In this volume I look at the sequel to a snarky superhero comedy, an animated take on a Dr. Seuss classic, an adaptation of a much celebrated drug cartel tome, a sequel no-one called for, a sequel to the “Winnie the Pooh” books, a biopic about a celebrated French author, multiple crime and period espionage dramas, a prehistoric animated comedy, Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller, a high-concept John Goodman sci-fi drama, and the story of the moon landing.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Director: Marielle Heller (“Diary of a Teenage Girl”)
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Julie Ann Emery, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells
Details: First making a name for herself as a writer and comedy actress in the likes of “Spin City” and “MacGruber,” Marielle Heller made one hell of a directorial debut with the celebrated comic adaptation “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”. She now returns and teams up with Melissa McCarthy for something a bit more straight up comedic, but hopefully with far more weight than your average studio comedy.
The story is based on the life of Lee Israel, who made her living writing profiles of other high-achieving women. As the story begins, Israel has gone broke because her publishers want warts-and-all biographies as opposed to her all too flattering work. Instead, Lee turns to deception selling fake and later real (but stolen) letters with the help of her convicted armed robber friend Jack.
Director: Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Gambler”)
Cast: John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, Ashton Sanders, Alan Ruck, Kevin Dunn
Details: Filmmaker Rupert Wyatt is as famous for starting and then leaving projects as much as the ones he’s actually made. He’s nearly finished this one, a $25 million dark sci-fi tale set nearly a decade after a global occupation by an extraterrestrial force. The narrative shows the lives of people within a Chicago neighborhood on both sides of the conflict.
Shot on location in Chicago, the Focus Features title should yield at least another great performance by John Goodman in a high-concept sci-fi film like we got with last year’s “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Wyatt meanwhile is three for three in terms of good finished films so far, so chances are good.
Director: Sebastian Schipper (“Victoria,” “Sometime in August “)
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Moritz Bleibtreu, Claudia Trujillo, Kris Hunter, Stephane Bak
Details: The English language debut of German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper and his first film since the acclaimed and incredibly executed real-time single take drama “Victoria”. Co-written with Oliver Ziegenbalg, the German-French co-production was shot over nearly three months in Morocco, Spain and Calais in France.
Set against the backdrop of one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our times, the story follows a young Congolese man who attempts to break through Europe’s borders in search of his brother. He teams up with Gyllen (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead), a wild and sharp-witted British runaway who has fled his family’s holiday in his stepdad’s RV.
Director: Ridley Scott (“Alien: Covenant,” “Gladiator”)
Details: Don Winslow’s mammoth 2015 bestseller is an epic to say the least. The fat book covers a decade in the Mexican-American drug war and has been dubbed the ”War and Peace” of dope war books by none other than James Ellroy. The story follows veteran DEA agent Art Keller and his blood feud with Adan Barrera, the head of the world’s most powerful cartel whom Keller put away at great cost. Then Barrera escapes custody, and so begins a decade-long odyssey to bring him down.
Adapting the dense work is a Herculean task, so much so that screenwriter David Scarpa says the film will serve more as a companion piece than a direct adaptation. The last time someone used that ‘companion piece’ terminology though was for “The Dark Tower” which didn’t turn out well. Though it doesn’t yet have a start of production date, Scott is determined to make it in 2018 and can turn out films at a rapid pace so don’t be too surprised if it’s out before year’s end.
The Catcher Was A Spy
Director: Ben Lewin (“The Sessions,” “The Dunera Boys”)
Cast: Paul Rudd, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Sienna Miller
Details: The film adaptation of Nicholas Dawidoff’s novel sees the welcome return of the underrated “The Sessions” director Ben Unwin to tackle this tale of Moe Berg, a closeted Jewish Ivy League graduate and major league baseball catcher who joined the war effort during World War II and partook in espionage for the U.S. Government to try and stop Werner Heisenberg building an atomic bomb for the Nazis.
The script comes from “Saving Private Ryan” scribe Robert Rodat and the cast is ridiculously strong with Paul Rudd as Moe along with a supporting cast that includes Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Sienna Miller, Giancarlo Giannini, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Tom Wilkinson and Connie Nielsen. The film was to premiere at Toronto this year but didn’t finish post-production in time and so has been held back until Sundance where it will unspool next month.
