All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Gandalf - The Lord of the Rings
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019 and a whole new shining vista of Filmic promise. As ever on January 1st I'm looking forward to specific cinematic offerings that'll be on view over the next twelve months. (Yes, Gandalf - I've already decided what I'll be doing with much of my time between now and December 31st.) Of course there'll be delicious surprises along the way - indy and world cinema gems that haven't received a lot of media attention so far, and some titles that have yet to secure a release date. But as of right now, here are the fifteen films landing in UK theatres this year that have got my interest the most peaked...
1. Stan and Ollie (11th January)
This is a long time coming. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy deserved a movie tribute long since, but maybe it's good we were made to wait till Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly were there to take the roles. It looks like perfect casting, and the choice to focus on the pair's post-Hollywood theatrical tour of the UK should make this as poignant as it is funny.
High Hopes: A warm-hearted nostalgia piece that gets what made this screen double-act so sublime?
2. Mary Queen of Scots (18th January)
Saoirse Ronan is the doomed Mary (it's history, that's no spoiler) and Margot Robbie is her royal sister Elizabeth. Their story has been told before, but this time around the screenplay is based on John Guy's revisionist history, which paints a different and more nuanced relationship between the two queens - or so I've been led to believe. A tragic tale of thwarted sixteenth century girl-power, it seems. At any rate I can't wait to find out.
High Hopes: One seriously riveting double-act in Ronan and Robbie, and some complex and powerful historical drama?
3. If Beale Street Could Talk (18th January)
Barry Jenkins wrote and directed my favourite film of 2016 in Moonlight, so I'm fascinated to see if he can repeat the trick with this new one. Based on James Baldwin's novel of love in fraught circumstances, it's already attracting lots of award season buzz, and that beautiful black and white poster suggests an intense and moving experience.
High Hopes: So - an intense and moving experience then?
4. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (1st February)
Melissa McCarthy is in need of some forgiveness following the disappointments of Life of the Party and The Happytime Murders last year (her natural funniness showed through in the former of those, but as a film it didn't work at all). This project is giving her an opportunity to prove her dramatic chops Steve Carrell-style, and with none other than Brit treasure Richard E. Grant. Her best comedy work has a real dramatic edge to it, so this will be nothing if not fascinating.
High Hopes: Serious chemistry from this unexpected and intriguing Grant/MelMac combination?
5. Fighting With My Family (14th February)
Stephen Merchant is writer/director of this 'based-on-a-true-story' - ehhh - story, having been talked into the project by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. The fighting is literal and takes place in a wrestling ring - it's a family tradition you see. Nick Frost and Lena Headey play the parents, while their rising wrestling-star daughter is played by ever-rising acting-star Florence Pugh (see my review of 2016's Lady Macbeth). The Rock is in it as well, as himself. Got to be seen then.
High Hopes: A star-making turn from indie darling Pugh, and some well-turned comedy moments, in and out of the ring?
6. Happy Death Day 2U (14th February)
One of the unexpected delights of 2017 was Happy Death Day, effectively Groundhog Day reworked as a slasher movie. The delight came from how funny it was, chiefly due to Jessica Rothe's performance as the persecuted, repeatedly dying Tree Gelbman; her transformation from nightmare sorority girl to bad-ass heroine was both comic and cheer-worthy. Director Christopher Landon claims to have a great idea for the sequel and the original cast is back, so...
High Hopes: More macabre but strangely good-natured high-jinx in a follow-up that serves to enhance the original rather than crap all over it?
7. Captain Marvel (8th March)
Marvel Studios are finally doing it - basing a super-hero film entirely around a female lead. (Their rivals at DC managed it almost two years back with Wonder Woman.) Gender politics aside, Captain Marvel will tie into the Avengers: Infinity War cliffhanger in some intriguing way and is all set to revolutionise the MCU. Plus the trailer is terrific. As far as long-term planning goes, no one does it better than Marvel.
High Hopes: An entertaining and inventive origins story in its own right, plus a barnstorming performance from Bree Larson as the new Cap?
8. Us (15th March)
Get Out was the directorial debut of comedian/actor/writer Jordan Peele. It was also one of the most original and attention-grabbing movies of 2017, taking generic horror ideas and twisting them into something provocative and politically confrontational. Us is his follow-up - once again with a generic-sounding premise and a teaser campaign suggesting it'll be anything but. Plus it stars 12 Years a Slave/Black Panther actress Lupita Nyong'o in the lead. Sold.
High Hopes: A worthy Get Out follow-up that cements Peele's status as a modern mainstream auteur?
9. Avengers: Endgame (26th April)
Avengers: Infinity War ended in nothing short of apocalyptic devastation. It'll take one hell of a satisfying follow-up to salvage the mess into which the heroes (and all of the universe) was plunged. The Russo Brothers are in charge, however, along with their long-time writing team, and we wondered this time last year if they could pull off Infinity War. In case you missed it, they did. So fingers crossed and brace yourself for one hell of a ride.
