The Notable Films Of 2019: 0-B
Revived last year and then abandoned halfway through due to the sheer workload, the idea of doing another preview guide this year seemed abhorrent…and yet it gnawed at me.
In years past these preview guides were back-breaking and mania-inducing work, covering 400 films and coming in at a novel-sized 120,000 words each which all had to be done in a few weeks on top of my regular multiple job workload. It was not good for my mental and physical health which is why the series was scrapped after the fourth iteration back in 2013.
If ever it were to come back, something had to be drastically changed. The 2018 edition I lowered the number of films and enforced a slightly stricter word count. It wasn’t enough, which is why it was never finished – the strain was too great. There was no point in trying again unless it was completely retooled and easier.
With the 2019 edition, however, the right formula has been found. Restricted to 250 or so films and with a MUCH stricter word limit with minimal analysis, the result clocks in at a much tighter 35,000 or so words. What was a few weeks work was doable in a few days. Around 80% of the work is already complete and on a strict release schedule which will see all of it posted within the next week.
Organised in alphabetical order over six volumes, each volume explores many of the films set to screen at the big multiplexes, the boutique art house theaters, and on premium V.O.D. over the next year. It’s a simpler, easier and quicker read guide than in year’s past and will hopefully offer some insight into what’s coming up and help you organise a watchlist. As always, feedback is very much appreciated. Let’s begin:
“3 from Hell”
Rob Zombie’s long-awaited “The Devil’s Rejects” follow-up, though no-one’s still quite sure how he’s bringing Spaulding, Otis and Baby back considering their fates at the end of that film. Horror vets like Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace and Clint Howard join the horrific action this time out which will hopefully mark a return to form for Zombie following some lackluster recent films.
Outside of Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” this is Netflix’s biggest budget play thus far – a Michael Bay-directed $150 million action thriller produced by Skydance (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Star Trek”) and led by Ryan Reynolds, Dave Franco, Corey Hawkins Ben Hardy and Melanie Laurent. Reynolds reunites with his “Deadpool” scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese on the film about a group of six men and women who team up to fight bad guys, with each of the team known only by their numerical code-names. Shot in Los Angeles, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, this will be a big test for the streaming giant in terms of creating blockbuster populist fare.
“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman plays a disgraced NYPD detective thrust into a citywide manhunt for a cop killer which may be his shot at redemption. The Russo brothers produce the film which also stars J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch and Keith David.
“47 Meters Down: Uncaged”
The shark cage tale switches locales for the sequel – this time four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city in Brazil find they are not alone in the submerged caves – there be sharks in these waters. John Corbett and Nia Long star.
Sam Mendes’ first directorial effort since the Bond double efforts of “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” this WWI drama is setup at Spielberg’s Amblin Partners and is aiming for an awards season release. Plot specifics are under wraps though, beyond Mendes himself writing the script – the first time he’s done one. Cast includes familiar fresh British faces like George MacKay (“Marrowbone”) and Dean-Charles Chapman (“Game of Thrones”).
“The Lost City of Z” filmmaker James Gray turns his sights towards epic science fiction with this tale which is akin to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in storyline and boasts that it incorporates the “most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”. The story begins twenty years after a man’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) left on a one-way mission to Neptune in order to find signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence. The son (Brad Pitt) travels through the solar system to find him and learn what went wrong.
“The Addams Family”
MGM is reviving “The Addams Family” franchise as a 3D computer animated comedy feature which hails from the directors of “Sausage Party” and is directly inspired by the original comics by Charles Addams as opposed to the screen adaptations so far. In the story, the Addams’ lives begin to unravel when they face-off against a greedy crafty reality-TV host (voiced by Allison Janney) while also preparing for their extended family to arrive for a major celebration. Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron voice Gomez and Morticia, Bette Midler is Grandmama, Nick Kroll is Fester, Finn Wolfhard is Pugsley and Chloe Moretz is Wednesday. The film also marks the first film which MGM will distribute themselves in nearly a decade.
“The Theory of Everything” stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reunite for this story set in 1862 that follows a wealthy young widow and an ambitious scientist who mount a perilous hot-air balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. As their ascent reveals their true selves, the unlikely pair discover things about each other. Tom Harper (“The Woman in Black: Angel of Death,” “War & Peace”) helms from a screenplay by acclaimed scribe Jack Thorne, while authenticity is a top priority on the film meaning that the two leads did many of the stunts themselves. Tom Courtenay, Vincent Perez, Anne Reid and Phoebe Fox co-star.