Director: Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace,” “Finding Neverland”)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings
Details: Not to be confused with 2017’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” the biopic about “Winnie the Pooh” author A.A. Milne starring Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie, this Disney tale is much more akin to Spielberg’s “Hook” – a fictional sequel to the ‘Pooh’ stories following the grown up version of Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor). In the story Pooh and his friends re-enter Christopher’s life to help him find his imagination again.
This will be done by having live-action settings and people interacting with CG animated talking animals including the original voice of Pooh – Jim Cummings. There’s also a surprising amount of talent who worked on the script here with Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Alex Ross Perry (“Queen of Earth”) and Allison Schroeder (“Hidden Figures”) all contributing to the film which Disney is lining up as a summer tentpole film for all audiences.
Director: Jeff Chan (“Grace: The Possession “)
Cast: Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, Sung Kang, Alex Mallari Jr, Aaron Abrams
Details: A feature length expansion of the 2016 proof of concept short film of the same name, “Arrow” star Stephen Amell teams with his cousin Robbie Amell and “Fast Five” actor Sung Kang star in the Canadian Kickstarter-funded sci-fi film which has the feel of a Neill Blomkamp production (albeit helmed by “Call of Duty” short filmmaker Jeff Chan).
In the film, 4% of the population is born with some type of supernatural ability with most of these ‘specials’ living in poverty and having to resort to crime, forcing the police to become much more militarized and dangerous. One desperate young man clashes with the cops after committing a petty crime.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski (“Ida,” “My Summer of Love”)
Cast: Joanna Kulig, Agata Kulesza, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc
Details: Oscar-winning director Paweł Pawlikowski’s first film since the celebrated and multi-award winning black-and-white nun drama “Ida,” Amazon Studios quickly snatched up the rights to the film which is set in the 1950s and explores the forces of democracy and communism clashing throughout Europe in the wake of the end of the second World War.
Set across Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris, the passionate love story follows two people of different backgrounds and temperaments, who are fatally mismatched and yet fatefully condemned to each other – an impossible love story in impossible times.
Director: Wash Westmoreland (“Still Alice,” “Quinceanera”)
Cast: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson, Fiona Shaw
Details: Wash Westmoreland follows up his Sundance prize-winning “Quinceanera” and his Oscar-winning “Still Alice” with “Colette,” a new biopic about the famed French writer who penned dozens of volumes of provocative fiction that tore into the societal constraints placed on women in turn-of-the-century Paris.
Colette overcomes an abusive marriage to emerge as a leading writer in her country and a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Premiering at Sundance, the film stars Keira Knightley in the title role and is produced by much of the same team behind “Carol” so expect some possible awards love.
Director: Joshua Marston (“Maria Full of Grace,” “The Forgiveness of Blood”)
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Martin Sheen, Condola Rashad, Jason Segel, Danny Glover
Details: Originally planned as a Marc Forster and then a Jonathan Demme film, “Come Sunday” ultimately ended up in the hands of the lesser known but no less talented “Maria Full of Grace” director Joshua Marston who helmed the true story project earlier this year and will first unveil it at Sundance. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in the film as an evangelical megastar who preaches fundamentalist teachings to millions of followers on television.
Rattled by an uncle’s suicide and distraught by reports of the Rwandan Genocide, he receives an epiphany – God loves all humankind, there is no hell and everyone is already saved. When he shares those heretical ideas, church leaders and members begin to defect in droves and his empire topples.
Director: Jaume Collett-Serra (“Non-Stop,” “House of Wax”)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill
Details: Neeson and Collett-Serra have made a name for themselves as a pairing that works well together on decent if unremarkable thrillers. “The Commuter” marks their fourth collaboration together after “Unknown,” “Non-Stop” and “Run All Night” and follows on from Collett-Serra’s well received and successful shark tale “The Shallows”. It also brings back Vera Farmiga with whom the director worked on the utterly bats–t insane “Orphan”.
Neeson plays an insurance salesman on his daily commute home who is contacted by a mysterious stranger who forces him to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop – otherwise, everyone on board could be killed. Each of Collett-Serra and Neeson’s pairings so far has been better than the last, let’s hope the trend continues.
