The year 2017 offered a bumpy ride for Hollywood at the box office — and there’s no telling what 2018 will bring for the industry in terms of theater attendance.
Despite uncertainties about the box office, however, there’s much potentially strong content coming along in 2018, including films from such stars as Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood.
From new additions to action franchises like “Predator” to highlights of real American heroes like “12 Strong,” a wide variety of films are making their way to theaters in the year ahead.
Here is a look at 10 2018 films you will not want to miss.
1.) “The Commuter” (January 12). Even at 65 years old, Liam Neeson is still hard at work on action fare. His latest is “The Commuter,” a film that reunites him with director Juame Collet-Serra, who led Neeson to previous box-office success with “Non-Stop” and “Unknown.”
In “The Commuter,” Neeson plays an Everyman who becomes a pawn in a criminal conspiracy while traveling home on a train. It’s not going to win any awards — but “The Commuter” looks to be a solid B-action movie, which will give Neeson plenty of chances to throw some punches and get caught up in some over-the-top set pieces.
2.) “12 Strong” (January 19). This tells the story of the first U.S. Special Forces troops to land in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attacks.
It’s a tale that is long overdue for big-screen treatment. For anyone thinking the film may get preachy or pull some political punches, the project was overseen by Jerry Bruckheimer — who previously helped bring to life one of the best modern military dramas, “Black Hawk Down.”
3.) “15:17 to Paris” (February 9). This film has a unique background.
In telling the story of how three young men thwarted a terrorist attack in 2015 aboard a train while heading to Paris, director Clint Eastwood decided to cleverly cast the men as themselves — after an exhaustive casting process that went nowhere.
“I looked at a lot of actors, good actors too, but I kept looking at the guys, looking at their faces, and finally one day I just said, ‘You guys think you could play yourselves?'” said Eastwood in a featurette released for the movie. “The more they thought about it, the more they got with it and it turned out that they had a lot of natural gift, and it was also a bit of catharsis for them to go back and relive the moment.”
The movie continues Eastwood’s recent trend of crafting films about real-life Everyman heroes, after “American Sniper” and “Sully.”
Said Eastwood of his new film, “It hasn’t been a conscious choice to make movies about heroes, but it is an interesting story about regular people doing exceptional things. It’s about the common man, just three guys who grew up together. They were put in a position to have to act quickly because it could have been a major disaster. There were 500 people on that train that day.”
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4.) “Black Panther” (February 28). The next Marvel adventure looks to be one of its most special, as director Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) tells the story of an enduring and popular character, the Black Panther.
Though Marvel content can be predictable, “Black Panther” trailers thus far have offered a peek at a visually stunning film. This one also seems to mix things up from the usual Marvel template, thanks mostly to the unique lead character (played by Chadwick Boseman) and the new world the film introduces. It feels different enough from the rest of Marvel’s interconnected content.
5.) “Death Wish” (March 2). The first trailer for this film dropped a couple of months ago, and social media were set on fire. The remake of the vigilante fantasy classic, it seems, is not built for our politically correct times.
Director Eli Roth and lead actor Bruce Willis have stayed true to the original film’s unforgiving nature in their depiction of a man on the warpath after his family falls victim to crime. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see snowflakes melting on social media over Willis’ Everyman taking to the streets — and doling out his form of violent justice.
6.) “Avengers: Infinity War” (May 4). This is all but guaranteed to be the biggest movie of 2018.
With all of Marvel’s superheroes under one banner as they take on the planet-destroying Thanos (played by Josh Brolin), this film sports a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, and almost everyone else who has built a reputation as a superhero in recent years.
This film is sure to be at the center of many of 2018’s biggest pop culture discussions. It may simply be too big to miss.
7.) “Sicario 2: Soldado” (June 29). Not many movies address crime along the border, for obvious reasons. Yet screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is not your typical modern artist. After only a few years, he’s become one of Hollywood’s hottest writers; that’s because he’s telling stories other creators seem incapable of tackling.
His first film, “Sicario,” was a brutal look at the drug war, terrorism, and the uncontrolled mess that is America’s border with Mexico. It was a quiet, thoughtful exploration of violence in the modern world.
His next film, “Hell or High Water,” went to Middle America to show the effects the dying economy has had on small towns and their inhabitants.
“Wind River,” his directorial debut from this year, brought its story to Wyoming, where Sheridan explored the contrast between urban and rural life and the lengths and perseverance still needed to survive in some parts of this world.
Now comes “Sicario 2: Soldado,” Sheridan’s sequel to “Sicario.” Ditching the first film’s main character, this new one lets the first movie’s fan favorites take over the story — that would be Josh Brolin’s sneaky CIA operative and Benicio Del Toro’s unforgiving hitman.
If it is half the movie the first film was, it will be an unforgettable experience and yet another opportunity for Sheridan to school the rest of Hollywood on making an original and compelling piece of cinema.
8.) “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” (July 13). For something the whole family can enjoy, the “Hotel Transylvania” animated franchise has become a reliable source of comedy from the usually more adult-oriented Adam Sandler.
Following the adventures of Dracula (Sandler), his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez), and her not-always on-the-ball husband Johnny (Andy Samberg), “Summer Vacation” finds Dracula bestowed with the gift of a vacation on a cruise ship. The movie brings back the whole gang — including Frankenstein (Kevin James) and others. As a bonus, Mel Brooks voices Dracula’s father Vlad once again.
So far the “Transylvania” franchise has been solid fun — and there’s no reason to think this addition to the canon will be any different.
9.) “The Predator” (August 3). The “Predator” franchise hasn’t quite been able to pick up steam since the original movie. The 1987 classic is still considered one of the best action movies around, but the sequel is little more than an average action flick, with only a handful of bright spots.
A 2010 attempt at a reboot called “Predators” was strong enough, but it was held back by a limited budget.
Fox has now decided to go back to basics by entrusting the franchise to “Lethal Weapon” scribe Shane Black. Aside from being one of the strongest action writers in the industry, Black also acted in the original “Predator” — and is rumored to have done some on-set rewrites. He’s promised his work on the franchise will go back to the original’s fun yet brutal feel, while also expanding the world of “Predator.” Though a trailer has yet to be released, Shane Black’s role here promises all kinds of summer movie goodness.
10.) “The Meg” (August 10). One of the few true-blue action stars left on the planet is Jason Statham. While many actors his age have taken to wearing costumes and working with green-screen, Statham is a bit of a throwback. With movies like “Crank” and “The Transporter,” he’s managed to build a strong following among those who appreciate action cinema steeped in practical effects and original stories.
Statham’s latest finds him up against maybe the only thing that could beat the action star onscreen: a giant shark. Based on a best-selling novel that’s been in development for literally decades, “The Meg” pits Statham’s Jonas Taylor against a 70-foot shark as he attempts to save people in a sunken submersible. Sounds like it could be the perfect summer movie of 2018.
PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]