It's good to make plans even if plans have a way of changing all on their own. Yes Virginia, there are movies that are still scheduled on the release calendar despite the fact that movie theatres are all on pause at this point. Fingers crossed that the curtains will part soon once again.
In expectation of that possible probability, here's a quick look at what the world of cinema has in store for moviegoers in North America (though this critic suspects some of the following movies will end up on Video on Demand - alas).
January 1 already had a fun film lined up including Shadow in the Cloud (from a script by Max Landis seemingly mashing up the idea of a gremlin on a plane from Twilight Zone: The Movie along with the setting of a B-17 in flight during the Second World War from Heavy Metal) but this time it was Chloë Grace Moretz sitting in the gunner’s dome fighting off the evil Axis in the air and some kind of a monster on the hull. The preview trailer had some groan-worthy dialogue but such things can be overlooked in the quest for entertainment, oui?
If not, then fast-forward two weeks. Jason Statham is teaming up once again with director Guy Ritchie in the actioner Wrath of Man, a remake of the French film Cash on Truck. Plot details aren't available, so feel free to speculate on how high concept it will be. Ritchie's last outing The Gentlemen ranks high in my esteem, as high as his Sherlock Holmes duology, but I'd otherwise be happy to wait for Statham's return in Spy 2 and The Meg 2, which absolutely must happen.
Rounding out the first month of the new year are Our Friend (Jan. 22), a likely emotional dramedy rollercoaster with Jason Segel who is such good friends with Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson that he moves in with them when Johnson's cancer prognosis turns terminal. Finally, the last Friday finds The Little Things, a neo-noir crime psychological thriller by writer/director John Lee Hancock with a powerhouse cast of Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto with rising star Natalie Morales.
The year will undoubtedly get more and more interesting as the months roll by. February has Judas and the Black Messiah (the story of Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers) starring the excellent Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, French Exit (based on the novel by The Sisters Brothers author Patrick DeWitt), a Korean story about immigrating to America in the 80s called Minari, and Nomadland with the fearless, fantastic Frances McDormand.
With the advent of spring comes the advent of the long-awaited Chaos Walking, though some have expectations more akin to an oncoming train wreck. The science fiction fantasy adventure directed by Doug Liman is already now famous for its prolonged post-production and atrocious test screenings, which necessitated extensive rewrites and reshoots. Liman has chops and the original screenplay (multiple further drafts were undertaken by different writers) was scribed by this critic's fave Charlie Kaufman, though the preview has me doubtful of any intellectual worth to the proceedings. I can't wait for March 5.
There's also The King's Man, which was also delayed from its original fall 2019 release but only because of the pandemic. It's the third in the Kingsman series, though this is a First World War-based prequel. If you've been desperate for some 'Marvel'-ous superhero cinematic confection then Morbius is your next step, with Jared Leto joined by Tyrese Gibson, Jared Harris, and Michael Keaton for star power. It looks dark in the Spider-Verse, you guys. For my taste, I'm much keener on The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, another chapter in the Nicolas Cage-aissance of recent years. Cage, as much alien as he is thespian, takes on the role of a lifetime: himself. He is forced to act out naturalistically some of his most recognizable characters to save his family from a dangerous superfan. After years of mediocre and mundane moviemaking, it seems like Cage is finally back thanks to a string of much-lauded strangenesses including Mandy, Color Out of Space, and Mom and Dad. Yes, he still takes on roles in movies like Jiu Jitsu, which is also a must-see but for different reasons.
For the following quarter, I could care less about No Time To Die, Daniel Craig's last James Bond movie, but it's coming nevertheless after its original schedule was also delayed, as was A Quiet Place Part II, which many are excited about. I've never heard of Last Night in Soho but I'd watch anything Edgar Wright does, so it's on my calendar. After that, there's The Asset. Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson in an action thriller? Sign me up for that surefire guilty pleasure, which also stars Maggie Q.
May is like the Thursday to summer's Friday, which means that many movie companies get the parties started early. It's a time when the budgets get big and the blocks get busted, if you catch my drift. Black Widow, Godzilla vs. Kong, Free Guy, F9, and Infinite.
June for me is all about the filmed-in-Alberta Ghostbusters: Afterlife (June 11) directed by Jason Reitman. I've watched all of his movies and always admire his bittersweet endings, his incomplete stories, his moral quandaries, his low-key high concept life dramas. What he'll do with the legacy started by his dad Ivan more than 35 years ago, I can't say, but I can't wait either.
Leaving it at that for the month-to-month prospectus, I will offer only a few last notes to cover the rest of the year. I would be remiss if I didn't mention my anticipation of writing a review for Top Gun: Maverick, if only to remark both on how it portrays its lead character as a kind of 'fighter jet whisperer' and also how actually flying the plane further negates Tom Cruise as an actor, relegating him to the most glorified stuntman ever. Just wait for the review. It'll be greater than the movie. By the way, Cruise will also return in the seventh instalment of the Mission: Impossible series though his next role reportedly takes him into space. Really.
2021 also holds hit-and-miss director Joe Carnahan's Cop Shop (date still to be set) from a script by St. Albert native Kurt McLeod. M. Night Shyamalan could also be considered hit-and-miss so we'll see where he lands with his new film Old. Deep Water marks the return of Adrian Lyne, the British director behind such hits of past decades as Fatal Attraction, 9½ Weeks, Flashdance, Indecent Proposal, Jacob's Ladder, Lolita and Unfaithful. This one is a psychological erotic thriller starring that great erotic actor, Ben Affleck. Hard pass on that one.
There's Death on the Nile with a great ensemble cast led by director Kenneth Branagh playing up another Agatha Christie murder-mystery, also acting as the moustachioed Hercule Poirot whose accent is as thick as a good roux. Look also for Denis Villeneuve's grandiose remake of Dune and two by Ridley Scott: Gucci and The Last Duel. Even in his 80s, Scott still proves himself as a more competent director than most. Finally, by this time next year, we'll all either be talking about how great or how awful The Matrix 4 is. I'm betting that it's bewildering and that Keanu Reeves says "whoa" again.