2021 should be a wild movie year. It is basically unheard of for two years of films to be crammed into one, so we are facing an unusually large glut of films compared to normal. I have no idea if I will get to a place where I want to sit around 20 other strangers just to see them in theaters (that has almost nothing to do with the pandemic), but I still know for sure that I want to see them somewhere. I have some bad news though. When I really get into looking at the films this year, I am surprised at how little my attention is captured. There are a ton of sequels, reboots, franchise continuations and so on. The fresh ideas seem few and far between. Perhaps film makers are scared to release an unknown into an unknown market, but I am genuinely concerned with the trend. Let’s try to stay optimistic, however, and get excited about some good projects. Let’s go 1 to 10 with 10 being the one I want to see the most
First, though, let’s talk about why that movie you are jazzed up for isn’t on here. Look, I understand not everyone’s tastes are the same, and I even know that mine aren’t perfect (or “ideal”)! So, I understand that you don’t get why Marvel Puzzle Piece 32 Film isn’t on the list, or Indie Melodrama With Minorities That Explores Feelings, or Fart Joke Filled Child Film, or Gore Filled Corn Syrup Party, or Intellectual Property Sequel, or Fart Joke Filled Adult Film, or even Dramatic ACTOR/ACTRESS Oscar Bait With FEELING. If you like some or all of these things, that’s GREAT. Movies are supposed to be enjoyed, not hated. I don’t mind you liking these thing. Knock yourself out. Just know… there won’t be much of that here. I generally like things that are original, a little weird, full of action and a little funny. I am sure you can find more popular articles on more popular sites that talk about those more popular movies.
Suicide Squad 2 - The Good One
The first Suicide Squad movie was an absolute disaster of corporate interference, bad directing, lazy acting (or, WAY, WAY too much acting) and a plot so non-sensical the idea became a total joke. Afterward, the entire concept was improved upon so thoroughly by Amazon Prime’s (?!) The Boys that the first Suicide Squadron should just be washed from the face of the earth. So why is this here? It violates several rules of films I generally like. It is a sequel, it is a corporate comic book movie, and it includes several of the same parties from the first one. Here is why. James Gunn. The director of the way better than they should have been Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is here and the replacing of Will Smith for Idris Elba is like going from a 1980 Cadillac (great for it’s time) to a 2021 BMW. I trust that Gunn will be able to capture his fun, action heavy, insightful approach for a movie that should allow him a lot more to work with than the CGI pile and sentient plant life of Guardians.
Warning: I am genuinely concerned about the influence of The Boys here. The Boys is such a subversive, pulpy, inappropriate and funny enterprise, I am worried that a studio film won’t be able to match it. That is a crazy sentence to write. It should also be noted that James Gunn himself is not immune to being a dick at times.
No Time To Die - It’s actually getting uncomfortably close to Daniel Craig’s time to die.
This is another cheat, very similar to the last one. After the fun of Skyfall with the brilliant Javier Bardem and the fun of the chase on the moor, Spectre was an absolute disaster. The plot was meandering, the acting flaccid, the action bland, and the wasting of Christoph Waltz (who once did this) as a villain was a capital A Atrocity. So we have another sequel, an intellectual property, and an aging star. So why would this be good. I have three main reasons. One, a bond movie in the modern era is only as good as it’s villain. I have very high hopes for Rami Malek to be more Bardem than Waltz. Two, Ana De Armas was fantastic in Knives Out and I think she can play the mystery of her character in a way that will make her the real star of the show. Three, I think the action looks very well done in the trailer. While this movie will probably feel a little like a soulless money grab, there are worse ways to spend 2 hours than with this franchise, Ana De Armas and Rami Malek.
