We all know that Avengers: Infinity War is arriving this year, everyone’s looking forward to Black Panther just a couple of months before that, Solo: A Star Wars Story has us worried and intrigued in equal measure, A Wrinkle In Time and Ready Player One look set to make significant waves away from franchise filmmaking, and, of course, The Incredibles 2 is FINALLY HERE. But what about all the other films in 2018? What gems will we receive this year that catch us off guard and turn out to be our favourite films of the year? Which off-radar projects do we need to give our attention too? Every year, these questions should apply. Because, away from the blockbusters and mainstream releases, cinema thrives in abundance. I’ve taken it upon myself to give you the rundown of these lesser known projects, the ones that, in 12 months time, we’ll be raving about.
Annihilation, dir. by Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Benedict Wong.
Release date: February 23rd.
With 2015’s Ex Machina, screenwriter Alex Garland made his directorial debut and delivered one of the most acclaimed sci-fi films in recent years, it earned a place among The Edge‘s top films of that year and even managed to win the Academy Award for Special Effects. In 2018, Garland returns to the director’s chair to bring us Annihilation, another sci-fi flick, this time an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s book of the same name. In Annihilation, a biologist (Natalie Portman) undertakes an expedition into an environmental disaster zone to figure out what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac) and the group of soldiers who accompanied him on their mission, none of whom survived. It’s clear from the synopsis alone that Annihilation will be a different creature to Ex Machina, whereas the latter was an exploration of AI and a domestic thriller of sorts, this looks to be more of an action thriller, laced with horror elements. The trailer evokes imagery of Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien, with even a dash of the exploratory and beguiling themes of Apocalypse Now, this is a logical step for Garland, after great work on a smaller platform, he now gets the chance to up his game on a grander scale. And then there’s the cast, Portman is always reliable, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson, joining their squad is Gina Rodriguez, making the jump from her highly praised lead role on TV show Jane the Virgin to the big screen. It’s a formidable cast of leading ladies who should elevate Annihilation and help it to fulfil its potential, all of the elements are there for one of 2018’s most impressive sci-fi films.
Every Day, dir. by Michael Sucsy
Starring: Angourie Rice, Debby Ryan, Justice Smith, Maria Bello, Michael Cram, Charles Vandervaart, Owen Teague, Lucas Jade Zumann, Jacob Batalon.
Release date: February 23rd.
Every Day is a book that has flown under the radar a bit in recent years, but don’t let that put you off – it has a great premise and should make for a unique watch. David Levithan’s book tells the story of “A”, a soul who awakens in a new body every day who on one fateful day becomes Justin (Justice Smith) and ends up falling for Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon (Angourie Rice). Given this premise, Every Day has Rice’s Rhiannon as one of its two leads, “A” however is being played by a whole host of actors, including Jacob Batalon and Lucas Jade Zumann, both of whom gave sterling performances in their breakout roles from last year (Spider-Man: Homecoming and 20th Century Women respectively) and are itching for a bigger platform and spotlight for their talents. Despite the trailer romanticising this movie as much as it can, honestly it’s a god awful trailer and had I not read the book this wouldn’t be on here, Every Day promises to be unique and, hopefully, a cliché buster.
Isle of Dogs, dir. by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Koyu Rankin, F. Murray Abraham, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Mari Natsuki, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Yoko Ono.
Release date: March 30th.
Wes Anderson is a total delight of a director. He’s one of the only filmmakers working today who has his own unique style and identity that always works wonders, the man arguably hasn’t made a bad film, his most recent effort – The Grand Budapest Hotel – being his most successful film to date. His newest offering Isle of Dogs is something he’s only ever done once before, a stop motion animation film, ala Fantastic Mr Fox. The premise is quite simple (it does what is says on the tin), a group of dogs are left on a trash island in Japan and one boy goes in search of his dog. Simplistic, yet quirky and charming, that’s Wes Anderson’s motto. The cast he has assembled is, as per usual, nothing short of excellent; past collaborators Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum, each strong voice actors in their own rights, are back, and first time Anderson collaborators include Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig and Frances McDormand, all of whom have had strong 2017s and find themselves amidst the awards buzz. All this talent isn’t even necessary for what will undoubtedly be a fantastic film, from the trailers alone we can see Anderson’s trademark witty dialogue, eccentric characters and, of course, symmetrical cinematography and pastel colouring, but it seems that everyone in Hollywood wants to work with Wes Anderson. But why wouldn’t they? He’s one of the industry’s top directors and any project of his is worth attention, look for Isle of Dogs to be yet another treat in already sweet filmography.
Fahrenheit 11/9, dir by Michael Moore
Starring: Michael Moore.
Release date: TBD 2018.