Much like “Fifty Shades of Grey” arose from “Twilight” fanfiction, Anna Todd’s novel was originally a Harry Styles fan fiction story on Wattpad which became an original work and now a teen-targeted film. Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin star in the story of a dedicated student who meets a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself. Jenny Gage directs the film which is being popped out in April.
Filmmaker James Kent (“Testament of Youth”) helms this adaptation of Rhidian Brook’s best-selling novel set in Germany 1946. Keira Knightley plays a woman stunned to discover that they will be sharing her new house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgard) and his troubled daughter. The charged atmosphere of the house gives way to passion and betrayal.
“After the Wedding”
An English-language remake of “Bird Box” and “The Night Manager” director Susanne Bier’s 2006 film and still her most celebrated work to date, the new version stars actress Julianne Moore and Diane Kruger while Moore’s husband writer-director Bart Freundlich helms this new take which recasts the two lead roles as women in the story of a Calcutta orphanage director who heads to New York to meet her main benefactor – a millionaire (Moore) who is about to marry.
“Against All Enemies”
Famed Australian stage director Benedict Andrews follows up his divisive debut film “Una” with this true story U.S. period political thriller about attempts made by the FBI to discredit actress Jean Seberg (played by Kristen Stewart) through its COINTELPRO program in response to her support of the Black Panther Party. Stewart is supported by one hell of a supporting cast including Jack O’Connell, Anthony Mackie, Margaret Qualley, Colm Meaney, Zazie Beetz and Vince Vaughn. It also has a good pedigree with a script by “Captain Marvel” scribe Anna Waterhouse and her “Race” co-writer Joe Shrapnel.
The second of at least three live-action Disney adaptations this year, Guy Ritchie helms this take on the 1992 animated romantic fantasy adventure film of the same name based on the classic folktale. The original has a huge fanbase who aren’t sure what to expect with the film, especially its casting of Will Smith in the role of the Genie – taking over from the great Robin Williams in the part. Indeed this won’t be slavish like “Beauty and the Beast” or the upcoming “The Lion King,” with this said to be “ambitious and nontraditional” including a nonlinear format. Many of the musical elements will be retained, and the film has already weathered one controversy regarding the ‘browning up’ of some extras, but many will remain sceptical about it until we see the proper full trailer hopefully in the next few weeks.
“Alita: Battle Angel”
A long gestating passion project of filmmaker James Cameron, his “Avatar” sequel commitments prevented him from pursuing it and instead he’s stepped into a producer role and handed over the steering wheel to Robert Rodriguez. Armed with a massive $200 million budget, only the key central storyline of the first four books in Yukito Kishiro’s epic manga are being adapted. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and focuses on a cyborg who has lost all memories and been left for dead. A cybernetics doctor rebuilds her as a bounty hunter who tries to learn the truth of her past. Subsequent trailers suggest they’ve fixed some of the ‘uncanny valley’ effect which made the first previews so off-putting.
Jamie Foxx penned and directs this indie drama about two friends who find themselves fans of opposing NBA stars, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. High profile cameos galore in here too like Robert Downey Jr., Ken Jeong, Gerard Butler, Eva Longoria, Jeremy Piven and Benicio del Toro. One for the basketball fans.
“All the Bright Places”
Jennifer Niven’s young adult novel is something of a spiritual successor to “The Fault in Our Stars” with two suicidal teens meeting on a school bell tower ledge who come to find they can only be themselves with each other – but as her world grows, his shrinks and she must make a decision. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith take on the lead roles in this Netflix adaptation which hails from “Hearts Beat Loud” helmer Brett Haley.
“Always Be My Maybe”
Netflix continues its push into the original rom-com arena it had such success in last year with this story of two childhood friends who find themselves in vastly different socioeconomic situations when they fall in love as adults. “Fresh Off the Boat” showrunner Nahnatchka Khan helms the story in which Ali Wong and Randall Park play the couple, while the likes of Keanu Reeves, Daniel Dae Kim and Charlyne Yi have supporting roles. Despite the title, this is not a remake of the 2016 Philippine rom-com.
“Kon-Tiki” co-director Espen Sandberg returns to the historical biopic drama genre, solo this time, with this tale of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen – the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911, and the first person to reach both the North & South Poles in 1926. Katherine Waterston has a co-starring role in the English language film which opens in Scandinavia in early February and judging from the trailer it will boast the same impressive blockbuster-level effects on a medium-sized budget as they got out of “Kon-Tiki”.
