As we roll on into 2019 a rabble of pumped-up superheroes will continue to jostle for huge paydays at multiplexes throughout the known universe (both Marvel and DC).
Meanwhile, there are many other movies heading this way that will engage the hearts and minds (and sometimes ids) of anyone whose interests extend beyond comic-book origin stories and spandex costumes.
The hard-to-pigeonhole and reliably impressive Richard Linklater (Slacker, Boyhood) is directing an adaptation of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, a dramedy starring the great Cate Blanchett as an unhappy mother who goes missing – thus leaving her teen daughter to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The supporting actors include Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne and Judy Greer.
An equally notable cast that features Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke and Diane Lane star in Serenity, a twisty thriller about a fishing boat captain who enters murky waters when his ex-wife shows up imploring for help from a violent new husband. The tone shifts from terrifying to tuneful with Rocketman, which portrays the sequin-studded life of Elton John as he blasts off into one of pop music’s most extravagant and successful careers.
Blacksploitation cinema long ago migrated from ghetto to mainstream, and the newest Shaft offers a unique perspective on that journey by showcasing all three generational iterations of badass private detective John Shaft. Featuring ’70s-era Richard Roundtree; Samuel L. Jackson, from the memorable 2000 update; and introducing newcomer Jessie Usher, this should be a can-you-dig-it? guilty pleasure.
A different form of genre nostalgia is offered by Godzilla: King of the Monsters, whose improbably A-list cast includes Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe. Oh, and speaking of great casting, let’s not forget that the venerable Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah are also joining this epic monster mash.
The always-provocative Quentin Tarantino has the remarkable – or should that be lamentable? – ability to transmute genre trash into something close to art. His 10th film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is set in 1969, as an aspiring actor and his stunt double court fame at the same time as the Manson Family murders are horrifying America. The 45-caliber cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning and James Marsden.
Things will be much more stately across the pond as poised period drama Downton Abbey blithely steps onto the big screen after achieving unparalleled popularity on PBS. Count on series regulars Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery and Maggie Smith to deliver scads of martini-dry bon mots. Well done, chaps!
Sequels usually signal little more than a combination of greed and failure of imagination, but Zombieland 2 may be the exception, as returning actors Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin gird their loins for another horrifyingly hilarious splatterfest as brain-gobbling zombies continue to infest our planet. Expect a much gentler form of the macabre in The Addams Family, a wacky and witty animated version whose visual style evokes that of cartoonist-creator Charles Addams. With the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz and Allison Janney.
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Victoria always has worthy alternatives to mainstream multiplex fare.
UVic’s Cinecenta has interesting programming for the new year, most notably a selection of classic films by Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman, considered a high priest of art cinema. It’s Bergman’s centenary and screenings of such legendary titles as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, The Magic Flute and Fanny and Alexander will be preceded by the documentary Searching for Ingmar Bergman by Margarethe von Trotta.
And down the hill at Movie Monday (in the Eric Martin Pavilion, corner of Fort Street and Lee Avenue), founder and eclectic programmer Bruce Saunders is screening the engaging documentary Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me (“the most entertaining film I saw last year!”) on Jan. 14. And early in February he’s slotted in This Mountain Life, “the story of a lovely couple who’ve been living off the grid for 40 years.”
Happy New Year at the movies!