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Ahhh 2018. A year of promise. Of renewed hope. Of unlimited possibility. I advise you do your best to not  pay attention to the commander in chief’s tweets and bury your hand in the collective sand that is an unhealthy obsession with movies. Tis the very best medicine and nothing gets me more jazzed about covering the industry than looking at the year ahead and seeing just how many potential gems lay in wait. Each and every year I tell myself I’m not going to bother doing a Top 50 Most Anticipated Movies List. That someone else will do the work for me and I can just retweet it. And yet every year we get the same retreads, boring, blockbuter-loaded lists ad nauseam. Here goes my attempt to right that wrong. 

I can almost smell the vitriol already. But before you scrunch your nose and start yelling out my many omissions, please note that you won’t find many Marvel, DC, Disney or otherwise lackluster looking blockbuster outings here. There’s a few but only though that really call out to me as being worthy of note. That means no Black Panther or Deadpool 2. No AquaMan or Ready Player One or A Wrinkle in Time or Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You can visit any number of other sites to get the same regurgitated Top 50 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018, each of them running through the big budget films in a different order, all titles you no doubt will be actively aware of precisely when the studio giants backing them want you to. Rather, let’s focus on the films that you might not have already known were coming up, from directors worth getting excited about, stories that make you go “ooh” and “aah”. That is the point of this whole endeavor after all – finding those things that really speak to us.

I’ll just have to ask you to forgive me when I do surrender and include the one-off box office punishers in waiting such as…

50. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY 

If you had told a 8-year old me that there would one day be a movie all about Han Solo, I would have freaked out. Nowadays, the prospect is not so inviting. All the behind the scenes drama – with Ron Howard taking over for Phil Lord and Chris Miller and Han actor Alden Ehrenreich apparently not so great at acting – this is seeming like it could be a train wreck waiting to happen. Then again, it’s Star Wars. And it’s Han Solo. It made the list. (May 25)

49. PIERCING

A sadistic bastard tries to fulfill his lifelong dream of murdering a prostitute but when he goes to pull the trigger, he finds the tables turned. This feminist revenge thriller that adapts Ryu Murakami’s popular Japanese novel of the same name is all kinds of gnarly and could be total smut in unproven hands but with Nicolas Pesce (the promising if not totally fulfilling Eyes of My Mother) directing Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska, this really could be a sleeper horror hit a la Audition. (Sundance)

48. THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

An elderly man played by Robert Redford reflects on his 70-year career as a bank robber in David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) feature. Elizabeth Moss, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover and more join to bring life to the real-life story of career criminal Forrest Tucker. (TBD)

47. TOMB RAIDER  

Every time I’ve included a video game adaptation on this list, I’ve lived to regret it. The first trailer for this didn’t look extremely promising by any measure but talent in the form of Alicia Vikander in the pole position and The Wave director Roar Uthaug behind the camera give this a lot of potential promise. This will probably be my The Mummy from last year but worse case scenario it’s Vikaner kicking ass in skimpy clothing for a few hours.  (March 16)

46. FAHRENHEIT 451

I adore Ray Bradley’s dystopian classic, a 1984-esque totalitarian future with literature-destroying firemen, and with Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon filling out the frame and Rain Bahrani (the underrated and under-seen 99 Homes) behind the camera this could be a page-to-screen project of great intrigue. Sure it’s an HBO release so might never actually see a big screen but the barriers between streaming and cinema are so feeble nowadays that it’s hard to really define a difference. (TBD)

45. VENOM

In Tom Hardy I trust and with the frequent mask-gearing brute taking up the mantle of one of Spider-Man’s most notorious antagonists in a standalone supervillain movie, Venom is either going to change the ball game or be a disastrous flop. I like the idea of a grizzled antihero who doesn’t suffer the humdrum need to do good all the time, I’,m thinking something between a Deadpool and Wolverine, and if Fox can nail this it could be huge for their franchise going forward. (October 5)

