In this volume I look at a sequel to a dinosaur-sized hit, the return of Martin Scorsese to mob dramas, the return of Wes Anderson to the stop motion animated genre, a Pixar sequel that people are actually clamoring to see, a spy sequel no-one is keen to see, the next film from the director of the most worthy Best Picture winner in years, a take on one of the most colorful political leaders of modern history, a visit to the early days of Norwegian metal bands, and several stories of looking for love in both the right and wrong places.
I Am Mother
Director: Grant Sputore (debut)
Cast: Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard, Luke Hawker, Tahlia Sturzaker
Details: Australian filmmaker Grant Sputore makes his directorial debut on this low-budget, high-concept sci-fi drama which he co-wrote with Michael Lloyd Green and which made the 2016 edition of the Black List. Hilary Swank flew into Adelaide last year to shoot the project which stars a small and mostly unknown cast including rising Danish actress Clara Rugaard.
In the film, a teenage girl is raised underground by a robot ‘Mother’ – designed to repopulate the Earth following an extinction event. But their bond is threatened when an inexplicable blood-drenched female stranger arrives with alarming news that calls into question what the daughter has been told by ‘Mother’ about the outside world. WETA Workshop is behind the building of the robot at the heart of the production which was entirely shot in South Australia.
I Feel Pretty
Directors: Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn (debut)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Tom Hopper, Lauren Hutton
Details: While the formulaic romantic comedy has mostly died out in recent years, two of its remaining key supporters are writing partners Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein who penned the scripts for the likes of “Never Been Kissed,” “The Vow,” “Valentine’s Day,” “How to Be Single” and “He’s Just Not That Into You”. These two know their field and are now trying it out for the first time from the director’s chair.
The premise is also fairly solid – Amy Schumer playing an average woman who, after a head trauma, thinks she’s suddenly become gorgeous whereas she looks the same to everyone else. Her newfound confidence sees her climbing the ranks and getting the respect of her idol and boss (Michelle Williams hopefully being able to let loose and have fun) and through the process learns true beauty is not skin deep. Could be fun.
I Think We’re Alone Now
Director: Reed Morano (“Meadowland,” “The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning
Details: Going from celebrated cinematographer to director, Reed Morano hit it out of the park with Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” which she helmed the first three episodes of along with executive producing the series. Now she returns to the film world with this post-apocalyptic tale which reportedly doesn’t elaborate on how the world ends but rather on the psychology of those who are left whilst offering both social satire and a meditation on loneliness.
“Game of Thrones” alum Peter Dinklage seems to be the only human left alive, living in a small and empty town where he methodically goes from house to house to collect batteries and other useful items and bury the dead. Content in his solitude, things change when Grace (Elle Fanning) interlopes into his world – her history and motives are obscure, and she wants to stay.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director: Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” “Medicine for Melancholy”)
Cast: Kiki Layne, Teyonah Parris, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo
Details: As a result of him shaking up the entire film world in 2016 with one of the greatest films of modern times – Best Picture winner “Moonlight” – filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ next film automatically rises to the top of the ‘Must See’ movies of the year. An adaptation of the acclaimed novel by “I Am Not Your Negro” subject James Baldwin, Jenkins wrote the script years ago around the same time as “Moonlight” and Baldwin’s estate is now fully backing the feature which sees other key crew members from “Moonlight” retuning.
Newcomer Kiki Layne plays Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her imprisoned lover’s innocence while carrying their first-born child. Some great young actors like Dave Franco, Ed Skrein, Michael Beach, Finn Wittrock, Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal and Emily Rios also star in small supporting roles in the film which is almost certainly going to debut on the Fall film circuit ahead of an awards season rollout around year’s end.
The Incredibles 2
Director: Brad Bird (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “The Iron Giant”)
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk
Details: We’ve been subjected to so many sequels from Pixar in recent years, it’s understandable to be tired of them at this point – but “The Incredibles” is an exception. Dubbed both the best Bond & “Fantastic Four” films that aren’t a part of those franchises, Brad Bird’s original superhero family tale often ranks as one of the best features the company has ever produced.
With Bird returning to the fold for the follow-up, which takes place immediately after the events of the 2004 film, there’s plenty of reason to get excited. In the new outing Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible is left to care for baby Jack-Jack while Helen/Elastigirl is out saving the world this time from a villain with a sinister plot. Almost everyone is back from composer Michael Giacchino to the whole voice cast. An exception is Spencer Fox as Dash as the young actor had gone through puberty – resulting in his voice changing. Huck Milner is stepping in to replace him.
