10 movies worth checking out in 2018

Some of 2018’s coming attractions show great promise for the popcorn-munching crowds who’ll be venturing to the multiplexes, seeking temporary escape from reality’s routines to experience other worlds imagined by various filmmakers and projected on big screens in 2D, 3D or IMAX formats.

In the coming year, we’ll hope for intelligent signs of life at the movies along the way. The following is a list of intriguing possibilities, with release dates that — as always — are subject to change.

Feb. 16

The first superhero of African descent in mainstream comics finally takes center stage in his own full-length, live-action feature film, “Black Panther,” with star Chadwick Boseman reprising the role he first took on in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). This latest cinematic offering from the Marvel Comics Universe is touted as the second most anticipated movie of 2018 behind another Marvel production, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Ryan Coogler, “Panther” directed and co-wrote the effort.

Feb. 23

British writer-director Alex Garland (“Ex Machina,” “28 Days Later,” “Never Let Me Go”) helms “Annihilation,” an adventure-drama-fantasy — with some horror thrown in for good measure — about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who goes in search of her missing husband (Oscar Isaac) on an expedition into an environmental disaster zone with a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a surveyor (Tessa Thompson), an anthropologist (Gina Rodriguez) and a linguist (Tuva Novotny), among others. They don’t find what they’re expecting, according to preview notes.

March 9

In the sci-fi fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time,” Meg Murry (Storm Reid) learns her astrophysical father is being held prisoner on a distant planet by an evil force and works with her highly intelligent brother, her classmate, and three astral travelers to rescue him. A remake of an earlier film, and based on a 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle, this one’s directed by Zva DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee, and also stars — wait for it — Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, with Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium and Chris Pine as Dr. Alex Murry, rounding out the cast. Go wonder about this one.

March 23

Although writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi monster epic “Pacific Rim” barely treaded water at the U.S. box office in 2013, it did swimmingly in China and other foreign markets, which may explain why a sequel called “Pacific Rim Uprising” was ordered. Del Toro coproduces with six other people on this one, but hands the directing reins to Steven S. DeKnight (TV’s “Spartacus”) this time out. As in the first “Rim” shot, the screenplay was written by Travis Beacham and del Toro from a story by Beacham. The film is set in the future, when Earth is at war with the Kaiju, and huge sea monsters emerge from an interdimensional portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers, gigantic humanoid mechas, each controlled by at least two pilots, whose minds are joined by a mental link. No telling what’ll happen this time. The cast includes John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny and Jing Tian.

Wes Anderson, Oscar-nominated writer-director of such eccentric comedy gems as “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and the animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” tries his hand at stop-motion realism with “Isle of Dogs,” a fantasy set in a dystopian future Japan in which dogs have been quarantined to an island due to a “canine flu.” The dogs are then set loose by a small boy in search of his lost canine friend. An illustrious cast of actors lend their familiar voices to the four- and two-legged characters, including Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber and Edward Norton, among others.

March 30

Steven Spielberg directs and coproduces “Ready Player One,” a sci-fi thriller written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline’s novel set in the year 2045, when much of Earth’s population centers have become slum-like due to overpopulation, pollution, corruption, and climate change. To escape their desolation, people use the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where they can engage in numerous activities of work, education, and entertainment. When the founder of OASIS dies, he wills ownership of OASIS to the first person who can find a hidden treasure within OASIS by playing its games and solving its puzzles. A race ensues between a young man and his friends, and a large corporate entity that wants to control OASIS for themselves. Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance star.

April 6

The affable John Krasinski (TV’s “The Office”) is the unlikely director and star, along with his co-star and real-life wife Emily Blunt, of the horror/sci-fi thriller “A Quiet Place,” where a family is stuck on a remote farm and challenged with communicating only by sign language, keeping utterly silent so as not to attract an evil force which is summoned by the slightest of vocal sounds. Deaf actor Millicent Simmonds plays the family member who coaches her hearing family in mute communication, in this tale of terror from Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and Krasinski.

May 25

Oklahoma’s native son Ron Howard (Fun fact: He was born in Duncan) directs “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which follows a young Han Solo and Chewbacca’s adventures before joining the Rebellion, including their early encounters with Lando Calrissian, as imagined in a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill, “Silverado”) and his son, Jon Kasdan. Alden Ehrenreich (“Hail, Caesar!”) stars as Solo, with Donald Glover as Calrissian, and Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, with Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca rounding out the cast.

June 8

From director Gary Ross (“The Hunger Games”), co-writing with Olivia Milch, comes “Ocean’s 8,” the distaff version of “Ocean’s 11,” “12” and “13” — one of the most popular all-male, all-star heist-thriller series ever. This time it’s a group of crafty female larcenists who try to pull off an ingenious, big-scale rip-off of their own. Danny Ocean’s estranged sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) attempts a heist at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala. To this end Debbie assembles the perfect crew: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Amita (Mindy Kaling), and Constance (Awkwafina). Can the women outdo Danny’s boys?

Aug. 17

Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic, “White Boy Rick” is based on the true story of teenager Richard Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt), who became a police informant and a drug dealer before he was abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to life in prison. Matthew McConaughey stars as Richard’s angry blue-collar father, with a cast that also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Bel Powley and Piper Laurie. Award-winning filmmaker Yann Demange directs.

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