44. HOLMES AND WATSON

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly may not ever reteam for another Step Brothers movie (which I’m totally ok with) but we will see them reunited this year regardless. This time wearing more sleuth regalia. Ferrell and Reilly will surely give Sir Arthur Doyle’s most famous creations a different spin, doing a riff on the world’s greatest detective that is sure to distinguish itself from the pack if only by virtue of the balls-to-drumset ratio alone. (November 9)

43. THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT

Lars Von Trier is a twisted fuck. No untainted mind could conceive of some of the stuff that he’s put to screen. And yet, I’m almost always up for more. His latest, the story of a man’s descent into serial killing, puts Jack the Ripper in the hot seat. No matter the quality, it’s certain to be one of 2018’s most incendiary features. (TBD)

42. WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE? 

American auteur Richard Linklater may be hit or miss when it comes to the box office but the man is a consistent critical hitter through and through. His next feature, Where’d You Go Bernadette?, is an adaptation of Maria Semple’s comedy about an anxious mother disappearing and her 15-year old daughter who goes on the hunt for her. Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig and Judy Greer make up the cast in what could be Linklater’s most commercial movie in years. (May 11)

41. PSYCHOKINESIS 

Yes superhero movies are a dime a dozen but this Korean riff on the genre from Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-Ho looks to mix things up properly. Adopting a black comedy stance, Psychokinesis follows a father who uses his newfound superpowers to help his daughter. I’m a sucker for dark Korean takes on popular American genre films so this is jam-packed with potential. (TBD)

40. RED SPARROW 

Jennifer Lawrence reteams with Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence to tell this tale of a sultry Russian spy flipped into a double agent. This looks a lot more serious than their last pairing and could prove a nice little action-packed thriller geared towards the thinking crowd. (March 2)

39. OCEAN’S 8

Yes, that Ocean family but not that Ocean. Danny Ocean’s sister (Sandra Bullock) assembles a crew of talented lawbreakers to, you guessed it, steal some stuff in this all-female spin-on of the popular heist series. There may be a few less of this but with all that feminine guile, you best bet the stakes will be higher than ever. (June 8)

38. JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE

I Saw the Devil is probably the best Korean horror movie of the decade and you probably haven’t heard of. One way or another, Kim Jee-Woon is back with this (admittedly silly sounding) alternate reality about a Korean police officer who’s life is upended when he witnessed a suicide bombing. If Jee-Woon can capture the same caustic energy and onscreen trauma this time round, his skillset sounds perfect for the movie’s description. Even if the title doesn’t inspire the most confidence ever. (TBD)

37. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Alright I’m somewhat breaking my own rule here but, hey, I’m gonna geek out a little over this. This third Avengers movie has such an astounding amount of characters to juggle, with everyone from Iron Man to Baby Groot getting in on the action, that it’ll be a small miracle if it coalesces into anything that feels unified much less the epic conclusion to everything we’ve seen up to this point that the suits at Marvel promised. Marvel has been on a roll lately with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok proving a hell of a good time at the theater but then again the last proper Avengers movie was a drag. Jury is certainly out on this one but I’m hoping it can be special. (May 4)

36. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS


Pitched as a Wolf Among Us meets Sesame Street, this puppet-driven half live action movie from Brian Henson (son of Jim) tells the story of a popular 80’s puppet tv show whose cast is being killed off one by one. A disgraced cop, also a muppet, must solve the crime. Looks the perfect amount of demented. (August 17)

34. BACKSEAT 

This Dick Cheney biopic from Adam McKay and starring Christian Bale looks to expand on McKay’s transition from broad comedy to sharp satire. With Bale seriously bulking up to play the Halliburton CEO turned notorious Bush VP, Backseat has Oscar potential smeared all over it. (TBD)

33. STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT 

A long awaited sequel to 2008’ The Stranger’s starring Christina Hendricks and directed by “47 Meters Down” director Johannes Roberts who sets the action in a trailer park? I am so down for this trailer trash murdertown. (March 9)

