Most Anticipated Films of 2021 – Part 1

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So many of these movies were set to come out in 2020 but got pushed back and who knows what will happen if COVID-19 still lingers by the spring. I expect we won’t be seeing an end to the virus anytime soon so the virtual distribution model may be how many of these come to be watched.

Minari (directed by Lee Isaac Chung) – January 26

A year ago at Sundance, Minari premiered and won the two major awards of the festival. The plot follows a South Korean-American family that moves to Arkansas to pursue success. The grandmother of the family arrives a little after and her presence upends life for some but improves circumstances for others. Expect to see a review of this film on the blog extremely soon.

Nomadland (directed by Chloe Zhao) – February 19

I loved Chloe Zhao’s The Rider with its mix of beautiful vistas and very grounded performances. Before her MCU debut in November, she will bring us this story about the failure of the corporate American dream. Frances McDormand stars as a woman laid off from her job nine years ago but too old to find reliable well-paid work now. She wanders the country in search of jobs and begins to find kindred souls of other nomads in her same boat. Expect a review of this very soon as well.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (directed by Jason Reitman) – March 5th

I didn’t care for the 2016 Ghostbusters film and was really annoyed by the internet bickering leading up to it. I found that attempt at a reboot to reliant on actors improving rather than a tightly written script. I have reservations about this one and it definitely looks to be in the camp of nostalgia awe rather than recapturing the comedy of the original. I like seeing Carrie Coon get more prominent roles so looking forward to seeing her as the mom. Here’s hoping they give us something fun and well-written.

No Time to Die (directed by Cary Fukunaga) – April 2

I wouldn’t say I really love James Bond but I am a big Cary Fukunaga fan. I know he will likely be restrained from going for his complete vision and has to deliver a Bond product to the studio but I am hoping we get some unexpected elements. At this point, most Bond movies feel pretty repetitive and Spectre was deeply disappointing. If this is Daniel Craig’s final outing then here’s hoping they make it a memorable one.

Last Night in Soho (directed by Edgar Wright) – April 23

Anya Taylor-Joy is on a pretty strong hot streak at the moment. She’ll be starring in Edgar Wright’s next picture alongside Thomasin Harcourt-McKenzie who I really loved in Leave No Trace. The plot has a young woman studying fashion design somehow being transported to 1960s London where she meets a fashion icon she idolizes. It’s a horror film and at some point, things are revealed to not appear how they seem. If it’s Wright then I expect some fantastic visual comedy and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (directed by Destin Daniel Cretton) – July 9

Director Destin Daniel Cretton gave us Short Term 12 seven years ago and a couple of films since but this will certainly be his largest production yet. Simu Lin will play Shang-Chi a Marvel superhero originally created during the kung fu craze of the 1970s. Originally his father was Fu Manchu, the gross racist caricature villain from pulp literature. However, the MCU runners have changed that to The Mandarin, a classic Iron Man antagonist. Now, Ben Kingsley played The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 but was revealed to be a fraud with hints there was a real one out there. This picture has such loose ties to the MCU at first glance I’m hoping it’s able to carve out some new ground in this post-Endgame world.

Old (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) – July 23

I know I will hate this movie but that doesn’t mean I won’t be like a moth drawn to the flame because M. Night makes spectacular disasters (see Lady in the Water). This one also stars Thomasin McKenzie along with Gael Garcia Bernal and others. It’s inspired by a graphic novel titled Sandcastle so not sure how closely it will stick to that plot. The premise for Sandcastle is that a group of people hanging out at the beach discover a dead body. The more they investigate this body the more they uncover something disturbing about the nature of time in this place. Decent premise but I fully expect M. Night to screw it up somehow and boy, I hope it’s at least entertaining.

The Suicide Squad (directed by James Gunn) – August 6

The only reason this shows up here is that I expect James Gunn will fix the annoying tryhard nature of the first Suicide Squad movie. It’s already showing in the marketing we’ve seen so far with a much more tongue-in-cheek approach to the silliness of this concept. Gunn is also taking full advantage of the deep bench of characters and I was genuinely overjoyed to see Peacemaker coming to a live-action movie, that is one I never thought would happen. Of course, Harley Quinn is there but honestly, I am more excited to see Polka-Dot Man and Mongal brought to life. This should be fun if nothing else.

Candyman (directed by Nia DaCosta) – August 27

The original Candyman film, based on Clive Barker’s short story, is a pretty decent horror film from the 1990s. I was disappointed with it being from the perspective of a white character when I think being in the Cabrini-Green homes and seeing the daily encounters with this evil would have been more interesting. Nia DaCosta has made a direct sequel to that film, focused on Anthony, who was a baby in the first film. He’s now an artist who is living in a gentrified condo where Cabrini-Green once stood. Anthony begins to use those urban legends of Candyman in his artwork which appears to unleash the villain again. I am trying to keep my expectations tempered on this one, but I really hope it is fantastic.

