Skip to main content

I am here to see if tales of the extraordinary being are true.

23 to See in 2019

As I said of 2018's 21 to See, I don't necessarily expect everything that follows to be good, but it should at least be interesting; that’s ultimately why number one on this list is number one (given the hurdles it has to cross to satisfy). Last year's lot have had mixed fates, from languishing unreleased (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, De Palma's Domino) to reshoots that rendered them not all that interesting actually (The Predator), to several that didn't result in a 2018 appearance, two of which I've returned to on this year's list (Serenity, Benedetta; the others were Alita: Battle Angel and Captive State) to "Who knows what will happen?" now Luc Besson's had various fingers pointed at him (Anna). And then there were the Netflix disappointments (Hold the Dark, Apostle, Mute). I've yet to see Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Destroyer, both of which have received good notices. Without further ado then… 

Honourable Mention: Deadwood

Okay, I know this is TV (although I wouldn't be surprised if HBO gives it a nominal theatrical screening), but the long-awaited return/continuation/conclusion to the not-quite-left-hanging-but-not-satisfyingly-left-either Deadwood is surely one of the must-sees of 2019. HBO has a history of hastily killing its darlings before they get to fully unfold (Carnivale, anyone? They also kiboshed Deadwood creator David Milch's weird-but-wonderful replacement series John From Cincinnati after only one season). Most of the assembled cast are back, under the watchful eye of HBO stalwart Daniel Minahan (he counts staple series True Blood and Game of Thrones among his CV). Milch had planned a couple of TV movies from pretty much the point the series expired, so this twelve-years-later arrival was considered by many as only ever a pipe dream. Now, at last, we get to hear Ian McShane call all and sundry cocksuckers (probably) a final time.

23. Fonzo

An unlikely one this, which is precisely why I’m intrigued. Josh Trank's debut Chronicle was a great little low budget "superhero" origins tale, subsequent to which he fell infamously from grace with his (allegedly) fume-fuelled take on Fantastic Four (not nearly the abomination its rep suggests, albeit I'm not fan enough of the quartet to take aggrieved issue with digressions from lore). Now he emerges from a relatively brief exile with this tale of Al Capone and none other than Tom Hardy throwing his considerable weight behind him. It sounds exactly like Hardy's thing – Capone, out of prison, suffering from dementia – and Trank has something to prove. As long as Fonzo has more personality than recent Hardy-does-gangsters Legend (not the Sir Ridders one), it should be worth investigating. 

22. Benedetta

Paul Verhoeven enters his ninth decade with the same relish for controversy that characterised his previous five, chronicling the trials and tribulations of a seventeenth century lesbian Dutch nun (played by Virginie Efira, who also appeared in the director's previous, Elle). There's no telling if Benedetta will go overboard with the salaciousness at the expense of storytelling – although there's surely a very good chance – but Elle proved it's never wise to bet against the director even – or especially – when he's essentially titillating himself.

21. Captain Marvel

There have been post-trailer suggestions that the first Marvel female solo-headlining superhero movie since Elektra looks derivative and not really all that, and we shouldn't get our hopes up. Knowing very little about Captain Marvel (other than that she isn’t Shazam), besides what I've picked up since the picture was first announced, I can only say that my reaction is the reverse. Whether directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are up to snuff remains to be seen (although, let's face it, even Peyton Reed's chops seemed serviceable come the second Ant-Man – the Marvel second unit machine is well oiled at this point), but the canvas of the picture and Carol Danvers' origins and background seems awash with potential. The area I'm least enthused by is actually that, with the 1990s setting, we're set to suffer more big screen Agent Coulson. I hoped we were well and truly shot of him. (8 Mar)

20. Velvet Buzzsaw

Dan Gilroy goes Netflix following the failure of Roman Israel Esq., with what's described as a horror-thriller. Indeed, on the face of it, Velvet Buzzsaw sounds like the kind of thing you'd find in an Amicus portmanteau, a Player-esque ensemble set in the LA art world, where a supernatural force metes justice to those who have let greed dictate their dealings. Jake Gyllenhaal, so good in Gilroy's Nightcrawler (and I'm by no means always a fan), returns, as the ludicrously named Morf Vandewalt, along with Gilroy's other half Rene Russo. And John Malkovich is Piers. Of course he is. This could be typical Netflix, giving free rein to filmmakers' hubris unchecked, but Gilroy has the benefit of the doubt until proved consistently underserving.

