Now that we’ve all got our “Best Of 2018” lists out of the way and we’ve all collectively bemoaned the, uh, questionable picks of the Golden Globes, it’s time to set our sights on one of my favorite movie seasons: The Spring Movie Season.
Spring Movie Season, and its close cousin September/October Movie Season, are traditionally derided as the calendar slots where OK movies suffer and bad movies go to die. Studios often pick these months to drop their biggest losses or once-hopeful Oscar-bait films that got shelved. Unless you’re looking to compete with the summer blockbusters, which start earlier and earlier every year, or the fall/winter Oscar push, you’re not really left with a lot of options.
But Spring movie Season is also the slot in which “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” bowed last year, as well as other early-year gems like “Annihilation,” “Game Night” and “A Quiet Place,” among others. So it’s not a total minefield if you know where to look, and sometimes the forgettable duds are kind of fun. (A Liam Neeson movie always comes out within the first two months of the year, and every year I watch it.)
This year’s slate promises more of the same — there’s low-key action, another Liam Neeson revenge thriller, two Marvel movies and a couple of documentaries. Here’s a list of the films I’m most excited for this spring.
“Replicas” — Jan. 11
Keanu Reeves stars as a scientist who will stop at nothing to resurrect his dead wife (Alice Eve) and kids, while Thomas Middleditch (HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) says stuff like “I hope you’re ready to go to jail for cloning.” Even though it looks like this thing’s been delayed for a couple years, sign me up.
“Glass” — Jan. 18
M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” came out of nowhere with how good it was, and when it was revealed at the end that ***(Spoilers)*** it was actually a stealth sequel to “Unbreakable,” Shyamalan’s weird, subtle superhero film from 2000, I was even more intrigued. The sequel “Glass” reunites the hero (David Dunn) and villain (Mr. Glass) from that “Unbreakable,” with James McAvoy’s The Beast thrown in for good measure. Plus, Sarah Paulson is in this one, which is always a plus.
“Serenity” — Jan. 25
Originally slated for release last October, this looks like the perfect January movie: a fun genre picture for adults featuring performances from superstars. Here, Anne Hathaway hires ex-husband Matthew McConaughey to kill her current husband Jason Clarke, and chaos ensues. I’m excited for this one, written and directed by Steven Knight, the same man who wrote “Locke,” another movie with a simple logline that belies a film with depth.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” — Jan. 25
King Arthur might be second to only Sherlock Holmes in terms of how many adaptations have been made about the character. I was not sold on this until I saw the trailer, which just looks like a lot of fun. That it was written and directed by Joe “Attack the Block” Cornish can’t hurt.
“Miss Bala” — Feb. 1
Catherine Hardwicke directs Gina Rodriguez and Anthony Mackie in this American remake of the 2011 Mexican film of the same name. Rodriguez stars as a woman who enters a beauty contest in Tijuana and witnesses a drug-related murder. She is then forced to do the drug gang’s bidding, and gets caught up with the American authorities in the process.
I haven’t seen the original, but my brother has, and he swears by it. This should be a big moment for Rodriguez, who will also star as Carmen Sandiego in a Netflix reboot of “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” set to debut on Jan. 18. She also has a good spring movie track record — she was in “Annihilation” (go see it now, since it was virtually ignored at the box office).
“Arctic” — Feb. 1
Mads Mikkelsen stars as a man who must survive in freezing conditions as a wolf pack slowly starts to make its way toward his camp — oh, wait, sorry, that’s “The Grey,” from Jan. 2012, starring Liam Neeson. (Which is also an overlooked January gem — it was marketed as “Liam Neeson beats up on some wolves,” when really it’s “Liam Neeson beats up on some wolves while also pondering the futility of existence and wondering what makes life worth living.” I saw it three times and wrote a college paper on it, which I’m sure makes me part of a very exclusive club. Anyway.)
This film looks like a classic harrowing man vs. nature tale, which I’m always a sucker for. Mikkelsen seems like a perfect fit to take on a Liam Neeson survivor role. Maybe the two of them can team up to make a revenge movie one day.
