2018 was a pretty good year for Hollywood. With more than $11.8 billion in ticket sales, it has been described by many as a record-busting year, and a good sign for an industry that has been struggling to reconnect with even its most devoted constituents.
Now, industry experts wonder if these strong numbers were just a fluke, or the sign of a continuing upward trend that will continue into 2019 and beyond. While the analysts argue, production houses are using the extra pocket change to place wagers on the uptick.
Meanwhile, Hollywood’s veteran elite have returned to take advantage of the generous climate. Here’s what some of them are up to in 2019:
J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: Episode IX
After the box office failure that was The Book of Henry, Disney had no problem dropping Colin Trevorrow from the upcoming conclusion to their prize Star Wars franchise and asking J.J. Abrams to hop back into the directing chair. Considering the smash success of the Abrams-helmed The Force Awakens in 2015 there wasn’t really any mystery behind the decision, save for Abrams’ own self-professed hesitance. What made him change his mind?
“I had no intention to return,” Abrams told Rolling Stone back in 2017, “But when the opportunity presented itself to finish a story that we had begun with these new characters, to tell the last chapter of their story, it felt like there was a chance to do it in a way where we could go beyond, and do better than we did in Seven.”
Release: December 20th, 2019
Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
At 76 years old and with a solid 25 narrative films under his belt, (along with an uncountable slew of documentaries, shorts, and music videos) Martin Scorsese can easily be counted among the greatest and most prolific directors of all time, and if his upcoming NETFLIX picture The Irishman is any indicator, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Pairing with longtime partner Robert DeNiro to tell the story of hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran for a film that was apparently announced over a decade ago, Scorsese is making a return to the world of underground organized crime, a departure from more colorful recent outings such as The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Hugo (2011).
Release: Mid 2019
Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit
Fresh off the unbelievable success of 2018’s Thor: Ragnarok, Director Taika Waititi will tell the strange tale of a young German boy & his high profile imaginary best friend: Adolf Hitler. And if that isn’t enough, Waititi will play the Fürher himself, a move that has stunned, well, no one really.
Waititi has a talent for inhabiting the more colorful side characters of his films, from the Victorian fancy-boy vampire in the hilarious What We Do In The Shadows or the Kiwi-inspired Korg in Ragnarok. In a 2017 interview with The Independent, Waititi elaborates on his film’s signature balance of honesty and absurdity: “I don’t have to be a tortured artist to be interesting, I can just be a f*cking weird New Zealander and that’s enough.”
Release: Mid to Late 2019
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Tarantino is back in 2019 for his ninth feature film, four years after 2015’s generally well-received The Hateful Eight and only one short from his latest cry-wolf retirement announcement. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood will tell the story of a withering TV actor and his stunt double as they try to make a name for themselves in late ‘60s Los Angeles.
Few other plot details have been revealed. But If I were a betting man, I’d say we’re most likely going to get a scene of three men each with a gun pointed at the other.
Release: August 9th, 2019
Terrence Malick – Radegund
Veteran filmmaking enigma Terrence Malick has a relatively small body of work to hang his hat on, but it is a body of work that has kept both critics and moviegoers debating his films for forty years. Dubbed a ‘romantic idealist’ by his fans and detractors alike, Malick’s films always incite passionate arguments on both sides of the aisle. After what could be considered to be a run of not-so-hotly-received movies, many are wondering if Malick can recapture the popular success of his early career.
Radegund is a historical drama that will tell the story of Austrian objector Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Third Reich in World War Two and was executed as a result (spoiler alert?) In 1943.
Thanks, Terrence. Sounds like another charming heartwarmer.
Steven Soderbergh – The Laundromat & High Flying Bird
Steven Soderbergh is no slouch. Fresh off the heels of 2017’s Logan Lucky and 2018’s iPhone horror thriller Unsane, as well as all eight episodes of HBO’s Mosaic (also 2018), the Oscar and Emmy winner will releasing not one, but two feature films in 2019, giving him then official title of “that guy who is making us all look bad.”
High Flying Bird will hit cinemas in Febuary, featuring Zazie Beetz & Zachary Quinto, telling the story of a controversial business opportunity between a sports agent and a rookie baseball client.
The Laundromat is the new title for Soderbergh’s long-rumored Panama Papers project, and will drop later in the year, putting veteran leads Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep that much closer to awards season.
Release: (High Flying Bird) Feb 8th, 2019, (The Laundromat) Late 2019
Rian Johnson – Knives Out
Rian Johnson doesn’t give a Wookie’s rear end what you thought of The Last Jedi, the most recent installment in Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy. Fan reactions were all over the map, but the detractors were inspired enough to launch a petition to have the movie stricken from Star Wars canon (as if that could ever happen).
The thing is, Rian Johnson is not the kind of director that makes films that he doesn’t want to make. As the man behind the festival breakout Brick and the clever & original sci-fi thriller Looper, not to mention the director of what could arguably be the greatest Breaking Bad episode of all time, Johnson has established himself as a staunch individualist who is uncompromising from conceptualization to follow through.
Details of Knives Out, Johnson’s next project, have been scarce. All we really know is that it is a “modern take on the classic detective genre.” This would place it closer to Brick than the rest of his catalogue, and for many fans, that’s a high selling point.
Release: November 27th, 2019
Jim Jarmusch – The Dead Don't Die
Seems like everybody enjoys a good zombie thriller nowadays, but if anyone could be excluded from the axiom, it would have been Jim Jarmusch. His films are a monument to pace and patience, as if neither he nor anyone on screen is in any hurry to get anywhere quick. That’s a far cry from the plot of most zombie fare, in which everyone is running from something.
Then again, he pulled of vampires in 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive without sacrificing an iota of his chilled out personal style.
Not much is currently known about The Dead Don’t Die, except that it’s got Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and an exceptional supporting cast.
Release: Mid 2019
Richard Linklater – Where'd You Go Bernadette
Following the release of his well-received Prime Original war flick Last Flag Flying, the enigmatic Oscar nominated director Richard Linklater will return to tell the story of a 15 year old girl searching after her anxiety ridden mother, a plot summary that evokes the unique dramedic pathos that has become Linklater’s signature, as well as the tendency of his films to walk the line between art and commercial viability.
Speaking with Wealthsimple Magazine in 2017, Linklater detailed this tendency, “Ultimately, for me, money is a bad motivator. I’m so blessed because I’ve never really done stuff for money. I just try to make the films I want to make and tell the stories I care most about. Once you really don’t give a fuck about money, it comes scratching at your door.”
Release: March 22nd, 2019
Ang Lee – Gemini Man
There’s no other contemporary filmmaker who can go from a Jane Austen romantic drama (Sense and Sensibility) to a martial arts swashbuckler (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to superhero movie (Hulk) to an Oscar powerhouse adventure fantasy (Life of Pi) without so much as breaking a sweat, but Ang Lee has done that and considerably more in his career, refusing to box himself into a single genre or tendency and instead choosing his projects on how the story is speaking to him in the moment.
Still, Lee is not immune to box office skittishness and in 2017 met with a rare disappointment in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a war film that met with tepid reactions and what was seen as a dismal theatrical run. Gemini Man marks his return to a more reliable commercial territory with the sci-fi tale of an aging hitman who has to fight off a younger clone of himself.
Release: October 4th, 2019