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In the waning days of 2018, Hollywood received a welcome surprise: Worldwide box-office revenue for the year is set to hit a historic high of US$41.7-billion (including a record US$11.9-billion in North America alone). Across the globe, that means an uptick of 2.7 per cent compared with 2017. The cause? That’d be the approximately 50 sequels, reboots, remakes, spinoffs and franchise-launchers that dominated studio slates all year long.

Expect more of the same for 2019 − especially as studios prepare to consolidate (farewell, 20th Century Fox), further arm themselves against Netflix, and each do their best to bust through the box-office milestone that the industry just hit. To prepare for the big-budget onslaught, The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz presents his guide to the 10 potential blockbusters that will dominate the next 12 months − for better, and for worse. (All release dates subject to change.)

The 10 most intriguing, under-the-radar films to see in 2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Lego Movie’s original co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are too busy with approximately three dozen other projects (including the excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) to return for this sequel, but they did have a hand in the screenplay. So, that’s reassuring, right? And there’s a fine-enough Jurassic World joke in the trailer? But just as it was so easy to approach the first film with skepticism, I’m willing to give the maybe-unnecessary The Second Part the benefit of the doubt. There’s a chance the animated film may turn out to be as funny and subversive as the original. Even if it will be impossible to top Everything Is Awesome. (Feb. 8)

Captain Marvel

After 20 films, Marvel Studios is finally putting a female superhero front and centre with Captain Marvel. And you can be sure that Marvel Cinematic Universe landlord Disney will attempt to wring as much gender-parity applause from the long-delayed move as possible. But if late is better than never, at least the always stellar Brie Larson gets the largest spotlight of her career as the title character. And hey, Jude Law is in this film, too, and he’s reliable in a skeezy-grubby-fun kind of way. It’s just hard to get too excited when Marvel’s rival, Warner Bros.' DC division, produced Wonder Woman as its third superhero film − and they usually have no idea what they’re doing. (March 8)

Avengers: Endgame

Speaking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, prepare your water-cooler conversations accordingly, as Avengers: Endgame will be all anyone can talk about this spring. Will Earth’s mightiest heroes defeat Mad Titan Thanos? Will Spider-Man come back from the dead? (Hint: Spider-Man: Far From Home opens July 5.) Will Disney make approximately three-gillion dollars? The suspense, it’s killing me − and my water-cooler etiquette, too. (April 26)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Given that audiences have faced several unrelated giant monster versus giant other thing movies between the time the “original” Godzilla came out in 2014 and today, King of the Monsters arrives as a kind of “oh yeahhhh, that franchise” movie. I suppose the excitement around Japan’s biggest and baddest large adult son is eternal − and director Michael Dougherty’s new movie cannot be worse than something like Pacific Rim: Uprising (or can it?). Plus, the human cast here is impressive (Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Stranger Things breakout Millie Bobby Brown). And Godzilla’s nemeses Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah all make appearances, suggesting a certain level of enjoyable cinematic madness. Or maybe it is me who is just being the real monster? (May 31)

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Dark Phoenix

Suspiciously delayed from its original fall 2018 release date, this new X-Men movie is guaranteed to at least not be so bad as to kill the franchise. (But that’s only because its spinoff, The New Mutants, also originally destined for release last year, is opening Aug. 2.) But X-fanatics are still advised to soak up all that Dark Phoenix has to offer, given that its studio, 20th Century Fox, is soon to be swallowed whole by Disney, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Mouse House might do with the property. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy all return (probably unrelated: contractual obligations are awesome!), as they watch Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey go through the same Dark Phoenix shenanigans that Famke Janssen already endured in X-Men: The Last Stand 12 long years ago. (June 7)

Toy Story 4

I’m still recovering from the final act of Toy Story 3, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m still not ready to return to the world of Buzz, Woody, and, oh God, that incinerator scene! Sorry, I’ll compose myself. It’s been fun to doubt the Toy Story sequels since the first follow-up arrived way back in 1999, but somehow Pixar has consistently managed to live up to the spirit of the original, and then some. (Maybe they could also work that magic on the Cars and Incredibles series, hmm?) Joining the adventures this time are a handful of new playthings, including Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) and a pair of quick-witted stuffed animals voiced by former brothers-in-sketch-comedy Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. (June 21)

The Lion King

If this list seems heavy on Disney titles, that’s only because the studio is going to dominate your 2019 movie calendar − and you’d better like it. Not only with its superhero and animated fare (Frozen 2 is coming Nov. 22, and don’t even try to let it go), but with its relatively new product stream dedicated to “live-action” re-imaginings of its classic cartoons. Aladdin is up first May 24, but the real juggernaut will be Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, featuring the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen and Beyonce. Still, the marketing of the film as “live-action” is confusing at best, given that nearly every animal onscreen will be computer-generated. At least Favreau’s similar spin on The Jungle Book had a flesh-and-blood human Mowgli at its core. Let’s just call The Lion King 2.0 a “differently animated” reimagining. It will still make a billion dollars. (July 19)

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Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Dwayne Johnson and Vanessa Kirby in Hobbs and Shaw.

Universal Pictures

As much fun as it is to bemoan all these soulless studio productions, I am unreservedly excited for Hobbs & Shaw, the first spinoff in the increasingly ludicrous (in a good way!) Fast and Furious franchise. Certainly, it will be dumb. Most definitely, it will be loud. But it will also feature Dwayne Johnson homoerotically tussling with Jason Statham, a villainous turn from Idris Elba, ridiculously stupid cars, and Vin Diesel pouting off-screen, a single tear rolling down his cheek. I am buckled up. (Aug. 2)

It: Chapter Two

Bill Skarsgård in It: Chapter Two (2019).

Warner Bros. Pictures

To most everyone’s surprise, director Andy Muschietti’s 2017 take on Stephen King’s classic horror novel was a massive success. At least this sequel arrives not as a superfluous cash-in, but a necessary follow-up to the first, as the original film only covered half the territory of King’s book. In Chapter Two, we catch up with the Loser’s Club (now played by Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and James McAvoy, among others) as they’re all grown up, and still battling demons both metaphorical and real. (Sept. 6)

Star Wars: Episode IX

The only things known about J.J. Abrams' still untitled Star Wars movie are as follows: a) It’s intended to close out the “Skywalker” storyline for good; b) Carrie Fisher will have a decently sized role, despite the fact that she died a year before The Last Jedi opened; c) Everyone will be mad about the film in some way or another. (Dec. 20)

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