“Horror Noire” — premiering on Shudder Feb. 7
Everyone knows the old stereotype: If a black person is in a horror film, they’re the first to die. This new documentary (produced by “Get Out” and “Us” maestro Jordan Peele) examines that stereotype and builds on the ground work laid by the book of the same name by Robin R. Means Coleman, Ph.D. about the history of black representation in horror.
Horror streaming service Shudder produced the doc and Graveyard Shift Sisters founder and Birth.Movies.Death. contributor Ashlee Blackwell wrote. The film will feature interviews with Coleman, Keith David, Jordan Peele, Rusty Cundieff and Tina Mabry, among others. If you’re a horror fan or a film history fan, mark this on your calendars.
“Cold Pursuit” — Feb. 8
There are but few certainties in this life. Death. Taxes. Vols fans hating their head football coach. And ever since “Taken” was released a little more than 10 years(!) ago, we can rest assured that we’ll get a new Liam Neeson thriller at least once a year. (Also, “The Commuter” was enjoyable, don’t @ me.) This one looks a bit less self-serious than other Neeson Revenge Flicks, as the trailer features Neeson running into a car with a snow plow while “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays in the background.
Originally titled “Hard Powder,” “Cold Pursuit” stars Neeson as a snowplow man named Nels Coxman (yes, really). Mr. Coxman goes on a revenge rampage after he finds his son has died of a possibly forced heroin overdose. Queen Laura Dern plays Mrs. Coxman. Hopefully she’ll have more to do than just stand idly by while her husband kills people.
Will Mr. Coxman find the villain, whoever they are, wherever they are, and use his skills honed over a very long career as a snowplowman to kill them? Come on, y’all know the drill by now.
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” — Feb. 8
I was pleasantly surprised with the first installment of this franchise back in 2013, as writer/director team Phil Lord and Chris Miller took a glorified commercial and turned it into something weird, funny and heartfelt.
The sequel reunites that team, with “Bojack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg on board to help write. The trailer promises more of the same of the first film, but with more voice talent. Can lightning strike twice?
“Happy Death Day 2U” — Feb. 15
(Fair warning: The above trailer spoils the whole first movie, so heads up.)
I watched the first “Happy Death Day” on a short plane ride, looking for a quick, light movie to pass the time and not expecting much. I ended up loving it for its fun tone, great performances (especially Jessica Rothe) and its gleeful deconstruction of slasher genre tropes with a lot of “Groundhog Day” thrown in. The sequel looks like more of the same fun mix.
“[The sequel] stems from the question of what cause this [time loop] to happen, director Christopher Landon told Meredith Borders in the latest issue of Fangoria. “All of a sudden, I got really excited about that idea, and I went home and started writing, and the whole movie came out of my brain really quickly.”
“Fighting With My Family” — Feb. 15
From the mind of Stephen Merchant comes this wrestling comedy about two teens trying to make it as professional wrestlers, guided by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson himself.
“Run the Race” — Feb. 22
Expect to hear a character quote 2 Timothy 4:7 — “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” — at some point in this feel-good sports film about two brothers using the only avenue they know as a means to get out of their bad hometown.
It’s produced by Tim Tebow, so expect him to make a cameo somewhere too. While not made by PureFlix, this looks about like that studio’s “Woodlawn” or Affirm Films’ “When the Game Stands Tall.” I liked both of those, and I’m a sucker for a good sports movie, even one produced by Vols nemesis Tebow.
(Wait a minute…Timothy Tebow…2 Timothy…and one of the brothers’ jersey numbers is 2…Coincidence?)
“Greta” — March 1
The official logline for this thriller is “A young woman befriends a lonely widow.” The trailer above reveals that there’s more to said widow (played by Isabelle Huppert) than meets the eye. This is exactly the type of thriller that doesn’t get talked about enough these days. Chloë Grace Moretz (“Miseducation of Cameron Post”) and Maika Monroe (“It Follows”) co-star.
“Chaos Walking” — March 1
There is no trailer for this movie, let alone any sort of marketing, yet it is slated for a March 1 release, according to IMDb. IMDb also pegs the budget at $125 million, so it’s odd that there has been virtually no buzz about a movie about a dystopian world where there are no women and everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley.
Then again, this is directed by Doug Liman, who directed the similarly mismarketed films “Edge of Tomorrow,” (or “Live. Die. Repeat.” or “All You Need Is Kill” or whatever moniker it’s currently being sold as) “American Made” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” So I’m not too worried.