19. Joker

The worst thing this could end up being is mediocre. It should be loved or hated, and my guess would be that’s why Joaquin Phoenix (who resisted Marvel's wooing for Doctor Strange) signed on. His Arthur Fleck is failed stand-up comedian, while Bob De Niro is a talk show host. The King of Comedy parallels are right there.

With a $55m budget, there's the leeway to go for broke without worrying about making the money back. The key pause here isn’t the cast or "real world" take, but rather writer-director Todd Phillips (scripted with Scott Silver, whose previous superhero credit is the illustrious X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Phillips is a decent comedy director, as in, a rare comedy director who actually has an eye, –The Hangover, despite the backlash, is a solid movie – and since he instigated the project (with Scorsese briefly co-producing), you have to assume he has a handle on his own material, but I'd question that anything he's done previously, even or especially under the calculated uniformity of the gross-out comedy banner, informs the anarchistic impulses one imagines ought to accompany this go-your-own-way picture. Hopefully he'll show us. (4 Oct)

18. In the Shadow of the Moon

Jim Mickle reteams with Michael C Hall, the star of his last film, top notch neo-noir Cold in July for this political thriller along with Narcos' head boy Boyd Holbrook. It's a Netflix release, but isn't everything right now?

17. Serenity

Not a whole lot of fanfare has attended the upcoming Serenity, possibly suggesting a January dumping of a difficult property, but writer-director (there are a few on this list) Steven Knights first features since Locke ought to at least be interesting (that word again). I'll admit, I haven't yet caught up with Taboo, although my excuse is that it’s Tom Hardy's "baby" rather than Knight's, and I've felt Peaky Blinders has somewhat descended into repetition and circular plotting since its first couple of seasons, but Knight at his best (Eastern Promises, Locke) is very much essential viewing. This has the vibe of a Body Heat-esque neo-noir, with Matthew McConaughey's fishing boat captain asked by his ex Anne Hathaway to murder her hubby Jason Clarke. If the trailer's anything to go by, there's an Angel Heart reality-trip vibe into the bargain. (US: 25 Jan/ UK: 1 Mar)

16. You Should Have Left

David Koepp's directorial career has been as patchy as his better-known writing one, but includes the under-seen gem Stir of Echoes as a reminder of what he can do. More recently, Premium Rush was high-octane ride; more comedic efforts Ghost Town and Mortdecai were stumbles, however. You Should Have Left sees him reteam with his Stir lead Kevin Bacon twenty years on, and again it's a psychological horror (for Blumhouse, meaning a hit is all but guaranteed?) based on Daniel Kehlmann's novel, with a Shining-type premise – a screenwriter goes to the Alps with his family to write a sequel to his biggest hit but is afflicted by writer's block. Amanda Seyfried co-stars.

15. Us

I had a blast with Get Out, even if I didn't think its thematic content was as elegantly embedded as it might have been, so Jordan Peele returning to the genre for his follow up ("social-horror thriller") is not unduly asking for attention, especially with the likes of Lupita Nyong'o, and Elisabeth Moss headlining. "Shocking visitors" arrive at a beach house, disrupting their families' retreat, shocking visitors who are revealed as doppelgangers of the protagonists... To be honest, it left me wondering whether Peele has anywhere else to take that, and whether what appear to be overt horror trappings will be as satisfying as the less obviously categorised Get Out. Still, though. I'm intrigued. (15 Mar)

14. Spider-Man: Far From Home

What, no Avengers: Endgame on this list? Well… I didn't flat-out love the movie (heresy, I know), and while it's arguably a must-see, it doesn't need my suggestion to get anyone to investigate the probably-not-that-satisfying plot device that brings (most of) the deceased back to life. Plus, there are two other Marvel movies I'm more interested in.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was generally greeted positively, if not ecstatically, but it ranks in my top three Marvels, so I'm keener to see the now resurrected Peter Parker on a school trip to Paris than how he gets resurrected. I'm not entirely sure about Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio (a) because I can do without him mugging like a maniac, à la Okja and (b) because I'm not convinced Marvel will make good on replicating the costume in all its dopey, goldfish bowl glory. Additionally, it seems Mysterio is a good guy here, helping Peter against the Elementals (or is this all a swizz/ he turns bad at the end?). It's also been noted that Peter mentor Tony Stark doesn't feature in the cast list, so make of that what you will. It might simply be that retirement is bliss… (US: 5 Jul)

