The Notable Films Of 2019: O-S

The Notable Films Of 2019 O S

In this fifth volume of DH’s yearly film preview guide there’s three superhero films all with quite different tones and ambitions, a new take on Dickens, the end of an iconic action cinema figure, the closure of a modern film trilogy, a remake of an Australian icon, and adaptations of two furry video game characters.

There’s also detective noir, the return of several household name directors, the passing of a private dick’s torch, a look at the life of an iconically flamboyant man, Skynet vs. McCarthy, a new take on an iconic Stephen King tale, a female spy thriller from the Bond series producers, and multiple period dramas with strong ambitions.

This fifth of six volumes runs from titles beginning with the letters O, P, Q, R & S. Here’s the list:

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“Official Secrets”
Following up a very welcome return to form with 2015’s superb drone thriller “Eye in the Sky,” actor/filmmaker Gavin Hood sticks with the military-meets-politics genre in this true story tale of British Intelligence whistle-blower Katharine Gun who leaked a top-secret NSA memo exposing a joint U.S.-U.K. illegal spying operation against members of the UN Security Council in order to coerce them to sign on for the Iraq invasion. Hood has enlisted a stellar cast too including Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Indira Varma, Rhys Ifans and Conleth Hill. It premieres at Sundance.

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“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Quentin Tarantino’s latest and biggest budgeted film to date, and the first he’s made since severing ties with the Weinsteins, this mystery crime drama follows a washed-up western actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) who embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry in the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles . The pair plan to use the help of their neighbor, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who is then killed in the Charles Manson murders. Sony is positioning it as a major summer cinematic release as it’s likely to draw as much attention as most blockbusters.

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“Once Upon a Time in Staten Island”
A rare straightforward indie family drama from Blumhouse, this marks “The Purge” creator James DeMonaco’s attempt at branching out of genre material with the story of an early 1980s teen named Anthony who sets out on a quest in his town that encompasses his family members. Naomi Watts, Frank Grillo, Bobby Cannavale and Method Man star.

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“Out of Blue”
Releasing in the wake of a fairly quiet festival run with weak reviews, this solidly cast psychological neo-noir sees Patricia Clarkson starring as New Orleans Detective Mike Hoolihan who is called to investigate the shooting of leading astrophysicist and black hole expert, Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), she is affected in ways she struggles to comprehend. Jacki Weaver, James Caan, Aaron Tveit, Toby Jones, and Jonathan Majors co-star in the film which uses plenty of Lynchian tropes and supernatural elements.

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“The Outpost”
“The Contender” and “The Last Outpost” director Rod Lurie’s new Afghan war drama stars Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, and more rising young actors in the story of a small team of U.S. soldiers battling against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Lurie has a knack for political stories, but reviews will play a big part in telling how well this film goes.

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“Pain and Glory”
Filmmaker Pedro Almodovar returns with this 1960s-set psychodrama of a filmmaker in his twilight years recalling past loves, past friendships and former colleagues as he grapples with his inability to make movies anymore. It’s maybe a little on the nose and Fellini-esque, but the happy Spaniard hasn’t really had a great film since 2011’s “The Skin I Live In” and so hopefully this will get him out of his slump. Plus it’s a very welcome re-teaming of him with his two great muses Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz along with actors like Asier Etxeandia and Julieta Serrano.

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“Pale Blue Dot” (aka. “Lucy in the Sky”)”
Having produced FX’s “Fargo” and “Legion” TV series to much acclaim, showrunner Noah Hawley is making the jump to the big screen in the hopes of achieving something only a few truly have – a successful crossover to films. Indications are good though for this Fox Searchlight film which stars Natalie Portman as an astronaut who returns to Earth after a lengthy mission and begins an affair with a fellow astronaut (Jon Hamm) – going into a downward spiral as she loses her connection to her husband (Dan Stevens) and family. When her lover begins another affair with an astronaut trainee (Zazie Beetz), things reach a head. Interestingly this is partly inspired by true events regarding the case of astronaut Lisa Nowak, and will likely bow on the Fall film circuit. Titled “Pale Blue Dot” throughout development and production, it recently was re-titled the utterly terrible “Lucy in the Sky”. Will that stick? Hopefully not.

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“Paradise Hills”
Set to premiere at Sundance, this marks the feature directorial debut of awarding-winning Spanish short filmmaker Alice Waddington. The drama deconstructs societal expectations of young women with a story set on a strange island called Paradise. Uma (Emma Roberts), a new arrival, is told this is a place of emotional healing and something of a reformatory-style boarding school for privileged young women. However, behind the rose-covered pathways and flashy decor, lies something more sinister and Uma leads the charge against the fascist headmaster (Milla Jovovich) risking her upper-class livelihood for her own and her friends’ independence. Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina and Eiza Gonzalez co-star in the film which boasts a script by “Timecrimes” helmer Nacho Vigalondo.

