Now that 2017 is in the books, it's time to look ahead at all the films 2018 has in store for audiences. We begin a multiple-part look at the upcoming year's anticipated releases by first focusing on new arrivals and the summer blockbuster season. Here's what you can expect:
Marvel's ever-growing cinematic universe continues its money-printing expansion with early-year entry Black Panther. Fruitvale Station and Creed director, Ryan Coogler, re-teams with Michael B. Jordan (this time as a primary villain) to tell the story of an African King (Chadwick Boseman) who's forced to defend his people from conspirators who wish to dethrone him and destroy the nation. Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong'o co-star.
Acclaimed sci-fi writer Alex Garland follows up his Oscar Winning directorial debut, Ex Machina (Best Visual Effects), with the late-February release Annihilation. This time around Garland's adapted story stars Academy Award winner Natalie Portman as a biologist who joins an expedition into an unknown environmental disaster zone in search of answers to her husband's (Oscar Isaac) severe injuries. While early footage looks a little strange, Garland has a long history of delivering knockout screenplays.
Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg brings to life Ernest Cline's immensely popular Young Adult novel, Ready Player One. The futuristic story follows Wade Watts, a young outcast (Tye Sheridan) who escapes the monotony of his dull life by logging into "The Oasis", a massive multi-player virtual reality game. And after the game's billionaire creator dies and leaves a real-life fortune hidden inside "The Oasis", Wade finds himself in a heated race against corporate foes who will stop at nothing to find the money. It's an ambitious attempt from Spielberg, but why would we expect anything different from him?
As a loyal fan of Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, I'm stoked for her 2017 Cannes selected thriller You Were Never Really Here to arrive in the United States. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a violent, traumatized veteran who's hired to track down missing girls for a living. And when a new job begins to spiral out of control, he discovers a conspiracy he never could have imagined. Running at a brisk 85 minutes, this looks like a visceral and tense experience that I can't wait to witness first-hand.
The X-Men universe looks to keep the profits rolling with a spin-off entry that will arrive in just a few short months. Josh Boone's The New Mutants introduces a fresh collection of five young mutants who are just discovering their remarkable powers while held up in a secret facility. They must band together and unite in order to escape and same themselves from this confinement. Rising stars Anya-Taylor Joy (Split) and Maisie Williams (HBO's Game of Thrones) star in this next chapter of the X-Men saga.
The old gang of misfit state troopers return for another go-around set to be released on the aptly chosen stoner holiday 4/20. This time it's a border dispute between the U.S. and Canada that forces these deadbeat officers to establish a Highway Patrol station in the controversial area. Broken Lizard, the group responsible for this film's comedic origin as well as Beer Fest and others, took to the masses for funding help and what's come of it looks like a highly anticipated laugh-fest that finally arrives in 2018.
Honorable Mention: Clint Eastwood's The 15:17 to Paris (February 9th) tells the true story of three American soldiers who discover a terrorist plot on their train ride in Europe, Wes Anderson's animated return Isle of Dogs(March 23rd) follows a boy in search of his dog, Lion helmer Garth Davis' biblical follow up Mary Magdalene (March 30th) stars Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara and finally the new Cloverfield film from Netflix called God Particle (April 20th) is expected to have its first trailer drop during the Super Bowl.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been building up to an epic showdown between Thanos (Josh Brolin) and the entire collection of universe-saving superheroes. Sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who brought successful MCU entries The Winter Soldier and Civil War, will certainly have their hands full with the unique task of bridging together so many iconic figures. Yet, if their past work is any indication, Infinity War should be a monumental chapter in the MCU.
The anti-hero Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) caught everyone off guard with his R-rated humor and over-the-top self awareness. The hit superhero flick resonated so well with audiences that its widely anticipated sequel should certainly rival Infinity War at the box office during the onset of the summer blockbuster season. Little is known about this tight-lipped follow up feature, but we should all expect another insanely fun movie experience later this May.
What's been largely documented as an on-set mess that resulted in the firing of directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the Star Wars spin-off Solo was instantly placed in the careful oversight of accomplished filmmaker Ron Howard. Now, whether or not Howard has been able to mold this into a success that rivals the adoration of previous spin-off, Rogue One, the film is bound to kill it at the box office because of its signature brand. Alden Ehrenreich stars as the familiar title character who navigates a dangerous underworld and crosses paths with his future co-pilot, Chewbacca.
The recent Jurassic Park reboot shattered box office records en route to becoming the 4th highest grossing movie of all-time. Needless to say, a sequel was given the green light and it arrives this summer. Fallen Kingdom marks the return of both Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) four years after the closing of the Jurassic World theme park. The pair return to Isla Nubar where the discover an active volcano that threatens to wipe out all life that remains on the island.
Infinity War isn't the only major blockbuster from the MCU arriving this summer, Ant-Man finds its sequel hitting theaters as well. Following the events of Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) experiences difficulties balancing the life of a superhero with his fatherly duties. Meanwhile, he's recuited to team up with The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) on a new mission to uncover some deeply buried secrets. Peyton Reed returns to direct and the stars appear to be aligning for Marvel to gain a stranglehold over the summertime box office.
Following heaps of critical praise with the franchise's fifth installment, Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise once again stars as the death-defying super agent Ethan Hunt. This time around Hunt and his loyal IMF team find themselves in a race against time following a botched mission. The Mission: Impossible series has experienced quite the rebirth of late, making this a summer blockbuster that's certainly worth keeping an eye on in July.
Honorable Mention: A popular caper franchise gets an all-female makeover with Ocean's 8 (June 8th), Denis Villeneuve won't be returning for the sequel but Taylor Sheridan pens the screenplay and both Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro reprise their roles in Sicario 2: Soldado (June 29th), the always interesting Shane Black returns with the sequel/reboot The Predator (August 3rd) and finally Rupert Wyatt unveils an intriguingly-premised sci-fi thriller starring John Goodman and Vera Farmiga called Captive State (August 17th).
*** Stay tuned for a look at other upcoming 2018 releases that need to be on your radar ***