13. The French Dispatch

It hasn't been confirmed that Wes Anderson's latest will be released in 2019, but the director probably doesn't need a year in post. This currently filming WWII Paris-set musical is replete with the ever-expanding Anderson repertory (Natalie Portman, whose bottom he lovingly filmed in Hotel Chavalier, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Wright, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Timothée Chalamet) and is reportedly divided into three storylines. Anderson's last live-action vies for status as his best film (along with The Royal Tennenbaums), and extending his sandpit to the genre of a musical is sure to yield rich results.

12. Glass

I can't say I though Split was a phenomenal piece of work, although James McAvoy absolutely delivered as the antagonist, but the final scene with Bruce Willis in Unbreakable mode had me instantly anticipating what might be in store for this third part in a surprise trilogy. It's the myth-making of the Glass trailer that really sells this as a must-see, however, with the odd trio of Bruce, McAvoy and Sam Jackson in institutional therapy suggesting this is Shyamalan fully restored to the unbeatable status that began to crash and burn about the time of The Village. (18 Jan)

11. Rocketman

I’ve never been much of a fan of Elton's oeuvre, Crocodile Rock and his turns on The Muppet Show and in Kingsman: The Golden Circle aside, but this biopic from Dexter Fletcher – fresh off reshoots on Bohemian Rhapsody – promises to be as extravagant and OTT as musical biographies have rarely been since the heady days of Ken Russell. At least, I very much hope so. Fletcher and Taron Egerton teamed to winning effect previously on Eddie the Eagle, and this account of (a much more photogenic incarnation of) Elton could well achieve the double of proving agreeable audiences and critics (the latter being where Rhapsody stumbled). (US: 17 May/ UK: 24 May)

10. Boss Level

I’m a sucker for Groundhog Days, and this mash up of Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code from Joe Carnahan, no stranger to being stuck on repeat with projects failing to come to fruition – I wasn't wholly convinced by either The Grey or Stretch but eventually he has to hit his stride – finds Frank Grillo as an ex-special forces guy – of course, he's Frank Grillo – trapped in a time loop as part of a government programme controlled by Mad Mel's colonel. Even if the plot isn't hundred percent, Carnahan's sure to direct the hell out of it. (US: 16 Aug)

9. Knives Out

Those who'll avoid this on the basis of Rian Johnson ruining their favourite franchise probably wouldn't have shown up anyway to a Rian Johnson joint pre-The Last Jedi, so I doubt that they're a huge loss. Boasting big names Daniel Craig and Chris Evans in prime roles (albeit, their star power outside their most famous roles is debatable) and such talents as Lakeith Stanfield, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon and Christopher Plummer elsewhere, as much as is known about this is that it’s a modern take on a classic whodunit, which if it's anything approaching Brick's reinvention of detective noir in a high school, should be a winner. (US: 27 Nov/ UK: 29 Nov)

8. The Hunt

This Blumhouse feature from Craig Zobel (the underseen Z For Zachariah, plus work on The Leftovers, Westworld and American Gods), is said to be a US politics-inspired action thriller in which working class protagonists are hunted down in a Battle Royale-esque manner. Which sounds a bit "trying too hard to make an obvious statement" on the face of things. As a counter, it comes from Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, both of whom collaborated to frequently stunning results on The Leftovers. For me, that's an immediate vote of confidence. Plus, Lindelof has a framed poster of the Star Wars Holiday Special on his office wall. (27 Sep)

7. Terminator 6

I shouldn't really anticipate this one in a positive way. Even though I welcome James Cameron's return to his franchise, T2 was itself a redundant sequel (which I adored on first viewing, but soon suffered diminishing returns), and Deadpool didn't convince me Tim Miller was the guy to take the approved reins of this retconning, T3/4/5-extinguishing sequel, any more than Rodriguez being handed Alita: Battle Angel (part of me thinks Cameron just wants to know he's the only true auteur in Lightstorm).

