There seems to be a generally positive consensus that 2017 was a great year for film. I find it hard to disagree with the majority, personally, I rarely left the cinema in disappointment. Looking forward into 2018 and it looks to be another great year for film, with the tumultuous state of the industry following some pretty horrific revelations last year. As the year develops hopefully we will see the much-needed change in the industry, and along with it some stellar films.
Here is part two of my preview of cinema in 2018 April to June.
April appears to be one of cinema’s slower months. Ready Player One, which is released on the final day of March, will likely dominate the box office for the month. Coming from the cinematic maestro Steven Spielberg, it looks like its blend of 80s sentimentality and nostalgic easter eggs will generate some positive buzz. Because if Stranger Things has taught us anything it’s that nostalgia sells and episode seven of the second season is one of the worst hours of TV ever. Shots fired. We will have to wait and see whether or not the lack of star power hinders its box office performance (sorry Tye Sheridan), but with a built-in fan base from the New York Times bestseller source material, the signs are positive. Regardless, Mark Rylance stars, and he makes any film at least 65% better, even if his role appears small.
A24 will look to reinforce its ‘finger on the pulse‘ reputation as a distributor with the pizza-delivery horror film Slice. Starring Chance the Rapper, A24 released a superb teaser trailer with a full-on synth rendition of Edvard Grieg’s ‘In the hall of The Mountain King’. Given Chance’ inclusion in the cast, I fully expect this to be a breakout hit. Let’s hope he’s more Method Man than DMX. A24 are hush on a release date, but with two dates locked in (March 16th and April 27th), it will likely fill one of those spots considering it was filmed in the summer of 2016.
It is hard to believe that in 2010, Joaquin Phoenix made the bizarre career move of faking his own career retirement. Whether or not he was successful with what ended up being a sort of elaborate performance art, is up for debate, but at least we can always go back to this brilliantly awkward interview. 8 years later, and he might just be about to have his standout year. In April he will star as a grizzled contract killer in Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here given the job of tracking down a missing girl. Both Phoenix and Ramsay won awards out of Cannes last year, and the anticipation levels are high. Hopefully, Ramsay, an experienced director, will finally be recognized for her supreme talent. The film will debut in March for the UK and on April 6th in the US. Talking of talented directors, Japanese director Takashi Miike follows up his 100th film with, well, his 101st film. His next film Laplace’s Witch will premier during Golden Week in Japan. From the trailer, it seems that it revolves around an investigatory professor, a clairvoyant witch, and an untraceable evil. Seems about right for Miike. Only another 75 more films to go.
At this point you may be wondering; why the Cloverfield picture? And to an extent so am I. Postponed, again and again, the 3rd entry into the Cloverfield canon (previously known as God Particle) will be released on April 20th. Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd and David Oyelowo star with JJ Abrams returning to his old haunting ground as producer. Much like its predecessors the film is shrouded in mystery and has gone through directors (Damian Chazelle was once attached) and numerous name changes (we now have no title) before hitting screens in April, or maybe even Netflix following recent reports. I was sucked into the shroud around the original, which celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year, and I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, even if the link between the two was strenuous at best. But I, like everyone apart from the crew, have no idea what to expect. Either way, the viral marketing has begun its descent like a satellite dropping into the ocean, prepare to be drawn in slowly before Netflix sucker punches a theatrical release.
In TV land, The Handmaid’s Tale will premiere its 2nd season on April 29th. Given the glowing response to Elisabeth Moss’s portrayal of June Moss in its inaugural season, the hype is huge for Hulu’s standout program and not even a controversial think piece by the source novel’s author Margaret Atwood will hold this back. But somebody please sort out the jarring music choices in the first season, I do not buy into the reasoning.
As part of his HBO contract the GOAT of podcasts Bill Simmons will return to sports documentaries in April. Having spent 7 years of his career in creating and producing the revolutionary 30 for 30 series on ESPN, Bill, now at HBO and the creator of TheRinger.com, will finally release his Andre The Giant documentary. The 7ft 4 wrestler pretty much led the WWF in its early days, feuding with the now banished Hulk Hogan and going on to forge a small career as an actor. He is a fascinating character for Simmons to focus upon, and if it is anything like much of his 30 for 30 documentaries, it could be a big hit for HBO.
