Thor: Ragnarok,” hopes are high that “Creed” filmmaker Ryan Coogler can break out a bit more with the lesser known but more interesting hero. This offers something never really seen on film – a big budget sci-fi film with an almost entirely non-white cast of superb actors played out against an Africa rendered as a futuristic utopia. The trailers offer so much promise that this could easily stand out as one of their best ‘first’ films in a standalone franchise.
Director: Paul Verhoeven (“Robocop,” “Basic Instinct”)
Cast: Virginie Efira
Details: Never one to shy away from controversy, filmmaker Paul Verhoeven follows up his award-winning “Elle” with another collaboration with producer Said Ben Said which immediately looks riskier than even last year’s darkly comic rape-themed drama. The French-language “Blessed Virgin” has “In Bed with Victoria” star Virginie Efira playing 17th century nun Sister Benedetta Carlini.
Carlini was hailed as a visionary and then later accused of fabricated miracles, homosexuality and other charges, and imprisoned for nearly four decades. Based on historian Judith C Brown’s novel “Immodest Acts” and adapted by Gerard Soeteman (“Black Book”), the blend of religion and erotica should rile some people up even in this day and age when the Church’s influence is ever dwindling.
Director: Pasha Patriki (“The Sound,” “Gridlocked”)
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jasmine Waltz
Details: Marking their fifth collaboration and their first time appearing together onscreen as allies, “Universal Soldier” duo Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren team up for this submerged thriller in which a deep cover operative awakens to find himself imprisoned in a CIA Blacksite on board a retrofitted nuclear submarine. Enlisting the help of a rookie agent and another prisoner, he must race against the clock to escape and discover who set him up. Shot in Alabama in January, it’s likely a combined limited and VOD premiere later in 2018.
Director: Ethan Hawke (“The Hottest State,” “Chelsea Walls”)
Cast: Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Wyatt Russell
Details: Actor Ethan Hawke tries his hand at directing with “Blaze,” a biopic which reimagines the life of unsung songwriting legend Blaze Foley who was a key member of the Texas Outlaw Music movement which yielded talents such as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
Based on the novel “Living In The Woods In A Tree” by Foley’s great love Sybil Rosen, Hawke wrote the script with Rosen and hired Shake Ray Turbine former member Ben Dickey in the title role of the musician who was born in a treehouse and died in a friend’s living room from a gunshot wound.
Director: Bryan Singer (“X-Men”) & Dexter Fletcher(“Eddie the Eagle”)
Cast: Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech
Details: Truth became wilder than fiction recently regarding this film, a biopic of legendary British band Queen and its late and great frontman Freddie Mercury. When it went into production, the concern was this would be an all too sanitised and whitewashed exploration of the band’s time due to the involvement of original members Brian May and Roger Taylor and a desire not to tarnish Mercury’s posthumous image in any way.
Originally attached stars Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Whishaw both reportedly left the project because of concerns over this which were emerging in the scripting phase. Once Singer & Malek came onboard, everything seemed to be smooth sailing until a few weeks ago when Singer was fired and Dexter Fletcher, who was originally hired early on and left after a creative disagreement, came onboard to finish it. Right now it’s not clear what to expect from this beyond a strong performance from Malek.
Director: Joel Edgerton (“The Gift”)
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Joe Alwyn, Joel Edgerton
Details: A potential player in next year’s awards race, Focus Features won an intense bidding war for the rights to this film adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir about the torture known as ‘gay conversion therapy’. Joel Edgerton, delivering his second directoral effort after the underseen “The Gift,” has also managed to land some interesting talent even in smaller supporting roles including filmmaker Xavier Dolan, musician Flea, singer Troye Sivan, and “24” actress Cherry Jones.
Lucas Hedges plays the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town who is outed to his parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) as gay at the age of nineteen. Pressured into attending a gay conversion therapy program, or else be shunned by his family and friends, he comes into conflict with the head therapist (Joel Edgerton).
