As the year winds down, it’s natural to turn your thoughts toward the truly important issues, specifically what your screen-watching schedule is going to be in 2019. Hollywood, as usual, is turning to our favorite books, graphic novels, and other stories to get our butts into movie theater seats. We’ll allow it. Here are some of the highlights to watch out for.
Battle Angel: Alita, by Yukito Kishiro (February)
If you’re unfamiliar with the source manga, you might know this upcoming film as “the movie with the big-eyed girl who kicks all kinds of butt.” The story centers on a cyborg found in a garbage dump and revived by a scientist; she has no memory of her existence, but is revealed to be a deadly and skilled warrior gifted with lots of technologically advanced weaponry. The film was originally scheduled for release in summer of 2018, but additional effects work (if you’ve seen the trailer, you know it wasn’t wasted) pushed it back to February.
The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (March 1)
Retitled Chaos Walking, the film version of Ness’s YA sci-fi story is set in a world where all living things experience each other’s thoughts and feelings in a phenomenon known as “noise,” and stars Tom “Spider Man Himself” Holland and Daisy “Rey from Star Wars” Ridley. The adaptation has been in development since 2011; filming wrapped in 2017 but reshoots pushed the release date back. The themes of information overload and lack of privacy that the books explore are sure to be carried over to the film, and here’s hoping it’s one of the series adaptations that results in filmed sequels.
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Captain Marvel, by Kelly Sue Deconnick (March 8)
You already knew the Captain would be on this list, as new records for hype are being set by the film on an hourly basis. Portrayed by Oscar winner Brie Larson, Carol Danvers is the first female superhero in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to get her own movie (just beating out Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, whose film is now in production). Borrowing storylines from several of the print comics, the film will be set in the 1990s and will definitely tie into the larger Avengers 4 plot (once that film’s arrival determines whether Thanos murdering half the population of the universe is going to stick).
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple (March 22)
If you’ve read this brilliant novel you’ll agree Cate Blanchett is the perfect choice for Bernadette, the smart, agoraphobic, and manic woman who abruptly abandons her family in a swirl of often hilarious chaos. The film was originally scheduled to be released in May 2018, a date that got pushed twice, but now its release is finally nigh. In addition to Blanchett, the brilliant cast includes Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne, and Billy Crudup, among other, and we’re psyched to see Semple’s vision given new life on the silver screen.
Pet Sematary, by Stephen King (April 5)
We’re in the Age of Reboots, so it isn’t terribly surprising that thirty years after the first adaptation someone is taking another crack at one of Stephen King’s best. Whether they can improve on the creepy vibe of the first film remains to be seen, but you can’t go far wrong with a story this disturbing and unsettling; let’s face it, any horror story involving a resurrected cat that “comes back wrong” is going to be terrifying.
After, by Anna Todd (April 12)
If you haven’t heard of After, cast your mind back to 2013, when the band One Direction ruled the earth as our benevolent overlords. Anna Todd began writing Harry Styles fan fiction on her phone for fun, and posted the chapters to Wattpad, where it became the most read work on that site by a lot. A lot. A book deal followed, sequels came, and now there’s a film adaptation of the first book, wherein virginal nice girl Tessa goes off to college and meets ultimate British Bad Boy Harry in a story often described as a toned-down Fifty Shades. Discovering whether and how the film captures the delirious pleasures of the books is going to be very, very fun.
Hellboy, by Mike Mignola (April 12)
Mignola’s reboot of the film series is going to be a lot darker and more violent than the original films starring Ron Perlman. The titular demon working for a government agency will be portrayed this time around by Stranger Things‘ Sheriff Hopper himself, David Harbour, who has gotten seriously ripped for the role. Although Mignola was very involved with the proposed third Hellboy film being developed by original director Guillermo del Toro, he stepped back when the intention to reboot the series was announced—but the storyline is drawn from three of his comic storylines, so fans are sure to be satisfied with the new direction, and even casual fans should be excited that the filmmakers intend to embark on a deeper psychological exploration of Hellboy and the violent struggle he’s engaged in.
Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (August 9)
Artemis Fowl, teenage genius, surly antihero, and criminal mastermind, is just the kind of literary character movies were invented to bring to vibrant life. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film adapts the first book in the series, in which Fowl seeks to restore his family’s dimming fortunes by kidnapping a fairy and holding her for ransom, bringing the wrath of the Lower Elements Police Recon (LEPrecon) down on his head. This is exactly the sort of live-action films Disney should be making, in our opinion, and the long wait to see one of the most interesting young characters of recent vintage finally hit the big screen is finally almost over. We can’t wait—at least there’s a trailer.
It, by Stephen King (September 6)
No surprises here: After the smash success of Part 1 in 2017, which covered the first half of King’s classic chiller, set during the Losers Club’s childhood, we all knew they were going to finish the story of Pennywise. The now-grown Losers realize they didn’t quite destroy Pennywise decades ago, and return to the town of Derry to finish the job or die trying. With a cast that includes Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and, of course, Bill Skarsgård as everyone’s least favorite clown, this is as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get at the movies in 2019.
The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn (October 4)
Finn’s fantastic Hitchcockian thriller is about a housebound agoraphobic dealing with her own loss who suspects she has witnessed something terrible in the house across the way. But to say she’s an unreliable narrator is the understatement of the year. As the twists come fast and furious, the sense of tension over what’s actually going on approaches epic levels. Will the film be able to capture that wonderful, heart-pounding excitement? Let’s hope so. With Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, and Gary Oldman working from a script by Tracy Letts, we gotta say we like the odds.
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (October 11)
Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel cemented her legacy as one of the smartest writers of the 21st century. The story of a young boy who survives a bomb explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and impulsively steals the priceless titular painting in the aftermath is an emotionally complex life story with the bones of a mystery, and the film has its work cut out for it in re-creating the brainy, tragic mood of the book. The casting of Ansel Elgort as Theo guarantees the movie will get some heat, and will hopefully inspire a lot of people to check out what is truly a fantastic novel—but it’s Aneurin Barnard, cast as Boris, who has the biggest challenge. Boris was by far the runaway favorite character in the story, and the success or failure of the film may come down to whether we love him as much onscreen as we did on the page.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by T.S. Eliot (December 20)
You might be more familiar with the much more efficient and pithy title of the Broadway adaptation of this book: Cats. A collection of poems exploring the world and lives of cats might not seem to jibe with the author who also wrote the dour, devastating The Wasteland or the gloomy, psychedelic The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but these delightful poems inspired one of the longest-running musicals of all time, and now sports a powerhouse cast including Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, James Corden, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, and even Jason Derulo. If only to solve the riddle of whether actors like Dench and McKellan are actually going to be wearing those full-body catsuits on screen, it’s a must-see.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (December 25)
Little Women is one of those books that can be adapted over and over again, endlessly, no matter how good past versions have been. That’s because it’s also one of the most re-readable books of all time. You can pick up Little Women any time and enjoy the heck out of it, so why not see a few different film and TV versions? This one stars Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, and Meryl Streep (among a stacked cast) and has the big budget of a prestige operation—and, perhaps most importantly, it’s directed by Greta Gerwig, fresh off Lady Bird and one of the hottest directors in Hollywood right now. Put it all together and we’re in for another charming few hours with the Ladies March.
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (December 25)
This is an ambitious live-action/CGI mix, with Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, and Karen Gillan heading up the cast. London’s classic story of a domesticated dog that finds itself kidnapped and then abandoned, slowly losing his civilized ways and becoming a dominant animal in the wilderness, is touching and packs a surprising emotional wallop—but has always posed obvious difficulties in adapting it to a visual medium. The cast and the technology available today give us hope that this adaptation will do the story justice—and hey, any story about dogs rising above challenges is by definition a good story.
No Release Date Yet
These three projects are definitely coming out in 2019, we’re just not 100% sure of the exact date.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (2019)
In a way, George Clooney was born to adapt Joseph Heller’s classic novel about the absurdity of war and military life. You’ve got to give credit to Clooney, who could have given himself any role he wished but chose to play the minor role of Scheisskopf, a parade-obsessed officer who rises inexplicably through the ranks, and whose name translates to something very unflattering in German. This ambitious miniseries is going to be on Hulu, and it’s one of those novels that likely needs to be a miniseries as opposed to a film, because it’s dense with subplots, details, and subtle jokes that will require hours to tease out.
