The truth is that we never know. We never know just how good a year is until it’s over, or sometimes far after. Looking through the lens of relativity, we can only then see just how good we had it, or how badly it fared next to better years. 2019 ultimately ended with a great range of films with something to say, about who we are, what society looks like today. It was a great cap on a decade of highs and lows, with an ending flourish in its final two months. The big thing to remember is that ten of those months were vacant, maybe a couple art pieces or oversized hero pictures apiece. It was a year where Disney controlled the box office while bigger names shifted toward new means of distribution. Here continues the trend and while we are not going to highlight all those big tentpoles, we’ll feature a few for good measure, along with the films that really keep us going. 2020 looks to be a year of steady transitional filmmaking. The most exciting things are what we do not know, the films that surprise us and emerge from nowhere and other places, world cinema that we will only learn about in America come November. That is just fine, but as known quantities go, there is plenty we’re already hyped for.
Who: Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Elizabeth Debecki, Robert Pattinson, and John David Washington.
What: Espionage blockbuster employing the director’s knack for time-bending storytelling.
Why We’re Hyped: Christopher Nolan releases are the prototypical Event Movies. They usher in a wealth of energy and discussion, and if they can often be described as Film Bro experiences, it’s because they cast such a wide net. Everyone goes to see the new
Nolan film. His work shows us the health of the modern blockbuster. Where Inception (2010) showed us the blockbuster could be heady, if not pseudo-intellectual, Tenet expounds upon its, uh, core tenets, of time-bending to create the next big adrenaline-pounding thriller. For many, the initial preview during the new Star Wars usurped the content of the feature presentation. The parting of the waves in the initial preview is the feeling that will coincide at the box office this summer: make way for a blockbuster that still has It.
Who: Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac.
What: The planned first half of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi opus, about the stewardship of the most prized material known to the universe.
Why We’re Hyped: A proper Dune adaptation has been the dream of cinephiles the world over. From the potential high-concept of Jodorowsky’s Dune to the book-literate but Hollywood-shy David Lynch adaptation, we have yet to receive the authentic article. Here, Villeneuve arrives as the best possible man for the job. He has enlisted a stunning, starry cast game for the work. The stars have truly aligned and with Star Wars done and dusted, there is room for a new definitive Space Show. This seems like the big-ticket of 2020 where the potential is as high as the capacity to meet such heights.
Who: Directed by Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart. Starring Sean Bean and Honor Kneafsey.
What: A young girl is on a wolf hunting expedition with her father when she saves a young girl and then becomes the very thing they set out to hunt.
Why We’re Hyped: The Tomm Moore led studio Cartoon Saloon is at the cutting edge of cultural art in the animation space. Their provocative work on The Secret of Kells (2009), Song of the Sea (2014), and The Breadwinner (2017) have already earned the team three Academy Award nominations, in addition to one for a short film. Their colorful frames represent artistry birthed from cultural expression. We can expect no different from Wolfwalkers, which seems to have another very-2D aesthetic with massively appealing style and sound sense for its themes. Their first two films are my favorite movie discoveries in parenthood, and while The Breadwinner was one for me, I can’t wait to take my daughter to Wolfwalkers. It will surely bring us both great joy. My wife even stopped me during my writing, compelled by the poster image, and is now jointly excited for another Cartoon Saloon treat. They are close to our family’s heart.
Who: Directed by Pete Docter & Kemp Powers. Starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, and John Ratzenberger.
What: A musician rediscovers his passion for music in an out-of-body experience of the soul and human spirit.
Why We’re Hyped: Pixar has a double-header of original films coming in 2020. While Onward seems reasonably in-line with other studios’ output, Soul feels like a product of the Pixar spirit. It has a deeply satisfying, ethereal aesthetic, promises a great sound, and is imaginative in the way we can only hope for children’s films to be. After the back-to-back expected successes of Incredibles 2 (2018) and Toy Story 4 (2019), the thrill of Soul is squarely in the unexpected. We’re ready for something new. Surprise us and fill us with childlike glee. We know Pixar still has it in them to be everything modern Disney usually is not: creatively free and inspiring.
Who: Directed by David Fincher. Starring Gary Oldman, Lily Collins, and Tuppence Middleton.
