After 52 weeks of 2018 releases (look for my top ten list to be posted tomorrow) we must now concentrate on 2019. I narrowed down the list of must-see American films to 25 this year. You won't find "Avengers: Endgame" or "The Lion King" anywhere on this list because, well, every other 2019 article has them on there and isn't it more fun to include two other less-known titles in place of what will surely be the top two money-makers of the year. Also disqualified are foreign language films, because those will be included next week in my annual top 20 anticipated foreign-language film of 2019. Look for upcoming movies from Paul Verehoeven, Bong Joon-Ho, Pedro Almodóvar, Pablo Larrain, and Mia Hansen-Love to be included.
The past year was another great one for movies and 2019 could be even better. The first two entries are interchangeable, and possibly the two most anticipated films of the entire decade.
1. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman
A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa. (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jesse Plemons). "The Irishman" is the most anticipated film of the decade for many cinephiles who have been craving another Scorsese/De Niro partnership. The cinematic director/actor duo have not made a film together since 1995's "Casino." Their past collaborations include "Goodfellas," "Raging Bull," "The King of Comedy," "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," and "Cape Fear." De Niro has admitted that the $140 million budget for "The Irishman" was a major obstacle for most major studios until Netflix stepped in, “We were fortunate enough to get it from Netflix, who have been very good to us, so hopefully there will be some compromise" on the theatrical release issue. Once the film was taken by Netflix, De Niro said the streaming giant left creative control to Scorsese, “[they] left us alone and left Marty alone to do it the way it should be done.”
2. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
A faded TV actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry during the Helter Skelter reign of terror in 1969 Los Angeles. (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie). The question remains as to exactly what kind of film Quentin Tarantino is making with the upcoming "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood." The film will either be a) an absurdist revisionist genre film like 'Inglourious' and 'Django' or it'll be b) A film grounded in the dark, realist violence of "Reservoir Dogs," "Jackie" and "Pulp Fiction." Something tells me it's the latter. QT has even mentioned that '‘Once Upon A Time’ is “probably the closest to ‘Pulp Fiction’ that I have done.” Ever since 1997's "Jackie Brown," Tarantino has purposely made sure not to replicate the stylistic and narrative aspects of his first three films, not to mention the more serious tone, and go for a more fantasy-inspired route. "Kill Bill" was inspired by cartoon-like Japanese grindhouse cinema, "Inglourious Basterds," was a war movie that completely revised Hitler and the Nazis' fate, "Django Unchained" made up its own kind of slave rebellion historical rewrite and "The Hateful Eight" felt like a violent version of an Agatha Christie novel. The fact that QT is saying that he's decided to embrace and revisit 'Pulp' is a cause for excitement and an acknowledgement that we are probably getting a more serious movie.
3. J.J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: Episode IX
The conclusion of the new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy with Daist Ridley, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson. Director Rian Johnson could have easily taken over the director's chair for Episode IX, but Disney decided otherwise. They opted for JJ Abrams, who was the brainchild behind this trilogy and probably saw Johnson starting to interfere too much with his original vision of the way things should be going in the story. Johnson's risk-taking was a breath of fresh air in "The Last Jedi," but I never doubted that we'd be going back to business as usual with Abrams hopping on-board Episode IX. It had to go back to normality, especially after the backlash from longtime fans due to what Johnson concocted in"The Last Jedi." It made $300M less than Abrams' "The Force Awakens," which is probably due to hardcores not going to see it a second or third time in theaters, like they normally would with any other Star Wars movie, because they were not happy with what they say the first time around. A significant time-jump is expected in the story, as fans clamor to the hope that this final chapter does justice to the "Star Wars" name.
