Paul Whitington's guide to the movies - and stars - to watch out for in 2019
Next year, like most years, kicks off with a bang as the Oscar hopefuls crowd into the multiplexes to vie for our attention. There are some fine films in amongst all the usual awards hype, and January and February are definitely good months for cinema-goers.
The superhero craze shows no sign of slowing, sadly, and a clutch of noisy adventures will be heading your way in the early summer, including an Avengers finale. Lots of family franchise sequels and rehashes are on the way, too, including a 'Dumbo' remake, while for grown-ups Quentin Tarantino has an intriguing new film on the way, and so does Martin Scorsese.
Set in the court of early 18th-century monarch Queen Anne, Yorgos Lanthimos's gleefully satirical period drama stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as two scheming ladies-in-waiting who vie for the unlucky monarch's attention. Both are superb, but Olivia Colman is even better as the miserable and quite possibly demented Anne. A real treat.
Stan & Ollie
Laurel and Hardy's films are rarely shown on television these days, and the duo seem in danger of being forgotten, but their comic brilliance is winningly recreated by stars Steve Coogan and John C Reilly in this touching and hilarious biopic. Jon S Baird's film finds the pair in the twilight of their careers, when they're out of contract and forced to embark on a decidedly unglamorous British concert tour.
Adam McKay got lots of praise for his 2015 financial epic The Big Short, and in this satirical drama, he turns his attention to the court of George W Bush. Or should that be the court of Vice President Dick Cheney, whose hawkish agenda would dominate Bush's two terms. Christian Bale gained almost three stone and donned a bald wig to play Cheney, and seems certain to get an Oscar nod.
The Green Book
Lots of Oscar talk, too, about this winning if slightly saccharin production based on a remarkable true story. Viggo Mortensen is Frank Vallelonga, an Italian-American nightclub bouncer and hard-nut who must confront his own racism when he's hired to drive the black pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) through the Deep South in the early 1960s. Great fun.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins deserved all the praise he got for his sublime 2016 drama Moonlight, and this drama based on a novel by James Baldwin is just as good, possibly even better. It's set in 1970s New York and stars Kiki Layne as a young African-American woman who tries to clear her boyfriend's name when he's wrongfully jailed for a rape he could not possibly have committed.
Is the air slowly hissing out of the superhero craze? If so, maybe Nicole Kidman can revive it. In this 21st Marvel Universe movie, she plays Carol Danvers, a US Air Force pilot who develops superpowers after being infected with alien DNA during an accident. Jude Law is her mentor, and rent-a-villain Ben Mendelsohn is the baddie. Could be a laugh.
Jordan Peele deserved all the praise that was heaped on his witty and brilliant 2016 debut feature Get Out. Not too much is known about this eagerly anticipated sequel, other than the fact that is stars Lupita Nyong'o and Elisabeth Moss, and is set during a holiday weekend that goes horribly wrong. Looking forward to seeing this one.
Purists might be aghast about the idea of anyone remaking the classic 1941 animation about a baby elephant with very big ears, but you have to hope Disney know what they're doing here. Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito and Eva Green head the cast of this live-action version set in a travelling circus that's enlivened by the arrival of a flying pachyderm.
Whether or not this, as the title promises, turns out to be the last Avengers movie, instalment four seems certain to break the $1bn mark at the box office. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Benedict Cumberbatch reprise their roles, as the superheroes face some dastardly new intergalactic enemy.
Will this Elton John biopic be able to replicate the box-office success of Bohemian Rhapsody? That remains to be seen, but this Dexter Fletcher biopic stars Taron Egerton as a young Elton, and follows him through his years at the Royal Academy of Music to his fateful meeting with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.
Toy Story 4
Making sequels to one of the best-loved family franchises must be hard on the nerves, but as Pixar veterans Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and John Lasseter were involved in conceiving this story, there's good reason to hope it will be up to scratch. After a toy stork called Forky is introduced to the household, Woody and Buzz embark on another ill-advised road trip.