David Goyer being one of four credited for the screenplay is also a concern (just how does this guy remain so prolific?) – on the other hand, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles maestro Josh Friedman clearly attracted Cameron's attention as he's a co-writer, which can only be a good thing – and the emphasis on continuity (rumours that Arnie is also playing the original human his Terminator model was based on, that Eddie Furlong's visage is being pasted onto a stand-in, and that Linda Hamilton may go out in a blaze of glory) may be an Achilles heel, but who doesn't want this to be good? Even if T3.1 falls on its arse, it can't do so any worse than the last three instalments. (1 Nov)

6. Gemini Man

I amazed this is finally coming to pass (what next, Samsonite Warhead?). Astounded. I remember it being reported on twenty years ago (when Tony Scott was involved). I've not doubt Ang Lee can dive into a genre effort to impressive effect (see Hulk). The only area that gives me pause with regard to this shades-of-Looper aging killer facing off against a younger clone of himself is the casting of Will Smith. Simply because, you want an actor with whom it's really obvious how much they've aged. Smith could still pass for his mid-30s at 50. That aside, I've high hopes for Gemini Man, which co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Ralph Brown and is credited to a measly seven different writers. (4 Oct)

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The original plan to release Tarantino’s latest feature on the anniversary of the Manson murders has sensibly been set aside, although such thinking – and indeed, Tarantino's general glibness regarding such matters – leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Nevertheless, this 1969 LA-set tale centring on Leonardo DiCaprio's fading star and his stuntman pal Brad Pitt (with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, DiCaprio's next-door neighbour), promises to be, in the director's words – anything more detailed is off limits – "the closest to Pulp Fiction I've done". That's fine by me, as nothing he's done since has quite equalled that landmark effort. I'm not sure whether we should forgive him the lazy Leone-knock off title (which over the years has accompanied everything from Mexico to China to the Midlands) but with a supporting cast including Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Damien Lewis (as Steve McQueen) and Bruce Dern, there should never be a dull moment. (26 Jul)

4. John Wick: Chapter 3

Ever-ageless Keanu's sleeper franchise hit a high with Chapter Two, a giddily enervating piece of action balleticism that ended on an eerie Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style cliffhanger in which the title character had a bounty bestowed on his head and was being hunted high and low by all and sundry. In theory, this is the finale of the trilogy, although intimations from Reeves and director Chad Staleski are that they could keep on going. The move to a May release date is a sign of confidence, bypassing an increasingly prized February slot, and all the portends are that this isn't going to screw the pooch like the last Reeves franchise capper did sixteen years ago. (17 May)

3. The Dead Don't Die

Half a decade ago it was vampires – the result being easily one of the best films of his career – and now Jim Jarmusch turns his attention to zombies. More precisely, a zomcom with Steve Buscemi, Bill Murray (of course), Adam Driver, and Tilda Swinton. Oh, and Tom Waits, Chloe Sevigny, Caleb Landry Jones and Danny Glover. How could this not be one of the most anticipated films of the year?

2. The Irishman

The Irishman seems to have been on Martin Scorsese's to do list forever (but more likely since not long after Charles Brandt's source book I Heard You Paint Houses was published in 2003), concerning the guy who professed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. The levels of expectation have therefore been enormous, not just for the tantalising reteaming of Scorsese with De Niro for the first time since Casino (honestly, I can't get too excited for aging dirty grandpa De Niro in anything these days, even a de-aged De Niro in a Scorsese) along with enticing Joe Pesci out of retirement and securing Al Pacino as Hoffa. You want Keitel? You got Keitel.

The 106-day shoot was the longest of the director's career and the exorbitant budget (with all that de-aging said to be in the $175m range) meant only Netflix could really finance it and expect to recoup. In terms of audience though, it's probably the surest movie the giant has put its welly behind since… Bright? Or an Adam Sandler flick. Mainly then, this is must-see for Scorsese returning to his best-known genre one last time. 

1. Star Wars Episode IX

What do you do when you've alienated a significant portion of your fan base, even granted that your previous installment was the number one movie of its year? You can argue the ins and outs all over – that it's only a vocal minority espousing these toxic sentiments, that Rian Johnson was as reckless and culpable as JJ Abrams with The Force Awakens in leaving no clear path ahead to a conclusion of the trilogy – but even Disney have to sit up and take notice when box office is impacted.

