Here’s the latest HE rundown of 2019 films of a certain preferred quality. 88 as we speak. Possible critical faves, perhaps even award-season contenders. The two main categories are (a) general appeal flicks with bigger names and budgets (29), and (b) smarthouse, upmarket films for particular congregations (59). Further refinements to come. What have I missed?
GENERAL APPEAL, BIGGER NAMES, BIGGER BUDGETS. etc. (30)
1. Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman — A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa. (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jesse Plemons).
2. Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood — A faded TV actor and his stunt double embark on an odyssey to make a name for themselves in the film industry during the Helter Skelter reign of terror in 1969 Los Angeles. (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie).
3. Ang Lee‘s Gemini Man — An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself. (Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong).
4. Jon Favreau‘s The Lion King — CGI and live-action re-imagining of the 1994 Disney classic. (Voice-acting by Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen).
5. Todd Phillips’ Joker — Joker origin story, you know the drill. (Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Shea Whigham, Zazie Beetz)
6. Marielle Heller‘s You Are My Friend — The story of Fred Rogers, the honored host and creator of the popular children’s television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tammy Blanchard)
7. J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier — Five friends team to take down a South American drug lord. (Charlie Hunnam, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac.) Netflix.
8. J.J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: Episode IX — The conclusion of the new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy. (Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, et.al.)
9. Joe Wright‘s The Woman in the Window — An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors only to witness a disturbing act of violence. (Amy Adams, Wyatt Russell, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore)
10. All You Need Is Love (aka “Untitled Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis Film”) — Set to the music of the Beatles, it’s about a musician who thinks he’s the only one who can hear the Beatles’ music. (Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Ana de Armas, Kate McKinnon, Lamorne Morris) Sheeran plays himself discovering a rising young musician. Mckinnon plays a talent agent. Hamesh Patel costars.
11. Greta Gerwig‘s Little Women — Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. (Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan)
12. James Mangold‘s Ford v. Ferrari — The true story of the battle between Ford and Ferrari to win Le Mans in 1966. (Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal).
13. Jordan Peele‘s Us — A “social thriller” set between two couples — one white, one black. Starring Winston Duke (Black Panther) and Lupita Nyongo’o — L.A. Daily News critic Bob Strauss champing at the very bit. (Anna Diop, Elisabeth Moss, Kara Hayward)
14. Aaron Schneider‘s Greyhound — During World War II, an international convoy of 37 Allied ships, led by Commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks), cross the treacherous North Atlantic while being hotly pursued by wolf packs of German U-boats. (Elisabeth Shue, Karl Glusman, Stephen Graham)
15. Gavin Hood‘s Official Secrets — The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes)
16. David Michod‘s The King — (Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, Lily-Rose Depp) Adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s Henry IV, Parts I and II and Henry V. Chronicles the early 1400’s medieval struggle between England and France, both in succession as well as on the battlefield. Timothee Chalamet as Henry V rises to the English throne after beating the French in the Battle of Agincourt. (Froench king is played by Robert Pattinson.) Oscar bait. Brad Pitt produces. Netflix.
17. David Gordon Green‘s Newsflash — On November 22, 1963 CBS newsman Walter Cronkite grapples with reporting on live television about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Texas. Not starring Seth Rogen as Cronkite (and thank God!), but possibly costarring Mark Ruffalo, Logan Lerman.
