Rob’s upcoming film favorites

With the 2018 Academy Awards coming up on March 4, we get ready to say goodbye to the exciting year in cinema that was 2017, and can begin to look forward to 2018, which is already shaping up to be another great year for movies. From event-film superhero blockbusters to highly anticipated sequels to unique directorial visions, here’s a taste of what’s headed to a theater near you in the coming year.

Hostiles (Jan. 26)- With westerns slowly creeping back into popularity in recent years, 2018 brings us Hostiles, a period drama set in the American West in the late 1800s which follows legendary U.S. army captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), who is ordered to escort a native Cheyenne chief (David Midthunder) through dangerous territory, despite his brutal military career which has left him with a mistrust and disdain of natives. From writer/director Scott Cooper, who based the screenplay on the work of late prolific Hollywood screenwriter Donald E. Stewart, the film boasts an intense performance by Bale, who is joined by Rosamund Pike, Stephen Lang, Timothee Chalamet, and Adam Beach. (Rated R)

Black Panther (Feb. 15)- Marvel draws first blood in the comic book movie genre this year with Black Panther, the characters first standalone film since he was introduced in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). From acclaimed writer/director Ryan Coogler, the film continues the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who returns to his native Wakanda, a technologically advanced, isolated African nation, to take up the throne of his recently passed father and become king, but finds enemies old and new in his way- some who hope to take his kingdom from him, and some who seek to destroy it altogether. Alongside Boseman is a cast well up to the standard of a Marvel movie, with Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis in returning roles as well as newcomers Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker. (Rated PG-13)

Annihilation (Feb. 23)- Based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, the film is about a biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman) who volunteers to join an expedition with three other scientists into “Area X”, an uncharted, ever-expanding area on Earth where the laws of nature are defied and twisted, after her husband (Oscar Isaac), sent into the area on an earlier doomed expedition, inexplicably returns home with no memory and lapses into an undiagnosed comatose state. The first film from writer director Alex Garland since his impressive directorial debut, the sci-fi indie favorite “Ex Machina” (2014), many are curious to see whether he can continue his success, although, with a cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Benedict Wong, we’d better see it just in case. (Rated R)

Isle of Dogs (March 23)- A stop-motion animated adventure about a young boy (Koyu Rankin) who journeys to the Isle of Dogs, a wasteland island off the coast of Japan where all dogs have been sent to stop the spread of a canine flu, in search of his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber). How does a non-Disney/Pixar animated film with such an outlandish plot manage to be one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year? Given the track record of writer/director Wes Anderson, who all but swept the 2015 Oscars with his last film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), and the cast, which includes Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Yoko Ono and more, how could it not? (PG-13)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25)- With a Star Wars film set for release every year until the sun collapses, 2018 offers up Solo, the origin tale of fan favorite Star Wars character Han Solo (here played by Alden Ehrenreich), as he crosses paths with familiar characters, including his future Wookie co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and anti-hero gambling buddy Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and brand new ones, such as love interest Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke) and mentor figure Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). After original project directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, of “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were dropped by Disney, the film was reshot almost in its entirety by Hollywood veteran Ron Howard, and the ensuing rush of rumors has left many concerned about the state of the project. Nevertheless, Star Wars is a beloved and lucrative brand, and Han Solo a beloved character, and the film is sure to scare up a few ticket sales. (PG-13)

The Little Stranger (Aug. 31)- Based upon the gothic horror hit novel of the same name by Sarah Waters and adapted by director Lenny Abrahamson, who made quite an impression with 2015’s “Room,” also based off of a novel, the film is a period horror thriller about Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), a country doctor who visits the dilapidated old home of the Ayres family on medical business, but is slowly drawn into the family’s twisted ancestry and whatever else may be haunting the family and their crumbling home. Alongside Gleeson’s doctor are Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling and Kate Phillips. (Not Yet Rated)

The Nightingale (TBA)- Not much is known about the film, which wrapped shooting late last year, other than that it is a period drama taking place on the island of Tasmania in 1825 about a young convict woman (Aisling Franciosi) who travels with an Aboriginal outcast (Sam Claflin) in search of the people who killed her family. What is known is that this film has much to live up to based on the involvement of Australian writer/director Jennifer Kent, whose feature film debut, the psychological horror film “The Babadook,” which made enough of a splash in 2014 to drum up a considerable domestic take at the box office. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, I know I will. (Not Yet Rated)