Director: Lin Oeding (“Office Uprising”)
Cast: Jason Momoa, Zahn McClarnon, Garret Dillahunt, Jill Wagner
Details: Quite a few of the great stunts on film in the past few years have been the work of Lin Oeding, a stunt co-ordinator for twenty years whose credits include the likes of “Inception,” “The Equalizer,” “Man of Steel” and “Spider-Man Homecoming”. He now makes the jump to directing with two films this year – the comedy “Office Uprising,” and this more promising Canadian survival thriller.
Jason Momoa stars in and produced the film (filming it right before “Justice League” and “Aquaman”) about a humble logger residing along the U.S./Canada border who is confronted by a group of deadly drug runners in his secluded cabin in the mountains. He sets out to do everything in his power to protect his family from the group led by “Deadwood” alum Garrett Dillahunt.
Director: Travis Knight (“Kubo and the Two Strings”)
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Pamela Adlon, Christian Hutcherson
Details: Assembling a writer’s room after the fourth “Transformers” movie came out, Paramount Pictures was determined to give the robots in disguise a cinematic universe in which more sequels along with spin-offs, prequels and more could be yielded. The first fruit of their labor showed up earlier this year with “Transformers: The Last Knight” which scored dismal box-office and critical reviews. The other put in the works was this prequel spin-off set in 1987.
In the film, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town where a young girl on the edge of seventeen (played by “The Edge of Seventeen” star Hailee Steinfeld) is trying to find her place in the world and discovers the battle-scarred and broken Autobot. The fact that “Kubo and the Two Strings” helmer Travis Knight is directing (the first time Michael Bay hasn’t helmed ) and the tone is said to be akin to that of “The Iron Giant” is great, but is it too little too late?
Director: Andrew Heckler (debut)
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Riseborough, Forest Whitaker, Tom Wilkinson
Details: Picked up by Relativity to launch its speciality division, and only briefly being delayed going into production due to their bankruptcy, actor turned director Andrew Heckler helms this racial drama which hopes to be a big player at Sundance this year where it will have its world premiere.
Garrett Hedlund plays a Ku Klux Klansman who falls in love with a single mom (Andrea Riseborough) who forces him to confront his senseless hatred. Leaving the group and with nowhere to turn, he is taken in by an African-American reverend (Forest Whitaker) and learns tolerance through their combined love and faith.
Director: Lee Chang-dong (“Secret Sunshine,” “Oasis”)
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Yoo Ah-in. Steve Yeun
Details: The first directorial effort from Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong in eight years since 2010’s much acclaimed “Poetry,” this mystery thriller is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s The New Yorker published short story “Barn Burning”.
The narrative follows a writer who meets the male half of a mysterious couple at a party – a man who claims to be an arsonist. “The Walking Dead” alum Steven Yeun has a key role alongside an Asian film cast in the production which is still filming and which the filmmaker himself dubs as being about “young people in the world nowadays”. It’s presently not certain if the film will score a release before year’s end.
ALSO ON THE WAY:
“Logan” alum Dafne Keen and Andy Garcia team in “Ana,” a story in which a young girl and an older man meet in a chance encounter and embark on a road trip to try and save him from bankruptcy or an even worse fate. Charles McDougall helms.
Cameron Monaghan and Peyton List star in “Anthem” about a young man who foresees the death of his new best friend, the school’s most popular guy, and when it becomes real he is ostracised.
“Arctic Justice” is a Canadian computer-animated feature about an Arctic fox who works in the mail room of a courier service and dreams of becoming a star courier like the Huskies above him. Boasts a solid voice cast including Jeremy Renner, James Franco, Alec Baldwin, Anjelica Huston, Heidi Klum, Omar Sy and John Cleese.
Kirsten Dunst makes her directorial debut on “The Bell Jar” in which a young woman (Dakota Fanning) finds her life spiralling out of control as she struggles with mental illness. Announced back in 2016, it doesn’t appear much progress has been made on the film which also stars Jesse Plemons, Patricia Arquette and Stacy Martin.