Director: Peter Strickland (“The Duke of Burgundy,” “Berberian Sound Studio”)
Cast: Gwendoline Christie, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Caroline Catz
Details: British director Peter Strickland has very quickly established himself as one of the great conveyors of human senses in cinematic form – nearly rivaling Luca Guadagnino on that front if a bit more outwardly idiosyncratic. His work on both the lesbian lepidopterists in bondage tale “The Duke of Burgundy” and the Argento-esque foley focused thriller “Berberian Sound Studio” are exquisite works of sensation – using vivid imagery and composition with rich aural landscapes to offer an enveloping sense of immersion in very adult tales.
With his new film “In Fabric” he tackles the ghost story genre, setting it against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store and following the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person with devastating consequences. As usual expect some experimental narrative tricks, moments of near tactile sensation, and something distinctly unique.
Director: Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas,” “Silence”)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin
Details: It’s not clear if this will make it to a 2018 debut for awards consideration, or more likely be held until 2019, but either way there’s few projects in the works right now more anticipated than this long-gestating adaptation of the non-fiction crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses”. Scorsese, coming off the beautiful but divisive “Silence,” returns to more familiar territory here and enlisted not just a reunion of Pacino & DeNiro but also managed to coax the mostly retired Joe Pesci to work with him again on the film penned by Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”).
The story deals with union official and mobster Frank Sheeran who claims to have been involved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. Budgeted at over $100 million, thanks in part to using CGI de-ageing to let his actors play their characters in their twenties and thirties, this isn’t just Netflix’s most expensive film but easily their biggest go at a film with serious awards potential. People are holding out hope it’ll somehow get a theatrical run, but either way this will be a juggernaut of a movie whenever it launches.
Isle of Dogs
Director: Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Moonrise Kingdom”)
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson
Details: Even amongst Wes Anderson films, his first animated feature “Fantastic Mr. Fox” remains unique – a lovingly crafted stop-motion animated film based on the Roald Dahl classic and still one of the best of the genre in the past decade. Now he returns to the stop-motion fold with this tale which he says has been influenced by the filmmaking style of the great Akira Kurosawa. Trailers for it look simply gorgeous, even better than ‘Fox,’ and it offers a welcome light after a particularly weak 2017 on the animation front.
The story is set in a future Japan where all the dogs have been rounded up and quarantined on an island to stop a pandemic. When the son of the mayor behind the initiative has his pet dog taken away, he heads to the island to search for his lost friend Spots with the help of five canines. The casting is incredible with Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, F. Murray Abraham, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Mari Natsuki, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Yojiro Noda and Yoko Ono. A must-see.
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Director: Kim Jee-Woon (“I Saw the Devil,” “The Age of Shadows”)
Cast: Jung Woo-sung, Han Hyo-joo, Gang Dong-won, Han Ye-ri, Heo Jun-ho
Details: Right up there with Park Chan-Wook’s “Oldboy,” Kim Jee-Woon’s 2010 thriller “I Saw the Devil” gave us an honest to god fresh take on the cop hunts a serial killer formula and one of the most remarkable works of Asian cinema of the past decade. Now he returns with this live-action take on the iconic 1999 anime and manga franchise from “Ghost in the Shell” director Mamoru Oshii – one that should avoid the pitfalls of THAT film’s Hollywood adaptation last year.
The story is set in an alternate history Korea where a member of an elite para-military police force has his life changed after witnessing a suicide bombing and then falling for the sister of the bomber. The original work was set in a dystopian future with a retro feel, whereas the film is being shifted to a 1950s Korea that has been reunited and which will blend noir, spy thriller and sci-fi elements. Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is said to be a big influence on the tone and feel Kim wants to achieve.
Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask
Director: Oleg Stepchenko (“The Forbidden Kingdom”)
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Charles Dance, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rutger Hauer
Details: A sequel to the 2014 film “The Forbidden Kingdom” which was based on the Nikolai Gogol story “Viy,” that part historical drama/part supernatural thriller was shot in fits and starts over the course of seven years due to funding issues. It starred Jason Flemyng as early 18th-century cartographer Jonathan Green who undertakes a scientific voyage from Western Europe to the East and finds himself in a small village lost in the impassable woods of Ukraine and surrounded by sinister forces.