Whether or not Solo would have bombed if Last Jedi had been a fan-friendly hit is debatable, but the controversy that resulted certainly didn't help. And whatever you think of Force Awakens – too much fan service, not enough using the Force IMO, but still an entertaining package – one has to agree with the sentiment that if anyone can bring the faithful back on side it's JJ (replacing no one's favourite for any franchise, even a moribund dinosaur one, Colin Trevorrow), who must have groaned inwardly on learning Rian Johnson had divested him of all those nuggets he'd previously dropped hoping someone else would work out the details, from Rey's parents to Snoke's "true" identity to Luke sure to end up kicking ass in a physical capacity.

At least some of those are sure to be backtracked upon, and the inclusion of Lando (and daughter) is suggestive of the way this is likely going (also appearing are REG, Keri Russell and Matt Smith). All of which is fine in theory, but I'll mostly be impressed if he can somehow come up with a compelling story where none seemed left waiting to be told (seriously, the trilogy has been a wasteland in that regard). On top of which, there's there need to produce something that equates to a coherent trilogy at the end. Episode IX may or may not manage to pull a rabbit out of a rather trampled hat, but either way, it's going to be fascinating to find out. (US: 20 Dec)

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If you never do anything, you never become anyone.

An Education (2009)
Carey Mulligan deserves all the attention she received for her central performance, and the depiction of the ‘60s is commendably subdued. I worried there was going to be a full-blown music montage sequence at the climax that undid all the good work, but thankfully it was fairly low key. 

Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are especially strong in the supporting roles, and it's fortunate for credibility’s sake that that Orlando Bloom had to drop out and Dominic Cooper replaced him.
***1/2

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.

Can you close off your feelings so you don’t get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?

Spider-Man Worst to Best

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.

Empire 30:  Favourite Films of the Last 30 Years
Empire’s readers’ poll to celebrate its thirtieth birthday – a request for the ultimate thirty films of the last thirty years, one per year from 1989 – required a bit of thought, particularly since they weren’t just limiting it to your annual favourite (“These can be the films that impressed you the most, the ones that stuck with you, that brought you joy, or came to you at just the right time”). Also – since the question was asked on Twitter, although I don’t know how rigorous they’re being; does it apply to general release, or does it include first film festival showings? – they’re talking UK release dates, rather than US, calling for that extra modicum of mulling. To provide more variety, I opted to limit myself to just one film per director; otherwise, my thirty would have been top heavy with, at very least, Coen Brothers movies. So here’s they are, with runners-up and reasoning:

You're always sorry, Charles, and there's always a speech, but nobody cares anymore.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
(SPOILERS) To credit its Rotten Tomatoes score (22%), you’d think X-Men: Dark Phoenix was a travesty that besmirched the name of all good and decent (read: MCU proper) superhero movies, or even last week’s underwhelming creature feature (Godzilla: King of Monsters has somehow reached 40%, despite being a lesser beast in every respect). Is the movie’s fate a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with delayed release dates and extensively reported reshoots? Were critics castigating a fait accompli turkey without giving it a chance? That would be presupposing they’re all sheep, though, and in fairness, other supposed write-offs havecome back from such a brink in the past (World War Z). Whatever the feelings of the majority, Dark Phoenix is actually a mostly okay (twelfth) instalment in the X-franchise – it’s exactly what you’d expect from an X-Men movie at this point, one without any real mojo left and a variable cast struggling to pull its weight. The third act is a bi…

You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances.

A Few Good Men (1992)
(SPOILERS) Aaron Sorkin has penned a few good manuscripts in his time, but A Few Good Men, despite being inspired by an actual incident (one related to him by his sister, an army lawyer on a case at the time), falls squarely into the realm of watchable but formulaic. I’m not sure I’d revisited the entire movie since seeing it at the cinema, but my reaction is largely the same: that it’s about as impressively mounted and star-studded as Hollywood gets, but it’s ultimately a rather empty courtroom drama.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

What, you're going to walk in there like it's the commie Disneyland or something?

Stranger Things 3 (2019)
(SPOILERS) It’s very clear by this point that Stranger Things isn’t going to serve up any surprises. It’s operating according to a strict formula, one requiring the opening of the portal to the Upside Down every season and an attendant demagorgon derivative threat to leak through, only to be stymied at the last moment by our valorous team. It’s an ‘80s sequel cycle through and through, and if you’re happy with it functioning exclusively on that level, complete with a sometimes overpowering (over)dose of nostalgia references, this latest season will likely strike you as just the ticket.