4. Rian Johnson‘s Knives Out
A modern murder mystery in a classic whodunit style (Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans). When you're director Rian Johnson you can probably make any movie you damn well please. After all, despite the backlash from some fans, Johnson's "The Last Jedi," which was coming off his visionary sci-fi "Looper," was critically acclaimed, confirmed his ever-growing talents as a writer-director, and it impressed Disney so much that they decided to give him sole authority of an entirely new Star Wars trilogy. His upcoming movie, the murder-mystery, "Knives Out," sounds incredibly promising and is gathering an impressive cast. Recently added to the mix are Michael Shannon who will be joining the previously-cast Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Lakeith Stanfield. The film is supposed to be a modern-day whodunit, an Agatha Christie-inspired mystery film, that Johnson has been working on for the better part of 10 years now. Stanfield and Craig have been confirmed to play the detectives on the case, Evans has an unknown role, ditto Shannon who might very well be playing a villain, or at least I pray that he does given how great of a baddie he can be ("The Shape of Water," "99 Homes," "Boardwalk Empire.")
5. Safdie Brothers' Uncut Gems
Upcoming American crime drama, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, from a screenplay by the Safdies and Ronald Bronstein (Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, Eric Bogosian, and Pom Klementieff). Coming off their triumphant "Good Time," the Safdie Brothers seemed to be keen in casting Adam Sandler in the lead role for their next movie; “Uncut Gems.” Sandler will star in the Martin Scorsese-produced film that takes place in the corrupt world of New York City’s diamond district. It was written by the brothers and their writing-partner Ronald Bronstein who co-wrote other Safdie affairs such as “Good Time,”“Heaven Knows What” and “Daddy Longlegs.” Suffice to say, we're fascinated to see what they will do with a higher budget given that all their other movies were made with extremely thin budgets. As for Sandler, his acting in last year's "The Meyerowitz Stories" was impressive. Sandler was way out of his comfort zone there, and that's excellent news for movie fans. The guy has acting chops that are put to waste in infantile comedies, some of which do work (if you read this site you know my unadorned love for the old-school Sandler comedy "That's My Boy"). "The Meyerowitz Stories" was possibly his best performance since his touching turn in 2002's "Punch-Drunk Love."
6. Greta Gerwig‘s Little Women
Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War (Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan). "Lady Bird" director Greta Gerwig has found a follow-up vehicle to her critically acclaimed and multiple Oscar-nominee "Lady Bird." According to Variety in an article entitled Greta Gerwig Eyes ‘Little Women’ With Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet Circling, Gerwig wants to adapt Louisa May Alcott's American classic, yet again. The last successful attempt was in 1994, an impressionable, likable film, starring Winona Ryder.
7. James Gray’s Ad Astra
Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet (Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga). There was absolutely no chance that the rumors concerning 20th Century Fox’s James Gray sci-fi movie "Ad Astra" (which will now be released in May) receiving an Academy-qualifying release in December would prove accurate. No chance. Gray's films are not Oscar-bait; he's a lone-wolf who goes by his own creative juices. So, of course, unsurprisingly, it was eventually announced that Gray's “epic science fiction thriller” was now set for release on May 24th, 2019. You can put a Cannes premiere in the bank with that date now settled-in. Last we heard from Gray was his 2017 film "The Lost City of Z," a beautiful, surreal and ambitious project which had some meandering parts, but the overall impact was stunningly surreal, mainly due to the incredible jungle sequences.
8. Ang Lee‘s Gemini Man
An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself (Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong). Ang Lee's career has been a rather odd one. Of course, the greatness of his peak years (1994-2005) can never be underestimated: "Sense and Sensibility," "The Ice Storm," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and "Brokeback Mountain." Post-2005? It's been a little more up and down. I really liked "Lust, Caution" but many felt it was the beginning of Lee's dip into lower quality cinema. I can't say I disagree with that aforementioned assessment, especially when it comes to "Taking Woodstock," "Life of Pi," and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," all major studio films that had Lee's poetic style stripped for a more mainstream affair. Lee's upcoming film, "Gemini Man," is another major studio project for the Taiwanese-born filmmaker. It stars Will Smith and will be using Industrial Light and Magic "de-aging" on Smith. Let's hope Lee has regained his artistic footing with "Gemini Man" because American cinema could sure use an him at the summit of his powers right now.