The follow-up has Green’s skill sought by Peter the Great in order to map the Russian Far East in a journey that eventually leads him to China where he has numerous colorful experiences including meeting the Dragon King. Flemyng and Charles Dance return and are joined in this outing by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan and Rutger Hauer who co-star in the project which has a $50 million budget.
Director: Justin Kelly (“King Cobra,” “I Am Michael “)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Diane Kruger, Jim Sturgess, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Details: One of the most interesting literary scandals of the current century was that of J.T. LeRoy, the fictional male nom-de-plume of thirty-something single mother and “Deadwood” writer Laura Albert. Albert created a fictitious man, a heroin-addicted HIV+ teenage hustler from West Virginia, and got an ‘autobiographical’ book published to great sensation. Albert enlisted the help of her fashion designer sister-in-law Savannah Koop to help her pull off the ruse – Koop turning up at various public events in wigs and sunglasses as JT.
In 2005 the hoax was exposed and led to a recent and fascinating documentary about the level of deceit that was required and executed by the unapologetic and no holds barred writer. That led to this narrative feature adaptation of the story with Laura Dern as Albert and Kristen Stewart as Knoop and hails from filmmaker Justin Kelly who is coming off the Brent Corrigan gay porn murder scandal film “King Cobra”. Should be an interesting take in this age where people have multiple online personas.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J.A. Bayona (“The Orphanage,” “A Monster Calls”)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Justice Smith, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum
Details: The fifth entry in the “Jurassic Park” franchise and the follow-up to 2015’s minor reboot “Jurassic World”. That film did not go down well with critics but made a ridiculously huge $1.6 billion worldwide from a budget one-tenth that size – guaranteeing a quick follow-up. Though the same film’s writers are back (groan!), the director’s chair gets a definite upgrade with Spanish helmer J.A. Bayona taking the helm. Bayona hasn’t made a bad film yet, in fact his previous work has all been very good, which offers a slim chance of hope here.
The story is set several years on with the dinosaurs roaming Isla Nublar freely until a volcanic eruption threatens their existence. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has now founded the Dinosaur Protection Group and recruits former dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help her rescue the remaining dinosaurs from the island and locate his trained raptor Blue. The pair soon discovers a conspiracy that endangers both humanity and the dinosaurs.
Director: Kristoffer Nyholm (TV’s “Taboo,” “The Killing”)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Gary Lewis
Details: After a string of ridiculous action thrillers and occasional spikes of grittier fare, Gerard Butler tries his hand at something smaller and more low key, but still within his wheelhouse – a paranoia thriller set in isolation. Butler, Scottish vet Peter Mullan and Taylor Swift’s current beau Joe Alwyn star as three lighthouse keepers sent for a six week shift on an uninhabited island twenty miles from the rugged Scottish coast.
Settled into a normal quiet routine, something unexpected happens when they stumble upon gold and shortly after a boat appears in the distance that might hold the answer. So begins a tense battle for survival, as paranoia and greed take hold in dark tale which suits the talents of “Taboo” and the original “The Killing” director Kristoffer Nyholm who makes his film debut here.
A Kid Like Jake
Director: Silas Howard (“Transparent,” “By Hook or by Crook”)
Cast: Claire Danes, Priyanka Chopra, Octavia Spencer, Jim Parsons
Details: The Brooklyn-shot indie is based on the 2013 play by Daniel Pearle and helmed by award-winning trans director Silas Howard. Set to get a prime spot at the Sundance Film Festival this year, it will depend on review love to break out of the indie scene. Howard’s been in the TV world of late, achieving success with the likes of “This Is Us” and “Transparent,” so his big screen return with the topic of families dealing with gender identity should ring out with a welcome authenticity.
Set on the eve of the admissions cycle for New York City kindergartens, a couple (Claire Danes, Jim Parsons) have high hopes for their bright and precocious 4-year-old son who prefers dressing as princesses as opposed to GI Joes. As they navigate their roles as parents, a rift grows between them which forces them to confront their own concerns about what’s best for Jake and each other.