What: A profile of Herman J. Mankiewicz’s share in the writing of the cinematic masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941).
Why We’re Hyped: Netflix is not easing up in the new year. They’ve put out a list with a slew of diverse movies, as well as high profile projects from big-name directors. Topping the latter field, David Fincher’s Mank also carries the greatest aspirational weight of the subject, profiling the contentious development of the legendary Citizen Kane. Now hailed as the greatest contribution to the form, as with all of Welles’ projects, the production had been rife with interpersonal difficulties. We are both excited, and weary, as a staff, to see what Mank brings to the social discourse of what is already the most-discussed film. As we awarded Welles’ with our first film of the year, could another subject-relevant film live up to the same potential in 2020? We’re excited to find out.
Who: Director Andrew Dominik. Starring Ana de Armas, Bobby Cannavale, and Julianne Nicholson.
What: A Marilyn Monroe stand-in helps us reflect on our modern conception of the bombshell actress.
Why We’re Hyped: Long-gestating, now going over a decade in the mind of Andrew Dominik, there has been a long and difficult path toward making this passion project, until Netflix bought it out and have found space for its release this year. Many actors have since been attached. Much has changed about it. A Monroe story is a dime a dozen. We’re looking for new added value and the why here must become the reason the director of The Assassination of Jesse James (2007) so wants to make something seemingly outside his field of interest. There will be plenty to say once we get here.
The Zone of Interest
Who: Directed by Jonathan Glazer.
What: Long-gestating Holocaust drama from the maverick director of Under the Skin (2014).
Why We’re Hyped: Whether or not it finally shoots and comes within the year, there is realistically no film I could be anticipating more and will put more emotional stock in being worthwhile than Glazer’s yet-to-be-named adaptation of the 2014 book, The Zone of Interest. It’s been well-documented — Under the Skin is my favorite film of all-time. It is everything I ever wanted from cinema. The highlight of my last decade of movie-watching. It moves me and I’m always finding something new and beautiful inside it. Looking into the next decade, then, I’m moved by the idea of feeling the same way about Glazer’s Holocaust film. He’s said to be extremely interested in the ideas of bystanders, having been moved as a child seeing pictures of just ordinary Germans standing by and watching the greatest human atrocity known to man happen before them. There’s nothing I want and need more firmly in the cinematic world than his take on the subject.
Who: Directed by Kirokazu Koreeda. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke.
What: A family drama about a literary and Hollywood family from the much beloved Koreeda.
Why We’re Hyped: Last year, we received Claire Denis radical first English film in High Life (2019). This year, it’s Koreeda’s turn with The Truth, which also touches on aging in space, but through the lens of a script being written by a troubled family, and the fallout that surrounds family revelations. (And also starring Juliette Binoche, for extra credit.) Following the excellent Shoplifters (2018), Koreeda is at the top of their game and here have enlisted great actors to make this all happen. Editor Tyler Harford has already written our glowing review from the Chicago International Film Festival. We’re really over the moon about the prospects of this picture.
The French Dispatch
Who: Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, and Jason Schwartzman.
What: The story of an American newspaper in Paris. “Love letter to journalism.”
Why We’re Hyped: We have reached the point of Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan becoming a modern, iconic pairing. When they double up, you have to see what the story is. The shooting has been real hush-hush, we just know a starry cast has been assembled and are making another dope Wes Anderson picture someplace in France. Really, it is good enough. For such a grand visual stylist, France, and the post-World War II print industry provide such tangible aesthetic choices. Knowing very little, we still could not be surer.
Who: Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Anthony Michael Hall, Judy Greer.
What: The story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode continue in the second of three acts.
Why We’re Hyped: Halloween is the horror franchise. In astounding detail, Editor Jesse Sparks has covered every single entry in the long-running series. Suffice to say, we are supportive fans. We’re absolutely here for this. The scoop is that the same team is returning. John Carpenter is back on music, which is really all you need to know. Multiple characters return from the origins of the franchise, and the hopes are set on addressing many of the concerns from the first HalloGreen. Let’s just be honest: we want that sweet, formidable Carpenter score, and will do whatever it takes to hear it in theaters. Now that the film is responsible for rebirthing interests in horror remakes, a lot rests on its shoulders. Please be fantastic so everyone gets to make everything else.