May Part 1: Summer Box Office
If April was quiet, May represents one of the busiest months on the calendar, hence breaking it down into two parts. Let’s start with a terrible and overused pun. May the force be with Ron Howard (terrible), and if the rumors are true, Alden Ehrenreich. Disney and Kathleen Kennedy have not been afraid to hand out P45’s like candy. Solo: A Star Wars Story is no different. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were always an off-brand choice, even if in my opinion it was a great one. Firstly they had only directed four films: 21 and 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Secondly, all of those films have films with firm foundations in comedy and none of them (to my albeit limited knowledge) had a level of production complexity which can be found when directing a film as big as Star Wars. Both of these components were facts before they were hired, so there should have been no surprises when they arrived on set and reportedly had a very relaxed and improvisational approach to directing with a desire to place the roots of the film within comedy.
Rumors continued of on-set clashes between Lucasfilm and Lord/Miller, Alden Ehrenreich needing an acting coach and that the tone of the film is all over the place. Kennedy was unimpressed and out came the axe in June last year. But of course, the show must go on. Solo will be a prequel showing how our eponymous hero met his second in command: Chewbacca, acquired the Millenium Falcon and came to trust Lando Calrissian. No one at the moment can, or will, confirm how much of the film was completed before Lord and Miller left to be swiftly replaced by Ron Howard. We’re now in January and although filming finished in November, we have still not seen an official poster, let alone a trailer. To put this into perspective, The Force Awakens released a teaser trailer a full year before release and a second 2-minute trailer 8 months before release. Rogue One released it’s trailer 8 months before release.
It is clear there are issues here, and although I am trying to stay positive, putting Ron Howard in is the equivalent of placing a 3-star restriction on reviews. He’s solid, like a McDonald’s quarter pounder, you know what you’re getting and once you finish you’ll have a feeling of contentment, but nothing new. Although I may seem pessimistic, my fingers are crossed that Disney doesn’t ruin one of Star Wars’, and cinemas, greatest characters of all time. At this moment in time Solo is due out on May 25th, most probably to avoid another huge film, see the next paragraph, but it would not surprise me if Disney bumped the release date. I just can’t get over the fact that in 4 months time this will be in cinemas, and yet, we haven’t seen a single shot from production let alone a trailer.
Unlike Solo, Avengers: Infinity War has not suffered from any production issues which is probably because of the meticulous planning by Marvel over the past 10 years. Since the universe’s big bad Thanos appeared in The Avengers post credit scene in 2012, fanboys have been itching to see The Avengers fight the big purple guy. On May 4th they’ll finally be able to. Phase Three of the Marvel cinematic universe has been extremely up and down, but thanks to Thor: Ragnarok and what looks to be an impressive outing for Black Panther, Infinity War is coming out at a time when the MCU’s reputation is sky high.
Having secured Spiderman as a character in 2016’s Civil War they then proceeded to show how to spread a fight scene across multiple characters with a confident finesse. So much so, that the Russo brothers who directed Civil War are back for part 1 and 2 of Inifity War. They even had the audacity to tease a 40 character fight scene in the latest trailer, which is as close to a guarantee you can get for putting bums on seats come May 4th. On the other side of the coin, it has been well documented that Marvel has an issue with villains, and Infinity War will live or die critically, on the strength of Thanos. Unfortunately, if we are going on looks, Thanos looks like a cross between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shrek; cue many an internet meme. Regardless Disney shouldn’t worry, The Avengers are critic-proof and this is going to make a hell of a lot of money.
At some point in the future, we may even see Deadpool as a character in the MCU following Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. But, for now, we will have to settle for a follow up to the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. I enjoyed the first, but typing that sentence always surprises me, surely there are better R-rated films out there for that title? Fucking superheroes. Deadpool 2 will be released May 18th, and if the promos released so far are anything to go by, the sarcastic wit of the first will be prevalent once more. With Josh Brolin joining the party as fan favorite time-traveler Cable, expect Deadpool 2 to cause Solo some box office issues come May.
Apparently, all Richard Linklater needed to do was complete his brilliant Before trilogy. Because since then he has been (probably) the most in-form director out there. Last Flag Flying went largely unnoticed last year, but it is a worthy and excellent entry into his loaded filmography. On May 11th he will release Where’d You Go, Bernadette? starring Cate Blanchett in the titular role as Bernadette Fox, who by all accounts is a horrible person. When she goes missing, it is up to her daughter (Troian Bellisario) to track her down. If any criticism can be levied at Linklater, there is none stronger than the fact that this will be his first film with a female lead and female-led story. The Before films whilst masterpieces in their own right are led and boxed off by Ethan Hawkes character. Controversial maybe, but go through the rest of his filmography and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another female role of any true substance. With this asterisk on his brilliant career, I am keen to see how Where’d You Go Bernadette fares, with Kristen Wiig and Judy Greer rounding out the cast, it is a great opportunity to prove us wrong and I have no doubt that he will.