The Kid Who Would Be King
Director: Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”)
Cast: Louis Serkis, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Taylor
Details: The long-awaited second feature of British comedian and filmmaker Joe Cornish following 2011’s aliens on a British council estate tale “Attack the Block,” this new “Goonies”-esque adventure dama follows a young and utterly powerless British schoolboy (Louis Serkis) who finds his everyday problems dwarfed by his discovery of the mythical sword Excalibur. Soon, he and and his friends must thwart a medieval villain named Morgana who is hell-bent on destroying the world.
Once again there’s a cast of young unknowns, the most famous being “The Dark Tower” kid Tom Taylor in a supporting role. Lending key support though are Patrick Stewart in the role of Merlin, and “Mission Impossible” breakout star Rebecca Ferguson as Morgana. Cornish has been very selective and consistently good with his work which makes anything he does an automatic must-see.
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio (“Don’t Go in the Woods “)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, Adam Baldwin
Details: A reunion of three key players from “The Magnificent Seven” remake, Vincent D’Onofrio’s second feature brings back his co-stars Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke for this much more indie western drama from new scribe Andrew Lanham (“Just Mercy”) and produced by Geffen Records president Jordan Schur whose son Jake Schur takes on the lead role.
The aim? To offer a different take on the legends of Billy The Kid and Pat Garrett. The story follows a young boy whose uncle has murdered his father and turned his sister out onto the streets. The boy tries to rope Billy (Dane DeHaan) into killing said uncle, but finds his romantic notions of the gunfighting outlaw are false and a true hero is there in the form of Sheriff Garrett (Ethan Hawke).
Director: Jonathan Baker, Josh Baker (debut)
Cast: Jack Reynor, James Franco, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid
Details: A loose adaptation of their own 2014 short film “Bag Man,” “Kin” sees Australian brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker helming a sci-fi thriller in which “Transformers” and “What Richard Did” actor Jack Reynor plays an ex-con who is forced to go on the run with his adopted younger brother – his only protection a weapon of mysterious ancestry.
James Franco plays a vengeful criminal hot on their tail, as are the federal authorities and a group of otherworldly soldiers. Rising scribe Daniel Casey penned the script while “Stranger Things” duo Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen will produce. Lionsgate has already picked up the film for release sometime later this year.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg (“The Hunt,” “Far from the Madding Crowd”)
Cast: Lea Seydoux, Colin Firth, Matthias Schoenaerts, Max von Sydow
Details: Celebrated Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg helms this true story tale based on Robert Moore’s novel “A Time to Die” and adapted by celebrated scribe Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”). The story deals with the famous K-141 Kursk submarine disaster in 2000 when a Russian sub on a naval exercise sank in the Barents Sea. Two dozen sailors desperately fought for survival while their oxygen ran out, and negligence within the Russian government led to them refusing help from foreign governments for five days.
Ultimately, thanks to their families desperately battling political obstacles, the Russians agreed to aid from the UK and Norway. EuropaCorp is producing the film which was originally going to blend a rescue and political focus, but emphasis has shifted more towards the former which led to the cutting back of scenes featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin. For now, there’s some great casting as well in supporting roles from known names like Colin Firth and Max von Sydow to turns by “Toni Erdmann” star Peter Simonischek and the late Michael Nyqvist in his final role.
Director: Brad Furman (“Runner Runner,” “The Lincoln Lawyer”)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Forest Whittaker, Rockmond Dunbar, Shea Whigham, Neil Brown Jr.
Details: A film adaptation of Randall Sullivan’s non-fiction book of the same name, Brad Furman’s new drama looks at the police investigation of the unsolved murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the corruption within the Los Angeles police department (the Rampart scandal) which the detective in charge of the investigation Russell Poole (played by Johnny Depp) was involved in.
Poole’s investigations led to Officer David Mack and his friend Amir Muhammad who were accused of being complicit in the murder. Poole was ordered to cease his investigations and he quit the department shortly after in protest. As a private investigator, he continued independently looking into the murder on his own over the years with a reporter (played by Forest Whitaker) coming onboard nearly two decades later to help. Should be an interesting true crime story.
The Land of Steady Habits
Director: Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said,” “Friends with Money”)
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Connie Britton, Thomas Mann, Elizabeth Marvel
Details: Occupied with TV in recent years, filmmaker Nicole Holofcener returns to the big screen with another take on the modern American bourgeois with this hoping to follow on from the success she achieved with “Enough Said” that proved a popular film for her. In this film, an adaptation of Ted Thompson’s novel and a former Searchlight movie turned Netflix original, Ben Mendelsohn plays a recently retired man in his 50s who leaves his wife and hopes to transform his life. Should be nice to see the Aussie thesp play a non-villain for a change.
