Well, the movie-going experience continues to be in flux. We still don’t know what this new year will bring with the new variants. But while we wait for something more concrete to lock into place, here’s a slew of cinematic offerings that might be worth heading to the theaters. As you might’ve guessed, dates are subject to change, while streaming dates and indie films are to be announced at a later time.
The Batman (Mar. 4)
Just like Sony with the Spider-Man craze, Warner Bros. can’t hang up the cape and cowl for too long. And who could blame them when you have Matt Reeves at the helm and stars like Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano and Colin Farrell suited up as some of the most iconic characters in history? The trailers make it look like the darkest and most complex imagining of Batman yet (like David Fincher's Se7en). But it also looks super slick and cool!
The Northman (Apr. 8)
With his debut, The Witch, Robert Eggers cast a bloody spell and later took us back to the salty sea dog days with The Lighthouse. Now he’s giving us a brutal feast, full of Viking carnage, rainy seascapes and exploding volcanoes! Also, it features a knock-out cast, including Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Icelandic pop artist Björk (as a witch). So, we’re all riding at dawn to see this the day it opens, right?
The summer movie season is expected to play tricks on our wallets with this superhero saga, which you might know something about if you caught that post-credit sequence in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Benedict Cumberbatch (maybe soon to be Oscar winner) returns in the title role with some familiar friends (Rachel McAdams, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor). But this time, director Sam Raimi jumps back into the Marvel universe after a 16-year absence. (The last outing was Spider-Man 3, with Tobey Maguire). OK, maybe this deserves our cash.
Jurassic World Dominion (Jun. 10)
Despite not being a fan of the Jurassic World movies, this franchise holds a very special place in my heart. And I always go in giving it the benefit of the doubt, no matter how much it continues to be a thorn in my side. Hopefully, Colin Trevorrow will lean more into the wonder of the first Jurassic Park film and properly build tension and characters.
Lightyear (Jun. 17)
We were a little confused about what this would be when the news broke. A Buzz Lightyear movie without Tim Allen as the voice? It’s an origin story of the action figure? Chris Evans is the new Buzz? The teaser trailer confirmed all is true. But it also confirmed that it looks like a lot of fun. Pixar’s animation continues to soar, and Lightyear will take it to infinity and beyond.
Thor: Love and Thunder (Jul. 8)
Chris Hemsworth’s character finally found his groove after Thor: Ragnarok, and we’re not ready to let him go. Fortunately, the folks at Marvel feel the same. So, genius and hilarious storyteller Taika Waititi sends the God of Thunder back to the clouds to keep our laughs loud. And who doesn't want to see Natalie Portman return to take the hammer away?
Don’t Worry, Darling (Sep. 23)
Olivia Wilde’s directing debut, Booksmart, is one of my favorite films of the past five years. And from the looks of it, her sophomore work (starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles) is going to be beautifully dark and twisted.
2018’s Into the Spider-Verse was a spectacular vision for the web-head. Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales and Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy made a terrific pair, and they’re back for more adventures across the dimensions. In addition, Issa Rae is set to voice Jessica Drew (a.k.a. Spider-Woman), which is exciting. But here’s to hoping Jake Johnson, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage thwip back into action with their spins on the Parker character.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Nov. 11)
As difficult as it is to imagine this franchise without Chadwick Boseman, the new Black Panther will reunite director Ryan Coogler with original cast members Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya and Martin Freeman. Everything is under wraps, and the possibilities are endless. Our curiosity is too great.
“Directed by Richard Linklater” is all you need to get my attention. Following the visual look of 2006’s A Scanner Darkly, Linklater (Boyhood, Dazed and Confused) has now found a home at Netflix to continue to stretch his rotoscoping wings with Apollo 10 ½, an animated adventure set against the backdrop of the 1969 Apollo mission to the moon. It’s inspired by Linklater’s childhood in Houston, TX, and features Jack Black, Zachary Levi and Glen Powell.
Cha Cha Real Smooth (TBA)
This indie drama serves as Dallas native Cooper Raiff’s follow-up to S#!%house (my favorite film of 2020). Yes, with a title inspired by that party song, Cha Cha Real Smooth rounds up an amazing cast (Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Brad Garrett and Raúl Castillo), a rad narrative (a directionless college grad learns the boundaries of his new gig as a bar mitzvah party-starter) and undoubtedly many nuggets of wisdom to take a massive bite out of. This dance is sure to shock you like an electric eel. (Mark your calendars for its Sundance premiere later this month.)
Directed by Hollywood royalty (Martin Scorsese), written by Hollywood royalty (Forrest Gump’s Eric Roth) and starring Hollywood royalty (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemons, Robert De Niro, Brendan Fraser and Lily Gladstone), this Apple release is one to keep an eye on. It delves into the investigation of the oil-related mass murder of 20 native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma, which, in part, led to the creation of the FBI.
Orphan: First Kill (TBA)
This one is completely personal (find out why here). I was thoroughly entertained and played for a fool by the original 2009 Orphan. It’s a Don’t Look Now-like horror film that keeps you on your toes, and I’m so thrilled a sequel/prequel is the oven.
I’m one of the biggest Colman Domingo fans around. I want nothing but great things for him. And Rustin - a biopic centered on Bayard Rustin, the late civil rights activist who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - looks like it’s going to be a very great thing. It’s directed by George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk) and produced by Higher Ground Productions (founded by former U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama). Can’t wait!
The Whale (TBA)
Darren Aronofsky is undoubtedly a different breed of filmmaker. Even when I don't love his work (*cough* mother!), he challenges me in completely admirable ways. Aronofsky also has a knack for giving actors a second wind (like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler), and now he's giving Brendan Fraser his comeback part in A24's The Whale. His new psychological drama focuses on a 600-pound man's attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter. It definitely sounds like a more heartfelt story than we've seen from Aronofsky before, but I still suspect that it will get disturbing and weird.
Keeps these titles on your radar, too:
- Avatar 2 (Dec. 16)
- Bones & All (TBA)
- Everything Everywhere All at Once (Mar. 25)
- Decision to Leave (TBA)
- Disappointment Blvd. (TBA)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Apr. 15)
- Fire (TBA)
- Knives Out 2 (TBA)
- Nope (Jul. 22)
- Poor Things (TBA)
- The Son (TBA)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Apr. 8)
- Top Gun: Maverick (May 27)
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Apr. 22)
- When You Finish Saving the World (TBA)