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“Parasite”
The great Bong Joon-Ho (“Snowpiercer,” “The Host”) returns with his follow-up to “Okja” which looks to be something much more domestic and a bit more creepy – the story of two families who mirror each other, despite seemingly being worlds apart. The project marks his return to a Korean-language, Korea-set film which he hasn’t done since 2009’s “Mother”. Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun and Choi Woo-sik co-star in the film which Neon is expected to release in the back half of the year.

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“The Parts You Lose”
Christopher Cantwell, who created the underseen AMC series “Halt and Catch Fire,” jumps to movies with this indie drama about a fugitive criminal (Aaron Paul) who hides out on a remote farm in North Dakota where he befriends a young deaf boy (Danny Murphy). As the authorities come closer to finding the criminal, the kid must decide what to do. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Scoot McNairy co-star in the film as the boy’s parents, and the project hails from scribe Darren Lemke (“Goosebumps”). The film is expected to premiere at one of the festivals in the Spring.

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“The Peanut Butter Falcon”
Dubbed a contemporary Mark Twain-style story, this follows a young man (Zachary Gottsagen) with Down syndrome who runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck. Shia LaBeouf stars as a small-time outlaw and crab fisherman on the run who becomes the young man’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince a kind nursing home employee (Dakota Johnson) with a story of her own to join them. Bruce Dern, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Thomas Haden Church, and hip hop artist Yelawolf co-star in the inspiring drama shot in Georgia back in mid-2017.

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“The Personal History of David Copperfield”
Though a hit with critics, Armando Iannucci’s “The Death Of Stalin” proved a more divisive and more eccentric work than the other unanimously well-received efforts from the great political satirist. Now he’s stepping outside the comedy genre altogether for a passion project, a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ iconic classic about a young man’s journey from a poverty-stricken childhood to a successful career as an author. A superb cast including Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, Aneurin Barnard, Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong and Iannucci regular Peter Capaldi all star in this take on one of Dickens most famous works and yet one so often overlooked for adaptations. Already shot last year, it’s likely to debut sometime in the Fall.

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“Pet Sematary”
While there’s many debates about the best Stephen King novel, there’s a fairly common consensus of his scariest works such as “IT,” “The Shining” and “Cujo,” and sitting high if not atop of it for many people is “Pet Sematary”. “Starry Eyes” helmers Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch handle this new take of the story of a doctor (Jason Clarke) who find their new rural home is near a pet cemetery that itself resides next to an ancient American-Indian burial ground. When the husband’s toddler son is killed in an auto accident, the father takes the boy’s body to the burial ground, where it is resurrected but is not quite right. The previous 1989 film adaptation was solid but not considered a particularly great work and this follow-up, which also stars John Lithgow, looks surprisingly different and fresh so there’s promise here.

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“Peterloo”
Having already been released in the UK, celebrated filmmaker Mike Leigh’s 154-minute historical drama about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 comes to the rest of the world early this year via Amazon Studios. First premiering at Venice and packed with a robust list of British character actors, this looked like it could’ve been an awards contender until reviews came back that, while quite good, were far from the near-unanimous raves his recent work like “Mr. Turner” and “Another Year” scored. As a result it’s now trying to be turned into a more commercial play about the tale of how a peaceful pro-democracy rally became one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history.

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“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu”
The first attempt at a live-action film set within the “Pokemon” universe has opted to avoid coming at the franchise head on. Instead, we get this sci-fi action comedy mystery film based on the obscure “Detective Pikachu” video game which has resulted in a kind of buddy comedy narrative approach. Set in a world where Pokemon are everyday things, Justice Smith plays a former Pokemon trainer whose famous detective father disappears in a car crash. He ends up teaming up with his dad’s former partner, the yellow furball Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds doing essentially Deadpool without the swearing). The young man is somehow able to understand the character, and they reluctantly team up to find the dad and uncover the mystery on the streets of Ryme City – a mystery that’s a threat to the entire universe. A first trailer released a few months back seemed to really click with people and so Warners is hoping for a potential franchise launcher.