A Quiet Place Part II
Who: Director John Krasinski. Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Noah Jupe.
What: Another Quiet Place.
Why We’re Hyped: A Quiet Place (2017) is one of my all-time favorite theater experiences. We went into an old, art-house theater, full of character, one that attracts a fun crowd. They began as loud and optimistic as usual. I worried deeply about the outcomes of the forthcoming movie on them. Knowing that its value would be in its silences, that our own silence would be paramount to enjoying it. And as the quiet opening played out a few people slowly munched away at their popcorn buckets. One by one, they put them down. Every single person stayed seated for the whole run. Nobody moved a muscle except to occasionally jump. And it felt really damn good. A Quiet Place, say what you will about its derivations, put an entire theater on the same page. In some way, that is as close as films can come to bringing a crowd together anymore. I can’t wait to take in the second part with a like-minded crowd. I’m positive it’ll be one of the highlights of the year if nobody moves.
Last Night in Soho
Who: Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Anya-Taylor Joy, Thomasin McKenzie
What: A young fashion designer time travels to the 1960s at the height of London’s fashion, with mysterious consequences.
Why We’re Hyped: Edgar Wright’s filmography is lively and full of interest. Getting a potentially straight horror-mystery from the stylist director sounds like an instant autumnal treat. While not very much is yet known, the ensemble cast is intriguing and, with the director’s credentials, confidence is running high. Just to see Wright make a non-comedic horror is reason enough, as we have learned from his contemporaries, the difference between comedy and horror is that of a punchline or punched up scare, and the transition between genres is often seamless.
Da 5 Bloods
Who: Directed by Spike Lee. Starring Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Walter Hauser, and Chadwick Boseman.
What: Vietnam War veterans return to the jungle to find what they have lost.
Why We’re Hyped: We’re ready for Spike Lee to knock one out of the park. Where he found populist support with BlacKkKlansman (2018), what we’re looking for is the critic-friendly Spike Lee of yesteryear, the Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee that we feel is almost certainly reemerging late-career. The flexibility of this Netflix project, with a great cast already attached, spells out a certain avenue for sure critical success. Spike Lee may have lost twice to Driving Miss Daisy (1989) but we still wish to critically engage with all his very important work.
No Time to Die
Who: Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Starring Daniel Craig
What: Five years out of service, Bond is pulled back in to stop a dangerous new enemy with destructive new technology.
Why We’re Hyped: Several of our Editors are longtime Bond aficionados. We all want the series to make it, every time. Editor Brogan Chattin has devoted significant time to cataloging every Bond film in retrospective, leading up to the new film’s release. That’s to say, we’ve put some stock into the project. For what may be the last series feature for the aging Daniel Craig, we want it all to go off well. What seemed to be a fraught production has indicated a recentering of the brand with more recent trailers. The steady hand of Fukunaga, while not the high-stakes genre-challenging Danny Boyle film we had anticipated, seems to have admirably found its footing. May we have a neat and tidy ending to Craig’s legacy.
Who: Directed by Joel Coen. Starring Denzel Washington, Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson.
What: One of the Coen Brothers adapts Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Why We’re Hyped: On our fourth podcast, we ranked the collective work of the Coen Brothers. We did not know ahead of time they’d be divided for their next film. Clearly, they held divisions of tasks on their films and the mindshare of the projects was sourced between the brothers. It does not come as any slight to the potential of the project just to have one voice. On the contrary note, it is an object of fascination. Like when the singer of your favorite band does a solo record, you’re still supporting Thom Yorke, right? Now, having one of our generation’s greatest dramatists adapt the greatest dramatist of all-time? That makes the pot awfully sweet. With a great cast attached, it’s a sure-fire thing. It sure feels like we could use a really fantastic modern Shakespeare production on film. Who better to do the job?
Who: Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper, and Cate Blanchett.
What: A con man and psychologist trick folks into giving them money.
