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Saturday
Dec302017

THE CLASS OF 2018: NEXT YEAR AT THE MOVIES

When Hollywood bean counters spin their 2017 analysis, the year will not end with the studio suits rolling on beds of cash. Relatively speaking, of course; as December winds down, US box office takings will be around US$12billion, down a ‘whopping’ 2.5% on the record setting 2016. So the question that the great movie minds of Los Angeles need to address is, “How do we make up the deficit, and then some?”

A glimpse at the 2018 studio slates suggests the answer is superheroes, sequels, remakes and cartoons. Big surprise. There is some visionary stuff in the mix, but the roster largely recalls the year gone by, when franchise entrants like Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales looked tired; star vehicles like The Mummy underperformed and reheated properties like Blade Runner failed to ignite. But let’s see what is on offer and keep our fingers-crossed…: 

8 ‘New’ Marvel Films: There is no escaping the Marvel movie tsunami; with one arriving on average every seven weeks, the comic book adventures of our favourite ageing heroes will be everywhere, all the time. Big Daddy is, of course, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (pictured, right), welcoming back sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: Civil War, 2016). Also under the Disney/Marvel banner are Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER and Peyton Reed’s ANT MAN AND THE WASP. The last of the X-Men films produced by a pre-Disney consumed 20th Century Fox will arrive in the form of Josh Boone’s THE NEW MUTANTS and Simon Kinberg’s X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. The most anticipated will be Fox’s DEADPOOL 2, with Atomic Blonde’s David Leitch at the helm after the unpleasant shunting of #1 director, Tim Miller. Sony Pictures have two left-field unknowns in the Marvel mix – Ruben Fleischer’s R-rated VENOM, starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams and the animated adventure SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, from the filmmaking team of Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rothman.

The Next ‘A Star Wars Story' Film: Apparently, the set of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY was a little…angsty. The directors hired for the job, Phil Lord and Chris Miller got the boot in mid-June, with only days left of principal photography; enter Hollywood journeyman Ron Howard to see it through (after recasting and four months of reshoots). Miller and Lord played nice in their press statements (“We're really proud of the work we did on the movie and we wish everybody the best,”) but the scoop is that the pair clashed badly with franchise overlord Kathleen Kennedy and veteran series scribe Lawrence Kasdan. Rumblings suggest some extra polish is still needed ahead of its worldwide premiere on May 23/24/25 (check local listings).   

Three Anticipated Animated Follow-ups: After an erratic start in the competitive but lucrative animation arena, Sony Pictures Animation are milking their sole cash-cow franchise again next year, with director Genndy Tartakovsky and star Adam Sandler returning for HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (pictured, right). Director Rich Moore and writer Phil Johnston, both hot off the Oscar-winning Zootopia, deliver fresh adventures for John C Reilly’s oafish charmer in RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2. Towering above all animated entrants will be Brad Bird’s INCREDIBLES 2, a sequel 14 years in the making that reportedly picks up at the very moment the 2004 blockbuster concluded – the appearance of The Underminer (voiced by Pixar regular, John Ratzenberger).

Horror Lives Again!: After the record-breaking box office delivered by It, the sequel-generating momentum of The Conjuring films and the headline-grabbing breakout of Get Out, the horror genre is hot again. Serious studio dollars are behind such 2018 films as Adam Robitel's INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY; Brian Taylor's MOM AND DAD, with Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair; Julius Onah's GOD PARTICLE, a continuation of the Cloverfield mythology; Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren in WINCHESTER, from Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig; and, Steven Soderbergh's iPhone-shot UNSANE, with Claire Foy and Juno Temple. John Krasinski directs himself and wife Emily Blunt in A QUIET PLACE (pictured, right); Sylvain White's explores the new urban myth in his chiller SLENDER MAN; and, Cispian Mill's British horror-comedy SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ, reunites funny guys Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Michael Myers returns in David Gordon Green's reworking of HALLOWEEN, with original leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis. And very high on every horror fans watchlist is Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's 1977 classic SUSPIRIA, to star Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, and Tilda Swinton.

Remakes/Relaunches/Rehashes: Showbusiness 101 teaches that it is easier and cheaper to repackage and relaunch a known brand than to start from scratch. In 2018, new spins on old favourites will come in the form of THE PREDATOR, directed by writer and co-star of John McTiernan’s 1987 original, Shane Black; Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander turning her Oscar cache into paycheque heft with Roar Uthaug’s TOMB RAIDER; Kingsman star Taryn Edgerton stepping into the tights as the star of a ‘gritty new take’ on ROBIN HOOD, from director Otto Bathurst; Lady Gaga filling the shoes worn by Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand before her in director and co-star Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN (pictured right); the return of Lisbeth Sander, this time in the shape of Claire Foy, for Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez’s franchise relaunch THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB; and, Gary Ross’ all-female heist caper OCEAN'S EIGHT, with Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Rhiannon toplining.

Sequelitis: Despite the underperformance of such ‘sure things’ as Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, XXX The Return of Xander Cage and Trainspotting 2, the studios will still cite 2017 hits like Logan, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Fate of The Furious as reason enough for a slew of new sequels. In 2018, filmic déjà vu comes in the form of Christopher McQuarrie’s M:I 6 - MISSION IMPOSSIBLE; David Yate’s FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD; Wes Ball’s MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE; Steven S. DeKnight’s PACIFIC RIM UPRISING, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega; the conclusion to E.L. James’ saucy trilogy, FIFTY SHADES FREED, from director James Foley; JURASSIC PARK FALLEN KINGDOM (pictured, right), with A Monster Calls’ JA Bayona stepping in for shunned helmer (but credited screenwriter) Colin Trevorrow; showman Rob Marshall’s sequel to the family favourite, MARY POPPINS RETURNS, starring Emily Blunt; and, because the universe was screaming out for another instalment of ‘Karaoke; The Movie’, director Ol Parker’s MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN.

A Breath of Fresh Air: If you are desperate for something that threatens a hint of original thought or freshness of vision, you have these to look forward to. Steven Spielberg's virtual-reality adventure READY PLAYER ONE; Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in James Wan’s AQUAMAN, the only DC Comics property set for a 2018 release; Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey in Ava DuVernay’s YA publishing phenom adaptation, A WRINKLE IN TIME; Jon Turteltaub’s giant shark thriller MEG, with Jason Statham; Jennifer Lawrence reteaming with her Hunger Games’ director Francis Lawrence for RED SPARROW (pictured, right); Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s vidgame-inspired monster movie RAMPAGE, from Brad Peyton; the Robert Rodriguez directed sci-fier ALITA BATTLE ANGEL, from a James Cameron script; Anne Hathaway, replacing an on-the-slide Amy Schumer, in Alethea Jones’ BARBIE; Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion fable, ISLE OF DOGS; Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman playing for big, broad laughs in GAME NIGHT; the Neil Armstrong biopic FIRST MAN, reteaming Ryan Gosling with his La La Land director Damian Chazelle; and, MORTAL ENGINES, director Christian Rivers effects extravaganza, based on an adapted screenplay by the Lord of The Rings team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens.

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