Win some, lose some.
Have to wait to see some.
A little more than a year ago, I shared my list of the 2018 movies I was most keenly anticipating. (The super-secret and highly complex formula for choosing “most anticipated” titles has evolved over the years, but the basic playbook remains the same: I sift through hundreds of upcoming releases, and when I think “I’m really looking forward THAT one!” — I add it to the list.)
Last year’s selections included “Black Panther,” “Game Night,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Boy Erased” and “First Man” — all of which lived up to their potential.
Also: “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Oceans Eight” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Many of you enjoyed those films. I did not.
The jury’s still out on “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” and “Alita: Battle Angel,” the debuts of which were pushed back to 2019. (I don’t have them on this year’s lists because it would seem redundant, but I’m still looking forward to those two.)
In chronological order of arrival (with dates subject to change), here’s this year’s roster. On paper, as we used to say back in the day, it looks like a loaded lineup.
‘Glass’ (Jan. 18)
M. Night Shyamalan always wanted to do a sequel to his elegiac comic-book classic “Unbreakable” (2000,) but due to the mild theatrical box office of the original, among other factors, the odds against a next chapter increased every year.
But then Shyamalan’s bloody brilliant “Split” (2017) opened the door to a return to a Philadelphia universe inhabited not only by James McAvoy’s on-the-loose killing monster, but Bruce Willis’ melancholy superhero of sorts, and Samuel J. Jackson’s demented and evil Mr. Glass.
I recently revisited “Unbreakable” and “Split,” which only served to get me more psyched about “Glass.”
‘Captain Marvel’ (March 8)
How far and how high the superhero movie has flown since even the mid-2000s! The wonderful Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers, the Air Force pilot who becomes one of the most formidable heroes in the galaxy.
Set in 1995, “Captain Marvel” will reportedly explain why the title character has been MIA during all those recent Marvel Universe adventures.
‘Us’ (March 15)
I’m not a big trailer guy, as trailers often give away too much of the plot and/or create false expectations. In fact I try to avoid trailers (a task made easier because with rare exceptions, advance press screenings are not prefaced by endless Coming Attractions).
But I’ll admit I couldn’t resist the temptation to click on the link for the trailer of Jordan Peele’s follow-up film to the sublimely terrifying “Get Out,” and while the tease for “Us” indeed DOES give away more we need to know, it looks like we could be in for one wild and creepy and chilling ride.
‘Avengers: Endgame’ (April 26)
As you might recall (ahem), “Avengers: Infinity War” ended on a series of shocking and seemingly tragic notes, setting up this reportedly three-hour-plus battle to end all battles between the Superhero Dream Team and the seemingly indestructible Thanos.
However it all plays out, expect this movie to delight tens of millions, infuriate and frustrate others — and pull in close to $2.5 billion at the worldwide box office.
‘John Wick: Chapter Three’ (May 17)
The first “John Wick” wasn’t even on my radar when I put together my “most anticipated” list for 2014 — but thanks to the deadpan greatness of Keanu Reeves as the title assassin; a cool style influenced by everything from Tarantino films to anime to the great martial arts films of the 1970s, and a wickedly dark sense of humor about itself, the first film and the 2017 sequel turned out to be instant minor classics.
Now comes Chapter Three, and if it’s as strong as the first two, we’re going to have a serious discussion about John Wick joining Ethan Hunt and a few others on the short list of best action movie antiheroes of the early 21st century.
‘Ad Astra’ (May 24)
James Gray (“The Lost City of Z”) directs a sci-fi thriller starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland and, with that cast, watching a filmed table read of the script sounds enticing.
‘Flarsky’ (June 7)
With all the excitement about soaring superheroes and mind-bending sci-fi and gun-for-hire noir, who’s ready for some comic relief? And a movie named “Flarsky” almost HAS to contain comedic elements, right?
The talented Jonathan Levine (“50/50,” “Warm Bodies”) directs Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, Alexander Skarsgard and Andy Serkis in the story of an out-of-work journalist (Rogen) who still has a thing for his former babysitter (Theron), now a major political figure.
‘Toy Story 4’ (June 21)
Any time I’m asked to name a three-quel that was at least as good as the first two chapters of a franchise, “Toy Story 3” comes to mind. I’m a little worried “Toy Story 4” won’t quite live up to the greatness of its predecessors — but come on people, it’s A NEW FEATURE-LENGTH ‘TOY STORY’ MOVIE!!
