And… we’re back! Here’s the second batch of movies that may or may not have us jumping for joy at having seen them in 2018. There’s a pleasing mix of genres, some movies have really great casts, and some that may go on to win copious awards. Whatever happens these are all – at this moment in time – movies that are capable of finding a place in our hearts and in our Top 10 lists for the year – or maybe not. We’ll just have to wait and see.
26 – Mortal Engines – Come December this might be the movie we’re all waiting to see if the teaser trailer released a little while ago is anything to go by. With a script by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, itself an adaptation of the novel by Philip Reeve, this steampunk fantasy (with solid echoes of Terry Gilliam’s work already on display) promises to be raucous, action-packed, funny, and visually arresting, along with its cast, which includes Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Lang as an ancient undead cyborg warrior called Shrike. And besides, what other movie of 2018 will have the city of London as its principal villain?
27 – Mary Magdalene – In the four canonical gospels, Mary Magdalene is a woman who had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus. She was also the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection from his tomb. But in the Middle Ages she came to be regarded as a repentant prostitute. Which approach this new movie will adopt has yet to be discovered, but either way, and with Rooney Mara in the title role, it’s likely that Mary will endure a lot of suffering on her way to becoming a saint. With Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus, and direction from Garth Davis (Lion), this could be a compelling portrait of one of biblical history’s most famous, and yet overlooked individuals.
28 – Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson returns to the world of animation – and stop-motion animation at that – with this tale set in a future Japan where dogs have been quarantined on the remote titular island. When a young boy arrives on the island (somewhere he shouldn’t be) looking for his own dog, five of the canine residents decide to help him – in return for his helping them. This project is practically oozing quality, from Anderson’s involvement as writer and director, to the visuals (inspired by the holiday specials made by Rankin/Bass Productions), and a terrific voice cast that includes Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, and if you can spot her (no pun intended), Yoko Ono.
29 – Entebbe – The fourth recounting of the events that led up to and became known as Operation Entebbe, José Padilha’s attention grabbing true life thriller looks like it’s a gripping account that will focus on the tensions both inside the Airbus A300B4-203, and within the corridors of Israeli power as they debated whether or not to give in to the hijackers’ demands. Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl are members of the Revolutionäre Zellen, the terrorist cell responsible for the hijacking, while Eddie Marsan provides a stand-out turn as Shimon Peres, and there’s further sterling support from Vincent Cassel, Nonso Anozie (as Idi Amin), and Lior Ashkenazi.
30 – Born a King – An historical drama that borders so much on fiction that it can only be true, the movie tells the story of fourteen year old Arab Prince Faisal who is sent to England by his father in order to secure the formation of his country. Set in 1919, this movie sees Prince Faisal facing up to the likes of Winston Churchill and Lord Curzon in his efforts not to be outmanoeuvred. British Colonial rule has become one of the hot topics at the cinema in recent years, along with World War II, but Agustí Villaronga’s first English language movie seeks to focus on a period and a sequence of events that have rarely been examined. However this turns out, that at least is to be applauded.
31 – Little Italy – It’s Romeo and Juliet again, but this time the two young lovers (played by Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts) have to contend with their families’ and the on-going war between the pizza restaurants both have in common. With the likes of Danny Aiello and Andrea Martin on board to provide some Italian “seasoning”, this could be the kind of unexpected hit that My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) was. Director Donald Petrie has a lot of experience with romantic comedies, and if the script is as sharp as it should be – and avoids as many clichés as possible – then this could be a surprise breakout hit for all concerned.
32 – The Front Runner – Director Jason Reitman has two movies due for release in 2018. One is a comedy/drama called Tully, the other is this one, a black comedy and political satire about the rise and fall from grace endured by Democratic Senator Gary Hart (played by Hugh Jackman) when his extramarital affair was revealed during his campaign for the Presidency in 1988. Based on the 2014 book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, Reitman’s often acerbic approach to his projects should stand him in good stead here, and Jackman is provided with more than able support from the likes of Vera Farmiga, Ari Graynor and J.K. Simmons.