Why We’re Hyped: Nightmare Alley (1947) is a different sort of noir. A carny noir. It follows a man and psychologist manipulating folks in a town fair. Based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Greshem, there is still much unmined darkness and depth left in the novel that didn’t make it on screen. Guillermo del Toro loves his strange invented creatures. Nightmare Alley provides a supple range of curios for the director that will love them most. We’re super interested in his take on the noir format too and how he can expand the film’s carnival barker thematics on the big screen.
The Rhythm Section
Who: Directed by Reed Morano. Starring Blake Lively, Jude Law, and Sterling K. Brown.
What: A woman seeks revenge on the people who ordered a plane crash that killed her family.
Why We’re Hyped: Long-anticipated, The Rhythm Section is finally rounding the bend. We’ve become slightly worried, returned from our high optimism found on last year’s list, that the release has been shifted into the treacherous January season. It still might have it. Something has to start the year off, why not The Rhythm Section? We’ll definitely be looking into the matter at release.
Who: Directed by Stefano Sollima. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, and Jodie Turner-Smith.
What: A Navy Seal seeks revenge on the people who killed his wife.
Why We’re Hyped: We’re ready for Michael B. Jordan’s hard turn as a Navy Seal. His support here looks especially fine, with Jodie Turner-Smith likely to turn in a strong counterpart. We’re cautiously optimistic to watch Mr. Sollima grow beyond his very bad sequel to the great Sicario (2015). Seems like as good an opportunity as any for forward movement.
Promising Young Woman
Who: Directed by Emerald Fennel. Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Laverne Cox.
What: A young woman works out her trauma on all the men who cross her path.
Why We’re Hyped: From the Executive Producer of the astounding Killing Eve (2018 – Present) comes a revenge tale for our times. A well-pitched trailer showcases what looks to be a ballsy and truly feminist take on the genre. The trailer flashes moments of inspired carnage and revenge fantasy, set to the backing track of a destabilized tune based on Britney Spears’ “Toxic“. Natch. Promising Young Woman has all the likelihood of being a big sleeper hit for the year.
The Woman in the Window
Who: Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Amy Adams, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, and Gary Oldman.
What: An agoraphobic woman gets stuck in at home, believing in the comfort of her surroundings and privacy, until she witnesses a gruesome murder unfold while window watching.
Why We’re Hyped: The Aj Finn novel is made of cinematic ambitions. The titular woman in the window lives through the Hitchcock movie she watches with all her free time. While she is an asset to other suffering agoraphobes through online chats, she is the greatest danger to herself. The imagination reels when stuck inside for so long. The cinematic influence touches on the title, sharing its name with a heralded Fritz Lang classic and extends to the bone-chilling thriller plotting. The trailer itself may not hold many answers for how the translation will go. But this is a story begging for the screen. AJ Finn wrote a book that had to become a movie and here we are. Disney will never put out anything like this again. Let’s enjoy the moment.
Who: Directed by Ben Wheatley. Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Keeley Hawes.
What: Daphne du Maurier’s classic story about a newlywed woman living in the ghostly estate of her husband’s ex-wife.
Why We’re Hyped: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) may be the most underrated of the films from the master of suspense. It is with good reason that it is not well placed within the best of the director’s oeuvre. It is squarely a producer’s film. It might have come out well established, with elegant production and clean well lit black and white, but it does not contribute to any auteurism for Hitchcock. And so, while it is great enough to grant entry in the Criterion Collection, sure, there is plenty of room for a more personally directed, resonant Rebecca. Whether Ben Wheatley is up to that remains to be seen. Here’s a vote of confidence for creating this thing, and generally adapting Daphne du Maurier at any opportunity.
The Invisible Man
Who: Directed by Leigh Whannell. Starring Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
What: The Universal Monsters classic becomes seriously grounded and redefined, for the modern age.
Why We’re Hyped: I found out this October that the original is my favorite Universal film. It’s wildly fun and inventive and ahead of its time in ways that couldn’t track in a modern version. Blessedly, the new rendition prompts a darker, further nuanced story about the ghosts of abuse and living with the pain of grief. Mark this as high interest and one of the greater attempts we’ve seen to bring new value to old horror. There’s the real invested matter of the director, too, as we were greatly impressed with Upgrade (2018), a film that suggests a propensity for specific genre filmmaking.