“Captain Marvel” — March 8
Brie Larson! Jude Law! Samuel L. Jackson! Clark Gregg! Lee Pace! Blockbuster! Grunge! Nine Inch Nails! The 90s! I am excited! The scene in Avengers 4 when Captain Marvel meets Captain America is gonna make me squeal with delight!
“Us” — March 15
The Christmas Day drop of the above trailer led to so many online fan theories it almost took the fun out of celebrating the fact that this is Peele’s second “social horror” film in two years that has already managed to stick in the public consciousness. Starring Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o, this is a horror film about being your own worst enemy, according to Peele.
I want to go into this movie as unprepared as I was for “Get Out,” but I will say that I’m digging the slight “Nightmare on Elm Street” vibe on the above thumbnail. Maybe that’s relevant, maybe not.
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” — March 22
Four things in this film’s favor: Richard Linklater. Cate Blanchett. Billy Crudup. Judy Greer.
One thing against this film: Whoever made this trailer seems to not know what tone to strike, and picked the blandest shots to promote.
I guess that’s 4-1 odds, so this should be good. A new Linklater is always worth a watch.
“The Beach Bum” — March 22
Matthew McConaughey stars as a beach bum named Moondog in a film directed by Harmony “Spring Breaaaaaaaakers” Korine with a supporting cast — Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, Jonah Hill and Jimmy Buffett — that reads like a game of super-stoned Mad Libs. Yes please.
“Captive State” — March 29
Most alien invasion movies are about just that: the invasion. “Captive State” wonders about what happens 10 years after the aliens take over. It’s an intriguing premise, and the trailer has John Goodman channeling his unknowable “10 Cloverfield Lane” energy.
This is directed by Rupert Wyatt, who knows how to direct a sci-fi origin story (2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which has become dwarfed by the latter two entries in that trilogy but set the groundwork, technically and thematically, for them to build on) and knows how to get great scenes out of John Goodman — his scenes in “The Gambler” are the only things worth watching from that film.
“Her Smell” — March 29
Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne and Dan Stevens star in this look at a punk rocker’s struggle with sobriety. Something tells me that this will end up being about more than just music and drugs, though, and while I have no idea what to expect based on the above scene, I am intrigued.
“Shazam!” — April 5
First, a brief history lesson. Shazam’s first appearance was in “Whiz Comics #2” in 1940. Back then, the character was a Fawcett Comics creation known as Captain Marvel, the alter ego of Billy Batson, who transforms into the superhero Captain Marvel by shouting “Shazam!” DC Comics sued Fawcett in 1953 for copyright infringement, claiming Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman.
DC eventually licensed the character from Fawcett in 1972, but was forced to market the character under the name of Shazam! because of the other rival comic book character named Captain Marvel. (See above.) In 2011, DC just straight-up started naming the character Shazam! (The “Captain Marvel” episode of Tyler Huckabee’s comics podcast “Capetown” has a great breakdown of this history.)
This film adaptation of the comics looks like DC Comics trying to once again imitate a Marvel property. This is the lightest in tone any DC movie has looked thus far (“Aquaman” being a close second), and everyone in the trailer looks like they’re having a lot of fun. Will this be the DC Comics movie to win over both Marvel and DC fans?
“Pet Sematary” — April 5
The Stephen King Renaissance continues apace. (Also, check it out: another horror trailer that starts out with a nice family car ride.) Jason Clarke, John Lithgow and Amy Seimetz star in this remake of the 1989 adaptation of Sai King’s tale about how you should just let your pets die. If all goes well, this will garner as much attention as September’s “IT: Chapter Two.” With few notable exceptions (I would love an oral history on how “The Dark Tower” got mangled so badly), the recent adaptations of King’s work have been stellar. This looks no different.
“Best of Enemies” — April 5
Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell star as Ann Atwater and Claiborne Paul Ellis. She’s a black civil rights activist. He’s a Klan leader. Will these two crazy kids be able to put aside their differences and work together to get their Durham, N.C. school district desegregated in 1971?