18. John Lee Hancock‘s The Highwaymen — Based on the true story of how two retired Texas Rangers put together the posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde — not as depicted in the ’67 Arthur Penn film. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were originally set to play the two leads before Newman’s health failed. (Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, Kim Dickens)
19. Rupert Goold‘s Judy — Biopic of Judy Garland‘s battle with drug addiction and divorce in London in 1968, one year before her death. Liza Minnelli has come out publicly against the film and against Rene Zellweger playing her mother. (Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Jessie Buckley)
20. Deston Daniel Cretton‘s Just Mercy — Attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) defends Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), a man unjustly imprisoned for murder. Based on Stephenson’s memoir. (Jordan, Foxx, Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, Rob Morgan)
21. Jay Roach‘s Fair and Balanced — Fox honcho Roger Ailes and sexual harassment allegations that resulted in his resignation. (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Malcolm McDowell, Mark Duplass)
22. Terrence Malick‘s Radegund — Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Third Reich in World War II and is executed in 1943. Shot in late summer of 2016. (August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Jürgen Prochnow, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz)
23. Gavin O’Connor‘s Torrance — Struggling with addiction, a former basketball star attempts becomes the coach of a disparate, ethnically mixed high school basketball team at his alma mater. (Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, Al Madrigal, Yeniffer Behrens)
24. Rian Johnson‘s Knives Out — A modern murder mystery in a classic whodunit style. (Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans)
25. Roger Michell‘s Blackbird — A terminally ill mother arranges to bring her family together one last time before she dies. (Kate Winslet, Lindsay Duncan, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon)
26. James Gray‘s Ad Astra — Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. (Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga)
27. Bobby Moresco‘s Lamborghini — The life story of Ferruccio Lamborghini, the founder of Lamborghini. (Antonio Banderas, Alec Baldwin, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Leonardo Salerni)
28. Dexter Fletcher‘s Rocketman — Elton John biopic, from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music through his influential and enduring musical partnership with Bernie Taupin. (Richard Madden, Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Bell)
29. Dan Gilroy‘s Velvet Buzzsaw — American horror thriller film, written and directed by Gilroy. (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Natalia Dyer, Tom Sturridge, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich and Billy Magnussen) Set in LA’s contemporary art world, wealthy celebrity artists collide with billionaire collectors in an unusually twisted comedy horror thriller. (Netflix)
30. Tom Harper‘s The Aeronauts — Pilot Amelia Wren and scientist James Glaisher find themselves in an epic fight for survival while attempting to make discoveries in a hot air balloon. (Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tim McInnerny)
PARTICULAR CONGREGATIONS / SMARTHOUSE / UPMARKET / INDIE SPIRITS GOTHAMS (58)
31. Sebastián Lelio‘s Gloria Bell — Remake of Lelio’s Chilean original. A middle-aged Los Angeles woman looking for love. (Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Alanna Ubach, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Sean Astin)
32. Steven Soderbergh‘s High Flying Bird — A sports agent pitches a rookie basketball client on an intriguing and controversial business opportunity during a lockout. (Zachary Quinto, Zazie Beetz, Kyle MacLachlan, Bill Duke)
32b. Steven Soderbergh‘s The Laundromat — A group of journalists unearth the Panama Papers — 11.5 million files linking the world’s most powerful political figures to secret banking accounts to avoid taxes. (Gary Oldman, Melissa Rauch, Meryl Streep, Robert Patrick)
33. Julie Taymor‘s The Glorias: A Life on the Road — Gloria Steinem‘s itinerant childhood and its influence upon her life as a writer, activist and organizer for women’s rights worldwide. (Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Julianne Moore, Bette Midler)
34. Craig Brewer‘s Dolemite Is My Name — The story of performer Rudy Ray Moore, who assumed the role of an iconic pimp named Dolemite during the 1970s. (Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson)
35. Kasi Lemmons‘ Harriet — The story of Harriet Tubman, who helped free hundreds of slaves from the South after escaping from slavery herself in 1849. (Janelle Monáe, Deborah Ayorinde, Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn).
35a. Viola Davis‘s HBO film about Harriet Tubman, w/ screenplay by Kirk Ellis.
36. Noah Hawley‘s Pale Blue Dot — A female astronaut who, after returning to Earth from a life-changing mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality. (Natalie Portman, Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz)
37. Xavier Dolan‘s Matthias & Maxime — (Harris Dickinson, Dolan, Anne Dorval, Catherine Brunet)
38. Untitled Noah Baumbach Project — An unfolding divorce that spans from New York City to Los Angeles. (Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Ray Liotta, Laura Dern)
39. Joe Berlinger‘s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile — A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. (Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario)
40. Justin Kurzel‘s The True History of the Kelly Gang — The story of Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they flee from authorities during the 1870s, based on Peter Carey’s novel. (Charlie Hunnam, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult)
41. Rod Lurie‘s The Outpost — Abut the 2013 Battle of Kamdesh in which Taliban forces attacked a U.S. outpost. The result of the battle was a pyrrhic victory as most the the outpost was destroyed (8 Americans killed, 27 wounded) but Taliban forces retreated due to losses of over 150 Taliban fighter killed during the battle. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha (Scott Eastwood) and Staff Sergeant Ty Carter (Caleb Landry Jones) were both awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013 for courageous actions. Orlando Bloom also stars.