The Many Saints of Newark
Who: Directed by Alan Taylor. Starring Michael Gandolfini, Jon Bernthal, and Vera Farmiga.
What: Reliving the early days of Tony Soprano.
Why We’re Hyped: The Sopranos (1999-2007) may as well be The Godfather (1972). It’s, by rights, the king of Peak TV. It is the show that changed it all. The way things would be done. Lately, there’s been a rash of comeback movies for some of our greatest shows. Just last year, we had tremendous luck with them, as El Camino and Deadwood surprised audiences by doing right by their characters and stories and finding natural ways to tell new stories in old spaces. And a story so great as that of The Sopranos, so formative for its audience and TV culture as a whole, does not just end in our imaginations when it cuts to black. There is more to say. Written by David Chase and with the main role performed by James Gandolfini’s son (who has been very good in The Deuce, 2017-Present), there is a good possibility we have another worthy revival on the way.
On the Rocks
Who: Directed by Sofia Coppola. Starring Rashida Jones, Jenny Slate, and Bill Murray.
What: A woman reconnects with her playboy father while touring New York.
Why We’re Hyped: In the special features of Lost in Translation (2003), Bill Murray cites Sofia Coppola as his favorite director he has worked with. It’s easy to see why. He strikes such natural charisma and a sense of character in the film. It would not be hard to believe she encapsulates what he values as an artist. That she is able to lens Murray seriously and for what he is. Here, we find their sweet reunion, which makes the project of notable prestige from the jump. Films like Lost in Translation have a long-simmering tail, building fan bases and warmth as they stagnate in DVD booklets. There is something really nice coming back to the pairing in 2020.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Who: Director Aaron Sorkin. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Strong, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
What: 7 Men on trial for various charges at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.
Why We’re Hyped: This year will be full of passion projects that Directors spent an entire decade trying to make happen. It’ll be the year of collective relief and folks getting to make the things they always intended. The Trial of the Chicago 7 has a storied history of production with many directors attached. Once helmed by Spielberg, famously, he was set to meet with Heath Ledger for a lead role, and the beloved actor tragically died the day before their meeting. It has been long gestating still in the mind of Sorkin who will doubtlessly bring uniquely elevated dialogue to the project. And what a thing to get before the oncoming elections, in a year with not a whole lot of politically leaning standouts, considering…
Who: Directed by Christian Petzold. Starring Paula Beer, Jacob Matschenz, and Franz Rogowski.
What: Named after the mythological water Nymph of the same name, Undine transposes the story with a Berlin history graduate and guide who wishes to defy their fate.
Why We’re Hyped: Last year’s Transit cemented Petzold as a staff favorite. The great news about Undine is it’s all the same folks involved. The same actors, cinematographers, apparently instilling full faith in Petzold’s works, as we have. Between this and the extraordinary Phoenix (2014), the director continues to make a big name for himself in world cinema.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Who: Directed by Charlie Kaufman. Starring Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, and Jesse Plemons.
What: A woman attempting to break up with her boyfriend experiences a life-changing series of events.
Why We’re Hyped: “An ingeniously twisted nightmare road trip through the fragile psyche of two young lovers. My kind of fun!” is how Charlie Kaufman describes the story in a blurb for the book jacket. With such a talented writing mind, we believe strongly in the outcomes here. It takes a bright directer, capable of the remarkable Synecdoche, New York (2008), to do this thing with some tact. We’re anticipating Kaufman will get it righter than anyone else might in such a position.
In the Heights
Who: Directed by Jon M. Chu. Starring Stephanie Beatriz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Corey Hawkins.
What: The story of a bodega owner in the heights who inherits a great fortune and must choose whether to leave his beloved city block behind.
Why We’re Hyped: We’ve been waiting for the proper moment, where Lin-Manuel Miranda brings it. Where the feeling of Hamilton transcends onto the screen. While we may have to wait until it’s no longer the highest dollar production, In the Heights is already looking like a valid, screen-ready alternative. The streets are filled with musicality. At the bodega, customers come and go, and rap the story in this freeform musical. The only crucial thing to know is that it feels like Jacques Demy.