9. J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier
Five friends team up to take down a South American drug lord (Charlie Hunnam, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac). Of course, J.C. Chandor‘s "Triple Frontier" (Netflix) must most definitely be included on any must-see list for 2019. I mean, how can it not be? Chandor ("Margin Call," "All Is Lost," "A Most Violent Year") is a first-rate filmmaker who hasn't even hit the peak of his powers yet. He adapts a Mark Boal script here, and has some formidable actors to take the brunt of the work. Almost a decade ago, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp and Will Smith had signed on to star in this movie, which was going to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow. That plan fell apart. Then another cast was set to shoot it in 2017 and four weeks away from the start of production something happened. Rumors pointed to the stars having had major problems with the script, and actors Channing Tatum, Tom Hardy, Mahershala Ali, and Casey Affleck left the trouble pre-production. Only Ben Affleck remained.
10. Marielle Heller‘s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The story of Fred Rogers, the honored host and creator of the popular children’s television program, "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" (Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tammy Blanchard). Tom Hanks' Mr. Rogers movie is now officially titled "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." The film was originally called "You Are My Friend?". The film will be directed by Marielle Heller ("Diary of a Teenager Girl," "Can You Ever Forgive Me?") with Universal in charge of releasing it on 10.18.19. I do wonder how this will go down as far as the dramatic potential a film about such a benign man could bring. Did Rogers have any actual drama happen in his life? He was, by all accounts, a safe, liberal-minded do-gooder who didn't have controversy surround him in his 40+ years on the air. The film will most likely tackle his fight to push for diversity and inclusivity in his show.
11. Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse
The story of an aging lighthouse keeper named Old who lives in early 20th-century Maine (Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe). Back in February we reported that "The Witch” director Robert Eggers was about to shoot "The Lighthouse" with Willem Dafoe and Robert Patinson, and then came the news [via IndieWire] that the film has finished production and will be released in 2019. Editor Louise Ford (“Don’t Breathe” and “Thoroughbreds”) had stated in an interview that the film was shot in Black and White.“It’s set in 1890, and we’re shooting on 35mm black and white stock, virtually unheard of nowadays,” she says. “Most black and white movies are shot in colour, and then converted to black and white in post. The dailies look beautiful; it’s very exciting.” The film has been described as “a fantasy horror story set in the world of old sea-faring myths.” I was immediately impressed by "The Witch" and Eggers' raw talent as a director for atmosphere. I saw it back in 2015, a year before it would be released, and unlike many Sundance directors, it just felt like Eggers would not be a one-hit wonder. The atmosphere and shot-selection in "The Witch" could have only been made by a truly gifted artist.
12. Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
After her anxiety-ridden mother disappears, 15-year-old Bee does everything she can to track her down, discovering her troubled past in the process (Cate Blanchett, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne). Based on Maria Semple’s novel of the same name, which spent a year on The New York Times Bestseller List, Director Richard Linklater's “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” finally has a trailer, and, by the looks of it, the film will be both comic and dramatic. The plot, told in flashbacks, has Bee, Bernadette’s daughter, trying to put together the missing clues in the grand puzzle of what happened to her mother Bernadette. Linklater is one of the great American directors of the 21st century, just look at his filmography “Dazed and Confused,” "Boyhood,” “School of Rock,” “Waking Life,” and, of course, his trilogy composed of “Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," and "Before Midnight." However, for all the hoopla those movies bring, people tend to discount the under-the-radar Linklater's like "Bernie," "Tape," "Me and Orson Welles," and "Everybody Wants Some!!"