The Last Full Measure
Director: Todd Robinson (“Lonely Hearts,” “Phantom”)
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Christopher Plummer, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Sebastian Stan
Details: Originally slated to star “The Flash” actor Grant Gustin, this inspirational true story army tale swapped him out with the less interesting but not too shabby Jeremy Irvine in a story which jumps between one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War and a present day investigation into a cover-up.
Sebastian Stan plays a young Pentagon investigator teaming with veterans of Operation Abilene to convince Congress to award the Medal of Honor to a courageous Air Force medic, special forces Pararescue Jumper William Pitsenbarger (Irvine), who saved the lives of over sixty Marines in the battle until his own was sacrificed. The cast list is insane with Christopher Plummer, Samuel L. Jackson, Linus Roache, Diane Ladd, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda, William Hurt, Michael Imperioli, Amy Madigan and John Savage in supporting roles.
Lean on Pete
Director: Andrew Haigh (“45 Years,” “Weekend”)
Cast: Charlie Plummer, Chloe Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Steve Buscemi
Details: Finally getting a theatrical release after a Fall film festival run last year, “Weekend” and “45 Years” helmer Andrew Haigh’s adaptation of the Willy Vlautin novel of the same name scored very good but not exceptional reviews at festivals with some critics notably soft on it. That nixed its awards chances, but it should still do well in a theatrical run on the arthouse circuit nonetheless.
Charlie Plummer stars as Charley Thompson, a 15-year-old who has no stability in his life and moves with his single father to Portland where Charley takes a summer job and becomes best friends with a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete. Haigh has shown a deft touch for conveying nuance and the emotional complexities of romance both gay and straight, so it’ll be curious to see how he handles the love of a boy and his horse.
Leave No Trace
Director: Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone,” “Stray Dog”)
Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey
Details: Launching Jennifer Lawrence’s career with the deeply impressive rural thriller “Winter’s Bone” back in 2010, filmmaker Debra Granik returns with this chilling tale starring the always fully committed Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie as his teen daughter.
The pair plays off the grid survivalists living on the edge of a Portland nature reserve when a chance encounter blows their cover and puts them in the hands of the authorities. Struggling to adapt to their new surroundings, the pair set off on a perilous journey back to the wilderness where they are finally forced to confront conflicting desires about how to live. Part coming of age tale, part survival thriller – there’s raw potential here.
Let the Corpses Tan
Directors: Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer,” “The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears”)
Cast: Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin, Herve Sogne
Details: Resembling a violent Jean-Luc Godard styled “Free Fire,” this is a straight out homage to classic 1970s European crime thrillers with their hard violence and stylised shot composition. The story is set on the Mediterranean coast at the height of summer and follows a gang hiding out in an abandoned seaside ruin with 250 kgs of stolen gold.
Along with dealing with a female artist searching for inspiration who lives in the ruins, they must deal with surprise guests and two cops potentially compromising their plan. Belgian filmmakers Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani step beyond their horror work to tackle something more classic and rarer but is far from short on extreme violence and decadence. Screened at Toronto last year, it was also revealed that no sound was recorded on set with the entire auditory landscape created over months in the foley studios.
Director: Dan Fogelman (“Danny Collins”)
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Cooke, Samuel L. Jackson, Antonio Banderas, Olivia Wilde
Details: Thanks to creating the most successful family soap drama in recent years with NBC’s “This Is Us,” Dan Fogelman has managed to land a strong cast for his new multigenerational romance drama feature which spans both decades and continents, was shot in both New York and Seville and boasts a script which made the Black List.
Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde play a couple at the center of the story with a single event that takes place connecting to everything that happens to them. Olivia Cooke, Samuel L. Jackson, Mandy Patinkin, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas co-star in the film which Amazon Studios picked up the rights for following a fierce bidding war. Expect a possible run for awards.
Life of the Party
Director: Ben Falcone (“The Boss,” “Tammy”)
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Julie Bowen, Gillian Jacobs, Matt Walsh
Details: Arguably Melissa McCarthy’s weakest works since hitting it big with “Bridesmaids” have been her two collaborations with her husband, director Ben Falcone. Both “Tammy” and “The Boss” were critical duds and among her weakest box-office entries, but the pair keep on trying and their latest collaboration is this “Back to School”-esque work.