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“Polar”
The first of the two ‘Mads Mikkelsen in a frozen wasteland’ films hitting in the next month, this one will make its debut on Netflix and is an adaptation of the Dark Horse action noir comic. Mikkelsen plays Duncan Vizla, aka The Black Kaiser, who is the world’s top assassin. He’s settling into retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability. He soon finds himself back in the game going head to head with an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced. Vanessa Hudgens, “Vikings” alum Katheryn Winnick, comedian Matt Lucas and acting veteran Richard Dreyfuss co-star in the thriller which boasts a score by Deadmau5 and is helmed by celebrated music video director Jonas Akerlund who also has “Lords of Chaos ” opening this year.

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“Portrait of a Girl on Fire”
Delivering films like “Water Lilies” and 2014’s superb “Girlhood,” filmmaker Celine Sciamma returns with this period drama set on an isolated island in Bretagne at the end of the 18th century. There, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman. Valeria Golino, whom many will remember as the love interest from the “Hot Shots” films, stars as the painter with “BPM” breakout Adele Haenel also starring.

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“The Prodigy”
One of those early year horror films likely to be forgotten quickly, this spooker stars Taylor Schilling as the mother of a gifted child who becomes concerned about her young son’s increasingly disturbing behavior and seeks the help of a therapist. She soon comes to suspect a supernatural force is possessing him. Jackson Robert Scott, best known as that kid who got pulled into a sewer at the beginning of “IT,” plays the child in the film which Nicholas McCarthy directed. Orion will open the movie in early February.

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“The Professor and the Madman”
Already completed and stuck on a shelf for years due to legal complications, this $25 million adaptation of Simon Winchester’s novel “The Surgeon of Crowthorne” deals with the creation and compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Mel Gibson stars as a professor who in 1857 began compiling the work and overseeing committee for submissions. Sean Penn plays the doctor who submitted over 10,000 entries while he was undergoing treatment at an asylum for the criminally insane. Natalie Dormer, Ioan Gruffudd, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Irvine co-star in the film helmed by “Apocalypto” co-writer Farhad Safinia after original director Gibson bowed out. Shot in late 2016, the film was in limbo due to legal issues between Voltage Pictures and Icon Productions until a deal was struck the other day.

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“Project X-traction”
“Act of Valor” director Scott Waugh and “A Private War” writer Arash Amel team for this military drama about two ex-special forces soldiers who must escort a group of civilians along Baghdad’s ‘Highway of Death’ to the safety of the Green Zone. Said soldiers are to be played by John Cena and Jackie Chan, an unusual teaming but one that could yield something interesting.

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“Proxima”
French filmmaker Alice Winocour (“Augustine,” “Disorder”) returns for her third film about a female astronaut (Eva Green) at the European Space Agency preparing for a one-year mission to the International Space Station, one which will mean that she not only has to go through intense training but will also be separated from her 7-year-old daughter. Shot for nine weeks early last year, the story focuses only on the time just before her departure, with Winocour saying “it’s really about how you put your fears and pain into something bigger than your life.” Green trained with real astronauts for the film and the director has cited James Cameron’s “The Abyss” as the tone she’s going for. Matt Dillon also stars.

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“Queen & Slim”
Following his superb turns in “Get Out,” “Black Panther” and “Widows,” Daniel Kaluuya is set to lead this Lena Waithe-penned indie romance drama which sees “Insecure” and “Master of None” director Melina Matsoukas make her feature debut. Famed author James Frey came up with the initial idea for the project about a black man (Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) who go on a first date that goes awry after the two are pulled over by a cop. They kill the police officer in self-defense and rather than turn themselves in, they go on the run in a film that aims to “define black love as a revolutionary act.”

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“Rabid”
Horror mavens Jen and Sylvia Soska (“American Mary”) helm this remake of the late 1970s David Cronenberg cult classic. Former “Smallville” and “Bitten” star Laura Vandervoort plays a young woman who suffers a disfiguring accident and undergoes an experimental stem-cell treatment that leads to unintended consequences – she’s now beautiful but her transformation comes at a terrible price. Ben Hollingsworth, Stephen McHattie and Ted Atherton co-star in this new take on the story which is dubbed one that’s “modernized through a female perspective”. No word on a release strategy as yet.

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“Radegund”
Filmmaker Terrence Malick was once considered one of the greatest filmmakers alive, and yet even his most ardent fans have found his recent post-“Tree of Life” prolific surge incredibly frustrating. His unofficial ‘Weightless Trilogy’ of “To the Wonder,” “Knight of Cups” and “Song to Song” – were essentially improv, ennui-laden feature-length Dior commercials – cold and lifeless fugue-like dreams of sensuality blended with lack of fulfilment. Now he returns to much more mainstream fare with this war drama which boasts a proper script this time along with a cast entirely of German language-speaking actors with some familiar names like Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz, Michael Nyqvist, August Diehl and Valerie Pachner. The biopic deals with a conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis and was executed by them.

