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THE B-LIST: The first 7 movies to see in theaters in 2019

With hitmen ("Polar"), intergalactic superheroes ("Captain Marvel") and monsters and magic ("Hellboy"), the first half of 2019 promises some exciting blockbusters.
With hitmen ("Polar"), intergalactic superheroes ("Captain Marvel") and monsters and magic ("Hellboy"), the first half of 2019 promises some exciting blockbusters.

Last week I spotlighted 2019 television series to check out. This week, let's turn to the theater. Here are seven of the biggest films due to hit screens in the first half of the year:

1. "POLAR" (Jan. 25). Retired assassin Duncan (Mads Mikkelsen, "Hannibal") is trying to live a quiet life in the snowy woods. But when up-and-coming hitmen decide to take him out to claim the $8 million "insurance policy" he has with his old employers — and kidnap his sweet neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens) as bait — Duncan proves that only really skilled killers live long enough to retire. Black belt martial artist Katheryn Winnick ("Vikings") and the massive Robert Maillet ("Pacific Rim," "Sherlock Holmes") co-star as fellow assassins.

Judging by the trailer, this comic adaptation from Netflix has the same heavily-stylized look, highly-choreographed action and brutal themes that made the "John Wick" movies so popular. Mikkelsen may not be as inherently likable as that series' star, Keanu Reeves, but he's a stellar actor who knows his way around destructive characters, capable of both physically demanding stunts (the Danish actor got his start as a dancer) and nuanced, emotional performances. Consider me hyped.

2. "CAPTAIN MARVEL" (March 8). The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars fighter pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson, "Room"), who is turned into a superhero by the Kree — a technologically advanced alien race — and returns to Earth to stop the intergalactic invasion of the Skrulls. Along the way, she teams up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in this prequel set in the 1990s.

It's about damn time Marvel built a film around a female superhero: there have been 20 MCU movies, and DC beat them to the milestone with "Wonder Woman" in 2017. Captain Marvel looks like it'll better connect the gonzo space opera side of the MCU ("Thor," "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Thanos) with the more grounded Earth-centric stories ("Iron Man," "Captain America"). While I'm still personally annoyed they cast such a young actress (Larson is 29, and Carol Danvers should be in her late 30s, at least, given her rank in the Air Force), she is an Oscar-winning one, so here's hoping she impresses. Plus, there's Gemma Chan ("Crazy Rich Asians") and Jude Law ("Sherlock Holmes") co-starring as kick-butt Krees.

3. "HELLBOY" (April 12). Born a demon but raised a man, Hellboy (David Harbour, "Stranger Things") leads the B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) against an evil sorceress (Milla Jovovich, "Resident Evil") in this reboot adaptation of Mike Mignola's comic series.

I confess I'm pretty salty about this: I adored the original Guillermo del Toro films, and Ron Perlman's Big Red was fantastic. The first trailer didn't impress me much — Harbour's character design is "meh," and the prosthetics look a little too stiff to let him really emote — but it's nice to see Jovovich getting her baddie on and Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost") as jaguar shapeshifter Ben Daimio.

4. "AVENGERS: ENDGAME" (April 26). Picking up months after the last "Avengers" and Thanos (Josh Brolin)'s cataclysmic Snap that eradicated half of all life in the universe, the decimated superhero team struggles to find a way to reverse the damage.

We know the Snap's getting reversed — the dusted Spider-Man and Black Panther have sequels lined up, after all — but the question remains: how? I predict some serious sacrifice plays from Captain America (Chris Evans, who officially wrapped his work on the character) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) said would play a vital role in beating Thanos. And let's not forget Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), whose time in the Quantum Realm has to be important. "Infinity War" was an astonishingly good ensemble epic that pulled no punches, so I'm looking forward to this (hopefully) happier ending.

5. "DETECTIVE PIKACHU" (May 10). When Tim Goodman (Justice Smith)'s detective dad Harry goes missing, he has to team up with Harry's Pokemon partner, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, "Deadpool") to uncover the truth. The twist: Tim's the only one who can understand what Pikachu's really saying, and the pair will have to fight other Pokemon and their trainers to get their answers.

Yes, this looks like pure insanity. But it could also be a ton of fun, especially for the millennials who have grown up playing the video games and collecting the cards. It's honestly shocking that it took this long — 24 years! — for a live-action (albeit CGI-heavy) Pokemon film, and Reynolds clearly had fun voicing Pikachu.

6. "GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS" (May 31). The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces down a bevy of Titans — Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah — and hopes that Godzilla will ultimately save the day.

With Millie Bobby Brown, Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Kyle Chandler, Charles Dance, Vera Farmiga and Sally Hawkins, the cast certainly doesn't want for star power. And audiences will always enjoy watching kaiju (giant monsters) wreak wholesale devastation. Fingers crossed this focuses more on the kaiju than the humans; we're here for Godzilla first and foremost, after all. Learn from the mistakes of the 2014 "Godzilla," studio.

7. "MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL" (June 14). There's a mole at the M.I.B, so seasoned operative Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) teams up with new recruit Agent M (Tessa Thompson) in this globe-trotting action adventure that's more a continuation than a reboot of the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones originals.

Hemsworth and Thompson have already proven to be a winning on-screen pair (see: "Thor Ragnarok"), and it's great to see more estrogen in the charming sci-fi action comedy series. Weird alien designs? Stars who look good in black suits? Quippy dialogue, mind-bending action sequences and really, really big guns? Pretty sure we have a blockbuster hit on our hands here.

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at abarry@shawmedia.com.

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