Warning: Daniel Craig is old as shit. The action sequences were looking very forced in Spectre and, while the trailer fooled me with images from the incredible opening sequence last time, the rest of the film was very blasé. Hey, the odd movies are good…
I did it a THIRD TIME. This movie is my biggest gamble on this list. Ghostbusters hasn’t been good even one single time since the original hit. GB2, the all women one and various episodic serials have all been awful. It feels an awful lot like they caught lightning in a bottle with the first one, and the bottle is very small, and lightning is notoriously fickle. Still, I have a hunch there is something here. From the Reitman family tree of directors, to Stranger Things kid du jour Finn Wolfhard, to an enthusiastic and unaged Paul Rudd, to some fantastic references vis a vis a junker car and some cool outfits, I just feel like maybe they finally got it. I have a hope, deep in my heart, that this film is from people that understand how to reboot a beloved nostalgia piece. Like the way Disney fixed Spiderman, or the Judge Dredd reboot was good or X-Men: First Class showed how much better X-Men could be sans notorious dick Brett Ratner. I hope deep in my heart it works, because I want to share Ghostbusters with my kids, and it could use a fresh coat of paint if I am being honest. This is one where I am choosing to abandon common sense and just blindly hoping.
Warning: the paragraph above is a non-stop warning. For every good reboot, there are 100 bad ones. The odds are heavily stacked against us.
Free Guy: Ryan Reynolds is funny to me
Ever since Van Wilder came out, I have found Ryan Reynolds funny. I really feel like this movie is going to be a simple litmus test of whether the audience does too. This is clearly just a non-stop set-up for his jokes and style, in much the same way as Deadpool was (expect his character is on the entire other end of the movie rating spectrum). The idea of a video game NPC (non-playable character) coming to life is not an original concept, and this is sort of the polar opposite of Westworld. Here the NPC is a great guy just trying to make his ultra-violent digital world a better place. In a world where nicecore is a rising concept (probably due to the total absence of kindness in the digital realm/public life/politics et al) I feel like this sort of feel good saga might gain some traction where it wouldn’t have in the past. I think this is the right movie, at the right time, with the right lead to entertain me.
Maverick: Tom Cruise is the worst person I enjoy watching act
Another minor cheat here, there is absolutely no reason for this movie to be good. The original is cheesy as HELL. Rewatch it, and you will laugh, but there aren’t really any jokes in it. From shirtless volleyball, to the slow destruction of Kelly McGillis’ life, to the death of that guy from ER, to the pinnacle of Val Kilmer, to the endless homoeroticism, to a heavy, HEAVY dose of Kenny Loggins, this film had a whole lot of wild stuff in it. It’s not a surprise that something so over the top came from Tony Scott, master of the way too much action movie (Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide etc.). Excess was the name of the game in the 80s. So why would a remake now be good? Tom Cruise. Sure, he is old, and a terrible person. I am not paying to see him teach Scientology though. I am paying to watch him do crazy, hyper-realistic stunts, using actual jets. He is the master of doing WAY TOO MUCH to get our approval. I think the set-up for the movie is fantastic too. Goose’s kid following in his father’s footsteps teams up with the man who was at least partially responsible for his death. This is the exact same vibe of Creed, a critical darling. Plus, did you watch the trailer? That just looks like a great movie.
Warning: This one violates a lot of rules of good movie making, actor is too old, set up has been done before, way too long before reboot, Tom Cruise is a jerk etc.
Luca: A Pixar movie without a number attached will always get my attention.
We still don’t know a lot about Luca, as it is still a long way off. It doesn’t even really have a trailer. I am unusually optimistic about this though. The last truly great Pixar movie for kids was Coco, and it was a fantastic film. A beautiful, thoughtful and ethnically accurate look at the life of a young boy longing to live his dreams: Coco was a soaring masterpiece. Since that time, Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 were fine (generic sequels that I remember nothing from). Onward was a bit of a dud and Soul was a film for adults. I know a lot of people loved Soul, but I felt like it got the balance of fun and meaningful too skewed in one direction for it to be a kids movie. As far as being an adult movie, I think it was good, but not incredible. Luca feels like a return to what makes Pixar great, showing meaningful stories about growing up, in unique ways, that tap into genuine emotions of real people. I am already on record as being an ardent supporter of Pixar, and nothing can convince me they aren’t the best producer of kid’s movies ever, even with some duds. I think Luca will be a return to form.