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“Rambo: Last Blood”
Having just retired Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone now gives his other most iconic character John Rambo a proper farewell. This fifth film in the series sees Rambo now living on a ranch in Arizona, trying to pick up casual work wherever he can. Soon his friend and estate manager informs him that her granddaughter (Yvette Monreal) went missing in Mexico. This leads to Rambo heading south and teaming up with a journalist (Paz Vega) whose half-sister has also been kidnapped. They uncover a sex-trafficking ring and Rambo has to use all his skills to save the girls and bring down a vicious crime lord in this violent actioneer from “Get the Gringo” director Adrian Grunberg. While Stallone hoped that this would be more akin to the original “First Blood” with its dramatic and more melancholy tone, reports are this is going to sadly be more about action and popcorn thrills. Less “Unforgiven” more “Taken” which is a shame.

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“Red Joan”
Having premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and later in the UK to pretty terrible reviews, the Trevor Nunn-helmed British espionage drams comes to the rest of us shortly and deals with the true story tale of Melita Norwood, the KGB’s longest-serving British spy. Named Joan Stanley in the narrative here, Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson play the role which begins with the older Joan arrested by MI5 for her past – one that began at Cambridge University in the 1930s when the demure physics student falls for an attractive Russian saboteur and ultimately makes a fateful decision working at a top-secret nuclear research facility after the second world war – a decision that may have saved the world from mutually assured destruction.

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“The Red Sea Diving Resort”
In the works for some time, this South African-shot spy thriller from “Tyrant” creator Gideon Raff deals with Mossad’s effort to rescue and bring home Ethiopian Jews that were trapped in Sudan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Chris Evans plays a man who led a team to take over a deserted resort, converting it into a destination vacation spot while using it as a cover to rescue thousands of refugees. Joining him are the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley, Greg Kinnear, Alessandro Nivola, Michiel Huisman, Michael K. Williams and Haley Bennett. Despite having wrapped well over a year ago, no publicity material from the film has surfaced at all.

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“The Report”
Set to debut at Sundance, frequent Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns steps out from behind the computer and into the director’s chair for this true story inspired tale which stars Adam Driver as a U.S. Senate staffer leading an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. When attempts are made to release the results from his investigation, the CIA and White House go to great lengths to prevent the truth from getting out. Soderbergh and VICE Studios produce the film which deals with a decade’s worth of real-life political intrigue and stars the likes of Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Ben McKenzie, Matthew Rhys, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall and Maura Tierney.

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“Resistance”
He’s often played eccentric characters, but Jesse Eisenberg takes it to another level with his next work as famous French mime Marcel Marceau in a biopic that isn’t so much a sentimental tribute but rather a dramatic thriller set before the time Marceau began his training. Venezuelan writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Hands Of Stone”) tackles the story of a group of Jewish Boy Scouts who worked with the French Resistance to save the lives of ten thousand orphans during World War II. Ed Harris, Clemence Poesy and Edgar Ramirez co-star in the film which will likely debut later this year.

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“The Rhythm Section”
Various people have tried to make a female James Bond franchise and failed, mostly because they saddle their character either with standard action hero tropes or make her too much like a man as opposed to offering something comparable to the elitist misogynist prick and colonialism’s last defender character that Fleming created. That might change with this adaptation of the Mark Burnell novels which hail from Bond franchise runners Eon Productions and its producers. Blake Lively takes on the role of a woman grieving the death of her family in a plane crash and takes on a series of identities in her quest for revenge. Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Max Casella and Daniel Mays co-star in the movie which sees celebrated “The Handmaid’s Tale” helmer Reed Morano directing. The film famously had issues in production when Lively severely injured herself and required multiple surgeries, but the film seems to have made it across the finish line.

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“Richard Says Goodbye”
Despite having a name that suggests it’s a sequel to his directorial debut “Katie Says Goodbye” last year, this second film from Wayne Roberts tells a quite different story about a world-weary college professor (Johnny Depp) who is given a life-changing terminal diagnosis and decides to throw all pretence and conventions to the wind and live his life as boldly and freely as possible. He becomes reckless – bingeing on every vice. Ultimately he learns to embrace all those people he hurt whom he loves deep in his heart. Zoey Deutch, Rosemarie DeWitt and Danny Huston co-star in the film which premiered in Zurich in October and was dubbed an “awkward tragicomedy” that doesn’t work.

