Spring movies 2018: 'Black Panther' leads a star-studded film season

Gary Thompson, MOVIE CRITIC

Updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 5:19 AM

Oprah Winfrey is Mrs. Which in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time

The space between the winter awards season and the advent of the summer blockbusters can be creatively a bit bleak, but this spring is a happy departure.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post will have just wrapped its theatrical run when his next movie — the sci-fi epic Ready Player One — hits theaters in March. Kind of makes you long for the old contract days, when A-list directors like Spielberg had to make three or four movies a year.

Joining Spielberg on the spring schedule are Steven Soderbergh (the horror movie Unsane) and Selma director Ava DuVernay with the Disney fantasy epic A Wrinkle in Time. The spring slate includes Wes Anderson’s new animated movie Isle of Dogs, and Armando Iannucci’s political satire and festival favorite The Death of Stalin. And there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see your favorite performer, since thanks to Marvel and Disney, every actor in the world is employed in either Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War, the latter of which folds in characters from both Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Here are some of the highlights from the spring schedule, with all dates subject to change.

Black Panther (Feb. 16). From the Marvel Universe comes the first superhero movie featuring a cast of mostly black actors led by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, a.k.a Black Panther, who inherits from his father the African kingdom of Wakanda, but who finds his country’s stability threatened from within. The movie is directed by Ryan Coogler, who has cast his Creed buddy Michael B. Jordan as a character named Erik Killmonger. I don’t read a lot of comic books, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Eric Killmonger is a bad guy. Also starring Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Andy Serkis.

Annihilation (Feb. 23). Alex Garland (Ex Machina) wrote and directed this adaptation of the best-selling Jeff VanderMeer novel about a group of scientists (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson) who enter an environmental disaster area where an unseen force starts rearranging their DNA. Garland is said to have taken liberties with VanderMeer’s story, and there are reports the studio was not totally in love with the onslaught of psychedelic visuals that constitute much of the movie. Some recutting has been done.

Red Sparrow (March 2). Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) suffers an injury that leaves her unable to dance but still able to kill people. She goes to a school (run by Charlotte Rampling) to learn how to be an assassin, a job that also keeps her on her toes. The movie is directed by Lawrence’s Hunger Games collaborator Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, Mockingjay). Costars include Mary Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons, and Joel Edgerton.

A Wrinkle in Time (March 9). DuVernay directs this big-budget Disney adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s popular fantasy adventure book about a girl (Storm Reid) who travels through time and space in search of her missing father (Chris Pine), with the help of three astral guides (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling.) Costarring Zach Galifianakis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Michael Peña. Written by Frozen cowriter and co-director Jennifer Lee.

Isle of Dogs (March 23). Wes Anderson’s animated movie about a Japanese boy (Koyu Rankin) who endeavors to find his dog (voice of Liev Schreiber) on an island trash heap where all dogs have been exiled due to what is officially described as an outbreak of canine flu. Featuring the voices of Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, and Frances McDormand. Anderson’s first animated movie since 2009’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Death of Stalin (March 23). Does anybody do political comedy (In the Loop, Veep) better than Armando Iannucci? Certainly few write better dialogue for the genre than he does. Here, Iannucci applies his craft to an offbeat black comedy (based on a French graphic novel) about Soviet bureaucrats — some befuddled, some treacherous, some deadly — trying to decide what to do when Stalin drops dead. The cast includes Jason Isaacs, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine, and Olga Kurylenko.

Unsane (March 23). Well now it’s really official — Steven Soderbergh has not retired from filmmaking. Last fall, he popped up with the hillbilly heist movie Logan Lucky. Here, he directs a horror movie about a young woman (The Crown‘s Claire Foy) committed to a mental institution after physicians are unable to determine whether her fears are real or delusional. The cast includes Amy Irving, Jay Pharoah, and Juno Temple.

Ready Player One (March 30). Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi epic based on the Ernest Cline novel. It’s about players in a game that bounces back and forth between the real world and a virtual reality realm called OASIS, composed of 1980s nostalgia and pop culture, which is something Spielberg knows a bit about (expect a reference to E.T. or Raiders of the Lost Ark) Starring Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Olivia Cooke, and Simon Pegg, who knows something about ’80s pop culture himself.

A Quiet Place (April 6). A man directing his wife not to speak? Well that sounds primitive in the #MeToo era. But it’s literally true. This horror movie was cowritten and directed by John Krasinski and stars his wife, Emily Blunt. They play a couple living with two children in a place where sound can be fatal, stalked by creatures who attack at the slightest noise. They line pathways with sand, walk barefoot, paint footsteps on the wooden floors of their creaky house to know where to step, and communicate via sign language. (One of the children is played by Millicent Simmonds, of Wonderstruck).

Avengers: Infinity War (May 4). A superhero extravaganza that somehow unites most of the characters from the Avengers franchise and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. They must congregate in order to defeat some new menace, a bald alien named Thanos who looks like Bruce Willis with a mandibular disease. The big fight scene at the end features 40 MCU characters. Starring everybody. Directed by the Russo brothers. The film was shot simultaneously with its own sequel, to be released in May 2019.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25). The Han Solo origin story was started by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) but they departed midway through the production, and Ron Howard took over. There were the proverbial creative differences. Perhaps producer Kathleen Kennedy preferred a director who could work solo. Alden Ehrenreich has the title role, leading a cast that includes Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke, and Paul Bettany.

Ocean’s 8 (June 8). Danny Ocean has an estranged sister named Debbie (Sandra Bullock), and she’s a criminal also. In Ocean’s 8, she conspires with several women (Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and others) to pull off a big heist. It’s a mostly female cast, but on the surface, the plot does not appear to represent a great leap for feminism: The women are trying to steal a necklace from Anne Hathaway, who herself stole a necklace in The Dark Knight Rises.

Gary Thompson, MOVIE CRITIC

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