Crazy Rich Asians
Director: Jon M. Chu (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Now You See Me 2”)
Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh
Details: “Fresh Off the Boat” star Constance Wu leads the cast of the much anticipated film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s comedy novel in which she plays an American-born Chinese economics professor who accompanies her boyfriend to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. She soon learns the boyfriend comes from a ridiculously wealthy family with a dark past, and that every woman in the country wants him.
Boasting an almost all Asian cast, the production got into a bit of a minor controversy over its leading man Henry Golding who is a biracial Eurasian of English and Iban (Borneo native) descent playing an ethnic Chinese-Singaporean character. Shot on location in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the film is set for release in late August.
Director: Steven Caple Jr. (“The Land,” “A Different Tree”)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren
Details: The “Rocky” spin-off “Creed” opened November 2015 and rode a wave of critical love and box-office success, ranking high on many best of year lists. Within two months MGM confirmed a sequel was in development with plans for a release November 2017, but with that announcement came the news that Ryan Coogler wouldn’t return as writer/director which still has many sceptical about this follow-up.
Instead relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr. is taking the helm of the film which Stallone wrote (and originally wanted to direct) and, after delays effectively pushed back the film by year. Perhaps the most interesting angle here is the return of “Rocky IV” villain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who killed Adonis Creed’s father Apollo in the ring in that film. This is expected to pick up that story thread and will go into production this coming Spring.
Director: David & Nathan Zellner (“Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,” “Kid-Thing”)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Details: Brothers David and Nathan Zellner follow up the Rinko Kikuchi-led and Spirit Award nominated “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter” with this, their first western feature starring now reliable art house darling Robert Pattinson along with Mia Wasikowska and Robert Forster.
Also said to be partly a comedy, and boasting a score from The Octopus Project (and Pattinson himself), the film follows a wealthy and influential pioneer travelling across west American Frontiers to marry the love of his life. Along the journey, he’s aided by a drunkard and a miniature horse named Butterscotch. The film will have its premiere at Sundance.
Director: Clio Barnard (“The Arbor,” “The Selfish Giant”)
Cast: Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, Sean Bean, Esme Creed-Miles, Aiden McCullough
Details: Premiering in Toronto the other month, the indie British thriller sees “Luther” alum Ruth Wilson returning to her home village on the Yorkshire Moors for the first time in 15 years, following her father’s death, to claim the tenancy to the family farm she believes is rightfully hers. Her brother (Mark Stanley), who stayed behind, initially welcomes her but resentment soon builds.
On top of that, she has to deal with the memories of her past, of her brutish father (Sean Bean) and where she sees her life heading. Wilson was nominated for a British Independent Film Award for her work, while the film itself won an honourable mention at the Toronto Film Festival mostly for its acting as opposed to its storyline.
The Darkest Minds
Director: Crispian Mills (“A Fantastic Fear of Everything,” “Slaughterhouse Rulez”)
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Patrick Gibson, Skylan Brooks
Details: First a storyboard artist and then an award-winning director for numerous DreamWorks Animation titles including “Spirit,” “Sinbad” and the “Kung Fu Panda” trilogy, Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes the jump to live-action with this science-fiction thriller based on the young adult novel by Alexandra Bracken and produced by “Stranger Things” alum Shawn Levy.
In the story, a disease kills 98% of America’s children while the surviving 2% develop superpowers. Those survivors are placed in internment camps, including a 16-year-old girl (“The Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg) who escapes custody and joins a group of teens on the run from the government. “Beach Rats” breakout Harris Dickinson also stars along with Gwendoline Christie as a bounty hunter in pursuit of them.
Director: Some Idiot (“Your Mom,” “Your Dad”)
Cast: The Magical Deadpool, Josh ‘Such a Wimp’ Brolin, Some Other People
Details: Hi folks, your friendly neighbourhood Deadpool here. I’ve hijacked Garth’s preview guide to tell you all about my sequel. I know what you’re thinking – why should I see yet another bland superhero sequel when I could be doing so much more productive things like buying ointment for that chronic skin rash on my inner folds, or masturbating to my new calendar with an eggnog covered nude Betty White as Miss December?
It’s simple folks. It’s me, more of the me you love to love and love to hate. Yes, there’s a girl who can manipulate luck, and I get to make that guy who thinks he’s Thanos bury his face in between my sweet ass cheeks and hum all three acts of Verdi’s ‘La donna e mobile’. But forget those idiots, come see me – Deadpool. I promise plenty of reckless violence, frontal nudity and thirty-two different uses for a Poe Dameron plushie you would never have thought of.