From one director with a distinctive style to another and the inclusion of the only documentary on this list. Back in 2004, Fahrenheit 9/11 made an impact like no film has before. From its winning of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, to its box office topping opening and its over $200 million worldwide gross, and to its almost nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars, this was a movie that resonated with people because of how personal it was and how strongly it shook their reality. In 2018, Michael Moore, the king of controversy, returns with Fahrenheit 11/9 and this time his focus isn’t upon George W. Bush, it’s on one Donald Trump. Yes, Michael Moore is making a documentary on Donald Trump, get ready for Twitter to eat itself alive. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a spiritual successor to Fahrenheit 9/11, both in its title (11/9 being both an inversion of 9/11 and the day Trump was announced as President Elect) and in how America seemed to overcome its Bush days, only to fall back into something potentially much worse. Question his tactics and his political bias all you want, but it’s hard to deny that Moore makes a truly riveting and incredibly powerful documentary, Bowling for Columbine isn’t hailed as one of the greatest docs of all time for no reason. As resonant as Fahrenheit 9/11 was upon its release, Fahrenheit 11/9 may just top it, it’s hard to deny the uneasy path America seems to be heading down at the moment. With Senate elections occurring later this year and Trump’s push for re-election likely starting up next year, could a writer, filmmaker and activist from Flint, Michigan end up making a difference in this political circus we call the 21st century?
The Hate U Give, dir. by George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Lamar Johnson, TJ Wright, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, Issa Rae, Common, Kian Lawley.
Release date: TBD 2018.
Onto another YA adaptation, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give was the book of 2017; a no holds barred, brutally honest and provocative novel which told a fictional story as it has occurred far too many times in real life. Whilst YA books are always being cycled into production, thanks to the success of The Fault In Our Stars, and many fail to make a truly significant mark, The Hate U Give should be the trend breaker. The film tells the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg) who finds herself pulled into the limelight of activism and the national debate after she witnesses the shooting of her unarmed friend at the hands of the police. It’s a simple story and premise, one that unfolds in a heartbreaking, yet unfortunately expected, manner, and as such the novel is phenomenal. George Tillman Jr. doesn’t necessarily have the best track record as a director but The Hate U Give is an incredibly difficult book to mess up in transition to the screen, it’s filled with compelling characters and a striking atmosphere of realism. With the right script and strong performances, this as of yet unconfirmed 2018 release should be among the most resonant and essential pieces of viewing all year.
Backseat, dir. by Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell.
Release date: TBD 2018.
Nobody saw The Big Short coming from Adam McKay, the Anchorman and Step Brothers director made a seamless transition to a weightier film completely out of nowhere and found himself winning Oscars for it in the process. So now he’s gonna try his hand at another dose of the 21st century Americana with Backseat, a biopic on Dick Cheney. Who is playing Cheney? Well, it’s Christian Bale of course. In yet another physically transformative role for the Welshman, the former Batman tackles the controversial yet alarmingly powerful figure in what could easily be Bale’s second ever Best Actor Oscar nomination, and possibly his first win. In the foxhole with him are Amy Adams as Dick’s wife Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, it’s a lead cast that are reliably great every time and should suitably transform themselves alongside Bale. Lets be honest, Sam Rockwell and George W. Bush sounds like the greatest thing ever, doesn’t it? With his high-octane directing style, charismatic storytelling and scripting, and his fantastic cast, Adam McKay will likely craft Backseat as one of 2018’s most hauntingly funny and shockingly powerful films.
EDITOR’S PICK: First Man, dir. by Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Shea Wigham, Jon Bernthal, Brian d’Arcy James, Pablo Schreiber, Patrick Fugit.
Release date: November 2nd.
There are four words that should instantly sell you on First Man and explain as to why this is my top under-the-radar pick for 2018; Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle. One, an actor who has been choosing nothing but great projects for the last few years, including Blade Runner 2049, The Nice Guys, Crazy, Stupid Love, The Ides of March, The Big Short and, of course, La La Land. The last film there links nicely into Mr Chazelle, the reigning Best Director for his work on the dazzling musical, his previous film Whiplash is also highly regarded, with many deeming it as one of the best of the decade thus far. As such, any Chazelle project should be greeted with high anticipation, he’s arguably the best young director on the planet right now, and Gosling is easily one of the most in form actors, couple them together in a Neil Armstrong biopic and magic should follow. Chazelle has shown his capabilities in directing mesmerising sequences which First Man, being something of a space movie, should feature, it’ll be interesting to see Chazelle try his hand at a film away from the music realm. In addition to Gosling, the rest of the cast is stellar; you have Claire Foy, one of the current queens of TV, and Corey Stoll and Kyle Chandler, two of the strongest ensemble actors in Hollywood. All the parts are there and First Man looks set to be one of 2018’s best films, put this one on your list right now.