In the film, McCarthy plays a longtime dedicated housewife who has been suddenly dumped and so heads back to college – landing in the same class and school as her daughter who’s not sold on the idea. The increasingly outspoken woman embraces freedom, fun and frat boys on her own terms and ultimately finds her true self.
Light of My Life
Director: Casey Affleck (“I’m Still Here”)
Cast: Casey Affleck, Anna Pniowsky, Tom Bower, Timothy Webber
Details: Though one of the more acclaimed actors of his generation thanks to celebrated performances in the likes of “The Assassination of Jesse James” and “Manchester-by-the-Sea,” actor Casey Affleck is more known for scandal in the past year or so in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the reveal of multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him – much of it tied around his first directorial effort with the 2010 documentary “I’m Still Here”.
This marks his second turn behind the camera, a post-apocalyptic survival thriller in the vein of “It Comes At Night” and “Z for Zachariah”. Here he plays a father of a young daughter who both become trapped in the woods after a deadly pandemic radically alters the world. As the father struggles to protect his daughter’s innocence, shielding her from the newfound dangers of man, their bond is tested. Already shot early last year, talk of the film has effectively been radio silent for many months with no word on when it might get a release despite being pre-sold in many territories.
Director: Lauren Miller (debut)
Cast: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen, Zach Appleman
Details: Frequent Seth Rogen onscreen co-star Lauren Miller has moved into comedy writing in recent years, penning both “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “For a Good Time, Call…” to solid critical success if only minor box-office. She now makes her directorial debut on the cruise ship-set comedy “Like Father” in which a workaholic woman (Kristen Bell), left at the altar, takes her honeymoon trip anyway with her overachieving father (Kelsey Grammer) who left her mother because he believed his family was holding back his career.
Director: Abe Forsythe (“Down Under,” “Ned”)
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Alexander England, David Sinclair-Smith
Details: A zombie rom com? You’d better believe it. One of Australia’s most promising young actors, Abe Forsythe, made a shift into filmmaking fifteen years ago with the release of the little seen and under appreciated Ned Kelly comedy “Ned”. Well over a decade later he returned with “Down Under,” an often challenging dark farce about one of Australia’s ugliest incidents – the Cronulla race riots.
For his third go behind the camera, Forsythe steps into genre filmmaking with this tale of a washed-up musician (Alexander England) who teams up with a plucky teacher (Lupita N’yongo) and a kids show host (Josh Gad) to protect a kindergarten class from a sudden outbreak of zombies during a school excursion to a farm. The tiny Aussie comedy managed to attract N’yongo and Gad thanks to a strong script. Hopefully, it’ll get a festival launch and buzz ahead of a theatrical release.
The Little Mermaid
Director: Blake Harris and Chris Bouchard (debut)
Cast: William Moseley, Poppy Drayton, Loreto Peralta, Gina Gershon, Shirley MacLaine
Details: Not to be confused with Disney’s in the works live-action adaptation of their 1989 animated feature, this family-targeted indie fantasy-adventure film offers a new reimagining of the original 1837 Hans Christian Andersen story – no talking crabs or songs included. The first trailer for the film early last year pulled in 30 million views which suggests there’s definitely interest in the story.
“Narnia” star William Moseley and “Instructions Not Included” actress Loreto Peralta play siblings, him a journalist and an overprotective brother. The pair is sent to a small Mississippi town on an assignment to find out more about some mysterious healing waters and ends up learning more than he ever imagined – including a woman who may well be the real ‘Little Mermaid’.
The Little Stranger
Director: Lenny Abrahamson (“Room,” “Frank”)
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling
Details: Three for three in many critical circles with “What Richard Did,” “Frank” and “Room,” Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s fourth feature adapts Sarah Waters’ 2009 gothic chiller which ditches her usual LGBT themes in favour of both an examination of the class system’s disintegration in postwar Britain and a good old fashioned ghost yarn in the vein of Shirley Jackson, Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe’s works.
Domhnall Gleeson plays a respectable country doctor in 1947 who is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The place is now in decline and the family who own it and are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. Cue unexpected dog attacks, strange sounds, burn marks and writing on the walls – the kind of scares that could be the work of someone playing a sick game – or something more. Chuck in exceptional casting with Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter and Charlotte Rampling and you have something potentially exceptional.