Director: Lisa Addario, Joe Syracuse (“Amateur Night,” “Lover Girl”)
Cast: Michael Caine, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Seth Green
Details: A low-budget satire with a fun premise and a script that made the Black List a decade ago, “Dear Dictator” also marks a reunion of “Batman Begins” stars Michael Caine and Katie Holmes in a film in which the normally gentlemanly Caine takes on the role of a notorious island nation dictator who stars an unexpected pen pal relationship with a sixteen year-old American girl (Odeya Rush).
When he is deposed by his own people, he unexpectedly seeks refuge in the girl’s suburban garage and becomes mentor to her – using the lessons he learned to help her rule her high school. He goes too far, forcing her to take charge and overthrow him. Screened at a few festivals to positive reviews, the movie hits limited theatrical release and VOD in March.
The Death & Life of John F. Donovan
Director: Xavier Dolan (“Mommy,” “Laurence Anyways”)
Cast: Kit Harington, Ben Schnetzer, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon
Details: Quebecios wunderkind Xavier Dolan tries his hand at his first English language effort with “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”. A large part of the film is set ten years prior when a gossip magazine publishes the pen pal correspondence between an 11-year-old British boy and a CW-esque twenty-something American male TV star. Misinterpretation of the innocent relationship leads to the actor’s life spiralling into suicide. Ten years on, the boy turned man reflects on the impact it had on his life.
The unapologetically brash Dolan had a great run culminating in “Mommy,” but his most recent and personal film “It’s Only the End of the World” was met with a polarised and sometimes brutal reaction which he found difficult to handle. With this being shot directly after, it will be interesting to see what (if any) impact it will have on his often go for broke style.
Director: Eli Roth (“Hostel”)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise
Details: Eli Roth remakes the iconic and controversial Charles Bronson film in which a doctor in Chicago becomes a vigilante when his wife is murdered and his daughter brutally attacked by thieves. The obvious question is one of ‘who cares?’ Revenge and vigilante tales have become commonplace in the wake of the original and its sequels, with last month’s “The Punisher” filling the void quite well.
On top of that, the idea of civil justice is thought of differently these days in the wake of multiple murder sprees by lone gunmen which makes Roth’s comedic approach to street-level violence in the trailer seem misguided. Could be reckless fun, more likely an utter train wreck, and either way it should be interesting.
Den of Thieves
Director: Christian Gudegast (“A Man Apart,” “London Has Fallen”)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones
Details: Trying to sell itself on being a grittier “Heat,” but coming off like a not just bad but insulting copy, “Den of Thieves” is a Los Angeles crime saga following the lives of both an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the latter plans a seemingly impossible heist of the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles.
Forget De Niro vs. Pacino though, this one matches the mighty acting talents of Gerard Butler and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. To be fair both can offer fine performances when pushed, but the trailers here make it seem like rather a brain dead heist action movie. The presence of “Prison Break” creator Paul Scheuring as co-writer means the heist elements themselves will probably be good, as will be the score from Cliff Martinez. Beyond that? Don’t expect much.
Director: Peter Hutchings (“The Outcasts,” “Rhymes with Banana”)
Cast: Maisie Williams, Asa Butterfield, Nina Dobrev, Tyler Hoechlin, Peyton List
Details: Teen stars Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”) and Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) team with a bunch of faces familiar to any regular watchers of The CW for the story of a young person with a terminal illness romance/life drama. It’s a topic that seems to be a part of a trend with recent films like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”.
Butterfield plays a hypochondriac working as an airport baggage handler who is forced to confront his fears when a British teenager (Williams) with a terminal illness enlists him to help her carry out her eccentric bucket list. Set photos have seen Williams dressing up in wild outfits as her character lives as much as she can in the time she has left.
Director: Karyn Kusama (“The Invitation,” “Girlfight”)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford, Toby Kebbell
Details: Coming off a minor career resurgence thanks to the great if underseen “The Invitation,” filmmaker Karyn Kusama re-teams with scribes Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi again for a new crime thriller starring a dressed down and tougher than usual performance from Nicole Kidman alongside “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany and The Winter Soldier himself Sebastian Stan.