“Angel Has Fallen”
The third and (hopefully) final film in the franchise that began with “Olympus Has Fallen,” Gerard Butler once again returns as Secret Service agent Mike Banning and this time he is the target. Those after him also hope to take down Air Force One and half of Washington, D.C. in the process. Ric Roman Waugh, coming off the acclaimed “Shot Caller,” helms this outing which also stars Morgan Freeman.
“Angel of Mine”
Filmmaker Kim Farrant (“Strangerland”) and writer Luke Davies (“Lion”) are behind this Melbourne-shot remake of Safy Nebbou’s “L’Empreinte”. In this take, Noomi Rapace plays a woman who, along with her ex-husband Mike (Luke Evans), is still struggling to cope with the loss of their daughter several years earlier. She becomes convinced that the daughter of a stranger (Yvonne Strahovski) is her own. As her obsession grows, she becomes more and more entwined in the young girl’s life, causing her to lose touch with reality.
Like with Woody Allen’s “Rainy Day in New York,” its not clear if this film will ever get released considering director Luc Besson’s misconduct scandals and EuropaCorp’s rather unstable looking future. This $30 million English-language action thriller stars Helen Mirren, Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy supporting Russian model newcomer Sasha Luss in a story based on an original idea by Besson.
Scribe Gary Dauberman takes over as director for this third entry in “The Conjuring” spin-off series which James Wan produces. The new entry takes place directly before the first ‘Conjuring’ and will follow the Warrens’ 10-year-old daughter and her babysitter. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles in this but aren’t the main characters. Hopefully will improve on the second the way the second improved on the first.
“Black Mass” director Scott Cooper helms this horror thriller about a small-town Oregon teacher and her brother the local sheriff become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret. Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons co-star while Guillermo del Toro produces.
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?”
D.J. Caruso helms this film adaptation of the Canadian-American horror fantasy-themed anthology television series. “IT” and “The Nun” writer Gary Dauberman penned the script though specifics of the story are under wraps. not to be confused with the Guillermo del Toro-produced “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” which is also coming this year.
Kenneth Branagh helms this Disney adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s novel about a boy who, with his trusted servant and bodyguard Butler (Nonso Anozie), seek the existence of fairies to rob them, rescue his criminal father and restore the family fortune. Judi Dench and Josh Gad have supporting roles in the late summer release and arguably the Mouse House’s single most risky film in a year of otherwise stable franchises and remakes. As “Nutcracker” proved – they’re not always a guaranteed hit maker.
“The Art of Racing in the Rain”
Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Gary Cole and Kevin Costner lead the cast of this Simon Curtis-directed comedy-drama feature that follows a super intelligent dog’s point of view about his life as the pet of a race car driver. Of all the pandering to dog lover movies opening in 2019, this is arguably the least offensive.
“Ash Is Purest White”
Screening at Cannes in May to strongly positive reviews, this Chinese epic still hasn’t locked in a theatrical release yet. The story follows a woman in love with a local mobster and ends up in prison trying to save him. When released she tries to pick up where they left off.
The follow-up to “Avengers: Infinity War”. No-one is sure what to expect at this point, Marvel is keeping everything tight-lipped. All we do know is that some of the characters like Hawkeye and Ant-Man who sat out the last film are back this time around. Also this will make the year’s biggest box-office, whatever the quality, and we’re all going to be there on opening weekend.
“Thoroughbreds” helmer Cory Finley, “I Think We’re Alone Now” scribe Mike Makowsky and “La La Land” producer Fred Berger team for this story based on true events that Makowsky experienced at his high school and said to have a darkly comic “Election” style tone. Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano star along with “Blockers” breakout Geraldine Viswanathan and “Hereditary” lead Alex Wolff.
Former publicist turned celebrated filmmaker Justin Simien follows up “Dear White People” with the cheeky horror satire “Bad Hair”. The story follows a young woman from Compton in L.A. who wants to be a VJ in the late 80s/early 90s but doesn’t have the right look. She makes a Faustian bargain with the new network head and ends up with a weave in her head that may or may not have a mind of its own. Simien says he wants to do a “weird horror-satire love letter” to black women who “suffer quiet little deaths just to be seen in our culture”. Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Michelle Hurd and more star.
George Nolfi follows up the under-appreciated “The Adjustment Bureau” and the straight up crap “Birth of the Dragon” with this more promising true story tale of two African American entrepreneurs (played by Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson) who, during the 1950’s, take on the establishment by recruiting a working-class white man (Nic Hoult) and train him to pose as the head of their business empire while they posed as a janitor and a chauffeur. The pair becomes two of the wealthiest and most successful real estate owners in the country with Steiner as their frontman, but their success brings about an unforeseen risk of exposure. Nia Long, Colm Meaney and Jessie T. Usher co-star.