Director: Craig William Macneill (“The Boy,” “Henley”)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chloë Sevigny, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare
Details: Horror director Craig William Macneill (“The Boy,” “Channel Zero”) helms this latest adaptation of the Lizzie Borden story with Chloe Sevigny as the infamous female killer in turn of the century Massachusetts. The story in this psychological thriller though isn’t so much about the murders as itis a look at repressed female sexuality with the focus on Lizzie’s relationship with an uneducated Irish immigrant and live-in maid (Kristen Stewart).
Stewart has become one of the most reliable actresses for quality indie fare in recent years, and here gets to explore an intimate relationship in an oppressive society and abusive household where things reach an inevitable breaking point that ends in bloodshed. The aim is obviously to offer a much more humanist take on the story, whether Macneill can pull it off – we’ll know soon when the reviews from Sundance come out.
The Long Dumb Road
Director: Hannah Fidell (“A Teacher,” “6 Years”)
Cast: Tony Revolori, Jason Mantzoukas, Taissa Farmiga, Grace Gummer, Ron Livingston
Details: Following the acclaimed “A Teacher” and the less seen “6 Years,” filmmaker Hannah Fiddell tries her hand at comedy with this Sundance entry starring “Grand Budapest Hotel” clerk Tony Revolori, and the wonderfully acidic rising comedy great Jason Mantzoukas in a buddy road comedy set across the desert plains of America. In the film a freshman art student leaving home for Los Angeles, and a mechanic trying to escape his bastard of a boss, end up in a car together having deep and meaningful conversations in between bar fights and broken hearts. It’s an unexpected but potentially fun pairing.
The Long Home
Director: James Franco (“The Disaster Artist,” “Broken Tower”)
Cast: James Franco, Josh Hutcherson, Ashton Kutcher, Josh Hartnett
Details: No-one seems sure what the fate of the James Franco-directed indie film “The Long Home” will be in the wake of this month’s sexual misconduct allegations involving the star. It’s a shame as this adaptation of the William Gay novel boasts a stacked cast including Josh Hutcherson, Tim Blake Nelson, Courtney Love, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Ashton Kutcher, Josh Hartnett, Analeigh Tipton, Scott Haze and Robin Lord Taylor.
Set in rural 1940s Tennessee, a young man (Hutcherson) lands a job building a ‘honky-tonk’ bar for a charismatic, scheming bootlegger – unaware the same man murdered his father a decade earlier. Shot in mid-2015 over just three weeks, the film has been sitting on a shelf for two years. Franco filmed the hazing drama “Goat” around the same time but that film already scored a release in 2016 so this one’s absence was already a concern even before the recent scandal.
Lords of Chaos
Director: Jonas Akerlund (“Spun,” “Horsemen”)
Cast: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, Jack Kilmer
Details: Music video and indie director Jonas Akerlund helms this tale about a teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s – resulting in a very violent outcome. Shot early last year in Norway, this “millennial Trainspotting” is a collaboration of VICE Films and Insurgent.
It has also come under fire from actual Norwegian black metal bands, including the key one at the story’s center – Mayhem. The band have slammed both Michael Moynihan’s 1998 novel which serves as source material, and the production itself for “going behind the backs” of the actual band members. So while actors are playing members of the band, don’t expect to hear their actual music in the film.
Director: Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty,” “Il Divo”)
Cast: Toni Servillo, Riccardo Scamarcio, Chiara Iezzi, Elena Sofia Ricci, Ricky Memphis
Details: After a side trip to TV with HBO’s “The Young Pope,” Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino returns with his first film since “Youth”. Boasting a script co-written by Umberto Contarello, the project is a much anticipated biopic of Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media tycoon and longest-serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy who is currently banned from serving in public office.
Berlusconi still holds much power in the country, including control of Sorrentino’s usual financiers Medusa Film, which meant he had to seek financing elsewhere to tell his story. How much of the Italian-language film will show is not clear, though it’s likely Berlusconi’s infamous ‘bunga bunga’ parties will get at least a mention. It has also been said this film doesn’t intend to be a scathing critique so much as an examination of absolute power.