In the film, Kidman plays LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with her past demons.
Director: Sebastian Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman,” “Gloria”)
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Anton Lesser
Details: An adaptation of the Naomi Alderman novel, “Disobedience” comes after universal acclaim for Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio’s two previous arthouse films “Gloria” and “A Fantastic Woman” which told complex stories of two very different women dealing with the often brutal hardships that life throws at them.
His English language debut here is similar but confined to the very specific and insular London Orthodox Jewish community and romantic triangle including a taboo lesbian relationship in this faith of deep sexual repression. Premiering in Toronto last Fall to strong reviews, the movie opens in April via boutique distributors Bleecker Street.
Director: Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah,” “Tale of Tales”)
Cast: Edoardo Pesce, Nunzia Schiano, Gianluca Gobbi
Details: With his planned big budget film adaptation of “Pinocchio” on hold due to financing difficulties, “Reality” helmer Matteo Garrone is occupying himself instead with this true crime inspired thriller which he dubs a Western in an urban and contemporary context. Either way it seems to be a return to the tone of his 2008 crime drama “Gomorrah”.
The story is inspired by a homicide committed by a coked-out dog groomer during the late 1980s in the gangland outskirts of Rome where the law of the jungle prevails. The groomer spent hours torturing a man in a dog cage in a death considered amongst the most gruesome in Italian postwar history. How much of that will make it to the screen? Don’t expect Garrone to hold back.
Director: Brian dePalma (“Blow Out,” “The Untouchables”)
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten, Guy Pearce,
Details: Thriller master Brian dePalma is switching out the Hitchcock meets stylish sleaze template he normally follows in favor of his attempt at Nordic noir with this suspense-filled fast-paced crime thriller from Danish scriptwriter Petter Skavlan (“Kon-Tiki”).
“Game of Thrones” alums Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten play Copenhagen police officers seeking justice for a murder by a mysterious man. The victim was his partner and her lover, and the pair is unwittingly caught in a cat-and-mouse chase with a duplicitous CIA agent who is using them as a pawn to trap ISIS members. Soon they are not only are out for revenge but also trying to save their own lives.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Director: Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “Milk”)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black
Details: Filmmaker Gus Van Sant has assembled an excellent cast for this redemption story meets biopic about a Portland cartoonist. Already picked up by Amazon and scheduled for a premiere at Sundance next month before release in May, there’s obvious hope here for an awards run.
Joaquin Phoenix plays John Callahan, a drunk who is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after a catastrophic car accident. On his journey back from rock bottom, his honesty and wicked sense of humour help him make friends with an oddball AA group and develops a talent for drawing irreverent and sometimes shocking cartoons.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Director: Peter Candeland, Yarrow Cheney (debut)
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch
Details: Despite the perfectly good animated feature and the live-action Jim Carrey vehicle, not to mention a ton of Dr. Seuss stories that have yet to be adapted, Universal Pictures have decided to do yet another take on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – this time as a CG animated take from “Minions” creators Illumination Entertainment.
Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of the green meanie who hatches a scheme to ruin Christmas when the residents of Whoville plan their annual holiday celebration. The film hit a little backlash recently with the release of a poster the other week showing a young version of the character who is adorably cute – not the Grinch that most people picture when they think of the character.
Dragged Across Concrete
Director: S. Craig Zahler (“Bone Tomahawk,” “Brawl in Cell Block 99”)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Laurie Holden, Jennifer Carpenter, Tory Kittles
Details: One of the most enjoyable new filmmakers in recent years, S. Craig Zahler’s two previous films took the familiar western and prison genres and turned them on their head thanks to strong character work, insanely brutal violence, and an enjoyable exploitation tone. He returns with his third film which deals with the topic of police brutality.
“Hacksaw Ridge” pair Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn re-team in the story of what happens when a grizzly older cop and his hotheaded young partner find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics goes viral. Low on cash and with no other options, the pair descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due and find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the dark.
Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte (“As You Are,” “Valley of the Sasquatch”)
Cast: Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Garrett Hedlund, Kerry Condon
Details: Margot Robbie does her best Bonnie Parker in this 1930s Dust Bowl-set tale which follows a seventeen-year-old boy on his quest to capture a fugitive bank robber and collect the bounty on her head in order to save his family farm from foreclosure. He beats out the FBI and the local police to find her, only to discover that she’s far deadlier than the authorities expected.