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“Roads”
Exploding onto the scene in 2015 with the highly impressive real-time and single take drama-thriller “Victoria,” filmmaker Sebastian Schipper finally returns with this story which isn’t built around a gimmick like that one. Instead, it’s a more powerful story about a young man (Stephane Bak) from the Congo as he attempts to break through Europe’s borders in search of his brother. By chance, he teams up with Gyllen (Fionn Whitehead), a wild and sharp-witted British runaway who has fled his family’s Moroccan holiday. The teenage pair travel across Europe in an unpredictable and thrilling ride fuelled by unstoppable momentum and an increasing brotherly bond.

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“Rocketman”
The first major studio movie biopic about an iconic British musician in the wake of the astonishing success commercially of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the film boasts multiple connections including filmmaker Dexter Fletcher who was the one that took over ‘Bohemian’ when Bryan Singer departed. This take on Elton John’s life though will be quite different – the filmmakers aren’t trying to do a true story, this is very much a musical fantasy take on John’s emergence as a prodigy to his becoming a music superstar and his partnerships with songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and his longtime manager and lover John Reid (Richard Madden). John is fully involved and made it a point that this will be quite R-rated and uncompromising in its portrayal of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. “Kingsman” star Taron Egerton takes on the role (and sings with his own voice), and that franchise’s helmer Matthew Vaughn produces the film which opens in the Summer.

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“Rolling Thunder Revue”
A second work from filmmaker Martin Scorsese for Netflix this year and fully titled “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese,” this has been described as a “part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream”. The project will deal with famed musician Bob Dylan’s star-studded 1975-76 ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’ concert tour and is expected to be far less straightforward than Scorsese’s 2005 doco “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan”. It will also go into heavier themes as it explores the troubled spirit of America in 1975. The film, which features an interview with Dylan himself who rarely gives them, is due out this year on the service, but almost certainly will be in the back half.

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“Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”
Not to be confused with the “Are You Afraid of the Dark” adaptation also hitting this year, this young-skewering horror film is based on the children’s book series of same name by Alvin Schwartz and follows a group of young people attempting to solve a mystery that involves a series of spectacularly horrific deaths in their small hometown. Andre Ovredal (“The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” “Trollhunter”) helms this Guillermo del Toro-produced project starring mostly unknowns and several character actors. Shot late last year in Toronto, this will be one of CBS Films’ last theatrical releases before their output becomes exclusively streaming.

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“Serenity”
Don’t get confused “Firefly” fans, this is a new tale from “Peaky Blinders” creator and “Locke” writer/director Steven Knight which, on the surface at least, looks like a tropical erotic thriller. Matthew McConaughey stars as a fishing boat captain leading tours off the tranquil Plymouth Island. His quiet life is shattered, however, when his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) tracks him down with a desperate plea for help – to save her from her new, violent husband (Jason Clarke) by taking him out to sea on a fishing excursion and leave him to be eaten by sharks. Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, and Diane Lane co-star in the film which, at least going by the trailer, suggests (but doesn’t confirm) it may take on a “Fringe”-esque sci-fi tinge.

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“Shazam!”
Having left behind its all too rushed plans for a joint DC Comic cinematic universe, Warner Brothers seems to be embracing the standalone film model in the wake of the success of “Wonder Woman” and more recently “Aquaman”. As a result, they can enjoy the big advantage that has over a more conformist joint universe deal – namely the ability to play around with tone, feel, look and story. Thus here we essentially have “Big” redone as a superhero tale with a troubled 14-year-old Philadelphia orphan who finds himself given the gift of a power to transform into a godlike adult superhero. As the film’s first set photos demonstrated, but what some didn’t really get until the trailers, the film is something of a warm homage and zany parody of the genre and how teenagers see it (which explains Shazam’s muscle suit look). Sandwiched between both “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame” with their mostly serious tones and having to deal with so much continuity baggage, this could come as a welcome light reprieve. Zachary Levi, Mark Strong and Jack Dylan Grazer star.

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“Someone Great”
“Sweet/Vicious” creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson tries out directing with this rom-com about a woman travels with her two best friends to New York City to get over a break-up. Brittany Snow, Rosario Dawson, Gina Rodriguez and Lakeith Stanfield lead the cast in a film that will likely surprise.