West Side Story
Who: Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Ansel Elgort, Corey Stoll, and Rita Moreno.
What: The Jets and the Sharks are at it again in this remake of the classic musical about forbidden love and song-and-dance competitions over turf.
Why We’re Hyped: The best outcome here is still a pretty low investment option. Spielberg can match the original note for note potentially with an able cast. Perhaps it’s best if it is only unnecessary and not also not a total black mark against the memory of the original. It’s likely to be extremely popular and bears inclusion for its potential of getting the feeling right and reintroducing a cool movie to the public consciousness. We’ll follow this release closely and with cautious optimism.
Weathering with You
Who: Directed by Minkato Shinkai. Starring Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, and Sei Hiraizumi.
What: A runaway chooses a new family with a girl who can change the weather.
Why We’re Hyped: Cheating slightly, but I’ve already seen and taken a strong affection to Weathering with You. It earns placement in this list, as a special anime about the power of weather — as you can imagine, aesthetically pronounced around seasonal change — and opens theatrically early January. It’s the follow-up to director Shinkai’s beloved Your Name (2016) and is most certainly worthy of its forebearer’s status. It’s just going to come as a great delight on the big screen and we’d like to encourage anyone on the fence to seek it out if it’s up their street.
Who: Directed by Kogonaga. Starring Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Haley Lu Richardson.
What: A father and daughter story where a family tries to save their robotic family member.
Why We’re Hyped: Hot off the deep-seated indie credentials earned by Columbus (2017), After Yang presents an interesting follow-up for director Kogonaga. With an endearing eye for symmetrical architecture, Kogonaga found ways to build emotion through and beyond the frame. He knows how to set a fine shot. With a clever premise and sharp cast, there’s good reason to expect After Yang to be something of a sophomore feature breakout.
The Way Back
Who: Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, and Michaela Watkins.
What: A star basketball player and alcoholic returns to his alma-matter to coach and potentially find redemption.
Why We’re Hyped: This is such a clear human interest story. We need good recovery films and this has that potential. Even the trailer instinctively checked those boxes personally. I look forward to a sweet return for Ben Affleck to character acting. It seems to be coming together nicely, with the potential to be the sports film of 2020.
News of the World
Who: Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Tom Hanks, Neil Sandilands, and Fred Hechinger.
What: A traveler spreading the news of the world to Old West towns decides to help in the rescue of a young girl.
Why We’re Hyped: Based on the fantastic Paulette Jiles literature, the stakes are clearly provided and well-adaptable into a uniquely formidable Western. It only needs a deft, light touch to bring the narrative to screen, and we will have to see if Greengrass is too heavy-handed. There is plenty of moving potential here with a story that had to come to the movies, we’ll happily embrace it now. I’ve personally read it twice and have very clear ideas of how this goes, and I’m hoping they see the same movie in it.
Death on the Nile
Who: Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, and Armie Hammer.
What: Hercule Poirot has another vacation interrupted as he must investigate the murder of a young heiress while visiting the Nile.
Why We’re Hyped: Kenneth Branagh directs himself once again as the wonderfully mustached Hercule Poirot. His version of the character has solid merits. It’s a good performance, as seen in The Murder on the Orient Express (2017), as tried and true and straight-laced a murder mystery as there ever were. Here, he is given to expounding upon the formula, knowing there is an audience there to meet him. With the profound success of Knives Out (2019), a market has been proven. Murder mysteries are absolutely in vogue. This is another one of those.
Barbie the Movie
Who: Directed by Greta Gerwig. Starring Margot Robbie.
What: A doll is outcast from Barbieland and must venture forth into the real world!
Why We’re Hyped: As a father of a young girl, the premium on young women’s entertainment never ceases to amaze me. There is genuinely some great stuff happening, a movement forming around equalizing the long-standing disparity between gendered children’s entertainment. And who better to write that emergent pseudo-narrative than Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, a dream team and couple that, on the face of it, seem like they ought to be doing something else, but we are staggeringly lucky to have them doing this, instead. High hopes for something tangibly useful and good.
Top Gun: Maverick
Who: Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connely, and Val Kilmer.
What: Tom Cruise flies jet planes again.
