The Farewell sounds like a potentially interesting about-turn for a star on rapid ascendancy. Awkwafina, fresh from a string of scene stealing performances in box office hits (Oceans Eight and Crazy Rich Asians), has made a name for herself as a brazen, fiery, acerbic and kooky character actress (having risen from being an internet sensation). The Farewell, which not only offers another Asian-American centred film in the wake of Crazy Rich Asians, is also a leading role for Awkwafina but more so a chance to show her melancholic side, to add that extra dimension required when you become the protagonist. A family discovers their Grandmother is terminally ill. They decide against telling her, but set up a wedding as an excuse to get everyone together for her, one last time. Laughs are assured, but drama too, under the considered eye of rising auteur, Lulu Wang.
Midsommar is the anticipated follow up to Hereditary from director Ari Aster. That being said, the hype thus far isn’t huge considering how well received his last film was. The public didn’t perhaps take to it quite as much as critics did, which possibly explains why there isn’t a huge amount of buzz yet, but the film has two young leads who are both among the most engaging in their age group (Will Poulter and Florence Pugh), and if Hereditary owed much to Rosemary’s Baby, the synopsis for Midsommar suggests a hearty nod to The Wicker Man.
Jojo Rabbit is another of which not a huge deal is known as yet. There’s not masses of buzz, but this is Taika Waititi’s follow up to Thor: Ragnarok. Now granted this doesn’t come with the pre-ordained hype that an MCU film has, but what he injected into that particular character was superb, and his previous works were even better. Jojo Rabbit may take us to murky territory, back to WW2 (with Waititi himself playing Adolf Hitler) but as per his style, this is sure to be pitch black comedy with pitch perfect delivery.
The trailer for Little Woods recently dropped, and whilst we’ve segued from Thor: Ragnarok via its director, lets shift onto Little Woods via one of its stars…Tessa Thompson. What can you say about Thompson right now? She’s shit hot. She’s pitching homers, left, right and centre. She’s cool, edgy, vulnerable, tough as nails and a magnetic screen presence. Big awards are inevitable. She’s injected roles which might ordinarily have passed without much impact, with an extra edge and dimension. Whilst Little Woods has a lot about it that we’ve seen before, the combination of Thompson, Lily James and up and coming writer director, Nia DaCosta could deliver something that’s ordinarily told and performed by men, with a bit of girl power.
I may be alone on this one, but Rambo 5: Last Blood is one very much on my radar. I recently bemoaned a lack of quality control from Millennium Films. Occasionally lazy writing, uninspiring directorial choices and a generally haphazard approach to production, but as a Stallone fan and someone who has enjoyed the Rambo series on the whole (the first is an underrated classic, the sequels ludicrous but enjoyable) I’m hoping for a potentially engaging send off. If they can inject it with a little subtlety, a little heart and go easy with second rate CGI and over zealous gore (and two dimensional stereotyping), then it could be the send off that John J deserves. The choice of director, Adrien Grunberg is decent too. Whilst he’s been a Second Unit specialist, he’s directed one film, an underrated film, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. The film bombed and got swept away essentially as it was released at the height of Mel Gibson’s public shaming. For Grunberg it derailed his directorial career before it began, but Gibson was better in that film than he’d been in years. There’s been a Gibsonaissance of sorts since, but it’s great to see Grunberg being handed the finale of a long running, iconic character like Rambo.
My final suggestion is an indie gem currently doing festival circuits, which will hopefully find distribution this year. I was fortunate enough to see the rough cut version for (writer, director and lead), Anna Alfieri’s film, Borderline. Based on her own experience, Anna is haunted by the ever doomed relationship with an on/off (and finally off) lover whilst also afflicted with creative emptiness. It’s a raw, cathartic, brutally honest piece of film-making and one of the best films I saw last year, so I’m really hoping this gets picked up and released. It’s cinema from the heart, with the kind of truth and power that is rarely attained these days. It hurts to watch (as it must have beyond measure to make) but Alfieri’s performance is exceptional, and it’s a beautifully shot film (stellar work from the D.O.P Ariel Artur). Definitely one to keep eyes peeled for.
Any other films beneath the Marvel and Disney Radar which catch your eye in 2019? Let us know in the comments…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see… http://tomjolliffe.wordpress.com/films/