2018 is gearing up to be a year of probable blockbusters on the silver screen. From epic Marvel films to Lady Gaga bringing her best, it looks like there will be a lot worth seeing. USA TODAY
This past year was chock-full of huge movies, but 2018 is no slouch in that department, either, with the returning Avengers, a new Mary Poppins, young Dumbledore and, yes, Lady Gaga invading our cineplexes.
Quite a few familiar faces are back, including Alden Ehrenreich's take on budding cosmic smuggler Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story (in theaters May 25), Ryan Reynolds’ merc with a mouth in Deadpool 2 (June 1), his mutant pals in X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Nov. 2) and a heap of dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22). Hey, even Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan finish out their erotic saga just in time for Valentine’s Day with Fifty Shades Freed (Feb. 9).
Here's a sneak peek at 10 of 2018's most must-see movies:
'Black Panther' (Feb. 16)
Chadwick Boseman’s Wakandan king T’Challa is the masked star of the show, but he’s surrounded by warrior women just as skilled as he is. Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) heads the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s personal security force, while global operative Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is a "war dog." “She’s very passionate about her work,” Nyong’o says. Nakia’s relationship with T’Challa is “significant,” she teases, and when opposing forces challenge his reign, “she has to decide where her allegiance lies and what comes first.” Okoye’s loyalty to Wakanda and its people drives everything about this traditionalist with a wry sense of humor. “It’s her job to take care of it, and she takes that job seriously,” says Gurira, adding that Wakanda is an “astoundingly cool” place. “It’s a world that is utterly plausible and tangible and yet a little larger than life at the same time.”
'Red Sparrow' (March 2)
Jennifer Lawrence stars in the spy thriller as Russian intelligence operative Dominika Egorova, who fosters a complicated relationship with a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton). But unlike, say, James Bond, Dominika gets pulled into this world against her will: The former prima ballerina suffers an injury, becomes the newest recruit to Sparrow School, and is trained to be a deadly seductress. “I’m attracted to lonely, isolated characters on lonely, isolated journeys,” says director Francis Lawrence, who also helmed three of Lawrence's four Hunger Games films. “But I also really like when characters are in a dilemma where the audience can sit back and imagine being in the situation themselves. There are elements of her story that allow us into the spy world in a more personal way and not a political way.” That emotional pull differentiates Red Sparrow, as does its tonal qualities: “It’s a bit audacious, a little perverse, a little scary (and) very tense.”
'A Wrinkle in Time' (March 9)
Director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the classic children’s sci-fi novel casts 14-year-old Storm Reid as Meg Murry, a young girl who goes on an epic adventure through time and space searching for her astrophysicist father (Chris Pine). It’s a quest she isn't ready for: “Meg is very timid and just doesn’t feel like she’s worthy. She doesn’t really have any self-love," Reid says. "She’s doubting herself and obviously very scared — I would be scared, too.” That’s why three colorful travelers are key to Meg’s mission and her blooming confidence: the kind Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), the wise Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the grandmotherly Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Through the youngster’s journey, Reid adds, “she becomes one with the light in the universe to be able to connect with her father and becomes a better Meg to be able to save the world.”
'Ready Player One' (March 30)
Steven Spielberg helped define the 1980s, and that’s the nostalgic era beloved in the dystopian 2040s in his retro sci-fi fantasy based on Ernest Cline's novel. The director describes it as “a cautionary tale but also an exhilarating adventure.” The '80s “had a refreshing lack of cynicism, and in our story, that’s what people are trying to return to,” Spielberg says. “In their real lives, they’re living in a debris field of the first half of the 21st century.” His protagonist Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) escapes into the virtual-reality landscape, seeking a hidden Easter egg. Ready Player One also takes social media a step further in the relationship between Wade and fellow egg hunter Samantha Cook (Olivia Cooke): “You get to know their quirks, (but) you don’t know who the person really is until you meet them in the real world. So there’s always that doubt: Are they telling the truth about themselves?”
