2018’s Big Movie Year

2017 was a rough year for Hollywood. There were a few expected blockbusters and a few surprise hits, but overall the movie-making conglomerate oversaw a downturn in revenue and ticket sales. There were some great movies to be enjoyed, as well as some stinkers, but as we turn the page to 2018, we can look to the new year with a little more confidence. There are some great movies on the way, as well as some guilty pleasure films and a few smaller ones that we have hopes for.

Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the Hollywood calendar this year:

JANUARY

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INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 4 was originally set to release last year but it was delayed to January of 2018. That’s usually a major red flag and a concern that the studio was looking to dump a bad movie in a bad movie month. There’s reason for hope for fans of the long-running horror franchise, however: Last year’s SPLIT also dropped in January but it defied all expectations with a nearly three-hundred million haul off a nine million dollar budget. It’s possible Blumhouse and Universal Pictures (who released SPLIT and are releasing INSIDIOUS) are hoping to achieve the same success in a month that typically offers few big titles.

FEBRUARY

GOD PARTICLE has no trailer. It has no poster. It has no marketing machine promoting it in any way. And yet it is slated for release in one month. Typically that’s a recipe for a movie being delayed but it has held down its February 2nd release date from the beginning and there’s no sign that the movie—which wrapped production last year—has any reason not to release on time. A possible explanation for its unusual nature is the fact that JJ Abrams signed on as a late producer. That hints that maybe the famous “Mystery Box” filmmaker wants to fold the movie into his Cloverfield anthology series. 2016’s 10 Cloverfield LN was another movie that received minimal promotion and suddenly and surprisingly was revealed to be a JJ-Cloverfield franchise film. The official synopsis—which reads like a horror movie in space—seems right up JJ’s wheelhouse. We’ll see (hopefully) in a month.

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BLACK PANTHER is, on the one hand, yet another MCU movie. It’s yet another quasi phase-one origin story akin to Ant-Man or Dr. Strange. On the other hand, it’s the last film before everything goes kaboom in May. It’s the first MCU film to feature an African American lead (and 90% of the cast, too). It features arguably the scene-stealer in Civil War. It looks bold, colorful, exciting and, like all Marvel movies these days, highly polished and finely tuned to keep the MCU machine rolling into Infinity War.

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ANNIHILATION looks to capture that moody, visceral, creepy-but-not-scary vibe of 2016’s Arrival. The highly effective trailer teases the mood and the visuals without spoiling anything. This one probably won’t take the box office by storm, but like Arrival, it’ll probably find a home with sci-fi fans looking for a slower, more contemplative experience than the big blockbusters of the summer.

MARCH

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A WRINKLE IN TIME has the unstoppable marketing might of mickey mouse behind it, but so did Tomorrowland. That movie seemingly had everything going for it as it neared its 2015 release; great cast, solid trailers, reliable writer/director. But in the end it grossly disappointed, not only as a movie but also as a money-maker. Disney has effectively broken its cinematic empire into key divisions (Marvel, Star Wars, animated, pixar animated, live action remakes of animated classics, and live action originals). So far all of their divisions have been huge money-makers except their live-action originals-department. A Wrinkle in Time is technically an adaptation of the 1962 sci-fi novel, but it’s not a property that Disney has attempted before. It boasts an all-star cast, has a great trailer promoting it, and a hot, up and coming director helming it. Whether it turns out to be a hit or another Tomorrowland is to be determined.

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PACIFIC RIM 2 is a sequel that never would have been made a decade ago. The original 2013 movie only brought in 100mm in North America, less than its 190mm budget. And yet, due to a boom in the foreign markets the movie ended up bringing in 400mm, turning into a slight profit (after marketing and other expenses). A sequel was still not guaranteed, but Warner Bros. wisely let the original simmer in the home video market until a big enough demand was present. Now we get the second attempt to turn the monsters vs machines concept into a franchise.

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ISLE OF DOGS will be, like every Wes Anderson movie before it, an acquired taste. But after the idiosyncratic director scored a big hit with Moonrise Kingdom and then followed it up with the even bigger Grand Budapest Hotel, and if he’s not careful he might just slip up and become mainstream. ISLE OF DOGS returns to the stopmotion beauty that made his Fantastic Mr. Fox such a hit with his fans, while mixing in everyone’s (with a soul at least) love for dogs and a healthy amount of Japanese-infused charm.

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READY PLAYER ONE is either the perfect movie for Steven Spielberg or it’s a film he shouldn’t be anywhere near, it remains to be seen. Spielberg, as a producer and director, almost single-handedly defined Hollywood in the 1980’s and 90’s (Indiana Jones, E.T., Poltergeist, Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Jurassic Park), so his tackling a movie whose primary selling-point is its 1980’s and 90’s nostalgia will either be the ultimate feather in his cap as he returns to his own 1980’s-90’s form, or it’ll be an awkward movie by a director too out of practice to recapture that era’s magic. Hopefully it’s the former.