13. Jordan Peele‘s Us
A mother (Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o from Black Panther, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and 12 Years a Slave) and a father (Winston Duke from Black Panther) take their kids to their beach house expecting to unplug and unwind with friends (including Emmy winner Elizabeth Moss from TV series The Handmaid’s Tale). But as night descends, their serenity turns to tension and chaos when some shocking visitors arrive uninvited.” Consider most of us intrigued by Jordan Peele's "Us,” which is his sophomore effort, after the triumph that was “Get Out." There's no doubt in my mind that Peele is a promising filmmaker, his debut made waves in a manner that could be compared to Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," it shook the industry. Peele ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in the process. "Us" is rumored to be the secret screening at Sundance this coming January. We have a film that has the potential to deliver decent spooks, in ways that look very similar to the thrills that were given to us with 2009's "The Strangers," but can it exceed its genre tropes and become something more just like "Get Out"? That's the million dollar question.
14. Todd Phillips’ Joker
Joker origin story (Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Shea Whigham, Zazie Beetz). The Joaquin Phoenix/Joker movie is actually happening. Phoenix will indeed be playing the clown-terrorist in an origin film directed and co-written by Todd Phillips. Shooting has already wrapped on the film. Phoenix will follow in the footsteps of Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson,, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto (who must be royally pissed this is happening). If it were up to me? I’d totally scrap the Leto projects and concentrate on Phoenix, who might just be the most talented actor to have ever partaken in this type of movie, and, yes, I am including Heath Ledger, whose legendary performance as The Joker in 2008's "The Dark Knight“ will surely be very hard to beat. Todd Phillips has been tasked in directing the Phoenix/Origin Joker flick. How did he manage to nab the job? I truly, for the life of me, have no clue. Yes, he did commendable work on “War Dogs," but Phillips' filmography consists of 95% comedy (“Frat House,” “Road Trip,” “Old School,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “School for Scoundrels,” “The Hangover,” “The Hangover II,” “The Hangover III,” and “Due Date.”)
15. Jim Jarmusch‘s The Dead Don’t Die
Deadpan comic zombie film (Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Caleb Landry Jones, Chloë Sevigny) Jim Jarmusch is finally in production for his new film, a“’70s zombie movie” set in a small Delaware County town. Jarmusch hasn't made a film since his masterful, and possibly best film of his career, "Paterson" was released back in 2016. I've had a love/hate relationship with the iconoclastic filmmaker since his 1984 splash "Stranger in Paradise," but I still believe he's one of the absolute best American artists currently working in cinema. He has been consistent in quality for the better part of almost 4 decades. His best films will always be "Stranger Than Paradise," "Broken Flowers," "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai," and "Paterson.” This will be a second foray into the realm of the undead for him (after “Only Lovers Left Alive”).
16. Benh Zeitlin‘s Wendy
Set on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Benh Zeitlin’s mythological story tells the tale of two children from different worlds fighting to maintain their grip on freedom and joy. (Tommie Lynn Milazzo, Shay Walker). Ever since his 2012 debut "Beast of the Southern Wild" we have not heard much about writer-director Zeitlin. That film went on to garner multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and had people convinced he was the heir to Terrence Malick. Suffice to say, expectations have been tremendously high for Zeitlin’s upcoming “Wendy," a film which has been rumored for release the past three years. What's happening with it exactly? We're not entirely sure, but chances are the writer-director is taking his sweet-lovin' time, much like Malick, to perfect the editing process, which was as important as the directing in 'Beasts.' Will the buzz on Zeitlin turn out to be unwarranted? We don't know. But "Wendy" has to be included on any list of the most anticipated for the year, even if it was included the previous two years.
17. Steven Soderbergh‘s The Laundromat
A group of journalists unearth 11.5 million files, linking the world’s most powerful political figures to secret banking accounts to avoid taxes. (Gary Oldman, Melissa Rauch, Meryl Streep, Robert Patrick). Newly un-retired director Steven Soderbergh has already completed his upcoming movie titled “High Flying Bird,” set for release this year as well, but many of us are wondering what is going to happen with his 'Panama Papers' project, an ambitious film about the infamous documents which actually goes by the title of “The Laundromat.” Well, Soderbergh’s film has been picked up by Netflix and is slated for an awards season release this fall. Soderbergh hasn’t made Oscar-bait type fare since, gosh, 2000’s one-two punch of ‘Erin Brokovich' and 'Traffic.' Of course, 'The Laundromat" could easily turn out to be another artsy affair for the talented writer-director but something tells me that Meryl Streep's presence and its deliberate release date will not make it be that kind of movie.