Why We’re Hyped: Top Gun (1986) has always been something of an open-faced propaganda piece. It may be a damn functionally entertaining one, but effective propaganda is propaganda (see our piece on Casablanca, 1942). We’ve always been ready for more Top Gun. It is hardly a matter of whether we want to see Tom Cruise do exciting things in planes or not. We just have to see what kind of age it has graced with, how they can extend the story and impart new value. We would think, very easily. Give us that fun summer beach movie the last couple years have been missing — us Dads cannot only subsist on a diet of The Meg (2017).
Who: Directed by Michael Showalter. Starring Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, and Anna Camp.
What: A young couple stumble into a murder mystery and must solve the crime while protecting their relationship.
Why We’re Hyped: I’m a great fan of The Big Sick (2017). I thought it was one of the funniest and most touching movies of its year. I’m very interested then in the follow-up work of director Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani. I’m sure they are a pair to watch. What profoundly affected me the first time is fairly literal reading, that I had just come out of a coma the year prior, and how instantly I connected onto its themes and how its sense of humor helped in dealing with what still felt like a crisis of the moment. It made me cry deeply, reflecting on an entire month of life spent asleep, and having art cater so specifically to my deep need to feel anything about that. I’ve written a piece with further details of my experience here, but the creators already have my time.
Coming 2 America
Who: Directed by Craig Brewer. Starring Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, and James Earl Jones.
What: Akeem learns he has a son in America and must return to deliver the news he is a Prince of Zamunda.
Why We’re Hyped: So much in America has changed since Eddie Muphy’s classic comedy character came to America. We could not be more due for a return to form. After the astonishingly good biopic Dolemite is my Name (2019), Murphy is back. Another finely tuned comedic performance will cement his return as a legendary comedian of stature, as has always been intended. It has been great fun watching the internet return to his early work and uprooting some of the edgy early comedy Murphy founded his name on.
Bill and Ted Face the Music
Who: Directed by Dean Parisot. Starring Keanu Reeves, Samara Weaving, and Alex Winter.
What: Bill and Ted’s next excellent adventure.
Why We’re Hyped: Because we’re mid-renaissance for Keanu Reeves, there is nothing but good mindshare at the moment. Because he’s breathtaking and knows that you are, too. And we have officially reached the point of nostalgia where late-80s and early-90s are super in vogue. We really need a comedy with such a straight, non-high concept premise once again. Hopefully, this will find immediate success and usher in a new age of revitalization for a genre where every studio comedy is losing their shirt trying to find out what is funny and sells anymore.
King of Staten Island
Who: Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Marisa Tomei, Pete Davidson, and Steve Buscemi.
What: Autobiographical film about Pete Davidson’s childhood.
Why We’re Hyped: Judd Apatow is due for a return and Pete Davidson is a hot commodity in the public eye. At first, we must think, really, an autobiographical story just as he’s really peaking in public perception? But his story may have interesting elements, something he wishes to express. From his Staten Island upbringing to losing his father in 9/11, a likely very funny movie with potential heart, we’re just curious how it turns out.
Gretel & Hansel
Who: Directed by Oz Perkins. Sophia Lillis, Jessica De Gouw, and Alice Krige.
What: A young boy and girl find evil in the woods, again.
Why We’re Hyped: Apart from the innovation of flipping the title, hopefully, Oz Perkins has some other ideas to flip the story of Hansel & Gretel on its head. It’s such an open story, that allows for play inside its space, and for new ideas to ferment inside the context of the Grimm’s fairytale. We’re closely following Oz Perkins’ direction, as a chippy new horror director, following his fine work on The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015).
Who: Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, and Octavia Spencer.
What: Another adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, where a boy meets some real-life witches.
Why We’re Hyped: Let’s start with the impossibility of success here: the Nicolas Roeg 1990 film The Witches truly doesn’t need a digitized Zemeckis interpretation. How could it be better than that? Confusingly, the director says it will be more literal, which makes it the darkest children’s film in years if he is telling the truth about it. Also, the original is pretty accurate. Will it not be hurt deeply taking the image away from Roeg, the great visual stylist? We still want Halloween success stories. So, call it cautious optimism, but wouldn’t it be good if The Witches ended up being good, too?
