A Big Year for Notable Directors.
Outside of the superhero/Star Wars hype cycle the most notable films tend to be the next projects by established directors. 2019 is poised to be quite the full plate as many high profile talents release their latest feature.
Ad Astra (TBD)
Revered classicist James Gray goes from the jungles of The Lost City of Z to the furthest reaches of space with his new sci-fi adventure. Little is truly known about the film, which stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, but it seems to involve looking for alien life among the stars. There has also been scuttlebutt that this particular picture has been pushed down the schedule multiple times. It’s impossible to say why, but with Gray at the helm expect an artier space opera.
Dutch madman Paul Verhoeven goes full religious picture for the first time with this story or a 15th century nun accused of homosexuality and falsified miracles. Listen, I have no idea how this will turn out, but I can guarantee that it will be engagingly tasteless and utterly amoral. Hopefully it will be a good watch as well.
The Beach Bum (March 22)
Indie weirdo Harmony Korine’s first feature since his breakout Spring Breakers finds hime working in a similar mold. This time Matthew McConaughey stars as a druggy layabout who goes on wacky adventures with the rest of the oddball cast: Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jimmy Buffet, and Martin Lawrence. It’s hard to tell if this can recapture the ethereal (but nonsensical) beauty of his past work, or if it well just be a bunch of gorgeous babble.
The Dead Don’t Die (TBD)
Jim Jarmusch does with zombies what his previous film Only Lovers Left Alive did for vampires. The usual suspects are here, Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Tilda Swinton; so expect these shambling flesh eaters to offer laconic insight about human life while listening to some cool indie music.
First Cow (TBD)
The only feature directed by a woman on this list (Hollywood is still a sexist hell hole) has Kelly Reichardt return to the old west for this globe spanning narrative. There are no concrete details on cast, but the plot follows a woman and a refugee making it through 1830’s America and China.
Gemini Man (October 4)
Scorsese isn’t the only one going all in on the de-aging tech. Here director Ang Lee applies the process to Will Smith as he fights a younger, cloned version of himself. The premise sounds trite, and Smith has been on a bit of a bumpy run this decade, but Lee knows his way around fancy new effects and elegant action. Hopefully this will be more Crouching Tiger and less Billy Lynn.
High Flying Bird & The Laundromat (TBD)
Because he’s Steven Soderbergh, and because he’s probably busy re-editing Lawrence of Arabia or something, we’re seeing only two feature releases from the prolific director/cinematographer/editor. The first stars Andre Holland as a basketball player during an NBA lockout, and the second has Meryl Streep uncovering the Panama Papers. Anyway I’m always down for what Soderbergh has up his sleeve, because I have no idea what it’ll look. Will HFB be shot entirely through a basketball? Will the Laundromat feature cameras only mounted on slowly turning fans? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (TBD)
The king of neurotic mind trips Charlie Kaufman returns with this new existential thriller from Netflix. It stars Brie Larson as a woman who is thinking of ending things with her boyfriend Jesse Plemmons, but during a snowy drive the couple is diverted and uncertain horrors await. I’ve read the book this movie’s based on, and if Kaufman can pull this story off we’ll be in for one of the most brain crippling and terrifying movies of the year.
The Irishman (TBD)
Netflix’s next big bid at prestige success comes in the form of Martin Scorsese’s newest mafia mash. Marty is reuniting with long time collaborator Robert De Niro and pairing him with Heat companion Al Pacino. Mum’s the word on when and how this film will be distributed, but some interesting details have percolated up through the news. One is that this is the most expensive film Netflix has produced. The second is the source of that cost is an pricy de-aging technology being used to make De Niro and Pacino appear as they did in the 70s. I have no idea if this effects gambit will pay off, but it’s Scorsese so it immediately goes to the top of the must see list.
Jojo Rabbit (TBD)
Cashing in his check from Thor Ragnarok, Kiwi director Taika Waititi has set out to make one the craziest sounding comedies of the year. Jojo follows the life of a young German boy during WWII as he goes about his day trying to impress his imaginary friend: Adolph Hitler. The biggest twist here is that the Führer himself is played by Waititi, giving the greatest villain in recent history a Jewish-pacific-islander makeover. A daring move, to say the least, and hopefully Waititi will be able to take the piss out of Nazis while also grappling with how their horrific actions are still being felt today.
Knives Out (November 29)
Not the Radiohead song, but a return to the directing roots of Rian Johnson, who takes another stab at the detective genre with his newest feature. Described as an update of Agatha Christie and starring a truly stacked cast (Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette) this looks to be just the right kind of palette cleanser for Johnson before he heads back to the Star Wars universe.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26)
Just a few years ago the idea of a new Tarantino flick would immediately skyrocket the project to the peak of my interest and excitement, but the past three years have muddied the waters on this foul mouther auteur. First has been the fluctuating quality of his recent output. Since Kill Bill QT has been making projects to variable levels of success. Each more bloated and bombastic than the last. Next is his uncomfortable relationship with Harvey Weinstein, the literal Hollywood monster who sparked the MeToo movement. It seems impossible for Tarantino to have been in the dark about the actions of his biggest producing partner. Add on top of this his reckless treatment of actors on set, fetishistic fixation on women suffering, a penchant for really wanting to say the n-word, and you have the ingredients for a toxic viewing experience.
But I can’t deny that the premise, cast, and talent involved with the newest project has me intrigued. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as a washed up television actor and stunt man trying to make their way through 1969 Hollywood. This means traversing, hippies, Vietnam, and the Manson Murders. The mind boggling cast also includes Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, and many more. This promises to either be a fascinating exploration of period LA, or a self-indulgent mess. Only time will tell when it’s released this summer.
Korean master Bong Joon-ho makes a return to a smaller story after the off kilter blockbusters of Snowpiercer and Okja. The plot simply reads, “a man gets infected with a parasite that changes his paradigm in unforeseen ways.” If anything, Bong is the master of the unforeseen, so expect the unexpected when going into this one.
Uncut Gems (November 16)
Every couple of years a director tries to find a new angle on Adam Sandler. This time it’s the modern kings of New York grime the Safdie Brothers. Sandler plays a jeweler who has to recoup losses after his merchandise is stolen. Based on the last film from this directing duo, Good Time, this seems primed to be a full bore panic attack, and a good use for Sandler’s impotent rage.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (TBD)
Richard Linklater tackles the best selling novel of the same name. I’m familiar with the book by its cover only, but from people I’ve talked to it seems to be a funny and heartwarming story that might be tricky to pull off on camera. Luckily Linklater has brought in Cate Blanchett to help, making this seem like another good character study from the master of low-key charmers.
There Are Way Too Many Movies.
I meant to make space down here to talk about some more obscure items, but this list is already pushing 1500 words, so let me know if you want another entry for later today or Friday. I just love talking about this with you guys.