It may be a new year, but when something is known to make money, things tend not to change.
For Hollywood, that means the blockbuster movie line-up will continue to be dominated by expensive sequels, reboots, adaptations and franchise instalments.
So this year, there will be the usual slate of special effects-driven superhero movies, including the latest Avengers film Infinity War as well as yet another Star Wars movie - this time, the spin-off film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, which looks at how iconic hero Han Solo got his start.
The model of working with what you know appears to have infiltrated the Asian films arena as well - some blockbuster movies coming out from this region are also follow-ups to older, successful works.
In rounding up 18 of the biggest popcorn movies to look out for this year, here is hoping that they will defy audience expectations and offer fresh perspectives.
• The movie release dates are subject to change.
Popcorn movies to catch in 2018
Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds
Director: Kim Yong Hwa
Stars: Ha Jung Woo, Cha Tae Hyun, Ju Ji Hoon
What: Based on the popular Web comic of the same name, this Korean blockbuster tells the story of firefighter Ja Hong (Cha), who has to stand seven trials in Hell before the heavens decide if he is allowed to be reincarnated.
Watch it because: This promises plenty of action and, going by early reviews, will be quite a tearjerker as well. Looks like there are many lessons to be learnt about life and living in this movie.
Opens: Jan 11
A Better Tomorrow 2018
Director: Ding Sheng
Stars: Wang Kai, Darren Wang, Ma Tianyu
What: In this loose remake of John Woo's 1986 classic of the same name, a drug smuggler (Wang Kai) is arrested by his own cop brother (Ma). He vows to turn over a new leaf upon his release from prison, but his old foes quickly catch up with him.
Watch it because: Director Woo's movie was revolutionary for its stylistic action set-pieces, and made Chow Yun Fat a bona fide action-movie hero. If this movie goes well, it could do the same for the young hunks in this film, who include Wang Kai, one of China's hottest stars of the moment, and Taiwan's Darren Wang of Our Times (2015) fame.
Opens: Jan 18
Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o
What: T'Challa (Boseman), king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, returns to his home town only to discover that it is under major threat. He transforms into his superhero alter-ego, Black Panther, to try to bring down the baddies.
Watch it because: This superhero movie, which features a predominantly black cast, sets out to go a different path from the usual white male hero route. Plus, Jordan (Creed, 2015) is fantastic in all his roles and should be just as riveting as the villain here.
Opens: Feb 15
Operation Red Sea
Director: Dante Lam
Stars: Zhang Yi, Du Jiang, Huang Jingyu
What: Inspired by true events, this story revolves around the evacuation of 600 Chinese citizens and 225 foreign nationals from Yemen during the 2015 Yemeni civil war.
Watch it because: While this has no relation to Lam's previous movie Operation Mekong (2016), it is said to be similar in style. That means audiences can expect a lot of male bravado and explosive action - think Michael Bay, Asian style.
Opens: Feb 15
More popcorn movies to catch in 2018
Monster Hunt 2
Director: Raman Hui
Stars: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Bai Baihe, Jing Boran
What: Baby monster Wuba is training to be king in this hybrid animation-live action film, but an epic civil war among the other monsters threatens to break out.
Watch it because: The first film is one of the highest-grossing Chinese films of all time, raking in more than 2.43 billion yuan (S$500 million) at the local box office. There are similarly high expectations for this follow-up, which manages to add A-lister Leung to the cast. Besides, the kids will think that the little monsters are cute.
Opens: Feb 15
The Monkey King 3
Director: Cheang Pou Soi
Stars: Aaron Kwok, Zhao Liying, Feng Shaofeng, Him Law, Xiaoshenyang
What: Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang (Feng) and his proteges, Monkey King (Kwok), Zhubajie (Xiaoshenyang) and Sha Wujing (Law), enter the all-female kingdom known as Women's Country. Things get complicated when the ruler (Zhao) of the kingdom falls in love with Tang.
Watch it because: The first Monkey King (2014) starring Donnie Yen in the titular role was a disaster - Yen really could not act - but Kwok was surprisingly good in the same role in the second film. That is probably why the producers decided to make a follow-up movie with him. If this maintains the same tone as the previous film, it will be a fun movie night out.
What: Adapted from the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L'Engle, the film follows a group of kids who try to save an astrophysicist when he is held captive on a distant planet.
Watch it because: With the acclaimed DuVernay (Selma, 2014) at the helm and a star-studded cast led by none other than Winfrey, this family blockbuster is sure to please the parents as much as their children.
Opens: March 8
Pacific Rim Uprising
Director: Steven S. DeKnight
Stars: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day
What: The seas are now peaceful and still, but the Kaijiu monsters could return any day. A new generation of Jaeger mecha pilots emerge to prepare for possible battle.
Watch it because: The first Pacific Rim (2013) was a hit with audiences because of all the explosive battles between mega monsters and mega robots and this promises to deliver more. Plus, the charismatic Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) should be much more engaging than former leading man Charlie Hunnam.
Opens: March 22
Ready Player One
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelsohn, T. J. Miller, Mark Rylance
What: Based on Ernest Cline's sci-fi novel of the same name, this is about a competition where the winner gains control of Oasis, a powerful virtual reality world that humans enter to escape the harshness of the real world.
