Two words: Jordan Peele.
At the risk of putting too much pressure on Peele, who has the tall order of living up to his boundary-pushing phenomenon “Get Out,” winter’s event movie is “Us,” the director’s horror follow-up about a beach vacation gone very wrong. Seeing an auteur flesh out his voice in a crowd-pleasing thriller starring Lupita Nyong’o is as good a guarantee as any that 2019 has at least a few treats in store.
For more treats, see also: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?,” Harmony Korine’s latest joint, Tim Burton’s “Dumbo,” Taraji P. Henson in “What Men Want,” Jake Gyllenhaal reuniting with “Nightcrawler” master Dan Gilroy and two ... Lifetime movies? Yes, you read that right.
Here’s what to look forward to between now and late April, grouped accordingly. All release dates are subject to change.
The past few years have been horror bliss, so 2019 has a lot to live up to. Winter tends to be a repository for cheap scares, but it looks like we’re in for a treat during the next few chilly months.
First up, there’s “Glass” (Jan. 18), M. Night Shyamalan’s joint sequel that connects the deconstructionist superhero thriller “Unbreakable” and the dissociative-identity exploitation “Split.” Then comes “The Prodigy” (Feb. 8), a Taylor Schilling vehicle about a mother and her possessed son that reportedly had to be re-edited because test audiences screamed so much they couldn’t hear the dialogue.
The primo event of the season, if you ask me, is Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” follow-up “Us” (March 15), a home-invasion nightmare starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss that will evoke “The Shining,” “Funny Games” and “Let the Right One In.” After “Us” haunts the box office, the following month will bring a new twist on Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” (April 5) and the latest “Conjuring” spinoff, “The Curse of La Llorona” (April 19), featuring Linda Cardellini and Sean Patrick Thomas in much-deserved lead roles.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Who wants the same old cinematic formula when you can seek out a movie as eccentric as “Climax” (March 1), Gaspar Noé’s thrilling hallucination about French dancers who discover their party’s punch is laced with LSD? Make it a double feature with “Greta” (March 1), in which Isabelle Huppert, playing another repressed piano teacher, stalks an impressionable Chloë Grace Moretz.
As winter fades to spring, we’ll see the return of “Kids” and “Spring Breakers” provocateur Harmony Korine. The director’s latest film is “The Beach Bum” (March 22), starring Matthew McConaughey as an erratic stoner and boasting a stacked supporting roster that includes Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, Jonah Hill and Stefania LaVie Owen. A few weeks later, acclaimed auteur Claire Denis will unleash her bonkers sci-fi sexcapade “High Life” (April 12), finally letting the world see Robert Pattinson call Juliette Binoche a “sperm shaman.”
Comedies Big And Small
Mainstream winter comedies tend to be broad, conceptual and full of antics, which provides a perfect window for “What Men Want” (Feb. 8) and “Isn’t It Romantic” (Feb. 14). The former is a reversal of “What Women Want” starring Taraji P. Henson in the Mel Gibson role, aided by Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Greenfield, Erykah Badu, Phoebe Robinson and Josh Brener. The latter blends “Stranger Than Fiction” and “I Feel Pretty” when an architect (Rebel Wilson) is knocked unconscious and awakens to find herself trapped in a PG-13 romantic comedy where the genre’s clichés have become gamified. If you prefer a more traditional rom-com, turn to “Under the Eiffel Tower” (Feb. 8), a Paris-set charmer featuring Matt Walsh and Judith Godrèche.
I’m most excited for March’s actress-driven dramedies. First up is “Gloria Bell” (March 8), starring Julianne Moore as a middle-aged divorcée looking for love in Sebastián Lelio’s remake of his own film “Gloria.” (If you haven’t seen “Gloria,” stop what you’re doing right now. It’s incredible.) Then we get the release of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” (March 22), Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Maria Semple’s delightful best-seller about a misanthropic recluse (Cate Blanchett) whose daughter (Emma Nelson) sets out to find her when she goes missing.
Winter, scientists say, has grown warmer and shorter. Climate change is real; even the movie business knows it. The studio tentpoles that were once summer staples have become a year-round affair, so the early months of 2019 will bring “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” (Feb. 8), Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel” (March 8), Tim Burton’s live-action “Dumbo” (March 29) and inevitable resurrection epic “Avengers: Endgame” (April 26). You already know what these movies are about, more or less, because that’s the way franchises work these days. Enjoy!
Great Actors At Work
The season’s real Avengers aren’t wearing cowls. They’re plainclothes superheroes, charming and emoting their way through promising character studies like Netflix’s “Velvet Buzzsaw” (Feb. 1), which reunites Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo with “Nightcrawler” director Dan Gilroy for a supernatural escapade about today’s greedy art scene.
You can also find real-life couple and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” co-stars Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem together in the mystery “Everybody Knows” (Feb. 8), the latest from Iranian maestro Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation,” “The Past”). The under-appreciated Mary Kay Place headlines “Diane” (March 29), a tender drama about a rural churchgoing widow plagued by the monotony of aging.
In Max Minghella’s directorial debut, “Teen Spirit” (April 5), Elle Fanning plays a burgeoning pop star who escapes her family life by winning a glitzy singing competition. And in the noirish curiosity “Under the Silver Lake” (April 19), David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to “It Follows,” Andrew Garfield portrays a jobless stoner who gets wrapped up in the disappearance of his neighbor (Riley Keough).
Aliens, Wrestlers And Murderers, Oh My
I couldn’t leave out these three genre-blending movies, including the erotic thriller “Piercing” (Feb. 1), in which Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska play a murderous game of cat and mouse.
Rising star Florence Pugh, who won acclaim for “Lady Macbeth” and “The Little Drummer Girl,” gets her first large-scale starring vehicle in “Fighting with My Family” (Feb. 14), a wresting comedy that features Dwayne Johnson playing himself. (Then again, is Dwayne Johnson ever not playing himself?) Finally, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt returns with “Captive State” (March 29), a sci-fi saga in which John Goodman, Vera Farmiga and “Moonlight” breakout Ashton Sanders fend off extraterrestrial forces in their Chicago neighborhood.
A-list Lifetime Originals
That’s right, I said Lifetime.
Where else can you see Christina Ricci play journalist Nellie Bly going undercover to report on a mental institution? Bly’s findings were published in the 1887 book Ten Days in a Mad-House, and now they are the perfect fodder for “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” (Jan. 19), a sensationalistic doozy that co-stars Judith Light as a nurse who tortures patients.
Then comes “Love You to Death” (Jan. 26), a Munchausen syndrome by proxy drama with Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden as what seems like a picture-perfect mother caring for her daughter ― until her fantasy world goes haywire. Take that, “Sharp Objects.”