'The New Mutants' (April 13)
In launching a horror-tinged franchise with young superpowered mutants, director Josh Boone pulls more from Stephen King and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than the operatic sci-fi of X-Men. New Mutants is a haunted-house movie in an asylum setting, where five teenagers— sorceress Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), lycanthropic Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), propulsive Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), solar-powered Sunspot (Henry Zaga) and psychic Mirage (Blu Hunt) — are held captive in a psych ward. “These kids could care less about being X-Men. They’re so (messed) up and have had such horrible things happen, they’re just trying to figure out how to get out of this situation,” says Boone, who based the film on the New Mutants comic books he and co-writer Knate Lee grew up with in the '80s. “We just tried to pull this back and make it performance- and character-driven, and more grounded and credible than X-Men movies ever are.”
'Avengers: Infinity War' (May 4)
All of Marvel’s mightiest heroes heed the call in the third Avengers film. And that means never-before-seen pairings like Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) fighting alongside Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy. Downey’s 5-year-old son watches the opening sequence to the Guardians sequel on a loop and “now I get to tell him that I know those guys. Maybe I can even introduce him to a raccoon one day, if he’s lucky,” says the actor, who reprises his role for the ninth time and teases another confrontation with former friend Captain America (Chris Evans). “That’s the hardest for me, because I look at Evans and I just to want to go over and smell him or tell him he looks cool in those sunglasses when he’s walking over to have lunch. And then I’m just staring daggers at him, getting mad. But even that relationship is going to take a turn.”
'A Star Is Born' (Oct. 5)
Bradley Cooper directs as well as stars in the fourth telling of this classic love story: Country rocker Jackson Maine (Cooper) realizes his career has peaked at the same time he falls for up-and-coming chanteuse Ally (Stefani Germanotta, aka Gaga). Cooper compares starring alongside the pop singer with learning how to dance with Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. “There’s nothing better than to put two strangers in a vulnerable situation to get to know each other,” the actor says. “It really was a barter (with Gaga): 'You’re going to share all the music and I’m going to share everything I’ve learned from what I do.' I completely gave myself over to her in that department.” Cooper did all his own singing and went out of his comfort zone to figure out his onscreen musician. “In so many ways, this is maybe the most personal performance I’ve ever given, but I really did escape into this guy,” he says.
'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' (Nov. 16)
The first Beasts introduced magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) into the Harry Potter movie universe, and the action shifts from 1920s New York to Europe in his next adventure, which debuts Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore. Decades before the wizard will help Harry, Dumbledore is a teacher at Hogwarts who “refuses to conform to the status quo” and is “passionate, mischievous and an inspiration” to his young students, says director David Yates. “Dumbledore sees Newt as a kindred spirit, an outsider, who is misunderstood. They recognize each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities.” The heroes face a formidable foe in the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), whose dangerous ideology involves "suppressing all non-magical beings, whom he views as inferior to wizards," Yates says. “He's a charismatic figure who uses his undeniable appeal to inspire others to blindly follow his cause.”
'Aquaman' (Dec. 21)
Justice League only dipped into the expansive undersea potential for Jason Momoa’s superhero, and director James Wan follows the epic ensemble with a solo film where Arthur Curry is caught between the surface and the watery kingdom of Atlantis. “He doesn’t quite fit in, but as the story progresses, he realizes he’s the best of both worlds,” says the filmmaker. “Circumstances allow him to grow as a human being and then realize the bigger picture of it all and what it means to have these abilities.” Designing Atlantis has given Wan a chance to “make something that is from our planet but at the same time, it’s a visual we’re not familiar with,” and he's also unleashing some seriously bad guys. Chief among them: Aquaman's archvillain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), whose antagonism “is very primal, that classic revenge story,” Wan adds. “I love the simplicity of that human drive.”
'Mary Poppins Returns' (Dec. 25)
Emily Blunt acknowledges that it’s hard to put in words what it’s like to play author P.L. Travers’ iconic nanny, though “joyful” and “utterly magical” do come up in conversation. Julie Andrews played the role in 1964 and the flying umbrella passes to Blunt for a sequel set in 1930s Depression-era London, where Poppins revisits a now-grown Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) when their family needs her again. Back in the day, a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down, but Blunt’s Poppins hews more to Travers’ literary character. “I just loved how eccentric and wacky she is in the books — incredibly vain and rude to the children,” Blunt says. “As a British person, I really responded to that lack of saccharine relationships. I find it comforting the idea of someone just sweeping in who’s no-nonsense and cleaning everything up and making everything right again in a magical way that's not sentimental.”