7. Dumbo (March 29)
Plot Summary: From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
The Breakdown: By the sound of it, Dumbo not only re-imagines the Disney animated film in live-action, but vastly expands up it narratively. Couple that with its trailers' use of the tear-jerking "Baby Mine" and the movie seems like a heartfelt remake of a Mouse House classic... maybe. To be frank, Tim Burton's uneven track record over the past decade is a big part of why many are wary of him taking on Dumbo, especially in light of the mixed response to his Alice in Wonderland retelling, nine years ago. Still, the film reunites Burton with his Batman Returns stars Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito, so it's definitely got that working in its favor.
6. Pet Sematary (April 5)
Plot Summary: Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
The Breakdown: Stephen King fever will be rampant as ever in 2019, thanks to films like Pet Sematary. King's original novel was previously adapted by Mary Lambert in 1989 and her film has since become a cult success among horror genre enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the new Pet Sematary movie seems promising enough, between its talented stars and King's disturbing-as-ever tale about why "Sometimes dead is better". Nobody's really expecting this one to become anywhere near the pop cultural phenomena that IT was in 2017, but it has the makings of a respectable adaptation - as opposed to being yet another misfire based on King's books.
5. Shazam! (April 5)
Plot Summary: We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word - SHAZAM! - this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart - inside a ripped, godlike body - Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).
The Breakdown: Jokes about 2019’s other Captain Marvel movie aside, Shazam! aims to explore the comedic side of the DCEU in fresh and exciting ways. That begins with star Zachary Levi, who's so far been pitch-perfect as the titular superhero in the film's marketing. Director David F. Sandberg has further demonstrated he’s the right man for the job through his playful online interactions and production updates alone. Shazam! itself looks like a clever twist on a (superhero) coming of age comedy, and a nice followup to James Wan’s unapologetically goofy DC fantasy epic Aquaman. The DCEU may yet go two for two on entries directed by horror filmmakers, by the looks of it.
4. Hellboy (April 12)
Plot Summary: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.
The Breakdown: Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot looks more like an Underworld or Resident Evil film (complete with Milla Jovovich in a key role) than Guillermo del Toro’s take on the franchise. That’s not a bad thing either, per se, especially since that kind of genre fare plays to Marshall’s B-movie sensibilities. Still, there’s a bit of disconnect between Hellboy’s trailer and how its cast and crew talk about the reboot. The latter keep describing the movie as being a grisly monster horror film, whereas the former has much more of an action-comedy vibe. Hopefully, the movie proper will strike a balance between these extremes, much like Mike Mignola’s source comics before it.
3. Missing Link (April 12)
Plot Summary: Meet Mr. Link: 8 feet tall, 630 lbs, and covered in fur, but don’t let his appearance fool you… he is funny, sweet, and adorably literal, making him the world’s most lovable legend. Tired of living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Link recruits fearless explorer Sir Lionel Frost to guide him on a journey to find his long-lost relatives in the fabled valley of Shangri-La. Along with adventurer Adelina Fortnight, our fearless trio of explorers encounter more than their fair share of peril as they travel to the far reaches of the world to help their new friend.
The Breakdown: Laika’s stop-motion artistry has only grown more and more sophisticated with each passing film, and that shouldn’t change with Missing Link. Narratively, on the other hand, the studio’s latest offering seems a bit conventional and a step back from the layered parables in Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings especially. Of course, it’s possible Missing Link’s trailers are somewhat misleading and the actual film has more depth than its promos have let on. Either way, it should make for good kid-friendly entertainment and (with a little luck) may yet have some substantial themes to go with Mr. Link’s unintentional shenanigans.
2. The Curse of La Llorona (April 19)
Plot Summary: In 1970s Los Angeles, La Llorona is stalking the night - and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide.
The Breakdown: No, The Curse of La Llorona isn’t a Conjuring universe film. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was, however, between James Wan producing, the 1970s setting, and the jump scares in the film’s trailer (which is certainly reminiscent of Wan’s previous work). Wan and his team clearly think highly of La Llorona, seeing as they’ve already hired director Michael Chaves to helm The Conjuring 3 next. Fans of Wan’s cinematic horror universe may want to give this one a look for those reasons alone, especially since Annabelle 3 isn’t due out until July. Who knows: the “Weeping Woman” may yet become the next great horror movie monster.
1. Avengers: Endgame (April 26)
Plot Summary: A culmination of 22 interconnected films, the fourth installment of the Avengers saga will draw audiences to witness the turning point of this epic journey. Our beloved heroes will truly understand how fragile this reality is and the sacrifices that must be made to uphold it.
The Breakdown: It might not be titled Infinity War - Part 2, but Avengers: Endgame is very much the second half of that film, and the conclusion that MCU fans have been anticipating and dreading in equal measure. Endgame also has a whole lot of ground to cover, between wrapping up the Thanos storyline, bidding farewell to the original Avengers (in some way), and bringing Phase 3 of the MCU to a satisfying close. Suffice it to say, directors Joe and Anthony Russo are going to earn that potential 3-hour runtime with this one, by the look of things. And better yet, when it’s all done, we’ll finally be able to answer the question: what now?
- Serenity (January 25) - Between its enigmatic premise and Matthew McConaughey going all philosophical again (a la True Detective), Steven Knight’s thriller has a lot of potential. But is there a reason this one’s being “dumped” in late January?
- Cold Pursuit (February 8) - The “Liam Neeson with a snowplow” movie is actually a remake of a Norwegian dark comedy by the original film’s director. It looks like the new version is a bleak action-comedy as well, which should only benefit its ridiculous premise.
- Isn't It Romantic (February 13) - Rebel Wilson’s new project has a great setup (“What if you were trapped in a Hollywood rom-com?”) and the rom-com itself made a big comeback in 2018. Whether this meta take on the genre will actually work in motion, however, is another matter.
- Alita: Battle Angel (February 14) - Robert Rodriguez’s manga adaptation has been delayed twice already, which is rarely a good sign. On the other hand, the visuals have gotten better and sharper with each passing trailer. Maybe this one really did just need the extra time for post-production?
- Happy Death Day 2U (February 14) - The first Happy Death Day was a clever mashup of slasher tropes and Groundhog Day-style comedy. Question is, should it have stayed a one-off, or is there enough gas left in the tank for a satisfying sequel?