“Animal Kingdom” star Finn Cole plays the boy in the film which is helmed by 24-year-old wunderkind Miles Joris-Peyrafitte who was one of the youngest-ever filmmakers to get into Sundance last year and here is working from a Black List script by Nicolas Zwart.
Director: Nick Hamm (“The Hole,” “Godsend”)
Cast: Lee Pace, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll
Details: “Godsend” and “Killing Bono” director Nick Hamm has assembled a great cast for “Driven,” a Puerto Rico-shot thriller about the FBI sting operation to entrap maverick car designer John DeLorean (Lee Pace). Jason Sudeikis stars as Jim Hoffman, a con artist turned informer for the FBI in the war on drugs.
His handler (Timothy Olyphant) is determined to snare the enigmatic DeLorean (Pace) who is desperate for cash and planning a drug deal to finance his dream of designing the ultimate car of the future. The result became one of the big celebrity scandals of the 1980s. Judy Greer and Justin Bartha also have key roles.
Director: Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “27 Dresses”)
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Benward, Odeya Rush
Details: Australian actress Danielle Macdonald broke through on the indie film circuit this past year with the very well received “Patti Cake$”. Now she’s playing another awkward young woman in a musical comedy – albeit with a very different setting. It’s also likely to get a more mainstream release thanks to being the newest project of “Hot Pursuit” and “The Proposal” helmer Anne Fletcher.
Based on Julie Murphy’s novel, the story follows Willowdean ‘Dumplin’ Dickson (Macdonald), an outspoken plus-size teen obsessed with Dolly Parton who signs up for a small-town pageant to get a rise out of its organiser – her former beauty queen mom (Aniston). Things take a turn when a group of social outcasts from her school sign up in solidarity and urge her to take on the pageant and boldly redefine its traditions.
Director: Oliver Assayas (“Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Personal Shopper”)
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Theret, Pascal Gregory
Details: Coming off the strong success of his past two films, Olivier Assayas re-teams with Juliette Binoche for his French language next feature described as a full-blown comedy set in the Parisian publishing world. The story focuses on middle-aged characters having affairs and discussing adapting to a rapidly changing world via a series of intimate conversations. Assayas says it’s “very much actor and dialogue-driven, part film, part narrative, part essay.”
Director: Nick Park (“Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Chicken Run”)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade
Details: Marking his first true original film since 2000’s “Chicken Run,” filmmaker Nick Park helms this $50 million budgeted stop motion animated film set at the dawn of time when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth. Eddie Redmayne voices Dug, a caveman who – along with his pet sidekicks Hognob and Goona – unites his tribe against Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his Bronze Age City to save their home. Lionsgate has picked up the film for U.S. distribution in mid-February.
The Equalizer 2
Director: Antoine Fuqua (“The Magnificent Seven,” “Training Day”)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Ashton Sanders, Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman
Details: Though resembling the original TV series in title and character name only, Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington’s 2014 film reboot of the property offered the actor a solid and interesting character with ex-operative Robert McCall that suited his talents well. While the style and performance was strong, the main issue with the first was just the lack of an interesting story with the Russian mafia & sex slavery angle not done well.
The sequel, which marks the first time Washington has ever actually done a sequel to one of his movies, should hopefully fix that. There’s a stronger supporting cast too with “Moonlight” teenage Chiron actor Ashton Sanders as the person who needs help, “Game of Thrones” scene-stealer Pedro Pascal as the villain, and the return of both Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman’s ex-spies.
Escape Plan 2: Hades
Director: Steven C. Miller (“Silent Night,” “Extraction”)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Jesse Metcalfe, Jaime King, Curtis Jackson
Details: No-one seemed to be calling for a sequel to 2013’s Stallone & Schwarzenegger-led “Escape Plan”, the film died critically and though profitable, it wasn’t a big hit making $137 million from a $54 million budget. Nevertheless the production company behind it have enough belief in the brand they’ve greenlit not one but two sequels starting with this one which only brings back Sylvester Stallone and 50 Cent from the first one. Once again security expert Ray Breslin uses his skills to break out of a maximum security prison, this time playing opposite “Guardians of the Galaxy” alum Dave Bautista who also appears in the third one.