Dune (directed by Denis Villeneuve) – October 1

Not much to say about this one. You’ve likely seen the trailer and Denis Villeneuve has a great aesthetic going for the story. I’ve read that this is just the first half of the first book and plans are to make a franchise out of the Dune series. If it’s done right, I expect it could be a more elevated Star Wars, hopefully hitting on the ecology themes author Frank Herbert was so concerned with. This might be showing up on the HBO Max platform based on their newly released model for 2021 because I don’t think I’ll be going into a movie theater anytime soon.

The Eternals (directed by Chloe Zhao) – November 5

Not even comics are the Eternals that big of a deal, relegated to the people Thanos came from. I am very interested to see where Marvel goes with this one because I just don’t know what story you tell with these characters. The premise has them living among humanity for over 7,000 years and we glanced their former homeworld on Titan in Infinity War. I was a little surprised to see Dane Whitman aka The Black Knight showing up as a supporting character in this film. He has a complicated history with one of the Eternals who briefly joined the Avengers in the 1990s. I am also wondering if this is Marvel’s attempt to one-up Warner Brothers before they can fully roll out the New Gods portion of their film universe.

Black Adam (directed by Jaume Collet-Serra) – December 22

My biggest reason for being slightly excited about this film is the inclusion of members of the Justice Society in the story. Black Adam is the evil version of Shazam, a Middle Eastern man who eventually used his powers to become ruler of the nation of Khandaq. The director certainly doesn’t have me excited helming pictures like Orphan and The Shallows. I’ll likely be greatly disappointed but that won’t stop me from wanting to see Hawkman, Atom-Smasher, Doctor Fate, and Cyclone on screen.

Babylon (directed by Damien Chazelle) – December 25

Damien Chazelle’s filmography has been mostly hits for me rather than misses. Whiplash is still one of the most amazing pictures of the 2010s in my opinion. His next picture is set in 1920s Hollywood and focuses on the transition from silent films to talkies, particularly how this change devastated the careers of certain actors. This looks to be one of the movies aiming for awards season but I expect Chazelle will give us something visually interesting and I hope a character study like we saw in First Man and Whiplash.


Release Dates To Be Decided

After Yang (directed by Kogonada)

Kogonada’s Columbus was a brilliant picture from 2017. It was able to blend a clean visual style with deeply emotional stories. It was the picture that made me realize what a wonderful actress Haley Lu Richardson is. This will be a science fiction drama about a father (Colin Ferrell) & daughter trying to save their robotic family member Yang who has become unresponsive. I know it will look beautiful, and Farrell has shown a strong track record with indie films lately (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer).

Annette (directed by Leos Carax)

Leos Carax gave us the remarkable Holy Motors in the last decade. He looks to kick off this one with a musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Plus, this will be Carax’s English-language debut. Driver plays a stand-up comedian married to a world-famous opera singer, plated by Cotillard. They give birth to a daughter who has some unique ability. My guess is that it will have something to do with her voice?

Antlers (directed by Scott Cooper)

I enjoyed Nick Antosca’s Channel Zero anthology, and I’ve read the short story this is based on. Both things have me interested to see what a feature film of Antosca’s ideas looks and feels like. The trailer appears just as dire and bleak as this story needs to be. I do worry about the studio asking for the filmmakers to pull some emotional punches. This is the story of a teacher in a rural small town who suspects one of her students is being abused. What is actually happening involves something much much worse. I hope the script doesn’t over complicate the relationships because I see this story benefiting from keeping things simple.

Armageddon Time (directed by James Gray)

I was pleasantly surprised by Gray’s 2019 science fiction picture Ad Astra, it was a quiet thoughtful mediation on how we shut ourselves to others while set against an intriguing premise. Despite the title, this is not another science fiction picture. Instead, it is a coming of age story that explores American as Ronald Reagan and the Right Wing came to power in the 1980s. The cast includes Cate Blanchett, Robert DeNiro, Oscar Isaac, Anne Hathaway, and Donald Sutherland.

Benedetta (directed by Paul Verhoeven)

I was pleasantly surprised revisiting some Verhoeven films recently like Total Recall and watching one of his newer pictures, Elle. Verhoeven has a background in religious studies and has been made an unofficial member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of Biblical scholars who comb through the Christian texts to debate the historicity of events included therein. This film is based on a nonfiction text that revealed the story of a 17th-century Italian nun who carried on an affair with another woman. This will no doubt be provocative but if Elle is any hint, Verhoeven will explore it in an interesting way.

The Card Counter (directed by Paul Schrader)

Paul Schrader movies can be a mixed back but First Reformed made me give him a chance until at least see a trailer. Oscar Isaac stars as a veteran gambler who is put in the position to give advice to a young man (Tye Sheridan) that wants revenge on someone the gambler wouldn’t mind seeing go. Willem Dafoe and Tiffany Haddish co-star. I’m most interested to see what Haddish does in this role. I haven’t been wowed by her yet but I think she shows signs of a really good performance given the right material. This might be the one.

C’mon C’mon (directed by Mike Mills)

Mike Mills, who has given us some great films like 20th Century Women and directed a host of music videos in the 1990s, has a movie in the works. Joaquin Phoenix is cast in the lead. The story focuses on a documentary filmmaker working on a project about gifted children. This leads to him bonding with his 9-year-old nephew and dealing with his brother, the boy’s father, who has bipolar disorder.

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