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“Son of Shaft”
This serves as both a follow-up to the 1970s trilogy and the John Singleton-directed, Samuel L. Jackson-led 2000 film which was initially sold as a reboot and ended up being revealed as a sequel following the old Shaft’s nephew. Tim Story helms this $30 million 2019 entry which follows Jessie Usher as John ‘JJ’ Shaft Jr. an MIT-grad and cybersecurity expert whose best friend dies in suspicious circumstances. He then turns to his estranged father and old school cop John Shaft II (Jackson) for help to navigate the Harlem underworld and uncover the truth. Richard Roundtree also returns as the original John Shaft in the film which will get a U.S. theatrical run in mid-June before being released everywhere else on Netflix at the end of that month.

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“Sonic the Hedgehog”
Already one of the year’s most talked about films, and not in a good way, this combination live-action and animated adaptation of the famed SEGA video game franchise sees the world’s fastest hedgehog making his way to the big screen in a $90 million American-Japanese co-production which will go the “Garfield”/”Alvin and the Chipmunks” route of real actors and environments with CG creatures. So far so ordinary, but the release of recent posters with the titular super-fast anthropomorphic character in silhouette has been met with an overwhelmingly negative response to the more ‘realistic’ look which blends the muscles of an Olympic sprinter with blue fur and comes up with something unsettling. We’ve also still yet to see Jim Carrey in full Dr. Robotnik make-up which should be interesting in itself. When the first stills and/or trailer hits with a proper look at the character, expect the Internet to explode.

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“Sound of Metal”
Darius Marder, a collaborator of Derek Cianfrance, makes his directing debut on this drama about a drummer (Riz Ahmed) whose life and relationship with his bandmate girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) are turned upside-down when he unexpectedly begins to lose his hearing. He soon goes to great lengths to recapture the woman and the music he loves in this production which draws many of its cast from the deaf community. Ahmed and Cooke are an interesting pairing, and replace the more familiar “A Bigger Splash” duo of Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson who were originally attached. Mathieu Amalric and Lauren Ridloff also star in the Boston-shot tale.

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“The Souvenir”
Celebrated “Archipelago” and “Exhibition” British indie director Joanna Hogg returns with this drama about a quiet film student (Swinton Byrne) navigating an intense and turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke) who comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams. Tilda Swinton stars as her protective mother in the project which will premiere at Sundance and has already been picked up by A24 for distribution in the States.

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“Spider-Man: Far From Home”
While “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was a welcome return to form for the character, and one of the better MCU films of late, the one-two punch of the PS4 game and the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” last year really reinvigorated new life into a character many have been burned out on. Both were so energetic, fresh and took risks that paid off handsomely – so much so that going back to it here seems almost like a step backwards. Still the wonderful Tom Holland, the best actor to strap on the suit thus far, will hopefully provide enough heavy lifting to make this ‘Spidey on a European school trip’ tale engaging. The welcome casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as the fishbowl-headed Mysterio also offers one of the more interesting elements here – even if it on the surface is a highly transparent ‘villain initially posing as an ally’ subplot. Fans will no doubt debate how this film (set after ‘Endgame’) works right up until the fourth “Avengers” hits cinemas.

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“Star Wars: Episode IX”
J.J. Abrams is known for steering troubled franchises back into smooth waters, and his hiring by nervous studio execs to return and finish off the current “Star Wars” trilogy makes sense following Rian Johnson’s risk-taking and divisive “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and the failure of the much troubled “Solo” spin-off film. What was once an easy cash maker has suddenly become less certain and so switching out Colin Trevorrow for him was a smart move and safe play by Lucasfilm who doesn’t seem to have any real plans in place for the franchise beyond this point aside from the TV series. For now, the big question is how Abrams intends to land this puppy and all the inherent challenges it has from the handling of the late Carrie Fisher’s character, the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando, the wrapping up of the Rey-Finn-Poe arc in a satisfactory way, and the laying the foundation for a future where we can wonder ‘what next’ for this franchise.

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“Stargirl”
Not to be confused with the upcoming DC Universe TV series based on the superhero comic, this is an adaptation of Jerry Spinelli’s young adult novel and one of the earliest original features slated to debut on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service. Grace VanderWaal plays Stargirl Caraway, a homeschooled teen who enrols in an Arizona high school, altering the ecosystem of the student body with her nonconformist ways. Catherine Hardwicke was originally slated to direct with that first iteration of the project coming together in 2015. but ultimately that version fell through with the new take from “Fast Color” and “Miss Stevens” helmer Julia Hart filming over the Fall. Expect a late Fall 2019 launch on the service.