If I seem flip, it’s because the above trailer paints this real-life story almost as light-hearted as a romantic comedy. First-time director Robin Bissell (production credits include “Seabiscuit,” “Pleasantville” and the first “Hunger Games” film) is working with a great cast, but this looks a little to much like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Green Book” for my taste. I’m cautiously optimistic. The old people at my screening of “First Man” went nuts for the trailer, though, so what do I know.
“Hellboy” — April 12
I still haven’t seen Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy,” so I have no real opinion one way or the other on this reboot. That said, this looks a lot lighter than what I was expecting, and I’m not sure about the jokes in the trailer. David Harbour looks good as Hellboy, though.
“Missing Link” — April 12
Laika Animation makes beautiful stop-motion films that have a lot of heart. The studio is really the only American competition to Disney in terms of quality (seriously, go do yourself a favor and watch “Kubo and the Two Strings” or “ParaNorman”). “Missing Link” hopes to continue that trend. It tells the story of prehistoric human Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), who recruits the explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) to go on a trip to Shangri-La to find his long-lost family.
“Little” — April 12
All aboard the Regina Hall Hype Train! In”Little,” Hall stars as Issa Rae’s boss from hell who gets reverse “13 Going on 30”-ed by a little girl, causing her to revert back to her child self (played by Marsai Martin of “Black-ish”). I laughed out loud like five times during this trailer. Will this be 2019’s “Girls Trip”?
(Also, if you have not seen Hall in “Support the Girls,” go fix that soon. It’s on Hulu.)
(Also also, this is the first film this spring to feature a “This Is Us” cast member. Justin Hartley plays Martin’s elementary school teacher.)
“Breakthrough” — April 17
In the second movie from a “This Is Us” cast member this spring, Chrissy Metz plays a mother who prays over her son as he lies in a coma after being rescued from freezing Lake St. Louis, where he was underwater for 15 minutes. When she prays, he wakes up. (It’s true — Here’s a news story from when it happened, in 2015.)
Look. Am I the biggest fan of this new subgenre of “based on a true story” Christian movies where kids die and then come back to life (“Heaven is for Real,” “Miracles From Heaven,” etc.)? No. I am, however, a fan of the casting for this movie (Topher Grace plays a pastor. Come on.) and Hillsong’s “Oceans” still makes me cry, despite my best efforts. As a former sick kid myself, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for these types of things, even if I remain skeptical of some of the stories.
“The Curse of La Llorona” — April 19
…Why is Linda Cardellini headlining a horror movie based on a Mexican legend? I will watch pretty much anything Cardellini is in, but could producer James Wan find no Hispanics to take the lead role? Then again, maybe I’m overreacting a bit. This looks like campy, mid-aughts horror fun (at least, the meeting with the priest does).
“Under the Silver Lake” — April 19
David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to “It Follows” actually premiered last year at Cannes, but finally goes into wide release this spring after finding a distributor after several scheduling delays.
Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough star in this trippy-looking neo-noir. It’s gotten mixed reviews so far, but looks right up my alley.
“High Life” — April 19
Robert Pattinson continues his streak of picking outside-the-box choices with Claire Denis’ first English-language film about a spaceship full of convicts sent to harness a black hole’s energy while also being sexually experimented on by scientists onboard the ship. This looks like the anti-“Interstellar.” It’s been a while since we had a bleak picture of space exploration.
“The Intruder” — April 26
Dennis Quaid stars as an old man wearing a red hat who sells his home to a young black couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good). They move in, but turns out, ol’ Dennis just can’t part with the home he built (and maybe murdered his wife in). A bit on the nose? This looks like a “Get Out” ripoff mixed with “Lakeview Terrace” and a couple Lifetime movies. If MoviePass still exists when this comes out, I’ll try it out.
“Avengers: Endgame” — April 26
Cap’s gonna die, y’all. And this movie is gonna make approximately a kajillion dollars.
Scream, Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street — Date TBD
This documentary about the making of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” and its cult status as an LGBTQ cult film was a Kickstarter project that will finally show in theaters sometime this year.
Documentary subject Mark Patton reveals the film’s affect on him and goes into how Hollywood treated gay actors and actresses after the height of the AIDS crisis. Like “Horror Noire,” if you’re a fan of horror or a fan of film history, this is one that should be on your radar.