Coming to the Big Screen in 2019
By Bob Strauss
Southern California News Group
Before we get into the most obvious thing about the upcoming movies for 2019 -- namely, that Marvel is going to make a lot of money, again -- can we first look forward to some great filmmakers who’ll be doing exactly what they want to do?
Like Martin Scorsese, whose Netflix-backed “The Irishman” reunites our greatest living filmmaker with old cronies Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, and tosses Al Pacino into the bargain. It’s a mob epic that spans decades, with a lot of digital de-aging, at a price tag that has been estimated somewhere between $140 million and $175 million.
Or Quentin Tarantino, who will apply his always distinctive, film-geek sensibility to that most notorious of show-biz-adjacent crimes, the Manson Murders. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” boasts its own superstar cast of Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and, uh, Al Pacino.
Other auteurs with 2019 releases include Jordan Peele (“Us,” the follow-up to his milestone debut feature “Get Out”), Greta Gerwig (“Little Women” with Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep and Laura Dern), Richard Linklater (missing-mom dramedy “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”), Sam Mendes (World War I story “1917”), Rian Johnson (murder mystery “Knives Out”), Ang Lee (clone thriller “Gemini Man”), James Gray (serious outer-space story “Ad Astra”) and Jim Jarmusch (zom-com “The Dead Don’t Die”).
Superheroes, Disney ... oh, and Star Wars
We can be fairly certain, too, that these won’t be the only filmmakers whose personal touch and artistic smarts make the movies worth going to.
But now it’s time to talk about Marvel. I don’t mean for that transition to imply that the comic-book-company-turned-Master-of-Hollywood doesn’t make good films. But, jeez, another year when Disney’s Marvel Studios is certain to conquer the box office?
Well, if Brie Larson as “Captain Marvel” does for female superheroes what “Black Panther” did for African ones last year, and “Avengers: Endgame” wraps up the current phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe mythmaking as satisfyingly as it damn well better, even the snootiest moviegoer should have very little problem with that.
In other Marvel news, MCU-in-all-but-studio-ownership “Spider-Man: Far from Home” will be the first to show us how characters like Tom Holland’s Peter Parker will go on after getting vaporized in “Avengers: Infinity War.” And two movies made this year, “Dark Phoenix” and “The New Mutants,” will drop before Disney gobbles up Fox’s film properties and incorporates the X-Men franchise into the MCU.
Over at Warner Bros.′ rival DC superhero factory, they mainly seem to be wishing for some good “Aquaman” spillover business in 2019. With their most anticipated film in production, “Wonder Woman 1984,” rescheduled into 2020, all they’re floating next year are the kid-aimed “Shazam!” and a “Joker” movie with Joaquin Phoenix as the oft-portrayed Bat-villain. Meanwhile, the studio hopes its animated satire (“The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part)” and giant monster (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”) universes get some super-style attention.
Back at world-devouring Disney, the agenda for its “real” movie division seems to be regurgitating the studio’s cartoon classics in heavily CG’d, “live-action” format. No less than three titles -- “Dumbo” (from Tim Burton, whose 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” started this lucratively dubious trend), “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” (Will Smith assures us his Genie will be blue, sometimes) -- get that treatment next year.
Cartoons that know they’re animated will be sequels, “Toy Story 4” and “Frozen 2.”
And there’s a “Star Wars: Episode IX” for anyone left who cares.
Release, reap rewards, repeat
It’s not just Disney that will be leaning on its proven IP all year. Sequels, reboots, spinoffs and rehashes of all kinds return to the release schedule like they have for years, and that’s because some of them will likely command most of 2019′s upper box-office slots, since they have for years -- repetition being Hollywood’s favorite theme.
Off-brand comic-book movies include a new “Hellboy” with “Stranger Things” star David Harbour in the demon/hero role; “Men in Black International,” with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the new alien-control agents; and a threatened “Kingsman 3.” “Alita: Battle Angel” will at least be based on a Japanese manga and anime series we haven’t seen done live-action before. And the original “Brightburn” turns a horrific twist on Superman-type mythology.
Speaking of the intersection between comic-book stuff and horror, M. Night Shyamalan will unleash “Glass,” his simultaneous sequel to both “Unbreakable” and “Split.” As for series that, considering their strained relationship to anything resembling reality, might as well have come from comic books but didn’t, there’ll be Fast & Furious spinoff “Hobbs and Shaw,” “John Wick: Chapter 3” and “Zombieland 2.”
“It: Chapter Two” leads a parade of familiar horrors under the “Grudge,” “Child’s Play,” “Annabelle,” “47 Meters Down” and “Pet Sematary” labels. At least “A Madea Family Funeral” reportedly may kill off Tyler Perry’s scariest incarnation.
Perhaps even more frightening, they’re making or remaking movies based on old TV shows (“Charlie’s Angels,” an animated “Addams Family,” a live-action “Dora the Explorer,” a hopefully not embalmed “Downton Abbey,” a Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers biopic) and children’s games, video or otherwise (“Jumanji 2,” “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” “Sonic the Hedgehog”).
Yet another “Terminator” something-or-other is also in the offing, as is “Shaft” again and an animated “Secret Life of Pets 2.”
History ,,, and herstory
By now, you may well be asking if there’s going to be anything new for a realistic grown-up person to watch next year. Well, beside the auteurist treats mentioned early on, there will be history lessons, biopics and literary adaptations that could stimulate the mind.
World War II aqua-buffs will have a choice between Hanks’ convoy thriller, “Greyhound,” and Roland Emmerich’s recreation of the Battle of “Midway.” Sam Rockwell’s a racist and Taraji P. Henson a civil-rights activist in the true desegregation drama “The Best of Enemies.” Seth Rogen is Walter Cronkite (!) reporting the JFK assassination, while “Fair and Balanced” covers the sexual-harassment mess at Fox News (Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson).
“Hotel Mumbai” will dramatize the recent terrorist attacks in the Indian city.
On the biopic front, we’ve got Taron Egerton doing Elton John in “Rocketman,” Kristen Stewart as the persecuted actress Jean Seberg in “Against All Enemies,” Tom Hardy perfectly cast as Al Capone in “Fonzo,” “Radioactive” about the scientific Curies, “Fighting with My Family” about pro wrestler Paige, the self-explanatory “Tolkien,” “The Glorias” (Steinem), “Harriett” (Tubman) and, what sounds like the coolest idea in this genre, “Wild Nights with Emily” (that would be Dickinson).
In one of those strange coincidences that sometimes hit release schedules, there will not only be a “Lamborghini” movie next year, but “Ford v. Ferrari,” too.
Read then watch (or vice versa)
Books to film in 2019 include the bestseller “The Goldfinch” with Kidman, and an adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s classic political allegory “Waiting for the Barbarians.” As for that T.S. Eliot guy, his verse will be represented in a movie version of the musical “Cats.”
You’ll also be able to check out a lot of women behaving badly (“Miss Bala,” “Her Smell,” “The Kitchen,” “The Rhythm Section,” “The Woman in the Window,” “Greta,” “The Nightingale”), acting funny (“What Men Want,” “Isn’t It Romantic,” “The Hustle,” “Limited Partners”) and, hopefully, just plain acting well (“Gloria Bell,” “Bergman Island,” “Wendy”).
Looks like Captain Marvel will hardly need to be the only move “wonder woman” of 2019. That’s a good thing, and there may be many others in hundreds of films to discover this year.