Who: Directed by Sang-ho Yeon.
What: Sequel to Train to Busan (2016)
Why We’re Hyped: Train to Busan was an explosive international hit. A fine mixture of fast zombies and expressive New Korean Cinema created a perfectly fine and well-rounded zombie picture. One that made ten times its initial budget. Anticipation rides high on the follow-up, to find out if there was ever more there, anything to expand upon. We feel Sang-ho Yeon has untapped potential and leveraging a nicer budget could be productive to his vision.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Who: Directed by Armando Iannucci. Starring Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, and Tilda Swinton.
What: A new take on Charles Dickens’ novel.
Why We’re Hyped: What will be this year’s Little Women (2019)? This year, Iannucci throws their oversized top hat into the ring with The Personal History of David Copperfield. Its initial festival reviews are predominantly positive. They read that it brings fantastic humor and new energy to the classic story. There’s still life left in all our literary treasures – by enhancing them with diversity and fundamental modern values, we have a lifetime of potential great work fit to be adapted to our social sensibilities.
The Call of the Wild
Who: Directed by Chris Sanders. Starring Karen Gillan, Harrison Ford, and Cara Gee.
What: The famed literary fight for survival in the wilderness of Alaska.
Why We’re Hyped: We’re well due for a great survivalist picture. Not since The Revenant (2015) have we had an idealistic man vs the environment story. Here, we find Harrison Ford in the crucial role of John Thornton. We’re always happy to have Jack London come to screen. This promises a nice family visit to the theater, as Chris Sanders fourth film, signals a trusted voice we can believe in putting in decent work. Can it just be fine that we’re here for Woody Harrelson and that dog?
Who: Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Haley Bennett, Amy Adams, and Glenn Close.
What: Adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir of a family and culture in crisis.
Why We’re Hyped: My favorite book of the last decade, Hillbilly Elegy explains every problem present in our current culture. It anticipates and directly addresses the swath of cultural issues and how America has turned its back on its heartland. The white working culture of middle-America is cornered in. They are the subject of a great opiate epidemic and families are breaking. The American dream has fallen apart at its center and wrought such great havoc as to be manifested politically in the most hateful man of our country’s political history. With great talent attached, Hillbilly Elegy ought to become a major awards player.
Who: Directed by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer.
What: Herzog philosophizes about the impact of comets and their influence on human culture throughout history.
Why We’re Hyped: Werner Herzog. He can do whatever he wants. This time he wants to document the history of comets falling to earth. Through charting their impact both social and physical, Herzog will trace the origins of cultural beliefs about these falling rocks from the sky. We’re obviously over the moon about this.
Who: Directed by Josh Trank. Starring Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, and Noel Fisher.
What: An imprisoned Al Capone suffers the demons of his past and dementia.
Why We’re Hyped: We just want to share Josh Trank’s review for his own work on Fantastic Four (2015).
Sonic the Hedgehog
Who: Directed by Jeff Fowler. Starring Jim Carrey, Adam Pally, James Marsden.
What: Grotesque furball befriends cops to stop the man with a maniacal mustache.
Why We’re Hyped: Hyped is not the right word but it’s close. Morbidly curious will fit our interests clearly. From the very first trailer, Sonic the Hedgehog demanded immediate dissection and exposure. We discussed on The Twin Geekscast throughout the year with a vested interest in any outcome. We do not need Sonic the Hedgehog to be great, or good, or mediocre, we just need it to be.
Who: Directed by Andy Serkis. Starring Tom Hardy, Stephen Graham, Michelle Williams.
What: Sequel to the highly entertaining, off-the-rails anti-hero film from 2018.
Why We’re Hyped: Couldn’t we have gone with any of the hero movies of 2020? Why yes, but at risk of being contrarian, Venom 2 may offer the most entertaining bit of franchise expansion within the year. There is a feeling about it. Now that Sony knows what worked, intentionally or not, there is the inevitability that it will be more wild, more crowd-pleasing, more absurd, than the original. And we’re really here for Tom Hardy’s absolute meltdown. Of course, there are equally enticing reasons to go see any of the hero movies this year, but to list more would consume the list like the venomous parasite these movies are.