18. Terrence Malick‘s Radegund
Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Third Reich in World War II and is executed in 1943. Shot in late summer of 2016. (August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Jürgen Prochnow, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz). Terrence Malick's last three films divided cinephiles. His "Texas nouveau-riche" trilogy; “Song to Song,” “To The Wonder” and “Knight of Cups” was basically based on the same idea, same style, similar love triangles, and the same aw-shucks "wonderment" at nature. This self-congratulatory style turned off a lot of Malick fans, including myself. However, the biggest problem for me was the fact that he was casting a who's who of Hollywood A-listers, which rendered the films inauthentic in their attempt to attain authentic naturalism. These films featured some of the biggest names in the business: Ben Affleck, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams. Having star wattage, well known faces so-to-speak, did a disservice to what Malick was trying to achieve. You don't buy the romantic yearning these star actors are performing on-screen. Maybe having unknown actors would have benefited the stories a little more. These last three films from Malick, although original in their unconventional structure, had the most cliched love stories imaginable, but, more importantly, barely used a script. With all that being said, I am very much looking forward to his next film, "Radegund," which has already wrapped-up shooting and was shot with German actors, all in German with English subtitles, and set in WWII. A departure from his the "Texas nouveau-riche" trilogy since he actually uses a narrative screenplay, for the first time in nearly a decade, and none of the on-the-spot improv that has knacked many of his former admirers.
19. Tim Miller's Untitled Terminator Reboot
The untitled Terminator film, colloquially referred to as Terminator 6, is an upcoming American science fiction action film directed by Tim Miller with a screenplay written by David S. Goyer. The “Terminator” franchise has been DOA for many fans ever since 2003's "The Rise of the Machines." However, it was the last two films of the series, “Terminator: Salvation” and “Terminator: Genisys,” that destroyed the series for good. Or so we thought. The only way we could possibly hop back onboard was if James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton would make their return. Well, that is exactly what's happening for Terminator 6. Yes, Hamilton, Arnie and Cameron, as producer, are coming back for this latest chapter. “Deadpool” helmer Tim Miller will be directing what Cameron has called the “continuation of the story from ‘Terminator 1’ and ‘Terminator 2,’ Cameron further elaborated “And we’re pretending the other films were a bad dream. Or an alternate timeline, which is permissible in our multi-verse.” Amen! The major surprise in all of this? Cameron luring back Hamilton, the main star of his two directed films in the franchise, and, gulp, his ex-wife. “Jim was fucking terrified,” Miller jokes. “I was,” Cameron confirms. “It took me a week just to get up the nerve. No, that’s not true. Linda and I have a great relationship. We’ve stayed friends through the thick and thin of it all. And she is the mother of my eldest daughter. So I called her up, and I said: ‘Look, we could rest on our laurels. It’s ours to lose, in a sense. We created this thing several decades ago. But, here’s what can be really cool. You can come back and show everybody how it’s done.’ Because in my mind, it hasn’t been done a whole lot since the way she did it back in ’91.”
20. Noah Hawley’s Pale Blue Dot
A female astronaut who, after returning to earth from a life-changing mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality. (Natalie Portman, Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz). We all had our doubts when we first heard that Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece "Fargo" was going to get adapted for the small screen, courtesy of FX, but after the first episode of creator Noah Hawley's brilliant series adaptation we were converted. The ambition and sheer scope of the series has been nothing short of groundbreaking and, although we still have a few unanswered questions about the last season, and the season before it, answers will likely never come since the beauty of the show, and Hawley's art, is as open-ended as the never-ending mysteries of life. Hawley looks to bring the dark, almost miraculous spell of his writing to the big screen this year by telling the true story of NASA Captain Lisa Nowak, who made headlines in 2007 by driving from Houston to Orlando, with a knife and a BB gun, to confront former lover, astronaut Bill Oefelein, and his new girlfriend.