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“Storm Boy”
A new adaptation of the iconic Australian novel about a boy growing up on the largely uninhabited coastline of Southern Australia where he rescues three orphan pelicans and forms a close bond with them. Geoffrey Rush and Jai Courtney star in the film which is struggling to get out from the bad press surrounding Rush’s misconduct scandal, and early reviews in the local press paint a rather terrible image of the film with its many problems going well beyond the tabloid exploits of its star.

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“Stuber”
A simple action comedy from “Goon” and “Fubar” director Michael Dowse, the Fox summer action title stars “The Big Sick” lead Kumail Nanjiani who will once again play a mild-mannered Uber driver. This time he’s named Stu and he picks up a grizzled detective (Dave Bautista) who is hot on the trail of a sadistic, bloodthirsty terrorist (“The Raid” breakout Iko Uwais) and finds himself thrust into a harrowing ordeal where he has to keep his wits and work with his passenger while maintaining his high-class rating. Mira Sorvino, Betty Gilpin and Natalie Morales co-star.

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“The Sunlit Night”
Controversial “Wetlands” director David Wnendt, whose last film was the award-winning “Look Who’s Back ” about Hitler waking up in the 21st century, returns with this New York and Norway set tale about an unlikely pair who’ve come to the land of Vikings to close out their pasts and discover their future. Jenny Slate, Gillian Anderson, Zach Galifianakis and Jessica Hecht co-star in the film which will premiere at Sundance.

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“Superintelligence”
The latest collaboration of Melissa McCarthy in a film by her husband Ben Falcone following their previous collaborations on “Life of the Party,” “The Boss” and “Tammy,” Warners is setting this up as a Christmas action comedy about a ordinary woman who finds herself the unwitting subject of the attention of the world’s first artificial superintelligence (voiced by James Corden). The sassy AI is observing her and using her as a practice run for world domination – turning her into humanity’s last hope. Bobby Cannavale and Brian Tyree Henry co-star in the film which will hopefully fare better than McCarthy’s other comedies of late have done.

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“Sweetness in the Belly”
Zeresenay Berhane Mehari (“Difret”) helms this adaptation of Camilla Gibb’s novel about a white African orphan who escapes as a refugee to England, whereupon growing up she works to aid fellow immigrants and refugees in reuniting with their families. Saoirse Ronan was initially set to star in the leading role but ultimately was replaced by Dakota Fanning. Shot in Ireland and Ethiopia, Wunmi Mosaku and Kunal Nayyar co-star in the project.

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“Synchronic”
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead delivered one of this year’s best independent and genre films with “The Endless,” a sort-of sequel to their debut “Resolution,” and now their fourth film together is on the way and has enlisted both Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie as a pair of New Orleans paramedics whose lives are ripped apart after encountering a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects. The pair seem to be building their own Cthulhu Mythos/shared universe – could this one tie back to their second feature “Spring”? Either way, it should be imaginative and interesting.

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ALSO COMING IN 2019
“Paddleton,” “The Passenger,” “Passing,” “The Perfection,” “Playmobil: The Movie,” “Polaroid,” “The Pretenders,” “The Queen’s Corgi,” “Run the Race,” “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” “Share,” “Slaughterhouse Rulez,” “Spies in Disguise”

NOTABLE FILMS OF 2019 GUIDE

Volume 0-B
“3 from Hell,” “6 Underground,” “17 Bridges,” “47 Meters Down: Uncaged,” “1917,” “Ad Astra,” “The Addams Family,” “The Aeronauts,” “After,” “The Aftermath,” “After the Wedding,” “Against All Enemies,” “Aladdin,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” “All-Star Weekend,” “All the Bright Places,” “Always Be My Maybe,” “Amundsen,” “Angel Has Fallen,” “Angel of Mine,” “Anna,” “Annabelle 3,” “Antlers,” “Arctic,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “Artemis Fowl,” “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Ash Is Purest White,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Bad Education,” “Bad Hair,” “The Banker,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “The Beach Bum,” “Benedetta,” “Bergman Island,” “The Best of Enemies,” “Blackbird,” “Boss Level,” “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind,” “BrightBurn,” “Burden”.

Volume C-F
“Call of the Wild,” “Captain Marvel,” “Captive State,” “Cats,” “Chaos Walking,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Child’s Play,” “City of Lies,” “Cold Pursuit,” “The Cradle,” “The Curse of La Llorona,” “Danger Close,” “Dark Phoenix,” “The Day Shall Come,” “The Dead Don’t Die,” “The Death & Life of John F. Donovan,” “The Devil All The Time,” “Dhaka,” “The Diary,” “The Dirt,” “Dolemite is My Name,” “Dolor Y Gloria,” “Domino,” “Doom,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Downhill,” “Downton Abbey,” “Dreamland,” “Dumbo,” “The Earthquake Bird,” “Echo Boomers,” “The Education of Fredrick Fitzell,” “Eli,” “Ema,” “Escape Room,” “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” “Eve,” “Fair and Balanced,” “Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Fighting with My Family,” “First Cow,” “Flarsky,” “Fonzo,” “Ford v. Ferrari,” “Frankie,” “Frozen 2”.

