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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Spring and Summer Movie Guide


Happy New Year by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Allow me to explain.  The movie year doesn't run with the calendar year.  January, for example, is still part of the previous calendar year, dominated by late arriving awards hopefuls, leading up to the Oscars, which ends the year.  Then there's a brief post-Oscars dead period, when Hollywood dumps the dregs into theaters--in truth, most of the spring used to be that way, with nary a movie worth seeing until late May, when the summer blockbusters landed.

Not any more.  Back in 2012, The Hunger Games arrived in March to record-breaking audiences, and studio bigwigs realized they were onto something.  Ever since, the new movie year has kicked off with a blockbuster, with even an Oscar contender or two sneaking in (The Grand Budpest Hotel released on March 28, 2014).   Last year, Black Panther arrived on February 16 and dominated the movie scene for months.  This year, it's Captain Marvel.

So, with the spring equinox, let me wish you a Happy New Year.

Below, we've broken down the films into two groups.  First, the BEST BETS; 19 sure fire box office hits; the last one could be be the kickoff to the awards season. You'll note that the list is dominated by sequels, series, and remakes; no matter how much critics and fans say they want original content films; they don't support them when they are released.  The animated offerings also will show up for awards, and a number of these biggies will earn technical honors.  The second list, THE REST, is a carefully selected group that might be sneaky good or appeal to niche audiences.

BEST BETS  (Note: studios sometimes change release dates)

Captain Marvel - In theaters now - Action, Sci-Fi
Follows USAF pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she makes an unplanned detour into space and returns ... changed, joining forces with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) when Earth becomes the target of an intergalactic war between two alien races.  Jude Law, Clark Gregg, 

Us 
- March 22  - Horror, Thriller
Writer/Director Jordan Peele's follow-up to his hit, Get Out: Gabe (Winston Duke), Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), and their children face an existential threat when  doppelgängers invade their lives.  Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Dumbo
 - March 28  - Fantasy, Family
Director Tim Burton's reimagination of the Disney classic about a young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly and in the process save a failing circus, but danger lurks below the sawdust.
Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito

Shazam!
 - April 5 - Sci-Fi Comedy 
We all have a superhero inside.  In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, he brings it out by shouting "Shazam!" and this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult super hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou).  Mark Strong, Meagan Good

Hellboy
 - April 12  - Action, Fantasy 
Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy (David Harbour: Stranger Things), caught between supernatural and human worlds, battles an ancient sorceress (Milla Jovovich) bent on revenge. Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim 

Avengers: Endgame
 - April 26  - Action, Sci-Fi 
After Thanos (Josh Brolin) randomly destroyed half of all life (luckily leaving the original Avengers unscathed) in Infinity War, things look bleak. Bowed but unbeaten, our heroes regroup for one last desperate attempt to undo the tragedy and restore order to the universe.  Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan

Pokémon Detective Pikachu
 - May 10  - Animated Family 
When a detective goes missing, his Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) seeks to solve the mystery.  With the help of a boy (Justice Smith), he uncovers a plot that threatens the coexistence of Pokemon and humans. Suki Waterhouse, Kathryn Newton 

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
 - May 17  Action
A $14 million open contract is on the head of super-Assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) because he killed another assassin on forbidden ground.  He's given a head start by a man named Winston (Ian McShane) before the baddest and best assassins go after him.  Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas

Aladdin
 - May 24  Adventure Comedy, Family
Guy Ritchie directs the live-action retelling of the 1992 Disney film. Recall Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finding a lamp with a genie (Will Smith) inside and turns himself into a prince to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Enter the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).  Alan Tudyk voices Iago

Rocketman - May 31 - Biography/Fantasy
A musical fantasy about Elton John's (Taron Egerton) transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar, including his inspiring collaboration and relationship with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden

Dark Phoenix
 - June 7 - Sci-Fi Action, Adventure
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops powers she can't control that turn her into Dark Phoenix.  The X-Men will have to save her from herself before she destroys the world.  Simon Kinberg directs Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