‘Ford vs. Ferrari’ (June 28)
The respective stories of the Ford Motor Co. and Enzo Ferrari’s Italian motor racing dynasty have been told in many a documentary and TV special and book — but the 1960s battle between Ford and Ferrari for LeMans supremacy seems ripe for a super-charged dramatization. Matt Damon stars as the great Carol Shelby, Jon Bernthal is Lee Iacocca, Remo Girone is Enzo Ferrari and I can already picture Tracy Letts absolutely killing it as Henry Ford II.
‘The Lion King’ (July 19)
There’s something admirably crazy — or maybe just crazy — about undertaking a live-action re-imagination of one of most beloved animated adventures of all time. But I’m not betting against director Jon Favreau and a cast including Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner — and all those magnificent creatures.
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (July 26)
For some 25 years, from “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” through “Kill Bill” and “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight,” the movies of Quentin Tarantino have been Event Films for me, i.e., I look forward to his every movie with the same level of excitement I have for each release from Spielberg and Scorsese and a handful of others.
I’ve never been disappointed.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden and Al Pacino in a 1969-period piece drama combining fictional creations (DiCaprio plays a former star of a Western TV series and Pitt is his longtime stunt double and best friend) and characters based on real-life individuals (Robbie plays the actress Sharon Tate, who was married to Roman Polanski and pregnant when she was murdered by members of Manson’s cult, while Emile Hirsch plays another victim: Jay Sebring, the hairstylist and friend of Tate’s).
This could be the best film of the summer. Maybe even the year.
‘IT: Chapter Two’ (Sept. 6)
The 2017 theatrical adaptation of the first half of Stephen King’s novel was pure pop fright — a beautifully constructed, horrifying fantastic journey into sheer terror.
Now comes the sequel, set some 27 years after the events of the original, with the amazing Bill Skarsgard back as the evil clown Pennywise, and Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa and Bill Hader, et al., playing the adult versions of the children who made up “The Losers Club” in the original.
This could be scary good.
‘The Kitchen’ (Sept. 20)
Too cool: in this period piece set in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in the 1970s, Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish star as the wives of Irish mobsters who take over the business when the FBI arrests their respective husbands.
This sounds a little like an Irish-American take on “Widows,” but writer-director Andrea Berloff’s crime drama/comedy is actually based on the engrossing and strikingly illustrated comic books created by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle.
‘Downton Abbey’ (Sept. 20)
Some iconic TV series are best left to our memories (and to repeat binge viewings), but how can we not feel optimistic about a feature-length sequel to Julian Fellowes’ perfectly constructed series about all those unforgettable upstairs/downstairs inhabitants of that sprawling Yorkshire country estate?
Returning cast stalwarts include Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery and yes, Maggie Smith.
‘Gemini Man’ (Oct. 4)
The invaluable and versatile Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Life of Pi”) directs Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clive Owen in the story of a veteran hitman named Henry (Smith) facing his most formidable opponent yet: a clone of his younger self.
Maybe Henry should enlist the help of Marty McFly. Or Joe from “Looper.”
‘Joker’ (Oct. 4)
Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, Mark Hamill, Cameron Monaghan, Cesar Romero — we’ve already seen and heard so many Jokers through the years, one can be excused for feeling Joker’d out by now.
Except this origins story stars Joaquin Phoenix, and no matter how many great actors have slipped into a character, we know Joaquin is gonna serve up something the likes of which we’ve not seen before.
‘The Goldfinch’ (Oct. 11)
This one feels like a multiple Oscar contender.
Nicole Kidman, Finn Wolfhard, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson and Ansel Elgort star in the adaptation of Donna Tartt’s brilliant and searing novel about a young man who survives a terrorist bombing at an art museum that claims the life of his mother and descends into a life of crime.
Directed by John Crowley (“Brooklyn”).
‘Frozen 2’ (Nov. 27)
Kirsten Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel star in the sequel, which no doubt will be lovely and colorful and funny and sweet and tenderhearted and filled with memorable songs.
None of which will ever erase “Let It Go” from playing forever in the minds of millions of parents and guardians who have heard it over and over and over and OVER during the last half-decade.
‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ (Dec. 20)
J.J. Abrams is back behind the wheel for the final chapter in the sequel trilogy, with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o returning.
The great thing about these “Star Wars” movies is nobody ever gets upset about the casting or the storyline or the costumes or the most inconsequential minutiae, right?