21. Josh Cooley's Toy Story 4
Toy Story 4 When a new toy called "Forky" joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen). Most people will tell you that, as far as conclusions to a trilogy go, you couldn't make a better series-capping entity than "Toy Story 3." The 2010 film had everything that was necessary to end on a high note; emotions, excitement, thrills and the kind of forward-looking nostalgia, I know, a contradiction, that made it wholly unique as far as sequels went. Why make a fourth film? You better have a good idea for it and, well that's at least what I've gathered from recent interviews withTim Allen and Tom Hanks who revealed just how emotional it was to voice Buzz and Woody for the final time, especially in the final scene. And so, here we are and a teaser has just been released for the fourth installment of the "Toy Story" franchise; for the most part nothing too exciting is revealed. There's Judy Collins' dreamy "Both Sides Now" playing in the background as Woody and the gang hold hands in a circle, a melancholic moment, until a new character by the name of Forky freaks out and kills the zen chain of friendship. We can’t wait to see how Pixar manages to close out this series, this must be the last dance, right?
22. Kelly Reichardt's First Cow
In Oregon in the 1820s, a cook and a refugee pair up for a journey that will take them to China and back again. Reichardt, God bless her, is one of the great American filmmakers of the last ten years, what with a track record that speaks for itself ("Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff," "Certain Woman") and a distinctive style -- with "First Cow" Reichardt is returning to the old West for a film that is rumored to be a spiritual sequel to 'Meek.'. We don't know the cast of the film, even though shooting commenced last month and is scheduled to wrap later in January. This is an adaptation of Jonathan Raymond’s novel “The Half-Life."
23. Taika Waititi 's Jojo Rabbit
A young German boy in Nazi Germany whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler discovers that his family is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. With a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant, you can expect this highly anticipated film to have people turning heads.The rise of director Taika Waititi, starting with 2014's “What We Do In The Shadows” to “Hunt For The Wilderpeople,” and then his blockbuster debut with “Thor: Ragnarok” has been quite exciting. His unique style, filled with visual showiness and on-point sense of humor, has made him the most sought-after director in Hollywood. No wonder he has a Michael Jackson-themed animation film titled “Bubbles” and the “Akira” remake in the works as well. However, it's this film adaptation of Christine Leunens’ novel that tickles out fancy for now, it tackles a timely, but potentially controversial subject matter, as Waititi brings his camera to WWII and a little boy's infatuation with Hitler. Risky stuff, but Waititi himself defended his decision to make the movie by saying “what better fuck you” to Hitler than to have him played by the half-Maori, half-Jewish director? The cast is incredible, the Black List-ed script is said to be phenomenal, and awards season potential limitless.
24. Ari Aster's Midsommar
A couple visits a friend in Sweden for a mid-summer festival, but find themselves forced into violent competition by a pagan cult. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper Ari Aster's sophomore effort, coming off his excellent debut"Hereditary," has the backing of A24 who immediately greenlit this project even before "Hereditary" was even released. The studio is setting a similar release date for this latest effort, August 9th, which means they have high confidence this will be another much-buzzed moneymaker for them. We don't know much about the plot but it sounds like it covers the same psychological-horror ground that made Aster's debut such a haunting provocation.
25. Dee Rees’ The Last Thing he Wanted
A journalist quits her newspaper job and becomes an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones). I have been an avid supporter of Dee Rees' ever since I saw her stunning 2011 debut "Pariah." She confirmed her talent in 2017 with "Mudbound," an Oscar nominee for Cinematography and Adapated Screenplay and overall impressive sophomore effort. Netflix produced that film and are again on-board for Rees' latest project, an adaptation of Joan Didion’s political thriller novel. It might not have the social resonance of her first two efforts, but it could compensate by showcasing a new type of genre triumph for Rees. The cast is impressive, with an A-list trio of Hathaway, Affleck and Dafoe starring in it. Look for the film to debut during fall festival season.