From a doc about M.I.A. to Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins's follow-up to Moonlight, here are the movies on our radar this year
Some of these are scheduled for festivals some have already released trailers and some aren’t even finished yet. Whatever the case, here, in order of release date (subject to change, of course), are a bunch of films that are getting us excited. Note: we haven’t seen any of them yet, so don’t blame us if they eventually disappoint.
Despite M.I.A.’s pronouncement that the long-in-the-works documentary about her life and music “might take another 10 years” to see the light of day, the film is set to premiere (in competition) at the Sundance Film Festival. Much of its footage was self-shot by the Sri Lankan musician (who often directs her own music videos), though she apparently became estranged from the project and director, who leaked footage and threatened to walk five years ago amid a mysterious dispute with Interscope Records. Recent docs about popular female musicians like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston have focused more on personal drama than art, music or politics, so an intimate account of one of the world’s most polarizing pop stars is an extra exciting prospect. KR
Helena Howard stars in Madeline’s Madeline. (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)
A member of the Joe Swanberg universe, Josephine Decker has become one of the most singular voices in American indie filmmaking in recent years thanks to features Butter On The Latch and Thou Wast Mild And Lovely. Her style often blends documentary and fiction, art and illness, horror and drama in uncomfortably intimate ways. Last seen on the big screen at Hot Docs 2017 in the personal doc Flames, her next film puts boundary blurring squarely in the story. Molly Parker stars as an experimental theatre director who writes a troubled teenage star’s (Helena Howard) personal life into a play, upsetting the girl’s mother (Miranda July). KR
Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was such a bespoke delight that I’ve been hoping he’d make another stop-motion film someday – and nine years later, he’s done it. This year’s Berlin Film Festival opener is about five canine friends (voiced by Bryan Cranston and Anderson repertory players Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban) who help a young boy (Koyu Rankin) look for his missing pet on the eponymous island. I assume it’ll be beautiful and funny and weirdly melancholy, like everything else Anderson does. NW
When news broke last year that Steven Spielberg was directing this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi thriller about a bunch of people who escape into a virtual reality world, I did a little “woot!” inside. His technical and storytelling talents are perfectly suited for this kind of story. And it helps that James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of the online world, was obsessed with the 80s – the era of some of Spielberg’s biggest commercial hits. (In fact the director is referenced a few times in the book.) Tye Sheridan is spot-on as the underdog protagonist, but don’t consult the IMDb for other casting. Because the story’s about people hiding their identities with avatars, part of its surprise comes in finding out who’s really who. GS
Based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling potboiler about rich Chinese and Singaporeans in the U.S., this romantic comedy is set to make history as the first film with an all-Asian cast to be backed by a Hollywood studio since The Joy Luck Club. The cast, headed by Fresh Off The Boat’s Constance Wu and Hong Kong action legend Michelle Yeoh, couldn’t be better, and it doesn’t hurt that Jon M. Chu, of the Step Up films, is at the helm. Perhaps images of Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson playing Asian characters will just be a distant memory. GS
Over the last few years, the actor Joel Edgerton – most recently seen as Will Smith’s orc sidekick in Bright, about which we shall speak no further – has been forging an intriguing career behind the camera as a writer and producer. He made his directorial debut with the creepy 2015 thriller The Gift, and now he tackles the grim subject of gay conversion therapy with an adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir. The white-hot Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Manchester By The Sea) plays Conley, with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as his parents – and Edgerton himself as the religious fundamentalist determined to “cure” him. Keep an eye out for it at TIFF. NW
The fact that Terry Gilliam completed principal photography on his adaptation of Cervantes’s classic in 2017 is no guarantee of its eventual release – he’s been trying to make this movie since the 90s, after all, including an aborted 2000 shoot with Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort in the roles now played by Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce. Whenever it finally arrives, I’ll be the first one in line – and until then, I’m keeping an eye on Gilliam’s Twitter feed in case he launches a Kickstarter campaign for post-production funding. NW
If Beale Street Could Talk adapts James Baldwin’s (right) novel, and is directed by Barry Jenkins, who helmed the Oscar-winning Moonlight.
Two recent transcendent films capturing the black experience were Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight and the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Now Jenkins is following up his big Oscar win by adapting Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk. The powder-keg story follows a pregnant woman (Chi-Raq’s Teyonah Parris) reacting to a rape accusation against her lover (Canada’s Stephan James). RS
The premise of Spike Lee’s first feature film since 2015’s excellent Chi-Raq falls into the so-outrageous-it-has-to-be-true category. Produced by Get Out director Jordan Peele, the movie recounts the story of African-American police detective Ron Stallworth, who in 1978 infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and was able to sabotage the hate group’s various activities after becoming the head of a local chapter in Colorado Springs. John David Washington (son of Denzel) stars as Stallworth and Adam Driver and Topher Grace co-star. KR
Robert Pattinson enjoyed a terrific year in 2017, both with his exquisite supporting performance in James Gray’s The Lost City Of Z and a gritty and tense leading role in the Safdie brothers’ Good Time. IMDb has him listed in four new productions for 2018. Among them is the latest from Beau Travail director Claire Denis. For her English-language debut, Denis tackles sci-fi in a plot about prisoners who negotiate reduced jail time by embarking on dangerous missions to the black hole. Pattinson joins Juliette Binoche and Mia Goth, the young actor who made a haunting impression in Gore Verbinski’s beautifully disastrous A Cure For Wellness. RS
Martin Scorsese brings back the Goodfellas in The Irishman, a mob movie about hit man Frank Sheeran starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. But you probably won’t catch this wise guy reunion on the big screen. After struggling to make the budget for the brilliant but scarcely seen Silence, Scorsese, a noted film preservationist, relented to streaming. The Irishman is a $100 million production brought to you by Netflix, clearly the only studio still willing to commit to the Martin Scorsese business. RS