Director: Lisa Langseth (“Pure,” “Hotell”)
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance, Adrian Lester
Details: The English-language debut of Swedish playwright turned filmmaker Lisa Langseth, this new Swedish-UK-Germany co-production tackles the topic of euthanasia within the story of two estranged sisters – an extroverted NY photographer and an introverted home body – coming together when one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Screen sirens Eva Green and Alicia Vikander take on the roles in the film which screened at Toronto to soft reviews which all suggest it’s a challenging film that’s nonetheless lovely to look at and very feminine in its perspective.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
Director: Jim Hosking (“The Greasy Strangler”)
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Craig Robinson
Details: Even the most strong stomached indie filmgoer found themselves seriously challenged by British comedy filmmaker Jim Hosking’s utterly insane “The Greasy Strangler”. Gross and provocative, it nevertheless signaled the arrival of a director to watch. Now he returns with this project in which Aubrey Plaza plays Lulu Danger, a woman in an unsatisfying marriage who encounters a mysterious man from her past who has arrived in town for a one night only event which the film’s title refers to.
Along with sterling on-screen talent including funnymen Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”), Matt Berry (“The IT Crowd”) and Craig Robinson (“Hot Tub Time Machine”), the film has the backing of BFI, Film4, fellow filmmaker David Gordon Green and more. Specifics of the plot are under wraps, but the film is said to bring Hosking’s talent for the absurd to the rom-com genre and take the story into realms bordering on “outsider art”.
Director: Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation,” “The Salesman”)
Cast: Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Bárbara Lennie
Details: Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, coming off his Oscar win for “The Salesman” earlier this year,” heads to Spain for his new film which is a Spanish-language psychological thriller with national treasures Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in the leads. Cruz plays Carolina, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires who returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her Argentinian husband and children. However, what was supposed to be a short-lived trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open and completely change the lives of Carolina and her family. Expect a Fall festival debut and plenty of critical love.
Director: Ben Young (“Hounds of Love,” “Something Fishy”)
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Emma Booth, Michael Pena, Mike Colter
Details: What sounded like a fairly generic sci-fi movie, albeit with a solid cast, became much more interesting last month when Universal Pictures suddenly pulled the movie from the schedule two months from release and without explanation. The film deals with a father who has a recurring dream of losing his family, a dream that becomes real when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction.
So what happened? Director Ben Young’s Australian kidnap drama “Hounds of Love” really pushed buttons with its super dark and controversial subject matter when it was released, did he push it too far with this U.S. studio release and they became hesitant? There is still no date for the movie, and no promo material has been released to date so it’s still a guessing game as to what’s happened with it.
ALSO ON THE WAY:
“Charming” is a $20 million 3D computer-animated musical romantic fantasy comedy film from Canada which begins when Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty discover that they are all engaged to the same Prince Charming – a man who must go on an epic journey to find his true, true love. Demi Lovato, Wilmer Valderrama, Sia, Nia Vardalos, Avril Lavigne, G.E.M. and John Cleese all lend their voices.
Comedian Ken Marino helms “Dog Days,” an ensemble piece about a group of interconnected people in Los Angeles who are brought together by their pet dogs as each faces hardships in life. Owners including “Stranger Things” breakout Finn Wolfhard, “Vampire Diaries” star Nina Dobrev and Vanessa Hudgens.
“Duck Duck Goose” is an American computer-animated comedy film in which a bachelor goose must form a bond with two lost ducklings as they journey south. Christopher Jenkins makes his directorial debut on the film which stars the likes of Jim Gaffigan, Zendaya, Stephen Fry, Craig Ferguson and Carl Reiner.
Comedian Bo Burnham makes his directorial debut on “Eighth Grade,” a Sundance competition entry about an eighth-grade girl (newcomer Elsie Fisher) who has difficulty making connections in real life but has no issue or lack of confidence when it comes to sharing her life online. The story is dubbed a funny portrait of the insecurities and absurdities of being 13 in an always connected world.
“The Vow” director Michael Sucsy’s latest American romantic-drama, “Every Day” boasts a more high concept take than usual – in this case, Angourie Rice plays 16-year-old Rhiannon, who falls in love with a spirit named A, a traveling soul who wakes each morning in a different body, living a different life every day.
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