21 movies Bostonians should know about in 2019

A look at some of the most exciting upcoming films with Massachusetts ties.

Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Saoirse Ronan, and Florence Pugh on the set of "Little Women" in Harvard, Mass. –Kathleen Jones

It’s January, which is usually the time of year when moviegoers try to catch up on all of the awards season contenders they’ve missed over the past year. Who has time to think about upcoming films when you’re still trying to see “A Star Is Born”?

Nevertheless, there’s plenty to look forward to in 2019, so we decided to pull together a short list of some of the movies with local hooks that are coming out this year, starting with five films premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, which begins later this month. Note that movie release dates often move around on the calendar quite a bit prior to hitting theaters, but as of now, all of these films are slated to debut in 2019.

Sundance

“Late Night”

Mindy Kaling in “Late Night.” —Courtesy of Sundance Institute
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Written by and co-starring Cambridge native Mindy Kaling, “Late Night” chronicles a late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) whose “world is turned upside down” when she hires her show’s first female staff writer (Kaling) to appease diversity concerns, according to Sundance. The film will play for festival audiences on Jan. 25, but executives have not announced a wide release date yet.

“Hail Satan?”

A promotional image for the documentary “Hail Satan?” —Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In the six years since its founding in Salem, the Satanic Temple has picked up considerable recognition, but usually more for their clever responses to the news of the day than any sort of Satanic rituals. “The Temple is calling for a Satanic revolution to save the nation’s soul,” reads the documentary’s official synopsis. “But are they for real?” After it bows at Sundance, “Hail Satan?” is expected to land in theaters on March 29.

“Selah and the Spades”

“Selah and the Spades.” —Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The debut film by writer-director Tayarisha Poe is about a girl named Selah Summers, the leader of the strongest of five factions that “run the underground life of the prestigious Haldwell boarding school,” according to Sundance. Though Haldwell is supposed to be located in Pennsylvania in the film, producer Lucas Joaquin told Boston.com that the film was mainly shot at Academy at Penguin Hall in Wenham, and also features scenes shot in Hamilton, Marblehead, Newton, and Peabody. “Selah and the Spades” will be seeking distribution at Sundance, so no national release date has been determined.

“The Report”

Adam Driver in “The Report.” —Courtesy of Sundance Institute
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“The Report” is based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver, “Star Wars”), the lead investigator for the US Senate’s study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, who must fight to make public the “brutal, immoral and ineffective” tactics of the government agency’s tactics, according to Sundance. Featuring a deep supporting cast that includes John Hamm (“Mad Men”), Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), and Boston native Maura Tierney (“ER”), the film has not announced a wide release date.

“The Sunlit Night”

Jenny Slate in “The Sunlit Night.” —Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jenny Slate gets international in her newest film, with the Milton native playing a painter who travels to Norway and befriends a Russian émigré (Alex Sharp, “UFO”), with the two discovering “a future and family that they didn’t know they had,” per Sundance. Also featuring Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”) and Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”), “The Sunlit Night” does not have a wide release date yet.

Winter

“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”

After their successful battle against fussy parent Will Ferrell in the first “Lego Movie,” Emmett (Chris Pratt, “Jurassic World”), Wyldstyle (Pittsfield native Elizabeth Banks, “The Hunger Games”), and the rest of the Lego gang face a new, ominous threat in the form of Duplo invaders from outer space. It all sounds a bit childish, but anyone who saw the first film knows how well the writer/director duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller can bring plastic to life. “The Second Part” will snap into place on Feb. 8.

“The Prodigy”

Another entry in the “terrifying child psychopath” genre, “The Prodigy” stars Boston native Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”) as she struggles to raise her very creepy, seemingly homicidal son. Are supernatural forces at work? Or is he just super-duper messed up? You’ll have to catch the film starting Feb. 8. to find out the answer.

“Triple Frontier” 

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Ben Affleck is back, this time for Netflix. This action-drama chronicles a group of former Special Forces operatives led by the Cambridge native as they plot to rob the world’s most violent drug cartel situated in the volatile “triple frontier” border between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Co-starring Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), Garrett Hedlund (“Mudbound”), Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarachy”), and Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”), “Triple Frontier” will debut on the streaming platform and in select theaters on March 15.

Spring

“Avengers: Endgame”

Marvel has been its typical zealously protective self concerning the storyline for “Avengers: Endgame,” which follows the remaining Avengers as they deal with the loss of half of their squad — and 50 percent of all living creatures in general — due to the actions of Thanos (Josh Brolin) in “Infinity War.” Does Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) hold the key to humanity’s salvation? Will “Avengers: Endgame” mark the end of Sudbury native Chris Evans’ time as Captain America? Hopefully some of those questions will be answered when the film arrives on April 26.

“John Wick: Chapter 3”

Keanu Reeves in “John Wick: Chapter 3.” —Lionsgate

As of now, there’s very little information available about the third installment of Keanu Reeves’ John Wick series. Halle Berry has joined the cast, Reeves rides a horse at some point, and Nahant native Jason Mantzoukas will play a character known as “Tick Tock Man,” which sounds both hilarious and ominous at the same time. “John Wick: Chapter 3” will arrive in theaters on May 17.