The Secret Life of Pets 2
 - June 7 - Animated Comedy
The continuing story of Max (Patton Oswalt) and his pet friends after their owners leave them each day.  Voices of Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Harrison Ford, and others

Men in Black: International - June 14 - Sci-Fi Comedy
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.  Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Liam Neeson

Toy Story 4
 - June 21 Animated Family
Woody (Tom Hanks) helps newcomer Forky (Tony Hale) embrace being a toy by leading the gang on a road trip.  Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Patricia Arquette, John Ratzenberger

Spider-Man: Far From Home
 - July 5  Sci-Fi Action, Comedy
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) leaves his Spidey-suit at home when he and his friends go on summer vacation to Europe, but then he comes up against a villain known as Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau

The Lion King
 - July 19 Animated Adventure
Director Jon Favreau presents the CGI re-imagining of the 1994 Disney classic.  Voices of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - July 26 Comedy-Drama
Amid the backdrop of the Manson family murders, a fading actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) strive to reclaim fame in a 1969-noir Los Angeles.  Quentin Tarantino directs.  Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
 - August 2  Action
Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and disgraced MI-6 operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are unhappily teamed up when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain (Idris Elba) threatens the future of humanity.  David Leitch directs.  Eiza González, Vanessa Kirby, Eddie Marsan

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
 - August 9  Comedy, Drama
Based on a runaway best-selling novel about a runaway wife and mother, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) has disappeared and her daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and husband (Billy Crudup) set out to track her down, discovering her troubled past in the process.  Director: Richard Linklater; co-stars Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurance Fishburne, Troian Bellisario 


THE REST

MARCH
Arctic -  (in limited release)
The lone survivor of a plane crash (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded in the Arctic and must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.  Maria Thelma Smaradottir.

The Aftermath - March 15
In post-WWII Germany, Rachael (Keira Knightley) is reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city of Hamburg.  Unbeknownst to Rachael, Lewis has arranged to share their house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. 

The Hummingbird Project - March 15 Thriller
Cousins (Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård) involved in high frequency trading go up against their old boss (Salma Hayek) who is intent on beating them at their own game in a fiber-optic cable deal.   Michael Mando

The Mustang - March 15
Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts), a violent convict, is given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy, training wild mustangs. Led by a tough ranch hand (Bruce Dern) and a fellow parolee (Jason Mitchell), Roman learns to control both the horses and his own savage emotions.


APRIL
Pet Sematary - April 5  Horror
Reprise of a Stephen King-based film of Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two children who move to a rural home where they are enlightened about the eerie 'Pet Sematary' located nearby.  John Lithgow, Naomi Frenette

Little - April 12  Comedy, Fantasy
When pressures build too high, a tough tech-mogul (Regina Hall) is transformed into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin), and the only person in on it is her personal assistant (Issa Rae).  Justin Hartley,  Tone Bell


MAY
Long Shot - May 3  Comedy
A talented, unconventional journalist (Seth Rogen) reunites with his first crush, now a powerful diplomat considering a run for President (Charlize Theron).  His self-deprecating style charms her and she hires him as her speechwriter. Romance ensues. June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

Tolkien - May 10  Biography, Drama
The formative years of the orphaned author (Nicholas Hoult) as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school, and the ourbreak of WWI, which threatens to tear the "fellowship" apart.  Lily Collins, Genevieve O'Reilly, Pam Ferris

The Souvenir - May 17  Drama, Mystery, Romance
A young film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) becomes romantically involved with a charismatic, untrustworthy man (Tom Burke), in defiance of her mother's (Tilda Swinton) warnings, and the resultant relationship threatens to destroy her dreams.  Richard Ayoade

Ad Astra - May 24  Sci-Fi Adventure, Mystery
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels across space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who went missing on a flight to Neptune 20 years before, and he uncovers a mystery that threatens life on earth.  Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga

Booksmart - May 24  Comedy
Two academic superstars (Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd) are best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram 4 years of fun into 1 night.  Director: Olivia Wilde, co-stars Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis

Brightburn - May 24  Horror
A nightmare version of the Superman story: a child (Jackson A. Dunn) from another world crash-lands on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, will he prove to be a nemesis?   Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - May 31  Sci-Fi Action,
In this throwback to the golden age of Japanese mega-monsters, Godzilla clashes with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.  Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford


JUNE
Late Night - June 7  Comedy, Drama
A legendary late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) fears she may soon be losing her long-running show.  John Lithgow, Mindy Kaling, Megalyn Echikunwoke

Shaft - June 14  Crime Action,
John Shaft's son ((Samuel L. Jackson), a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists dad's (Richard Roundtree) help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death.  Regina King, Avan Jogia, Luna Lauren Velez, Alexandra Shipp

The Art of Self-Defense - June 21  Comedy
A bookkeeper (Jesse Eisenberg) who is attacked by a motorcycle gang, enlists in a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola).  An aggressive brown belt (Imogen Poots) helps in his effort to learn how to defend himself.  Steve Terada

Child's Play- June 21  Horror
A reimagining of the 1988 thriller of the same name, a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its sinister nature. Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson


JULY
[This is the dead zone of summer, except for the three blockbusters listed at the top]


AUGUST
The New Mutants - August 2  Sci-Fi Action,
Five teenaged mutants, including Native American Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), Scots girl Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Brazilian ladies man Sunspot (Henry Zaga), a Kentuckian code-named Cannonball (Charlie Heaton),and Russian teen Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), hone their abilities at the Xavier Institute.  Antonio Banderas, Alice Braga

Artemis Fowl - August 9  Fantasy
Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw), an adolescent millionaire, genius, and criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) for ransom to fund the search for his missing father  and restore the family fortune.  Director: Kenneth Branagh; co-stars: Judi Dench, Josh Gad.

Midsommar - August 9  Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Writer-Director Ari Aster follows up his frightfest Hereditary with this confection about a group of young travelers--Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Jack Reynor--who head to a Scandinavian summer festival, evidently inspired by the Wicker Man.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 - August 16  Animation, Family
The adventure takes flight (or not) a second time.  Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Josh Gad, Dove Cameron, Awkwafina, Jason Sudeikis

The 2019 Bi-Czarries: A Final Look Back at 2018


The Bi-Czarries Awards and 2018 Postmortem -- by FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We wrap up each movie year a week after the Oscars with the Bi-Czarries, our reflection on what the previous year's film awards might look like if chosen by an arbitrary and capricious despot and a research wonk, with input from the Lunatic Fringe Film Group and FilmZ's family. 

The lists below reflect only the 2018 movies we saw.  Note, though, Guy S. Malone, Researcher vets the films, so there's a strong likelihood we will like them or that they will be in the running for awards.  Despite significant evidence to the contrary, GSM,R is human, so there were klunkers, and we list them at the end.  Also note, each film in our Best of 2018 made several critical Top-Ten lists, but the two of us selected the final 15, with feedback from our family and our movie group of Lunatic Fringers. 

Here are a few quotes from Lunatic Fringers:
Captain HE - "Many good movies did not receive the critical acceptance I thought they deserved. Red Sparrow leads that category, from my perspective, along with Blindspotting and American Animals."
Serfing Dude - "Among my favorites were Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, Vice, and Bohemian Rhapsody. I am sure I missed one or two others that I also thought highly of this year, but I guess I should be happy I remembered that many!"
Ambrose Wolfinger, PhD - "Seeing Green Book, Lady Gaga‘s performance & ending the season with They Shall Not Grow Old says it all for me!"