33 – A Simple Favor – A mystery thriller is the way in which director Paul Feig moves on from the debacle that was Ghostbusters (2016), as a mom blogger (Anna Kendrick) investigates the sudden disappearance of her best friend (Blake Lively), and whether or not her friend’s husband has anything to do with it. If Feig keeps it straight and maintains a consistent tone, this could be as good as Gone Girl (2014) and much better than The Girl on the Train (2016). What mustn’t happen? For Kendrick to play her usual ditsy cutesy character. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen – shall we?
34 – The Last Full Measure – Another true story of bravery and valour, this involves William H. Pitsenbarger (played by Jeremy Irvine), a United States Air Force Pararescueman who was instrumental in ensuring the survival of at least nine men during an enemy assault in Vietnam in April 1966. It’s a movie with another very impressive cast – Peter Fonda, Christopher Plummer (not replacing Kevin Spacey at the last minute), Samuel L. Jackson and William Hurt amongst others – and has the potential to be a rousing, patriotic endorsement of the kind of selfless heroism that is always so hard to ignore.
35 – The 15:17 to Paris – And… yet another true story of bravery and valour, this time involving three friends, two of whom were in the military, who foiled a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris from Amsterdam in August 2015. In what feels like something of a coup for director Clint Eastwood, all three friends, Anthony Sadler, Alex Skarlatos and Spencer Stone are playing themselves. Whether or not this will add a degree of verisimilitude to proceedings remains to be seen, and whether they provide performances is another matter, but it will add to the charge that will be felt when the terrorist begins to make himself known on the train.
36 – Every Day – On what sounds like a convoluted romantic twist on Groundhog Day (1994), Angourie Rice’s shy teenager, Rhiannon, falls in love with a travelling soul called “A”, who each day inhabits a different body. What is a girl to do to ensure she finds true (and lasting) love? The answer lies in the screenplay by Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), which has been adapted from the novel by David Levithan. If the movie can maintain a sense of magical realism that doesn’t collapse under the weight of being too fantastical, then this could be both charming and effective, and the new favourite movie of thousands and thousands of lovestruck teenage girls.
37 – Gringo – In what is only Nash Edgerton’s second feature, the well-known stuntman and brother of Joel directs David Oyelowo as a mild-mannered businessman who finds himself assailed on all sides by back-stabbing business colleagues back home, local drug lords and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary. This action comedy should be a refreshing change of pace for Oyelowo, and he has impressive support from the likes of Charlize Theron, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley, and Joel himself. The question that remains is a simple one: can Oyelowo bring the heat when he needs to?
38 – Winchester – A rare horror that doesn’t have connections to either Blumhouse or James Wan’s Conjuring universe, this sees Helen Mirren as the firearms heiress who comes to believe that she is haunted by the souls of the people who have been killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. Writers and directors The Spierig Brothers gave us the less than overwhelming Jigsaw (2017), but this is such an off the wall concept (albeit based on rumour and legend) that it will be interesting to see how they make this work effectively. Let’s hope at least that there’s a deficit of ghostly faces popping up out of nowhere all the time.
39 – Billionaire Boys Club – A remake of the 1987 mini-series about the titular group and their get-rich-quick scam (a Ponzi scheme) that led to murder, this has been delayed due to late reshoots and an extended post-production schedule (filming began in December 2015). Whether or not this is to ensure that the best version possible is released or not remains to be seen but it does have an attractive cast headed by Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton and Emma Roberts, and its tale of financial recidivism is still as apt today as it was back in the 1980’s.
40 – Dragged Across Concrete – In just the space of two features, S. Craig Zahler has made a name for himself for making tough, uncompromisingly violent movies. Those movies are Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017), and this movie promises more of the same, as it deals with the issue of police brutality through the actions of two over-zealous cops whose pursuit of justice sees them adrift from the law and in over their heads in the criminal underworld. Zahler’s unflinching approach to his writing and directing should be to the fore and he should be ably supported by Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn as the cops who find themselves in really big trouble, making this one of the most anticipated movies of 2018.
41 – Serenity – Another crackerjack cast – Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou – is assembled for this noir thriller about a fishing boat captain whose past comes back to haunt him (surprise, surprise). The brainchild of writer Steven Knight (Locke), this is a movie that will stand or fall on the nature and credibility of its mystery premise, but even though Knight has had a rocky career so far in terms of quality, this still has the potential to be the kind of movie that leaves viewers scratching their heads – but in a good way.