APRIL

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NEW MUTANTS is a horror movie with mutants. It’s one of three FOX-produced films in the X-Men universe coming this year. Disney now owns the property and presumably is already brainstorming ways to fold the characters into their MCU in a way that makes even a little bit of sense. In the meantime 2018 will officially say goodbye to a franchise so completely sucked out of ideas that they’ve resorted to making knock-off horror movies with their properties.

MAY

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY has so many things working against it: When announced, Star Wars fans let out a collective “*sigh* fine, I guess.” The title character—one of the most beloved in the franchise—was recast with an actor who looks nothing like him and who needed an acting coach brought in to assist him. The directors (Lord and Miller) were fired late into production and replaced by Ron Howard. The movie comes only six months after The Last Jedi became the most controversial Star Wars movie since The Phantom Menace. Disney didn’t want to let go of their Memorial Day weekend release date, but this one might have been better served being delayed till Christmas. As is, it’s coming and hopefully we’ll get a trailer soon to relieve some anxiety among the Star Wars faithful.

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR has the potential to be the biggest Marvel movie since the first Avengers. That movie exploded at the box office based on the appeal of seeing so many disparate heroes brought together in a way that had never been done before. After that, all MCU films maintained a strong presence with ticket-buyers, but none have reached the impact of the first Avengers. Infinity War isn’t the first, but it is sort of the last. Of course there will be MCU movies after this one, but this one feels like the end of the story. If there’s a box office rule that rarely is broken it’s that ticket-buyers love a first chapter, will often pass on the middle movie, and will turn out in droves for the finale. The first Avengers reached 600mm at the box office. The second only hit 450mm. Civil War, which was marketed as “Avengers 2.5” hit only(!) 400mm. But this is the end of the Avengers as we know it. This is the fight with Thanos that was first teased in that after-credits scene in 2012. This one might be the biggest of all.

JUNE

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DEADPOOL 2 has two minor things working against it. The release date is in the much-busier June, whereas the first one dominated due to a lighter February schedule around it. Also the movie was shot, edited and essentially finished before the Disney deal with Fox was finalized, which means no chance for any fourth-wall comments by the ultimate troll of the Marvel family. Hopefully Disney keeps Fox as a semi-separate division, able to release movies they might not want associated with mouse ears. I don’t necessarily need Deadpool interacting with Dr. Strange; I just want don’t want Deadpool diminished as a character. Hopefully this sequel can find its footing in the summer and fingers crossed that this is not the character’s premature swan song.

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INCREDIBLES 2 is the “really happening” sequel to the sublime INCREDIBLES. What else do you need to know?

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JURASSIC WORLD 2 looks terrible, doesn’t it? I mean the first one was no cinematic masterpiece, but it had the feel of a return to form for the franchise. It was yet another reboot/sequel that Hollywood loves to do, which means they can rely on or ignore whatever elements from past movies they want to while basically retelling the first movie. The screenplay was embarrassing and the acting was wooden, but the moments were awesome in the moment. It was a great popcorn movie without any of the rewatchability of the original. The sequel…well look: if the trailer can’t even make your movie look good you have a problem. The whole point of trailers is to selectively-edit a movie to look as must-watch as possible. Jurassic World 2’s trailer has been playing in theaters for a little while now and each time it’s received giggles and grumbles from audiences that I’ve seen it with. It’ll probably make bank, though, but it probably won’t be fondly remembered.

JULY

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP will be the first MCU movie after Infinity War. MCU godfather Kevin Feige has said that the Avengers movie will change the universe as we know it, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they tell a story featuring the funny-man hero Ant-Man. Will they just casually mention what happened a couple months prior? Will there be big post-Infinity War implications that Ant-Man has to deal with? Few details of the movie are known but actors are saying the fallout of Infinity War will play a role. For a sequel whose first installment was a phase one movie that was delayed (and delayed) until it ended up being the final film of phase two, it’s sort of fitting that this will be the movie that kicks off the all-new Phase Four.

AUGUST

PREDATOR is getting another sequel, this one being handled by someone involved in the original movie. Writer/director Shane Black had a supporting role in the 1987 film as well as served as ghost writer who touched up the screenplay. He made a name for himself as the writer of Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight. He directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which has a cult following but never did anything at the box office, and he made Iron Man 3, which many fans hated but which hauled in 400mm at the box office. Black is touting a movie unlike the original, promising an urban setting and a story centered around a father and son. The best I can say about it is “we’ll see.”

SEPTEMBER

GOOSEBUMPS 2 is the follow-up to the surprise hit of 2015. Few people looked at the promotional material for the original Jack Black-led Goosebumps movie and thought it would be anything but bland. Instead it was charming, funny, thrilling and scary (for a kids movie) and did a great job replicating the particular charm of the books. The sequel looks to focus on the show-stealing villain of the first movie, the killer puppet Slappy The Dummy. Two scripts were written, one with Jack Black’s R. L. Stein character featured, and one without and it looks like the one with Black was used. Whether the movie recaptures the charm of the first remains to be seen.