A director that could definitely do with a return to form is Gus Van Sant. Returning to his adopted home of Oregon is probably a good idea following the terrible The Sea of Trees. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot will be released on May 11th and is another Joaquin Phoenix led film in 2018. Reviews out of Sundance have been mixed but all agree that this is one of his finest performances as quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. I hope it happens for Van Sant because he has proven time and time again in his career that he is an extremely talented director. His subtle camerawork is used deceptively on his troubled subjects, the camera has no attached ideology, which is a hard feat to pull off.
May part 2: Cannes
And the main reason why May had to be split into two parts is the Cannes Film Festival. The southern city of France will host its yearly film festival from May 8th until May 19th with Cate Blanchett as the head of the jury. At this point, it is purely speculation as to what might premiere at the festival, but with many huge directors due to return this year, Cannes might be back to form after a rather underwhelming 2017. I’m not a gambler, but I’ll have a guess at what may premiere there. The majority of which will likely form the competition for the Palme d’Or:
- Peterloo, Mike Leigh – Probably Leigh’s most ambitious film to date, Peterloo will tell the story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre where British forces attacked a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester leading to multiple deaths. For Leigh, the majority of his films have drawn out a performance from the lead actors that then carries the weight of the story, here it appears to be the other way round. Working with a cast of over 100 actors, there is no room here for Leigh muses such as Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville with many of the cast comprised of unknowns. This is an extremely personal film for the Salford born Leigh, and I expect the resulting film to be nothing short of brilliant and considering the current political climate, an incredibly important one. Given that Cannes has nominated his films five times for the Palme d’Or, this is a shoe-in to be shown and I’ll even put money on Leigh finally walking away with a much deserved Oscar come 2019.
- The Sisters Brothers, Jacques Audiard – The critically loved Audiard will return to Cannes once more with what will be his first English language film. With a phenomenal cast including Riz Ahmed, John C Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix (it really is a huge year for him), the film revolves around Eli and Charlie Sisters, a pair of siblings hired to kill a devious prospector who stole from their boss in 1851, Oregon. Yes, that’s right, Audiard is making an American Western. I’m sold.
- Roma, Alfonso Cuaron – With his son now set up to remake Zorro, Cuaron will return to filmmaking this year in what will also be a homecoming. Roma will revolve around the lives of a family in 1970s Mexico City during the year when the Corpus Christi Massacre (El Halconazo) occurred. The massacre of student demonstrators continues to haunt and linger in the memories of Mexicans to this day, and unfortunately, the story remains relevant. This is going to be an extremely personal film for Cuaron who would have been 10 years old when the massacre took place. I found Gravity to be a tad overrated even if it was a great cinematic spectacle, but Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of my favorite films and probably one of the best Mexican films of all time. So Cuaron going back to his Mexican roots makes this an extremely exciting prospect.
- The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Terry Gilliam – 20 years in the making, and finally (I will believe it when I see it) the curse has been lifted. I type that whilst hugging a huge oak tree. As has been well documented, there were flash floods, herniated discs, pancreatic cancer and multiple financial hiccups that kept the project from production and release, but finally this year Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will premiere. The story, ‘an advertising executive jumps back and forth in time between 21st century London and 17th century La Mancha, where Don Quixote mistakes him for Sancho Panza’, is something that only Gilliam could pull off, and when he cast Johnathan Pryce I had glorious visions of Brazil. After 20 years of waiting, and 30 years since his first and last nomination at Cannes, the premiere will finally rid him of the Twelve Monkeys on his back.
- The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos – Stilted, dead behind the eyes, unsettling and ominous are just a few ways that you can describe Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography. Rachel Weisz, who will star in this, went as far as giving him his own genre; ‘Yorgosian Dystopia‘. Following up last years brilliant The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos who has already won five awards at Cannes in his short career will likely bring his new film, The Favourite, to southern France. Described as a bawdy, acerbic tale of royal intrigue, passion, envy, and betrayal, the film is set in the 18th century where Duchess Sarah Churchill’s (Rachel Weisz) relationship to the Queen (Olivia Coleman) as a friend and a lover is threatened by the arrival of her younger cousin (Emma Stone). It all sounds incredibly generic by period drama standards, but this is the director that made the angelic Barry Keoghan a fucking monster, so expect that plot to be mangled and distorted one way or another. I will always be excited by a Lanthimos film, but chuck in Olivia Coleman and the Peep Show fan inside of me does a little fist pump.