32. BOY ERASED 

I think Joel Egerton surprised everyone but himself when he directed The Gift, one of 2015’s most unexpected stunners, and he returns behind the camera to tell the harrowing story of a pastor’s son who is sent to a “pray the gay away” conversation therapy camp. With a strong cast that includes Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Edgerton, Boy Erased could even be an award’s contender. (September 28)

31. SUSPIRIA

Dario Argento’s kaleidoscopic and surreal Suspiria is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Full stop. Normally I wouldn’t blink twice at a remake of a horror classic but with legitimate dramatic force Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) at the helm, maybe we should stop shaking sticks at it. Guadagnino claims he won’t be remaking the film per se so much as he will be homaging the feelings it illicit. Let’s hope it’s trippy and not just tripe. Color me intrigued. (TBD)

30. THE PREDATOR 

The original Predator movie is an action classic but there’s little that would have gotten me jazzed about another very, very late sequel. Until you throw Shane Black’s name into the mix. Black, director of The Nice Guys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a way of blending eye-popping action and male testosterone comedy like no one else, which makes him the perfect candidate for making a knock-out reboot. Fingers crossed here. (August 3)

29. SICARIO 2: SOLDADO

I don’t really know how to feel about this totally unnecessary sequel but I have faith in the fact that original writer Taylor Sheridan had enough faith to go back in and continue the story of Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin’s characters without the aid of prior leading lady Emily Blunt, director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins. (June 29)

28. GOD PARTICLE 

The frequent release date changes don’t necessarily inspire confidence but I still have faith in this people on the International Space Station encounters a big problem thriller. Under the Cloverfield banner, God Particle has a standout cast (Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and David Oyelowo) and producer J.J. Abrams sure to pack in some surprises. (April 20)

27. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6

 

Perhaps the best American action franchise (sorry Fast fans) remains in Tom Cruise’s hands in the form of the battle-tested Mission Impossible. The films have a way of constantly one-upping themselves with Cruise adamant about topping his jaw-dropping stunts each and every outing. Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie is back though little else is known about the plot so far. Including the title. (July 27)

26. OUTLAW KING

Hell or High Water director David Mackenzie trades in the plains of East Texas for the grassy knolls of Scotland in this epic telling of 14th century king Robert the Bruce (any Braveheart fans out there?) as he drove the English out of his country in a historic David and Goliath effort. Will Mackenzie be able to match the epic nature demanded of a war film of this nature and will Chris Pine be up for the accent? I’m betting yes to both. (TBD)

25. THE INCREDIBLES 2

Pixar used to be the standard bearer for animation and now has kind of puttered into a big shoulder shrug. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to this long-awaited follow-up to Pixar’s animated superhero flick The Incredibles. With Brad Bird back directing, this could be the shot of life that Pixar needs to come back to life. (June 15)

24. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard enlists Jeff Bridges (as a drunken priest) and Chris Hemsworth to tell this single-setting thriller about violence breaking out in Lake Tahoe. There’s not many more details at this point but I’m satisfied enough with what I’ve heard so far to start salivating. (October 10)

23. THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE

Most people won’t get why the name Riley Stearns has my spider sense tingling because pretty much no one saw his excellent cult debut Faults, starring a never better Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Stearns’ real life wife). Stearns’ tale, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, tells of an assaulted man who enlists in a dojo to learn to defend himself only to find more than he bargained for. Stearns thrived playing with the subtlety of human relations before and if he manages to slip into in with a Karate Kid-esque narrative, I’m all in. (SXSW Debut)

22. THE LITTLE STRANGER

Lenny Abrahamson made a splash with his debut Room and returns to adapting popular literature with this period thriller about identity and the past. With suggestions of the estate horror and a supernatural element, The Little Stranger looks like it could make a good companion piece to A Cure for Wellness, a film I’m a big fan of. (August 31)

21. THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB 

The American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo suffered a strange fate, giving Rooney Mara an Oscar nomination with a sequel remaining in indefinite development hell. With Mara and Fincher out and Claire Foy and Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) in and moving beyond the original trilogy that so many who read the book know front to back, this new direction could be a launch both director and star to the cosmos and give life to a new series. Or it could flounder like its predecessor and quickly be forgotten. I have faith in Alvarez. (October 19)