High Hopes: Popcorn greatness???
10. Rocketman (24th May)
Bohemian Rhapsody copped criticism from certain quarters for being too sanitised and generic an example of the music biopic. (I enjoyed it for what it was - a glossy celebration of Freddie Mercury and Queen.) Here we have Taron Egerton as the young, talented, flamboyant, excess-embracing Elton John - an opportunity to truly embrace the madness along with the music. Well the soundtrack will be great if nothing else...
High Hopes: Something a bit more impressionistic, a bit less by-the-numbers than BoRap, plus a Remy Malick-level performance by Egerton?
11. Godzilla: King of Monsters (31st May)
2018 had its share of colossal and colossally stupid monster movies (Rampage to its credit made me laugh - a lot). King of the Monsters promises to be very different, following on as it does with 2014's beautifully made and uncharacteristically smart Godzilla. Anticipation is stoked not just by the creatures - which look properly spectacular - but by an eminently impressive human cast headed up by Sally Hawkins, Vera Farmiga and Stranger Things' breakout star Millie Bobby Brown. I am Kujira - hear me roar.
High Hopes: All the spectacle of Rampage and The Meg put together, with an actual grown-up screenplay?
12. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (26th July)
Here's a divisive phrase - 'the new movie from Quentin Tarantino'. Want to make it more divisive? Add - 'concerning the Manson Family murders' (among other stuff). Tarantino is the Godfather of contemporary cinematic cool; his style and subject-choices have influenced numerous other film-makers (to varying degrees of success). The deliberately exploitative nature of his movies raises hackles along with champagne glasses. But with a cast of surnames including Pitt, DiCaprio, Robbie and Pacino, how can you not take an interest?
High Hopes: Something that's challenging for sure, but that treats the subject-matter with a touch of gravitas?
13. IT: Chapter 2 (6th September)
Bring on this one! 2017's first IT chapter was an irresistible blend of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Stand By Me. You ended up rooting loudly for its juvenile heroes, as they faced down Pennywise the psychopathic clown along with every other fear-rooted guise in which he manifested himself. This time around the youngsters have grown up to become familiar faces like James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain - and they're all going to have to return to their childhood home of Derry, Maine. IT/Pennywise/the embodiment of their darkest fears is back. Be a fun kind of afraid.
High Hopes: A second chapter to match the first, thereby delivering the definitive adaptation of Stephen King's horror classic (no disrespect to Tim Currie)?
14. The Irishman (TBC)
Martin Scorsese returns to the crime genre with which he's most strongly associated (despite all else he's done), with this story of real-life mob hitman Frank Sheeran. De Niro, Pesci and Keitel are all back working with the director, and Al Pacino is there as well - the first time he and Scorsese have worked together. Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List) wrote the screenplay, so all the stars of movie greatness seem to be aligning on this one.
High Hopes: It'll live up to say 75%-plus of all that potential?
15. Star Wars Episode IX (?th December)
The Last Jedi succeeded in splitting the Star Wars fan base more effectively than a well-aimed light-sabre stroke. Some embraced it as one of the best episodes to date, while others raged against it an act of fandom betrayal. (I was on the 'love' side, but I'm not a long-time franchise aficionado, so what do I know?) J. J. Abrams, who kick-started the new Star Wars era back in 2015, is writer/director once more, and it falls to him to rebalance the force, bringing happiness to Skywalker devotees worldwide. Good luck, mate. Seriously.
High Hopes: A miracle of a final chapter that reunites fans of all stripes, while not sacrificing the integrity of the previous film? (Or failing that, a damn good end-of-year space-romp?)
Okay - that lot has me salivating, although who know? Maybe my future favourite films of the year aren't even on the list. Perchance some will disappoint, leaving it up to the little hitters to salvage the cinematic year.
Which brings me to my Filmic Resolutions of January 2019:
1. To watch and review more indie and foreign language cinema and not just focus on the glossy mainstream stuff.
2. To cover major Netflix film releases.
3. To continue covering the issue of gender representation in cinema in my reviews. (I will however be discontinuing my 'Where Are the Women?' feature in the interests of keeping things fresh, plus you all know I've got that issue covered.)
Here's the big one:
4. To create my Ed's Filmic Forays YouTube channel. There, I've said it. If all goes according to my plan, said channel will be up and running by the end of February. It won't replace the blog, but rather compliment it, or that's the plan. And I may be lining up a few additional surprises. More of that soon.
Here's wishing you great cinema experiences in 2019. I'll be with you all the way - sharing my joys, my frustrations and my never-fading love of the silver screen. Cheers!