- Loro, Paolo Sorrentino – The Young Pope should have been the vehicle to relaunch Jude Law’s career. Instead, it appears to have been an incredibly fun summer acting job, misunderstood and criticised by many, Law will have to rely on his role in the new Fantastic Beasts for a bump, unfortunately. For Sorrentino, he has been working on his new film, Loro, a biopic of former disgraced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Seeing as Sorrentino and his writing partner Umberto Contarello didn’t hold back with their criticisms of Catholicism, I don’t expect that this will be a favorable biopic of a man who amongst other things was prosecuted for paying a 17-year-old dancer for sex and also tried to cover it up, otherwise known as ‘The Bunga Bunga sex case’. Somehow, it was overturned and he is now attempting a return to politics. Here’s hoping Sorrentino puts a dent in his bid. Cannes will love the attention it would bring.
- The House That Jack Built, Lars Von Trier – Talking of no limits, Lars Von Trier, who has likely never apologized for anything in his life, may have to if he wants his new film to premiere here. Apparently, there isn’t an audience for positive Nazi comments. The House That Jack Built will star Matt Dillon as a serial killer in 70s-80s Washington. Von Trier spent years researching killers and Donald Trump, and this film will span 12 years in the life of one that, as he puts it, ‘celebrates the idea that life is evil and soulless, sadly proven by the recent rise of the Homo Trumpus – the rat king‘. Controversy remains as Von Trier’ shadow.
- Where is Anne Frank?, Ari Folman – Ari Folman, the Israeli director that brought us the superb Waltz With Bashir nearly 10 years ago, could return to Cannes with a return to animation with Where is Anne Frank? In the making for five years now, the film could eventually end up being completely comprised of stop-motion animation. The film follows Kitty, the imaginary friend whom Anne Frank’s diary was dedicated to. When she discovers the diary she is determined to find Anne, only to be disturbed by the stark reality in which the diary is written. Folman brilliantly held a mirror up to our own humanity with Waltz and it looks as though, through the guise of Kitty, he will do the same here. Utilising the help of Andy Gent, Wes Anderson’s puppeteer on Fantastic Mr. Fox here’s hoping Folman manages to bring this to Cannes and to cinemas this year.
- Untitled Chris Morris Project, Chris Morris – Chris Morris fascinates me. An integral example of why we Brits are so good at satire, Morris has been relatively incognito since his feature-length debut; Four Lions nearly 10 years ago. A few brilliant Veep episodes here and a couple of acting appearances there is all we have seen of the typically low-profile genius. Unfortunately, we don’t have much to go on regarding his new film, not even a title. All we have so far is confirmation of its stars: Anna Kendrick, Kayvan Novak, Danielle Brooks and Jim Gaffigan. Coupled with an Instagram post of Anna Kendrick in the Dominican Republic wearing a bulletproof vest holding an assault rifle. I expect Morris to poke the bee’s nest with a comment on society, but I won’t hazard a guess on what that is. He has no limits.
We may also get a new Terrence Malick film at Cannes. Radegund, tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter (portrayed by August Diehl), an Austrian soldier who became a conscientious objector during World War II and was sentenced to death at age 36 for his actions. Since The Tree of Life in 2011, Malick has been somewhat prolific. He’s made four films in the past 7 years, having made four in the previous 38 years. And even if his last couple of films have been somewhat divisive, Malick films are often seen as misunderstood masterpieces that need time to mature, take The New World for example.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi may also premiere his new film Everybody Knows. A country with a rich and troubled history in film, Farhadi has been flying the flag for a country that has done everything in its power to suppress the cinematic arts. Following up his Oscar-winning film The Salesman, Farhadi will go out of his comfort zone for his next. Filmed entirely in Spanish with the acclaimed Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, the story is based on the couple as they return back to her Spanish hometown. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring dark secrets into the open. A Separation remains one of the greatest Iranian films of all time, a list which is somewhat underappreciated given the political climate within the country. We should be very excited about this one.
The great Chinese director Jia Zhangke may also return to Cannes this year with Ash is The Purest White. I have loved Zhangke since watching his 2004 film; The World, so my anticipation for his next is high even if all I have to go on is a plot line of: ‘a love story between a taxi driver and a model’. It has been described as a turbulent romantic thriller set in the criminal underworld taking place between 2001 and 2017. Zhao Tao stars as a dancer who becomes enamored with a criminal played of Liao Fan. It may not manage to hit in time for Cannes, or even this year, but if it does expect Cannes to be a destination.
Such is the history and legacy of Cannes, you’ll notice that the above films are all directed by men. This could, of course, be shamefully down to my selection of what to focus on, but given the history of Cannes where only one female director has ever won (Jane Campion) the Palme d’Or, it would not be surprising to see all of the above forming the list for the coveted reward. But whilst Cannes has made positive steps on this front, it has mostly been a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Last year the number of female filmmakers nominated for an award went from nine in 2016 to twelve in 2017. However, of that 12, only 3 were nominated for the Palme d’Or. That same year Sofia Coppola left the festival with the best director award (the 2nd woman ever to do so), and yet the organizers faced backlash, and rightfully so, for photoshopping an image of Italian actress Claudia Cardinale on the Cannes 2017 poster. And lest we forget when they turned away women from a Red Carpet premiere for not wearing heels. One step forward, two steps back.