42. Darius Marder‘s Sound of Metal — (Olivia Cooke, Riz Ahmed, Mathieu Amalric, Arthur Hiou)
43. Fernando Meirelles‘ The Pope — Opposing visions between two of the most powerful leaders in the Catholic Church, both of whom must address their own pasts and the demands of the modern world in order to move the church forward. (Juan Minujín, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Matthew T. Reynolds)
44. Casey Affleck‘s Light of My Life — Father and daughter escape to the woods trying to outrun a deadly pandemic that has ravaged and destroyed the world. Also written by Affleck. (Casey Affleck, Elisabeth Moss, Tom Bower, Timothy Webber)
45. Robin Bissell‘s The Best of Enemies — Civil rights activist Ann Atwater faces off against C.P. Ellis, Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, in 1971 Durham, North Carolina over the issue of school integration. (Sam Rockwell, Tarahji O. Henson, Wes Bentley, Anne Heche)
46. Max Winkler‘s Jungleland — A reluctant bare-knuckle boxer and his manager must travel across the country for one last fight, but an unexpected travel companion exposes the cracks in their bond along the way. (Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Barden, Jack O’Connell, John Cullum)
47. Mia Hansen-Løve‘s Bergman Island — An American filmmaking couple who retreat to Faro for the summer to each write screenplays for their upcoming films in an act of pilgrimage to the place. (Mia Wasikowska, Vicky Krieps, Anders Danielsen Lie, Joel Spira.)
48. John Crowley‘s The Goldfinch — A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard, Ansel Elgort)
49. Adrian Noble‘s Mrs. Lowry and Son — (Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall, Stephen Lord) L.S. Lowry becomes a widely celebrated 20th century UK painter for his dark brooding landscapes and emaciated stick figures, but spends most of his life under the influence of his autocratic mother and dies a reclusive virgin.
50. Jim Jarmusch‘s The Dead Don’t Die — Deadpan comic zombie film (Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Caleb Landry Jones, Chloë Sevigny, Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi — possibly Daniel Craig.
51. Casey Affleck‘s Far Bright Star — Set in 1916, an aging cavalryman leads a team of men to hunt down the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. However, after an ambush in which most of the men are killed, the cavalryman must struggle to survive in the desert. (Joaquin Phoenix)
52. Scott Z. Burns‘ The Torture Report — In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, CIA agents begin using extreme interrogation tactics on those they think were behind it. (Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Maura Tierney).
53. William Nicholson‘s Hope Gap — A family deals in the aftermath of the shock revelation that a husband plans to end his 29 year marriage to his wife. (Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Aiysha Hart)
54. Benh Zeitlin‘s Wendy — Set on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Zeitlin’s mythological story tells the tale of two children from different worlds fighting to maintain their grip on freedom and joy. (Tommie Lynn Milazzo, Shay Walker)
55. Bart Freundlich‘s After the Wedding — A manager of an orphanage in Kolkata travels to New York to meet a benefactor. (Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Will Chase)
56. James DeMonaco‘s Once Upon a Time in Staten Island — Allegedly a coming of age family drama set in the summer of 1982 on Staten Island. (Bobby Cannavale, Naomi Watts, Frank Grillo, Isabella Pisacane)
57. Dee Rees‘ The Last Thing He Wanted — A journalist quits her newspaper job and becomes an arms dealer for a covert government agency. (Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones)
58. Robert Eggers‘ The Lighthouse — The story of an aging lighthouse keeper named Old who lives in early 20th-century Maine. (Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe)
59. Lone Scherfig‘s The Kindness of Strangers — Six characters cross paths one night in a Russian restaurant in Manhattan and change/save each other’s lives. (Andrea Riseborough, Zoe Kazan, Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel)
60. Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind — A boy in Malawi helps his village by building a wind turbine after reading about them in a library book. (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aïssa Maïga, Joseph Marcell, Noma Dumezweni)
61.Christoph Waltz‘s Georgetown — Ulrich Mott, an ambitious social climber, marries a wealthy widow in Washington D.C. in order to mix with powerful political players. (Christoph Waltz, Annette Bening, Corey Hawkins, Vanessa Redgrave)
62. Richard Linklater‘s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — After her anxiety-ridden mother disappears, 15-year-old Bee does everything she can to track her down, discovering her troubled past in the process. (Cate Blanchett, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne)
63. Benedict Andrews‘ Against All Enemies — An ambitious young F.B.I. Agent is assigned to investigate iconic actress Jean Seberg when she becomes embroiled in the tumultuous civil rights movement in late 1960s Los Angeles, California. (Kristen Stewart, Zazie Beetz, Vince Vaughn, Jack O’Connell)
64. Armando Iannucci‘s The Personal History of David Copperfield (Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Gwendoline Christie, Hugh Laurie)
65. Pablo Larraín‘s The True American — A Bangladeshi Air Force officer looking to make his way in the United States is shot by an American terrorist out to kill Muslims in the aftermath of September 11th.