20. ISLE OF DOGS

I personally prefer my Wes Anderson movies non-animated, having liked but not totally adored The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but anything the man makes is sure to be good if not great. Isle of Dogs adds Bryan Cranston to the list of Anderson regulars to tell the story of a boy searching for his lost dog in stop motion action. (March 23)

19. DAMSEL

The name the Zellner Brothers won’t mean much to most people but they’ve built a quiet but solid following over the years (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is an absolute gem.) Damsel has the benefit of the Zellners as well as a primo leading man in Robert Pattison who stars as a businessman who traverses west to join his fiancée (Mia Wasikowska). The Zellners have called this a semi-Western meets slapstick comedy. (Sundance premiere)

18. A QUIET PLACE

The Office’s John Krasinski has had an uneven go after his tenure on the NBC superhit and his last directorial effort The Hollars didn’t really start any critical fires. But A Quiet Place, a concept horror where a solitary family lives in complete silence, lest a linger horror that strikes at any sound strike. I love horror movies that play fundamentally with the idea of sound – just recently Hush and Don’t Breathe – and if Krasinski can pull off the concept, this could be a big sleeper hit. (April 6)

17. NEW MUTANTS

Superheroes movies are a dime a dozen, usually sticking to the same old portals and baddie of the week formula but New Mutants looks strikingly different from its brethren. Sure it takes place in the X-Men universe but it looks more like a “trapped in a hellish insane asylum” movie than a superhero movie would success. I’m praying it piles on much more horror than action.  (April 13)

16. AMERICAN ANIMALS


A pair of middle-class college student plan an art heist in this film from the director of one of my favorite modern documentaries, The Imposter. Starring Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan, if Bart Layton is able to spin the same magic with a narrative film as he did with a documentary, we’re in for a huge treat. (Sundance Premiere)

15. THE FAVORITE

The director of Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer has certainly been prolific of late but seems to be changing gears entirely for his latest English-language feature which, reportedly, is about two 18th century noblewomen vying for power in Queen Anne’s court.  Now take whatever you think that would be and filter it through the Yorgos Lanthimos sensibilities and you get? No seriously. I’m asking you. Because I have no goddamn idea. Regardless Lanthimos’ latest films have ended up in my top ten two years running so no way am I counting him out. (TBD)

14. WIDOWS 

12 Years a Slave and Shame director Steve McQueen looks to be having a bit more fun in this story about a failed heist that results in a handful of grieving widows finishing their dead husband’s work. Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Carrie Coon and Robert Duvall star in what hopefully turns out to be some damn nice counter-programming to Ocean’s 8.  (November 16)

13. MUTE

Well hello again Mute and welcome back to my Most Anticipated Movies of the Year list. This sci-fi mystery from Duncan Jones (Moon) centers around a mute bartender looking for his missing girlfriend that Jones has described as a “Casablanca-inspired spiritual sequel to 2009’s Moon”. Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux with a score from Clint Mansell. This better come out this year… (TBD)

12. THE NIGHTINGALE

“If it’s in a word, it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Truer words, considering The Babadook remains one of this decade’s horror movies with the most staying power. This year director Jennifer Kent is back with The Nightinggale, which shifts from outright horror to a period revenge thriller where a Irish convict hires an Aboriginal tracker to hunt the men who murdered her family. Some Australian female-led revenge served cold? I’m hungry already. (TBD)

11. THE IRISHMAN


Martin Scorsese, prince of cinema and champion of film as an art form, has succumb to the Netflix bug. He’s been trying to make The Irishman for god knows how many year and when Netflix forked over his $125M asking price, the Taxi Driver director just couldn’t say no. The film tells the story of the death of Jimmy Hoffa and stars golden boys Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano and Jesse Plemons. (TBD)

10. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

Lynn Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin remains one of the most haunting and violent melodramas in recent memory and her follow-up, which premiered to strong reviews at Cannes, looks to double down on the whole “hard watch” aspect. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a hitman who rescues a young girl from a sex trafficking ring. From there, vengeance shall be his. (April 6)

10. APOSTLE


Martial arts maestro Gareth Evans (The Raid, Berandal) can stage a better hand-to-hand action scene that anyone alive and with him tackling at the period action thriller about a man trying to save his sister from an insane cult is so ripe with promise I can smell it a mile away. Dan Stevens and Martin Sheen star. (TBD)

9. UNDER THE SILVER LAKE


David Robert Mitchell, director of 2014’s horror hit It Follows, made this list last year with this same feature and though we still don’t have much details outside of the cast (Riley Keough, Andrew Garfield, Topher Grace) this looks to shift his focus from social horror to crime thriller. (TBD)

8. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK


Barry Jenkins turned a 1.5 million dollar budget into the zeitgeist film of the year with Moonlight and his follow up, If Beale Street Could Talk, hopes to double down on that success. Adapted from James Baldwin’s novel, Beale Street tells the story of Fish (newcomer KiKi Layne) a pregnant Harlem woman desperate to prove her fiancé’s innocence in a crime he did not commit. (TBD)

7. SLICE

A24. Chance the Rapper. Horror. There’s not many more details at this point – something about a murdered pizza delivery man and a werewolf suspect – but everything I’ve heard just gets me more and more amped. With Chance A24 working in conjunction, this looks to be a slice of pure movie pleasure. And should have an absolutely ripping soundtrack. (TBD)

6. DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

Whatever genius thought to pair S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) with Mel Gibson deserves a goddamn metal of honor and with a name as suggestive as Dragged Across Concrete (which is sure to conjure a certain image for anyone who’s had the pleasure of watching Brawl in Cell Block 99), this police brutality thriller sounds like Zahler won’t be giving up the graphic violence any time soon. Don Johnson, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, and Udo Kier co-star. (TBD)

5. UNSANE 

After Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh is apparently back, this time directing a movie shot entirely on an iPhone (a la Sean Baker and Tangerine). The unique and low-budge approach will tell the story of a woman (Claire Foy, cuz it’s apparently her year) committed to a mental institution against her will. Sounds like it could be the ingredients to one of the year’s bests.  (March 23)

4. ANNIHILATION


Frustratingly enough, Annihilation was my #1 most anticipated movie of 2017 and now that we’ve seen a few glimpses of it, it remains one of the movies I’m absolutely dying to see. Natalie Portman, weird physics, alternate realities and Ex Machina’s Alex Garland steering the ship? Please just be February 23 already. (February 23)

3. FIRST MAN


Another that made my list last year but didn’t actually hit the silver screen, First Man brings the story of Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) and the first lunar landing through the lens of La La Land director Damien Chazelle. Claire Foy also co-stars as Armstrong’s wife because she can’t be in anything that I’m not super looking forward to. The pairing of material and talent seems like a match made in the heavens and I’m over the moon to see what they can pull off. (October 12)

2. ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón has been out of the spotlight since winning Best Director for Gravity (which isn’t even near his best film) and so of course anything he lines up next is going to make me droll. Roma brings Cuarón back to his home country of Mexico to tell the domestic story of a family during the early 70s. Details beyond that are sparse but Cuarón has proven to be a maestro of small familial drama (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as well as outright spectacle. When he mixes the two (Children Of Men), he’s an absolute force of nature. (TBD)

1. HOLD THE DARK


Blue Ruin. Green Room. Dark isn’t really a color per se but the title for his newest film certainly fist the Jeremy Saulnier theme appropriately. Saulnier’s third feature is his first adaptation. William Giraldi’s novel of the same name tells the story of an Alaska murder mystery blended with wolf survival story. Anyone who’s seen Green Room is squealing and gagging already. (TBD)

 

That should about do it. Anything that you’re super jazzed about that I missed? Oh Black Panther? Yeah well, put me in the “I want it to be good but it looks like any other Marvel movie” box.

 

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