“Brightburn”

Unlike the aforementioned “The Prodigy,” where the origins of the titular child’s psychopathic tendencies are in doubt, it’s clear where the child at the center of “Brightburn” gets his powers: space. In what appears to be a twisted version of the “Superman” origin story, an alien child crash-lands on Earth, where he’s raised by parents played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman (“The Office”). The shot of the film’s superhero horror protagonist eerily floating outside a window, his cape billowing in the wind, is chill-inducing. “Brightburn” will fly into theaters on May 24.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

The second trailer of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” shows a lot of monster-on-monster carnage, including some that takes place in Boston. At least a small amount of filming for “King of the Monsters” happened in the city, though based on how thoroughly Godzilla and his foe destroyed Fenway Park in the movie’s second trailer, we suspect special effects were heavily involved. The film is scheduled to smash its way into theaters on May 31. 

“The Secret Life of Pets 2”

After the runaway success of the first “Secret Life of Pets,” Illumination already has started an all-out marketing blitz for its sequel, releasing specific trailers for several of the film’s furry characters. Among the returning voice cast are Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, and Milton native Jenny Slate, while Lexington native Pete Holmes is among the new names providing their vocal talents for the film. Notably absent from the cast is Newton native Louis C.K., whose protagonist role as Max the dog from the first film will be played by Patton Oswalt. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” will sniff its way into theaters on June 7.

Summer

“Ford v. Ferrari”

Christian Bale and Matt Damon will be in the drivers’ seat in “Ford v. Ferrari,” the story of Ford’s efforts to dethrone the long-dominant Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race in France. Damon will play Ford Automotive designer and racing driver Carroll Shelby, while Bale will portray British driver Ken Miles. Not much is known about how closely the plot of the film will mirror reality. Paparazzi did catch Damon being lit on fire for one scene. “Ford v. Ferrari” will race into theaters on June 28.

“Limited Partners”

Two best friends (Rose Byrne and Tiffany Hadish), start a beauty company together, but their bond is tested when a wealthy company makes a buyout offer. The female-led comedy also features Salma Hayek and Boston native Ari Graynor among the top-billed cast, and will hit theaters on June 28.

“The New Mutants”

Twentieth Century Fox is going in a very different direction with the X-Men franchise in “The New Mutants.” Rather than learning to hone their powers at Professor X’s Mutant Academy, five young mutants are confined in a secret facility, shut away from the world. The movie was filmed in several locations around the state, including Medfield State Hospital, a former psychiatric hospital that also has served as a filming location for “Shutter Island” and “The Cell.” The film’s original 2017 release date was delayed, with the film now set for Aug. 2.

“Boss Level”

Two words: Rob Gronkowski. Two more (slightly dubious) words followed by a question mark: Hollywood actor? Gronk will have a chance to at least briefly show off his on-screen chops in an unspecified role in “Boss Level,” an action movie about a retired special forces officer (Mel Gibson) trapped in a never-ending time loop on the day of his death. Featuring Michelle Yeoh (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Naomi Watts (“The Ring”), and Ken Jeong (“The Hangover”), “Boss Level” is currently scheduled to be released on Aug. 16.

Fall

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” —Lacey Terrell

After the runaway success of the Fred Rogers documentary “Wont You Be My Neighbor?,” it came as little surprise when the first photo of Tom Hanks wearing the iconic red sweater of the late public television host had movie fans buzzing for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” With a supporting cast that includes Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) and Kingston native Chris Cooper, the film will arrive in theaters on Oct. 18.

“Charlie’s Angels”

Elizabeth Banks scores her third entry on this list, this time as the director and co-star of the upcoming “Charlie’s Angels” reboot. Beyond directing and producing, Banks also will play Bosley, a fellow employee of the Townsend Agency who was played by Bill Murray in the 2001 film and serves as comic relief for the kick-ass Angels: Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”), Naomi Scott (“Power Rangers,” which also featured Banks), and Ella Balinska (“Midsomer Murders”). The movie will punch and kick its way into theaters on Nov. 1.

“Knives Out”

Local towns like Waltham and Maynard got a taste of Hollywood glitz late in 2018 when Chris Evans returns to his home territory to film “Knives Out,” a “modern-day murder mystery in the classic whodunit style,” per Variety, from director Rian Johnson (“The Last Jedi”). Besides Evans, the film’s A-list cast includes Daniel Craig (James Bond in the four most recent Bond films), Toni Collette (“Hereditary”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween”), Lakeith Stanfield (“Sorry to Bother You”), and Michael Shannon (“The Shape of Water”), and will slice into theaters on Nov. 27.

“Little Women”

Filming for ‘Little Women’ took place in the Back Bay on Sunday. —Elise Marmon

“Little Women” was big news around the state this past fall, with actors in period-appropriate attire popping up all over Massachusetts for “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 150-year-old novel. The movie boasts an impressive ensemble, including Emma Watson (“Harry Potter”), Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”), Laura Dern (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”), Eliza Scanlen (“Sharp Objects”), Florence Pugh (“Lady Macbeth”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), and Kingston resident Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”), many of whom were spied on set. The film was scheduled to shoot from October through December 2018 in Boston, Canton, Concord, Harvard, Ipswich, Lawrence, Stoughton, and the Lexington/Burlington area, and is slated to hit theaters on Dec. 25, 2019.

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