Having revisited Independence Day (unsuccessfully), the Goldblum will return to Isle Nublar for the sequel to the sequel; Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom released on June 22nd. When we last left Jurassic World, the T Rex returned to save the day again (oh the originality), the Raptors were suddenly its good-natured sidekick and the park was pretty much destroyed. Clearly, ideas based on consumerism were running dry to motivate characters to return to the island (see all previous sequels), so instead, we have a volcano. Yes a volcano, and no, Dwayne Johnson will not be appearing to beat up the volcano. From the trailer, it appears that Claire (Bryce Dallas-Howard) and Owen’s (Chris Pratt) conscious galvanizes them to return to the island, with a mission to save the dinosaurs from potential extinction inducing event.
If it sounds like a stupid plot, that is probably because it is a stupid plot. On top of that plot, I have to ask the question do we have a Chris Pratt problem? Pratt has lost a lot of the good feeling that had him linked to almost every leading man job in a blockbuster, such as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. His fall in stock is most probably because of his creep manipulating role in Passengers, which with the #Metoo movement becomes all the more troublesome. Perhaps he’ll be able to win back some of that good feeling by saving a bunch of CGI dinosaurs from lava? We will find out in June.
Talking of strange sequels, who actually asked for a sequel to the brilliant Sicario? Don’t get me wrong Benicio Del Toro was phenomenal, and Josh Brolin was his gruff self, but part of Sicario’ appeal was the mystery in Del Toro’s character. With Sicario: Soldado it looks like we’re about to find out more about Alejandro. What I personally loved about the original was the tense build-up with flashes of action and violence, within 6 seconds of the new trailer it is clear that this will not be a subtle beast. And since when was Sicario a saga? I have no idea who asked for this sequel, but considering the first made over double its production budget, money clearly spoke up. Denis Villeneuve won’t return which is a concern, but Taylor Sheridan who wrote Sicario and the underrated Hell or High Water will return to the characters he created. Fingers crossed this doesn’t tarnish the original. With Sheridan, there is a glimmer of hope.
Probably one of the most intriguing projects of the summer has to be the female-led Ocean’s 8 releasing June 8th. Given the current climate in Hollywood, this film will play an important part in shaping the summer box office and potentially shaping future summer box office’. Branching off from the Ocean’s franchise, the film stars Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) estranged sister. Seeing an opportunity to stage a heist at the Met Ball, she gets together a crew consisting of Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafinha and Helena Bonham Carter to target upper-class socialite and celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
Firstly that cast is extremely diverse and talented, second, is there any way we can cut James Corden out of the movie? Do we really need him as comic relief, when he’s, well, not actually funny? Then again we will probably forget all about him because the list of cameos in the film is as astonishing as the cast. The Kardashians, Anna Wintour, Alexander Wang, Katie Holmes, Olivia Munn and Zayn Malik are all confirmed to make an appearance. This looks set to be one of the more enjoyable films of the summer season.
I can’t speak too much about it because I am rather ashamed that I have never seen Pixar’s The Incredibles, but the long-awaited sequel will be released on June 14th. 11 years on from the original, Brad Bird will return to the director’s chair for The Incredibles 2, joined by all of the original cast members. The story takes place immediately after the first and sees the family struggle to maintain normality as Mr. Incredible becomes a stay at home dad whilst his wife Elastigirl fights crime. Cue a big bad to ruin their domestic bliss. Given that the original is Pixar’s 7th biggest film, I expect the sequel will make a run to break into their top 10.
Kyrie Irving may get another opportunity to rub more salt into the wounds of LeBron James as he makes his acting debut on June 29th in the feature-length adaptation of his Pepsi contract character: Uncle Drew. With LeBron forever linked to leading a new take on Space Jam, Irving has beaten him to the punch. Under heavy prosthetics, Irving created the persona of geriatric basketball phenom Uncle Drew. Having garnered a scary amount of views on YouTube he will come to the big screen alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Nick Kroll and one of the numerous breakout stars of Get Out, the hilarious Lil Rey Howery. The idea of Shaq in an acting role probably brings back nightmares to any kid of the 90s, but perhaps Irving will buck that trend. I am sure with the summer he had, all he wants is to one-up LeBron’s performance in Trainwreck.