“Pitch Perfect” film series scribe Kay Cannon makes her directorial debut with “Blockers,” a raunchy comedy in which John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz play three parents who go out of their way to try and stop their daughters having sex on prom night.
Bruce Willis and Adrien Brody lend themselves out to new filmmaker Xiao Feng with the Chinese historical drama “The Bombing,” an ensembler following five people fighting their way through Japanese Air Force attacks to protect an important military machine in 1940’s Chongqing.
“50 Shades of Grey” gets explored from a different angle in “Book Club” in which four lifelong friends have their lives forever changed after reading it. Alicia Silverstone, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda and Don Johnson star in that one.
Volume One (A-B): 12 Strong, The 15:17 to Paris, Acrimony, Acts of Violence, Ad Astra, Adrift, The Aftermath, Alita: Battle Angel, Alpha, American Animals, Ana, Angel Has Fallen, Anna, Annette, Annihilation, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Anthem, Apostle, Aquaman, Arctic Justice, Arizona, The Art Of Self-Defence, Ash Is Purest White, Ashes in the Snow, Assassination Nation, At Eternity’s Gate, Avengers: Infinity War, Backseat, Backstabbing for Beginners, Bad Samaritan, Bad Times at the El Royale, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Batman Ninja, The Beach Bum, Beast of Burden, Beautiful Boy, Been So Long, Beirut, The Bell Jar, Ben is Back, Bigger, Billionaire Boys Club, Bird Box, Birds of Passage, Black Klansman, Black Panther, Blessed Virgin, Black Water, Blaze, Blockers, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Bombing, Book Club, Boy Erased, Braven, Bumblebee, Burden, The Burning
Volume Two (C-E): Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Captive State, Caravan, The Cartel, The Catcher Was A Spy, Charming, Christopher Robin, Code 8, Cold War, Colette, Come Sunday, The Commuter, Crazy Rich Asians, Creed 2, Damsel, Dark River, The Darkest Minds, Deadpool 2, Dear Dictator, The Death & Life of John F. Donovan, Death Wish, Den of Thieves, Departures, Destroyer, Disobedience, Dog Days, Dogman, Domino, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dragged Across Concrete, Dreamland, Driven, Duck Duck Goose, Dumplin’, E-book, Early Man, Eighth Grade, The Equalizer 2, Escape Plan 2: Hades, Euphoria, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, Everybody Knows, Every Day, Extinction
Volume Three (F-H): Fahrenheit 451, The Family, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Farming, Fast Color, The Favourite, Fighting with My Family, First Man, First Reformed, Foxtrot, Freakshift, Friday’s Child, The Front Runner, A Futile & Stupid Gesture, Future World, Galveston, Game Night, Game Over, Man!, Georgetown, Ghosts of War, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Gloria, Going Places, Golden Exits, Gotti, Gringo, Guardians of the Tomb, Guernsey, Halloween, The Happy Prince, The Happytime Murders, Hard Powder, High Life, Hold the Dark, Holmes and Watson, Hotel Artemis, Hotel Mumbai, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, The House That Jack Built, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, The Hummingbird Project, The Hurricane Heist
Volume Four (I-L): I Am Mother, I Feel Pretty, I Think We’re Alone Now, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Incredibles 2, In Fabric, Inherit the Viper, Insidious: The Last Key, The Irishman, Isle of Dogs, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, Johnny English 3, Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask, J.T. LeRoy, Juliet Naked, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Keeepers, A Kid Like Jake, The Kid Who Would Be King, The Kid, Kin, The Kindergarten Teacher, Kursk, LAbyrinth, The Land of Steady Habits, The Last Full Measure, Lean on Pete, Leave No Trace, Let the Corpses Tan, Life Itself, Life in a Year, Life of the Party, Light of My Life, Like Father, Little Italy, Little Monsters, The Little Mermaid, The Little Stranger, Lizzie, The Long Dumb Road, The Long Home, Lords of Chaos, Loro, Love, Simon, Love Sonia, Luxembourg