“The Beach Bum”
Indie auteur Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” was a surprise crossover hit and even mini-pop culture phenomenon. He may have similar success with his next project, a comedy about a stoner and lovable rogue named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) who lives life large and by his own rules. Snoop Dog, Zac Efron, Isla Fisher and Martin Lawrence are along for the ride in the film which has set a March theatrical release. It’s likely Korine’s wish to hold screenings with marijuana smoke puffed through the air system won’t be happening.
Never one to shy away from controversy, filmmaker Paul Verhoeven follows up his award-winning “Elle” with this film starring Virginie Efira as 17th-century nun Sister Benedetta Carlini. Carlini was hailed as a visionary and then later accused of fabricated miracles, homosexuality and other charges, and imprisoned for nearly four decades. Based on historian Judith C Brown’s novel “Immodest Acts” and adapted by Gerard Soeteman (“Black Book”), the blend of religion and erotica should rile some people up even in this day and age when the Church’s influence is ever dwindling.
“Eden” director Mia Hansen-Love’s new film enlists “Phantom Thread” breakout Vicky Krieps, who replaced the briefly attached Greta Gerwig, along with Mia Wasikowska on this Swedish-shot film about an American couple who are both artists who head to the a remote Swedish island to take part in an Ingmar Bergman celebration event – hoping to be inspired to finish writing their new movie. But over the course of the summer their relationship starts to fissure as the line between their lives and the fiction they are writing starts to blur. Sounds rather “Clouds of Sils Maria”-esque, and it has enlisted producer Charles Gillibert (“Mustang,” “Personal Shopper”).
“The Best of Enemies”
An adaptation of Osha Gray Davidson’s novel, Taraji P. Henson stars as Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist in Carolina who battles with the Ku Klux Klan leader C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) for a decade until 1971, when the two agree to co-chair a two-week community meeting to deal with a court-ordered school desegregation decree. That meeting changes both of their lives. Robin Bissell helms the likely to be a contentious film which also stars Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr., and Nick Searcy.
Celebrated filmmaker Roger Michell helms this adaptation of Bille August’s 2014 Danish film “Silent Heart”. The story involves a dying mother (Susan Sarandon) who assembles three generations of her family to spend a final weekend together before she chooses to end her life. As time runs out, the daughters (Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska) find it more and more difficult to handle and soon old conflicts arise. Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Lindsay Duncan co-star in the film which originally had Diane Keaton slated to star before Sarandon replaced her.
Marking his first writing/directing theatrical release since 2011’s “The Grey,” this new sci-fi action thriller from filmmaker Joe Carnahan sees Frank Grillo starring as Roy Pulver, a retired special forces soldier finds himself trapped in a sinister government program, which results in a never-ending time loop leading to his death. Think “Happy Death Day” but with way more macho posturing. The film also stars Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh, Annabelle Wallis, Will Sasso, Ken Jeong and NFL player Rob Gronkowski in what should be a robust and fun late Summer action thriller.
“The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind”
Set to premiere at Sundance, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor steps behind the camera in this directorial debut effort and inspirational true story about a thirteen-year-old Malawi boy, thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees, who sneaks into the library and sets out to construct a windmill and potentially stop a famine in his village. Based on the semi-autobiographical book by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, this could be a sleeper for Netflix who obtained the rights in November.
One of the more intriguing high concept horror films to hit this year, James Gunn produces this project which is effectively a reimagination of Clark Kent’s origin if he instead went bad. The story follows a couple (Elizabeth Banks, David Denman) that adopts a baby who came from the stars. While they attempt to raise the boy to use his powers for good, an evil begins to grow from inside that he unleashes. Sony released a promising trailer last month and is opening the movie in late May, serving as a nice bit of cost-effective counter-programming to all the other big budget fare out there.
Andrew Heckler’s racial drama hoped to be big player at Sundance back in January last year, only for reviews to be tepid and not enough to gain much traction. Garrett Hedlund plays a Ku Klux Klansman who falls in love with a single mom (Andrea Riseborough) who forces him to confront his senseless hatred. Leaving the group and with nowhere to turn, he is taken in by an African-American reverend (Forest Whitaker) and learns tolerance through love and faith.
ALSO COMING IN 2019
“A Dog’s Journey,” “A Dog’s Way Home,” “Abominable,” “Ana,” “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” “The Art Of Self-Defence,” “Ashes in the Snow,” “Blinded By The Light,” “Booksmart,” “Brawler,” “By the Grace of God”.