Volume G-J
“Gemini Man,” “Georgetown,” “Glass,” “Gloria Bell,” “The Glorias: A Life On The Road,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Going Places,” “The Goldfinch,” “The Good Liar,” “Greyhound,” “Grudge,” “Happy Death Day 2U,” “Harriet,” “Hellboy,” “High Flying Bird,” “High Life,” “The Highwaymen,” “Hobbs and Shaw: Fast & Furious Presents,” “The Hole in the Ground,” “Honey Boy,” “Hotel Mumbai,” “How to Build a Girl,” “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” “The Hummingbird Project,” “The Hunt,” “The Hustle,” “I Am Mother,” “In Fabric,” “In the Shadow of the Moon,” “In the Tall Grass,” “The Informer,” “The Irishman,” “Ironbark,” “Isn’t It Romantic,” “IT: Chapter Two,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “John Wick 3: Parabellum,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker,” “Jonssonligan,” “J.T. LeRoy,” “Judy and Punch,” “Jumanji 3,” “Jungleland”.

Volume K-N
“The Kid,” “The Kid Who Would Be King,” “The Kindness of Strangers,” “The King,” “Kingsman: The Great Game,” “The Kitchen,” “Knives Out,” “Kursk,” “Lady & The Tramp,” “Last Christmas,” “The Last Full Measure,” “The Last Thing He Wanted,” “Late Night,” “The Laundromat,” “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” “Light of My Life,” “The Lighthouse,” “Limited Partners,” “The Lion King,” “Little,” “Little Joe,” “Little Monsters,” “Little Women,” “The Lodge,” “The Long Home,” “Lost Girls,” “Lost Transmissions,” “Mainstream,” “The Many Saints of Newark,” “Mary,” “Matthias & Maxime,” “Medieval,” “Men in Black International,” “Midsommar,” “Midway,” “Miss Bala,” “Missing Link,” “Monday,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “Murder Mystery,” “My Zoe,” “Native Son,” “The Nest,” “The New Mutants,” “The Nightingale,” “Nomis,” “Non-Fiction”.

Volume O-S
“Official Secrets,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Once Upon a Time in Staten Island,” “Out of Blue,” “The Outpost,” “Pain and Glory,” “Pale Blue Dot,” “Paradise Hills,” “Parasite,” “The Parts You Lose,” “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” “Pet Sematary,” “Peterloo,” “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” “Polar,” “Portrait of a Girl on Fire,” “The Prodigy,” “The Professor and the Madman,” “Project X-traction,” “Proxima,” “Queen & Slim,” “Rabid,” “Radegund,” “Rambo: Last Blood,” “Red Joan,” “The Red Sea Diving Resort,” “The Report,” “Resistance,” “The Rhythm Section,” “Richard Says Goodbye,” “Roads,” “Rocketman,” “Rolling Thunder Revue,” “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark,” “Serenity,” “Shazam!,” “Someone Great,” “Son of Shaft,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Sound of Metal,” “The Souvenir,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Star Wars: Episode IX,” “Stargirl,” “Storm Boy,” “Stuber,” “The Sunlit Night,” “Superintelligence,” “Sweetness in the Belly,” “Synchronic”.

Volume T-Z
“The Tax Collector,” “Terminator 6,” “Them That Follow,” “Then Came You,” “Timmy Failure,” “Tolkien,” “Toy Story 4,” “Trial by Fire,” “Triple Frontier,” “Troop Zero,” “The True History Of The Kelly Gang,” “The Truth,” “The Turning,” “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral,” “Uncut Gems,” “Under the Silver Lake,” “Underwater,” “Untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis Project,” “Untitled Drake Doremus Project,” “Untitled Miranda July Project,” “Untitled Noah Baumbach Project,” “Us,” “Valley Girl,” “Valley of the Gods,” “Velvet Buzzsaw,” “Villains,” “Waiting for the Barbarians,” “The War with Grandpa,” “Waves,” “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” “Wendy,” “What Men Want,” “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?,” “The Woman in the Window,” “Wounds,” “Yardie,” “Zola,” “Zombieland 2”.