OCTOBER

(Venom as he appeared in Sony’s maligned Spider-Man 3)

VENOM is technically a Spider-Man movie, produced by Sony, though it has no involvement by Kevin Feige’s MCU team and will not feature Spider-Man at all. Tom Hardy leads the film, playing Eddie Brock and doing motion-capture for the Venom symbiote. How this movie will work without Spider-Man to bounce off of will be the question. There’s also a question of whether hardcore fans will be interested in the movie, knowing it’s wholly a Sony production whose success will determine if Sony goes forward with their ambitious (and moronic) Spider-Man movie universe (without Spider-Man).

MOWGLI is the Warner Bros. adaption of The Jungle Book. It was conceived and developed essentially alongside Disney’s own version, which grossed almost a billion dollars in 2016. Disney’s movie came out in April and WB’s version was original slated for October of the same year. Instead the movie was delayed to avoid the appearance of being “the other movie.” It was first pushed to October of 2017 and then again bumped to its current spot in 2018.  Though both are based on the same Kipling source material, the Disney version was more of a remake of their animated classic (featuring songs and even some recreated shots); WB’s version will not have that nostalgic flair and will likely not dominate the box office as a result. Motion capture maestro Andy Serkis is directing the movie (as well as mo-capping Baloo) and has remained enthusiastic and optimistic about the project, despite so many set-backs. Hopefully it lives up to his expectations.

NOVEMBER

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX is, presumably, the final movie based on the X-Men characters that Kevin Feige will have no say in. It’s a retelling of the classic Dark Phoenix saga, which was previously (loosely) adapted in Brett Ratner’s turd of a movie, X3. The film is set in the 1990’s, continuing the theme of moving these movies ahead a decade at a time (First Class was set in 1963, Days of Future Past in 1973, Apocalypse in 1983) while keeping the actors all looking like 20 or 30-somethings. Since the movie was written and shot long before the Disney acquisition, it’s not likely the Phoenix will just blow up the whole X-Men universe; it’ll be up to Feige to figure out some way to bring them into the fold. In the meantime Dark Phoenix will try to send the inconsistent franchise out on a high note.

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD continues the new JK Rowling penned Harry Potter film franchise. Unlike the original HP movies, whose plots were known by all who read the books, the Fantastic Beasts movies feature JKR’s patented plot twists and surprises that are all-new. The first film was a great start to what promises to be another sprawling multi-part story. Controversy about Johnny Depp aside, the follow-up looks to continue the magic.

WRECK IT RALPH was a great surprise hit back in 2012 but with so many other animated movies in the pipeline Disney seemed to have forgotten about it. Finally it’s getting a sequel which will bring the 1980’s arcade-Ralph into the internet age. If it’s anything like the original, it’ll feature a plethora of cameos from video game’s past and present, a tight screenplay with plenty of great one-liners, a great balance of laughs and heart, and a big box office intake.

DECEMBER

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SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is a Sony produced Spider-Man movie, not connected to the Spider-Man movies that the MCU is handling, and not connected to the Spider-Man-free universe that Venom is kicking off, which is also produced by Sony.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s a third Spider-Man franchise, centered around Miles Moralas, who takes over the Spider-Man mantle after Peter Parker…dies? Retires? I dunno. If there’s a glimmer of hope for it, it’s the fact that Lord and Miller and handling the screenplay. The duo may not have been the right fit for Star Wars, but based on the LEGO movie, these guys know light-hearted animated adventures. If it’s a big enough success and if Venom is a bomb, Sony might shift their focus to doing animated Spiderverse movies. Fingers crossed.

AQUAMAN has the unfortunate burden placed on of having to have to carry the DCEU in the wake of Justice League’s tremendous box office disappointment. WB certainly didn’t think they’d be in this boat: They thought Justice League would build off the great success of Wonder Woman and officially stabilize their tumultuous cinematic universe. Instead Justice League’s domestic totals won’t even make it’s 250mm budget back, and though the movie wasn’t terrible, it was mediocre enough to completely stall the post-Wonder Woman momentum. Now Aquaman stands as the only DCEU film of the year, starring a character that is pretty universally laughed at, who failed to be the “cool show-stealer” that Zack Snyder wanted him to be in Justice League. The only hope there is to hold onto is the fact that James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Conjuring, Furious 7) is bringing his unique eye to the project. Maybe he’ll pull a rabbit out of his hat and give WB another Wonder Woman to end the year.

*****

2017 may not have broken any box office records, but it brought more than a few great movies. Hopefully 2018 follows the trend, bringing us big blockbuster hits and surprise successes.

Here’s to the movies!

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