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (2019)
The second you hear that David “Doctor Who” Tennant and Michael Sheen will be playing Crowley the demon and Aziraphale the angel, teaming up to prevent Armageddon so they can keep enjoying the comforts of Earth, you’re in. When you hear that Gaiman wrote the role of Gabriel for Jon Hamm based on the never-finished sequel to the novel, you’re double in. When you realize the Angel Gabriel is probably the role Hamm was born to play, you’re triple in. And the fact that the series is written by Neil Himself? What we’re saying is, you’re in.
Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem (2019)
This is Edward Norton’s baby—he writes, directs, and stars in this adaptation of Lethem’s 1999 novel. He brings along Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Cherry Jones, and Leslie Mann among many others to tell the story of a private detective chasing down clues to the murder of his boss and mentor while trying to control his Tourette Syndrome outbursts. The novel layered a detective story with an exploration of the human condition, which seems like an ideal space for a filmmaker like Norton to explore.
The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley (2019)
O’Malley’s fun, inventive thriller about a woman who wakes up without any memory, surrounded by dead bodies, and discovers that she was once a member of the Checquy, an organization that fights supernatural threats that afflict London and the wider world, holding the elevated rank of Rook. Starring Emma Greenwell and Olivia Munn, this USA Network series should be a highlight of the year for urban fantasy fans—assuming they ever get around to officially announcing the release date.
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco (2019)
Yes, the 1986 Sean Connery version holds up well, but this Sundance TV series starring John Turturro is a welcome addition to 2019’s TV viewing schedule. The novel somehow manages to combine erudite philosophical, historical, and literary allusions and investigation with a surprisingly gripping mystery, and is widely considered one of the greatest books of all time. That means that even if the series is only half as good, it will still be pretty darn awesome. And more Turturro is always welcome.
These projects are all supposed to be out this year, but there’s reason to believe it might be 2020. (Or beyond.)
Dune, by Frank Herbert (December 31, 2019)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) isn’t even starting filming on this project until January, so we’re dubious about the release date. Still, it would be a great way to end the year for sci-fi fans, who love David Lynch’s iconic (if incomprehensible) 1984 version but long to see an updated attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s all-time great novel. We don’t know much about the production right now, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that Villeneuve pulls it off.
The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester (2019)
A film adaptation of a novel about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary seems unlikely. A film adaptation about the OED starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn seems like a set up—but it’s happening. Gibson will play Sir James Murray, assigned the incredible task of creating the dictionary, and Penn will play W.C. Minor, who did a great deal of work for Murray while confined to an asylum.
Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (December 31)
The moment you hear that Scorsese is adapting Grann’s book about the murders of wealthy Osage people following the discovery of oil on their land in Oklahoma, and how the investigation led to the formation of what is today the FBI, you know it’s going to be great. It’s exactly the kind of historical material Scorsese excels at bringing to life, combining the gritty violence and cerebral character work that the director has made his specialty. His most recent muse, Leonardo DiCaprio, is involved, and Robert DeNiro is rumored to be on board as well. Whether this is really coming out next year remains to be seen.
The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis (December 31)
After the first three books in Lewis’ Narnia series were adapted with decreasing budgets and ticket sales, all seemed lost, and an argument over filming the fourth book or jumping to the sixth book, The Magician’s Nephew, seemed to stall everything. New producers came into the picture, and The Silver Chair became a soft reboot of the series, with a whole new cast of actors. The fourth book was the last to follow the early pattern of the series that had the Pevensie children—and later, Eustace Scrubb, here with friend Jill Pole—transported to Narnia, and is the first that features no Pevensies at all, which means it’s probably ideal for a reboot.
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The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (2019)
With Lin-Manuel Miranda working on a prequel series set in Rothfuss’ epic fantasy world, Sam Raimi is supposedly working on getting a film adaptation of the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle into theaters in 2019, which would be huge news for the fans. This is a pretty big ask, though, as the book is long, complex, and well-loved. A lot of things could go wrong, and if things fall apart and the center cannot hold, it’s likely the project involving the red-hot Miranda is the one that would survive.
1984, by George Orwell (2019)
Grim, nightmarish, and still terrifyingly applicable, 1984 suddenly became hot again after the 2016 presidential election, for no reason whatsoever. Outside of an announced 2019 release, there’s precious little information about this project, so we suspect it’s going to turn out to be a 2020 project—if it ever happens at all.