Director: Greg Berlanti (“The Broken Hearts Club,” “Life as We Know It”)
Cast: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Duhamel, Keiynan Lonsdale
Details: Known mostly for producing much of The CW’s programming these days including all of its DC shows, “Riverdale” and other network series, producer Greg Berlanti returns to a genre that his first film, the Timothy Olyphant-led gay rom-com “The Broken Hearts Club,” tackled. While that explored being gay in your thirties and forties, this deals with the first flushes of finding out one’s sexual orientation.
One big advantage here is that he has Becky Albertalli’s well-regarded novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” as its source material for this story of a 17-year-old closeted gay high school student forced to balance his friends, his family, his email pen pal Blue, and the boy threatening to reveal his true sexuality to the whole school. Expect a sweet if simple tale of young love which boasts one bit of groundbreaking – giving us a major studio feature with a gay teen male lead. That’s a first.
Director: Tabrez Noorani (debut)
Cast: Mrunal Thukur, Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Mark Duplass
Details: “Love Sonia” is inspired by real life events and stars newcomer Mrunal Thukur as a young Indian girl whose life irrevocably changes when she is entrapped into the vicious global sex trade network and her sister must try and save her. Thukur was reportedly hand selected from over 1,500 potential candidates for the role in the film which was shot primarily in Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Longtime producer Tabrez Noorani, who has worked on many Hollywood projects that have shot in India, makes his directorial debut here. He also has plenty of experience with the real sex trafficking trade – working with non-governmental organizations focused on the issue in Los Angeles and participating in brothel raids in the past. On top of that, he’s scored a strong supporting cast to help out including Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Mark Duplass and a host of well regarded Hindi talent. Could be this year’s “Lion”.
ALSO ON THE WAY:
Anthony Jerjen makes his directorial debut on the crime thriller “Inherit the Viper” about three siblings in Appalachia getting by as local opiate dealers and struggling not to get caught in the spiral of violence that comes with the area they live in. Josh Hartnett, Bruce Dern, Chandler Riggs, Owen Teague, Margarita Levieva and Valorie Curry lead the cast.
One of the only films I wasn’t able to write up before its U.S. theatrical release in the first weekend of this year, “Insidious: The Last Key” marks the fourth entry in the franchise and has Adam Robitel helming the story which gives Lin Shaye’s parapsychologist time to shine. Sadly reviews were not good.
Somehow we’ve gotten to the point of a third entry in the spy spoof series “Johnny English” with Rowan Atkinson once again returning as the bumbling spy while former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko joins him this time out as the lady of the piece. Ben Miller, Jake Lacy and Miranda Hennessy also star in this chapter from frequent “Fresh Meat” sitcom director David Kerr.
“Juliet, Naked” is an adaptation of the Nick Hornby best-seller in which a woman (Rose Byrne) has long dealt with the fact she plays second fiddle to the obsessional figure of her husband (Chris O’Dowd). That figure? An obscure rocker named Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). ” Our Idiot Brother” and “GLOW” helmer Jesse Peretz directs the rom-com which debuts at Sundance.
Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in the Sundance entry “The Kindergarten Teacher” as a disenfranchised New York woman in that profession who one day discovers that a five-year-old boy in her class may be a child prodigy with astounding skill in her great love – poetry. Fascination turns to obsession as Lisa pushes boundaries to protect the boy from a banal life and risks everything to nurture his genius. Rosa Salazar and Gael Garcia Bernal co-star in the film from “Little Accidents” helmer Sara Colangelo.
Model Cara Delevingne (“Suicide Squad,” “Valerian”) shaved her head for the coming of age film “Life in a Year” in which she plays a terminally ill young woman whose boyfriend (Jaden Smith) sets out to give her an entire life in the last year she has left. Nia Long and Cuba Gooding Jr. co-star in the film which hails from “Letters to Santa” director Mitja Okorn.
Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts star in “Little Italy,” a modern “Romeo and Juliet”-inspired rom-com in which the duelling families are owners of competing Italian restaurants and the pair are the star-crossed lovers at the center. “Miss Congeniality helmer Donald Petrie directs the Toronto-short film which also stars Alyssa Milano, Jane Seymour, Andrea Martin and Danny Aiello.
Acclaimed “The Tribe” director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy returns with “Luxembourg,” a cold noir drama blending Ukranian actors with non-professionals in the story of a jealous policeman working as a watchman inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone – an area the size of Luxembourg sealed off after the nuclear disaster. Could have some real potential.
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