The Lion King
Not everyone is happy about this remake of the 1994 musical animation many feel could not be improved on. But perhaps Jon Favreau's film will take a new approach to the story of Simba, the lion cub who becomes a wandering outcast after his father is killed by his uncle. I must say, the realistic CGI does look interesting.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino has assembled a formidable cast for this intriguing drama set in Hollywood in 1969, on the eve of the Manson family murders. Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a washed-up TV actor who lives next-door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), while Brad Pitt plays Rick's long-time stuntman. Damian Lewis, Al Pacino and Lena Dunham co-star.
This big-budget sequel to the hugely successful 2017 horror film based on a Stephen King novel is set 27 years after the horrific events of 1989. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader play grown-up members of the 'Losers Club' who return to their home town of Derry, Maine, when it becomes clear that Pennywise the Clown has returned.
Will this revival of the popular period TV drama work? Who knows, but we are informed that the movie will take up the story a few years after the last series ended, as the Crawley family try to navigate the slow disintegration of the old social order. Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Co will all reprise their roles.
At the planning stage for at least a decade, Martin Scorsese's first collaboration with Netflix, and umpteenth with Robert De Niro, tells the story of Frank Sheeran, an Irish-American war veteran who became a trusted hitman for the Gambino crime family. Toward the end of his life, Sheeran (De Niro) claimed to have been the person who killed union boss Jimmy Hoffa, who's played by Al Pacino.
Everyone from Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson to Jared Leto and the late Heath Ledger have taken on the role of Batman's most unhinged foe, but in this new film from Todd Phillips, the Joker gets his own movie. Joaquin Phoenix will portray Arthur Fleck, a stand-up comedian in 1980s Gotham who turns bitterly to a life of crime. Robert De Niro co-stars.
Amazon Studios has backed some pretty decent movies over the last couple of years, and I like the sound of this period adventure. Eddie Redmayne plays James Glaisher, the scientist and balloonist who in 1852 broke the world record for the highest flight. Felicity Jones plays his pilot on a mission that places them both in real danger.
Here's a sequel with a lot to live up to. Disney's 2013 animation grossed almost $130bn and wormed its way in the affections of small girls the world over. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel will reprise their voice roles as warring royal sisters Anna and Elsa, and Josh Gad returns as the irrepressible snowman, Olaf. But the big question is, will the songs be as catchy?
Star Wars IX
The prevailing view seems to be that Disney's Star Wars revival has gone off the boil a bit after too many indifferent spin-offs. This movie, though, will play to the franchise's strengths: JJ Abrams returns as director, as young Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) resumes her battle with the odious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), while a ghostly Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) watches from the sidelines. A Christmas treat? Let's hope so.
Ones to watch
Everyone who saw it is excited by Doupe's remarkable performance in Carmel Winters' new film, Float Like a Butterfly, in which she plays a teenage Traveller girl who's inspired by her hero Muhammad Ali to fight for her right to compete in the boxing ring. A real talent.
The Irish writer/director has made some original short horrors, and his debut feature looks very promising. Also a horror film, Hole in the Ground stars the reliably excellent Seána Kerslake as Sarah, a woman trying to build a new life on the edge of a rural town when she notices odd changes in her son's behaviour.
The French-American actor was Oscar nominated for Call Me By Your Name last year, and might even win one this time for his brilliant portrayal of a drug addict in Beautiful Boy, He'll also star in David Michôd's Shakespearean adaptation The King, and in Greta Gerwig's Little Women. His star is on the rise.
She impressed TV viewers in the recent BBC thriller The Little Drummer Girl, and next year promises to be a busy one for Pugh. She'll appear alongside Chalamet in Little Women, will co-star with Jack Reynor in the horror film Midsommar, and will also turn up in Stephen Merchant's comedy Fighting with my Family.
She only graduated from drama school last year, but Pedretti has been getting rave reviews for her role in Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House. She'll get even more attention in 2019 when she plays Manson Family member Lulu Van Houten in Quentin Tarantino's period drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.