With the 2018 prestige films in the rearview mirror and little to nothing worthwhile on the near horizon, March begins the rollout of Hollywood’s highest-profile offerings. Here are 12 of the most anticipated major studio releases of the new year. Note: Opening dates subject to change.
“Captain Marvel” — Brie Larson stars as the title character, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who gains superhuman powers after a crash involving the space-based Kree military unit. This is the first MCU title to feature a female lead character and given the roaring success of competitor DC’s “Wonder Woman,” it will almost assuredly break yet even more box office records and gender misconceptions.
“US” — Writer/director Jordan Peele’s much-awaited follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Get Out,” the trailer for “Us” looks likes a mix of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and the parallel universe episode of the original “Star Trek” TV series. Academy Award-winner Lupita N’yongo (“12 Years a Slave,” “Black Panther”) plays the matriarch of a family that encounters evil versions of themselves while on vacation.
“Avengers: Endgame” — Given that this sequel to “Infinity War” is the last of the MCU “Phase Three” productions and the final project for many of the contracted stars, you can expect some actual “forever” departures, which will hopefully go far in making up for the bizarre final few scenes in the first installment.
“John Wick 3: Parabellum” — Picking up right where “Chapter 2” ended, this proposed final installment in the (so far) brilliant action crime trilogy finds Wick (Keanu Reeves) twisting in the wind and fending for himself after he murdered a fellow member of the High Table on the grounds of the sacred, “murder-free” Continental hotel/hideout for criminals.
“Rocketman” — This biography of Elton John (Taron Egerton) from filmmaker Dexter Fletcher will be less like last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which Fletcher co-directed) and something more along the lines of “Across the Universe” or “Mamma Mia!” As it is being billed as a “musical fantasy,” expect lots of embellishment and the stretching of truths. Egerton supposedly accepted the part only if he sang the songs himself which — based on the trailer — he’s pulled off quite well.
“Dark Phoenix” — Pound for pound the “X-Men” franchise is the most consistently excellent of all the comic book franchises, a feat made all the impressive as there have been 11 so far. This 12th edition — the first without Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine — focuses on a younger version of Jean Grey, a.k.a., Phoenix (Sophie Turner), who is coaxed over to the dark side by a manipulative shape shifter (Jessica Chastain).
“Toy Story 4” — Talk of a fourth “Toy Story” began even before the third installment was released way back in 2010. The closest thing to a guaranteed family hit coming out this year, “TS4” will feature most of the original voice cast plus newcomers Keanu Reeves, Patricia Arquette and Jordan Peele. Prior to a family road trip a new toy is brought into the existing fold resulting in a gamut of reactions.
“The Lion King” — Disney’s CGI retooling of its classic animated catalogue (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella”) continues with “The Lion King,” which, at one point, was the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Given director Jon Favreau’s across-the-board critical and financial success with the heavy-CGI “The Jungle Book,” there’s no reason to believe the parents who saw the original in 1994 as kids won’t be taking their own children to see this in droves.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — The ninth full-length feature from writer/director Quentin Tarantino (and his first not produced by Harvey Weinstein) is a fictionalized historical drama set in 1969 amid the backdrop of the Tate/LaBianca murders by the Manson Family. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as a TV actor and his longtime stuntman trying to break into the movie business, Sharon Tate is played by Margot Robbie and the rest of the supporting cast includes, well … practically everyone.
“IT: Chapter Two” — The follow-up (not the sequel) to director Andy Muschietti’s critical and commercial smash hit first installment from 2017, “It: Chapter 2” is set three decades after the first ended and picks up with “the Losers’ Club” as adults, still being haunted by Pennywise the shape shifting clown (Bill Skarsgard). New cast arrivals include Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” — Arriving a year after the universally acclaimed documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “Neighborhood” is going to have a considerable challenge winning over critics, but with Tom Hanks starring as the late Fred Rodgers and (hopefully) no-nonsense direction from Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me”), it’s likely to become an instant audience favorite.
“Star Wars: Episode IX” — This might mark the end of the iconic original epic space opera, but don’t expect the spin-offs and standalones to ever cease production. The studio’s wisest move was to bring back “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” writer/director J.J. Abrams to tie up all of the loose ends and give it a fitting and emotional send-off.