Warning: I am not going to pretend they haven’t been hit or miss since Disney truly took over. In the last 5 years, there is exactly one film I would strongly recommend (Coco). I am curious to see if the absence of key creators like Pete Doctor, John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich takes with it the heart of what they do. Luca has none of them on board.
Nobody: A spiritual descendant of Taken, watch another borderline AARP white guy with unusual skills
This film feels like it fell out of the John Wick universe, bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Smith and landed on Taken’s lap. The magical (for me) mix of interesting history with a secret organization, surprising character’s skills are a surprise, and family drama that is interrupted by random gunplay is like crack cocaine for my viewing habits. As an aging white male, it really helps me feel fully actualized to see that another aging white male still has it. This time, it is Bob Odenkirk which feels like a really fun bit of casting to me. I am DESPERATELY hoping this film ties into the John Wick universe somehow. There is no indication it does (even if there has been talk of an Atomic Blonde crossover), as they are directed by different people and made by different studios. Still, a (old, white) boy can dream.
The Green Knight: What the Hell?
This movie looks weird as hell. What is going on with the flaming king? Why is Dev Patel King Arthur-y? Who is that tree guy? Why is there a saucy puppet show? Is this movie going to be good? Bad? Too artsy? Not artsy enough? I don’t have a damn clue, but this looks wild, and I am in. I am probably going to regret saying this.
Warning: I have no idea what this is actually about, and I ultimately regretted doing this same thing with The Lighthouse. Still, Dev, you have my attention.
Dune: What if Lord of the Rings was in outer space?
The famous (and unfilmable) novel gets another shot at the big screen, but this time it is in the incredibly capable hands of Denis Villeneuve (Sci-fi master of Blade Runner: 2049 and Arrival fame). Villeneuve has his hands full, as the novel Dune (and it’s follow-ups) are well regarded for their world building and density. This sort of world building is always very difficult to re-create on the large screen, but if it COULD be done, this is the person who could do it. In much the same way Peter Jackson masterfully brought to life the dense world of Lord of the Rings over several movies thanks to his intense devotion, so too we see Villeneuve attempt to bring to life his passion over multiple movies (this is just part 1) . Somehow I suspect I will be grateful for the subtitles for this one, on my TV at home. This film also comes with a very talented cast including notables like Zendaya, Timothee Chalamalet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Mamoa, Oscar Isaac, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, and Stellan Skarsgard. I am convinced this much talent simply cannot fail.
Warning: This material is very dense. Try reading a synopsis on Wikipedia if you aren’t familiar with the novel. If you thought LOTR was confusing, you definitely won’t like this.
Last Night In Soho: If Edgar makes it, I will come
Death, taxes, and me watching an Edgar Wright movie. It is still hard for me to believe we never got to see an Edgar Wright Ant Man movie, and got stuck with Corporate Schlock Puzzle Piece 12 instead. From the director of Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver and more fun genre films with cool elements, Edgar Wright is a long time favorite director of mine. He is essentially a more fun version of Quentin Tarantino, having the time of his life creating original content while paying homage to films of the past. Edgar Wright is WHY I watch movies. I watch to see directors and actors/actresses who love movies and to see them explore their own creative ideas on the screen with their own flair. Also, Anya Taylor-Joy is fresh off Queen’s Gambit (where she was fantastic) as the lead here. I am very optimistic this will be the most fun I have watching a movie this year.
Warning: Well, there isn’t a trailer yet, so we don’t really know what it is about. If, for some reason, you do not like Edgar Wright, go ahead and unread all of this article and close this tab.