Here we go:

BEST FILMS OF 2018

The Favourite - period drama with a surreal, black comedy twist; best film of the year

Green Book - for the last time, they saved each other, a top pick of the group

Vice - McKay makes history memorable and fun, even as we watched democracy die

Black Panther - yes, it was that good

Blindspotting - a film worth rallying around (see Hidden Gems, below)

The Death of Stalin - Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev; Michael Palin as Molotov--'nuf said

BlacKkKlansman - intense, entertaining memoir Black detective's infiltration of the KKK

Red Sparrow - LeCarre'-style spy intrigue, terrific international cast, gorgeous locations

Free Solo - climb Yosemite's 3,200-foot face of El Capitan with no ropes or safety gear

They Shall Not Grow Old 
- Peter Jackson's incredible rendering of archival WWI film

Leave No Trace - Debra Granik's contemplative brilliance shines (see Hidden Gems, below)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - an animated feature with comic book flash

Mission Impossible: Fallout - the best action movie of the year

Bohemian Rhapsody - fan favorite stole the show at the end--both plot and the film itself

American Animals - part heist film, part documentary that gave us insight into the crooks

____________________________________________________________________________

PERFORMANCES

Actress: 
Toni Collette - Hereditary

Actor: 
Christian Bale - Vice

Supporting Actress: 
Amy Adams - Vice

Supporting Actor:
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

______________________________________________________________________________

We recommend all of the films unless otherwise noted (see the last category for movies that disappointed).  In the categories below, the film titles in Bold made our list of Top Films of 2018 above.  You'll also note that some films fall in several categories and some do better in one category than another; for example, we ranked Ant-Man and the Wasp higher than Deadpool 2 in ACTION/FANTASY, but Deadpool 2 higher than Ant-Man and the Wasp in COMEDY.

Outside of this, there isn't much in the way of explanation until the last two categories: HIDDEN GEMS and DISAPPOINTMENTS because, you know, you deserve an explanation.

______________________________________________________________________________

DRAMAS

The Favourite
Green Book
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Tully
A Star is Born
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Wife

_____________________________________________________________________________

INDEPENDENT FILMS 
(under $20 million budget)

Blindspotting
Leave No Trace
American Animals
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Eighth Grade
Roma
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Wife
Hereditary
At Eternity’s Gate

_____________________________________________________________________________

POLITICAL AND CRIME DRAMA

Vice
Red Sparrow
American Animals
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Widows
Operation Finale
Sicario: Soldado

_____________________________________________________________________________

ACTION/FANTASY

Black Panther
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Avengers: Infinity War
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Deadpool 2
Solo: A Star Wars Story
A Quiet Place
Annihilation
Hereditary
Sicario: Soldado

______________________________________________________________________________

COMEDY

The Death of Stalin
Deadpool 2
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Game Night
Eighth Grade
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

_____________________________________________________________________________

DOCUMENTARY

Free Solo
They Shall Not Grow Old
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
RBG
Fahrenheit 11/9

_____________________________________________________________________________

ANIMATED

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs

_____________________________________________________________________________

HIDDEN GEMS

Blindspotting - two friends confront past and present; Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star

Leave No Trace - Ben Foster's vet with PTSD, daughter Thomasin McKenzie live off the grid

American Animals - documentary and heist film blend seamlessly in this true story

Tully - Charlize Theron did enough to deserve an Oscar nom in this comedy-drama

Solo: A Star Wars Story - critics and fans missed out on the most underrated Star Wars film

At Eternity's Gate - a truly artisitic work Julian Schnabel; Willem Dafoe eyes tell it all

___________________________________________________________________________

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Oceans 8 - good heist films have twists and surprises, Oceans has coincidences and deus ex machina

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - dead-end subplots, sequel set-up, that's it

Bad Times at the El Royale - the trailer promised more than the film provided

The Girl in the Spider’s Web - traded intelligence for action; fans of the series will feel betrayed

The House with the Clock in its Walls - small children might like it, but it might be too scary for them




 
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