42 – Widows – Of all the projects you might have expected Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave (2013) to have chosen as his next feature after that triumph, it’s a safe bet that it wouldn’t have been a remake of a 1983 UK TV series based on a novel by Lynda La Plante. Nevertheless, that’s what he’s done, and he’s written the script in conjunction with Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl. With Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo as the widows of the title, and the action transported to contemporary Chicago, it will be interesting to see just how much of La Plante’s original story remains, and how easily McQueen adapts to the story’s criminal milieu.
43 – The House With a Clock in Its Walls – A fantasy horror directed by Eli Roth, and starring Cate Blanchett and Jack Black (now there’s a trio), this is adapted from the first in a series of novels for children by John Bellairs. The house in question was once owned by a couple who practiced black magic, and the clock is a magical McGuffin that could bring about the end of the world. Roth may not be the first choice for this kind of material, and neither Blanchett or Black have appeared in an out and out horror movie before, but if the script retains the novel’s sense of gloomy wonder then this could well be the beginning of a new franchise.
44 – The Grinch – Illumination! (best said or read Minions style) The makers of the Despicable Me trilogy turn their attention to Dr. Suess and his classic tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! With Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, this latest animation bonanza should be full of inspired visual gags, some adult humour in amongst all the child-friendly absurdities, and a number of cute secondary characters for the Grinch to pick on. And with the advance poster warning, He Gets Meaner, it seems clear in which direction Illumination are planning to take this.
45 – Alita: Battle Angel – So long in development you could be forgiven for wondering if it was ever going to be made, this adaptation of the manga by Yukito Kushiro has been a passion project for James Cameron since 2000. Now it’s almost here, with Robert Rodriguez in the director’s chair and Rosa Salazar having her eyes manipulated digitally to play the title character. There will be action, mind-bending visuals, and probably more talking points than the majority of movies released in 2018, but however it turns out, this will be another highly anticipated movie that should provide fanboys with all that they need from a big budget anime adaptation.
46 – The Meg – Jason Statham vs a seventy foot white shark. ‘Nuff said.
47 – Backseat – As in most years terrific ensemble casts crop up in plenty of movies, but this one is a contender for the year’s best. With Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Bill Pullman, and Sam Rockwell (as George W. Bush!), this biopic of Dick Cheney (Bale), and his tenure as the Vice President of the United States has been put together by Adam McKay (The Big Short), and has the potential to be as excoriating and hard to watch as any movie about a proto-despot should be. With the title meant to be ironic – did anyone ever think Bush was really in charge? – this could be one of the best political commentary movies seen in a very, very long while.
48 – Bohemian Rhapsody – Directors come and directors go and still (as Queen themselves would say) the show must go on. Whether Dexter Fletcher is still the director when this is released is probably worth a bet, but a biopic of Freddie Mercury is a movie a lot of people have waited for, and now that it’s nearly with us, the sense of anticipation is growing steadily. Early pictures of Remi Malek do show a marked resemblance to the flamboyant singer (though Malek’s eyes are a bit of a giveaway as to his identity), but it’s the movie’s structure and how truthful it is to all concerned will be of paramount importance, but if the movie does get it right then this should prove to be a joyous celebration of a much-missed and much-loved star.
49 – Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Richard Linklater’s latest movie is a comedy and a drama (surprise) about the titular character (played by Cate Blanchett) and what happens when she disappears one day, something that causes her daughter, Bee, to try and find her. The original novel by Maria Semple that this is based on is quirky and appealing, and the material should suit Linklater down to the ground. With support from the likes of Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne, there’s little doubt that this will be another of Linklater’s joyous odes to smalltown America and all its little foibles and social animosities.
50 – Captive State – Much of the plot of this movie, the latest from Rupert Wyatt (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), is under wraps, but what is known is that it’s set in Chicago a decade after its occupation by an alien force. John Goodman heads up a cast that also includes Vera Farmiga and Alan Ruck, and it’s good to know that this was a project for which there was a bidding war, which for a science fiction movie concerned with that hoary cliché, the alien invasion, is cause for anticipation rather than concern. If anyone can make this sort of thing of work, though, Wyatt is definitely someone to have faith in.