66. Josephine Decker‘s Shirley — A famous Horror writer finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple. (Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman, Odessa Young)
67. Lisa Barros D’Sa & Glenn Leyburn‘s Normal People — Adaptation of the Irish novel by Sally Mooney. Two opposites meet in high school, then again at university and fall in love while struggling with the meaning of their relationship as they share devastating setbacks in their lives. (Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, Amit Shah, David Wilmot)
68. Wash Westmoreland‘s Earthquake Bird — A young expat living in Tokyo is suspected of murder, which uncovers a mysterious love triangle. (Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough, Jack Huston, Kiki Sukezane)
69. Josh Trank‘s Fonzo — The 47-year old Al Capone, after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia, and comes to be haunted by his violent past. (Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Noel Fisher, Matt Dillon)
70. Sia‘s Music — the story of a sober drug dealer and their disabled sister. (Kate Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Maddie Ziegler)
71. Julie Delpy‘s My Zoe — A divorced mother looks to protect her daughter after an unexpected tragedy. (Richard Armitage, Gemma Arterton, Lindsay Duncan, Daniel Brühl)
72. Paul Verhoeven‘s Benedetta — A 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair. (Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin)
73. Untitled Miranda July Project — A woman’s life is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a major heist they’re planning. (Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins)
74. Ciro Guerra‘s Waiting for the Barbarians — An honest magistrate in a small outpost of a large empire has a crisis of conscience and tries to lead a resistance when a military commander shows up to torture and murder the natives who pose no threat. The revered author J.M. Coetze won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Literary acolytes a little upset with Depp casting. (Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, Mark Rylance, Harry Melling)
75. Trey Edward Shults‘ Waves — Two young couples navigate through the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love. (Lucas Hedges, Sterling K. Brown, Alexa Demie, Taylor Russell)
76. Yuval Adler‘s The Operative — A woman recruited by the Mossad to work undercover in Tehran. (Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman, Cas Anvar, Werner Daehn)
77. Jennifer Kent‘s The Nightingale — Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. (Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Damon Herriman)
78. Dome Karukoski‘s Tolkien –The formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. (Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Pam Ferris, Laura Donnelly)
79. Marjane Satrapi‘s Radioactive — A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century. (Rosamund Pike, Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard, Sam Riley)
80. James Kent‘s The Aftermath — Post World War II, a British colonel and his wife are assigned to live in Hamburg during the post-war reconstruction, but tensions arise with the German who previously owned the house. (Alexander Skarsgård, Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, Kate Phillips)
81. Julius Onah‘s Luce — (Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) Adaptation of the hit play. Watts and Roth play the parents of an adopted African teenager who may harbor aspirations of terrorism.
82. Gideon Raff‘s The Red Sea Diving Resort — The rescue of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to Israel in 1981. (Michiel Huisman, Haley Bennett, Chris Evans, Greg Kinnear)
83. Todd Robinson‘s The Last Full Measure — 34 years after his death, Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr. (“Pits”) is awarded the nation’s highest military honor, for his actions on the battlefield. (Alison Sudol, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irvine)
84. Alice Winocour‘s Proxima — An astronaut prepares for a one-year mission aboard an international space station. (Eva Green, Matt Dillon, Lars Eidinger, Aleksey Fateev)
85. Liz Garbus‘s Lost Girls — A mother searching for her missing daughter in Long Island makes a horrifying discovery in the woods where the murdered bodies of four girls have been dumped. (Amy Ryan, Gabriel Byrne, Lola Kirke, Dean Winters)
86. Andy Goddard‘s Six Minutes to Midnight — Influential families in Nazi Germany have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English sea side town to learn the language and be ambassadors. (Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, Eddie Izzard)
87. Zeresenay Mehari‘s Sweetness in the Belly — Orphaned as a child, Lily experiences her parents homeland of England, escaping civil war. She becomes the heart of a disenfranchised community in London. (Dakota Fanning, Kunal Nayyar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Wunmi Mosaku)
Woody Allen‘s A Rainy Day in New York [in limbo at Amazon, allegedly streaming sometime in ’19)
22. Aaron Sorkin‘s Lucy and Desi — The lives and careers of television pioneers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Probably not shooting yet — as of mid October 2018 they had not started. Producer friend says they’re still casting Desi. (Cate Blanchett) Possible 2020 release.
Untitled Harriet Tubman Project (HBO) — The life of Civil War-era activist Harriet Tubman, who worked to liberate slaves in the American South by developing an a secretive system that allowed them to escape to freedom. Screenplay by Kirk Ellis. (Viola Davis, Mike Gassaway)