Watch it because: Spielberg is a master when it comes to making entertaining popcorn movies and, if the movie follows the book closely and includes all the retro pop culture references (look out for the DeLorean car from Back To The Future, 1985), viewers of all generations will have something to savour.
Opens: March 29
Avengers: Infinity War
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin
What: The Avengers are torn apart, but may have to reassemble when supervillain Thanos (Brolin) arrives on Earth.
Watch it because: The Avengers movies are always among the most fun in the Marvel franchise because they gather all the superheroes. This one ups the ante by joining forces with the Guardians Of The Galaxy heroes as well, including the charming Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and skilled fighter Gamora (Zoe Saldana).
What: This Star Wars prequel looks at how young hero Han Solo (Ehrenreich) got his start, including how he met his now famous sidekick Chewbacca (Suotamo).
Watch it because: Going by how the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, has broken new ground and gone off in new directions, there is hope that this film may do the same and be a surprising action film.
The story behind the sudden change in directors is, however, a bit worrying. Howard was called in as a replacement after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired just weeks before filming was due to end. Still, going by Howard's portfolio - the Oscar winner is behind films such as A Beautiful Mind (2001) and The Da Vinci Code (2006) - the project should be in competent hands.
Opens: May 24
Director: David Leitch
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Josh Brolin
What: Wisecracking Deadpool (Reynolds) has to deal with a lost sense of taste while battling everyone from ninjas to the yakuza.
Watch it because: The first Deadpool movie was a huge box-office success because it dared to go R-rated and allow Deadpool the character to be as raunchy and rude as he is supposed to be.
There were some concerns over whether this new Deadpool film would be toned down for families, since its production company, 20th Century Fox, was acquired by Disney early last month. But rest assured, Deadpool 2 will be just as crass as ever - Disney chief executive Bob Iger has said that there is room for a "Marvel-R brand" of R-rated films for something such as Deadpool.
What: This is a spin-off of the successful Ocean's Eleven (2001) movie, which starred the likes of Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Here, Danny Ocean's (Clooney) sister Debbie (Bullock) masterminds a heist of the glitzy Met gala and assembles a dream team of her own to pull it off.
Watch it because: The mega star-studded cast should be enough of a pull and it would be interesting to see how a female spin to the story would go. Also look out for the huge line-up of cameos, from Vogue editor Anna Wintour to pop star Zayn Malik to style star Kim Kardashian.
Opens: June 7
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Director: J. A. Bayona
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard
What: The dinosaurs of Jurassic World now roam freely on the island after the theme park that formerly housed them was shut down. When a volcano threatens to erupt, former park manager Claire (Howard) and dinosaur trainer Owen (Pratt) set out to rescue them. Along the way, they uncover a conspiracy that could threaten the world.
Watch it because: The previous film Jurassic World (2015) was a hit-and-miss as it lacked real tension, but its director Colin Treverrow, who returns here in the role of scriptwriter, assures that the new film will be "more suspenseful and scary". Let's hope he has learnt from the mistakes of the older film.
Opens: June 7
The Incredibles 2
Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson
What: Elastigirl (Hunter) is busy fighting crimes, leaving Mr Incredible (Nelson) at home with the kids - including baby Jack-Jack, whose powers are still undefined.
Watch it because: The Incredibles (2004) was one of the smartest films in the Pixar library and this should be just as clever. Behind all the entertaining good-guy-versus-villain stuff is on-the-nose commentary about everyday suburban life and what it means to stand out from the crowd.
Opens: June 14
Crazy Rich Asians
Director: Jon M. Chu
Stars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh
What: Adapted from Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel, this looks at the lives of the super rich in Singapore. When rich kid Nick Young (Golding) invites his girlfriend Rachel (Wu) to Singapore to attend a friend's wedding, his mother Eleanor (Yeoh) goes to great lengths to break up the couple.
Watch it because: It is high time a new Hollywood movie was made featuring a predominantly Asian cast - the most recent one was probably 47 Ronin (2013), starring Keanu Reeves, but that was blasted for being yet another white-saviour movie. If this sticks closely to the book, it should avoid such a fate and prove to be a fun outing.
Opens: Aug 16
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald
Director: David Yates
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law
What: Dark wizard Grindelwald (Depp) has escaped custody and is recruiting an army of Pure-bloods to get rid of non-magical beings.
Watch it because: The first Fantastic Beasts movie introduced viewers to sweet wizard Newt (Redmayne), but everyone knows that movies are always more fun when the bad guys show up. Grindelwald appeared briefly at the end of the last film, but he finally gets his screen time to showcase a number of dark magical crimes here.
Opens: Nov 15
Mary Poppins Returns
Director: Rob Marshall
Stars: Emily Blunt, Dick Van Dyke, Colin Firth, Emily Mortimer, Ben Whishaw
What: In this sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins, Jane (Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Whishaw) are now adults and suffering a personal loss. Their former magical nanny Mary Poppins (Blunt) returns for a visit and brings joy back into their lives.
Watch it because: The original Mary Poppins was iconic for many children growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. If this has the same charm, it could be a big thing for families today too.
Opens: Dec 27
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'Familiar favourites on the movie calendar'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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